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The Legend of the Condor Heroes - Chapter 27

Chapter 27 – In front of the Xuanyuan Platform

While the two were joking around, there were footsteps coming from the staircase, the three old beggars who just went out with Yang Kang returned. They walk straight towards Guo Jing and Huang Rong’s table then bowed in respect. The middle beggar had fair skin and plump, his face was full of white beard. If his clothes were not full of patches, he would look like a rich and noble gentleman. He smiled before he even spoke; his face was gay and friendly, he said, “That beggar surnamed Lu has just secretly carried out his poisonous hand against the two of you. We did not like what we saw; therefore, we come here to help.”

Guo Jing and Huang Rong were startled, they asked, “What poisonous hand?”

That beggar asked, “That old beggar was not willing to dine with you, was he?”

Huang Rong shivered with fear, she asked, “Did he put poison in our food?”

The beggar sighed and said, “It is our Beggar Clan’s misfortune that we have such crafty traitor among us. This old beggar is highly skilled in using poison; as soon as his finger lightly flicked, the poison hidden in his finger nail would immediately mixed with the food and wine; even a deity would not suspect. Your poisoning is already deep; in an hour time nobody would be able to save your lives.”

Huang Rong did not believe what he said, she asked, “We do not have any enmity against him, why would he poison us?”

The beggar replied, “Most likely you two said something offensive to him. Please hurry and take this antidote, only then the two of you can be saved.” After speaking he took out a package of powdered medicine from his pocket and put it into two wine cups and poured the wine in then he implored Jing, Rong two people to drink it immediately.

Just a moment ago Huang Rong saw them went to see Yang Kang, she was suspicious. How could they take some medicine just like that based on what he just said? So she asked, “That gentleman surnamed Yang is our acquaintance. Could the three of you invite him to come and see us?”

“Of course,” that beggar replied, “But that traitorous disciple’s poison is too severe. You should take this antidote quickly, or otherwise it will be too late.”

Huang Rong said, “We are extremely grateful for your good intention. Would you please sit down and drink several cups with us? I often thought about the Beggar Clan’s eleventh Clan Leader single handedly battled a group of warriors at Beigu Mountain; using only a stick and his pair of palms to strike down the five tyrants of Luoyang; what a hero he was.”

During the time she and Guo Jing were together with Hong Qigong binding some woods to make a raft at MingXia [Bright Red Cloud] island, Hong Qigong would often tell her stories about some past major events within the Beggar Clan, so she would not be completely ignorant when she became the Clan Leader in the future. That Beggar Clan’s eleventh Clan Leader’s achievement was one of the stories she heard from Hong Qigong. When the three old beggars heard her suddenly talk about former Clan Leader they look at each other in astonishment, they were wondering how a youngster like her would know about such matter.

Huang Rong again said, “The Hong Bangzhu’s [Clan Leader] Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms have no equal under the heaven, I wonder how many stances have the three of you learned?”

Ashamed look appeared on the three beggars’ faces; they had not learned even one stance from the Clan Leader’s Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms, they were inferior even from an eight-bag disciple Li Sheng who mastered one stance ‘Divine Dragon Swings its tail’. Huang Rong continued, “That Lu Zhanglao [Elder Lu] who poisoned us just a moment ago; I think his skill is just ordinary. Last month the Western Poison Ouyang Feng invited me to drink three poisoned wine, now that was somewhat better. Why don’t you drink these two cups of poisoned wine yourselves?” She shoved the two cups with powdered medicine in front of the three beggars.

The three beggars’ countenances slightly changed; they knew she was purposely talking nonsense and was not willing to drink the medicine. The Elder with the rich man appearance smiled and said, “Miss is suspicious, naturally we cannot force you. Only our good intention will be wasted. Let me just show one thing to convince Miss. Please take a look at my eyes; tell me if you see anything unusual.”

Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at his eyes, only to see a pair of narrow eyes on the middle of a meaty fat face, like a pair of two slits on his face; but the eyeballs were glistening, they looked very clear and bright. “What’s so strange about his eyes?” Huang Rong wondered in her heart, “They look like a pair of sparkling pig eyes.”

That beggar continued, “You two look into my eyes, surely you may not lose your concentration. Now you are feeling your eyelids are heavy, your minds are losing consciousness, your whole bodies are tired and weary; these are the signs of poisoning. Just close your eyes to sleep.” His voice was soothing and pleasing to the ears while intoxicating at the same time, making Guo Jing and Huang Rong felt really tired and sleepy; as if their strength was drained from their bodies. Huang Rong slightly felt something was wrong; she tried to turn her head to avoid gazing at his eyes, but it seemed like she captivated by his eyes, she could not help looking back at him.

That beggar again said, “We are here by the lake side, the air is so cool and refreshing. You two should sleep soundly in this cool breeze. Sleep! Sleep! It is extremely comfortable. Sleep nicely!” As he spoke, his voice sounded increasingly gentle, sweet, and soothing. Guo Jing and Huang Rong unconsciously yawned repeatedly, put their heads down on the table and fell fast asleep. Without knowing how many hours had passed, two people finally woke up dazed and confused; cool breeze caressed their bodies, made them feel the chill in the air. Their ears faintly heard a noise similar the sound of waves of the ocean. Slowly they opened their eyes and saw a clear bright moon that just rose up behind the eastern side of the mountain amidst a cloudy fog.

Two people were very shocked. The sun was still high up when they were drinking wine at the front of the tavern at Yueyang, how come in a blink of an eye the sky had turned dark? Dazed and confused they tried to stand up, they were even more shocked to feel their hands and feet were bound by ropes. They tried to shout but their mouths were stuffed with cloths, pricking and hurting their tongues. Huang Rong knew it must be that white and fat beggar; but how he did it, she had no idea, for in that moment she could not think too much. She cast a sidelong glance and saw Guo Jing lying beside her, making an effort to struggle free; her anxiety was, for the most part, gone.

By this time Guo Jing had already possessed a powerful internal energy, he was able to break an even stronger rope. Who would have thought that as he exerted strength to his hands and feet, the rope on his body created ‘zheng, zheng’ noise, the rope was not damaged. Turned out it was made from braided cow rawhide mixed with steel wire.

Guo Jing wanted to add his strength and try again, unexpectedly he felt something cold on his face; a piece of ice-cold sword blade was softly patted twice on his cheek. He turned his head and saw four young beggars, each with an unsheathed weapon guarding them at their sides. He had no choice but stopped struggling. He turned his head to look at Huang Rong.

Huang Rong calmed herself down; she knew she needed to assess the overall situation first, and then try to find a way to escape. She turned her body around and was stunned. Turned out they were at the top of a small peak. Under the moonlight she clearly saw lake water all around them. A thin fog hung low on ten of thousands ‘qing’ [unit of area, 1 qing is approximately 6.67 Hectares or 16.47 acres] of bluish green waves. She thought, “It turns out that we are captured and brought to the Mount Jun’s peak on Dongting Lake. How come I didn’t feel anything along the way?” She turned her head again and saw there was a tall platform a dozen of ‘zhang’s away. The area around the platform was packed with rows after rows of hundreds of beggars. They sat quietly; the moonlight had not illuminated these people yet, which was the reason why Huang Rong did not notice them previously. She was inwardly happy, “Ah, right! Today is the fifteenth day of the seventh month; it's the Beggar Clan General Assembly. I must think of a way to speak, then I’ll pass down Shifu’s command, how can the beggars here refuse to accept?”

After a long time, the group of beggars still had not shown any activity. Huang Rong could not bear it any longer, but she could not move and had to endure patiently. About half an hour later, her limbs went numb. She saw the moon slowly rose to the middle of the sky, illuminating half of the tall platform. Huang Rong thought, “Li Tai wrote a poem, ‘Pale moon swept through the lake, the surface was clear like a jade mirror, standing on Mount Jun painting a picture.’ He went up the mountain to enjoy the moon that night, so free and unrestrained. Tonight the scenery is the same, but Jing Gege and I are bound in here. It really is irritating and funny at the same time!”

The moonlight slowly moved, shining on the three characters written on the side of the platform, ‘xuan yuan [a name for the Yellow Emperor] tai’ [platform]. Huang Rong recalled the story told by her father about great tales of the Jianghu world. Legend has it that the Huang Di [Yellow Emperor] cast [the word ‘cast’ here is as in ‘casting metal from a mold’] a Ding [tripod, used for drinking utensil. From Wikipedia: a type of ancient Chinese vessel with three legs] on the bank of the Dongting lake. When the ding was finished, he rode a dragon and ascended to the heaven. She believed this platform was built to commemorate that event.

About the time it took to make tea later, the tall platform was completely engulfed by the bright moon. Suddenly she heard ‘bonk, bonk, bonk’ three times then it stopped, then ‘bonk, bonk, bonk’ again. This pattern was repeated, sometimes slow sometimes fast, sometimes high, sometimes low, as if it followed certain rhythm. Turned out each one of the beggars held a small stick in their hands and they tapped the mountain rock in front of them. Huang Rong silently counted the tapping, she counted nine by nine, eighty one times when the noise stopped and four people stood up from the crowd of beggars. Under the bright moonlight she could see them clearly; they were Lu Youjiao and the three elders from the Clean Clothes Faction.

These four beggar elders walked towards the Xuanyuan Platform and stood on its four corners. The crowd of beggars also stood up and cupped their fists across their chests, bowing in respect. The white fat beggar waited until the crowd was seated and then with a clear voice said, “Brothers, the Beggar Clan met a disaster, an astronomical catastrophe, our Hong Lao Bangzhu [Old Clan Leader Hong] returned to heaven in Lin’an prefecture!”

At this word, the crowd of beggars fell into a complete silence. Suddenly someone cried out and threw himself to the ground. Everywhere the beggars beat their chests and stomped their feet, crying and wailing loudly. The noise of grieving shook the forest and echoed back from the surface of the lake down below.

Guo Jing was shocked, “We tried to find Shifu everywhere and could not find him, turned out he has passed away.” He could not help shedding some tears, only his mouth was stuffed with some cloths, or else he would have wailed out too. Huang Rong meanwhile thought: “This fat guy is not a good person, he employed a nefarious way to capture us. I doubt it if we can believe what he said; he must be spreading up false rumors.”

The crowd of beggars remembered Hong Qigong’s kindness, everybody cried out louder and louder. Suddenly Lu Youjiao called out, “Peng Zhanglao, who personally saw Bangzhu returned to heaven?”

That white and plump Peng Zhanglao replied, “Lu Zhanglao, if Bangzhu was still alive; who has eaten leopard’s gall and tiger’s heart, dared to put a curse on him? The one who saw him returning to heaven is here. Yang Xianggong [honorable master], would you please tell the brothers here?”

Someone stood up from among the crowd of beggars; it was none other than Yang Kang. With the dark green bamboo stick in his hand he walked to the front of the platform. The crowd of beggars grew quiet, except for some continuing soft sobbing noise here and there. Yang Kang slowly said, “About a month ago Hong Bangzhu was having a martial art contest with someone in Lin’an prefecture; unfortunately he lost and was killed.”

As the crowd of beggars listened to him, their anger rose; one after another they shouted, “Who is the enemy? Tell us! Tell us!” “Bangzhu had divine power, how could he lose?” “Certainly the enemy ambushed him; our Bangzhu was overwhelmed by sheer numbers.”

After Guo Jing listened to Yang Kang’s speech, his grief turns to anger; immediately his heart was relieved and he thought, “A month ago, Shifu was obviously with us. Turned out he is just talking nonsense.”

Meanwhile Huang Rong thought, “This kid must be a follower of the old swindler Qiu Qianren; he has completely mastered his stinky skill of spreading lies and deceiving people.”

Yang Kang spread out both of his hands, waiting for the crowd of beggars to calm down, then he continued, “The ones who killed Bangzhu is the Peach Blossom Island’s Master, the Eastern Heretic Huang Yaoshi, and the Quanzhen Sect’s seven thieves.”

Huang Yao Shi had not left his island for some time; therefore, nine out of ten beggars did not know much about his reputation. The Quanzhen Seven Masters’ prestige, however, had shaken the world far and wide. The beggars who attended this general assembly on Mount Jun today were not rookies within the Beggar Clan; naturally they understood very well Quanzhen Seven Masters’ capability. They did not care what kind of man Huang Yaoshi was, but if the Quanzhen Seven Masters joined hands, although Bangzhu’s martial art was outstanding, he was but one person and certainly not their match. Everyone was very grieved and angered. Some opened up their mouths to curse, some others stood up and wanted to go to avenge their Clan Leader.

Actually Yang Kang heard Ouyang Feng said that he had severely injured Hong Qigong with his Toad Stance and that Hong Qigong’s life was difficult to protect. He also thought that he had stabbed Guo Jing to death inside the imperial palace; who would have thought that they met again at the tavern in Yueyang city. He was shocked; thereupon he incited the three Beggar Clan’s Elders to find a way to capture those two people with the intention of killing them later. He believed if today’s matter would someday leak out to Huang Yaoshi, the Quanzhen Seven Masters and the Six Freaks of Jiangnan; they would certainly find him to seek revenge. The Six Freaks’ martial art skills were not too high, so he was not afraid of them; but the Eastern Heretic and the Seven Masters were not a small matter. Thereupon he deliberately put the blame on Hong Qigong’s murder on their shoulders, so that the Beggar Clan would get out of their nest in full strength. With one swoop the Peach Blossom Island and the Quanzhen Sect would be destroyed and he would be saved from his trouble.

Amidst the clamoring noise of the beggars, Jian Zhanglao rose up from his corner on the east and said, “Brothers, listen to what I say.” This man’s beard and eyebrows were white, he was rather short; but as he opened his mouth the crowd grew silent, revealing his prominent position in the Beggar Clan. They heard him said, “Presently we have two important matters. First, we must follow Bangzhu’s last order to elect the Nineteenth Clan Leader. Second, we must discuss how we are going to seek revenge for Bangzhu.” The crowd of beggars shouted their approvals.

Lu Youjiao spoke loudly, “But first we must hold a memorial service for Lao Bangzhu’s brave soul.” He scooped some dirt from the ground and kneaded it into a clay figurine, treated it as Hong Qigong’s image. He put the figurine on the side of Xuanyuan Platform and then he knelt down and cried. The crowd of beggars broke out into weeping and wailing again.

Huang Rong thought, “Shifu is alive and well; what do these stinky beggars cry for? Humph, without any reason you captured and bound Jing Gege and me, and now you are grieving for nothing. You get what you deserve.”

After the crowd of beggars cried their hearts out, Jian Zhanglao clapped his hands three times; the beggars collected themselves and stopped crying. Jian Zhanglao said, “Brothers, in the Mount Jun General Assembly at Yuezhou today we were supposed to listen to Hong Bangzhu appoint his successor. It appeared Lao Bangzhu had met some unfortunate incidents and had returned to heaven; so we must make decision based on Lao Bangzhu’s last order. If he did not leave any order, then the Four Elders will convene and elect the new Bangzhu. This is in accordance with the custom the Beggar Clan observes from generation to generation. Brothers, isn’t this so?” The crowd of beggars voiced their agreement.

Peng Zhanglao said, “Yang Xianggong, just before he returned to heaven, what is Lao Bangzhu’s last order? Will you please tell us?”

Electing the new Clan Leader was the Beggar Clan’s number one priority. The Beggar Clan’s prosperity or decline, its success or failure, for the most part depended on the Clan Leader’s virtue and capability. In the past the seventeenth Clan Leader, Qian Bangzhu, was dim and spiritless; his martial art skill was high, but he handled matters improperly. The Clean Clothes Faction and the Dirty Clothes Faction had endless fights; hence the Beggar Clan power suffered a large decline. When Hong Qigong assumed the Clan Leader position he forcefully suppressed the internal strife between these two factions. The Beggar Clan once again arose to become a strong organization within the Jianghu.

These past events were known to the group of beggars attending the assembly; as they heard that they were about to receive the order of their Clan Leader, they listened with complete attention, holding their breaths and not making any noise.

Yang Kang grabbed the green bamboo stick with both hands and lifted it high up above his head. With a clear and bright voice he said, “Hong Bangzhu was surrounded by traitors and suffered heavy injury; his life was in terrible danger. I hid him in the cellar of my humble home from the pursuing traitors. Immediately I called for a famous doctor to treat the Hong Bangzhu’s injury. Unfortunately his injury was too heavy and we were unable to save his life.”

Listening to this point the beggars broke out in sobs. Yang Kang paused for moment before continuing, “Just before he died, Hong Bangzhu handed over this bamboo stick and ordered me to bear the heavy responsibility by becoming the Beggar Clan’s nineteenth clan leader.” Listening to this, the beggars were surprised; they never had thought that the heavy responsibility of the Beggar Clan Leader could be entrusted to this youngster with playboy appearance.

At Qu Shagu’s inn in the Ox Village of Lin’an Yang Kang had accidentally acquired this green bamboo stick. Then he noticed how the fat and skinny two beggars were exceptionally respectful toward him. He was astonished, but did not reveal anything to those two beggars. Along the way he fished for information on the origin of that bamboo stick. The two beggars saw him with the stick in his hand, they certainly answered everything without concealing anything. By the time they reached Yuezhou, Yang Kang had gathered about 60, 70% of the Beggar Clan’s inside story. The only thing he did not know was classified information within the clan; since when he asked, the two beggars would not answer. He thought the Beggar Clan was a huge organization, and the Clan Leader held the greatest power and authority. In any case Hong Qigong’s death was unverifiable, so he decided to seize the opportunity to become the Clan Leader, and then he would have authority over millions of brethrens. He had calculated it carefully and could not find any flaw in his plan, thereupon he arranged a set of lies and went as far as telling the great assembly the fake news about Hong Qigong’s death and his self appointment as the next Clan Leader.

He was able to talk with a straight face in the midst of several hundreds of bold and outstanding warriors of the Beggar Clan; his face did not show the slightest bit of blushing, his words flowed freely. He knew perfectly well that if his lie was exposed, the group of beggar would turn him into mincemeat on the spot; but he thought if he wanted to achieve an important matter he surely would have to brave the risk. Much less Hong Qigong had died and the bamboo stick was in his hand, Guo Jing and Huang Rong were captured, so there was no immediate danger for him. Once he becomes the Clan Leader he will gain endless advantages; these millions of beggars would pave his way to reach the ‘unlimited riches and honor’ he so desired.

The Clean Clothes Faction’s Jian, Peng and Liang, three Elders were pleased to hear Yang Kang’s speech. Actually the Beggar Clan was divided into the Clean and Dirty Clothes Factions. Other than wearing clothes full of patches, the Clean Clothes members led an ordinary life just like common people. These people were originally Jianghu’s warriors who either admired the Beggar Clan’s chivalrous deeds that they joined the Clan, or was in good term with a Beggar Clan disciple; they were by no means beggars. The Dirty Clothes Faction members actually begged for a living; they observed a strict commandment: they could not use money to buy things, they must not eat on the same table with outsiders, they must not fight with people who did not know martial art. Each faction held their own principles and the dispute between two factions continued.

Hong Qigong was a fair leader; he would wear clean clothes the first year, and dirty clothes the next; year after year he treated the Clean and Dirty Clothes Factions equally. Begging was the Dirty Clothes Faction’s true color; but Hong Qigong loved to eat and drink, begging for spoiled soup and cold rice to alleviate his hunger proved too much for him, therefore, he could not strictly observe the discipline of the Dirty Clothes Faction.

Among the four elders, Lu Youjiao was the one earned his esteem most. If not for Lu Youjiao’s hot temper, which spoiled several important business of the Clan, Hong Qigong would early on assign him to be his successor as the Clan Leader. In this general assembly in Yuezhou the Clean Clothes Faction was worried because speaking about morality, martial art and popularity, Lu Youjiao had eight, nine out of ten chance of being the candidate for the next Clan Leader. Moreover, although the Clean Clothes Faction had three out of four elders, the Dirty Clothes Faction disciples held the majority within the Beggar Clan.

The three elders of the Clean Clothes Faction had pondered deeply on various ways to handle this matter, but remembering Hong Qigong’s prestige nobody dared to act rashly. Afterwards they saw Yang Kang arrive at Yuezhou with the bamboo stick in his hand, and they also heard that Hong Qigong was dead. Although they were genuinely grieved, they also saw this as a good opportunity to gain power over the Dirty Clothes Faction. That was the reason they agreed to support Yang Kang.

Actually fully respectful yet cautious they had attempted to scout Qigong’s order earlier; but Yang Kang was sly, he was afraid they might have a change of heart, so he was not willing to divulge anything until he announced it at the general assembly. The three elders of the Clean Clothes Faction knew they did not have any chance of becoming a clan leader, yet they were not disappointed as long as Lu Youjia was not elected either. They were willing to support this decision wholeheartedly; they thought Yang Kang was young, it would not be difficult to influence him later. Moreover, his clothes were magnificent, his choice of cuisine exquisite, he would in no way show favoritism toward the Dirty Clothes Faction. Thereupon three people looked at each other and nodded their heads.

Jian Zhanglao said, “The stick in this Yang Xianggong’s [honorable master] hand is our Clan’s sacred article. If there is anybody among the brothers who has some doubts, please come forward and inspect it carefully.”

Lu Youjiao cast a sidelong glance toward Yang Kang, he thought, “Can I rely on this kid to be the Clan Leader, to unite and command the Beggar Clan’s members under the heaven?” He held out his hand to receive the bamboo stick. He saw that the stick was dark green crystal clear; it was obviously the stick that was passed on by the Clan Leader from one generation to the next. He thought, “Hong Bangzhu must be indebted to him that he passed on this stick to this boy. The former Bangzhu has issued an order, how can my generation dare not to obey? I must work with complete dedication to support him, I must not fail the good foundation Hong Bangzhu has built.” Thereupon he lifted the stick with both hands and respectfully returned it back to Yang Kang. With a loud and clear voice he said, “We comply with the Lao Bangzhu’s [Old Clan Leader] last wish; we herewith revere Yang Xianggong as the Nineteenth Clan Leader of the Beggar Clan.” The crowd cheered.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong could not move their bodies, they could not open their mouths, all they could do was bitterly groaning in their hearts. Guo Jing thought, “The Huang Daozhu’s [Island Master] prediction was accurate, Yang Kang dares to become the Clan Leader. He will certainly create big disaster in the future.”

Huang Rong thought, “This fellow will surely not release us. I wonder how he will punish us. We’ll have to act accordingly.” She heard Yang Kang modestly say, “I am young and my knowledge is shallow, I’m without virtue and powerless. I do not deserve this heavy responsibility.”

Peng Zhanglao said, “Hong Bangzhu had ordered it this way, Yang Xianggong does not need to be modest. The brethrens will support you with one mind. Yang Xianggong, please feel at ease.”

“Exactly!” Lu Youjiao said. He coughed and produced thick phlegm, then spat it to Yang Kang’s face.

Yang Kang had never anticipated this; he was caught unguarded, the phlegm landed on his right cheek. He was startled and was about to ask when Jian, Peng and Liang three Elders also spat on his body. “I am finished!” Yang Kang cried out secretly. He thought his plot had been exposed by the four elders, so he wanted to turn around and run away, but he knew it would be very difficult to escape so he just resigned to wait for his violent death. Unexpectedly the Four Elders cupped their fists in front of their chests to salute him. Yang Kang was confounded and dumbstruck.

The beggars, starting with the most senior, came to him one by one and spat at him, then they saluted him. Yang Kang was pleasantly surprised and secretly expressed his admiration, “So they are being respectful to me by spitting at me?”

He did not know that the Beggar Clan always followed their custom and tradition; they saluted their new clan leader by spitting at him. It was because the beggars all over the world received insult and disgrace from countless other people, so the new leader must first receive insult and disgrace from his own members. This custom actually carried a very profound meaning.

Huang Rong suddenly remembered on the Mingxia [bright red clouds] Island, after Hong Qigong passed on the Clan Leader position to her he also spat phlegm at her clothes. She thought it was because of his heavy injury at that time that his saliva did not reach too far. So she did not understand that spitting saliva was the way to inaugurate the new Clan Leader. She also remembered Hong Qigong say, “When the Beggars pay obeisance to you in future, there will be a disgusting ritual. Ah, this will be hard on you.” Now she knew that her Shifu was afraid she did not like to be dirty and refuse the Clan Leader position, hence he concealed the truth and did not state what she would be facing clearly.

For most of the day the beggars performed their inaugurating ritual; after they were finished they shouted together, “Yang Bangzhu, please go up the Xuanyuan Platform!”

Yang Kang saw that platform was not too high; he wanted to show off his skill so his legs kicked the ground and he flew up the platform with a graceful movement. Although the way he leaped was excellent, the Four Elders were proficient in martial art so that they could see his skill was flashy but lacking substance, the foundation was still shallow. However, they realized that he was still young; it was obvious that to possess this kind of ability he must have received tutelage from a prominent master, which was also considered quite special.

From the Xuanyuan Platform Yang Kang spoke in loud and clear voice, “Although the killers of the Old Clean Leader have not been punished, but I managed to capture their two accomplices.”

His words created an uproar within the group of beggars. They shouted, “Where? Where?” “Bring them here and we’ll chop them into pieces,” “Don’t kill them with a saber, let the dogs eat them slowly.”

Guo Jing thought, “Who is this accomplice he captured? I want to take a look.”

“Take them to the front of the platform!” Yang Kang said with a stern voice.

Peng Zhanglao flew toward Guo Jing and Huang Rong. He grabbed both of them, one on each hand, and brought them to the front of the platform and threw them to the ground. Only now did Guo Jing realized, “Bastard! So he meant us,” he silently cursed.

As Lu Youjiao saw Jing and Rong two people, he was stunned, busily he said, “Reporting to Bangzhu: these two are the Lao Bangzhu’s disciples; how can they injure their own master?”

Yang Kang hatefully said, “Exactly because of this we are angrier than ever. These two deceitfully killed their own master, they are guilty of the most heinous crime.”

Peng Zhanglao said, “Yang Bangzhu witnessed it with his own eyes; how can that be wrong?”

Among the group of beggars, Li Sheng and Yu Zhaoxing were at Baoying trying to save Cheng Yaojia. They nearly lost their lives under Ouyang Ke’s hand, fortunately Guo Jing and Huang Rong came to their rescue. They both felt admiration toward this couple. Besides, they also knew Hong Qigong was very fond of these two disciples of his. Therefore, from among the beggars they rushed forward and Li Sheng called out, “Reporting to Bangzhu: these two are chivalrous heroes; subordinate is willing to vouch for them with my own life, Lao Bangzhu’s death definitely has nothing to do with them.”

Yu Zhaoxing called out, “These two are good people; they are very good friends of ours.”

Liang Zhanglao stared at them and shouted, “If you have anything to say, let your Elder say it for you. Do you think this is the place where you can interrupt at will?”

Li and Yu two people belonged to the Dirty Clothes Faction, they were under Lu Youjiao’s leadership. Since their rank was inferior, they did not dare to talk back to an elder. With anger in their hearts they stepped back into the crowd.

Lu Youjiao said, “It’s not that subordinate did not believe Bangzhu, but the death and revenge of the Lao Bangzhu is a very important matter. I ask Bangzhu to examine this matter carefully so the truth will be revealed.”

Yang Kang had anticipated this request and cooked up a plan, so he said, “All right, I will examine them carefully.” Toward Jing and Rong two people he said, “You don’t have to answer; if what I say is correct, just nod your head, if it is incorrect, shake your head. If you think you can lie to me, remember that the blade is ruthless.” He waved his hand and Peng and Liang two Elders each unsheathed their weapons and place them on Guo Jing’s and Huang Rong’s backs. Peng Zhanglao’s weapon was a sword and Liang Zhanglao’s was a saber; both were very sharp.

Huang Rong was so angry that her face was deathly pale. She recalled how at the Ox Village Lu Guanying proposed to Cheng Yaojia by asking her to shake or nod her head. At that time she thought it was so silly; unexpectedly today she was humiliated by this traitor with similar method. She also remembered once she played this trick to Ouyang Ke, and now she was at the receiving end of this trick. In her anger she was still thinking about how to raise Lu Youjiao’s suspicion by nodding of shaking her head; how to incite him so that he wanted her to answer his question orally. Once she was able to talk, exposing Yang Kang’s deceitful scheme would not be a difficult matter.

Yang Kang knew Guo Jing was naïve, it would be easier to manipulate him; he lifted him up and stood him aside, with a loud voice he asked, “This woman is Huang Yaoshi’s daughter, isn’t she?”

Guo Jing closed his eyes and did not respond. Liang Zhanglao nudged him on the back with his saber, he barked, “Yes or no? Nod or shake your head!”

Initially Guo Jing wanted to ignore Yang Kang, but then he thought, “Even if I can’t say anything, right or wrong will be revealed in the end.” Thereupon he nodded his head.

The crowd believed Huang Yaoshi was the ring-leader of the criminals who killed Hong Qigong; seeing him nod his head they loudly called, “What else to ask? Kill him! Kill him!” “Just kill the little bastard! We’ll deal with the old bastard later!”

Yang Kang called out, “Brothers! Be quiet, please! Let me ask him again.” Listening to their Clan Leader’s order, the crowd quieted down immediately. Then Yang Kang asked Guo Jing again, “Huang Yaoshi has betrothed his daughter to you, has he not?” Guo Jing thought it was a fact, so he nodded again.

Yang Kang bent his waist to grope Guo Jing’s body and took a dagger with beautiful crystal-like hilt; he asked, “This is a gift from the Quanzhen Seven Masters’ Qiu Chuji. That Qiu Laodao [old Taoist Qiu] carved your name on the dagger, is that true?” Guo Jing nodded.

Yang Kang continued his interrogation, “The Quanzhen Seven Masters’ Ma Yu had taught you martial art, Wang Chuyi had saved your life, you can’t deny that, can you?” Guo Jing thought, “Why would I deny that?” So he nodded again.

Yang Kang said, “Hong Qigong, Hong Bangzhu, thought that you two are good people, therefore, he had taught both of you his unique skills; had he not?” Guo Jing nodded.

Yang Kang asked again, “When Hong Lao Bangzhu fell into enemy’s ambush and suffered a heavy injury, you two were nearby, weren’t you?” Guo Jing nodded again.

Huang Rong was anxious, “Sha Gege [Dumb Big Brother], no matter what he asks you always nod your head; you must make him to allow you to speak.”

The crowd of beggars listened to Yang Kang’s increasingly stern voice, and saw Guo Jing repeatedly nod his head and they believed Guo Jing was admitting all the charges. They had never realized that all these questions about Hong Qigong fell into ambush had nothing to do with the matter at hand; it was all part of Yang Kang’s sinister plot to frame Guo Jing and Huang Rong. Even Lu Youjiao hated Guo Jing and Huang Rong to his bones; he stepped forward and kicked Guo Jing several times.

Yang Kang called out, “Brothers! These two little thieves have readily admitted their crimes, let’s just spare them further suffering. Peng, Liang, two Elders, please proceed!” Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at each other mournfully. All of a sudden Huang Rong smiled, she thought, “In the end it is I who die with Jing Gege, not that Huazheng! It’s better to die like this. There are heavy rains ahead anyway; it’s no use to run away.”

Guo Jing lifted up his eyes to the sky, he remembered his mother in the desert far away and looked toward the north. He saw the Big Dipper constellation shining its brilliant light; suddenly his heart was moved. He recalled Quanzhen Seven Masters fight Mei Chaofeng and Huang Yaoshi using this battle formation. As someone who arrived at the point of death his thought was especially keen; he recalled the Big Dipper Formation’s offense and defense, attack and retreat, take in and send out, open up and close in, he remembered everything very clear.

Peng and Liang two Elders were holding their saber and sword tight, and were about to act when Lu Youjiao suddenly rushed ahead toward Guo Jing and Huang Rong, and called out, “Hold on!” He took the cloth stuffing Guo Jing’s mouth and asked, “How did Lao Bangzhu get killed? Tell me everything.”

“You don’t have to ask, I know everything,” Yang Kang busily said. Yet Lu Youjiao said, “Bangzhu, the more we know the details the better. None of the thieves having any relation with this matter will get away!”

Yang Kang was secretly anxious; he thought as soon as the truth revealed his situation would change; but it was inconvenient for him to stop Lu Youjiao from investigating this matter himself, so beads of sweats appeared on Yang Kang’s forehead. Who would have guessed that although the cloth from Guo Jing’s mouth was removed, he still did not say anything; he was still staring at the northern sky, as if he was entranced.

Lu Youjiao asked him several times, but it seemed like Guo Jing did not hear anything. Actually Guo Jing’s full attention was absorbed by studying the Big Dipper Formation that he was completely oblivious to everything else; how could he hear what Lu Youjiao had said?

Huang Rong and Yang Kang were both very astonished that Guo Jing unexpectedly did not want to take this good opportunity to clear up his name, only one was sad, the other joyful; their feeling was a world apart.

Yang Kang waved his hand and Peng and Liang lifted up their weapons. Suddenly they heard swishing noise, a violet spark swept through the lakefront. Peng and Liang two people were startled and turned their heads to look up and saw two blue flames streaked up to the sky. These flames were several ‘li’s away from Mount Jun, seemed like they were released from the middle of the lake.

Jian Zhanglao said, “Bangzhu, we have a guest.” Yang Kang was startled, “Who is it?” he asked.

“The Clan Leader of the Iron Palm Clan,” Jian Zhanglao replied.

Yang Kang did not know the Iron Palm Clan’s origin. “Iron Palm Clan?” he asked.

“The Iron Palm Clan is a big clan in the Sichuan and Hunan area,” Jian Zhanglao explained, “Their clan leader is paying us a visit, we’d better receive them well. We can deal with these two thieves later.”

“That’s fine,” Yang Kang said, “Jian Zhanglao, please welcome the guests.”

Jian Zhanglao conveyed the order. ‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’ from the Mount Jun’s island three red rockets were shot out. Not too long afterwards a boat came ashore. The beggars lit torches up and stood to welcome the guests. The Xuanyuan Platform was located at the peak of Mount Jun. It was quite a long way from the foot of the hill to the peak, so that although the guests used their ‘qing gong’ [lightness kungfu], half a day had passed before they arrived.

Jing and Rong two people were taken into the crowd, guarded by Peng Zhanglao’s disciples. Huang Rong tried to assess Guo Jing’s condition; she saw he was expressionless, eyes looking at the sky, mumbling nonstop about who-knows-what. She was extremely shocked; she thought his mind must be confused because of the great injustice he received. She further thought that no matter who the guest was, there was always opportunity to be exploited. While she was still thinking the guest had already arrived. Under the torch light she saw about a dozen men dressed in black escorting an old man walking toward the platform. This old man wore a short yellow robe, with a large leaf fan in his hand; who else but Qiu Qianren? Huang Rong was angry, but also amused and disappointed at the same time; this man certainly would not do her any good.

Jian Zhanglao stepped forward to welcome the guests, extending some Jianghu pleasantries. He was very respectful. Afterwards he introduced the guests to Yang Kang, he said, “This is ‘tie zhang shui shang piao’ [iron palm floating on the water] Qiu Lao Bangzhu [old clan leader Qiu]; his divine palm matchless, his prestige shakes the world. This is our newly elected Clan Leader, the young hero Yang Bangzhu. I am glad you two can be acquainted.”

At the Cloud Village of Lake Tai Yang Kang had witnessed Qiu Qianren’s trick being shamefully exposed; in his heart he looked at him condescendingly. He thought that it turned out that this swindler was a clan leader of some big organization. An idea came into his mind; he pretended he did not know the guest, and said with a smile, “Fortunate meeting, fortunate meeting!” Extending his hand he meant to shake Qiu Qianren’s hand.

Both palms met, Yang Kang exerted all his strength into his palm, deliberately wanted to crush Qiu Qianren’s palm, thinking, “Everybody believes you have an outstanding martial art skill, I want you to fall in my hand. This truly a heaven-sent opportunity that this old man is here today, so I can show my martial art prowess in front of this crowd of beggars.” Who would have thought that as soon as he exerted his strength he felt scalding heat on his palm; as if he was grasping a red-burnt coal. Hastily he withdrew his hand, but the opponent just grabbed his hand firmly, so he felt like his hand was continuously burning. He could not restrain from crying out, “Aiyo!” His face was deathly pale, tears streaming from his eyes, his body doubled from pain, he almost fainted.

The Beggar Clan’s four elders were startled; they rushed forward together to protect their clan leader. Jian Zhanglao was the chief among the Elders. He struck the steel staff in his hand to a rock. ‘Clang!’ sparks flew everywhere. “Qiu Lao Bangzhu!” he said angrily, “You’ve come from afar to be our guest. Our Yang Bangzhu is young; how can you test his skill like that?”

Qiu Qianren coldly said, “Nicely I shook his hand; it was your precious Bangzhu who tested the Old Man first. Yang Bangzhu deliberately wanted to crush my old bones.” While his mouth was talking, his grip did not loosen up; while Yang Kang kept crying out, “Aiyo!” By the time he finished speaking, Yang Kang’s voice weakened and he passed out.

Qiu Qianren loosened up his hand and waved it away; Yang Kang had already fainted, he tumbled down to the ground. Lu Youjiao hastily rushed forward to pick him up. Jian Zhanglao angrily said, “Qiu Lao Bangzhu, you

… you … What’s the purpose of this? Isn’t this outrageous?”

“Humph,” Qiu Qianren sneered; his left palm slapped Jian Zhanglao’s face. Jian Zhanglao lifted up his steel staff to fend off. Very quickly Qiu Qianren changed his slap into slicing down to grab the head of the staff. As the edge of his palm touched the head of the staff, he pulled the staff inward before even grabbing it.

Jian Zhanglao’s battle experience was vast; he was startled, but did not release the staff in his hand. Qiu Qianren indeed did not snatch his staff; quick like a wind his right palm swept away to the left. ‘Clang!’ it hit the middle of Jian Zhanglao’s staff. Jian Zhanglao’s palm was chaffed, blood flowed out and he could not hold his staff anymore; it was snatched by Qiu Qianren. Qiu Qianren swept the staff horizontally to parry Peng and Liang two Elders’ saber and sword while his right elbow struck toward Lu Youjiao’s face. Hence in a short period of time he compelled all four Elders of the Beggar Clan to step back.

The crowd of beggars watched with amazement. They unsheathed their weapons; they would fight the Iron Palm Clan as soon as their Clan Leader issued his command.

Qiu Qianren’s left hand gripped the steel staff’s head, his right hand held its tail; he let out a loud and long laugh and secretly sent his strength to both hands. With a shout he wanted to break the steel staff into two. He did not know that Jian Zhanglao’s steel staff was made of a specially treated metal, it was very ductile; the staff did not break. It stubbornly resisted his arms’ supernatural power. Qiu Qianren exerted more strength and the steel staff slowly curved into an arc.

The crowd of beggars was astonished and angry. Suddenly they saw Qiu Qianren swung his left arm back and immediately wield forward, hurling the arched steel staff flying to the sky, toward the mountain rock at the opposite side. With a loud ‘Clang!’ the staff’s head struck the rock; the noise reverberated for a long time.

As Qiu Qianren demonstrated his hands’ power, the crowd of beggars was amazed and frightened. Huang Rong was even more astonished, she thought, “This old man is obviously a useless swindler; how can he become so fierce all of a sudden? Could it be that he colluded with Yang Kang and Jian Zhanglao to perform this trick? Perhaps there is some secret on that steel staff.”

The moon had reached the middle of the sky, all around the torches adding up its brightness. Huang Rong looked clearly, it was really the Qiu Qianren she saw at the Cloud Village and the Ox Village. She turned her head toward Guo Jing. He was still looking up to the sky, mumbling intelligibly. Could it be that he was so scared and angry he turned insane? She was deeply concerned about Guo Jing, so she no longer watched Qiu Qianren’s acrobatic play; her pair of beautiful eyes watched Guo Jing’s expression closely.

Qiu Qianren said with a cold voice, “The Iron Palm Clan with your precious Beggar Clan is usually like the water of the river, does not mix with the water from the well. Upon hearing that your precious Clan is having a general assembly at Mount Jun I come to pay a visit with a good intention. Why did as soon as we met your precious clan’s Bangzhu demonstrated his power?”

Jian Zhanglao was intimidated by Qiu Qianren’s power and reputation, he was already scared; hearing the hostility in Qiu Qianren’s voice he busily said, “Qiu Lao Bangzhu misunderstood. Lao Bangzhu’s prestige has shaken the four corners of the world; we always admire you. Today we are very honored to have Lao Bangzhu shines your glorious light upon us.”

Qiu Qianren looked up to the sky without saying anything; his demeanor was very arrogant and threatening. After a long while he said, “I heard Hong Lao Bangzhu passed away. We have one less great hero of this world. Pity! It is a pity! Your precious clan also elected this kind of new Bangzhu. Ay! Pity! It’s a pity!”

By this time Yang Kang had regained his consciousness; he heard he was being ridiculed at his face, he was angry but did not dare to say anything. He felt his right hand was still burning hot; his five fingers were so swollen they looked like five Chinese yams. The Four Elders of the Beggar Clan did not know how to respond.

Qiu Qianren said, “My visit today is to ask an important favor from your precious Clan; in return, I am going to offer something to you.”

“We don’t dare,” Jian Zhanglao replied, “But please Qiu Lao Bangzhu tell us.”

Qiu Qianren said, “Recently some brothers from my clan received the Old Man’s order to take care of some business. I don’t know how they had provoked two friends from your precious Clan that they were beaten and suffered heavy injuries. My brothers’ skills were unrefined, so there is nothing I can say; but if this matter is spread out within the Jianghu, the Iron Palm Clan will certainly lose our face. Old Man does not know the good from evil; I want to ask for some lessons from the two friends from your precious Clan.”

From the start Yang Kang did not have the slightest bit of care toward the Beggar Clan; how could he dare to offend Qiu Qianren for the sake of two Beggar Clan disciples? Immediately he said, “Who has dared to cause trouble and fight with friends from the Iron Palm Clan without authorization? Quickly come out and apologize to Qiu Lao Bangzhu.” Ever since Hong Qigong became the Clan Leader of the Beggar Clan, they had never lost power and prestige within the Jianghu. Now as soon as Hong Qigong was dead, the new Clan Leader was this weak; as the crowd of beggars heard this order, they were filled with contempt and resentment. Li Sheng and Yu Zhaoxing came out several steps from among the crowd. With a clear voice Li Sheng said, “Reporting to Bangzhu: our Clan’s fourth commandment clearly states that every one of us must uphold justice and chivalry; helping others in suffering. The day before yesterday while we were on our way the two of us saw some friends from the Iron Palm Clan bullying common people, taking some women captive. We could not hold our patience; we stepped forward to stop them. We fought and in the end have injured the friends from the Iron Palm Clan.”

Yang Kang said, “No matter what you have to apologize to Qiu Lao Bangzhu.”

Li Sheng and Yu Zhaoxing looked at each other; they were furious. If they did not apologize, they were disobeying their Clan Leader’s order; if they apologized, this humiliation was difficult to bear. Li Zheng loudly called out, “Brothers, if Lao Bangzhu was still alive he would not allow us to throw this face away. Today Xiao Di [little brother, referring to himself] prefers to die rather than be disgraced!” With a smooth motion he pulled a short dagger from his leg and stabbed it into his own heart; he died immediately. Yu Zhaoxing pounced forward to snatch the short dagger, then he stabbed his own chest; he died on top of Li Zheng’s body.

The crowd of beggars saw these two would rather commit suicide than to be insulted; their hearts were tumultuous, but the Beggar Clan’s regulation was extremely strict, without the Clan Leader’s command, nobody dared to move.

Qiu Qianren smiled wryly, he said, “Let this matter be settled this way then. Now I want to give your precious Clan a gift.” His left hand waved; a dozen or so men dressed in black behind him opened a chest they brought along. Each one held out a tray and respectfully presented the tray to Yang Kang. The trays glittered brightly, they were full of gold, silver, jewels and pearls. The crowds of beggars were astonished to see them suddenly present these jewels.

Qiu Qianren said, “Although the Iron Palm Clan has enough food to eat, we cannot afford to present you with any appropriate gift. This gift is from Zhao Wangye [Prince Zhao, lit. King Zhao] of the Great Jin who asked the Old Man to pass along to you.”

Yang Kang was pleasantly surprised; he asked quickly, “Where is Zhao Wangye? I must see him.”

Qiu Qianren replied, “Several months ago Zhao Wangye sent his people to deliver this gift along with his message for the Old Man to pass them along to your precious Clan.”

Yang Kang uttered an ‘Hmm’, he thought, “It was before father even made a plan to go south. I wonder what he had in mind with these beggars.”

He heard Qiu Qianren continued, “Zhao Wangye admires the heroes of your precious Clan; he asked the Old Man to come over personally and deliver this gift.”

Yang Kang happily said, “How can we be worthy to receive Lao Bangzhu’s precious effort?”

Qiu Qianren said with a smile, “Yang Bangzhu is young, but you are very broadminded; you far surpass Hong Bangzhu.”

When he was still at Yanjing Yang Kang had not heard Wanyan Honglie mention anything about the Beggar Clan; he was anxious to hear his intention. “I wonder what does Zhao Wangye want with my Clan? Would Lao Bangzhu give us directions?” he asked.

“Giving you direction, that I cannot do,” Qiu Qianren smiled, “Zhao Wangye told the Old Man, that the land of the north is barren and its people are poor, it is difficult to set your feet on …”

Yang Kang caught fast, “So Zhao Wangye wants us to move to the south?” Qiu Qianren laughed, “Yang Bangzhu is very smart, the Old Man is impressed. Zhao Wangye said: in Jiangnan the lakes are wide, the land is warm, the people rich; why don’t the brothers from the Beggar Clan move to south? It far surpasses the cold northern land.

Yang Kang smiled, “Thank you for Zhao Wangye’s and Lao Bangzhu’s kind direction. I will certainly comply.”

Qiu Qianren did not expect that the Beggar Clan would readily accept his proposal; his face showed doubt. He had not anticipated this response. His mind churning, he thought this man was young and weak; and when he had just squeezed his hand with Iron Palm, he fainted from the pain. It was obvious that this man was afraid of him; so it was not strange that no matter what he said this man did not dare to defy. However, the Beggar Clan had a deep root in the north, how could he easily agree to move to the south? When the Beggar Clan talked about it later, they were bound to regret this decision. Therefore, he decided to put the last nail on the coffin by saying, “A real man cannot breach his own word. Today Yang Bangzhu gave your word; once the Beggar Clan brothers cross the great river, you will not return to the north, correct?”

Yang Kang was about to comply, but Lu Youjiao suddenly said, “Reporting to Bangzhu: we beg for a living, what use we have for gold and silver? Besides, our Clan has hundreds of thousands of members spreading all over the world, how can we limit their movements? I beg Bangzhu to reconsider.”

By now Yang Kang had understood clearly Wanyan Honglie’s intention. He knew that at the north of the river the Beggar Clan had always fought the Jins. Each time the Jins attacked to the south the Beggar Clan would disturb the rear of the army’s movement; either by assassinating the high ranking military officers or burning their provisions down.

If the Beggar Clan moved to the south, naturally it would tremendously help the Jin’s effort in attacking the south. Thereupon he said, “This is Qiu Lao Bangzhu’s kind intention; if we refuse, we would be disrespectful to him. I don’t want any of the gold and silver; four honorable Elders can divide it among the brethrens after the assembly is over.”

Lu Youjiao anxiously said, “Our Hong Lao Bangzhu was widely known as the Northern Beggar. Everybody in the world knows that our base is in the north. How can we move so easily? Our Clan has vowed our loyalty and patriotism to serve our country, we have been enemies with the Jins forever. We surely cannot accept their gift; and most certainly we cannot move across the Changjiang.”

Yang Kang was furious; he was about to reply when Peng Zhanglao said with a smile, “Lu Zhanglao, the important matter in our Clan is decided by our Bangzhu; it is not decided by you, is it?”

Lu Youjiao imposingly said, “I would rather die than forgetting about loyalty and patriotism to my country.”

“Jian, Peng, Liang Zhanglaos, what do you say” Yang Kang asked.

Jian and Liang Zhanglaos hesitated before answering; they also thought moving across the Changjiang was not an appropriate thing to do. But Peng Zhanglao with a loud voice replied, “We rely on Bangzhu’s decision. How can subordinates dare to disobey?”

“Good,” Yang Kang said, “We will move across the Dajiang [Great River] by the first of the eight month.”

As he said this, more than half of the crowd of beggars broke in clamor. Hearing this reaction Yang Kang was temporarily at a loss. Jian, Peng and Liang three Elders shouted their orders for the noise to stop, but most of those who were angered were from the Dirty Clothes Faction; they ignored these three Elders.

Peng Zhanglao shouted, “Lu Zhanglao, are you going to rebel against our Bangzhu?”

Lu Youjiao imposingly said, “Even if a thousand sabers chop my body to pieces, I will not dare to rebel against Bangzhu. But Lu Youjiao does not dare to abandon the wishes of our forefathers even more! The Jin kingdom is our Great Song’s archenemy. What would Hong Lao Bangzhu say to us?”

Jian and Liang two Elders hung their heads without saying anything; they started to regret their indecisiveness.

Qiu Qianren saw the situation was not good; he was afraid it would be difficult to attain success if he does not deal with Lu Youjiao. He coldly laughed and said to Yang Kang, “Yang Bangzhu, is this Lu Zhanglao always this bossy?” As his words come out, his palms ferociously struck out to grab Lu Youjiao’s shoulder.

As soon as Qiu Qianren sneered, Lu Youjiao was ready to protect himself; he knew Qiu Qianren was fierce, he did not dare to parry. He bent his waist and slipped through under Qiu Qianren’s crotch. Without straightening up his body, ‘whoosh! whoosh! whoosh!’ he already sent three kicks toward Qiu Qianren’s buttocks. He was called Lu Youjiao [Lu with a foot/kick], it was because his leg skill was really good; the kicks were very swift and fierce.

Qiu Qianren thought this man’s way of evading his attack by slipping underneath his crotch was very strange; and then he felt the gust of wind from behind, quickly his palm slapped backwards. If Lu Youjiao’s third kick hit its target, it would certainly cause some damage; but if the kick was hit by the opponent’s Iron Palm, his own shin could break. Hence Lu Youjiao pulled it back abruptly when it was still midway; he rolled sideways and suddenly spat thick phlegm toward Qiu Qianren’s face. Qiu Qianren leaned his head sideways to evade; he was startled by the opponent’s strange move.

“Lu Zhanglao, don’t be rude to the honored guest!” Yang Kang shouted.

Lu Youjiao immediately went back two steps as soon as he heard his Clan Leader’s order. But Qiu Qianren actually showed no mercy whatsoever; his hands went straight toward Lu Youjiao’s throat like a pair of pliers. Lu Youjiao was startled; he turned around to evade, but heard the enemy shout ‘hey’ and both of his hands were grabbed. Lu Youjiao had fought hundreds of battles; he stayed calm in face of defeat. With all his might he raised his hands but failed to lift the enemy, he immediately struck the enemy’s stomach using his head. Since he was little, Lu Youjiao had trained his head in ‘tong chui tie tou’ [copper hammer iron head]; with his head he was able to make a hole in the wall. Many times he made a bet with his fellow beggars to strike his head against a bullock’s. Each time the two heads collided, his head was not injured, but the bullock actually passed out.

This time he understood that he might not be able to injure the enemy, but he hoped he could get his hands freed up from the enemy’s grasp. Who would have thought that as the top of his head touched the enemy’s stomach he felt he was hitting a soft object; as if he was entering a soft cotton pillow. He knew it was not a good sign; so he hastily withdrew his head, but to his surprise the enemy’s stomach also followed his head. Lu Youjiao struggled with all his strength, yet Qiu Qianren’s stomach had a very strong suction, holding Lu Youjiao’s head firmly. Lu Youjiao was frightened since he felt his head was gradually burning hot; at the same time he felt as if his hands were also entering a hot furnace. The pain was unbearable.

“Do you surrender?” Qiu Qianren shouted.

“Stinky old thief,” Lu Youjiao cursed, “Why would I surrender to you?”

Qiu Qianren exerted more strength to his left hand. ‘Crack! Crack!’ he broke Lu Youjiao’s right hand fingers. “Do you surrender?” Qiu Qianren asked again.

“Stinky old thief,” Lu Youjiao cursed, “Why would I surrender to you?”

‘Crack! Crack!’ Lu Youjiao’s left hand fingers were broken. He was in so much pain that his mind was in a daze, but his mouth kept shouting curses.

Qiu Qianren said, “If I add more strength to my stomach, your head will be crushed. I want to see if you can keep cursing.”

He had not finished speaking when suddenly someone leaped out from among the crowd of beggars; he was tall and broad-shouldered, it was none other than Guo Jing. He was walking in big strides toward Lu Youjiao’s back. He lifted his right palm high, ‘slap, slap, slap!’ he slapped Lu Youjiao’s buttocks three times so hard that the sound was heard loud and clear.

Although these three slaps hit Lu Youjiao’s buttocks, Qiu Qianren felt strong bursts of energy flowing from Lu Youjiao’s head toward his stomach. ‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’ the energy melted the suction force of his own stomach.

Lu Youjiao felt his head was free, he hastily withdrew, trying to stand up; but his hands were still firmly gripped by the enemy. Guo Jing called out, “You are not Qiu Lao Qianbei’s [old senior Qiu] match; get out of the way!” His left leg swept away, kicking Lu Youjiao’s left shoulder.

This kick of his looked ordinary, yet although it landed on Lu Youjiao’s body, the force was actually transmitted to Qiu Qianren’s arms. Qiu Qianren felt his palms were shaken and involuntarily loosened his grip. Lu Youjiao took advantage of this good opportunity; he borrowed the strength from Guo Jing’s kick and threw himself aside. Only his head was captured for quite a long time and he felt dizzy; he was not able to stand steadily and tumbled down on the ground.

Qiu Qianren was startled to see Guo Jing’s three slaps and one kick; he thought this man was young, but unexpectedly possessed this kind of transferring force skill. He did not think that there was somebody like this among the Beggar Clan. He immediately put his guard up and did not dare to attack rashly.

The crowd of beggars was not clear on what was going on; they still believed Guo Jing was an accomplice of the enemies who killed their Clan Leader, and then they saw Guo Jing kick Lu Youjiao. They shouted angrily and pressed forward to surround him.

Earlier Guo Jing was bound tightly by the braided steel wire and cowhide rope; he could not move even the slightest bit. His eyes kept looking up to the Big Dipper constellation. He recalled the Quanzhen Seven Masters’ movements he saw at the Ox Village and compared it to the Nine Yin Manual he memorized so well, which was difficult to understand. He pondered it in his heart, and one by one those passages became clear to him.

The Nine Yin Manual was the result of a highly-skilled senior’s comprehension of the Taoist Canon; it was closely interlinked with the Quanzhen Sect’s internal energy cultivation technique Ma Yu had passed on to him and with the Quanzhen Seven Masters’ Big Dipper Formation. It was just that the technique was profoundly deep and Guo Jing’s comprehension was rather shallow so even after several months he still had not understood the correlation. This time, looking at the Big Dipper constellation he vaguely saw the link between what he memorized and what he saw.

When Qiu Qianren talked with Yang Kang, Jian Zhanglao, Lu Youjiao and the others, Guo Jing was deeply engrossed in deciphering the ‘shou jin suo gu fa’ [collecting muscles shrinking the bones]. It was the most advanced technique in the Manual; similar to the ability of a mouse to go through small holes. When it was trained to perfection the practitioner would be able to shrink his whole body to minimum, just like a hedgehog would curl up when facing an enemy.

On the Mingxia [bright red clouds] Island Guo Jing followed Hong Qigong’s instruction to train the ‘yi jin duan gu pian’ [changing muscle forging bones technique]. By this time he had mastered a little bit of this technique, and it served as an excellent foundation for him. So it happened that when he started practicing according to the Manual the ropes that bound his hands and his feet were loosened. His skill was so good that it was ten times better than his brain power; although the ropes were loosened he still did not know how it happened.

Peng Zhanglao was on guard by Guo Jing’s side; when he suddenly saw Guo Jing escape, he was very shocked. He tried to grab him, but failed; he looked down and saw the empty ropes lying on the ground. The ropes were still tied in knots, but the man inside had already slipped out just like a slippery loach. He was about to pursue when he saw Guo Jing was helping Lu Youjiao. Peng Zhanglao thought that even if he boldly step forward, he may not necessarily be able to subdue Guo Jing. Thereupon his mouth shouted loudly, “Capture this little thief!” yet his feet did not move.

Guo Jing had been bound for a long time, he was really angry. Moreover, he thought about Huang Rong’s feelings; she was still somewhat childish, so she must be very angry. He knew that this crowd of beggars was swindled by Yang Kang and did not really have any enmity with Huang Rong and him, but right now seeing the crowd of beggars shouting and rushing forward to attack, he thought, “If I can’t beat you well today, Rong’er’s anger won’t disappear easily!”

He wanted to use the Big Dipper Formation he had just thought through; his arms lifted up, his feet stepped on to the ‘tian quan’ [sky authority/power] position. But seeing that about six, seven beggars were pouncing him from behind, Guo Jing stood upright with a mountain strong stance, his left hand in horizontal position in front of his chest.

The first three beggars arrived, they held out their hands to grab his arm. Guo Jing stayed motionless; in a short moment several more beggars arrived. Guo Jing dropped his arm and with a floating motion he made a circle, attacking these several beggars’ backs with his hands and feet. Some were hit on their backs, some on their waists, and some others were hit on their buttocks. A succession of cries were heard, “Aiyo!” “Aiyo!” “Thief male servant bird!” six, seven people fell on the ground.

Guo Jing was pleased, “This technique really works,” he thought. He turned around, wanting to grab Yang Kang to settle the debt with him; but then under the moonlight he saw that two beggars were about to attack Huang Rong. He was afraid they might injure her, while he was too far to help and he did not carry any secret projectiles with him. In desperation he stooped down to take his cloth shoes off and threw them toward the attackers. He was not a quick thinker that he would invent this trick all by himself; he had heard stories from his masters, the Six Freaks of Jiangnan, how during the fight at the Fahua Temple his Second Master Zhu Cong took off his shoe and threw it toward Qiu Chuji. Therefore, he simply copied the trick. Those two beggars were afraid that Huang Rong possessed the same ability as Guo Jing; able to free herself from the ropes. They approached her with caution, unsheathed the sabers in their hands, intending to kill her to avenge their Lao Bangzhu. Unexpectedly just when they arrived in front of Huang Rong, before they even lifted their weapons, they heard a strong gust of wind on their backs; something was flying toward them, apparently an enemy was attacking them. The one with higher martial art quickly turned around and Guo Jing’s shoe hit him on the chest. The other one was slower, the shoe hit his back.

Although the cloth shoes were soft and light, because of Guo Jing’s internal strength the force carried by those shoes was not a small matter; the two beggars were unable to stand, one fell backward face up to the sky, the other dove face down to the ground. Peng Zhanglao was standing nearby; he was scared to see how with a pair of cloth shoes Guo Jing was able to hit people swiftly and fiercely. He hastily withdrew several steps back.

Guo Jing swept his hand to push back three beggars; he anxiously went to Huang Rong. He stooped down to untie the ropes, but he only managed to untie one rope before he was surrounded by the crowd of beggars again. Guo Jing simply sat on the ground, copying how Qiu Chuji, Wang Chuyi and the others battled the enemy using the Big Dipper Formation. His right palm blocked the enemies, he put Huang Rong on his knees and using his left hand he slowly untied the knots. He had mastered Zhou Botong’s skill of ‘shuang shou hu bo’ [Mutual Hands Combat]; one heart two techniques. This time he used his left hand to untie the knots, his right hand to fend off the enemies’ attacks; he did it so casually, without the slightest degree of rush.

In less than the time needed to drink tea, Jing and Rong two people were thickly surrounded by hundreds of beggars. Without looking back Guo Jing simply blocked the attacks from his back. All along Guo Jing took a defensive stand and had never launched any deathly attacks. It was only after he untied all ropes from Huang Rong’s hands and feet did Guo Jing took the cloth from her mouth and said, “Rong’er, are you injured?” Huang Rong leaned on his knees; without standing up she replied, “No injuries, just numb all over my body.”

“Good,” Guo Jing said, “Just lie down to rest for a while; let me vent your anger for you.”

Two people, one sat on the ground one of them laid down, were talking amiably as if they were not disturbed by the clamoring noise of the weapons and commotion of the beggars around them. Huang Rong laughed and said, “You may fight them, just don’t injure my disciples and grand disciples.”

“I’ll remember that,” Guo Jing said. His left palm lightly stroke her beautiful hair, his right palm suddenly shot out; ‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’ three beggars flew out above the crowd’s heads.

The crowd of beggars was thrown into confusion. Four more beggars were flung away by Guo Jing’s palm strength. Then from among the crowd someone was calling out, “Brothers, step back! Let the eight-bag disciples deal with these two little thieves.” It was Jian Zhanglao’s voice.

As the crowd heard his command they dispersed immediately until only three people left nearby Guo Jing and Huang Rong, and then five more people came from behind; this brought the total to eight people surrounding them all around. There were eight sacks on each of these people’s back; their rank in the Beggar Clan was only second to the four elders. Each one of them was in command of a group of beggars. Two fat and skinny beggars who met and escorted Yang Kang earlier were also among them. There were originally nine eight-bag disciples, but Li Sheng killed himself so only eight were left.

Guo Jing was aware that although the number of the enemies has decreased, each one of them was a highly skilled pugilist. He was about to stand up when with a low voice Huang Rong said, “Keep sitting down; you can fight them. Just don’t look them in the eye.”

Guo Jing thought, “If the eight of them fight together, they will be difficult to block; I must overthrow some of them first.” Recognizing the two beggars, fat and skinny, who met Yang Kang at the Ox Village his left hand snatched the rope he untied from Huang Rong’s body; then with a ‘duan jing pan ta’ [breaking shins coiling strike] the rope swept like a whip. It was from the ‘jin long bian fa’ [golden dragon whip technique] he learned from Ma Wang Shen [horse god, lit. divine horse king] Han Baoju. The move was the same, but his internal energy had advanced tremendously, so the power carried by the whip was also increased.

The fat and skinny beggars saw the steel rope come sweeping, they quickly leaped away to evade. Guo Jing turned the steel rope into a wall, blocking their front, left and rear sides, leaving the right side open. The fat and skinny beggars were actually on this right side, while the other six beggars were blocked by the rope wall, so they could not attack. The two beggars saw the opportunity and pounced forward immediately, only to hear Jian Zhanglao anxiously call out, “Don’t attack!” But it was too late; Guo Jing’s palm moved like the wind, ‘Slap! Slap!’ he struck the two beggars’ shoulders. The two beggars flew out toward the group of black-dressed Iron Palm Clan’s men.

Although these two beggars were struck by the same force, since one was fat and the other skinny, the effect was not the same; the fat one fell near, while the skinny one flew out further. ‘Bang! Bang!’ they knocked down two men in black.

Originally Qiu Qianren only stood on the side watching the fight, he also thought little of the two beggars flying away; but as he heard the sound of the collision he was startled. “If they didn’t die, our men must be injured.” He rushed forward but saw the fat and skinny beggars leap to stand up, without suffering any injuries. The Iron Palm Clan men on the other hand, suffered broken bones; they crawled on the ground. Qiu Qianren was angry; he was about to turn around when suddenly he heard a strong wind on his back, two other eight-bag Beggar Clan disciples were flung by Guo Jing’s palm strength.

Qiu Qianren knew that Guo Jing transmitted his energy in such a way that it was heavy in a distant and light nearby; the Beggar Clan disciples only suffer light force, while the ones they bumped actually bear the brunt of the energy. Immediately he pushed and redirected one beggar to an empty space, and then with a grunt both of his palms struck toward the other beggar’s back. This time he was using his life-long cultivated Iron Palm energy. If his strength exceeded Guo Jing’s, then not only he could counteract the incoming force, but he could also inflict heavy injury to the beggar; otherwise, even if he would not suffer injury, he would certainly be knocked down backwards.

The Beggar Clan’s Four Elders and Huang Rong knew that in this pair of palms Qiu Qianren was staking it all to compete head-to-head against Guo Jing; the stake between victory and defeat was not small. They were watching with rapt attention. But as the palms thrust out, the eight-bag disciple flew another ‘zhang’, and then lightly landed on the ground. He was at a loss for a moment before turning around and went back to face Guo Jing. Surprisingly he did not suffer any injury at all.

In one hand the Four Elders of the Beggar Clan found out that Guo Jing’s martial art was about the same level with Qiu Qianren’s; perhaps Guo Jing was somewhat inferior, but the difference was not too much. They were astonished and scared. On the other hand Huang Rong was even more surprised, she thought, “This Old Swindler’s martial art is just ordinary, how can he block Jing Gege’s palm strength? He was obviously using real power, not some crafty trick. He is really difficult to predict.”

With this one move Qiu Qianren had tested Guo Jing’s true skill. In term of internal energy cultivation he was still superior to Guo Jing by half a notch; but it was difficult to say whether this kid was a friend or a foe of the Beggar Clan. Qiu Qianren was in a dangerous place. It was not worthwhile to continue fighting; hence he waved his right hand and took the Iron Palm Clan people to leave that place.

The martial art of the eight-bag disciples of the Beggar Clan was more or less at the same level with Yin Zhiping, Yang Kang and their peers. Guo Jing had knocked down four people. Although one came back to join the fight, how could these five beggars resist to the power of Guo Jing’s Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms combined with mysterious variations of the Big Dipper Formation? If not due to the fact that Guo Jing looked up to his Shifu’s face, these five beggars would have been already dead or heavily injured.

A dozen moves later he struck down two more beggars with his palm strength. The other three beggars did not dare to attack; they turned away to run. Guo Jing wielded the steel rope in his left hand and swept two beggars’ ankles, pulling them near him.

“Tie them down!” Huang Rong said. Guo Jing took the steel rope and tied the hands and feet of these two beggars behind their backs.

Seeing him reaping a big victory Huang Rong was astonished and delighted. She wanted to capture that smiling face beggar, Peng Zhanglao, who held them prisoner earlier. She recalled her Shifu had once said that in Jianghu there was a method of influencing the mind, capable to make someone suddenly fall asleep so that that person could be manipulated, incapable of resisting. She believed this Peng Zhanglao had actually used this kind of hypnotics to them. “Jing Gege,” she asked, “is there any ‘she xin fa’ [method to influence other people’s mind, lit. intimidating heart/mind technique] in the Nine Yin Manual?”

“No …” Guo Jing replied.

Huang Rong was quite disappointed, she whispered, “Guard against that smiling face beggar, don’t look into his eyes.”

Guo Jing nodded, “I want to beat this fellow to vent my anger!” he said, then he propped Huang Rong’s body up and they stood up together. Guo Jing stared at Yang Kang and walked toward him in big strides.

Yang Kang had seen Guo Jing’s impressive power when he fought the crowd of beggars, he was anxious and restless. He was hoping that the crowd of beggars would win by sheer numbers, but unexpectedly they retreated in defeat, now Guo Jing was coming towards him. How could he keep his life if Guo Jing got hold of him? In his fright he called out, “Four Elders, we have so many heroes and warriors over here, how can we let this mad little thief do as he will?” His mouth was shouting anxiously, his legs were not slow either; he quickly hid behind Jian Zhanglao. Jian Zhanglao turned around and in a low voice said, “Bangzhu, don’t worry; even if this thief’s martial art is higher, he won’t overcome our number. We will use ‘che lun zhan kun’ [chariot wheels fighting as a bunch] to kill him.” Raising his voice he called out, “Eight-bag disciples, spread out and form ‘jian bi zhen’ [strong wall formation]!”

One eight-bag disciple shouted their compliance and immediately led more than a dozen beggars to line up in two rows, their arms linked one to the other. Sixteen, seventeen people formed one strong wall. They shouted together and then lowering their heads they charged toward Guo Jing and Huang Rong.

“Aiyo!” Huang Rong yelled; lightning fast she leaped to the left. Guo Jing turned around to the right. But from the east and west two more rows of beggars came forward. Guo Jing saw the crowd of beggars’ battle strategy was strange. He waited until these walls came near, but then he could not withdraw anymore; both of his palms struck forward to push the wall in front of him. Although his palms were strong, this wall consisted of more than a dozen men, plus their momentum in moving forward together was quite strong; how could Guo Jing push the wall away? As the center of the wall bore the brunt of the push, its two wings outflanked to the center. Guo Jing staggered, he almost fell down by the strong push of this wall. Hastily his left foot kicked the ground and he flew over the human wall. But before he landed he cried out in distress, for ahead of him another human wall came closing in. Quickly he regulated his breath, his right foot kicked and again he flew over the beggars’ heads. Who would have thought that there are more walls ahead, seemingly inexhaustible. As Guo Jing just passed the front wall immediately the rear wall took its place; like a rolling wave, or a big wheel turning over. Even if Guo Jing’s martial art were stronger he would eventually be overwhelmed by sheer numbers; in the end he felt like his movements were restricted.

Huang Rong was agile, her lightness kungfu was also better than Guo Jing’s; but after a while more and more moving walls came closing in. She ran around to escape and gradually felt her heart throb and her breathing shorten. After flashing to the east and dodging to the west for a moment to her surprise she came close to Guo Jing, slowly they were pushed into a corner of the mountain peak.

Suddenly Huang Rong got an idea, “Jing Gege,” she called out, “Retreat to the edge of the cliff.”

Guo Jing heard her, he did not know her intention, but he pushed toward the edge of the cliff nonetheless. They were still about five, six feet away from the edge of the cliff, and unexpectedly the Beggar Clan walls stopped and did not charge forward. And then Guo Jing understood, “Ah, this is a deep canyon; unless they stop their steps, it would be strange if they won’t fall down and die.” He looked towards Huang Rong to praise her intelligence, but saw that her face showed anxiety. He turned his head and saw row after row of thick and wide human walls slowly step forward. They did not charge forward ferociously, but obviously they were going to push these two people slowly into the canyon below. There were hundreds of them in dozens of rows; it was simply impossible to jump over them.

When he was still at Mongolia, Guo Jing had been trained by Ma Yu to climb a steep cliff every night. The cliff of Mount Jun here was not as dangerous as the one in the Mongolian desert. Guo Jing assessed their situation by looking at the cliff wall and called out, “Rong’er, let me carry you on my back; we are going down.”

“We can’t,” Huang Rong sighed, “They may throw rocks at us. This is a dead end.”

Guo Jing was indecisive. Somehow, in the verge of life and death situation he suddenly remembered a section in the Nine Yin Manual; he said, “Rong’er, there is a section in the Manual about ‘yi hun da fa’ [altering soul great method], I believe it is similar with that ‘she xin fa’ you just mentioned … All right, let’s stake it all and fight; let us go down the canyon together.”

Huang Rong sighed, “These are all Shifu’s subordinates, they are his brothers; what good is it to kill so many people?” Guo Jing suddenly stretched out his arms to lift her up, he said with a low voice, “Quickly run away!” He kissed her lightly on her cheeks, then exerting all his might he hurled her toward the Xuanyuan Platform.

Huang Rong felt like she was mounting the cloud and riding the mist, flying over the heads of several hundreds of people. She knew Guo Jing wanted to fight the crowd of beggars alone to give her a chance to escape. She bent her knees slightly and gently landed on the platform with a bitter sweet feeling in her heart. She saw that Yang Kang was standing on a corner of the platform; looking so complacent, flailing his hands and feet, shouting his commands over the combat. She did not want to miss this good opportunity, before she even stood firmly she pounced forward, her left hand grabbed the head of the green bamboo stick.

As he was watching the battle, Yang Kang was startled to suddenly see Huang Rong descend from the sky; hastily he lifted up the stick to strike her. Two of Huang Rong’s right fingers swiftly moved toward his eyes, while at the same time her left foot turned around, and she snatched the bamboo stick away.

Yang Kang’s martial art was inferior to Huang Rong’s to begin with; and now Huang Rong was using the ‘ao kou duo zhang’ [snatching stick from a mastiff (dog)’s mouth] from the Dog Beating Stick Technique Hong Qigong had passed on to her. It was specifically created to take back the stick if it ever fell into an enemy with high martial art skill. Apparently this stance was several folds better than Yang Kang’s skill, so he had no chance in keeping the stick in his hand.

Huang Rong’s snatching the stick was real, while attacking the eyes was fake; but since her movement was so swift, her fingers unexpectedly poked Yang Kang’s eyeballs. Yang Kang was in a lot of pain and he momentarily went blind. Yang Kang tried to guard his eyes and did not have any choice but let the stick go and then leap down the platform.

With both of her hands Huang Rong held the bamboo stick high over her head, with a clear and loud voice she called out, “Brothers of the Beggar Clan, please stop! Hong Bangzhu has not returned to heaven yet. Everything was made up by this traitor disciple.”

As soon as the crowd of beggars heard her, they were completely taken aback; it was such an abrupt turn of eventa that it was hard to believe, but they were happy to hear the good news and mad to hear the bad news, a natural response to this kind of news. Everybody turned their heads and looked at the tall platform.

Huang Rong called out further, “Brothers, come over here, I want to tell you news about Hong Bangzhu.”

Yang Kang’s eyes were sore, but his ears could hear everything clearly; he also called out from below the platform, “I am the Bangzhu! Brothers, listen to my command: Quickly push the male thief over the cliff, and then come back here to capture the nonsense-talking female thief.”

The Beggar Clan members always regarded their Clan Leader as a deity; even if there was a very important matter, they would not dare to disobey his command. Hearing Yang Kang’s command, they shouted and charged forward.

Huang Rong called out, “Everybody look clearly! Bangzhu’s Dog Beating Stick is in my hand; I am the Beggar Clan’s Bangzhu!”

The crowd of beggars was startled; they had never heard of the Bangzhu’s Dog Beating Stick being taken away by someone else. They hesitated and stopped their steps.

Huang Rong called out, “Our worldwide Beggar Clan is being bullied today, Li Sheng and Yu Zhaoxing two brothers are killed by others, Lu Zhanglao is seriously injured; all of that for what reason?”

The crowd of beggars was angered; more than half of them turned their heads to listen to her. Huang Rong continued, “It was because of this traitor surnamed Yang is conspiring with the Iron Palm Clan. They fabricated a rumor saying that Hong Lao Bangzhu is dead. Do you know who this man surnamed Yang really is?” The crowd of beggars called out one after another, “Who is he? Tell us, quick! Tell us!” But some actually said, “Don’t listen to this female thief; she is creating a confusion.” Everybody talked at once, nobody knew which one was right, which one was wrong.

Huang Rong called out, “This man’s surname is not Yang, it is Wanyan. He is the son of Zhao Wangye of the Great Jin. He deliberately comes to destroy our Great Song.”

The crowd of beggars was startled, nobody believed what they heard. Huang Rong considered, “It is difficult to convince everybody at once; I’ll have to use poison to fight poison. I’ll place the blame on him.” She put her hand into her pocket and groped around the contents one by one; finally she took out the iron palm Zhu Cong took from Qiu Qianren the other day. She lifted it up high above her head and called out, “I have just taken this thing from this surnamed Wanyan traitor’s hand. Everybody please take a good look, what is this?”

The crowd of beggars was some distant away from the Xuanyuan Platform; they could not see clearly under the moonlight. Their curiosity was aroused and they approached the platform. Someone called out, “That is the Iron Palm Clan’s Iron Palm token of authority; how could it be in his hand?”

Huang Rong loudly said, “That’s right, he is the spy sent by the Iron Palm Clan, so naturally he carried this token. The Beggar Clan has upheld chivalry and justice in the north for several hundred years; how can this fellow surnamed Yang easily comply to move to Jiangnan?”

Underneath the platform Yang Kang listened with an ash grey complexion; his right hand raised, he shot two steel awls straight toward Huang Rong’s chest. The distance was near and his hand was quick, so the two silver lights violently flew to their target. Huang Rong did not pay the slightest attention. Among the crowd of beggars there were about a dozen people shouted loudly, “Watch out the secret projectile! Be careful!” “Aiyo! Not good!” But the two steel awls struck the soft hedgehog armor and ‘clank, clank’ they fell to the platform. Huang Rong called out, “Wanyan Kang, if you don’t have any guilty conscience, why did you use secret projectiles to harm me?”

The crowd of beggars unexpectedly did not harm her, they were astonished to the extreme; they talked to one another, “Who is right and who is wrong?” “So Hong Bangzhu has not died yet?” Everyone’s face showed a frightened and confused look. They turned their eyes toward the Four Elders, expecting them to make a decision. The row after row of strong wall formations had been dispersed early on. From among the crowd Guo Jing walked towards the platform and nobody tried to stop him.