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The Legend of the Condor Heroes - Chapter 33

Chapter 33 – Upcoming Disaster

At this moment Guo Jing and Huang Rong were enjoying happiness and contentment in their hearts; they did not want to mind other people’s business. But hearing ‘The Old Urchin’ three characters their hearts were stirred. They both jumped at the same time and pursued those two men. The men’s martial art skills looked ordinary; they did not have the slightest idea that they were being followed. Leaving the town they ran for about five, six ‘li’s more before turning into a valley. They heard continuous shouts and curses coming from behind the mountain.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong picked up their speed and followed into the valley. They saw that a bunch of people were gathered on a part of a field. Two of them had torches in their hands. In the middle of the field Zhou Botong was sitting motionless. It was not clear if he was alive or dead. Facing Zhou Botong there was someone sitting cross-legged, wearing a red kassaya; it was Lingzhi Shangren [lit. upper/above man, a respectful term to address Buddhist monk]. He too, was motionless. On Zhou Botong’s left there was a cave. Its entrance was small, so anybody wanted to enter must stoop down. Outside the cave there were five, six people shouting and cursing, but nobody dared to get within a few ‘zhang’s of the cave, as if they were afraid something might come out of the cave and hurt them.

Guo Jing recalled one of the night walkers say, “The Old Urchin has fallen into Brother Peng’s trick;” and now he saw Zhou Botong was sitting motionless just like a corpse. He was afraid that Zhou Botong was injured; he was very anxious and was about to jump forward when Huang Rong pulled his arm and whispered, “Before we do anything, let’s investigate what happened first.”

Two people hid behind a mountain rock and looked at the people outside the cave. It turned out they were all old acquaintances: Shen Xian Lao Guai [Ginseng Immortal Old Freak] Liang Ziweng, Gui Men Long Wang [Dragon King of Guimen (lit. ghost gate)] Sha Tongtian, Qian Shou Ren Tu [Thousand Hands Butcher] Peng Lianhu, San Tou Jiao [Three Headed Scaly Dragon] Hou Tonghai, plus the two night-walkers they followed earlier. The light from the torches illuminated their faces and Jing and Rong recognized those two as Liang Ziweng’s disciples; Guo Jing had fought them the first time he learned the Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms.

Huang Rong thought that now these people were not Guo Jing’s and her matches; she looked to all directions but did not see anybody else. With a low voice she said, “With the Old Urchin’s skill, how could these several fellows defeat him? It seems like the Western Poison Ouyang Feng is lurking somewhere.”

She was about to think of a way to investigate further when Peng Lianhu shouted loud and clear, “Thief male servant bird! [I know this one sounds weird, but it is the literal translation. I’ll leave it to the editors to find a more suitable curse words ... ] If you don’t come out, Old Man here will smoke you out!”

From the cave came a stern voice, “Whatever stinky tricks you have; bring it on!”

Guo Jing recognized it was his Da Shifu [First Master] Ke Zhen’e’s voice; he did not care if Ouyang Feng was lurking around somewhere. “Shifu!” he shouted, “Your disciple Guo Jing is here!” His hands had already made some moves while he was still shouting. He grabbed Hou Tonghai’s back and flung him aside.

The people outside the cave were thrown into confusion. Sha Tongtian and Peng Lianhu made a simultaneous attack. Liang Ziweng turned around Guo Jing’s back, ready to make a sneak attack. Ke Zhen’Einside the cave heard everything; he raised his hand and launched a ‘du ling’ [poisonous water caltrop] toward Liang Ziweng’s back.

The projectile carried a fierce gust of wind. Liang Ziweng hastily lowered his head; the ‘du ling’ flew over his head, cutting several strands of his hair. He was so shocked that cold sweats trickled down his back. He knew Ke Zhen’e’s secret projectiles contained a violent poison on it; the other day Peng Lianhu nearly got killed under this weapon. Hastily he leaped back several ‘zhang’s, stretched out his hand to feel the top of his head. Luckily his scalp was not injured. Straightaway he took some ‘tou gu ding’ [Bone Penetrating Nails] from his pocket and walked quietly toward the left of the cave; he wanted to enter the cave to extract his revenge.

He was just about to raise his hand when suddenly his wrist was numb; something hit his hand. With a clanking noise the ‘tou gu ding’ fell to the ground. And then he heard a female voice said with a laugh, “Kneel down! Or you’ll eat my stick!”

Liang Ziweng quickly turned his head and saw Huang Rong stood smiling, with a bamboo stick in her hand. He was scared and angry at the same time; his left palm struck toward her shoulder, his right hand tried to grab the bamboo stick. Huang Rong stepped aside to evade his left palm, but did not move the bamboo stick, she let him to have a good grip on it. Liang Ziweng was delighted, he held out his hand, thinking that if this young girl did not let go, he would snatch the stick away. As soon as he pulled, he did indeed manage to pull the bamboo stick away, but unexpectedly the end of the stick shook and slid right out of his palm. By this time the end of the bamboo stick had entered his circle of defense. His hands were so close to the stick that he hurriedly reached back to grab; but he was too late. A dark green shadow flashed and ‘slap!’ his head was squarely hit by the bamboo stick.

Overall his martial art skill was not weak; in this critical moment he was still able to throw himself to the ground and he rolled away more than a ‘zhang’ away before he sprang back up. He looked with a shocked expression at this young girl with bright eyes and ivory teeth. The top of his head was hurting, his mind was confused, and his face looked awkward.

Huang Rong said with a laugh, “Do you know the name of this stick method? You have been beaten by me, so what did you turn into?”

Liang Ziweng had suffered hardship under this Dog Beating Stick Technique in the past; he was beaten half dead and half alive under Hong Qigong’s hands. It had been several years since then, but he still had a lingering fear in his heart. He noticed that the stick was indeed Hong Qigong’s Dog Beating Stick, and the stick method was indeed Hong Qigong’s Dog Beating Stick Technique, used up against him. It looked like this young girl was truly Hong Qigong’s heir. With the corner of his eyes he saw Sha and Peng two people continuously step back under the power of Guo Jing’s palms without being able to counterattack; he called out, “In honor of the Old Hong Bangzhu [Clan Leader Hong] we’d better go!” He called out his two disciples and turned around to flee.

Guo Jing’s left elbow circled around forcing Sha Tongtian to retreat three steps; followed by the sweep of his left hand. Peng Lianhu saw that this palm carried a strong gust of wind, he did not dare to take it head-on, he hastily stepped aside to evade. Guo Jing’s right hand made a hook, grabbed his back and lifted him up.

Peng Lianhu was rather short, being lifted high in the air his legs were kicking around frantically. He tried to hit and kick to free himself, but he did not have any strength left. He saw Guo Jing’s left hand make a fist, ready to strike his chest like a hammer pounding a nail; how could he endure this strike? He hastily shouted, “What date is today?”

“What?” Guo Jing was startled.

“Are you going to keep a good faith? Do you stay true to your own promise?” Peng Lianhu asked. “What?” Guo Jing asked again; his right hand was still holding Peng Lianhu high in the air.

“We have agreed to have a martial art contest in Jiaxing on the fifteenth of the eighth month, at the Misty Rain Tavern,” Peng Lianhu said, “We are not in Jiaxing, and today is not the Mid-autumn Festival. How can you injure me?”

Guo Jing thought he was right; he was about to release him when suddenly he remembered something. “What did you do to my Zhou Dage [big brother Zhou]?”

Peng Lianhu replied, “The Old Urchin is betting against that Tibetan monk; whoever moves first lose. What does it have to do with me?”

Guo Jing cast a glance toward the two people sitting on the ground, he felt relieved. “So that’s how it is,” he thought. Then he shouted, “Da Shifu [first master], are you Senior well?” Ke Zhen’Eonly uttered an ‘Hm’ sound from inside the cave.

Guo Jing was afraid as soon as he let Peng Lianhu go, he would kick him on the chest; hence with his right hand he flung Peng Lianhu several feet away, while calling out, “Off you go!”

Peng Lianhu took that opportunity to somersault and land on the ground. He saw Sha Tongtian and Liang Ziweng had already run away. He inwardly scolded them for not remembering their friend. He cupped his fists toward Guo Jing and said, “Seven days later at Misty Rain Tavern we will decide victory and defeat.” He turned around and displaying his ‘qing gong’ [lightness kungfu] he ran away. He was wondering about one thing, “Each time I meet this kid, his martial art is improving by leaps and bounds. Isn’t that strange? Did he eat some magic pills or find some immortal secret?”

Huang Rong went toward Zhou Botong and Lingzhi Shangren; she noticed that both of them were staring at each other without blinking their eyes. Looking at the situation she recalled the conversation between those two night-walkers and knew that this must be Peng Lianhu’s evil scheme. They must be scared of the Old Urchin’s martial art, so they tricked him into making a bet against this Tibetan monk to stay still. Lingzhi Shangren’s martial art was nowhere near the Old Urchin’s; but by keeping him from moving, others would have the opportunity to deal with Ke Zhen’e.

The Old Urchin would be happy to have someone accompany him to play; he would not care about other matters, so it would be useless to speak reason with him. Although there was an earth-shattering fight going on next to him, he would sit still like Taishan [Mount Tai]; he would not even move his little finger, he was determined to win his bet against Lingzhi Shangren.

“Old Urchin! I’m here!” Huang Rong called out.

Zhou Botong heard her, but he was afraid to lose, so he did not respond.

Huang Rong said, “The way you bet, even if you sit for several more hours you won’t know who wins and who loses; what kind of fun is that? You know what, let me do this: I will tickle both of you on your ‘xiao yao xue’ [laugh waist acupoint] with my both hands; I will make both hands have the same strength. Whoever laughs first will lose.”

Zhou Botong had been sitting impatiently; hearing Huang Rong’s words he agreed wholeheartedly, but he did not dare to show his approval. Huang Rong did not say anything more, she went in between the two and sat down. She put her Dog Beating Stick on the ground and stretched both arms, two index fingers hit both men’s ‘xiao yao xue’. She knew Zhou Botong’s internal energy far surpassed the Tibetan monk’s, so she was not being unfair; she exerted equal strength. But to her surprise while Zhou Botong admittedly did not move, Lingzhi Shangren also seemed like he did not feel anything.

Huang Rong secretly admired him; she thought, “This monk’s skill in closing up his acupoints is really good. If I were hit like this, I would have rolled around in laughter.” Then she exerted more strength to her hands.

Zhou Botong used his internal energy trying hard to resist the strength of Huang Rong’s finger; but this ‘xiao yao xue’ was located very close to the ribs, the muscle was very tender, it was very difficult to send the energy to that spot. If he straightened up his back he could borrow the momentum from the movement to unload the strength; but that would cause him to move and lose the bet. He felt Huang Rong’s finger getting stronger and stronger, he had no choice but desperately resist her finger.

A moment later he could not take it any longer, the muscle under his ribs contract and expand to repel Huang Rong’s finger. He leaped up and laughed out loud, saying, “Fat Monk, you are good! The Old Urchin admits defeat!”

Seeing him admit defeat, Huang Rong was regretful, “If I knew this would happen, I would have add a little more strength to the fat monk’s body,” she thought; and then she stood up and said toward Lingzhi Shangren, “You won. Your grand-aunt does not want your life. Just go! Go!”

Interestingly Lingzhi Shangren seemed not to hear her; he was still sitting motionless. Huang Rong put out a hand and pushed his shoulder, while shouted loudly, “Who wants to see your stupid face here? Do you want to die?” She only pushed lightly, but to her surprise Lingzhi Shangren fell down to the ground, still in the cross-legged sitting position, just like a wooden carving of Buddha.

Zhou Botong, Jing and Rong were stunned. Huang Rong thought, “Could it be that his closing up acupoints skill is not perfected yet and he died while doing it?” She held out her hand to feel his breathing and found that Lingzhi Shangren was still breathing. Immediately she understood what was going on; she was angry but amused at the same time. To Zhou Botong she said, “Old Urchin, you fell into others’ trick without knowing it. You are really dumb!”

Zhou Botong opened his eyes wide. “What?” he was angry.

Huang Rong said with a smile, “You unseal his acupoints first, then we’ll talk.”

Zhou Botong rolled his eyes then he stooped down and traced Lingzhi Shangren’s body. He tapped several places and found out that eight of Lingzhi Shangren’s major acupoints were sealed by someone else. He jumped up in anger and shouted, “That did not count! That did not count!”

“What did not count?” Huang Rong asked.

Zhou Botong replied, “His friends sealed up his acupoints after he was seated, of course this fat monk could not move. Even if we sit for three more days and nights he won’t lose.” Turning toward Lingzhi Shangren lying on the ground, he called out, “Come, we’ll compete again.”

Seeing Zhou Botong was exuberant, he was not by any means injured, Guo Jing was worried about his Shifu. He no longer listened to Zhou Botong talking nonsense, he sneaked into the cave to see Ke Zhen’Ewithout saying anything.

Zhou Botong stooped down to unseal Lingzhi Shangren’s acupoints while talking nonstop, “Come, we’ll compete again, we’ll compete again!”

Huang Rong coldly said, “What about my Shifu? Where did you throw him?”

Zhou Botong was taken aback. “Aiyo!” he cried and turned around, rushing toward the cave. He moved so abruptly that he almost collided with Guo Jing at the cave entrance. Guo Jing was holding Ke Zhen’E’s hand, leading him out of the cave. He saw his Shifu was wearing plain white cloth and white headband; Guo Jing was startled, “Shifu!” he asked, “Have any of your family members died? Where are Er Shifu [Second Master] and the others?”

Ke Zhen’E raised his head to the sky without saying anything, two lines of tears flowed down on his cheeks. Guo Jing was shocked, but did not dare to ask. Then he saw Zhou Botong was helping someone else going out of the cave. That person’s left hand was holding a wine gourd, his right hand holding half a chicken, his mouth busily nibble on the chicken leg, a broad smile on his face, and he kept nodding his head. He was none other than the Nine-fingered Divine Beggar Hong Qigong.

Jing and Rong two people were overjoyed, “Shifu!” they called out together.

Ke Zhen’E’s face suddenly appeared very angry; he lifted up the iron staff and fiercely hit the back of Huang Rong’s head. The staff movement was swift and fierce, it was a lethal strike from the ‘fu mo zhang fa’ [demon subduing staff technique], which he had painstakingly trained to perfection in the Mongolian desert, with the intention to use it against the blinded Mei Chaofeng. It was created so that even though Mei Chaofeng could hear the staff’s wind, she would not be able to evade it.

Huang Rong had just seen Hong Qigong after a long time and was squealing with delight; she had never guarded against any sneak attack from her back. By the time she was feeling the wind, the blast of the iron staff had already enveloped her completely. Guo Jing saw the staff was about to shatter her skull, in his desperation his left hand swept horizontally shoving the staff aside; while his right hand stretched out and grabbed the head of the staff. In panic he had used too much power, without realizing that by this time his strength had increased tremendously. The move of his left palm was from the Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms.

Ke Zhen’E felt a sudden surge of strong energy. He was unable to block and the iron staff fell down from his hand, he himself also tumbling down to the ground. Guo Jing was startled; hastily he stooped down to pick him up. “Da Shifu! [First Master]” he called out. Guo Jing saw Ke Zhen’e’s nose was swollen and two of his teeth were broken.

Ke Zhen’E spat the teeth, along with some blood, into his palm. “For you!” he said in a cold voice.

Guo Jing was dumbstruck. He knelt down and said, “Disciple deserves to die. Shifu, please punish me severely.” Ke Zhen’E was still holding out his hand, saying, “For you!”

Guo Jing wept. “Da Shifu …” He chocked, not knowing what to say or do.

Zhou Botong laughed and said, “I’ve seen master beating his disciple, but I’ve never seen disciple beating his master until today. Amusing! Truly amusing!”

Hearing this Ke Zhen’E was more furious. “Fine,” he said, “There is a saying: swallow the knocked down tooth and the blood. Shall I do it for you?” Holding out his hand he tossed the teeth into his mouth, throwing his head backward he swallowed the teeth into his belly. Zhou Botong clapped his hands, burst out in laughter and cheered loudly.

Huang Rong noticed the situation was unusual. The grievous expression on Ke Zhen’E’s face had not disappeared. It was unclear why he wanted to kill her; her heart was full of questions. Slowly she went to Hong Qigong and pulled his hand.

Guo Jing knocked his head to the ground and said, “Even if I have to die ten thousands times, disciple will never dare to offend Da Shifu. I was out of my mind to let my hand slip and struck Da Shifu.”

Ke Zhen’E said, “Shifu this and Shifu that, who is your Shifu? You have the Master of the Peach Blossom Island as your father-in-law, why would you need a Shifu? The Seven Freaks of Jiangnan do not have the ability, how can we be worthy to be Guo Daye’s [big master Guo] Shifu?”

Guo Jing heard his words were getting sharper and sharper; he kept knocking his head to the ground.

Finally Hong Qigong could not bear it much longer; he interrupted by saying, “Ke Daxia [Great Hero Ke], Master and disciple spar with each other, somebody losing control is a common occurrence. The stance Jing’er used just now was taught by me. Just blame it on the Old Beggar. Please accept my apology.” And he did indeed cup his fists in respect.

Listening to Hong Qigong, Zhou Botong thought, “Why don’t I say something too?” Thereupon he said, “Ke Daxia, Master and disciple spar with each other, somebody losing control is a common occurrence. The technique Brother Guo Jing used to grab your iron staff just now was taught by me. Just blame it on the Old Urchin. Please accept my apology.” And he also cupped his fists in respect. He was just talking nonsense and meant it as a joke, but Ke Zhen’E was livid. He believed Zhou Botong intentionally insulted him, and as a result he also regarded Hong Qigong’s good intention as a bad one. With a loud voice he said, “You, Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor and Northern Beggar, always think that your martial art skills are matchless and you can turn this world upside-down? Humph! I say many of your deeds are not righteous, certainly nothing good comes out of you.”

With a surprised voice Zhou Botong asked, “Hey, what did the Southern Emperor do to you that you include him in your curse?”

Huang Rong was listening quietly on the side; she knew the more they talked, the worse the situation had become. The Old Urchin being there would only make it more difficult to make Ke Zhen’E’s fury subsided. She opened her mouth and said, “Old Urchin, ‘the weaving of mandarin ducks desiring to fly together right away’ is looking for you; aren’t you going to see her?”

Zhou Botong was startled; he jumped three feet into the air and shouted, “What?!?”

Huang Rong said, “She wants to ‘stand face to face taking a bath wearing red clothes when the green spring grass ripples in the deepest of dawn’s cold’ with you.”

Zhou Botong was even more shocked. “Where? Where?” he shouted. Huang Rong pointed to the south and said, “Over there! Go see her, quick!”

Zhou Botong said, “I won’t see her. Good Miss, I will do whatever you tell me to do; just don’t ever tell her that you have seen me …” Before he even finished talking, his feet moved and he ran to the north.

“I’ll hold on to your promise!” Huang Rong called out.

From a distant came Zhou Botong’s reply, “Once the Old Urchin make a promise, I won’t regret it.” As the words ‘regret it’ came out of his mouth, like a flash of lightning his shadow had already disappeared.

Huang Rong’s original intention was for him to see Ying Gu. Who would have thought that Zhou Botong avoided Ying Gu like a serpent or a scorpion and ran away from her in fear. It totally blew her mind away; nevertheless she succeeded in getting rid of him.

Up to this time Guo Jing was still kneeling in front of Ke Zhen’E. With tears in his eyes, he said, “For disciple’s sake Seven Shifus had traveled to a faraway desert. Even if disciple’s body is ground to dust and my bones are shattered, it will still be difficult for me to repay Seven Shifus’ kindness. This palm of mine had offended Da Shifu, disciple does not want it anymore!” Drawing the dagger from his waist Guo Jing chopped it down on his left wrist.

Ke Zhen’E swung his iron staff horizontally, striking the dagger to the side. Although the dagger was light and the iron staff heavy, when the two weapons collided sparks flew up; Ke Zhen’E felt a tingling sensation on his palms. He knew Guo Jing was using his entire strength, thus showing his sincerity.

“Fine,” he said, “If that’s the case, then you must do what I say.”

Guo Jing was very happy. “Whatever Da Shifu says, disciple will not dare to disobey,” he said.

“If you don’t do what I say, I forbid you to see my face in the future and thus our master-disciple relationship is severed,” Ke Zhen’E said.

Guo Jing said, “Disciple will do my best. If I can’t do it, I’d rather die.”

Ke Zhen’E struck his iron staff heavily on the ground and shouted, “Go and cut the Old Heretic Huang’s and his daughter’s heads; then you can comeback to see me.”

To say Guo Jing was shocked was an understatement. “Da … Shi … Shifu …” he stammered with a trembling voice. “What?” Ke Zhen’E asked.

“I wonder how did Huang Daozhu [Island Master Huang] offend you?” Guo Jing asked.

Ke Zhen’E heaved two heavy sighs. Suddenly he gritted his teeth and said, “I really wish the Heaven would restore my sight if only for a moment so I can see your face; you, an ungrateful little animal!” Lifting his iron staff high he hacked it down toward the top of Guo Jing’s head.

As Ke Zhen’E asked Guo Jing to do something for him, Huang Rong had already had a vague guess. When Ke Zhen’E’s iron staff suddenly struck and Guo Jing did not evade, she thought whatever happened, saving Guo Jing’s life was more important; hence from the side her bamboo stick intercepted the iron staff before it reached Guo Jing’s head with the ‘e gou lan lu’ [cutting off a vicious dog’s path] stance. As it hit the iron staff, the bamboo stick shook and coiled around the staff, pushing it slanting sideways. This Dog Beating Stick Technique was truly marvelous; although her strength was inferior, by borrowing the staff’s strength she managed to re-orient its path.

Ke Zhen’E staggered; without waiting for his feet to come to a complete stop he fiercely beat his own chest twice and then ran away to the north. Guo Jing ran after him while calling out, “Da Shifu, wait!” Ke Zhen’E halted his steps and turned around; with a stern voice he said, “Guo Daye wants to take my old life?” His expression looked mean and ferocious. Guo Jing was taken aback; he did not dare to continue. Hanging his head down he heard the sound of the iron staff against the ground getting farther and farther away, before completely faded away. Remembering his Shifu’s kindness he could not help but go down on his knees and wept bitterly.

Taking Huang Rong’s hand Hong Qigong walked to his side. He said, “Ke Daxia and the Old Heretic Huang both have a very strange temperament; they are always in some kind of disagreement with each other. Don’t worry, leave it to the Old Beggar to be the mediator between them.”

Guo Jing wiped his tears and stood up. “Shifu,” he said, “Do you know … do you know what it was about?”

Hong Qigong shook his head. “The Old Urchin fell into their trick and was betting against them in staying still. Those traitors wanted to harm me. Luckily we met your Da Shifu outside the Ox Village by accident, and he protected me by taking me hiding in this cave. Thanks to the fierceness of his ‘du ling’ secret projectiles those traitors did not dare to rush in, so we could hold our ground this long. Ay, your Da Shifu has a noble heart, he was very brave in battle defending justice. He accompanied me in that cave resisting the enemy. Undoubtedly he was determined to fight to the death.”

Speaking to this point he took two mouthfuls of wine, and then took a bite on the chicken leg. Biting and chewing the chicken went into his belly; and then he wiped his greasy mouth with his sleeve. Only then did he continued speaking, “The battle was fierce; my martial art skill is gone. I could not offer any help in fighting the enemy. I only saw your Da Shifu’s face, but did not have the luxury of talking to him about anything. Judging from how he was very angry, I don’t think it was because of your slip of hand. He is a chivalrous hero, how can he have such a narrow mind? Luckily in just a few more days it will be the Mid-autumn Festival of the eight month. Wait till the martial art contest at the Misty Rain Tavern is over, the Old Beggar will speak on your behalf.” Swallowing his tears Guo Jing uttered his gratitude.

Hong Qigong laughed and said, “Your two babies’ martial art skills have advanced tremendously. Ke Daxia can be considered a prominent character in the Wulin world, yet as soon as you two babies made your moves he fell into awkward positions. What is the story behind it?”

In his heart Guo Jing was ashamed; he did not know what to say. Laughing and giggling Huang Rong told Hong Qigong everything they went through after they were separated.

Hong Qigong cheered loudly when he heard that Yang Kang killed Ouyang Ke; he shot curse words when he heard the Beggar Clan’s Elders were swindled by Yang Kang, “Little Bastard! Four old muddle-headed! Lu Youjiao has feet does not have brain!” He was entranced when he listened to how Yideng Dashi [Reverend Yideng – great master Yideng] saved Huang Rong’s life; and how Ying Gu came at midnight to seek vengeance. Finally his expression slightly changed when he heard Ying Gu suddenly went insane at the ‘qing long tan’ [green dragon shore]. “Ah!” he exclaimed.

“Shifu, what is it?” Huang Rong asked, “Do you also know Ying Gu?” While in her heart she mused, “All his life Shifu has never had a wife. Could it be that he was also mesmerized by Ying Gu? Hmm, what’s so good about this Ying Gu anyway? Mystifying, acting like a mad woman, but can captivate the attention of so many experts of the Wulin world?” Luckily Hong Qigong’s answer was pleasing to her ears.

“Nothing,” Hong Qigong said, “I don’t know Ying Gu, but when Emperor Duan left home [meaning: become a monk], I was there by his side. That day he sent a letter to the north, inviting me to go to the south. I knew he wouldn’t send for the Old Beggar if he did not have a very important matter. I also remembered Yunnan’s ham, the ‘over the bridge’ rice-flour noodle, and the chunk of cakes and delicacies; so I left at once. When I saw him, his face was haggard, like he was suffering from a serious illness; it was completely different from when I saw him during the Sword Meet of Mount Hua, where he looked alive with a dragon or a tiger’s appearance. I felt very strange. After I have been there for a few days with the pretense of discussing martial art he wanted to teach me the ‘xian tian gong’ [inborn/innate strength/energy] and ‘yi yang zhi’ [solitary yang finger]. The Old Beggar thought: in the past his Solitary Yang Finger was in a level ground with my Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms, the Old Poison’s Toad Stance, the Old Heretic Huang’s ‘pi kong zhang’ [splitting the air palm] and Divine Flicking Finger; nowadays he had mastered Wang Chongyang’s ‘xian tian gong’. In the second Sword Meet of Mount Hua the title of Number One Martial Artist in the World would certainly belong to him; why would he want to pass on these two special skills to the Old Beggar, without any reason whatsoever? If he wanted to exchange knowledge, why wasn’t he willing to learn my Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms? There must be something behind this.

Later on the Old Beggar mulled over this matter, I talked to him and his four main disciples; finally I found a clue. It turned out that after he passed on these two skills to me he was going to commit suicide. Only why he was grieving so much, even his own disciples were unclear.”

Huang Rong said, “Shifu, Emperor Duan was afraid that after he died nobody will be able to control Ouyang Feng anymore.”

“That’s right,” Hong Qigong said, “When I found out, I was adamant of not willing to learn anything from him. At last he told me the truth; he said that although his four disciples were loyal and diligent, their minds have been occupied by the kingdom’s affairs for a long time, that they could not concentrate on training martial art, hence it would be difficult for them to achieve success. It seemed like the Quanzhen Seven Masters’ martial art also could not reach the pinnacle of perfection. He said it was fine for me not willing to learn the Solitary Yang Finger, but if the ‘xian tian gong’ is lost, he would not have any face to meet Wang Chongyang Zhenren [lit. true/real person, a respectful term to address a Taoist priest] in the underworld. I asked him to reconsider his decision, but my persuasion was useless. Only, I was unyielding in my stand not to learn from him, with the hope of saving his life. Emperor Duan could not change my mind; finally he relented by abdicating his throne and becoming a monk. I was by his side the day they shaved his head. It has been more than ten years ago. Ay, finally this enmity can be resolved, this is very good.” “Shifu,” Huang Rong said, “We have finished telling our story, what about you?”

“About me?” Hong Qigong asked, “Hmm, at the imperial kitchen I ate four dishes of ‘yuan yang wu zhen kuai’ [minced five-treasure mandarin duck]; it was enough to satiate my craving; and then I ate litchi fruit and kidney, quail soup, sheep tongue in thick sauce, snail in ginger and vinegar sauce, oyster fermented in sheep’s tripe …” on and on he listed the name of the dishes he ate at the imperial kitchen, while constantly swallowing his own saliva and licking his own lips.

“Why is it that later on the Old Urchin could not find you?” Huang Rong interrupted.

Hong Qigong smiled, “The imperial kitchen chefs repeatedly found their prepared dishes vanished into thin air; they thought there was a fox fairy making disturbance in that place, so they burned incense and lighted candles to worship me. Later on they told the chief of the imperial palace guards, who then dispatched eight palace guards to the imperial kitchen to catch the fox. The Old Beggar thought it was a serious situation; and neither the Old Urchin nor his shadow could be seen. I had no choice but slipped away to a remote part to hide for a while. That place was called ‘e lu hua tang’ [green calyx flower hall] or something, it was full of plum flower trees. From the look of it, it was the winter quarter where that fellow, the Emperor, spends his days enjoying the plum blossoms. Only it was the middle of summer; except several old eunuchs sweeping the ground everyday early in the morning, not even a ghost’s shadow came to that place. The Old Beggar was free to roam around. Everywhere in the imperial palace there were things to eat; even a hundred beggars won’t die of starvation in that place, thereupon I was able to heal my injury in peace and quiet.

I stayed there for more than ten days. One day in the middle of the night I suddenly heard the Old Urchin’s voice pretending to be a ghost; and then the voice turned into dog’s howling and cat’s meowing. He was turning the palace upside down with the noise. And then I heard some people call out, ‘Hong Qigong, Hong laoyezi [old master Hong], Hong Qigong, Hong laoyezi!’ I took a peek. Turned out they were Peng Lianhu, Sha Tongtian, Liang Ziweng and the other crafty fellows.”

“Ah!” Huang Rong exclaimed in surprise, “Why did they look for you?”

“I thought it was very strange too,” Hong Qigong said, “As soon as I saw them I went back into hiding. Who would have thought that the Old Urchin had already spotted me. He was ecstatic; he dashed forward and hugged me, saying, ‘Thank the heaven and thank the earth for letting me find you at last.’ Immediately he ordered Liang Ziweng and the others to follow behind us …”

“How could Liang Ziweng and the others listen to the Old Urchin’s order?” Huang Rong wondered.

Hong Qigong laughed and said, “At that time I was also racking my brain but could not figure out the reason. All I can say was that they were very afraid of the Old Urchin. Whatever he said, they did not dare to disobey. He ordered Liang Ziweng and the others to follow behind us, while he carried me to the Ox Village to find you two people. Along the way he told me that he had looked for me everywhere but could not find me, he was very worried. And then quite by accident he bumped into Liang Ziweng and the others by the city wall. In his frustration he beat each and every one of them really bad, and then ordered them to comb all streets and alleys the whole day and the whole night to look for me. He said they had been searching around the imperial palace for a while, but the palace was huge while I was hiding in a remote place. All throughout, they did not see me.”

Huang Rong said with a smile, “I did not expect the Old Urchin to be that smart, able to make those devil heads to follow his orders obediently. I wonder why they did not run away.”

Hong Qigong smiled and said, “The Old Urchin employed a mischievous trick. He rubbed some dirt from his body and made more than a dozen pills. He forced them to take three pills for each person, said that this poison would react in seven by seven, forty nine days. The poison was so lethal and nobody in the world other than himself would be able to neutralize it. If they were obedient, he would give them the antidote on the forty-eighth day. Although these wicked thieves half believed and half doubted, they certainly could not take a risk with their own lives; in the end they did not have any choice but to believe and they were compelled to listen to the Old Urchin’s yelling and screaming, without daring to defy.”

Initially Guo Jing was grieving, but hearing Hong Qigong’s story he could not help but smile. Hong Qigong continued, “When we arrived at the Ox Village we could not find you two. The Old Urchin again forced them to go out and search for you. Last night they all came back with their heads hung low. The Old Urchin scolded and cursed them. He was getting angrier and angrier until suddenly he said, ‘If by tomorrow you still cannot find those two babies Guo Jing and Huang Rong, I will make urine pulp pills and give them to you!’ Of course they began to get suspicious and repeatedly provoked him to talk. The Old Urchin was screaming and kicking, finally they found out that the pills they took earlier were not poison at all. I know the situation would turn dangerous; these traitors would certainly create not a small trouble. I told the Old Urchin to kill them all. Who would have thought that Peng Lianhu also saw the danger, immediately he hatched a deception; he told that fat Tibetan monk to compete against the Old Urchin in sitting still in meditation. I could not stop them, and was forced to run out of the Ox Village. I came across Ke Daxia outside the village. He protected me and we ran to this place. Peng Lianhu and the others chased us. Although the Old Urchin was muddle-headed, he knew better than leaving me alone, so he busily overtook us here. These traitors constantly provoked him, until finally the Old Urchin could not take it anymore and agreed to bet against the monk.”

Listening to this story Huang Rong was both angry and amused at the same time, she said, “If we did not meet them by accident, Shifu, your life would be delivered under the Old Urchin’s hand.”

Hong Qigong said, “My life is almost gone anyway, it doesn’t really matter whose hand will deliver it away.”

Huang Rong suddenly remembered something. “Shifu,” she said, “That day when we came back from Ming Xia Dao [bright red clouds island] …”

“It’s not Ming Xia Dao, it’s ‘ya gui dao’ [crushing ghost island],” Hong Qigong interrupted.

“Fine,” Huang Rong smiled slightly, “It’s Ya Gui Dao then. Now, that Ouyang Ke is not the least bit a fake ghost, he is a real ghost. That day when we rescued Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew, on the wooden raft the Old Poison said that there was one man in this whole wide world who can heal your injury. Only this person’s martial art is matchless; so we can’t use force against him, and you are not willing to harm others to benefit yourself by asking him to help you. At that time you were not willing to mention this person’s name. Later on Jing Gege and I went to Xiangxi. Naturally now we know that other than Emperor Duan then, or Reverend Yideng now, there is no one else.”

Hong Qigong sighed, “If he used Yiyang Zhi [Solitary Yang Finger] to attack my ‘qi jing ba mai’ [lit. marvelous/mysterious passage 8 pulses, Kwok & Huang Yushi from Wuxiapedia translated it as: Eight Extraordinary Channels], without a doubt he would heal my injury. But this kind of skill will injure his own internal strength for as long as five years or as few as three years, it’s hard to say. Let’s just say that he does not care about the second Sword Meet of Mount Hua, but he is already over sixty years of age; just how much longer is he going to live? How can the Old Beggar open his mouth and ask for his help?”

“Shifu,” Guo Jing said happily, “This is great! We don’t need anybody’s help, I can go through your ‘qi jing ba mai’.” Hong Qigong was surprised, “What?” he asked.

Huang Rong said, “Jing Gege recited that babbling and mumbling part from the Manual and Reverend Yideng has translated it for us. He told us to tell you, Senior, to use this technique to open your own ‘qi jing ba mai’.” Straightaway she recited Yideng’s translation from memory.

After listening to this Hong Qigong pondered for a long time, and then he jumped in joy and exclaimed, “Wonderful! Wonderful! I believe I will need only about one and a half year to recover.”

Huang Rong said, “In the Misty Rain Tavern martial art contest our opponent will surely invite Ouyang Feng to help their side. The Old Urchin’s martial art might not be inferior to his, but he is a wild person. I am afraid he won’t show up during the competition time. We must go to the Peach Blossom Island to get my father’s help to ensure victory.”

“What you said is not wrong,” Hong Qigong said, “I will go to Jiaxing first, the two of you go to the Peach Blossom Island.”

Guo Jing was reluctant to leave his shifu, he insisted on escorting Hong Qigong to Jiaxing. Hong Qigong said, “I will ride your little red horse. If there is any problem along the way, the Old Beggar will just run away. Who can chase after me?” Immediately he mounted the horse. With a couple of ‘glug, glug’ he drank his wine, and then pressed the horse’s belly with his legs. The little red horse let out a long neigh toward Guo Jing and Huang Rong, as if it did not want to leave them, and then galloped like the wind to the north.

Guo Jing watched until he could not see Hong Qigong’s shadow anymore, he also recalled how Ke Zhen’Ewanted to kill Huang Rong, his heart was heavy. Huang Rong did not try to comfort him. She went alone to find a boat for hire then they set sail toward the Peach Blossom Island.

When they arrived on the Island, they immediately sent the boat away. Huang Rong said, “Jing Gege, I am going to ask a favor from you. Will you promise to grant it?”

“What is it?” Guo Jing asked, “I don’t want to do something I won’t be able to do.”

Huang Rong laughed and said, “I am not going to ask you to cut off your six masters’ heads.” Guo Jing was upset. “Rong’er,” he said, “Can’t you not mention this matter anymore?”

“Why can’t I mention it?” Huang Rong countered, “You may have already forgotten about it; but I can’t. Even though I am good to you, I don’t want you to cut down my head.”

Guo Jing sighed and said, “I really don’t understand why Da Shifu was so angry. He knew you are the love of my life. I’d rather die a thousand times, ten thousand times, than hurting you the least bit.”

Huang Rong could hear the sincerity in his voice, her heart was moved. She pulled his hand and leaned against his body. Pointing to a row of willow trees by the creek she said with a tender voice, “Jing Gege, do you think this Peach Blossom Island is beautiful?”

“It truly looks like a fairyland,” Guo Jing replied.

Huang Rong sighed, “I want to live here forever, I don’t want to be killed by you,” she said. Guo Jing gently stroked her hair and said, “Good Rong’er, how can I kill you?”

Huang Rong said, “What if your six masters, your Mama, your good friend, they all ask you to kill me? Will you do it or not?” Guo Jing confidently said, “Even though everybody in the world wants to make things difficult for you, I will always protect you.” Huang Rong held his hand tightly and asked, “Will you be willing to leave all these people for me?” Guo Jing hesitated and did not answer. Huang Rong looked up and gazed at his eyes, with anxious expression on her face, waiting for his answer.

Guo Jing finally said, “Rong’er, I said that I would accompany you on the Peach Blossom Island for the rest of my life. I have made that decision before I opened my mouth.”

“Good!” Huang Rong said, “Then from this day on, you are not going to leave this island.” Guo Jing was taken aback, “From this day on?”

“Um, yes,” Huang Rong said, “From this day on! I am going to ask Father to go to Misty Rain Tavern and fight for us. Father and I will go to kill Wanyan Honglie to avenge your father. Father and I will go to Mongolia to fetch your Mama. I will even ask Father not to blame your six masters. I am going to take care of every single one of your concerns for you.”

Guo Jing saw the expression on her face was a little bit unusual; he said, “Rong’er, what I said to you, you can definitely count on it. Don’t you worry; you don’t have to do all these things.”

Huang Rong sighed, “The matters in this world are difficult to say,” she said, “When you agreed to marry that Mongolian Princess, did you ever think that someday you’ll regret your own decision? Previously I only knew that whatever I wanted, I got it. But now I know

… Ay! Whatever you wish you have, just pray that the Heaven will not make things difficult for you.” Speaking to this point she could not restrain her eyes from turning red. She hung her head low.

Guo Jing was silent; his heart was filled with tumultuous thoughts. He realized how much Huang Rong loved him, and it made him wanting to stay on the Island to be with her forever. But he felt it was inappropriate for him to ignore all his concerns; only why it was inappropriate, he did not know.

Huang Rong softly said, “It’s not that I don’t believe you or want to force you to live here; it’s just that I am really scared.” Speaking of this she suddenly threw herself into his arms and sobbed on his shoulder.

Guo Jing was caught by surprise; he was at a loss of what to do. He quickly said, “Rong’er, what are you afraid of?” Huang Rong did not reply, but she started to weep.

Ever since Guo Jing knew her, they had been through many difficult and dangerous, sometimes miserable situations, but he had always seen her smiling and laughing. This time she was back in her home and very soon will see her father; why was she scared all of a sudden? He asked, “Are you afraid your father has met some accident?”

Huang Rong shook her head. Guo Jing asked again, “Are you afraid once I leave this island I won’t be coming back?” Again Huang Rong shook her head. Guo Jing successively asked four, five questions but she shook her head again and again.

After a while Huang Rong lifted her head up and said, “Jing Gege, I don’t know what I am afraid of. I remember your Da Shifu’s expression when he told you to kill me, I just can’t shake it off my mind. I always feel there will come a day you are going to listen to him and kill me. That was the reason I asked you not to leave this place. Will you promise me?”

Guo Jing smiled and said, “I was wondering what important matter worries you so much; turns out it is only over this. That day in Beijing didn’t my Six Shifus cursed you as little female demon [xiao yao nu, yao – goblin/witch/devil/monster] or something like that? Afterwards I ran away with you, but we don’t have any problem until today. My Six Shifus seem strict and mean, but their hearts are kind and loving. Once you get to know each other I am sure they will certainly like you. Er Shifu’s [Second Shifu] skill in picking other people’s pocket is amazing; you can learn from him. I am sure you’ll have a lot of fun. Qi Shifu [Seventh Shifu] is tender and friendly …”

Huang Rong cut him off, “So you are determined to leave this place?” she asked.

Guo Jing replied, “The two of us will leave together; we’ll both go to Mongolia to fetch my Mother, we’ll kill Wanyan Honglie together, and then together we will come back to this place. Won’t that be great?”

With a startled look on her face Huang Rong said, “If that’s the case, I am afraid we won’t be coming back together forever, we won’t be together for rest of our lives.”

“Why?” Guo Jing wondered.

Huang Rong shook her head and said, “I don’t know. But when I saw your Da Shifu’s expression that was what I felt. It seemed like killing me is not enough; his hatred went deep into his bones and marrow.”

As Guo Jing listened to her, he could see that her heart was broken. Although her face still showed that childlike naïveté, her eyebrows and the corner of her eyes clearly showed her feelings towards the upcoming disaster. He recalled that she was always right; if this time he did not listen to what she said and some day a disaster befell her, how would that be good? Thinking about this his heart ached; he was overwhelmed with emotion and blurted out, “All right! I am not going to leave this place, ever!”

Hearing him Huang Rong fixed her gaze to his face for half a day without saying anything; two streams of tears slowly flowed down her cheeks. Guo Jing said in low voice, “Rong’er, what else do you want?”

“What else do I want?” Huang Rong said, “I want nothing else!” She raised her beautiful eyebrows up. “Even if I want something else, the Heaven won’t let me.” Her long sleeve gently rose up, she danced underneath the flower trees. As she turned her head around, the golden band on her hair glittered under the sun. Her clothes fluttered in the breeze. She danced faster and faster; every now and then she held out her hand to shake down the trees and petals of flowers fell down like rain: red flower, white flower, yellow flower, purple flower, they fluttered in the air just like butterflies dancing around her, creating a very beautiful scenery.

She danced for a moment, suddenly leaped up a tree, and then leaped over to another tree, dancing from tree to tree performing the ‘yan shuang fei’ [the fly of a pair of swallows] and ‘luo ying shen jian zhang’ [falling (leaves) divine sword palm technique] stances. She looked so happy.

Guo Jing thought, “Mama often told me stories about a fairy mountain on the eastern sea, where many fairies lived. I wonder if there is a fairy mountain more beautiful than the Peach Blossom Island, and if there is a fairy more beautiful than Rong’er?”