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The Legend of the Condor Heroes - Chapter 34

Chapter 34 – Radical Changes on the Island

While Huang Rong was dancing in the air, suddenly she let out a soft exclaim, “Ah!” and jumped down the tree. Beckoning to Guo Jing she walked into the forest. Guo Jing was afraid he would get lost, so he followed closely and did not dare to lag more than half a step behind her. Huang Rong walked fast along the winding pathway and then abruptly stopped. Pointing her finger to a yellow pile on the ground she asked, “What is that?”

Guo Jing rushed forward several steps and saw it was a yellow horse lying on the ground. He quickly came closer and stooped down to take a look; he recognized it was his San Shifu [Third Shifu] Han Baoju’s yellow horse. He held out his hand to feel the horse’s back and found it was already cold; the horse had died many days ago. This horse had followed Han Baoju to the far away desert; Guo Jing had known the horse since he was little. It was like a good friend to him. To suddenly see the horse dead here Guo Jing was grieved. He carefully considered, “This horse was old, but it was a divine steed and not an ordinary horse. It had galloped north and south all these years with nimble footsteps, it did not show any sign of old age; how could it unexpectedly fall dead in here? San Shifu must be very sad.”

He looked closer and noticed that the yellow horse did not lie on its side, but curled with its legs under its belly, crumpled together into one heap of meat. Guo Jing’s heart turned cold; he remembered how with just a strike of his palm Huang Yaoshi had killed Princess Huazheng’s horse just like this. Quickly he stretched out his left arm trying to lift underneath the horse’s neck, and held out his right hand to examine the horse’s front legs. He found out that the bones of the legs were broken. He withdrew his hands and retraced the horse’s back, only to find that the backbones were also broken. Guo Jing was increasingly alarmed. He took his hand off the horse and jumped in fright because he saw that his palm was full of blood. The blood had turned purplish black, but the blood smell remained. It seemed like the blood was about three, four days old. Quickly he turned the horse’s body around to examine it closely, but he did not see a single wound on its entire body. Absentmindedly he sat on the ground and thought, “Could it be San Shifu’s blood? Where is he?”

While Guo Jing was examining the horse Huang Rong stood quietly on the side; only then did she say in a low voice, “Don’t you worry, let us investigate this matter carefully.” Brushing the flower bushes away she looked to the ground and slowly walked forward. Guo Jing also saw the trace of dripping blood on the ground. Without thinking that he might get lost, he slipped through Huang Rong and anxiously rushed ahead to follow the bloodstain.

The trace sometimes disappeared so Guo Jing took the wrong turn several times. Huang Rong was always careful; she would examine the nearby bushes or the thick patch of grass among the rocks to find the trace of blood. Sometimes the bloodstain vanished altogether so she looked for a hoof print or some horse hair.

After following the trace for several ‘li’s they saw that ahead of them was a row of short flower bushes, with a grave in the middle of the grove. Huang Rong anxiously rushed toward the grave. Guo Jing had seen this grave before when he first came to the Peach Blossom Island, so he knew it was Huang Rong’s mother’s grave. He saw the tombstone lying on the ground, so he raised it up to stand. He saw the line of characters on the tombstone, ‘tao hua dao nu zhu feng shi mai xiang zhi zhong’ [the fragrant burial ground of Mistress surnamed Feng of the Peach Blossom Island].

Huang Rong saw the grave’s door was open and vaguely guessed that there were radical changes on the island. She did not enter the tomb right away, but looked carefully around the grave. She saw the green grass toward the left of the grave was trampled really bad, while there were some vestiges made by blade on the door of the grave. She listened attentively for half a day by the doorway and did not hear anything from the inside, finally she stooped down and entered in.

Guo Jing was afraid he might lost her, he immediately followed. Everywhere along the pathway inside the tomb he saw chipped or even shattered stones from the wall, a sign of a very fierce fight. Two people were very alarmed.

Several ‘zhang’s ahead Huang Rong stooped down to pick something from the floor. The pathway inside the tomb was dim, but they vaguely recognized that it was a half of Quan Jinfa’s balance beam. This balance beam was made of wrought iron, it was as thick as a child’s arm; but right now they saw the beam was broken by someone. Huang Rong and Guo Jing looked at each other, they did not dare to say anything. They knew in their hearts that there were only a handful of people in this whole wide world capable of breaking this balance beam barehanded; on this Peach Blossom Island, naturally there was nobody else aside from Huang Yaoshi.

Huang Rong held the broken beam with trembling hands. Guo Jing took the beam from Huang Rong’s hand and inserted it in his belt. He stooped down trying to find the other half of the beam. He felt like his heart was pulled down by fifteen buckets of water; filled with tumultuous thoughts. Part of him hoped he would find it, part of him hoped he would not.

Several steps later the pathway was getting darker. Guo Jing groped on the floor and found a round object. Turned out it was the balance weight, which Quan Jinfa usually used as flying hammer to strike the enemy. Guo Jing put it inside his pocket. Suddenly he felt his hand touching something cold, soft and somewhat greasy; it felt like someone’s face. He jumped up in fright and bumped his head to the ceiling of the tomb pathway. Without feeling the pain he hastily fetched his fire paper and lit it. He let out a bitter cry, feeling like the sky was turning around him and the earth shook beneath him, he fell backward and fainted.

The fire paper was still in Guo Jing’s hand and the fire was still flickering. Under the fire light Huang Rong saw Quan Jinfa with his eyes open, dead on the ground; the other half of the balance beam stuck out from his chest. Everything became clear to Huang Rong now. She calmed herself down, and then gathering up her courage she took the fire paper from Guo Jing’s hand. She placed the fire underneath Guo Jing’s nostrils. The smoke rose up, Guo Jing sneezed hard twice and regained his consciousness. He stared blankly at Huang Rong before finally standing up, and two people walked to enter to tomb.

They saw the tomb was in chaos; one corner of the sacrificial table was broken, Nan Xiren’s shoulder pole was laid slanting on the floor. On the left corner they saw someone lying down; he was wearing a cloth headband on his head, his shoes fallen down. From the look of his back who else but Zhu Cong?

Guo Jing quietly walked near and pulled Zhu Cong’s body. Under the fire light he saw that the corner of Zhu Cong’s mouth showed a faint smile, while his body had been cold for a long time. In his condition, the smile appeared to be strange yet sad. With a low voice Guo Jing said, “Er Shifu [Second Shifu], disciple Guo Jing is here!” Gently he picked Zhu Cong’s body up. ‘Clink, clink, clank, clank’ there was a series of light noise, countless pearls and precious stones fell down from Zhu Cong’s pocket, scattered on the floor.

Huang Rong picked a handful of jewels to take a closer look, but threw them away immediately. With a long sigh she said, “These are things my Father placed here to accompany my Mother.”

Guo Jing fixed his gaze at her, his eyes looked like they are about to spurt out blood, with a low and calm voice he said, “You are saying … saying that my Er Shifu came here to steal the gems? You dare to say my Er Shifu …”

Huang Rong did not flinch under his glowering stare at all; she stared back at Guo Jing, only her stare was full of desperation and painful anxiety.

Guo Jing continued, “My Shifu was a warrior and a true hero, how could he steal your father’s jewels? He couldn’t possibly … couldn’t possibly come over to plunder your Mama’s grave.” But looking at Huang Rong’s expression his tone gradually changed from angry to sad. The fact was, the jewels fell from Zhu Cong’s pocket, he also remembered his Er Shifu was known as ‘miao shou shu sheng’ [Magic Hand Scholar]; he was able to effortlessly pick anything from anybody’s pocket. Could it be that he really came over here to steal the jewels from this grave? No, no, his Er Shifu was always honest and frank, he simply could not do such a dirty and despicable act; there must be an explanation to this. Guo Jing was grieved and angry at the same time, the hair on his forehead was wet with sweat, his mind was dark, he clasped his fists so hard that the joins were making cracking sounds.

Huang Rong softly said, “When I saw your Da Shifu’s expression the other day, I had a feeling that it would be difficult for you and I to have something good between us. If you want to kill me, just do it. My Mama is here. I only ask you to bury me by her side. After burying me, quickly leave the island, don’t let my father see you.”

Guo Jing did not answer; he walked back and forth in big strides, breathing heavily at the same time. Huang Rong’s gaze was fixed on the painting of her mother on the wall. Suddenly she saw something of the face of the painting. She came closer and saw two secret projectiles. Carefully she took them down and gave them to Guo Jing; they were the ‘du ling’ [poisonous water caltrop] Ke Zhen’E used. She pulled the curtain behind the sacrificial table open, revealing her mother’s coffin behind it. She walked to the coffin’s side, and was unable to restrain exclaiming, “Ah!” She saw Han Baoju and Han Xiaoying, brother and sister have died behind the jade coffin.

It seemed like Han Xiaoying had slashed her own throat, her hand was still holding tight the sword hilt. Half of Han Baoju’s body was draped over the coffin, five finger holes were clearly seen on the center of his forehead.

Guo Jing walked past Huang Rong to take Han Baoju’s body away, while mumbling, “I personally saw Mei Chaofeng has died; who else but Huang Yaoshi in this world who can use this ‘jiu yin bai gu zhua’ [Nine Yin White Bone Claw]?” He gently put Han Baoju’s body on the floor, then he went back to take Han Xiaoying’s body, and brought the body outside. He walked past Huang Rong without looking at her, as if he did not even know she was there.

Huang Rong’s heart turned cold; she stared blankly for half a day. Suddenly the tomb was dark; the fire paper had been burned out. She was used to coming over to this tomb, but now there were four dead people inside. She could not help but feel afraid of the darkness and hastily ran out of the tomb. She tripped on something and almost fell over, but she ran ahead. Only after she was out of the tomb did she recall that she must be stumbling over Quan Jinfa’s body.

She noticed the tombstone was askew; she put out her hand to straighten it up. She was about to close the grave’s door when suddenly something dawned on her, “After killing the Four Freaks of Jiangnan, how come Father did not close the door of the grave? He loves Mama very much. Even though he was in such a hurry, he would not leave this door open wide like this.” One thought led to another, her suspicion aroused, “How could Father let the Four Freaks accompany Mama in the grave? It’s impossible. Could it be that Father also met a mishap?” Immediately she pushed the tombstone three times to the right and three times to the left to close the door, and then rushed to the house.

Guo Jing left the tomb earlier than she did, but after walking a dozen of steps, turning to the left and circling to the right, he was lost. He saw Huang Rong walking by and immediately followed behind her.

Without saying anything two people walked through the bamboo grove, over the lotus pond, toward the study room where Huang Yaoshi took up his residence. They saw the building was in a mess; the beams were broken and the pillars bent.

“Father! Father!” Huang Rong called out; rushing inside she saw that the table was flipped over and the stool laid on its side, books, pen and ink were scattered on the floor, half of the scrolls of painting and poems on the wall were pulled down, but where was Huang Yaoshi’s shadow? Huang Rong propped herself on the turned over table, her body shook and she was about to fall.

After half a day she managed to calm herself down. She rushed toward the mute servants’ quarter, but did not see a single soul. The ashes on the stove had turned cold. If they did not die, all of them had left some time ago. It looked like there was nobody else on this island except Guo Jing and herself.

Slowly she walked back to the study room, only to see Guo Jing inside standing motionless; his eyes looked straight without any expression on his face. With a trembling voice Huang Rong said, “Jing Gege, go ahead and cry. Quickly cry, then we’ll talk!” She knew Guo Jing and his six shifus had a parents and child relationship; right now his heart was extremely grieved. His internal energy had been trained to such an excellent level, that if he was unable to vent his great sadness and pain he would suffer a serious internal injury. Who would have thought that Guo Jing did not seem to hear anything; he only stared at her blankly.

Huang Rong wanted to urge him again, but she was overwhelmed with grief as well. She only said, “Jing Gege,” and could not say anything else.

Two people stood silently for half a day; Guo Jing mumbled with a low voice, “I must not kill Rong’er, I must not kill Rong’er!” Huang Rong’s heart was bitter, she said, “Your Shifus are dead, just cry your heart out.”

Guo Jing thought aloud, “I am not crying, I am not crying.”

After this exchange, the room fell into silence one more time. The sound of the distant waves was faintly heard; in just a short moment a multitude of thoughts swirling inside Huang Rong’s mind. All kinds of things she went through on this island, since she was little until she was fifteen years old, one by one flashed through her brain clearly; and then her body shook again.

She heard Guo Jing said as if he was talking to himself, “I must bury my Shifus first. Must I? Must I bury my Shifus first?”

“Right,” Huang Rong replied, “We must bury Shifus first.” She went out to show the way, back to her mother’s grave. Without saying anything Guo Jing followed behind her.

Huang Rong held out her hand to open the grave, suddenly Guo Jing rushed ahead, his right leg flew up, sweeping toward the middle of the tombstone. The tombstone was made from solid and extremely hard granite; even if Guo Jing’s kick was ten times stronger all he could do was to push the tombstone slightly askew, and not making the slightest dent on it. His right foot was bleeding, but he did not seem to feel the pain. His pair of palms ferociously struck and pushed the stone. He pulled the half of Quan Jinfa’s balance beam and struck the tombstone over and over. Sparks and debris flew everywhere. Suddenly, ‘crack!’ the beam snapped. With both of his hands Guo Jing furiously cracked the stone open, revealing the steel rod inside it. He grabbed the steel rod, trying to break it; but the grave door had actually opened before the rod was bent.

Guo Jing stared with a dull expression; suddenly he shouted, “Other than Huang Yaoshi, who can open the gate? Who can lure my ‘en shi’ [benevolent/kind master] to enter this crafty grave? If it is not he then who is? Who is it?” He threw his head back and shouted, then ran into the grave.

Guo Jing’s blood on the broken stone flowed down to cover his hand print. Seeing his deep hatred toward her mother’s grave Huang Rong was determined, “If he destroys my mother’s jade coffin to vent his anger, I am going to die over it first.” She was about to enter the grave when Guo Jing walked back out carrying Quan Jinfa’s body. He put the body down on the ground, then went back in and respectfully carried Zhu Cong, Han Baoju and Han Xiaoying one by one and laid them down on the ground.

Huang Rong stole a glance toward him and saw the love and admiration on his face; her heart turned icy cold, “He loves his shifus a lot more than he loves me. I must look for my Father, I must look for my Father!”

Guo Jing carried his four shifus’ bodies into the forest, several hundreds steps away from the grave, before he finally stooped down to dig a hole. At first he dug using Han Xiaoying’s long sword, he dug faster and faster and finally the sword snapped; even the handle was broken. Suddenly a burst of heat bubbled up from his chest and he spat out two mouthfuls of blood. He did not stop; he bent down his waist and used his hands to continue digging; scooping the earth and throwing it aside like crazy.

Huang Rong went to the quarter of the mute servants in charge of planting the tree and took two shovels. She tossed one shovel to Guo Jing and used the other to help digging the hole. Without saying anything Guo Jing snatched the shovel from her hand, broke it into two and tossed it to the ground; while he continued to dig alone with the other shovel. Huang Rong did not cry at all; she simply sat on the ground to watch.

Guo Jing exerted all his strength and he managed to dig two holes, one big and the other small, within the time needed to cook rice. He put Han Xiaoying’s body into the small hole. He knelt down and knocked his head on the ground several times; and then stared blankly at Han Xiaoying’s face for half a day before he finally covered it with earth. Next, he picked Zhu Cong’s body and was about to put it into the big hole when suddenly his heart was stirred, “How can Huang Yaoshi’s filthy jewels accompany my Er Shifu in his grave?” Thereupon he put forth his hand into Zhu Cong’s pocket and took the pearls, jade, and gemstones one by one and without looking at them he tossed everything to the ground. At last he reached the bottom of the pocket and took a sheet of paper out. He unfolded the paper and read these words:

‘From Jiangnan, the humble Ke Zhen’E, Zhu Cong, Han Baoju, Nan Xiren, Quan Jinfa and Han Xiaoying are paying a visit to the Senior, Master of the Peach Blossom Island. A short while ago we heard a rumor that disregarding their own lack of ability the Quanzhen Six Masters are about to settle their matter with the Peach Blossom Island. Juniors here realize this matter involves some miscommunication, only we regret that we are not able to act as the mediator between the two parties involved. Senior is an expert of the present age, a peer of the late Wang Chongyang, Wang Zhenren [lit. true/real man, a term of respect to a Taoist priest]; how can Senior let your honor and prestige fall by arguing with younger generations about right and wrong? In the past Lin Xiangru yielded to Lian Po, and it was regarded as a grand occasion in history. A heroic gentleman’s heart is as broad as the sea, and would certainly not be bothered by bickering chicken and worms. The day will come when the Quanzhen disciples will humble themselves in front of the Island Master, and the warriors of the world will admire Senior’s honorable chivalry; wouldn’t that be great?’

Guo Jing recognized his Er Shifu’s handwriting, he held the paper with trembling hands; he said in his heart, “When the Quanzhen Seven Masters were fighting Huang Yaoshi at the Ox Village, Ouyang Feng launched a sneak attack and killed Changzhen Zi [Eternal Truth] Tan Chuduan. At that time Ouyang Feng shifted the blame to Huang Yaoshi. This Old Heretic Huang is a haughty man, he did not bother to argue, so naturally the Quanzhen Sect hates him to the bone. When my six Shifus learned the Quanzhen Sect was coming in full power to seek revenge, they were afraid both sides would suffer injury, so they wrote this letter urging Huang Yaoshi to temporarily avoid confrontation and think of ways to reveal the truth in the future. My Shifus had a kind intention, how could this old thief Huang Yaoshi made his move and brought this calamity upon them?” But then he thought, “Er Shifu had already written this letter, why didn’t he deliver it, but kept it in his pocket? Ah, right, the situation must be pressing, the Quanzhen Six Masters were coming quickly, so they did not have enough time to deliver this letter; therefore, my Six Shifus came in a hurry to prevent the battle.” Following which he thought, “Old Heretic Huang, oh, Old Heretic Huang, you must think my Six Shifus came to help the Quanzhen Sect; and thus without separating the green from the red or black or white you just attacked with your poisonous hand.”

He was busy with his own thought for a while, and then he folded the paper to put it back into his pocket, suddenly he saw several characters were scribbled on the back of the letter. He quickly turned it over and his heart was thumping hard and jumping madly since he saw some crooked writing, “This business has turned for the worse, everybody guard against …” the last character was only written three strokes; looked like the disaster had already stricken, so it was unfinished.

Guo Jing called out, “This is obviously the character ‘east’; Er Shifu warned everybody to guard against the Eastern Heretic; what a pity he did not have enough time.” He crushed the paper into a ball; clenching his jaws he said, “Er Shifu, Er Shifu, the Old Heretic Huang has viewed your good intention as an evil one.” His grip loosened and the paper ball fell to the ground. Stooping down he picked Zhu Cong’s body.

Huang Rong had always kept her eyes on Guo Jing as he was reading the paper; she saw his expression change several times, she knew the letter must be very important. As the paper fell, she slowly walked over and picked it up, she read both sides and said in her heart, “His Six Shifus came to the Peach Blossom Island with a good intention. Too bad this Magic Hand Scholar had a crooked heart; he was accustomed to stealing his entire life, so that when he saw my mother’s many rare treasures he could not help but violating my Father’s biggest taboo …”

In her grief and remorse she saw that Guo Jing was laying down Zhu Cong’s body. Zhu Cong’s left hand was tightly curled into a fist. Guo Jing pried it open and took something out and held it in his hand. Huang Rong looked closer and saw it was a women’s shoe carved from a green jade, approximately an inch long. Although it was a toy, it looked just like a real shoe; the carving was fine and exquisite, truly it was an expensive work of art. Only she had never seen this shoe in her mother’s grave before; she wondered where Zhu Cong got it from.

Guo Jing turned the shoe over in his hand to take a look; there was a ‘zhao’ [to recruit] character engraved on the sole, while another character ‘bi’ [contest/compete] was engraved inside, other than these characters there was nothing unusual about the shoe. Guo Jing hated these treasures very much, ‘swish!’ he tossed the shoe to the ground. He stared blankly for a while, then slowly picked Zhu Cong’s, Han Baoju’s and Quan Jinfa’s bodies and put them in the hole. He was about to cover them with earth, but looking at his three shifus’ faces he could not bear to do so. He called out, “Er Shifu, San Shifu, Liu Shifu [Sixth Shifu], you … you died!” His voice was gentle, the same voice he had used when talking to his shifus in the past.

After about half a day he cast a sidelong gaze toward the pile of treasure by the hole; his anger rose. With both of his hands he scooped them up and walked briskly toward Huang Rong’s mother’s grave. Huang Rong was afraid he was going to violate her mother’s jade coffin; she anxiously caught up, stretching out her arms she blocked the entrance of the grave. “What are you doing?” she imposingly asked.

Guo Jing did not answer, his left arm gently shoved her aside; both of his hands threw the treasures inside the grave. A series of long clinking noise was heard as the jewels hit the ground. Huang Rong saw that jade-green shoe fell near her feet; she stooped down to pick it up and said, “This one is not my Mother’s.” She handed the shoe over to him. Guo Jing only stared at her blankly, ignoring her. Huang Rong put the shoe in her pocket. Guo Jing turned around and returned to the hole; he shoveled the earth and buried his three shifus’ bodies.

Guo Jing was busy for half a day. The sky had gradually turned dark. Huang Rong still did not see him cry; she was getting more and more concerned. She thought perhaps if she leaves him alone he would cry; so she went back to the house to fetch some salted fish and ham and cooked some simple dishes. She put everything in a basket and went back to see that Guo Jing was still standing next to his shifus’ grave. It took Huang Rong approximately an hour to prepare the dishes, yet not only Guo Jing did not move a single step; his expression also did not change the slightest bit.

To see Guo Jing standing like a stone statue in the dark Huang Rong was alarmed and scared. “Jing Gege, how are you feeling?” she called out; but Guo Jing did not pay her any attention. Huang Rong called again, “Come here and eat, you have been hungry for a whole day!”

“I’d rather die of starvation that to eat anything on the Peach Blossom Island,” Guo Jing said.

Hearing him talking Huang Rong was somewhat relieved; she knew his stubborn temperament. His heart was broken and hurt, once he said he would not eat anything on this island then he would not eat. Thereupon she slowly put the basket down on the ground and sat down.

One standing up the other sitting down, time quietly passed, the crescent moon rose from the sea and slowly reached the top of their heads. The food in the basket had already turned cold, as cold as the hearts of this couple.

In this chilly wind under the cold moon, amidst the faint sound of waves breaking the shore, suddenly from a distance came a cry. The sound was intensely mournful, like a wolf’s howl or a tiger’s roar, but it also sounded like a human’s voice. The sound was transmitted by the wind, so when the wind died, the sound also disappeared. Huang Rong inclined her ears to listen attentively; she vaguely recognized it was the voice of someone struggling in severe pain, only it was not clear whether the voice belonged to a human or a beast. After determining where the voice came from, she moved her feet and rushed toward that voice.

Actually she wanted to take Guo Jing along, but then she changed her mind, “Most likely this is not something good, it will only increase his anxiety.” Darkness enveloped her on every side, she was actually afraid to go alone; fortunately she knew every grass and every tree on the Peach Blossom Island very well, hence although her heart was thumping hard, she gathered all her courage and went forward.

She had only walked for about a dozen of steps when suddenly felt a gust of wind by her side; Guo Jing dashed past her and was running ahead of her. He did not know the way, so very soon he was lost. Huang Rong saw his hands hacking and his feet kicking, trying to destroy the trees and bushes blocking his way, as if he was losing his mind. “Follow me,” Huang Rong said.

“Si Shifu [Fourth Shifu], Si Shifu!” Guo Jing called out. He had recognized his Si Shifu, Nan Xiren’s voice.

Huang Rong’s heart turned cold, she thought, “It will be very strange if his Si Shifu saw me and did not want to take my life.” But by now she had already disregarded all consequences; she knew perfectly well a big disaster was looming ahead, but she did not even try to run away from it. She led Guo Jing into the thick forest on the east side of the island. They saw underneath a peach tree a man was rolling around with twisted body.

Guo Jing cried out and rushed ahead to hug him. Nan Xiren’s face showed a smile, his mouth produced ‘heh, heh’ sound. Guo Jing was scared but also happy; suddenly, ‘wah!’ he broke into crying. He was crying and calling out, “Si Shifu! Si Shifu!” Nan Xiren did not say anything; he struck Guo Jing with the back of his palm. Guo Jing was taken by surprise; instinctively he ducked to avoid the blow. As his palm did not hit its target Nan Xiren’s left fist struck out. This time Guo Jing thought that his shifu was punishing him; he was happy, so he let Nan Xiren’s fist to hit him. Who would have thought that Nan Xiren’s fist carried a surprisingly strong force. ‘Bang!’ Guo Jing was sent rolling down on the ground.

Since he was little Guo Jing had practiced fist technique with Nan Xiren several hundreds or thousands times; he knew perfectly well the strength of Nan Xiren’s fists and palms, he was greatly surprised to find Nan Xiren’s strength suddenly increased several folds. Guo Jing had just barely stood up when Nan Xiren’s fist came again. Guo Jing still did not want to fend off. This fist carried an even stronger force; Guo Jing saw stars dancing in front of his eyes, he almost passed out. Nan Xiren stooped down to pick a big rock up, and fiercely pounded it down on top of Guo Jing’s head. If Guo Jing did not evade, this big rock would certainly crack his skull open and turn his brain to mush.

From the sideline Huang Rong saw the critical situation, she quickly flew forward and pushed Nan Xiren’s arm with her left hand. Nan Xiren, with the rock still in his hands, fell down to the ground. His mouth made a ‘heh, heh’ sound and to everybody’s surprise he did not crawl back up.

“Why did you push my Si Shifu?” Guo Jing shouted angrily.

Huang Rong’s sole purpose was to save Guo Jing, she did not expect Nan Xiren would be this weak; as soon as she pushed, she hastily held out her hands to help him up. Under the moonlight she saw his face was smiling, but this smile resembled the exaggerated smile of an actor on stage; his face looked very frightening. Huang Rong called out in alarm and withdrew her hands immediately, she did not dare to touch his body. All of a sudden Nan Xiren turned over and struck her left shoulder with his fist. Two people shouted in pain simultaneously.

Although her body was protected by the soft hedgehog armor, this fist had given her enough pain and sent her staggered a few steps back. Blood was dripping from Nan Xiren’s fist, which was pricked by the thorns on the armor. Amidst the two people’s shouts Guo Jing called out, “Si Shifu!”

Nan Xiren looked at Guo Jing as if he had just recognized him; he opened his mouth to speak, but no matter how much the muscle around his mouth twitched, he still could not say anything. His face showed a smile, but his eyes showed extreme despair.

“Si Shifu,” Guo Jing said, “Please take a rest. Whatever it is you want to say, you can say it later.”

Nan Xiren tried hard to say something, he lifted his neck to look up, but his lips were unable to form the words. After straining for a while his head dropped, looking down to the ground.

“Si Shifu!” Guo Jing repeatedly called out; he rushed forward to lift Nan Xiren up. From the side Huang Rong could see clearly. “Your Shifu is writing,” she said.

Guo Jing looked sideways and saw Nan Xiren’s right index finger was slowly writing on the soft earth. Under the moonlight he saw Nan Xiren wrote character by character: “My … killer … is …”

Huang Rong noticed he wrote with great difficulty, her heart was thumping hard; suddenly she remembered something, “He is on the Peach Blossom Island, even an idiot will know that it is my Father who killed him. But he is on the verge of death and is still using his very last strength to write the killer’s name, could it be that the murderer is someone else?” She was watching Nan Xiren’s finger with a rapt attention; she noticed that the finger moved slower as if losing its strength, so she kept praying in her heart, “If he is going to write some other name, please, please let him write it down quickly.”

Nan Xiren was writing the fifth character [Chinese character, that is], he started from the upper left hand corner and wrote a small ‘ten’ (十 ) character, then his finger trembled and stopped moving all together.

Guo Jing was kneeling on the ground, hugging his shifu. He felt Nan Xiren’s body shook violently then he stopped breathing. He looked at the small ‘ten’ character and called out, “Si Shifu, I know you were going to write the Huang (黄 ) character, you were going to write the Huang character!” He threw himself on Nan Xiren’s body and wept bitterly. In this one cry he had vented up the grief and indignation that had been welled up in his heart the whole day. He cried for quite a while, then his body fell on top of Nan Xiren’s lifeless body; he had fainted.

Without knowing how much time had passed, he woke up under the bright morning sunlight. He stood up and swept his gaze around. Huang Rong was gone, and Nan Xiren’s body was still lying down on the ground with his eyes open. Guo Jing remembered a saying, ‘die without closing his eyes’; he was unable to restrain tears from flowing down his cheeks again. Stretching out his hand he gently closed Nan Xiren’s eyes. Suddenly he recalled just before he died Nan Xiren’s facial expression was very strange; he wonder what kind of injury was so fatal. Thereupon he untied Nan Xiren’s clothes to examine his whole body. Strange to say, except for the pricked hand from hitting Huang Rong’s soft hedgehog armor last night, from head to toe, Guo Jing could not find a single scar on Nan Xiren’s body. Neither his chest nor his back showed any sign of injury by internal strength strike; the skin was neither black nor burnt, so there was no sign of poisoning either.

Guo Jing picked up Nan Xiren’s body and carried it to be buried together with Zhu Cong and the others; but the pathways in the forest were so strange that after about dozens of steps he lost his bearing. He had no choice but turn back and dig a hole underneath a peach tree to bury Nan Xiren. Guo Jing had not eaten for a whole day; his stomach hurt from hunger. He wanted to find a way to go back to the shore and find a boat to return to the mainland, but the farther he went, the more confused he became. He sat down to take a rest for a while, then he stood up with a renewed vigor and walked again. This time he had an idea, regardless of he found a pathway or not, he would keep his eyes toward the sun in the east.

After walking for a while ahead of him was a dense forest, seemingly impassable. Nothing strange about the forest, it was just that each tree was full of long and thorny rattan cane; it would be truly difficult for him to set his feet on. He made the decision, “I am not coming back today!” and then jumped up to the tree top.

He only walked one step on the tree when ‘rip!’ the corner of his trouser was tore by a thorn and his calf was bleeding from several cuts. He walked two more steps, and his left leg was entangled in some long canes. He took his dagger out and cut the canes. Lifting his head up he saw far ahead the rattan trees were very dense, seemingly without end. He called out, “Even if my legs are sheared, I have to leave this cursed island!”

He was about to jump ahead when suddenly Huang Rong called out from the ground, “Get down, I’ll take you out.” He looked down and saw Huang Rong standing underneath a rattan tree on his left.

Guo Jing did not reply, he jumped down and saw Huang Rong’s face was deathly pale, as if her blood was drained completely out. He could not help but startle; he wanted to ask whether her injury recurred, but he forced himself to bite his lips. Huang Rong noticed he wanted to say something, but as soon as his lips started to move he turned his head around. She waited for a moment without seeing any response from Guo Jing; she sighed gently and said, “Let’s go!” Two people walked along the winding path heading east.

Huang Rong’s injury had not been completely healed, and she had to face this heavy misfortune; she was tossing and turning in her sleep the previous night. She knew she could not blame her Jing Gege, she could not blame her father, and she could not even blame the Six Freaks of Jiangnan. She only resented herself; why would she have to endure the Heaven’s punishment like this? Did the Heaven hate people who lead a happy life?

She led Guo Jing toward the beach; knowing in her heart that this time he would never come back, it would be difficult for them to see each other anymore, so she felt that with every step a piece of her heart was also taken away.

Just beyond the rattan trees forest they could see the beach ahead. Huang Rong felt weary, she was unable to restrain her body from shaking; hastily she used the bamboo stick to brace herself, but unexpectedly there was no strength left on her arm, the bamboo stick skewed and she fell down to the ground.

Instinctively Guo Jing outstretched his right hand to hold her, but just as his finger was about to touch her arm, the injustice his shifus suffered flashed in his mind. His left hand moved and ‘slap!’ it struck his own right wrist. He was using Zhou Botong’s Mutual Hands Combat Technique; as his right hand was stricken, he turned his palm over and leapt backward immediately.

Without receiving any help Huang Rong fell down to the ground. As Guo Jing saw her falling down, remorse, affection, grief, indignation and all kinds of emotions bubbled up inside his heart. Even if his heart was made of stone he could not restrain himself from stooping down and pick her up. He looked at all directions trying to find a comfortable place to lay her down, and it was then did he saw a green cloth flutter in the wind on the rock toward his northeast.

Huang Rong opened her eyes and saw Guo Jing’s gaze was fixed on a distant place; she followed his gaze and also saw the green cloth. “Father!” she called out in alarm. Guo Jing let her down, and hand in hand they ran toward the rock. They saw it was a long gown, stuck in the crook of the rock; they also saw a piece of human skin mask lying next to it. Obviously they belonged to Huang Yaoshi.

Huang Rong was really alarmed; she stooped down to pick up the gown and clearly saw a bloody hand print on the lapel of the gown, with the fingers left winding traces. It looked very scary.

Guo Jing remembered, “After killing my San Shifu with the Nine Yin White Bone Claw Huang Yaoshi must have wiped his fingers with this cloth.”

Initially he was holding Huang Rong’s hand, but now his blood was boiling inside his chest; he shook Huang Rong’s hand away, snatched the gown, and with a ‘rip!’ sound he tore the gown into two parts. He saw the corner of the gown was torn, looked like it was the green piece of cloth tied on the eagle’s foot. The blood print was so clear that under the bright sunlight it looked as if the palm would jump out of the clothes and slap someone on the face; but it provoked Guo Jing’s anger even more so that he felt he was going to go insane from grief and indignation. He tucked his own gown into his belt and waded into the water towards a sailboat.

The mute and deaf servants on the boat had long gone, disappeared without a trace. Without looking back to Huang Rong he drew his dagger out and cut the rope, hoisted the anchor and sailed to the sea.

Huang Rong watched the boat sail to the west. At first she was hoping that he would change his mind, turn the rudder and head back to the island to take her traveling together; but then she saw the boat was getting smaller and smaller, while her heart was turning colder and colder. She stared blankly at the sea until the boat disappeared on the horizon. Suddenly she remembered that she was alone on the island; Jing Gege had gone, and she did not know whether her father would ever return. How could she pass the rest of her days? Would she just stand on this shore forever? Rong’er, Rong’er, you must not take a short cut and die!

All by himself Guo Jing steered the boat, leaving the Peach Blossom Island, heading west. He had sailed for several dozen ‘li’s when he suddenly heard the eagles’ anxious cry high above his head. The pair of eagles had followed him and perched on the sail arms. Guo Jing thought, “The eagles come after me, Rong’er is alone on the island, she must be very lonely!” Overcome with pity and regret he spontaneously turned the rudder around, wanting to take her to travel together. But after sailing for a short while he remembered, “Da Shifu told me to cut Huang Yaoshi’s and Rong’er’s heads before I can come and see him. Da Shifu, Er Shifu and the others came to the Peach Blossom Island and fell under Huang Yaoshi’s poisonous hands. Although Da Shifu is blind, he can hear clearly. For some reason he was fortunate to escape and stay alive. He raised his iron staff to kill Rong’er; he wanted me to kill Rong’er, what did Rong’er do? I can’t kill Rong’er; Er Shifu and the others were not killed by Rong’er. But how can I be together with her? I must cut Huang Yaoshi’s head and take it away to see Da Shifu. If I am not the Old Heretic Huang’s match, then I’ll let him kill me.” Immediately he turned the rudder again, making a circle on the sea surface, heading west once more.

Late on the third day the boat reached the shore. Out of hatred of everything from the Peach Blossom Island he took the anchor and smashed the bottom of the boat before leaping onto the beach. He watched while the sailboat slowly leaned sideways and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. He could not help but feel a loss in his heart. Leaving the shore he walked to the west; he found a peasant home and bought some rice to eat. After finding the right direction he went straight to Jiaxing.

That evening he spent the night by the bank of Qiantang River; he saw the reflection of the bright moon on the river, like a big golden wheel floating on the water. Suddenly he jumped up with a start; he was afraid he missed the martial art contest appointment at the Misty Rain Tavern. Immediately he asked the host where he lodged, and found out that today was the thirteenth of the eighth month. Hastily he crossed the river that very same night; he bought a healthy horse and whipped the horse to gallop quickly, and arrived at Jiaxing by early afternoon of the next day.

Since his childhood he had heard his six shifus recounted their battle with Qiu Chuji; how they had a wine drinking contest out of the huge copper vat at the Drunken Immortal Tavern [zui xian lou], the exquisiteness of their martial art skills and the heroism surrounding that battle. Six people loved to tell the story good-naturedly. So as soon as he entered the southern gate he asked the location of the Drunken Immortal Tavern.

The Drunken Immortal Tavern was located by the bank of Nan Hu [South Lake]. Guo Jing arrived at the front of the tavern. He looked up and saw this tavern’s appearance was exactly like what Han Xiaoying had told him. The tavern had been imprinted in his mind for a dozen of years, today he had seen it for the first time with his own eyes; he noticed the exquisiteness of the carving of the eaves, it was truly a beautiful building. At the front of the tavern stood a big wooden sign with ‘tai bai yi feng’ [the great (Li) Bai (a famous poet of the Tang Dynasty)’s left behind manner/custom/air] four letters engraved on it; while above the main entrance there was a sign with ‘zui xian lou’ [Drunken Immortal Tavern], inscribed by Su Dongpo [a famous calligrapher of the Song Dynasty], in golden letters, gleaming under the bright sunlight.

Guo Jing’s heart was thumping madly; walking and leaping, he went upstairs. A wine shop attendant welcomed him and said, “Honorable Guest, please use the downstairs room, since the upstairs is already reserved for some other guests.”

Guo Jing was about to reply when suddenly someone was calling, “Jing’er, you are here!” Guo Jing looked up and saw a Taoist priest sitting and drinking wine, his long beard reached his chest, his face was ruddy; it was none other than Changchun Zi [Eternal Spring] Qiu Chuji.

Guo Jing rushed forward and bowed to the ground, “Qiu Daozhang [Taoist Priest Qiu]!” he called out. His voice was somewhat choked.

Qiu Chuji held out his hand to raise him up; he said, “You are a day early, that is very good. I am also a day early. I thought tomorrow we are going to fight Peng Lianhu, Sha Tongtian and the others, so I want to be here early to drink wine and reminisce about the past with your Six Shifus. Have your Six Shifus arrived? I have prepared some tables for them.”

Guo Jing saw there were nine tables on this upstairs floor; except for Qiu Chuji’s table, which was full with dishes and wine, the other eight tables only had a pair of chopsticks and a wine cup. Qiu Chuji said, “Eighteen years ago I met your Seven Shifus for the very first time in this place; they arranged the tables just like this. This one table of vegetarian dishes was for Jiaomu Da Shi [Reverend Burnt Wood], it’s a pity that I can no longer meet him and your Wu Shifu [Fifth Shifu].” He sounded very grieved. Guo Jing turned his head around, did not dare to look at him straight ahead.

Qiu Chuji did not notice anything, he kept talking, “That day we had a contest on drinking from the copper vat, so today I went to ‘fa hua si’ [magnificent (Buddhist) way temple] and fetched the vat. As soon as your Six Shifus are here we can drink again just like in the old days.”

Guo Jing turned his head to look at the big copper vat by the screen. The outside of the vat was blackish green from the copper rust, but the inside had been washed and scrubbed clean, and filled to the brim with high quality wine, the fragrance attacked his nostrils. Guo Jing stared blankly at the copper vat for half a day then he turned his attention to the eight empty tables. He thought, “Other than Da Shifu, nobody would be able to enjoy the banquet again. If only I can see my seven benevolent masters sit together, drinking wine, talking and laughing, getting drunk for the whole day, I would be very happy even if I have to die immediately.”

He heard Qiu Chuji continue, “At that time we agreed that on the twenty-fourth day of the third month this year, you and Yang Kang will have a martial art contest in here. I respect your Seven Shifus as noble hearted chivalrous warriors; I was hoping you would win and lift up the name of the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan in the world. Besides, I was always wandering everywhere, weeding out the criminals from this world; I did not have enough time to spend on nurturing Yang Kang. It was all right not to teach him a good martial art, but I should have taught him to have loyalty and chivalry. For this I am so ashamed toward your Uncle Yang. Although he now thoroughly repented of his former misdeeds, the evil influence in his life will be difficult to eradicate completely; when I think about this, my heart is filled with utmost regret.”

Guo Jing wanted to recount Yang Kang’s dishonorable behavior, but it was a long story so he did not know where to start. Meanwhile Qiu Chuji continued, “In a person’s life, literary or martial art skill is not everything, the most important things are two characters, loyalty and patriotism. Even if Yang Kang’s martial art skill is better than yours a hundred folds, speaking of character, the martial art contest of the Drunken Immortal Tavern is still won by your shifus. Hey, hey, Qiu Chuji lost with a satisfied heart.” He laughed a big laugh. Suddenly he saw Guo Jing’s tears flow down like rain, he was surprised, “Ah, why are you so sad?”

Guo Jing scrambled over one step, he bowed to the ground and wept, “My … my … my five benevolent masters have passed away.” Qiu Chuji was shocked. “What?!?” he almost shouted.

Still crying Guo Jing said, “Except for my Da Shifu, the other five are … are dead.”

These two sentences struck Qiu Chuji like a loud thunder in bright sunlight; he was silent for half a day. He was hoping he would meet some old friends and have a good time together, who would have thought that suddenly disaster struck. Although his time together with the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan was not much, for the last eighteen years he had already regarded them as his lifelong friends. Now that he heard this shocking news, his heart was filled with grief. He went over to the railings in big strides; he looked out toward the vast lake in front of him, throwing his head backward he let out a long cry. One by one faces of the Seven Freaks flashed in his mind. He turned around and picked up the copper vat, with a loud voice he cried out, “My friends are dead, what use do I have of you?” Sending his strength to his arms he threw the vat away. The copper vat fell into the lake with a loud splash, the water flew everywhere. Turning his head toward Guo Jing he grabbed Guo Jing’s arms and asked, “How did they die? Tell me!”

Guo Jing was about to reply when with the corner of his eye he caught sight of someone silently enter the room; he was wearing green clothes, his face was elegant and unrestrained, it was the Master of the Peach Blossom Island, Huang Yaoshi. Guo Jing looked twice, he was afraid of mistaking him for someone else; he fixed his eyes with rapt attention. Who was he but Huang Yaoshi?

Huang Yaoshi also saw him here and was surprised. Suddenly he felt a gust of wind on his face; Guo Jing attacked him over the table using the Proud Dragon Repents. In this one palm Guo Jing had sent out his whole strength, the power was astonishing. Huang Yaoshi slightly moved sideways, his left hand shot out and pushed Guo Jing’s palm to the side. A series of cracking noise were heard, Guo Jing could not hold his ground; he bored through the wooden partition and fell downstairs.

It was a bad day for the Drunken Immortal Tavern, Guo Jing happened to land on the shelf containing cups and bowls. ‘Bing! Bang! Bing! Bang!’ bowls, plates, trays, wine cups; everything was smashed to hundreds and thousands of pieces.

That afternoon, when the old innkeeper heard Qiu Chuji ordered the tables to be arranged in such a way, also saw him bringing the huge copper vat upstairs, he remembered what happened eighteen years ago; he had already had a queasy feeling about it. Now that the upstairs and downstairs were shattered, he could not help but bitterly cry out. He prayed head over heels, “Please help those in distress, oh Goddess of Mercy, the Jade Emperor of Heaven, the God of the City …”

Guo Jing was afraid the dishes and bowls fragments would injure his palm, so he did not dare to push himself up. He twisted his waist and leaped up, and rushed back upstairs immediately. He only saw a grey shadow flashed, followed by a green shadow; Qiu Chuji and Huang Yaoshi leaped down the window one after another. Guo Jing thought, “This old thief’s martial art is above mine; I can’t fight him barehanded.” He drew two kinds of weapons from his waist, with his mouth he bit the dagger given by Qiu Chuji, in his right hand he held the golden blade given by Genghis Khan. He thought, “Even if I have to stake it all and endure that old thief’s fist or kick, I have to make a couple of holes on his body.” He rushed to the window and jumped down.

By now the street was bustling with pedestrians; they heard that some people jumped out from the tavern and came to take a look. Suddenly they saw that someone else was jumping out of the window with a shining blade in his hand; the crowd cried out in alarm, they pushed and shoved each other and several people tumbled down. Guo Jing could not see Qiu, Huang two people because of the crowd; he quickly took the dagger from his mouth and asked an old man nearby, “Where did the two people that jumped down from the upstairs go?”

That old man was startled, he cried out, “Mr. Hero, please spare my life, it’s none of my business.”

Guo Jing repeated his question, but that old man was so scared that he kept calling out, “Help! Help!” Guo Jing gently pushed him aside and rushed out from the crowd, but Qiu and Huang two people had disappeared completely.

He rushed back upstairs and looked to all directions, he saw a small boat on the lake carrying Qiu and Huang two people; it looked like they were heading toward the Misty Rain Tavern on the island in the middle of the lake. Huang Yaoshi sat in the cabin, while Qiu Chuji sat on the stern, rowing. When he saw this Guo Jing was startled, he thought, “Those two people will certainly fight to the death at the Misty Rain Tavern. Qiu Daozhang is brave, but how can he be that old thief’s match?” Anxiously he rushed back downstairs, grabbed a small boat and paddled furiously to catch up with them.

Seeing his enemy ahead it was very difficulty for him to be calm, but he knew he ought to be patient on the water; ‘snap’ the handle of oar was broken because he exerted too much energy. He was furious and anxious at the same time; he took a plank from the boat and used it to paddle the boat. Now instead of going faster he was going slower; the distance between his boat and the two people’s boat gradually increased. By the time he managed to land the boat with a great deal of trouble, those two had already gone.

Guo Jing thought aloud, “I have to swallow my anger, I can’t lose my life before avenging this enmity.” He took a deep breath and spat three times; then he cocked his ears in full attention. He heard from behind the tavern faintly came the noise of blades splitting the air, mixed with people calling and responding each other; apparently it was not Qiu and Huang two people. Guo Jing looked around assessing the situation around him, and then tiptoeing into the Misty Rain Tavern. He saw nobody downstairs, so he rushed upstairs only to see by the window someone was leaning against the railings, looking out, his mouth was still noisily chewing something. It was none other than Hong Qigong.

“Shifu!” Guo Jing rushed forward and called out. Hong Qigong nodded his head, pointed outside and raised a cooked half lamb leg in his hand and took a big bite.

Guo Jing quickly went to the window. He saw flashing swords in the clearing behind the tavern, eight, nine people were surrounding Huang Yaoshi. Seeing the enemy was fighting a multitude of opponents he was slightly relieved; but after looking clearly at who these people were, he could not help but feel surprised. He saw his Da Shifu Ke Zhen’E wielding his iron staff with a young Taoist priest standing behind him. He thought, “How come Da Shifu is also here?” He looked again and found out that the young priest was Qiu Chuji’s disciple Yin Zhiping; who was wielding his long sword to protect Ke Zhen’E’s back, not to attack Huang Yaoshi. The other six were all Taoist priests, they were Ma Yu, Qiu Chuji and the rest of the Quanzhen Six Masters.

Guo Jing watched for a moment and realized the Quanzhen Sect was using their Big Dipper Formation to fight the enemy. Only the Changzhen Zi [Eternal Truth] Tan Chuduan had died, so the ‘tian xuan’ [sky jade/gem] position was occupied by Ke Zhen’E. Too bad his martial art skill was not on par with the others, plus he was not familiar with the formation, so Yin Zhiping was protecting his back while giving him directions. The Quanzhen Six Masters were brandishing their swords, advancing and retreating, dispersing and gathering together, keeping Huang Yaoshi inside their circle fighting an intense battle.

That day during the fierce battle at the Ox Village only two of the Quanzhen Seven Masters wielded their long swords; the rest of them were fighting using their bare palms, the battle was already very intense. This time there were seven long swords and one iron staff, so the fierceness was scary.

Huang Yaoshi remained barehanded; he floated around amidst the flashing swords and staff, as if he was forced to defend himself without being able to launch any counterattack; for dozens of moves he only moved around to avoid the enemies’ blades without launching a single fist or kick. Guo Jing was secretly delighted, “Regardless of your resourcefulness, it will be difficult for you to run away from justice today.”

Suddenly he saw that Huang Yaoshi swept his right foot around his body twice with his left foot firmly on the ground; compelling eight people to simultaneously withdraw three steps. “Excellent Sweeping Leaves Kick Technique!” Guo Jing praised.

Huang Yaoshi turned his head and waved his hand toward Hong and Guo two people upstairs and nodded his head in greeting. Guo Jing saw his face was relaxed and composed; he did not look like someone who was gasping for breath, which caused Guo Jing to be suspicious. He saw Huang Yaoshi’s left palm sweep diagonally towards the top of Changsheng Zi [Eternal Life], Liu Chuxuan’s head; so Huang Yaoshi had moved abruptly from defensive to offensive.

Actually Liu Chuxuan should not fend off against this palm; the ‘tian quan’ [sky power/authority], Qiu Chuji and the ‘tian xuan’ Ke Zhen’E should have made flank attacks from the side to rescue him; however, Ke Zhen’E was blind, unlike average people, he relied on his acute hearing, how could he guard against Huang Yaoshi’s silent and brilliant palm technique? Qiu Chuji’s sword flickered toward Huang Yaoshi’s right armpit, Ke Zhen’E moved following Yin Zhiping’s direction, but he was one step too late. Liu Chuxuan heard the palm slicing the wind just above his head, in his shock he threw himself to the ground and rolled away.

Ma Yu and Wang Chuyi realized the situation was critically dangerous, they launched a simultaneous flank attacks with their swords. Liu Chuxuan escaped the danger, but the Big Dipper Formation was broken. Huang Yaoshi laughed and dashed toward Sun Bu’er; he only moved for three steps, suddenly turned around and hit Guangning Zi [Infinite Peace] Hao Datong’s chest. Hao Datong had never seen this kind of strange move, he hesitated slightly before stabbing his sword toward Huang Yaoshi’s back. Huang Yaoshi moved like a rabbit, he broke through the encirclement and stood about two ‘zhang’s away from the crowd.

Hong Qigong laughed and said, “Old Heretic Huang, that was a very smart move!” “I am going down,” Guo Jing called out and moved toward the stairs.

“Slow down, slow down!” Hong Qigong said, “From the start your father-in-law has never hit back. At first I was worried about your Da Shifu, but looks like he does not have any intention to harm anybody.”

Guo Jing returned to the window and asked, “How can you tell?”

Hong Qigong replied, “If he wanted to harm anybody, do you think that skinny monkey priest will still be alive? That little priest is not his match, not his match at all!” He took another bite at the lamb leg and said, “Before your father-in-law and Qiu Chuji arrived, I saw these old priests and your Da Shifu arrange their formation over there; but how can the Big Dipper Formation be learned in such a short time? Those old priests persuaded your Da Shifu to temporarily fill the empty position. Your Da Shifu clenched his teeth without saying anything. I don’t know what enmity your Da Shifu has against your father-in-law. He followed that young priest to take the ‘tian xuan’ position; but in the end they still cannot block your father-in-law’s deathly hand.”

“He is not my father-in-law,” Guo Jing said, full of hatred.

Hong Qigong was surprised, “Eh, what do you mean he is not your father-in-law?” he asked. Clenching his teeth Guo Jing said, “He … he … humph!”

“How is Rong’er?” Hong Qigong asked, “You had an argument with her, didn’t you?” “It doesn’t have anything to do with Rong’er,” Guo Jing answered, “This old thief, he, he has killed my five shifus. My hatred to him is as deep as the ocean.”

Hong Qigong jumped in surprise, he quickly asked, “Is that so?” But Guo Jing did not hear his question; his attention was focused on the fierce battle downstairs. By now the situation has changed, Huang Yaoshi was using his ‘pi kong zhang fa’ [splitting the air palm technique], creating strong gusts of wind, blocking his eight opponents’ attacks.

Speaking about martial art skills of Ma Yu, Qiu Chuji, Wang Chuyi and the others, Huang Yaoshi should not be able to penetrate within a ‘zhang’ of their defense by relying on his bare palm only; but in the Big Dipper Formation they moved forward and backward together, Sun Bu’er, Ke Zhen’E and Yin Zhiping three people’s martial art was comparatively weaker, as one person was compelled to draw back, the rest of the formation would have no choice but to follow. And so for each step forward everybody was forced to retreat two steps; they were separated farther and farther away from Huang Yaoshi, but the Big Dipper Formation was not the slightest bit chaotic.

By this time the Quanzhen Sect’s long swords were already too far to reach Huang Yaoshi’s body; it looked like he was just waiting for an opportunity to attack. Several moves later Hong Qigong said, “Hmm, so that’s how it is.”

“What is it?” Guo Jing busily asked.

Hong Qigong replied, “The Old Heretic Huang is deliberately forcing them to open up their formation, because he wants to learn the Big Dipper Formation’s mystery; that’s why he has not launched any killer attack yet. In less than ten moves he is going to reduce the circle once again.”

Although Hong Qigong had lost his martial art power, his judgment was still very clear; and sure enough, Huang Yaoshi hacking palm’s strength weakened and the Quanzhen Masters gradually tightened their encirclement. In less than a time to drink tea later everybody crowded together into one lump of people. Liu Chuxuan, Qiu Chuji, Wang Chuyi and Hao Datong were simultaneously stabbing their swords into Huang Yaoshi’s body, but somehow when their swords almost reached Huang Yaoshi’s skin, they all missed by several inches. If not for their fast reactions, these four swords would have pierced a hole on their fellow apprentice’s body.

Fighting in this tight circle the difference between one move to the other was only a hair’s width. Guo Jing knew that as soon as Huang Yaoshi was well acquainted with the formation he would not leisurely fight these people anymore. To break the formation he must struck the weakest link, which was his Da Shifu and Yin Zhiping two people. He was too far from those people, if the situation became critical he would not have time to help, while right now he saw dangerous situations occur one after another. “Disciple goes down,” he said to Hong Qigong. Without waiting for an answer he dashed downstairs.

When he got near the battle situation was again changed; Huang Yaoshi continuously moved toward Ma Yu’s left side, but the more he moved the farther away he was from the crowd, as if he was trying to run away. Guo Jing held the dagger in his hand, ready to pound as soon as he had the opportunity. Suddenly Wang Chuyi let out a whistle and he, along with Hao Datong and Sun Bu’er, who formed the handle of the Big Dipper, turned forward from the left, to keep Huang Yaoshi in the middle of the formation.

Huang Yaoshi changed his position three times, but Wang Chuyi also moved the handle of the Big Dipper, just like Qiu Chuji was also moving the four stars of the Dipper, preventing Huang Yaoshi from occupying the position by Ma Yu’s left side. As he was making his fourth attempt suddenly Guo Jing understood, “Ah, right, he wants to steal the north polar star position.”

When he was treating his injury at the Ox Village, from behind the wall he saw the Quanzhen Seven Masters fought Mai Chaofeng, and later on Huang Yaoshi, using the Big Dipper Formation. Later on he learned in detail from Huang Rong the Big Dipper constellation and the north polar star; he knew that the ‘tian shu’ [sky pivot] and ‘tian xuan’ [sky jade/gem] were linked in a straight line with the north polar star. Since the north polar star is always on the north, every night the Big Dipper constellation would revolve around this star. Later on he was captured by the Beggar Clan on Mount Jun at the Dongting Lake, again he pondered about this Big Dipper constellation; not only did he gain more than a few understanding of the Big Dipper characteristics, but also the movement of the Big Dipper Formation, and applied this ingenious method to advance his own martial art skill.

Huang Yaoshi’s intelligence was a hundred folds better than Guo Jing’s; he was also well-versed in astronomy and the study of yin- yang wu hang [lit. negative and positive five lines]. After he failed to break the Quanzhen Seven Masters’ Big Dipper Formation during the battle at the Ox Village he meditated over this for a long time, until he finally comprehended the flaw of this formation.

Guo Jing was thinking about this formation because he wanted to ‘learn’ it; while Huang Yaoshi thought it was not worth his time to learn Wang Chongyang’s technique, so he concentrated on ‘breaking’ the formation. He knew that all he needed to do was to snatch the north polar star position, and the formation would break; or at least if he occupied the central position, he would be able to control the formation, he could wait leisurely for the enemy to be exhausted, while he himself would stand in an invincible position.

The Quanzhen Masters were also aware that he was trying to break the formation by stealing the crucial position; they were inwardly anxious. If Tan Chuduan were still alive, the seven of them could move as one body, certainly they would not let Huang Yaoshi steal the north polar star position. This time the ‘tian xuan’ was occupied by Ke Zhen’E and Yin Zhiping; which, admittedly had inferior martial art skill, and were not familiar with the formation technique, as a result the Big Dipper Formation’s effectiveness was significantly reduced.

Ma Yu and the others knew that a prolonged fight would not do them any good; moreover, Guo Jing was standing on the side, if Huang Yaoshi was in a real danger, as a son-in-law, how could he not help? But their martial uncle’s and brother’s death must be avenged. Their deceased master Wang Chongyang was the number one martial artist of the world; if six of his disciples joined forces against one Huang Yaoshi and still could not gain any victory, the reputation of Quanzhen Sect would be ruined. They heard Huang Yaoshi laugh and say, “I didn’t know Chongyang’s disciples are so stubborn that they do not know what’s good for them!” While talking he moved swiftly towards Sun Bu’er and hacked with his palms three times. Ma Yu and Hao Datong raised their swords to rescue her. Huang Yaoshi slightly leaned sideways to evade the swords, ‘swish! swish! swish!’ he hacked three more times toward Sun Bu’er.

The Master of the Peach Blossom Island’s palm technique was naturally very exquisite. Even if Wang Chongyang lived again, or Hong Qigong recovered from his injury, they would not be able to evade these six palms easily; how could Sun Bu’er block them off? She saw the palm was coming swiftly, she had no choice but to brandish her sword in a flower pattern and furiously protect her face with all her might. Suddenly Huang Yaoshi swept his legs repeatedly and kicked her six times. These ‘luo ying shen jian zhang’ [falling (leaves) divine sword palm technique] and ‘sao ye tui’ [sweeping leaves kick technique] were the Peach Blossom Island’s ‘kuang feng jue ji’ [fierce wind stunt/unique skill]; if the enemy did not retreat within the first six moves, the next six moves would follow, faster than the previous ones. Within six by six, thirty six moves even if a hero or a warrior could avoid the slap, he would not be able to evade the kick.

Ma Yu and the others noticed that Huang Yaoshi concentrated his ferocious attack toward Sun Bu’er; immediately they came to her rescue, as a result, in this pressing situation the formation became disorderly. Ke Zhen’E was blind, so the movement of the formation was somewhat delayed; Huang Yaoshi let out a long laugh and he was already on Ke Zhen’E’s back. “Aiyo!” suddenly Ke Zhen’E heard someone cry out in midair, that person was flying to the top of the roof of the Misty Rain Tavern. It turned out that Huang Yaoshi grabbed Yin Zhiping’s back and threw him away.

The gap in the formation was getting bigger. Without giving the enemy any opportunity to mend the formation, Huang Yaoshi dashed toward Ma Yu, fully expecting Ma Yu to evade. To his surprise as his sword fended off the attack, the sword in Ma Yu’s left hand went straight toward Huang Yaoshi’s eyebrow; his movement was steady, backed by a profound internal energy.

Huang Yaoshi was forced to lean sideways to evade, he could not restrain from praising, “Good! You deserve to be the Quanzhen Sect’s head disciple.” Suddenly his leg swept downward, kicking Hao Datong’s leg while at the same time he stooped down to snatch Hao Datong’s sword and stabbed it toward his chest. Liu Chuxuan was shocked; he wielded his sword to parry. Huang Yaoshi laughed a big laugh and flicked his hand. ‘Crack!’ both swords were broken.

A dark green shadow flashed, the Master of the Peach Blossom Island was moving toward the north polar star position. By this moment the formation was in total chaos, nobody was able to stop him. The Quanzhen Masters cried out bitterly, they knew Huang Yaoshi was about to exercise mastery over them. Ma Yu heaved a deep sigh and was about to throw his sword to admit defeat and ready to take whatever punishment the enemy would send their way. Suddenly he saw the dark green shadow flashed back; there was already someone occupying the north polar star position. It was Guo Jing.

Among the Quanzhen Masters, only Qiu Chuji was overjoyed; he had seen Guo Jing staked it all in attacking Huang Yaoshi at the Drunken Immortal Tavern. Ma Yu and Wang Chuyi knew Guo Jing was kind-hearted and honest; even though they thought he was going to help his father-in-law, certainly he would not harm his own shifu Ke Zhen’E. The rest of the Masters were shocked, they saw Guo Jing had already occupied the north polar star position; as soon as these father-in-law and son-in-law joined hands, Quanzhen Sect would die without any burial place. But they were even more surprised to see Guo Jing was attacking Huang Yaoshi with a bare left palm and a sword in his right hand.

As he succeeded in breaking the formation, Huang Yaoshi wanted to force Quanzhen Sect to admit they were wrong; who would have thought that suddenly someone was occupying the north polar star position. His attention was focused on fighting the Quanzhen Masters, so without looking back he sent his palm backward using the ‘pi kong zhang’ toward the enemy’s chest. That person stretched out his left palm to parry the incoming force, yet he did not move even for half a step. Huang Yaoshi was surprised, he thought, “Very few people in the world have the strength to block my palm, who is this person?” He turned his head to look and saw that it was Guo Jing.

By this time Huang Yaoshi was surrounded by the enemies front and rear; if he could not drive Guo Jing away, the Big Dipper Formation would outflank him from behind and that would put him in a very dangerous situation. He sent out three palm attacks in succession toward Guo Jing, one palm was fiercer than the last, but each time Guo Jing simply blocked it away. The fourth palm contain a fake and a real attack, expecting Guo Jing to take advantage of an opening and launch a counterattack; who would have thought that Guo Jing only took a defensive position and did not counterattack. Guo Jing lifted the dagger up in front of his chest, while his left palm slowly swept across his own lower abdomen. In this way although he received one stance with two attacks from Huang Yaoshi, both attacks were neutralized.

Huang Yaoshi was startled, he thought, “This dumb kid knew how to defend and break the formation; he steadily defending the north polar star position and did not want to move even half a step. Ah, right, he must have received Quanzhen Masters’ instruction and came here to help them to fight me.”

He did not know that his guess was only half correct. Guo Jing did indeed know the secret of the Big Dipper Formation, but he learned it from the Nine Yin Manual and not from the Quanzhen Masters. As Guo Jing was facing the enemy with whom he held an enormous enmity, he suppressed his anger to keep his position; it was as if his feet were firmly planted to the ground, he simply turned his eyes blind to whatever trick Huang Yaoshi used to tempt him to attack.

Huang Yaoshi groaned silently; he thought, “This dumb kid doesn’t know when to proceed and when to retreat! Humph! Even if Rong’er blames me, I am going to hurt you today; otherwise you won’t want to back off.” His left hand made a circle about seven inches in front of his chest, his right palm rode on the left hand; borrowing the strength from the left hand it was propelled forward, the force doubled. But before it hit Guo Jing’s face, he suddenly remembered, “If he doesn’t evade, this palm will certainly cause him a heavy injury. Whatever the reason, Rong’er will not be happy for the rest of her life.”

Guo Jing saw him borrow the strength of his left hand to launch a palm attack, he knew the incoming force would not be a small matter; gritting his teeth he launched the ‘xian long zai tian’ [dragon appears on the field], a stake-it-all stance from the Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms. He realized his martial art was far inferior to the enemy’s; he would suffer serious injury if he took the incoming palm head-on, but in order to evade the attack, he would have to leave the north polar star position, which would set him back into a more difficult situation. Hence in this one move he was ready to sacrifice his own life. Who would have thought that as his palm was about a foot away from his face, Huang Yaoshi suddenly withdrew his attack and called out, “Dumb Kid, go away! Why do you make things difficult for me?”

Guo Jing held his sword tight, he looked at Huang Yaoshi with full attention to protect himself against any trick he might do; he did not reply. By now the Quanzhen Masters had already reorganized their formation; they made encirclement some distance away from Huang Yaoshi’s back, waiting for an opportunity to attack.

“Where is Rong’er?” Huang Yaoshi asked.

Guo Jing still did not answer, his face looked gloomy, his eyes spouted anger. Seeing his expression Huang Yaoshi’s suspicion grew; he was afraid his daughter had met some accident. “What did you do to her? Speak up!” he barked.

Guo Jing gritted his teeth and bit his lips; his right hand, which was holding the sword, slightly trembled. Huang Yaoshi’s attention was focused on him; each slight movement Guo Jing made did not escape his eyes. Seeing Guo Jing’s unusual expression he was even more alarmed. “Why is your hand trembling? Why aren’t you talking?” he called out.

Guo Jing recalled how his shifus died a horrible death on the Peach Blossom Island, grief and indignation burst forth in his heart; his body shook violently, his eyes bloodshot. Seeing him not willing to talk, tears streaming down his face, Huang Yaoshi was more alarmed. He knew his daughter had a heated argument with Guo Jing over the Princess Huazheng’s affair; he was afraid Guo Jing had killed Huang Rong. He kicked his feet and pounced forward.

As soon as Huang Yaoshi made his move Qiu Chuji thrust his long sword out, at the same time the Big Dipper Formation started to move. Wang Chuyi and Hao Datong attacked from Huang Yaoshi’s left and right, one with sword in his hand, the other with a bare palm. Guo Jing’s palm neutralized the incoming attack, while his dagger stung with a lightning speed to make a counterattack move. Huang Yaoshi did not fend it off; he flipped his hand over trying to seize the dagger. Although his movement was accurate and swift, Wang Chuyi’s sword had already arrived at his back; he had no choice but to twist his waist to evade, and thus his fingers missed Guo Jing’s dagger by two inches. Guo Jing used this opportunity to stab forward. This fierce battle was several times more intense than the previous one.

The Quanzhen Masters’ sole desire was to kill Huang Yaoshi to avenge Zhou Botong and Tan Chuduan. Huang Yaoshi knew perfectly well that there was a misunderstanding here, but he was a proud man, he also felt that as someone of higher rank it would be beneath his dignity to explain. He wanted to defeat them completely; to make them throw their swords and surrender, and then he would make everything clear. Thereupon he launched attack after attack while being lenient; otherwise, although Ma Yu, Qiu Chuji and the others might be able to defend themselves, but how could Sun Bu’er and Yin Zhiping keep their lives? Unexpectedly Guo Jing appeared and not only he did not help Huang Yaoshi, but it seemed like he hated Huang Yaoshi to his death. Huang Yaoshi thought that if Guo Jing did not kill Huang Rong, why was he so afraid of him?

This time Huang Yaoshi did not show any mercy; he wanted to grab Guo Jing and ask for some explanation. If Guo Jing did indeed kill Huang Rong, even if he tore him apart to pieces it would not be enough to vent his anger. Unfortunately Guo Jing occupied the north polar star position; although Yin Zhiping had not crawled down from the Misty Rain Tavern’s roof, the battle situation had been reversed. The Big Dipper Formation moved like a billowing wave; they launched offensive moves without ceasing.

Huang Yaoshi tried several times to penetrate Guo Jing’s defense but failed, he started to get impatient. Each time he launched a fierce attack the Quanzhen Masters were always there to block him. He wanted to launch a deathly attack and kill some of them to break the formation, but the Big Dipper Formation gradually tightened its encirclement. He started to think that although he could shake himself loose, it would be difficult for him to escape unscathed.

Fighting for a while Ma Yu pointed his sword and called out, “Hold on!”

The Quanzhen Masters held their hands, firmly stood on their respective positions. Ma Yu said, “Huang Daozhu [Island Master Huang], you are a prominent grandmaster of your martial art school; how can we, the younger generation, dare to offend you? Today we rely on sheer number to fight you; it is because the situation forces us to do so. We want to know how you are going to settle the blood debts of our Zhou Shishu [martial uncle] and Tan Shidi [martial (younger) brother]!”

With a cold laugh Huang Yaoshi said, “What else there is to say? Just go ahead and kill the Old Heretic Huang to protect the Quanzhen Sect’s reputation; won’t that be great? Be on your guard!” Without moving his body or lifting up his arm his right palm had already chopped toward Ma Yu’s face.

Ma Yu tried to evade sideways in panic, but Huang Yaoshi’s palm came without warning; this feign hack was immediately followed by the real attack. This combination of void and solid was a killer stance from the ‘luo ying shen jian zhang fa’. Huang Yaoshi had perfected it for ten years; he intended to use it in the second sword meet of Mount Hua. This stance was not designed to fight a group of enemies, but it was very effective in a one on one combat. Danyang Zi’s [Scarlet Sun] skill might be profound, but how could he be the Eastern Heretic’s match? It would be better if Ma Yu did not evade; once he moved to the right, the second attack came. Ma Yu groaned inwardly, “Not good!” He was going to block by stretching out his hand, but the enemy’s palm had already arrived at his chest. As soon as Huang Yaoshi exerted his strength, Ma Yu’s internal organs would be shaken and he would suffer serious internal injury.

The Quanzhen Five Masters were shocked; swords and palms came to the rescue, but how could there still be time? They saw Ma Yu was at the point of death, surprisingly Huang Yaoshi laughed and withdrew his palm; he said, “If I break your formation this way, you won’t accept your defeat easily. The Old Heretic Huang may die, but how can I let myself be the laughingstock of all the heroes under the sky? Good Priests, come, let us fight!”

Liu Chuxuan snorted and shook his fist, Wang Chuyi followed with his sword; the Big Dipper Formation was ready to go into action. It was to be the seventeenth stance, Wang Chuyi was supposed to move after Ma Yu. He stabbed his sword into the air, ready to strike; but Ma Yu did not move forward, on the contrary, he retreated two steps backward and called out, “Hold it!” Everybody held their steps again. Ma Yu said, “Huang Daozhu, thank you for holding your hand.”

“You flattered me,” Huang Yaoshi replied.

Ma Yu said, “Reasonably said, right now wanbei’s [younger generation, he was referring to himself] life should have been gone, and this formation developed by my deceased master should have been broken by you. If we know good from evil, we should admit defeat and throw ourselves at your mercy. But we do not dare not to seek revenge because of our deep enmity with you. After this matter is settled, wanbei will slash my own throat as a gesture of gratitude toward Daozhu.”

Huang Yaoshi’s expression was gloomy, he waved his hand and said, “It’s useless to talk too much, you can just begin. The matter of kindness and enmity in this world is difficult to understand.”

Guo Jing thought, “Turned out Ma Daozhang and the others fight him to avenge their Shisu and Shidi. But Zhou Dage [Big Brother Zhou] is still alive and well, also Tan Daozhang’s death has nothing to do with Huang Daozhu. However, if I explain the real situation the Quanzhen Masters will withdraw themselves from the battle, leaving Da Shifu and me two people; how can we be his match? Let’s not talk about avenging Shifus’ death, we can’t even guarantee we will still be alive by the time we are done.” But then he remembered, “If I do not tell the truth, how am I going to be different from a coward? Shifus often said that we might lose our head, but not our righteousness.” Thereupon with a loud and clear voice he said, “Ma Daozhang, Qiu Daozhang, Wang Daozhang, your Zhou Shisu has not died yet; and it was Ouyang Feng who killed Tan Daozhang.”

“What did you say?” Qiu Chuji was surprised. Thereupon Guo Jing recounted how he treated his injury inside a secret room at the Ox Village, how from behind the wall he saw and heard Qiu Qianzhang fabricate a rumor to incite both sides to fight each other, how Ouyang Feng place the blame on Huang Yaoshi, he told them everything. Although he was clumsy with words, everybody understood his explanation very clearly.

The Quanzhen Masters were listening, half believing and half doubting. Qiu Chuji loudly asked, “Are you telling the truth?”

Guo Jing pointed his finger to Huang Yaoshi and said, “Disciple hates this old thief that I do not wish to live in the same earth with him, why would I help him? Only it was the truth, so disciple cannot keep his mouth shut.”

The Six Masters knew him as an honest person; moreover, he had shown so much hatred toward Huang Yaoshi, so what he said must be the truth.

It was beyond Huang Yaoshi’s expectation to hear him saying things in his favor; he was astonished and asked, “Why do you hate me so much? Where is Rong’er?”

Ke Zhen’E cut him off, “You don’t know what you did? Jing’er, although we can’t win, we must fight this old thief to our deaths.” Finished speaking he lifted his iron staff and swept it toward Huang Yaoshi.

Hearing his shifu, Guo Jing knew that he was forgiven; he felt very happy and immediately tears flowed down his face. “Da Shifu,” he called out, “Er Shifu and the others, they … all five of them died a miserable death!”

Huang Yaoshi was grabbing the head of Ke Zhen’E staff with an outstretched hand, he turned to Guo Jing and asked, “What did you say? Zhu Cong, Han Baoju and the others were nicely received as guests on my island, why did you say they are dead?”

Ke Zhen’E furiously tried to pull his iron staff, but it did not even budge. Huang Yaoshi asked Guo Jing again, “Disregarding your elders and superiors you talked nonsense to me, attacking me like crazy, is that because of Zhu Cong and the others?”

Guo Jing’s eyes looked like they were spurting blood; he called out, “You have harmed my five Shifus with your own hands, and now you pretend you did not know?” Lifting his dagger up, he stabbed it forward with a straight arm.

Huang Yaoshi moved the iron staff in his hand to block; ‘bang!’ the staff and the dagger collided, sparks flew out everywhere. The dagger was so sharp that it actually nicked the iron staff. Huang Yaoshi asked again, “Who saw it?”

Guo Jing said, “I buried my Five Shifus with my own hands, are you saying that I slander you?”

Hung Yaoshi laughed coldly and said, “So what if you slander me? For all my life the Old Heretic Huang come and go alone; why would I deny killing these several people? You are correct, I killed your shifus!”

Suddenly a female voice was calling out, “No, Father, it wasn’t you. Don’t take the blame on your own shoulder.” Everybody turned their heads around and saw the one who spoke was indeed Huang Rong. They had been so engrossed in the fierce battle that nobody knew she had arrived. As Guo Jing saw her again, he was lost in thought, he did not know whether he should feel happy or anxious.

As Huang Yaoshi saw his daughter was alive and well, he was very happy; his hatred toward Guo Jing disappeared, he laughed a big laugh and said, “Good child, come, let Father hug you.”

For the past several days Huang Rong had been suffering a lot of heartache, it was only today she heard a loving word for the first time; she dashed forward and threw herself into her father’s bosom and cried, “Father, this dumb kid slandered you, he … he also bullied me.”

Huang Yaoshi embraced his daughter and said with a smile, “The Old Heretic Huang always does as he pleases, ever since dozens of years ago ignorant people have always put the crime of the world on your father’s head, so what difference will it make to add several more crimes to the pile? The Five Freaks of Jiangnan were your Mei Shijie’s [martial (older) sister] archenemies, so of course I killed them with my own hands.”

“No, no,” Huang Rong anxiously said, “It wasn’t you. I know it wasn’t you.”

Huang Yaoshi showed a faint smile and said, “That dumb kid is so bold, he dares to bully my good child. Just watch, Father will teach him a lesson.” He had just finished speaking when suddenly like a lightning the back of his palm struck, without a shadow, without a trace. Guo Jing was thinking about what these father and daughter were talking about, when ‘slap!’ he felt a burning sensation on his left cheek. He was just about to raise his hand to block, but Huang Yaoshi’s palm had already returned to Huang Rong’s head, gently stroking her elegant hair.

This palm made a loud noise, but actually the force was weak; Guo Jing felt his cheek burning, but he did not suffer any injury. He was at a loss; did not know whether he should charge forward or he should stay where he was.

Ke Zhen’E heard the slap on Guo Jing’s face, he was afraid Huang Yaoshi might have stricken him with a deadly blow. “Jing’er, how are you?” he anxiously asked.

“I am all right,” Guo Jing replied.

Ke Zhen’E said, “Don’t listen to this demon and this witch telling lies. I don’t have eyes to see, but your Si Shifu [Fourth Shifu] said: he saw this old thief killed your Er Shifu and forced to death your Qi [Seventh] …” Guo Jing did not wait for him to finish, he charged forward toward Huang Yaoshi. Ke Zhen’E followed by wielding his iron staff.

Huang Yaoshi let his daughter go and evaded Guo Jing’s palm, while at the same time stretched his hand to grab Ke Zhen’E’s iron staff. This time Ke Zhen’E had guarded against his grab so that Huang Yaoshi missed the staff. Master and disciple joined hands fighting a tight battle with Huang Yaoshi.

Although Guo Jing had repeatedly met some outstandingly able people and had learned not a few of wonderful martial art skills, he was still too far behind compared to this grandmaster of a martial art school, the Master of the Peach Blossom Island. Even with Ke Zhen’E’s help he could not do much. After only about twenty, thirty moves he had already moved his hands and feet with great difficulty.

Qiu Chuji thought, “In a critical time Quanzhen Sect has received these master and disciple’s help; currently these two are in the brink of defeat, how can we sit down and watch without doing anything? Whether Zhou Shishu is alive or dead, we need to defeat the Old Heretic Huang first, then we’ll talk later.” Brandishing his sword he called out, “Ke Daxia [Chivalrous Hero], go back to your position!”

By this time Yin Zhiping had already crawled down form the Misty Rain Tavern’s roof. Although he was black and blue and had a swollen nose from the fall, he did not suffer a serious injury. He rushed toward Ke Zhen’E’s back and wielded his sword to protect him. Once again the Big Dipper Formation went into action, encircled Huang Yaoshi, father and daughter in the middle.

Huang Yaoshi was enraged, he thought, “Before it was a misunderstanding, so I can understand you attacking me; but after this dumb kid explained everything this crowd of mixed-up hairs still rely on sheer numbers to attack me. Do you think the Old Heretic Huang cannot kill people?” Like a flash of shadow he had already moved toward Ke Zhen’E’s left.

Huang Rong saw the murderous look on her father’s face; she knew his hands would not be light, her heart turned cold. She saw that Wang Chuyi and Ma Yu blocked her father’s palm; Ke Zhen’E’s iron staff ferociously struck toward her shoulder while his mouth shot curses, “Unforgivable lowly criminal, female demon! The Peach Blossom Island’s slut!”

Huang Rong had never been willing to swallow the least bit of defeat; listening him open up his mouth in foul language, anger started to rise up her chest, she called out, “Scold me again if you have guts!”

The Seven Freaks of Jiangnan grew up in the marketplace where all kinds of people buy and sell, cursing each other for generations, what was so difficult about scolding other people? Ke Zhen’E hated Huang Yaoshi, father and daughter; listened to her say so, immediately his extensive vocabulary of malicious words flew out of his mouth. Huang Rong had always lived alone since she was little; she never had any experience with this kind of foul language. To her advantage she was very intelligent so that each time Ke Zhen’E scolded she was able to figure out what he was talking about and even scold him back; but afterwards the more she listened the more she could not talk back, because the more she did not understand. She spat and said, “Shame on you! You are someone’s shifu yet you are not afraid to have a filthy mouth.”

Ke Zhen’E scolded back, “With a clean person the old man talks clean words, with stinky and lowly people I speak filthy words! You are a filthy person, so the old man here talks even dirtier words.”

Huang Rong was angry; she raised her bamboo stick toward Ke Zhen’E’s face. Ke Zhen’E returned the attack with his iron staff; who would have thought that the Dog Beating Stick Technique was extremely marvelous beyond his imagination. Only several moves later his iron staff was completely under Huang Rong’s control, using the ‘lead’ letter of the technique; as the stick went east the staff went east, when the stick went west the staff followed, it totally did not have the mind of its own.

Ke Zhen’E was occupying the ‘tian xuan’ position of the Formation. As soon as his movement was restrained, the entire formation’s movement was somewhat restricted. Qiu Chuji’s flickering sword stabbing Huang Rong’s back, his intention was to help Ke Zhen’E; but Huang Rong relied on the armor she was wearing, to his surprise she ignored the stab, changing her stick movement she sent out three stances in succession. Qiu Chuji’s sword was about to touch her clothes when he suddenly thought, “What kind of person is the Old Qiu, how can I harm this little girl?” The tip of his sword touched Huang Rong’s back, but he did not push further.

Taking advantage of this slight hesitation Huang Rong’s bamboo stick pulled Ke Zhen’E’s iron staff. Borrowing his ‘fu mo zhang fa’ [demon subduing staff technique] energy Huang Rong push the staff down and then jerked it up to the left. Ke Zhen’E was not able to control his strength; the staff left his grasp and flew to the air, ‘splash!’ it fell into the Nan Hu [South Lake].

Wang Chuyi was afraid Huang Rong might use this opportunity to harm Ke Zhen’E; he rushed in front of Ke Zhen’E with his sword blocking in front of his chest. Although his experience was vast, he had never seen the Dog Beating Technique before, so he was caught in surprise.

Seeing his master suffer a setback, Guo Jing called out, “Da Shifu, go and take a rest, I’ll fight for you.” Leaving the north polar star position he jumped into the ‘tian xuan’ position. By this time his martial art skill had already exceeded those of the Quanzhen Masters, plus he was familiar with the Big Dipper method; so as soon as he made his move the Formation’s power increased substantially.

Actually the Big Dipper Formation revolved around the ‘tian quan’ position, but as soon as he entered, the key position moved to ‘tian xuan’ position, and the Formation’s movement was altered. This modification was actually inferior to the original movement, but in this short moment Huang Yaoshi was not able to find a way to penetrate the formation’s airtight defense; although he had his daughter to help, they were defending themselves with difficulty. Luckily for the most part the Quanzhen Masters took a defensive position; Guo Jing was the only one who fought with his life, forcing Huang Yaoshi to reluctantly face him.

Guo Jing kept pressing forward, forcing Huang Yaoshi to fight a tight battle. With the Quanzhen Masters backing Guo Jing up, Huang Yaoshi was not able to inflict any injury to him, and was forced to use his ‘qing gong’ [lightness kungfu] to evade Guo Jing’s series of a mad-tiger-like attacks.

Huang Rong saw that Guo Jing’s normally genial and kind face was now enveloped by a layer of murderous look; his expression was so frighteningly ferocious that he looked like a different person, completely different from the Guo Jing she used to know. She was startled and frightened at the same time; she stepped in front of her father and said, “Kill me first!”

Guo Jing glowered at her and barked, “Get out of my way!”

Huang Rong was taken aback, “How can you speak to me like that?” she thought.

Guo Jing charged forward and shoved her aside then he pounced towards Huang Yaoshi. Suddenly he heard someone laughed loudly and called out behind him, “Don’t worry Yao Xiong [Brother Yao], I have come to help you!” His voice was like ear-piercing grating metals.

Nobody dared to turn their bodies right away; the entire Big Dipper Formation turned around Huang Yaoshi’s back before they finally saw five, six tall and short people standing on the lakeside, led by someone with long arms and long legs, which was none other than the Western Poison Ouyang Feng.

The Quanzhen Six Masters cried out in anger. Qiu Chuji said, “Jing’er, let us settle the debt with the Western Poison first!” His long sword raised, the Quanzhen Six Masters surrounded Ouyang Feng. Who would have thought that Guo Jing’s gaze was fixed on Huang Yaoshi; it seemed like he did not hear Qiu Chuji at all. As soon as the Quanzhen Six Masters left, he pounced toward Huang Yaoshi again and in a short moment two people had quickly exchanged five, six moves.

Both sides did not hit their target, so both leaped backward, looking over their shoulders, staring at each other. Guo Jing gave out a loud shout then attacked forward. Several times they exchanged several stances and then separated again.

This time the Quanzhen Six Masters had rearranged their battle formation. They looked at Ke Zhen’E and saw him barehanded, standing behind Huang Yaoshi, his head inclined, listening attentively; his arms were open wide, revealing his intention to sacrifice himself, throwing himself to grab Huang Yaoshi firmly, giving Guo Jing the opportunity to strike Huang Yaoshi’s vital point. Because of this Qiu Chuji beckoned to Yin Zhiping, telling him to occupy the ‘tian xuan’ position.

Ma Yu loudly recited, “Holding hands the departed soul forcing itself to leave like a bead of pearls. Heart opens to hear the sound of nature, unlike the blowing flute!” It was the poem Tan Chuduan recited just before he closed his eyes. As the Quanzhen Masters heard it, their anger rose; with flickering swords and floating palms they attacked Ouyang Feng together. The snake staff in Ouyang Feng’s hand pushed and pulled abruptly, forcing the seven Quanzhen people to back off. Ouyang Feng had seen the Big Dipper Formation’s fierceness at the Ox Village; he was quite intimidated by that, so he decided to keep a tight defense and wait for the enemy to reveal its own flaw. Once the Big Dipper Formation unfolded, it struck to the front and hit to the back, like a continuous wave of attacks. Ouyang Feng carefully met stance with stance, while opening his eyes wide to see any potential to break the formation. A moment later he noticed Yin Zhiping’s ‘tian xuan’ was the Formation’s weak link. He thought if he could destroy this link, he did not have anything else to fear; therefore, he brandished the snake staff in his hand trying to inflict some harm, while his eyes scanning around, assessing the situation around him.

Guo Jing and Huang Yaoshi were still engaged in a tight combat. Huang Rong moved her bamboo stick to keep Ke Zhen’E more than a ‘zhang’ away from these two people. She kept shouting, “Please stop fighting; please listen to me!” But Guo Jing turned a deaf ear to her; palm by palm he struck ferociously, in total disregard of his own life.

At first Huang Rong saw her father holding back, but Guo Jing kept provoking him so that gradually she saw his anger rise, his hands were getting heavier and heavier. She knew the situation was critical; either one of them would certainly suffer a heavy injury if he made a slight mistake. She lifted his head and saw Hong Qigong was leaning against the railing of the Misty Rain Tavern, watching the battle. “Shifu, Shifu,” she hastily called, “Come down and help me explain everything.”

Hong Qigong has seen early on that the situation was far from good, he regretted losing his martial art skill and was powerless to settle this dispute, and hence he was really anxious. Hearing Huang Rong cry out he had an idea, “If only the Old Heretic Huang still has some respect to me left, I think I can still do something.” His hands pressed on the railing and he floated in the air coming down. “Everybody hold your hand!” he called out, “The Old Beggar has something to say.” The Nine-fingered Divine Beggar had such a prestige in the Jianghu that when they saw his sudden appearance everybody’s heart shivered and they could not help but to stop fighting.

Ouyang Feng was the first to secretly groan, he thought, “How can the Old Beggar’s martial art come back?” He did not know that after listening to Guo Jing’s explanation on the Sanskrit part of the Nine Yin Manual Hong Qigong spent these past few days to practice according to the technique and was able to open up his ‘qi jing ba mai’ [marvelous/mysterious passage 8 pulses, Eight Extraordinary Channels].

Hong Qigong’s martial art skill was very profound to begin with, after listening to an excellent internal energy secret such as treating one’s own internal injury, with his divine comprehension within this short period of time he managed to open up one of the eight pulses; his lightness kungfu was 30, 40% recovered. Strictly speaking, if he were involved in a brawl just relying on his fists’ and palms’ strength, he could not even defeat a strong man who did not know any martial art. But in leaping up and down his movement was light and lively, at least in Ouyang Feng’s eyes he did not look like someone who was devoid of any internal strength.

Hong Qigong was amazed to see these people were still in awe of him, he considered it carefully, “If the Old Beggar does not put on some airs, today’s crisis will be difficult to resolve; but what can I say, so that the Quanzhen Masters will listen to my order, and also the Old Poison will comply without giving me too much difficulty?” Momentarily not knowing what to do he threw his head backward and laughed a big laugh; while he was looking up, he saw the moon was beginning to rise up, the bright circle looked like a wheel made of ice with one side of it slightly broken. An idea came into his mind, he said, “You are all experts in the Wulin world, but you deal with each other just like scoundrels and rascals, your words are just like farts.”

Everybody was startled. They knew Hong Qigong always talked crazy words without any restrain, so they did not think much about his language; however, he must have a reason to say such thing. Ma Yu bowed in respect and asked, “Asking Qianbei [Senior] to grant us instruction.”

Hong Qigong angrily said, “The Old Beggar heard some people say that on the eighth month’s mid-autumn day this year there will be people fighting at the Misty Rain Tavern. The Old Beggar was afraid that his hearing was not clear, so while it is still early I want to laze around and sleep in peace and quiet here. Who knew that since early this morning I have been hearing clackety-clack and yakety- yak of people quarreling and fighting nonstop. I heard chamber pot formation or bed urinal formation, and then there was a husband beating his wife, a son-in-law attacking his father-in-law; very noisy just like killing pig or slaughtering dog, so noisy that the Old Beggar cannot take a nap in peace and quiet. Look at the moon, what day is today?”

Listening to his speech everybody remembered that today was the fourteenth of the eight month, so the martial art contest was going to be the next day. Besides, Peng Lianhu, Sha Tongtian and their company had not arrived yet, so fighting today did not make much sense. Qiu Chuji said, “Lao Qianbei [Senior] is right, we should not have made disturbance here today.” He turned his head toward Ouyang Feng and said, “Ouyang Feng, let us find someplace else to decide who will be alive and who will be dead.”

“Wonderful, wonderful,” Ouyang Feng laughed, “I’ll gladly accompany you.”

Hong Qigong’s face turned sour, he said, “As soon as Wang Chongyang returned to heaven, the Quanzhen Sect’s bunch of mixed-up hair has become a reckless empty-headed bunch. Let me tell you something: five priests and one priestess, plus a little priest with low martial art skill, all of you join hands, you are still not the Old Poison’s match. Wang Chongyang has never left anything good for me; it is none of the Old Beggar’s business whether the bunch of mixed-up hairs will be alive or dead, but let me ask you this: you have a martial art contest appointment tomorrow, who will keep the appointment? Will seven dead Taoists be able to fight?”

This speech sounded like he was ridiculing the Quanzhen priests, but in it he reminded them that by fighting Ouyang Feng they would die and would not live. The seven of them could not defeat Huang Yaoshi then, obviously now they were not Ouyang Feng’s match. All of the Six Masters were experienced Jianghu characters, how could they fail to catch the real meaning of his speech? But they were facing their archenemy right now, how could they cower? With the corner of his eye Hong Qigong saw Guo Jing was staring angrily at Huang Yaoshi; while Huang Rong was crying with tears streaming down her cheeks. He knew whatever it was, it must be a very complicated matter; he thought carefully, “I’ll wait for the Old Urchin; with his martial art skill he will be able to subdue everybody. At that time the Old Beggar will speak again.” Thereupon he shouted, “The Old Beggar is going to take a nap; whoever lift up his fist or his kick deliberately wants to offend me. Come tomorrow evening, I don’t care if you turn the sky over or shake the earth, the Old Beggar will not help anybody. Ma Yu, take this bunch of mixed-up hairs and sit down here with me cultivating your internal energy. Make a one notch internal strength gain is a gain; waiting for the last minute will not guarantee your victory. Jing’er, Rong’er, come over here and massage my legs.”

Ouyang Feng was rather scared of him; he thought that if Hong Qigong joined hands with the Quanzhen Masters, they would be difficult for him to fight. He said, “Old Beggar, Yao Xiong and I two guys have some unfinished business with the Quanzhen Sect. The Nine-fingered Divine Beggar’s words are like mountain; I’ll follow your direction today, and tomorrow you may not help either side.”

Hong Qigong was secretly amused, “If you push me with your little finger now, I am afraid I will fall down.” Thereupon he loudly said, “The Old Beggar’s fart is still sweeter than your words; I said I won’t help, then I won’t help. Are you sure you’ll win?” Then he laid down face up on the ground, using his wine gourd as a pillow and called out, “Two children, come and massage my legs!”

By now only the bone was left of the lamb leg in his hand, but he was still reluctant to throw it away, he kept gnawing and licking like it was still tasty. He looked at the clouds looming over the horizon and said, “Those clouds look strange, I am afraid the weather will change very soon!” He also noticed thin mist rose from the surface of the lake; he took several deep breaths and shook his head, “It’s very strange!” Turning his head toward Huang Yaoshi he said, “Yao Xiong, do you think I can borrow your daughter to massage my legs?”

Huang Yaoshi only showed a faint smile. Huang Rong came over and sat next to Hong Qigong, then started to massage his leg gently. Hong Qigong sighed, “Ay, these old bones have never enjoyed this kind of good fortune!” Staring at Guo Jing he said, “Dumb kid, are your dog’s paws broken by the Old Heretic Huang?”

“Yes,” Guo Jing replied. He came over the other side of Hong Qigong and started massaging his leg.

Ke Zhen’E was leaning on a willow tree by the lakeside; his pair of blind eyes was fixed at Huang Yaoshi. He was using his ears in place of his eyes. Huang Yaoshi was pacing around by the water. He walked to the east, Ke Zhen’E’s head followed his movement to the east, he turned west Ke Zhen’E followed him to the west. Huang Yaoshi did not pay him any attention, only the corners of his mouth showed a cold smile.

The Quanzhen Six Masters and Yin Zhiping were sitting cross-legged on the ground, maintaining their respective positions of the Big Dipper Formation; their heads were hung low, they were quietly training their internal energy.

Ouyang Feng’s servants, the snake shepherds, took out a table and a chair, set them up underneath the Misty Rain Tavern and served wine and food. With his back toward everybody else Ouyang Feng sat alone eating and drinking; he was wondering in his heart how Hong Qigong could recover that quick from the heavy injury his palm inflicted.

Meanwhile the weather was stifling hot, small insects were flying everywhere, and thin mist hovered on the surface of the lake. Hong Qigong said, “My thigh bone is sore, a storm must be coming; if we can see moon tomorrow at the mid-autumn festival, I will chop my own thigh and give it to you.” Casting a sidelong glance toward Guo Jing and Huang Rong, he noticed that their eyes had always looked somewhere else, and had never looked at each other. Hong Qigong was always frank and honest; seeing this awkward situation, how could he keep his peace? But after asking several questions, those two mumbled indistinctly without giving him any answer.

Hong Qigong raised his voice asking Huang Yaoshi, “Yao Xiong, what is the other name of this Nan Hu?” “It’s called ‘yuan yang hu’ [Mandarin Duck Lake],” Huang Yaoshi replied.

“Indeed!” Hong Qigong said, “How come on this ‘yuan yang hu’ [Translator’s note: mandarin ducks have always been regarded as the symbol of lovers] your daughter and your son-in-law are having an argument and the father and father-in-law did not advise them?”

Guo Jing stood up immediately, he pointed to Huang Yaoshi and said, “He … he … has killed my five shifus, how can I still call him my father-in-law?”

Huang Yaoshi coldly laughed and said, “Is that strange? The Seven Freaks of Jiangnan are not completely dead; there is still a stinky blind kid left. I’ll say he won’t live to see tomorrow …”

Without waiting for him to finish Ke Zhen’E had already pounced toward him. Guo Jing also jumped forward, and despite the fact he moved later, he arrived sooner. Huang Yaoshi launched a single stance, his palms crossed and ‘bang!’ he shook Guo Jing’s body, forcing him to retreat two steps.

Hong Qigong shouted, “I said don’t fight! Do you think the Old Beggar’s words are just fart?”

Guo Jing did not dare to attack again, his stared angrily at Huang Yaoshi. Hong Qigong asked, “Old Heretic Huang, the Six Freaks of Jiangnan are chivalrous heroes, why did you kill the innocents? The Old Beggar thinks this kind of behavior is not pleasing to the eyes.”

Huang Yaoshi said, “I kill whoever I want, why do you care?” Huang Rong called out, “Father, his five shifus were not killed by you; I know it. Please say that you did not kill them.”

Under the moonlight Huang Yaoshi saw his daughter’s face was thin and pale, he could not help but feel compassion toward her; but when he turned his eyes toward Guo Jing he saw murder written all over Guo Jing’s face, his heart turned hard and he said, “I killed them.”

With a choking voice Huang Rong said, “Father, why do you insist on confessing the murder?”

With a loud voice Huang Yaoshi replied, “Everybody says your father is wicked and strange, didn’t you know it? Can a criminal do a good deed? All crimes in the world are your father’s. The Six Freaks of Jiangnan considered themselves righteous and chivalrous heroes; when I see this kind of self-proclaimed hero I become angry.”

Ouyang Feng burst out in laughter and loudly said, “Yao Xiong, your words are right on target. Let Xiong Di [younger brother, referring to himself] toast you!” Lifting up his wine cup he drank it in one go; he said, “Yao Xiong, let me present you a gift.” His right hand slightly waved, he threw a cloth bundle away.

He was several ‘zhang’s apart from Huang Yaoshi, but by a casual wave of the hand the bundle flew like a bullet cutting the air; everyone was astonished and impressed. Huang Yaoshi held out his hand to receive it; the content of the bundle felt like a human head to him. After unwrapping the bundle he found it was indeed a human head, newly beheaded; the head wore a square hat, with beard on its chin, the face was not of someone he knew.

Ouyang Feng said with a laugh, “Xiong Di left for the west this morning and took a rest at a schoolhouse. I heard this rotten scholar taught the students to be loyal ministers and filial sons. Xiong Di loathes hearing such things, so I killed this rotten scholar. You and I are the Eastern Heretic and the Western Poison, we both are of the same kind.” Then he let out a long laugh.

Huang Yaoshi’s face changed, he said, “All my life I always respect loyal ministers and filial sons.” Stooping down he dug a hole with his hand, buried that human’s head, and respectfully bowed three times.

Ouyang Feng lost his interest, but he laughed and said, “The Old Heretic Huang has enjoyed a false reputation, turns out he also adheres to propriety and etiquette.”

Huang Yaoshi imposingly said, “Loyalty and being filial is integrity, it is not propriety and etiquette!”

He had just closed his mouth when suddenly a thunder crashed. Everybody looked up and saw black clouds covering half of the sky; a thunderstorm was coming. Right at that moment they heard loud music; seven, eight big boats on the lake approached near. The boats were decorated with red lanterns; on the bows stood signs like ‘Su Jing’ and ‘Hui Bi’; looked like they belong to a high ranking government officer.