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The Legend of the Condor Heroes - Chapter 35

Chapter 35 – In the Temple of the Iron Spear

As the boat reached the shore, twenty, thirty people came ashore; among them were Peng Lianhu, Sha Tongtian and their company. The last ones to come ashore were two men, one tall the other short; the tall one was the Great Jin’s Prince Zhao, Wanyan Honglie, the short one was the Clan Leader of the Iron Palm Clan, Qiu Qianren. Apparently Wanyan Honglie relied on Ouyang Feng and Qiu Qianren to help them; so he was confident they would win this martial contest, hence he went as far as personally come over to Jiangnan.

Pointing to Qiu Qianren Huang Rong said, “Father, this old man has hit your daughter with his palm that I nearly lost my life.”

At the Cloud Village Huang Yaoshi had seen Qiu Qianren’s disgraceful act; he did not know it was actually Qiu Qianzhang in disguise. He thought it was strange how with just a little bit of trick this man could injure his daughter.

In the meantime Ouyang Feng was having a discussion with Wanyan Honglie and the others; they were talking in a low voice. After about half a day Ouyang Feng came to Hong Qigong and said, “Qi Xiong, you have said that in the upcoming martial art contest you are not going to help either side, haven’t you?”

Hong Qigong said in his heart, “I have the desire but am powerless; even if I want to help I don’t have the ability to do so.” With no other choice he replied, “Contest or no contest, I said the fifteenth of the eighth month.”

“That is so,” Ouyang Feng said, “Yao Xiong, the Quanzhen Sect and the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan are seeking enmity with you; you are a grandmaster and a senior, it will be below your dignity to deal with these people. Let Xiong Di [younger brother, referring to himself] deal with them on your behalf, you can just stand on the side and be the spectator, what do you say?”

Huang Yaoshi thought about the battle situation from both sides’ point of view: if Hong Qigong did not go into action, the Quanzhen Masters would certainly fall under Ouyang Feng’s deadly hand, thus the Quanzhen Sect faced an imminent destruction. If Guo Jing helped them by defending the ‘tian xuan’, Ouyang Feng would not be the Big Dipper Formation’s match; but if this dumb kid kept pestering Huang Yaoshi, the situation would not be the same, he thought, “This kid Guo Jing is still wet behind his ears, the Quanzhen Sect’s life or death, fortune or disaster, actually depends on him. If Wang Chongyang in the underworld knew, all he could do is to laugh bitterly.”

Ouyang Feng saw that he looked indifferent without answering his question, if Zhou Botong arrived, the situation would be detrimental to him; therefore, he let out a long laugh and called out, “Everybody, attack! What are you waiting for?”

Hong Qigong was angry, “Was that a human speaking or a dog farting?”

Ouyang Feng pointed to the sky and said with a smile, “’Zi shi’ [first hour, midnight, between 11pm and 1 am] has passed, right now it is already early morning of the fifteenth of the eighth month.”

Hong Qigong looked up only to see that the moon had slightly shifted to the west, half of it was still covered by the dark clouds, it was indeed the end of the ‘zi shi’ and the start of ‘chou shi’ [second hour, between 1 am and 3 am].

Ouyang Feng’s snake staff struck, its target was Qiu Chuji’s chest. Facing their archenemy, with Peng Lianhu watching intently on the side, ready to strike, the Quanzhen Six Masters knew that the slightest mistake today would result in their demise; hence they pulled themselves together immediately and fought Ouyang Feng with all their might, but after just a few stances, the six of them groaned inwardly.

This time the Western Poison’s intention was to show off his power in front of everybody; everything he displayed was swift and deadly move, particularly the two snakes on the head of his staff, which was extended or withdrawn, striking or evading in sudden movements, it was virtually impossible to guard against. Qiu Chuji, Wang Chuyi and the others had tried several times to stab these snakes, but how could they match their speed?

Huang Rong saw Guo Jing was still staring angrily at her father; it was only because Hong Qigong was on his way that he did not dare to attack. She got a sudden inspiration and said, “All day long talking about avenging his father, humph, now that the killer is here he is afraid.”

Her words reminded Guo Jing, he turned his gaze to her and thought, “Kill the Jin dog first, then look for Huang Yaoshi; it won’t be too late.” Drawing his dagger he charged toward Wanyan Honglie.

Together Sha Tongtian and Peng Lianhu dashed forward, blocking in front of Wanyan Honglie. Guo Jing flicked his wrist and the dagger in his hand stabbed slanting down. Peng Lianhu blocked with his pair of judge pens, ‘clang!’ the weapons collided and he felt tingling sensation on his palms. Guo Jing successively went passed two people. Sha Tongtian’s ‘yi xing huan wei’ [altering form changing position] technique was also unable to stop him; hastily Sha Tongtian tried to pursue him. Lingzhi Shangren and Liang Ziweng, each with weapon in their hands positioned themselves to intercept Guo Jing.

Guo Jing flashed sideways to evade two of Liang Ziweng’s ‘tou gu ding’ [bone penetrating nail]; his both hands, one with a dagger the other with a palm, launched ‘di yang chu fan’ [ram charging fence], throwing his whole body forward.

Liang Ziweng saw that the incoming force was swift and fierce; he rolled away on the ground to evade. Lingzhi Shangren was big and fat, he was not as agile; he thought if he evaded, the enemy would have clear access to the Prince Zhao, so he raised his pair of cymbals, trying to block this attack. With two loud ‘Bang! Bang!’ his hands were shaken and the two cymbals flew to the air, while the wind from Guo Jing’s palm continued hacking toward his face. Relying on the strength of, and poison on, his palms, Lingzhi Shangren fended off Guo Jing’s palm, only to feel his chest constricted and his arm sore and numb; his palms hang loosely down, his wrist joints were shaken and to his shock he could not use his poisonous palm skill. He stood dumbly without knowing what to do. If Guo Jing took this opportunity and sent out a palm, he could easily take Lingzhi Shangren’s life, but he remembered his main target was Wanyan Honglie, so he did not give Lingzhi Shangren another look.

The pair of copper cymbals flew in the air and glimmering under the moonlight one after another they fell back down to the earth. ‘Bang!’ the first cymbal landed on Lingzhi Shangren’s head. Luckily it was in a horizontal position; otherwise with its knife-like sharp edge it would chop the Tibetan monk’s bald head in two. Another loud ‘Bang!’ followed, louder and brighter than the first; the second cymbal landed on the first, creating a continuous buzzing noise, which reached far into the lake and echoed back on the surface of the lake.

Wanyan Honglie saw how Guo Jing was able to go through four martial art masters without missing a step and suddenly arrive in front of him, he was unable to restrain his great shock and cried out, “Aiyo!” while turning his body around and run away.

With the dagger in his hand Guo Jing chased him; but he only managed to pursue several steps when suddenly a yellow shadow flashed by, a pair of palms came slanting down on him. Guo Jing stepped aside to evade, while the dagger in his hand stabbed forward; but his body was swayed by the incoming palms; hastily he steadied his step and saw that the enemy was the Clan Leader of the Iron Palm Clan, Qiu Qianren. Guo Jing knew the enemy’s martial art skill is superior to his own, so he would not be able to pursue his personal enemy; immediately, with the dagger in his right hand and a bare palm on his left, he focused his attention to fight the enemy.

Peng Lianhu knew the critical situation had passed as he saw Guo Jing was tied down by Qiu Qianren while Liang Ziweng and Sha Tongtian were guarding in front of Wanyan Honglie; he turned his attention to Ke Zhen’E and said with a smile, “Ke Daxia, how come only one freak out of the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan showed up?”

Ke Zhen’E’s iron staff was thrown into the Southern Lake by Huang Rong; hearing the enemy’s insult he waved his hand to send out an iron caltrop, while he immediately jumped backward. Under the dim moonlight the iron caltrop looked so swift and powerful. Peng Lianhu had experienced suffering because of this poisonous secret projectile; he was scared like a bird was scared of a bow, he did not dare to fend off with his judge pen, so he hastily pushed the pens on the ground to using it as a brace to help him jump high in the air. With a ‘swish’ sound the iron caltrop barely missed the bottom of his foot. He noticed Ke Zhen’E did not have any weapon in his hand; clenching his teeth he struck forward with his pens.

Ke Zhen’E was disabled; he usually walked aided by his staff. He heard the wind as the enemy attack arrived, he had no choice but using all his strength he leaped two steps to the side, and almost fell down as his left foot landed on soft earth.

Peng Lianhu was delighted; with his left pen he guarded against Ke Zhen’E, should he be desperate enough to launch an attack to save his own life, while his right pen fiercely smashed down toward Ke Zhen’E’s chest.

Ke Zhen’E listened to the sound to distinguish the shape, he rolled away to evade. Peng Lianhu’s steel judge pen struck a rock on the ground, sparks flew everywhere. “Blind thief,” he cursed, “You are very slippery!” The pen in his left hand also struck.

While he was rolling away, ‘swish!’ he released another iron caltrop. Lingzhi Shangren was standing nearby, his left hand was holding his right hand, his mouth was busy cursing in Tibetan; as he saw Ke Zhen’E was rolling near him, he raised his foot trying to trample him.

Ke Zhen’E heard the wind; using his left hand to brace the ground he threw himself sideways to escape. But evading the Tibetan monk’s foot he could not escape the pair of judge pen on his back. He felt a stabbing pain and secretly shouted, “Not good!” He closed his eyes, ready to die. Suddenly he heard a tender voice called out, “Off you go!” followed by “Aiyo!” finally he heard a loud ‘bang!’

Turned out Huang Rong used the Dog Beating Stick Technique to block the judge pen, turned it around and jerked it up, throwing both the pen and Peng Lianhu away. This stick technique was exactly the same stance Huang Rong used to fling Ke Zhen’E’s iron staff away; only Peng Lianhu held his pens tight and would not let them go no matter what, so both Peng Lianhu and his pen fell down together.

Peng Lianhu was shocked and angry at the same time, he crawled back up only to see Huang Rong was using her stick to protect Ke Zhen’E, giving him the opportunity to stand up. “Little witch [Translator’s note: the Chinese characters used were ‘xiao yao nu’, with ‘yao’ being ‘goblin/witch/demon/monster’, see also Chapter 25], who asked for your help?”

Ignoring him Huang Rong called out, “Father, look after this blind muddle-head, don’t let anybody harm him.” While saying that she rushed toward Guo Jing to help him fight Qiu Qianren.

Ke Zhen’E was dumbstruck; he stood motionless not knowing what to do. Peng Lianhu saw Huang Yaoshi was standing quite a distant away, with his back facing them, apparently he did not hear his daughter’s call. Quietly Peng Lianhu went behind Ke Zhen’E and suddenly lunged his judge pen toward Ke Zhen’E’s back. This move was both swift and violent, so much so that even if Ke Zhen’E still had the iron staff in his hand he would not necessarily be able to block it. Peng Lianhu saw he was about to succeed when suddenly a ‘swish’ sound was heard; something flew splitting the air, hit the judge pen, and shattered into dust; turned out it was a small grain of gravel. Peng Lianhu’s palm was numb and the judge pen fell to the ground.

Peng Lianhu was shocked; he did not know where the gravel came from, and how could it carry such a tremendous force. He saw Huang Yaoshi with his hands behind his back, still looking at the black clouds on the horizon.

At the Cloud Village Ke Zhen’E had heard this Divine Flicking Finger skill; he knew it was Huang Yaoshi who saved him. In rage he pounced toward Huang Yaoshi’s back, while shouting, “Seven brothers and sister only one left, why would I want to live?”

Huang Yaoshi still did not turn his head; he waited until Ke Zhen’E was about three feet away before his left hand lightly waved backward. Ke Zhen’E felt a strong force pushing him back that he fell face up. Quickly he sat down, but felt his blood surging up his chest and he was not able to stand up.

By this time the sky was getting darker, the fog hovering on the surface of the lake was getting thicker, it spilled over to the ground; submerging everybody’s legs in it. Guo Jing and Huang Rong managed to fight Qiu Qianren evenly. On the other side, the Quanzhen Sect was in dire circumstances; Hao Datong’s thigh was swept by the snake staff, half of Sun Bu’er’s Taoist robe was torn. Wang Chuyi was secretly alarmed; he knew that if this fight continued, someone would be either dead or wounded before long. So when Ma Yu and Liu Chuxuan were launching a flank attack, he took a rocket from his pocket. With a hissing sound the rocket flew up to the sky, like a meteor with a long tail in the dark sky.

Actually, all Seven Masters of the Quanzhen Sect had accepted not a few disciples; they formed quite a number of the third generation disciples. Besides Yin Zhiping, there were Li Zhichang, Zhang Zhijing, Wang Zhitan, Qi Zhicheng, Zhang Zhixian, Zhao Zhijing, and the others; they were all outstanding people. In the martial art contest at Misty Rain Tavern in Jiaxing this time, the Seven Masters were afraid that Peng Lianhu, Sha Tongtian and the others would bring their disciples in their attempt to gain victory by sheer numbers; therefore, they also took their disciples along to Jiaxing and told them to wait by the shore of the Southern Lake. As soon as they saw the rocket they were supposed to immediately come and render their assistance. So now recognizing their precarious situation Wang Chuyi released the rocket. Unfortunately the fog was too thick; even separated by several feet it was already difficult to distinguish people, so he was afraid the disciples would not be able to see through this fog.

Later on, after fighting a little while, the white fog was getting heavier, everybody was enveloped inside the thick fog that they suddenly felt alone. The gathering dark clouds in the sky were getting thicker and thicker; the dim moonlight which penetrated these layers of cloud was getting weaker and weaker, until finally it disappeared all together. Everybody was alarmed; although they did not stop fighting, the distance between them were getting farther and farther away, their stances were most of the time defensives and very few offensives.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong were fighting Qiu Qianren together; suddenly the thick fog welled up and shrouded these three people. Guo Jing saw Qiu and Huang two people suddenly disappear, he decided to look for Wanyan Honglie immediately. His eyes were wide open, trying to catch a glimpse of the flashing of the golden crown on Wanyan Honglie’s head. But the fog was very dense; he could not even see anything beyond three feet. He hurried to the east and dashed to the west to seek the enemy, suddenly he heard someone was calling out in the fog, “Zhou Botong is here, who wants to fight with me?”

Guo Jing was ecstatic, he was about to reply but Qiu Chuji beat him, “Zhou Shishu [martial uncle], are you Senior well?”

Right at this moment the dark clouds revealed a gap and suddenly everybody could see their enemies were actually almost within reach of each other, if anybody launched any attack, they would certainly be injured. As if by prior agreement they all cried out in alarm and leaped back.

Zhou Botong was giggling as he stood among these people, he said in a loud voice, “There are so many people here, very lively. Wonderful! Wonderful!” His right hand reached beneath the crook of his left elbow, he rubbed some dirt and rolled it, he said, “I’ll give you some poison!” and he shoved the dirt into Sha Tongtian’s mouth nearby.

Sha Tongtian quickly evaded, but although he used his ‘yi xing huan wei’, he was still not fast enough; his left arm was grabbed by Zhou Botong and the dirt was squeezed into his mouth. He had suffered quite a bit under Zhou Botong’s hand, he knew if he spat the dirt, he would certainly be beaten; therefore, he had no choice but stay silent and keep the dirt in his mouth. He knew the dirt was not poison, so he certainly was not afraid.

As Wang Chuyi saw Zhou Botong suddenly arrive he was overjoyed, “Shishu,” he called out, “Turned out it’s true that you are not killed by Huang Daozhu [Island Master].”

“Who said I am dead?” Zhou Botong angrily asked, “The Old Heretic Huang had always wanted to harm me, but it’s been more than ten years and he still has not succeeded yet. Ha, Old Heretic Huang, come and try again.” While saying that he waved his fist toward Huang Yaoshi’s shoulder.

Huang Yaoshi did not dare to ignore him; he counterattacked with a stance from the ‘shen jian luo ying zhang’ [divine sword falling leaves palm] while calling out at the same time, “The mixed-up hairs from Quanzhen Sect blamed me of killing you, they are pestering me without any reason, saying that they were seeking revenge for you.”

Zhou Botong was angry, “You killed me? Are you dreaming? When did you kill me? Look clearly, am I a human or am I a ghost?” While spouting nonsense he fought faster and faster.

Huang Yaoshi knew Zhou Botong would not listen to reason, and he was attacking him out of a whim, but his moves were very exquisite and marvelous; Huang Yaoshi had no choice but fight him with all his might.

The Quanzhen Masters thought that as soon as their Shishu arrived, he would join hands with Huang Yaoshi to fight Ouyang Feng; who would have thought that this Shishu did not want to listen to them but entangled Huang Yaoshi in a close combat instead. “Shishu, don’t fight with Huang Daozhu!” Ma Yu repeatedly called.

Ouyang Feng interjected, “That’s right Old Urchin, you are in no way the Old Heretic’s match; quickly run away to save your life! Quick, quick!”

Listening to this provocation Zhou Botong was all the more not willing to give up. Huang Rong called out, “Old Urchin, you use the martial art from the Nine Yin Manual to fight my father; what would your Shixiong [martial brother] say in the underworld?”

Zhou Botong burst out in laughter, he sounded very smug when he said, “Look carefully, do you see I am using the martial art from the Manual? I have spent a great deal of effort trying to forget the Manual. Hey, hey, learning was easy, forgetting is actually a lot of trouble! What I am using now is the 72-stance Vacant Fist, the Old Urchin’s very own creation, do you think it is the same as the Nine Yin Manual even for a fart?”

When fighting him at the Peach Blossom Island, Huang Yaoshi thought his fist and kick strength was much stronger; now he saw that although his fist technique was refined and wonderful, the strength was actually less than he remembered, but Zhou Botong was able to fight evenly with him, which he thought was very strange. Listening to Zhou Botong’s words Huang Yaoshi was secretly impressed; regardless of what kind of bizarre technique he employed, Zhou Botong was able to create an excellent martial art all by himself and thus he founded his own martial art school.

From inside the fog Ouyang Feng could indistinctly see the fight between Zhou Botong and Huang Yaoshi; he was inwardly very happy, but was also afraid that as soon as he defeated Huang Yaoshi Zhou Botong would join hands with the Quanzhen Masters and deal with him. Thereupon he thought as he had the opportunity, he should break the Big Dipper Formation first. Immediately he wielded his snake staff and pressed on bit by bit, placing the Big Dipper Formation in more and more dangerous situation.

Wang Chuyi and Liu Chuxuan called out, “Zhou Shishu, kill Ouyang Feng first!”

Zhou Botong saw his martial nephews’ desperate situation, with a left palm and a right fist he swept horizontally. When he was very close to Huang Yaoshi’s face, suddenly with a laughter the fist changed into a palm and the palm became a fist, continuing their attack across each other.

Huang Yaoshi had never anticipated this kind of strange move, he hurriedly raised his arms to block, but the tip of his eyebrow was brushed lightly by the edge of Zhou Botong’s palm. He was not injured, but Huang Yaoshi felt his eyebrow was burning hot.

As Zhou Botong’s palm brushed his opponent suddenly he was shocked; his left hand slapped his own right wrist and he cursed, “Damn it! Damn it! This is the martial art from the Nine Yin Manual!”

Huang Yaoshi was slightly startled; but his palm had already struck with a lightning fast speed, without any noise landed on Zhou Botong’s shoulder. Zhou Botong bent his waist and shrunk his shoulder. “Aiyo!” he cried out, “The payback is so quick!”

Meanwhile the fog was getting thicker; it was getting more difficult to see anything. Guo Jing was afraid his two shifus would be injured; he held out his hand to help Ke Zhen’E, pulling his arm toward Hong Qigong. With a low voice he said, “Two Shifus, please take a rest at the Misty Rain Tavern; we’ll wait for the fog to recede then we’ll talk again.” He heard Huang Rong called out, “Old Urchin, are you going to obey me or not?”

“I can’t beat your father,” Zhou Botong replied, “So don’t worry.”

“I want you to beat the Old Poison,” Huang Rong said, “Just don’t kill him.” “Why?” Zhou Botong asked; but his hands and feet were not slowing down.

Huang Rong called out, “If you don’t do what I say, I am going to reveal your stinky history.” “What stinky history?” Zhou Botong asked, “You talk nonsense.”

“All right,” with deliberation Huang Rong said, “Four weaving machines, the weaving of mandarin ducks desiring to fly together right away.”

Hearing these two sentences Zhou Botong was so scared that it was as if his soul had left him; “All right, all right, I’ll listen to you,” he busily said, “Old Poison, where are you?” He heard Ma Yu’s voice penetrating the thick fog, “Zhou Shishu, occupy the north polar star to surround him.”

Huang Rong said again, “Father, this Qiu Qianren collaborates with a foreign kingdom, he is a big traitor; please kill him quickly.”

“Child,” Huang Yaoshi said, “Come to my side.” In the heavy fog he could not see where Qiu Qianren was. But he heard Zhou Botong was laughing a big laugh while calling out, “Old Poison, quickly kneel down and kowtow to your grandfather; I’ll spare your life today.”

Guo Jing sent Hong and Ke two people to the side of the tavern; then he turned his body around, trying to find Wanyan Honglie. Who would have thought that as he left the Misty Rain Tavern, not only he could not find Wanyan Honglie, but also Sha Tongtian, Qiu Qianren and the others had all disappeared. He heard Zhou Botong call out, “Uh, where is the Old Poison? Where did he run to?”

This fog was unusually thick, everybody was very close to each other, yet one could not see the face of someone else standing next to them; they only saw a vague image of a human form. Their voices were also somewhat muffled by the fog, as if there was some layers separating each other. Each one of them was an experienced fighter, yet in this battle they felt like they were blindfolded; not a single one of them was not anxious. Huang Rong was leaning close to her father, Ma Yu was giving out orders in low voice to shrink their circle. Everyone was straining their ears to listen to any enemy’s activity; for a moment nobody made any noise. A little while later suddenly Qiu Chuji called out, “Listen! What’s that?”

They heard hissing noise all around them, strange noise from a distant coming near. Huang Rong called out in alarm, “The Old Poison dispatches his snakes! Really shameless!”

At the end of the tavern Hong Qigong had also heard the snakes, he loudly called out, “It’s the Old Poison’s snake formation; everybody quickly come up the stairs!”

Zhou Botong’s martial art could be considered number one among those present, but for all his life he was afraid of snakes, so with a loud cry he dashed wildly toward the Misty Rain Tavern. He was afraid the snakes would bite his heel, so he skipped the upstairs room and utilizing his ‘qing gong’ [lightness kungfu] to the fullest he leaped onto the roof, and sat on the highest ridge, still trembling with fear.

Not too long afterwards the sound of the snakes was getting louder. Huang Rong pulled her father’s hand to go up the Misty Rain Tavern. Holding each other’s hand the Quanzhen Masters were groping their way upstairs. Yin Zhiping stepped on a crack and fell down real hard that his head grew a swollen lump; quickly he crawled back upstairs.

Huang Rong had not heard Guo Jing’s voice, she was concerned; “Jing Gege, where are you?” she called. After calling out several times she still had not heard any reply; she became anxious and said, “Father, I am going back to look for him.”

Suddenly she heard Guo Jing’s cold voice, “Why should you look for me? Don’t call me; I am not going to answer you.” It turned out he was right next to her.

Huang Yaoshi was angry, “Muddle-headed kid, stinky boy,” he scolded; his arm swung across sending out a palm. Guo Jing ducked his head to evade; he was just about to launch a counterattack when suddenly ‘whiz, whiz’ noise of arrows was heard, several long arrows soared in the air and nailed the window lattice.

Everybody was startled; they heard shouts and feathered arrows came one after another. In the darkness nobody knew how many soldiers had arrived; they heard clamoring noise of people outside the building, they were shouting, “Don’t let these thieves escape!”

Wang Chuyi was angry, “Looks like the Jin dog colludes with Jiaxing’s corrupt government official; they are sending out troops to deal with us!”

Qiu Chuji called out, “Let’s go down and completely route them.”

“Not good, snake, snake!” Hao Datong shouted. They heard the noise of the arrows getting thicker, while the hissing noise of the snakes getting closer; they realized that Wanyan Honglie and Ouyang Feng had arranged this treacherous plan in advance; only this thick fog was beyond anybody’s anticipation, so whether a curse or a luck, it was difficult to say.

Hong Qigong called out, “We can fight the arrows, but cannot fight the snakes; if we evade the snakes, it will be difficult to keep off the arrows! Everybody quickly withdraw!” They heard Zhou Botong, still shouting abusive words from the top of the roof; he had caught two arrows and used them to fend off the incoming arrows.

Three sides of the Misty Rain Tavern faced the water. The soldiers rode on small boats surrounding the building and showered it with arrows. It was because of the thick fog that they did not dare to press closer to the banks. Hong Qigong called out, “We go to the west, we take the land route.” He was the chief of the world’s largest clan; each word he said carried a lot of authority and influence. In this chaotic situation everybody accepted his leadership without question; they groped their way back downstairs. They tried hard to open their eyes, but could not see farther than half a foot ahead; how did they know which direction was east, west, south or north? They struck down several arrows while walking in line, holding each other’s hand to avoid getting lost. Qiu Chuji and Wang Chuyi led the way with swords in their hands; their swords combined and complemented each other, forming a sword umbrella to keep off the arrow rain.

Guo Jing’s right hand was pulling Hong Qigong, while his left hand grabbed someone’s hand behind him. He felt this hand was soft, warm and slightly sweaty; turned out it was Huang Rong’s small hand. His heart skipped a beat; hastily he let her hand go, only to listen to Huang Rong’s cold voice said, “Who needs your concern?” Suddenly he heard Qiu Chuji called out, “Turn around, quick! There are snakes ahead; we can’t go through!”

Huang Yaoshi and Ma Yu were at the end of the line blocking the pursuing soldiers; hearing Qiu Chuji’s cry they turned their head anxiously. Huang Yaoshi picked a couple of bamboo sticks and swept them outward to strike the snakes. In the fog they heard the hissing sound of the snakes, and a foul stench attacked their nostrils. Huang Rong could not endure it any longer, with a ‘wah!’ sound she threw up. Huang Yaoshi sighed and said, “There is no way out, everyone fight for your own life!” Tossing his bamboo sticks aside he carried his daughter in his hands.

Based on everyone’s martial art skill, actually the soldiers’ arrows would not be able to stop them; but the Western Poison’s snake formation was tens of thousands more lethal, as soon as one was bitten, one’s life immediately would be gone. Listening to these frightening snakes everybody could not help but feel terrified. Huang Yaoshi’s jade flute was broken, Hong Qigong’s steel needles were not easy to be launched; the most difficult part was the fog was too thick that nobody could see anything. Even if there were an escape route, nobody knew where to go.

In this critical situation suddenly they heard someone with a cold voice say, “Little witch, give your bamboo stick to this blind man.” It was Ke Zhen’E’s voice.

Hearing him saying the ‘blind man’, two characters, Huang Rong immediately understood his intention; she was very happy and without hesitation handed over the Dog Beating Stick to him. Ke Zhen’E maintained his composure; tapping the stick on the ground he said, “Everyone, follow this blind man to safety. There is always fog and mist around the Misty Rain Tavern; what’s so strange about it? Otherwise how can it be called the Misty Rain Tavern?” He was a native of Jiaxing; ever since he was little all streets and alleys around the Misty Rain Tavern had been ingrained in his heart. Both of his eyes were blind, normally he would be inferior to ordinary man, but now the fog was really thick, black clouds covered the sky; to him it was not the least bit of obstacle.

Listening to the snakes and the arrows he knew that there was an alley to the west with no enemies in that direction. Limping away he immediately led the way. Who would have thought that over the past several years this small alley had been covered with green bamboos, which render it impassable. Ke Zhen’E was very familiar with this road; yet he had not visited this place for decades, so he did not know that this alley had turned into a bamboo grove. He walked only for seven, eight steps and had to stop because the bamboo was on his way. Qiu Chuji and Wang Chuyi again brandished their swords and the bamboo flew out, opening up a passageway where everybody could pass through.

Ma Yu called, “Zhou Shishu, come over here! Where are you?” Zhou Botong was still sitting on the roof; hearing the sound of snakes all around him, how could he dare to reply? He was most afraid that the snakes’ favorite food was the Old Urchin’s flesh, so if he opened his mouth and let the snakes heard his voice, wouldn’t he be finished then?

Walking for dozens of ‘zhang’s they saw the bamboo grove was getting thin; ahead they could see an alley. The snakes sound was getting farther away, but the soldiers’ shouts were actually getting closer; it sounded like some of the soldiers came around to outflank them. This group of warriors was afraid of snakes, they did not even look at ordinary soldiers. Liu Chuxuan said, “Hao Shidi [martial (younger) brother Hao], let us kill some of the dog officers to vent our anger.” “Good!” Hao Datong replied. Two people brandished their swords to block the incoming arrows which came suddenly like locusts.

Walking a little longer they arrived at a bigger road; above them lightning flashed and thunder struck, followed by heavy rain pouring down from the sky. But because of this downpour the fog cleared up. Although the sky was still covered with dark clouds, they started to be able to see each other’s shadow. “Good, good,” everybody said, “The thick fog is dispersing.”

Ke Zhen’E said, “The danger has passed, everyone can do as they please.” Giving the bamboo stick back to Huang Rong he walked to the east without turning his head back.

“Shifu!” Guo Jing called out.

Ke Zhen’E said, “You go and send Hong Laoxia [Old Hero Hong] someplace peaceful and quiet where he can recover from his injury; then come to the Ke Jia Cun [Ke Family Village] to see me.”

“Yes,” Guo Jing replied.

Huang Yaoshi stretched out his hand to block one incoming arrow, then he went to Ke Zhen’E and said, “I was not willing to explain to you if not for the fact that you saved my life today …”

Ke Zhen’E did not wait for him to finish, he spat thick phlegm toward the bridge of Huang Yaoshi’s nose; he cursed, “Because of what I did today, I won’t have any face to see my six brothers and sister!”

Angrily Huang Yaoshi raised his palm. Guo Jing watched this in shock, he flew in trying to rescue; he knew that as soon as this palm struck down, his Da Shifu’s life would be gone. But he was more than a dozen steps away from Ke and Huang two people, so he knew he would be too late. Under the dim light of the moon he saw Huang Yaoshi’s palm slowly went down. Huang Yaoshi laughed a big laugh and said, “What kind of a man is Huang Yaoshi? How can I lower myself to the same level with you?” With his sleeve he wiped the phlegm from his face; turning around to Huang Rong he said, “Rong’er, let’s go!”

Hearing these words Guo Jing’s heart was shaken with doubt; only he was unclear of what had actually stirred his doubt. He only vaguely felt that something was not completely right. It was like something was flashing in his mind, then suddenly it disappeared into a thick fog.

Suddenly he heard an outburst of shouting, a group of soldiers came charging in. The Quanzhen Six Masters with swords in their hands engaged the enemy. Huang Yaoshi felt it was beneath his dignity to fight soldiers, so he turned around to pull Hong Qigong’s arm and said, “Qi Xiong, let us two brothers go on ahead and drink some wine; we’ll talk about it later.”

It was precisely what Hong Qigong had been expecting; he said with a laugh, “Wonderful, just wonderful!” In a moment two people disappeared into the darkness.

Guo Jing wanted to take Ke Zhen’E away, but another group of soldiers came attacking them. Guo Jing did not want to kill too many people, so he pushed his arms forward to open a way. In this confusion he heard Qiu Chuji and the others were fighting a fierce battle; it turned out Wanyan Honglie had dispatched several of his own personal bodyguards among the soldiers, also joining their ranks were a group of valiant Iron Palm Clan people, making them difficult to push back in a short period of time. Guo Jing was afraid his shifu would be injured in this chaotic battle, he shouted, “Da Shifu, Da Shifu, where are you?” By now the battle cry and the clashing of the weapons had merged into one chaotic noise; but all along he did not hear Ke Zhen’E’s reply.

After taking the bamboo stick back from Ke Zhen’E’s hand Huang Rong had stayed near him all the time. She saw him spitting her father, her mind was tumultuous. She believed this matter had grown out of proportion; her long life’s beautiful dream was shattered into pieces. Hence when the soldiers came she just stood alone, leaning on a tree; when the soldiers galloped quickly past her, it was as if she did neither see nor hear them, she was totally lost in her thought.

Suddenly she heard a call, “Aiyo!” It was Ke Zhen’E’s voice. Following the source of the sound she went out to take a look, only to see Ke Zhen’E was laying by the roadside; an officer was holding a saber high above his head, ready to chop it down into Ke Zhen’E’s back. Ke Zhen’E rolled away to evade, he sat up and threw a backward fist, hitting the officer squarely that he fainted. Ke Zhen’E was about to stand up when he suddenly fell back down. Huang Rong rushed forward and saw that his leg was hit by an arrow; immediately she pulled his arm and helped him up.

Ke Zhen’E made an effort to shed her hand away, but one of his legs was lame, the other was injured by the arrow; his legs lost their strength that his body staggered, he swayed forward and fell back down. Huang Rong held out her right hand to grab the collar on the back of his neck; she said with a cold laugh, “Still flaunting your heroism?” Her left hand lightly waved, she sealed the ‘jian shen xue’ [shoulder chaste acupoint] on his right shoulder with a move from ‘lan hua fu xue shou’ [brushing orchid acupoint technique]. Then she released his collar and grabbed his left arm.

Ke Zhen’E wanted to struggle free, but half of his body was numb; he was unable to move. He had no choice but let her help him up, but his mouth did not stop muttering curses.

Huang Rong let him away for a dozen of steps and took him hiding behind a big tree. They were just catching their breath when another group of soldiers spotted these two people. A dozen or so arrows came whizzing by. Huang Rong stepped forward and brandished her bamboo stick to protect her head and her face from the arrows; letting the arrows hitting her soft-hedgehog armor.

Ke Zhen’E heard the arrows and knew she was risking her life to save his; his heart softened, he said in a low voice, “You don’t need to worry over me, just go save yourself!”

“Hmm,” Huang Rong said, “I want to save you; I want you to receive my kindness. What are you going to do about it?”

While they were talking, two people slowly withdrew behind a short wall. The arrows no longer came, but Ke Zhen’E was heavy, Huang Rong was exhausted, her breathing was short; she leaned against the wall to rest. Ke Zhen’E sighed, “It is finished, between you and me gratitude and grudges are over. Off you go, from now on just consider the blind man Ke has died.”

With a cold voice Huang Rong said, “Obviously you are not dead, why do you consider yourself dead? You are not seeking revenge against me, I will come looking for you.” The bamboo stick in her hand swiftly stretched out and swiftly shrunk back, sealing the ‘wei zhong xue’ [I don’t know how to translate this] on the back of his knees.

Ke Zhen’E was totally caught off guard, he fell sitting down on the ground. Silently he cursed and wondered what kind of malicious method this little demon would use to torture him. His heart was thumping in anger, but he heard her footsteps were getting father away, it sounded like she was leaving the short wall. By now the battle noise was farther and weaker; apparently the Quanzhen Masters had either killed or driven the soldiers away. Amidst this faraway noise he faintly heard Guo Jing’s voice calling out, “Da Shifu!” But the call was going farther and farther away, indicating Guo Jing was looking for him in the wrong direction. He wanted to call, but because of his injury he could not gather enough strength, he could not even hear his own voice.

A moment later all he could hear was quietness, with roosters started crowing in the distant. Ke Zhen’E mused, “This is the last time I hear the rooster! Tomorrow all across the Jiaxing prefecture the roosters will crow again, but I will die under the little demon’s hands and won’t hear it anymore.” Thinking to this point he suddenly heard footsteps; three people came over. The first’s footsteps were light, he recognized it to be Huang Rong; the other two were heavy, sounded like they were dragging their feet.

He heard Huang Rong say, “This is Daye [lit. big master], quickly lift him up.” While saying that she stretched out her hand to massage his body and unsealed his acupoints.

Ke Zhen’E felt he was lifted up by two people and placed on a bamboo stretcher, and then he was taken away. Ke Zhen’E was flabbergasted; he wanted to ask, but suddenly remembered the last time he said something it backfired to him. While hesitating he heard a ‘swish!’ sound, the man carrying him on the front cried out in pain, “Aiyo!” It sounded like he ate Huang Rong’s stick. He also heard her scolding, “Walk faster! What are you mumbling about? You, the soldiers, are used to bully common people; no one is good!” Then another ‘swish!’ was heard; the man on the back also ate her stick, but this one did not dare to say anything.

Ke Zhen’E understood, “It turned out she captured two soldiers to carry me up; she is so smart to come up with this idea.” By this time the arrow wound on his leg was getting more painful, but he was afraid Huang Rong might mock him, so he bit his lips to prevent any moan from escaping his mouth. He felt his body was jolted up and down, he knew he was being carried along a rugged pathway. A moment later he felt tree branches and leaves brushing his head and face, so he knew they were walking in the woods. The two soldiers staggered along, they were gasping for breath, but Huang Rong’s bamboo stick kept whipping them mercilessly.

About thirty ‘li’s later Ke Zhen’E estimated that it was already the end of sixth hour [9 – 11am], early seventh hour [11am – 1pm]; the early morning rain had long gone, the sun had dried out half of his wet clothes. He heard the cicadas calling and the dogs barking, a distant sound of men and women singing in the field; it was a perfect picture of peace and tranquility, a totally different world from the vicious battle at the South Lake this morning.

They stopped by a peasant home to take a rest. Huang Rong bought two big pumpkins from the peasant family, she cooked them with rice, and placed a bowl in front of Ke Zhen’E.

“I am not hungry,” Ke Zhen’E said.

“Your leg hurts, do you think I don’t know?” Huang Rong said, “What hungry or not hungry? I want you to be in so much pain that you will listen to me.”

Ke Zhen’E was very angry; using both hands he lifted up the bowl full of hot steaming pumpkin and threw it to her face. Huang Rong laughed coldly, but one of the soldiers called out in pain. Ke Zhen’E knew she must have moved sideways to evade and the bowl of hot pumpkin must have splashed on the soldier’s body.

“What?” Huang Rong scolded, “Ke Daye [Big Master Ke] is giving you the pumpkin to eat, you are not happy? Quickly eat them up.” That soldier was afraid Huang Rong might beat him again, but also his stomach was very hungry; so enduring the burning ache on his face he picked the pumpkin up and ate it piece by piece.

This time Ke Zhen’E could not decide whether he should be angry or whether he should laugh; half standing and half sitting he leaned against the bench. He felt very awkward; he wanted to pull out the arrow, but was afraid his blood would spurt out like crazy. She certainly would see someone in danger and not willing to help; most probably she would even mock him.

While he was still hesitating he heard Huang Rong said, “Go get some fresh water, quick!” Her speech was followed by a ‘Slap!’ apparently she had just slapped one of the soldiers on the ear.

In his heart Ke Zhen’E mused, “This little demon, she is all right as long as she does not say anything; but as soon as she opens her mouth, she makes others suffer.”

Huang Rong continued, “Take this knife and cut the clothes around Ke Daye’s arrow wound.” One of the soldiers complied and did as she said. Huang Rong said, “You, the one with surname Ke, you’d better not cry out in pain; otherwise, your Miss may not pay you any more attention if she is annoyed.”

“Who wants your attention anyway?” Ke Zhen’E angrily replied, “Just scram as far as possible.” He had not finished his words when suddenly he felt a severe pain on his wound. It seemed to him that Huang Rong had grabbed the shaft of the arrow, and instead of pulling it out, she thrust it into his flesh. Ke Zhen’E was shocked and angry; he was about to throw a punch out when he felt another stab of severe pain and suddenly his palm was holding a shaft of arrow. Turned out Huang Rong had pulled the arrow out and squeezed it into his hand.

Ke Zhen’E heard Huang Rong say, “You move one more time, I am going to slap your ear really good.”

Ke Zhen’E knew she was capable of doing what she said she would do. Currently he was not the little demon’s match; if she killed him with a blade, then it would be a clean end to his life, but if she ever slapped his face, he would suffer disgrace for the rest of his life, so with a pale face he stayed silent. Hearing some ripping sounds he knew she was tearing several strips of clothes. She wrapped the cloth around his thigh, above and below the wound, tightly to stop the bleeding; and then he felt icy cold water on his wound, apparently she was washing his wound with cold water. He was stupefied, thinking, “If she had evil intention, why did she save me? But if she said she doesn’t harbor evil intention, humph, humph, can anything good come out of the Peach Blossom Island’s sorcerers, father and daughter? She must have some evil plan for me later on. Ay, these people are so full of craftiness; it is really difficult to guess her real thoughts.”

While he was busy with his own thoughts, Huang Rong had already applied some cut wound medicine and wrapped it up properly; he felt his wound was cool and for the most part the pain was gone, but suddenly he heard rumbles from inside his tummy.

Huang Rong coldly said, “I thought you were not hungry, but it turns out you are really starving. Too bad we don’t have anything to eat right now. All right, let’s go!” With two ‘slap, slap’ sounds her stick beat the two soldiers, telling those two to lift Ke Zhen’E up and continue their journey.

About thirty, forty ‘li’s later, the sky was getting dark. They heard the loud cry of crows; hundreds of thousands crows flew back and forth in the air. Hearing these crows Ke Zhen’E knew they were in the vicinity of the ‘tie qiang miao’ [Temple of the Iron Spear]. This Temple of the Iron Spear was built to honor a well known general from the Five Dynasties period, the Iron Spear, Wang Yanzhang. Next to the temple there was a tall pagoda. For generations the crows had made their nest on top of this pagoda. There was a legend among the locals that the crows of the Temple of the Iron Spear were the spirits of dead soldiers and generals, so nobody dared to disturb them to such an extent that the crows breed and multiplied, became as many as they were that day.

“Hey,” Huang Rong said, “The sky is getting dark, where can we spend the night?”

Ke Zhen’E thought for a moment, “If we lodge at someone’s residence I am afraid they might open their mouths and lead the soldiers to come and arrest us.” So he said, “Not too far from here there is an old temple.”

“What’s so interesting about crows?” Huang Rong scolded, “You have never seen one before? Go!” This time Ke Zhen’E did not hear the sound of the stick, nevertheless the two soldiers cried out in pain. He wondered whether she pierced them with her finger or kicked them with her foot.

Not too long afterwards they arrived in front of the Temple of the Iron Spear. Ke Zhen’E heard Huang Rong kick the temple door open. The strong odor of crows’ dung and dust assaulted their nostrils. Apparently this temple had been deserted for a long time. He was afraid she would complain of the filth, but surprisingly it seemed like she did not even notice. He heard her ordering the two soldiers to sweep the floor; she also ordered them to go to the kitchen and boil some water. Then he heard she was softly singing a song about some ‘pair of mandarin ducks desire to fly together’ and some ‘not yet old but the hair on the head has turned white.’

A moment later the soldiers brought the hot water over. Huang Rong changed the wrap on Ke Zhen’E’s wound first before washing her own face and feet. Ke Zhen’E was lying down on the ground, using the meditation mat as his pillow. Suddenly he heard she spat and said, “Why are you looking at my feet? Do you think my feet are for you to look? I’ll dig your eyeballs out!”

That soldier was so scared that his soul almost left him; ‘bonk, bonk, bonk’ he knocked his head on the ground. Huang Rong asked, “Tell me, why did you look at me washing my feet?”

That soldier did not dare to lie; while still knocking his head he said, “Xiao De [lit. little/lowly one] deserves to die. Xiao De saw Miss’ feet are very … very beautiful …”

Ke Zhen’E was startled, he thought, “This thief male servant bird’s death is imminent, he still has a lewd heart! I wonder if the little demon will pull his muscle out or peel his skin alive.” Surprisingly Huang Rong only laughed and said, “A crude and stupid man like you knows what’s good and what’s ugly?” ‘Bang!’ the stick in her hand shot out and that soldier rolling around on the ground, but she did not pursue this matter further.

The two soldiers ran to the rear courtyard with their tails between their legs, and did not dare to reappear. Ke Zhen’E stayed still, quietly waiting for what would happen next. He heard Huang Rong pacing back and forth in the main hall; she muttered, “Wang the Iron Spear’s prestige shook the world in his era; in the end he was captured and decapitated. How could he flaunt himself as a hero? As some kind of warrior? Hmm, I am afraid this iron spear is not made of real cast iron.”

When he was little, Ke Zhen’E, along with Zhu Cong, Han Baoju, Nan Xiren, Zhang Asheng and the others, often came to this temple to play. Although they were kids, every one of them had already had exceptional strength; they took turn brandishing that iron spear to play. When he heard what Huang Rong had just said he opened his mouth, “Of course it is made of real iron; how can it be faked?”

“Hmm,” Huang Rong stretched out her hand to pull out the iron spear; she said, “It is about thirty ‘jin’s [catty; 1 jin = about 0.5kg]. I have lost your iron staff and momentarily can not give you any replacement. Tomorrow we’ll bid good-bye; we’ll go our own ways. You don’t have any weapon with which to defend yourself. Why don’t you use this spear as temporary replacement of your iron staff?” Without waiting for Ke Zhen’E to reply she went out and took a large rock from the courtyard; ‘bang, bang’ she broke the spearhead and handed the pole over to him.

Since his parents and brother died, Ke Zhen’E was inseparable with his six brothers and sister. Right now he did not have any relative left. Although he had been together with Huang Rong for only a day, unconsciously he felt that he hated to part with her; listening to her saying, ‘Tomorrow we’ll bid good-bye; we’ll go our own ways’ he suddenly felt something was lost. Absent-mindedly he received the iron spear, thinking that this spear was approximately the same size and weight as his lost staff, so definitely he could use this weapon. He also thought, “She gave me this weapon, so she did not have any evil intention.”

He heard her saying, “This is the ‘tian qi sha dan san’ [powdered medicine made of tian qi (lit. field/farm seven) shark’s gallbladder] made by my father; it is very beneficial to your wound. You hate us father and daughter; whether you want to use it or not, it’s up to you!” She handed the medicine pouch over to him. Ke Zhen’E held out his hand to receive it, and then slowly put it in his pocket. He wanted to say something, but nothing came out of his mouth. He hoped she would say something else, but she only said, “All right, let’s take a rest!”

Ke Zhen’E laid down on his side, with the iron spear by his side; his heart was filled with disquieting thoughts, how could he sleep? He heard the noisy crows on top of the pagoda eventually quiet down until all he could hear was silence everywhere. He did not hear her sleeping, but he heard her tossing and turning; it seemed like she was also restless.

After half a day he heard she was reciting quietly, “Four weaving machines, the weaving of mandarin ducks desires to fly together right away. It’s a pity not yet old but the hair on the head has turned white. When the green spring grass ripples in the deepest of dawn’s cold; standing face to face taking a bath wearing red clothes.”

He heard she repeated the recitation softly, as if she was trying to understand its meaning. Ke Zhen’E did not understand literature, he did not understand what she was reciting, but he could hear the sadness in her voice, as if she was grieving of a heart break; he could not help but feel dazed.

A long time passed. He heard her arrange some meditation mats for her bed; then she lay down and her breathing gradually slowed down, sounded like she was falling asleep. Ke Zhen’E gently stroked the iron spear by his side; all kinds of childhood memories came flooding back into his mind. He saw Zhu Cong with an old book in his hand, reading aloud with his head swaying back and forth. He saw Han Baoju and Quan Jinfa were riding on the idol’s shoulders, pulling its beard; Nan Xiren and himself were pulling one end of the iron spear while Zhang Asheng was pulling the other end; they were playing tug-of-war with each other. At that time Han Xiaoying was only about four, five years old; two lengths of braided hair on her head, giggling and laughing, cheering over them. There were bright red ribbons on her braids, bobbing along as she moved her head. Suddenly everything turned pitch-black. Six sworn brothers and sister, his own brother, and his pair of eyes, everything was successively destroyed under Huang Yaoshi’s and his disciples’ hands. His heart was burned with hatred, which was very difficult to suppress.

Slowly he raised his iron spear, he quietly walked toward Huang Rong. He heard her gentle and even breathing, she was sleeping soundly. He thought, “Once my iron spear goes down, she will die without feeling anything. Hey, if not, the Old Heretic Huang’s martial art is matchless, how can I avenge this deep enmity in this lifetime? His daughter is sleeping right here; the Heaven is granting me a very good opportunity, so that he knows the pain of mourning for his daughter.”

But then another thought came into his mind, “This girl has saved my life, how can I repay kindness with evil? (Sigh!) After killing her, I am going to kill myself right next to her to repay today’s kindness.” Thinking of this, he made up his mind; he thought, “I, Ke Zhen’E, have been an upright man all my life; for decades I have never done anything shameful against the world. Right now I am going to launch a sneak attack toward a sleeping person; it is a cowardly act, but with my death I am going to repay her kindness.”

Lifting his iron spear, he was just about to strike Huang Rong’s head when suddenly he heard someone was laughing in the distant; the sound was ear-piercing, in the dead of the night it caused the hair on his back stood up on its end.

Huang Rong was awakened by the laughter; she leaped up and saw Ke Zhen’E with the iron spear lifted up, right in front of her. She was so shocked; she called out, “Ouyang Feng!”

Hearing her woke up, Ke Zhen’E could not strike his iron spear anymore; he heard people talking and walking toward the temple. Only they were still quite a distance away that he did not hear clearly what they were talking about. A moment later he started to hear some footsteps; there were about thirty, forty people. Ke Zhen’E was very familiar with this temple with its front hall and rear courtyard; with a low voice he said, “The Old Poison and the others must have seen the crow pagoda and come over here. Let us try to hide from them.”

“Yes,” Huang Rong said. She kicked the meditation mats to scatter them around the hall.

Ke Zhen’E led her hand toward the rear courtyard; he tried to push the gate, but it was bolted from the outside. “Those two thief soldiers!” he scolded viciously. He guessed those two soldiers were running away in the dark; they were afraid Huang Rong would find out, so they bolted the door in advance.

By now it was too late to strike the gate with his iron spear, since he heard the main gate was pushed open. He knew there was no hiding place in the main hall; he whispered, “Behind the idol.”

Two people had barely sat behind the idol when about a dozen people entered the main hall. Ke Zhen’E heard a ‘chi’ sound, followed by a burst of sulfur smell; he knew someone was lighting the fire. Then he heard Ouyang Feng said, “Zhao Wangye [Prince Zhao; lit. master king], although we did not get what we want at the Misty Rain Tavern, in the end, we managed to dampen the enemy’s spirit.”

Wanyan Honglie laughed and said, “This entire battle was under Mister’s control.”

Ouyang Feng let out some ‘heh, heh’ laughter, then he said, “Xiao Wangye [Young Prince] arranged an ingenious plan; gathering the soldiers from Jiaxing prefecture, firing out tens of thousands of arrows. We should have been able to round up the whole gang in one swoop; unexpectedly at the right time the thick fog came and gave this group of traitors the opportunity to slip away.”

A young voice said, “With Mr. Ouyang and Qiu Bangzhu [clan leader] go into action, although the group of traitors escaped today, they will be annihilated one by one in the future. Only too bad ‘wan bei’ [junior, younger generation] was one step too late that I could not see Mr. Ouyang greatly unfold his divine power. It was truly a pity.”

Ke Zhen’E recognized it was Yang Kang’s voice; he could not restrain rage from filling his heart. Then he heard Liang Ziweng, Peng Lianhu, Sha Tongtian and the others uttered flattering words; they praised Ouyang Feng to the utmost, saying how he single-handedly fought the Quanzhen Sect, placing the group of Taoists in an extremely difficult situation, Qiu Qianren was nothing compared to him.

Listening to these many masters gathered together like this, Ke Zhen’E did not dare to breathe out loud. Just now he wanted to end his life together with Huang Rong; but somehow, this time he was afraid to be discovered by the enemy and Huang Rong and he would be killed. He heard Wanyan Honglie’s people prepare some bedding and then invite Wanyan Honglie, Ouyang Feng and Yang Kang three people to sleep on them.

Yang Kang heaved a deep sigh and said, “Mr. Ouyang, your nephew’s martial art skill was high, his conduct was natural and elegant. Wan bei admired him very much; I hoped to be good friends with him, unexpectedly he was harmed by the Quanzhen Sect’s mixed-up hairs. Each time ‘wan bei’ remembers that, I am always grieved to the utmost. I swear to kill those evil Taoists from Quanzhen Sect one by one with my own hand to console Brother Ouyang’s soul in heaven. It’s a pity ‘wan bei’s martial art skill is meager; I truly have the desire but lack the power to do it.”

Ouyang Feng was silent for a long time then he slowly said, “My nephew was unfortunate to meet his tragic death. At first I thought he died under Guo Jing’s violent hand; but listening to you recount Qiu Chuji’s words, I have just found out it was the Quanzhen Sect’s group of evil Taoists who did it. Nowadays my White Camel Mountain does not have any heir, let me take you as my disciple.”

“Shifu!” Yang Kang loudly called out, “Disciple pays his respect to you.” His voice was full of happiness, followed by ‘bonk, bonk, bonk’ noise as he crawled into Ouyang Feng’s presence and kowtowed several times.

Ke Zhen’E thought this person was a good and loyal man’s descendant, yet he not only admitted an enemy as his father, but took an evil man as his master as well; he was drowned deeper and deeper. Ke Zhen’E was afraid it would be too difficult for Yang Kang to turn around; he was very angry. He heard Wanyan Honglie say, “In this foreign place we don’t have any gift to offer the master, we will do it properly in the future.”

Ouyang Feng sighed and said, “Pearls and jewels, the White Camel Mountain also has some. Ouyang Feng simply looks at this child’s intelligence; I only wish to have an heir of the martial art I possess.”

“Xiao Wang [lit. little king, referring to himself] spoke incorrectly,” Wanyan Honglie said, “Mister, please forgive me.”

Immediately one by one Liang Ziweng and the others offered their congratulations to these three people. In this clamor suddenly someone was calling out, “Shagu is hungry, I am starving to death; how come nobody is giving me food to eat?”

Ke Zhen’E was greatly surprised to hear Shagu’s cry; he wondered how did this girl hang around with Wanyan Honglie, Ouyang Feng and the others? He heard Yang Kang say with a laugh, “That’s right, quickly get some refreshments for this Miss to eat; don’t let her get ill from starvation.”

A moment later Shagu was heard chewing loudly, she was eating. While still chewing she said, “Good Brother, you said you are going to take me home if I listen to what you say; how come we are not home yet?”

“We’ll get there tomorrow,” Yang Kang replied, “Eat until you are full, then go to bed.”

Yet another moment later Shagu suddenly said, “Good Brother, there is some noise in that pagoda, what is that?” “If not bird, then it must be a mouse,” Yang Kang answered.

“I am scared,” Shagu said.

Yang Kang laughed, “Sha Guniang [dumb miss], what are you afraid of?” he asked. “I am scared of ghosts,” Shagu replied.

Yang Kang laughed, “We have many people here, ghosts won’t dare to come.” “I am scared of that short and fat man’s ghost,” Shagu said.

Forcing a laugh Yang Kang said, “Don’t talk nonsense, what short and fat man?”

“Hmm,” Shagu said, “I know, that short and fat man died inside ‘popo’s [maternal grandmother] grave; popo’s ghost will chase that short and fat man’s ghost away, she won’t let that him stay in the grave. He will come over here to ask retribution from you.”

“You talk too much,” Yang Kang shouted, “I am going to call your grandfather and he’ll come and get you, he’ll take you back to the Peach Blossom Island.”

Shagu did not dare to say anything anymore. Suddenly Sha Tongtian shouted, “Hey, don’t step on my foot! Just sit nicely and don’t move!” It seemed that because of her fear of ghosts Shagu had randomly squeezed herself into the crowd.

As Ke Zhen’E heard this exchange, his doubt arose: the short and fat man Shagu mentioned must be his San Shidi [third martial (younger) brother], Han Baoju. He died on the Peach Blossom Island, obviously was killed by Huang Yaoshi; how could his ghost come looking for Yang Kang for retribution? Although Shagu was dumb, there must be a reason behind what she had said earlier. Too bad there were too many powerful enemies in their presence that he could not go out and ask her clearly. He further thought, “In front of the Misty Rain Tavern Huang Yaoshi said to me, ‘What kind of a man is Huang Yaoshi? How can I lower myself to the same level with you?’ If he did not want to kill me, why did he kill my five brothers and sister? But if it was not Huang Yaoshi, why did Si Di [fourth (younger) brother] said he saw with his own eyes that Huang Yaoshi killed Er Di [second (younger) brother] and Qi Mei [seventh (younger) sister]?”

He was mulling around these thoughts in his mind when suddenly he felt Huang Rong pull his left hand. With her finger she wrote on his palm one character, ‘qiu’ [ask/request], followed by character after character, ‘…you a favor.’

Ke Zhen’E wrote back on her palm, “What is it?” Huang Rong wrote, “Tell my father who killed me.”

Ke Zhen’E was startled, he did not understand her intention; he was about to pull her hand to ask further when he felt a breeze right next to him. Huang Rong had leaped out. He heard her said with a smile, “Uncle Ouyang, how are you?”

Nobody had ever expected that someone was hiding behind the idol. ‘Ca, ca, zheng, zheng’ were heard as the people unsheathed their weapons and surrounded her, while shouting, “Who is it?” “Assassin!” “Who are you?”

Huang Rong smiled and said, “My Father told me to wait for Uncle Ouyang here; what are you making such a fuss for?” “How did your father know I will be here?” Ouyang Feng asked.

Huang Rong replied, “My father knows medicine, divination and astrology, there is nothing he doesn’t know. He can do the Wang Xiantian divine calculation and he’d know everything.” [Translator’s note: I am not sure about this part]

Nine out of ten Ouyang Feng did not believe her, but he knew even if he asked, she would not tell the truth anyway, so he just smiled and did not say anything. Sha Tongtian and the others went outside the temple to take a look and did not find anybody else, so they went back in and stood around Wanyan Honglie.

Huang Rong sat on a meditation mat, smiling and chuckling she said, “Uncle Ouyang, you have given my father a hard time!”

Ouyang Feng smiled without answering. He knew that although Huang Rong was young, she was full of tricks. If he gave her one wrong answer, she would grab the opportunity to ridicule him; and in front of all these people he simply could not lose face. Therefore, he waited for her to explain her purpose in coming here before he would decide on the appropriate countermeasure. He heard her said, “Uncle Ouyang, my father is surrounded by the Taoist priests of Quanzhen Sect at the Xincheng town of Xiaopenglai; if you don’t rescue him, I am afraid it would be difficult for him to escape.”

Ouyang Feng showed a faint smile; “Is that so?” he asked.

Huang Rong anxiously said, “You say it as it is nothing! A real man will take responsibility of his own action; clearly it was you who killed Tan Chuduan from the Quanzhen Sect, but I don’t know how it started, those stinky priests are always pestering my father. On top of that, Zhou Botong stirred up the muddy waters; while my father refused to argue with them. What do we do?”

Inwardly Ouyang Feng was delighted; he said, “Your father is a martial art expert; how can those several mixed-up hairs from Quanzhen Sect defeat him?”

“The Quanzhen Sect’s ox-nosed plus the Old Urchin, my father is not their match,” Huang Rong said, “My father told me to come to you and say that after painstakingly pondering for seven days and seven nights, finally he understood the meaning of some sentences.”

“What sentences?” Ouyang Feng asked.

Huang Rong said, “Si li xing, ang yi na de. Si re que xu, ha hu wen bo ying.”

To Ke Zhen’E, Wanyan Honglie and the others, these mumbling sentences did not mean anything, but Ouyang Feng was surprised; it was the strange sentence from the last part of the Nine Yin Manual. Could it be that Huang Yaoshi really understood its meaning? His heart was thumping fast, but his face did not show any changes; he indifferently said, “Little girl loves to swindle people. Who can understand those mumbling sentences?”

Huang Rong replied, “Father has translated these strange characters; from top to bottom, clearly. I saw it with my own eyes; how can I swindle you?”

Ouyang Feng knew Huang Yaoshi’s ability very well. Originally he thought that if nobody was able to solve these strange characters, then so be it; but if there was anybody who could find the solution, it must be Huang Yaoshi, for nobody else in this world had the same intelligence. Still, with an unenthusiastic voice he said, “Let me congratulate your father, then.”

Huang Rong caught the real meaning behind his words, she knew he was still half believing and half doubting; she continued, “I think I still remember some of what I saw. I don’t mind if you want to listen to it.” Immediately she recited, “Either when the body moves, or feels heavy as if pressed by something, or feels light like it is ready to fly, or feels constricted, or feels extraordinarily cold or hot, or feels delightful or restless, or feels like touching something nasty and the hair stood on its end, or feels happy while drunk; all these things must be channeled through divine passages according to the following method.”

This explanation of the Manual made Ouyang Feng’s heart unbearably itch. Turned out Huang Rong recited the section Reverend Yideng translated from the Nine Yin Manual. All these strange conditions were actually the actual situations anybody who cultivated internal energy would experience; each one of these conditions was enough to intimidate the state of mind that may cause the practitioner to suffer a fire-deviation. If there was a method to channel these conditions through the divine passages; then the method could truly be considered as highly valuable. So what Huang Rong said was indeed from the Manual and not from her own random fabrication. Ouyang Feng’s internal energy was exquisite, naturally he knew whether what he heard was real or fake. His suspicion was gone. “What comes next?” he asked.

Huang Rong said, “I don’t remember the rest, but I vaguely remember something like this: At the time the pores all over the body are empty, right away with careful consideration examine the thirty six matters inside the body; it will be like opening the door to the barn and see various kinds of straw and peas, the heart is pleasantly surprised, and quickly becomes quiet and peaceful.” First she explained the strange conditions from the Manual, and then she described the marvelous method of training; in a way she had divulged the secret method of the Manual. But Ouyang Feng was silent; he thought with her intelligence, it was impossible for her to forget, so she must be deliberately unwilling to tell him; he wondered what her intention really was.

Huang Rong continued, “My father told me to ask Uncle Ouyang: Do you want 5,000 characters, or 3,000 characters?” “Please explain it to me,” Ouyang Feng said.

Huang Rong said, “If you go and help my father, two people join forces to destroy the Quanzhen Masters. In that case I am going to recite all 5,000 characters of this marvelous ‘jiu yin shen gong’ [Nine Yin Divine Energy] for you.”

Ouyang Feng smiled, “And if I don’t go?” he asked.

Huang Rong replied, “Then Father asked you to avenge him. After you kill Zhou Botong and the Quanzhen Six Masters, I will read the 3,000 characters for you.”

Ouyang Feng smiled and said, “Your father and I are just casual acquaintances, how come he suddenly places so much respect toward the Old Poison?”

Huang Rong said, “My father said that: First, the killer of your nephew is a Quanzhen Sect’s disciple, so he supposed you will want to seek revenge …”

Listening to this part Yang Kang could not help but shiver; he was Qiu Chuji’s disciple, so with her words Huang Rong obviously meant him. Shagu was standing right next to him, she asked, “Good Brother, are you cold?” Yang Kang mumbled his reply.

Huang Rong continued, “Second, after translating the Manual, he was challenged into battle by the Quanzhen priests; he did not have time to explain everything to me. Thinking that this matchlessly wonderful book is difficult to find, how can he let it be lost with his demise? Nowadays you are the only one who has similar personality with him. He remembered Uncle Ouyang went to the Peach Blossom Island to seek a marriage alliance. Although your nephew was unfortunate to fall under the Quanzhen Sect’s disciple, my father said you should not thinking about him too much; therefore, he wanted you to train this ‘shen gong’ [divine power/energy] and teach it to me later on.”

Ouyang Feng felt a pang of pain in his heart; but he thought, “What she said was reasonable; if there is no direction from an expert, although this little girl memorized the Manual in its entirety it will still be useless.” But then something else came into his mind, he said, “How do I know you will tell me the real Manual or a fake one?”

Huang Rong replied, “Guo Jing, that muddle-head has written the Manual for you; as I read the crucial points from the translation, you check it against your copy, then you’ll know whether it is real or fake.”

Ouyang Feng said, “You are right. Let me think about it; we’ll leave in the morning to rescue your father.” Huang Rong anxiously said, “Helping people is like fighting fire, how can we wait till tomorrow?”

Ouyang Feng said with a laugh, “Then I will avenge your father; won’t that be the same?” He had made a decision that as the Manual had already been in his hand, later on he could compel Huang Rong to recite to him the crucial points; and then he could think it over to understand the meaning. For now, let Huang Yaoshi and the Quanzhen Sect fight each other. Hopefully both sides would hurt each other; wouldn’t that be great?

Hiding behind the idol Ke Zhen’E was listening to two people conversing about the Nine Yin Manual; he wondered why Huang Rong wrote on his palm ‘Tell my father who killed me,’ seven characters [the original Chinese was ‘gao wo fu he ren sha wo,’ 7 characters]; he did not understand her intention. He heard Huang Rong say, “Then we will leave early in the morning tomorrow, is that all right?”

“Absolutely,” Ouyang Feng said with a smile, “Now you go take a rest!”

Ke Zhen’E heard Huang Rong drag a meditation mat over to sit nearby Shagu. “Shagu,” she said, “Yeye [lit. paternal grandfather] took you to the Peach Blossom Island, how come you are here?”

“I don’t want to follow Yeye, I want to go home,” Shagu said.

“This good brother surnamed Yang; didn’t he come to the island and took you on his boat, and come over here together?” Huang Rong asked.

“That’s right,” Shagu said, “He treats me really good.”

Ke Zhen’E’s heart was stirred, “When did Yang Kang come to the Peach Blossom Island?” He heard Huang Rong asked again, “Where did Yeye go?”

Shagu was startled, “Don’t tell him I am running away,” she said, “Yeye will beat me.” Huang Rong smiled, “I won’t tell him, but whatever I ask you, you must answer me nicely.” “You must not tell Yeye,” Shagu said, “He wants to take me back and teach me to write.”

Huang Rong laughed, “I certainly won’t tell him,” she said, “Did you say Yeye wanted to teach you to write?”

“That’s right,” Shagu said, “That day Yeye took me to his study room and taught me to write; he said my father’s surname was Qu Qu- something, so my surname is also Qu Qu-something. He wrote the Qu Qu-something character and told me to remember. He also told me my father’s name was Qu Qu-something, something Feng. I could not remember the name. Yeye got angry and scolded me that I am very dumb. I AM called Shagu [sha – dumb, gu – paternal aunt, see also my note in Chapter 23]!”

Huang Rong laughed, “Shagu is naturally dumb. Yeye scolded you, Yeye is bad, Shagu is good!” Shagu was very happy to hear that. “And then what happened?” Huang Rong asked.

Shagu said, “I said I want to go home, Yeye was even angrier. Suddenly a deaf and mute servant came, his finger pointing to the east and to the west, his mouth uttered ‘yi yi ah ah’. Yeye said, ‘I don’t want to receive any guest; tell them to go back!’ A moment later that mute servant came back with a piece of paper in his hand. Yeye took a look and then put it down on the table. He told me to go with the mute servant to receive the guest. Ha, ha, that short and fat man was so ugly! I stared at him and he stared back at me.”

Ke Zhen’E remembered that when they visited the Peach Blossom Island to seek audience, it was exactly like Shagu had just said; at first Huang Yaoshi did not want to see the six of them, then Zhu Cong wrote a letter to be delivered, afterwards Shagu came out to receive them. But the Third Brother was no longer alive; he could not help but feel grief in his heart.

He heard Huang Rong ask again, “Did Yeye see them?”

Shagu said, “Yeye told me to accompany the guests to eat, but he went out. I don’t like to see that short and fat man, so I slipped away and went out. I saw Yeye was sitting behind a rock, looking out at the ocean. I also looked at the ocean. I saw a boat in the distant coming toward the island. On the boat there were some Taoist priests.”

Ke Zhen’E thought, “That day we heard the Quanzhen Sect was going to go to the Peach Blossom Island to seek revenge; so we went ahead of them to inform Huang Yaoshi to temporarily keep himself away from them, and wait for the Six Freaks of Jiangnan to explain the whole story to the Quanzhen Sect. But all along we have never seen the Quanzhen Masters on the Island, why did this Shagu said that there were Taoist priests came in by boat?”

He heard Huang Rong asked, “Then what did Yeye do?”

Shagu replied, “Yeye beckoned me to come over. I jumped in fright; turned out he had already seen me slipping out to play. I did not dare to come over, I was afraid he would hit me. He said “I won’t hit you, you come over here”. So I went over. He said he wanted to take a boat ride and go fishing, he told me to wait for the Taoist priests and to let them in as soon as they came ashore; he told me to let them eat together with the short and fat man six people. I said I wanted to go fishing too. Yeye said I could not come; I had to wait for the Taoist priests and let them in, because they did not know the way on the Island.”

“And then what happened?” Huang Rong asked.

Shagu said, “And then Yeye went beyond the big rock and set sail. I know, these Taoist priests are ugly, Yeye did not want to meet them.” Huang Rong praised her, “That’s right, what you said is totally correct. When did Yeye come back?” “Come back?” Shagu said, “He did not come back.”

Ke Zhen’E was shaken; he heard Huang Rong ask, “Are you sure? Then what happened?” He could hear her voice was slightly trembling; apparently she also realized this was a crucial point.

Shagu replied, “Yeye was about to set sail, suddenly a pair of big birds came flying by; they were your birds. Yeye beckoned and whistled toward the birds, this pair of birds came down. There was something tied on the bird’s foot, it looked so amusing. I shouted, ‘Yeye, give it to me, give it to me!’ …” Speaking to this point she actually shouted loudly.

Yang Kang chided her, “Quiet! Everybody is trying to sleep.” “Shagu,” Huang Rong said, “Just continue your story.”

Shagu said, “I will speak quietly.” And she indeed lowered her voice, “Yeye ignored me; he ripped a cloth from his robe and tied it up on the big bird’s foot, then he let them go.”

“Hmm,” Huang Rong talked to herself, “Father was going to avoid the Quanzhen Masters, no wonder he did not have time to fetch the ‘jin wawa’ [see Chapter 29]. But who shot the female eagle with an arrow?” So she asked, “Who shot an arrow to the bird?”

“Arrow? There was no arrow,” Shagu said; and then she went silent like she was lost in thought. “All right,” Huang Rong said, “Why don’t you continue?”

Shagu continued, “Yeye saw his robe was torn, he took it off and told me to go and get another one for him. But when I came back Yeye was gone, the Taoist priests’ boat was also gone, I only saw that torn robe lying on the ground.”

Listening to her to this point Huang Rong no longer asked; she silently mulled it over in her head. Half a day later she said, “Where did they go?”

“I saw them,” Shagu said, “I called Yeye, but he did not reply. I climbed to the top of a big tree and looked, I saw Yeye’s little boat in front, the Taoist priests’ big boat followed behind, slowly they sailed on the ocean and disappeared. I don’t like to see that short and fat man, I stayed on the beach, kicking the gravel and playing all day until dark, and came back with this Yeye and this good brother.”

“So it was this Yeye, and not the one who taught you to write?” Huang Rong asked.

Shagu giggled and said, “This Yeye is good, not only he did not want to teach me to write, he even gave me a piece of cake.” “Uncle Ouyang,” Huang Rong said, “Do you still have the cake? Can you give her some more?”

Ouyang Feng dryly laughed, “I do.”

Ke Zhen’E felt as if his heart was jumping out his throat, “Turned out Ouyang Feng was on the Island that day,” he thought.

“Aiyo!” suddenly he heard Shagu cry out, followed by ‘slap, slap’ two times, some people were fighting, and then someone leaped back and landed again. He heard Huang Rong call out, “You want to kill her to close her mouth?”

Ouyang Feng laughed, “This matter might be hidden from other people, but certainly won’t be hidden from your father. Why would I want to kill this dumb girl? If you want to ask, then just ask her.” But Shagu was moaning and groaning and could not talk anymore. Ke Zhen’E wondered which part of her was hit by Ouyang Feng.

“I don’t have to ask,” Huang Rong said, “I’ve already guessed correctly; I only want Shagu to say it with her own mouth.” Ouyang Feng laughed and said, “This little girl is really smart. How did you guess? Why don’t you tell me?”

Huang Rong said, “When I first saw the situation of the Island, I also thought that Father had killed the Five Freaks of Jiangnan. But then I remembered something, and I knew it must not be him. Just think, how can my father leave these stinky male corpses in my mother’s grave to accompany her? How can he leave the grave without closing the door?”

“Aiyo,” Ouyang Feng slapped his thigh, “We really overlooked that. Kang’er, isn’t that so?”

Hearing this Ke Zhen’E felt his chest was about to burst open; only now did he realize that Huang Rong had early on known that the killers were Ouyang Feng and Yang Kang, two people. The reason she suddenly went out and sacrificed her own life was to reveal the truth and clear up her father from being wrongly accused. She knew perfectly well that when she went out, most likely she would be unfortunate rather than fortunate; that was why she asked Ke Zhen’E to tell her father who killed her. Ke Zhen’E was filled with grief and regret, he said in his heart, “Good Miss, it would be enough if you just told me who the killer is; why do you deliver your life in vain?” But then he thought, “I, the ‘fei tian bian fu’ [Flying Bat, lit. bat flying to the sky], am so hot-tempered. I am blind, yet I placed the blame on father and daughter. Even if she told me clearly, would I believe her? Ke Zhen’E, oh, Ke Zhen’E, you stinky blind man, you deserve to be killed with a thousand blades; you have forced this good Miss’ death.”

In his regret he wanted to lift his hand and fiercely slap his own ear, but he heard Ouyang Feng said, “How did you guess it was me?” Huang Rong said, “Is it difficult? In this present age, those who are able to strike the yellow horse and to break the balance beam are not many. But at first I was thinking of a different person. At the point of his death Nan Xiren had written several characters with his finger on the ground, ‘My killer is ten’; he died before the fifth character [translator’s note: the original Chinese text was ‘sha wo zhe nai shi’] was finished. I thought your name does not start with a ‘ten’ (十 ), so I thought it was the character ‘Qiu’ (裘 ) from Qiu Qianren.”

Ouyang Feng laughed out loud, he said, “This man Nan Xiren was truly a die hard; unexpectedly he survived and saw you.”

Huang Rong said, “I saw his condition before his death, I was sure he was hit by a strange poison; I thought Qiu Qianren practiced poisonous palm skill, that’s why I guessed it was him.”

Ouyang Feng said with a smile, “Qiu Qianren’s martial art is based on palm strength and not poisonous palm. His palms do not have any poison on them. He used boiling poison to train his palms, but it is merely palm strength’s training method. He forced the poison gas to come out, henceforth his palm strength increased. When he died, that Nan Xiren opened his mouth, but could not say anything, his face showed a smiling expression, is that right?”

“That’s right,” Huang Rong said, “What kind of poison is that?”

Ouyang Feng did not answer, he asked again, “His body was twisted, he was rolling around on the ground, he suddenly possessed unusually great strength, is that right?”

“That’s right,” Huang Rong said, “This violent poison, I thought other than the Iron Palm Clan, nobody in the world can possibly have it.”

It was obvious that Huang Rong said that to provoke Ouyang Feng, and he knew it very well, but he still could not restrain from being agitated and angry, “Do you think people call me the Old Poison for nothing?” He stomped his snake staff heavily on the ground and shouted, “The snake on this staff bit him on his tongue, that’s why there was no wound on his body, but he could not speak.”

Hearing this Ke Zhen’E felt warm blood bubbling up straight to his brain, he almost fainted several times. Huang Rong heard movement from behind the idol, she let out some coughs, trying to cover up the noise, and then slowly said, “The Five Freaks of Jiangnan died under your hands, Ke Zhen’E who escaped does not have eyes to see, in the end nobody knew the real killer.”

Listening to her Ke Zhen’E’s heart was stirred, “She is saying that to remind me, telling me not to act rashly so that the two of us will not lose our lives and die without explanation.” He heard Ouyang Feng laugh dryly, “How can that stinky blind man escape my palm? I deliberately let him go.”

“Ah, right,” Huang Rong said, “You killed five people, and let him believe it was my father who killed them. He would go and publicize this matter, then rally the heroes of the world to attack my father.”

Ouyang Feng said with a smile, “It was actually not my idea, but Kang’er’s; isn’t that right?” Yang Kang mumbled his reply. Huang Rong said, “It is truly a divine and marvelous strategy. My utmost admiration!”

Ouyang Feng said, “You changed the topic; what made you think of me?”

Huang Rong replied, “I thought Qiu Qianren and I fought at the southern road between Hunan and Hubei; even though it is possible for him to overtake us and arrive at the Peach Blossom Island ahead of us, it was actually very difficult with us riding the little red horse. I thought again about what Zhu Cong wrote at the back of the letter, he called everybody to stay on their guard. The last character was not finished, he only made three strokes: one horizontal line, one vertical, and another horizontal like a hook. It could be the start of ‘east’ ( 東 ) character, or it could be ‘west’ (西 ) character, couldn’t it? If not ‘Eastern Heretic’ then it must be ‘Western Poison’. I have thought about this on the Peach Blossom Island; but there are some details I do not understand yet.”

Ouyang Feng sighed, “I thought I have done everything flawlessly, who would have thought there are so many trails I left behind. That dirty scholar was so quick, I did not even see him moving his pen to write anything.”

“He was known as the Magic Hand Scholar,” Huang Rong said, “Naturally he would not let you see whatever he was doing. I pondered deeply over the character ‘ten’ (十 ) Nan Xiren wrote; I wonder what could it be? It was because I thought this Xiao Wangye’s [young prince, lit. young master king] martial art skill is so low that definitely he did not have the ability to kill the Five Freaks of Jiangnan in one stroke, therefore, I have never suspected him.”

“Humph,” Yang Kang snorted.

Huang Rong continued, “That day I was all alone on the Peach Blossom Island, tossing and turning between being asleep and awake; I could not find the right conclusion. I was dreaming of many, many people, I dreamt about Mu Jiejie [elder sister Mu], I dreamt she was in Beijing, during the joust to find a spouse. I suddenly was awakened from the dream, sprang up, and only then did I know the killer was actually this Xiao Wangye!”

Hearing Huang Rong saying these words with sharp voice Yang Kang was drenched in cold sweats; forcing a laugh he said, “Did Mu Nianci tell you in a dream?”

“That’s right,” Huang Rong said, “If not for this dream, how could I guess it was you? Where is that little emerald shoe of yours?” Yang Kang was startled, with a stern voice he asked, “How did you know? Did Mu Nianci also tell you in a dream?”

With a cold smile Huang Rong said, “Do you think I need it? After you two killed Zhu Cong, you stuffed the treasures inside my mother’s grave in his pocket; so that when other people see it, they would think he robbed the treasures and was found out by my father; thus he lost his life. Framing someone like this is actually a clever idea; only you forgot one thing: Zhu Cong was known as the Magic Hand Scholar.”

Ouyang Feng’s curiosity arose, “What about the Magic Hand Scholar?” he asked.

“Humph,” Huang Rong sneered, “He only knows putting treasures on other, he actually did not know that other took a treasure from his body.”

Ouyang Feng did not understand, “What treasure?” he asked.

Huang Rong said, “Although Zhu Cong’s martial art skill was inferior to you, at the point of his death again he displayed his magic hand skill; he took something from this Xiao Wangye and grasped it in his hand, of course you did not know. If not because of this thing, not in a million years would I expect this Xiao Wangye to pay a visit on the Peach Blossom Island.”

Ouyang Feng said with a smile, “This matter becomes more and more interesting; this Magic Hand Scholar was actually highly skilled, his life had already gone yet he was still able to leave you a clue. The thing he took must be that little emerald shoe you were talking about.”

“That’s right,” Huang Rong said, “I have seen all the treasures inside Mother’s grave since I was little; and I have never seen this little emerald shoe before. Even in his death Zhu Cong still grasped this shoe tightly; there must be a reason behind it. The front of this shoe has a ‘bi’ [contest, compete] character on it, while on the opposite side there was a ‘zhao’ [to recruit] character. I painstakingly thought about this, but all along could not penetrate the mystery. That night I had a dream, I saw Mu Jiejie on a street corner in Beijing showing off her martial art skill. There was an embroidered banner stood on the side, with the word ‘bi wu zhao qin’ [Joust to find a spouse – lit. martial art contest to recruit a relative/person with intimate relation] on it. Suddenly it dawned on me and everything clicked together.”

Ouyang Feng laughed and said, “Turned out these two characters on the shoe have this romantic history! Ha, ha, ha, ha!” He laughed happily, but actually Ke Zhen’E was listening in indignation, since he did not understand what it was that dawned on Huang Rong’s mind.

Huang Rong knew Ke Zhen’E did not understand, so with the pretense of talking to Ouyang Feng, she explained clearly, “That day in Beijing Mu Jiejie was jousting for a spouse, Xiao Wangye happened to display his full capability. Lucky for me I was there in the crowd to witness this lively occasion. After contesting for a while, Xiao Wangye snatched Mu Jiejie’s embroidered shoe. He won the martial art contest, so he should marry her, but actually there were many complicated affairs involved.”

This joust to find a spouse did indeed have too many repercussions later on. At that time Liang Ziweng, Sha Tongtian and the others were also present to be the witnesses: Wanyan Honglie mourned his wife, Yang Kang met his biological father, and all kinds of circumstances surrounding it. Listening to this point everybody’s heart was filled with sadness and regret.

Huang Rong said, “After I remembered this, I was able to figure out what had happened. Xiao Wangye and Mu Jiejie privately agreed to spend their lives together in the future; naturally they decided the engraved jade shoes would make the best token of engagement. This pair of jade shoes complement each other; one has the ‘bi’ and ‘zhao’ two characters, the other must have the ‘wu’ [martial art] and ‘qin’ [relative/person with intimate relation] on it. Xiao Wangye, did I guess correctly?” Yang Kang did not answer.

Huang Rong continued, “Once I figured this thing out, the rest was easy. Han Baoju was killed by the ‘jiu yin bai gu zhua’ [Nine Yin White Bone Claw]. In this world only ‘hei feng shuang sha’ [the Twin Killers of the Dark Wind] practiced this martial art; but these two had already died. Others would certainly think that the Twin Killers of the Dark Wind’s shifu must be also proficient in this skill. Who would have thought that my father had never practiced this Nine Yin White Bone Claw or any skill similar to this martial art; yet the Copper Corpse Mei Chaofeng had received a skilled disciple when she was still alive. Therefore, the tiny ‘ten’ character Nan Xiren wrote must be the start of ‘yang’ (杨 ) character. Unexpectedly that muddle-head kid Guo Jing insisted it was the ‘huang’ (黄 ) character.” Speaking to this point Huang Rong could not help feeling gloomy.

Ouyang Feng let out a long laugh and said, “No wonder that Guo Jing kid disregarded his own life attacking your father at the Misty Rain Tavern.”

Huang Rong sighed, “Your trick was really marvelous; in his anger that muddle-head kid could not distinguish right from wrong. At first I thought you captured one of the deaf and mute servants and forced him to show you the way; only today did I realize it was Shagu who let you in. Xiao Wangye must have promised to take her back to the Ox Village; Shagu was so happy and did whatever you told her to do. Hmm, you two must have set up an ambush inside my mother’s grave; then you told Shagu to invite the Six Freaks of Jiangnan in my father’s name, telling them to come into the grave. With Uncle Ouyang blocking the grave entrance, how could the Six Freaks of Jiangnan escape your cruel hands? It was truly capturing the turtle inside an earthen jar.”

Listening to her Ke Zhen’E got the impression that she was there to witness everything; the feeling when that day they fought powerful enemy in the tomb came back to his mind. He heard Huang Rong continue, “Uncle Ouyang had seen my father’s long robe on the shore; he took and wore it. The light inside the grave room was dim, in a flash several of the Six Freaks were injured or killed, how could the rest of them recognize the enemy in that desperate situation? So Nan Xiren told Ke Zhen’E that the killer was my father. Zhu Cong and Quan Jinfa were killed by Uncle Ouyang; Han Baoju was killed by Xiao Wangye while Han Xiaoying cut her own throat. Ke and Nan two people managed to escape from the grave, and fought furiously in the study room. You deliberately let Ke Zhen’E escape. By the time Nan Xiren recognized the killer to be the one surnamed Yang, he had already been bitten by the snake.”

Ouyang Feng sighed, “This little girl has a god-like analytical ability. All these things happened by chance; it was the Six Freaks’ fate that they should die this way. When I went to the Peach Blossom Island with Kang’er, we did not know the Six Freaks of Jiangnan would be there.”

“That’s true,” Huang Rong said, “Although the Six Freaks of Jiangnan enjoyed sound reputation in the Jianghu, it was because of their ‘xia yi’ [chivalry], two characters. If we are talking about martial art skill, Uncle Ouyang would not even look at them. So if you two went through great length executing your scheme, you must have another big plan in your mind.”

Ouyang Feng smiled and said, “Little girl is very smart; you must have guessed correctly.”

Huang Rong said, “Indeed I have; but I ask Uncle Ouyang’s forgiveness if it is incorrect. I believe your initial intention was to see the Quanzhen Masters and my father fight each other and injure each other, and then just like Bian Zhuang stabbing the tiger you would destroy both Quanzhen Sect and the Peach Blossom Island in one fell swoop. Who would have thought that you were one step too late; my father and the Taoist priests of Quanzhen Sect have already left the Island. Xiao Wangye interrogated Shagu, and found out that the Six Freaks of Jiangnan were there. Mmm, thereupon you two fully displaying your capabilities by killing the Five Freaks, and arranged it so that all blames will fall to my father. You killed all the deaf and mute servants on the Island, and burned their bodies down to leave no trace; hence there would be no evidence at all. Later on when this matter is known, how can Hong Qigong, Emperor Duan and the others not make things difficult for my father? Xiao Wangye was afraid my father would return early and erase all sorts of traces you left behind on the Peach Blossom Island; therefore, you intentionally let Ke Zhen’E escape. This man is blind, but his tongue is not rotten yet. It’s true that he cannot see, but he can say all kinds of nonsense.”

Listening to this Ke Zhen’E could not help but feeling grieved and angry, but also ashamed. He heard Ouyang Feng sigh and say, “I really envy the Old Heretic Huang to have such a good daughter. Everything that happened was really very complicated, but you guessed everything correctly, as if you have seen everything with your own eyes. Little baby doll, you are really smart.”