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Blade-dance of the Two Lovers Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Sunlight was gradually becoming more vivid, the trees’ shade have moved, fragrance of flowers was more intense. In her sleep Xiao Zhonghui heard from a distance a sound of a group of escorts calling "wei wu xin yi, military might - good faith". She yawned, but did not open her eyes. The sound was gradually approaching. It was precisely the Weixin Escort Agency. Tiebian Zhen Bafang Zhou Weixin led a large number of his men, meandering and rambling nearing the fragrant jujube forest, through which they had to pass in order to reach the high road leading straight from Hongdong County to the capital. The sun was high in the sky, it was really a good day, on a day like this nothing can go wrong, but in his heart Zhou Weixin was afraid. His heart suddenly jumped, when he heard the sound of the old blind man's iron stick hitting the ground behind the escort’s team. Having gotten up early, the old blind man followed the escorts team; at first no one paid attention, but although the horses and cart were moving fast, strange to say, the blind man was all along following them. Zhou Weixin found it a little weird, he winked to escort Zhang and escort Zhan. Whipping animals they made them gallop and after a while the old blind man was left far behind. Zhou Weixin was relieved. But the escort’s cart was heavy, to travel so fast was impossible and after a short time they slowed down. A moment later a “tuk, tuk, tuk” faint sound was heard from behind, the old blind man actually caught up with them. At such a display of martial arts, all escort team members without exception looking at each other turned pale; the old blind man who possessed such level of qinggong, was really extremely difficult to deal with.

Escort’s team slowed down, but the blind man did not catch up with them, his iron stick was hitting the ground, “tuk, tuk, tuk”, but he always kept the distance of 10 zhang [1].

Seeing that there is a dark mass of woods in front, Zhou Weixin whispered: "Brother Zhang, everybody has to be on their guard, this old blind man can really be a bit demonic, Jianghu has a saying: “Always act as if you were facing the enemy, your mind should be alert as if you were passing through a foot-bridge." Escort Zhang fend off the Four Heroes of the Grand Mountain the previous day and was elated by his heroic deed, now listening to Zhou Weixin he said in his heart: "Even if his lightness skill is not bad, what is to be feared from an old blind man? I know you, you see a mouse and think it’s a tiger." Stooping, he picked up a pebble from the ground, he used the "Flying locusts" stance, lowering elbow he raised his wrist and launched the pebble in direction of the old blind man. Only “chi, chi” sound was heard as the pebbles flew extremely fast in direction of the blind man. He did not even raise his head, only slightly lifted his iron stick, a sound of hitting was heard and the pebbels were presently quickly coming back. Escort Zhang exclaimed: "ah yo!" as the small stone hit him in the forehead and a blood flew. Escorts team was at once in chaos.

[1] Zhang= 3,3 meters. 

Escort Zhang cried: "Blind thief, either you or I die!" Giving free rein to the horse he went forward, raising a sabre to cut down towards the blind person’s shoulder. The blind man raised his stick, Escort Zhang holding a sword in his hands fell to the ground and shook from ache in his arm. He felt faint pain between the thumb and forefinger. He cried: "If there is any strong man, let’s fight this blind man together!"

Although everyone saw the blind man’s superior martial arts, yet he was after all only a single person, blind and unable to fight off many heroes, so swords and spears were taken off simultaneously; 78 escorts immediately surrounded the old man. The blind man didn’t show the slightest concern, waving his iron stick he was striking in the east and stabbing in the west, and one after another the escorts were knocked down on the ground. Zhou Weixin looked from a distance and saw the old blind man fought steadily, he was calm and composed, not at all worried about the great number of his opponents.

Suddenly his eyelids made a quick move and Zhou Weixin saw spirit shining in his flickering eyes; actually he was not at all blind. He then turned around and kicked escort Zhan, who made a somersault. Zhou Weixin was greatly astonished, he knew that this "blind" man was by no means comparable to Xiaoyaozi and his Four Heroes of the Grand Mountain, but it was really a master.

Thinking of their responsibilities he shouted: "Brother Zhang, catch this old blind man, but do not kill him. I will go in advance, we will meet in Hongdong County." In his mind he added: "A saying in Jianghu went: When one meets any danger on the road he should escape from that place, one who is not a gifted scholar can’t recite poetry." Kicking his horse, he rushed towards the woods.

Just as he was galloping into the woods, he saw a sword’s flash behind a big tree’s trunk. He was an experienced pugilist and he was inwardly complaining of his bitter lot: "So the "blind" man was not a lonely robber, his assistants are lying here in ambush." Immediately he started desperately whipping his horse to make it speed up, but after he rode 45 zhang, a figure emerged from behind the tree.

When Zhou Weixin saw the man armed with sabre, looking fierce, he didn’t waste the time for conversation, but immediately made a quick move with a hand and an arrow flew out in direction of that person, while Zhou was riding speedily forward. The man brandished a sabre and deflected the arrow, cursing: "Who released this lunatic?”

Another person, following after him, shouted: "You yourself are a lunatic, I am not!" "Bang, bang, bang" - the catapult sounded as a series of 89 beads flew out in rapid succession, some of them hit the horse’s buttocks; suffering great pain it kicked with its rear legs wildly, and Zhou Weixin fell of the horse. Holding his whip, he rolled on the ground and quickly jumped up, when a pellet hit his wrist.

He let go of his iron whip and he himself again fell on the ground.

Both people rushed simultaneously, one from right side, one from the left, and two swords touched his neck at the same moment. One person asked: "Who are you?" Another person asked: "Why are you behaving like a madman?" The first one also demanded: "Have you seen a child?" while the other inquired: "Have you seen a young girl passing by?". The first one asked: "Was that young girl carrying a baby?" In a moment each of them asked seven or eight questions, Zhou Weixin was about to open his mouth ten times, but was unable to answer all these queries. This was Lin Yulong and Ren Feiyan couple.

Lin Yulong shouted at his wife: "Shut up, let me ask him." Ren Feiyan said: "Why must I shut up? You shut up, I will ask questions!" Both people were quarreling again. Zhou Weixin was lying with two swords pressing his neck, fearing this hot-tempered couple; if more pressure was added to the swords, his head would inevitably be separated from his body. Jainghu have a saying: "You go to your Southern Pass, and I walk my log bridge."[1] Once again he thought: "There is a saying in Jainghu: “A single person should not look for trouble, a stretched hand won’t hit a smiling man.”" Immediately he smiled and said: "You two don’t have to be impatient, release me first, then calmly and slowly ask your questions." Lin Yulong shouted: "You want us to let you go?"

Ren Feiyan saw his right hand moving backwards and touching the bundle wrapped in cloth carried on his back; it seemd to conceal a very valuable things. She shouted: "What is it?" Ever since the Governor handed to him that precious sabres, Zhou Weixin has not forgotten for a second the words "Twin Sabres", because his mind was occupied by nothing else even in his dream he could not stop talking about it; now steel swords were pressed to his neck and the situation was critical. Ren Feiyan asked again more pressingly, there was no time for pondering. Not able to stop himself he blurted out without thinking: "Twin Sabres!"

Lin and Ren were astonished on hearing these, both moved their left hands simultaneously and at the same time caught the bundle on his back. Just when he finished speaking, Zhou Weixin already endlessly regretted it; presently he was desperately busying his mind to find a solution and his thoughts were revolving around one idea: "A saying in Jianghu went: “When one man is doing his utmost, ten thousand men are not his match.” Not to mention they are only two people."

Unable to deal with chilling cold of the sharp blade at his neck, he threw himself forward and was about to go away. But the couple moved at the same time, pulling the bundle at his back with great force. However, the bundle was tightly fastened. Actually Zhou Weixin used thin iron rope to tie this pair of precious sabres carried on his back; although the couple used their force simultaneously, still the iron rope remained untouched. The three were tangled together.

Zhou Weixin moved his hand to his back trying to strike the opponents, his fist hit Lin Yulong in the face. Ren Feiyan turned her sword’s handle and hitting hard with it the back of Zhou Weixin’s neck, asked: "Brother Long, does it hurt?" Lin Yulong angrily answered: "What’s the use of asking? Of course it hurts." Ren Feiyan furiously replied: "I kindly ask you, what’s wrong with it?" While talking, they both were trying to snatch the bundle.

When they were struggling like this, in the grass thicket a piercing voice cried: "Do you want the child?" Lin and Ren looked up and saw that it was precisely Xiao Zhonghui holding their son. They were delighted, immediately both of them at the same moment held out a hand to take the baby. Xiao Zhonghui handed the child with her right hand, in her left hand she was holding a long sword, with which she cut open the bundle at the back of Zhou Weixin. Then with her right hand she searched it and pulled out a sabre; it was shining with a blue light and producing a cold air while it was waved, it really was a rare sword, with its blade the iron rope could be cut. 

[1] Everybody has his own problems

Xiao Zhonghui seized the bundle, turned around and bestrode Zhou Weixin’s mount; this technique was bold, fast and required much agility. She held horse’s reins and shouted: "Hurry!" but the horse’s four legs stood firmly as if nailed to the ground, unexpectedly the animal was completely motionless. Xiao Zhonghui kicked the horse’s belly, but it bent its two knees. She shouted: "Not good!" and was about to jump down from the horseback, but it was too late, her acupuncture points had already been blocked, and she was not able to move.

A man appeared below horse’s belly, it was that old blind man. Nobody knew when he got rid of escorts’ team, came quietly and hid himself under the horse’s belly. He held out a hand and took the Twin Sabres from Xiao Zhonghui’s hands. Ren Feiyan placed the child on the ground and stroke with her sword, Lin Yulong followed attacking from the flank. Blind man took the Twin Sabres from their sheath to ward off, “Ding, Dong” was heard as the swords held by Lin and Ren broke. They both stared blankly, at the same moment they felt pain and numbness in their acupuncture points located at waist and they were unable to move a single step.

Zhou Weixin, with a force of mad tiger, shouted: "Blind thief, either you or I die!" He took his iron whip and performed a stance from "Huyan's 18 whips" called "Total Annihilation"; the horizontal smash was directed towards the blind man. He didn’t try to dodge, lifted the longer one of the Twin Sabres, thrust forward, but strange to say, he neither thrust in direction of iron whip nor stabbed Zhou Weixin’s chest. Instead, he pierced the sabre’s sheath lying inside the bundle, then joined it with the sabre. He used the sheath as an iron whip, and performed exactly the same move, "Total Annihilation". Zhou Weixin’s iron whip, that weighted 16 jins[1], was at once stopped in mid-air and could not move even one thousandth of fen[2]; whether he should be called "Iron Whip that Quells Eight Directions" left a great room for discussion.

While the weapons were locked in a stalemate, a shout was heard; the iron whip was shaken by the blind man’s internal strength, Zhou had to release the grip and it flew out of his hand. As a result of this "Iron Whip Fly In Eight Directions" stance, Zhou Weixin’s web between the thumb and forefinger was torn, his palm was covered with blood. Blind man gave him a supercilious look and sneered: "Haven’t you learned the last stance of “Huyan's 18 whips”?"

Zhou Weixin was really surprised as this was not a trivial matter. Although "Huyan's 18 whips" was known as a technique with 18 whip stances, only 17 stances were handed down from ancient times; his master had said that the last stance is called "Simultaneously Breaking 10 Spears". During the Northern Song Dynasty, when general Huyan Zan was attacked from all sides by the enemies, he used a mace to break 10 pikes. Every move of this whole whip technique relied on internal force alone, at present age only his martial uncle possessed this remarkable skill. Zhou Weixin had never seen his martial uncle, he only knew that he was imperial bodyguard, the leader of "Seventh Great Division", always residing in imperial palace and never going out, thus Zhou Weixin never had the opportunity to pay his respects. Then, struck by this idea, he trembling asked: "Your... your surname is Zhuo?" The blind man said: "Correct." Zhou Weixin was pleasantly surprised, he prostrated himself on the ground in salute and said: "Disciple Zhou Weixin kowtow before martial uncle Zhuo".

The old blind man smiled faintly and observed: "It’s good that you know who Zhuo Tianxiong is." Zhou Weixin replied: "When Master was alive, he frequently mentioned Uncle’s divine power. Disciple did not recognize Uncle, that’s why just a moment ago he offended Uncle. A saying in Jianghu goes: “Those destined by fate will come a thousand miles to meet, those who are not destined won’t meet even if they live opposite each other.” I am not aware when Uncle arrived from Beijing?" Zhuo Tianxiong smiled and said: "The Emperor sent me to join you."

Zhou Weixin was both terrified and happy when he said: "If not for Uncle’s help, this Twin Sabres, I am afraid, would have fallen into the hands of bandits." Zhuo Tianxiong replied: "The Emperor’s sharp eyes can see through thousands of miles. He had anticipated, that something might go wrong while this pair of sabres was transported to Beijing. When you left Xian, I followed closely the escort’s team. When you were falling asleep at night, what were your mouth blurting out, ah?"

Zhou Weixin’s face went red, usually so talkative, he was speechless now. He thought: "Martial uncle followed us all the way, even at night he listened to me talking in my dream, yet I was perfectly unconscious of his presence. If it was not my martial uncle but a robber planning to steal the sabres, wouldn’t I had already lost this insignificant life of mine? There is a saying in Jianghu: “A man cannot bother about ten thousand things, it’s fate that arranges everything during his lifetime.”"

Zhuo Tianxiong said: "Your fellows have little courage, at this moment they are hiding I do not know where. Call them and let's hasten on with our journey." Zhou Weixin assented. Zhuo Tianxiong lift the pair of precious sabres and shook of the dust, when he felt the cold air it was producing while being moved, sign of genuine force, he could not restrain himself from exclaiming: "Good sabre!"

Zhou Weixin was about to go out from the forest, when he heard someone calling on his left side: "Hey, Zhuo, unlock my acupuncture points and we will have a fight, a?" Another, feminine voice, added: "You take people off guard, block acupuncture, what kind of hero are you?" Zhuo Tianxiong turned back, but he saw only Lin Yulong and Ren Feiyan each holding half of a broken sword, striking a posture as if they were longing to chop, but suffered pain in their whole body’s and were unable to move a single step.

Zhuo Tianxiong extended his finger and flicked the short sabre, clang of metals sounded, it was like the dragon’s hum, long and uninterrupted. Then he stated: "No matter how many bandits there are, if one comes, you seize one, if two comes, you seize two." Turning to Xiao Zhonghui he added: "Miss, you also will follow me to Beijing to see the capital and it’s glamour." Xiao Zhonghui pressingly exclaimed: "Quickly let me go, or else you will regret it endlessly!" Zhuo Tianxiong laughed and said: "Since you speak like this, I even more cannot release you. Moreover, I want to see how you will make me regret it endlessly."

Xiao Zhonghui secretly circulated her inner force, trying to open her leg acupuncture points, but her inner force turned around at her waist; the more she was anxious, the more she felt pain and numbness in her whole body. After repeated efforts she achieved nothing, her pretty face got very red and her eyes were filled with tears, but they were unable to drop.

A shout was heard outside the forest, someone was humming loudly: "The emperor values heroes, book can teach you (how to be). Everything else is low-grade, only study is above all" [3]The man entered the forest. Xiao Zhonghui saw it was precisely the young scholar seen last night at the inn, called Yuan Guannan. To be seen in such an embarrassing situation by so many people was difficult to bear; her heart was so heavy that the tears, like pearls, rolled down her cheeks.

[1] jin= 0,5 kg

[2] fen= 0,33 cm

[3] “Prodigy Ode” by Wang Zhu (汪洙) (active ca. 990 AD, a poet and a court calligrapher)

Zhuo Tianxiong pressing Twin Sabres in his hand, said with severe voice: "Mister Yuan, this pair of sabres here, if you have the ability, come and seize them. You put on airs, enough of your pretence, you can deceive others, but not Zhuo Tianxiong." While talking he dashed the sabres against each other, the sound shook tops of the trees. Yuan Guannan lifting a writing brush with his right hand, his left hand holding a small box with ink, said: "Suddenly a poetic inspiration came to me, I want to write a poem about the trees, You, Sir, shout and unavoidably hurt people’s pure feelings." While talking he looked around, searching for a place to compose a poem.

Zhuo Tianxiong knew he was practicing martial arts as soon as he looked at his body; seeing him sit and wait, Zhuo did not dare to underestimate the enemy. He immediately put Twin Sabres into their sheath and handed it over to Zhou Weixin. Preparing his iron stick he shouted: "If you want to write a poem, then write it on my gown!" While talking he was waving his iron stick and stroke towards the back of Yuan Guannan’s head. Xiao Zhonghui impulsively cried: "Do not fight!" She saw that Yuan Guannan was without the strength to truss a chicken [1] and genteel looking, wouldn’t this stick smash his head?

Yuan Guannan inclined his head and cried: "ah yo!" When iron stick, making its way downwards, passed by him, he said: "Miss tells you not to fight, why are you disobedient?" Zhuo Tianxiong circled the iron stick and made a horizontal sweep at the waist level. Yuan Guannan threw himself on the ground in front of him, iron stick swept pass the top of his head. Zhuo Tianxiong shouted: "Well done!" He sent his left hand’s palm to chop. Yuan Guannan, lying on the ground, dipped his writing brush in the ink stone, and directed it towards the point on Zhuo’s wrist.

After they had both exchanged several strokes, Xiao Zhonghui was secretly amazed: "This scholar actually is a martial arts pugilist, I was mistaken about him." She saw his body moving smoothly, dodging to the east and fleeing to the west, Zhuo Tianxiong’s iron stick was unable to hit him. Xiao Zhonghui secretly prayed: "Heavens bless this scholar to triumph over the opponent, permit him to rescue me."

Lin Yulong said: "Master Scholar [2], I didn’t know that your martial arts was that strong, quickly kill this blind man and unblock our acupuncture points." Ren Feiyan observed: "Is it not a wishful thinking? I see this young scholar is not necessarily the old blind man’s match." Lin Yulong shouted: "Stinking old woman, stop saying inauspicious words, understand?" Ren Feiyan remarked: "Hey, I observe their fight, do you see it?" Actually Zhuo and Yuan were in front of her, while Lin Yulong was standing with his back turned towards them. Lin Yulong said: "Why do I have to look at it to see? I listen to the blind man’s iron stick flying in confusion, according to the sound of wind he is creating, he is not in control of things." Ren Feiyan snorted and said: "Not in control of things, not in control of things. Humph!

He could touch a spot on your body and make you unable to move." Lin Yulong retorted: "What about you? You are unable to turn around to look at me!" The more they quarrelled the fiercer they became, fortunately they were unable to move, otherwise punching and kicking would began. However Ren Feiyan was so angry, that she spit saliva in direction of her husband. They both spit at each other until they both had a saliva across their whole face.

Xiao Zhonghui, seeing how this couple quarrelled and made noise incessantly even in such a dangerous situation, found it funny, but when she cast an eye at Yuan and Zhuo, her tender heart was frightened to see Yuan Guannan repeatedly retreating; it seemed he was not Zhuo Tianxiong’s match. She thought: "I hope he is only pretending, deliberately fooling the old blind man and in reality he is not so weak!" However Zhuo Tianxiong's martial arts was much better than Yuan Guannan’s. Initially, Zhuo Tianxiong saw him with a brush and ink stone as weapons, he thought Yuan was so sure of himself because his skill was amazing, so he was cautious and prudent, not daring to make a powerful attack, waiting to test his opponents abilities. Seeing that Yuan’s moves, although fast, were after all revealing lack of expertise, and his brush stances were just ordinary, Zhuo Tianxiong used immediately his iron stick to perform with great proficiency " Huyan's 18 whips".

Yuan Guannan did not expect to find such a formidable opponent; having no weapon in his hands, he was immediately in straitened circumstances. Repeatedly finding himself in great danger, he could not help but to cry secretly: "I have made a great mistake in belittling this fake blind man, who would have thought that he was actually expert pugilist?" Right away to avoid being smashed by the iron stick, he hurriedly withdrew his shoulder and dodged. Zhuo Tianxiong cried: "Lie down!" Iron stick hit Yuan Guannan’s left leg. Xiao Zhonghui’s heart jumped and she exclaimed: "Ah yo!" Yuan Guannan made an effort to support himself, he had to withdraw three steps but did not fall.

Being aware, that his situation was extremely dangerous, with his leg wounded, he wanted to retreat and leave, but was unable to do so. In desperation he exclaimed: "Well! This young person was kind to his elder, he did not want to use this “Rotten bone penetrates the heart”. Since you are rude, I am forced to ask you to taste the savor of it." While talking he took a brush dipped in ink and raised it to smear Zhuo Tianxiong’s face. When Zhuo Tianxiong heard the words "Rotten bone penetrates the heart", surprised, he exclaimed: "Stop! Who is nun Five Poison Sage to you?"

In fact, nun Five Poison Sage, residing in Guizhou province, where she had Anxiang stronghold, was famous demoness, people in martial arts society were afraid of her name, she was expert in using poisons. "Rotten bone penetrates the heart" was the most famous of her poisons; it was said that if the skin was slightly moistened with it, 12 hours later the flesh would rot and the bone would appear, 24 hour later poisoned blood would attack the heart, and there was no medicine under heaven that could cure it. Yuan Guannan had heard people talk about it a few years ago, but at that time he had taken no notice. Now, pressed by Zhuo Tianxiong, he spoke thoughtlessly, what came to his mind. Immediately his complexion changed and he felt secretly satisfied when he said: "Nun Five Poison Sage is my aunt, why do you ask about her?" Zhuo Tianxiong, sceptical, replied: "That being the case, I do not want to make life difficult for you, quickly go away." Yuan Guannan sneered: "You hit me with a stick, can I leave it like this?"

[1] physically very weak

[2] the term used here is xiucai- a person who has passed the county level imperial exam

While talking he took two steps. Zhuo Tianxiong looked at the ink stone in his left hand, as if he was seeing snakes and scorpions, and thought: "Ink brushes and ink stones cannot be used as weapons, there is something odd in our fighting in this way." Seeing him coming forward, he could not restrain himself from retreating a few steps. In fact, Yuan Guannan, relying on his good martial arts, frequently gained victory without a fight, holding writing brush and ink stone, it was only his intellect which he was using at leisure. That day he met a person as difficult to handle as Zhuo Tianxiong, he was inwardly complaining and scolding himself.

Yuan Guannan again approached a few steps, saying: "My aunt is not a martial arts expert, she only prepares some poisons, why you are scared so much?" Seeing that Zhuo Tianxiong hesitatingly took another step back, he suddenly turned around and moved to the left; deceiving his adversary he suddenly arrived near Zhou Weixin and directed his writing brush towards his eyes to smear them. Zhou Weixin, greatly astonished, raised his arm to screen himself and Yuan Guannan’s elbow collided with Zhou’s arm. Yuan was holding the ink stone in his right hand and stretching his left hand. In a flash he grabbed Twin Sabres. Zhuo Tianxiong was shocked, thinking: “The Emperor ordered me to escort the sabres to Beijing, to allow this boy to take them away, wouldn’t it be a great offence?” Even though offending nun Five Poison Sage also was disastrous, he immediately rushed and jumped, his right hand hit Yuan Guannan’s shoulder, the fingers of his left hand turned into a claw snatched the Twin Sabres.

Yuan Guannan, after having defended himself for a long time, knew that if he was obstinate to fight and take the sabres away forcibly, he would certainly be defeated, so he lifted the writing brush, directed it at Zhuo’s left hand, and then he burst into loud laughter. Zhuo Tianxiong suddenly felt a cool sensation on his arm and surprised noticed thick black marks on it. He had previously heard people say, that if nun Five Poison Sage harmed somebody in that way, they died the tragic death. When this thought flashed through his mind, his whole body trembled. Although his five fingers already touched the sheath of the Twin Sabres, he didn’t take it; every second more and more panicked, finally he gave a loud cry and dashed out of the forest. Zhou Weixin, seeing his martial uncle fleeing like this, was unwilling to stay behind and rushed straight ahead, following Zhuo Tianxiong.

Yuan Guannan shouted: "Shame!" Afraid that Zhuo Tianxiong might perceive the truth, and might come back, he did not dare to stay another moment in the forest, so he picked up Twin Sabres and turned around to go away. Lin Yulong shouted: "Hey, young scholar, why don’t you unblock our acupoints?" Yuan Guannan replied: "After six hours they will open themselves." Xiao Zhonghui, extremely anxious, exclaimed: "After waiting six hours, one would be dead." Yuan Guannan laughed: "Do not be impatient, you won’t die!" Xiao Zhonghui, annoyed, answered: "Very well, bad scholar! Next time the situation will be reversed and you will be in my power."

Yuan Guannan recalled that when Zhuo Tianxiong’s stick was about to hit him, the girl spoke to prevent it and this thought moved his conscience, but these three people apparently also came here because of Twin Sabres; if he unlocked their acupuncture points, they would cause problems. He muttered to himself irresolutely, then picked up two pebbles from the ground, waved his right hand and the pebbles flew out. They hit Lin’s and Ren’s acupuncture points, and although he was separated from them by several zhangs, both pebbles stroke home with perfect accuracy.

Lin’s and Ren’s hearts were filled with rage, once their acupuncture points were opened, each of them raised the remaining half of his sword and immediately "ping, ping, pang, pang" was heard as the fight began. Yuan Guannan threw a pebble at Xiao Zhonghui’s waist, at "Jing Men[1]" acupoint. Xiao Zhonghui uttered "Ah" and fell down from the horse. She was lying on the ground, with her eyes closed, not moving. Yuan Guannan was surprised; he said to himself; "Since the pebble hit the correct acupuncture point, how can she possibly be injured?" He hurriedly approached her, bend over to look at her, only to see her complexion was strange; it seemed she was not breathing. Seeing this Yuan Guannan was alarmed, he held out a hand to examine her breathing. Xiao Zhonghui suddenly shouted, jumped up and grabbed from his hand the shorter of Twin Sabres. Yuan Guannan had been caught off guard, frightened he shouted "Ah" while she was already holding the sabre. Xiao Zhonghui was aware that his martial arts skill surpassed hers, having succeed with her sneak attack, she did not dare to try snatching the longer of Twin Sabres, but giggled and turned to escape. Lin Yulong exclaimed: "Ah, Twin Sabres!" Ren Feiyan picked up the child from the ground and shouted: "Quickly, chase after her!" They both pursued Xiao Zhonghui. Yuan Guannan cursed: "Very well girl, you bite the hand that feeds you!" Anger rose inside him and he chased after her as well, but his left leg was hit by Zhuo Tianxiong’s stick and the injury was serious, only five percent of his lightness skill was left. Xiao, Lin and Ren were speeding northwest, in direction of barren mountains. He could not catch up with Xiao Zhonghui, but he wanted to get hold of Twin Sabres, and could not allow her to escape with one of it, therefore even with aching leg, he did not give up chasing.

After 20 lis, the terrain was more desolate, he ran on a high hill, looked around and saw that in northwest, 45 lis away, covered by the trees, shone yellow wall; it seemed to be a small temple. Thinking that these 3 people could’t hide elsewhere and finding it likely that they were in the temple, he broke off a tree brunch and used is as a crutch; supporting himself on it he moved quickly forward.

Entering the temple he observed a plaque inscribed with the words "Black Bamboo Monastery"; it was a Buddhist nunnery. Yuan Guannan saw that in the prayer hall stood an old nun with clean clothes and shoes, and benevolent look. Yuan Guannan greeted her by raising clasped hands, and said: "Abbess, please tell me, have a girl in blue gown come to your esteemed monastery?" The nun replied: "This small nunnery is located in a deserted place, no alms-giver arrived."

Yuan Guannan did not believe: "Abbess does not have to conceal it ... " He has not yet finished speaking, when a call and the sound "du, du, du" was heard outside, it was iron stick hitting the ground. Zhuo Tianxiong arrived. Yuan Guannan startled begged the nun: "Abbess, I ask you to do a good deed. An enemy is looking for me, don’t say that I am here." Not waiting for her reply he ran into backyard courtyard and noticed a tiny shrine on the east side, he went in and saw a statue of Guanyin [2] dressed in white. Having no time to ponder, he uncovered the heavy curtain and hid behind the statue.

How was he to know that there was already someone hiding behind the statue? Xiao Zhonghui glanced at Yuan Guannan and said: "Well, since you have the ability to find me here, take the sabre!" She was about to hand over the short sabre, when a man behind her said: "Don’t give it to him, we will fight, the three of us can beat him" Actually Lin and Ren with their baby were also hiding here. Yuan Guannan considered saving his life as the most important at that moment, it was not the time to seize the sabre, so he whispered: "Be silent, the old blind man is coming!" Xiao Zhonghui alarmed, said: "Is he not poisoned with your poison?" Yuan Guannan smiled: "The poison is false."

Xiao Zhonghui was going to speak again, when she heard Zhuo Tianxiong’s coarse voice ask: "There is no one around, if he is not here, then where?" The old nun replied: "Alms- giver should try once again to find him outside, probably he has already passed by the nunnery." Zhuo Tianxiong said: "Good! My men are lying in ambush all around, this boy cannot escape. If I don’t find him, I will come back to settle accounts with you; be careful or I will burn down this stinky nunnery."

When Lin Yulong and Ren Feiyan heard it, anger rose in their chests, they wanted to answer with sarcastic repartee, but before they even opened their mouths Yuan Guannan and Xiao Zhonghui both simultaneously moved their fingers and blocked their acupuncture points. Zhuo Tianxiong went into the backyard, stayed there for a moment leaning on his iron stick, looked around, muttered some curses, then turned around and left the nunnery. When Zhuo Tianxiong’s back of the hand was smeared with black ink, his heart trembling with fear, he hurried a stream to wash it. The ink stains were washed out without leaving the slightest trace. Not feeling relieved, he was scrubbing hard this spot, finally his skin was injured and he felt growing pain. He was surprised to see, that after some time nothing unusual happened to him, therefore he went back to find the young scholar. Although using his lightness skill he was moving as fast as if he was flying, but such a delay gave enough time for Yuan Guannan to hide in "Black Bamboo Monastery".

Yuan Guannan and Xiao Zhonghui waited until he was far away, then they unblocked Lin’s and Ren’s acupuncture points and came out from behind the statue of Guanyin. Thinking about Zhuo Tianxiong’s words 4 people frowned; considering his amazing lightness skill, after searching the area of several tens of lis and not finding a trace, he would certainly go back. There were no dwellings around, no place to hide, they were unable to defeat him, escape was also impossible, was there nothing left for them but to wait for death?

Yuan and Xiao were both silent, trying to think something off. Lin Yulong cursed: "Stinky old woman, it’s your fault, if you practiced the "Couple's Saber", we could use it now and there would be no need to fear that old blind man!" Ren Feiyan: "Using the "Couple's Saber" won’t do, in the end whose fault it is, your or mine? That old buddhist monk plainly wanted you to train with me, how can I make progress training alone?” Both of them were again quarrelling violently.

Yuan Guannan, hearing them quarrel about "Couple's Saber" technique, said: "The four of us, your child and the old nun, we are now facing imminent catastrophe; when the old blind man comes back, we will all die. What are you two still arguing about? In the end, how could the "Couple's Saber" save us?" Lin and Ren again made so much noise, that only half of what they said was comprehensible.

As it happened, three years before, Lin and Ren, who were just married, and were in the middle of one of their quarrels, met an elderly monk. He passed on to them two sets of sword technique. The technique passed on to Lin Yulong and the technique passed on to Ren Feiyan were totally different, and they required two people to work together to combat an enemy. These techniques were yin and yang, perfect match, one advancing, another retreating, one attacking, another defending. The old monk said: "If you walk side by side in Jianghu with this sword technique, no matter how strong your opponent might be, he would not be able to defeat you. However, if a single person uses this technique, it’s useless." He was afraid that the couple’s quarrels will finally cause the breaking up, so he wanted them to practice this strange technique together. This technique was originally created in the ancient times by a loving couple. They were inseparable, and their two hearts were beating as one. They desired to utilise the potential of their swords and protect each other. Lin and Ren were both hot-tempered and although each of them learned his technique, but when they had to cooperate, they were always lacking harmony; after three or four strokes, they were both defending or both attacking.

When Yuan Guannan finished listening to them, struck by an idea, he said to Xiao Zhonghui: "Miss, if I was to act according to propriety, I should not mention it, however our situation is critical, everyone fears for their lives..." Xiao Zhonghui interrupted him: "I know, you want me to learn with you that Couple's... Couple's..." She blushed. Yuan Guannan replied: "Ah, this insignificant person had no intention to offend you, really is... really is..." Xiao Zhonghui said nothing more to him, she directed herself to Ren Feiyan: "Elder sister, please, give me directions, if he and I ... learn it, we might resist the old blind man and save everyone’s lives."

Ren Feiyan answered: "This technique is very difficult, it can’t be learned in one day." Xiao Zhonghui replied: "I will learn as much as I can, it’s much better than to stay here purposelessly and wait for death." Ren Feiyan said: "Fine, I will teach you."

Lin and Ren individually explained their respective technique and were performing stances one by one. Yuan and Xiao were watching, diligently memorizing. Although their martial arts weren’t weak, but this technique was very complicated, and sometimes really difficult to remember. Lin and Ren taught them several stances and were so busy, that they hardly ever opened their mouths. They were only at the 12th stance, when a voice outside shouted: "Deceitful boy, where have you been hiding?" Zhuo Tianxiong, armed with his iron stick, broke into the monastery.

[1] On the lateral side of the waist, at the free end of the twelfth rib

[2] The Bodhisattva of Compassion

Lin Yulong, seeing him coming again, did not panic, on the contrary he was angry. He shouted: "We haven’t finished teaching the sword technique yet, couldn’t you wait a moment until we are done?" He lifted the sword and directed it towards him. Zhuo Tianxiong blocked the blow with his iron stick, while Ren Feiyan also joined in the fight, attacking from the right side.

Lin Yulong shouted: "Couple's Saber!" He wanted to show up before Yuan and Xiao, he cut with the long sword and scratched Zhuo Tianxiong’s waist. At this moment Ren Feiyan should leisurely wield her sabre, protecting her husband, but she was very anxious to win and instead of performing the first stance of Couple's Saber, she performed the second one, making a vigorous attack. In the consequence, they both were attacking, but no one defending. Zhuo Tianxiong saw the flaw in his opponents’ movements, with his iron stick he made a move called "Stealing the sky and putting up a sham sun" [1] to hold back two swords; at the same time he extended his left hand finger underneath the iron stick , “tut, tut” sound was heard, Lin’s and Ren’s acupuncture points were once again locked. If they were not performing Couple's Saber, they could still fight for some time, but in this technique cooperation was essential; because they were unable to coordinate their moves, after one stance they were already defeated.

Lin Yulong was furious and scolded: "Stinky old woman, this was the first stance. You should have leisurely wielded your sabre, protecting my lover body." Ren Feiyan retorted angrily: "Why didn’t you follow me when I made the second stance? Why do I have to follow you and not you follow me?" The two were arguing again, cursing in rage endlessly.

Yuan Guannan, seeing how unlucky the day turned out to be, whispered: "Miss Xiao, please escape, I’ll detain him."

Xiao Zhonghui did not expect him to have so noble heart, she stared blankly for a moment, then felt a heat in her chest as she replied: "No, we will fight him together." Yuan Guannan urged her: "Listen to my words, quickly ran! If I escape with my life today, we will meet again." Xiao Zhonghui said: "That won't do, ah ..." She did not finish, because Zhuo Tianxiong had already rushed at them waving his iron stick.

Yuan Guannan made a thrust with his sword. Xiao Zhonghui saw that with this move he exposed his left arm, therefore, not waiting for Zhuo Tianxiong’s attack, she brandished a sword and protected his shoulder. They did not practice before, but because one person just now advanced to attack, the other person stayed behind his partner; they both followed their righteous hearts and when facing the enemy they automatically protected each other. Lin Yulong seeing their brilliant performance, exclaimed: "Good, “A wife's beauty and a husband's talent are worth more than ten thousand hus [2] of pearls“ the first stance of Couple's Saber, performed wonderful!"

Yuan and Xiao both had a red face; they did not expect, that in a moment of desperation they would both so easily resort to a move of the newly-learned technique, unexpectedly forming a perfect match. Zhuo Tianxiong was about to smash his iron stick, Ren Feiyan cried: "The second stance, “Heaven wants exceptional talents to become a couple”!" According to her words, Xiao Zhonghui attacked, Yuan Guannan made a horizontal stroke to defend. Zhuo Tianxiong’s momentum could not be used to attack but to guard, he was obliged to retreat one step.

Lin Yulong cried: "The third stance, “The girdle ornament is swaying in the cool breeze, while she is descending from the jade terrace!”" Yuan’s and Xiao’s swords were flying, creating wind. Ren Feiyan said: "The moon shines into the Golden House!" Yuan and Xiao smiled looking at each other, their swords were shining like the moon, illuminating seductive and loveable faces. Zhuo Tianxiong was forced to step back further.

Lin and Ren continued to name further stances: "Love bonds are delicate like a silk fabric but strong like a big tree", "Matchless hero and outstanding husband", "Retreat to bridal chamber illuminated by wedding candles", "Two phoenixes sing within the jade green bamboo flute", "Lady’s face resembles piece of jade". Lin Yulong exclaimed: "One moment of beautiful night’s celebration is worth thousand jins of gold." Ren Feiyan shouted: "In the human world take possession of a part of heavenly happiness." They continued until they reached the 12 stance of Couple's Saber, there were 60 more stances, but Yuan and Xiao had not learned them.

Yuan Guannan cried: "Let’s start from the beginning again!" He repeated the first stance, "A wife's beauty and a husband's talent are worth more than ten thousand hus of pearls." The two repeated the same stances, but Zhuo Tianxiong was already fighting in a confused manner, finding it difficult to ward off. Starting all over again this time, Yuan and Xiao secretly communicated without uttering a word. On observing that every stance of this Couple's Saber technique had a charming and gentle name and that Twin Sabres corresponded very well with this technique, they were scared and delighted at the same time, and fought even faster. They arrived at the ninth stance "Two phoenixes sing within the jade green bamboo flute", their swords seemed to be a dancing phoenix and gliding luan[3], moving and turning with great speed. Zhuo Tianxiong was unable to ward this off. "Ah", a sword hit his shoulder and blood gushed from the wound. He was aware of the fact, that he was facing powerful opponents, and if he continued to fight he would end this old life of his inside the Buddhist nunnery, so leaving his iron stick behind, he jumped on the wall and escaped.

Sincere feeling were secretly born in hearts of Yuan and Xiao, now they were standing opposite each other wondering what to say. They heard Lin Yulong exclaiming: "Wonderful, wonderful! “A wife's beauty and a husband's talent are worth more than ten thousand hus of pearls”!"

In fact, he praised their own Couple's Saber technique, but Xiao Zhonghui felt bashful and blushed deeply. She bowed her head and rushed out of the nunnery, going far away.

Yuan Guannan chased after her, but only saw Xiao Zhonghui’s figure passing in a flash a row of willow trees and then disappearing. He heard someone calling behind him: "Master!" Yuan Guannan turned around, and saw his pageboy smiling happily and showing a baby sleeping in the basket with books; this was Lin’s and Ren’s son. A large area of the basket was wet, now "there was baby’s urine in the books".

[1]This is an idiom used to describe a smart and audacious tactics that fools all the people. It originates from the book

„Revealing Original State of Officialdom” by Li Baojia. [2]Hu= 50 liters.

[3]Mythical bird similar to phoenix. They are supposed to sing and dance together in paradisiacal locations. Luan is associated with masculine values, phoenix with feminine.

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