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Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain Chapter 2.4 Summit

Chapter 2.4 Summit 

Curio had always listened to Sign but now, having already whirled up his blade, he found it almost impossible to retract the sword quickly. Besides, he had already started the killer trick. Thereupon, he sank his wrist, intending to leave only a mark on the twins' chests. But the lad to his left

suddenly moved across to his right, creeping underneath his armpit, and the lad originally to his right, now moved across to his left, thus forcing Curio to make a clean sweep. Just as he was about to retract his blade and strike again, he saw shadows flickering on both sides, and instantly the two tiny bodies came rushing at him.

Curio had already suffered twice. He found it impossible to reverse the long blade, which was already thrust out, and strike a blow with it. Now, in the face of another uncanny trick of the twins, Curio was unable to dodge or to ward off the blow, and had to let go of his two swords. He pushed his hands out, palms forward, crying, "Go!" He applied full force to his palms. The lads would certainly get hurt even if glanced by the edge of his palms. Suddenly there came the flickering of the shadows again, and the twins vanished in a flash. Curio turned round immediately, only to find that the lad on the left had ducked to the right while the one on the right had

sneaked to the left. Curio felt dizzy and found himself pinched again on the neck by the two lads.

Curio grew desperate and resorted to using the strength at the back of his waist. He tossed his neck far back on a sudden, hoping to throw the twins off to one side. The moment he made an outward display of his vigorous

strength, his neck was suddenly loosed by the two small hands. He trembled, awaiting the continuation of this frighteningly unpredictable nightmare. Curio immediately tried to use his strength to stand erect again. Alas, it was too late! The two lads, one flinging out his left leg and the other his right, wedged them below Curio's heels. Try as he might, being thus

wedged at the heels, Curio, already unable to plant himself on the ground, again fell to the floor. He fell with a thud, lying flat on his back and

shouting madly, "A pox on you!" He felt as if he had broken his backbone in the fall. He sat upright, meaning to get to his feet, but his waist failed to gather strength, and down he went, lying on his back.

Thereupon, Radiant stepped forward and helped him up. The twins took this opportunity to pick up their long swords. Curio had a swarthy

complexion to start with, and his face was now purple with rage. He whipped his sword out from his side, practising Rainbow Piercing the

Fireball and smote fiercely on the elder twin. Radiant knew it was not easy getting at the two lads, young though they were. The numerous falls

suffered by Curio convinced him of this. As the opposition consisted of two lads, Radiant's helping in the battle would not be unreasonable. Thereupon,

Radiant whipped out his sword, smiting the elder twin by plunging into some moves. The younger twin gave his partner a signal with his eye. Both parried the blow by raising their swords. Suddenly they bounded backward three paces at the same time. The lad on the left cried out, "Great Monk, I have been instructed by my Master to deliver you a written challenge. We have done nothing wrong. Why do we have to fight?"

"These two here would like to test your skills in martial arts," said Tree with meaning in his voice. "They mean well. You two just practise with them."

"With all our hearts, sirs," curtly replied the lad. Thereupon, the twins whirled up their swords, hewing and hacking at their opponents.

All the servants at this eyrie, were they male or female, practised martial arts. When they learned that the enemy's two courier boys who had come here to deliver a written challenge were now fighting the others in the hall, they rushed towards the scene, to watch the battle from the corridor.

One of the lads was holding a sword with his left hand and the other with his right. Their movements were synchronized: advancing, retreating, dashing and dodging simultaneously, as if they were one person. Whirling their swords, they charged forward, showering blows and more blows. The twins must have been fencing with swords from an early age, and must have practised this skill of Companion Twin Swords ever since. It was marvellous to watch the elder twin wielding his blade with his left hand: he was as agile and alert as the younger twin was with his right hand. He must have been born left-handed.

Curio and Radiant changed their moves very rapidly, but the lads never grew weary. For several tens of bouts, they kept at it, exchanging many a stroke, with Curio and Radiant showing no sign of suffering defeat, nor gaining a significant vantage.

Valour started to fidget. He studied carefully the movements and skills of the martial arts practised by the twins and concluded that, after all, they

were practising no more than the Bodhidharma Swordplay of the Shaolin Monastery. There was nothing special to it, except perhaps in only one

simple respect: whether in smiting, parrying or alternating attack with defense, one lad could always take the plunge as he would have the full

support of the other, be he in an offensive or defensive position at the time. When in a position of offense, one would be protected from behind by his partner and could, therefore, concentrate on lashing and smiting. When in a position of defense, one would also be backed up by his partner and would, therefore, never have to reverse in order to fight in an attacking position.

Valour believed he could snatch the twins' weapons bare-fisted. When he saw both Curio and Radiant battling long without being able to deal a decisive blow, he began to worry. The celebrated Northern Branch of the Dragon Lodge might be brought down at any time.

Thereupon, Valour shouted, "The twins are really adepts. Curio, Radiant, fall back quick! Let this old man have a go at them."

Curio and Radiant answered in the affirmative on hearing their Uncle.

Just as they were about to move back, the twins whirled up their swords on a sudden and assumed an immediate posture of offense, concentrating only on moves for attacking. Curio and Radiant whirled their swords to parry the blows. The twins flourished their swords, slashing one after the other and

smiting blows and more blows. Curio and Radiant thus had to ward off

every single one of the raining strokes. After ten or so tricks, they were still engaged, not able to extricate themselves from the fight.

Sign then thought to herself, "Let me go and relieve my two Brothers and allow Uncle Valour to gain a hold on the twins. With his feats of arms,

Uncle Valour will surely be able to grab those four tiny plaits immediately."

Having thus considered, Sign stepped forward, flourishing her sword and crying, "The two Brothers move back."

Seeing that the elder twin was raining blow after blow on Curio, she instantly whirled up her sword, parrying his blade. When he struck next, he dealt a double blow, wounding the corner of Curio's eye and catching Sign on the left shoulder, forcing her onto the defensive. Not only was Sign unable to relieve her Brothers; she was now caught in the fight as well.

Curio looked more and more like an avenging Fury as the battle raged on. He thought, "The Northern Branch of the Dragon Lodge has always had a good name in swordplay. Now the three of us are fighting in league, and yet we are failing to beat these two youngsters. If word of this reaches the outlawry, how are we to preserve the honour of the Northern Branch of the Dragon Lodge?" With this, he put more power into his blows.

Seeing his twin brother cornered, the other twin reversed his sword,

aiming at Curio. While Curio was turning round to parry the blow, the elder twin had already whirled up his sword, smiting Radiant. The two lads instantly exchanged opponents. People watching from the side marvelled at the speed and grace with which they conducted this trading of foes.

"Valour, you had better take over," whispered Fortune. "The three of them do not stand a chance."

To this Valour nodded. He tightened his girdle, saying, "Let me have a hand in this game, too."

In one leap, he found himself alongside to the younger twin, almost touching him. Valour hit the lad on the shoulder with his left finger, piquing the paralytic point Large Bone and snatched the sword straight with his right hand, practising the pugilistic skills of the Grappling Hand. Seeing how cruel and nimble Valour was, the others began to fear the worst for the lad. But suddenly there came the flashing of blade and the elder twin had

aimed at the upper back of Valour with the point of his sword.

Valour was bent on snatching the sword. Counting on Radiant being there to engage the elder twin in fighting, Valour had not anticipated his making a surprise attack. He heard Sign cry out quickly, "Uncle, your back!" Valour

at once dodged to the left. The part of the garment covering his upper back was slit lengthwise with a slash.

"Take care, sir," said his opponent. It seemed that he had deliberately let Valour go this time.

Valour was exasperated and his face was thoroughly red. As he had

considerable experience in dealing with strong opponents, he gathered his strength after this setback and decided not take any chances. He snatched the weapons from the lads' hands with his pugilistic skills in grappling, in that special branch known as the Grappling Hand—Locking, Confusing,

Encircling, Diverting, attacking and resisting his assailants. For the past several decades, he had been submitting his palms to vigorous and

laborious training. Thus when he displayed his pugilistic skills, he certainly looked terrifying. Strange as it might seem, the twins were not able to gain much vantage when fighting just Curio and Radiant. After Sign and Valour had joined in the fight, the battle continued to rage fast and furious, with neither side winning or losing.

"The Northern and Southern Branches are offshoots of the same School," thought Fortune. "Should the Northern Branch suffer defeat, the Southern Branch would likewise be brought to shame. As the matter now stands, winning an unfair match by outnumbering our opponents is to be preferred to suffering defeat at their hands. Who cares what people may say?"

Fortune then whipped out his sword and practised the Meteor Chasing the Lunar Satellite. He had already aimed his keen blade at the chest of the elder twin before moving into the circle.

"Now comes another one!" cried the younger twin. He was thrusting his sword to the side, but reversed it, and aimed at Fortune's wrist. Fortune trembled and thought, "The twins respond with perfect skill in relieving one another." He sank his wrist to ward off the impending blow. Parrying that blow was no difficult task. However, he had failed to maintain his original offensive posture for attacking the elder twin, and thus he was wide of his mark.

The battle raged fast and furious in the hall, with six brandishing their blades and one fighting with bare hands. The clanging and clashing of metal upon metal filled the air. For several tens of bouts they were engaged,

without either side gaining much vantage.

Sign now grew hot and had to mop her forehead several times with her sleeves. Seeing her, Peace cried out, "Sister Sign, take some rest. Let me

take over from you." Thereupon he charged forward, flourishing his sword. "We do not need your help," said Curio, with jealousy in his voice.

While he was parrying the blade that came thrusting from the younger twin, he clenched the fist of his left hand and punched Peace on his nose. Peace met him with a smile, stepped sideways three paces and spun round behind the back of the elder lad. Though Peace was wounded in the leg, he could still fence well with his sword, deftly and with faultless skill. The twins were uncanny in their swordplay. The power of their blows mounted proportionately with the number of opponents. Peace not only had to guard against the surprise attack by Curio, but also had to watch for moves unfurled on a sudden by the twins. Peace thus found himself in trouble.

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