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Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain Chapter 2.5 Summit

Chapter 2.5 Summit 

Century inched his way to the battlefield, flourishing his rod to shield his son, Peace, from attack. While the others were all engaged themselves feverishly and ferociously in fighting, Curio suddenly dealt Peace a mighty blow. Century roared and immediately warded off the blow by whirling his rod. Flourishing his weapon, he showered blow upon blow on Curio. This unexpected turn of events came like a bolt out of the blue; all the onlookers gasped in surprise. Prime saw Valour place the iron box inside the front of his coat before joining league with the others. He decided to join the rest in the battle, thinking he could fish something for himself from these troubled waters: he could take this opportunity either to snatch the iron box or to avenge himself by dispatching Century and his son, Peace.

Presently, Prime cried out aloud, "How exciting! Come Hawk, let us move!"

Both Prime and Hawk had been under the tutelage of the same Master from an early age. They knew each other well. When Prime summoned Hawk, the latter had already read his mind. Brandishing his twin staves, Hawk moved to the side of Valour.

It never entered the head of the elder twin that each of his nine opponents was fighting with an ulterior motive of scheming against one another. When he saw Prime and Hawk join league with the rest, he decided to forestall them by striking first to gain the advantage. Flourishing his sword, he

charged at them. Though the twins were adepts in fencing with their

swords,they would certainly have suffered defeat in fighting against nine. As the nine were each harbouring evil thoughts of their own, however, they frequently concentrated on checking and guarding against each other, only occasionally on attacking their enemies.

Prime and Hawk kept casting glances at Valour while whirling their swords fighting the two lads. Sign watched all this. She read their evil

thoughts and cried out aloud, "Uncle Valour, be careful with the iron box!"

Valour was already exasperated by the battle which had been raging on for some time, yet he was never able to get in a decisive stroke himself.

"We nine adults are here fighting two youngsters, and yet are unable to beat them. We have utterly lost face today. If we lose the iron box also, we will never be able to hold up our heads again." His mind wandered off momentarily. He felt a blast of wind sweeping across his face and was

surprised to find the younger twin slashing blows at his uncovered part after just having warded off blows from both Curio and Radiant.

Valour's heart trembled. "I am losing face to both sides," he said to himself. He ducked sideways and dodged. In no time he whipped out his long sword simply by twisting round his wrist. Valour was the strongest of the nine in feats of arms. He then exhibited his skills of the Dragon Swordplay. After some clanging and clashing of weapon upon weapon, he succeeded in warding off all the blows from Century, Peace, Hawk, Prime and the others. Fortune retreated to the back, guarding himself against

attack, availing himself at the same time of an opportunity to study and unravel the secrets of the swordplay of the Northern Branch.

After they had all moved away from the circle, Valour had several feet of space around him, thus enabling him to wield his sword with greater agility and accuracy. Bracing himself, he advanced two paces. Practising Stretching the Claws in the Cloud, he struck a mighty stroke on the crown of the younger twin. It was a fast and furious blow. The lad, who was

engaging himself in a fight brandishing his sword against Hawk whirling his twin staves, immediately ducked away from the blow. The pearl on one of his plaits was cut through the middle and dropped to the ground in two halves.

Both lads turned pale. "Brother!" cried the younger one, puckering his lips, almost in tears.

Valour laughed loudly. Suddenly he saw white figures flickering before his eyes. The twins had already crossed over and changed positions. In a

second, the weapons of Radiant and Prime were cleft with a clang. Alarmed by this, they quickly leapt out of the circle, only to find both twins already flashing a keen dagger in each of their hands.

"Make him pay for it!" cried the elder twin.

Curio's and Fortune's long swords were broken with a clash as the lad thrust his dagger by twisting it around in his right hand. The dagger was capable of cutting through metals and stones. Curio was slow in moving

back and the dagger glanced against his upper left chest, cutting the leather strap around his girdle, with the sheath fastened to it, into pieces.

The younger twin then moved closer to Valour, attacking him furiously with the flashing blade in his right hand and the keen dagger in his left hand. Brandishing the two weapons in his hands, the lad now wielded them in a manner which differed drastically from the way in which he whirled only his sword. Valour was seized by both rage and fear and could not identify clearly the direction from whence the blows came. The dagger was dreadfully keen. Valour dared not go against it with his sword and was

forced to fall back while the younger twin kept charging forward heedlessly, with utter concentration on Valour. The twins were standing back to back. One took over all the remaining eight opponents so as to enable the other to fight Valour in single combat. After a few tricks, a considerable length of Century's metal rod was broken off. Hawk and Peace dared not move closer, fighting and moving only on the periphery of the circle. Seeing that Valour was cornered and doomed,

Fortune, Curio, Radiant, and Sign grew desperate. They would have

advanced to succour and assist if only three of their blades had not been broken, and if they had also been able to break through the guard of the elder twin.

Tree had been watching them fight, marvelling at the swordplay of the twins. When they had first started fighting against Curio and the others, they were of only average skill. However, the power of their blows kept increasing as their opponents grew in number. Matters took a different

course once they had flashed their daggers. Whirling up his long sword, the elder twin forced his opponents into fighting in a flustered manner.

Presently, the weapons of Peace and Hawk were also broken. Of the eight fighting against the elder twin, Sign was the only one whose sword remained intact. This obviously had nothing to do with her being able to fight well, but rather to the elder twin's being thankful for her gift of the fruit and therefore letting her go.

With his back to the corner, Valour fought like an animal at bay. Seeing that the younger twin thrust his long sword straight at his chest, Valour at once responded with the Dancing Dragon and Leaping Phoenix. The key to swordplay was in eliminating the opponents when attacked from above;

smiting blows if attacked from below; taking the enemies by surprise when attacked from within the circle; swiping if attacked from outside the circle; thrusting at the enemies when attacked halfway from the centre. These five tricks of Elimination, Smiting, Taking by Surprise, Swiping, and Thrusting were common to swordplay of all schools. When Valour saw his opponent attacking him from above, he responded with the Elimination which should have warded off the blow. However, his wrist sank when the two blades

crossed and his sword was forced down hard by the enemy's blade. Valour was delighted and thought to himself, "Are you as skilled in swordplay as I am endowed in my wrist?" Immediately he gathered strength to stage a

counter-attack. The younger twin retracted his sword slightly with his right hand and thrust the dagger in his left hand out on a sudden. Valour's long sword was cleft with a crash.

Valour shuddered and immediately thrust the truncated sword at the younger twin. He ducked away from the blow and cornered Valour instead, lunging his blade furiously to his left and right. Valour had no way out.

Fortune, Curio, and Radiant shouted out, all dispatching their secret

weapons immediately. The elder twin flung out his right hand, catching all ten of the killer darts. A tiny net was, in fact, fitted to the bottom of the hilt of the dagger, designed specifically for catching enemies' secret weapons.

Though he had lost his weapon, Valour, the Seven Stars Hand, was still well versed in pugilism. Being an experienced hand among the outlawry, Valour was able to keep his head in adverse conditions. Thereupon, he took to his fists, still staying calm in the face of attack. The dagger, flashed by the younger twin, was deadly keen, capable of severing the hand. Valour

was held back more by the threateningly keen dagger than by his opponent's uncanny feats of arms. He tried hard to parry the blows, not daring to launch a counter-attack.

"Pay me back my pearl, pay me back my pearl!" demanded the younger lad. Valour would have been more than willing to pay him back his pearl, yet no pearl was at hand; also he could not bear to lose face.

Tree now found the situation rather awkward. If matters dragged on much longer, the boy would, in his anger, thrust the dagger at Valour's

chest, piercing it. Valour was here at the top of the mountain as his invited guest. He could not possibly be humiliated by his enemy's errand-boy. The twins were uncanny in their feats of arms. Neither was Valour's equal when fighting on his own, not even Hawk's or Century's equal. However, when the two were fighting together, the tougher their opponents, the more furiously they fought. If Tree were to intervene at this juncture, and fail to bring the situation under control, he would end up exposing himself to greater ridicule.

While Tree was wavering between joining the others in fighting the twins or keeping himself entirely out of the battle, Valour found himself in a dangerous situation. He was now in tatters, his face stained, with weals on his chest and his arm bearing the imprint of the long sword of the younger twin. Several times he was on the verge of begging for mercy but checked himself just in time. "Are you or are you not going to pay me back my pearl?" demanded the younger twin.

At this moment, the servant with the long neck walked to Tree and whispered into his ears, "Great Master, please rid us of the twins." Tree answered in the affirmative, but was still debating with himself.

Suddenly there came a swish in the air. A blue plume of smoke soared into the sky. The long-necked servant knew it was announcing the arrival of reinforcements. He was overjoyed. He thought the monk had after all over- estimated himself, and was finding all kinds of excuses now the crisis had

come. It was fortunate to have the Master's friends arriving. The servant immediately rushed to the entrance and sent the bamboo basket to bring up the guests.

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