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The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 20

CSI

Chapter 20
Remains of stone tablet still being read every day and every month, distinguished senior must still ascend.

The beautiful woman’s eyes swept from west to east, the smile did not vanish from her face. She slowly said, “The Black Dragon Gate Zhangmenshi[1], today the deadline has arrived, please hand over the sutra.” Her voice was sharp, clear, and flirtatious; it was extremely pleasant to the ears. She held out her left hand with palm facing up.

Looking from far away, Wei Xiaobao saw that the palm looked like it was carved from a piece of white jade. Suddenly a thought welled up from the bottom of his heart, “It won’t be too bad if this woman become my wife. If she is doing business at the Lovely Spring Courtyard, all Yangzhou’s patrons will rush forth to squeeze through the Lovely Spring Courtyard’s main gate.”

An old man on the left side took two steps forward, he bowed and said, “Reporting to the Madame: News from Beijing says that we have located four sutras, and we are intensifying the effort to obtain them. Following Jiaozhu’s treasured teaching, even if we have to lose our lives, we will get the books, to be presented to Jiaozhu and Madame.” His voice trembled slightly, obviously he was completely terrified.

“What a pity, what a pity,” Wei Xiaobao mused, “Turns out this beautiful woman is the Jiaozhu’s wife, a fresh flower inserted on a cow’s dung, a bright moonlight illuminating a latrine!”

The woman smiled slightly and said, “Jiaozhu has extended the deadline three times, Black Dragon Envoy, you have always pushed the deadline with all sorts of excuses three, four times. If you are unwilling to strive, aren’t you being disloyal to Jiaozhu?”

The Black Dragon Envoy bowed even lower; he said, “Subordinate has received Jiaozhu and Madame’s great kindness, even with torn body and crushed bones it will be difficult for me to repay. The fact is, this matter is extremely thorny, subordinate has dispatched six people into the Palace, and had Deng Bingchun and Liu Yan, two people lost their lives for the Cult. I wish for Jiaozhu and Madame to graciously extend the deadline.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “Turns out that fat sow and the fake palace maid are your subordinates. I am afraid the old wh0re’s rank is also lower than yours.”

The woman raised her left hand to beckon Wei Xiaobao. She laughed and said, “Xiao Didi [little brother – term of endearment], come here.”

Wei Xiaobao jumped in fright. “Me?” he said in a low voice.

“That’s right,” the woman replied, “I am calling you.”

Wei Xiaobao took a quick glance toward Mr. Lu and Fat Toutuo on his side. Mr. Lu said, “Madame is calling you, go forward and salute her respectfully.”

Wei Xiaobao said in his heart, “What will happen if I do not salute her respectfully?” But he stepped forward anyway, and then respectfully bowed to salute her, saying, “Jiaozhu and Madame will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, your long life will be the same as the heaven’s.”

Madame Hong laughed and said, “This child is clever. Who taught you to add the ‘and Madame’ three characters [he fu ren] after the word Jiaozhu?”

Wei Xiaobao did not know that the cult members of the Divine Dragon Cult had always said ‘Jiaozhu will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, his long life will be the same as the heaven’s’. After they entered the Cult, they would always automatically recite these words; nobody dared to add a character or subtract half a sentence. Seeing not only this Madame was very beautiful, she was extremely powerful as well, Wei Xiaobao thought that since to flatter he did not need any capital, he thoughtlessly added the ‘and Madame’ three characters. Listening to her question, he simply said, “Jiaozhu and Madame are partners, only then will living a life as long as the heaven’s be interesting. Otherwise, after a hundred or two hundred years, Madame returns to heaven, how could Jiaozhu not be extremely lonely?”

As soon as Madame Hong heard him, she laughed just like a flowering branch trembled randomly. Hong Jiaozhu could not restrain his smile either, with his hand twisting his long beard, he nodded his head and smiled.

When the cult members of the Divine Dragon Cult, from top to bottom, saw their Cult Leader, no one did not trembling in fear, who would dare to unguardedly speak nonsense like that? When they heard Wei Xiaobao earlier, they all broke in cold sweats on his behalf, but seeing Jiaozhu and Madame’s warm expressions, they all felt relieved.

Madame Hong laughed and said, “Was it your own idea to add those three characters?”

“Exactly,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “It was not a fake. The curvy characters on the stone tablet also mention Madame.”

As soon as he said those words, Mr. Lu felt as if he had just fallen into an icehouse; he had spent countless suffering just to have Wei Xiaobao memorized the writings on the stone tablet, and now he suddenly had an unconventional idea to add Madame’s name into it, how could he account for the unmatched number of characters? This urchin talked irresponsibly, inevitably he was messing up the inscribed text on the tablet. He realized that his work had already contained a lot of flaws, with this new development, wouldn’t his plot fall through and stand exposed on the spot?

Hearing this, Madame Hong was also startled; she asked, “Did you say my name is also engraved on the stone tablet?”

“That’s right!” Wei Xiaobao said. As soon as he blurted out these two words ‘that’s right’, he immediately groaned inwardly, “It’s bad! If she wants me to recite the inscription, it won’t have any reference to the Madame.”

Luckily Madame Hong did not ask at all. “You are surnamed Wei, and you came from Beijing, is that right?” she asked.

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said the same words again.

“I heard from Fat Toutuo,” Madame Hong said, “That in Beijing you met a fat lady by the name of Liu Yan, and she even taught you some martial art?”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Everything I told Fat Toutuo, other than the sutra, he has reported to Jiaozhu and Madame, now I’d better stick to it to the end. In any event, that fat Liu Yan is dead, it is called ‘the dead cannot testify’.” Thereupon he said, “Exactly, this Auntie Liu is a good friend of my Shushu [younger paternal uncle]. Day or night, she often comes to my house.”

With a soft chuckle Madame Hong asked, “What is she doing in your house?”

“To talk and joke with my Shushu, of course,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Sometimes they embrace and kiss each other, they thought I did not see them, but I secretly watched them.” He knew that the more he was able to tell the story with living spirit and living image, mentioning various minute and complicated details, the more people would believe him.

Madame Hong laughed, “You, this child, is so sly. People kissing, you are peeping,” she said. Turning to the Black Dragon Envoy she said, “Did you hear? Do you think this child is lying?”

Wei Xiaobao followed her gaze and saw the Black Dragon Envoy’s countenance changed greatly, showing his fear had reached its extreme point, his body trembled, his knees bent, he kneeled on the floor and repeatedly knocked his head, while saying, “Subordinate … subordinate oversees my people improperly, I deserve to die ten thousand deaths, I beg Jiaozhu and Madame to open … open the net on one side [i.e. be lenient], to let subordinate set up some meritorious deed to atone for my crime.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly surprised; he thought, “I was just saying that that fat pig and my Shushu kissed, what does it have to do with this old fellow? Why does he have to be frightened like this?”

Madame Hong smiled and said, “Set up some meritorious deed to atone for your crime? What meritorious deed do you have? I always thought that the people you sent were loyal and devoted as they handled matters on behalf of Jiaozhu. Who would have thought that in Beijing they are actually doing these loose and shady businesses?”

The Black Dragon Envoy kowtowed again and again, until his forehead was bleeding profusely. Wei Xiaobao could not bear to see him, he wanted to say something good on his behalf, but in that moment he could not find anything to say.

The Black Dragon Envoy crawled on his knees forward, he called out, “Jiaozhu, I have followed you, the Senior, from the cradle to the grave; although I do not have any meritorious service, I have worked hard for you.”

With a cold laugh Madame Hong said, “What’s the use of bringing up former matters? You are already old, how many more years can you give in service to Jiaozhu? Wouldn’t it be merrier if you just quit your Black Dragon Envoy position earlier?”

The Black Dragon Envoy raised his head to look at Hong Jiaozhu, with a sorrowful voice he said, “Jiaozhu, you really don’t have the least bit of old affection toward your old troop, your old Xiongdi?”

Hong Jiaozhu’s face stayed wooden as he indifferently said, “There are too many old rotten and muddled people in our Cult, we ought to tidy up well.” His voice was deep and low, and somewhat slurred. Ever since he saw him, this was the first time Wei Xiaobao had ever heard him speaking.

Suddenly several hundred teenage boys and girls shouted loudly, “With Jiaozhu’s treasured teaching always in our hearts, we can set up meritorious deed and subdue the enemy, nothing is unachievable!”

The Black Dragon Envoy sighed. Still trembling, he stood up and said, “Breathing out stale air and breathing in fresh, we, the old men, deserve to die anyway.” Turning around, he said, “Bring it here!” From the hall’s door, four teenagers in black clothes went forward in quick steps, each one carried a wooden tray, on each tray there was a round brass lid. When they arrived in front of the Black Dragon Envoy, they set the wooden trays on the floor, and then quickly turned around and withdrew. As if by prior agreement, everybody in the hall drew back several steps.

The Black Dragon Envoy muttered, “With Jiaozhu’s treasured teaching always in our hearts, we can set up meritorious deed and subdue the enemy, nothing is unachievable … hey hey, there is one thing that is unachievable, that is the subordinate is not loyal and devoted at all.” Reaching out, he grabbed the knob on the top of the brass lid and lifted it up. The object on the tray suddenly flew up, followed by a flash of white light, a flying dagger flew in at an angle, cutting the object into two sections, which then fell back onto the tray, wiggling and squirming. It was a gorgeous-looking multi-colored small snake.

Wei Xiaobao cried out in alarm. The people in the hall also cried out, “Who was it?” “Who’s rebelling against our leader?” “Catch him!” “Who’s the traitor who has the audacity to disobey Jiaozhu?”

Madame Hong suddenly stood up, made a circle with both hands, followed by waving down three times. A series of ‘Shua, shua, shua!’ was heard, the swords had left their scabbards, several hundred teenage boys and girls rushed forward to surround about fifty, sixty older members of the Cult. These several hundred teenagers, the ones wearing black were grouped together, the ones wearing white were grouped together, they did not mingled at all, everyone occupied his/her respective position, some were in group of six or seven, some were in group of eight or nine, each group surrounded one person in the middle. Their long swords were aimed at vital points, the several dozen older people were immediately put under their control. Fat Toutuo and Mr. Lu were also facing seven, eight swords each.

A fifty-something old Taoist priest with black beard laughed aloud and said, “Madame, you trained this formation, how many months have you spent? If you want to deal with old Xiongdi, actually you don’t need to spend such energy.”

Those who surrounded him were eight teenage girls wearing red clothes. Two girls raised their swords toward the pit of his stomach. “Don’t be rude toward Jiaozhu and Madame,” they shouted.

The Taoist priest laughed and said, “Madame, it was me, Priest Wugen [lit. without root], who killed that five-colored divine dragon. You want to punish, feel free to make your move, why implicate other people?”

Madame Hong sat back down on her chair; she smiled and said, “You admit it yourself, nothing could be better than that. Daozhang [(Taoist) Priest], haven’t Jiaozhu treated you well? He entrusted you the Scarlet Dragon Gate Zhangmenshi position, which is only one rank lower than the Jiaozhu himself, above ten thousand people in seniority; why do you want to rebel?”

Priest Wugen said, “Subordinate is not rebelling. Black Dragon Envoy Zhang Danyue has rendered great service to our Cult, just because there are some people among his subordinates who did not handle their affairs favorably, Madame wanted to take his life. Subordinate boldly asks Jiaozhu and Madame to show mercy.”

Madame Hong laughed and said, “And if I do not comply?”

Priest Wugen said, “Although Shen Long Jiao was founded by Jiaozhu, several tens of thousands xiongdi have gone through water and tread on fire together with him, everybody has his contribution. In those days, there were a total of one thousand twenty three old xiongdi, today some have lost their lives in the hands of the enemy, some were put to death by Jiaozhu, and those that remain are less than a hundred people. Subordinate asks Jiaozhu to show mercy by sparing the lives of ours, several dozen old xiongdi, simply kick us all out of the Cult. If Jiaozhu and Madame find us, these old people, repulsive, and want to promote new people, then just send us, the old people, out of here.”

With a cold laugh Madame Hong said, “Since Shen Long Jiao was founded, I have never heard anybody leaving the Cult alive. By saying that, Priest Wugen is imagining the wildest thing.”

“In that case,” Priest Wugen said, “Madame does not agree?”

“Excuse me,” Madame Hong said, “But our Cult does not have such rule.”

Priest Wugen laughed aloud and said, “Turns out Jiaozhu and Madame have determined to put us all to death.”

Madame Hong smiled, “That’s not necessarily so,” she said, “Old people who are loyal to Jiaozhu, naturally Jiaozhu still considers them good xiongdi, absolutely no discrimination here. We do not distinguish juniors from seniors, all we ask is whether they are loyal and devoted to Jiaozhu or not. Whoever is loyal to Jiaozhu, raise your hand.”

Several hundred teenage boys and girls all raised their left hands, the senior members of the Cult who were being surrounded also raised their hands, even Priest Wugen also raised his left hand. Everybody chorused, “To be loyal to Jiaozhu, absolutely no double-mind!”

Seeing everybody was raising his hand, Wei Xiaobao also raised his hand. Madame Hong nodded and said, “That’s very good, turns out everybody is loyal to Jiaozhu, including this newly arrived Xiao Didi, although he is not a member of our Cult, unexpectedly he is also loyal to Jiaozhu.”

In his heart Wei Xiaobao said, “I am loyal to the turtle son of a b1tch.”

Madame Hong said, “Everybody is loyal, then we do not have a single rebellious traitor in here. I’m afraid there is something fishy here, I’ll have to investigate carefully. I must offend all old xiongdi for the time being. Tie them up.”

“Yes!” several hundred teenage boys and girls replied together.

“Hold on!” a tall and sturdy man called out.

Madame Hong said, “White Dragon Envoy, what respected opinion do you have?”

“Respected opinion, that I do not have,” the man replied, “Subordinate only feel it’s not fair.”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” Madame Hong clicked her tongue, “You are criticizing me as handling this matter unfairly.”

“Subordinate does not dare,” the man said, “Subordinate has been following Jiaozhu for twenty years, and has marched forward courageously in everything. When I was risking my life for our Cult, these little babies have not even born yet. Why is it that they are loyal to Jiaozhu, but we, the old xiongdi, are not loyal?”

Madame Hong chuckled and said, “By saying that, White Dragon Envoy is showing off your own merit. Aren’t you saying that if there was no White Dragon Envoy Zhong Zhiling, Shen Long Jiao will not exist today?”

The tall and sturdy man, Zhong Zhiling said, “The founding of Shen Long Jiao is Jiaozhu, one man’s merit, everybody else was simply following him, the Senior, striking the world, there is no merit worthy to be mentioned, but …”

“But what?” Madame Hong asked.

Zhong Zhiling said, “But we do not have any merit, these teenage babies do not have merit even more.”

“I am only twenty something years old,” Madame Hong said, “So I do not have any merit either?”

Zhong Zhiling hesitated for half a day. “That’s right,” he finally said, “Madame does not have any merit either. The great undertaking of founding our Cult is Jiaozhu, the Senior, one man’s merit.”

Madame Hong slowly said, “Since nobody has any merit, killing you will not be considered an injustice, will it?” While saying this, her eyes flickered with a murderous spirit, but her expression was still extremely charming.

Zhong Zhiling roared angrily, “Naturally killing the one surnamed Zhong alone is not a big deal. I am just afraid that by murdering a loyal and good person, by putting to death a minister who has given outstanding service, the foundation of Shen Long Jiao will be destroyed in the hands of Madame, one person.”

“Very good, very good,” Madame Hong said, “Ay, I am very tired.” These last few words were spoken languidly, who would have thought that it was unexpectedly a secret signal to kill? As soon as the seven teenagers wearing white clothes surrounding Zhong Zhiling heard it, they thrust their swords forward, simultaneously entered Zhong Zhiling’s body.

When the seven swords were drawn, from Zhong Zhiling body spurted seven streams of blood, splashing the seven teenagers’ white clothes that their clothes were soaked with blood. Zhong Zhiling called out, “Jiaozhu, you … have the heart to do this! You … ” He fell down and died. The seven teenagers withdrew toward the corridor, their movement was very orderly.

All the older members of the Cult knew that the White Dragon Envoy Zhong Zhiling’s martial art skill was very high, but the seven swords moved together, unexpectedly he did not have the slightest bit of power to resist, showing that in order for these seven teenagers to be able to thrust their swords together in the hall today, they must have been under the Cult Leader’s direction beforehand, also they must have practiced countless time, so that they were very familiar with the move and were able to execute it without a flaw. Nobody did not have a trembling heart.

After yawning, Madame Hong lightly pressed her left hand on her cherry-red lips; she appears so delicate and extremely calm. Hong Jiaozhu still maintained his wooden expression, as if he did not see the killing of Zhong Zhiling just now. Madame Hong softly said, “Blue Dragon Envoy, Yellow Dragon Envoy, you two gentlemen, do you feel that the White Dragon Envoy was scheming a rebellion, was guilty and deserve to be punished?”

An old man with slit eyes and sharp face bowed and said, “Zhong Zhiling rebelled against Jiaozhu and Madame, he had thought this through deliberately and methodically for quite a long time, subordinate utterly detest him, and have lodged an accusation several times to Madame, but Madame always said that looking at the old xiongdi‘s face, let him had the opportunity to repent. Jiaozhu and Madame are magnanimous, hoping for him to reform and start afresh, who would have thought that this man was incomparably malicious. His guilt was definitely unpardonable. By letting him to have a quick death like this, it was actually too easy for him. All the brethrens of the Cult, nobody is not grateful for Jiaozhu and Madame’s benevolence.”

In his heart Wei Xiaobao said, “He is flattering the big king.”

Madame Hong smiled slightly and said, “Yellow Dragon Envoy understood the cardinal principle. Blue Dragon Envoy, what do you think?”

A tall and thin man in his fifties glowered at the eight teenagers wearing blue clothes around him. “Get lost!” he growled, “If Jiaozhu wants to kill me, do you think I cannot do it myself?”

Eight teenagers pushed their swords slightly forward, until the tip of the swords touched his clothes. The man let out several ‘hey, hey’ cold laugh, he slowly raised his hands to grab the chest of his own clothes; he said, “Jiaozhu, Madame, in the past, when subordinate, along with Scarlet, White, Black and Yellow, four Gates’ Zhangmenshi sworn brotherhood, we determined to work ourselves to death for Shen Long Jiao, we did not expect there would be a day like today. Madame wanted to put anybody to death, it’s not strange at all. What’s strange to me is that because the Yellow Dragon Envoy Yin Dage is greedy for life, afraid of death, unexpectedly he uttered such a sordid and contemptible talk, slandering his own good xiongdi …”

Suddenly there was a ‘rip’ noise as the man threw both hands outward, pulling his own long gown into two halves. With a shake of his arms, the two pieces of gowns coiled horizontally out, sweeping away the eight teenagers’ swords. Blue light flashed, a pair of daggers about a chi and a half long appeared in his hands. With a series of ‘Swish, swish!’ sound, the pit of the eight teenagers’ stomachs were hit by the dagger; they all fell to the ground, spurting blood from their wounds. Eight dead bodies fell around him, unexpectedly they form a very neat circle. His movement was very fast, just like a thunderbolt before it even reaches the ears. Madame Hong was startled; she clapped her hands repeatedly. More than twenty teenagers in blue clothes rushed toward the Blue Dragon Envoy, and once again he was surrounded.

The Blue Dragon Envoy laughed aloud, and then in a loud and clear voice he said, “Madame, these babies that you trained are completely useless. If Jiaozhu wants to rely on these kids to establish great merits by subduing the enemy, won’t it be too inconvenient?”

When the seven teenagers assassinate Zhong Zhiling, Hong Jiaozhu appeared to turn a blind eye, now that the Blue Dragon Envoy killed eight teenagers, he appeared as unconcerned; sitting quietly in his chair, all along he did not pay any attention. Madame Hong cast a quick glance toward her husband, as if she was somewhat ashamed. Smiling sweetly, she sat down and said with a laugh, “Blue Dragon Envoy, your swordsmanship is very good, today …”

Suddenly there was a series of ‘crash, bang!’ noise all around the hall as the swords in the several hundred teenage boys and girls all fell to the floor. As they were still in shock, they saw one by one the teenagers fell on their knees to the ground. Instantly everybody also felt dizzy and their eyes dimmed, and were unable to stand. Those with weaker inner power fell down first, and then the rest of them swayed and fell down one after another. In a short moment the hall was strewn with lying bodies.

Madame Hong cried out in alarm, “What … what happened?” Her body felt weak, she slipped down from the bamboo chair.

The Blue Dragon Envoy was actually standing upright and unafraid, with a malicious laugh he said, “Jiaozhu, when you massacred our xiongdi, have you ever thought that a day like today will arrive?” He struck his pair of daggers against each other, creating a metallic clang. Stepping over the bodies lying on the ground, he walked toward Hong Jiaozhu.

“Humph!” Hong Jiaozhu snorted, “Maybe not!” Reaching out to grab the armrest of the bamboo chair, ‘Crack!’ he broke the armrest.

The Blue Dragon Envoy’s countenance changed immediately. Withdrawing two steps, he said, “Jiaozhu, such a big cult like Shen Long Jiao is torn to pieces. Who planted the embryo of this calamity, you, Senior, ought to understand by now?”

“Mmm,” Hong Jiaozhu mumbled; suddenly he slipped down from the chair and sat on the floor. The Blue Dragon Envoy was greatly delighted, he rushed forward. Suddenly he cried out, an object, carrying a strong gust of wind, was flying toward his chest. The Blue Dragon Envoy forcefully raised the dagger in his right hand to chop, the object broke into two pieces. Turned out it was the armrest from Hong Jiaozhu’s bamboo chair. The force behind this throw was not a small matter at all, as the bamboo piece was cut, the front section did not fall. ‘Stab!’ it penetrated the Blue Dragon Envoy’s chest, breaking five or six of his ribs, and pierced his lung.

The Blue Dragon Envoy screamed, but suddenly he stopped; the chi in his lung could not flow up, instantly he was muted. He swayed twice, the pair of daggers in his hands fell down, separately landed on the bodies of two teenage boys. These two teenagers’ bodies were numb, they could not move, but actually their minds were still clear, and they could still talk. As the daggers pierced their bodies, they cried out in pain.

Seeing their Jiaozhu displaying his divine prowess by knocking down the Blue Dragon Envoy, several hundred teenage boys and girls cheered together. They saw their Jiaozhu propped himself up with his right hand, struggling to stand up, but before he could straighten up his right leg, his knees turned soft that he fell down again and rolled away several times. Indeed he had fallen into an extremely difficult situation. This way, everybody knew that Jiaozhu was in the same boat as them, he was also being poisoned that his muscle went soft and his flesh paralyzed.

Normally, the Cult Leader was an extremely dignified person, even in front of the Cult members very seldom did he ever speak more than a sentence, or laugh more than once. This time unexpectedly he had fallen and suffered disgrace, losing the strength of his entire body.

Several hundred people in the hall were lying on the floor, but there was one person who was still standing. This person was actually very short, but standing among several hundred people lying on the floor, inevitably he looked like a crane in a flock of chicken. This person was none other than Wei Xiaobao. His nose smelled a burst of faint fragrance, but he felt very calm and relaxed, his entire body felt comfortably warm, a strange good feeling that he could not explain.

Seeing everybody had fallen to the ground without knowing the reason, he was completely baffled. After staring blankly for quite a while, he reached down to pull Fat Toutuo up and asked, “Fat Revered Monk, what happened to everybody?”

Fat Toutuo was surprised, “You … you are not poisoned?” he asked.

“Poisoned?” Wei Xiaobao was equally surprised, “I … I don’t know.” He struggled hard to help Fat Toutuo up, but Fat Toutuo did not have any strength left on his legs, he fell back sitting down on the floor.

Mr. Lu suddenly asked, “Xu Dage, you … what kind of poison did you use?”

The Blue Dragon Envoy’s body swayed as if he was drunk; supporting himself on a pillar, he coughed incessantly and said, “What a pity, what … what a pity I failed within sight of success. I … I am unfit for anything.”

“Is it ‘seven-insect tendon softening powder’?” Mr. Lu asked, “Is it ‘thousand-li ecstasy fragrance’? Or is it ‘Trans … transforming blood … decaying bone dust’?” Successively he mentioned the names of three most debilitating poison. When mentioning the name ‘transforming blood decaying bone dust’, his voice trembled, as if he was extremely terrified.

The Blue Dragon Envoy’s right lung was heavily injured; his coughing was very severe, he was unable to answer. Mr. Lu asked, “How come Wei Gongzi is not poisoned? Ah! I know!” He suddenly remembered something. These two words ‘I know’ were shouted really loud. He said, “You have applied the ‘hundred flowers snake belly’s ointment’ on your daggers. Brilliant scheme, brilliant scheme. Wei Gongzi, could you please sniff the Blue Dragon Envoy’s pair of daggers? See if you smell flower’s fragrance on the blades.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “The blades are poisonous, I am not going to smell them.” He said, “I can smell strong fragrance from here.”

Mr. Lu looked delighted; “That’s right!” he said, “When this ‘hundred flowers snake belly’s ointment’ came in contact with blood, it will produce a strong fragrance. Actually, it was a certain sect’s secret method to refine spices, when ordinary people smell it, they will feel their spirits invigorated, but … but we live on this Spirit Snake Island, everybody is used to take the ‘realgar medicated wine’ to dispel the poisonous snakes. As soon as this fragrance came in contact with the ‘realgar medicated wine’, it will make our muscles and bones weak for twelve shichen [24 hours]. Xu Dage, what a brilliant scheme. This ‘hundred flowers snake belly’s ointment’ is actually forbidden on the island, turns out you have prepared this in secret for a long time. You must have stopped drinking the ‘realgar medicated wine’ three, four months ago.”

The Blue Dragon Envoy sat down, he happened to sat on two teenagers’ bodies. Shaking his head, he said, “Man proposes but God disposes, in the end I still fell under Hong Antong’s evil scheme.”

Several teenage boys shouted, “Audacious mad disciple, you dare to randomly call Jiaozhu’s holy name.”

The Blue Dragon Envoy stood up slowly. Picking up a long sword, he walked over toward Hong Jiaozhu step by step. “Why can’t I say the name Hong Antong?” he said, “Cough, cough … after I kill this evil thief … cough, cough … does it matter if I call his name or not?”

Several hundred teenage boys and girls called out in alarm. After a while, the Yellow Dragon Envoy’s old voice was heard, “Xu Xiongdi, after you kill Hong Antong, everybody will support you as the new Shen Long Jiao’s Jiaozhu. Everybody recite quickly: We will obey Xu Jiaozhu’s command, absolutely no double-mind!”

The hall was silent for a moment, and then several dozen people recited, “We will obey Xu Jiaozhu’s command, absolutely no double-mind.” Some were confident, some appeared rather hesitant, it sounded rather irregular.

The Blue Dragon Envoy took two steps forward, coughed once, and swayed several times. His injury was very heavy, but struggled with everything he had, because no matter what, he must kill Hong Jiaozhu first.

Suddenly Madame Hong giggled and said, “Blue Dragon Envoy, you don’t have any strength left, your thighs does not have the least bit of strength, the blood bubbled up in the pit of your stomach, very soon you will lose everything. You are finished. Why don’t you sit down? You are very tired. That’s right, sit down and rest for a while. Put down your sword. In a moment you may sit by my side, let me cure your injury. That’s right, sit down, put down your sword.” The more she spoke, her voice grew gentler and more flirtatious.

The Blue Dragon Envoy took several more steps, in the end he sat down slowly. ‘Clang!’ the sword in his hand fell down to the floor.

Seeing the Blue Dragon Envoy did not have any strength to stand up again, the Yellow Dragon Envoy shouted, “Xu Xueting, you, this traitor, are indulging yourself in wishful thinking, damn it, you want to be the Jiaozhu, just scatter your own urine to yourself, this revolting behavior cannot be tolerated.”

The Scarlet Dragon Envoy Priest Wugen shouted, “Yin Jin, you are such a despicable, shameless lowly person, you see the wind and set the helm, rocking to the east and sway to the west. As soon as the ol’ Taoist can move my hands and feet, the first thing I’ll do will be to slaughter you.”

The Yellow Dragon Envoy Yin Jin said, “Why are you vicious? I … I …” he wanted to talk back, but saw that swaying and rocking, the Blue Dragon Envoy struggled hard to stand up. Once again the battle’s outcome was undecided[2], thereupon he shut his mouth.

In the meantime, the eyes of several hundred people in the hall were all fixed on Xu Xueting. In a soft voice Madame Hong said, “Xu Dage, you are very tired, why don’t you sit down? Just look at me, I’ll sing a little song for you. Just take a good rest, later on I will sing a little song for you every day. Tell me if I look beautiful.”

“Oh, oh,” Xu Xueting repeatedly mumbled, he said, “You … you are very beautiful, but I … I do not dare to look at you too much …” While saying that, he sat down again, and this time he could not stand back up; however, his mind was still as bright as snow, he realized that as long as he could not stand up, he would not be able to kill Jiaozhu. Among these several hundred people, the Cult Leader’s skill was the most profound, surely he would be the first to have the poison in his system driven out, and then every one of the older brethrens would not be fortunate to escape his evil scheme. Thereupon he said, “Mister … Mister Lu, I can’t move, you must think … think … cough, cough … think of a way.”

“Wei Gongzi,” Mr. Lu said, “This Jiaozhu is extremely vicious, when the poison in his body is neutralized, he will kill everybody, even you will not escape. Quickly kill Jiaozhu and Madame.”

Even if he did not say those words, Wei Xiaobao had already understood. Picking up a sword, he slowly walked toward the Cult Leader.

Mr. Lu added, “This Madame Hong is a fox-spirit, she will completely deceive people, you must not look at her face, don’t look at her eyes.”

“Yes!” Wei Xiaobao replied. With raised sword he took several steps forward.

In a soft voice Madame Hong said, “Xiao Xiongdi, tell me, do you think I am beautiful?” Her voice was brimming with overwhelming emotion that can erode the bones. Wei Xiaobao’s heart was moved; he turned his head to look at her.

Fat Toutuo shouted loudly, “Wicked demon; don’t look at her!” Wei Xiaobao shivered and closed his eyes tight.

With a tender laugh Madame Hong said, “Xiao Xiongdi, look at me, turn your eyes on me, open your eyes, look, you can see your reflection in my eyes!”

As soon as Wei Xiaobao opened his eyes, he saw Madame Hong’s graceful eyes and smiling expression; he could not stop his heart from being shaken. Immediately he raised the sword in front of his chest and walked toward Hong Jiaozhu, thinking, “You are such a beautiful woman, I really cannot kill you, but I simply must kill your husband.”

Suddenly from his left came a sharp and clear voice calling out, “Wei Dage! Don’t kill him!”

The voice sounded very familiar. Wei Xiaobao’s heart was shaken. He turned toward the voice and saw a young girl wearing red clothes lying on the ground, her eyebrows were elegant her eyes were gorgeous, she was none other than Xiao Junzhu Mu Jianping. Wei Xiaobao was flabbergasted; not in a million years would he expect to see her in this place. As for why she was wearing the Scarlet Dragon Gate’s red uniform, he did not feel surprised at all. Busily he helped her up and asked, “How can you be here?”

Mu Jianping did not answer his question, she only said, “By all means, you must not kill Jiaozhu.”

“Have you joined Shen Long Jiao?” Wei Xiaobao asked in surprise, “How … how come?”

Mu Jianping’s entire body was so soft as if she did not have any bones; leaning against his shoulder, she put her small mouth close to his ear and said in a low voice, “If you kill Jiaozhu and Madame, I will not live. Those old men hate us to the death, they will definitely kill us all the young people.”

“I am going to ask them not to harm you,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I think they will consent.”

“No, no!” Mu Jianping anxiously said, “Jiaozhu has given us poison, other people cannot neutralize it.”

Meeting with her again after a long separation, Wei Xiaobao was actually very happy, much less she was leaning in his bosom, he could smell her soft fragrance, and hear her tender voice in his ear. He found it very difficult to resist her request, plus he thought that the Cult Leader had forced her to take the poison and nobody else could save her; therefore, if he killed the Cult Leader, he would be killing this beautiful young woman in his bosom, which he must never do. It was a very difficult decision to take. He said in a low voice, “If I don’t kill Jiaozhu, after the poison in Jiaozhu’s body is neutralized, he will definitely kill me.” He was holding Mu Jianping in tight embrace, he said those words in her ear.

Mu Jianping said, “If you saved Jiaozhu and Madame, how could they kill you?”

Wei Xiaobao thought that she was right, Madame Hong was such a thousand-beauty a hundred-charming woman, no matter what she must not be killed. Before his eyes was an opportunity to set up a great merit, it’s just that inevitably Fat Toutuo, Mr. Lu, Priest Wugen and the others would be killed by the Cult Leader. Priest Wugen was an extremely heroic man, it would be a pity to have him killed. It would be best if he did not kill Jiaozhu and Madame, while saving Fat Toutuo and the others’ lives at the same time. Thereupon he said, “Exactly! Good wife, even if Jiaozhu wanted to kill me, I will definitely save your life.” While saying that, he landed a kiss on her left cheek.

Mu Jianping was extremely bashful, her face blushed, but her eyes revealed a happy expression as she said in a low voice, “If you set up a great merit, plus you are a young child, how can Jiaozhu kill you?”

Wei Xiaobao lay Mu Jianping back on the floor; he turned his head and said, “Mr. Lu, Jiaozhu must not be killed, and so is Madame. The inscription on the stone tablet says that Jiaozhu and Madame will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, their long lives will be the same as the heaven’s; how can I dare to harm their lives? The two Seniors’ magical power is extensive, even if I want to harm them, I cannot harm them to their death.”

Mr. Lu was greatly anxious; “The inscription is a fake,” he called out, “How can you even take it into consideration? Don’t indulge in flights of fancy, quickly kill those two people, otherwise, everybody will die without a burial site.”

Wei Xiaobao repeatedly shook his head. “Mr. Lu,” he said, “You must not say such a treason talk. Do you have the antidote? We must neutralize the poison in Jiaozhu and Madame’s bodies.”

In a soft voice Madame Hong said, “That’s right, Xiao Xiongdi, you indeed have excellent knowledge and experience. The Heaven sent such a young hero like you to descend to the world, actually to assist Jiaozhu. For Shen Long Jiao to have such a young hero like you, it is indeed everyone’s good fortune.”

She appeared to say those words from the bottom of her heart, it was brimming with amazement and high praise. When Wei Xiaobao heard it, he felt an unspeakable joy and comfort in his heart. He laughed and said, “Madame, I don’t belong to Shen Long Jiao.”

Madame Hong laughed. “Nothing could be easier than that,” she said, “You can join the Cult right now, I can be your sponsor [orig. person who receive and instruct]. Jiaozhu, this Xiao Xiongdi has set up such a great merit for our Cult, which official position should we assign to him?”

The Cult Leader said, “The White Dragon Gate’s Zhangmenshi Zhong Zhiling has been executed for apostasy, we can promote this young man as the White Dragon Envoy.”

“That’s great!” Madame Hong said with a laugh, “Xiao Xiongdi, our Cult is headed by Jiaozhu, under him are Blue, Yellow, Scarlet, White and Black, five dragon envoys. To have someone like you, who as soon as you join the Cult immediately becomes one of the five dragon envoys, it is indeed unprecedented, indicating that that Jiaozhu has a very high opinion of you. Xiao Xiongdi, you are surnamed Wei, that much we know. But what is your great name?”

“My name is Wei Xiaobao,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “In Jianghu, people call me the Little White Dragon.” He recalled Mao Shiba had fabricated a nickname for him with the thought that if he did not have any nickname, it would not be impressive enough. Who could have thought that the nickname agreed with what had happened today as if by prior consultation?

“You see, you see!” Madame Hong happily said, “This is the Heaven’s plan, otherwise, how can there be such coincidence? Jiaozhu’s golden mouth has spoken, definitely he won’t renege.”

Mr. Lu was greatly anxious, “Wei Gongzi,” he said, “Don’t fall into their trick. Even if you become the White Dragon Envoy, if they don’t like you and want to kill you, won’t it be as easy as turning their hand over? The White Dragon Envoy Zhong Zhiling was the example right in front of our eyes. Quickly kill Jiaozhu and Madame, everybody will support you as the new Jiaozhu of Shen Long Jiao.”

As soon as he said that, everybody was startled. Fat Toutuo, Xu Xueting, Priest Wugen and the others all felt that this idea was extremely unthinkable. But then they had a second thought: if they did not support him to be the new Cult Leader, currently there was no position in the Cult higher than the White Dragon Envoy position. The situation before their eyes was very urgent, the lives of everybody present were hanging on his hand. Only by doing this they would be able to tempt him to kill Jiaozhu and Madame. As soon as the crisis was over, even if they really promote him to become the Cult Leader, he would not escape from everybody’s grasp. Thereupon everybody chorused, “Right, right, we will support Wei Gongzi as the Shen Long Jiao’s Jiaozhu; everybody will be loyal and devoted to you.”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart was moved, he cast a sidelong glance toward Madame Hong. She was half sitting half lying on the bamboo chair, as if her entire body was devoid of any bones. Her chest was heaving up and down slightly, her cheeks blushed, her eyes glistened. He mused, “There’s nothing fun being the Jiaozhu, but this Madame Jiaozhu is extremely pretty. If I become the Jiaozhu, will you or won’t you still become the Madame Jiaozhu?”

But this thought only flashed through in his mind, immediately he cleared his head, “Each of these people has superior martial art skill, as soon as the poison in their bodies is neutralized, how can I deal with them? It will be ‘pulling the plank after crossing the bridge’.” As for the matter of ‘pulling the plank after crossing the bridge’, he had had personal experience with the Tian Di Hui’s Green Wood Hall. But Tian Di Hui brethrens were heroes and warrior, after crossing the bridge, they did not pull the plank in a hurry. These Shen Long Jiao fellows, on the other hand, how could they not pull the plank in a hurry? Worse yet, how could they not do it in great delight? Although Madame Jiaozhu was pretty, when all is said and done, his own life was prettier.

Thereupon he stuck out his tongue and said with a laugh, “I don’t want to be the Jiaozhu, by saying that, you are not bringing good fortune to me. Besides, it is treason and heresy. How about this: Jiaozhu, Madame, and everybody here better be reconciled. I want both sides to disregard what had happened today. Mr. Lu, Blue Dragon Envoy and the others have offended Jiaozhu, I am asking Jiaozhu to be magnanimous and disregard their crime. Mr. Lu, take the antidote out, after everybody is cured, won’t it be good that we are all friendly toward each other?”

Without waiting for Mr. Lu to open his mouth, Hong Jiaozhu immediately said, “Very well, let’s do it. The White Dragon Envoy is urging us to work together, to let bygones be bygones; I accept the auspicious loyal advice. The matter of everybody rebelled against the authority today, I am willing to forgive and will no longer look into it.”

Wei Xiaobao happily said, “Blue Dragon Envoy, Jiaozhu has agreed, don’t you agree that this is wonderful?”

Realizing that Wei Xiaobao was unwilling to kill the Cult Leader no matter what, Mr. Lu heaved a deep sigh and said, “If that’s the case, Jiaozhu, Madame, would you two please make an oath.”

Madame Hong said, “I, Su Quan, will not look into today’s matter. If I go against this oath, let me fall into the Dragon Pool, and be devoured by ten thousand snakes.”

In a low and deep voice Hong Jiaozhu said, “If in the future I, Shen Long Jiao Jiaozhu Hong Antong, ever settle the account with old xiongdi over what had happened today, let the Ol’ Hong fall into the Dragon Pool and be devoured by ten thousand snakes, so that even my bones will not survive.”

‘Fall into the Dragon Pool and be devoured by ten thousand snakes’ was Shen Long Jiao’s heaviest punishment. Jiaozhu and Madame swore this heavy oath, although they were under pressure, they simply could not retract what they had said.

“Blue Dragon Envoy, what do you think?” Mr. Lu asked.

Xu Xueting was at his last gasp, he said, “I … I won’t live anyway.”

“Priest Wugen, what do you think?” Mr. Lu asked again.

In a loud voice Priest Wugen said, “Let it be so. Hong Jiaozhu was originally our old xiongdi, his literary and martial art skills are ten times better than everybody else. We all originally supported him without half-heartedness. Ever since he took this Madame as his wife, his character underwent huge changes; he only loved to promote young boys and girls and had us, the old xiongdi massacred one by one. The Blue Dragon Envoy was the first to rise in revolt, but he was only striving to survive, without any other motive. Since Jiaozhu and Madame have sworn an oath publicly not to look into today’s matter, no longer recklessly murder old xiongdi, why would we want to rebel against him? Besides, Shen Long Jiao cannot exist without this Jiaozhu.”

A group of teenage boys and girls shouted loudly, “Jiaozhu will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, his long life will be the same as the heaven’s.”

“Wei Gongzi,” Mr. Lu said, “You have not taken ‘realgar medicated wine’, therefore, you were not poisoned by … and thus have set up the great merit of today. It was the mystery of the underworld, the Will of Heaven. To neutralize the poison, it is very easy. Go outside and scoop up some cold water, bring it here and have everybody here drink some.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Turns out this poison is very easy to neutralize.” He went out the hall, but could not find any cold water. Circling around the hall, he saw a row of twenty stone jars, seven of them were brimming with clear water. Actually, the water was to guard against the bamboo hall catching fire. Immediately he filled a bucket full with water and returned to the main hall. He scooped some water and had the Cult Leader drink it first. Next he gave Madame Hong some water. The third scoop was for Priest Wugen; he said, “Daozhang [priest], you are a hero and a warrior.” The fourth, the fifth were for Fat Toutuo and Mr. Lu. The sixth was for Mu Jianping.

After drinking the water, they all threw up, and then slowly regained the strength of their hands and feet. After Wei Xiaobao fed several more people, Mr. Lu was already able to stand up and walk, immediately he attended the Blue Dragon Envoy Xu Xueting’s injury, trying to stop his bleeding. Fat Toutuo and the others also took cold water to help the brethrens closest to them. Very soon Mu Jianping was able to help several teenage girls wearing red clothes.

The hall reeked with vomit, the stench was unbearable.

Madame Hong said, “Everybody, go back and rest, we will assemble again tomorrow.”

Hong Jiaozhu said, “I have decided to let bygones be bygones, all xiongdi are partners, you cannot, because of what happened today, strife against each other to carry out a vendetta against our brother. Those who disobey will be severely punished. The youngster of Five Dragon Gates must not be disrespectful against the Zhangmenshi. In the same way, the Zhangmenshi must not find any excuse to punish the young members of our Gates.”

Everyone received the order with one voice, but they were still suspicious and jealous, after all, it was very difficult to drive anxiety away.

“White Dragon Envoy,” Madame Hong said in a soft voice, “Come with me.”

Wei Xiaobao still did not know that she was calling him, only after seeing her beckoning to him did he realize that he had become the Divine Dragon Cult’s White Dragon Envoy; thereupon he followed her.

The Cult Leader and Madame walked side-by-side out of the main hall. Everybody who could move bowed to salute, while shouting with a loud voice, “Jiaozhu will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, his long life will be the same as the heaven’s!”

Following a path laid with dark green flagstones the Cult Leader and Madame left the building and walk to the left. After passing through a sizeable bamboo groove, they arrived at an elevated level ground, where several large bamboo structures were built. A dozen or so teenage boys and girls wearing five different color clothes were on guard duty around the buildings with unsheathed swords in their hands. Seeing the Cult Leader, they all bowed to salute. Madame Hong led Wei Xiaobao into a bamboo building and said to a youngster wearing white clothes, “This is Wei Gongzi, the newly-appointed Zhangmenshi of your White Dragon Gate. Take him to the eastern wing to rest, all of you must serve him well.” Finished speaking, she flashed a smile toward Wei Xiaobao and entered the inner hall.

Several teenagers in white clothes presented themselves to Wei Xiaobao and said, “Young subordinates pay their respect to the Envoy.”

In the Palace, Wei Xiaobao was accustomed to be a chief of the court eunuchs; in Tian Di Hui, he was accustomed to be a Xiangzhu, he did not care in the least bit that people were treating him deferentially; he simply nodded. Several teenagers in white clothes took him to the eastern wing and offered to serve him tea. Although it was only a wing, the room was very spacious; the furnishings were elegant and pure, with gold and jade antiques spread all over the table. Several rolls of calligraphy and paintings were hung on the wall, the bedding on the bed was magnificent, unexpectedly it had a little bit of the Imperial Palace’s style.

Those several teenagers in white clothes noticed that it was evident from Madame Hong’s speech and expression that she held this Wei Xiaobao in such a high regard, moreover, there had never been any outsider who spent the night in the Cult Leader’s ‘Immortal Good Fortune Residence’. By enjoying special privilege like this, clearly the White Dragon Envoy’s status was above the other four envoys. These youngsters had been on guard duty in here for a while, they did not know about the incident that had just happened in the main hall, but seeing Wei Xiaobao was in such an honored position and was in the Cult Leader’s good grace, they all did everything they could to please him.

That same afternoon Wei Xiaobao asked those several teenagers in white clothes about all kinds of customs of the Five Dragon Gates. Turned out the Divine Dragon Cult was divided into five gates, each gate envoy commanded several dozen of old xiongdi, a hundred teenagers, and several hundred ordinary Cult members. Each Zhangmenshi was originally a veteran martial art expert who had established great service to the Cult. But recently the Cult Leader had thrown his full support to promote some rising stars, often people in their twenties, to hold important positions second only to the Zhangmenshi. Although Wei Xiaobao was very young, nobody showed the least bit of surprise.

The next morning, Hong Jiaozhu and Madame Hong called for another assembly in the main hall. There was anxiety and uneasy expression on everybody’s face. Although the Cult Leader had sworn an oath not to pursue this matter, he was known as extremely shrewd, nobody could guess what kind of formidable method he would use to deal with them.

The Cult Leader and Madame sat on their thrones. Wei Xiaobao was fourth among the Five Dragon Envoys, he ranked above Fat Toutuo and Mr. Lu. “How is the Blue Dragon Envoy’s injury?” the Cult Leader asked.

Mr. Lu bowed and said, “Reporting to Jiaozhu: the Blue Dragon Envoy’s injury is not light, whether his life can be saved or not, at the present it is still very difficult to say.”

The Cult Leader took a deep red small porcelain bottle from his bosom and said, “Here are three ‘King of Heaven’s Life-saving Pills’, give them to him.” While saying that, without anybody seeing him raising his hand, the porcelain bottle flew slowly toward Mr. Lu.

Hastily Mr. Lu reached out to receive it. Lying prostrate on the floor, he said, “Thank you Jiaozhu for your great graciousness.” He knew these ‘King of Heaven’s Life-saving Pills’ to be very rare. The Cult Leader had to dispatch his subordinates to gather countless rare drug ingredients and had to refine it before making the pills. Among the ingredients were three-hundred-year old Laoshan [lit. old mountain] ginseng, white bear’s gall, snow lotus herb and other especially hard-to-come-by substances. The Cult Leader had spent considerable effort to manufacture the pills, but he managed to produce only around ten pills. With these three miracle cure pills, Xu Xueting’s life would definitely be out of danger.

The rest of the old xiongdi also bowed to express their gratitude; they all thought, “The Blue Dragon Envoy has offended Jiaozhu really bad yesterday by determining to take his life, yet today Jiaozhu bestowed the treasured medicine instead. He has let bygones be bygones indeed.” No one did not feel gratified. At first everybody in the hall was in high alert, but now their faces showed smiling expression. Quite a few of them let out a deep breath.

Madame Hong said with a laugh, “White Dragon Envoy, I heard that on Mount Wutai you saw a stone tablet, on which some writings in tadpole script were engraved?”

Wei Xiaobao bowed and said, “Yes!”

Fat Toutuo said, “Reporting to Jiaozhu and Madame: subordinate has made a rubbing of the writings and I have it in here.” From his bosom he took out a roll of oil paper and opened it, showing a large sheet of rubbings from the tablet, which he then hung on the eastern wall. The sheet had a black background with white characters, the writings looked extremely strange, nobody recognize the characters.

Madame Hong said, “White Dragon Envoy, if you know these characters, please read it for everybody here.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied. With eyes fixed on the rubbing, he loudly recited the writings made by Mr. Lu: “In the tenth month of the Zhen Guan’s second year Jiazi of the Great Tang …” Slowly he continued reciting from memory. Occasionally he would forget, so he said, “Um, what character is that? It’s difficult to recognize. Ah right, must be a ‘mo’ [devil] character.”

When reciting the part that said ‘He will enjoy immortal happiness forever, universal evil spirit will venerate him. His long life will be the same as the Heaven’s, a kind sage of both pen and sword’, he changed it to ‘He, together with Madame, will enjoy immortal happiness forever, universal evil spirit will venerate them. Their long life will be the same as the Heaven’s, kind sages of both pen and sword.’

In all honesty, this four-character phrase ‘together with Madame’ [lian tong fu ren] was rather vulgar; if it was composed by Mr. Lu, he would definitely pick a more elegant wording. But Wei Xiaobao did not have any literary skill, how could he produce any elegant phrase? It was already remarkable that he did not change a four-character sentence into a five-character one.

When Madame Hong heard this phrase, ‘her brows raised in delight, her eyes laughing’ as she said, “Jiaozhu, there is indeed a reference on me in the writings of the stone tablet, the White Dragon Envoy did not carelessly make it up.”

Hong Jiaozhu was also very happy; he nodded and said with a laugh, “Good, good! We are fulfilling the Heaven’s destiny; the founding of this Shen Long Jiao was actually foretold by the Heaven during the Zhen Guan year of the Great Tang.”

The cult members in the hall shouted together, “Jiaozhu will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, his long life will be the same as the heaven’s.”

Priest Wugen and the other old xiongdi were also amazed, they thought, “Jiaozhu and Madame are fulfilling the Heaven’s destiny, we must not offend them.”

Finally Wei Xiaobao recited the locations of the eight copies of the ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’. Madame Hong gasped and said, “When virtuous ruler arose, it is to the benefit of the common people. No doubt the Heaven has arranged it early on, even a man like Wu Sangui is already mentioned in the Heaven’s will. Jiaozhu, these eight copies of treasured sutra belong to our Cult, sooner or later they will be acquired for our Shen Long Jiao.”

The Cult Leader twisted his beard and said with a smile, “Madame is right.”

The people yelled again, “Jiaozhu’s long life will be the same as the heaven’s, Jiaozhu’s long life will be the same as the heaven’s!”

When the shouting subsided, Hong Jiaozhu said, “Now, let us open the Incense Hall to inaugurate Wei Xiaobao as our Cult’s White Dragon Gate’s Zhangmenshi.”

The opening of the incense hall of Shen Long Jiao was completely different from Tian Di Hui. Wei Xiaobao saw five golden trays on the incense table, each tray had a small snake on it, altogether there were blue, yellow, scarlet, white and black snakes. These five little snakes raised their heads, flicking their tongues in and out, but their bodies were motionless.

After doing obeisance toward these five ‘divine dragons’, Wei Xiaobao kowtowed in front of the Cult Leader and Madame, and accepted Priest Wugen and the others’ congratulations. Madame Hong poured three cups of realgar wine and had him drink it. She said with a laugh, “After drinking this wine, the divine dragons on this island will know that you are one of our own, hereafter they will not come to bite you.” The Cult Leader bestowed him a strand of realgar bead, telling him to hang it next to his skin, so that a hundred poisons would not harm him. Next, the elders and young men of the White Dragon Gate came to pay their respect to their new Zhangmenshi.

The Cult Leader ordered, “Because the Blue Dragon Gate Zhangmenshi is recuperating from his illness, and Fat Toutuo has set up a merit by making the rubbing of the stone tablet, Fat Toutuo will temporarily handle the Blue Dragon Gate’s business. When the Blue Dragon Envoy recovers, he will take over again.” Fat Toutuo bowed to accept the order. The Cult Leader continued, “Five Dragon Envoys and Lu Gaoxuan, six people, come to the rear hall to discuss official business.”

Immediately the Cult Leader and Madame rose from their seats and walked toward the rear hall, while everybody shouted loudly to see them off. Priest Wugen, Wei Xiaobao, Fat Toutuo, Mr. Lu and the others followed behind them. It was only then that Wei Xiaobao knew that Mr. Lu’s name was Lu Gaoxuan.

The rear hall was located right behind the main hall. It was not big, with two large bamboo chairs inside, where he Cult Leader and Madame sit. Below the chairs there were five low stools. The three Zhangmenshi sat down. Fat Toutuo also sat down. He said, “White Dragon Envoy, please sit down.”

Seeing Mr. Lu did not have a seat, Wei Xiaobao hesitated a little bit. Mr. Lu smiled and said, “White Dragon Envoy, please sit down. There is no seat for a Cult member without any obligations like me in the ‘Hidden Dragon Hall’.”

Wei Xiaobao expected it was indeed the custom; if Fat Toutuo was not acting on behalf of the Blue Dragon Envoy, he would not have any seat either, thereupon he sat down. Mr. Lu stood up next to the Black Dragon Envoy, a position below him.

Suddenly Yin Jin and the others, four people, stood up. Wei Xiaobao did not understand what was going on, he also stood up. He heard Yin Jin, Mr. Lu and the others, five people, were reciting, “With Jiaozhu’s treasured teaching …” Wei Xiaobao immediately followed, “… always in our hearts, we can set up meritorious deed and subdue the enemy, nothing is unachievable!” He still had a child’s high-pitched voice, so compared to the five people’s voices, his sounded somewhat louder. Only after Hong Jiaozhu nodded did the five people sit down.

Hong Jiaozhu said, “The writings on the stone tablet reveal that there are eight copies of ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’ scattered around the four directions, yet the Black Dragon Envoy reported that four copies are actually in the Imperial Palace; what’s the story?”

The Black Dragon Envoy said, “It may be assumed that these four books were originally from Shaolin Temple, Mu Palace and so on, which, afterwards, were seized away by the Tatars and brought into the Palace.” The Cult Leader hesitated for a moment and did not say anything; the fear on the Black Dragon Envoy’s face grew more intense.

Hong Jiaozhu turned toward Fat Toutuo and asked, “Has your Shixiong sent any news back?”

Fat Toutuo respectfully said, “Reporting to Jiaozhu: Thin Toutuo once said that at the Banner Commander of Bordered Blue Banner’s mansion he had found a little bit of clue, but afterwards he lost track of it.”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart was moved, “The Banner Commander of Bordered Blue Banner’s mansion?” he mused, “Isn’t that the place where Tao Gugu‘s Shifu went? Turns out Fat Toutuo have a shixiong, who is called Thin Toutuo.”

He heard Hong Jiaozhu said, “Tell him that I order him to finish up his investigation as soon as possible, he must not be negligent.” Fat Toutuo repeatedly complied.

After a while, Madame Hong smiled and said, “The Black Dragon Envoy has sent people into the Palace to fetch the sutra. According to his own explanation, he had spared no effort, but so far he had not succeeded in obtaining even one copy. Perhaps we ought to send someone else whose luck is a lot better to handle this matter.”

The Yellow Dragon Envoy Yin Jin hastily said, “Madame has a wise opinion. Learning from experience, fetching the sutra is a matter of luck, with enormous responsibility. It’s not that the Black Dragon Envoy did not try hard and did not want to perform a meritorious deed for Jiaozhu, it’s just that from the beginning there are obstacles one after another. Most likely it is because his luck is inadequate, thereupon the treasured sutra cannot be obtained.”

Madame Hong smiled and said, “In your opinion, whose luck is adequate?”

Yin Jin said, “The one with most luck in our Cult is naturally Jiaozhu, the Senior, himself; next in line would be Madame. However, we must not toil your two honorable selves to go into action personally. The next person with great fortune would be the White Dragon Envoy. He knows the inscriptions on the stone tablet, he has also established a great service. There is a faint red glow at the center of his forehead, a sign that his luck is very big, there is no one among Jiaozhu’s subordinate can surpass him.”

The Cult Leader twisted his beard and said with a smile, “But he is a small child, can he handle this great matter?”

Although the White Dragon Envoy was a senior position within the Divine Dragon Cult, in Wei Xiaobao’s heart it did not mean anything. Since he was stuck on the Island, he was forced to take whatever comes his way. He had extreme satisfaction in looking at Madame Hong’s ‘bashful flower obstructing the moon’ beauty, but if he looked at her too much, Jiaozhu would detect his lecherous look, then it would be difficult for him to escape death. In short, it would be best if he could return to Beijing as soon as possible. Hearing Jiaozhu’s words, he found the perfect opportunity to free himself; thereupon he said, “Jiaozhu, Madame, I am indebted of your promotion; subordinate is very grateful. I do not have any ability, but relying on the good fortune of the two of you, I have the hope that I can succeed in sneaking into the Palace and steal the four copies of the treasured sutra.”

Hong Jiaozhu nodded. Madame Hong happily said, “You are willing to volunteer, showing that you are loyal to Jiaozhu. I know you are smart and witty, plus have great good fortune. Perhaps you are precisely the person sent by the Heaven to complete this important matter for Jiaozhu.”

Hong Jiaozhu slowly said, “According to the Black Dragon Envoy’s report, the people he sent to the Palace have sent information that the young Emperor has a little eunuch under his command by the name of Xiao Guizi …”

Wei Xiaobao was shocked. “My trickery is exposed! I am in big trouble,” he mused. He heard the Cult Leader continued, “… the young Emperor sent him to Mount Wutai, the intention is not favorable to our Cult. We sent several people in succession to question him. Zhang Laosan could not find him, Fat Toutuo also failed, unexpectedly Xiao Guizi cannot be found, but we found you instead.”

As the Cult Leader took a short pause, Yin Jin said, “Indeed that is Jiaozhu’s flood of good fortune fills the heavens!”

Hong Jiaozhu slightly nodded his head toward him and continued, “White Dragon Envoy, as soon as you get to the Palace, you must immediately investigate this Xiao Guizi’s matter: what scheme did the Emperor have of sending him to Mount Wutai?”

Wei Xiaobao was so scared that his entire body was drenched in cold sweat. “Yes, yes,” he busily said. But he was relieved that from the Cult Leader’s tone, he would definitely be sent to the Imperial Palace. Cast a glance toward Fat Toutuo, he mused, “You did not reveal my secret, I consider you a good person.”

Madame Hong said, “It is said that those eight copies of ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’ hide a big secret to build up strength and maintain, as well as, prolong life. Seeing that since our Jiaozhu has received the Heaven’s blessing to enjoy immortal good fortune forever and life as long as the heaven’s, sooner or later these eight sutras will fall into Jiaozhu’s hands. White Dragon Envoy, go and set up a great merit for Jiaozhu, bring those eight sutras back, Jiaozhu will definitely bestow you with rewards.”

Wei Xiaobao stood up, he bowed and said, “Even if subordinate’s body is torn and my bones crushed, it is still difficult to repay Jiaozhu and Madame’s great kindness. I will be utterly loyal serving the country and die in battle.” He learned these eight characters ‘utterly loyal serving the country and die in battle’ [jin zhong bao guo, ma ge guo shi] from the storyteller; whenever a general was going into battle, the sovereign king would encourage him, and then the great general would fervently utter these eight characters. He blindly imitated the words, although being used here it was a bit too much and a little nondescript.

Madame Hong laughed and said, “You vow loyalty and devotion to Jiaozhu, that’s very good. You go to Beijing, you may choose several people to help you as you wish.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Since I am running away, if the Cult people follow, they will only tie my hands and tie my feet.” Thereupon he said, “I am afraid with too many people our secret will be revealed. Ah, right, subordinate wants to select one or two young girls under the Scarlet Dragon Envoy, they can be disguised as palace maid; handling affairs in the Palace will be more convenient.” He was thinking about Mu Jianping, he must take her away.

Priest Wugen said, “I am afraid those little misses are useless, but as long as Jiaozhu and Madame approve, you may choose as you wish.”

“Thank you Daozhang,” Wei Xiaobao said.

Lu Gaoxuan said, “Reporting to Jiaozhu, Madame: subordinate has committed grave offense yesterday, I am very grateful of Jiaozhu’s graciousness in not killing me …”

Hong Jiaozhu waved his hand and said with knitted brows, “The matter of yesterday, everybody must not remember in his heart, from now on nobody is allowed to raise it again.”

“Yes,” Lu Gaoxuan said, “Thank you very much Jiaozhu. Subordinate is thinking of accompanying the White Dragon Envoy. With Jiaozhu and Madame’s great fortune, perhaps I will be able to set up some merit for Jiaozhu, to show a little of subordinate’s sincere appreciation.”

Hong Jiaozhu nodded his head and said, “Lu Gaoxuan is extremely resourceful, his martial art skill is superior, his penmanship is even more proficient, the literary works he made was well organized. Very good, very good, you may go with the White Dragon Envoy.”

Lu Gaoxuan considered carefully, “He said the literary works I made was well organized, could it be that about my fabrication of the writings on the stone tablet, in his heart he has already known it well?”

Fat Toutuo said, “Reporting to Jiaozhu, Madame: subordinate also wishes to accompany the White Dragon Envoy to Beijing to handle this matter for Jiaozhu.”

The Cult Leader nodded; seeing that the Yellow Dragon Envoy was about to volunteer too, he said, “Too many people already, I am afraid the mission will be compromised. Only the two of you will accompany. In everything, you must follow the White Dragon Envoy’s order, you must not disobey.”

Lu Gaoxuan and Fat Toutuo bowed and said, “Subordinate will do as you bid.”

From her bosom Madame Hong took out a small multi-colored dragon, it was molded from ‘blue copper’ [i.e. bronze], yellow gold, scarlet copper, white silver, and black iron. “White Dragon Envoy,” she said, “This is Jiaozhu’s Five-Dragon Command, I am handing it over to you for the time being. When the several tens of thousands Cult members see this Command, it is the same as they see Jiaozhu in person. In handling this important matter, the life-and-death power is being handed over to you. After rendering the meritorious service, you must return the Command.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, with both hands he respectfully received it, while in his heart he mused, “I just want to return to Beijing, and forget about his Divine Dragon Cult or Vicious Tiger Cult. By taking this so-called Five-Dragon Command, from now on I will have more trouble.”

Madame Hong said, “White Dragon Envoy, Lu Gaoxuan and Fat Toutuo, three people stay, the rest of you are dismissed.”

Priest Wugen and the Black Dragon Envoy, Yellow Dragon Envoy, three people saluted and withdrew.

Hong Jiaozhu took out a black porcelain bottle from his pocket and poured three vermillion red pills out. He said, “I commend you that using extreme force of will, the three of you will go to Beijing on a mission, hence I bestow each one of you with a ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’.”

Immediately on Fat Toutuo and Lu Gaoxuan’s faces appeared a delight mixed with dread. Bending their right knees, they expressed their gratitude, received the pills, and swallowed it. Wei Xiaobao blindly imitated them, he received the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’ and immediately swallowed it. Shortly afterward, he felt a burst of warm chi rising up in his stomach, following the blood flow, dispersing slowly into his four limbs and hundred bones of his body; it was unspeakably comfortable.

Madame Hong said, “White Dragon Envoy may stay, the rest of you are dismissed.” Fat Toutuo and Lu Gaoxuan, two people withdrew.

Madame Hong smiled and said, “White Dragon Envoy, what kind of weapon do you use?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Subordinate’s martial art skill is shallow and minuscule, and have not studied any weapon. I only have a dagger to protect myself.”

“Let me look at it,” Madame Hong said.

Wei Xiaobao pulled the dagger from his boot, turned the hilt around and presented it with both hands. Madame Hong took it. After examining it, she praised, “Good dagger!” Pulling a strand of her hair, she let it go. The hair slowly dropped on the edge of the blade, and was cut into two. “Good!” the Cult Leader also praised.

In term of personal character, Wei Xiaobao did not have any strong points, but he had always regarded wealth and worldly possessions extremely lightly; seeing Madame Hong was very delighted with the dagger, he thought that if he wanted to flatter her, he would have to go all out. He said, “Subordinate presents this dagger to Madame. The common saying says it well: rouge and treasured sword must … must be presented to beautiful woman. Among the beautiful women in the world, no one is more beautiful than Madame.” He had heard the storyteller said it many times, ‘the treasured sword must be presented to the martyr, the red powder must be presented to beautiful woman.’ But these two phrases were simply too difficult, he could not remember everything clearly.

Madame Hong giggled tenderly and said, “Good child, you are loyal to us; you are not simply making empty promises. I don’t have anything good to give you, how can I take a child’s belonging? Let me accept your good intention with gratitude. Come, I am going to teach you three self-defense and life-saving styles, it is called the ‘Beauties’ Three Moves’. I want you to learn it by heart.”

She stepped down from her seat, took out a handkerchief, and tied the dagger to the outside of her right calf. “Jiaozhu,” she said with a laugh, “I will have to toil your honorable self to help me demonstrate this martial art style.”

With a chuckle Hong Jiaozhu strolled over. Suddenly he reached out with his left hand and grabbed the back of Madame’s neck, and lifted her up in the air. “Ah!” it happened so fast, Wei Xiaobao was so shocked that he cried out.

Madame Hong bent her body slightly, she twisted her slender waist, and kicked backward with her left leg toward the Cult Leader’s lower abdomen. The Cult Leader pulled back to evade. Madame Hong seized the opportunity to turn around and wrapped her left arm around Jiaozhu’s neck. Unexpectedly her right hand grabbed the dagger and stabbed it against the middle of Jiaozhu’s back. “This is the first move,” she said with a laugh, “It’s called ‘the imperial concubine’s retrospect’. Remember this.”

The move was very neat and agile, Wei Xiaobao watched with ‘heart untroubled, spirit pleased’. “Wonderful!” he cheered loudly, while thinking, “When Fat Toutuo grabbed me and lifted me up the other day, I did not have the least bit of technique. If I had learned this move early on, I would have stabbed him to death.”

The Cult Leader gently laid Madame Hong on the ground. Madame Hong tied the dagger back on the outside of her calf and lay facing down on the floor. Jiaozhu stretched out his right foot to step on her lower back. Pretending he was holding a knife in his hand, he placed his hand behind her neck and said with a laugh, “Do you surrender?”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “In this situation, what can I do? Naturally I would call out loudly ‘Surrender’.”

Suddenly he saw Madame pulled her head toward her own chest, naturally the enemy’s knife threatening her neck fell into empty air. Seizing this opportunity, she rolled on the ground and drilled through under Jiaozhu’s crotch. Grabbing the dagger with her right hand, once again she punched the middle of Jiaozhu’s back, only the sharp point of the dagger was facing up. If it were real enemy, this dagger would naturally pierce the enemy’s back.

Wei Xiaobao loudly cheered again, “Good!”

Jiaozhu waited for her to tie the dagger again before pulling both of her hands behind her back. With his left hand he held both of her wrists; pretending to hold a weapon in his right hand, he placed the weapon on her soft, white neck, while saying with a laugh, “This time you can’t run away.”

Madame also laughed and said, “Watch carefully!” Her right foot kicked forward lightly, a white light flashed, the dagger had already cut off the handkerchief tying it to her calf and flew away. She hooked with her right foot and nudged the hilt of the dagger. The dagger shot swiftly back toward her throat.

“Careful!” Wei Xiaobao cried out in fear. He saw she shrank her body down, the dagger shot swiftly toward the Cult Leader’s chest. The Cult Leader let her hands go and threw his body back with face up in the ‘iron panel bridge’ stance. ‘Pop!’ the dagger flitted across his chest and penetrated the bamboo wall behind him, straight up to the hilt.

When Madame Hong hooked with her foot and kicked the dagger, Wei Xiaobao had already jumped in fright. When he saw the dagger was flying toward her throat, she appeared not be able to evade, but then the dagger flew toward the pit of Jiaozhu’s stomach; this time he was sure the dagger would hit him, but unexpectedly Jiaozhu was able to dodge. These turns of events were extremely dangerous that just by watching from the side, Wei Xiaobao was stunned with ‘heart alarmed, trembling in fear’, and the word ‘Good’ that was already in his throat could not get out.

Madame Hong laughed. “What do you think?” she asked.

Wei Xiaobao reached out to grab the back of a chair as if he was about to fall. “It scared me to death,” he said.

Hong Jiaozhu, Hong Antong, and Madame saw his paled countenance, indicating he was terribly frightened. Hearing his words, they were more delighted than listening to one thousand, ten thousand words of praise. These two people had superior martial art skill, just another word of praise from a little child was not enough to make them happier, but seeing he was so concerned, they knew he was truly loyal to them. Madame Hong asked a rhetorical question, “The dagger was not shot toward you, what are you scared of?”

“I was afraid … I was afraid it would hurt Madame and … and Jiaozhu,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

Madame Hong laughed. “Silly kid,” she said, “How could it easily hurt Jiaozhu? This move is called ‘the flying swallow circle around overhead’. It is not very easy to practice. Jiaozhu’s divine skill is unrivalled, even if he did not know it beforehand, this move won’t hurt him. But in the world, other than him, I am afraid the number of people who are able to dodge this surprise strike is not too many.”

Immediately she explained in details the technique to practice the ‘Beauties’ Three Moves’. Although the style only had three moves, all four limbs of the body were heavily involved; she taught him how to pull the dagger, how to pull down the head, the speed, the position, the force, as well as the accuracy of the movements, must be just perfect.

The second move, where she lay on the ground, was called the ‘Xiao Lian [lit. little pity] lies in disarray’. Madame Hong explained, “This ‘Beauties’ Three Moves’ uses the names of the beauties of the ancient times. If it was practiced by a man, unavoidably it would be rather indecent; luckily you are only a child, so it’s not a big deal.”

Wei Xiaobao learned every move and every style, while Madame Hong patiently and carefully correcting his mistakes. After teaching him for more than two hours she finally considered it enough. But she insisted that Wei Xiaobao must be able to use it perfectly, he must train hard for a long time, especially the third move ‘the flying swallow circle around overhead’; a slight mistake, he would have killed himself. Madame Hong instructed him to make a blunt dagger made of lead, the size and the weight must be the same as his dagger, to be used during practice.

In front of the Cult members, usually Hong Antong was very serious in maintaining his dignity, he would not casually speak or laugh; but this time, as he accompanied his wife teaching Wei Xiaobao, he kept chuckling while watching from the side, he was surprisingly patient. When Madame finished teaching, he said, “Madame’s ‘Beauties’ Three Moves’ is indeed formidable, but it is meant to kill. Let me teach you the ‘Heroes’ Three Moves’, with the purpose of subduing the enemy, dead or alive.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he kneeled down and said, “Thank you Jiaozhu.”

Madame Hong laughed and said, “I have never heard about your ‘Heroes’ Three Moves’. You are teaching it to your disciple, but you did not teach it to me.”

Hong Antong said with a laugh, “Just now I watched your ‘Beauties’ Three Moves’ and came up with it, I don’t know whether it will work. I want you to give me directions.”

Madame Hong cast him a sidelong glance. “Aiyo,” she said with an enchanting smile, “Our Great Jiaozhu is teasing me.”

Hong Antong said, “From the beginning heroes can never pass the barrier of beauties. It’s only natural that ‘Heroes’ Three Moves’ cannot surpass ‘Beauties’ Three Moves’.”

Madame Hong burst into another enchanting laughter. “In front of a child, you still say this kind of talk?” she said in a tender voice.

Hong Antong realized he had somewhat forgotten his manners. He coughed and with a solemn expression said, “The White Dragon Envoy is young, when he fight, it will be easy for the enemy to grab the back of his neck and lift him up. Madame, let’s pretend I am the White Dragon Envoy.”

Madame Hong laughed and said, “You must promise not to hurt me.”

“Naturally,” Hong Antong replied.

Madame Hong stretched out her left hand to grab him and lift him up. Hong Antong was tall and powerfully built, perhaps he weighed around a hundred and seventy or eighty catties. Madame Hong looked frail and timid, unexpectedly she was able to lift him up seemingly without any effort.

“Watch carefully!” Hong Antong said. His left hand slowly reached back and scratched below Madame Hong’s left armpit. Madame Hong giggled, her body turned soft. Hong Antong’s left hand grasped her armpit, his right hand slowly turned back to grab her collar, and then slowly he lifted her up over the top of his own head, and gently flung her away. When Madame Hong’s body touched the ground, it slipped away as if she was floating on the water surface. Madame Hong did not stop laughing, when her body stopped moving, she was still lying down on the floor, unable to stand up.

Just now Hong Antong scratched below her armpit, reached back and grabbed her, and flung her away, each movement was very slow, Wei Xiaobao was able to see everything clearly. He saw his movements were elegant, and unspeakably attractive; although he moved slowly, it was very efficient. The scratch, the grab, and the throw were amazing; compared to Madame Hong’s fast and nimble movements, obviously it was several times more difficult.

Madame Hong laughed and said, “You tickled me. What kind of hero was that?” While saying that, she slowly stood up.

Hong Antong smiled and said, “It was a genuine hero’s movement. Naturally I did not mean to tickle you, but if the White Dragon Envoy was grabbed and lifted up by the enemy, his ‘da zhui’ [big spine] acupoint must also be caught by the enemy. It is where the three ‘yang du’ [positive control] arteries of the hands and feet meet, his entire body will devoid of any strength, all he can do is using his finger to lightly scratching the enemy’s ‘ji quan’ [extreme spring] acupoint below his armpit. This acupoint belongs to the hand’s ‘shao yang’ [lesser yang] channel, the enemy will have no choice but to let go. If the White Dragon Envoy has the strength, he could fling the enemy over his head, while at the same time seal the ‘xiao hai’ [little ocean] acupoint behind the enemy’s elbow and ‘ji quan’ acupoint underneath his armpit, so that when he was thrown to the ground, he won’t be able to move a single step.”

Wei Xiaobao clapped his hands and said with a laugh, “This move is really amazing.”

Hong Antong said, “After you practice it well, execute the move the faster the better.” And then he lay on the floor. Madame Hong stretched out her foot to heavily step on his lower back. With her right hand she reached the door bolt leaning against the wall next to the door, and she placed it on his neck. With a sweet and tender voice she laughed and said, “Do you surrender?”

Hong Antong laughed and said, “I already surrendered long ago! Let me kowtow to you.” He pulled his legs as if he was about to kowtow, but his right arm slowly reached horizontally forward to touch the door bolt. ‘Crack!’ the door bolt unexpectedly broke.

Wei Xiaobao jumped in fright. If Hong Antong’s arm moved rapidly, based on his martial art skill, it would not be strange if he could strike the door bolt broken. But he was moving slowly and he only touched the door bolt, yet unexpectedly the door bolt broke; it was indeed beyond his expectation.

Hong Antong said, “Pull your legs pretending to kowtow, take the opportunity to pull your dagger. Although your hands do not have internal energy like mine, but your dagger is exceptionally sharp, whatever weapon the enemy has, you can cut and break it.” While his mouth was busy explaining, his body suddenly tumbled between Madame Hong’s legs.

Wei Xiaobao was startled; he thought Hong Antong was a respected Cult Leader, how could he crawl in between a woman’s legs? Although she was his own wife, it would still be improper. To his surprise, however, Hong Antong was not really crawling, he was just striking an attitude, with his left hand he grasped Madame’s right ankle, with his right hand he pretended to strike her lower abdomen, while saying, “With your dagger that can cut iron like mud, even if the enemy has gargantuan guts, he won’t dare to struggle.” Finished speaking, he slowly stood up, bringing Madame Hong along with head down, feet up. Madame Hong laughed and said, “Quickly let me go, what are you doing?”

Hong Antong laughed aloud, he wrapped his right arm around her waist and let her go. He said, “White Dragon Envoy, you are short, you won’t be able to lift the enemy, but you can grab his ankle and pull him. Even if you cannot lift him up, with your dagger on his lower abdomen, the enemy won’t have any choice but surrender. And then you can kick the ‘shen zang’ [divine reservoir], ‘shen feng’ [divine seal], ‘bu lang’ [walkway/corridor] acupoints on the pit of his stomach several times, to guard against him retaliating.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted. “Yes, yes!” he said, “I must kick him.”

Hong Antong put his hands behind his back, letting the Madame seize him. Madame Hong picked the half broken door bolt and placed it on his neck. Hong Antong laughed and said, “The enemy is seizing my hands, naturally the main arteries on my wrists are being held, rendering my hands incapable. It’s hard to strike back. In this situation, it should have been best to use your leg …”

Before he even finished speaking, “Ah!” Madame Hong screamed. She laughed and let her hands go, and then leaped back. With a blushing face she said, “You must not teach a child to use such an obscene move.”

Hong Antong laughed and said, “What’s so obscene about the ‘Pulling-up Yin Kick’?” His face turned serious as he continued, “The genital is a vital point on a human body, it can be fatal when hit. All the prestigious schools and big sects often have this ‘Pulling-up Yin Kick’ move within their punching and kicking techniques. Shaolin Pai has it, Wudang Pai also has it; nothing unusual. It’s just that the enemy is behind you, both of your hands are under the enemy’s control, and there is a blade on your neck; your only choice is to use the ‘Pulling-up Yin Back Kick’.”

Speaking to this point, he paused for a moment before continuing, “But the enemy must have guarded against you using this move. As soon as he sees your leg moves, most likely he would chop your little head down first. Consequently, this ‘Pulling-up Yin Back Kick’ may be quite useless.”

He put his hands behind his back again and let Madame Hong held his wrists. Suddenly he bent all ten of his fingers, forming a half sphere, and then he threw his entire body backward, while all ten of his fingers grabbed Madame Hong’s breasts.

Madame Hong quickly stepped back, hence she was forced to release her grip. She spat and said, “What kind of hero’s move is this?”

Showing a faint smile, Hong Antong said, “The ‘ru zhong’ [breast center] and ‘ru gen’ [breast root] acupoints on human’s chest, doesn’t matter on men or women, are two fatal major acupoints. White Dragon Envoy, since the enemy can capture your hands behind your back, obviously his martial art skill is not weak; besides, most likely he has seized the acupoint on your wrists. But even if he did, it is not a big deal; as soon as he sees you making this move, he would involuntary step back. By the time he remembers that your hands do not have any strength, he is already one step too late. Madame, seize my hands again.”

Madame Hong took two steps forward and gently tapped the back of his hand, and then she reached out with her left hand to grab his wrists, while leaning her upper body backward to avoid his fingers from bumping against her chest.

“Watch carefully!” Hong Antong said. Again he threw his body backward, while his ten fingers made a fake move toward her chest. Madame Hong knew this grab was a fake move, but she still pulled back to evade. Hong Antong suddenly made a somersault, his body leaped backward, his legs parted, and he landed on her shoulder, while the thumbs of both hands pressing on her ‘tai yang’ [sun] acupoint [temples], index fingers pressing on her eyebrows, and middle fingers on her eyes. He said, “If I add a bit more strength to my middle fingers, I will poke the enemy’s eyes blind; if I add a bit more strength to my thumbs, the enemy will pass out. But I must guard against the enemy’s counterattack.”

He made another somersault in the air, and jumped more than a zhang backward. His right hand reached toward his calf, pretending to pull out the dagger. With the dagger pointing outward, left palm slanting up, he said, “If you poke the enemy’s eyes and blind him, the force with which he would use to throw you off must be incomparably formidable. You must guard against him trying to grab you firmly and won’t let you go.”

Wei Xiaobao saw that this move was really complicated, just like a team of clowns in the circus trying to provoke laughter, but it was very effective to dodge the enemy’s blade and hold the enemy’s vital points under control. He sighed and said, “This move is really good, but it is very difficult to learn.”

Hong Antong said, “Although I only teach you three moves, these moves contain qin na, acupoint sealing, and lightness, three types of martial art skill. If even one is not trained properly, these three moves cannot be used. Speaking about qin na, acupoint sealing, and lightness skills, each one needs ten years, eight years of training. But you only want to learn parts that are relevant to these three moves, it is a lot easier.”

Immediately he explained the position of the acupoints, the qin na technique, and how to exert strength to the legs in lightness skill. He told Wei Xiaobao to try it several times and corrected the mistakes one by one. Only Wei Xiaobao did not dare to ride on his neck, Hong Antong also did not tell him to try that move.

“Jiaozhu,” Madame Hong said, “My ‘Beauties’ Three Moves’ were taught to me by Shifu, in the past I had to undergo ‘a thousand hammer a hundred refinery’ before I got it right. Your ‘Heroes’ Three Moves’, on the other hand, seemingly appear out of nowhere, it was created at will, yet it is a lot more formidable than my ‘Beauties’ Three Moves’. I am not trying to flatter you on your face, but great scholar respected for learning and integrity, a martial art master with profound knowledge, is indeed worthy of other people’s admiration.”

Hong Antong cupped his fist and said with a laugh, “Madame’s erroneous praise, I really do not dare to accept.”

In the hall the previous day, seeing Hong Antong neither talked nor laughed, as if he was only a wooden puppet, in his heart Wei Xiaobao was holding him in utter contempt; he was already thinking, “An old man who look like a stupid blockhead, why is everybody so afraid of him?” But now that he had seen his true martial art skill, his mind was fixed and he had no doubt whatsoever that this man indeed deserved to be admired; he said, “Training a certain skill passed on by Shifu until it is completely mastered cannot be considered strange; Jiaozhu was just thinking about certain move and he is able to execute it casually just like that, now that can be considered unmatched in the world.”

“Why do you consider it unmatched in the world?” Madame Hong asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Even if the enemy’s skill was higher, Jiaozhu would simply use several new moves, the enemy would not recognize it, he would have no choice but to cry out loud ‘Surrender!’”

Hong Antong and Madame laughed aloud. One nodded slightly, the other one said, “That’s true.”

“Jiaozhu,” Madame Hong said, “My ‘Beauties’ Three Moves’ have three beauties’ names, your ‘Heroes’ Three Moves’ are very formidable, they should also have three big heroes’ names.”

Hong Antong smiled and said, “Alright, let me think. The first move is lifting up the enemy; that was Lintong lifting up Wu Zixu’s cauldron. Let’s call it ‘Zixu lifting up the cauldron’.”

Madame Hong said, “Good, Wu Zixu was a great hero.”

Hong Antong said, “The second move throws the enemy down and pull him up; that was Lu Zhishen felling and pulling the weeping willow, let’s call it ‘Lu reaching and pulling the willow’.”

“Very good,” Madame Hong said, “Lu Zhishen was a great hero. Although your third move was ingenious, it carries a little bit of scoundrel or loafer’s flavor, it does not seem to be too heroic …” Speaking to this point, she broke into a tender giggle.

Hong Antong laughed and said, “What do you mean not too heroic? What kind of move would you call ‘good’ then? Hmm, my two index fingers were resting on your eyebrows; that was ‘Zhang Chang drawing eyebrows’.”

Madame Hong laughed and said, “Zhang Chang was not a hero; it was his wife who drew his eyebrows. Would you call that a heroic move?”

Hong Antong laughed and said, “He was having fun in the lady’s chamber, and thus had his eyebrows drawn. Are you saying that by having his wife draw his eyebrows he was not a hero?” Madame Hong’s cheeks blushed deep red; she shook her head.

Wei Xiaobao did not know which historical character this Zhang Chang was, he thought that by having his eyebrows drawn by his wife, not only he was not a hero, he was simply a coward man who was afraid of his wife. He did not understand that Hong Antong was using expression from literature to tease his wife. “Jiaozhu,” he said, “In this third move you were riding on the enemy’s neck. There were so many great heroes who ride a horse. Guan Yunchang rode a scarlet rabbit horse, Qin Shubao rode a chestnut horse.”

Hong Antong laughed and said, “That’s right, but Guan Yunchang’s scarlet rabbit horse originally belonged to Lu Bu. Qin Qiong also sold his chestnut horse. Both are not too appropriate. I got it, in this move Di Qing was taming the steed [orig. ‘dragon colt’], a precious horse; let’s call it ‘Di Qing subduing the dragon’. The precious horse he was subduing was originally a dragon incarnated.”

Madame Hong clapped her hands, “Wonderful!” she said, “When Di Qing went into battle, he always wore bronze devil mask to frighten the barbarian troops that they screamed in terror and fled into the wilderness; naturally he was a great hero. It’s just that we are called Divine Dragon Cult …”

Hong Jiaozhu smiled and said, “It doesn’t matter. There will be time that even a dragon will be subdued by someone until he is docile.”

“Pei!” Madame Hong spat, her entire face blushed, her beautiful and glistening eyes were filled charm.

Immediately Wei Xiaobao practiced the ‘Beauties’ Three Moves’ and ‘Heroes’ Three Moves’ one by one. Whenever his technique or stance was incorrect, Hong Antong and Madame would give him more directions. These six moves were really ingenious; it was difficult for Wei Xiaobao to master it all at once. Hong Jiaozhu told him not to worry, he only needed to know the training technique, when the time came, he would master it by himself.

By the time the instruction was finished, it was already noon. Madame Hong was determined not to accept the dagger; she gave it back to Wei Xiaobao while saying, “You have not mastered the martial art skill, this time you are on mission for Jiaozhu, you must have this kind of sharp weapon to protect yourself.” And then she added, “White Dragon Envoy, in our Cult, other than myself, you are the only one who has received Jiaozhu’s personal instruction.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “That is truly subordinate’s good fortune, which I cultivated over I don’t know how many incarnations.”

Madame Hong said, “By being loyal to Jiaozhu in handling this matter, you are repaying Jiaozhu’s benevolence.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

“You may leave now,” Madame Hong said, “Early in the morning tomorrow, you go onboard the ship and leave with Fat Toutuo and Lu Gaoxuan; you don’t need to come here to say goodbye again.”

Wei Xiaobao complied. He respectfully saluted the two people before turning around. When he reached the door, he turned his head and said, “Madame, if I live to be 80 years old, how about Jiaozhu and Madame teach me three more moves?”

Madame Hong was slightly startled, but she understood immediately that it was his way of well-wishing and praise. Right now he was only thirteen, fourteen years old, it would be sixty more years before he reached eighty, but Jiaozhu and she had long lives, which were the same as the heavens’, so it was only proper that they should live sixty more years. She giggled and said, “I promise you. On your eightieth birthday, Jiaozhu and I will teach you three more moves. When you reach the long life of a hundred years, we will teach you three more moves; it will be called ‘Old Shouxing’s three moves’[3], ‘Old Grandma’s three moves’.”

“No,” Wei Xiaobao said, “At that time, Madame will be as young and beautiful as today, most likely Madame and Jiaozhu will look a bit younger. The moves you teach me will be … will be … ‘Golden Boy’s three moves’, ‘Jade Maiden’s three moves’.” Hong Antong and Madame burst out in laughter.

Fat Toutuo and Lu Gaoxuan, two people, were sitting on a mountain rock outside the hall, they had been waiting for a long time, but all along did not see Wei Xiaobao coming out of the hall. They were puzzled and anxious, not knowing what kind of unforeseen event had happened. When they saw his smiling expression as he went out, they were relieved. They wanted to ask, but did not dare to ask. Wei Xiaobao explained, “Jiaozhu and Madame have taught me not a few of amazing martial art skills.”

Fat Toutuo and Lu Gaoxuan said together, “Congratulations White Dragon Envoy. In our Cult, other than Madame, Jiaozhu has never taught anybody one move or half a style.”

Feeling extremely smug, Wei Xiaobao said, “Jiaozhu and Madame also said the same thing.”

Lu Gaoxuan said, “White Dragon Envoy is fortunate to enjoy Jiaozhu’s favor, indeed it has never happened since our Cult was founded.” After casting a glance toward Fat Toutuo, he asked Wei Xiaobao, “Have Jiaozhu and Madame ever mentioned when they are going to bestow us the antidote of the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’?”

Wei Xiaobao was surprised, “There is an antidote for this ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’?” he asked, “Are you saying … are you saying … this is a poison?”

“I can’t say that it is a poison,” Lu Gaoxuan replied, “Let us go home and talk in details.” He cast several glances toward the bamboo hall, his face revealed a cautious mixed with dread expression.

The three of them returned to the Lu family’s home. Seeing the Fat and Lu, two people’s gloomy expression, Wei Xiaobao grew suspicious; he asked, “Just what is actually this ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’? Is it poison, or is it miracle pill?”

Fat Toutuo sighed and said, “Whether it is a poison or a miracle pill, we’ll just have to wait and see! The lives of ours, three people, are entirely in the White Dragon Envoy’s hands.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled, “Why?” he asked.

Fat Toutuo looked at Lu Gaoxuan, Lu Gaoxuan nodded his head, Fat Toutuo said, “White Dragon Envoy, when people are being polite to me, they call me Fat Zunzhe [Revered Monk]. When they are not being polite, they would call me Fat Toutuo. But I am this thin, the name completely does not reflect the reality. Don’t you think it is a bit strange?”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I have been wondering for a while, I thought other people were just joking with you, so they call you that name. But Jiaozhu also calls you Fat Toutuo, the Senior can’t be joking with you.”

Fat Toutuo heaved a deep sigh; he said, “This is the second time I took the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’; I am really hovering between life and death, until now I still often have nightmares about it. Originally I was very short and very fat. The name ‘Fat Toutuo’, three characters is a well deserved reputation.”

“Ah,” Wei Xiaobao said, “After taking the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’ you turned tall and thin? That’s very good! Right now your appearance is grand, while previously you were short and fat, certainly it was not as good as now?”

With a bitter laugh Fat Toutuo said, “You got it right. But think about it: a short and fat guy, within three months my body was suddenly being stretched three chi, the skin on my entire body was dripping blood; do you think it feels good? If not my luck was good, finally I reached Divine Dragon Island, and Jiaozhu was showing me great mercy by giving me the antidote, I am afraid I would have grown two more chi.”

Wei Xiaobao was unable to restrain his amazement; he said, “The three of us have also taken this pill. For me to grow two more chi is not a big deal, but if you grow two more chi, you … you will be too tall.”

Fat Toutuo said, “The effect of this ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’ is really amazing, within one year after taking it, it can make the body strong and healthy; but if at the end of a year the antidote is not given, the violent side effect will flare up suddenly. Actually, it does not necessarily stretch human body. My Shige, Thin Toutuo was originally very tall, yet he suddenly became short. Originally he was thin, yet he swelled unbearably and turned into a completely fat person.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You, Fat Zunzhe has turned into Thin Zunzhe, the Thin Zunzhe has become Fat Zunzhe. If the two of you swap names, won’t all your problems disappear?”

An angry look appeared on Fat Toutuo’s face; he shook his head and said, “That won’t do.”

Wei Xiaobao promptly apologized, “I am sorry Fat Zunzhe, I was wrong; please do not get offended.”

Fat Toutuo said, “You are wielding the Five-Dragon Command, I am your subordinate, even if you beat me or curse me, I cannot revolt; much less you did not intentionally want to hurt me. My Shixiong and I have substantially different temperament, character, appearance and voice, just by swapping the name ‘Thin’ and ‘Fat’ will not change Fat Zunzhe into Thin Zunzhe, and change Thin Zunzhe into Fat Zunzhe.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded his head and said, “So that’s what happened.”

Fat Toutuo continued, “Five years ago, Jiaozhu sent Shige and I on a mission. That mission was very ‘thorny’; by the time we finished it, we were already three days overdue. Immediately we embarked the boat and returned to the Island. On the boat the medicine suddenly flared up, the suffering was very difficult to bear. Shige‘s temperament was very violent, his anger flared and in his madness, he kicked and broke the mast of the boat. The ship then drifted on the sea. Day by day passed, I grew taller and taller, and thinner and thinner; he grew shorter and shorter, and fatter and fatter. This ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’ can stretch a short and fat person tall and slim, and press a tall and thin person short and fat; Hong Jiaozhu indeed has an extremely vast magical power. We were drifting like that for more than two months, at that time it was hard to say if the two of us would survive. We have finished eating the provision on the boat, we have killed the helmsman and the sailors one by one and ate them. By a struck of sheer luck we came across another boat, and were saved. We forced that boat to take us to the Divine Dragon Island immediately. Jiaozhu knew we finished the mission properly and did not tarry deliberately; thereupon he bestowed us with the antidote. It could be said that our two lives have just been snatched back.”

The more Wei Xiaobao heard, the more he was alarmed; turning his head toward Lu Gaoxuan, he saw his expression was serious, so he knew Fat Toutuo was not lying. He said, “In that case, we have to obtain those eight copies of ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’ and return to the Divine Dragon Island within one year?”

Lu Gaoxuan said, “If we can obtain all eight copies of the Sutra, nothing can’t be better; but isn’t it easier said than done? As long as we manage to get one or two copies and hurry back, naturally Jiaozhu will bestow the antidote.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “I have six copies in my hand, when I really have to alternative, what’s so difficult to part with one or two copies to give to Jiaozhu?” Immediately he felt relieved and said with a laugh, “If Jiaozhu does not give us the antidote this time, maybe we, the young will become old, the old will become young. I will turn into a seventy, eighty years old man, the two of you will turn into little babies; won’t that be very interesting?”

Lu Gaoxuan’s body trembled; he said, “That … that’s absolutely must not happen.” His voice was filled with terror. He continued, “I have single-mindedly pondered over this, most probably the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’ was made of leopard fetus, deer fetus, the placenta, seal kidney, and other important supplement and rare drug ingredients to induce growth, mixed and refined together. The drug property is obviously to reverse the original body’s characteristic. I am guessing that when Jiaozhu manufactured this drug, his intention was to recover human’s youthful vigor, but when he tested it on someone else, the effect did not exactly follow his heart’s desires; therefore … therefore …”

Wei Xiaobao picked up, “Therefore, Jiaozhu did not personally take the drug, but use it on his subordinates.”

Lu Gaoxuan hastily said, “This is only my wild guess, it must not be considered as the truth. I am asking White Dragon Envoy never to raise this topic again.”

“The two of you may set your hearts at ease,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I guarantee that Jiaozhu will definitely give us the antidote. Please sit down, I have something to say to Miss Fang.” He saw Mu Jianping the other day, hence he was eager to tell Fang Yi.

Lu Gaoxuan said, “Madame Hong has already summoned Miss Fang, she says White Dragon Envoy not to worry, as long as you wholeheartedly handle this matter for Jiaozhu, Miss Fang will only have good things on the island.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled, “Miss … Miss Fang is not coming with us?” he asked.

“Madame Hong has already sent someone to fetch her,” Lu Gaoxuan said, “She left a message to my wife and that’s what she told her. Besides, that Mu Jianping, Miss Mu of the Scarlet Dragon Gate is in the same situation.”

Wei Xiaobao groaned inwardly, just a moment ago he told Priest Wugen that he wanted to select several people from the Scarlet Dragon Gate to go with him, naturally he had Mu Jianping in his mind; who would have thought that Madame Hong had already anticipated this? With a trembling voice he asked, “Madame … Madame does not trust me?”

“This is our Cult’s rule,” Lu Gaoxuan replied, “Those who receive orders from Jiaozhu to go out on mission cannot take his family.”

With a forced laugh Wei Xiaobao said, “Those two Misses are not my family.”

“More or less, they are,” Lu Gaoxuan said.

Actually, Wei Xiaobao was thinking that the next day he would leave the Island with Fang and Mu, two women, and was so happy; but this instant he could not help but feeling dispirited. He mused, “Jiaozhu and Madame are indeed formidable, tying the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’ on my head[4] is not enough, they still hold my first and young wives hostage.”

Early morning the following day, Wei Xiaobao had just woke up when he heard the sound of bugle horn, a lot of people were calling out from outside the door, “The White Dragon Gate disciples respectfully send off Zhangmenshi on his journey, to handle matters for Jiaozhu wholeheartedly.” This shout was followed by the sound of drums, string instruments and bamboo flutes.

Wei Xiaobao rushed out the door and saw about three, four hundred people were lining up outside the door. They all wore white clothes, young and old alike. Everybody shouted in chorus, “Zhangmenshi will win victory on raising the flag, will have instant success!”

After that, several dozen Cult members wearing blue clothes also came to send off their acting Zhangmenshi, Fat Toutuo.

Wei Xiaobao’s spirit rose, immediately he felt invigorated. Together with Fat Toutuo and Lu Gaoxuan, they board the ship. While he was exchanging salute with Priest Wugen, Zhang Danyue, Yin Jin, and the others who had earlier to bid them farewell, suddenly he heard the sound of hoof beats, two riders galloped toward the boat. The two riders were wearing white clothes, surprisingly, they were Fang Yi and Mu Jianping, two women. Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, his heart was thumping madly as he mused, “Could it be that Madame has changed her mind and let them go with me?”

Fang and Mu, two women dismounted their horses and took several steps forward. In a loud and clear voice Fang Yi said, “We received Jiaozhu and Madame’s order to send White Dragon Zhangmenshi off on his journey.”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart sank, “They are only sending me off,” he thought.

Fang Yi bowed and said, “Subordinates Fang Yi and Mu Jianping received order from Madame to transfer from the Scarlet Dragon Gate to White Dragon Gate, we are ready to receive White Dragon Envoy’s order.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled, but then he suddenly saw the light, “Turns out you … you have been Shen Long Jiao’s member under the Scarlet Dragon Gate. Along the way you were only pretending on Jiaozhu’s order to deceive me into coming to the Divine Dragon Island. Fat Revered Monk failed to invite me, you came to invite me using a gentle method.” Thinking about it, he was very upset; originally he wanted to say some intimate words with those two women, but now he lost interest completely. Suddenly he remembered something and said to Lu Gaoxuan, “Mr. Lu, that servant girl who attend to me, Shuang’er, send someone to get her, I want take her along in this journey.”

“This …” Lu Gaoxuan said.

Wei Xiaobao was angry, he shouted, “What ‘this’ or ‘that’? Get her, now!”

He shouted in a stern voice, Lu Gaoxuan did not dare to disobey. “Yes, yes!” he replied, and turned and said something to the attendant onboard the boat. The attendant leaped on shore and dashed away. Not too long afterwards, he saw two riders rushed rapidly over. The one on the front had a petite and slender figure, she was none other than Shuang’er.

Without pulling the reins, she called out, “Gongzi!” and leaped away from the saddle, lightly and deftly landed on the bow of the boat. In the eyes of Priest Wugen and the other martial art experts, there was nothing extraordinary with this kind of qing gong [lightness skill], but noticing that she was very young, yet her posture was very pleasing to the eye, they all cheered.

At first, when Wei Xiaobao knew the boat was about to sail, he was afraid that Shuang’er had already fallen into some evil people’s hands, and thus he was very anxious; although her martial art skill was strong, she was a young child after all. Not only that, she was gentle and refined by nature, and did not understand the way of the world. On the sea-going ship, she had nowhere to go, and would definitely get the worst of it. Moreover, realizing that Fang Yi was actually a Divine Dragon Cult’s disciple, he suddenly also realized that the boat with which they came to the island naturally belonged to the Cult. Now that he saw Shuang’er, he was very happy. He pulled her hands, but saw that her countenance looked wan and sallow, her eyes red and swollen, obviously she had been crying a lot. “Did they bully you?” he hastily asked.

“No, they … they didn’t,” Shuang’er replied, “I was only worrying about Xianggong. They … they locked me up.”

“Alright!” Wei Xiaobao said, “We are going home.”

Shuang’er said, “In here … there are a lot of poisonous snakes,” while saying that, “Wah!” Shuang’er burst into tears again.

Wei Xiaobao cast a glance toward Fang Yi; he remembered she led him walk into the forest and let him be bitten by the vipers. A good deal of artificial gestures, all kinds of sweet speech and honeyed words on the boat, everything was a hypocrisy; he could not help but was furious. Casting a hateful glance toward Fang Yi, he said, “Set sail!”

Aboard, the sailors weighed the anchor; ashore, the firecrackers went off, the people sending off their masters chorused, “Respectfully wishing White Dragon Envoy to win victory on raising the flag, to have instant success and will set up great merit for Jiaozhu!”

Taking advantage of the fair wind, the boat hoisted its sail and slowly left the Island. Everybody on the shore shouted, “With Jiaozhu’s treasured teaching always in our hearts …”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “If I did not know Miss Fang had already entered the Cult, I would have missed her all the time. This way, I have nothing to worry about her.” Yet when he recalled Fang Yi’s touching tender sentiments, he could not stop his heart from feeling melancholy.

He thought further, “How could those two enter Shen Long Jiao? It’s very strange. Ah, right, they were captured by Zhang Laosan and his men, Young Mistress Zhuang said she sent people to rescue them, apparently they failed, consequently they were forced to join Shen Long Jiao. Xiao Junzhu has taken Jiaozhu’s poison, it’s only natural that Miss Fang has also taken the poison. Um, if Miss Fang did not obey, she did not want to deceive me into coming to Divine Dragon Island, the poison in her will flare up and she die. Indeed she had no choice, so I can’t blame her. It’s just that this little mother’s skin [小娘皮 – see Chapter 10] was putting on an act and deceived her husband without spending any effort at all; she is not a good person! Damn it, in the end, what is Shen Long Jiao up to? Although laozi has become the White Dragon Envoy, I am completely in the dark!”

Thinking that it was all because of Zhang Laosan, he mused, “I wonder which gate does this old fellow belong to? When in the future Laozi is back on the Divine Dragon Island, I will have him transferred to the White Dragon Gate, then I will have this old fellow’s buttocks flogged three hundred times every day.” He also thought, “I wonder if Zhang Laosan is on the Island? Most likely he does not dare to report to Jiaozhu that I am Xiao Guizi; otherwise, when Jiaozhu heard that he had already caught such an important person but then let him go, Jiaozhu would have chopped his head. He is an old fellow, not a pretty boy [lit. ‘little white face’], which Jiaozhu and Madame are going to kill anyway. If they found out that he had violated such matter, wouldn’t he be killed like, seventeen, eighteen times already? That’s right, Fat Toutuo did not dare to expose my trickery, Zhang Laosan also did not dare to expose my fraud[5]. There is one thing I do not understand, Madame loves ‘little white face’, that’s not so strange, but why does Jiaozhu also love them?” [Translator’s note: the part about ‘little white face’ does not exist in the 3rd edition]

[1] I have difficulty translating this. A ‘men’ (lit. gate) can be translated as ‘school (of thought), (religious) sect, family, or house’, ‘zhangmen’ is the head of a sect. I believe it was translated as ‘headmaster, chief or sect leader’ before; however, the ‘shi’ at the end means ‘envoy’ or ‘messenger’, as in ‘left or right emissary’ in the Ming Cult. Therefore, ‘zhangmenshi’ literally means ’emissary of the sect leader’. However, since Divine Dragon Cult is technically a ‘sect’, and Black Dragon in this case is a ‘sect’ within a Cult, I find the term ’emissary of the sect leader’ is not technically accurate.

[2] Orig. ‘not knowing to whom the deer falls’. See also Chapter 1.

[3] Shouxing is the god of longevity.

[4] The original word means ‘ring’. What came into my mind was Sun Wukong’s headband from Journey to the West. (From Wikipedia: Guanyin understood that the monkey would be hard to control, and therefore gave Xuanzang a gift from the Buddha: a magical headband which, once Sun Wukong was tricked into putting it on, could never be removed. With a special chant, the band would tighten and cause unbearable pain to the monkey’s head. To be fair, she also gave Sun Wukong three special hairs, which could be used in dire emergencies. Under Xuanzang’s supervision, Sun Wukong was allowed to journey to the West.) Please bear in mind that this is only my impression, not in Jin Yong’s original text.

[5] There is a play of words here, the original says, ‘Fat Toutuo … trickery [西洋镜 – xi yang jing, literally means ‘western world mirror’], Zhang Laosan … fraud [东洋镜 – dong yang jing, lit. ‘eastern world mirror’]’.

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