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The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 26

CSI

Chapter 26
Grass and trees join Man and Heaven’s white bones, fortresses and mountains along the Pass fill the eyes with the red of the setting sun.

The next day the three of them continued their journey southwards, while asking people along the way of Ah Qi’s whereabouts. During the trip Wei Xiaobao was very attentive in attending the two women’s needs. Although in his heart he was dying to seduce Ah Ke, yet he did not dare to show the least bit of frivolity. He thought that if the nun in white found out about his real intention, he would be in a really deep trouble. Ah Ke had never had a single nice word to say to him, often times she took advantage of when the nun in white was not looking to punch or kick him to vent her anger. To Wei Xiaobao, as long he could be with her, the joy in his heart would be unspeakable, occasionally he simply endured everything; when the punch came, he received it with his body, when the kick arrived, he received it with his buttocks. When he lay down in his bed at night, he would quietly reflect on her kick and her punch, and the delight in his heart was inexhaustible.

One day they arrived in Cangzhou [prefecture level city, Hebei]. The three of them lodged in a small family inn. Early in the morning the next day, Wei Xiaobao went out to the street to buy fresh vegetables, which he wanted to give to the innkeeper to be cooked for the nun in white’s breakfast. Excitedly he hurried back from the street carrying two catties of Chinese cabbage [bok choi], half a catty of ‘rotten skin’ [tofu skin, courtesy of CFT], two catties of kuomo [Saint George’s mushroom/Tricholoma mongplicum], and saw Ah Ke was standing at the inn’s door gazing idly outside. Immediately he came over to her with a smile, he took out a package of rose pine-nut candy from his pocket and said, “I bought a package of candy for you at the street. I did not expect a small town like this would have such a good candy.”

Ah Ke did not accept it, she shot him a malicious look and said, “The candy you buy is stinky, I don’t want to eat.”

“Just take one and try it,” Wei Xiaobao said, “The taste is really not bad.” He had noticed early on that Ah Ke loved to nibble snacks, it’s just that the nun in white did not have extra money to give to her as incidental expenses; occasionally she purchased a small packet of sugared beans, which she ate with delight; therefore, he bought a packet of candy to make her happy.

Ah Ke received it and said, “Shifu is meditating in her room, I feel so stifled. I wonder if there is any good scenery around here, a secluded place where no one is around. I want you to come with me.”

Wei Xiaobao could not believe his own ears; immediately the blood in his entire body was boiling, his face was flushed, “You … you are not going to wrong me?” he asked.

“What do I wrong you for?” Ah Ke replied, “If you don’t want to come with me, I’ll just go alone.” Finished speaking, she walked toward a small lane to the east.

“I am coming, I am coming,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Why would I not willing to come? Even if Miss wants me to go through water and tread on fire, I won’t knit my eyebrows.” And hastily he ran after her.

The two of them went out of the small town, Ah Ke pointed to a small hill several li to the east and said, “Playing over yonder won’t be too bad.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said. The two of them followed the mountain path to go to the top of the hill. The hill was densely packed with pine trees, indeed it was secluded and no one else was to be seen, but the scenery was nothing to look at. Yet at this moment, in Wei Xiaobao’s eyes even the ugliest scenery between the heaven and the earth would be extraordinarily amazing; much less that he did not have any taste in differentiating any good or bad scenery anyway. Immediately he raved, “The scenery is incomparably beautiful.”

Ah Ke said, “What’s so good about it? There are only rocks and trees crowded together. It’s so ugly.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “The scenery is not so good.”

“Why did you say that scenery here is incomparably beautiful?” Ah Ke asked.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “The scenery is originally not so good, but your beauty shines on it, it becomes incomparably beautiful. This hill does not have any flower, but your appearance in more beautiful than ten thousand fresh flowers. This hill does not have any bird singing, but your voice is a lot more pleasant to the ears than a thousand black-nape orioles singing together.”

“Humph,” Ah Ke snorted, “I want you to come here not to listen to you babbling nonsense, but to tell you to get away from me immediately, the farther the better. From now on, I don’t want you to see my face ever again. If you do, I will definitely dig your eyeballs out.”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart immediately sank, with a dejected expression he said, “Miss, I will never dare to offend you anymore, please forgive me.”

“I have already forgiven you,” Ah Ke said, “By not taking your life today, I am forgiving you.” While saying that, ‘shua!’ she pulled the willow-leaf saber from her waist, and continued, “When you are with me, your heart always harbor bad thoughts toward me, do you think I did not know it? You humiliate me like this, I … I’d rather have Shifu punish me by flogging me a thousand times, ten thousand times, but I simply must kill you.”

Seeing the flickering saber and her staunch personality, Wei Xiaobao knew she was not uttering empty words. “Shitai asked me to help her find Miss Ah Qi,” he said, “After she is found, I will not follow you anymore.”

Ah Ke shook her head and said, “No you won’t! We’ll find her without your help. Even if we can’t find her, my Shijie is not a three-year-old girl, do you think she cannot go home by herself?” Raising her saber high, she brandished it in the air, creating ‘whoosh, whoosh’ sound, and sternly said, “If you don’t leave, don’t blame me for being heartless!”

Wei Xiaobao said with a laugh, “You have always treated me heartlessly anyway, it’s not a big deal.”

Ah Ke was furious; she shouted, “Up to this moment you still dare to speak nonsense to me?” Jumping forward, she raised the saber to chop on the top of Wei Xiaobao’s head.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly shocked; hastily he leaped to evade. Ah Ke shouted, “Are you leaving or not?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Even if you cut me into ten thousand pieces, and turn me into a ghost, I will still follow you.”

Ah Ke was raging mad; she raised her saber and attacked ‘Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!’ three times. Luckily she had already used these moves at the Bo’re Hall of Shaolin Temple, Monk Cheng Guan had figured out the technique to neutralize them. Wei Xiaobao had received the instruction, and therefore, he was able to evade one by one.

Failing to chop Wei Xiaobao, Ah Ke was growing angrier and angrier, she brandished her willow-leaf saber more and more viciously. Several moves later, Wei Xiaobao found it to be more and more difficult to evade; he had no choice but to draw his dagger. ‘Dang!’ her willow-leaf saber was cut into two pieces. Ah Ke was angry and shocked at the same time; she brandished the lower half of her saber furiously, trying to hack down his head.

Seeing her saber suddenly turned short, Wei Xiaobao did not dare to use his dagger to defend himself; his martial art skill was mediocre, if he did not restrain himself and carelessly waving his dagger around, the sharp blade only had to scrape her body a little bit, her life would be gone just like that. Consequently, after evading several times, he did not have any choice but to run away down the hill.

Ah Ke chased him off, brandishing her broken saber and calling out, “Just go away as far as possible from me, I won’t kill you.” However, seeing that he was running toward the small town, she was greatly anxious, “If this little evil-doer is complaining to Shifu, I will be in trouble,” she thought. Therefore, hastily she urged herself to run after him, trying to intercept him. But the nun in white only taught her some martial art stances and styles; she had never passed on the internal energy cultivation technique. Therefore, her internal energy was not too different [orig. ‘half a catty eight taels’ or ‘half a pound eight ounces’] from Wei Xiaobao’s; from beginning to the end she was unable to catch up with him, and saw that he was rushing into the inn. She was so anxious that she almost broke into crying; thinking, “If Shifu blames me, I will tell her everything he said to me, how he harassed me and took liberties with me.” With a raised broken saber, she slowly entered the inn.

As soon as she set foot into the inn, she felt a burst of amazingly strong force like a gust of gale coming out from the door against her, instantly pulling her off her feet and throwing her three steps back, and she fell sitting down on the ground.

Ah Ke felt that she was landing on a soft object, actually she sat on someone’s body. Hurriedly she wanted to stand up, but when she reached back to prop herself, her right hand landed on the person’s face. In that difficult situation she did not have time to consider her option; she continued pressing down to push herself up. Only after standing up did she turn around to look, and realized that the person was none other than Wei Xiaobao.

She was shocked, and harshly shouted, “What are you d …” Before she could finish, however, her knees went weak, she was unable to stand and fell down toward Wei Xiaobao. This time, however, she fell face down. “No, No …” she cried out in fear, but it was too late; she landed on Wei Xiaobao’s bosom. Her eyes met with his, the distance between them was no more than a few cun.

Ah Ke panicked; she was afraid this little vile creature would take the opportunity to kiss her; she struggled as hard as she could to stand up quickly, but somehow her entire body was devoid of any strength. She had no choice but look away from him and anxiously said, “Quickly help me up.”

“I don’t have any strength either,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “What shall we do?” With this ‘thousand-time cute a hundred-time charming’ beautiful woman leaning against him, his heart was so delighted that he felt he was going to go crazy. He said in his heart, “Forget that I do not have any strength, if right now I have ten-thousand-catty strength within me, I won’t help you up for sure. You were the one who throw yourself on me, how can you blame me?”

Ah Ke anxiously said, “Shifu is being besieged by the enemy, quickly think of something to help her.” Turns out when she entered the door just now, she saw the nun in white was sitting cross-legged on the floor, her right hand was sending out palm strikes, her left sleeve was flicking away in her effort to resist the enemy. As for who the enemy was, she did not see it clearly; she only knew that the enemy was more than one person. She was about to look when the strong gust of wind from the internal energy battle inside the room threw her out.

Wei Xiaobao actually arrived several steps before she did, but he was met with the same fate as she did; he was just about to step across the threshold when the strong wind threw him backward and he fell to the ground. Ah Ke was also rushing in and happened to fall onto his body. Although Wei Xiaobao fell down quite hard that his buttocks were very painful, plus when Ah Ke fell from the air, she was crushing his chest and abdomen and hurt him very much, but in his heart he was exceedingly happy, he was wishing that this beautiful woman would lie down on his bosom forever, and would not stand up again. As for the nun in white was fighting with what kind of enemy, he did not give it the least bit of care; he expected her skill was so divine that even more formidable enemy would not be able to do anything to her.

Ah Ke used her right hand to prop herself against Wei Xiaobao’s chest; slowly she straightened her back, took a deep breath, and finally she was able to stand up. “Why are you lying in here?” she said in an annoyed voice, “You wanted to trip me?” She was fully aware that Wei Xiaobao met the same fate as she did, he had no control over himself, but she was simply too embarrassed just now, hence she could not help but lashing it out on him.

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I knew you were going to fall on the ground, so I should have crawled three chi away. No, three chi is not enough; if I only crawled three chi away, then I would lie side by side with you, it won’t look too good.”

Ah Ke spat, but she was more concerned over her Shifu, so she turned her gaze toward the room. She saw the nun in white was still sitting on the floor, striking with her palm and flicking her sleeve to repulse the enemy. In a glance she could see that altogether there were five enemies besieging her, they all wore red lama clothes, each one moved extremely fast, sending palm strikes and punches, but the nun in white’s palm power held them off, forcing them away so that their backs were pressed tightly against the wooden partition and were unable to get close to her.

Ah Ke took a step closer, she wanted to see if there was anybody else other than these five people, but as she took a step forward, she felt strong gust of wind pressing her body that she was unable to breathe easily. She had no choice but to withdraw two steps back, kicked Wei Xiaobao and said, “Hey, aren’t you going to stand up? Look at the enemy; do you know their background?”

Wei Xiaobao reached back to support himself against the wall. He stood up and looked into the room, he said, “Those six lamas are all bad people.” He was standing to Ah Ke’s side, hence he was able to see one more Lama.

“Rubbish!” Ah Ke said, “Naturally they are bad people; do I need you to tell me that?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “They are not necessarily bad people. Take me for example: I am clearly a good person, yet you keep saying that I am a bad person. These six lamas have the audacity to attack Shitai, they are a lot worse than I am.”

Ah Ke glanced sideways at him. “Humph,” she snorted, “I’ll say you are one of them; you brought these six lamas to harm Shifu.”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “I have a deep respect toward Shitai, I revere her just like I revere the Bodhisattva; I have deep respect toward Miss, just like I respect the deities, why would I want to harm you?”

Ah Ke looked inside with rapt attention; suddenly she cried out in alarm. Wei Xiaobao looked into the room, he saw all six lamas now had jiedao [Buddhist knife] in their hands, ready to pounce and make a kill, but the power of nun in white’s sleeve and the wind from her palm held them at bay so that they were unable to get closer. However, the top of the nun in white’s head emitted a thin streak of white steam; apparently she was using all her strength.

With only one arm she had to fight a life and death fight against six fully armed lamas; if this battle continued, perhaps it would be difficult for her to withstand the enemy. Wei Xiaobao wanted to go forward and help her, but he realized his own martial art skill was almost non-existent; he could not even step over the door, if he crawled in, inevitably he would distract the nun in white, and then instead of helping her, he would bring her harm. In his angst, he suddenly saw a broom leaning against the corner of the wall; immediately he picked it up and positioned himself by the door. Stretching out the broom, he poked it randomly at a lama’s face, hoping that he would distract his attention, so that his internal energy might not be pure anymore, then the nun in white’s palm power might be able to shake him dead.

The broom was barely stretched out, he heard a shout, the broom handle in his hand suddenly felt lighter because the head of the broom was truncated by the lama, followed by the strong wind as the head of the broom flew out of the room, brushing the side of his face, creating several thin lines of blood that felt hot and painful.

Ah Ke anxiously said, “You are just making trouble, that … that won’t work.”

Wei Xiaobao was leaning against the wooden partition, he felt continuous vibration, as if all around the inn, the wooden partitions were about to be knocked down by the wind of the sabers and the power of the palm. Suddenly he had an idea; after looking clearly the six lamas’ position, he walked toward the back of the lama who cut off his broom, pulled out his dagger, and thrust it through the wooden partition.

The dagger was incomparably sharp, the wooden partition was less than a cun thick, as the dagger went in, it penetrated the wood as if it was a piece of tofu [bean curd], and straight into the lama’s back. The lama cried out loudly, his body went limp, he slid slowly along the wooden partition, until finally he sat on the floor.

Hearing the cry, Wei Xiaobao knew he had succeeded. Walking toward the second lama’s back, he thrust his dagger again. In a flash he had killed four lamas in succession. The blade of the dagger was short, as it was thrust on the lamas’ bodies, it did not go through to the front of the torso. As each lama fell sitting down, nobody in that room knew how they actually died.

The other two lamas were greatly shocked, they scrambled toward the door, trying to escape. The nun in white leaped with her palm extended, striking the back of a lama, sending a jolt through his body that he spurted a mouthful of blood and died instantly. With a brush of her left sleeve the nun in white blocked the other lama, and then as swift as the wind the finger of her right hand sealed five acupoints on the lama’s body. The lama fell and lay paralyzed on the floor, unable to move a single step.

The nun in white kicked the bodies of the four lamas, and saw the blade wound on their backs, she also noticed the holes on the wooden partition, and immediately understood what had happened. She turned toward the immobilized lama and shouted, “You … who are you …?” Suddenly her body swayed and she fell sitting down, spurting blood from her mouth.

Those six lamas were martial art masters; by fighting one against six, she had exhausted her internal energy. By brushing her sleeve to block and striking the last lama down, she had used up the last ounce of her strength that she was unable to stand anymore.

Ah Ke and Wei Xiaobao were greatly alarmed; they rushed forward to support her. “Shifu, Shifu!” Ah Ke repeatedly called out.

The nun in white’s breathing was very weak, she closed her eyes and did not say anything. When Wei Xiaobao and Ah Ke, two people lifted her up onto the kang [heatable brick bed], she vomited another mouthful of blood. In her panic, Ah Ke’s limbs turned weak; she could only burst into tears.

As soon as they saw the fight, the innkeeper, the waiters, and the others went into hiding far away. Now that the sound of fighting had ceased, they came back and stuck their heads out and looked around. Seeing blood all over the floor and dead bodies scattered around, they all cried out in fear. Wei Xiaobao picked two jiedao with both hands and shouted, “What are you crying for? Quickly shut your beaks, otherwise I’ll give you each one chop and kill you all.”

Seeing the flickering jiedao, they were frightened and repeatedly said ‘yes, yes’. Wei Xiaobao took out three ingots of silver, worth five taels each, and gave them to a shop attendant and shouted, “Quickly hire two large carriages; the other five taels is for you.” The shop attendant was startled but happy; he dashed out and was back almost immediately with two hired carriages.

Wei Xiaobao took out forty more taels and handed it over to the innkeeper; he said in a loud voice, “These six wicked lamas fought with each other; you kill me, I kill you. All of you have seen it with your own eyes, haven’t you?” How could the innkeeper dare to say ‘no’? He could only nodded. Wei Xiaobao said, “This forty taels is for the room and board.”

Together with Ah Ke, they lifted the nun in white onto a large carriage. He also took the quilt from the kang to cover her. Furthermore, he ordered the shop attendants to lift the lama whose acupoints were sealed onto the other carriage. Wei Xiaobao said to Ah Ke, “You go with Shifu, I’ll go with him.”

They boarded the carriages. Wei Xiaobao ordered the driver to follow the main road going south. He thought, “Shitai is seriously injured, if those lamas attack again, it will be terrible. We must find a remote place for Shitai to recover from her injury.” For fear that the lama’s acupoints would be opened, while he was not his match, he fetch a roll of rope and tightly bound his hands and feet.

After traveling for about the li, Ah Ke suddenly shouted, “Stop!” She leaped down from her carriage and rushed toward Wei Xiaobao’s; with an extremely frightened expression she said, “Shifu’s breathing is getting weaker and weaker; I am afraid … I am afraid …”

Wei Xiaobao was startled; hastily he stepped down the carriage to take a look. The nun in white’s breathing was very weak and shallow. Ah Ke cried and said, “If only we had miracle drug. We’d better find a doctor quickly; it’s just that this place …”

Wei Xiaobao suddenly remembered that the Empress Dowager had given him thirty pills called ‘snow ginseng jade toad pill’ or something like that, which was part of the tribute from the King of Korea; she said that the pills would make one’s body strong and healthy, it would neutralize poison and heal injuries, its efficacy was out of the ordinary. Of those thirty pills, he was supposed to give twenty two to Cult Leader and Madame Hong. Immediately he took out the jade bottle from his pocket and said, “Actually, I have miracle drug to heal injuries here with me.”

Taking out two pills, he fed the pills into the nun in white’s mouth. Ah Ke took the water gourd and helped Shifu drink two mouthful. Wei Xiaobao seized that opportunity to sit in the nun in white’s carriage, sitting face to face with Ah Ke; he said, “I don’t know what will happen after Shitai take the drug; I must keep watch over her all the time.” He ordered both carriages to continue their journey.

After the time needed to drink a cup of tea later, the nun in white suddenly took a very deep breath, and slowly opened her eyes. Ah Ke was greatly delighted. “Shifu,” she called out, “Do you feel better?” The nun in white nodded her head.

Wei Xiaobao busily took out two more pills and said, “Shitai, these pills are effective, take two more.”

The nun in white slightly shook her head and said in a low voice, “Today … it’s enough … I must circulate my chi to convert the drug’s power … Stop … stop the carriage.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said; he ordered the carriages to stop. The nun in white instructed Ah Ke to help her get up. Sitting cross-legged, she closed her eyes and circulated her strength. While Ah Ke could not take her eyes off her master, Wei Xiaobao could not take his eyes off her. He saw that at first there was a worried expression on her face, but gradually her graceful eyebrows began to relax, her eyes started to shine.

Another moment passed, a smile began to form on the corners of her mouth. Wei Xiaobao did not need to look at the nun in white to know that her effort to circulate her strength to heal her body had given its desired effect. A few moments later, he saw Ah Ke’s expression was growing happier and happier. Wei Xiaobao thought, “If only there was no Shitai in this carriage, only me and this little beauty, two people, plus her expression always looks this happy, I can really die happy.”

Suddenly Ah Ke looked up and saw him staring blankly at her; immediately her cheeks blushed. She wanted to scold him, but was afraid she might agitate Shifu and disturb her internal energy cultivation; hence the word was already at the tip of her tongue, but she swallowed it back, and only hatefully shot a malicious look at him. Wei Xiaobao smiled at her. Following her gaze, he looked at the nun in white, and notice that her breathing was even.

The nun in white blew out a mouthful of air, and opened her eyes. “We can continue,” she said in a low voice.

“Resting for a bit longer is not a big deal,” Wei Xiaobao said.

“No need,” the nun in white said.

Wei Xiaobao took out five taels and gave the money to the drivers, telling them to continue the journey. At that time, hiring a large carriage only cost a qian and a half a day. Seeing how generous he was with the money, the two carriage drivers were overjoyed; they expressed their thanks repeatedly.

The nun in white slowly said, “Xiaobao, what kind of medicine did you give me?”

“It’s called ‘snow ginseng jade toad pill’,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “It was the tribute of the King of Korea to the young emperor.”

A delighted expression flashed on the nun in white’s face; she said, “Snow ginseng and jade toad are two miracle drugs with great healing power; they can almost raise people from the dead. Who would have thought that unexpectedly I could come across it? My life is not meant to be cut short yet.” After suffering such a heavy injury, unexpectedly by this time her voice was very steady, there was no hint of her internal power was lacking.

Ah Ke happily asked, “Shifu, are you, Senior, completely healed?”

“I won’t die,” the nun in white replied.

“I still have twenty-eight more here,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Shitai may take and use them all.” While saying that, he handed over the jade bottle.

The nun in white did not accept, she said, “At most I only need two or three more pills, that will be enough. I have no use for that many.”

Wei Xiaobao was generous by nature, he thought, “What’s so big of a deal if you take all thirty pills? The old wh0re must have some more over there.” So he said, “Shitai, your body is important, since these pills are beneficial to you, next time I see the young emperor, I will just ask him some more.” And he pushed the jade bottle into her hand. The nun in white nodded, but she still gave the bottle back to him.

After traveling for some time, the nun in white said, “Find a secluded place and tell the drivers to stop; we need to question that lama.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao complied. He ordered the carriages to enter a valley, and told the drivers to get the lama to the ground. He also told them to have the mule grazing at the back of the mountain. “If you do not hear me call, don’t come over here,” he said. The drivers complied and pulled the mules away.

The nun in white said, “You question him.”

Wei Xiaobao pulled the dagger, ‘swish!’ he cut a strip of tree branch, and easily pared the small twigs that shortly thereafter the tree branch turned into a stick. “Laoxiong [old chap],” he said, would you like to be a human stick?”

The lama could see that the dagger was very sharp, hence he was already frightened. “May I ask Xiaoye [little master], what do you mean by a human stick?”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “I’ll have your arms cut off; your ears, your nose will also be scraped, anything that is sticking out of your body will be pared flat, that’s a human stick. It’s very fun, do you want to try?” While saying that, he waved his dagger several times in front of the lama’s nose.

“No, no,” the lama said, “Xiaoseng [little monk] does not want to be a human stick.”

“I am not lying to you,” Wei Xiaobao said, “It’s very fun, there is no harm in you being one this time.”

“I am afraid it’s not fun,” the lama said.

“You have not been one, how do you know it’s not fun?” Wei Xiaobao said, “Let’s try it first, then we’ll talk later.” While saying that, he ran the dagger back and forth on the lama’s shoulder.

Xiaoye, please spare my life,” the lama begged, “Xiaoseng was too brazen to offend Shitai; I should not have done that.”

“Alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I ask you a question, you give me an answer; if you give me even half a sentence of lie, I will immediately make you a human stick. I will plant you here, put some manure on you, and water you some; perhaps after ten days or half a month, you will grow some arms, ears and nose.”

“No, no,” the lama said, “Xiaoseng will definitely give you honest answers.”

“What’s your name?” Wei Xiaobao started, “Why did you offend Shitai?”

The lama said, “Xiaoseng’s name is Hubayin, a Tibetan Lama. I received our Da Shixiong [first martial (older) brother] Sangjie’s order to … to capture this Shitai alive.”

Wei Xiaobao remembered that he had heard the name Sangjie on Mount Wutai. He asked, “This Shitai is perfectly all right, she has never offended your stinky Shixiong; why did you take such a brazenly rash action?”

Da Shixiong says that our Living Buddha has eight copies of treasured sutra, which this Shitai stole … no, not steal, she borrowed,” Hubayin said, “We want to ask her to return it.”

“What treasured sutra?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“It’s Cha Yan Gu Tu Wu Sutra,” Hubayin replied.

“Rubbish,” Wei Xiaobao said, “What Ji Li Gu Lu Wu sutra?”

“Yes, yes,” Hubayin said, “It’s in our Tibetan language. In Chinese tongue, it is called ‘Forty-two Chapter Sutra’.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “How did you stinky Shixiong know that Shitai has taken the ‘Forty-two Chapter Sutra’?”

“I really don’t know,” Hubayin replied.

“You don’t know?” Wei Xiaobao said, “What good is your tongue then? Stick it out.” While saying that, he raised his dagger.

How could Hubayin dare to stick his tongue out? He begged, “Xiaoseng really does not know.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your stinky Shixiong is in Tibet, how could he send you out so quickly?”

Hubayin said, “Da Shixiong and some of us were originally in Beijing, so we pursued from Beijing to this place.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded, he understood what had happened, “Naturally it was the old wh0re who sent them the news.” He asked, “From your stinky lama companions this time, how many have higher, or almost the same, martial art skill?”

Hubayin said, “This time there are thirteen of us, martial brothers, Shitai has killed five, there are eight people left.”

Wei Xiaobao was secretly alarmed. “What do you mean ‘eight’?” he shouted, “Can you still be considered one of them? Sooner or later you’ll be a human stick.”

Hubayin said, “Xiaoye has promised not to make Xiaoseng a human stick.”

“Those remaining seven human sticks,” Wei Xiaobao asked, “Where are they now?”

Hubayin said, “Our Da Shixiong’s skill is very superior, he won’t change into a human stick.”

Wei Xiaobao kicked the small of his back heavily while cursing, “Stinky thief, death is at hand, you still dare to blow your horn really loud. Even if your stinky shixiong’s skill was higher, I will still make him into a human stick and show it to you.”

“Yes, yes,” Hubayin said; but it was obvious from his expression that he thought otherwise.

Wei Xiaobao continued the interrogation for quite a long time, but no longer gained any useful information, thereupon he returned to the large carriage, put the carriage screen down, and in a low voice passed on what Hubayin had said. He added, “Shitai, there are still seven lamas left. If all of them catch up with us at the same time, they won’t be easy to deal with. Normally Shitai won’t have any problem, but right now you are not feeling very well …”

The nun in white shook her head and said, “Even if I were well without any injury, I would have a hard time fighting one against six, much less they have their Da Shixiong, whose martial art skill far surpasses his fellow disciples of the same generation. I heard Sangjie is the number one martial art expert of the Tibetan Tantra; his ‘Big Hand Print Divine Skill’ has been trained to almost perfection.”

“I have an idea,” Wei Xiaobao said, “It’s just that … it’s just that Shitai’s prestige would be lowered too much.”

The nun in white sighed and said, “What prestige there is left to be said for those who have left home? What’s your idea?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “We go to a remote place, find a peasant family home to temporarily hide. I am asking Shitai to change into peasant woman’s attire, and sleep on the bed to heal your injury. Miss Ah Ke and I will change into peasant girl and boy’s clothing, we can pose as … as Shitai’s son and daughter.”

The nun in white shook her head. Ah Ke said, “You are bad, your idea is naturally bad. Shifu is a martial art master of the present age, how could she hide? Won’t that mean she is scared of others?”

The nun in white said, “We can follow your idea. The two of you can be my nephew and niece.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao happily said, while saying in his heart, “It would be best if we can be your nephew and nephew’s wife.”

Ah Ke shot him a malicious look; she was really unhappy Shifu had accepted his idea.

Wei Xiaobao said, “If we leave this lama’s mouth alive, I am afraid he might reveal our secret; we’d better bury him alive here, so we won’t leave any trace.”

The nun in white said, “When I fought them earlier, I was already acting against my will, it was hard for me to accept it in my heart. This lama is powerless to defend himself, to kill him would inevitably be too vicious. However … however, we can’t let him go either. We’ll have to take him for the time being, and think about another plan later.”

Wei Xiaobao complied. He called the drivers, told them to get Hubayin back onto the carriage, and ordered them to continue the journey.

Along the way, they actually did not see any peasant homes; afraid that Sangjie would catch up, they were thinking that as soon as they saw a small path, they would make a detour. However, all the side roads along the way were simply too narrow for a large carriage to pass.

While continuing along the main road, suddenly they heard sound of hooves from behind; several dozens of riders were galloping toward them. Wei Xiaobao groaned inwardly, “Doomed, we are doomed! Turns out there are dozens of stinky lamas.” He ordered the carriages to run faster. The two drivers urged their mules verbally and with their whips, but the pursuing riders were getting closer and closer; not too long afterwards, they were already behind the carriages.

Wei Xiaobao took a peek from a crack on the wooden partition of the carriage’s compartment, immediately he heaved a deep sigh of relief; turned out these several dozen riders were men wearing dark green clothes, they were not lamas at all. In no time at all the riders passed swiftly by the side of the carriages, and soon afterwards they were already ahead of the carriages.

Ah Ke suddenly called out, “Zheng … Zheng Gongzi!” [young master]

One of the riders immediately reined in his horse and waited on the side. When the carriage caught up, he rode alongside the carriage. “Is it Miss Chen?” he called out.

“That’s right,” Ah Ke replied, “It’s me.” She sounded very happy.

The rider raised his voice, “It’s a surprise to see you here. Are you with Miss Wang?”

“No, I am not,” Ah Ke replied, “My Shijie is not here.”

“Are you going to Hejian Prefecture?” the rider asked, “We can travel together.”

“No,” Ah Ke replied, “We are not going to Hejian Prefecture.”

The rider said, “Hejian Prefecture is very exciting, you should go.”

While they were talking, the carriages and the horses were still proceeding forward. Wei Xiaobao saw Ah Ke’s cheeks were blushing, her eyes were shining, she looked so happy, as if she was seeing the closest person to her in the world. In that instant, Wei Xiaobao felt as if his heart was heavily struck by a large hammer, again and again. He thought, “Could it be that her sweetheart has arrived?” He said in a low voice, “Finding shelter is more important, don’t talk to someone who has nothing to do with us.”

But Ah Ke did not seem to hear him; she asked, “What’s so exciting about Hejian Prefecture?”

“Don’t you know?” the man said. The carriage’s screen was lifted up, a face looked in.

The man had a handsome face, he was about twenty-three, twenty-four years of age, he looked delighted when he said, “There will be a ‘Turtle-slaying Assembly’ at Hejian Prefecture, all heroes and warriors under the heavens will participate; it’s going to be very exciting.”

“What is a ‘Turtle-slaying Assembly’?” Ah Ke asked, “Are you going to kill a big turtle? What’s so exciting about that?”

The man laughed and said, “We are going to kill a big turtle alright, but not a real turtle, it’s a big criminal. His name has a ‘turtle’ character [gui] in it.”

Ah Ke laughed, “How can someone use a ‘turtle’ character in his name?” she asked, “You must be joking.”

The man laughed. “It’s not the ‘gui’ character of ‘wu gui’ [turtle/tortoise],” he said, “The characters sound alike, it’s the ‘gui’ character of ‘gui hua’ [cassia/laurel flower]; why don’t you guess who’s that person?”

Wei Xiaobao jumped in fright; he mused, “Someone with the ‘gui’ character of ‘gui hua’ in his name; are they going to kill me, Xiao Guizi?”

But he heard Ah Ke clapped her hands and said with a laugh, “I know it! It’s the big traitor to China, Wu Sangui.”

The man laughed and said, “Exactly. You are so smart, just one guess and you got it.”

“Have you captured Wu Sangui?” Ah Ke asked.

“That, we have not,” the man replied, “But we are going to discuss how we are going to kill that big traitor to China.”

Wei Xiaobao let out a breath; he thought, “So that’s it. Come to think about it, I, Xiao Guizi, am a little child, they can’t possibly want to kill me. Even if they did, they won’t need any ‘Turtle-slaying assembly’. Damn it, even in posing as someone else, laozi can be considered as having a bad luck; why did I impersonate someone with a ‘gui’ character in his name?”

He saw that the man was looking at Ah Ke with a smile on his face, yet the sound of hoof and the carriage did not stop at all. The man was riding a horse, but he leaned over and looked into the carriage; indeed he had an extremely fine horsemanship.

Ah Ke turned toward the nun in white and said in a low voice, “Shifu, are we going or not?”

Although the nun in white’s martial art was very high, she lacked the ability to adapt to changes. She had frequently hoped to participate and had heard about Wulin heroes jointly discussing the plan to kill Wu Sangui. However, Sangjie and the other lamas might catch up with them very soon, the situation was very urgent. After hesitating for a short moment, she asked Wei Xiaobao, “What do you think?”

Seeing Ah Ke’s expression and mannerism toward the young man, Wei Xiaobao’s heart was filled with unspeakable hatred, he simply did not want to let Ah Ke be together with him; thereupon he hastily said, “When those wicked lamas arrived, we won’t be able to deal with them. We’d better get away from them as quickly as possible.”

“What wicked lamas?” the young man asked.

“Zheng Gongzi,” Ah Ke said, “This is my Shifu, we ran into a group of wicked lamas on our journey, they injured my Shifu. She, the Senior, received a serious injury. There are seven other lamas pursuing behind us.”

“Yes!” the young man said. Turning around, he let out several whistles; the group of riders halted, the two large carriages also stopped. The young man leaped down from the horseback, rolled up the carriage’s screen, bowed and said, “Junior Zheng Keshuang pays his respect to Senior.” The nun in white nodded.

Zheng Keshuang said, “Please don’t worry about seven or eight lamas, junior will take care of them, just leave it to us.”

Ah Ke was pleasantly surprised, but was also a bit worried; she said, “Those wicked lamas are very formidable.”

Zheng Keshuang said, “These companions I brought with me are all highly skilled in martial art, we can handle it. Not to mention we can fight them many against a few, even if we have to fight them one-on-one, we have nothing to be afraid of those seven, eight lamas.”

Ah Ke turned her head toward her Shifu with a questioning look; actually, it was more like hoping than asking.

“That won’t work,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Shitai whose martial art skill is this profound still received injury; what good are twenty-something people like you?”

Ah Ke angrily said, “I did not ask you, why do you talk too much?”

“I am concerned about Shitai’s wellbeing,” Wei Xiaobao said.

Ah Ke said, “You are scared of death, yet still say that you are concerned about Shifu. You are a little evil person, all you can do is evil thing, how can you possibly have any good intention?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This man surnamed Zheng, is his skill great? Is he stronger than Shitai?”

Ah Ke said, “He brings more than twenty men, each one is exceptionally skillful in martial arts. Are you saying that these more than twenty men are afraid of seven lamas?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “How do you know each one of these men is exceptionally skillful in martial arts? I’ll say they all have low and weak martial art skill.”

“Of course I do,” Ah Ke said, “I have seen them in action; each one of them is equal to a hundred of you.”

The nun in white was deep in thought without saying anything; Wei Xiaobao wanted her to dress as a peasant woman to hide from the lamas. This matter had already been decided, but it was actually against her deepest wish. To have these two children know about it was not a big deal, but in front of these twenty, thirty Jianghu warriors, she would rather die than letting them know that she was going to assume a disguise to avoid disaster. She slowly said, “Those lama took me, one person, by surprise. Zheng Gongzi, thank you for your good intention. Please lead the way.”

“Why would Shitai say such thing?” Zheng Keshuang said, “When the road is rough, we must pull our blades to help each other. Much less … much less Shitai is Miss Chen’s Shifu, for junior to spend a tiny effort is not a burden at all.”

Ah Ke blushed and bowed her head, but she seemed to be very pleased.

The nun in white nodded and said, “Very well, in that case we will go to Hejian Prefecture together to take a look. But you don’t need to mention me to other people. My natural disposition is indolent, I don’t like meeting other people.”

“Yes, yes,” Zheng Keshuang happily said, “Junior will respectfully obey Senior’s instruction.”

The nun in white said, “Which school Zheng Gongzi belong to? Who is your revered master?” Asking about the school he learned his martial art from, was the same as examining his martial art skill.

Zheng Keshuang said, “Junior has received martial art instruction from three Shifu. The teacher who has awakened me from ignorance was surnamed Shi, a martial art expert from Wu Yi Pai[1]. The second Shifu was surnamed Liu, a martial art master, lay person disciple from Shaolin Temple, Putian Prefecture, Fujian.”

“Um, what is that Liu Shifu’s great name?” the nun in white asked.

Zheng Keshuang replied, “His name is Liu Guoxuan.”

Hearing him blurting his Shifu’s name without any respect, the nun in white felt a bit strange. Immediately she remembered someone, she said, “Isn’t that the same name of the Great General Liu of Taiwan?”

Zheng Keshuang said, “He is precisely the provincial governor Liu Guoxuan, Great General Liu under the Yanping Junwang[2] of Taiwan’s banner.”

“So Zheng Gongzi belongs to Yanping Junwang’s family?” the nun in white asked.

“Junior is Yanping Junwang’s second son,” Zheng Keshuang replied.

The nun in white nodded. “So you are the descendant of loyal subjects.”

Zheng Chenggong [Koxinga] seized Taiwan from the Dutch. King Gui bestowed the title ‘Yanping Jun Wang’, and allowed him to recruit great generals. Zheng Chenggong passed away in the fifth month of Yongli’s sixteenth year (i.e. Kangxi’s first year). In the meantime, his heir apparent Zheng Jing was guarding Jinmen and Xiamen, while Zheng Chenggong’s younger brother Zheng Xi was in command over Taiwan. Zheng Jing led Zhou Guanbin, Chen Jinnan, and other generals with their troops back to Taiwan to support Zheng Xi’s army and established the position Yanping Junwang.

Counting from Zheng Chenggong’s father Zheng Zhilong, Zheng Jing’s oldest son Kezang [? – can’t even find it in the dictionary], and second son Keshuang were the fourth generation of the Zheng family. For generations Yanping Junwang has unyieldingly been using their military power to resist the Manchurian Qing, alone across the sea, just like when they first received the order from the Great Ming; no man with vision under the heavens did not highly esteem them. When Zheng Keshuang revealed his status, he presumed that this nun would definitely feel deep veneration toward him; who would have thought that this nun in white was only nodding her head and said one sentence, ‘So you are the descendant of loyal subjects’, and said nothing else? He did not know that the nun in white was the Emperor Chongzhen’s Princess. His Shifu Liu Guoxuan was his father’s subordinate, hence he did not hold him in such a high regards. Yet in the nun in white’s eyes, Zheng Jing was no more than a ‘loyal subject’.

In his heart Wei Xiaobao did not stop cursing, “Damn it, what’s so special about it? What’s so amazing about Yanping Junwang anyway?” Actually, he knew very well that Yanping Junwang was a great man; his Shifu Chen Jinnan was Yanping Junwang’s subordinate. The more he thought about it, the more he knew that the turn of events was far from good. He saw Zheng Keshuang’s expression, which showed clear interest in Ah Ke; he was someone in command of powerful army, the magnificent son of a Junwang who really reigned over a region, even the Mu Palace people who wandered destitute in Jianghu could not be compared to them. Moreover, this man’s appearance was ten times more elegant than Wei Xiaobao, his style of conversation was a hundred times more sophisticated, his age was also a lot older. Granted that his martial art skill was still unknown, it seems that if it was not ten times superior than his own, it must be at least seven, eight times.

Ah Ke admired him whole-heartedly, even a blind person could see that. If her Shifu found out that Wei Xiaobao was vying over Ah Ke with this young master Zheng, even without the young master Zheng’s bidding, perhaps she would send a palm strike to kill him herself. Shitai had also praised him as a ‘descendant of loyal subjects’, whose descendant was Wei Xiaobao anyway? He was nothing more than a descendant of a prostitute.

The nun in white cast a glance toward Zheng Keshuang and slowly asked, “Then your first Shifu was Shi Lang, who surrendered to the Manchurian Qing?”

“Yes,” Zheng Keshuang replied, “This man is without any sense of shame and has forgotten righteousness, junior has long ago not regarded him as my Shifu. If we ever see each other in the battlefield, I will definitely kill him with my own hand.” His voice was vehement and full of righteous indignation.

Wei Xiaobao mused, “Turns out your Shifu has surrendered to the Tatars. I must pay attention when I see this Shi Lang next time.”

Zheng Keshuang continued, “For the last ten years or so, junior has been training under Feng Shifu. He is Kunlun Pai’s number one martial art master; he is known as the ‘One Sword Without Blood’. I presume Shitai has heard about him.”

The nun in white said, “Um, that must be Feng Xifan, Feng Shifu. Only I did not know the origin of his nickname.”

Zheng Keshuang said, “While it’s true that Feng Shifu’s swordsmanship is extremely high, his qigong[3] is especially superb. With the tip of his sword he sealed people’s death acupoint, the victim’s skin was not harmed, he died without shedding any blood.”

“Oh,” the nun in white said, “In the present age, the number of people who have trained their qigong to this state, able to use sharp object instead of blunt, is not too many. How old is Feng Shifu, approximately?”

Zheng Keshuang was very proud when he said, “Come winter this year, junior will arrange a fiftieth birthday banquet.”

The nun in white nodded. “He is not even fifty yet, his internal energy has already reached this ‘pure’ state, it is indeed very rare,” she said.

After a short pause, she asked, “Those attendants of yours, are their martial art skills acceptable?”

“Shitai, don’t worry,” Zheng Keshuang said, “They are martial art masters, handpicked among the guards in junior’s palace.”

Wei Xiaobao suddenly said, “Shitai, actually, how many martial art masters are there in the world? This Zheng Gongzi’s first Shifu was a foreign school’s martial art master, his second Shifu was Fujian Shaolin Pai’s martial art master, his third Shifu is Kunlun Pai’s martial art master, the attendants he brought along are all martial art masters, presumably he is also a martial art master.”

Hearing his sarcastic remark, Zheng Keshuang was angry; however, he did not know this kid’s background. He only saw that the kid was traveling in the same carriage with the nun in white and Ah Ke, presumably he was related to them somehow; thereupon he strived to repress his anger.

Ah Ke said, “As the saying goes, ‘Great Teacher will produce Brilliant Student’; since Zheng Gongzi has had three great teachers training him, naturally his martial art skill is superb.”

“What Miss has said is very true,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I have not seen Zheng Gongzi’s martial art; therefore, I have inquired thoughtlessly. If Miss is compared to Zheng Gongzi, I wonder whose martial art is a bit stronger?”

Ah Ke cast a quick glance toward Zheng Keshuang and said, “Naturally he is a lot stronger than me.”

Zheng Keshuang laughed and said, “Miss is too modest.”

“So that’s how it is,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You said that ‘Great Teacher will produce Brilliant Student’, so your martial art skill is not high because your Shifu is a ‘low hand’[4], an obscure master, a far inferior master compared to Zheng Gongzi’s three great martial art master teachers.” In term of debate, how could Ah Ke be his match? With just one sentence he was able to turn the table around.

Ah Ke’s entire little face turned beet red as she hastily said, “I … when did I say that Shifu was a ‘low hand’, an obscure master? You are the one who speak nonsense here.”

The nun in white smiled and said, “Ah Ke, you will never win a squabble against Xiaobao. Let us go.” The large carriage lowered its curtain, the vehicles and horses continued their journey westward. Zheng Keshuang rode his horse alongside the large carriage.

The nun in white asked Ah Ke in a low voice, “This Zheng Gongzi, how did you know him?”

Ah Ke blushed as she replied, “Shijie and I met him at Henan’s Kaifeng Prefecture. That time … that time we were dressed as men, he thought we were men, hence at the restaurant he invited us to come over and drink some wine.”

“You have quite a nerve, huh?” the nun in white said, “Two big girls going to the restaurant to drink wine.”

Ah Ke lowered her head. “We did not drink the wine for real,” she said, “We only pretending to; it was fun.”

“Miss Ah Ke,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You have such a beautiful appearance, even when you are wearing men’s clothes, anybody could see that you are a beautiful girl. I think that Zheng Gongzi was harboring a malicious intention.”

Ah Ke angrily said, “You are the one who harbors malicious intention! We dressed as men, he did not suspect us the least bit. Afterwards Shijie told him, and he apologized repeatedly. Other people are refined and courteous gentlemen, unlike you …”

Shortly before noon the party reached Feng’er Zhuang [‘zhuang’ means village], a large town in western Hebei. They all stopped for lunch in a restaurant. Wei Xiaobao stepped down the carriage, and noticed that Zheng Keshuang was a tall and handsome, straight and impressive looking man, at least half a head taller than Wei Xiaobao; he could not help but feeling inferior even more. He also noticed his luxurious clothes and ornaments, the sheathe of the sword hanging on his waist was inlaid with pearls, jades and precious stones, which sparkled brilliantly under the sun. From among the twenty-some men accompanying him, some were tall and sturdy, some looked energetic, heroic, tall and straight. They all carried sabers and swords, each one of them looked completely spirited.

As they entered the restaurant, Ah Ke wiped the table where the nun in white was going to sit before she took a seat next to her. Hence she and Zheng Keshuang were sitting on adjacent tables to keep each other company. Wei Xiaobao was about to sit down on a table opposite the nun in white, Ah Ke shot him a malicious look and said, “There are plenty of seats over there, can you not sit over here? When I see you, I can’t eat my meal.”

Wei Xiaobao was furious, instantly his entire face turned deep red; he thought, “With this Zheng Gongzi accompanying you, you will be able to eat several more bowls. Damn it, I hope you, this ‘little mother skin’ [小娘皮 – xiao niang pi] will die of bloating.”

“Ah Ke,” the nun in white said, “Why are you always that rude to Xiaobao?”

Ah Ke replied, “He is a bad person who won’t shrink from any crime. Shifu said I must not kill him, otherwise …” Speaking to this point, she shot another malicious look toward him.

In his heart Wei Xiaobao was bitterly angry, he walked away toward a table at the corner of the hall; he thought, “You are bent on marrying this damned stinky Zheng Gongzi and be his wife; how can I, Wei Xiaobao, be willing to give up easily? You want to kill me? It won’t be easy. Laozi will come up with a scheme: I will kill the husband in your mind first, so you won’t have anybody to marry, you will be a widow first, in the end you will have no choice but to marry laozi. Laozi will not consider you a widow to be remarried, you are but a ‘little mother skin’!”

The waiters delivered the meals, the attendants of the Zheng Family immediately wolfed down their food. Wei Xiaobao took seven, eight steamed buns to feed Hubayin, who was still tied on the carriage. He felt that this Hubayin was more amiable than those men from the Zheng family. Returning to his own table, he looked across several tables and saw Ah Ke’s face was glowing, as she was chatting and laughing with Zheng Keshuang, seemingly very intimate with him. Wei Xiaobao was so angry that he nearly choked, “Killing this Zheng Gongzi is not going to be easy,” he pondered, “I must not leave the least bit of trace; otherwise if Ah Ke knew it was me who killed him, she would definitely kill her own husband to avenge this ‘male adulterer’.”

Suddenly they heard hooves beat, several people on horses were rushing into the town. They dismounted and walked into the inn, they were precisely seven lamas. Wei Xiaobao’s heart was pounding, but there was a little bit of delight in his heart, thinking that other people would soon meet misfortune. He thought, “That Zheng Gongzi was tooting his horn really hard just now, saying that he had trained under three martial art masters. Let them have a big fight, laozi will watch with folded arms; it’s going to be wonderful!”

As soon as those seven lamas saw the nun in white, their countenance changed greatly, and they broke into some mumbling and grunting among themselves. One of them, a tall and thin lama spoke several sentences, he seemed to be issuing some order. The seven of them sat around a table nearby the door, and then they called for food. Each one was staring at the nun in white with angry expression. The nun in white acted as if she did not see anything, she kept on eating her meal slowly.

A moment later, a lama stood up and walked toward the nun in white. “Bald nun,” he said in a loud voice, “Did you kill several companions of ours?”

Zheng Keshuang stood up and in a clear voice said, “What do you think you are doing? Making a big fuss in here and acting very rude?”

The lama angrily said, “What kind of ‘thing’ are you? We are talking to this nun, it has nothing to do with you. Get lost!”

There were several ‘whoosh, whoosh’ noise as four of Zheng Keshuang’s subordinates leaped over, trying to arrest the lama. The lama raised his right hand to block two men; his leg flew out and kicked an attendant, sending him rolling out of the inn’s door, and then he sent a punch straight ahead toward the bridge of another attendant’s nose, hitting him so hard that the attendant fainted immediately.

The rest of the attendants shouted, “Let’s go together!” Taking out their weapons, they charged toward the lama.

The other five lamas also pulled their jiedao and rushed forward to meet the attack, only the thin and tall lama sat motionless on his chair. In an instant the dining hall was full of ‘bing, bing, bang, bang’ noise; the sound of fighting was very loud. At the start of the fight, the restaurant workers and the other diners ran out of the restaurant. Zheng Keshuang and Ah Ke pulled their swords and stood in front of the nun in white. In the dining hall the bowls and cups were flying everywhere, the tables and chairs were thrashed. Each lama fought four or five of Zheng Mansion’s guards.

Suddenly there was a ‘whoosh’ sound, a single-blade saber flew upward and landed on the beam. Wei Xiaobao looked up, white light flashed, two more sabers flew up and stuck to the beam. And then three, four more swords also flew up. The Zheng Mansion’s guards cried out in alarm one after another as they leaped sideways and back to evade, without any weapon in their hands. A series of whooshing noise was heard, one by one their weapons flew up; they all stuck onto the beam and the rafters, and did not fall back down. Only some steel whips, iron cudgels, and other heavy weapons flew through the roof and landed on the roof tiles outside.

In less than the time needed to burn half of an incense stick, more than twenty Zheng Mansion’s guards had lost their weapons. Wei Xiaobao was startled, but delighted as well; in fact, his delight was several degrees higher than his astonishment.

The lamas shouted, “Quickly kneel down and surrender; if you are one step late, all your melon heads will be chopped down.”

Although their weapons were gone, the Zheng Mansion’s guards did not lose their courage; either barehanded or lifted up benches as their weapons, they charged toward the six lamas again. The six lamas yelled, waved their sabers and tossed them away. ‘Pop!’ all six jiedao landed on the table in front of the tall and thin lama, neatly forming a circle. And then all six of them charged into the crowd. Cries of ‘Aiyo, aiyo’ were heard, mixed with unending ‘crack, crack!’ as just in a short time more than twenty men had their thighbones broken; they all fell down on the ground, scattered around the dining hall.

By this time the fear in Wei Xiaobao’s heart had surpassed his delight; he groaned in his heart, “Very soon they are going to give Shitai and us, pretty people, some trouble; what should we do?”

The six lamas put their palms together while mumbling and grunting; apparently they were chanting some sutra. They returned to their table, pulled their jiedao, and hang them on their waists. The tall and thin lama called out, “Wine! Bring the wine out!”

After he called several times, the restaurant workers looked from the distant, how could the dare to come over? A lama cursed, “Damn it, if you don’t bring food and wine, we’ll burn down your ‘black inn’.”

As soon as the innkeeper heard that they were going to burn the inn, he replied, “Yes, yes! Food and wine will be served immediately. Quickly get the food and wine for these Buddha masters.”

Wei Xiaobao looked at the nun in white, he wanted to know how she was going to deal with this situation. But he only saw her with a cup of tea in her right hand, slowly sipping the tea; her sleeve did not move at all, her face looked indifferent. Ah Ke, on the other hand, was deathly pale, with terror in her eyes. Zheng Keshuang’s face alternated between deep green and white, his hand on the hilt of his sword, his arm trembled continuously, not knowing what to do, whether he should go forward and attack or not.

The tall and thin lama let out a cold laugh, stood up and walked toward Zheng Keshuang. Zheng Keshuang jumped sideways to evade, while pointing his sword to the lama and shouted, “You … you … what do you want?” Not only his voice was hoarse, it was trembling too.

The lama said, “We have some business with this nun, it has nothing to do with other people. Are you her disciple?”

“I am not,” Zheng Keshuang replied.

“Very well!” the lama said, “Be sensible, get out quickly.”

“Sire … who are you, Sire?” Zheng Keshuang asked, “Please leave behind your ‘ten-thousand’ name, someday … someday I will …”

The lama tossed his head back and let out a long laugh. Wei Xiaobao’s ears were buzzing, immediately he felt dizzy and light-headed. Ah Ke was unable to stand, she sat down on the stool and bent her head over the table.

The lama laughed and said, “My name in religion is Sangjie, the Great Dharma Protector of the Tibetan Dalai Lama Living Buddha. Someday you will what? You want to find me for revenge, don’t you?”

The hair on Zheng Keshuang’s head stood up; he said with a trembling voice, “Ex … exactly!”

Sangjie laughed aloud. His left sleeve brushed toward Zheng Keshuang’s face. Zheng Keshuang raised his sword to block. Sangjie flicked the middle finger of his right hand, ‘Clang!’ the sword flew up and stuck on the beam. Sangjie’s left hand grabbed the back of Zheng Keshuang’s neck, lifted him up, and threw him heavily onto the wooden bench. He laughed and said, “Sit down!”

As the back of Zheng Keshuang’s neck was grabbed by Sangjie, his ‘da zhui’ [big spine] acupoint was sealed; it was the meeting point of the three yang passages of the hands and feet, consequently, his entire body was paralyzed. Sangjie let out a ‘hey, hey’ cold laugh before returning to his table and sat down.

“What are they waiting for?” Wei Xiaobao mused, “Why don’t they fight Shitai? Are they waiting for other helpers?” Looking around the dining hall, he noticed that all four walls were made of bricks, he could not use the same trick again, i.e. using his dagger to stab the enemies from behind wooden partition. Suddenly he remembered Hubayin, who was still on the large carriage outside. “Bad!” he thought, “As soon as they rescue Hubayin, they would immediately know that Shitai and I are of the same group; perhaps they will also find out that those four lamas were killed by me. If that happens, perhaps it would be difficult for Wei Xiaobao to go directly to the underworld to be together with the four lamas, I am most afraid they would trim me into a human stick first; after all, it was my idea.”

Thinking that they would seize his dagger and trim him into a human stick, he could not restrain the hair on his body from standing on its end. Turning his head to look at Sangjie, he noticed that there was a hint of anxiety, restless feeling on Sangjie’s serious expression. Suddenly it dawned on him, “Ah, right! He did not know Shitai is seriously injured; he is scared of Shitai’s superb martial art. Right now he is still not sure how to make his move.”

In the meantime the waiter was delivering the food and wine. He poured half a bowl in front of each lama, and his pot was already empty. A lama slapped the table and cursed, “This little bit of wine is not enough for one Buddha master alone to drink.” The waiter was already shaking all over, right now he was even more terrified; he turned around to fetch some wine.

Wei Xiaobao had a sudden inspiration; he followed into the kitchen. He was a small kid, nobody paid him any attention. He saw the waiter took a ladle to fill the wine pot from a big earthen jar. His hand was shaking so bad that he splash wine on the ground, on the table and around the earthen jar. In fact, the area around the wine pot was wet with wine. Wei Xiaobao took out a small ingot of silver and handed it to him, saying, “Don’t be afraid. This is to pay for my food, you may keep the change. Let me help you pouring the wine.” While saying that, he took the ladle away from his hand.

The waiter was overjoyed at this unexpected good fortune; he had never expected that there was such a good person in the world. Wei Xiaobao said, “Those lamas are very vicious; go take a look: what are they doing now?” The waiter complied; he walked toward the kitchen door and peeked into the dining hall.

Wei Xiaobao took a package of knock-out drug from his bosom, opened the paper wrapper, and shook everything into the wine pot; and then he raised the pot several times while giving it a vigorous shaking. The waiter turned around and said, “They are drinking, they are not … not doing anything!”

Wei Xiaobao handed over the wine pot to him, saying, “Get it quick, they are hot-tempered, don’t let them burn this inn for real.”

The waiter did not stop thanking him; with both hands he received the pot and brought it out, while his mouth was still muttering, “Thank you very much, thank you very much, ay, such a good person, may Bodhisattva bless him.”

The lamas snatched the wine out and poured half a bowl each. “Not enough,” they shouted, “Get more wine!”

Wei Xiaobao saw the seven lamas did not suspect anything, they drank the drugged wine clean; he was greatly delighted and mused, “These stinky lamas are so proud of their superior martial art that they do not even guard against this little bit of shallow Jianghu trick; it is really laughable.”

He did not realize that Sangjie and the other had seen the violent death of their five companions with their own eyes, one of them died with all his ribs, front and back, broken from a palm strike. They knew that an enemy with such a very high level of martial art skill was really rare. Sangjie speculated that if he had to fight this person, most probably he would be defeated. In the inn he saw that the nun in white remained calm and composed throughout, which was indeed the manner of an expert. All seven of them had their attention focused at her every move; they were fully on-guard against a martial art expert, whose skill had reached the great heights of achievement, how could they still divide their attention to guard against such a lowly trick involving some knock-out drug? Although their mouths were drinking the wine, actually they were completely oblivious of its taste. Recalling the circumstances around the tragic death of their five martial brothers, their hearts were already trembling with fear. If there was no nun in white calmly sitting in front of them in the inn, with such a large quantity of knock-out drug in the wine, as soon as it entered their mouths, they would not necessarily not taste the difference.

One of the lamas, a plump one, was a lecher. As soon as he saw Ah Ke’s beauty, he had already indulged the idea of stepping forward and run his hands and feet all over her body. It’s just that he was scared of the nun in white that he did not dare to be rude. But as the first half a bowl of wine entered his belly, he lost all self-control; and then a moment later, the drugged wine also flared-up, his mind turned murky, he did not have any care anymore. Standing up, he giggled and said, “Little Miss, are you married?” Stretching out his big hand, he caressed Ah Ke’s cheek.

Ah Ke was so frightened that her body shook. “You … you …” she said, while brandishing her saber in a chopping movement.

The lama reached out and grabbed her wrist; with a simple twist the saber in Ah Ke’s hand fell to the ground. The lama laughed aloud and pulled her into his embrace. Ah Ke screamed and struggled with everything she had; but the lama’s bulky arms were like a pair of iron hoops, tightly encircled her body, how could she struggle to free herself?

The nun in white originally looked calm and composed, but this time her countenance also underwent a great change; she thought, “It’s not a big deal if this wicked lama killed me, but if he is being rude in public like this, even if I died, I won’t die with closed eyes.”

With both hand Zheng Keshuang propped himself against the table; he stood up and called out, “You … you …” The big fat lama sent a straight left punch. ‘Bang!’ he sent Zheng Keshuang rolling on the floor, twice.

Seeing his beloved was being humiliated, Wei Xiaobao was very anxious, “Why haven’t the drug showed its effect? Could it be that these stinky lamas have some kind of strange skill that they are impervious of knock-out drugs?”

Seeing the lama puckered his lips and randomly kissed and sniffed Ah Ke’s face, he could no longer care about the danger; concealing the dagger in his sleeve, he stepped forward with a giggle. “Big monk,” he said with a laugh, “What are you doing?” His right hand slapped the left side of the lama’s back, he flipped his wrist and thrust the dagger from within his sleeve into the lama’s heart. “Big monk,” he said with a laugh, “What kind of trick are you playing?” Hastily he stepped sideway to the left to guard against a counterattack.

The dagger was incomparably sharp, it entered the flesh without any noise; it cut through the lama’s body straight into his heart, which immediately stopped beating, and thus he stopped moving altogether, but his hands are still holding on to Ah Ke. Ah Ke did not know that he had already died; she was still screaming in fear.

Wei Xiaobao stepped forward and pried open the lama’s arms, he pushed the lama’s chest while saying in a low voice, “Ah Ke, quickly follow me.” With one hand pulling her hand, with the other hand he helped the nun in white, together they walked out of the restaurant.

As soon as the big fat lama left Ah Ke’s body, he slowly slid down. The rest of the lamas were shocked; they rushed forward together. Wei Xiaobao called out, “Halt! My Shifu’s divine skill is fantastic. This lama was impolite, she punished him with death. Whoever takes a step forward will be put to death immediately.”

The lamas were stunned. Suddenly ‘bang, bang!’ two lamas fell down to the floor. A moment later, two other lamas fell down. Sangjie’s internal energy was deep, temporarily the knock-out drug was not able to knock him out; but he also felt his head was dizzy, his body swayed, his feet felt light. He thought the nun in white possessed some kind of strange magic; his mind was confused, his conscience blurry, how could he guess that he had been hit by a knock-out drug?

Ah Ke called out, “Zheng Gongzi, quickly follow us!”

“Yes,” Zheng Keshuang said. He crawled up and scrambled out.

Wei Xiaobao helped the nun in white out. Sangjie rushed after them, but he only took two steps, his body swayed, he tumbled over a table. ‘Crash!’ the table collapsed. Wei Xiaobao saw the drivers were gone; without waiting for them, he helped the nun in white onto the carriage. He saw Hubayin was surprisingly still in the carriage. Afraid that Sangjie would catch up with them, as soon as Ah Ke and Zheng Keshuang boarded the carriage, he jumped onto the driver’s seat and cracked his whip to get the mule going.

In one breath they rushed for about ten li, and only after the mule was weary did he ease up and let the mule walk. Right this moment they heard faint sound of hooves, several horses were pursuing them.

Zheng Keshuang said, “Ay, too bad we are not riding horses; otherwise, our steeds can run fast, the wicked lamas won’t be able to catch up.”

“How could Shitai ride a horse?” Wei Xiaobao said, “I did not ask you to board the carriage.” Finished speaking, he yelled and cracked his whip to urge the mule to run.

Zheng Keshuang knew he had made an indiscreet remark, but he was a young master of a prince’s mansion, hence he was used to people fawning on him. With only one or two scolding from other people, immediately his face showed an angry look.

But he heard the hoof beats were getting closer and closer. Wei Xiaobao said, “Shitai, we must get down the carriage and hide.” Looking around, he did not see any house or building, there were only several barley haystacks on the field. “Alright,” he said, “We’ll hide in the barley haystacks.” While saying that, he pulled the reins to stop the mule.

Zheng Keshuang angrily said, “Hiding in the haystacks, if people find out, my Yanping Palace’s prestige will go down the drain.”

“Right!” Wei Xiaobao said, “The three of us will hide in the haystack, Gongzi may continue driving the carriage to lead the pursuing troop away.” Immediately he helped the nun in white to get down the carriage.

Ah Ke temporarily could not make up her mind. “Ah Ke,” the nun in white called, “You come with us!”

Ah Ke beckoned Zheng Keshuang and said, “You come and hide with us too.” Seeing the three of them crawled into a haystack, Zheng Keshuang hesitated for a moment, and then crawled into the haystack.

Wei Xiaobao suddenly remembered something; hastily he crawled out of the haystack, climbed onto the carriage, pulled his dagger and stabbed Hubayin to death. Suddenly he had a brainwave; he cut Hubayin’s right hand from the wrist, and jabbed the mule’s buttock with his dagger. The mule cried out in pain, and ran away wildly, pulling the large carriage with it. Hearing the pursuing riders getting closer, hurriedly he crawled back into the haystack.

He inserted the dagger into his boot, while holding the dead man’s hand with his right hand, thinking that he would scare Ah Ke with it. With his left hand he groped around, and happened to touch a braid, so he knew where Zheng Keshuang was. He continued groping around, this time he touched a slender soft waist, so he knew it was Ah Ke. He was greatly delighted. He pinched several times as hard as he could and called out, “Zheng Gongzi, why did you rub my buttocks?”

“I did not,” Zheng Keshuang said.

“Humph,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You thought I was Miss Ah Ke, didn’t you? Groping around like that, it’s very rude.”

“Nonsense!” Zheng Keshuang cursed.

Wei Xiaobao pinched Ah Ke’s chest hard with his left hand and immediately pulled his hand back, while calling out, “Hey, Zheng Gongzi, you are still groping around!” And then he placed Hubayin’s hand on Ah Ke’s face to caress her a little bit, before moving the hand to stroke her chest.

Previously, when he groped Ah Ke’s waist and chest while making a big fuss over it, Ah Ke thought it was really Zheng Keshuang who took the opportunity to be impolite to her; she could not help but feeling ashamed and anxious. This time she felt an ice-cold and big hand caressing her face, she knew Wei Xiaobao’s hand was not this big, she had no doubt that it was Zheng Keshuang’s hand. She was about to scream, but then felt that it would be kind of indecent if her Shifu and Wei Xiaobao hear about it; thereupon she turned her head around to evade. The big hand then went down to her chest; she thought, “This Zheng Gongzi is such a scoundrel.” She could not help but feeling enraged; she turned her body to the right to evade.

Wei Xiaobao used his left hand to slap Zheng Keshuang’s face heavily while shouting, “Miss Ah Ke, that was a good strike. This Zheng Gongzi is a lecher. Aiyo, Zheng Gongzi, you caressed me again; you got the wrong person.”

Zheng Keshuang thought it was Ah Ke who slapped him; he angrily said, “You are the one who caressed her, but you blame me … blame me …”

Ah Ke thought, “That hand was clearly a big one; it can’t be the little evil man.”

Holding Hubayin’s hand, Wei Xiaobao stroked the back of Ah Ke’s neck.

Right this moment, the sound of hooves beat was getting closer. What happened was that when Sangjie saw the nun in white and the others went out of the inn, he wanted to run after them, but his entire body was devoid of any strength. His internal energy was very profound, after drinking the drugged wine, he did not lose his conscience. After taking two deep breaths, he felt that his chi was not harmed, only he was dizzy and his vision blurred. Immediately he understood what was going on. “Fetch cold water,” he called, “Quickly fetch cold water!”

The waiter fetched a bowl of cold water. Sangjie called out, “Pour it on my head.” But how could the waiter dare to do that? He hesitated and stayed motionless.

Sangjie was still thinking that the knockout drug was administered by this restaurant. Since he was unable to lift his hands, he took a very deep breath and smashed his head against the bowl of cold water. As soon as the cold water splashed onto his head, his brain cleared up somewhat. “Cold water,” he cried, “The more the better. Quick, quick!”

The waiter fetched two more bowls of cold water. Sangjie dumped the water onto his own head, and ordered the waiter to bring a barrel of cold water over, to awaken the rest of the lamas. No matter what they did, however, the big fat lama did not wake up. Then they saw blood on his back from the blade wound, and realized that he had died. The six lamas did not have time to burn the inn down; they rushed onto their horses and with loud yelling and shouting they gave chase.

Ah Ke felt the big hand stroking her neck; she could not take it anymore. “Please don’t!” she called out. Wei Xiaobao turned his hand around.

Inside the haystack, Zheng Keshuang could not see anything, he was unable to dodge, and had to suffer another slap on his face. “It wasn’t me!” he shouted.

With these two shouts, their trace was discovered. Sangjie called out, “They are here!”

One lama jumped down the horse and rushed toward the haystack. He saw Zheng Keshuang’s one leg was sticking out of the stack. Grabbing his heel, he pulled Zheng Keshuang out of the stack. Afraid of Zheng Keshuang’s counterstrike, he flung him out, throwing him several zhang away.

The lama then reached into the stack, trying to catch the other. Wei Xiaobao curled his body as small as he could. By this time the lama had already pulled the stack open; suddenly he saw a large hand coming toward his face. In a moment of desperation, he grabbed Hubayin’s hand with both hands. Feeling that he had someone’s hand in his own, he pulled the hand out as hard as he could, thinking that he was pulling someone out of the stack and was going to fling that person away as well. Who would have thought that he was pulling an empty air?

He had exerted all his strength, but only pulled a severed hand; his own strength had thrown him back that he fell sitting down on the ground. By the time he saw clearly that what he had pulled was a dead man’s palm, he felt the chi and blood inside his chest welling up, making him feel an unspeakable discomfort.

The force he exerted was intended to pull a man and fling him out of the haystack. Zheng Keshuang weighed approximately a hundred and twenty or a hundred and thirty catties; the lama estimated that the second person would weigh approximately the same. Hence this pulling force was at least two hundred catties, not to mention that this time he was not pulling an ankle, but a hand. He was afraid that if his pulling force was insufficient, he would be pulled into the haystack instead; therefore, he put a lot more effort in this one pull. Who would have thought that the enormous effort he exerted was only pulling a severed hand weighed only several taels? The entire force came back to him; it was no different than if he received a heavy blow with a force of more than 200 catties.

Seeing the lama fell down, Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he threw a bunch of straw onto the lama’s face. The lama stretched out his hand to brush the straw off. Suddenly he felt a stabbing pain on the pit of his stomach; his body twitched several times, then he stayed still. Actually, Wei Xiaobao took the opportunity while the lama’s vision was obstructed by the straw to jump forward and thrust his dagger into the pit of the lama’s stomach.

He had just pulled the dagger out when he heard all around him people were shouting loudly in Tibetan; he could not help but groaning inwardly. Expecting the worst, he had no choice but to conceal the dagger inside his sleeve, while slowly stood up. He looked up and saw Sangjie and the other four lamas were already standing in the barley field, about three zhang away from the haystack.

The lama’s body was covered in pile of straw, Sangjie and the other did not know how he died, they assumed it was the nun in white who had displayed her divine skill by striking him dead. They stood far away and did not dare to come near the haystack. “Little Nun,” Sangjie called out, “You have successively killed my eight Shidi, the enmity between you and me is as deep as the ocean. You are hiding in a haystack and do not dare to come out; what kind of hero are you?”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “Why did he say she has killed eight of his Shidi?” But after a quick calculation, he realized that indeed they had killed eight lamas, although only one died in the nun in white’s hand. After hearing Sangjie said those words, he took two steps backward; obviously he was scared. He could not bear not to shout, “My Shifu’s martial art skill has reached perfection, there is no one in the world can be compared with her. But she, the Senior, has a merciful heart, and she is very virtuous. It was by accident that she has killed people. She, the Senior, has said that she is going to spare you, five lamas. Just leave us quickly.”

“How can it be that easy?” Sangjie said, “Little Nun, just hand over the ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’ nicely, your Buddha master will let you go. Otherwise, even until the ends of the earth, your Buddha master will not give up.”

“So you want the ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’?” Wei Xiaobao said, “This sutra is available in all temples and monasteries everywhere; what’s so strange about it?”

Sangjie said, “We want the one in the Little Nun’s possession.”

Wei Xiaobao pointed to Zheng Keshuang and said, “That copy of sutra has been given by my Shifu to him long ago. Why don’t you ask him?”

Zheng Keshuang was just crawling up from the ground, he had not stood firm yet. A lama pounced on him and grabbed his arms. Another lama pulled his clothes apart, ‘rip, rip!’ his outer garment, his undergarment, were torn to pieces; the gold, silver and jewels in his pocket were thrown to the ground, but how could there be any sutra?

“Zheng Gongzi,” Wei Xiaobao called out, “Where did you hide the sutra? Why don’t you tell them? It’s not such a precious object anyway.”

Zheng Keshuang was furious, “I don’t have it!” he loudly shout.

A lama slapped him hard that he almost passed out. “Will you speak or not?” the lama shouted, while giving him another slap.

Seeing Zheng Keshuang’s cheeks were immediately swollen, Wei Xiaobao’s joy was unspeakable. “Zheng Gongzi,” he called out again, “Why don’t you get that sutra for this Buddha masters? I saw you digging a hole in that inn; did you hide the sutra in there?”

Sangjie happily said, “Right, the little kid must be telling the truth; take him back to the inn.”

“Yes!” the lama complied. He slapped Zheng Keshuang’s face again.

Ah Ke could not bear it anymore, she scrambled out of the haystack and called out, “This little kid is an expert liar, don’t believe him. This Zheng Gongzi has never seen any sutra.”

Wei Xiaobao turned his head around and said in a low voice, “I am trying to save Shitai and you, let Zheng Gongzi lead them away.”

“I don’t want you to save me,” Ah Ke said, “You have wronged Zheng Gongzi, you will make him losing his life.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Shitai’s and your lives are ten thousand times more important than Zheng Gongzi’s.”

Sangjie said to the lama grabbing Zheng Keshuang, “Don’t kill him.” Turning his head around, he said, “Little Nun, come out. And these two babies, take them with us to find the sutra.”

Ah Ke angrily said, “You are the one who is afraid of death, yet you said you want to save Shifu. If you have guts, go fight these lamas.”

The hot blood in Wei Xiaobao’s heart welled up, he thought, “You despise me like this, so what if I’ll let myself be killed by these lamas?” He said, “You want me to fight? Fine. My death is not a big deal, it’s just that I won’t be able to save Shitai and you. But what if I win?”

“Humph,” Ah Ke snorted, “Even if you reincarnated you won’t win. If you defeat one lama, I will obey you forever.”

“What do you mean defeat one lama? Didn’t I kill seven lamas?” Wei Xiaobao said.

“You used trick to kill,” Ah Ke said, “It does not count.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “If I defeat one lama, you will marry me and be my wife.”

“Nonsense!” Ah Ke angrily said, “You are a little monk, you are also a little eunuch, how can … how can …”

“Little monk can return to normal life, little eunuch can quit being an eunuch,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In short, I must marry you and take you as my wife.”

“Shifu,” Ah Ke anxiously said, “Did you hear that? In situation like this he is still foul-mouthed and talks nonsense.”

The nun in white sighed; she thought that the situation was seriously critical. She might be forced to cut her own channel[5] and die, to avoid being humiliated by the lamas. “Xiaobao,” she called in a low voice, “Stretch your hand into the haystack.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied. He stretched his left hand backhandedly into the haystack. He felt a small paper packet in his hand; he heard the nun in white said in a low voice, “This is the map hidden inside the sutra. You don’t need to care about me, you must escape alone. If you could obtain the other seven sutras in the future, perhaps our great Han people’s rivers and mountains will have a hope of recovering. It is much more important than my, one person’s life.”

Wei Xiaobao saw how high she regarded him; she did not entrust this matter to her own disciple, but gave it to him instead, immediately his spirit rose. Suddenly he had an idea. Right now he did not have time to think about it in details, but he loudly said, “My Shifu is a martial art expert of this age, she is unwilling to fight with you. Just appoint one person to have a match with me. Only if you can beat me will my Shijie go into action. Humph, humph! I’ll say you won’t dare. Just know your own limitation, you’d better run away quickly with your tails between your legs.” While saying that, he put the paper packet into his bosom.

The five lamas laughed aloud. Although they were quite afraid of the nun in white, why would they take this little kid seriously? One lama laughed and said, “I only need to send you one palm strike, I guarantee you will roll around seventeen, eighteen times, and have a match in farting!”

Wei Xiaobao took a step forward and said in a clear voice, “Alright, let you and I have a match then.” Turning his head toward Ah Ke, he said, “After I win, you will be my wife, you can’t deny.”

Ah Ke said, “You won’t win. No matter what you won’t win.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “A man stake out everything he has, ten thousand men can’t stop him. In order to win you to be my wife, I have no choice but to stake everything I have.”

The lama took several steps forward and said with a laugh, “You really want to have a match with me?”

“Why would I lie to you?” Wei Xiaobao replied, “The two of us will have a one-on-one match. Don’t worry, my Shifu will not personally go into action. Those four martial brothers of yours, are they going to help you?”

Sangjie burst into loud laughter. “Naturally we won’t help him,” he said.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Supposing that I kill him with a single blow, will you go together, relying on numbers to gain victory? Let us agree up front: if all of you swarm together, I won’t be your match, my Shifu will have to personally go into action.”

Sangjie was actually afraid that the nun in white would personally go into action. He thought about his several martial brothers who died without clear reason, he did not know what kind of martial art this nun possessed, he thought it would be greatly advantageous to him if he let his martial brother have one-on-one match with this little kid, so that he could see the nun in white’s martial art school and her background. Thereupon he said, “The two of you will have a one-on-one match, neither side is allowed to help you two.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Whoever helps is a turtle son of b1tch.”

“That’s right,” Sangjie said, “Whoever helps is a turtle daughter of b1tch.”

Not only Sangjie had a high martial art skill, he was also very smart. He saw that the nun in white and Ah Ke were women, thereupon he changed the ‘turtle son of b1tch’ into ‘turtle daughter of b1tch’, because since in any case the opponent would not be ‘turtle son of b1tch’, they might go forward and help anyway.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Very good. You, big lama, is exceptionally astute, Zaixia is full of admiration.”

“Move forward several steps more,” Sangjie said. He saw Wei Xiaobao was standing very close to the haystack, and was afraid the nun in white might put her hand onto his back and secretly transfer her internal energy to him, then his martial brother would not be able to withstand.

Wei Xiaobao said, “We, Han people, are frank and upright, if we win, we will win honorably, if we lose, we will lose gracefully; how can we practice fraud?”

The nun in white said in a low voice, “Xiaobao, you won’t win, just pretend you are having a martial art match, then grab a horse and escape.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied. He took three steps forward, so that the distance between him and the haystack was a bit more than a zhang.

Seeing that the nun in white would no longer able to help in secret, Sangjie nodded. The lama also took several steps forward until he stood face to face with Wei Xiaobao, and then he said with a laugh, “How do you want to compete?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “We could have either soft match, or hard match[6].”

The lama laughed and said, “How do we have a soft match? And how do we have a hard match?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “In soft match, I punch you once, you also punch me once. I will punch you again, and you also punch me again. We punch each other seventy, eighty times, until one of us fall down. When you punch me, I must neither dodge, nor lift my hand to block; I can only stand still, transporting my internal energy to receive your punch head on. When I hit you, you will do the same. In hard match, we can either fight with weapons or barehanded. Naturally we can dodge, block, run or leap.”

Sangjie thought, “This little urchin is nimble; supposing he jumps around, I am afraid Shidi won’t be able to hit him. He is so full of confidence, he must have some other trick up his sleeve. Most probably he will jump toward the haystack, enticing Shidi to chase him, and then that nun will suddenly launch a sneak attack from inside of the haystack. If they fight a soft match, his fist is so small, seventy, eighty of his punches landed on Shidi’s body would be no more than scratching an itch.” Thereupon he shouted in Tibetan, “Have a soft match with him, but don’t injure him. The longer you let him fight the better, so that we can see his martial art school and background.”

“Your Shixiong is scared,” Wei Xiaobao said, “He is afraid that you can’t beat me, and thus telling you to surrender, isn’t he?”

The lama laughed and said, “Little demon speaks nonsense. Shige feels sorry for you, he told me not to kill you in just one strike. Since you are so young, your weapon, as well as punching and kicking skills must be limited. I don’t want to take advantage over you either, so let’s have a soft match.”

“Good!” Wei Xiaobao said. Sticking out his chest, he put his hands behind his back and said, “You may hit me first. If I evade or block, just consider me not a hero or a warrior.”

The lama laughed. “You are a little kid,” he said, “Naturally you must go first.” While saying that, he copied Wei Xiaobao’s manner: he stuck out his chest and put his hands behind his back. Compared to Wei Xiaobao, he was a good one head taller. He was giggling incessantly, obviously he did not take this little urchin seriously.

Wei Xiaobao stretched out his left fist, it barely reached the lama’s lower abdomen. Seeing his small fist, the five lamas burst into laughter. “Alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I am sending my first strike.”

The lama did not dare to be too careless; afraid that Wei Xiaobao might have some unusual skill, he gathered his internal energy and sent it all toward his lower abdomen. Wei Xiaobao suddenly flicked his right sleeve, with his fist inside it; noiselessly the punch landed on the left side of the pit of the lama’s stomach. Seeing such a powerless punch, Sangjie and the others burst out laughing again.

The sound of laughter had not ceased, they saw the lama’s body swayed. Wei Xiaobao said, “Now it’s your turn to hit me.” The lama suddenly dropped down, crouching on the ground, and then stopped moving altogether. Sangjie and the others were greatly shocked; they rushed forward at once.

Wei Xiaobao withdrew to the haystack and called out, “Halt! Whoever helps is a turtle lama son of a b1tch.”

The four lamas halted; they saw the lama was still unmoving, not because his breathing was constricted due to serious injury, but because he had died. The four lamas’ jaws dropped in endless surprise; they were all speechless. Wei Xiaobao raised his clenched fists high above his head and said, “My Shifu has taught me unique martial art called the ‘Splitting Mountain Striking the Ox Divine Fist’ that I am able to strike a big ox dead with one punch, much less just a little lama. Whoever refuses to accept may come forward to try it!” With a low voice he continued, “Ah Ke, my wife, will you renege on your promise?”

Ah Ke saw that the fist technique that she looked down was actually a superior martial art; a tall and sturdy lama being hit, unexpectedly he could not withstand it and had to lie prostate on the ground without able to stand up again, his life and death was unknown; she was also very surprised. Hearing Wei Xiaobao, unexpectedly she forgot to reprimand him.

“Ha, ha,” Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You complied. My good wife.”

Ah Ke angrily said, “I am not.”

“You blatantly reneged on your own promise, you are not a hero or a warrior,” Wei Xiaobao said.

“So what if I am not?” Ah Ke said.

The nun in white actually saw that after Wei Xiaobao hit the lama’s heart, blood was seeping out of the lama’s chest before he swayed and fell face down on the ground. After thinking about it for a moment, she knew that Wei Xiaobao had hidden his dagger in his sleeve; actually, he did not send out a punch at all, rather, he thrust his dagger into the opponent’s heart. The dagger was sharp beyond compare, even steel would be penetrated by it, let alone human flesh. Wei Xiaobao used his left hand first to let everybody know that he was using a fist; after using the dagger, he hid it immediately, and then lifted his fists high above his head, hence other people did not suspect him even more.

Sangjie called the lama several times, but did not hear any response; he was bewildered and did not know what to do. A thin lama pulled his jiedao out and shouted, “Little demon, so what if your boxing skill is superior? Your Buddha master wants to try your blade technique.” He thought that this little kid had received teaching from brilliant master, his internal energy cultivation and fist strength were indeed not a small matter, but if he fought him using weapons, his fist strength would be useless.

“You want to have a match with blades? Yes, you can. Come!” Wei Xiaobao said.

The lama did not dare to come near, he shouted, “If you have guts, you come!”

Wei Xiaobao echoed, “If you have guts, you come!”

The lama said, “One, two, three, we both take three steps forward.”

“Alright!” Wei Xiaobao said, “One, two, three!” And he took three steps forward.

The lama also took three steps forward, while brandishing his jiedao into a circle of white ray to protect himself, afraid that Wei Xiaobao might suddenly launched his ‘splitting mountain striking ox divine fist’.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Don’t be afraid, I won’t use the divine fist against you.”

How could the lama believe him? He still brandished the jiedao, creating ‘whoosh, whoosh’ noise. “Quickly pull your blade!” he shouted.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “I have trained and mastered the divine skill to protect my head from ‘Jin Ding School’ [‘golden crown of the head’ – see Chapter 10]. You can try chopping my head with your saber, I guarantee that that big saber will bounce back and chop your own bald head. I am telling you this in advance, so that you won’t be fooled.”

The lama was half believing and half doubting; but after seeing him killing his martial brother with one punch without extra trouble, his martial art skill must be deep and immeasurable. Momentarily he did not dare to go forward rashly; he did not dare to lift his saber to chop Wei Xiaobao’s head even more.

“Your martial art is too low,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I won’t hit you back. But you can only chop my head, you must not chop my chest. I am still young, the divine skill to protect my body has not been trained to perfection. If you chop at my chest, I will definitely die.”

The lama looked at him with squinted eyes; he asked, “Your head really does not afraid of saber chop?”

Wei Xiaobao took off his cap and said, “Just look, my braid is already gone, the more I train, the shorter will my hair be; the divine skill of the top of my head and of my neck has been trained to perfection. By the time I train until not a single hair on my head remains, my chest won’t be afraid of your saber chop as well.”

Because he became a monk in Shaolin Temple and Qingliang Temple, the hair on his head was shaved clean. By this time his hair was only less than a cun long. At that time, other than Buddhist monks and people who were bald by nature, all males had to have their hair in braids. Someone with a cun long hair like him was indeed unheard of. As for the story that the more he trained the shorter his hair and so on, Wei Xiaobao recalled it from what he saw and heard in Prince Kang’s mansion, when he met Wu Yingxiong’s escorts from Jin Ding School.

The lama saw his head, and believed several points. He had also heard that there was indeed a school called Jin Ding in Wulin, whose hard head martial art skill was very formidable. “I don’t believe your head can withstand my saber chop,” he said.

“I suggest you’d better not try it,” Wei Xiaobao said, “When the saber bounces back, the eating apparatus of your body cannot be guaranteed.”

“I don’t believe you!” the lama said, “Stand still, I am going to chop your head.” While saying that, he raised his jiedao high.

Seeing the flickering blade, Wei Xiaobao’s fear was unspeakable; he thought that if the lama realy chop his head, not only his skull would be split in two, his body would also be split like split bamboo. It’s just that: one, he could not fight the lama for real anyway, other than resorting to trickery, he did not have any other way of escaping; two, gambling had become his second nature, he was betting that when the lama heard his threat, he would not dare to chop his head or neck. In a way, he was gambling with his own life as the stake.

By now his life and death lay in this lama’s mind, but winning or losing, it was no different than throwing dice; much less in this case he had no other alternative to gambling anyway. If he did not gamble, this lama would raise his saber and chop randomly, then in the end he, as well as the nun in white and Ah Ke would be hacked to death. Moreover, right now the eyes of the beautiful girl Ah Ke were steadily fixed on him. Thinking to this point, he could not help but cast a glance toward Zheng Keshuang, who was still lying on the ground; he said in his heart, “You are a young master of a prince’s mansion, compared to me, the son of a wh0re, who is more heroic? Damn it, do you dare to stand here and let others chop your head with a saber?”

Sangjie called out in Tibetan, “This little demon knows witchcraft, don’t chop his head or neck.”

“What did he say?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “He told you not to chop my head, didn’t he? You are all treacherous and crafty, you don’t keep your own words; that won’t be good.”

“No, no,” the lama said, “Da Shixiong told me not to believe your bragging; he told me to chop your head into two halves.” As the word ‘halves’ came out of his mouth, the saber chopped down from the air.

Wei Xiaobao was so scared that his soul flew to the outer sky, in a twinkling his heroic spirit disappeared without a trace. Hastily he pulled back his head while groaning in his heart, “My life stops here!”

Unexpectedly when the saber was still three chi away from his head, it suddenly changed direction; the jiedao made a half circle turn in a different move ‘embracing moon in the bosom’, the saber swung from outside to the inside, ‘stab’, it hacked on Wei Xiaobao’s back.

The saber carried a tremendous force, Wei Xiaobao felt severe pain on his back, he was unable to stand and tumbled down into the lama’s bosom. Immediately the dagger in his right hand stabbed the pit of the lama’s stomach three times, and then he ducked down and crawled underneath the lama’s crotch, while calling out, “Aiyo, aiyo, you did not keep your words!”

The lama made some ‘he, he, he’, gurgling noise, his jiedao turned back and hacked his own face. His body curled up, twisted several times, and then he lay down motionless.

Wei Xiaobao was hoping that the lama would hack his chest; since he was wearing the treasured vest to protect his body, he would not lose his life, hence the four lamas would be scared and run away. Who would have thought that the lama did not hack his chest but his back instead? By doing so, Wei Xiaobao was pushed toward the lama. Seizing this opportunity, Wei Xiaobao stabbed his chest several times. It’s just that by crawling under the opponent’s crotch he looked to be in a very desperate situation. His near escape this time did not differentiate him as a hero or a coward.

“Shifu,” he made such a big fuss, “The divine skill on my back has also been trained to perfection. Did you see that? Cough, cough … the saber bounced back and killed him. Wonderful, wonderful!”

Actually, the lama only suffered minor injury from the bouncing saber, it was the three stabs of the dagger that killed him; yet Sangjie and the other, three people, could not see that. They assumed it was indeed the bouncing saber that killed the lama. They were so scared that they withdrew several zhang away, while loudly calling the dead lama’s name.

The nun in white was already aware that Wei Xiaobao was wearing the treasured vest to protect his body. She knew that Ah Ke had chopped him twice without injuring him, hence this time she was not surprised. However, seeing that he dared to bet with his own head against the saber, she could not help but admiring his guts. Actually, Wei Xiaobao was so frightened a moment ago that he peed in his pants; his crotch was dripping wet, only no one else knew about it.

The lama’s saber carried such a tremendous force that as it hit Wei Xiaobao’s back, his ribs were almost broken. Leaning against the haystack, he could not bear not to groan. The nun in white said, “Quickly give him the ‘snow ginseng jade toad pill’.”

“Where is the pill?” Ah Ke asked Wei Xiaobao.

“In my pocket,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I might not be able to live.”

Ah Ke took the jade bottle from his pocket, pulled the cork, and tipped one pill out of the bottle. Then she put the cork back, and returned the jade bottle into Wei Xiaobao’s pocket. “Quickly take it!” she said.

Wei Xiaobao reached out to take it, but he pretended that he could not lift his hand. Grudgingly Ah Ke brought the pill to his mouth. Seeing her snow white, tender and delicate little hand, as soon as the pill entered his mouth, Wei Xiaobao puckered his lips to kiss it. Ah Ke hastily pulled her hand, but his lips brushed the back of her hand. “Ah!” she cried out.

Wei Xiaobao said in loud voice, “Shifu, these lamas speak like releasing dog fart. They said they were going to chop my head, but they chopped my back instead. And now only three left, let disciple strike them dead with the ‘splitting mountain striking ox divine fist’!”

When Sangjie and the others heard this, they withdrew several steps back. The three of them talked among themselves for a moment, and then they took out some flints to light up several stalks of hay, and tossed the burning stalks onto the haystack. The first three stalks fell on empty space. Sangjie lighted another stalk and ran several zhang forward, and then threw the stalk as hard as he could, while clapping his palms in front of his body as a shield. Afraid that Wei Xiaobao would attack him with the ‘splitting mountain striking ox divine fist’, he immediately leaped back.

As soon as the haystack met the fire, it was burned instantly. Wei Xiaobao pulled the nun in white out of the haystack. Looking all around, he saw a cave on the rocky hill to the west. Having not enough time to check, he said, “Ah Ke, quickly help Shifu to that cave over there to hide, I am going to block these lamas.”

Taking two steps toward Sangjie, he called out, “You are too brazen; unexpectedly you are not afraid of Xiaoye’s [young master] ‘splitting mountain striking ox divine fist’ and ‘protecting head golden crown divine skill’. Sangjie, you are the leader, quickly come here and take two punches from Xiaoye.”

Sangjie was cautious; momentarily he really did not dare to pursue, but then he thought about the importance of the sutra, plus the ten of his martial brothers who had lost their lives. If he gave up just like that, what would remain of his illustrious name? He saw the nun in white was walking slowly with the help of that young lady; if she was not injured, then she must be sick. It was indeed a golden opportunity for him, could it be that he could not even beat the little kid in front of him? It’s just that his martial art was so strange that those who got hit died instantly. Hence he hesitated and momentarily did not know what to do.

When Wei Xiaobao turned his head, he saw the nun in white and Ah Ke had almost reached the cave. He turned back and shouted, “You don’t dare to have a martial art match with me, laozi is going to come forward to kill you; why haven’t you run away?”

These words actually revealed the ‘horse’s leg’. Sangjie thought, “If you really have the ability to kill me, why didn’t you simply charge forward? You told me to run away, that means you are scared of me in your heart.” Laughing maliciously, he stretched out both hands, the bones in his body were cracking as he took two steps forward.

Wei Xiaobao groaned inwardly, “Bad; what trick can I use this time to kill him?”

By this time the haystack behind him was roaring with fire, the tongues of the fire almost licked his body; he mused, “Laozi better hide in the cave first, and then think of some other way slowly.” Thinking about hiding in a cave, his heart was immediately happy. If the cave was so dark that they could not see anything, he might be able to grope around Ah Ke’s body. He stooped down to pick Hubayin’s hand from the dead lama’s grip and put it into his pocket.

Seeing Sangjie took several more steps forward, he called loudly, “It’s too hot in here, laozi’s divine skill cannot be used. If you have guts, go over there and have match with me.” Finished speaking he turned around and ran toward the cave. When he entered the cave, he saw the nun in white and Ah Ke had already sat on the ground. This cave was actually only a cavity on the mountain wall, there was not enough place to hide at all; the cave was not dark either, plus Ah Ke sat leaning on the nun in white, hence it was impossible for him to grope around. He could not help but feeling a bit disappointed.

Sangjie and the two lamas slowly walked toward the front of the cave, and stopped when they were about three zhang from the cave. Sangjie called out, “You have stepped onto a dead end, there is no way out. Get the torches!” The two lamas picked the stalks and handed them over to him.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Very good, quickly throw the torches over, and see if you can burn us to death. I am afraid the Forty-two-chapter sutra will also be burned very quickly.”

Sangjie held the burning stalk high, he was just about to hurl it toward the cave, but when he heard that, he felt that Wei Xiaobao was right; if he wanted to burn the three of them to death, he would also destroy the sutra. Thereupon he tossed the torch aside and called out, “Quickly hand over the sutra, your Buddha master is merciful, I will let you walk the path of life.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “You kowtow eighteen times in front of my Shifu, my Shifu is merciful, she will let you walk the path of life.”

Sangjie was furious; he picked up the torch and threw it to the front of the cave. A burst of thick smoke was blown into the cave, Wei Xiaobao and Ah Ke were assaulted by the smoke that their eyes watered and they coughed incessantly. The nun in white was breathing very slowly, she was unaffected by the smoke. The other two lamas threw more torches.

“Shitai,” Wei Xiaobao said, “That sutra has no use anymore, just give it to them, we will … we will slowly think of other ideas.”

“’Postpone the troops’ stratagem,” Ah Ke said.

“They are not troops,” Wei Xiaobao said. Ah Ke was coughing repeatedly, she was unable to argue with him.

“Fine,” the nun in white said, and handed over the sutra to him.

Wei Xiaobao raised his voice, “I have a copy of the sutra in here, I’ll throw it out. If it falls into the fire, it’s not my problem.”

Hearing that he agreed to hand over the sutra, Sangjie was delighted. Afraid that the sutra might fall into the fire and burn, he quickly picked several large rocks and threw them at the burning stalks. His strength was enormous, his aim was accurate, the burning stalks were crushed by the rocks and immediately extinguished.

Seeing his strength in throwing the big rocks, Wei Xiaobao could not help but was shocked; he mused, “If he threw the rocks to the cave, the three of us would be crushed to death, while the sutra won’t be harmed the least bit. I must not let him think about this idea.”

“Quickly throw the sutra out,” Sangjie called out.

“Alright, alright!” Wei Xiaobao replied, “My Shifu says that you want to study the sutra, you are good disciples of Buddha, she instructed me not to harm you …” While he talked, he pulled his dagger and made several cuts on Hubayin’s hand. He placed it on the sutra, and took the bottle of ‘transforming corpse powder’ from his pocket, and sprinkle some fine powder on the fresh cuts of the severed hand. His body was obstructing the nun in white and Ah Ke’s visions, he would not let them see what he was doing. And then with a loud voice he said, “My Shifu said that this copy of ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’ was taken from the Imperial Palace in Beijing, it is very valuable. I heard there is a big secret hidden in it, after it is revealed, the teachings of Buddha will be flourishing, it will make everyone throughout the world believe in Bodhisattva. Men will become monks, women will become nuns, little children will become little monks, little nuns, the old men …” While he was talking, the severed hand gradually changed into yellow liquid permeating the sutra.

Hearing that the sutra was indeed from the Imperial Palace, and that it concealed a big secret, Sangjie was ecstatic. He knew that ‘flourishing the teachings of Buddha’ and so on was obviously not the truth. Afraid that Wei Xiaobao might not be willing to hand over the sutra, he quickly gave some careless, perfunctory promise; he said, “Flourishing the Dharma, spreading our teachings, those are all very good.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “My Shifu read it, but could not find the secret. Now she gives it to you, asking you to study it well. If you can reveal the secret, you must spread it to the monks’ monasteries and the nuns’ convents throughout the world; you must not be selfish by keeping the secret only for your lamaseries. Will you promise to do that?”

Sangjie laughed and said, “Naturally I promise. Tell your Shifu to set her heart at ease.”

“If you cannot figure out the secret,” Wei Xiaobao continued, “You must hand it over to Shaolin Temple. If Shaolin Temple’s monks cannot figure out the secret, ask them to bring it to Qingliang Temple on Mount Wutai. If Qingliang Temple’s monks cannot figure it out, they must bring it to Chanzhi [dhyana wisdom] Temple in Yangzhou. One hands over to another, until the secret within the sutra is revealed.”

“Alright, alright,” Sangjie said, “I will surely accomplish that.” While in his heart he said, “The nun only knew that the secret in the sutra is concerning the Dharma. Lucky for me she did not know the truth, otherwise, how could she easily hand it over to me? Humph, after obtaining the sutra, I will slowly think of a way to put them to death.”

Wei Xiaobao continued, “My Shifu says, after you finish studying this ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’, if your heart admires the teachings of Buddha, and you want to read some more, you may come to look for her, the Senior; we still have the Jin Gang [vajra] Sutra, Fa Hua [lotus] Sutra, Xin [Heart] Sutra, Da Bo’re [great/major prajna/wisdom] Sutra, Xiao Bo’re [minor prajna] Sutra, Long Ah Han Sutra, Short Ah Han Sutra, Not-too-long-not-too-short Ah Han Sutra, Old Ah Han Sutra, Young Ah Han Sutra …” He mentioned more than a dozen Buddhist scriptures in succession, all of which he had heard when he was being a monk in Shaolin Temple and Qingliang Temple; naturally he misspoke quite a few of the scriptures’ names.

Sangjie was impatient, yet he did not dare to rashly seize the sutra, since he was still afraid of the nun in white’s divine fist; he was also afraid that they might destroy the sutra. Without any other choice he thoughtlessly gave his promise, “That’s right, after I finish studying this sutra, I will borrow some more from your Shifu.”

Seeing the severed hand had completely melt, and the yellow liquid had soaked the sutra, inside and outside, Wei Xiaobao removed his shoe to cover his hand, and picked and tossed the sutra out. “Here comes the ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’!” he called out.

Sangjie was greatly delighted; he leaped forward with outstretched hand to catch the sutra, but suddenly thought, “This sutra is very valuable, how can I obtain it this easily? Could there be any trick in it? Perhaps he would take the opportunity while I am holding the sutra to shoot some secret projectiles to me.” While he was hesitating, the two lamas picked up the sutra and said, “Shixiong, is this the Sutra?”

Sangjie said, “Examine it carefully over there, don’t fall into their trick and get the fake sutra.”

“Yes,” the two lamas replied, “Shixiong has thought everything thoroughly; we must not let them deceive us.” The three of them withdrew several zhang; hastily they opened the book’s envelope and thumbed through it.

Sangjie said, “The sutra is wet, turn the pages slowly, don’t damage the paper. Examine the look, see if it is fake, if it really looks like the description that man gave to us.”

One lama called out, “This is it. Da Shixiong, this is the book.”

Wei Xiaobao heard them speaking loudly; although he did not understand Tibetan, listening to the tone, he could deduce that they were exceptionally delighted. He called out, “Hey, hey, how come you have centipedes on your faces?”

The two lamas were startled; they reached up to feel their faces and did not find any centipede or any other insect. “Little urchin loves to talk nonsense,” they cursed.

Sangjie’s cultivation in meditation power was really deep, hearing Wei Xiaobao’s shout, unconsciously he felt something like a bug crawling on his face, but he ignored it; he focused all his attention to thumbing through the sutra.

Wei Xiaobao shouted again, “Aiyo, aiyo! A dozen scorpions are creeping into their necks.”

This time the two lamas were not fooled. One of them said, “Seeing us obtaining the Sutra, this urchin is not happy, he is making preposterous remark to cheat us. This little thief has killed two of our Shidi, we can’t simply spare his life.”

The other lama, however, really felt his neck was rather itchy. He reached back to scratch it, but after scratching a few times, he felt his ten fingers were unbearably itchy; thereupon he wiped the fingers to his arms. By this time Sangjie and the other lama also started to feel their fingers were itchy, but they ignored it. After half a day, unexpectedly the itch was becoming unbearable. When they looked at their fingers, they saw all their fingertips were covered in yellow liquid. “Strange,” they three of them said to each other, “What is that?”

The two lamas also felt their faces were itchy; instantly they reached up and vigorously scratched their faces. The more they scratched, the worse they felt. After a while, their faces started to ooze yellow liquid. Sangjie suddenly realized what was going on. “Aiyo!” he cried out, “Not good, the Sutra is poisonous!” And he threw the Sutra as far as he could. He saw his own fingers were producing yellow liquid, like beads of perspiration coming out of his skin. In his great shock, he hastily rubbed his fingers to the dirt on the ground, but he saw his two martial brothers were clawing their faces vigorously; each scratch produced a strip of bloodstain.

This bottle of ‘corpse transforming powder’, which Wei Xiaobao obtained from Hai Dafu’s room, was very fierce; if it came into contact with intact skin, it was absolutely harmless, but if it came into contact with a drop of blood, the blood would turn into yellow liquid with great corrosive power, the rotten flesh would then turn into yellowish poisonous liquid. The poison would then melt more and more flesh, just like a single spark from the flint would burn a large stack of hay into flying ash.

This ‘transforming corpse powder’ became poison when it came in contact with blood, it could be considered the number one poison under the heavens. Initially it came from the west. It was reported that the poison entered the Wulin world of the Song Dynasty by the devil champion Western Poison Ouyang Feng, who created it from the venoms of more than a dozen different vipers and poisonous insects. After the ‘mother poison’ was created, re-processing was not needed, simply let the yellow poisonous liquid dry in the sun, and it will become the poisonous powder.

When the two lamas scratched their faces and the poison came into contact with blood, in an instant their faces were turning into yellow liquid. They screamed and howled while their faces were even more painful and itchy; they fell to the ground and rolling around continuously. Luckily Sangjie had not scratched his face, but the itch on his ten fingers had penetrated onto his bones. Immediately he took off his outer garment to wrap the sutra, and then holding it under his arm he flew away, urgently trying to find water to wash the poison from his fingers.

The itch the two lamas experienced was so terrible that they lost their minds; they raised their heads and crashed them randomly against the rocks. After several strikes, they both fainted.

Witnessing this kind of scene, the nun in white and Ah Ke were amazed endlessly. Wei Xiaobao only knew that the ‘transforming corpse powder’ could melt dead body, but he was not sure if it would be effective on living persons. In desperate situation, he had no choice but to try it. Unexpectedly it was a success at the first attempt, plus he was lucky to have Hubayin’s severed hand to initiate the poisoning. Supposing he sprinkled the ‘transforming corpse powder’ directly on the sutra, it would be quite useless. Originally he only wanted to use the severed hand to fondle Ah Ke, unexpectedly it had become a very effective weapon.

Seeing Sangjie had run far away and the two lamas had fainted, he rushed out of the cave and pulled his dagger, thinking that he would stabbed once or twice on these lamas’ bodies. But as he came near them, he saw the two lamas’ faces had already rotten until only their bones were visible. He did not need to do anything; shortly afterwards, the corpses would turn into two pools of yellow liquid.

He walked toward Zheng Keshuang and said with a laugh, “Zheng Gongzi, my demonic method is very effective. Would you like to try it?”

Zheng Keshuang saw the terrifying condition of the two lamas; hearing Wei Xiaobao’s words, he was shocked. Hastily he jumped backward with clenched fists in front of his body. “You … don’t come near me!” he shouted.

Ah Ke came out of the cave; she angrily shouted at Wei Xiaobao, “You … what are you doing?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “I am just scaring him a little bit, what does it have to do with you?”

“I don’t want you to scare anybody,” Ah Ke angrily said.

“You are afraid I might scare him to death?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“Why would you want to scare anybody without any rhyme or reason?” Ah Ke said.

Wei Xiaobao beckoned to her, “Come and look,” he said.

“I don’t want to look,” Ah Ke said. Although her mouth said so, her curiosity was piqued; slowly she walked over and looked down. She could not help but jumping in fright, while screaming in high-pitched voice. She saw that the flesh on the two lamas’ faces, their noses, their lips, everything was gone; what remained was their skulls, with four holes on it. All hairs, ears and the muscle behind their necks were not yet rotten. Perhaps there has never been any person alive on this earth with such a frightening face like these two lamas.

Ah Ke was dizzy and fell backward. Wei Xiaobao hastily reached out to hold her. “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid!” he called out.

Ah Ke screamed again and ran back to the cave. “Shifu, Shifu,” she panted, “He … he turned those two lamas into … into monsters.”

The nun in white slowly stood up. Ah Ke held her hand and took her to the two lamas, but she turned her head away, she did not dare to look again. Seeing those two skulls, the nun in white could not refrain from gasping. She looked up at the distant place and saw the bodies of three more lamas; she could not hell but heaving a deep sigh while casting her gaze to the distant mountain.

By now the sun was sinking on the west, painting half of the sky with blood red color. She was thinking about how this setting sun was also illuminating thousands of mountain passes and tens of thousands hills, as well as the barbarians of the distant land. If she wanted to restore the country, she wondered how many more lives would be killed, how many more bones would be piled up. When all is said and done, should she, or should she not?

[1] Wu – martial art, ‘yi’ refers to non-Han people, especially to the east of China. It could be simply ‘a foreign sect’.

[2] Jun – county/region, wang – king.

[3] Qigong (chi kung) – a system of deep breathing exercises.

[4] The term I translated as ‘(martial art) master’ literally means ‘high hand’ (gao shou).

[5] Orig. Jing Mai – channel of traditional Chinese medicine, the passage through which vital energy (qi or chi) circulates.

[6] Orig. ‘wen’ and ‘wu’, literary and martial art.

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