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The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 44

Chapter 44
People came to faraway and hard-to-reach land as the source of desperate fight, things brought so much grief that everybody was afraid of the truth.

Wei Xiaobao did not stop whining; he mused, “To get away from the Princess is a lot more difficult than getting away from the pursuing troops.” He saw at the northeast corner there was a field of tall sorghum plants, the plants were taller than a man, immediately he ran desperately toward the sorghum field.

When he got near, he saw behind the sorghum field there were two farmer houses, other than that, he did not see anywhere else he could hide. Thinking that the pursuing troops were fast and that they would be here in a flash, he ran into the sorghum plants straightaway. Suddenly he felt his back tightened; someone grabbed him from behind, followed by the Princess’ laughter as she said, “Why are you lagging behind?”

Wei Xiaobao did not have any choice; with a bitter laugh he turned around and said, “You go and hide over there. We’ll talk when the pursuing troops have gone.”

The Princess shook her head and said, “No way! I want to be with you.” Immediately she crawled into the sorghum field and cuddled next to him.

Before the two of them were able to hide properly, they heard footsteps, followed by Zeng Rou calling, “Wei Xiangzhu, Wei Xiangzhu!”

Wei Xiaobao stuck his head out and saw Zeng Rou and Mu Jianping were running side-by-side toward him. “I am here,” he said, “Quickly hide in.” Following his order, the two women crawled in.

The four of them went deep into the sorghum field, hiding among the branches and leaves; thinking that the pursuing troops would have a hard time finding them, they felt somewhat relieved.

A short moment later, they heard group by group the pursuing cavalry galloped by on the main road. Wei Xiaobao thought, “That day I was with Ah Ke, Shitai Shifu, and that stinky fellow Zheng Keshuang, also four people, hiding inside the barley stack. Ay, if only by my side is not this mean Princess but Ah Ke, I will die happy. I wonder where is Ah Ke now? Most likely she has already become Zheng Keshuang’s wife. I don’t know what happened to Shuang’er.”

Suddenly they heard voices from a distance; some people were barking orders, followed by a group of cavalry reining their horses to stop. Clatters of hoof beats were moving near, unexpectedly they were searching toward this direction. The Princess was shocked, “They saw us.”

“Don’t make any noise,” Wei Xiaobao said, “They haven’t seen us.”

“Aren’t they coming this way?” the Princess said.

They heard someone shouted, “The rebel thieves’ horses are falling dead around here, they can’t run away too far. Everybody search carefully.”

“So that’s how it is,” the Princess said in her heart, “Those dead horses really cause a lot of trouble.” Reaching out, she gripped Wei Xiaobao’s hand tightly.

Liaodong, outside the Pass, was vast, but sparsely populated, the soil was fertile; sorghum fields were oftentimes spread thousands of mu hundreds of qing, as far as the eye can see. [1 mu ~ 1/15 of a hectare or 1/6 of an acre, 1 qing = 100 mu]. The sorghum grew tall, it was known as ‘green muslin screen’. It would be very difficult to find anybody hiding inside. But the sorghum fields in Beijing’s suburb were sparse and a lot shorter. The field where Wei Xiaobao and the others, four people were hiding was only twenty or thirty mu; as a large group of officers and men searched carefully, they would be found and captured in no time at all.

When they heard the troops were getting closer and closer, Wei Xiaobao said in a low voice, “Let’s go to the house over there.” After tugging Mu Jianping’s sleeve, he crept toward the two farm houses; the three women followed behind him.

Reaching the bamboo fence, they pushed the door and saw that the house was uninhabited, on one corner quite a few of farm tools were piled up. Wei Xiaobao grabbed several woven rush raincoat and handed them over to the three women, saying, “Quickly wear these.” While he also put one on his body. Putting on a conical bamboo hat, he sat on a corner.

The Princess laughed and said, “We are peasants now; it’s so much fun.”

Mu Jianping shushed her and said in a low voice, “They’re coming!”

‘Bang!’ the plank door was pushed open, seven or eight officers and men came in. Wei Xiaobao and the others quickly turned their heads around.

A moment later, someone said in a loud voice, “There’s no one here, the peasants are out to the field.”

Wei Xiaobao thought that this man’s voice and accent sounded familiar. He peeked from under the conical bamboo hat, and sure enough, it was Zhao Liangdong. He was delighted.

A sergeant said, “Zongbing Daren, these four people …”

Zhao Liangdong thundered, “Everybody out! Let me search carefully. This room is so small. Damn it, with all of you crowding in here, I can’t even turn around.” The soldiers voiced their agreement, they all trooped out.

Zhao Liangdong asked in a loud voice, “Have you seen any strangers around here?” As he walked toward Wei Xiaobao, his hand went into his bosom to take out two gold yuanbao and three ingots of silver, which he gently put down by Wei Xiaobao’s feet. Raising his voice, he said, “Turns out those people are running to the north! They knew His Majesty has lost his temper; if they are captured surely they will be beheaded, thus they are fleeing far, running away as fast as they can. This time it is really serious!” Stooping down, he gave Wei Xiaobao a hug and gently shook him several times before turning around and out of the door, while shouting, “The rebel thieves have run to the north, everybody pursue them quickly!”

Wei Xiaobao sighed. He thought, “Zhao Liangdong has a very strong yi qi toward me. If this matter is discovered, he won’t be able to protect his own head.” He heard the clatter of hooves outside as the officers and men mounted their horses and galloped away to the north.

The Princess was puzzled, “That Zongbing obviously saw us, why did he say … Ah, and he gave you gold and silver too? He must be your friend.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Let’s get out of here from the back door!” Stuffing the gold and silver into his pocket, he walked to the back.

As they stepped across the rear courtyard, they saw eight or nine people were sitting on the porch. As soon as Wei Xiaobao took a glance, he cried out in fear, turned around and ran. But he only took a couple of steps when the back of his neck was yanked, someone grabbed him and lifted him up. The man coldly said, “You think you can still escape?”

This man was none other than Cult Leader Hong. The rest of the people were Madame Hong, Fat Toutuo, Lu Gaoxuan, Blue Dragon Envoy Xu Xueting, Scarlet Dragon Envoy Priest Wugen, Black Dragon Envoy Zhang Danyue, and Yellow Dragon Envoy Yin Jin. All Divine Dragon Cult most important characters were gathered here. There was also a young woman, Fang Yi.

The Princess angrily said, “Why did you catch him?” Her leg flew toward Cult Leader Hong. Cult Leader Hong slightly bent his left hand, his middle finger flicked on the back of her foot. “Ah!” the Princess cried out and fell down to the ground.

With his body hanging in the air Wei Xiaobao called out, “Jiaozhu and Madame enjoy immortal good fortune forever, your long life the same as the Heaven’s. Disciple Wei Xiaobao pays his respect.”

With a cold laugh Cult Leader Hong said, “It’s good that you still remember those few words.”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “Those few words, disciple always remembers in my heart. Early morning when I get up I recite it once, when I wash my face I recite it once, when I eat my breakfast I recited it once, when I eat my lunch I recite it once, when I eat my dinner I recite it once, at night before I go to bed I also recite it once. Never once did I miss to recite it. Every now and then I would remember Jiaozhu and Madame’s benevolence, oftentimes I would be overwhelmed and recite it several more times.”

Ever since his old lair on the Divine Dragon Island was destroyed, his members dead or scattered all over, only several old brothers remained by his side, Cult Leader Hong wandered around in Jianghu; nobody recited the ode ‘enjoy immortal good fortune forever, long life the same as the Heaven’s’ with the same vigor anymore, oftentimes he barely heard it once in a day. This time hearing Wei Xiaobao’s flattering words surged like the tide, he could not help feeling delighted. He set him down, and his ice-cold countenance revealed the slightest hint of smile.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Subordinate can see Jiaozhu today, from head to foot my spirit is greatly aroused. There is only one thing that I do not understand.”

“What is it?” Cult Leader Hong asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “From that day I took my leave from Jiaozhu and Madame, not a few days has passed, how come Jiaozhu looks seven, eight years younger, and Madame even looks like you have turned into my little sister. It’s really strange.”

Madame Hong giggled tenderly, she reached out to pinch his cheek and said with a laugh, “Little monkey, your boot-licking skill can be considered number one under the heavens.”

The Princess was enraged; she shouted, “You, this woman, is so shameless; how come you casually grope [orig. moving hands moving feet] other people’s face?”

Madame Hong laughed and said, “I only moved my hands, I did not move my feet at all. Alright! Now I am moving my feet.” Lifting her left foot, ‘smack!’ she heavily kicked the Princess’ buttocks. The Princess screamed in pain.

Suddenly they heard hoof beats, in an instant all around them were horses, nobody knew how many officers and men had surrounded this farmhouse. The main gate opened, more than a dozen officers and men swarmed in. The two leaders entered the courtyard, they eyed everybody one by one, and then one of them said, “Only some unrelated farmers are here.”

Wei Xiaobao heard the voice and knew that it was Wang Jinbao’s. He was delighted and turned his head around. He saw the one by Wang Jinbao’s side was Sun Sike. The two men winked at him and waved their hands to order the sergeants to go out. Sun Sike said in loud voice, “Just some ordinary citizens. Hey, have you seen any escaping rebel thieves? No? Alright, we’ll go look someplace else.”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart was stirred, “This time I fall into Shen Long Jiao’s hands, no matter what graceful words, flowery speech I use, in the end my life is still difficult to protect. I’d rather be with Wang San Ge and the others, get out of Shen Long Jiao’s hands first, then ask those two to let me go.” Seeing Wang Jinbao and Sun Sike were just turning around to leave, he called out, “Wang San Ge, Sun Si Ge, I am Wei Xiaobao. Please take me with you.”

Sun Sike said, “You are just countryfolks, quickly go far away.”

Wang Jinbao said, “This peasant Xiao Xiongdi asked you if you have some money. Do you bring some money?”

“You want some money?” Sun Sike asked, “I have some, I have some!” From his bosom he took a fold of banknotes and handed it to Wei Xiaobao, saying, “There are some rebel thieves running away from Beijing, His Majesty is very angry, he sent several thousand troops and horses in hot pursuit, if they are caught, they will be beheaded immediately. Xiao Xiongdi, this place is very dangerous, if you are caught by mistake, you will deliver your life for sure. It’s really not worth it.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Please arrest me, I … I’d rather come with you.”

Wang Jinbao said, “You want to come with us to be a soldier and eat army provision? It won’t be fun. Outside there is firearm brigade that His Majesty personally dispatched, they have blunderbuss. ‘Bang, bang, bang, bang!’ the guns went off, even if your martial art skill were higher, you won’t be able to resist.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “The firearm brigade; that’s even better. Even Hong Jiaozhu will not dare to move randomly.” Hastily he said, “I have something I need to report to His Majesty. Please take me with you.”

Wang Jinbao said, “As soon as His Majesty sees you, he will chop your head. The Emperor also has two eyes and one mouth, why do you want to see him? Oh, we’ll leave you thirteen horses, so that you, thirteen countryfolks, can have a horse each. After ten years or eight, you must return the horses back to Beijing. If even one horse dies, you must pay us back. You absolutely must be very careful.” While saying that, he walked out.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly anxious, he stepped forward to stop him. “Wang San Ge,” he called out, “Quickly take me with you.”

Suddenly, a large hand was pressed on the crown of his head, and he heard Clan Leader Hong said, “Xiao Xiongdi, the General has good intentions, he had just left the Capital, he knew His Majesty’s mind, you must not indulge in flights of fancy.”

Sun Sike loudly said, “That’s right, let us quickly go to pursue the rebel thieves.”

Wei Xiaobao knew that right now his life was hanging in Clan Leader Hong’s hands. He only needed to exert a bit of his internal energy, Wei Xiaobao’s brain would immediately shatter. But even if he did not die right now, not too long afterwards he would definitely die anyway. Thereupon he said in a loud voice, “You must quickly arrest me, I am Wei Xiaobao!”

Everybody was taken by surprise; they halted their steps. Sun Sike burst into loud laughter and said, “Wei Xiaobao is a teenage boy, you, this old granpa, is nearly eighty years old, yet you raise your voice and play a joke; won’t you make people laugh until their mouths askew?” He tugged Wang Jinbao’s sleeve; the two of them walked out in big strides.

A moment later they heard someone passing on the order, “Leave thirteen horses in here for the later pursuing troops to transmit information, burn these two thatched huts so that the rebel thieves cannot hide in it.”

The crowd of sergeants complied, “We receive the order!” and then someone set the cottages on fire. The sound of hoof beats was heard as the large group of troops and horses galloped north.

Wei Xiaobao sighed. He thought, “This time I will die for sure. Wang San Ge and Sun Si Ge are afraid I would stay and not leave, then when other pursuing troops arrive, they might not show the same symphaty.” He saw the sogon grass on the corner of the hut started to burn, the flame slowly came near.

With a cold laugh Clan Leader Hong said, “Your friends have outstanding yi qi, they gave you money, they also give you horses. Let’s go.”

Mu Jianping helped the Princess up, they all exited the hut from the rear door, and went around to the front. Sure enough, underneath the tree in front of the cottage they found thirteen fine horses. Two of the horses had exquisite saddle and bridle, obviously these two horses were Wang Jinbao and Su Sike’s personal mounts.

They got on the horses and galloped eastwards. Wei Xiaobao and his companions, four people, were placed in the middle. Wei Xiaobao was hoping another team of pursuing troops would capture him. The young Emperor had deep friendship toward him, although this time he had offended him greatly, not necessarily he would have his head chopped. Cult Leader Hong was treacherous and murderous, falling into his hands would mean countless hardship for him. But for the whole journey he did not hear any sound of hoof beats of the pursuing soldiers. The horses they were riding were handpicked by Wang Jinbao, they could run like the wind. Even if there were pursuing troops behind them, there was little chance the troops might be able to overtake them. Much less Zhao, Wang, and Sun, three Zongbing [regional commander] had already led the pursuing troops to the north.

Along the way, other than the Princess who was cursing and swearing, everybody else rode in silence. Afterwards Yin Jin sealed the Princess’ mute acupoint so that even though her heart was full of anger, she was unable to utter any curses.

Cult Leader Hong led everybody riding through desolate areas as much as possible as they sped along to the southeast. Even at night they also stopped to rest in the wilderness. Several times Wei Xiaobao attempted escape, but Cult Leader Hong’s resourcefulness was not inferior to his, every time his body ended up suffering a few more punches; how could he get away from their grasp?

Several days later they reached the seaside. Lu Gaoxuan took an ingot of silver from Wei Xiaobao’s bosom to hire a large ocean-going ship. Wei Xiaobao could only groaned inwardly; even hiring the sea-going ship they were using his silver, he was even more discontended.

After boarding the ship, the boat raised its sail and they journeyed to the east. Wei Xiaobao thought, “I am sure this time we are going to Shen Long Island again, the old turtle must want to feed laozi to the snakes.” Thinking about the vipers on the island would coil around his body and bite him, he could not stop his body from shivering. “I have to somehow find a way to bore a big hole on the bottom of the boat so that everybody will die together,” he mulled over. But all the Divine Dragon Cult leaders knew that he was deceitful in many ways, they all guarded him carefully, how could he find the opportunity?

Wei Xiaobao remembered that he had been to the Divine Dragon Island twice before; the first time he and Fang Yi were whispering sweet nothings to each other on the boat, enjoying her gentle and soft touch along the way. The second time he was leading a big navy, his prestige impressed eight directions. This time he suffer a lot of punching and kicking, and was always at the death’s door. The difference between the suffering and delight was as far as the heaven from the earth.

Ever since he met Fang Yi at the farmhouse at the ourskirt of Beijing, along the way they rode together, now at sea they were in the same boat, yet she neither showed any delight nor anger, all along she maintained wooden expression without ever saying anything to him. Although she did not personally torturing him, yet all along she did not look at him either. Sometimes he thought that because she was under the Cult Leader Hong’s tyrannical grip, although she had a deep feeling toward him, she did not dare to reveal her feeling through her speech and facial expression. Sometimes he recalled that many times he had fallen into this little wh0re’s trick; that she was a treacherous and crafty woman, that no woman on earth could ever surpass her; he could not help gnashing his teeth in hatred.

After traveling for many days, indeed the boat reached the Divine Dragon Island. Lu Gaoxuan and Fat Toutuo escorted Wei Xiaobao, the Princess, Mu Jianping and Zeng Rou, four people ashore. Yin Jin forced the sailors to leave the boat. A sailor protested. Yin Jin immediately killed him with a saber. The rest of the sailors were scared that their souls flew to the outer sky; who would still dare to make any noise? Without any choice they obediently followed.

The trees on the island had withered, there were rubbles everywhere, the remains of the bombardments the other day. From the forest a strong stench assaulted their nostrils, skeletal remains of vipers strewn over the roads. When they arrived at the front of the main hall, they saw the walls had collapsed and the bamboo broken, several dozens bamboo structures had been completely obliterated. Cult Leader Hong stared hard without saying anything. Yin Jin and the others had angry look on their face, some glowered hatefully at Wei Xiaobao.

Zhang Danyue shouted loudly, “Hong Jiaozhu has returned to the Island! All Cult disciples quickly come out to pay your respect to Jiaozhu!” His internal energy was abundant, as he raised his chi to shout, his voice could be heard for several li. After waiting for a short time, he shouted again twice, but they only heard the faint echo of his voice from the valley, “Returned to the Island! Pay your respect to Jiaozhu! Returned to the Island! Pay your respect to Jiaozhu!”

After a long time, all around was still quiet, no sound was to be heard, not only they did not see a throng of disciples swarming over, they did not even hear a single disciple responding. Cult Leader Hong turned his head around toward Wei Xiaobao and said coldly, “You bombarded our Island, striking in such a way that a big Shen Long Jiao collapses like melting ice. Are you happy now?”

Seeing the fury and malicious expression in his face, Wei Xiaobao could not stop the hair on his body from standing up; with a trembling voice he said, “The old has not passed away, the new will not … not come. Hong Jiaozhu is all-powerful, your might greatly … greatly spread out all over the map. You can … can found a new Cult, open a business and get rich; this is called the more it is burned, the more it flourishes; the more it is bombarded, the more prosperous it becomes. Jiaozhu and Madame enjoy immortal good fortune forever …”

“Very good!” Hong Jiaozhu said. Suddenly he kicked him; Wei Xiaobao flew up and ‘crash!’ he landed heavily on the ground. He felt all the bones and muscles in his body were about to break, he could not crawl up. Seeing Hong Jiaozhu was this vicious, although she was afraid, Zeng Rou still went over to help Wei Xiaobao up.

Yin Jin stepped forward and bowed. He said, “Reporting to Jiaozhu, this little thief’s crime deserves ten thousand deaths, let subordinate cut him off one blade at a time, one piece at a time.”

“Humph!” Cult Leader Hong said, “There’s no rush!” After a short pause, he continued, “In this kid’s brain a great secret is hiding. The restoration and rise of our Cult rely on this important matter, for the time being we must not kill him.”

“Yes, yes,” Yin Jin said, “Jiaozhu stands tall and sees far, subordinate is simple-minded and ill-informed, it’s hard for me to understand the subtlety of this matter.”

Cult Leader Hong sat down on a piece of big rock and was deep in thought for half a day. He said, “From the beginning, the road to great success has always been plagued with misfortunes. Our Cult is suffering a setback for the time being, but it’s nothing to be worried about. Right now our stars are scattered, we ought to think how to reorganize our flags and drums, there is no harm in everybody pouring out your insight.”

Yin Jin said, “Jiaozhu is brilliant and wise, even if we think for ten days and ten nights, it will be fall short of Jiaozhu’s bright idea that you find in a flash. It would be better if we ask Jiaozhu to point out a good plan, everybody will just follow your order to accomplish it.”

Cult Leader Hong nodded and said, “The most important business in front of our eyes is to gather again our disciples. Last time the Tatar soldiers bombarded our Island, although the casualty among our Cult disciple was not a few, it was no more than one pavilion out of three; the remaining two pavilions must be scattered all over the place. Right now I promote Lu Gaoxuan to be the White Dragon Envoy, to bring the number of Five Dragon Envoys to completion.” Lu Gaoxuan bowed to express his gratitude.

Cult Leader Hong continued, “In the next few days I want all Green, Yellow, Scarlet, White and Black Dragon Envoys to go to various regions to recruit former subordinates, and if you see young men and young women with desirable natural endowments, you may thus receive them under your command. Recruiting the old accepting the new, we can heavily flourish our Divine Cult.”

Yin Jin, Zhang Danyue, and Lu Gaoxuan, three people bowed and said, “We will obey Jiaozhu’s order.” However, the Scarlet Dragon Envoy Priest Wugen and Blue Dragon Envoy Xu Xueting stayed silent.

Cult Leader Hong cast a sidelong glance toward the two people and asked, “Scarlet Dragon Envoy and Blue Dragon Envoy, do you have something to say?”

Xu Xueting said, “Reporting to Jiaozhu, subordinate has two things I’d like to ask, hoping that Jiaozhu will approve.”

“Humph,” Cult Leader Hong snorted. “What is it?” he asked.

Xu Xueting said, “Your subordinates here are always loyal to our Cult and Jiaozhu, but all along Jiaozhu did not trust our brothers, inevitably our hearts are discouraged. The first matter is this: I earnestly request that Jiaozhu will have mercy and bestow us the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’ antidote, so that the hearts of our brothers are not worried, with heart and soul we will serve Jiaozhu.”

Cult Leader Hong coldly said, “And if I do not give you the antidote, you won’t serve me with your heart and soul?”

“Subordinate does not dare,” Xu Xueting replied. “The second matter is this: those young men and women were unable to accomplish anything but liable to spoil everything. As soon as they encountered big matter, everybody fled everywhere so that no one remained. Presently our Cult is facing trials and tribulations, from start to finish, those who follow Jiaozhu and Madame are us, several old brothers. Those younger disciples, ordinarily their mouths said that they would be loyal and would not be double-hearted, that they would go through water and tread on fire, ten thousand deaths would not prevent them, et cetera, but when things came to a head, which one actually exert themselves for Jiaozhu? In subordinate’s humble opinion, if we want to see our Cult flourish, we ought to gather responsible, courageous spirited real men. Those whose mouth say yes but their hearts say no, young boys and girls who talk in eight directions, just like this renegade, the little traitor Wei Xiaobao, we need not recruit.”

For each sentence that he spoke, Cult Leader Hong’s countenance turned one shade darker. Xu Xueting was trembling with fear, but he braced himself to finish his speech.

Cult Leader Hong shot a piercing gaze toward Priest Wugen. “What do you say?” he coldly asked.

Priest Wugen took two steps back. He said, “Subordinate thinks that there is some logic behind what Blue Dragon Envoy has said. The former cart is overturned, we cannot travel the same road anymore [overturned cart figuratively means disastrous policy]. You can’t gain knowledge without practical experience, since we have committed the fault, with Jiaozhu’s great wisdom and great intelligence, you understood that not only these young boys and girls are useless, they are also unreliable. Just like … just like …” while saying that, he pointed to Mu Jianping and said, “This little girl is my Scarlet Dragon Gate’s subordinate. Jiaozhu’s benevolence to her was not shallow, but as soon as we met disaster, she immediately committed apostasy by surrendering to the enemy. This kind of person must be tracked down and brought back one by one, have them hacked into pieces, to guard against this kind of apostasy.”

Cult Leader Hong’s gaze swept Lu Gaoxuan and the others. “Is this a common agreement among all of you?” he asked. The crowd fell silent.

After a moment, Fat Toutuo said, “Reporting to Jiaozhu, we did not discuss it beforehand. However … however, subordinate believes that Blue Dragon Envoy, Scarlet Dragon Envoy, two gentlemen’s opinion is somewhat reasonable.”

Cult Leader Hong stared at Zhang Danyue, waiting for him to talk. Trembling with fear, Zhang Danyue said, “This time our Cult met with danger, encountered the disaster of destruction; the main offender, without a doubt, was this little thief Wei Xiaobao. Toward this kind of people, subordinate absolutely cannot trust anymore.”

Cult Leader Hong nodded. “Very good,” he said, “You are also of the same opinion as the other. Lu Gaoxuan, what about you?”

Lu Gaoxuan said, “Subordinate has received Jiaozhu’s great benevolence by promoting me to assume heavy responsibility as the White Dragon Envoy, I should strive to display utter loyalty in serving Jiaozhu. Blue Dragon Envoy and the others’ thought is in consideration of our Cult and Jiaozhu, there is no other intention.”

Yin Jin raised his voice, “What all of you said is very wrong. Jiaozhu’s wisdom is a hundred times higher than ours. There is no need for us to speak too much, all we need to do is just listen to Jiaozhu and Madame’s instructions. The Tatar troops bombarded our island, it was to wash away the dirt and disgrace of our Cult; those renegades who are not loyal to Jiaozhu were blasted away. Were it not for that, how could we know who was loyal and who was the traitor? We, the subordinates, were like the frog at the bottom of the well, our insight was narrow and shallow, all we saw was the gains and the losses of the moment, how can we be compared to Jiaozhu who can see through a hole and gaze at a hundred lifetimes?”

Xu Xueting angrily said, “The reason why our Cult failed and was wiped over the floor, was mostly because of people like you, boot-licking ghosts. You flatter randomly, what good will it bring to our Cult? What good will it bring to our Jiaozhu?”

“What do you mean boot-licking ghost?” Yin Jin said, “You … you … aren’t you rebelling?”

Xu Xueting angrily said, “You are a shameless lowly person, you ruined our Cult. You are the rebel!” While saying that, his hand grabbed the hilt of his sword.

Yin Jin took a step back, saying, “That day you started a rebellion and offended your superior, you betrayed Jiaozhu; fortunately Jiaozhu and Madame are magnanimous, so they did not hold it against you. Today … today you want to rebel again?”

Together Xu Xueting, Priest Wugen, Zhang Danyue, Lu Gaoxuan, and Fat Toutuo, five people turned their eyes toward Jiaozhu, suppressing their anger in silence.

Cult Leader Hong turned his head to look at Yin Jin, his eyes blazed with cold light. Yin Jin was shocked; he took another step back. “Jiaozhu,” he said, “These … these five men conspire to go against the law, they must be punished by death.”

In deep and grim voice the Cult Leader Hong said, “What did you just say?”

Seeing his ill expression, Yin Jin was even more terrified; he said in a trembling voice, “Subordinate is loyal … loyal … loyal to Jiaozhu; with these rebel thieves I … I cannot exist together.”

Cult Leader Hong said, “That day we swore a heavy oath, if we ever raise the same old topic again, if we ever settle the account over what had happened in the past, then what will happen?”

Yin Jin was so scared that his soul had flown into the outer sky. “JiaoJiaozhu have mercy,” he said, “Subordinate is only being loyal to you; I have no … no other intention.”

Cult Leader Hong said, “That day Madame and I have sworn an oath, if in our hearts we remember the old grievance, we will enter the Longtan [Dragon Pool], to be devoured by ten thousand of snakes. This matter has been written off at one stroke a long time ago, everybody has already forgotten about it completely, only you still keep it in your mind constantly. As soon as you have the opportunity, you sow dissension; what is actually your intention? What is your motive?”

Yin Jin’s face did not have the least bit of blood, his knees bent, he dropped down, kneeling. “Subordinate knows my error, from now on I will never dare to raise it up,” he said.

Cult Leader Hong sternly said, “When people of our Cult swear a heavy oath, can you casually violate it? If this oath cannot be applied to you, it will be applied to me. Tell me, do you think you should enter the Dragon Pool, or should I go?”

Yin Jin screamed and leaped several zhang backward; he turned around and ran away like mad. The Cult Leader Hong waited until he was several zhang away before bending over to pick a piece of rock and threw it away. ‘Whoosh!’ it hit Yin Jin on the back of his head. He let out a long miserable scream, leaped up, and then heavily crashed on the ground. He twisted several times, and died immediately.

Cult Leader Hong saw how Xu Xueting and the others, five people had joined hands. Based on his martial art skill, if he joined forces with Madame and Yin Jin their strength would be enough to subdue these five people. However, after the strength of their Cult took a big hit, only very few people remained, while all Yin Jin could do was fawning and boot-licking, he did not have any real ability. If he killed these five people, it would mean that the troops under his command were completely obliterated. In that split second he weighed the severity of this case, the pros and cons, and took the decision to kill Yin Jin, while pacifying Xu Xueting and the others, five people’s anger.

Zhang Danyue and Lu Gaoxuan bowed and said, “Jiaozhu’s word is like a mountain; you killed this treacherous villain, subordinates are full of admiration.”

Xu Xueting, Priest Wugen and Fat Toutuo, three men also said together, “Thank you very much Jiaozhu.” These five people usually saw Yin Jin blindly resorted to bragging and flattering, his moral standing was low, they despised him very much; now that they saw that the Cult Leader personally put him to death, all of them were overjoyed.

Cult Leader Hong pointed to Wei Xiaobao and said, “It’s not that I want to spare his life, but this kid knows that in Liaodong’s extreme north bitter cold ground an enormous amount of treasure is buried. Without him leading the way, we cannot find that place. After obtaining this treasure, for us to rebuild our divine cult is as easy as flipping our hands.”

After a short pause, he continued, “Just now the five of you said that those young boys and girls are unreliable, and advised me not to ‘follow the track of an overturned cart’ [i.e. repeat a disastrous policy]. After thinking about it carefully, I agree that what you said was not without reason. I am going to follow your advice, hereafter the business of our Cult’s new recruits must be dealt with seriously, in order to avoid crafty villain sneaking in to infiltrate our Cult.”

Xu Xueting and the others’ face showed delight; they all bowed to express their thanks. Cult Leader Hong took two porcelain bottles from his pocket, from each bottle he took five pills; there were five yellow pills, and five white pills, and then he put the bottles back inside his pocket. With the pills in his left palm, he said, “These are ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’ antidote, each of you take two pills.”

Xu Xueting and the others were greatly delighted; they stepped forward to express their gratitude first before receiving the pills. “You may take the pills immediately,” Cult Leader Hong said.

The five of them put the pills into their mouths and swallowed. With a smiling expression on his face, Cult Leader Hong said, “That’s very good …” Suddenly he shouted, “Lu Gaoxuan, what do you have in your left hand?”

Lu Gaoxuan took two steps back. “No … nothing,” he said. But his left hand hung down, his fingers curled into a fist.

“Open your left hand!” Cult Leader Hong sternly said. His voice thundered, everybody’s ears were buzzing.

Lu Gaoxuan’s body slightly shook, he slowly opened his left hand, with a light ‘pat’ a white pill fell to the ground. Xu Xueting and the others, four men’s countenance changed greatly. They were well aware that Lu Gaoxuan’s knowledge and experience was out of the ordinary, he had quite a wisdom and insight. By hiding this white pill and refusing to take it, he must have a strong reason; but the rest of them had already swallowed the pill, what should they do?

With a stern voice Cult Leader Hong said, “Those white pills are Great Supplement Snow Ginseng pills to strengthen the body and invigorate the spirit; why do you suspect your leader and have the cheek to conceal it and not taking it?”

Lu Gaoxuan said, “Subordinate … does not … does not dare. Recently subordinate made a mistake in internal energy cultivation, the chi and blood channels in my body are disrupted, hence … hence Jiaozhu’s benevolence in giving this great supplement pill, I am thinking that after sitting in meditation tonight, I will slowly take it, to avoid my lowly body cannot … cannot withstand it.”

Cult Leader Hong’s countenance softened. “I see,” he said, “Which chi and blood channels are disrupted? That’s very easy, I can help you regulate you inner breathing. Come here.”

Lu Gaoxuan took another step back. “I do not dare to toil Jiaozhu,” he said, “Subordinate will slowly regulate it myself, then I will get better.”

Cult Leader Hong sighed and said, “So, in the end you still don’t trust me?”

“Subordinate absolutely does not dare,” Lu Gaoxuan replied.

Pointing to the white pill on the ground, Cult Leader Hong said, “In that case, I want you to take that pill immediately. If after taking it your chi and blood channels are disrupted, how can I fold my arms and ignore it?”

Lu Gaoxuan turned his gaze toward the pill; he stared blankly for half a day before saying, “Yes!” And then he stooped down to pick it up. But suddenly his middle finger flicked, ‘swish!’ the pill flew to the air, and fell into a distant valley. He said, “Subordinate already took it. Thank you very much Jiaozhu.”

Cult Leader Hong burst into loud laughter. “Good, good, good!” he said, “Your guts is indeed not small.”

Lu Gaoxuan said, “Subordinate has always strive loyally for Jiaozhu, Jiaozhu has given the antidote to neutralize the poison of the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’, but you also bestowed this white hundred-salivary gland pill, which toxicity is more formidable. Subordinate is innocent, I am unwilling to be punished.”

Xu Xueting and the others asked in chorus, “Hundred-salivary gland pill? What poison is that?”

Lu Gaoxuan said, “Jiaozhu gathered the salivary glands of a hundred different types of poisonous snakes and insects, and mixed it into these pills. Whether it contains acute poison, I am not too clear; perhaps it really has tonic effect, but I am not sure either. Either way, my guts is very small; I do not dare to try it.”

Xu Xueting and the others were even more terrified; they all rushed toward Lu Gaoxuan. All five of them stood in a row, with eyes staring at Cult Leader Hong.

Cult Leader Hong coldly said, “How do you know this is a hundred-salivary gland pill? You are speaking nonsense, sowing dissension, disturbing the people’s hearts.”

Pointing to Fang Yi, Lu Gaoxuan said, “That day I saw Miss Fang caught snails from the underbrush, I asked her what she was doing, and she told me that it was Jiaozhu’s order, she had to catch some snails as drug ingredient. I have also accidentally seen Jiaozhu’s hundred-salivary gland pill formula. Although the hundred-salivary gland pill’s toxicity will only flare-out in three years, but first, I doubt that Jiaozhu has ever mixed the hundred-salivary gland pill before; I don’t know whether it will truly flare-out after three years. Second, subordinate still want to live many more years, I do not wish to die in three years.”

The dark aura on Cult Leader Hong’s face grew thicker and thicker. “My formula,” he thundered, “How could you see it?”

Lu Gaoxuan cast a glance toward Madame Hong; he said, “Madame asked subordinate to find some medicine for her in Jiaozhu’s medicine chest. That formula was inside the medicine chest.”

“Rubbish!” Cult Leader Hong sternly said, “Even if Madame is not well, could it be that she won’t ask for some medicine from me? Why would she ask you? My medicine chest has always been sealed really tight, how could you dare to open it yourself?”

“Subordinate did not open it myself,” Lu Gaoxuan replied.

Cult Leader Hong roared, “You did not open it yourself. Are you saying that I ordered you to …” suddenly he had another thought. Turning his head toward Madame Hong he asked, “Did you open it for him?”

Madame Hong’s countenance paled; she nodded slowly. Cult Leader Hong asked, “What medicine were you looking for? Why didn’t you ask me?”

Madame Hong suddenly blush deep red, but immediately her face turned deathly pale. Her body shook several times, suddenly she clutched her lower abdomen, her throat made some ‘ow, ow’ noise, and she vomited quite a bit of clear liquid. Cult Leader Hong knitted his brows; he asked in tender voice, “Are you feeling ill? Sit down and rest a little bit!”

Princess Jianning suddenly shouted, “She has a baby. You old b@astard, you are going to have a child, and you don’t know it?”

Cult Leader Hong was shocked; he leaped forward and grabbed Madame’s wrist. “Is she telling the truth?” he sternly asked.

Bending down, Madame Hong did not stop throwing up, her body shook ever worse. Cult Leader Hong coldly said, “You wanted to find a medicine to abort the baby, didn’t you?”

Other than Lu Gaoxuan, none of the listeners was not puzzled. Cult Leader Hong did not have any children, and he loved his wife dearly. If Madame gave her a child, it did not matter whether it was a boy or a girl, it would be a greatly good news; why would she want to abort the baby? They all thought that this time Cult Leader Hong had guessed wrong. Who would have thought that Madame Hong nodded slowly and said, “That’s right. I want to abort the baby. Quickly kill me.”

Cult Leader Hong raised his left palm; he shouted, “Whose child is this?”

Everybody knew that his martial art skill was extremely high, as soon as this palm of his struck down, Madame Hong would immediately die a violent death; surprisingly she lifted her head high instead, and boldly said, “I told you to quickly kill me, why haven’t you made your move?”

Cult Leader Hong’s eyes looked as if they were about to spout fire; with a deep and grim voice he said, “I won’t kill you. Whose child is this?”

Madame Hong closed her mouth tight, with a very unyielding expression on her face. Obviously she had already disregarded her life.

Cult Leader Hong turned his head around and glowered at Lu Gaoxuan, “Is it yours?” he asked.

“No, no!” Lu Gaoxuan busily said, “Subordinate reveres Madame like an immortal, how could I dare to offend her?”

From Lu Gaoxuan Cult Leader Hong’s gaze swept Zhang Danyue, Xu Xueting, Priest Wugen and Fat Toutuo one by one. Whomever his gaze landed, that person shivered in fear.

Madame Hong loudly said, “It’s none of them. Quickly kill me, why do you ask too much?”

The Princess called out, “She is your wife, naturally this child is yours, why blindly suspect others? Such a complete muddle head.”

“Shut up!” Cult Leader Hong bellowed, “You talk one more sentence, I’ll wring your neck.”

The Princess did not dare to speak anymore, but in her heart she refused to submit. How would she know that for the past few years Cult Leader Hong had been cultivating first-class internal energy so that he had not been near women for a long time? Although his feeling as husband and wife toward Madame was genuine, they did not have real husband-wife relationship. It was exactly because of this reason that he had always felt apologetic and uneasy toward her, so that ordinarily he treated her with double-affection.

This moment, as he suddenly heard that Madame was pregnant, myriads of thoughts flitted through his mind: anger, shame, remorse, grief, pain, hatred, love, even fear. His palm was still hanging in the air, but he could not bring it down. Turning his head around, he saw Xu Xueting and the others had terrified look on their faces. He thought, “Today all of them have found out about this big shameful scandal; how can I still have the face to be their Jiaozhu? I must kill them all and not leave a single mouth alive. If even the least bit of rumor is leaked out, Jianghu heroes would sneer at me, how can I still be a hero or a warrior?” As soon as his murderous intention arose, suddenly his left hand let go of Madame, he leaped forward, grabbed Lu Gaoxuan, and shouted, “It’s all because of you, the renegade to the Cult, who caused mischief!”

Lu Gaoxuan loudly said, “You want to kill people to shut their …” the word ‘mouth’ had not left his mouth, ‘crack! Cult Leader Hong’s palm struck heavily on his forehead; immediately his eyes popped out, he gave up his breath and died instantly.

Seeing this situation, Xu Xueting and the others knew that Cult Leader Hong wanted to kill them all to shut their mouths. All four of them immediately pulled their weapons to shield their bodies. Xu Xueting shouted, “Jiaozhu, this is your personal matters, it has nothing to do with your subordinates.”

Cult Leader Hong screamed at the top of his lungs, “Today everybody will return to heaven together, you can forget about staying alive.” And he charged ferociously toward the four men.

Fat Toutuo brandished his twenty-some catties big saber with nine steel rings on its back, he hacked it down head on, the momentum was extremely powerful. Cult Leader Hong leaned sideways to evade, his right palm shot down onto the top of Zhang Danyue’s head. Xu Xueting’s pair of judge pens successively struck Cult Leader Hong’s back twice, while at the same time Priest Wugen’s wild-goose tail saber also swept toward his waist. Cult Leader Hong let out a loud shout and leaped high into the air, but his palm still shot down toward Zhang Danyue.

Zhang Danyue moved the pair of mandarin-duck daggers in his hands, it a split second he stabbed seven times. It was the move ‘seven stars gathered around the moon’, the ultimate skill he developed his entire life. All seven stabs were swift and powerful. Cult Leader Hong’s right palm swept diagonally to press lightly on Zhang Danyue’s left shoulder; borrowing the momentum, he leaped away. Zhang Danyue roared and rolled on the ground. When he stood up, he felt the pain on the left side of his body was unbearable. “If we don’t kill him today, nobody will survive,” he cried out. The four up them raised their weapons and surged forward to surround Cult Leader Hong.

These four men were the first-class figureheads of the Divine Dragon Cult, especially Fat Toutuo and Xu Xueting, whose martial art skill was the highest. The nine steel rings on Fat Toutuo’s Big Hoop Saber made continuous ringing noise, as he moved the weapon in purely ferociously and ‘hard’ way. Xu Xueting’s skill with his pair of judge pens, on the other hand, was small, delicate, and exquisite; move by move he threatened the vital acupoints on the opponent’s body. Priest Wugen brandished his Wild-goose Tail Saber into a circle of white ray. They all thought that after taking the hundred-salivary gland pill today, their lives would be difficult to protect anyway, hence before their deaths they wanted to kill this treacherous and vicious archenemy. Therefore, out of ten moves, nine were assault moves; their hope was to die together with the enemy.

Zhang Danyue recalled how in the past because his subordinates did not do their best in their mission, they failed to obtain the ‘Forty-two Chapter Sutra’, if not for Priest Wugen and Xu Xueting’s help, he would have been executed early on by the Cult Leader Hong. That he was able to survive this long, he was actually living on a borrowed life. This moment, although his left arm was very painful, he still did everything he could to move his daggers.

Actually, Cult Leader Hong’s martial art skill was far superior to these four men, if he wanted to take the life of one of them, it was really not difficult; however, the four of them attacked in succession, if he killed one, it would be hard for him to avoid injury. After fighting for more than forty rounds, the unbearable anger and resentment in his heart gradually calmed down, his mind cleared up, his moves were even more smooth and easy; his pair of bare hands weaved in and out among the four weapons’ siege, without any sign of weakness at all. He saw that Zhang Danyue’s left dagger gradually lost its power, hence he knew that this was the opponent’s weakest link, thereupon he focused his attention to break the powerful enemy.

Seeing the four men fought ferociously, Wei Xiaobao quietly pulled Zeng Rou and Mu Jianping’s sleeves, and signaled the Princess to keep quiet. The four of them turned around and quietly walked down the mountain. Cult Leader Hong and the others, five people, were engaged in tight battle that nobody saw them. Even if they did, nobody could afford to get away from the fight to stop them.

After walking for a while, the four of them had left Cult Leader Hong and the others far away, in their hearts they were secretly delighted. Wei Xiaobao turned his head around to look at the five men who were still involved in fierce fighting, saber’s ray flashed, palm’s shadow fluttered, for a moment it would be hard to decide victory or defeat. “Let’s go faster,” he said.

The four of them picked up their pace; suddenly they heard footsteps behind them, two people were rushing toward them, Madame Hong and Fang Yi. The four of them were shocked. Wei Xiaobao lamented the fact that when they were captured, the weapons and secret projectiles in their body were searched and confiscated. Fang Yi was not a big problem, but Madame Hong was really formidable. Thinking that they would not be able to fight the enemy, they had no choice but to run as fast as they could.

After running several dozen steps, the Princess tripped on a rock and tumbled down on the ground; she cried out. Wei Xiaobao thought, “She has my child in her tummy, I cannot not help her.” Thereupon he turned around to help her up.

He saw in several leaps Madame Hong had already arrived in front of them. Standing with arms on her waist, she said, “Wei Xiaobao, are you thinking of running away?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “We are not running away, the scenery is good over here, we came to enjoy it.”

With a cold laugh Madame Hong said, “Very well! You came here to enjoy the scenery, why didn’t you call me along?”

While they were still talking, Fang Yi caught up. Seeing Wei Xiaobao was delayed by Madame Hong, Zeng Rou and Mu Jianping turned around and stood by Wei Xiaobao’s side. Mu Jianping said to Fang Yi, “Shijie, come with us. He … he …” she pointed to Wei Xiaobao, “He always treats you well. Formerly you have sworn an oath as well, have you forgotten about it?”

“I am only loyal to Madame,” Fang Yi replied, “I only take order from Madame.”

Mu Jianping said, “You just took Madame’s drug. Previously I also took some …”

Wei Xiaobao suddenly realized that Fang Yi repeatedly deceived him in the past because she was under Madame Hong’s coercion, not because she had any choice; the hatred and resentment in his heart vanished instantly. “Yi Jiejie,” he said, “Please come with us.”

The last time he used these three characters ‘Yi Jiejie’ to affectionately call her was when they were traveling together to Divine Dragon Island, enjoying the intimacy and touching emotions on the boat. Suddenly hearing it again, Fang Yi could not stop her face from turning red.

Suddenly they heard Cult Leader Hong cried out in loud voice, “Madame, Madame! Ah Quan, Ah Quan! You … where are you going?” His cry was full of fear and anxiety, it was obvious that he was afraid Madame Hong would abandon him and leave. But Madame Hong did not seem to hear. Cult Leader Hong called several more times, all along Madame Hong did not respond.

Wei Xiaobao and the others, five people looked at Madame Hong; they all thought, “Why didn’t you answer? Jiaozhu is calling you, why don’t you go back?”

They saw a faint blush on Madame Hong’s face; she shook her head and said in a low voice, “Let’s go quickly, let’s escape by boat!”

Wei Xiaobao was pleasantly surprised; he asked, “You … you are coming with us?”

Madame Hong said, “There’s only one boat on the Island, we cannot not coming together. Jiaozhu wants to kill me, don’t you know it?” Her face blushed again, and she walked away first.

They all rushed several zhang down the mountain when they heard Cult Leader Hong calling out in loud voice again, “Madame, Madame! Ah Quan, Ah Quan! Quickly come back!” Suddenly someone let out a long miserable scream, obviously it was a cry just before death; although it was unclear which of Xu Xueting and the others, four people, had died.

Cult Leader Hong called loudly, “Look, look! I have killed this old fellow Zhang Danyue. He had been by my side all his life until he grew old. Unexpectedly he still wanted to go against me, a complete muddle head. Ah Quan, Ah Quan! Why don’t you come back? I won’t blame you, I’ll forgive you in this matter. Ah! Damn it, you chopped me! Ha ha, Fat Toutuo, you think this palm cannot take your dog life? You brains didn’t work right, why did you follow others and rebel against me? Didn’t that mean you want to die? Ha ha!”

Madame Hong halted her steps, her countenance changed. “He already killed two people,” she said.

“Let’s go faster,” Wei Xiaobao urgently said; and ran even faster.

Suddenly they heard Cult Leader Hong’s shout, “I will deal with you, two rebel thieves, later. Madame, Madame, quickly come back!” His voice was getting closer and closer; unexpectedly from up the mountain he ran after them.

Wei Xiaobao looked back, and saw Cult Leader Hong, with disheveled hair, was running fast toward them; he was scared that his soul flew away and scattered. He ran as fast as he could in desperation.

“Stop him, stop him!” Xu Xueting called out, “He is already injured, we must kill him today.”

Priest Wugen called out, “He can’t escape.” With the weapons in their hands, the two people ran after him.

Shortly afterwards Wei Xiaobao and the others reached the beach, but Cult Leader Hong, Xu Xueting and Priest Wugen, three people were coming fast; one running after the other, they rushed down the mountain, all three people’s faces and bodies were covered in blood.

Cult Leader Hong shouted, “Madame, why didn’t you answer me? Where are you going?”

Xu Xueting called out, “Madame does not want you anymore! She already has a young and handsome boyfriend.”

Cult Leader Hong was enraged. “Rubbish!” he shouted. Leaping up, his left palm shot down ferociously to the top of Xu Xueting’s head. Xu Xueting countered with the pen on his left hand. Priest Wugen caught up, he brandished his saber toward Cult Leader Hong’s waist.

By this time Cult Leader Hong only had two opponents left, but his left leg was limping, his agility was also not as good as before. Cult Leader Hong called out, “Ah Quan, look at me; I am going to have these two rebel thieves under control very soon, kill those four little b1tches first, just don’t kill that little thief yet, let him take us to the treasure.” His mouth was busy shouting, his palms still moved fast and powerful. Xu Xueting and Priest Wugen were not able to penetrate his defense.

Madame Hong let out a soft cold laughter; her gaze swept Mu Jianping and the others one by one. Wei Xiaobao called out, “Madame, if you harm only one of these four girls, I will immediately kill myself. Even becoming a ghost I will not spare you. A real man gave his words, some … some horses cannot pull it back.” In a moment of desperation, he could not even remember ‘dead horses cannot pull it back’.

Suddenly ‘whack!’ Xu Xueting’s waist was hit by a palm, his body swayed, and he fell to the ground. Cult Leader Hong roared in laughter, while leaping up to kick him. Xu Xueting also leaped up and threw himself at Cult Leader Hong, so that Cult Leader Hong’s leg hit the pit of his stomach. ‘Crack!’ several of his ribs broke instantly, but he caught and firmly grabbed Cult Leader Hong’s right leg. Cult Leader Hong struggled hard to free himself, but unexpectedly he failed to throw Xu Xueting down.

Fast as lightning Priest Wugen surged forward and swung his saber. Cult Leader Hong leaned his head sideways to evade and flipped his hand to parry. ‘Wham!’ Priest Wugen’s lower abdomen was hit by a palm, but the saber also cut into Cult Leader Hong’s right shoulder. Priest Wugen spurted a mouthful of blood, all of which landed on the back of Cult Leader Hong’s neck. Priest Wugen wanted to lift his saber to hack again, but unexpectedly his Wild-goose Tail Saber had cut into Cult Leader Hong’s shoulder bone, while his own strength had nearly gone, hence was unable to pull the saber out. Cult Leader Hong called out, “Quick … quickly come … pull him away.”

It was not clear whether Madame Hong was scared that she was only staring blankly, or she really did not have the intention to help him. Seeing the three people were entangled in a fierce fight, unexpectedly she was standing still and did not show any sign that she was going to move.

Xu Xueting picked up a judge pen from the ground and thrust it up as hard as he could into Cult Leader Hong’s waist. Cult Leader Hong roared wildly, his left foot kicked Xu Xueting, sending him flying out, followed by a backward strike of his left elbow. Priest Wugen’s body slowly slumped down. Cult Leader Hong laughed aloud and shouted, “These … rebel thieves, which … which one is my match? They … they wanted to rebel, (cough, cough) … (cough, cough), didn’t they … didn’t they all get killed by me?” Turning toward Madame Hong, he said, “You … why didn’t you help me?”

Madame Hong shook her head. “Your martial art skill is number one under the heavens, why would you need someone else’s help?”

Cult Leader Hong was enraged. “You also rebel against me?” he bellowed, “Are you also a renegade of our Cult?”

“That’s right,” Madame Hong coldly replied, “You only care about yourself. If I helped you, in the end you will still kill me.”

“I’ll strangle you to death, I’ll strangle the renegade to our Cult to death,” Cult Leader Hong shouted, while pouncing on Madame Hong.

“Ah!” Madame Hong screamed and hastily dodged.

Even after suffering serious injury Cult Leader Hong’s movement was very fast; with his left hand he grabbed her arm, with his right hand he strangled her neck. “Speak up, speak up,” he shouted, “If you say you are not, I’ll spare you.”

Madame Hong slowly said, “For a long, long time in my heart I am already rebelling against you. Ever since that day when you forced me to be your wife, I already hate you to the bones. You … you’d better just kill me.” The blood from Cult Leader Hong’s body did not stop dripping onto her head, her face, but unexpectedly Madame Hong’s eyes were staring at him without blinking at all.

“Renegade, rebel thief!” Cult Leader Hong roared, “All of you are rebelling against me. I … I will recruit new people, I will reorganize Shen Long Jiao!” His right hand tightened, immediately Madame Hong’s throat was blocked, her tongue stuck out.

Watching from the side, Wei Xiaobao was extremely terrified. Seeing that Madame Hong was about to be strangled to death, he picked a large round stone from the beach and with all his might threw it toward Cult Leader Hong’s back. ‘Bonk!’ it hit the center of his back. Cult Leader Hong’s vision darkened; the hand that strangled Madame Hong immediately loosened. He turned around and shouted, “You … you little thief, I don’t want buried treasure anymore, I’ll kill you first and talk later.” His palm swept toward Wei Xiaobao.

Wei Xiaobao turned around and ran as fast as he could. Cult Leader Hong moved his legs and ran after him, leaving a long trail of blood on the sandy beach. Wei Xiaobao knew that if this time he was caught, he definitely would not survive; thereupon he desperately ran for his life. Suddenly ‘rip!’ a piece of his clothes was caught and torn by Cult Leader Hong. If Wei Xiaobao was not wearing his treasured protective vest, perhaps a piece of flesh from his back would also be torn away.

In sheer terror he ran even faster, unleashing the qinggong ‘Shen Xing Bai Bian’ [divine walk hundred changes] he learned from Jiu Nan; he twisted to the east and slipped to the west, making random turns on the beach. Several times Cult Leader Hong nearly caught him, but in ‘a thousand pounds hangs by a thread’ situation, he always managed to evade.

If he ran straight up, with his very limited internal energy, he would have been caught early on. But this ‘Shen Xing Bai Bian’ was Tie Jian Men’s [iron sword school] supreme skill, plus during his time Priest Mu Sang had added several new ideas into it, so that the changes were extremely exquisite, strange and mysterious. Wei Xiaobao’s ‘divine walk’ was actually not worth mentioning; the ‘hundred changes’ part, however, was very similar to his inborn nature; therefore, he managed to master about thirty or forty percent of the skill. Consequently, although he was not a martial art master [orig. ‘gao shou’ – high/top hand]. He could be reckoned to be first or second best escape master [orig. ‘gao jiao’ – high/top feet] of the Wulin world.

Cult Leader Hong was howling again and again; he launched several palm strikes in succession. Wei Xiaobao dodged two palm strikes, finally he failed to evade the third strike. ‘Bang!’ the palm landed squarely on his back, sending him tumbling on the ground, twice.

Fortunately Cult Leader Hong was seriously hurt, his palm power was greatly reduced, plus Wei Xiaobao was wearing his treasured protective vest; although he was hit that the sky darkened and the earth turned black, he did not suffer serious injury.

He was just about to crawl up when suddenly he felt his shoulder tightened as Cult Leader Hong grabbed him with both hands. Wei Xiaobao felt as if his heart was about to jump out of his chest cavity. In his horror, he could not think about anything [orig. ‘when hungry, you can’t pick what you eat’, and ‘in panic, cannot choose the road to travel’]; ducking down, he crawled underneath Cult Leader Hong’s crotch, and suddenly remembered that this move was the first part on one move from the ‘three moves to save life’ taught by Cult Leader Hong in the past. Whether the move was called ‘imperial consort riding an ox’ or ‘Xi Shi riding a goat’[1], how could he remember about it right now?

With everything he had he leaped up and landed onto Cult Leader Hong’s neck. Actually he had not practiced this move to perfection; but even if he did, he would never be able to execute the move against a first class martial art master like Cult Leader Hong. It’s just that Cult Leader Hong had had a fierce battle against four Divine Dragon Cult’s martial art masters, and then Madame Hong denounced him; his mind was disturbed, plus he received several heavy blows one after another, the last one being the Wild-goose Tail Saber cutting deep into his bone, and a judge pen penetrating deep into his lower abdomen. After running for several hundred steps, he lost a lot of blood, his internal energy was depleted, his grab on Wei Xiaobao’s back was weak, so that as soon as Wei Xiaobao struggled he was able to free himself and finally rode on his neck. Riding on Cult Leader Hong’s shoulder, Wei Xiaobao was afraid he might be thrown down, instinctively he grabbed Cult Leader Hong’s head to get a hold, the middle finger of both hands happened to press on Cult Leader Hong’s eyelids.

Something flashed like a lightning in Cult Leader Hong’s mind; he remembered that it was he himself who taught Wei Xiaobao this move. As soon as he managed to ride on the enemy’s neck, he should immediately dig the enemy’s eyes out. Cult Leader Hong would never had imagined that as a hero of this age, in the end he would lose his life under this little urchin’s hand. Not only that, the move he was using was exactly the one he taught him. It was indeed an appropriate retribution. Remembering the countless number of people he had killed during his lifetime, receiving this karma could not be considered injustice; he could not help but heaving a deep sigh, his hands drooped down by his side.

As soon as Cult Leader Hong relaxed his body, he was unable to bear the load, hence he fell face up. Wei Xiaobao still thought that it was part of some formidable move; hastily he leaped back and ran away. He heard Cult Leader Hong said while gasping for breath, “Ah Quan, Ah Quan, come … come here.”

Madame Hong took several steps closer, but she stopped more than a zhang away in front of him. Cult Leader Hong said, “The child in … in your belly, actually … actually whose child is it?”

Madame Hong shook her head and said, “Why do you insist on knowing?” While saying that, she involuntarily cast a side long glance toward Wei Xiaobao, her face blushed slightly.

Cult Leader Hong was shocked and angered at the same time; he shouted, “Could it be … could it be this little demon?”

Madame Hong bit her lip without saying anything; obviously it was a tacit approval. Cult Leader Hong bellowed, “I’ll kill this little demon!” He sprang up and pounced on Wei Xiaobao.

With face full of blood, Cult Leader Hong opened his mouth wide, exposing badly damaged, broken yellowish teeth; his hands were also dripping with blood, as he pounced toward Wei Xiaobao. Wei Xiaobao was so scared that his body and soul separated; he turned around and crawled underneath Madame Hong’s crotch and hid behind her. With arms wide open Madame Hong confronted Cult Leader Hong; she said indifferently, “Your prestige has shaken the world, now it’s enough!”

Cult Leader Hong was leaping in the air, the last ounce of real chi in his body disappeared without a trace, ‘Wham!’ his body landed by Madame Hong’s feet. Yet he still fiercely said, “I am the Cult Leader, you … you should obey … obey my command. Why … why … did everybody rebel against me? You … all of you are wrong, only … only I am right. I will kill all of you, only I, one man can … can enjoy immortal good fortune forever … my long life … the same as hea … hea … hea …” Without able to finish the last word ‘heaven’, his mouth gaped open, he breathed his last, but his eyes were still wide open.

Wei Xiaobao crawled away several more steps and then he jumped to run away for several more zhang before he turned around and saw that Cult Leader Hong was lying on the ground unmoving. After a long time he took two steps closer, while taking the stance that he was ready to flee any time. “Is he dead?” he asked.

Madame Hong sighed and said quietly, “He is dead.”

Wei Xiaobao took two more steps and asked, “He … how come his eyes are not closed?”

Suddenly ‘slap!’ his face was heavily slapped, followed by a twist on his right ear; it was Princess Jianning. She also kicked Wei Xiaobao’s buttocks while cursing, “You, son of a b1tch, he did not close his eyes because you stole his wife. You … why did you fool around with this shameless woman?”

“Humph,” Madame Hong snorted, while reaching out to grab the back of Princess Jianning’s neck, ‘slap!’ she also heavily slapped her face. Waving her arm, she tossed the Princess backward to the ground. When this happened, Wei Xiaobao was the one who suffered the most, because the Princess’ right hand was still twisting his ear. As her body tumbled backward, she took Wei Xiaobao’s ear along that he fell on top of her.

Madame Hong shouted, “You talk without compass and set square. I will kill you at once.”

The Princess was furious; she sprang up and charged toward Madame Hong. Madame Hong moved her left foot to hook, the Princess tripped and fell face down. The Princess charged again for the third time, and again she was thrown down to the ground. Finally she realized that her martial art skill was too far below the opponent’s. She sat on the ground and broke into crying and swearing. But she did not dare to curse Madame Hong; she merely repeated over and over, “Little b@stard! Dead eunuch! Little animal! Stinky Xiao Guizi!”

Wei Xiaobao stroke his hurting ear, and felt blood on his hand. Turned out the Princess had pulled his ear too hard that she tore a long cut on it.

Madame Hong said in a low voice, “He and I were always husband and wife, is it alright if I bury him?” Her voice was gentle, as if she was pleading that Wei Xiaobao would allow her to do so.

Wei Xiaobao was pleasantly surprised; he hastily said, “Of course it’s alright, we should bury him.” Picking up the judge pen from the ground, he and Madame Hong started to dig a hole on the beach. Fang Yi and Mu Jianping came along to help. Together they put Cult Leader Hong’s body into the hole and bury him.

Madame Hong kneeled down and kowtowed several times; she quietly said, “Although you forced me to marry you, but … but after we got married, you have always treated me well. I have never had any feeling toward you. Now that you are dead, you might as well know about it, you don’t need to take it to heart.” Finished speaking, she stood up, and could not stop the tears from streaming down her face.

She stood in a daze for a moment, and then she wiped her tears and asked Wei Xiaobao, “Are we going to stay here, or go back to the Central Plains?”

Wei Xiaobao scratched his head, “We definitely cannot stay here,” he said, “Hong Jiaozhu, Mr. Lu and the others’ ghosts will definitely demand our lives; it’s desperately serious. But if we return to the Central Plains, the young Emperor wants my head. It would be best if … if we can find a peace and quiet place where we can hide.” Suddenly he remembered a place. “I got it,” he said happily, “Let us go to the Tong Chi Island. There’s no ghost there, and the young Emperor won’t be able to find me.”

“Tong Chi Island?” Madame Hong asked, “Where is it?”

Wei Xiaobao pointed to the west and said with a laugh, “There’s a small island over there, I call it Tong Chi Island.” [reminder: tong chi means ‘eat ‘em all’ (gambling).]

Madame Hong nodded. “If you like to go there, let us all go,” she said. For some reason, she was very obedient to him [orig. ‘a thousand compliance a hundred obedience’].

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted. “Go, go!” he shouted, “Let us go together!” Going over to the Princess, he helped her up while saying with a laugh, “Let us go on board!”

The Princess waved her palm, Wei Xiaobao leaned sideways to dodge. The Princess angrily said, “You go to hell! I am not going with you!”

Wei Xiaobao said, “There are lots and lots of ghosts on this island: headless ghosts, legless ghosts, and ghosts whose intestines were blasted by the cannon, and then multi-hand ghosts who love to stroke pregnant women’s belly …”

Hearing that, the Princess was extremely scared; she stomped her foot and said, “And then there’s chewing-maggot ghosts who love to speak nonsense.” Her left foot flew out, she kicked Wei Xiaobao’s buttocks heavily. “Ah!” Wei Xiaobao screamed and jumped away.

Madame Hong camly walked over. The Princess backed off several steps. Madame Hong said, “Later on if you hit Wei Gongzi one time, I will hit you ten times. If you kick him one time, I will kick you ten times. I have spoken, and my words always count.”

The Princess was so angry that her countenance turned deathly pale. She said angrily, “Who are you to him? Why do you protect him so? Your … your own husband is dead, you want to snatch someone else’s husband?”

Fang Yi interrupted, “Isn’t your own husband also dead?”

The Princess was furious. “Little s1ut,” she cursed, “Your husband is also dead.”

Madame Hong slowly said, “If you dare to speak one more rude sentence, I’ll leave you alone on this island and won’t let anybody accompany you.”

The Princess thought that this vixen was able to do whatever she was able to say; if she was left alone on the Island, and then a lot of ghosts with spilled intestine, ghosts with many hands came out, what should she do? All her life she lived as the Princess, she only needed to point her finger and people would jump to do her bidding; but this time she had no choice but to put aside her ‘golden branch, jade leave’ status and her harsh and unreasonable, rough temperament, and obediently stopped making noise.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he thought, “This little vicious gal met her match today; from now on someone is able to control her, so that she would not hit me whenever she is not in a good mood.” He raised his hand toward his ear, which was torn by her; it was throbbing with pain.

Madame Hong said to Fang Yi, “Miss Fang, please tell the boatmen to prepare to set sail.”

“Yes,” Fang Yi replied. She then added, “How could Madame be this polite to your subordinate? I really do not deserve it.”

Madame Hong smiled and said, “From this day onward we are sisters; there’s no more Madame and subordinate. You call me Quan Jiejie, I’ll call you Yi Meimei. The poison’s antidote, I’ll give it to you as soon as we get onboard. Henceforth you have nothing to worry about.” Fang Yi and Mu Jianping were exremely delighted.

They all went aboard, the boat sailed westward. Wei Xiaobao glanced to the left and right; he was very proud of himself. True to her word, Madame Hong took out the antidote and gave it to Fang Yi. She also opened the boat’s safe, took out Wei Xiaobao’s dagger, his ‘han sha she ying’ secret projectile, his banknotes, everything, and gave them back to him. Zeng Rou’s and the others’ weapons were also returned.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “How about from now on I also call you Quan Jiejie?”

“Very good!” Madame Hong happily replied, “Let’s tell each other our age, see who is older and who is younger.”

Everybody told their birth date, month and year. Naturally Madame Hong, Su Quan was the oldest. Fang Yi was next, and then the Princess. Zeng Rou, Mu Jianping and Wei Xiaobao were born on the same year. Zeng Rou was three months older than he, while Mu Jianping was a few days younger.

Su Quan, Fang Yi, and the others, four women called each other Jiejie and Meimei [older and younger sisters, respectively] affectionately. Only the Princess stood on the side, sulking. Su Qian said, “She is Her Highness the Princess, naturally she is unwilling to be sisters with us, common people. All of us should keep addressing her as Your Highness the Princess.”

The Princess coldly said, “I do not dare.” She thought about how they unite and form a clique, leaving her alone without any ally; she also thought about the dead eunuch Xiao Guizi, who had no conscience, who was apparently a lot closer to those four women than to her. Thinking about her sad fate, she could not help feeling broken hearted and broke into tears.

Wei Xiaobao leaned to her side, pulling her hand to comfort her, and said in a gentle voice, “Alright, alright; we are all happy here, please don’t cry …”

The Princess raised her palm, and slapped it hard, but suddenly she remembered Su Quan’s warning. This palm strike carried a lot of force, she was unable to hold it back. Without any other choice she changed direction midway, ‘slap!’ it heavily slapped her own chest. “Ah!” she screamed in pain.

Everybody else broke into loud laughter. The Princess was even more furious; she buried her face in Wei Xiaobao’s bosom and cried loudly. “Alright, alright,” Wei Xiaobao said with a laugh, “No need to fight. Let’s throw dice, I’ll be the banker.”

But after searching carefully inside the Cult Leader Hong’s safe, they still could not find Wei Xiaobao’s pair of dice. It must be that when Lu Gaoxuan was searching his body, he tossed the dice away carelessly. Wei Xiaobao was quite dejected. Su Quan laughed and said, “We can carve two dice from a piece of wood.”

“Wood is too light,” Wei Xiaobao said, “They are no fun to throw.”

Zeng Rou put her hand into her pocket, when she pulled it out, her hand was clenched into a fist. “Guess,” she said with a laugh, “What is it?”

“Is it copper coin?” Wei Xiaobao said, “That’s also good. Better than not gambling.”

Zeng Rou laughed and said, “Guess, how many?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Three?”

Zeng Rou opened up her palm; lying on her pink palm were unexpectedly two dice.

“Ah!” Wei Xiaobao cried loudly; he sprang up and asked repeatedly, “Where did you get it? Where did you get it?”

With a soft chuckle Zeng Rou put the dice on the table. Wei Xiaobao scrambled forward, grabbed the dice and started to throw; his excitement knew no bounds. He felt that there was a slight imbalance of weight on these two dice; obviously these dice were loaded with mercury. He thought Zeng Rou was always gentle and shy, how could she possibly play with these kind of loaded dice to cheat some money? Upon further reflection, he remembered, and was very happy. Turning around and gave her a hug, he kissed her face and said with a laugh, “Thank you very much, Rou Jiejie, luckily you always keep these two dice by your side.”

Zeng Rou blushed profusely; she struggled and ran outside to the deck. What happened was that when Wei Xiaobao and the Wang Wu Pai disciples threw dice with their lives at stake that day, after he let everybody go, just before leaving Wei Xiaobao’s command tent, Zeng Rou had asked for these two dice. Wei Xiaobao had already forgotten about this, but Zeng Rou had always kept the dice with her.

Now they had the dice, but not a single one of the women had any interest in gambling. Although they did play to keep him company, not only the stake was low, they did not care much about winning or losing either. After playing for no more than the time needed to eat a meal, everybody no longer had any interest in playing. Compared to the people in Yangzhou’s brothel or casino, or people in the Palace, or the people in military, who bet excessively and gamble ferociously, the difference was like night and day. Wei Xiaobao’s interest quickly waned. “No more playing, no more playing!” he blurted out, “You don’t know how to play.”

Thinking that from now on he was going to take refuge on the Tong Chi Island, although there would be five beauties to keep him company, but there would not be any money to gamble, not a play to listen to; his days would be very boring. Besides, even if there was ten million gold or silver, what’s the use? Gold and silver would just be like sand and stone; winning money would just like winning sand and stone. Moreover, the concern over whether Shuang’er was alive or was dead, and that Ah Ke’s whereabouts was unknown, was constantly in his mind; how could he cast away the thought about these two girls and simply forget about them?

The more he thought about it, the more depressed he was. “Let’s not going to Tong Chi Island,” he said.

“So, where do you want to go?” Su Quan asked.

Wei Xiaobao thought for a moment before replying, “Let’s go to Liaodong, to dig that great amount of buried treasure out.”

Su Quan said, “Won’t it be great if all of us just spend our days in peace and quiet on an uninhabited island? Even if we can dig the great treasure out, it will be quite useless.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Gold, silver, pearls and jewels by the thousands and tens of thousands, how can it be useless?”

Fang Yi said, “The Tatar Emperor must have sent out troops and horses everywhere to look for you, we’d better hide and lie low until the fuss dies down. After a year or two, this matter will settle down; if you still want to go to Liaodong, then all of us will go, it won’t be too late by then.”

Wei Xiaobao asked Zeng Rou and Mu Jianping, “What the two of you think?”

Mu Jianping said, “I think Shijie is right.”

Zeng Rou said, “If you are afraid of boredom, we’ll hide on the island for no more than several months.” Seeing unhappy expression on Wei Xiaobao’s face, she added, “Every day we will accompany you throwing dice and play, whoever lose will be punish by having his or her palm slapped; is it all right?”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “Damn it, what’s so fun about slapping someone’s palm?” But looking at her tender and bashful face, her cute mannerism, he could not stop his heart from being swept away. “Alright, alright,” he said, “I will listen to you all.”

Fang Yi stood up and said with a smile, “I have constantly wronged you in the past, let me make some dishes and invite you to drink wine; just consider it my apology to you, is it all right?”

Wei Xiaobao was delighted; he busily said, “I really don’t dare to accept it.”

Fang Yi went to the stern to cook. Fang Yi’s culinary skill was indeed superb, she paid particular attention to the seasoning; although the boat did not have complete inventory of spices and seasoning, the people who ate it did not stop praising her.

“Let’s play finger-guessing game,” Wei Xiaobao shouted.

Mu Jianping, Zeng Rou and the Princess had never played finger-guessing game before. Wei Xiaobao taught them ‘two good brothers’, ‘the brightest and best of the Five Classics’, ‘four seasons safe and sound’ guesses. At first the Princess was sullen and unhappy, but after guessing several fists, and drank several cups of wine, she started to talk and laugh more.

After spending a night on the boat, the next afternoon they arrived at the Tong Chi Island. They saw the remains of the camp of Qing navy built there, the thatched cottage used as the command tent in those days was still standing, but naturally the impressive air Wei Xiaobao set up as the great general was long gone. Yet Wei Xiaobao did not seem to mind at all; pulling Fang Yi’s hand along he laughed and said, “Yi Jiejie, that day it was right here that you tricked me into getting on the boat, and narrowly lose my little life, and was sent away to Luocha Country.”

Fang Yi giggled tenderly and said, “I have already apologized to you; are you saying that I should kowtow and apologize to you?”

“No need to do that,” Wei Xiaobao said, “But good intention has its own good reward; I suffered untold hardships, in the end I can really be with you today.”

From behind them Mu Jianping called out, “What are you two talking about? Can you share it with us?”

Fang Yi laughed and said, “He said he wants to catch you, and carve a little turtle on your face.”

Su Quan said, “Let’s not fool around and play yet, it’s more important that we deal with serious matters first.” Right away she ordered the boatmen to take all the provision and utensils from the boat and brought it to the island; she also ordered them to dismantle the sail, poles for punting boats, oars, ropes, the wooden rudder at the back of the boat, and brought everything to the island, and keep them inside a cave on an overhanging cliff.

Wei Xiaobao praised her, “Quan Jiejie is really careful, we must look at these things, this boat must be torn apart, so we need not worry that they will escape.”

He had not finished speaking when from a distance they heard a ‘bang!’ from the direction of the sea, it sounded like a cannon. The six of them were surprised; they all look to the ocean, and saw that amidts the white fog that filled the surface of the ocean, there were two ships heading this way. And then they heard ‘bang, bang!’; obviously the ships opened fire two more times.

“Not good!” Wei Xiaobao called out, “The young Emperor sends people to catch me.”

Zeng Rou said, “Quickly get on the boat and run away.”

Su Quan said, “The sail and the rudder are all ashore, there’s no time to assemble them; we’ll have to hide and act according to circumstances.”

Out of these six people, other than the Princess, the remaining five had experienced many hardships and perils, hence they did not panic at all. Su Quan said, “No matter how we hide, in the end the officers and men will find us. Let us hide inside the cave on that cliff over there; the officers and men could only attack up the cliff one by one. One comes, we kill one. This way we will not be swarmed by them.”

“Right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “This is called ‘a man is shut off, catching a turtle in a jar’.”

Su Quan smiled. “That’s right!” she said. But the Princess could not help bursting into loud laughter.

Wei Xiaobao glowered at her. “What’s so funny?” he asked.

The Princess pursed her lips. “Nothing,” she said with a laugh, “You used your idiom really well, I am full of admiration.”

To some degree Wei Xiaobao knew his own limitation, he presumed that he must have used the idiom incorrectly, hence he glowered at the Princess.

The six of them entered the cave. Su Quan brandished a saber to cut some branches and piled them up in front of the cave as a cover. They looked out from the gaps between the branches, and saw that the two boats, one in front the other behind it, sailed straight toward the Tong Chi Island. The ship on the back continuously fired its cannon, the shells landed on the water all around the ship on the front, columns of water rose up to the sky.

“The boat on the back opens fire to attack the boat at the front,” Wei Xiaobao said.

“Exactly,” Su Quan said, “Turns out the two boats are fighting each other.”

Wei Xiaobao happily said, “In that case perhaps those two boats are not here to look for us.”

“I hope so,” Su Quan said, “It’s just that when they arrive on the Island, they will see the boatmen. As soon as they ask, they will know, and then they will definitely search for us. Even if we rush to kill the boatmen first, there’s not enough time to bury their bodies.”

“How come the ship in the front did not fire back?” Wei Xiaobao wondered, “Totally useless. It would be best if you fire me once, I fire you once, everybody is hit, both ships go down to the bottom of the ocean together.”

The boat at the front was comparatively smaller, the sail absorbed the entire force of the wind, it sailed really fast. Suddenly with a cannon blast the mast broke, the sailcloth caught fire. Wei Xiaobao and the others could not help crying out in alarm. The boat in the front immediately leaned to one side, the hull turned horizontal. The boat lowered a small skiff, about a dozen people got on the skiff and started rowing. By this time they were already near the Island, the boat on the back also gradually got near, but because the water was shallow, the bigger boat could not reach the shore. This boat also lowered some skiffs, five of them.

The front one skiff trying to escape, the rear five skiff were pursuing them. Shortly afterwards, the front skiff reached the beach, the dozen or so people jumped ashore, they looked around carefully. Someone leaped forward and cried out, “The overhanging cliff overthere can be defended, everybody go that way.”

Hearing the voice, Wei Xiaobao thought it sounded like his Shifu Chen Jinnan. The dozen or so people climbed along the hillside and rushed toward the cliff. When they were near, one of them, with a sword in his hand, stood at the edge of the cliff, giving orders; who would it be if not Chen Jinnan? Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, from the cave he leaped out and called, “Shifu, Shifu!”

Chen Jinnan turned around and saw Wei Xiaobao; he was also pleasantly surprised. “Xiaobao,” he called out, “How can you be here?”

Wei Xiaobao rushed toward him like flying. Suddenly he stopped dead on his track, because he saw that among the dozen or so people there was a young woman with bright eyes and snow white skin; unexpectedly it was Ah Ke. “Ah Ke!” he called at the top of his lungs, and scrambled over. But then he saw someone standing behind her; unsurprisingly, it was Zheng Keshuang. Since he saw Ah Ke, it was only natural that he would also see Zheng Keshuang; it was only to be expected. But he was greatly delighted, and then suddenly he saw this loathsome fellow, his heart sank instantly; he only stared blankly while his feet were rooted on the spot.

From the side someone called out, “Xianggong!”

Another person called out, “Wei Xiangzhu!”

Wei Xiaobao acknowledge the call without thinking, he did not even cast any glance from the corner of his eyes toward these two people, he was only staring blankly at Ah Ke. Suddenly a soft small hand reached out to grab his left palm. Wei Xiaobao’s body shook; he turned his head around to look, and saw a pretty face full of smile was looking at him, with tears continuously streaming down her face. It was Shuang’er.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he pulled her into his embrace. “Good Shuang’er,” he called out, “I miss you like crazy.” He was so happy that he felt his heart was about to explode. In that instant, even Ah Ke was pushed to the back of his mind.

“Feng Dage, Feng Xiongdi,” Chen Jinnan called out, “Let us guard this pathway.” The two men complied in chorus, each one pulled his weapon and stood side by side on the narrow path leading to the cliff. Turned out one was Feng Xifan, the other was Feng Jizhong [Note: different ‘feng’ characters].

Suddenly seeing these many people, Wei Xiaobao could only asked, “How did you all get here?”

Shuang’er replied, “Feng Daye [term of respect for older men] took me to look for you, we came across Chen Zongduozhu, and we heard that you went into sea, thereupon … thereupon …” Speaking to this point, she was overwhelmed with joy that her throat choked and she was unable to continue.

By this time the pursuing troops from the five skiffs had also arrived on the beach. Looking down from the cliff, they saw that the troops were Qing soldiers, altogether there were seventy or eighty men. The one in front was holding a long saber, his stature was tall and sturdy, but it was too far, they could not see his facial features too clearly. That man directed the Qing troops to form groups. One group of men stood far away, the general barked his order, the troops took long bows from their backs, and some feathered arrows from their quivers; they strung the arrows on the bow, aiming the arrowhead to the cliff.

Chen Jinnan called out, “Everybody duck down!”

Actually, caught in this kind of situation, Wei Xiaobao did not need his Shifu’s order; as soon as he saw the Qing troops with bows in their hands, he had already stationed himself behind a large rock. He heard the general shouted, “Release the arrows!” Immediately there was an unending sound of swishing arrows.

The cliff was very high, shot from the bottom going up, by the time the arrows arrived, they already lost their momentum. Feng Xifan and Feng Jizhong, one with a sword, the other with a single-blade saber, braved the arrows and broke every single one of them.

“Shi Lang,” Feng Xifan called out, “You are a shameless traitor; if you have guts, come up here, let you and laozi have a man-to-man duel to the death.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Turns out the one leading the troops down there is Shi Lang. Marching to war, this man is indeed an expert.”

He heard Shi Lang called back, “If you have guts, come down. One-to-one duel, Laozi is not afraid of you.”

“Alright!” Feng Xifan replied.

He was about to come down, Chen Jinnan said, “Feng Dage, don’t fall into his trick, this man is contemptible and shameless, he is capable of doing anything.”

Feng Xifan was only taking one step before he stopped. He called out, “You said one-to-one duel, why did you send five skiffs … damn it, six skiffs, even our skiff is also stolen. Stinky traitor, you sent the skiffs to get more people, isn’t that relying on number to gain victory?”

Shi Lang laughed and said, “Chen Junshi [lit. army master, military strategist], Captain Feng, the two of you have superb martial art skill, Ol’ Shi has always been full of admiration. There is a common saying, ‘a wise man submits to circumstances’. It would be better for you to take Zheng Gongzi down and surrender together, His Majesty will definitely bestow the two of you very high ranking official position.”

In the past Shi Lang was a great general under Zheng Chenggong’s [Koxinga] command; together with Zhou Quanbin, Gan Hui, Ma Xin, and Liu Guoxuan, four people, they were known as ‘Five Tiger Generals’[2]. Chen Jinnan was a military strategist; although Feng Xifan was strong in martial art, his commanding and planning skill was not too good, hence he was made the captain of Zheng Chenggong’s bodyguards. Shi Lang had fought alongside Chen and Feng, two people, in bloody battle, they had shared trials and tribulations for a long time. This time he still addressed the two people as their former military rank.

From the cliff down the distance was about seven or eight zhang, Shi Lang was standing far away, but his internal energy was abundant, every word he said could be heard clearly. Zheng Keshuang’s countenance changed; he said with a trembling voice, “Feng Shifu, you … you must not surrender.”

Gongzi, don’t worry,” Feng Xifan replied, “As long as Ol’ Feng still has one breath left, I will never surrender to the Tatars.”

Although Chen Jinnan knew that Feng Xifan was treacherous and devious, that twice or three times he had attempted to harm him, he wanted to protect Zheng Keshuang in his conspiracy to gain the Yan Ping Jun Wang Heir Apparent position; yet as he heard him speaking with ‘devotion to righteousness that inspires reverence’, Chen Jinnan was quite impressed. “Feng Dage,” he said, “Today side-by-side you and I will fight to death; whatever happens we will protect Er Gongzi [second young master] through and through.”

“I will follow Junshi,” Feng Xifan said.

Zheng Keshuang said, “By protecting me, Junshi will render merit; when we get back to Taiwan, I will definitely present a memorial to let Fu Wang [father king] understand clearly, he will definitely bestow great … great reward.”

Chen Jinnan said, “It is subordinate’s responsibility.” While saying that, he walked toward the shore to evaluate the situation.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Zheng Gongzi, great reward is not needed. As long as you don’t become hostile and heartless by harming my Shifu, we will greatly appreciate it.”

Zheng Keshuang shot him a malicious look. Wei Xiaobao lowered his voice, “Shijie, we’d better capture Zheng Gongzi and present him to the Qing troops.”

Ah Ke spat and said, “As soon as we met, you did not say anything good. Why did you scare him?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Scaring him several times is fun, he won’t die of fright anyway. Even if he is scared to death, it’s not a big deal.”

“Pei!” Ah Ke spat again; suddenly she blushed and lowered her head.

Wei Xiaobao asked Shuang’er, “How did all of you get together?”

Shuang’er said, “Chen Zongduozhu took Feng Daye and me to go out to sea to look for you. I remembered you have been to this Tong Chi Island, so I told Chen Zongduozhu about it and we went this way to take a look. Along the way we happened to see the Qing troops pursuing Zheng Gongzi’s boat, shooting and sinking it. So we rescued him and we fled this way. Thank heaven and thank the earth, at last we found you.” Speaking to this point, her eyes turned red.

Wei Xiaobao reached out to pat her shoulder. “Good Shuang’er,” he said, “These days, there was not a single day passed in which I did not think about you.” It was not an empty talk; every day he thought about Ah Ke and Shuang’er, two women, if not ten times, then at least eight time. As a matter of fact, he was concerned over Shuang’er’s safety more than he thought about Ah Ke.

“Brothers,” Chen Jinnan shouted, “While Tatar’s reinforcement has not arrived, we go down to charge and kill the enemy. Otherwise, if six skiff-loads of Tatar soldiers arrive, it won’t be easy to deal with.” Everybody voiced their agreement.

This time, from among the dozen or so people who came to the Island, other than Chen, Feng, Zheng, Feng, as well as Ah Ke and Shuang’er, there were eight Tian Di Hui brothers, and three of Zheng Keshuang’s personal bodyguards.

Chen Jinnan said, “Zheng Gongzi, Miss Chen, Xiaobao, Shuang’er, the four of you stay here. The rest of you, come with me!” Brandishing his sword, he was the first to rush down the cliff.

Feng Xifan, Feng Jizhong, and the eleven men followed, with loud battle cry they rushed down hill, charging swiftly toward the Qing troops. The Qing troops released the arrows in succession, all were knocked down by Chen, Feng and Feng, three men. Previously they were fighting a naval battle, Shi Lang’s boat was a battleship, its cannon was formidable, Chen Jinnan and the others could only take a beating. Presently they were in a close combat, among the Qing troops, other than Shi Lang, one person, the other men’s martial art skill was mediocre; how could they fight martial art experts like Chen, Feng, and Feng, three men? Tian Di Hui brothers and Zheng Mansion’s bodyguards were also quite skillful; as soon as these fourteen men charged into the formation, the Qing troops were completely routed.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Shijie, Shuang’er, let us also charge a bit.” Ah Ke and Shuang’er complied together.

“I am going too!” Zheng Keshuang said.

He saw Wei Xiaobao with a dagger in his hand charged down the cliff, Shuang’er and Ah Ke ran one after another behind him. Zheng Keshuang was only rushing down several steps before he halted his steps; thinking, “I have a thousand-gold body, how can I go to face danger together with these underlings?” He called out, “Ah Ke, you should not go either!” Ah Ke did not respond, she followed close behind Wei Xiaobao.

Although Wei Xiaobao’s martial art skill was so-so, he had four treasures with him; charging into the enemy ranks, it was like crossing a ravine like a flat ground. Which four treasures? The first treasure: his dagger was extremely sharp, the enemy’s weapons broke upon contact; the second treasure: his protective treasured vest, impervious to sword or spear; the third treasure: his exquisite escaping-skill, no enemy could catch up with him; the fourth treasure: Shuang’er always stayed by his side, the Qing troops could not get close to him.

Based on these four treasures, if he had to fight a martial art master, he would not be able to avoid defeat; however, dealing with the Qing troops, the four treasures were more than enough. In a flash he already injured several men; his impressive power was in full display, aura of death emanating from his body. He thought, “In the past Zhao Zilong charged seven times through the ranks of Cao Cao’s army, I am sure it was no more than this. Perhaps even I, Wei Xiaobao …”

They all charged and kill the enemy, the Qing troops fled to all directions. Chen Jinnan fought Shi Lang one on one, for a short white they were locked in a fierce combat. Feng Xifan and Feng Jizhong killed the Qing troops left and right like chopping melon slicing vegetables; in less than a time to eat a meal, out of eighty some Qing troops, fifty or sixty men were either dead or injured. The ruined army, defeated generals scrambled to the sea. These navy sailors were very adept in swimming, they hurriedly swam toward the big boat. On the other side two of Tian Di Hui brothers were dead, one was seriously injured. The rest of them surrounded Shi Lang.

Shi Lang’s steel saber fluttered and flew, it clashed intensely with the sword in Chen Jinnan’s hand. Although trapped and heavily surrounded, he did not show the least bit of fear. Wei Xiaobao called out, “General Shi, if you don’t toss your saber away and surrender, very soon you will become dog meat paste.” Shi Lang’s mind was focused on the fight, he neither saw nor hear the words and actions of the bystanders.

The fierce combat continued. Chen Jinnan let out a long whistle, and thrust his sword forward three times in rapid succession. On the third strike his sword stuck to Shi Lang’s steel saber. Chen Jinnan flicked his wrist, and made two circles. “Ah!” Shi lang cried out, the steel saber flew out of his hand. The tip of Chen Jinnan’s sword flashed and stopped at his throat. “What do you have to say?” he shouted.

“You have won,” Shi Lang angrily retorted, “Just kill me and be done with it. What else do you want me to say?”

Chen Jinnan said, “This moment do you still think yourself as a hero? You turned your back against your master and betrayed your friends, is that the conduct of a hero?”

Shi Lang suddenly threw himself back and rolled on the ground. With this roll he broke away from the tip of the sword on his throat. With both legs he executed chain-kicks, his target was Chen Jinnan’s calf. Chen Jinnan pointed his sword in front of his legs. If Shi Lang continued to kick, he would only send his own legs to be impaled by the sword. In desperation he pressed his left hand to the ground to support himself, while with both legs he forcefully feigned a kick upward, and then quickly somersaulted backward. But as soon as he stood on his feet, the tip of Chen Jinnan’s sword was already waiting in front of his throat again.

Shi Lang’s heart turned cold; he knew in term of martial art he was not Chen Jinnan’s match. “Junshi,” he suddenly asked, “How did Guoxing Ye [Koxinga] treat me?”

This question caught Chen Jinnan totally off-guard. In that instant, the entanglement of gratitude and grudges between Zheng Chenggong and Shi Lang flashed through Chen Jinnan’s mind. He sighed and said, “To be fair with you, Guoxing Ye did indeed wrong you. But we have received Guoxing Ye’s great kindness; although we received unjust treatment, what can we do?”

Shi Lang said, “Are you saying that I should immitate Yue Fei, suffer false accusations and die?”

Chen Jinnan said in stern voice, “Even if you cannot be Yue Fei, you must not be Qin Hui[3]. You ran away for your life, that was all right. But how can a real man surrender to the Tatars and become a traitor that is worse than a dog or a pig?”

Shi Lang said, “My father and mother, my brothers, wife and children, what crime have they committed? Why did Guoxing Ye kill them all that not a single one survive? He murdered my entire family, I want to kill his entire family to revenge!”

Chen Jinnan said, “Revenge is a small matter, becoming a traitor is a big thing. Today I am going to kill you. I want to know if you will have the face to see Guoxing Ye.”

Shi Lang straightened up his head and loudly said, “Go ahead and kill me. I am afraid it will be Guoxing Ye who won’t have the face to see me, not I don’t have the face to see him.”

Chen Jinnan sternly said, “Up to this point you still argue forcefully.” He was going to thrust the sword into his throat, but could not help thinking about how in the olden days Shi Lang and he had marched to battle together, how they had gone through life and death together. Under Guoxing Ye, Shi Lang started as a lowly soldier; he rose through blood soaked and hard-fought battle, his meritorious service was indeed not small. If not for Madame Dong meddling with military affairs and actively insulting the generals, today this man would be the protective wall of Taiwan. Although going over to the enemy was a treason that could not be forgiven no matter what, his whole innocent family was killed, in all honesty this man deserved sympathy.

“I’ll give you a path to life,” Chen Jinnan said, “If you swear an oath to denounce your surrender and return to serve Zheng Wangye, today I will spare your life. From now on you can atone for your crimes by meritorious acts, striving your hardest to resume the great undertaking, and then you can still be considered as a magnificent real man. Shi Xiongdi, I encourage you with good words, hoping you would turn around.” The last few words were spoken with utmost sincerity.

Shi Lang lowered his head, his face bore an ashamed look; he said, “If I return to Taiwan, won’t I be a capricious lowly man?”

Chen Jinnan put his sword back into its sheathe; he stepped forward to grip Shi Lang’s hand and said, “Shi Xiongdi, as decent human beings we must pay particular attention to righteousness and moral integrity. As long as henceforth you serve your country with red-bellied devotion, your muddled past, who would dare to laugh at you? Even Guan Wangye in the past also surrendered to Cao Cao.”

Suddenly a voice behind him said, “This evil thief said that my Yeye [paternal grandfather] killed his entire family. My Taiwan definitely won’t pardon him. You quickly kill him.”

Chen Jinnan turned his head around and saw that the voice belonged to Zheng Keshuang. “Er Gongzi,” he said, “General Shi is well versed in the art of war; in those days he had no equal in Guoxing Ye’s army. If he surrenders back, he will bring very great benefit to our great cause of fighting the Qing restoring the Ming. We must attach most importance to our country; none of us should take personal gratitude and grudges of the past to heart.”

“Humph,” with a cold laugh Zheng Keshuang said, “If this man returned to Taiwan and got a grip of military power, do you think our Zheng Family will survive?”

Chen Jinnan said, “As long as General Shi swears a heavy oath, I am willing to guarantee with my own life, as well as my family’s, that he will not have a change of heart.”

With a cold laugh Zheng Keshuang said, “By the time he killed my entire family, do you think you and your family’s lives can compensate for ours? Taiwan belongs to our Zheng Family, not yours, Chen Junshi’s, Chen Family’s.”

Chen Jinnan was so angry that his hands and feet turned ice-cold. He struggled hard to contain his anger. He was about to reply when suddenly Shi Lang moved his feet and dashed away. “Junshi,” he called out, “Your yi qi to me is profound, Xiongdi will never forget it. Xiongdi is unwilling to be Zheng Family’s slave …”

“Shi Xiongdi,” Chen Jinnan called out, “Come back. Let’s talk …” Suddenly he felt sharp pain on his back, a blade entered his back and went all the way until its tip came out of his chest.

It was actually Zheng Keshuang who carried out his evil scheme behind Chen Jinnan’s back. Based on Chen Jinnan’s martial art skill, even ten Zheng Keshuang would not be able to kill him; however, he saw that Shi Lang was contemplating the idea of surrendering, but Zheng Keshuang cursed him that he left, Chen Jinnan knew that this person was a rare talent, he was hoping to pull him back, and had never expected that Zheng Keshuang, who was standing behind him, would unexpectedly carry out his evil scheme.

After Zheng Chenggong captured Taiwan, he sent his son Zheng Jing to defend Jinmen, Xiamen[4]. Zheng Jing was very adept in military matters, but his conduct was not careful, he slept with a wet nurse and gave birth to a son. When Zheng Chenggong found out about it, he was exceptionally furious; he wanted to send someone with his arrow banner of command to go to Xiamen to kill Zheng Jing. The various generals under his command thought that it was a reckless order, hence they were unwilling to receive the order, together they submit a report, saying that the day to pay a debt of gratitude would come, they must wait indefinitely, and so on.

Seeing his generals refused to follow his order, Zheng Chenggong was even more furious; not long afterwards he fell ill and died at the age of 39. Taiwan’s high-ranking military officers threw their full support to Zheng Chenggong’s younger brother Zheng Xi and made him their master. From Jinmen and Xiamen Zheng Jing returned to Taiwan and defeated the Taiwan’s defenders, hence he inherited the title Yan Ping Wang.

Zheng Chenggong’s wife, Madame Dong saw that disaster had struck and that there would be changes in the family, their Wangye had died an untimely death, it was all because of the wet nurse giving birth to a son; for this reason she detested the wet nurse’s son, Zheng Kesang, and did everything in her power to support her grandson from Zheng Jing’s first wife, Zheng Keshuang to be the heir apparent. Zheng Jing, however, refused to obey his mother.

Chen Jinnan had always been loyal and devoted to Zheng Jing. He gave his daughter to Zheng Kesang as his wife. Madame Dong and Feng Xifan conspired in secret; they knew that if they wanted to support Zheng Keshuang, they must kill Chen Jinnan first so that he would not be a stumbling block to their plan. Several times did they try to harm him, but each time he managed to escape. Unexpectedly this time he rescued Zheng Keshuang’s life, but had fallen into this person’s evil scheme instead.

The stab from behind happened so suddenly, nobody had ever expected it. Feng Xifan was about to run after Shi Lang when he saw that Wei Xiaobao was thrusting his dagger toward Zheng Keshuang. Feng Xifan raised his sword to block. ‘Swish!’ the sword in his hand broke into two sections; but the internal energy behind the sword thrust was profound, Wei Xiaobao’s dagger was also jolted and flew from his hand. Feng Xifan’s leg followed, he kicked Wei Xiaobao and sent him tumbling down on the ground. He was about to pursue and attack, Shuang’er rushed in front of Wei Xiaobao to block. Feng Jizhong and two Tian Di Hui brothers also rushed forward to attack Feng Xifan from left and right.

Wei Xiaobao crawled up, picked up his dagger and howled in grief, “This vile creature killed Zongduozhu, everybody must fight him to the death!” while charging toward Zheng Keshuang.

Zheng Keshuang leaned sideways to evade, while thrusting his sword straight toward the back of Wei Xiaobao’s head. His martial art skill was far superior to Wei Xiaobao’s, this sword move was quite ingenious, it was obvious that Wei Xiaobao would have difficult time evading it. Suddenly a saber from the side parried the sword thrust; it was Ah Ke. She called out, “Don’t harm my Shidi!” And then two Tian Di Hui brothers launched a converging attack toward Zheng Keshuang.

Feng Xifan strenuously fought Feng Jizhong, Shuang’er and two Tian Di Hui brothers, four people, he was unable to gain the upper hand. ‘Slap!’ he sent out a palm strike toward a Tian Di Hui brother, who spurted out a mouthful of blood and fell dead. Suddenly he heard Zheng Keshuang’s ‘Wah, wah!’ loud cry; Feng Xifan abandoned his opponents and rushed toward Zheng Keshuang. With another palm strike he killed another Tian Di Hui brother.

He knew that now that Chen Jinnan was dead, these people would follow Wei Xiaobao’s command, hence he must deal with the little demon first. Stretching out his hand, his palm shot down onto the top of Wei Xiaobao’s head.

“Xianggong, run!” Shuang’er called out, while leaping toward Feng Xifan’s back.

“You must be careful too!” Wei Xiaobao called back and ran away.

Feng Xifan thought, “If I run after this little demon, Gongzi will have nobody to protect him.” Reaching out with his left arm, he grabbed Zheng Keshuang and ran after Wei Xiaobao. Although he was carrying a grown man, he was still a bit faster than Wei Xiaobao.

Wei Xiaobao turned his head around to look and jumped in fright. He reached out to press the ‘Han Sha She Ying’ mechanism, but because of this, his footsteps was somewhat delayed, Feng Xifan came very fast, his right palm already arrived. It was a ‘thousand pounds hang by a threat’ situation, if Wei Xiaobao waited to release the secret projectile, most likely his brain would be busted by Feng Xifan’s palm. Without any choice he leaned sideways to evade, and then using the ‘Shen Xing Bai Bian’ he ran away. Carried by his own momentum Feng Xifan ran several more steps before hastily halted his steps and turned around to chase him. Wei Xiaobao called out, “My Shifu’s ghost is coming! He is touching your head!” Because he spoke, his feet slowed down, Feng Xifan was one step closer.

Behind, Shuang’er and Feng Jizhong also urgently gave chase; they were hoping they could cut Feng Xifan off. Wei Xiaobao fled to the east and rushed to the west in erratic pattern, while Feng Xifan was carrying Zheng Keshuang, hence his movement was not as nimble, for the time being he was unable to catch him. Shuang’er and Feng Jizhong were still several zhang behind.

After running around for a while, Wei Xiaobao gradually felt he was out of breath. In a moment of desperation, he forced himself to run toward the cliff. Feng Xifan was greatly delighted, thinking that this time you are running to a dead-end yourself. He saw that other than a narrow pathway, all around the cliff was empty space, there was no way out; hence he relaxed his speed instead.

Running along the narrow mountain path, Wei Xiaobao did not use the ‘Shen Xing Bai Bian’ skill. He had just set his foot on the top of the cliff, Feng Xifan had also arrived. Wei Xiaobao shouted at the top of his voice, “First wife, middle wife, young wife, everybody quickly come out and help me, if you are not coming out, everybody will become widows.”

Actually, while he was running to the cliff, the five women on the cliff had already seen him. Su Quan saw Feng Xifan was carrying someone in his left arm, yet he was still able to run and leap like flying; indeed his martial art skill was very strong, perhaps just a notch inferior to Cult Leader Hong. Early on she already had a blade in her hand as she crouched by the side of the cliff. As soon as Feng Xifan caught up, ‘Shua!’ her saber swiftly sliced across his waist.

When Feng Xifan heard Wei Xiaobao shouting and calling earlier, he still thought that Wei Xiaobao was making a fuss to disturb his attention, he had never expected that someone was really hiding in this place. He saw this saber move was exquisite and unusual, it was indeed a superb move; he was slightly startled and took a step back. With a loud shout his left foot slightly swayed, his right foot suddenly flew out and kicked Su Quan’s wrist.

“Ah!” Su Quan cried out, the willow-leaf saber left her hand and flew to the air. Wei Xiaobao seized this split-second opportunity to turn his body to face Feng Xifan, his right hand activate the ‘Han Sha She Ying’ mechanism, with a series of ‘chi, chi, chi’ noise a cluster of fine, thin steel needles shot out, all landed on Feng Xifan and Zheng Keshuang’s bodies.

Feng Xifan screamed loudly, his grip loosened, Zheng Keshuang fell to the ground. The two of them rolled from the cliff along the narrow path down the mountain. Shuang’er and Feng Jizhong were rushing halfway up the mountain, seeing these two people rolling down fast, they leaped sideways to avoid collision.

Zheng and Feng, two people rolled down to the foot of the cliff. As soon as the poison on the needles flared out, the two of them screamed and squealed like a pig being slaughtered, while still rolling down continuously. Fortunately after He Tishou entered Huashan Pai, she obeyed her master’s instruction; henceforth she discarded any sinister and acute poison she had been using. The poison on these ‘Han Sha She Ying’ steel needles only had anesthetic effect, not life threatening poison at all. Otherwise, based on her status as the Cult Leader of the Five-Poison Cult, the poison on her concealed weapons would immediately seal the throat upon contact with blood, the person hit would immediately die a violent death; before Feng and Zheng, two people reached the foot of the cliff, they would have taken their last breath. Even so, as the steel needles hit their bodies, they still felt unbearably numb and itchy; it was as if several hundred scorpions and centipedes were crawling and biting all over their bodies at once. Although Feng Xifan was strong and healthy, he still could not bear not to scream unceasingly.

Wei Xiaobao, Shuang’er, Feng Jizhong, Su Quan, Fang Yi, Mu Jianping, the Princess, Zeng Rou, Ah Ke rushed over one after another; seeing Feng and Zheng, two people’s condition, they were all aghast. Wei Xiaobao calmed himself down a little, and then still panting for breath, he rushed toward Chen Jinnan. He saw that Zheng Keshuang’s sword bored through Chen Jinnan’s chest; it was still stuck on his body, but he had not breathed his last. Wei Xiaobao could not help bursting into tears as he picked up Chen Jinnan’s body.

Chen Jinnan’s power was very profound, his internal breathing had not yet dispersed. “Xiaobao,” he said in a low voice, “Everybody will eventually die. I … I have lived my entire life for my country, for my people, I have a clear conscience against the heaven and the earth. You … you … you don’t have to be grieved.”

“Shifu, Shifu!” Wei Xiaobao could only cry out. Actually, the days he spent with Chen Jinnan were very few; each time they met he was always afraid Shifu would check the progress of his martial art training, and thus he was always anxious and was always thinking about how to fob his master and offer lame excuses to cover up his unwillingness to make progress; but at least he was very grateful for his Shifu’s kind intention.

This moment as he saw that Shifu was about to die, all the unspoken teachings Shifu usually taught him, the way Shifu treated him with the kindness and love of a father, choked his heart, making him wishing that he could die in place of Shifu. “Shifu,” he said, “I really was not being good to you; you … you taught me martial art, I … I did not learn it at all.”

Chen Jinnan smiled and said, “As long as you are being a good person, Shifu is very happy. Whether you learn martial art or not, that … that is not important at all.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I will definitely listen to you, I will be a good person, not … not a bad person.”

Chen Jinnan smiled, “Good child,” he said, “You have always been good.”

Gnashing his teeth, Wei Xiaobao said, “That evil thief Zheng Keshuang harmed you, (boo hoo, boo hoo), Shifu, if I can get hold of him, I will definitely chop him into mincemeat to avenge you, (boo hoo, boo hoo …)” He wailed and talked at the same time, with tears raining down his face.

Chen Jinnan’s body shook. “No, no!” he hastily said, “I am Zheng Wangye’s subordinate. Guoxing Ye’s kindness to me was as heavy as the mountain. No matter what we must not murder Guoxing Ye’s flesh and blood … I would rather him being ruthless, but I must not be faithless. Xiaobao, I am going to die, you must not damage my loyal and righteous reputation. You … you must by all means listen to me …” His face was originally smiling, but right now he looked extremely anxious. “Xiaobao,” he continued, “Promise me, you must let him return to Taiwan; otherwise, otherwise, I won’t die with closed eyes.”

Wei Xiaobao had no choice; he was obliged to say, “Since Shifu spares this evil thief, I will … I will obey your instruction.”

Immediately Chen Jinnan was relieved; he heaved a deep sigh and then said slowly, “Xiaobao, Tian Di Hui’s … great undertaking of fighting the Qing restoring the Ming, you must do it well. Our Han people work as one, in the end we will be able to restore our rivers and mountains; too bad … too bad I won’t … won’t live to see it …” his voice was getting lower and lower, finally he was unable to inhale, and thus he died.

Wei Xiaobao embraced his body and wailed, “Shifu, Shifu!” He cried himself hoarse, yet Chen Jinnan did not stir at all.

All along Su Quan and the others had been standing by his side. Seeing Chen Jinnan died and Wei Xiaobao was unable to control his grief, they were all grief-stricken as well. Su Quan gently stroked his shoulder and said tenderly, “Xiaobao, your Shifu has passed away.”

Sobbing, Wei Xiaobao said, “Shifu is dead, he is dead!” He had never had any father, in the deepest part of his heart, he had always considered Shifu as his father to make up for his deficiency, only outwardly he did not realize it. Now that  Shifu was dead, the pain in his heart was like flood breaking down the dike; it was hard to suppress. He finally came to the realization that he was after all a wild child without any father.

Su Quan wanted to steer him away from his sorrow, “How are we going to deal with the murderer of your Shifu?” she asked.

Wei Xiaobao sprang up and cursed, “Hot piece mama, little b@stard. My Shifu was your Zheng Family’s subordinate, but I, Wei Xiaobao, have never eaten even a mouthful of your Zheng Family’s rice, or spent a wen of your Zheng Family’s money. Your granny stinky thief, you still owe me ten thousand taels that you have not paid back. Shifu wanted me to spare your life, fine, I’ll spare your life. But I want you to pay me back the ten thousand taels right now. You still don’t want to pay it back? Then I’ll simply cut your body, one cut for each tael of silver.” While his mouth was hurling curses continously, he pulled his dagger and walked over toward Zheng Keshuang, whom he then kicked randomly.

The number of poisonous needles that hit Zheng Keshuang was comparatively less than those that hit Feng Xifan; by this time the pain was somewhat lessened. Hearing that Chen Jinnan wanted to spare his life, he was delighted beyond belief. But now that the debtor demanded payent, while he did not carry any money with him, he could only plead, “When I … I will return to Taiwan, I will definitely add ten times; no, I’ll add a hundred times to the principal.”

Wei Xiaobao kicked him on the head and cursed, “You have a heart of wolf and lungs of dog, a stinky thief who forget favors and violate justice; you speak like fart. You cannot avoid these ten thousand cuts.” Lifting up his dagger, he ran it over Zheng Keshuang’s face twice.

Zheng Keshuang was so scared that his soul flew to the outer sky; he cast a glance toward Ah Ke, hoping that she would say something to help him. But suddenly he remembered, “Not right, not right! The one this little thief loves the most is precisely Ah Ke, if right now she speak on my behalf, this little thief will hate me even more. It seems like these ten thousand cuts will be unavoidable.” He said, “One million taels of silver, I will definitely pay you back. Wei Xiangzhu, Wei Xianggong, if you don’t believe …”

Wei Xiaobao kicked him again, “Of course I don’t believe! My Shifu believed you, you killed him!” The grief and indignation in his heart was unbearable, he stretched out his dagger to stab Zheng Keshuang’s face.

Zheng Keshuang cried out, “If you don’t believe me, then I’ll have Ah Ke to vouch for me.”

“Vouching for you is useless,” Wei Xiaobao said, “She will vouch for you, later on you still won’t pay me back.”

Zheng Keshuang said, “I have a guarantee.”

“Alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Leave you dog head as the guarantee; you pay me back one million taels, I will return your dog head to you.”

Zheng Keshuang said, “I’ll leave Ah Ke as the guarantee for you!”

In that instant Wei Xiaobao felt the sky spun the earth went around, his hand loosened, the dagger fell to the ground, ‘chi!’ it went deep into the mud, only a few cun away from Zheng Keshuang’s head. “Aiyo!” Zheng Keshuang cried out; hastily he pulled his head away and said, “I pawn Ah Ke to you, believe me, I will send one million taels to you, and then you can return Ah Ke to me.”

“It can be discussed,” Wei Xiaobao said.

“Cannot, cannot!” Ah Ke cried out, “I am not yours, how can you pawn me?” Speaking to here, she broke into crying.

Zheng Keshuang anxiously said, “Right now I am facing imminent catastrophe, Ah Ke does not care about me at all, this woman is completely lacking any sense of justice, I don’t want her anymore. If Wei Xiangzhu agrees to take her, I will sell her to you for one million taels of silver. The two of us don’t owe the other anything; you don’t need to cut me ten thousand times anymore.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “In her heart she is always thinking about you, even if you sell her off to me it’s still useless.”

Zheng Keshuang said, “In her belly she already has your child, how could she think about me?”

Wei Xiaobao was pleasantly surprised; his voice quivered, “You … what did you say?”

Zheng Keshuang said, “That day at the Lovely Spring Courtyard in Yangzhou, you and she shared the bed, she has a baby …”

Ah Ke cried out loudly; she suddenly jumped up and rushed to the ocean while covering her face. Shuang’er caught up with her in several steps and pulled her arm to take her back. Ah Ke cried and said, “You … you promised not to tell, why … why did you say that? You speak like releasing … releasing …” Although she was ashamed and angry, she still thought the word ‘fart’ was indecent, hence she could not say it out loud.

Seeing the indeterminate changes on Wei Xiaobao’s countenance, Zheng Keshuang was afraid he might change his mind; he hastily said, “Wei Xiangzhu, this child is definitely yours. Ah Ke and I keep our purity, she said that only after bowing to the Heaven and the Earth with me will we become husband and wife. You … you must not be suspicious.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This seems too good for Laozi, why didn’t you do it?”

Zheng Keshuang said, “Ever since she has your child inside her belly, she often thought about you; when she talked to me, she would mention you all day long. Listening to her I was bored to death, what do you want me to do with her?”

Ah Ke stomped her feet repeatedly, her face alternated between red and white; she said angrily, “You told him … you told him everything.” By saying that, she indirectly admitted that he was telling the truth.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted. “Alright!” he said, “In that case get your Ma’s stinky duck egg out of here!”

Zheng Keshuang was also greatly delighted. “Thank you very much, thank you very much!” he hastily said, “I wish the two of you a hundred years of harmony; the congratulatory gift, XiongdiXiongdi will deliver later.” While saying that he slowly crawled up.

“Pei!” Wei Xiaobao spat a mouthful of saliva to the ground; he cursed, “In all my life I don’t want to see you, stinky thief, anymore.” He thought, “I promised Shifu I will spare his life today. Someday there’s no harm in me sending other people to kill him to avenge Shifu. As long as the one I send is not from Tian Di Hui, other people cannot blame it on Shifu.”

All along the three Zheng Mansion bodyguards had been standing far away to the side, it was not until they saw that Wei Xiaobao spared their master’s life that they came over to help Zheng Keshuang up, as well as Feng Xifan, who was lying on the ground. Zheng Keshuang looked up to the sea, he hesitated. Shi Lang’s battleship had already sailed far away. There were two more boats moored at the beach; his own boat was shot by the Qing troops’ cannon, the mast was broken and the sail destroyed, they could not sail on it. The other boat could be considered in good condition, but obviously it was the boat Wei Xiaobao and the others were going to use; they definitely would not let him use it.

“Feng Shifu,” he said in a low voice, “We don’t have any boat; what can we do?”

“Let’s get on the skiff first and talk later,” Feng Xifan replied. The group of people slowly walked toward the beach.

Suddenly from behind them someone shouted in stern voice, “Hold on! Wei Xiangzhu spared your lives, but I won’t spare it.”

Zheng Keshuang was shocked; he saw a man with steel saber in his hand rushed over. It was none other than Tian Di Hui’s martial art expert Feng Jizhong. Zheng Keshuang said in a trembling voice, “You … you are Tian Di Hui Xiongdi, Tian Di Hui has always been under Taiwan’s Yan Ping Mansion’s command, you … you …”

“I, I, what?” Feng Jizhong sternly said, “Stop right there!”

Zheng Keshuang was scared; he had no choice but to reply, “Yes.”

Feng Jizhong returned to Wei Xiaobao and said, “Wei Xiangzhu, this man murdered Zongduozhu, he is the archenemy with whom our tens of thousands Tian Di Hui Xiongdi cannot live under the same sky; we simply cannot spare him. Zongduozhu had received Guoxing Ye’s great kindness; hence he was unwilling to kill his offspring. Wei Xiangzhu has agreed to fulfill his last wish, hence you cannot do it. But subordinate has never seen Guoxing Ye; Zongduozhu’s last wish was not addressed to me either. Today subordinate wants to put this evil thief to the sword to avenge Zongduozhu.”

With his right hand’s open palm behind his ear Wei Xiaobao cocked his head sideways as if he was trying to hear, “What did you say?” he asked, “My ears are suddenly blocked, I can’t hear anything. Feng Dage, whatever it is that you want to do, you might as well do it, there’s no need to wait for my order. There’s something wrong with my ears. Ay, must be that fellow Shi Lang’s cannon has deafened me.” It could not be any clearer than that; if Feng Jizhong wanted to kill Zheng Keshuang, he could make his move immediately, Wei Xiaobao simply would not stop him.

Seeing the hesitation on Feng Jizhong’s face, Wei Xiaobao added, “When Shifu was at the death’s door, he only ordered me not to kill Zheng Keshuang; he did not say that I should protect him for the rest of my life. As long as I do not personally make the move, it’s none of my business. There are millions and millions of people under the heavens, each one could kill him, who would be able to control it?”

Feng Jizhong tugged Wei Xiaobao’s sleeve, “Wei Xiangzhu let’s go over there to talk.”

The two of them walked a dozen or so zhang away, Feng Jizhong halted his steps and said, “Wei Xiangzhu, His Majesty has always been very fond of you; is that right?”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly taken aback. “That’s right,” he said, “So?”

Feng Jizhong said, “His Majesty wanted you to kill Zongduozhu, you are unwilling, hence you flee to this place; it goes to show that you take yi qi very seriously. The heroes and warriors of Jianghu, everybody is full of admiration.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and ruefully said, “But in the end Shifu is still dead.”

Zongduozhu was killed by that fellow Zheng Keshuang,” Feng Jizhong said, “But the mission His Majesty assigned to Wei Xiangzhu can be considered accomplished …”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly astonished. “You … why did you say … say such thing?” he asked.

Feng Jizhong said, “In His Majesty’s heart, there are three people he is most afraid of. If these three are not eliminated, His Majesty’s dragon courtyard will never be stable. The first person is Wu Sangui; that goes without saying. The second person is precisely Zongduozhu; Tian Di Hui Xiongdi cover the whole world, the aspiration to fight the Qing and restore the Ming has never slacked off, giving His Majesty a lot of headache. Now that Zongduozhu is dead, one big load on His Majesty’s mind has been removed …”

Listening to this point, suddenly Wei Xiaobao felt as if a bright light had just flashed in his mind. “It’s you, it’s you. Turns out it is you!” he said.

[1] Imperial Consort, ‘gui fei’, I believe it refers to Yang Guifei; she and Xi Shi were two of the four legendary beauties of ancient China.

[2] From the dictionary: ‘Five Tiger Generals’ was an allusion to the Romance of the Three Kingdom’s five great generals under Liu Bei’s command, i.e. Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun, Ma Chao and Huang Zhong.

[3] Yue Fei (1103-1142), Song dynasty patriot and general. Qin Hui (1090-1155), Song dynasty official who betrayed Yue Fei.

[4] Jinmen – Kinmen or Quemoy Islands off Fujian coast; Xiamen or Amoy, sub provincial city in Fujian.

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