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The Heaven Sword and the Dragon Sabre Chapter 14


Chapter 14 – Meeting Zhongshan Wolf[1]* Along the Way
The gold and silver blood snakes were leaning and snuggling on each other, looked very affectionate while crawling slowly to enter the Lingzhi Orchid paste circle. Zhang Wuji quickly placed one bamboo tube outside the circle’s gap, while using the bamboo stick he gently pushed the tail of the silver-crowned blood snake. The snake moved in a lightning speed, immediately entered the tube.

The two people (Yang Buhui and Zhang Wuji) walked for half a day, only then did they finally leave the Butterfly Valley. Yang Buhui’s feet were small and her legs were short and as a result couldn’t walk any further. After resting for a while, they needed to hurry on the road again, repeatedly stopping and starting, so that on the first night they couldn’t find a place to stay. They traveled until the sky was dark, but were still randomly travelling on the mountainside. The sounds of owls and wolves nearby made Yang Buhui start crying.

Zhang Wuji was also scared, so when he saw a cave next to the road, he pulled Yang Buhui inside the cave, hugging her and covering up her ears so that she couldn’t hear the sounds of the animals. The two children, hungry and scared, suffered for an entire night. In the morning they were able to pick some wild fruit to eat and continued intermittently walking and resting.

Around noon, Yang Buhui suddenly cried out loud, pointing to a tree by the side of the road. When Zhang Wuji took a look, he saw two corpses hanging from a tree. Zhang Wuji and Yang Buhui were so scared that they turned around and starting running. They weren’t able to run more than ten paces when they tripped over a rock, falling down. Zhang Wuji bravely looked back, and this time was even more startled, blurting out “Mr. Hu!” The corpse hanging from the tree was actually Hu Qingniu. The other corpse had long hair and was apparently a woman; from the appearance of her clothes, it seemed to be Hu Qingniu’s wife Wang Nangu. The image of her long hair and corpse blowing in the wind created a dark, chilling air.

Zhang Wuji tried to stay calm and in good spirits, telling himself, “Don’t be afraid, Don’t be afraid!” He slowly started crawling toward the corpses, verifying that the corpses were Hu Qingniu and Wang Nangu. On each of their faces was something glittering – it turned out that each of them had a golden flower on their face. Zhang Wuji was disappointed, thinking, “so they weren’t able to run away from Jing Hua Popo’s poisonous hand after all” He saw that in the mountain gorge was a broken carriage and a mule that had drowned in the river. Zhang Wuji really started crying and decided to loosen the ropes, taking down the Hu couple’s bodies from the tree.

All of a sudden, there was a “Clap!” sound; a book fell from Wang Nangu’s body. Picking it up, he saw it was a handwritten book, titled “Wang Nangu’s poison manual.” When he flipped it open, he saw that the pages were filled with small print, detailing the toxicity of poisons and how to use them. Not only did it detail how to use poisonous medicine, but also poisonous weeds, snakes, centipedes, scorpions, spiders as well as other strange fish, insects, birds, flowers, fish and trees, leaving out nothing. He decided to keep it without much thought and put the Hu couple side by side, burying them with stones and dirt. He bowed down to the couple before grasping Yang Buhui’s hand and continuing with their journey.

Shortly after they reached a large road, which then led them to a small town. Zhang Wuji wanted to buy some food to eat, but as he walked from house to house, they were all empty, without even a single person. They had no choice but to continue their journey.

On the way, they noticed that the cornfields and rice fields were all dried up and desolate. Zhang Wuji was confused and worried, but he saw that Yang Buhui was able to not cry and keep walking which was already rather well-behaved, so what could he do? After a while, they saw next to the road were several corpses, with empty stomachs and sunken in cheeks – it was obvious at first glance that they had starved to death.

The more they walked the more they saw others like this. Zhang Wuji was scared out of his wits, thinking, “Is there really nothing to eat? Are we also going to starve here like this?”

In the evening, they reached a small forest and saw some white smoke emerging into the sky. Zhang Wuji was very happy – they had not seen anyone or any smoke since they had left the Butterfly Valley, so he quickly ran towards the white smoke.

After going near the smoke, they saw two men wearing ragged clothes circling a pot of boiling water, adding firewood under the pot. When the two men heard footsteps, they turned around. When they saw Zhang Wuji and Yang Buhui, they burst out with big smiles and jumped up. One of them waved a hand, “Small kids, good, come over here, come over here quickly. Where are the adults that came with you? Where did they go?”

Zhang Wuji said: “There’s only the two of us, no adults came with us.” The two adults broke out into big smiles, while saying, “What luck, what luck!” Zhang Wuji was so hungry, so he took a look into the big pot to see what it was, only to see grass in boiling water.

One of the men grabbed Yang Buhui in one hand, exclaiming, “This small lamb is so fat and tender! Tonight we can eat until we’re full, how nice.” The other man said, “Very good, we can eat the little boy tomorrow.” Zhang Wuji was very surprised, exclaiming, “What are you doing? Let go of my sister!”

The man ignored him and proceeded to laugh and start to tear off Yang Buhui’s clothes, reaching into his boots to take out a knife, saying “It’s been a long time since I ate such a fat and tender lamb.” He grabbed Yang Buhui to the side, apparently to slaughter her. The other man took a bowl and followed him, saying, “Wasting lamb blood is a pity, we can cook a bowl of lamb blood soup, the flavor’s not bad.”

Zhang Wuji was scared out of his wits, but he looked at them and it seemed that they really weren’t joking. It really looked like they were about to slaughter Yang Buhui, so he yelled loudly, “You want to eat people? You aren’t scared of harming heaven?”

The man holding the turkey bowl laughed and said, “Old man hasn’t eaten a grain of rice for three months, if I don’t eat a person, can I really eat a cow or lamb?”

For fear that Zhang Wuji would run away, he came over to grab Zhang Wuji’s neck. Zhang Wuji dodged the man. With his left hand he pulled the man and with his right hand he hit the man’s back.

He had learned martial arts from the Blond haired Lion King Xie Xun as well as his Wudang Palms from his parents. So even though these few years he had only learned medicine and had not practiced martial arts, he had good martial arts habits and was able to exert good martial arts. He put forth this palm with great effort, and even someone studying martial arts for many years would’ve been unable to bear this palm, much less this ordinary village person. That man let out a “Hng!” before fainting and falling to the ground, unable to move.

Zhang Wuji immediately jumped up next to Yang Buhui. The other man exclaimed, “I’ll kill you first”, raising his knife and striking towards Zhang Wuji’s chest.

Zhang Wuji used a move from Wudang Palms called “Wild Goose Wings”; his right foot flew, hitting the man in the wrist. The knife flew out of the man’s hand. Zhang Wuji exerted another move called “Yuanyang lianhuan kick”, following with another kick to the man’s jaw. The man was in the process of opening his mouth to yell at him, but his jaws were forced shut by the kick, resulting in his biting his own tongue in half. Blood spurted out of his mouth and he fainted.

Zhang Wuji hurriedly went over to support Yang Buhui. At the same time, he heard the footsteps of others entering the forest. Yang Buhui was terrified when she heard the sounds of other people and hid herself in Zhang Wuji’s arms.
Zhang Wuji raised his head to take a look, but was calmed, shouting, “It’s Mr. Jian, Mr. Xue.”

Five people had entered the forest. One was KongDong’s Jian Jie, and another was Huashan’s Xue Gongyuan along with two of his martial brothers. All these people were healed by Zhang Wuji. The last person was an heroic looking approximately twenty year old youth with a broad forehead whom Zhang Wuji had never met before. Jian Jie made a “Heng!”, saying, “Brother Zhang, you’re here also? What happened to these two people?” As he was saying this, he pointed to the two people on the ground.

Zhang Wuji indignantly told the story of what happened, ending with, “They even dared to eat people, aren’t they outlaws?”

Jian Jie was staring at Yang Buhui, when all of a sudden saliva dripped from the corner of his mouth, so he licked his lips, saying, “Damn, for five days and five nights I haven’t had a grain of rice in my stomach, only eating some tree bark and grass…..En, fine skin and meat, fatty and tender…”

Zhang Wuji saw that Jian Jie had a fire in his eyes, looking like a hungry wolf, with his mouth hanging wide open and his teeth gleaming. He really looked scary, so Zhang Wuji hugged Yang Buhui close to him. Xue Gongyuan asked, “Where is this girl’s mother?”

Zhang Wuji thought in his heart: “If I say that Auntie died, they’ll have even more evil thoughts.” So he said, “Heroine Ji went out to buy some rice, she’ll be back soon.” Yang Buhui suddenly said, “No, My mom flew up to the sky!”

When Jian Jie and Xue Gongyuan heard the two of them speaking, they knew Ji Xiaofu had already died. Xue Gongyuan laughed coldly, saying “Buying rice? If you find a grain of rice within these five hundred kilometers, you’ll really have skills.” Jian Jie shot a look at Xue Gongyuan, and the two suddenly jumped towards them. Jian Jie’s two hands grabbed ahold of Zhang Wuji’s shoulders. Xue Gongyuan’s left hand covered Yang Buhui’s mouth, and with his right hand he picked her up.

Zhang Wuji was startled and shouted, “What are you guys doing?” Jian Jie laughed and said, “In these thousand kilometers in Fengyang province, I’ve been so hungry I can’t stand it anymore. This girl isn’t related to you, so we’ll split a portion with you later.” Zhang Wuji angrily insulted them: “You wrongly claim to be heroes, how can you bully a small orphan? If this gets out, how can you even claim to be human?”

Jian Jie flew into a rage, grabbed him with his left hand and hit him twice on the face, saying, “We’ll kill you small beast along with her, we originally thought one small lamb might not’ve been enough.”

Zhang Wuji had just taken care of the two villagers easily, but up against Kongdong’s martial artists who had learned decades of martial arts, Zhang Wuji was easily captured and his struggles were in vain.

Xue Gongyuan’s two martial brothers took some rope, tying up the two children. Zhang Wuji knew he would have no good luck today, and furiously regretted that he had saved these peoples’ lives. People’s hearts change quickly; who would know that these people would repay kindness with evil?

Jian Jie said, “Little beast, you healed this old man’s head wound, so you’ve done some good for me, right? You must be hating me in your heart, right?” Zhang Wuji said: “Isn’t this paying kindness with evil? I have no debts or business with you, if I didn’t help you, how would you four have recovered from those strange diseases?”

Xue Gongyuan laughed and said, “Young man Zhang, after we were injured we’ve displayed this ugly attitude, we’ve even let you see it. If this becomes public, it’ll be hard for us to live. Today we’re starving, if we have no fresh meat in our stomachs, it’ll also be hard for us to live. Why don’t you save us to the end, save us one more time.” Jian Jie was ferocious and scary, but this Xue Gongyuan had a smiling appearance and was cunning and treacherous.

Zhang Wuji, seeing them couldn’t help but feel his heart freeze in terror, and shouted loudly: “I’m in Wudang, this sister is part of Emei, if you harm us two, will the Five Heroes of Wudang and MieJue Shitai forgive you?”

Jian Jie was startled and made an “e” sound, feeling that there was some truth in his words – it was not a good idea to provoke Wudang and Emei. Xue Gongyuan laughed and said: “Here only the sky and ground will know, and you and I will know. Once you’re in our stomachs, go grumble to Zhang SanFeng.”

Jian Jie guffawed, saying: “I’m so hungry fire is about to come out of my stomach, even if you were my brother or son, I’d eat your skin and bones.” He turned around and said to Xue Gongyuan’s martial brothers: “Quickly bring some fire and cook some soup, what are you waiting for?” Those two got the pot; one of them went to the creek to get water, and the other went to start the fire.

Zhang Wuji said, “Mr. Xue, those two people are already dead, if you’re hungry and want to eat people, wouldn’t eating them be good?” Xue Gongyuan laughed and said, “These two men are just skin and bones, they’re not only old and tough, but hard and stinky, who wouldn’t eat tender lamb but eat old sheep instead?”

Zhang Wuji usually would have a brave attitude, if someone was going to hit or kill him, he wouldn’t beg to be spared. However, when he was trapped by these evil men, about to be eaten alive, he couldn’t help but offer up a few words to try to plead for his life. But Xue Gongyuan instead just jeered repeatedly, “Haha, Wudang’s and Emei’s disciples claim to be the strongest and rule Jianghu, but today you’re going to be eaten bite by bite. It would be really strange if Zhang Sanfeng or Old Nun Miejue knew about this and weren’t angered to death.”

Enraged, Zhang Wuji shouted, “Mr. Xue, if you have to eat people, then eat me. I just beg you to let this small sister go, then I can die with no regrets.” Xue Gongyuan asked, “Why?” Zhang Wuji replied: “When her mother died, she trusted me to bring this little girl to her father. Today, if you eat just me, you will be full, tomorrow you can go buy some cows, lamb, or rice, please spare this little girl.”

Jian Jie saw that he was able to fearlessly face danger at such a small age and with such a heroic and chivalrous air. He really thought this was something to be admired and couldn’t help but be moved and hesitated, asking, “What should we do?” Xue Gongyuan replied, “Saving this small girl isn’t a big deal. However, this may leak out; in the future, when Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou come to find us, Brother Jian should have certain methods to take care of them.” Jian Jie nodded his head, saying, “What you said is also true. I’m a fool, never thinking of the future.”

While saying these words, the other Huashan disciples returned with the pot of water and put it on the fire. Zhang Wuji knew the situation was urgent and shouted, “Little Sister Buhui, swear an oath to them that in the future you won’t speak of today’s events.” Yang Buhui, confused, just cried out, “Can’t eat you, can’t eat you!” She didn’t understand what Zhang Wuji was saying, but vaguely knew that he was sacrificing himself to protect her.
Meanwhile, the bold looking youth silently sat to the side, not speaking or moving. Jian Jie stared at him for a second, saying, “Xu xiaoshe, if you want to eat lamb, you must also be willing to handle the lamb’s body.” In the region of Hao Si, they called young men “xiaoshe.” That young man replied, “Yes!” He pulled out a small knife from his waist and said, “Killing pigs and cows are my specialty.” He clenched the knife in his teeth and carried Yang Buhui and Zhang Wuji in each hand toward the mountain creek.

Zhang Wuji protested loudly and tried to bite his arm but couldn’t reach it. Xu xiaoshe walked away for more than ten steps when Xue Gongyuan said, “Xu xiaoshe, slaughter them here!” Xu xiaoshe looked back and replied, “Slaughtering them in the creek is better, it’ll be cleaner there.” However, the knife was clenched in his teeth so his words were unclear, but his legs didn’t slow down at all. Xue Gongyuan said, “If I tell you to stay here, then you’ll stay here.” He had noticed that Xu xiashe looked kind of strange; he was worried that Xu xiaoshe would run away with the two kids to eat them by himself.

Xu xiaoshe whispered, “Quick, run away!” He put the two of them on the ground and stretched out his knife to cut the ropes that were binding them. Zhang Wuji said, “Thank you for your great kindness in saving our lives.” He grabbed Yang Buhui’s hand and pulled her up to run away. Jian Jie and Xue Gongyuan both shouted and jumped up to chase them. Xu xiaoshe grabbed his knife to block them and shouted, “Stop!”

When Jian Jie and Xue Gongyuan saw him with the knife guarding his chest heroically blocking them, they were startled. Jian Jie said, “What are you doing?” Xu xiaoshe said, “If we’re walking around Jiang Hu together, bullying the small and the weak, wouldn’t we be laughed at by all the heroes under the sky?” Xue Gongyuan indignantly replied, “Hunger is urgent, I would even eat my mother or the old and the young.” He waved a hand to his two martial brothers, “Hurry up, chase them!”

Zhang Wuji and Yang Buhui couldn’t run quickly, especially since he was carrying her. He was already rather small, so carrying her made him even slower. Jian Jie and Xue Gongyuan each pulled out their weapons and attacked Mr. Xu. After fighting for a little bit, Jian Jie with a stroke of his knife managed to cut Xu xiaoshe’s leg, causing it to drip wet with blood. Xu xiaoshe couldn’t hold out any longer and suddenly lifted up his knife and threw it towards Xue Gongyuan. Xue Gongyuan ducked to the side, and Xu xiaoshe managed to rush out.

Xue Gongyuan and Jian Jie didn’t chase him, instead going after Zhang Wuji and Yang Buhui. Mr. Xu from far away shouted, “Brother Zhang, don’t be nervous, I’ll go find helpers to help you,” Jian Jie and Xue Gongyuan worked together and managed to again capture Zhang Wuji and Yang Buhui. Jian Jie stared at Xue Gongyuan, shouting, “This person named Xu isn’t a good person, why would you travel with him?”

Xue Gongyuan said, “This companion I randomly bumped into on the road, how would I know whether he’s good or bad? He said his surname was Xu, named something like Xu Da. Don’t listen to him, the sky’s black already, where would he go to find help around here?” One of the Huashan disciples said, “Listening to his accent, he’s native to this Fengyang Prefect, haha, even if he brought some country bumpkins here, we wouldn’t be scared of them.” Jian Jie laughed, “Fengyang’s people are so hungry they can’t even crawl. Let’s quickly cook these two lambs into a delicious meal, it is right to eat a full meal.”

This was the second time Zhang Wuji was captured; he was hit until his nose and mouth were blue and swollen and his clothes were torn. His possessions and money were all scattered on the ground. He thought in his heart, “So this Mr. Xu’s name was Xu Da, this man is a good friend, too bad my life is so short and can’t be better friends with him.” When he bowed his head down to the ground, he saw a handwritten yellow-papered book on the ground blowing in the wind. This was the Wang Nanggu poison manual taken from Wang Nangu’s body. His eyes followed the words on the page and noticed that “poisonous mushrooms” was written, with small words detailing the forms of poisonous mushrooms such as their odor, color, toxicity, antidotes, type after type. His heart was in turmoil, how could he take this into his head?

All of a sudden when he glanced to the left, he saw that about four or five feet away, under some rotten tree bark, were more than ten mushrooms with vivid colors. His heart jumped and he thought, “What type of mushroom is this? I don’t know whether there’s poison or not on it. The poison manual says that most poisonous mushrooms have vivid colors. If these poisonous mushrooms are toxic, there is hope to save Sister Buhui’s life.

At this time he already wasn’t thinking of his own life, as he already had the cold poison inside him that was difficult to expel. If he managed to run away with his life today, he would only live for a few months anyways, so he really only hoped to save Yang Buhui. He sat on the ground, slowly moving his feet and bottom and turned his body around, reaching out his hand to pick those mushrooms. At this time the sky already was black; everyone was ready for the fire to burn, so nobody really paid attention to him. Zhang Wuji suddenly turned his eyes to the direction that Xu Da had run, jumping up and down and shouting, “Brother Xu, you’ve brought people here, save us! Save us!”

Jian Jie and the others thought it was real, so the four of them grabbed their weapons and jumped up. Zhang Wuji took advantage of the four of them looking for Xu Da and backed up two steps, putting the mushrooms into the iron pot. Jian Jie and the others didn’t see anyone and started cursing, “Little bastard, even if you become crazy nobody’s going to come help you.” Xue Gongyuan said, “Prepare the knife, who wants to start?” Jian Jie said, “I’ll kill the small girl, you kill that guy.” As he was saying this he took his hand and grabbed Yang Buhui.

Zhang Wuji said, “Mr. Xue, my throat’s really thirsty, can you give me some hot soup, that way when I die my ghost won’t bother you. Xue Gongyuan said, “Alright, what’s wrong with letting you drink some soup?” Xue Gongyuan scooped some hot soup into the bowl for him. Before the soup reached his mouth, Zhang Wuji loudly shouted, “How tasty! How tasty!” Indeed, once the mushrooms had been boiling in the pot, they released a fragrant smell. Xue Gongyuan had been hungry for a long time, so when he smelled the fragrant soup, he grabbed Zhang Wuji’s soup and drank it into his stomach, licking his lips and saying, “Really fresh!”

Jian Jie reached out and grabbed the bowl and also drank a large mouthful, and once again drank another bowl. Xue Gongyuan and the other two Huashan disciples also drank two bowls, so that when the two bowls of hot soup were in their stomachs, they felt an unspeakable comfort. Jian Jie even took the mushrooms in the put and ate them. Nobody even asked where the mushrooms were from. After Jian Jie ate the mushroom, he patted his stomach, laughing, “First eat some appetizers, then eat the lamb.”

His left hand raised Yang Buhui behind him, and his right hand raised a knife. Zhang Wuji saw that after many people drank the mushroom soup there was no effect, so in his heart he thought that the mushrooms didn’t have poison after all and could not help but feel bitter. Jian Jie took two steps when all of a sudden, he shouted, “Aiyo!” His body faltered for a few moments before he fell on the ground, throwing Yang Buhuia and the knife to the side. Xue Gongyuan was startled and asked, “Brother Jian, what happened?” He ran over to look down at his body. When he stooped down, he also couldn’t stand up straight anymore and fell on Jian Jie’s body. The other two Huashan disciples also were poisoned and died miserably.

Wuji shouted loudly, “Thank heaven and earth!” He rolled over to the knife and grasped the knife, cutting Yang Buhui’s ropes. Yang Buhui’s trembling hands also managed to cut Zhang Wuji’s ropes after wounding his palms a few times. Having just escaped from death, the two of them were exceedingly happy and hugging each other. When Zhang Wuji went to see the four other people, he just saw that every person’s face had turned black and that their muscles were warped. Their bodies were really scary and he thought, ”That Wang Nangu’s poison manual really is valuable, I’ll keep it with me and resolve to really study it carefully.”

Zhang Wuji carried Yang Buhui’s hand and left the forest. They traveled along Yaomi road, when suddenly from the east they saw light from a torch. There were seven or eight people grasping their weapons and running quickly towards them. Zhang Wuji and Yang Buhui hid in the underbrush.

When those people ran nearby, Zhang Wuji and Yang Buhui saw that one of the people was Xuda. He was the one carrying a torch in his left hand, while in his right hand he was carrying a pike, shouting, “You wicked thieves that would harm the sky and eat people, quickly lay down your lives!” When they entered the forest, they saw the four of them dead on the ground and were startled. Xu Da shouted, “Brother Zhang, are you ok? We are here to save you!” Zhang Wuji shouted, “Big Brother Xu, your brother is here!” and came out of the underbrush.

Xuda was very happy and hugged him, saying, “Brother Zhang, you have such a chivalrous character, not to mention among children, even among adults it’s hard to find such a person. I was scared that you’d be harmed by those evil thieves, fortunately there’s good news and the evil receive their punishment, this is a good judgment.

When they asked how Jian Jie and Xue Gongyuan were poisoned, Zhang Wuji told them the story of cooking the mushrooms in the soup. Everyone praised him as clever. Xuda said, “These are all my good friends, they slaughtered a bull. A large fire is at Huang Jue Si Temple where the meat is being cooked. I went to find them and they all came. But if it weren’t for Brother Zhang’s cleverness, we still would’ve come too late.” He introduced everyone to Zhang Wuji. One one side, a big eared guy was named Tang He, another heroic, exuberant one was named Deng Yu, a black faced, tall one was named Hua Yun; of two fair skinned brothers, the older one was named Wu Liang, and the younger was named Wu Zhen. The last one was a monk; his appearance was very ugly, with a protruding chin, resembling an iron shovel. Many scars and moles were on his face, and he had two sunken in eyes that were bright and unusually. Xuda said, “This person is Brother Zhu, his given name is Yuanzhang. He became a monk in Huang Juesi temple.

Hua Yun laughed and said, “He is an unconventional, happy monk, not one of those who loves to read Buddhist scriptures and worship Buddha, drinking wine and eating meat all day. When Yang Buhui saw Zhu Yuanzhang’s ugly appearance, she felt afraid in her heart and hid behind Zhang Wuji. Zhu Yuangzhang laughed and said, “Even though this Buddhist monk eats meat, I don’t eat people, so little sister doesn’t need to be afraid.” Tang He said, “The beef we’ve been cooking in that pot should be ready now.” Hua Yun said, “Let’s go! Little sister, I’ll carry you.” He carried Yang Buhui on his back, walking with big steps. When Zhang Wuji saw this capable man was so happy and outgoing, he was also happy in his heart.

When they had walked around two and a half kilometers, they arrived at a temple. They walked inside the main hall and noticed the fragrant aroma of the roasting meet. Wu Liang said, “It’s done, it’s cooked!” Xuda said, “Brother Zhang, rest here, we’ll get the meat ready.”

Zhang Wuji and Yang Buhui Sat shoulder-to-shoulder on a cushion in the palace. Zhu Yuan Zhang, Xu Da, Tang He, Deng Yu and others moved quickly and brought out large pots and bowls of freshly-cooked beef. The brothers Wu Liang and Wu Zhen carried out a jug of fragrant wine and in a short while were singing and making merry in front of the Bodhisattva’s statue.
Zhang Wuji and Yang Buhui were already very hungry, so with the beef in their stomach, they were pleased beyond words. Hua Yun said, “Brother Xu, among all our Cult rules, we are not allowed to comsume meat; this might be a little inappropriate.”

Zhang Wuji was inwardly surprised, “So they are all members of the Ming Cult. The Cult rules only permit them to eat vegetarian dishes and to worship the demons, yet over here they are all merrily eating the meat.”

Xu Da replied, “Our Cult’s first rule is to ‘Promote Kindness and Destroy Evil’; even though eating meat isn’t a good thing, but it can’t be totally avoided. Over here there isn’t any rice or vegetables, so how can we just stare at the meat and starve to death?”

Deng Yu clapped his hands and said, “Brother Xu’s words are insightful, eat! Eat!”

When they were eating and drinking, all of a sudden there was the sound of footsteps outside the door. Soon after, someone knocked on the door. Tang He jumped up and shouted, “Aiya! Zhang’s household is outside searching for this cow!” The door was opened, and in came two servants, heroic looking with protruding chests and bellies. One person shouted, “Alright! Our house’s big cow was actually stolen by you guys and eaten!” When he said this, he grabbed Zhu Yuanzhang. The other one said, “You lowly monk, today your entire club is here sharing the spoils, where can you run to? Tomorrow we’ll send you to the mansion, and kill you by hitting you to death with a wooden board.”

Zhu Yuanzhang laughed and said, “You’re really speaking rubbish, how would you dare blame us for stealing that cow? Monks eat vegetables and pray to Buddha. If you’re accusing me of eating meat, isn’t this committing a great sin?” The heroic servant pointed to the meat inside of the plate, saying, “This isn’t beef?”

Zhu Yuanzhang gave a signal with his eyes and laughed, “Who says this is beef?” The Wu Liang and Wu Zhen brothers walked up to the two servants and with a shout, grabbed the two men’s arms. Zhu Yuanzhang took out a short dagger from his pocket and laughed, “Two brothers, I don’t want to hide this from you, what we’re eating isn’t beef, but human meat. Today you’ve seen this, so we’ll just have to eat you so you won’t talk and leak this out. With a “chi” sound, one of the servant’s clothes was torn and the knife produced a line of blood on his chest. The heroic servant was really startled, even begging, “Spare us, spare our lives!” Zhu Yuanzhang grabbed a piece of beef and stuffed into the two servant’s mouths, saying, “Swallow it!”

The two of them even didn’t dare to chew it and swallowed it into their stomachs. Zhu Yuanzhang laughed and said, “You can go out and tell your master we’ve stolen your cow, we can then cut open your stomachs and say, who’re the ones that have eaten the beef, not even cleaning off the hair?” He flipped over the knife, dragging a line along their bellies. That person just felt a cold, icy knife on his stomach and was scared out of wits, screaming. The Wu brothers laughed, lifted up their legs and kicked the two out of the palace hall. Everyone was relieved and started eating quickly, laughing and insulting the two servants who had asked for their miserable experience. On normal days, the Zhang household would bully around the villagers. This time, they were so scared about their bellies being cut open, they surely wouldn’t go out and tell them about everyone stealing the cow.

Zhang Wuji thought his actions were funny and admirable and pondered, “Despite this monk’s ungly appearance, his behavior is upright and refreshing. His methods are really formidable.” Zhu Yuanzhang had heard Xuda tell the story of how Zhang Wuji was willing to sacrifice himself to save Yang Buhui’s life and was really fond of this chivalrous youth. He didn’t treat him as a normal child, instead proposing a toast to him and treating him like a good friend. They drank until they were intoxicated, when Deng Yu said, “Us Han people have really endured the oppression of these barbarians, receiving an era of their dirty farts. Until today we haven’t been able to have a good meal. If these days go on, how can we take it?” Hua Yun clapped his leg and said, “Half of the common people in Fengyang prefecture have died, really half of all the people under heaven have died of starvation, why don’t we stake all of it and fight those Tartars?”

Xuda said with a clear voice, “Today people’s lives have been put on the same level as dogs and goats. This good little brother and sister nearly went into people’s stomachs. Under the sky, who knows how many common people have become like cows and sheep? If upright men can’t help all these people, living is really living in vain.” Tang He also said, “Not bad, our luck was good today, we managed to find a cow to slaughter and eat, tomorrow we may not necessarily find one to steal. Everyone doesn’t have enough clothes and food, do even upright men and heroes have to become thieves?”

As these people spoke they became more and more furious and began insulting the Tartars for inflicting suffering on them. Zhu Yuanzhang said, “We’re randomly insulting these people here, but these insults aren’t even going to hurt a hair on these Tartars. If we’re really heroic, we should go to kill these Tartars!” Tang He, Deng Yu, Hua Yun, and the Wu brothers all yelled together, “Let’s go!”

Xuda said, “Big Brother Zhu, you don’t need to be this hard-working monk anymore. You’re the oldest, we’ll all listen to your words.” Zhu Yuanzhang also didn’t decline and said, “After today, we will live and die together, whether we have fortune or problems we will share it together.” Everyone raised their bowl of wine together and drank it down, slamming their knives into the table with a heroic air. Yang Buhui looked at everyone, not understanding what they were saying and was inwardly scared.

Zhang Wuji thought, Zhang Sanfeng Tai Shifu warned me repeatedly not make friends with these people in the Mo Jiao. But Chang Yucun and Brother Xu are all within the Mo Jiao. They’re far better than Jian Jie, Xue Gongyuan, these disciples in the righteous branch by tens of thousands of times. He always admired Zhang Sanfeng to the highest degree, but from his experience, he thought Zhang Sanfeng had some prejudice towards them in his heart. However, he also thought that he shouldn’t go against his Tai Shifu’s wishes. Zhu Yuangzhang said, “Good Han people will do what they say, this time when we eat full is just the right time to do things. The Zhang household invited the Tartar officers and soldiers to dinner today, let’s go capture and kill them. Hua Yun said, “Wonderful! “ and grabbed his knife and stood up.

Xuda exclaimed, “Hold on a minute!” He went to the kitchen to get a basket and filled it with fourteen or fifteen pounds of beef to give to Zhang Wuji. He said, “Brother Zhang, your age is still small, you can’t follow us to this shady business of rebelling and killing government officials. Us small group of people are so poor, without money on our bodies, so we must give this meat to you. If we luckily don’t burn to death, we will see each other in the future and eat some beef together.

Zhang Wuji took the basket and replied, “I hope that you will perform a great service and wipe out these Tartars in order to let these common people under the sky have some food to eat.” Zhu Yuanzhang, Xuda, Tanghe, Deng Yu all heard what he said and clapped and praised what he said, saying: “Brother Zhang, what you said is really correct, we hope that we will have some time together in the future.”

As they said this they exited the temple, each carrying their weapons. Zhang Wuji thought in his heart, “They are going to go kill the Tartars, if I wasn’t accompanying this little sister, I would also go with them. They only have seven people and are not the enemy’s match. Zhang Yuan’s house have Tartars who may follow them here to kill them so I can’t really stay in this temple anymore. So he took his basket of beef and took Yang Buhui outside the temple. After traveling in the dark for four or five miles, suddenly they saw that to the north there was a red light rising to the sky and knew that Zhu Yuanzhang and Xuda were successful and had burnt down Zhang Yuan’s manor, making them very happy. At night the two of them slept on a mountain plain, and in the morning they proceeded westward. The two children endured wind, frost, hunger, and cold while walking along the road, making them exhausted. Fortunately Yang Buhui’s parents were martial artists, so her own physique was healthy and strong so a small girl traveling for such a long distance was able to avoid sickness. On the way, she did have some colds, so Zhang Wuji picked some herbal medicine and was able to cure it. Every day they did have to rest, so they could only cover 20 or 30 miles in a day. After about fifteen or sixteen days, they reached Henan province.

There was not much difference between Henan and Anhui province – everywhere they went, there was famine and people were dying of starvation. Zhang Wuji made a bow and arrow and managed to shoot some birds and animals – one day they would be full, and another they would be hungry, slowly making their way east. Fortunately, they did not run into the Mongolian military, and they also did not run into any Jiang Hu people. As for those ordinary criminals with evil thoughts, how would they match up with Zhang Wuji? One day they ran into an old man and told him they wanted to go to the summit of Mt. Kunlun. This old man was startled and raised his eyebrows, saying, “Little brother, Kunlun Mountain is still about 108,000 li (a ‘li’ = 0.5 km) away, I heard that a Tang monk only went there to fetch some scriptures. You little kids aren’t crazy are you? Where do you live? Quickly go back home!” When Zhang Wuji heard this, he could not help but feel disappointed, thinking, “Kunlun Mt. is so far, it’s really impossible to go there, so the best thing to do is to go to Wudang to see Grandmaster first.” But then he thought: “Someone trusted in me, even though the road is far, how can one stop in the middle? My own life is not long, if I can’t send Sister Buhui before I die, I really can’t be forgiven by Aunt Ji.” So without saying anything else to the old man, he pulled up Yang Buhui and continued their journey.

Later, after walking for more than twenty days, the two children’s clothing were tattered, their appearances were wan and sallow. The thing that vexed Zhang Wuji most was that Yang Buhui constantly asked for her Mama. She would frequently cry for half a day because Mama did not fly back down from the sky. Zhang Wuji tried his best to distract her by telling her stories, by saying that their journey to the west this time was also to look for her Mama, by making faces and all kinds of things that would turn her tears into laughter.

One particular day they arrived at Zhumadian [a city in Henan]. It was the end of autumn, early winter. The new moon wind was blowing hard. Since the two children only had the clothes on their backs, they were shivering incessantly. Zhang Wuji took out his tattered outer garment and put it on Yang Buhui.

“Wuji Gege,” Yang Buhui asked, “Aren’t you cold?”

“I am not cold,” Zhang Wuji replied, “I feel unbearably hot,” while doing some jumping jacks to keep himself warm.

“You are so good to me!” Yang Buhui said, “I know you are cold, but you give your clothes to me.” The little girl spoke like an adult, Zhang Wuji could not help but feel astonished.

Right that moment, they heard the sound of clashing weapons coming from the other side of the hill, followed by footsteps coming closer. A female voice called out, “Evil thief, you have been hit by my ‘wei du sang men’ nail [lit. feed the poison, mourning gate, loose translation: as soon as you are hit, you are at the death door]. The faster you run, the quicker the poison will flare-up!”

Zhang Wuji quickly pulled Yang Buhui to hide under the bush by the roadside. They saw a sturdy-looking man, about thirty some years of age, flying their way. Several ‘zhang’s behind him, a woman ran after him with a pair of sabers in her hand. The man staggered, his legs turned weak and he stumbled down on the ground.

The woman soon arrived by his side. “Finally, you will be dead under the Miss’ hands!” she called out.

The man suddenly sprang up and struck her with his right palm. ‘Bang!’ the palm hit the woman’s chest. The force behind the strike was very strong. The woman fell backwards the pair of sabers in her hands was flung far away.

The man reached to his back to pull the nail out. “Give me the antidote,” he said hatefully.

The woman laughed coldly and said, “This time Shifu ordered us to pursue and capture you; he gave us the poisonous secret projectiles, but did not give us the antidote. Since I have fallen into your hands, I accept my fate, but do not even think that you can live either.”

With the saber in his left hand on her throat, the man’s right hand searched inside her pocket, and sure enough, there was no antidote. The man got very angry. He took the ‘wei du sang men’ nail and stabbed the woman shoulder with all his might. He roared, “Now you can taste your own ‘wei du sang men’ nail! You, Kunlun Pai …” Before he finished speaking, the poison on his back flared up and he crumpled to the ground.

The woman struggled to crawl up; but ‘wah!’ after vomiting a mouthful of blood, she fell back down. She pulled the nail on her shoulder and tossed it to the ground. The man and the woman both lied on the grass by the roadside. Their breathing was labored; they constantly gasped for air.

Ever since he treated Jian Jie and Xue Gongyuan and almost died in their hands, Zhang Wuji was extremely wary towards the Wulin characters. This time, as he watched the drama unfold in front of him, he did not dare to come out.

After a while the man heaved a long sigh and said, “Today I, Su Xizhi, will lose my life at Zhumadian; yet I still do not know my offense against the Kunlun Pai. I will die with my eyes wide open. You have pursued me for a thousand ‘li’ and determined to kill me, in the end, what was that for? Miss Zhan, why don’t you be nice and tell me!” There was no trace of hostility in his voice anymore.

The woman, Zhan Chun, knew her school’s ‘wei du sang men’ nail was very fierce, so she realized that both of them were going to die together. She was completely disheartened and quietly said, “Who told you to peek when Shifu was training his sword technique? This technique, the ‘Kun Lun Liang Yi Jian’ [double-appearance sword], should be personally taught by him, the Senior, if anybody is caught looking without permission, even our own School’s disciple must suffer punishment by his or her eyes being gouged; much less you, an outsider?”

“Ah,” Su Xizhi exclaimed. “Damn it! Should die! Should die!” he cursed.

Zhan Chun angrily said, “Your death is imminent, you still cursed my Shifu?”

Su Xizhi said, “I want to curse him. What are you going to do? Isn’t this injustice? I was just passing through Bai Niu Shan [White Ox Mountain], and accidentally saw that your Shifu was practicing his sword. Because I was curious, I stopped and watched for a moment. Do you think that by watching for a moment I would be able to master this sword technique? If I have that kind of ability, how can you, a bunch of Kunlun disciples, possibly defeat me? Miss Zhan, let me tell you this: your Shifu, Tie Qin Xiansheng [Mister Iron ‘Qin’ – zither] is too narrow-minded. Not to mention that I did not learn even half a stance of the Kunlun Liang Yi Jian, even if I did, can you really say that I have committed a capital crime?”

Zhan Chun was silent. Inwardly she agreed that her master had made a big fuss over a minor issue. Just because he found out that Su Xizhi saw him launching the sword technique, he dispatched six disciples to pursue and kill him for thousands of ‘li’. In the end, she was going to die together with this man. She believed at this moment this man had no reason to lie, so if he said that he did not steal the martial art technique, then she believed he was telling the truth.

Su Xizhi also said, “He gave you these Wei Du secret projectiles, but did not give you the antidote. Is there such custom within the Wulin world? Damn it …”

In a soft voice Zhan Chun said, “Su Dage [big brother], Xiaomei [little sister – referring to self] has harmed you. Right now my heart is heavy with regret. It’s good that I will accompany you to the other world. This is called fate. I only feel sorry for your family, your wife and children [Translator’s note: the original Chinese text was much more polite; she called his wife ‘Da Sao’ (eldest sister-in-law), and the children ‘gongzi’ and ‘xiaojie’ (young master and young miss).] I really have no idea what I had done.”

Su Xizhi sighed and said, “My woman died two years ago, leaving behind a boy and a girl to me, one is six years old, the other is four. Tomorrow they will become orphans with no father and no mother.”

“Do you have any other family member?” Zhan Chun asked, “Anybody to look after the children?”

“Presently my sister-in-law is looking after them,” Su Xizhi said, “But she is rather short-tempered; oftentimes she is mean and unreasonable, I think she is a bit jealous of me. Ay! From now on these two babies will have to suffer a lot of pains.”

Zhan Chun said in a low voice, “It’s all my fault.”

Su Xizhi shook his head and said, “I can’t blame you on this. You have received your school’s strict order, and thus have no choice but to obey; it’s not like you have a personal enmity against me. In fact, after I got hit with your Wei Du secret projectile, I will certainly die; why should I strike you with my palm and use the secret projectile to injure you? Otherwise, I am saying this with all honestly: I know you have a good conscience, certainly you would be willing to look after my two cruel-fated children.”

Forcing a smile, Zhan Chun said, “I am the murderer who killed you, how can you say I have a good conscience?”

Su Xizhi said, “I really do not blame you, I do not blame you at all.”

Just now, the two of them were fighting a life and death battle, but as they realized they were going to die soon, they both were reluctant to leave the world of the living and their hearts were filled with nothing but kindness and goodwill.

Listening to this point, Zhang Wuji thought, “Looks like these man and woman are not bad people; besides, that surnamed Su still have two small children.” Remembering the hardship Yang Buhui and he suffered because they were orphans, he came out of his hiding place underneath the bushes and said, “Miss Zhan, do you know the kind of poison you have on your Wei Du nail?” To see a teenager and a little girl suddenly appear from the bushes, Su Xizhi and Zhan Cun had already felt strange. They were even more surprised to hear Zhang Wuji asking the question.

Zhang Wuji said, “I have a rudimentary knowledge of medicine. Gentleman and Lady have been poisoned, you might not be beyond help.”

Zhan Chun said, “What kind of poison, I may not know. But the wound is unbearably itchy. My Shifu said that after one got hit by this Sang Men nail, one will have only eight hours to live.”

Zhang Wuji said, “Let me have a look at the wound.”

Su and Zhan, two people noticed that he was young, his clothes were raggedy, his entire body was filthy; in short, he looked more like a beggar to them, what could he possibly know about treating poison wound?

In a rough voice Su Xizhi said, “Look, our lives are in danger. This is not a place for children to create trouble. Just go far away from me, alright?”

Zhang Wuji did not pay him any attention; he picked the Sang Men nail from the ground and sniffed it. He smelled a whiff of faint fragrance of flower. These days, whenever he had some time during their journey, he would flip the pages of Wang Nangu’s ‘Poison Manual’, to acquaintance himself with the fantastic oddities of every description of the poisons and venoms around the world. As soon as he smelled this kind of aroma, he knew at once that the poison on the Sang Men nail was from the blue ‘tuo luo’ flower [Datura stramonium(?)]. The Poison Manual did say that the juice of this flower’s original smell was stinky like dead fish. In itself, it was not poisonous, even if one to drink an entire bowl it would not bring the least bit of harm, but as soon as it is mixed with blood, it would turn into deadly poison, while its smell would turn fragrant.

“This is the poison from the ‘tuo luo’ flower,” Zhang Wuji said.

Zhan Chun did not know what kind of poison was applied on the Sang Men nails, but she knew that there was indeed this kind of flower in her Shifu’s flower garden. “Ah,” she exclaimed in surprise, “How do you know?” The blue ‘tuo luo’ flower was a very rare poisonous flower; it originated from the western region, and had never been found in the central China.

Zhang Wuji nodded. “I know,” he said. Taking Yang Buhui’s hand, he said, “Let’s go.”

“Xiao Xiongdi [little brother],” Zhan Chun busily said, “If you know the treatment, please be kind and save our lives.”

At first, Zhang Wuji was considering to help them, however, he suddenly remembered the evil expressions on Jian Jie and Xue Gongyuan’s faces when they were about to eat them, he could not help but hesitate.

Su Xizhi said, “Xiao Xianggong [young master], I [orig. zaixia – the lowly or humble one] have eyes but failed to see an expert; please do not blame me.”

“Alright,” Zhang Wuji said, “Let me have a try.” Taking some golden needles from his pocket, he pierced the ‘shan zhong xue’ [lit. sheep’s odor acupoint] on Zhan Chun’s chest, and the ‘que pen xue’ [empty basin acupoints] on her left and right shoulders, to stop the pain in her chest due to the palm injury she received earlier.

“This ‘tuo luo’ flower will become poisonous as soon as it meets the blood,” he said, “But it will not create any harm if it enters the stomach. The two of you need to suck each other’s wound first, until the blood is free of any coagulation.”

Su Xizhi and Zhan Chun were embarrassed and felt uncomfortable, but right now, their lives were more important, besides, there was no way they would be able to suck their own wounds. Therefore, left with no other choice, they sucked the poisonous blood from each other’s wound.

Zhang Wuji picked three kinds of herbal medicine by the hillside; he chewed it until it was mushy and then applied it on the two people’s wounds. “These three types of herbal medicine can temporarily stop the attack of the poison, but it is ineffective to drive the poison completely out of your systems,” he said, “We must go to the next town and look for a drugstore, and then I will mix the medicine to treat your poison.”

Originally, the wounds on Su and Zhan, two people, were unbearably itchy, but as soon as the herbal medicine was applied, they felt cool and comfortable, while at the same time their limbs were no longer numb and weak. At once they repeatedly expressed their gratitude.

Each one of them broke a tree branch to use it as a crutch, then helping each other, they slowly continued their journey ahead. Zhan Chun asked Zhang Wuji’s school and origin. Zhang Wuji did not want to explain the truth, he simply said that he understood medicine since his childhood.

After walking for more than two hours, they arrived at the town of Shahe [in Hebei province]. The four of them found an inn to rest. Zhang Wuji wrote a prescription and Su Xizhi had an inn-helper to get the medicine. By this time, the area west of Henan and Hebei had not suffered disaster; although the Mongolian government officers practiced unruly and tyrannical cruelty, they were not in the least different than any other places, the common people still had food to eat. The shops and inns in Shahe were open for business as usual. As soon as the inn-helper returned with the medicine, Zhang Wuji cooked it and fed it to Su Xizhi and Zhan Chun.

The four of them stayed in the inn for three days. Each day Zhang Wuji changed the prescription. He applied the medicine externally as well as internally. By the fourth day, the poison in Su Xizhi and Zhan Chun’s bodies had been completely eradicated. The two of them profusely expressed their gratitude; they asked Zhang Wuji and Yang Buhui’s destination. Zhang Wuji mentioned the name of Zuo Wang Peak of the Kunlun Mountain.

“Su Dage,” Zhan Chun said, “We owe our lives to this Xiao Xiongdi. However, my five Shixiong [martial brother] are still out there looking for you. This matter has not been brought to completion yet. What do you say you come with me going up Mount Kunlun?”

Su Xizhi was stunned. “Going up Mount Kunlun?” he asked.

“That’s right,” Zhan Chun said, “I will accompany you to pay a visit to my master. We will explain that you have not learned even half a stance of the Kunlun Liang Yi Jian. If we do not resolve this matter with him, the Senior, you will face an endless disaster in the future.”

Su Xizhi was angry in his heart, he said, “You, Kunlun Pai, bully others too much. I just took one look and I nearly entered the gates of hell. Isn’t that enough?”

“Su Dage,” Zhan Chun said in gentle voice, “Please think about the difficulty Xiao Mei has to face. It’s not a problem for me to explain to my Shifu that you did not draw any advantage in sword technique from watching him; however, if my five Shixiong get hold of you and harm you, how would Xiao Mei feel?”

After going through life and death situation together for several days, their affection to each other grew. Listening to her gentle words full of tender feeling, Su Xizhi’s anger subsided at once. He also thought, “Kunlun Pai is strong in numbers; if they do not stop harassing me, eventually I will lose my life under their hands.”

Seeing him hesitate, Zhan Chun continued, “Please come with me first. Whatever important matter you need to attend, Xiao Mei will come with you and together we will deal with it after our visit to Mount Kunlun. What do you say?”

Su Xizhi was delighted. “Alright,” he said, “Let’s do it this way. Only I wonder whether Zun Shi [revered master] would trust me?”

Zhan Chun said, “Usually Shifu is very fond of me. If I earnestly ask him, I am sure he will not make things difficult for you. As soon as this matter is settled, Xiao Mei is thinking of visiting your young master and young miss, so that they will not be bullied by your sister-in-law.”

Hearing the way she talked, Su Xizhi knew the feeling between them was mutual; he was very happy. To Zhang Wuji he said, “Xiao Xiongdi, let us go up the Mount Kunlun together, so that we will keep each other company.”

Zhan Chun said, “The Kunlun Mountains stretch for thousands of ‘li’; I don’t even know how many peaks there are. I don’t know where that Zuo Wang Peak is, but if our Kunlun Pai is looking for a peak on Kunlun Mountains, I am sure we will find it.”

The next day, Su Xizhi hired a large cart for Zhang Wuji and Yang Buhui to ride, while Zhan Chun and he rode on horsebacks. When they arrived at the next bigger town, Zhan Chun bought several sets of clothes for Zhang Wuji and Yang Buhui. After they changed clothes, they were transformed into totally different persons. Su and Zhan two people cheered loudly as they saw the change in appearances on this pair of children; the boy looked so handsome and the girl so pretty. Until that day, these two children had been travelling a long and arduous journey; after having good meals, they gradually turned into a pair of healthy children.

They went farther and farther to the west, the weather also turned colder and colder. Fortunately, they had Su Xizhi and Zhan Chun looking after them, so they had a pleasant journey. When they reached the western region, Kunlun Pai’s influence was strongly felt; there was even less obstruction. Only, the yellow sand assaulted their faces and the cold wind penetrated their bones, making the journey hard to endure. In less than a day they had arrived at the Mount Kunlun’s San Sheng Ao [three-sage cavity/valley]. Everywhere they looked, there was green grass like a carpet, with fruit trees and flower bushes. Su Xizhi and Zhang Wuji had never imagined that there would be such a beautiful place like this in this desolate desert, they were delighted. Turned out the San Sheng Ao was surrounded on all sides by skyscraping mountain peaks, which protect it from the cold winds.

Ever since ‘Kunlun San Sheng’ [Three Sages of Kunlun] He Zudao, the successive Sect Leaders had spent considerable effort and meticulous care to conserve and tidy up this valley in the next seventy, eighty years. They dispatched the disciples as far as Jiang Nan [general term referring to the area south of Yangtze River] on the east, and Tianzhu [Indian subcontinent] on the west, to collect rare flowers and extraordinary trees to be cultivated this valley.

Zhan Chun took the three of them to ‘Tie Qin Ju’ [Iron Zither Residence], where Tie Qin Xiansheng, He Taichong took his residence. As they entered the door, she saw hat a crowd of her martial brothers and sisters were gathered inside with worried looks on their faces. They only nodded their acknowledgement to her without saying anything. Zhan Cun shivered inwardly, she wondered what had happened. Pulling a younger martial sister aside, she asked, “Is Shifu home?”
The female disciple had not yet replied when they heard He Taichong roar in violent rage coming from the inner chamber, “What a useless bunch! A useless bunch! [orig. fan tong – ‘rice bucket’] Everything I ask you to do, nothing is done properly. What use do I have of these worthless [orig. nong bao – wrap cloth of a boil or a wound] disciples?” followed by an earth-shattering noise of a table being slapped.

Zhan Chun turned toward Su Xizhi and said, “Shifu is having a fit of temper, we’d better not bump against the nail, let’s come back tomorrow.”

“Is that Chun’er?” suddenly He Taichong called out, “What are you doing whispering sneakily? Have you severed the head of that little thief surnamed Su?”

Zhan Chun’s face changed; she scrambled toward the inner chamber, kneeled down and kowtowed. “Disciple pays her respects to Shifu,” she said.

He Taichong said, “I sent you to do something for me. How was it? How is that little thief surnamed Su?”

“That man surnamed Su is outside,” Zhan Chun replied, “He comes to kowtow and apologize to Shifu. He said he did not realize his offense; or else he would not have watched Shifu practice the sword technique. But our School’s sword technique is most refined and subtle that as soon as he looked, he knew it was a brilliant sword move, unparalleled in the world. However, he did not have any luck that it was all an unfathomable mystery to him; in the end, he did not have the slightest comprehension.”

She had followed her master for quite some time; she knew he was extremely proud of his own martial art skill. Therefore, she said that Su Xizhi highly commended their school’s martial art. If her master was happy, then he might forgive Su Xizhi.

Normally, this conceited He Taichong would take things lightly, but today his mood was greatly agitated. “Humph,” he snorted, “You dealt with this matter well! Confine that surnamed Su in the stone building behind the mountain. I’ll punish him later.”

Zhan Chun realized he was still in a fit of temper, so she did not dare to press further. “Yes!” she said; then she asked, “Are Shimu [master wives] all well? Let me pay my respects inside.”

Altogether, He Taichong had five wives and concubines. The one he loved most was the youngest, the fifth concubine. Zhan Chun was thinking that in order to seek forgiveness for Su Xizhi, she would need this ‘Wu Shimu’ [Fifth Master Wife] to speak on their behalf.

He Taichong’s face suddenly turned sorrowful, he heaved a deep sigh and said, “It’s alright for you to see ‘Wu Gu’ [fifth (paternal) aunt], she has been very sick. It’s good that you returned this quick so that you can still see her face.”

Zhan Chun was startled. “Wu Gu is not feeling well?” she asked, “I wonder what kind of sickness?”

He Taichong sighed again. “If we know the sickness, then we can help her. We have had seven, eight supposedly famous doctors to examine her, but they can’t even tell what sickness she is suffering. Her whole body swells; a woman as beautiful as flower and jade, swollen … Ay, I don’t want to talk about it …” He repeatedly shook his head, and then he continued, “I have this many disciples, but all are just a useless bunch. I told them to Changbai Shan [Mount Changbai, Jilin province] to look for thousand-year ginseng. They have been gone for two months, yet nobody returned. I told them to look for Xue Lian [snow lotus (Saussurea involucrata)], or other miracle drug, yet everybody returned empty handed.”

Zhan Chun mused, “Changbai Shan is ten thousand ‘li’ away from this place, how can they promptly return? Even after reaching Changbai Shan, they might not necessarily find the thousand-old ginseng. As for Xue Lian or other miracle drug, which can bring the dead back to life, it’s not likely that we can find it even if we look for it our entire lives, much less in a short time? How can there be such convenience?” She knew her master loved this young concubine as much as he loved his own life. Now that she had fallen seriously ill, no wonder he vented his anger to others.

He Taichong continued, “I transmitted my internal energy through her ‘chi’ passage, but it did not make the least bit of difference. Humph, humph, if Wu Gu’s life cannot be saved, I am going to kill all useless physicians in the world.”

“Let disciple come and visit her,” Zhan Chun said.

“Fine, let me come with you,” He Taichong said.

The master and disciple went together to the Fifth Aunt’s chamber. As soon as Zhan Chun walked through the door, her nostrils were assaulted by strong odor of medicine. Upon opening the mosquito net, she saw the Fifth Aunt’s face was swollen like Zhu Bajie [the pig-face character in the Journey to the West]; her eyes were buried deep underneath the swollen flesh that she almost could not open her eyes. Her breathing was so heavy that it sounded like the bellows a blacksmith. The Fifth Aunt was originally a beautiful woman; He Taichong would not be this infatuated with her otherwise. However, because of the illness she had turned into an ugly woman. Zhan Chun could not help but heave a deep sigh.

“Call those useless doctors to examine her again,” He Taichong said. The old female servant who was attending to her needs complied and went out the room. Soon afterwards, they heard the clinking noise of iron chains as seven doctors walked in. The legs of these seven men were chained together. Their appearance looked haggard and their faces were pitiful.

These seven men were famous physicians from Sichuan, Yunnan, and Gansu regions. They were half-invited, half-kidnapped by He Taichong’s disciples. But these seven famous doctors did not share the same opinion; some said she was bloated, some said she was possessed by evil spirit. They all wrote prescriptions, but after taking the prescribed medicine, the Fifth Aunt condition was no different that her condition on the first day.

In his rage, He Taichong had these seven famous physicians locked up, saying that if the Fifth Aunt was not cured, these seven useless doctors (by this time, the ‘famous doctors’ had turned into ‘useless doctors’) would accompany her to the grave. The seven doctors had used up their entire skill, but the Fifth Aunt’s swelling was growing bigger and bigger. They knew their lives were at stake, but each time they did the examination together, these seven doctors were always arguing loudly with each other. Each one criticizing the other six, saying that the Fifth Aunt’s worsened condition was because of the others’ mistake, it had nothing to do with him.

This time was no different; as soon as they entered the room and examined her pulse, they started bickering with each other. He Taichong was anxious and enraged; he roared his curses that the seven famous or useless doctors’ voices were drowned.

Zhan Chun’s mind suddenly clicked. “Shifu,” she said, “I brought a doctor from Henan. Although his age is young, his skill is somewhat superior to these doctors.”

“Why didn’t you say so?” He Taichong was delighted, “Quickly invite him, quickly invite him!”

Each time the famous doctor arrived, he always treated him with an utmost respect; but he would not be polite anymore as soon as the ‘famous doctor’ turned into a ‘useless doctor’.

Zhan Chun quickly returned to the hall and took Zhang Wuji inside. As soon as Zhang Wuji saw He Taichong, he recognized him as one of the crowd who forced his parents to their death on Mount Wudang a few years ago; he could not refrain from feeling hatred and resentment. However, it had been four, five years since then, that Zhang Wuji’s face and stature had undergone huge changes. He Taichong did not recognize Zhang Wuji. He only saw a fourteen, maybe fifteen years old teenager, who did not kneel down and kowtow to him.

He Taichong’s eyes narrowed; his face turned cold, and he no longer took any notice of Zhang Wuji. “Where is that doctor you were talking about?” he asked Zhan Chun.

“This Xiao Xiongdi is the doctor,” Zhan Chun said, “He has an exquisite medical knowledge, I am sure his skill surpasses many famous doctors.”

How could He Taichong believe her? “Nonsense, nonsense!” he said.

Zhan Chun said, “Disciple was hit by the blue ‘tuo luo’ flower poison, he was the one who cure me.”

He Taichong was astonished, he thought, “Without our School’s antidote, anybody who got hit by the blue ‘tuo luo’ flower poison would certainly die. If this kid can cure it, he must be some kind of freak.” Looking up and down to size up Zhang Wuji, he asked, “Young man, do you really know how to treat illness?”

Recalling his parents’ tragic death, actually Zhang Wuji hated He Taichong to his bones, however, by nature, it was difficult for him to hold a grudge, otherwise, he would not easily treat Jian Jie and the others, and he would not treat Zhan Chun of Kunlun Pai. As he heard He Taichong’s rude question this time, although he was not happy, he still nodded his head.

When Zhang Wuji entered the room, he had already smelled strange odor. After a while, he felt the odor was sometimes growing stronger, another time the odor was dispersing. He felt the odor was very unusual. He walked toward the Fifth Aunt’s bed and examined her face. He pressed the wrists of her both hands to check her pulse. Suddenly he took out a golden needle from his pocket and pricked it into her face which was swollen as big as a pumpkin.

He Taichong was shocked. “What are you doing?” he barked. As he lifted up his hand to grab Zhang Wuji, Zhang Wuji had already pulled the needle out, but there was no blood coming out from the Fifth Aunt’s face. He Taichong’s five fingers were less than half a foot from Zhang Wuji’s back when he stopped. He saw that Zhang Wuji brought the needle to his nose and then nodded his head.

A ray of hope grew in He Taichong’s heart. “Young … Xiao Xiongdi,” he said, “Can her illness be cured?” For a leader of a major sect to unexpectedly call Zhang Wuji ‘Xiao Xiongdi’ [little brother], he could be considered very polite.

Zhang Wuji did not answer. He crawled underneath the Fifth Aunt’s bed for a while, and then he opened the bedroom window and looked at the flower garden outside. Suddenly he jumped out the window and took a stroll in the garden. He Taichong was very fond of the Fifth Aunt, so he had all kinds of rare flowers and plants grew outside her window. When he saw Zhang Wuji was acting strange, he felt as if his heart was frying in oil. He was hoping that Zhang Wuji would immediately write a prescription and cure the Fifth Aunt strange illness, but he was strolling leisurely in the flower garden instead; how could he not be angry? But when his hands and feet were bound without him able to do anything and suddenly he saw the light at the end of the tunnel, he was forced to suppress his anger. Still, his face turned dark and his breathing was getting faster.

He observed that Zhang Wuji looked at the flowers and plants for a while and then he nodded his head as if he understood something. Upon returning to the room, Zhang Wuji said, “Her illness can be cured, but I don’t want to cure her. Miss Zhan, I am leaving.”

“Zhang Xiongdi,” Zhan Chun said, “If you heal the Fifth Aunt, our Kunlun Pai, from top to bottom, will be greatly indebted to you. I must certainly ask you to heal her.”

Pointing his finger to He Taichong, Zhang Wuji said, “This Tie Qin Xiansheng took part in forcing the death of my father and mother; why should I save his family’s life?”

He Taichong was shocked. “Xiao Xiongdi,” he asked, “What is your honorable surname? Who are your respected father and mother?”

“My surname is Zhang,” Zhang Wuji replied, “My departed father was the fifth disciple of Wudang Pai.”

He Taichong’s heart turned cold. “Turns out he is Zhang Cuishan’s son,” he mused, “Wudang Pai is truly good; he learned from his family school, I guess his skill must be good.” Immediately he sighed in grief and said, “Zhang Xiongdi, when your respected father was still alive, he and I [orig. ‘zaixia’ – under, the humble one] were good friends. When he committed suicide, I did not stop grieving over his death …” In order to save his beloved concubine’s life, he did not hesitate to flatter without any reservation.

Zhan Chun also helped her master propagating the lie, “After your father and mother died, Shifu wept bitterly several times. He often told us, the disciples, that your respected father was his most cherished friend he had his entire life. Zhang Xiongdi, why didn’t you tell me earlier? If I knew you are Zhang Wu Xia’s [fifth hero] son, I would have treated you with more respect.”

Zhang Wuji was half-believing and half-doubting, but since he did not easily hold any grudge, he said, “Madame has not contacted some strange disease; she is suffering from the snake venom of ‘Jin Yin Xue She’ [gold and silver blood snakes].”

“Jin Yin Xue She?” He Taichong and Zhan Chun exclaimed together.

“That’s right,” Zhang Wuji said, “I have never seen this kind of vipers myself, but Madame’s cheeks are swollen, and when I pricked it with the golden needle, the needle smelled like the sandalwood fragrance. Mr. He, please take a look at Madame’s feet, the tips of her ten toes may have tiny bite marks.”

He Taichong busily tore open the cotton-wadded quilt covering the Fifth Aunt’s body. When he examined her toes carefully, indeed he saw several purplish black bite marks on all her toes. The marks were as tiny as grains of rice; if he did not intentionally look for the marks, he would easily miss them.

As soon as He Taichong saw the marks, his confidence in Zhang Wuji’s skill increased ten-folds. He said, “That’s right, that’s right, there are indeed bite marks on each toes. Xiao Xiongdi is very intelligent, very intelligent. Since Xiao Xiongdi knows the cause, you must also know how to treat it. After Concubine is healed, I will certainly reward you handsomely.” Turning toward the seven physicians, he sternly said, “What ‘cold’ or ‘possessed by evil spirit’, ‘devoid of Yang’ or ‘lack of Yin’? Rubbish! How come you, seven rice buckets, cannot see the bite marks on her toes?” Although he was swearing and cursing, his tone was actually jubilant.

“Madame’s illness is very peculiar,” Zhang Wuji said, “It’s not surprising that they do not know the cause. Please let them go home.”

“Very well, very well!” He Taichong laughed, “Xiao Xiongdi honors us with your presence; if we keep these useless doctors in here, won’t they annoy us to our deaths? Chun’er, give each of them one hundred ‘liang’ [tael], let them go home.”

Narrowly escaped death, the seven physicians were overjoyed. They left in a hurry, for fear that Zhang Wuji’s medical technique was not effective, then He Taichong would lock this ‘little useless doctor’ together with them, and would bury eight big and little ‘useless doctors’ together with the beloved concubine.

“Please ask the servant lady to move Madame’s bed,” Zhang Wuji ordered, “There is a hole underneath the bed from which the Jin Yin Xue snakes coming in and out of their lair.”

He Taichong did not wait for the servant lady; grabbing the bed’s leg with his right hand, he single-handedly pulled the bed away, along with the Madame on it. Sure enough, he saw a small hole underneath the bed. Unable to contain his delight and his anger, he called out, “Quickly get some sulfur and fire over here! Fumigate the vipers, cut them into thousand cuts and ten-thousand pieces!”

Zhang Wuji shook his hand. “Certainly not! Certainly not! Madame was hit by snake venom, she needs these two snakes to heal. If you kill the snakes, Madame will never recover.”

“So be it,” He Taichong said, “What shall we do, then? Please advice.” Ever since his master died, it was the very first time he had uttered these two words ‘please advice’ again.

Zhang Wuji pointed toward the flower garden outside the window. “Mr. He,” he said, “Your honorable wife’s illness stems from those eight ‘ling zhi lan’ [lingzhi orchid] trees in that garden.”

“Is that what’s it called? Lingzhi Orchid?” He Taichong asked, “I did not know its name. A friend of mine knew my affection of flowers and plants, he brought those eight orchid trees from the western region for me. When the flowers bloom, they indeed emit sweet smelling fragrance, like that of sandalwood. The color of the petals is also extremely delicate and beautiful. I have never thought it is the source of the disaster.”

Zhang Wuji said, “According to the book, the root of the Lingzhi Orchid is ball-shaped, fiery red in color, with deadly poison inside. Why don’t we dig it out to see whether it is true?”

By this time, the other disciples had heard about the young doctor who was going to treat the Fifth Master-wife’s strange illness. The male disciples felt it was inappropriate for them to enter the room, so only Zhan Chun and the other female disciples, six in total, were standing on the side. Hearing Zhang Wuji’s order, two female disciples quickly fetched iron shovels and began digging around the root of one of the Lingzhi Orchid tree. As expected, they saw the fiery red ball-shaped root. The disciples heard Zhang Wuji when said that the root contained deadly poison; how could they dare to touch it?

Zhang Wuji said, “Please dig all eight of the ball-shaped roots for me and place them in a clay pot. Put eight chicken eggs and a bowl of chicken blood, and mince everything into mush. Be careful in mixing the concoction, make sure nothing splashes onto your flesh.”

Zhan Chun complied; she took two younger disciples to do his order. Zhang Wuji also wanted two bamboo tubes, about a foot long each, and a bamboo stick, which he set aside.

Soon afterwards, the Lingzhi Orchid’s ball roots had been mashed into a thick paste. Zhang Wuji applied the paste on the floor, making a circle, but he left a gap about two ‘cun’ wide [1 cun is approximately 1 inch].

“Soon you will see an unusual thing; do not make any noise,” Zhang Wuji said, “If the vipers are frightened, they will disappear without any trace. All of you must take licorice root and cotton; squeeze it into your nostrils.”

Everybody followed his order at once. Zhang Wuji also stopped his nostrils then he took some kindling material and burned the Lingzhi Orchid’s leaf he placed in front of the snake hole.

Less than the time to drink a cup of tea later, a little snake head appeared from the small hole. The snake’s body was blood red. There was a golden crown-like flesh on its head. The snake slowly crawled out. Unexpectedly, this snake had four legs. Its length was approximately eight ‘cun’. Behind this snake, there was another snake crawling out of the hole. The second snake was a little shorter, but it looked exactly like the first snake, except the crown on its head was silver in color.

Seeing these two strange snakes, He Taichong and the others held their breath; nobody dared to make any noise. It goes without saying that this kind of strange snake must be deadly venomous, but these people were martial art experts, they were not afraid of the snakes. However, if the snakes were scared away, the Madame’s foul disease would be difficult to cure.

They saw the two snakes were extending their tongues to lick each other’s back; they looked very affectionate, leaning and snuggling on each other, while crawling slowly to enter the Lingzhi Orchid paste circle.

Zhang Wuji quickly placed one bamboo tube outside the circle’s gap, while using the bamboo stick he gently pushed the tail of the silver-crowned blood snake. The snake moved in a lightning speed; everybody only saw a flash of silver lightning and the snake had already entered the tube. The golden-crowned blood snake also wanted to follow in, but the bamboo tube was too small; it could contain only one snake. As the golden-crowned blood snake was unable to enter, it produced an anxious ‘hu, hu’ sound.

With the bamboo stick, Zhang Wuji pushed the other bamboo tube in front of the golden-crowned blood snake. The snake also entered the tube. Zhang Wuji quickly took a wooden cork and closed the bamboo tube opening.

From the time the pair of snakes came out of the hole, everybody had been nervously holding their breath in trepidation. When Zhang Wuji finally closed the bamboo tubes with wooden corks, these people exhaled together as if by prior agreement.

Zhang Wuji said, “Please take several buckets of hot water and scrub the floor clean. We must not have any Lingzhi Orchid’s poison remain in here.”

The six female disciples rushed into the kitchen to boil some water. They returned a short while later and promptly washed the floor clean.

Zhang Wuji instructed them to shut the doors and windows tight, also for them to fetch some ‘xiong huang’ [realgar], ‘ming fan’ [potassium alum], ‘dai huang’ [Chinese rhubarb], ‘gan cao’ [licorice], and other drug ingredients, and ground them into powder, mixed with quicklime [Calcium Oxide]. He poured the mixture into the bamboo tube containing the silver-crowned blood snake. The snake immediately produced a ‘hu hu’ sound, which was immediately responded by the golden-crowned snake in the other bamboo tube. Zhang Wuji took the wooden cork out. The golden-crowned snake went out of the tube and crawled anxiously around the tube containing the silver-crowned snake. Suddenly it dashed toward the bed and disappeared underneath Fifth Aunt’s cotton quilt.

“Ah!” He Taichong was extremely shocked. Zhang Wuji shook his hand, and then gently uncovered the cotton quilt. They saw that the golden-crowned snake was biting the middle toe of the Fifth Aunt’s left foot.

Zhang Wuji’s face lit up as he said in a low voice, “The Jin Yin Xue snakes’ venom inside Madame’s body is currently being sucked out by this snake.”

About half the time needed to burn an incense stick later, the snake’s body grew several times its original size; the golden crown on its head also grew brighter. Zhang Wuji partly opened the wooden cork containing the silver-crowned snake. The golden-crowned snake leaped down from the bed and went to the bamboo tube. It spat the poisonous blood from its mouth to feed the silver snake.

“That’s enough,” Zhang Wuji said, “We’ll draw the poison out twice daily, plus I am going to write a prescription to rapidly reduce the swelling, within ten days she will recover completely.”

He Taichong was ecstatic. He invited Zhang Wuji into his study and said, “Xiao Xiongdi is extremely skillful. Would you advice me of what is going on?”

Zhang Wuji replied, “According to the book, this pair of golden-crowned and silver-crowned snakes occupies number 47 in the world in term of its toxicity, so their venom cannot be considered very fierce. However, there is one singular characteristic: they feed on poisons; ‘pi shuang’ [arsenic frost], ‘he ding hong’ [lit. red top of a crane], ‘kong que dan’ [peacock gall bladder], ‘zhen jiu’ [wine made of feathers of legendary bird], and so on, no exception. Lingzhi Orchid grew in the flower garden outside Madame’s window. This Lingzhi Orchid’s toxicity is truly fierce; it had unexpectedly drawn the pair of Jin Yin Xue snakes.”

He Taichong nodded. “So that’s how it is,” he said.

Zhang Wuji said, “Jin Yin Xue snakes always live in pairs, male and female. Just now, I used realgar and other chemicals to burn the silver-crowned female snake. To save its mate, the male golden-crowned snake absorbed the poisonous blood from Madame’s toe and feed it to her. Hereafter I am going to burn the male snake. The female snake will definitely drew some more poisonous blood. By repeating this procedure several times, the venom inside Madame’s body can be totally eradicated.”

Speaking to this point, he remembered something. “Why did the snakes bite Madame’s toes in the first place?” he mused, “There must be another reason.” After thinking for a while without finding any satisfactory answer, he dropped the matter out of his mind.

That very same day He Taichong held a banquet at the inner hall to entertain Zhang Wuji and Yang Buhui. Zhang Wuji thought that since Yang Buhui was Ji Xiaofu’s illegitimate daughter, he did not want to implicate Emei Pai’s reputation; thereupon, when He Taichong inquired of her, he gave him a vague answer without further explanation.

A few days later, the swelling on the Fifth Aunt subsided, her spirit recovered, she was able to eat and drink. Zhang Wuji bid his farewell, but He Taichong earnestly asked him to stay, for fear that his beloved concubine’s illness would return.

Toward the afternoon of the tenth day, the swelling on the Fifth Aunt had completely disappeared. The Fifth Aunt prepared an exquisite banquet complete with fine wine as her way of saying thanks to Zhang Wuji. She also invited Zhan Chun to accompany the guests.

Although the Fifth Aunt’s countenance was still thin and pallid, her beauty had returned, making He Taichong utterly delighted. Seeing her master was in a very good mood, Zhan Chun implored him to take Su Xizhi as his disciple.

He Taichong roared in laughter. “Chun’er,” he said, “Your ‘removing-the-firewood-from-under-the-pot’ ruse is very well executed. If I accepted this surnamed Su fellow, then I might pass on the ‘Kunlun Liang Yi Jian’ sword technique to him. In that case, what harm would it bring if he has previously peeked one time?”

“Shifu,” Zhan Chun laughed, “If not because this surnamed Su fellow peeking your sword practice, disciple would not have left to pursue him, and thus would not come across Brother Zhang. No doubt that Shifu and Wu Gu’s good fortune have always flooded the heavens, and that Brother Zhang’s medical skill is brilliant; but come to think about it, this fellow surnamed Su also has a tiny bit of contribution.”

The Fifth Aunt said to He Taichong, “You have received these many disciples, in the end, nobody was able to help you in your distress, except Miss Zhan who has rendered you a great service. Since Miss Zhan has her heart set on that fellow, I am sure he must have something good in him. Why don’t you accept one more disciple? Who knows, perhaps in the future he will be your most capable disciple.”

He Taichong had always listened to his most beloved concubine, thereupon he said, “Very well, I will accept him on one condition.”

“What is it?” the Fifth Aunt asked.

With a straight face He Taichong said, “Upon entering my school, he must keep his mind on his lessons, he must not have any wishful thinking toward Chun’er, thinking about taking her as his wife, for example. I will strictly enforce this one condition.”

Zhan Chun blushed and hang her head low. The Fifth Aunt giggled and said, “Aiyo, as the Shifu, you must set a good example. You yourself have three wives and four concubines, and yet you forbid your disciple to marry?”

He Taichong was only teasing Zhan Chun. He broke out in laughter and said, “Let’s drink! Let’s drink!”

A young maid came in, carrying a wooden tray in his hands, with a pot of wine on the tray. She came in front of the banquet table and poured wine for everybody. The wine was thick and rather sticky, golden yellow in color, its sweet aroma assailed their nostrils.

“Zhang Xiongdi,” He Taichong said, “This wine is our mountain’s famous product, it is fermented from the ‘hu po mi li’ [lit. amber honey pear] grown on the snowy peak. It is called ‘hu po mi li jiu’ [amber honey pear wine]. You won’t find it outside this area. You should not drink only a little of it.” While in his mind he pondered, “How can I swindle him into spilling out the Jin Mao Shi Wang [golden-mane lion king] Xie Xun’s whereabouts? I must plan it carefully, cannot have the slightest bit of rashness.”

Actually, Zhang Wuji was not a wine-drinker, but since the sweet aroma of the ‘hu po mi li jiu’ was flooding his brain, he took the cup with both hands. He had just brought the cup to his lips when the pair of Jin Yin Xue snakes he kept in his pocket was calling out, ‘hu hu hu’. Zhang Wuji’s mind was stirred. “We must not drink this wine,” he called out.

Everybody was startled and put down the wine cups at once. From his pocket Zhang Wuji took the bamboo tubes out and released the golden-crowned blood snake. The snake crawled toward the wine cup and stretching out its neck, it sucked the wine dry. Zhang Wuji returned the snake into the bamboo tube, and then released the female silver-crowned blood snake to also drink a cup. This pair of snakes did not want to be separated from each other, so if only either the male or the female was released, they would not go far and were very tame. However, if both of them were released at the same time, not only it would be difficult to return them into the bamboo tubes, they might even bite.

The Fifth Aunt laughed and said, “Xiao Xiongdi, your pair of snakes can drink wine. They are so amusing.”

Zhang Wuji said, “Could you have someone bring in a dog or a cat, please?”

“Yes,” the young maid replied and turned around to leave the room.

Zhang Wuji said, “Would this Jiejie [elder sister] wait here and not go? Let someone else get the cat or the dog.”

A short while later, a servant came in pulling a yellow dog. Zhang Wuji took the cup of wine in front of He Taichong and poured it into the yellow dog’s mouth. The yellow dog barked sadly several times, and then died with blood flowing from all its seven orifices.

The Fifth Aunt was so frightened that her entire body trembled. “The wine is poisonous … who … who wants to kill us? Zhang Xiongdi, how did you know?”

Zhang Wuji said, “Jin Yin Xue snakes feed on poison. When they smelled the poison in the wine, they cried out happily.”

He Taichong’s face turned pale; he grabbed the young maid’s wrist and said in low voice, “Who told you to deliver this poisonous wine to us?”

The young maid was shocked and scared out or her wits. In a trembling voice she stammered, “I … I didn’t know it was … it was poisonous … I took it from the kitchen …”

“Whom did you meet on the way from the kitchen to this room?” He Taichong asked.

The young maid replied, “I saw Xing Fang at the corridor, she stopped me to talk to me, she opened the wine pot to smell its aroma.”

He Taichong, the Fifth Aunt and Zhan Chun looked at each other with fear on their faces. Turned out that Xing Fang was the trusted maid of He Taichong’s first wife.

“Mr. He,” Zhang Wuji said, “I was reluctant to say it, although I have pondered about it in my heart. Think about it, why did this pair of Jin Yin Xue snakes bite Madame’s toes in the first place, so that the snake venom entered into her system? Evidently, Madame has already been hit by a slow poison; her blood has already contained poison. This was what attracted the Jin Yin Xue snakes. I am afraid the person who poisoned Madame is the same person who put poison in our wine today.”

He Taichong had not replied when suddenly the curtain on the doorway was opened and a shadow flashed by. Zhang Wuji felt a severe pain on the chest below his breasts as his acupoints were sealed.

A sharp voice said, “You are absolutely right, I was the one who put poison!”

They saw a middle-aged woman came in. She was big and tall in stature, the hair on her head was graying, her eyes revealed a strong character, there were wrinkles in between her eyebrows. The woman said to He Taichong, “I put centipede venom in the wine, what are you going to do?”

The Fifth Aunt’s face showed fear; she stood up at once and respectfully bowed, “Taitai! [Madame]” she called out. Turned out this big and tall woman was He Taichong’s first wife, Ban Shuxian, who was originally his older martial sister.

Seeing his wife burst into the room, He Taichong was silent, he only snorted once. Ban Shuxian said, “I am asking you: I put the poison in the wine. What are you going to do?”

He Taichong said, “You don’t like this young man, that’s fine with me. But you just did this without distinguishing right from wrong. Supposing the wine entered my belly, how can that be good?”

Ban Shuxian indignantly said, “There is no good person in here! If I can torment everybody to death, it is good for me.”

She took the wine pot and shook it lightly. The wine splashed inside the pot; apparently, the pot was still almost full. She poured a cup of wine and placed it in front of He Taichong. “I was thinking of killing all five of you,” she said, “But since this kid has discovered my plan, I am willing to spare four of you. I don’t care who will drink this cup of wine. Lao Gui [old ghost], you decide.” While saying that, ‘shua!’ she drew her sword.

Ban Shuxian was Kunlun Pai’s most illustrious character. She was two years older than He Taichong, and she entered their school earlier, her martial art skill was not inferior to He Taichong. When he was young, He Taichong was a handsome man, so he won the favor of this older martial sister. Their master, Bai Luzi, died in a battle against a Ming Cult expert, and did not leave any will. As a result, the numerous disciples fought over the Sect Leader position, nobody was willing to yield to anybody else. Ban Shuxian threw her full support behind He Taichong. With their combined effort, their power increased greatly. Although the other martial brothers each desired a selfish gain, nobody was able to challenge them. In the end, He Taichong took over the Sect Leader position. Out of his indebtedness, he took this older martial sister as his wife.

As they grew older, due to the difference in their ages, Ban Shuxian appeared to be more than ten years older to He Taichong. Using the pretext of not having a male offspring, He Taichong took a concubine. Because of her dozens of years of prestige and his own conscience – he knew he was at fault, He Taichong held this Shijie [older martial sister] in very high regard. However, although he was afraid of her, he kept taking concubine after concubine. Only, each time he took a new concubine, his fear toward his first wife also increased by 30%.

At this time, as he saw his wife put a poisoned wine in front of him, it had never occurred to him to disobey his wife’s order. He thought, “Certainly I can’t drink it. Wu Gu and Chun’er also cannot drink it. Zhang Wuji is the benefactor who saved our lives. Only this baby girl does not have any relation with us.” Thereupon he stood up and handed the wine cup to Yang Buhui, saying, “Child, drink this cup of wine.”

Yang Buhui was terrified; she had just witnessed how a large yellow dog drank a cup of poisoned wine and died violently; how could she dare to drink the wine? Crying, she said, “I don’t want to drink, I don’t want to drink.”

He Taichong grabbed the clothes on her chest and was about to force her. Zhang Wuji coldly said, “Let me drink it.”

He Taichong felt a pang of regret, but he did not open his mouth at all. Ban Shuxian was actually jealous and wanted to poison He Taichong’s most beloved concubine, the Fifth Aunt. Her scheme was doing so well until Zhang Wuji suddenly appeared and thwarted her plan; therefore, she loathed this young man. With a cold voice she said, “You are a crafty young man, perhaps you have taken the antidote. If you are going to drink, then one cup is not enough, you must drink the entire poisonous wine pot dry.”

Zhang Wuji looked at He Taichong, hoping he would say something on his behalf, who would have thought that He Taichong was looking down and did not utter a single word. Zhan Chun and the Fifth Aunt did not dare to speak, for fear that as soon as they opened their mouth, Ban Shuxian might turn her anger to them, and then this almost full pot of poisonous wine would be poured into their own mouths.

Zhang Wuji’s heart turned icy-cold, he said in his heart, “These several people’s lives were saved by me, but now that I am facing a disaster, they indeed only watch with folded arms, they don’t even utter half a word on my behalf.”

“Miss Zhan,” he said, “After I die, please take this little sister to Zuo Wang Peak where her father is. Would you do that?”

Zhan Chun looked at her master. He Taichong nodded. Thereupon Zhan Chun said, “Very well, I will take her there.” However, in her heart she thought, “Kunlun Mountains spread out for thousands of ‘li’, how do I know where the Zuo Wang Peak is?”

Zhang Wuji could hear that she said those words half-heartedly, obviously she did not have the least bit of sincerity; he knew that these people were hypocritical bunch, so it would not do any good to speak further. With a cold laugh he said, “Kunlun Pai is one of the prestigious school in the Wulin world, turns out it is just like this. Mr. He, get the wine for me!”

He Taichong was indignant to hear him, so he thought the sooner he got rid of Zhang Wuji the better, his wife’s anger would be suppressed sooner, and thus she would not think of any other treacherous scheme to kill the Fifth Aunt. To him, it was a desperate situation; he had no time to worry about Xie Xun’s whereabouts. Therefore, he fetched the almost full pot of poisonous wine and poured it into Zhang Wuji’s mouth.

Yang Buhui hugged Zhang Wuji tight while wailing loudly.

Ban Shuxian laughed coldly and said, “Even if your medical skill is more exquisite, I am going to make sure that you will not be able to save yourself.” Stretching out her hand, her fingers deftly sealed several acupoints on Zhang Wuji’s shoulder, back, waist and sides. Using the end of her sword’s hilt, she also sealed two major acupoints on He Taichong, Zhan Chun, the Fifth Aunt and Yang Buhui’s bodies. She said, “I’ll be back four hours later to release you.” When she sealed their acupoints, He Taichong, Zhan Chun, and the others did not move; they did not even dare to evade.

Ban Shuxian turned toward the servants waiting on the side, “Out!” she said. She went out the room last and closed the door while laughing coldly all the way out.

As soon as the poisonous wine entered his stomach, Zhang Wuji felt excruciating pain deep inside his belly. When Ban Shuxian left the room, he thought, “Now that you left, I may not necessarily die.” Suppressing the pain, he circulated his ‘chi’ using the technique taught by Xie Xun. First, he freed the sealed the acupoints on his body, and then he pulled several strands of his own hair and tickled his throat. ‘Wah!’ he vomited about 80, 90% of the poisonous wine inside his stomach.

He Taichong, Zhan Chun, and the others were utterly amazed seeing how he was able to move even after his acupoints were sealed. He Taichong wanted to reach out and stop him, but unfortunately, his acupoints were also sealed by his own wife. His superior martial art skill was useless at this time, it only increased his anxiety.

Zhang Wuji was still hurting inside, but no matter how hard he tried, there was simply nothing else he could vomit out of his stomach. He thought the best course of action right now was to try to escape from this dangerous place and then find a way to repel the poison. Thereupon he reached out to unseal Yang Buhui’s acupoints. To his surprise, however, Ban Shuxian’s acupoint sealing technique was unique, Zhang Wuji was unable to unseal the acupoints. In this pressing moment, he had no time to try over various acupoint unsealing techniques, thereupon he carried her toward the window. Pushing the window pane outward, he looked around and after making sure there was nobody outside, he put Yang Buhui down outside the window.

If He Taichong used his internal energy [orig. ‘zhen qi’ – true/real ‘chi’] to force the acupoints open, he might be able to do it within a little more than an hour; however, Zhang Wuji was about to escape. If he waited until his wife returned and inquired, he would be in trouble; not to mention this Wudang Pai kid was able to escape from Kunlun Pai’s San Sheng Tang [three-saint hall] unarmed [orig. ‘chi shou kong quan’ – empty hand, empty fist]. If his ungrateful act and hypocritical deeds were spread out in Jianghu, how could he save his face as the grand master of a prestigious sect? No matter what, he simply must kill him. Therefore, he took a deep breath, ready to shout, to warn his wife.

Zhang Wuji had anticipated this, so he took a black pill from his pocket and stuffed it inside the Fifth Aunt’s mouth, saying, “This is the ‘jiu pi wan’ [lit. turtle-dove arsenic pill]. After twenty-four hour, the Fifth Madame will die with broken intestines and split heart. I am going to put the antidote on a big tree thirty ‘li’ from here. You will see the mark. Six hours later, Mr. He can send someone to fetch the medicine. If by any chance I am captured on my way out and am put to death, there will be one person accompanying me.”

This abrupt turn of events took He Taichong by surprise; he hesitated a moment before saying in a low voice, “Xiao Xiongdi, although my San Sheng Tang is not a dragon pool or a tiger lair, I doubt two children like you will be able to break through.”

Zhang Wuji knew he was not bluffing. He laughed coldly and said, “But the toxicity of the ‘jiu pi wan’ the Fifth Madame took, no one else can neutralize it other than I.”

“Alright,” He Taichong said, “You unseal my acupoints, I will personally escort you out.”

He Taichong’s sealed acupoints were ‘feng chi’ and ‘jing men’ [‘wind reservoir’ and ‘capital (city) gate’]. Zhang Wuji massaged his ‘tian zhu’, ‘huan tiao’, ‘da zhui’, ‘shang qu’ [lit. sky pillar, jumping the hoop, big spine, and crooked quotient], several acupoints for a moment, but it hardly gave him the desired effect. In their hearts, the two of them admired one another.

Zhang Wuji thought, “Their Kunlun Pai’s acupoint sealing technique is truly good. Mr. Hu had taught me seven different acupoint unsealing techniques, but all are useless against the sealed acupoints on his body.”

He Taichong thought, “Surprisingly this kid knows these many acupoint unsealing techniques, every technique is marvelous, truly deserving my admiration. Shijie [martial (older) sister] clearly sealed seven, eight of his acupoints, yet somehow she failed to control him? For the last several years the name of Wudang Pai shook the Jianghu. This LaoDao [Ol’ Taoist] Zhang Sanfeng’ ability is unreachable. On the Mount Wudang that day, I was lucky I did not fight Wudang Pai. Otherwise, if they unleashed their anger, I would have fallen with head and face in the mud. He is only a small child, yet he is this good. The older and bigger ones must be ten times better than he is.”

He did not know that Zhang Wuji learned acupoint sealing technique from Xie Xun and the acupoint unsealing technique from Hu Qingniu. Wudang Pai indeed gave him the solid foundation with its prestige that shook the Wulin world, however, these two special skills of Zhang Wuji’s had nothing to do with Wudang Pai.

Seeing Zhang Wuji failed to unseal his acupoints, He Taichong had an idea, “Take that teapot and give me a mouthful of tea,” he said.

Zhang Wuji did not know why he suddenly wanted to drink tea at a moment like this, but knowing that he cared too much about his beloved concubine’s life, he believed He Taichong would not dare to do any trick against him. Thereupon he took the teapot and let him drink some tea.

He Taichong slowly sipped a mouthful of tea, but he did not swallow it. Aiming toward his own ‘qing leng yuan’ [lit. clear and cold abyss] on the crook of his elbow, he exerted his strength and blew a water dart. With ‘chi, chi!’ sound, the acupoint on his hand was immediately unsealed.

Upon his arrival at the San Sheng Tang, Zhang Wuji saw right away how He Taichong threw a fit of temper because of the Fifth Aunt’s illness, that he was a man who fears his wife and pampers his concubine, that he was a weak and indecisive man. Right now, as he witnessed He Taichong’s skill, he could not restrain from being flabbergasted. “This Kunlun Pai Zhang Men’s [Sect Leader] martial art skill is truly profound; I underestimated him before. Apparently, his skill level is not below those of Yu Er Shibo [second martial (older) uncle], Jin Hua Popo and Miejue Shitai. I thought he was a timid and careless. I forgot the fact that he is the Kunlun Pai Zhang Men, a position which not many people would be able to reach. If this water dart was shot to my face or my chest, I would have died instantly.”

He Taichong turned his right hand several times and then he unsealed his own legs’ acupoints. “Give the antidote first,” he said, “Then I will escort you safely out the valley.”

Zhang Wuji shook his head. He Taichong anxiously said, “I am the Kunlun Zhang Men, do you think I will break my promise to a child like you? Won’t it be bad if the poison flares-up?”

Zhang Wuji said, “The poison will not flare-up.”

“Alright,” He Taichong sighed, “Let us go out quietly.”

The two of them jumped out the window. He Taichong reached out and lightly brushed Yang Buhui’s back with his fingers. Her acupoints were immediately unsealed; his hand was incomparably light and swift. Zhang Wuji was extremely impressed, and his face showed his deep respect. He Taichong understood his feelings, he smiled slightly. With each hand holding one child, he circled toward the flower garden behind the San Sheng Tang, and went out through the side door.

Altogether, there were nine entryways around the San Sheng Tang. Other than the side door of the rear garden, all the passages were winding around garden paths, and some lead into various pavilions and halls. Zhang Wuji saw endless rows of rooms with countless doors. If He Taichong did not lead them, he knew he would be lost for sure. Even without any Kunlun disciple stopping them, they might not necessarily be able to escape out.

As soon as they left the San Sheng Tang, He Taichong grabbed Yang Buhui and carried her in his right arm while pulling Zhang Wuji with his left hand. Unleashing his ‘qing gong’, He Taichong took them toward the northwest. Taken by He Taichong, Zhang Wuji felt they were lightly floating on the ground; each jump covered a distance of more than a ‘zhang’ [1 zhang is approximately 10 feet or 3 meters]. The wind sounded so loud in his ears; it was as if they were flying high up in the sky. His respect towards He Taichong and Kunlun Pai grew by several points.

Zhang Wuji realized that the poison in his stomach had not been completely eradicated, so he took two detoxifier pills from his pocket and felt relieved after the pills entered his belly.

While they were still rushing ahead, suddenly they heard a woman’s voice calling, “He Taichong … He Taichong … stop …” This voice was riding on the wind; it sounded very far, yet also sounded as if the speaker was right next to them. It was precisely Ban Shuxian’s voice.

He Taichong hesitated, but in the end he stopped. He said with a sigh, “Xiao Xiongdi, the two of you better go quickly. She is my wife, I cannot escort you any further.”

Zhang Wuji thought, “This man is actually very decent toward us.” Thereupon he said, “Mr. He, you can return now. The pill I gave the Fifth Madame is not poison; it is not ‘Jiu Pi Wan’ at all, it is only ‘sang bei wan’ [mulberry tree shell pill] to moist the throat and suppress coughing. A few days ago Buhui Meimei [younger sister] was coughing, so I made some for her. I still have several pills left and unavoidably I scared you.”

He Taichong was stunned, angry, but also relieved. “So it really is not poison?” he roared.

“I was the one who brought the Fifth Madame back to life,” Zhang Wuji said, “How could I poison her?”

In the meantime, Ban Shuxian did not stop calling, “He Taichong … He Taichong … Are you done running away?” Her voice was somewhat closer.

He Taichong took Zhang Wuji and Yang Buhui away because he was afraid his beloved concubine’s poisoning might be incurable, but now he knew for certain that the Fifth Aunt was not poisoned at all. Turned out he had fallen under this kid’s trick. His anger rose uncontrollably. ‘Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap!’ four times on his ears left and right, Zhang Wuji’s cheeks were swollen and blood dripping down from his mouth.

Zhang Wuji deeply regretted his own action, “I was muddle-headed. Why would I tell him the truth?” he mused, “Now Buhui Meimei and I will lose our lives.”

Seeing He Taichong’s fifth strike was about to arrive, hastily he launched the ‘dao qi long’ [riding a dragon upside-down] from the Wudang ‘chang quan’ [long fist] style, in which his palm met the approaching enemy. If this stance was launched by Yu Lianzhou or his peers, the raw power would be unlimited, but Zhang Wuji’s mastery of this skill was only skin-deep, how could he possibly withstand Kunlun Pai Zhang Men’s strike?

He Taichong slightly leaned sideways. ‘Slap!’ his palm hit Zhang Wuji’s face above his right eye so that his eye was immediately swollen. Zhang Wuji had realized early on that his skill was too far below of his opponent. Since he could not even return a single stance from the opponent, he might as well hang down his hands and stand still, no longer trying to resist. But He Taichong did not give up just because Zhang Wuji did not fight back, he still struck Zhang Wuji one palm after another. Only he did not use internal energy at all, otherwise, one palm strike would be enough to kill him. Still, each palm strike had made Zhang Wuji dizzy and his vision blurred; the pain was unbearable.

While He Taichong was hitting enthusiastically, Ban Shuxian, taking two disciples along, had arrived, she coldly standing on the side.

Seeing Zhang Wuji not fighting back, Ban Shuxian thought it was not interesting. “Try hitting that baby girl,” she said.

He Taichong’s body turned sideways and ‘Slap!’ he struck Yang Buhui’s ear. Yang Buhui was hurt and crying loudly.

Zhang Wuji was angry, “It’s alright for you to hit me, why must you bully a little girl?”

He Taichong ignored him, he stretched out his palm to strike Yang Buhui again. Zhang Wuji jumped forward to hit He Taichong’s chest with his head.

Ban Shuxian sneered and said, “A little boy like that still knows passion and righteousness, unlike an old fickle who completely lacks any sense of love and justice.”

Listening to his wife mocking him, He Taichong’s face reddened. He grabbed the back of Zhang Wuji’s neck and threw him out. “Little bastard!” he roared, “Go see your father and mother!” He was using his full power, aiming Zhang Wuji’s skull toward a large rock on the side of the mountain. Zhang Wuji was unable, he flew swiftly and in an instant he would hit the rock, his brain would burst open.

Suddenly a strong force came in from the side, pulling Zhang Wuji aside and stood him up on the ground. Zhang Wuji was shaken badly, he stood unsteadily and narrowed his swollen eyes to look to the side. He saw about five feet away stood a middle-aged scholar wearing white coarse cotton long robe.

Ban Shuxian and He Taichong looked at each other in astonishment; they did not hear this scholar coming, and did not see from where he came. Supposing he had already been hiding behind the rock, based on their capability, why did these husband and wife not know his presence? Just now He Taichong was using a considerable force in throwing Zhang Wuji toward the rock, the momentum was at least five, six hundred catties, yet the scholar neutralized it, and stood Zhang Wuji on the side, with only a roll of his sleeve. Clearly his martial art skills were amazingly high.

They noticed the scholar was around forty years of age, his appearance was elegant, only his eyebrows were slightly sagging. There were noticeable wrinkles on the corners of his mouth, as if he had grown old before his age due to suffering. He did not speak nor did he move, his expression was apathetic, as if his mind was on some distant place, thinking about some other matters.

He Taichong coughed once and asked, “Who are you, Sire? Why are you meddling willfully, interfering Kunlun Pai’s business?”

The scholar indifferently said, “So you are Tie Qin Xiansheng [Mr. Iron Zither] and Mrs. He? I’m [orig. zaixia – the humble one] Yang Xiao.”

“Ah!” as soon as the two words ‘Yang Xiao’ came out of his mouth, He Taichong, Ban Shuxian and Zhang Wuji, three people, exclaimed together as if by prior agreement. The difference was: Zhang Wuji’s exclamation was full of surprise and delight, while He Taichong, husband and wife, were shocked and angered.

‘Shua, shua!’ the two Kunlun Pai female disciples unsheathed their swords, reversed the sword hilts and gave the sword to their Shifu and Shimu [master and master wife]. He Taichong held the sword across to protect his abdomen, in the ‘xue yong lan qiao’ [snow covers the blue bridge] stance. Ban Shuxian held the sword with its tip slanting to the ground in the ‘mu ye xiao xiao’ [the rustling of trees and leaves] stance. These two stances were the most refined and mysterious within the Kunlun Pai sword techniques. The stances appeared light and casual, but behind each movement seven, eight swift and fierce follow-up movements were hidden.

The two people send their internal strength toward their right arms. With only a simple flick of their wrists, the swords in their hands would flash and they would be able to attack seven, eight vital points on their enemy’s body. Facing a formidable enemy, the two of them were prepared to launch the skill they had learned for all their lives. However, Yang Xiao seemed oblivious to these people; he heard the delight in Zhang Wuji’s voice and felt strange. He turned his glance toward Zhang Wuji, and saw his face was full of blood; his nose was swollen and his eyes blue from the beating he took from He Taichong earlier. He looked awful, but the happiness from the bottom of his heart overflowed to his unsightly face.

Zhang Wuji called out, “You, are you the Ming Cult’s Left Emissary of Brightness, Yang Xiao Bobo [uncle, older than one’s father]?”

Yang Xiao nodded, “How does a child like you know my name?” he asked.

Zhang Wuji pointed toward Yang Buhui and called out, “She is your daughter.” Pulling Yang Buhui closer, he said, “Buhui Meimei, call him Papa, call him Papa! We finally found him!”

Yang Buhui looked at Yang Xiao with eyes opened wide. She was 90% unsure, but truth be told, she did not care whether he was her father or not. She only asked, “Where is Mama? Hasn’t Mama flown down from the sky?”

Yang Xiao’s heart was greatly shaken. He grabbed Zhang Wuji’s shoulder and said, “Child, tell me clearly. She … whose daughter is she? Who is her Mama?” His grab was too strong; Zhang Wuji’s shoulder bone made a ‘crack, crack’ sound, the pain penetrated his heart.

Zhang Wuji was unwilling to show weakness and refused to cry of pain, but in the end an ‘Ah!’ cry still escaped from his mouth. “She is your daughter, her Mama was Emei Pai Heroine Ji Xiaofu,” he said.

Yang Xiao’s original complexion was pale, but this moment his face did not show any sign of pink at all. “She … she has a daughter?” his voice was trembling, “She … where is she?” Hastily he bent down to pick Yang Buhui up. After being struck twice by He Taichong, her cheeks were swollen big, but her features did remind him of Ji Xiaofu’s beauty.

While Yang Xiao was about to inquire further, he suddenly saw black silk thread hanging over her neck. He gently pulled the thread and saw at the end of the thread there was a piece of iron medallion. On the medallion there was a carving of blazing fire inlaid with gold. It was precisely the Ming Cult’s ‘tie yan ling’ [iron flame symbol of authority] he gave Ji Xiaofu. His doubts were entirely gone. He embraced Yang Buhui tight and asked, “Where is your Mama? Where is your Mama?”

“Mama has flown to the sky,” Yang Buhui replied, “I am looking for her. Did you see her?”

Yang Xiao realized she was too young to speak clearly, so he turned his questioning gaze toward Zhang Wuji.

Zhang Wuji sighed. “Yang Bobo,” he said, “Please don’t be grieved. Ji Gugu [(paternal) aunt] was struck to death by her Shifu. At the point of death she …”

“You’re lying! You’re lying!” Yang Xiao bawled. ‘Crack!’ Zhang Wuji’s left arm was crushed by his grip. ‘Thump! Thump!’ Yang Xiao and Zhang Wuji fell down together. Yang Xiao’s right hand was still holding his daughter tight.

He Taichong and Ban Shuxian looked at each other. They raised their swords; one was pointing to Yang Xiao’s throat, the other to his forehead in between his eyebrows. Yang Xiao was the Ming Cult’s expert fighter, his name was widely well-known. Ban Shuxian and He Taichong’s master, Bai Luzi was killed by a Ming Cult person. Although the killer’s name was unknown to them, most of Kunlun Pai people suspected it was Yang Xiao. As soon as Mr. and Mrs. He came across him by chance, they felt as if their hearts were soaked by a bucket of cold water as the hearts were beating faster. Who would have thought that Yang Xiao suddenly fainted? It truly was a heaven-sent opportunity, so they immediately take control his vital points.

Ban Shuxian said, “Let’s chop his arms first.”

“Yes!” He Taichong replied.

At this time, Yang Xiao had not come around yet. Zhang Wuji’s broken arm hurt like hell that his brow was wet with cold sweats, but his mind was still very clear. Realizing their critical situation, he stretched out his leg and lightly knocked the ‘bai hui xue’ [hundred-gathering acupoint] on top of Yang Xiao’s head with his toes. ‘Bai Hui’ acupoint was connected directly to the brain; as soon as it was jolted, Yang Xiao regained his consciousness and opened his eyes at once. But he immediately felt the cold air of the sword pointing toward the center of his eyebrows, and saw a dark green shadow flash as another sword was hacking down on his left arm. It was too late for him to make any move, much less Ban Shuxian’s sword was threatening his vital point; he simply could not move. Immediately he sent his internal energy to his left arm.

When He Taichong’s sword cut his left arm, the blade suddenly slid to the side; the sword lost its power, as if it was cutting a slippery and resilient object. Yet the sleeve of Yang Xiao’s white robe suddenly turned red. Obviously his arm was cut after all.

Right this moment, Yang Xiao’s body suddenly stiffened and slipped more than a ‘zhang’ backward, just like if someone was tying a rope around his neck and pulling him with such an unbelievable speed. Ban Shuxian’s sword was initially resting on his forehead. As Yang Xiao slipped backwards, the tip of the sword cut through from his forehead to his nose, mouth and chest, creating a long strip of bloody scar several ‘fen’ deep. [1 fen is approximately 1/3 of a centimeter or about 1/8 of an inch].

It was a very risky move on Yang Xiao’s part. Supposing Ban Shuxian’s sword were half a ‘cun’ deeper [1 cun = 1 inch], Yang Xiao’s chest and abdomen would be fatally cut. As he slipped away, immediately he stood stiffly up. These two movements were totally unpredictable. His knees were not bent, his waist did not buckle, he slipped out abruptly and stood up suddenly, as if his body was a mass of spring. The way his body stiffened strangely was no different from a living corpse.

As Yang Xiao stood up, his feet pushed down and ‘Crack! Crack!’ both swords of He Taichong and his wife were broken. Although his two kicks were sent out one after another, the speed was like lightning as if they were sent out at the same time. Based on He Taichong and Ban Shuxian’s swordsmanship attainment, even if Yang Xiao martial art skill were stronger, he should not have been able to break the two people’s swords just like that. Only his movements were so weird, plus he was seriously hurting when he suddenly escaped and launched a counterattack. He Taichong, husband and wife were so shocked that they pulled their sword a fraction of a second too late.

After breaking the swords, Yang Xiao kicked the two sword tips that they flew toward their two owners. He Taichong, husband and wife used their broken swords to block, but their palms were shaken and half of their bodies tingled. Although they managed to block the tips of the swords, the shock they experienced was not small. Hastily they retreated and jumped backward. One was standing on the northwest, the other on the southeast. Although they were holding half-broken swords in their hands, the ‘Yang’ sword pointed to the sky, the ‘Yin’ sword pointed to the earth. Two people with two swords combined and complemented each other. It was precisely the Kunlun Pai’s ‘liang yi jian fa’ [two appearances sword technique]. Although they were both scared, they still maintained a calm outward appearance, as steady and dignified as a mountain.

Kunlun Pai’s ‘liang yi jian fa’ had enjoyed hundreds of years’ reputation. It was one of world-famous sword techniques. He Taichong, husband and wife came from the same school, they had been practicing together since they both were very young, so their familiarity with this particular skill was matchless.

Yang Xiao had fought a number of great battles against the Kunlun Pai. He knew this sword technique was truly fierce. Although he was not afraid, he realized that he would not be able to defeat these two people in less than several hundred moves. This moment the only thing in his heart was Ji Xiaofu’s death, how could he have any mood to fight? Let alone the cuts on his arm and face were not light, he would face an extreme danger if he let the wound bleed without an end. Thereupon he coldly said, “Kunlun Pai did not make any progress at all. I have to leave for the time being, but I will be back in the future to settle the score with worthy husband and wife.”

His left hand was still holding Yang Buhui, his right hand reached out to pull Zhang Wuji. Without anybody saw him raise his foot or move his leg, he suddenly moved back more than a ‘zhang’. With one turn of his body, he was already several ‘zhang’ away.

Mr. and Mrs. He looked at each other in astonishment; it was not easy for them to get rid of this big devil head, how could they dare to pursue?

Carrying two children along, in one breath Yang Xiao covered a distance of several ‘li’ before he stopped suddenly. He asked Zhang Wuji, “What happened to Miss Ji Xiaofu?” He was running very fast, but was able to stop abruptly just like that, it was as if his body was nailed to the ground, he did not move even for half a ‘fen’.

Zhang Wuji could not overcome the momentum, he was pulled forward and would have fallen if Yang Xiao did not pull him back. Hearing the question, he gasped for breath for a moment before answering, “Ji Gugu has died. Believe me or believe me not, it is entirely up to you. Why did you have to break my arm?”

A flash of regret appeared on Yang Xiao’s face, but he kept asking, “She … how did she die?” There was a hint of sobbing in his voice.

After drinking Ban Shuxian’s poison, it had not been completely eradicated from his system although Zhang Wuji was able to vomit most of the poison and had also taken some anti-poison pills along the way. Presently he felt pain in his stomach again, so taking the golden-crowned blood snake, he let the snake bite his left hand index finger and suck the poison, while narrating in details how he came to know Ji Xiaofu, how he treated her injury, how he saw she was beaten to death by Miejue Shitai. By the time he finished his story, the golden-crowned blood snake had also finished sucking the poisonous blood from his body.

Yang Xiao asked him in detail what Ji Xiaofu had said at the point of her death. With tears streaming down his face he said. “That wicked nun Miejue was forcing her to harm me. If she agreed, not only she would render a great service to Emei Pai, she would also take over the Zhang Men position. Ay, Xiaofu, oh, Xiaofu, you would rather die than giving her your consent. Actually, you need only to pretend that you agreed, then wouldn’t we meet each other again? Then you would not have to lose your life under that wicked nun Miejue.”

Zhang Wuji said, “Ji Gugu was a righteous person. She was not willing to scheme in secret and kill you surreptitiously but she was also unwilling to deceive her Shifu.”

With a bitter laugh Yang Xiao said, “You knew Xiaofu well … who would have guessed that her own Shifu could actually strike a vicious blow and took her life.”

Zhang Wuji said, “I promised Ji Gugu that I will take Buhui Meimei to you …”

Yang Xiao stiffened. “Buhui Meimei?” he asked. Turning his head, he asked Yang Buhui, “Child, my obedient treasure, what is your surname? And what is your given name?”

“My surname is Yang,” Yang Buhui answered, “My name is Buhui [no regret].”

Yang Xiao looked up to the sky and let out a long whistle. His voice shook the forest in all directions that leaves were falling down like rain. When he finally stopped after a long time, he said, “You really are surnamed Yang. Buhui, Buhui. Good! Xiaofu, although I forced my desire on you, you had no regret.”

Ji Xiaofu had told Zhang Wuji the sin and fate between the two people. This time he met Yang Xiao in person and found him to be handsome, natural and a bit unrestrained. Although he was somewhat older, he still could be considered as an elegant and graceful handsome man. Compared to his sixth uncle Yin Liting, who was still a bit childish, Zhang Wuji was afraid it would be easier for Yang Xiao to make a woman fall upside down. Ji Xiaofu was disgraced by force, but in the end she fell in love with him; she must not be blamed. Although by this time Zhang Wuji was still too young to understand clearly, he had a vague thought about this kind of love-hate relationship.

The pain on Zhang Wuji’s broken left arm was unbearable. Because for the time being he was not able to find herbal medicine to set broken bones and stop the pain, he had no alternative but to connect his broken bones first, then try to find some herbal medicine and apply it to his arm to reduce the swelling. He took two pieces of branch and used the tree bark to bind the branches onto his broken arm. Yang Xiao was amazed to see that young as he was, Zhang Wuji was able to mend the broken bones with only one hand with an absolute proficiency.

Finished binding his arm, Zhang Wuji said, “Yang Bobo, I have not failed Ji Gugu’s trust. Buhui Meimei is safely in her Papa’s hands. Let us part here.”
Yang Xiao said, “From tens of thousands ‘li’ you have come to take my daughter to me. How can I not repay you? What is it that you want? All you need to do is open your mouth. In this world, the matters that are impossible for Yang Xiao achieve, the things that are unreachable to Yang Xiao, I am afraid are not too many.”

Zhang Wuji laughed and said, “Yang Bobo, you look down on Ji Gugu too much. It was in vain that she died for you.”

Yang Xiao’s face was greatly changed. “What did you say?” he roared.

Zhang Wuji said, “It was because Ji Gugu did not look down on me that she entrusted her daughter to me to take to you. If I am doing this to seek reward, do you think I would be worthy of her trust?” While in his heart he thought, “Along the way Buhui Meimei has encountered countless difficulties and I have had countless suffering for her. If I were greedy for benefit, unrighteous and unworthy disciple, how could you, father and daughter meet each other today?” It was just that he did not like to flaunt his own merit that he did not mention even a single word about the various hardships he endured along the way. As he finished speaking, he bowed with clasped hands and then turned around to leave.

“Wait!” Yang Xiao said, “You have done me a great kindness. Yang Xiao always repays gratitude and grudges. Come with me. Within a year I will pass on to you the world’s rarest and fiercest martial art skills.”

Zhang Wuji had seen it with his own eyes how he broke the swords of He Taichong, husband and wife; this kind of martial art skill was indeed rare to find its match in the Jianghu, so if he could learn only half a style from him, it would give him a tremendous advantage. However, he remembered Tai Shifu [grand master – referring to Zhang Sanfeng] repeatedly warned him not to associate himself with the Devil Cult people. Besides, even if Yang Xiao’s martial art skills were higher, how could he surpass Tai Shifu? In addition to that, his own life would not be longer than half a year more; what would be the use even if he learned the unmatched martial art skill in the world? Thereupon he said, “Many thanks for Yang Bobo’s offer, but ‘wanbei’ [younger generation – referring to self] is a Wudang disciple; I do not dare to learn other Sect’s bright skill.”

“Oh,” Yang Xiao said, “Turns out you are Wudang Pai’s disciple! In that case, Yin Liting … Yin Liu Xia [sixth hero] …”

Zhang Wuji said, “Yin Liu Xia is my Shishu [martial (younger) uncle]. Ever since my own father passed away, Yin Liushu’s treatment to me is no different than my own uncle. By accepting Ji Gugu’s entrustment to take Buhui Meimei to Mount Kunlun, I cannot avoid … cannot avoid feeling ashamed toward Yin Liushu.”

As his gaze met with Zhang Wuji’s, Yang Xiao felt ashamed. Waving his right hand, he said, “The Ol’ Yang is deeply indebted to you. I am ashamed I cannot repay. Since that is the case, we will meet again someday.” His shadow swayed, he was already several ‘zhang’ away.

Yang Buhui called out loudly, “Wuji Gege, Wuji Gege!” But Yang Xiao was unleashing his ‘qing gong’, in an instant he was very far, the ‘Wuji Gege’ cry gradually disappeared in the distant, until at last Yang Buhui’s voice and her shadow vanished from his view.

End of Chapter 14.

*Note on the title:
A wolf had fallen into a hunter’s trap. By chance, a village teacher passed by. The wolf asked the teacher to let him out. Out of compassion, the teacher took the wolf and put it into a sack to be brought home. Along the way, the wolf asked the teacher to let him out. Again, the teacher took him out of the sack and loosened the ropes. Then the wolf said, “I am starved, and I am going to eat you.” The teacher said, “I saved you, and yet you are going to eat me? You are such an ungrateful creature.” The wolf denied any wrong doing and thus they were engaged in a heated argument. It so happened that an old oak tree heard their arguments and agreed to be the judge. The tree said to the teacher, “You are such a weakling, how could you possibly help this fierce beast?” So the tree asked that the teacher and the wolf re-create what had happened. As soon as the wolf was inside the sack, the tree shouted, “Quickly tie the sack and kill the wolf …”

The story supposedly happened on Zhongshan, hence the term ‘Zhongshan Wolf’ is used to describe someone who repay kindness with evil.

[1] *Note on the title:
A wolf had fallen into a hunter’s trap. By chance, a village teacher passed by. The wolf asked the teacher to let him out. Out of compassion, the teacher took the wolf and put it into a sack to be brought home. Along the way, the wolf asked the teacher to let him out. Again, the teacher took him out of the sack and loosened the ropes. Then the wolf said, “I am starved, and I am going to eat you.” The teacher said, “I saved you, and yet you are going to eat me? You are such an ungrateful creature.” The wolf denied any wrong doing and thus they were engaged in a heated argument. It so happened that an old oak tree heard their arguments and agreed to be the judge. The tree said to the teacher, “You are such a weakling, how could you possibly help this fierce beast?” So the tree asked that the teacher and the wolf re-create what had happened. As soon as the wolf was inside the sack, the tree shouted, “Quickly tie the sack and kill the wolf …”

The story supposedly happened on Zhongshan, hence the term ‘Zhongshan Wolf’ is used to describe someone who repay kindness with evil.

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