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The Legend of the Condor Heroes Chapter 22


Chapter 22 – Wandering on a Shark’s Back
Huang Rong sat steadily on the branch and called out, “Fire away!” Aiming toward the raft, Guo Jing released his grip and Huang Rong’s body flew into the sky. She somersaulted twice in the air and plunged into the water.

Huang Rong saw Ouyang Feng carry his mud-drenched nephew to the shore. He was beaming happily from ear to ear but he never uttered any words of gratitude to Guo Jing and her. She pulled Guo Jing’s sleeve and they returned to the cave together.

Guo Jing noticed that Huang Rong had a worried expression on her face and asked her, “What are you thinking about?” Huang Rong replied, “I am thinking about three very difficult things.” Guo Jing replied, “You are an intelligent person who always has a way to solve problems.” Huang Rong gave a very slight laugh, but a moment later her eyebrows showed a frown again.

Hong Qigong opened his mouth to speak, “The first thing really does not matter much. The second and third things cause people to be at a loss as to what to do.”

Then Guo Jing said, “Wow! You really are amazing! How would you know about the three things she’s thinking about?”

Hong Qigong replied, “I simply guessed her thoughts. The first is how to cure my injury…but there is no doctor, medicine or a person with good internal energy here to help me. The Old Beggar can accept his fate with resignation and whether I live or die is not the most important matter now. The second thing is how to defend ourselves from the poisonous hands of Ouyang Feng. That person’s martial arts are very solid and the two of you are definitely not his match. The third thing is…how we can return to the mainland? Rong’er, am I right or wrong?”

Huang Rong replied, “Yes, you are right. At present the most pressing matter is to think of a way to discourage the Old Poison from acting ruthlessly.”

Hong Qigong said, “In short, we must have a battle of wits with him. The Old Poison may be cunning but he is hugely conceited. In fact, he is so conceited that it won’t be difficult to fool him. However, after he has been tricked, he will immediately adapt and follow up with a severe counterattack.”

The two gave it deep thought. Huang Rong began to think that the enemy’s skill level was difficult to differentiate from her father’s or teacher’s. Even if her father was there, he would not necessarily defeat him. How could she fight him? It seemed that if they did not take his life in one stroke, it would only make him commit even more evil deeds.

Hong Qigong suddenly felt pain in his chest and coughed loudly. Huang Rong immediately helped him to lie down. A shadow suddenly blocked the sunlight at the mouth of the cave. She raised her head to see Ouyang Feng carrying his nephew in and making a hissing sound while saying, “All of you get out! Let me have this cave for healing my nephew’s injury!”

Guo Jing was very angry as he jumped up and said, “This place belongs to my master!”

Ouyang Feng replied coldly, “Even if the Jade Emperor lived here, he too would have to leave!”

Guo Jing, furious, tried to answer him, but Huang Rong pulled his sleeve. She stooped down to help Hong Qigong up and they left the cave.

While passing Ouyang Feng’s side, Hong Qigong opened his eyes and said with a mocking smile, “Impressive power…very deadly!”

Ouyang Feng’s face turned red. He could have killed Hong Qigong violently with just a stroke of his palm, but for some reason he was overwhelmed by Hong Qigong’s righteous air. He shivered and did not answer this insult. He turned his head to avoid Hong Qigong’s penetrating gaze and said, “Come back and bring us something to eat! If you two small creatures mess with the food, then watch out for your three lives.”

The three went down the hill. Guo Jing cursed incessantly, while Huang Rong was deep in thought and did not say anything. Guo Jing said, “Master, please rest here while I go and look for a suitable place to stay.”

Huang Rong had just helped Hong Qigong sit down by a big pine tree when she spotted two squirrels climbing quickly up the tree trunk then immediately climb back down again. They were only a few feet from her and watched the two people with their small round eyes. Huang Rong was fascinated; she picked a pine cone and held it out. One of the squirrels came near to sniff at the cone; then used its front paws to slowly pull the cone away. The other squirrel boldly climbed Hong Qigong’s sleeve. Huang Rong sighed and said, “Nobody has been here before. Look at these two squirrels…they’re not afraid of humans at all.”

When the squirrels heard Huang Rong’s voice they scurried up the tree. Huang Rong looked up the tree and saw dense needles growing from the branches of the pine tree. The leaves formed a canopy and the top of the tree was full of green cane. Huang Rong suddenly had an idea and called out, “Jing ge ge, there’s no need to look anymore. Let’s go to the top of the tree.”

Guo Jing stopped and looked up the pine tree. The tree was indeed a wonderful place for a shelter. The two bent some branches and made a platform. Then, with one on either side, they sat Hong Qigong on their hands and shouted, “Heave!”. They flew up and put Hong Qigong safely on the platform they just made.

Huang Rong laughed and said, “We are living on branches like birds. Let them live in the cave like beasts.”

Then Guo Jing said, “Rong’er, do you want to send them food or not?”

Huang Rong said, “Since I cannot think of any wonderful plan to defeat the Old Poison at the moment, I think we’d better comply with his request.” Guo Jing continued to grumble.

The two wandered around a mountain and managed to catch a wild goat. Then they made a fire at the base of the tree to roast the goat. The roasted goat was then torn in two. Huang Rong took one piece of the meat and threw it on the ground and said, “Urinate on the meat!”

Guo Jiang laughed, “They’ll find out.”

Huang Rong said, “Don’t worry about that…just do it.”

Guo Jing blushed and said, “I can’t do it!”

Huang Rong asked, “Why?”

Guo Jing mumbled, “I can’t urinate with you beside me.” Huang Rong burst out in laughter.

From the top of the tree Hong Qigong called out, “Throw the meat up here! I will urinate on it myself!” Guo Jing laughed, took the meat and leaped up to the platform so that Hong Qigong could urinate on it. Hong Qigong urinated a lot on the goat meat. Guo Jing laughed loudly then carried the meat towards the cave.

Huang Rong called, “No! Take this one.”

Guo Jing scratched his head and said, “That’s the clean one.”

Huang Rong said, “That’s right. We are going to offer them the clean meat.”

Guo Jing was confused, but he usually listened to whatever Huang Rong said. He came back and took the clean goat meat. Huang Rong took the urine-soaked meat and put it back on the fire while she went out to pick edible wild fruits. Hong Qigong did not understand Huang Rong’s plan and was upset. He’d drooled over the meat, but all that was left was the one soaked with his own urine. He had no choice but to be patient.

The roasted goat released a very good aroma. Inside the cave Ouyang Feng had smelled that wonderful aroma. Without waiting for Guo Jing to arrive he went out of the cave and snatched the meat as his face showed how pleased he was at the moment. Then a thought came into his mind. “Where is the other half?” he asked. Guo Jing pointed his finger.

Ouyang Feng walked in big strides towards the pine tree. He snatched the urine soaked meat and threw the clean meat on the ground. He laughed coldly before turning around to leave.

Guo Jing knew that he must not show anything suspicious on his face. However, it was not in his nature to pretend, so he was forced to turn around and dared not look at Ouyang Feng. He waited for Ouyang Feng to get far away before rushing to Huang Rong. He laughed and said, “How did you know that he would come and exchange the meat?”

Huang Rong smiled and said, “According to military tactics, void is actually solid, while solid is actually void. The Old Poison knew that we would try something with the food and did not want to be tricked. So I just let him trick himself.” Guo Jing listened to all of this in awe while tearing the clean goat meat into smaller pieces before taking it up to the shelter they’d made. The three ate the meat.

While they were happily eating, Guo Jing suddenly said, “Rong’er, you really came up with a wonderful ruse just now. Nevertheless, it was a dangerous one.”

Huang Rong immediately asked, “Why?”

Guo Jing replied, “If the Old Poison had not come and exchanged the meat, wouldn’t we be eating the meat soaked in master’s urine?”

Huang Rong, who sat on a branch while listening to Guo Jing’s words, bent over laughing loudly and tumbled down from the tree. Then she leaped back up into the tree unharmed and said, “Very, very dangerous indeed.”

Hong Qigong sighed and said, “Dumb child, if he didn’t come to exchange the meat, then you just don’t eat the tainted meat.”

Guo Jing was startled at the truth of the statement and let out a loud laugh before falling down from the tree as well.

As Ouyang Feng and nephew ate the meat, they thought the wild goat meat had a urine-like smell to it, but they did not suspect anything. In fact, they praised Huang Rong’s wonderful skill in roasting the meat and giving the meat a salty taste. Not long after, the sky began to turn dark. It was at this moment that Ouyang Ke’s wounds started to ache, causing him to groan loudly.

Ouyang Feng walked out towards the pine tree and called out, “Come down little girl!”

Huang Rong was startled because she did not expect Ouyang Feng to come that soon. She asked, “What is it?”

Ouyang Feng answered, “My nephew needs tea and water. Quickly go and serve him now.” The people in the tree listened to everything and could not help but feel very angry. Ouyang Feng shouted angrily, “Hurry up! What are you waiting for?”

Guo Jing whispered, “Let’s fight him.”

Hong Qigong added, “The two of you run quickly towards the back of the mountain. Don’t worry about me.”

Huang Rong had already calculated carefully the two choices that they had now. Whether they should flee and allow their master’s life to be lost…or duel with Ouyang Feng. The only thing that could be done now was to compromise for their master’s safety. She leaped down from the tree and said, “Alright, let me go and have a look at his wounds.”

Ouyang Feng sneered and said, “The boy surnamed Guo…come down and follow me. Are you still soundly asleep? I have a good idea you’re not.” Guo Jing, swallowing his anger, leaped down from the tree.

Ouyang Feng said, “Go get a hundred logs for me before the night ends. If you are short by one log, I will break one of your legs. If you are short two logs, I will break both of your legs.”

Huang Rong asked, “What do you want with the logs? Besides, how are we going to see where we’re going in the dark?”

Ouyang Feng cursed her, “You talk too much girl! What does this have to do with you? Go quickly and attend to my nephew. If there is something amiss or wrong, all of you will suffer the consequences!”

Huang Rong gave Guo Jing a hand signal telling him not to make things worse. Guo Jing watched Ouyang Feng and Huang Rong’s shadows disappear in the darkness. He was so angry that tears flowed from his eyes.

Hong Qigong suddenly said, “When I was young, my grandpa, my father and I were slaves of the Jin. What is this hardship compared to what we went through?”

Guo Jing was startled and he came to his senses, “It turns out that my benevolent master was once a slave, but later he mastered a matchless martial art. Although I feel wronged today, can’t I just endure it patiently?” Guo Jing then leaped down from the tree and lit a tree branch before heading towards the back-side of the mountain. He used the ‘Eighteen Dragon-Subduing Palms’, hacking down trees as big as a rice bowl in diameter. He was fully aware that Huang Rong would be able to escape from harm, just like the day she was surrounded by a bunch of criminals at the Zhao palace. No matter how difficult the situation, she somehow managed to escape unharmed. Therefore, he concentrated his attention and energy on cutting down trees.

Using the ‘Eighteen Dragon-Subduing Palms’ took a lot of his energy. After a while he started to feel strained and numb. In less than an hour Guo Jing managed to knock down twenty one pine trees. By the time he knocked down the twenty-second tree, Guo Jing‘s arm was sore and tired. When he launched the ‘Seeing the Dragon in the Field’, his palm strokes were uneven and though branches and leaves shook, the trunk swayed but did not break. He felt his chest tightening. The energy did not flow to his palm, but went in reverse to his chest. His master had repeatedly warned him about this condition. The ‘Eighteen Dragon-Subduing Palms’ carried tremendous force, but if his own strength was not sufficient, he would suffer a tremendous self-inflicted injury. He was shocked, immediately sat down, and focused his mind on controlling his breathing. After about an hour he struck that tree again, but his body was worn out and his arms and legs were weak.

Guo Jing knew that if he forced himself to exert more strength, not only would it still be difficult to accomplish his task, but he would suffer internal injuries as well. On this desolate island there was no saber or hatchet…how would he be able to chop down more trees? He noticed that out of the hundred logs needed he was still about eighty logs short and his legs were about ready to give out. He thought aloud, “His nephews legs are crushed… he must hate me to my guts. Even if I manage to give him a hundred logs tonight, tomorrow night he will require a thousand. When will it end? We can’t fight him and on this desolate island there’s nobody to help us.” Having thought about this he heaved a long sigh, “Here we are stuck on this island…who in the world would come to rescue us? Benevolent master Hong has lost his martial arts and whether he will live or die is difficult to tell. Rong’er’s father despises me. All of the Quanzhen Seven Masters and my six benevolent masters are not the Western Poison’s match. If only … if only my sworn brother Zhou Botong was here … but he killed himself by jumping into the sea earlier.” As soon as Zhou Botong came into his mind, he hated Ouyang Feng even more. He thought of that old sworn brother of his, who was skilled in the ‘Nine Yin Manual’, who had created the ‘Mutual Hands Combat technique’, and was forced to his death by Ouyang Feng.

“Ah…the ‘Nine Yin Manual!’…the ‘Mutual Hands Combat technique’!” These words flashed through his mind like seeing a bright star on the horizon on a dark and endless night. “My martial arts may not be enough to fight the Western Poison, but the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ contains the most wonderful secrets of the martial arts world and the ‘Mutual Hands Combat technique’ will double my skills. If Rong’er and I train hard day and night, then we can fight the Old Poison with everything we have. Regardless of which martial arts we use, we will still need to fight him for a whole day and night; how can that be good?”

He stood in the forest thinking deeply and suddenly thought, “Why don’t I ask Master? His martial arts might be gone, but his knowledge is not; he should be able to give me clear directions.” He went back to the tree right away and explained to Hong Qigong every single one of his thoughts.

“Recite the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ slowly for me to hear,” Hong Qigong suggested, “Let’s see if there is a marvelous martial art you can learn in a short period of time. Guo Jing immediately recited the manual sentence by sentence. When Hong Qigong heard Guo Jing reciting, ‘One knows that by sitting down and pondering deeply one can accomplish virtue; but to unknowingly attain excellence one requires flexibility, as well as clear and bright understanding. The body is cultivated two-fold; namely movement and stillness. When being attacked, stay still.’ He suddenly stood up, “Ah!” he exclaimed.

“What is it?” Guo Jing worriedly asked. Hong Qigong did not answer. He thought those sentences over for a while and then said, “Repeat the last part you were reciting a moment ago.”

Guo Jing was delighted and thought, “Master must have found some method to fight the Old Poison in the last part.” Right away he slowly recited those sentences.

Hong Qigong nodded his head and said, “That’s true. Carry on.” Guo Jing continued reciting the manual from memory. Towards the end he recited, “Mo han si ge er, pin te huo ji en, jin qie hu si, ge shan ni ke …”

Hong Qigong was baffled, “What are you saying?”

Guo Jing answered, “Big Brother Zhou told me to memorize those sentences.”

Hong Qigong frowned, “What do they mean?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Guo Jing replied, “Big Brother Zhou himself did not understand them.”

“Carry on, then,” Hong Qigong said.

Guo Jing continued, “Bie er fa si, ge luo wu li …” until he came to the end, reciting all kinds of these tongue-twisting sentences.

“Hmm,” Hong Qigong said, “It seems the manual also contains some incantations to catch ghosts.” He wanted to add, “Crafty priest, fooling people with cheap tricks,” but remembered that the manual contained an extensive profound mystery. This mumbo-jumbo must have a deep meaning and for the time being, he simply did not understand it. As the words were about to leave his lips, he swallowed them back. After a long while Hong Qigong shook his head, “Jing’er,” he said, “There are many marvelous martial arts in the manual, but none of them can be mastered in one day and night.”

Guo Jing was disappointed. Hong Qigong continued, “Quickly, go and build a raft with those twenty logs, then go away as far as you can. Rong’er and I will stay here and devise a plan to deal with the Old Poison.”

“No,” Guo Jing quickly said, “How can I leave you, Senior?”

Hong Qigong sighed, “The Western Poison is afraid of the Old Heretic Huang, he won’t harm Rong’er. In any case the Old Beggar is an invalid. Go quickly!”

Guo Jing was struck with grief and indignation; he raised his hand and struck the tree trunk with his palm.

This strike was extremely heavy and the sound echoed from the mountain and valley. Hong Qigong was startled and quickly asked, “Jing’er, the palm you launched…what technique did you use?”

“Why?” Guo Jing was perplexed.

“You hit very hard, but the trunk did not even shake,” Hong Qigong said.

Guo Jing was very embarrassed, “I used up all my strength striking down trees and my hands are very sore; I don’t have any more strength left,” he said.

“No, no,” Hong Qigong shook his head, “Your palm technique was a little strange. Strike again!”

Raising his hand he struck the tree with his palm. The sound shook the forest, but the tree did not budge. Suddenly it dawned on him. “That was from the seventy-two stance ‘Vacant Fist’ Big Brother Zhou taught your disciple.”

“’Vacant Fist’…I have never heard of it,” Hong Qigong mused.

“That’s right,” Guo Jing said, “Big Brother Zhou was held prisoner on Peach Blossom Island. He had nothing to do, so he invented this technique. He taught me the sixteen-character secret of the technique: ‘empty and hazy like a loose cave, the wind blows carrying a dream, playing around with power or exhaustion, a child can use a worm as a weapon’ [kong meng dong song, feng tong rong meng, chong qiong zhong nong, tong yong gong chong]”

Hong Qigong laughed, “What kind of empty hole?” he asked. [Play on words here, Hong Qigong said ‘tong nong ku long’ which rhymes with whatever Guo Jing was saying. I can’t translate it properly.]

Guo Jing explained, “Each one of those sixteen characters has its own meaning. The word ‘song’ [loose] means the fist must be devoid of strength; ‘chong’ [worm] means the body must be flexible like a worm; ‘meng’ [hazy] means the fist movement must be obscure, must not be too clear. Disciple will play it out for you to watch, tell me what you think?”

“The night is so dark and I can’t see anything,” Hong Qigong said, “Why don’t you explain it to me? This is an excellent martial art; I don’t have to see it in order to understand it.”

Guo Jing explained from the first stance, ‘Empty Bowl Filled with Rice’ [kong wan cheng fan], to the second stance, ‘Empty House Occupied with People’ [kong wu zhu ren], and all variations therein, including how to send out the force, to Hong Qigong.

By nature Zhou Botong was mischievous, so he gave each and every stance a funny name. Hong Qigong had only heard up to the eighteenth stance and his heart was already filled with admiration. He cut Guo Jing off, “You don’t need to continue, I have found a way to fight the Western Poison.”

“With the ‘Vacant Fist’?” Guo Jing asked, “I am afraid the disciple’s skill is insufficient.”

“I know that,” Hong Qigong said, “But we are in a desperate situation; we have to take a risk. Do you still have the dagger Qiu Chuji gave to you?” A cold light flashed in the dark night as Guo Jing took out his dagger. Hong Qigong said, “With the ‘Vacant Fist technique’, use this dagger to cut down some trees.” Guo Jing held his dagger by the hilt, the thin blade was only about one foot long. He was doubtful but did not say anything.

Hong Qigong said, “The ‘Eighteen Dragon-Subduing Palms’ I passed on to you is the pinnacle of the external types of martial arts; that ‘Vacant Fist’ is a very profound inner type of martial arts. Your dagger can cut through metal and carve jade; what would the problem be of cutting a tree trunk? The important thing is, your hand strength must follow the ‘Empty’ [kong] and ‘Loose’ [song] principles.”

Guo Jing pondered it for a long time. Hong Qigong also gave him some more directions. Finally he understood. He jumped down from the tree and went to find a medium size pine tree. With the ‘Vacant Fist’ method of exerting energy, using force without force, he lightly struck the trunk and, sure enough, the dagger went through the tree trunk. He exerted his strength and cut around the trunk and that tree fell down immediately. Guo Jing was ecstatic; using the same method he cut down dozens of trees one after another. It seemed before daybreak he would be able to cut down a hundred logs.

While he was still cutting down trees, he heard Hong Qigong suddenly call out, “Jing’er, come up here.”

Guo Jing leaped up to the platform. “It really worked,” he said, “I did not even use very much energy.”

“Certainly we can’t waste our energy, can we?” Hong Qigong said.

“That’s right! That’s right!” Guo Jing exclaimed, “Now I understand the ‘kong meng dong song’ principle. Big Brother Zhou explained it to me, but I did not understand it.”

“This martial art is more than enough to cut down trees,” Hong Qigong said, “But it is still far from adequate for fighting the Western Poison. You must train with the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ again, only then will you have a chance to defeat him. Let us think of some way to buy time.” Speaking about plans and strategies, Guo Jing could only stay silent, letting his master do the thinking.

After a long time, Hong Qigong shook his head and said, “I can’t think of anything good. Let’s wait until tomorrow, perhaps Rong’er can come up with some clever ideas. Jing’er, listening to you reciting the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ I had a thought and I believe I am not wrong. Help me get down from this tree…I am going to practice my martial arts.”

Guo Jing was shocked. “Your injury has not healed yet, how can you train?” he asked.

Hong Qigong answered, “The manual said, ‘The body is cultivated two-fold; namely movement and stillness. When attacked, stay still.’ Those sentences have opened my eyes. Let’s go down.”

Guo Jing did not understand the meaning of those sentences, but he did not dare to defy his master. Therefore he lifted his master and gently jumped down from the tree.

Hong Qigong calmed himself…then opened his arms and launched a palm strike. In the darkness Guo Jing saw his master’s body stagger forward like he was falling down. Guo Jing rushed forward to help, but Hong Qigong had already steadied himself. His breathing was heavy, but he said, “I am alright.”

A moment later he launched a left palm strike. Guo Jing saw him stagger, his feet stumbled and he appeared to be extremely exhausted. Guo Jing fought the urge to rush forward and help his master. Who would have thought that the more Hong Qigong practiced, the stronger he became. Initially he had to catch his breath after every single stance he launched, but later he was able to launch several stances in succession. His steps were getting steadier as well. It was a tremendous improvement. Hong Qigong launched the whole set of the ‘Eighteen Dragon-Subduing Palms’, followed by a set of the ‘Crouching Tiger Fist’ [fu hu quan].

Guo Jing waited until he finished, then he shouted happily, “You are healed!”

“Help me back up,” Hong Qigong said.

Guo Jing wrapped his arm around his master’s waist and jumped up to the platform. His delight was unspeakable, he mumbled repeatedly, “Very good…very good!”

Hong Qigong sighed and said, “Not so good, these martial arts are only good to watch, but they’re actually useless.” Guo Jing did not understand and Hong Qigong explained, “After suffering an injury, all I did was rest, trying to recuperate. It never occurred to me that my martial arts are of the external type; the more I move the better. It’s too bad I realized it way too late; now my life will be spared, but my martial arts will be very difficult to restore.”

Guo Jing wanted to offer some words of comfort, but he did not know what to say. After a while he simply said, “I’ll go down and chop some more trees.”

“Jing’er,” Hong Qigong suddenly said, “I think I have an idea to intimidate the Old Poison. Let’s see if you agree with me.” Then he explained his idea. Guo Jing was delighted, “Splendid! Splendid!” he exclaimed; and immediately jumped down from the tree to make preparations.

Early in the morning of next day, Ouyang Feng came to the tree. He counted the logs Guo Jing chopped down and found only ninety of them. He coldly laughed and shouted, “Little bastard [za zhong]! Get down here quickly! Where are the other ten?”

Huang Rong had spent the entire night by Ouyang Ke’s side, tending his injuries. Listening to his pitiful groaning she felt sorry for him. That morning as Ouyang Feng left the cave, she followed behind. Hearing his loud shouts, she worried for Guo Jing.

Ouyang Feng waited for a moment, but nothing was heard from the tree above, except some gust of winds coming from a distant hill. It sounded like somebody was practicing martial arts. He hastily followed the source of the sounds. When he rounded the hillside, what he saw surprised him. Hong Qigong was sparring with Guo Jing; palms and kicks flew towards each other…they were engaged in a close fight.

Huang Rong saw that her master was not only able to walk unaided, but it seemed his skills were restored as well…she was pleasantly surprised. She heard him shout, “Jing’er, be careful of this next stance!” and he launched a palm.

Guo Jing raised his palm to parry, but before their palms met his body flew backwards and ‘bang!’ he hit a pine tree. That tree was not too big, about a rice bowl in diameter; ‘crack!’ and it was snapped by the strength of Hong Qigong’s push and fell to the ground.

This strike seemed ordinary, but it was enough to stun Ouyang Feng. Huang Rong praised, “Master, that was a great ‘Hacking Empty Air Palm technique’ [pi kong zhang]!”

“Jing’er, protect your body well; don’t let my palm strength injure you!” Hong Qigong called out.

“Disciple understands,” Guo Jing replied. He was just closing his mouth as Hong Qigong’s palm arrived. ‘Crack!’ again Guo Jing was sent flying, again bumping into a tree. Palm after palm came one after another; in a short period of time Hong Qigong had used the ‘Hacking Empty Air Palm’ to send Guo Jing flying and knocking down ten big trees.

“We have ten trees already!” Huang Rong called out.

Guo Jing gasped for breath. “Disciple is exhausted,” he said.

Hong Qigong held his palm and laughed, “This ‘Nine Yin Manual’ is really wonderful. My injury was heavy and I couldn’t even exert any strength, yet I achieved success with just one morning’s exercise.”

Ouyang Feng was suspicious; he stooped down to examine the broken tree trunks and what he saw stunned him. Apart from the heart of the trunk, the outer rings were exceptionally smooth, even smoother than if the trunk was sawn. He thought, “Could it be that the martial arts in the manual is this marvelous? It looks like the Old Beggar’s martial arts have been completely restored. How can I fight them if the three gang up on me? I’ve been lucky so far, I’d better start training myself in the martial arts from that manual.” He cast a glance towards the three and then flew back to the cave in a hurry. He immediately fetched the book Guo Jing wrote, unwrapped layer upon layer of oil papers from the bundle and straightaway buried his head in the book, diligently studying the manual.

Hong Qigong and Guo Jing waited until they could not see Ouyang Feng anymore before both of them burst out laughing. Huang Rong was delighted, “Master, this manual is truly wonderful,” she said.

Hong Qigong laughed without giving her a response. Guo Jing rushed to her and said, “Rong’er, we were only pretending.” Then he told her everything they had thought of and done. It turned out that Guo Jing had used his knife to cut around the trunks, leaving the center intact. Hong Qigong’s palm actually did not carry any strength at all and every time Guo Jing got hit, he used his own strength to fly backwards and bump into a tree, breaking it. Ouyang Feng did not know that with the ‘Vacant Fist’ energy, the dagger was capable of cutting deep into the tree trunk; naturally he did not suspect that the cut was made by the knife.

Huang Rong was laughing hard, but after hearing Guo Jing’s story, she was silent for quite a while with a deep frown on her face. Hong Qigong smiled and said, “The Old Beggar is once again capable of walking on my own feet; it is truly a blessing from Heaven. I don’t care if it was true martial arts or fake. Rong’er, you are afraid the Western Poison will see through this deception, aren’t you?” Huang Rong nodded. “The Old Poison has good eyesight,” Hong Qigong continued, “How could we fool him that easily? But life is full of uncertainties, right now it is useless to worry over nothing. Hear me out: Jing’er recited the contents of the manual to me. There is a section which was called ‘Changing Muscle Forging Bones’ [yi jin duan gu pian] or something; I thought it was very interesting. Since we don’t have anything else to do, why don’t we practice it?”

These words were said with offhanded gentleness, but Huang Rong was aware of the urgency of the situation. What their master had said was very reasonable, therefore she said, “Very well, Master, please teach us.”

Hong Qigong asked Guo Jing to recite the ‘Changing Muscle Forging Bones’ twice, then, based on that, he taught the two how to practice it. He went out hunting and fishing himself as well as lighting the fire and cooking their meals. Several times Guo Jing and Huang Rong offered to help, but he shooed them away every time.

Seven days quickly passed and Guo Jing and Huang Rong made some progress in terms of their energy cultivation. Inside his cave Ouyang Feng was also painstakingly studying his manual and putting all his efforts into doing so. Towards the evening of the eighth day Hong Qigong smiled and said, “Rong’er…how was your Master’s roasted wild goat?”

Huang Rong smiled but did not say anything, she simply shook her head. Hong Qigong laughed, “I can’t eat it myself either. You two have finished the first part of your lesson; today you must rest your muscles and bones, otherwise your ‘qi’ will be obstructed and you will suffer an injury. Ok Rong’er, you prepare our meal tonight; Jing’er and I will go and build a raft.”

Guo Jing and Huang Rong were astonished, “Build a raft?”

“That’s right,” Hong Qigong said, “Do you want to stay with the Old Poison on this deserted island forever?”

Guo Jing and Huang Rong were delighted; they both voiced their agreement and started to work immediately.

The hundred logs Guo Jing cut down were piled neatly at one side. They cut the tree’s bark, wove it into ropes and tied the logs together to make the raft. When Guo Jing used his strength to pull the rope, it broke. He thought the rope was not made strong enough. He tried pulling another rope, but as soon as he exerted a little strength, it also broke easily. Guo Jing was baffled; he stared blankly at the rope and did not know what to do.

From the other side of the hill Huang Rong ran shouting with a wild goat in her hands. When going out to hunt for the goat she carried some pebbles to herd the goat with; who would have thought that with only several jumps she had already overtaken the goat. She twisted around and grabbed the wild goat. Her body movements were so swift that she even surprised herself.

Hong Qigong smiled, “So the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ is truly a wonderful manual; no wonder countless heroes and warriors were willing to risk their lives for it.”

Huang Rong was delighted, “Master, do you think we can beat the Old Poison now?” she asked.

Hong Qigong shook his head, “Not yet, you are still far from that,” he replied, “You’ll have to train for another eight to ten years. His Toad Stance is not a small matter; no martial art can break it except Wang Chongyang’s Solitary Yang Finger.

Huang Rong pouted and said, “Then even if we train for another eight to ten years we might still not be able to defeat him.”

“That’s hard to say,” Hong Qigong said, “Perhaps the martial arts in that book are fiercer than I think.”

“Rong’er, please be patient,” Guo Jing said, “There is nothing wrong with learning a new skill.”

A few more days passed and Guo Jing and Huang Rong finished the second part of the ‘Changing Muscles Forging Bones’. The raft was also ready. The three of them wove a sail from tree bark and they also prepared some fresh water and food on the raft. All along Ouyang Feng acted indifferent to what they were doing; he simply watched their activities with a cold look.

One evening everything was ready so they planned on sailing the next day. Just before bed that night Huang Rong asked, “Do we have to say goodbye to them?”

“Not only that, we must make a ten year agreement with them,” Guo Jing answered, “They have bullied us badly; how can we just forget it?”

Huang Rong clapped her hands and said, “Absolutely! I pray to Heaven to bless those two thieves so that they can go back to the mainland, and also to give the Old Poison ten more years of life; or perhaps to restore Master’s martial arts quickly, so that in one or two years we can hunt for him. That would be even better.”

The next day before the crack of dawn Hong Qigong awoke; he indistinctly heard some noises from the shore. He quickly called, “Jing’er, did you hear that noise from the beach?”

Guo Jing got up immediately and jumped down from the tree. Once he saw what was happening on the beach he could not stop cursing; he immediately rushed forward in pursuit. By this time Huang Rong also awoke and ran after him, calling out, “Jing ge ge, what’s the matter?”

Guo Jing shouted from the distance, “Those wicked thieves stole our raft.” Hearing this, Huang Rong was shocked.

By the time they got to the beach Ouyang Feng had already carried his nephew out to the raft, raised the sail and was already several zhang [1 zhang = 3.3m or 11ft] away from land. Guo Jing was furious and was about to jump into the ocean to pursue, but Huang Rong pulled his sleeve and said, “They are already too far.”

Ouyang Feng roared with laughter, “Many thanks for the raft!” he shouted.

Stomping his feet with rage, Guo Jing furiously kicked a red sandalwood tree nearby. Huang Rong suddenly had an idea, “I’ve got it!” she called out. She took a big rock and placed it in the tree branches. She wanted to use the tree as a slingshot. “Pull on this tree,” she said, “and we’ll hurl the rock.”

Guo Jing was delighted. He braced his legs on the tree’s base and pulled the trunk backward with all his might. Sandalwood trees are strong but supple; it bent almost completely down to the ground but did not break. Guo Jing let go and with a whooshing sound the big rock flew out to sea and fell near the raft’s side, creating a zhang high big splash.

“What a pity!” Huang Rong called out. She took another rock, aimed carefully and let go. This time the rock hit the raft dead on, but the raft’s construction was too good and it did not break. The two launched three more rocks, but all of them fell into the water.

Watching all their rocks miss the target, Huang Rong had a crazy idea. “Quick, use me as the rock!” she shouted. Guo Jing was startled, unclear of what she meant. Huang Rong explained, “Hurl me out to sea; I’ll deal with them.”

Guo Jing knew her water skills were excellent, her lightness kungfu was excellent as well; he saw no danger in complying with her request. He drew his knife and put it in her hand. “Be careful,” he said. He pulled the tree one more time. Huang Rong sat steadily on a branch and called out, “Fire away!”

Guo Jing released his grip and Huang Rong’s body flew into the sky. She somersaulted twice in the air and plunged into the water several zhang away from the raft. It was a beautiful sight to behold. Ouyang Feng and his nephew were dazzled and they didn’t know what she was going to do.

Huang Rong went deep into the water. She did not emerge, but swam underwater towards the raft instead. Once she saw a black shadow overhead she knew she had arrived at the bottom of the raft. Ouyang Feng randomly hit the water with the oar, but he could not hit her.

Huang Rong held up the dagger, ready to sever the ropes tying the wooden raft together; then she suddenly came up with a bright idea. She reduced the strength of her hand only partly cutting the ropes, leaving a third intact; that way the raft would not break apart until the rough waves of the open sea hit it. She turned around and swam away, emerging on the surface about a dozen zhang away; she gasped for breath, pretending she could not catch the raft. Ouyang Feng laughed wildly and hoisted the sail. Not too long afterwards the raft was far away.

While waiting for her to arrive back at the beach, Hong Qigong and Guo Jing cursed continuously; but then they saw Huang Rong’s smug expression and were puzzled. After hearing what had happened, they were delighted to no end. “Even though we are sending those two wicked men to the bottom of the sea, we will have to start the work over again,” Huang Rong said.

The three ate their meal in high spirits; then they cut logs again and built another raft. Several days later they were ready, and when the southeast wind blew, they hoisted the tree bark sail and left the island heading to the west. Huang Rong gazed towards the island, which was getting smaller and smaller, she sighed and said, “Our lives were almost lost on that island; but leaving it today, my heart is filled with sadness.”

“We can always revisit the island in the future,” Guo Jing said.

Huang Rong clapped her hands and said, “Good! We must come back. When that time comes, you can’t go back on your word. But first, let’s give this small island a good name. Master, what do you think?”

“You crushed that little bastard’s legs with a big rock on that island,” Hong Qigong said, “Let us call it ‘Crushing Ghost Island’ [ya gui dao]. What do you say?”

Huang Rong shook her head. “That is not very elegant.”

“If you want elegance, why ask the Old Beggar in the first place?” Hong Qigong said, “If you ask me, since the Old Poison ate my urine on the island, I say we call it ‘Eat Urine Island’ [chi sui dao].”

Huang Rong smiled with a negative wave of her hand; she leaned her head to one side to think. She saw a group of red clouds on the horizon, like a cluster of gems hovering gloriously over the island. “Let’s call it ‘Bright Red Cloud Island’ [ming xia dao]!” she called out.

“Not good, not good!” Hong Qigong countered, “That was too elegant.”

Guo Jing listened to the master and disciple arguing; he smiled and did not say anything. He did not care whether the island had an elegant name or a vulgar name; but deep down in his heart he thought ‘ya gui’ or ‘chi sui’ were more interesting than ‘ming xia’.

Carried by the blowing wind they sailed for two days and the wind did not change its course. Towards the evening of the third day Hong Qigong and Huang Rong were asleep while Guo Jing kept charge of the rudder for the night. Amid the ocean breeze and rolling waves he suddenly heard somebody shout, “Help! Help!” twice. The voice sounded like clashing cymbals and it could be heard clearly amidst the blowing wind and waves.

Hong Qigong sat up and said in a low voice, “That’s the Old Poison.” They heard the shout one more time and Huang Rong grabbed Hong Qigong’s arm, “It’s a ghost…it’s a ghost!” she said with a trembling voice. It was the end of the sixth month and the night was dark and moonless; there were only a few stars scattered sparsely in the dark night. The sea was pitch-black and a scream in the middle of the night would make anybody terrified.

“Is that the Old Poison?” Hong Qigong called out. His internal energy was lost, so his voice did not travel too far. Guo Jing gathered the ‘qi’ on his ‘dan tian’ and called out, “Is that Uncle Ouyang?”

From the distance they heard Ouyang Feng answer, “It is me, Ouyang Feng. Help!”

Huang Rong was still terrified, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a man or a ghost, let’s just leave, quickly!”

“Help him,” Hong Qigong suddenly said.

“No, no!” Huang Rong quickly answered, “I am afraid.”

“It’s not a ghost,” Hong Qigong said.

“Even if it is a man we still don’t have to help,” Huang Rong said.

“Helping others in distress is one of our Beggar Clan rules,” Hong Qigong said, “You and I are two generations of Clan Leaders; we can’t abandon the honorable customs handed down from previous generations’ leaders.”

“The Beggar Clan’s custom is not right,” Huang Rong countered, “Ouyang Feng is clearly a scoundrel; when he becomes a ghost, he will be a scoundrel ghost. It doesn’t matter if it is a man or a ghost, we should not help.”

“It is the Clan’s regulation; we can’t change it,” Hong Qigong said.

In her heart Huang Rong was very angry. They heard Ouyang Feng’s voice in the distance again, “Brother Qi [Qi Xiong], are you really ‘seeing death, but do not help’ [jian si bu jiu]?”

Huang Rong said, “I’ve got it! Jing ge ge, wait until you can see Ouyang Feng clearly, then strike him dead with your stick. You are not a Beggar Clan member; you don’t have to observe this unreasonable rule.”

Hong Qigong was angry, “Is taking advantage of somebody else’s precarious condition the way of the righteous warrior?”

Huang Rong did not have a choice. She watched helplessly as Guo Jing steered the raft towards the voice. In the deep darkness of the night they vaguely saw two men in the water rocked by the waves; next to their heads were logs. It seemed that after their raft broke up, Ouyang Feng and his nephew had clung onto the logs until now.

“Let him swear an oath never to harm anybody else, then we will rescue him,” Huang Rong said.

Hong Qigong sighed, “You don’t know the Old Poison’s character; he would rather die than surrender. He won’t make that kind of promise. Jing’er, rescue them.”

Guo Jing bent down and grabbed Ouyang Ke’s collar and lifted him up onto the raft. Hong Qigong was eager to help and he forgot his martial arts were gone. He held out his hand and Ouyang Feng took it. He wanted to borrow strength and leap to the raft; but because of his pull Hong Qigong fell unexpectedly into the sea with a splash. Guo Jing and Huang Rong were shocked; they immediately jumped into the sea and saved Hong Qigong. Huang Rong angrily scolded Ouyang Feng, “My Master has a good heart and wanted to rescue you; how could you drag him into the sea like that?”

Ouyang Feng now knew Hong Qigong had lost his martial arts; otherwise, how could his simple pull make a martial arts expert fall into the sea? But he had been immersed in the water for several days and he was extremely weary. He did not dare to look at them; he lowered his head and said, “I … I did not mean to. Brother Qi [Qi Xiong], please don’t blame your brother.”

Hong Qigong laughed heartily, “Well said, well said. But now the Old Beggar’s real skills are known to you,” he said.

“Good Miss,” Ouyang Feng said, “Could you spare something for us to eat? We haven’t eaten for several days.”

Huang Rong replied, “We only have food and water enough for three people on this raft. I can give you some, but what do we eat?”

“Very well,” Ouyang Feng said, “Please give a little bit of food to my nephew then; his legs are severely injured and he won’t survive without food.”

“In that case let’s make a deal,” Huang Rong said, “Your viper injured my Master; he has not recovered. Give him the antidote.”

Ouyang Feng groped in his pocket and produced two vials; handing them over to her and said, “Miss, please take a look; the vials were submerged in the water and the antidote has been washed out!”

Huang Rong took the vials, shook them, and sniffed them; the vials really were filled with seawater. “In that case, tell us ingredients for the antidote; as soon as we are ashore we can prepare some.”

“If I wanted to swindle you, I could just tell you some ingredients and you wouldn’t know if it is genuine or fake; but how can Ouyang Feng be that kind of person?” Then he said, “Let me tell you the truth: my vipers are the most poisonous in the world; nothing can match their lethalness. If one is bitten, although you won’t die immediately due to one’s excellence in martial arts, within sixty-four days half of your body will be paralyzed and you will be an invalid for the rest of your life. I have no problem about giving you the antidote ingredients, but not only are the ingredients hard to find, it also requires processing for three successive winters and summers. By the time the antidote is ready, I am afraid it will be much too late. I have told you the truth; if you still want to take my life that is entirely up to you.”

Huang Rong and Guo Jing listened to him and secretly admired him; they thought, “Although this man is evil and cruel, in a matter of life and death he did not lose his honor as the grand master of his martial arts school.”

“Rong’er,” Hong Qigong said, “He is telling the truth. A man’s life has been decided by fate; the Old Beggar has nothing to be worried about. You give them something to eat.”

Inwardly Huang Rong’s heart was crushed and she knew her master would not recover from his injury. Silently she took a roasted wild goat leg and tossed it towards Ouyang Feng. Ouyang Feng first tore some meat off for his nephew before he took a big bite and chewed the meat.

Huang Rong said coldly, “Uncle Ouyang, you have injured my master; at the second Sword Meet of Mount Hua you will be the winner amongst the heroes. Let me be the first to congratulate you.”

“That is not necessarily true,” Ouyang Feng replied, “There is at least one other person in this whole wide world who can heal Brother Qi’s injury.”

Guo Jing and Huang Rong jumped up in shock so that the raft leaned to one side. They both asked in unison, “Is that true?”

While biting the goat leg Ouyang Feng said, “But it is very difficult to ask this person to help. Your Master also knows about it.”

The two’s eyes turned to their master. Hong Qigong smiled, “You know it is difficult…why did you mention it?”

Huang Rong tugged her master’s sleeve, asking for an explanation, “Master, tell us. Even if it is difficult, we still have to try. I will ask my father to help; surely he’ll find a way.” Ouyang Feng snorted softly. “What are you snorting about?” Huang Rong said. Ouyang Feng did not answer.

Hong Qigong said, “He was laughing at you for thinking your father is all powerful. Finding that person is not a small matter, so how could your father convince that person to help?”

Huang Rong was astonished, “That person! Who is that person?”

Hong Qigong continued, “Let’s not talk about that person’s high level of martial arts skills. Even if he was so weak that he couldn’t even kill a chicken, the Old Beggar will never harm someone to benefit myself.”

Huang Rong hesitantly said, “High level of martial arts skills? Ah! I know. He is the Southern Emperor, Emperor Duan. Master, let’s ask him to heal your injury, how does that harm others to benefit yourself?”

“Go to sleep and don’t ask any more questions! I forbid you to bring up this matter again. Understand?” Hong Qigong said. Huang Rong did not dare to say more. She was afraid Ouyang Feng might steal their food, so she leaned against the food basket and slept.

Waking early the next morning Huang Rong looked at Ouyang Feng and his nephew; she jumped in fright because their complexions were very pale and their bodies swollen from being in seawater these past several days.

The raft sailed until about the ninth hour [3-5pm] when they saw a dark line in the distance. It appeared to be land. Guo Jing was the first to jump up and shout in delight. In the time needed to eat a bowl of rice they could see more clearly; it was indeed land. The sea was calm and the sun shone brightly, scorching these people and making them miserable. Ouyang Feng suddenly stood up; he swayed a little bit and stretched out his hands and grabbed both Guo Jing and Huang Rong. With the tip of his foot he also kicked and sealed Hong Qigong’s acupoint.

The two were taken by surprise and their vital acupoints sealed; half of their bodies numbed immediately. Startled they asked, “What are you doing?” Ouyang Feng grinned evilly, but did not say anything.

Hong Qigong sighed, “The Old Poison is very conceited; he is not willing to accept another’s mercy. We have saved his life; if he does not kill his saviors, how can his heart be at peace? Ay, I can only blame my own benevolent heart for rescuing these people in the middle of the night and forgetting this fact. Now I’ve endangered the lives of these two weary kids.”

“You knew it very well,” Ouyang Feng said, “Also the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ is in my hands; if I leave a copy in this boy named Guo’s mind, I will only invite inevitable misfortune on myself.”

Hearing him mentioning the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ Hong Qigong’s heart was stirred; with a loud voice he recited, “Nu er qi liu, ha gua er, ning xie qi qia, ping dao er …”

Ouyang Feng was startled; he recognized the sentence to be one among hundreds of difficult sentences he did not know the meaning of. Listening to Hong Qigong reciting it, he believed Hong Qigong understood the meaning and he thought, “There are many strange sentences in the manual, there must be a key to unlock their secrets. If I kill these three, I am afraid there is nobody else in this world who understands it and my taking possession of the manual will have been in vain.” Therefore, he asked, “What does it mean?”

Hong Qigong replied, “Hun hua cha cha, xue gen xu bat u, mi er mi er …” Even though he had listened to Guo Jing reciting the strange sentences from the manual, how could he have memorized everything? He was just talking nonsense, but his face showed deep veneration.

Ouyang Feng actually thought the sentences carried a very profound meaning; he focused his attention and thought deeply. Hong Qigong shouted, “Jing’er, now!”

Guo Jing pulled back his left hand and sent out his right palm while his left leg flew forward simultaneously. Actually when Ouyang Feng sent out his kick and launched a surprise attack, his vital acupoint was grabbed and he was unable to move. When Hong Qigong talked nonsense and confused Ouyang Feng, it caused him to lose his concentration and slightly loosen his grip. Guo Jing took this opportunity to free himself and launch a counterattack. Guo Jing had trained the ‘Changing Muscle Forging Bones’ to the second stage; although he did not learn any new fist or kick techniques, his original strength was actually increased by at least twenty percent This one pull, one palm and one kick were executed without any extraordinary moves, but the force within his attack was unexpectedly strong.

Ouyang Feng was taken by surprise and because the raft was narrow, there was no space to withdraw; he was forced to raise his hand to fend off the attack, but his grip on Huang Rong did not loosen.

Guo Jing’s fist and palms went out one after another, attacking his enemy like a violent storm. He was well aware that, on this narrow raft, should he ever let Ouyang Feng attack with his Toad Stance, then the three of them would be dead with no burial ground. This flurry of attacks forced Ouyang Feng to withdraw half a step.

Huang Rong leaned sideways slightly, positioning her shoulder to bump Ouyang Feng’s body. Ouyang Feng was amused and thought, “This little girl wants to bump me, just how much skill does she think she has? Don’t blame me if I bump you clear to the ocean.” He had just finished this thought when Huang Rong’s shoulder arrived. Ouyang Feng did not evade nor try to parry, appearing not to pay attention; then he suddenly a felt pricking pain on his chest. The pain caused him to realize immediately that she was wearing Peach Blossom Island’s treasure, the ‘Soft Hedgehog Armor’ [ruan wei jia]. By now he was already at the edge of the raft, so he could not move back even half a step. Her armor was full of sharp spines which he could not deal with. He hastily let go of her vital acupoint and flung her to one side.

Huang Rong did not have any room to set foot on and she was going to fall into the water. Guo Jing reached behind his back and grabbed her, while his left hand was still attacking his enemy. Huang Rong drew out her dagger and rushed forward to attack.

Ouyang Feng stood on the edge of the raft with water splashing his legs; no matter how hard Guo Jing and Huang Rong attacked, they were not able to force him into the water.

Hong Qigong and Ouyang Ke were unable to move, so both of them helplessly watched the ferocious fight. Their hearts were thumping madly as they watched this evenly matched fight where the margin between life and death was as narrow as a strand of hair. They both bitterly wished they could help their side.

Ouyang Feng’s martial arts were considerably above Guo Jing and Huang Rong’s combined power, but because he had been immersed in the water for several days, almost half of his strength was gone. Although Huang Rong’s martial arts were not too high, she was wearing the ‘Soft Hedgehog Armor’ and her hand was holding a sharp dagger. These offensive and defensive weapons were enough to give Ouyang Feng some headaches. Not only that, Guo Jing’s ‘Eighteen Dragon-Subduing Palms’, his seventy-two stances of the ‘Vacant Fist’, the ‘Mutual Hands Combat’ technique, as well as the recently learned ‘Changing Muscles Forging Bones’ from the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ combined to make him a formidable opponent. Besides that, the three were engaged in a close fight on a raft!

After a while Ouyang Feng’s palms started getting stronger; Guo Jing and Huang Rong started to fall under his attack. Hong Qigong was very anxious watching this fierce battle. Amidst Ouyang Feng’s dancing palm shadows his left leg kicked out with a strong gust of wind. Huang Rong did not dare to block it and was forced to somersault back and fell into the water.

Suddenly facing a strong enemy alone, Guo Jing was feeling the strain. Luckily, after falling into the water on the left side of the raft, Huang Rong swam under the bottom of the raft, boarded on the right side, and swept her dagger towards Ouyang Feng’s chest. Now Ouyang Feng had to face enemies on two sides.

While fighting courageously, Huang Rong thought of plans to overcome this situation, “If this fight continues, and with our inferior martial arts, in the end we will fall under his hands. The only way to defeat him is under water.” As soon as this thought entered her mind, she swept her dagger and cut the sail rope and the sail immediately fell down; the raft now carried by the waves and no longer moved forward. Huang Rong drew back two steps, wrapped the rope several times around Hong Qigong’s body, then several turns on logs from the raft and made two tight knots.

With Huang Rong out of the battle, Guo Jing would not be able to withstand the enemy much longer. He managed to block three successive stances, but the fourth stance forced him to step backwards. Ouyang Feng did not want to let him go and his palms continuously attacked. Guo Jing was forced to step backwards again and using the ‘Fish Jumping out of the Deep’ [yu yue yu yuan] he managed to block another stance. For the next stance he was forced to move backwards again and his left foot stepped on empty air. In this critical moment he did not get nervous; his right foot immediately flew forward to block his enemy from attacking further. With no feet on the raft, with a ‘splash!’ he also fell into the water.

The raft was rocking hard and Huang Rong also took this opportunity to leap into the sea. The two pushed and pulled the raft, trying to overturn it. They knew Ouyang Ke would drown, and besides, in the water Ouyang Feng was not their match. Hong Qigong’s was tied to the raft and the two took the risk of dealing with the Western Poison first before trying to save their master.

Ouyang Feng understood their intentions very well and he raised his foot over Hong Qigong’s head and loudly shouted, “You two kids listen to me! If you rock the raft one more time, I will kick instantly!”

Huang Rong understood her first plan had been foiled so she proceeded with her second plan: she took a deep breath, dove underneath the raft and began cutting ropes with her dagger. She knew they were not too far from land; after drowning Ouyang Feng and his nephew, she thought they could ride on logs and get to shore without too much trouble.

‘Snap…snap!’ the wooden raft broke into two halves. Ouyang Ke was on the left half, while Ouyang Feng and Hong Qigong were on the right half. Inwardly Ouyang Feng felt anxious and he quickly stretched his hand to grab his nephew; then he bent over looking into the water, ready to strike Huang Rong if she cut another rope.

From under the water Huang Rong could see Ouyang Feng’s shadow clearly. Knowing his next attack would be very fierce, she did not dare to cut another rope. Both sides were in deadlock for a long time. Huang Rong swam several zhang away, took another deep breath, then dove right back under, waiting for an opportunity to launch her attack.

With concentrated attention, both sides waited for an opportunity. For the moment their part of the sea became very calm and the sun shone brightly over their heads. The ocean seemed so peaceful, but on this half raft, with one above and one below, there were very murderous intentions.

Huang Rong thought, “If this half raft is cut in two, the waves will certainly turn it over.” While Ouyang Feng thought, “As soon as she pokes her head up, I am going to slap the water. The vibration should be enough to scatter her brains. Once this little girl is gone, the little thief named Guo should not prove a problem to me.” Two people waited without blinking, both itching to strike.

Suddenly Ouyang Ke pointed to the left and called out, “A boat…a boat!”

Hong Qigong and Guo Jing turned their heads and saw a big boat with a dragon figurehead and its sail fully raised; it approached riding the wind and breaking waves. A moment later Ouyang Ke saw someone standing on the bow; he was large in stature and was wearing a scarlet kasaya [a garment worn by Buddhist monks] and looked like the Monk Lingzi. As the boat got closer, he could see more clearly, it was indeed the Monk Lingzi. He quickly told his uncle.

Ouyang Feng concentrates his ‘qi’ in his ‘dan tian’ [lower abdomen] and loudly called out, “Friends, here, come quickly!”

Under water, Huang Rong did not know what was happening, but Guo Jing knew they were in more trouble. He swam underwater and pulled Huang Rong’s arm, signaling her that more enemies were coming. Huang Rong was not very clear on his intentions, but she was aware something was not right. She signaled back to Guo Jing to block Ouyang Feng’s palm while she severed the rope.

Guo Jing knew his own skill was inferior to his enemy by a long shot; but now that he was underwater and the enemy above, the difference was lessened. He knew blocking Ouyang Feng’s palm meant endangering his own life, but it was a critical time and he had no other alternative. Therefore he exerted all his strength into his palms and suddenly swept upwards.

“Ugh!” Ouyang Feng grunted as his palms struck the water; meanwhile Guo Jing’s palms were coming up from below. Two forces collided on the surface of the sea, creating a big splash. The raft was lifted several feet upwards and, ‘snap…snap’, the half raft broke into two parts; it seemed Huang Rong managed to cut the rope just in time.

In the meantime the big boat was only a few dozen zhangs away from the raft. After cutting the rope, Huang Rong immediately dove deeper underwater. She was about to come up and stab Ouyang Feng when she noticed Guo Jing was motionless and slowly sinking. She was alarmed, quickly swam near, and grabbed his arm. She swam several zhangs away before coming up to the surface. Guo Jing’s eyes were tightly shut, his face blue and his lips colorless; he was unconscious.

The large boat lowered a small boat with several sailors pulling the oars; they took Ouyang Feng, his nephew, as well as Hong Qigong aboard. Huang Rong called three times, “Jing ge ge!” but Guo Jing did not wake. She thought that although the boat was full of the enemies, she had no alternative; she held on to Guo Jing’s head and swam towards the small boat.

The sailors pulled Guo Jing aboard and held out their hands to pull her in.  Huang Rong’s left hand pressed on the boat’s edge and she leaped up from the water like a flying fish, into the boat, scaring the sailors.

When his palms collided with Ouyang Feng’s, Guo Jing felt a tremendous force surging through his body and he passed out immediately. He awakened and knew he was leaning on Huang Rong’s chest and aware that they were on a small boat. He concentrated his breathing and found out that he was not internally injured; he raised his eyebrows and smiled at Huang Rong.

Huang Rong smiled back at him and her anxiety and fears were gone in an instant. She at last had an opportunity to see what kind of boat was coming to rescue them. Once she looked up, she groaned inwardly; she saw, standing at the bow of the big boat, seven or eight men, both tall and short. They were the same Wulin characters she’d met several months earlier at the Zhao Palace in Yanjing. The short, stout one with bright eyes was the ‘Butcher with a Thousand Hands’ [qian shou ren tu] Peng Lianhu, the one with a bald, shiny head was the ‘Dragon King of Guimen’ [gui men long wang] (lit. Ghost Gate) Note to final editor: the earlier chapter has ‘Dragon King of Demonic Group’] Sha Tongtian, the one with three carbuncles on his head sticking out like horns was the ‘Three-Headed Dragon’ [san tou jiao] Hou Tonghai, the one with ruddy face and white hair was the ‘Ginseng Immortal’ [shen xian lao guai] Liang Ziweng, the one wearing scarlet kasaya was the Tibetan monk the ‘Big Handprint’ [da shou yin] Venerable Lingzhi. There were several others that she did not know. She thought, “Jing ge ge’s martial arts and mine have recently enjoyed tremendous improvements. If we have to fight with Peng Lianhu and the others one-on-one, I might not win, but Jing ge ge will definitely score a victory. But the Old Poison is standing nearby, plus these other people. It will be very difficult for us to escape danger today.”

The people on the big boat were surprised to hear Ouyang Feng’s shouts from the raft. Now that they saw Guo Jing and the others, they were even more surprised. Ouyang Feng was holding his nephew; Guo Jing and Huang Rong carried Hong Qigong; the five people in two groups jumped up one after another from the small boat to the big boat.

Soon a man came out of the cabin to welcome them; he wore an embroidered colored robe. As soon as he saw Guo Jing, both men were stunned. The man wore a neat beard on his chin, had a handsome face; it was none other than the Sixth Prince of the Great Jin, Wanyan Honglie.

After escaping from the Liu family ancestral hall in Baoying, Wanyan Honglie was afraid that Guo Jing might pursue him to the north; he did not dare go home. He came across Peng Lianhu, Sha Tongtian and the others and decided to head down south to steal the book left behind by Yue Wumu (the Wumu Legacy). By this time the Mongolian army had dispatched a large scale military expedition against the Jin; the capital, Yanjing, had been besieged for several months and the sixteen prefectures surrounding it had fallen to the Mongolian invasion. As the days passed the situation for the Jin got more and more critical. Wanyan Honglie was very worried about the fate of his country; he’d seen with his own eyes that the Mongolians were very swift and fierce. Although the Jin army was ten times superior in numbers, each time they met, the Jin were routed. Wanyan Honglie painstakingly pondered all ideas to rebuild his country’s lofty aspirations, and came to the conclusion that what he needed right at that time was the Wumu Legacy. He thought that if this book on military strategy was in his possession, he would be able to build a divine and invincible army just like Yue Fei’s own army. Even though the Mongolian army was strong, they would flee at the sight of his army.

He presently led this expedition south, trying to track down the whereabouts of the Legacy; but he feared the Southern Song would uncover his intentions and be on guard against intruders. He decided to go by sea, hoping nobody would know his itinerary and he could land on the Zhejiang coast undetected and quietly enter Lin’an to steal the book.

Before departing he looked for Ouyang Ke knowing he was a martial arts expert and would be a highly useful companion. After a long time of not hearing any news of him, he decided to leave without waiting for this man. Now they suddenly meet quite by accident on the sea; not only Ouyang Ke, but Guo Jing as well. He could not help but feel anxious; he was afraid his secret mission had been compromised.

Seeing the enemy who’d killed his father, Guo Jing seethed with anger; he did not care if he was surrounded by powerful enemies and he looked at Wanyan Honglie with blazing gaze.

Just then someone else came out of the cabin, but when only half step through the door he immediately drew back in. Huang Rong’s sharp eyes saw that the man looked like Yang Kang.

In the meantime Ouyang Ke introduced his uncle to the prince, “Uncle, this is the Sixth Prince of the Great Jin who loves people with high skills.” Ouyang Feng cupped his fists in front of his chest.

Wanyan Honglie did not know that Ouyang Feng was a very big name in the martial arts realm. He noticed Ouyang Feng had an arrogant expression, but for Ouyang Ke’s sake he returned the cupped fists gesture.

When Peng Lianhu, Sha Tongtian and the others heard his name, they bowed and spoke their praise, “For a long time Mr. Ouyang has been the Mount Tai and the Big Dipper [meaning ‘ultimate’] of the Wulin world; today we are fortunate to finally meet you.” Ouyang Feng slightly bowed, returning their respect half-heartedly.

‘Big Handprint’ the Venerable Lingzhi came from Tibet and did not know of the Western Poison’s reputation; he merely put his palms together without saying anything.

Wanyan Honglie knew that Sha Tongtian and the others were conceited men and they always looked down on others; but he noticed they were very respectful towards Ouyang Feng, almost to the point of fear and heaped flattering words on him. Their expressions looked very unusual. Wanyan Honglie realized that this water-swollen man with disheveled hair and bare feet was not an ordinary person; he immediately treated Ouyang Feng with respect and uttered some polite words.

Among these people, only Liang Ziweng had different feelings. Because Guo Jing had drunk the precious blood of his valuable viper, and now that they saw each other again, how could he not feel angry? But he also noticed that the person he was most afraid of, Hong Qigong, was with Guo Jing. Even though he was very angry, he managed to keep a smiling face. He went forward and bowed respectfully, “The little Liang Ziweng greets Clan Leader Hong and wishes Senior well.”

His speech startled everyone. Although they all had heard for a long time of the stellar reputations of the Western Poison and the Northern Beggar, they had never met them in person. Who would have expected that two of the biggest names in the martial arts world would actually make their appearance at the same time? They were about to rush forward and pay their respects when Hong Qigong laughed loudly and said, “The Old Beggar is having very bad luck; a vicious dog has bitten me leaving me half dead and half alive, what are you paying respects for? It would be better if you bring me something to eat.”

Everyone was startled and they thought, “This Hong Qigong is lying motionless because he is severely injured… we don’t have anything to fear from him.” They looked at Ouyang Feng, waiting to see what he was going to do.

Earlier, Ouyang Feng had cooked up a plan as to how to get rid of these three people: Hong Qigong must be eliminated first to avoid his own dishonorable behavior from becoming public; next, he would force Guo Jing to explain the difficult sentences from the manual and then he would kill him. As for Huang Rong, even though his nephew loved her, if he let her live, she would cause an enormous disaster in the future. However, if he personally killed her, Huang Yaoshi would not let him have a single moment’s peace. Therefore he decided to use someone else’s hand to kill her and thus shift the blame from his shoulders. Since the three were aboard the boat, he was not afraid they would fly away and escape. He stepped forward and said to Wanyan Honglie, “These three people are very crafty and they are also highly skilled in martial arts. I beseech the Prince to assign some people to guard them well.”

Liang Ziweng was very pleased; he leaned to the left and squeezed past Sha Tongtian to grab Guo Jing’s hand. Guo Jing turned his wrist over and slapped Liang Ziweng’s shoulder. He’d used the ‘Sighting the Dragon in the Field’, a swift and heavy stance; even though Liang Ziweng’s martial arts skill was high, he was unexpectedly forced to stagger back two steps.

Peng Lianhu and Liang Ziweng continually competed to win the favor of Wanyan Honglie. They always tried to outdo the other and what their faces showed was different from what they felt in their hearts. Seeing Liang Ziweng stumble, Peng Lianhu was inwardly very pleased. He stepped closer to Hong Qigong and the others; but he was waiting for Liang Ziweng to fall before taking any action.

When Liang Ziweng slipped past Sha Tongtian to pull Guo Jing away, he was prepared for Guo Jing’s single stance, the ‘Proud Dragon Shows Remorse’; he knew he would not be able to face it head on, hence the attack from the side. Who would have thought that in less than a month the ‘Proud Dragon Shows Remorse’ was not the only move Guo Jing knew? Because Guo Jing did not pursue, he jumped up and attacked with his fists, launching his life’s worth of training in martial arts, the ‘Wild Fox from Liaodong Fist’ technique [liao dong ye hu quan fa], determined to take Guo Jing’s life, both for embarrassing him just now and also for killing his precious snake.

One time Liang Ziweng went to gather ginseng on Mount Changbai [located in Jilin province]; he saw a hound fighting with a wild fox in the snow. The fox was very cunning; it leaped to the east and hopped to the west, very quick and agile. Although the hound’s claws and teeth were sharp, after battling for a long time it had yet not scored victory. Liang Ziweng noticed the ability of the fox to jump very high and he had a sudden inspiration. He abandoned his intention to gather ginseng and decided to stay in a thatched hut on the snowy mountain, painstakingly pondering martial arts moves for several months. As a result, the ‘Wild Fox Fist technique’ was born.

The technique incorporates four fundamental principles, namely ‘ling’ [alert/quick], ‘shan’ [dodge], ‘pu’ [pounce], and ‘die’ [tumble]. This technique had come in handy in dealing with powerful enemies. First of all, he did not give the enemy an opportunity to catch him since he was very quick to retreat and he was able to hasten to the left and escape to the right; then he struck back as the opportunity arose.

Now he did not dare to underestimate his opponent any longer and launched this fist technique right away. His attacks were lightning fast as he threw everything he had at Guo Jing. The fist technique was weird; Guo Jing had never seen anything like it before. He thought, “In Rong’er’s ‘Peach Blossom Island Divine Sword Palm’ technique there are many trick moves; out of five attacks only one is real, or sometimes one out of eight. But it seems this old man’s fists are all empty strikes. I wonder what kind of strange technique this is?” However, he remembered Hong Qigong’s advice, that regardless the technique his opponent is using all he needed to do was to keep using the ‘Eighteen Dragon-Subduing Palms’.

After watching the two men fighting for a while, everybody began to silently shake their heads, thinking, “The Old Freak Liang can be considered a grand master of martial arts; why is it that when fighting this new born kid [very inexperienced] he keeps moving around and does not dare to attack head on?”

Several moves later Guo Jing’s palm strength began to force him back step by step; it seemed that very soon he would fall into the ocean. Realizing his ‘Wild Fox Fist’ would not help him score a victory, Liang Ziweng thought of using a different set of fist techniques; but it was too late. Guo Jing’s palms enveloped him completely, not giving him any chance to counterattack. Amidst the strong gusts of wind Hong Qigong’s voice was heard, “Attack the lower part!”

Guo Jing immediately launched the stance ‘The Divine Dragon Swings Its Tail’ [shen long bai wei] and his left arm swept him away. Liang Ziweng called out in alarm and tumbled over the rail of the boat.

Everybody was stunned and rushed to the edge to look, only to hear somebody on the sea laughing a long laugh. Liang Ziweng’s body suddenly flew back up and with a loud grunt landed back on deck, unconscious.

What had just happened confounded everyone on board. Could it be that the waves bounced his body back up? Everybody crowded to the rail of the boat, looked down to the sea below and saw an old man with a white beard and white hair rushing to the east and dashing to the west on the surface of the sea at unusual speed. They strained their eyes to see more clearly; as it turned out, that man was riding on the back of a huge shark at a speed not inferior to someone galloping on horseback on dry land.

Guo Jing was delightedly surprised and with a loud voice he shouted, “Big Brother Zhou, I am here!” That shark rider was indeed the Old Urchin Zhou Botong.

Zhou Botong heard Guo Jing’s shout and he cheered with delight; then he hit the shark’s head near its right eye with his fist and the shark turned left immediately, coming near the boat’s side.

“Is that Brother Guo?” Zhou Botong called out, “How are you? There is a whale ahead and I have been chasing it for a whole day and night. I want to continue chasing it. See you later!”

“Big Brother! Come here quickly!” Guo Jing anxiously called, “There are many bad people here who want to bully your little brother!”

Zhou Botong was angry, “Is that so?” His right hand held onto something inside of the shark’s mouth, while his left hand grabbed onto the rail of the big boat. He pulled hard and both man and shark suddenly flew up above everybody’s heads and landed on the deck. He roared, “Who dares to bully my little brother?”

Almost every single one of the people aboard had extensive knowledge of Jianghu matters; but this white bearded old man who suddenly appeared in a most bizarre way stupefied everyone. Even Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng were dumbstruck.

Zhou Botong saw Huang Rong and he felt strange. “How come you are also here?” he asked.

Huang Rong smiled, “Why not?” she replied, “I figured you’d come back today, that’s why I am here waiting for you. Quickly teach me how to ride a shark.”

Zhou Botong laughed, “Very well, I’ll teach you.”

Huang Rong replied, “First you have to help us get rid of these bad people, and then you can teach me.”

Zhou Botong swept his gaze across the people on the deck and he said to Ouyang Feng, “I knew other people wouldn’t dare to act so savagely, so it turns out to be you.”

Ouyang Feng replied coldly, “A man who does not keep his word, while he is alive in this world, will be the laughing stock of all the warriors of the world.”

“Totally correct,” Zhou Botong said, “A man of integrity certainly won’t cause trouble. But those who speak truly and those who fart [lies] has to be distinguished clearly, otherwise people who hear it might not know if the sound comes from above or from below. I am indeed looking for you to settle an old score and nothing could better than seeing you here. Old Beggar, you are our witness; stand up and give us your judgment.”

Hong Qigong lay on deck and he smiled slightly. Huang Rong said, “The Old Poison was almost dead nine times and my Master was kind enough to rescue him every single time. Who would have thought that he has the heart of a wolf and the lungs of a dog and repays kindness with evil; he injured my Master and sealed his acupoints.”

Actually, Hong Qigong only saved Ouyang Feng’s life three times, but Huang Rong intentionally exaggerated by a factor of three. Ouyang Feng knew this but did not want to argue; he only looked at her with blazing eyes.

Zhou Botong stooped down trying to unseal Hong Qigong’s ‘Song Reservoir’ [qu xhi] and ‘Bubbling Spring’ [yong quan] acupoints by rubbing them. “Old Urchin, it’s useless,” Hong Qigong said.

It turned out that the acupoint sealing method Ouyang Feng used was somewhat unusual; other than Huang Yaoshi and himself, there was no one else in this whole wide world who could unseal them. Ouyang Feng was very smug, “Old Urchin, unseal his acupoints if you have the ability,” he challenged.

Even though Huang Rong could not unseal them, she was familiar with the sealing method; she pressed her lips together and said, “What’s so strange about that? My father can unseal this ‘Penetrating Bone’ [tou gu da xue fa] acupoint sealing technique without very much effort.”

Hearing her mentioning the correct name for his acupoint sealing technique, Ouyang Feng was amazed that this little girl’s knowledge was as deep as a bottomless abyss, even encompassing acupoint sealing techniques. However, he did not pay any attention to her; turning to Zhou Botong he asked, “You lost our bet; why are you talking like breaking smelly wind?”

Zhou Botong covered up his nose and called out, “Break wind? Bad smell, bad smell! But let me ask you this: what did we bet on?”

“Everyone here, except this Guo kid and this little girl, is a well-known warrior. I’ll tell what happened and ask these gentlemen to be our judges,” Ouyang Feng replied.

“Well said, well said,” Peng Lianhu said, “Mr. Ouyang, please tell us.”

“This gentleman is the Quanzhen Sect’s Zhou Botong, Master Zhou, known in the Jianghu world as the Old Urchin. In terms of seniority, he holds a very high position; Qiu Chuji, Wang Chuyi and the other Quanzhen Seven Masters are his martial nephews.“

For the past dozen years or so, Zhou Botong had been detained on Peach Blossom Island; before that time his martial arts skills were obscure. Aside from some mischievous troubles, he never accomplished anything worth mentioning, so his reputation did not spread far and wide in the Jianghu world. However, everybody had seen him riding a shark, a feat not easily accomplished by any of them. Since he is the martial uncle of the Quanzhen Seven Masters, it’s no wonder he is this good. As a result everybody talked amongst themselves in low voices. Peng Lianhu remembered their appointment on the eighth month’s mid-autumn festival in Jiaxing; if the Quanzhen Seven Masters had this strange man as their ally, they would not be easy to deal with. He could not help but feel anxious.

Ouyang Feng continued, “Brother Zhou was stranded in the sea amongst a mass of sharks and I rescued him. I said this mass of sharks was nothing much and without too much effort I could kill every single one of them. Brother Zhou did not believe me, so the two of us made a bet. Brother Zhou, isn’t what I said true?”

Zhou Botong nodded his head repeatedly, “It was absolutely true. But you need to explain to everyone what we were betting on exactly,” he said.

“Correct!” Ouyang Feng said, “I said that if I lost, I would do whatever you wanted me to do. If I am not willing to do it, then I must jump into the sea and become fish food. You said the same thing, is that correct?”

Zhou Botong nodded his head again, “Right, right, that was absolutely correct, and then what happened?” he asked.

“What do you mean ‘what happened’? You lost!” Ouyang Feng said.

This time Zhou Botong shook his head repeatedly, “Not true, not true!” he said, “It was you who lost, not me.”

Ouyang Feng was angry, “A real man can distinguish between right and wrong; how can you deny your own words? If I lost, how come you were willing to plunge into the sea to kill yourself?”

Zhou Botong sighed, “That’s true. I originally said that the Old Urchin’s fortune was bad so I lost to you; who would have thought that as I went into the water the Heavens sent something we could regard as a coincidence. Only then did I know that the Old Poison had lost and the Old Urchin had really won.”

Ouyang Feng, Hong Qigong and Huang Rong asked together, “What coincidence?”

Zhou Botong stooped down with his left hand, grabbed a piece of stick stuck inside the shark’s mouth, lifted the shark and said, “I met my riding animal. Old Poison, take a look; it was your precious nephew who stuck this stick inside its mouth, wasn’t it?”

It was indeed Ouyang Ke who concocted this wicked plan to insert a stick inside the shark’s mouth, so that it would not be able to eat and eventually die of starvation. Ouyang Feng had seen this with his own eyes. He saw a huge shark with a wooden stick in its mouth and he also saw the wound caused by the hook in the shark’s mouth. Without any doubt this was the very same shark they’d returned to the sea that day. “So what?” he said.

Zhou Botong clapped his hands and laughed, “That means you lost! Our bet was that you would kill every single one of the sharks, but this good fellow was bestowed with good fortune by your nephew. It could not eat the dead sharks, hence could not eat the poison. It was the only shark left alive. How can you say that the Old Urchin didn’t win?” He burst out laughing. Ouyang Feng’s countenance changed and he could not say anything.

Guo Jing delightedly asked, “Big Brother, where were you these past few days? I was so miserable thinking about you.”

Zhou Botong laughed, “I was playing and having fun. Not long after I jumped into the sea, I saw this fellow gasping for breath on the surface and it seemed to be in agony. I said, ‘Old Shark, oh Old Shark, seems like today you and I share the same fate!’ Then I suddenly jumped on the shark’s back. It furiously went under the water and I had to hold my breath with both hands holding tightly to its neck and my feet periodically kicked its belly. In great difficulty it went back up to the surface. Without giving me a chance to take two mouthfuls of air this fellow dove back under. The two of us fought for half a day and he finally became obedient and was willing to listen to what I said. I wanted it go to the east and it went to the east, I wanted it to head north and he wouldn’t dare think of going south.” As he spoke he gently patted the shark’s head, looking extremely pleased.

Of those who were present, only Huang Rong admired and envied him. Her eyes shone and she asked, “I played in the sea for many years, why didn’t I think of this trick? I was so stupid!”

“Look at its mouth full of teeth; they are as sharp as knives,” Zhou Botong said, “If there was no stick in its mouth, would you dare to ride it?”

“You spent the last few days riding on the back of this fish?” Huang Rong asked.

“Certainly,” Zhou Botong replied, “The two of us have pretty good skills at catching fish. As soon as we saw a fish, we chased it and I sent a fist or a palm to kill it. Out of ten fish, I only ate one and this fellow ate the other nine.”

Huang Rong felt the shark’s belly and asked, “You dumped dead fish into its belly? It did not need its teeth to eat?”

“He’s a good eater,” Zhou Botong answered, “There was a time the two of us chased an extremely big cuttlefish …”

Two people, one old, the other young, were having an animated discussion, totally ignoring everybody else on board the ship. Ouyang Feng groaned inwardly and silently thought of some methods to deal with this situation. Zhou Botong suddenly turned to him and said, “Hey, Old Poison, do you admit defeat?”

Ouyang Feng had been the one making the speech earlier; how could he swallow his own words in front of this many people? He was obliged to say, “So what if I lost? Do you think there is anything I can’t do?”

“Hmm,” Zhou Botong said, “I must think of a difficult thing for you to do. Very well, you scolded me just now saying that I was farting; I want you to fart immediately and let everybody smell it.”

Hearing Zhou Botong ask Ouyang Feng to break wind for no reason at all, Huang Rong was annoyed. Breaking wind at will was naturally not easy for the average person, but with strong internal energy, it was not difficult to circulate the breathing to all parts of the body, hence it was an extremely trivial thing to do. She was afraid of Ouyang Feng’s craftiness, of his venomous snake staff and was afraid he would grab this opportunity to gently break wind and put everything behind him without too much trouble. So she hastily said, “Not good, not good! First you want to tell him to unseal my Master’s acupoints, then we can talk some more.”

“See!” Zhou Botong said, “Even a young miss is afraid of your smelly fart. Alright, I’ll let you go this time. I was not going to ask you to do a difficult thing anyway; quickly tend to the Old Beggar’s injury. The Old Beggar’s skill is not less than yours; if not of your sneakiness, there’s no way you would be able to injure him. After he is healed, the two of you can fight again. At that time let the Old Urchin be the judge.”

Ouyang Feng knew Hong Qigong’s injury was incurable, so he was not afraid of future retaliation. But he was afraid that Zhou Botong would come up with a more difficult and strange request. Under the scrutiny of numerous people he felt really awkward; he did not want to comply, yet he was too proud not to. Without saying anything he bent down, exerted strength to his palm and unsealed Hong Qigong’s acupoints. Huang Rong and Guo Jing rushed forward to help their master stand.

Zhou Botong swept his gaze to the other people on the deck, he said, “The Old Urchin is most afraid to smell the urine scent of the sheep eaten by you barbarians. Quickly let down a small boat and send us four people ashore.”

Ever since he’d seen the fight between Zhou Botong and Huang Yaoshi, Ouyang Feng knew that this man’s martial arts were very strange. If for any reason they had to fight, he was certain he would not be defeated, but scoring a victory was not guaranteed either. He decided to endure things patiently for the time being. He wanted to wait until he had mastered the ‘Nine Yin Manual’, then he would come and settle the account with Zhou Botong. Besides, he had the excuse of losing the bet earlier. When all was said and done, it would be better off to send this annoying plague away, so he made up his mind and said, “Very well, your luck was very good! Since you won the bet, let it be as you said.” Turning his head to Wanyan Honglie he said, “Prince, please let down a boat to take these four people ashore.”

Wanyan Honglie hesitated as he thought, “I am afraid that as soon as they are ashore, these four will leak my secret mission to the south.”

All this time the Venerable Lingzhi was watching with his cold eyes. Earlier he had seen Ouyang Feng’s unkempt appearance and his heart was filled with contempt. He thought that this ‘chicken half-drowned in soup’ did not dare to defy even half a word of whatever Zhou Botong told him to do; it seemed likely he enjoyed an unearned reputation. Even if his martial arts were excellent, he would not necessarily be more skillful than the rest of the people on board. Noticing Wanyan Honglie’s slight hesitation, he moved forward two steps and said, “If we were on the raft we would have to comply with Mr. Ouyang wishes; how could other people dare to speak too much? But we are on this boat and we have to listen to the Prince’s instructions.”

Listening to this, everyone’s heart was stirred and they turned their gaze on Ouyang Feng to see what he was going to do. Ouyang Feng coldly looked the Venerable Lingzhi up and down, sizing him up. He raised his face to the sky and wryly said, “Does this Great Monk deliberately want to make things difficult for this old man?”

Venerable Lingzhi replied, “I don’t dare. The lowly monk has lived at the edge of Tibet, friendless and ignorant. Today is the very first time I heard Mr. Ouyang’s honorable name. I don’t need to have anything to do with you whatsoever …”

Before he could finish, Ouyang Feng had moved forward one step; his left hand swiftly made a false move while his right hand deftly grabbed Venerable Lingzhi. With a little effort he turned the monk over and held him upside down. It had happened so fast that all the others saw was Venerable Lingzhi’s red kasaya sway, and then flutter loosely in midair. Nobody saw clearly what technique Ouyang Feng used.

Venerable Lingzhi was a head taller than anyone else, but Ouyang Feng was able to grab his neck easily. Even if Ouyang Feng lifted his arm up over his head, he would not necessarily be able to lift Lingzhi’s feet off the deck; but when Ouyang Feng turned his body upside down, the top of Lingzhi’s head was actually about four feet above the deck.

Venerable Lingzhi’s legs were kicking wildly in the air and his mouth let out roaring curses. Everybody had seen Venerable Lingzhi fight Wang Chuyi at the Zhao Palace; they knew his skill was not a trivial matter. But how could he have been turned upside down by Ouyang Feng and held there with his arms flailing weakly beside his head as though the arms were broken and he did not have the strength to struggle free?

With his eyes still looking upward, Ouyang Feng said dryly, “Today was the first time you heard my name; therefore, you look down on the old man, don’t you?”

Venerable Lingzhi was both frightened and angry. He tried to exert his internal energy several times, trying to struggle free, but no matter what he did, he was not able to escape. Peng Lianhu and the others had seen what happened and their faces showed amazement.

Ouyang Feng continued, “You look down on the old man, that’s alright. But I don’t want to stoop to your low level in front of the Honorable Prince. So you want to detain the Old Urchin, Master Zhou and the Nine-fingered Divine Beggar, Master Hong. Heh, heh … do you think you can rely on your magical skills to match them? You are both friendless and unlearned; it’s no wonder you don’t know much and have not had enough lessons to teach you manners. Old Urchin, take this!”

Again, nobody saw Ouyang Feng’s hand move; he merely exerted his strength to his palm and Venerable Lingzhi flew like a cloud from the port to the starboard side of the deck. As soon as he felt Ouyang Feng’s palm strength leave his body and he was free, Lingzhi stretched his body like a carp trying to turn his body right side up. Then he suddenly felt a sharp pain on his neck; he cried out and stretched out his left arm to attack. Again he felt his arm go numb and hang helplessly beside his head. Once again his body was suspended midair. As it turned out, Zhou Botong followed Ouyang Feng’s example and grabbed him by the neck.

Although Wanyan Honglie understood Lingzhi’s precarious situation, he knew nobody could accuse Ouyang Feng of not giving forewarning. None amongst his warriors had the ability to deal with Zhou Botong, just this one man; hence he hastily said, “Mister Zhou, you don’t have to play any longer, Little Prince will send a boat out to take the four of you ashore.”

“Very good,” Zhou Botong said, “You can also try to take this!” Following Ouyang Feng’s example, he exerted his strength to his palm and sent the Venerable Lingzhi flying towards the Prince.

Of course Wanyan Honglie knew martial arts, but his skill was limited to the saber, spear and bow and arrow from horseback. The flying monk from Zhou Botong’s hand carried a swift and strong force; how could he take it? Even if he didn’t die he would certainly suffer a heavy injury; so he hastily stepped aside to avoid him.

Sha Tongtian knew the Prince was in danger and straight away stepped forward in front of the Prince, trying to protect him. He saw the Venerable Lingzhi coming fast and if he struck with his palm, he might injure the monk. Following Ouyang Feng and Zhou Botong’s earlier example, he wanted to grab the monk’s neck, turn him right side up, and then lay him down gently. However, he had forgotten one important detail; namely, his martial arts were way below that of those two people. He had seen Ouyang Feng and Zhou Botong, seemingly without effort, grabbing and throwing Venerable Lingzhi’s heavy body. Therefore he leaped up to intercept Lingzhi, stretching his hand to grab his neck. As he touched Venerable Lingzhi’s neck he unexpectedly felt a burning sensation followed by a strong force attacking his hand and wrist. He knew if he did not ward off this attack his wrist would be broken immediately. At this critical moment he quickly withdrew his right hand, while his left fist launched his ‘Splitting Armor Awl’ [po jia zhui].

What had happened was when Venerable Lingzhi was thrown back and forth between Ouyang Feng and Zhou Botong, his blood was flowing adversely, his head was dizzy while his heart burned with anger. He heard Zhou Botong calling out for someone else to take his body; all he knew was that person must be an enemy, so while he was still airborne he had already exerted his strength in anger. As soon as Sha Tongtian’s hand touched his neck, Venerable Lingzhi’s ‘Big Handprint’ [da shou yin] slashed out.

In terms of strength these two were on par with each other; Sha Tongtian had the advantage of standing upright, but Venerable Lingzhi had prepared his attack beforehand, and thus caught him off guard. Two equal forces collided; Sha Tongtian was pushed back three steps, but Venerable Lingzhi, also shaken by the collision, fell flat on the deck. He immediately stood up and saw that the person he thought attacked him was Sha Tongtian; he thought, “Even you, a stinky thief, want to take advantage of me!” With a loud roar he pounced forward.

Peng Lianhu knew he misunderstood the situation and hastily stepped in between the two people, calling out, “Reverend, please don’t get angry, Brother Sha only had good intentions.”

In the meantime the small boat had been lowered. Zhou Botong grabbed the stick inside the shark’s mouth; he lifted and hurled the huge shark into the sea while simultaneously exerting his strength and breaking the stick into two parts. As it splashed into the sea, the shark felt the stick in its mouth had been broken and was very happy. It dove deep into the water to hunt for some fish.

Huang Rong smiled, “Jing ge ge, later on the two of us and Big Brother Zhou can ride sharks together and we can have a race.” Guo Jing did not answer but Zhou Botong clapped his hands and cheered. He said, “We can ask the Old Beggar to be our judge.”

After watching Zhou Botong and the others leave on the small boat, Wanyan Honglie started to think. With his kind of martial arts, Ouyang Feng would provide valuable assistance in his plan to steal the book. He took Venerable Lingzhi’s hand and walked towards Ouyang Feng. “Everyone here are good friends and I hope Sir was not offended; I am sure Reverend was not serious. I wish both gentlemen to give Little Prince face and consider everything as a joke,” he said.

Ouyang Feng smiled and extended his hand. Venerable Lingzhi, on the other hand, was still upset. He mused, “You only used the seizing technique [qin na] and caught me off guard. I have trained painstakingly for dozens of years to develop my ‘Big Handprint’ power; do you think I am inferior to you?” Then he also stretched out his hand while sending energy to his palm with the intention of gripping Ouyang Feng’s palm hard. Just as he was about to exert his strength he suddenly jumped away. He felt as though he was touching red-hot steel and his hand was in so much pain that he dropped it in a hurry. Ouyang Feng did not want to pursue the matter so he faintly smiled. Venerable Lingzhi looked at his hand and did not see anything unusual and thought, “Damn it, this old thief surely knows some demonical tricks.”

Ouyang Feng noticed Liang Ziweng was still lying on the deck, unmoving. He came to examine him. Ouyang Feng knew that Liang Ziweng was pushed into the sea by Guo Jing and intercepted by Zhou Botong, who sealed his acupoints and threw him back onto the boat. He unsealed Liang Ziweng’s acupoints and, there and then, Ouyang Feng became the leader of this group of warriors.

Wanyan Honglie immediately ordered a banquet to welcome Ouyang Feng and his nephew. While drinking wine Wanyan Honglie explained to Ouyang Feng his plan to go to Lin’an and steal the ‘Wumu Legacy’ while at the same time asking his willingness to help. Ouyang Feng actually had heard about this matter from his nephew but this time his heart was stirred. Suddenly a thought came into his mind, “What kind of man do you think I, Ouyang Feng, am? How can I submit to you? But I heard that not only was Yue Fei’s military skill divine, his martial arts skill was also superb. I also heard that the Yue Family’s martial arts had been lost to the martial art world. Perhaps in his legacy there is a martial arts manual as well as the military strategies. I will agree to help him get the book and if I like what I see…can’t the Old Poison get what he wants?”

It was a case of: You cheat and I am crafty…it’s everyone for himself. Wanyan Honglie wholeheartedly wanted the book to help him defeat the Great Song. It is said that while the praying mantis was hunting for the cicada, the yellow canary caught it from behind. Ouyang Feng had a different idea to top his. Therefore, while one man heaped flattering words, the other’s mouth was full of compliance. In addition, Liang Ziweng did his utmost to be a good host and the banquet table was overflowing with wine. The guests and the hosts were having a good time. Only Ouyang Ke, who was still in pain from his injury, did not drink anything, but only ate some dishes. Then he asked the crew to help him to the rear cabin to rest.

While they were eating and drinking in a lively manner, Ouyang Feng’s countenance suddenly changed. The cup stopped at his mouth and he did not drink. Everyone was startled; nobody knew what had offended him. Wanyan Honglie was about to ask when Ouyang Feng said, “Listen!”

Everybody inclined their heads to listen, but other than the wind and the waves of the sea, they did not hear anything. A moment later Ouyang Feng asked again, “Do you hear it this time? It’s a flute’s sound.” Everybody listened attentively with rapt attention and now they could hear, amidst the sound of the waves, the faint sound of a bamboo flute, sometimes broken, sometimes continuous. Nobody would have heard it if Ouyang Feng had not pointed it out.

Ouyang Feng walked to the bow; there he let out a long whistle and the sound traveled far. By now everybody else had arrived at the bow. They saw in the distance a light boat with three green sails, cutting the waves and coming fast towards their boat. They were inwardly astonished, “Is the flute sound coming from that boat? It’s very far away…how could the sound travel here?”

Ouyang Feng ordered the sailors to turn the rudder to intercept that fast boat. Two boats gradually came closer to each other. On the bow of that fast boat stood a man wearing a long dark green robe and in his hand was indeed a flute. He called out loudly, “Brother Feng, have you seen my daughter?”

“Your daughter has a very strong temperament, how would I dare to provoke her?” Ouyang Feng replied.

Two boats were several zhang apart and nobody saw that man move his body and jump, yet they saw a blurred shadow and that man was already standing on the big boat’s deck.

As Wanyan Honglie saw his marvelous skill and his desire to recruit warriors arose; he stepped forward to welcome the guest, saying, “What is your surname, Sir? I am very fortunate to receive your visit.” Considering his lofty position as a prince of the Great Jin, he was being unusually modest. Upon seeing he was wearing a Jin official’s costume, that man only gave him a blank stare, apparently not paying any attention to him.

Seeing the prince not getting the attention he deserved Ouyang Feng said, “Brother Yao, let me present to you the Sixth Prince of the Great Jin, Prince Zhao.” To Wanyan Honglie he said, “This is the Master of Peach Blossom Island, the number one martial artist in the world; his knowledge is unparalleled.”

Peng Lianhu and the others were so shocked that they involuntarily withdrew several steps. They knew from the start that Huang Rong’s father was a very fierce devil and the Twin Killers of the Dark Winds were his renegade disciples and were able to shake Jianghu with their might. The faces of the people of the Wulin world would change color whenever their names were mentioned. If the disciples were that fierce, how much more so would be their master? He has appeared here to create trouble for sure, they thought, and everyone remembered that they had offended his daughter. Therefore, everyone’s heart was filled with fear and nobody dared to make a sound.

When his daughter ran away, Huang Yaoshi knew she must be looking for Guo Jing. Initially he was angry and ignored her. But a few days later he became worried; he was afraid she would find Guo Jing on the special ship he built and they’d go down to the bottom of the sea together. He was worried to death for his daughter, so he decided to go out to sea and search for her.

Knowing they were returning to the mainland, he decided to head to the west. But looking for a boat on a boundless sea was truly easier said than done. Even though Huang Yaoshi possessed extraordinary intelligence, after searching back and forth he did find any trace of her. On this particular day backed by his strong internal energy he played his flute at the bow of his boat, with the hope that his daughter would hear and respond. Unexpectedly it was Ouyang Feng who responded.

Huang Yaoshi, Peng Lianhu and the others did not know each other. Hearing Ouyang Feng say that this person was a prince of the Jin, he did not want to stay any longer; he cupped his fists across his chest and said to Ouyang Feng, “Brother needs to continue my search for my daughter; I apologize for not accompanying you longer.” Then he turned around to leave.

Venerable Lingzhi had been angered by Ouyang Feng and Zhou Botong, and now another extremely arrogant and impolite person had come on board. He heard what Ouyang Feng had said, but he thought, “Could it be that there are so many highly skilled people in this world? Most likely these people know some witchcraft and deceive others with their demonical abilities. Let me try and perhaps I can deceive him as well.” Seeing Huang Yaoshi was about to leave he said with a loud voice, “Are you looking for a fifteen or sixteen years old young lady?”

Huang Yaoshi paused and turned around with a happy expression on his face, “Yes Reverend, did you see her?”

Venerable Lingzhi coldly replied, “I did see a young lady, but the one I saw was a dead one, not a live one.”

Huang Yaoshi’s heart turned cold, “What?” he asked quickly, his voice was trembling.

Venerable Lingzhi replied, “About three days ago I saw the body of a young girl floating on the surface of the sea. She was wearing white clothes and a gold ring in her hair; originally her face must have been very pretty. Ay! What a pity, what a pity! What a pity her body was swollen by the seawater.” He had accurately described Huang Rong’s clothing and adornments.

Huang Yaoshi’s mind was greatly troubled; his body shook and his face turned pale. A moment later he asked, “Are you telling me the truth?”

Everyone clearly saw Huang Rong board the small boat just minutes ago; now they heard Venerable Lingzhi deceiving this man and taking pleasure from another’s misfortune. Even as they watched Huang Yaoshi’s grieving face, nobody made a sound.

Venerable Lingzhi coldly continued, “Beside that young lady’s body I saw three other corpses; one was of a young man with thick eyebrows and big eyes, the other one was an old beggar with a scarlet wine gourd on his back, and the last one was a white haired old man.” He was describing Guo Jing, Hong Qigong and Zhou Botong.

Reaching this point Huang Yaoshi’s doubts were completely gone. He squinted at Ouyang Feng, thinking, “You knew about my daughter so why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

Ouyang Feng noticed his look and realized his grief had reached its peak so he began to have murderous intent. Although he himself would not suffer a loss, the oncoming force would not be easy to resist. He quickly said, “Brother has just come on board this boat today and it is the first time I met these people. When this Reverend saw some floating corpses, your daughter was not necessarily amongst them.” Sighing, he continued, “Your beloved daughter is such a good girl; it is very regrettable if she really died at such a young age. If my nephew found out, he would die of heartbreak.” This speech shifted the blame from his shoulders, but clearly did not offend either side.

After listening to Ouyang Feng, Huang Yaoshi was in total shock; his heart sank in an instant. He was the type who loved to vent his anger on others; if it were otherwise, then when the Twin Killers of the Dark Winds stole his manual, why did he break Lu Chengfeng and his other innocent disciples’ legs and expel them from his school? His chest felt icy-cold, but his blood was boiling, just like when his beloved wife died some years ago. His hands were trembling and his face changed from snow white to crimson red alternately.

Everybody looked at him in silence and their hearts were filled with unspeakable fear. Even Ouyang Feng was anxious; he gathered his ‘qi’ in his ‘dan tian’, his whole body alert, ready to take any attack. The entire boat was unusually quiet. Suddenly Huang Yaoshi let out a long laugh, sounding like a never ending dragon’s roar.

This latest development took everybody by surprise and they were startled. They saw him facing skyward, laughing wildly and getting louder and louder. His laughter caused a chill in the air; those who listened to it felt more and more miserable. Gradually the laughter turned into weeping, a very sad weeping. The people could not bear it any longer; they felt like they shared his grief and were about to shed tears as well.

Ouyang Feng was the only one who knew his temperament well and knew that he used to sing and cry for no specific reason, hence he was not affected. But listening to him weeping so miserably he thought, “If he keeps crying like this, the Old Heretic Huang will inevitably injure himself. In past days Ruan Ji mourned the death of his mother and in doing so vomited a lot of blood. The Old Heretic Huang could experience the same fate as that person from the past. It was a pity my iron zither was lost when my boat sank, otherwise I could have played it and made his crying more interesting. This man has an unusual character; once he unleashes his uncontrolled emotions he will most likely suffer a serious internal injury. When it’s time for the second Sword Meet of Mount Hua I will surely miss a worthy and formidable opponent. Ay! What a great loss! What a pity, what a pity!”

After crying for a while Huang Yaoshi lifted his jade flute and struck the rail of the boat while singing, “Why did God make someone’s life so short? Why did someone die when all the hair on his head turned white, while the other died because of disaster or child-birth. The previous calamity had not yet passed, when the new one has come along. Morning had just blossomed, but the evening has already come, the dew came with the dawn and evaporated immediately. The departed cannot be pursued, the emotion suddenly fails. The high heaven does not have stairs; to whom shall I pour out my complaints to?”

With a ‘Crack!’ the jade flute was broken in two. Without turning his head Huang Yaoshi walked to the bow. Venerable Lingzhi dashed forward to block him and coldly said, “You wept and you laughed like a madman, what do you think you are doing?”

“Reverend, don’t …” Wanyan Honglie called out, but before he finished, Huang Yaoshi’s right hand stretched out and grabbed Venerable Lingzhi’s neck. Turning him midair until his feet were facing upward Huang Yaoshi threw him down and his fat bald head penetrated the deck up to his shoulders.

It seems that in the martial arts Venerable Lingzhi practiced, his neck was his weakest point. As soon as he made his move, a highly skilled martial artist like Ouyang Feng, Zhou Botong and Huang Yaoshi could immediately see this flaw and attack his weakest point.

Huang Yaoshi continued singing, “The sky’s eternal, the earth unchanging, how long will a man live? The past, the future, everything passes unawares; there is a time for everything.” A dark green shadow flashed and he had already moved to his own boat, turned the rudder and sailed away.

The people on board were about to rescue Venerable Lingzhi who remained motionless; they did not know if he was alive or dead. Then suddenly they heard a grunt and the deck hatch opened and out came a young man. He was handsome, with red lips and white teeth, and a face like crown jade; it was Wanyan Honglie’s son, Yang Kang, who’s former name was Wanyan Kang.

After having a disagreement with Mu Nianci he kept remembering Wanyan Honglie’s words, ‘unlimited riches and honor’; soon after he contacted a Jin government office in the north to get information about him. Not long after, he found his father and thus accompanied him to the south. When Guo Jing and Huang Rong came onboard, he caught a glimpse of them and immediately hid inside the cabin, not daring to come out. He only peeked through a crack in the cabin’s door and from there he clearly saw everything that happened on the deck. When the people were eating and drinking he was afraid Ouyang Feng was Guo Jing’s accomplice. He hid in the boat’s hold and eavesdropped on the conversations at the banquet table, trying to find out Ouyang Feng’s real intentions. Only after Huang Yaoshi left did he finally decide that he had nothing to worry about, so he opened the hatch-cover and came out.

Venerable Lingzhi’s fall was truly severe; fortunately, due to his hard training, his head was strong. He’d made a hole in the deck, but his head was not injured and he was only a little bit dizzy. He calmed himself and pushed with both hands on the deck to heave his body up and stood.

The people looked at the round hole in the deck and then looked at each other in amazement. They thought it was funny, but felt it was inappropriate to laugh, so they kept their faces straight, but looked very awkward.

Wanyan Honglie broke the silence by saying, “Son, meet Mr. Ouyang.”

Yang Kang immediately knelt in front of Ouyang Feng and kowtowed to him four times. This was a very big honor, surprising everyone. At the Zhao Palace Yang Kang had felt great admiration towards Venerable Lingzhi; but today he had seen Ouyang Feng, Zhou Botong and Huang Yaoshi, one after another, grab his neck and toss him back and forth like he was a baby. Only then did he realize there was a sky above the sky and there was another man above a man. He recalled the disgrace of being held captive at Cloud Manor on Lake Tai, and of when he was afraid of and lost his nerve to fight Guo Jing and Huang Rong at the Liu ancestral hall in Baoying…all because his skill was inferior to others. Now there was a man with very high skills in front of him and he wanted to take him as his master. After paying Ouyang Feng such respect he turned to Wanyan Honglie and said, “Father, your son wants to take this gentleman as my master.”

Wanyan Honglie was delighted, quickly he stepped forward and bowed in respect to Ouyang Feng, saying, “My young child likes to learn martial arts, only he has not yet met a suitable master. If Sir does not refuse this request and is willing to bestow instructions, Little Prince and son will be forever grateful.”

The others thought that being the young prince’s master was the wish of all of them; who would have thought that Ouyang Feng would simply return the greeting and say, “There has always been a rule in the Old Man’s martial arts school that our knowledge will be bestowed on one disciple only and no one else. The Old Man has already taken my nephew as my disciple; I can’t take another one. For this I beg the Prince’s forgiveness.”

Seeing that Ouyang Feng did not grant his request Wanyan Honglie did not press the issue. He ordered his men to prepare more food and wine. Yang Kang, on the other hand, was quite disappointed.

Ouyang Feng smiled and said, “I don’t deserve to be the young prince’s master, but it will not be difficult for the Old Man to give you some pointers on martial arts. We will talk about it later.”

Yang Kang had seen Ouyang Ke’s many concubines and they had received instructions in martial arts from him; but because they were not his disciples their skills were nothing extraordinary. Listening to the way Ouyang Feng said it, he was not in the least enthusiastic, but his mouth was obliged to utter some grateful words. He had not realized that Ouyang Feng’s skill was not to be compared with his nephew’s; receiving one or two instructions on martial arts from an expert of Ouyang Feng’s caliber would give him sufficient skill to boost his power and prestige among the heroes of the Wulin world.

Ouyang Feng noticed his expression and realized his intention to give instructions was not very well received; he never raised this matter again.

During the banquet they talked about Huang Yaoshi’s arrogance and rudeness; they praised Venerable Lingzhi for fooling him so well. Hou Tonghai said, “That man’s martial art’s skills are truly high and it turns out that stinky girl is his daughter; no wonder her ways are crafty.” While saying that he turned his attention towards Venerable Lingzhi’s bald head. After staring for a while he turned his gaze toward Lingzhi’s fat neck, and then he used his right arm to grab his own neck. “Hey, hey,” he mocked and asked, “Shige [Older Martial Brother], those three used a grabbing skill, what kind of technique was that?”

“Don’t talk nonsense!” Sha Tongtian rebuked him.

Venerable Lingzhi could not hold his patience any longer and he stretched out his left hand to grab the three carbuncles on Hou Tonghai’s forehead. Hou Tonghai quickly shrank his body and slid under the table. Everybody laughed and cheered.

Hou Tonghai reappeared in his chair and said to Ouyang Feng, “Master Ouyang, your martial arts skill is very high indeed! How about you teach me the skill of grabbing someone’s fat neck?” Ouyang Feng smiled but did not answer. Venerable Lingzhi glared at Hou Tonghai.

Hou Tonghai turned his head and asked again, “Shige, that Huang Yaoshi was crying and singing; what was he saying?”

Sha Tongtian glowered at him, not knowing how to answer. “Who cares about the gibbering of a madman?” he said.

Yang Kang explained, “What he sang was a poem written by Cao Zijian of the Three Kingdoms period. Cao Zijian composed two stanzas of lamentations because of his daughter’s death. In the poem he said how some people live until the hair on their heads had turned completely white, while some children died prematurely. He questioned why God was so unfair? He hated the fact that Heaven was so high and without stairs so that he could not ascend to God’s throne to cry out his complaints. He finally said that his grief was so deep that the day he would follow her to the grave would not be far away.”

The warriors immediately heaped him with praise, and said, “The Young Prince is truly a scholar and highly educated. We are rough men; how would we know?”

Huang Yaoshi’s heart was filled with grief and indignation. He pointed his finger to the sky and scolded the heaven, cursed ghosts and blamed divine beings for treating him unjustly, for all his sorrows and unfair fate. He commanded his boat towards the mainland. Once he was ashore his anger flamed again. He looked up to the sky and shouted, “Who killed my Rong’er? Who killed my Rong’er?”

Suddenly a thought came into his mind, “It’s that boy surnamed Guo. That’s right, it was him. If not for him, why would Rong’er go aboard that boat? But that boy died alongside Rong’er; who should I unleash my anger on?”

As soon as he had this thought, he remembered Guo Jing’s masters, the Six Freaks of Jiangnan. “Those six are the guiltiest of killing my Rong’er! If they hadn’t taught that Guo kid, how would he have met Rong’er? I won’t be appeased until I cut off their arms and legs one by one.”

As his anger increased, his sorrow decreased somewhat. He arrived at a small town and stopped for some food, while still thinking deeply about how he would pursue the Six Freaks of Jiangnan. “The Six Freaks’ martial arts skills are not high, but their reputations are not low. Perhaps they have something that sets them above everybody else, or perhaps they only use deceit. If I pay a visit to their residence and inquire, chances are I am not going to find them. I must go in the middle of the night and break into their houses. Then I will wipe them and their families clean, young and old alike.” Then he took big strides walking north towards Jiaxing.

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