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The Legend of the Condor Heroes Chapter 30


Chapter 30 – Reverend Yideng
Successively crossing seven gaps, they heard someone reading aloud; it seemed like they had arrived at the end of the stone bridge. On the other side of the gap a scholar was sitting cross-legged, a book in his hand, from which he was reading. Behind the scholar there was another short gap.

Two people walked forward following the mountain pathway and before long the pathway had come to an end. Ahead was a stone bridge about one foot wide, perched in between two mountain peaks, covered with cloud that the other end was invisible. If this stone bridge were laid on the ground, it would act just like a narrow alley, nothing to be afraid of; but under the stone bridge was a deep canyon. Just looking at it would cause the heart to tremble with fear, let alone walk across it.

Huang Rong sighed, “This Emperor Duan hid himself really well. If an enemy came full of enmities arrived to this place, half of his hatred would disappear first,” she said.

“Why did that fisherman say Emperor Duan has left this mortal world?” Guo Jing asked, “He really caused my heart unrest.”

“I really cannot guess what he meant by that,” Huang Rong replied, “Looking at his face he didn’t seem to be lying. He also said that our Shifu saw it with his own eyes when Emperor Duan passed away.”

“Things have come this far, we can only move forward and not go back,” Guo Jing said. He squatted to carry Huang Rong on his back, and then with his lightness kungfu walked toward that stone bridge.

The stone bridge’s surface was bumpy, plus it was enveloped in thick cloud all year long, which made it exceptionally slippery. The slower they walked the higher was the chance for them to fall down. Hence Guo Jing dashed forward quickly. After about seven, eight ‘zhang’s later suddenly Huang Rong called out, “Careful, the bridge’s broken ahead.”

Guo Jing also saw that the stone bridge was suddenly broken with about seven, eight feet gap in between. Instead of slowing down he ran faster and borrowing the momentum he leaped across the gap.

Huang Rong had already gone through terrible danger; early on she had already disregarded life and death. She laughed and said, “Jing Gege, your flying is not as steady as the white eagles.”

Dashing through a section, jumping over a gap, very soon they had crossed seven such gaps. Across the mountain ahead they saw a stretch of flat land. Suddenly they heard someone was reading aloud. Looked like they had arrived at the end of the stone bridge, but at the end of the bridge there was actually a very long gap, almost a ‘zhang’ wide [about 10 feet or 3 meters]. On the other side of the gap a scholar was sitting cross-legged, a book in his hand, from which he was reading aloud. Behind the scholar there was another short gap.

Guo Jing halted, he stood firm on the bridge, he was at a loss of what to do next, “Jumping over this gap is not too difficult,” he thought, “But that scholar is sitting right in the middle of the bridge; other than the place he occupies, there is no place I can set my feet on.” Thereupon with a loud voice he called out, “Juniors are seeking audience with your Honorable Master, we are asking Uncle to show us the way.”

The scholar’s head was swaying while he read with rapt attention, as if he did not hear Guo Jing. Guo Jing raised his voice and called out one more time, the scholar still turned a deaf ear to him. “Rong’er, what do we do?” Guo Jing said in a low voice.

Huang Rong frowned without saying anything, she looked at the place where that scholar was sitting and realized this matter could be complicated. The stone bridge was so narrow that fighting on it meant a life and death situation. Even if Guo Jing won, they were coming to seek help, how could they harm anybody? She looked at the scholar again, who still did not pay any attention, and could not help but secretly feel worried. She tried to listen to what the scholar was reading, and found out that it was the widely common book of ‘lun yu’ [Analects of Confucius]. He was reading: “An evening in the spring time, the spring garments were ready. Five, six people wearing hat, six, seven people were young. Taking a bath by the river bank, the breeze made the fountain dance, and the song carried back by the wind.”

He was reading with flourish and ardent interest, sighing three times, resembling the spring breeze carrying the song faraway, like he was enjoying the book immensely. Huang Rong thought, “If I want him to open his mouth, I must provoke him.” Thereupon she sneered and said, “It’s useless even if you read the Confucian Analects a thousand times but do not understand the Master’s sublime words with deep meaning.”

The scholar was startled and stopped reading immediately. He raised his head and said, “What sublime words with deep meaning? Please enlighten me.”

Huang Rong took a good look on that scholar; he looked to be around forty years of age, ‘xiao yao jin’ [scholar hat] on his head, a folding fan in his hand, a long black beard under his chin, truly he had a scholar’s appearance. She coldly laughed and asked, “Sire, do you know how many disciples Confucius had?”

The scholar smiled, “What’s so difficult about that?” he said, “Confucius had 3000 disciples altogether, among those, 72 were his best students.”

“From the 72 disciples, some were old and some were young,” Huang Rong continued, “Do you know how many disciples wore hat [meaning ‘older’] and how many were young?”

The scholar was startled and said, “It was not recorded in the Confucian Analects; other classics and commentaries also do not have that information recorded.”

“I said it’s useless if you do not understand the Master’s sublime words with deep meaning, did I say anything wrong?” Huang Rong asked. “I clearly heard you read just a moment ago, ‘Five, six people wearing hat; six, seven people were young.’ Five times six is thirty, there were 30 older disciples; six times seven is forty-two, there were 42 younger disciples. You add two numbers together and you will get exactly 72 people. I see you are reading without understanding. Hey! Dangerous! Really dangerous!”

The scholar heard how she made a strong argument on an obscure matter in the classic book, he could not stifle his laugh, but in his heart he also admitted her intelligence and quick-wit. He smiled and said, “Young Miss really has a mind filled with poetry books. My utmost admiration. You want to see my Shifu, may I know for what business?”

Huang thought, “If I say we are here to seek treatment, he will certainly do his utmost to make things difficult for us. But his question cannot be left unanswered. Fine. He was reading the ‘Confucian Analects’, I will also quote from Confucius to dodge his question.” Thereupon she said, “A Sage I don’t have to see! A Gentleman, I may see. A friend came from afar, isn’t that a delight to the heart?”

The scholar looked up to the sky and laughed hard for half a day. “All right, all right,” he said, “I have three subject tests for you. If you pass, I will take you to see my Shifu. But if you fail even one, I will have to ask you two to go back to where you came from.”

“Aiyo!” Huang Rong said, “I haven’t read too many books, if it is too difficult I might not be able to answer.”

“Not difficult, not difficult,” the scholar said, “I have a poem here, inside it hidden my origin in four characters. Let’s see if you can guess it.”

“Good, a riddle!” Huang Rong said, “It should be interesting. Please say it.”

The scholar twisted his beard and started to recite, “Six scriptures have been in the chest for a long time, one sword for ten years has been sharpened in the hand …”

Huang Rong stuck out her tongue and said, “Skilled in both pen and sword [wen wu quan cai – lit. literature and martial art complete skills], that’s terrific!”

The scholar smiled and continued, “On top of an apricot flower a branch hung horizontally; if you are afraid to divulge the heaven’s secret, don’t open the mouth. One dot escalated as big fight, nevertheless cannot even cover half a bed. The name completed, the hat hung, time to turn back home. My true identity, does Sir know?”

Huang Rong thought, “’The name completed, the hat hung, time to turn back home. My true identity, does Sir know?’ Looking at your appearance, you must be Emperor Duan’s minister of the days past; hanging your hat following your master, returning to this hidden wooded mountain. What’s so difficult to guess?” Thereupon she said, “When you add a character ‘one’ ( 一 ) and ‘ten’ ( 十 ) underneath the character ‘six’ ( 六 ), it becomes the character ‘xin’ ( 辛 ). Add a horizontal line to the character ‘apricot’ ( 杏 ), and take away the character ‘mouth’ ( 口 ), it becomes the character ‘wei’ ( 未 ). Add a character ‘big’ ( 大 ) to half of a bed ( 床 ) and put a dot on it, it becomes the character ‘zhuang’ ( 状 ). Take the hat off the character ‘complete’ ( 完 ), it becomes the character ‘yuan’ ( 元 ). Xin Wei Zhuang Yuan; please accept my respect. Turned out Sir was the Zhuang Yuan [number one scholar, the title conferred to a person who came out first in the highest imperial examination] of the Xin Wei year.”

The scholar was taken aback; he thought his riddle was very difficult. Even if one could finally come out with an answer, it should have taken at least half a day. These two youngsters’ martial art skill might be high, but they would not be able to stand on this narrow stone bridge for too long. He thought he would advice them to give up and nicely went back down the mountain. Who would have thought that almost without thinking Huang Rong was able to give him the correct answer. He could not help but feel utterly surprised. He now knew this girl was exceptionally smart; he had to find a more difficult question for her.

He swept his gaze around and saw a row of palm trees by the hillside, the leaves swaying gently in the light breeze, resembling the movement of a fan. He was a zhongyuan, naturally he was more gifted than an average scholar. He waved the fan in his hand and said, “I have the top part of a couplet, asking Miss to please complete it.”

“Completing a couplet is not as interesting as a riddle,” Huang Rong said, “All right, looks like if I can’t complete it, you won’t let us pass. Bring it on!”

The scholar waved his fan, pointing to the row of palm trees and said, “The wind sways the palm trees, like a thousand hands waving the folding fan.” This top part not only depicted the scenery, but clearly lifted up his position as well.

Huang Rong thought, “If I only mention any object without meaningful correlation, my victory won’t be complete.” She also swept her gaze around and saw a tiny temple with a lotus pond in front of it. It was the seventh month, the middle of summer, but on this high mountain the mornings were cold; most part of the lotus leaf had already withered by frost. Her heart was moved, she smiled and said, “I have the second part of that couplet, but it will offend Uncle; it’s inconvenient for me to say it.”

“You might as well say it,” the scholar replied.

“You must promise you are not going to get angry,” Huang Rong said.

“I won’t,” the scholar promised.

Huang Rong pointed to the ‘xiao yao jin’ on his head and said, “Very well. My second line is: The frost withers the lotus leaf, like a one-legged demon wearing a ‘xiao yao jin’.”

At this second line the scholar burst out in laughter. “Wonderful! Wonderful!” he said, “Not only the line is very appropriate, it came very quick too!”

Guo Jing saw the lotus stem did indeed prop up a withered leaf, looking like a single-legged ghost wearing a ‘xiao yao jin’; he could not help laughing too. Huang Rong smiled, “Don’t laugh, don’t laugh!” she said, “Once we fall down we will become a pair of ghosts without the ‘xiao yao jin’!”

The scholar thought, “Ordinary couplet won’t baffle her; I will have to resort to the ultimate.” Suddenly he remembered when he was a young student his teacher mentioned a couplet that for dozens of years nobody could ever complete; he decided to make things difficult for her; thereupon he said, “I have another couplet, asking Miss to complete it: ‘qin se pi pa ( 琴 瑟 琵 琶 ) [qin, se and pi pa are all stringed-instruments], all heads adorned by eight big kings’.”

Listening to this Huang Rong was delighted, “Qin se pi pa four characters altogether have eight ‘king’ ( 王 ) characters on them; originally it was a very difficult couplet. It’s a pity this couplet is not your own creation. Father had solved this couplet many years ago on the Peach Blossom Island when he had nothing else to do. I will pretend to have difficulty completing it to tease him.”

She wrinkled her brow and made her face looked distressed. The scholar was delighted she was finally baffled; he felt very smug. But then he was afraid Huang Rong would ask him back, so he said up front, “This is a very difficult couplet, I don’t have the answer either. But we have agreed that if Miss cannot answer it then you must return.”

Huang Rong smiled, “What’s so difficult to complete the couplet? Only I have just offended Uncle, now with my answer I will offend all four of you, the fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar; that’s why I was so hesitant to say it.”

The scholar did not believe her, he thought, “Just completing the couplet is an extremely difficult task to do; how can you offend us four martial brothers at the same time?” Hence he said, “If you really can complete the couplet, what harm will a little joke bring?”

Huang Rong smiled, “If that’s the case, let me ask for your forgiveness first. The second line is, ‘chi mei wang liang ( 魑 魅 魍 魉 ) [mountain elf, demon, elf, fairy – all are fairy tales supernatural characters; all characters have ‘demon’ ( 鬼 ) on their sides], four little demons with their belly and intestines’.”

The scholar was astonished, he sprang up to stand; with his long sleeve fluttered he dashed toward Huang Rong, “I give up with full admiration,” he said.

Huang Rong returned his obeisance and said with a smile, “If four honorable Uncles did not do your utmost to hinder us going up the mountain, your couplets were really difficult to complete.”

Turned out when Huang Yaoshi solved this riddle, Chen Xuanfeng, Qu Lingfeng, Lu Chengfeng and Feng Mofeng, four disciples were by his side; Huang Yaoshi meant this second line as a joke to his four disciples. That time Huang Rong was not even born yet. Later she heard her father recalling this story and today she managed to use the same line to make fun of the fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar.

“Humph,” the scholar snorted. He turned around to make a small gap and said, “Please.”

Guo Jing was standing quietly listening to these two exchanging literary attacks to each other; he was afraid Huang Rong would not be able reply and thus waste all previous efforts. Seeing that the scholar moved aside to make a way for them, he was very delighted. He exerted his strength and jumped over the gap; landed on the spot where the scholar had previously sat. Finally he jumped over the last gap.

The scholar noticed how Guo Jing leaped over the gaps with ease even while carrying Huang Rong on his back; he sighed and said in his heart, “I pride myself as highly skilled in both literary and martial art; actually in literature I am inferior to this young girl, and in martial art I am not this youngster’s match. Ashamed, I am really ashamed.” He glanced sideways to see Huang Rong’s delighted expression; he thought this girl had just beat an honorable and highly educated ‘zhuang yuan’, no wonder she could not hide her upbeat feeling. He thought, “Let me tease her, teaching her not to be too self-complacent!” Thereupon he said, “Miss’ literary talent is extraordinary, but your behavior is lacking.”

“I beg your explanation,” Huang Rong said.

The scholar replied, “Mengzi [Mencius] wrote in his book: ‘Men and women do not get intimate, that is only proper.’ I see Miss is an unmarried woman, this ‘Xiao Ge’ [little elder brother] is not your husband; how can he carried you on his back? Mengzi said a brother can help a drowning sister-in-law, or an uncle helps his niece. Miss has not fallen into the water, this ‘Xiao Ge’ is also not your brother-in-law. This kind of carrying and hugging is truly violating religious teaching.”

“Humph,” Huang Rong thought, “Brother Jing is good to me, yet other people always make a big deal of the fact that he is not my husband. Shige [martial (older) brother] Lu Chengfeng also said the same thing as this scholar.” Thereupon she said point-blankly, “Mengzi loved to talk nonsense; how can you believe what he said?”

The scholar was offended, “Mengzi was a great and worthy sage; why can’t we believe what he said?”

Huang Rong smiled and recited, “How can a beggar have two wives? Where did the neighbor have so many chickens from? The Zhou (dynasty) still had an emperor, why discuss many matters with the Wei and Qi (dynasties)?”

The more the scholar thought, the more he realized the truth in what she said. He stood there staring blankly, unable to say a single word.

Actually it was Huang Yaoshi who wrote that saying. He loathed the traditions and despised empty alms; he loved to scrutinize, refute, ridicule and satirize the empty meanings of old sayings handed down from great and worthy sages. Once he made many poems and songs to satirize Confucius and Mencius.

Mencius told a story about a man from the Qi dynasty who had a wife and a concubine and yet he begged for cold rice and spoiled soup; also about another man who everyday stole a chicken from his neighbor. Huang Yaoshi said that these two stories were used to swindle others. About the later sayings the story went like this: During the Warring States period (475 – 221 BC) the Zhou Emperor was still on his throne, yet why did Mencius not support the royal family; but went to Prince Liang Hui and Prince Qi Xuan to whom he asked for a governmental position? Huang Yaoshi thought this action greatly disobeyed the way of the saints and sages.

The scholar thought, “The man of Qi stealing chicken was a metaphor, unworthy of deeper study; but the last sentence, I am afraid even Mengzi himself under the ground would have difficulty refuting.” He looked at Huang Rong’s eyes and thought, “She is so young, how can she possess such weird intelligence?” Without saying anything else he led two people walked forward.

When passing the lotus pond his gaze was caught by a lotus leaf on the pond; he could not help stealing a glance toward Huang Rong. Huang Rong stifled her laugh and turned her head another direction.

The scholar led the two people entering the temple, asked them to sit in the east wing and had a young monk serve tea. “Please wait for a moment here,” the scholar said, “I am going to report to the Master.”

“Wait!” Guo Jing said, “That Farmer Uncle is still holding up a big rock on the hillside; he can’t get away by himself. Uncle please help him first.” The scholar was startled and dashed out.

“Now we can open the yellow pouch,” Huang Rong said.

“Ah, if you did not mention it, I would have totally forgotten,” Guo Jing said. Hastily he took out the yellow pouch and tore it open. Inside the pouch was a plain sheet of paper without any characters written on it, only a drawing.

The drawing depicted a man wearing royal attire of the India. The man was cutting his own flesh with a knife; his whole body was a mass of cuts and bruises, dripping with blood. There was a scale in front of him; on one end of the balance stood a white pigeon, on the other piled his cut flesh. The pigeon looked small, but it was heavier than the pile of flesh on the other end. A fierce looking hawk stood next to the scale.

The pen stroke of the drawing was quite shoddy. Huang Rong thought, “Turned out that Ying Gu has not learned how to draw; her handwriting is not bad, but this drawing is like a child’s scribbling.” She looked at the drawing for half a day, but could not decipher what it meant.

Seeing Huang Rong could not guess what the drawing was about, Guo Jing thought it was useless for him to try. He folded the drawing and held it in his hand.

Not too long after they heard footsteps coming into the hall; the farmer walked in, ablaze in anger, supported by the scholar. He was very weary supporting that big rock for a long time.

About the time needed to drink a cup of tea later a young monk walked in; clasping his hands in front of his chest he said, “Gentleman and lady have come from a far; I wonder what your noble concern was?”

“We are seeking an audience with Emperor Duan,” Guo Jing replied, “We must inconvenient you to announce our visit.”

“Emperor Duan is no longer in this mortal world, your wearisome trip has been in vain,” the young monk clasped his hands again, “Please have some vegetable dish, and then Little Monk will see you down the mountain.”

Guo Jing was very disappointed; he thought of their untold hardship to get to this place, and now they have to go back down the mountain, how could this thing be good? But when Huang Rong saw the temple she was 30% sure, now seeing this young monk, she was 50, 60% sure. She took the drawing from Guo Jing’s hand and said, “Disciples Guo Jing and Huang Rong are here, hoping your respectable master would respect past relationship with the Nine-fingered Divine Beggar and the Peach Blossom Island, and grant us audience. We would appreciate it if you could give this sheet of paper to your master.”

The young monk received the drawing. He did not dare to open it up; he only clasped his hands and turned around to go inside. Before long he came back, lowered his head and clasping his hands he said, “Respectfully invite you to come.” Guo Jing was ecstatic, he helped Huang Rong up and together they followed the young monk went inside.

Although the temple looked small, it was very deep. Three people walked through a small alley covered with green flagstones, passed through a dense and shady small bamboo grove. The place was very quiet and serene, causing whoever went inside to shed their impure thoughts.

There were three stone houses hidden among the bamboo trees. The young monk lightly shoved the door open and stepped aside, bowing his body to let the two to enter in.

Guo Jing had a very good impression toward this polite and courteous monk; he smiled to express his gratitude, then side by side with Huang Rong he walked in.

Inside the room he saw a small table with a sandalwood incense burner on top of it; next to the table two Buddhist monks sat on circular meditation mats. One monk had a dark complexion with high nose and deep eyes; apparently he was an Indian monk. The other monk was wearing a robe made of coarse cloth; his white eyebrows so long that they drooped down from the corner of his eyes. His face was gentle; although his eyes showed a trace of sadness, at a glance his overall expression was that of a graceful and majestic person. The scholar and the farmer were standing behind him.

All of Huang Rong’s suspicion vanished; she lightly pulled Guo Jing’s hand and walked to the monk with long eyebrows; she knelt and bowed down to the ground and said, “Disciples Guo Jing and Huang Rong greet Shibo.” [Translator’s note: Shibo – martial uncle, the character ‘bo’ here denotes ‘older than one’s father’ or ‘father’s elder brother’, but since English does not differentiate between ‘older’ and ‘younger’ uncles, the generic word of ‘Uncle’ will be used throughout the chapter.]

Guo Jing was startled, but without thinking he simply followed Huang Rong’s example and bowed to the ground, kowtowing four times.

The monk with long-eyebrows smiled slightly; he stood up and held out his hands to raise the two people up. He said with a smile, “Qi Xiong [Brother Qi] had accepted a fine disciple, and Yao Xiong [Brother Yao] had gotten a fine daughter. I heard them say,” he pointed his finger to the farmer and the scholar, “Your martial arts are far superior to my disciples’. Ha … ha … congratulations, congratulations!”

Listening to him speaking Guo Jing thought, “This speech obviously belonged to Emperor Duan; fitting his position as an emperor, but how come he turned into a monk? It’s very confusing. Why did they say that he is no longer in this mortal world? How did Rong’er know he is the Emperor Duan?”

He heard the monk said to Huang Rong, “Are your father and Shifu well? When we met during the Sword Meet of Mount Hua your father has not married yet. Unexpectedly it has been twenty years and he got this beautiful daughter. Do you have any brothers or sisters? Which Senior hero is your mother’s father?”

Huang Rong’s eyes turned red, she said, “My mother gave birth to me only; she passed away long time ago. I don’t even know her family.”

“Ah!” the monk exclaimed, lightly patting her shoulder consolingly. “I have been meditating for three days and three nights, and ended just a moment ago,” he said, “Have you been waiting long?”

Huang Rong pondered, “Looking at his face, he is very happy to see us. If that’s the case, then stopping us and not letting us go up the mountain was his disciples’ idea.” Hence, she replied, “Disciples have just arrived. Fortunately these Uncles did their utmost to make things difficult for us; otherwise we would have arrived much earlier, Duan Shibo would still be in meditation and our visit would be in vain.”

The monk chuckled and said, “They are afraid that I see too many outsiders. But actually how can we consider you as outsiders? Young Miss’ sharp tongue must come from your family. Emperor Duan has early on left this mortal world; I am now called Monk Yideng. [‘yi deng he shang’ – (Buddhist) monk ‘one lamp’] Your Shifu was present when I followed the three treasures; but I am afraid your father did not know.”

It was only then did Guo Jing finally understood, “It turned out that Emperor Duan shaved his head and became a monk. He left the life of common man; that’s why his disciples said Emperor Duan has left this mortal world. Shifu witnessed it when he became a monk; if it was him who told us to come here, naturally he would not tell us to find Emperor Duan, but to see Reverend Yideng [yi deng da shi – great master Yideng; ‘da shi’ was a common respectable term to address a Buddhist monk]. Rong’er is really smart; just by looking at him she understood everything.”

He heard Huang Rong say, “My father did not know anything about it; my Shifu also did not tell disciples.”

Yideng smiled, “Certainly. There are more things going into your Shifu’s mouth than things coming out of it. He eats a lot, he speaks a little. He wouldn’t discuss the Old Monk’s business with others. You have been through a lot of hardships; have you eaten yet? Ah!” Speaking to this point he suddenly startled. He pulled Huang Rong’s hand and took her to the door to look at her face under the bright sunlight. He carefully examined her with a puzzled look on his own face.

Although Guo Jing was slow, he was aware that Reverend Yideng had discovered Huang Rong’s injury. His heart was broken; abruptly he bent his knees and kowtowed several times. Yideng held out his hands underneath Guo Jing’s arms to raise him up. Guo Jing felt a burst of energy lifting his body up. He did not dare to use his strength to resist; riding on the force he slowly stood up and said, “I beg the Reverend to save her life!”

When Yideng raised Guo Jing up, he was not only asking Guo Jing not to have too much ritual, but was also testing Guo Jing’s strength. Yideng was only using 50% of his strength; if he felt that Guo Jing was not able to resist, he would have retracted his force. He did not have any intention to use force against Guo Jing, if Guo Jing stayed motionless he would not add any more strength. However, in this one encounter he found out Guo Jing’s martial art to be deep. He did not expect Guo Jing to be able to ride on his force and stand up, automatically dispersing his energy. This surprised Yideng more than if Guo Jing only resisted by staying motionless on the ground. Yideng secretly thought, “Qi Xiong had really accepted a very fine disciple; no wonder my own disciples candidly admitted their defeat.”

It was at this moment that Guo Jing said, “I beg the Reverend to save her life!” He had just finished speaking when suddenly he felt his legs wobble, his body involuntarily moved forward one step. Quickly he exerted his strength to resist but his body refused to obey his mind; his face turned red all over. He was shocked. “Reverend Yideng’s force can continue for so long!” he thought, “I’ve already tried to disperse it; unexpectedly it continued to lift me up. The incoming force has been broken, but a short moment later my own opposing force uncontrollably propelled myself forward. If it were a real fight wouldn’t my little life be gone? Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor and Northern Beggar truly deserve their reputations.” This time he bowed and kowtowed with much more admiration; what he felt in his heart showed on his face.

Yideng noticed Guo Jing’s countenance showed a scared and admiring look, he stretched out his hand to gently pat Guo Jing’s shoulder and said with a smile, “You have trained to this level, it really is not easy.” Meanwhile he had not released Huang Rong’s hand; he turned his head and smiled, “Child, don’t be afraid, set your heart at peace,” he said with a gentle voice. Then he helped her to sit on the meditation mat.

In all her life Huang Rong never had anybody treated her with such compassion. Her father loved her very much, but his manner was a little bit eccentric. Normally he would treat her as a friend, without revealing the deep love a father had for his daughter. This time listening to Yideng’s warm words all of a sudden Huang Rong was overwhelmed as if she suddenly felt her mother’s tender love; the love she had never experienced. All the pain and suffering she endured for quite some time since she was injured suddenly burst out uncontrollably. “Wah!” she broke into tears.

Reverend Yideng said with a comforting voice, “Good child, don’t cry, don’t cry! Uncle will certainly fix all the pain you feel.” Who would have thought that the gentler and more comforting his words were, the more Huang Rong was overwhelmed and she cried even louder. It was not until much later did her cry eventually became sobs as she tried to regain her composure.

Hearing his promise Guo Jing was ecstatic, but upon turning his head around he saw the scholar and the farmer’s stiff eyebrows and bulging eyes; they were staring at him with angry looks on their faces. Guo Jing felt bad while thinking, “We can reach this place entirely due to Rong’er’s craftiness, no wonder they are mad. Reverend Yideng is this compassionate, yet his disciples were determined to hinder us. I wonder why?”

He heard Reverend Yideng say, “Child, how did you get injured? How did you get to this place? Why don’t you tell your uncle everything?” And so Huang Rong wiped her tears and told him how she mistook Qiu Qianren as Qiu Qianzhang, how she took his palms strike and everything that happened.

When Yideng heard the name Iron Palm Qiu Qianren, he frowned slightly, but immediately went back to listening Huang Rong attentively. While speaking, Huang Rong kept her eyes open to see Yideng’s face; even though his frown was very slight it did not escape Huang Rong’s eyes. When she got to the point where they met Ying Gu at the Black Marsh forest and how she gave them direction to find this place, Reverend Yideng’s countenance once again momentarily changed; he lowered his head in deep thought, seemingly he was reminiscing over past events, and was grieved and pained over them.

A moment after Huang Rong shut her mouth Reverend Yideng heaved a sigh and asked, “And then what happened?”

Huang Rong continued by recounting how the fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar had used all possible means to make things difficult for them. The woodcutter easily let them go up the mountain, therefore, she said some praising words on his behalf; but to the rest of them she added some spices to make their offenses worse than they were. Deliberately she made the scholar and the farmer mad.

Several times Guo Jing interrupted her, saying, “Rong’er, don’t talk nonsense; these Uncles are not that bad!” But Huang Rong kept talking like a spoiled child in front of Reverend Yideng, telling him all kind of things, making the faces of the two disciples standing behind Yideng turn red and blue. They did not dare to open up their mouths in the presence of their master.

Reverend Yideng repeatedly nodded his head, “(Sigh), how can you treat guests coming from afar like that? These kids were really rude towards friends; I am going to tell them to apologize to you two later.”

Huang Rong stared at the scholar and the farmer with a smug expression; meanwhile her mouth did not stop; she told everything until how they ended up at the temple’s gate. “Afterwards I gave that drawing for you to see, and you asked me in; then they did not dare to hinder us anymore,” she said.

“What drawing?” Yideng was surprised.

“It’s about some eagle, some pigeon, and someone cutting his own flesh,” Huang Rong replied.

“Whom did you give it to?” Yideng asked.

Before Huang Rong could answer the scholar took the drawing from his pocket and presented it with both hands. “Disciple has it,” he said, “Shifu has not finished meditation just now, I have not presented it to Shifu yet.”

Yideng held out his hand to take the drawing, he smiled to Huang Rong and said, “You see, if you did not mention it, I wouldn’t know a thing.” Slowly he opened up the drawing and looked at it; he knew what the drawing meant. He smiled and said, “Turned out others were afraid I would not help you and sent this drawing to stir me up. Don’t you think they underestimated the Old Monk too much?”

Huang Rong turned her head to see anxiety and deep concern on the scholar and the farmer’s faces; she felt strange. “Why is it that when they heard their Shifu promise to treat me they looked like they are losing their lifeblood? Is the medicine the most precious pill that they hate to give it up?” She turned her head back to see Yideng was carefully examining the drawing. He brought it under the sunlight to see the quality of the paper, he lightly flicked it several times; his face showed suspicions.

“Did Ying Gu draw this picture?” he asked Huang Rong.

“Yes,” Huang Rong answered.

Yideng was silent for half a day then asked again, “Did you see it with your own eyes when she did it?”

Huang Rong knew something was amiss; she tried to recollect what happened that time and said, “When Ying Gu wrote those, her back was toward us. I saw her pen moved, but I did not see with my own eyes whether she was writing or drawing.”

“You said she gave you two other pouches; let me see the contents of the other pouches,” Yideng said.

Guo Jing took the pouches from his pocket and Yideng examined them; his face changed slightly. “Indeed that is so,” he muttered softly. He gave the three sheets of paper to Huang Rong and said, “Yao Xiong is an expert in calligraphy and paintings; your educational background came from your family, certainly you understand connoisseurship. Why don’t you take a look at these three sheets and tell me what you think.”

Huang Rong took the papers to take a look and immediately said, “These two sheets are ordinary ‘yu ban zhi’ [jade register paper], but the drawing was made on a ‘jiu jian zhi’ [old cocoon paper], a rarely seen type of paper.”

Yideng nodded his head, “Hmm, in calligraphy and painting I am a layman, what do you think about this drawing?”

Huang Rong examined the drawing carefully; she smiled and said, “Uncle is only pretending to be a layman! You have known from the start that it was not Ying Gu who draw this picture.”

Yideng’s countenance slightly changed, “Then it is true it was not her painting? I am only guessing based on logic, I really was not looking at the drawing.”

Huang Rong tugged his arm, saying, “Uncle, look, the writing on these two sheets of paper are delicate and elegant while the stroke on this drawing is very stiff. Hmm, this drawing is made by a man. Yes, I am sure it is a man’s pen-stroke. This man did not know a thing about calligraphy or painting, but his pen-stroke is powerful, it even penetrated the paper to its back … This ink looked very old, I think it is even older than my own age.”

Reverend Yideng heaved a heavy sigh; he pointed his finger to a book on top of a bamboo table, signaling the scholar to fetch it. The scholar walked over and fetched it, and handed it over to his master. Huang Rong saw on the yellowing page of the cover two rows of characters that read, ‘The Great Buddist Scripture by Maming Bodhisattva. Translated by ‘san cang jiu mo luo shen’ [name of a saint] of Guizi in the Western Region.’ She thought, “I am not going to understand anything if he starts preaching to me.”

Yideng casually flipped open the cover of the book, put the drawing next to it and said, “Take a look.”

“Ah!” Huang Rong softly exclaimed, “The same paper quality.” Yideng nodded.

Guo Jing did not understand, he whispered, “What paper quality is the same?”

Huang Rong said, “Look carefully, isn’t the paper quality of this book the same as that drawing?”

Guo Jing looked over carefully; the paper of the book was coarse and thick, mixed with strands of yellow silk threads, exactly the same as the paper of the drawing. “They are the same,” he said, “So what?”

Huang Rong did not reply, she looked at Reverend Yideng, waiting for an explanation.

Reverend Yideng said, “This book was brought by my martial brother from the western region.”

During the entire time Guo Jing and Huang Rong talked to Yideng, they had not paid any attention to the Indian monk; only now did they turn their gaze to him. He was sitting cross-legged on the meditation mat, as if he was oblivious to the discussion of these people.

“This book came from the western region, this drawing also came from the western region,” Yideng continued, “Have you ever heard of the western region’s White Camel Mountain?”

Huang Rong was startled, “Western Poison Ouyang Feng?” she asked.

Yideng slowly nodded, “Correct,” he said, “This picture was drawn by Ouyang Feng.” Hearing this Guo Jing and Huang Rong were shocked and could not say anything for a while.

Yideng smiled and said, “This Ouyang fellow had planned this for a long time; he truly anticipated far ahead.”

“Uncle,” Huang Rong said, “I didn’t know this drawing came from the Old Poison; this man always harbors evil intentions.”

Yideng smiled and said, “For a Nine Yin Manual men can do great things.”

“This drawing has something to do with the Nine Yin Manual?” Huang Rong asked.

Yideng saw her excitement and surprise, he noticed her cheeks turned red; looked like she was straining and was able to stay awake due to her strong internal energy. Thereupon Yideng held out his hand to support her right arm and said, “Let’s talk about this some other time, right now it is more important to treat your injury.”

Yideng helped her up and walked slowly toward the building next door. When they arrived at the door opening, the scholar and the farmer exchanged a glance and together they rushed toward the door. They knelt down and said, “Shifu, let your disciples try to treat this Miss’ injury.”

Yideng shook his head, “Do you think your skill is sufficient? Can you treat her until she is completely cured?”

The scholar and the farmer said, “Disciples will try to do our best.”

Yideng’s face turned serious. “Human life is an important matter, how can you easily try?”

The scholar said, “These two came here by some evil people’s direction; definitely without any good intention. Although Shifu’s mercy is abundant, you can’t fall into evil people’s treacherous plan.”

Yideng heaved a sighed, “What did I teach you day in and day out? Go and take a good look at this picture.” While speaking he gave the drawing in his hand away.

The farmer knocked his head to the ground and said, “This drawing was made by Ouyang Feng; Shifu, this is Ouyang Feng’s evil plan.” While speaking thus his anxiety was obvious; tears flowing down his cheeks.

Jing and Rong two people were puzzled, “How does the evil plan relate to treating an injury?” they thought.

Reverend Yideng gently said, “Get up, get up. Don’t make our guests’ hearts uneasy.” His voice was gentle, but full of resolution. The two disciples knew it was useless to argue further; they stood up with their heads hung low.

Reverend Yideng took Huang Rong to the next door building. He beckoned Guo Jing and said, “You also come.” Guo Jing followed them entering the room.

Yideng unrolled the bamboo curtain hung above the door down. He took an incense stick and stuck it on the burner on top of a small bamboo table.

The four walls of the room were drab, other than the small bamboo table there were only three meditation mats. Yideng ordered Huang Rong to sit on the middle mat while he himself sat cross-legged on the mat next to her. He turned his gaze toward the bamboo curtain and said to Guo Jing, “You stay and guard that door, don’t let anybody come in, including my own disciples.” Guo Jing complied.

Yideng closed his eyes, but suddenly he opened his eyes and added, “If they resort to violence you must fight. Your martial sister’s life depends on it. Remember, it’s very important.”

“Yes!” Guo Jing said, but actually he was confused, “His disciples revere him, how can they dare to disobey their master’s order and come barging in?” he thought.

Yideng turned toward Huang Rong and said, “Relax your whole body; no matter how much you feel hurt or itchy, you must not resist at all.”

Huang Rong smiled, “I consider myself dead already.”

Yideng also smiled, “You are such a smart doll.” He closed his eyes immediately, his eyebrows hung down, he circulated his energy. When the incense was about an inch burnt suddenly he leaped up, left palm on his chest, right index finger stretched out, slowly he pointed his finger toward the ‘bai hui’ [hundred joins] acupoint on Huang Rong’s head. Huang Rong’s body slightly jumped up involuntarily; she felt a stream of heat flowing from the top of her head down.

Reverend Yideng retracted his finger immediately, without moving his body his second finger hit the ‘hou ding’ [rear peak] acupoint located about one ‘cun’ five ‘fen’ [1 cun is approximately 1 inch, 1 fen is about 1 third of a centimeter (a little over 1/8 of an inch)] behind the ‘bai hui’ acupoint. Successively he hit the ‘qiang jian’ [powerful space], ‘nao hu’ [brain door], ‘feng fu’ [wind manor], ‘da zhui’ [big spine], ‘tao dao’ [pottery way], ‘shen zhu’ [life pillar], ‘shen dao’ [divine way], along the ‘ling tai’ [soul platform] downward; so that when the incense was halfway burnt he had already hit thirty consecutive main acupoints of the ‘du mai’ [supervised arteries or channels] group on her body.

By this time Guo Jing’s martial art knowledge and experience was already incomparable to the past. He stood on the side watching Yideng’s finger move slowly, his arm floating in the air. He hit these thirty acupoints with thirty different acupoint sealing techniques. Each one was a mind opening technique; admittedly the Six Freaks of Jiangnan had never taught him this kind of technique, the ‘sealing acupoint section’ in the Nine Yin Manual also did not contain this technique. He had never seen anything like this before, he had never even heard about it. He was having a blurred vision just by watching; his tongue tied. He only knew that Reverend Yideng was demonstrating an upper class martial art; it never crossed Guo Jing’s mind that Yideng was using his lifetime cultivated energy to open up Huang Rong’s eight main arteries.

After the ‘du mai’ group was done, Yideng sat down to take a rest. After Guo Jing lighted up another incense he leaped back up and started to hit Huang Rong’s ‘ren mai’ [assigned arteries/channels] group consisting of twenty-five acupoints. This time his hand movements were very swift; his arms vibrated, just like dragonflies soaring above the water. Just in one breath he had finished hitting all ‘ren mai’ acupoints. These twenty-five moves were lightning fast, but each finger movement did not miss even a single hair width.

Guo Jing was frightened and full of admiration at the same time; he thought, “(Sigh) There is such skill in the world!”

Meanwhile Yideng had started with the ‘yin wei mai’ [negative preserved arteries/channels] consisting of fourteen acupoints. Once again he used different technique; this time he moved powerfully like a flying dragon or striding tiger. Although Yideng was wearing a kassaya [Buddhist robe], but in Guo Jing’s eyes he did not look like a monk who followed the three-treasure way, but an emperor, ruler of tens of thousands people.

The ‘yin wei mai’ group finished, without taking a rest Reverend Yideng continued with the ‘yang wei mai’ [positive preserved arteries/channels] consisting of thirty-two acupoints. This time he did it long distance; for instance, he moved about a ‘zhang’ away from Huang Rong, then suddenly pounced forward and hit the ‘feng chi’ [wind reservoir] acupoint on Huang Rong’s neck, followed by leaping backward. He did this in succession, without any perceivable pause.

Guo Jing thought, “Fighting closely with an expert is dangerous; by using this technique not only I can overcome the enemy, but putting up a strong defense as well. This is a very wonderful technique.” With rapt attention he watched Yideng go back and forth; the movements were truly marvelous. It was especially difficult to attack and withdrew that fast, with matchless agility of a fish darting in the water or a rabbit running away from the hunter. Suddenly a thought came into his mind, “When I fought Ying Gu, her body was very slippery. For a third part her technique resembled the Reverend’s attacking acupoint technique; seemed like she got her inspiration from the Reverend, but her skill is fallen short, far below his.”

Two incense sticks later Reverend Yideng had finished with her ‘yin wei mai’ and the ‘yang wei mai’ two arteries [or channels] groups. When he started the ‘ju gu’ [gigantic bone] acupoint on her neck, suddenly Guo Jing’s heart stirred, “Ah! Doesn’t the Nine Yin Manual contain this? I was so stupid not to understand this earlier.” Silently he recited the Manual while watching Reverend Yideng’s movements and compared them with the Manual; he found out that Reverend Yideng’s sealing acupoint technique carried infinite variations. It was like Reverend Yideng was acting out and opening out the secret of the marvelous martial arts in the Nine Yin Manual. Guo Jing had not learned enough and he did not dare to learn Yideng’s Solitary Yang Finger, but with his knowledge of the Manual he had quite a comprehension of this unique skill.

At last the ‘dai mai’ [band/belt arteries/channels] group were opened successfully. The blood was flowing unobstructed through all the seven groups of passageways contained in the manual. ‘Dai mai’ was the passageway looped around the waist like a belt. Presently Reverend Yideng was behind Huang Rong’s back, walking backward with his finger pointed backward slowly hitting her ‘zhang men’ [section gate] acupoint.

The ‘dai mai’ consisted of eight acupoints. Yideng stretched out his hand slowly, as if with great difficulty; his mouth gasping for breath, his body swaying, like he could not even support his own weight.

Guo Jing was shocked; he saw beads of perspirations trickling down Yideng’s forehead, sweat dripping down like rain from the tip of his long eyebrows. Guo Jing wanted to step forward and help, but he was afraid he might mess things up. He turned to look at Huang Rong’s condition and saw her clothes were soaked with sweat. She was knitting her brows and biting her lips; like she was trying to resist unbearable pain with all her might.

Suddenly Guo Jing heard a ‘shua’ sound, the bamboo curtain behind him was opened and somebody shouted loudly, “Shifu!” and somebody barged in through the door.

Almost without thinking Guo Jing launched the ‘divine dragon swings its tail’; his right palm swung backward and with a slapping sound it hit that person’s shoulder. Guo Jing turned around to see somebody was staggering two steps backward; it was the fisherman.

Because his iron boat and iron oars were stolen he was unable to go upstream the creek to the mountain peak; he had to take a long walk more than 20 ‘li’s around the back of the mountain. Upon arriving he heard his Shifu has already started treating that young miss’ injury; he was very anxious and rushed toward the room with the intention of imploring his master not to do that. Unexpectedly he was pushed back by Guo Jing’s attack. He stood back up to try again. In the meantime the woodcutter, the farmer, and the scholar three people had also arrived outside the door.

“It’s over; what else can we stop?” the scholar angrily said.

Guo Jing turned around to see Reverend Yideng sit cross-legged on the meditation mat, his face deathly pale, his monk robe completely soaked in sweats. Huang Rong was lying down on the floor, unmoving; it was not clear whether she was dead or alive. Guo Jing was very shocked; he rushed forward to prop her up. First thing he noticed was a fishy stench coming out of her nose. He looked at her face and found it was bloodless bluish pale, but the faint black shadow on her face had actually gone. He held out his hand to feel her breathing and was greatly relieved to find a steady albeit weak breathing.

The fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar were sitting around their master in silence, with apprehensive looks on their faces. Guo Jing kept his eyes on Huang Rong. He saw her face gradually turn pink, he was ecstatic; who would have thought that the pink turned to red and very soon her cheeks were fiery hot. A short moment later beads of perspiration started to form on her forehead while her countenance was gradually turning back to white. This cycle happened three times, every time she was sweating profusely.

“Mmm,” Huang Rong moaned softly then she opened her eyes. “Jing Gege, where is the stove, uh, the ice?” she asked.

Hearing her voice Guo Jing’s delight was unspeakable, with a trembling voice he said, “What stove? What ice?”

Huang Rong looked around, shook her head and smiled, “Ah, I was having a nightmare,” she said, “I saw Ouyang Feng, Ouyang Ke and Qiu Qianren. They put me inside the stove to be roasted; and when I was hot, they put ice to cool me down. Once I cool down they put me back into the stove. (Sigh), it was really scary. Uh, how is Uncle?”

Yideng slowly opened up his eyes and smiled, “Your injury is healed, all you need is a day or two of total rest – you can’t move unnecessarily; and you will be all right.”

“I don’t have any strength left in my entire body,” Huang Rong said, “I can’t even lift up a finger.” The farmer was looking at her angrily. Huang Rong ignored him, she turned to Yideng and said, “Uncle, you have spent so much energy to treat me, you must be very tired. I have some Nine Flowered Jade Dew Pills, made according to my father’s recipe. How about you take some?”

Yideng happily said, “Good, I did not think you would bring these energy-booster miracle pills. That year when we had the Sword Meet of Mount Hua each one of us was dead tired after the competition; your father gave us some of these pills and the effectiveness was marvelous.”

Guo Jing quickly took the small bag of pills from Huang Rong’s backpack and handed it over to Yideng. The woodcutter went to the kitchen to fetch a bowl of clear water, while the scholar poured the pills on his palm and presented them to his master.

Yideng laughed, “Why so many? These pills are not easy to make, we’ll just take half.”

The scholar anxiously replied, “Shifu, all the miracle pills in the world won’t be enough.”

Yideng conceded since he felt extremely exhausted; he took several dozens of Nine Flowered Jade Dew Pills from his disciple’s hand and swallowed them all, washed by a bowl of clear water. He turned to Guo Jing and said, “Take your Shimei [Martial (younger) Sister] to have a couple of days’ rest and then you can go down the mountain. You don’t need to see me again. Hmm, I have something I want you to promise me.”

Guo Jing bowed to the ground and ‘bonk, bonk, bonk, bonk’, knocked his head to the floor. Huang Rong ordinarily loved to joke around and be casual with everybody. Even in the presence of her father and her master she still did not follow proper junior-senior relationship; yet this time she actually bowed down reverently and said with a low voice, “Uncle has saved my life, I will not dare to forget even for a moment.”

Yideng smiled and said, “It’s better if you forget about it; don’t let it hang in your mind.” Turning his head to Guo Jing he said, “Don’t tell anybody that you have come up this mountain; don’t ever tell it, even to your Shifu.”

Guo Jing was just thinking about taking Hong Qigong up the mountain to ask Yideng to treat his injury; hearing this he could not help but was taken aback and did not know what to say.

Yideng smiled and continued, “Later on don’t even bother to come back here, since very soon we are going to move away.”

“Where are you moving to?” Guo Jing hastily asked. Yideng smiled without say anything.

Huang Rong said in her heart, “Silly Brother, because their whereabouts has been discovered by us they will have to move away; how can he tell you?” She thought about how Yideng, master and disciples, had spent a lot of effort laboriously developing this place and now because of her they would have to abandon everything; she felt sorry and thought it would be difficult for her to pay back this kindness. No wonder the fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar did everything they could to prevent them from going up the mountain. Thinking of this she turned her gaze toward the four disciples, wanted to say something to express her apology and gratefulness but she could not find any appropriate words.

Suddenly Reverend Yideng’s countenance changed, his body swayed and he fell to the ground. The four disciples, along with Guo Jing and Huang Rong were extremely shocked; they rushed forward trying to help. They saw his face twitching like he was trying to suppress a great pain. The six of them were very anxious, they stood around with their hands hanging down, nobody dared to make any noise.

About the time needed to drink a cup of tea later Yideng’s face showed a faint smile, he said to Huang Rong, “Child, did your father personally make these Nine Flowered Jade Dew Pills?”

“He did not,” Huang Rong replied, “It was my martial brother Lu Chengfeng who made them according to my father’s secret recipe.”

“Have you ever heard your father said that these pills would be harmful if taken excessively?” Yideng asked further.

Huang Rong was stunned, she thought, “Is there something wrong with these Nine Flowered Jade Dew Pills?” She hastily said, “Father said the more the better; only because these pills were not easy to make, he did not want to take too much.”

Yideng lowered his head and knitted his brows for half a day; finally he shook his head and said, “Your father can be considered a genius, but his actions are unpredictable; how can I guess what he is up to? Could it be that he was punishing your Martial Brother Lu by giving him a fake recipe? Or could it be that your Martial Brother Lu had a grudge against you and mixed some poison into the pills?”

Hearing the word ‘poison’ everybody called in alarm in one voice. “Shifu, are you poisoned?” the scholar asked.

Yideng smiled and said, “It’s a good thing your Shishu [Martial (younger) Uncle] is here; even a more lethal poison won’t kill anybody.”

The four disciples could not hold their anger anymore, they cursed Huang Rong, “Our Shifu was so kind to save your life, but you have the guts to actually harm other with poison?” They surrounded Guo Jing and Huang Rong, ready to strike.

This turn of events happened so abruptly that Guo Jing was at a loss; he did not know the best action to take. Ever since Yideng’s first question Huang Rong had correctly guessed that the Nine Flowered Jade Dew Pills had caused a disaster. Her mind quickly recalled the succession of events concerning these pills since she received them at the Cloud Manor [gui yun zhuang]; when she arrived at the thatched hut in the Black Marsh forest she remembered how Ying Gu brought the pills to the other room and examined them for quite some time before she re-appeared. Suddenly a thought came into her mind like bright light. “Uncle, I know it!” she called out, “It was Ying Gu.”

“It was Ying Gu?” Yideng asked.

Immediately Huang Rong told him everything that happened inside the thatched hut in the Black Marsh forest. She furthermore said, “She repeatedly warned me not to take any of these pills; apparently it was because she had already mixed some poison in them.”

“Hmm,” the farmer sneered angrily, “She was really good to you; she was afraid you might die.”

Ever since she learned that Yideng was poisoned Huang Rong’s heart was full of regrets; she did not feel like arguing. She lowered her head and said, “She was not afraid to kill me, but she was afraid that if I take the pill then Uncle would not be poisoned.”

Yideng could only sigh, “Karma, karma,” he said. His face turned gentle. He turned toward Guo Jing and Huang Rong and said, “This is the result of my own sin; it has nothing to do with you. It was that Ying Gu; and I am reaping what I sow. You go ahead and take some rest, then you can go down the mountain, there is no need to worry over me. Although I am poisoned, my martial brother is here and he is an expert in healing poison related sickness.” He finished speaking; he closed his eyes and did not say another word.

Jing and Rong two people bowed. They saw Yideng’s face showed a smile, he waved his hand lightly. Two people did not dare to tarry much longer, they slowly turned around and went out. The young monk was waiting outside, he led two people to rest at a small building in the rear courtyard. The little building was also empty except for a couple of bamboo couches and a small bamboo table. Not too long afterwards two older monks came in with some vegetarian dishes; “Please eat,” they said.

Huang Rong was still concerned over Yideng’s condition. “Is Reverend well?” she asked.

“Xiao Seng [lowly monk] does not know,” the old monk replied with a sharp voice. He bowed and went out the door.

“Listening to their voice I thought they were women,” Guo Jing said.

“They are eunuchs,” Huang Rong said, “They must be Emperor Duan’s former attendants.”

“Oh,” Guo Jing muttered. Their minds were filled with concern, how could they eat?

The courtyard was secluded and very quiet, with light breeze occasionally stirred the bamboo leaves. After a long time Guo Jing broke the silence, “Rong’er, Reverend Yideng’s martial art skill is very high.

“Hmm,” Huang Rong mumbled. Guo Jing continued, “Our Shifu, your father, Zhou Dage [Big Brother Zhou], Ouyang Feng and Qiu Qianren, these five people’s martial art is also high, but they won’t necessarily superior to Reverend Yideng.”

“In your opinion, which one among these six is the Number One in the world?” Huang Rong asked.

Guo Jing hesitated for half a day before answering, “I think each one of them has their strengths and weaknesses, it’s really difficult to judge. This one is stronger than that one, yet that one is fiercer than this one.”

“What about ‘wen wu quan cai’ [well versed in both literature and martial art]? Who’s the best?” Huang Rong asked.

“Without question your father is the best,” Guo Jing replied.

Huang Rong was very proud; she smiled showing her dimples, beautiful as flowers. But then suddenly she sighed and said, “That’s why it’s very strange.”

“What do you mean ‘strange’?” Guo Jing hastily asked.

“Just think about it,” Huang Rong replied, “Reverend Yideng has such high skill; the fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar, his four disciples’ skills are not superficial either. Why would they hide themselves in fear in this remote mountain? Why is it that every time they hear somebody’s coming they shiver in fear? Among those six experts, perhaps only Ouyang Feng and Qiu Iron Palm are their enemies; but they are people of high reputation. Could it be that they will disregard their ranks and join hands in making things difficult for him?”

“Rong’er,” Guo Jing said, “Even if Ouyang Feng and Qiu Qianren join hands to seek enmity, we don’t need to be scared.”

“How come?” Huang Rong asked in surprise. Guo Jing’s face showed embarrassment, he looked bashful. Huang Rong laughed, “Ah! Why are you embarrassed all of a sudden?”

Guo Jing answered, “Reverend Yideng’s martial art is not inferior to the Western Poison. To say the least they are even. I think his backhand acupoint sealing technique is the Toad Stance’s black star.”

“What about Qiu Qianren?” Huang Rong asked, “The fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar are certainly not his match.”

“That’s right,” Guo Jing said, “I have exchanged a palm with him at Dongting Lake, Mount Jun and the Iron Palm Peak. If it is fifty stances or less, I think I can fight him evenly; but after a hundred stances I don’t think I can block his attack. Today I saw the way Reverend Yideng’ acupoint sealing method to treat your injury …”

Huang Rong was delighted, “You learned his skill? Now you can defeat that scoundrel Qiu the Iron Palm?” she interrupted.

“You know I am dim-witted,” Guo Jing said, “This acupoint sealing technique is so deep, how can I learn it? Moreover, Reverend did not pass the theory to me, naturally I can’t learn his skill. But looking at his technique, some things from the Nine Yin Manual that I did not understand before become clearer. Defeating him, I can’t do; but I believe I can hold against him for a moment longer.”

Huang Rong sighed, “Too bad you have forgotten one thing,” she said.

“What is it?” Guo Jing asked.

“That the Reverend is poisoned and we don’t know when he is going to be well,” Huang Rong replied.

Guo Jing was silent. After a while he hatefully said, “That Ying Gu is so evil.” Suddenly he called out, “Ah, this is bad!”

Huang Rong jumped up in surprise. “What is it?” she asked.

“You have promised Ying Gu that after your recovery you will accompany her for a year. Shall we fulfill this promise or not?” Guo Jing said.

“What do you say?” Huang Rong asked.

Guo Jing replied, “If she did not give us direction then we would not be able to find Reverend Yideng. It would be difficult to say what your injury’s condition will be …”

“What would be difficult to say?” Huang Rong cut him off, “Just say it plainly that my little life could not be preserved. You are a gentleman whose words are as a mountain; you certainly want me to abide by mine.” She was thinking about how Guo Jing was not willing to cancel his engagement with Huazheng; she could not help dejectedly hang down her head.

Guo Jing did not have the slightest idea his girl was pouring out her heart’s contents; Huang Rong was on the verge of tears, but he was oblivious. He said, “Ying Gu said your father possesses divine mathematical skill and he is a hundred times superior to her. Let’s just say you are willing to teach her some mathematical skill, in the end it will still be difficult to her to even scratch your father’s skin; then why would she still want you to accompany her for a year?”

Huang Rong covered her face and did not answer. Guo Jing was indifferent, he repeated his question. Huang Rong was angry, “You are so dumb that you don’t know anything!” she scolded him.

Guo Jing did not understand why she suddenly lost her patience and scolded him; he could only scratch his head and said, “Rong’er! I am dumb, that’s why I am asking you to explain it to me.”

Huang Rong had already regretted her words as soon as they left her mouth, now listening to him meekly admitting his stupidity she could not hold herself any longer; she threw herself to his bosom and cried. Guo Jing became more confused than ever, he gently patted her back trying to console her. Huang Rong pulled Guo Jing’s sleeve and used it to wipe her tears. She smiled and said, “Jing Gege, I am the bad one; next time I certainly won’t scold you anymore.”

“I am dumb, so what’s wrong with you saying it out loud?” Guo Jing said.

“Ay, you are a good man, I am a bad girl,” Huang Rong said, “All right, let me tell you. That Ying Gu has an animosity against my father. She wants to learn mathematic so she can go to the Peach Blossom Island to seek revenge. Afterwards she found out that in mathematics she is inferior to me, in martial art she is inferior to you; she knew it was hopeless for her to seek revenge. Therefore, she wants to keep me as a hostage and tell my father to rescue me. This way from a guest she becomes the host and she can build a treacherous plan to harm him.”

Suddenly Guo Jing understood; he slapped his thigh and said, “Ah, that’s totally right! Then you don’t have to fulfill your promise.”

“What do you mean not fulfilling my promise? I have to fulfill my promise,” Huang Rong said.

“Huh?” Guo Jing was puzzled.

Huang Rong said, “That Ying Gu is very crafty; just look at how she managed to mix some poison in the Nine Flowered Jade Dew Pills to harm Reverend Yideng. She could do the same again. If we don’t get rid of her, this woman will become a thorn to my father in the future. She wants me to accompany her, I have to accompany her. Now that I know, I can guard against her craftiness. No matter what kind of treacherous plan she has, I am confident I can see through them one by one.”

“Ay! But that is like you are living with a tiger,” Guo Jing said.

Huang Rong was about to reply when suddenly they heard commotion from the direction of the house where Reverend Yideng was. Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at each other. They strained their ears to listen closely, but it seemed like the commotion had ceased.

“I wonder how the Reverend is,” Guo Jing said. Huang Rong shook her head. Guo Jing continued, “Eat something, and then you take a rest.” Huang Rong shook her head again. Suddenly, “Somebody’s coming!” she called out. And sure enough, they heard footsteps coming closer from the front courtyard.

“That little girl is so sly, we’ll kill her first,” an angry voice was heard; it was the farmer’s voice.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong were startled. They also heard the woodcutter said, “Don’t be rash, we need to ask them clearly first.”

“What is there to ask?” the farmer said, “These two little thieves must be sent by Shifu’s enemy. We kill one and let the other live. If we must ask, it’s enough to ask that dumb kid.” While talking, the fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar had arrived and stopped at the door. It looked like they were not afraid Jing and Rong two people would hear them.

Without hesitation Guo Jing launched the Proud Dragon Repents; his palm struck the wall behind them. With a loud rumbling noise a hole appeared on the earthen wall. He bent down to let Huang Rong climb on his back and swiftly jumped out the wall. While they were still airborne the farmer stretched out his hand, quick as the wind, trying to grab Guo Jing’s leg.

Huang Rong’s left hand swept lightly, brushing the ‘yang chi’ [positive pond] acupoint on the back of the farmer’s palm. It was her family’s ‘lan hua fu xue shou’ [brushing orchid acupoint sealing technique]. Although she was weakened from the injury her light and quick stroke floated with elegance, attacking the acupoint in a strange way; truly it was not a simple matter to parry.

The farmer was no stranger to sealing acupoint techniques; he saw her finger was lightning fast, he was shocked and hastily withdrew his hand to parry her attack. His acupoint was saved, but this attack had slowed his grab so that Guo Jing managed to jump out of the wall carrying Huang Rong on his back.

Guo Jing darted forward a few steps. Suddenly he called out in alarm, it turned out behind the buildings there were thorn bushes as tall as a person, dense and numerous, full of thorns covering quite a distance away; there was no way out through the bushes. He was forced to turn around and saw the fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar four people had arrived, blocking their way.

Guo Jing said with a clear voice, “The honorable master has given us permission to go down the mountain. You have heard it with your own ears. Why do you disobey his order and detain us here?”

The fisherman stared at them and with a thunderous voice said, “My master has shown you great mercy, willing to sacrifice his life to help you, but you …”

Guo Jing and Huang Rong were shocked, “What do you mean sacrificing his life to help us?” they asked.

“Pei!” the fisherman and the farmer spat. The scholar sneered and said, “Our Shifu sacrificed his life to save Miss’ life; do you really not know it?”

“We really don’t know. We beg for your explanation,” Guo Jing and Huang Rong asked in surprise.

The scholar saw their sincere faces; they did not seem to be pretending. He looked at the woodcutter and the woodcutter nodded. The scholar said, “Miss had suffered a very serious internal injury. It was necessary for Shifu to use both ‘yi yang zhi’ [Solitary Yang Finger] and ‘xian tian gong’ [inborn/innate strength/energy] to open up the eight main arteries’ acupoints and cure the injury. Ever since the death of the Quanzhen Sect’s founder Chongyang Zhenren [lit. true/real man, a respectful term to address a Taoist priest], only my Shifu knows the ‘yi yang zhi’ and ‘xian tian gong’, these two marvelous skills. But by treating injury in this manner, his own body will suffer a serious injury; he will lose all his martial arts for the next five years.”

“Ah!” Huang Rong exclaimed, she felt more ashamed.

The scholar continued, “Hereafter for the next five years he will have to diligently and painstakingly re-cultivate his energy every day and night. If he makes the slightest mistake, not only his martial art will not recover, but he will at the least be paralyzed, at the most lose his life. My Shifu has shown such kindness to you; how could you be so heartless and repaid kindness with enmity?”

Huang Rong wriggled down and knelt on the ground, facing the house where Reverend Yideng was she kowtowed four times and sobbed, “Uncle has graciously saved my life; I didn’t know your sacrifice was this deep.”

The fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar saw her bowing down, their faces turned slightly softer. The fisherman asked, “Your father sent you over to harm our Shifu; and you really did not know it?”

Huang Rong was indignant, “How could my father send me to harm Uncle? My father, the Master of the Peach Blossom Island, is what kind of person? How could he commit such a despicable act?”

The fisherman cupped his fists and said, “If Miss was not sent by your father, then please forgive my offending words.”

“Humph,” Huang Rong snorted, “If my father heard you, even though you are Reverend Yideng’s outstanding disciple, he would still make you eat a little bit of suffering.”

The fisherman smiled and said, “He is known as the Eastern Heretic, his action … his action … hey, hey … We thought what the Western Poison is able to do, your father can also do. Now it looks like we have thought erroneously.”

Huang Rong said, “How can you compare my father with the Western Poison? What has that old thief Ouyang Feng done anyway?”

The scholar said, “All right, now everything is clear; let’s go back to the house and talk some more.”

Immediately six people returned to the meditation room and sat down. The fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar sat in such a way that they blocked the doors and windows. Huang Rong knew they were guarding against them escaping; she smiled slightly but did not expose her awareness.

“Do you know anything about the Nine Yin Manual?” the scholar asked.

“We do,” Huang Rong replied, “But what does this Nine Yin Manual have to do with this matter? Ay, this book is really dangerous.” She could not help but recall how her mother had died due to over-exertion in re-writing the manual from memory.

The scholar said, “In the first Sword Meet of Mount Hua the Quanzhen Sect’s founder was crowned the Number One Martial Artist of The World [wu gong tian xia di yi]; therefore, the manual fell into his hand. It went without saying that the other four experts felt a heartfelt admiration to him. In that Sword Meet of Mount Hua everybody demonstrated his marvelous strength; Chongyang Zhenren was impressed with my Shifu’s Solitary Yang Finger. The following year he came to Dali accompanied by his Shidi [younger martial brother] to pay a visit and discuss martial art skills.”

“His Shidi?” Huang Rong interrupted, “Isn’t that the Old Urchin Zhou Botong?”

“That’s correct,” the scholar replied, “Miss is young, yet actually knows a lot of people.”

“No need to praise me,” Huang Rong said.

The scholar continued, “Zhou Shishu [Martial Uncle Zhou] was a very funny man, but I did not know he was called the Old Urchin. That time my Shifu had not become a monk.”

“Ah,” Huang Rong said, “He was still an emperor.”

“Exactly,” the scholar said, “The Quanzhen Sect’s founder and his martial brother stayed for a dozen of days in the imperial palace, we four people were always by their side to accompany them. Our Shifu explained the essence of the Solitary Yang Finger and everything there is to know to Chongyang Zhenren. Chongyang Zhenren was completely delighted; in turn he bequeathed the fiercest ‘xian tian gong’ to our Shifu. We were at their sides when they were discussing these marvelous skills, but because our experience and knowledge were shallow, we heard but did not comprehend anything.”

“What about the Old Urchin?” Huang Rong asked, “His martial art skill is not low.”

The scholar replied, “Zhou Shishu liked to move around and did not like to stay still. Several days in the Dali palace he wandered to the east and strolled to the west, he played around everywhere; even the empress and the concubines’ palaces did not escape his visits. The court eunuchs were aware he was the emperor’s honorable guest, so they did not do anything to stop him.” Huang Rong and Guo Jing were smiling.

The scholar continued, “Just before Chongyang Zhenren left he said to our Shifu, ‘Lately my chronic illness has come back to me; I don’t think I am going to live much longer. Fortunately I have found an heir to my ‘xian tian gong’; it will strengthen the Emperor’s Solitary Yang Finger. There will be somebody in this world who can control him. I won’t be afraid he would run amuck with unseemly behavior anymore.’ It was then that my Shifu understood that Chongyang Zhenren had traveled thousands of ‘li’s to the Dali with the sole purpose of bequeathing the ‘xian tian gong’ to Shifu so that after his death there would be somebody who can control the Western Poison Ouyang Feng. But because the Eastern Heretic, the Western Poison, the Southern Emperor, the Northern Beggar and the Central Divinity shared the honor of the present age, if he said he came to impart a skill, it would be disrespectful to my Shifu; therefore, he first asked my Shifu to teach him the Solitary Yang Finger, then in exchange he taught the ‘xian tian gong’. As Shifu understood his intention he was very grateful and straightaway he diligently trained the ‘xian tian gong’. Chongyang Zhenren did not live long after he learned the Solitary Yang Finger; he did not have time to study thoroughly, and I heard he had not bequeathed it to any of his disciples. Later on there were some unfortunate events in our Dali kingdom; my Shifu’s heart was broken. He shaved his head and became a monk.”

Huang Rong thought, “Emperor Duan did not want to be an emperor anymore, but became a monk; this must be because of an enormously grieving matter. Others did not tell, it would be inconvenient to ask.” Glancing sideways she saw Guo Jing was about to open his mouth to ask; hastily she signaled him with her eyes. “Oh!” Guo Jing muttered and closed his mouth.

The scholar’s face turned dark; he was reminiscing over past events. After a while he opened his mouth and continued, “Somehow the news that Shifu was training the ‘xian tian gong’ leaked out. One day, my martial brother,” he pointed toward the farmer, “received an order to go gather some medicinal herbs. He went to the ‘ta xue shan’ [Big Snow Mountain] at the western border of Yunnan; where somebody injured him using the Toad Stance.”

“It must be the Old Poison,” Huang Rong said.

“Who else but him?” the farmer angrily said, “First a young man unreasonably picked a fight with me; he said this Big Snow Mountain belonged to his family. He wouldn’t let anybody trespass and gather herbs without authorization. The Big Snow Mountain spans thousands of ‘li’s; how could it belong to his family? Without a doubt this person was intentionally provoking me. I remembered Shifu’s teaching to endure patiently; I was yielding to him over and over. Who would have thought that this young man got an inch and wanted a foot! He said he wanted me to kowtow to him 300 times before he let me go down the mountain. Finally I couldn’t hold myself much longer and we fought. This young man’s martial art was not bad, we fought for half a day without anybody gaining an upper hand. Unexpectedly the Old Poison suddenly appeared from a valley and without saying anything struck out a palm and severely injured me. That young man then carried me on has back and brought me over to ‘tian long si’ [sky/heaven dragon temple] where Shifu stayed.”

“Somebody had already avenged you,” Huang Rong said, “This young master Ouyang was killed.”

The farmer was angry, “Ah, he’s dead. Who killed him?”

“Hey, somebody avenged you; why are you angry?” Huang Rong asked.

“I want to seek revenge myself, I want to kill him with my own hand,” the farmer replied.

Huang Rong sighed, “Too bad you can’t do that anymore.”

“Who killed him?” the farmer asked.

“It was another bad person,” Huang Rong replied, “His martial art was below young master Ouyang; but he used craftiness to kill him.”

“Good riddance!” the scholar said, “Miss, do you know why Ouyang Feng injured my martial brother?”

“What’s so difficult to guess?” Huang Rong said, “Based on Ouyang Feng’s martial art, he could kill your martial brother with only one strike; but he only injured him severely and sent him to your Shifu’s door. Undoubtedly he wanted the Reverend to waste his energy by treating his disciple’s injury. You told me that this type of treatment would require a lot of internal strength; he would need five years to recover his energy. Then on the next Sword Meet of Mount Hua the Reverend would definitely not able to compete.”

“Miss is really smart,” the scholar sighed, “But your guess is only half-correct. That Ouyang Feng’s evil heart was difficult to fathom. After Shifu treated my martial brother’s injury, before Shifu recovered, he launched a secret attack with the intention of killing Shifu …”

Guo Jing interrupted, “Reverend Yideng is so compassionate and kind, how could he have any enmity with Ouyang Feng?”

“Xiao Ge [little elder brother],” the scholar replied, “What you said is not right. First, merciful and compassionate good people do not coexist with sinister and ruthless evil people. Second, whenever Ouyang Feng wants to harm anybody, it really doesn’t matter whether that person has any enmity with him or not. Just because he knew that the ‘xian tian gong’ is the black star of his Toad Stance he must kill my Shifu with all possible means.”

Guo Jing nodded his head repeatedly; “Did the Reverend receive any harm from him?” he asked again.

The scholar replied, “Shifu saw through Ouyang Feng’s evil scheme as soon as he saw my martial brother’s injury; that very night we moved away and the Western Poison lost our track. We know he has failed once, he would not give up that easily. He has looked for us everywhere until finally he found this secret place of ours. After Shifu recovered his strength we martial brothers proposed to go to the White Camel Mountain and settled this account with the Western Poison, but Shifu prohibits us to take any revenge; we must not allow ourselves to create any trouble. With great difficulty we managed to live peacefully all these years, who would have thought that with your craftiness you managed to go up the mountain. We only know you are the Nine-fingered Divine Beggar’s disciples; we did not know you meant to do our Shifu harm, hence we did not stop you with all of our strengths. Otherwise we would put our four lives at stake and in no way would allow you to enter the temple. Who would have thought that the man did not have any intention to harm the tiger, but the tiger is harming the man. Ay! In the end my Shifu still fall under your evil hands.” Speaking thus his face turned fierce, with a tiger like power he slowly stood up. With a ‘shua’ sound the sword on his waist went out its sheath, glimmering cold, dazzling the eye.

The fisherman, the woodcutter and the farmer also stood up unsheathing their weapons, surrounding them from four directions. Huang Rong said, “I came to ask the Reverend to treat my injury, not knowing it would require all of the Reverend’s strength that he would lose his internal energy for five years. There is poison in those pills; I was framed by somebody else. The Reverend has shown me this kind of mercy; even if I don’t have a heart, I still will not repay kindness with evil.”

With a stern voice the fisherman said, “Then why do you take advantage while Shifu’s strength is gone and he is poisoned you lead the enemy going up the mountain?”

Jing and Rong two people were stunned, “We did not!” they said with a confused voice.

“You still deny it?” the fisherman said, “As soon as my Shifu is poisoned, the enemy delivered a jade bracelet on the foot of the mountain. If you did not scheme it ahead, how can there be such coincidence?”

“What jade bracelet?” Huang Rong asked.

The fisherman was angry, “You still act stupid!” The iron oars in his hands moved; the left oar swept horizontally, the right oar went down vertically, attacking both Guo Jing and Huang Rong.

Guo Jing was sitting side by side with Huang Rong on meditation mats on the floor. As he saw the oars arrive he leaped up with his right hand forming a hook brushing away the horizontally sweeping oar, while his left hand caught the flat of the oar and jerked it hard. This jerking action carried a very strong force; the fisherman felt pain and tingling sensation which forced him to let the oar go. Guo Jing pushed the oar forward. ‘Bang!’ it hit the farmer’s iron rake; sparks flew everywhere. Immediately Guo Jing shoved the iron oar back into the fisherman’s hand. The fisherman was surprised; he took the oar back. Exerting his strength to his right arm he struck down together with the woodcutter’s axe.

Guo Jing’s palm came one after another, carrying strong gusts of wind, coming fast toward the two men’s torso. The scholar knew the fierceness of the ’18-Dragon Subduing Palms’, “Back off quickly!” he anxiously shouted.

Both the fisherman and the woodcutter were disciples of a well-known expert; their martial arts were anything but ordinary. Before Guo Jing’s stance arrived they had hastily withdrew their weapons and leaped back. Suddenly they felt a jerk dampening their backward movement; turned out their weapons were pulled forward by Guo Jing’s palm strength. They had no choice but let their weapons go; saving their own lives was more important.

Guo Jing caught the iron oar and the steel axe, he lightly tossed them back and called out, “Catch these!”

“Good martial art!” the scholar praised; his long sword threatening Guo Jing’s right side.

Seeing this attack Guo Jing was startled; among Yideng’s four disciples this scholar looked the most refined, but actually his martial art surpassed those of his colleagues; hence Guo Jing did not dare to underestimate him. His palms fluttered in the air, enveloping Huang Rong and his own body with tremendous force. This defense was truly stable, like an abyss stopping a mountain peak; there was not a single hole in it. His palms were like rainbow, continuously circling around bigger and bigger that the fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar were gradually pushed back till their backs were against the wall. Never mind counterattacking, merely defending themselves was not easy.

By this time if Guo Jing added more force to his palms these four people would inevitably suffer injury. Fighting a moment longer Guo Jing held back his strength, he attacked hard then backed off hard, struck light then fended off light, it seemed like his force was there and then disappeared; throughout the battle he steadily held the power balance so they were on the level ground, nobody won and nobody lost.

The scholar’s sword technique suddenly changed; his long sword vibrated, creating a continuously buzzing noise. His sword turned into six swords on the top, six swords on the bottom, six swords on the front, six swords on the back, six swords on the left and six swords on the right, successively stabbing like six by six, thirty six swords altogether. It was the Yunnan’s ‘ai lao shan’ [Mount Ailao] thirty-six sword; considered one of the best offensive sword techniques in the world.

Guo Jing’s left palm parried the fisherman, the woodcutter and the farmer three people’s weapons; his right palm followed the movements of the scholar’s sword: up and down, front to back, left to right. Although the sword underwent countless changes, Guo Jing had always succeeded in diverting the sword stab by the power of his palm. Each sword stab passed very close to his clothes, but never once did it manage to even make a scratch on Guo Jing’s skin.

Blocking to the thirty-sixth stab, Guo Jing bent his right middle finger under his thumb; he waited for the incoming sword to lose its momentum before he suddenly flicked the body of the sword. It was the ‘tan zhi shen tong’ [Divine Flicking Finger], Huang Yaoshi’s special skill which was considered unparalleled in the present age. Huang Yaoshi used this special skill when he played shooting marbles with Zhou Botong; and again in the Cloud Village, when he was giving direction to Mei Chaofeng. Guo Jing watched him fighting the Quanzhen’s Seven Masters at the Ox Village near Lin’an using this special skill. Having learned a certain amount of the martial art secrets from the Manual he managed to imitate the flicking finger technique. Although it was inferior to Huang Yaoshi’s subtle and elegant flicking finger, but it still carried a tremendous force.

With a metallic clank the long sword was shaken; the scholar’s arm was numb, the sword almost fell from his hand. The scholar was shocked; he leaped backward and called out, “Hold it!”

The fisherman, the woodcutter and the farmer three people leaped backward at once. Only their backs were very close to the wall to begin with, so there was no place they could withdraw to. The fisherman leaped out of the door, the farmer jumped out over the hole in the wall Guo Jing made earlier. The woodcutter inserted his axe back into his waist. He smiled and said, “I told you these two did not have any evil intentions, but you did not believe me.”

The scholar put his sword back into its sheath; he cupped his fists toward Guo Jing and said, “Xiao Ge [little elder brother] has held back your palms, we are feeling grateful.”

Guo Jing busily bowed down to return the gesture, but his heart was full of questions, “From the start we did not have any ill-intention; why didn’t they believe us? Why is it after we fought they changed their minds and believed us?”

Huang Rong noticed his confused expression, she knew what he was thinking; she whispered to his ear, “If you harbor ill intentions, then you would have injured these four people. How can even Reverend Yideng be your match right now?” Guo Jing thought it was true, he nodded his head repeatedly.

The farmer and the fisherman walked back into the room. Huang Rong asked, “I wonder who the Reverend’s enemy is? What is this jade bracelet that was delivered earlier?”

The scholar replied, “It’s not that we don’t want to tell you, but frankly speaking we don’t even know the truth surrounding this matter. All I know is that the reason my Shifu became a monk is closely related to this matter.”

Huang Rong was about to inquire further when suddenly the farmer jumped up and shouted, “Aiyo! It’s dangerous!”

“What is it?” the fisherman asked.

The farmer pointed his finger to the scholar and said, “Shifu has lost all his strength, he is telling everything, concealing nothing; if these two harbor any ill intention while the four of us are powerless to hold them up, will Shifu be still alive?”

The woodcutter said, “The Honorable Zhuangyuan can predict with divine accuracy. If he could not predict the outcome of this small matter, how could he become the Dali’s Prime Minister? He had known from the start that these two are friends and not foes; but he deliberately proceeded with fighting them. First, to test these two friends’ martial art; second, to convince the two of you.”

The scholar showed a faint smile. The farmer and the fisherman looked at each other; they were partly admiring the scholar, partly blaming their own rashness.

At that moment they heard footsteps coming in from outside the door. A young monk came in. He clasped his hands and said, “Shifu orders four martial brothers to send the guests off.” Everybody stood up immediately.

Guo Jing said, “The Reverend is expecting an enemy; how can we walk away just like that? Forgetting my own inability Xiao Di [little/lowly younger brother] wants to collaborate with the four martial brothers to face the visitor.”

The fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar looked at each other with delighted expressions. “Let me ask Shifu,” the scholar said.

Four people went in together. They stayed inside for quite a long time. When they came back out Guo Jing and Huang Rong saw their crestfallen expression and knew that Reverend Yideng did not allow them to help. And sure enough; the scholar said, “Shifu thanks the two of you very much; but he said that everybody reaps what he sows, other people must not interfere.”

“Jing Gege,” Huang Rong said, “Let us talk to the Reverend.” They went to the building where Reverend Yideng’s meditation house is. Guo Jing knocked the door for half a day but nobody answered. He could have shoved the door open, but how could he dare to play rough?

The woodcutter low-spiritedly said, “Shifu cannot receive the two of you. The mountain is high and the river is long, we will meet again some other time.”

Guo Jing felt deeply grateful toward Reverend Yideng, his warm blood bubbling up his chest; he was unable to restrain himself, with a loud voice he said, “Rong’er, whether the Reverend allows us or not, let us go down the mountain. If we see anybody messing around, we’ll beat the hell out of him first, then we’ll talk.”

“That is a wonderful idea,” Huang Rong replied. “If the Reverend’s enemy is so fierce that we die in his hands, consider that we are repaying the Reverend’s kindness.”

Guo Jing spoke with power, Huang Rong also intentionally raised her voice, of course Reverend Yideng heard them. They were just about to turn around when the wooden door suddenly opened. An old monk with a sharp voice said, “The Reverend invites you to come in.”

Guo Jing was pleasantly surprised; alongside Huang Rong he walked into the room. Reverend Yideng and that Indian monk were still sitting cross-legged on the meditation mats just as before. Two people bowed down to the ground. They raised their heads and saw that Yideng’s complexion was yellow and sickly; totally different from the first time they saw him. Two people’s hearts were overwhelmed with gratitude and regret at the same time; they did not know what to say.

Yideng turned toward his four disciples on the door, “Everybody come in, I want to say something.”

The fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar went inside the meditation room and paid their respects to their master and martial uncle. The Indian monk nodded his head to acknowledge, then he went back into his meditation, did not pay more attention to anybody. Reverend Yideng gazed at the rising incense smoke, he seemed to be lost in thought; his hand played with a sheep-white colored jade bracelet.

Huang Rong thought, “It is obviously a woman’s bracelet. I wonder what is Reverend’s enemy’s intention in sending it over?”

A moment later Yideng heaved a sigh and turned to Guo Jing and Huang Rong, “The Old Monk gratefully accepts your kind intention. This matter relates to a complicated cause and effect; if I did not talk, I am afraid there will be casualties on both sides, and that is not the Old Monk’s original intention. Do you know what kind of man I was?”

“Uncle was the Emperor of the Dali country of Yunnan,” Huang Rong replied, “The only emperor of the southern sky, with awe-inspiring power and prestige; who in this world has never heard about you?”

Yideng showed a faint smile. “Emperor is superficial, Old Monk is also superficial, awe-inspiring power and prestige is fake. You, a young miss, are also a fake.”

Huang Rong did not understand his allegorical words; she stared at him with her bright, crystal clear beautiful eyes.

Yideng slowly continued, “My Dali kingdom was founded by the Emperor Shen Sheng Wen Wu Tai Zu [lit. divine/holy literature and martial art (or civil and military) great ancestor] in the year of Ding You. It was twenty-three years before the Great Song’s founder, Zhao Kuangyin, Emperor Zhou staged a rebellion and assumed the throne of the Song Dynasty. Seven generation from the Emperor Shen Sheng Wen Wu, the throne was passed on to Emperor Bing Yi. He became an emperor for only four years before he became a monk, bequeathing the throne to his nephew, Emperor Sheng De. Following Emperor Sheng De were Emperor Xing Zong Xiao De, Emperor Bao Ding, Emperor Xian Zong Xuan Ren, and then my father, Emperor Jing Zong Zheng Kang; all had become monks. From Tai Zu [great ancestor/founder] to me, there are eighteen emperors, among which seven had left their home [meaning: became monks].”

The fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar were people of Dali; naturally they knew their country’s history. But Guo Jing and Huang Rong felt strange, they thought, “Reverend Yideng did not want to become an emperor but became a monk instead was already surprising; turned out many of his ancestors had taken the same path. Could it be that being a monk is better than being an emperor?”

Reverend Yideng continued, “By divine providence our Duan family has been ruling with a great power over a small area ever since. Each generation realizes his own virtue and ability. In reality we all are insufficient to bear this heavy responsibility; hence all along we fulfill our duty with fear and trepidation, did not dare to overstep our boundary. Didn’t the emperors eat without plowing? Wearing clothes without weaving? Going out and coming in to the palace in a carriage? Are these not the common people’s blood and sweat? When the emperors reached their advance years their own hearts convicted them of all their merit and guilt; always enjoying the toil of the people while contributing only a few, how they have committed a multitude of sin while performing their office duty. Therefore, oftentimes they decided to abdicate their thrones and became monks.”

Speaking to this point he raised his head looking outside, the corners of his mouth revealed a smile, while his eyebrows showed a grieving heart. Six people listening silently, nobody dared to make any noise. Reverend Yideng raised up his left index finger with the jade bracelet on it. He spinned it around several times and said, “As for me, I did not become a monk for the same reason. Actually, it has something to do with the Sword Meet of Mount Hua, where we compete over the Manual. That year the Quanzhen Sect’s founder, Chongyang Zhenren won the Manual. The following year he paid a visit to Dali, passing along the ‘xian tian gong’ to me. He stayed in my palace for about half a month. We were having the time of our lives discussing martial art. But his martial brother Zhou Botong was fidgety after about ten days of doing nothing; he roamed to the east and strolled to the west inside the palace, and had caused an incident.”

Huang Rong said in her heart, “It would be strange indeed if the Old Urchin Zhou Botong did not create any trouble.”

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