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Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils Chapter 17

 Chapter 17: Today’s wishes
Both of them rode a horse together. After running very fast for a while they scanned around and saw that there were mulberry trees everywhere, in a short time they had already outdistanced the Western Xia warriors and no longer saw any sign of them.

Duan Yu asked: ‘Miss Wang, how do you feel?’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘I’ve been poisoned. There’s not any strength left in my body.’ Hearing the words: ‘Been poisoned’ Duan Yu was startled. He hurriedly asked: ‘Is it serious? How can we find the antidote?’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘I don’t know. You urge the horse on to a safe place then we’ll talk about it again.’ Duan Yu said: ‘Where is safe?’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘I don’t know either.’ Duan Yu thought: ‘What is it? I’ve already promised to keep her safe from dangers, why do I ask her to give directions?’ Without any feasible idea he had no alternative but to ride the horse aimlessly.

After running quickly for a meal’s time they did not hear the sounds of the chasing soldiers anymore and gradually became relax, but the rain started to drip down. Duan Yu kept asking after every short period of time: ‘Miss Wang, how do you feel?’ Wang Yuyan always replied: ‘I’m fine.’ Being able to travel together with the beauty Duan Yu was unspeakably happy, but he also feared that the poison in her body would become more dangerous, therefore he could not help but to smile for a while then to be anxious for a while.

The rain became heavier and heavier, Duan Yu took off his gown and covered Wang Yuyan with it. But that only worked for a short period of time, before long both of them were soaked through. Duan Yu asked again: ‘Miss Wang, how do you feel?’ Wang Yuyan sighed and said: ‘Both cold and wet. Let’s find a place to shelter from the rain.’ To Duan Yu, whatever Wang Yuyan said was like an imperial decree. When she wanted to find a place to shelter from the rain, even though Duan Yu knew clearly that they had not escaped from dangers he still continuously said yes, but he also dazedly thought: ‘The person Miss Wang constantly has in her mind is her
 
biaoge Murong Fu. Today I and she have encountered dangers together I must do my utmost to protect her. Even if I die for her, someday in the rest of her life she’d once in a while remember me a little bit. When she and Murong Fu get married later and have children, when she tells her descendants about the past in leisure time perhaps she’d mention today’s events. At that time her head would be full of white hair, when she mentions the three words ‘Mr. Duan’, her pearly tears would fall down drop by drop…’ He lost in thought and could not prevent his eyes from reddening.

Seeing that he had a distressed look on his face and had not started to look for a shelter, Wang Yuyan asked: ‘What’s wrong? There isn’t any rain shelter?’ Duan Yu said: ‘At that time you’d tell your children…’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘What, my children?’

Duan Yu was startled, only now did he wake up to reality, he smiled and said: ‘Sorry, I was daydreaming.’ He looked around and saw a big mill in the northeast. The water of a rivulet was pushing the wooden wheel. The mill was in the process of pounding rice. He then said: ‘We can shelter from the rain there.’ and rode the horse to the mill. At this time it was raining heavily with cascading noises, all around was haze of water vapor.

He jumped off the horse, seeing that Wang Yuyan looked pale he could not help feeling very sorry for her and asked again: ‘You have a stomach ache? Have a fever? Have a headache?’ Wang Yuyan shook her head, smiled and said: ‘I’m fine.’ Duan Yu said: ‘Alas, I wonder what the poison the Western Xia people used was, let me go find the antidote.’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘It’s raining heavily like this! Help me get off the horse first and go inside. It won’t be late to talk about it later.’ Duan Yu hastily said: ‘Yes, yes! You see, I could be very silly.’ Wang Yuyan smiled and thought: ‘You’re just inherently silly.’

Seeing her smiling expression, Duan Yu could not help but to feel as if he was on cloud nine and almost forgot to go open the door of the mill. After opening the door he came back to help Wang Yuyan to get off the horse. Because his eyes had focused on her lovely face all the time, he did not notice that there was a ditch in front of the mill. His left foot stepped right in the middle of the ditch. Wang Yuyan called: ‘Be careful!’ But it was too
 
late. Duan Yu cried out ‘Ah’ and fell plump into the mud. He climbed up after struggling for a while. His face, his hands, and his body were covered with mud, he continuously said: ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Are you… are you okay?’

Wang Yuyan said: ‘Alas, are you okay? That fall didn’t hurt did it?’ Duan Yu was over the moon when he saw her showing concern for himself. He hastily replied: ‘No, no. Even if it did hurt, there’d still be no problem.’ He held out his hands to help Wang Yuyan get off the horse. All of a sudden, seeing that they were covered with mud, he drew them back and said: ‘Not good! I go clean up first and will come back to help you.’ Wang Yuyan sighed and said: ‘You’re really fussy. My whole body is already drenched, what’s the matter if there’s some more mud?’ Duan Yu smiled apologetically and said: ‘I have only messed things up and haven’t cared for you well.” Still he cleaned the mud off his hands in the rivulet before helping Wang Yuyan get off the horse and walk into the mill.

When the two of them entered the mill, they saw the rice-pounding stone pestle being lifted and dropped, continuously hitting rice grains in the stone mortar, but they did not see anybody. Duan Yu shouted: ‘Is there anyone here?’

Suddenly, in the straw stack in a corner of the room, two people shouted at the same time: ‘A’yo!’ They stood up, one was male and one was female, both were eighteen or nineteen year old young peasants. Their clothes were untidy, their heads were full of straws, and their faces flushed red and looked totally embarrassed. It turned out they were a couple of lovers. The peasant girl had been here to pound rice, the man had followed her here to be close to her. Because it had been raining heavily they had thought that no one would arrive, and had gotten really unbridled to such a degree that they had not heard anything even though Duan Yu and Wang Yuyan had been talking to each other outside for quite a while.

Duan Yu held his fist in his hand and said: ‘Sorry for disturbing, sorry for disturbing! We only come here to shelter from the rain. If the two of you have something to do, please do as you wish and don’t pay attention to us.’
 
Wang Yuyan thought: ‘This bookworm is talking nonsense again. They are meeting us here, how can they keep cuddling each other?’ But she could not say those two sentences. After suddenly seeing the expression and attitude of that girl and that man, her face had soon reddened, she did not dare to look at them for long.

Duan Yu wholeheartedly focused his mind on Wang Yuyan therefore he did not care about this couple of young peasants. He helped Wang Yuyan sit down on a bench and said: ‘You’re totally drenched, what’s to be done?’

There was a layer of rosy light on Wang Yuyan’s face again. An idea sprung up in her mind. She pulled out from the hair on her temples a gold hairpin in which two big pearls were embedded, turned to the peasant girl and said: ‘Sister, I give you this hairpin, can you please lend me a set of clothes to change?’

Even though that peasant girl did not know that the two pearls were precious, but she recognized gold, in her mind she did not believe this was true, and said: ‘Let me fetch some clothes for you to change, this… this gold hairpin I don’t dare to take.’ As she finished saying she climbed up the wooden ladder beside her.

Wang Yuyan said: ‘Sister, please come here.’ That peasant girl had already climbed up four or five rungs. She quickly went down, walked to and stood before Wang Yuyan. Wang Yuyan put the gold hairpin in her hand and said: ‘I really give you this hairpin. Can you please take me to go change clothes?’

Seeing that Wang Yuyan was beautiful and amiable the peasant girl had already been totally willing to help her, now being given a gold hairpin she felt very happy. She declined unsuccessfully for a few times before finally accepting it then helping Wang Yuyan climb up to the garret above them to change clothes. The garret was stacked with paddy, straws and farm tools such as sieves and bamboo baskets. That peasant girl had some sets of worn-out clothes which she had been sewing and mending. After that young man had arrived, she had thrown them aside and stopped paying attention to them since. Now they were very suitable for Wang Yuyan to use.
 
That young peasant man timidly peeped at Duan Yu, he was still abashed. Duan Yu smiled and asked: ‘Big brother, what’s your name?’ That young man said: ‘I’m… I’m surnamed Jin.’ Duan Yu said: ‘So you’re big brother Jin.’ That young man said: ‘No. I’m Jin A’er. Jin A’da is my older brother.’ Duan Yu said: ‘Hum, so you’re second brother Jin.’ (T/N: Jin A’er means ‘Jin, the second brother’, Jin A’da means ‘Jin, the big brother.’)

Just saying to here, suddenly they heard horse hoofbeats, more than ten horses was galloping towards the mill. Duan Yu was frightened, he rose to his feet and shouted: ‘Miss Wang, the enemies have chased to here!’

Wang Yuyan was being helped by that young peasant girl. She had taken off her wet clothes, wrung water out of them, and was drying herself. Also hearing the horse hoofbeats, she was worried and frightened, and did not know how to deal with this situation.

The horses ran very fast, in a short period of time they had already arrived at the outside of the door. Someone shouted: ‘This horse is ours. That boy and that girl are inside of here.’ Wang Yuyan and Duan Yu, one being up on the garret, one being downstairs, secretly complained at the same time and thought: ‘Had we led the horse into the mill, it’d have been so much better.’ They heard a crash. Someone had kicked the door open, three or four Western Xia warriors rushed into the mill.

Wholeheartedly wanting to protect Wang Yuyan, Duan Yu rushed up the garret. Wang Yuyan had not dressed therefore she had no alternative but to take a wet gown to put before her chest. After being poisoned she felt very weak, therefore after her left hand had raised the gown to her chest, it dropped down. Duan Yu hastily turned around and said in a panicky manner: ‘I’m sorry for offending you, Miss, pardon me, pardon me.’ Wang Yuyan hurriedly said: ‘What should we do?’

They heard a warrior ask Jin A’er: ‘Is that girl upstairs?’ Jin A’er said: ‘Why do you ask about other people’s daughter?’ A thump was heard, that warrior had thrown a punch which had hit and sent him flying away for more than one zhang then falling down. Jin A’er was very stubborn. He immediately shouted abuse at the warrior.
 
The peasant girl said: ‘Brother A’er, Brother A’er, don’t exchange insults with other people.’ Caring about her lover, she climbed down to persuade him. Unexpectedly that Western Xia warrior brandished his saber then split Jin A’er head in half. The peasant girl was appalled. She fell and rolled down from the wooden ladder. Another warrior gripped her and said with a hideous grin: ‘This chick gives herself up to me.’ There was a sound of tearing. He had already torn her clothes. That peasant girl stretched out her hand and gave him a fierce claw in the face, immediately creating five streaks of blood. The warrior raged, with all his strength he threw a punch which hit her chest. Her ribs were all broken. She died immediately.

Hearing the agonized cries downstairs Duan Yu stuck his head out to have a look. When he saw that the couple of young peasants had suffered sudden unfortunate deaths, he was very sorry and muttered to himself: ‘It’s totally my fault for dragging the two of you into this so that you suffered horrible deaths.’ Seeing that warrior quickly climbing up the wooden ladder, he hurriedly gave it a shove towards the outside. The wooden ladder was only loosely connected to the floor of the garret therefore it immediately fell outwards. That warrior quickly jumped down on the ground, held and stopped the ladder, then connected it to the garret’s floor again. While Duan Yu was attempting to shove it one more time, another warrior raised his right hand, a sleeve-hidden arrow was shot at him. Duan Yu did not know how to dodge it. A ‘pu’ sound was heard, the sleeve-hidden arrow had stuck into his left shoulder. While Duan Yu was pressing his shoulder with his hand, the first warrior took advantage of that opportunity to connect the ladder to the garret’s floor and climb up. Each of his steps climbed up three rungs.

Wang Yuyan was sitting on a pile of paddy behind Duan Yu, seeing how that warrior have killed the peasant girl with a palm strike (T/N: Something wrong here, cause she was killed w/ a punch) and the lightness skill he had used to jump off and climb up the ladder, she said: ‘You use your left forefinger to press the ‘Xiaguan acupuncture point’ on his belly.’

When he had learned the Beiming Divine Skill (T/N: In Chinese myths, Beiming is the ocean at the northern extremity of the world where sunlight can’t reach) and the Six Meridians Divine Swords in Dali, he had already
 
remembered clearly every acupuncture point on the human body. While he was hearing Wang Yuyan shouting, that warrior had already set his left foot on the edge of the garret. Not having time to think anymore, he extended the forefinger and poked him in the ‘Xiaguan acupuncture point’ on his belly. That warrior was running up, his belly was totally unprotected. He uttered a loud cry, then fell directly backwards on the ground from midair and died immediately.

Duan Yu cried out: ‘This’s strange, this’s strange!’ He saw another shaggy- bearded Western Xia warrior brandishing his long saber to protect his body and climbing up the ladder. Duan Yu asked: ‘Where to poke him, where to poke him?’ Wang Yuyan said in fright: ‘A’yo, this’s bad!’ Duan Yu asked: ‘Why bad?’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘The movements of his saber are too fast, if you wanna poke him in the ‘Shanzhong acupuncture point’ on his chest, when your finger hasn’t touched it, your arm would’ve already been chopped off.’

When she had just said to here, that shaggy-bearded warrior had already reached the edge of the floor. Duan Yu wanted to protect Wang Yuyan with all his heart therefore he did not think about the possibility that his arm might be chopped off. He stretched his right arm, utilized his internal energy, extended his finger and poked the warrior in the ‘Shanzhong acupuncture point’ on his chest. That warrior raised his saber to chop at Duan Yu’s arm, but all of a sudden he screamed out ‘Ah’ then fell down on his back. From a small hole on his chest blood was spouting up to two chi’s (t/n: 1 chi ~ 33.33 cm) high. Wang Yuyan and Duan Yu were both surprised and happy. Neither of them had expected the power of that finger attack to actually be this dangerous.

Because Duan Yu had continuously killed two of them in a very short period of time, the rest of the warriors did not dare to climb up to the garret anymore. They gathered downstairs to discuss.

Wang Yuyan said: ‘Mr. Duan, you should pull the sleeve-hidden arrow out of your shoulder.’ Duan Yu was very happy and thought: ‘So she also cares about the arrow wound on my shoulder.’ He held out his hand and plucked the sleeve-hidden arrow from his shoulder. This arrow had gone one cun (t/n: 1 cun ~ 3.333 cm) into his body and already touched the bone in his
 
shoulder therefore using sheer force to pull it out like this was extremely painful, but because he was happy he did not care about that at all. He said: ‘Miss Wang, if they go up here to attack again, how you think should we deal with them?’ While saying he turned his head to look at Wang Yuyan. Suddenly seeing that she was still loosely dressed he hastily turned around and said: ‘A’yo, I’m sorry.’

Wang Yuyan felt so ashamed that her face became very red, but she did not have any strength to dress. An idea suddenly appeared in her mind. She then got into the stack of straws, only stuck her head out, smiled and said: ‘It’s all right, you can turn around now.’

Duan Yu slowly turned sideways, his whole body was prepared, if he saw that she was still untidily dressed exposing her skin, he would turn away immediately. When he had just turned half of his head around, he caught a glimpse of a Western Xia warrior on the outside of the window. The warrior was standing on a horse’s back, sticking his head in and looking around wanting to jump into the garret. Duan Yu hastily said: ‘There’re enemies on this side.’

Wang Yuyan thought: ‘How are this man’s martial arts?’ She said: ‘You throw the sleeve-hidden arrow at him.’

Duan Yu followed her advice and threw the sleeve-hidden arrow in his hand out. He was totally an amateur in using missiles therefore the sleeve-hidden arrow he threw did not have the least bit of accuracy and was at least two chi’s away from that man’s head. That man at first did not pay attention, but this throw of Duan Yu was extremely powerful, it was just a small sleeve- hidden arrow yet a whizzing sound was heard when it flew out. That man was frightened. He hunkered down to dodge and curled up into a heap on the saddle.

Wang Yuyan stuck her head out and saw clearly. She said: ‘He’s a wrestling expert of Western Xia. Just let him grip you, then hit the top of his skull with your palm, you’ll win.’

Duan Yu said: ‘This’s easy.’ He walked to the window and saw that warrior jumped up from the saddle, broke the window’s lattice and plunged into the
 
garret. Duan Yu said: ‘Why do you come here?’ That warrior did not understand the Han language. He glowered at Duan Yu then held out the left hand and gripped his chest immediately. The movements of this man were really fast, right after gripping Duan Yu he straightened his arm and lifted him in the air. Duan Yu sent backwards a palm strike. There was a plop. He had already hit the top of the man’s head. That warrior had originally wanted to throw Duan Yu on the garret’s floor then wrestle him near dead but he had not expected to be hit by this palm strike. His skull was crushed into pieces. He died immediately.

Duan Yu had killed a man again. He could not help starting to panic. The more he thought the more frightened he got, he shouted: ‘I don’t want to kill anymore! I can’t kill anymore. You guys get away quickly!’ He then used his strength to push the corpse of the wrestling expert downstairs.

In total, there were fifteen Western Xia warriors who had chased him to the mill. At this moment there were twelve left. Four of them were experts of First-class Hall, two being Han, the other two being Western Xia. Those four people saw that Duan Yu’s martial arts seemed to be incomparably excellent for a while then seemed to be laughably childish for another while, which was really suitable to be regarded as ‘being fathomless’, therefore for the moment they did not dare to act rashly and gathered to quietly discuss attacking plans. However those eight Western Xia warriors had a different plan, they put straws inside the mill together and wanted to set fire to everything.

Wang Yuyan said in panic: ‘This is bad. They wanna set fire to the mill!’ Duan Yu stamped his feet and said: ‘What should we do?’ Seeing the big hydraulic wheel of the mill being pushed by the water of the rivulet, ceaselessly moving up and moving down, his mind was also up and down like the movements of the wheel.

He heard a Han man called: ‘General has ordered us to capture that young girl. We can’t kill her. Don’t torch this mill.’ Then he raised his voice and shouted: ‘Hey, little bastard and little puss! Quickly go down here and surrender, or else we’ll torch the mill, burning you alive and turning you into two roast pigs.’ He shouted continuously three times. Duan Yu and Wang Yuyan ignored him. That man took out some tinder, started a fire,
 
then ignited a handful of straws, raised it with his hand and said: ‘If you keep resisting, I’ll start burning.’ As he finished saying he raised the kindling and assumed a posture which looked as if he wanted to throw it into the stack of straws.

Seeing that the situation was desperate, Duan Yu said: ‘Let me take them by surprise.’ He climbed on the hydraulic wheel. This wheel was very big, its diameter exceeded two zhang’s (t/n 1 zhang ~ 3.333m), and it was even higher than the roof of the mill. Duan Yu held on to some planks of the wheel, following the rotation of it, he slowly came down.

That man was still shouting noisily and loudly ordering Duan Yu and Wang Yuyan to surrender, not knowing that Duan Yu had quietly come down from the garret and extended his finger to poke him in his back. He was using the Shaoyang sword technique of the Six Meridians Divine Swords. One poke should do the job, however, while sneakily attacking other people he felt very scared, therefore the momenta of his attacks were inadequate and his internal energy could not be shot out. Whether Duan Yu’s internal energy could be shot out or not had merely been a matter of luck and this time he could not shoot it out. That man felt that his back had suddenly been lightly touched by something. He turned his head around and saw Duan Yu poking at his own back with his finger.

The man had seen with his own eyes how Duan Yu had continuously killed three people. Now, seeing Duan Yu moving his right hand in a disorderly manner and perhaps using some kind of evil technique he was rather afraid as well, therefore he hastily jumped leftwards. Duan Yu threw another finger attack, but still nothing happened, which was hard to understand. That man shouted loudly: ‘Stinking boy, what are you sneakily doing?’ He stretched out his left hand and made a grab at the top of Duan Yu’s head. Duan Yu hurriedly shrunk back and made random grabs with his hands. Fortunately he caught hold of the wheel and was immediately moved upwards by it. That man’s grab missed Duan Yu. A ‘pu’ sound was heard. Wood chips were sent flying all around. His grab had broken and created a big gap on a plank of the hydraulic wheel.

Wang Yuyan said: ‘You only need to go around to his back then attack the ‘Zhiyang acupuncture point’ at his seventh vertebra, he’ll be in danger. This
 
man is a disciple of Tiger-clawed School in Jinnan. The Zhiyang acupuncture point isn’t trained by his martial arts practice.’

Duan Yu was in midair, he shouted: ‘That’s very good!’ then climbed up the wooden wheel and jumped into the main room of the mill.

The Western Xia warriors did not wait until his feet touched the ground. Three of them immediately tried to grab him at the same time. Duan Yu continuously shook his right hand and said: ‘I’m being outnumbered, even a brave man can’t beat multiple opponents at the same time, I only wanna fight one-on-one.’ As he finished saying he leaned and advanced on one side, using the footwork of the ‘Wave Treading Exquisite Steps’, after dodging several times, he was already at the back of that man. He shouted loudly: ‘Hit!’ and threw a finger attack, a chi-chi sound was heard, the ‘Zhiyang acupuncture point’ of the man was hit. He could not make even a single sound and died instantly.

After killing that man, Duan Yu wanted to follow the hydraulic wheel again to go up and return to Wang Yuyan’s side. But it was already too late because another Western Xia warrior had blocked his way out and was slashing at him with his saber. Duan Yu shouted: ‘A’yo, how terrible! The Tartar soldiers have severed my route of retreat. All around are ambushes, soldiers are besieging Gaixia, my important business has gone bust!’ He strode leftwards, that slash hit nothing. The other eleven in the mill immediately surrounded Duan Yu and attacked him at the same time with their sabers and swords. (T/n: Gaixia – the location where Xiang Yu was besieged by Liu Bang’s army and eventually committed suicide)

Duan Yu shouted loudly: ‘Miss Wang, see you in the next life. I’ve been besieged on all sides. It’s hard to even protect myself. I have no choice but to wait for you on the way to the Underworld.’ Even though he was shouting in a disorderly manner and looked extremely pathetic, the ‘Wave Treading Exquisite Steps’ footwork that he was using was incomparably masterful.

Wang Yuyan was entranced looking at it. She said: ‘Mr. Duan, you are following the ‘Wave Treading Exquisite Steps’, right? I have heard of it but don’t know its method.’
 
Duan Yu happily said: ‘Yes, yes! You wanna see it, then I’m gonna perform it from beginning to end one time for you. But I don’t know if I can reach the end before you see my head getting chopped off.’ He then performed the footwork he had learned from the scroll, starting from the first step.

Those eleven Western Xia warriors tried to punch and kick him and brandished their sabers and swords, but they could not touch even a corner of his clothes. All of them shouted: ‘Hey, you block this side!’ ‘You guard the northeast corner, don’t hold back when attacking.’ ‘A’yo, this’s not good, the little turtle egg has slipped away from here.’

Duan Yu kept going forwards one step then going backwards one step, moving around the hydraulic wheel and the stone mortar. Even though Wang Yuyan was smart and learned, she was not able to understand the method. She said: ‘Dodging the enemies is more important to you, don’t perform for me to see.’ Duan Yu said: ‘I can’t miss this good chance! If I don’t perform now, after I die you won’t be able to see it.’

He did not care about his own life and only wished to perform the ‘Wave Treading Exquisite Steps’ from beginning to end for the person he loved to see. Who would have ever expected that a love-smitten person had their own good luck? If he waited for the enemies’ attacks to come before using the footwork to dodge; firstly, because he did not know martial arts while the enemies were experts, and their stances were seemingly false and real at the same time and very unpredictable, he would not be able to dodge when he wanted to; secondly, the enemies had eleven people in total, if he successfully dodged the first man, he would not be able to dodge the second one, even if he successfully dodge the second man, he would not be able to dodge the third one. But he only focused on his own footwork and paid absolutely no attention to the enemies, therefore eleven people of them all pursued and attacked him. Every step of this ‘Wave Treading Exquisite Steps’ went to places that were definitely not expected by other people. They saw his left foot striding eastwards, but to their surprise, in fact his body had moved to the northwest corner. The eleven people attacked faster and faster, but ninety percent of their stances had ended up attacking the people on their own side, the remaining ten percent had totally missed.
 
Seeing Duan Yu standing beside the hydraulic wheel, the first, the second, and the third immediately attacked the place where they thought he would move to with their fists, legs, sabers and swords. The fourth, the fifth and the sixth used their weapons to attack the place where he was standing. While Duan Yu was dodging, he suddenly changed direction. Bang bang bing bing, ding dang clang clang, the weapons of the first, the second, the third, the fourth… had all hit the same place. You blocked and fought me, I blocked and fought you. Some Western Xia warriors had been a little bit slow and had been injured by the people on the own side.

After seeing just a few stances Wang Yuyan already knew the principle, she shouted: ‘Mr. Duan, your footsteps are very clever and complicated, for the moment I can’t understand them clearly. It’d be best if after finishing this round you perform another round.’ Duan Yu said: ‘Okay, I’ll always follow your instructions.’ Once he finished stepping according to eight times eight equaling sixty four hexagrams, he restarted from the first step of the technique.

Wang Yuyan considered: ‘For the moment Mr. Duan’s life is not in doubt, but how to escape from this difficult situation? I haven’t put clothes on my upper body. This really makes me feel ashamed to death. The only choice is to think of a way to give Mr. Duan directions so that he’d kill all the eleven enemies.’ She immediately stopped watching Duan Yu’s footwork and looked carefully at the stances of those eleven people.

Suddenly she heard a clack. Someone had put the wooden ladder against the edge of the garret. A Western Xia warrior wanted to climb up to the garret again. Because all eleven of them had been fighting Duan Yu unsuccessfully for a long time, the leader of the Western Xia people had told his subordinate to capture Wang Yuyan first and talk about it later.

Wang Yuyan panicked. She shouted: ‘A’yo!’

Duan Yu raised his head and saw that Western Xia warrior climbing up to the garret on the ladder. He hastily asked: ‘Where to hit him?’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘You’d best grab his ‘Zhishi acupuncture point’!’ Duan Yu strode forwards and grabbed the ‘Zhishi acupuncture point’ on the back of his waist. Not knowing what he should do next, he conveniently made a throw,
 
by lucky coincidence he threw the warrior into the rice-pounding stone mortar. The stone pestle which weighed two hundred jin’s (t/n: 1 jin = 0.5 kg) was driven by the hydraulic wheel. All the while it had been pounding on the stone mortar unceasingly. The grains in the stone mortar had been turned into very fine rice powder for a long time, but because there was no one to look after the mill, the stone pestle still kept pounding as usual. After that Western Xia warrior had fell into the stone mortar, the stone pestle went down, a ‘peng’ was heard, it had burst his brain open, his blood splashed on the rice powder.

That Western Xia expert repeatedly urged his subordinates forwards, there were three other Western Xia warriors trying to be the first to climb up the ladder. Wang Yuyan shouted: ‘Do the same thing!’ Duan Yu held out his hand to grab the ‘Zhishi acupuncture point’ of another man then made a throw with all his strength, throwing that man into the stone mortar. This time he intentionally threw therefore the power he used was not as perfect as it had been the last time. When the stone pestle fell down, it hit the man’s waist. He let out a miserable bloodcurdling scream, but for the moment it was impossible for him to die. Every time the stone pestle fell down, he let out a miserable scream.

Duan Yu was dumbfounded. Seeing that two other Western Xia warriors had already been climbing up the ladder, he shouted in panic: ‘Don’t do that! Quickly come down.’ He poked chaotically with his left-hand fingers. Because he was frightened, his internal energy was in turmoil. Therefore the power of the Six Meridians Divine Swords was able to be shot out. Two ‘chi-chi’ sounds were heard. Two beams of internal energy hit the backs of those two men. They immediately fell down.

The remaining seven Western Xia warriors saw that Duan Yu could kill people from a distance by poking in the air. They had really never heard of this kind of technique before. They did not know that Duan Yu could not use this technique as he pleased, when he had really wanted to use it he had not necessarily been able to, but when he had used it randomly at urgent moments he had often been successful. The more those seven people thought about this the more frightened they became. All of them had
 
already become rather timid but they were not willing to run away at this point too.

Wang Yuyan was looking down from a higher position therefore she had observed the fight in the big room clearly. She saw that even though there were seven enemies left, only three of them had rather good martial arts, and that Western Xia man who had shouted and given orders was perhaps the leader of this group. She shouted: ‘Mr. Duan, you go kill that man who is wearing yellow clothes and a leather hat first. You need to find a way to hit the ‘Yuzhen’ and ‘Tianzhu’ acupuncture points at the back of his head.’

Duan Yu said: ‘Yes, Miss.’ and rushed towards that man.

That Western Xia man was secretly frightened and thought: ‘The two acupuncture points Yuzhen and Tianzhu are exactly my weak points, how does this girl know that?’ Seeing Duan Yu charging at him, he immediately chopped horizontally with the saber to prevent him from approaching. Duan Yu charged at the man several times but he was still unable to go to his back and was almost injured by the saber. That man had heard Wang Yuyan shouting that his own back had had weak points therefore he was earnestly defending the weak points on the back of his head otherwise Duan Yu would have been in great danger. Duan Yu shouted: ‘Miss Wang, this man is very tough, I can’t go to his back.’

Wang Yuyan said: ‘That man who is robed in gray, his weakness is the ‘Lianquan acupuncture point’ on his neck. That yellow-bearded man, I don’t recognize his martial arts stances, you should try hitting him in the chest with some finger attacks.’ Duan Yu said: ‘Yes!’ He extended his finger and pushed it quickly towards the man’s chest. Even though these finger attacks of his were technically correct they did not carry any power, but how could that yellow-bearded man know that? He immediately lowered his body and dodged three finger attacks. When Duan Yu attacked the fourth time, he jumped up in the air then from midair delivered his attacks downwards. The power of his palm strikes was fierce and encompassed Duan Yu’s body.

Duan Yu felt that his breathing had become hurried and also felt dizzy. Very frightened, he closed his eyes and thrust the fingers of both hands
 
chaotically. ‘Chi-chi-chi-chi’ sounds were heard continuously, the Six Meridian Divine Swords Shaoshang, Shangyang, Zhongchong, Guanchong, Shaochong and Shaoze were shot out at the same time and pierced six holes in the body of that yellow-bearded man. But the power of his palm strikes did not vanish, a pat was heard, a palm strike had hit Duan Yu’ shoulder. At that moment, Duan Yu’s internal energy surged through his body, even though this palm strike had a lot of force, thanks to the protection of his vigorous internal energy, it did not injure him a little bit, moreover, that yellow-bearded man was sent flying away for one zhang.

Wang Yuyan did not know that he was not injured, she said in panic: ‘Mr. Duan, are you okay? Are you injured?’

Duan Yu opened the eyes and saw that yellow-bearded man was flat on his back, blood was spouting ceaselessly from the six small holes on his chest, his expression was ferocious, his eyes opened wide and were looking viciously at himself. He had still not died. Duan Yu was so scared that his heart started to pound in his chest, he shouted: ‘I don’t wanna kill you. You yourself… yourself were asking for it.’ He was still using the Wave Treading Exquisite Steps and scampering in the main room. During that time he continuously cupped his fist, bowed to the remaining six people and said: ‘Brave men, there was no enmity between me, Duan Yu, and you in former days. In the past few days there was no enmity between us either. Please open your net and allow me a way out. I… I… really don’t dare to kill anyone again. This… this… having killed this many people, how can I not feel terribly guilty? Really, I’ve been overly merciless. You run away quickly, okay? Let’s consider that I, Duan Yu, have lost, please… please… I beg your pardon.’

When he turned around he suddenly saw a Western Xia warrior standing beside the door. No one knew when he had entered the mill. That man was medium in stature. His clothes were the same as those of the other Western Xia warriors, but he had a sallow complexion and a wooden face, looking just like a corpse. Duan Yu felt a chill of fear: ‘Is this man a ghost? Could it be that… could it be that… because the souls of the Western Xia warriors killed by me couldn’t vanish, their unfairly-treated ghosts show up?’ He
 
said in a tremulous voice: ‘You… Who are you? What… What do you wanna do?’

That Western Xia warrior stood with his back straightened, neither did he reply nor did he make a move. Duan Yu leaned to one side, made a grab backwards and caught hold of the ‘Zhishi acupuncture point’ on the back of the waist of a Western Xia warrior beside himself, then threw that warrior at the mysterious person. That person slightly moved sideways. A ‘peng’ sound was heard. The head of that Western Xia warrior had hit the wall. His skull was shattered into pieces and he died. Duan Yu let out a deep breath and said: ‘You’re a man, not a ghost.’

At this moment, besides the incoming mysterious person, there were only five Western Xia warriors left. Among them, one Western Xia man and one Han man were experts of ‘First-class Hall’. The other three had mediocre martial arts, seeing that the number of people on their own side had gotten smaller and smaller as the fight had gone on, they all wanted to retreat, one of them went to the door and pushed it. That Western Xia expert shouted: ‘What are you doing?’ Shua shua shua, using his saber he chopped three times towards Duan Yu.

Seeing a blue light flashing and the sharp saber of the opponent being brandished to and fro repeatedly before him, which could cut his own body at any time, Duan Yu was extremely frightened. He shouted: ‘You… you’re insolent like this, I can hit your Yuzhen and Tianzhu acupuncture points, you won’t be able to resist, you’d be well advised to… well advised to withdraw, we’d better disperse.’ The saber stances of that man became more and more urgent and every stance was close to vital parts of Duan Yu. Had he not accelerated his steps, any of those stances would have taken his life.

That Han expert had always stayed behind, seeing that Duan Yu was making every effort to implore and besides trying his best to dodge he could not strike back at all, an idea sprung up in his mind. He went to the stone mortar, grabbed two handfuls of rice flour, which had been pounded to a very fine state, and threw them at Duan Yu in the face. Duan Yu’s footwork was clever therefore those handfuls of rice flour did not hit him. That Han man kept throwing out two handfuls after two handfuls. In the main room
 
rice flour and rice bran fluttered in all directions, in an instant looking like smoke and mist.

Duan Yu shouted: ‘How terrible, how terrible! I can’t see anything!’ Wang Yuyan also knew the situation was extremely dangerous. She thought it was all because of that very clever Wave Treading Exquisite Steps that Duan Yu had been safe from those experts. All along, when attacking him, the enemies had seen him before themselves but suddenly somehow he would have already been at their backs, therefore their weapons, punches and kicks had always missed his body by a hair’s breadth. At the moment, rice flour and rice bran had spread all over the main room like smoke and everyone was executing his stances randomly. Fighting blindly and chaotically like this made it very possible to hit him. If the Western Xia warriors just ignored Duan Yu, rushed forwards and executed any set of martial arts on their own, Duan Yu would soon be cut into seventeen or eighteen pieces.

Because rice flour had got into his eyes, Duan Yu could not open them. He jumped up with all his strength and landed beside the hydraulic wheel. He grabbed hold of a plank of the wheel and was lifted up. There were two miserable ‘Ah’ ‘Ah’ cries. Two Western Xia warriors had accidentally been chopped at by that Western Xia expert with his saber and died. After that, two clanks were heard, someone shouted: ‘It’s me!’ Another shouted: ‘Be careful, it’s me!’ The Western Xia expert and the Han expert had just clashed their saber and sword and exchanged two stances. Then there was another miserable ‘Ah’ cry, another Western Xia warrior had been given a kick in his vital part by someone and was sent flying outwards. Hearing that dying cry, Duan Yu could not help but to feel a chill down his spine. His whole body trembled. He shouted in a quavering voice: ‘Hey hey, the number of you has gotten fewer and fewer, there’s no need to fight anymore. Don’t kill excessively. I beg you, okay?’

Hearing the voice, that Han man was able to detect Duan Yu’s direction. He made a wave with the right hand and a steel dart was thrown at him. This steel dart went with great accuracy and power, but because the hydraulic wheel was revolving unceasingly, when it arrived Duan Yu had already been moved down by the wheel. There was a ‘pai’ sound. The steel dart had
 
nailed a corner of his sleeve to a plank of the wheel. Frightened, Duan Yu thought: ‘I don’t know how to dodge missiles, if the enemies focus on throwing steel darts and sleeve-hidden arrows I’ll suffer a disaster.’ He was so frightened that his hands flagged, his fingers could no longer hold on to the plank. A ‘teng’ sound was heard, he had already fallen down.

In the dense mist the Han expert vaguely saw that, he rushed forwards to grab Duan Yu. Duan Yu remembered Wang Yuyan had said that he needed to poke him in the ‘Lianquan acupuncture point’, but firstly, because he was in a state of panic, and secondly, even though he knew the acupuncture points, he had never practiced martial arts in normal times, therefore when he extended his finger to hit the ‘Lianquan acupuncture point’ of that man in a disordered manner the direction of his attack was inaccurate, both slanted leftwards and inclined downwards, unexpectedly hitting the ‘Qihu acupuncture point’ of that man. The ‘Qihu acupuncture point’ was the laughing acupuncture point. The internal energy of that man immediately ran in the opposite direction, he could not help laughing ha-ha loudly. Executing a thrust after a thrust, he attacked Duan Yu nonstop with his sword, but all the while he kept laughing loudly hee-hee, ha-ha, hei-hei, ah- ah…

The Western Xia expert asked: ‘Brother Rong, why are you laughing?’ The Han man was unable to answer and kept laughing loudly. The Western Xia man did not understand the cause of that, he said angrily: ‘We’re facing a tough enemy. What the hell are you doing?’ That Han man said: ‘Ha-ha, I… this… ha-ha, ah-ah…’ He raised his sword and thrusted at the back of Duan Yu. Duan Yu walked to the left at an angle. That Western Xia expert did not see clearly in the dense mist and he happened to also move to this side, therefore all of a sudden both of them had a heavy collision with each other.

As soon as this Western Xia man bumped into Duan Yu’s body, he quickly turned his left hand over and using a grasping hand technique he grabbed Duan Yu’s right arm. He noticed that his opponent’s strong point was the footwork therefore he thought this grasp was exactly a good chance to obtain advantage. He threw the saber away with his right hand, then withdrew the hand and grabbed Duan Yu’s left wrist. Duan Yu shouted: ‘How terrible, how terrible!’ and used all his strength to struggle. But the
 
hands of that Western Xia man were like iron hoops, how could he struggle out of it?

Thinking that this was a good opportunity, the Han man raised his sword and thrusted at the back of Duan Yu. The Western Xia man thought: ‘This’s not good! This thrust of his only needs to pass into the body of the enemy several cun’s (t/n 3.333 cm) to kill him. But if he disregards comradeship and wanna take all the credit for himself, maybe he’ll go for a chi (t/n 33.33 cm), conveniently killing me as well.’ He immediately took a step backwards, pulling Duan Yu along.

Still laughing nonstop, that Han man took a step forwards wanting to raise his sword and thrust again. Suddenly there was a ‘peng’ sound. A plank of the hydraulic wheel had hit the back of his head making him pass out. Even though that Han man had lost consciousness, he was still breathing and kept laughing ha-ha-ha nonstop, but because he only had the air and not the strength, his laughs sounded very strange. The hydraulic wheel slowly revolved, another ‘peng’ sound was heard. The second plank had hit his chest. His laughs became a bit lower. After getting hit seven or eight times, the ‘ha-ha, ha-ha’ sounds he made sounded just like the snores of someone who was dreaming.

Seeing that Duan Yu was being gripped and unable to pull away, Wang Yuyan felt extremely anxious. She also thought that there was still a Western Xia warrior with a scary expression standing beside the door, if he conveniently gave Duan Yu a saber or sword stroke, Duan Yu would be killed instantly. She shouted in panic: ‘Don’t kill Mr. Duan. We… we should discuss this slowly.’

That Western Xia man was still gripping Duan Yu. He placed his right arm horizontally and pressed it against the chest of Duan Yu with full power, wanting to crush his ribs or make him unable to breathe and die. Duan Yu was extremely frightened. His left wrist and right arm were being gripped therefore the Beiming Divine Skill which absorbed internal energy could not be used. He had no choice but to extend his left fingers and pushed chaotically with them, but all of his finger attacks only hit the air. He felt the pressure on his chest getting heavier and heavier, and gradually he could no longer breathe.
 
At that critical moment, suddenly there were several ‘chi-chi’ sounds, that Western Xia expert uttered a soft ‘Ah’ cry and said: ‘Good skill, you’ve finally poked me… poked me in the Yuzhen…’ His hands gradually loosened and his head drooped. He leaned against the wall and died.

Very surprised, Duan Yu turned that man over to have a look. He really saw a small hole at the ‘Yuzhen acupuncture point’ on the back of his head. Blood was oozing from it. This wound had been inflicted on him by his Six Meridians Divine Swords. Duan Yu did not understand for the moment what had happened. He did not know that in that urgent situation his internal energy had condensed and the energy of one of his finger attacks had hit the wall, sprung back, and hit the back of the head of that Western Xia expert. Duan Yu had executed several tens of finger attacks altogether. One after another they had bounced off the wall and hit every place on the back of the enemy. Because that Western Xia man had had a strong internal energy and the power of the rebounded energy had been very weak, they had not been able to damage him at all. But by lucky coincidence the last beam of internal energy had bounced off the wall and hit his ‘Yuzhen acupuncture point’. The ‘Yuzhen acupuncture point’ had been his weakness and most fragile point therefore even though the rebounded internal energy had been weak he had nevertheless died instantly when it had hit him at that acupuncture point.

Duan Yu was both surprised and happy. He released the corpse of that Western Xia man and shouted: ‘Miss Wang, Miss Wang, all the enemies have been killed!’

Suddenly he heard an icy voice from behind himself: ‘All haven’t necessarily died!’ Duan Yu was frightened. He turned around and saw that it was the Western Xia warrior with a wooden expression. He thought: ‘I overlooked you, but your martial arts aren’t good. I can kill you with just a grip on your ‘Zhishi acupuncture point.’ He then laughed and said: ‘Old chap, you run away quickly, okay? I definitely won’t kill you.’ That man said: ‘Do you have the ability to kill me?’ His tone was extremely arrogant. Duan Yu was really unwilling to kill again therefore he cupped his fist and said: ‘I’m really not a match for you, please show your mercy and forgive me.’
 
That Western Xia warrior said: ‘These sentences of yours are merely a jest. They have absolutely no sincere intention of begging for mercy. The Solitary Yang Finger (t/n: Yiyangzhi) and the Six Meridians Divine Swords of the Duan clan are well-known all over the world, in addition to that, this girl has told you important secrets, they’re really no small matter. Let me experience your masterful stances.’ Every word of these few sentences was said monotonously with no high or low sound, no rise or fall of the voice and no pause therefore they sounded very unusual. Perhaps he was a foreigner, because even though he knew the Han language and his use of words and grammar were correct, his tone was obviously very awkward.

Duan Yu innately disliked martial arts. Today he had killed so many people like this only because the situation had forced him to do so and he had had no alternative. Speaking of fighting, if it was possible to avoid fighting he would try his best to. He immediately gave a deep bow and sincerely said: ‘You are very correct to be critical of me. I must confess my intention of begging for mercy was not respectful and sincere. I have never learned martial arts. Just now, it was sheer luck that I killed people. Being able to preserve my life, I’m already perfectly content, how dare I flaunt my skills and vie for superiority?’

That Western Xia warrior laughed grimly and said: ‘You haven’t learned martial arts yet with a raise of your hand you annihilated four experts of First-class Hall and killed eleven warriors. If you learn martial arts, would there still be survivors in wulin?’

Duan Yu took a glance from the east to the west. Seeing that in the mill corpses were lying in disorder and each of them was covered in blood, he could not help feeling extremely sorry. He covered his face and said: ‘How… how did I kill this many people? I… I really don’t wanna kill anyone. What should I do now? What should I do?’ That man let out some grim laughs and glanced at Duan Yu to see if these few sentences arose out of his true feelings. Duan Yu shed tears and said: ‘These people all have parents, wives and children. Not long ago every one of them was still full of vim and vigor, now they were all killed by me, I… I… how can I apologize to them?’ Saying to here he could not help but beat his chest and cry loudly. His tears fell down like rain drops. He sobbed: ‘They might not necessarily
 
want to kill me. It’s just that they were acting under orders and were assigned to capture people. That’s all. I and they didn’t know each other before, why I could lay my murderous hands on them so quick?’ His heart was inherently benevolent. Since childhood he had chanted Buddhist scriptures and learned Buddhism, and had not dared to harm even ants and mole crickets, how could he have known that today this kind of catastrophe would suddenly happen?

That Western Xia warrior sneered: ‘You’re play-acting like a cat crying over a mouse’s death. You think you’ll be exempted from punishments by it?’

Duan Yu held back his tears and said: ‘That’s right, I already killed people and committed sins. What’s the point of crying? I’d better bury these corpses carefully.’

Wang Yuyan thought: ‘There’re more than ten corpses like this, how long will it take to bury them one by one?’ She shouted: ‘Mr. Duan, I’m afraid there’re more enemies coming in large quantities. We should run away as soon as possible.’ Duan Yu said: ‘Yes, yes!’ He turned around, wanting to climb up the ladder.

That Western Xia warrior said: ‘You haven’t killed me, how can you go?’ Duan Yu shook his head and said: ‘I can’t kill you. Besides, I’m not a match for you either.’ That man said: ‘We haven’t fought, how can you know that you’re not a match for me? Miss Wang taught you the Wave Treading Exquisite Steps, ha-ha, you’re sure extraordinary.’ Duan Yu at first had wanted to say that the Wave Treading Exquisite Steps technique had not been taught to him by Wang Yuyan, but he thought that there was no need to tell a stranger about this matter therefore he only said: ‘Yes, moreover I haven’t learned any martial arts. I’ve escaped from disasters totally thanks to being given directions by Miss Wang.’ That man said: ‘Very good, I’m waiting here. You go ask her to tell you a way to kill me.’ Duan Yu said: ‘I don’t wanna kill you.’

That man said: ‘You don’t wanna kill me then I’ll kill you.’ As he finished saying he picked up a saber on the ground, suddenly in the main room a white light flashed, within a more than one zhang (t/n: 3.333 m) radius of
 
him there were full of saber images. When Duan Yu had still not taken a step he had already been hit heavily on his shoulder with the back of the saber. He let out an ‘Ah’ shout and staggered. As soon as his footsteps became disordered that Western Xia warrior took advantage of the situation and rushed forwards. The edge of the saber was already put on the back of his neck. Duan Yu was so frightened that his whole body broke into a cold sweat. He only stood motionlessly, stunned.

That man said: ‘You quickly go consult your master to see if she has any way to kill me.’ As he finished saying he withdrew the saber and swiftly extended his left leg cleverly. A ‘peng’ sound was heard. He had kicked Duan Yu sending him rolling on the ground.

Wang Yuyan shouted: ‘Mr. Duan, quickly go up here.’ Duan Yu said: ‘Yes!’ then climbed up the ladder. He turned his head around and saw that man sitting and holding the saber. There was still a wooden expression which was similar to that of a corpse on his face. Obviously he thought absolutely nothing of Duan Yu and would definitely not take advantage of the time he was climbing up the ladder to sneakily attack from his back. After having climbed up the garret, Duan Yu said in a low voice: ‘Miss Wang, I can’t beat him. We should find a way to run away quickly.’

Wang Yuyan said: ‘He’s guarding downstairs, we can’t run away. Please take that gown for me.’ Duan Yu said: ‘Yes!’ then held out his hand and took a set of worn-out clothes left by that peasant girl. Wang Yuyan said: ‘Close your eyes then come here. Okay! Stop. Put it on for me, you mustn’t open your eyes.’ Duan Yu complied with everything she said. He was a sincere gentleman and esteemed Wang Yuyan as if she was a heavenly god therefore he did not dare to disobey her words at all, but when he thought that at the moment her clothes were not enough to cover her body, his heart unavoidably pounded in his chest.

Wang Yuyan waited until he finished dressing her then said: ‘Okay. Help me stand up.’ Duan Yu had not yet heard the order that he could open his eyes therefore they were still closed tightly. When he heard her say ‘Help me stand up’ he immediately put out his right hand and unexpectedly touched her cheek. Feeling that there was something smooth and soft in his
 
palm, he could not refrain from starting with fright. He hastily withdrew his hand and said continuously: ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’

When Wang Yuyan had been having him dressing herself she had already felt so ashamed that her cheeks had become very red. Now seeing him with his eyes closed extending his palm and touching her face in a disorderly manner she blushed even more. She said: ‘Hey, I told you to help me stand up!’ Duan Yu said: ‘Yes! Yes!’ His eyes were still closed tightly therefore he did not know where he should move his hands to, fearing that if he touched her body his misdemeanor would become serious. He could not help feeling at a loss and totally troubled. Wang Yuyan’s mind was also in turmoil. Only after a good while did she remember that she needed to tell him to open his eyes. She said in a displeased-sounding tone: ‘Why don’t you open your eyes?’

That Western Xia warrior sneered ha-ha downstairs and said: ‘I told you to go learn martial arts to kill me, and didn’t tell you two to flirt with and cuddle each other.’

Duan Yu opened his eyes. Seeing that Wang Yuyan’s beautiful cheeks had turned red like fire, looking extremely charming and shamefaced, he was entranced and gazed fixedly at her therefore he totally did not hear those sentences of the Western Xia warrior. Wang Yuyan said: ‘You help me stand up and sit down here.’ Duan Yu hastily said: ‘Yes, yes!’ With reverence and awe he supported her body with his hands and helped her sit down on a wooden bench.

Both hands of Wang Yuyan quivered, trying to pull the clothes on her body together. She bowed her head and considered. After a long time she said: ‘He didn’t reveal his martial arts, I… I don’t know how to beat him.’ Duan Yu said: ‘Is he very tough?’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘Just now when he fought you, he used seventeen types of martial arts of different schools altogether.’ Duan Yu asked in surprise: ‘What? He used seventeen different types of martial arts in such a short while?’

Wang Yuyan said: ‘Yes! Just a moment ago, when he used the saber to confine you he slashed one time in the east, it was the Demon Subduing Saber technique of Shaolin Monastery; he chopped one time in the west, it
 
was the Eighteen Ways of Firewood Chopping Saber of the old man surnamed Li in Lishan cave in Guangxi; when he turned the saber and cut one time, it was changed again to the ‘Revolving Wind Brushing Willow Saber’ of the Shi clan in Jiangnan. After that he executed eleven saber strokes continuously using eleven different types of saber techniques of different schools. Afterward he turned the saber over and hit your shoulder with its back one time, it was the ‘Mercy Saber’ created by monk Xinguan of Tiantong Monastery in Ningbo which only controls the enemy but doesn’t kill them. When he put the saber on your neck, it was a stance of the Golden Saber technique that His Excellency Grandpa Yang of our imperial court used to capture enemies in battle. It was one of the ‘Three Unique Stances behind the Mountain’ which originally was a stance for long- handled large chopping sabers but he changed it to using normal saber. Lastly, when he kicked and sent you rolling, it was a Springing Leg stance of the Hui people in Western Xia.’ She talked about one stance after another as if she was counting the valuable items in her family, explaining clearly the origin of each and every stance and the school it belonged to. Duan Yu heard what she said but he knew nothing therefore he could only gaze at her, not knowing how to get a word in.

Wang Yuyan leaned her head and thought for a long time then said: ‘You can’t beat him. Just admit defeat.’

Duan Yu said: ‘I’ve already admitted defeat.’ Then he raised his voice and said: ‘Hey, I can’t beat you in any case, are you willing to give up at this point?’

The Western Xia warrior sneered: ‘You want me to spare your life, that’s not hard, you just need to follow my words in one matter.’ Duan Yu hastily asked: ‘What’s the matter?’ That man said: ‘From now on, every time you see me you must crawl on the the ground, kowtow to me three times and shout: ‘Great master, please spare this little dog’s life!’’

Once hearing that, Duan Yu boiled with anger and said: ‘One can kill a gentleman but cannot insult him. If you want me to kowtow to and beg you, don’t imagine that’s possible. If you wanna kill me, then just kill me now.’ That man said: ‘You’re really unafraid of death?’ Duan Yu said: ‘Naturally I’m afraid of death. But if every time seeing you I must kneel down and
 
kowtow to you, what the heck will that become?’ That man sneered and said: ‘There’s nothing wrong with you kowtowing to me when seeing me. If one day I become the Emperor of the Central Plains, you’ll have to kneel down and kowtow to me when seeing me, won’t you?’

Hearing him say ‘If one day I become the Emperor of the Central Plains’, Wang Yuyan felt scared: ‘Why does he also say this kind of words?’

Duan Yu said: ‘Kowtowing when seeing the Emperor, that’s another matter. It’s a salute, and certainly not begging for mercy.’

That Western Xia warrior said: ‘So that means you don’t accept this condition of mine?’ Duan Yu shook his head and said: ‘I’m very sorry but I can’t obey your order. Old chap, I deeply beg you to be magnanimous a little.’ That man said: ‘Okay, you go down here, I’ll kill you in one saber stance.’ Duan Yu cast a look at Wang Yuyan, he felt grieved and said: ‘You already insist on killing me, there’s no way I can do anything about it, but I also have one thing to beg you.’ That man said: ‘What?’ Duan Yu said: ‘This lady is suffering a strange poison. She doesn’t have any strength in her limbs and can’t walk. Can you please at your convenience take her to her home at Mantuo Villa by Tai Lake?’

That man ha-ha laughed and said: ‘Why should I do this? The East Conquering General of Western Xia has given a military order, that is, whoever captures this learned and talented girl will be rewarded with two thousand gold taels and be conferred on with the Marquis of Ten Thousand Houses title (t/n 万⼾侯 – Wanhu Hou).’ Duan Yu said: ‘That’s okay. I’ll
write a letter, after you’ve taken this lady back to her home, you can bring
this letter to Dali to get five thousand gold taels, the Marquis of Ten Thousand Houses title will also be conferred on you accordingly.’ That man ha-ha laughed loudly and said: ‘You think I’m a three year old kid? Who the heck are you? Depending on a letter you little boy write can really get me five thousand gold taels and the conferment of the Marquis of Ten Thousand Houses title?’

Duan Yu thought this matter was really hard for other people to believe. For the moment he did not know what to do, his hands continuously rubbing
 
against each other. He said: ‘This… This… What should I do? I won’t regret it if I die, but if I let you wander around this area and fall into the hands of the bandits then even if I died ten thousand times I still wouldn’t be able to redeem myself.’

Wang Yuyan heard him say that very sincerely therefore she could not help but feel somewhat moved. She said loudly to the Western Xia man: ‘Hey, if you’re rude to me, my biaoge (t/n: an older cousin with a different surname than the speaker’s) will avenge me. He will surely throw Western Xia into a state of extreme confusion and won’t spare even fowls and dogs.’ That man said: ‘Who’s your biaoge?’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘My biaoge is Mr. Murong, a famous figure of wulin in the Central Plains. I think you’ve heard of the reputation of ‘Murong of Gusu’ and the ‘Paying Him Back Using His Own Methods’ technique (t/n: 以彼 之道, 还施彼⾝). If you’re rude to me, he’ll
treat you badly ten times as much.’

That man sneered and said: ‘If Mr. Murong saw you and this pretty boy being intimate with each other like this, how would he still be willing to avenge you?’

The face of Wang Yuyan became very red. She said: ‘Don’t talk rubbish. I and this Mr. Duan don’t have… don’t have any…’ Thinking that this kind of matter should not be talked a lot about, she changed the topic of conversation and asked: ‘Hey, master soldier, what’s your name? Do you dare to tell me your name?’

That Western Xia warrior said: ‘Why not? When going I don’t change my surname, when sitting I don’t change my given name, it’s Li Yanzong of Western Xia.’

Wang Yuyan said: ‘Hum, your surname is Li, that’s Western Xia’s national surname.’

That man said: ‘The national surname isn’t everything about me. I serve my country with unreserved loyalty, and will take Liao, destroy Song, wipe out Tufan in the west and annex Dali in the south.’
 
Duan Yu said: ‘Your ambitions really aren’t small. General Li, let me tell you this. You’re proficient at using secret techniques of different schools so if you wanna become the number one martial user under heaven, I think that’s not hard. But if you wanna annex all the lands under heaven, it’s not like being the number one martial arts user under heaven you’ll be able to get that done.’

Li Yanzong let out a ‘humph’ sound and did not reply.

Wang Yuyan said: ‘Speaking of becoming the number one martial arts user under heaven, you may not necessarily be able to achieve that goal.’ Li Yanzong said: ‘How do you know?’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘In the world at the moment, as far as I know, there’re two people whose martial arts are far above yours.’ Li Yanzong took a step forwards, raised his head and asked: ‘Who are they?’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘The first person is the former Chief of the Beggar Society Chief Qiao.’ Li Yanzong let out a ‘humph’ sound and said: ‘His reputation is great, but he may not necessarily be worthy of it.’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘The second person is my biaoge, Mr. Murong Murong Fu of Jiangnan.’

Li Yanzong shook his head and said: ‘That’s not necessarily true either. You put Qiao Feng’s name before Murong Fu’s name out of fairness or out of personal reasons?’ Wang Yuyan asked: ‘What is out of fairness? And what is out of personal reasons?’ Li Yanzong said: ‘If it’s out of fairness, then you really think Qiao Feng’s martial arts are better than Murong Fu’s; if it’s out of personal reasons, then because Murong Fu and you are relatives, you rank a stranger before him.’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘Out of fairness or out of personal reasons are just the same. I naturally hope that my biaoge surpasses Chief Qiao, but at the moment it’s still out of the question.’ Li Yanzong said: ‘Though it’s still impossible now, what Qiao Feng excels at are just the martial arts of one school. But your biaoge has extensive knowledge about the world’s martial arts, in the future his skills will improve every day so he’ll be able to become the number one martial arts user under heaven.’

Wang Yuyan sighed and said: ‘That still won’t be possible. In the future, the number one martial arts user under heaven will likely be this Mr. Duan.’
 
Li Yanzong turned his face upwards, laughed ha-ha and said: ‘Turns out you can joke. This bookworm has merely been given directions by you and learned just the ‘Wave Treading Exquisite Steps’. Don’t tell me that depending on those scampering off like a frightened rat skill and withdrawing into passive defense and fleeing like a turtle skill he’ll be able to get the number one martial arts user under heaven title?’

Wang Yuyan at first had wanted to say: ‘His ‘Wave Treading Exquisite Steps’ technique wasn’t taught by me. His internal energy is vigorous. His base is solid. No one can compare with him.’ But she changed her mind: ‘This man seems to be narrow-minded. If I speak the truth, perhaps it won’t be possible for him not to kill Mr. Duan. I’d better incite him a bit.’ She then said: ‘If he’s willing to follow my instructions and practice martial arts, three years later, perhaps he still won’t be able to surpass Chief Qiao, but if he wanna defeat you, that’ll be as easy as turning his hand over.’

Li Yanzong said: ‘Very good, I believe your words. To not leave behind the cause of trouble of the other day, I’d better kill him in a saber stance today. Mr. Duan, you get down here, I wanna kill you.’

Duan Yu hastily said: ‘I won’t go downstairs, you… you can’t go up here either.’

Wang Yuyan had not thought that she would overreach herself. To her surprise this man was not incited. She could only sneer and say: ‘So you’re afraid and fear that three years later he’ll outstrip you.’

Li Yanzong said: ‘You’re using a provoking trick to make me spare his life. Ha-ha, what kind of man I am? How can it be that I could easily be fooled? Want me to spare his life, it’s not hard. I already said before, he only needs to kowtow and beg for mercy every time he sees me, I definitely won’t kill him’

Wang Yuyan looked at Duan Yu, thinking that he would definitely not do that kind of kowtowing and begging for mercy thing therefore the only choice left in this situation was to fight with their backs against the wall. She lowered her voice and asked: ‘Mr. Duan, sometimes the energy swords in your fingers work and sometimes they don’t. What’s the cause of that?’
 
Duan Yu said: ‘I don’t know.’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘You’d better use your full power to try stabbing him in his right wrist with your energy swords, snatching his long sword then clasping your arms around him tightly and using the ‘Snow Melting Six Suns Skill’ to remove his internal energy.’ Duan Yu said in surprise: ‘What’s the ‘Snow Melting Six Suns Skill’?’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘That day at Mantuo Villa, when you subdued mama Yan to save me, didn’t you use this kind of divine skill of the Duan clan in Dali?’ Only now could Duan Yu realize what it was. That day Wang Yuyan had mistaken his ‘Beiming Divine Skill’ for the ‘Energy Dissolving Great Technique’ which was hated by many people in wulin. At that moment, it had been too late for him to explain therefore he had unthinkingly said that it had been a skill called ‘Snow Melting Six Suns Skill’ that had been handed down in the Duan clan in Dali from generation to generation. He had blurted it out therefore he had already forgotten about it, but Wang Yuyan remembered clearly every martial arts of various schools in the world, let alone this kind of extraordinary strange skill.

Duan Yu nodded, thinking that there was really no other way besides this way, but it was not assured, in brief, it boded ill rather than well. He then righted his clothes and said: ‘Miss Wang, I’m incompetent and not able to escort you back to your mansion. I’m really ashamed. Someday, after having returned to your mansion in honor and glory, when you and your biaoxiong (t/n: one’s older male cousin with a different surname) get married, don’t forget to pour down some cups of wine on the camellia trees I myself planted at Mantuo Villa, then I'd be considered as having drunk your wedding wine.’

Hearing him say that in the future she and her biaoge may get married Wang Yuyan was glad, but she also could not bear seeing him going out for other people to oppress like this. She said in a sad voice: ‘Mr. Duan, your great kind act of saving my life, as long as I’m alive I won’t dare to forget.’

Duan Yu thought: ‘If I gotta helplessly see you and Mr. Murong get married in the future, I’ll get madly jealous and my mind will be in torment, it’d be hard for me to live. It’d be better to die for you to day so that I’d feel at ease and justified.’ He turned around and smiled to her then step by step went down on the rungs.
 
Wang Yuyan looked at his back and thought: ‘This man’s very strange, at this moment how can he still smile?’

After Duan Yu had climbed down the ladder, he stared at Li Yanzong and said: ‘General Li, it’s impossible for you not to kill me, so let’s start!’ As he finished saying he took a stride, which was none other than the ‘Wave Treading Exquisite Steps’.

Li Yanzong brandished his saber. Shua shua shua, he slashed three times using three other saber techniques of different schools. Wang Yuyan did not consider it to be strange. She thought that among weapons saber had the most schools and stances, therefore if a person was really learned, even if he executed seventy or eighty stances continuously, he would not have to go as far as to use the second stance of any saber technique of a school. Once this Wave Treading Exquisite Steps technique of Duan Yu was used, it was really unpredictable and very strange. Li Yanzong wanted to use the movements of the saber to confine Duan Yu, but even though several times obviously he had already surrounded him somehow Duan Yu unexpectedly stepped out of the encirclement like a ghost. Seeing that Duan Yu could manage to defend himself this time, Wang Yuyan felt a bit more optimistic. She only hoped that he would suddenly attack when the enemy was not ready and emerge victorious from danger.

Duan Yu secretly channeled his internal energy wanting to shoot it out of his five right fingers, but every time it always stopped when it reached his arm and inexplicably went back. Fortunately, he was already extremely skilled at using the ‘Wave Treading Exquisite Steps’ therefore even though Li Yanzong had sped up his saber stances, all along he had not hit Duan Yu’s body.

Li Yanzong had seen with his own eyes how Duan Yu had killed the Western Xia experts with the bizarre energy of his finger attacks. This moment, seeing Duan Yu poking and drawing in the air with his fingers and being deliberately mystifying, he naturally did not know that it was Duan Yu being unable to make his internal energy come out and only thought that this was the executing method before using his evil technique. He thought when Duan Yu finished performing all of his rites and saying his incantations, he would use this murderous invisible evil technique.
 
Therefore he could not help feeling frightened and considered: ‘Besides the bizarre footwork this dude’s martial arts are very mediocre, but his evil technique is dangerous, I must kill him before he uses it. But my saber has always missed him, what should I do?’ An idea sprung up in his mind. He already had a plan. He sent a palm strike backwards which hit the hydraulic wheel and broke a large piece off a plank then made a grab with his left hand, held that piece of wood in his hand and threw it at Duan Yu’s foot. Because Duan Yu was running like the wind, that piece of wood certainly did not hit him. But Li Yanzong continuously threw punches and hand chops, breaking all kinds of household utensils in the mill such as bamboo baskets and rice sacks, grabbed and threw them at Duan Yu’s feet.

There were more than ten corpses lying in the mill in disorder, and in addition to that, there were a lot of broken household utensils like this, where could Duan Yu still put his feet on? His ‘Wave Treading Exquisite Steps’ totally depended on advancing and retreating elegantly like the wind blowing on the water surface, being natural and unimpeded. But this moment, every step he took was hindered by objects, when he did not stumbled, he stepped on the heads and bodies of the corpses, therefore how could this important secret of ‘floating freely like riding the wind’ still be achieved? He knew that if he slowed down just a little he would be parted from his life instantly. Therefore he decisively did not look at the ground and only stepped according to the footwork that he had well practiced. Whether his steps were high or low, whether there were strange sounds under his feet, or whether the tips of his toes kicked something weird, he did not care at all.

Wang Yuyan also realized that the situation was not all right and shouted: ‘Mr. Duan, you quickly rush out of here and run away by yourself, if you keep fighting him here, your life will be in danger.’

Duan Yu shouted: ‘Unless I already get killed, that’s unthinkable. As long as I can still breathe I’ll protect you carefully.’

Li Yanzong sneered and said: ‘Your martial arts are worthless, but you’re the sentimental type, treating Miss Wang with deep affection and serious love like this.’ Duan Yu shook his head and said: ‘That’s wrong, that’s wrong. Miss Wang is like a god while I, Duan Yu, am just an ordinary man,
 
how can I dare to talk about love or something like that? As she values me, she’s willing to follow me to find her biaoge. I must repay her for this kind appreciation of me.’ Li Yanzong said: ‘Hum, she’s following you to search for her biaoge Mr. Murong, so in her heart she thinks nothing of you at all. You have such wishful thinking, isn’t that like a toad wanting to eat swan meat? Ha-ha, ha-ha! This can make me laugh to death!’

Duan Yu was not angry at all. He said solemnly: ‘You say I’m like a toad and Miss Wang is like a swan, these comparisons are very correct. But I, the toad, am different than the other toads. As long as I see the swan several times, I am already satisfied and don’t have any other wish.’

When Li Yanzong heard Duan Yu say ‘I, the toad, am different than the other toads’, he could not help laughing loudly. It was strange that even though his laughs were resonant his facial muscles were still stiff as usual, and his face did not have any smiling expression. Duan Yu had seen people like Prince Yanqing did not even move their lips while speaking therefore even though Li Yanzong had a strange appearance, he did not find it very surprising. He said: ‘Speaking of wooden expression, you’re still very far behind Prince Yanqing. You’re not qualified to become his disciple as well.’ Li Yanzong said: ‘Who’s Prince Yanqing?’ Duan Yu said: ‘He’s a Dali expert. Your martial arts are quite inferior to his.’ Actually he could not tell whether other people’s martial arts were good or bad at all, but he thought that anyway I was going to die at your hands soon, there was no harm in saying a few words that were unpleasant to the ear to make you angry.

Li Yanzong let out a ‘humph’ sound and said: ‘My martial arts are good or bad, how could a boy like you understand?’ His mouth talked yet all the while the saber in his hand had still been brandished with great ease and more and more urgently.

Seeing that Duan Yu was swaying, his footsteps suddenly became disorderly, and the situation was very difficult, Wang Yuyan shouted: ‘Mr. Duan, you quickly run to the outside, if you wanna hold him back, the outside is still the same.’ Duan Yu said: ‘You can’t move, if you stay here alone my mind won’t be at ease. There’re many corpses here, a young girl like you is certainly scared, I’d better say here with you.’ Wang Yuyan sighed and thought: ‘You’re so silly, taking into consideration even whether
 
I’m afraid of corpses but disregarding the chance that you yourself will get killed in a flash.’

At that moment, whenever Duan Yu put his feet down he kicked or tripped on something. Several times the blade of the enemy passed by and missed the top of his head and his body by a hair’s breadth. He was so scared that he trembled uncontrollably and continuously thought: ‘If in a slash like this he cuts off half of my head, it certainly won’t be fun. A gentleman is flexible. For the sake of Miss Wang, I’d better kneel down, kowtow and beg him to spare my life.’ Even though he thought so, in the end he could not say it.

Li Yanzong sneered: ‘I see that you are already extremely frightened and only wanna run away.’ Duan Yu said: ‘Life and death are important matters, who aren’t frightened? After the death, everything will be ended. I already thought of running away but I can’t run away.’ Li Yanzong said: ‘Why?’ Duan Yu said: ‘It’s no use talking much. I’m counting from one to ten, if you still won’t be able to kill me, you mustn’t follow and cling to me like a leech. You can’t kill me, I can’t kill you either. If we keep playing hide and seek tediously like this, it would make Miss Wang, a bystander, feel very bored and unhappy.’

He opened his mouth and counted without waiting for Li Yanzong to agree: ‘One; two; three…’ Li Yanzong said: ‘What’s your stupid game?’ Duan Yu kept counting: ‘Four; five; six…’ Li Yanzong laughed and said: ‘Why on earth are there humdrum dudes like you? You’ve really disgraced the words ‘Martial arts’.’ Hu-hu-hu he slashed continuously three times. Duan Yu accelerated his footsteps, his mouth also counted faster: ‘Seven; eight; nine; ten; eleven; twelve; thirteen… Okay, I’ve counted to thirteen yet you still haven’t killed me, why haven’t you admitted defeat? I see that you’re already hungry. Your mouth is dry too. Just go to Songhe Tower in Wuxi, have some cups of wine and eat some delicacies, how pleasant!’ Seeing that the enemy was unwilling to give up, he wanted to use wine and food to tempt him.

Li Yanzong thought: ‘I’ve met countless tough enemies in my life, but none of them is like this dude. Saying that he’s skilled is not correct but saying that he’s stupid isn’t correct either, his martial arts aren’t good and aren’t
 
bad. He’s rare in the world. If I keep being entangled with him, who knows where it’ll all end? I’m afraid if I become slightly careless and get hit with his evil technique, I’ll lose my life here instead. I must think of another surprising plan.’ He knew that Duan Yu cared about Wang Yuyan very much therefore he suddenly raised his head, looked at the garret and shouted: ‘Very good, very good, you guys quickly kill the girl then come down to help me.’

Duan Yu was very frightened, thinking that there were really enemies having climbed up to the garret to attack Wang Yuyan. He hastily raised his head. His footsteps became slightly slower. Li Yanzong made a sweep of his own leg which hit Duan Yu and sent him falling. His left foot stepped on the chest of Duan Yu and his steel saber was put on his neck. Duan Yu extended his finger wanting to poke, but Li Yanzong’s right hand slightly increased pressure, the blade of the saber immediately went into his flesh several fen’s (t/n: 1 fen = 0.3333 cm). He shouted: ‘Make a move, and I’ll cut your head off in an instant.’

At this moment, seeing clearly that there was no enemy on the garret Duan Yu immediately felt relaxed. He smiled and said: ‘So you fooled me, Miss Wang is not in danger.’ After that he sighed and said: ‘What a pity, what a pity.’ Li Yanzong asked: ‘Pity what?’ Duan Yu said: ‘Your martial arts are very good. At first you could be regarded as a brave man so if I, Duan Yu, had died at your hands, it’d have made sense. But unexpectedly you couldn’t beat me with martial arts. Instead you used a trick and followed the way of despicable scoundrels. Don’t tell me that I won’t die an unfair death?’

Li Yanzong said: ‘I’ve never been incited by other people. If you think you’ll die an unfair death and feel discontent, then bring a lawsuit to the King of Hell!’

Wang Yuyan shouted: ‘General Li, hold on.’ Li Yanzong said: ‘What?’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘If you kill him, then unless you also kill me immediately, there’ll be one day I’ll kill you to avenge Mr. Duan.’ Li Yanzong was startled and said: ‘Didn’t you say you wanted your biaoge to find me?’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘My biaoge’s martial arts may not necessarily be better than yours but I have the ability to kill you.’ Li Yanzong sneered
 
and said: ‘How do you know?’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘Though your knowledge about martial arts is extensive, it’s still less than half of mine. At first when I saw that your saber technique had many varieties I had a high opinion of you, but after seeing fifty stances, I thought your saber technique was merely like that. It’s seemingly unkind to say that ‘all your tricks have been exhausted’, but in brief, your knowledge is still far inferior to mine.’ (T/n:
All your tricks have been exhausted - 黔驴技穷 – Taken from Liao Zongyuan’s ‘Three Warnings: The Donkey of Qian’ (Qian - Guizhou province) which literally means ‘The tricks of the Donkey of Qian have been exhausted.’)

Li Yanzong said: ‘The saber technique I’ve used so far doesn’t have two stances belonging to the same school. How do you know that my knowledge is far inferior to yours? How do you know if I still have many unused martial arts?’

Wang Yuyan said: ‘Just now when you used the ‘Flying Sand in the Great Desert’ stance of Yushu School in Qinghai, Mr. Duan quickly stepped over, had you used the seventeenth stance of the ‘Feathered Raiment Saber’ of Taiyi School then used the ‘Clear Wind Slowly Coming’ stance of Lingfei School you’d have already flattened him. Why did you gotta be flashy and use the Hao Clan’s Saber Technique of Shanxi? And why did you gotta use a trick, fooling him into losing concentration because of caring about me, to get a victory? I see that you don’t know anything about saber techniques of Taoist schools (t/n: Taiyi School - 太⼄派 – is a Taoist school).’ Li Yanzong
said without thinking: ‘Saber techniques of Taoist schools?’ Wang Yuyan
said: ‘Yes. I guess you think Taoists are only good at swordsmanship, but you don’t know that the saber techniques of famous Taoist schools have softness in hardness, which is another achievement.’ Li Yanzong sneered and said: ‘Your words are really conceited. Saying like this, you must be passionately in love with this Duan-surnamed boy.’

Wang Yuyan blushed and said: ‘Passionately in love what? I never have anything called ‘love’ for him. But he already dies for me so I certainly should be determined to avenge him.’
 
Li Yanzong asked: ‘You won’t regret saying this in any way?’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘Of course I won’t regret at all.’

Li Yanzong let out some sneers, took out from his bosom a porcelain bottle and threw it onto Duan Yu’s body. A ‘shua’ sound was heard, he had already put the saber back in its sheath. His silhouette then flashed, in an instant he was already on the outside. There was a neigh, followed by hoofbeats ‘clop-clop’. Unexpectedly the rider made the horse run farther and farther, and thus he left.

Duan Yu stood up and stroked the trace of saber on his neck. It still felt a little pain. He felt as if he was dreaming. Wang Yuyan had not expected this to happen either. Both of them, one upstairs, one downstairs, gazed at each other, feeling both happy and surprised.

After a long while, Duan Yu said: ‘He left.’ Wang Yuyan also said: ‘He left.’ Duan Yu laughed: ‘Excellent, excellent! He unexpectedly didn’t kill me. Miss Wang, your accomplishments in martial arts outclass his, he was afraid of you.’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘Not necessarily, had he killed you, after that he’d have needed only one saber stance to kill me, wouldn’t that have been neat and tidy?’ Duan Yu scratched his head and said: ‘That’s right. But… But… Hum, he saw that you’re just like a goddess, how could he dare to kill you?’

Wang Yuyan blushed and thought: ‘A bookworm like you regards me as a god. But how could this kind of cruel and merciless Western Xia warrior care about me?’

Seeing that she suddenly had a shy expression, Duan Yu did not understand why and said: ‘I wanted to disregard my life and keep you safe by all means. Unexpectedly, you’re safe and sound, and I can still continue living my little life, this can be considered utmost luck.’

He took a step forwards, a ‘dang’ sound was heard, a small porcelain bottle had dropped on the ground. It was the bottle that Li Yanzong had thrown onto his body. He picked it up, had a look and saw that there were ten seal characters written on the bottle: ‘A breath will instantly remove the Sad Weak Clear Wind.’ Duan Yu muttered: ‘What’s the ‘Sad Weak Clear
 
Wind’? Hum, this’s likely the antidote.’ He pulled the stopper out of the bottle. An unbearably strange stinking smell went straight into his nose. Feeling dizzy and almost passing out, he was frightened and hastily put the stopper back in the bottle, then shouted: ‘I’m fooled. I’m fooled. How stinking! It’s like going into an abalone and fish market!’ (T/n: An abalone and fish market - 鲍⻥之肆 – taken from the Analects of Confucius to
emphasize the idea that Duan Yu was a bookworm.)

Wang Yuyan said: ‘Please take it for me to sniff, maybe fighting poison with poison will prove effective.’ Duan Yu said: ‘Yes!’ then brought the porcelain bottle to Wang Yuyan and said: ‘This thing is very stinking and hard to bear, do you really wanna try?’ Wang Yuyan nodded. Duan Yu held the stopper in his hand but he had not removed it yet.

In a very short time, countless thoughts spun in his mind: ‘If this antidote is really useful and removes the poison inside her, she won’t need to depend on my help. Her abilities are one hundred times better than mine, why would she want me to go with her? Even if she doesn’t forbid me to follow her, when she meets the person of her heart Murong Fu, would I just stand to the side and helplessly watch them being affectionate endlessly towards each other? Hear them talking about love? Could it be that I, Duan Yu, really have this ability? Would I be able to stay calm and maintain my composure? Would I be able not to show any sulky expression and not to say any resentful word?’

Seeing him having a dazed expression and not saying a word, Wang Yuyan smiled and said: ‘What are you thinking? Just take it for me to sniff. I’m not afraid of the stink.’ Duan Yu hastily said: ‘Yes, yes!’ then removed the stopper of the bottle and moved the bottle to Wang Yuyan’s nose. Wang Yuyan took a deep breath then said in fright: ‘A’yo, it’s really stinking.’ Duan Yu said: ‘Yes. I already said it likely wasn’t useful.’ He wanted to put the bottle into his bosom but Wang Yuyan said: ‘Let me try sniffing it one more time.’ Duan Yu put the porcelain bottle next to Wang Yuyan’s nose again. He himself did not know if he was hoping that the antidote would be effective or not.
 
Wang Yuyan frowned, covered up her nostrils with her hand, smiled and said: ‘I’d rather be unable to move my limbs than sniff this stinking thing… Ah! My hand, my hand can move already!’ It turned out she had already unconsciously raised her right hand and covered her nostrils with it. Previously, it had been very strenuous and difficult for her to even press and keep the clothes wrapping around her body immobile.

As she was happy, she took the bottle in Duan Yu’ hand and sniffed it deeply. Knowing that this stinking gas was very effective, she did not fear it anymore and took several sniffs. The softness and weakness in her limbs gradually faded away. She turned towards Duan Yu and said: ‘Can you please go downstairs? I wanna change clothes.’

Duan Yu hastily said: ‘Yes, yes!’ and quickly went downstairs. Seeing that corpses were lying everywhere, and except for the couple of young peasants the rest had been killed at his own hands, he felt extremely regretful. He saw that the eyes of a Western Xia warrior were still wide opened and looking at him. Really, that man had died with an everlasting grievance. He made a deep bow and said: ‘Old chap, if I hadn’t killed you, then you would’ve killed me. At that time lying here wouldn’t have been you but would’ve been Duan Yu instead. I had no alternative, but my mind really is extremely unease and regretful. In the future when I’ve returned to Dali, I will definitely invite eminent monks to chant scriptures and release the souls of all of you from suffering.’ He turned around, cast a look at the corpses of the couple of young peasants, then turned his head towards the corpses of the Western Xia warriors and said: ‘I was the person you wanna kill and Miss Wang was the person you wanna capture, why did you gotta kill innocent people?’

Wang Yuyan had finished changing clothes. She took the wet clothes and went down using the ladder. Her limbs were still slightly aching and weak. Seeing Duan Yu looking at the corpses and mumbling endlessly she smiled and asked: ‘What are you saying?’ Duan Yu said: ‘I only feel that having killed this many people, my mind is deeply regretful and uneasy.’

Wang Yuyan muttered: ‘Mr. Duan, you think why that Western Xia warrior surnamed Li gave me the antidote?’
 
Duan Yu said: ‘This… this… I don’t know either… Ah… I already know. He… he…’ He said the word ‘He’ continuously several times. Inwardly he wanted to continue saying: ‘He must have started to admire you.’ But he thought if he said that a rude and cruel Western Xia warrior like this man had started to admire Wang Yuyan, wouldn’t that offend the belle? She is incomparably beautiful and all people have a love for beauty, if everyone admired her, what would be so rare about this great admiration I, Duan Yu, have for her? Wouldn’t I and every other man in the world be exactly alike? Alas, being willing to die for her, what’s so amazing about it? Let alone I haven’t died for her. Thinking to here, he said: ‘I… I don’t know.’

Wang Yuyan said: ‘Maybe there’re Western Xia warriors coming in large quantities. We must leave quickly. You say where should we go to?’ In her heart she naturally wanted to go find her biaoge, but she found it embarrassing to say it straightforwardly like that.

Duan Yu knew clearly what her worries were therefore he said: ‘Where do you wanna go to?’ Asking this question he felt greatly distressed in his heart. He only waited for her to say ‘I wanna go find my biaoge’ to put on a bold face and say: ‘I’ll go with you.’

Wang Yuyan twiddled with the porcelain bottle in her hand, blushed and said: ‘This… this…’ After a while she continued: ‘The brave men of the Beggar Society have been poisoned with this ‘Sad Weak Clear Wind’ poison, if my biaoge was here, he might take the antidote for them to sniff. Besides, I’m afraid A’Zhu and A’Bi have already fallen into the hands of the enemies…’

Duan Yu jumped up and said loudly: ‘Yes! The two ladies A’Zhu and A’Bi are in danger. We must immediately go forwards and think of a way to save them.’

Wang Yuyan thought: ‘This matter is very dangerous. Depending on the abilities of two of us, how can we save people from the hands of Western Xia warriors? But A’Zhu and A’Bi are trusted maids of my biaoge, I already know that they’ve fallen into the hands of the enemy, how is it possible not to save them? There’s no choice but to play it by ear.’ She then said: ‘Very good, let’s go.’
 
Duan Yu pointed at the corpses lying in disorder on the ground and said: ‘We must bury them properly and investigate the name of each one, then at the grave of each person we must set up a tombstone. Someday, when their families come here to look for their remains to move to their native lands, there’ll be a piece of evidence.’

Wang Yuyan giggled and said: ‘Okay, you stay here to take care of their funeral arrangements. Dressing and laying them in coffins, burying them, issuing obits, receiving condolences, reading funeral addresses, making couplets, performing memorial services, releasing hungry ghosts, it seems there’re also things like the first seventh day, the second seventh day and so on. After seven times seven equaling forty nine days, you go notify their families’ members one after another for them to come here for moving the remains and reburial.’ (T/n: Things that need to be done in a traditional Chinese funeral.)

Duan Yu noticed that there was a mocking undertone in her words. After thinking, he himself also found what he wanted to do unsuitable. He also smiled and said: ‘In your opinion, what should we do?’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘Burning up everything with a fire, wouldn’t that be better?’ Duan Yu said: ‘This… hum, doesn’t it seem to be too disrespectful?’ He muttered to himself for a long while, then seeing that there was not any better way he had no choice but to go find kindling and ignited the stack of straws in the mill. In a short period of time after they got to the outside of the mill a fierce flame rose high into the air and blazed chaotically.

Duan Yu respectfully knelt down, kowtowed and said: ‘Forms and bodies are impermanent, and cannot be maintained forever. You brothers today lost your lives at my hands. Perhaps that’s the karmic retribution for your previous lives. I hope your souls will go to the Paradise and escape from the sufferings of the Samsara forever. Please don’t blame me, please don’t blame me.’ Only after mumbling for a long while did he stand up.

There were ten horses tethered under the tree outside of the mill. They were the horses that the Western Xia warriors had ridden. Duan Yu and Wang Yuyan each rode a horse and ran along the wide road. They vaguely heard ‘tang-tang’ sounds of gongs and a hullabaloo of people shouting, peasants in the neighborhood was rushing to the mill to fight fire.
 
Duan Yu said: ‘Oh well, a big mill was burnt because of me, I feel extremely sorry.’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘Why are you saying so many womanish words like this? Though my mother is a woman, she acts straightforwardly and resolutely. When she says she’ll do something, she’ll definitely do it. You’re a man, yet you have so many worries and rules.’ Duan Yu thought: ‘Your mother frequently kills people, uses human flesh to make a fertilizer for flowers, how can I be a match for her?’ He said: ‘I killed so many people like this for the first time and set other people’s house on fire, so unavoidably I feel somewhat frightened and disturbed.’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘Hum! That’s right, someday when you’ve got used to it, you wouldn’t be concerned.’ Duan Yu was startled. He waved his hand repeatedly and said: ‘Absolutely impossible, absolutely impossible. One
time is already excessive, how can it be done once more? (T/n: ⼀之为甚, 其可再乎 – Duan Yu took this sentence directly from Zuo Zhuan 左传) Things like killing people and committing arson can’t be done again.’

Wang Yuyan and he were riding their horses side by side. She turned her head and looked at him. Feeling very surprised, she said: ‘In jianghu, things like killing people and committing arson happen every day. Mr. Duan, from now on you wash your hands of them and no longer get involved in jianghu right?’ Duan Yu said: ‘My bofu (伯⽗– father’s elder brother) and my father
wanted me to learn martial arts. I said I wouldn’t agree to learn anything.
Unexpectedly the situation became critical and eventually still forced me to learn. Alas, I don’t know how I should act.’ Wang Yuyan smiled and said: ‘So your ambitions are to study and become an official then in the future become a scholar or prime minister, right?’ Duan Yu said: ‘That’s not true either. There ain’t anything interesting about being an official.’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘So what do you wanna do? Could it be that you, you’re just like my biaoge, day and night wanting to be an emperor?’ Duan Yu asked in surprise: ‘Mr. Murong wants to be an emperor?’

Wang Yuyan blushed because she had unconsciously revealed the secret of her biaoge. After the battle in the mill, in which she and Duan Yu had gone through trials and tribulations together and narrowly escaped death, she felt that his nature was affable and she could talk about just anything in front of him, but the high ambition to wholeheartedly restore the former state of Yan of Murong Fu after all should not be let out. She said: ‘These words were
 
blurted out by me. Please make sure you don’t tell anyone else about them. Furthermore, you shouldn’t mention them in front of my biaoge either, or else he might blame me a lot.’

Duan Yu felt grieved in his heart and thought: ‘Why are you so worried like this? If your biaoge wanna blame you, then just let him blame.’ But he had to reply: ‘Okay, I just don’t care about your biaoge’s unimportant businesses. If he was an emperor, fine, if he was a beggar, also fine, I don’t care at all.’

Wang Yuyan blushed again, feeling that his tone was sulky, she softly said: ‘Mr. Duan, are you angry?’

Since they had become acquainted with each other, Duan Yu had always seen that she totally thought and talked about her biaoge Mr. Murong. This was the first time she had talked to him sincerely with gentle words like this therefore he could not help but feel elated and burst with joy, almost falling down from the saddle. He hastily sat stably, smiled and said: ‘No, no. What am I angry about? Miss Wang, all my life, I will never ever be angry with you.’

Wang Yuyan devoted all of her affections to her biaoge. Even though Duan Yu had disregarded his own life to save her, she only felt grateful for his kindness and admired his heroic and righteous heart. At this moment, hearing him saying ‘all my life, I will never ever be angry with you’ in an extremely sincere manner, just like taking an oath, she suddenly realized: ‘He… he… Is he confessing his affection for me?’ She could not help feeling ashamed to the extent that all of her face became very red. She slowly bowed her head and softly said: ‘You’re not angry, then that’s good.’

Duan Yu was delighted, for the moment he did not know what to say. After a while, he said: ‘I don’t want anything. I only hope it’d be like this forever. This can make me perfectly satisfied. I have no other demand.’ The words ‘it’d be like this forever’ only meant riding two horses side by side with her.

Wang Yuyan did not like to hear him talk like that again, her pretty face slightly darkened, she said solemnly: ‘Mr. Duan, your great kindness of saving my life today, I will never forget. But my heart… my heart has long
 
belonged to another person. I hope you’ll talk with politeness so that at some future time we’ll still be able to see each other.’

These few sentences hit Duan Yu like an extremely heavy stick, making him see flashes of light fluttering before his eyes and almost pass out.

The meaning of her words could not be clearer: ‘My heart has long belonged to Mr. Murong. From now on, you can’t say any word of admiration, if not I can’t see you again. Don’t flatter yourself that because you did me a kindness you can vainly covet me.’ These few sentences were not immoderate at all and Duan Yu also already knew her feelings, but this time she personally said them, therefore when he heard her words, the taste was really hard to bear. He took a furtive glance at Wang Yuyan to see her expression. Seeing that she looked solemn, really no different to the jade statue in the stone cave in Dali, he could not help but feel that a catastrophe was about to befall him. He thought: ‘Duan Yu ah Duan Yu, you’ve already met this lady, but her heart has long belonged to another man. In this life, you’re destined to suffer all kinds of torments and to be indescribably miserable.’

Two of them kept riding side by side in silence. No one said a word again.

Wang Yuyan thought: ‘He’s likely being angry, very angry. But I’d better pretend that I don’t know about it. If this time I apologized to him, later he’d likely always follow me and say these dubious words. If they reached biaoge, biaoge would definitely be unhappy.’ Duan Yu thought: ‘If I say a sentence that reveals my feelings for her once more, wouldn’t that be frivolous and boring, and be disrespectful to her? From now on, Duan Yu’d rather die than say half of any of these sentences again.’ Wang Yuyan thought: ‘He doesn’t say a sentence and just rides the horse straight forwards, most probably he knows where to go to save A’Zhu and A’Bi.’ Duan Yu also thought like this: ‘She doesn’t say a sentence and just rides the horse straight forwards, most probably she knows where to go to save A’Zhu and A’Bi.’

After going for roughly a meal’s time, they arrived at an intersection. Two of them coincidentally said at the same time: ‘Turn left or turn right?’ After exchanging a questioning look, they asked at the same time again: ‘You
 
don’t know the way? Alas, I thought that you knew.’ After saying those two sentences, both of them found this totally amusing and laughed heartily together. The heavy atmosphere of just a moment ago was swept away.

But they knew nothing about affairs in jianghu, after discussing for a long time, they still could not figure out where they should go to save people. In the end Duan Yu said: ‘They captured a large number of the Beggar Society’s members. Regardless of whether they have killed them or are still keeping them prisoners, there’re always some traces we can look for. We’d better return to the apricot forest to see first then talk later.’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘Return to the apricot forest? If those Western Xia warriors are still there, wouldn’t we hurl ourselves willingly into the net?’ Duan Yu said: ‘I think after such heavy rain just now they’re certainly gone. Okay, you’ll wait for me outside of the apricot forest. I’ll quietly go inside to have a look. If the enemies really are still there, we’ll turn around and run away immediately.’

Very soon two of them agreed that Duan Yu would use the ‘Wave Treading Exquisite Steps’ to rush to A’Zhu and A’Bi, let them sniff that bottle of the stinking antidote, then after the detoxification think of a way to save them.

After identifying the way, two of them made the horses run very fast, in a short time they already arrived at the outside of the forest. They got off the horses and tied them to an apricot tree. Duan Yu held the porcelain bottle in his hand and walked on tiptoe into the forest.

There was full of mud inside the forest, the underbrush was still soaking with beads of water. Duan Yu scanned around, and there was not a single soul in sight. He shouted: ‘Miss Wang, there’s no one here.’ Wang Yuyan ran into the forest and said: ‘They’re really gone. Let’s go into Wuxi city to scout for information.’ Duan Yu said: ‘Very good.’ Thinking that he would be able to ride horses side by side with her on another stretch of road, he felt very happy and could not refrain from showing a smiling expression on his face.

Wang Yuyan said in surprise: ‘I said something wrong?’ Duan Yu hastily said: ‘No. Let’s go into Wuxi city.’ Wang Yuyan said: ‘Then why are you smiling?’ Duan Yu turned his head away, not daring to look squarely at
 
Wang Yuyan, smiled and said: ‘Sometimes I can smile foolishly, you don’t need to pay attention to it.’ Wang Yuyan found it funny and also let out some laughs. As soon as this happened, Duan Yu could not help laughing loudly ha-ha.

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