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Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils Chapter 20

 Chapter 20: Standing in sadness at Yanmen, no word was left on the cliff.
Hearing this deafening bellow by Qiao Feng, Shan Zheng suddenly felt dizzy, stumbled and was unable to stand firmly on his feet. The extraordinary people could not help but take several steps backward either. Shan Xiaoshan rushed up from one side and thrust straight forward with his saber.

The tip of the saber was less than 1 chi (33.33 cm) away from Qiao Feng’s chest but he had no intention of resisting. Seeing that, and not having the heart to look on, the people from the Beggar Society such as Elder Wu and Bai Shijing all closed their eyes.

All of a sudden, there was a ‘hu’ sound in mid air, a person leaped down in an exceptionally rapid fashion and bumped themselves on Shan Xiaoshan’s steel saber just in time. Shan Xiaoshan was unable to withstand this great force therefore his arm dropped. Amidst the simultaneous shocked exclamations by the extraordinary people, another person jumped down in an equally rapid manner but their head went ahead of their feet. This person bumped into the head of Shan Xiaoshan just in time. With a ‘peng’ sound the tops of 2 skulls hit against each other and the heads of both people were burst open at the same time.

Only now did everyone see clearly that the 2 people who had just successively leaped down were the people who had been guarding on the roof to prevent Qiao Feng from escaping. But they had been captured and thrown down like missiles by someone. The hall was immediately plunged into chaos with everyone exclaiming and shouting. Suddenly a long rope was flung down from a corner of the roof with fierce force and swept horizontally towards the head of everyone. When the extraordinary people raised their weapons to block the long rope, the tip of it suddenly turned
 
back. It then wound around Qiao Feng’s waist and immediately lifted him up.

At this moment, the 3 wounds on Qiao Feng’s body were bleeding profusely and his left hand which was carrying A'Zhu no longer had the slightest strength, hence when he was wound around by the long rope, A'Zhu immediately rolled down on the ground. Everyone saw that at the other end of the long rope was a man in black who was standing on the roof and had an imposing stature. His face was being covered with black cloth with only his eyes shown.

That man clasped Qiao Feng to his side using his left arm, flung the long rope and made it wind around a very high flagpole outside the entrance of Juxian Manor. The extraordinary people shouted loudly. In a very short time, a great variety of missiles such as steel darts, sleeve-hidden arrows, flying knives, iron awls, flying-locust stones, and hand-swung arrows were thrown at Qiao Feng and that man. That gritty man in black pulled the long rope, leisurely got off the ground and landed on the top of the flagpole. Teng-teng, pai-pai, ca-ca sounds were heard continuously, dozens of missiles had hit the top of the flagpole. Everyone only saw that the long rope was flung from the top of flagpole and wound around a big tree which was 8 or 9 zhang (3.333 m) away. Clasping Qiao Feng, that man swung off the top of the flagpole. In an instant he already passed that big tree and landed on a place which was 10 zhang away from the flagpole on the ground. He then flung the long rope again, winding it around another distant big tree. After hoisting and landing in this way several times, he already disappeared into thin air.

The extraordinary people gasped with astonishment and looked at each other. They only heard horse hoofbeats galloping farther and farther, it was already too late to chase after him.

Qiao Feng had suffered serious injuries but he was still in full command of his senses. He had seen clearly every act and every move how this man had used the long rope to save himself from danger, hence he felt deeply grateful to him for saving his life and thought: ‘Flinging the rope accurately and powerfully like this, I can do as well. But using the long rope as a weapon and swinging it to attack dozens of people at the same time, I can’t
 
use this ‘Celestial Maiden Scatters Flowers’ stance in flexible whip techniques as perfectly as he did.’

The man in black put him on horseback. Both of them rode the same horse and went northward. That man took out jinchuang medicine (medicine for treating wounds caused by metal objects) and applied it onto Qiao Feng’s 3 wounds. Having shed too much blood Qiao Feng was very weak, hence he almost passed out several times, but every such time he took a breath and circulated his internal energy, his spirit then rose back. That man urged the horse straight northwest. After going for a while, the path became more and more rugged, afterward, there was no longer any path and the horse merely went by stumbling over disorderly piles of rocks.

After going for more than 1 hour further, the horse could no longer walk, that man then carried Qiao Feng horizontally in his hands, got off the horse and climbed up a mountain peak. Qiao Feng’s body was very heavy but that man carried him effortlessly. Even though they were in a very precipitous place, he easily used the long rope to wind around branches to jump over ravines. After that man had passed 8 dangerous ravines in a row, he went down all the way, going deep into an abyss from which the sky could not be seen. Finally, he stopped and put Qiao Feng down.

Qiao Feng strained to stand firmly and said: ‘This great debt of gratitude can’t be paid using words. Kind brother, could you please let Qiao Feng see your true face?’

That man’s pair of glaring eyes roved over his face. After a long time, he said: ‘In the cave, there’re enough dry provisions to use in half a month. You stay here to care for your injuries. The enemies won’t be able to come here.’

Qiao Feng replied: ‘Yes!’ and thought: ‘Hearing the voice of this man, it seems he’s not young anymore.’

That man sized Qiao Feng up for a while then suddenly waved his right hand, with a ‘pai’ sound, he gave Qiao Feng a slap in the face. His action was very fast, and firstly, Qiao Feng had not expected that the man would
 
hit him, and secondly, this palm attack was executed extremely brilliantly, therefore he was unable to dodge it.

That man followed it up with the 2nd palm attack. The 2 palms attacks were only a flash apart, however once Qiao Feng had this marginal amount of time, how could he let the man hit him again? But because the man had saved his life, Qiao Feng did not want to fight him; moreover he had no strength to dodge, hence he extended his left forefinger and put it next to his own cheek, pointing at the center of the palm of that man.

This forefinger pointed at the ‘Laogong acupuncture point’ in the center of that man’s palm; if this palm attack by him kept coming, then when the palm had not yet reached Qiao Feng’s cheek, it would have already bumped into the forefinger first. When the palm of that man’s was less than 1 chi away from Qiao Feng’s cheek, he immediately turned it over and used the back of the hand to attack. This change of stances was done exceptionally fast. Qiao Feng also very quickly moved the forefinger and pointed at the ‘Erjian acupuncture point’ on the back of the man’s hand.

That man let out a stream of laughs, forcefully withdrew his right hand then chopped horizontally with his left hand. Qiao Feng extended his left forefinger and pointed at the ‘Houhuo acupuncture point’ on the edge of his palm. The arm of that man was suddenly lifted a little bit but kept coming with no decrease in momentum. Without delay, Qiao Feng moved his finger and pointed at the ‘Qiangu acupuncture point’ on the edge of that man’s palm. In an instant, the 2 palms of that man danced in the air, changing stances more than 10 times in a row. Qiao Feng only defended and did not attack; his fingers were always pointed so that if the man hit him, the acupuncture points on his palms would bump into the fingers first. That man had taken Qiao Feng by surprise with the 1st palm attack and hit him, but after that he was unable to hit Qiao Feng again. The 2 of them attacked and defended without touching each other but every stance was a top-class martial arts skill that was rarely seen at the present time.

After that man used the 20th stance, seeing that Qiao Feng was still able to change stances very fast and locate the acupuncture points very accurately despite having suffered serious injuries, he suddenly withdrew his palms, jumped backward and said: ‘No one is more stupid than you are. I shouldn’t
 
have saved you.’ Qiao Feng said: ‘I’m sincerely waiting for your instructions.’

That man scolded: ‘You stinking dumbass. Having practiced and become unequaled in martial arts under heaven, why did you wanna waste your life for a skeletal chick? She isn’t your relative or friend, didn’t do you any favor or have any relationship with you, and isn’t a gorgeous woman either; she’s just a lowly slave girl, nothing more. Why on Earth there’s such an idiot like you?’

Qiao Feng let out a sigh and said: ‘Savior, your criticisms are true. It was really senseless of Qiao Feng to do this useless thing with my useful body. But at that moment I couldn’t hold back my fury, my barbaric nature broke out so I wasn’t thinking of the consequences.’

That man said: ‘Ha-ha, so it was because of the barbaric nature breaking out.’ He turned his head toward the sky and let out a long stream of laughs.

Qiao Feng felt that there were a lot of desolation and indignation in his long stream of laughs. Suddenly that man jumped to his feet and leaped out for more than 1 zhang. With just a slight shake of his body, he disappeared behind a big rock. Qiao Feng called out: ‘Savior, savior!’ But he only saw that the man continuously leaped then went around past a ravine, he was already very far. As soon as Qiao Feng took a stride, he tottered. He hastily stretched out his hands and put them against the cliff to support his body.

After composing himself, he turned around and really saw a cave behind the stone wall. Supporting himself on the cliff, he slowly walked into the cave. He only saw a lot of dry provisions such as cooked meat, roast rice, jujubes, peanuts, and dried fish put on the ground; what even better was that there was a big jar of wine. When he opened the jar, the bouquet rushed into his nose. He reached into the jar and took out a scoop of wine to drink. The wine had a sweet taste; it was a first-class wine. Qiao Feng felt grateful: ‘It’s rare to see someone as thoughtful as this savior is. He knows that I like drinking and even has wine for me in here. It’s hard to go on the mountain paths yet he carried this big jar of wine to here. Didn’t this take too much trouble?’
 
The jinchuang medicine that man had applied onto him was very effective. At this moment the wounds had already stopped bleeding. Several shichen (1 shichen = 2 hours) later, the pain was gradually relieved. He was a robust man with a profound internal energy and the wounds he had suffered were merely external, therefore even though they were not minor injuries, after 7 or 8 days they were already almost half healed.

During these 7 or 8 days, he only thought about 2 matters: ‘Who’s the enemy that harmed me? Who’s that savior?’ Both of these people had very outstanding martial arts, perhaps not below those of his own at all. In wulin, the people who possessed these skills were very rare and could be counted on the fingers of 1 hand. He bent his fingers and could count every one of them out, but after thinking carefully he found that none of them was similar to these 2 people. It was understandable that he could not guess who the enemy was, but because he had exchanged 20 stances with the savior, he should be able to guess what school his martial arts belonged to. However, all the stances used by that man had been completely normal yet at the same time had shown enormous skills in their simplicity, just like the ‘Founder’s Long Fist’ Qiao Feng himself had used at Juxian Manor, hence the stances did not give away anything about his identity.

In 2 days, he already drank up that jar of wine. Enduring until the 20th day, he felt that the wounds had 70% or 80% healed up. By now, his addiction of wine had become so strong that he could no longer keep enduring. Thinking that he could already jump over the ravines without any difficulty, he went out of the cave and tramped over hills and dales to return to jianghu.

He thought: ‘A'Zhu has fallen into the hands of them. If she’s dead, then she’s already dead. If she’s still alive, there’s also no need for me to take care of her again. The most important and urgent thing at the moment is finding out what kind of man I am. Dad, mom and master passed away in 1 day so the mystery of my origin has become harder to clear up. I must go to the outside of Yanmen Pass to see the writing left behind on that stone wall.’

After calculating, he went northwest. When arriving in a town, the 1st thing he did was drinking 20 bowls of wine. In only 3 days, the remaining several
 
taels of silver fragments were all changed into good wine, which he drank until nothing left.

At that time, Great Song was ruling the Central Plains. It divided the country into 15 regions. The main capital was Daliang; Dongjing (the eastern capital) was Kaifeng prefecture; Xijing (the western capital) was Luoyang in Henan prefecture; Nanjing (the southern capital) was Songzhou; Daming was Beijing (the northern capital, and NOT today’s Beijing); in total, there were 4 regional capitals. For the moment, Qiao Feng was in Ruzhou in the Xijing region. That day, when he got to Liang County, his silver had been used up; hence he snuck in the county’s office and stole several hundred taels of silver from the public treasury during the night. On the way he ate and drank a lot; chickens, ducks, fish, sorghum, and good wine all were paid by government officials of Great Song. One day, he arrived in Daizhou in the Hedong region.

Yanmen Pass was located 30 li (0.5 km) to the north of Daizhou on the rugged Yanmen path. Previously, when carrying out heroic deeds in jianghu, Qiao Feng had also been to here. But at that time, due to having important matters, he had gone past it without paying attention. When he arrived in Daizhou, it was already early 11 a.m. He had a quick meal and drank around 10 bowls of wine in the city then went out of it and headed north.

His steps were fast therefore he traveled these 30 li in less than 1 hour. When he had climbed up the mountain, he saw that both the eastern cliff and the western cliff were high and steep; the path between them was winding and rugged. This was really a very dangerous place. He thought: ‘Wild geese travel south and return north can’t fly over the high mountains, all of them gotta go between the 2 peaks, so this place is called Yanmen (Wild Geese’s Gate). Today I came here from the south, if the writing on the stone wall states clearly that I’m really a Khitan then after I go out of Yanmen Pass this time, I’ll forever become a man in the North of the pass and no longer enter the pass again. I’ll be inferior to the wild geese that, once every year, go to the south from the north and return.’ Thinking to here, he could not help but feel grieved.
 
Yanmen Pass was an important military post of Great Song’s in the north. There were more than 40 passes in Shanxi, and Yanmen was the most imposing and secure one. Beyond several tens of li (0.5 km) outside the pass was the Liao Empire. Because there was always a large number of soldiers defending below the pass, Qiao Feng thought if he went out through it, he would unavoidably be interrogated and examined by the guarding officers and soldiers. Therefore he made a detour via the high ridge in the west of the pass.

After reaching the highest peak, he scanned widely around but saw nothing other than mountains and mountains, the towering Mt Wutai in the east, the Ningwu Mountain range in the west, Mt Zhengyang and Mt Shigu standing upright in the south, and in the north being Mt Shuozhou and Mt Mayi. With seemingly boundless long slopes and steep mountain sides combined with vast lonely cold forests, the scene was very gloomy. Qiao Feng remembered that while going past Yanmen Pass that year he had heard his comrades say that General Li Mu of the State of Zhao during the Warring States Period and General Zhi Du of the Han Dynasty both had garrisoned Yanmen to defend against Xiongnu invasions. If he himself was really Xiongnu and a Khitan descendant, then for the last thousands of years, the people who had been invading China all were his ancestors.

He looked at the terrain in the north and thought: ‘That day when people such as Chief Wang and Zhao Qiansun ambushed the Khitan warriors outside Yanmen Pass, they must have chosen the most advantageous mountain slope within more than 10 li of here. No place has better terrain than the mountain slope in the corner to the northwest of here does. Ten to one they set up the ambush there.’

He quickly ran down the mountain and went to that mountain slope. Suddenly he felt a burst of causeless sorrow. He only saw that there was a large piece of rock on that mountain slope. Zhiguang dashi had said the extraordinary people of the Central Plains had hid behind a large rock and shot poisonous missiles out. It seemed it was this large piece of rock.

There was a deep ravine several steps outside the mountain path. Clouds and mists enveloped the ravine, making it impossible for anyone to see the bottom. Qiao Feng thought: ‘If Zhiguang dashi’s words are true, then after
 
my mother was killed by them, my father jumped into the ravine to commit suicide from here. After jumping into the mouth of the ravine, he couldn’t bear to make me die with him so he tossed me up onto the body of Chief Wang’s. He… what did he write on the stone wall?’

Qiao Feng turned around and looked at the cliff on the right-hand side, only seeing that it was naturally flat and glossy, but right in the middle of the big stone wall, there were full of cuts caused by axes and chisels. Obviously, someone had deliberately scraped away the writing that had been left behind.

Qiao Feng stood in a trance in front of the stone wall then suddenly he could not refrain from getting furious. He only wanted to brandish a saber and raise his palms to massacre, but he suddenly remembered 1 matter: ‘When I left the Beggar Society, I broke Shan Zheng’s steel saber and vowed that it didn’t matter if I was a Han or a Khitan, I definitely wouldn’t kill any Han person. But at Juxian Manor, how many people did I kill in one go? Yet in this moment I wanted to kill again, wouldn’t this seriously violate the vow? Alas, when things already became like that, if I hadn’t offended other people, they would offend me. If I had passively waited for death and let other people cut and kill me, how could it be the action of a true man?’

He had run thousands of li to here because he wanted to find out about his own origin but from beginning to end he had not achieved the slightest result. Getting more and more irascible, he shouted loudly: ‘I’m not a Han, I’m not a Han! I’m a Khitan barbarian, I’m a Khitan barbarian!’ He then raised his palms and repeatedly hit the stone wall. He only heard the valley resounding with his shouts, each of which echoed back: ‘…not a Han, not a Han! …Khitan barbarian, Khitan barbarian!’

Stone bits from the stone wall scattered all around. The grief and fury in Qiao Feng’s heart could not be expressed, he kept striking out with one palm attack after another, it seemed he wanted to vent all kinds of grievances he had suffered for the past more than 1 month on the stone wall. Afterward, his palms bled, the marks of his gory fingers were printed on the stone wall one by one, but he kept on hitting.
 
While he was hitting, suddenly he heard the pleasing clear voice of a girl from behind: ‘Great master Qiao, if you kept hitting, this mountain peak would be knocked down by you.’

Startled, Qiao Feng turned his head around and saw a young girl standing under a flower tree beside the mountain slope, leaning against it. The girl was wearing a reddish gown and was smiling. She was no one other than A'Zhu.

That day he had saved her merely because he had been stimulated by the indignation of that moment but in fact he had not cared about this little maid. Afterward, busy enough with his own affairs, he had ignored and forgotten the matter concerning her life and death. Unexpectedly, she suddely appeared here, hence Qiao Feng was astonished, but after that he also felt happy. He went upwards to greet her, laughed and said: ‘A'Zhu, have you gotten well?’ However, because his mood suddenly changed from being furious to being happy, his smiling expression was rather forced.

A'Zhu said: ‘Great master Qiao, how are you?’ She gazed at Qiao Feng for a short while then suddenly threw herself into his bosom and sobbed: ‘Great master Qiao, I… I’ve been waiting for you here for 5 days and 5 nights. I only feared that you wouldn’t come. You… You’ve really come. Thank Heavens, in the end you’re safe and sound.’

She said these few sentences in an intermittent manner, but her words were filled with gladness and solace. As soon as Qiao Feng heard them, he knew that she cared about himself very much. He felt moved and asked: ‘Why have you been waiting for me here for 5 days and 5 nights? I… How did you know that I’d come here?’

A'Zhu slowly raised her head. Suddenly remembering that she was leaning against the bosom of a man, she blushed and took 2 steps backward. When she recalled that just a moment ago she had been unable to control her feelings, her face reddened even more. She suddenly turned around and went quickly to the back of the tree.

Qiao Feng called out: ‘Hey, A'Zhu, A'Zhu, what are you doing?’ A'Zhu did not reply. She only felt that her heart was beating chaotically. After a good
 
while, she walked out from behind the tree, her face still looked rather embarrassed. For the moment, she stammered and was unable to say clearly. Finding her expression strange, Qiao Feng said: ‘A'Zhu, if you have something that is hard to say, feel free to tell me. The 2 of us are friends in adversity who went through life-and-death situations together, what do you still worry about?’ A'Zhu’s face reddened again. She said: ‘Nothing.’

Qiao Feng gently pulled her shoulder and turned her face towards the sunlight. He saw that even though her countenance was still very haggard, a reddish color could vaguely be seen under her pale cheeks; they no longer had the gray color of when she had been seriously injured that day. Qiao Feng then put out his finger to feel her pulse. A'Zhu’s whole body shook when her wrist touched his finger. Qiao Feng asked: ‘What’s wrong? You’re still unwell?’ A'Zhu blushed again and hurriedly said: ‘No, no… nothing.’ Qiao Feng checked her pulse but found that it was beating steadily and comfortably. He praised: ‘Divine doctor Xue could bring the dying back to life. He really lives up to his reputation.’

A'Zhu said: ‘Luckily, only because your good friend Elder Bai Shijing promised to teach Divine doctor Xue 7 stances of the ‘Silk Thread Winding Grasping Hand Technique’ did he treat my injury. More importantly, they wanted to interrogate me about the whereabouts of that master in black. If I had died at that moment, they wouldn’t have been able to ask anything. When the condition of my injury got better a bit, every day 7 or 8 people came and asked me: ‘What’s the relationship between the evil traitor Qiao Feng and you?’ 'Where has he escaped to?' ‘Who’s the man in black that saved him?’ At first I didn’t know anything about these matters, but when I honestly said that I didn’t know, they insisted that I was lying. They also threatened me a lot, saying they’d starve and torture me. So, I secretly made up some stories and told them. The story about the master in black was the most absurd. One day I said he was from Mt Kunlun, the next day I again said he had once learned martial arts in the East Sea. It was very interesting talking nonsense to them.’ Saying to here, recalling that during those days she had talked nonsense to and made a fool of many current well-known heroes and extraordinary people, she still had some lingering enjoyment, and a smiling expression appeared on her face, making it look like a spring flower which had just opened.
 
Qiao Feng smiled and said: ‘Did they believe you?’ A'Zhu said: ‘Some did and some didn’t. The majority of them half believed half doubted. I guessed they didn’t know the identity of the master in black either and no one would be able to argue that my words were incorrect, so my stories became more and more curious, making them very suspicious and filled with anxiety.’ Qiao Feng sighed and said: ‘In the end, what’s the identity of this master in black? I don’t know it either. Perhaps if I heard you talking through your hat, I’d also half believe half doubt.’

Surprised, A'Zhu said: ‘You don’t know him either? Then why was he willing to risk saving you from an extremely dangerous place? Ah, of course, every great hero who saves people in danger is just like that.’

Qiao Feng sighed and said: ‘I don’t know who I should take revenge on, and don’t know who I should pay my debt of gratitude either. I don’t know if I’m Han or Hu and don’t know if in the end my conduct and deeds are right or wrong. Qiao Feng ah Qiao Feng, you’re really a man for nothing.’

Seeing his miserable expression, A'Zhu could not help putting out her hands and holding his hands. She soothed him: ‘Great master Qiao, why do you have to make yourself suffer? There’ll be one day when everything will come to light. As long as you have a clear conscience, and act and behave according to the law of Heaven and Earth, that’s good enough.’

Qiao Feng said: ‘But I myself have a guilty conscience. Because of it I feel very sorry. That day in the apricot forest I flicked the saber and took a vow that I’d never kill a Han, but… but…’

A'Zhu said: ‘At Juxian Manor, those people disregarded rights and wrongs to jointly attack you, if you hadn’t struck back, could it be that you’d have confusedly let them cut you into 17 or 28 pieces? There’s no such thing under heaven!’

Qiao Feng said: ‘You’re right.’ He was a broad-minded brave man therefore he only felt grieved and lonely for a limited time; after a while, he cast these feelings aside and said: ‘Zhiguang dashi and Zhao Qiansun both said there were words written on this stone wall, but someone has scraped them off.’
 
A'Zhu said: ‘Yes, I guessed you’d definitely go out of Yanmen Pass to see the words left behind on this stone wall, that’s why after I escaped from danger I went to here immediately to wait for you.’

Qiao Feng asked: ‘How could you escape? It’s also Elder Bai who saved you?’ A'Zhu smiled: ‘No, it isn’t. You remember that I once disguised as a Shaolin monk, right? Even his shixiongdi (apprentice younger and older bros) couldn’t discover it.’ Qiao Feng said: ‘Yes, this mischievous skill of yours is really good.’ A'Zhu said: ‘That day, when the condition of my injury was already very good, Divine doctor Xue said there was no need to treat the injury anymore and after resting for 7 or 8 days I’d fully recover. The stories I made up gradually had more and more flaws. Also, I already got somewhat bored with making them up and was worried about you, so in the evening of that day, I disguised as a person.’ Qiao Feng asked: ‘Disguised again? Who did you disguise as?’

A'Zhu said: ‘I disguised as Divine doctor Xue.’

Slightly startled, Qiao Feng said: ‘How could you disguise as Divine doctor Xue?’ A'Zhu said: ‘He met me every day and talked to me the most so I was familiar with his appearance and manner the most. Besides, he often stayed with me alone. In the evening of that day, I pretended to fall in a faint. He came to feel my pulse. I then turned my hand over and grabbed the inner surface of his wrist. He could no longer move, and had no choice but to let me arrange.’

Qiao Feng could not help but burst out laughing and thought: ‘This Divine doctor Xue only focused on treating illness. He didn’t expect to be fooled by this imp at all.’

A'Zhu said: ‘I blocked his acupuncture points, removed his clothes and footwear. As my acupuncture point blocking skill isn’t first-class, I feared he would unblock the acupuncture points, so I torn the bed sheet, tied up his limbs then put him on the bed and used the quilt to cover him. If someone looked in from outside the window, they’d only think that I was sleeping deeply with my head covered by the quilt. No one would suspect. After I put on his clothes, shoes and hat and piled wrinkles onto my face, I already looked 70% similar to him, but I lacked a beard.’
 
Qiao Feng said: ‘Oh, Divine doctor Xue’s beard is half black half white, it’s not easy to fake it.’ A'Zhu said: ‘It was impossible to make a copy, so in the end I used the real one.’ Qiao Feng asked in surprise: ‘The real one?’ A'Zhu said: ‘Yes, the real one. I took out a small knife from his medicine chest and shaved off his beard, then stuck every single thread on my face. There wasn’t the slightest difference in color and appearance. Divine doctor Xue must’ve been extremely angry, but what could he do? Treating my injury wasn’t his true goal so me shaving off his beard doesn’t count as requiting kindness with enmity, let alone the fact that after having his beard shaved off, it seemed he became younger by more than 10 years, looking very handsome.’

As she spoke to here, the 2 of them looked at each other and burst out laughing.

A'Zhu continued after she finished laughing: ‘After disguising as Divine doctor Xue, I swaggered out of Juxian Manor. Of course no one dared to ask me anything. I asked people to prepare horse and take silver for me then went off. When I was 30 li (0.5 km) away from the manor, I pulled off the beard and changed into a young guy. Those people must have discovered it no sooner than the early morning of the next day. But on the way I already changed my appearance, they certainly wouldn’t be able to find me.’

Qiao Feng applauded and said: ‘Brilliant! Brilliant!’ Suddenly he recalled that at Shaolin Monastery when seeing his own back in the copper mirror in the Bodhi Institute he had been dumbfounded and vaguely felt uneasy about something. At this moment, when he heard her talking about how she had disguised and escaped from danger, not only did this uneasy feeling suddenly emerge again, but it was also more intense than it had been that day at Shaolin Monastery. He considered and said: ‘You turn around for me.’ A'Zhu did not understand what his intention was but she still turned around.

Qiao Feng considered for a long while then took off his coat and wrapped it around her body.

Blushed, A'Zhu turned her head around, looked at him affectionately and said: ‘I’m not cold.’
 
When Qiao Feng saw her being wrapped in his coat, his mind suddenly became clear. He turned his hand over, grabbed her wrist and said sternly: ‘It turns out to be you! Who incited you? Quickly tell me.’ A'Zhu was frightened and said in a trembling voice: ‘Great master Qiao, what’s the matter?’ Qiao Feng said: ‘You once disguised as me and pretended to be me, right?’

It turned out in this moment he suddenly recalled that day in Wuxi when he had been rushing to rescue his Beggar Society brothers, he had seen the back of a person on the road. At that moment, he had not taken notice of it, but when seeing his own back in the copper mirror in the Bodhi Institute, he had started to vaguely remember that the back of that man and his own back had looked exactly alike. As a result, that uneasy feeling had emerged. But he had been confused and totally had not known the cause of it.

That day when he had rushed to rescue the Beggar Society’s extraordinary people, by the time of his arrival, everyone had already escaped from danger and all of them had said they had met him not long ago. Even though he had denied that, no one had believed him. At that time, he had been baffled and thought there had been no reason for it other than someone imitating him; but if someone had wanted to imitate him to the extent that the people who had met him on a day-to-day basis such as Bai Shijing and Elder Wu had not been able to discover it, would it not be easier said than done? This moment, as soon as he saw the back of A'Zhu who was being wrapped in his coat, everything from beginning to end was confirmed further and he immediately understood. Even though A'Zhu was not having cotton padding on her body, and her small delicate back was very different than his majestic appearance, but if there were to be someone to imitate him and fool the Beggar Society people, aside from her, who else under heaven could?

A'Zhu did not panic at all. She giggled and said: ‘Okay, I have no choice but to confess.’ Then she told him how she disguised as him and saved the Beggar Society people using the antidote.

Qiao Feng let go of her wrist and said sternly: ‘You disguised as me and saved people, what was your intention?’
 
A'Zhu was very surprised and said: ‘I just wanted to play a joke. You saved me and A’Bi from the hands of the Western Xia people so both of us are very grateful to you. Seeing those beggars treat you badly like that, I thought if I disguised as you and cured them of the poison, making them feel ashamed, it would be a good thing.’ She let out a sigh and continued: ‘But who could have known at Juxian Manor they were still so cruel to you and didn’t remember anything about the kindness and friendship of the past?’

Qiao Feng’s expression became grimmer and grimmer. He gnashed his teeth and asked: ‘Then why did you disguise as me and kill my parents? Why did you sneak in Shaolin Monastery and kill my master?’

A'Zhu jumped out of her skin and called out: ‘There’s no such thing. Who said I killed your parents, and killed your master?’

Qiao Feng said: ‘My master was injured by someone. As he saw me, he immediately said that it was me who had harmed him. Don’t tell me that it still wasn’t you?’ As he said to here, he slightly raised his right palm and his face was covered with a murderous look. If her answer was just a little bit clumsy, this palm would strike down, and then, even 10 A'Zhu’s would die violently in an instant.

Seeing that his face was covered with a murderous look and his eyes were filled with rage, A'Zhu was extremely scared and could not help taking 2 steps backward. If she took another 2 steps backward, she would fall into the bottomless abyss.

Qiao Feng said sternly: ‘Stand there, don’t move!’

A'Zhu was so frightened that tears rolled down her cheeks drop by drop. She quavered: ‘I didn’t… I didn’t kill your parents, and didn’t… didn’t kill your master. Your master had such great… great skills, how could I kill him?’

Her last sentence was very powerful. As soon as Qiao Feng heard it, he slightly shivered and knew that he had wrongly blamed her. He put out his left hand with lightning speed, grabbed her shoulder and pulled her close to
 
the cliff so that she would not slip and fall into the ravine. He said: ‘That’s right. My master wasn’t killed by you.’ His master Xuan Ku dashi was a brother of high-level monks such as Xuan Ci, Xuan Ji and Xuan Nan; his martial arts attainments were first-class nowadays. He passed away not because of being poisoned or being injured by weapons or missiles, but because his inner organs had been crushed by extremely fierce palm force. A'Zhu was very young, how could she have such profound internal energy? Had her internal energy been sufficient to strike dead Xuan Ku dashi, then that Great Diamond Palm attack by Xuan Ci would not have been able to strike her near dead.

A'Zhu smiled through tears, tapped herself on the chest and said: ‘You almost scared me to death. Your words were very unreasonable. If I had the ability to kill your master, then why didn’t I help you massacre those bad eggs at Juxian Manor?’

Seeing that she was slightly angry, Qiao Feng felt regretful and said: ‘Recently, I’ve been in a doubtful mood so I just talked nonsense, please don’t blame me.’

A'Zhu smiled and said: ‘Who blames you? If I blamed you then I wouldn’t talk to you.’ Then she immediately stopped smiling and said softly: ‘Great master Qiao, no matter how you treat me, in this life, I’ll never be angry with you.’

Qiao Feng shook his head and said indifferently: ‘Even though I saved you, you don’t need to keep it in mind.’ He frowned, entranced, then suddenly asked: ‘A'Zhu, who taught you these disguising and making-up skills? Does your master have any other disciple?’ A'Zhu shook her head and said: ‘Nobody taught me. Since childhood I’ve liked to disguise as other people to play. The more I imitated, the better I could disguise. And I don’t have any master. Could it be that I must have a master in order to play a game?’

Qiao Feng let out a sigh and said: ‘Then this really strange. Who could expect that in the world there’s 1 man who looks exactly like me, to such an extent that my master mistook him for me?’ A'Zhu said: ‘Because there is this clue, it’d be easy. We just need to find this man, then torture and force him to answer.’ Qiao Feng said: ‘Correct. But it’s extremely difficult to find
 
1 man in the boundless sea of people in the world. He probably also has good disguising and making-up skills like you do.’

He came near the cliff and gazed at the marks caused by axes and chisels on the stone wall, wanting to find out what words had been carved on it originally. But after looking at them carefully, he still could not recognize a single word. He said: ‘I must find Zhiguang dashi and ask him what words were written on this stone wall. If I can’t bring this matter to light, I won’t be able to eat and sleep calmly.’

A'Zhu said: ‘I’m afraid he won’t be willing to say.’ Qiao Feng said: ‘He’ll probably be unwilling to say, but I’ll force and beg him. Only after he says will I stop.’ A'Zhu muttered: ‘Zhiguang dashi seems to be very resolute and unafraid of death. Perhaps forcing and begging him wouldn’t work. It’d be better…’ Qiao Feng nodded and said: ‘Correct. It’d be better to ask Zhao Qiansun. Oh, probably this Zhao Qiansun guy would rather die than submit as well. But I already have a way to deal with him.’

As he spoke to here, he turned toward one side, looked at the abyss and said: ‘I wanna go down to have a look.’ A'Zhu jumped in fright. She looked at the mouth of that valley which was covered in clouds and mists and took several steps away from it for fear of carelessly falling down into it. She then said: ‘No, no! You must not go down. What’s good to see down there?’ Qiao Feng said: ‘In the end I’m Han or Hu? This matter has always been whirling around my head. I wanna go down to investigate and clear it up, and to take a look at the corpse of that Khitan man.’ A'Zhu said: ‘It’s been 30 years since that man fell down. There’re only several pieces of white bones left. What else will you be able to see?’ Qiao Feng said: ‘I just wanna have a look at that man’s remains. I think if he’s really my real father then I should collect his bones, bring them up and bury them properly.’

A'Zhu screamed: ‘Impossible, impossible! You’re benevolent, heroic and righteous. How can you be a descendant of the inhuman vicious Khitans?’

Qiao Feng said: ‘You wait for me here for 1 day and 1 night. If by this time tomorrow I haven’t gone up then you won’t need to wait anymore.’
 
Very worried, A'Zhu burst into tears and called out: ‘Great master Qiao, please don’t go down!’

Qiao Feng’s intention was very firm. In spite of A’Zhu, he did not change his mind a little bit. He said: ‘At Juxian Manor, so many heroes and brave men couldn’t kill me. Don’t tell me that this trifling valley could take my life?’

Unable to think of any word to dissuade him, A'Zhu had no choice but to say: ‘Maybe there’re very many poisonous snakes, poisonous insects or ferocious monsters down there.’

‘Ha-ha,’ Qiao Feng laughed out loud, patted her shoulder and said: ‘If there were monsters then it couldn’t be better. I’d capture them for you to play.’ He looked all around the mouth of the valley to find a cliff where he could manage to put his feet on to gradually climb down.

At this moment, suddenly he vaguely heard the sounds of horse hooves which were galloping southward in the northeast corner. Judging by the sounds, there were more than 20 horses. Without delay, Qiao Feng quickly walked back to the mountain slope and looked in the direction of the horse hoofbeats. From a height, he saw that these more than 20 cavalrymen wearing yellow clothes and armor. All of them were Great Song’s servicemen. They were arranged in a line and coming quickly along the mountain path on the high slope below.

After seeing clearly those people, he paid no attention to them. But the place where he and A'Zhu were staying at was on the important path to enter the pass from the north of the Great Wall; that year, extraordinary people of the Central Plains had selected this place to ambush the Khitan warriors for this reason. He thought because this place was a strategic point for frontier defense, if Great Song servicemen saw unfamiliar people here, they would likely interrogate and examine; hence it would be better to stay away from them to avoid troubles. He then returned to the original place, pulled A'Zhu to the back of the big rock to hide and said: ‘These are Great Song servicemen!’
 
Not long after that, those more than 20 cavalrymen went up the ridge. Hiding behind the rock, Qiao Feng already saw that the leading person was an officer. He could not refrain from feeling rather moved: ‘That year, people such as Chief Wang, Zhiguang dashi and Zhao Qiansun prolly also ambushed behind this big rock, and in this way they saw the Khitan warriors going up the ridge. Today, the peak and the rock are still the same, but most of the warriors of both sides Song and Liao that year have turned into white bones.’

While his mind was wandering, suddenly he heard several crying sounds of children. Qiao Feng was astonished and felt as if he was in dreamland: ‘Why are there also children?’ After that he heard the screams of several women.

He stuck his head out and saw clearly that most of those Great Song servicemen were having a kidnapped woman on each of their horses. All of the women and children were wearing Khitan pastoral attire. Quite a few Great Song servicemen stretched out their hands and groped the Khitan women, looking extremely licentious and repulsive. Some women who resisted were immediately shouted abuse at and hit by those servicemen. Qiao Feng found this strange and did not understand the reason for this. He saw that after passing by the big rock, these people galloping straight towards Yanmen Pass.

A'Zhu asked: ‘Great master Qiao, what are they doing?’ Qiao Feng shook his head and thought: ‘Why are defending troops at this frontier pass so obscene?’ A'Zhu continued: ‘This kind of serviceman looks just like bandits.’

After that, more than 30 other servicemen went up the ridge, driving along several hundreds head of cattle and sheep and more than 10 Khitan women. He heard 1 officer say: ‘Gathering crops this time, our harvest isn’t very good, I wonder if commander-in-chief will get angry?’ Another officer said: ‘We couldn’t snatch a lot of cattle and sheep from Liao dogs, but 2 or 3 women among the ones we snatched look not bad. Let commander-in-chief enjoy them, he’ll be in a good mood.’ The 1st officer said: ’30 something women aren’t enough for everyone. Tomorrow we should work hard and snatch some more.’ A soldier laughed and said: ‘Hearing the rumors, all the
 
Liao dogs must’ve already run away. If we wanna gather crops again, we need to wait for 2 or 3 months.’

Hearing to here, Qiao Feng could not refrain from getting extremely furious. He thought that the misdeeds of these servicemen were even worse than those of the most despicable robbers.

Suddenly, a baby who was being carried in the bosom of a Khitan woman started to cry loudly. That Khitan woman held out her hand and pushed away the hand of a Great Song officer then turned her head back to coax the crying baby. That officer was very angry. He grabbed that baby and threw him on the ground. After that he urged the horse forwards; the horse trampled on the body of the baby, immediately breaking his belly and making his intestines stick out. That Khitan woman was so frightened that she was stunned and unable to let out any sound of crying. The servicemen laughed loudly and passed by in large numbers.

In his life, Qiao Feng had seen not just a few ruthless cruel things, but this was the 1st time he had seen someone openly kill a baby for fun like this. He was extremely furious but did not unleash his feelings right away as he wanted to see the whole story.

After this group of servicemen passed by, more than 10 other servicemen came while shouting. All of these Great Song servicemen were riding horses and holding high spears in their hands. The head of almost every spear was piercing through 1 gory severed head. There was a long rope fastened to the tail of one of the horses, tying up 5 Khitan men. Qiao Feng saw that those people were wearing clothes of ordinary herdsmen. 2 of them were very old with their heads full of white hairs. The other 3 were 15 or 16 year old youngsters. He immediately understood that these Great Song servicemen had gone out to pillage, all the strong Khitan herdsmen had escaped but they had captured the women, the children, the old and the weak.

He heard 1 officer laugh and say: ‘Cutting off 14 heads and capturing 5 Liao dogs, this contribution is not big and not small, but I’ll certainly be promoted by 1 rank and rewarded with 100 taels of silver.’ Another man said: ‘Hey Gao, there’s a Khitan small town 50 li to the west of here. Do
 
you dare to go there to gather crops?’ The one called Gao said: ‘Why the heck do I not dare? Are you looking down on me for being a rookie? As a rookie, your father needs to make more contributions at the frontier.’ While they were talking, the line of men, who were running fast, already came near the big rock.

When seeing the corpse of the child on the ground, 1 old Khitan man suddenly screamed out, rushed over to hug the corpse, repeatedly kissed it and cried out sorrowfully. Even though Qiao Feng did not understand this old man’s language, seeing his expression, he knew that the baby who had been trampled to death by horses was his relative. The private who was dragging the old man continuously pulled the rope, urging him to go fast. Getting furious like crazy, that old Khitan man fiercely rushed at him. Frightened, that private brandished his saber and quickly slashed at the old man. The old Khitan man exerted his strength and gave him a pull, dragging him down from horseback, then opened his mouth and bit the private’s neck. At this moment, another Great Song officer on horseback ruthlessly chopped at the back of the old man with his saber 1 time then he stooped down, grabbed his neck and pulled him away. Only now was the private who had fallen on the ground able to stand up. He was very angry therefore he brandished his saber and chopped several more times at the old Khitan man. That old man shook a few times but he did not tumble down. The servicemen, either raising spears or lifting long sabers, then surrounded him.

That old man turned towards the north, unfastened the clothes on the upper part of his body, stood upright and suddenly started to cry out loudly in a grieved voice, sounding like the howl of a wolf. Temporarily, the servicemen all had a frightened expression on their faces.

Qiao Feng was scared. He suddenly felt that there seemed to be a spiritual connection between him and this old Khitan man. He himself had also let out these several howls which sounded like those of a dying wolf’s. That had been at Juxian Manor, after successively being hit by saber and spear, seeing Shan Zheng thrusting at him with his saber, he himself had known that he had been about to die, hence he had been unable to hold back his grief and indignation and cried out violently like a wild beast.
 
At this moment, when he heard those cries, a sense of closeness involuntarily arose in his heart. Not thinking anymore, he leaped out from the behind the big rock, grabbed those Great Song servicemen and threw them off the cliff one by one. The more Qiao Feng fought, the more ardent he became. He even shoved all the horses that they rode down the ravine by giving each horse 1 palm attack. The cries by men and the neighs by horses were heard for a while then soon fell silent.

A'Zhu and those 4 Khitan men were dumbfounded when they saw that he was such miraculously mighty.

After killing all of those more than 10 servicemen, Qiao Feng let out a long howl which shook the valley. Seeing that the old Khitan man was still standing upright after receiving several saber slashes, he respected him for being a brave man. He then went up to the old man and saw that he was facing north with his bare chest being exposed, but he no longer breathed and was already dead. As soon as Qiao Feng looked at the old man’s chest, ‘Ah,’ he uttered an exclamation and took 1 step backwards, his body tottered as if he was about to fall over.

A'Zhu was very scared. She called out: ‘Great master Qiao, you… you… are you alright?’ Only chi-chi-chi sounds were heard, Qiao Feng had ripped open the clothes that covered his own front, showing a hairy chest.

A'Zhu immediately saw that there was a decorative design tattooed on his chest, which was a blue wolf head with its mouth wide opened showing its teeth, looking ferocious. When she looked at the old Khitan man again, she saw that his chest also had a wolf head tattoo whose appearance was exactly the same as that of the wolf head on Qiao Feng’s chest.

Suddenly, those 4 Khitan men started to shout at the same time.

When Qiao Feng had begun to understand things at the age of 2 or 3, he had already seen this blue wolf head tattoo on his chest. Because he had known it since childhood, he had not in the least thought that it had been unusual. Later, when he had grown up, he had asked his parents about it. Qiao Sanhuai and his wife both had said that the picture had been beautiful and praised it for a while, but they had said nothing about its origin. During the
 
Northern Song Dynasty, it was very common to have a tattoo on the body; some people even had their whole bodies covered with tattoos from the neck to the feet. Great Song received the country from the Chai clan of the Later Zhou Dynasty. The founder of the Later Zhou Dynasty Guo Wei had a sparrow tattoo on his neck, and for this reason he was called ‘Guo Sparrow.’ At that time, having tattoos had become a prevailing fashion and 8 or 9/10th of the Beggar Society brothers had tattoos on their bodies, hence Qiao Feng had never had the least bit of suspicion. But at this moment, when he saw that the blue wolf tattoo on the chest of the dead old Khitan man and his own tattoo were unexpectedly exactly alike, he was extremely shocked.

The 4 Khitan people surrounded him and talked in a language he did not understand. They continuously pointed at the wolf head on his chest. Because Qiao Feng did not understand what they were saying, he had no idea how to reply. Suddenly 1 old man unfastened his clothes and showed his chest, which unexpectedly also had this wolf head tattoo. The other 3 youngsters also unfastened their clothes, and their chests all had the wolf head tattoo as well.

In an instant, Qiao Feng finally knew absolutely that he himself was a Khitan. The wolf head on the chest had to be the symbol of their tribe, perhaps each of them had been tattooed with it since childhood. He had always detested Khitan people, thinking that they were brutal, despicable, faithless and unrighteous, and thinking that they were accustomed to killing Han people and did not stop at any crime. But at this moment he had no choice but to admit that he himself was a Khitan man who was just like an animal, hence he felt extremely distressed.

He stood in a trance for a long time then suddenly he let out a shout and ran like crazy towards the forest.

A'Zhu called out: ‘Great master Qiao, great master Qiao!’ and went after him.

Only after chasing him for more than 10 li (0.5 km) did A'Zhu see him sitting under a big tree and hugging his head. His face was very pale, a thick
 
blue vein stuck out on his forehead. A'Zhu went to his side and sat down next to him.

Qiao Feng shrank his body and said: ‘I’m a Khitan barbarian who is lower than pigs and dogs. From now on, you don’t need to see me again.’

Like all other Han people, A'Zhu of course also detested Khitan people to the marrow, but in her heart, Qiao Feng was like a heavenly god. Needless to say, he was just a Khitan. Even if he was a demon or a ferocious beast, she would not be willing to leave him. She thought: ‘He’s unhappy now. I must nicely advise and console him.’ She then softly said: ‘There’re good ones and bad ones among Han people, so naturally there’re also good ones and bad ones among Khitan people. Great master Qiao, please don’t pay attention to this kind of thing. A'Zhu’s life was saved by you. If you’re Han, that’s fine by me. If you’re Khitan, that’s also fine. Han or Khitan, it makes no difference to me.’

Qiao Feng coldly said: ‘I don’t need you to take pity on me. In your mind, you look down on me. You don’t need to hypocritically say any nice word. I saved your life not because of my true feelings. It’s just that I temporarily wanted to show off my skills and defeat other people. This matter has been written off in 1 stroke. Please go away quickly.’

A'Zhu was anxious and flustered and thought: ‘He already knows that he himself is a Khitan barbarian. Perhaps he’ll return to the northern deserts and from now on never put his foot on the Central Plains again.’ For the moment, not being able to control her feelings, she stood up and said: ‘Great master Qiao, if you cast me aside and leave, I’ll jump into this valley. A'Zhu will definitely do what she has promised. You’re a Khitan hero so you look down on this lowly slave girl. I’d better finish myself.’

Hearing she say very sincerely, Qiao Feng felt touched. He had only thought that if he was a barbarian, all the Han people under heaven would avoid him like avoiding snakes and scorpions. Never could he have expected that A'Zhu still treated him the same as before, hence he could not help holding out his hand to pull her hand and said gently: ‘A'Zhu, you’re Mr Murong’s maid, and not my maid. I… How can I look down on you?’
 
A'Zhu said: ‘I don’t need you to take pity on me. In your mind, you look down on me. You don’t need to hypocritically say any nice word.’ She imitated these few sentences of Qiao Feng and there was no dissimilarity between her voice and tone to those of his, but her eyes were filled with a mischievous look.

Qiao Feng ha-ha laughed out loud. He was on the edge of despair and disappointment, therefore when he was joked with and consoled by this smart young girl he could not help feeling that his worries had largely disappeared.

A'Zhu suddenly adopted a stern expression and said: ‘Great master Qiao, I serve Mr Murong but I do not sell myself to him. It was only because I have been without parents since childhood and was wandering about outside, one day I was bullied and humiliated by other people, seeing that, Old Master Murong saved me and took me to his home. I was alone and homeless so I became a maid in his home. Actually Mr Murong doesn’t regard me as his maid at all. He even bought a few maids to serve me. A’Bi meizi (younger sister) is also like me. It’s just that her father sent her to Old Master Murong’s home in Yanzi hamlet (Yanzi = Swallow - bird) to take refuge. In those days, Old Master Murong and Madam Murong once said that the day I and A’Bi wanted to leave Yanzi hamlet, his Murong family would happily see us off…’ Saying to here, she slightly blushed. It turned out during that time Madam Murong had said: ‘The days that the 2 little girls A'Zhu and A’Bi have homes to return to, the whole Murong family will see them off with dowries, decorated sedan chairs and musical performances. There’ll be no difference to when our daughter gets married.’ She paused for a short while then continued talking to Qiao Feng: ‘From now on, I’m gonna serve you and become your maid. Mr Murong definitely won’t take offense.’

Shaking his hands continuously, Qiao Feng said: ‘No, no! I’m a barbaric Hu man, how can I have any maid? You’re used to living in a rich and honorable family in Jiangnan, what’s so good about following me to wander about and suffer hardships? You see, I’m such an insolent sort of fellow, do I deserve to be served by you?’

A'Zhu gave a charming smile and said: ‘If so, let’s consider that I’m a servant who has been captured by you, when you’re happy you’ll smile at
 
me, when you’re sad you’ll beat me and scold me, is that okay?’ Qiao Feng smiled and said: ‘If I gave you a punch, I’m afraid you’d die instantly.’ A'Zhu said: ‘Of course you only beat me gently and must not hit too hard.’ Qiao Feng laughed ha-ha and said: ‘If beating gently then it’d be better not to beat. I don’t wanna have any servant either.’ A'Zhu said: ‘You’re a great Khitan hero, what’s wrong with you capturing some Han women and making them your servants? You see, didn’t those Great Song servicemen also kidnap many Khitan people?’

Qiao Feng was speechless. Seeing that he was knitting his brows tightly and the look in his eyes was very gloomy, A'Zhu was afraid that she had said something wrong making him unhappy.

After a while, Qiao Feng slowly said: ‘I’ve always thought that Khitan people are ferocious and ruthless, and savagely harm Han people. But today I’ve seen with my own eyes how Great Song servicemen killed Khitan people regardless of age and sex. I… I… A'Zhu, I’m a Khitan. From now on, I’m no longer ashamed to be a Khitan, and I don’t feel honored to be a Great Song man either.’

Hearing him say so, A'Zhu knew that he had untied this knot of depression in his mind. She was very happy and said: ‘I already said there’re good ones and bad ones among Hu people, and there’re also the good and the bad among Han people. Hu people don’t have the craftiness of Han people’s so maybe they even have a bit fewer baddies.’

When Qiao Feng looked at the ravine on the left-hand side, he remembered what had happened that year and said: ‘A'Zhu, my father and mother were murdered without any reason by these Han people. I’m not allowed not to settle this score.’

A'Zhu nodded and secretly felt scared. She knew that the words ‘I’m not allowed not to settle this score’ that he had just mentioned lightly were bound to involve countless fierce battles, blood and lives.

Qiao Feng pointed at the ravine and said: ‘That year, after my mother was killed by them, my father was so sad that he didn’t wanna live, so he jumped into the ravine from beside the rock over there. While he was in
 
mid air, unwilling to make me die with him, he tossed me up. Only thanks to that can Qiao Feng be here today. A'Zhu, my father loved me very much, didn’t he?’ With her eyes moistened with tears, A'Zhu said: ‘Yes.’

Qiao Feng said: ‘My parents’ intense and deep-seated score, how can I not settle it? In the past I didn’t know about it so I went as far as considering the enemies my friends. It was very unfilial of me to do so. Today, if I don’t find and kill the main murderer that harmed my parents, how could I, Qiao, still have the face to live in the world? In the end, who is the ‘leading big brother’ that they mentioned? The letter that he wrote to Chief Wang had his signature, but monk Zhiguang torn off the signature and swallowed it. Obviously this ‘leading big brother’ buster is still alive, otherwise they wouldn’t have to cover up for him.’

He asked himself and answered himself. After thinking deeply, he knew that A'Zhu was unable to help him find the archenemy but having 1 person at his side to hear him talk would automatically relieve many of his worries. He continued: ‘This leading big brother buster could command the extraordinary people of the Central Plains so he must be a person with very good martial arts and high reputation. Judging by his tone in the letter, the friendship between him and Chief Wang is very unusual. He called Chief Wang elder brother, so he must be a bit younger than Chief Wang, but of course he’s much older than me. It shouldn’t be hard to find a person like this at all. Alas, only monk Zhiguang, Elder Xu and Madam Ma of the Beggar Society, and Impartial Judge Shan Zheng have read that letter. That Zhao Qiansun guy certainly also knows who he is. Zhao Qiansun already told his shimei (younger apprentice sister) Granny Tan about that. Perhaps Granny Tan doesn’t hide that from her husband. Both monk Zhiguang and Zhao Qiansun are accomplices in the murders of my parents so I’ll certainly kill them. As for this ‘leading big brother’ mofo, humph, I… I will kill his whole family from the old to the young, and won’t spare even fowls and dogs!’

A'Zhu felt a shiver of fear. She wanted to say: ‘Killing that leading villain would already be enough. You spare his whole family, ok?’ But when she was about to say these sentences, she did not dare to open her lips. She only
 
felt that Qiao Feng had intense might therefore she did not in the least dare to refuse to follow him.

Qiao Feng continued: ‘Monk Zhiguang wanders about the whole country. Zhao Qiansun also roams around. It won’t be easy to find these 2 people. That Impartial Judge Shan Zheng guy didn’t take part in the battle that killed my parents. I already killed 2 of his sons, his youngest son also died because of me, so there’s no need to find him anymore. A'Zhu, let’s go find Elder Xu of the Beggar Society.’

Hearing him say the word ‘let’s’ A'Zhu could not help feeling elated because it meant that he agreed to let her go with him. She smiled charmingly and thought: ‘Even if it’s going to the ends of the world, I’ll still go with you.’

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