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Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain Chapter 10.1 Duel

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 Chapter 10.1 Duel 

Phoenix's fierce temper inspired a deadly fear which aroused terror in all. Fox felt a sudden chill run through him and clutch at his heart. Not daring to delay, the young fighter raced towards the edge of the cliff, clasping

Orchid to his chest. Then he seized the rope with one hand and glided down the precipitous slope. As he knew there was an abandoned cave not too far from the foot of the mountain, he immediately exercised his levitational

skills, sailing towards the cavern. Though he was carrying Orchid in his arms, he found that she was as light as a feather.

In less time than it would take to drink a bowl of tea, Fox, with Orchid in his arms, found himself inside the abandoned cave. Wrapping the quilted cover snugly round her body, he left Orchid inert by the wall of the

entrance. Then he slowly turned things over in his mind, reflecting, "If I were to revivify her paralytic points, I would have to touch her. Time is vital. If I do not revivify her now, injuries will result as she does not practise endomarts herself." Unable to decide what to do, Fox struck a flame and kindled firewood.

The light from the burning branch played upon Orchid's eyes which were like autumn's limpid pools. A maidenly confusion covered her cheeks. Fox proceeded apologetically, "Miss Miao, I harbour no disrespectful intentions towards you. Yet how may I manage to invigorate the paralytic points on your person without touching your body?" Though Orchid could not nod her consent, she consented with a softening look in her eyes, half in

abashment and half in appreciation. Not a trace of anger was on her face. Elated by her encouraging expression, Fox immediately blew out the fire. Then he stretched out his hand, reached inside the coverlet and softly massaged several paralytic points on her. Eventually her meridians were restored to their normal functions, allowing the pneuma to circulate cleanly.

In no time, Orchid felt life renewed in her limbs. Her hands and legs gradually moved. Softly she said, "They are moving well, thank you!" Fox quickly withdrew his hands. He tried to bring himself to say something, but words failed him. After a considerable while, he began, "What happened a while ago was a result of an unintentional and innocent error on my part.

Heaven above can testify that my conscience was at peace and devoid of offense. Would the lady please pardon my fault?" Demurely she replied, "I know all this."

Pitch blackness shrouded the young man and the maiden. In silence they remained. Outside the crypt, the landscape was thickly blanketed in snow.

But Elysian joy surged in the two hearts. The cave felt full of the balm of

spring, with the sun radiating heat. A feeling rather warmer than admiration was kindled in both souls.

Some time elapsed. Orchid broke the silence, "I wonder what is happening to my father now?"

Fox answered, "Your respected father is an invincible fighter. Those people are not his match. Relax and do not worry yourself."

A faint sigh escaped Orchid and she continued, "Poor father, he took you

... you for an indecent fellow." Fox tried to comfort her. "I do not blame him. It was certainly an embarrassing situation."

Turning red, Orchid hastened to apologize, "A deep-concealed hurt

consumes my father. The incident chanced to touch a sensitive spot in his heart. I hope that Master Fox will not take that as an offense." Curiosity got the better of Fox and he ventured to ask, "What is behind this secret?" The minute these words came from his mouth, Fox realized that he had been foolish to ask. He tried to cover up his mistake by thinking of another topic but he was bereft of speech. Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain was the

sobriquet conferred on him. He was normally clever and nimble-witted, and abundantly resourceful, but this day saw him an utterly different person. He was awkward and taciturn in front of this gentle and graceful maiden.

Presently, Orchid confided, "I am ashamed of what happened in my family, but I will not hide it from you; my mother was involved in the story."

Fox let out a surprised "Oh!"

Orchid then continued, "My mother made an unforgivable mistake."

To this Fox responded, "To err is human. You need not take this to heart." But Orchid shook her head slightly and went on. "It was a grave wrong,

one that no woman can afford to pay the price for. Mother was ruined after the incident. Father was also shattered."

In silence Fox listened to Orchid's story. But he was already able to form an accurate idea of what had actually taken place. Orchid picked up her

story: "Father is a famed warrior fighter among the outlawry. But mother was the daughter of a family of officials. Father chanced to save her life once in an accident, after which they became husband and wife. They were never meant to be a couple. Father also committed a serious wrong. He often extolled the good virtues of your mother in front of my mother."

In surprise Fox asked, "My mother?"

Orchid replied, "That is right. During the five-day duel between my father and your respected father, your mother struck him as courageous and dashing, her bearing more imposing than that of a truly great Master. Your mother's name came up often in my father's daily talk and he never tried to hide his admiration for your respected father also, claiming, 'Gully the

Knight-errant's living one day with such a wonderful spouse is more

enviable than a hundred years spent by others.' Though these words of praise invited no comment from mother, they had sowed the seeds of a grudge in her heart. Years later, Pastoral Tian of the Dragon Lodge paid a visit to our house. His finely chiselled features, his gift of natural refinement in discourse, as well as a pliable tongue which spoke softly and tenderly were all destined to captivate women's hearts, which really did make him an arrestingly handsome man. Drowned by her senses in a moment, my mother abandoned me to run away quietly with Pastoral."

Fox wanted to console her, and, though he was eager to say something, he was unable to utter a single syllable. He only let out a slight sigh. Her voice choked with grief, Orchid went on, "I was then only three years old. Father carried me in his arms and went in pursuit of mother day and night. He went without food and sleep for three days and three nights. Finally, he caught up with the eloping couple. When Pastoral saw father, did he dare to raise his hand against him? Mother sided completely with Pastoral, defending him. Seeing that mother was so deeply in love with this man, father could only resign himself, taking me home with him. He became

seriously ill afterwards, almost losing his life. He admitted to me later that if only he could have borne to see me orphaned and living a lonely, hard life without being cared for, he would have given himself to death.

"For the three years that followed, father locked himself inside the house, burying himself in grief and pain. Sometimes he would cry, 'Orchis, Orchis, how could you be so foolish?' I was named after my mother." At these

words, she blushed. It must be remembered that at that time, women kept their names a secret. Acquaintances would only know their family names; only kin and folk very close to the family could learn a woman's full name. In telling him her mother's name, Orchid had in fact told Fox what her own name was.

Although Fox could not read the expression on her face, he could sense the passionate earnestness of her tone. An ugly scandal, the greatest secret in her family she had poured out to him, withholding nothing. The listener appreciated the confidence which the maiden had placed in him. When she mentioned her first name to him, Fox could not help feeling drowned in a state of cheerful inebriation, as if he had drunk some strong wine.

Thereupon, he said, "Miss Miao, that fellow Pastoral was full of evil intentions. It might just as well have been an affected love that he had for your mother." Orchid carried on the narration with a sigh: "Father also believed the

same. However he kept blaming himself for failing to have been sufficiently affectionate and attentive towards mother, otherwise she would not have fallen into the hands of another man. Father's sobriquet is the Invincible

Under the Sky. But he has never been Pastoral's match in dealing with human relationships and handling his personal affairs. That creature Pastoral's ulterior motive in pretending to fall in love with mother was to lay his hands on a map of the treasure, an esoteric drawing which has been handed down from generation to generation by members of the Miao family. Although Pastoral brought suffering onto my family, and robbed me of my mother from babyhood, all of his scheming designs fell on stony ground in the end. Mother finally perceived his true intentions. On the eve of drawing her last breath, mother took it upon herself to return to father the pearl-studded hairpin carved with an emblazoned phoenix motif, whose

stem concealed the map." After finishing this part of the story, Orchid recounted once more to Fox what Hawk had witnessed with his own eyes inside Pastoral's room while hiding under Pastoral's bed. Finally she moved to the part of the narration of how Tree and his party had taken the map from her and also how the group had gone in search of the treasure, with both the map and the Dashing King's military weapon.

Her story threw Fox into a rage, causing him to remark angrily, "That rascal Pastoral has indeed harboured evil intentions in his heart. He feared your father, and failed also to obtain the map. Finally he resorted to

enlisting the support of government officials. They had your father captured to prize the map from his hands. One would have guessed that the net of

Heaven stretches everywhere and that nobody escapes its judgment. And it must have been decreed that this villain should receive his retribution. Hai! This treasure has played havoc with the lives of an endless number of people."

After pausing for a short while, Fox continued, "Miss Miao, this very treasure also tied my father and my mother together in marriage."

Orchid hastened to ask, unable to hide the curiosity in her tone, "Oh, is that so? Tell me quickly." Though the maiden carried herself with poise and reserve, she was still but a young girl in her teens. Happy at heart, she

stretched out her hand to hold Fox's. Realizing she had done something deemed improper, she immediately tried to withdraw her hand. But Fox had already turned her palm round, holding it gently and not letting it go.

Orchid blushed but made no further attempt to pull her hand back. She felt the warmth travel from Fox's hand, then penetrate to the innermost part of her heart. Although nothing serious had as yet passed between them, in their inclinations and affections they were already united as one.

At length, Fox asked, "Do you know who my mother was? She was

cousin of Master Wish, lord of the eyrie." Orchid grew curious at his words. Presently she observed, "I have known Uncle Wish since I was little. Father never mentioned this to me."

Fox continued his story: "I learned about this from my parent's will. It could be that your respected father does not have all the details. Master Wish came by some clues which led him to surmise that the treasure must

be hidden near the snow-capped mountain. This discovery in turn prompted him to build his house on the mountaintop, hoping to find the treasure in due course. It so happens that he is far from being sharp-witted, and it was also fated that no favourable chance should ever present itself to him, hence he failed to become enlightened as to where the treasure was hidden.

Meanwhile, father had carried out his own investigations in secret. Of these two who both probed into the mystery surrounding the hidden treasure, it was father who finally managed to locate its site. He went inside the cave

and found the dead bodies of both Pastoral's father and your grandfather. Just as father was about to work at the gems and stones, mother arrived.

"Mother was much better endowed with quickness and intelligence than Master Wish. She had been somewhat suspicious of father's loitering in the neighbourhood over the past few days. She followed him into the crypt and immediately attacked him. The battle which ensued served to introduce them to each other. When they had shown each other their admiration, father proposed to her. Mother told him that she had been raised by her

cousin Wish from a tender age. If she allowed father to remove the treasure, she would then be wronging her cousin. She asked father to make a choice, either to take her hand or the treasure.

"Thereupon, father laughed heartily, claiming that he would never consider trading my mother for one hundred thousand lots of treasure.

Father then picked up a brush and wrote an article to commemorate this event. The draft was concealed inside the cavern. It was hoped that those who came after them, on finding the treasure, should learn that the most precious thing on earth is the affection which binds the hearts of true lovers, and it certainly is not gold and jewels."

By this time, Orchid's thoughts had wandered to some remotely inspired reverie. Then her voice was heard muttering softly, "Though your parents are dead, they enjoyed a happier life together than my parents."

To this Fox responded, "But then I was orphaned almost at birth. Unlike you, I have experienced much hardship and bitterness."

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