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Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain Chapter 10.4 Duel

 Chapter 10.4 Duel 

Phoenix found Fox a rather loutish character, overgrown with whiskers and beard. Whether it was his looks or the way he talked or the way he

moved, Fox reminded him faintly of the image of old Gully. Phoenix's heart contorted suddenly. But he immediately thought otherwise: Gully's son had already met his end at foul hands; the baby had been dumped into a river in Cangzhou, it might be a coincidence that Fox had Gully's looks and air. The image of how Fox had taken advantage of his beloved only daughter sent the fires of fury leaping up inside him. Lashing out his left palm, Phoenix threw a straight punch at Fox, his right fist aimed directly at his chest.

Fox had planted himself only a few feet away. The stroke came mightily powerful. Fox immediately parried by whipping out his palms. Pummelling and ramming ensued. Both bodies received a shock.

Ever since the contest with Gully some twenty years before, Phoenix had never yet met his equal, but Fox dissolved his stroke. The veteran fighter found his opponent uncannily scientific in pugilistic play, and equally

endowed was he in internal bodily strength. Gripped on a sudden by fury,

Phoenix hurled down winds with his palms and outmanoeuvred his contestant straight through the next three moves.

With a balance of strength and dexterity, Fox unravelled each of the impending moves targeted at him. His assailant was now falling to his third move. Phoenix smote stunning blows with his palms. Fox immediately dodged aside, wavering a little, and narrowly missed vanishing into the hidden depths at the bottom of the cliff. Thereupon, the terrified antagonist remarked to himself, "If I keep on yielding to him, I shall be forced to the brink of the precipice and end up being shattered to pieces." Phoenix

snapped up his left foot and lashed it out at Fox's midriff. Thrusting out both fists, Fox began pummelling his face, forcing his enemy on the defensive, an apt and appropriate move to dissolve the kick.

Tremendous might had gone into Fox's last move, which yet represented but a fraction of the strength Fox was capable of mustering. In a contest of martial prowess between two adept fighters, the cardinal rule was to charge full force at the opponent, yielding not an inch. Phoenix flung out his arms to parry the blows, mounting full strength into his strokes. The battle raged fast and furious, with the contestants setting at each other with lightning

speed, smiting and feinting and raining blows like two lusty farmers thrashing the corn. Suddenly Fox was dealt two snapping blows, sustaining pain in the chest. The victim immediately summoned up the reserves of his pneuma to master the pain. Fox was surprised to find Phoenix so mighty

and strong in pugilistic feats. After gaining vantage, Phoenix began putting increasing strength in his strokes, pounding mighty blows on his opponent with lightning speed, robbing him even of a split second to steal a breath.

Fox could have leapt out of his assailant's range had they been battling on level ground. Thereupon, the young warrior scampered away a few paces, ducking under Phoenix's engulfing palms before spinning around to resume the battle. Seeing that he had already been cornered on a wide and rugged

shelf which ended suddenly in the brink of a sheer cliff, having no more space to manoeuvre a further retreat, Fox gritted his teeth and brought off the Spring Cocoon Pugilistic Feat to guard all cardinal areas on his body.

The Spring Cocoon Pugilistic Feat allows its executer to counter only on the defensive. All movements are unusually short-ranged. The limbs never need to operate beyond a half-foot limit, and yet the person wielding this move has recourse to abundantly copious movements without having to

expose any part of his body to further clandestine attack. This pugilistic feat was first appropriately intended for a combatant, who, being closed in on all sides, hoped only to survive by falling on the defensive, rather than staging a counter-attack and resorting to the offensive. Though the executer can guard himself tightly against impending attacks, he suffers a great disadvantage. He is pinned to this "no victory standing" position from the very start. As suggested by its name, "Spring Cocoon Pugilistic Feat", the fighter does indeed spin a silken sheath around himself, never able to deal a counter blow. The cocoon contestant finds it difficult to overpower his

antagonist by surprise even when he detects a flaw in the enemy's move, at least not until he reverts to another move.

Phoenix was shortly observed to be mounting his moves with greater

strength and speed. Though he knew his opponent was beginning to grow weary defending himself from attacks, he always succeeded in fending off his strokes. Trusting that he would be out of danger for as long as Fox

stayed on the defensive, the veteran fighter therefore at once charged full force at his young assailant, heedless of the defensive parries he might


On raged the battle, fast and furious. They were so evenly matched that though they fought for a considerable time, neither got in a decisive blow at the other. Suddenly Phoenix lashed out his fist at Fox. But Fox dodged

aside, causing the blow to land on the glacial wall of the pinnacle. The ice splinters flew out in all directions. One tiny fragment caught Fox in the left eye. This sudden ambush took him by surprise, catching him completely off-guard. His soft eyelid sustained excruciating pain. The unfortunate

victim dared not rub the hurt with his hand, but his foot movement suddenly faltered. Jumping at this godsent opportunity, Phoenix dashed forward, planting himself with his back against the surface of the spire, thus forcing Fox to retreat to the outermost brink of the ledge.

By now the outcome of the battle had already been decided. The young

assailant was hanging with half of his body in mid-air. His foot need only to move back a tiny fraction and his body to tip slightly over, and Fox would instantly see the fathomless bottom of the gully. Phoenix, with his back facing a buttress, showered blow after blow on Fox, forcing him to counter him head-on. But his prey was an extremely nimbled-witted warrior.

Avoiding his trap, Fox manipulated his moves, trying his utmost to dissolve all of Phoenix's attacks. Never would he attempt to spark off a head-on

collision with his stronger opponent.

Although there was no marked difference in the level of martial

achievement between the two contestants, it soon became obvious that Fox would never outmanoeuvre Phoenix, were they to meet man to man in fair play. Being so much disadvantaged at the present instant, how could Fox be expected to last any longer? Fast and furious the fight raged. Phoenix shot up on a sudden, lashed out with his foot and dealt Fox three mighty kicks.

His victim dodged aside with lightning speed. No sooner had he received the third stroke than he saw his assailant thrust out both palms, aiming

straight at his chest. Fox found dissolving these two last lunging moves next to impossible. Already cornered on a spot with no further room to effect a dodge, Fox could only fling out his fists, dealing counter-blows head-on

with his enemy.

In no time, a shower of stunning blows raining from four fists ensued.

Phoenix let out a thunderous roar and localized his strength to the centres of his palms. Fox's body tipped on a sudden. In a moment, Fox also

summoned up the reserves of his bodily strength to hurl down counterblows upon his enemy. Both combatants had localized in their palms prowess

attained over a life-time. In a head-on deadly grapple like the present one, the contestants could not afford to deviate a fraction from the orthodox way of duelling a death grapple. Both fighters caused their pneuma to be

couched below their waists; then they stood gazing at each other, stock-still.

Fox's unusual martial accomplishment had given Phoenix an involuntary gasp of fear, causing him to reflect, "I have not spent any time for quite a number of years with the outlawry, so I failed to note that such a ferocious fighter had sprung from the Martial Brotherhood." The veteran fighter flexed his knees slightly, leaning his back instantaneously against the ice

wall. With a sudden body contraction, followed through with an immediate expulsion, Phoenix first sucked the bodily strength localized in Fox's palm over to his own side. After mustering more strength by throwing his weight against the glacial surface of the mountain, Phoenix gave his hands a mighty thrust, howling, "Down you go!"

This sudden onslaught was strong enough on its own; augmenting it was also the rebounding force imparted by the lofty mountain. Fox found it therefore impossible to counter the violent attack. Losing his balance, Fox wavered for a few seconds, sending his left foot immediately into mid air; but the victim was still solidly anchored below the waist. Fox's martial feat took Phoenix totally by surprise. Fox's right foot was securely fixed to the brink of the precipice, as if it were cast from a block of iron. Though thrice Phoenix increased momentum, he succeeded only in tipping the upper half of Fox's trunk, failing as yet to dislodge Fox's right foot by even a tiny fraction.

Phoenix began to admire Fox in silence: "Such martial talents are really difficult to find, a real marvel on earth. What a shame he has dabbled in devilry. He is still young. If I do not dispatch him today, I may not be able to emerge as his equal in our next encounter. He plays clever tricks, falling back on his own strength. Who on earth can control him?" At this point in his reflections, he suddenly snapped up his left foot, lashing it out.

Practising the Tablet Fracturing, he trampled on Fox's right knee feverishly.

During this attack, Fox was pivoting his entire weight on just one limb.

When Phoenix's foot came stamping a mere whisker's breadth from his, Fox realized he was doomed. Finding it utterly impossible to dodge, he let out a sigh, "It is all over! I end up losing my life to him this very day." Striving desperately to pull himself through this deadly grapple, Fox instantly

snapped up his right foot, raising his person ten or so feet in the sky. After somersaulting in mid air, he came plummetting down, driving full force at his enemy.

"Bravo!" exclaimed Phoenix.

Swinging his shoulders, Phoenix charged head-on at Fox. In a moment, Fox smote stunning strokes on his shoulders. But the gigantic momentum of Phoenix's body sent Fox swerving off the brink, plunging him instantaneously at top speed into the abyss. Fox forced a wraithlike smile. Then a thought flashed across his mind with lightning speed, "I have had to contend against orphanage and

bitterness since I was little. Yet I won Sister Orchid's innermost heart on the eve of my departure: after all, I have not lived my life in vain."

Suddenly Fox felt himself being gripped by the arm, which abruptly halted the acceleration of his downward plunge. Phoenix had clutched his limb and dragged him back up.

"You have once saved my life," cried Phoenix. "Now I shall repay you by releasing you: a life for a life. And we do not owe anything to each other from this minute on. Come, let us start a new battle."

Instantly, Phoenix stood himself on one side, shoulder to shoulder with Fox. He no longer wanted to enjoy the advantage of leaning his back

against the frozen cliff.

After such a narrow escape, Fox was depleted of all his fighting spirits.

He saluted Phoenix with hands folded. "The younger generation is no match for Phoenix the Knight-errant. What is the point in duelling another bout?

Whatever Phoenix the Knight-errant likes to do with me, the younger generation will oblige whole-heartedly."

A frown sat on Phoenix's brow, and the victor said, "In the last round of the battle, you deliberately yielded to me. Don't think I didn't know? You patronized Phoenix because of his old age and reclining health, and did not take him to be your equal. Is that so?"

Fox hastened to correct him, "The younger generation would not dare harbour such vain thoughts."

Instantly, Phoenix bawled out, "Ready! Set to!"

Fox wanted to explain to the veteran fighter that his finding him in bed with Orchid had sprung purely from an accident, and that he had harboured not the least intention of abusing her. Bearing this in mind, Fox began,

"Inside the room ..."

At the mention of the word "room" Phoenix flared up with irate fury.

Down he charged on Fox, landing on him a sudden blow. His victim could only counter his assailant head on. Having endured the last battle, Fox realized that if he started yielding a fraction to Phoenix, he would immediately fall prey to his pugilistic strength. Thereupon, Fox braced himself and fought in earnest, mounting moves to defend himself against

whatever might happen. Both combatants paraded the greatest prowess. The battle raged fast and furious on the ledge of the cliff, with the two warriors feverishly lashing out with their legs and ferociously thrusting out their hands, smiting cruel strokes and showering stunning blows on each other. The combat soon became a fierce contest of guile and resolution, might and power, and pugilistic skills and displays of endomarts. On for three hundred or more tricks they kept at it, exchanging many a hit without either side gaining much vantage.

Curiosity mounted in Phoenix as the battle wore on. Pursuing itself round and round in his mind was his encounter with Gully in a duel in Cangzhou one certain year in the past. At this point in his reflection, Phoenix suddenly leapt back two paces, crying, "Hold! Did you, by any chance, know Gully?"

When Fox caught the name of his father from Phoenix's mouth, a mingled feeling of grief and wrath assailed him. Gritting his teeth, Fox said, "Gully the Knight-errant was a veteran hero who suffered untimely death at the hands of villainous characters. If I could have had the good fortune to have him teach me a few moves, I would be most willing to die on the spot, with no regrets whatsoever."

Meanwhile, a quite different thought was running through Phoenix's mind: "Yes! Gully has already been dead for twenty-seven years. This very person standing in front of my eyes is only some twenty or so years old: how could they have known each other? Those few sentences of his reflected rather well on him. If he had not abused Orchid, I would have

accorded him my friendship, just on the merit of his last few sentences."

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