Smiling Proud Wanderer

 
 

Smiling Proud Wanderer Volume 1 Chapter 9


Chapter Nine: Invitation


At dusk one day, Linghu Chong looked down from the cliff as usual and saw two figures coming toward the cliff in great speed. The one in front was in a skirt and obviously was a woman. Both of them had excellent Qing-Gong skills. To them, the steep slope and precipices were just like leveled ground. Linghu Chong stared some more and then realized that they were actually none other than Master and Master-Wife.

“Master, Master-Wife!” in great joy, he called out loudly.

Only a few moments later, Yue Buqun and Madam Yue leapt onto the cliff. Madam Yue had a meal basket in her hand. According to generations of traditional Huashan Sword School rules, when someone was being punished to meditate on the “Cliff of Contemplation,” other than bringing food to him, none of his apprentice brothers would be allowed to come up the cliff to chat with him. Even the apprentice student of the one being punished would be restricted from coming up to pay his respect to his Master. Who would have thought that the Yue Buqun couple actually came up the cliff themselves?

Unable to hide his shear joy, Linghu Chong rushed forward and knelt down, embracing Yue Buqun’s legs into his arms.

“Master, Master-Wife, I missed you so much!” he cried out.

Yue Buqun’s eyebrows knitted into a straight line. He always knew that this top apprentice of his was forthright and sincere with his feelings and was never strong at self-discipline, which was exactly the major barrier for studying advanced Huashan style Qi-Gong. Before the Yue couple came up the cliff, they had already inquired about the cause of his illness. Although none of the apprentices had a straightforward answer, from the combined information from everybody’s words, they had already figured out that it must have something to do with Yue Lingshan. After checking in details with their daughter and only getting hums and haws as her answer, they came to the same conclusion. Now seeing the revelation of Linghu Chong’s true feelings, Yue Buqun could tell that apparently in the last half a year, Linghu Chong had not progressed at all during his stay on the “Cliff of Contemplation”. Feeling somewhat displeased, he let out a snort.

Madam Yue reached out and propped Linghu Chong up. Seeing Linghu Chong’s thin and pallid face, so different from the face that had glowed with health and radiated vigor on normal days, she couldn’t help but pity him.

“Chong, your Master and I just got back from the far northeast and heard that you have been quite ill. Have you recovered yet?” she asked in a soft tone.

“I am all recovered now.” Linghu Chong felt a stream of warmth coursing through his body and teardrops starting to emerge in his eyes. “Master, Master-Wife, you two must have had a tiring journey, and as soon as you got back today, you are already coming up…coming up to see me.” In great excitement, he choked with sobs and turned his head away to wipe off his tears.

Madam Yue took out a bowl of ginseng soup from the meal basket. “The soup is made with stewed wild ginsengs from the far northeast. It will be very good nourishment for you. Go ahead and drink some,” she said.

Realizing that Master and Master-Wife had carried the ginsengs over a very long distance from the far northeast and had thought of letting him take it before everyone else, he was so grateful that when he took the soup from Master-Wife, his hand trembled slightly and spilled a little of the ginseng soup. Madam Yue reached for the bowl so she could feed him, but Linghu Chong quickly finished the soup in big swallows.

“Many thanks, Master and Master-Wife!” he uttered.

Yue Buqun stretched his arm out and placed his finger on Linghu Chong’s wrist to check on his pulse, but his pulse was slick and speedy, which could only mean that Linghu Chong’s inner energy level actually slipped back quite a bit. Yue Buqun was even more displeased, but he only said dryly, “Yeah, he has recovered.”

After a short while, Yue Buqun asked, “Chong, what did you do during the several months you spent on the ‘Cliff of Contemplation?’ How come your inner energy level not only did not progress, and quite on the contrary, has slipped a lot?”

“Master and Master-Wife, please pardon me!” Linghu Chong said, bowing his head down.

“Chong had fallen ill. He hasn’t fully recovered yet. Of course his inner energy would suffer. Do you actually expect the more severely he had fallen ill, the better his Kung Fu would have become?”

Yue Buqun shook his head and explained, “I wasn’t talking about if he’s healthy or not. I am talking about his mastery of inner energy, which has nothing to do with whether he falls ill or not. Our school’s Qi-Gong is quite different from other schools. As long as one keeps practicing it with devotion, he can progress even in his sleeps, let along the fact that Chong has been practicing our school’s Qi-Gong for over ten years. He shouldn’t have gotten sick unless he has incurred external wounds. In short…in short, it would still attribute to his not being able to control his emotions and desires.”

Madam Yue knew her husband was right, so she said to Linghu Chong, “Chong, your Master has repeatedly advised you to practice Qi-Gong and sword arts diligently. He punished you to meditate on top of the ‘Cliff of the Contemplation,’ but it isn’t really a punishment. He just wished that without any outside interference, your Qi-Gong and your sword skills would advance by leaps and bounds within the one-year period. Who would have thought…thought…alas…!”

Linghu Chong felt very embarrassed. “I am sorry. I realize my mistake now. I will practice with all my heart starting from today,” he said with his head down.

Yue Buqun spoke again. “There have been more and more turmoil in the Martial World these days. During the last several years, your Master-Wife and I went on many journeys and tried to smooth things up, but the root of the trouble remains and is difficult to get rid of. We believe that in the near future, big disasters are simply inevitable. We were both deeply concerned.” He paused for a moment and then continued. “You are the first apprentice of our sword school. Master-Wife and I both have great expectations for you. We hope that one day you’ll be able to share some of the responsibilities and tasks with us and gain great fame for our Huashan Sword School. But all you did was to tangle yourself with love affairs, neglecting your existing Kung Fu, not striving to make progress. You have really disappointed us.”

Seeing the deeply worried expression on his Master’s face, Linghu Chong felt even more frightened and embarrassed. He immediately knelt down. “I…I am so sorry that I disappointed Master and Master-Wife!”

Yue Buqun reached out and propped him up, smiling. “It’s good that you realize your mistake. Half a month from now, I will come back to check on your sword skills.” Right after those words, he turned around and headed down the cliff.

“Master, there’s this…,” Linghu Chong called out, wanting to report the drawings in the back cave and the man in the green robe. Yue Buqun waved him off and then walked away.

“You must practice hard and truly master the sword moves. This is something that will affect your entire future life. You must not take it lightly,” Madam Yue urged in a low voice.

“Yes, Master-Wife…,” Linghu Chong answered and was about to tell her the sword moves on the rock wall and the man in the green robe. Madam Yue pointed at Yue Buqun’s receding figure in a smile and waved her hand. She then turned around and caught up with her husband in big strode.

Linghu Chong thought to himself, “Why did Master-Wife say that how I practice sword moves would affect my entire future life and that I must not take it lightly? Why did Master-Wife wait till Master had left and then urged me behind Master’s back? Could it be…could it be…?”

A thought suddenly emerged in his head and his heart started thumping heavily while his cheeks burned with embarrassment. He didn’t dare to develop that thought, but hope still rose in his heart.

“Is it possible that because Master and Master-Wife know I got ill for little apprentice sister’s sake and have decided to betroth little apprentice sister to me? But the criteria is that I must work hard on my Kung Fu skills, and become capable of carrying on Master’s legacy in both Qi-Gong and sword arts. Master probably thought that it was inappropriate to speak it out. Master-Wife considers me her own son, that’s why she urged me behind his back. Otherwise, what else could have effects on my entire future life?” At that thought, he found himself in high spirit.

He drew his sword and picked a couple of the most advanced sword art forms Master had taught him to practice. But the drawings on the rock wall in the back cave had been so deeply engraved in his mind, regardless of which move he used he would naturally remember the many ways how others could break the move with. In the middle of the form, he withdrew his sword and held it still in the air, thinking, “I didn’t get a chance to tell Master and Master-Wife about the drawings on the rock wall in the back cave this time. When they come up the cliff again half a month later, they must be able to answer my questions and rid my doubts after they study the drawings carefully.”

Even though Madam Yue’s words greatly encouraged him, he didn’t progress much with his practice of Qi-Gong and sword arts during the half-month period. He kept going off into wild flights of fancy everyday.

“If Master and Master-Wife betrothed little apprentice sister to me, I wonder, in her own mind, whether she would agree to it or not. If we can really become husband and wife, would she forget her love to apprentice brother Lin? Well, apprentice brother Lin has only joined our school recently. He was only asking her for her advice on sword arts and sometimes chatting with her so she doesn’t get bored. They don’t really have true love between them. And how could that relationship compare to the relationship between little apprentice sister and I, when we grew up together and spent over ten years together everyday? That day, I almost got killed by Yu Canghai’s palm strike, and thanks to apprentice brother Lin’s interference with his shouting, I barely escaped death. I’d better never forget that and treat him well. If he ever gets into danger, even if I have to risk my own life, I’ll definitely step forward to save him.”

Half a month went by quickly. In an afternoon, the Yue Buqun couple came up the cliff again. Coming together with them were also Shi Daizi, Lu Dayou, and Yue Lingshan. Noticing that the little apprentice sister came together with them, Linghu Chong’s voice trembled when he greeted Master and Master-Wife.

Madam Yue could tell that Linghu Chong had a high morale. His complexion was also completely different compared to half a month ago. She nodded with a smile and said, “Lingshan, go fill the rice bowl for your big apprentice brother. Let him have a full stomach before he demonstrates his sword skills.”

“Yes.” Yue Lingshan answered. She carried the meal basket into the cave and sat it on the big rock. After taking out the bowls and utensils, she filled a bowl with rice.

“Big apprentice brother, you can eat now!” she said with a smile.

“Many…many thanks!” Linghu Chong replied.

“Why? Do you still have a fever? Why is your voice trembling when you speak?” Yue Lingshan grinned.

“It…it’s nothing,” Linghu Chong answered as he thought to himself, “If you will always be by my side when I eat for the many days and nights after, I won’t be asking for anything else in my entire life.” Not in the mood for food at the moment, he quickly finished the bowl of rice.

“Let me fill you another one,” Yue Lingshan suggested.

“No, thanks! Master and Master-Wife are still waiting for me outside.” Linghu Chong declined.

After Linghu Chong came out of the cave, he found Master and Master-Wife sitting on a big rock abreast. He went in front of them and bowed to salute. He wanted to say something, but then decided that no words would be appropriate. Lu Dayou winked at him with happiness piled upon his face.

“Sixth apprentice brother must have gotten some inside information and is feeling happy for me,” Linghu Chong thought.

Yue Buqun had his eyes fixed onto Linghu Chong’s face. After a long while he finally said, “Gengming came back from Chang-An yesterday and said that Tian Boguang has just committed several big crimes in Chang-An.”

“Tian Boguang has come to Chang-An? He won’t be doing anything good for sure.” Linghu Chong was surprised.

“Of course not! He burglarized seven families in a single night in the town of Chang-An. I wouldn’t have minded that much if he was simply stealing, but he left his handwriting on every family’s walls saying, ‘Borrowed by Ten Thousand Miles Loner – Tian Boguang’,” Yue Buqun exclaimed.

“What?” Linghu Chong uttered a cry. He said angrily, “The town of Chang-An is right next to Mount Huashan. He obviously left those words to defame our Huashan Sword School. Master, let’s….”

“Do what?” Yue Buqun asked.

“Master and Master-Wife are honorable masters, and it’s not worthy to dirty your sword for such a low life scoundrel. But my Kung Fu is not good enough to match the villain, besides that I am still being punished and can’t go down the cliff to look for him. That gives the villain the freedom to be on a rampage at the foot of Mount Huashan. This is so exasperating!”

“If you do have the confidence to kill that villain, of course I will let you go down the cliff and make amends for your faults with good deeds,” Yue Buqun replied. “Go ahead and show us the ‘Unrivaled and Unmatched, The Thrust of Ning’ your Master-Wife taught you. In the last half a year, you probably have grasped sixty to seventy percent of it. Once your Master-Wife gives you some more pointers, you might not lose to the villain Tian.”

Linghu Chong was taken by a shock. He thought to himself, “Master-Wife never taught me that move.” But after thinking about it a bit more, he understood, “On that day when Master-Wife demonstrated that move, even though she didn’t pass it on to me formally, with my training and knowledge in our school’s Kung Fu skills, I should have understood the key aspects of the sword move. Master reckoned that during the half year of practicing and polishing, I should have mastered most of it.”

He repeated the name “Unrivaled and Unmatched, The Thrust of Ning” back and forth in his head, and cold sweats started to emerge on his forehead. When he had first come up the cliff, he did ponder upon the fascinating techniques of that move many times and also practiced it several times. But ever since he discovered the drawings on the rock wall in the back cave, in his heart, he had been convinced with no doubt that each and every sword moves of the Huashan Sword School could be defeated. The move “Unrivaled and Unmatched, The Thrust of Ning” would especially suffer a crushing defeat. So, naturally, he had lost confidence in the sword move. Several times when the words “That move is useless. Others can break it easily.” came to his tongue, he swallowed them back. He really couldn’t criticize Master-Wife’s highly valued sword move in front of Shi Daizi and Lu Dayou.

“You haven’t mastered that move yet? That’s quite alright. That sword move represents the most advanced techniques and skills of our Huashan style Kung Fu. Your Qi-Gong is not that advanced yet, it’s only natural that you haven’t gotten it right. Give it some time, and you will get there,” noticing the strange expression on Linghu Chong’s face, Yue Buqun commented.

“Chong, don’t you want to thank your Master? He has agreed to teach you the secret formula for the Divine Art of Violet Twilight,” Madam Yue said with a smile.

“Yes! Many thanks to you, respectful Master!” Linghu Chong said in shock and quickly knelt down.

Yue Buqun reached out and stopped Linghu Chong from kneeling down. “Divine Art of Violet Twilight is our school’s most advanced Qi-Gong technique,” he said with a bright smile. “The reason why I didn’t teach you that rashly wasn’t because I wanted to keep it to myself. It was because once someone starts training with this Qi-Gong, he mustn’t have any distracting thoughts and must stay focused on advancing the skills. Any delay in the middle of the training would cause great harm to the practitioner and usually send him into a self-conflicting state. Chong, let me first see how your Kung Fu skills have progressed in the past half a year, then I will decide if I’ll teach you the secret formula for the Divine Art of Violet Twilight.”

Shi Daizi, Lu Dayou, and Yue Lingshan all showed great admiration on their faces when they heard that the big apprentice brother got to learn the Divine Art of Violet Twilight. All three of them knew that the Divine Art of Violet Twilight had magnificent powers. It was well said, “Nine skills of Huashan, Violet Twilight leads them all.” Although they were all aware that among all the apprentices, nobody’s Kung Fu skills were even close to Linghu Chong’s. There was no doubt that Linghu Chong would get the mantle from the Master and become the Head Master of Huashan Sword School in the future, they still didn’t expect Master to teach him the number one skill of Huashan Sword School so soon.

“Big apprentice brother works very hard. Every time when I bring the food up, I always saw big apprentice brother meditating to practice breathing exercises or practicing sword arts,” Lu Dayou claimed.

Yue Lingshan threw a sharp, sideways glance at Lu Dayou and made a face to him behind everyone’s back, thinking, “You Monkey Six! You are lying to their faces. You just want to help big apprentice brother anyway you can.”

“Chong, draw you sword! The three of us will be fighting Tian Boguang soon. We are really making a frantic last-minute effort here. Even though we are sharpening the spear only before going into battle, it is still better than not sharpening it at all.” Madam Yue grinned.

“Master-Wife, did you say the three of us are going to be fighting Tian Boguang?” Linghu Chong asked in shock.

“You challenge him in the front, and your Master and I will help you behind the scenes. No matter who kills him, we will all say that you killed him, so our fellow martial people in the Martial World won’t say that your Master and I were lowering ourselves to pick a fight with him.” Madam Yue explained.

“That’s awesome!” Yue Lingshan put her hands together and grinned. “Since Dad and Mom are going to help out behind the scenes, then I’d have the courage to challenge him too! After he’s dead, we’ll just all say that I am the one who did it. That would be so nice!”

“Are you jealous? You want to enjoy the unearned gain, don’t you?” Madam Yue laughed. “Your big apprentice brother has embraced untold dangers and fought with the fellow Tian Boguang for several hundred rounds. He knows Tian Boguang’s actual skills very well. Can you do that with just your little bit of Kung Fu? You are just a little girl. I don’t even want to hear the villain’s name mentioned out of your mouth, not mentioning having you fight him.”

All of a sudden, she thrust her sword at Linghu Chong and the sword tip almost reached Linghu Chong’s solar plexus. A second ago, she had been talking to her daughter in smiles, who would have expected that a second later, she had already drawn her long sword and thrust it at Linghu Chong’s vital point.

Linghu Chong also reacted very quickly. In an instant, he had drawn his own sword and blocked away the attack. With a loud clanking sound, the two swords clashed in the air and Linghu Chong took a step back with his left foot.

“Swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, and swish!” Madam Yue attacked six times continuously.

“Clank, clank, clank, clank, clank, and clank!” Linghu Chong blocked six times.

“Start your counter-attack!” Madam Yue yelled out and suddenly changed her fighting style by raising the sword high and slashing and chopping it down in great speed. Those weren’t a part of Huashan style sword arts.

Linghu Chong understood immediately that Master-Wife was performing Tian Boguang’s fast knife chops to help him comprehend ways to break them and thus put the enemy to death. Madam Yue’s attacks became faster and faster and it was almost impossible to distinguish the connection between each moves.

“Dad, Mom’s moves are really fast, but aren’t those still sword moves, not knife moves? I am afraid Tian Boguang’s knife chops won’t be like that,” Yue Lingshan said to her father.

“Tian Boguang has outstanding Kung Fu skills. It’s not an easy task to imitate his knife chop moves,” Yue Buqun explained with a slight smile. “Your mother is not really imitating his knife arts. She is only focusing on the ‘fast’ part of it and performing the ‘fast’ part incisively and vividly. In order to rid Tian Boguang, the key lies not in how to break his knife arts, but in how to restrain the speed of his knife moves. Look at that, perfect timing! Graceful Phoenix!”

Yue Buqun noticed that Linghu Chong had slightly lowered his left shoulder while retracting his right elbow and pointing his left hand fingers to the side, then the move Graceful Phoenix immediately followed. That was the perfect move to use at the exact moment. In immense joy, he shouted out the name of the move. But as soon as the words came out of his mouth, Linghu Chong’s thrust appeared weak and crooked. The thrust failed to penetrate the net weaved by Madam Yue’s sword.

“What a terrible execution of the move,” Yue Buqun heaved a sigh and thought aloud.

Madam Yue showed no mercy whatsoever. With three quick thrusts, she sent Linghu Chong into a frantic rush. Seeing that Linghu Chong had executed every sword move in a flustered way and that none of the moves were well organized, three out of ten moves were actually not Huashan style sword art moves at all, Yue Buqun soon had a ghastly expression on his face.

Although Linghu Chong’s sword moves were really disorganized, he managed to block the swift and fierce attacks by Madam Yue. After he retreated next to the rock wall and had no more space to retract to, he gradually started his counter-attack. When a chance suddenly presented itself, he immediately attacked with the move Green Pines Welcoming Guests. His sword tip seemed to have transformed into countless sparks and pelted toward Madam Yue’s tempos.

A loud bang exploded as Madam Yue blocked the attack with her sword. She quickly waved her sword in front of herself for protection. Madam Yue knew well that the move Green Pines Welcoming Guests had several powerful additional techniques. Although Linghu Chong had mastered that move well and would never really hit her with it, it was still a tough move to defend, so she changed into a defending stance from the previous attacking stance and waited in great focus. But who would have thought that Linghu Chong’s long sword came in such a slow speed with no strength attached – it didn’t even pose a threat.

“Execute your moves attentively. What the heck are you imagining in your head?” Madam Yue yelled and slashed her sword three times. Seeing that Linghu Chong jumped around and dodged those moves, she shouted, “What kind of Green Pines Welcoming Guests was that? Have you returned all your sword training back to your Master because of your illness?”

“Sorry!” Linghu Chong replied as he returned the attack with two of his own thrusts. His face was covered with embarrassment.

Noticing that Master’s face look more and more discontented, Shi Daizi and Lu Dayou were both worried. Rustling sounds rose suddenly as Madam Yue began circling around the field. Her green skirt seemed to have transformed into a blurry green shadow. Reflections from her sword glimmered, and because of her great speed, all of her sword moves became indistinct.

Linghu Chong’s brain seemed to have become a pool of muddle. All kinds of thoughts flashed by in his head and created chaos. “If I use Galloping Steeds, the opponent can use the brilliant level blocking move to overcome it. If I use the sideway thrust, I’d undoubtedly be getting a terrible wound.” As soon as he thought of a sword move from the Huashan sword art, he couldn’t help but remember a move on the rock wall that would break the sword move. The reason why he gave up halfway when he used the moves Graceful Phoenix and Green Pines Welcoming Guests was because he had remembered the different ways that can be used to break those two moves. He had become very scared, thus instinctively, he would stop half way through the execution and retract into a defending stance.

Madam Yue had used the fast sword moves hoping to lead him into using the “Unrivaled and Unmatched, The Thrust of Ning” to beat the opponent and claim victory, but Linghu Chong simply blocked using random moves. He simply wasn’t focused. It appeared as if he was completely terror-stricken and scared out of his wit. She had long known that Linghu Chong had great courage and was the fear-nothing type. She had never seen him fight like this before.

“Don’t you want to use that move?” greatly annoyed, Madam Yue yelled out loudly.

“Yes Ma’am!” Linghu Chong answered as he thrust his sword straightforward. The way he used the technique and the way the sword traveled matched the move created by Madam Yue – Unrivaled and Unmatched, The Thrust of Ning – exactly.

“Good!” Madam Yue shouted. She knew this move was an ultimately swift and fierce one, so she dared not to take it head on, but instead, dodged to the side and shot out a back prick.

But meanwhile, Linghu Chong was actually thinking to himself, “This move is not going to work. It’s useless. It will only get me a crushing defeat.”

Suddenly, a tremendous shock came from his wrist and his long sword flew out of his grip into the air. “Ah…!” in astonishment, Linghu Chong burst out a cry.

Wasting no time, Madam Yue immediately thrust her sword straight forth. The force of the thrust sent the blade whistling through the air. It was none other than the move she had created – Unrivaled and Unmatched, The Thrust of Ning. But this time, the power of the move was even greater than when she first created the move the other day.

Ever since she created that proud move of hers, she had been pondering over the move every single day about how to make it faster and how to make it more powerful so that the thrust would guarantee a hit that the enemy would have no chance of dodging or blocking. She was completely outraged when she saw how Linghu Chong executed this proud move of hers – the beginning part looked similar, but half way through, the core part turned out to be completely different. It was almost like someone tried to draw a tiger and ended up with the likeness of a dog. Linghu Chong had acted like a good-for-nothing fellow and had executed an extremely powerful killer move in a wretched and sloppy way. In great rage, she decided to execute the move herself instead.

Although she didn’t intend to hurt her apprentice, the move was simply too powerful. Before the tip of the sword even reached the target, the energy coming from the sword had completely enveloped Linghu Chong’s entire body.

Yue Buqun could tell that Linghu Chong had no way of dodging or blocking the attack, not mentioning putting together a counter-attack. On the other day when Madam Yue’s sword touched Linghu Chong’s clothes, she immediately shocked the sword into pieces with her inner energy. But the thrust today had all the energy focused right on the sword tip. In that mode, Madam Yue might not be able to pull it back.

“Oh, no!” Yue Buqun groaned inwardly as he drew the sword by his daughter’s waist in a rush and took a step forward. He was ready to jump forth to block Madam Yue’s sword if it would reach half a foot further. He and Madam Yue had been fellow apprentice before, so their skill levels weren’t that far apart from each other. Even though Yue Buqun was slightly better, since Madam Yue was already half way into her move, he had no certainty of successfully blocking the thrust away. All he could do was to wish inwardly that Linghu Chong would only be slightly wounded.

In the nick of time, Linghu Chong’s fingertip happened to touch the sheath hung by his waist. He slightly bent his knees to lower his body and then aimed the sheath straight at Madam Yue’s sword tip. This posture was exactly the same one as the drawing on the rock wall in the back cave – the staff wielding man aimed his staff straight at the opponent’s sword tip so the staff and the sword made a perfect straight line; once the two forces collided, the sword would have to break in half. Linghu Chong’s head was already in chaos with the many images of the moves drawn on the rock wall flashing back and forth. After his sword was knocked out of his grip, seeing Madam Yue’s thunder-like attack heading toward his way, he had no idea how to dodge the attack, so in order to save his own life, he naturally remembered the move drawn on the rock wall without thinking. The attack came in great speed; his counter move also happened in great speed. There was really no time for him to even think much about it, much less looking for a staff. Since his fingertip happened to touch the sheath, he immediately aimed the sheath at the sword in a straight line. Even if his fingertip had happened to touch a block of mud or a straw, he would have used the same move to aim it at the sword in a straight line. Once the move was out, it naturally gathered his strength around his arms, and with a clanking sound, the sword went right into the sheath. It turned out that in panic, Linghu Chong didn’t even think about turning the sheath around. As soon as he grabbed onto the sheath, he immediately aimed it at the coming sword tip, and had actually aimed the opening end of the sheath at the sword; that was why Madam Yue’s long sword didn’t break in half but instead went straight into the sheath.

In great bewilderment, Madam Yue only felt a great pain coming from her palm while her sword being taken out of her grip by Linghu Chong using the sheath. The move Linghu Chong used contained many additional techniques, and by then Linghu Chong had lost control of himself. Almost instinctively, he jabbed the sheath forward toward Madam Yue’s throat, and the weapon on its way toward Madam Yue’s throat was none other than the handle of her own sword.

Half astonished and half outraged, Yue Buqun waved his long sword and knocked it onto the sheath in Linghu Chong’s grip. He used the Divine Art of Violet Twilight with this hit. Linghu Chong only felt a stream of warmth surged through his body and had no choice but to stumble three big steps back until he lost his balance and sat down on the ground heavily. The sheath, together with the sword in it, broke into several pieces before falling to the ground. Right at the instant, in a white flash, the long sword in the air fell with its tip pointing down and went all the way into the ground, leaving only the handle showing above ground. Shi Daizi, Lu Dayou, and Yue Lingshan were simply dazzled by the unexpected scene.

Yue Buqun rushed in front of Linghu Chong. Reaching out with his right hand, he slapped Linghu Chong hard on each of his cheeks.

“You dirty swine! What were you doing?” he yelled in rage.

Linghu Chong felt dizzy and almost fell to the ground. As soon as he regained himself, he knelt down on the ground.

“Master, Master-Wife, please forgive me.”

Yue Buqun’s anger exploded. “In the last half a year, what contemplation have you been pondering over and what Kung Fu have you been practicing?” he shouted furiously.

“I…I didn’t…didn’t practice any Kung Fu,” Linghu Chong answered in terror.

“Where did you get your wild imagination to create that move against your Master-Wife?” Yue Buqun asked again in a stern voice.

“I…I didn’t think. In the urgency, I just happened…happened to use it,” Linghu Chong answered haltingly.

Yue Buqun heaved a sigh. “I figured that you just happened to use it without much thinking. That’s why I am getting very angry. Do you know that you have gone on to the evil way and might not be able to extricate yourself?”

“Master, would you please explain?” Linghu Chong bowed his head down.

After quite a long while, Madam Yue finally calmed herself down. Seeing Linghu Chong’s swollen cheeks in black and purple from her husband’s heavy slaps, she couldn’t help but feel pity and sorry for him.

“You can get up now! You didn’t know the crux of the matter anyway,” she said to Linghu Chong.

Turning toward her husband, she said, “Apprentice brother, Chong is a very bright boy. In the past half a year, he trained all by himself and couldn’t reach the two of us for any advice. That’s probably why he got onto the evil way. But he hasn’t gone very far in that evil direction. It’s still not too late to correct him and get him back to the righteous way.”

Yue Buqun nodded. “Get up now,” he said to Linghu Chong.

Linghu Chong stood up slowly. Staring at the long sword and the sheath on the ground each broken in three pieces, he was dazzled, having no idea why Master and Master-Wife both said that his training had gone onto the evil way.

“Come over here, all of you.” Yue Buqun waved at Shi Daizi and the bunch.

“Yes, Master,” Shi Daizi, Lu Dayou, and Yue Lingshan answered in unison and walked by Yue Buqun’s side.

“Twenty-five years ago, our Huashan Sword School’s Kung Fu used to be in two styles: the righteous style and the evil style,” Yue Buqun sat down on a big rock and explained slowly.

Linghu Chong and the rest of the apprentices became very confused, each thinking, “Huashan Sword School Kung Fu is Huashan Sword School Kung Fu. How could there be the distinctively righteous style and the evil style? Why hasn’t Master ever mentioned this to us before?”

“Dad,” Yue Lingshan interrupted, “the Kung Fu we learned naturally is the righteous style Kung Fu, isn’t it?”

“Of course it is! Why would someone go on with his training knowing that he was learning the heterodox style Kung Fu?” Yue Buqun affirmed. “But the heterodox branch claimed that they were the real orthodox branch and called our branch the heterodox branch. Time became the best judge to decide which one is righteous and which one is evil. The heterodox branch eventually vanished like mist and smokes and has been gone for the last twenty-five years.”

“No wonder I had never heard about it before. Dad, since the heterodox branch had been long gone, I guess we don’t have to worry about them anymore,” Yue Lingshan commented.

“What do you know?” Yue Buqun mocked. “The heterodox branch wasn’t really like those evil heterodox clans and cults out there today. They were still using our school’s own Kung Fu skills, but they had a different focus in their training. When I teach you Kung Fu skills, what do I teach you at the very beginning?” He fixed his stare on Linghu Chong’s face.

“You first taught us the formula and techniques on how to control and manipulate our inner energy. We start training with Qi-Gong,” Linghu Chong answered.

“That’s correct. In our Huashan Sword School style Kung Fu, the key lies in the words ‘Inner Energy.’ Once your inner energy is developed with Qi-Gong practices, then regardless of what you use as your weapon, let be your fists and legs, or knives and swords, you will succeed whenever you go. That is the righteous way for training in our school. But among the senior grandmasters of our school, there were a group of people who believed that the key of our school’s Kung Fu lied in the word ‘Sword,’ and that once someone developed his sword skills, even with ordinary level of inner energy, he could still defeat the enemy. The main divergence between the righteous branch and the evil branch lies right here.”

“Dad, I have a comment. Promise me that you won’t get mad at me,” Yue Lingshan interrupted again.

“What comment?” Yue Buqun asked.

“I think in our school’s Kung Fu, no doubt inner energy part is critical, but we can’t overlook sword skills either. If one only has great inner energy, but doesn’t have good sword skills, he still won’t be able to demonstrate the power of our Huashan style Kung Fu,” Yue Lingshan said.

Yue Buqun let out a snort. “Who said that sword skills weren’t important? The main point here is about which drives which. Inner energy is the driving force here after all.”

“Wouldn’t it be nice if both inner energy and sword skills were the driving forces?” Yue Lingshan asked.

“This comment of yours alone is sending you closer to the evil way. When you say both of them are the driving forces, you are really saying that neither of them is the driving force. The old saying said, once the head-rope of a fishing-net is pulled up, all its meshes open. Which is the key link and which is the mesh? We must be very clear about it. In those years when they had the discussion about the righteous style and the evil style, our school had earthshaking changes that turned the entire Huashan Sword School upside down. If you said those words thirty years ago, your head probably wouldn’t be still on your neck longer than half a day.”

“Just because a wrong comment, they’d chop people’s heads off? Wow! Aren’t they too overbearing or what?” Yue Lingshan stuck her tongue out in disbelief.

“When I was still a teenager, the fight between the Qi-Branch and the Sword-Branch in our Huashan Sword School hadn’t produced a winner,” Yue Buqun explained. “If you had said that comment in public during that period of time, people from the Qi-Branch would want to kill you, and people from the Sword-Branch would want you dead just the same. You said that inner energy and sword skills were as important as each other and both should be the driving forces. The Qi-Branch would of course interpret that as that you were elevating Sword-Branch’s position above them; the Sword-Branch would think that you mixed up the key line with the meshes and would still blame you for treason and heresy.”

“What’s there to argue about? If they wanted to know who was right and who was wrong, have a contest, then they’d know right away!” Yue Lingshan said.

Yue Buqun heaved a long sigh and said slowly, “Over thirty years ago, our Qi-Branch was the minority. Uncle-Masters in the Sword-Branch were the majority. In addition to that, Sword-Branch Kung Fu skills can be mastered easily and quickly. If everyone trains for ten years, then the Sword-Branch will definitely have the lead. If every one trains for twenty years, then each side would have an equal opportunity to claim victory. Only after twenty years and more training, people trained with Qi-Branch Kung Fu would gradually become better and stronger. After thirty years of training, people trained with Sword-Branch Kung Fu would then be left far behind and never stand a chance to compete again. But that means it takes at least twenty years to actually find out which one is better. You could probably imagine how fierce and intense the fight was during the twenty years or so time period.”

“So at the very end, the Sword-Branch people admitted their mistakes and their failure, didn’t they?” Yue Lingshan asked.

Yue Buqun shook his head silently. After a long while, he finally spoke again.

“They all insisted on their theory stubbornly and never admitted their failure. Even though they suffered a crushing defeat in the big sword contest on the Jade Maiden Peak, most of them …most of them took their own lives with their own swords. The remaining ones all quietly withdrew from society and lived in solitude and never showed themselves in the Martial World again.”

“Ah!” Linghu Chong, Yue Lingshan and the bunch of apprentices all uttered a cry of astonishment.

“They were all apprentice brothers in the same school. It was just a sword contest. What was that big of a deal? Why did they take it so hard?” Yue Lingshan asked.

“It was concerning the foundation of martial arts theories. It wasn’t just a small matter as apprentice brothers sparring each other,” Yue Buqun said seriously. “In that year when the Five Mountains sword schools fought for the hosting right of the Alliance Chief, our school really had the most talented people with the highest Kung Fu skills. But because of the fierce internal fight in our school, over twenty elite senior masters got killed in that big sword contest on top of Jade Maiden Peak. Sure, the Sword-Branch had a crushing defeat, but many elite fighters in the Qi-Branch lost their lives also. That’s how Songshan Sword School took the Alliance Chief title eventually. The fight between the Qi-Branch and the Sword-Branch of the Huashan Sword School was really the root of the trouble.”

Linghu Chong and the rest all nodded again and again.

“It’s all right that our school didn’t get to be the host for Alliance Chief. It’s also all right that the Huashan Sword School’s fame was damaged dramatically. But what was not all right was the fact that apprentice brothers in our own school were killing each other ruthlessly because of the internal dissension. Those apprentice brothers used to be like real brothers to each other, but it turned so cruel and brutal, either you kill me or I’ll kill you. When I think about the scenes on Mount Huashan in those years, how everyone felt they could die at any minute, my heart still flutters with fear.” At those words, he cast a glance at Madam Yue.

Madam Yue’s face slightly twitched. She couldn’t help but feel the terror when she remembered many years ago how the elite fighters in Huashan Sword School had slaughtered each other.

Yue Buqun slowly unbuttoned his clothes and exposed his chest as Yue Lingshan shouted in shock.

“Oh my God! Dad, you…you…!”

A two feet long scar lay across his chest from his left shoulder reaching all the way to his right chest. The wound had healed a long time ago, but a pale reddish line still showed clearly. Apparently the wound was so severe that Yue Buqun almost lost his life because of it. Both Linghu Chong and Yue Lingshan had grown up by Yue Buqun’s side, but neither of them had known about the scar until now.

Yue Buqun explained as he started to button his clothes. “In that day of the big sword contest atop Jade Maiden Peak, an Uncle-Master in our school hit me with a strong sword slash. I fainted immediately. He probably thought I was already dead and paid no more attention to me. If he had conveniently stabbed me again, hmm!”

“Then undoubtedly that you, Father, wouldn’t be sitting here today, and who knows where I, Yue Lingshan, would be at?” Yue Lingshan grinned.

Yue Buqun let out a slight smile but his face soon turned solemn again. “This is a big secret of our Huashan Sword School. Don’t any of you let it out! Although people from other schools knew that the Huashan Sword School had lost over twenty elite masters in a single day, none of them knew the truth lying behind it. We only claimed to the outside world that a plague suddenly broke out and almost wiped out our entire Huashan Sword School. We should never let others know about this disgraceful event that happened to our school. The reason why I had to tell you all the cause and effect today is because the consequences could be very severe. If Chong followed the current path and went on with his training, then within three years, he would think ‘sword skill is more important than inner energy’ and get trapped in an extremely dangerous state of mind. That will not only destroy you and the ultimately true orthodox Kung Fu of our Huashan Sword School, earned by many senior masters sacrificing their lives, but also our entire Huashan Sword School.”

Cold sweats broke out all over Linghu Chong’s body as he listened in. “I’ve made a terrible mistake. Master and Master-Wife, please punish me heavily,” He bowed his head down in shame.

“Well,” Yue Buqun said with a sigh, “it is really an unintentional mistake you have made. You are really not to blame. But think about the many Uncle-Masters of the Sword-Branch. They all had good intentions to build great fame for our school using extreme Kung Fu, yet once they went on the wrong way and had gone too far down the road, they simply couldn’t extricate themselves any more. If I don’t give you a blow and shout right now, with your intelligence and temper, you could easily end up taking the evil route to try to find shortcuts for quick effects.”

“Yes, Master!” Linghu Chong answered.

“Chong, how did you think of the earlier move that used the sheath to take away my sword?” Madam Yue asked.

“I only wanted to get out from Master-Wife’s extremely powerful attack. Who would have thought…who would have thought…?” Linghu Chong felt so ashamed and embarrassed.

“That’s it. By now you probably understand which one is truly superior between Qi-Branch and Sword-Branch. This move of yours is surely a clever one, but as soon as it met with your Master’s first-class Qi-Gong, despite of how clever it is, it would be rendered useless. When the two branches had the big sword contest on Jade Maiden Peak that year, elite fighters from the Sword-Branch had dazzling magical moves that were ultimately brilliant, but your Grandmaster relied on his Divine Art of Violet Twilight to counter motion with standstill and defy cleverness with dullness. He was able to defeat over ten elite fighters from the Sword-Branch and affirmed the foundation of our school’s orthodox Kung Fu. All of your must take your Master’s advice to your heart and ponder over it again and again. The Kung Fu of our school uses inner energy as the foundation and sword skills as the implementation; inner energy is the driving force and sword skill is the secondary; inner energy is the key line and sword skill is the mesh. If you can’t succeed with your inner energy development, despite of how strong you are with your sword skills, it is still useless after all.”

Linghu Chong, Shi Daizi, Lu Dayou, and Yue Lingshan all bowed down for the preaching of Madam Yue.

“Chong, I had planned to teach you the entry formula for the Divine Art of Violet Twilight today and then bring you down Mount Huashan to kill the villain Tian Boguang, but we’d better postpone that for now,” Yue Buqun said. “During the next two months, you can practice the breathing exercise for Qi-Gong training I taught you before diligently and forget all about those heterodoxy and weird sword moves. I will check on you again later to see if you have any progress.” At those words, he suddenly put on a stern tone, “But if you obstinately stick to the wrong course and stay on Sword-Branch’s evil route, humph, a harsher punishment would be to take your life, and a lighter punishment would be to destroy all the Kung Fu you have and banish you out of our school once and for all. By then, it would be too late to beg for mercy, and don’t you blame me for not explaining everything clearly to you beforehand!”

Cold sweat streamed down Linghu Chong’s forehead. “Yes, Master. I would never dare to do so,” he said.

“Lingshan,” Yue Buqun turned to his daughter, “Dayou and you are both the impetuous type. You two should also remember what I just said to your big apprentice brother.”

“Yes, Master!” Lu Dayou answered immediately.

“Sixth apprentice brother and I are impatient, but we are not as smart as big apprentice brother and won’t be able to create sword moves of our own. Dad, you can relax,” Yue Lingshan argued.

“You won’t be able to create sword moves of your own? Didn’t you create a sword form called Chong-Ling Sword Art with Chong?” Yue Buqun snorted.

Linghu Chong and Yue Lingshan both blushed.

“Sorry Master, we were being mischievous.” Linghu Chong asked for forgiveness.

“That was a long, long time ago. I was still a kid by then who didn’t know anything and was just playing with big apprentice brother. How did you hear about it?” Yue Lingshan grinned.

“My apprentices wanted to create sword art of their own and start a new style. If I, the Head Master, still had no clue, wouldn’t I have become a muddle-head?”

“D-a-a-a-d, you are still making fun of me!” Yue Lingshan pulled onto her father’s sleeve and whined.

Linghu Chong, on the other hand, felt a great shock in his heart when he noticed that there was no sign of joking from the Master’s tone of voice or the expression on his face.

Yue Buqun stood up. “When someone advanced into the higher level of our school’s Kung Fu, even a petal of flower or a leaf could be used as a weapon to injure the enemy. Others might think that the Huashan Sword School is only good at its sword skills. They have really belittled us.”

Yue Buqun flicked his left sleeve, and the long sword by Lu Dayou’s waist jumped out of the sheath as the stream of energy reached it. He then followed with a flick from his right sleeve. As soon as the sleeve touched the blade, the sword broke in half with a loud cracking sound.

Linghu Chong and the rest of the apprentices were seized by terror while Madam Yue eyed her husband with tremendous admiration and respect.

“Let’s go!” Yue Buqun said and walked off the cliff together with Madam Yue. Yue Lingshan, Shi Daizi, and Lu Dayou followed behind them.

Staring at the two broken swords laying still on the ground, Linghu Chong was half stunned and half thrilled. He thought aloud, “It turned out that our school’s Kung Fu is really powerful. No one would be able to defeat our sword art regardless of which move Master uses. All those drawings on the rock wall in the back cave claimed that the unique sword moves of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance were defeatable, yet the Five Mountains Sword Alliance is still able to enjoy great fames in the Martial World today. Hence every sword school has advanced Qi-Gong as the foundation, and once the sword move is executed with vigorous inner energy, it would be difficult to defeat. This is actually a very simple principle, but I had forgot about it when my thoughts were on the wrong track and went to a dead end. With the same move of Graceful Phoenix, how could I treat the one executed by apprentice brother Lin and the one executed by Master as the same? The staff wielding man can defeat apprentice brother Lin’s Graceful Phoenix, but he would stand no chance defeating Master’s Graceful Phoenix.”

Finally able to figure out the answer to his puzzled mind, Linghu Chong ridded himself of all shadows of anxiety. Even though Master didn’t teach him the Divine Art of Violet Twilight, nor did he say anything about betrothing Yue Lingshan to marry him, Linghu Chong didn’t feel depressed in any way. On the contrary, he was gratified for gaining back his confidence in the Huashan Sword School’s Kung Fu. But when he remembered how he had had the wildest fantasy thinking that Master and Master-Wife would betroth their daughter to marry him, he blushed in great embarrassment.

At dusk the next day, Lu Dayou brought food up the cliff.

“Big apprentice brother, Master and Master-Wife left for Northern Shanxi early this morning.”

“Northern Shanxi? Why not Chang-An?” Linghu Chong asked with a bit of surprise.

“The chap Tian Boguang committed several more crimes in the town of Yan-An. It turned out that the villain is no longer in Chang-An,” Lu Dayou explained.

“Oh!” Linghu Chong replied.

He thought that since Master and Master-Wife had attended the matter personally, Tian Boguang would have no chance of surviving, but deep in his mind, he couldn’t help but feel sorry for Tian Boguang.

“For a guy like Tian Boguang, who loves porn and lewd obscenities, and has been committing crimes after crimes against innocent people, even death would not expiate all his sins. He surely has high Kung Fu skills, and in the two fights between the two of us, he acted open and upright and showed the qualities of a true man. What a pity that he chooses to commit evil deeds and thus become a public enemy of the entire Martial World.”

Throughout the next two days, Linghu Chong focused on practicing his Qi-Gong and never went back into the back cave to study the drawings on the rock wall. Whenever thoughts about the drawings came into his mind, he would force them out instantly with no hesitation and tried his best to avoid them. He kept thinking, “Fortunately Master shouted his advice to me in time. Otherwise, I’d be going on the wrong road and become a sinner of our Huashan Sword School. What a close call!”

One day, after dinner, Linghu Chong meditated for a couple of hours when he suddenly heard someone climbing up the cliff. The sounds of footsteps appeared to be swift and agile. It was obvious that the person had great Kung Fu skills. Linghu Chong felt a shock in his heart.

“He’s not someone from our sword school. Why is he coming up the cliff? Could he be the masked man in the green robe?”

He rushed into the back cave and picked up a Huashan sword to hang by his waist before rushing back to the front cave. Only moments later, the person had climbed up the cliff.

“Brother Linghu, your old friend is here to visit you!” the fellow shouted.

The voice sounded very familiar to Linghu Chong and it only took him a short moment before realizing that it was the voice of “Ten Thousand Miles Loner” Tian Boguang.

In astonishment, Linghu Chong thought to himself, “Master and Master-Wife went down Mount Huashan to go after you, yet you are still so bold to come up Mount Huashan yourself. What do you want here?”

He walked out from the cave and greeted with a smile. “Brother Tian, what a big surprise that you have come such a long way to visit me!”

Tian Boguang carried two large bamboo baskets on a shoulder pole. He sat the bamboo baskets on the ground and then took out a large jar from each of the basket, a big smile on his face.

“I heard that brother Linghu had become a prisoner on top of Mount Huashan, so I figured that he must have been drooling for a good drink of wine, that’s why I took two jars of one hundred and thirty year old mellow wine from the cellar of Chang-An Banished Fairy Wine House, so I can drink my fill together with brother Linghu,” he said.

Linghu Chong took several steps closer. Sure enough, under the moonlight, the trademark in golden characters on red papers “Banished Fairy Wine House” could be clearly seen glued to the two huge wine-jars. The trademark papers and the seals on the wine-jars appeared to be quite aged. It was obvious that those two wine-jars weren’t anything current. He couldn’t help but feel delighted.

“Wow, to carry a hundred pound of wine all the way up Mount Huashan, what a big present! Come! Come! Let’s have a drink!” His face split into a big smile.

Linghu Chong took two big bowls out from inside the cave. As soon as Tian Boguang opened the seal, the wonderful smell of the mellow wine filled the air. Before he even had a chance to taste it, Linghu Chong already felt tipsy.

“Have a taste! What do you think?” Tian Boguang poured a bowl of wine from the wine-jar.

Linghu Chong took the bowl and drank a big swallow. “This is superb!” he praised and then poured the entire bowl of wine down his throat. Raising his thumb up, he said, “Famous wine! It’s really exceptional!”

“I’ve heard that out of all the famous wines, Fen-Wine ranks number one in northern China, and Shao-Wine leads the rest in southern China. Actually the best Fen-Wine is not in Shan-Xi Province but in the town of Chang-An. And in the town of Chang-An, the best one would be none other than the ‘Banished Fairy Wine House’ where Li Taiba used to get drunk all the time many years ago. And in the entire world, other than these two jars of wine, no one will be able to find a third one left,” Tian Boguang grinned.

“Are you saying that they only had these two jars of wine left in the cellar of the Banished Fairy Wine House?” Linghu Chong asked in surprise.

“After I took these two wine-jars, there were still about two hundred jars left in the cellar. I figured that if all those high officials and noble lords in the town of Chang-An, the ordinary and vulgar ones, could go to the Banished Fairy Wine House to enjoy such wonderful wine as long as they have money in their pockets, then how could the Big Hero Linghu of the Huashan Sword School stand out from all the ordinary? Therefore I banged and whammed, and soon the entire cellar was filled with the wonderful smell of wine as the flood of wine went up almost to my waist,” Tian Boguang explained in amusement.

“Are you saying that you actually smashed two hundred or so jars of wine into pieces?” Linghu Chong was half stunned and half amused.

“Wouldn’t it be more valuable if there were only two jars left in the entire world? Ha-ha! Ha-ha!” Tian Boguang burst into loud laughter.

“Thanks! Many thanks!” Linghu Chong drank another bowl. “It is so troublesome for you to carry these two jars of wine all the way from Chang-An to Mount Huashan, brother Tian. Even if they were filled with pure water, I’d owe you a debt of gratitude, anyhow, not mentioning that they were filled with famous wine.”

“You are a good man! A real man!” Tian Boguang praised loudly with his thumbs up.

“Why are you praising me all of a sudden?” Linghu Chong asked.

“I am an infamous evil rapist who commits all kinds of crimes. I’ve severely wounded you before and have also committed several crimes right by the foot of Mount Huashan. Everyone in the Huashan Sword School wished to kill me. But when I carried the wine here today, brother Linghu drank it with complete ease, without ever worrying that I might plant poison in the wine. Only a true man with such breath of mind is worth enjoying such worldly famous wine.”

“Brother Tian, you are making fun of me now. I have fought you twice and knew well that even though brother Tian has very bad conducts, you would disdain to stab anyone on the back. Besides, your Kung Fu skills are way higher than mine. If you want to kill me, all you have to do is to draw your knife and chop down. What’s so difficult about that?” Linghu Chong said.

“Brother Linghu, you said it right!” Tian Boguang laughed some more. “But did you know that I didn’t carry these two jars of wine directly from Chang-An to Mount Huashan? I carried these hundred-pound wine first to Northern Shanxi for two robberies, and then to Eastern Shanxi for another two robberies before I finally came up Mount Huashan.”

Linghu Chong was stunned. He pondered over it and quickly understood. “So brother Tian continuously committed many crimes just to divert my Master and Master-Wife away, so you can come and see me. You’ve used the strategy of luring the enemy away from the base. Brother Tian, after going through all these trouble, what do you exactly want from me?” he said.

“Brother Linghu, why don’t you give it a wild guess?” Tian Boguang suggested with a smile.

“No way!” Linghu Chong rejected. He poured a bowl full of wine and then said, “Brother Tian, you are a guest here at Mount Huashan. I don’t have anything in exchange for your present here on the barren cliff. I am just going to borrow something to make a gift of it. Please enjoy a bowl of number one wine in the world.”

“Thanks!” Tian Boguang answered and poured the bowl of wine down his throat.

Linghu Chong also drank a bowl of wine as accompany. After showing each other the empty bottom of the bowls, the two set the bowls down and broke into a laugh at the same time. All of a sudden, Linghu Chong kicked out with his right leg, and with two loud bangs, the two large wine-jars were kicked down the deep valley. Only after a long while, two muffled smashing sounds came back from the bottom.

“Why did you kick the wine-jars down, brother Linghu?” Tian Boguang asked in shock.

“Tian Boguang,” Linghu Chong answered, “we don’t belong to the same sides of the society. You have committed numerous crimes and harmed many innocent people. Everyone in the Martial World hates your guts. I drank three bowls of wine with you because I think you are someone upright and not some kind of shameless filthy scoundrel. Our relationship stops right here. You’ve brought me two jars of great wine, but even if you put all the precious jewels and treasures right in front me, do you think you can buy Linghu Chong to be your friend?” He yelled as he drew his long sword, “Tian Boguang, let me try your fast knife chop moves one more time!”

Tian Boguang didn’t draw his knife. He shook his head with a slight smile on his face. “Brother Linghu, your respectful school’s sword art is brilliant, but you are still too young and haven’t grasped the depth of it. Right now with your sword skills, you are still no match for me.”

Linghu Chong thought for a second and then nodded in agreement. “What you said is very true. Within the next ten years, Linghu Chong would stand no chance of ever killing you, brother Tian.” With a loud clanking sound, he sent his long sword back into the sheath.

“Whosoever understands the times is a great man!” Tian Boguang burst into loud laughter.

“Linghu Chong is only a nobody in the Martial World. I suppose you made nothing of hardships to Mount Huashan not for my head on my neck. We are enemies, not friends. No matter what you want me to do, I won’t do it.” Linghu Chong announced.

“But you haven’t even given yourself a chance to hear my proposal yet.” Tian Boguang was amused.

“Precisely!” Linghu Chong said. “No matter what you propose, I won’t agree. Since I can’t beat you in a fight, I’d better lubricate my heels and have the run for it.” Before the word even faded in the air, he had already turned around the corner to the back of the cliff.

Linghu Chong knew well that Tian Boguang could run very fast. That was how he got his nickname “Ten Thousand Miles Loner.” He had good knife skills, but there were plenty of people in the Martial World who could beat him. He had been committing various crimes for the last ten years or so. Yet because he was always on good alert and had first-class Qing-Gong skills, during the several times when the Chivalry Side gathered a good amount of people to hunt him down, no one was even able to touch him. For this reason when Linghu Chong started running, he ran with all his strength.

He thought he was fast, but Tian Boguang was even faster. Only after Linghu Chong dashed out some thirty feet, he already found Tian Boguang blocking the way in front of him. He turned around immediately heading toward the front of the cliff, thinking that he might be able to jump down the cliff to the lower slope, but only after about ten steps, Tian Boguang had caught up with him again and blocked in front of him with his arms stretching out, laughing hectically.

“No chance of running away, I guess we’ll have to pick a fight! Brother Tian, you can’t blame me if I call for help now!” Linghu Chong took three steps back and shouted.

“Well,” Tian Boguang said with a grin, “if your respectful Master can come, then it would be my turn to lubricate my heels and take the run for it. Too bad Mr. and Madam Yue are in Eastern Shanxi right now, which is at least a hundred and fifty miles away from here, and would have no chance of coming back to save you. You do have some apprentice brothers and sisters, but if they come up the cliff, none of them would make a decent opponent. All the guys would lose their lives for nothing, and all the girls…ha-ha, ha-ha.” The tone of his laughter was filled with ill intentions.

Linghu Chong gasped. He thought to himself, “The ‘Cliff of Contemplation’ is far away from the Huashan Sword School’s main hall. Even if I shout with all my might, the apprentice brothers and sisters probably still won’t be able to hear a thing. This fellow is an infamous rapist, what if he bumped into little apprentice sister…oops! That was a close call! Luckily I wasn’t able to run away earlier, or else, Tian Boguang would have gone to the main hall of Huashan Sword School to look for me for sure, and then naturally he would bump into little apprentice sister. If the pretty and lovely little apprentice sister had fallen into the evil rapist’s hands, I…I’d deserve ten-thousand deaths.” He rolled his eyes and quickly made up his mind. “Right now the best thing to do probably is to muddle with him perfunctorily and to stall him for more time. Hence I can’t take him by force, I’ll have to take him by strategy. As long as I can stall him till Master and Master-Wife make it back to Mount Huashan, then everything would be fine.”

“Fine! I can’t win in a fight, nor can I run away, nor can I find any help….” Linghu Chong put his hands out and shrugged, signaling that he had given up and Tian Boguang could do anything as he please.

“Brother Linghu, you must have misunderstood me and thought that I am here to give you trouble. It is actually something that will benefit you in a good deal, and you will definitely thank me sincerely for that later,” Tian Boguang said with a broad smile.

“You have done many evil deeds and gained yourself a notorious reputation. Despite how beneficial this thing you speak about is for me, I, Linghu Chong, will preserve my own purity and never wallow in the mire with you.” Linghu Chong waved him off.

“I am the infamous evil rapist, but brother Linghu is the proud disciple of the number one gentleman in the Martial World – Mr. Yue. Of course you can’t wallow in the mire with me. But if that’s the case today, why not before?” Tian Boguang grinned.

“What do you mean by ‘if that’s the case today, why not before’?” Linghu Chong asked.

“In the Huiyan Wine House of Hengyang, brother Linghu, you and I had the companionship of drinking on the same table,” Tian Boguang claimed.

“Linghu Chong is a big alcoholic. We were just having a couple of drinks together. It was nothing.”

“In the Jade House of Hengshan, brother Linghu, you and I had the same aesthetic pleasure of visiting prostitutes in the same brothel.”

“Bah!” Linghu Chong spit to the ground. “At that time I was severely wounded and had been rescued. I was just recovering in the Jade House temporarily. What has that got anything to do with visiting prostitutes?”

“But in the Jade House, didn’t you have the great pleasure of sleeping with two gorgeous and lovely girls under the same quilt?” Tian Boguang split into a big grin.

Linghu Chong felt a great shock in his heart. He yelled out loud, “Tian Boguang, you’d better watch you mouth! I have a clean reputation, and those two girls are also as pure as crystal and jade. If you keep spilling out such filthy lies, I won’t be so easy on you.”

“What good does it do if you don’t go easy on me today? If you want to uphold the clean reputation of the Huashan Sword School, you should have treated those two girls with some respect. Why did you get under the same quilt with those two girls and rubbed up and down in front of all those heroes of the Qingcheng Sword School, Hengshan Sword School, and Heng-Shan Sword School, stopping at nothing? Ha-ha, ha-ha!”

Infuriated, Linghu Chong threw a fist at him fiercely, which Tian Boguang easily dodged with a big grin.

“It’s no good trying to deny it! If you hadn’t gotten petty advantages of those two little girls on the bed under the quilt, why would they all get lovesickness for you today?”

Linghu Chong thought to himself, “This man is a shameless rascal. It is possible that anything would come out of his mouth. If I tangle myself with him in such an inexplicable way, who knows what more garbage is going to come out of his mouth? That day in Huiyan Wine House of Hengyang, he fell for my trick. That was the most galling shame and humiliation he has ever had in his entire life. It’s the only thing I can use to shut him up.” At that thought, instead of getting outraged, he smiled.

“I was wondering why did brother Tian come such a long distance to Mount Huashan. Who would have thought that your Master, the little nun Yilin, had sent you to bring two jars of great wine to me, thanking me for finding her such a well-behaved apprentice? Ha-ha, ha-ha!”

Tian Boguang flushed, but soon calmed down. “The two jars of wine are tokens of my own regard. But my coming to Mount Huashan surely is related to Little Sister Yilin,” putting on a serious face, he said.

“Little Sister? No, no, no! Isn’t she your Master now? What a true man says cannot be unsaid. Are you trying to go back on your own words? Apprentice sister Yilin is an outstanding apprentice from a famous school. It was really your good fortune to have found such a Master. Ha-ha!”

Tian Boguang was outraged. He grabbed onto his knife handle and almost drew the knife. But he pulled himself together and spoke coldly.

“Brother Linghu, you don’t have good Kung Fu with your hands, but you surely have outstanding Kung Fu with your tongue.”

“Since I am no match for you in a fight with sword, knife, punches, or kicks, all I can do is to take some petty advantage from you with my tongue, brother Tian.” Linghu Chong grinned.

“In the fight with the tongue, I candidly admit my defeat. Brother Linghu, it’s time for you to come with me now,” Tian Boguang demanded.

“No way! I am not going even if I have to die!” Linghu Chong declared.

“Do you know where I am asking you to go to?” Tian Boguang asked.

“I don’t know and I don’t care. Either to go up the heavens or go down to hell, wherever Tian Boguang goes, Linghu Chong won’t go.”

Tian Boguang shook his head slowly. “Brother Linghu, I am here to invite you to pay a visit to Little Sister Yilin,” he said.

“You rascal, has apprentice sister Yilin fallen into your hands again? How dare you offend your superior and be so disrespectful to your own Master?” Linghu Chong was shocked.

Tian Boguang yelled angrily, “My Master is someone else. He had passed away many years ago. Don’t you ever mix up Little Sister Yilin in this matter again.” He paused for a moment to calm himself down and then said, “Brother Linghu, Little Sister Yilin misses you very much. She thinks of you days and nights. I consider you a friend, that’s why I will never dare to be disrespectful to her again. You can relax. Shall we go now?”

“I am not going! How many times do I have to repeat myself, one thousand times, ten thousand times?” Linghu Chong claimed.

Tian Boguang showed a slight smile but didn’t say a word.

“What are you smiling about? Because your Kung Fu is better than mine, you think you’ll just force your will upon me and take me down as a prisoner?” Linghu Chong mocked.

“I have no hostility toward you, brother Linghu, and really don’t want to offend you in anyway. But I surely don’t want to set out in high spirits and return disappointed.”

“Tian Boguang, you have excellent knife skills, and it would be a piece of cake for you to kill me or wound me. You can kill Linghu Chong, but you won’t succeed in humiliating Linghu Chong. At most, I’ll just let you take away my life, but to take me prisoner so you can take me down Mount Huashan, that’s absolutely impossible!”

“I am just doing a favor for someone inviting you to pay a visit to Little Sister Yilin. That’s the true and only intention. Why are you so uptight?” Tian Boguang turned his head and eyed Linghu Chong from the corner of his eyes.

“If it’s something I don’t’ want to do, even my Master, Master-Wife, Five Mountains Sword Alliance Chief, or the Emperor himself won’t be able to force me, not mentioning you. Here’s my final answer: I am not going! Even if I have to say it ten thousand times or one hundred thousand times, the answer is still the same,” Linghu Chong said with determination.

“You are too stubborn. I am afraid I’ll have to give offense now.” With a loud clank, Tian Boguang drew his knife.

“You have offended me at the very beginning when you planned to take me prisoner,” Linghu Chong rebuffed angrily. “I guess the ‘Cliff of Contemplation’ on top of Mount Huashan is going to be the place where I depart this life.” He let out a clear roar and also drew his sword.

Tian Boguang took a step back and slightly frowned. “Brother Linghu, we have neither scores to settle nor grudges between the two of us. Why do we have to fight in the expense of our lives? Why don’t we have a bet?”

Linghu Chong secretly felt pleased. He thought to himself, “A bet? That’s perfect! If I lose, I can still argue my way out, even if I have to use some lame excuses.” But instead, he said, “What bet? If I win, I won’t go, and if I lose, I won’t go just the same.”

“I see,” Tian Boguang said with a smile. “The head apprentice of the Huashan Sword School is so scared of Tian Boguang’s fast knife chops, he doesn’t even have the guts to take on thirty knife moves of mine.”

“What am I scared of? What’s the worst, me dying under your blade? So what?” Linghu Chong mocked angrily.

“Brother Linghu, it’s not that I look down upon you or anything, but I am afraid that you won’t be able to fend off even thirty moves of my fast knife chops. As soon as you fend off thirty moves of my fast knife chops, I’ll turn my butt around and get out of here right away. No more babbling. But if I get lucky and beat you within thirty moves, you’ll have to go down Mount Huashan with me and pay a visit to Little Sister Yilin,” Tian Boguang declared.

In the instant, Linghu Chong had gone through Tian Boguang’s knife moves once in his head. He thought, “After the last two fights with him, I’ve pondered over all the powerful techniques of his fast knife chops many times. And on top of that, I’ve also asked Master and Master-Wife about them. If all I need to do is to guard myself so I don’t lose, couldn’t I even fend off thirty moves of his?”

“Fine, I’ll see your thirty moves!” Linghu Chong yelled as he thrust his sword toward Tian Boguang. He had used an advanced move of the Huashan sword art called Graceful Phoenix right at the beginning. The blade of his sword vibrated and made a buzzing sound as rays of reflection covered Tian Boguang’s entire upper body.

“Nice sword move!” Tian Boguang praised as he blocked it with his knife and took a step back.

“That’s one!” Linghu Chong shouted out and immediately followed with another attack – Green Pines Welcoming Guest.

“Another nice one!” Tian Boguang praised again.

He knew that there must be numerous additional techniques hidden in the move, so he dared not to fend it off with his knife and simply dodged to the side in a slide. The dodge shouldn’t really be counted as a move, but Linghu Chong immediately shouted.

“That’s two!”

Before the words even faded, he had already started another attacking move. Soon, Linghu Chong had already launched five attacking moves continuously. Tian Boguang either blocked them or dodged them, never starting his counter-attack, yet Linghu Chong had already counted up to number five. When Linghu Chong started his sixth move by thrusting his sword upward from a lower angle, Tian Boguang gave a loud roar and brought his knife swishing down through the air. The knife and the sword clashed in the midair and Linghu Chong’s long sword was knocked down instantly.

“Sixth move, seventh move, eighth move, ninth move, tenth move!” Tian Boguang yelled out.

Every time when he counted one, he would throw a chop at the same time. He counted five moves, and he chopped five times. Every chop swished straight down through the air; he didn’t even change his move at all. Each chop landed heavier than the previous one. When the sixth chop came down, Linghu Chong felt that his entire body had been trapped in the energy stream from the blade slicing down and he couldn’t even breathe, but he gathered all the strength he could and blocked upwards anyway. With a loud clank, the knife and the sword smashed into each other. Linghu Chong’s arm instantly went numb and the long sword fell from his hand and landed on the ground. Tian Boguang threw another chop. Linghu Chong simply closed his eyes and ignored it.

“How many moves now?” Tian Boguang asked, laughing loudly.

Linghu Chong opened his eyes and answered, “Not only your knife skills are better than mine, your arm strength and inner energy are also way better than mine. Linghu Chong is no match for you.”

“Then let’s go!” Tian Boguang smiled in triumph.

“Nope. I am not going!” Linghu Chong shook his head again.

“Brother Linghu, I consider you a true man who keeps his own promises. You have lost within thirty moves. Why are you going back on your words?” Tian Boguang pulled a long face.

“At first, I didn’t believe that you can beat me within thirty moves. Sure, I have lost, but I never said that I would go with you if I lose to you, did I?” Linghu Chong argued.

Tian Boguang thought that it was really he himself who had said that and Linghu Chong surely never said anything close, so he placed his knife across in front of him and said with a sneer, “There’s a character ‘Hu’ in your name and the name sure fits the person. Ok, you didn’t say it, so what?”

“When I lost to you earlier, it was only because you had more strength than me. I am not giving in yet. Let me take a rest, then we can try it again,” Linghu Chong said.

“Fine. I’ll wait till you admit your loss, yourself.” Tian Boguang sat on a rock with his hands on his hips and looked at Linghu Chong with a big smile.

Linghu Chong thought to himself, “This villain is insisting on having me leave Mount Huashan. I wonder what kind of evil plan he has. The real reason must have nothing to do with paying a visit to apprentice sister Yilin. He isn’t a real student of apprentice sister Yilin, and apprentice sister Yilin would be scared out of her wit as soon as she sees him, how could she ever maintain contacts with him? But he keeps pestering me at the moment. How can I get out of it?”

He remembered the six chops from Tian Boguang just a minute ago. Those chops had no special techniques to go with them yet the power of the chops was tremendous, and he really had no idea how to fend them off. He suddenly got an idea.

“That night when Great Mr. Mo killed Great Songyang Palm Fei Bin in the remote valley, Great Mr. Mo used the flashy and unpredictable Hengshan style sword art. If I use that to fight Tian Boguang, I am sure I won’t lose. There are many deadly moves amount the Hengshan style sword art drawn on the rock wall in the back cave. If I go back there and learn some thirty or forty moves, I should be able to put up a decent fight with Tian Boguang.” But then he thought, “Hengshan style sword art is a fine and ingenious sword art. How can I master it in such a short time? Alas, that was just my wishful thinking.”

Seeing the fast changing expression on Linghu Chong’s face, in one minute being happy, but in the next minute looking totally worried, Tian Boguang grinned.

“Brother Linghu, have you thought of a CUNNING TRICK to defeat my knife moves?”

Hearing that Tian Boguang raising his voice specifically at the words “cunning trick”, Linghu Chong’s anger rose. “There’s no need for any CUNNING TRICKS just to defeat your knife moves. You are being really wordy and annoying here. I can’t think well when you keep distracting me like that. I am going to go inside the cave now to think it through. Don’t you come and disturb me.”

“Fine! You go ahead and think REAL HARD. I won’t disturb you.” Tian Boguang agreed.

Linghu Chong noticed that Tian raised his voice again at the words “real hard.” He cursed in a whisper to himself and entered the cave. He lit a candle and then climbed back into the back cave. Wasting no time, he went straight to the side of the rock wall with drawings of Hengshan style sword art. Seeing all the different forms of magical and profound sword moves with endless variations, he was dumbfounded. If he hadn’t seen them with his own eyes, he would never have believed that such brilliant and fluctuating moves actually existed in the world.

“In such a short time, it’s simply impossible for me to learn the sword art well. I’d better pick several of the most unpredictable and weird variation techniques and memorize them well. When I go out again, I’ll use them with no specific order whatsoever and fight indiscreetly. Who knows? I might be able to make a surprise attack on him,” Linghu Chong thought to himself.

Once decided, he immediately started reading and memorizing. Even though the other figure in the drawings had already defeated every move of the Hengshan sword art, thinking that Tian Boguang would have no chance of knowing any of those techniques, he wasn’t worried at all.

He worked on memorizing all the techniques while trying them out with his hands, and after he had learned about twenty or so moves, an hour had already passed. Tian Boguang’s voice rose from outside the cave.

“Brother Linghu, if you don’t come out, I am going to charge in now.”

Linghu Chong leapt out with his sword in his hand and shouted, “Fine! Let me take another thirty moves of yours!”

“So brother Linghu, what if you lose again this time?” Tian Boguang asked with a beam.

“At least it wouldn’t be the first loss for me. Just one more loss, no big deal!”

Before he even finished talking, he had already launched a storm of attacks with seven continuous moves. All those seven moves were ones he had newly learned from the rock wall in the back cave, and all of them were fluctuating and unpredictable to the extreme.

Tian Boguang had not expected such unpredictable variations from Huashan style sword art. Caught in a surprise, he had to take one step back after another. When it was the tenth move, still being greatly amazed, he roared loudly and waved his knife to start his counter attack. He had great strength with his knife chops, which prevented Linghu Chong from executing many of the variations in his sword moves. At the nineteenth move, the two weapons clashed, and Linghu Chong’s long sword was once again knocked out of his grip.

Linghu Chong leapt two steps to the side and shouted, “Brother Tian, you only have stronger arms than me. You didn’t win with your knife moves. I am still not convinced this time. Let me figure out another thirty sword moves and then I’ll fight you again.”

“Your Master is still a hundred and fifty miles away at this very moment, searching for traces of me. He probably won’t make it back to Mount Huashan for another ten to fifteen days. This delaying strategy of yours is not gonna work,” Tian Boguang said with a smirk.

“Who said that I have to rely on my Master to take care of you? I just recovered from my illness and am very weak in my strength, that’s how you got the advantage. If we are only comparing our moves, you think I can’t even block thirty moves of yours? I don’t think so!”

“I am not going to fall for you again. Either I win by knife moves or by arm strength, a win is a win and a loss is a loss. What good does it do to find all the excuses?” Tian Boguang disagreed.

“Fine! You wait for me here. Be a true man. Don’t you get scared and decide to run away. But if you do, I won’t be chasing after you!” Linghu Chong said.

Tian Boguang burst into loud laughter. He took two steps back and sat on a big rock.

Linghu Chong went back into the back cave. He figured, “Tian Boguang has fought Priest Tiansong of the Taishan Sword School before, and also wounded him quite good. He has also fought with apprentice sister Yilin of the Heng-Shan Sword School. And I just fought him using the Hengshan style sword art. He probably doesn’t know anything about the Songshan style sword art.”

He found the drawings of the Songshan Sword School’s sword moves and learned about ten moves or so. “I still have over ten Hengshan style lethal moves that I didn’t have a chance to use earlier,” he thought to himself. “If I mix them up in Songshan style sword art moves and then use several moves of my own sword school all of a sudden, I might be able to really confuse the hell out of him.”

He didn’t even wait for Tian Boguang to call for him, and rushed straight into the fight as soon as he went out of the cave. The sword moves he used would be a minute in Songshan style, the next minute in Hengshan style, with Huashan style deadly moves mixed up in between.

“Weird! This is so weird!” Tian Boguang kept yelling out loud. But on the twenty-second move, he was still able to place the blade of his knife right next to Linghu Chong’s neck and forced him to throw down his sword.

“In the first time, I was only able to take on five moves of yours. But after I thought about it for a little while, I was able to take on eighteen moves of yours. After thinking for another while, I was already able to take on twenty-one moves of yours. Brother Tian, aren’t you a bit scared by now?” Linghu Chong asked.

“Why should I be scared?” Tian Boguang beamed.

“If I keep pondering over it and think a couple more times, I will then be able to take on thirty of your moves. And after thinking some more, I will be able to turn the tide and claim victory. Even if I decide to not kill you, wouldn’t it be terrible for you?” Linghu Chong deduced.

“I have been wandering around the Martial World for many years, and brother Linghu, you are certainly the smartest one out of all the adversaries I ever had. It’s a pity that your Kung Fu is still a good deal far too lower than mine. Say that you can progress really fast, but it would still be impossible for you to defeat me within hours.” Tian Boguang claimed.

“Brother Tian, you are certainly the most reckless one out of all the adversaries I ever had. Seeing that Linghu Chong is getting stronger and stronger in the fights, yet you still decide not to run away. It’s so rare. Brother Tian, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go inside to think a bit more.”

“Help yourself!” Tian Boguang only grinned.

Linghu Chong walked in the cave slowly. Although he had been raving with Tian Boguang as if he had nothing to worry about, in his heart, he was actually getting more and more worried. “This villain must have come to Mount Huashan with evil plans. He knows very well that Master and Master-Wife went after him in the hope to get rid of him, why would he still have leisure time to have the contests with me? After he took me prisoner each time, even if he doesn’t want to kill me, he should at least have sealed my pressure points to restrict me from moving about. Why did he let me go free again and again? What does he want?”

He was determined that Tian Boguang must have come to Mount Huashan with a terrifying evil plot, but he had no clue what the plot might be. “Could it be that he wanted to keep me here so somebody else can take care of all my apprentice brothers and sisters? But why doesn’t he simply kill me right away? Wouldn’t that be a lot easier?” he couldn’t help but ask himself.

He thought for quite a while and finally jumped up onto his feet, thinking, “No matter what, it appears that our Huashan Sword School is in great danger today. Master and Master-Wife are not home, and I am the head of the sword school right now. I’ll have to carry the heavy burden all by myself. Despite whatever Tian Boguang’s purpose is, I must use all my brain to keep pestering him, and if there’s ever an opportunity that I can take advantage of him, I should kill him without hesitation.”

After making up his mind, he went on studying the drawings on the rock wall, but this time he intentionally picked the fiercest and most vicious and fatal moves to memorize. By the time he walked out of the cave, it was daybreak the next day already. Although Linghu Chong had the intent to kill, his face looked very relaxed.

“Brother Tian, you have come to Mount Huashan as a guest, and I am so sorry that I haven’t really fulfilled my duty as a host. After this contest, regardless of who wins and who loses, I’ll invite you to try out some of our local products,” Linghu Chong suggested.

“Thanks a lot!” Tian Boguang smiled.

“But when we meet again down Mount Huashan in the future, we would still be fighting for our lives. Nothing will be like today’s polite contest with counted moves ever again,” Linghu Chong declared.

“It would be a real pity to kill the kind of friend like you, brother Linghu. But if I don’t kill you, your Kung Fu would progress too fast and one day when your skills are better than mine, you probably wouldn’t let me, the evil rapist, go easily,” Tian Boguang said.

“Precisely. It is such a rare opportunity for us to swap pointers in Kung Fu like today. Brother Tian, I am going to attack now. Will you please give me some advice?”

“You flatter me! Brother Linghu, please!” Tian Boguang said courteously.

“The more I think about it, the more I feel that I am no match for you, brother Tian,” Linghu Chong said with a big smile.

Before he even finished the sentence, he had already thrust his sword forward. By the time his sword tip was about three feet from Tian Boguang’s body, the sword went toward the left side and then turned into a sudden side stab. Tian Boguang raised his knife and blocked. Not waiting for the sword blade to clash with the knife blade, Linghu Chong suddenly slashed up from Tian’s crouch. This move was both sinister and fierce to the extreme. Tian Boguang was astounded and immediately jumped back. Linghu Chong followed the initiative and thrust out three attacks, each one heading toward Tian Boguang’s vital parts with all his might. Losing the initiative, Tian Boguang found himself in disadvantage and had to block left and right with his knife. A tearing sound rose as Linghu Chong’s long sword penetrated his pants right next to his right leg, leaving a hole in his pants. The fast sword thrust landed only a mere inch from his leg.

Tian Boguang threw a punch with his right fist, which knocked Linghu Chong rolling on the ground. “Every move of yours is aimed at killing me. What kind of swapping pointers is that?” he yelled in rage.

“Well, no matter how hard I try, I still wouldn’t stand a chance even harming a hair of yours. You surely have a lot of strength with your left fist.” Linghu Chong leapt back onto his feet.

“Sorry for that!” Tian Boguang said.

“I think you broke two of my ribs.” Linghu Chong stepped forward with a big smile on his face.

As he got closer, all of a sudden, he passed the sword to his left hand and thrust it out backward in a flash. This unimaginably queer move turned out to be a deadly move of the Heng-Shan Sword School. In immense astonishment, Tian Boguang found the sword tip only inches from his lower stomach. In a great hurry he rolled onto the ground and was able to barely dodge it. Occupying the commanding position, Linghu Chong continued with four more thrusts, which put Tian Boguang in an extremely awkward position. It almost looked as if within a couple more moves, Linghu Chong would succeed nailing Tian on the ground with his sword. But unexpectedly, Tian Boguang threw a kick with his left foot all of a sudden, which landed on Linghu Chong’s wrist. He then instantly followed with another kick, his right foot striking Linghu Chong’s stomach heavily. Linghu Chong could no longer hold on to his sword. The sword flew out of his grip as he fell down to the ground facing up. Tian Boguang leapt up and rushed forward, placing his blade right on Linghu Chong’s throat.

“Very sinister sword moves indeed! I almost got killed. Are you convinced yet?” Tian Boguang sneered.

“Of course not! We agreed to a contest between my sword moves and your knife chops. Didn’t you just use your fists and legs to throw punches and kicks at me? How should we count the moves now?”

“Even if we count the punches and kicks, it is still less than thirty moves.” Tian Boguang moved his blade away and said with a sneer.

Linghu Chong stood up and said angrily, “You beat me within thirty moves. You have excellent Kung Fu. So what? If you want to kill me, then kill me, why are you laughing at me? If you want to laugh, then laugh. Why are you sneering?”

Tian Boguang took a step back. “Brother Linghu, you have a good accusation. Yes, I am wrong.” He cupped his hands and said, “I apologize sincerely. Will you, brother Linghu, please forgive me?”

Linghu Chong was struck dumb. Tian Boguang just had a brilliant victory, yet he was willing to apologize. That’s far from what Linghu Chong had expected. So he too cupped his hands and saluted back.

“That’s quite alright!” he said as he pondered upon the question, “When someone shows great courtesy to his inferior, he must have his purpose. I wonder why he is treating me with such great respect.”

He pondered over the question but still couldn’t figure it out, so he decided to simply ask about it straight forth.

“Brother Tian, I have a question in my mind. Will you give me a straight answer?” he asked.

“I have no problem telling anything to anyone. For things like raping and looting, murdering and arson, others might try to hide or deny them. When I, Tian Boguang, want to do something, I’ll do it and admit to it! Why bother denying it?” Tian Boguang declared.

“Then, brother Tian, you are really an open and aboveboard true man,” Linghu Chong commented.

“A true man? You are really flattering me. But at least I am an honest villain whose deeds match his words.” Tian Boguang said.

“Aha, brother Tian, people of your type are really rare in the Martial World. Will you please answer this question for me? You had planned carefully to lure my Master far away from Mount Huashan, and then you came to Mount Huashan and insisted on having me leave together with you. Where on earth do you want me to go and what’s your purpose?”

“I’ve told you right at the beginning that I am here to invite you to pay a visit to Little Sister Yilin so she won’t be hurting from lovesickness.”

“That is just so too absurd and bizarre. I am not a three-year old kid. How can I believe you?” Linghu Chong shook his head.

Tian Boguang was enraged. “I consider you a true hero, but you are treating me like I am the shameless low life scoundrel. Why can’t you trust my words? Are you thinking that all the words that are coming out of my mouth are just crap? If there were anything untrue in my words, I would be even lower than a filthy pig,” he snapped.

Feeling the sincerity in his words, Linghu Chong had to believe in him, and at the meantime, he was totally amazed. “Brother Tian, your submitting to become Little Sister Yilin’s apprentice was just a joke, not to be taken seriously. Why did you come such a long way to invite me for her sake?” he asked in disbelief.

“Of course there are other reasons involved. Just with her little Kung Fu, how could she ever be worthy to be my Master?” Tian Boguang looked quite embarrassed.

Linghu Chong suddenly got an idea. He thought to himself, “Could it be possible that Tian Boguang has fallen in love with apprentice sister Yilin, and all his previous ill intention has transformed into deep affection?”

“Have you fallen in love with Little Sister Yilin at first sight and are most willing to do what she tells you?” Linghu Chong asked.

“You can stop imagining things. There’s nothing even close to that!” Tian Boguang shook his head.

“Then what are the other reasons involved? Brother Tian, will you please share those with me?” Linghu Chong demanded.

“This is the worst luck for me. Why ask so much? In short, if I can’t invite you down Mount Huashan, I will die a dreadful death,” Tian Boguang answered.

“How could that be possible?” Linghu Chong was shocked, yet he didn’t even bat an eyelid.

“Tian Boguang pushed up his clothes and exposed his chest. Pointing at two red spots as big as a coin right below his two nipples, he exclaimed, “Somebody has sealed my Death Points here and also planted strong poison in my body so he can force me to come and invite you to pay a visit to the Little Sister. If I fail to accomplish the mission, then the two red spots will start to deteriorate and fester. By then, there will be no cure whatsoever and they will gradually expand all over my body until my entire body starts to decompose. After three years and six months I will eventually die because of the rotting.”

With a very serious look on his face, he spoke again, “Brother Linghu, I am telling you the truth not because I want to earn your pity or anything. I just want you to know that no matter how persistent you are, I am determined to have you comply. I am open at all options at all cost. On normal days, I already stop at no evil. At a life-threatening moment like this, I would have no scruples.”

“It seems like he is telling the truth,” Linghu Chong thought to himself. “Then all I need to do is to not go down Mount Huashan with him. A month later when the poison in his body activates, the world will be rid of a big villain. There is really no need to kill him myself.” So he said to Tian Boguang with a smile, “Which elite master was so mischievous to have done such a practical joke and gave you such a puzzle to solve? I wonder what kind of poison was planted in your body. Even the most dangerous poison can be detoxified somehow.”

“There’s no need to mention the one who sealed my Death Points and planted poison in me. Other than the one who did it, there’s only one other person in the entire world who might be able to detoxify the poison in my Death Points – ‘Killer Doctor’ Ping One-Finger. But why would he want to work on me?” Tian Boguang said irritably.

“You can either beg him with polite words or threaten him with your knife on his neck. Maybe he might consider working on you,” Linghu Chong said with a small grin.

“You can save all your sarcasm to yourself. In brief, if I can’t get you to go with me, then I will be dead for sure, but you won’t be able to stay safe either.”

“Of course! Brother Tian, all you need is to beat me fair and square and make me feel sincerely convinced. Then in consideration of your great Kung Fu skills that took you quite some hard work to master, I might just agree to go down Mount Huashan with you. Will you please wait for me a bit more? I am going to enter the cave to think again.

He entered the cave, thinking to himself, “That day when I fought with him for several times, I was able to fight over thirty moves every time. How come I’ve actually slipped back now and simply can’t take thirty of his moves any more?” Soon, he figured it out. “That’s right! That day when I fought with him, ready to die any moment, I never cared if it was thirty moves or forty moves. Right now I keep counting the first move, the second move, the third move. All I care about is how to take on the full set of thirty moves. With such distraction, then inevitably my sword skill is only half good compared to the last time. Linghu Chong, Linghu Chong! How dumb you are!”

After figuring the problem out, he was greatly encouraged and went on to study the Kung Fu on the rock wall. This time he focused on Taishan style sword art. Taishan style sword art was distinctively strong in its stableness and steadiness. Within such a short time, it would be impossible to truly grasp the essence of it. Besides, Linghu Chong wasn’t too fond of the rigorous and well-behaved sword style either. He looked at the moves for a little while and was ready to leave when the nimble and agile moves of a short spear used to break Taishan style sword art caught his eyes. The more he studied them, the more fascinated he became, and soon he was so focused in it that he lost track of time, until Tian Boguang became impatient about the waiting and called him.

The two fought again. By then Linghu Chong became a little bit wiser and never bothered to count the moves again. As soon as the fight broke out, he waved his sword in different directions and launched a storm of attacks upon Tian Boguang. Seeing new sword moves emerging out of Linghu Chong in an endless stream and that every time after he thought about it in the cave, he would add many new meanings to the moves, Tian Boguang dared not to slack off. The two countered fast with faster, and exchanged many moves within a short moment. Suddenly Tian Boguang took a step forward, reaching out and grabbed onto Linghu Chong’s wrist in the speed of a flash. He twisted Linghu Chong’s arm back and pointed the sword tip right at Linghu Chong’s throat. If he had wanted to, he could have pushed the sword forward and the long sword would have penetrated Linghu Chong’s throat.

“You lost!” Tian Boguang yelled out.

“It was you. You lost!” Linghu Chong claimed as great pain came from his wrist.

“How did I lose?” Tian Boguang asked.

“This is the thirty-second move.” Linghu Chong declared.

“Thirty-second move?” Tian Boguang asked in disbelief.

“Yep! Thirty-second move, precisely.” Linghu Chong acknowledged.

“You weren’t counting.” Tian Boguang didn’t buy it.

“Well, I wasn’t counting with my tongue, but I was counting in my heart. It was plain and clear. This is the thirty-second move.” Linghu Chong affirmed.

Actually he never really counted in his heart. The thirty-second move thing was just something he made up on the spot.

“That can’t be true!” Tian Boguang let go of Linghu Chong’s wrist and argued. “You thrust like this with your first move and I counter-attacked like this. You then blocked it like this and I chopped like this. That was the second move.” He went on and on and was actually able to demonstrate every single move used in the last fight from the very beginning to the very end. After he counted till the move when he grabbed onto Linghu Chong’s wrist, it was only the twenty-eighth move.

Linghu Chong was immensely amazed at Tian Boguang’s ability in memorizing. The two of them had both fought with tremendous speed, yet he was able to memorize every single move so clearly in the exact order. That’s some kind of talent one simply wouldn’t see very often in the Martial World. Linghu Chong couldn’t help but admire. He stuck his thumb out.

“Brother Tian, you have superb memory! I must have counted wrong. Let me go to think them over again.”

“Wait!” Tian Boguang stopped him. “Something is really odd about this cave. I’d like to go in and take a look. Are there secret Kung Fu manuscripts hidden in the cave? Why is it that every time after you come out of the cave, you add many strange moves to your collection?” He started walking toward the cave.

Linghu Chong was stunned. He thought quickly, “If he finds out about the drawings on the rock wall, it would be disastrous.” He immediately showed a brief trace of happiness on his face and soon replaced it with a sad and worried look as he extended his arms out to block Tian Boguang’s way.

“We have our school’s secret Kung Fu manuscripts in the cave. Brother Tian, you are not a member of our Huashan Sword School. You can’t go in there to tour around. Sorry!”

Noticing the very brief happy look on Linghu Chong’s face that was quickly replaced by some kind of very exaggerated worried look, probably something he put out as a show, Tian Boguang pondered, “Why was he so happy as soon as he heard that I wanted to go in the cave? He pretended to be worried immediately afterwards. Obviously he was trying the hide his true feelings and hoped that I would rush into the cave recklessly. There must be something in that cave that would be detrimental to me. Probably some kind of booby-trap or ambush. Or maybe some kind of poisonous serpent or monster he has tamed. I am not going to fall for it!”

“I see. So there are secret Kung Fu manuscripts of your respected school. Then it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to go tour around indeed,” Tian Boguang pretended to agree.

Linghu Chong shook his head and appeared to be very disappointed. Later, he went back in the cave several more times and learned many more strange and weird moves, not only unique moves of the Five Mountains sword schools, but also many of those odd moves that would break the sword arts of the Five Mountains sword schools. But in the rush, he couldn’t truly understand the essence of them, and because he had used them right after he picked them up minutes ago, their power was dramatically reduced and he still couldn’t take on thirty moves of Tian Boguang’s fast knife chops.

Tian Boguang couldn’t understand why every time after Linghu Chong entered the cave to think more, he would be able to perform many odd and strange moves. Those odd and strange moves weren’t really very useful in countering his own knife moves, but they were all so clever and brilliant that he had never seen anything like them in his entire life. It was almost like an amazing demonstration, and he secretly wished that the contest would go on so he would be able to observe more of the fantastic sword moves.

After Tian Boguang subdued Linghu Chong another time, noticing that it had already passed noon, he suddenly thought of something. “Most of the moves he used this time seemed to have been moves of Songshan style sword art. Could it be possible that there are elite grandmasters of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance hiding in that cave? Every time when he goes into that cave, those elite grandmasters would then teach him some new moves and then send him out to fight me. Oops, luckily I didn’t rush in that cave recklessly. How can I stand a chance fighting the many elite grandmasters of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance?” At that thought, he blurted out.

“Why don’t they come out?”

“Who?” Linghu Chong asked.

“Those elite senior grandmasters in the cave who taught you all those sword moves,” Tian Boguang answered.

Linghu Chong was taken by surprise, but then immediately understood what Tian Boguang meant. He let out a big smile.

“Those senior grandmasters, they don’t…don’t feel like fighting you, brother Tian.”

Tian Boguang was outraged. He gave a very disgruntled snort and then yelled out loudly, “I know these kinds of people. They fish for fame and compliments and profess to be above politics and worldly considerations. They feel it’s beneath their dignity to fight me, the evil rapist Tian Boguang. You let them out. As long as we are fighting one on one, regardless of how big of a reputation he has, he might not be able to beat me!”

“Brother Tian, if you are interested, go ahead and enter the cave to consult those eleven senior grandmasters. They actually think your knife skills are quite excellent,” Linghu Chong shook his head and said with a grin.

Linghu Chong knew that hence Tian Boguang had committed many crimes in the Martial World and had made many enemies, he had always been very careful in normal days. Now since he has assumed that there are elite masters from various schools in the cave, he would never risk going in the cave no matter how he was goaded. He intentionally used such an odd number eleven instead of ten to make it sound real.

Surely enough, Tian Boguang snorted and said, “What elite senior grandmasters? I am afraid they are all the ones with underserved reputation, otherwise, why after teaching you all kinds of moves again and again, you still can’t even take on thirty moves of mine?”

He was quite confident about his Qing-Gong skills and thought that even if those eleven elite masters all rushed out at the same time, although he wouldn’t stand a chance winning the fight, at least he would stand a very good chance of running away successfully. And besides, because all of them were elite senior grandmasters of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance, they would value their own dignity dearly and never launch a joint attack at him.

Linghu Chong put on a serious face. “That’s only because I am dumb and clumsy with very limited inner energy and couldn’t grasp the essence of those senior grandmasters’ Kung Fu. Brother Tian, you’d better watch your mouth and not upset them. If any one of them decided to fight you, you don’t even have to wait for your poison to activate a month from now; your head would be missing from your neck on top of the ‘Cliff of Contemplation’ instantly.”

“Why don’t you tell me who those senior grandmasters are in the cave?” Tian Boguang demanded.

“Those senior grandmasters have lived in seclusion and lived a hermit’s life for a long time already. They have withdrawn from society for many years. Their gathering here has nothing to do with you, brother Tian. Their names can’t be revealed. But even if I do tell you who they are, you wouldn’t have heard of their names anyways. There’s no need to tell! No need to tell!” Linghu Chong had a very secretive look on his face.

Seeing the odd expression on Linghu Chong’s face, Tian Boguang was almost sure that Linghu Chong was trying to hide the truth. So he said, “Within Songshan, Taishan, Hengshan, and Heng-Shan the four schools, there may be some exceptional senior grandmasters. But in your respectful school though, there isn’t any grandmasters left at all. Everybody knows about that in the Martial World. You must be talking irresponsibly and making things up. It’s hard for me to believe you.”

“That’s right. There really isn’t any elite senior grandmaster left in the Huashan Sword School. Many years ago, our sword school was so unfortunately hit by plagues, and all the elite fighters in the last generation withered and passed away. Brother Tian, you have said it correctly. There is really no grandmaster of our Huashan Sword School in the cave.” Linghu Chong affirmed.

Tian Boguang was convinced that Linghu Chong must have been lying to him. When he said something is false, then it should be true. If he had said that there weren’t any senior grandmasters left in Huashan Sword School, then there must be someone. He pondered over it for a long time and suddenly remembered something. He slapped his thigh with his palm and shouted out loud.

“Aha! I remember now! So it is senior grandmaster Feng Qingyang!”

Linghu Chong instantly remembered the characters “Feng Qingyang” carved on the rock wall in the cave and couldn’t help but utter a cry of surprise. He wasn’t pretending this time and was stunned when he thought that the senior grandmaster Feng might still be alive. Regardless of what the truth was, he waved his hand in denial hurriedly.

“Brother Tian, please don’t talk irresponsibly. Feng…Feng….”

He figured that since the name “Feng Qingyang” has a “Qing” character in it, then he must be from a more senior generation than Master’s “Bu” generation. So he continued with his sentence.

“Grand Uncle-Master Feng has quit the Martial World to live in seclusion many, many years ago. Nobody knows where he is, and no one is even sure that the respectful Grand Uncle-Master is still alive or not. How can he be on Mount Huashan right now? If you don’t believe me, then you’d better go in the cave and take a look yourself, then you will know the truth.”

The more Linghu Chong wanted Tian Boguang to go in the cave, the more Tian Boguang believed that it was a trap. He thought to himself, “He looks so panic-stricken. I must have figured it out right. I heard that many of the senior Huashan Sword School grandmasters all died unusual deaths in a single night except Feng Qingyang who happened to be away from Mount Huashan at the time and escaped that doom. So it turned out he is still alive. But he would be at least somewhere between seventy and eighty years old. No matter how high his Kung Fu level is at, he would have exhausted his strengths after all. The hell with him. Why would I be afraid of such an rotten old man?”

At that thought, he said to Linghu Chong, “Brother Linghu, we have already fought an entire day and an entire night. Even if we keep fighting, you wouldn’t stand a chance beating me. Although you have your Grand Uncle-Master Feng to give you pointers continuously, it’s useless after all. Why don’t you just behave yourself and follow me down Mount Huashan?”

Before Linghu Chong had a chance to answer, a cold voice suddenly rose from behind his back.

“If I had really given him some pointers, you don’t think he can even take care of a chap like you? I doubt that!”

 

  Reminder: Qing-Gong is a form of Chinese Martial Arts that will allow the practitioner to jump higher and further or run faster than an average person. The technique is a combination of muscle exercises and breathing exercises.

  Reminder: Qi-Gong is an ancient breathing exercise that helps improve health and acquire extra power and strength (sometimes an almost magical power that can not be explained by science).

  Chang-An is today’s Xi’an city in Shanxi Province (Provincial capital). It was the capital for many dynasties including Tang Dynasty. It was considered one of the most populous cities in ancient China.

  This might be confusing. Shanxi (third intonation) province and Shan-Xi (first intonation) province are actually two neighboring provinces. Shan-Xi province is famous for it’s coalmines, wine, and vinegar. But Mount Huashan and Chang-An are in Shanxi province.

  Li Taiba, also called Li Bai, was a famous poet during Tang Dynasty. He was nicknamed the Fairy of Poem because of his exceptional talent in poems and Fairy of Wine because he loved drinking wine. The “Banished Fairy Wine House” was named after him hence he was banished by the Royal Court because of his drinking problem.

  In Chinese language, character “Hu” means fox. Tian Boguang is implying that Linghu Chong is as cunning as a fox.