Smiling Proud Wanderer

 
 

Smiling Proud Wanderer Volume 2 Chapter 12


Chapter Twelve: Assassins


For every hundred feet, Linghu Chong had to take a break and lean on the door bolt to catch his breath. After about an hour of struggle, he managed to cover somewhat close to a quarter of a mile. He could see more and more golden flickers circle around him and suddenly the entire world swirled around him. He almost fell down. Then he heard loud groans coming from inside the bushes right in front of him.

“Who’s there?” Linghu Chong asked, stunned.

“Is that brother Linghu?” the man called out. “It’s me, Tian Boguang! Ouch! Whew!” He was obviously in great pain.

“Tian…brother Tian? What…happened to you?” Linghu Chong asked in shock.

“I am dying! Brother Linghu, do me a favor, will you? Ouch…ouch…go ahead and kill me to end my misery!” Tian Boguang begged. He groaned as he spoke, but his voice remained loud and clear.

“Are…you…you…wounded?” Linghu Chong asked. But in the meantime, his knees gave out. He fell down and rolled to the roadside.

“Are you wounded too?” Tian Boguang asked in shock. “Ouch! Ouch! Who did it to you?”

“That’s a long story. Tian…brother Tian, so who did that to you?”

“Alas, I don’t know!” Tian Boguang answered.

“How come?” Linghu Chong asked.

“I was just walking on the road, and suddenly someone grabbed my two legs and two arms and lifted me off the ground. I couldn’t even see who did it…,” Tian Boguang answered.

“So it’s the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies again…. Why, brother Tian, aren’t you in the same team?” Linghu Chong grinned.

“What do you mean we are in the same team?” Tian Boguang was at a loss.

“You came to invite me to go see little apprentice sister…Yilin. They…they also came…to invite…me to go see…her….” Linghu Chong started panting.

Tian Boguang crawled slowly out of the bush.

“God damn it! We are definitely not in the same team,” Tian Boguang swore as he shook his head angrily. “They came up Mount Huashan looking for a guy and asked me where the guy was. So I asked them who they were looking for. But they said that since they caught me, they get to ask me questions, and I don’t get to ask them anything. If I had caught them, then I would get to ask them questions and they would not get to ask me anything. They…ouch…they said that if I’ve got skills, it would be totally fine for me to lift them up, and then…then it would be my turn to ask them questions.”

Linghu Chong laughed out loud. But only after a few laughs he was already out of breath and had to stop.

“At that time, I was still hanging in mid-air facing down. How the heck could I lift them up even if I did have superb skills? What kind of horse dung was that?”

“So what happened next?” Linghu Chong asked.

“I said, ‘I never wanted to ask you. You are the ones asking here. Put me down.’ Then one of them said, ‘Since we’ve already lifted you up, if we don’t rip you into four pieces, wouldn’t it look real bad for us six great heroes?’ Another one asked, ‘Will he still be able to talk after we rip him into four pieces?’” Tian Boguang paused to catch his breath.

“Those six guys always resort to sophistry and tangle things in a mess. Brother Tian, that’s enough…enough of the story,” Linghu Chong said.

“Humph! The hell with them!” Tian Boguang cursed and went on.

“Then one of them said, ‘Duh, of course a guy in four pieces can’t talk. The six of us have ripped hundreds of people into four pieces before. When did you ever hear any of them talk after we ripped them apart?’

“Another one argued, ‘The reason why a guy in four pieces doesn’t talk is because we never asked him to. If we were to ask him anything, I am sure he wouldn’t dare not to answer.’

“Then a third one mocked, ‘He is already in four pieces. What’s there to be afraid of? There’s no point for him to dare. Would he be afraid that we’d rip him into eight pieces?’

“The previous one said, ‘Rip him into eight pieces? That Kung Fu is no small matter. We used to know that Kung Fu, but we must have forgotten it already.’”

Tian Boguang told the story in a disjointed manner. It was amazing that he memorized every little bit of it while being inflicted with serious injuries.

“Those six brothers are surely the rare kind in this world. They…they got me pretty good too,” Linghu Chong said with a sigh.

“So brother Linghu, they wounded you too?” Tian Boguang asked in astonishment.

 “Unfortunately so!” Linghu Chong heaved another sigh.

“To tell you the truth, when I was hanging in mid-air, I was really scared. So I shouted loudly, ‘If you rip me into four pieces, I won’t talk for sure. Even if my tongue is still capable of talking, I would be so pissed in my heart that I definitely wouldn’t talk.’

“One of them said, ‘Once we rip you into four pieces, your tongue is on one piece, and your heart is on another piece. How can you still relate what your tongue is gonna say with what you feel in your heart?’

“That was when I decided to throw nonsense right back at them. So I shouted, ‘If you want to ask your question, better ask it quick. If you don’t put me down right away, I am gonna let out my poisonous gas now.’

“One of them asked, ‘Let out your poisonous gas? What do you mean?’

“I said, ‘My farts stink like hell. Once it reaches you, you would not only lose your appetite for at least three days and three nights, you would also throw up so badly that even the stuff you ate three days ago would come back out of your mouth. I’ve warned you. Don’t blame me for not telling you ahead of time.’”

“Hey, good point,” Linghu Chong remarked with a weak smile.

“Yep,” Tian Boguang replied, “as soon as those four guys heard my words, they all cried out in unison and threw me back down to the ground before leaping back. I jumped back onto my feet and then saw six very odd-looking old folks, each covering his nose tightly with his hand, obviously afraid of my stinking farts. Brother Linghu, did you say that those six guys are called something like Peach Valley’s Six Fairies?”

“That’s right! Alas, too bad that I am not as smart as you, brother Tian, and didn’t think of the stinking-fart…stratagem to scare them off. This stratagem of yours is really no less than the…the empty-city stratagem Zhu Geliang used that scared away Sima Yi’s army.”

Tian Boguang let out a few hollow laughs and spilled out some more curses before continuing on with his story.

“I knew that those six guys are not to be trifled with, but as luck would have it, I left my blade on top of your ‘Cliff of Contemplation.’ So I figured that I’d better make it the banana and split, but those six guys had already stood in front of me in a line with their hands still covering their noses, and blocked my way like a wall made of flesh. Ha-ha, none of them dared to stand behind my back though. Seeing that there was no way I could make my way through, I turned around immediately, but who would have thought that those six guys could move like ghosts and somehow had already circled around to block in front of me again. I turned a couple more times but still could not get rid of them, so I walked backwards step after step until my back touched the precipice wall. The six freaks burst with joy and chortled as they asked again and again. ‘Where is he? Where is that guy?’

“I asked, ‘Who are you looking for?’

“Those six freaks said in unison, ‘We have surrounded you. You’ve got nowhere to go. You must answer our question.’

“One of them said, ‘If it were you who have surrounded us and we’ve got nowhere to go, then you could ask us and we would have to answer your question.’

“Another one argued, ‘He is only by himself. How will he be able to surround the six of us?’

“The previous one said, ‘What if he had superb skills and could beat the six of us all by himself?’

“The second one said, ‘Then he is capable of beating us, not surrounding us.’

“The previous one said, ‘But what if he drove us into a cave and blocked the entrance so none of us could get out? Wouldn’t you call that surrounding?’

“The second one argued, ‘That’s called blocking, not surrounding.’

“The previous one said, ‘Then what if he extends his arms and embraces all of us into his arms? Now that’s definitely called surrounding.’

“The second one argued, ‘First, nobody in this world has arms that long. Second, even if there are really people who have arms that long, this guy here does not. Third, even if he could embrace all of us with his arms, that’s called embracing, not surrounding.’

“The previous one pulled a long face and didn’t know how to argue that, yet he didn’t want to admit his defeat. After a few moment of dazing, he suddenly broke into loud laughter. ‘That’s it! If he keeps farting and surrounds us with his stinky gas so we couldn’t run away – wouldn’t you call that surrounding?’

“The other four freaks applauded and agreed in laughter, ‘He’s right! This chap surely can surround us.’

“An idea suddenly struck me. Wasting no time, I started running at once while shouting, ‘I…I am surrounding you now.’

“I figured, since they are so afraid of my farts, surely they wouldn’t go after me, but who would have thought that those six freaks had lightning fast speed. Only after a few steps, they had already grabbed hold of me. As soon as they caught me, they pressed down hard with tight grips and forced me to sit on top of a big rock, so that even if I did fart, my stinking gas wouldn’t come out.”

Linghu Chong couldn’t help but burst into loud laughter. Only after a few laughs, he felt great uneasiness from his chest and stopped laughing abruptly.

Tian Boguang went on.

“After those six freaks placed their tight grips on me, one of them asked, ‘Where does one’s gas come from?’

“Another one answered, ‘Gas comes from one’s intestines, then of course it belongs to the Yang-Ming Intestine Channel. I’d better seal his Shang-Yang, He-Gu, Qu-Chi, and Ying-Xiang those points.’

“Right after those words, he had already sealed those four points with a simple wave. I’ve never seen such lightning fast yet extremely accurate point-sealing techniques. That was something! I couldn’t help but admire him. After he sealed my points, all six freaks let out of a breath of relief as if relieved of a heavy load. They said, ‘This stinking…stinking…stinking fart tank won’t be able to release his stinking gas now.’

“The one who sealed my points asked again, ‘Hey, where on earth is that guy? If you don’t tell us, I’ll never release your sealed points. Think about it, having gas yet not being able to let it out. You are gonna feel really bloated!’

“I thought to myself that when six freaks with such outstanding Kung Fu skills came to Mount Huashan, it’s obvious that they wouldn’t be looking for any ordinary person. Brother Linghu, at that time your respectful Master, Mr. Yue, and his wife weren’t on Mount Huashan. Even if they had come back, then of course they would be back in the ‘House of Integrity’ and would be very easy to locate. I thought about it back and forth and could only come up with one logical answer. Those six freaks must be looking for your Grand Uncle-Master, Grandmaster Feng.”

Linghu Chong felt a shock in his heart. “Did you tell them?” he asked in a hurry.

“Bah! What kind of person do you think I am?” Tian Boguang was very displeased. “I have already promised you that I would never let out Grandmaster Feng’s whereabouts. Are you saying that I, a gallant man, was just talking out of my ass?”

“Pardon me, brother Tian! My bad! Please don’t mind,” Linghu Chong apologized.

“If you still look down upon me, we’d better just sever at one blow – make it a clean break, and starting from now on, we are no friends.”

Linghu Chong remained silent and thought to himself, “You are the evil rapist that everyone in the Martial World holds in contempt. Who would ever consider you a friend? But since you could have killed me multiple times yet you never did, so I guess I do owe you a debt of gratitude.”

In the darkness, Tian Boguang couldn’t get a good look at Linghu Chong’s expression. Assuming that Linghu Chong’s silence meant his compromise, he continued on.

“Those six freaks just kept asking me. I said loudly, ‘I know the whereabouts of this person, but I will never tell. There are countless of peaks and valleys and caves on Mount Huashan. I am not going to tell you, and you will never find him in this life?’

“Those six freaks were enraged. They tormented and tortured me. But I simply ignored them afterwards. Brother Linghu, those six freaks’ Kung Fu skills are very eccentric. You’d better go tell Grandmaster Feng quickly. Even though his sword skills are splendid, it’s still better prepared than getting surprised.”

Tian Boguang mentioned that “The six freaks tormented and tortured me” in a very casual way, but Linghu Chong could easily imagine how much cruel and brutal torments actually were put on him and how much excruciating pain and suffering he had to endure. The six freaks had good intentions when they tried to heal his wounds, and what happened? Even now he was still suffering from the consequence. When they coerced Tian Boguang into telling the answer, it was not hard to imagine how nasty they could be. Feeling quite sorry for Tian Boguang, he said to him.

“You are a true man who keeps his words. You would rather die than let out my Grand Uncle-Master Feng’s whereabouts. But…but those Peach Valley’s Six Fairies were really looking for me, not my Grand Uncle-Master Feng.”

“Looking for you? Why are they looking for you?” Tian Boguang felt a big shock going through his entire body.

“They are just like you and were asked by little apprentice sister Yilin to invite me to go see…see her,” Linghu Chong answered.

That left Tian Boguang completely traumatized. He opened his mouth wide, yet nothing came out of it except deep groans. After a long while, Tian Boguang finally came back to his senses and spoke again.

“If I had known those six freaks were looking for you, I would have told them everything right away. Once those six freaks invite you over, I can just follow behind instead of rotting here on Mount Huashan dying from the poison. Well, if those six freaks got you, how come they didn’t carry you to go see the little Sister?”

“That’s really a long story,” Linghu Chong heaved a deep sigh. “Brother Tian, did you say something about rotting here on Huashan dying from the poison?”

“Didn’t I tell you earlier that someone sealed my Death Points and planted strong poison in my body so he could compel me into inviting you over within one month to meet that little Sister? Only after I completed the mission successfully would he release my points and give me the antidote. But I could neither invite you over, nor take you there by force, and ended up having wounds all over me from the torturing of those six freaks. It’s only like ten days away from the date the poison is scheduled to activate.”

“Where is little apprentice sister Yilin? How many days do you think it will take to get there?” Linghu Chong asked.

“You are willing to go now?” Tian Boguang asked.

“You spared my life on more than one occasion. Although you had many improper behaviors, I can’t just watch you die of poison for my sake right in front of my eyes. On that day when you tried to coerce me into complying, of course I would not bend. But it’s a completely different situation now,” Linghu Chong answered.

“The little Sister is in Shanxi Province. Alas…if we were still fit, it wouldn’t take more than six or seven days to get there on fast horses. But since we are both in such bad shape, forget about that,” Tian Boguang commented.

“I am only waiting for my final time here on Mount Huashan anyway. I’ll go with you. Who knows? Maybe God will give his blessings, so we will be able to hire some fast wagons that will take us into Shanxi Province within ten days,” Linghu Chong suggested.

“I have committed countless crimes in my life and harmed many innocent people. Why would God give me his blessings? Unless God had gone blind.” Tian Boguang grinned.

“Hmm, sometimes…sometimes God…does go blind. We are going to die anyway. There’s nothing to lose for trying it out.”

“That’s right! What’s the difference whether I die on the road or on Mount Huashan?” Tian Boguang applauded. “I think the first thing we need to do is to go down the mountain and find something to eat. Ever since I was dumped here, I could only eat unripe chestnuts off the ground. I am really craving for some decent food. Can you get up? Let me give you a hand.”

He offered to “give a hand,” yet couldn’t even get up himself. Linghu Chong wanted to give him a prop, but didn’t have any strength either. The two of them struggled for a while but achieved no progress whatsoever. Suddenly, both of them burst into loud laughter.

“I’ve been wandering in the Martial World for years, yet to find any bosom friend. But today I get to die here together with brother Linghu. What a joy it is!” Tian Boguang said.

“Later when my Master sees our corpses, he probably would assume that the two of us have ended in a common ruin after a fierce fight. Who would have guessed that we were still calling each other brothers before we kicked the bucket?” Linghu Chong let out a grin.

Tian Boguang reached out with his hand. “Brother Linghu, let’s shake hands before we die.”

Linghu Chong hesitated. Obviously Tian Boguang wanted to be intimate friends with him and share a common destiny. But Tian was the notorious evil rapist, and he was the disciple of a reputable sword school. How could he make friends with someone like Tian? That day when he beat Tian several times in the contests and spared his life each time, he could still attribute that to the fact that Tian spared his life multiple times first. But to still mangle up with him today really couldn’t be justified at all. With those thoughts, he reached out with his hand but stopped half way.

Tian Boguang only thought that Linghu Chong’s wounds were too severe that he simply didn’t have enough strength to move his arm. So he said loudly, “Brother Linghu, you are my intimate friend now. If you die because of your wounds before I die, I swear that I will not stay living alone.”

Touched by the sincerity in Tian Boguang’s words, Linghu Chong thought, “He surely deserves to be called a true friend.” So he reached out with his hands and held Tian’s right hand. “Brother Tian, at least we won’t be heading to the underworld alone and die a lonely death,” Linghu Chong said with a smile.

Before his words even faded, he suddenly heard a gloomy sneer rise from behind his back. Then a voice said, “Who would have expected the Head Apprentice of the Huashan Sword School Qi-Branch to have sunk so low and made friends with a notorious evil rapist?”

“Who are you?” Tian Boguang yelled out.

Linghu Chong couldn’t help but groan inwardly, “It’s no big deal that I am gonna die from my severe wounds, but now I’ve just put Master’s reputation in jeopardy. How terrible!”

In the darkness, he could vaguely see a shadow standing next to him with a long sword in his hand. The blade flashed dimly from the starlight.

“Linghu Chong, it’s still not too late to take back what you said. Take this sword and waste that Tian-named evil rapist, then nobody will condemn you for making friends with him,” the shadow said with a sneer as he threw his sword down, which cut into the ground and stood by its own.

Linghu Chong noticed that the blade of the sword was wide and broad – it was the type of sword used by the Songshan Sword School. So he asked,

“Which respectful member of the Songshan Sword School are you?”

“You surely have sharp eyes. I am Di Xiu from Songshan Sword School,” the man answered.

“So it’s apprentice brother Di. We haven’t had much chance to get to know each other. What respectful business are you tending here on Mount Huashan?” Linghu Chong asked.

“Head Uncle-Master gave me the order to come to Mount Huashan and go on a trip of inspection to check if apprentices of the Huashan Sword School are really having bad conducts as the rumor says. Ha-ha, I didn’t expect to hear you speak straight from the heart about making friends with that evil rapist, right after I climb up Mount Huashan. I didn’t see that coming at all!” Di Xiu answered.

“You god damned punk, you think your Songshan Sword School is any better? Why don’t you go check on your own ill behavior before poking your nose into other people’s business?” Tian Boguang cursed.

Di Xiu raised his foot and threw a heavy kick at Tian Boguang’s head. “Humph, your end is imminent and you still won’t shut your dirty mouth?” he yelled. But Tian Boguang kept pouring out streams of abuses non-stop. It would have been a walkover if Di Xiu had wanted to kill Tian Boguang, but he decided to give Linghu Chong a good amount of humiliation first.

“Linghu Chong,” he sneered, “since the two of you find each other’s stinks congenial, I suppose you’ve made up your mind not to kill him?”

Linghu Chong was furious. He yelled loudly, “Whether I kill him or not, it’s none of your business. Give me the deathblow if you’ve got any guts. If you have no guts, then get your tail between your legs and get your ass off Mount Huashan.”

“So you are sure you won’t kill him, and would rather consider that evil rapist your good friend?” Di Xiu asked.

“No matter who I have as my friend, it beats having you as a friend,” Linghu Chong answered.

“Right on! Way to go!” Tian Boguang cheered loudly.

“You just want to enrage me and provoke me into killing the two of you with a single blow. It’s not going to be that easy. I am going to strip off your clothes and tie you two together naked. Then I’ll seal your Mute Point and put on a tour of display around the Martial World. I’ll tell everyone that I caught a macho guy and a sissy boy right when they were doing their illicit dirty stuff. Ha-ha, your Master Yue Buqun of the Huashan Sword School always pretends benevolence and righteousness, and puts on a face of a Confucian moralist to fool people. After today, would he still dare to call himself ‘Gentleman Sword’?”

These words made Linghu Chong’s anger explode, which knocked him out cold.

“Go to hell you….” Tian Boguang cursed, but his voice halted abruptly when Di Xiu sealed his pressure point around his waist with a swift kick.

With an evil grin on his face, Di Xiu reached out to start untying Linghu Chong’s robe. Suddenly, a soft and brisk female voice rose behind his back.

“Hello, big brother, what are you doing here?”

In great surprise, Di Xiu turned his head around for a glance. In the dim light he could vaguely make out the shape of a woman. So he responded, “What are you doing here?’

Tian Boguang immediately recognized the girl’s voice. It was none other than Yilin’s voice. With a tremendous amount of joy, he shouted.

“Little…little Sister, it’s you! That’s wonderful. This god damned rat wants to…wants to kill your big brother Linghu.”

He was going to say, “This god damned rat wants to kill me.” But then a quick thought came upon him: Yilin wouldn’t care about the “me” much at all. So he quickly changed that to “your big brother Linghu.”

Hearing that the man lying on the ground was actually Linghu Chong, Yilin was greatly worried. Wasting no time, she leapt forward and called out, “Big brother Linghu, is that you?”

Noticing how preoccupied Yilin was and how she put on no guard against him, Di Xiu bent his arm slightly and jabbed toward her pressure point under her rib cage with his index finger. His finger was just about to touch her clothes when suddenly his back collar tightened up as someone lifted him several feet off the ground. Terrified, Di Xiu elbowed back with his right arm, but it hit nothing. He immediately followed with a back kick using his left foot, but it hit nothing either. Horrified, he grabbed back with his hands when a huge hand came to his throat with a tight grip. Instantly, he could hardly breathe and lost all his strength to struggle.

By the time Linghu Chong slowly regained his consciousness, the first thing he noticed was a girl’s worried voice calling out, “Big brother Linghu! Big brother Linghu!” It sounded vaguely like the voice of Yilin. He opened his eyes, and sure enough, under the dim starlight, the pretty white face right in front of his eyes was no other than Yilin’s.

A thundering voice suddenly exploded, “Lin’er, is this cripple the Linghu Chong you have mentioned?”

Linghu Chong looked up toward the origin of the voice, and what he saw shocked him. A chubby and enormous giant monk stood there, more like an iron tower than a human. The monk was at least seven feet tall. He extended his left arm out horizontally and lifted Di Xiu off the ground. Di Xiu’s arms hang still by his side. It was hard to tell if he was still breathing or not.

“Dad, he…he is big brother Linghu. But he is not a cripple,” Yilin said. She never took her eyes off Linghu Chong when she spoke and her eyes were filled with care, concern, and affection. It almost looked as if she really wanted to reach out to caress Linghu Chong’s face but was afraid to do it.

Linghu Chong was astounded. He couldn’t help but think to himself, “You are a little nun. How come you are calling this giant monk Dad? A monk having a daughter is already shocking, now when his daughter is actually a nun is simply appalling!”

The giant monk let out some more thunder-like laughter. “You yearned for this Linghu Chong days and nights. I thought he must be a bulky and heroic looking guy. It turned out he’s just a tiny loser who couldn’t even fight back when bullied and had to pretend to be dead on the ground. What a cripple! I’d never want him as my son-in-law. Forget about him. Let’s go.”

“Who said I yearned for him days and nights?” Yilin rebuked him in great embarrassment. “You…you always like to talk nonsense. If you want to go, you can go by yourself. You don’t want…want….” She simply couldn’t repeat the words “don’t want him as son-in-law.”

Hearing that this monk had referred to him again and again as a “cripple” and a “loser,” Linghu Chong became furious. “Go as you wish! Who asked you to stay?” he scorned.

“You can’t go! You can’t go!” Tian Boguang shouted in worry.

“Why can’t he go?” Linghu Chong asked.

“I need him to release my Death Points. I also need his antidotes for the strong poison planted in me. If he leaves, I am dead and gone!” Tian Boguang said.

“Are you afraid now? I said that I’d die together with you, didn’t I. Once your poison activates, I’ll just cut my own throat to go along with you.”

The giant monk chortled and the thundering sound echoed in the valley.

“Excellent! Excellent! Excellent! So this lad actually has some backbone. Lin’er, he is certainly to my liking. But there’s one more thing I have to get a clear answer. Does he drink wine or not?”

Before Yilin even had a chance to answer, Linghu Chong had already yelled out. “I certainly do. Why not? Your old man here drinks in the mornings, in the evenings, and even in my dreams. Once you get to see how addicted I am, I assure you that you’ll tremble with rage because you are a damn monk whose commandments prohibit you from eating flesh, drinking wine, killing people, saying lies, and blah, blah, blah!”

“Lin’er, you tell him. What’s your dad’s name for the Buddhist’s order?” The giant monk broke into a loud laughter.

“Big brother Linghu, my dad’s name in the Buddhist’s order is called ‘No Commandment’,” Yilin explained with a smile. “He is a member of the Buddhist order, but he doesn’t follow any of the regulations, taboos, and commandments for Buddhists, that’s why his name in the Buddhist’s order is called ‘No Commandment.’ Now, please don’t laugh at this. He drinks wine, eats flesh, kills people, steals money, and even…even gave…gave birth to me.” At that final word, she could no longer hold her amusement and broke into giggles.

“Hey, I am very delighted…delighted to meet monks of this type!” Linghu Chong burst into loud laughter. He struggled to stand up, but was short of enough strength. Yilin rushed to prod him up.

“Uncle,” Linghu Chong said with a smile, “since you are open to all kinds of things, why don’t you simply resume secular life? There’s no need to put yourself in this Buddhist robe.”

“Aha, there’s something you don’t know. Because I am open to all things, that’s how I decided to become a monk. I fell in love with a beautiful nun just like you….” Monk No Commandment explained.

“Dad, you are talking nonsense without thinking again,” Yilin cut him off. Her face was completely red from a blush; fortunately, it was dark at night, so no one noticed it.

“A true man is always open and aboveboard. I did it, and I admit it, regardless of how others laugh at me or condemn me. Monk No Commandment is a true man that speaks the truth! What’s there to be afraid of?” Monk No Commandment replied.

“Precisely!” Linghu Chong and Tian Boguang cheered in unison.

Hearing the agreements, Monk No Commandment was quite pleased, so he continued, “The beautiful nun that I fell in love with was, of course, her mother.”

“Turned out that little apprentice sister Yilin’s dad is a monk and her mother is a nun,” Linghu Chong thought to himself amusedly.

Monk No Commandment went on, “I was a butcher at that time and fell in love with her mother, but her mother paid no attention to me. I was at my wit’s end and had no other choice but to join the Buddhist’s order. I thought that since nuns and monks are all members of the Buddhist’s order, like a big family, then when a nun doesn’t love a butcher, maybe she would love a monk.”

“Dad, when are you going to watch your mouth before you speak? You are already a grown up, but you still talk like a child,” Yilin said with a spat.

“Did I speak the untruth? But at the time I didn’t realize that once one becomes a monk, he can no longer go out with any woman, not even nuns, and it was actually more difficult for me to date her mom, so I didn’t want to be a monk no more. But my teacher insisted that I had some kind of trait perfect for a member of the Buddhist order, so he refused to let me resume secular life. Her mother somehow got muddleheaded and was deeply moved by my true love, and soon this little nun came to this world. Chong, it’s much easier for you now. You don’t have to join the Buddhist’s order and become a monk to date my little nun daughter.”

Linghu Chong was greatly embarrassed. He thought to himself, “When apprentice sister Yilin was taken prisoner by Tian Boguang, I put in my effort following the righteous course. She is a nun from the Heng-Shan Sword School who believes in Buddhism. How can she get involved into love relationship with any secular man? It was probably only because she met men close to her age the first time and lost control of herself temporarily that she sent Tian Boguang and Peach Valley’s Six Fairies to invite me over. I must avoid her as soon as possible. If the reputation of the Huashan Sword School and the Heng-Shan Sword School were damaged in any way because of me, even if I died, Master and Master-Wife would still condemn me, and little apprentice sister Lingshan would still look down upon me.”

Yilin looked very bashful. “Dad, big brother Linghu already…already has the person of his heart. He would never pay attention to others. You…you…you’d better never mention that again. You would only get laughed at.”

“This chap has another lover? This is pissing me off!” Monk No Commandment yelled angrily. He reached forward with his right arm. The huge palm, almost as big as a cattail leaf fan, shot at Linghu Chong’s chest. Linghu Chong couldn’t even keep his balance let along dodge the attack. The hand got a good grip of Linghu Chong’s robe and lifted him off the ground.

With his left hand grabbing at Di Xiu’s back collar and his right hand grabbing at Linghu Chong’s chest, Monk No Commandment extended both of his arms out flat and looked as if he was carrying the two with a shoulder pole. Linghu Chong didn’t have much strength to start with, now in the mid air, he hanged there like a ragged bag.

“Dad, put big brother Linghu down immediately! If you don’t put him down, I am gonna be angry now,” Yilin shouted in a hurry.

As soon as Monk No Commandment heard the word “angry” from his daughter, he dropped Linghu Chong in no time, looking very afraid. “Which beautiful little nun did he set his eyes on? This is outrageous!” he babbled. Since he had fallen in love with a beautiful nun, he felt that other than beautiful nuns, there wasn’t anyone else who deserved to be loved.

“The person of big brother Linghu’s heart is his apprentice sister Miss Yue,” Yilin explained.

Monk No Commandment let out a loud roar, which created an uncomfortable buzz in everyone’s ears. “Who’s this girl named Yue?” he yelled. “Damn it! If she isn’t a beautiful little nun, what’s so lovely about her? I’ll break the damn girl’s little neck as soon as I see her!”

Linghu Chong thought aloud, “This Monk No Commandment is a crude and reckless man, and he is similar to the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies in a sense. Seems that he will live up to his words. What if he really harms the little apprentice sister?”

“Dad, big brother Linghu is severely wounded. Please hurry to heal his wounds. There’s plenty of time to talk over other things later,” Yilin suggested, feeling greatly worried.

Monk No Commandment always acted upon whatever his daughter said. “That’s fine. Let’s heal his wounds. What’s so difficult about that?” he said. He tossed Di Xiu behind his back with a random wave and then asked Linghu Chong loudly, “How were you wounded?” Cries of pain continued as Di Xiu rolled down the small hill.

“I took a palm strike from someone on my chest. But that wasn’t critical….” Linghu Chong replied.

“Palm strike on the chest? He must have shaken your Ren Passage pretty good….” Monk No Commandment concluded.

“The Peach Valley….” Linghu Chong tried to explain.

“There’s no whatever Peach Valley in the Ren Passage,” Monk No Commandment cut him off. “Your Huashan School’s inner energy is no good, no wonder you don’t understand. Sure, there’s one called Combined Valley Point among the various human pressure points, but that belongs to the Hand-To-Intestine Yang-Ming Channel and is positioned right between thumb and index finger. It has nothing to do with the Ren Passage. Very well, let me heal your wound in the Ren Passage.”

“No, no! The Peach Valley’s Six….” Linghu Chong said in a hurry.

“What Peach Valley Six, Peach Valley Seven?” Monk No Commandment waved him off. “Among the various pressure points, there’re Hand-Three-Li, Foot-Three-Li, Yin-Ling-Quan, and Si-Kong-Zhu. Where did Peach Valley Six or Peach Valley Seven come from? Now shut up and stop the nonsense.” At that word, he swung his hand and sealed Linghu Chong’s Mute Point.

“I’ll send my supreme inner energy into your Ren Passage through the Cheng-Jiang, Tian-Tu, Tan-Zhong, Jiu-Wei, Ju-Yue, Zhong-Wan, Qi-Hai, Shi-Men, Guan-Yuan, and Zhong-Ji points. Your wound will heal as soon as my energy flows through. I bet that after seven or eight days, you’ll be back to normal, as cool as a cucumber,” Monk No Commandment said as he reached out with the two fan-sized hands.

He placed his right hand on the Cheng-Jiang Point by Linghu Chong’s chin, and his left hand on the Zhong-Ji Point by Linghu Chong’s lower abdomen, and then started sending two streams of inner energy in through the two pressure points. All of a sudden, he felt a tremendous shock from his hands as the two streams of energy clashed with the six energy streams left by the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies. Astounded, he uttered a cry of surprise.

“Dad, how did it go?” Yilin asked in a hurry.

“There are several bizarre energy streams in his body,” Monk No Commandment responded. “One, two, three, four. There are a total of four…wait…there’s one more. That’s a total of five energy streams. These five energy streams…Aha, another one came out. What the hell, six streams of energy! Fine! Let’s see who’s tougher? Your god damned six energy streams or my two streams of energy? Maybe there’s even more. Ha-ha, kind of crowded, huh? This is so much fun! Come on, come and get me. Humph, no more, right? There are only six. Did you think I, Monk No Commandment, would be afraid of you puny rascals?” He pressed hard on the two pressure points of Linghu Chong’s, and white steam began to come out from the top of his head. At the beginning, he was still able to call out, but soon, as he worked hard to gather more and more inner energy, he had no strength left to make any sound. By then, it was almost time for daybreak, and it was getting brighter and brighter. The white steam on top of his head became thicker and thicker as if a heavy mist had completely surrounded his giant head.

After a long while, he finally drew his hands back and burst into loud laughter. Suddenly, the laughter halted abruptly, and with a heavy thump, Monk No Commandment collapsed down to the ground.

In great astonishment, Yilin cried out, “Dad, Dad!” She dashed by his side to help him up. But Monk No Commandment was simply too heavy, only half way up, the two fell back down to the ground again.

Monk No Commandment’ clothes were soaked with sweat. Panting heavily, he still cursed in a trembling voice, “God…God…God damned…God…God…God damned….”

Hearing the curses from him, Yilin relaxed a little. “Dad, what’s wrong? Are you exhausted?” she asked.

“Damn it!” Monk No Commandment cussed, “There are six streams of tough energy inside the lad’s body, and they wanted to have a fight…fight with me. Damn it! After I gathered up my inner energy, I have already overpowered those six streams of weird energy. Hmm, you can relax now. This lad won’t die.”

Yilin felt great comfort. She turned around to look, and sure enough, saw Linghu Chong stand up slowly.

“Hey, the monk’s inner energy is pretty tough indeed. It only took him minutes to heal brother Linghu’s severe wounds,” Tian Boguang praised with a smile.

Monk No Commandment was quite pleased to hear the praise. He replied, “You have committed countless crimes. I was thinking of killing you with a simple squeeze, but since you did find the lad Linghu Chong and do deserve a little bit of credit, I am going to spare your life. Now get your ass out of here.”

Tian Boguang was furious. He cursed, “What the devil are you talking about, you god damned monk? What kind of garbage is that? You said that if I found Linghu Chong for you within one month, you would release my sealed Death Points and give me the antidote to the poison. Are you going back on your words? If you don’t release my points and give me the antidote, then you are no better than a filthy pig, you god damned monk.”

These vicious curses didn’t anger Monk No Commandment at all. He grinned. “Look at this stinking chap. Look at the coward look on him, afraid that I, Monk No Commandment would go back on my words and not give him the antidote. You dirty skunk, here’s the antidote.”

He reached into his pocket for the antidote, but because of the great strength he had just spent on Linghu Chong, his hand couldn’t help but tremble. The china bottle fell out of his hand multiple times. Yilin reached over and picked up the bottle, then opened the lid.

“Give him three pills. Take the first pill, and then wait three days before taking another one. After that, wait another six days before taking the third one. But if you get killed during the nine days, don’t you blame it on me,” Monk No Commandment said.

“Hey monk, you forced me to take poison and now gave me the antidote. I am already being nice by not cursing you. Don’t expect me to thank you for that. How about my sealed Death Points?” Tian Boguang asked as he took the antidote from Yilin’s hands.

“Those pressure points I sealed had released automatically after seven days. If I had really sealed your Death Point, do you think you would still be standing here alive today?” Monk No Commandment laughed out loud.

Tian Boguang had sensed that those pressure points were already released earlier. Now hearing these words from Monk No Commandment, he finally relaxed.

“God damn it! You lying monk!” he swore with a big smile.

Turning his head to Linghu Chong, he said, “Brother Linghu, I know you must have things to talk to the little Sister. Farewell for now. If all goes well, we’ll meet again someday!” He cupped his hand before turning around to follow the main path down the mountain.

“Please wait, brother Tian,” Linghu Chong called out.

“Why?” Tian Boguang asked.

“Brother Tian,” Linghu Chong said, “thanks for showing me mercy during those several fights. I will make you a friend, but there’s one advice I’d like to give you. If you don’t listen to me, our friendship won’t last long.”

“I know what you mean,” Tian Boguang grinned. “You want me to stop the kind of trash like raping and stuff. Fine, I’ll listen to your advice. There are plenty of sluts and whores around. Although I am fond of women, I don’t have to prey on innocent girls or get them killed. Ha-ha, brother Linghu, wasn’t it a fantastic scene at the Hengshan Jade House?”

Hearing him mention of the Hengshan Jade House, Linghu Chong and Yilin both flushed. Laughing out loud, Tian Boguang walked away, but after only a couple of steps, his knee gave out all of a sudden. Falling on the ground heavily, he found himself rolling down a small slope. Finally the rolling came to a halt and Tian Boguang managed to sit up after some struggle. Taking out one antidote pill, he swallowed it down his throat, and instantly, severe stomachache consumed him. He sat on the ground and had no extra strength left to even move a muscle. Knowing that this was a normal process to neutralize the kind of strong poison he had, he did not panic at all and just waited patiently for the antidote to take its course.

Earlier when Monk No Commandment pumped the two streams of forceful inner energy into Linghu Chong’s body, which effectively repressed the six energy streams from the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, Linghu Chong felt so much better. All the nausea seemed to have gone away and he could feel that he was regaining some of this strength from his legs. Welled with joy, he walked forward and bowed to Monk No Commandment with deep respect.

“Great Master, thank you for saving my life! I am truly grateful!”

“No need to thank me! Ha-ha, we are a big family now. You are my son-in-law and I am your father-in-law. What’s there to thank for?” Monk No Commandment let out a big grin.

“Dad, you…you are talking nonsense again.” Yilin’s face turned completely red.

“Why? Why is that nonsense? You yearned for him days and nights. Don’t you want to marry him? Even if you can’t marry him, don’t you want to make a pretty baby little nun with him?” Monk No Commandment asked in surprise.

“You…you…who wanted…who…?” Yilin spitted in embarrassment.

Sound of footsteps came from the mountain path, and moments later two people showed up. It was Yue Buqun and his daughter Yue Lingshan.

Struck by surprise and joy at the same time, Linghu Chong greeted in a hurry. “Master, little apprentice sister, you are back! Where’s Master-Wife?” he called out.

Noticing that Linghu Chong was much fitter and looked nothing close to the weak look when he had the last gasp the day before, Yue Buqun felt quite happy, but it was not time to ask him yet. Instead, he cupped his hands toward Monk No Commandment.

“May I be enlightened to hear your respectful name, Great Master? What brought you to our shabby residence?” he asked.

“My name is Monk No Commandment. I came to your shabby residence to look for my son-in-law,” Monk No Commandment replied and pointed at Linghu Chong. He came from being a butcher and didn’t know the kind of polite formula scholars would exchange at greetings. Since Yue Buqun said “shabby residence,” he simply copied it.

Yue Buqun had no clue as who this monk was. When he heard the monk say, “I came to look for my son-in-law,” he thought that the monk was actually spitting out insults intentionally. Although angered, he kept a calm face and only replied, “Great Master, you must be joking.” Seeing that Yilin came forward to salute him, he inquired, “Nephew apprentice Yilin, did your Master send you here to Mount Huashan?”

Yilin flushed slightly as she replied, “No. I…I…”

Yue Buqun paid no more attention to Yilin and turned to Tian Boguang.

“Humph! Tian Boguang, you sure have a lot of guts!”

“I get along with your apprentice Linghu Chong, so I carried two jars of wine up Mount Huashan for a good drink with him. That doesn’t take a lot of guts,” Tian Boguang replied.

“Where’s the wine then?” Yue Buqun’s face turned sterner.

“We finished it on top of the ‘Cliff of Contemplation’ a long time ago.”

Yue Buqun turned to Linghu Chong. “Is that true?” he asked.

“Master,” Linghu Chong answered, “that was a long story. Please allow me to explain in details.”

“How long has Tian Boguang been on Mount Huashan?”

“About half a month.”

“During the half a month, was he on Mount Huashan all the time?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you report to me?” Yue Buqun asked in a stern voice.

“Master and Master-Wife weren’t here at the time,” Linghu Chong answered.

“Where were we then?”

“You were in Chang-An Town chasing Mister Tian.”

Yue Buqun let out a snort. “Mister Tian? Humph, Mister Tian! You knew he committed countless of cruel crimes; why didn’t you slay him with your sword? Even if you couldn’t beat him, you should have died fighting him, why did you make friends with him in fear for your life?”

“I didn’t want to kill him. What could he do? Kill himself with his own sword because he couldn’t beat me in a fight?” Tian Boguang interrupted. Still not able to stand up, he remained sitting on the ground.

“What makes you think you are allowed to talk in front of me?” Yue Buqun retorted. He said to Linghu Chong, “Go kill him!”

“Father, big apprentice brother has severe wounds. He shouldn’t fight anyone!” Yue Lingshan couldn’t help but interrupt.

“Wasn’t that evil rapist seriously wounded, just as well? What are you worrying about? I am here. Do you think I will allow that villain to injure my apprentice?” Yue Buqun said.

Yue Buqun knew that Linghu Chong was cunning and crafty, and hated evil as if it were his personal enemy. In addition, Tian Boguang had wounded him just recently, so for sure, he would not make true friends with that evil rapist. Perhaps he resorted to a battle of wits after failing the batter of strength. At the moment, Tian Boguang had been seriously wounded, and probably that would have attributed to Linghu Chong’s effort, already. That was why when he heard that Linghu Chong had made friends with the evil rapist, he wasn’t angry for real, and only ordered Linghu Chong to kill the villain. That would not only rid the people of a scourge, but also make a name for a young apprentice. Yue Buqun was sure that at Tian Boguang’s current state, even if he could still fight Linghu Chong to a tie, he would stand no chance against even a slight snap attack from Yue himself. But to his surprise, Linghu Chong replied,

“Master, this brother Tian has promised me that he will sincerely mend his ways starting from now on and never harm any innocent woman. I know that he is a man of his word, why don’t we…?”

“What…what makes you believe that he is a man of his word? How can one discuss word of honor with such a villain who has committed crimes for which even death cannot atone? How many innocent lives have perished under his murderous knife? What good is it that we martial people practice martial arts if we don’t slay this type of evil? Lingshan, hand your sword over to your big apprentice brother,” Yue Buqun yelled, in a stern voice.

“Yes!” Yue Lingshan replied. She unsheathed her sword and handed the sword to Linghu Chong, handle first.

Linghu Chong found himself in a very awkward situation. He never dared to go against his Master’s orders, but earlier on the verge of death, he had already shaken hands with Tian Boguang and made friends with him. In addition, Tian Boguang had promised to correct his errors and make a fresh start. Although Tian Boguang committed countless crimes before, he was one who would truly keep his words. If Linghu Chong killed him now, it wouldn’t feel right. He took the sword from Yue Lingshan and started stumbling toward Tian Boguang. After a dozen steps or so, he pretended that his legs were too weak because of the several wounds of his. Bending his left knee all of a sudden, he threw himself to the ground, and with a thud, the long sword in his hand penetrated his left shin.

No one had expected that to happen, and all cried out in shock. Yilin and Yue Lingshan both dashed toward him, but Yilin halted only after her first step, thinking to herself that how could she, a member of the Buddhist order, show her care and affection to a young man in public.

“Big apprentice brother, are you alright?” Yue Lingshan rushed by Linghu Chong and cried out.

Linghu Chong did not answer, his eyes shut tight.

Yue Lingshan grabbed hold of the sword handle and gave it a pull. The sword came out as blood gushed out from the wound like a spring. She hurriedly took out some medication of the Huashan School and applied them onto Linghu Chong’s wound on his leg. When she looked up by chance, she suddenly noticed the worried pale face of Yilin that was covered by care and concern. Yue Lingshan felt a thump in her heart as she thought aloud, “This little nun surely cares for big apprentice brother very much!”

“Dad, let me slay that evil villain.” Yue Lingshan stood up with her sword in hand.

“If you kill that villain, you would stain your reputation for nothing. Give the sword to me!” Yue Buqun directed.

Tian Boguang was such an infamous rapist that his name was well known by many. Yue Buqun worried that when the news spread out later that Miss Yue had killed Tian Boguang, it was destined that some rascals would cook up many stories about how there was an attempted rape, so on and so forth.

Hearing her father’s words, Yue Lingshan handed the sword over, but Yue Buqun did not take the sword, instead, he flicked his right sleeve, which wrapped the sword inside.

“No!” Monk No Commandment shouted when he saw the scene. He quickly took off his two shoes and held them in his hands. Yue Buqun swung his arm with a chop stance; the long sword shot toward Tian Boguang, who was in a distance of a hundred feet or so, like a missile. That was well expected by Monk No Commandment. He threw hard with both of his arms; the two shoes also shot out in great speed. The sword was heavy and the shoes were light, plus that the sword was thrown before the two shoes, but somehow the two shoes were able to fly in front of the sword in an arch and circled back. Each shoe hooked onto one side of the sword handle and actually was able to send the long sword back toward where it was thrown. The sword flew a couple dozens of feet back and then finally lost its momentum and fell to the ground. The sword tip penetrated the soil and kept the sword standing. The two shoes were still hooked on the handle and swayed back and forth.

“That was terrible! Terrible!” Monk No Commandment shouted. “Lin’er, your daddy spent too much inner energy on the son-in-law’s internal wounds today. That’s why the sword fell only half way through. It should have flown to only two feet from the son-in-law’s Master and give him a good scare. Alas, your daddy monk has really lost face this time. This is so embarrassing!”

Throwing a glance at Yue Buqun’s unhappy face, Yilin whispered, “Dad, enough.” She hurried forward and removed the two shoes off the sword handle. Pulling the sword off the ground, she hesitated. She knew that Linghu Chong didn’t want to kill Tian Boguang. If she had given the sword back to Yue Lingshan, and she went to kill Tian Boguang again, wouldn’t that break Linghu Chong’s heart?

When Yue Buqun swung his arm and shot out the long sword with his sleeve, he thought that for sure the sword would cut through Tian Boguang’s heart. Who had expected that Monk No Commandment was actually able to put so much strength onto his two shoes with such a clever maneuver? This monk kept yelling out loud, referring himself as the little nun’s father and calling Linghu Chong his son-in-law, full of nonsense. Obviously he was just a mad monk, but his Kung Fu skills are indeed outstanding. Didn’t he say that he just spent a good amount of his inner energy to heal Linghu Chong’s internal wounds? If it hadn’t been so, wouldn’t he be even more exceptional? Although he didn’t use the Divine Art of Violet Twilight when he flicked with his sleeve, and he was sure he wouldn’t lose to the monk if he had actually used it, still, it wouldn’t be appropriate for a renowned master to strike again once the first strike had missed. So he cupped his hand and said, “Very admirable! Great Master, since you are determined to take this villain under your wings, it would be inappropriate for me to intervene today. What do you think?”

Hearing him say that he wouldn’t kill Tian Boguang today, Yilin held the long sword in both hands and walked in front of Yue Lingshan. Bowing slightly, she said, “Sister, you….”

Yue Lingshan snorted as she grabbed hold of the sword handle. Without even looking, she returned the sword back to its sheath. The shove appeared to be neat and swift.

Monk No Commandment chortled. “Miss, that was a handsome trick!” He turned to Linghu Chong and said, “My little son-in-law, let’s go. Your apprentice sister is very pretty. I’d be nervous to leave you and her together.”

“Great Master, I know you like to kid around. But remarks like that would damage the reputation of both the Heng-Shan and the Huashan sword schools. Will you please stop that?” Linghu Chong demanded.

“What? When we finally found you and saved your life after so much trouble, now you don’t want to marry my daughter?” Monk No Commandment was astonished.

Linghu Chong put on a solemn face. “Linghu Chong dares not ever forget the kindness Great Master has shown by saving my life. Apprentice sister Yilin’s Heng-Shen Sword School has very strict school rules. If you keep making such meaningless jokes, it wouldn’t look good for the two senior sisters Ding Xian and Ding Yi.”

“Lin’er, what…what…what’s up with this son-in-law? I…I don’t get it!” Monk No Commandment scratched his head hard.

Yilin covered her face with both hands and cried, “Dad, enough! Enough! He does his things and I do my own. Why…why…why mix us together?” Tears burst out from her eyes as she dashed down the mountain path.

Monk No Commandment was even more confused. He dazed for a moment and then muttered, “This is so strange! Before seeing him, she would give up everything to see him, but once she sees him, she didn’t want to see him anymore. She is just like her mother. It’s simply impossible to understand what a little nun might be thinking.” Seeing that his daughter was getting further and further, he chased after her.

Tian Boguang managed to stand up after some struggle. “The green mountain will always be green and the blue river will continue to flow. I’ll see you around,” he said to Linghu Chong and then turned around and stumbled his way down the mountain path.

Yue Buqun waited till Tian Boguang had gone far before speaking to Linghu Chong again, “Chong, you are treating that evil villain well. You would rather stab yourself than kill him.”

Linghu Chong’s face showed some shame. He knew that Master had seen through his act with his sharp eyes. He lowered his head.

“Master, he did have many bad conducts, but he has promised to mend his ways and do good. He has shown mercy and spared my life multiple times when he had me in his hands.”

“Talking morality with such a brutal and cold-blooded skunk, sooner or later, you will have to pay for it,” Yue Buqun sneered. He had always favored this Head Apprentice of his. Seeing that he had survived such severe wounds had already brought him great joy. When Linghu Chong pretended to fall and stabbed himself in the leg, he knew very well that it was an act, but he also knew too well that Linghu Chong had always been crafty since he was only a child, so he decided not to investigate further. Besides, Linghu Chong’s words to Monk No Commandment were very effective and appropriate, just the way he wanted it, therefore, he chose to set the case of Tian Boguang aside temporarily.

“Where’s the booklet?” Yue Buqun stuck out his hand.

Linghu Chong had guessed that Master and little apprentice sister must have come back because the “crime” was discovered and the “criminal” identified, that was why Master came back to Mount Huashan after the book. And that was exactly what he had wished for.

“Sixth apprentice brother has it. Little apprentice sister only did it to save my life. Her intention was all good. Master, please don’t blame her. Without Master’s permission, I would never dare to even touch the manuscript, not mentioning reading about any formula or technique off the booklet,” Linghu Chong swore.

Yue Buqun’s face immediately turned into a smile, kind and pleasant. “You did it right. It’s not that I don’t want to pass it on to you, but since our school is facing some serious events at the time and I could not spare any moment to give you detailed instructions. If I just let you study by yourself, I am afraid that you might go the wrong way, and that would lead to unpredictable trouble.” He paused for a while and then continued, “That Monk No Commandment acted like a lunatic, but he does have brilliant inner energy techniques. Did he dissolve those six unorthodox energy streams inside you? How do you feel right now?”

“I don’t feel nauseated any more, and all the burning pain and freezing pain are gone too. But it feels like I’ve run all my strength out,” Linghu Chong answered.

“You have just recovered from severe internal injuries. It’s natural that you feel weak. We have to repay Great Master No Commandment for saving your life one day,” Yue Buqun said.

“Yes, Master!”

Ever since Yue Buqun came back to Mount Huashan, he worried that they might meet the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies again. But so far he had seen no trace of them, which relaxed him a bit. But he still didn’t want to stay long.

“Let’s meet with Dayou and then go to Mount Songshan together. Chong, do you think you are fit to make a long journey?” he asked.

“Yes, I am. Yes!” Linghu Chong replied with sheer joy.

Soon, the Master and the two apprentices arrived at the little hut next to the “House of Integrity.” Yue Lingshan rushed forward with a trot and entered the hut after pushing the door open. Suddenly, she started screaming, her voice filled with terror. Yue Buqun and Linghu Chong both dashed forward to look inside, and they saw Lu Dayou lying on the floor, motionless.

“Little apprentice sister, don’t be frightened, I sealed his pressure points earlier,” Linghu Chong explained with a smile.

“You sure scared the wits out of me. Why did you seal his pressure points?” Yue Lingshan asked.

“Since I refused to read the manuscript, for my good, he decided to read the scripts in the manuscript for me to listen,” Linghu Chong explained. “I couldn’t convince him, so I had to seal his pressure points. How come…?”

Suddenly, Yue Buqun uttered a cry of surprise. He bent down to check on Lu Dayou’s breathing and also checked his pulses before speaking in shock, “How come…how come he is dead? Chong, which pressure point did you seal?”

Hearing the sudden news that Lu Dayou was dead, Linghu Chong was scared out of his wits. His body started shaking and he almost fainted. “I…I….” he muttered in a trembling voice as he reached out to touch Lu Dayou’s face. The face was chilling cold. Apparently Lu Dayou died a long while back. Tears burst out from his eyes. “Sixth…sixth apprentice brother, are you really gone?” he cried.

“Where’s the booklet?” Yue Buqun asked.

Linghu Chong looked with his teary eyes, and in the blur, he didn’t see the “Violet Twilight Manuscript” either. “Where’s the booklet?” he couldn’t help but ask himself. He checked Lu Dayou’s pockets in a hurry, but there’s no trace of the manuscript. “When I sealed his pressure point, I remember seeing the manuscript turned open on the desk. How come it’s not there anymore?”

Yue Lingshan looked all over the room, on the bed, next to the desk, behind the door, and under the chairs, but still, there was no trace of the “Violet Twilight Manuscript” whatsoever.

This manuscript was the ultimate Kung Fu manuscript of the Huashan Sword School. Now when it suddenly disappeared, Yue Buqun was utterly apprehensive. He examined the corpse of Lu Dayou carefully but found no fatal wound. He examined around the little hut, including the top of the roof, but found no traces left by any outsiders.

“If no outsiders had come, then it couldn’t have been the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies or the Monk No Commandment who took it,” Yue Buqun thought aloud. He asked Linghu Chong with a stern voice, “Chong, which pressure point did you seal?”

Linghu Chong knelt down in front of his Master. “I was afraid that I did not have much strength with my fingers, that’s why I sealed the vital pressure point Tan-Zhong Point. I had no clue…no clue that it would have killed sixth apprentice brother accidentally.” He extended his arm and drew the long sword by Lu Dayou’s waist quickly, and without hesitation, slashed it toward his own neck.

Yue Buqun flicked his finger, which sent the long sword flying far. “Even if you want to die, you’ll have to find the Violet Twilight Manuscript first. Where on earth did you hide the manuscript?”

Linghu Chong felt a chill in his heart. He thought to himself, “Master is actually suspecting that I hid the Violet Twilight Manuscript.” He dazed for a moment and then spoke again, “Master, someone must have stolen the manuscript. I will chase it back at all cost and return it to you, Master, not even leaving one page behind.”

“If someone makes a copy or memorizes the entire thing, then even if we get the manuscript back, intact, the high level Kung Fu of our Huashan School would no longer be the ultimately unique technique.” Yue Buqun’s mind was as confused as a tangled skein. After a short pause, he said to Linghu Chong with a gentle tone, “Chong, if you took the manuscript, as long as you give it back, I won’t blame you.”

Staring at the corpse of Lu Dayou blankly, Linghu Chong said loudly, “Master, I swear with all my heart. If there are people who peeped at the ‘Violet Twilight Manuscript,’ then I will kill all of them. If there are ten of them, I will kill all ten, and if there are a hundred of them, I will kill all one hundred. If Master still thinks that it was I who stole it, please kill me now. I have no complaints.”

“Get up. You said it wasn’t you, then I believe you.” Yue Buqun shook his head. “You are very good friends with Dayou, of course you would never kill him intentionally. Then who on earth stole the manuscript?” He stared outside of the window blankly, lost in thought.

“Father, it’s all my fault. I…I thought I did a great thing by stealing Father’s manuscript. Who would have thought that big apprentice brother would refuse to read it and sixth apprentice brother would lose his life because of it. I…I will find the manuscript back no matter what,” Yue Lingshan exclaimed in a sobbing voice.

“Let’s look around one more time,” Yue Buqun said.

The three searched every bit of space in the small hut this time, but not only didn’t they find the manuscript, nor could they find any trace or clue.

“We should not spread the news. I will tell your mother about it, and other than that, don’t mention this to anybody else. Let’s bury Dayou and then head down the mountain,” Yue Buqun said to his daughter.

Looking at the face of Lu Dayou’s dead body, Linghu Chong couldn’t help feeling sad. He thought to himself, “Among all the apprentice brothers, sixth apprentice brother was the best friend of all. But I was actually the one who killed him by accident. I had never seen that coming at all. Even if I weren’t wounded, such a poke wouldn’t have gotten him killed. Could it be that because I had the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies’ unorthodox energy inside me, therefore the strength of the poke was somehow different? Even if that were true, why did the Violet Twilight Manuscript disappear all of a sudden? Alas, I really can’t figure this out. Master is suspecting me of stealing the manuscript. It’s useless to plead my innocence. I must find out the truth about this no matter what I have to do. By then, I can cut my own throat to apologize to sixth apprentice brother.”

Wiping off his tears with his sleeve, Linghu Chong found a hoe and worked on digging a grave to bury Lu Dayou’s corpse. Sweat streamed down all over his body as he dug with all his strength while panting heavily. Only with the help of Yue Lingshan by the side, he was able to finish building the grave.

Some time later, the trio arrived at the White-Horse Temple. Seeing that Linghu Chong had escaped death and had come back together, Madam Yue felt unspeakable joy. After Yue Buqun told her on the quiet about Lu Dayou’s death and the disappearance of the Violet Twilight Manuscript, Madam Yue shed more tears of grievance. Although it was an important matter that the Violet Twilight Manuscript got lost, in her mind, since her husband had mastered the Kung Fu, it didn’t matter if he still had the manuscript or not. But Lu Dayou had been an apprentice in the Huashan Sword School for many years, and he was genuinely a friendly and good fellow, so of course it was very sad to learn about his tragic death. The many apprentices had no clue, so after seeing the gloomy look on Master, Master-Wife, big apprentice brother, and little apprentice sister’s faces, none dared to make any loud noise.

Yue Buqun ordered Lau Denuo to hire two wagons, one for Madam Yue and Yue Lingshan, the other for Linghu Chong to rest in, and the group resumed the trip east toward Mount Songshan.

On no particulate day, they arrived at the town of Weilin. It was close to dust already. There was only one inn in the entire town, and it was already full. Since there were quite a few females in the Huashan group, it was too troublesome to stay overnight at any local residence.

“Let’s keep going. We should be able to find lodging in the next town,” Yue Buqun told everyone.

But only one mile into the trip, the wagon Madam Yue sat in broke down with a broken axle. Having no other choice, Madam Yue and Yue Lingshan had to travel on foot.

“Master, there’s a monastery in the woods over there. Do you think it would be a good idea if we spend the night there?” Shi Daizi pointed at the northeast and suggested.

“But we have females and they might feel it’s troublesome,” Madam Yue said.

“Daizi, why don’t you go make an inquiry. If the monks in the monastery decline, then we won’t, no pressure for them,” Yue Buqun instructed.

Shi Daizi nodded and then dashed away. Only moments later, he had run back while shouting in a distance, “Master, it’s a discarded monastery. There’s no monk there.”

Everyone was quite glad to hear that. Tao Jun, Ying Luobai, and Shu Qi the bunch of younger apprentices ran over ahead of the rest of the people.

By the time Yue Buqun, Madam Yue, and the rest of the group arrived outside of the monastery, dark clouds had piled up the eastern side of the sky, and only moments later, the entire sky had turned dark.

“It’s very fortunate that there’s a discarded monastery here, or we would have found ourselves in the middle of a storm half way,” Madam Yue said.

They entered the big hall and found a statue of a blue-faced Buddha. The statue depicted a man holding herb grass with a cape made of leaves on his shoulders. It was the Buddha of the Herb, Shen-Nong, who, as legend said, tasted hundreds of herbs, himself, to test their medical effects. All the apprentices, led by Yue Buqun, saluted the Buddha to show their respect. Afterwards, they began to settle down, but before they even opened their bedding rolls, several lightning bolts flashed, and thunder exploded. Before long, pea sized raindrops started pouring down, splashing on the tiles on the roof.

The small monastery had leaks everywhere. Everyone decided to not even open his or her bedding rolls and simply found a dry spot to sit down. Gao Gengming, Liang Fa, and three other female apprentices went to prepare dinner.

“This year’s spring season thunders are too early. It’s probably going to be a year with poor harvest,” Madam Yue said.

Linghu Chong sat in a corner of the hall leaning on the rack of the big bell. Rain streamed down the eave’s gutter like a curtain made of water. He stared at it as he thought to himself, “It would be a lot more enjoyable if sixth apprentice brother were still alive and could chat and joke with us.” During the journey, he rarely spoke to Yue Lingshan. Especially when he saw her and Lin Pingzhi were together sometimes, he would intentionally avoid them and walk far away. He kept telling himself, “Little apprentice sister stole Violet Twilight Manuscript for me to heal my wounds, fully knowing that Master would reproach her severely. It is obvious that she cared for me very much. I only wish that she would always be happy throughout her life. Since I am determined to commit suicide to apologize to sixth apprentice brother after I find the manuscript, why would I ever provoke her again? Little apprentice sister and apprentice brother Lin are a perfect pair of lovers. I hope she will forget all about me, so after I die, she won’t have to shed any tears.” Even though he thought so in his head, every time he saw her and Lin Pingzhi walking abreast chatting joyously, he simply couldn’t help feeling sorrow and pain in his heart. At the moment, it was raining cats and dogs outside the monastery; he watched Yue Lingshan walking about the hall, helping with preparing the meal. Each time when her eyes met Lin Pingzhi’s, both would let a slight smile flash across their faces. The two of them probably thought that nobody would notice it, but not even one of the smiles escaped Linghu Chong’s eyes. Each smile would depress Linghu Chong some more. He wanted to turn his head away, but each time when Yue Lingshan walked by, he simply couldn’t resist the desire to cast a glance toward her.

After dinner, everyone went to sleep. The rain kept coming down, heavy for a while, then light for another, but never ended. Linghu Chong had many things on his mind and they kept him from falling asleep. Sounds of breathing and snorting rose one after another. Everyone else had fallen asleep.

Sounds of hoof beats suddenly rose from the southeast. There were over ten of them and they came closer and closer along the main road.

“Why are they traveling in such a hurry in the middle of the rainy night? Could it possibly be that they are after us?” Linghu Chong’s heart skipped a beat. He sat up and then heard Yue Buqun speak to everyone in a loud voice.

“Everyone stay quiet.”

Moments later, the pack of horsemen cruised by the monastery. By then everyone of Huashan Sword School were awake and each had his hand next to his sword handle. Hearing that the sound of hoof beats passed by the monastery and went further and further, all let out a breath of relief and were just about ready to go back to sleep, when the sound of the hoof beats rose again. Apparently these riders had turned around and came back. All the horses stopped right outside of the monastery.

“Is Mr. Yue from the Huashan Sword School inside the monastery? We have a question to ask him,” a voice shouted, loud and clear.

Linghu Chong was the Head Apprentice of the Huashan Sword School, and it had always been him who stepped forward to handle things. So he walked to the entrance of the monastery, took off the door bolt, and then opened the gate.

“Friends, who are you? Why have you come late at night?” he asked as he looked outside.

There were a total of fifteen riders. They formed an arch and surrounded the gate. About six or seven of them had waterproof lanterns in their hands, and they all pointed their lanterns at Linghu Chong’s face.

In the dark night, when six or seven lanterns all pointed at one’s face, then inevitably, one would end up with blurry eyes. Just this one action had shown that the uninvited visitors were full of hostility. Linghu Chong opened his eyes as wide as he could but only found out that each of the fifteen riders had a black hood over his head, leaving only two holes showing his eyes. Linghu Chong suddenly realized, “Either we know these people, or they are afraid that we would remember their faces.”

“Please have Yue Buqun, Mr. Yue, come out to see us,” a rider on the left said.

“Who are you? May I have the honor to learn your name please, so I can pass it on to my Master?” Linghu Chong inquired.

“You can save yourself some trouble by stop asking for our names. You can go tell your Master this: We heard that the Huashan Sword School got hold of the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript of the Fortune Prestige Escort House, so we just wanted to borrow it to take a look,” the man responded.

Linghu Chong felt his anger starting to grow. “The Huashan Sword School has its own set of Kung Fu techniques. Why would we want other’s Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript? We don’t have it. Even if we did have it, are you just going to take it with force? How dare you belittle the Huashan Sword School?”

The man burst into loud laughter. The rest of the fourteen riders also began to laugh out loud. The sound of their deafening laughter swept across the deserted plain like a storm. Obviously each and every one of them had first-class inner strength.

“We’ve encountered tough enemy again,” shocked inwardly, Linghu Chong thought aloud. “It seemed that all fifteen of them are elite fighters. I wonder who they really are.”

Amid the loud laughter, a man spoke, “We heard that the chap Lin from the Fortune Prestige Escort House has joined the Huashan Sword School. We’ve always heard that Gentleman Sword Mr. Yue of the Huashan Sword School had superb mastery of sword arts. Then of course he would feel beneath his dignity to pay any attention to it. We are just a bunch of nobodies in the Martial World. Today we make bold to ask Mr. Yue to grant his permission and loan the book so we can have a look.”

The fourteen others’ laughter kept going like tides after tides, but this speaker’s voice still sounded loud and clear, standing out clearly from all the other noises. Apparently, this one’s inner strength was even stronger compared to the others.

“Who are you, really? You….” Linghu Chong said. But he couldn’t even hear his own words. Astounded, he stopped talking and thought to himself, “Could I have lost all my inner energy built up during the past over a dozen years? Can there have not a single bit of it left?”

After Linghu Chong left Mount Huashan, he had tried several times to work on his Qi-Gong exercises using the formula and techniques from his own school, but as soon as he started to gather his inner strength, his breathing would lose its rhythm and various uncontrollable energy would start flowing randomly through his body. And as soon as he tried to direct the flow, nausea and dizziness would follow. It would turn so bad that if he didn’t stop the breathing exercise, he would have simply passed out. He tried several times more and always ended up with the same result. When he asked for advice from his Master about it, Yue Buqun only cast a cold glance at him and didn’t answer. At the time Linghu Chong thought to himself, “Master must have suspected that I embezzled the Violet Twilight Manuscript and was practicing the techniques behind his back. There really is no need to plead innocence. After all, I won’t be alive for long; why should I trouble myself with these inner strength problems?” After that incident, he stopped exercising completely. Who would have thought that when he tried to gather his strength and speak loudly, his voice would be completely buried by the enemy’s laughter?

Yue Buqun’s voice rose from inside the monastery, loud and clear, “All of you are renowned masters in the Marital World. Why have you been so modest and called yourself a bunch of nobodies? Yue Buqun never tells a lie. We really don’t have the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript of the Lin Family.”

He used the Divine Art of the Violet Twilight when he spoke. Although his voice was mixed with the loud laughter from all the people outside of the monastery, everyone, both inside the monastery and outside of the monastery, could hear every word loud and clear. He had spoken in a very relaxed manner, no different from any ordinary conversation. It sounded a lot more natural than the way the previous man had spoke – yelling with immense strength.

“You say you don’t have it. Then where the hell is it?” Another man retorted in a croaky voice.

“What makes you think that you are worthy of the answer?” Yue Buqun mocked.

“Anyone in this world is worthy of an answer for things happening in this world,” the man replied.

Yue Buqun sneered, but did not respond.

“Hey, Yue Buqun, are you going to give it up or not? Don’t you refuse a toast only to drink a forfeit! If you don’t give it up yourself, we’ll have no choice but to resort to force and go in to search ourselves,” that man yelled out loud.

“All female apprentices stay together, back to back, and all male apprentices, unsheathe your swords!” Madam Yue told everyone in a whisper.

Rustling sounds echoed as everyone inside the monastery drew their long swords. Linghu Chong stood by the gate and reached for his long sword, but before he had enough time to draw his sword, two men had leapt off their horses and sprang at him. Linghu Chong dodged to the side and was just about to draw his sword when he heard someone yell, “Get lost!” Then the man raised his leg and kicked Linghu Chong hard, sending him flying in the air. Linghu Chong flew tens of feet before landing hard in a bush. He found himself in a state of complete confusion.

“His kick wasn’t all that powerful, how come I don’t have any strength with my lower body and my legs feel so light?” he thought aloud.

He struggled to sit up, but all of a sudden, he felt as if the blood between his stomach and his chest were boiling hot while seven or eight streams of energy circled and twisted inside him, clashing and smashing against each other. He couldn’t even move a little finger of his. Linghu Chong was dumbfounded. He opened his mouth wide to scream, but nothing came out of it. It was almost as if he was under some kind of evil spell. His brain still worked perfectly, but he had become completely frozen, not able to move a single muscle. Sound of weapons clashing into each other echoed in his ears nonstop. Master, Master-Wife, and second apprentice brother dashed out of the monastery and engaged in fights with seven or eight masked enemies. Several other masked men charged into the monastery. Shouts and yells came out through the gate mixed with girls’ rebukes. The rain started to get heavier. Several waterproof lanterns were scattered around on the ground. The dim yellowish light flickered as reflections from blades flashed and shadows in all shapes swayed back and forth.

A short while passed when suddenly, a shriek from a female echoed inside the monastery. Linghu Chong became more worried. The enemy consisted of all men. Then of course the shriek must have been coming from an injured apprentice sister. He watched the fights outside of the monastery. Master was busy waving his sword fighting against four enemies. Master-Wife was also engaged in a fight with two enemies. He knew that both his Master and Master-Wife had brilliant sword skills. Even though they were both fighting against more than one opponent, chances were that they would still be able to hold them off. Yelling at the top of his tongue, second apprentice brother Lao Denuo was also fighting against two opponents. Both opponents used long knives. From the weapon colliding sounds Linghu Chong could tell that both of them had very strong arms. He knew that if the fight lasted longer, Lao Denuo would eventually have no chance of withstanding their powerful attacks. Seeing how fierce the fights outside of the monastery were with three on his side against eight enemies, he could easily imagine how vicious the fights would be inside. There were a good number of apprentice brothers and sisters inside the monastery, but none of them were elite fighters. Screams and cries rose one after another. Perhaps several people had been slain. The more worried he became, the harder it was to gather any strength. He could only pray inwardly.

“Dear Heaven! Please let me gain my strength back for just one hour. If I can get back in the monastery, I will be able to protect the little apprentice sister. Even if the enemy slice me into ten thousand pieces or bestow upon me every kind of torturing, I would be most willing to.”

He struggled some more and tried to work up his inner energy, but suddenly six streams of energy flow lashed at his chest all together, and then two streams of energy flow smashed down from above and pushed the six streams of energy back down. Linghu Chong felt ultimate emptiness as if all of his organs had disappeared and all his blood and skin were also completely gone. A shiver ran through his heart as he cried inwardly, “Good Heavens! So that’s how it is!”

By then he finally understood. When the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies tried to heal his wounds using their inner energy, they forced six streams of inner energy into his body through different channels and passages. That didn’t do his internal wounds any good, and in addition, the six energy streams stayed inside him and caused even more problems. Then it just happened that he met Monk No Commandment with excellent inner strength, but also an utterly impetuous temper, that forced another two streams of energy flow inside of him and overwhelmed the six streams of energy from the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies. For a short while, it looked as if his internal wounds were all healed, but the truth was that he had two more energy streams in his body, which created a resistance against the existing energy streams inside of him, and his own inner energy from years of Qi-Gong exercises had all perished as an end result. He had been rendered into an ordinary person who had never been trained with any martial arts.

A pain came from his heart as he thought to himself, “What a misfortune! This is as if all my martial art skills were taken away from me. At the moment when my school is in trouble, I couldn’t even help it in anyway. I am the Head Apprentice of the Huashan Sword School, yet all I can do is to lie here on the ground and watch my Master and Master-Wife getting harassed and my apprentice brothers and sisters getting slaughtered. What a big loser am I! Fine, I’ll just go die by little apprentice sister’s side.”

He knew that if he even attempted to gather some inner energy, which would trigger the eight streams of energy inside him, he would end up frozen like a dead meat, so he let all inner strength flow back into his central stomach naturally and didn’t try to gather any inner strength, and sure enough, he gained control of his four limbs. He stood up slowly, drew his sword in slow motion, and then moved toward the monastery in small steps.

As soon as he entered the gate, a smell of blood immediately assailed him. Two lanterns sat on the altar and lit the hall. Liang Fa, Shi Daizi, Gao Gengming, and a bunch of other apprentice brothers were still fighting a bloody battle. Several apprentice brothers and sister lay on the ground. It was hard to tell if they were still breathing. Yue Lingshan and Lin Pingzhi were in the middle of a battle abreast against a masked enemy.

Yue Lingshan’s long hair scattered about, and Lin Pingzhi was holding his sword in his left hand; obviously his right hand got injured in the battle. The masked man had a short spear in his hand and demonstrated excellent skills with his spear techniques. Lin Pingzhi had to use the move called Green Pines Welcoming Guests three times in a roll to parry off his fierce attacks. But the sword moves he had learned were too limited. The masked man gave his short spear a sudden shake. The red tassels on the spear spread open and blinded Lin Pingzhi’s view. With a thump, the spear stabbed into Lin Pingzhi’s right shoulder. Yue Lingshan launched two thrusts frantically and forced the enemy to take a step back.

“Little Lin, go wrap up your wound. Hurry!” she shouted.

“It’s no problem!” Lin Pingzhi responded as he lunged with a thrust, but his feet were already tumbling underneath him.

The masked man let out a long laugh when he swung the spear and struck Yue Lingshan in the waist with the spear handle. Yue Lingshan dropped the sword in her right hand and squatted down in pain.

Linghu Chong was shocked. He dashed forward and thrust his sword forward. But the sword only went forward for about one foot before all the energy streams inside him clashed again. Instantly, his right arm gave out and dropped down. The masked man saw the sword coming toward him and had planned to dodge to the side and then return the attack with his spear, but after only one foot into the thrust, the attacker’s arm had dropped down. He was a bit confused. Without thinking much, he swept his left leg and kicked Linghu Chong all the way out of the gate. “Splash!” Linghu Chong fell into a puddle of water outside of the monastery. The rain was still pouring down nonstop. Linghu Chong found himself unable to move with mud inside his mouth, eyes, nose, and ears.

Lao Denuo was just taken down, with his pressure points sealed by the enemy. His two opponents now joined the other six to attack the Yue couple. Moments later, another two enemies ran out of the monastery and joined the group. Yue Buqun was now against seven and Madam Yue against three.

Suddenly, both Madam Yue and one of her opponents cried out. Both had inflicted wounds on their legs. The injured man retreated back. Madam Yue had one less opponent now. But since she had just taken a heavy chop on the leg, with such a severe wound, her strength began to fade away. After exchanging some more blows, she took a hit on the shoulder from the back of the enemy’s knife. That was it. She collapsed to the ground. The two masked men burst into loud laughter as they sealed several pressure points on Madam Yue’s back.

By then, the apprentices inside the monastery had all been wounded and taken down one after another. The enemies obviously had a plot. They only knocked the Huashan apprentices down or sealed their pressure points but didn’t kill any one of them. The fifteen masked men surrounded Yue Buqun in a circle. Eight of them took on eight different directions to attack Yue Buqun simultaneously, and the remaining seven each held a waterproof lantern and aimed the light directly at Yue Buqun’s eyes.

The Head Master of the Huashan Sword School had superb inner strength and brilliant sword skills, but the eight attackers were all elite fighters as well. In addition, the seven lanterns pointing directly at him made it very hard for him to look straight ahead. Yue Buqun knew too well that the Huashan Sword School had suffered a crushing defeat, and the entire body of the school would inevitably perish in the monastery, but he still put on a good defense by blocking all his vital parts with a shield of blade. He had resourceful inner energy and effective sword art techniques. When the lanterns were directed at him, he simply looked down. For a good while, the eight attackers made no progress whatsoever.

“Yue Buqun, are you going to surrender or not?” one of the masked men yelled at him.

“I would rather die than submit. Kill me if you want,” Yue Buqun replied.

“If you don’t surrender, I’ll cut off your wife’s right arm to start with!” the man threatened. He raised his large saber high and aimed it at Madam Yue’s shoulder. The saber had a very thick back and a razor sharp blade. Reflecting the light from the lanterns, the blade shined with dark bluish flare.

“How can I just let him cut off junior apprentice sister’s arm?” Yue Buqun hesitated. But then he thought, “If I threw down my sword and surrender, undoubtedly I would suffer humiliation all the same. How can I let the hundreds of years of eminence of the Huashan Sword School get ruined in my hands?”

He took a deep breath, and suddenly his face shined in violet color as he swung his sword at the man on his left. The man raised his knife to parry it, but Yue Buqun had attached his Divine Art of the Violet Twilight with the chop; the sword carried a tremendous amount of power. The knife was knocked back. Both the sword and the knife cut into the man’s right arm simultaneously and chopped two sections off his right arm. Blood splashed everywhere. The man uttered a loud cry and fell to the ground.

Succeeding with the first move Yue Buqun thrust his sword down swiftly. This time the sword penetrated another enemy’s left leg. That man poured out a stream of curses and retreated.

Now there were two less opponents in the battle, but the situation wasn’t any better. A heavy thump broke out as a meteor hammer smashed into Yue Buqun’s back. He had to lunge three quick thrusts to drive the enemies back. Barely catching his breath, he couldn’t help but spit out a mouthful of blood. All the enemies cheered.

“Old folk Yue is wounded. Wear him out!”

The six attackers could almost smell their victory, so they all took a step back and made the circle a bit bigger. Now Yue Buqun didn’t have any chance of a surprise attack.

There are a total of fifteen masked enemies, three of which had been wounded by the Yue couple. Among the three wounded, one had a serious injury – his arm was cut off. The other two only had injuries on their legs, nothing too serious, and each held a waterproof lantern and kept swearing at Yue Buqun wildly.

From their accents, Yue Buqun could tell that they came from different regions. The Kung Fu skills they demonstrated also consisted of many different styles. Obviously they weren’t apprentices from the same school. But during the fight, they had good understanding of each other and attacked with precision and synchronization. It didn’t seem that they had just ganged up together recently. Where on earth were they from? He pondered but couldn’t find an answer. And the most unusual part of this whole thing was that since all fifteen of them had elite fighting skills, as one with a good deal of knowledge of the Martial World, he shouldn’t have failed to recognize at least some of them, yet he had no clue whatsoever. He was sure that none of these enemies had ever engaged in a fight with him before or had grudges against him. Could it be true that they came to give trouble to the Huashan Sword School because they were really after the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript?

He pondered and pondered, yet never slowing down with his hands. He used the Divine Art of the Violet Twilight to its extreme, and the tip of his sword shined dimly. After exchanging over another dozen moves, another enemy got stabbed in the shoulder and had to drop his iron staff. One of the enemies standing outside of the attacking circle sprang forward and took over the attacking position. This man held a knife with a saw shaped blade. The knife looked very heavy, and close to the tip of the knife, the blade curved into the shape of a hook. The man tried again and again to lock Yue’s sword with the hook. But Yue Buqun had plenty of inner strength. It seemed as if the longer the fight lasted, the more energetic he appeared to be. Suddenly he struck a back palm, which landed squarely on one enemy’s chest and broke the man’s two ribs. The steel cane in the man’s hands was also knocked down by the shock. But the man turned out to be extremely ferocious. The great pain from his broken ribs provoked his fury. He dived down and had Yue Buqun’s left leg in his arms. Astounded, Yue Buqun swung his sword and chopped down at the man’s back, but two knifes reached forward simultaneously and blocked the chop. Not able to chop down using his long sword, Yue Buqun kicked toward the enemy’s head with his right foot. That man was an expert in grappling. Reaching out with his right arm, he hooked Yue Buqun’s right leg as well. Then he rolled forward. Although Yue Buqun had excellent Kung Fu skills, he could no longer keep his balance and fell down on the ground. Instantly, knife, short spear, meteor hammer, long sword, and other various weapons all aimed right at his vital parts such as head, face, throat, and chest. Yue Buqun heaved a deep sigh and let go of his sword. Closing his eyes in despair, he waited for the deathblow. Then he felt some heavy blows to his waist, rib cage, throat, and chest. The enemy had sealed several of his pressure points with heavy jabs.

Two masked men propped him up as an old voice spoke out, “Gentleman Sword Mr. Yue certainly has brilliant Kung Fu skills. You have a well-deserved reputation. We ganged up on you, fifteen against one, yet were only able to subdue you after getting four or five of us wounded. Hmm, that is very admirable! If I had to fight you one on one, I am sure I would lose to you. But when you look at it a different way, we have fifteen, but you have over twenty people. Your Huashan Sword School still has more bodies and better odds here. Tonight we won the battle with few against many and completely defeated the Huashan Sword School. I have to say that the victory didn’t come easy. What do you guys think?”

“Most definitely! It wasn’t an easy victory for sure!” The rest of the masked men agreed in unison.

“Mr. Yue,” the old man continued, “we really have no grudge against you. We made bold and offended you only because we want to borrow the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript and check it out. This manuscript didn’t belong to your Huashan Sword School before. When you used all your ingenuity and managed to take in Lin Family’s young boy from the Fortune Prestige Escort House as your apprentice, it was obvious that you were really after that sword manuscript. What you did is truly sneaky. When fellow martial friends heard about this, all were quite mad at you. I am giving you a valuable advice here. Why don’t you give it up?”

Yue Buqun was infuriated. “Humph, I am already in your hands. Go ahead and give me a quick end. Why waste your time with rubbish? Everyone in the Martial World knows my reputation. You can easily kill me, but if you want to ruin my reputation, humph! Dream on!”

“What’s so difficult about ruining your reputation?” a man in a mask said with loud laughter. “Your wife, daughter, and those female apprentices do not look bad at all. Why don’t we divide them up and make them our bitches? Ha-ha, Mr. Yue, you are going to be very famous in the Martial World indeed!”

The rest of the masked men all laughed out loud. The laughter was filled with evil. Yue Buqun trembled with rage.

Several men in mask pushed the bunch of male and female apprentices out of the monastery. All of them had their pressure points sealed. Some had blood all over their faces and some fell down immediately after they came out – obviously they had wounds on their legs or feet.

“Mr. Yue,” the old man with a mask spoke again, “you probably have somewhat figured out where we are from. We are no heroes from the righteous schools. There is really no restriction limiting what we can do or cannot do. Some of my buddies here are really fond of women. I am sure it wouldn’t look too good for you if some of them offended your respectful wife and daughter.”

“Fine! Fine! If you don’t believe me, go ahead and search us. See for yourself whether we have the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript or not,” Yue Buqun croaked.

“I’d suggest you give it out yourself. Once we start searching one by one and get to your woman and your daughter, it’s not going to be a pleasant scene,” a man behind a mask said with an evil grin.

“All the trouble started because of me, Lin Pingzhi,” Lin Pingzhi barked. “Listen up! Our Lin Family in Fujian didn’t have any Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript at all! It’s up to you to believe it or not.” He picked up a steel cane from the ground and smacked it toward his own forehead. But since his pressure points on his arms were sealed, the smack was so weak that even though the cane hit his head, it only left a scratch on his skin with no blood coming out of it. But everyone understood his intention. He had intended to sacrifice his own life to prove that there wasn’t any sword manuscript that the Huashan Sword School ever got hold of.

“Young Master Lin, you are quite heroic.” The old man with a mask grinned. “We are friends of your deceased father. Yue Buqun murdered your father and took possession of your family’s Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript, that’s why we are here to defend the victim against injustice. Your Master has a mere name of a gentleman, but not the reality of a gentleman. I think it would be better if you submit to me as your Master. I guarantee you that you will learn first-class Kung Fu that will enable you to sweep about in the Martial World at will.”

“My parents were murdered by Yu Canghai from the Qingcheng Sword School and Mu Gaofeng. What does it have anything to do with my Master? I am a proud apprentice of the Huashan Sword School. Did you expect me to incline to life instead of braving death in dangers like this?” Lin Pingzhi snarled.

“That’s right! Our Huashan Sword School….” Liang Fa also snarled.

“What about your Huashan Sword School?” a masked man yelled as he swung his knife forward and chopped Liang Fa’s head off. Blood gushed out like a fountain. Several Huashan apprentices screamed in terror.

Many thoughts tangled in Yue Buqun’s mind, but he still couldn’t figure out where these men had come from. According to what the old man had just said, perhaps they were bandits from the unorthodox side. Or maybe they were key figures of an evil clan. However, even if he didn’t know some of the renowned masters in the region, either on the orthodox side or the unorthodox side, he would have at least heard about them. There was no clan or gang that had so many elite fighters. That man chopped off Liang Fa’s head with no hesitation. The cruelty he put on display was exceptionally rare. When people engage in fights in the Martial World, it was usual that people got hurt or killed. But once one side took the other side prisoner, it was very seldom that one would cut someone’s head off so carelessly.

After killing Liang Fa with a casual chop, the man laughed wildly and walked next to Madam Yue. He chopped the bloodstained knife a couple of times in the air. The blade swished by Madam Yue’s head with a mere half foot.

“Don’t…don’t hurt my mother!” Yue Lingshan screamed before losing her consciousness.

Madam Yue was a brave woman and showed no fear. She actually wished that the man would kill her with a chop, thus avoiding any possible humiliation from them. So she snarled at him, “You damn coward. Go ahead and kill me if you’ve got any guts.”

Sound of hoof beats suddenly rose from the northeast corner. Dozens of horses galloped in their direction.

“Who are they? Go check them out?” the old man in the mask yelled.

“Got it!” two men in masks responded as they jumped on their horsebacks and dashed out

The sound of hoof beats came closer and closer, and then came the sounds of weapons clashing into each other. “Ouch!” someone cried out. Apparently the two masked men had gotten into a battle with the people coming and someone just got wounded.

The Yue Buqun couple and all the Huashan apprentices were overwhelmed in joy, knowing that the cavalry had arrived. In the dim light from the lanterns, they watched the forty or so riders gallop along the main road. Mud splashed high as the group approached them. Moments later, the riders arrived and reined in their horses outside the monastery. A man on horseback shouted.

“Oh, these are friends from the Huashan Sword School. Hey, isn’t that brother Yue?”

Yue Buqun looked following the origin of the voice. When his eyes stopped at the man’s face, he felt greatly embarrassed. The man was none other than the one who took the Five Mountains Command Flag up to Mount Huashan only several days ago, the Third Guardian of Songshan – Crane Hands Lu Bai. The man on his right was tall and chubby. Yue Buqun recognized him: he was the Second Guardian of Songshan – Tower Holding Palm Ding Mian. And the one on his left turned out to be the expelled Sword-Branch apprentice of the Huashan Sword School, Feng Buping. Many of the Taishan and Hengshan masters who had visited Mount Huashan several days ago were also among them only that this time there were even more people than the last time. Under the faint light from the waterproof lanterns, shadows loomed, and in the short time, Yue Buqun had a hard time making out the rest of the people.

“Brother Yue,” Lu Bai said, “you didn’t accept the Command Flag from Chief Zuo the other day, and Chief Zuo was a bit upset. That’s why he sent apprentice brother Ding and Tang together with me to visit Mount Huashan again with the Command Flag. We had no idea that we would meet you here late at night? What a surprise!”

Yue Buqun kept his silence and did not reply.

“So it is Hero Ding, Hero Lu, and Hero Tang from the Songshan Sword School. What an honor to meet you!” the old man in the mask said, cupping his hands.

“You flatter me. May I have the honor to hear your name? Why don’t you want to reveal your true identity?” The Seventh Guardian of Songshan, Tang Ying-E, asked.

“We are just a bunch of nobodies in the heterodox side,” the old man in the mask replied. “If we speak out our ugly bandit nicknames, it would only be an insult to all you great masters’ ears. Well, for the sake of you guys, we dare not show disrespect to Madam Yue and Miss Yue any more. But there is this one thing we’d like you to help uphold justice.”

“What is the matter? Why don’t you tell us about it?” Tang Ying-E suggested.

“Well, this Mister Yue Buqun here has a nickname called Gentleman Sword. We heard that he always talks about humanity, justice and virtues, and always abide by the rules of the Martial World. But what he has done recently seemed way off track. You must have heard that the Fortune Prestige Escort House in Fuzhou was wiped out and the Chief Master Lin Zhennan couple was murdered.”

“Yes. I heard that the Qingcheng Sword School in Szechwan did that,” Tang Ying-E responded.

The old man shook his head again and again. “That sure was the story floating around in the Martial World, but it wasn’t the truth. Let’s get to the bottom of this. Everyone knows that the Lin Family of the Fortune Prestige Escort House has the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript passed down from their ancestors, in which brilliant and profound sword art techniques were recorded. Once one masters the sword art, he would have no match in the entire world. The reason that the Lin Zhennan couple got murdered was because someone coveted the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript.”

“What about that?” Tang Ying-E asked.

“How exactly were the Lin Zhennan couple murdered and who did it? Outsiders wouldn’t have a clue on that. We heard that this Gentleman Sword secretly plotted some cunning schemes and fooled Lin Zhennan’s son into becoming a dead set apprentice of the Huashan Sword School. You see what I am saying? The sword manuscript of course was brought into the Huashan Sword School naturally. We thought about it and came to the conclusion that Yue Buqun was adept at scheming. He couldn’t get it by force, so he tried to get it by trickery. Think about it. How much experience can a young chap Lin have? After he joined the Huashan Sword School, for sure the old fox would play him like a dummy and have him present the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript to his Master of his own will.”

“But I am afraid that this is unlikely. The Huashan Sword School has brilliant sword art techniques of its own, and Mr. Yue’s Divine Art of the Violet Twilight is also a powerful and unique Kung Fu in the Martial World – one of the best Qi-Gong techniques as a matter of fact. Why would he lust for sword art techniques in other style?” Tang Ying-E commented.

The old man smirked. “Hero Tang, you really are gauging the heart of a rascal with your own decent measures. What kind of brilliant sword art does Yue Buqun have? After the Sword-Branch and the Qi-Branch of the Huashan Sword School broke up, the Qi-Branch seized control of Mount Huashan. They only emphasized on working with their inner energy. Their sword skills are so ordinary and naïve. People in the Martial World respected the reputation of the Huashan Sword School and mistakenly thought that they actually have some true skills. But the truth is…a-ha, ha-ha….”

He paused for a second with a sneer, and then continued. “Logically speaking, since Yue Buqun is the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School, his mastery of sword skills shouldn’t have been ordinary. But you have all seen with your own eyes that he was taken prisoner by us, a bunch of no names. We used neither poison, nor projectiles, and we didn’t have overwhelming numbers. We relied on our true skills to take care of the Huashan Sword School masters and apprentices. We won the battle the hard way fair and square. From that you probably can figure out yourself how good their Kung Fu skills are. But of course Yue Buqun knew his own limitation. That’s why he wants to get hold of the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript quickly so he could study the great sword arts and not make a fool out of himself in critical moments, so he wouldn’t be carrying a fame that’s untrue.”

“Your words are certainly convincing.” Tang Ying-E nodded.

“We are just a group of nobodies. In the eyes of great masters like you, our level of Kung Fu skills isn’t even worth a laugh. We dare not hanker after for the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript. However, for the last ten years or so, thanks to Chief Master Lin of the Fortune Prestige Escort House who actually thought we were worth of something and kept sending us precious gifts. So when his escort wagons passed by our territory, none of us would touch it for the sake of good relationship. Recently, when we heard that Chief Master Lin ended up dead and his family ruined all because of that sword art manuscript, we couldn’t help but feel very irritated. It has really aroused public indignation. That’s why’ve decided to make Yue Buqun pay for this.”

He paused for a moment and cast a glance at the group still on horsebacks before continuing, “All of you here, who have just arrived, are renowned heroes and masters in the Marital World. And among you, there are also reputable senior masters from the Five Mountains Sword Alliance, to which the Huashan Sword School belongs as a member school. We here resort to your judgment on this matter, and whatever you decide, we will comply.”

“Brother, that’s very kind of you. We really appreciate it. Apprentice brother Ding and Lu, what do you think we should do?” Tang Ying-E asked.

“Chief Zuo has said before, that the Head Master post of the Huashan Sword School should have belonged to Master Feng. Since Yue Buqun committed such despicable and brazen act today, we should just let Master Feng purify the Huashan Sword School, himself!” Ding Mian replied.

Everyone on horsebacks agreed in unison, “Hero Ding has judged it so fair and clear. This is the internal affair of the Huashan Sword School, so naturally the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School himself should handle it. It would also save us from being accused of poking our noses into other people’s business by fellow martial friends.”

Feng Buping dismounted from his horse and bowed to everyone.

“I am very grateful for the due respect you have shown here. Ever since Yue Buqun usurped the Head Master post of our school, cries of discontent rise all the way up to heaven, and the reputation of our school had reached its ultimate low. And now he has sunk so low to commit the many wild things: killing one’s father, seizing his sword art manuscript, and coercing him into becoming an apprentice. I am a man with no great virtue or abilities, and would have never been worth of the Huashan Sword School Head Master post, but I value the hardship the many past masters of the Huashan Sword School had to go through in order to uphold the reputation of our school, and I simply can not bear to watch our Huashan Sword School reduced to rubble in the hands of Yue Buqun, the unworthy apprentice. That’s why I will have to undertake to do the difficult job as best as I can. Friends, will you please keep offering me advice and supervision as time goes on?” He bowed again.

The rain had not fully stopped and had turned into a light shower by then. Seven or eight of the riders had lit their torches. The fire from the torches shined upon Feng Buping’s face, which looked immensely contented.

“Yue Buqun is guilty of the most heinous crimes, which are too severe for any clemency,” Feng Buping went on. “We must follow the school rules and execute him on sight! Apprentice brother Cong, go ahead and execute the traitors, the Yue Buqun couple, to purify our Huashan Sword School.”

“Got it!” a man in his fifties responded as he drew his blade and walked by Yue Buqun. “Yue Buqun, you corrupted our school; today is your judgment day!” He grinned hideously.

Yue Buqun heaved a deep sigh. “I see! Your Sword-Branch plotted this entire deadly trap so you can take over the Head Master post. Cong Buqi, if you kill me today, when your time comes, how are you going to face the many past masters of our Huashan Sword School in the underworld?”

“He who commits much wickedness brings death upon himself. You have committed so many crimes. Even if I don’t kill you, someone else will. But that wouldn’t be satisfactory at all, would it?” Cong Buqi smirked.

“Save your breath, apprentice brother Cong. Start the execution.” Feng Buping yelled.

“Yes,” Cong Buqi replied. He raised his long sword high and then retracted his elbow, getting ready for the deathblow. The blazing fire from the torches illuminated onto the naked blade of the sword and painted it red and green.

“Hold it!” Madam Yue suddenly shouted out. “Where is the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript then? To accuse one of stealing, at least you have to show the stolen goods as evidence. Do you think you can just convince everyone by making slanderous accusations?”

“That’s right!” Cong Buqi replied. He took several steps toward Madam Yue with a wicked grin. “That Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript is most likely hidden on you. I’d better do a body search so you won’t accuse us of making slanderous accusations.” He reached his left hand out toward Madam Yue’s bosom.

Madam Yue had been wounded in the legs and two of her pressure points were also sealed. She watched Cong Buqi’s big ugly hand reaching toward her, yet couldn’t move an inch. It would be a horrendous disgrace for her if his finger touched her skin. In tremendous despair, she shouted out loud, “Apprentice brother Ding from Songshan Sword School!”

“What?” Ding Mian asked, not expecting a call from Madam Yue at all.

“Your apprentice brother Chief Zuo is the chief of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance, and sets a good example for everyone in the Martial World. Our Huashan Sword School also relies upon his leadership. How would you explain to him if you let this blatant scoundrel disgrace a woman?” Madam Yue challenged.

“Well….” Ding Mian pondered and did not answer.

“That crook was telling a bold lie when he said that they didn’t win with overwhelming numbers,” Madam Yue said. “And as regards to these two traitors of the Huashan Sword School, if any one of them can defeat my husband on his own in a fair fight, we will give up the post of Head Master with all respects and no complaints. Otherwise, you will never get the recognition from the thousands of fellow martial people.”

At the last word, she spat at Cong Buqi’s face, all of a sudden. Since Cong Buqi was right next to her, and Madam Yue’s action took him by a complete surprise, he couldn’t move out of the way in time. The spit hit him right between his eyes.

“Damn you!” Cong Buqi cursed angrily.

“Listen up, you traitors! Your Sword-Branch only has low-grade Kung Fu. It doesn’t require my husband. Even I, a woman, can kill you as easy as flipping my hand if I hadn’t fallen a prey of a plot and had my pressure points sealed!” Madam Yue mocked furiously.

“Fine!” Ding Mian made his decision. He gave his black horse a light spur. The horse walked forward and circled behind Madam Yue. Turning his horsewhip around, he bent down slightly and poked it out. The shaft of the whip jabbed at three different pressure points on Madam Yue’s back. A shock ran through Madam Yue’s body as the two sealed pressure points were released.

As soon as Madam Yue gained control of her limbs again, she knew that Dian Mian intended to let her have a duel with Cong Buqi. The result of the duel would not only make a difference between life and death for the Yue family of three, it would also decide the ultimate fate of the entire Huashan School. If she could defeat Cong Buqi, it probably wouldn’t turn danger into safety, but at least it would be a turn for the better. If she lost the duel, then there would be no hope. She grabbed her long sword, which was knocked down earlier, off the ground, and held it across her chest in a stance. But her left leg suddenly gave out on her. She almost had to kneel down on her knees. The wounds on her legs were too severe, and as soon as she tried to use her legs, she found that they lacked enough strength to support her.

“You said you are only a woman. And now you are pretending to have injuries with your legs. Why are we having this sword contest at all? There’s no glory in beating you!” Cong Buqi burst into loud laughter.

Madam Yue wanted no more words from him. “Here it comes!” she yelled and shot out three thrusts in tremendous speed. She had attached her inner strength to the blade. The sword whistled as it stabbed forward. Out of the three thrusts, each thrust went faster than the previous one and all were aimed at her opponent’s vital parts.

“Nice!” Cong Buqi yelled as he took two steps back.

Normally, Madam Yue would have charged forward immediately following the attack, but she was afraid to take any risks with her weak legs and stood still instead.

Cong Buqi stepped forward again and started his own attack. Three loud rings echoed as flickers scattered in all directions. Those were three vicious thrusts, indeed. Madam Yue parried them one by one and immediately turned the third block into an attacking stance and stabbed at the enemy’s lower abdomen.

Yue Buqun stood by the side and watched his wife fighting the tough opponent with wounded legs. Cong Buqi’s sword techniques appeared to be delicate and exquisite. Compared to Madam Yue’s techniques, they had way more clever variations. After exchanging ten moves or so, Madam Yue started to lose the agility and speed with her sword moves in her lower body. The Qi-Branch of the Huashan Sword School was good at overcoming the enemy with resourceful inner energy, but since Madam Yue had a hard time controlling her breathing after the injuries, her sword moves gradually lost the initiatives and became restricted by Cong Buqi’s moves. Yue Buqun was greatly worried, and he became even more concerned when he saw his wife accelerate her techniques.

“The Sword-Branch is better with their sword techniques, yet you are countering his sword techniques with your own. Countering the enemy’s strong points with one’s shortcomings would only lead to a defeat,” he thought aloud.

Madam Yue also knew the fundamental ideas here within, but because the wounds on her legs were too severe, and in addition, her pressure points were sealed right after she inflicted the wounds, she was never able to tend the wounds; even now the wounds were still bleeding, how could she have gathered her inner energy to counter the attacks? At the moment, it was only her determination that had kept her going, and although her sword moves never slowed down, the strength in each move had started to decrease quickly. After another ten moves or so, Cong Buqi had detected Madam Yue’s weak point. While feeling much delighted, he was in no rush for a quick win, and made sure he was putting up a good defense.

Linghu Chong was also watching the fight. Seeing that Cong Buqi’s moves all focused on techniques, not strengths, completely different from what his Master had taught him, he thought to himself, “No wonder our school was divided into the Qi-Branch and the Sword-Branch. The two branches’ Kung Fu styles are indeed opposite of each other.”

He slowly struggled to get back on his feet. Reaching out around him, he found a long sword on the ground. “Our school has really suffered a crushing defeat today!” he thought. “But I will not allow the stainless reputation of Master-Wife and apprentice sister get ruined by those scoundrels. It seems that Master-Wife is no match for that man. Later I will have to kill Master-Wife and apprentice sister and then cut my own throat to preserve the reputation of our Huashan Sword School.”

Madam Yue’s sword moves became more and more disorganized. Suddenly, she turned her sword in blazing speed and thrust it out with a loud whoosh. This was none other than that proud move of hers – “Unrivaled and Unmatched, The Thrust of Ning.” The thrust carried great momentum. Regardless of Madam Yue’s severe injures, it still looked utterly majestic.

Cong Buqi was astounded. He leapt back in a great hurry and luckily was able to dodge away from it. If Madam Yue’s legs had been fine and that she followed the momentum with another attack, the enemy would have no chance of surviving, but all she could do was to hold her sword like a cane to keep her balance and wheezing like mad, her face completely pale.

“What’s the matter, Madam Yue? Have you finally used up all your strength? Can I search you now?” Cong Buqi grinned evilly as he stepped closer and closer toward Madam Yue, his left hand opening wide, high in the air.

Madam Yue wanted to raise her sword and thrust forward, but it seemed as if her arm had weighed ten thousand pounds by then; she could no longer move her arm.

“Hold it!” Linghu Chong yelled as he walked by Madam Yue’s side. “Master-Wife!” he called out and was ready to thrust his sword out to take away her life, thus saving her from any disgraceful humiliation.

“Good child!” Madam Yue nodded, her eyes filled with satisfaction. With all her strength exhausted, she could no longer keep herself in a standing position, and collapsed down onto the muddy ground.

“Get lost!” Cong Buqi yelled out while pricking his sword tip toward Linghu Chong’s throat.

Linghu Chong knew too well that he had no strength left with his arms. If he reached his sword out to block, his sword would be instantly knocked out of his grip. So seeing that the sword tip came toward his throat, without much thinking, he also thrust his sword toward Cong Buqi’s throat – a move that would end in a common ruin for both of them. His thrust was not specifically quick, but the positioning was simply dazzling – it was none other than the “Sword-breaking Stance” out of the Dugu Nine Swords.

Cong Buqi was stunned. He had never anticipated such a sudden counter attack from the young man covered in mud. Out of desperation, he dived down the ground and rolled till he was over ten feet away, and finally was able to dodge the thrust. If he had come up with his solution only one second slower, he would not have survived it.

The entire audience watched Cong Buqi in such a sorry plight. By the time he leapt back onto his feet, his head, face, hands, and robe were completely covered with mud. Some couldn’t help but burst into laughter. But after thinking about it some more, all had to agree that other than the rolling they had just seen, there was really no other way to dodge that move.

Hearing the laughter, Cong Buqi found himself consumed by embarrassment and fury. Holding his sword tight, he charged toward Linghu Chong in a leap.

Linghu Chong had made up his mind already. “I must not use any of my inner strength, and only counter him using sword stances taught by Grand Uncle-Master.”

He was quite familiar with the Dugu Nine Swords already. He wouldn’t have used it so boldly against such a tough enemy if it weren’t a life-threatening situation for him. Right on the edge between life and death, he surprisingly found his head clear of all other thoughts. Instantly, all the complicated and magical techniques in the “Sword-breaking Stance” came clearly before his mind’s eye. Seeing that Cong Buqi charged at him like a mad tiger, he spotted the flaw in Cong’s move instantaneously. Holding his sword in a slight angle, he aimed the tip toward Cong’s lower stomach.

When Cong Buqi charged forward, he figured that if his opponent didn’t dodge, then the opponent would have to block with his weapon, therefore, even though his lower stomach was open to attacks, he really had no need to defend that part. But to his surprise, Linghu Chong didn’t dodge and didn’t block either, only pointing his sword tip in an angle and waited for him to put his own stomach onto the sword tip. Before his feet landed back onto the ground, while his entire body was still in mid-air, Cong Buqi had realized the danger ahead. In a frantic rush, he swung his sword toward Linghu Chong’s sword. But Linghu Chong had anticipated that. He raised his right arm slightly. The sword went up two feet and now the sword tip pointed toward Cong Buqi’s chest.

Cong Buqi had hoped that when he swung his sword, it would smack against Linghu Chong’s long sword, and then he would be able to leap aside using that force. But he had never expected his opponent to turn his sword and point it upward all of a sudden. His swing was only met by thin air. And without any other forces, he could not change the direction his body was moving toward. He screamed in terror as his body flew right at Linghu Chong’s sword.

Feng Buping dived forward with a jump and reached out to grab at Cong Buqi’s back, but it was already too late. With a thump, Linghu Chong’s sword tip had penetrated Cong Buqi’s shoulder.

Missing out on the grab, Feng Buping immediately drew his sword and slashed it at Linghu Chong’s back neck. Following normal sword art principles, Linghu Chong should have jumped back quickly before returning the attack, but with all his internal energy in a state of complete chaos, which prevented him from using any bit of inner strength, he simply couldn’t jump back to dodge. Having no alternative, he retrieved his sword out from Cong Buqi’s shoulder and used another technique out of the Dugu Nine Swords. Stabbing his sword out with a backhand, he pointed the sword tip at Feng Buping’s belly button. It looked almost as if it was another death-defying move of Linghu Chong that would end up in common ruin, but the stab had a surprising position that his sword would have pierced the enemy’s belly before the enemy’s weapon would ever reach him. It would only be a split of a second difference in speed, but the end result would be dramatically different.

Feng Buping could tell that the opponent had no chance of fending off his slash, but to his great surprise, the young man conveniently launched a backhand stab toward his lower abdomen. What a vicious attack that was! He quickly took several steps back. After taking in a deep breath, he charged forward again with seven consecutive hits, each thrust or slash swifter than the previous one. The attacks swept toward Linghu Chong like a storm.

Linghu Chong gave no thought of life or death. All he had in his mind were the various sword art techniques Feng Qingyang had taught him. Occasionally, when a snapshot of the sword moves on the rock wall in the back cave flashed by in his head, he would simply use them at will following the essence flow of his swordplay. Within moments, the two had exchanged over seventy moves, yet their swords never even collided once. Regardless of attacking or defending, all the sword art techniques shown were clever and profound.

Watching the dazzling sword fight by the side, the entire audience couldn’t help but cheer inwardly. Everyone could hear the heavy panting from Linghu Chong. Clearly he didn’t have much strength in him. However, brilliant sword moves and techniques emerged one after another from his sword with endless variations and changes. Every time when Feng Buping had difficulty countering Linghu Chong’s moves, he would simply chop and slash with sheer force, knowing that the opponent would never try to block it and end up in a competition of strength, thus getting himself out of trouble.

Seeing the display of the undignified fighting style, some bystanders couldn’t help but feel discontented. A Taoist priest from the Taishan Sword School spoke out.

“The apprentice from Qi-Branch has better sword skills and the Uncle-Master from Sword-Branch has better inner strength. What the hell is going on? Has the Qi-Branch and the Sword-Branch switched place for some fun?”

Feng Buping blushed at the remark as he waved his sword even faster, showering Linghu Chong in attacks like gusty wind and heavy rain. He was the best swordsman in the Sword-Branch of the Huashan Sword School, and his sword skills were indeed excellent.

Linghu Chong had no extra strength to move around. It already took all his strength to simply manage to stay standing. And because of that, he missed many good opportunities to secure a win. Besides, he was not yet proficient with all the sword techniques, and fighting such a top-notch fighter with his newly learned Dugu Nine Swords certainly aroused fear in his heart. As a result, the fight lasted for a long while and produced no winner.

Another thirty or so moves passed. Linghu Chong noticed that if he had simply thrust out at will, his opponent would be in a frantic rush and have a hard time dealing with it, but if he had used any of the Huashan Sword School moves or moves of the Songshan, Hengshan, or Taishan sword schools drawn on the rock wall in the back cave, Feng Buping would be able to counter well and launch his counterattack immediately after. Once when Feng Buping drew three arcs at him with his long sword, his entire right arm was almost chopped off. Awfully dangerous indeed! Amid the frenzies, Feng Qingyang’s words suddenly came to his mind, “When you don’t have a sword stance, your enemy would have no way of countering it. Overcoming stances without a stance achieves the ultimate acme of sword art.”

Actually through the over two hundred moves he exchanged with Feng Buping, he had comprehended the superb techniques of the Dugu Nine Swords better and better. Regardless of how vicious or fierce Feng Buping’s sword moves were, he would always be able to spot the weaknesses and flaws within Feng’s sword moves, and a simple thrust or slash from him, at will, would always force Feng Buping to retract his sword to defend. After some more moves exchanged, he slowly gained his confidence. By the time he remembered the key of “Overcoming stances without a stance” told by Feng Qingyang, he took a long breath and thrust his sword out with an odd angle. This thrust wasn’t part of any sword move, not even part of the sword moves from the “Sword-breaking Stance” of the Dugu Nine Swords. It was weak, and tilted. Even he himself didn’t know where he was pointing the sword.

“What kind of move is that?” Feng Buping thought to himself, confused. Not knowing how to counter that, he waved his own sword to protect his upper body.

Since Linghu Chong didn’t have any limit or restriction with that thrust to start with, seeing that his opponent had guarded his upper body well, he gave a gentle shake to the sword tip and stabbed it at Feng Buping’s waist. Feng Buping didn’t anticipate such an odd change at all. Astounded, he leapt back three steps, while Linghu Chong remained still, not having any strength to lunge after him.

The fight had lasted for quite a while now. Even though Linghu Chong didn’t use a bit of his inner energy, waving the sword about did require quite some strength. Feeling exhausted, he breathed heavily while pressing his hand on his chest.

Realizing that Linghu Chong didn’t follow up with the attack, Feng Buping didn’t want the fight to just end like that. He sprang back and shot out four thrusts in a row toward Linghu Chong’s chest, stomach, waist, and shoulder. Linghu Chong flicked his wrist and stabbed the sword toward Feng’s left eye. Uttering a cry of shock, Feng Buping leapt back three steps again.

“Strange! Strange! That man’s sword art is very admirable,” The Taoist Priest from Taishan Sword School spoke again. The entire audience felt the same way, knowing that “that man’s sword art” he admired had to be Linghu Chong’s sword art, not Feng Buping’s.

Feng Buping also heard the remark. He thought to himself, “I am able to take over the Huashan Sword School because I am the Head Master of the Sword-Branch. If I can’t even defeat an apprentice of the Qi-Branch, not only would my grandiose plan to be the Head Master of Huashan Sword School burst in bubbles, I would certainly end up living a hermit’s life again in some remote valley, too ashamed to face anyone in the Marital World.” At that thought, he cried inwardly, “At this point, there’s no need to hide it any more!”

With a loud roar, he charged forward in an angle, slashing his long sword horizontally and then bringing it swishing down through the air in an unprecedented speed. Within only five moves, whistles from wind gusts had rose dimly. He waved his sword faster and faster and the sound of the wind gusts also became louder and louder.

This set of sword art was called the “Quick Blizzard Sword Stance,” and was created by Feng Buping while he lived in seclusion in Mount Zhongtiao for fifteen years. Each move would be even faster than the previous one, and the sound of wind gust would be louder and louder as well. It was the most valued sword art of his. Having some lofty aspirations, he not only wanted to head the entire Huashan Sword School, but also wished to become the chief of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance after getting the Head Master post. And this “Quick Blizzard Sword Stance” with one hundred and eight moves would have been the tool to help him achieve his goals. He really didn’t want to recklessly show this special skill of his, because once it was shown, it would no longer be a secret weapon of his, and if he got into fights with elite fighters, the enemy would have had precautions, and the effect of the set of sword arts would no longer be so dramatic. But there was no way to back down from the fight right now. If he couldn’t defeat Linghu Chong, he would lose all face right at this moment. He was pretty much forced into using it as the last resort.

This set of “Quick Blizzard Sword Stance” was incredibly powerful without a doubt. The force created by the blade extended slowly. The audience could feel the cold front moving toward them while the wind gusts blew onto their faces and hands harshly, making them very uncomfortable, so everyone stepped back more and more. The circle around the two fighters gradually grew bigger and bigger, and soon reached the size of fifty feet in diameter.

By now, even the many masters from the Songshan, Taishan, Hengshan sword schools, and the Yue Buqun couple dared not underestimate Feng Buping. They all felt that not only his sword moves were brilliant, but also the swift and fierce force created by his blade. He apparently didn’t only rely on his sword moves to win his battles. Feng Buping wasn’t a renowned master in the Martial World; who would have thought that his sword skill was so incredible.

Flames from torches held by the many riders were all blown toward the outside by the forces from the blade, and the sound of wind gusts still seemed to be getting louder and louder.

In the eyes of the many witnesses, Linghu Chong was almost like a small boat traveling in a huge storm with crashing waves hundreds of feet high. In the roaring wind, terrifying waves smashed toward the small boat like landslides. But the small boat rode the wave high and low, never being swallowed by the mountain-sized waves.

The faster Feng Buping attacked, the more principles and essence of the sword art Linghu Chong comprehended based on the teaching of Feng Qingyang. The more they fought, the better Linghu Chong understood. And the better he was able to understand the many techniques of the sword stances, the more confident he became. He found himself in no rush to end the fight; instead, he watched the various variations in the opponent’s sword moves with rapt attention.

The “Quick Blizzard Sword Stance” was indeed very quick. Within moments, Feng Buping had used up the entire one hundred and eight moves. Seeing that it still failed to bring Linghu Chong down, he became restless with anxiety. Roaring in fury, he slashed and chopped with his long sword like a mad man, intending to force the opponent to block his attacks.

Linghu Chong was a bit frightened when he saw Feng Buping going all out in such a death-defying manner. Afraid to keep the fight any longer, he shook the blade of the long sword. “Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, and swoosh!” The blade had left one cut each on Feng Buping’s left arm, right arm, left leg, and right leg. “Clank,” Feng Buping’s sword fell down to the ground.

Because Linghu Chong didn’t have much strength with his hand, the four thrusts were all done quite lightly, but that was enough to turn Feng Buping’s face completely pale.

“Fine! Fine!” Feng Buping murmured. He turned around and cupped his hands toward Ding Mian, Lu Bai, and Tang Ying-E the trio. “Three apprentice brothers of the Songshan Sword School, will you please tell Chief Zuo that I am truly grateful for his great kindness. But…but my skills aren’t good enough, and I am too ashamed…ashamed…” He cupped his hands again and then walked away quickly. After ten steps or so, he suddenly stopped and called out.

“Young man, your sword skills are truly incredible. I bow before you. But with such outstanding sword skills, I am sure even Yue Buqun is no match for you. May I have the honor to hear your respectful name, and the name of the great master who taught you the sword art, so I know who and what sword art I had lost to?”

“My name is Linghu Chong,” Linghu Chong replied. “I am the Head Apprentice of my respectful Master – Yue Buqun. It was only because of your mercy, senior master, that I was able to win a move by sheer luck. There’s nothing to be proud of.”

Feng Buping heaved a long sigh, his voice dreary and gloomy. Slowly, he walked away, and soon, faded into the darkness.

Ding Mian, Lu Bai, and Tang Ying-E looked at each other, all thinking, “My sword skills perhaps aren’t even as good as Feng Buping’s. Then of course I would be no match for Linghu Chong, either. If we swarm forward to attack Linghu Chong all together, it wouldn’t be a difficult task to slice him into bits and pieces on the spot. But when so many masters from different schools are here as well, something like that would be completely out of the question.” With the same thought in mind, the three nodded at each other.

“Nephew Linghu,” Ding Mian said in a loud voice, “your sword art is brilliant and broadened everyone’s horizons. Farewell for now. I am sure we’ll meet again someday!”

“Let’s go!” Tang Ying-E waved his left hand and then turned his horse around. Giving the horse a good spur, he rode away like a wind. The rest of the group followed behind him, and within moments, all vanished into the darkness. The sounds of hoof beats became lighter and lighter, and soon, the night was, once again, swept with silence. By now, other than the bunch from the Huashan Sword School, there were only those masked men left outside of the monastery.

The old man in the mask let out a few wry laughs and broke the silence. “Young hero Linghu, you have outstanding sword skills and we all admire you truly. Yue Buqun’s Kung Fu skills are far from yours. You should have been the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School.” He paused for a second and then continued, “After seeing the brilliant sword art you have displayed, we really should have beaten a retreat in the face of difficulties. But since we have greatly offended your respectful school, it’s going to be endless trouble for us. Well, we must destroy both the root and the branches. I guess we’d better take advantage of you while you are injured and take you on with overwhelming numbers then.”

He signaled with a whistle, and the rest of the fourteen masked men pushed their position forward and surrounded Linghu Chong. When Ding Mian and the bunch left, they threw their torches on the ground randomly. The flames had not been extinguished yet, so only the lower portion of everyone’s body was lit, and their body portion above their waists remained vague in the dark. Their weapons shined from reflections of the flames as the fifteen masked men closed in on Linghu Chong.

When Linghu Chong fought Feng Buping earlier, even though it didn’t consume any of his inner energy, it did exhaust him and covered him with sweat. The reason he was able to defeat the first-class master of the Huashan Sword School Sword-Branch was because he had learned the Dugu Nine Swords and was able to take the initiative of the different moves. But these fifteen men in mask had many different types of weapons and used many different styles of moves. When they all attacked at once, there would be no way for him to counter each one of them. Without the ability to use his inner energy, he couldn’t even jump forward three feet or leap five feet sideways, how would he manage to break out from the combined attack of the fifteen elite fighters? He let out a deep sigh and turned his eyes toward Yue Lingshan, knowing that this would probably be the last glance before his end, and hoping that he would get some relief from the expression on Yue Lingshan’s face. Sure enough, he found Yue Lingshan’s pretty eyes fixed on him filled with worry and care. Linghu Chong felt a surge of joy. Then, he saw her hand hang by her side, and it was holding a hand of a man. A quick glance told Linghu Chong that the man was none other than Lin Pingzhi. Welled with depression, Linghu Chong lost his will to fight completely and almost wanted to throw down his long sword and simply let the enemy have him.

Afraid of the brilliant performance he had shown during the fierce fight with Feng Buping, the fifteen masked men approached forward half a step at a time, on one dared to launch the first attack.

Linghu Chong turned around slowly and stared at the fifteen masked men. Their thirty eyes shined through the holes on their masks like the eyes of fierce wild animals, filled with cruelty and hostility. Suddenly, a thought sparked in his head.

“The eighth stance of the Dugu Nine Sword, ‘Missile-breaking Stance,’ can counter all types of projectiles and darts. Even if the enemy has shot thousands of arrows at me, or dozens of people shooting many kinds of projectiles and darts at me, I would be able to knock all of them down using this one stance.”

“Let’s attack all at once and cut him into shreds!” the old man in the mask shouted.

Having no time for any further thoughts, Linghu Chong sent his sword out and used the “Missile-breaking Stance” of the Dugu Nine Swords. The tip of the sword vibrated as it thrust at the eyes of the fifteen men. Cries in terror rose one after another, and then bangs echoed as the many kinds of weapons fell to the ground. Within a split of a second, Linghu Chong had blinded the thirty eyes of the fifteen masked men with extraordinarily swift thrusts.

The “Missile-breaking Stance” of the Dugu Nine Swords was capable of hitting thousands of projectiles and darts. To be able to hit the thousands of targets, of course some would be hit before some others. But because the thrusts were so fast that it seemed as if all the thrusts were shot out at the exact same time. This stance must be able to hit every target with every thrust. If one thrust had missed the target, the enemy’s dart would have hit the practitioner. Linghu Chong was not proficient with this stance, yet, but it was obviously much easier to try to hit human eyes that were slowly approaching compared to hitting projectiles and darts approaching in high speed. He thrust out thirty times and hit all thirty eyes on target.

As soon as he completed the thrusts, Linghu Chong dashed out from the crowd. Holding on to the doorframe, he trembled hard, his face completely pale. Then a loud bang echoed as his sword fell out of his hand and hit the ground. He watched as the fifteen masked men each having their hands covering their eyes, blood dripping out from between their fingers. Some squatted down to the ground; some cried out loudly; some rolled back and forth in mud.

When the fifteen masked men, all of a sudden, saw only complete darkness accompanied by excruciating pain, in astonishment and terror, all they could think of was to cover their eyes and cry in pain. If they had been able to calm down and continue with their group attack, Linghu Chong for sure would have been chopped into shreds. But regardless of how high one’s Kung Fu skills are, who would be able to stay calm when someone had blinded his eyes, all of a sudden? Who would be able to continue his attacks toward the enemy? The fifteen men stumbled about in every direction like a bunch of headless flies, not able to decide what to do next.

In the critical moment, Linghu Chong actually managed to succeed with his strike. He was overjoyed. But seeing the pitiful sight, he couldn’t help but feel a mixed feeling of fear and pity.

Half shocked and half joyful, Yue Buqun yelled loudly, “Chong, cut their tendons in their legs so we can interrogate them slowly.”

“Yes…yes….” Linghu Chong answered and bent down to retrieve his sword. But when he used that move a moment ago, it had actually triggered the energy flow inside him. Trembling nonstop, he simply could not grab onto his long sword. Then his knee gave out completely and he collapsed.

“Everyone, use your right hand to pick up your weapon and use your left hand to grab onto the waistband from the one next to you. Then follow me!” the old man in the mask shouted.

The other fourteen masked men had been at a loss on what to do. Getting the command from the old man, all bent down to fumble on the ground. And regardless of what kind of weapon they were able to grab onto, they would pick it up. Some were able to pick up two and some weren’t even able to find one. Each one grabbed onto a fellow masked man’s waistband and stringed himself together with the group. Following the old man, all of them staggered their way through the puddles of mud and disappeared in the pouring rain.

Except for Madam Yue and Linghu Chong, all members of the Huashan Sword School had their pressure points sealed and couldn’t move an inch. Madam Yue had severe wounds on both of her legs and couldn’t walk. Linghu Chong, on the other hand, had lost all his strength and could only lie on the ground still. Everyone could clearly see that the fifteen masked men had become completely defenseless, yet none could keep them from getting away.

 

 Bluffing the enemy by opening the gates of a weakly defended city. Presenting a bold front to conceal a weak defense. Zhu Geliang and Sima Yi were both real historical figures in ancient China. See their story in Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

 Di Xiu’s Master is an apprentice brother of Zuo Lengchan, the Head Master of Songshan Sword School, that’s why Di referred to Zuo as Head Uncle-Master.

 Once a person’s Mute Point is sealed, he will temporarily lose the ability to speak.

 An intimate way of calling Yilin.

 When one becomes a Buddhist monk, he will no longer be referred to using his real name. He will get a name in the Buddhist ‘s order and he is supposed to forget his real name as part of the Four Emptiness Doctrine.

 The title “Great Master” is a respectful way of calling a member of the Buddhist order.