The Smiling, Proud Wanderer - 第3章 Rescue

Lao Denuo continued with his story, “So I asked the Master, ‘Is this Evil-Resisting Sword Art something very powerful? Why would the Qingcheng Sword School practice it so intensely?’

“Master did not answer right away. He closed his eyes for a long while and then said, ‘Denuo, before you became my disciple, you had already spent much time in the Martial World. In that time, what did you hear of the Chief Master of the Fortune Prestige Escort House, Lin Zhennan?’

“I answered, ‘Our friends in the Martial World said that Lin Zhennan was not stingy when socializing with others; he treated his friends well. Everybody liked him and left the goods he escorted alone out of respect. But regard to his real Kung Fu skills, I am not sure.’

“Master said, ‘Right! For the last generation, the Fortune Prestige Escort House has been successful, primarily because people in the Martial World treated Lin Zhennan like a friend. Did you ever hear that Master Yu’s teacher, Evergreen, was defeated by Lin Yuantu’s ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Art’ during his youth?’

“I was lost. ‘Lin…Lin Yuantu? Was he Lin Zhennan’s father?’ I asked.

“‘No,’ Master answered, ‘Lin Yuantu was Lin Zhennan’s grandfather. He was the original founder of the Fortune Prestige Escort House. In those days when Lin Yuantu founded the Escort House with the seventy-two moves of ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Art,’ none of the heterodox members of the Martial World was a match for him. Because his great fame at that time, even orthodox members of the Martial World went to challenge him. Evergreen was one of them, and thus lost to several moves of the Evil-Resisting Sword Art.’

“I asked, ‘So the Evil-Resisting Sword Art is really very powerful?’

“Master said, ‘The news that Evergreen lost the fight was kept secret by both sides, so nobody in the Martial World knew about it. However, Evergreen was a very good friend of our Grand Master and had once mentioned it to him. He considered this one of the greatest humiliations in his life, but knowing that he would never be able to defeat Lin Yuantu, he was never able to settle the score with him. Grand Master had studied the Evil-Resisting Sword Art together with him in order to find any flaws in this sword art. The seventy-two moves looked plain, but there were many profound mysteries locked within that no one could fathom, which allowed the moves to suddenly become very swift. The two of them studied it for several months and still could not devise a way to counter it. At that time, I was a mere teenager who had just become an apprentice. I served their tea at those sessions and was able to watch the moves everyday, so when you demonstrated the moves, I knew they were from the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Art.’ Ah, time flows like a stream. That was a long time ago!’”

Ever since Lin Pingzhi had been beaten up by the Qingcheng apprentices without being able to defend himself, he had completely lost confidence in his family’s Kung Fu. All he wanted was to learn from a good teacher to seek revenge later. Now hearing Lao Denuo speaking of the great prestige and fame of his great grandfather, Lin Yuantu, he was greatly encouraged. Their family’s Evil-Resisting Sword Art was really nothing to scoff at. Years ago, even the masters of the Qingcheng and Huashan sword schools could not defeat it. But if this was so, why couldn’t his father defeat those Qingcheng apprentices? Perhaps his father did not learn the secret and magic parts of the sword art.

Then he heard Lao Denuo say, “I then asked Master, ‘Did Evergreen ever get his revenge?’

“Master said, ‘He only lost a challenge fight. That doesn’t require revenge. Besides, Lin Yuantu had been famous for years and was considered an admirable senior master. Evergreen was just a little Taoist priest who barely finished training. It wasn’t a big deal for a young lad to lose to a senior master. After Grand Master comforted him, they never mentioned the incident again. Evergreen died at the age of thirty-six. Maybe he could never put the incident behind him, and finally died of depression. Now, decades later, why would Yu Canghai suddenly make all of his apprentices practice the Evil-Resisting Sword Art? Denuo, what’s your opinion on this?’

“I said, ‘It seemed that everyone in the Pine-Wind Temple was quite serious about practicing; could Master Yu be planning to mount a large-scale attack against the Fortune Prestige Escort House to seek revenge for the past generation?’

“Master nodded and said, ‘I think so too. Evergreen was a narrow-minded person who thought highly of himself. He must have taken his defeat to heart. He probably left some kind of order to Yu Canghai before he passed away. Lin Yuantu died before Evergreen, so if Yu Canghai were to avenge his teacher, he could only go after Lin Zhongxiong, Lin Yuantu’s son. But for some reason, he waited till now to start the attack. Yu Canghai is shrewd and deep, and always plots before attacking. There’s going to be a big fight between the Qingcheng Sword School and the Fortune Prestige Escort House.’

“I asked the Master, ‘So in your opinion, who has a better chance of winning the fight?’

“Master smiled and said, ‘Yu Canghai’s Kung Fu skills have surpassed his master, Evergreen’s. Lin Zhennan’s Kung Fu skills, although outsiders have no idea, are probably inferior to his grandfather’s. One had advanced and one had slipped back. In addition, the Qingcheng Sword School hides in the dark while the Fortune Prestige Escort House is exposed in the light; before the real fight even begins, the Fortune Prestige Escort House already has a seventy percent chance of losing. If Lin Zhennan were to get the information early and invite the Golden Blade Wang Yuanba in Luoyang to help out, then they might be able to put on a decent fight. Denuo, do you want to go watch the fun?’

“I of course agreed joyfully. Then the Master taught me a couple of sword moves that the Qingcheng Sword School was quite fond of, as a means of protection.”

“What?” Lu Dayou jumped up. “How come the Master knows moves of Qingcheng’s sword art? Ah, I see. Years ago when Evergreen practiced with Grand Master, he had to use Qingcheng’s sword art to counter the Evil-Resisting Sword Art, so Master saw them by the side.”

“Sixth apprentice brother,” Lao Denuo said, “as apprentices, let’s not speculate on the origin of Master’s Kung Fu skills. Master told me not to let any other apprentices know about this, so the information wouldn’t leak out. But little apprentice sister was quite clever and somehow heard about it. She nagged the Master into letting her go with me. We disguised ourselves as grandpa and granddaughter selling wine outside Fuzhou, and then everyday we would sneak into the Fortune Prestige Escort House to see what was going on. We didn’t see much, other than Lin Zhennan teaching his son the sword arts. When little apprentice sister saw the sword art, she shook her head and said to me, ‘Is this really the renowned Evil-Resisting Sword Art? It’s more like the Evil-Resisting-Not Sword Art. When the evil comes, this Young Master Lin better hides far away.’”

Lin Pingzhi’s face turned red at the laughter of the Huashan Sword School apprentices. He was so shamed that he wished there was a hole he could crawl into. “So the two of them had been watching us in our Escort House and we knew nothing about it. We are really impotent.” He couldn’t help feeling very depressed.

“Not many days after we arrived in Fuzhou, apprentices of the Qingcheng Sword School drifted in one after another,” Lao Denuo continued with the story. “The first two that arrived were Fang Renzhi and Yu Renhao. They started sneaking into the Escort House everyday to explore the place. Little apprentice sister and I wanted to avoid bumping into them, so we stopped going there. It was quite a coincidence when one day that Young Master Lin came to patronize our ‘Great Wine Shop.’ Little apprentice sister just had to bring out some wine for them. At first we thought he had found us out and intentionally came to let us know it. But when I spoke to him, I learned that he was still quite clueless. That playboy didn’t know a thing and was no different from a retard. Then, guess what happened? The two most useless apprentices of the Qingcheng Sword School, Yu Renyan and Jia Renda happened to come to our ‘Great Wine Shop’ as well….”

“Second apprentice brother, the ‘Great Wine Shop’ little apprentice sister and you opened must have had a booming business with all kinds of revenue pouring in. You probably made a fortune in Fujian, didn’t you?” Lu Dayou applauded.

“Sure! Second apprentice brother has become quite a wealthy man now, and thanks to his luck, I was able to pick up a few crumbs as well!” the girl grinned. Everyone burst into laughter.

“Although the Young Master Lin was terrible with his Kung Fu skills and not even good enough to be little apprentice sister’s student, he did have some integrity,” Lao Denuo said. “Yu Renyan, the youngest and most useless son of Yu Canghai, was so blind that he started teasing and making fun of little apprentice sister. Then the Young Master Lin stepped in and tried to protect us….”

Lin Pingzhi felt both ashamed and irritated. “So the Qingcheng Sword School had deliberately planned the attacks on our Escort House, seeking revenge for their defeat in the previous generation. And the group that came to Fuzhou consisted of far more than just four. Whether I killed Yu Renyan or not didn’t matter at all.” He was so disturbed that he didn’t really listen to Lao Denuo describing how he killed Yu Renyan. But he could hear laugh after laugh; they must have been laughing at how clumsy he had been when he tried to defend himself.

Then he heard Lao Denuo say, “That night, little apprentice sister and I went back to the Fortune Prestige Escort House to check it out, and saw that Hou Renying, Hong Renxiong, and other apprentices led by Master Yu had already arrived. We were afraid to be seen by the people of Qingcheng Sword School, so we just stood far away to observe. We saw them killing the escorts of the Escort House one by one, including the ones sent out to obtain help. Dead bodies were sent back to the Escort House one after another; they were merciless. At that moment, I thought to myself: The whole thing was just because Evergreen, someone from the last generation of Qingcheng, lost to Lin Yuantu in a challenge sword fight. If Master Yu wanted to settle the score, all he needed to do was to challenge and defeat Lin Zhennan and his son in a sword fight. Why did he behave so maliciously? He must have wanted to avenge Yu Renyan. But why didn’t they do anything to the Lin couple and Lin Pingzhi, and only forced them to leave the Escort House? Right after the remaining escorts and the Lin family fled the Escort House, Master Yu went in. Then he sat on the chief chair with a smug air; starting then, the Fortune Prestige House belonged to the Qingcheng Sword School.”

“Qingcheng Sword School wanted to get into the escorting business. Master Yu wanted to be the Chief Master Escort!” Lu Dayou exclaimed. Everyone laughed.

“The Qingcheng people had watched the Lin family disguise themselves,” Lao Denuo went on. “Fang Renzhi, Yu Renhao, and Jia Renda got the order to go after them and bring them back. Little apprentice sister insisted on following them to watch the events, so we followed the bunch of them. When the Lin family stopped by a small restaurant in the mountains south of Fuzhou, Fang Renzhi, Yu Renhao, and Jia Renda showed themselves and captured the three.

“Little apprentice sister said, ‘It was all because of me that the Young Master Lin killed Yu Renyan. We cannot just walk away like this.’

“I tried my best to change her mind and said that if we came out and attacked the Qingcheng Sword School, we would damage the relationship between the Qingcheng Sword School and the Huashan Sword School. And since Master Yu was in Fuzhou, we also might get into big trouble.”

“Second apprentice brother is old, so of course he wanted to be careful and doesn’t care much about action. Little apprentice sister must have been very disappointed,” Lu Dayou speculated.

“Little apprentice sister was so enthusiastic that it was hard to disappoint her even if I wanted to.” Lao Denuo smiled. “So little apprentice sister first went into the kitchen and cracked Jia Renda’s head. When he started screaming and lured Fang and Yu away, she circled to the front to rescue Young Master Lin and let him escape.”

“Terrific! Terrific!” Lu Dayou applauded. “I see! Little apprentice sister wasn’t just saving that fellow Lin; she had something else in mind. Great! Great!”

“What other things did I have in mind? You’re talking nonsense again!” the girl said.

“Since I was beaten by Master because of the Qingcheng Sword School, little apprentice sister was unhappy, so she beats up people of the Qingcheng Sword School to vent my anger. Thank you very much….” Lu Dayou stood up and saluted the girl.

“Monkey-Six apprentice brother, you are welcome,” the girl smiled and saluted back.

“Little apprentice sister beat up the Qingcheng apprentice to vent someone’s anger. But I am not sure if that someone was you. It wasn’t just you, Monkey-Six, who got beaten by the Master,” the apprentice with the abacus said with a broad grin.

“This time sixth apprentice brother is right,” Lao Denuo smiled. “Little apprentice sister really beat up Jia for sixth apprentice brother’s sake. Later if the Master asks about this, she will still say so.”

“This…this is an honor I don’t want. Don’t drag me into it and get me another ten strokes of the stick,” Lu Dayou exclaimed, waving his hands.

“So didn’t Fang Renzhi and Yu Renhao chase you?” the tall apprentice asked.

“Of course they did,” the girl answered, “but second apprentice brother had learned some moves of the Qingcheng sword art, and, with only the one move called ‘Swan Goose in the Sky,’ he sent their swords into the sky. Too bad second apprentice brother masked his face with a black cloth. I bet that even now Fang and Yu still don’t realize that they lost to the Huashan Sword School.”

“It is better that way,” Lao Denuo said. “Otherwise, there would have been more trouble. In a straight test of skills I may not be able to win over Fang and Yu, but because I used moves from the Qingcheng sword art so unexpectedly and attacked the flaw in their technique, the two were startled, and because of that, we won again this time.”

The apprentices all agreed that if big apprentice brother had known about this, he would have been very happy and excited indeed.

It started raining more and more heavily; raindrops bounced off rooftops and street surfaces like peas. A vendor, carrying a pot of wonton and his cooking utensils balanced on the ends of a pole, appeared from the rain and stopped under the eaves of the teashop to take shelter. The old man started to knock on a bamboo block to attract customers. Hot steams came out of his pot.

The Huashan apprentices had been hungry for quite a while, and when they saw the wonton vendor, all were quite pleased.

“Hey, make nine servings of wonton for us, please. Extra eggs,” Lu Dayou shouted.

“Yes, sir!” the old man answered then opened the pot lid and threw the wontons into the hot soup. Moments later, five bowls of wonton were ready for the apprentices.

Lu Dayou was well behaved. He gave the first bowl to second apprentice brother, Lao Denuo, the second bowl to third apprentice brother, Liang Fa, and then to the fourth apprentice brother Shi Daizi, and to the fifth apprentice brother, Gao Genming. He should have taken the next bowl, but he put it in front of little apprentice sister instead.

“Little apprentice sister, after you,” he said.

The girl had been teasing him all the time, calling him Monkey-Six and all, but when he gave the wonton to her, she stood up and replied respectfully, “Thanks! Apprentice brother!”

Lin Pingzhi observed everything from his vantage point by the side, and thought that they had very strict school rules; it was ok to joke around, but all had to abide by the rule of seniority.

Lao Denuo and the others began to eat, but the girl waited till Lu Dayou and all the other apprentice brothers all had their wonton, and then started to eat together.

“Second apprentice brother, you were just talking about how Master Yu took over the Fortune Prestige Escort House. What happened after that?” Liang Fa asked.

“After little apprentice sister rescued the Young Master Lin,” Lao Denuo replied, “she wanted to follow them secretly and wait for a chance to rescue the Lin couple. I pleaded with her, ‘Yu Renyan offended you the other day, and the Young Master Lin helped you. You felt gratitude and rescued him, that’s enough payback already. The score between the Qingcheng Sword School and the Fortune Prestige Escort House came from last generation; why should we interfere?’ Little apprentice sister finally agreed. Then the two of us went back to Fuzhou and saw over ten Qingcheng apprentices guarding the Fortune Prestige Escort House.

“That was somewhat strange. Everyone in the Escort House had fled in a rush; even the Lin couple was gone; what was the Qingcheng Sword School afraid of? Little apprentice sister and I could not figure it out and became quite curious, so we decided to investigate. We figured that since Qingcheng apprentices was guarding the place with such tight security, it would be very hard to get in at night, so we sneaked into the garden at dusk while they were changing shifts for dinner. After we got into the Escort House, we saw many Qingcheng apprentices busily rummaging through chests and cupboards; some were taking down walls; others were digging up the ground. It seemed that they had turned the entire Escort House upside down. There was gold and treasure the Escorts did not have time to take with them, but those were just thrown to one side and ignored. They must have been looking for something very important, but what was it?”

“The Evil-Resisting Sword Art Manuscript!” four Huashan apprentices said almost in unison.

“Correct!” Lao Denuo said. “Little apprentice sister and I came to that same conclusion. It was obvious that they started searching right after they took over the Fortune Prestige Escort House. Seeing them all searching and sweating so hard, we knew that they hadn’t gotten any results.”

“So did they find it eventually?” Lu Dayou asked.

“Little apprentice sister and I both wanted to see the result,” Lao Denuo said, “but these Qingcheng people searched so thoroughly that they didn’t even forget to search the outhouses. Little apprentice sister and I really had nowhere to hide and had to sneak away.”

“Second apprentice brother, do you think Master Yu was making a fuss over a trifling matter by going there and leading the operation himself?” fifth apprentice Gao Genming asked.

Lao Denuo answered, “Master Yu’s teacher had lost to Lin Yuantu’s Evil-Resisting Sword Art; whether Lin Zhennan was an unworthy descendant or an even stronger opponent, outsiders would not have known. It might not have been proper for Master Yu to only send a couple of apprentices to settle the score. He went to Fuzhou himself and also urged all his apprentices to practice the sword art, then started the attack with advance preparation. I wouldn’t really call this making a fuss. But from what I saw, I think that for him, revenge was only of secondary importance, while finding that sword art manuscript was the main priority.”

“Second apprentice brother, you saw them practicing the Evil-Resisting Sword Art in Pine-Wind Temple. If they had already known how to use this sword art, why bother looking for the sword art manuscript? Perhaps they were looking for something else,” fourth apprentice Shi Daizi suggested.

“I don’t think so.” Lao Denuo shook his head. “What else besides secret martial art techniques could have interested him, a master of martial arts, so much, that he would spend such great effort on it? Later at the Yushan town in Jiangxi Province, little apprentice sister and I met them again and heard Master Yu asking messenger apprentices from other provinces about whether they had found the thing. He looked worried, so it seemed that nobody has actually found it yet.”

Shi Daizi still could not understand. He scratched his head and asked, “They already know how to use this set of sword arts, why would they bother looking for the sword art manuscript? How strange!”

“Think about it, fourth apprentice brother,” Lao Denuo explained. “Years ago, Lin Yuantu could defeat Evergreen; the sword art must have been truly outstanding. But not only was the Evil-Resisting Sword Art that Evergreen remembered nothing out of the ordinary, Master Yu also saw by his own eyes that the Kung Fu skills of the Lin family were not even worth mentioning. Something was just not making sense.”

“What do you mean?” Shi Daizi asked.

“There must be some secrets to the Evil-Resisting Sword Art of the Lin Family,” Lao Denuo exclaimed. “Although the moves appear average, the power of the sword art could be very strong. And Lin Zhennan did not get to learn these secrets.”

Shi Daizi thought for a while and nodded, “That’s right. But secret methods for sword arts are normally only passed down by one’s master orally. Lin Yuantu has been dead for decades, and even if they could find his coffin and dig out his body, it wouldn’t help them at all.”

“The secret code for our own sword art is taught orally by Master in spoken words, with no written parts. But not every school or clan necessarily has to be like that,” Lao Denuo said.

“Second apprentice brother, I still don’t understand,” Shi Daizi said. “It was logical that before their attack they would want the manuscript for the Evil-Resisting Sword Art. Know the enemy and know yourself, in this way you can win every battle. They wanted to defeat the Evil-Resisting Sword Art, so it was better if they knew the secret within the sword art. But the Qingcheng Sword School has already captured the Lin couple, and the Headquarters and Escort House branches have all been wiped out. What score is there left to settle? Even if there really was a powerful secret in the sword art, why should they bother looking for it?”

“Fourth brother, what is your evaluation of Qingcheng’s Kung Fu compared to the Kung Fu of our Five Mountains Sword Alliance?” Lao Denuo asked.

“I don’t know,” Shi Daizi answered. After a short while he said, “Perhaps not as good.”

“That’s right, probably not as good as ours,” Lao Denuo said. “Think about it. Master Yu is a conceited, arrogant man. Doesn’t he want his fame to be greater than everyone else in the Martial World? If the Lin Family really had some kind of secret technique, something which could change the average sword moves of the Evil-Resisting Sword Art into something very powerful, then if they used this secret technique with their Qingcheng sword art, what would happen?”

Shi Daizi thought for a long while and suddenly struck the table heavily as he stood up and shouted, “I see! Yu Canghai wants his Qingcheng sword art to be number one in the Martial World!”

Right at that moment, sounds of footsteps floated in from the street outside. People in the teashop turned and saw a group of people rush toward the teashop in quick steps. From the way they ran, one could tell these were all Martial people. They were all dressed in oilcloth raincoats, and as they got closer, everyone saw that it was a group of Buddhist nuns.

The leading old nun was a tall one, and stopping right in front of the teashop, she shouted, “Linghu Chong, come out!”

Lao Denuo and the other apprentices recognized the old nun. She was Sister Dingyi, the Master of the White-Cloud Nunnery atop Mount Heng-Shan. She was also the junior apprentice sister of Sister Dingxian, the Head Master of the Heng-Shan Sword School. Not only was her a famous Master within the Heng-Shan Sword School, she was also a renowned master of great fame in the Martial World, and all Martial people considered her a tough fighter. All the Huashan apprentices stood up and saluted her respectfully.

“We here pay our respect to Uncle-Master!”[1] Lao Denuo said loudly.

Sister Dingyi glanced over everyone and yelled with a husky voice, “Where is Linghu Chong hiding? Get his ass out here!” Her voice was even huskier than that of a man.

“Uncle-Master, senior apprentice brother Linghu is not here. We have been waiting for him, and he hasn’t arrived yet,” Lao Denuo replied.

“So this big apprentice brother they were talking about is named Linghu Chong. He really seems to be a troublemaker. What did he do to make this old nun so mad?” Lin Pingzhi thought to himself.

Sister Dingyi surveyed the teashop and stopped at the sight of the girl’s face. “Are you Lingshan? Why are you disguised like that? To scare people?” she asked.

“There are some bad men who want to harass me, so I disguised myself to hide for a while,” the girl answered with a smile.

Dingyi gave a snort. “The rules of your Huashan Sword School are getting looser and looser. Your father is too lax with his apprentices, which encouraged them to cause trouble wherever they go. When I finish my business here, I’m going to have to go to Mount Huashan, myself, and discuss this with him.”

“Uncle-Master, please don’t do that!” Lingshan begged worriedly. “Big apprentice brother just got punished with thirty strokes from Father recently. He was wounded so badly that he could barely walk. If you talk to my father, he might get another sixty strokes of stick. That will kill him!”

“The earlier that animal gets killed the better. Lingshan, how can you lie to my face! Linghu Chong could barely walk? If he could barely walk, how did he manage to kidnap my little apprentice?” Sister Dingyi bellowed.

Hearing those words, the faces of the Huashan apprentices turned pale with horror.

Lingshan almost cried out. “Uncle-Master,” she said hurriedly, “that’s impossible! No matter how bold big apprentice brother is, he would never dare to offend fellow apprentice sisters of your respectful school. Somebody must be making up stories to sow discord with the Uncle-Master.”

“You still deny it? Yiguang, what did the apprentice from the Taishan Sword School tell you?” Dingyi barked.

A middle-aged nun stepped forward. “Apprentice brothers from the Taishan Sword School said that Priest Tiansong saw apprentice brother Linghu and junior sister Yilin drinking together in a wine house in the town of Hengyang. The wine house was called something like Huiyan House. Junior sister Yilin had obviously been seized by apprentice brother Linghu and dared not drink the wine. She looked…looked very upset. And drinking together with them was that…that…villain who stops at no evil…Tian…Tian Boguang.”

Dingyi had already known this, and even the second time around, she was just as angry. She struck the table heavily with her palm. Two bowls of wonton jumped off the table and smashed onto the ground.

The Huashan apprentices all looked very embarrassed. Lingshan was so worried that tears began to roll down her cheeks. “They must be lying, or…or maybe Uncle-Master Tiansong saw a different person,” she said in a trembling voice.

“We all know who Priest Tiansong of Taishan Sword School is,” Dingyi exclaimed loudly. “How could he be mistaken? How could he ever speak nonsense? This animal Linghu Chong, he even gets along with an evil person like Tian Boguang. He has sunk very low. Even if your Master doesn’t handle this seriously and cover for his students, I won’t let him go so easily. This ‘Ten Thousand Miles Loner’ Tian Boguang has been a plague on society. I, an old nun, must rid the people of the scourge. When I heard the news and went there, Tian Boguang and Linghu Chong had spirited Yilin away! I…I…looked everywhere but still couldn’t find them….” Her voice became hoarse. She stamped her feet on the ground and sighed, “Oh, Yilin, the child. Yilin, the child!”

The Huashan apprentices’ hearts were beating rapidly. That big apprentice brother dragged a nun of the Heng-Shan Sword School off to a wine house to drink and stained the nun’s reputation was already a clear violation of school rules; to make matters worse he made friends with someone like Tian Boguang!

After a long pause, Lao Denuo finally was able to collect himself and spoke again.

“Uncle-Master, maybe senior apprentice brother Linghu was at the same table of Tian Boguang only by chance; that doesn’t really make them friends. Senior apprentice brother Linghu has been quite drunk these days and probably was a little hazy. What one does when drunk shouldn’t really count….”

“A drunk still has thirty percent of his faculties. As a mature adult, can’t he even distinguish between the good and the evil?” Dingyi roared.

“Yes, Uncle-Master!” Lao Denuo said hastily, not daring to argue. “I wonder where senior apprentice brother Linghu might be right now. Let we, apprentices, find him and reproach him; we’ll have him come and kowtow to apologize to you first, Uncle-Master, and then report to my Master so he can administer a heavy punishment.”

“Am I here to discipline your apprentice brother?” Dingyi snarled. Her arm shot out suddenly and grabbed Lingshan by the wrist. Lingshan felt as if an iron hoop had bound her wrist. “Ah!” She cried out and then muttered in a trembling voice, “Uncle…Uncle-Master!”

“Your Huashan Sword School kidnapped my Yilin. I am taking a female apprentice of your Huashan Sword School in exchange. When you return my Yilin to me, I will release your Lingshan!” Dingyi growled. She turned around and dragged Lingshan after her. Lingshan felt her upper body become sore and numb, and had to stagger along with Dingyi into the street.

Lao Denuo and Liang Fa both jumped forth instantly to block Sister Dingyi’s way.

“Uncle-Master,” Lao Denuo bowed and said apologetically, “my big apprentice brother offended you, naturally you would get angry. But that really has nothing to do with little apprentice sister. Uncle-Master, please show mercy and let her go.”

“Sure, I will!” Dingyi yelled scornfully. She raised her right arm and swept it out in an arc.

Lao Denuo and Liang Fa felt a strong burst of energy shooting toward them, so strong that they could hardly breathe. They then found themselves flying backwards. Lao Denuo landed on his back at the door of the shop across the street from the teashop. With a splintering crack, two of the door planks broke in half. Liang Fa flew straight toward a wonton stove. If he had landed on the wonton stove and knocked it over, boiling water would splash all over him and scald him badly. But the old wonton seller reached out with his left hand and caught Liang Fa by his back. Liang Fa landed safely.

Sister Dingyi turned back and gave a stare to the old wonton seller. “So it’s you!” she said.

“That’s right, it’s me,” the old man smiled. “Sister, you’ve got quite a temper.”

“That’s none of your concern,” Dingyi snapped.

Right at that moment, with oilcloth umbrellas over their heads and lanterns in their hands, two men rushed toward the teashop. “Are you the respectful Sister of the Heng-Shan Sword School?” they shouted from afar.

“You flatter me. I am Dingyi of the Heng-Shan Sword School. Who are you?” Dingyi asked.

When the two men came closer, two big red words written on the lanterns in their hands became more recognizable. It read, “Liu House.”

“We junior apprentices were instructed by our Master to invite Uncle-Master Dingyi and all the fellow apprentice sisters to have dinner at our humble house,” one said. “We didn’t get the news that you had already arrived at Hengshan, so we didn’t greet you at the gate. Please pardon us.” He bowed to pay his respect.

“That is very polite of you. Are you two apprentices of Master Liu?” Dingyi asked in a slightly softer tone.

“Yes. My name is Xiang Danian, and this is my apprentice brother Mi Weiyi. How are you, Uncle-Master?” The two saluted again.

Seeing the good manners of the pair, Dingyi agreed, “All right, we were just about to go visit Master Liu, anyway.”

“May I ask who you are?” Xiang Danian asked Liang Fa.

“I am Liang Fa, apprentice of the Huashan Sword School,” Liang Fa answered.

“You are the senior third brother Liang of the Huashan Sword School!” Xiang Danian said happily. “I have been looking forward to meeting you. Everyone please come to our humble house. Our Master told us to greet all the heroes from different groups, but there are so many people coming, we are afraid that we have been poor hosts and offended friends. Please come this way.”

“We were planning on waiting here until big apprentice brother showed up, and then go to congratulate Uncle-Master Liu together,” Lao Denuo went over and said.

“You must be second apprentice brother Lao,” Xiang Danian said. “My Master always praises Huashan apprentice brothers studying under Uncle-Master Yue. Especially apprentice brother Linghu, a very outstanding young hero. Since apprentice brother Linghu is not here yet, why don’t you come first?”

Lao Denuo pondered the situation in his head. “Little apprentice sister is under the control of Uncle-Master Dingyi, and it seems that she won’t let her go easily. We simply have no other choice but to go with her.” At that thought, he answered, “I hope this will not be an inconvenience.”

“Your coming to Hengshan is an honor. Why be so modest? Please! Please!” Xiang Danian greeted.

“Aren’t you going to invite this one?” Dingyi pointed at the old wonton seller.

Xiang Danian looked at the old man for a moment before he recognized him. “So, it is Uncle-Master He[2] from Mount Yandang!” He bowed. “What a lack of manners on my part. Uncle-Master He, will you please come to our humble house as well?”

He had guessed that this old wonton seller was the master from Mount Yandang, He Sanqi. He Sanqi made a living by selling wontons when he was young. Even after he became proficient in the martial arts, he still carried his wonton stove with him when he wandered about. The wonton stove was more or less like his trademark. Although he had tremendous skills, he did not seek fame or wealth, content to live off his small business. Everyone in the Martial World respected him. There were thousands of people selling wonton on streets and in alleys; the only one that sold wontons and also had excellent Kung Fu skills would have to be He Sanqi.

“I’ll go,” He Sanqi said with a smile, and started to clear off the wonton bowls on the table.

“We junior apprentices didn’t recognize you, respectful Master. I hope senior Master does not mind,” Lao Denuo said apologetically.

“Not at all, not at all. You came to me as my good customers, why would I mind? Nine bowls of wonton, ten coins a piece. That means you owe me ninety coins.” He Sanqi extended his left palm out after the words.

Lao Denuo was very embarrassed, and wasn’t sure if He Sanqi was just kidding.

“Hey, pay the bill after you eat. He Sanqi never said he was letting you eat for free,” Dingyi said.

“Yeah, small business, cash only. No credits or late payments, not even relatives or close friends,” He Sanqi announced.

“Of course, of course,” Lao Denuo answered. He dared not to give any extra, so he counted ninety copper coins carefully and handed the money over respectfully with both of his hands.

He Sanqi took the money, and then turned to Dingyi, with his palm out. “You broke two of my bowls and two china spoons. That comes to a total of fourteen coins.”

“You penny-pinching skinflint! You even cheat money from nuns. Yiguang, pay him the money,” Dingyi chortled.

Yiguang counted fourteen coins and handed over the money respectfully with both hands. He Sanqi took the money and threw it into a bamboo tube by the wonton stove, and then lifted the stove and said, “Let’s go!”

“We’ll take care of all the bills later. Write them up under Master Liu,” Xiang Danian said to the teashop waiter.

“Ha you all, they are all Master Liu’s guests ha you all. It is an honor to have them here ha you all. Forget about the bills, ha you all. It’s on the house,” the waiter said, beaming.

Xiang Danian distributed the umbrellas they had brought with them and then led the way at the front. Dingyi dragged the girl Lingshan of Huashan Sword School and walked side by side with He Sanqi. All the Huashan apprentices and Heng-Shan apprentices followed behind.

Lin Pingzhi thought to himself, “Let me follow them from far behind. Let’s see if I can sneak into Liu Zhengfeng’s house by any chance.”

After the group turned around a corner, he stood up and walked to the corner of the street. The group headed north, so he followed in the heavy rain by walking under the eaves by the street. After walking three long streets, he saw a big mansion by the left side of the street. Four big lanterns in front illuminated the gate. About ten people stood in front, some holding torches and others holding umbrellas, busily greeting guests. After Dingyi, He Sanqi, and others of the group walked into the house, more guests came from both ends of the street.

Lin Pingzhi plucked up his courage and walked to the gate. Two groups of guests happened to be going in the mansion led by an apprentice of the Liu House. Lin Pingzhi followed them in quietly. The greeting apprentices thought he was one of the guests and greeted, “Come in please! Have some tea please.”

Lin Pingzhi stepped into the crowded great hall. There were over two hundred people sitting at different tables and talking to each other. Lin Pingzhi calmed a little. “There are so many people here; no one will ever pay any attention to me. I just need to find those Qingcheng villains, then I will be able to find out where my mom and dad are.” So he sat down at a small table in a dark corner. Soon, servants brought tea, snacks, and hot towels for him.

He looked around, and saw the nuns of Heng-Shan Sword School sitting at a table to the left. The apprentices of Huashan Sword School were sitting around another table nearby. The girl Lingshan was sitting there also. It seemed that Dingyi had decided to let her go. But Dingyi and He Sanqi were not among them.

Lin Pingzhi surveyed one table after another, and felt a sudden shock when he saw Fang Renzhi, Yu Renhao, and a bunch of others sitting around two tables. Obviously they were all apprentices of the Qingcheng Sword School. His parents weren’t among them. He wondered where they could be kept. Feeling both sad and angry, and also fearful that his parents were already dead, he felt a strong urge to move to a table closer to them, so he could overhear some of their conversation. But considering it had been so difficult for him to get this far, if he acted recklessly and attracted the attention of Fang Renzhi and his fellows, he would be not only wasting all his efforts so far, but also getting himself into a fatal situation.

A disturbance suddenly came from near the gate. Several men in blue robes came in hurriedly carrying two door planks. Two men lay on the door planks. They were covered with white sheets that were soaked in blood. People in the hall soon gathered around them to have a closer look.

“They are from the Taishan Sword School!” Somebody muttered. “That’s Priest Tiansong of the Taishan Sword School. Wow, that wound on him looks fatal. Who’s the other one?”

“He’s an apprentice of Priest Tianmen – the Head Master of the Taishan Sword School. His name is Chi. Is he dead already?”

“Sure. Dead! Look at that knife wound – in from his chest and out his back, how could he survive that?”

Amid an uproar, the dead one and the wounded one were carried into the Back Hall. Many people followed them there. The ones remained in the great hall all began to talk about the incident.

“Priest Tiansong is an excellent fighter from the Taishan Sword School. Who would be so bold as to challenge him?”

“If this person could wound Priest Tiansong, he obviously has better Kung Fu skills. Better skills, more courage, that’s why.”

While the crowd was still discussing the incident, Xiang Danian emerged from the Back Hall and went straight to the table where all the apprentices from the Huashan Sword School were gathered.

“Apprentice brother Lao, my Master would like to have a word with you. Will you please come with me?” he asked Lao Denuo.

“Sure,” Lao Denuo answered. He stood up and followed Xiang Danian into the inner room.

They went through a long hallway, and then into a side hall. There were five armchairs placed sitting side by side at the north end of the hall. Four of them were empty, while a big red-faced Taoist priest occupied the easternmost chair. Lao Denuo knew that these five armchairs were reserved for the five Head Masters of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance. The Head Masters of Songshan, Heng-Shan, Huashan, and Hengshan hadn’t arrived yet. This red-faced Taoist priest was none other than the Head Master of the Taishan Sword School, Priest Tianmen. Nineteen senior masters sat to the side. Sister Dingyi from the Heng-Shan Sword School, Yu Canghai from the Qingcheng Sword School and He Sanqi from Mount Yandang were all among them. At the south end of the hall, upon the seat for the host, sat a short, fat, middle-aged man in expensive dark red-brown robes of silk. He was the host Liu Zhengfeng.

Lao Denuo first saluted the host Liu Zhengfeng, and then knelt down in front of Priest Tianmen with a greeting, “Apprentice of Huashan Sword School, Lao Denuo, pays his respect to Uncle-Master Tianmen.”

Priest Tianmen appeared to be full of rage, and seemed to be on the verge of exploding. “Where is Linghu Chong?” he bellowed, striking the arm of the chair heavily with his left hand. His voice was so astounding that it sounded like thunder from the sky. Even the people in the great hall could hear him and all shuddered.

“Third apprentice brother, they are looking for big apprentice brother again!” the young girl Lingshan cried.

Liang Fa nodded but did not say a word. After a while, he whispered, “Let’s all stay calm! There are so many people gathered here from different places; don’t let them look upon our Huashan Sword School with scorn.”

Lin Pingzhi couldn’t help thinking, “They are looking for Linghu Chong again. This old fellow Linghu certainly has a knack for trouble.”

Back at the Side Hall, Lao Denuo’s ears were almost deafened by the resounding bellowing from Priest Tianmen. He had to remain kneeling for quite a while before he could get a grip of himself and stand up again.

“Uncle-Master, apprentice brother Linghu departed from us in the town of Hengyang,” he answered. “We had planned to meet in Hengshan and then come to the Liu House to congratulate Uncle-Master Liu. If he doesn’t make it today, he will surely come tomorrow.”

“He still dares to come? He still has the gall to come? Linghu Chong is the big apprentice brother of your Huashan Sword School. Isn’t he supposed to be on the chivalry side of the Martial World? What is he doing hanging around with that wicked rapist, who stops at no evil, Tian Boguang! What does he think he is doing?” Priest Tianmen roared angrily.

“From what I know, big apprentice brother does not know Tian Boguang at all. Big apprentice brother is always fond of drinking; maybe he didn’t know it was Tian Boguang that he was drinking with,” Lao Denuo tried to speculate.

Stamping his foot on the floor heavily, Priest Tianmen stood up. “You are foolish to defend that damn swine Linghu Chong,” he snarled, his voice filled with rage. “Apprentice brother Tiansong, you…you tell him how you were wounded. Tell him whether Linghu Chong knew Tian Boguang.”

Two door planks were laid upon the floor to the west. A dead body lay on one, and a long-bearded Taoist priest lay on the other. The priest’s face appeared to be almost as white as a sheet, and blood soaked his entire beard. In a very low voice, he started talking.

“This morning…I…I was with nephew apprentice Chi at the Huiyan…Huiyan Wine House in…Hengyang. We saw Linghu Chong…together with Tian Boguang and a little nun….” He had to stop to catch his breath before finishing the words.

“Brother Tiansong, you don’t have to repeat the story. I will tell him what you said earlier,” Liu Zhengfeng volunteered. Turned his head to Lao Denuo, he said, “Nephew apprentice Lao, nephew apprentice Linghu and you fellow apprentices came a long way to my ceremony. I really appreciate the good will of apprentice brother Yue and all of you nephew apprentices. But we don’t know how nephew apprentice Linghu met Tian Boguang, and so we must find out the truth. Since our Five Mountains Sword Alliance is like a big family, if nephew apprentice Linghu has truly done something wrong, it is up to us to give him some advice….”

“What advice? Purge the school by chopping off his head!” Priest Tianmen shouted angrily.

“Apprentice brother Yue is always strict with respect to school rules, and the Huashan Sword School has always had a first-class reputation. This time nephew Linghu really went a little bit too far,” Liu Zhengfeng said with a sigh.

“You still call him a nephew? Nephew my ass!” Priest Tianmen swore angrily. After the words were already out, he realized that, as a Head Master of a big sword school, it was really not appropriate for him to use such foul language in front of Sister Dingyi. But it was already too late to take it back. So he let out a loud breath and sat back down angrily.

“Uncle-Master Liu, would you be kind enough to tell me what happened?” Lao Denuo requested.

Liu Zhengfeng said, “Just now, priest brother Tiansong told us: This morning, he went to the Huiyan Wine House in Hengyang with Chi Baicheng, the apprentice of priest brother Tianmen, to have a couple of drinks. When they went up to the wine house at the second floor, they saw three people drinking and eating there: the wicked rapist Tian Boguang, nephew apprentice Linghu, and the little apprentice of Sister Dingyi, Yilin. Priest brother Tiansong felt it very strange when he saw them. He didn’t know any of these three, but from their clothing, he could tell that one was an apprentice of the Huashan Sword School, and one was an apprentice of the Heng-Shan Sword School. Please hold your anger, Sister Dingyi. Nephew apprentice Yilin was coerced; it was obvious that she was not there of her own free will.

“Priest brother Tiansong said that Tian Boguang was a man of about thirty years of age dressed in nice clothes. He didn’t know who the man was, but later he heard nephew apprentice Linghu saying, ‘Brother Tian, although you have Qing-Gong[3] skills unsurpassed in the entire Martial World, if you have really bad luck, no matter how good your Qing-Gong skills are, you won’t be able to escape.’ Since his surname was Tian and he had the best Qing-Gong skills in the Martial World, there was no doubt he must have been ‘Ten Thousand Miles Loner’ Tian Boguang. Priest brother Tiansong is one who hates evil as if it were a personal enemy. When he saw the three drinking and eating together, of course he was enraged.”

“Yes!” Lao Denuo answered, thinking, “Three people drank together in the Huiyan Wine House. One was the infamous rapist, one was a little nun, and the other was the big senior apprentice of our Huashan Sword School; it was indeed quite an odd scene.”

Liu Zhengfeng continued, “He then heard Tian Boguang saying, ‘I, Tian Boguang, come and go as I please, traveling around the world alone. What’s there to worry about? Since we have already seen this little nun, why not just let her stay here and accompany us…?’”

At Liu Zhengfeng’s words, Lao Denuo cast a suspicious glance at him, and then also sneaked an as suspicious peek from the corner of his eyes at Priest Tiansong. Liu Zhengfeng understood instantly.

“Priest brother Tiansong is wounded very badly,” he said. “Of course he was unable to tell everything so clearly and continuously. I added some of my own words, but the main idea is just the same. Priest brother Tiansong, is that right?”

“Yes…yes, correct…correct!” Tiansong managed to answer.

With that confirmation, Liu Zhengfeng went on, “Nephew apprentice Chi Baicheng couldn’t stand it any more, so he struck the table with his hand and shouted, ‘Are you the evil rapist Tian Boguang? Everyone in the Martial World wants to kill you to rid the world of a scourge like you, yet here you are, bragging about yourself shamelessly. You must be tired of living!’ He drew his weapon and jumped forth to fight. Unfortunately, he was slain by Tian Boguang. It was really a pity that an outstanding young man lost his life to such an evil rapist. Priest brother Tiansong then jumped forth to fight with Tian Boguang. They fought for several hundreds rounds. Priest brother Tiansong wasn’t cautious enough and was wounded in the chest thanks to Tian Boguang’s dirty tricks. Afterwards, nephew apprentice Linghu still sat with the evil rapist and the two drank together. That is really contrary to the creed of our Five Mountains Sword Alliance. That’s why priest brother Tianmen is so angry.”

“What happened to our ideals of unity?” Priest Tianmen snarled. “We martial people should be able to tell right from wrong. Associating with such an evil rapist…such an evil rapist…!” His face turned scarlet with anger, and it almost seemed that his beard bristled.

Suddenly someone called from outside of the door, “Master, I have something to report.”

Priest Tianmen recognized it as the voice of one of his apprentices. “Come in!” he said. “What’s the matter?”

A young man about thirty years of age walked in. He first saluted to the host, Liu Zhengfeng, and all other senior masters, then he turned to Priest Tianmen and reported.

“Master, Uncle-Master Tianbai sent us the message that he has led the search for Tian Boguang and Linghu Chong the two evil rapists with apprentices of our school, but hasn’t found any trace of them….”

Hearing big apprentice brother being mentioned as the “evil rapist” group, Lao Denuo felt quite embarrassed. But it seemed big apprentice brother was really consorting with Tian Boguang, so what could he say?

“But outside the town of Hengyang, we found a corpse with a sword in his abdomen. The sword belonged to the evil rapist Linghu Chong…,” the Taishan Sword School apprentice continued.

“Who was the deceased?” Priest Tianmen asked hurriedly.

The young man gave a quick glance at Yu Canghai before answering, “He was an apprentice brother of Uncle-Master Yu. At the time when we found the body, nobody knew who he was. After we took the body back to town, someone recognized him to be apprentice brother Luo Renjie….”

Yu Canghai uttered a cry of shock and stood up instantly. “It was Renjie? Where’s the body?”

“Here it is,” someone answered from outside.

Yu Canghai was a man with good self-control. Although the bad news hit him hard so unexpectedly, and the deceased was one of the four best apprentices of Qingcheng “Ying Xiong Hao Jie,” he maintained his composure. “Nephew apprentice, please carry the body in,” he said.

“Yes,” the apprentice outside of the door responded.

Two men carried in a door plank. One of the two was an apprentice of the Hengshan Sword School, and the other was an apprentice of the Qingcheng Sword School. On the plank was a body with a sword thrust into the abdomen and going up at an angle. The sword was about three feet long, but the part protruding from the body was less than one foot long. Apparently, the tip of the sword went all the way up into the corpse’s throat. It was very rare to see this type of ruthless move that went from the bottom up in the Martial World.

“Linghu Chong, humph, Linghu Chong, how…how vicious you are,” Yu Canghai murmured.

“Uncle-Master sent the message that he is still searching for the two evil rapists. It would be better if one or two of the Uncle-Masters here could go and give him a helping hand,” the Taishan apprentice continued.

“I’ll go!” Dingyi and Yu Canghai said almost in unison.

Right at that moment, a sweet and lovely voice came from outside of the door, “Master, I am back!”

Dingyi’s expression changed immediately. “Is that Yilin? Get in here right now!” she shouted.

Everybody looked at the doorway, wanting to take a good look at this little nun, who was bold enough to drink in public with two evil rapists. The door curtain was lifted, and everyone felt as if the whole room had suddenly been brightened when the little nun walked quietly into the hall. She was possessed of grace and beauty. No one would have argued that she was a perfect creation of Heaven. She was only about sixteen years of age, and although wrapped in a big and loose nun’s robe, the curves of her body were apparent from her graceful movements. She walked till she stood in front of Dingyi, then knelt down and called out, “Master…!” After saying this, she suddenly burst into tears.

Dingyi straightened her face. “You…what has happened? How were you able to get away?” she asked anxiously.

“Master, I…I thought I would never see you again,” Yilin said in tears. Her voice was sweet and charming, and the two little hands clutching Dingyi’s sleeves were so white that they almost looked like they were carved of jade.

“How could such a beauty become a nun?” many in the room couldn’t help thinking to themselves.

Yu Canghai gave her only a quick glance, and then went back to staring at the sword in Luo Renjie’s body. There were green tassels attached to the handle of the sword. On the blade near the handle, the words “Huashan Linghu Chong” were etched on the blade. He looked around and saw Lao Denuo carrying by his waist the same kind of sword with green tassels attached to the handle. All of a sudden, he jumped toward Lao Denuo and thrust his fingers toward Lao Denuo’s eyes. The attack was as swift as it was fierce, and in an instant, the tips of his fingers had touched Lao Denuo’s eyelid. Lao Denuo was startled and hurriedly raised his arms to block the attack using a move called “Raise Fire to Burn Sky.” With a sneer, Yu Canghai rounded his left hand in a very small circle, and grabbed Lao Denuo’s hands in his left palm. Extending his right arm, he quickly unsheathed the sword by Lao Denuo’s waist.

Lao Denuo pulled hard in an effort to free his hands, which were being held by Yu Canghai, but failed miserably. And only a split of a second later, he found the tip of his own sword pointing right at his chest. “I…I am not involved!” he shouted out frantically.

Yu Canghai looked at the blade of the sword. There were words saying “Huashan Lao Denuo.” The size and the style of the words matched the other sword exactly. Lowering his wrist, he pointed the sword toward Lao Denuo’s stomach, and spoke grimly.

“Which move is this one in your respectful Huashan Sword Art that thrusts from the bottom up at an angle?”

Lao Denuo could feel cold sweat dripping from his forehead. “Our…our Huashan Sword Art does not have…have such a move,” he muttered in a quavering voice.

Yu Canghai thought, “The move that killed Renjie was thrusting up at the lower abdomen, and the tip of the sword went all the way up to the throat. Did Linghu Chong bend over and thrust upward from his backside? But after this killing, why didn’t he take his sword but intentionally left this evidence? Is he challenging the Qingcheng Sword School?” but suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted by Yilin’s voice.

“Uncle-Master Yu, this move of big brother Linghu’s is not part of the Huashan Sword Art.”

Yu Canghai turned around, his face an icy mask. “Sister, listen to the words of your respectful apprentice. What did she call this villain?”

“I have ears of my own and don’t need you to point things out to me!” Dingyi replied angrily.

She had heard Yilin referring to Linghu Chong as “big brother Linghu,” and was already angry about it. If Yu Canghai had spoken one moment later, she would have delivered a stern rebuke to Yilin, but since Yu Canghai spoke first, especially in such an impolite manner, she instead defended her apprentice.

“The words just slipped out of her mouth. What’s the big deal? Our Five Mountains sword schools are joined into one alliance; apprentices from any sword school of the Five Mountains are naturally fellow apprentices. What’s so strange about that?”

“Well! Well!” Yu Canghai laughed mockingly, as he gathered his energy from his lower abdomen, and then projected the energy from his left palm to push Lao Denuo away. Lao Denuo flew back and struck his back against a wall. Dirt and debris dropped from the ceiling from the impact.

“You think you are so innocent? Why have you been tailing me all this way? What are you up to?” Yu Canghai snapped.

After the shove and the impact, Lao Denuo felt as if his organs were turned upside down. He leaned against the wall and tried his best to not collapse. His knees were so weak that the only thing he wanted to do was to sit down on the floor. After hearing Yu Canghai’s words, he groaned inwardly. “So when little apprentice sister and I were spying on them, this crafty little crook had already known.”

“Yilin, come with me. Tell me exactly how they seized you,” Dingyi said as she pulled Yilin by the hand and walked toward the door.

Everyone knew only too well if such a beautiful little nun fell into the hands of an evil rapist like Tian Boguang, it would be nearly impossible for her to maintain her virginity. The whole story, of course, would not be appropriate to be revealed in front of other people. Obviously Sister Dingyi was going to take her somewhere private and then ask about the details.

Swiftly, Yu Canghai rushed to the doorway and blocked their way. “This incident involves two lives. Little Sister Yilin, please stay right here to tell the story,” he demanded. He paused a second and then continued, “Nephew apprentice Chi Baicheng was a member of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance. In your alliance, all are fellow apprentices; thus maybe the Taishan Sword School does not really mind that Linghu Chong killed Chi. But my apprentice Luo Renjie did not have the honor of calling Linghu Chong an apprentice brother.”

Dingyi was a very forceful woman; normally even her big senior sister Dingjing or the Head Master of Heng-Shan Sword School, senior sister Dingxian, would give way to her. How could she let Yu Canghai block her way with such impunity? Upon hearing these words, she raised her eyebrows immediately.

Liu Zhengfeng had long known of Sister Dingyi’s hot-temper. When he saw Dingyi raise her eyebrows, he knew she was ready to strike. Yu Canghai and Dingyi were both first-class masters in the Martial World. If they started a fight, things would really get out of hand. So he rushed forward and bowed deeply.

“Both of you have given me great honor by being my respectful guests here at my ceremony. For the sake of that, please do not damage the spirit of that goodwill. It is all my fault that I did not serve my guests well, I beg your pardon.” He kept bowing to both Dingyi and Yu Canghai.

Sister Dingyi let out a dry smile. “Master Liu, you really have a good sense of humor. I am only angry at this bull-nose.[4] It has nothing to do with you. Because he doesn’t allow me to leave, I leave to spite him. If he doesn’t block my way, then it is possible for me to stay.”

Yu Canghai had some degree of respect for Sister Dingyi’s fighting skills, and didn’t have total confidence in his ability to beat her in a fight. In addition, although her senior apprentice sister Dingxian had an amiable nature, it was well known that her Kung Fu skills were much greater. Even if he could win the fight today, her senior apprentice sister surely wouldn’t let it go that easily. And once he offended the Heng-Shan Sword School, there would be no end of trouble. So he also forced a dry smile.

“All I want is for Little Sister Yilin to tell us the truth about what happened. Yu Canghai dare not block the Heng-Shan White-Cloud Nunnery Master’s way.” After these words, he moved back to his seat.

“It’s good you know that,” Sister Dingyi said. She held Yilin’s hand and walked back to her seat as well.

“What on earth happened after the day we lost you?” she asked Yilin. Afraid that since Yilin was young and inexperienced, she might tell something that would disgrace both herself and the Heng-Shan Sword School, she hurriedly added, “Just tell the necessary parts. If it is irrelevant, we don’t need to know.”

“Yes, Master!” Yilin answered. “I haven’t done anything against the instructions from the senior masters. But Tian Boguang, the villain, he…he…he…!”

“I got it!” Dingyi nodded. “You don’t have to say another word now. I know everything. I will definitely slay the two villains, Tian Boguang and Linghu Chong, to assuage your anger…!”

Yilin looked at Dingyi in surprise with her crystal clear eyes. “Big brother Linghu?” she uttered. “He…he….” Tears began to fall from her beautiful eyes. In a choking voice, she said, “He…he is already dead!”

Everyone in the room was stunned by the news.

Priest Tianmen’s anger immediately vanished. “How did he die? Who killed him?” he asked in a loud voice.

“It was this…this Qingcheng…Qingcheng villain.” Yilin pointed at the body of Luo Renjie.

Yu Canghai could not help feeling proud. “So the scoundrel Linghu Chong was killed by Renjie and they ended in mutual annihilation!” he thought. “Good. Renjie the boy, I knew he had guts! He didn’t disgrace the fame of my Qingcheng Sword School.”

“So all members of your Five Mountains Sword Alliance are the good guys, and all people of my Qingcheng Sword School are bad guys?” he glared at Yilin and sneered.

Tears kept falling from her eyes, Yilin said, “I…I don’t know about that. I am not talking about you, Uncle-Master Yu. I am only talking about him.” She pointed at Luo Renjie’s body again.

“What are you scaring the child for?” Dingyi barked at Yu Canghai. “Yilin, don’t be afraid. Tell us why he was a bad guy? Your Master is here, nobody will dare give you any trouble.” She gave a glare back at Yu Canghai.

“Buddhists do not lie. Little Sister, are you willing to give a vow in the name of Buddha?” Yu Canghai demanded. He was afraid that Yilin would speak at Dingyi’s instigation and would describe Luo Renjie’s behavior as something intolerable. Since this apprentice of his had already perished along with Linghu Chong, there would be no testimony from another quarter; everybody would have the statements from a single party.

“I dare not ever lie to my Master,” Yilin said. She knelt down facing the outside, put her palms together, lowered her head and intoned, “Apprentice Yilin is reporting to her Master and the other Uncle-Masters. She dares not speak untruth. The Buddha has great powers and will verify her words.”

Everyone could sense the sincerity in her words, so all became well disposed toward her. A scholarly, black-bearded, middle-aged man had been listening by the side quietly from the beginning. He interrupted Yilin and said, “The little Sister had already vowed. Of course we will believe her words.”

“Did you hear that, bull-nose? Even Mr. Wen agrees. She will speak the truth,” Dingyi said. She knew the man’s surname was Wen, and everybody called him Mr. Wen, but she had no idea what his first name was. She only knew that he was from southern Shanxi Province and was famous for his Kung Fu with a pair of Judge’s-Pens. He was a master at pressure points.

Everyone’s eyes turned to Yilin’s face. Her glorious face brightened the entire room like a brilliant pearl or a piece of beautiful jade, in its purity and flawlessness. Even Yu Canghai thought to himself, “This little nun probably won’t tell a lie.” Silence befell the room while all waited for Yilin to start.

“Yesterday afternoon,” Yilin started, “I was following Master and my apprentice sisters, heading to the town of Hengyang. In the middle of the trip, it started to rain. As we went down the valley, I slipped and caught my fall with my hand on the rocks, so they were covered with mud and moss. After we descended into the valley, I went to a stream to wash my hands. Suddenly, beside my shadow in the stream, appeared the shadow of a man. I was so startled that I stood up immediately. Then I felt a pain in my back – he had already sealed my pressure points. I was very scared and wanted to call my Master to come and help me, but it was already too late; because of the sealed pressure points, I could not let out a sound. The man picked me up and walked about ten or twenty yards, then put me inside a cave. I was scared to death, yet couldn’t move an inch or make a sound. After quite a while, I heard the three senior apprentice sisters calling me in three different places, ‘Yilin, Yilin, where are you?’ That man just grinned and whispered to me, ‘If they come here, I’ll catch every one of them!’ The three apprentice sisters looked for me everywhere and went in other directions.

“After quite a while, hearing that my three apprentice sisters had gone far away, he released my pressure points. I immediately ran toward the opening of the cave, but this man moved a lot faster than I could, and had already blocked the way. I ended up so I running into his chest. That man burst into laughter. ‘You think you can run away?’ he said. I hurriedly jumped backwards, pulled out my long sword, and was ready to plunge it into him. But then I thought that since this man did not hurt me at all, and we Buddhists should always be merciful to others, there was no reason for me to hurt him. Killing is the first prohibition for Buddhists, so I didn’t thrust the sword.

“‘Why are you blocking my way?’ I asked. ‘If you don’t move aside, I’ll have to thrust and…cut you.’

“The man just grinned. He said, ‘Little Sister, you really have a kind heart. You just can’t bear to kill me, can you?’

“‘I don’t have any score to settle with you, why should I kill you?’ I said.

“‘That’s great! Why don’t we sit down and have a chat,’ he suggested.

“‘My Master and my apprentice sisters are looking for me. And anyway, my Master does not allow me to just speak with any man,’ I exclaimed.

“‘But you already have,’ he said, ‘so what’s the difference between a couple times more or less?’

“‘Move aside, don’t you know that my Master is very tough? If she had seen you behaving like this, she probably would have broken both your legs,’ I said.

“The man replied, ‘If you want to break my legs, go ahead. But your Master…she’s too old, I couldn’t stomach it….’”

“Nonsense! You even remembered all this rubbish?” Dingyi yelled.

Many people could not help laughing inwardly. But for the sake of Sister Dingyi, nobody dared let out a smile. All tried their best to keep looking serious.

“But he did say that,” Yilin insisted earnestly.

“Ok, ok, these type of words do not really related to the story that you are telling, so don’t mention them anymore. Just talk about how you met Linghu Chong of the Huashan Sword School.” Dingyi instructed.

“Yes, Master. The man kept talking, and just wouldn’t let me out, and said that I…I was very pretty, and wanted me to sleep….”

“Stop!” Dingyi yelled. “You kids don’t think when you speak. How can you talk about such things?”

“It was he who said that, I did not agree, and I did not sleep…,” Yilin tried to explain.

“Shut up!” Dingyi yelled even louder.

The Qingcheng apprentice who had carried the body of Luo Renjie in could not control himself anymore and let out a laugh. Dingyi was infuriated. She picked up a teacup from the table with a flourish, and flung the contents of the cup at him. She used the inner energy of the Heng-Shan Sword School when she flung the tea; it shot through the air fast and accurate. The apprentice couldn’t move aside in time, and the hot liquid splashed squarely on his face. He cried out loud from the burning pain.

“Your apprentice can talk about it, but my apprentice can’t laugh at it? How unreasonable!” Yu Canghai complained angrily.

Sister Dingyi looked at Yu Canghai out from the corner of her eyes. “Heng-Shan Dingyi has been unreasonable for many decades. Haven’t you heard?” She held the empty teacup and was ready to throw it at Yu Canghai.

Yu Canghai didn’t look at her, and even turned his body away from her.

Seeing Yu Canghai show so much confidence in himself, and knowing the good Kung Fu skills of the Qingcheng Master, Dingyi did not want to start any trouble. So she put the teacup down slowly and said to Yilin, “Go on with the story! Don’t be so wordy with things that have nothing to do with the important facts.”

“Yes, Master,” said Yilin. “I tried to get out of the cave, but that man kept blocking my way and wouldn’t let me pass. Seeing the sky become darker and darker, I was very worried and finally thrust my sword toward him. Master, I dare not violate the killing prohibition; I did not really want to kill him. I just wanted to scare him away. I used the move called ‘Golden Pins Solve the Troubles,’ but he extended his left arm and grabbed at my…my body. I was astounded, so I dodged to the side, and he snatched the sword right out of my hand. That man’s Kung Fu skills were remarkable. He held the hilt of the sword with his right hand, and the tip of the sword using his thumb and index finger of his left hand. Then he just gently bent it, and with a crisp crack, the tip of the sword broke off about an inch.”

“He broke off about an inch of the sword tip?” Dingyi repeated.

“Yes!” Yilin affirmed.

Dingyi and Priest Tianmen looked at each other, both thinking of the same thing. If Tian Boguang had only broken off the sword from the middle, it would be nothing special, but he broke an inch off the tip of the steel sword with just two fingers; the strength in his fingers must have been tremendous.”

Priest Tianmen drew a sword by an apprentice’s waist, and also held the tip of the sword with the thumb and index finger of his left hand. He bent it slightly, and with a cracking sound, he broke about an inch off the tip. “Like this?” he asked.

“Yes,” Yilin answered. “So Uncle-Master knows how to do it too!”

Priest Tianmen gave a snort and shoved the broken sword back in the apprentice’s sheath. He struck the table with his left hand; the inch of broken sword tip sunk into the table like an inlay.

“Uncle-Master, you really have marvelous skills. I guess the villain Tian Boguang probably doesn’t know how to do that,” Yilin said cheerfully. But then, her face turned pale and she lowered her head. With a gentle sigh, she said, “Ah, but Uncle-Master, you weren’t there at the time, otherwise, big brother Linghu wouldn’t have been wounded so badly.”

“What do you mean wounded badly? Didn’t you say that he was already dead?” Priest Tianmen asked.

“That’s right, if big brother Linghu wasn’t wounded so badly, he wouldn’t have been murdered by the Qingcheng villain Luo Renjie,” Yilin said remorsefully.

Hearing her mentioning of Tian Boguang as a “villain” and also calling his apprentice a “villain”, putting the apprentice of Qingcheng in the same breath as the notorious rapist, Yu Canghai could not help letting out another grunt.

Seeing tears rolling from Yilin’s pretty eyes, and that she was on the verge of tears, no one wanted to ask her further regarding Linghu Chong’s fate. Priest Tianmen, Liu Zhengfeng, Mr. Wen, and He Sanqi all couldn’t help but feel sympathy for her, and would have patted her on her back or her head to comfort her if she weren’t a nun.

Yilin wiped her tears with her sleeves and continued with the story in a sobbing voice, “The villain Tian Boguang was pushing me around and began to tear at my clothes. I tried to hit him with my hands, but he caught both of them.

“Right at that moment, somebody suddenly began to laugh loudly. ‘Ha, ha, ha,’ he laughed three times, and then after a short pause, another three times.

“‘Who is that?’ Tian Boguang asked in a stern voice.

“The man outside just kept laughing.

“‘You’d better get lost fast,’ Tian Boguang warned him. ‘Making Mister Tian angry might cost you your life!’

“The man answered with another three laughs. Tian Boguang tried to ignore him and continued to tear off my clothes, while the man outside just laughed again and again. Every time the man laughed, Tian Boguang got a bit angrier. I really hoped that the man would come to rescue me, but he knew how tough Tian Boguang was and dared not come into the cave, and just kept laughing outside.

“Tian Boguang began to pour out streams of abuse. He sealed my pressure points again and rushed out of the cave, but the man had already hidden himself. After a while, Tian Boguang still could not find him, so he came back into the cave again. As soon as he was about to reach me, the man outside of the cave began laughing again. I thought it was quite interesting and could not help laughing myself.”

Sister Dingyi gave her a hard stare and remonstrated, “You were at the moment between life and death, and you still found the time to laugh?”

Yilin’s face turned a little bit red. “True. I knew I shouldn’t have laughed, but at that moment, I don’t know why, I just did. Tian Boguang lowered his body and crept back to the opening of the cave, ready to rush out if the man outside gave out another laugh. But he was quite alert, and didn’t make a sound. Tian Boguang walked slowly toward the opening step by step. I figured it would be really bad if the man were caught, so when I saw that Tian Boguang was about to rush out, I shouted, ‘Look out, he is coming out!’

“The man laughed three laughs from a distance and said, ‘Thanks a lot, but he won’t be able to keep up with me. His Qing-Gong skills are not too good.’”

Everyone couldn’t help thinking, “Tian Boguang’s nickname is ‘Ten Thousand Miles Loner.’ He enjoys great fame in the Martial World with his outstanding Qing-Gong skills. Now someone comes along and says ‘his Qing-Gong skills are not too good,’ he must have intentionally said it so to irritate Tian Boguang.”

Yilin continued, “The villain Tian Boguang suddenly turned around and gave my face a hard pinch. I screamed in pain. Then he ran out of the cave and shouted, ‘Damn punk, let’s see whose Qing-Gong is better.’ But he was tricked. The man had been hiding by the opening of the cave, and as soon as Tian Boguang rushed out, he sneaked in.

“‘Don’t worry. I am here to save you. Which of your pressure points were sealed?’ he whispered to me.

“‘My right shoulder and my back,” I said. “It seemed to be the Jian-Zhen point and Da-Zhui point! Who are you?’

“‘Let me open up your sealed points first,’ he said, then started massaging at my Jian-Zhen and Da-Zhui points.

“Perhaps I didn’t tell him the right points; although he tried very hard, he still couldn’t release my points. We heard Tian Boguang’s shouting coming back toward us, so I said, ‘You’d better run away quickly. If he sees you when he comes back, he will kill you.’

“He replied, ‘Five Mountains Sword Alliance; the same root different branches. When an apprentice sister is in trouble, how can I not try to help?’”

“Does he belong to the Five Mountains Sword Alliance?” Dingyi asked.

“Master, he is Linghu Chong, big brother Linghu.”

Dingyi, Priest Tianmen, Yu Canghai, He Sanqi, Mr. Wen, and Liu Zhengfeng all said “oh” and nodded. Lao Denuo let out a long breath. Some people had already figured out that this man might be Linghu Chong, but no one was very sure until Yilin confirmed it.

Yilin went on with the story, “Hearing Tian Boguang’s shouting getting closer and closer, big brother Linghu said, ‘Pardon me!’ Then he carried me out of the cave and hid inside the high grass. Right after we hid ourselves, Tian Boguang ran into the cave. He could not find me and became real angry, so he began swearing and saying lots of bad words. I didn’t quite understand what he was saying. He picked up my broken sword and started slashing wildly at the high grass. Luckily it was raining that night, and there was no light from either the moon or the stars, so he could not see us. But he figured that we could not have gone far, and must have been somewhere nearby, so he kept chopping and slashing. Once the sword was so close to me that it went only a few inches above my head.

“He chopped and swore, and walked around randomly. I suddenly felt some warm drops of liquid fall on my face, and at the same time, I smelled blood. I was quite startled and asked in whisper, ‘Are you wounded?’ Big brother Linghu covered my mouth with his hand. After a long while, when we heard the sound of chopping grass going further and further away, he whispered back, ‘No problem,’ and then took his hand away from my mouth. But the warm blood just kept dripping onto my face.

“‘You are badly wounded; we’ve got to stop the bleeding,’ I said. ‘I have Heavenly Connecting Glue.’

“‘Don’t speak,’ he ordered. ‘He’ll find where we are if we move!’ and then he covered his wound with his hand.

“After a while, Tian Boguang ran back. ‘Ha-ha, so here you are. I can see you. Stand up!’ he shouted.

“Hearing his words, I could only groan inwardly. I was ready to stand up, but I simply could not move my legs….”

“You were tricked. Tian Boguang was trying to fool you. He didn’t see you at all,” Sister Dingyi cried.

“That’s right. Master, how did you know? You weren’t there at that time!” Yilin asked in surprise.

“Was that so hard to guess?” Dingyi explained. “If he had really seen you, he would have come over and killed Linghu Chong with a single chop. Why bother shouting out loud? So the lad Linghu Chong was naive, too.”

Yilin shook her head. “No, big brother Linghu thought of that as well. He immediately covered my mouth with his hand, afraid that I would scream. Tian Boguang shouted for a while and did not hear any response, so he went slashing some more grass. Big brother Linghu waited until Tian Boguang went far away, then he whispered to me, ‘Apprentice sister, if we can last another half an hour, when the blood and energy flows better around your sealed pressure points, I will be able to open them up. But since Tian Boguang will definitely turn back, we might not be so lucky again. I’d say let’s just take our chances and hide inside the cave.’”

At these words, Mr. Wen, He Sanqi, and Liu Zhengfeng all clapped their hands. “Excellent! Brave yet smart!” Mr. Wen praised.

Yilin went on, “I was scared to go back to the cave, but I already had great confidence in and admiration for big brother Linghu. If he said so, then it must be a good idea. So I said, ‘Ok.’ He picked me up again and rushed into the cave.

“After he put me down on the ground, I said, ‘I have Heavenly Connecting Glue in my pocket. It is a miraculous medicine for sealing wounds. Please…please take it out and use it on your wounds.’

“‘It’s not a good time to take it out,’ he objected. ‘I’ll wait till you can move your hands and legs again, then you can give it to me.’ He drew his sword and cut off a section of his sleeve to wrap the wound on his left shoulder.

“I finally understood that when we were hiding in the grasses, in order to protect me, when Tian Boguang cut his shoulder, he didn’t move at all and didn’t let out any sound, and in the darkness, Tian Boguang didn’t notice it. I felt so sorry for him and didn’t know why it was not a good time to take the medicine out….”

“So as you have said, Linghu Chong is actually a gentleman?” Dingyi let out a snort.

Yilin looked at her Master, her bright eyes filled with surprise. “Of course big brother Linghu is a first-class gentleman. I didn’t even know him, and he stood up and rescued me, risking his own life,” she said.

Yu Canghai said coldly, “You did not know him, but he probably had seen you before. Otherwise, how could he have such a ‘kind’ heart?” He was implying that Linghu Chong acted bravely because of her extreme beauty.

“No! He said he had never met me before. Big brother Linghu never lies to me, he never does!” Yilin rebutted. These words were spoken with such assurance, that although her voice was still gentle, the meaning was very resolute and decisive. All the people in the hall were moved by her pure confidence and all truly believed her.

Yu Canghai thought, “That rascal Linghu Chong was always reckless in a crazy way; if he didn’t act so fearlessly for beauty, then it must have been for fame. He wanted to gain fame by fighting Tian Boguang.”

Yilin continued, “After wrapping his wound, big brother Linghu continued massaging the pressure points on my shoulder and back. Soon we heard the chopping and slashing noises coming closer and closer. Tian Boguang had slashed his way to the opening of the cave. My heart thumped so hard.

“Tian Boguang came into the cave and sat down on the ground silently. I held my breath and didn’t even dare to breath. Suddenly, a great pain came from my shoulder. It came so unexpected that I couldn’t help groaning. That spoiled the whole thing. Tian Boguang laughed loudly and walked toward me with big steps. Big brother Linghu just squatted by the side and did not move.

“‘Little lamb, so you are still hiding in the cave, huh!’ Tian Boguang said with a smile. He stuck his hand out to grab me.

“I heard the sound of a sword thrust, and then I found that big brother Linghu had stabbed at Tian Boguang. Tian Boguang was startled and dropped the broken sword. But the thrust didn’t hit his vital parts. What a pity! Tian Boguang jumped back in a hurry, pulled out the knife by his waist, and began to swing it at big brother Linghu. The knife and the sword hit each other with a clang; the two started fighting. In the dark, neither of them could see. After a couple of clangs, both of them jumped backward. All I could hear was the sound of their breathing. I was scared to death.”

“How many rounds did Linghu Chong fight him?” Priest Tianmen interrupted.

“I was scared senseless at the time, and didn’t notice how long they had fought,” Yilin answered. “I heard Tian Boguang laughing and saying, ‘Ha, you are from the Huashan Sword School! The Huashan Sword Art is no match for my skills. What’s your name?’

“Big brother Linghu said, ‘Five Mountains Sword Alliance; same root different branches. Either Huashan Sword School or Heng-Shan Sword School, we are all after you, evil rapist….’ Before he could finish his words, Tian Boguang had already started his attack. It turned out that he tricked big brother Linghu into talking in order to find out where he was. After several more rounds, big brother Linghu let out a cry of pain. He was wounded again.

“Tian Boguang laughed. ‘I told you. Huashan Sword Art is no match for my skills. Even if your old Master Yue had come, himself, he’d lose, too.’ But big brother Linghu did not answer him again.

“Earlier, when I had a great pain on my shoulder, it turned out it was because the pressure points on my shoulder opened up by themselves. I felt some more pain on my back; those points were opening up too. I slowly struggled up while moving my hands around looking for the broken sword. Big brother Linghu heard the sound and said happily, ‘Your pressure points are open now! Run away! Hurry up!’

“‘Apprentice brother of the Huashan Sword School, let’s fight the villain together!’ I declared.

“‘You run away! Hurry up! We will still be no match for him even if we fight together,’ he demanded.

“Tian Boguang laughed. ‘Glad you know that! Why waste your life over something for no reason? Hey, I really like your courage. What’s your name?’

“‘If you had asked for my respectful name nicely, I would tell you, but since you asked your old man so rudely, he won’t pay any heed to you,’ big brother Linghu answered.

“Master, don’t you think that was funny? Big brother Linghu wasn’t his father, but called himself his ‘old man’.”

“That was just a rude word, it doesn’t really mean ‘his old man’!” Dingyi let out a disgruntled snort as she explained.

“Ah, I see. Big brother Linghu then said, ‘Apprentice sister, you can run to the town of Hengshan. We have lots of friends there; I am sure this villain wouldn’t dare to go there looking for you.’

“‘What if he kills you?’ I asked.

“‘He is not good enough to kill me!’ big brother Linghu yelled. ‘I will tie him up here. Why are you still here? Run! Ouch!’ With two metallic sounds made by their weapons hitting each other, big brother Linghu was wounded once more.

“He got mad and started yelling at me, ‘If you don’t leave right now, I am going to start cursing you!’

“By then I had already found the broken sword on the ground, so I shouted, ‘Let’s fight him two to one.’

“‘Nothing could be better! Tian Boguang, one man and one knife, here to fight both the Huashan Sword School and the Heng-Shan Sword School,’ Tian Boguang laughed loudly.”

“Big brother Linghu started to scold me. He yelled, ‘You foolish, little nun, you are an idiot. Go away! If you don’t go away, next time I see you, I’ll slap you!’

“Tian Boguang laughed. ‘This little nun doesn’t want to part with me. She won’t go.’

“Big brother Linghu got really mad. He shouted, ‘Are you leaving or not?’

“I said, ‘No way!’

“Big brother Linghu then said, ‘If you don’t leave now, I am going to call your Master names! Dingxian you idiotic old nun, look how you’ve taught such an idiotic little nun!’

“‘Uncle-Master Dingxian is not my Master,’ I explained.

“‘Fine, then I’ll call Sister Dingjing names!’ he said.

“‘Uncle-Master Dingjing is not my Master, either,’ I said.

“‘Bah! You’re still not leaving! I’ll call Dingyi an old idiot…!’”

Dingyi made a sour face and looked very displeased.

“Master, please don’t be angry,” Yilin said hurriedly. “Big brother Linghu meant well for me. He didn’t really want to call you anything.

“I said, ‘I am foolish by myself. It wasn’t taught by my Master!’

“Suddenly, Tian Boguang jumped forth at me and poked his finger at me. I waved my sword wildly in the darkness and forced him back.

“Big brother Linghu shouted, ‘I have a whole bunch of dirty words that I am going to use on your Master now. Aren’t you afraid?’

“‘Don’t call anyone any more names. Let’s run away together!’ I said.

“‘Your standing besides me is already blocking my moves,’ big brother Linghu shouted. ‘I can’t use my best Huashan sword moves. Once you get out, then I can kill this villain with ease.’

“Tian Boguang laughed hard and said, ‘You’ve really got some affection for this little nun, too bad that she doesn’t even know your name.’

“I thought these words from the villain were quite right, so I asked, ‘Apprentice brother of the Huashan Sword School, what’s your name? I will tell my Master when I go to Hengshan and tell her that you saved my life.’

“Big brother Linghu said, ‘Go away! Hurry up! You are too wordy! My name is Lao, Lao Denuo!’”

Hearing his own name mentioned, Lao Denuo was stunned. “Why did big apprentice brother go under my name?” he thought aloud, feeling utterly confused.

“This Linghu Chong does kind things and walks away from the fame. That is the true characteristic of we chivalrous people,” Mr. Wen nodded and murmured to himself.

Sister Dingyi glanced at Lao Denuo and murmured, “This Linghu Chong was so rude, and even dared call me names. He was probably afraid that I would go after him because of that, so he wanted to pin the blame on somebody else.”

“Hey, so you’re the one who called me an old idiot?” she glared at Lao Denuo.

Lao Denuo bowed hurriedly. “No, no! I dare not!”

“Sister Dingyi,” Liu Zhengfeng cut in with a smile, “Linghu Chong had his reasons for using his apprentice brother Lao Denuo’s name. This nephew apprentice Lao joined Huashan Sword School with his previously learned skills. Although his seniority is low, his age is not. With a great bush of beard, he could pass for Yilin’s grandfather.”

Dingyi immediately understood that Linghu Chong did so to protect Yilin’s reputation. At that time, it was totally dark in the cave; no one could recognize anyone else, even when face- to-face. If Yilin got away and mentioned that it was Lao Denuo of Huashan Sword School who saved her, no one could think up snide comments to defame her with such an old man. This not only protected Yilin’s reputation, but also protected the reputation of the Heng-Shan Sword School. When she thought of this, she could not help letting a little smile creep to her face.

“This lad really is thoughtful.” She nodded. “Yilin, what happened after that?”

Yilin answered, “By then I still didn’t want to leave. I said, ‘Big brother Lao, you got yourself into danger all because of me, how can I leave you in danger? If my Master learned that I was such a coward and didn’t care about fellow apprentices, she would kill me herself. Master always taught us that although we are all females in the Heng-Shan Sword School, with regard to chivalry, we are never bettered by any man!’”

“Excellent, excellent! You said it right!” Dingyi applauded and shouted out. “For we Kung Fu practitioners, whoever does not exercise chivalry is better dead than alive. No matter man or woman, it’s all the same.”

Seeing the solemn expression on her face when she said these words, everyone could see that the spirit of the old nun was really no less than that of any man.

Yilin continued, “But then big brother Linghu began to scold me profusely. ‘You darn idiotic little nun,’ he said, ‘all you do is talk and talk and talk, and stop me from being able to use my unbeatable Huashan Sword Art. My old life is destined to be lost in Tian Boguang’s hands. So you’re in league with Tian Boguang and purposely set me up. I, Lao Denuo, am so unlucky today, seeing a nun right after I start on my trip. And it is a rotten little nun that will have no son, no grandson, no nothing. Even with the super strong and super powerful magical sword arts I know, I am unable to use them, because I fear that the energy of my sword strikes would hurt the little nun’s life. Alright! Very well! Tian Boguang, just give me a good chop and let’s finish it off. This old man will just have to go to his fate today!’”

All Linghu Chong’s dirty words told in Yilin’s sweet and gentle voice brought inadvertent smiles of amusement to the lips of the listeners.

Then Yilin said, “After hearing these words, I realized I couldn’t do him any good because my Kung Fu skills were so poor, and my staying in the cave would block his way and prevent him from using his magical Huashan Sword Art….”

“He was just bragging! His Huashan Sword Art is just average. What makes it so invincible in the Martial World?” Dingyi snorted.

“Master, he was just trying to scare off Tian Boguang,” Yilin said. “Hearing more and more abuses coming out of his mouth, I said unwillingly, ‘Big brother Lao, I am leaving! Hope to see you later!’

“‘Get lost you smelly rotten duck egg,’ he scolded. ‘The further you get lost the better! ‘Once a man sees a nun, he loses all his bets!’ I didn’t see you before, and I will never see you again. Gambling is my favorite hobby; why would I ever want to see you again?’”

Hearing this, Dingyi could not contain her anger. She stood up and yelled in a stern voice, “That scum! Did you leave?”

“I was afraid to make him even angrier, so I left,” Yilin said. “Once I stepped out of the cave, I heard the clash of weapons getting more and more intense. I figured that if the villain Tian Boguang won, he would be after me again. If the ‘big brother Lao’ won, after he came out and saw me outside of the cave, he would ‘lose all his bets’ because of me, so I clenched my teeth and ran as fast as I could to catch up with you, respectful Master. Then I could ask you to help fight the villain Tian Boguang.”

Dingyi hummed and nodded.

“Master, big brother Linghu later lost his life; was that because of…of seeing me, and getting bad luck?” Yilin asked out of the blue.

“Drop that ‘once a man sees a nun, he loses all his bets’ nonsense!” Dingyi said angrily. “How could you have believed that? There are so many people here that have seen us, do all of them have bad luck now?”

People in the hall bit their lips to keep from commenting on her question.

“Yes, Master,” Yilin answered. “I ran till dawn and saw the town gate of Hengyang in the horizon. I calmed down a little and thought that I could probably find my Master in Hengyang. But who’d expected that right at that moment, Tian Boguang caught up with me. As soon as I saw him my legs went weak, and just after several steps, he caught me again. I thought that since he had chased me here, big brother Lao must have been murdered in the cave. I felt indescribable sadness.

“With so many people on the streets, Tian Boguang didn’t dare to be rude to me. He just said, ‘If you follow me without making any trouble, I won’t do anything bad to you. If you don’t listen to me, then I will tear off your clothes right away and let all these people on the streets laugh at you.’

“I was very scared and dared not fight back, just followed him into the town. When we arrived at the Huiyan Wine House, he said, ‘Little Sister, you have the type of natural beauty that will attract…attract even the wild geese to land. This Huiyan Wine House must have been opened just for you.[5] Let’s go in and have a drink and some fun.’

“I said, ‘We Buddhists don’t eat flesh or drink alcohol. This is the rule of our White-Cloud Nunnery.’

“He said, ‘I am sure you have lots of rules in your White-Cloud Nunnery. Are you really going to follow all of them? Later I will teach you how to break some more rules. Rules and regulations are all bogus. Your Master…your Master….’” At these words, she gave Dingyi a sneaky glance and dared not to continue.

“You don’t need to mention the nonsense this villain spouted. Just say what happened next.” Dingyi instructed.

Yilin answered, “Yes, Master. Then I said, ‘You are talking nonsense, my Master would never hide in secret places to drink wine and eat dog meat.’”

The people in the hall simply could not help but laugh. Yilin did not repeat the words of Tian Boguang, yet from her own words, everyone knew what Tian Boguang must have said about Dingyi.

Dingyi made a sour face and thought, “This child is too honest. She doesn’t know what to say and what not to.”

Yilin continued, “The villain grabbed my collar and threatened, ‘If you don’t go up to the wine house and drink with me, I’ll tear your clothes off.’

“I had no choice but to go up to the wine house with him. The villain ordered some wine and dishes. He was really mean. I told him that I couldn’t eat flesh, yet he intentionally ordered dishes of beef, pork, poultry, and fish. He threatened that if I didn’t eat, he would tear off my clothes. Master, I simply refused to eat those dishes. Buddhists are restricted from eating flesh. I couldn’t violate the prohibition. If the villain wanted to tear off my clothes because of that, then fine, but it wouldn’t be my fault.

“Right at that moment, a man walked up to the wine house. He had a sword hanging by his waist; his face was pale and his clothes were bloodstained. He sat by our table in silence, picked up the bowl of wine in front of me and poured all of it down his throat in a single gulp. He poured himself another bowl of wine and raised the bowl toward Tian Boguang. ‘Please!’ he said. He turned to me and said, ‘Please!’ Then he drank that bowl as well.

“As soon as I heard his voice, I felt very surprised and very happy. It turned out he was ‘big brother Lao’ who had saved me in the cave. Thank the Buddha! He escaped from Tian Boguang’s murdering hands. But he had bloodstains all over him. In order to rescue me, he had been really badly wounded!

“Tian Boguang looked at him from head to toe and back again. ‘It’s you!’

“‘It’s me!’ he replied.

“Tian Boguang raised his thumb to him and praised him, ‘Good man!’

“He raised his thumb and replied, ‘Good knife skills!’

“The two both began to laugh loudly and drank bowls of wine at the same time. I was quite surprised: They had fought so fiercely last night, why have they suddenly become friends now? I was very pleased to know that this man did not die; but since he was a friend of Tian Boguang, the villain, I became worried again.

“‘You are not Lao Denuo!’ Tian Boguang protested. ‘Lao Denuo is a dried up old geezer. He can’t be as young and carefree as you.’

“I sneaked a glance at him. He was only in his twenties, so last night when he said ‘This old man has lived such a long life,’ he was really fooling Tian Boguang.

“‘I am not Lao Denuo,’ the man admitted with a smile.

“Tian Boguang struck the table with his palm. ‘Yeah, you are Huashan Linghu Chong. You’re a somebody in the Martial World.’

“Big brother Linghu admitted again. ‘You really flatter me! Linghu Chong is only your defeated opponent. This is very embarrassing!’ he said.

“‘No fight, no acquaintance!’ Tian Boguang grinned. ‘Why don’t we be friends? If brother Linghu likes this pretty little nun, I’ll just let you have her. I am not the kind who values chicks above friendship.’”

Dingyi’s face turned dark, but she only murmured, “That evil rapist, that evil rapist…!”

Yilin almost began to cry again. “Master, big brother Linghu suddenly started scolding me again. ‘This little nun has no color in her face,’ he said. ‘All she eats everyday are vegetables and bean curds; her face can’t look that good. Brother Tian, I get real riled when I see nuns. I really wish I could exterminate all the nuns in the world!’

“‘Why?’ Tian Boguang asked while laughing.

“‘To tell you the truth, I have a small hobby – gambling,’ big brother Linghu said. ‘Gambling is my life. Every time I see some dice, I’d forget my own name. But as soon as I see a nun, I can just forget about gambling for the rest of the day. No matter what I bet or gamble on, I will assuredly lose. This happens every single time. And it happens not only to me, but also to all my fellow apprentices of the Huashan Sword School. So every time when we, apprentices of the Huashan Sword School, see Uncle-Masters and apprentice sisters from the Heng-Shan Sword School, although everyone looks very respectful on the outside, we all curse the bad luck inside!’”

Dingyi simply could not stand this anymore; she turned her hand and gave Lao Denuo a resounding slap to the face. The move was fast and accurate. Lao Denuo had no chance of dodging. He just felt great dizziness, and almost fell to the ground.

[1]  Uncle-Master is the title used when a junior calls a senior master who is the apprentice brother/sister of the junior’s Master. It is used regardless of the gender of the senior master.

[2] Pronounced as “hur”, not “he.”

[3]  A form of Chinese Martial Arts that will allow the practitioner to jump higher and further, or run faster than an average person. The technique is a combination of physical exercises and breathing exercises.

[4]  “Bull-nose” is a mean name for Taoist Priests.

[5]  In Chinese, Huiyan means attracting the wild geese back.