The Smiling, Proud Wanderer - 第4章 Seat-Fighting

“Sister,” Liu Zhengfeng said, smiling politely, “there’s really no need to be so angry. Nephew apprentice Linghu only said that nonsense to Tian Boguang in order to rescue your brilliant little apprentice. Did you actually believe he meant what he said?”

“You mean he said all that in order to rescue Yilin?” Dingyi was struck with surprise.

“That is my belief.” Liu Zhengfeng nodded. “Nephew apprentice Yilin, what do you think?”

“Big brother Linghu was a good person, only…only a little bit without manners when he spoke. But Master, if you are going to be angry, I dare not continue!” Yilin lowered her head.

“Tell me everything! Tell everything without omitting any details. I want to know what on earth he was thinking, good or evil! If this fellow was really a rascal, then, even though he’s dead, I will make old man Yue pay for it.” Dingyi yelled.

Yilin murmured a few words, but was too afraid to continue.

“Keep talking! Don’t be so concerned about him. Are you afraid that we won’t be able to distinguish between what’s good and what’s evil?” Dingyi demanded.

“Yes, Master!” Yilin said.

“‘Brother Tian,’ big brother Linghu said, ‘we are people of the Martial World – we live our lives on the sword’s edge. Someone with better-developed skills does possess certain advantages, but eventually, we all have to count on our luck. Don’t you agree? When facing someone that has about the same level of fighting skills, life and death depends entirely on luck. This little nun is as scrawny as a chicken that weighs no more than three pounds. Even if she were as pretty as a goddess from heaven, I still wouldn’t have anything to do with her. Life is definitely much more important. Putting women before friendship is wrong! Putting women before life is just plain stupid. It’s to everyone’s best interest that no one touches this little nun at all.’

“‘Brother Linghu,’ Tian Boguang sneered, ‘I thought you were a man that feared nothing. Why are you so superstitious about nuns?’

“‘Hey,’ big brother Linghu exclaimed, ‘I have really bad luck every time I see a nun. It’s quite consistent. I simply can’t ignore the fact. For example, I was perfectly fit last night before I met this little nun. Then, without even seeing her face, just by hearing her voice, I ended up with three stab wounds from you, which almost cost me my life. If this isn’t bad luck, then what is?’

“‘That’s right!’ Tian Boguang burst into loud laughter.

“Big brother Linghu then said, ‘Brother Tian, I don’t talk with nuns. Why don’t you just let the little nun get lost, so we can enjoy our drinks in peace? Trust me! I am giving you valuable advice. Even one touch to that little nun will bring you incredibly bad luck, and when you wander about the Martial World, trouble will follow you everywhere, unless you become a monk yourself. How can you risk the Three Venoms of the World?’

“‘What are the Three Venoms of the World?’ Tian Boguang asked.

“Big brother Linghu put on a very surprised face. ‘Brother Tian,’ he said, ‘you have been to many places in the Martial World and experienced many things. How can you not know of the ‘Three Venoms of the World?’ It is indeed well said: Nuns, arsenic and golden striped snakes, do not touch for heaven’s sake! Nun is the first venom, arsenic is another, and golden striped snake is the third. And if you notice, among these three, nun is ranked number one. These words are common knowledge to the male apprentices in our Five Mountains Sword Alliance.’”

Dingyi’s anger erupted like a volcano. She struck the table with her palm so heavily that it almost collapsed. “What a damn load of…,” she swore loudly. At the last moment, she managed to control herself and did not spit out the dirty word.

Lao Denuo, who had already learned his lesson, was keeping his distance from her. Seeing her angry red face, he instantly took another step back.

Liu Zhengfeng sighed. “Nephew apprentice Linghu had good intentions, but he may have gone a bit far making up so much nonsense. But let’s look at it another way: when one talks with a villain like Tian Boguang, if he doesn’t speak with conviction, it can’t be easy to trick him.”

“Uncle-Master Liu, are you saying that big brother Linghu made everything up to fool Tian Boguang?” Yilin asked.

“Of course!” answered Liu Zhengfeng. “How can we have such silly and rude sayings in our Five Mountains Sword Alliance? In one more day, it will be time for my hand-washing ceremony. I definitely want to have good luck. If anyone had any prejudice with regard to your respectful school, why would Sister Dingyi and all these nephew apprentices be so courteously invited to my house?”

Hearing these words, Dingyi was mollified. She acknowledged with a slight snort but complained, “What a foul mouth this Linghu Chong has! I wonder what scoundrel taught him his manners.” Obviously, the hidden meaning behind her comment was that she thought Linghu Chong’s Master, the Master of Huashan Sword School, was also to be blamed for his student’s actions.

“Sister, please don’t be angry,” Liu Zhengfeng said. “That Tian Boguang has some top-notch Kung Fu skills. Nephew apprentice Linghu could not hope to beat him in a fight, and seeing that nephew apprentice Yilin was in great danger, he had to make something up in the hopes that the villain would let her go. Think, Tian Boguang has been to many places in the Martial World and has experienced many things. It is not easy to fool him. Now, there are certainly stupid people who are prejudiced against nuns; so nephew apprentice Linghu just used this as his hook. We live in this Martial World, and sometimes we have to do what is expedient. If nephew apprentice Linghu did not respect the Heng-Shan Sword School, if people of the Huashan Sword School, including Mr. Yue, did not sincerely respect the three senior Sisters, why would he try so hard to rescue an apprentice of the Heng-Shan Sword School?”

“Thank you for the kind words.” Dingyi nodded. “So did Tian Boguang let you go because of that?” she turned back to Yilin.

“No,” Yilin shook her head.

“Big brother Linghu then said, ‘Brother Tian, your Qing-Gong is the best in the world, but if you are cursed, you can never outrun your bad luck, no matter how good your Qing-Gong is.’

“Tian Boguang seemed a little tentative. He glanced at me, and then shook his head. ‘I come alone and leave alone, going where I please. Why get so worked up? Since we have already seen this little nun, why not just let her stay here and be our company.’

“Right in that instant, a young man from the next table suddenly drew his sword and rushed in front of Tian Boguang. ‘Are you…are you Tian Boguang?’ he yelled.

“‘I am. And?’ Tian Boguang answered.

“‘You evil rapist,’ the young man exclaimed, ‘I’m going to kill you! Everyone in the Martial World wants you dead, yet here you are, bold as can be. You must be longing for death!’ He thrust his sword at Tian Boguang. The moves he used were from the Taishan Sword School sword style. And that was him, the apprentice brother.” She pointed at the corpse on the door plank.

“Chi Baicheng, what a good lad! Very good!” Priest Tianmen nodded.

Yilin went on with the story.

“Tian Boguang made a slight movement of his body and a knife suddenly appeared in his hand. ‘Sit down. Sit down. Drink wine. Drink!’ he said with a smile. Then he put his knife back into its sheath.

“No one knew exactly how it happened, but the apprentice brother of the Taishan Sword School had been slashed across the chest. Blood gushed from the knife wound. He stared at Tian Boguang, stumbled a little, and then fell down on the floor.”

She turned and cast a glance at Priest Tiansong. “That Uncle-Master of the Taishan Sword School immediately rushed forward to confront Tian Boguang, and started a vigorous attack. The moves that Uncle-Master used were very good, but Tian Boguang remained sitting down and simply blocked them with his knife. That Uncle-Master attacked with over thirty moves, and Tian Boguang blocked every one of them while sitting down, never even bothering to stand up.”

Priest Tianmen’s face turned dark. He looked at the apprentice brother lying on the door plank.

“Junior apprentice brother, was that villain’s Kung Fu really this good?” he asked.

Priest Tiansong gave a long sigh and turned his head away slowly.

Yilin continued, “Then big brother Linghu drew his sword and thrust it toward Tian Boguang as well. Tian Boguang blocked the thrust with his knife and stood up.”

“That can not be right!” Dingyi cut her off. “Priest Tiansong attacked with over thirty moves, yet Tian Boguang did not stand up. Why did he stand up when Linghu Chong only attacked once? How could Linghu Chong’s Kung Fu be better than Priest Tiansong’s?”

“Tian Boguang had his reasons,” Yilin explained. “‘Brother Linghu,’ Tian Boguang said, ‘I look upon you as a friend. When you attack me, if I remain sitting down, it would be disrespectful. Although my Kung Fu skills are better than yours, I respect your personality, so no matter who wins the fight, I have to stand up to fight. But for that bull…bull-nose…well, it’s a different story.’

“‘Hmm,’ big brother Linghu said, ‘thank you for the courtesy. You are giving me too much praise.’ Then he attacked with three continued thrusts. Master, the three thrusts were so swift and fierce, the flash of the sword covered Tian Boguang’s entire upper body….”

“That is one of old man Yue’s valued moves called something like ‘Three Peaks of Mount Huashan’.” Dingyi nodded. “It is said that the second thrust is fiercer than the first one, and the third one is even fiercer than the second one. So how did Tian Boguang fend that off?”

“Tian Boguang blocked one thrust and took a step back, blocked another thrust and took another step, so he stepped back a total of three paces. ‘Nice moves!’ he cheered, and then turned to Uncle-Master Tiansong. ‘Hey, bull-nose! Why didn’t you join him and attack me together?’ Right after big brother Linghu began the first thrust, Uncle-Master Tiansong stepped back and just stood by the side, watching.

“‘I am a gentleman of honor from the Taishan Sword School. Why would I humiliate myself by fighting side by side with such an evil rapist?’ Uncle-Master replied coldly.

“‘Don’t mistake apprentice brother Linghu,’ I could not help saying, ‘he is a good person!’

“‘He is a good person? Ha-ha, he is a wonderful person that commits evil deeds with Tian Boguang!’ Uncle-Master Tiansong sneered.

“Suddenly, Uncle-Master Tiansong uttered a loud cry and then pressed his hands to his chest with a great look of disbelief on his face. Tian Boguang returned his knife to its sheath. ‘Sit down. Sit down! Drink wine! Drink!’ he said.

“Seeing blood seeping through Uncle-Master Tiansong’s fingers, I had no idea what kind of magic knife move Tian Boguang had just used. I didn’t even see him moving his arm or swinging his knife, and Uncle-Master Tiansong had already been wounded in the chest. The thrust must have been executed with extreme speed. I was so scared and started screaming. ‘Don’t…don’t kill him!’

“Tian Boguang grinned, ‘The little beauty says no killing, I won’t kill you then!’ he said.

“Uncle-Master Tiansong covered his wound with his hands and rushed down the stairs. Big brother Linghu was about to run after him and help, but Tian Boguang grabbed him. ‘Brother Linghu,’ he said, ‘this bull-nose is too arrogant. He would rather die than asking for your help. Why go asking for trouble?’ Big brother Linghu shook his head, let out a wry smile, and poured two full bowls of wine down his throat.

“Master, I was thinking, we Buddhists have five primary prohibitions, and the fifth one is the prohibition against alcohol. Although big brother Linghu was no Buddhist, it was still not good to drink wine nonstop like that. But I dared not say a thing to him, afraid that he was going to scold me and say something like ‘Once one sees a nun….’”

“Those insane words of Linghu Chong should never be mentioned again,” Dingyi admonished.

“Yes, Master!” Yilin answered.

“What happened after that?” Dingyi asked.

“‘That bull-nose’s Kung Fu is not bad at all,’ Tian Boguang said. ‘My attack wasn’t slow, yet he was able to move three inches back and barely escape my deathblow. Taishan Sword School’s Kung Fu has some real stuff. Brother Linghu, since this bull-nose ran away alive, you’re probably going to have quite some trouble after today. I intended to kill him just now and save you from further trouble, but too bad, I didn’t quite make it.’

“‘I get into trouble everyday,’ big brother Linghu said with a smile. ‘Forget about the darn trouble. Let’s drink. Brother Tian, if you had chopped the same way at me earlier – my Kung Fu is no match for Uncle-Master Tiansong – I wouldn’t have made it out alive.’

“‘I held back some when I fought with you,’ Tian Boguang grinned. ‘That’s because I wanted to thank you for not killing me in the cave last night.’

“I felt very confused. Does that mean big brother Linghu was actually the winner when they fought in the cave, and big brother Linghu granted mercy for his life?”

At these words, everybody showed a disapproving face. They all thought that Linghu Chong shouldn’t have been so courteous to Tian Boguang, who was such an evil rapist.

Yilin went on, “‘Last night in the cave,’ big brother Linghu said, ‘I had already tried my best. My skills are not as good as yours. How dare I grant you mercy?’

“Tian Boguang burst into a loud laugh. ‘When you and the little nun were hiding in the cave,’ he said, ‘the little nun made a noise and I found out her whereabouts, but you were still holding your breath and I really had no idea that someone else was also hiding in the shadows. I was just about to grab the little nun and break all her prohibitions. All you had to do was to wait a little bit longer till I was fully enjoying myself, and then thrust your sword. You could have easily sent me on my way. Brother Linghu, you are not a twelve-year old boy; you know how things are done. I know you are a true man of honor who does not want to kill from behind one’s back, that’s why you only poked me slightly on my shoulder.’

“Big brother Linghu rebuffed him, ‘If I had waited a little bit longer, the little nun would have already been humiliated by you. Listen to me. Yes, I get angry every time I see a nun, but since Heng-Shan Sword School is a member of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance, and you were attacking one of its members. Something like that can not be tolerated.’

“‘Well,’ Tian Boguang grinned. ‘If you had just stabbed three inches deeper, I would have lost my whole arm. Why did you draw back your sword after you poked me?’

“‘I am an apprentice of the Huashan Sword School,’ big brother Linghu said. ‘I don’t attack people from behind. You chopped me in the shoulder earlier. I stabbed you in the shoulder as payback to get even, so we could fight a fair fight. Nobody would have any advantage on the other.’

“Tian Boguang laughed loudly. ‘Great! I am glad to make you a friend. Come on, let’s drink another bowl.’

“‘My Kung Fu is not as good as yours, but my drinking tolerance is much better than yours,’ big brother Linghu said.

“‘Are you sure? I don’t think so. You want a contest. Come on, let’s first drink ten bowls of wine each,’ Tian Boguang proposed.

“‘Brother Tian,’ big brother Linghu said with a frown, ‘I thought you were a real man who wouldn’t take advantage of others, that’s why I wanted to bet on the drinking contest. But apparently I was wrong. I am really disappointed.’

“Tian Boguang looked at him from the corner of his eyes. ‘How am I taking advantage of you?’ he asked.

“‘You know very well that I don’t like nuns,’ big brother Linghu said. ‘Every time I see a nun I feel uncomfortable and lose my appetite. How can I still have a drinking contest with you?’

“Tian Boguang laughed again. ‘Brother Linghu,’ he said, ‘I know you are trying every trick you can to save this little nun. But I love beautiful women more than my own life. I’ve picked this beautiful little nun, and I’ll never let her go. If you want me to let her go, there is only one way to make me.’

“‘All right, spit it out then,’ big brother Linghu said. ‘Even if I have to go up a hill of knives or swim in a pot of boiling oil, I’ll do it. If I hesitate at your request, then I am not a true man.’

“Tian Boguang filled two bowls with wine. ‘Drink this bowl of wine and then I’ll tell you,’ he said with a big grin.

“Big brother Linghu picked up the bowl and said, ‘Bottom’s up!’ then bolted it down his throat. Tian Boguang also drank a bowl of wine. ‘Brother Linghu,’ he said, ‘I see you as my friend. The rule of the Martial World is that there will be no molestation of a friend’s wife. If you agree to marry this little nun…little nun….’” Yilin’s face blushed while she spoke out these words. She stared at her feet and her voice became lower and lower. At the last word, her voice was so low that people could hardly discern her words.

Dingyi struck the table with her palm and yelled, “Nonsense! More and more obscenity! What happened after that?”

In a very soft tone Yilin said, “Tian Boguang kept spouting nonsense. ‘For a true man, once his word is given, even a wagon with four horses cannot drag it back. If you agree to marry…marry her, I’ll let her go right away. I will also bow to her and apologize to her. There is no other way but that!’

“‘Bah!’ big brother Linghu rebuffed. ‘Do you want me to have bad luck for the rest of my life? Never mention that again.’

“Tian Boguang then said a lot more nonsense such as that once the hair grows back, a nun is not a nun anymore, and a lot of other crazy words that are ridiculous to speak aloud. I covered up my ears and tried not to listen.

“‘Shut up!’ big brother Linghu cried out. ‘Stop making such crass jokes. You are driving me insane! How can I still participate in the contest when I am going insane? If you don’t let her go, then let’s fight till one of us drops dead.’

“‘You are no match for me in a fight!’ Tian Boguang said with a smirk.

“‘If we fight while standing up,’ big brother Linghu said, ‘I am not good enough to challenge you. But if we fight while sitting down, you are no match for me!’”

Everyone still remembered from Yilin’s story that Tian Boguang blocked over twenty fierce attacks from a Taishan Sword School master, Priest Tiansong, without leaving his seat. It was quite obvious he was very good at fighting while sitting down. Apparently, Linghu Chong was intentionally trying to irritate him with these words.

“When one meets with such a villain, it might be a good idea to irritate him first before attacking,” He Sanqi said with a nod.

“Hearing these words,” Yilin went on, “Tian Boguang did not get angry at all. He simply said with a grin, ‘Brother Linghu, Tian Boguang admires your courage and personality, not your Kung Fu.’

“Big brother Linghu immediately followed, ‘Linghu Chong admires your fast knife strokes while standing up, but not your fast knife strokes while sitting down.’

“‘There’s something you don’t know,’ Tian Boguang explained. ‘When I was a young boy, my legs had problems. For two years, I was only able to practice my knife skills sitting down. Fighting while sitting down is actually my specialty. Just now when I was fighting the bull…bull…priest, I wasn’t really deriding his skills; I was just used to fighting while sitting down, so I got lazy and didn’t bother standing up. Brother Linghu, you are not as good as I am in this department.’

“‘Brother Tian, there’s something you don’t know either,’ big brother Linghu also started explaining. ‘Because of the problems of your legs, you had to practice your knife skills while sitting down for two years. That was only two years. My other Kung Fu skills are not as good, but fighting while sitting down, I am really better. I practice my sword skills while sitting down every single day.’”

At these words, all eyes turned toward Lao Denuo, all wondering, “Is there really a special Huashan sword form that is practiced while sitting down?”

Lao Denuo shook his head. “Big senior brother was just kidding. Our sword school does not have such a type of martial arts.”

Yilin went on with the story, “Tian Boguang appeared to be taken by surprise. ‘Really?’ he said. ‘Then I must be ignorant. I’d like to see this Huashan Sword School’s Sit…Sit…What’s the name of the sword art?’

“‘This sword art was not taught by my respectful Master. I created it myself,’ big brother Linghu grinned.

“Tian Boguang’s face turned solemn at these words. ‘I see,’ he said. ‘Brother Linghu, you must be a genius. That is very admirable!’”

Everyone in the hall knew exactly why Tian Boguang was so moved. In one’s study of the Martial Arts, it was very difficult to create a new set of sword arts or hand fighting forms. One would have to have both first-class Kung Fu skills and outstanding knowledge and intelligence to find a way to create new moves. A big school like the Huashan Sword School had been in existence for several hundred years. Each move of Huashan Sword School’s martial arts moves was improved and tested thousands of times. It would have been very difficult to even modify just one of its existing moves, let alone to create a new set of sword arts.

“Did big senior brother create a new set of sword arts?” Lao Denuo thought to himself. “How come he never mentioned this to the Master?”

Yilin continued, “Big brother Linghu grinned. ‘This set of sword arts is very smelly. There is nothing to admire about it.’

“Tian Boguang was confused. ‘Why is it very smelly?’ he asked. I was also very confused. A set of sword arts could be bad; how could it be smelly?

“Big brother Linghu then explained, ‘Well, to tell you the truth, every morning when I go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet, there are always annoying flies flying around, so I would pick up my sword and try to kill the flies. In the beginning, I could hardly hit any of the flies, but after many days, my thrusts got better, and I could hit some of them. Gradually, my mind and thrusts worked in harmony, and I was able to create a set of sword arts out of thrusting at the flies. When I use this sword art, I am always sitting on a toilet, so of course it would be a bit smelly.’

“Hearing this, I could not help laughing. Big brother Linghu was so funny. How could anyone practice sword arts like that? But when Tian Boguang heard these words, his face turned livid.

“‘Brother Linghu,’ he said angrily, ‘I see you as a friend, but what you said is just going too far. Are you saying that I am just a fly in the toilet? Well, then let me take a look at your…your…!’”

People in the hall could not help nodding. It was well known that when first-class Kung Fu masters fought, if one became impetuous, then he had lost thirty percent chance of winning. Linghu Chong’s words were obviously intended to enrage Tian Boguang, and now Tian Boguang did get angry, so he had already stepped into the trap.

“Very good!” Dingyi remarked. “And then?”

Yilin went on, “Big brother Linghu chuckled. ‘I practice this sword art just for fun, and never intended to use it to fight with anybody. Brother Tian, please don’t get the wrong impression. I would never compare you to a fly in the toilet.’ I couldn’t help laughing again.

“Tian Boguang got even angrier. He pulled out his knife and smacked it on the table. ‘Well, then let’s all sit down and see who’s better.’ Seeing the fierce look in his eyes, I was very frightened. Obviously he had decided to kill big brother Linghu.

“Big brother Linghu said, ‘Fighting while sitting down, my Kung Fu is better, and you can’t possibly win. We just became good friends, brother Tian, why destroy our relationship? Besides, Linghu Chong is a true man. I don’t want to use what I am really good at to take advantage of a friend.’

“‘I wished for it myself; nobody will blame you for taking advantage of me,’ Tian Boguang scoffed.

“‘Brother Tian, are you sure you really want it?’ big brother Linghu asked.

“‘Definitely!’ Tian Boguang said without hesitation.

“‘And you are sure you want to fight while we sit down?’ big brother Linghu asked again.

“‘Yes! Definitely fight while sitting down!’ Tian Boguang confirmed again.

“Big brother Linghu then said, ‘Alright! If you say so! But we have to establish some rules first. Here it goes: before one can claim to be the victor, whoever stands up loses the contest.’

“‘Exactly! Before one can claim to be the victor, whoever stands up loses the contest,’ Tian Boguang agreed.

“‘So what penalty shall we give to the loser?’ big brother Linghu asked.

“‘Whatever you say,’ Tian Boguang answered.

“‘Let me think about it,’ big brother Linghu requested. He paused for a second and then said, ‘Very well! First, starting from today, if the loser sees the little nun again, he shall behave himself. No impolite behavior or words. And as soon as he sees her, he shall bow in respect and say, ‘Little Sister, apprentice Tian Boguang asks after your health.’

“‘Bah, what do you mean? How do you know I am going to lose? What if you lose?’ Tian Boguang complained.

“‘Same for me,’ big brother Linghu answered without hesitation. ‘No matter who loses, he shall have to submit to Heng-Shan Sword School to be the grand-apprentice of Old Sister Dingyi and apprentice of this little nun.’

“Master, don’t you think big brother Linghu was very funny? If the fight was between them, why would the loser have to submit to our Heng-Shan Sword School? And how could I take them as my apprentices?” After these words, a slight smile appeared on her face. Her face had always looked upset before. Now when she smiled, it seemed that a ray of sunshine brightened the room.

“These crude people could say anything. Don’t believe them. Linghu Chong was just trying to enrage Tian Boguang,” Dingyi said. After these words, she raised her head a little and narrowed her eyes, trying to figure out how Linghu Chong could win the fight. If he lost the fight, how could he go back on his word? She thought for a while and knew that her own intelligence was far less than the rascal Linghu Chong. It would just be a waste of energy. So she asked, “What did Tian Boguang say?”

“Seeing big brother Linghu speak with such confidence,” Yilin said, “Tian Boguang showed a little hesitation. I guess he was a little worried. Maybe he was thinking that big brother Linghu could really have some outstanding fighting skills when sitting down.

“Big brother Linghu kept nudging him, ‘If you really don’t want to submit to the Heng-Shan Sword School, then we’d better not have this contest.’

“‘Nonsense!’ Tian Boguang exclaimed angrily. ‘Alright, I agree! Whoever loses will have the little nun as his Master!’

“‘I cannot have you as my apprentices,’ I said in a hurry. ‘My Kung Fu skills are too weak, and my Master wouldn’t let me either. All the people in our Heng-Shan Sword School, Buddhists or not, are female. How can we…how can we…?’

“Big brother Linghu waved me off. ‘I have made the decision with brother Tian. You simply have to accept it, whether you want to or not. It’s not your call.’ He then turned to Tian Boguang and said, ‘Second, the loser will have to swing his knife and make himself a eunuch.’ Master, what does ‘swing his knife and make himself a eunuch’ mean?”

Many people started chuckling. Dingyi could not help but grin herself, and a smile finally showed on her strict face. “Those were dirty words from the mouth of a rascal,” she said. “Good child, it is alright if you don’t understand. You don’t need to understand those. Those are bad words.”

“Oh, so those were bad words,” Yilin said. “I thought since there are emperors, of course there will be eunuchs,[1] what’s all the fuss about?

“Tian Boguang stared at big brother Linghu. ‘Brother Linghu,’ he asked, ‘you are really sure you will win?’

“‘Sure!’ big brother Linghu answered. ‘Fighting while standing up, I rank eighty-nine among the Kung Fu people in the Martial World, but fighting while sitting down, I rank at number two!’

“Tian Boguang became curious. ‘If you are number two, then who is number one?’ he asked.

“‘The Chief of the Demon Cult, Dongfang Invincible!’ big brother Linghu said.”

Hearing the name “Chief of the Demon Cult, Dongfang Invincible,” everybody’s face changed color. Noticing the sudden change in facial expressions, Yilin breathed nervously, feeling afraid that she might have said something wrong. “Master,” she asked, “did I say something wrong?”

“Just don’t mention that person’s name,” Dingyi said. “So what did Tian Boguang say?”

Yilin answered, “Tian Boguang nodded. ‘Chief Dongfang ranks number one, I totally agree,’ he said. ‘But calling yourself number two seems to be a bit cocky. Can you even defeat your own Master Mr. Yue?’

“‘I am only talking about fighting while sitting down,’ big brother Linghu said. ‘Fighting while standing up, my Master ranks at number eight, and I am only number eighty-nine, far behind the respectful Master.’

“‘I see,’ Tian Boguang nodded in agreement. ‘Then fighting while standing up, where do I stand? And who did the ranking?’

“‘This is a big secret,’ big brother Linghu said in a confidential tone. ‘Brother Tian, since I am having a good chat with you, I might as well tell you. But never let this out, otherwise, it can cause great upheaval in the entire Martial World. Three months ago, the five Head Masters of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance had a meeting at Mount Huashan to discuss the skills of the famous Kung Fu people in the Martial World. While they were in a good mood, they ranked the masters in the Martial World just for fun. Brother Tian, to be frank, although the five Masters really disliked your personality, they had great regard for your Kung Fu skills. Fighting while standing up, you can be ranked at number fourteen.’”

Priest Tianmen and Sister Dingyi exclaimed in unison, “Linghu Chong was talking nonsense! Nothing like that ever happened!”

“So big brother Linghu was just fooling him again?” Yilin asked. “Well, Tian Boguang couldn’t completely believe him either. He said, ‘The Head Masters of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance are all outstanding and famous martial artists in the Martial World. They actually ranked me at number fourteen? That is really overwhelming. So brother Linghu, did you present your smelly Toilet Sword Art in front of the five Head Masters? If not, how did they rank you at number two?’

“Big brother Linghu said with a grin, ‘This Toilet Sword Art would be too embarrassing to show in public, especially in front of the five Head Masters. The sword art looks very ugly, but the moves are very ferocious. I was discussing it with some masters from heretical clans, and they all thought that nobody except Chief Dongfang could defeat the sword art. But brother Tian, I have to say that even though my sword art is very fierce, besides using it to kill flies when sitting on a toilet, it is really quite useless. Think about it, when you are really fighting with somebody, who would agree to sit down and not move? Even though we agreed to fight sitting down, as soon as you start to lose, of course you would get mad and stand up. You are ranked at number fourteen fighting while standing up, so with no effort, you could easily split me, the number two fighting while sitting down, into halves with just one chop. See, your number fourteen fighting while standing up is the real thing, and my number two fighting while sitting down is just a novel trick. It’s nothing to be proud of.’

“‘Hmm, brother Linghu, you are really glib,’ Tian Boguang said. ‘How do you know I will definitely lose to you fighting while sitting down? How do you know I will get mad and stand up to kill you?’

“‘Well,’ big brother Linghu said, ‘if you agree that you won’t kill me after you lose, then I won’t insist on the enu…eunuch rule. So you won’t have to worry about having no descendants. Ok, enough talk already, let’s fight!’

“He raised his arm and flipped the table. The table, together with all the wine kettles and bowls, flew to the side. The two just sat there, face to face. One held a knife, the other grabbed hold of a sword.

“‘Go ahead,’ big brother Linghu yelled, ‘start your attack! Whoever stands up first – his butt leaving the chair – loses.’

“‘All right!’ Tian Boguang also yelled. ‘Let’s see who’s going to stand up first!’

“Right before they started fighting, Tian Boguang glanced at me and then suddenly burst into loud laughter. ‘Brother Linghu,’ he said, ‘well done! So you have set up an ambush in advance, and intentionally set limits on my actions. As we fight while sitting down, not being able to leave the chair, all your helpers will rush out – or even if they don’t, just this little nun playing some trick behind my back might force me to stand up.’

“Big brother Linghu also laughed loudly. ‘If anyone helps me, then Linghu Chong is the loser. Little nun, do you want me to win or lose?’

“‘Of course I want you to win,’ I said. ‘When you fight while sitting down, you are the second best in the world, so you won’t lose to him.’

 “‘Good,’ big brother Linghu said. ‘Then please go! The quicker the better, the further the merrier! With a bald headed little nun in front of me, I don’t need to go through the motions, I will have already lost.’ He did not wait for Tian Boguang to comment and thrust his sword at him.

“Tian Boguang waved his knife and blocked the attack. ‘Outstanding!’ he smiled. ‘Outstanding! What a great plan to rescue the little nun. Brother Linghu, you are truly a babe…babe-hound. But the risk is a bit too high this time.’

“By then I finally realized: big brother Linghu’s mentioning again and again that who stands up first loses was to give me a chance to run away. Tian Boguang could not leave his chair, so of course he would not be able to catch me.”

Hearing this, the listeners all praised, in their hearts, the great effort Linghu Chong had made. His skills were not as good as Tian Boguang’s. Other than by this stratagem, there really wasn’t any other way to help Yilin get away.

“The words ‘babe-hound’ etc. are all rude words. Never mention them again. Don’t ever even think about them in your heart,” Dingyi admonished.

Yilin lowered her head. “Yes, Master. So those were rude words too. I see.”

“So you left right away, right?” Dingyi asked. “Once Tian Boguang killed Linghu Chong, you wouldn’t be able to get away anymore.”

“Yes,” Yilin said. “Big brother Linghu urged me again and again, so finally I bowed to him and said, ‘Thank you, apprentice brother Linghu, for saving me!’ Then I turned around to leave. When I got to the stairway, I heard Tian Boguang shouting, ‘Gotcha!’ When I looked back, two drops of blood splashed onto my clothes. Big brother Linghu had taken a cut to the shoulder.

“Tian Boguang smirked, ‘Well, I think your number two ranking sword art while sitting down is really nothing special!’

“‘The little nun is still here,’ big brother Linghu said, ‘how am I to beat you? I am doomed to fail from bad luck!’

“I figured since big brother Linghu really disliked nuns, if I stayed any longer, he might really die because of me, so I rushed down the stairs. After I got out of the wine house, I could still hear all the clang of metal made by the sword and knife.

“Then Tian Boguang shouted again, ‘Gotcha!’ I was very worried and knew that big brother Linghu must have taken another cut, but I dared not to go up the wine house again. I climbed up the roof of the wine house from the side of the building, and bent over the roof to look inside the window. What I saw was very frightening. Big brother Linghu was still fighting fiercely with his sword, with blood all over him. Tian Boguang, on the other hand, was not hurt at all.

“After another while, Tian Boguang shouted again, ‘Gotcha!’ He slashed big brother Linghu’s left arm and then pulled back his knife. ‘Brother Linghu, I am being nice this time!’ he said with a smile.

“‘I know. If you had cut a little deeper, my left arm would be gone by now!’ big brother Linghu answered, also with a smile.

“Master, how was he still able to smile in such bad condition?

“‘You still want to fight?’ Tian Boguang asked.

“‘Of course I do! Did I stand up?’ big brother Linghu said.

“‘I suggest you give it up and stand up!’ Tian Boguang said. ‘Forget about the bet. You don’t have to ask that little nun to be your master.’

“Big brother Linghu said, ‘For a true man, once his word is out, even a wagon with four horses cannot drag it back. I gave my word; I am still accountable.’

“Tian Boguang complemented him, ‘I’ve seen many tough guys before. But this is the first time I see a true hero, brother Linghu. Fine! Let’s call it a tie and stop right here, alright?’

“Big brother Linghu just looked at him with a smile and said nothing. Blood kept flowing from his different wounds and dripped onto the wood floor. Tian Boguang dropped his knife and was just about to stand up when he suddenly remembered that he would have lost if he had stood up. His body had moved upward a little when he quickly sat back and did not leave the chair.

“‘Brother Tian, you are quick!’ big brother Linghu grinned.”

Everyone could not help but let out an “Ah” of pity for Linghu Chong.

Yilin continued. “Tian Boguang picked up his knife again. ‘I am going to use my fast strokes now,’ he said. ‘If I wait any longer, the little nun will have run to wonderland, and I won’t be able to keep up with her anymore.’

“I trembled when I heard his words. I also worried that big brother Linghu might get killed by him, but I had no clue as to what to do next. Then a thought popped into my head: Big brother Linghu fought so hard against him just to rescue me. The only way to save big brother Linghu’s life was to commit suicide right in front of them. So I unsheathed the broken sword by my waist, ready to jump into the wine house. Right at that moment, big brother Linghu’s body gave a sudden shake, and he collapsed to the floor together with his chair. He pushed on the ground with his hands and struggled to get up with the chair at his back, but he was so badly wounded that he just couldn’t get up.

“Tian Boguang was quite content, and with a big smile on his face, he said, ‘Number two for sitting down. What rank for crawling?’ With these words, he stood up.

“Big brother Linghu burst into loud laughter. ‘You lost!’ he said.

“Tian Boguang laughed hard. ‘You were just defeated in such an embarrassing manner, and you are calling me a loser?’

“‘What did we agree on?’ big brother Linghu asked while lying on the floor.

“‘We agreed that we fight while sitting down,’ Tian Boguang answered, ‘and whoever stands up first – his butt leaving the chair, is…is…is…!’ He stuttered the word ‘is’ three times but could not finish his sentence. He could only point at big brother Linghu with his finger in disbelief. He had just realized that this was a trick and he had just been fooled. He had already stood up, but big brother Linghu had not stood up and his rear end was still touching the chair. Although his body was in a very embarrassing position, but according to the agreement, he had already won.”

People in the hall started applauding and cheering. Only Yu Canghai gave a disgruntled snort and scoffed, “A rascal playing unscrupulous tricks with the rapist Tian Boguang; what an embarrassment to all decent schools!”

“What kind of crap is that?” Dingyi said angrily. “A true man fights with his brain, not his muscles. I did not see any one in your Qingcheng Sword School act so bravely.” Hearing from Yilin about how Linghu Chong had saved the Heng-Shan Sword School’s reputation with no regard to his own safety, she felt very thankful deep in her heart, and had already disregarded all negative thoughts about Linghu Chong.

Yu Canghai snorted. “What a wonderful crawling young hero!”

“Your Qingcheng Sword School…!” Dingyi started yelling when Liu Zhengfeng cut her short, afraid to see conflict between them again.

“Nephew apprentice, did Tian Boguang admit his defeat?” he asked Yilin.

“Tian Boguang stood there staring blankly at the floor and could not make up his mind,” Yilin went on.

“‘Little apprentice sister of the Heng-Shan Sword School, you can come down now,’ big brother Linghu shouted. ‘Congratulations for getting a first-class apprentice!’ It turned out that he already knew I was sneaking about on the roof.

“Tian Boguang is a bad man, but he does keep his word. He could have just stepped up and killed big brother Linghu easily with a single blow, and then turned around to catch me, but he simply shouted out, ‘Little nun, listen up! If you ever dare see me again, I will finish you off with a single chop.’

“I never wanted to have the villain as my apprentice in the first place, so his words were like music to my ears. Tian Boguang shoved his knife back to its sheath, and then stormed out of the wine house. I then jumped down into the wine house, helped big brother Linghu up, and took out the ‘Heavenly Connecting Glue’ to put on his wounds. After counting the wounds, I found up to thirteen different ones on his body….”

“Sister Dingyi, congratulations!” Yu Canghai suddenly cut in.

“Congratulation for what?” Dingyi gave him a hard stare.

“Congratulations for getting such a reputable and master-level new grand-apprentice!”

Dingyi was enraged. She struck the table heavily and stood up.

“Master Yu, you’re at fault this time. How can we Taoists make such silly jokes?” Priest Tianmen cut in.

Knowing that first of all, he was in the wrong, and secondly, Priest Tianmen would be a tough opponent, Yu Canghai turned his head away and pretended not to hear anything.

Yilin continued, “I finished dressing big brother Linghu’s wounds and then helped him up to sit on the chair. Big brother Linghu was breathing very heavily. ‘Would you please pour a bowl of wine for me?’ he requested. I poured the wine and handed him the bowl. Then footsteps came from the stairway, and two men walked in. He was one of the two.” She pointed at the Qingcheng apprentice who had carried Luo Renjie’s body in a while ago. Then she said, “The other one was the villain Luo Renjie. They looked at me and then looked at big brother Linghu and then looked back at me with very impolite stares.”

The listeners all thought: when Luo Renjie and his companion saw blood-covered Linghu Chong sitting together with a beautiful nun in the wine house, and the little nun was pouring wine for him, they would certainly feel very awkward. Then staring impolitely would not be an unusual reaction.

Yilin kept on telling the story. “Big brother Linghu glanced at Luo Renjie and then asked, ‘Apprentice sister, do you know what Kung Fu the Qingcheng Sword School is best at?’

“‘I don’t know. I heard that the Qingcheng Sword School has many good Kung Fu skills,’ I replied.

“‘Correct!’ big brother Linghu said. ‘The Qingcheng Sword School has many good Kung Fu skills. But the best one, ha-ha, I’d better not mention it to avoid conflict.’ Then he gave Luo Renjie a stare back.

“Hearing his words, Luo Renjie rushed forward. ‘Which one is the best one? Spit it out!’ he yelled.

“‘I didn’t want to say it,’ big brother Linghu smirked. ‘But you really want me to say it, right? It’s a move called ‘Bum Bum Back, Geese Landing in Sand’.’

“Luo Renjie struck the table with his palm and bellowed, ‘Nonsense! What is ‘Bum Bum Back, Geese Landing in Sand’? I’ve never heard of it!’

“‘This is the very special skill of your respectful school, how can you not have heard about it?’ big brother Linghu chuckled. ‘Turn around, I’ll show you the move.’

“Luo Renjie started swearing at big brother Linghu and suddenly threw a punch at him. Big brother Linghu tried to stand up and dodge it, but because he had lost too much blood and did not have much strength to move, he tumbled and then sat back down on the chair. The punch landed squarely on his nose. Blood immediately started running. Luo Renjie punched him again and I hurriedly blocked his fist away with my hand.

“‘Don’t hit him!’ I demanded. ‘Can’t you see he is badly wounded? Bullying a badly wounded man, what kind of a man are you?’

“Luo Renjie scolded, ‘Ha, this little nun thinks this rascal is so handsome and has fallen for him! Get away. If you don’t, I’ll beat you up too.’

“‘If you dare to hit me, I’ll tell your Master Yu.’ I threatened.

“‘Ha-ha, you didn’t follow your nun rules and violated the moral prohibitions; anyone can punish you,’ Luo said. Master, wasn’t he wronging innocent people?

“He poked his left hand toward me. I tried to block it, but didn’t notice it was a feint. Then his right hand suddenly stretched out and pinched my left cheek. He began to laugh loudly. I was very angry and fought back with three palm heel strikes, but he dodged them all.

“‘Apprentice sister,’ big brother Linghu called me. ‘Don’t fight him. Let me get my breathing going, then I’ll be just fine.’ I turned to look at him; his face was so pale.

“Luo Renjie ran to him and punched at him again. Big brother Linghu deflected Luo’s punch with his left palm and redirected it, which turned Luo’s own body around, and then he threw a kick and it landed right on his…his rear end. The kick was quick and accurate, swift and smooth. Luo Renjie could not keep his balance and rolled all the way down the stairs.

“‘Apprentice sister,’ big brother Linghu whispered to me. ‘This is their Qingcheng Sword School’s best move called ‘Bum Bum Back, Geese Landing in Sand.’ Bum Bum back is where they get ready to be kicked, then geese landing…landing…in sand. Don’t you think it was an accurate description?’

“I wanted to laugh, but I became really worried when I saw his face getting paler and paler. ‘Take a rest, and don’t talk,’ I said. Blood gushed out from his wounds again, obviously because he used too much strength when he threw the kick and the wounds were open again.

“Luo Renjie rushed back immediately, after rolling down the staircase, with a sword in his hand this time. ‘You are Huashan Linghu Chong, aren’t you?’ he yelled.

“Big brother Linghu grinned. ‘You are already the third master of your respectful school who used this ‘Bum Bum Back, Geese Landing in Sand’ on me. No wonder…no wonder….’ He started to cough badly. Fearing that Luo Renjie might harm him, I drew my sword and stood by his side, guarding him.

“Luo Renjie turned to his fellow apprentice. ‘Junior apprentice Li, you deal with this little nun,’ he commanded. The Li villain answered and unsheathed his sword to attack me.

“While defending myself with my sword, I saw Luo Renjie thrusting his sword again and again at big brother Linghu, and big brother Linghu could hardly raise his sword to fend him off. He was really in great danger. After several rounds, big brother Linghu’s sword fell down to the floor. Luo Renjie thrust his sword out, and placed the point of his sword at big brother Linghu’s chest and smirked, ‘If you call me Grandfather of Qingcheng three times, I’ll spare your life.’

“‘Sure, I will! I will!’ big brother Linghu smiled. ‘After I call you that, are you going to teach me your school’s famous Bum Bum Back, Geese Landing…?’ Before he could even finish this sentence, Luo Renjie the villain pushed his sword forward and stabbed the sword into big brother Linghu’s chest. The villain was so ruthless…!”

Crystal teardrops began pouring down her face. She continued her story while sobbing, “I…I…I saw what happened and rushed to stop him, but his sword had already penetrated…penetrated big brother Linghu’s chest.” Everyone in the hall fell into silence.

Yu Canghai felt that all the looks directed toward him were full of disdain and anger. “Are you sure about your story?” he asked. “If, as you said, Luo Renjie had already killed Linghu Chong, how did Luo Renjie die from his sword?”

“After big brother Linghu was stabbed,” Yilin said, “he squeezed out a smile and whispered to me, ‘Little apprentice sister, I…I have an important secret to tell you. The Fortune…Fortune Prestige Escort House’s Evil-Resisting…Evil-Resisting Sword Art Manuscript is at…at….’ His voice became lower and lower, and I could hardly hear him, only saw his lips moving….”

Yu Canghai was shocked at the words “Fortune Prestige Escort House’s Evil-Resisting Sword Art Manuscript.” He anxiously began to ask, “At…?” He was going to say “at where,” but then he realized it would be very bad to ask the question in front of so many people, so he swallowed his words right away, yet his heart thumped harder and harder, hoping the young, inexperienced Yilin would say it out loud. Otherwise, when Sister Dingyi asked for details later and learned all the important connections, she would never let him know the secret.

“Luo Renjie seemed to be very concerned about that sword art manuscript,” Yilin said. “He walked closer and bent over to listen to what big brother Linghu was saying about the location of the sword art manuscript. Suddenly, big brother Linghu raised the sword he dropped on the floor, and pushed the sword into Luo Renjie’s lower abdomen. The villain fell on his back. His limbs twitched a couple of times, but he could no longer stand up. It turned out…turned out… big brother Linghu fooled him into coming closer, so he could kill him for revenge.”

After having finished retelling the past events, she could no longer handle the stress. She swayed back and forth a little and then fainted. Dingyi extended her arm to support her while glaring at Yu Canghai angrily.

All the listeners stayed silent and tried to imagine the epic fight in the Huiyan Wine House. Compared to masters like Priest Tianmen, Liu Zhengfeng, Mr. Wen, He Sanqi and others, the skills of those like Linghu Chong or Luo Renjie were nothing special, but the entire event was so astounding and brutal. It was very rare for something like this to occur in the Martial World, especially when told by such a pure and pretty young nun, obviously there was no exaggeration.

“Mr. Li, you were there. So did you see the whole thing?” Liu Zhengfeng asked the Qingcheng apprentice named Li.

The Li-named apprentice did not answer, just looked at Yu Canghai. Seeing the expression on his face, all knew that the whole thing happened exactly as it was told. If Yilin had said a word that was not factual, he would have argued.

Yu Canghai turned to stare at Lao Denuo with a livid face. “Nephew apprentice Lao,” he asked coldly, “What on earth did we, the Qingcheng Sword School, do that have offended your respectful school so much, that your senior apprentice brother would provoke trouble over and over with the apprentices of my Qingcheng Sword School?”

“I don’t know.” Lao Denuo shook his head. “It seems to be a personal conflict between senior brother Linghu and apprentice brother Luo of your respectful school. It has nothing to do with the relationship between the Qingcheng Sword School and the Huashan Sword School.”

Yu Canghai sneered. “Has nothing to do, indeed! You really know how to clear things up….” He hadn’t even finished his words, when suddenly with a loud “crack,” the west window burst open and a man flew in. Most of the people in the hall were masters and reacted quickly by dodging to the side, ready to defend themselves. Before anyone had the chance to actually take a good look at the man who had flown in, there was a second loud “crack,” and another person flew in. The two men landed on the floor face down and just lay there still. Both were in long purple robes, the type of uniform worn by members of the Qingcheng Sword School. On the seat of their pants, each had the very clear imprint of a muddy foot. A husky old voice spoke loudly outside of the window tauntingly, “‘Bum Bum Back, Geese Landing in Sand!’ Ha-ha! Ha-ha!”

Without any hesitation, Yu Canghai struck a palm stance toward the direction where the voice had originated and jumped out the window to give chase. Pushing the window frame slightly using his left hand to get a start, he jumped onto the roof. Standing, he looked in all directions, but all he could see was the dark night sky with a shower falling down like a hanging curtain. There was no sign of anyone. He quickly concluded that it was impossible for anyone to vanish in such a short time. Therefore, the intruder was hiding close by. Knowing that the man must be a formidable opponent to deal with, he drew his long sword and quickly searched all around the House of Liu.

Priest Tianmen stayed in his seat concerned about his dignity, but Sister Dingyi, He Sanqi, Mr. Wen, Liu Zhengfeng, and Lao Denuo all jumped up onto the roof. They could see the short Taoist priest running about holding a sword. The flash of his sword took the appearance of a beam of white light, and flew around the dozens of houses at a magnificent speed. All inwardly praised the high level of Yu Canghai’s Qing-Gong skills.

Yu Canghai dashed about rapidly; none of the corners, trees, or bushes escaped from his searching eyes, but he found nothing abnormal. He jumped back into the hall. The two apprentices were still lying on the floor. In his mind, the clear footprints on their backsides turned into hundreds of laughing faces of people in the Martial World, mocking the Qingcheng Sword School for losing face. Yu Canghai turned one apprentice over and recognized him as apprentice Shen Renjun. He didn’t have to turn the other one over; the beard clearly showed that it was the one who always hung out with Shen Renjun – Ji Rentong. Yu Canghai struck the pressure points next to Shen Renjun’s ribs twice, and then asked, “Who did this to you?”

Shen Renjun opened his mouth, but nothing came out of his mouth. Yu Canghai was startled. When he struck Shen Renjun, he pretended to be doing something very easy, since so many first-class masters were watching. However, he had actually used a type of Qingcheng high-level inner energy. Despite this, Shen Renjun’s pressure points remained sealed, which left him no other option. He had to gather all his inner energy and start passing it to Shen Renjun through the Ling-Tai point on his back.

After quite a while, Shen Renjun was finally able to speak with a stuttering voice, “Mast…Master!” Yu Canghai did not answer and kept passing more energy through the pressure point. “I…I did not see who that was.” Shen Renjun croaked.

“How were you tricked?” Yu Canghai asked.

“Fellow apprentice Ji and I went outside to take a leak. I just felt numbness on my back, and then fell into that son of a turtle’s hands.” Shen Renjun said.

Yu Canghai straightened his face. “He is a first-class master. Show some respect.”

“Yes, Master.” Shen Renjun stammered.

Yu Canghai simply could not figure out where the enemy could possibly have come from. He raised his head and saw the indifferent face of Priest Tianmen. It seemed that he did not care about what had happened at all. Yu Canghai thought to himself, “The members of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance claim to be ‘same root different branches.’ But since Renjie killed Linghu Chong, it looks like even Tianmen is blaming me for that.” Suddenly he realized that the hidden enemy was most likely still in the Great Hall, so he signaled Shen Renjun to follow him and then quickly walked into the Great Hall.

People in the hall were still chatting and making wild conjectures as to who had killed the apprentice of the Taishan Sword School and the apprentice of the Qingcheng Sword School. When they saw Yu Canghai coming in, some recognized him as the Master of Qingcheng Sword School. For the ones who did not know him at all, even though all they saw was a short man, the way he walked and behaved clearly showed the dignity of a great master. So soon, they all stopped talking. Silence took over the entire hall. Yu Canghai looked through the crowd closely, person by person. Most of the people in the hall belonged to the junior generation in the Martial World. Although he did not know many of them, by each one’s apparel, he could determine which school they belonged to. He knew that no one from the junior generation of any school could be such a master with great inner energy. If this person were really in the hall, he must look somehow different from the others. He looked and looked, one after another, when suddenly, his sharp gaze picked out a man.

This man had a very ugly face. The very muscles on his face seemed to have been twisted by some kind of evil magical force. Several pieces of plaster were spread across his face, and a big hump stood out from his back.

Yu Canghai could not contain his surprise when he suddenly thought of the man’s identity. “Could it be him?” he asked himself. The ‘Hunchback of the North,’ Mu Gaofeng, always hung around the northern border, and seldom showed up in the central region. He had no connection with the Five Mountains Sword Alliance. Why would he show up in Liu Zhengfeng’s hand-washing ceremony? But if it were not he, Yu Canghai could think of no other ugly hunchbacks in the Martial World.

The other people in the hall followed Yu Canghai’s gaze and saw the hunchback. Several older members of the crowd, who knew much about the Martial World, let out cries of surprise. Liu Zhengfeng rushed toward the hunchback and greeted him, “I didn’t realize that your honor had come, and did not serve you in good manner, please pardon me.”

In actuality, the hunchback was nobody famous. He was none other than the young master of the Fortune Prestige Escort House – Lin Pingzhi. Afraid of being recognized by the others, he had kept his head down the entire time and stayed in a corner of the Great Hall. If Yu Canghai had not searched very carefully, nobody would have ever noticed him. But now that everybody’s eyes were fixed on him, Lin Pingzhi felt very embarrassed. He stood up immediately, bowed back to Liu Zhengfeng and said, “Not really, not really!”

Liu Zhengfeng knew that Mu Gaofeng was from the northern border region, but the man in front of him had a southern accent. He also seemed to be far younger. Despite his doubts, he knew that Mu Gaofeng always liked to come and go like a shadow; it wouldn’t be appropriate to judge his behavior using common standards. So he said very politely, “I am Liu Zhengfeng. May I have the honor to ask your respectful name?”

Lin Pingzhi never thought that someone would ask him about his name. He mumbled a couple of words but did not answer.

“You and Hero Mu…?” Liu Zhengfeng asked again.

An idea suddenly came to Lin Pingzhi’s mind: “My last name is Lin. If I use only half of it, it’s the character of Mu.”[2] So he said quickly, “Mu is my family name.”

“Mr. Mu’s coming to Hengshan has brought great honor to our Liu House. May I ask what is the relationship between you and ‘Hunchback of the North,’ Hero Mu?” Liu Zhengfeng inquired. He could tell that Lin Pingzhi was just a young lad, and those pieces of plaster on his face were used just to hide his true identity. He was definitely not the man who had been renowned for decades – ‘Hunchback of the North’ Mu Gaofeng.

Lin Pingzhi had never heard of the name ‘Hunchback of the North’ Mu Gaofeng before, but by the tone and voice of Liu Zhengfeng, he could tell the man named Mu had quite a reputation. Also, Yu Canghai was still glaring at him with a fierce look on his face; if he revealed his true identity, Yu Canghai would probably kill him without batting an eyelash. In such a precarious situation, the only right thing to do was to make some innocuous statements and fob them off with some vague answers. So he said, “‘Hunchback of the North’ Hero Mu? He is…he is a senior of mine.” He thought if that man was called a hero, then of course the name “senior” would be appropriate.

Without finding anyone else suspicious, Yu Canghai had presumed this was the one who had humiliated his apprentices Shen Renjun and Ji Rentong. Even if ‘Hunchback of the North’ Mu Gaofeng had come himself, he would only be cautious but not afraid. Now this one was only a child of Mu Gaofeng’s family, Yu Canghai really did not take him seriously. It was this man who had first provoked the Qingcheng Sword School. There was no way that he was going to let that go easily.

“Qingcheng Sword School has never crossed paths with Mr. Mu of the north. I wonder how we have offended you?” he said coldly.

Standing face to face in front of the short priest, Lin Pingzhi remembered how his home was broken up; how his family was ruined, and his parents were taken prisoners. He didn’t even know if they were still alive. And all this happened because of this short priest standing right in front of him. Although he knew the short priest’s Kung Fu skills were a hundred times better than that of his own, he almost couldn’t help drawing his weapon and lunging forward. But after all the days of hardship following his escaping, he was no longer the same dandy of Fuzhou town. He took a deep breath and tried to control himself.

“Qingcheng Sword School has committed unrighteous deeds and Hero Mu happened to catch them, so of course he interferes. He is very warm-hearted and always enjoys helping the good against the evil. Why would he care if you offended him personally or not?” he replied.

Hearing these words, Liu Zhengfeng couldn’t help laughing inwardly. Although ‘Hunchback of the North’ Mu Gaofeng had high Kung Fu skills, his moral standing was not particularly good at all. He only used the words “Hero Mu” in a very casual way. Compared to Mu Gaofeng’s true character, the word “Hero” was far from the true description. This man curried favor with the powerful and never kept his promises. But he had excellent Kung Fu skills and was always alert and careful, so if one ever offended him, it would be impossible to guard against him. That was why people in the Martial World might be afraid of him, but no one really had any respect for him. When Liu Zhengfeng heard Lin Pingzhi’s words, he truly believed that Lin was a member of Mu’s family and was afraid that Yu Canghai might hurt him.

“Master Yu, Brother Mu,” he said with a smile, “both of you are respectful guests in my humble place. Please, for that sake, let’s drink a friendly shot of wine? Servants, wine!”

Soon, servants brought out wine.

Yu Canghai thought nothing of the young hunchback before him. But considering all the dirty and evil tricks of Mu Gaofeng he had heard before, he would rather not challenge him right away. After the wine was poured, he did not pick up the cup straightaway, instead, just waited to see what Lin Pingzhi would do.

Lin Pingzhi wavered between anger and fear, but finally anger overwhelmed him. He thought to himself, “Probably Mom and Dad have already died under the short priest’s murderous hands. I’d rather die than drink with him.” He glared at Yu Canghai with hatred-filled eyes and did not pick up his wine cup either. He wanted to spit out some curses, but being afraid of Yu Canghai, he remained silent.

But, seeing all the hostility shown by this hunchback, Yu Canghai could not hold his temper any longer. He suddenly grabbed Lin Pingzhi by his wrist. “Alright, alright, alright! Out of respect of Master Liu, no one will cause any trouble in the Liu House. Brother Mu, let us get to know each other,” he said.

Lin Pingzhi pulled his arm hard, but could not escape Yu Canghai’s grip. Right after Yu spilled out his last word, a great pain shot through his wrist. He could hear his bone cracking and it seemed as though his wrist was going to be completely crushed.

Yu Canghai halted the pressure and waited for Lin Pingzhi to beg for mercy, but Lin Pingzhi hated him so much that he did not even let out a groan in spite of the wrenching pain from his wrist.

Standing by the side, Liu Zhengfeng could see big drops of sweat trickling down Lin Pingzhi’s forehead, but his face remained defiant and did not show any sign of capitulation. He admired the toughness of this young man, so he called out, “Master Yu!” and was just about to separate the two, when suddenly a high-pitched voice said, “Master Yu, why are you so eager to bully Mu Gaofeng’s grandson?”

Everyone turned around to look, and saw a fat hunchback standing at the hall’s entrance. He had white scars crisscrossing his face, with black spots in between, and an enormous hump on his back. He looked horribly ugly and strange. Most of the people in the hall had never seen the real face of Mu Gaofeng; now hearing this man claim to be Mu Gaofeng and seeing his bizarre appearance, all were astonished.

The hunchback had a fat body, but that did not prevent him from moving at amazing speed. People only saw a blurry shadow, and the hunchback was already standing next to Lin Pingzhi. He patted on Lin Pingzhi’s shoulder. “Good lad, good lad! Bragging for your grandpa by saying things like helping the good guys against the evil and so on sounded wonderful! I really enjoyed it!” After the words, he patted on Lin Pingzhi’s shoulder again.

When he patted on Lin’s shoulder the first time, Lin Pingzhi felt a big shock going through his whole body. Yu Canghai also felt a stream of heat in his arm, and he almost had to let go of Lin Pingzhi’s hand. But he immediately added more strength to his grip and held the wrist solidly.

Since the first pat did not get Lin Pingzhi out of Yu Canghai’s hold, Mu Gaofeng gathered his energy while talking to Lin, and when he patted on Lin’s shoulder the second time, he used more than eighty percent of his strength. Lin Pingzhi felt that for a just second, he had lost his vision, and something sweet welled up his throat, then, blood filled his mouth. He tried his best to not spill any blood and swallowed it all back down.

Yu Canghai felt burning heat under his palm; he could not hold Lin’s wrist any longer and had to let go of it, taking a step back. “This hunchback really lives up to his reputation of cruel and evil,” he thought to himself. “Just to break my hold, he would inflict internal damages to his own grandson.”

Lin Pingzhi gathered his strength and managed to squeeze out a laugh. “Master Yu,” he said to Yu Canghai, “your Qingcheng School’s skills are truly feeble. Compared to this ‘Hunchback of the North’ Hero Mu, you are a laggard. I suggest you submit yourself under Hero Mu and ask him to teach you a few moves, then…then…you might…improve a little….” Due to the internal injuries, he had to try hard to get these words out, feeling as though all his internal organs had been turned upside down. He finally finished his sentence, but his body had started shaking so badly that he almost fell.

“Yes!” Yu Canghai exclaimed. “Your suggestion has merit! Since you, yourself, are studying under Mr. Mu, your Kung Fu skills must be quite remarkable. I would like to see them.” By saying these particular words, Yu Canghai was basically telling everyone that his challenge was strictly for Lin Pingzhi, and that Mu Gaofeng should not interfere.

Mu Gaofeng took a few paces back and grinned. “My cute little grandson, I am afraid your skills are still too low and will be no match for the Master of the Qingcheng Sword School. He can slay you with his first move. As your grandpa, I am overjoyed to have such a hunchbacked and also handsome grandson. I’d really hate to lose such a good kid. Why don’t you kneel down and kowtow to your grandpa, then your grandpa will take him on for you. How does that sound?”

Lin Pingzhi looked at Yu Canghai and thought, “If I get into a fight with Yu recklessly, he will probably kill me with the first blow in his fury. If I can’t even protect myself, how can I avenge my parents? But I, Lin Pingzhi, am a grown man, how can I call this hunchback Grandpa? It’s alright if I myself am humiliated, but doing this will be a dreadful humiliation for my father as well. He would never be able to walk in the Martial World with his head up; how could he survive the Martial World? If I kneel down in front of him, then I would be living under the fame of the Hunchback of the North and never be myself again.” His body trembling, he could not decide; he just held onto the table with his left hand.

“I know you have no guts! If you want somebody else to fight for you, what’s so big of a deal to kowtow a couple of times?” Yu Canghai mocked. He could tell that Lin Pingzhi and Mu Gaofeng’s relationship wasn’t anything usual. It was obvious that Mu Gaofeng wasn’t his real grandfather, otherwise, why did Lin Pingzhi only call him as “Senior,” but never “Grandpa?” Mu Gaofeng wouldn’t be asking his own grandson to kowtow at such a moment, either. He wanted to provoke Lin Pingzhi into fighting himself, thus making things much easier to handle.

Memories flashed through Lin Pingzhi’s mind, including how the Fortune Prestige Escort House was bullied and humiliated again and again by the Qingcheng Sword School. He thought to himself, “A true man will not let a small setback ruin his master plan. As long as I will eventually feel pride and elation, why couldn’t I suffer some humiliation now?” So he turned around, knelt down in front of Mu Gaofeng, and started to kowtow. “Grandpa,” he said, “Yu Canghai uninhibitedly kills innocent people and robs them of their belongings. Everyone in the Martial World has the right to kill him. Would you please uphold justice and rid this evil for all the people in the Martial World?”

Lin’s action was a big surprise for both Mu Gaofeng and Yu Canghai. The young hunchback acted with resolution and integrity when Yu Canghai grabbed his wrist and crushed it with his inner energy, but he was now actually willing to kowtow and beg for protection, especially in public with so many people around. Most people thought that this young hunchback was really the grandson of Mu Gaofeng; and even if he wasn’t a real blood relative, he must be a grand-apprentice or something along those lines. Only Mu Gaofeng himself knew for certain that this man had no relationship with him whatsoever. Although Yu Canghai had inkling that there was something suspicious going on, he still could not determine the actual relationship between the two. All he knew was that the “Grandpa” was said in a very reluctant manner, maybe because Lin was just afraid to die.

Mu Gaofeng burst into loud laughter. “Good boy, nice lad! Why, you really want to play the game?” He praised Lin Pingzhi while staring at Yu Canghai, so the words “good boy” and “nice lad” almost seemed to be directed at Yu Canghai.

Yu Canghai was enraged, but he calmed and readied himself, knowing that the fight today would not only be important to his own destiny, but also to the destiny and fame of the entire Qingcheng Sword School. He let out a smile.

“If Mr. Mu wants to present his outstanding skills in front of all our friends here, I’ll just have to play along.”

Earlier, when Mu Gaofeng patted on Lin Pingzhi’s shoulder, Yu Canghai had already learned that Mu had resourceful inner energy. And his inner energy was the explosive type; once he started the attack, it would be as overwhelming as thunder and lightning, or like landslides and tidal waves. “It is well known that this hunchback is very conceited,” he thought to himself. “If he can’t defeat me in a short time, he will become reckless and rush his attack. I’d better use all defensive moves for the first one hundred rounds. That will keep me undefeated. After one hundred moves, I will surely be able to find his weaknesses.”

Mu Gaofeng studied Yu Canghai carefully. This short priest only had the height of a youth, and probably weighed only eighty pounds, but by the way he stood, he seemed to be as stable as a mountain, well displaying the imposing manner of a great master; obviously he had well developed inner energy.

Mu Gaofeng thought to himself, “This little priest really is something. Every generation of Qingcheng Sword School had famous people. This bull-nose priest, being the Master of the sword school, certainly won’t be someone easy to deal with. I hope I won’t lose this battle and let all my fame swirl down the pipe.” Being a very careful person, he did not recklessly attack right away.

Right at the moment when the two were about to fight, two men flew out from the back, and with two loud thumps, landed on the floor and lay still. Both men wore purple robes, and each had a muddy footprint right on the bottom. The clear and melodious voice of a young girl shouted, “This is the Qingcheng Sword School’s best move, called ‘Bum Bum Back, Geese Landing in Sand’!”

Yu Canghai was outraged. Turning around without wasting any time he dashed toward the sound without even looking. Seeing a young girl in a green shirt standing nearby, he instantly grabbed her by the arm.

“Mom!” the girl screamed loudly and then burst into tears.

Yu Canghai was startled. After hearing the embarrassing words, he acted in great anger without thinking. He had thought that she must have been involved with what had happened to the two Qingcheng apprentices, so he grabbed at her arm at full strength. When he heard the girl’s scream, he realized he had made a terrible mistake. This was just a little girl. How could he have used such power against her? In front of so many people, such behavior really did not fit with his image as the Master of the Qingcheng Sword School. He quickly let go of her arm, yet the girl cried louder and louder.

“You broke my arm. Mom, my arm is broken! Waah, it hurts! It hurts!” The girl cried.

Master Yu of the Qingcheng Sword School had fought many fights and overcome many difficulties, but this was the first time he had been placed in such an embarrassing situation. Being stared at by hundreds of accusing eyes, he felt his face burn with shame, and he did not even know where to put his arms and feet.

“Don’t cry! Don’t cry!” he whispered to the girl. “Your arm is not broken. It won’t break.”

“It’s broken already. You beat me up. A grownup beats up a kid, shame on you! Waah, it hurts! Waah…!” she cried.

The young girl was about thirteen or fourteen years of age. She had a green blouse on. With skin as white as milk and a pretty little face, she looked adorable. The crowd in the hall all felt sympathy for her. A couple of the rougher members had already started shouting out, “Beat the bull-nose up!” “Kill the short priest!”

Yu Canghai was very embarrassed. He knew he had incurred the public wrath, so he dared not to say anything, and just said to the girl, “Little sister, don’t cry. I am sorry. Let me look at your arm, see if it hurts.” He wanted to roll her sleeves up, but the girl screamed, “No, no! Don’t touch me! Mom, Mom, the short priest broke my arm.”

While Yu Canghai was completely lost, a man in a purple robe walked out from the crowd. It was none other than Fang Renzhi, the smartest apprentice of the Qingcheng Sword School. “Hey, little girl, you’re just pretending now!” he said to the little girl. “My Master’s hand did not even touch your sleeve, so how could he have broken your arm?”

“Mom, another one is coming to hurt me!” the girl shouted.

Having been watching angrily by one side, Sister Dingyi stepped forward and tried to slap Fang Renzhi’s face. “Big bullying the small, shame on you!” she yelled. Fang Renzhi tried to block with his arm. Dingyi extended her right arm quickly and grabbed his hand, and then pushed down on his elbow with her left arm. If she gave a solid push, Fang Renzhi’s arm would be broken instantly. Yu Canghai poked his finger at Dingyi’s back. Dingyi had to let go of Fang Renzhi and strike back with her hand. Yu Canghai didn’t want to fight with her, so he jumped back two steps and said, “Excuse me!”

Dingyi held the little girl’s hand and asked gently, “Good child, where does it hurt? Let me have a look. I will heal it for you.” She felt the girl’s arm but did not find any broken bones. That helped her relax a little. She rolled the girl’s sleeve up. On the lovely white arm, four clear black finger marks could be easily seen. Dingyi’s anger exploded.

“You liar!” she shouted at Fang Renzhi. “If your Master did not touch her arm at all, then who left the four black marks?”

“It was the turtle! It was the turtle!” the little girl said, pointing at Yu Canghai’s back as she spoke.

Suddenly, everybody burst into loud laughter, some even spit out the tea from their mouths; some laughed till they doubled over. Laughter filled the entire hall. Yu Canghai had no idea why everybody was laughing so hard. He thought that the little girl had called him a turtle just like any kid would have after they got upset. What was so funny about that? But seeing everyone laughing at him, he still felt quite embarrassed.

Fang Renzhi jumped forward and peeled a piece of paper off Yu Canghai’s robe, then crumpled the paper into a ball. Yu Canghai took the paper ball and opened it, then saw a picture of a big turtle on the sheet. Embarrassed and anguished, Yu Canghai suddenly realized that it must have been a trick. The picture of the turtle was drawn ahead of time of course. It must have been the girl who cried and screamed to divert his attention, and then stuck the paper onto his back. It would be impossible for anybody else to play such a trick behind his back. If that was the case, then there must have been adults behind the scene. He turned around and glanced at Liu Zhengfeng, thinking, “This girl must be a member of the Liu household, so it was Liu Zhengfeng who played all these tricks on me.”

Liu Zhengfeng saw the glance from Yu Canghai and immediately understood that Yu had placed the blame on him. He took a step forward.

“Little sister, where are you from? Where are your mom and dad?” he asked the little girl.

By asking these words, first, he wanted to assure Yu Canghai that he had no clue as to what was going on, and also, he became suspicious himself and wanted to know who had brought this little girl here.

“My mom and dad went away for something else,” the little girl muttered. “They told me to sit here and not go anywhere. They said that later there would be a good show; two guys would fly out and then lie still. They said this is the Qingcheng Sword School’s best move called ‘Bum Bum Back, Geese Landing in Sand.’ It was a good show indeed!”

She clapped her hands. The crystal teardrops on her cheeks had not yet dried out, but she was already smiling quite happily. No one could help but laugh at these words. These words were undoubtedly said to humiliate the Qingcheng Sword School. The two Qingcheng apprentices were still lying on the ground with their bottoms up, and each had a clear footprint on it. Qingcheng Sword School had really lost all face.

Yu Canghai struck one apprentice’s back, only to find that both apprentices had their pressure points sealed in exactly the same manner as Shen Renjun and Ji Rentong earlier. To unseal their points would require quite some inner energy and quite some time. Now, not only was Mu Gaofeng staring at him fiercely, but another tough opponent was hiding close by; the smart thing to do would be not to waste any of his inner energy on unsealing the apprentices’ pressure points.

“Carry them out,” he whispered to Fang Renzhi. Fang Renzhi waved at several Qingcheng apprentices, who rushed out and carried the two out of the hall.

Out of the blue, the little girl said loudly, “Qingcheng Sword School really has a lot of people! One ‘Geese Landing in Sand’ takes two to carry. Two ‘Geese Landing in Sand’ takes four to carry.”

Yu Canghai’s face turned livid with rage. “What’s your dad’s name?” he asked the little girl with a long face. “Did he teach you these words?”

He figured that since those words were really sarcastic, if it wasn’t her parents who had taught her, she would never have said them at such a young and tender age. He then thought, “The name ‘Bum Bum Back, Geese Landing in Sand’ was made up by Linghu Chong; could it be that Huashan Sword School blames Renjie for killing Linghu Chong, and now wants to get even with the Qingcheng Sword School? The one who had sealed the pressure points had very high skills; could that be…could that be that the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School, Yue Buqun, playing tricks behind the scene?” When he arrived at the thought that Yue Buqun had plotted against him, he couldn’t help thinking, “That man’s Kung Fu skills are outstanding. And since the five sword schools had united under the Five Mountains Sword Alliance, if they all start to attack, then the Qingcheng Sword School would suffer a crushing defeat.” When he thought those thoughts, his face whitened with worry.

The little girl ignored Yu Canghai’s question. Smiling merrily, she started reciting, “One times two is two; two times two is four; three times two is six; four times two is eight; five times two is ten….”

“I am asking you a question!” Yu Canghai yelled in a stern voice.

Her mouth twitching, the little girl started crying again while hiding her face in Sister Dingyi’s arms. Dingyi patted her on the back gently and comforted her.

“Don’t be scared. Don’t be afraid! Good child, don’t be scared.” She turned to Yu Canghai. “Why are you scaring a kid like that?”

Yu Canghai let out a disgruntled snort. “So the Five Mountains Sword Alliance is against my Qingcheng Sword School now. I’d better be very careful,” he thought to himself.

The little girl stuck her head out from Dingyi’s arms and grinned. “Granny, two times two is four; two of the Qingcheng Sword School ‘Bum Bum Back, Geese Landing in Sand’ will take four to carry. Three times two is six. Three ‘Bum Bum Back, Geese Landing in Sand’ will take six to carry. Four times two is eight….” She did not continue, but starting giggling.

Such behavior in suddenly going from crying to all of a sudden smiling was more appropriate for a seven or eight year old child. Judging by her height, the girl looked to be thirteen or fourteen. Every word from her was designed to humiliate Yu Canghai somehow; people all thought those were definitely not the words from an innocent and sincere child; there was no doubt that someone must have been behind it all.

“A true man acts openly and aboveboard. Whichever friend wants to be hard on me, better show yourself. What kind of a hero are you if you only hide, sneak around, and direct a little child to utter such nonsense?” Yu Canghai bellowed loudly. Although he was short, the words were spoken using energy all the way down from his abdomen and echoed in everyone’s ears. People were shocked by the great energy Yu had put on display and stopped belittling him. The entire hall quieted down, and nobody answered.

After a while, the little girl suddenly spoke again. “Granny, he asked what kind of hero that was. Are the people of the Qingcheng Sword School heroes?”

Dingyi was a senior sister of the Heng-Shan Sword School. Although she was displeased with the Qingcheng Sword School, she wouldn’t just defame the entire school in public, so she answered vaguely, “The Qingcheng Sword School…the Qingcheng Sword School had many heroes in the last generation.”

“Then how about now? Are there any one left?” The girl asked again.

Dingyi pouted her lips at Yu Canghai. “Why don’t you ask the Master Priest of the Qingcheng Sword School?” she said.

“Master Priest of the Qingcheng Sword School,” the girl said, “if someone was badly wounded and could not even move, then someone else came to bully him, is the second person who took advantage of other’s precarious position a hero?”

Yu Canghai was shocked. “She is indeed from the Huashan Sword School!” he thought aloud.

People who had listened to Yilin illustrating the story about Luo Renjie’s killing of Linghu Chong all felt a shock too. “Could this little girl be somebody related to the Huashan Sword School?”

Lao Denuo thought, “These words from the little girl are really all for defending the big senior brother against injustice. Who is she?” Afraid to upset the little apprentice sister, he hadn’t been in a hurry to inform his fellow apprentices about the death of big senior brother.

Yilin’s entire body started to tremble. She felt grateful toward the little girl. She had always wanted to ask Yu Canghai the same question, but being a gentle and kind girl, that always respected the elders and seniors, she simply could not confront Yu Canghai, a senior. Now that the little girl had spoken them out for her, teardrops started to run down her cheeks.

“Who taught you to ask this?” Yu Canghai asked, lowering his voice.

The young girl ignored his question once again. “There was a guy named Luo Renjie. He was your apprentice, wasn’t he? When he saw someone badly wounded, and the badly wounded man was a very good person, not only didn’t he help him, he stabbed him with his sword. Was that Luo Renjie a true hero? Was that the kind of Qingcheng Sword School’s chivalrous virtue you taught him?”

These words were only coming out of the mouth of a little girl, but she stated them so clearly and logically, it was really overwhelming.

Yu Canghai did not know how to answer, so he asked sternly, “Who on earth is telling you to ask these questions of me? Is your father from the Huashan Sword School?”

The little girl turned around to ask Dingyi, “Granny, is his scaring a little girl the kind of deed from a proper hero or a true man?”

Dingyi sighed. “That, I don’t know.”

People in the hall became more and more surprised. Those words the little girl said before probably were taught by grownups, but the two questions she just asked were really her own response, elicited from the manner of Yu Canghai’s questioning. They showed clear criticism and were right to the point. How could one have expected her to be so tough at such a young age?

Looking at the little girl through her blurring eyes, Yilin saw her slim back. Suddenly she realized, “I have seen this little sister before. Where have I seen her?” She thought for a while and then remembered. “Yes, she was also at the Huiyan Wine House yesterday.” All the scenes from yesterday came out from her memory and became clearer and clearer.

Yesterday morning, when she was forced into Huiyan Wine House, there were many people sitting around seven or eight tables. Then the two from the Taishan Sword School challenged Tian Boguang and Tian Boguang killed one of them. By then most of the customers had been scared away, and the waiter dared not serve anyone anymore. But in the corner close to the street, a big, tall monk sat by a small table. There were also two more people sitting at another small table. Until Linghu Chong was killed, and she carried his body downstairs from the wine house, the monk and the other two never left. At that time she was scared to death. With lots of things going through her mind, she simply did not care much about the giant monk and the other two. Now seeing the back view of the little girl and comparing it with the scene in her memory, she could clearly remember that the little girl was one of the two sitting by the small table in the wine house. She had her back to her at that time, so she only remembered her view from the rear. And yesterday she was wearing a yellow blouse, not the green blouse she had on today. If the little girl had not turned around, she would never have remembered her.

But who was the other one? She could only remember that it was a man for sure. But was he old or young, and what kind of clothes was he dressed in? She could not remember anything. Also, she remembered seeing the monk picking up his bowl to drink his wine, and when Tian Boguang was tricked into admitting his failure, the monk laughed loudly. The little girl was laughing too; her clear laughter seemed to be ringing in her ears again. Sure, it was her! Who was that giant monk? Why was a monk drinking wine?

Yilin was immersed in memories of the previous day’s scenes. It seemed as though Linghu Chong’s smiling face had appeared in front of her eyes again: how he had tricked Luo Renjie into coming closer before his death; how he thrust his sword into the enemy’s belly; how she carried Linghu Chong’s body staggering down the stairs empty-minded, not knowing where she had been; how she absent-mindedly went out of the town gate and just walked about aimlessly without a clear destination…She could feel the body in her arms getting colder and colder. She didn’t feel his weight, didn’t feel sad either, nor knew where she was going. Then, she came by a lotus pond where the lotus flowers were so bright and so beautiful. Her chest seemed to be struck by a big hammer, and she could not hold out any longer. She fell down together with Linghu Chong’s body, and then passed out.

When she slowly regained consciousness, she felt bright sunshine blinding in her eyes. She tried to hold the body but missed. Jumping up in surprise, she found herself still by the lotus pond, with the beautiful lotus flowers just as before, but there was no sign of Linghu Chong’s body. She was so panic-stricken that she rushed around the lotus pond several times, but still couldn’t find any sign of where the body had gone. Seeing the bloodstains on her clothes, she knew it couldn’t have been a bad dream. She almost passed out again. She forced herself to calm down a little, and then searched around one more time, but still, the body seemed have flown away on wings without a trace. The water in the lotus pond was quite shallow. She waded in the water and searched around, still not a single trace. Then, she went back to the Hengshan Town, asked for the location of the Liu House, and found her Master. But all the time she had being pondering, “Where did big brother Linghu’s body go? Maybe someone passing by took it? Maybe it was dragged away by wild animals?” When she thought that he had lost his life saving her but she couldn’t even take good care of his body, she felt miserable. If the body really had been dragged away by wild animals and had already been eaten, she would kill herself. Actually, even if Linghu Chong’s body were fine, she would rather not live anyway.

Suddenly, deep in her heart, another thought popped up. That was a thought she had never dared to think about. The thought had come to her several times through the day, but each time she immediately pushed it back and only thought, “How could I be so disturbed? How could I be thinking such nonsense? This is just absurd! No, it’s not like that!” But now, she could not hide it any longer, and it appeared clearly in her mind: “When I carried Big Brother Linghu’s body, I felt very calm and peaceful. I was actually feeling a bit happy, just like when I was chanting exercises of the Buddhist Scriptures with an empty mind. I seemed to have hoped to just hold his body and walk casually on a never-ending road that nobody else was on. I would pay any price to find his body. Why? Am I not able to bear the thought that wild animals ate his body? No! Not that at all! I just want to carry his body and walk around aimlessly, or just sit by the lotus pond quietly. Why did I faint? Oh, no, I am terrible! I should not think like this. The Master wouldn’t allow it, and the Buddha wouldn’t tolerate it either. These are evil thoughts. I shouldn’t be trapped by evil thoughts. But where is big brother Linghu’s body?” Her mind was in such chaos. She could almost see the smile on Linghu Chong’s lips once again. It was such a carefree smile. Then it changed into the disdainful look on his face when he swore, “You are bad luck, little nun!” She felt a pain from her chest like a knife was cutting into her flesh….

Yu Canghai’s voice rose again. “Lao Denuo, this little girl is from your Huashan Sword School, isn’t she?”

“No. This is the first time I have seen this little sister. She is not from our sword school,” Lao Denuo denied in a hurry.

“Sure. If you don’t want to admit it, fine!” Yu Canghai did not believe him at all.

Suddenly Yu Canghai waved his hand. With a flash, an awl-shaped missile shot toward Yilin. “Little Sister, see what this is?” he yelled.

Yilin was still deep in her thoughts, and had never expected a projectile from Yu Canghai. She actually felt some kind of joy: “It is a relief that he is killing me. I don’t feel like living, anyway!” Seeing the missile flying closer, and hearing several people shouting, “Look out for the projectile!” she had no intention of dodging it. For some unknown reason, she felt unspeakable peace and joy, feeling that there was only sadness and endless loneliness in the living world. She would be very happy if the missile killed her.

Dingyi gently pushed the little girl aside and dashed in front of Yilin to block the missile. Although she had the look of an old Granny, the dash was extremely fast. The missile wasn’t traveling that fast, but it was still a shooting projectile. Dingyi started later yet arrived earlier, and was able to get ready to catch the projectile. It seemed that Sister Dingyi could catch the projectile without too much effort now, but when the missile reached about two feet from her, it suddenly dropped to the floor. Since Dingyi had already extended her arm to catch it, yet missed, it was like losing a round in front of everyone. Her face turned slightly red.

Yu Canghai immediately waved his hand again and threw the paper ball toward the little girl’s face. The paper ball was made out of the paper with the turtle picture.

“So the bull-nose shot the missile just to lure me away. He wasn’t really trying to hurt Yilin,” Dingyi thought to herself.

The small paper ball went much faster, and carried much more strength than the awl-shaped missile. Yu Canghai had used his inner energy when he threw the paper ball. If it hit the little girl’s face, she would definitely get hurt.

Dingyi was standing next to Yilin. When she realized what had happened, it was already too late to help. All she could do was to yell, “You…!”

The little girl swiftly sat down on the floor and cried, “Mom, Mom, he is going to kill me.” She moved in a very swift manner, and dodged the paper ball in perfect time. Anyone could tell that she knew martial arts, but she just acted like a spoiled child. Everyone thought it was quite funny. Yu Canghai also felt that it wouldn’t be appropriate to push her more. He had a belly full of suspicions, but none of his questions could be answered.

Seeing the embarrassed expression on Yu Canghai’s face, Sister Dingyi couldn’t help laughing inwardly. Since the Qingcheng Sword School had lost face so badly, she didn’t want to mess with him anymore, so she said to Yilin, “Yilin, I don’t know where the little sister’s parents went. Why don’t you go with her to look for them, so she won’t be bullied because nobody is looking out for her?”

“Yes, Master!” Yilin answered. She walked up to the little girl and took her hand. The girl smiled at her, and they walked out of the hall together.

Yu Canghai sneered and stopped paying any more attention to the girl. He turned around and stared at Mu Gaofeng.

[1]  It was a unique phenomenon for eunuchs to exist in Ancient Chinese. Chinese Emperors always had thousands of wives in the palace. Men were needed in the palace for many tasks, but the Emperor was afraid that these men would have affairs with his wives, so all men who wanted to work in the palace had to be castrated to ensure that no affairs would happen. It isn’t known when exactly this started, but one can trace it back to at least 2,000 years ago.

[2]  In Chinese, the character of Lin (meaning “Woods”) is made up of two of the Mu character (meaning “Tree, wood”).