Sword Stained with Royal Blood English Translation Chapter 1b

Sword Stained With Royal Blood English Translation 

Novel by Jin Yong

Chapter 1 - Part 2 

The shepherd boy closed the door, and Zhu took a large stone from the shadows and placed it behind the door. When Yang Pengju saw this, he couldn't help but shudder, thinking to himself, "This man is so strong. This stone weighs at least three hundred catties, yet he effortlessly lifts and moves it."

Seeing Yang Pengju's reaction, Ying explained, "There are many tigers in the mountains. Sometimes they rush into our homes at night, so we need to block the door with a stone." (Note: The section about Yuan Chengzhi killing a tiger was removed.)

That night, Zhang Chaotang, Yang Pengju, and Zhang Kang shared a room. After Zhang Kang fell asleep, Zhang Chaotang couldn't help but worry about the dangers they might encounter on their journey to Guangzhou. His thoughts were tumultuous, and he found it hard to fall asleep. After a while, he suddenly heard the sound of a book being read aloud. The shepherd boy was reading.

Zhang Chaotang listened carefully and realized that the book was about military battles and military formations. Curious, Zhang Chaotang got out of bed, put on his clothes, and went to the main room. There, he saw the shepherd boy reading by the light of a candle, and Ying was sitting beside him, explaining the book to him. When Ying saw Zhang Chaotang, he nodded at him, then lowered his head and continued to explain the book.

Zhang Chaotang approached and saw several books still lying on the table. He picked one up and saw the words "New Treatise on Military Efficiency " written on it. It was a military book written by General Qi Jiguang of this dynasty. Zhang Chaotang had heard of Qi Jiguang's name before in Brunei. He knew he was a famous general who had defeated Japanese pirates. Later, he guarded Jizhou and no strong enemy dared to invade the border. His military tactics were like a god, and he was renowned throughout the land.

Zhang Chaotang asked Ying, "You are all exceptional people. Why are you living in seclusion here? Can you tell me why?" Ying replied, "We are just ordinary folks who farm, hunt, read, and write. There is nothing special about us. Does the young master think it is strange? Should only the sons of officials be allowed to read?" Zhang Chaotang thought to himself, "So ordinary farmers in Central Plain also have such knowledge and education. They are not inferior to the people of barbaric countries." He admired them greatly, said "Excuse me," and went back to his room to sleep. 

Fuzzy and drowsy, Zhang Chaotang was suddenly pushed by someone and woke up. He sat up and heard Yang Pengju whisper, "This might be a bandits' den. Let's get out of here!" Zhang Chaotang was shocked and asked in a low voice, "What's going on?"

Yang Pengju lit a candle and walked over to a wooden box. He lifted the lid and said, "Take a look."

Zhang Chaotang saw that the box was full of gold, silver, and precious jewels. He was so shocked that he couldn't say a word.

Yang Pengju handed him the candlestick, moved the wooden box aside, and found another one below. He reached out and tried to twist the copper lock on the box. Zhang Chaotang warned, "Don't pry into other people's privacy. It might bring trouble." Yang Pengju said, "There's something strange about this place." Zhang Chaotang asked nervously, "What's so strange?" Yang Pengju replied, "The smell of blood." Zhang Chaotang didn't dare to say anything.

Yang Pengju broke the lock and listened carefully for any noise outside. He opened the lid of the box and moved the candle closer. The two of them were immediately stunned and speechless.

Inside the box were two human heads. One had been chopped off for a long time, and the blood had turned black, but it had not rotted. The other head was freshly cut. Both heads had been treated with lime and other substances, and they looked lifelike with full features. Despite his experience in the world, Yang Pengju's hands and feet trembled. Zhang Chaotang was too scared to speak.

Yang Pengju lightly restored the box to its original position and said, "Let's go!" He pushed Zhang Kang awake on the kangs and they crept to the door. The three of them tiptoed to the door, but Yang Pengju felt a large stone blocking their way. He silently cursed himself, knowing he couldn't move it with all his strength. Just as he managed to push it open a little, a bright flash of light appeared, and Zhu appeared holding a candlestick.

Yang Pengju put his hand on the hilt of his sword. Although he knew he was no match for Zhu, he had to fight back in this situation. Unexpectedly, Zhu ignored him and said, "Are you leaving?" He reached out and moved the large stone aside, opening the door.

Yang Pengju and Zhang Chaotang didn't say much, they muttered a few words of thanks, bowed their heads and left the house, galloping west on their horses.

After running for more than ten miles, they thought they had escaped danger and were relieved. Suddenly, the sound of horse hooves behind them was heard, and someone shouted loudly, "Hey, stop, stop!" The three of them dared not stop and rode their horses faster.

Suddenly, a black shadow flashed past, and a person rushed ahead of them. With one hand raised, Yang Pengju's horse was startled, neighing loudly and rearing up. Yang Pengju swung his sword and aimed it at the person's head. The person disarmed him with several moves and suddenly leapt up, extending his left fist towards Yang Pengju's right temple. Yang Pengju raised his single blade and quickly slashing toward his opponent's arm. However, that person's punch was just a feint, and halfway through, he changed from a fist to a palm, and before landing, he had already hooked Yang Pengju's wrist and shouted, "Get off!" He dragged Yang Pengju off his horse and took the single blade from his hand, throwing it on the ground.

In the dim starlight, when they saw the person, it turned out to be the farmer Zhu.

He coldly said, "Go back!" Turning around, he got on his horse and rode away without paying attention to whether the three of them followed. Yang Pengju knew that resistance was useless and that he couldn't escape, so he reluctantly got on his horse, and the three of them followed him back.

When they entered the house, they saw the brightly lit mian room. The shepherd boy and the other three people were sitting there waiting, looking solemn and not saying a word.

Yang Pengju felt that he was unlikely to escape death, so he decided to be bold and said, "Since I have fallen into your hands today, if you want to kill me, then do it. No need to say more."

Zhu asked, "Brother Ying, what do you think we should do?" Ying remained silent in thought. Ni said, "Let young master Zhang and his servant go, and kill the Yang Pengju." Ying said, " Yang Pengju has been a bodyguard for wealthy people, a lackey. He cannot be a good person. However, he did a good deed yesterday by bravely standing up for what is right. We will spare his life. Brother Luo, disable his martial arts."

Luo stood up, and Yang Pengju's face turned pale with fear.

Zhang Chaotang did not understand the language of the martial world and did not know that "disable his martial arts" meant to gouge out his eyes. However, seeing the expressions of everyone, he knew that they were going to harm Yang Pengju. He wanted to speak up for him, but the shepherd boy said, "Uncle Ying, I think he looks pitiful. Let's spare him."

Ying looked at everyone and paused for a moment. He then said to Yang Pengju, "Since someone has pleaded for you, we will spare you. Can you make a vow that you will not disclose what you see tonight?" 

Yang Pengju was overjoyed and said, "I did not intend to pry into your affairs tonight, but since I have seen it, I regret my ignorance of the heroes among you. I vow to keep what I have seen tonight a secret. If I violate this vow, let me be struck down by heaven and earth and die a miserable death." Ying said, "Good, we believe that you are an honorable man. You may leave now." Yang Pengju bowed and turned to leave. Ni suddenly stood up and shouted, "Are you just going to leave like this?"

Yang Pengju understood what he meant, smiled bitterly and said, "Okay, please lend me a knife." Zhu pulled out a sharp blade from under the table and lightly tossed it to him. Yang Pengju caught it, walked a few steps closer, placed his left hand flat on the table, and with a swift stroke, cut off two fingers. He said with a smile, "A single man is responsible for his actions, and this has nothing to do with young master Zhang." 

Everyone saw that his hand was bleeding profusely, yet he persisted and impressed them with his resilience, and Ni gave him a thumbs up and said, "Okay, tonight's matter is settled like this." He then went inside and brought out some medicinal powder and a white cloth to help stop the bleeding and bandage the wound. 

Yang Pengju didn't want to stay any longer and turned to Zhang Chaotang, saying, "Let's go." Zhang Chaotang saw that he was very pale, obviously in great pain, and wanted to suggest that he rest for a while, but couldn't bring himself to say it. 

Ying said, "young master Zhang came from afar, and we have scared this foreign guest. We are really sorry. Don't go back to your country and tell them that we people of Central Plain are all wicked and evil. This friend Yang Pengju is also very courageous. Let me give you this." As he spoke, he took out something from his bag and handed it to Zhang Chaotang.

Zhang Chaotang took it over and saw that it was a light bamboo plaque with the words "Shan Zhong" branded on it, and some patterns on the back that seemed to have no use.

Ying said, "The world is in chaos now, and as a weak scholar, you should not wander around outside. I advise you to hurry home. If you encounter any danger on the road these few days, take out this bamboo plaque, it may be useful. After a few years... well, maybe ten years, twenty years, when you hear that the Central Plain is peaceful again, then come back! In times of chaos, gaining fame and fortune is useless and may even bring trouble."

Zhang Chaotang looked at the bamboo plaque again, and found nothing special about it. He didn't believe it had any mysterious power and thought it was just a lucky charm. He thanked Ying and gave it to Zhang Kang to keep in his clothes. The three of them said goodbye and slowly rode away. When they returned to the place where they had fought with the Zhu earlier, they saw that the steel knife was still shining brightly on the ground. Yang Pengju picked it up and thought to himself, "I thought I was a great hero, but in someone else's hands, it's not worth a thing!"

At dawn, they arrived in a small town and Zhang Chaotang found an inn for Yang Pengju to rest for a day and a night. They continued their journey the next morning. They rode for more than 20 miles after lunch when they suddenly heard the sound of hoofbeats. A rider came galloping towards them, glanced at them, and raced past. After traveling five or six miles, they heard the sound of hoofbeats behind them again. It was the same rider catching up to them. This time, both Yang Pengju and Zhang Chaotang could clearly see that the man had a blue headscarf and an imposing demeanor between his eyebrows. He raced past them and disappeared into the distance. 

Zhang Chaotang said, "This person is strange. How could he leave and come back?" Yang Pengju said, "young master Zhang, you should escape on your own later. Don't wait for me." Zhang Chaotang was surprised and asked, "Why? Are there more bandits?" Yang Pengju said, "We won't go five miles without encountering some trouble. But we have no way out but to push forward."

The three of them were nervous and slowly approached. After walking for just over two miles, they heard a whooshing sound and saw an arrow fly up into the sky. Three riders suddenly emerged from the forest and blocked their way.

Yang Pengju urged his horse forward and bowed his fist, saying, "I am Yang from the Wu Hui Escort Agency. We are passing through your area and not working as escort for anymore. We did not present a letter to pay our respects to any of you. This young master Zhang is from a foreign country and is a scholar. Please kindly let us pass." He had a bit of reputation in the Jianghu world, and his martial arts skills were not weak, but he had just broken a finger and he suspected that the friends of Ying in this area were probably with the riders, so he chose his words carefully and spoke kindly. 

One of the three riders had empty hands and said with a smile, "We're short on money and need to borrow one hundred taels of silver." He spoke in the dialect of southern Zhejiang, and Yang Pengju and Zhang Chaotang were stunned and looked at each other, not knowing what he said.

The man who had just ridden back and forth yelled, "Borrow one hundred taels of silver. Do you understand?" Yang Pengju was angry at their disrespect and shouted, "If you want to borrow money, you have to prove your worth!" The man in front said, "Fine! Is this skill worth one hundred taels of silver?" He took off his back the shooting gun, and shot three bullets into the sky. After the bullets fell, he shot three more bullets in rapid succession, and the six bullets formed three pairs in the air, colliding with each other and turning into fragments.

Upon witnessing the incredible marksmanship, Yang Pengju was momentarily stunned. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain in his left wrist and his single-edged sword fell to the ground. He realized that he had been hit in the hand by a bullet from the opponent.

The third rider on the other side held a soft whip and charged over on horseback, using the "withered vine entangling tree" move to strike towards Yang Pengju's waist. He pulled his horse back to avoid the attack. The rider used the momentum of his whip to pick up the fallen sword from the ground, and with a long laugh, he quickly rode off. As he passed by Zhang Kang, a flash of white light appeared, and two swings of his steel sword had already cut the cloth on Zhang Kang's back. However, he did not stop and urged his horse to gallop forward. 

The package slid off Zhang Kang's back just as the rider who was shooting with the gun arrived. He reached out his arm, caught the falling package without it touching the ground, and lifted it up to feel the weight. He chuckled and said, "Thank you very much." In the blink of an eye, the three men had disappeared without a trace.

Yang Pengju could only sigh and remain silent. Zhang Kang was anxious and said, "All of our silver is in the package. How can we go home now?" Yang Pengju replied, "If you can keep your life, that's already fortunate enough. Let's just see what happens." The three of them continued on with their heads down, feeling dejected.

Before they even had time for a meal, they suddenly heard the sound of hooves behind them. They turned their heads and saw that the three men had come back. Yang Pengju and Zhang Chaotang both gasped in fright, thinking, "they've already stolen our gold and silver, do they really have to take our lives too?"

The three men rode up and dismounted together. The first one bowed and said, "We didn't know you were our own people. We apologize for any offense. Please don't be angry." The second man held the package with both hands and handed it to Zhang Kang. However, he was too afraid to take it and looked at his master. Zhang Chaotang nodded, so Zhang Kang took the package.

One of the men asked, "Earlier I heard that there were two people, one escort Yang and the other young master Zhang. Are these your real names?" Zhang Chaotang replied, "Yes, they are." He then revealed the names and backgrounds of both of them. 

The three men were surprised to hear this and looked at each other in astonishment. The first man, said, "I am Huang, and these two are brothers called Liu. Young master Zhang, you should have shown us your bamboo plaque earlier to avoid any misunderstandings." Zhang Chaotang realized that the bamboo plaque was indeed effective, and he didn't know what to say.

Huang continued, "I'm sure you two are also going to Shengfeng Peak. Let's travel together." Zhang Chaotang and Yang Pengju were afraid that these men were a large group of bandits, so they tried to avoid them. Zhang Chaotang said, "My friend and I are heading to Guangzhou and won't be going to Mount Shengfeng."

Huang's face turned angry and he said, "In three days, it will be August 16th. We have come a long way to Yuedong, and you're not going up the mountain?" Zhang Chaotang and Yang Pengju had no idea what August 16th meant or why they had to go up the mountain, but they didn't dare to admit it. Zhang Chaotang had to say, "My family has urgent matters to attend to, and we must return immediately."

Huang retorted, "Going up the mountain won't delay you for more than two days. If you don't pay your respects to our warlord on his death anniversary, what kind of friends of the Shan Zhong are you?" Zhang Chaotang was even more confused and didn't know what the "warlord's death anniversary" or the "Shan Zhong" was.

Yang Pengju had a lot of experience and knew that they had to go to Shengfeng Peak no matter what. Although it was dangerous, they could only leave their fate to chance. Moreover, judging from their expressions and tone, they didn't seem to have any ill intentions. He said, "Since you are so kind, young master Zhang and I will go up the mountain with you." Then he gave Zhang Chaotang a signal with his eyes, indicating that they should not resist.

Huang was delighted and said with a smile, "I thought you wouldn't be so ungrateful."

The six of them traveled together, staying at inns along the way. It was all arranged by Huang, who made a few strange gestures and said some cryptic words. The restaurants and inns along the way did not charge them any money, and they were hospitably and politely treated.

After two days of traveling, they arrived at a towering mountain, which Huang said was Shengfeng Peak. Along the way, there were endless streams of people in military attire heading towards Shengfeng Peak. They came in all shapes and sizes, and their demeanor showed that they were all martial artists. Most of these people were acquaintances of Huang and the Liu brothers, and they greeted each other warmly when they met.

Zhang and Yang firmly held to their principle of not prying into other people's privacy. When they saw these people talking, they stood far away. Yang Pengju heard a variety of accents in their greetings, including those from the northeast, the Yellow River region, Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan, Shanxi, and others. Looking at their attire and appearance, most of them came from distant places and were all covered in dust. Zhang Chaotang and Yang Pengju secretly felt uneasy and fearful.

Yang Pengju thought to himself, "It seems that these people are the leaders of bandit gangs from various regions, most likely gathering to rebel. I am an innocent civilian and cannot get mixed up with these rebels. It's really unlucky."

That night, Zhang Chaotang and others rested in a shop at the foot of the Shengfeng Peak, waiting to climb the mountain the next morning. As everyone was about to have dinner, a person suddenly rushed into the shop and shouted, "Mister Sun has arrived!" Upon hearing this, almost all the customers in the shop immediately stood up and rushed out. Yang Pengju pulled Zhang Chaotang's sleeve and said, "Let's go take a look."

Walking out of the shop, they saw everyone lining up with their hands down, seemingly waiting for someone. After a while, the sound of horse hooves came from the mountain road to the west, and everyone raised their toes and looked over. They saw a scholar in his forties riding slowly on a horse. When he saw everyone standing by the side of the road to greet him, he urged his horse to move faster, galloping up to them, and then dismounted.

The scholar greeted everyone one by one as he walked over. When he came to Zhang Chaotang, he saw that he was also dressed as a scholar and was slightly surprised. He clasped his hands and asked, "May I ask who this is?" Zhang Chaotang replied, "My surname is Zhang. May I ask for your name, sir?" The scholar said, "My surname is Sun, last name is Zhongshou." Zhang Chaotang clasped his hands and said, "I have heard of you for a long time." Sun Zhongshou smiled slightly and then went into the shop.

After dinner, Yang Pengju whispered to Zhang Chaotang, "This scholar named Sun seems to have a lot of power and influence. Young master Zhang, why don't you talk to him and ask him to let us go? Both of you are scholars, and it should be easy to persuade him."

Zhang Chaotang thought it was a good idea and walked to Sun Zhongshou's door. He coughed and knocked on the door a few times, and the sound of reading poetry and prose inside the room stopped.

The door opened and Sun Zhongshou greeted him, saying, "The inn is quiet, it's good that you came to talk, brother Zhang." Zhang Chaotang bowed and entered, seeing an open handwritten book on the table with words such as "Liaodong", "Ningyuan", "minister", and "Emperor" written on it, as if it were a petition. Zhang Chaotang was afraid of touching sensitive issues and did not dare to look at it more, so he sat down.

Sun Zhongshou first asked about Zhang Chaotang's family background, and Zhang Chaotang told the truth. Sun Zhongshou said, " brother Zhang, you came at an inopportune time. The central government of Central Plain is corrupt, and who knows when it will be cleared up. In my opinion, brother Zhang should return to Brunei for now and wait for the Holy Emperor of Central Plain to take the throne before coming back to take the imperial examination." Zhang Chaotang agreed and said he was going to leave. He then recounted how he had avoided the constables, how Yang Pengju had helped him, and how he had obtained the bamboo plaque, but he left out the incident of seeing a head in the box at night.

Sun Zhongshou said, "We have met here by fate. Tomorrow, brother Zhang will follow me up the mountain. It is good to know about one of the thousand-year-old injustice in my country. As long as what we see and hear on this trip is not leaked to others, I guarantee that brother Zhang will not encounter any danger." Zhang Chaotang thanked him but didn't dare to ask more. 

Sun Zhongshou asked about the customs and practices of the people of Brunei. As Zhang Chaotang described, they were unheard of and he sighed, "I wonder when the people of Central Plain will have the same peace and prosperity as those in Brunei, living without worry and sharing the blessings of peace." 

The two talked until two in the morning, and only then did Zhang Chaotang bid farewell and return to his room. Yang Pengju was already anxiously waiting, and only after hearing what he had to say about Sun Zhongshou's words did he finally relax.

The next day was the Mid-Autumn Festival, Zhang Chaotang, Yang Pengju, and Zhang Kang joined the crowd in climbing the mountain. At noon, more than ten people were waiting with food and dishes halfway up the mountain, all vegetarian. After everyone had eaten and rested for a while, they continued on their way.

After that, they were guarded and checked very strictly along the way. When they were checked by the guards, Sun Zhongshou nodded and the guards let them through without asking any questions. Zhang Chaotang secretly thought, "That was close! If we hadn't had that conversation with him last night, it would be hard to say whether we'd live or die today."

In the evening, they arrived at the mountaintop where hundreds of men were lined up to welcome them. 

There were dozens of houses scattered around the mountain, with the largest one resembling a temple. These houses looked ordinary, without any fortifications or watchtowers, but they didn't seem like a bandit stronghold either.

Yang Pengju, seeing the factions on the mountain, thought that the construction on the mountain must be grand and imposing, with formidable defenses. But it was not the case. He had been in the Jianghu world for over ten years and was well-informed, but this time he was completely baffled. What's more, these people seemed to be intimate friends with each other, but when they met, there was no sense of joy, and each person's expression was full of sadness, indignation, and grief.

Zhang Yang and another person were taken to a small room and served a meal consisting of four vegetarian dishes and over 20 steamed buns. That evening, Zhang Chaotang and Yang Pengju whispered to each other, unable to understand what these people were up to. When Sun Zhongshou said " thousand-year-old injustices," they were even more confused.

The next day, Zhang Chaotang and Yang Pengju went for a walk in the mountains after having breakfast. They saw many tall and strong men, some with scars on their heads and others missing limbs. They looked like they had been through many battles and hardships. Zhang and Yang were afraid of causing trouble, so they quickly returned to their room and didn't go out again. They continued to eat vegetarian food throughout the day. Yang Pengju cursed in his heart, "Damn thieves and bandits, their leader death and made us eat such tasteless vegetables and tofu."

In the evening, they heard the sound of a bell and a man came into their room and said, "Mister Sun invites the two of you to the temple to witness the ceremony." Zhang Chaotang and Yang Pengju followed him out. Zhang Kang wanted to go with them, but the man said, "Young man, you should go to bed early."

Zhang Chaotang and Yang Pengju followed the man through several tiled houses and arrived at a temple. Zhang Chaotang looked up and saw a large characters on a horizontal tablet that read "Loyal and Brave Shrine." He wondered who was being worshipped there. As they passed through the front hall and courtyard, they saw racks of weapons, including swords, spears, axes, hammers, halberds, forks, and whips, all shining brightly.

Upon arriving at the main hall, they saw that it was filled with people, with a crowd of two or three thousand. Zhang Chaotang and Yang Pengju were secretly alarmed, never expecting that so many people would gather in this remote mountainous area.

Zhang Chaotang looked up and saw a statue in the hall. The statue was dressed in the costume of a civil official of their dynasty, with a golden helmet on its head, a crimson robe, and a yellow armored jacket. It held a precious sword in its left hand and a command flag in its right. The statue's face was thin and clear, with three strands of long beard, and its appearance was dignified. Its body was slightly tilted, and its eyes seemed to be gazing into the distance with a touch of melancholy. Two rows of spirit tablets were placed on both sides of the statue. Zhang Chaotang was too far away to see clearly the name of the god on the main tablet. The walls of the main hall were covered with banners, armor, weapons, and horse equipment. Some of the banners were yellow or white, while others were red or blue. Some of them had red borders on a yellow background, while others had red borders on a white background.

Zhang Chaotang was full of doubt. He saw the sad and silent faces of the people in the hall. Suddenly, a tall and thin man beside the statue lit a candle and held incense, loudly calling out, "Offer the sacrifice!" The people in the hall immediately knelt down, and Zhang Chaotang and Yang Pengju had to follow suit.

Sun Zhongshou stepped forward through the crowd and recited the memorial text. Yang Pengju did not understand the text's complicated language, but Zhang Chaotang was increasingly shocked as he listened.

As the memorial text continued, Zhang Chaotang could sense the rising anger and indignation in its words. It not only cursed the Manchu people in harsh language, but also spared no mercy for the current emperor, Chongzhen, whom it called "incompetent and unable to distinguish between loyalty and treachery," "stubborn and self-serving, harming our military forces," and "destroying the Great Wall of Central Plain and becoming a sinner of the descendants of the Yellow Emperor." Such harsh criticism of the current emperor was tantamount to open rebellion. Zhang Chaotang was shocked and suspicious. Unexpectedly, the memorial text became even more ferocious later, even cursing the ancestors and forefathers of Emperor Chongzhen, such as saying "Wei Gong, a great meritorious official, was poisoned, and Qingtian was poisoned while he was building the foundation of the country". This was to illustrate the fact that Emperor Taizu had killed Xudan and Liuji, and then it also cursed Emperor Shenzong for levying mineral taxes and harming the people, and Emperor Xizong for employing eunuchs, killing loyal officials who defended the country, like Xiong Tingbi, who were either killed or imprisoned.

This memorial text is bold and righteous, every word and sentence striking a chord in Zhang Chaotang's heart. Although he was far away in a foreign country, he had still heard of the important events of the Central Plain. The second half of the text was a long praise of military achievements, boasting of how "my warlord crushed the enemy, annihilating their great chiefs" and so on. Then it went on to once again bitterly condemn Chongzhen for killing loyalists.

Zhang Chaotang realizes that the statue is of Yuan Chonghuan, the Jiliao warlord who defeated the Qing army, killed Nurhaci, and terrified the Manchus. The statue seems to be looking into the distance, lamenting the invasion of foreign countries and occupation of our territories, grieving for our people, and yearning to come back to life to supervise the army in Liaodong and resist foreign aggression.

As the memorial text nears its end, Zhang Chaotang becomes even more alarmed. He learns that the final paragraph is a vow made to the deities, pledging to "execute the Ming emperor and the Qing chieftains, to redress this thousand-year-old injustice and to comfort the spirit of our warlord in heaven." After the memorial text is read, the worshipers sing, "Kowtow to the spirit of the warlorrd and the other generals who died for their country," and everyone bows down.

A young child dressed in white stands at the front and bows to the crowd. Zhang Chaotang and Yang Pengju are surprised to see that the child is the shepherd boy they met at the farmhouse.

After everyone finished kowtowing and stood up, their tearful faces showed their deep grief and anger. Sun Zhongshou turned to Zhang Chaotang and said, "Brother Zhang is talented. If there are any inappropriate parts in my memorial text, please feel free to revise it." Zhang Chaotang repeatedly said, "I dare not." Sun Zhongshou ordered someone to bring over the writing materials and said, "I invited brother Zhang to come here to the mountain to leverage the talent of a renowned scholar from overseas, and to add glory to the achievements of our warlord Yuan. I also want to let the world know that warlord Yuan was wrongly accused and that people from all walks of life share our sorrow and indignation. It is not just our old comrades who have a personal interest in this matter."

Zhang Chaotang thought to himself, "You asked me to come up here, just for this purpose?" He felt quite embarrassed. Yuan Chonghuan was executed by the court because the emperor was foolish and ignorant of right and wrong. He listened to the instigations of traitors and eunuchs. The whole country knew that Yuan was wrongly accused. Zhang Chaotang had heard some Guangdong merchants cry bitterly about this when he was in Brunei. But since the emperor had issued an official decree to execute him, even if he was wronged, it would be slander against the emperor. If the emperor knew about this and sent a decree to Brunei, even his father would be implicated. However, since Sun Zhongshou had put it this way, and he could not refuse, he had a sudden inspiration. He remembered two novels he had read when he was in Brunei, "Three Kingdoms" and "General Yue Fei." He was not as well-read as Sun Zhongshou and could not write long and complex sentences. He thought for a moment and wrote with his pen, "The Yellow Dragon has not yet emerged, and Wumu is wrongly accused. The Han dynasty awaits restoration, and Zhuge's star has fallen. How painful it is, let us offer our respects." He referred to the achievements of historical figures. Even if this short memorial text fell into the emperor's hands, it could not be used as evidence against them.

Sun Zhongshou thought he was an overseas scholar with limited knowledge and could not write good sentences. He only hoped that he could praise Warlord Yuan's achievements. When he wrote these six sentences, he was very happy. Zhang Chaotang compared Yuan Chonghuan to Zhuge Liang and Yue Fei, which showed his great admiration for Yuan and could not be surpassed. The Qing people were descendants of the Jurchens. When the Qing dynasty was founded, they still referred to themselves as "Jin." Both Yue Fei and Yuan Chonghuan died at the hands of treacherous officials under a foolish ruler while fighting against the Jurchens. They had similar military strategies and met similar fates, so it was not a baseless comparison.

Sun Zhongshou explained these few sentences to everyone, and they thunderously expressed their thanks. Zhang Chaotang and Yang Pengju were immediately treated more warmly and no longer as outsiders. Sun Zhongshou said, "Brother Zhang has extraordinary writing skills. These two sentences from the Wumu and Zhuge Liang will bring honor to him for generations to come. Later, I will have them engraved on the stones next to the ancestral hall, so that future generations will know that our Warlord Yuan's reputation has spread far and wide, and even people from foreign countries thousands of miles away admire him." Zhang Chaotang bowed and thanked him.

After everyone finished paying their respects, they returned to their seats. The person leading the ceremony then shouted, "General of such and such regiment" and "Commander-in-chief of such and such garrison." One person stood up and spoke loudly when he heard the military rank and the implication of the words. Zhang Chaotang realized that these people were all former subordinates of Yuan Chonghuan. After he was killed, they were angry and left the army, scattered to different places. Today is the third anniversary of warlord Yuan's death, so they gathered near the Shengfeng Peak in his hometown of Dongguan, Guangdong to offer sacrifices to their former master. From the way they spoke, it seemed that there was still some significant plot.

When the person leading the ceremony called out "Vice Commander of Jizhou, Zhu Anguo," a person stood up, and both Zhang Chaotang and Yang Pengju were shaken. It turned out that this person was the farmer who had led them to the secret room. Yang Pengju thought to himself, "So he is the anti-Qing general from Jiliao. It's not in vain that I lost to him."

Zhu say loudly, "Young master Yuan has been healthy and strong for the past three years. His martial arts have improved greatly, and he has also read many books. I and my two brothers, Ni and Luo, have passed on all of our martial arts to him. Please recommend another master for him." Sun Zhongshou said, "Among our brothers, who has better martial arts skills than you three? General Zhu doesn't need to be too modest." Zhu Anguo said, "Young master Yuan is very smart in learning martial arts. The three of us have taught him everything we know, and we really don't have anything left to teach him. We must find another renowned master to prevent him from wasting his efforts." Sun Zhongshou said, "Okay, let's discuss this later. What about the matter of punishing the traitor?"

The farmer with the surname Ni, who had previously passed away, stood up and said, "The villain with the surname Fan was killed by Luo Shenjiang in Zhejiang last month. The villain with the surname Shi was chased by me in Chaozhou ten days ago. The heads of both of them are here." He then picked up a cloth bag from the ground and took out two heads.

Some of the crowd cheered while others cursed through gritted teeth. Sun Zhongshou took the heads and placed them on the altar in front of the statue.

Only then did Zhang Chaotang realize that the heads they found in the box in the middle of the night were actually the enemies of the Yuan faction. They must have been involved in the case of framing Yuan Chonghuan. People kept coming forward to offer more heads, and more than ten heads were placed on the altar in front of the statue. According to these people's reports, one of the heads belonged to a current imperial censor with the surname Gao. He was a follower of Wei Zhongxian and had falsely accused Yuan Chonghuan of treason and betraying the country. The other was general Zhao Shangzheng, he was originally from the same hometown as Yuan Chonghuan. Yuan Chonghuan had always promoted him, but in order to seek promotion, he falsely accused his benefactor of rebellion, which made everyone hate him even more.

After everyone finished reporting, Sun Zhongshou said, "We've killed quite a few small villains, but our great enemy has yet to be defeated. The Manchu Emperor Taiji and the incompetent ruler Chongzhen are still in power. How can we avenge ourselves and seek revenge for our grievances? Does anyone have any good ideas?" A short man stood up and said, "Mister Sun!" Sun Zhongshou said, "What do you have to say, General Zhao?" The short man said, "In my opinion..." 

He had only spoken three words when a man hurriedly entered and reported, "General Wang from the 36th regiment in Shanxi has sent someone to see you." Everyone was surprised to hear this news. Sun Zhongshou said, "General Zhao, let's go and meet the envoy from the 36th regiment first." General Zhao agreed and rushed out, followed by everyone else standing up.

At the door, two big men holding torches stepped aside and three people walked in. Yang Pengju had long heard of the name of the "36th regiment". More than a hundred thousand uprising peasant soldiers in Shanxi formed an alliance led by "Purple Golden Bridge" Wang Ziyong. In recent years, they rebelled and killed officials, and their power was immense. Among the 36th regiment, the most famous was the Rebel King Gao Yingxiang. He made his nephew Li Zicheng a famous rebel general, with great heroism and a powerful presence in Jinshan.

The first person was in his forties, with a face full of wrinkles, messy hair, and wearing a coarse cloth shirt and pants. His knees and elbows were worn out, with patches of cloth sewn everywhere, and he wore straw sandals on his bare feet. His legs were covered in mud, giving him the appearance of a rustic farmer. Two men followed him, one in his thirties with fair skin, and the other in his twenties with a sturdy build and a dark complexion. They also looked like farmers.

The three men appeared honest and simple, but they were actually "bandits" who had been rampaging through Qin and Jin.

As the man entered the main hall, he didn't speak and walked straight towards the statue. The fair-skinned man took out incense from his bag and lit it in front of the statue. The three men fell to the ground and kowtowed. The shepherd boy knelt before the altar and paid his respects.

After the three finished their worship, the man with the pockmarked face spoke loudly, "Our General Wang admires warlord Yuan's great achievements in fighting against the Jurchens. After that, warlord Yuan was wrongly accused and executed by the tyrant, which angered the people. General Wang, General Gao, and General Li sent us to pay respects to warlord Yuan's spirit. Nowadays, the government oppresses the people, and we have to fight against the officials to survive. We seek warlord Yuan's spirit to bless us and hope to go to Beijing, capture the emperor's traitors, and avenge warlord Yuan and the people of the world." After speaking, they bowed again. 

Seeing that General Wang's messenger respected their leader, everyone had a good impression of them. Although the man's tone was rough, his words were sincere.

Sun Zhongshou stepped forward and saluted, "Thank you, thank you. May I ask for your surname and name?" The man replied, "My name is Tian Jianxiu. General Wang learned that today is warlord Yuan's anniversary of death, so he sent me to pay respects to his spirit and meet everyone." Sun Zhongshou said, "Thank you for General Wang's kindness. My surname is Sun and my last name is Zhongshou." The fair-skinned man said, "Ah, you are General Sun's younger brother, Sun Zhushou. We have always respected General Sun, who died fighting against the Jurchens."

Sun Zushou was a great general who fought against the Qing Dynasty and made many achievements on the border. When the Qing army invaded, he defended the capital with Yuan Chonghuan. After Yuan Chonghuan was imprisoned, Sun Zushou was furious and went to battle, and died in a famous battle outside Yongdingmen in Beijing, fighting alongside the great general Man Gui. Sun Zhongshou was a talented man in both literature and martial arts, and was the right-hand man of his older brother. In this battle, he fought bravely and escaped, and was resentful of the wrongful execution of loyal officials by the emperor Chongzhen. He and the old subordinates of Yuan Chonghuan scattered across Jianghu world, nurturing the young ruler and plotting revenge. He was shrewd and wise, and was secretly the leader of the Yuan faction.

Sun Zushou was generous, righteous, brave, and honest. "Ming History" recorded two stories about him: When he was defending Guguan against the Jurchen, he was injured in battle and on the verge of death. His wife Zhang cut off the flesh from her own arm and boiled it into soup for him to drink, while she herself fasted for seven days and nights, praying to God to allow her to sacrifice herself for him. Later, Sun Zushou recovered, but Zhang died. Sun Zushou was grateful for his wife's kindness and never came near another woman again. 

When he was a general, a subordinate passed through his hometown of Changping and sent 500 taels of silver to his home. At that time, it was quite common, but his son refused to accept it. Later, when his son joined the army, Sun Zushou praised him greatly and invited him to drink, saying, "By not accepting the gift of money, you have deeply impressed me. If you had accepted, you would have gone against military law." "Ming History" praised him as "upholding righteousness and integrity." 

Sun Zhongshou's conduct was similar to that of his brother, and thus he was highly respected by many.

- End of Chapter 1 -

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