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Demi Gods & Semi Devils Book 5
XLVIII - The descendant of prince fall into dire straits, how can he endure it, dew on a willow branch?
Chinese title: 天龍八部 - 王孙落魄 怎生消得 杨枝玉露Original novel written by Jin Yong (Louis Cha)
Wuxia Novel Fan Translation by justin13
DGSD Chapter 48: Wretched Imperial Descendent. An Episode Never to be Repeated. Passing of an Era
Although the speaker is at least dozens of feet away, when the voice entered the ears of Madam Wang and Murong Fu, it felt as if the speaker is right beside them. The countenance of both Aunt and Nephew lost colour instantly. Outside the house, Feng BoE and Bao Butong roared out in unison as they raced towards the source of the voice. Murong Fu dashed to the door and under the fluttering green moonlight, a grey silhouette and a yellow silhouette shot past him. It is Deng Baichuan and Gongye Qian (Gongzhi error) who are respectively performing a left and right combined attack.
With his left staff propped against the floor, Duan Yanqing’s right staff went for a horizontal slice towards the two men Deng Baichuan and Gongye Qian. ‘Chi Chi Chi’ sounds rang out and in a split second, seven killing stances have been executed. Deng Baichuan barely defended himself while Gongye Qian cannot withstand the force and took two steps back. The two men Bao Butong and Feng BoE entered the fray as well. Against the four of them, Duan Yanqing hardly broke a sweat and he easily gained the upper hand.
From his waist, Murong Fu unsheathed his long sword. With a display of cold aura and a flash of green light, he stabbed in the direction of Duan Yanqing. Duan Yanqing is surrounded and consecutively attacked by the five men. Among the five, Murong Fu is considered a first-class swordsman. Nonetheless, the shadow of his staff is flying everywhere and all his attacks are fierce and forceful.
Back then, when Madam Wang and Duan Zhengchun are passionately in love, under the moon and before the flowers, except for swearing vows of love to each other, they discussed martial arts as well. Duan Zhengchun had exhibited ‘Yiyang Finger’ and Duan Family Swordplay for her appreciation. Currently, Madam Wang is witnessing sword stances from Duan Yanqing that resembled her own Duan-Lang, how could she not be grieved? In her mind, she guessed that Duan-Lang has been kidnapped and should be in the vicinity; she should take this opportunity to rescue him. About to leave the house and search in the nearby mountain, she was abruptly interrupted by a loud scream from Feng BoE.
She saw Feng BoE lying on the ground and Duan Yanqing behind him. With his steel staff, Duan Yanqing scratched Feng BoE in several areas but none of the attacks are aimed at his critical spots. Murong Fu, Deng Baichuan and the others thrust their weapons at Duan Yanqing but were deflected by his steel staff. The situation is absolutely clear. For Duan Yanqing to kill Feng BoE, it is as easy as flipping his hand. For the time being, he is being merciful.
Murong Fu quickly retreated and called out: “Stop!” The three men Deng Baichuan, Gongye Qian and Bao Butong leapt backwards. Murong Fu state: “Mister Duan, thank you for showing mercy. There is no enmity between you and I. From today onwards, Gusu Murong Family acknowledges your superior skills.”
Feng BoE cried out: “Surnamed Feng (I) is an incompetent learner; one (my) life is insignificant. Master, no matter what happens, you must not admit defeat because of Surnamed Feng (me).” Duan Yanqing’s throat ‘gu gu’ laughed: “Surnamed Feng is a worthy hero!” He then withdrew his steel staff.
With a <Straight Flipping Carp>* jump, Feng BoE recovered with a ‘hu’ sound. With his saber, he performed a ferocious chop at the top of Duan Yanqing’s head, yelling: “Take this blade of mine!” Duan Yanqing raised his steel staff and applied it against his saber. Feng BoE can feel a particularly strong power rattling towards his palms. The saber instantly left his grasp and there was a sharp pain at his waist. Duan Yanqing’s staff has landed a blow on his waist and with the impact, Feng BoE flew several feet away. Next, his right hand made a small movement, channeling his internal energy through the steel staff and into the saber. With a ‘ting ting dang dang’ series of noises, the saber has disintegrated into ten over pieces and the saber bits flew out like projectiles in various directions. Either jumping high or dodging low to avoid the flying sharp shrapnel, Murong Fu, Madam Wang and the others are frightened out of their wits.
Murong Fu clasped his hands, praising: “Mister Duan’s divine skills are peerless. You have my admiration. Shall we dissolve our enmity and become friends?”
Duan Yanqing challenged: “Earlier, you wanted to prepare ‘Drunken Bees’ to harm me, now that you have lost to me, what other ideas do you have?”
Murong Fu enquired: “If the two of us work together, it will be highly beneficial to both parties. Prince Yanqing, you are the rightful Emperor of DaLi country but your precious throne has been hijacked by somebody else. Why aren’t you trying to snatch it back?” With an odd eye, Duan Yanqing took a sideway glance at Murong Fu. In a ghostly voice, he asked: “What has that got to do with you?” Murong Fu insisted: “If you want to become the Emperor of DaLi, you cannot do it without my input.” Duan Yanqing icily sniggered: “I don’t believe you are willing to assist me; more likely, you cannot wait to kill me with one sword slash.”
Murong Fu explained: “Since I am willing to assist you in becoming the Emperor of DaLi, I have my own agenda as well. Number one, I hate the kid Duan Yu to the core. At Mount Shaoshi, he forced me to commit suicide and also cause the disgrace of Murong Family reputation in the martial arts world. I must kill the kid Duan Yu and assist you in becoming the Emperor in order to vent the frustration in my heart. Number two, after you become the Emperor of DaLi country, I have a favour to ask of you.”
Duan Yanqing recognize that Murong Fu is full of tricks and does not bear any good intentions towards himself. But after listening to his words, he believed him to a certain extent. After all, he personally witness Duan Yu using Six Meridian Divine Sword on Murong Fu, forcing him to a corner and beating him to a pulp on Mount Shaoshi. When he recollected this incident, he felt uncomfortable as well. Although Duan Zhengchun is his prisoner, he is fully aware that he will capitulate under Duan Yu’s Six Meridian Divine Sword as well. In case he ran into Duan Yu and they starting fighting, he would definitely perish under Duan Yu’s invisible sword energy. Therefore, the only option left is to threaten him with the lives of Duan Zhengchun husband and wife. However, he is not confident that this method would be successful in suppressing Duan Yu. Thus, he interrogated: “Compared to Duan Yu, Mister’s martial arts are inferior. How do you plan to overcome him?”
His face turning slightly red, Murong Fu explained: “Not by force but by strategy. Regardless, that fellow Duan Yu is now my prisoner. I will simply hand him over to Senior (you).”
Duan Yanqing was overjoyed. His greatest fear has always been Duan Yu’s powerful martial arts, which are superior to his own. Now that Murong Fu has Duan Yu under lock and key, his biggest worry has been resolved. However, he is concerned that Murong Fu is blatantly lying and trying to deceive him. He quizzed: “You say you are capable of taking Duan Yu as your prisoner, I wonder if that is purely your own imagination and empty words.”
Murong Fu smiled slightly and introduced: “This is Madam Wang, my Maternal Aunt-in-law. That kid Duan Yu has been apprehended by my Maternal Aunt. She was thinking of using this kid to exchange a hostage with Senior. We wanted to lure Senior here for this sole purpose as well.”
At this point in time, Madam Wang is scouring the area, trying to locate the whereabouts of Duan Zhengchun. Hearing Murong Fu’s words, she quickly turned back.
Duan Yanqing’s throat ‘ji ji gu gu’ probed: “I wonder which hostage is Madam interested in?”
Madam Wang’s countenance turned slightly red. In her heart, regardless of day or night, the person she has been thinking of and pining for is nobody but Duan Zhengchun. However, she is a single mother and found it difficult to confess her feelings to a stranger. She was momentarily speechless.
Murong Fu supplied: “Duan Zhengchun, the father of this kid Duan Yu, has offended my Maternal Aunt years ago. Her hatred for him is as deep as the ocean. My Maternal Aunt only requires Senior to make a commitment. When Senior has ascended the throne of DaLi, Senior must hand Duan Zhengchun over to my Maternal Aunt. At the time, whether it is killing or dismemberment, fried in oil or incineration, my Maternal Aunt will call the shots.”
Duan Yanqing broke out laughing. He thought: After he abdicates, I initially wanted to execute him. Since you are willing to act on my behalf, I could not ask for more.
Still, he felt that the proceeding is going exceedingly smooth and is afraid of hidden tricks. He probed again: “Mister Murong, you say that after my coronation, you have a favour to ask of me. I wonder if that favour is within my ability or not? Please indicate your wishes upfront. Otherwise, I will be branded a dishonorable man if I fail to return your favour in the future.”
Murong Fu revealed: “Since Your Highness Duan has made this request, I will take you into complete confidence. Since we are negotiating such a huge transaction, the secrets of my heart will be not be shielded from you. Gusu Murong Family are the royal descendants of the defunct Great Yan Empire; following instructions left by our ancestors, we, the Murong Family, seek to revive the Empire of Great Yan. My strength is limited, making it difficult for me to accomplish any great tasks. When Your Highness has officially become the ruler of DaLi country, Murong Fu wants to borrow ten thousand soldiers and sufficient rations from DaLi Country. These resources will be utilized to restore Great Yan.”
When Duan Yanqing witnessed Murong Bo preventing Murong Fu from committing suicide on Mount Shaoshi, he more or less predicted that Murong Fu is a royal descendant of Great Yan. Now that Murong Fu is divulging such a confidential secret to himself, his sincerity is evident. He thought: If he wants to restore the Yan Empire, he would become an enemy of Great Song and Great Liao. My DaLi is a small country with limited population. We can barely defend ourselves; how can we afford to provoke the bigger nations? Moreover, I am newly coroneted and have yet to win the support of the people. Getting involved in war is out of the question. Forget it. Right now, I will pretend to agree. When we come to that stage, I will simply dismiss him. After all, drastic times call for drastic measures. As a result, he professed: “DaLi is a small country with impoverished citizens. Drafting ten thousand soldiers is no easy feat. Five thousand soldiers are what I can promise you for now. I wish you success in your pursuit. Great Yan and DaLi will forever be allied states.”
Tears running down his face, Murong Fu made a deep prostration. He swore: “If Murong Fu is able to restore the glory of my forefathers, for generations to come, we will be a protective vassal state of DaLi and we will never forget His Majesty’s debt of gratitude and kindness.”
Hearing Murong Fu now addressing him as ‘Your Majesty’, Duan Yanqing was ecstatic. Furthermore, Murong Fu’s voice is choked with emotion, indicating that he was moved to tears. He hurriedly reached out with his hand and helped him up, acknowledging: “Mister has been too polite; where is the kid Duan Yu?”
Before Murong Fu can respond, Madam Wang interrupted him and questioned: “Duan Zhengchun that fellow, where is he too?” Murong Fu answered: “Your Majesty, we welcome you and your followers to my Maternal Aunt’s residence for a rest. Duan Yu has been secured and we will present him to you shortly.”
Duan Yanqing cheerfully accepted: “That is wonderful.” Abruptly, a long and piercing noise was produced from his navel area.
Madam Wang was alarmed. Soon she could vaguely hear the sounds of hoof beats coming from a distant place. Briefly later, with the ‘long long’ noise from wagons, a few donkey wagons are sighted driving towards them. In a short span of time, four horse riders appeared, escorting three large wagons on the main road. With a lunge, Madam Wang moved first and made a dash for the wagons. In her heart, despite knowing that Duan Zhengchun is in within the wagons, she could not wait any longer. Cutting between the first two horses, she reached out with her hand, wanting to part the wagon curtain of the first large vehicle.
All of a sudden, a human head consisting of a wide mouth and beady eyes, large ears and a protruding forehead appeared right before her eyes. The human head loudly bellowed: “What are you trying to do?” Madam Wang had a great shock and her body instinctively leapt away. Taking a closer look, this hideous looking man is holding a whip in his hand and is probably the person driving the wagons.
Duan Yanqing commanded: “Third Brother, this is Madam Wang. We are going to her residence for a rest. Regarding the guests in the wagons, bring all of them too!” The wagon driver is indeed Divine Crocodile of the Southern Seas.
As the wagon curtain of the large wagon is pushed aside, a person gingerly stepped out.
This person’s expression is downcast and he is dressed in a heavily creased silk robe. For Madam Wang, he is indeed the Duan-Lang that she has been yearning for relentlessly. Almost hysterical and tears running down her cheeks, she rushed towards him and called: “Duan… Duan… You… How are you?”
When Duan Zhengchun heard her voice, he was deeply astonished. Turning his head and seeing Madam Wang in front of him, his countenance changed drastically. He got romantically involved with plenty of women all over the world, and among all of them, Madam Wang is the most persistent of all. Qin Hongmian, Ruan Xingzhu and the others are satisfied as long as they are in his company. Madam Wang is the most demanding out of all of them. By resorting to violence and weapons, she demanded that he kill his official wife Dao Baifeng and marry her instead. How could Duan Zhengchun agree to such a treacherous arrangement? When things became irreconcilable, he was forced to leave without notice and flee for his freedom. In his wildest imagination, he never expects to run into her when he is at his most deplorable state.
Duan Zhengchun may not subscribe to a monogamous relationship but for each of his lovers, he treats them with absolute earnestness and adoration. In a split second, all his attention is geared towards the well-being of Madam Wang. He cried: “Ah Luo (pet name), run away quickly! This old fellow in green robes is a Great Evil. Don’t be captured by him.” His body slightly bent, Duan Zhengchun positioned himself between Madam Wang and Duan Yanqing. He urged non-stop: “Quickly run away! Quickly run away!” Actually, his main acupoints have been sealed by Duan Yanqing and to take a step is already considered a strenuous task. There is no way he could have protected Madam Wang.
From the ‘Ah Luo’ cry, feelings of care and love borne out of wholesome sincerity can be detected in the tone. Madam Wang’s anger-filled chest instantly melted into gentleness. In front of Duan Yanqing and Nephew, she could not reveal her true feelings. She coldly snorted at once and chided: “Mud Buddha crossing the river (idiom), you cannot even defend yourself. He is a Great Evil; are you a Great Benefactor?” Turning to Duan Yanqing, she invited: “Your Highness, please!”
Duan Yanqing is aware of Duan Zhengchun’s character. Observing his reaction and expression, he knew Duan Zhengchun cared for instead of hated Madam Wang. With regards to the grievance Madam Wang had against him, he estimated there is more love than hatred involved. He pondered: The relationship between these two people is more than meets the eye; I should be careful and not fall into their trap.
With his amazing skills and courageous heart, Duan Yanqing bravely stepped into the residence without any fear or worry.
As part of the plan to capture Duan Zhengchun, Madam Wang specially purchased this villa and constructed many new structures inside. After the main door is a large garden fully planted with camellia. Under the reflection of the moonlight, the flowers gracefully swayed, creating an aura of elegance.
Scanning the layout of the camellia, Duan Zhengchun noticed the resemblance between this layout and the one in Madam Wang’s Gusu garden. Reminiscing about the happy times he had with her, his chest was pained and he whispered: “So… So this is your residence.” Madam Wang coldly laughed: “You recognize it?” Duan Zhengchun whimpered: “I recognized it. How I wish I stayed with you and grow old together in Gusu Moon Flower Manor……”
Divine Crocodile and Yun Zhonghe have led the prisoners from the two large wagons into the residence as well. One of the wagons contained the four ladies, Dao Baifeng, Madam Zhong Gan Baobao, Qin Hongmian and Ruan Xingzhu. The other wagon is occupied by Fan Hua, Cui Baiquan, Guoyan and two other ministers of DaLi. All the nine of them have their main acupoints sealed by Duan Yanqing.
Originally, Duan Zhengchun has dispatched Ba Tianshi and Zhu Danchen to escort Duan Yu to Western Xia to apply for the Prince Consort. Shortly thereafter, he received Emperor Baoding’s emissary and royal decree, giving him a deadline to return to DaLi and ascend the throne. Emperor Baoding himself will ordain as a monk at Sky Dragon Monastery. The Imperial family of DaLi is dedicated to Buddhism and many of the kingdom’s Emperors will abdicate and ordain as monks in their later years. Therefore, although Duan Zhengchun is saddened at this decree, he did not find it unusual. With Qin Hongmian and Ruan Xingzhu in tow, he immediately headed south at a slow pace. He planned to secretly house the two ladies in DaLi city and keep Princess Consort Dao Baifeng in the dark. Unexpectedly, Dao Baifeng and Gan Baobao caught up to him consecutively. Following that, he received a warning from Lingjiu Palace’s female disciple, indicating a formidable foe who has laid an ambush in the road ahead and advised Duan Zhengchun to take extra precautions. After discussing with Fan Hua and the others, they concluded the ‘formidable foe’ to be none other than Duan Yanqing. This nemesis is truly difficult to overcome and avoidance is the best strategy. As a result, the group changed directions and headed eastwards. Unknown to him, this message came from AhBi, who learned about it from Madam Wang’s personal maid. AhBi only knew half the story: The ambush is genuine; however, Madam Wang has no intention of harming Duan Zhengchun.
When Duan Zhengchun changed his route, all the traps and ambush laid by Madam Wang were activated by Duan Yu instead. To make it worse, Duan Zhengchun actually ran into Duan Yanqing for real. At a fierce battle on a red sand beach near Double Phoenix Station, Duan Zhengchun’s side was completely routed. Gu Ducheng was killed and dumped into the river by Divine Crocodile, and his body remained unfound. All the others had their acupoints sealed by Duan Yanqing and were therefore captured.
Murong Fu instructed his four men consisting of Deng Baichuan and the others to stand guard outside the residence. Making himself the host, he started ordering the maids and manservants to see to the needs of the guests.
Madam Wang stared and scrutinized the four ladies Dao Baifeng, Gan Baobao, Qin Hongmian and Ruan Xingzhu. She realised that each of them exerts a different womanly aura and they are all attractive in their own ways. There is nothing shameful about each of them and the terms ‘horny vixens’ and ‘cheap women’ used to describe them in the past are ill-suited. In some ways, these women are the types that will be adored by both genders wherever they go.
In the neighbouring chamber, Duan Yu heard the arrival of both his Father and Mother as captured prisoners of their nemesis. He was delighted and worried at the same time. He heard Duan Yanqing questioned: “Madam Wang, once my issue has been resolved, I will naturally hand Duan Zhengchun over to you. His fate will lie in your hands. Where is that kid Duan Yu?”
Madam Wang clapped her hands three times and two waiting maids came to the door and bowed deeply, ready to receive any orders. Madam Wang barked: “Bring that Duan kid here!”
Sitting on a chair, Duan Yanqing’s left hand is placed on Duan Zhengchun’s right shoulder. He still possesses a strong phobia for Duan Yu’s Six Meridian Divine Sword. On one hand, he is worried that Madam Wang and Murong Fu are setting a trap for him, making use of Duan Yu to kill him. On the other hand, even if Madam Wang and Murong Fu are completely honest, Duan Yu’s martial arts are peerless. In case he manages to free himself on the spot, it will be disastrous. By putting his hand on Duan Zhengchun’s shoulder, he hoped that Duan Yu would not act rashly for the sake of his Father.
Footsteps sounded and four maids entered the hall, carrying Duan Yu’s body horizontally. Both his hands and legs are fastened with twine; he mouth is stuffed with a walnut and his eyes are blindfolded with black cloth. Looking at him, nobody could tell if he is dead or alive.
Zhennan Princess Dao Baifeng gasped: “Yu-Er! (Child Yu)” and wanted to dash towards him. Madam Wang stretched her hand and pushed her shoulder, demanding: “Sit still!” Her main acupoints sealed and her strength gone, Dao Baifeng fell back into the chair after being shoved by her. She is unable to move anymore.
Madam Wang explained: “This kid has been sedated with sleeping drugs. He is not dead but has not regained his consciousness. Prince Yanqing, do you wish to verify his identity and make sure we have the correct person?” Duan Yanqing nodded his head and affirmed: “There is no mistake.” Madam Wang is only aware of the potency of her ‘Drunken Bees’ but she does not know that Duan Yu has consumed the Crimson Buffalo Toad. After a temporary faint, he has recovered his senses. As his body is being tied down, it does seem like he is still in a state of unconsciousness.
Duan Zhengchun bitterly laughed: “Ah Luo, why did you go after my Yu-Er? He did not offend you.”
Madam Wang snorted ‘Humph’ and did not answer. She is reluctant to reveal her longing for Duan Zhengchun in front of others but she does not want to reply him with nasty words either.
In his mind, Murong Fu is concerned that Madam Wang will reignite her love for Duan Zhengchun and ruin his grand plans. He therefore lied: “Of course he offended my Maternal Aunt. He… He seduced my Cousin Yuyan and violated her purity (virginity). Maternal Aunt, this kid deserves to die; there is no need for him to recover his senses…” Before he could finish, the shocked Duan Zhengchun and Madam Wang exclaimed in unison: “What? He… He and…”
His face as white as a sheet, Duan Zhengchun turned towards Madam Wang and softly asked: “She, her name is Yuyan?”
All along, Madam Wang has a horrible temper. After enduring for so long and with this new turn of events, she could not hold it in any longer. With a loud ‘Wa’, she burst into tears, cursing: “It is all your fault, you heartless cad and conscienceless scoundrel. Besides harming me, you harmed your own child too. Yuyan, Yuyan… She… She is your flesh and blood.” Turning around, she used her foot and started kicking Duan Yu’s body haphazardly. She scolded: “You lecher, you are worse than a beast. You conscienceless loafer; you won’t even spare your own sister. I… How I wanted to slice you up like the animal you are, turning you into mincemeat.”
With her sudden outburst and kicking, everyone present was completely appalled. The four ladies Dao Baifeng, Qin Hongmian, Gan Baobao and Ruan Xingzhu are familiar with Duan Zhengchun’s amorous character. They instantly realised that he had an affair with Madam Wang and she had given birth to a daughter named ‘Yuyan’. Unfortunately, Duan Yu got involved with her romantically. Qin Hongmian immediately thought of her own daughter Mu Wanqing while Gan Baobao was reminded of her own daughter Zhong Ling. Both ladies felt awkward and ashamed too. The remaining crowd of Duan Yanqing, Murong Fu and the others are slower to comprehend but eventually, everybody understood the full picture.
Qin Hongmian rebuked: “You cheap maid! That day, my daughter and I went to Gusu and wanted to assassinate you. However, you vixen spirit managed to evade us. Instead, you sent some measly fighters and weaklings to keep us occupied. I hate myself for not being able to kill you then. What right do you have to kick others?”
Madam Wang utterly ignored her and continued kicking Duan Yu indiscriminately.
Divine Crocodile of the Southern Sea identified his Master lying on the ground, and using his arm, he pushed Madam Wang on the shoulder and bellowed: “Hey, he is my Master. When you kick my Master, it is like you are kicking me. If you call my Master a beast, then aren’t you calling me a beast too? You shrew, with a ‘Ka La’, I will break your snow white and tender neck.”
Duan Yanqing chided: “Yue the Third, you shall not be disrespectful with Madam Wang! This kid surnamed Duan is a shameless scoundrel. By twisting logic, he deceived you into becoming his disciple. It is good that we can get rid of him today, otherwise, your reputation in the martial arts world would be ruined.”
Divine Crocodile insisted: “He genuinely earned the right to become my Master and there was no deceit at all. How can I allow him to be hurt?” As he spoke, he reached out with his hand and wanted to untie the ropes binding Duan Yu. Duan Yanqing advised: “Third Brother, listen to me. Get out your Crocodile Shears and cut off this kid’s head.” Shaking his head persistently, Divine Crocodile asserted: “Not possible! Big Brother, today, Yue the Third will disobey you. I must save Master at all costs.” As he spoke, he applied some force and one of the twines binding Duan Yu snapped at once.
Duan Yanqing was greatly alarmed. He thought: if Duan Yu is freed, his ability to use the Six Meridian Divine Sword will be restored as well. When that happens, nobody is his match. Besides the failure of becoming the Emperor of DaLi, my life will be endangered too.
In his state of anxiety, with a ‘hu’, he stabbed out with his staff, pointing at the back of Divine Crocodile. With his powerful internal energy in circulation, the steel staff went through the body and protruded out of his chest.
Divine Crocodile of the Southern Sea only felt a terrible pain on his back and chest as the steel staff burst out of his chest. For a minute, he was confused and as he turned his head and looked at Duan Yanqing, his eyes are still full of doubt, not understanding why Big Brother Duan would abruptly take his life. All along, Duan Yanqing has an evil nature. Being the head of the ‘Four Evils’, his attacks are naturally fatal. In addition, he has an extraordinary phobia regarding Duan Yu’s Six Meridian Divine Sword. There is no way he can accept Divine Crocodile untying his bonds. Although he does not have any intention of killing Divine Crocodile, his staff pierced a critical part of his body anyway. Meeting his gaze, Duan Yanqing had a flash of regret and guilt but these feelings disappeared as quickly as they had appeared. Moving his right hand, he retracted the steel staff from his body and barked: “Fourth Brother, bury him. This is a good example for those who dare to defy Big Brother.”
With a loud yell, Divine Crocodile of the Southern Sea collapsed onto the floor. Blood began gushing out of the two wounds on his back and chest. His pair of eyes still wide open; he truly died with regrets. Grabbing his corpse, Yun Zhonghe dragged it outside. Although Divine Crocodile and himself are two of the ‘Four Evils’, they are on bad terms with each other. Many a time, Divine Crocodile had disrupted his lustful conquests. Due to his inferior martial arts, he was forced to relent. Now that Divine Crocodile has been murdered by Big Brother, he was secretly delighted.
Everybody knew Divine Crocodile of the Southern Sea is Duan Yanqing’s comrade-in-arms. Because of a disagreement, Duan Yanqing executed him in a brutal manner. Such a sighting is rare and everybody present is horror-struck.
Duan Yu can feel the warm blood from Divine Crocodile’s wounds running over his own face and neck. He was greatly depressed as he thought: Having been his Master for such a long period, I haven’t taught him anything useful. Instead, Divine Crocodile came to my rescue several times. Today, he even died for me.
Duan Yanqing icily laughed: “Either you are with me or you are against me! (dead)” Lifting his steel staff, he was about to thrust it into Duan Yu’s chest.
Suddenly female voice rang out: “Outside Sky Dragon Monastery, Under the Bodhi Tree, an unkempt beggar, a long-haired bodhisattva!”
When Duan Yanqing heard the four words ‘Outside Sky Dragon Monastery’, his steel staff froze in mid air as he waited to hear the rest of the sentence. Hearing the full quote, the steel staff is quivering uncontrollably and he slowly withdrew the weapon. Turning his head and catching the gaze of Dao Baifeng, he felt as if she has a lot of stuff tell him. Heavily stunned, Duan Yanqing stuttered: “Guan… Guanyin bodhisattva…”
Dao Baifeng nodded her head and whispered: “You… Do you know who does this kid belongs to?”
Duan Yanqing’s brain started to swirl and turn fuzzy. He felt as if he has travelled back in time to a specific full moon night more than twenty years ago.
That day, he finally made it back to Dali from the eastern sea, arriving outside the Sky Dragon Monastery.
At Huguangdao, Duan Yanqing was simultaneously attacked by a group of powerful enemies. Although he managed to eliminate all his adversaries, he himself suffered heavy wounds. Both his legs are broken and his face was badly disfigured. An enemy warrior made a horizontal cut at his Adam’s apple and he lost his voice as a result. In fact, he hardly resembled a human being. His whole body is extremely filthy and smelly; maggots are crawling all over his wounds and a few dozen flies are flying around him with a ‘weng weng’ noise.
Nevertheless, he is the Crown Prince of Dali country. That year, his Father the Emperor was killed by corrupted ministers. In the ensuring confusion, he fled Dali. After attaining a good set of martial arts, he decided to return. Presently, the ruler of Dali country Duan Zhengming is his Cousin but the real person sitting on the throne should be him instead of Duan Zhengming. He is aware that Duan Zhengming is a beloved ruler and is well-liked by the population. Regardless of the civil service or the military, everyone worships him as the new Emperor. Nobody will remember him, the missing Crown Prince, anymore. If he suddenly appeared in Dali, his life would be in danger. In order to get into the good books of the ruling Emperor, he will become a valuable target. Initially, his martial arts has reached a high level and even an army of ten thousand men do not strike fear in him. However, he is severely wounded at the moment and even a common foot soldier would be able to overcome him.
He struggled along the way and finally arrived outside Sky Dragon Monastery. His only hope lies in getting Grandmaster Kurong to seek justice for him.
Grandmaster Kurong is the blood brother of his Father, his own uncle and the uncle of Emperor Baoding Duan Zhengming as well. Grandmaster Kurong is an accomplished monk, while Sky Dragon Monastery is the spiritual sanctuary for the Dali Country Duan Family. For generations, the Emperors of Dali would ordain as monks in this monastery. He dared not show up within Dali City and decided to seek an audience with Grandmaster Kurong first. According to the reception monk, Grandmaster Kurong is meditating in seclusion and the seclusion began five days ago. He is not sure how long the seclusion will last and even if the seclusion has ended, Grandmaster Kurong has indicated that he will not entertain any visitors. He advised Duan Yanqing to leave a message or the reception monk could make a report to the abbot on his behalf. The reception monk has been very kind and polite with him despite his inhuman, smelly and beggarly appearance.
But Duan Yanqing dared not reveal his true identity. Using his forearms, he crawled to a Bodhi tree beside the monastery, deciding to wait for Grandmaster Kurong until the end of his seclusion. But then he thought: The monk already said Grandmaster Kurong would not entertain visitors even after his seclusion. The longer I stay in Dali, the more dangerous it is for me. Once someone recognizes me… Should I flee for my life right now?
His entire body is burning with fever and his wounds are painful, numb, or itching. The suffering is almost unbearable. He then thought: I am tormented by this extreme pain; how much longer can I endure? Why don’t I die right now and end all these agony?
He wanted to stand up and smash his head against the Bodhi tree in a suicide attempt. However, he is exhausted, famished and thirsty. Lying on the ground, he remained motionless, unable to find neither the courage to live on nor the courage to take his own life.
When the moon has risen to the top of the sky, he suddenly noticed a lady in white coming out of a mist and slowly approaching him.
Among the woods and vegetation, a thick mist has formed. The lady in white has long hair running over her shoulders and she seems to be walking without actually stepping on the ground. With the moon behind her face, her features are indistinctive and unclear. However, Duan Yanqing remembered her as a gorgeous and breathtaking beauty. He felt that this lady is exquisitely delicate like Guanyin bodhisattva. He imagined: It must be a bodhisattva coming into the human realm in order to save me, this displaced Emperor. Under the Heavens, there are countless people seeking protection; Guanyin bodhisattva must be answering their prayers. If you help me to regain my throne, I will build a statue and monastery in your memory and worship you for generations.
As the lady got nearer and nearer, she turned sideways. Duan Yanqing can now see the side of her face, which turned out to be completely white and without blemish. Out of a sudden, he heard her softly mumbling to herself: “I am whole-heartedly devoted to you; yet you… did not spare any thought for me at all. You cheated on me with one woman after another, totally disregarding the vows we made while kneeling in front of the bodhisattva. Again and again I have forgiven you but right now, I will never forgive you. You are unfaithful to me; I, too, will be unfaithful to you. Behind my back, you seek out other partners; I will seek out a third party too. You, men of Han race, do not respect us, women of Baiyi race, as humans. You bully me and treat like a cat, a dog, a pig, a cow. I… I must take revenge. We, women of Baiyi race, will not respect you, men of Han race, as humans either.”
Her words are hardly audible and she is generally talking to herself. Still, her words are filled with deep hatred.
In his heart, Duan Yanqing became dejected. He realised: “She is not Guanyin bodhisattva. She is just a Baiyi race lady who has been bullied by a Han race fellow.”
Baiyi is one of the major races of Dali country. The race is known for attractive females with white and tender skin, their beauty standards surpassing those of Han females. Unfortunately, the males of this race are mostly weaklings. With their inferior numbers, this race is often ostracized by the Han race. Witnessing the lady walking further and further away from him, Duan Yanqing had an inspiration: I was wrong. Although Baiyi ladies are known for their refined features, this heavenly beauty apparition could hardly be conjured by them. Furthermore, she is dressed in a white robe that resembles a sheet of ice. There is no way Baiyi ladies could have access to this kind of high quality clothing material. This must be a bodhisattva in human form, I… I must not miss this opportunity.
Currently at the brink of death, only a bodhisattva could save him and offer him salvation from his predicament. Totally desperate, this was the only thing he could still cling onto. As the bodhisattva continued walking away from him, he crawled towards her with every last ounce of strength. He wanted to shout: “Bodhisattva, save me!” but all his throat could produce are a few rasping noises.
The lady in white heard some noises from under the Bodhi tree and turned her head. At first, she identified something crawling on the ground, something that looks neither like a human nor an animal. Upon closer inspection, she discovered it was an extremely filthy beggar with blood and dirt all over his body. Taking a few steps towards him, she scrutinized and found out that this beggar is heavily injured. Regardless of his face, body and arms, they were all covered with wounds. Almost all the wounds are still bleeding and infested with maggots, releasing a pungent smell.
The lady herself was brimming with hatred and is dying to exact vengeance for her husband’s cheating ways by cheapening herself in a self-destructive manner. When she first noted the horrible appearance of this beggar, she was sickened and wanted to escape at once. But then she thought: I am going to find the ugliest, dirtiest and most detestable man in the world and make love to him. You are a Lord, a General, so I will intentionally make love to a repulsive beggar.
Without a single word, she gradually removed her clothes and approached Duan Yanqing, easing herself into his bosom. Stretching out her arms as white as the snow petals of white camellia, she hugged his neck…
A thin layer of translucent clouds floated across the sky, shielding the moon; as if the moon is beckoning them to cover its own eyes, for it is unwilling to witness this unwholesome development. Such an illustrious and prestigious Madam, contributing her alluring body with snow-white skin to such a beggar who is all covered with wounds and dirt.
After the lady in white has departed, Duan Yanqing felt as if he is in dreamland. Did it really happen or not? Is it just a hallucination or was it really a bodhisattva in human form? In his nose, there are still traces of her bodily fragrance. Turning his head, he saw the words on the muddy ground which he inscribed with his finger not too long ago: Are you Guanyin bodhisattva?
He had written these seven characters to ask her the question and the female bodhisattva nodded her head. Suddenly, a few drops of water landed on the ground beside the words. Are those her teardrops or are those the dew from Guanyin bodhisattva’s salicaceae plant? From what he understood, Guanyin bodhisattva once transformed into a lady and went around, salvaging people who are drowning in the sea of samsara. He concluded: It must be Guanyin Bodhisattva in human form. Guanyin Bodhisattva has come to inspire me, telling me not to give up easily. I am not an ordinary person; I am the Son of Heaven (Emperor). Otherwise, why would I have this experience?
At this juncture when his thoughts are alternating between life and death, Duan Yanqing unexpectedly received his deliverance from this long-haired Guanyin in white. He was instantly invigorated and believed that his life is not meant to end this way. In the future, he would definitely regain his throne. His present predicament and injuries became insignificant at once. With his thoughts straightened out, all he could see is a glorious life ahead. The dawn is about to break. No longer interested in Grandmaster Kurong’s seclusion, he kneeled in front of the Bodhi tree and deeply kowtowed, expressing his appreciation for Guanyin bodhisattva’s kind intervention. Breaking two branches off the Bodhi tree, he placed them under his armpits like crutches and left in high spirits.
He dared not linger within Dali country and headed far south into the impoverished wastelands. After tending to his injuries, he practiced his family martial arts incessantly. In the first five years, he learnt how to replace his feet with two staffs and even managed to use the steel staffs to execute ‘Yiyang Finger’. After another five years of hardcore training, Duan Yanqing headed to Lianghu (Two Lakes) and completely annihilated the households of his enemies, not even sparing the servants or the pets. With his brutal methods, rumours started spreading about his ruthlessness. Eventually, he earned the title of: Greatest Evil (under the sky). In his following adventures, he proceeded to recruit three followers Ye Erniang, Divine Croc of the Southern Sea and Yun Zhonghe. He actually snuck back into Dali several times and tried to organize an uprising, however, on each occasion, Duan Zhengming’s regime is resilient and stable, forcing him to retreat empty-handed. The most recent case is his chess and internal energy competition with Reverend Huangmei (Yellow Browed Monk). Victory was almost within his grip, but unexpectedly, the kid Duan Yu came barging in halfway and caused him to suffer another loss.
Back in the present timeline, he was about to thrust the staff and stab Duan Yu to death, destroying the successor of Duan Zhengming and Duan Zhengchun. Out of the blue, Madam Duan recited the four verses: “Outside Sky Dragon Monastery, Under the Bodhi Tree, an unkempt beggar, a long-haired bodhisattva.”
These sixteen characters are easy to recite but to Duan Yanqing, they struck him like a lightning bolt on a clear sky. In his heart, he wondered: Is it possible… Is it possible… that she is Guanyin bodhisattva?
Madam Duan slowly raised her hand and undid her hair bun. Thousands of silky hair strands cascaded down her neck, overflowing her shoulders and some partly covering her face. She now looked like an exact duplicate of the Guanyin bodhisattva he met that fateful night under the Bodhi tree outside Sky Dragon Monastery. Duan Yanqing’s doubts are gone. He realised: I thought she was a bodhisattva; instead, she is Zhennan Princess Consort.
Actually, in that same year, when his wounds are half-recovered; his fever has subsided and he is able to think rationally, he already knew the Lady in White who rescued him that fateful night is a human being and not a bodhisattva. However, he is unwilling to surrender this fantasy and kept on brainwashing himself: That was a bodhisattva (in white)! That was a bodhisattva (in white)!
Now that he finally comprehended the truth, in his mind, a giant suspicion arose: Why did she do what she did? What made her choose me, an unkempt beggar with a body full of bleeding wounds?
Lowering his head, he was deep in thought when suddenly, a few drops of water landed on the floor. It reminded him of that fateful night. Was it tears or was it dew from the salicaceae plant?
Raising his head, he observed Madam Duan’s lovely eyes are now brimming with tears. At this moment, even his granite heart turned soft. In a hoarse voice, he asked: “You want me to spare the life of your son?” Madam Duan shook her head and whispered: “He… Around his neck is a small gold plaque, and it is engraved with his eight characters (y/m/d/t of birth).” Duan Yanqing was bewildered: Instead of asking me to spare the life of her son, she is asking me to look at some silly gold plaque of his. What is this all about?
Ever since he understood the truth behind ‘Outside Sky Dragon Monastery, Under the Bodhi tree’, he was naturally filled with admiration and gratitude for Madam Duan. Reaching out with his staff, he unsealed her main acupoints before bending over to take a look at Duan Yu’s neck. Spotting an extremely thin gold chain, he pulled it out. True enough, attached to the chain was a minute piece of rectangle-shaped gold plaque. On one side, it was inscribed with four words ‘Long and Healthy Life’. When flipped over, a row of small words read: Born on Dali Baoding Second Year Eleventh Month Twenty-Third Day.
Duan Yanqing was stunned when he read the words ‘Baoding Second Year’. He recalled: Baoding Second Year? It was the Second Month of that year when I was attacked by a group of foes and ended up outside Sky Dragon Monastery with critical injuries. Aiyo, He… He was born in the eleventh month; a span of ten months in between. Ten months is just right for a full pregnancy. He… He… He turned out to be my son?
His face has been cut in a few places before and all his facial nerves are impaired. Therefore, he is unable to express signs of fear, happiness or surprise on his face. Nevertheless, in a flash, his face looks as if it is drained of blood. In his heart, there is an unspeakable emotion. Turning to Madam Duan, he saw her gently nodding her head and whispering: “Retribution! Retribution!”
In his entire life, Duan Yanqing has never gotten himself involved in a romantic relationship and knows nothing about the joy of raising a family. Out of nowhere, he discovered that he actually had a son, his own flesh and blood. Overwhelmed with joy, his feelings are indescribable. Right now, compared with all the fame and riches, power and even the throne, nothing is as treasured as having a son of his own. Bowled over with surprise and delight, he felt like dancing and shouting to celebrate. With a ‘Dang’ sound, the steel staff in his right hand fell onto the floor.
Following that, in his brain, Duan Yanqing started to feel giddy. His left hand lost its strength and with another ‘Dang’, his other steel staff dropped onto the floor too. In his chest, he could feel a loud and clear voice wanting to shout out: “I have a son!” Peeping at Duan Zhengchun and identifying a puzzled expression on his face, it is clear that he has no idea what his wife is talking about.
Scanning the faces of Duan Zhengchun and Duan Yu, Duan Yanqing observed a squarish face and a sharp face; even their features do not share any similarities. In fact, Duan Yu’s handsome and refined appearance is about 70%-80% similar to himself when he was around the same age. In his mind, all the doubts are being replaced by unspeakable pride. He thought: Even if you become the Emperor of Dali instead of me, so what? I have a son and you don’t.
At this juncture, his brain exhibited signs of dizziness again. Nearly blacking out, he thought: I must be overly excited.
‘Gu dong!’ A noise suddenly reverberated. A person has collapsed near the door and it happened to be Yun Zhonghe. Duan Yanqing was surprised and secretly cried: “Not good!” His left palm forming a claw in mid air, he activated his internal energy to suck the steel staff back into his hand. Startlingly, no internal energy came out of the claw movement and the steel staff on the floor did not move at all. Duan Yanqing was terrified beyond words but without revealing his emotions, he used his right palm to perform the claw movement too. The steel staff remained motionless. When trying to activate his internal energy, there was no response from his body. With that, Duan Yanqing realised that he has unknowingly fallen into the enemy’s trap.
Murong Fu commented: “Your Highness Duan, there is someone else you needed to see urgently in a side hall, would you please come with me?” Duan Yanqing quizzed: “Who is this person? Mister Murong, please invite this person out instead.” Murong Fu answered: “He has lost the ability to walk; I have to trouble Your Highness to make a short trip.”
Listening to his words, Duan Yanqing was enlightened. Without a doubt, the culprit behind the poisoning is Murong Fu. Fearing his superior martial arts and worried about the effectiveness of the toxin, Murong Fu dared not reveal his poisoning scheme yet. Therefore, he wanted him to take a walk and see if his internal energy is still in circulation. However, since he entered the house, he has been paying close attention to his surroundings. He neither tasted the refreshments nor inhaled any special fragrances, how did he get poisoned? He deduced: When I was distracted with joy after listening to Madam Duan, I must have neglected my surroundings, giving him an opportunity to poison me. He plainly exposed: “Mister Murong, we, the Duan Family of Dali are not experts in poison. You should have used ‘Yiyang Finger’ against me instead.”
Murong Fu chuckled: “Your Highness Duan is an accomplished martial arts expert; how can I treat you like a commoner? Junior’s (My) ‘Beisu Qingfeng’ was procured from Western Xia during that occasion. I have improved the formula and this version does not irritate the eyes. Your Highness Duan once served Western Xia’s First Class Hall as a mercenary. Now that Junior is using ‘Beisu Qingfeng’ as a returning move, it does fulfill Gusu Murong Family tradition of ‘Using one’s moves against oneself’”
Duan Yanqing was secretly alarmed. On that particular occasion, the top warriors of Western Xia’s First Class Hall incapacitated and abducted scores of members from Beggars Clan by using ‘Beisu Qingfeng’. In a twist of events, the warriors of Western Xia, including General Helian Tieshu, Divine Crocodlie of Southern Sea and Yun Zhonghe were poisoned instead and detained by Beggars Clan. Fortunately, he got hold of the antidote and saved everyone. At that time, on the wall, the words ‘Using one’s moves against oneself’ were displayed, indicating the culprit behind the poisoning is Gusu Murong. From that incident onwards, it is not surprising for Murong Fu to possess this poison. After such a long period of time, Duan Yanqing has forgotten about this critical information. In his heart, he could only blame himself for being too careless. He instantly closed his eyes and kept his silence while secretly circulating his energies, hoping to force the poisonous gas out of his body.
Murong Fu laughed: “It is futile to expel ‘Beisu Qingfeng’ poison by circulating one’s energies…” Before he could finish speaking, Madam Wang scolded: “Why did you poison Maternal Aunt too? Quickly bring me the antidote.” Murong Fu reassured: “Maternal Aunt, Nephew has offended you. In a short while, I will provide the antidote to Maternal Aunt first.” Madam Wang raged: “A short while? Why must I wait for a short while? Quick, quickly bring me the antidote.” Murong Fu explained: “I am deeply sorry Maternal Aunt, but the antidote is currently not with Nephew.”
Dao Baifeng Madam Duan already had her main acupoints unsealed; however, before she knew it, she was rapidly immobilized by ‘Beisu Qingfeng’. Among those present in the hall, only Murong Fu who has inhaled the antidote beforehand and Duan Yu with his immunity are not poisoned by the toxin.
Nonetheless, Duan Yu is in great agony as well and his heart is filled with indescribable bitterness. When he heard Madam Wang saying ‘It is all your fault, you heartless cad and conscienceless scoundrel. Besides harming me, you harmed your own child too. Yuyan, Yuyan… She… She is your flesh and blood’, his chest and esophagus became blocked and he nearly fainted. When he was eavesdropping on Madam Wang and Murong Fu from the neighbouring chamber and learnt about her affair with his Father, his heart is already in a state of anxiety, dreading that Wang Yuyan will be like Mu Wanqing and the others, eventually becoming his own sister. Now that Madam Wang has personally spilled this fact in front of everybody, there are no more grounds for suspicion. In that split moment, he felt as if his world is turning upside down. If not for his bounded hands and feet, and the stuffing in his mouth, he would have gone berserk, running around like a madman and screaming at the top of his lungs. He was deeply grieved and can feel a lump of energy jammed at his chest area, unable to pass through. Meanwhile, his hands and feet are turning stiff and icy cold. Distressed, he wondered: Aiyo, according to Uncle, this must be fire deviation. The deeper my internal energy, the more dangerous it is. I… How did I come to such a stage?
Initially fearful, Duan Yu changed his perspective and thought: Yuyan is my half-sister as we share the same Father. Our relationship eventually cannot come to fruition. What is the point of living on? Isn’t it better to fire deviate and let my body decay into dust? Gone are my senses and awareness, and I can avoid a lifetime of trauma.
Duan Yanqing tried to activate his internal energies three times but it is hopeless. Instead, the discomfort in his chest became worse. He thus decided to sit down with his eyes closed and refused to speak or move.
Murong Fu explained: “Your Highness Duan, although Junior has poisoned you, I meant no harm. As long as Your Highness agrees to a condition of mine, Junior will instantly present the antidote to you with both hands and even kowtow to ask for Your Highness’s forgiveness.” His tone carried a deep sense of humility.
Duan Yanqing frostily laughed: “Surnamed Duan (I) has lived to such an advanced age and has been through countless trials and tribulations. Do you truly believe I will succumb to your wishes just because I am your hostage?”
Murong Fu swore: “Junior dared not. Everyone here can be a witness. Junior will first make amends to Your Highness before respectfully begging Your Highness for a favour.” As he spoke, both his knees buckled and he instantly kneeled on the floor. ‘Dong Dong Dong Dong’, he kowtowed four times and his mannerisms are extremely courteous.
Everyone was amazed when Murong Fu put up this huge show of respect out of the blue. Presently, he is practically running the show and the lives of everybody are basically in his hands. Even if he adhere to the code of the martial arts world and has offended Duan Yanqing, a senior figure and expert, a deep bow would have been sufficient. There is no need for him to go all the way and discard his status by kneeling down and kowtowing.
Duan Yanqing was particularly confused too. However, after seeing his earnest show of respect towards himself, the displeasure in his heart subsided to a certain extent. He commented: “As the saying goes: One gives respect because one needs a favour. Mister has performed an overwhelming act of respect. I dare not accept it, nevertheless, I wonder what instructions does Mister have for me.” In his speech, he became more polite as well.
Murong Fu articulated: “Your Highness already knew about Junior’s lifelong ambition. To revive the Great Yan Empire, we are talking about decades of hard work. Today, I will first support Your Highness in ascending the throne of Dali country. Since Your Highness is childless, I humbly beg Your Highness to adopt me as your foster son. With the two of us working hand-in-hand, a bright future lies ahead. Wouldn’t that be a perfect win-win scenario?”
When Duan Yanqing heard the six words ‘Your Highness is childless’ from Murong Fu’s mouth, he emotionally gazed towards Madam Duan. As the four eyes meet, countless messages were conveyed in that moment. Duan Yanqing chuckled once ‘Hey Hey’ but did not reply. In his heart, he thought: If we had this conversation a while ago, it would have been a perfect win-win scenario. However, now that I know I have a son, how can I let you inherit the throne?
Murong Fu added: “The lands of Great Song were inherited from Later Zhou Dynasty Cai Family. That year, Zhou Taizu Guo Wei is childless and adopted Cai Rong as his son. Cai Shizong is a brilliant strategist and talented hero. By strengthening the military and conquering his neighbours, he led Later Zhou Dynasty to a prosperous era. After hundreds of years, historians are full of praise for Guo Wei’s sacrifice. My proposal is similar; Your Highness, please consider.” Duan Yanqing asked: “You really wish to be my adopted son?” Murong Fu affirmed: “That is right.”
Duan Yanqing thought: Presently, I am poisoned and the only solution is to agree to his terms first. Once I am cured, I will kill him at once.
Thus he plainly state: “In that case, are you going to change your surname to Duan? After you become the Emperor of Dali, you must discard your ambition to revive the Empire of Great Yan. The Murong Family legacy will be vanquished. Can you commit to all of these?” He easily predicted that Murong Fu would come up with some alternate plans. Once he became the ruler of Dali, in the coming years, he can appoint his trusted subordinates in critical court positions and proceed to kill those who oppose him and those loyal to the Duan Family. He will then revert his surname back to Murong and may even go as far as to change the country name from Dali to Great Yan. Such a possibility is not unexpected. As a result, he intentionally made things difficult for him by ask these three tough questions. This strategy is named <Advancing through Retreating>, misleading Murong Fu that he is sincerely considering his request. If he agreed too easily and quickly, Murong Fu will assume that he is insincere and full of deceit.
Murong Fu was silent for some time before replying in an undecided voice: “With regards to these…” Actually, he already planned out various strategies to execute once he is the Emperor of Dali and they are not far from Duan Yanqing’s predictions. He also thought that if he agreed too easily and quickly, it would appear insincere and deceitful. Pretending to think deeply about these issues for some time, he then committed: “Although Junior is not an unfilial and ungrateful person; for the sake of the big picture, we can occasionally overlook the small details. Since I am acknowledging Your Highness as my father, my loyalty will naturally be towards the Duan Family and this will never waver.”
Duan Yanqing burst out laughing and cheered: “Wonderful! Wonderful! Old Gentleman (I) has been wandering the martial arts world all my life. Spouseless and childless, I unexpectedly gained an excellent son in my later years. This is immensely comforting. You, my son, is young and handsome. To bring me joy at this advanced age, my life has truly not been wasted. In my entire life, this is the happiest event that has ever taken place. Guanyin Bodhisattva my savior, disciple (I) is moved to tears. Even if I dedicate the rest of my life to honouring you, Guanyin Bodhisattva in White, I cannot even repay 0.01% of your benevolence.” Choking with emotion, two rows of tears flowed down from his cheeks. Lowering his head and putting his palms together respectfully in a praying posture, he happened to be directly facing Madam Duan.
Madam Duan nodded her head slowly, her eyes never leaving her son who is lying on the floor.
Duan Yanqing’s words are obviously meant for his real son Duan Yu. Except for Madam Duan, nobody else understood his hidden meaning. Everybody presumed he has agreed to Murong Fu’s request and has accepted him as a foster son. In the future, he will definitely pass the throne to him. Additionally, his speech is full of sincerity and contentment. There is not a shred of doubt in anyone’s mind. For them to witness ‘The Greatest Evil under the sky’ shedding tears in front of a crowd, it must be a first in history.
Murong Fu was overjoyed: “Your Highness is a senior hero in the martial arts world. I believe you will honour your pledges and not renege on your promises. Foster Father my elder, please accept your child’s kowtow.” His knees buckled and he kneeled on the floor again.
Suddenly, from outside the door, someone loudly hollered: “Not right! Not right! This arrangement must never be allowed!” Pushing the door curtain aside, a man strode into the hall in big steps. It is indeed Bao Butong.
Murong Fu stood up at once. His face changing colour slightly, he turned his head and questioned: “Third Brother Bao has something to add?”
Bao Butong reasoned: “Mister is the illustrious royal descendent of Great Yan Murong Family, why should the surname be changed to Duan Family? Reviving Great Yan is a huge undertaking and we are faced with near impossible odds. We are willing to do our best and whatever it takes to accomplish this mission, even at the cost of our lives. If we succeed, it would be wonderful, if not, at least we are upright and honourable heroes. If Mister acknowledged this neither human nor ghost looking fellow as your Foster Father, even if you become the Emperor, there is no glory in that. In addition, for a surnamed Murong to become the Emperor of Dali, it is not as simple as it looks.”
Listening to his disrespectful language, Murong Fu was incensed. Nevertheless, Bao Butong is his trusted confidante and his service is still required. Unwilling to reprimand him directly, Murong Fu plainly state: “Third Brother Bao, there are many intricacies involved. You may not see the big picture now but I will gradually explain it to you in the future.”
Bao Butong shook his head and disagreed: “Not right! Not right! Mister, Bao Butong may be dumb but your agenda is not hard to guess. You wanted to emulate Han Xin; by temporary suffering some ridicule, you are actually planning for bigger things in the future. Today, you will switch to surnamed Duan Family. When you hold ultimate power in the future, you can switch back to surname Murong and even changed the name of Dali country to Great Yan. By sending an army to attack Song and Liao, you can recover the old territories of Great Yan. Mister, although your heart is pure, but with this circumstances, you would have become dis-loyal; un-filial; in-human; un-righteous. This guilt will haunt you forever and even onlookers will feel that the result is not worthwhile. In my opinion, you are better off without this throne.”
Murong Fu was completely mad with anger. He boisterously demanded: “Third Brother Bao’s words are too harsh. How will I be dis-loyal, un-filial, in-human and un-righteous?”
Bao Butong elaborated: “You seek refuge with Dali and betray them in the future, that is dis-loyal. You acknowledged Duan Yanqing as your Father and pledge allegiance to Duan Family, that is un-filial to Murong Family. When you switched back to Murong, you are un-filial to Duan Family. When you annihilate the opposing court officials of Dali in the future, that is in-human. You…”
Before he could finish speaking, there was a sudden ‘Bo’ sound as a heavy palm stroke hit him squarely on his back where his heart was located. He then heard Murong Fu finished with an icy tone: “I betray my friends for benefits, that is un-righteous.” This palm attack is a soft but powerful stance; by hitting on the two critical acupoints ‘Lingtai’ and ‘Zhiyang’ of Bao Butong, it was meant to be a fatal blow. Never in his wildest dreams did Bao Butong imagine this Mister, whom he has been serving from youth to adulthood, to suddenly take his life. With a Wa!’ he vomited a mouthful of fresh blood and collapsed on the floor, dead.
When Bao Butong was rebutting Murong Fu, the three men Deng Baichuan, Gongye Qian and Feng BoE are standing at the door and listening in. Although the three agreed that Bao Butong might have gone slightly overboard in his speech, it was packed with righteous reasons. When they witness Murong Fu using a palm attack on Bao Butong, the three were badly shocked and rushed into the hall together.
Hugging Bao Butong’s body frame, Feng BoE called: “Third Brother, Third Brother, how are you?” He saw two streaks of transparent tears running down Bao Butong’s cheeks. By sensing his nose for activity, he observed that Bao Butong has stopped breathing. He realised that right before his death, Bao Butong was utterly heartbroken. Feng BoE roared: “Third Brother, although you have stopped breathing, I am sure you have one last question for Mister: Why did you kill me?” As he spoke, he turned his head and stared at Murong Fu with suspicion. His eyes are glowing with hostility.
Deng Baichuan loudly declared: “Mister, Third Brother Bao is fond of rebutting people. You knew his characteristic all along. Even if he spoke with insolence towards Mister and performed an act of insubordination, Mister can choose to punish him verbally or even physically. That should be more than enough; why is there a need to take his life?”
As a matter of fact, Murong Fu was not annoyed by Bao Butong’s insolent language. What he detested was his straightforward and candid speech that actually divulged the scheme he is secretly harbouring. With this disclosure, Duan Yanqing will be less likely to accept him as a Foster Child and hand over the throne to him. Even if he did become the Crown Prince, Duan Yanqing would place restrictions around him, making it impossible for him the execute the revival of Great Yan. In his state of panic, he was forced to make a killing move. Otherwise, this easily attainable Emperor throne would be gone with the wind. Taking in the words of the two men Feng BoE and Deng Baichuan, he thought: This matter has put me in a serious dilemma. I would rather offend the two men Feng BoE and Deng Baichuan than arouse the suspicions of Prince Yanqing.
Therefore, he detailed: “I considered Bao Butong’s offensive remarks to be insignificant. He has been my loyal follower for so many years, why would I bear to hurt him over a few brazen sentences? However, I am keeping good faith in acknowledging His Highness Duan as my Father. He barged in and sowed discord between my Father and I, how can I tolerate this?”
Feng BoE thundered: “In the heart of Mister, are you claiming that Bao Butong, who has been risking his neck for you for ten over years, is peanuts when compared with that Duan Yanqing?” Murong Fu insisted: “Fourth Brother Feng, there is no need to flare up. I am fully committed to seeking refuge with Dali Duan Family and have no other agenda. Third Brother Bao is narrow minded and jealous of my good fortune, forcing me to use a deadly move.” Gongye Qian coldly demanded: “Has Mister made up his mind with no possibility of recourse?” Murong Fu swore: “That is right.”
The three men Deng Baichuan, Gongye Qian and Feng BoE exchanged looks with one another. Sharing the same conviction, they nodded their heads in unison.
Deng Baichuan proclaimed: “Mister, we, the four brothers may not be sworn brothers. However, we are willing to share life and death. Mister is also fully aware that we are extremely close-knitted.” His long eyebrows curling up, Murong Fu disparaged in an ugly voice: “Is Big Brother Deng trying to exact vengeance for Third Brother Bao? The three of you can attack me simultaneously, Murong Fu has nothing to fear.” Deng Baichuan let out a long sigh and explained: “We are the descendants of Murong Family Court Ministers; how can we afford to offend Mister? There is a wise saying ‘Stay if compatible, leave if not’. The three of us will not serve Mister any longer. When Gentlemen part ways, we part amicably. We hope Mister realizes what he is actually doing.”
Watching these three men about to depart, Murong Fu realized that in the future, when he is in Dali, he would no longer have anyone trustworthy that he can rely on. Faced with this huge inconvenience, he must now persuade them to stay on at all costs. With that, Murong Fu reminded: “Big Brother Deng, Second Brother Gongye, Fourth Brother Feng, the three of you are familiar with my character and will not suspect me of betraying Duan Family in the future. I have no dissatisfaction with the three of you, why do we need to part ways? Back then, my Father treated the three of you with kindness and generosity. Furthermore, the three of you promised my Father that you will do your very best to support me. With this separation, wouldn’t that be breaking the promise the three of you made a long time ago?”
His face colour turning metallic green, Deng Baichuan asserted: “It is perfectly fine with me if Mister does not bring up the name of Old Master. But since you did, it means he is still your Father. By changing your surname and betraying your country, how can you account to Old Master? We did swear to Old Master, dedicating our entire lives and all our energies to supporting Mister in reviving Great Yan and glorifying the reputation of Murong Family. However, we did not swear to support Mister to glorify Dali and the reputation of Duan Family.” His words caused Murong Fu’s face to alternate between shades of green and white, and at the same time, rendering him speechless.
The three men Deng Baichuan, Gongye Qian and Feng BoE took a deep bow in unison, their heads almost touching the floor. In one voice, they announced: “Farewell Mister!” Feng BoE placed the corpse of Bao Butong on his shoulder. The three men strode out of the door in large steps and did not turn back.
Murong Fu dryly laughed a few times before turning to Duan Yanqing and explained: “Foster Father, please judge for yourself. These four men are the family-followers of Child and have served me for many years. To prove my loyalty to Dali Duan Family, Child has personally killed one of them and discarded the other three. Child is entering Dali alone. This should be enough to prove my undying allegiance and absence of selfish agenda.”
Duan Yanqing nodded his head in agreement: “Good! Good! Excellent!”
Murong Fu remarked: “Child shall now relieve Foster Father of the poison.” Sticking his hand into his bosom, he retrieved a small porcelain bottle. About to hand it over, he had an epiphany: Once I have gotten rid of the ‘Beisu Qingfeng’ poison from his body, I will never be able to blackmail him again. In the future, I must keep staying in his good books and never clash with him. His most hated rival and biggest adversary is that kid Duan Yu; let me kill this kid first.
With a ‘Shua’ sound, his long sword has left its sheath. He announced: “Foster Father, Child’s first contribution to you is to kill the kid Duan Yu. By getting rid of him first, Duan Zhengchun shall become heirless and he will be forced to hand over the Emperor’s throne to Foster Father.”
Duan Yu thought: Yuyan has become my sister too; I have already lost the will to live. If you will kill me with one sword stab, I cannot ask for more.
First, he hoped for a quick death and second, his internal energy has gone haywire. Even if he wanted to resist, it is helpless. Thus, he could only wait for his life to be taken away from him.
Seeing Murong Fu turning towards Duan Yu with his sword, the faces of Duan Zhengchun and the others turned completely pale. ‘Ah!’ Madam Duan let out a tragic shriek.
Duan Yanqing praised: “Child, your filial piety is commendable. However, this kid is atrocious and has offended Father on several occasions. His Uncle and Father have hijacked my throne, causing me to become a handicap and an incomplete person. Father wishes to kill this scoundrel personally in order to vent the hatred in my heart.”
Murong Fu acknowledged: “Yes.” Turning around, he was about to hand his long sword to Duan Yanqing when he realised: “Aiyo, Child is muddle-headed. I should relieved Foster Father of the poison first.” Returning the sword into the sheath, he retrieved the small porcelain bottle again. With a quick scan, he noticed Duan Yanqing’s eyes are gleaming with pride and he is gesturing to someone else. By following his gaze, he saw Madam Duan nodding her head slightly and her face is expressing feelings of gratitude and joy.
With this observation, Murong Fu’s suspicions were aroused. Of course he could never imagine that Duan Yu is the child of Duan Yanqing and Madam Duan. Duan Yanqing would rather lose his own life than let anyone harm his precious son. Even the throne seems insignificant at this point. The first thought that came to Murong Fu was: Is it possible that Duan Yanqing and Duan Zhengchun are in cahoots? After all, they are brotherly cousins and members of the Dali Duan Family. As the saying goes ‘ Blood is thicker than water’, why should the Duan Family brotherly cousins care about me, an unrelated outsider? But on the other hand, for this scheme to succeed, the only way is to gain the trust of Duan Yanqing by accomplishing some challenging missions.
Turning his head to Duan Zhengchun, he extorted: “Lord Zhennan, when you return to Dali, how soon can you take over the throne and after becoming Emperor, how much time do you need before transferring it to my Foster Father?”
Duan Zhengchun is full of despise for Murong Fu. He coldly state: “My Imperial Brother has a deep cultivation of internal energy and his health is excellent. Conservatively, he will at least be able to serve another thirty years as the Emperor. When he passes the throne to me, I must at least perform my duties well and create wealth for my citizens. A minimum of thirty years should be good enough. Sixty years later, my son Duan Yu will be eighty years old. Even if he only serves as the Emperor for twenty years, we are looking at an eighty years time frame…”
Murong Fu interrupted: “Nonsense, who can afford to wait that long? I limit you to one month before your coronation and one more month after that for your abdication and transfer of throne to Prince Yanqing.”
A long while ago, Duan Zhengchun has fully grasped the circumstances in front of him. Duan Yanqing and Murong Fu wanted to make use of himself as a ladder and step into the Imperial throne of Dali. Once he has transferred the throne to Duan Yanqing, they would kill him instantly. However, they dare not lay a finger on him right now. Even if an enemy is coming to harm him, they would do their best to protect him. However, Duan Yu is in extreme danger. He burst out laughing and state: “My throne will only be handed over to my son Duan Yu. I do not mind abdicating earlier in his favour. To ask me to give the throne to anyone else is strictly impossible.”
Murong Fu was infuriated: “Very well, I will kill the kid Duan Yu with one sword stab first. You can go ahead and give the throne to his ghost!” As he spoke, with a ‘shua’ sound, he pulled out his long sword again.
Duan Zhengchun laughed even harder and challenged: “What kind of person do you think I, Duan Zhengchun, am? If you killed my son, do you think I will still allow myself to be manipulated by you? If you want to kill him, be my guest. In fact, you can go ahead and kill all of us too.”
Murong Fu was momentarily undecided. Right now, killing Duan Yu is as easy as lifting a hand. However, he is afraid that Duan Zhengchun will commit suicide out of revenge for his son’s death. When that happens, even Duan Yanqing’s Emperor dream will be crushed. If Duan Yanqing cannot become the Emperor, he himself is even much further away from all of it. In his hand, the long sword is shimmering with flashes of green light. When exposed on his snow-white face, it reflected an ugly green shade. He tilted his head and stared at Duan Yanqing, wanting to hear his instructions.
Duan Yanqing ordered: “This person has a strong character. If he commits suicide now, our grand scheme will burst like a bubble. All right, the kid Duan Yu shall be kept alive for now. Since they are in the hands of us Father and Child, we can be assured that he won’t die yet. Give me the antidote before I speak further.”
Murong Fu replied: “Yes!” but he thought: Prince Yanqing just made an eye gesture to Madam Duan, what is the meaning behind it? Without solving this mystery, I should not recklessly give him the antidote. But if I delay any longer, it may cause him to lose him temper. What should I do?
Coincidentally, Madam Wang cried out: “Murong Fu you rascal. You said you would cure Maternal Aunt’s poisoning first. After acknowledging a new Father, why are you doing everything to please that ugly freak? Don’t blame me for cursing, he resemble neither a human nor…”
Hearing her words, Murong Fu was pleased at the coincidence and humbly excused himself from Duan Yanqing: “Foster Father, my Maternal Aunt has a fierce character; if her words offend Elder (you), please pardon her. To prevent her from spouting more unpleasant words, Child will relieve Maternal Aunt of her poison first and will come back to cure Foster Father without delay.” As he spoke, he placed the porcelain bottle below Madam Wang’s nostrils.
Madam Wang inhaled a breath of stinking, vomit-inducing odor. About to curse out loud, she can now feel the strength returning to her four limbs. Shifting her attention to Duan Zhengchun, Madam Duan and the three ladies Qin Hongmian, Ruan Xingzhu and Gan Baobao, she could not suppress her jealousy any more. She directed in a loud voice: “Fu-Er (Child Fu), quickly kill these four cheap women for me.”
Murong Fu had an epiphany: Maternal Aunt mentioned earlier that Duan Zhengchun has a headstrong character and will never bow to threats. However, he is willing to give up his life to safeguard his wife and mistresses. Why don’t I exploit this weakness and threaten his women instead?
Holding his sword, Murong Fu walked to the front of Ruan Xingzhu. Turning his head to face Duan Zhengchun, he probed: “Lord Zhennan, my Maternal Aunt has ordered me to kill her. What do you think?”
Duan Zhengchun is on the verge of a breakdown and he has run out of tricks. He could only face Madam Wang and swore: “Ah Luo, in the future, I will listen and follow your each and every wish. I will be at your beck and call. Between the two of us, must we create this never-ending feud? By instructing someone to kill my woman, do you think I will still love you with the same amount of affection?”
While Madam Wang is mad with jealousy, she does agree with the words of Duan Zhengchun. For the past ten odd years, she has transformed his abandonment and heartlessness into a special hatred. This special hatred is so extreme she actually found happiness whenever she kills a man from Dali or a man surnamed Duan. However, the second she saw him again, all the old feelings of love and attachment resurfaced and are increasing as time goes by. She ordered: “My good Nephew, please hold your blade. Let me think over this for a while.”
Murong Fu proposed: “Lord Zhennan, once you promised to transfer the throne to Prince Yanqing, all your official wife and unofficial ladies will come under my protection. No harm will come to them.” Duan Zhengchun coldly sniggered ‘Hey Hey’ but remained nonchalant.
Murong Fu pondered: This person is famed for his philandering ways. He would rather surround himself with beautiful women than focus on managing the country. To make him agree to throne transfer, the only solution is to go through his female companions.
Lifting his sword and pointing the tip at the chest of Ruan Xingzhu, Murong Fu gave an ultimatum: “Lord Zhennan, we are heroes and men of honour. Let’s settle this once and for all. Once you nodded and gave your consent, I will immediately relieve everyone of their poisoning. Junior will lay a banquet to make amends and turned our enmity into friendship. Wouldn’t that be an ideal outcome? If you still insisted on having your way, my sword will simply stab her.”
Duan Zhengchun turned his gaze towards Ruan Xingzhu and can see the horror emanating from her lovely eyes. Deeply sympathetic, he thought: I actually do not mind giving my consent. The throne of Dali; how can it be compared with Sister Zhu? However, this traitorous devil will kill my Yu-Er (Child Yu) instantly in order to please Prince Yanqing.
He cannot bear to watch any further and turned his head away.
Murong Fu called out: “I am going to count to three. If you refuse to agree, do not blame Murong Fu for being merciless.” Stretching his voice, he announced: “One… Two…” Duan Zhengchun turned his head back and stared at Ruan Xingzhu. His face is filled with gentleness and love, but with a sense of helplessness. Murong Fu yelled: “Three… Lord Zhennan, are you still maintaining your stand?” In the heart of Duan Zhengchun, all he could see is the beautiful setting years ago when he and Ruan Xingzhu are dating for the first time. Suddenly, with a tragic ‘Ah!’ shriek, Murong Fu’s long sword has penetrated her chest.
Madam Wang could recognize the facial muscles twitching on the face of Duan Zhengchun, signaling that he is in great pain. He seems even more upset than if the sword had been pierced into his own body. She exclaimed: “Quick, quickly save her. I did not ask you to really take her life. We are just scaring this heartless fellow only.”
Murong Fu shook his head and thought: This deep vendetta between him and me has begun. By killing one more or killing one less makes no difference at all.
The tip of the sword now pointing at the chest of Qin Hongmian, Murong Fu hollered: “Lord Zhennan, to think that everyone in the martial arts world praised you, saying you are a man who treasures friendship and love. Now, you would not even say anything to save the life of your lover! One, two, three!” At the word ‘three’, with a ‘chi’ sound, Qin Hongmian was murdered.
By now, Gan Baobao is terrified out of her wits and her face is drained of blood. Still, she steadied her nerves and proclaimed: “If you wish to kill, just go ahead and kill. There is no need to blackmail Lord Zhennan. I am the wife of Zhong Wanchou and am not related to Lord Zhennan. Do not tarnish the reputation of my Wanchou Valley Zhong Family.”
Murong Fu coldly chuckled once and ridiculed: “Who does not know Duan Zhengchun has plenty of kept women? Be it virgins, widows or married women, all are welcomed.” Repeating his threats to no avail, he killed Gan Baobao too.
Madam Wang was secretly lamenting. Although she killed without blinking an eye in her daily routine, but witnessing Murong Fu killing three of Duan Zhengchun’s lovers in such a short span of time, her heart is thumping wildly. She dared not exchange looks with Duan Zhengchun and cannot imagine the expression on his face right now.
However, she heard Duan Zhengchun’s soothing voice saying: “Ah Luo, despite our past relationship, you still do not understand me. Among all the women under the sky, you are my only true love. Although I got involved with many other women, those are just temporary flings. Why would I leave a place for them in my heart? Your Nephew has killed three of my lovers but it does not matter. As long as he does not hurt you, I would be relieved.” These few sentences of his are filled with tenderness but when Madam Wang heard them, she grew cold with fear instead. She knows that Duan Zhengchun now hates her to the core and is provoking Murong Fu into killing her. She exclaimed: “My good Nephew, you must not believe his words.”
Half believing and half doubting his words, the tip of Murong Fu’s long sword is now naturally pointing towards Madam Wang’s chest. From the tip of the sword, fresh blood is dripping off, landing onto the lower part of her collar.
Madam Wang is fully aware of her Nephew’s viciousness. In order to fulfill his dream of becoming a ruler, even his Maternal Aunt can be disregarded. As long as Duan Zhengchun continued to expound love and concern towards herself in an intentional manner, Murong Fu will use her life to threaten Duan Zhengchun. She cannot help but ask in a shaking voice: “Duan-Lang! Duan-Lang! Do you really hate me so much that you are trying to cause my death?”
Perceiving her horror-struck eyes and pitiful facial expression, Duan Zhengchun was reminded of their past relationship. His heart softening at once, he berated: “You cheap shrew! With lard blinding your heart, you chose to be consumed by years of meaningless jealousy, causing three of my beloved women to die an unnatural death. If my hands and feet are freed, I will personally slice you into ten thousand pieces. Murong Fu, quickly stab her with your sword! Why haven’t you killed this smelly hag?” He knew that the more he scolded, the less likely Murong Fu would kill his Maternal Aunt.
Madam Wang caught all the subtle hints. Initially, Duan Zhengchun deliberately expressed love and tenderness for her, wanting to lure Murong Fu into killing her and taking revenge for the three ladies Ruan Xingzhu, Qin Hongmian and Gan Baobao. When he changed to give her a scolding instead, it shows that he has forgiven her. However, for the past ten over years, she has been pining for Duan Zhengchun day and night. Unexpectedly reunited with her lover, her emotions are already in turmoil. In front of her, there are three female corpses lying on the floor and a long sword dripping with blood is pointing at her chest, adding to her anxiety level. When she heard Duan Zhengchun scolding her and using terms such as ‘cheap shrew’ and ‘smelly hag’, compared to their past vows of love and sweet nothings, they are worlds apart. Her tears uncontrollably started flowing down and she mourned: “Duan-Lang, the words that you told me in the past, have you forgotten all of them? Why didn’t you leave a place for me in your heart? Duan-Lang, I am still fully devoted to you. The two of us have been separated for so many years; finally we get to see each other again. You… Why didn’t you have any kind words for me? I gave birth to a daughter, our daughter. Her name is Yuyan. Have you seen her? Do you like her?”
Duan Zhengchun was secretly alarmed. He thought: Ah Luo is losing touch with reality. If I repeated the loving words I told you in the past, would you still be alive?
Therefore, he barked in a sharp tone: “You caused the death of three of my beloved ladies. I hate you to the core. Ten over years ago, our relationship has already ended. Our love and feelings are extinct. Right now, I can’t wait to give you a few heavy kicks to vent the unhappiness in my heart.”
In tears, Madam Wang wailed: “Duan-Lang! Duan-Lang!” Suddenly, she leapt forward, pushing her body against the sharp sword in front of her.
For that split moment, Murong Fu was indecisive. On one hand, he wished to withdraw the long sword but on the other hand, he did not want to. In that window of hesitation, the long sword has pierced the chest area of Madam Wang. Murong Fu withdrew his hand and the sword. Fresh blood starting gushing out of Madam Wang’s chest wound.
In a trembling voice, Madam Wang asked: “Duan-Lang, you really hate me so much?”
Noting the sword has penetrated deeply into her critical body part and that she is unlikely to survive, Duan Zhengchun could not hold back and two streams of tears are now flowing down his cheeks. In a crying tone, he reassured: “Ah Luo, I am scolding you in order to preserve your life. At our reunion today, I am filled with indescribable happiness. Why would I hate you? My devotion to you will forever be the same as the day I gave you a stalk of Moon Flower.”
The corner of Madam Wang’s mouth curled into a smile. She whispered: “That is great. I knew… I knew that in your heart, there is a permanent place for me, a place where I will never be abandoned. The same goes for me too. I will never desert you… You once promised me, in the future, the two of us would go to Limitless (Wuliang) Mountain in Dali, to the same mountain cave I lived with Mother when I was young. From that day onwards, the two of us will enjoy each other’s company in the cave and never come out. Do you still remember?”
Duan Zhengchun answered: “Ah Luo, of course I remembered. We shall head there tomorrow and have a look at your Mother’s Jade Statue.”
Her face glowing with delight, Madam Wang panted in a low voice: “That… That is wonderful… On that stone wall, there is a reflection of a precious sword. It is both red and green in colour. So pretty looking… Have a look, have a look, did you see it…” Her voice went softer and softer until her head tilted sideways and she died there and then.
Murong Fu icily questioned: “Lord Zhennan, these beloved ladies of yours are dying one by one because of you. Are you telling me that even your official wife Princess Consort has to die too?” As he spoke, the tip of his sword is slowly inching towards the chest of Madam Duan.
Lying on the floor, Duan Yu could hear Ruan Xingzhu, Qin Hongmian, Gan Baobao and Madam Wang dying one after another under the sword of Murong Fu. When Madam Wang mentioned Limitless (Wuliang) Mountain Stone Cave, the Jade Statue and the Sword reflection on the wall, he heard all these information but he cannot be bothered at all. But when he heard Murong Fu using his Mother’s life to threaten his Father, he started breaking out in cold sweat. Unable to hold back, he started shouting: “Do not hurt my Mother! Do not hurt my Mother!” However, a walnut is stuffed in his mouth and no sound could be produced. He tried to struggle with all his might but because his body has been paralyzed by internal energy blockages, he could not move an inch.
He heard Murong Fu’s sharp voice: “Lord Zhennan, Again, I am going to count to three. If you are still unwilling to agree to transfer the throne to Prince Yanqing, your Princess Consort will die because of you.” Duan Yu yelled at the top of his voice: “Don’t you dare hurt my Mother!” In the background, he vaguely heard Duan Yanqing advising: “Hold your hand. This matter needs to be reconsidered.” Murong Fu insisted: “Foster Father, this matter is of utmost importance. If Lord Zhennan will not transfer the throne to you, our grand scheme will fall apart. One…”
Duan Zhengchun interrupted: “If you want my consent, you must first accept one of my conditions.” Murong Fu insisted: “Either you give your consent or you do not. I am not going to fall for your delay tactic. Two… How is it?”
Duan Zhengchun let out a long sigh and professed: “In my entire life, I have committed plenty of sins. Now that all of us are dying together in the same place, it is only a deserving conclusion.” Murong Fu counted: “So I take that as a No. Three…”
When Murong Fu said the word ‘Three’, he saw Duan Zhengchun turning his head away and ignoring him. About to thrust his sword into the chest of Madam Duan, he heard Duan Yanqing bellowing: “Stop!”
Murong Fu hesitated slightly and turned his head to face Duan Yanqing. Out of the blue, he saw Duan Yu spring up from the floor and is now trying to head-butt him in the stomach. Murong Fu slanted his body to one side to avoid the blow. Frightened out of his wits, he thought: This kid has been stung by ‘Drunken Bees’ and poisoned by ‘Beisu Qingfeng’. With these two powerful sedatives in his body, how can he possibly jump up?
In the beginning, when Duan Yu realised that Wang Yuyan is his own sister too, he was bitter with grief, causing his internal energies to go haywire in his meridians. But when he heard Murong Fu saying he is going to kill his Mother, all his bitterness and thoughts about Wang Yuyan were cast aside. The same goes for his fear about fire deviation, which, incidentally, allowed his internal energy to return to their natural pathways. Whenever someone cultivates internal energy, by using their thoughts, they can guide the internal energy to move along the meridians. During fire deviation, they would usually try to reverse the energies stuck in the wrong meridians. Since they are focused on the wrong meridians, their attention would be misguided. The more anxious they are, the further the internal energies will travel down the wrong meridians. Duan Yu is fully concentrated on the safety of his Mother; without any interference from his thoughts, his internal energies are able to resume the proper pathways. When he heard Murong Fu stating the number ‘Three’, he forgot that he is still being tied up and hurriedly jumped on his feet. Based on his hearing, he dashed head first towards the sound of Murong Fu’s voice and was surprised that his body is under his control again. Missing Murong Fu, his shoulder crashed heavily onto the side of a table. Forcing his two hands apart, the twine ropes binding his wrists severed at once.
With both his hands freed, he heard Murong Fu cursed: “Damn this kid!” Without thinking, Duan Yu pointed his finger and shot out ‘Shangyang Sword’ from ‘Six Meridian Divine Sword’ in the direction of Murong Fu’s voice. Murong Fu bent his body to evade and countered with a sword stab. His eyes blindfolded by a black cloth and his mouth stuffed with a walnut, Duan Yu is still in a state of panic. Being unable to speak is inconsequential, but when he cannot see the exact location of Murong Fu, he cannot act recklessly, for he may injure his Mother by accident. In his confusion, he did not even think of removing the black cloth that is covering his eyes.
Murong Fu thought: Since he is able to free himself from those bonds, his ability cannot be underestimated. I must kill him before he regains his eyesight.
With that, he executed the move ‘Great River Heading East’ and his sword sped towards Duan Yu’s chest in a horizontal slice.
Duan Yu is pointing his fingers haphazardly without any effect. When he heard the whistling of the advancing sword, he hastily avoided based on his hearing. With a ‘pu’ sound, the tip of the long sword has pierced the corner of his shoulder. Feeling a sharp pain, Duan Yu instinctively jumped up. Within the abandoned well, he has absorbed Jiumozhi’s profound internal energy. With a simple jump, he actually flew up by several feet. With a ‘pong’ sound, he smashed his head heavily against one of the house beams. While in mid air, he thought: I am blinded. Only he can kill me but I cannot kill him, what should I do? I do not mind being killed but if I am dead, I cannot save Mother and Father.
Exerting strength with both his legs, with a ‘pa’ sound, the twine ropes circled around his ankles were severed as well.
Duan Yu was elated and he recalled: Excellent! Back at the millhouse, Murong Fu disguised himself as Western Xia Country’s General Li (Yanzong) and was trying to kill me but he could not because I was using ‘Surfing Nimble Steps’.
The minute his left foot touched the floor, he took a half sidestep and titled his body, smoothly escaping one of Murong Fu’s sword attacks by a few inches. The three persons Duan Yanqing, Duan Zhengchun and Princess Consort Duan observed the green flashes of the long sword as the sword tip barely went past Duan Yu’s stomach. The danger was too close for comfort and the three of them were completely stunned at the encounter. Of course, Duan Yu’s sophisticated evasive tactics added to the element of surprise. In fact, everything that happened was a perfect coincidence. If Duan Yu is able to see and did not execute ‘Surfing Nimble Steps’, based on his ignorance of martial arts, it would be impossible for him to dodge this formidable and lethal sword attack from Murong Fu.
With each sword stance quicker than the previous one, Murong Fu is still unable land a hit on Duan Yu. Noting that Duan Yu is still keeping the black cloth blindfold on, he grew more and more frustrated and ashamed of himself. He is unaware that Duan Yu is confused and nervous; instead, he assumed that Duan Yu is ridiculing him and using the blindfold to spite him for his incompetency. He thought: I cannot even win against a blindfolded opponent, how can I face the world?
He was so furious that fire seems to be coming out of his eyes. In a series of green flashes, his sword stance has transformed into what appears to be a giant green ball. As this green ball rolled all over the hall, it is trying to trap Duan Yu within a circle of deadly and fatal sword stances.
Du Yanqing, Duan Zhengchun, Madam Duan, Fan Hua, Hua Hegen, Cui Baiquan and the others are being pushed back by the sword aura. It felt as if gusts of cold wind are blowing incessantly at them. The hair on their heads and faces are being shredded and falling onto the floor; scratches and tears are starting to form on their sleeves and collars.
Within the sword encirclement, Duan Yu is moving randomly with his body twisting and turning in unique positions. From the outside, it looks as if he is taking a leisurely stroll in a garden. Meanwhile, Murong Fu’s long and sharp sword is not even able to touch his clothes. Despite Duan Yu’s relaxing appearance, his mind is racing with thoughts: I can only defend and not attack; my eyes are blinded; if Murong Fu stabs my Mother or Father with his sword, what can I do?
By now, Murong Fu recognizes that Duan Yu is the real threat and nemesis. He is not bothered about killing Madam Duan. By now, he has executed over a hundred moves and yet, he has failed to hurt his rival. He guessed: This kid is capable of <Sound Mapping>, and avoided my sword because of its whistling. I shall change to <Catkin Swordplay>, a light and noiseless attack. This kid would be unable to dodge any longer.
Once he switched his swordplay, his sword is now thrusting at a slow pace. Unfortunately, Murong Fu is unaware that Duan Yu’s ‘Surfing Nimble Steps’ is an autopilot skill and does not consider the attacks of the enemy. Regardless of a thunderous and stormy sword stance or a silent sword stance, this ‘Surfing Nimble Steps’ is independent.
Based on Duan Yanqing’s vast experience and incredible foresight, he instantly saw through Murong Fu’s ruse and his concern for Duan Yu was aroused. Witnessing Murong Fu’s laggard sword stance which concealed the piercing sound of the weapon, he was shocked. Using his throat, he warned in a hoarse voice: “Child, you must quickly kill that kid Duan Yu. If he removed the black cloth from his eyes, I am afraid the two of us will perish at his hands.”
Murong Fu was shaken and he thought: You fool, why did you remind him?
Indeed, his words have enlightened a lost soul. Duan Yu was momentarily dazed before he swiftly used his hand and removed the black cloth covering his eyes. Suddenly, his eyes were exposed to brightness, causing him to see spots as well as an icy long sword approaching him from the front. He does not know any martial arts and cannot think of any countermeasure. In his anxiety, he mixed up his footwork. With a ‘chi’ sound, his left leg was injured by Murong Fu’s sword and he fell down on the floor.
Murong Fu was thrilled. Lifting his sword, he stabbed downwards. Lying sideways on the floor, Duan Yu countered with a ‘Shaoze Sword’. Murong Fu speedily leapt backwards to evade. Although fresh blood is gushing out of Duan Yu’s leg, his ‘Six Meridian Divine Sword’ is smooth and forceful. Soon, the hall is filled with his sword energy, instantly coercing Murong Fu into dodging here and avoiding there like a destitute.
In the past on Mount Shaoshi, Murong Fu is already outmatched by Duan Yu. The current Duan Yu has obtained Jiumozhi’s enormous well of internal energy; his ‘Six Meridian Divine Sword’ is even more powerful and harder to suppress than before. After a few moves, a light ‘zheng’ sound was heard. Murong Fu has lost his grip on the long sword. The sword flew straight up and embedded itself on one of the roof beams. Next, a ‘bo’ sound rang out and Murong Fu’s shoulder has been injured by the sword energy. He knows that if he continued to linger around, he would be killed by Duan Yu. With a loud shout, he escaped through a window and fled for his life.
With the support of a chair, Duan Yu stood up and called out: “Mother, Father, are you all right?” Madam Duan instructed: “Quickly tear out your collar and bandage your wound.” Duan Yu assured: “That is not urgent.” From Madam Wang’s corpse, he retrieved the small porcelain bottle from her lifeless hand and allowed his Father and Mother to inhale the antidote first and cure them of their poisoning. By following his Father’s guidance, he used his internal energy to unseal their critical acupoints. Madam Duan immediately set out to bandage Duan Yu’s wounds.
Duan Zhengchun stood up and plucked out the long sword from the roof beam. The blade of this sword has been stained by the fresh blood of the four ladies Ruan Xingzhu, Qin Hongmian, Gan Baobao and Madam Wang. Every one of them shared an intimate relationship with him and a vow to grow old together. Duan Zhengchun may have been a philanderer and an unfaithful partner; nevertheless, during each of his passionate encounter, his devotion to the lady is absolute. How he wished he could dig his heart out and cut his body into equal parts for each of his lovers. In front of him, the four female corpses are lying on the floor. Madam Wang’s head is resting on Qin Hongmian’s thigh, while Gan Baobao’s body is lying horizontally across Ruan Xingzhu’s belly. When these four ladies are alive, they suffered greatly due to their separation from him. Broken hearted and dejected, there is more sadness than happiness in their lifelong saga. At the end of the day, they all had to die an unnatural death because of him. When Ruan Xingzhu was killed by Murong Fu, Duan Zhengchun has already decided to commit suicide in the name of love. Presently, he has no other worries. Duan Yu is a grown man with a good education and competent martial arts. Dali Country will not lack a wise and capable ruler. There is nothing left for him to accomplish. Turning to Madam Duan, he swore: “Madam (Wife), I have let you down. In my heart, all these women and you are exactly the same, each and every one of you is my cherished true love. My love for them is real, my love for you is equally real!”
Madam Duan cried out: “Brother Chun, you… you must not…” She rushed towards him.
In order to save his Mother, Duan Yu forced himself to engage Murong Fu. After Murong Fu escaped through the window, he could barely think straight. Suddenly, he recalled: Earlier on, I experienced fire deviation. How did I recover?
Turning numb and soft, his body started to freeze out of the blue. Gradually, he curled into a ball on the floor and for the time being, he is unable to stand up.
By the time he heard the tragic cry of Madam Duan, Duan Zhengchun has already stabbed his own chest with the tip of the sword. Madam Duan hurriedly used her hand to pull out the long sword. Her left hand pressing onto his wound, she was crying as she said: “Brother Chun, Brother Chun, even if you have one thousand or ten thousand women, I will still love you the same. Sometimes, I would be upset with you and get angry, but… that is the past already… And that is because I still love you…” However, Duan Zhengchun positioned the sword to pierce his heart. The sword stab killed him instantly and he can no longer hear her words.
Madam Duan picked up the long sword and is about to stab herself in the chest too. But when she heard Duan Yu yelled out: “Mother! Mother!”, she was distracted and missed by a few inches, stabbing her abdomen instead.
Seeing both his Father and Mother lifting the sword to commit suicide, Duan Yu was frightened out of his wits. His legs seemed to be filled with vinegar, as they felt sour and numb simultaneously. Lacking the strength to walk, he used his hands and crawled over, calling: “Mother, Father, you… the two of you…” Madam Duan coaxed: “Child, Father and Mother are passing on. You… You must take good care of yourself…” Duan Yu sobbed: “Mother, Mother, you must not die, you must not die. Father? He… What happened to him?” Reaching his hand, he cradled his mother’s neck. He thought of pulling the sword out of her body but he is afraid that when he pulled it out, he may cause her to die even faster. Thus, he held his hand. Madam Duan advised: “You must learn from your Uncle and be a good Emperor…”
Duan Yanqing suddenly interrupted: “Quickly give me the antidote. I can save your Mother.” Duan Yu blew his top and roared: “It is all your fault, you traitorous villain. You kidnapped my Father and caused him to die unnaturally. Our feud will never be erased!” Abruptly standing up, he grabbed one of the steel staffs on the floor and is about to chop down on Duan Yanqing’s shoulder. In a shrill voice, Madam Duan screamed: “No!”
Duan Yu was taken aback. Turning his head, he declared: “Mother, this person is our greatest nemesis. Child is going to take revenge for you and Father.” Still using her shrill voice, Madam Duan forbade: “No! You… You cannot commit such a heinous crime!” Filled with doubts, Duan Yu inquired: “I… I cannot… commit such a heinous crime?” Gnashing his teeth, he hollered: “I must kill this traitorous villain.” He raised the steel staff again. Madam Duan coaxed: “Put your head down beside me and let me explain it to you.”
Duan Yu lowered his head and planted his ear besides her lips. His mother softly revealed: “Child, this Duan Yanqing, he is your real Father. Your Father was unfaithful to me and in my frustration, I did something unfaithful to him too. Afterwards, I gave birth to you. Your Father does not know this and all along, he assumed you are his son, but you are actually not. Your current Father is not your real Father, this person is your real Father. You must never hurt him; otherwise… otherwise you would have committed the heinous crime of killing your own Father. I have never loved this person before, but… but I cannot allow you to commit this sin. This sin will send you to hell upon your death and you would not be able to enter the Western Paradise. I… At first, I do not wish to tell you these, as it reflects badly on your Father. Now, I have no choice and must tell you the truth…”
In this short span of time of less than two hours, unexpected huge revelations kept happening one after another like a chain of lightning strikes, causing Duan Yu to be shocked beyond words. Hugging his mother’s body, he wailed: “Mother, Mother, this cannot be true! This cannot be true!”
Duan Yanqing repeated: “Quickly give me the antidote so that I can save your Mother.” Duan Yu could tell that his Mother’s breathing is becoming more and more shallow. Without further thought, he picked up the small porcelain bottle on the floor and gave it to Duan Yanqing.
Once he recovered his strength, Duan Yanqing immediately fetched his steel staff. With a series of ‘chi chi chi chi’ sounds, he has sealed the acupoints around Madam Duan’s wound. Madam Duan shook her head and insisted: “You must never touch me again.” To Duan Yu, she instructed: “Child, I still have something to tell you.” Duan Yu lowered his head again.
Madam Duan softly detailed: “Although this person and your Father share the same surname and are from the same generation, they are not considered blood brothers. Your Father has many daughters, Miss Mu, Miss Wang, Miss Zhong, etc. You can marry whoever you want… In Great Song, this may not be permitted, as they believe in marrying someone with a different surname. In Dali, we do not care about this restriction. As long as they are not siblings, they can get married. With so many ladies, you can marry all of them too. That would be wonderful. You… Do you like it?”
Duan Yu’s tears are still running non-stop and he cannot think about this question now.
Madam Duan sighed once and lamented: “My good child, it is a pity I cannot see you wearing the Dragon (Emperor) robes, sitting on the Imperial throne, and be an obedient… obedient little Emperor with my own eyes. But I know for sure that you will be very obedient…” Suddenly, she used her hand and press down on the hilt of the sword, causing the weapon to pass through her body.
Duan Yu yelled out: “Mother!” Springing onto her body, he saw his Mother slowly closing her eyes and the corner of her mouth curling into a smile.
Duan Yu called again: “Mother!” Without warning, he felt his back turning numb. Soon thereafter, the critical acupoints on his waist, legs and shoulders are being sealed by someone. A sublime voice entered his ear: “I am your Father Duan Yanqing. To preserve the reputation of Lord Zhennan, right now, I am speaking to you via ‘Voice Transmission’. Have you clearly heard the words of your Mother?” The last two passages Madam Duan conveyed to Duan Yu were done in a soft tone. Nonetheless, at that point in time, Duan Yanqing’s poisoning has been cured and his internal energy has been restored. He overheard everything and knew that Madam Duan has disclosed to Duan Yu the secret of his heritage.
Duan Yu called out: “I did not hear anything! I did not hear anything! I only want my own Father and Mother!” When he said he wanted his ‘own Father and Mother’, he is in fact admitting that he has heard the words of his Mother.
Duan Yanqing was infuriated: “You are unwilling to acknowledge me?” Duan Yu called out: “No! No! I do not believe! I do not believe!” Duan Yanqing whispered: “Right now, your life is in my hand. Killing you is as easy as flipping my palm. Moreover, you are indeed my son. By not acknowledging your birth father, aren’t you extremely unfilial?”
Knowing that his Mother would not lie to him, Duan Yu was dumbfounded. However, for the past twenty years, he has been addressing Duan Zhengchun as his Father. In return, Duan Zhengchun has been showering him with love. How could he suddenly accept a stranger as his Father? Furthermore, the death of his Father and Mother are partly due to Duan Yanqing. To acknowledge the enemy as his Father is impossible. Gritting his teeth, he swore: “Kill me if you want. I will never acknowledge you.”
Duan Yanqing is perplexed and disappointed. He thought: Although I have a son, he does not regard me as his father. This means he is not my son.
In a blink of an eye, his evil nature was aroused. Lifting his steel staff, he poked towards the back of Duan Yu. The staff was about to come in contact with the back of Duan Yu’s clothes when he cannot help but softened his heart. Letting out a long sigh, he thought: I have been leading a life full of hardship. At first, I am kinless and all alone. After much difficulty, I finally have a son. How can I bear to kill him with my own hands? Whether he acknowledges me or not, he will forever be my son. Now that Duan Zhengchun is dead, there is no way I can compete with Duan Zhengming. However, the throne of Dali country will one day end up in the hands of my son. Although I cannot be the Emperor myself, the end result is the same if I had been the Emperor. I guess my wish is considered fulfilled.
Duan Yu called out: “Since you are going to kill me, what are you waiting for?”
Duan Yanqing unsealed his acupoints and using ‘Voice Transmission’, he proposed: “I will not kill my own son! Since you are unwilling to acknowledge me, you can kill me with ‘Six Meridian Divine Sword’ and take revenge for Duan Zhengchun and your Mother.” As he spoke, he puffed his chest and waited for Duan Yu to make his move. Presently, his heart is filled with self pity and self blame. Since that year when he was critically injured, these feelings have been dominating his mind. Only by committing evil deeds can he vent out these feelings. Right now, he felt that he has led a wasted life with no worthy accomplishments. He might as well die under the hands of his own son and put an end to this misery.
Using his left hand, a confused Duan Yu wiped away his tears. On one hand, he wanted to use ‘Six Meridian Divine Sword’ and kill this Great Evil in front of him in order to avenge his parents. However, his Mother stated very clearly that this person is his own birth Father; how could he bear to kill him?
While waiting, Duan Yanqing saw Duan Yu raising his hand and putting it down, and then raising his hand again in an indecisive manner. In an awe-inspiring manner, he barked: “As an upright and worthy hero, if you want to make a move, just go ahead. What is there to fear?”
Duan Yu clenched his teeth and shrunk his hand. He concluded: “Mother will not lie to me. I will not kill you.”
Duan Yanqing was ecstatic and burst out into laughter, knowing that his son eventually acknowledged himself as his Father. Filled with delight, he propped himself with the two staffs and cheerfully went on his way. He did not even spare a single glance at Yun Zhonghe who has fainted and is still lying on the floor.
Still hoping for a miracle, Duan Yu went and felt his Father and Mother for a pulse and checked their breathing. When he finally accepted they would not come back to life, he collapsed on the floor and started crying his eyes out.
After crying for a long time, he suddenly heard a female voice behind him saying: “Mister Duan, our condolences. We are too late in our rescue mission and we deserve death for our incompetence.” Duan Yu turned around and saw several ladies standing at the door. The two ladies in front shared a similar appearance. Recognizing the two of them to be two of the four sisters from XuZhu’s Lingjiu Palace, he could not tell if they are Plum, Orchid, Bamboo or Chrysanthemum. His face is covered with tears from his lonely crying session. He sobbed: “My Father and Mother are dead!”
The two girls from Lingjiu Palace are Bamboo Sword and Chrysanthemum Sword. Bamboo Sword explained: “Mister Duan, when my Owner learnt about Mister’s parents meeting some danger on their journey, he ordered Maid (me) to lead some warriors and embark on a rescue mission. Unfortunately, we were too late.” Chrysanthemum Sword updated: “Miss Wang Yuyan and the others were locked up in a dungeon. They have been rescued and are in good shape. Mister can put your mind at ease.”
Out of nowhere, from afar, a sharp whistling sound pierced the air. Bamboo Sword explained: “Sister Plum and Sister Orchid are on their way here!” A brief moment later, sounds of hoof beats can be heard. More than ten riders raced to the front of the house. The first two arrivals are indeed Plum Sword and Orchid Sword. The two girls dashed into the house and catching sight of the corpses all over the floor, they stopped dead in their tracks and exclaimed: “Aiyo! Aiyo!”
Plum Sword saluted Duan Yu and articulated: “My Owner severely begs the pardon of Mister Duan, saying there is a certain matter which he has let Mister down. However, it cannot be helped. My owner has broken his promise and is feeling guilty toward Mister. He seeks Mister’s forgiveness.”
Duan Yu has no idea what she is talking about. In a choking voice, he replied: “We are Foster Brothers, there is nothing to forgive. My Father and Mother are dead; I cannot be bothered with other issues.”
By now, the five men Fan Hua, Hua Hegen, Fu Sigui, Cui Baiquan and Guoyan have inhaled the antidote and their acupoints have been unsealed. Noting Yun Zhonghe still lying on the floor, Hua Hegen’s anger was aroused. With one chop, the cruel and merciless Yun Zhonghe was beheaded. The five men paid their respects to the corpses of Duan Zhengchun husband and wife before grieving tragically.
When the sun is up, Fan Hua and the others went to procure coffins. By afternoon, the ladies of Lingjiu Palace Zhu Tian faction delivered Wang Yuyan, Ba Tianshi, Zhu Danchen, Mu Wanqing and Zhong Ling to the residence. After being stung by the venomous ‘Drunken Bees’, they are still in a daze and have yet to regain consciousness.
Without any delay, Duan Yu, Fan Hua and the others buried everybody except for Lord Zhennan husband and wife. Since the residence is located within the territory of Dali, Fan Hua summoned the local county and provincial officials. When the officials learnt that Lord Zhennan husband and wife had ‘died of sickness’ within their area of governance, they were shocked beyond comprehension and some nearly fainted. In their hearts, they feared punishment for negligence and lack of proper hospitality. Luckily, Minister Fan did not censure them. They rapidly scrambled about and canvassed men and wagons, making preparations to transport the coffins of Lord Zhennan husband and wife. Worried that more incidents may happen along the way, the female disciples of Lingjiu Palace escorted Duan Yu all the way back to the capital city of Dali. During the journey, Wang Yuyan, Ba Tianshi and the others started waking up.
The news of Lord Zhennan dying a royal death while travelling and royal descendent Duan Yu escorting the coffin back to the capital has spread throughout the capital city of Dali. Lord Zhennan has made significant contributions to his country and is worshipped by the population. Thousands of officials and commoners lined the streets inside and outside the city for over five kilometres in order to pay their last respects and mourn his departure. The air is filled with their lasting cries of grief. Duan Yu, Fan Hua, Hua Hegen, Ba Tianshi and the others entered the Imperial palace at once to report Lord Zhennan’s death circumstances to the Emperor. Wang Yuyan, Plum Sword and the others were ushered by Zhu Danchen to a nearby inn.
In the Imperial palace, Duan Yu noticed that both eyes of Duan Zhengming are now red and swollen due to excessive crying. He was about to kneel down and pay his respects when Duan Zhengming embraced him and asked: “Child, why… why did it come to this?” The two men Uncle and Nephew continued hugging each other.
Duan Yu did not hold anything back and honestly communicated everything without concealment, even revealing the secret between Madam Duan and him. Finishing, he kneeled and paid his respects. He sobbed: “If Father is not the birth Father of Child, Child would be a b@st@rd, I can no longer… no longer stay in Dali.”
Duan Zhengming was utterly flabbergasted and sighed a few times: “Retribution! Retribution!” Reaching his hand out, he supported Duan Yu up and concluded: “Child, this new discovery of your parentage is only known to two people in the world, you and Duan Yanqing. Actually, it is not necessary for you to disclose this fact to me. But since you are straightforward and fearless, it showcases your honest character. Both your Father and I are heirless. Let’s skip the fact that you are surnamed Duan; even if you are not surnamed Duan, I have decided to appoint you as my successor. This throne rightfully belongs to Prince Yanqing but I have been occupying (in a bad way) it for decades instead. I am frequently tormented by guilt. Since Heaven has made this arrangement, it is indeed the best possible outcome. I cannot ask for more.” As he spoke, he stretched his hand and removed the yellow cloth cap from his head. His head is clean-shaven and on the top, there are twelve moxibustion marks.
Duan Yu was taken aback and he exclaimed: “Uncle, you…” Duan Zhengming reminded: “Remember that day when we were resisting Jiumozhi at Sky Dragon Monastery? Grandmaster has ordained me and given me the precepts. You were there to witness everything.” Duan Yu acknowledged: “Yes.” Duan Zhengming continued: “Since I am becoming a monk, the throne must be passed to your Father. Because your Father was in the Central Plains at that time, and the country cannot do without a ruler, I dare not disobey Grandmaster’s command and temporary ruled the country on your Father’s behalf. Unfortunately, your Father passed away on his return journey. Today, I shall cede the throne to you.”
Duan Yu was completely astounded: “Child is young and inexperienced, how can I accept such heavy responsibilities? Additionally, Child’s birthright is doubtful, Child… I… better disappear into the wilderness…”
Duan Zhengming barked: “From today onwards, your heritage shall never be brought up again. Your Father and your Mother, how did they treat you?”
Duan Yu whimpered: “Their dedication is immeasurable, as deep as the ocean and as high as the mountains.”
Duan Zhengming advised: “That is the way. If you wish to repay your parents for your upbringing, you must preserve their good name. As an Emperor, you only need to remember two things. First, you must love your citizens. Second, you must be open to good advice from your officials. You are benevolent by nature and the commoners will not be oppressed. In the future, when you are older, you must never take your intelligence for granted and start altering our national policies. Most importantly, you must never start a war with our neighbouring countries.”
- END OF CHAPTER 48-