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Demi Gods & Semi Devils Book 3
XXVIII - Surviving in the wilderness forging a cast iron head
Chinese title: 天龍八部 - 草木残生颅铸铁Original novel written by Jin Yong (Louis Cha)
Wuxia Novel Fan Translation by darksinz
Chapter 28: Vegetation Surviving, Skull Casted In Iron
You TanZhi saw Xiao Feng and his party travelled north, they did not turn back at all, only then was he certain that he wouldn’t die. He wondered: "Why did that traitor not kill me? Hmmm, he looks down on me, and thought that killing me will dirty his hands. He... became some kind of Lord in Liao Empire, it would be even more difficult for me to take revenge from now on. But at least I found the whereabouts of this traitor.”
He leaned down to pick up the quicklime bag, and went to look for the short-knife thrown aside by Xiao Feng’s horsewhip. Suddenly he saw an oilcloth bag left within the vegetation, it was the exact same bag retrieved by Xiao Feng from his bosom. He picked it up immediately and opened the bag; inside was a book. He flipped the pages of the book, every page had curvy scripts, he did not understand a single word from the texts. When Xiao Feng saw this oilcloth bag he was thinking of someone else, he was absent minded, when he put this ‘Tendon-Changing Sutra’ back into his bosom he didn’t secure it properly. When his horse jolted off, the book just dropped into the vegetation and he didn’t realize it at all.
You TanZhi thought to himself: "This is most probably some Khitan text. The traitor carried this book with him personally, it must be something greatly valuable to him. I won’t return it to him, let him worry about it, which is a good thing.” He felt a faint sense of satisfaction of revenge, he put the book back into the oilcloth bag and kept it in his bosom and then travelled south.
At an early age he learnt martial arts from his father, but he had a thin and frail body, and weak muscular strength. He was totally incompatible for the strong and fierce martial arts style of the You brothers. After learning martial arts for three years, his progress was minimal. He couldn’t claim to be the son of a famous martial arts master with his level of skill. As he studied untll he was 12 years old, You Ju was disheartened and he conferred with his brother You Ji. Both of them agreed: “Our You family produced this kind of three-legged-cat skill, won’t people laugh until their mouth becomes slanted? Moreover, if people know he is the son and nephew of the Twin-You-Heroes of the Juxian manor, they won’t hold back and use their full strength. They will kill him with a single stroke. It would be better to let him study literature so as to preserve his life.” Thus from the age of 12, You TanZhi stopped learning martial arts and You Ju hired a tutor to teach him how to study.
But he did not concentrate while studying; he was always imagining and day dreaming. His teacher said: “Student Zhi, while learning, is it not a pleasure?”
He replied: “It depends on what you are learning. Father taught me boxing, I was happy while learning.”
The teacher fumed: “Confucius was referring to scholarly learning, life’s great undertaking, when did he refer to boxing and playing with spears?”
You TanZhi replied: “Fine, you curse my father and uncle, you say my father is not a good man because he boxes and plays with spears, I will go tell my father.” And he eventually drove the teacher away in anger. This went on and he continually drove all his teachers away in anger. You Ju gave his son several beatings, but he became even more obstinate and mischievous after each beating. You Ju saw his son was unworthy, stubborn and difficult to teach, he was at a loss. He could only heave a long sigh and pay no notice. Thus, You TanZhi was 18 years old now, and although he came from a famous family, he was neither proficient in literature nor martial arts. His uncle and father committed suicide, his mother bangs heed head on a pillar to die with her husband. He was alone and helpless, and wandered around aimlessly; all he ever thought was to seek Xiao Feng for revenge.
That day at the battle at Juxian manor, he hid behind a screen wall and observed the battle. He saw clearly Qiao Feng’s appearance and shape, and heard that he was a Khitan. He was muddle-headed and just went searching north. Along the way he saw a petty thief using quicklime to blind his enemy, he felt this was a good method. He copied him and made a quicklime package. He was loitering around the borders when the Khitans captured him during their raid. Unexpectedly he met Xiao Feng, and he even managed to throw the quicklime package; it can be said he was lucky to the extreme.
He thought: "Right now the most important thing is to escape as far as possible, don’t let him capture me. I’ll catch a poisonous snake or big centipede, then I will put it on his bed. When he is sleeping the bugs will bite him to death. That young lady... that young lady, alas, she... she is so beautiful!"
As he thought of AhZi’s appearance, his chest heated up for no reason, and his face felt like an oven. He mused: "I don’t know when I will get to see her pale face, the delicate and elegant young lady."
He hung his head and took big steps, after a while he overtook the group of captives released by Xiao Feng. Some of them invited him to travel with the group but he ignored them and travelled alone. After walking for 10 li, his stomach groaned in hunger. He looked around for something to eat, but there was nothing except withered grass and snow on the grass plains. He reflected: "If only I was a cow or sheep, I could eat the grass and drink the snow water. I would be so happy. En, but if I am a little lamb, other people will slaughter my mother and father, the two old lambs, and eat them; then should I take revenge? I cannot live under the same sky as my enemy, of course I have to take revenge. But how should I do it? Use my two horns to smash those people that killed my parents? But these people rear animals for the purpose of eating them, where is the logic in revenge?”
He was letting his imagination run wild. Suddenly he heard the sound of horse’s hooves; three Khitan soldiers came riding on horses. Once they saw him, there was a rustling sound and they slipped a lasso over his neck; they pulled and the rope tightened. You TanZhi could not maintain his footing and fell down, the soldiers dragged him away. You TanZhi gave a few blood-curdling screams, immediately the rope around his neck tightened further and he could not scream anymore.
The Khitan soldiers were afraid the rope might strangle him to death, and they immediately slowed the horse’s steps. You TanZhi struggled and got up from the ground, he loosened the lasso around his neck. A Khitan soldier gave a strong tug; You TanZhi staggered and almost fell down again. The three Khitan soldiers laughed at him. The soldier holding onto the rope said a few words to You TanZhi. You TanZhi did not understand Khitan, he shook his head. The solider wave his hand and the horse move off again, but this time it did not gallop off quickly. You TanZhi was afraid of being strangled by the rope and losing his breath. He walked two steps and ran three steps to follow the soldiers.
He saw the three Khitan soldiers heading north, he was afraid: "Qiao Feng only worded it nicely, he said he would release me, but in the blink of an eye he ordered his subordinates to capture me back. How will I survive?" After leaving home and heading north, all he ever thought of was revenge, he did not know the impossibility of the task. When he saw Xiao Feng, the tragic death of his parents muddled his head. With a burst of effort he thought of using quicklime to blind him, and then he would use the short-knife to stab him to death. But he failed on the first strike and lost his drive; he immediately thought of escaping but he got captured by Khitan soldiers again.
Originally when he was captured during the initial raid, he was mixed into the crowd; he only got hit once on his back by the back of a blade. But the situation now was vastly different. He staggered and collided with objects as he was dragged along, he was breathless, he fell down every ten steps. Every time he fell, the lasso would leave another bloodstained line on the back of his neck. The Khitans did not stop for even a moment; they did not care about his safety and dragged him straight back into Nanjing city. When he entered the city, You TanZhi was drenched with blood; he prayed that he could simply die instead of suffering this misery.
The three Khitan soldiers travelled for a few li in the city, then they dragged him before a huge house. You TanZhi saw the floor was covered with bluestone tiles, the pillars were thick and doors were high. He don’t know where he was. After waiting for less than the time required to brew tea, the soldier holding the rope rode his horse and entered a huge courtyard. Suddenly he gave a whistle, the horse galloped off quickly. You TanZhi did not expect this. The soldier went around the courtyard three times, the horse galloped faster and faster, around ten soldiers were cheering and spectating at the sides. You TanZhi thought: “It seems they want to drag me around till I die!” His forehead, limbs and body collided with the bluestone floor, he was aching everywhere.
Among the laughter of the Khitan soldiers, there was a crisp laughter of a female mixed in. You TanZhi was drowsy, he faintly heard the female laughed and said: "Ha ha, I am afraid this human-kite won’t fly at all!"
You TanZhi pondered: "What human-kite?"
At this moment, the rope tightened around the back of his neck; his body rose up in the air. He finally understood, the soldier was galloping fast with the horse in order to lift him up in the air. He was treated like a kite to be played around with.
His body was high up in the air; the back of his neck had already lost all feeling from the pain. His nose and mouth were buffeted by the wind, he had difficulties breathing, but he heard the woman clap and laugh: “Very good! Very good! The human-kite really flew!” You TanZhi looked towards the origin of the voice, the woman was wearing a purple robe and was a beautiful young lady. Upon seeing her, his chest was excited, he don’t know if it was due to happiness or sadness, as he flew around in the air, he was incapable of thinking.
The beautiful young lady is AhZi. When she saw Xiao Feng release You TanZhi, she was unhappy. After riding for a distance, she deliberately lagged behind and instructed her attendant to quietly capture You TanZhi, and they could not reveal this matter to Xiao Feng. The followers all knew that Lord Xiao was very doting towards her, thus they accepted her orders. They pretended to adjust the belt buckle of the horse’s saddle. Once Xiao Feng travelled far away, they turned back and pursued You TanZhi. When AhZi returned to Nanjing, she waited at a temple far away from Xiao Feng’s residence. When You TanZhi was successfully captured, she consulted the Khitan for any fresh ideas on torturing people. Someone suggested, “fly human-kite”. This idea appealed to AhZi, she ordered You TanZhi to be flown as kite and it unexpectedly worked.
Watching from below, AhZi found it interesting and she kept cheering, she said: "Let me fly it!” She mounted the horse of the soldier and took over the rope, she said: “Dismount!"
The soldier dismounted the horse and allowed AhZi to fly the “human-kite”. AhZi pulled the rope and went a few rounds on the horse; she laughed loudly and cheered repeatedly: “Interesting! Interesting!” But she had just recovered from a heavy injury, her hand was devoid of strength, once her wrist weakened, the rope sagged and You TanZhi crashed heavily on the bluestone floor with a “Peng” sound. His forehead collided with a sharp edge of a rock, immediately the wound cave in and blood gushed out. AhZi was extremely disappointed, she fumed: “This stupid kid is so heavy!”
You TanZhi nearly fainted from the pain. As he listened to her complain about his weight, he wanted to explain but the pain was so bad that he couldn’t say a single word. A Khitan soldier walked over and undid the ropes around his neck. Another Khitan soldier tore of his clothes and randomly bandaged his wounds; fresh blood oozed continuously from his wounds, how could it be stopped?
AhZi said: "He’s fine, he’s fine! Let’s keep on playing, send him up again, as high up
in the air as possible.” You TanZhi did not understand the Khitan language coming from her, but he saw her making gestures, pointing at his head. He knew it was something bad.
Sure enough, a solider picked up the rope, he looped the rope around his armpit and then around his body. He didn’t loop it around his neck to avoid strangling him, he gave a shout: “Rise!” and sped off on his horse. He dragged You TanZhi on the ground for a few rounds and eventually You TanZhi flew into the air again. The soldier gradually released the rope and You TanZhi flew higher and higher.
The Khitan soldier abruptly loosened his grip, with a whizzing sound You TanZhi flew like an arrow that has been fired off a bow, he flew high up in the air. AhZi and the rest of the soldiers were cheering and applauding. You TanZhi was unwilling but his body only flew higher and higher. He thought in his heart: "I will really die this time!"
The ascending thrust force gradually died off, he plunged straight down back to earth head-first, in a few more moments his head would smash against the bluestone floor. Four Khitan soldiers simultaneously sent out their lassos, they wrapped them round his waist and pulled in all four directions. You TanZhi fainted immediately, but the force coming from all four directions suspended him in midair. His head was three feet off the ground. This maneuver was dangerous to the extreme, if one of the lassoes was sent out a bit slow, the force would not balance out, and You TanZhi’s brain would definitely burst. The Khitan soldiers practiced this trick on the Song people; the captives all became human-kites, 8-9 out of 10 would smash head-first on the ground. Although the ground on the grass plain was soft, plummeting down from such a height, even if their head did not crack open, their neck would also break, and they would die on the spot.
As everyone was celebrating, the four Khitan soldiers released You TanZhi from the ropes. AhZi took out her silvers and rewarded every soldier with five silvers. The soldiers gave their thanks. They asked: "Miss, you want to play something else?"
AhZi saw You TanZhi had already fainted, she don’t know if he was dead or alive. She had exerted excessive force when flying the “human-kite”, and now her chest hurt badly, she did not have any strength to carry on playing. She replied: "Enough fun for today. Bring this kid to see me tomorrow if he survives, I’ll think of something to wear him down. This person wants to plot against Lord Xiao, we can’t let him die too easily." The soldiers agreed in unison, they carried off the blood-soaked You TanZhi.
When You TanZhi woke up, he smelled a moldy odor, he opened his eyes but all he could see was darkness. His first thought was: “Am I dead?" Immediately he felt pain all over his body, he was extremely thirsty. His voice was hoarse and he said: "Water! Water!" but who would even care about him?
After calling out a few times, he felt drowsy and he fell asleep. Suddenly he saw his uncle and father fighting with Qiao Feng, blood was flowing everywhere. He saw his mother cradling him in her arms, comforting him gently, asking him to be not afraid. He saw AhZi, her beautiful face, her bright eyes emitting a strange light. Her face suddenly narrowed into a triangle and became the head of a snake, sticking out its blood-red long tongue, exposing its fangs as it bites him. You TanZhi struggled, but he couldn’t move, the snake bit him on his hands, legs, neck, everywhere. The bite on his forehead was especially painful. He saw his flesh being bitten off, he wanted to scream but he couldn’t...
He tossed and turned the whole night. He was tortured when he was awake, and now he felt pain and suffering in his dreams.
The next day, two Khitan soldiers hauled him off to see AhZi. He had a high fever and it did not subside, he took a step and immediately collapsed. The two Khitan soldiers supported his left and right shoulder; they reproached him loudly and dragged him into a large house. You TanZhi wondered: "Where are they dragging me? Am I going to be beheaded?" He was drowsy, he found it difficult to think properly. He passed by two sets of doors and he stopped outside a hall. The two soldiers reported their arrival outside the hall, a female voice acknowledged from inside, they opened the door to the hall and supported him inside.
You TanZhi raised his head. There was a huge decorative carpet in the hall; sitting on a cushion at the end was a beautiful young girl, it was AhZi. Both her feet were resting on the carpet. When You TanZhi saw her snow white crystal-like feet, they were really like smooth jade, they were as soft as satin. His heart was thumping fiercely, his eye fixed firmly on her feet, the flesh on the back of her feet was transparent, several veins were faintly reflected. He really wanted to stretch out his hand to touch them. The two Khitan soldiers released him. You TanZhi swayed left and right, and finally maintained his footing. His gaze did not leave AhZi’s feet. He saw her ten toes nails were pale red, they was like ten flower petals.
AhZi looked at him, all she saw was an ugly dirty youth. His face was twisted, jaws protruding, but his eyes glowed with greedy flames. She immediately thought of an injured and hungry wolf. When she was at Xingxiu Sea, she and her two martial-brothers would go hunting. She shot a hungry wolf, but she failed to kill it. That wolf suffered serious injuries and stared at her venomously, the expression was exactly the same as You TanZhi’s gaze. The wolf wanted to pounce on her and bite her to death; although it couldn’t jump it still bared a dense row of fangs, howling with anger. But You TanZhi was simply too weak, he didsn’t resist at all, it was really not interesting. Yesterday, he threw quicklime at Xiao Feng, and he refused to kneel, his manner and speech was stubborn, he refused money from Xiao Feng. AhZi liked it very much, she thought he must be a ferocious and powerful wild beast. She wanted to torture him, she wanted to cover him with injuries, and when he was injured she want him to ferociously fight back and bite her. Of course he could not be allowed to succeed with his bite. But when she captured him and flew him as a “human-kite”, this wild beast did not fight back; he gave a dead look that was not fun at all. She frown and contemplated: “How should I torment him so that it will be fun?”
Suddenly, You TanZhi made two "He He" sounds, a burst of strength came out of nowhere. Like a leopard he pounced towards AhZi, grabbing her calf, he lowered his head and kissed the back of her feet. AhZi had a huge shock, she screamed. Two Khitan soldiers and four slave girls serving AhZi shouted in unison and they rushed forward to pull him away.
But You TanZhi firmly held onto her calf and refused to let go. The Khitan soldier gave a tug and AhZi was pulled off the cushion seat and she fell onto the carpet mat. The two soldiers were shocked and angry, they dared not pull again. One soldier hit his back, the other soldier hit his face. The injuries on You TanZhi swelled, his fever had not yet subsided. He was in a confused state, it was as if he was crazy, he did not notice anything in front of him. He firmly held onto AhZi’s feet.
AhZi felt his hot, dry lips on her feet. She was frightened, but she also felt a strange itching sensation, she screamed: "Ah Yo! He’s biting my toes." She hurriedly said to the two soldiers: "Quickly back off, this man is crazy, Ah Yo, do not let him bite my toes.” You TanZhi was biting her toes gently, although AhZi felt pain, she was more afraid that he might forcefully bite down, in her flurried state, she knew he could not be stopped with brute force, she feared that if the soldiers carry on their beatings he will really bite down randomly.
The two soldiers did not have any ideas to handle him and they could only release him. AhZi cried: "Stop biting, I'll spare your life, Ai Yo, I will release you." Currently You TanZhi was in a deranged state, how would he register what she said? A Khitan soldier grabbed his saber and withdrew it from the scabbard, he did not want to hesitate anymore and was going to chop it at You TanZhi’s neck to cut off his head.
AhZi said: "Hey! You are not a wild beast, why are you biting people? Quickly release your mouth, I will ask someone to tend to your wounds and release you back to Central Plains.” You TanZhi still ignored her, he did not exert strength in his bite and didn’t injure her, his hands was gently fondling her feet. He was in a dream-like state, he became a human-kite again, flying high up into the clouds.
A Khitan soldier suddenly had a brainwave, he clutched You TanZhi’s throat. When You TanZhi’s throat was caught, his mouth opened involuntary. AhZi quickly withdrew her leg and took out her toes from his mouth, she stood up, fearing that he might go crazy and start biting again, she hid her feet behind the cushions. Two Khitan soldiers caught hold of You TanZhi; they raised their fist and struck his chest repeatedly. After ten fists, he gave two “Wa Wa” sounds and spurt a few mouthful of fresh blood, the blood stained the brightly-colored carpet.
AhZi said: "Stop, stop hitting!" After this thrilling experience, she felt this kid was pretty weird and interesting, she didn’t want to kill him immediately. The Khitan soldiers stayed their hands and stopped hitting. AhZi sat cross-legged on the cushion, her pair of feet under her buttocks, she pondered: "How should I torture him?"
AhZi look up and saw You TanZhi staring at her, she asked: "Why are you staring at me?”
You TanZhi had already disregarded his life, he replied: "You are pretty, I like to look at you!"
AhZi blushed and thought: "This kid is really bold, he dare to say such frivolous stuff.”
But in her entire life, no one had complimented her beauty. When she learnt her skills at Xingxiu Sect, her martial-brothers all treated her as a mischievous little girl; when she followed Xiao Feng, he was worried about whether she might cause trouble or if she will die from heer injury; he didn’t care if she was ugly or pretty. You TanZhi spoke bluntly, it was obvious that his praise was honest and sincere, she was secretly overjoyed and mused: “I will keep him by my side and use him to pass the time, that will be pretty good. But brother-in-law said to release him; if he knows I captured him again he will definitely be angry. I can hide the truth today but I can’t hide it from him forever. What should I do so that brother-in-law will never know of this matter? I can stop other people from communicating with him but if brother-in-law suddenly comes over to visit me and sees him, what should I do?”
She thought for a moment, suddenly she had an idea: “Azhu was good at disguise. When she was disguised as father, brother-in-law did not even recognize her. I will give this boy a new appearance, than brother-in-law will surely not recognize him. But if his not willing, after I apply the make-up, he will simply wash it away and return back to his original appearance, won’t it be useless?"
She wrinkled her brows, at once she had another idea, she clapped her hand and smiled: "Great idea! Great idea! I will do it!” She spoke to the two Khitan soldiers. The soldiers had some queries and they consulted her again. AhZi gave more details in her explanation, she ordered a maid to retrieve ten silvers and gave them to the soldiers. The soldiers accepted the silvers, gave a bow and hauled You TanZhi out of the hall.
You TanZhi shouted: "I want to look at her, I want to look at this heartless pretty girl." The Khitan soldiers and the maids did not understand Han language; they don’t understand what he was shouting about.
AhZi smiled and look at his figure, she thought her idea was very clever and she was very proud of herself.
You TanZhi was thrown back into the dungeon. At dusk, someone brought a bowl of mutton and a few pieces of rice-cake. You TanZhi’s fever hadd not subsided, he was sputtering nonsense loudly, the person was so scared that he put down the food and left immediately. You TanZhi did not realize he was hungry and thus he never touched the mutton or rice-cakes.
During the night, three Khitan suddenly came into his dungeon. You TanZhi was drowsy and mentally confused, but he saw the expressions of these men were peculiar. It was obvious they harbored bad intentions. He vaguely knew something bad was about to happen, he struggled to stand up, wanting to escape. Two Khitan came forward and held him down; they flipped his body so that his face was facing the sky. You TanZhi swore at them: "Khitan dogs, go and die, I will cut you into a thousand pieces." Suddenly, the third Khitan was holding onto a white object, it was like cotton, also like snow, he forcefully pressed it against his face. The sensation was wet and cold, his brain cleared, but he was suffocating, he thought: "So you want to seal my seven orifice, you want to suffocate me to death!"
But as he thought of this he immediately knew he had guessed wrongly. Someone gave a few pokes to his mouth and nose; he could still breathe, but he could not open his eyes. His face felt wet and greasy, someone was pinching his face, some wet stuff was applied on his face, it could be mud paste. You TanZhi was in a daze and he thought: "I wonder what kind of bizarre method these villains will employ to kill me?"
After a while, the mud layer on his face was gently peeled off by someone, You TanZhi open his eyes, he saw a face mold made out of wet flour, it was his face. The Khitan handled the mold carefully with both hands, he was afraid of damaging it. You TanZhi curse again: “Stinking Liao dog, you will die without a resting place.” The three Khitans ignored him, they took the face mold and left.
You TanZhi suddenly remembered: "Yes, they applied poison on my face, pretty soon, my face will rot, my skin and flesh will drop off, I will become a freak ... " He became more afraid the more he thought about it. He considered: “Rather than being tortured to death, I should kill myself!" Immediately he banged his head against the wall, “Peng Peng” he banged three times. The prison guard heard the sound and rushed in; he tied up his hands and feet. You TanZhi was half-dead and could only allowed himself to be restrained.
After several days, he did not felt any pain on his face, it didn’t rot, but he was still determined to die. Although he was hungry, he did not eat any of the food delivered.
On the morning of the fourth day, the three Khitan men returned to his dungeon, they hauled him out. You TanZhi’s lonely and painful thoughts suddenly made way for sweet thoughts. He thought AhZi was summoning him for more torturing. Although his body would suffer, at least he could see her beautiful face. He could not help but reveal a bitter smile.
The three Khitan took him across several alleys; they entered a dim stone house. He saw blazing charcoals at the side of the stone house, a muscular blacksmith was naked above the waist, he was standing next to a large anvil, holding onto a shiny black object. He was examining the object carefully. The three Khitan men hauled You TanZhi to the front of the blacksmith, two men held his hands, the other held his back. The blacksmith turned around, he studied his face and then look at the black object in his hands, he seemed to be making some kind of comparison.
You TanZhi looked at the object in the blacksmith’s hand, it was a mask made out of wrought iron, there were four holes for the mouth, nose and eyes. He thought to himself: “What did they make this thing for?” The blacksmith picked up the mask and covered You TanZhi’s face. Naturally You TanZhi avoided it by turning his head away, but someone was pressing his head, he could not avoid it, the mask covered his face. He felt a freezing sensation on his face, his skin was stuck onto the metal surface, but he found it odd, the mask fitted him perfectly, it seemed to be custom-made.
You TanZhi felt odd for only an instant, immediately he understood. He felt a chill down his spine: “AiYa, this mask is indeed custom-made. That day they applied wet-flour on my face; it was the mold for this facemask. They go through so much trouble to create this iron mask, what is their intention? Could it be... could it be...” In his heart he knew the vicious intention of these Khitans, but he did not know the purpose. He dare not think anymore, he struggled to run away.
The blacksmith removed the mask from his face, he nodded his head, his expression satisfied. He took a large iron plier and gripped the mask with it, he place the mask in the furnace and heated it until it turned red. His right hand picked up a metal hammer, “Zheng Zheng Zheng” he started striking. After striking the mask for a while, he stretched his hands and touched You TanZhi’s
cheekbone and forehead, he was correcting the mask to fix the non-identical portions.
You TanZhi shouted: "Damnable Liao dog, you commit evils that go against nature, you are so savage and wicked. God will bring calamity upon you, you will all die! Your oxen and horses will drop dead, your babies will die premature!” He cursed and swore, but the Khitan didn’t understand a single word. Suddenly the blacksmith turned around. He glared at You TanZhi with a venomous look; he raised the bright red metal plier and poked it towards his eyes. You TanZhi was so scared that he gave a loud shrill.
The blacksmith was just scaring him for fun, he laughed and retracted the plier. He took out a curved metal piece and tested it on the back of You TanZhi’s head. Once the adjustment was complete, the blacksmith baked the semi-circular iron cover and the mask in the furnace until they turned completely red; he loudly spoke a few words. The three Khitan lifted You TanZhi up; they place him horizontally on a table, his head facing upward. Two extra Khitan came forward to assist, they forcefully pulled his hair, his head couldn’t move at all. These five men pressed down on his limbs, how could You TanZhi even move an inch?
The blacksmith use the plier to grip the red-hot mask. He stopped for a while, waiting for the temperature to cool. He gave a shout and enclosed it on You TanZhi’s face. White smoke rose, the odor of burnt flesh dispersed in all directions, You TanZhi screamed and fainted. The five Khitan men flipped his body over. The blacksmith use the plier to grip the iron cover, he pressed it on the back of his head; the two semi-circular iron cover became an iron sphere, it covered his entire head. The iron cover was extremely hot, once it touched the skin, the skin would be burnt and be badly mutilated. The blacksmith was the finest ironworker in Yanjing, the two hemispheres combined together flawlessly.
It was as if he went through hell, he experienced being burnt and roasted by raging flames. You TanZhi did not recall the time, and he slowly regained consciousness, but he felt severe pain on his face and the back of his head, it was really hard to endure, and he fainted again. This went on and he fainted three times, and awoke three times, he shouted loudly but his voice was extremely hoarse, it didn’t sound like a human voice anymore.
He lay down and did not move at all. He clenched his teeth and forcefully endured the pain and suffering on his face and head. This went on for two hours, he finally lifted his hands and touched his face. He felt something hard and cold. He had guessed correctly, the iron mask had already covered his head. He was enraged, he pulled and jerked the mask, but it was welded firmly at the edges, how can he even remove it? In his desperation and hopelessness, he cried out loudly.
He was still young, although he had experienced such sufferings, he managed to endure it and thus it does not seem right to just seek death. After a few days, his wounds healed and his pain diminished, he knew he was starving. He smelled the fragrant aroma of mutton and rice-cakes, he couldn’t resist it and ate it. At this moment he had a clear understanding of the iron mask on his head, he knew the wrought iron mask had sealed his head perfectly, there’s no way he can release it. Initially he was angry and acted violently but he finally calmed down. He wondered: “This dog traitor Qiao Feng, he covered my face with this iron mask, what is he intentions?”
He thought everything came from Xiao Feng’s command, thus he did not suspect that it was AhZi’s doing and the purpose of this mask is to hide his identity from Xiao Feng.
All these things were done by the Captain of the room attendants, under AhZi’s suggestion.
AhZi questioned the Captain daily on the condition of You TanZhi after he was fitted with the iron mask. Initially she was worried that he might die, and all the effort would be wasted. When she heard that he would survive, she was extremely happy. On the day she learned that Xiao Feng was going to the southern outskirts to inspect the troops, she immediately ordered the attendant to summon You TanZhi to the Beginning Fortune Palace. To make Xiao Feng happy, YeLu HongJi conferred upon AhZi the title of ‘Beginning Fortune Princess’, and this Beginning Fortune Palace was bestowed as her residence.
When AhZi saw You TanZhi’s appearance, she could not help but be overjoyed and it flared from the bottom of her heart. She thought: "My method is effective. With this mask on, even if brother-in-law is standing right next to him, he will definitely not recognize him."
You TanZhi walked forward a few steps, AhZi applauded and said: "Attendant, this mask is well done, take another 50 silvers and reward the blacksmith!"
The attendant replied: "Yes! Thank you princess!"
You TanZhi peered out from the two eye-holes in the mask. He saw AhZi’s facial expression, there was boundless love and innocence. He listened to her sweet and melodious voice, he could not help but stare at her blankly.
After wearing the mask, AhZi saw his appearance was strange, but she could still tell that he was staring fixedly at her, she ask: "Silly boy, why are you staring at me?"
You TanZhi said: "I... I... I don’t know. You... you look pretty."
AhZi smiled: "After wearing this mask, does it feel comfortable?"
You TanZhi replied bitterly: "Do you think it’s comfortable?"
AhZi giggled and said: "I really don’t know." She saw that the mouth-hole for the mask was a narrow seam, it was just enough for him to drink and eat. If he wanted to eat meat, he’d have to shred it to pieces before he could push it through the seam, but it was impossible for him to bite her legs again. She laughed: “I put this mask on you so that you will never be able to bite me again.”
You TanZhi was overjoyed, he said: "Does Miss want me... want me... to frequently stay by your side and serve you?"
AhZi said: "Pei! You are a big bastard. If I keep you by my side, you will constantly think of ways to harm me, how can I tolerate it?"
You TanZhi replied: "I... I... I will never harm you. My enemy is Qiao Feng."
AhZi said: "You want to harm my brother-in-law? Isn’t it equivalent to harming me? What is the difference?" As You TanZhi listened to her words, his heart soured, he was speechless.
AhZi smiled: "You want to harm my brother-in-law, it’s the same as climbing to Heaven, impossible. Silly boy, do you want to die?"
You TanZhi said: "Naturally I don’t want to die, but with this weird thing on my head, I don’t resemble a human or ghost, there is no difference from dying."
AhZi said: "If you would rather die, good, I will fulfill your wish, but I will not let you die immediately. I’ll first chop off your left hand." She turns and said to the attendant beside her: “Attendant, haul him out and chop off his left hand!”
The attendant replied: “Affirmative!” and he stretch out his hands to grab You TanZhi’s arm.
You TanZhi was shock and cried: "No, no! Miss, I don’t want to die, please... please... please don’t chop my hands."
AhZi gave a faint smile: "Once I say something, it’s difficult to retract it, unless... unless... you kneel down and kowtow."
You TanZhi showed a slight hesitation and the attendant had already dragged him two steps back. You TanZhi did not dare delay any longer. He relaxed his knees, knelt down and kowtowed; the iron mask knocked against the grey bricks and produced a “Dang” sound. AhZi smiled tenderly and said: "Your kowtow sounds so nice, I have never heard it before. You kowtow a few more times for me to hear."
You TanZhi was after all a young master of a manor. Although he was poor in literature and martial arts, and the people at the manor all knew he was good for nothing, You Ji died early and he only had one precious son. The young master had hundreds at his beck and call, he grew up being pampered; how can he endure this kind of humiliation? When he met Xiao Feng again for the first time, he was arrogant and would rather die than surrender, but after receiving extreme bodily torture and mental trauma, his youthful heroic spirit had dissipated and vanished without a trace. As he listened to AhZi he immediately kowtowed repeatedly, “Dang Dang” sounds rang out, this goddess-like lady praised that his kowtows sounds nice, he felt a faint sense of fondness in his heart.
AhZi gave a charming smile: "Very good, from now on you will listen to me, if you defy my orders the slightest bit I will immediately chop off your arm, do you understand?"
You TanZhi said: "Yes, yes!"
AhZi said: "I made you wear this iron mask, do you know the reason?"
You TanZhi said: "I don’t know."
AhZi said: "You are so stupid, I saved your life and you still didn’t express your gratitude. Lord Xiao Feng wants to chop you into minced meat, you still don’t know?”
You TanZhi replied: “He killed my father, naturally he cannot allow me to live.”
AhZi said: “He pretend to release you and then ordered someone to capture you back to turn you into minced meat. I saw you are not too bad, it’s a pity to kill you and so I hid the truth from him and concealed you. But if Lord Xiao runs into you again, how will you survive? You will even drag me into this mess and implicate me.”
You TanZhi suddenly saw the light to the matter, he said: "Ah, Miss you casted this mask and made me wear it, it’s for my own good, you saved my life. I... I am exceedingly grateful, really... I am really grateful."
AhZi was fooling him, she managed to deceive him and gained his heartfelt appreciation, she was extremely proud and said: “Now you know the reason, next time when you see Lord Xiao, you must not make any sound or else he will recognize your voice. If he recognizes your voice, heng, heng! He will give a pull and tear you left arm off, he will give another jerk and tear your right arm off. Attendant, go fetch some Khitan attire and wash his body, his entire body reeks of blood, it smells so bad.” The attendant obeyed and led You TanZhi out.
After a while, the attendant returned with You TanZhi and had dressed him in Khitan attire. To make AhZi happy, the attendant deliberately dressed him in multicolored clothes, he looked neither male nor female, like a clown.
AhZi chuckled: "I'll give you a name, called... called Iron Clown, you cannot refuse. Iron Clown!"
You TanZhi quickly replied: "Yes!"
AhZi was very happy, suddenly she remembered an issue and said: "Attendant! Dashi country gifted a lion to us, correct? Ask the tamer to bring the lion over and summon ten guards here.” The attendant obeyed and went out to relay the orders.
Ten spear-wielding guards entered the Palace, they bowed and paid their respects to AhZi. They turned around, ten spearheads faced outward, protecting AhZi. Not long after they heard a lion roar, eight strong men carried a large metal cage and entered. A male lion was pacing around inside the cage, yellow fur and long mane, sharp claws and fangs, its expression powerful. The lion’s tamer held a leather whip and led the men.
AhZi saw this lion was ferocious and terrifying, she was extremely happy and said: “Iron Clown, you said you will obey anything I say, but I don’t know if it’s true or false. I want to test you and see if you really obey anything I say.”
You TanZhi replied: “Yes!” He saw this lion and secretly had some misgivings. He did not understand the purpose, but listening to AhZi’s words, his heart start beating rapidly.
AhZi said: “I don’t know if the iron mask on your head is hard and sturdy enough, you go stick your head in the cage, let the lion give it a few bite and check if it can break the iron mask.”
You TanZhi had a huge shock, he said: “This... this can’t be tested. If the mask really breaks, then my head...”
AhZi said: “What use are you? You are afraid of such small matters, a real man should not be afraid of dying. Furthermore, I think the mask will probably not break.”
You TanZhi replied: “Miss, you can’t play around with such matters, even if the mask doesn’t break, this beast will flatten the mask and my head... “
AhZi chuckled: “At most your head gets flattened. You are such a troublesome kid, your original appearance isn’t good. If your head gets flattened it will be inside the mask, the rest of us can’t see it at all. Who cares whether your good looking or not?”
You TanZhi quickly replied: “I am not talking about whether I am good looking but...”
AhZi’s expression became grave and said: “You don’t obey my words, fine, I am done with my assessment of you, you deliberately lied to me, I’ll throw you into the cage and feed the lion!”
She instructed the attendant using Khitan’s language. The attendant replied: “Affirmative!” and start dragging You TanZhi’s arm.
You TanZhi considered: “If I get thrown into the cage, how can I even survive, it’s better to just obey her words, stick my head into the cage and try my luck!” He shouted: “Don’t drag me in, don’t drag me in! Miss, I will obey you!”
AhZi smiled and said: "That's a good boy! Let me tell you, whatever I tell you next time, just do it immediately, stop giving excuses and make me angry. Attendant, give him 30 lashes.”
The attendant replied: “Affirmative!” and took the leather whip from the lion-tamer, with a “Shua” sound, he lashed it on You TanZhi’s back. You TanZhi cried out in pain.
AhZi said: "Iron Clown let me tell you, when I ask someone to hit you, I actually think highly of you. You are making so much noise, you dislike me hitting you is that it?"
You TanZhi replied: "I like it very much, I thank Miss for bestowing kindness on me!”
AhZi said: "Good, carry on hitting!" The attendant consecutively lash out ten times, You TanZhi gritted his teeth and endured, he didn’t make a single sound. Luckily he was wearing an iron mask and the whip avoided his head, he could endure lashings on his chest and back.
AhZi saw him endure silently, she felt it was boring and said: "Iron Clown, you say you like me to call someone to beat you, correct?"
You TanZhi replied: "Yes!"
AhZi said: "Are your words true or false? Are you fabricating lies to deceive me?"
You TanZhi said: "It’s true, I don’t dare to lie to Miss."
AhZi said: "Since you like it so much, why don’t you laugh? Why don’t you shout out and say that it feels good?"
You TanZhi was scared out of his wits under her torture, he even forgot to be angry, and replied: “Miss treats me very well, you ask someone to hit me, it feels good.”
AhZi said: “Excellent, let’s try it again!”
With a “Pai” sound, the whip lashed out again, You TanZhi quickly said: "Miss, thank you for saving my life, this whip feels good!" He was lashed over twenty times in an instant, combined with the previous whipping, it was already more than 30 lashes. AhZi wave her hand and said: "Forget it, that’s enough for today. Stick your head in the cage."
You TanZhi bones ached he felt as if he was about to split apart. He limped beside the cage, gritted his teeth and stuck his head between the iron bars. The lion saw him suddenly stick his head in to provoke; it was startled and retreated two steps, it growled to show its authority.
AhZi cried out: “Call the lion to bite, why is it not biting?" The lion tamer scolded the beast a few times, the lion heard the orders, it pounced forward, opened its mouth and bit You TanZhi’s head. There was a “Zi Zi” sound; the lion’s fang was grinding the iron mask. You TanZhi closed his eyes, he felt hot air entering the holes in the mask, he knew his head was in the lion’s mouth. He felt severe pain from his forehead and back of his head. When the iron mask was first put on him, the red-hot metal burned and roasted his head and face, after a few day scars begin to form and his wounds healed, but with this bite, all his injuries ruptured and the wounds open up again.
The lion exerted its strength and bit a few times, but it couldn’t bite down, its fangs ached, so it extended its right paw and clawed You TanZhi’s shoulder. You TanZhi felt severe pain from his shoulder and cried out with an “Ah” sound. The lion detected a loud noise within its mouth, it was startled, it opened its mouth to release the head and retreated to a corner in the cage.
The lion tamer scolded loudly, he urged the lion to bite You TanZhi again. You TanZhi was furious, he stretched out his hand to grab the back of the tamer’s neck, he pushed and inserted the tamer’s head into the cage. The lion tamer cried out loudly.
AhZi applauded and laughed: "Very good, very good! No one is to interfere, let both of them fight it out among themselves." The Khitan soldiers originally wanted to move You TanZhi’s hand away, but after hearing AhZi’s order, they stopped and did not move.
The lion tamer struggled with all his might. You TanZhi willfulness flared up, he simply refused to let go. The tamer could only seek help from the lion, he shouted: "Bite, forcefully bite him!” The lion heard his urging, it roared and rushed forward. The beast knew it was supposed to bite forcefully, but it didn’t know what to bite. Two dense row of fangs clamped down, with a “Kela” sound, the lion bit off half of the tamer’s head, splattering brain pulp and fresh blood on the floor.
AhZi smiled and said: "Iron Clown wins!" She ordered the soldiers to carry out the corpse and cage, she said to You TanZhi: “That’s the way. You made me happy, how should I reward you?" She placed her finger at her cheek and deliberated.
You TanZhi replied: "Miss, I do not want your reward, I just want you to promise me something.”
AhZi said: “What thing?”
You TanZhi said: “I beg you to allow me to stay by your side and be your servant.”
AhZi said: “Be my servant? Why? En, I know it, you are waiting for an opportunity, when Lord Xiao sees me, you will strike and harm him to avenge your parents.”
You TanZhi said: “No! No! It’s definitely not like that.”
AhZi said: “You don’t want your revenge?”
You TanZhi said: “I do want it. But firstly, I can’t beat him. Secondly, I don’t want to implicate you.”
AhZi said: "Then why do you want to be my servant?"
You TanZhi said: "Miss is a goddess that descended from heaven, the number one beauty in the entire world, I... I wish to see you ever day.”
His words were really frivolous, based on his current situation, he was way too bold. But when AhZi listened to them, she felt good. She was still a child, although her appearance was elegant, her body features had not fully developed, after long periods of injuries, she became thin and haggard. As for “Number one beauty in the entire world”, it was far from the actual truth, but when she heard someone compliment her appearance, she could not help but feel happy.
As she was about to approve You TanZhi’s request, the palace guard suddenly reported: “Lord Xiao arrives!”
AhZi gave a glance at You TanZhi and said softly: “Lord Xiao is coming, are you afraid?”
You TanZhi was extremely frightened, but he wanted to pretend and said: “Not afraid!”
The Palace’s door was wide open, Xiao Feng entered, dressed in a fur coat. As he stepped through the door, he saw a pool of blood on the floor, he also saw You TanZhi wearing an iron mask looking very peculiar. He laughed and said to AhZi: "You look very healthy today, what new tricks are you playing? Why is this guy wearing that bizarre thing on his head?”
AhZi smiled and said: “This iron-head guy is a tribute from GaoChang country to the west, his name is Iron Clown, even a lion can’t break his iron head, you can see the imprints of the fangs.”
Xiao Feng inspected the iron mask; there were indeed fang markings. AhZi continued: “Brother-in-law, can you remove his iron mask?”
You TanZhi was scared out of his wits. He personally witnessed Xiao Feng extraordinary bravery when combating the heroes of Central Plains, with both his fists, he shocked the steel shields off the hands of his father and uncle, if he really wants to remove the iron mask, it can be done without effort. When the iron mask was put on his head, he felt despondent and lost all his desires, but at this moment, he prayed that the iron mask would remain forever on his head so that Xiao Feng could not see his real appearance.
Xiao Feng stretched out his finger and gently tapped the iron mask a few times, it issued a clanking sound, he smiled and said: "This iron mask is extremely solid, it’s crafted meticulously, it will be a shame to ruin it!"
AhZi said: "The envoy from GaoChang said this iron-head man was born green-faced and long toothed, he look 30% like human, 70% like ghost, those who see him will run away in fear, thus his parents constructed an iron mask for him to wear to avoid scaring others. Brother-in-law, I want to see his real appearance, see how scary he really is.”
You TanZhi was so scared that his body trembled, his teeth chattered with a “GeGe” sound.
Xiao Feng saw his abnormal fear and said: "This man is terribly scared, why remove his iron mask? This man is accustomed to wearing the iron mask since childhood, if you forcibly remove his mask he will have difficulty living in the future.”
AhZi clapped her hands and said: "Now that is fun. In the past, when I see a turtle, I will catch it and remove its shell, I will then observe if it can live without its shell."
Xiao Feng cannot help but frown, he felt that it was cruel to remove the turtle shell, he said: "AhZi, why do you always do this kind of evil stuff that leaves people half-dead and half-alive?”
AhZi groaned and said: "Of course you don’t like it! I am not as good as Azhu, if I am like Azhu, you won’t ignore me for so many days."
Xiao Feng said: "Ever since I became the Lord of the Southern Chancellery, I am so busy that I can't even take a breather. But aren’t I here every day to accompany you for a while?”
AhZi said: “Accompany me for a while, heng, accompany me for a while! I just don’t like you to use ‘accompany me for a while’ to excuse yourself. If I was Azhu, you would surely accompany me every day, you would never leave me, it won’t be ‘a while’ or ‘half a while’!”
Xiao Feng knew she spoke the truth, he had no reply, he only laughed and said: “Brother-in-law is an adult, I am not interested in playing with a child, you should go find some young female companion to chat with you and relieve your boredom.”
AhZi fumed: “Child, child... I am not a child! If you are not interested in playing, then why do you come here?”
Xiao Feng said: “I came to check if you’re feeling better? Have you eaten the bear’s gall today?”
AhZi took a cushion off a seat and slammed it on the floor, she kicked it away and said: “If I am not happy, even if I eat 100 bear’s gall, I still won’t recover.”
Xiao Feng saw her child tantrums, if she was Azhu, he would try to coax her and make her happy, but towards this unruly vicious girl he could not help but loathe her. He said: "You go rest for a while." He stood up and walked away.
AhZi stared at his back, as she was about to cry she saw You TanZhi, she vented her anger on him and shouted: "Attendant, give him another 30 lashes!"
The attendant replied: "Affirmative!" and picked up the whip.
You TanZhi said loudly: "Miss, what mistake did I make?"
AhZi did not reply him, she waved her hand and said: "Lash him!" With a “Shua” sound the attendant lashed down with his whip.
You TanZhi said: "Miss, what mistake did I make, you have to tell me lest I commit it again." The attendant lashed him again and again.
AhZi said: "Since I want to beat you, you should not ask what mistake you make, did I mistakenly beat you? You ask what mistake you make, I am beating you precisely because you ask this question."
You TanZhi said: "You beat me first, then I ask you the question. I did not ask you the question when you sent someone to beat me." “Shua” he was lashed again. “Shua Shua Shua” he received another three lashes.
AhZi smiled and said: "I predicted that you will ask the question, so I asked someone to hit you in advance. And you really did ask the question, so isn’t my prediction correct? This proves that you are not loyal enough. I want to ask someone to beat you, if you are loyal, you will automatically volunteer to be beaten. But you keep giving excuses and questioned me, ok, since you don’t like to be beaten, I will stop beating you.”
When You TanZhi heard the word “I will stop beating you” his heart grew cold, the hairs on his body all stood up. He knew that if AhZi stop beating him, she would definitely come up a punishment that is ten times more atrocious than whipping. It was better to just endure the 30 lashes, he quickly said: "Yes, its subordinate’s fault! Miss is showing great kindness by beating me, its beneficial to subordinate’s body, I beseech Miss to whip me more, the more the better.”
AhZi gave a charming smile and said: "Finally, you are getting smarter. I don’t show special favors, you said to whip you, the more the better, you think I will spare you once I am happy?"
You TanZhi said: "No, subordinate is not asking Miss for favors."
AhZi said: "You said the more the better, it is really your heartfelt desire?"
You TanZhi said: "Yes, it’s subordinate’s heartfelt desire.”
AhZi said: "That being the case, I'll grant you your wish. Attendant, give him 100 lashes, he likes being whipped.”
You TanZhi was shocked, he thought: "Getting whipped 100 times, can I still survive?" But things had already reached this stage, even if he was not willing, they would still whip him, it was pointless to debate further. He remained silent.
AhZi said: "Why aren’t you speaking? You are not willing? I ask someone to beat you, you think it’s unfair?"
You TanZhi said: "Subordinate is completely convinced, I know that Miss granted my request solely out of good intentions.”
AhZi said: "Then why aren’t you speaking just now?" You TanZhi did not know how to reply, he was in a daze for a while before saying: “This... this... subordinate thinks that Miss has shown great kindness on me, subordinate is very appreciative, I don’t know what to say, I don’t know how to repay Miss in the future.”
AhZi said: “Ah ha! You say you want to repay me. I whip you now, you will remember every single whip and remember the hate."
You TanZhi repeatedly shook his head and said: “No, no! It’s not true. I said to repay Miss, is really repay. Subordinate is willing to risk my own life and sacrifice myself for you.”
AhZi said: “Good, carry on whipping!"
The attendant said: "Yes!" with a “Pai” sound he lash down with his whip.
After 50 lashes, You TanZhi was in so much pain that he was mentally numb, his knees got weak, and he slowly knelt down. AhZi smiled as she watched, she waited for him to plead for mercy. When he starts pleading, she would use it as the excuse to add another 50 lashes. But You TanZhi was in a daze, he was no longer aware of his surroundings, he only moaned softly, he did not beg for mercy. After 70 lashes, he fainted. The attendant did not show the slightest bit of mercy, he kept on lashing and completed the full 100 lashes, only then did he stop.
AhZi saw You TanZhi was on the verge of death, he had a high chance of dying, she felt disappointed. She thought of Xiao Feng’s indifferent attitude towards her, she felt melancholic and troubled, she said: “Carry him off! This person is not fun at all! Attendant, do you have any new fun stuff?”
You TanZhi required one month to fully recover from the lashings. The Khitans saw that AhZi had forgotten about him. She did not summon him for more torture sessions, and thus they put him together with Song captives and he was made to do all sort of heavy manual labor- carrying excrements, washing sheep’s sheds, picking cow dung, shearing sheepskin, he did all sorts of manual work.
You TanZhi was wearing an iron mask, everyone made fun of him and insulted him, even his Han compatriots treated him as a freak. You TanZhi resigned himself to adversity, he turned into a mute. When others beat him and cursed him, he never resisted or fought back. When someone rode past with a horse, he would always raise his head and give a glance, his heart kept thinking about one thing: "When will Miss call me back for whipping?" He only hoped to see AhZi again, even if he had to suffer lashings, he would endure it willingly, he never thought of escaping.
Two month passed by, the weather gradually got warmer, You TanZhi was with the captives, carrying soil and bricks to strength the southern walls outside Nanjing. Suddenly, he heard the sound of horse’s hooves, a few horses came galloping from south, he heard a melodious voice laughing: “Aiyo, this Iron Clown is not dead yet! I thought he was dead already! Iron Clown, come over!” It was AhZi’s voice.
You TanZhi prayed day and night, he waited for this exact moment of joy. When he heard AhZi call him, both his legs seems to be rooted to the ground, he couldn’t move an inch, but his heart was thumping madly, his palms sweating.
AhZi called again: "Iron Clown, god dammit! I am asking you to come over, you didn’t hear it ei!"
Only now did You TanZhi respond: "Yes, Miss!" He turned and walked towards her horse, he could not help but raise his head to look at her eyes. After being separated for four months, AhZi’s face was rosy, she looked even more beautiful. You TanZhi’s heart gave a thump, he stumbled and fell down. The crowd burst out in laughter, he hastily climbed up, not daring to look at her again, he quickly walked towards her.
AhZi was in a good mood, she laughed: "Iron Clown, how come you didn’t die?"
You TanZhi said: "I said... I said I want to repay Miss’s kindness, I haven’t repaid it, I simply can’t die."
AhZi liked it very much, she smiled tenderly and said: "I am currently looking for a loyal lackey to do something for me, the Khitans are coarse and careless they might mess things up, you didn’t die, that’s good, follow me!”
You TanZhi replied: “Yes!” and followed behind her horse.
AhZi waved her hand and her attendant along with three Khitan guards went back, they did not follow. The attendant knew that regardless of what she says, AhZi cannot be persuaded, but fortunately this iron-head man looks weak and cowardly, there’s no harm in letting him follow the Princess. She said: “Miss, please return early!” and the four of them
dismounted from their horses and waited by the city gate.
AhZi travelled slowly on her horse, after walking about seven to eight li, the route was getting more and more deserted. They turned into a spooky valley, the ground was covered with rotten grass and leaves. As they travelled a few more li, the mountain road got rugged, AhZi could no longer travel on her horse, she dismounted, she ordered You TanZhi to guide the horse and they kept on walking. The surroundings were gloomy, cold wind blew from the mountain valley down to the narrow road, the wind made their skin raw.
AhZi said: "Ok, its here!” She ordered You TanZhi to tie the horse to a tree and continued: "The things you see today, you cannot leak out the slightest bit of information to others, you cannot even mention it in front of me, do you understand?”
You TanZhi said: "Yes, yes!" His happiness was raging wildly, AhZi only wanted him as her follower, they even came to this deserted place. Even if she whipped him severely, he would gladly endure it.
AhZi stretched her hands into her bosom and retrieved a yellow wooden tripod, she placed it on the floor and said: “Later if some bizarre bugs start appearing, you shouldn’t panic, you definitely cannot make any sound.”
You TanZhi replied: “Yes!”
AhZi again took out a small cloth bag from her bosom, she opened the bag, inside was a few lumps of yellow, black and purple spices. She pinched a little spice from each of the lumps and placed it in the tripod. She lit her flint and made a fire, afterwards she closed the cover of the tripod, she said: “Let’s go wait by that tree side.”
AhZi sat down under a tree, You TanZhi dare not sit beside her, separated by a few zhang, he sat on top of a rock facing the wind. Cold wind blew, the wind carried the faint scent of her body, You TanZhi could not refrain from being delirious with passion, he actually get to experience such a moment in life, even thought he suffered greatly all this time, it was not in vain. He hoped that AhZi would sit at this tree forever and he would get to accompany her forever.
As he was getting drunk with passion, suddenly he heard a rustling sound in the bushes, a scarlet creature was moving within the grass. It was a large centipede, its body glistened, a tumor protruded on its forehead, it was obviously different from a regular centipede.
The centipede detected the fragrance from the wooden tripod, it wove its way towards the tripod, it entered the tripod from a hole at the bottom, and it did not come out again after that. AhZi took out a thick piece of brocade from her bosom, her footsteps lightened and she gingerly approached the wooden tripod. She covered the tripod with the brocade and wrapped it firmly, fearing the centipede might escape, she put the tripod in a leather bag hanging off the horse, she smiled and said: “Let’s go!” She mounted the horse and left.
You TanZhi followed behind her, wondering: "That wooden tripod is extremely bizarre, but it’s most probably due to the burning of spices that the large centipede was attracted. What’s so fun about that large centipede, Miss has to travel such a long way to this mountain valley to catch it?”
When AhZi returned to the Beginning Fortune Palace, she instructed the guards to arrange accommodation for You TanZhi at the side of the Palace. You TanZhi was elated, he knew that from now on he would be able to see AhZi frequently.
Sure enough, on the next morning, AhZi summoned You TanZhi, she led him into the main hall of the Palace, she closed the door leaving the two of them alone in the hall. AhZi walk towards a clay urn to the west, she removed the urn cover, laughing she said: "You see, isn’t it magnificent?" You TanZhi peered into the urn; he saw the large centipede, which they caught yesterday moving around swiftly.
AhZi took out a big rooster that had been prepared in advance; she took out a short knife, chopped off the rooster's beak and claws, and threw the rooster into the urn. The big centipede climbed onto the rooster’s head, and start sucking its blood, after a while the rooster died due to poisoning. The centipede’s body gradually swelled; blood started dripping out of its red forehead. AhZi’s expression was joyful, she whispered: "It’s done, it’s done! This set of martial arts can be completed!"
You TanZhi wondered: “So, you catch the centipede for the purpose of practicing martial arts. Is it called Centipede Skill?”
She fed the centipede for seven days, every day the centipede would suck the blood of one big rooster, on the eighth day, AhZi again summoned You TanZhi to the main hall, she smiled and said: "Iron Clown, how well did I treat you?"
You TanZhi said: "Miss shown great kindness towards me, it’s as vast as a mountain."
AhZi said: "You said you are willing to go through hell and high water for me, risk you own life, this is true or false?"
You TanZhi said: "Subordinate dare not lie to Miss. Miss only has to order, subordinate will never defy."
AhZi said: "Very good. Let me tell you, I want to practice a set of martial arts, but it requires assistance from others. Are you willing to assist me in practicing this art? If I succeed, I will definitely reward you heavily.”
You TanZhi said: “Subordinate will naturally listen to your orders, I don’t require any rewards.”
AhZi said: “Very good, we will begin practicing now.”
She sat cross-legged, her hands rubbing each other, she closed her eyes and channeled her energy, after a while she said: "You go stick your hand into the urn, the centipede will definitely bite you, you must not move at all, let it suck your blood, the more blood the better.”
These past seven days, You TanZhi saw that the centipede only need to suck a few mouthfuls of blood from the rooster, the healthy and lively rooster would drop dead immediately. It could be deduced that the centipede’s poison was no small matter, when he listened to AhZi, he could not help but hesitate and did not reply.
AhZi’s expression became grave, she asked: "Why, you are not willing?"
You TanZhi said: "It’s not that I am unwilling, but... but"
AhZi said: "But? But this centipede is extremely poisonous, you are afraid of dying is that correct? You are a human or a rooster?”
You TanZhi said: "I am not a rooster."
AhZi said: "Precisely, the rooster will die when its blood is sucked by the centipede, you are not a rooster, how will you die? You said you are willing to go through hell and high water for me, risk getting your body and bones crushed. This centipede will only suck a little bit of your blood for fun, will your body and bones get crushed?”
You TanZhi was speechless, he raised his head and looked at AhZi, he imagined seeing her red lips open, any scornful thoughts he had of this lady, they immediately vanished and he was mesmerized. It was as if he was spellbound by the devil, he said: "Yes, I will follow your orders.” He clenched his teeth, closed his eyes and slowly inserted his right hand into the urn.
As his fingers reached into the urn, he felt pain on the fingertip of his middle finger. He could not help but withdraw his fingers a little. AhZi cried: "Don’t move, don’t move!" You TanZhi forcefully endured it. He opened his eyes, the centipede had bitten his middle finger and was currently sucking his blood. His hair stood on end, he wanted to fling it on the ground and crush it with his feet. Although his back is facing AhZi, he could feel her sharp gaze penetrating his back, it was like being pierced by two sharp daggers, he dared not move an inch.
Fortunately, when the centipede was sucking his blood, he did not feel extreme pain, but as he saw the centipede gradually swell up, he also saw a faint purple coating covering his middle finger. The purple became deeper and deeper, slowly it turned jet black, after a while, the blackness spread from his middle finger to his palm, and finally it spread from his palm to his arm. You TanZhi had already disregarded his life, he was calm. The corner of his lips revealed a smile, but this smile was hidden by the mask and AhZi did not see it.
AhZi’s gaze was on the centipede; she gave it her undivided attention, not the slightest bit of neglect. The centipede finally released You TanZhi’s finger and it fell back into the urn and stopped moving. She cried: "Gently place the centipede into the wooden tripod, be careful, don’t injure it.”
You TanZhi complied and lifted the centipede; he placed it into the wooden tripod. AhZi closed the tripod cover, after a while, black blood start dripping down from the hole in the tripod.
AhZi’s face revealed great happiness, she quickly extended her palm to catch the blood droplets, she sat cross-legged and channeled her energy, the blood droplets diffused into her palm. You TanZhi pondered: "That is my blood, but she absorbed it into her body. It seems she is practicing ‘Poison-Centipede Palm’.”
After a long period, black blood stopped dripping, AhZi lifted the tripod cover, the centipede was stiff and had died.
AhZi rubbed both her palms together, she looked at her palm again. Her palm was still white and flawless, without the slightest bit of bloodstains. She knew that the formula for practicing that she eavesdropped from her master was correct. She lifted the wooden tripod and emptied the dead centipede on the ground. She left the Palace hurriedly, she did not even give You TanZhi a glance, it seemed he was the same as the dead centipede, both of them had outlived their usefulness.
You TanZhi stared at AhZi’s back, until her back vanished from his view and her clothes could not be seen anymore. But the blackness had spread to his armpit, in addition, his arm started to feel numb and itchy; in an instant, it was as if millions of fleas were biting him at the same time.
He burst out screaming, he jumped up and start scratching. Once he started scratching, the itch became worse and seemed to go deep into his bone marrow, as if bugs were crawling around his heart and lungs, wriggling and moving. Pain can be endured but this itch was impossible to resist. He kept jumping up and down and screaming. “Dang Dang” sounds rang out as he banged his head on the wall, he prayed that he could faint immediately and lose his consciousness to avoid having to bear this strange itch.
He kept knocking and banging himself, an item fell out of his bosom, the oilcloth wrappings loosen, revealing a yellow book, it was the Sanskrit manual picked up by him the last time. Under the severe itch, he did not bother to pick up the book, but he saw the book flipped open. The itch was really hard to bear, You TanZhi rolled on the floor, after a round of random scratching and knocking, he
bent over and panted, tears, mucus and saliva all flowed out of the mouth hole of the iron mask, dripping onto the Sanskrit manual. In his drowsy state he did not keep track of time, but the page of the book was soaked full of tears and saliva, inadvertently, a drawing of a monk appeared among the curvy writings. The monk’s posture was very strange, his head was between two outspread legs, extending out, his hands were clutching his feet.
He was not in the mood to think of the odd posture, he couldn’t even breathe due to the itch. He lay on the ground, randomly tearing his clothes into pieces, he violently rubbed his skin on the ground, in an instant, blood oozes out from his skin. He was rubbing randomly, suddenly, he slipped and his head cross over between his two legs. He was wearing an iron mask, he was stuck and could not withdraw his head, his stretched out his hand to assist, his right hand clutched his right foot. But he was too worn out and exhausted, he couldn’t move, he had to temporarily stay his hand and regain his breath. Inadvertently, he saw the book in front of him, the book depicted a skinny monk, his posture was similar to his own current posture. He felt amazed and found it funny, but the strangest thing was that, after maintaining this posture, his bodily itch felt bearable, his breathing also became smoother. Thus he did not try to withdraw his head from his legs, he continued lying on the ground, he heartily followed the monk’s posture depicted in the drawing, his left hand clutched his left foot, chin touching the ground. This way, his posture was completely identical to the monk and he found it easier to breathe.
As he maintained the posture, his eyes got closer to the book. He looked at the monk again, two large yellow words were written beside the monk, they were crooked and strange, there were many small red arrows on the word. As You
TanZhi maintained this posture, he was extremely tired and immediately let go of his hands and stood up. Once he stood up, the itch became so bad that he couldn’t breathe, he quickly stuck his head between his legs, hands clutching his feet, chin touching the ground, as he made this odd posture, his breathing immediately became smoother.
He dared not move anymore, after a long time, he became bored, he looked at the drawing of the monk and at the two strange words. He look at the small arrows on the word, he instinctively wondered about the small arrows. The strange itch on his right arm seemed to turn into a line of warm energy, it circulated a few times around his throat and chest, then it slowly dissipated and evaporated from his shoulders and from the top of his head.
He kept looking at the small arrows on the word and reflected on them repeatedly; each time a line of warm energy would pass by his head and the strange itch on his arm would reduce slightly. He was surprised but he did not bother to think about the underlying reason, he just followed the same steps. After completing thirty cycles, he only felt a slight itch on his arm, after another ten cycles, his fingers, palm and arm were completely itch-free.
He withdrew his head from his legs, extend his palm and looked at it; the black cloud on his palm had vanished. He was pleased, suddenly he exclaimed: "Aiyo, this is not good! I transferred all the centipede’s poison into my brain! The strange itch is already gone, but how come a strange monk appeared in the drawings? I even unintentionally make the same posture as the monk? This monk must be a Buddha, he came to save my life.” Immediately he knelt and respectfully kowtowed to the drawing of the strange monk, “Dang Dang” sound rang out as his iron mask knock on the floor.
He did not realize that the picture in the book was drawn using a special herbal solution from India; it would only reveal itself when wet, it will disappear when it’s dry, thus both AhZhu and Xiao Feng never saw the drawing. The figure in the drawing depicted the proper way to channel energy, the Sanskrit writings provided the explanations. Eminent monks from Shaolin’s previous generation had knowledge of Sanskrit. Although they didn’t know the mystery of the drawing, they could still practice the ‘Tendon-Changing Sutra’ base on directions given by the writings. When You TanZhi suffered the strange itch, his tears and saliva flowed freely, luckily they landed on the page and revealed the drawing. The drawing was an ingenious method to neutralize external poison when practicing the skill; it was created by an ancient master from India as part of a set of secret Yoga techniques. When You TanZhi made the posture, it was not completely by chance or coincidence, it was also due to natural human instincts. When he had trouble enduring the strange itch, it was natural human behavior to lower the head to the ground, nothing strange or surprising; but his tears and saliva dripping on the page, it was really pure luck and coincidence. He was dumbstruck for a while, his exhaustion reached its limit, immediately he lie down and slept on the floor. On the morning of the second day, AhZi hurriedly entered the Palace, she saw his naked bizarre appearance and gave an “Ah!” cry, she said: “Why aren’t you dead yet?”
You TanZhi was shocke and replied: “Subordinate.... subordinate is still alive!” He secretly felt depressed: “It seems she thought I had died long ago.”
AhZi said: "It’s good that you are not dead! Quickly dress yourself properly and follow me to catch poison bugs.”
You TanZhi said: "Yes!"
AhZi followed and he asks for clothes from Khitan soldiers. The head of a group of Khitan soldier was very welcoming towards him; he gave him a set of clean clothes to change into.
AhZi brought You TanZhi to the deserted mountain valley, she still use the ‘Divine Wooden King Tripod’ to attract poisonous bugs, used rooster blood to feed the bugs, and then let them suck the blood of You TanZhi, and then used his blood to practice her skill. The second bug was a green spider; the third bug was a large scorpion. You TanZhi followed the drawings in the book to neutralize the poison.
At Xingxiu Sea, whenever AhZi saw her master practice this divine skill, she would see a dead corpse every time. The people were all captured from nearby villages under the orders of their master, she expected You TanZhi to die when he got poisoned by the bugs, but unexpectedly he didn’t die, and she could not help but feel secretly surprise.
This catching of bugs for practicing of skill went on continuously. After three months, the number of poisonous bugs within 10 li of Nanjing city gradually decreased, the bugs attracted by the fragrance were all weak and frail and not to AhZi’s liking. Thus, both of them had to move further out to catch the bugs.
On this day, they arrived at a place 30 li away from the city, burned spices in the wooden tripod; after waiting for more than two hours, they finally heard something rustle in the bushes, it seemed to be some kind of snake or worm. AhZi said: “Lay low!” Immediately You TanZhi lowered his body, he heard a loud sound, it was not normal.
The sound was mixed with a vomiting stench, You TanZhi held his breath and did not move. He saw the long grass parted, a white bodied, black-striped python slithered out; the python’s head was triangular, a tumor protrude from the top of its head. Snakes are rare in the Northern area, but such a strange shaped python, nobody had ever seen it before. The python slithered next to the wooden
tripod, it circled and revolved around the tripod. The python’s body was two zhang long, its body was thicker than a human arm, how could it fit into the small tripod? But as it smelled the spices and the fragrance of the wooden tripod, it used its head to ram the tripod.
AhZi didn’t expect to attract such giant snake, she was extremely shocked. At the moment she did not have any idea on what to do, she quietly crept beside You TanZhi and whispered: "What should we do? If the python breaks the wood tripod, won’t it be ruined? "
You TanZhi notice her tone was gentle when conversing with him, he felt overwhelmingly flattered, at once his courage received a huge boost, he said: "Don’t worry, I will drive away the snake!" He stood up and took big strides towards the snake. The snake heard a sound and immediately coiled its body together, it raised its head and stuck out its blood-red tongue, hissing and waiting to pounce. After seeing such display of power and influence, You TanZhi dared not approach rashly.
At this moment, he suddenly felt a burst of cold wind on his body, he saw a line of fire burning at the western corner, in no time it burned in front of him. As the line got nearer, he saw that it was actually not a line of fire but something crawling among the vegetation; green grass immediately dried and charred when the thing touch it, at the same time the air became colder and colder. He stepped back a few steps, the yellow line changed its direction and moved towards the wooden tripod; the thing was actually a silkworm.
The silkworm was like pure white jade, with a tinge of green, it was two times larger than a regular silkworm; it was like an earthworm, its body transparent and crystal-like. The python was originally aggressive and overbearing, but now it seems to be extremely frightened; it withdrew its large triangular head and hid within its body. The crystal silkworm was
unusually swift and climbed onto the snake’s body; as it climbed up it was like a red-hot charcoal, it scorched a line on the snake. When it reached the top of the snake’s head, the python’s body cracked and split into two. It moved right next to the snake’s venom gland, sucking the venom. After a while its body swelled, looking from afar, it looked like a crystal bottle filled with purple liquid.
AhZi was delighted, she whispered: "This silkworm is so powerful, it must the king of all poisonous creatures."
But You TanZhi was secretly worried: "If such venomous silkworm sucks my blood, I will really die this time!"
The silkworm circled around the wooden tripod, it crawled up the tripod, immediately a burnt mark appeared on the tripod. The silkworm seemed to have psychic power, it went once around on top of the tripod, it seemed to know that if it enters the tripod it will be in danger, thus it did not behave like other poisonous creatures, it climbed down from the tripod and went northwest.
AhZi was excited and anxious, she cried: "Quick, chase it!”
She covered the tripod with brocade, picked up the wooden tripod and chased after the silkworm. You TanZhi followed behind her, they track the silkworm by using the scotch mark it left behind. Although this silkworm was a small bug, it crawled like the wind; in the blink of an eye it travelled several zhang. Luckily it left scotch marks on places it travelled and they didn’t lose track of it.
Both of them chased for over three to four li, suddenly they heard the sound of rushing water; they reached a small stream. The scorch mark reached the edge of the stream and disappeared, on the opposite side of the stream, there was no scorch mark, obviously the silkworm fell into the stream and was washed away. AhZi stomp her feet and complained: "You should have spoken out and asked me to chase faster, where are we supposed to find it now? I don’t care, you have to find it for me!" You TanZhi was very apprehensive, searching around randomly, how could he even find it?
Both of them searched for a more than two hours, it was getting dark, AhZi was feeling tired and lost patience, she said angrily: "I don’t care, you have to catch it back, otherwise you don’t need to see me again." She turned around and went back to the city alone.
You TanZhi was extremely worried, he followed the stream and searched downstream, he searched for over seven to eight li. As dusk fell, he suddenly spotted a scorch mark among the opposite vegetation. You TanZhi was overjoyed, he rushed out and shouted: "Miss, miss, I found it!” But AhZi had gone back long ago.
You TanZhi waded across the stream and followed the scorch mark. He saw the scorch mark heading towards the mountain. He gathered his energy and ran quickly, beside the mountaintop was a magnificent great temple.
He quickly drew near; a plaque in front of the temple reads "MinZhong Temple Built According To Imperial Edict". He did not have time to look at the temple, he chased after the scorch mark. The mark bypassed the temple’s side and led to the back of the temple. He heard the sound of wooden fish and chanting of scriptures inside the temple, the monks were carrying out their prayer sessions. He was wearing an iron mask, he felt ashamed and fearful of being seen by the monks, thus he followed the foot of the wall and quietly travelled. He saw the scorch mark pass through a big muddy ground and reach a vegetable garden. He prayed that the silkworm was eating vegetables and he would be able to sneak behind and capture it. As he got near the fence of the garden, he heard someone cursing loudly, he stopped advancing.
He heard the person scolding loudly: "Why don’t you abide by the rules, sneaking out alone to play? You made me worried for half a day; I feared that you would never return again. I brought you afar from the Kunlun Mountains, you are too ungrateful, you don’t know the trouble and pains I went through. If you continue like this, you won’t have any future prospect, you will destroy your own future and no one will pity you." Although the voice was very angry, it also possessed compassion and expectation, it seemed to be a father lecturing his unruly child.
You TanZhi pondered: "He talked about Kunlun Mountains and bringing him from far away place, most likely a master or elder, not father." He quietly moved beside the fence, he saw the person was a monk. The monk was really fat, his stature short, he resembled a big meatball, his finger pointing at the ground, reprimanding endlessly. You TanZhi looked at the ground, he was surprise and happy, the monk was reprimanding a silkworm.
The appearance of the monk was already very strange, but talking to the silkworm, this was even more bizarre. The silkworm was moving on the ground rapidly, it seemed to be trying to escape but it kept running into some kind of invisible wall and it turned around immediately. You TanZhi focused his gaze, there was a yellow circle on the ground, the silkworm rushed left and moved right but it couldn’t escape the circle, he immediately understood: “The circle is drawn using some medicinal herb, this medicine must be that silkworm’s black-star (weakness).”
The monk scolded for a while, he retrieved something from his bosom and gnawed on it, it was a cooked lamb’s head. He ate with relish, he picked up a gourd near the pillar, unplugged it, lifted his neck and drank from it endlessly.
You TanZhi caught a whiff of alcohol, he knew the gourd contained wine, he thought: "So he is a monk that eats meat and drinks wine. It seems he raised this silkworm, he treasures and loves it very much, so how should I go about stealing it?”
As he was pondering, he heard someone shout from the other end of the garden: "HuiJing, HuiJing!" When the fat monk heard this, he had a huge shock, he quickly hid the meat and gourd in a pile of rice straw. The person continued to shout: "HuiJing, HuiJing, you didn’t attend the prayer session, where have you been hiding?"
The fat monk quickly grabbed a nearby hoe and start digging the garden, he replied: "I am planting vegetables."
The man came over, he was a middle-aged monk, he coldly said: "Everyone has to attend morning and night prayer sessions! You can dig the fields anytime, why you choose to dig during night prayer sessions? Go, go quickly! Finish the prayer session before coming back here to dig the field. Since you are at MinZhong Temple, you have to observe the rules and regulations here. Your Shaolin Temple doesn’t have any rules and regulations?"
HuiJing replied: "Yes!” He put down the hoe and followed him, he did not turn back to look at the silkworm for fear that the middle-aged monk will notice it.
You TanZhi pondered: "So this short-fat monk is from Shaolin Temple, all the monks from Shaolin know martial arts, I have to be extra careful since I am stealing his silkworm.” When the two of them were far away, the surroundings were quiet, he squeezed through the bamboo fence. He saw the silkworm moving swiftly in the yellow circle, he thought: "How to catch it?" After a while he suddenly came up with an idea, he retrieved the gourd from the haystack and gave it a shake, there was still half a gourd of wine, he drank a few mouthfuls and poured the rest onto the vegetable plot, he place the rim of the gourd on the ground and slowly move it near the yellow circle. When the gourd rim just move past the yellow circle, the silkworm gave a “Chi” sound and went into the gourd. You TanZhi was elated, he quickly replace the stopper and sealed the gourd. He carried the gourd with both hands and squeezed out of the bamboo fence, after walking for a while he quickly ran and escaped.
After leaving MinZhong Temple for 10 zhang, he felt the gourd was unusually cold, it was even colder than ice. He transferred the gourd from his right hand to his left hand, and then from his left to right, the cold was really chilling to the bone, the gourd couldn’t be held constantly. Without any good idea, he place the gourd on top of his head, this was even worse, cold air spread through the iron mask, his head was freezing and it felt extremely painful, it was as if the blood in his body was about to turn to ice. The pressing situation gave rise to a bright idea, he took off his belt and tied it around the gourd, holding the belt in his hand, the belt could not transmit cold and thus he was able to hold onto it. But the gourd still gave off cold air, after a while a layer of frost formed on the gourd surface.
- End of Chapter 28 -