Demi-Gods & Semi-Devils Chapter 30 - Casually Binding The Hero

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Demi Gods & Semi Devils Book 3

XXX - Spraying water to restrain the gathered heroes

Demi-Gods & Semi-Devils Chapter 30 - Casually Binding The Hero

Chinese title: 天龍八部 - 挥洒缚豪英
Original novel written by Jin Yong (Louis Cha)
Wuxia Novel Fan Translation by darksinz


Chapter 30: Casually Binding The Hero

After a while, they smell a faint flowery scent. XuanNan shouted: “The enemy is releasing poison, quickly hold your breath, smell the antidote.” But after a while, he felt strange, he was clear-headed and refreshed, it seems the flowery scent did not carry any poison.

The person said: “7th sister, is that you? There’s some strange person in 5th brother’s house, he claims his An Lushan.” 

A female voice said: “Only big brother has yet to arrive. 2nd brother, 3rd brother, 4th brother, 6th brother, 8th brother, let us reveal ourselves!”

When she finished, there was a bright light outside the door, a strange ball of light shone on five men and one woman. A black-bearded old man among them said: “5th brother, quickly come out.” His right hand held onto a square wooden board. The female was a pretty middle-aged married woman. For the other four men, two of them are dressed as scholars, one of them seemed to be a carpenter, his hand holding onto an axe and carrying a long saw on his back. The other man was green-faced and long-toothed with red hair and a green beard. His appearance was extremely scary; he looked like a monster. He was wearing a bright shining brocade robe.

Deng BaiChuan fixed his concentration, he saw the person had oil-painted his face, it was not his original appearance. He dressed himself like an opera actor, thus the one acting as Tang Emperor and Plum Consort was obviously this person. Deng BaiChuan said loudly: “May I request the honorable names of ladies and gentlemen? I am Deng BaiChuan from Gusu’s Murong family.”

The other party did not have the chance to reply as a black figure rushed out from the main hall, his blade shining. He chopped seven times towards the opera actor; it was Feng BoE. The opera actor was caught off guard, he hid to the east and dodged to the west; he was in an awkward situation. The opera actor started singing: “My strength plucked up the hills, my might shadowed the world; But the times were against me, and Dapple (name of warhorse) runs no more; when Dapple runs no more, what then can...” But Feng BoE’s attack was too quick and he could not finish the 3rd sentence.

The black-bearded guy cursed: “Hey you are too unreasonable, rushing out and hacking and chopping randomly, eat my ‘Big Iron Net’.” The wooden board in his hands flashed and he whacked straight towards the top of Feng BoE’s head.

Feng BoE felt some misgivings: “I have fought over hundreds of major and minor battles, but I have never seen such a square wooden board being used as a weapon.” He raised his broadsword and chopped towards the board. There was a ringing sound, the broadsword hit the edge of the board, but the board was motionlessly. Although the board may seem like it was made of wood, but it was actually made of steel; the exterior of the board was painted to make it resemble wood. Feng BoE promptly withdrew his broadsword, unexpectedly when he contracted his arm the broadsword could not be withdrawn; it was stuck firmly on the steel board. Feng BoE was shocked, he channeled his internal energy and exerted his force, only now did the broadsword separate from the steel board. He shouted: “What an abnormal object! Is this steel board made of lodestone?”

That person smiled and said: “Not really, not really! This is my working tool.” 

Feng BoE shot another glance at it, he saw many horizontal and vertical lines on the board, it was a Go (Chess) board. He said: “What a weird object, come I will fight with you!” He swung his broadsword like the wind, attacking faster and faster, but he dared not let the broadsword touch the magnetic chess board.

The opera actor regained his breath and sung again: “When Dapple runs no more, what then can I do? Ah, Yu, my Yu, what will your fate be?” Suddenly he imitated the voice of a female, he said in a gentle, coy voice: “Worry not my Lord, although today’s battle is unsuccessful, this lowly concubine will follow you and fight our way out of this encirclement.”

Bao BuTong said: “Shameless King of Chu and Consort Yu, quickly commit suicide, I am Han Xin.” He jumped and extended his palm, trying to grab the shoulder of the opera actor. The opera actor avoided it and sung: “A great wind came fourth, the clouds rose on high. Where will I find...AiYa, my Gaozu of Han killed your Han Xin.” His left hand went to his waist and took out a soft whip and he lashed it out towards Bao BuTong.

XuanNan saw both sides are acting like children, but their martial arts were solid, only that they don’t know each other. His eyebrows narrowed slightly and said: “Everyone please temporarily stay your hands, let us clarify the matter first.”

But asking Feng BoE to stay his hands and stop fighting is almost impossible. When he contracted the ‘Frost Poison’, his physical strength and stamina were not the same as before, in addition the ‘Frost Poison’ could flare up anytime; it was extremely dangerous. His broadsword flashed about as if it was shredding the wind, he wanted to achieve victory quickly.

As the four of them engaged in fierce battle, someone came out of the main hall. There was a clashing sound as two Buddhist monk's knifes collided, an awe-inspiring entrance; it was XuanTong. He shouted: “You bunch of wicked thieves, using poison and harming people, old monk will break his taboo and kill you all!” He was tormented by the ‘Frost Poison’ for many days, he could not vent his frustration, thus he did not bother to clarify and attack the two scholars with his twin-knives. One scholar dodged and avoided, the other scholar took out a judge's-pen weapon from his bosom; he executed his skills and start fighting with XuanTong. 

The other scholar shook his head from side to side and said: “This is so strange! Why is this monk so hot tempered, I wonder where he comes from?” He extended his hands into his bosom and felt around, he said: “Yi, where did it go?” He touched his left and right pockets, shook his sleeves, and patted his chest; he couldn’t find it anywhere.

XuZhu was sympathetic, he asked: “Benefactor, what are you looking for?” 

The scholar said: “This big monk’s martial arts is extremely high, my brother is not his match. I want to find my weapon and join the fight, Yi, strange, strange! Where did my weapon go?” He thumped his forehead and pondered deeply. 

XuZhu could not help but laugh. He thought: “Coming out for a fight but forgetting where you put your weapon, this is interesting.” He asked again: “Benefactor, what kind of weapon you use?”

The scholar said: “Diplomacy is better than violence, my number one weapon is a book.” 

XuZhu said: “What kind of book? Martial arts manual?” 

The scholar said: “No, no. It’s the “Analects of Confucius”, I want to use the words of sage to reform my opponent.” 

Bao BuTong interrupted: “You are a scholar, yet you can’t even memorize the “Analects of Confucius”. What’s the point of studying?” 

The scholar said: “Elder brother, you only know part of the information. The “Analects of Confucius”, “Mencius”, “Spring and Autumn Annals”, “Book of Songs”, I know all of them by heart. But a Buddhist monk only studies Buddhist scriptures, they might not know about Confucian literature. I can recite it out by heart but if he has no knowledge about it, won’t it be useless? Thus, I must show him the original text as evidence, then he can’t deny it or try to dispute it; only then will it be useful. There is a common saying, ‘Use the book as evidence’.” As he said this, he kept on searching and patting around his body.

Bao BuTong shouted: “Little master, quickly attack him!” 

XuZhu said: “I will wait for Benefactor to find his weapon, after that we can fight.” 

The scholar said: “The Song and Chu fought at a deep river, the Chu people had yet to cross the river, their formation not yet ready; it was a good opportunity 
to attack, but Duke Xiang of Song said: ‘It’s not the way of a nobleman to take advantage of the plight of others.’ Little master, your heart is benevolent, the same as Duke Xiang.”

The carpenter saw XuanTong’s twin-knife flying and twisting around, his moves were extremely quick and powerful. The two scholars would be in danger if the fight dragged on further. He raised his axe and wanted to assist them in battle. GongYe Gan waved his palm and struck towards him. GongYe Gan’s appearance was refined and cultured, but his palm strength was vigorous and forceful- he was nicknamed ‘Jiangnan Number Two’. Last time he competed wine drinking and matched palms with Xiao Feng, although he lost, Xiao Feng had deep respect for him. It could be seen that his internal energy was extraordinary. The carpenter angled his body to avoid the palm and hacked his axe horizontally.

The scholar still could not find his “Analects of Confucius”. He saw his companion judges-pen movement was really messy, it really wasn’t a match against XuanTong’s twin-knives. He said to XuanTong: “Hey, big monk. Confucius says: ‘The superior man does not, even for the space of a single meal, act contrary to virtue. In moments of haste, he cleaves to it. In seasons of danger, he cleaves to it.’ Confucius says: ‘To subdue one's self and return to propriety, is perfect virtue. If a man can for one day subdue himself and return to propriety, all under heaven will ascribe perfect virtue to him.’ Confucius also says: ‘Look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to propriety; make no movement which is contrary to propriety.’ You wave your twin-knives randomly; you are ruthless and only think about killing people. You did not show self-restraint, this is contrary to propriety.”

XuZhu whispered to Shaolin monk HuiFang: “Martial uncle, is this person pretending to be dumb?” 

HuiFang shook his head and said: “I don’t know. Our master instructed us to be careful when going out of Shaolin Temple, martial artists are cunning and sly. They can come up all sorts of funny ideas and traps.”

The bookworm said to XuanTong again: “Big monk, Confucius says: ‘Men of principle are sure to be bold, but those who are bold may not always be men of principle.’ You are brave and bold, but you might not be benevolent, you cannot be considered to be a true gentleman. Confucius says: ‘What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others’ If other people want to kill you, you will naturally be unwilling to die, since you are unwilling to die, how can you kill other people?”

XuanTong engaged this bookworm and both of them jumped about. He waved his twin-knives to attack. The bookworm followed XuanTong and suddenly moved east and west, sometimes left and right; he was always within three feet of XuanTong, constantly advising and persuading. It could be seen that his martial arts were not weak. XuanTong was secretly vigilant: “This rascal is spouting nonsense, obviously his trying to distract me and divert my concentration, once he finds a gap in my moves, he will definitely exploit it and attack. This person’s martial arts are above the scholar with the judge's-pen, I definitely have to guard against him.” Thus, he spent 60% of his concentration to guard against the bookworm and spent 40% to focus on attacking the scholar with the judge's-pen. The situation of the scholar with the judge's-pen improved considerably.

After exchanging ten moves, XuanTong was getting impatient, he shouted: “Get lost!” and flipped his Buddhist monk’s knife, smashing the handle of the knife towards the chest of the bookworm. The bookworm avoided it and said: “Great master your martial arts are extremely strong. My 4th brother and I, although it’s two against one, we might not be your match; thus I advise you with wise words and hope that we can stop fighting. Confucius says: ‘Tsang, my doctrine is that of an all-pervading unity.’ Tsang said: ‘The doctrine of master is to be true to the principles of our nature and the benevolent exercise of them to others - this and nothing more.’ As human-beings, we must be prepared to forgive, we cannot be unreasonable and barbaric.”

XuanTong felt indignant, he slashed his knife horizontally and cursed: “Be prepared to forgive? Be compassionate? Why did you put deadly poison in the coffin to harm others? If old monk was not careful, he would have died long ago. You still dare say: ‘What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others’, you want to die of poisoning?”

The bookworm quickly retreated two steps and said: “Strange! Strange! Who put poison in the coffin? The coffin is for corpses. Confucius says: ‘Li died, he had a coffin but no outer shell.’ There is poison in the coffin; won’t the corpse die of poisoning? Oh wait, the corpse died long ago.”

Bao BuTong interrupted: “Not true, Not true. You did not put any corpse in the coffin, only poison, you wanted to poison us, the living people.” 

The bookworm shook his head and said: “You gauge the heart of a gentleman with your own mean measures. Since there is no coffin here, there is no poison.”

Bao BuTong said: “Confucius says: ‘Of all people, female and vile people are the most difficult people.’ You are a vile person.” He pointed at the middle-age woman and said: “You are a female, both of you are indeed difficult people. Are the words of Confucius wrong?” 

The bookworm was stumped for words, he finally said: “You digress from the main topic, I don’t have to bother about your words or give a reply.”

The bookworm was debating with Bao BuTong, XuanTong now had one less person to deal with and he intensified his attacks; the judge's-pen scholar was instantly in dire situation. The bookworm move closer to XuanTong and said: “Confucius says: ‘If a man be without the virtues proper to humanity, what has he to do with the rites of propriety? If a man be without the virtues proper to humanity, what has he to do with music?’ Big monk, you are without the virtues proper to humanity, you are really disappointing to the extreme.”

XuanTong was furious, he said: “I am a Buddhist, detached from worldly affairs, you rotten scholar talking about literature, etiquette and music, benevolent or not, you cannot sway my heart.”

The bookworm raised his knuckles and knocked his forehead. He said: “Very true! Very true! I studied too much and became foolish; I am really a bookworm. Big monk is obviously a Buddhist, but I advise you with words from Confucius and the traditional virtues, naturally you won’t understand it.”

Feng BoE fought for a long time with the chessboard-wielding person, it was hard to predict who wiould win. After a period of time, he started to feel the ‘Frost Poison’ acting up in his lower abdomen. Bao BuTong compared himself with the opera actor, he felt his opponent’s martial arts were not high, but his moves were extremely complicated. Sometimes he acted as Xi Shi (one of the renowned Four Beauties of ancient China), his speech and laughter coy, his frown infectious, his steps lithe and graceful; it was the exact manner of a woman of peerless elegance. In an instant, he started to act as a tipsy and romantic Li Bai (renowned poet), his drunken state unpredictable, his footsteps unsteady. The miraculous thing was that when he acted as different character, he always had a unique set of martial arts to fit the character. Sometimes he used his flexible whip or flicked his long sleeves when acting as a beauty, or waved his 
pen when acting as a scholar, and Bao BuTong could not deal with him for the moment.

The bookworm was motionless for a while, suddenly he hummed: “Since you gave up immersing in music, you heart should have gained benevolence, if you did not gain it quickly, it’s already ingrained in your heart?” 

XuanNan and XuanTong both had a huge shock, they thought: “This bookworm is extremely knowledgeable, he can even recite verses by Eastern Jin’s Eminent Monk, Kumarajiva.” 

The bookworm continued humming: “After all, in emptiness, there is no music in the heart, if you are pleased with knowledge on Buddhism, you are not enlightened by its teachings. Falsehood, lies and deceit, it will not stop near your heart. Big monk, what is the next two verse, I forgot.” 
XuanTong said: “Buddhist teachings acquired by a humane person, it will reveal itself when desired by the heart.”

The bookworm laughed heartily and said: “Enlightening! Enlightening! You are a great Buddhist master, how can you not be humane? Moral principles under the heaven, all of them are the same. I advise you to let go of your hatred and turn back to correct path.”

XuanTong’s heart was shaken. He suddenly achieved enlightenment and said: “Excellent! Excellent! Excellent! Namo Amituofo, Namo Amituofo.” There were two clanking sounds, the Buddhist monk’s twin-knives were thrown to the ground; he sat down on the floor, his face revealed a smile, his eyes closed.

The judge's-pen Scholar was getting excited in the fight, but suddenly seeing this behavior, he had a huge shock and did not attack with this judge's-pen.

XuZhu said: “Martial grandfather, did your ‘Frost Poison’ flare up?” He extended his arm to support him. 

XuanNan said: “Don’t move!” He checked XuanTong’s breath, but he had stopped breathing; he had passed away. XuanNan pressed both his hands together, he chanted the ‘Afterlife Prayer’. The rest of the Shaolin monks saw XuanTong had passed away. They started crying, they grabbed their Buddhist’s staffs and Buddhist’s knives, wanting to go all out against the two scholars. XuanNan said: “Stop! Martial brother XuanTong perceived Tathata in his meditation, he is in Nirvana, he has achieved enlightenment. We have to be happy for him.”

After witnessing this shocking event, everyone stop fighting immediately and retreated simultaneously.

The bookworm shouted: “5th brother, 5th brother Xue, quickly come out, someone got excited to death by my words. Quickly come out and save him! Damn Divine Physician Xue, if you don’t come out quickly, this person will really die for certain!” 

Deng BaiChuan said: “Divine Physician Xue is not in his house, Mr. you are...” 

The bookworm was still shouting hurriedly at the top of his voice: “Xue MuHua, 5th brother Xue, Enemy of King of Hell, Divine Physician Xue, quickly come out and save him! Your 3rd brother excited someone till death, they are going to make life difficult for us.”

Bao BuTong was furious: “You caused his death, still pretending to be a good guy and shedding crocodile tears.” With a ‘Hu’ sound he sent his palm at him. His left hand passed under his right palm, with this move ‘Dragon Searching For Pearl’, he made a grab for the beard. The bookworm quickly dodged it. Feng BoE and GongYe Gan were aroused from their previous fight, they did not wish to stop and hence they start fighting again.

Deng BaiChuan shouted: “Lie down!” His left hand stretched out and grabbed the back of the opera actor. Deng BaiChuan wass chief among the subordinates of Gusu’s Murong family. His martial arts were strong, internal energy powerful and vigorous, although his reputation wasn’t impressive, but of those who knew him they could not help but deeply respect him. He easily caught hold of the back of the opera actor, he pressed him down towards the floor. The opera actor was quite agile and nimble, when his left shoulder touched the ground, he spun his body on the floor and swept his right leg out, kicking towards Deng BaiChuan’s leg. This move was extremely strange and quick. Deng BaiChuan was stout and strong, hence it was not convenient for him to turn or rotate quickly. He saw this move was hard to avoid, he immediately gathered his internal energy into his lower body to forcibly receive the kick to his leg, there was a ‘Ka La’ sound, the two legs collided and one of the legs broke.

The opera actor kept rolling about and his already a few zhang away, he shouted: “You treacherous bandit, injuring an honest man, ouch my leg!” It seems that when the two legs met and the force collided, the opera actor was not a match against his opponent’s force; his leg broke immediately.

The pretty middle-age woman only stood courteously by the side and did not participate. When she saw the opera actor suffered a broken leg and her other companions also in danger, she said: “Who are you people, what is the reason for occupying my 5th brother’s house? You did not clarify the situation and injure people?” Although she was questioning the other party, her tone and manner was still soft and refined. The opera actor was lying on the ground, he looked upward and saw two lanterns hanging by the door of the house. He pointed at the lantern and called out in shock: “What? What is this? What ‘Funeral of Xue MuHua’, my 5th brother died?”

The person wielding the chessboard, the two scholars, the axe-wielding carpenter, the pretty middle-age woman, their gazes followed the finger and they saw the lantern. The candle flame in the lantern had long die out, the surroundings were pitch-black. As everyone was busy fighting, no one paid any attention to the lantern. Only when the opera actor fell onto the ground did he finally raise his head and notice the wording on the lantern.

The opera actor burst into tears, he sang: “Alas, alas, my good brother, we swore brotherhood at the peach garden, we agreed to meet at the ancient city, you crossed the five passes, slayed six generals, such awe-inspiring might...” He was singing the opera ‘Weeping GuanYu’, but he was too agitated and his accent was incorrect. The other five also bellowed their grievances: 

“Who killed my 5th brother?”

“5th brother, 5th brother, which damnable murderer harm you?”

“We will fight to the death with you today!”

XuanNan and Deng BaiChuan gave each other a glance, both of them had the same thought: “These people seems to be the sworn brothers of Divine Physician Xue.” 

Deng BaiChuan said: “Some of our companions suffered some injuries, we came here to request Divine Physician Xue for medical treatment, but unexpectedly....” 

The middle-age woman replied: “But unexpectedly he refuse to treat and you people killed him, correct?” 

Deng BaiChuan said: “No....” He did not get the chance to finish as he saw the middle-age woman flick her sleeves. Suddenly he smelled a strong fragrance and he immediately became dizzy. He 
seemed to be standing on a soft cloud and shrouded in mist; he couldn’t maintain his footing. The pretty middle-age woman said: “Collapse, collapse!”

Deng BaiChuan was indignant, he shouted: “Wicked witch!” He gathered his energy into his palm and sent his palm out. The pretty middle-age woman saw Deng BaiChuan shaking and swaying about, he was already affected by her attack; unexpectedly, he still manage to send out his palm. As she was about to dodge the attack, it was too late. The earth-shattering force came crashing into her, her breathing was temporarily obstructed, her body flew up. There is a ‘Ka la Ka la’ sound, a few of her ribs got broken, she fainted before her body had landed on the ground. Deng BaiChuan’s vision turned black and he collapsed onto the ground.

Both sides lost one of their fighters; the remaining people start fighting with each other. XuanNan pondered: “There is some strange matters in this incident. We have to first capture the rest so as to avoid unnecessary casualties for both sides.” He said: “Get my staff!” HuiFang turned around and picked up the Buddhist monk’s staff leaning against the door, he passed it over to XuanNan. The judge's-pen scholar vaulted over and waved his right hand to attack HuiFang’s chest, XuanNan struck out with his left palm. His palm had yet to arrive but the palm force had already reached his opponent’s back, the scholar was hit and collapsed. XuanNan gave a laugh, he carried the staff in his hand, took two steps forward, brandished his staff and smashed towards the chessboard wielding man.

The chessboard-wielding person saw the attack was extremely powerful. The staff had yet to arrive but the accompanying wind had already shrouded his entire body. Immediately he flexed his arm, he used both hands to raise the chessboard and block the staff; there was a loud ringing sound, sparks flew in all directions. The person felt his arms going numb, the web between his thumb and forefinger had split open. XuanNan raised his staff and he also lifted the chessboard along with it. The chessboard had extremely strong magnetism, in the past it had trapped the weapons of numerous enemies, but today it met a strong opponent and got trapped by XuanNan’s staff. XuanNan smashed his staff towards the head of the person along with the chessboard. The person shouted: “This ‘Pressing Divine Head’ (the name of a chess move) along with ‘Leaning Cover’, I can’t resist both attacks!” He quickly scuttled forward.

XuanNan dragged his staff and shouted loudly: “Bookworm, lay down!” He swept his staff horizontally; the power in it was unstoppable. 

The bookworm said: “Confucius is adaptable to current situation, once the wind blows the grass will topple, since you want me to lie down I will lie down, why not?” Before he even finished his words, he was already lying down on the floor. A few Shaolin monks jumped over and held him down.

The Head-Monk of Shaolin Damo-Hall was truly outstanding. Once he started fighting, he immediately subdued three experts from the opposing side.

The axe-wielding carpenter was fighting Feng BoE and Bao BuTong, he was in a dire situation and was about to suffer a defeat. The chessboard-wielding person said: “Forget it, forget it! 6th brother, let us just admit defeat; we don’t have to carry on playing this chess match anymore. Big monk, I want to ask you, how did my 5th brother offend you, why did you people kill him?” 

XuanNan said: “There is no such matter...”

Before he could finish, suddenly there was two ‘Zheng Zheng’ sounds of a zither, they were transmitted from afar. When the sound was transmitted to their eardrum, everyone’s heart violently palpitated twice. XuanNan was startled for the duration, another two ‘Zheng Zheng’ sounds rang out. This time the sound was even closer, and everyone’s heart palpitated even more violently. Feng BoE felt a sense of uneasiness, his right hand relaxed, with a ‘Dang’ sound his broadsword dropped on the floor. Luckily Bao BuTong quickly waved his palm and guarded him, otherwise the enemy’s axe would have split open his shoulder. The bookworm shouted: “Elder brother come over quickly, elder brother come over quickly! The situation is extremely serious! Why are you moving so slowly and still playing that stupid zither? Confucius says: ‘When the prince summoned him, without waiting for his carriage to be yoked, he went at once’.”

The sound of zither kept on ringing, an elderly man with big sleeves stroll towards them, his forehead high and protruding, his appearance odd and ancient. He was beaming and his expression was extremely amiable, he carried a jade zither in his hand.

When the bookworm and the rest of his brothers saw this man, they shouted: “Elder brother!” 

The elderly man walk towards XuanNan, cupped his fists and said: “Old man is lacking in manners, may I know the name of this eminent Shaolin monk?” 

XuanNan pressed his hands together and said: “Old monk is XuanNan.” 

The man said: “Hehe, so you are martial brother XuanNan. Shaolin’s XuanKu must be your younger martial brother correct? Old man met him several times before, our conversation was extremely congenial, he must still be pretty healthy and strong.” 

XuanNan said sadly: “Martial brother XuanKu was plotted against by a treacherous disciple, he has passed away and return to Western Paradise.”

The person stood wooden for quite a while. Suddenly he leapt upwards, it was a zhang high. His body had yet to reach the ground but his sorrowful voice could be heard in midair, he was crying. XuanNan and GongYe Gan were startled, they did not expect such an elderly man to cry as if he was a child. When both his feet touch the ground, he immediately sat down, he pulled forcefully at his beard, both his legs were like drum-sticks, repeatedly beating and drumming the ground. He cried out: “XuanKu, why didn’t you meet me one last time before you died? Isn’t this ridiculous? My song ‘Peaceful PuAn in Sanskrit’, many people heard it before but they don’t understand the logic within, but you said this song is rooted in Buddhism; you listened to it again and again. My younger martial brother XuanNan, he might not have your level of comprehension, if I play zither for him, most probably it’s like playing zither to a cow, preaching to deaf ears! Alas! My life is ill fated!”

Initially, when XuanNan heard him cry, he thought he was a sentimental person, overcome by his grief he cried out in sorrow, but subsequently, he found out that his grieving over the loss of a person who understands his music. Unexpectedly he even said he was playing zither to a cow if he had to play for him. XuanNan is an eminent monk of high virtue, he wasn’t offended at all, he only gave a slight smile and thought: “These bunch of people are crazy and wild. The temperament of this person is notoriously similar to the rest of his group, birds of a feather flock together.”

The person continued crying: “XuanKu ah, XuanKu, to repay you for being my soul-mate, I put in great effort and created this new song for you, its called ‘Humming of A Reed’, this song is to praise your Shaolin founder Master Damo for his great achievement in crossing the river with a reed. Why don’t you listen to it?” Suddenly he turned his head and said to XuanNan: “Where is the tomb of martial brother XuanKu? Quickly bring me there, quick, quick! The quicker the better. I will play this new song at his tomb, maybe it can help him to relax and be carefree, he can even revive from the dead.”

XuanNan said: “Benefactor, please don’t babble nonsense, after my martial brother passed away, his body had been cremated and turn to ashes.”

The person was expressionless, suddenly he jumped up and said: “Very good, then you have to give me his ashes. I will use cowhide glue and stick his ashes in my zither, henceforth every time I play a song, he will definitely get to hear it. Isn’t it a great idea? Haha, haha, isn’t my idea great?” He was getting more and more excited, he could not help but clap and laugh out heartily. Suddenly he saw the pretty middle-aged woman lying on the floor, he cried out in fright: “Yi, 7th sister, what happen? Who injured you?”

XuanNan said: “There is some misunderstanding, we are still in the midst of clarifying the situation.” 

The person said: “What misunderstanding? Who misunderstood who? To cut the long story short, whoever injured 7th sister is the one at fault. Oh my goodness, 8th brother is also injured; the one who injured him is not a good person, how many bad people are here? Quickly step up and confess, we will openly discuss it, there is no room for concession.”

The opera actor called out: “Elder brother, they killed 5th brother, quickly take revenge for 5th brother.” 

The expression of the person turned grave, he shouted: “Preposterous! 5th brother is the ‘Enemy of King of Hell’, what can the King of Hell do against him?” 

XuanNan said: “Divine Physician Xue faked his own death, there is only poison in the coffin, there is no corpse.” The elderly man and the rest of his brothers were elated, all of them ask in quick succession: 

“Why did 5th brother fake his death?”

“Where is his dead body?”

“He didn’t die, how can there be a dead body?”

Suddenly a soft voice floated from afar: “Xue MuHua, Xue MuHua, your martial uncle is arriving, quickly come out and welcome him.” The voice seemed to be breaking yet continuing, the distance was very far, but the voice is clear and distinct. Obviously it transmitted by someone with very profound internal energy, it was really no small matter.

The opera actor, bookworm, carpenter and the rest all cried out in alarm. The elderly man with the zither called out: “Catastrophe is coming, catastrophe is coming!” He kept looking in all directions, his expression extremely frightened. He said: “There is no time to escape, quick, quick, everyone hide in the house.”

Bao BuTong said loudly: “What catastrophe is coming? Is the sky falling down?” 

The elderly man said in a trembling voice: “Quick, quick, go in the house quickly! Its better to have the sky falling down, this...” 

Bao BuTong said: “Senior please make yourself at home, but I don’t want to go in.”

The elderly man suddenly extended his hand; he caught hold of Bao BuTong’s chest acupoints. This move was extremely quick, Bao BuTong could not guard against it at all, he was already subdued. His body was lifted up and was quickly carried into the house.

XuanNan and GongYe Gan were astonished, as they were about to speak the chessboard wielding person whispered: “Great master and everyone please go into the house quickly, an extremely powerful devil is coming soon.” 

XuanNan possessed divine skills, he rarely meet any match in the martial arts fraternity, he was not afraid of any big or small devil. He asked: “Which big devil? Qiao Feng?” 

The person shook his head and said: “No, no, someone even more vicious than Qiao Feng. It’s Old Freak of Xingxiu.” 

XuanNan said: “If it’s the Old Freak of Xingxiu then it couldn’t be much better, old monk is looking for him.” 

The person said: “Great master, your martial arts are strong, naturally you are not afraid. But everyone here will be tortured till death by him and you will the only one left alive, you are really merciful.”

His words are sarcastic and meant to ridicule, but it was also accurate and true. XuanNan was temporarily stumped, he finally said: “Good, everyone let us go in the house!”

At this moment, the elderly zither-wielding man had hidden Bao BuTong and came rushing out of the house, he kept urging: “Quick, quick! Still waiting for what?” 

Feng BoE questioned him loudly: “Where is my 3rd brother?” 

The elderly man flipped his left hand and sent his palm horizontally towards Feng BoE’s right cheek. The ‘Frost Poison’ in Feng BoE had already flared up; it was really hard to bear. When he saw the palm coming he quickly lowered his head to avoid it. Unexpectedly, the elderly man did not fully execute his palm move, suddenly, he diverted his energy downwards and he caught Feng BoE’s nape. He said: “Quick, quick, go in quickly!” He lifted Feng BoE like a chicken and carried him into the house.

GongYe Gan saw the elderly man did not have any evil intentions, but both his sworn brothers were subdued by him with a single move. He shouted loudly and was about to fight with him, but the elderly man moved like the wind, he had already rushed into the house. The bookworm carried the opera actor, the carpenter supported the pretty woman and all of them quickly rushed into the house. 

XuanNan felt today’s affair was really strange and weird. He did not want to be reckless, to avoid causing more confusion he said: “Benefactor GongYe, let us just go in first and then take our time to decide what to do.”

Immediately, XuZhu and HuiFang lifted the corpse of XuanTong, GongYe Gan carried Deng BaiChuan and all of them entered the house.

The zither-wielding old man came out to urge them, but he saw everyone had entered the house. He quickly shut the front door, he went to fetch the door latch. The chessboard wielding person said: “Elder brother, it best if we left this door wide open, this move is called solid yet empty, empty yet solid. This way, he won’t dare to enter the house without careful consideration.” 

The elderly man said: “What? Fine, I will listen to you. This... will this work?” He did not have any self-confidence at all while speaking.

XuanNan and GongYe Gan gave each other a glance, both of them had the same thought: “This old man has superior martial arts, how can he be so flustered when dealing with important matters? This door, it can’t even hold back common robbers, how can it stop the Old Freak of Xingxiu. What difference does it make if the door is open or close? It seems this person suffered great loss against the Old Freak of Xingxiu, he became like a bird startled by a bowshot, he was terror-stricken once he knows the Old Freak of Xingxiu is nearby.”

The elderly man said repeatedly: “6th brother, think of an idea, quickly think of an idea.”

Although XuanNan possessed considerable self-restraint, he was riled up by the fearful manner of the old man. He said: “Sir, there is a common saying ‘counter soldiers with arms, water with earth’, adopt measures appropriate to the situation. No matter how vicious this Old Freak of Xingxiu is, we will join hands and fight him together, we might not lose. There’s no need to be so.... so.... hei.... so cautious and timid.” The candles in the hall had been lighted, he glimpsed his surroundings. The elderly man was terrified; the chessboard wielding man, the bookworm, carpenter, judge's-pen wielding scholar, all of them wore fearful expressions. XuanNan personally witnessed the martial arts of these people, they weren’t weak. They were wild and unrestrained, they appeared to be elegant and unconventional warriors, 

but now they turn into children and useless cowards. It was really inconceivable.

GongYe Gan saw Bao BuTong and Feng BoE were fine, both of them sitting on a chair, but their ‘Frost Poison’ had flared up and they shivered constantly. He supported Deng BaiChuan to a chair and made him sit down. Fortunately Deng BaiChuan’s pulse was even, he was only in some sort of drunken state and he carried on sleeping. His life was not in any danger.

Everyone looked at each other in dismay. After a short period of time, the axe-wielding carpenter took out a setsquare from his bosom; he measured the corners of the hall and shook his head. He picked up a candlestick and walked to the rear hall. Everyone followed him; they saw him measuring the four corners. Suddenly he leapt up onto the beam and started measuring it. He shook his head again and walked to the rear, stopping in front of Divine Physician Xue’s fake coffin. He looked at the coffin a few times, shook his head and said: “What a pity, what a pity!” 

The zither-wielding elderly man said: “Its useless?” 

The carpenter said: “It won’t work, martial uncle will definitely see through it.” 

The zither-wielding man said in anger: “You... you still call him martial uncle?” 

The carpenter shook his head and did not reply, he continued walking to the rear.

GongYe Gan thought: “This person seems to only know how to shake his head, he doesn’t do anything else.”

The carpenter measured the corners of the wall, he counted his footsteps and made some calculations with his fingers; it seemed as if he was trying to build a house. He kept counting his steps and walked to the rear garden. He held onto the candlestick and considered for quite some time. The corridor of the garden had five stone mortars. He grasped a few dried husks and soil and put them in a mortar. He lifted the large stone pestle by the side and started pounding the mortar, ‘Peng Peng’, the stone was dense and was forceful as it landed on the mortar.

GongYe Gan gave a sigh and thought: “We are really down on our luck, meeting this bunch of lunatics. He still has the mood to pound grains in this kind of dire situation. It’s still acceptable if he’s really pounding grains, but the mortar contains grain husk and soil, alas!” 

Bao BuTong and Feng BoE were resting in the hall due to their ‘Frost Poison’, but after a while, they also rushed to the rear garden.

‘Peng’, ‘Peng’, ‘Peng’,‘Peng’, ‘Peng’, ‘Peng’! The pounding sound was uninterrupted.

Bao BuTong said: “Buddy, you are pounding the grains for cooking? But you aren’t pounding grains. I suggest we better plow the field and plant corn seeds, when they grow...” Suddenly the southeast corner of the garden, around 7-8 zhang away, gave a squeaking sound. The sound was soft but rather unique. XuanNan, GongYe Gan and the rest looked towards the direction of the sound; they saw four dwarf cassia trees.

‘Peng’, ‘Peng’, the carpenter kept on pounding, but the strange thing was that the second cassia tree from the right started shaking; little by little it moved. After a while, everyone understood- when the carpenter pounded the mortar, the cassia tree would move around an inch. The zither man cheered and rushed towards the cassia tree, he said in a low voice: “Not bad, not bad!” Everyone followed him and ran over. The cassia tree had move aside, revealing a big stone slab, an iron ring was attached to the slab.

GongYe Gan was impressed and he felt ashamed. He said: “This secret underground mechanism is ingeniously arranged, it’s really fantastic. My dear friend, you discovered it within such a short time, you are really intelligent and wise, no less inferior than the creator of the mechanism.” 

Bao BuTong said: “Not true, not true, how do you know this mechanism isn’t created by him?” 

GongYe Gan said: “I said his ability and wisdom isn’t inferior to the creator, if he is the creator, then his ability and wisdom is naturally not inferior to himself.” 

Bao BuTong said: “Not true, not true. He is not inferior, but maybe he is superior. But how can his ability and wisdom be superior to himself?”

The carpenter pounded another ten times; the big stone slab was completely exposed. The zither-wielding elderly man gripped the iron ring and pulled it, but it did not move an inch. As he was about to channel his internal energy and give it 
another pull, the carpenter cried out in fear: “Elder brother, stop!” He jumped up and put the stone pestle on another mortar, he pulled down his pants and started urinating. He shouted: “Everyone, quickly come over, let us urinate together!” The elderly man was startled and quickly put down the iron ring, in a split second, the chessboard wielding man, bookworm, judge's-pen wielding scholar, all of them went over and started urinating into the mortar.

GongYe Gan saw these five people urinate like mad, it was really funny and he could not refrain from laughing, but instantly, everyone caught a whiff of gunpowder. The carpenter said: “Enough, the danger is over!” 

The zither-wielding elderly man had a lot of urine, he kept on urinating non-stop. He mumbled to himself: “Damn it, damn it, I messed up another mechanism. 6th brother, luckily you spotted it quickly, otherwise everyone would have been blown into meat pastes.”

GongYe Gan trembled with fear, he became aware that he had just came back from the gates of hell- obviously a flint was linked to the iron ring. When the ring is pulled, the fuse is lit and it advances to the hidden explosive. Fortunately the carpenter is extremely vigilant, everyone urinated and they managed to wet the fuse and thus averted a big disaster. 

The carpenter walked to the first stone mortar on the right. He exerted his strength and turned the mortar three times to the right, he raised his head towards the sky and recited something. After a long time, he turned the mortar six and a half times to the left. Suddenly, they heard another small squeaking sound, the big stone slab moved aside, revealing a hole. This time the zither-wielding elder dared not rush in. He waved his hands at the carpenter and signaled him to lead the way. The carpenter knelt down on the floor, he looked carefully at the first mortar to the left.

Suddenly they heard someone curse from underground: “Old Freak of Xingxiu, you evil bastard! Very good, very good! You finally found me, you’re brilliant! You committed all sorts of crimes, retribution will eventually come. Come, come! Come in and kill me!”

The bookworm, carpenter, opera actor and the rest all cheered in unison: “5th brother is alive!” 

The zither-wielding elder said loudly: “5th brother, we all arrive.” 

The voice from underground was silent for a moment then it shouted: “It’s really elder brother?” The tone was joyous.

There was a laughing sound and someone came out of the hole, it was the ‘Enemy of King of Hell’, Divine Physician Xue. 

Unexpectedly, other than the zither-wielding elder and the rest of his sworn brothers, there were also quite a few strangers. He could not help but stare blankly. He said to XuanNan: “Great master, you came out of your temple, these few people are your friends?”

XuanNan hesitated and then said: “Yes, they are all friends.” Originally, Shaolin had maintained that Master XuanBei was killed by Gusu’s Murong family, they considered the Murong family as their nemesis. This time, he came together with Deng BaiChuan to seek medical treatment, along the way Deng BaiChuan and GongYe Gan insisted that Master XuanBei was not killed by their Young Master Murong. XuanNan was around 70-80% convinced, in addition they had braved dangers together and collaborated towards a common goal; he finally treated them as friends. When GongYe Gan heard his words, he turned and nodded towards him.

Divine Physician Xue said: “Since we are all friends then it couldn’t be much better, everyone please go underground, Master XuanNan please lead the way.” Although he said those words, he still rushed ahead and led the way. The underground cellar was pitch-black, it was a very dangerous place to be in. The martial arts fraternity is full of deadly secrets and traps, no one trusted each other; thus to show respect for visitors he had to personally lead the way and enter first.

As Divine Physician Xue entered the hole, XuanNan followed him and entered as well. Everyone supported the injured and followed soon after; they even carried the corpse of XuanTong in. Divine Physician Xue operated a motor and the big stone slab moved and covered the hole. He operated the motor again and everyone heard a faint squeaking sound, the cassia tree moved back to its original position and covered the stone slab.

The interior was a stretch of stone steps, everyone had to stoop down to travel. After travelling for a while, the ceiling gradually got higher, they reached a natural tunnel. They travelled for around ten zhang and arrived at a spacious cavern. Over twenty people were seated in the corner beside a torch- the people consisted of male, female, young and old. When these people heard footsteps, they turned their heads and look at them.

Divine Physician Xue said: “These people are my family members. The current situation is urgent, I won’t ask them to come over and pay their respects, please forgive my lack of manners. Big brother, 2nd brother, how did your come here?” He did not wait for their reply and immediately start examining everyone’s injuries. He examined XuanTong first, Divine Physician Xue said: “This great master achieved enlightenment and passed away, it is gratifying and joyous.” He examined Deng BaiChuan, smiled and said: “My 7th sister’s flower pollen will only make you drunk and intoxicated, there is no poison. He will wake up after a while.” The middle-aged woman and 
opera actor suffered external injuries, although the injuries are not light but it was a small matter for Divine Physician Xue. He took Bao BuTong and Feng BoE’s pulses, closed his eyes and pondered deeply.

After a long time, Divine Physician Xue shakes his head and said: “Strange, strange! Who injured these two people?” 

GongYe Gan said: “It was a weird looking youngster.” 

Divine Physician Xue shook his head and said: “Youngster? This person’s martial arts possess both extremes of good and evil. His internal energy is extremely profound, it has a least thirty years of cultivation. How can he be a youngster?” 

XuanNan said: “It certainly is a youngster, but his palm strength is deep and profound. My martial brother XuanTong clashed palms with him and also suffered this ‘Frost Poison’. He is the disciple of Old Freak of Xingxiu.”

Divine Physician Xue was startled: “Even the disciple of Old Freak of Xingxiu is this powerful? Amazing, amazing!” He shook his head and said: “Regrettable, regrettable, the ‘Frost Poison’ of these two senior brothers, I am really powerless against it. From now on, I don’t dare to be known as ‘Divine Physician’.”

Suddenly a bright resonant voice said: “Since this is the assessment of Divine Physician Xue, we will take our leave immediately.” The voice came from Deng BaiChuan, he had finally woken up after being intoxicated by the flower pollen, he heard Divine Physician Xue’s diagnosis. 

Bao BuTong said: “That’s right, that’s right! Hide underground for what? Life and death is fated, how can we imitate tortoise and mole and hide in underground cavern?”

Divine Physician Xue laughed grimly: “You are extremely boastful! Do you know who is waiting outside?” 

Feng BoE said: “You all are scared of Old Freak of Xingxiu, but I am not afraid. You all have superior martial arts but it’s all in vain! You people get scared out of your wits when you hear the name of Old Freak of Xingxiu.” 

The zither-wielding elder said: “You are no match for me. Old Freak of Xingxiu is my martial uncle, you tell me whether he is powerful or not?”

XuanNan changed the subject and said: “Old monk has things he doesn’t understand. I wish to seek clarification.” 

Divine Physician Xue said: “The eight of us are fellow apprentice,s we are known as the ‘Eight Friends of Hangu’.”

He pointed at the zither-wielding elder and said: “This is our elder brother, I am number five. The rest of the matters are really complicated and not easy to explain, moreover, it useless to tell outsiders.....”

Before he could finish, everyone suddenly heard a thin and soft voice calling: “Xue MuHua, why aren’t you coming out to see me?”

The voice was thin yet balanced, it seemed to be faint and indistinct but everyone in the tunnel heard it clearly. The voice was like a long string, penetrating ten zhang through the ground and following the complicated winding tunnel before entering the ear.

The zither-wielding elder was so surprised that he leapt up. He said in a trembling voice: “Old… Old Freak of Xingxiu!” 

Feng BoE said loudly: “Big brother, 2nd brother, 3rd brother, let us all go out and fight to the death with him.” 

The zither-wielding elder said: “No you cannot do that, you must never do that. It doesn’t matter if you go out and die a foolish death! But you will reveal this hiding place and the lives of all the people here will be sacrificed by your stupid bravery.” 

Bao BuTong said: “His voice can penetrate this underground cave, won’t he know we are hiding here? Even if you become a tortoise, he will still force you out. You cannot hope to avoid him.” 

The judge's-pen scholar and the bookworm said: “He won’t be able to enter this place for a while, everyone let us think of a good strategy to deal with him.”

The carpenter kept silent throughout, at this moment he interrupted: “Although martial uncle Ding is highly skilled, but he will require at least four hours to break through this underground mechanism. He will need another four hours to think of a strategy to attack into this cave.” 

The zither-wielding elder said: “Excellent! We have eight hours, we can consider carefully and take our time, correct?” 

The carpenter said: “Nine hours.” 

The zither-wielding elder said: “Where did the extra one hour come from?” 

The carpenter said: “Within this eight hours I can arrange another three mechanisms, which can delay him for another hour.” 

The zither-wielding elder said: “Very good! Great master XuanNan, when that big devil comes in at the scheduled time, we eight fellow apprentices will most probably not be able to escape his evil clutches. All of you are outsiders. The big devil will focus his attention on us martial nephews, all of you should be able to escape. You should not try to be a hero and fight to the death with him. Being able to escape the Old Freak of Xingxiu is already considered to be a very heroic action.”

Bao BuTong said: “You’re farting, farting!” Everyone started sniffing but they did not detect any stench, they gazed questioningly at Bao BuTong. Bao BuTong pointed at the zither-wielding elder and said: “This person is bullshitting, it stinks so bad.” Previously he was subdued by the zither-wielding elder in a single move, he felt resentment in his heart. Although his ‘Frost Poison’ had flared up at that time and he did not have any strength to resist, he was well aware that his martial arts were greatly inferior to his; the stronger his opponent, the more he wanted to curse.

The chessboard wielding man gave him a glance and said: “You can’t even escape from my senior martial brother’s palm, my martial uncle’s martials arts are ten times better than his. Now you tell me who is the one bullshitting here?” 

Bao BuTong said: “Not true, not true! Superior martial arts are not related to bullshitting. If your martial arts are high, you can’t bullshit? If you don’t bullshit, your martial arts are high? Confucius doesn’t know martial arts, maybe he specializes in bulll-shitting...”

Deng BaiChuan considered: “The words of these people aren’t unreasonable. Third brother is just debating and joking around with them, we should not waste the time we have here.” He interrupted: “Everyone, I did not know your origin and this led to numerous misunderstandings, I even accidentally injure this lady, I feel terribly apologetic. Since we met a common enemy today, we are one big family. Later when this powerful enemy comes in, although the subordinates of Young Master Murong are unworthy, we will never run away. If we can’t resist him then we will simply just die together.”

XuanNan said: “HuiFang, XuZhu, later on if both of you see the opportunity, you must try to escape and return back to Shaolin Temple to report this matter to the Abbot. In the event that everyone is eliminated by that devil at least we can get crucial information delivered.” 

Six Shaolin monks said in unison: “We respectfully obey your orders.” 

Xue MuHua and Deng BaiChuan heard the speech by XuanNan, they knew his mind was set and everyone would live or die together. Even though they now had another strong helper against the Old Freak of Xingxiu, they still did not feel confident in winning.

The zither-wielding elder was expressionless throughout, suddenly, he clapped his hand and laughed: “Everyone is going to die today. Even if martial brother XuanKu did not die, he would not get the chance to hear my wonderful song, ‘Humming of A Reed’. Why do I need to feel sad for his death? Alas! Alas! Someone told me that I, Kang GuangLing am a big idiot. I always refused to accept it. But now, it seems even if I am not a big idiot, I am still a small idiot.”

Bao BuTong said: “You really are a genuine big idiot, big stupid fool!” 

The zither-wielding elder Kang GuangLing said: “I don’t think I am more foolish than you!” 

Bao BuTong said: “You are ten times more foolish than me!” 

Kang GuangLing said: “You are hundred times more foolish than me!” 

Bao BuTong said: “You are thousand times more foolish than me!” 

Kang GuangLing said: “You are ten thousand times more foolish than me!” 

Bao BuTong said: “You are hundred thousand times more foolish than me, a million times, ten million times!”

Xue MuHua said: “You two are about the same, both of you are equally foolish. All the masters from Shaolin, when you safely return back to your temple your Abbot will definitely ask about the cause and effect of this matter; I am afraid you won’t be able to answer. This matter is a shameful incident in my sect, it’s not related to outsiders. But to eliminate this scourge from the martial arts fraternity, we need the help of senior monks from Shaolin. Thus, I will now narrate in detail the entire matter, but after hearing it please only report back to your Abbot, do not leak or divulge it to another person.”

HuiFang, XuZhu and the rest of the monks said in unison: “The words of Divine Physician Xue, junior monk will only report it to our Abbot, we will never leak half a word to other people.”

Xue MuHua said to Kang GuangLing: “Senior martial brother, I will now narrate the intermediate details of this affair.”

Although Kang GuangLing was the most senior apprentice among the eight of them and his martial arts greatly exceeded his peers, his personality was very childish and naive. Xue MuHua was only trying to preserve Kang GuangLing’s status and prestige by asking him for permission in front of outsiders. Kang GuangLing said: “This is so strange, your mouth is your own, just say it if you like, why the need to ask me for permission?”

Xue MuHua said: “Great Master XuanNan, Master Deng, our master is known as Mr. Intelligent...”

XuanNan, Deng BaiChuan and the rest were all startled, they said in unison: “What? Mr. Intelligent is the Deaf Mute Old Man, this person was born deaf and mute, he adopted a nickname and called himself Mr. Intelligent. All his disciples and followers had their eardrums pierced and their tongue cut off, this fact is known by everyone. But Kang GuangLing and the rest of you are perfectly normal, this is extremely strange.”

Xue MuHua said: “My master’s disciples and followers are deaf and mute, but this is only for the past ten years. My master is not deaf, and he is certainly not mute. He was coerced by his younger martial brother, the Old Freak of Xingxiu Ding ChunQiu, and became deaf and mute.” XuanNan and the rest gave an ‘Oh’ sound. Xue MuHua continued: “My Grand-Master took in two disciples, the senior disciple is surname Su, named XingHe, naturally his our Master. The second disciple is Ding ChunQiu. Their martial arts were originally on par with each other, but eventually, one of them became slightly better...”

Bao BuTong interrupted: “Haha, say no further, your martial uncle Ding ChunQiu must have surpassed your Master.” 

Xue MuHua said: “You can’t say that, my Grand-Master is a celestial being of knowledge, his skills all encompassing...” 

Bao BuTong said: “Not necessarily, not necessarily.” 

Xue MuHua knew Bao BuTong liked to argue for the sake of arguing, he ignored him and continued: “Originally, my Master and Ding ChunQiu both focused solely on martial arts, but afterwards, my Master’s attention was divided; he learned music and zither from my Grand-Master...”

Bao BuTong pointed at Kang GuanLing and said: “Haha, your stupid zither skills must have been acquired from your Master.”

Kang GuangLing glared at him and said: “Obviously my skills came from my Master, don’ tell me it came from you?”

Xue MuHua said: “It’s not much of a hindrance if my Master only learned zither skills, but my Grand-Master’s knowledge is simply too vast: zither, chess, calligraphy, painting, medicine, divination and astrology, arts and crafts, finance and commerce, plants and pottery, he knows everything, he mastered all of them. Originally, my Master only learned zither skills, but soon after he started to learn chess, and then calligraphy, and then painting. Everyone please think for a moment, all these skills require pain-staking effort and time. Initially Ding ChunQiu pretended to be interested and tried to learn all these skills, but after 10-15 days, he claimed his aptitude is low and he is too stupid, it’s difficult for him to learn; thus he focus solely on martial arts. After 8-10 years, their martial arts were at different levels.”

XuanNan nodded his head repeatedly, he said: “Learning zither or chess alone would require half a lifetime of effort and energy, although Mr. Intelligent is smart and talented, it’s difficult for him to undertake such tasks. Ding ChunQiu gave his undivided attention to martial arts, it’s not surprising that his martial arts would eventually surpass his senior martial brother.”

Kang GuangLing said: “5th brother, there is something even more important, why aren’t you telling them? Quickly tell them.”

Xue MuHua said: “Ding ChunQiu focused solely on martial arts, it should be a good thing, but...but.... ‘sigh’...if I narrate this matter, it would be really shameful for our sect. Ding ChunQiu took advantage of the fact that he was younger than Grand- Master by 20-30 years, he was also handsome and elegant; unexpectedly he seduced Grand Master’s lover. This matter really disgraced my Grand-Master, we were sympathetic and didn’t say anything, we pretended to be deaf and mute. To cut the long story short, Ding ChunQiu used various despicable tricks, he also mastered some extremely evil skills. Grand-Master tried to kill him in his fit of rage but Ding ChunQiu made the first move and managed to inflict serious injuries on my Grand-Master. Luckily, my Grand-Master possesses peerless skills, although he was backstabbed, he managed to resist until my Master arrive to save him. My Master’s martial arts were no match against that evil traitor, after a fierce battle my Master was injured and Grand-Master fell into deep ravine, his whereabouts unknown. My Master neglected his martial arts as he learned various miscellaneous skills, but these miscellaneous skills were not completely useless. In the midst of danger, my Master deployed his ‘Eight Divinatory Trigrams and Complex Metaphysical Art’, Ding ChunQiu’s sight and hearing were disturbed; both of them deadlocked in stalemate.”

“Ding ChunQiu was unable to break through the formation or kill my Master, moreover, he knew there were quite a few divine skills in the sect and Grand-Master did not impart these skills to either disciple. He expected Grand-Master to pass on the manuals of these divine skills to my Master and he would slowly coerce my Master to hand them over. Thus, he made a pact with my Master, as long as my Master remains silent and does not speak, he will not trouble him. At that time, my Master had the eight of us as his worthless disciples. My Master wrote a letter and expelled us, and from that point onwards he pretended to be deaf and mute, never speaking or hearing a word. His subsequent disciples and followers all had their eardrums pierced and tongues cut off- his sect became known as ‘Deaf-Mute Sect’. In my opinion, Master must have regretted getting distracted and learning all sorts of miscellaneous skills, his martial arts suffered and he fell short against Ding ChunQiu. Thus he became deaf and mute so that he would never get distracted and learn those miscellaneous skills.”

“The eight of us, other than learning martial arts, each one of us also picked up a unique miscellaneous skill. At that time, Ding ChunQiu had yet to revolt, my Master had yet to understand the ill-effects of being distracted, thus he did not forbid us to learn the miscellaneous skills. He even encouraged us and spent time to specially instructing us. Senior martial brother Kang GuangLing learned zither from him.”

Bao BuTong said: “He only knows how to play zither to cows, nobody understands.”

Kang GuangLing was furious: “My zither skill is poor? Come, I will play it for you now.” And he took out his jade zither and placed it horizontally on his kneecaps.

Xue MuHua quickly held out his hand to stop him, he pointed at the chessboard wielding person and said: “This is my 2nd brother Fan BaiLing, he learned the game of Go (Chess). He is one of the most skilled chess players around and rarely meets his match.”

Bao BuTong gave a glace at Fan BaiLing and said: “Its not surprising that you use chessboard as your weapon, but the chessboard is made of magnetic metal, it traps and takes away your opponent’s weapon, it’s a cheap trick, not the actions of upright gentleman.” 

Fan BaiLing said: “When playing chess, there are magnificent moments and orderly deployment of chess pieces, but there are also moments where you need to employ sly tactics and ambushes.”

Xue MuHua said: “The chessboard of 2nd brother Fan is made of magnetic metal; originally it was for his research in chess. When he is walking, sitting or sleeping, he will suddenly have inspirations and he will set up his chessboard to try out the moves. Since the chessboard is made of magnetic metal, when he puts the chess pieces on it, even if his travelling on horse, the chess pieces will never move or drop off. Afterwards, he found the chessboard to be quite convenient and hence made it as his weapon; the chess piece became his hidden projectile. He did not purposely make use of magnet to take advantage of his opponents.”

Although Bao BuTong was convinced, he still argued: “The reason is not justified, really not justified. Based on 2nd brother Fan’s skills, he can simply use a wooden chessboard and smack the metal chess piece into the board to embed it. Don’t tell me the chess piece will still drop off?”

Xue MuHua said: “Its still not as convenient as using a metal chessboard. My 3rd brother Gou, his name is Du, it represents his fondness in reading. The hundred schools of thought, he read them all; he is an extremely knowledgeable scholar. I think everyone must have witnessed it.”

Bao BuTong said: “His just a lowly scholar, not worth mentioning.” 

Gou Du was furious: “What? You call me a lowly scholar, don’t tell me you are a noble scholar?” 

Bao BuTong said: “I don’t deserve such praise, I don’t deserve such praise.”

Xue MuHua knew that if these two started debating, they wooldn’t stop even after three days and three nights; he quickly interrupted and changed the subject. He pointed at the judge's-pen wielding scholar and said: “This is my 4th brother, he is an expert in painting, landscape or people, animals or flowers, he can draw them exquisitely. His surname is Wu. Before he came under the tutelage of our Master, he was a general of Great Song and led the army, thus everyone called him Wu LingJun”

Bao BuTong said: “I am afraid he led the army to its defeat, as for his paintings, you can’t distinguish between human or ghost.” 

Wu LingJun said: “If you ask me to describe your face, it’s certainly hard to differentiate you from a ghost.” 

Bao BuTong burst out into loud laughter: “Buddy if you have time, can you please draw my face as an example, a ghost picture, it will be really wonderful.”

Xue MuHua laughed and said: “Brother Bao is handsome and elegant, why so modest? I am ranked number five, I learned medicine and medical procedures. I have some minor reputation in the martial arts fraternity, I still remember the martial arts taught by my Master.”

Bao BuTong said: “You can barely treat common cough and cold, as for my ‘Frost Poison’, you can’t do anything at all. You can’t treat any serious illness, anyone seeking treatment will just die. Hey hey, 
this title of ‘Divine Physician’, it surely is well deserved.”

Kang GuangLing smoothen his long sleeves, he looked askance and said: “Hey old fellow, your temper is really odd, you really stand out from the masses.” 

Bao BuTong said: “Haha, my surname is Bao, named BuTong, naturally I stand out from the masses (pun on his name).” 

Kang GuangLing laughed heartily: “Your surname is really Bao? Named BuTong?” 

Bao BuTong said: “How can my name be fake? En, this old fellow who specializes in making mechanism, your skilled in construction and industrial arts, you must be under the tutelage of Mr. Lu Ban (legendary Chinese craftsman)?”

Xue MuHua said: “Exactly as you stated, 6th brother Feng ASan, before joining the sect, he was already a skilled carpenter. After entering into our Master’s tutelage, he became even more skillful. 7th sister Shi is skilled in growing flowers, she has cultivated all sorts of exotic flowers and rare herbs, all of them flourishing.”

Deng BaiChuan said: “The drug which made me dizzy, Miss Shi must have gotten them from flower pollens, not poison.”

The pretty middle-aged woman was known as Shi QingFeng, she gave a faint smile: “I offended you just now, teacher Deng please forgive me.” 

Deng BaiChuan said: “I am even more impertinent, I exerted too much strength and injured you, Miss please forgive me.”

Xue MuHua pointed at the opera actor and said: “8th brother Li KuiLei, throughout his entire life he is addicted to acting opera. He is wild and unrestrained, as for martial arts, he inevitably neglected it due to his passion for opera. Alas, it is not only him; the eight of us all neglected our martial arts. The martial arts imparted by my Master, I will never 
be able to master it during my lifetime, but I was greedy and went around to learn other people’s unique moves, as a result… ‘sigh’ ...”

Li KuiLei was lying down on the floor, he said: “I am lonely Emperor Li CunXu, I don’t love my country but I love opera, ‘sigh’, well played, well played!”

Bao BuTong said: “I am lonely Emperor Li SiYuan, I overthrew and took over your country, I chop off your head.”

Bookworm Gou Du interrupted: “Li CunXu was killed by his own subordinate Guo CongQian, he did not die by Li SiYuan’s hands.”

Bao BuTong was not familiar with such matters. He knew he definitely couldn’t try to fake information and bluff Gou Du, he said: “Bah! So what if its Guo CongQian, ‘yawn’, I am Qin ShiHuang, I burn the books and bury alive the Confucian scholars. I specialize in dealing with lowly scholars.”

Xue MuHua said: “After the eight of us were expelled from the sect, we did not forget our Master’s benevolence and instructions. We called ourselves ‘Eight Friends of Hangu’ to commemorate the times when Master imparted the skills to us at Hangu Pass. Outsiders only know we share vile habits...” 

Bao BuTong sniffed a few times with his nose, he said: “Very smelly, very smelly!” 

Gou Du said: “The Book of Changes says: ‘The unanimous opinion of people, it is as strong as the smell of the orchid’. The smell is sweet fragrance, old man you really lack any knowledge.” 

Bao BuTong said: “You words are so fragrant that is smells like fart!”

Xue MuHua smiled and said: “No one knows that we came from the same sect and are fellow apprentices. To guard against the Old Freak of Xingxiu when he returns to the Central Plains, and to avoid letting him kill all of us in one fell swoop, we only meet once every two years. Normally we scatter all over the world and live apart.”

“Not long ago, Ding ChunQiu sent his disciple here, he ask me to treat a big belly monk. The one surnamed Xue has a weird temper, if someone wants medical treatment, he definitely has to ask me nicely. Moreover, the person who came to seek treatment is a disciple of Old Freak Ding, naturally I don’t want to treat this person. The person was unable to coerce me and left in a rage. I knew Old Freak Ding will come sooner or later, thus, I feigned my death and put deadly poison in the coffin, hoping that he would take the bait. My entire family, young and old, all hid in this underground cave.”

Bao BuTong said: “You want someone to ask you nicely when requesting treatment, how is this weird? The one surnamed Bao also has a weird temper, if someone wants to treat my illness, he has to ask me nicely and not pressure or 
coerce me, otherwise I will rather die of illness than let him treat it.”

Kang GuangLing burst into loud laughter: “You think you are some kind of rare treasure? People provide you with treatment and they still have to plead with you, unless... unless...” And he couldn’t think of a scenario.

Bao BuTong said: “Unless you are my son.” 

Kang GuanLing was startled and thought the words were pretty true. If a father had a son who refuses to see a doctor, he has to beg and plead persistently. He was a reasonable person, but he didn’t expect Bao BuTong to take advantage of him with wordplay. He said: “AiYo, I am not your son.” 

Bao BuTong said: “Only your mother knows whether your my son or not, how do you know your not?” 

Kang GuangLing was startled, he nodded his head and said: “Quite true.” 

Bao BuTong laughed and thought: “This person is really a big idiot, this will just be a one-sided contest if I continue to take advantage of him.”

Xue MuHua said: “There is too much coincidence, the eight of us are supposed to meet again after two years. My old servant mistook all of you as the enemy. The situation was urgent; he did not consult me and immediately set off the fireworks signal. The fireworks were made by my 6th brother; when set off, they illuminate the skies for several li. There are eight of us and each one has a unique firework signal. This matter is really fortunate and yet unfortunate. The fortunate thing is that the ‘Eight Friends of Hangu’ can assemble in times of danger to resist the enemy together. But the unfortunate thing is that the Old Freak of Xingxiu can solve his problem in one fell swoop and kill the eight of us.”

Bao BuTong said: “Even though the Old Freak of Xingxiu is highly skilled, he might not be superior to Master XuanNan from Shaolin. In addition, there are all of us, the minor troops. We will shout loudly to show our power and do our utmost and fight with them; we might not lose. There’s no need to be so... so... so...” As he said ‘so’ three times, his teeth started clattering with each other, his ‘Frost Poison’ had flared up and he could no longer talk.

Li KuiLei sang loudly: “I am Jing Ke who tried to assassinate Qin ShiHuang. Feng XiaoXiao contracted a cold, the brave warrior shivered and can’t speak!” 

Suddenly the shadow of a human flew up and rammed headfirst at Li KuiLei’s chest. Li KuiLei cried out ‘Aiyo’ and waved his arm to push the person away. The person grabbed onto him and they started fighting. The person was ‘Gust of Wind’ Feng BoE. Deng BaiChuan quickly said: “4th brother, don’t be rude!” and he extended his hands to pull Feng BoE away.

Deng Bai Chuan said: “Everyone is very frank, you did not conceal the truth; you are certainly a true friend. We are facing a powerful enemy, we don’t know if we will live or die. We of Gusu Murong will also tell you everything we know. Previously, our Old Master Murong discussed something with us. He said the Grand-Master of Ding ChunQiu practiced a skill called ‘Eternal Youth Never Ageing Skill’. Old Master Murong told us, this eternal youth and never ageing is a fake, everyone must die eventually. But with the correct cultivation of internal energy you can delay ageing, a 30-40 year old woman can appear as if she is 18-19 years old, a 50-60 year old married woman can make her skin radiant and flesh supple, her face snow-white and lips red, as if she is 20-30 years old. All women want to maintain their youthfulness, but aren’t men the same? Ding ChunQiu did not kill your Grand-Master, mostly likely he is trying to coerce him to impart this set of ‘Eternal Youth Skill’. Ding ChunQiu most probably tried to practice this skill but it’s not very effective and he is slowly showing signs of ageing. If he knows his ‘Eternal Youth Skill’ is losing its effectiveness he will mostly like come to Suzhou and try to search for a book.”

Gou Du said: “Look for book? This is strange, he should come and ask me.” Deng BaiChuan said: “Mr. Gou, although you are a scholar with great erudition, but the secrets to the ‘Eternal Youth Skill’ most probably can’t be found in the books you read. Ding ChunQiu seduced your Grand-Master’s lover; the two of them escaped to Suzhou and lived in seclusion in a village near Lake Tai. The large quantities of martial arst manuals which they stole are also hidden at Suzhou.”

XuanNan said: “If they want to look for book, then simply let them look.” 

Deng BaiChuan said: “We knew the ambition of Old Freak Ding is not small. If he purely wants to use that ‘Eternal Youth Skill’ to delay ageing, no matter how handsome he is, we will simply not look at his sickening face. But I am afraid his real intention is to strengthen his ‘Great Energy-Dissolving Skill’.” 

XuanNan trembled with fear, he said: “I want to ask Divine Physician Xue, the ‘Great Energy-Dissolving Skill’, how exactly does it work? Everyone in the martial arts fraternity all turn pale when they hear about this skill and they detest it bitterly.”

Xue MuHua said: “Its rumored that this demonic skill requires a lot of venomous fluid from poisonous snakes and bugs. This fluid will be absorbed into the palm; when fighting with an opponent, this deadly poison will be transferred to the other party. When we practice martial arts, our internal energy flows from the meridians channel. For example, the ‘Guankang’ acupoint is connected to the ‘Three Yin’ meridian, the ‘Dazhui’ acupoint is connected to the ‘Three Yang’ meridian of hands and feet. If these two acupoints come into contact with poison, the internal energy within these meridians would seem to disappear without a trace. Ordinary people spread lies and claim that Ding ChunQiu can dissolve internal energy. But in my opinion, since the internal energy is already cultivated it cannot be dissolved. Old Freak Ding sends his deadly poison into his opponent’s meridians channel and stops his opponent from exerting internal energy; the victim will assume that his internal energy is gone. It’s the same logic as contracting normal poison; the poison will spread to the brain and the victim will feel numbness in his hands and feet, but it doesn’t mean the muscle strength is dissolved. I invite Great Master to correct me if I am wrong.”

XuanNan nodded his head and said: “Divine Physician is correct, you cleared up all my doubts and suspicions.”

At this moment, a thin slender voice carried into the cave: “Disciples of Su 
XingHe, quickly come out and surrender, maybe I can still spare your life. If you still delay don’t blame me for disregarding Sect relations.”

Kang GuangLing was furious and cursed: “He really is shameless, still daring to talk about Sect relations!”

Feng ASan said to Xue MuHua: “5th brother, looking at the wood markings and stone quality, this cave has been around for 300 years. Which skilled workman made it?” 

Xue MuHua said: “This property is passed down by my ancestors, it is passed on from generation to generation. It can be used for refuge in times of danger, but I don’t know who constructed it...”

He did not complete his sentence as a loud exploding sound was heard, it was like earthquake; everyone felt the ground sway and vibrate, their footing unstable. Feng ASan expression turned pale, he said: “Not good! Old Freak Ding used explosives to forcibly blow open the entrance. He is going to attack soon!”

Kang GuangLing was furious: “Despicable to the extreme, shameless. Our Grand-Master and Master are skilled in building and crafting, mechanisms and traps are our Sect’s specialty. Old Freak of Xingxiu did not even invest effort to try and unravel the mechanism; he simply used explosives and blew everything to bits. How can he be considered a disciple of our Sect?” 

Bao BuTong shivered and said: “He killed his Master, injured his fellow martial brother, you still consider him as your martial uncle?” 

Kang GuangLing said: “This...”

Suddenly there was another loud explosion, the dust in the cavern flew about and irritated everyone’s eyes. The cave was sealed off and did not allow airflow. After this explosion, a draft of fresh air surged in; everyone felt their eardrums ache.

XuanNan said: “Rather than allow him to blow open this cave and attack in, we will be better off going out and attack him.” Deng BaiChuan, GongYe Gan, Bao BuTong and Feng BoE all agreed in unison.

Fan BaiLing knew XuanNan was an eminent senior monk from Shaolin, asking him to hide in a cave to avoid the enemy wass really a disgrace to the fame of Shaolin. Since this battle was unavoidable he said: “If that’s the case let us all go out together, we will risk our lives and fight that Old Freak.”

Xue MuHua said: “Great Master XuanNan you don’t have any enmity with this Old Freak, its best that you don’t get involvesd and stand aside and watch.” 

XuanNan said: “Shaolin will interfere in all matters related to martial arts in the Central Plains. You lot have to forgive me for interfering. Moreover, my martial brother XuanTong’s death is due to the poison of the disciple of Xingxiu, thus Shaolin has deep enmity with Xingxiu Sect.”

Feng ASan said: “Great Master is willing to help us, your sense of justice, we fellow apprentices are extremely grateful. Let us go out by the original path and surprise that Old Freak.” Everyone nodded their head and agreed.

Feng ASan said: “The family of 5th brother Xue, Mr. Bao and Mr. Feng can stay in this cave, I don’t think the Old Freak will come in and search.” 

Bao BuTong gave him a glance and said: “Its better that you stay here.” 

Feng ASan quickly said: “I don’t dare to look down on you two, but both of you carry serious injuries, it is not convenient for you to fight.” 

Bao BuTong said: “The heavier the injury, when we start fighting the more energy we have!” Fan BaiLing and the rest all shook their head; this person was really impervious to reason. Feng ASan operated the cave motor.

In the midst of operating the motor, three cannon shots rang out, ‘Peng’ ‘Peng’ ‘Peng’ they exploded and white smoke pervade the area. After the cannon fired, the stone slab finally move away, revealing a hole big enough for a person to pass; Feng ASan quickly crawl out.

Feng ASan had yet to stand up when a black figure emerge from the white smoke, the figure moved past him and rushed out towards a crowd of people outside and shouted: “Which one of you is Old Freak of Xingxiu, the one surnamed Feng will fight with you.” The person is ‘Gust of Wind’ Feng BoE.

He saw a man standing in front, his wearing hemp clothes, Feng BoE shouted loudly: “Eat my fist!” ‘Peng’ his fist already hit the person’s chest. The person was the 9th disciple of Xingxiu Sect, his body swayed and Feng BoE's second fist hit him on his shoulder. Chopping and slapping sound rang out endlessly, Feng BoE executed his moves quickly. It seemed all his fists and palms landed on his opponent’s body, but he was devoid of strength after contracting the poison, he could not topple the Xingxiu disciple. XuanNan, Deng BaiChuan, Kang GuangLing and Xue MuHua all came out of the cave.

They saw a tall and large old man standing at the southwest corner, to his left and right is one short man and one tall man, the iron-head man is one of them. Kang GuangLing shouted: “Old Traitor Ding, you still not dead yet? Remember me?”

The tall and big old man is the Old Freak of Xingxiu Ding ChunQiu. When he captured HuiJing he wanted to force him to look for the Frost Silkworm, but he found that the monk was extremely sick. He quickly searched for Xue MuHua to ask him to provide treatment. Xue MuHua tried to fake death but eventually he still couldn’t escape Ding ChunQiu. Ding ChunQiu gave a quick glance and recognize all his opponents, his waved his feathered fan and said: “Nephew MuHua, if you can cure that fat Shaolin monk, I will spare you life, but you have to take me as your Master and join Xingxiu Sect.” Originally he just wanted Xue MuHua to cure monk HuiJing and he would bring them to Kunlun Mountain to catch the Frost Silkworm, but afterwards he wanted to recruit Xue MuHua so that both of them could research the secrets to the ‘Eternal Youth Never Ageing Skill’.

Xue MuHua listened to his tone and expression. Ding ChunQiu disregarded all the opponents before him, he seemed confident of controlling everyone’s life and death and doing as he pleased. Xue MuHua knew his martial uncle was very powerful, he felt really scared. He said: “Old Traitor Ding, I only listen to the orders of one person, whoever he asks me to treat I will do it. It’s easy for you to kill me, but to treat someone, you will have to go beg that person.”

Ding ChunQiu said coldly: “You only listen to orders from Su XingHe correct?”

Xue MuHua said: “Only scoundrels who are worse than beasts would dare to deceive and exterminate their Master.” As he said this, Kang GuangLing, Fan BaiLing and Li KuiLei all cheered.

Ding ChunQiu said: “Very good, all of you are obedient disciples of Su XingHe, but Su XingHe already sent someone to inform me that he had long since expelled the eight of you; you people are not longer his disciples. Don’t me tell that the one surnamed Su lied and secretly maintained this Master and disciple relationship?”

Fan BaiLing said: “Master for a day, father for an entire life. Master did expel the eight of us. All these years we never saw him at all, when we dropped by to 
pay our respects he refused to see us. But our love and respect for our Master has never decreased at all. The one surnamed Ding, you are the reason why the eight of us became lonely souls and wandering ghosts, with no Sect to depend on.”

Ding ChunQiu smiled and said: “You words are quite true. Su XingHe was afraid that I would kill all of you. He expelled the eight of you to preserve your insignificant lives. He is not willingly to pierce your eardrums or cut off your tongues. He really has deep feelings for you people, humph, what great things can he achieve by being so indecisive and fainthearted? Hey, very good, all of you tell me, you still consider Su XingHe as your Master?”

When Kang GuangLing and the rest heard his words, they knew that if they claimed that they were still ‘Disciples of Su XingHe’, Ding ChunQiu would immediately kill them, but the relationship between Master and disciple is deep, how can they be cowardly and betray their Master. Out of the eight, only Shi QingFeng was seriously injured and had to stay behind in the cave, the seven of them shouted in unison: “Although we are expelled, but the relationship between Master and disciple is eternal and will never change.”

Li KuiLei suddenly shouted: “I am the mother of Old Freak of Xingxiu, I had an affair with the dog of ErLang Shen and gave birth to this little bastard. I will break your dog leg!” He imitated the accent of an old lady and then he barked three times like a dog.

Kang GuangLing, Bao BuTong and the rest all laughed wildly.

Ding ChunQiu was in a towering rage; his eyes gave off a peculiar radiance. He flicked his left sleeve, a stream of oily green flame shot towards Li KuiLei; it was even faster than a shooting star. Li KuiLei had already suffered a broken leg, he was holding onto a wooden crutch and 
couldn’t move freely. He wanted to dodge the flame but how could he do it in time, there was a ‘Chi’ sound and his clothes ignited. He quickly lay on the ground and rolled, but as he rolled the flame became even fiercer. Fan BaiLing quickly grabbed some mud off the ground and sprayed it on his body.

‘Meteor-flame’ shot out from Ding ChunQiu’s sleeves in quick succession, it went towards Kang GuangLing and the other four, only Xue MuHua was spared. Kang GuangLing pushed out with both palms and shocked the flame away. XuanNan waved both his palms and cleaved the two flames. But Feng ASan and Fan BaiLing got hit and their clothes ignited. Immediately, the two of them along with Li KuiLei got burnt and cried out in pain.

The numerous disciples of Ding ChunQiu praised: “Master only displays his little trick and you all turn into roasted pigs, quickly surrender now!”

“Master has the ability to shift the heaven 
and split the ground, no one has ever done it before him and no one will be able to replicate it in the future. All you pigs and dogs really get to see the power of Xingxiu Sect today.”

“Master triumphs in every battle and wins every fight, he is the hero of ancient and modern times, be swept away by his might and power!”

Bao BuTong shouted loudly: “Bullshit! Bullshit! Aiyo, this is so corny! Old Thief Ding, you are really thick-skinned!”

Bao BuTong just barely finished speaking when two ‘meteor-flames’ swiftly came at him. Deng BaiChuan and GongYe Gan both sent out a palm and deflected the flames, but both of them felt as if a giant hammer smashed their chest, they groaned and quickly took three steps back. Ding ChunQiu used his powerful internal energy to send out the ‘meteor-flame’, XuanNan and Kang GuangLing had high internal energy and they did not 
suffer any injury when they deflected the flame. Deng BaiChuan and GongYe Gan were not at the same level and they could not withstand it.

XuanNan moved towards Li KuiLei and waved his palm. The palm force brushed across his body, there was a ‘Chi’ sound and his clothes were ripped apart by the palm force; large portions of clothes tore off, the remaining flames that continued to burn were extinguished by the palm wind.

A disciple of Xingxiu Sect called out: “The palm force of this bald donkey is not too weak, it’s around 10% of my Master’s level.” Another disciple said: “Pei, its only around 1%!”

XuanNan sent out another two palms and extinguished the flames on Fan BaiLing and Feng ASan. At this moment, Deng BaiChuan, GongYe Gan, Kang GuangLing and the rest had thrown themselves into the crowd and attacked the disciples of Xingxiu Sect.

Ding ChunQiu stroked his long beard and said: “Senior monk from Shaolin is indeed extraordinary, little brother will ask you for advice today.” As he finished speaking he took a step forward, his left palm floated lightly towards XuanNan. He considered himself to be a young man; he did not call himself ‘old man’ but ‘little brother’.

XuanNan knew Old Freak Ding had deadly poison covering his entire body, he was also proficient in ‘Great Energy-Dissolving Skill’, thus he dared not be complacent. Both his palm danced about, immediately he sent out 18 palm strikes at Ding ChunQiu. These 18 palm strikes came out consecutively in a chain, his left palm had yet to withdraw but his right palm already struck out; it was incomparably fast. He did not give Ding ChunQiu any time to use his poison. This was Shaolin’s ‘Quick Palm’, it was indeed strong and formidable as Ding ChunQiu was forced to retreat continuously. XuanNan sent out 18 palms and Ding ChunQiu retreated 18 steps. After completing 18 palm strikes, both his legs flew up consecutively in a chain, it was incomparably fast and he kicked out 36 times. The shadow of his leg flashed, nobody could tell whether he kicked out with his left or right leg. Ding ChunQiu moved his body and quickly sidestepped, he avoided the 36 kicks, but he heard two slapping sounds, his shoulder was hit by two fists. It seemed when XuanNan was on his last two kicks he sent out both his fists. Ding ChunQiu avoided the kicks but he couldn’t avoid the fists. Ding ChunQiu said: “Very powerful!” His body swayed twice.

But XuanNan felt a burst of dizziness, immediately he felt distracted and empty. He knew his situation was not good, Ding ChunQiu’s clothes were covered with deadly poison. When his fists hit Ding ChunQiu’s shoulder he contracted the poison. At once he exhaled his breath, the air within his body circulated and he sent out his left fist at Ding ChunQiu.

Ding ChunQiu waved his right fist to block the incoming fist, immediately after, he violently struck out with his left fist. After contracting the poison, XuanNan could not turn his body effectively, it was difficult for him to dodge the attack. He could only stick out his right fist to counter the force. In this situation, they were competing their inner strength, XuanNan was secretly alarmed: “I cannot compete internal energy with him!” But if he does not exert any internal energy, his opponent’s energy would come crashing in and his inner organs would immediately shatter. He knew he had fallen into a trap, but there was no other choice and he channeled his internal energy to resist. As he channel his internal energy, he felt his energy scatter and disappear into thin air, he could not gather his internal energy, as he heard the explanation from Xue MuHua before he knew his meridian was poisoned.

Ding ChunQiu laughed out loudly, he shrugged his shoulder, there was a slapping sound and XuanNan collapsed onto the ground. 

After beating XuanNan, Ding ChunQiu surveyed his surroundings, GongYe Gan and Fan BaiLing had collapsed and they kept shivering, they were beaten by You TanZhi’s ‘Frost Poison’ palm. Deng BaiChuan, Xue MuHua and the rest were still fighting fiercely with his disciples; from his Xingxiu Sect he had around seven disciples either dead or injured.

Ding ChunQiu gave a long laugh, his big sleeves fluttered in the air and he pounced towards the back of Deng BaiChuan and sent one palm at him. He turned around and gave a kick, Bao BuTong collapsed from the kick. Deng BaiChuan sent out his palm to meet his opponent’s palm, immediately he felt his chest was empty; as he was about to inhale and concentrate, Ding ChunQiu sent another palm at him. Deng ChunQiu could only grudgingly send out another palm to meet him. He felt a slight cooling sensation on his palm, his entire body felt soft and devoid of strength; he was in a daze and all he saw was white fog. A Xingxiu disciple came over and bumped Deng BaiChuan with his arm, Deng BaiChuan collapsed onto the ground.

In a short period of time, all the subordinates of Murong family, XuanNan and the rest of the Shaolin monks, Kang GuangLing and the rest of ‘Eight Friends of Hangu’, all of them were defeated by Ding ChunQiu and You TanZhi. You TanZhi had extremely deep and profound internal energy, but his martial arts were mediocre and weak. After a few days of guidance under Ding ChunQiu he learned 7-8 palm moves, although his martial arts were still weak compared to common fighters, but along with the ‘Frost Poison’ accumulated in his body, his power was formidable and extraordinary. When GongYe Gan attacked You TanZhi with his palm, he hit him on the first strike, but he got counter-attacked by the ‘Frost Poison’ and ended up injured.

The only person who did not sustain any injury was Xue MuHua, he attacked numerously times but the Xingxiu disciples only sniggered and ran away from him, they did not fight back at all.

Ding ChunQiu smile and said: “Nephew Xue, your martial arts are much higher than your fellow apprentices, amazing!”

Xue MuHua saw his fellow martial brothers collapsing one by one, only he was left unscathed, obviously Ding ChunQiu was being lenient and let him off. He gave a long sigh and said: “Old Traitor Ding, the external injuries of that fat monk are easy to treat but his internal injuries are difficult. He can’t live for more than a few days, you want to force me to cure him, dream on!”

Ding ChunQiu wave his hand and beckon him: “Nephew Xue, come over here!”

Xue MuHua said: “Kill me if you want, I won’t listen to what you say.”

Li KuiLei shouted: “5th brother Xue’s devotion to righteousness inspires reverence. You are Su Wu, exiled for 19 years and remained loyal to the Han.”

Ding ChunQiu gave a slight smile, he stood three steps away from Xue MuHua, lightly resting his left palm on his shoulder, he smile and asked: “Nephew Xue, how long have you been learning martial arts?” 

Xue MuHua said: “45 years.” 

Ding ChunQiu said: “Practicing day and night for 45 years, it’s really not easy. I heard you provide medical treatment in exchange for martial arts, you must have learnt numerous exquisite moves from various school and sect, correct?” 

Xue MuHua said: “I learned all these moves to kill you, but.... but no matter how exquisite it is, it’s completely useless against your sorcery...alas!” He shook his head and gave a deep sigh.

Ding ChunQiu said: “Not necessarily! Internal energy is the root, martial arts moves are the branch and leaf. If the root is solid and strong the branch and leaf will naturally flourish, it doesn’t mean martial arts moves are useless. If you join my sect, I can impart to you a matchless internal energy cultivation method. Afterwards it will be easy for you to dominate the Central Plains.”

Xue MuHua was furious: “I have my own Master, you ask Xue MuHua to join your sect, I would rather bang my head and die!”

Ding ChunQiu smile and said: “You need energy and strength to bang your head till death. If you lose all your internal energy, you will have difficulty walking, why the need to talk about banging your head? 45 years of hard work, hei hei, what a pity, what a pity.”

Sweat stream down endlessly from his forehead when he heard this, Xue MuHua felt the hand on his shoulder gradually warm up, Ding ChunQiu only need to will it and his ‘Great Energy-Dissolving Skill’ would come forth, 45 years of hard work would immediately vanish and disappear without a trace, he clenched his teeth and said: “You are heartless enough to kill your own Master, martial brother and now the eight of us, do you even care? Its a pity if I lose 45 years of hard work, but I will die anyway, why do I care about hard work or not?”

Bao BuTong cheered: “Well said, you have moral backbone and integrity. Does Xingxiu sect have such a hero?”

Ding ChunQiu said: “Nephew Xue, I won’t kill you now, but I will ask you eight times: ‘Will you treat that fat monk?’ If you reply that you won’t treat him, I will kill your senior elder brother Kang GuangLing. The 2nd time you reply that you won’t treat him, I will kill your 2nd brother Fan BaiLing. You martial sister, the one that knows how to cultivate flowers, where is she hiding? I will eventually find her. The 6th time you reply that you won’t treat him, I will kill that pretty martial sister of yours. The 7th time, I will kill your 8th brother Li KuiLei. If I ask the 8th time and you still refuse to treat him, make a guess, who will I kill?”

Xue MuHua heard him narrate his ruthless method, he turned pale and trembled: “At that time you will kill me, no big deal. All eight of us will just die together.”

Ding ChunQiu smiled and said: “There is no hurry to kill you, the 8th time you reply that you won’t treat, I will go kill ‘Mr. Intelligent’ Su XingHe.” 

Xue MuHua shouted loudly: “Old Traitor Ding, you dare touch a single hair on my Master!”

Ding ChunQiu smiled and said: “Why not? The Divine Elder of Xingxiu always operates alone. The words I said today, I might forget them tomorrow. Although I had an agreement with Su XingHe as long as he remains mute I won’t kill him, but you dare offend me and make me angry, the mistakes made by a disciple would naturally be borne by the Master. If I wish to kill him, who can stop me?”

Xue MuHua’s mind was in a mess. He knew this old traitor was coercing him to treat HuiJing, his purpose must be very sinister. If he agreed to treat him he would be aiding a tyrant, but if he refused to treat, the lives of his fellow martial brothers and sister would be lost, even their master Mr. Intelligent would die for sure. He muttered to himself for a long time and finally said: “Fine, I will yield, but after treating that fat monk you must not trouble all my friends, martial brothers and sister and my Master.”

Ding ChunQiu was overjoyed, he quickly said: “Sure, sure! I promise to spare their dog lives.”

Deng BaiChuan said: “The honorable gentleman fell into the evil scheme of a treacherous villain, he deserves to die. who needs you to show mercy?” Originally his voice was strong and bright, but his internal energy had dissipated, although he was indignant, his voice inevitably became breathless and devoid of strength. Bao BuTong shouted: “Xue MuHua, don’t fall into his trap, this swindler admitted it himself, his words cannot be trusted.”

Xue MuHua said: “Correct, you said it before: ‘the words I said today, I might forget them tomorrow’.”

Ding ChunQiu said: “Nephew Xue, my first question is: ‘Will you treat that fat monk?’” As he finish he extended his right leg and targeted the temple of Kang GuangLing. Obviously if Xue MuHua replied ‘won’t treat’ he would immediately strike out and kill Kang GuangLing. Everyone felt their heart thumping around madly, suddenly someone shouted: “Won’t treat!”

The one that shouted ‘won’t treat’ is not Xue MuHua, but Kang GuangLing.

Ding ChunQiu sneered: “You want me to kick out and end your life, not so easy.” He turned towards Xue MuHua and asked: “Do you want to act as my proxy and kill your own senior martial brother?”

Xue MuHua sighed and said: “Forget it! 
Forget it! I promise to treat that fat monk.”

Kang GuangLing cursed: “5th brother Xue, how can you be so useless. This Old Traitor Ding is the enemy of our Sect. How can you be so cowardly and afraid of death, you actually yield to his threats?”

Xue MuHua said: “Its no big deal if he kills the eight of us! But didn’t you listen, this old traitor wants to trouble our master!”

When they thought about the safety of their master, Kang GuangLing and the rest became speechless.

Bao BuTong said: “Co...” he wanted to scold ‘Coward’, but before he could finish Deng BaiChuan extended his hand and covered his mouth. Bao BuTong revered this elder brother, he yield to him 50% of the time, thus he endured his anger and swallowed his words.

Xue MuHua said: “The one surname Ding, since I yield to you and agreed to treat that monk, you have to be polite to my friends here.” 

Ding ChunQiu said: “I will comply with everything you say.”

Immediately Ding ChunQiu ordered his disciples to carry HuiJing over. Xue MuHua asked HuiJing: “You interacted with an extremely powerful poison object for long period of time, thus the ‘Frost Poison’ penetrated deep into your inner organs, what is that poison object?” 

HuiJing said: “Its the Frost Silkworm from Kunlun Mountain.” Xue MuHua shook his head and did not probe further. He carried out acupuncture and moxibustion, he also took out two crimson pills and fed them to him. Afterwards he treated the rest of the people, mended their bones and treated their injuries. This went on until dawn and finally everyone got treated. The injured lay on beds or wooden door boards. The family members of Xue MuHua came out and made noodles for everyone to eat.

Ding ChunQiu ate two bowls of noodles. He smiled at Xue MuHua and said: “You really adapt well to circumstances, you didn’t poison the noodles.” 

Xue MuHua said: “Speaking of poison, there is no one better than you. Although I have the intention but I dare not display my lowly skills in front of an expert.”

Ding ChunQiu loudly laughed and said: “Ask your family members to go out and hire ten donkey carriages.” 

Xue MuHua said: “You need 10 donkey carriages for what?” 

Ding ChunQiu rolled his eyes and said coldly: “I need to inform you of my own business? Divine Physician Xue must be quite popular with the residents here, it won’t be difficult to hire ten donkey carriages.” Xue MuHua was helpless and could only order his family members to go out and hire the carriages.

It was afternoon when the ten donkey carriages arrived. Ding ChunQiu said: “Kill all the carriage drivers!” 

Xue MuHua was shocked and said: “What?” But he saw the palms of the disciples of XingXiu flying around, heard a few slapping sounds and the ten dead bodies of the drivers lay on the ground. Xue MuHua was furious: “Old Traitor Ding! How did the drivers offend you? You... you... go so far as to kill them?”

Ding ChunQiu said: “My Xingxiu Sect wants to kill a few people, why the need to discuss about right or wrong, reason or justification? All of you enter the carriages now, no one stays behind! Nephew Xue, if you have any medical books or drugs bring them along with you, I am going to burn down you house.”

Xue MuHua had another huge shock, but this person commits all sorts of evil misdeeds imaginable; it was a waste of time to debate with him. He had thoroughly memorize all the medical books, but all those pills, ointments and pellets that he had painstakingly concocted, he cursed endlessly and start gathering the medical herbs and drugs. He had yet to finish packing when the Xingxiu disciples set a fire at the back of his house.

Shaolin monk HuiFang originally received orders from XuanNan, he had to escape and deliver news to Shaolin Temple, but Ding ChunQiu was strict and kept a tight surveillance. He did not escape far and eventually got captured back. XuanNan and six monks from Shaolin, the four subordinates from Gusu Murong’s family, the Eight Friends of Hangu, except for 
Xue MuHua, all of them were injured. Some had their internal energy sealed or injured by Ding ChunQiu’s palm, some got hit by You TanZhi’s ‘Frost Poison’ and the rest got hit by deadly poison from Xingxiu disciples; all of them were unable to move a single step. In addition, the family members of Xue MuHua were brought along as well and packed into the ten carriages. Some of the Xingxiu disciples became carriage drivers, some escorted the carriages. The curtains in the carriages were pulled down and tied with ropes, there was no light at all in the carriages and they could not see the view outside.

XuanNan and the rest had the same question: “This old traitor, where is he bringing us to?” They knew that if they start inquiring they would get insulted and humiliated by the Xingxiu disciples, they definitely won’t get any answer. They thought it in their heart: “We can only be patient for now, we will know when the time comes.

- End of Chapter 30 -

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