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Demi Gods & Semi Devils Book 4
XIV - Take a step back and ponder, when would the delusion end?
Chinese title: 天龍八部 - 却试问 几时把痴心断Original novel written by Jin Yong (Louis Cha)
Wuxia Novel Fan Translation by darksinz
Chapter 40: Testing When To Cut The Threads Of Infatuation
Jiumozhi knew that fighting against this little monk would just be a one-sided battle; it would be laughable if he did not win. However since the circumstances were such he could not avoid the fight. At once he waved his palms and launched his attack, his palm wind contained a light fluttering sound, his posture and technique is precisely the first-class martial arts of ‘Prajna Palm’.
‘Skanda Palm’ is the basic foundation martial arts of Shaolin. When a Shaolin disciple formally become an apprentice to a master, they would first learn ‘Luohan Fists’ followed by ‘Skanda Palm’. Nevertheless ‘Prajna Palm’ is one of the most obscure martial arts, practitioners have to abide the sequence strictly and progress from ‘Skanda Palm’ to ‘Prajna Palm’; this would normally require 30 to 40 years of effort. ‘Prajna Palm’ is one of the 72 Ultimate Techniques of Shaolin. Practitioners can train in this skill perpetually and their palm strength would be increasingly stronger as they train, their palm moves becoming more pure. It can be said there is no end to learning, eventually they would reach the last palm move ‘The Bottom of Emptiness’. Ever since the creation of ‘Prajna Palm’, of all the senior monks in Shaolin who trained in this skill, very few managed to master the last move. Throughout Shaolin's history, there had never been a case of using ‘Skanda Palm’ to exchange blows with ‘Prajna Palm’. Both skills are at the extreme of martial arts, one is deep and mystical, the other shallow and crude. Senior monks who mastered ‘Prajna Palm’ would never fight with junior monks who only knew ‘Skanda Palm’. Even for sparing among master and disciple, if the master used ‘Prajna Palm’, then the disciple would have to use ‘Dharma Palm’, ‘Snow Mountain Palm’ or ‘Thousand Hands of Rulai’ to trade moves.
XuZhu saw the incoming palm move, he slanted his body to avoid and pushed out with both palms. It was a move from ‘Skanda Palm’ known as ‘The Way to Protect Monastery Gate’, the move is mediocre, however the power behind it is vigorous and forceful.
Jiumozhi spun his body, his sleeves revolved and he executed ‘Mendicant Palm’. XuZhu slanted his body to avoid. Jiumozhi had anticipated XuZhu's dodging position, so he already launched his ‘Vajra Fists’; with a 'Peng' sound he hit XuZhu's shoulder. XuZhu’staggered and retreated two steps. Jiumozhi laughed and said: "Little monk are you convinced?" He presumed he had shattered XuZhu's shoulder bone with that fist. Unexpectedly XuZhu was protected by “Pure Energy of Northern Darkness’, however he still felt his shoulder aching. He straightened his body, his palm moving from left to right and executed the move "Ganges River Flowing To Sea", both palms carried torrents of energy; it was akin to a widespread flood.
Jiumozhi saw his fist had no effect on XuZhu. Moreover when XuZhu's palm move arrived its power was profound and heavy, he could not help but be startled. He raised his palm to block, his body also followed, both his legs kicked out repeatedly. In a split second he had kicked six times, every move landed on XuZhu's solar plexus. It was precisely one of the 72 Ultimate Techniques of Shaolin, ‘Shadowing Kick’; as one leg kicks out, the second leg will arrive with the shadow, the second kick will take shape from the shadow, the third kick will follow the shadow again and arrive as well, only until the 6th kick did XuZhu have time to shift his body to avoid.
Jiumozhi did not allow him to rest, he launched two fingers in succession. There was a 'Chi Chi' sound, it was ‘Tara Finger’. XuZhu initiated a bow-drawing stance and countered with his fists. It was a move from ‘Luohan Fists’ known as 'Black Tiger Stealing Heart'. This fist technique is extremely shallow and superficial, however when powered by ‘Minor Formless Skill’, unexpectedly it neutralized ‘Tara Finger’s’ rock shattering finger force and stopped it midway.
Jiumozhi had the intention to show off. After launching ‘Tara Finger’ he immediately switched moves and made a cutting move with his arm, although he was empty-handed but the technique was ‘Wood Burning Saber Skill’. To master this set of saber skill the practitioner had to chop 81 times at a dry piece of wood swiftly. The saber edge should not damage the wood at all, however the heat emitted by the saber must ignite the wood and set it on fire. Xiao Feng's teacher Master XuanKu was an expert in this skill. After XuanKu passed away, no one in the temple was capable of such skill. ‘Wood Burning Saber Skill’ was meant to be used with a single saber, it was completely different from the void palm force of Jiumozhi's ‘Blazing Saber Skill’ which he employed in TianLong Monastery. Currently Jiumozhi was using his palm like the saber edge. He chopped and hacked fiercely, the technique and move was entirely Shaolin's martial art. As his saber chop landed, there was a 'Bo' sound, XuZhu's right arm was hit. XuZhu shouted out: "Very fast!" He sent out his right fist; as his fist arrived midway his right arm was hit by another saber move. Jiumozhi poured his internal energy into the palm. The palm chop was no different from a steel blade, it can slice or break an arm. Unexpectedly XuZhu was completely unharmed even after sustaining two saber chops, on the contrary Jiumozhi felt pain from his palm.
Jiumozhi was startled, thoughts ran through his mind: "Even if this little monk mastered ‘Golden Bell Shade’ or ‘Iron Garment Skill’, there is no way he can resist my heavy palm move, what is the reason? Ah, yes, he must be wearing some precious protective vest." As he thought of it, he immediately focused his attacks on XuZhu's face and head. ‘Unfix Great Wisdom Finger’, ‘Ridding Worry Finger’, ‘Nirvana Claw’, ‘Indra Claw’, he execute six to seven of Shaolin's Divine Skills in succession, all of them targeting XuZhu's eyes or throat.
Under the high-speed attacks from Jiumozhi, XuZhu was at a loss on how to resist. He could only move back and retreat. He couldn't even use his ‘Skanda Palm’ anymore. He punched out repeatedly, all of them the same move, 'Black Tiger Stealing Heart'. Every punch forced Jiumozhi to move back a half chi. Thus due to this half chi, all different kinds of marvelous techniques and moves executed by Jiumozhi were rendered useless as they could not reach XuZhu's body.
In a short period of time Jiumozhi executes another six different moves of Shaolin's Ultimate Techniques. The crowd of Shaolin monks were dazzled by the display, they thought: "He claims to have mastered all 72 Ultimate Techniques of Shaolin. He might not necessarily know all 72 skills, but it seems he knows at least 30 to 40 of them." Nevertheless XuZhu only countered with ‘Luohan Fists’, under the lightning fast attacks of Jiumozhi he had no chance to switch moves. XuZhu executed the move 'Black Tiger Stealing Heart' and another 'Black Tiger Stealing Heart', again and again he only relied on the move 'Black Tiger Stealing Heart'. This fist technique is awkward and clumsy, even a common martial arts practitioner would inevitably laugh out loud. However the inner strength within 'Black Tiger Stealing Heart' kept increasing continuously, the distance between both of them gradually grew further. Jiumozhi's finger and claw moves were 1 chi away from XuZhu.
Suddenly Jiumozhi lowered his right palm, he flipped his palm and slapped XuZhu's wrist. XuZhu's right arm arrived horizontally, Jiumozhi's palm interlinked with XuZhu's wrist. Unexpectedly Jiumozhi felt a severe shock in his arm, immediately after his arm ached and felt numb. He quickly channeled ‘Minor Formless Skill’ to resist, unexpectedly it was neutralized by the opposing ‘Minor Formless Skill’ contained within the ‘Arm Sealing Acupoints’ technique. Jiumozhi shock was really no small matter, he burst out in cold sweats. He recalled the past events at Suzhou's Mantuo Manor: that day Jiumozhi captured Duan Yu and arrived at Jiangnan, he wanted to learn “Six Meridians Divine Sword” of Dali's Duan family as well as pry into the martial arts collections within Murong family's ‘Water Pavilion of Bestowal and Repayment’. Ah Zhu and Ah Bi arranged a feast and entertained Jiumozhi, Duan Yu, Guo Yanzhi and Cui BaiQuan. Ah Bi played a zither in the Water Pavilion and the floor suddenly flipped over; Duan Yu, Ah Zhu and Ah Bi dropped onto a small boat underneath the Water Pavilion. The three of them rowed the boat and escaped quickly. Jiumozhi did not know how to row a boat and was unable to catch up with them. In his rage he coerced a servant of the Murong family to guide him to Canhe Manor, however the servant did not succumb and refused to guide him. Jiumozhi knew Canhe Manor was constructed in the deepest part of Lake Tai's cloudy waters; lotus and water caltrops move irregularly, it is extremely difficult to locate. He hatched a plan and captured an official in Suzhou's capital town. He pressed a steel saber at the official's neck and forced him to lead the way. With a steel saber at his neck, the official obediently guided Jiumozhi. Jiumozhi gave him ten silvers and ordered him to leave. He disembarked and hid within the underbrush. He waited until midnight before entering the manor.
Sure enough, the Manor's owner was not in. He went to the study room and began searching, however he only found “The Thirteen Confucian Classics”, “Annals of Palace Origins”, “Integrated Classics of Sages” and various scholarly books; it was not what he wanted. In the afternoon of the 2nd day, he saw a big boat arriving. The owner of the boat was a good-looking upper-class lady, she led ten sword bearing maids and charged aggressively into the Manor. When the Manor servants saw her they addressed her as "maternal uncle's wife". The boat men and male workers all address her as "Madam Wang". He heard Madam Wang asking: "Where is my young lady? Ask her to come out quickly!" "Where is Ah Zhu and Ah Bi, those two crafty servants, damn where did they go?" She instructed the maids under her: "Quickly go seize Ah Zhu and Ah Bi, chop off their right hand first before interrogating them." She ask again: "Has your young master returned? Is he together with our young miss?" She did not wait for a reply and started slapping people heavily, no matter male servants or maids, she simply slap anyone she come across. Jiumozhi saw her martial arts were not very good, but they were more than sufficient to deal with the bunch of servants.
Jiumozhi expected she would use the boat to return after her search, thus he thought of hitching along and return back to dry land. He quietly strolled to the boat side, when no one was around he leaped lightly and landed on the boat's rear; he hid himself in a corner. Sure enough, no more than two hours later, Madam Wang led her maids into the boat and sailed to the middle of the lake. Madam Wang did not find her person. She slapped the desk and knocked the stools, swore and cursed in anger, nobody dare to talk to her.
The big boat sailed for a couple of hours and anchored at a pier outside the Water Manor. Jiumozhi waited for the sky to turn dark before entering the Manor. It is difficult to search for things in the darkness. Just before the lake he saw an exquisite small house. He listen attentively, there was no one in the house, so he went up the second floor, he pushed the window lightly and jumped into the room. The interior was pitch-black, there was no light at all. He found an uninhabited room and slept on the floor.
While sleeping, he suddenly heard a rustling noise downstairs, someone stepped on some dry grass. Jiumozhi woke up and peered out through a small crack in the window frame. He heard light footsteps, someone was going upstairs. This person stepped on the stairs with gentle force, it was almost noiseless; it went to show his brilliant inner power. Jiumozhi don't dare to make any noise. He saw a flame torch. The person's footsteps were strangely quick, in an instant he entered the neighboring room. The person used the torch to light a candle on the table. He heard a few "Ta Ta" sounds, it seemed to be some kind of mechanism turning. Afterwards he heard a "Ya" sound, the sound of a door being pushed open. Jiumozhi looked through a small crack in the wooden partition. He saw a small hole opening up in the wall of the adjacent room. There was a door in the hole. The door was painted like the walls, it was difficult to detect once it is closed. Jiumozhi looked in the hole, it was a hidden room. Rows of cabinet lined the room, layers upon layers, words are carved into the doors of every cabinet and painted blue, all of them the same words: "Jade Cave of Langhuan". Jiumozhi knew "Langhuan" was a mythical place where celestial beings kept their books. He had a thought, could it be these cabinets stored precious martial art manuals?
Jiumozhi saw the person merely look at the bookcase with a candlestick in hand. This person was wearing cyan robe, his long hair draped over his shoulders, his hair grizzled, apparently he is quite old. Jiumozhi muttered inwardly: "This person is old, inner power excellent, I should be able to deduce his identity." He saw the person move to a cabinet, the word "Jade Cave of Langhuan" was written horizontally on the cabinet's door. On the bottom part of the door there was two rows of words, "Green ox heading west, purple cloud arriving from east", the words were painted green. Jiumozhi pondered: "Green ox and purple cloud, it seems to be related to Laozi's Taoist teachings. If the cabinet contain “Book of Tao”, “Nanhua scripture”, ”Baopuzi” or some other Taoist books, then I won't bother anymore."
The person opened up the cabinet door and took out an entire stack of account books and placed them on the desk. There were around 7-8 books, the corner of the books are rolled up, it appears they are rather old. The person leaned his body to the side, Jiumozhi could see his appearance clearly. He was around 60 to 70 years old, face flat and smooth, skin white and fair. At once a person came to his mind: "This person is so old, yet he is able to maintain the face of a child, could he be the one famed for “Great Energy Dissolving Skill”, Ding ChunQiu?" Jiumozhi held his breath and concentrated, he didn't dare to move the slightest bit.
The old man opened up one of the books, he studied the contents diligently. He mumbled and calculated as he trace the contents with his finger. He inhaled and exhaled, it seems he is practicing some kind of internal energy. After a long time Jiumozhi heard a female voice downstairs: "Father, is that you?" The old man exhaled, his pair of hands clasping his belly, he finally replied: "Yes, you can come up!" There was the sound of footsteps, a person rushed up the stairs. The person was Madam Wang. Jiumozhi was flabbergasted: "So this old man is senior Wang, he is not Ding ChunQiu."
Madam Wang walk towards the old man and said: "Father, you are practicing ‘Minor Formless Skill’ again? Just take these books, they are brought here by you and mother anyway. Without your guidance Yuyan cannot understand them." When Jiumozhi heard the phrase ‘Minor Formless Skill’, he knew it was an extremely powerful Taoist's internal energy method, at once he focused and paid attention.
The old man said: "If I take these books and can't hide them properly, most likely they will be stolen by my worthless disciples. It is better to just leave them here. Where did Yuyan go?" Madam Wang sat down on a chair beside the old man and said: "There is an old monk from Shaolin called XuanBei, he was killed in Dali. The mortal wound is precisely his famed Supreme Consummate Skill, I think it is called [Great Skanda Pestle]. Shaolin firmly insist that the killer must be Gusu Murong. Fu-er was wrongly accused by these people, he took a few of his expert servants and went to Shaolin to resolve this matter. Yuyan is worried about Fu-er and followed him as well." The old man shook his head and said: "With Murong Fu’s tiny amount of martial arts, how can he kill that baldy XuanBei?"
Madam Wang said: "Father, you killed XuanBei, correct?"
The old man said: "No! Why would I kill Shaolin monks?"
Madam Wang said: "Fu-er's father died early, unexpectedly he needed Yuyan to guide him in martial arts. He really lacks any manly spirit, it is really shameful! Father, please teach him."
The old man shake his head and said: "He thinks his family's “Star Shifting Movement” skill is amazing, he looks down on XingXiu Sect and refuses to join. Why should I teach him martial arts?"
When Jiumozhi heard this, he finally realized this old man is Ding ChunQiu.
Madam Wang is the daughter of Li QiuShui and Wuyazi. After the girl was born, both of them lived at Limitless (Wuliang) Mountain. The love between this pair of martial brother and sister was strong, from time to time they practiced sword moves under the moon, occasionally they compose poetry by the flowers, their joy overflowing. However Wuyazi delved into zither, chess, calligraphy, painting, medicine, divination, horoscope, etc. He had to attend to a wide range of affairs, inevitably he start to drift away from Li QiuShui. Li QiuShui kidnap many handsome youngsters and brought them into the cave. She flirted and teased them openly. Her intention was to make Wuyazi pay attention to her, unexpectedly Wuyazi loathed her and left in anger. Li QiuShui was extremely disappointed, thus she seduced Wuyazi second disciple, Ding ChunQiu. Unexpectedly Ding ChunQiu revolted and managed to beat Wuyazi off a cliff, his life and death unknown. Eventually both Ding and Li took all the manuals hidden in "Jade Cave of Langhuan", as well as Li QiuShui's daughter Li QingLuo, and moved to Suzhou. To avoid any gossip, Li QiuShui ordered her daughter to address Ding ChunQiu as father. Madam Wang start calling him father from childhood. This became a habit and when she grew up she did not bother to correct herself anymore. Naturally Jiumozhi was not aware of these past events, he assumed Ding ChunQiu is Madam Wang's father.
Madam Wang said: "Father, teach me this ‘Minor Formless Skill’ so that I may impart it to Yuyan in the future." Ding ChunQiu said: "Not good! This skill is extremely difficult to train, even I can't master it properly. I will teach you the mnemonics to this skill, you and Yuyan can practice this skill slowly at your own pace. En, Yuyan is simply too good to her cousin, I am not at ease." He took a book from the stacks of books on the desk and placed it in his bosom.
Ding ChunQiu opened up another book and said: "This set of internal energy methods, our martial grandfather only imparted it to your mother; my master and martial aunt did not learn it. Martial grandfather wrote down the method to training this internal energy and made it look like an accounting ledger. 'New year day, received 9 qian and 8 fen as payment', this means inhale lightly 9 times on the 1st day, gather your breath 8 times. 'Hand over 8 qian and 7 fen as payment', this means exhale lightly 8 times, gather your breath 7 times. 'Second day of new year, received 8 qian and 9 fen as payment, bought one pig lung, two pig intestines, one pig heart'. This means on the 2nd day after gathering your breath, circulate it once in the lungs, twice in the intestines, once in the heart...."
Madam Wang laughed and said: "Martial grandfather is really amusing, he rewrote his heart, lungs and intestines as pig heart, pig lungs and pig intestines."
Ding ChunQiu smiled and said: "By writing this way, even if the book falls into someone else hands, they will assume it is just an accounting bill for market purchases. They won't know it is a method for practicing internal energy. Read these few words again."
Madam Wang recited: "Xin, ren, zhen, yun, chun, shen...."
Ding ChunQiu said: "Read it again, you must read fast!"
Madam Wang recited: "Gu, fu, mu, mu, sui, ku, wu...."
Ding ChunQiu said: "Read it in reverse, you must do it in a single breath, you must not stop in-between." Madam Wang read the seven oblique tones in succession, her breath was hindered, eventually she broke out in laughter and leaned over on the desk.
Ding ChunQiu said: "No need to hurry, read for two hours each day, once you are proficient in reciting the mnemonics forward and backward, you can then follow the method prescribed in the book to practice. I will teach you again once you complete these two books." Both of them engaged in some idle gossip, finally Madam Wang went down the stairs and left.
When Ding ChunQiu finished practicing, he put the books back into the cabinet, he extinguished the candle flame and left the room. Jiumozhi waited until the sound of Ding ChunQiu footsteps had gone far. When no one was around he finally groped his way towards the adjacent room. He entered the hidden room and saw many cabinets with the phrase "Jade Cave of Langhuan", he pondered: "I will take just ‘Minor Formless Skill’. They wrote it as pig heart and pig intestines, I really don't know what kind of things they would write for other martial arts, if I take the other books I will just learn the wrong skills." Thus he opened the cabinet door for "Green ox heading west" and put all the books inside his bosom. He jumped over the wall and left. There was a boat by the coast, he hid in the rear cabin. He didn't know how to steer this big boat, moreover he was afraid of alerting Madam Wang with regards to the loss of ‘Minor Formless Skill’ manuals, hence he waited patiently. On the third day, someone finally steered the boat to Suzhou city for some business transactions. He hid in the cargo hold and waited for the boat to reach shore. When the boatman and servants disembarked he finally left the boat and went back to his own place.
He counted the number of books, there were seven in total. One of the book was taken by Ding ChunQiu, hence he could not study the martial art completely. One, two, three, four, etc., are written on the book's title. He saw the 7th volume was missing, he knew Ding ChunQiu must have taken the 7th book. He opened up the first book, a few sentences are written on the first page:
"Since ancient times there are people who are adept in the way of Tao, they have subtle understandings, their knowledge profound, it is not something an average person can comprehend. Because they cannot understand a person, they can only describe with great difficulty: "He is cautious and timid, akin to stepping on thin ice to cross a river during winter; He is vigilant and on guard, he seems to be guarding against an invasion of neighboring country; He is respectful and solemn, as if he is a guest of a banquet; He operates freely and easily, like an ice melting slowly; He is simple and unsophisticated, akin to raw material without any prior processing; He is broad and open-minded, like the deep hidden valley; He is rich and charitable, like the turbulent muddy water. Who can calm the turbulent muddy water, and make it clear and pure again? Who can change the quiet, and make them alive again? A person who maintains this "Tao" cannot be complacent. Because he is never complacent, he is able to remove the old and replace with new."
Jiumozhi thought for a long time but he still didn't understand the underlying meaning. He flipped to the second page, line after line there were all about certain months and days, how much qian and how much fen, how many pig heart to buy, etc. At once he burnt some incense and regulated his breathing quietly. He followed the instructions in the book to practice. Initially he did not detect any change, he patiently regulated his breathing and continued to circulate it in his meridians. After a few months, he gradually felt his spirit become clearer and his breathing become smoother, his internal energy had increased greatly.
He continued to make great effort for several more months, he felt his inner breath circulate around more places. After Tubo's Tantric Buddhist Master NingMaPai instructed him in the divine “Blazing Saber Skill”, he wiped out all the shady sects in Tubo and established his might in the west. His skills and knowledge had already reach an extremely high level. However as he trained ‘Minor Formless Skill’, he felt he had stepped into another new territory of martial arts study.
Buddhist's martial arts focus on the aspect of "emptiness", Taoist's internal energy is based on "unhindered", "unobstructed", "unhurried", "no difference in state"; both martial arts achieve the same ends through different means. They are extremely similar once trained to an extremely high level, however entry-level technique and method are vastly different.
Jiumozhi was engrossed in practicing ‘Minor Formless Skill’, he forged ahead relentlessly and studied from day till night. He studied the 6th and 8th volume and deduced that the missing 7th volume was related to "Chong meridian", "Dai meridian ", "Yang meridian ", "Yin meridian", the extraordinary meridians. He had already completed the training for all 12 common meridians. The 8th volume contains "Yang qiao", "Yin qiao", as well as the most important "Ren meridian", "Du meridian", etc., another four extraordinary meridians. The missing method to training these extraordinary meridians must be virtually the same as the others, by extrapolating from all seven volumes he possessed he should be able to derive the training method for the missing four extraordinary meridians.
When he returned to Tubo, he followed the training formula and mastered the four extraordinary meridians depicted in the 8th volume. Afterwards he backtracked and started to train the missing four extraordinary meridians for the 7th volume. Unexpectedly the meridians clogged up and were obstructed. Fortunately the "Chong meridian" and "Dai meridian" are not commonly used. He was not too worried. He assumed once he mastered all 16 common and extraordinary meridians, the remaining four extraordinary meridians will follow naturally and clear up; by then he would be able to circulate through them.
He managed to obtain news that Beggars Clan had issued a challenge to Shaolin to fight for the title of leader of Central Plains martial art fraternity. Martial art experts gathering together in the Central Plains is highly unfavorable for Tubo. He did not know all 72 Ulitmate Techniques of Shaolin but after mastering ‘Minor Formless Skill’ his internal energy had advanced greatly from the time he challenged TiangLong Monastery and single-handedly defeated Duan family's ‘Six Meridians Divine Sword’ with his divine “Blazing Saber Skill”. By using ‘Minor Formless Skill’ as the base to power Shaolin's Supreme Consummate Skills he should be able to defeat all the monks at Shaolin and make them suffer a crushing defeat. Martial art experts of the Central Plains wouldn't be able to form an alliance and he would achieve a glorious deed for Tubo, benefiting his title as Grand Tutor of Tubo.
Jiumozhi went to Shaolin and secretly eavesdropped outside the main hall of the Buddhist temple. He heard the martial arts discussion between abbot XuanCi, ShenShan, GuanXin and the rest of the senior monks. He heard XuanCi comment that hard/gentle martial arts oppose each other, thus ‘Demon Subduing Palm’ cannot be practiced together with ‘Mohe Finger’. Jiumozhi executed his lightness martial arts and rushed outside the temple's gate. He used internal energy to transmit his voice and criticize the theory that hard/soft martial arts cannot be trained together. Jiumozhi was able to transmit his voice from a great distance, his internal energy must be deep and profound, the senior monks did not found it strange. However he is able to hear the discussion even though he is very far away, this kind of ‘Heavenly Connecting Ear Skill’ is rarely seen in the world, everyone was equally startled and in awe. However they did not expect Jiumozhi to eavesdrop the conversation in the main hall and then run to a distant place to transmit his voice. Afterwards Jiumozhi used ‘Minor Formless Skill’ as the foundation and executed “Vajra Fist”, ‘Prajna Palm’, “Mohe Finger” and other Shaolin Supreme Consummate Skills. Sure enough the crowd was scared into submission and he forced abbot XuanCi to admit inferiority. Just as Jiumozhi was feeling smug, he did not expect XuZhu to suddenly appear out of the crowd of monks. Unexpectedly XuZhu also knew ‘Minor Formless Skill’ and used it against him.
Both their arms clashed and stirred up the 'Chong meridian' and various acupoints. This was the weak point in Jiumozhi's internal energy. In a split second Jiumozhi recalled the ‘Minor Formless Skill’ manual he stole at Mantuo Manor. The collection was short of the 7th volume, he could not help but break out in cold sweat. Jiumozhi was careful and meticulous, he would calculate and plan carefully while training. Hence he was able to avoid all obstructions and pitfalls when practicing his skills. However when fighting with an opponent, the moves are fast as lightning, he had no time to think through carefully. Both streams of ‘Minor Formless Skill’ clashed with each other. As Jiumozhi did not master the 'Chong extraordinary meridian' contained in the 7th volume, unexpectedly the force in his arm was nullified by XuZhu's ‘Minor Formless Skill’. If ‘Minor Formless Skill’ is fully mastered, even though its power is formidable but because the skill is termed ‘Minor Formless Skill’, with emphasize on the word 'Minor', it clearly shows that the skill is merely an entry-level Taoist internal energy method. If the practitioner used it to power Taoist's martial arts he will find it smooth and easy. However when employed in other classes of martial arts, it will inevitably fit like mortise and tenon, it cannot display its wonders. Moreover Jiumozhi's ‘Minor Formless Skill’ is lacking the 7th volume. There is a flaw in his energy method, inevitably it pales in comparison against XuZhu's perfect and complete ‘Minor Formless Skill’.
Jiumozhi was fearful, he saw XuZhu execute another 'Black Tiger Stealing Heart'. Suddenly Jiumozhi lowered his palm, his pair of hands stretched forward and grabbed onto XuZhu's right fist. It was precisely a move from one of Shaolin's Supreme Consummate Skills, “Dragon Claw Skill”. His left hand seized XuZhu's little finger, his right hand grabbed onto XuZhu's thumb, he channeled his energy and bent quickly. He intended to break XuZhu's fingers.
XuZhu's two fingers were under pressure, he could not use 'Black Tiger Stealing Heart' anymore. He felt acute pain from his fingers. He involuntarily executed ‘Plum Breaking Hands of Heavenly Mountain”, his right wrist made a small turn, flipped over and seized Jiumozhi's left wrist.
Jiumozhi was feeling happy as he managed to seize XuZhu's finger with a single move. Unexpectedly his opponent managed to generate an extremely strange force and captured his own wrist in return. He had extremely profound knowledge of martial arts, however he had absolutely no idea on the origins of ‘Plum Breaking Hands of Heavenly Mountain’. His heart shivered with fear, his wrist felt as if it was locked by an iron hoop, he can no longer shake it off. Luckily XuZhu only sought to free himself in his panic-stricken state. He held firmly onto Jiumozhi's wrist and prevented him from breaking his fingers. He did not counterattack and grab Jiumozhi's meridian points. Thus due to XuZhu giving some leeway, Jiumozhi gathered his internal energy, he withdraw it slightly and suddenly send his energy bursting forth. Jiumozhi hoped to split open the flesh between XuZhu's thumb and forefinger.
XuZhu felt his hands tingling, he was afraid his opponent might execute some ferocious technique if he released his grip. He hurriedly channeled his internal energy, his “Pure Energy of Northern Darkness” rushed forth like a tide. Both XuZhu and Duan Yu's inner energy had the same origin. However, unlike Duan Yu, XuZhu did not practice the method to absorb an opponent's internal energy. Thus although he managed to grab Jiumozhi's wrist but he couldn’t absorb his internal energy. Jiumozhi channeled his internal energy three times but he still couldn't shake off XuZhu's grip, he could not help but feel greatly astonished. His right hand formed a palm and hacked towards the back of XuZhu's neck.
Jiumozhi was desperate, he did not think of using Shaolin's martial arts anymore. This hacking move was his own Tubo's martial arts. XuZhu executed a move from ‘Six Solar Palms of Heavenly Mountain’ with his left hand and neutralized Jiumozhi's palm move. Jiumozhi's second palm move arrived, XuZhu executed ‘Six Solar Palms of Heavenly Mountain’ continuously, one by one he neutralized all of his opponent's violent attacks.
Currently both of them were fighting in close proximity, their bodies touching, they can feel each other’s breath. While trading palm moves they only bent their arms or turned their elbows, their palm moves were only 7-8 inches away from each other, although the distance is close but the palm force is extremely powerful. The sound of Jiumozhi's palm was like the wind beating. The crowd of monks felt as if his palm force was cutting their face, the chilling force of the palm invading their bodies, it is as if they were on the highest peak of Snow Mountain, a gale blowing from all four sides. Gradually the lower generation monks could not withstand it anymore, one by one they withdraw and move backwards and pressed their bodies against the wall. Senior monks from the Xuan generation are not afraid of the invasion of palm force, however they still channeled internal energy to protect their bodies.
In order to treat the Cave-Lords of 36 Cave and Island-Lords of 72 Island from their 'life death talisman', XuZhu had to train his ‘Six Solar Palms of Heavenly Mountain’ to very high level. He already mastered and understood all different kinds of profound variations in the palm moves, moreover the drawings on the stone wall in the Vulture Palace had made him comprehend the wonders of ‘Six Solar Palms of Heavenly Mountain’. However he never used ‘Six Solar Palms of Heavenly Mountain’ to fight with others before, he lacked practice. In his 1st fight he had to engage in a life or death battle with one of the very best martial art experts of the current age. Although his palm technique was at an extremely high level, and his internal energy strong, he only managed to produce 20-30% of the palm's true potential.
Jiumozhi's palm force converged and gradually became sharp. XuZhu concentrated on the battle, however he only sought to defend himself, every single move was defensive. He held onto his opponent's wrist tightly. It was not because he wanted to seize his opponent, but because Jiumozhi far surpassed him in martial arts. Just a single palm from him was already so difficult to deal with, he would definitely die on the spot if Jiumozhi had free use of both palms. XuZhu lacked knowledge and experience, he did not detect the major deficiency in Jiumozhi's 'Chong meridian'. He would have achieved victory long ago had he focused his counterattacks on Jiumozhi's weak point. He only relied on his silly method and desperately held onto Jiumozhi's left wrist to prevent him from executing any moves.
Jiumozhi's left hand was captured, he couldn’t execute all the wonderful variations and mutual chain attacks of twin palms. XuZhu was not very proficient in his palm technique, it was easier for him to use a single palm rather than both palms. Jiumozhi had his potential cut in half, his palm technique was left with only 50%. As for XuZhu his 20-30% of palm's potential gradually became 40-50%. After the time taken to burn a joss stick, both of them already exchange several hundred moves, however they were still deadlocked in a stalemate.
XuanCi, XuanDu, ShenShan, GuanXin, DaoQing, etc., various eminent monks, they already saw how Jiumozhi's wrist was being controlled and he could not struggle free. However XuZhu's left palm is completely at a disadvantage, he could only block, he had not strength to retaliate at all. Although the eminent monks were experienced and knowledgeable, they had never seen this kind of fighting method before. In addition, the crowd of Shaolin monks were startled and anxious. XuZhu had grown up in the temple since childhood, he left the temple for only half a year but somehow he managed to learn an astonishing set of skills when he returned. They saw how he managed to grab his opponent's wrist but was unable to subdue him. Nevertheless every single one of Jiumozhi's palm moves contained a formidable power that was able to break bones or tendons and destroy inner energy pathways. He only needed to land one hit and his opponent would surely die immediately.
Both of them exchanged another hundred moves, XuZhu's initial fear gradually dissipated. Slowly he start to comprehend the intricacies of ‘Six Solar Palms of Heavenly Mountain’, nine out of ten moves are defensive but he was finally able to counterattack with one move. For every counterattack move XuZhu executed, Jiumozhi must make a move to resist, thus there will inevitably be pauses in Jiumozhi's offensive moves. Although the pause was slight, but as time goes on it gradually became favorable for XuZhu. After the time taken to eat a meal, XuZhu was able to counterattack 2-3 moves out of 10. The crowd of Shaolin monks saw him gradually move away from mortal danger; they could not help but be secretly happy.
At this moment XuZhu was able to reach 40% offensive moves. Although he still had to defend more than attack, his internal energy was able to emerge and display its true potential. He automatically started to execute the various fierce and vicious moves of the Carefree Sect. For Buddhist's martial arts, its intention is to subdue an opponent not kill. It is completely different from the martial arts of Child Elder and Li QiuShui. XuanCi and the eminent monks saw that although XuZhu's moves are reserved and mild, but his moves gradually became vicious and sharp. They could not help but purse their brows.
Jiumozhi channeled his energy and made three powerful attempts. He wanted to shake off XuZhu's right hand so that he could execute his consummate ‘Blazing Saber Skill’. Although he increased his power but his opponent's finger force also increased accordingly. In a moment of desperation his murderous intentions burst forth and flourished abruptly, with a rushing wind he smacked his palms three times, XuZhu waved his palm to neutralize. Jiumozhi pulled back his palm and bent his waist, he drew out a dagger from his sock and thrust it towards XuZhu's shoulder.
XuZhu only learned how to counter unarmed combat. Suddenly he saw flashes of white light, the dagger arrived and he had no idea how to ward it off. He scrambled and made a grab for Jiumozhi's right wrist. The grabbing maneuver was a capturing/seizing technique from ‘Plum Breaking Hands of Heavenly Mountain’, it was fast and accurate. Once his three fingers landed on Jiumozhi's wrist his thumb and little finger clamped down immediately. At this moment, the force in Jiumozhi's palm was directed outwards, the dagger moved away from his hand and shot out. XuZhu's hands held on firmly to his opponent's wrist, with a 'Pu' sound the dagger plunged into his shoulder up till the handle.
The spectating monks all cried out in alarm. ShenShan, GuanXin, etc., all of them could not help but shake their heads repeatedly. They had the same thoughts: "Based on Jiumozhi's rank and status, his reputation is already in tatters as he can't even match up to a young monk from Shaolin. Unexpectedly he still made a sneak attack with bladed weapon, his behavior is simply unacceptable."
Suddenly four monks rushed out from the crowd, green light flickered, four long swords thrust straight at Jiumozhi's throat simultaneously. These four monks jumped out and launched their attacks at the same time, they targeted the exact same position, their sword art strangely quick and incomparably vicious. Jiumozhi channeled his internal energy into his legs, he wanted to leap backwards. Unexpectedly under his pull XuZhu did not move the slightest bit, however he felt stinging pain in his throat, the tip of the four swords already touch his skin. The four monks shouted simultaneously: "Shameless thing, quickly surrender!" Their voices tender and delicate, unexpectedly they were the voices of females.
XuZhu turned his head and looked. Unexpectedly these four monks are Plum, Orchid, Bamboo and Chrysanthemum Sword, they wore monk’s caps to cover up their fine black hair, their clothes Shaolin monk robes. XuZhu was stunned, he shouted: "Don't take his life!"
The four Swords replied in unison: "Yes!" However the tip of their swords never left Jiumozhi's throat.
Jiumozhi laughed and said: "Shaolin Temple not only relies on numbers to achieve victory, but also hides young maidens. Your honorable reputation for several hundred year is merely so so, I finally experience it!"
XuZhu was panic-stricken, he did not know what to do, at once he released Jiumozhi's wrist. Chrysanthemum Sword pulled out the dagger from his shoulder, blood gushed forth immediately. Chrysanthemum Sword hurriedly cast aside her sword and took out a handkerchief from her bosom, she bound his wound. As for Plum, Orchid and Bamboo Sword, their long swords were still pointing at Jiumozhi's throat. XuZhu inquired: "You...you, how did you come here?"
Jiumozhi waved his palm horizontally and executed his divine ‘Blazing Saber Skill’, 'Dang Dang Dang', the three long swords broke off. The three sisters were greatly alarmed. They floated backwards for several zhang and looked at their hands, only half of their swords were left. Jiumozhi looked up to the sky and laugh, he said to XuanCi: "Great master abbot, what have you to say?"
XuanCi's expression was ashen, he said: "Old monk is truly unaware of the intermediate reasons, I will investigate and punishment will be meted according to Shaolin's regulations. Grand Tutor and senior martial brothers from afar have come from a distant place, I invite you to rest in the guest house and have some vegetarian meals."
Jiumozhi said: "Then I have to trouble you." he put his palms together and bowed. XuanCi return the courtesy.
Jiumozhi separate his palms and directed it at both sides, he secretly channeled his divine “Blazing Saber Skill”. 'Pu Pu Pu Pu', Plum, Orchid, Bamboo and Chrysanthemum Sword all cried out in surprise, their monk caps fell down, revealing their beautiful hair; several hundred strands of hair floated down along with the caps.
Jiumozhi purposely displayed his skill to show off. He cut off some hair but did not injure anyone, his intention was to show that he is merciful, at the same time he also showed the crowd that these four sisters are secular women, they are not Buddhist nuns, thus Shaolin could not deny it.
XuanCi's complexion turn even graver, he said: "Senior martial brothers from afar, please help yourself!"
ShenShan, GuanXin, DaoQing, RongZhi, etc., they saw how Shaolin had women disguised as monks, all of them were greatly astonished. As they heard XuanCi's words, all of them stood up. The monks led them to their respective guesthouses.
Once the foreign guests exited the main hall, Plum Sword said: " Master, we left the mountain secretly and came here to serve you, please don't blame us."
Orchid Sword said: "Monk YuanGen was rude to owner, thus we beat him up several times before he finally realized what was good for him, alas, unexpectedly this foreign monk manage to injure owner."
XuZhu grunted 'Oh', he finally understood. YuanGen was initially rude but became respectful later, as it turns out he was coerced by these four sisters. It seemed the sisters had remained in the temple for quite some time, disguised as monks and hiding within the temple. He couldn’t help but stomp his feet and said: "Preposterous, preposterous!" He immediately knelt down in front of the statue of Rulai and said: "Disciple committed grave sins in his pre-life, I failed to maintain clear monastic discipline in this life, thus I attract countless troubles and disasters for the temple. I respectfully invite abbot to punish me heavily."
Chrysanthemum Sword said: "Master please don't continue being a hateful Buddhist monk anymore. Why don't we return to Misty Peak? There is only green vegetables and tofu here not the slightest bit of lard. What’s more you have to be under someone else’s control, what is so good about it?"
Bamboo Sword point at XuanCi and said: "Old monk, if your speech is offensive to our master, then we four sisters will have to be impolite as well, you better be careful."
XuZhu shouted repeatedly to stop her: "Don't be rude, how can you act wilfully and make a scene in the temple? Quickly shut your mouth."
However the sisters kept on rambling one after another, they do not have any regards for XuanCi or the senior monks. The crowd of Shaolin monks were overwhelmed with shock. The four sisters were completely identical in appearance, they are elegant and beautiful, simple-minded and vivacious. They simply had no regards for law and order, no one knows where they come from.
As it turns out the four sisters were daughters from a poor household living at the base of a snowy mountain. Their mother had already given birth to seven daughters, they really cannot afford to bring up another quadruplets, thus they were abandon outside the snow ground after being born. It so happens that Child Elder was gathering medicine at the snowy mountain. She heard their crying and saw four identical female babies, she found it amusing and brought them back to Vulture Palace where they were raised and taught martial arts. These four sisters had never left Misty Peak before, what would they know about the ways of the world and of generational hierarchy? Throughout their life they only listened to orders from Child Elder. When XuZhu became the new master of Vulture Palace they simply served him, their loyalty unswerving. XuZhu was humble and modest. He could not be compared with the powerful presence exuded by Child Elder, thus the sisters are not particularly afraid of him. They only knew they should be loyal and devoted, they were unaware of the ramifications of their willful and rash actions.
XuanCi said: "Other than fellow apprentices from the Xuan generation, the rest return back to your rooms. HuiLun stay here." The crowd replied in unison, they walked out in a line according to their generation. In a short period of time only 30 Xuan generation monks remain in the Hall of Great Strength as well as HuiLun, XuZhu and the four sisters.
HuiLun also knelt down in front of the statue of Buddha and said: "Disciple did not teach properly, I produced such a sinful apprentice, Abbot please punish me severely."
Bamboo Sword giggled and said: "Baldy with your negligible level of martial arts, you think you are fit to be our owner's master? The day before yesterday in the pine forest, the masked person who made you stumble eight times, that person is my 2nd elder sister. In my opinion, your martial arts are simply too sloppy."
XuZhu groaned inwardly: "Terrible, terrible! They even make fun of my master."
He heard Orchid Sword laugh and say: "I heard from YuanGen you are our owner's master, thus I tested you. If 3rd sister did not speak of it I am afraid you would never know how you tumbled 8 times in succession, haha, hehe, interesting, interesting!"
XuanCi said: "Junior martial brother XuanCan, XuanKui, XuanNian and XuanJing, please don't let these four female shizhu talk nonsense or act rashly."
Four monks bow and said: "Yes!" They turned around and said to the four sisters: "Abbot's orders, shizhu please do not talk nonsense or act rashly!"
Plum Sword laughed and said: "Unfortunately we insist on talking nonsense and acting rashly, what can you do?"
The four monks said in unison: "In that case then pardon our offense!" Their monk robes fluttered slightly, their pairs of hands seized the four sister's wrist. XuanCan employed ‘Dragon Claw Skill’, XuanKui employed ‘Tiger Claw Hand’, XuanNian employed ‘Eagle Claw Skill’, XuanJing employed ‘18 Capturing Strike of Shaolin’, their stance and moves different, but all of them exquisite martial arts of Shaolin. Other than Chrysanthemum Sword, the other three sisters had their long sword broken by Jiumozhi. Chrysanthemum Sword's long sword trembled and protected her three sisters. Plum, Orchid and Bamboo Sword waved their broken swords, they launched their attacks under the sword ray of Chrysanthemum Sword's sword.
XuZhu shouted out: "Cast your sword away, cast your sword away! You must not fight!"
The four sisters heard their Owner shouting out, they were startled. They didn't dare to wave their weapons with full strength. The martial arts of these four sisters were already way inferior to senior monks from Xuan generation. The decisive opportunity was lost and the four sisters got captured immediately. Plum Sword struggled furiously but she couldn't shake her captor off, she said angrily: "We listened to our Owner, we are polite to you, ouch, it’s so painful, why are you pinching so hard?"
Orchid Sword shouted out: "Little thieving baldy, release me quickly." Her captor was Master XuanKui, his eyebrows white, he was already 70 years old. However she still addressed him as "little thieving baldy".
Bamboo Sword said: "If you still don't release me
I will curse your wife." Chrysanthemum Sword said: "I will spit saliva." A mouthful of saliva spurted towards XuanJing. XuanJing inclined his head to avoid. He increased the pressure in his finger, Chrysanthemum Sword was in so much pain that she cried out loud. The Hall of Great Strength was originally a solemn Buddhist ground, in a split second it became a place where little girls weep and scream aloud.
XuanCi said: "Shizhu please remain silent, martial brothers please seal their mute acupoints if they make any sound." When the four sisters heard their mute acupoints would be sealed they did not find it amusing. They don't dare to speak anymore. Thus, XuanCan and the other monks released their wrists.
XuanCi said: "XuZhu, tell us the entire matter from the start till end, you must not cover up anything."
XuZhu said: "Yes. Disciple sincerely reports." Thus he narrated how he went down the mountain to dispatch invitation cards, how he met XuanNan and HuiFang, how he accidentally solved the 'ZhenLong Chess Formation' and became the leader of Carefree Sect, how XuanNan was poisoned to death by Ding ChunQiu, how AhZi tricked him into violating his religious precepts, how he met Child Elder of Heavenly Mountain, how he penetrated deep into the ice cellar of Western Xia, how he became the owner of Vulture Palace, he narrated everything one by one. The course of events was complicated. He was not very articulate, he stammered and took ages to narrate. Although he was long winded, he narrated everything and did not hide or cover up. He even spoke of the lascivious acts he committed with his 'Dream Maiden' in the ice cellar.
The senior monks became increasingly amazed, XuZhu's strange encounter was truly unprecedented in the martial arts fraternity. Moments ago the crowd of monks had seen XuZhu's skill in the dramatic fight with Jiumozhi, they did not have any doubts about his narration. They pondered: "If he did not possess the divine internal energy of the top three experts of Carefree Sect and comprehend the first-class martial arts on the stone wall of Vulture Palace, then how could he withstand the peerless divine skills of the Grand Tutor of Tubo?"
When XuZhu finish speaking, he prostrate himself before the statue of Buddha, he bow to the ground and said: "Disciple is hindered by heavy delusion, I cannot get rid of them, I became indecisive when I encounter external demon, I broke the precepts against meat, wine, murder and lascivious acts, I renounce my own sect and learnt heretic martial arts, I also led four females into the temple, I tarnish the clean reputation of Shaolin, it is really a great crime, Buddha please have mercy, abbot please have mercy." he became increasingly sad as he thought about it, he cannot help but cry out bitterly.
Plum Sword and Chrysanthemum Sword snorted at the same time, they want to speak so as to persuade him, he don't need to be a Buddhist monk. XuanCan and XuanJing immediately extended their hands and hook onto the meridians of these two sisters. The sisters had no choice, they are about to speak out but had to swallow their words, they glare ferociously at the two old monks and curse secretly: "Damn monks, stinky baldy!"
XuanCi muttered to himself for a long time, he said: "Martial brothers, XuZhu's encounter is simply too strange. This matter concerns the clear reputation of Shaolin which has lasted several hundred years, it is inconvenient for me to make the decision alone. I invite everyone to discuss together."
XuanSheng said loudly: "Reporting to abbot, although XuZhu made a huge mistake, but his meritorious service is also not small. If he did not subdue that foreign monk during that critical juncture, would our temple still be able to maintain its standings in the martial arts fraternity? That foreign monk asked us to break up, join Refreshing Temple, Pudu Temple, etc., or even Tubo's Lama Temple. This great shame and humiliation, XuZhu alone saved us from the predicament. It seems our temple is fated to undergo this calamity; due to numerous virtuous deeds our fortune and karma is deep and profound, thus XuZhu experience such strange encounter which allow our temple to avoid this calamity. In my opinion, we should order him to repent and reflect so as to eliminate his sins, afterwards let him study martial arts intensively at Damo Courtyard. Hereafter he cannot leave the temple anymore or get involved in any foreign affairs." It is an extreme honor for a monk to enter Damo Courtyard to study martial arts intensively, the monk must possess extremely high level of martial arts in order to gain entry. Of the 20 monks in the Xuan generation, only 11-12 get to enter Damo Courtyard, even for XuanSheng himself, he did not get to enter Damo Courtyard. He proposed to allow XuZhu to enter Damo Courtyard, it was not punishment at all, on the contrary was is a great reward.
The head-monk of Damo Courtyard was originally XuanNan, now it was taken over by XuanYin. XuanYin hesitate to make a decision, he did not know what to say.
XuanJi, the head-monk of Discipline Courtyard said: "Based on his martial arts achievement he is qualified to enter Damo Courtyard. However his martials arts are heretical and unorthodox. How can such martial art expert be allowed to stay in Damo Courtyard? Junior martial brother XuanSheng, did you consider this before?"
Once he said it, the group of monks all felt that XuanSheng's suggestion was inappropriate. XuanSheng said: "Based on senior martial brother's opinion, what should we do?"
XuanJi said: "Hm, I really don't have any firm ideas. XuZhu did render meritorious service but he also made mistakes. He should be rewarded for his merits and punished for his mistakes. XuZhu did not incite these four ladies to enter our temple disguised as monks, we should be frank and explain the truth to Jiumozhi and ShenShan. It will be good if they believe us, it doesn't matter if they don't, we have clear conscience, no need to pay attention to other people's absurd conjecture. This is nothing difficult. However XuZhu broke our precepts repeatedly, he abandoned our school and learned unorthodox martial arts. I am afraid he cannot be allowed to stay in Shaolin anymore." Unexpectedly XuanJi wanted to expel XuZhu out of Shaolin. The heaviest punishment in Buddhism is to expel someone out of the sect. The group of monks were all dumbstruck by his words.
XuanJi continued: "XuZhu relied on his martial arts and violated several monastic disciplines, originally we should cripple his martial arts before expelling him. However someone else already nullified his former skills. The martial arts he carry now is not from our school, thus we have no rights to cripple them."
With tears rolling down his eyes, XuZhu said: "Abbot, martial grandfathers, please have mercy for the sake of Buddha, give disciple a chance to turn over a new leaf, no matter what kind of punishment, disciple is willing to accept, just don't expel me from the temple." He was sobbing, he was extremely sincere.
The group of monks look at each other, they really couldn't make a decision. Listening to XuZhu's plea it seems he was truly repentant and sincere. There is a saying "lay down butcher's knife and become a Buddha" and "the sea of bitterness has no bounds, turn your head to see the shore", Buddhism is widespread and save all living things. Even for an extremely vicious and evil person, Buddhists have to try all possible means to enlighten him, let alone a disciple from their own temple who wants to get back on the right path. How can they deny him the path to virtue? Shaolin temple is rooted in Zen Buddhism, the emphasis has always been on "enlightenment", the courage to take responsibility for mistakes. If not due to the presence of outsiders, seeing his sincerity the monks would definitely not resort to expelling him from Shaolin. However this matter had already been witness by Great Wheel Temple of Tubo, Refreshing Temple, Pudu Temple as well as all the senior monks. If they are not strict in punishing XuZhu outsiders will undoubtedly accuse Shaolin of covering up and protecting its own faction, disregarding right from wrong and monastic discipline, only favoring martial arts. If this kind of gossip spread out it would ultimately destroy the clear reputation of Shaolin.
At this moment, an old monk strolled out from the rear hall aided by two junior disciples, the monk is XuanDu. He was injured by Jiumozhi's finger strength and rested in his room. However he was concerned about the outcome of the duel in the main hall, thus he dispatched his disciple to give him constant reports. He heard that Jiumozhi was defeated and forced to retreat, a group of monks was interrogating XuZhu with the intention to punish him, thus he endured his injuries and went to the Hall of Great Strength. He said: "Abbot, XuZhu save my life. I have something to say, I don't know if I should say it."
XuanDu is much older compared to the other monks, he was highly respected in the temple for his moral character. Abbot XuanCi said quickly: "Senior martial brother please take a seat, speak slowly, don't aggravate your injuries."
XuanDu said: "Saving my life, it’s nothing much. However we have six important matters which we have yet to settle. There is much benefit if we keep XuZhu in the temple, if we expel him from the temple, then...then....then it is difficult."
XuanJi said: "Senior martial brother mention about six important matters, the first must be referring to Jiumozhi who has yet to retreat; the second matter must be ShenShan criticizing our temple for indulging disciple Qiao Feng and letting him commit evil; the third matter must be the newly-appointed chief of Beggars Clan Zhuang JuXian's lust for the position of chief of martial arts fraternity. As for the other three matters, can senior martial brother point it out?"
XuanDu gave a long sigh and said: "XuanBei, XuanKu, XuanTong and XuanNan, the lives of our four martial brothers." When he mentioned these four monks, the crowd put their palms together and chanted simultaneously: "Buddha is merciful!"
Initially the crowd of monks assumed XuanKu was killed by Qiao Feng. Soon after they dispatched experts to investigate, they cleared their suspicion of Qiao Feng but as for the true killer they still did not have any ideas. XuanTong and XuanNan were killed by Ding ChunQiu, they have yet to avenge this animosity. As for the murder of Master XuanBei, they still did not have any clue. Everyone knew XuanBei died due to ‘Great Skanda Pestle’, ‘Great Skanda Pestle’ is one of the 72 Ultimate Techniques of Shaolin. It is precisely the skill XuanBei had trained bitterly for over 10 years. Previously they assumed it was Gusu Murong’s family employing "returning you with your own move", but afterwards HuiFang and HuiJing narrated their acquaintance with Deng BaiChuan and GongYe Gan, all of them felt that the subordinates of Gusu Murong were not wicked and crafty people. Moreover they joined hands with Shaolin to deal with Ding ChunQiu, it can be said that they shared a common enemy. In addition, everyone witnessed Jiumozhi's skills moments ago. Since he can execute many different Shaolin's Ultimate Techniques, then it is highly probable that he dealt the ‘Great Skanda Pestle’ blow which killed XuanBei. Nevertheless it would not be strange even if the killer ends up to be someone else. The four eminent monks died by the hands of three extremely strong opponents, thus XuanDu classified it as three important matters.
XuanCi said: "I am the abbot of this temple but with regards to these six important matters, I cannot even handle one of them properly. I really blush with shame. However the martial arts of XuZhu originated entirely from Carefree Sect, don't tell me....don't tell me the major events happening to the temple...."
As he said this, he found it difficult to continue, however the crowd of monks understood his meaning: "Although XuZhu possesses high martial arts, but it is unorthodox skills of another sect. Even if he can resolve the six important matters other people will accuse Shaolin of relying on others to get things done, relying on the martial arts of Carefree Sect for support. This will inevitably shame the status of Shaolin; even if everyone covered it up properly and did not let outsiders know, but how can these eminent monks deceive others and themselves?
They deliberated for a long time, Xuan Du said: "Base on abbot's opinion, what should we do?"
XuanCi said: "Amitoufo! I inherited the mantle passed down by our ancestors. Today we meet with such enormous crisis. In my opinion we should deal with it forthrightly, preferring to let the jade break rather than pretend the tile is complete. As long as we do our utmost, if Shaolin's reputation is preserved then it is due to the mercy of Buddha, the blessings of our ancestors. If evil prevails, then we fellow apprentices will protect this temple with our lives, be buried together with the temple with no regrets and with a clear conscience. We will not violate the principles of our school. For the past several hundred years Shaolin brought happiness to the land under heaven, our karma is deep and profound. We will just suffer setbacks for a while, we definitely won't be wiped out completely." He spoke these words plainly and calmly, however he exuded an awe-inspiring presence.
The crowd of monks bow simultaneously and said: "We sincerely obey Abbot's wise opinion."
XuanCi turn towards XuanJi and said: "Junior martial brother, please enforce the monastic discipline of our temple."
XuanJi said: "Yes!" He turned his head and said to the monks in-charge of attending to guests: "Invite Grand Tutor of Tubo and other senior monks". The monks in-charge of attending to guests bowed in response and went off separately.
XuanDu, XuanSheng, etc., they sighed inwardly. Although they had the intention to protect XuZhu but the speech by Abbot focused on righteousness; they could not abuse their power and destroy the clear reputation of Shaolin. Everyone knew the facts, if they pardoned XuZhu's offense they would achieve victory yet defeat at the same time. However if they act impartially and enforce the law, then they will suffer defeat but preserve their honor. The Abbot already said "to protect the temple with their lives, be buried together with the temple", thus he already cut off their means of retreat. How XuZhu would be punished was not of particular importance now.
XuZhu knew the matter was difficult to save by now, his weeping and pleading were all in vain. He pondered: "Everyone regarded the reputation of the temple as of the utmost importance. I reap what I have sown. I definitely cannot cower and beg for pity as this will make others look down upon Shaolin's monks."
Soon after, Jiumozhi, ShengShan, GuanXin and the rest of the visiting monks arrived at the main hall. The bell sounded, the Hui generation, Xu generation and Kong generation monks all lined-up in formation and entered the hall. They stood at both sides of the hall.
XuanCi put his palms together and said: "Grand Tutor of Tubo and fellow apprentices, XuZhu from the Xu generation committed murder, lascivious acts, ate non-vegetarian food, drank wine, broke the four great disciplines. He learned unorthodox martial arts privately and became the leader of an unorthodox sect without asking for permission. Head-monk of Shaolin's Discipline Courtyard, XuanJi, please enforce the law and administer punishment accordingly. There can be no excuse."
When Jiumozhi and ShenShan heard it they had a shock as it was beyond their expectation. They only saw Plum, Orchid, Bamboo and Chrysanthemum Sword disguised as monks, thus they assume XuZhu was simply brazen and harbored maidens in the temple, that he committed lascivious acts only. They never expected the abbot to openly declare XuZhu's excessive crimes.
Master DaoQing from Pudu Temple became a monk from middle age, he had wide understanding of the ways of the world. His temperament kind and benevolent, he was fond of helping others. He said: "Martial brother abbot, these four ladies have straight waists and curved brows, slender necks with straight backs, obviously they are virgin. Moments ago they attacked Grand Tutor, their sword art is pure and chaste; as martial art practitioners we can deduce it immediately. Little apprentice XuZhu did not restrain himself in his conduct, perhaps there may be some truth to it, however accusing him of "lascivious acts" maybe too absurd."
XuanCi said: "Many thanks to martial brother for pointing it out. XuZhu's lascivious acts did not involve these four ladies. XuZhu joined another sect, he became the owner of Heavenly Mountain's Misty Peak Vulture Palace. These four ladies are maid servants of the former owner of Vulture Palace. They entered our temple secretly, their intention is to serve their new owner. XuZhu did not have prior knowledge of their arrival. Shaolin Temple did not take extra precautions, we are really ashamed. Thus we will not fault him on this matter."
Although Child Elder possessed extremely high martial arts, but she never set foot on the Central Plain before. She only had dealings with the various unorthodox Cave-Lords and Island-Lords in frontier regions, hence this was the first time the monks heard of the name "Vulture Palace". Jiumozhi heard it from someone else in Tubo, however he did not have clear understanding of their origins.
Master DaoQing said: "Since this is the case then it is not convenient for outsiders to have any say in this matter." Jiumozhi and ShenShan originally did not have goodwill towards Shaolin Temple, however they saw XuanCi's righteousness in maintaining the law. He did not cover up or try to shield his own people. Initially the outsiders had absolutely no idea of the crimes committed by XuZhu, nevertheless XuanCi still announced it to the public. They could not help but respect him greatly.
XuanJi took a step forward and said in a bright voice: "XuZhu, the offence pointed out by Abbot, do you admit it? Do you have any justification for them?" The crowd of monks were inwardly afraid, they looked at XuanJi, waiting for him to announce the punishment.
XuanJi said in a bright voice: "XuZhu committed murder, lascivious acts, ate non-vegetarian food, drank wine. Of the four great disciplines, the act of murder is of particular importance. He will receive 100 strokes of rod in public. XuZhu, do you accept it?"
XuZhu heard the punishment was just 100 strokes of rod, with regards to the sins he committed it was simply not a heavy punishment at all. He quickly said: "Many thanks to martial grandfather for being merciful, XuZhu accepts the punishment."
XuanJi said again: "You studied unorthodox martial arts in private without asking the Abbot and your own master for permission. You will be stripped of all Shaolin's martial arts, from now on you are not a Shaolin disciple anymore. Do you accept it?"
XuZhu heart ached, he knew the situation could not be saved, he said: "Disciple deserves to die, martial grandfather is fair and just in punishing me."
The crowd of monks just witnessed the fierce battle between him and Jiumozhi. Everyone saw the divine power of Shaolin's ‘Skanda Palm’ and ‘Luohan Fists’, however they did not know XuZhu's true martial arts were not from Shaolin. Jiumozhi claimed to have mastered all 72 Ultimate Techniques, in reality he only knows 20 to 30 Ultimate Techniques and only trained till superficial level. He had very little of Shaolin's internal energy. XuZhu and Jiumozhi both fought using ‘Minor Formless Skill’, naturally Jiumozhi had knowledge on ‘Minor Formless Skill’, however as for ‘Pure Energy of Northern Darkness’, ‘Six Solar Palm Of Heavenly Mountain’, ‘Plum Breaking Hands Of Heavenly Mountain’, etc. The various profound martial arts, Jiumozhi assumed they were Shaolin's martial arts, thus when he heard XuanJi said he would cripple XuZhu's Shaolin martial arts he could not help but feel elated. He pondered: "You willingly destroy your own legacy, help me get rid of a major trouble, it cannot be better!"
GuanXin, JueXian, DaoQing, etc., various eminent monks, they pondered: "Alas what a pity, what a pity!"
XuanJi said again: "Since you are the Leader of Carefree Sect, the owner of Misty Peak Vulture Palace, it is convenient for you to leave the monastic order and return to normal life. If possible you can also become a Taoist, if you still comply with Buddhist regulations then you can become lay-devotee. From now on, you are no longer a Shaolin monk. Do you accept this punishment?"
XuZhu did not know his father or mother, he entered the temple as a baby, he grew up in Shaolin since childhood. Although he did not comprehend the main gist of Buddhism but Shaolin Temple was the only place where he could settle down and get on with his pursuits. When he heard that he would be expelled he could not help but feel great sorrow. With tears falling like rain he lie prostrate and wept, choking with sobs he said: "Great master Abbot, martial grandfathers, martial uncles as well as my master, everyone treated disciple with profound kindness, disciple is unworthy, I did not follow your instructions properly."
Master DaoQing could not help but intercede for him and said: "Martial brother Abbot, martial brother XuanJi, in my opinion this little brother wants to get back on the right path, there is much desire of repentance from him, why not give him another chance?"
XuanCi said: "Martial brother is correct. However Buddhism is widespread, you can practice it anywhere. XuZhu, we punished you by expelling you from the temple, however we did not harbor any evil intentions. We did not forbid you from continuing to follow Buddha. There are thousands and tens of thousands temple under the heaven. If you still intend to follow the three treasures: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, then you can seek tonsure again after returning to normal life. I hope you can join a famed temple, become a disciple of an eminent monk, swear an oath to remain purified in body and mind, reach enlightenment. If you do not become a monk, then you can still become a lay-devotee, follow the six Paramita and ten thousand conduct, attain enlightenment for Great Bodhisattva." His speech was kind, earnest and sincere.
XuZhu was mournful, he bowed and said: "The teachings of master Abbot, disciple doesn't dare to forget."
XuanJi said again: "HuiLun come here." HuiLun move forward a few steps, he put his palms together and knelt down. XuanJi said: "HuiLun, you are XuZhu's teacher, you were lazy in your daily instructions. You failed to give guidance on the evils of three poisons and six roots, thus you caused the disaster that happened today. You will be given 30 strokes of the rod, sit facing the wall in Discipline Courtyard and repent for three years. Do you accept?"
HuiLun's voice quivered: "Disciple... disciple accepts."
XuZhu said: "Martial grandfather, disciple is willing to endure the 30 strokes of rod on behalf of my master."
XuanJi nod his head and said: "Since this is the case then XuZhu will receive a total of 130 strokes of rod. Disciple in-charge of corporal punishment, go fetch the rod. At this moment XuZhu is still a Shaolin monk, you cannot be lenient in your punishment. After he exits the temple XuZhu will be the leader of another sect, he will have no more hatred with our temple. Everyone in the temple must pay extra courtesy and respect to him."
The four disciples in-charge of corporal punishment accepted their orders and left. Soon after they returned to the main hall, their hands grasping long purple-red wooden sticks.
XuanJi was about to issue the order to execute punishment when suddenly a monk rushed into the main hall hurriedly, his hand supporting a big pile of name cards. He lifted the cards up high and delivered them to XuanCi and said: "Reporting to Abbot, a crowd of heroes came paying their respect."
XuanCi look at the name cards. There were 30 cards, they are all from famous heroes in the northern region. They arrived together in Shaolin at the same time, presumably it must be due to the matter concerning Beggars Clan. He heard unending chatter outside the temple, the crowd of heroes had already arrived outside the temple's gate. XuanCi said: "Junior martial brother XuanSheng, please welcome the guest." He said again: "Martial brothers, esteemed guests, our temple will postpone the tidying of sect matters for another time so as to not neglect our guests from afar." At once he stood up and walked to the entrance of the main hall.
Soon after they saw around ten heroes accompanied by XuanSheng arrive before the main hall.
XuanCi, XuanJi and XuanSheng, although they are eminent monks who practiced Buddhist doctrine diligently, they are still martial art experts. When they encountered martial art practitioners they would inevitably have the intention to know them better. At this moment, seeing so many famous heroes arriving, although they are feeling heavy hearted as they are in the midst of tidying up sect matters, they cannot help but feel their spirit rise. The crowd of Shaolin monks often spread their teachings outside the temple, hence they made a lot of friends outside the Buddhist circle. Among the famous heroes quite a number of them were close friends with monks from Hui generation and Xuan generation. Everyone shook hands and greeted each other, they were joyous in this reunion. They entered the main hall and introduce themselves to Jiumozhi and ShenShan. ShenShan, GuanXin, etc., their fame was known to everyone; even if they are not former acquaintances, the crowd of heroes still admired them for a very long time already.
XuanJi was about to ask the heroes for their purpose in coming when another monk rushed in to report. Another ten heroes from Shandong province and Huainan prefecture had arrived at Shaolin to pay their respect.
XuanCan went out to greet the guests and welcome them into the main hall. A shady fellow said loudly: " Beggars Clan's Chief Zhuang invited us to witness a lively event, has he yet to arrive?"
A feminine and soft voice said: "Old chap why so anxious? Since we are here already you think you won't have any chance to witness any activity? Obviously we small fry will go on stage first, the main event will appear at a later stage."
XuanCi said in a bright voice: "Ladies and gentlemen, all of you arrive at my humble temple without prior notice, Shaolin is really honored. I ask for your forgiveness if we do not entertain you properly."
The crowd of heroes said: "Well said, well said, abbot you are too polite."
At this time, heroes who had good relations with Shaolin monks had long narrated their purpose in coming to Shaolin. It seems everyone received a hero invitation card from Beggars Clan's Chief Zhuang. Shaolin Temple and Beggars Clan had always worked together to rule over the Central Plains. Now the new Chief of Beggars Clan Zhuang JuXian wished to elect a leader of Central Plains martial art fraternity, to set down rules and regulations so that everyone may comply and abide by it. Thus he set the meeting at 10th of November in Shaolin Temple and he would visit to discuss with Abbot XuanCi. Everyone displayed their hero invitation card, the card indicated that today is 11th year of the 60 years cycle. The winter solstice, it brings great luck. The time is good for making friends, although the writings on the card is rather modest but it clearly implied the leader of Central Plains martial art fraternity to be none other than the Chief of Beggars Clan. Zhuang JuXian set the meeting at Shaolin Temple, obviously he would rely on his martial arts to defeat the monks at Shaolin and crush the awe-inspiring reputation enjoyed by Shaolin for several hundred years.
The card was not an invitation for the heroes to be at Shaolin. However everyone was simply too excited by the event, Beggars Clan tussling with Shaolin for supremacy. Everyone wished to witness this major event personally hence they arrive at Shaolin without any prior notice. The most frequent question that popped up among the discussion in the main hall: "Who is Zhuang JuXian?" Everyone asked the same question but nobody could give an answer.
Abbot XuanCi had already discussed this question with his fellow martial brothers for several days. They surmised this Zhuang JuXian is most like an alias of Qiao Feng. Based on his martial arts and shrewdness he could simply kill the elders in Beggars Clan who opposed him and reinstate himself as Chief of Beggars Clan. If not based on the usual intimate relationship between Shaolin and Beggars Clan how could Beggars Clan suddenly make such a move? The great battle at Juxian Manor by Qiao Feng, everyone was aware of it, thus he assumed the alias of Zhuang JuXian to hint at his true origin.
Not long after, heroes from Hubei and Hunan province, as well Jiangnan, Sichuan, Shaanxi, Guangdong, Guangxi, various heroes from these regions all arrived. The heroes from northern and southern regions were separated by a thousand miles, nevertheless they all arrived within a single day. Clearly Beggars Clan had made preparation for a long time already. They dispatched hero invitation cards several months in advance. XuanCi and the rest of the monks remained silent, however they are inwardly angry and worried. Only a few days ago, claiming to be Chief of Beggars Clan, Zhuang JuXian dispatched a letter to Shaolin, the letter mentioned the matter of electing a supreme leader of martial arts fraternity and within a few days he would personally visit Shaolin to pay his respect and to ask abbot XuanCi for advice. The letter did not mention an exact date and did not mention about inviting heroes from all over the world. Who would have imagined a huge crowd of heroes to suddenly arrive, Shaolin was caught off guard and was thrown into confusion. Although Shaolin Temple is well informed of matters in the martial arts fraternity, but unexpectedly they did not receive any information pertaining to this matter. They had yet to compete but were put at a disadvantage already. This act from Beggars Clan seemed to adopt an attitude that they had already won. The hero invitation card did not explicitly state to invite any heroes. They could not take matters into their own hands and make decisions for Shaolin, but in reality this mass distribution of hero invitation cards already presented itself as an invitation even if it may not look like it. The crowd of monks pondered: "Beggars Clan did not invite us to visit their headquarters, their Chief is coming to visit personally. It may seem they are being courteous but in reality they did not allow Shaolin to make any preparations and caught us off guard."
XuanSheng tried to extract information from his close friend Hebei's Divine Slingshot Zhuge Zhong: "Ah ha, old Zhuge, you already received information but you did not write any letters to me, our 30 years of friendship, henceforth I will write it off with one stroke."
Zhuge Zhong blushed deep red, he tried to clarify repeatedly: "I....I only received this card three days ago, I did not even finish eating my meal and rushed over here straight away without rest. En route two of my best horses died due to exhaustion, I did this out of fear that I might miss the event and cannot lend you stinky thief baldy a helping hand. How....how come you blame me for no reason?"
XuanSheng snorted and said: "It seems you really have good intentions!"
Zhuge Zhong said: "What other intentions would I have? Your Shaolin Temple has high martial arts, old brother just come here to cheer and boost morale, is that bad intention? The original hero invitation card sent out by your Abbot, the date was fixed on 8th of December, everyone would gather together to meet Gusu Murong’s family, elder brother arrive 1 month earlier, I did not let you down."
XuanSheng was finally at ease. He inquired from the other heroes. Those further away received their invitation cards earlier, those closer received their cards slower. However all of them rushed to Shaolin without stopping to rest in hopes that they could reach it on time. It seems none of these heroes delivered a letter to Shaolin to notify as Beggars Clan was extremely thorough in its scheme. They calculated everyone's arrival time carefully and ensured that they wouldn't have any spare time to give early notice to Shaolin. When the monks thought of it, all of them felt that Beggars Clan formulated its plan carefully before acting. The Chief of Beggars Clan and its members had yet to arrive but they already gained the upper hand by a show of strength. It was very likely there will be more schemes ahead.
Today was the 10th of November. Moments ago Shaolin monks were dealing with ShenShan and the other foreign eminent monks. Immediately after they fought with Jiumozhi, afterwards they interrogated XuZhu. They already exhausted quite a bit of vigor, now they were flooded by waves of heroes arriving. Although there were many monks in Shaolin but the matter was too sudden and they inevitably became flustered. Fortunately the head-monk of Welcoming Guest Courtyard XuanJing is a talented manager, food and materials are well stocked in Shaolin. Under the guidance of XuanJing the crowd of monks received the crowd of heroes, their etiquette not lacking the slightest.
XuanJing and the other monks welcomed the visitors. They did not have time to discuss with each other and merely whispered inwardly. Suddenly a welcoming-monk announced: "Dali's ZhenNan Prince arrives!"
Previously, to investigate the death of great master XuanBei due to “Great Skanda Pestle”, Duan ZhengChun received orders from his elder brother the Emperor and paid an official visit to abbot XuanCi. The Duan family of Dali were friends with Shaolin, their arrival meant Shaolin would gain a strong ally. XuanCi was really pleased and said: "Prince Duan of Dali is still in Central Plains?" He led the crowd to welcome him. XuanCi and Duan ZhengChun as well as his entourage Hua HeGen, Fan Hua, Ba TianShi, Zhu DanChen, etc., they are meeting for the 2nd time. They exchanged conventional greetings and entered the main hall to meet with other heroes.
The first person they met was Tubo's Jiumozhi. Duan ZhengChun's countenance change immediately, he cupped his fists and said: "My son Duan Yu was showered with favor by Great Bright Wheel King and was brought along to the east, my son said he received many instructions and made much progress. I really can't thank you enough."
Jiumozhi gave a faint smile and said: "I don't dare! How come Gentleman Duan did not follow you here?"
Duan ZhengChun said: "I don't know where he went, maybe he fell into the hands of that crafty evil monk again. I was about to ask Grand Tutor for guidance."
Jiumozhi shook his head repeatedly and said: "The whereabouts of Gentleman Duan, junior monk is not aware of it. Sigh, what a pity what a pity!"
Duan ZhengChun was shaken. He assumed Duan Yu must have met with some unexpected mishap. He said hurriedly: "What makes Grand Tutor say so?" Although he experienced many unforeseen events before but he was concerned about the safety of his beloved son, his voice could not help but tremble.
Several months ago both father and son were joyous in their reunion, afterwards Duan Yu left to attend the chess-meet of Deaf Mute Old Man. Several months later Duan ZhengChun had not received any letters from him. He was afraid Duan Yu might run into Duan YanQing, Jiumozhi or Ding ChunQiu, these evil people. He was extremely worried. Recently he received information that the new Chief of Beggars Clan, Zhuang JuXian, wants to tussle with Shaolin over the position of supreme leader of martial arts fraternity. At once he rushed over to inquire about his son. The Duan family is an aristocratic family, famous for martial arts; naturally they are also concerned about the tussle between Beggars Clan and Shaolin.
Jiumozhi said: "junior monk met Master Kurong, Abbot BenYin and your esteemed elder brother at TianLong Monastery, their spirit calm and composed, their aura serene and stately, truly those who had attained the way of virtue. Prince ZhenNan's fighting prowess shook the entire world, but how come you show deep affection towards your children?"
Duan ZhengChun calm down and pondered: "It is useless to panic, even if Yu-er met with some unexpected mishap, this foreign monk will simply look down on me." He said: "It is human nature to love one's children. If people don't bear and raise children or protect them, there will be no one left in this world. I am only a common folk, how can I be compared with Grand Tutor, an eminent monk with no care or worries?"
Jiumozhi smile faintly and said: "When junior monk met your esteemed son for the first time, he was a brilliant youngster with extraordinary gifts. I knew he would definitely bring great honor to the Duan family. In the future he will be a learned and virtuous emperor of Dali, it is really the good fortune for the millions of people under the southern sky."
Immediately after he gave a long sigh and said: "Alas, what a pity, gentleman Duan's good fortune is not deep." He saw Duan ZhengChun turn pale again, he smiled faintly and said: "Upon arrival in the Central Plains, he saw a beautiful lady. Henceforth he groveled at the feet of this lady. Whatever lofty aspiration or great goal he had, he cast them all aside. If this lady travelled east he would simply follow east, if she travelled west he would follow west. Anyone can easily tell that he is a loafer, a philanderer who does not engage in honest work, isn't that a pity?"
He heard a "hee hee" sound, someone laughed out. It was a female voice. Everyone turned towards the direction of the sound. Unexpectedly it was a middle-age man with a wretched appearance. This person was Ruan XingZhu. For the past two years she had been accompanying Duan ZhengChun. When Duan ZhengChun rushed to Shaolin Temple she also followed. She knew Shaolin's regulations did not allow females to enter, thus she disguised herself as a man. Her appearance and manner utterly convincing, definitely not like the four sisters from Vulture Palace. However her voice was still tender and lovely, she could not be compared with her daughter Ah Zhu who could imitate a man's voice to perfection. She saw everyone look at her, she said in a rough voice: "Little prince learned from his family, not inferior to his father, amazing, amazing."
Duan ZhengChun was flirtatious and well known for spreading his love everywhere. She classified Duan Yu's love for Wang Yuyan as "learning from his family, not inferior to his father", everyone could not help but smile.
Duan ZhengChun also laughed out loud and said to Jiumozhi: "My unfilial son....."
Jiumozhi said: "He is not unfilial, on the contrary he is filial, extremely filial!"
Duan ZhengChun knew he was ridiculing his lascivious nature, he did not take offense and simply said: "I don't know where he is currently, Grand Tutor are you aware of his whereabouts, please let me know."
Jiumozhi shook his head and said: "Gentleman Duan cannot extract himself out of his infatuation, his yearning made him thin and haggard. When junior monk saw him again he was emaciated, malnourished and sickly. It is difficult to say if he is dead or alive now."
Suddenly a young monk walked towards Duan ZhengChun. He bowed respectfully and said: "Prince please don't be overly anxious, 3rd younger brother is glowing with health and vigor, he is in excellent health."
Duan ZhengChun returned the courtesy. He felt extremely odd, the person seems to be a young monk from Shaolin but how come he addressed Duan Yu as "3rd younger brother". He said: "Little master, did you see my son recently?"
The young monk was XuZhu, he said: "Yes, that day 3rd brother and I drank wine at Vulture Palace until we became intoxicated......"
Suddenly Duan Yu's voice echoed from outside the main hall: "Father, I am here, are you well?" The voice had barely ended as a person flashed into the main hall and embraced Duan ZhengChun; it was Duan Yu. His internal energy was deep and profound, thus his hearing was strangely acute. He had just entered the temple gate and heard the conversation between his father and XuZhu. He immediately executed ‘Graceful Steps Upon the Waves’ and rushed ahead.
Both father and son reunited, their joy indescribable. Duan ZhengChun examined his son. Although he seemed to have caught a chill but he was radiating with health and vigor, definitely not what Jiumozhi described as "emaciated, malnourished and sickly, neither dead nor alive".
Duan Yu turn around and said to XuZhu: "2nd brother, you became a monk again?"
XuZhu was kneeling before the statue of Buddha for quite some time, sincerely repenting his past sins. However when he saw Duan Yu he immediately recalled his "Dream Maiden", he could not help but blush, his expression bashful. How could he open his mouth to ask?
Jiumozhi pondered: "Wang Yuyan must be nearby, if not no matter the massive disturbance at Shaolin it could never attract Duan Yu to Mount Shaoshi. Since Wang Yuyan is deeply devoted to her cousin she will never split up with Murong Fu." At once he gathered his energy and said brightly: "Gentleman Murong, since you already arrived at Mount Shaoshi how come you still don't enter the temple to pay respect to Buddha?"
"Gusu Murong" enjoyed tremendous reputation, everyone was startled. They pondered: "So Gentleman Murong also arrives. Did he have a prior appointment with this foreign monk and come here to make things difficult for Shaolin?"
However there was no reply, after a while Jiumozhi's voice echoed back from a distant mountainside: "Gentleman Murong... arrive at Mount Shaoshi... enter temple to pay respect to Buddha."
Jiumozhi pondered: "It seems I guessed wrongly, Murong Fu is not at Mount Shaoshi. If not he will surely hear my call, no reason for him to not reply!" He looked up to the sky and laughed out loud. He wanted to say something to cover up his embarrassment when suddenly a dark sinister voice transmitted from outside the temple's gate: "Murong Fu is engaging in a fierce battle with Old Freak Ding, if he can kill Old Freak Ding he will come to Shaolin and pay his respects."
When Duan ZhengChun and Duan Yu heard the voice their countenances changed immediately. It was ‘Evil Overflowing’ Duan YanQing.
Immediately after, a person wearing a green robe, hands leaning on a pair of steel crutches, Duan YanQing entered the temple's main hall. He was followed by ‘No Evil Left Undone’ Ye ErNiang, "Fierce Deity and Evil Devil" Crocodile Deity of Southern Sea, "To the Core Evil" Yun ZhongHe. The Four Evils, they all arrived.
XuanCi did not differentiate between good and evil when hosting guests, he treated them all with equal courtesy and respect. Although Shaolin's regulation does not allow for female guests, when Abbot XuanCi saw Ye ErNiang he was startled for a moment but did not voice any objection. The crowd pondered: "There are friends and enemies on both side, quite a number of female heroes. The regulation of not admitting female guests is just a trivial matter, no need to get into dispute for such matters."
When Divine Crocodile of The Southern Sea saw Duan Yu he blushed deep red immediately. He had the intention to turn around and walk away. Duan Yu laughed and said: "My good disciple, are you well?" Divine Crocodile of The Southern Sea heard him call out "good disciple", it was too late to escape, he said fiercely: "Damn stinky master, you still not dead yet?" A lot of people in the main hall did not understand the inside story, they saw this person's appearance was ferocious, unexpectedly the gentle and scholarly Duan Yu address him as "good disciple", it was really odd. Even more strange he replied and address Duan Yu as "Master"; however his speech was extremely rude.
Ye ErNiang smiled and said: "Ding ChunQiu displayed his divine abilities, Murong Fu is completely helpless against his assault. Everyone do you want to go see the exciting fight?"
Duan Yu yelled out: "Aiyo!" he rushed out of the main hall immediately.
Previously Murong Fu, Deng BaiChuan, GongYe Gan, Bao BuTong, Feng BoE, Wang Yuyan, six of them managed to leave Misty Peak. Murong Fu felt they snuck into Vulture Palace and got involved in a huge internal strife for no reason. His plan and schemes amounted to nothing. He was downcast and felt really embarrassed. Only Wang Yuyan was laughing and smiling. The happiest moments on earth were being able to accompany her cousin.
The six headed east to the Central Plains. One afternoon they passed through a dark and gloomy forest, Feng BoE suddenly shout out: "The air reeks of blood." He pulled out his broadsword and rushed swiftly towards the source of the stench, thinking: "Most likely a fight will occur at the place with the stench of blood." The stench of blood was getting heavier. Unexpectedly around ten corpses lie in a disordered fashion before his eyes, their weapons scattered in all direction, their blood had yet to dry. It seemed these people died recently but the huge battle was clearly over. Feng BoE stamped his feet and said: "What bad luck, I arrived late."
Murong Fu and the others followed soon after, they saw the clothes on these corpses were ragged and shabby with cloth pouches attached; they were Beggars Clan 's members. GongYe Gan said: "Some of them are 4-pouch disciples, some are 5-pouch disciples. I wonder how they fell into evil hands."
Deng BaiChuan said: "Let us bury the corpses."
GongYe Gan said: "Precisely. Young master, Miss Wang, please rest by the side." He picked up an iron rod on the ground and started digging.
Suddenly someone groaned from among the pile of corpses. Wang Yuyan was greatly alarmed, she grabbed Murong Fu's left hand.
Feng BoE rushed forward and shouted: "Old chap, you still not dead yet?" A person sat up slowly from the pile of corpses and said: "Not dead yet, but... nearly... nearly there." The person was a 50 year-old beggar, his hair grizzled, his face and chest covered with bloodstains, his expression terrifying. Feng BoE quickly took out a healing pill and fed it to him.
The old beggar swallowed the pill and said: "Use... useless. I suffered two slashes in my stomach, I... I won't live."
Feng BoE said: "Who harmed you?"
The old beggar shook his head and said: "I am really ashamed, it’s… it is an internal strife within Beggars Clan..." Feng BoE, Bao BuTong, etc., all of them cry out in surprise. The old beggar said: "This matter... originally this matter should not be revealed to outsiders, but... but since it already reached such a state, I cannot cover up anymore. May I ask for your great name? Many... many thanks for saving me, alas, Beggars Clan members massacred one another. They really fall short compared to total strangers. Just now....just now I heard you want to bury the corpses, you are heroic and humane, old man is extremely grateful....."
Bao BuTong said: "Not true, not true. You are not dead yet, cannot be considered as a corpse. We have yet to bury you, there is no need for thanks."
The old beggar said: "Brothers from Beggars Clan killed us, they... they didn't even bury the corpses. How... how can they be considered good brothers? Really not better than beasts....." Bao BuTong love to debate, beasts don't know how to bury corpse. However he saw Murong Fu cast him a meaningful glance, thus he shut up and did not retort.
The old beggar said: "Old man requests you to pass on information to Beggars Clan 's... Elder Wu. Tell him that our Clan's Chief Zhuang JuXian is merely a puppet. He... he completely obeys Quan GuanQing... that traitor. We do not accept the one surnamed Zhuang as Clan's Chief. Quan GuanQing dispatched… his men to kill us. Now he wants to kill Elder Wu. Please remind him... to be careful."
Murong Fu nodded his head. He pondered: "So that is what happened." He said: "Old chap please be at ease, we will definitely try to covey this news but we don't know where your Clan's Elder Wu is."
The old beggar's eyes were lifeless. He stared vacantly at a distant place and said slowly: "I... I also don't know."
Murong Fu said: "There is no harm. We will simply spread this news around widely. It will eventually reach Elder Wu, when Quan GuanQing hears it maybe he won't dare to lay his hands on Elder Wu anymore."
The old beggar nodded his head repeatedly and said: "Precisely, precisely, many thanks!"
Murong Fu inquired: "Your new Chief of Beggars Clan Zhuang JuXian, where did he come from? We are ignorant and ill-informed, this is the first time we heard his name."
The old beggar said angrily: "This iron-head boy....."
Murong Fu and the rest were startled, they said in unison: "It is that iron-head freak?"
The old beggar said: "I just came back from Western Xia. I have never seen that chap before, I merely hear it from my brothers in the Clan, that fellow... originally he wore an iron mask. Afterwards Quan GuanQing removed it for him, his face....sigh, it is really more unsightly than a demon. This chap possessed superb martial arts. A few months ago at our Clan's general assembly in Hunan everyone gathered to elect a new Chief, we argued endlessly. Eventually we came to an agreement to select based on martial arts. This chap killed eleven top experts from our Clan. He became....the Chief. Many of our brothers are not convinced. Quan GuanQing that traitor.... Quan GuanQing that traitor...." His voice was getting softer and softer, he seemed to be hanging on his last breath.
Deng BaiChuan said: "Old chap, let me take a look at your wound first, we will think of how to treat your injuries and discuss later."
The old beggar said: "My stomach is pierced, intestines ruptured... many thanks, but..." He inserted his hand into his bosom to reach for something but he could not summon the energy. He said: "I have… to trouble..."
GongYe Gan knew his intention and said: "Sir you wish to get something?" The old beggar nodded his head. GongYe Gan fished the items out of his bosom and spread them on his palm; flint, concealed weapons, medicine, rations, broken silvers. Truly quite a number of items, all of them covered with blood.
The old beggar said: "I... I won't make it. This piece of... piece of document, it is extremely important. I earnestly request benefactor to deliver... deliver it to any Beggars Clan's Elder... Just don't give it to that iron-head chap and... and that traitor Quan GuanQing. I offer you my thanks." He extend his trembling right hand and lifted a yellow paper from GongYe Gan's palm.
Murong Fu said: "Sir please be at ease, if your injury is truly difficult to heal we promise to deliver this document to your Clan's Elders." As he finished speaking he took the yellow paper.
The old beggar said: "I am surnamed Yi, named DaBiao. I have... have to trouble you. I came from Western Xia, this... this is a notice from the Emperor of Western Xia to recruit a son-in-law. This matter... this matter is extremely important, it concerns the fate and safety of Great Song. I only just returned back to the Central Plains and met with this wicked scheme. I only hoped to meet with Elder Wu... tell him. Who would have imagined... imagined I can't see him anymore. I hope sir can take into account the lives of millions of common people... common people... common people..." He said "common people" three times. He couldn't summon his breath. The more anxious he became the more difficult it was for him to speak. Suddenly he spurted a huge mouthful of blood, his eyes flipped over and caught Murong Fu's refined appearance. Someone came into his mind, he inquired: "Sir....who are you? Are you Gusu... Gusu...?"
Murong Fu said: "Correct, I am Gusu Murong Fu"
The old beggar was startled and said: "You...you are a great enemy of our Clan..." He extend his hands to forcefully grab the yellow paper away from Murong Fu.
Murong Fu allowed him to take the paper, he pondered: " Beggars Clan have always suspected me of causing the death of Chief Ma DaYuan. Although the rumors faded somewhat but this person still firmly believes I am culprit. He will die soon, no need to bicker with him."
The old beggar exerted force in his pair of hands, he wanted to tear the yellow paper. Suddenly both his legs straightened out, he spurt blood wildly and met with a violent death.
Feng BoE pried open the old beggar's fingers and retrieved the yellow paper; many complicated foreign texts were written on it, at the end there is a huge stamp. GongYe Gan was fairly knowledgeable with writings from other countries, he looked through the document from the start till end and said: "Sure enough, the Emperor of Western Xia is putting a notice to recruit a son-in-law. The text says: ‘Princess YinChuan of Western Xia is of marriageable age, the Emperor wishes to select a person well versed in literature and martial arts; a handsome, elegant and unmarried young man to be his son-in-law. The selection date is set at next year, third month, Qingming Festival. No matter the nationality, as long as the person is a first class talent, he may come forth to visit and the Emperor will be pleased to welcome him. Even if he does not get selected he may also be hired base on his talents, conferred official ranking and bestowed gold and silver’..."
GongYe Gan had yet to finish reading as Feng BoE laughed out loud and said: "This friend from Beggars Clan is ridiculous. He took this notice from Western Xia, don't tell me he wants to help one of his Clan's Elder to apply and become the son-in-law of the Emperor of Western Xia?"
Bao BuTong said: "Not true, not true! 4th younger brother you are not aware, although those Elders from Beggars Clan are old and ugly, but they still have quite a number of young disciples who are well versed in literature and martial arts, handsome and intelligent people. If any one of their disciples becomes the son-in-law of the Emperor of Western Xia, then won't Beggars Clan enjoy a meteoric rise in status?"
Deng BaiChuan knit his bow and said: "It is said that heroes from Beggars Clan do not seek riches and honor, how come this Yi DaBiao lust after such glory?"
GongYe Gan said: "Big brother, that old beggar said: 'This matter is extremely important, it concerns the fate and safety of Great Song.' Afterwards he talked about the safety of millions of common people, maybe he is not talking about seeking riches and honor for Beggars Clan."
Bao BuTong shook his head and said: "Not true, not true!"
GongYe Gan said: "3rd younger brother, you have wise opinion again?"
Bao BuTong said: "2nd brother, you ask me if I have any wise opinion again. From the word "again" obviously I already revealed my wise opinion. However I did not reveal any wise opinion; it clearly shows that you do not think I have any wise opinion. You ask me if I have any wise opinion again, but what you are truly asking is: 'Old Bao the 3rd, you talking nonsense again?' Correct?"
Although Feng BoE liked to fight, but he didn't fight with his own brothers. Bao BuTong liked to debate, however he did not differentiate between relatives, senior or junior, as long as one sentence did not suit his taste he would simply argue and debate endlessly. GongYe Gan was well aware of his temper. He smile faintly and said: "3rd younger brother revealed quite a number of wise opinions in the past. The word "again", it’s truly inviting another wise opinion from you."
Bao BuTong shook his head and said: "Not true, not true! You are hiding a smile while talking, your intention is not sincere..."
He wanted to continue speaking but Deng BaiChuan interrupted his speech and said: "3rd younger brother, Yi DaBiao took this notice from Western Xia. He solemnly requested us to deliver it to his Clan's Elders, in your opinion what is his intention?"
Bao BuTong said: "I am not Yi DaBiao, how would I know his intention?"
Murong Fu glanced towards GongYe Gan, seeking his opinion.
GongYe Gan smiled faintly and said: "My thoughts differ greatly from 3rd brother." He knew that no matter what he said, Bao BuTong would surely refute it. Thus he spoke frankly. Bao BuTong said: "Not true, not true! You guess wrongly. My opinion is exactly the same as yours, completely identical."
GongYe Gan laugh and said: "This is truly wonderful!"
Murong Fu said: "2nd brother, what is your opinion?"
GongYe Gan said: "In this current age, Great Liao, Great Song, Tubo, Western Xia, Dali, five nations with equal power. Other than Dali, which is secluded at southern borders, aloof from worldly affairs, the other four nations all have intentions to swallow each other and annex the land under the heaven..."
Bao BuTong said: "2nd brother, you are wrong. Although our Great Yan does not occupy any territory, but young master is constantly thinking about restoring the Yan. How do you know Great Yan won't be able to return to our former awe-inspiring glory, the complete restoration of Great Yan?"
Murong Fu, Deng BaiChuan, GongYe Gan, Feng BoE, all of them stood tall and upright, their expression solemn. They said in unison: "The ambition to restore our nation, we will never forget it!" The five of them pulled out their weapons from their sheathes and raised them in front of their chest.
The ancestors of Murong Fu were an ethic group of northern nomads. In the turmoil of the five northern minorities in Central China, the Murong clan invaded Central Plains. They showcased their awe-inspiring might and established Former Yan, Later Yan, Southern Yan, Western Yan, several dynasties. Later on, the Murong clan was wiped out by Wei of Northern Dynasties and their offspring scattered in all directions. However their descendants from father to son, generation after generation, they harbored the desire to restore their nation. From the Sui to Tang dynasties the Murong clan gradually declined, however their great aspiration to "Restore Great Yan" still remain as strong as ever. Nevertheless the possibility became more remote and uncertain.
In the final years of Later Zhou, the Murong clan produced a general, Murong YanChao, his might and prestige unparalleled, and within his clan there was a martial art prodigy Murong LongCheng. He created the profound art of “Star Shifting Movement”, his skills unrivalled, renowned throughout the world. Murong LongCheng did not forget the wishes of his ancestors, he gathered many strong and courageous people and intend to restore his nation, however what is long divided must unify, Zhao KuangYin established Great Song, the world stabilized and the people desired peace. Although Murong LongCheng possessed strong martial arts, he was unable to make an impact and met his end eventually.
After several generations the Murong clan was passed down to Murong Bo. The martial arts and lofty aspirations of Murong LongCheng also passed down entirely to Murong Bo. To restore Great Yan in the Song dynasty was to start a rebellion. Thus Murong Bo gathered wealth, provisions and people in secret, he did not let out the slightest bit of news. Murong clan harbored lofty ambitions, their conduct vastly different from common martial artists. In the eyes of others they were extremely unpleasant, in addition with their "returning you with your own move" reputation they were feared and hated.
Nomads from the northern part of the country were brave, heroic and imposing. In order to lie low and stay out of trouble the Murong clan changed their location to a water village in Jiangnan Suzhou. The area was considered to be elegant and refined, thus they avoided unnecessary attention. Deng BaiChuan and the rest were Han Chinese people. For successive generations they had always been henchmen of the Murong clan, thus they also adopted the ambition of restoring Great Yan.
In the wilderness there were no people around. They could not restrain themselves and drew out their swords; their excitement and passion bursting forth.
Wang Yuyan however turned around unhurriedly and walked away slowly; she kept a far distance away from them. Her mother had always opposed the Murong clan's intention to revolt. She felt the notion of becoming king or emperor was merely the wishful thinking of the Murong clan, their ambition was hopeless and destined to cause the extermination of the entire clan. Although both families were closely related, however due to verbal disagreement between Madam Wang and Madam Murong their hostility deepened. Thus for the past few years Madam Wang forbade Murong Fu from visiting. She voluntary sought to live in seclusion at the deepest part of Ling Lake, unwilling to have any engagement with the Murong clan.
GongYe Gan glanced at Wang YuYan's shadow and said: "Liao and Song are in a state of war for many years. Although Great Liao have the upper hand but they don't have the capability to exterminate the Song nation. Western Xia and Tubo reside at the western frontier, both countries possess hundred and thousands of elite troops. Great Song will face certain destruction if either side provides assistance to Liao, similarly Liao will be wiped out if they assist Song nation.
Feng BoE said loudly: "2nd brother words are logical. Beggars Clan have always been loyal to Great Song. Yi DaBiao returned with this document, he must be hoping for a young hero from Great Song to become the son-in-law of the Emperor of Western Xia. If Song and Western Xia are connected by marriage then they will be invincible."
GongYe Gan nodded his head and said: "They will truly be invincible. Great Song possess huge population, their wealth and provisions abundant. Western Xia possess elite military forces, they are brave and good at fighting. If these two nations ally and join forces, Great Liao and Tubo will not be able to resist. Naturally Dali will be crushed as well. In my opinion, after Song and Western Xia join forces, the 1st step is to annex Dali, the 2nd step is to attack Liao nation."
Deng BaiChuan said: "Yi DaBiao is counting his chickens before they hatched. Nevertheless if it really happens, Song and Western Xia will become allies through marriage and they can achieve success easily. Liao, Tubo, Dali, various nations, once they learn about this news they will surely try to sabotage it."
GongYe Gan said: "Not only try to sabotage it, maybe they will think of ways to marry this princess from Western Xia."
Deng BaiChuan said: "I wonder if this princess is pretty or ugly, sweet-tempered or barbaric?"
Bao BuTong laughed loudly and said: "Elder brother you think too much. Don’t tell me you want to try to win the princess's hand in marriage and become the son-in-law of Emperor of Western Xia?"
Deng BaiChuan smiled and said: "If your brother Deng is younger by 20 years, martial arts 10 times stronger, more handsome by 100 times, then I will fly to Western Xia immediately." His expression turned solemn immediately and said: "We conspired for several hundred years to restore Great Yan, all along it was unrealistic. We achieved nothing. Ultimately it is due to a lack of a strong and powerful ally. If our Murong clan become in-laws with Western Xia, once we make a move Western Xia will send reinforcements immediately. Is there anything we cannot achieve?"
GongYe Gan said: "Precisely. During the Spring and Autumn Period, Qin and Jin were linked by marriage. Jin ChongEr lost his nation and went into exile. Duke Mu of Qin dispatched an army to assist Jin, ChongEr became Duke Wen of Jin and established political hegemony."
Bao BuTong liked to debate, twist words and make up fallacious argument. Unexpectedly when he heard GongYe Gan's speech he nodded his head repeatedly and said: "Correct! As long as this matter is beneficial to the restoration of Great Yan, then I don't care if the princess of Western Xia is pretty or ugly, good or bad, as long as she agree to marry me old Bao, even if she is an old pig, old Bao will still stay firm and marry her."
Everyone laughed out loudly, they shifted their gaze towards Murong Fu.
Murong Fu was astute. He knew the four of them wanted him to go to Western Xia and take part in the selection to become the Emperor's son-in-law. With regards to appearance and character, literary and martial arts talent, in the present age there wasn't a young man who was comparable to him. He knew he had 70-80% chance of succeeding if he goes to Western Xia to ask for the princess's hand in marriage. However if the Emperor of Western Xia emphasized family background, although he may be a noble descendant of Great Yan, but ultimately his nation had long declined to nothing. He was merely a commoner in Great Song. If Great Song, Dali, Great Liao and Tubo send their princes and marquis to seek marriage, he would surely lose out due to lack of nobility status. Murong Fu thought for a long time and glanced at the piece of document.
GongYe Gan followed Murong Fu for very long time, he was able to guess his thoughts accurately. He said: "The notice is very clear, the selection does not take into account family status, only character and talents. When you become the Emperor's son-in-law, nobility and title will follow. However character and skill cannot be awarded by the emperor's edict. Young master, the great ambition of the Murong clan that lasted several hundred years, you... you have to bear the burden." When he was nearing the end of his speech he became agitated, his voice trembled.
Bao BuTong said: "Young master will became Duke Wen of Jin. We four brothers will be HuMao, HuYan, Jie Zitui..." Suddenly he recalled that Jie Zitui was burned to death by Duke Wen of Jin. The matter was not too auspicious, thus he laughed and shut up immediately.
Murong Fu's expression was pale, his fingers trembling slightly. He knew this was a once in a lifetime golden opportunity. When a princess looked for a partner, the Emperor would usually let the chancellor be the matchmaker. A minster who rendered outstanding contribution or the descendant of an aristocratic family would usually be selected to become the Emperor's son-in-law. The emperor would never issue such a notice and make the selection public. Murong Fu could not help but gaze towards Wang YuYan's shadow. She was standing under a willow tree, right hand holding onto a willow branch, her eyes gazing at the flowing river, her figure frail and thin, she evoked a sense of pity.
Naturally Murong Fu was fully aware of his cousin's devoted love towards him. Although his aunt and parents were at odds and forbid them from seeing each other, and even though she was a delicate maiden without any martial arts, yet she ran away from home without hesitation, drifting aimlessly to look for him. This kind of affection is truly rare in this world. Murong Fu travelled around the world, he focused entirely on restoring Great Yan. He couldn't even concentrate on practicing martial arts. As for the relationship between men and women, he had even less regards for it. However his cousin was beautiful and virtuous, well acquainted with martial arts theory, she is devoted to him. How could he remain indifferent? To suddenly ask him to abandon her and propose marriage with a princess he never met before, although he knew the outcome was inevitable, he still can't bear to do so.
GongYe Gan coughed lightly and said: "Young master, since ancient times those who accomplished great undertakings are not bothered about trivial matters; a true hero has to break this 'love' barrier."
Bao BuTong said: "Great Yan must be restored, young master when you become the Emperor, the life of the Emperor and his harem, won't it be enough? Princess of Western Xia will be the Empress, Miss Wang, she will become your imperial consort, a warm and virtuous concubine. If young master is biased towards her and doted on her more, who dares to question you?" Normally Bao BuTong liked to argue and bicker with others, but now they are discussing important matters, unexpectedly his speech became clear and logical.
Murong Fu nodded his head. When his father was still alive he exhorted repeatedly: other than restoration of Great Yan he should not concern himself with other matters. For the sake of restoring Great Yan father and elders can be killed, children massacred, relatives and close friends abandoned; as for male-female relationship there is no need to even bother. Although Wang Yuyan was deeply devoted to him, all along he treated her as a younger sister; there was really no special feelings. Although he had long set his mind on marrying her, he rarely thought of such matters as he felt it was to be expected, no need to worry too much. As long as he could accomplish his great undertaking, it would be like what Bao BuTong had said, his cousin will become an imperial concubine in the future and he will simply dote on her more. Once he rationalized this, he no longer concerned himself with Wang Yuyan, he said: "Everyone is correct, indeed this is a golden opportunity for the restoration of Great Yan. But a man must keep his promise. This piece of document, we have to deliver it to Beggars Clan."
Deng BaiChuan said: "Correct, not to mention there isn't anyone in Beggars Clan who is comparable to young master, even if there is one we cannot hide this document and become shameless scoundrels."
Feng BoE said: "Of course. Elder brother, 2nd brother will escort young master to Western Xia, 3rd brother and I will deliver this document to Beggars Clan. Next year's Qingming Festival is still a long time away, there is plenty of time for Beggars Clan to pick a candidate. They cannot accuse us of taking advantage of them."
Murong Fu said: "Our conduct must be upright, I will personally deliver this document to the Beggars Clan's Elders. After that we will go to Western Xia."
Deng BaiChuan applauded and said: "Young master is right. We cannot allow the slightest bit of complaint from others." GongYe Gan, Bao BuTong and Feng BoE all nodded their head at the same time, at once they start burying the dead bodies of Beggars Clan's members.
Murong Fu called out to ask Wang Yuyan to come over, he said: "Cousin, these Beggars Clan's members are killed by someone, it involves an extremely important matter. I have to personally go to the headquarters of Beggars Clan as soon as possible. I would like to escort you back to Mantuo Manor first."
Wang Yuyan was startled and said quickly: "I....I don't want to go home, if mother sees me she will surely kill me."
Murong Fu laughed and said: "Although her temper is violent but you are her only daughter, how can she be willing to kill you? At most she will criticize you that's all."
Wang Yuyan said: "No....no, I don't want to go home. I will go together with you to Beggars Clan."
Since Murong Fu had set his mind to propose marriage in Western Xia, he felt extremely apologetic. He pondered: "For the time being I will go along with her and decide later." He said: "You are a female, it is not appropriate for you to roam around Jianghu, don't go to the headquarters of Beggars Clan. Since you don't want to return to Mantuo Manor then you can simply stay at my home in Basin of Swallow. Once the matter is settled I will come and visit you, how about it?"
Wang Yuyan blushed deep red, she was secretly delighted. Her lifelong wish was to marry her cousin and stay in Basin of Swallow, now Murong Fu said he wanted her to stay in Basin of Swallow. Although it was not akin to a marriage proposal but his intention could easily be inferred. She did not say anything and lowered her head slowly, her eyes exuded a peculiar radiance.
Deng BaiChuan and GongYe Gan glanced at each other, they felt a twinge of guilt at having to deceive this innocent and pure lady. Suddenly they heard a 'Pa' sound, Feng BoE slapped himself heavily. Wang Yuyan lifted her head and asked curiously: "4th brother Feng, what happened?"
Feng BoE said: "A...a mosquito stung me."
At once the six of them headed eastward. After travelling for two days, Duan Yu came along, he chased after them happily and said: "Aiyo, what a coincidence, Gentleman Murong, Mr. GongYe, Mr. Bao, Mr. Feng, Miss Wang, we meet again. Since everyone is heading east let's just travel together to make the journey more lively."
Although Bao BuTong loathed him, but Duan Yu saved Feng BoE, Murong Fu and Miss Wang before, thus he did think it was appropriate to rebuff him. However he still mocked and ridiculed him during the journey. Duan Yu turn a deaf ear to his remarks and pay no heed.
While en route they received news of Beggars Clan tussling with Shaolin over the position of chief of martial arts fraternity. Murong Fu, Deng BaiChuan and the rest discussed it secretly; if both side suffer a defeat then Murong clan will inevitably benefit from their misfortune. Maybe they can even obtain the title of chief of martial arts fraternity, thereby commanding the heroes of Jianghu. It was really a great opportunity to catapult them to power, they definitely could not let this chance pass by. At once they rushed to Shaolin. Unexpectedly when they arrived at the base of Mount Shaoshi they met the Old Freak of XingXiu Ding ChunQiu.
For the past few months, Ding ChunQiu had expanded his sect greatly and recruited many disciples. Regardless of their criminal or unorthodox ways, as long as they were willing to join his sect and listen to his orders he would welcome them. Within a few months many bandits and evil people in Central Plains flock to his sect, his fame and power flourished.
Deng BaiChuan, GongYe Gan and Bao BuTong were harmed by Ding ChunQiu in the past, now they came across each other again, seeing his huge swarm of disciples they were inwardly afraid. Feng BoE however was fearless, he did not say much and simply rushed into the enemy ranks and started fighting with XingXiu disciples. Duan Yu wanted to accompany Wang Yuyan and leave. However Wang Yuyan was concerned about her cousin, she refused to leave. The crowd of XingXiu disciples rushed in like a tide, at once Murong Fu and company were drown out by them.
Duan Yu execute his ‘Graceful Steps Upon the Waves’ and dodged the XingXiu disciples. Immediately after, he heard his father's voice and rushed to the temple to meet him. Afterwards he heard Ye ErNiang said Murong Fu were completely helpless against the enemy's assault. He pondered: "I have to carry Miss Wang out of danger." He rushed out quickly.
- END OF CHAPTER 40 -