Demi-Gods & Semi-Devils | Chapter 6: Descendants into the Courtyard

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Book 1: Adventures of Youth

demi gods and semi devils part 6

Chinese title: 天龍八部 - 
Original novel written by Jin Yong (Louis Cha)
Wuxia Novel Fan Translation by Ani411, Pacifian, Ren woxing


Chapter 6: Descendants into the Courtyard

Duan Yu hugged Mu Wanqing to his bosom, feeling both happy and concerned, he asked, “Miss Mu, how is your injury? Did that evil person bully you?” 

Mu Wanqing said angrily, “Who am I to you? Still calling me Miss Mu?”

Seeing Mu Wanqing angry, yet prettier at the same time, this seven days he had missed her really badly. He tightened his arms and said gently, “Sister Wan! Sister Wan! Can I call you that?” Lowering his head at the same time and kissed her. 

Mu Wanqing exclaimed, “Ah!” blushed deeply and jumped up saying “there are other people here! How could you…you do that? Aye, where are those people?” Looking around, she realised that Chu, Gu, Fu, Zhu, these four people were gone. Zuo ZiMu had left with his son, leaving not a single person in their surroundings.

Duan Yu asked, “Who else is here? Is it Divine Crocodile?” 

Looking frightened Mu Wanqing asked, “How long have you been here?” 

Duan Yu replied, “Only for a while. I came up this peak.” 

Mu Wanqing said, “Ok…” mumbling “this is strange. How come everyone just disappeared in an instant?”

Suddenly, someone behind a rock recited, “Moving thousands of miles with a sword, daring to speak…” During the recital, a person came out. It was one of the four royal guards, Zhu Dan Chen. 

Duan Yu said happily, “Brother Zhu!” 

Zhu Dan Chen walked two steps in front, bowed and replied happily, “Young Master, luckily you are safe and well, just now what the young lady said made us so anxious!” 

Duan Yu made a polite hand gesture and said, “So all of you have met? Why are you…you here? This is too coincidental.”

Zhu Dan Chen replied with a smile, “The four of us were ordered to escort Young Master home, it was not a coincidence. Young master, you are so daring to wander alone in the martial arts world. We went to Ma Wu De’s home to find you and also rushed to Mt. Limitless. These few days all of us have been worried enough.”

Duan Yu replied with a laugh, “I went through quite a lot of suffering too. Uncle and father must be really angry, right?” 

Zhu Dan Chen replied, “They are of course not very happy. But when we left, the two masters’ anger had been appeased and they have missed you greatly these few days. After Marquis Shan Chan found out that the Four Evils were coming to Dali, he became worried that Young Master would bump into them, thus he personally rushed out.”

Duan yu said, “Uncle Gao is finding me too? How can I not feel bad? Where is he?” 

Zhu Dan Chen replied, “Just now we were all here. Lord Gao chased away an evil woman. Hearing Young Master’s cries, he heaved a sigh of relief and then he ordered me to wait here for Young Master. Then they went to chase after the evil woman. Young Master, let’s go back home, so that the two masters will not be too worried.”

Duan Yu said, “So you…you were here all along?” Thinking about how his intimate actions with Mu Wanqing had been seen and heard by him, leading him to blush in embarrassment. 

Zhu Dan Chen said, “Just now I was sitting behind the rock reading Wang Chang Ling’s poetry collection, his wu jue ‘Moving thousands of miles with a sword, daring to speak….Once a man of honour, not breaking his promises…’ In these simple twenty words which are unconventional and very worthy of admiration” and took out a book. It was “Wang Chang Ling’s Poetry Collection”. 

Duan Yu nodded and replied, “Wang Chang Ling’s speciality is qi jue, not wu jue. But this literary piece is of high quality. Isn’t his other piece ‘song guo si cang’ even better?” He then recited: “Reflection of the door in the green water, leaving the heart of the master. The bright moon…, the deep spring night.” 

Zhu Dan Chen bowed again and said “thank you Young Master,” using the poetry lines to change the topic. He used those lines to say that he would, like the others, repay Young Master in death. Duan Yu used those lines to say that as master, he was devoted to his subordinates and would treat them as good friends. Looking at each other, the two of them smiled. 

Mu Wanqing did not know poetry and thought “This bookworm has forgotten where he is. He gets so interested once he talks about poetry. This military officer sure knows how to flatter people by bringing a book with him.” She did not know that Zhu Dan Chen was of both literary and military capacity and usually read books of poetry. 

Duan Yu turned and said, “Miss Mu…Mu, this is Zhu Dan Chen, 4th brother Zhu, my good friend.” 

Zhu Dan Chen bowed with respect and said, “Greetings, Miss Mu.”

Mu Wanqing returned the greeting and seeing him treat her with respect, was overjoyed and said, “4th brother Zhu.”

Zhu Dan Chen said with a laugh, “I do not dare to be called that.” Thinking “this young lady is really pretty, just now when she slapped Young Master, she had been so agile, it seems as though her kungfu is not bad. Young Master was slapped, yet he still smiled, not caring much. For this young lady, he actually left home for such a long period of time; thus, he must be very infatuated with her. I wonder what the background of this young lady is. Young Master is so young and therefore, does not know how dangerous the martial arts world is. He should not be smitten with her beauty, maybe even causing him to lose his reputation.” And he said with a smile, “The two old masters miss Young Master and hope that you will go back home immediately. If Miss Mu is free, please go too as our guest.” He was worried that Duan Yu would refuse to go home, but if the young lady would go together with him, he would most likely agree to do so. 

Duan Yu stuttered, “What would…would I say to Uncle and Father?” Mu Wanqing blushed and turned her head away. 

Zhu Dan Chen said, “The ‘Four Evils’ have such high martial arts abilities, just now when the Marquis Shan Chan managed to force Second Madam Ye to retreat, it was by the element of surprise and also by luck. Young Master should not be in such a perilous situation, let’s leave quickly!” 

Duan Yu thought of Divine Crocodile’s fierce expression and could not help feeling scared. He said with a nod, “Ok, let’s go 4th Brother Zhu. Since the opponent is so powerful, you should go and help Uncle Gao. I will go home together with Miss Mu.” 

Zhu Dan Chen said with a laugh, “It was not easy to find Young Master; I should personally escort you home. Miss Mu is well-versed in martial arts, but I think she has not recovered from her injury. It will be bad if you meet strong opponents on your way home, and thus it will be better if I go with the both of you.”

Mu Wanqing said rudely, “You do not need to be so polite when you talk to me. I am a wild woman that has never studied before. I only understand half of what you are saying.” 

Zhu Dan Chen said with a laugh, “Of course, of course. Although I am a military officer, I like to act as if I am a scholar. This is a bad habit that refuses to go away. Please do not blame me, lady.”

Duan Yu was not willing to go home just like that, but since Zhu Dan Chen found him, he knew that he would have no choice but to do so. He would just have to try to leave secretly during the journey, thus, the three of them went down the peak. Mu Wanqing wanted to ask Duan Yu where he had gone to during those seven days and seven nights but because Zhu Dan Chen was near, talking was not convenient. Thus she had to resist the urge. Zhu Dan Chen brought dried food which he gave the two of them to eat.

The three of them reached the bottom of the peak and after travelling for miles, they found five horses tied to a tree. It turned out to be what Gu Du Cheng and the others had ridden here. Zhu Dan Chen led three of the horses to them and after Duan Yu and Mu Wanqing got on the horses, he got on one himself and followed behind them. That night, the three of them rested at an inn, each of them taking separate rooms. Zhu Dan Chen then bought a new set of clothes for Duan Yu to change into so that he did not have to suffer the misery of the holes in his trousers. 

Mu Wanqing closed the door of her room, staring at the red candle on the table. She sat down, feeling both happy and worried. She thought, “Husband Duan came to find me despite of the danger, showing how devoted he is to me. These few days I have been cursing him, thinking he was heartless; I have misunderstood him. Zhu Dan Chen treats him with so much respect, thus, he must some important officer’s son be. I, being a lady, although we have been engaged, should not go to his home for no apparent reason, isn’t that awkward? It seems like his uncle and father are very fierce towards him, if they look down on me and treat me with disrespect, what should I do? Hey, I should use my poison darts to kill his whole family, except him.” While she was thinking about this, she suddenly heard two soft taps on the window.

Mu Wanqing extinguished the candle flame with a wave of her left hand. Outside the window, Duan Yu said, “It’s me.” 

Hearing Duan Yu look for her in the deep night, her heart started pounding and her cheeks started burning, she whispered, “What do you want?” 

Duan Yu replied, “You open the window and I tell you.” 

Mu Wanqing said, “I will not open.” 

She knew martial arts, yet now she was scared of this weak scholar, it was strange. Duan Yu did not understand why she refused to open the window and he said, “Then you come out quickly and let’s leave quickly.” 

Mu Wanqing made a hole in the window paper and asked, “Why?” 

Duan Yu replied, “4th Brother Zhu is asleep, let’s not wake him up. I do not wish to go home.”

Mu Wanqing was overjoyed, she had been worried about meeting Duan Yu’s parents. She then pushed open the window lightly and jumped out. Duan Yu whispered, “I’ll go and get the horses.” 

Mu Wanqing shook her hands and wrapped her arm around Duan Yu’s waist before taking a deep breath and leapt over the wall. She then whispered, “4th brother Zhu will find out when he hears the sound of the hooves.” 

Duan Yu said softly with a laugh, “Luckily you thought of that.”

Holding hands, the two of them started travelling towards the east. After walking for miles, they did not hear anyone chasing them from the back and they were relieved. 

Mu Wanqing said, “Why do you not wish to go home?” 

Duan Yu replied, “Once I get home, Uncle and Father will definitely lock me up and I will not be able to go out. It will be difficult even to see you once.” 

Mu Wanqing was very pleased and said, “It’s best not to go to your house. From now on, the both of us shall wander in the world, isn’t that carefree? Now where do we go?” 

Duan Yu said, “Firstly, we must not be caught by 4th brother Zhu and Uncle Gao. Secondly, we must avoid that Divine Crocodile.”

Mu Wanqing said, “True. Let’s travel in the northwest direction, its best if we find 
a family village where we can lie low for some time. After the injury on my back has fully healed, we would not be afraid of anything anymore.” Thus, the two of them traveled in the northwest direction, not daring to slow down, only hoping to leave Mt. Limitless as far as possible. 

After they traveled till dawn, Mu Wanqing said, “Those servants in Gu Su Wang’s family must still be looking for me. If we travel during the day, we would be easily noticed. We should find somewhere to rest, during the day we eat and sleep, nighttime, we travel.” 

Duan Yu did not know much about the martial arts world, thus he replied, “You decide.” 

Mu Wanqing said, “After the meal, tell me where you have been these seven days and seven nights. If you dare to lie to me, be careful your...” Before she could finish her sentence, “Aye!” she said. 

In front of them, three horses were tied to a willow tree in the shade and a person was sitting on a rock, holding a book in his hand, reciting. Of course it was Zhu Dan Chen, who else could it be? Seeing this, Duan Yu was very shocked, he grabbed Mu Wanqing’s hand and said hurriedly, “Let’s go!”

Mu Wanqing was very sure that last night when they secretly escaped, Zhu Dan Chen had found out. He knew Duan Yu did not know qing gong and could not travel fast. He then predicted where the two of them would head and rode on the horse to block their way. She frowned and said, “Blockhead, since we have been caught by him, how can we escape?” Then, she walked in front and said mockingly, “Reading in the early morning, you want to be the top scholar?” 

Zhu Dan Chen said to Duan Yu with a laugh, “Young Master, what poem do you think I am reading?” Then he recited: “Birds chirp on the ancient tree in the winter, monkeys calling in the desolate mountains, since your eyes are injured, feeling frightened and shocked, isn’t it dangerous? Remember the debt of gratitude of your homeland. No two promises,...winning words..., your life, who will determine your title?”

Duan Yu replied, “This is Wei Zheng’s “Xu Huai”? 

Zhu Dan Chen said with a laugh, “Young Master is of great literary ability, worthy of admiration, worthy of admiration.” 

Duan Yu understood that he was using this poem to tell him that I chased after you despite of everything is because he owes Duan Yu’s uncle and father a debt of gratitude, not daring to fail in his mission. He is also hinting that since Duan Yu had agreed to go home, he should not go back on his word. 

Mu Wanqing untied the horse and said, “To go to Dali, is the direction we are travelling in right?” 

Zhu Dan Chen replied, “Since we are free, we travel to the east or travel to the west, we will still get to Dali.” 

The day before he allowed Duan Yu to ride on the horse with the strongest legs, but now he led that horse to himself, in case the two of them decide to escape on the horses, he would still be able to catch up on the horse. 

After Duan Yu got on the horseback, he directed it to the east. Afraid that Duan Yu would get annoyed with him, Zhu Dan Chen kept chatting with him about poetry and books but he did not know about “Yi jing”, otherwise he would be able to cater to Duan Yu’s pleasure. Despite that, Duan Yu was already in high spirits and kept talking a lot. However, Mu Wanqing could not join in the conversation. Not long after, they reached the main road and after they travelled till noon, they stopped at a shop to eat noodles. 

Suddenly a shadow flashed past and a tall and thin person walked in the door. Once he sat down, he hit the table and called, “Wine and beef, quick, quick!”

Mu Wanqing did not need to look at his face. She only heard how his voice was suddenly low and suddenly high, very unpleasant to the ears, before she knew that “Desperate Evil” Yun Zhonghe had arrived. Luckily her face was facing towards the inside, not towards him. She then stuck her finger into the soup and wrote on the table, “The Fourth Evil One”. Also using the soup, Zhu Dan Chen wrote on the table, “Leave quickly! Don’t need to wait for me!” Mu Wanqing pulled Duan Yu’s sleeve and the two of them walked into the inside. Zhu Dan Chen moved swiftly into a dark corner.

When Yun Zhonghe just reached the shop, he had been staring intently at the main road; when he heard someone moving behind him, he turned back and saw Mu Wanqing just disappearing behind a cupboard and then he shouted, “Who is it? Stop there!” He got up from his seat, his long arm trying to grab Mu Wanqing’s back.

Holding a bowl of soup, Zhu Dan Chen suddenly rushed out from the dark corner and exclaimed, “Ah Yo!” pretending to lose hold of the bowl. A bowl of hot soup splashed towards Yun Zhonghe. Not only were they quite near to each other, Zhu Dan Chen was also quick in the splashing and there was no space in the little shop to move around. Thus, even though Yun Zhonghe did turn around and avoided half of the soup, the other half of the soup still splashed on his face. Instantly, his vision blurred and in his anger, he attacked Zhu Dan Chen, hoping to scratch open his chest. But once the bowl left Zhu Dan Chen’s hands, he had conveniently taken a table and threw it together with the bowls, plates and cups towards Yun Zhonghe. Yun Zhonghe’s five fingers stuck into the table and with strong force, the bowls, plates and cups flew towards him.

Meeting a strong enemy in a small shop, even though he had strong kungfu, he was still in a flurry. He quickly tried to spread his inner energy over his whole body. Those plates and bowls that hit him all bounced back but he was still dripping with soup, making him look very embarrassing. Outside the door, there was the clatter of the hooves, two people were leaving, riding on horses towards the north. Yun Zhonghe wiped the soup from his eyes with his sleeve, suddenly, he felt something flying towards his chest. He took a deep breath and his chest contracted a few centimetres and his left palm attacked from the air and turning it. He caught the judge’s brush that the enemy had attacked with. Zhu Dan Chen quickly wielded his inner energy, hoping to snatch it back. His inner energy was not strong enough, this seizing originally would not have succeeded, and a favourite weapon would have certainly landed into the hands of the enemy. Luckily Yun Zhonghe’s hands were oily and his fingers were slippery, thus, he could not hold it tight enough and Zhu Dan Chen actually managed to get back his weapon.

After many moves, Zhu Dan Chen knew that the enemy had good reflexes and strong kungfu, thus, he shouted, “The person with the metal stick and the person with the broad axe, block the door quickly, the bamboo pole would not be able to escape!” He had once heard from Zhu Wan Li and Gu Du Cheng that that night they had met a bamboo pole-like person and with the strength of the two of them, they had managed with an effort to win, thus, Zhu Dan Chen tried to make an empty show of strength. 

Yun Zhonghe did not know that it was a trick and thought, “Oh No! The person with the metal stick and the person with the broad axe are lying in ambush outside, I am alone, one against three, I will definitely lose!” Thus, he did not want to fight. Immediately, he rushed into the backyard and leapt over the wall. 

Zhu Dan Chen shouted, “The bamboo pole is escaping, quick, chase after him, we must not let him escape this time!” 
He rushed to the horse, got on it and chased after Duan Yu.

Duan Yu and Mu Wanqing galloped many kilometres on the horses and then slowed to a trot. Not long after, Zhu Dan Chen managed to catch up with them. The two of them stopped their horses to wait for him, about to question him, when Mu Wanqing cried, “Oh No! The person is chasing after us!” On the road, there was a bamboo-like person darting here and there towards them.

Zhu Dan Chen said, “That person’s qing gong is so good!” and whipped Duan Yu’s horse. The three horses galloped even more quickly. In an instant, had left Yun Zhonghe far behind. After many kilometres, Mu Wanqing heard the gasping of breath of her horse and had to slow down. However, once she slowed down, Yun Zhonghe would be able to catch up with her. Although he could not sprint as fast as a horse, he had really high endurance.

Zhu Dan Chen knew that his ploy had been seen through by Yun Zhonghe; empty showing of strength was not going to work anymore. He knew that within twenty kilometres, he will definitely catch up with them. Once they reached Dali City, obviously they will not be afraid of anything but the three horses were galloping slower and slower and the situation was getting desperate. After galloping for some kilometres, Duan Yu’s horse suddenly kneeled down, throwing Duan Yu off. Mu Wanqing jumped off her horse and before Duan Yu had reached the ground, she had already grabbed him and jumped back on to her horse. Zhu Dan Chen was far behind them, so as to defend them against the enemy. Thus, when Duan Yu fell off the horse, he was unable to save him, seeing Mu Wanqing saving him at the last moment, he could not help saying, “Good skills!”

Suddenly, Zhu Dan Chen was attacked from behind. He used his judge’s brush to fight off the iron fingers. Yun Zhonghe used the momentum to scratch the horse’s back until it was dripping with blood. The horse felt painful and galloped even faster. It was not long before there was a long distance between them and Yun Zhonghe. However, now there were two people riding on one horse and one horse injured; it was difficult to maintain this pace for long. Zhu Dan Chen and Mu Wanqing were secretly anxious. 

On the other hand, Duan Yu did not know the severity and asked, “Is this person very powerful? Surely, it does not mean that Fourth Brother Zhu cannot defeat him?” 

Mu Wanqing shook her head and said, “It is a pity I am injured and cannot use my strength to help Fourth Brother Zhu to fight against the evil person.” Suddenly, she had an idea and said, “I pretend to fall off the horse and get injured. Then I lie on the floor and catch him unaware by shooting two darts at him, it may work. You ride on the horse and just go, you do not need to wait for me.” 

Duan Yu was very anxious and using his left hand to grab her neck and his right hand to grab her waist, he said, “No! No! How can I let you take the risk?” 

Mu Wanqing’s face turned red and said, “Blockhead, let go of me! Fourth Brother Zhu can see us!” 

Duan Yu was shocked and said, “Sorry! Don’t be offended.” 

Mu Wanqing said, “You are my husband, why say sorry?”

While they were talking, they turned their heads and say Yun Zhonghe getting closer and Zhu Dan Chen kept waving his hand, asking them to escape quickly. Then he leapt off his horse and blocked the way. Although he knew he was not the match of Yun Zhonghe, he still had to block him, so as to prevent him from catching up with Duan Yu. Unexpectedly, Yun Zhonghe only wanted to catch up with Mu Wanqing. Suddenly, he ran diagonally into the fields at the side and bypassed Zhu Dan Chen, running straight towards Duan Yu and Mu Wanqing.

Mu Wanqing kept whipping the horse but it was already vomiting white foam and was about to die. Duan Yu said, “If only we were riding your Black Rose, I am sure that evil guy would not be able to catch up with us.” 

Mu Wanqing said, “Do I need you to remind me of that?”

That horse went over a hill and in front of them was a straight road, no place to hide. In the west, within the green willows, next to the small lake, there was the side of a yellow wall exposed. Duan Yu said happily, “Good! Let’s go there!” 

Mu Wanqing said, “No! That is a dead end and there is no road to escape.” 

Duan Yu said, “You listen to me, I would not be wrong.” Using the reins to turn the horse, they headed towards the green willows. 

As they got nearer, Mu Wanqing realised that that wall was actually a monastery and “Yu Xu Monastery” seemed to be written on its signboard. She thought quickly, “This blockhead escaped until here where there is no other road. I should hide in a dark corner and shoot the Bamboo Pole with a dart.” In the blink of an eye, they had reached the front of the monastery. Suddenly, they heard someone laughing behind them. It was Yun Zhonghe who was only metres away from them. 

Duan Yu shouted, “Mother, mother, come quickly! Mum!” 

Mu Wanqing got angry and snapped, “Blockhead, shut up!”... 

Yun Zhonghe laughed, “It would not be of any use now even if you call for your grandmother or grandfather now” and leapt towards them. 

Mu WanQing placed her left palm on Duan Yu’s back and summoning her energy, pushed him, calling, “Run into the monastery!” At the same time, she waved her arm and a dart shot out, heading behind her. Yun Zhonghe dodged it, and seeing Mu Wanqing leap off the saddle, used the iron fingers of his left hand to grab her shoulder. Mu Wanqing quickly shrunk from his attack and went under the horse’s stomach and at the same time, shot three darts one after the other. Yun Zhonghe dodged left and right, leaping backwards to avoid them.

At that moment, a nun walked out of the monastery and she, seeing Duan Yu groaning as he picked himself up from the ground, went forward and used her arm to help him up, laughing, “Mischievous again, so much shouting and wrangling!”

Mu Wanqing saw that although the nun was older than Duan Yu, she was pretty, and was actually so intimate towards Duan Yu, and Duan Yu himself was using his right arm to hug the nun’s waist, and even had a very happy expression on his face. Seeing this, she could not help feeling very jealous, and she, who could not care less about the strong enemy behind her, went forward and used her palm to strike the nun, yelling, “Why are you holding his arm? Let go of him now!” 

Duan Yu called frantically, “Sister Wan, do not be rude!” Hearing Duan Yu side with the nun, Mu Wanqing became even more angry, and even when her feet had not reached the ground, she had added more energy to her palm.

The nun waved her horsehair whisk and its end made a circle in the air, catching Mu Wanqing’s wrist. Mu Wanqing felt that the strength in the horsehair whisk was really quite great. Next, she was pulled by it and could not help taking a few side-steps before she could steady herself. Mu Wanqing, both anxious and angry, cursed, “You are a nun but you are not afraid of doing this kind of things!”

When Yun Zhonghe first saw the pretty nun, he was delighted and thought, “Today I have been so lucky! I can kill two birds with one stone by capturing both ladies!” However, after he saw the nun fight with the horsehair whisk and how easily she neutralised Mu Wanqing’s fierce attack, he knew that the nun’s martial arts were really not bad and thus, he leapt on the horse’s saddle and observed silently, thinking, “Both ladies are pretty, catching any one of them would be just fine.”

The nun said angrily, “Young lady, what nonsense are you talking? Who…who are you to him?”

Mu Wanqing said, “I am Husband Duan’s wife. Quick, let go of him!” 

The nun froze, and then suddenly smiled, pulling Duan Yu’s ears, she said with a laugh, “Is this true?” 

Duan Yu replied with a laugh, “It can be true and it can be false.” 

The nun pinched Duan Yu’s cheek hard and said with a laugh, “Didn’t learn any bit of your father’s martial arts, but learnt all his nonsensical romantic ways. See if I don’t break your leg?” Turning her head, she studied Mu Wanqing and said, “This young lady is really quite pretty but she is too wild and needs to be disciplined.”

Mu Wanqing said angrily, “What has it got to do with you whether or not I am wild?” If you do not let go of him, I am going to shoot you with my darts.” 

The nun laughed and said, “You want to try?” 

Duan Yu shouted, “No, Sister Wan! Do you know who she is?” and put his arms around the nun’s neck. Mu Wanqing became even angrier and with a wave of her hand, two poison darts shot towards the nun. 

The nun had been all smiles, but after seeing the darts, her expression changed, and she waved her horse whisk, catching the two darts. She asked sternly, “How is ‘The Saber of Antagonism’ Qin Hongmian related to you?” 

Mu Wanqing replied, “What ‘The Saber of Antagonism’ Qin Hongmian? Never heard of her. Quick! Let go of my Husband Duan!” She had obviously seen now that it was Husband Duan who was hugging the nun, and not the nun who was hugging Husband Duan, but she still felt that it was the nun’s fault.

Duan Yu, seeing that the nun was angry to the extent that her face was deathly pale, advised, “Mom, don’t be angry.”

“Mom, don’t be angry.” these few words went into Mu Wanqing’s ears; she was greatly shocked and could not believe her own ears and she gasped, “What!! She…she is your mother?!”

Duan Yu said with a laugh, “Just now, I called ‘Mum’, didn’t you hear?” and turned his head, saying to the nun, “Mum, she is Mu Wanqing. Miss Mu, when I met with danger these few days and was bullied by evil people, she saved my life many times.”

Suddenly, from behind the willow tree, someone shouted, “Sage of the Hollow Jadea! Be careful! He is one of the ‘Four Evils’!” Following this, someone dashed out, it was Zhu Dan Chen. Seeing the expression on the nun’s face, he thought that she had been taken advantage of by Yun Zhonghe, said with a shaking voice, “You…you fought with him?”

Yun Zhonghe said with a laugh, “Starting now won’t be too late!” and before he finished his sentence, he had already leapt, his feet on the saddle of the horse, and it seemed as though there was a flagpole erected on the back of the horse. Suddenly, his body reached towards the front, his right foot hooking on to the saddle and at the same time, his iron fingers reached towards the nun, trying to grab her. The nun slanted her body to the left of the horse and her horsehair whisk with two darts flew out; Yun Zhonghe dodged them. The nun then waved her horsehair whisk and attacked his left leg, but Yun Zhonghe actually did not dodge it and instead, the iron fingers in his left hand reached and tried to grab the nun’s back. The nun avoided them and fought back with her horsehair whisk. Yun Zhonghe took a step forward, his foot on the horse’s head, having the advantage of a commanding position overlooking the ground below and the iron fingers in his right hand swept out.

Zhu Dan Chen yelled, “Come down!” and leapt on to the crupper, the judge’s brush in his left hand attacking his waist on the left. Yun Zhonghe blocked the attack with the iron fingers in this left hand, attacking short by long and counter-attacked. The Sage of the Hollow Jade waved her horsehair whisk and attacked his legs at the same time. Yun Zhonghe, the iron fingers in his two hands flying, was alone fighting two and was actually losing. Mu Wanqing, seeing that he was standing high on the horse and had the advantage of not needing to defend his upper half of the body, shot out a dart and hit the horse’s left eye. The horse whined and collapsed. The Sage of the Hollow Jade turned her horsehair whisk and caught the iron fingers in Yun Zhonghe’s right hand. Zhu Dan Chen quickly ran up and attacked continuously with three strokes. At the same time, The Sage of the Hollow Jade and Yun Zhonghe were having a “tug-of-war”.

Although Yun Zhonghe’s internal energy was much stronger, he was using half of it to block Zhu Dan Chen’s judge’s brush and also to defend himself against Mu Wanqing’s poison darts. Thus, he felt his hand tremble and at the same time, both the horsehair whisk and iron fingers left their hands and flew up in the sky. He knew that today he could not possibly win and he cursed, “Fellows of Dali are always winning with more people!” Leaping up from the saddle, his body flying out like an arrow, the iron fingers in his left hand caught the branches of a big willow tree nearby and turning over, he was already a few metres away. Mu Wanqing shot a dart towards him and “Pa!” it landed on the willow tree. As for Yun Zhonghe, he was already gone and nowhere to be seen. Following this, “Dang Qiang Qiang!” and both the horsehair whisk and iron fingers landed on the ground. 

Zhu Dan Chen went on his knees and bowed respectfully to The Sage of the Hollow Jade, saying, “Dan Chen almost lost his life today, thank you for the rescue.” 

The Sage of the Hollow Jade smiled and replied, “I haven’t touched any weapons for over ten years and my skills have deteriorated. Brother Zhu, what is the origin of this person?” 

Zhu Dan Chen replied, “I have heard that the ‘Four Evils’ are coming together to Dali. This person is ranked as the last of the four, but his martial art skills are already so great. Thus, we can imagine how the other three are. Could you please…please evade them for a while in the Prince’s Palace and let us deal with the ‘Four Evils’ first? 

The expression on The Sage of the Hollow Jade’s face slightly changed and she said, “Why should I still go to the Prince’s Palace? If the ‘Four Evils’ come and I cannot defeat them, I shall just die.” 

Zhu Dan Chen did not dare to continue talking and kept winking to Duan Yu, asking him to help plead with his mother.

Duan Yu picked up the horsehair whisk and handed it to his mother and threw Yun Zhonghe’s iron fingers into the lake, saying, “Mother, these ‘Four Evils’ are really vicious; since you do not wish to go home, I shall accompany you to Uncle’s house instead.” 

The Sage of the Hollow Jade shook her head, saying, “I am not going.” and her eyes turned red, as though she was about to cry. 

Duan Yu said, “Ok, since you are not going, I will stay here to accompany you.” Turning his head, he said to Zhu Dan Chen, “Fourth Brother Zhu, please inform my uncle and father that both Mother and I are combining forces to defend ourselves against the ‘Four Evils’.”

The Sage of the Hollow Jade laughed and said, “Not ashamed of yourself? What ability do you have to combine forces with me to defend against the ‘Four Evils’?” Although her son had caused her to start laughing, the tears that had been in her eyes finally flowed down her cheeks; she turned back and used her sleeves to wipe her tears.

Mu Wanqing was puzzled and thought, “Why would Husband Duan’s mother be a nun? Since Yun Zhonghe has left, he would definitely return, combining forces with the other three Great Evils to attack. How would his mother be able to defend herself against them? Why does she simply refuse to go home to avoid them? Oh! There are many heartless men in this world; Husband Duan’s father must have another woman, causing Husband Duan’s mother to be angry and thus becoming a nun.” Thinking about this, she felt very sympathetic towards her and said, “Sage of the Hollow Jade, I will help you defend against the enemies.”

The Sage of the Hollow Jade studied her closely and suddenly asked sternly, “Tell me the truth! How is “The Saber of Antagonism” Qin Hongmian related to you?” 

Mu Wanqing also got angry and said, “I told you earlier, I have never heard of that name before. I don’t even know whether Qin Hongmian is male or female, human or beast!” 

The Sage of the Hollow Jade, hearing her say “Human or beast”, immediately felt relieved as she was thinking, “If she was a descendant of Qin Hongmian, she would never use the word “beast”.” Thus, although Mu Wanqing had started arguing with her, her expression softened instead and she said with a laugh, “Please don’t blame me, Miss! Just now, when I saw the technique you used when you shot the darts, I thought that it was very similar to a lady that I knew. Furthermore, you bear some resemblance to her, thus leading me to think in that way. Miss Mu, may I know the names of your parents? Your kungfu is good; I believe that you are from a respectable family?” 

Mu Wanqing shook her head and replied, “Since young, I did not have any parents and it was my master that brought me up. I do not know the names of my parents.” 

The Sage of the Hollow Jade said, “May I know who is your master?” 

Mu Wanqing replied, “My master is called ‘The Guest of the Secluded Valley’.”

The Sage of the Hollow Jade muttered, “The Guest of the Secluded Valley? The Guest of the Secluded Valley?” and she looked towards Zhu Dan Chen, with an inquiring expression.

Zhu Dan Chen shook his head and said, “Dan Chen has only been living in the far south, and has very little knowledge and scanty information. Thus, I know very little about the heroes/heroines and elders of the Central Plains. I believe that this elder ‘The Guest of the Secluded Valley’ is some great master living in seclusion.” With these few sentences, he meant that he had never heard of the title ‘The Guest of the Secluded Valley’.

While they were talking, they suddenly heard the sound of hooves outside the willow forest and someone shouted, “Fourth Brother! Is Young Master alright?” 

Zhu Dan Chen called back, “Young Master is here and he is fine.” Moments later, three horses appeared and stopped in front of the monastery. Zhu Wan Li, Gu Du Cheng and Fu Si Gui got off their horses and walked closer, falling on their knees and bowing to The Sage of the Hollow Jade.

Mu Wanqing grew up in the wilderness since young and being irritated by all the etiquette, she thought, “All these people have such high kungfu, why do they fall to their knees and bow when they see people?” 

The Sage of the Hollow Jade noticed that the three of them looked rather disheveled. Fu Si Gui had a wound on his face and half his face was wrapped in a bandage. Gu Du Cheng had blood stains on his body and Zhu Wan Li’s metal stick had been broken in half. She hurriedly asked, “What is it? Is the enemy very strong? How is Si Gui’s injury?” 

Hearing her ask about it, Fu Si Gui got angry and said, “It is all Si Gui’s fault for not being proficient enough and I am very ashamed of myself. I am sorry for worrying Your Highness.” 

The Sage of the Hollow Jade said rather sadly, “Still calling me Your Highness? Please remember more correctly.” 

Fu Si Gui lowered his head and said, “Yes, please pardon me, Your Highness.” He still used “Your Highness” as he was used to it and it was difficult for him to change. 

Zhu Dan Chen said, “Where is Lord Gao?” 

Zhu Wan Li replied, “Lord Gao was afflicted with an internal injury and it was not suitable for him to ride a sprinting horse, he will be here very soon.” 

The Sage of the Hollow Jade let out a soft “Ah!” and said, “Even Lord Gao is injured? Is he..he okay?” 

Zhu Wan Li replied, “Lord Gao was fighting with Divine Crocodile, at the crucial moment, Second Madam Ye suddenly launched a sneak attack. Lord Gao was unable to divert his energies to fend off the attack and the blow landed on his back.” 

The Sage of the Hollow Jade took Duan Yu’s hand and said, “Let’s go and look for Uncle Gao.” The two of them walked out of the willow forest and Mu Wanqing followed them. Zhu Wan Li tied their horses to a willow tree and followed behind.

In the distance, a horse trotted towards them and there was a person lying on the back of the horse. The Sage of the Hollow Jade and the others walked quickly towards the horse and realised that the person was Gao Sheng Tai. Duan Yu went forward swiftly and asked, “Uncle Gao, how are you feeling?” 

Gao Sheng Tai replied, “Quite okay.” and raised his head, seeing The Sage of the Hollow Jade. He struggled, trying to get off the horse to bow. The Sage of the Hollow Jade said, “Lord Gao, you are injured, there is no need to bow.” 

However, Gao Sheng Tai had already got off the horse and he bowed, saying, “Gao Sheng Tai pays respects to Your Highness.” 

The Sage of the Hollow Jade returned the greeting and said, “Yu’er, go and help Uncle Gao.”

Mu Wanqing was puzzled and thought, “This person with the surname Gao has such high kungfu, using only a metal flute, he made Second Madam Ye retreat with only a few strokes. Why is he so respectful when he sees Husband Duan’s mother? And he addresses her as “Your Highness”. Could it be that Husband Duan…Husband Duan is some sort of prince? But this bookworm does things so weirdly, how can he be a prince?”

The Sage of the Hollow Jade, “Lord Gao, please go back to Dali to rest.” 

Gao Sheng Tai replied, “Yes, the ‘Four Evils’ are coming together to Dali and the situation is really dangerous. Your Highness, please go back temporarily to the Prince’s Palace.” 

The Sage of the Hollow Jade sighed and said, “In my lifetime, I will never go back there again.” 

Gao Sheng Tai said, “Since this is so, we shall guard at Yu Xu Monastery.” He turned to Fu Si Gui and said, “Si Gui, please go back and inform them immediately.” 

Fu Si Gui replied, “Yes.” and ran towards the horses tied outside Yu Xu Monastery.

The Sage of the Hollow Jade said, “Wait!” and lowered her head, thinking. Fu Si Gui immediately stopped.

Mu Wanqing noticed The Sage of the Hollow Jade’s expression, showing that she was in a dilemma and could not decide what to do. The afternoon sun shone on her face, showing her radiance. Although The Sage of the Hollow Jade was already middle-aged, she had not lost her beauty. Mu Wanqing thought, “Husband Duan’s mother is so beautiful, just like the Goddess of Mercy in the painting.” 

After some time, The Sage of the Hollow Jade lifted up her head and said, “Ok, let’s all go back to Dali. I am only one person, and I must not make everyone take this risk with me.” 

Duan Yu was delighted and jumped up to hug her neck, crying, “That’s my good mother!” 

Fu Si Gui said, “Your subordinate shall go and inform them of these news.” and he ran back, untying the horse and getting onto it, sprinting towards the north. Zhu Wan Li led the horses towards them, letting The Sage of the Hollow Jade, Duan Yu and Mu Wanqing get on them. 

The group of them headed towards Dali, with The Sage of the Hollow Jade, Mu Wanqing, Duan Yu and Gao Sheng Tai riding the horses, while Zhu Wan Li, Gu Du Cheng and Zhu Dan Chen went on foot. After several kilometres, they saw a troop of soldiers on horses heading towards them. Zhu Wan Li went ahead of them and said something to the troop leader. The troop leader gave a command and suddenly, all the soldiers got off their horses and fell to their knees. Duan Yu waved and said with a laugh, “There is no need to stand on ceremony.” The troop leader gave an order for three horses to be given up for Zhu Wan Li and the rest to ride. He himself led the troops to clear the way for them. The sound of many hooves could be heard as they headed towards the main path.

Mu Wanqing saw this display of power and realised that Duan Yu was no ordinary person. She got worried and thought, “I thought he was just some poor scholar wandering the country, thus, if he wanted to marry anyone, he can just marry. However, judging at that rather big show of power, he could be a relative of the Emperor or some high-ranking official. What if he looks down on me, a woman from the wilderness? Master has told me that the richer a man is, the more heartless he will be, and that when he takes a wife, he must have a marriage between families of similar social rank. Hng, if he marries me properly, it shall be ok, but if he has second thoughts about it, and keeps refusing to do it, I shall cut him with my sword. I am not going to care how influential he is.” Thinking about this, she could not hide it in her heart anymore and she went to Duan Yu and asked, “Who in the world are you? The agreement that we had at the summit of the mountain, does it still count?”

Duan Yu saw that there were people in front and behind their horses, yet she suddenly asked directly about their marriage; he couldn’t help feeling embarrassed and said with a laugh, “When we are in Dali City, I shall tell you slowly about it. 

Mu Wanqing replied, “If you dare to let…let me…me…down…” after repeating these words, she could not continue and broke off. 

Duan Yu realised how flushed her face was and saw the tears in her eyes, making her even more beautiful, making his love for her grow and he said softly to her, “I couldn’t hope for more. Don’t worry, my mother likes you too.”

Mu WanQing’s teary face broke into one of laughter, and in a soft voice, she said, “Whether or not your mum likes me … why should I care?”

The underlying meaning of this, of course, was that “so long as you like me, that would be all that matters”.

Duan Yu’s heart shook for an instant; at the corner of his eye, he could see his mother staring at the pair of them, wearing an expression that seemed like a smile. He could not help feeling deeply embarrassed.

By then it was the shen hours of the day [shen = 3pm to 5pm], and they were approximately twenty to thirty li from the city of Dali. Ahead, as clouds of dust swirled about in frenzy, what seemed like a thousand soldiers on horses rode towards them in rows. Two flags, apricot-yellow in colour, fanned out along with the wind. Two huge words in red which read “Zhen Nan” were written on one of the flags, while the other one had the words “Bao Guo” in black. 

[Zhen Nan: Military Guardian of The South; Bao Guo: Protector of the Country]

“Mum,” Duan Yu called out, “Dad’s personally came to fetch you.”

The Sage of the Hollow Jade replied with a ‘hng’ sound and brought the horse to a halt. Gao Sheng Tai and the others got down from their horses together to make way. Duan Yu rode his horse forward; Mu WanQing hesitated slightly, before following suit.

Soon the distance between both parties closed. Duan Yu yelled, “Dad, Mum’s back.”

The two flag-carriers made way to the sides, and a man wearing purple robes rode straight towards them on a large white horse. “Yu’er,” The man roared, “You’re sure extremely mischievous. You’ve caused your Uncle Gao to get such serious injuries. See if I don’t break both your legs.”

Startled, Mu WanQing thought: “Hng! You want to break Duan’lang’s legs … even if you’re his father, no way should you do that.”

The man in purple had such a rectangular face it looked like the Chinese character ‘guo’ [国]. With thick brows and large eyes, he wore a fierce and domineering facial expression, not without carrying an air of a king. Seeing his son had come home without any harm, he looked three-tenths furious, and the other seven-tenths relieved. 

“How fortunate Duan’lang looks so much like his mother and not like you. Had he been as fierce-looking as you, I would definitely not like it,” thought Mu WanQing.

Duan Yu rode forward, laughing, “Dad, shall you be healthy always.”

Feigning anger, the man in purple robes said, “Healthy … what? At least I’m not angered to death with you.”

Duan Yu laughingly replied, “If it weren’t for me heading out this time, how could I have brought mother back? I think I really have performed an awe-inspiring act of great merit. So let’s just consider myself as having redeemed myself. Father, don’t be angry.” 

The man in purple robes, upon hearing this response, answered, “Even if I don’t beat you up, your uncle will not let you off lightly!” Applying pressure to his horse’s sides, the white horse suddenly flew towards the direction of the Sage of the Hollow Jade.

Mu Wanqing saw that the squadron of cavalry was clothed in fine brocade, wearing shining helmets, and their weapons glimmering in the light. Twenty people in front held aloft a banner, upon which was written six words: “Dali’s ‘Prince of the Prince of the Southern Garrison Duan’”. On the side of the tiger-headed banner were the words, “Great General Duan, Protector of the Country”. Even though she was a person who feared neither heaven nor earth, upon seeing this majestic, awe-inspiring show, she couldn’t help but feel great respect. Turning to Duan Yu, she asked, “Hey, this “Prince of the Southern Garrison”, “Great General Who Protects the Country”, is your dad, right?”

Laughing, Duan Yu nodded his head. In a low voice, he responded, “Yes, that would be your father-in-law.”

Mu Wanqing reined in her horse in a daze. All of a sudden, her heart was filled with confusion. She was stupefied for a long period of time, before finally spurring her horse to gallop forward to Duan Yu’s side. On the main street, there were people everywhere. Suddenly, in her heart, she was feeling an inexpressible solitude, making her want to stay close to Duan Yu. Only then did she calm down a little.

The Prince of the Southern Garrison slowed his horse down roughly ten feet away from the Sage of the Hollow Jade. The two exchanged glances for some time; I look at you, you stare at me. Neither of them opened their mouths. Duan Yu spoke. “Mother, dad personally came to receive you and escort you home.” 

The Sage of the Hollow Jade replied, “Go tell your aunt that I’m back. I’ll stay with her for a few days. After we’ve beaten off our enemies, I’ll return to the Hollow Jade Monastery.”

The Prince of the Southern Garrison laughed. “Wife, you’re still angry at me? Let’s go home. Afterwards, I’ll slowly make everything up to you.” 

The Sage of the Hollow Jade’s face was unmoved. “I’m not going home. I’m entering the palace.”

Duan Yu said, “That works too. Let’s all enter the palace first and pay a visit to uncle and auntie. Mother, this time your son snuck outside to have some fun, and uncle definitely is going to be furious. Dad probably isn’t going to speak up on my behalf, this time. It’ll have to be you who begs for clemency on my behalf.” 

The Sage of Hollow Jade responded, “The older you grow, the less responsible you get. It is going to be necessary to allow your uncle to thrash you and teach you a lesson.”

Duan Yu laughingly responded, “The blows may fall on the son’s body, but the pain will occur in the mother’s heart. It’s best if I don’t get beaten!” 

The Sage of Hollow Jade let out a small laugh. “Hah! The harder you get beaten, the better. I have no sympathy for you at all!”

Initially, there was an aura of awkwardness between the Prince of the Southern Garrison and the Sage of Hollow Jade. But with Duan Yu cracking jokes and being so light-hearted, he managed to get a laugh out of the Sage of Hollow Jade, breaking the icy tone of the meeting. Duan Yu said, “Dad! You have a good horse. Why aren’t you letting mother ride it?” 

The Sage of Hollow Jade replied, “I refuse!” With a kick, she spurred her horse to gallop forwards and away from them.

Duan Yu spurred his own horse onwards as well, overtaking her and grabbing the reins of his mother’s horse. The Prince of the Southern Garrison had already dismounted and walked it over towards them. Giggling, Duan Yu hugged his mother and placed her on the saddle of his father’s horse.

With a laugh, Duan Yu said, “Mother, a peerless, unequalled beauty such as yourself, riding this white horse, becomes even more attractive. You are like the Bodhisattva Guanyin herself, having descended upon the mortal world!” 

Laughing, the Sage of Hollow Jade replied, “That girl of yours surnamed ‘Mu’ is the real peerless beauty without equal. You’re just making fun of your mother, this old lady.”

The Prince of the Southern Garrison turned to look at Mu Wanqing. Duan Yu said, “She...she is Miss Mu. She is your son’s...your son’s...your son’s good friend.” The Prince of the Southern Garrison saw the expression on his son’s face and immediately understood his real meaning. He saw that Mu Wanqing had a clear, pure complexion and was very beautiful, and secretly cheered. “Yu’er, you have pretty good eyesight!” He saw Mu Wanqing’s gaze was cloudy and distant, and she did not come forward to pay her respects. He thought to himself, “So she’s a girl from the countryside who doesn’t understand proprietry.”

His heart still filled with anxiety over the state of Gao Shengtai’s injuries, he quickly strode over to the latter’s side. “Younger brother Tai, how are your internal injuries?” He stretched out his finger to touch Gao Shengtai’s wrist, feeling for his pulse. 

Gao Shengtai replied, “My ‘du ‘ meridian received some injuries, but it’s no big deal. You...there is no need for you to waste your energy.”

Before he even finished speaking, the Prince of the Southern Garrison had already extended the forefinger of his right hand and struck three times at the back of his neck, then pressed on his waist with his free hand.

From the top of the Prince of the Southern Garrison’s head arose thin wisps of white smoke. It wasn’t until the amount of time it would take to drink a cup of tea had passed before he would release his hold. Gao Shengtai said, “Elder brother Chun, with powerful enemies so close by, how can you pick this time to waste your internal energy on me?” 

The Prince of the Southern Garrison laughed. “Your internal injuries are not light. The sooner we start to heal you, the sooner you’ll get better. After I take you to see our elder brother, he won’t let me help you, and would involve himself instead.”

Mu Wanqing saw that originally, Gao Shengtai’s face was terrifyingly white. But in such a short time, color began to appear in his cheeks. In her heart, she wondered, “So husband Duan’s father’s internal energy has reached an extremely profound level. Why is that that husband Duan...husband Duan doesn’t know any martial arts at all?”

Chu Wanli came over with a horse, and helped the Prince of the Southern Garrison mount. The Prince of the Southern Garrison and Gao Shengtai moved slowly, as the former inquired in a quiet voice regarding the enemy’s status. Duan Yu talked and laughed with his mother. Under the iron-clad guardsmen’s protection, they galloped towards the city of Dali. With everyone else occupied, it was unavoidable that Mu Wanqing was neglected.

At dusk, the party entered the city of Dali via the southern gate. Wherever the two flags “Southern Garrison” and “Protecting Country” went, the common people would loudly cheer, “May the Prince of the Southern Garrison live a thousand years! May the great general live a thousand years!” The Prince of the Southern Garrison waved to the people in response.

Mu Wanqing saw the teeming masses of people in Dali. The streets were newly paved and flat, and the marketplace was bustling. After crossing a number of intersections, they arrived at a large stone path, at the end of which was a towering palace, covered in an uncountable number of golden tiles. The sun shone off the gleaming tiles, a beautiful sight, causing one to become dazzled.

Upon reaching a memorial arch, the entire party dismounted. Mu Wanqing saw that on the memorial arch was written four large words in gold. “Saintly Road, Broad Compassion”. She thought to herself, “We must have arrived at the imperial palace of Dali. Husband Duan’s uncle lives in the middle of the Imperial Palace. He must be a very high official. Most likely, he’s also another prince, or general, or something like that.”

Passing by the memorial arch, Mu Wanqing saw an inscribed board with the words, “Palace of Saintly Compassion”, written in gold. A court eunuch quickly appeared and said, “Prince, I must report that the Emperor and the Empress are awaiting you at your home. Will the lord prince and the imperial concubine please return to the Southern Garrison Palace and appear before his majesty.”

The Prince of the Southern Garrison replied, “Understood.” 

Duan Yu laughed. “Marvelous, marvelous!” 

The Sage of Hollow Jade glanced at him, angrily asking, “What’s so marvelous? I’ll just wait at the imperial palace for the Empress to return!” 

But the eunuch replied, “The Empress instructed me to request that the imperial concubine immediately visit her, as she has urgent matters to discuss.” 

The Sage of Hollow Jade muttered in a low voice, “What type of urgent matter does she want to discuss? She’s full of devilish schemes.”

Duan Yu knew that the Empress had planned this all out. She had anticipated that Duan Yu’s mother would be unwilling to return to her own manor, and the Empress went to the Prince of the Southern Garrison Palace herself to wait for her, with the warm intention of reconciling Duan Yu’s parents. Duan Yu was extremely pleased.

After exiting, the party remounted and headed eastwards. After traveling for two li, they arrived in front of a large mansion. Two large flags fluttered in front of the gate. On each flag was written respectively the words “Southern Garrison” and “Protecting Country”. At the top of the gate were the words, “Southern Garrison Palace”. In front of the gate was a large number of imperial guards. They immediately came to attention and saluted. “We respectfully welcome the Prince and the imperial concubine back to their palace.”

The Prince of the Southern Garrison was the first to enter. After taking only one step, the Sage of Hollow Jade suddenly came to a halt. Her eyes suddenly reddening, tears began to fall. Half pushing, half tugging, Duan Yu escorted his mother through the gate. He said, “Father, your son has brought mother home! This is a deed of great merit. What award do you have for me?” 

His heart filled with happiness, the Prince of the Southern Garrison replied, “Ask your mother for a reward! Whatever your mother wishes to reward you with, I will comply!” 

The Sage of Hollow Jade smiled between her tears. “I’ll reward you with a good caning!” Duan Yu stuck out his tongue.

Upon reaching the great hall, Gao Shengtai rose to his feet. The Prince of the Southern Garrison said, “Younger brother Tai, you are injured. Please, sit down.” 

Duan Yu said to Mu Wanqing, “Rest here for a bit. After I pay my respects to the Emperor and the Empress, I’ll come keep you company.”

Mu Wanqing was unwilling to let him leave her, but had no way to stop him. All she could do was nod her head unhappily. She took a seat at the head chair. Everyone else remained standing. It wasn’t until after the Prince of the Southern Garrison and his wife had entered the inner hall that Gao Shengtai finally sat down. But Chu Wanli, Gu Ducheng, Zhu Danchen, and the rest all remained on their feet.

Mu Wanqing paid them no attention, her eyes focused on that great hall. She saw a large horizontal plaque upon which were written the four words, “Pillar Which Supports the Nation”. It was signed by the “Imperial Pen of Dingmao”. The pillar was covered with calligraphy. It would be difficult to read it all in a short time, and some of the characters, she didn’t even recognize.

A servant brought green tea, respectfully offering it to her on a plate. Mu Wanqing thought to herself, “These people really are weird.” She saw that only herself and Gao Shengtai had been offered tea. Zhu Danchen and the others, when fighting off the enemy, had been awe-inspiring figures, but upon reaching the Southern Garrison Palace, became so quietly respectful. They didn’t even dare breathe too loudly, much less have the aura of heroes who were highly skilled in martial arts.

After waiting for some time, Mu Wanqing became impatient. She loudly shouted, “Duan Yu! Duan Yu! What are you doing in there? Why haven’t you come out yet?”

The great hall was filled with people, but none of them had dared make so much as a peep. With Mu Wanqing’s sudden shout, everyone was startled for a moment. Gao Shengtai laughingly whispered, “Miss, be patient. The young prince will be back soon.” 

Mu Wanqing asked, “Young prince? What young prince?” 

Gao Shengtai responded, “Young master Duan is the son of the Prince of the Southern Garrison. Of course he is the young prince.” 

Mu Wanqing mused aloud to herself. “Young prince...young prince. That bookworm is a prince? He doesn’t look the part!”

A eunuch exited the inner hall. “The Emperor has issued a request. Will the Marquis of Virtuous Enlightenment and Mu Wanqing please enter the hall.” Upon seeing the eunuch enter, Gao Shengtai had already respectfully risen to his feet. Mu Wanqing remained seated. Upon hearing the eunuch utter her name, she wasn’t happy. She muttered to herself, “He doesn’t even address me as ‘Miss’. Is my name so casually called out by the likes of you?” 

Gao Shengtai said, “Miss Mu, let us go pay our respects to the Emperor.”

Even though Mu Wanqing feared neither heaven nor earth, upon hearing that she was to go meet the Emperor, she was still a bit uneasy at heart. All she could do was follow behind Gao Shengtai. They passed through a long corridor and a large courtyard. It was as though they were walking through an unending room. But at last, they arrived outside a flower pavilion.

The eunuch reported, “The Marquis of Virtuous Enlightenment and Mu Wanqing have come to pay their respects to the Emperor and Empress.” Then he left.

Gao Shengtai gave Mu Wanqing a meaningful look, then entered the flower pavilion and knelt before a man and a woman who were sitting in the center.

Mu Wanqing did not kneel. Seeing that the male had a long beard and wore a golden robe, with a clear and intelligent appearance, she asked, “So you are the Emperor?”

The man who sat in the middle was indeed the Emperor of the country of Dali, Duan Zhengming. His imperial reign name was “Baoding”. The country of Dali was established in the second year of Heavenly Fortune, of the Later Jin dynasty of the Five Dynasties period. Thus, it was actually founded twenty three years before Zhao Kuangyin founded the Song Dynasty.

The people of Dali’s Duan dynasty were originally from the Wuwei region. Their first ancestor was Duan Jianwei. He assisted Nanzhao’s Meng Clan and became known as the “Official of Pureness and Peace.” Six generations later, his descendant Duan Siping became the governor of Tonghai. In the ‘Dingyou’ year, Duan Siping founded the nation, and became the Great Ancestor of the Duan dynasty, known as the ‘Saintly Emperor of Martial Prowess and Learning’. Duan Zhengming was the fourteenth Emperor in the line, which had been in power for a hundred and fifty years.

At this time, the Northern Song was ruled by Emperor Zhezong in the city of Bianliang [now known as Kaifeng]. Being young in years, the Empress Dowager attended to state affairs. She appointed and trusted famous statesmen and repealed severe laws, resulting in the rejoicing of the common people and pacifying the land. She was the most brilliant and humane female lord in Chinese history, which would proclaim her as being the ‘female Yao and Shun’ [famously benevolent Chinese emperors].

The country of Dali was located in southern Xinjiang, and thus every Emperor was a devout adherent to Buddhism. Even though they had raised themselves to the level of being a ruler, towards the Song dynasty, they were always deferential and unfailingly patient, never raising arms against them. Emperor Baoding had reigned for eleven years and espoused three precepts. To protect order, to uphold peace, and secure the blessings of heaven, creating a heaven-like place to live. The borders were safe, the country was prosperous, and the people lived in peace.

Emperor Baoding, upon seeing that Mu Wanqing not only did not kneel, but even cheekily asked him directly if he was the Emperor, couldn’t help but laugh. “I am indeed the Emperor. Do you find the city of Dali to be a fun place?” 

Mu Wanqing replied, “As soon as I entered the city, I was brought to come see you. I haven’t explored it yet.” 

Emperor Baoding let out a slight smile. “Tomorrow, Yu’er will take you out to tour the city and show you the sights of Dali.” 

Mu Wanqing replied, “Great. Will you be coming with us as well?” After she said this, everybody present couldn’t help but laugh slightly.

Emperor Baoding turned to look at the Empress who sat by his side and merrily asked, “Empress, this little sister wants us to accompany her sightseeing. What do you think?” The Empress smiled a little, but did not respond. 

Mu Wanqing cast a few glances at her. “Are you the Empress? You really are quite pretty.” 

Emperor Baoding roared with laughter. “Yu’er, this Miss Mu is very innocent and naive. How amusing!”

Mu Wanqing asked, “Why do you called him “Yu’er” [child Yu]? Are you the ‘uncle’ which he kept on talking about? He snuck out of the city to have some fun, and was very afraid that you would be angry at him. Don’t beat him, okay?” 

Emperor Baoding laughed. “I was going to give him fifty hard strokes of the cane, but since you ask for mercy on his behalf, I'll spare him. Yu’er, quickly thank Miss Mu!”

Seeing that Mu Wanqing had put the Emperor in a merry mood, Duan Yu was happy. He knew that his uncle had an even temperament. Duan Yu bowed deeply towards Mu Wanqing, and said, “Many thanks to Miss Mu for asking for clemency on my behalf!” 

Mu Wanqing returned his bow and whispered, “As long as your uncle has agreed to not beat you, my heart is at ease. There’s no need to thank me.” Then she immediately turned towards Emperor Baoding and said, “I always thought that Emperors were really fierce and scary people. I never would have imagined that are very nice.”

Aside from being praised by his parents when he was a child, for the past ten years, everyone who met Emperor Baoding would be extremely respectful and fearful. Nobody would ever call him “very nice”. But he saw that Mu Wanqing was like a piece of muddied gold or uncut jade, totally unaware of propriety and custom, and liked her all the more. He said to the Empress, “Do you have anything to bestow upon her?”

The Empress removed a jade bracelet from her left wrist and handed it over. “I’ll give this to you as a gift.”

Mu Wanqing accepted the gift and wore it on her own wrist. Suddenly, she laughed. “Thanks! Next time, I’ll also find something pretty and give it to you!” 

The Empress laughed slightly. “Then I’ll thank you in advance.”

Suddenly, a ‘ge’ sound could be heard on the roof of the pavilion, followed by another ‘ge’ sound coming from the top of an adjacent room.

Mu Wanqing was startled and knew that an enemy had arrived. That person had arrived so very quickly. But suddenly, like raindrops hitting the ground, the sound of other people arriving on the roof was heard as well. Chu Wanli’s voice sounded out, “Sir, what desire do you have that causes you to arrive at the prince’s manor in the dead of night?”

A loud, coarse, husky voice replied, “I came to find my apprentice! Quick, go have my obedient apprentice come out and pay me a visit!” It was the Divine Crocodile odile of the Southern Seas.

Mu Wanqing’s sense of startlement deepened. Although the Prince’s Palace was heavily protected, with guards clustered as thickly as the clouds, and although the Prince of the Southern Garrison, Gao Shengtai, the Sage of Hollow Jade, and Chu, Gu, Fu, and Zhu all possessed excellent martial arts, but the Divine Crocodile of the Southern Seas really was too formidable. If Yun Zhonghe and Ye Erniang, along with that as-yet unseen ‘most evil man in the world’ appeared, then the ‘Four Evils’ would be working in harmony, and it would be difficult to prevent them from kidnapping Duan Yu.

Chu Wanli shouted in reply, “Sir, who is your apprentice? How could your apprentice be in the palace of the Prince of the Southern Garrison? Withdraw and depart!” But suddenly, a mocking laugh was heard, and a large hand appeared which ripped apart the large plaque above the room, tearing it in two. Like a shadowy blur, the Divine Crocodile of the Southern Seas suddenly appeared in the middle of the pavilion.

Casting his gaze across the people present, he spotted Duan Yu and laughed loudly, then shouted, “Number four wasn’t wrong! My obedient apprentice really is here after all! Quick, beg for me to make you my apprentice, then come with me to learn martial arts!” While speaking, he extended his chicken-claw like hands and reached for Duan Yu’s shoulders.

The Prince of the Southern Garrison saw that this claw came swiftly and with great power, and was afraid that his beloved son would be hurt. Immediately, he struck out with a counter-palm. With a ‘peng’ sound, their two hands collided and he fully blocked the energy of the strike. The Divine Crocodile was secretly alarmed and asked, “Who the heck are you? I came here to take my apprentice away, what business is it of yours?” Smiling, the Prince of the Southern Garrison replied, “I am Duan Zhengchun. This child is my son. When, precisely, did he kowtow and accept you as his master?”

Duan Yu laughed. “He wanted to accept me as his apprentice. I told him that I had accepted another master long ago, but he wouldn’t believe me.”

The Divine Crocodile looked at Duan Yu, then looked at the Prince of the Southern Garrison, Duan Zhengchun, and said, “The old guy’s martial arts is pretty damn good, but the kid doesn’t know any at all. I refuse to believe you two are father and son! Duan Zhengchun, we’re not bad, but even if he really is your son, you haven’t been teaching martial arts properly. Your son really is worthless! What a pity! What a pity!”

Duan Zhengchun responded, “What’s a pity?” 

The Divine Crocodile responded, “Your son is really similar to me. He’s an exceptionally rare prospect for studying martial arts. He only needs to study with me for ten years, and I guarantee that he will become an incredible expert in the Wulin.”

Duan Zhengchun was half-furious, half-amused. From his earlier exchange of palms with the Divine Crocodile, he knew that this person’s martial arts was extremely formidable, and just as he was formulating a proper response, Duan Yu interjected.

“Yue Number Three! Your martial arts are crap. You aren’t fit to be my master! Go back to the “Ten Thousand Crocodile Island” of the Southern Seas and practice martial arts for another twenty years before coming here to discuss martial arts with others!” The Divine Crocodile angrily responded, “A little brat like you, do you have the stature to claim my martial arts are bad?!”

Duan Yu responded, “Let me ask you. ‘Wind and thunder, increase. A gentleman should act in virtuous ways, and if he commits an error, must rectify it.’ What does this mean?” The Divine Crocodile was stupefied, then indignantly responded, “That doesn’t have any meaning. You’re just talking rubbish!”

Duan Yu said, “You don’t even understand these most basic of sentences, how can you be fit to discuss martial arts philosophy? I’ll ask you another question. ‘To injure those above, to benefit those below, the people speak without boundaries. Ones self, top and bottom, below. Arriving at great brightness’. What does that mean?”

Emperor Baoding, the Prince of the Southern Garrison, Gao Shengtai, and others, upon hearing him recite from the Book of Changes [I-Ching] to tease this person, couldn’t control their laughter. Even though Mu Wanqing had no idea what he was talking about, but guessed that it was something akin to ‘a sour scholar dropping a satchel’, and that he was mocking the Divine Crocodile.

In his startlement, the Divine Crocodile noticed that upon the face of every person present was suppressed laughter. He guessed that whatever it was that Duan Yu said, it probably was insulting. With a loud roar, he extended his palm, preparing to strike. Duan Zhengchun took a half-step forward, standing between him and his son.

Duan Yu laughed. “What I have said are all secrets of martial arts practice, and their subtleties are boundless and without end. You probably wouldn’t understand anyways. You ‘frog in a well’ [reference to a Chinese parable], actually want to be my master? The people under heaven would laugh so hard, their mouths would become permanently askew! Haha! The masters I have kowtowed to, some are Daoist immortals from jade caverns, others are elite scholars and erudites, and still others are learned elder monks. You? Even if you studied for another ten years, you might not be able to get me to accept you as my student!”

The Divine Crocodile loudly roared, “Who is the teacher you have accepted? Tell him to get out here and show me his abilities!”

Duan Zhengchun saw that only one of the ‘Four Evils’ had arrived. Although his martial arts was formidable, the Divine Crocodile was still a level beneath himself. He might as well take the opportunity to allow this idiot to be teased a bit. Thus, although the Emperor, Empress, and imperial concubine were all in attendance, he did not step in to curb his son’s nonsense.

Duan Yu, seeing amusement on the face of his uncle and seeing that his father wasn’t going to step in, became even more animated. He said to the Divine Crocodile, “Fine. You have the courage to stay here. I’ll go invite my master. Don’t get scared and hop away!” The Divine Crocodile angrily replied, “I, Yue Number Two, have wandered the jianghu for such a long time. Who am I afraid of? Hurry, go!” Turning, Duan Yu left.

The Divine Crocodile took a look at every person’s face, only to see that there was a smile on each of their faces. He thought to himself, “My apprentice’s martial arts are so crappy, not worth a dog’s fart. How good can his teacher be? Your old man aint scared of him one bit!”

He suddenly heard the sound of boots as two people entered the room. From outside, Duan Yu called out, “Has that Yue Number Three fellow ran off yet? Father, don’t let him flee! My master is coming.” 

The Divine Crocodile roared back, “Why would I run away? Damn it! Quickly, have your teacher enter! You aren’t willing to accept such an illustrious teacher as myself, it's most likely because your current teacher won’t agree. First I’ll snap the neck of your worthless teacher. Then, without a teacher, you’ll have to accept me as your teacher! Haha, this idea of mine is so extremely brilliant!”

Just as he was praising himself, Duan Yu brought a person in. Upon seeing that person, everyone present couldn’t resist laughing their heads off.

This person wore a small hat and a long gown, with a yellow, rat-like mustache, and squinty red eyes. He had a shrunken set of shoulders, appearing to be a humble thing. The Sage of Hollow Jade and the others recognized him as Mr. Huo, one of the palace’s accountants. This person always seemed to be half-asleep, half-awake. He loved to go gambling with the palace’s servants.

At the moment, he was covered with the scent of alcohol and his front was covered in grease. Duan Yu was grabbing his arm, trying to pull him in, but he was cowering and reluctant. As soon as he entered the flower pavilion, he knelt before the Emperor and the Empress. Emperor Baoding did not recognize him, and merely said, “Forget it.”

Holding onto Mr. Huo’s arm, Duan Yu said to the Divine Crocodile, “Yue Number Three, amongst all of my masters, this one has the most shallow martial arts. First you need to overcome him, before you can go on to challenge my other masters.” The Divine Crocodile screamed loudly, “If I can’t crush him to a pulp within three stances, I’ll accept you as my master!”

Duan Yu’s eyes suddenly gleamed. “Are you serious? A man’s word is his bond. If a man breaks his word, then he isn’t a man at all. He’s a bastard son of a turtle!” 

The Divine Crocodile yelled, “Come, come, come!” 
Duan Yu answered, “If we’re only competing three stances, then there’s no need to fight with my master. I’ll take on those three stances of yours myself.”

After hearing the report from Yun Zhonghe, the Divine Crocodile immediately rushed to Dali. His sole goal was to abduct Duan Yu and make him the heir of the martial arts of the Southern Seas sect. After exchanging a set of palms with Duan Zhengchun, his heart was filled with fear, thinking to himself that to kidnap Duan Yu while surrounded by so many elite fighters would be a difficult task indeed. He might not even be able to take his apprentice’s father.

Fortunately, at this moment, Duan Yu himself volunteered to fight him. He couldn’t ask for a better opportunity. With a single stance, he could subdue Duan Yu. After that, no matter how good Duan Zhengchun and the other’s martial arts were, they wouldn’t dare move against him. All they would be able to do would be to watch dumbly as he took his apprentice away. The Divine Crocodile replied, “Fine, come take three stances from me. I won’t use any internal energy and promise not to hurt you at all.”

Duan Yu answered, “Let’s set all the conditions now. What happens if you can’t beat me in those three stances?”

The Divine Crocodile laughed loudly. He knew that Duan Yu was a frail, scholarly weakling who didn’t even have the strength to tie up a chicken. Forget three stances, the kid couldn’t even take on one. “If I can’t hit you in three stances, I’ll accept you as my master.” Duan Yu laughed. “Everyone here can bear witness. You won’t go back on your words, will you?” 

The Divine Crocodile angrily replied, “The words of Yue Number Two are totally trustworthy! If I say this is this, then it is. If I say that is that, then it is.”

Duan Yu teased, “Yue Number Three!” 

The Divine Crocodile retorted, “Yue Number Two!” 

Duan Yu again said, “Yue Number Three!” 

The Divine Crocodile said, “Quick, make your move and stop wasting time!” Duan Yu strode forward two steps to face the Divine Crocodile.

Of the people in the palace, everyone from the Emperor and Empress on down, with the exception of Mu Wanqing, had watched Duan Yu grow up. They all knew that he loved scholastics and hated fighting. This time, Emperor Baoding and Duan Zhengchun wanted to force him to learn martial arts. Instead, he actually snuck away from home. Forget about exchanging blows with first class masters, even if he were to fight with your average bodyguard or escort, he would definitely not be a match.

Everyone present knew that he was just teasing this idiot, but in the end, his words became hard, and it looked like he was actually going to fight the idiot. Although the Divine Crocodile had promised not to harm him due to wanting to take him on as an apprentice, the Divine Crocodile’s temperament was violent and murderous. What if he suddenly became enraged and started to fight for real? Duan Yu was of royal descent, how could he possibly be allowed to take on the risk? The Sage of Hollow Jade was the first to speak and to block Duan Yu. “Yu’er, stop fooling around. There’s no need to waste time on a wild, uncouth man such as him.” 

The Empress also spoke. “Marquis of Virtuous Enlightenment, issue an order to have this madman apprehended.”

The Marquis of Virtuous Enlightenment, Gao Shengtai, replied, “Your servant, Gao Shengtai, will obey.” Turning, he shouted, “Chu Wanli, Gu Ducheng, Fu Sigui, Zhu Danchen! The four of you, listen to the imperial decree! The Empress orders you to apprehend this unruly man!” 

Chu Wanli and the other three respectfully replied, “Your servants shall follow the decree.”

The Divine Crocodile, seeing that a brawl was about to erupt, loudly shouted, “So you people want to mob me, huh? Fine! All of you, come at once! You there! Are you the Emperor and the Empress? Why don’t the two of you come as well?”

Duan Yu frantically waved his hands. “Wait, wait! Let me fight with him for three stances first!”

Emperor Baoding knew that this nephew of his was often capable of exceeding expectations. Perhaps he had some sort of plan or trick up his sleeve. The Divine Crocodile definitely would not take his life, and with himself, the Marquis of Virtuous Enlightenment, his brothers, and others present, there definitely wouldn’t be any problems. “Everybody, stop. We might as well let this uncouth madman experience the martial talents of the young prince of Dali.”

Chu Wanli and the other three were just about to charge, but as soon as they heard the Emperor’s decree, they immediately stood down.

Duan Yu repeated, “Yue Number Three, we have to agree in advance. If you can’t beat me in three stances, you’ll have to take me on as your master. Even if I become your master, you need to be aware that your intelligence is lacking. There’s no way I can teach you martial arts. Do you agree to this?” 

The Divine Crocodile angrily replied, “Who wants you to teach me martial arts? What type of crappy martial arts can you possibly know?”

Duan Yu said, “Good! So you’ve agreed. After I become your master, you’ll have to obey my commands. If I tell you to do something, you must do it. Otherwise, you’ll be known as an unfilial person who disobeys his master and insults his ancestors, which is totally contrary to the rules of wulin. Do you agree?” 

The Divine Crocodile actually wasn’t angry; instead, he laughed. “Naturally. After you lose and take me on as your master, you also would have to obey me.”

Duan Yu had been silently pondering ten or so steps of the “Graceful Steps Upon the Waves” [Ling Bo Wei Bu] martial arts he had learned. He felt that to avoid three stances would not be difficult. However, he had never fought with anyone before, and the Divine Crocodile’s martial arts was extremely high, leaving him without absolute confidence in victory. It’d be best to leave himself an avenue of retreat.

“Fine,” Duan Yu said. “But if you want to take me on as your apprentice, you still need to defeat my masters one by one. Only after proving that your martial arts are superior will I accept you as my master.” He thought to himself, “If I am grabbed by him underneath three stances, I’ll just point at all the elite martial artists here one by one and describe them all as being my masters, and force him to fight them one by one by one.” 

The Divine Crocodile replied, “Fine! Fine! You keep on talking but you refuse to fight. You aren’t like me at all! The students of the Southern Seas sect are never hesitant when it comes to a battle!”

Duan Yu pointed behind the Divine Crocodile with a faint smile. “One of my masters has been standing behind you for a long time, now.” 

The Divine Crocodile hadn’t sensed anyone behind him. Swiveling his head, he didn’t see anybody. At this time, Duan Yu suddenly advanced one step, moving as though he were floating on the breeze. Clumsily, he reached out towards the Divine Crocodile’s chest, attempting to strike at his Shanzhong acupoint with his thumb. This was an extremely clumsy and ungainly move, but Duan Yu’s body was filled with the internal energy of seven disciples of the Limitless (Wuliang) Sword Sect. Although he couldn’t use all of that internal energy, the power of this claw was not small.

The Divine Crocodile felt some pain at the pit his stomach as Duan Yu suddenly seized his Shenque acupoint, located at his navel, with his left hand. The scroll for the ‘Divine Skill of the Northern Darkness’ [BeiMing Divine Skill] included drawings of numerous myriads of acupoints on it. Duan Yu, however, had only mastered the acupoints on two of the drawings. The “Ren” meridians, and the “Lunar Lung” scripture. The Shanzhong acupoint and Shenque acupoints were two major acupoints of the “Ren” meridians.

Startled, the Divine Crocodile immediately exerted his internal energy to resist. To his great shock, he felt it flow outwards from his Shanzhong acupoint, causing him to feel as though his entire body had lost half of its strength, frightening him even further. Duan Yu had already flipped him around, causing his feet to point upwards and his head to point downwards. With a ‘teng’ sound, his big bald head collided with the floor. Fortunately for him, the floor of the flower pavilion was carpeted, and so he was not injured. In his great anger, he exercised the skill “The Carp Stands Erect” and rose to his feet, then sent out his left hand in a claw attack towards Duan Yu.

Upon seeing this series of events, every person present was extremely shocked. Duan Zhengchun, seeing that the Divine Crocodile sent out that claw with extreme force, was just about to intervene when Duan Yu suddenly sidestepped towards the left. His footwork was strange to the extreme. With but a single step, he managed to dodge the opponent’s attack, which had struck with the speed of a peal of thunder or a flash of lightning. Duang Zhengchun exclaimed, “Incredible!” The Divine Crocodile’s second palm attack came slamming down towards Duan Yu, who did not try to block or counter. Instead, he took two oblique steps and once again completely dodged the attack.

The Divine Crocodile had missed two attacks in a row. He was both startled and angry. Duan Yu was standing right in front of him, not more than a meter away. Suddenly, with a crazy howl, he sent out a two-handed attack, grabbing at Duan Yu’s chest and stomach. He used all of his energy in this attack; arms, hands, and his claws. In his anger, he had completely forgotten that if this double blow connected, his “future heir to the Southern Seas sect” would suffer tremendous physical damage.

Emperor Baoding, Duan Zhengchun, the Sage of Hollow Jade, and Gao Shengtai shouted in unison, “Careful!” Only to see Duan Yu take a step to the left, then a step to the right. With breeze-like ease, he had already managed to somehow appear behind the Divine Crocodile. With his two hands, he patted the Divine Crocodile on his bald head.

The Divine Crocodile felt that his opponent’s attack was totally mysterious and unpredictable. Somehow, the kid had managed to pat him on the top of his head! He darkly exclaimed, “My life comes to an end!” But as soon as his opponent touched the top of his head, he realized that there was no power behind this blow at all. With a sneer, he reversed his left hand and sent it upwards. Suddenly, five bloody lines appeared on the back of Duan Yu’s hand. Duan Yu hastily retracted his hand, but the Divine Crocodile’s power hadn’t diminished yet. The clawing attack slid down from Duan Yu’s retracted hand, resulting in five bloody cuts also being made on the Divine Crocodile’s head.

Actually, after having avoided three separate attacks in a row, Duan Yu had already won this battle. Only, he was far too mischievous, and so patted the Divine Crocodile on his head. He wasn’t aware that his internal energy was now quite strong, and also didn’t know how to utilize it either. Consequently, he was almost captured instead. With a series of interconnected steps, he flew backwards and hid behind his father, so terrified that his face was pale and bloodless.

The Sage of Hollow Jade cast him a glance and thought to herself, “Hmph. Your father and your uncle taught you such a marvelous skill, and you’ve been hiding it from me all along.”

Mu Wanqing said loudly, “Divine Crocodile of the Southern Seas! Not only were you unable to hit him within three strokes, but you took a nasty tumble yourself instead! Quick, get over here and pay respects to your master!” 

Red-faced, the Divine Crocodile scratched his ear. “He wasn’t fighting with me for real. This one doesn’t count.” 

Mu Wanqing pointed directly at his face. “Have you no shame? If you aren’t going to accept him as your master, then you must be a bastard son of a turtle! What’s your choice? Are you going to accept him as your master, or be a bastard son of a turtle?” 

The Divine Crocodile angrily replied, “Neither! I want to fight him again!”

Duan Zhengchun saw that his son’s footwork was miraculous to the extreme, but was unable to discern the secret behind it. Quietly, he whispered to his son, “Don’t fight with him head on. Just take an opportunity to seize his acupoints.” 

Duan Yu whispered back, “Your son is afraid now. I don’t know if I can do it.” 

Duan Zhengchun replied softly, “Don’t be afraid. I’ll secretly assist you from the side.”

With his father supporting him, Duan Yu’s courage arose, and he reappeared from behind Duan Zhengchun’s back. “You weren’t able to hit me in three stances. Time to accept me as your master!” The Divine Crocodile let out a thunderous bellow, then struck out at him with a powerful palm.

Duan Yu took a single step towards the northeast and easily avoided the attack. With a loud sound, ‘ka-la!’, this palm attack from the Divine Crocodile shattered a tea table. With all his willpower, Duan Yu focused, then softly recited, “See my body, advance and retreat. Follow his back, do not capture him. Go to the front courtyard, see nobody present. Hide both sides of the urn, go to a strategic place. Peel, disadvantageous to go towards the construct. The ram and goat touch the border, they cannot retreat, nor can they be fulfilled.”

He ignored the origins of the Divine Crocodiles palms, focusing only on his own footwork, retreating and dodging with strange, slanted steps. The twin palms of the Divine Crocodile became faster and faster, and the force of his blows stronger and stronger. A ceaseless stream of cracking sounds continually could be heard from within the flower pavilion as the chairs, tables, teapots, and teacups were shattered one after another. But he couldn’t land a single blow on Duan Yu’s body.

More than three stances passed in the blink of an eye. The two brothers, Emperor Baoding and the Prince of the Southern Garrison, could easily tell that Duan Yu’s technique was shallow, and that he possessed no martial arts at all. Only, they could not discern how he received instruction from an elite martial artist and received an almost divine footwork skill, striding in the positions of Fuxi’s 64 Trigrams. His first step would always be unimaginably queer. If he were really to fight with the Divine Crocodile, he would die underneath the opponent’s very first palm. But he didn’t bother to fight, and just focused on walking around. Although the Divine Crocodile palms were extremely fierce, he couldn’t lay a single finger on Duan Yu.

After watching for a while, the two brothers exchanged glances. A hint of worry had appeared on both of their faces. They both thought, “If the Divine Crocodile just closed his eyes and ignored Yu’er’s footwork, opting instead to randomly flail out with punches and palms, he’ll hit him sooner or later.” But they saw that the Divine Crocodile’s face grow more and more yellow, his eyes bulging more and more wide, not having thought of this method. His palm attacks fluctuated rapidly, but always would miss Duan Yu’s body by a third or two thirds of a meter.

If the fight continued, although Duan Yu would not be hurt, actually beating the opponent would be impossible as well. After watching a while, Emperor Baoding suddenly said, “Yu’er, slow your footsteps by a half. Face him directly, and grab the acupoint on his chest.”

Duan Yu answered, “Yes!” He slowed down his footsteps, then turned to face the Divine Crocodile and walked towards him. But upon facing the furious yellow countenance of the Divine Crocodile, fear suddenly struck him. His footsteps faltered just a little, causing him to move slightly out of position. The Divine Crocodile sent out a claw towards the left side of Duan Yu’s head, connecting and causing blood to immediately flow from his left ear. Feeling pain from his wounded ear, Duan Yu became even more timid. He increased the speed of his footsteps, hurriedly backing up and once again hiding behind Duan Zhengchun. With a forced smile, he called out, “Uncle, that won’t work!”

Duan Zhengchun roared furiously, “The members of the Dali Duan dynasty face their enemies boldly. Which one is cowardly and retreats to hide? Go out there and fight! Your uncle’s instructions were good.” 

The Sage of Hollow Jade, doting on her son, interjected, “Yu’er has already fought with him for sixty stances or more. The Duan family has produced such a wonderful scion, and you still think it isn’t enough? Yu’er, you won long ago. No need to fight any more.” 

Duan Zhengchun said, “Do not be afraid. I can guarantee that he won’t die.” The Sage of Hollow Jade felt bitterness in her heart, and her eyes began to fill with tears.

Seeing his mother in such a state, Duan Yu couldn’t bear it. His courage rose again, and he boldly strode forwards. He loudly proclaimed, “I’ll fight with you some more!” This time, he hardened his heart and began to walk in a circular pattern, with each step slower than the previous. He didn’t make eye contact with the Divine Crocodile, and instead just struck out at the latter’s chest with a palm.

The Divine Crocodile saw that there was no strength at all behind his blow. With a loud laugh, he slanted his body slightly and returned a claw attack against Duan Yu’s shoulder and head. But he didn’t imagine Duan Yu’s footwork would be so incredibly profound and ever-changing that the two moved their positions at exactly the same moment. As the two ran into each other, the Divine Crocodile’s chest was somehow right where Duan Yu’s finger was. Duan Yu clearly saw the location of his acupoints, and with his right hand immediately seized the enemy’s Shanzhong acupoint, while his left hand grasped the opponent’s Shenque acupoint.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to use his internal energy at all. Although Duan Yu had grabbed two of the opponent’s acupoints, if the Divine Crocodile just ignored him and shrugged him off without the use of internal energy, there would be nothing Duan Yu could do at all. But when the vital acupoints of the Divine Crocodile were seized, the Divine Crocodile’s heart suddenly leapt, and he extended both his hands in a frontal attack against his enemy.

This attack actually served the purpose of defense. He was attacking Duan Yu’s eyes. In martial arts learning, this was considered “an attack which absolutely must be defended against”. No matter how strong the enemy was, he would still have to retract his hands to defend himself, and thus the person originally in danger would have escaped from the dangerous situation. Originally, this was a brilliant way of fighting. Unfortunately, Duan Yu didn’t understand anything about fighting an enemy. As the opponent’s claw attack arrived, he didn’t think to immediately let go and retreat backwards. His two hands remained firmly attached to the Divine Crocodile’s acupoints.

This mistake which Duan Yu made became a benefit for him instead. As a result, the Divine Crocodile’s internal energy was thrown into turmoil, the flow of which was being blocked at two separate major acupoints. At the same time, once again his internal energy began to flood out of him from his Shanzhong acupoint. As his fingers reached a distance of six inches away from Duan Yu’s eyes, they became disobedient and refused to budge a single inch further. Taking a deep breath, he once again tried to generate his internal energy.

Duan Yu suddenly felt an enormous surge of energy coming towards him from the Shaoshang acupoint on his left thumb. The Divine Crocodile’s internal energy was very powerful, on a totally different level from those seven low level disciples of the Limitless (Wuliang) Sword Sect. Duan Yu felt his entire body tremble and his footing became unsteady. He knew that the situation was extremely dangerous. As soon as he removed his hands from his opponent’s acupoints, his life would be in jeopardy. Although he felt extremely uncomfortable, he just forced himself to ignore it.

Duan Zhengchun and Duan Yu were no more than a meter or two’s distance away from each other. Seeing his son’s face grow more and more red, Duan Zhengchun struck out with his forefinger towards the Dazhue acupoint on his son’s back. The Dali Duan dynasty’s ‘Yiyang Finger’ [Yiyangzhi] was world-renown; it really was nothing to trifle with. A sudden surge of warm, soft energy streamed towards Duan Yu, arousing the internal energy which already resided in Duan Yu’s body.

The Divine Crocodile’s entire body was shaking violently, and he slowly fell down. Duan Zhengchun supported his son and kept him standing. Duan Yu’s internal energy began to circulate and smoothed out again. The energy from the Divine Crocodile’s Shoutaiyingfei acupoint slowly and unhurriedly began to collect in the ocean of internal energy in Duan Yu’s body. For the moment, Duan Yu was unable to speak.

Duan Zhengchun secretly used his ‘Yiyang Finger’ to assist his son, and with their combined efforts, managed to subdue the Divine Crocodile of the Southern Seas. Everybody in the pavilion understood this, of course, but there would nonetheless be no way for the Divine Crocodile to deny that he had lost to Duan Yu.

But this man’s ability really was incredible. As soon as Duan Yu’s hands left his acupoints, with a deep breath and circulation of his energy, the Divine Crocodile leapt to his feet. Narrowing his pair of bean-like eyes, he glared at Duan Yu. An utterly strange look was on his face, a mixture of astonishment, sadness, and wrath.

Mu Wanqing shouted, “Yue Number Three! It seems to me that you really are willing to be a bastard son of a turtle! Are you ready to kowtow to your master yet?” 

The Divine Crocodile angrily roared back, “I’m going to blow your mind and do something you don’t expect at all! Fine, I’ll accept him as my master. Yue Number Two will definitely not be a bastard son of a turtle!” While speaking, he suddenly immediately knelt down on the spot. Dong, dong, dong dong. Dong, dong, dong dong. His head knocking against the ground, he kowtowed to Duan Yu eight times in a row. Loudly, he proclaimed, “Master! Your disciple, Yue Number Two, is paying his respects to you!”

Stupefied, Duan Yu didn’t immediately respond. Not waiting for him to answer, the Divine Crocodile jumped to his feet then flew to the top of the pavilion. There was an “Ah!” cry from the top, followed by a “peng” sound. Suddenly, a person dropped from the top of the pavilion. It was one of the imperial bodyguards, and fresh blood dripped from his chest. His heart had already been torn out by the Divine Crocodile. His arms and legs flailing madly, he hadn’t died yet. It was an extremely frightful sight. Although this bodyguard’s martial arts was not as good as that of Chu Wanli and the others, it wasn’t ordinary either. Unexpectedly, the Divine Crocodile was able to easily rip his heart out as quickly as another man might lift his hands. Even though the Four Great Bodyguards were nearby, they were unable to save him. The faces of every person present changed color.

Mu Wanqing angrily said, “Husband Duan, this disciple you have taken acts too outrageously! Next time you meet him, you need to teach him a lesson.” 

Duan Yu’s heart was thumping frantically. “I won only because I was lucky, and because my father lent his aid. If I see him again, I’m afraid that it will be my heart that gets torn out by him. What ability do I have to discipline him?”

Gu Ducheng and Fu Sigui took out the corpse of the guardsman. Duan Zhengchun issued orders to provide for his bereaved family, and to arrange for a proper burial.

That Mr. Huo, who was 70% awake and 30% drunken, was so terrified that his body was trembling nonstop. He also withdrew.

Emperor Baoding said, “Yu’er, that set of footsteps you learned was derived from Fuxi’s 64 trigrams, was it not? Who taught it to you? He must truly be a brilliant master.” 

Duan Yu replied, “I learned it by accident in a mountain cave. I don’t know if I learned it properly or not. Will uncle please instruct me?” 

Emperor Baoding asked, “How exactly did you learn it in a mountain cave?”

Duan Yu then explained how he fell into the Limitless (Wuliang) Mountain ravine and entered the cavern, and discovered the painting with the instructions for the “Graceful Steps on the Waves”. With regards to the jade sculpture and the paintings of naked women and what not, he naturally did not bring them up. These naked paintings of his Dear Goddess, how could he show them to his uncle, aunt, father, and mother? And if Mu Wanqing found out that he was infatuated with his Dear Goddess, she would be furious. Leaving out details in a story would be like Confucius whittling away at unnecessary parts of the Spring and Autumn period, just the wish of the storyteller.

After Duan Yu was finished, Emperor Baoding said, “Within this ‘Sixty-four Trigram’ footwork is hidden a first-class internal energy. Try walking the entire thing from the beginning.” 

Duan Yu said, “Yes!” 

After a moment’s thought, he began the footwork. Emperor Baoding, Duan Zhengchun, and Gao Shengtai all had very profound internal energy. But despite that, they were only able to understand twenty to thirty percent of the profound secrets of the internal energy method hidden within the footwork. After finishing all ‘Sixty-four Trigram’ footsteps, Duan Yu had walked in a circle, and was back at his original position.

Emperor Baoding exclaimed, “Superb! This set of footwork has no equal under heaven. That Yu’er was able to learn it is his incredible good fortune. Tonight, your mother will return to her palace. Yu’er, be sure to drink a few cups of wine with your mother.” Turning his head, he said to the Empress, “Let us leave.” 

The Empress, rising to her feet, agreed. “Yes, let’s.”

Duan Zhengchun and the others respectfully escorted the Emperor and the Empress out, all the way to the outside of the decorate arch of the Southern Garrison Palace.


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