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  Excursus
   JIN YONG > She Diao Ying Xiong Zhuan || Chapter 8: A Demonstration of Special Prowess

CONDENSED: Wang Chuyi discovered that Guo Jing's foundation in kung fu was actually taught by his apprentice senior brother, Ma Yu, and was delighted. Then, he told Guo Jing who Wanyan Kang was - the disciple of his other apprentice senior, Qiu Chuji. Hearing this, Guo Jing realized that he had been fighting with someone who was very nearly his acquaintance and immediately apologized.


Wang Chuyi looked at him and laughed, saying: "You are a chivalrous person, which is a trait to admire. How can I take that against you?" Then, his face colored as he said: "The Quanzhen Sect teachings are very strict. If a disciple makes a mistake, he must be punished severely. This person's frivolous behavior is unseemly; I must discuss the terms of his punishment with my apprentice brother Qiu Chuji."

Guo Jing said: "If he is willing to marry the Mu girl, Taoist priest must agree to forgive him."

Wang Chuyi shook his head but did not answer. He could see that the boy was kind-hearted and ready to treat people well. But he thought, Brother Qiu always hated the wicked like they were his personal enemies and he especially detested the Jins. How then that he is teaching this Jin prince and not this good son Guo? Granted that Wanyan Kang's kung fu is really good, it's obvious that Brother Qiu did spend many days and painstaking efforts to train him. But I could see that in this person's kung fu are elements that are heretical and unorthodox; it's all really strange.

To Guo Jing, he said: "Brother Qiu told me that he is going to Yanjing and should arrive there in a few days. We'll ask him for explanations then. I heard that he took a disciple with the surname of Yang and this person will fight with you in Jiaxing. I haven't met this Yang person but you can rest assured that with me on your side, you will defintely win."

Guo Jing's six shifu told him that at noon in August midautumn festival, he must take the west road to the Jiaxing prefecture but they never told him the reason for this. Thereupon, he asked: "Taoist Priest, why must I duel with him?"

Wang Chuyi replied: "If your six shifu did not explain, it won't be right for me to say."

He once listened to Qiu Chuji relate the whole story and felt that the Six Freaks of Chiangnan were truly magnanimous in their hearts. He and Ma Yu shared the same thoughts and also hoped that the Six Freaks of Chiangnan would win the match but as a junior apprentice, he could not really ask Qiu Chuji to yield the challenge. Today, however, he saw Guo Jing's manners and secretly considered giving a helping hand without defaming Qiu Chuji's prestige. He thus made up his mind to go to Jiaxing at the appointed time and think of some way to mediate when the opportunity strikes.

Wang Chuyi said: "Let's go and find Mu Yi. That girl appears stubborn and I fear the situation will be difficult for him."

Guo Jing started. They proceeded to the Prosperity Inn which was at the western part of the city. While heading towards the inn's entrance, they saw ten liveried servants who bowed to them, saying to Wang Chuyi: "Our young master invites the Taoist priest and young Guo to a feast at his residence."

The scarlet invitation card bore the inscription: "Disciple Wanyan Kang invites." They handed it to Guo Jing who said: "Hold on."

Wang Chuyi said: "We shall come shortly."

The headservant then said: "My master said these desserts and fruits are for you. If the Taoist priest and young Guo will tell me where they are to be placed, I shall send them there."

The rest of the servants who were holding the twelve fruit boxes opened the lid to reveal several types of fresh fruits and pastries, all very appetizing. Guo Jing thought, My brother Huang Rong likes to eat fine pastries. I shall save some for him.

Wang Chuyi was unhappy with Wanyan Kang's manner and intended to wave away the treats but seeing how Guo Jing seemed to like them, he thought, Young fellows like sweets. This is no wonder!

And so with a faint smile, he took the fruit box from the servants. They proceeded to where Mu Yi was lodged and as soon as they walked in, they saw the man was lying in bed, face white like paper, and his daughter sitting by the bed with tears in her eyes.

The two people saw Wang Chuyi and Guo Jing enter and simultaneously cried in surprise. The girl immediately stood up. Mu Yi tried to sit up.

Wang Chuyi looked over Mu Yi's wounds, seeing how Wanyan Kang's five fingers created holes deep enough to show the bones beneath as though they have been inflicted by sharp weapons. Both hands were swollen and though applied with some balsam, they were not bandaged for fear of getting infection.

He was puzzled, Wanyang Kang is using a ruthless technique the origins of which I do not know. How could he be so fierce and how come my apprentice brother Qiu Chuji did not know about this? Or if he did, why does he not pay attention? Turning to the girl, he asked: "Young girl, what is your name?"

The girl replied in a soft voice: "My name is Mu Nianci." She then looked at Guo Jing and in that one meaningful glance, her gratitude was shown. She lowered her head immediately.

Guo Jing was looking towards the bed and saw the pole but the brocade banner with the words "Contest for a Spouse" had been torn into shreds. He wondered: "Do you not wish to find a spouse?"

Wang Chuyi said: "Your father's wounds are severe and must be taken care of properly."

He saw that the father and daughter were quite destitute, their clothes showing their poverty, and thought that they would not be able to afford the medicine to treat the wounds. So from his pockets, he took out two gold ingots and placed them on the table, saying: "Tomorrow I will come again."

He did not wait for Mu Yi to express his thanks and pulled Guo Jing with him out the inn. Outside, they saw four of the liveried servants waiting for them, saying: "Our young master waits at his house. We ask Taoist priest and young Guo to come with us please."

Wang Chuyi nodded. Guo Jing then said: "Taoist Elder, please wait for me." And with that, he rushed back towards the inn, opened the fruit box sent by Wanyan Kang at the counter and took out four assorted pastries. He wrapped them securely with a handkerchief and placed them in his pockets. Afterwards, he rushed back outside and went with the four servants and Wang Chuyi towards the Zhao palace.

CONDENSED: While making their way towards the Palace's great hall, Guo Jing realized that Prince Zhao was the title of Wanyan Honglie, the sixth son of the Emperor of Jin Dynasty, whom the Mongolian Genghis Khan had asked him to assassinate. At the hall, Wanyan Kang welcomed both Guo Jing and Wang Chuyi and introduced them to everyone in the reception room, including Peng Lianhu, Ginseng Immortal Liang Ziwong, and Supreme Virtue Ling Zhi. As they talked, they were interrupted by someone.

Suddenly, a hoarse voice said: "It must be so that the Seven Freaks of Chiangnan are so bold because they have the support of Quanzhen."

Wang Chuyi turned around quickly to look at the person who said this, seeing only a man with a gleaming bald head with large, prominent eyes. He felt that he should know this person and he said: "Are you the honorable Sha, the Dragon King?"

That person got angry and said: "Yes, I am. Do you recognize me?"

Wang Chuyi thought, Our sect has nothing to do with his sect. What have I done to offend him? Then, he replied: "I have always admired the name of Sha Tongtian."

The Dragon King was called Sha Tongtian and his kung fu was definitely higher than his apprentice brother, Hou Tonghai. But because of his hot temper, when he taught kung fu he often had a fit and therefore could not properly pass on his instructions to his four disciples. During the skirmish with the Mongolians, the Four Ghosts of the Yellow River fought with Guo Jing but could not defeat him. Thus, in front of Prince Zhao Wanyan Honglie, they lost face.

When he learned about this, Sha Tongtian went into a rage and fought with his disciples, kicking and hitting them until the Four Ghosts of the Yellow River very nearly became worthy of their name.

Sha Tongtian then sent his apprentice brother Hou Tonghai to take care of Guo Jing but he turned out to be a joke when Huang Rong played tricks on him. His dishonor was even greater. This made him even madder and paying no heed to the people around him, he suddenly sent a palm towards Guo Jing. Guo Jing stepped back as Wang Chuyi got up and moved the sleeve of his gown to protect him.

Sha Tongtian then exclaimed angrily: "Well, you really wish to protect this little animal?"

Then, with a shout, he sent a palm to fiercely strike Wang Chuyi in the chest. Wang Chuyi saw this oncoming force and also sent out a palm to parry. There was a light sound as both their stances met and as they prepared to use their internal force, suddenly someone from nearby intervened, grasping Sha Tongtian's left hand and Wang Chuyi's right hand, forcing them to part.

The two people felt themselves shake and drew back their hands immediately. Sha Tongtian had spent many days roaming Jiang Hu and knew what to expect of his opponent so he prepared his internal strength when he struck that palm. But who would have thought that this person would unexpectedly come and separate them so easily?

The person was wearing white, carrying a light fur cloak. He was young, about thirty-five or thirty-six years old. Both his eyes were noble and his appearance elegant. He carried a distinct air of heroic spirit that was actually threatening but his rich and honorable clothes made him appear as though he was a descendant of princes.

Smiling, Wanyan Kang introduced: "This is the Junior Chief of the Western region Bai Tuoshan (White Camel) from the Kunlun Mountains. His name is Ouyang Ke. Honorable Ouyang has never been to the Central Plains, thus, it is the first time that everybody meets him."

This person's sudden appearance surprised not only Wang Chuyi and Guo Jing, but also Peng Lianhu, Liang Ziwong, and the rest who have never met him before. They all saw his little demonstration of skills and felt admiration, but of the Western region Bai Tuoshan group, no one has actually heard.

Ouyang Ke then cupped one hand in the other across his chest and said: "Brothers, I should have arrived earlier in Yanjing but on the road, I met a minor matter which caused the delay of several days. That is why I am late. My apologies."

Listening to Wanyan Kang introduce him as the Junior Chief of Bai Tuoshan, Guo Jing already thought that he must be related to the white-clothed women who tried to rob his horse while on the road. And now as he listened to him speaking, he felt his heart grow cold. Is it possible that my six shifu had fought with him? Had they been injured?

Wang Chuyi saw that the opposite party were all men of kung fu. He had felt this Ouyang Ke's internal pressure on his hand and he realized that their internal strengths were about the same though this person's kung fu was actually quite strange. He thought that if a fight began, he was not even sure that he could win against him, how much more if everyone in the room decided to attack? And so, he turned immediately to Wanyan Kang, saying: "Your shifu? Why don't you ask him to come?"

Wanyan Kang nodded. "Of course!" Then, he turned to his servant and said: "Ask Shifu to come and receive our guests!"

The servant complied. Wang Chuyi was thus consoled, thinking, With Apprentice Brother Qiu in here, even though the enemy is powerful, we three can manage to protect ourselves.

After a few moments, one could hear the sound of boots and in the hall appeared an obese soldier dressed in fine brocade, his chin showing a clump of thick fine beard. He was over forty years of age and appeared quite military and strong. Wanyan Kang went forward, calling, "Shifu, Taoist Elder wants to meet you and has already asked several times."

Wang Chuyi thought angrily, Wicked boy, you dare to make a fool of me? By the way this soldier moves, his body does not have what it takes to teach you your strange kung fu. He couldn't have been the one who passed on the techniques.

The soldier then said: "Taoist Elder, what is your business with me? I don't make it a habit to see Buddhist monks or Taoist priests."

Though Wang Chuyi felt extremely mad, he smiled instead and said: "I am soliciting money of 1,200 silver taels."

The soldier's name was Tang Zude and he was the chief military officer of Prince Zhao, Wanyan Honglie. When Wanyan Kang was younger, he had taught him some skills in kung fu and that was why everyone in the Zhao Palace called him "shifu." But now as he listened to Wang Chuyi's demand of one thousand two hundred silver taels, he retorted: "Nonsense!"

Wanyan Kang said: "1,200 silver taels. Small gift, small gift." Then he said to his servant: "Quickly, prepare 1,200 silver taels and give it to Taoist Elder."

When Tang Zude heard this, his jaw dropped, leaving his mouth agape. He then gazed at Wang Chuyi up and down, wondering what the background of this Taoist priest was.

CONDENSED: Wang Chuyi broached the subject about the Mu incident that afternoon and Wanyan Kang said that the father and daughter should be brought to them. Guo Jing was tasked to bring them but when he got to the Prosperity Inn, both were gone. Wang Chuyi became suspicious and made some disparaging remark which angered the soldier Tang Zude. Wang Chuyi in turn insulted Tang Zude, saying that he was a traitor to the Han people for serving the Jurchen emperor. (NOTE: The Han people of South Song were being oppressed by the powerful Jurchen people of Jin Dynasty, but unlike North Song which was completed subjogated by Jin, there were still several South Song patriots who continued to resist the invading Jin army.)

Wang Chuyi's speech touched a sore spot in Tang Zude and his complexion changed. Issuing a roar like that of a tiger, he stood up, stepping away from Liang Ziwong and Ouyang Ke, to send a left fist towards Wang Chuyi's face.

Wang Chuyi saw with his own eyes the fist approaching him and with his right hand, he stretched out two fingers, gripping his wrist and saying with a smile: "If you don't wish to answer, why play rough?"

Tang Zude's fist was stopped in mid-air. Using his strength, he tried to struggle but could not move even a half inch. He got angry, scolding: "The Taoist wizard is good. You're using witchcraft!"

He made an effort then to withdraw his hand but found that he could not even do that. His cheeks turned purple from embarrassment. Just then, Liang Ziwong who was sitting nearby said with a smile: "General, don't fret. Sit down and drink!" Then, he placed a hand on his right shoulder.

Wang Chuyi knew that his two fingers could easily grip Tang Zude's wrist but also knew that they could not resist Liang Ziwong's. And so, he immediately released a finger to press against Tang Zude's left shoulder. The change was fast and Liang Ziwong could not withdraw quick enough and thus was forced to press down on Tang Zude's shoulders at the same time.

Tang Zude's ancestors have done no good deeds and their names were empty but to have these two great masters converging around him to attack, he was really quite lucky. As both masters pressed, he could not help but throw both his hands forward, his left hand breaking a bowl of fish and his right hand plunging into a bowl of hot and sour soup. There was a resounding sound as the two bowls broke and fish bones and porcelain fragments cutting into his hands, mixing his blood with the soup.

Tang Zude shouted in pain and wielded both his hands randomly, sending splashes of soup grease around. The people in the room hurriedly tried to fend off the food particles. Tang Zude felt shame and resentment and so anxiously left the room. The servants suppressed their smiles as they hurried forward to tidy up the mess.

Sha Tongtian marveled: "Quanzhen Sect truly lives up to its reputation and prestige in the North and the South. Brother here wants to consult with the Taoist Elder about a certain matter."

Wang Chuyi replied: "It's not a problem. Senior Sha, please ask your question."

Sha Tongtian said: "The Yellow River clan and Quanzhen Sect have always respected and helped each other, why then does Taoist Elder offer support to the Seven Freaks of Chiangnan and make things difficult for brother? Although Quanzhen Sect are greater in numbers, this brother is not afraid."

Wang Chuyi returned: "Senior Sha, there's a misunderstanding. Although I have heard of the Seven Freaks of Chiangnan, I am not acquainted with any of them. My apprentice brother met them and made a bet with them. I never intended to help the Seven Freaks of Chiangnan and cause trouble with the Yellow River clan."

Sha Tongtian then exclaimed: "Wonderful, then give this boy to me."

He leapt from his seat and put a hand out to grasp Guo Jing's throat. Wang Chuyi knew that Guo Jing could not avoid this grasp and would be injured and so he sent a palm and pushed Guo Jing's shoulder gently. Guo Jing fell from his chair. A "ke sha" sound could be heard as Sha Tongtian changed the direction of his five fingers, breaking the chair's back. This stance which could crack wood like it was spoiled to begin with was rarely seen but powerful by wulin standards.

CONDENSED: Sha Tongtian became furious when he failed to grab Guo Jing. Wang Chuyi then asked him what the matter was about. It was then revealed how Sha Tongtian sent his four disciples, the Four Ghosts of the Yellow River, to an important mission with Prince Zhao in Mongolia. But Guo Jing helped the Mongolians, thus causing the Four Ghosts (and in effect their shifu) to lose face. Hearing this, everyone in the room felt that Guo Jing's offense was grave. To buy some time, Wang Chuyi suggested that everyone should display their skills to Guo Jing to teach him a lesson of humility. Hou Tonghai, the Three-Bumped Dragon thought the idea was great and decided to be the first to show off.

Wang Chuyi said: "My skills are far too shallow, how do I dare challenge each one of you? I hope that Brother Hou's unique skills will be enough to satisfy and teach this youth that there are persons whose skills are higher. He won't dare to be arrogant in the future."

Hou Tonghai listened and felt that there was a thorn somewhere in his speech but he could not place a finger on it and in his heart did not really understand and so he did not know how to reply.

Sha Tongtian thought, It's not good to annoy the Quanzhen Sect Taoists and so it's well that I do not have to do this. Then, he glanced at Hou Tonghai and said: "Apprentice brother, you can display your "Burrying a Person in the Snow" technique to Honorable Wang."

Wang Chuyi did not say anything. Outside, it had not stopped snowing but Hou Tonghai rushed to the center of the court, raising both arms to bring the snow in until they piled up to three feet. He then trampled them with his foot and then backed up three steps and suddenly leapt into the air, throwing himself towards the snow grave, head first, the snow not high enough to reach his chest.

Guo Jing was confused, seeing him inverted in the snow but remaining motionless for he knew not how long. Sha Tongtian then said to Wanyan Kang's servants: "Everyone, kick the rest of the snow towards my apprentice brother."

The servants all thought that this was all extremely interesting and they all grinned as they kicked the snow and piled them near Hou Tonghai's chest. Originally, Sha Tongtian and Hou Tonghai dominated in the Yellow River area and so their water skills were excellent. They knew the character of the river and were used to diving and swimming and controlling their breaths underwater. By burying his head in the snow, Hou Tonghai actually held his breath long enough and then used his kung fu to leap back out. In ordinary days, he practiced this technique and was therefore used to it.

The people in the great hall all raised their cups in appreciation, seeing how Hou Tonghai braced himself with both hands and came out of the snow to return to his previous position, standing tall. Guo Jing's youthful disposition made him clap his hands, applauding this display of skills. Hou Tonghai was turning back to drink a cup of wine before maliciously glancing towards him.

Guo Jing noticed that the three bumps on his forehead were white with snow and could not help pointing this out. "Third Master Hou, there's snow on your head."

This angered Hou Tonghai who said: "My nickname is Three-Bumped Dragon but this does not indicate that I am Third Master. Why do you call me Third Master Hou? And if I am Fourth Master Hou, what is it to you? Do you think I don't know there's snow on my head? Originally, I intended to wipe them away but after what you said, I'm not going to do that."

In the hall, the air was warm and the snow soon melted to water, trickling down Hou Tonghai's face but because he must live up to his promise, he didn't wipe it off. If a real man said that he would not wipe, then he would not wipe.

Sha Tonghai said: "My apprentice brother is being rude, my apologies."

While he was saying this, he put out a hand to grasp a melon seed from the small dish and flicked his middle finger, sending the melon seed shooting up into the air. The melon seed made inlays on Hou Tonghai's pile of snow, creating an impression of the huang character for "yellow." The pile of snow was ten feet away fom him but he was able to use the melon seed to create that neat inlay of character. The power of his eyesight and hand was truly astonishing.

Wang Chuyi thought, No wonder the Dragon King lords over the Yellow River area. His kung fu is really no small matter.

On the pile of snow drift, there appeared in a moment the characters for "river" and "nine", thus creating four characters which actually read "nine tunes of the Yellow River."

Peng Lianhu said with a smile: "Eldest Brother Sha, your god-hand technique fills this little brother with admiration. We've always had this partnership between us. If Taoist Elder must test us, let me borrow your god-hand technique and show him."

His body suddenly shook as he leapt and landed near the doorway to the hall. By now, Sha Tongtian was making the finishing touches on the qu character for "tune" when Peng Lianhu suddenly stretched out both hands, grabbing Sha's melon seeds which were still in the air. The melon seeds were traveling at an amazing speed but this did not daunt him at all. He also moved quickly, his movements like running water, and all the melon seeds in the small dish were Peng Lianhu's hand.

The people in the room gave a sound applause and Peng Lianhu smiled as he returned to his seat, allowing Sha Tongtian to finish the character for "tune." If it were someone else, it would have been said that Peng Lianhu committed a grave offense but the friendship between the two was deep. Sha Tongtian only showed a faint smile, certainly unoffended and then turned to Ouyang Ke, saying: "Master Ouyang, let's see your plans of opening the eyes of us inexperienced people."

Ouyang Ke heard the derision in his language, knowing that he was still probably displeased after interrupting his palm earlier and so pondered over what sort of skills to display so this Sha person would admire him. At that moment, a servant came with four troughs of sweets and replaced the used pair of chopsticks in front of each person with a new pair. Ouyang Ke then took the used chopsticks and scattered them. Twenty chopsticks flew towards the snow pile to create four flowers of neat shape.

Snatching up some chopsticks and inserting them into a pile of snow was child's play but to use twenty chopsticks and form such a neat graph was a difficult thing to accomplish. The depth and complexity of such skill filled Guo Jing and Wanyan Kang with wonder but Wang Chuyi, Sha Tongtian, and the rest understood it and secretly cheered.

Wang Chuyi saw with his own eyes how great these people's skills were. He thought, These martial arts experts are all very skilled and one person cannot easily meet even one of them, but how come they're all suddenly gathered here? Even the Junior Chief of Bai Tuoshan, Supreme Virtue Ling Zhi, Ginseng Immortal Liang Ziwong, and so on are not from the Central Plains. How come they're in Yanjing all at once? There must be some significant scheme going on.

Ginseng Immortal Liang Ziwong was grinning as he stood up and cupped one hand across his chest. He then jogged towards the court and suddenly leapt, landing on the chopsticks which Ouyang Ke placed on the snow.

He then started his demonstration of skills: "Hugging the Moon to the Bosom," "the Second Son Hiking Up the Mountain," "Drawing the Bow," "Turning without Boots," and finally his skill of Yan Qingquan (Sparrow Light Fists). His feet looked as though he was jumping and flying, each step landing just above the vertical chopsticks. He then performed the "Yielding to the Cross Tiger" and "Regressing to Receive Potential" and finished all of his Yan Qingquan fists with all twenty chopsticks still neatly in place on the snowy area.

With an unceasingly smiling face, Liang Ziwong then jumped and returned to his seat at the banquet. Everyone in the room immediately applauded. Guo Jing was all praises as he expressed his admiration.

By now, the banquet was over and many servants came carrying several jugs of lukewarm water so the guests could wash their hands.

Wang Chuyi was thinking, Now I only have to wait for Supreme Virtue Ling Zhi to reveal his kung fu before they attack all at once. He glanced at the Tibetan monk and saw that he was calmly soaking both his hands into the golden trough, paying no attention to anyone. The rest of the people had finished washing their hands but both his hands were still soaked in the trough and the people thought that he was rather sluggish and looking pensive.

Everyone was curious when suddenly the moisture began to rise from the trough where his hands were. The water in the trough was bubbling. It was as though the water in the trough was boiling hot causing one to blister and steam rose up from the bottom.

Wang Chuyi was startled and thought, This Tibetan monk's internal strength is overwhelming! I cannot wait anymore. I must make the first move if I want the situation to be in my favor. At the moment, all the people's eyes were trained on the golden trough watching the hands of Supreme Virtue Ling Zhi. He thought, At present the opportunity is fleeting. If I make my move now, I can take them by surprise and gain the upper hand. Suddenly, his body moved forward, shocking the people, as he quickly grasped Wanyan Kang's wrist, raised him, and sealed the acupuncture point at his back. Sha Tongtian and the rest were greatly surprised and for the moment were quite helpless.

Wang Chuyi grabbed the wine pot and said: "My meeting today with such great heroes is an honor. I shall pay my respects by giving you a toast."

His right hand then moved the wine pot and prepared eleven cups, one for each person. Then he drank a large mouthful from the jug and violently spat out some wine to land in each person's cup. No matter if that person's cup was far from him or near, the wine always landed exactly on the cup. Some persons' cups were empty and some were only half-empty but no matter the amount, he was able to pour out the right proportion, not too much and not too little but just right without causing a single drop to overflow.

Supreme Virtue Ling Zhi and the rest saw with their own eyes how he poured out the wine, demonstrating his profound internal strength, his right hand pouring out the wine while the left was holding Wanyan Kang. They thought that they could actually attack him at this moment but they were cautious, lest Wanyan Kang might be hurt and thus, they could only watch helplessly, none of them daring to move.

Finally, Wang Chuyi poured liquor for himself and Guo Jing and drank. He said: "I have no enmity against you and this little brother by the surname of Guo is neither relative nor kin but I have witnessed his chivalrous character and strength of spirit. That is why I ask each one of you to let him go on my behalf." The people remained silent. Wang Chuyi again made his plea: "If each is willing to be generous, I shall return the young prince, a descendant of the Imperial family, in exchange for a commoner. None of us will suffer a loss, don't you agree?"

Liang Ziwong laughed and said: "Taoist Elder Wang makes a good deal. We accept."

Wang Chuyi did not hesitate and immediately opened his left hand to let Wanyan Kang go. He knew that these martial arts experts were famous characters in Jiang Hu and all are known to have committed evil, poisonous, and ruthless ways but he knew that in front of so many people, they would not dare to break their word in fear of lowering their prestige. And so with a nod, he took Guo Jing's hand and said: "I say goodbye in light of this and may we meet again."

The people in the room saw their prey escape the net but were powerless to prevent it and so felt ashamed. Wanyan Kang was able to calm down and laughed: "Taoist Elder, you can come whenever you're free and I'll learn from your teachings."

Wang Chuyi humphed and replied: "We're not finished yet. We shall say goodbye another day."

As they walked towards the reception room entrance, Supreme Virtue Ling Zhi suddenly shouted: "Taoist Elder, I greatly admire your fine skills." He then joined his hands together in a gesture of prayer. Suddenly, his double palms breezed and he dashed forward.

Wang Chuyi raised his hand and quickly circulated his internal strength which he practiced for dozens of years towards that palm to defend himself. He felt the wind against his skin before Supreme Virtue Ling Zhi changed from his internal force to the external, using his right palm to grab Wang Chuyi's wrist.

Reacting swiftly, Wang Chuyi also changed his stance and grabbed the opponents wrist. Both palms were extremely strong and they hardly bumped each other before the two persons of skills immediately separated.

Supreme Virtue Ling Zhi's complexion had changed but he said: "Admirable, admirable!" Then leaping, he withdrew.

Wang Chuyi also smiled: "Abbot is famous in Jiang Hu but how come he does not keep his promise?"

Supreme Virtue Ling Zhi angrily replied: "I was not after this Guo boy. I was after you..." He had been hit by Wang Chuyi's strong palm and was actually injured. If he had remained still and calm, controlling his breath, he would have been able to recover quickly but Wang Chuyi made him speak and as his anger shot out, he could not even finish his word before blood spat from his mouth.

Wang Chuyi did not dare wait any longer and he pulled Guo Jing by the hand, hurrying out of the gate. Sha Tongtian, Peng Lianhu, and the rest did not want to break their word and now they saw Supreme Virtue Ling Zhi suffering from an injury, they felt they no longer wanted to go forward and stop them.

Wang Chuyi and Guo Jing made their way out of the Zhao Palace and about ten feet away, turned a curve and saw that nobody was after them. Then, he said to Guo Jing in a low voice: "Carry me to the inn."

CONDENSED: Wang Chuyi was poisoned by Supreme Virtue Ling Zhi and asked Guo Jing to find some medicine but all the shops were closed and all medicine sold out, courtesy of the Zhao Prince. Guo Jing decided to meet his friend Huang Rong by the river to ask for his advice. At first, he could not find the little beggar boy and then he later heard the Four Ghosts of the Yellow River arguing. Huang Rong had hanged them on top the tree by the river while disposing of them earlier that afternoon. While they were talking, a young girl wearing white arrived on a boat.

Guo Jing saw that this young girl was wearing clothes like that belonging to a celestial goddess and was unable to stop himself from staring. The boat slowly floated near and he could see that the girl looked about fifteen or sixteen years of age, her skin was white as snow, and her cheeks colored prettily. Her sweetness and beauty was incomparable so that he could only gaze at her, dumbstruck. As she drew nearer, Guo Jing felt something unfamiliar so that he did not dare to look again and instead retreated several steps.

The young girl suddenly leapt to the shore and called out: "Brother Guo, get in!"

Startled, Guo Jing turned but only saw the young girl dimpling at him, the front piece of her jacket fluttering gently in the wind. He thought he was dreaming and so he rubbed his eyes with both hands.

The young girl laughed: "What? Don't you recognize me?"

Guo Jing heard her voice and was vaguely reminded of Huang Rong but then he was dressed in dirty, ragged clothes so how could he suddenly turn into this celestial goddess? He could not believe his own eyes.

Behind him, he heard the Four Ghosts of the Yellow River shouting: "Young girl, quickly help us cut this rope and get down!"

"If you help, I'll give you 120 gold!"

"120 gold for each person; that makes 420!"

"If you want to make it 820, that's also good."

The young girl ignored them and merely laughed: "I am your Brother Huang. How can you forget?"

Guo Jing recovered himself and saw that her mouth and nose exactly resembled Huang Rong's. He said: "You... You..." But he could only say "you" and could say no more.

Huang Rong laughed and said: "I am actually a girl, who asked you to call me your Brother Huang? Quickly, get in."

Feeling as though in a dream, Guo Jing moved and then leapt into the boat. The Four Ghosts of the Yellow River continued to plead with them, unceasingly naming their reward higher.

Huang Rong maneuvered the small boat away from the riverbank before taking out some food and wine. She smiled and said: "We drink in here and enjoy the snow, alright?" By now, the Four Ghosts of the Yellow River were very far and the sound of their shouting could no longer be heard.

Guo Jing was thinking and finally understood. He smiled: "I thought you were a man, but now that I know better, I can't call you my Brother Huang!"

Huang Rong smiled: "Don't call me Sister Huang either. Call me Rong Er. That's what my father calls me."

Suddenly remembering something, Gou Jing said: "I have brought you some pastries." From his pocket, he pulled out the item but who would have thought that when he carried Wang Chuyi when he was poisoned and when he rushed through several places looking for some medicine, the pastries would be pressed flat, the confectionaries reduced into crumbs?

Huang Rong glanced at the pastry and smiled gently. Guo Jing blushed and said: "This is useless!" He prepared to throw it into the lake.

Huang Rong reached out her hand to take it, saying: "I like it."

Before Guo Jing could stop her, Huang Rong had already placed a piece of the pastry into her mouth and began to chew. When Guo Jing saw her eat some more, his eyes turned red and tears began to form.

Huang Rong: "I grew up without a mother. No one has ever taken good care of me..." As she said this, tears were falling down her cheeks. She took out a pure white handkerchief and Gou Jing thought that she would use it to wipe away her tears. But who would have thought that she would use it to carefully wrap the rest of the crumbled pastries and tuck it inside her bosom? She turned to him and smiled: "I'll eat it slowly."

Guo Jing did not understand this mood of hers but only sensed that this "Brother Huang's" action was very special. He asked: "You said that you have something important to say to me, what is it?"

Huang Rong laughed: "I wanted to tell you that I am not your Brother Huang but Rong Er. This is not important?"

Guo Jing smiled faintly and said: "You are very beautiful, why do you pretend to be a little beggar?"

Huang Rong raised her head. "You think I'm beautiful?"

Guo Jing: "Very beautiful like the celestial goddess in our snow summit."

Huang Rong said with a smile: "You have seen the celestial goddess?"

Guo Jing: "Of course not. If I did, how could I still live?"

Huang Rong: "What do you mean?"

Guo Jing: "The old people in Mongolia said that whoever saw the celestial goddess would never want to return to the prairie again. They would stay there on the snowy mountain until they go crazy or they freeze to death."

Huang Rong chuckled: "So when you saw me, did you go crazy?"

Guo Jing turned red and said anxiously: "We are good friends. It's different."

Huang Rong nodded and said seriously: "I knew that you will treat me with sincerity no matter if I'm a boy or a girl, beautiful or ugly." After a moment, she added: "If I put on these clothes, who wouldn't dare flatter me? But I appeared to you as a beggar and you were still good, that means you are genuinely good." She was in good spirits by now so that she smiled and said: "I'm going to sing, will you listen?"

Guo Jing: "Could you sing tomorrow? We must first buy some medicine for Taoist Elder Wang." Then, he explained to her how Wang Chuyi was injured at the Zhao Palace and how he could not find the medicine to help him.

Huang Rong: "I wondered why you were sweating and rushing in and out of shops. I did not know that it was for this reason."

Guo Jing realized then that while he was out there trying to buy some medicine, Huang Rong was actually following him. Otherwise, she would not be able to know where to find him. He said: "Brother Huang, may I ride your red horse so I could buy the medicine?"

Huang Rong colored. "First, I am not your Brother Huang. Second, that small red horse is yours, who asked you to give it to me? I was only testing you. Third, even if you go outside the city, you still won't find any medicine."

Guo Jing remembered that this was exactly what Wang Chuyi said to him and now she was saying the same thing even though they never spoke with each other. He could not help feeling anxious. Huang Rong smiled and said: "Now, I'm going to sing, you will listen."

She cocked her head slightly to the side as she leaned her body against the boat. In a low voice, she began. (NOTE: I cannot for the life of me translate the lyrics of the song. I'm sorry.)

Guo Jing listened to her voice and even though he did not understand the words, he found her voice to be extremely gentle and charming. The tone was low but it was steady so that as he listened, he felt it going straight to his heart, making him think about his loved ones, feeling his soul slowly getting drunk. He had never experienced anything like this.

After the song ended, Huang Rong said: "This is the Immortal Crane poem written by Official Xin. It describes the plum blossom that blooms in winter. Do you like it?"

Guo Jing: "I do not completely understand but the song is very pleasant to hear. Who is Official Xin?"

Huang Rong: "Official Xin is Xin Qiji. My father said that he was a good official and considered a patriot by many people. When North Song fell to the Jin army, all the other government officials fled to the mountains. Only Official Xin stayed to fight and restore our losses."

Although Guo Jing often heard his mother say that the Jins were cruel, killing and mistreating the Han Chinese, he actually grew up in Mongolia and so did not personally experience the people's suffering. He said: "This is my first time in the Central Plains. You can tell me all these stories later. Right now, it's important that we save Taoist Elder Wang."

Huang Rong: "Listen to me, let's have fun. There's no use worrying."

Guo Jing: "He said that if he did not take the medicine within twelve hours, he will be crippled!"

Huang Rong: "Then let him be crippled. Anyway, you're not crippled and I'm not crippled."

Guo Jing suddenly jumped up and said: "This... This..." On his face was an angry expression.

Huang Rong smiled: "Don't worry! I'll help you find the medicine later."

Guo Jing heard the confidence in her tone and felt a little appeased. He thought, Her kung fu is certainly higher than mine. Nothing can go wrong if I listen to her. And with that, he decided to relax for the time being.

Twilight was fast approaching and soon the lake water was beginning to fill with plum blossoms, covering its surface like white snow. Huang Rong suddenly stretched out her hand to clasp Guo Jing's palm as she said in a low voice: "Now, I am not afraid."

Guo Jing: "What?"

Huang Rong: "Even if Father does not want me, you would still want me to be with you, wouldn't you?"

Guo Jing: "Of course. Rong Er, when I'm with you...I'm really...really.. I really like you."

Huang Rong gently leaned against his chest. Guo Jing sensed a waft of fragrance enveloping his whole body, the whole lake, the whole world, and he did not know whether it was the perfume from the plum blossoms or it came from Huang Rong. The two of them stood there, neither of them speaking.

After a long time, Huang Rong sighed and said: "It's nice here. What a pity we have to leave."

Guo Jing: "Why?"

Huang Rong: "Don't you want to get the medicine to save Taoist Elder Wang?"

Guo Jing said: "But where are we going to get it from?"

Huang Rong: "Where did the medicines from all the shops go?"

Guo Jing: "They were all bought by the servants of the Zhao Palace."

Huang Rong: "Right. Then the Zhao Palace is where we are going to steal them."

Gou Jing was startled. "The Zhao Palace?"

Huang Rong: "Precisely!"

Guo Jing: "We can't. If we go there, we'll be throwing away our lives."

Huang Rong: "Are you cruel enough to let Taoist Elder Wang be crippled for life? The wounds may have worsened by now but we can still save his life!"

Guo Jing felt his blood grow hot. He said: "Alright, but, but you do not go."

Huang Rong: "Why?"

Guo Jing: "Just that you can't go." In truth, he did not know the reason.

Huang Rong said seriously: "You keep worrying about me, I cannot bear it. If you put yourself in danger, how can you expect me to relax?"

Guo Jing felt his body shake, a wild joy beating inside him at her cherishing words so that his courage increased one hundred times. Suddenly, he no longer cared about men such as Sha Tongtian or Peng Lianhu and so on. He felt like he could take on the whole world and it wouldn't matter. He said fearlessly: "Alright, we both go."

The two people then rowed the boat back to shore and headed towards the palace. Halfway there, Guo Jing suddenly stopped, remembering the Four Ghosts of the Yellow River still hanging on that tree. He said: "Do you want to release those four people?"

Huang Rong laughed and said: "These four fellows call themselves tough and fierce men so they can certainly stand the cold and hunger for a short while. And even if they starve to death, wouldn't the 'Four Ghosts of the Black Plum Forest' be a better name than 'The Four Ghosts of the Yellow River'?"

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