The Smiling Proud Wanderer Ch. 05

Previous Chapter: The Smiling Proud Wanderer Ch. 04

aka: Hina Kelana, Author: Jin Yong, Chin Yung

Chapter Five: Healing

Yilin followed the girl outside. “What’s your name?” she asked.

The girl gave a sly grin. “My last name is Linghu and my first name is Chong!”

Yilin’s heart thumped. “I asked you politely, why are you making fun of me?” She pulled a long face.

“What makes you think I’m making fun of you?” The girl kept grinning. “Do you think your friend is the only one who is called Linghu Chong?”

Yilin felt deep sorrow in her heart. She sighed and could no longer hold her tears back. “Big brother Linghu was my savior,” she said. “His death was my fault, I…I am not worthy to be his friend.”

Just then, in the hallway outside, two hunchbacks hurried by. Yilin recognized them as the Hunchback of the North Mu Gaofeng, and Lin Pingzhi. The girl giggled.

“What odds! An old, ugly hunchback, together with a young, ugly hunchback.”

Yilin was a bit annoyed at the girl’s remarks. “Girl,” she asked, “is it possible for you to find your mother and father by yourself? My head is beginning to hurt, and I’m not feeling very well right now.”

The girl grinned. “I know you’re faking a headache. You’re just mad because I used Linghu Chong’s name. My dear sis, your master asked you to take care of me; are you abandoning me already? If some rascals pick on me again, your master’s going to blame you for sure!”

“You are much more capable than I am, and you’re very smart too. Even the renowned Master Yu didn’t know what to do with you. People are all thanking Buddha that you aren’t the one picking on others. Who would dare bully you?” Yilin countered.

The girl burst into laughter. She held Yilin’s hand and said, “Now you’re the one making fun of me. If it weren’t for your Master, that bull-nose would’ve beaten me up. Sis, my name is Qu Feiyan. My grandpa calls me Feifei; you can call me Feifei too.”

Yilin felt a little better when the girl said her real name. But she also thought it was strange that the girl knew she was still thinking about Linghu Chong, and used his name to startle her. Maybe the clever and eccentric girl had hidden outside the window and overheard her report to all the masters. “Well,” she said, “Miss Qu, let’s go find your mother and father then. Where do you think they might be?”

“I know where they went,” Qu Feiyan said. “If you want to look for them, you can go by yourself. I’m not going.”

“Why don’t you want to go?” Yilin asked in surprise.

“I am still too young; of course I don’t want to go. But you’re different, you’re so gloomy and depressed right now, maybe you’d prefer to go there early,” Qu Feiyan said.

Yilin’s heart thumped. “You mean your mother and father….”

“My parents were murdered by bad guys a long time ago. If you want to look for them, you’ll have to go to the underworld.”

Yilin was very vexed. “If your parents have passed away already, how can you still make fun of them? I am leaving!”

Qu Feiyan grabbed onto Yilin’s left hand and started to beg, “My dear sis, I don’t have anyone else, I’m always so lonely. Nobody plays with me. Please, please just stay a little bit longer!”

Yilin was moved by her words. “Well, alright,” she sighed, “I’ll stay with you a little longer. But you have to stop saying such nonsense. Also, I am a member of the Buddhist order, so it isn’t appropriate for you to call me sis.”

Qu Feiyan laughed. “You think I was just saying silly words, but I think they make perfect sense. Different people have different perspectives. You are older than me, so I call you sis. What’s wrong with that? Sis Yilin! Why don’t you quit being a nun?”

Yilin was startled, and stepped back.

Qu Feiyan let go of her hand. “What’s so great about being a nun?” she asked. “You can’t eat fish, shrimp, chicken or duck, not to mention beef or lamb. Sis, you’re really very pretty. You don’t look so good right now because you shaved your head,[1] once you grow a nice long head of beautiful hair back, you’ll be a real babe!”

Yilin could tell that Qu Feiyan was speaking from her heart, so she smiled. “I am already a member of the Buddhist clergy. We believe in the doctrine of the Four Emptiness; why would I care whether my outer husk is beautiful or ugly?”

Qu Feiyan turned her head toward Yilin and looked at Yilin’s face carefully. It had just stopped raining, and dark clouds started drifting away slowly. Moonlight streamed through the opening at an angle and illuminated Yilin’s face with a pale silver glow, which made her face even more beautiful. Qu Feiyan gave a sigh.

“Sis, you are so beautiful,” she said slowly, “no wonder he thinks about you so much.”

Yilin’s face became flushed. “What are you talking about?” she exclaimed uncomfortably. “If you keep making fun of me, I am going to leave.”

“Fine! I’ll stop,” Qu Feiyan said with a smile. “Sis, can you give me some ‘Heavenly Connecting Glue?’ I need to save someone.”

“Who are you saving?” Yilin asked in surprise.

“He’s a very important person, but I can’t tell you who he is yet.” Qu Feiyan grinned.

“I really should give you the medicine if you need it to save somebody’s life,” Yilin said, “but my Master told us that the making of the ‘Heavenly Connecting Glue’ is not easy, and we have been ordered not to use it if the wounded person is unworthy.”

“Sis,” Qu Feiyan said, “if somebody cursed your master and your Heng-Shan Sword School, would he be worthy or unworthy?”

“If he cursed my master and our Heng-Shan Sword School, of course he would be unworthy, how could he be any good?”

“That’s really very interesting,” Qu Feiyan mused slyly. “There’s this guy who once said again and again that he would have really bad luck after seeing nuns, and would lose all his bets. He abused you, your master, and the entire Heng-Shan Sword School. If such an unworthy fellow got wounded….”

Before she even finished, Yilin had already turned around and strode away angrily. Qu Feiyan jumped in front of her, arms outstretched and blocking Yilin’s way. She kept smiling but had no intention to let Yilin pass.

It suddenly struck Yilin. “Yesterday at the Huiyan Wine House the girl sat with a man through the entire incident, until big brother Linghu was murdered. When I carried his body down the stairs, she was still sitting there. She must have seen the whole thing; there’s no need for her to eavesdrop on what I said at all. Could she have followed me all the way?” She wanted to ask the girl an important question, but could not make herself speak the words. Yilin could only blush with embarrassment.

“Sis, I know you want to ask me, ‘Where did big brother Linghu’s body go?’ Am I right?” Qu Feiyan grinned.

“Yes, would you please tell me? I…I would really appreciate it!” Yilin pleaded.

“I don’t know, but there’s someone who does. However, he’s badly wounded and could die any minute now. If you can save him using the ‘Heavenly Connecting Glue,’ he might be able to tell you where big brother Linghu’s body is.”

“You don’t know yourself?” Yilin asked.

“If I, Qu Feiyan, know where Linghu Chong’s dead body is, may Heaven let me die by Yu Canghai’s sword tomorrow and die a terrible death!”

“I believe you. You don’t have to vow,” Yilin said hurriedly. “So who is this person?”

“It’s up to you if you want to save his life or not. And the place we’re going to isn’t such a good place either.”

In order to find Linghu Chong’s body, even a hill of knives or a forest of swords could not stop Yilin from going, much less something like “not a good place.” Yilin nodded. “Let’s go.” They marched toward the gate.

It was still raining outside. Some oilpaper umbrellas leaned by the side of the gate. Yilin and Qu Feiyan each took one and walked out of the gate toward the northeast corner of the city. It was already late at night, and there was hardly anybody in the street. When they walked by, a couple of dogs in the deep alleys barked. All Yilin could think of was where to find Linghu Chong’s body, so even though Qu Feiyan walked through many remote little streets, she did not care. After they walked for quite a while, Qu Feiyan entered a very narrow alley. A small red lantern stuck out from a door at the left side of the street. Qu Feiyan knocked on the door three times. Someone approached from the courtyard within, opened the door, and stuck his head out. Qu Feiyan whispered something in the man’s ear and stuck something into his hands.

“Sure, sure! Come in please, Misses!” the man said.

Qu Feiyan turned back and motioned Yilin, who followed her through the doorway. The man had a surprised look on his face upon seeing Yilin, but still hurried ahead to lead the way. After they walked through the courtyard, they arrived at a room in the east of the building. The man parted the door curtain.

“Miss, Sister, through here please,” he said.

The scent of perfume filled the entire room. Yilin walked in and saw a huge bed in the room. Exotic silk quilts and pillows covered the bed. They were decorated with Xiang[2] Embroidery, one of the greatest arts of its type in the world. A pair of loving birds playing in the water was embroidered on the cover of the red silk quilt. It was made with very bright colors and the ducks almost seemed alive. Yilin had been cloistered in the White-Cloud Nunnery since she was very little. The quilt she used was a very simple quilt made with gray cloth. She had never seen such a gorgeous bed set in her entire life. She gave a quick glance and immediately turned her head away. A big red candle sat on the small table next to the bed; a mirror and a makeup box sat neatly by the red candle; two pairs of exotic slippers laid on the floor side by side near the bed – a pair for man and a pair for woman. Yilin felt a sudden shock when she raised her head and saw a shy face both red with embarrassment and registering surprise. Then she realized that it was only her own face reflected from the mirror.

The sound of footsteps came from behind them. What appeared to be a maid walked in with a big smile and started serving tea. She wore very tight clothes and her manner was quite coquettish.

Yilin felt more and more uneasiness. “What is this place?” she whispered to Qu Feiyan.

Qu Feiyan grinned and then whispered something to the maid.

“Sure!” The woman covered up the smile on her lips with her hand and walked out slowly.

“That woman is bumbling! She can’t be very honest!” Yilin thought to herself.

“Why did you bring me here? What is this place?” she asked Qu Feiyan again.

“This is a very famous spot in the town of Hengshan. It’s called the Jade House,” Qu Feiyan said with a broad grin.

“What is this Jade House?”

“The Jade House is the best brothel in town.”

When Yilin heard the word “brothel,” her heart skipped a beat, and she almost fainted. When she saw the way the room was decorated, she already had the feeling that something was not right, but she did not expect to be in a brothel at all. Although she did not really understand what a brothel was, she had heard from the secular apprentice-sisters that prostitutes were the most lewd of women; they would consort with any man who had enough money.

“Did Qu Feiyan bring me here to be one of them?” She was so shocked and worried that she almost burst into tears.

A man’s loud laughter exploded from the room next door. The voice sounded very familiar, and before long Yilin had recognized it as the voice of the villain, “Ten Thousand Miles Loner” Tian Boguang. Yilin’s legs gave out on her; she collapsed into a chair, her face frightened and pale.

“What’s wrong?” Qu Feiyan was startled and rushed over to check on her.

“It’s Tian…Tian Boguang!” Yilin whispered.

“That’s right, I recognized his voice too. It’s your cute little apprentice Tian Boguang.” Qu Feiyan grinned.

“Who’s saying my name?” Tian Boguang shouted loudly from the next room.

“Hey, Tian Boguang,” Qu Feiyan yelled, “your Master’s here. Come here quickly and kowtow to your Master!”

Tian Boguang became enraged. “What Master you little bitch? You’re just babbling. Keep at it, and I’m going to bust open your stinking mouth.”

“Wasn’t it true that you swore to take little sister Yilin of the Heng-Shan Sword School as your Master at the Huiyan Wine House? She is right here. Hurry up, and get on over!” Qu Feiyan urged.

“How can she possibly be in a place like this?” Tian Boguang exclaimed. “Huh, how…how did you know? Who are you? I am going to kill you!” A trace of fear could actually be heard in his blustering voice.

“Come here and kowtow to your Master first,” Qu Feiyan said airily.

“No, no! Don’t let him come over!” Yilin hurriedly objected.

Tian Boguang let out a cry in shock, and then came a loud “thump,” as he apparently jumped to the floor from his bed.

“Sir! What are you doing?” a woman’s voice inquired.

“Tian Boguang,” Qu Feiyan shouted, “don’t you run away! Your Master’s here to settle a score with you.”

“What damn master or apprentice?” Tian Boguang retorted. “I was tricked by that Linghu Chong! If that little nun comes one step closer, I’ll kill her in a blink!”

“Fine! I am not going over. And you don’t come here either!” Yilin said with her trembling voice.

“Tian Boguang,” Qu Feiyan yelled, “you’re supposed to be a somebody in the Martial World, why don’t you be a man? Are you backing out of your promises? Come over here and kowtow to your Master!”

Tian Boguang snorted, but did not say another word.

“I don’t want him to kowtow; I don’t want to see him either. He…he is not my apprentice,” Yilin said.

Tian Boguang jumped in immediately, “See! The little Sister doesn’t want to see me at all!”

“Fine,” Qu Feiyan said, “have it your way, but when we came here earlier, we were followed by a couple of little sneaks. You’d better go and get rid of them fast. Your master and I are resting here. You can keep guard outside, and keep people from bothering us. If you do your job well, then maybe I won’t mention about your agreeing to be the little Sister’s apprentice to anyone. Otherwise, I’ll just announce it to the entire world!”

Tian Boguang raised his voice and gave a sudden shout, “You sneaking little punks, you’ve got a lot of nerves!”

A window opened with a bang, followed by the clang of two weapons falling atop the roof; then someone screamed in pain, while the footsteps of someone running away could be heard. Again came the sound of a window opening with a bang as Tian Boguang leaped down the roof back to his room.

“Killed one, a little skulker from the Qingcheng Sword School. The other one ran away,” he declared.

“You’re hopeless! How could you let one get away?” Qu Feiyan complained.

“I couldn’t kill that one,” Tian Boguang explained hurriedly. “She…she was a nun of the Heng-Shan Sword School.”

“So it was your Uncle-Master! Of course you couldn’t kill her.” Qu Feiyan giggled.

Yilin was astonished. She murmured, “Was that my apprentice sister? What do I do now?”

“Hey, little girl, what’s your name?” Tian Boguang asked.

Grinning, Qu Feiyan said, “You shouldn’t ask questions like that. If you keep your mouth shut, your Master will put the business of settling her score on hold for now.”

Tian Boguang shut up immediately.

“Qu, let’s leave here quickly!” Yilin said urgently.

“But you haven’t seen the patient yet,” Qu Feiyan insisted. “Didn’t you have something to ask him? But if you’re afraid of making your Master unhappy, and want to go back, that’s fine with me.”

“Well, I am already here anyway, let’s…let’s go see him,” Yilin said after thinking for a moment.

Qu Feiyan smiled and walked toward the bedside. She pushed the wall at the east side of the room, and a secret door opened silently. Qu Feiyan waved at Yilin, motioning her to follow, and then walked through the door. Yilin felt that the whole business with the brothel was getting more and more mysterious. Thank Heavens that Tian Boguang was in the room on the west side. She figured the further she was from him the better, so she gathered her strength and decided to follow Qu in. There was another room inside, but no light. With the illumination from the exterior, she could tell it was a small room. There was also a bed in it, shrouded by a curtain. She could vaguely see that somebody was lying on the bed behind the curtain. Yilin stopped at the secret door but was afraid to go in.

“Sis, go ahead, help him with your ‘Heavenly Connecting Glue’!” Qu Feiyan directed.

“He…he really knows where big brother Linghu’s body is?” Yilin asked in hesitation.

“Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. I don’t know.”

“But you said earlier that he did know.” Yilin was frustrated.

“I’m not a gentleman; I don’t have to keep my words. If you want to help him, get to work, otherwise, just turn around and leave. Nobody’s going to stop you,” Qu Feiyan snapped.

“No matter what the cost is, I need to find big brother Linghu’s body, even if there is only a slim chance, I can’t let it pass,” Yilin thought to herself. “Alright, I will work on him,” she declared.

She went back to the main room to get the candle, and then walked back to the small room and stopped at the bedside. She opened the curtain and saw a man lying on the bed. A green handkerchief covered his face. When he breathed in and out, the cloth moved as well. Not being able to see his face actually gave Yilin a bit of comfort.

“Where was he wounded?” she turned and asked.

“His chest. The wound is very deep; it barely missed his heart,” Qu Feiyan answered.

Yilin gently lifted the thin blanket covering his chest. A large wound could be seen right in the middle of his bare chest. It had stopped bleeding, but since the gash was so deep, the man was still in critical condition. Yilin calmed herself a little and thought, “No matter what it takes, I have to save his life.” She passed the candle to Qu Feiyan, and took the wooden box containing the “Heavenly Connecting Glue” out of her pocket. After opening the box, she put it on the table at the side of the bed and then gently pressed down around the margins of the wound.

“All the pressure points that help to stop bleeding have already been sealed. Otherwise he would be dead by now,” Qu Feiyan said in a low voice.

Yilin nodded. All the pressure points around the wound had already been properly sealed. Much better than what she could have achieved by herself. She slowly removed the cotton padding that covered the wound. Once the padding was removed, blood gushed out. Yilin had learned how to treat wounds from her seniors. She pressed down on the wound with her left hand, and applied the “Heavenly Connecting Glue” to the wound with her right hand. When she finished, she immediately put the cotton padding back into the wound. “Heavenly Connecting Glue” was the Heng-Shan Sword School’s treasured poultice, prepared from a secret recipe. Once applied to the wound, it stopped bleeding in short order. Yilin could hear the man breathing heavily. She wasn’t sure if he would survive, so she couldn’t resist but to ask the question.

“Sir, I have something to ask of you, please give me an answer.”

Suddenly, Qu Feiyan tilted her body to the side. The candlestick tilted to the side as well, and the flame suddenly went out. Darkness swept the entire room.

“Oops!” Qu Feiyan let out a cry. “The light went out.”

It was so dark in the room that Yilin could not even see her own fingers. She became quite flustered. “How can a member of the Buddhist order remain in such an unsavory place? I need to leave here as soon as I find out where big brother Linghu’s body is,” she thought. With a trembling voice, she asked.

“Sir, are you feeling a little better now?”

The man let out a groan but did not answer her question.

“He’s running a fever. Feel his forehead, it’s burning hot!” Qu Feiyan exclaimed.

Before Yilin even had a chance to answer, her right hand was already caught by Qu Feiyan and put on top of the man’s forehead. Apparently, Qu Feiyan had removed the green handkerchief that covered the man’s face earlier. Yilin felt as if her fingers touched a burning coal; she couldn’t help but to feel pity for him.

“I also have medicine to take orally. I’d better administer it,” she said. “Qu, will you please light the candle?”

“Sure, you wait here, I’ll go find some flints.”

Hearing that Feiyan was leaving, Yilin became very nervous. She grabbed onto Feiyan’s sleeve.

“No, no, don’t leave. What am I suppose to do here alone?”

Qu Feiyan let out a small laugh. “Go ahead and take out the medicine,” she said.

Yilin took out a bottle from her pocket, opened the bottle and dumped three pills out onto her palm. “I have the pills. You give them to him,” she said.

“Better not drop the pills in the dark. This concerns somebody’s life; it’s no joke. Sis, if you are afraid to be left here alone, then I’ll stay here, you go find the flints,” Qu Feiyan proposed.

Yilin was even more frightened about the idea of wandering around the brothel all by herself. “No, no, I am not going,” she cried out immediately.

“Once you decide to save somebody, you’ve got to follow through. You can just put the pills in his mouth and then give him some tea to help him swallow. In the dark, he can’t see who you are. What are you so afraid of? Here, here’s the tea cup, be careful, don’t drop it,” Qu Feiyan said.

Slowly reaching out with her hand, Yilin took the tea. Pausing, she thought to herself, “Master has always told us that as Buddhists we should always be merciful to others. Saving a life achieves more than building a seven-story pagoda for the Buddha. Even if this man doesn’t know where big brother Linghu’s body is, he is on the verge of dying, and I should still try to save his life.” So she slowly extended her right hand. When the back of her hand touched the man’s forehead, she turned her hand over and placed three “White Cloud Bear Gallbladder Pills” into his mouth. He swallowed them with the tea served by Yilin and then murmured something that seemed to be words of gratitude.

“Sir, I know you are wounded badly, I really should let you rest, but I have one urgent thing to ask of you. Hero Linghu Chong was murdered, his body…,” Yilin said.

“You…you are asking for Linghu Chong…?” the man croaked.

“Yes! Do you know where hero Linghu Chong’s body is?” Yilin asked anxiously.

The man mumbled some words, but his voice was too low for Yilin to make anything out. Yilin asked one more time, and then moved her ear close to the man’s lips, but all she could hear was his heavy breathing. It seemed that he wanted to say something but could not make the words come out.

Yilin suddenly remembered. The “Heavenly Connecting Glue” and “White Cloud Bear Gallbladder Pills” were wonderful treatments for wounds, but they were both very strong medicines as well. Particularly after one took the “White Cloud Bear Gallbladder Pill,” he would pass out for a half day. It was just an important step of the healing process. How could she be so self absorbed as to push him to talk at that moment? She sighed gently and moved out from under the curtain and sat down on a chair near the bed.

“I’ll wait till he feels better and then ask again,” she murmured to herself.

“Sis, is he going to be alright?” Qu Feiyan asked.

“I hope he will recover, but the wound on his chest is really deep. Qu, who…who is he?” Yilin asked. But Qu Feiyan did not answer.

“My grandpa said you couldn’t let a lot of things go,” Qu Feiyan said after a while. “You really shouldn’t be a nun.”

“Your grandpa knows me?” Yilin asked in surprise. “How does he…he know that I cannot let things go?”

“Yesterday in the Huiyan Wine House, Grandpa and I were watching your fight with Tian Boguang.”

“Ah,” Yilin said, “so your grandpa was the one sitting with you?”

“Yeah.” Qu Feiyan smiled. “Your big brother Linghu really had a quick tongue. When he said he was the second best at fighting while sitting down, Grandpa actually believed him and thought he really knew some kind of sword art he created while on the toilet, that could defeat Tian Boguang. Ha-ha.”

Yilin could not see her face in the dark, but she could imagine the little girl must be giggling quite hard. The more gleeful Qu Feiyan was the more sorrow Yilin felt.

Qu Feiyan went on, “Later after Tian Boguang ran away, Grandpa said he had no guts. He had promised to be your apprentice, and should have kowtowed to you and called you Master. How could he go against his word?”

“Big brother Linghu only tricked him to save my life, he did not really win the fight,” Yilin explained.

“Sis, you are truly kind. After the way Tian Boguang treated you, you’re still making excuses for him. Anyway, after big brother Linghu was killed, you just carried his body and wandered around with no specific destination. Grandpa said, ‘This little nun is really a passionate girl. I am afraid she is going to go crazy. Let’s follow her and watch.’ So the two of us followed behind you and watched how you just carried his body and didn’t want to let him go. Grandpa said, ‘Feifei, see how upset this little nun is. If this lad Linghu Chong weren’t dead, the little nun would definitely give up on the nunnery and marry him.’”

Yilin flushed with great embarrassment. She could feel her face and ears burning in the dark.

“Sis, was my grandpa right?”

“He died because of me,” Yilin said. “I really wish I was the one who died instead of him. If Buddha pities me, and lets me die in exchange for big brother Linghu’s life, I…I…even if I had to fall all the way to the bottom of the eighteenth level of hell and never be reborn again,[3] I would not complain.” Her voice was filled with sincerity as she said those words.

All of a sudden, the man on the bed let out a groan.

“He…he is awake. Qu, would you please ask him if he feels better?” Yilin said happily.

“Why do I have to be the one to ask? Don’t you have a tongue of your own?” Qu Feiyan demanded.

Yilin walked to the bed after a slight hesitation, and with the curtain in between them, asked, “Sir, are you…?” Before she could finish, the man let out several more groans.

“He is in great pain right now, I shouldn’t bother him,” she thought, so she just stood there quietly. The man’s breathing gradually fell into a slow rhythm. Apparently the medicine was doing its job, and he had fall asleep again.

“Sis,” Qu Feiyan whispered, “why would you die for Linghu Chong? Do you really like him that much?”

“No, no! Miss Qu, I am a Buddhist nun. Please don’t say such disrespectful words to the Buddha! Big brother Linghu and I had never met each other before, but he gave his life to save mine. I…I just feel I owe him so much!” Yilin said breathlessly.

“What if he was alive again? Would you be willing to do anything for him?”

“Yes, even if I had to die a thousand times for him, I would have no complaints.”

Qu Feiyan suddenly raised her voice and said, “Big brother Linghu, listen up, sis Yilin said it herself….”

“Don’t joke about it!” Yilin cut her off angrily.

Qu Feiyan simply ignored her and continued in a loud voice. “She said: if you are not dead, she would do anything for you.”

From Qu’s tone, Yilin could feel that she wasn’t really joking. Her heart started pounding faster and faster, and she also began to get dizzy. She could only murmur, “You…you…” Within seconds, Qu Feiyan lit a candle. She opened the curtain and waved Yilin over with a big smile on her face. Yilin slowly walked to the bed full of dread. Suddenly, it seemed as if the entire world started swirling about her; she found herself falling down to the ground.

Qu Feiyan quickly caught her by the shoulder before she actually hit the floor.

“I know this is going to be a big surprise! Go ahead and see who he is!” she exclaimed.

“He…he….” Yilin’s voice was so weak and she could hardly breathe. Although the man on the bed had his eyes shut tightly, with his thick eyebrows and thin lips on a long rectangular face, Yilin immediately recognized him. It was none other than the one who had fought at the Huiyan Wine House, Linghu Chong.

Yilin grabbed Qu Feiyan’s arm tightly. “He…he is not dead?” she asked in a trembling voice.

“He is not dead yet, but if your medicine doesn’t work, he’ll die soon.” Qu Feiyan smiled gently.

“He won’t die, he definitely won’t die! He…he is alive!” Filled with surprise and happiness, the emotions were just too much for Yilin so she started crying.

“Hey, he’s not dead, what are you crying for?” Qu Feiyan asked curiously.

Yilin felt her legs were giving out on her, so she had to lean on the bed as she continued to shed more tears.

“I am so happy!” she said. “Qu, I don’t know how to thank you enough! You saved…saved big brother Linghu.”

“Hey, you saved him. I don’t have the skills to save him, and I don’t have ‘Heavenly Connecting Glue’ either!” Qu Feiyan said.

Suddenly, Yilin understood. She stood up slowly and held Qu Feiyan’s hand. “Your grandpa did it. It was your grandpa!”

Someone shouted outside, “Yilin, Yilin!” That was the voice of Sister Dingyi. Yilin was astounded, and was just about to answer when Qu Feiyan blew out the candle in her hands and then covered Yilin’s mouth.

“Don’t you remember what kind of a place this is? Don’t answer!” she hissed at Yilin.

Yilin found herself bewildered. It was quite embarrassing being in a brothel, but refusing to answer her Master’s call, that was something she had never done before in her life.

Dingyi’s voice rang out, “Tian Boguang, get your ass out here! Let Yilin go!”

Tian Boguang’s laughter came from the west-side room. “Well! If it isn’t the White-Cloud Nunnery Senior Sister Dingyi of the Heng-Shan Sword School!” he continued cackling for a few moments, and finally spoke. “I really should go out to pay my respects, but to leave all these cute ladies here on my bed alone wouldn’t be good manners either. I guess I’ll just stay here then. Ha-ha, ha-ha!” The coquettish laughter of several girls joined. Obviously the women were prostitutes. “Sweetheart, don’t pay any attention to her. Give me another kiss…,” one of them said huskily. The lascivious voices of the women became louder and louder. Tian Boguang must have egged them on to keep Sister Dingyi away.

Dingyi was outraged. “Tian Boguang, if you don’t get your ass out here, I will cut you into ten thousand pieces!” she shouted.

Tian Boguang laughed. “If I don’t get my ass out, you’ll cut me into pieces. If I do haul my ass out, you’ll cut me into pieces just as well. I guess I’d better keep my ass put. Sister Dingyi, you nuns really shouldn’t be in places like this. Why don’t you go back to your nice convent? Your apprentice is not here. She is a model nun who always follows all the convent rules. Why would she come here? Don’t you think it’s rather bizarre for your holiness to come here to look for your apprentice?”

Dingyi exploded. “Blazes! I’m going to set this damn place on fire! We’ll see how long he can stay in there!” she retorted.

Tian Boguang laughed again. “Sister Dingyi, this spot is named the ‘Jade House,’ and it is one of the most famous sites in the town of Hengshan. I suppose it would be no big deal if you set it on fire, but when the story gets out, everybody’ll know that it was Sister Dingyi from the White-Cloud Nunnery of the Heng-Shan Sword School who burnt down the ‘Jade House’ brothel in Hengshan. People who heard this would ask themselves, ‘Sister Dingyi is a respectful senior Sister, why would she go to such a filthy place?’ The answer would be that, ‘She went there to look for her apprentice!’ People who heard this would have to ask, ‘Why did the apprentice of the Heng-Shan Sword School go to the Jade House?’…I’m guessing that all these questions couldn’t do the reputation of your school any good. Let me tell you something, Tian Boguang fears nothing and nobody in this entire world except that apprentice of yours. I’d be busy running away at the sight of her. How would I be able to bother her?”

Dingyi reluctantly saw his point, but an apprentice had reported that she saw Yilin walking into this house with her own eyes, and Tian Boguang had also attacked her. There could have been no mistake. Her anger kept growing, but the only thing she could do was to stamp the flagstones beneath her feet.

“Tian Boguang, did you murder my apprentice Peng Renqi?” demanded a voice from the roof across the way. The Master of the Qingcheng Sword School had arrived.

“Aha! Even the respectful Master of Qingcheng Sword School has come to visit,” Tian Boguang crowed. “Hengshan Jade House is going to be so appallingly famous from now on. They’ll never need to worry about getting business again! I did kill a fellow. His sword skills were ordinary, but seemed to be the moves of the Qingcheng Sword School. But as to whether his name was Peng Renqi or not, sorry, I really didn’t have the time to ask.”

Within the space of a blink, Yu Canghai leapt into Tian Boguang’s room, and the sounds of a shower of ringing steel followed; Yu Canghai had started fighting with Tian Boguang. Sister Dingyi stood on the roof and listened to the sound of clashing weapons.

“That rascal Tian Boguang really has some skills,” she thought to herself. “His quick knife strokes seem to be evenly matched with the sword thrusts from the Master of the Qingcheng Sword School.”

Suddenly there was a loud “bang” followed by absolute silence. Yilin held onto Qu Feiyan’s hand tightly; cold sweat soaked her palms. She had no idea who had won the fight, Tian or Yu? Tian Boguang had bullied her several times, and she should have wished for Yu Canghai to win, but deep in her heart, she was really hoping the opposite. It would be better if Yu Canghai were to just leave, and same with her master, so Linghu Chong could rest and heal peacefully and quietly. He was already on the brink of death, and if Yu Canghai rushed in the room, the stress itself would surely cause his wounds to break open and kill him.

Tian Boguang’s voice rose from afar, “Master Yu, don’t you think it’s a little crowded in this room? Let’s go to the clearing in the field and fight a couple hundred rounds and see who the better man is! If you win, I’ll relinquish this cute hottie ‘Little Jade’ to you! But if you lose, this chick will have to be mine!”

Yu Canghai almost exploded in anger. The scoundrel’s words had implied that that they were fighting to gain the favor of a whore named “Little Jade” in the “Jade House.” He considered his situation. When they were fighting inside the room, over fifty rounds passed in no time. Tian Boguang’s knife moves were well organized and balanced with both attacks and defenses. His skills were really no less than that of his own. Even if they were to fight another couple of hundred rounds, he still couldn’t assure a victory.

Everything quieted down. Yilin could even hear her own heartbeat. She leaned closer to Qu’s ear and asked in a whisper, “Do you think…they will come in here?”

Qu was actually much younger than her, yet Yilin was completely lost in such an embarrassing situation. Qu did not answer, and just covered Yilin’s mouth with her hand.

Liu Zhengfeng’s voice suddenly rose. “Master Yu, the villain Tian Boguang has committed so many crimes; he definitely won’t come to a good end. We’ll get him eventually. There’s no rush right now. This brothel has been the source of much immoral behavior; I have always wanted to trash it. Please let me handle this. Danian, Weiyi, Let’s search inside. Don’t let anybody leave!”

Xiang Danian and Mi Weiyi, the two apprentices of Liu House, acknowledged the command in unison. Dingyi also sent out orders and had her apprentices surround the brothel.

Yilin became increasingly worried. She could hear the voices of the apprentices from the Liu House coming closer and closer, searching room after room. Liu Zhengfeng and Yu Canghai stood by the side and directed the apprentices. Loud cries from the proprietors could be clearly heard while they were thrashed by Xiang Danian, Mi Weiyi, and the rest of the apprentices. Apprentices of the Qingcheng Sword School began smashing the furniture, teacups and wine kettles, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. Knowing that all those people would soon arrive, Yilin was so worried that she almost passed out.

“My Master came to rescue me,” she thought, “and I did not answer her call. I am in a brothel and in the same room with big brother Linghu late at night. Even though he is badly wounded, when all those guys from the Hengshan Sword School and the Qingcheng Sword School come in all at once, I wouldn’t be able to explain even if I had a hundred tongues. The reputation of the Heng-Shan Sword School would undoubtedly be damaged and how…how could I face my Master and all the apprentice sisters again?” She drew her sword and brought the blade toward her own throat.

Qu Feiyan heard the sound of an unsheathing sword and instantly realized what Yilin was doing. She grasped Yilin’s wrist quickly.

“Stop! Let’s dash out together,” she whispered.

Sounds of movement came from the bed. Linghu Chong had sat up.

“Light up the candle!” he whispered.

“Why?” Qu Feiyan asked.

“I am telling you to light up the candle!” Linghu Chong said. His voice had a tone of authority in it. Qu Feiyan did not say another word and lit the candle.

With the light of the candle, Yilin could see Linghu Chong’s white and bloodless face, a face that looked almost like that of a corpse. She uttered a cry.

Linghu Chong pointed at his overcoat at the end of the bed.

“Put that over…over my shoulders,” he said.

While trembling like a falling leaf in a storm, Yilin picked up the overcoat and draped it over Linghu Chong’s shoulders. Linghu Chong pulled the front of the overcoat so it covered all the bloodstains and the wound on his chest.

“You two, lie on the bed,” he said.

“This is fun!” Qu Feiyan giggled. She dragged Yilin and slipped under the quilt.

By then, people outside had noticed the candlelight in the room. “Let’s check that room out!” someone shouted. They all started to head toward the small room.

Linghu Chong took a deep breath and rushed to close the door and locked it with a wooden bar. He walked back to the bed and lifted the curtain.

“Hide under the quilt!” he ordered.

“Don’t…don’t move too much. Watch out for your wounds,” Yilin begged.

Linghu Chong stuck his left hand out and pushed her head under the quilt while pulling Qu’s long hair out from under the quilt and spreading it all over the pillow. Just that simple movement and his wound opened, causing blood to gush out again. He lost the strength from his legs and had to sit on the bed.

Someone had already started knocking on the door heavily like beating a drum. “You son of a turtle, open the door!” one of them shouted. Then with a loud cracking sound, the door was kicked open and four people rushed in.

The leading one was none other than the Qingcheng apprentice Hong Renxiong. Astonished at seeing Linghu Chong, he immediately jumped back several paces.

“Linghu…It’s Linghu Chong….” he muttered.

Xiang Danian and Mi Weiyi had never met Linghu Chong before, but had both heard that Luo Renjie had killed him. When they heard Hong Renxiong shouting out Linghu Chong’s name, both were shocked and also stepped back. Everyone had his eyes wide open and just gazed at Linghu Chong.

Linghu Chong stood up slowly. “You…this many people….” he muttered.

“Linghu…Linghu Chong, you’re…you’re not dead?” Hong Renxiong murmured.

“How can I die so easily?” Linghu Chong answered coldly.

Yu Canghai stepped out. “You are Linghu Chong? Excellent, excellent!” he said. Linghu Chong gave him a glance but did not answer.

“What are you doing in this brothel?” Yu Canghai demanded.

Linghu Chong started laughing. “Are you kidding me? What do you think people do in brothels?”

“I’ve heard that the Huashan Sword School has very strict school rules,” Yu Canghai said coldly. “You are the senior apprentice of the Huashan Sword School, the best student of ‘Gentleman Sword’ Mr. Yue, yet you sneak up here to sleep with prostitutes. Very funny! How very ironic!”

“Whatever rules the Huashan Sword School has,” Linghu Chong said, “that’s our own business. No need for you or anybody else to worry about it.”

Yu Canghai was an experienced person. Seeing Linghu Chong’s extremely white face because of loss of blood and his trembling legs, he could tell that Linghu Chong had been wounded badly. Could it be a trap? Then he thought, “The little nun of the Heng-Shan Sword School said this guy was killed by Renjie, but he is actually still alive. Obviously the little nun was lying to cover things up. During her tale, she called him big brother Linghu this and big brother Linghu that, full of tenderness; maybe they have already become a couple. Someone saw the little nun coming to this brothel, but now no one can find her, most likely this guy has hidden her somewhere. Hmm! The Five Mountains Sword Alliance always considered themselves the true Martial Arts academies, and looked down upon my Qingcheng Sword School. If I can sort that little nun out, then not only would the reputation of the Huashan Sword School and the Heng-Shan Sword School be trashed, the entire Five Mountains Sword Alliance would also be humiliated, and they would never be able to flaunt themselves in the Martial World again!” He looked around quickly but did not see any other people with Linghu Chong. “Looks like that the little nun is hiding in the bed,” he concluded.

“Renxiong! Lift open the bed curtain. Let’s find out what kind of show we have in the bed,” he said to Hong Renxiong.

“Yes, Master!” Hong Renxiong answered and then stepped forward. With his previous unpleasant encounter with Linghu Chong in mind, he couldn’t help glancing at Linghu Chong and hesitating.

“Do you want to die?” Linghu Chong threatened.

Hong Renxiong choked, but thinking of the presence of his master, he felt better and drew his sword.

“What do you want?” Linghu Chong asked of Yu Canghai.

“The Heng-Shan Sword School lost a female apprentice; someone saw her in this brothel, so we need to search here,” Yu Canghai demanded.

“This is the Five Mountains Sword Alliance’s own matter. Why doesn’t the Qingcheng Sword School mind its own business?” Linghu Chong mocked.

“We will find an answer today, whether you like it or not! Renxiong, go for it!” Yu Canghai ordered.

“Yes sir!” Hong Renxiong held his sword out and lifted the bed curtain with the blade.

Yilin and Qu Feiyan grabbed onto each other and hid under the quilt; they heard every word between Linghu Chong and Yu Canghai loud and clear. Greatly worried, they could not help trembling. Then when they heard the sound of Hong Renxiong lifting the bed curtain, both were frightened to death.

After Hong Renxiong had lifted up the bed curtain, everyone stared at the bed. There was a large red silk quilt with two loving birds embroidered on it. Obviously there was someone under the quilt. Long black hair spread all over the pillow. The quilt was trembling. The person under the quilt must have been terrified.

Yu Canghai was very disappointed when he saw the long hair on the pillow. It was quite obvious that the one under the quilt was not a bald little nun. Linghu Chong was really sleeping with a prostitute.

“Master Yu,” Linghu Chong said coldly, “although you are a Taoist Priest, I heard that Qingcheng priests don’t have rules against marriage and you’ve already got yourself many wives. If you are so fond of naked woman, and wanted to see the girl naked, why don’t you go ahead and lift up the quilt to have a good look? Why pretend to look for a female apprentice of the Heng-Shan Sword School?”

“Damn you!” Yu Canghai yelled while throwing a knife hand chop at Linghu Chong. Linghu Chong turned his body aside to dodge the blow coming toward him, but he was quite weak because of the wounds and wasn’t able to dodge fast enough; the edge of Yu Canghai’s chopping blow glanced his body. He could not hold himself steady and collapsed onto the bed. Gathering all his strength, Linghu Chong stood up again, but blood began dripping out the corner of his mouth. His body shook a couple of times as he spit out some more blood. Yu Canghai wanted to hit him again, but out of the blue, a voice came from outside the window.

“A senior bullies a junior; how shameless!”

Yu Canghai did not waste any time. Before the last word had ended, he had already thrown a blow toward the window. Immediately following the blow, he jumped out of the window. From the illumination of the candlelight from inside the room, he saw an ugly hunchback turning around the corner of the house.

“Hold it!” he shouted.

The hunchback was really Lin Pingzhi in disguise. After the conflict with Yu Canghai in Liu Zhengfeng’s house, he slipped out while Yu Canghai had his mind on the little girl, Qu Feiyan. He hid behind a corner of the house and did not know what to do. He could not think of any way to rescue his parents.

“Everyone in the hall will have remembered me as the ugly hunchback,” he thought aloud. “When those people from the Qingcheng Sword School see me again, they will definitely kill me without hesitation. Should I change back to my original look?” He thought of how Yu Canghai had grabbed onto his wrist; he had felt like he had lost all his strength and couldn’t even struggle to get away. How could there be someone with such outstanding martial arts skills? All these thoughts flooded his mind; he completely lost track of time. He had no idea how long he had been hiding around the corner when he suddenly felt a pat on his hunchback. Stunned, he turned back quickly. The first thing he saw was a tall hunchback. It was none other than the real hunchback – “Hunchback of the North” Mu Gaofeng.

“You fake hunchback,” Mu grinned, “what’s so good about being a hunchback? Why the hell do you pretend to be my grandchild?”

Lin Pingzhi knew the hunchback was a very vicious man with very high Martial Arts skills. If any of his words displeased Mu, he could easily end up dead. He thought since he had already kowtowed to him when they were back in the great hall, and called him a true hero that helped the weak to fight the villains, and Mu did not get mad, all he needed to do was to keep the same tone, then he surely wouldn’t make Mu Gaofeng mad.

“I heard from many people that ‘Hunchback of the North’ Hero Mu has a very reputable name, and he always helped the weak when needed. I truly admire you, and that’s why I dressed myself just like Hero Mu. Please forgive me,” he apologized.

“Are you kidding me? A reputable name and helping the weak when needed? What nonsense!”

Mu Gaofeng laughed. He knew Lin Pingzhi was lying to his face, yet all these complements sounded very enjoyable and pleasing.

“What’s your name? Who’s your Master?” he asked.

“Lin is really my family name. I unintentionally used your last name,” Lin Pingzhi said.

Mu Gaofeng smirked. “Cut the crap! You just wanted to use my name to swindle and bluff. Yu Canghai is the Master of the Qingcheng Sword School. He could kill you by just poking you with one finger. And you are so bold as to offend him! You really have some guts!”

Hearing Yu Canghai’s name mentioned, Lin Pingzhi’s anger instantly exploded. “As long as I am still breathing, one day I will slay the scoundrel myself!” he exclaimed loudly.

“What score do you have with Yu Canghai?” asked the surprised Mu Gaofeng.

Lin Pingzhi hesitated for a few seconds. He thought, “There’s no way for me to rescue my mom and dad all by myself. Why don’t I ask him to help?” So he knelt down and kowtowed to Mu Gaofeng.

“My parents are his prisoners. I am begging you. Will you please help me rescue them?”

Mu Gaofeng frowned and shook his head. “I never do anything that does not benefit me. Who is your dad? What do I get if I rescue him?”

Someone’s voice suddenly came from the door, whispering with urgency, “Go tell Master that in the brothel known as the Jade House, another Qingcheng Sword School member has been killed. Also someone from the Heng-Shan Sword School was wounded and just got back. Hurry!”

“We’ll talk about your troubles later,” Mu Gaofeng whispered to Lin Pingzhi. “There’s going to be a good show. Come with me if you want to see some fun.”

“As long as I am with him, I can always beg him later,” Lin Pingzhi thought. So he replied, “Sure, sure! Wherever you, the respectful senior want to go, I’ll follow.”

“Let’s get this straight first: I, hunchback Mu, only do things that I can benefit from. If you think brown-nosing can get your grandpa to get into trouble for you, save yourself the trouble and just forget about it!” Mu Gaofeng exclaimed. Lin Pingzhi just nodded and didn’t say a word.

“They’ve left. Follow me,” Mu Gaofeng said. Lin Pingzhi only felt his right wrist was grabbed tightly, and before he knew it, he was already in the air and seemed to be speeding along the streets without even touching the ground.

Soon they arrived outside the Jade House. The two of them hid behind a tree and peered at the scene before them. They heard everything including the fight between Yu Canghai and Tian Boguang, the search led by Liu Zhengfeng’s apprentices, and the words of Linghu Chong. When Yu Canghai wanted to hit Linghu Chong again, Lin Pingzhi could not hold his anger any longer and shouted out, “A senior bullies a junior; how shameless!” Right after that, he realized he had acted very rashly and quickly turned around to hide. But Yu Canghai came so fast that with the words “hold it,” the power of his hands had already immobilized Lin Pingzhi.

At that moment, all Yu needed to do was to release his inner energy and Lin Pingzhi’s internal organs would be smashed into pieces, but after recognizing it was the young hunchback, Yu Canghai held back his strength and did not strike.

“So it’s you!” he sneered.

He looked at Mu Gaofeng, who stood about ten feet behind Lin Pingzhi. “Hunchback Mu! Why do you instigate juniors to trouble me over and over? What do you want?” he demanded.

Mu Gaofeng burst into loud laughter. “He claims to be my junior, but I never said he was! His name is Lin and mine is Mu, I have nothing to do with him. Master Yu, I, hunchback Mu, am not afraid of you; I just don’t want to be a retard and shield trouble for some nobody. If there were great benefits for being a shield, like piles of gold or jewels or something, then I’d consider doing it! Free service like this will never interest me.”

Yu Canghai was quite happy to hear these words. “If this individual has nothing to do with brother Mu and is only an imposter, then I don’t have to worry on your behalf,” he said. He was just about to strike out when he heard someone speaking

“A senior bullies a junior; how shameless!”

Yu Canghai turned back and saw a man standing by the window. It was none other than Linghu Chong. Yu Canghai was infuriated, but the words “a senior bullies a junior; how shameless” were right on target. The two young men’s Kung Fu skills were no match for him; to kill them would be as easy as stepping on a puny ant. But he would never be able to get rid of the remark “a senior bullies a junior.” And if the remark of “a senior bullies a junior” were true, of course “shameless” would be natural conclusion. But if he just simply let these two off, he wouldn’t be able to vent his anger. He sneered and said to Linghu Chong, “I’ll have your Master pay for your insolence later.” Then he turned to Lin Pingzhi.

“Which school are you from?” he asked.

“You murderous monster, you ruined my whole family, and you are still asking me?” Lin Pingzhi yelled furiously.

Yu Canghai was confused. “Have I met you before? How did I ruin your family? What are you talking about?” he thought to himself. With so many people around watching, he did not want to ask for more details, so he turned to Hong Renxiong. “Renxiong, waste him first, then seize Linghu Chong.”

If a Qingcheng apprentice did it, it wouldn’t be “a senior bullies a junior.” Hong Renxiong answered, “Yes, Master!” He drew his sword and jumped forth. Lin Pingzhi went for his own sword, but before he could unsheathe it, Hong Renxiong’s long cold sword was already pointed at his chest.

Lin Pingzhi yelled, “Yu Canghai, I, Lin Pingzhi, will….”

Astounded, Yu Canghai hurriedly struck out with his left palm. The energy of the strike sent Hong Renxiong’s thrust aside and the sword barely missed Lin Pingzhi’s right arm.

“What did you say?” Yu Canghai asked.

“Even if I, Lin Pingzhi, have to become a disembodied ghost, I’ll come back and kill you,” Lin Pingzhi exclaimed.

“Are you…are you Lin Pingzhi from the Fortune Prestige Escort House?” Yu Canghai asked in shock.

Lin Pingzhi thought, “Since I can’t hide my identity any more, I’d rather have a quick death.” So he pulled the plasters off his face and said loudly, “That’s right! I am Lin Pingzhi from Fuzhou Fortune Prestige Escort House. Your son harassed an innocent girl and I killed him. You ruined my whole family. Where…where are you keeping my father and my mother?”

The news of Qingcheng’s triumph over the Fortune Prestige Escort House had spread all over the Martial World. Most people didn’t know that Evergreen had lost in a sword fight with Lin Yuantu, so rumor said that it was really because the Qingcheng Sword School wanted to seize the Lin family’s manuscript of the Evil-Resisting Sword Art. And because Linghu Chong had heard the rumor, he used it to lure Luo Renjie into coming closer and then killed him. Mu Gaofeng had also heard the rumor. After the fake hunchback claimed to be “Lin Pingzhi from the Fortune Prestige Escort House,” seeing how Yu Canghai knocked aside Hong Renxiong’s sword in such a hurry and how he acted so nervously, Mu Gaofeng had no doubt that Yu Canghai really wanted to track down the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript with help from this young man. When Yu Canghai stretched his arm out and grabbed onto Lin Pingzhi’s right wrist, pulling his arm back to drag Lin over, Mu Gaofeng shouted, “Hold it!” He jumped forth rapidly and grabbed onto Lin Pingzhi’s left wrist and started pulling as well.

Lin Pingzhi could feel two great sources of power pulling his arms in opposite directions; all his joints started popping and he almost passed out from the severe pain. Yu Canghai knew very well that Lin Pingzhi would die instantly if he pulled any harder, so he thrust his long sword at Mu Gaofeng as he yelled out loudly, “Brother Mu, let it go!” Mu Gaofeng waved his right arm and blocked the sword with a shinning crescent knife. A loud ring echoed. Wasting no time, Yu Canghai launched his sword attacks, and within seconds, he had sent nine thrusts at Mu Gaofeng.

“Brother Mu, we don’t have any score between us. Why should we hurt our relationship because of this lad?” He said while tightly grabbing Lin Pingzhi’s right wrist.

Waving his crescent knife back and forth, Mu Gaofeng countered all of Yu Canghai’s attacks.

“Earlier, right in front of everyone’s eyes, this lad kowtowed to me and called me ‘Grandpa.’ Everyone saw that and heard that. Although I don’t have any score to settle with you, Master Yu, don’t you think it would look bad for me if you seize someone who just called me Grandpa and then kill him right in front of my eyes? If this grandpa can’t even protect his grandson, then who else is going to call me Grandpa in the future?”

The two talked as they fought at a faster and faster pace. The clash of weapons also became more urgent.

“Brother Mu, this man killed my son. How can I forget the pain of losing a son and not avenge him?” Yu Canghai said angrily.

“Sure,” Mu Gaofeng laughed, “for Master Yu’s sake, I’ll help you seek your revenge. Come on, you pull to the left and I’ll pull to the right, one two three, let’s tear this lad to two!” After the words, he actually started counting, “One, two, and three!” As soon as he spat out the word three, he pulled harder. More of Lin Pingzhi’s joints popped.

Yu Canghai was stunned. There was no need to rush the revenge. Before finding the sword art manuscript, he definitely didn’t want to let Lin Pingzhi die. So he let go of Lin’s wrist at once, letting Mu Gaofeng pull Lin Pingzhi away.

“Hey, thanks!” Mu Gaofeng grinned. “Master Yu is really a true friend! You even gave up revenge for your son for Hunchback Mu’s sake. There’s no other one in the Martial World who respects brotherhood as much as you do!”

“I am glad brother Mu knows that. I’ll give in a little this time. There won’t be a second time,” Yu Canghai said coldly.

“Who knows? Maybe Master Yu would be as nice next time and give in again,” Mu Gaofeng snickered.

With a disgruntled snort, Yu Canghai waved his left arm. “Let’s go!” he commanded, and all the Qingcheng apprentices left following their Master. At that moment, Sister Dingyi had gone south together with all the Heng-Shan nuns, trying to locate Yilin. Liu Zhengfeng and his apprentices had gone to the southeast corner to continue their search. So after the group from the Qingcheng Sword School left, only Mu Gaofeng and Lin Pingzhi stood outside of the Jade House.

“Hey, you are not a hunchback. You are a handsome lad!” Mu Gaofeng said with a grin. “Lad, you don’t have to call me Grandpa. I kind of like you. How about I take you as my apprentice?”

Lin Pingzhi was still in pain from being pulled between two types of high-level inner energy and had just caught his breath. Hearing Mu Gaofeng’s suggestion, he thought, “The hunchback’s Kung Fu is ten times greater than dad’s. Even Yu Canghai was in dread of him. In my quest to seek my revenge, it would actually become possible if I have him as my teacher. But he did not care about me at all when the Qingcheng apprentice tried to kill me. As soon as he heard my real identity, he started to fight Yu Canghai to get hold of me. In that light, his offer to take me as his apprentice must have not come from good intentions.”

Mu Gaofeng saw his hesitation. “You already know how good the Hunchback of the North’s Kung Fu skills and fame are. I’ve never had an apprentice before. If you have me as your teacher, I will teach you all my Kung Fu skills without any reservation. By then, not only would the chaps from Qingcheng be no matches for you, but after a couple of years, it would be easy to defeat Yu Canghai as well. Lad, why aren’t you kowtowing to me to show respects to your Master?”

The more anxious he sounded, the more suspicious Lin Pingzhi became. “If he really cared about me, why did he grab on to my wrist and pull so hard with no reservation? After Yu Canghai found out that I was the one who had killed his son, he actually wanted me alive. Obviously it was all because he wanted some Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript. There are many honest people with high Kung Fu skills in the Five Mountains Sword Alliance. If I want a good teacher, I should be looking among them. The hunchback here is too vicious. No matter how high his skills are, I’ll never have him as my Master.”

Seeing Lin Pingzhi still in hesitation, Mu Gaofeng felt his anger growing. But he still managed a smile. “What? You think the hunchback’s Kung Fu skills are no good, and I am not worthy to be your master?” he asked.

Lin Pingzhi noticed an angry and vicious look on Mu Gaofeng’s face fleetingly before it changed into a warm and kind smile. He knew he was in a very delicate and dangerous situation. If he refused to call him Master, Mu would probably get infuriated and kill him right away. So he said, “Hero Mu, your offering to take me as your apprentice is a fortune I never even dared to dream of. But I have been learning my family Kung Fu skills. If I want to study from another great Master, I must get permission from my father. This is not only the family rule, but also the common practice in the Martial World.”

“That sounds reasonable.” Mu Gaofeng nodded. “But what little skills you demonstrated here today are nothing even close to be called Kung Fu. Your father’s Kung Fu must also be very limited. I only had a sudden impulse today wanting to take you as my apprentice. Later, I might not have the same inclination. Good opportunities don’t come by easily. You seem to be a smart lad. Why are you acting so foolishly? How about this? You kowtow to me and call me your Master first, and then I will go talk to your father. I am sure he wouldn’t dare have a different opinion.”

Lin Pingzhi suddenly had an idea. “Hero Mu,” he said, “my parents were taken prisoners by the Qingcheng Sword School. I don’t even know if they are still alive or dead yet. I beg you, hero Mu, to get them out. By then, I would be so appreciative that no matter what you tell me to do, I will follow with all my heart.”

Mu Gaofeng became livid. “What?” he exploded. “Are you bargaining with me? Do I have to have you as my apprentice? Who do you think you are? This is just outrageous!” Then he remembered that even Yu Canghai gave in right in front of so many eyes and did not want to tear his son’s killer into two – he must have had very good reasons. People like Yu Canghai were not the type that could be easily fooled. The rumor was probably true that the Evil-Resisting Sword Art was truly amazing. If he could take this lad as his apprentice, then sooner or later, he could get his hands on that outstanding martial arts book. At that thought, he urged again.

“Hurry up and kowtow to me. After three kowtows, you will be my apprentice. Of course the Master will take care of the apprentice’s parents. Since Yu Canghai captured my apprentice’s parents, when I go ask for them from him, it would be totally justifiable. How dare he object?”

Lin Pingzhi really wanted to save his parents. He thought, “Mom and dad are prisoners of that villain. Every day would seem like a year for them. I need to get them out as soon as possible. As long as he can rescue my parents, I’d be willing to give up anything, let alone taking him as my Master.” So he knelt down in front of Mu Gaofeng to kowtow.

Afraid that Lin Pingzhi might change his mind again, Mu Gaofeng laid his hand on Lin Pingzhi’s head and pushed down. Lin Pingzhi was ready to kowtow to him, but when he felt the push from the top of his head, he was filled with repugnance and naturally straightened his neck and resisted.

“Hey, kowtow!” Mu Gaofeng yelled angrily. He pushed down even harder.

Lin Pingzhi was egotistical; when he was still the Young Master of the house, others always flattered him and he never had to take any humiliation. Now in order to rescue his parents, he had already decided to kowtow, but when Mu Gaofeng pushed on his head, it actually aroused his stubbornness.

“I will agree to be your apprentice, only after you agree to rescue my parents. But there’s no way I am going to kowtow today!” he said loudly.

“Did you say no way? Let’s give it a try and see if there’s really no way!” Mu Gaofeng said angrily. He pushed even harder.

Lin Pingzhi fought with all his strength and struggled to stand up, but he felt as if he was under a thousand-pound rock, and simply could not, so he pushed on the ground with his hands and struggled some more. Gradually, Mu Gaofeng put more and more strength into the push. Lin Pingzhi could hear his neck joints cracking because of the pressure.

“Kowtow or not? Just a bit more strength from my hand would break your neck,” Mu Gaofeng said while laughing loudly.

Lin Pingzhi’s head was pushed down inch by inch, and soon was only half foot from the ground. “I won’t! I won’t!” he kept on yelling.

“Let’s see how you won’t kowtow.” Mu Gaofeng used a little bit more strength and Lin Pingzhi’s forehead went two inches closer to the ground. Suddenly, Lin Pingzhi felt heat coming from his back and a stream of smooth energy fed into his body; the push atop his head suddenly felt like nothing. He pushed at the ground and then easily stood up.

This was a complete surprise for Lin Pingzhi. To Mu Gaofeng, the surprise was even greater. The inner energy that overwhelmed his strength seemed to be the famous “Divine Art of Violet Twilight” of the Huashan Sword School. He had heard before that this style of inner energy started off indistinct, like the twilight in the sky, but the stamina had great persistency, and the strength would be later released like a storm with devastating power. That was why it got its name of “Violet Twilight.” Astonished, Mu Gaofeng quickly put his hand back on Lin Pingzhi’s head, but as soon as his hand touched Lin Pingzhi’s forehead, a stream of persistent energy rose from Lin’s forehead and shocked his hand. Mu Gaofeng felt numbness in his arm and dull pain coming from his chest.

Mu Gaofeng stepped back. “Is that Brother Yue of the Huashan Sword School?” he asked with a dry smile. “Why are you hiding behind the corner to play tricks on a hunchback?”

Smiling, a man with the look of a scholar strolled out from behind the corner of the wall. Waving a folding fan leisurely in his right hand, he looked very graceful.

“Brother Mu,” the man greeted, “after so many years, you still look so young and energetic. How wonderful!”

Mu Gaofeng immediately recognized him. He was indeed “Gentleman Sword” Yue Buqun, Head Master of the Huashan Sword School. Mu had always been in dread of him. Now since Mu was caught bullying a junior who basically had no Kung Fu skills, and because Yue even gave the young lad a helping hand, Mu Gaofeng felt very awkward.

“Brother Yue,” he grinned, “you are just getting younger and younger. I wish you could be my Master and teach me this ‘Yin Yang Nourishment’[4] method.”

“Bah! You hunchback, stop the silly jokes. When old friends reunite, there are many good topics to talk about, yet you only spout nonsense! How would I know such a lewd method?” Yue Buqun rebuffed.

“Nobody’s going to believe that you don’t know that nourishment method, otherwise, how do you manage to look as young as my grandson when you are actually almost sixty years old?” Mu Gaofeng said.

When Mu Gaofeng’s hand moved away from his forehead, Lin Pingzhi had already jumped back several steps. He looked at the scholarly man carefully. The man had a long goatee and a neat and clean face that shined with honesty and integrity. Admiration rose from within Lin Pingzhi’s heart. Hearing Mu Gaofeng calling him “Brother Yue of the Huashan Sword School” and figuring out it was this man who had just saved him, it suddenly dawned on him.

“Could this graceful man be the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School, Mr. Yue? But his age is far from what I expected. He looked like a forty year old man. Lao Denuo is his apprentice, but is much older than him.” After he heard Mu Gaofeng’s comments regarding Yue’s way of staying young, he suddenly remembered what he had heard from his mother before: “When a Kung Fu master reaches the highest state with his inner energy, he can not only extend his life span, but also recover his youthful vigor.” Maybe this Mr. Yue had reached that state. His admiration grew even more.

“Brother Mu is kidding me again,” Yue Buqun said with a light smile. “Brother Mu, this young man is a dutiful son, also a man of integrity. He is good material for an apprentice; no wonder Brother Mu likes him so much. All the trouble he has today originated from his saving my daughter Lingshan in Fuzhou. I really could not just stand aside and not do anything. Will you please show him mercy for my sake?”

Mu Gaofeng appeared to be amazed. “What? Just with the little Kung Fu he has, he could save niece Lingshan? We probably have to reverse that; it was more likely that niece Lingshan’s sharp eyes picked out this handsome boy….”

Knowing that the hunchback was a mean and obscene person and that there probably wouldn’t be any good comments coming from his mouth, Yue Buqun quickly cut him off.

“When people from the chivalrous side encounter trouble, they help those in need. The help could be as much as risking one’s life, or as little as giving a word of advice. It doesn’t really matter how great one’s Kung Fu skills are. Brother Mu, if you are determined to take him as your apprentice, why don’t you let the young man ask permission from his parents first, and then come to submit himself to you. Wouldn’t that be a win-win solution?”

Mu Gaofeng knew well that once Yue Buqun stepped in, things would simply not go as he had wished. So he shook his head.

“I just had a sudden impulse and wanted to take him as my apprentice. But I’ve lost that interest. Even if this lad kowtows to me ten thousand times now, I won’t take him any more.”

Out of the blue, he gave Lin Pingzhi a hard kick, which sent him into the air and sprawling twenty feet away. Yue Buqun did not expect that in any way. Mu Gaofeng had shown no sign of a sudden kick. Once his leg was extended, it was already too late to stop him. Lin Pingzhi jumped up immediately after he landed, and did not appear to have been injured.

“Brother Mu, why are you acting like a child? I’ll have to say you are the one getting younger now,” Yue Buqun said.

“Relax, Brother Yue,” Mu Gaofeng grinned. “Although I am bold, I would never dare to offend this…this your…ha-ha…I don’t even know what he’s going to become of yours. See you! Good-bye! I’d never thought even the famous Huashan Sword School would be interested in the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript’.” He started stepping back as he spoke.

Yue Buqun jumped forth. “Brother Mu, what are you talking about?” he demanded loudly. Suddenly, his face seemed to turn a violet color. But the violet color only stayed for a brief moment before returning to Yue’s normal coloration.

Mu Gaofeng saw the color change and felt a shiver from his heart. “So that was indeed the ‘Divine Art of Violet Twilight’ of the Huashan Sword School!” he thought. “Yu Buqun has good sword skills on top of this amazing inner energy. I’d better not get into a fight with him.” So he let out a grin. “I have no clue as to what that Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript is. I am only joking about it since I saw how Yu Canghai of the Qingcheng Sword School worked hard to get his hands on it. Brother Yue, please don’t mind me.” He turned around and walked away.

Yue Buqun watched until Mu Gaofeng disappeared into the darkness of the night. Letting out a sigh, he murmured, “People having that level of Kung Fu skills are rare in the Martial World, but he would rather abandon himself to….” He held back the word “vice” to himself and just shook his head in disappointment.

Lin Pingzhi came rushing over, knelt down in front of him and started to kowtow.

“I beg you, Master, to take me as your apprentice. I promise to follow your word of advice and obey all school rules. I will never dare to not listen to the Master’s word.”

“If I take you as my apprentice, Hunchback Mu will probably start a rumor saying that I robbed him of his student.” Yue Buqun smiled lightly.

“As soon as I saw you, Master, I felt unspeakable admiration. It’s my honest wish from the bottom of my heart to become your apprentice,” Lin Pingzhi said while kowtowing nonstop.

“Very well,” Yue Buqun smiled, “I will take you. But you have not asked permission from your parents yet. We need to find out if they agree or not.”

“If I am lucky enough to become your apprentice, my parents would be very grateful. There would be no reason why they would object. The villains of the Qingcheng Sword School captured my parents. I will need the Master’s help in that matter,” Lin Pingzhi said.

Yue Buqun nodded. “Alright! Get up! Let’s go look for your parents.” He turned and shouted, “Denuo, Liang Fa, and Lingshan, you can come out now.”

A group of people walked out from behind the wall. Lin Pingzhi recognized them as the apprentices of the Huashan Sword School. It turned out that they had all arrived a while ago. Yue Buqun had told them to hide behind the wall, and only to come out after Mu Gaofeng had left, thus saving some embarrassment for Mu Gaofeng.

“Congratulation on taking a new apprentice, Master!” the Huashan apprentices all said cheerfully.

“Pingzhi,” Yue Buqun said with a smile on his face, “you have met these senior apprentice brothers a while back in the small teashop. Now go ahead and pay your respects to them.”

The old man was second senior brother Lao Denuo; the big, tall apprentice was third senior brother Liang Fa; the apprentice who had dressed as a porter was fourth senior brother Shi Daizi; the one holding an abacus was fifth senior brother Gao Genming; then there was sixth senior brother Lu Dayou. Each of these apprentices was the type not easily forgotten. Seventh senior brother Tao Jun and eighth senior brother Ying Luobai were two young apprentices. Lin Pingzhi saluted them one by one.

Giggles came from behind Yue Buqun’s back. A gentle but crisp voice asked, “Daddy, am I a senior apprentice sister or a junior apprentice sister?”

In a daze, Lin Pingzhi recognized the wine-selling girl as the one called “little apprentice sister” standing by all the other Huashan apprentices. She was actually the Master’s daughter. Sticking her head out from behind Yue Buqun’s back, showing only half of her snow-white face, she quickly glanced at Lin Pingzhi with her rolling eyes then hid back behind Yue Buqun again.

Lin Pingzhi thought, “I remember the girl in the wine shop had a very ugly pox-covered face. How did her face change?”

In the dim moonlight, he could not see the girl’s face clearly when she stuck her head out and then drew it back so hurriedly, but even so, he could tell that the face was a pretty one. He then remembered.

“She did mention that she disguised herself when she sold wine outside of the town of Fuzhou. Sister Dingyi also said that she had taken on a very grotesque disguise. Obviously, she intentionally concealed her face with an ugly disguise.”

“Everyone here all joined the school later than you, but they still call you little apprentice sister. You are destined to be called little apprentice sister, so of course it’s little apprentice sister again.” Yue Buqun laughed.

“No way!” the girl declared with a grin. “Starting from now on, I am going to be a senior apprentice sister. Daddy, junior apprentice brother Lin will have to call me senior apprentice sister. Later when you get another one hundred or two hundred apprentices, they all have to call me senior apprentice sister.”

Giggling, she walked out from behind Yue Buqun. Under the dim moonlight, Lin Pingzhi could vaguely make out a pretty oval face and a pair of bright eyes looking straight at his face. Lin Pingzhi bowed deeply.

“Senior apprentice sister Yue, I only gained Master’s mercy and became an apprentice today. The one who becomes an apprentice earlier is the senior. Of course I am the junior apprentice.”

Yue Lingshan was very pleased. She turned to her dad. “Daddy, he called me senior apprentice sister out of his own free will. I didn’t force him.”

Yue Buqun laughed. “He had just joined our school, and you are already talking about ‘forcing.’ He will probably think that everyone in our school is like you, the seniors forcing their wills upon the juniors. What a frightening prospect!”

All the apprentices laughed at these words.

“Daddy,” Yue Lingshan said, “big apprentice brother was hiding here to recover from his wounds. He was struck by that stinky Taoist Priest, and is in serious condition. Let’s go find him quickly.”

Yue Buqun frowned and shook his head. “Genming, Daizi, you two go carry big apprentice brother out,” he said.

Gao Genming and Shi Daizi answered in unison and both jumped into the room through the window. But soon they reported, “Master, big apprentice brother is not here. There’s no one in the room.” Candlelight spilled through the window when they lit the candle in the room.

Yue Buqun frowned even more as he really did not want to enter such a disreputable place. “You,” he said to Lao Denuo, “go in there and check it out.”

“Yes, Master!” Lao Denuo answered and then walked toward the window.

“I’ll go check too,” Yue Lingshan suggested.

Yue Buqun grabbed at her arm. “Nonsense! You are not allowed to go into places like this.”

Yue Lingshan almost cried. “But…but big apprentice brother is so badly wounded…I am afraid that he will die.”

“Don’t worry,” Yue Buqun whispered, “he had the ‘Heavenly Connecting Glue’ of the Heng-Shan Sword School applied already. He won’t die.”

“Daddy, how…how did you know?” Yue Lingshan was surprised while cheerful.

“Shut up! Don’t be so noisy!” Yue Buqun cut her off.

Linghu Chong was already badly wounded before he took the energy blow from Yu Canghai’s palm strike. His wounds pained him greatly and he spat out more blood, but his mind was still clear. He heard the arguments between Mu Gaofeng and Yu Canghai, how everybody left, and how his Master had showed up. He was a man who feared nothing except his Master. As soon as he heard his Master talking to Mu Gaofeng, thoughts of how his Master would punish him for all the mischief he had gotten into crossed his mind. The worry was so great that he even forgot about the pain from his wounds.

He turned to the bed and whispered, “A disaster is about to strike! My Master is here! Let’s get out of here!” Right after these words, he staggered out the room steadying himself against the wall.

Qu Feiyan dragged Yilin from under the quilt and followed him. Seeing how Linghu Chong teetered along and was on the brink of falling down at any second, Yilin and Qu Feiyan both rushed over and supported him by his arms. Linghu Chong clenched his teeth and walked through a corridor. He knew that his Master had outstanding eyes and ears; the moment he walked out, the Master would know about it. Seeing a big room to the right, he immediately walked into it.

“Close…close the door and the window,” he said.

Qu Feiyan followed his instruction and shut the door and window. Linghu Chong could not maintain his composure any longer and collapsed onto the bed, breathing hard.

The three of them kept very quiet, and after a long while, they heard Yue Buqun’s voice far away saying, “He’s not here. Let’s go!” Linghu Chong let out a long breath and felt much more relaxed.

After some time had passed, someone came into the backyard and called out in a low voice, “Big apprentice brother? Big apprentice brother!” It was Lu Dayou.

Linghu Chong thought, “Monkey Six has always been the closest to me.” He almost answered when he suddenly heard the bed-curtain shaking. It was Yilin trembling in fright when she heard somebody approaching. “If I answer Monkey Six,” Linghu Chong thought, “I could really ruin the little Sister’s reputation.” So he kept his silence.

Lu Dayou walked past the window while calling “big apprentice brother, big apprentice brother” all the way. The calling receded further and further and finally faded into the night.

“Hey, Linghu Chong,” Qu Feiyan suddenly broke the silence, “are you going to die?”

“How can I die? If I die, it would really hurt the reputation of the Heng-Shan Sword School, and I’d be letting them down!” Linghu Chong answered.

“How do you figure?” surprised, Qu Feiyan asked.

“I’ve had so much of that magical medicine of the Heng-Shan Sword School, both inside and outside. If I still can’t be healed, I’d be letting…letting this Sister of the Heng-Shan Sword School down.” Linghu Chong replied.

“Yep! If you died, you would really be letting her down!” Qu Feiyan grinned.

Knowing how seriously Linghu Chong had been wounded and seeing how he was still making jokes, Yilin admired his attitude and also felt a bit less stressful.

“Big brother Linghu, you’ve just taken a hit from Yu Canghai. Let me see your wounds again.”

Linghu Chong struggled to sit up, but Qu Feiyan said, “Never mind your manners. Lie down.” Linghu Chong felt so weak that he really could not sit up, so he lay back down.

Qu Feiyan lit a candle. Yilin could see blood all over Linghu Chong’s robe, so she threw away all worry about propriety, gently lifted his long robe, and wiped off the blood around the wounds with a towel hanging by a rack. Taking the “Heavenly Connecting Glue” from her pocket, she applied all of the remainder onto Linghu Chong’s wounds.

“What a waste to put so much precious medicine on me!” Linghu Chong laughed.

“Big brother Linghu,” Yilin said, “you were badly wounded all because of me. This medicine is the least I can offer, even if…even if….” She did not know what to say, so just mumbled a little and then continued, “Even my respectful Master praised you as a young hero who is always ready to take on villains for a just cause. Because of that she even got into an argument with Master Yu.”

“No need to praise me. As long as the respectful Sister doesn’t scold me, I’d be completely thankful!” Linghu Chong grinned.

“Why would my Master scold you?” Yilin said. “Big brother Linghu, just rest quietly for twenty-four hours, and if your wounds don’t break open again, you should be alright.” She took out another three “White Cloud Bear Gallbladder Pills” and helped Linghu Chong to take them.

“Sis,” Qu Feiyan said out of a sudden, “you stay here and be his company. Watch out for bad guys who want to get him. My grandpa is still waiting for me. I got to go.”

“No! No!” Yilin cried in worry. “You cannot go. How can I stay here by myself?”

“Isn’t Linghu Chong here too?” Qu Feiyan grinned. “You are not all by yourself?” She turned around and started heading out.

Yilin was greatly concerned. She jumped forth and gripped Qu’s left arm. In her rush, she had used the holding technique of the Heng-Shan Sword School and grabbed her arm tightly.

“Don’t go!” she cried.

“Ouch! Are you trying to fight me?” Qu Feiyan chuckled.

Yilin blushed and then let go of her arm. “My good girl, please stay and keep me company,” she pleaded.

“Okay, okay. Fine! I’ll stay to be your company. Linghu Chong is not a bad guy, why are you so afraid of him?” Qu Feiyan said.

“Sorry, Qu, did I hurt you?” Yilin asked while feeling less awkward.

“Nah, it doesn’t hurt, but Linghu Chong seems to be hurting a lot,” Qu Feiyan said.

Yilin was in a shock. She lifted the curtains and checked immediately, only finding Linghu Chong sleeping soundly with both of his eyes shut tight. She felt Linghu Chong’s breathing with her hand and could tell that he was breathing in a good rhythm. Just when she felt a bit better, she heard Qu Feiyan’s giggles and the sound of the window opening. She turned around in a hurry and saw Qu Feiyan jumping out of the window.

Yilin was astounded and felt completely lost. She walked next to the bed and called, “Big brother Linghu? Big brother Linghu! She…she just left.” But the effect of the medicine had kicked in. Linghu Chong was completely out. He didn’t hear any of Yilin’s words. Trembling, Yilin was very frightened. It took her a long while before she gained enough strength to shut the window.

“I’d better leave soon,” she thought aloud. “What if big brother Linghu wakes up and then starts talking to me? What am I going to do then?” Then she thought, “He is so weak right now, even a child could kill him easily. How could I leave him and just flee the scene?”

In the dark night, occasional dog barks echoed from deep alleys far away. Other than those occasional sounds, there was just dead silence. People from the brothel had fled a long time ago. It almost felt as if Linghu Chong behind the bed curtain was the only person left in the entire world beside her. Yilin sat stiffly on a chair, afraid to move. After what seemed an eternity, cockcrows could be heard from all directions; it was almost dawn. Yilin started to worry again.

“It’s going to be daybreak soon, and then people would be arriving. What should I do?”

She had been a Buddhist ever since she was a small child, and had always been taken care of by Sister Dingyi, so she really lacked real life experience on how to handle difficult situations. She could only worry, having no idea of what to do.

Suddenly, the sound of footsteps came from the alley outside. It seemed to be from three or four people. The sound of their footsteps could be clearly heard in the stillness of dawn. The group stopped in front of the gate of the Jade House.

“You two search the east side. The two of us will search the west side. If anyone spots Linghu Chong, make sure you capture him alive. He is very badly wounded and won’t be able to resist,” a voice said.

When Yilin first heard the sound of people coming, she was terrified. Then when she heard them talking about capturing Linghu Chong, she formed a resolve in her mind, “No matter what, I will protect big brother Linghu and never let him fall into the bad guys’ hands.” As soon as she made up her mind, fear seemed to slip away and her brain started functioning again. She rushed over by the bed and pulled out the bed sheet. After quickly wrapping Linghu Chong in the sheet, she picked him up in her arms, blew out the candlelight, pushed open the door gently, and then sneaked out. She couldn’t tell which direction she was going, and just made sure she was walking in the opposite direction from which the voices came. Soon she passed a vegetable garden and arrived at the back door. The back door was already half open. When the occupants of the brothel left, they probably just left it open in their hurry. She carried Linghu Chong out of the back door and dashed along the small alley. In no time, she had reached the town wall.

“I must get out of the town. There are simply too many enemies for big brother Linghu,” she thought. She walked along the town wall and as soon as she reached the town gate, she dashed out.

She kept running nonstop for at least three or four miles. She intentionally picked small roads that led into the mountains. When there were no more roads, she found herself in a small valley. Feeling a tad relieved, she looked down at Linghu Chong and found him staring right into her eyes, a smile on his face.

Yilin almost panicked. Her arms started quivering, and Linghu Chong’s body slipped out of her arms. “Oops!” she cried out and rapidly bent down and extended her arms with a move called “Carry the Holy Scripture.” Luckily, her reactions were quick, and she caught him before he hit the ground. But because she lost her balance, she staggered before regaining her balance.

“Sorry!” she said hurriedly. “Are your wounds still hurting?”

“I am fine. Why don’t you take a rest?” Linghu Chong smiled.

Yilin had completely forgotten about herself when she was running away from the Qingcheng apprentices. All she could think of was how to keep Linghu Chong out of danger. Now when they were finally safe, she felt like her body was ready to fall apart. She used up her last bit of strength and put Linghu Chong down on the meadow gently, and then collapsed onto the meadow breathing hard, trying to catch her breath.

“You forgot to control your breathing when you were running,” Linghu Chong said with a smile. “That is a big no for…for us martial arts students. It makes one more likely…more likely to get hurt.”

Yilin blushed slightly. “Thanks for the advice, big brother Linghu. My Master had taught me the same thing before, but I forgot in all the commotion.” She paused for a second and then asked, “How are your wounds?”

“They don’t hurt as much now, but they’re just a bit itchy and numb,” Linghu Chong said.

“Great! Great!” Yilin exclaimed. “When a wound gets itchy and numb, that means it’s healing. I didn’t expect it would start healing this fast.”

Linghu Chong was quite moved seeing Yilin’s joy. “It’s all due to the magical medicine of your respectful school.” He let out a sigh. “Too bad that we had to suffer humiliations from those low-life scoundrels because of my wounds. If we had fallen into Qingcheng’s hands earlier, it would be no big deal if I got killed right away, but most likely they would have try to humiliate us even further,” he said grouchily.

“So you heard everything?” Yilin asked. She felt completely embarrassed when she thought about how he could have been staring at her for the entire time she carried him while running away; her face reddened.

Linghu Chong didn’t realize that she was actually feeling embarrassed, and thought she was just exhausted from so much running.

“Apprentice sister, why don’t you do some of the breathing exercises of your school to help harmonize your inner energy, so you don’t suffer any internal injuries?”

“Alright,” Yilin agreed.

She sat down cross-legged and tried to work her inner energy with the breathing techniques taught by her Master. But she felt very uneasy and simply could not calm herself down to focus on the breathing exercises. Every other minute, she would glance at Linghu Chong to see if his wounds had gotten any better or worse, or if he was looking at her. At the fourth glance, her eyes happened to catch Linghu Chong’s eyes. With a big shock, she immediately shut her eyes tightly. Linghu Chong, on the other hand, started laughing loudly. Yilin blushed even more and asked shyly, “Why…why are you laughing?”

“Nothing,” Linghu Chong said. “You are still young and probably don’t do well with the meditative exercises. If you can’t calm down and get focused, then don’t force yourself. Uncle-Master Dingyi must have taught you that if you work too hard on your exercises, it actually does more harm than good. Especially for breathing exercises, you need to find yourself in a calm state.” He paused a moment to catch on with his breath, and then continued, “Don’t worry! My base energy is refilling itself slowly. Even if those Qingcheng crooks come after us, there’s no need to be afraid. We’ll just let them demonstrate…demonstrate that ‘Bum Bum Back…Back….’”

“Demonstrate the Qingcheng Sword School’s ‘Geese Landing in Sand’ technique.” Yilin smiled.

“Right!” Linghu Chong grinned. “That’s good. The ‘Bum Bum Back’ part does not sound very graceful. Let’s just call it the ‘Qingcheng Sword School’s Geese…Landing in Sand’ technique!” After saying the last word, he had to catch his breath again.

“Don’t talk too much! Take a good long nap,” Yilin suggested.

“My Master is also in the town of Hengshan now! I wish I could get up right now and go to Uncle-Master Liu’s house to watch the fun,” Linghu Chong murmured.

Yilin noticed Linghu Chong’s lips were chapped and his eye sockets were also very dry. It must have been because he had lost so much blood. He was in terrible need to drink some water.

“Let me go find some water for you. You must be thirsty, right?” she asked.

“On our way here, I saw lots of watermelons in the field to the left. Why don’t you go get some?” Linghu Chong suggested.

“Alright.” Yilin stood up and checked her pockets, but could not find any money. “Big brother Linghu, do you have any money with you?” she asked.

“For what?”

“For the watermelons of course!”

“Did you actually want to pay for them?” Linghu Chong grinned. “You can just go pick some. There’s nobody living close by. The owner must live far away. Who are you going to buy from?”

“But to take without consent is…is stealing,” Yilin mumbled, “and that’s the second prohibition in the Five Prohibitions. We can’t do that. If we don’t have any money, we can beg alms from them. I am sure they will be kind enough to give us a watermelon.”

Linghu Chong became impatient. “You little….” He wanted to say “you little silly nun,” but because of her efforts on his behalf, he stopped at the word “little.”

Yilin could tell that he was disgruntled, so she dared not to say a word and simply walked toward the direction they had come from looking for the watermelon field. After about a mile’s walk, she did see several acres of field full of watermelons. Only chirping from cicadas filled the air. There was no one around at all.

“Big brother Linghu wanted to have some watermelon, but these watermelons all belong to someone, how can I steal from him?” she murmured to herself.

She strode another half a mile and walked on top of a small rise to look around, but still could find no one, not even a shed or a hut, so she had to walk back to the watermelon field. Standing in the middle of the field, she hesitated for a long time before finally sticking her hands out to pick a melon, but then she pulled her hands back when she remembered the prohibition told many times by her Master, that one should never steal from others. She wanted to walk away from the field, but then Linghu Chong’s thirsty face appeared in her mind. She clenched her teeth and put her palms together,[5] then prayed inwardly, “Dear Buddha, I really don’t want to steal. It’s all because big brother Linghu…big brother Linghu wants to eat some watermelon.” But when she thought about it again, “big brother Linghu wants to eat some watermelon” really wasn’t a great reason. She was so worried that teardrops started emerging in her eyes. She held a watermelon with both hands and then lifted it up; the stem broke easily.

“He has saved my life,” she thought, “what’s the big deal if I have to fall down to hell and never be reborn again? The one who commits the crime will be the one responsible. It’s me, Yilin, who broke the prohibition. It has nothing to do with big brother Linghu.” She held the watermelon in her arms and then walked back.

Linghu Chong never really took common rules and prohibitions seriously. When he heard Yilin talking about begging alms for a watermelon, he simply assumed this nun was too young and inexperienced. He had never expected the matter of getting a watermelon to be such a great moral dilemma for her. When he saw Yilin back with the melon, he was very pleased.

“Good apprentice sister! What a well-behaved little girl!” he praised.

Yilin felt a shock in her heart when she heard how he had called her, and almost dropped the watermelon. She quickly wrapped it with the front of her robe. Linghu Chong laughed.

“Why are you so worried? Was someone after you because you stole his watermelons?”

“No, no one is after me.” Yilin blushed and then sat down slowly.

The sun had risen from the east; it was a sunny day. Linghu Chong and Yilin were sitting by the shady side of the mountain, and the sun had yet to reach their side. All the trees around them had been washed by the recent rain and looked greener than usual. Clear and fresh air filled the valley. Yilin collected herself, and then pulled out the broken sword by her waist. Seeing the broken tip of the sword, she thought, “That villain Tian Boguang really had high Kung Fu skills. If it weren’t for big brother Linghu risking his life to save me, I wouldn’t be sitting here in peace.” She glanced at Linghu Chong from the corner of her eyes and saw a bloodless face with sunken eye sockets. “For him,” she thought, “even if I have to violate more rules and break more prohibitions, I will have no regrets. To steal a watermelon is really nothing.” By then, she finally cleared all the guilt from her mind. She wiped the broken sword clean with a corner of her robe, and then sliced the watermelon open. A sweet smell quickly filled the air.

“Good melon!” Linghu Chong sniffed and then shouted. “Apprentice sister, I just remembered a joke. In the Lantern Festival earlier this year, when several fellow apprentices of our Huashan Sword School got together to drink wine, little apprentice sister Lingshan composed a riddle. It went, ‘A small dog on the left and a dumb melon on the right. What’s the character?’ At that time, sixth junior apprentice brother Lu Dayou – he’s the one who was looking for me last night – was sitting to her left. I was sitting to her right.”

“This riddle of hers was really joking about you and the apprentice brother Lu.” Yilin smiled.

“Right! This riddle is not hard at all. The answer is the character ‘hu’ in my name Linghu Chong.[6] It was an old joke that she read from a book. It just happened that sixth junior apprentice brother was sitting to her left and I was sitting to her right. And now, by coincidence, next to me, it’s a small dog on one side and a big melon on the other.” Linghu Chong pointed at the watermelon and then pointed at Yilin with a big smile on his face.

“Aha, you are really calling me a dog,” Yilin said.

She cut the melon into slices. After taking out the seeds, she handed him one. Linghu Chong took a bite. The melon was very sweet and soothing; he quickly finished it. Yilin was very delighted in seeing how he enjoyed it. Since Linghu Chong was eating while half lying down, the juices dripped all over his robe. Yilin cut the second slice into smaller pieces and handed them to him one piece at a time. Eating this way, juices stopped dripping all over him. Seeing that every time when he stuck his hand out to take the small pieces, his wound would hurt because of the arm movements, she started feeding the small pieces of melon directly into his mouth. It took Linghu Chong almost half a melon before he realized that Yilin had not had any of the melon herself.

“Have some yourself.”

“I’ll wait till you’ve had enough.”

“I’ve had enough. Go ahead and eat!”

Yilin felt thirsty, so after putting several more pieces into Linghu Chong’s mouth, she put a small one into her own mouth. Seeing that Linghu Chong stared at her without blinking, she felt shy and turned around with her back toward him.

“Wow, how pretty!” Linghu Chong suddenly exclaimed. His voice was filled with complement.

Yilin felt extremely embarrassed. “Why did he suddenly say I am pretty?” she thought. She felt like getting up and running away but couldn’t make up her mind. She felt her whole body burning; even her neck reddened because of shyness. Then she heard Linghu Chong saying, “Look, how pretty! Did you see that?”

Yilin turned slightly and saw him pointing at the west sky. She looked following his finger and saw a beautiful rainbow in the distant sky extending out from behind the trees. She then realized Linghu Chong’s comment “how pretty” was referring to the rainbow, and she had interpreted it in a totally different way. She felt quite embarrassed. But the embarrassment now was also combined with a slight disappointment, very different from the embarrassment earlier, which also had a bit of shyness and a bit of joy in it.

“Listen carefully! Did you hear that?” Linghu Chong asked.

Yilin leaned her body and listened carefully. She could vaguely hear the sound of flowing water coming from where the rainbow had started.

“Sounds like a waterfall,” she replied.

“Exactly! After so many days of rain, there must be waterfalls all over the valley! Let’s go take a look!”

“You…you’d better just quietly rest a few more moments,” Yilin suggested.

“There are only bare stone around here, so dull! I think it’s better to go watch the waterfalls,” Linghu Chong insisted.

Yilin did not want to oppose his will, so she propped him up. She blushed when she suddenly thought: “I’ve had him in my arms twice. The first time was when I thought he had died. The second time was when I was fleeing from danger. Although he is still wounded badly, he is completely conscious. How can I hold him in my arms again? He is insisting on going to the waterfall. Could it be that…that he wants me…?”

While she was still hesitating, Linghu Chong had picked up a broken tree branch as his crutch and started walking slowly. Seeing that, Yilin realized that she had gotten the wrong idea again.

Yilin quickly rushed over and held Linghu Chong’s arm. She criticized herself inwardly, “What’s wrong with me? Big brother Linghu is a true gentleman. Why am I so capricious and always am thinking weird thoughts? Maybe because I am alone with a man, and just want to protect myself? Although he and Tian Boguang are both men, one has high morals while the other has none. I really shouldn’t put them into the same category.”

Linghu Chong staggered along, yet was able to keep himself supported. After a few moments, they passed by a big rock. Yilin propped Linghu Chong by the rock to sit down and rest.

“Here’s a nice spot too. Do you absolutely have to go over there to watch the waterfall?” she asked.

“If you say this is a good spot, I’ll stay here for a while and be your company.” Linghu Chong smiled.

“Fine, fine. The scenery is better over there. If you feel happier watching the waterfall maybe your wounds will heal faster.” Yilin gave in.

Linghu Chong smiled and slowly stood up. The two slowly turned around a small pass, and were suddenly embraced by the thunder-like sound of a waterfall. After another short distance, the sound became even louder. After walking through a small wood, a waterfall appeared in front of their eyes like a white stripe hanging from the cliff above.

“We have a waterfall by the side of the Jade Maiden Peak at Mount Huashan also,” Linghu Chong said cheerfully. “It’s even bigger than this one. It looks similar though. Little apprentice sister Lingshan and I always practice our sword art skills by the waterfall. Sometimes when she gets mischievous, she will even run through the waterfall.”

Yilin suddenly realized when she heard the name “little apprentice sister Lingshan” was mentioned the second time. “He insisted on coming to the waterfall despite of his wounds not to enjoy the scenery. He was thinking of his little apprentice sister Lingshan.” For some reason, she felt a great pain in her heart as if someone had just given it a hard punch.

Linghu Chong went on, “Once when we were practicing sword arts by the waterfall, she tripped and fell down, almost falling into the deep pool at the bottom. Luckily I grabbed hold of her quickly enough. That could have been one dangerous accident!”

“Do you have many apprentice sisters?” Yilin asked dryly.

“We have a total of seven female apprentices,” Linghu Chong replied, “and little apprentice sister Lingshan is the daughter of the Master. We all call her little apprentice sister. The other six are apprentices of Master’s wife.”

“Oh, so she’s Uncle-Master Yue’s daughter. Does she…she…she getting along well with you?”

Linghu Chong sat down slowly. “I am an orphan with no parents. Fifteen years ago when the respectful Master and Master-Wife took me as an apprentice out of mercy, little apprentice sister was only three. I was much older than she was, so I always carried her out to pick fruits and chase rabbits. We grew up together. Master and Master-Wife don’t have a son, so they treated me like their own son. Little apprentice sister is just like my own sister.”

“Oh,” Yilin answered. After a short while, she said, “I am also an orphan with no parents. I was taken in by my Master and had been a nun ever since I was a child.”

“What a pity!” Linghu Chong exclaimed. Yilin turned toward him and looked at him questioningly. “If you weren’t an apprentice of Uncle-Master Dingyi,” Linghu Chong said, “I could have begged Master-Wife to take you in as an apprentice. We have lots of apprentice brothers and sisters. With twenty some people, it’s really lively. After practices, we just play around in groups. Master and Master-Wife don’t really discipline us much. When you meet my little apprentice sister, you will surely like her and make good friends with her.”

“Too bad I don’t have such good luck!” Yilin said. “But in the White-Cloud Nunnery, Master and apprentice sisters are all very nice to me. I…I…am very happy too.”

“Yes, yes! I didn’t mean anything by my remarks! Uncle-Master Dingyi’s sword skills are almost godlike. When my Master and Master-Wife speak of sword arts from different schools and styles, they always mention your respectful Master. The Heng-Shan Sword School is no less than the Huashan Sword School in any way!”

“Big brother Linghu,” Yilin said, “the other day when you said to Tian Boguang that fighting while standing up, Tian Boguang was the fourteenth best in the Martial World; Uncle-Master Yue was eighth. Then how is my Master ranked?”

Linghu Chong began laughing. “I was just fooling Tian Boguang. There isn’t any ranking like that. Everyone’s Kung Fu skills change every single day. Some get better, and some get worse because of old age or the like. How could someone actually rank all of them? Tian Boguang does have high Kung Fu skills, but probably not good enough to be fourteenth in the entire Martial World. I intentionally ranked him high to make him happy.”

“Oh! So you were just fooling him.” Yilin sat there, staring at the waterfall blankly for a while, lost in thought. Then she asked, “Do you always like to fool people?”

Linghu Chong grinned. “That depends. I wouldn’t say ‘always.’ Some people you can fool, and some people you cannot. When my Master and Master-Wife ask me about things, of course I wouldn’t dare try to fool them.”

“Oh,” Yilin hummed. “Then how about your fellow apprentice brothers and sisters?” She originally wanted to ask, “Do you fool your little apprentice sister Lingshan?” but for some reason, she was afraid to put the question forth so boldly.

“Well, that depends on who it is, and what it’s about,” Linghu Chong said with a smile. “We apprentice brothers always play jokes on each other. If we don’t fool people, there would be no fun!”

“Even with apprentice sister Lingshan? You fool her too?” Yilin finally asked.

Linghu Chong had never thought about this before. He frowned and thought for a while. Throughout his life, he had never fooled her on important issues. So he said, “For important things, I will never fool her. If we were just playing together, then of course there would be some fooling and joking.”

In the White-Cloud Nunnery, Yilin’s Master did not laugh much and enforced every strict nunnery rules. The apprentice sisters also maintained cold emotionless expressions most of the time. Although fellow apprentices cared for each other, very seldom would one tell a joke, much less play jokes on each other. There were quite a few young and vivacious secular girl apprentices under Uncle-Master Dingjing and Uncle-Master Dingxian, but they rarely joked with the nun apprentices. She spent her entire childhood in loneliness and lived a quiet life. Other than breathing exercises and martial arts training, all she did was to drum on the wooden fish and read Buddhist scriptures. When she heard Linghu Chong talking about the fun among Huashan apprentices, she longed for it.

“It would be really fun if I could go with him to play at Mount Huashan,” she thought. Then she figured, “After all the major disturbances I caused this time, Master surely wouldn’t let me out again once we get back to the nunnery. Playing at Mount Huashan would only be wishful thinking. Even if I did go to Mount Huashan, he would be accompanying his little apprentice sister all the time. I don’t know anyone else, who’s going to keep me company?” A sudden sadness came over her; tears almost rolled down her cheeks.

Linghu Chong did not notice. He stared at the waterfall and said, “Little apprentice sister and I are working on a set of sword arts that will have moves working along with the falling water. Apprentice sister, do you know what the purpose is?”

“I don’t know.” Yilin shook her head. Her voice choked, but Linghu Chong didn’t notice that either.

“When we fight somebody,” he went on, “if he has a good level of inner energy, then the fierce inner energy is released along with his punches or weapon slashes. The inner energy, although invisible, will knock our swords away. When little apprentice sister and I practiced our sword skills in the waterfall, we assumed the power from the falling water to be the inner energy from the enemy, so we not only had to block the enemy’s energy attack, but also tried to redirect his own inner energy back at him.”

“So were you able to get it done?” seeing that Linghu Chong was in high spirits, Yilin asked.

“Nope! Nope!” Linghu Chong shook his head. “It’s so hard to create a new set of sword arts! And we couldn’t really create any new moves, just modifying some of the Huashan Sword Art moves we had learned from the Master to thrust in the waterfall. Even if we did come up with some kind of new ideas, they were just for fun; it would be useless in a real fight. Otherwise, why was I beat up so badly by Tian Boguang?” He made a short pause while moving his hands about slowly. “I just thought of another move!” he said happily. “After I recover from my wounds, I can try it out with little apprentice sister.”

“What’s the name of this set of sword arts of yours?” Yilin asked gently.

“I really didn’t want to have a new name for it, but little apprentice sister insisted on giving it one. She called it ‘Chong-Ling Sword Art,’ because it was created by both her and me,” Linghu Chong said with a smile.

“Chong-Ling Sword Art. Chong-Ling Sword Art. Hmm, in the name of the sword art, there’s your name and there’s her name too. When you pass it on to later generations, everyone will know it was…was created by the two of you.”

Linghu Chong laughed. “My little apprentice sister said that because she’s like a little child. With our incomplete understanding of martial arts, we are not qualified to create any sword arts. Don’t tell this to anyone else. If others hear about this, they’d be laughing their asses off!”

“Of course, I won’t tell anyone,” Yilin said. She stopped for a moment and then smiled. “Actually, others have already heard about how you created your own sword art.”

Linghu Chong was astounded. “Really? Did apprentice sister Lingshan tell others?” he asked.

“It was you who said it to Tian Boguang.” Yilin grinned. “Didn’t you say that you created a set of sword art thrusting at flies while sitting down?”

Linghu Chong burst into loud laughter. “I was making things up with him. You still remember that, huh?” When he laughed loudly, the muscles around the wound moved and he grimaced with discomfort.

“Oh no! It’s my entire fault! Your wounds are hurting again! Please don’t speak anymore. You need to rest quietly,” Yilin said.

Linghu Chong closed his eyes. But after only a short while, he opened them again. “I just thought the scenery here was better, but now that we’re by the waterfall, we can’t see the rainbow any more.”

“The waterfall has the beauty of a waterfall; the rainbow has the beauty of a rainbow,” Yilin said.

Linghu Chong nodded. “That’s absolutely right! There are no perfect things in the world. When one works so hard to go after something, once he gets it, it’s no big deal anymore, but the things he had in his hands would have been lost.”

“Big brother Linghu, what you just said has profound meaning behind them. It’s a pity that my understanding of Buddhism is too shallow, and could not understand the full extent of it. If my Master heard your words, she would be able to come up with a good explanation.”

“What profound meaning? What do I know? Hmm, I am tired!” Linghu Chong let out a sigh and then slowly closed his eyes. His breathing gradually slowed down and soon he fell asleep.

Yilin stayed by Linghu Chong’s side, and gently whisked a leafy branch to drive away mosquitoes and other bugs from him. After a couple of hours, she felt tired too, and almost fell asleep. But she suddenly thought, “When he wakes up later, he will definitely get hungry. There’s not much to eat around here. Why don’t I go get a couple more watermelons? They would help to rid our thirst and hunger.” So she strode back to the watermelon field and picked two more melons. Afraid that someone or wild animals might bother Linghu Chong while she was away, she rushed back. Only after she saw him sleeping soundly, did she relax and sat down quietly besides him.

Linghu Chong opened his eyes. “I thought you had gone back,” he said with a smile.

“Gone back?” Yilin was surprised.

“Aren’t your Master and apprentice sisters still looking for you? They must be worried,” Linghu Chong said.

Yilin hadn’t thought about that at all. Now hearing these words, she got worried. “When I see Master again later sometime, will she be angry at me?” she wondered.

“Apprentice sister, thank you for being my company for so long. You have already saved my life. You should really go back now,” Linghu Chong said.

“No!” Yilin shook her head. “How can I leave you out in the middle of nowhere by yourself, with no one to take care of you?”

“When you get back to Uncle-Master Liu’s house, you can tell my junior apprentice brothers in secret. Then they will come to take care of me.”

Yilin felt really sad. “So it’s really because he wants the company of his little apprentice sister, and the sooner I go get her the better,” She thought. Not able to suppress her sadness, she started weeping; teardrops started dripping down to the ground.

Seeing her cry, Linghu Chong was caught in surprise.

“Why…why are you crying? Are you afraid to get punished by your Master when you get back?” he asked.

Yilin shook her head.

“Oh, I see. You are afraid to bump into Tian Boguang again. Don’t be afraid, from now on, he will only run away from you as soon as you are in sight. He will never dare meet you again.” Linghu Chong said.

Yilin shook her head again and more teardrops fell down on the ground.

Linghu Chong was confused. “Well…err…my mistake. I apologize. Little apprentice sister, don’t get mad,” he pleaded.

Hearing his gentle words, Yilin felt better, but then she thought, “He said these words in such a soft-spoken and submissive way; obviously he was used to apologizing to his little apprentice sister, and now just blurted them out without thinking.” So she blubbered and stamped her feet on the ground.

“I am not your little apprentice sister. You…you…all you can remember is your little apprentice sister,” she complained.

After the words were blurted out, she immediately regretted it. “I am a nun, why am I saying things like this to him? That’s very inappropriate,” she thought. Her face flushed and she turned aside.

Linghu Chong looked at her. Her face was completely reddened while teardrops were still rolling down her cheeks. It was almost like a small red blossom by the waterfall, its petals sprinkled with drops of water, charming and delicate. “Wow, she is so pretty. Really no less than apprentice sister Lingshan,” he thought.

“You are much younger than I am. Our Five Mountains Sword Alliance is like same root different branches. We are all apprentice brothers and sisters. Of course you are my little apprentice sister, too. Tell me how I have offended you, will you?” he said softly.

“You did not offend me. I know you want me to leave so you don’t get mad at me and won’t have bad luck. You said it before: one sees a nun, one loses….” She didn’t even finish her sentence and just kept on sobbing.

Linghu Chong could not help but feel amused. “Aha, so she wants to get even with me for the Huiyan Wine House incident. Well, I admit I should apologize for that!” he thought.

“Linghu Chong was such a jerk and said so much nonsense. The other day in Huiyan Wine House, I said so many wrong things and offended your entire respectful school. I really should be punished!” He raised his hand and gave himself a couple of slaps in the face.

Yilin turned back in a hurry. “Don’t…don’t…I…don’t blame you. I…I just don’t want to bring you bad luck.”

“Very punishable!” Linghu Chong said, and slapped himself one more time.

“I am not angry now. Big brother Linghu, don’t…don’t beat yourself,” Yilin said in a hurry.

“You’re not angry anymore?” Linghu Chong asked. Yilin shook her head. “But you are not smiling at all. Isn’t that still being angry?” Linghu Chong said.

Yilin squeezed out a smile, but out of the blue, for no reasons, she felt greater sadness and could not help weeping again, so she turned away at once.

Linghu Chong suddenly let out a long sigh. Yilin slowly stopped weeping and asked quietly, “Why…why did you sigh?”

Linghu Chong laughed hard inwardly. “After all, she’s just a little girl, and is falling for this trick of mine too!” he thought. He had been Yue Lingshan’s companion ever since he was a child. Yue Lingshan would lose her temper now and then and stop talking to him no matter how he coaxed her. Regardless of what he said, she would not pay any attention. Then Linghu Chong would put on an act to arouse her curiosity, and then get her to come ask him. Yilin had never been at odds with anyone before, so of course it worked like a charm. In no time, she fell for his trick. Linghu Chong let out another long sigh and turned away silently.

“Big brother Linghu, did I get you upset? It was my fault, please don’t pay…pay any attention to it,” Yilin said.

“No, you didn’t get me upset,” Linghu Chong said.

Yilin could see his worried face, but had no idea that he was actually laughing loudly inwardly and had pretended the whole thing, so she got worried.

“I got you to hit yourself. Let me…let me hit myself to make it even.”

She raised her hand and slapped herself in the right cheek. Before she could slap herself again, Linghu Chong had sat up and gripped her wrist. But because of the body movement, his wound gave him a great pain, and he could not help it but groan.

“Ah, lie…lie down quickly. Don’t hurt your wounds,” Yilin said hurriedly. She helped him to lie down slowly while blaming herself, “Ah, I am so stupid. I cannot do anything right. Big brother Linghu, is it…hurting badly?”

Linghu Chong’s wound does hurt pretty badly. If it were in some other time, he would never admit it. But now he had an idea. “I’ll have to do such and such to get her smiling again.” He scowled and let out several snorts.

Yilin was very concerned. “Hopefully it won’t…won’t start bleeding again,” she murmured.

She felt his forehead with her hand and was pleased to find that he didn’t have a fever. After a few moments, she asked gently, “Are you feeling a bit better?”

“Still hurts badly,” Linghu Chong said.

Yilin pulled a long face and had no idea what to do.

“Wow, it hurts! I wish sixth…sixth apprentice brother were here,” Linghu Chong muttered.

“Why, he has special painkillers?” Yilin asked.

“Yeah! His mouth is the painkiller. I’ve been wounded pretty badly before, and was in terrible pain. Sixth apprentice brother is really good in telling jokes. When I listen to his jokes and laugh at them, I forget about the pain from my wounds completely. I really wish he were here. Ouch…woo…it really hurts…au…ouch!”

Yilin felt that she was in an awkward position. People under Master Dingyi wore a dry face everyday while reading Buddhist scriptures, praying to Buddha, and practicing martial arts. It was very rare in the White-Cloud Nunnery to actually hear any laughter. For her to tell a joke was almost against her nature. She thought, “Apprentice brother Lu Dayou is not here, and big brother Linghu wants to hear some jokes, I guess I’ll have to tell the jokes, but…but…I don’t know any joke.” A sudden idea popped into her head and she remembered something.

“Big brother Linghu, I don’t know how to tell jokes, but I’ve read a book of scripture in our Scripture Room that seemed to be interesting. It’s called the ‘Scripture of Hundred Parables.’ Have you read it before?”

Linghu Chong shook his head. “Nope. I never read any books, especially Buddhist scriptures.”

Yilin blushed slightly. “I am so stupid to ask such a foolish question. You are not a Buddhist; of course you don’t read Buddhist Scriptures.” She paused and then went on, “The book ‘Scripture of Hundred Parables’ was written by a great Indian monk named Gazena. There are many interesting stories in the book.”

“Great! I love interesting stories. Tell me some!” Linghu Chong encouraged her.

Yilin smiled as countless of stories flashed through her memory. “Ok, let me tell you the parable of the ‘Plough Breaking Head.’ A long time ago, there was this bald headed man. He was naturally bald, and didn’t have a single hair on his head. For some reason, he got into an argument with a farmer. The farmer had a plough in his hands, so he took the plough and struck at the bald man’s head. That blow broke the skin of the man’s head and it started bleeding, but the bald man only laughed and took the abuse without dodging. Bystanders felt it very strange and asked him why he didn’t dodge the attack but rather laughed at it. The bald man said with a big smile, ‘That farmer is so dumb that when he did not find any hair on my head, he thought it was a rock, and then proceeded to use his plough to break the rock. If I dodged, wouldn’t I be agreeing that he was the smart one?’”

Linghu Chong burst into loud laughter. “Wonderful story!” he exclaimed. “That bald man was a real character! Even if he has to lose his life taking a beating, he shouldn’t budge.”

Seeing Linghu Chong’s happy face, Yilin felt great contentment. “Let me tell you another one called the parable of the ‘Doctor Making Princess Grow Up’,” she said. “Once upon a time, a king had a daughter. The king was a very impatient man. Seeing that the princess was just a little baby, he really wanted her to grow up fast. One day, he called upon the royal doctor and ordered him to make a special kind of medicine for the princess, so that when the princess took the medicine, she would grow up immediately. The royal doctor said, ‘It is possible to make such special medicine, but to collect all the ingredients and to refine them would require a lot of work. Please let me take the princess home and work on the medicine immediately. I will try to get it done as fast as I can, but your majesty cannot press me.’ The king said, ‘Fine, I won’t press you.’ The royal doctor carried the princess back to his own home and then started reporting to the king everyday that he was working on getting the ingredients and refining them. Twelve years went by. The royal doctor then reported to the king, ‘I have finished making the special medicine and the princess took the medicine today.’ He brought the princess to the king. The king was very pleased to see that the little baby had grown into a slim and graceful young girl. He praised the royal doctor’s excellent skills since right after taking the special medicine his daughter did grow up. So he granted him great quantities of gold and jewels.”

Linghu Chong burst into loud laughter again. “You said the king was an impatient man,” he said, “but he was actually not impatient at all. Didn’t he wait twelve years? If I were the royal doctor, I only need one day to change the baby princess into a seventeen year old slim and graceful young girl princess.”

Yilin stared at Linghu Chong with her eyes wide open. “How would you manage to do that?” she asked.

Linghu Chong grinned. “Apply ‘Heavenly Connecting Glue’ dressing outside and take ‘White Cloud Bear Gallbladder Pills’ inside.”

“Those are medicines for cuts and bruises, how can they make one grow taller and older?” Yilin asked, laughing.

“That’s right. After I carry the baby princess back home, I’d get four tailors….”

“Why would you get four tailors?” Yilin was even more confused.

“For making new dresses, of course.” Linghu Chong replied. “I’d have them measure your size and make a set of royal gowns the same night. The second morning, after you put them on, with an exquisite phoenix coronet on your head, a silk skirt with a hundred flower patterns, and a pair of slippers embroidered with golden thread and decorated with pearls on your feet, you can gracefully walk into the palace. First you call his majesty three times, then bow down to salute while saying, ‘My royal father, after I took the royal doctor Linghu Chong’s magical medicine, I grew up in one single night.’ When the king sees such a beautiful and lovely princess, he will burst with so much joy that he would never bother to check if you were real or not. Then, I, the royal doctor Linghu Chong, would of course get a handsome reward!”

Yilin giggled uncontrollably while listening to Linghu Chong. When he finally finished, she laughed so hard that she had to bend down and could not straighten herself up. After laughing for a long while, she said, “You are definitely smarter than the royal doctor in the ‘Scripture of the Hundred Parables.’ Too bad that I…I am so ugly, and don’t look like a princess at all.”

“If you are ugly, then there is nobody who could call themselves pretty in this world. In all the ages, there must have been tens of thousands of princesses, but none can compare to you,” Linghu Chong said.

Yilin was overjoyed to hear him complementing her so earnestly. “Did you meet all those tens of thousands of princesses?” she asked with a smile.

“Of course! I checked them out one by one in my dreams,” Linghu Chong said.

“Hey, why do you always dream about princesses?” Yilin grinned.

Linghu Chong chuckled and said, “When one thinks too much….” He suddenly remembered that Yilin was only an innocent and artless young nun. By joking with him, she had already violated her vows, how could he still carry on with her without any consideration? When he thought of that, he immediately became serious and faked a yawn.

“Ah, big brother Linghu, you must be tired. You should close your eyes and nap for a while,” Yilin said.

“Yes! Your jokes really worked magic. My wounds are not hurting anymore,” Linghu Chong said.

He had wanted Yilin to tell jokes so she would stop crying and smile again. Now that she was smiling, his goal had been accomplished, so he slowly closed his eyes.

Yilin sat by his side and gently whisked the branch again to drive away bugs. The sound of croaking frog could be heard from streams in the distance almost like a sweet lullaby. Yilin started feeling fatigue. Her eyelids were getting heavier and heavier; she couldn’t keep her eyes open and finally dozed off into her own dream world.

In the dream, she wore the beautiful dress of a princess and walked into a magnificent palace. A handsome young man by her side held her hand, and he seemed to vaguely resemble Linghu Chong. Then the two of them started floating into the air and above the clouds. She just felt unspeakable joy and relaxation. Suddenly an old nun ran after them, scowling, with a sword in her hand. It was the Master! Yilin was shocked! She heard her Master yelling, “You dirty little swine, you not only didn’t follow the rules of the nunnery, but dared to be a princess, and mix yourself up with this loafer!” Master grabbed her arm while yelling and started pulling insistently. Instantly, everything fell into complete darkness. Linghu Chong disappeared, and Master also disappeared, leaving her falling through the heavy dark clouds. Yilin screamed in fear, “Big brother Linghu, big brother Linghu!” Her entire body became weak and she could move neither her arms nor her legs. Not able to struggle, she screamed more and suddenly found herself waking up from a nightmare and being stared at by Linghu Chong, his eyes wide open. Yilin blushed. “I…I…,” she mumbled shyly.

“Did you have a nightmare?” Linghu Chong asked.

Yilin’s face blushed again. “I am not sure.” Then with a quick glance, she found Linghu Chong having an unusual expression on his face; it seemed as though he was trying to control some severe pain.

“Your…your wounds are hurting badly?” she asked hurriedly.

“It’s no big deal,” Linghu Chong said, but his voice was shaking. Soon, big drops of sweat beaded on his forehead. Yilin could easily tell that he was in great pain.

Yilin was very worried and kept asking herself, “What should I do? What should I do?”

She took out a handkerchief and wiped the perspiration from his brow. When her little fingers brushed Linghu Chong’s forehead, it felt as if she had just touched a piece of burning coal. She once heard from her Master that when a person was wounded by knife or sword cuts and became feverish it would be very dangerous. Out of desperation, she started reciting Buddhist scriptures.

“For all living creatures, when trouble happens, if he calls Bodhisattva Guanyin’s name with absolute faith, then Bodhisattva Guanyin[7] would hear him and help him out of the trouble. If the one calling Bodhisattva Guanyin’s name were trapped in a big fire, fire would not be able to burn him, all because of the holy power of the Bodhisattva. If he were washed away by big waves, then when he calls Bodhisattva’s name, he would be drifting to a shallow spot….”

The scriptures were from the ‘Scripture of Magical Power from Bodhisattva Guanyin.’ At the beginning, her voice was still trembling, after a while, she gradually calmed down. Hearing Yilin’s melodious voice getting calmer and calmer, Linghu Chong could tell that she had full faith in the magic power of the scripture.

She continued, “If one were about to be murdered, and he calls Bodhisattva Guanyin’s name, the murderer’s knife and staff would fall into pieces, thus protecting him from danger. If demons came to bother people, one can call Bodhisattva Guanyin’s name, then the demons wouldn’t be able to see him, not mentioning hurting him. If one has shackles around his body, no matter whether he is guilty or not, if he calls Bodhisattva Guanyin’s name, then all shackles would break loose and fall to the ground, he can then be freed from the restrain….”

Linghu Chong felt his amusement grow at these words and eventually let out a chuckle.

“What…what’s so funny?” Yilin asked in surprise.

“If I had known that, I wouldn’t have to learn Kung Fu,” Linghu Chong quipped. “If a villain or my personal enemy wanted to kill me, all I…I would need to do is to call upon Bodhisattva Guanyin’s name and the villain’s knife would fall to pieces, and I would remain safe…safe and sound.”

“Big brother Linghu, don’t be disrespectful to the Bodhisattva,” Yilin remonstrated. “If I don’t recite the scriptures with my full heart and faith, it would not work.”

She went on, “If fierce beasts surrounded you and you were frightened by their sharp teeth and claws, you could call Bodhisattva Guanyin’s name, and all the beasts would quickly leave. When you see venomous serpents and scorpions, you can call Bodhisattva Guanyin’s name and praise her holy power, then they will go back to their lairs. When lightening and thunders strike the ground and hail and heavy rain start pouring down, one can call Bodhisattva Guanyin’s name and praise her holy power so that the bad weather would stop and disappear. For all living creatures, there are so many difficulties, but the holy and wonderful power from Bodhisattva Guanyin will help us get through all of them….”

Linghu Chong could hear the sincerity in her voice. Although her voice was low, she was really praying for help with all her heart and had full faith to Bodhisattva Guanyin. It seemed that she had opened her whole heart to the Bodhisattva and was supplicating and praying deep from her heart for the Bodhisattva to show her magical power and stop Linghu Chong from suffering. She was almost like saying, “Bodhisattva Guanyin, I beg you to take away all the pain and suffering from big brother Linghu and transfer all of it to me. You can change me into a swine, or send me to hell, but please alleviate big brother Linghu of his misery….”

Later on, Linghu Chong could no longer discern her words, only the sound of her praying, so sincere and earnest. Unbidden tears filled Linghu Chong’s eyes. He lost his parents when he was just a child. Master and Master-Wife took good care of him, but because he was always naughty and mischievous, they gave him more punishment than kind affection; among the fellow apprentices, every one respected the big apprentice brother, and dared not to go against his wishes. Little apprentice sister Lingshan was close to him, but had never shown such care and selfless affection that would accept all manner of misery in exchange for his safety and joy. Feelings of gratitude welled up in his chest; in his eyes, the little nun seemed to have a holy halo around her body.

Yilin’s prayers became softer and softer; in her vision, there seemed to be a real Bodhisattva Guanyin standing in front of her, waving a willow branch and spreading dew to help the needy and relieve the distressed. And every call to the Bodhisattva was a direct plea to ask for mercy for Linghu Chong. Linghu Chong’s heart was filled with gratitude and peace, and soon fell asleep to the gentle and faithful sound of the scriptures.