Chapter 5

Trouble Hits Smooth Road
Villain Strikes With Deadly Hand
Little City Catches Fire
Wicked Conspiracy Revealed in Dungeon

As soon as Zhuo Yi Hang stepped out of the room, the first sight he was met with was the sickly yellow colour of his grandfather’s face. At that time, his grandfather’s breathing had grown so faint that it was barely hanging by a thread. Zhuo Yi Hang hurriedly ordered his servants to carry his grandfather into the bedroom, but because the imperial emissaries were also present at that time, somebody needed to be there to attend to them. Therefore even though Zhuo Yi Hang’s heart was in a state of great turmoil, he had no choice but to remain behind. The head emissary was greatly alarmed and said apologetically, “The Emperor misses Old Master Zhuo so very much, but nobody could have predicted that just one edict would have brought so much sorrow to master Zhuo.” Zhuo Yi Hang asked, “What did the edict say? Can its contents be disclosed?” The two imperial emissaries and Zhuo Zhong Lian were officials that used to belong to the same palace hall, thus they were on fairly good terms with each other. Therefore they truthfully related to Zhuo Yi Hang the details of the Emperor’s sudden decision to recall Zhuo Zhong Lian back into the palace.

Because Emperor Shen Zong had previously placed his confidence in the wrong people, he ended up ordering the execution of Zhuo Yi Hang’s father Zhuo Ji Xian. Although the case was revoked and justice was reinstated afterwards so that Zhuo Ji Xian was further titled as the Vice Instructor of the Crown Prince, yet the Emperor’s guilt-ridden heart still remained to be unsettled. One day when he was conversing with the Grand Academician Fang Cong, Shen Zong suddenly thought of Zhuo Ji Xian’s father Zhuo Zhong Lian, and remarked with a long sigh, “Both father and son were such capable and honest officials. I wonder if Zhuo Zhong Lian would blame me [1] when he sees the Imperial Announcement? [2]” Fang Cong replied, “Zhuo Zhong Lian and his ancestors have been blessed under the palace’s care for generations, how could he possibly harbour any resentful blame? If your majesty misses him, the position for the Minister of the Personnel Department is vacant at the present moment, why not recall him back to the capital?” Shen Zong said, “You have read my mind, right now the palace is indeed in desperate need of experienced and knowledgeable officials who has the state’s best interest in mind.” Therefore he immediately wrote out an edict and then sent two imperial emissaries to personally deliver the edict to Shaanxi and bring Zhuo Zhong Lian back to the capital. Within the edict, there was mention of Zhuo Ji Xian being titled as the Vice Instructor of the Crown Prince. Shen Zong’s intentions were solely that of expressing gratitude towards his official, but he never would have guessed that Zhuo Zhong Lian haven’t even read the Imperial Announcement yet and would instead come across the news of his son’s death. Zhuo Zhong Lian was no longer able to withstand the shock as grief and sorrow overwhelmed his frail body that had barely recovered from his previous illnesses to begin with.

Their conversation was suddenly interrupted by sounds of crying coming from within the inner rooms. The imperial emissaries hurriedly insisted, “Honoured brother, do not worry about obliging us. Please give Old Master Zhuo our sincere respects.” Zhuo Yi Hang expressed his regrets and immediately ran into the inner room. All of his servants were in a state of confusion and turmoil for Zhuo Zhong Lian was on the brink of death. When he saw Zhuo Yi Hang come in, he beckoned with his hands while saying, “Come over here.” Zhuo Yi Hang ran towards his grandfather’s side and with tears in his eyes cried, “Grandpa, please forgive your grandson for being so unfilial.” Zhuo Zhong Lian mumbled brokenly, “From now on, you don’t have to take your state examinations. Stay at home to study and take care of the agricultural business instead.” Then with a convulsion of his two feet, Zhuo Zhong Lian stopped breathing. Zhuo Yi Hang burst into a tearful wail as his servants tried to console him by saying, “Old master lived past his sixtieth year and in the end died peacefully in his sleep. Please do not be too overly stricken with grief young master. The reverend emissaries are still outside. We should ask them to report to the Emperor while we start to arrange the funeral and burial ceremonies.” Zhuo Yi Hang forced off his tears and returned to the main hall to inform the emissaries who were also very sympathetic.

The emissaries spent the night at the Zhuo household and by the next day, the Zhuo family had already erected a memorial tablet while they placed the coffin in one of the West rooms. As Zhuo Zhong Lian’s co-patriots, the two emissaries lighted three sticks of incense in front of the tablet, paying their respects in a very solemn and reverential manner. Zhuo Yi Hang himself knelt by the floor, returning the courteous act by bowing his head as a sign of expressing his gratitude. The head emissary extended his hand to help him up while saying, “Honoured brother, please take care of yourself. We will return to the capital and report to the Emperor, and will most definitely try to secure a posthumous title for Old Master.” The housekeepers had already prepared the funds and resources for the emissaries return trip, and was just about to see them to the doors when Zhuo Yi Hang suddenly leaped up and cried out in a trembling voice, “Honoured Emissaries please remain behind!”

The Imperial Emissaries and housekeeper were all greatly taken back, for they all thought: Zhuo Yi Hang was a well-bred person who has always been very well-mannered. Why would he suddenly erupt into such an unrefined act of discourtesy? Jumping up so abruptly was already highly frowned upon, but to further order the imperial emissaries to remain behind was even more impertinent and ill-mannered. The housekeeper quickly stammered, “Young master, the Old master was glorified during his life and mourned after his death. Now the reverend Emissaries have come in person to pay their final respects, shouldn’t you quickly express your gratitude towards the gracious Emperor?” Zhuo Yi Hang took a brief moment to calm himself down before saying abruptly, “Honoured Emissaries, please accompany me inside to the inner rooms for a brief rest.” The housekeeper’s heart was palpitating so wildly that even his muscles were twitching, while the countenance of the Imperial Emissaries darkened with displeasure.

Zhuo Yi Hang led the two emissaries into the study while the housekeeper followed behind them. Upon arrival at the room, Zhuo Yi Hang turned to the housekeeper and ordered him to “Go outside and stay by the shrine” while he closed the door on him. The housekeeper was terribly worried as he couldn’t understand why his young master’s behaviour was so abnormal. Could it be that he was possessed by some kind of “demon”? But because he didn’t think it was proper to inquire further in front of the emissaries, he could only retreat outside while mumbling all the way, “May the heavenly lord protect us with your blessings.”

The two emissaries were both perplexed and suspicious, for they thought that Zhuo Yi Hang had wanted to beseech them for something. But because Zhuo was in the midst of conducting a funeral ceremony, they therefore felt that even if he was desirous to secure a position in the realm of officialdom, it can certainly wait until another time. After Zhuo had locked up the door to the room, he immediately asked in a hushed voice, “Honoured Emissaries, may I ask whether you are feeling any signs of discomfort or sickness?” The head emissary’s colour changed as he exclaimed, “Of course not!” The sub emissary said, “Honoured brother you have provided such excellent accommodations for us that even though our ages may indeed be old, yet our old bodies can still withstand a bit of toil from all this traveling around and bustling about. However esteemed brother, you on the other hand still have to complete the duties of filial piety, it is more important for you to take care and not be overly saddened so that you yourself won’t fall prey to sickness.” There were traces of sarcasm and scathing contempt in the words and tone of the emissary, but Zhuo Yi Hang continued, “Honoured emissaries, please pardon me for my brazenness, but while we were back in the hall I noticed that there appears to be an aberrant anomaly on the centre of Official Li’s right palm.”

The head emissary was surnamed Li, and when he heard these words he quickly flipped over his palms for a look. Immediately his countenance blanched, as his expression became one of panic and surprise for all over his palms was a rash of red bumps, much resembling a case of measles. The sub emissary was surnamed Zhou, and when he flipped over his hands for a look, he was also met with the same condition. Zhuo Yi Hang said, “I would like to ask the both of you to use your nail to tweak the bumps and see if there is any pain.” The two emissaries followed his instructions, and with the very long fingernails that ancient scholars were fond of leaving, they used their left hand’s index finger to stab at their right palm. Not only was there no pain whatsoever, but there was actually a bit of numbness. Zhuo Yi Hang continued, “Honoured emissaries, please use your fingers to lightly massage the seventh joint at the back of your neck and see what happens?” By that time, the two emissaries were under the full control of Zhuo Yi Hang’s words, as they became as compliant and obedient as little children. They each used their fingers to massage the seventh joint of the other person’s spine. With just a light application of pressure, they both screamed out in pain as they hurriedly cried out, “What does this mean? How did esteem brother know of this?”

With a sigh Zhuo Yi Hang said, “Honoured emissaries, I’m afraid that you’ve fallen prey to a furtive attack. These are the signs of the JiangHu world’s deadly Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds. [3] I was only able to notice it when Official Li extended his hands to help me up. It seems that the red spots have only recently begun to erupt, which is why honoured emissaries have not been able to notice it yet. After one has been injured by the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds, if that person does not receive treatment within 24 hours after exhibiting the first signs, I’m afraid that it will pose a threat to one’s life. Therefore your respectful minor had no choice other than to behave so discourteously in order that I may inform honoured officials of the situation.” It should be understood that in the feudal imperial dynasties, the imperial emissaries were a representation of the Emperor himself. If they did indeed die within the Zhuo household, not only would the whole Zhuo lineage be faced with the danger of confiscation and extermination, but even the high officials of the region will be dragged into the matter. The repercussions were so severe that even though Zhuo was in mourning, he had no choice but to personally handle this matter.

By now, the faces of the two emissaries have turned the colour of parched earth as they hurriedly pleaded, “Then I beseech you Brother Zhuo, please heal us!” Zhuo Yi Hang called in his housekeeper and told him to first isolate a vacant room. He then left orders that unless the closest relatives and friends of the household came to call, otherwise they were not to release news of the old master’s death to the public yet. When they were inside the vacant room, Zhuo then took out some gold needles and used them to penetrate into the “Ji Xin,” “Feng Wei” and “Jing Cu” acupoints of the emissaries’ bodies. The two emissaries immediately felt their stomach to fill up with gastric acid and then they both spitted out a mouthful of yellow fluid. Not long after, their whole body started to burn with heat. Zhuo Yi Hang said, “I am taking advantage of our early detection but I would like to ask honoured emissaries to please lie down for the time being for we still have to continue the treatment later tonight.” He then proceeded to collect his needles when he suddenly asked, “Who are the guards responsible for honoured emissaries’ safety? Can they be trusted?”

Emissary Li replied, “The Emperor sent us the imperial bodyguard, Commander Qin to accompany us on our trip outside the ImperialCity. This person is a descendant from a long lineage of imperial bodyguards and is a trusted servant of the Emperor. Furthermore, his character is honest and upright, there would be no reason for him to assassinate us.” Zhuo Yi Hang said, “Your unworthy brother I would still like to ask him to step inside for a few words.” Emissary Li said, “As you wish then” and therefore Zhuo Yi Hang sent his housekeeper to bring in the Commander Qin. This man was of average height and built, and though he looked to be quite kind, yet you could tell right away that he didn’t possess the brightest disposition.

Zhuo Yi Hang said to him, “I have long heard of your great name, it is a pleasure to meet you” as he extended his hand to shake Commander Qin’s hand. Commander Qin immediately jumped back for his wrist was suddenly overcome with an aching numbness. He looked over and discovered that the faces of the two emissaries were so red that it was as if they were being burned by fire as they laid on the bed with sweat pouring from their foreheads. He was severely taken back and shouted, “How dare you try to secretly attack the Imperial Emissaries?” and with a flip of his hands, he immediately attacked with his palm. Zhuo Yi Hang jumped out of the way while the two emissaries immediately ordered for them to halt. Zhuo Yi Hang said, “Forgive my rude behaviour Commander, but I was only trying to clear the suspicion for you. The emissaries have fallen under a furtive attack, but the person who attacked them was not me and it was you. I am hoping to have a word with you Commander.”

The Commander Qin was about as quick and sharp as a wooden chicken, thus it was only after Zhuo Yi Hang had finished speaking did he finally realize, “So you were just testing me?” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “I dare not. I only wanted to see whether Commander Qin knew the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds. But now I know that though Commander Qin’s martial art skills are superb, yet you’ve never practiced this deadly set of palms.” Commander Qin said with alarm, “What Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds?” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “The two honoured emissaries have fallen prey to the furtive attacks of these Venomous Palms.” Thus he led Commander Qin over to the sick bed to have a look, and outlined in detail the various symptoms of the Venomous Palms. Though in actuality, Commander Qin’s martial arts were not particularly skilled, yet he was still quite knowledgeable and therefore recognized that Zhuo Yi Hang’s words were not false. A cold sweat erupted all over his whole body as he immediately expressed his gratitude.

Zhuo Yi Hang explained, “The potency of the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds lies in the fact that it doesn’t kill immediately, but rather takes its effect gradually. Judging from their symptoms, it should be about three days ago when the honoured emissaries were secretly attacked. Commander, I’d like you to think carefully. Did you come across any suspicious looking people during the past few days?” Commander Qin silently muttered an “I’m so ashamed,” before lowering his head, lost in deep thought. Emissary Li suddenly asked, “Can it be the old man who served us tea?” Commander Qin has also thought to that as well for he immediately exclaimed, “At that time I also found him to be somewhat suspicious, but seeing that he was of such an old age and didn’t seem to be a person who was harbouring any powers, in my moment of carelessness, I actually let him go.”

Zhuo Yi Hang quickly inquired about the old man who served them tea. Emissary Li said, “Three days ago, we were taking shade under a tree beside the road, quite overcome with thirst. Suddenly, there was an old man who passed by while lugging around a big pail of cool tea. Coincidently, he happened to rest under the same tree’s shade. When we were talking, he told us that he was bringing tea to his family who were working on the farm. After talking to him for a while, he heard that we were headed for your mansion and said that he was one of your farmers, and even detailed for us the directions to your house. He was the one who offered a bowl of tea to the two of us, but Commander Qin didn’t drink any. When he handed us the bowl, he pressed his finger against my palm briefly, but at that time I didn’t take much notice.” Emissary Zhou added, “When he brought me tea, his finger also bumped against my palm.” Zhuo Yi Hang said, “That’s it then. Did he know that the two of you were emissaries?” Commander Qin said, “The bandits that were stationed along the Chuan-Shaan paths are as numerous as the strands of hair on a person’s head. Now that we have to journey through these roads, how could we possibly dare to display the status of our governmental positions?”

Zhuo Yi Hang did not say anything as he thought over their words, but the more he thought about it, the more terrified he became. This old man was obviously trying to bring blame onto his household. He thought to: If the emissaries had died from poisoning after immediately paying a visit to my house, then by that time, even all the waters of the Yellow River can’t wash my house from blame! While pondering over this matter, his servant suddenly came running while simultaneously calling with alarm, “Master, master!” Zhuo Yi Hang pushed open the doors of the room and scolded, “What’s wrong?” His servant replied, “There’s a young man outside whose face is bruised and swollen as if he has just been in a fight with others. He barged in, requesting to see you master. We told him that our household is in mourning and our master will not receive any guests. But he wouldn’t listen to us, and continued to force his way through. When we struck out to stop him, he only had to extend out his arm to block us and already all the people who advanced ended up falling backwards. We were just about to shoe him outside when he suddenly begged for forgiveness and said that he was in a hurry to see Master you, and was not intentionally trying to hurt us.”

Zhuo Yi Hang said, “Is that so?” and immediately asked to be excused from the emissaries before closing the room doors behind him and then ran out to the main reception hall. All that was seen was a person on the steps who loudly cried, “Brother Zhuo! Oh man, I’m so glad I made it to see you!” Upon a closer look, Zhuo Yi Hang discovered that it was Meng Can’s disciple Bai Min. Zhuo Yi Hang only saw him once in Beijing and had merely exchanged a few words with him. They could hardly be considered as acquaintances, thus Zhuo Yi Hang really could not understand why he would travel such great distances to come here and visit him.

Bai Min joined his hands together and bowed by kneeling to the floor and pleading, “Save me brother Zhuo!” Zhuo Yi Hang asked, “Brother Bai, what trouble are you in?” Bai Min replied, “I’m not in any trouble, but I’ve only been beaten up by a bunch of people for no reason, plus sustaining the attack of the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds on top of it all!” Zhuo Yi Hang was shocked, thinking “Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds again?” while he hurriedly took him into the inner rooms and asked him to explain in detail.

What had happened was that as soon as Bai Min received notice about Meng Can dying from his injuries, he immediately returned to discover that Wang Zhao Xi was his little martial art sister’s betrothed husband. When he saw what a young and promising hero Wang Zhao Xi was, in the midst of his great sorrow over his ShiFu’s sudden death, there was also joy in knowing that his martial arts sister will now have a worthy person to take care of her for the rest of her life. But he never would have expected that Wang Zhao Xi would suddenly disappear the next day without as much as a single word. Meng QiuXia cried and cried and cried, but regardless of how hard Bai Min tried to console her, his martial arts sister still would not say or respond to anything.

Having gotten to this part, Bai Min asked with a very clueless expression, “Brother Zhuo, you’re friends with brother Wang, tell me, what do you think made him act so strangely? He traveled so many miles just for the sole purpose of receiving his bride, now that he happened to come across his father-in-law’s death, regardless of what, he should act as half a son and organize the funeral proceedings. Why would he suddenly run away and leave everything behind, including his own wife? My martial arts sister is acting equally strange. It’s not my fault that brother Wang suddenly left! But she’s completely ignoring me, as if it was me who made him go away!” Zhuo Yi Hang was able to come up with a theory after just briefly analyzing over the situation. He was thinking to himself, “It really was because of you that he went away” while simultaneously consoling Bai Min, “It’s only a small misunderstanding. I’ll explain everything to brother Wang later and everything will be okay.” Bai Min asked, “Explain to him about what? I didn’t do him any wrong, and he’s done nothing to wrong me! There’s no need for you to explain anything to him. If you talk to him, he might actually laugh at us and think that there’s a petty squabble between us siblings. But in all honesty, we didn’t even have a fight! My sister herself even told me later that it wasn’t my fault, and then she also told me to go to sleep. So I listened to her and went to sleep, but when I woke up the next day, I found that even she’s left as well!”

Zhuo Yi Hang said, “What? She’s left as well?” Bai Min said, “Yeah! ShiFu has just been buried, and not only does she not stay home to mourn, but she actually goes out to run after her husband!” Zhuo Yi Hang asked, “How did you know that she went to look for Wang Zhao Xi?” Bai Min replied, “Because that’s what she said in the note that she left me! She also told me to stay home to keep company by ShiFu’s shrine for her, and that I was not to run around outside in case I cause any trouble.” Upon hearing these words, had Zhuo Yi Hang not been in mourning, he would have most likely been unable to hold back his laughter. He couldn’t believe how goofy and foolish this guy was, he was being misunderstood by others and yet he was completely clueless! Bai Min paused before continuing, “I was worried that my sister would come across danger traveling by herself, so even though she told me not to run around, I still had to come after her.” Having gotten to this part, he suddenly raised his hands.

The red measles on the center of his palm were visibly striking, causing Zhuo Yi Hang to ask, “Did you also come under attack three days ago?” Bai Min replied, “Yeah! When I arrived in the Western Shaan area, I realized that I didn’t know where Wang Zhao Xi lived. Your residence on the other hand is much easier to find. As soon as I asked about the Zhuo family who had once resided in the position of the Supreme Commander, many people knew where you lived. I thought that since it was so much easier to find you, you can most likely tell me where Wang lived.” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “Actually, I don’t know where he lives either.” Bai Min said, “Man! If only I knew that earlier! I wish I hadn’t come to find you because as soon as I arrived in Yan An City, I realized that there was somebody tailing me!”

Zhuo Yi Hang remarked, “That’s good that you kept your guard up.” Bai Min replied, “I still know a few things about the basic rules of survival in the JiangHu world. The day before yesterday I was passing by PanLong Shan [4] and everything was just fine and dandy when suddenly a pair of riders came up behind me and asked if I was going to see the GaoQiaoTown’s Zhuo family. When I said that I was, those two guys suddenly jumped down from their horses and started to attack me out of the blue for no reason!” Zhuo Yi Hang asked, “Really? So you lost to them?” Bai Min replied, “Man, those two stinkers were really tough. At first I could pull even with them in battle, but I eventually found it harder and harder to ward off their attacks. Standing behind them was an old man who didn’t lift a finger himself, but just stood there repeatedly saying, ‘I want him alive, not dead.’ I almost thought I was going to die from anger! So the execution of my fist attacks became more and more disorganized and more and more muddled because of this anger.”

Zhuo Yi Hang then asked, “So how did you manage to escape them in the end?” Bai Min replied, “During the beginning of this year, I went to the Tian Qiao [5] and saw a fortune teller who told me that because this was a year that was being ruled by my astrological house, many troubles will be coming along my way. But, I will be able to overcome these dangers every time and my perils will turn into providence.” Zhuo Yi Hang couldn’t stop himself from saying, “I’m asking you how you escaped the danger! Why are you suddenly talking about getting your fortune read at the Tian Qiao? What does that have to do with anything?” Bai Min replied, “But that fortune teller really did know what he was talking about. At that time, I was in great danger and was staring defeat straight in the face, but suddenly the sound of somebody’s cold laughter came from the direction of the PanLong Shan’s mountaintop. The sound of that laughter was extremely piercing to the ears, and the old man was suddenly heard to shout out, ‘Retreat quickly!’ The sounds of laughter and shouting were mixed together, and while the last sounds lingered in the air, that person was already seen to fly down from the top of the mountain. Like a shooting comet, that person ripped across the distance with the speed of a flying arrow and the two stinkers I fought with were immediately tossed aside as soon as they came into contact with that person. The old man who was giving the orders leaped forward, and in a flash delivered two palms my way. Just when I extended my palm to ward off that attack, somebody was suddenly heard to say in a low voice by my ear, ‘Move away!’ as a loud scream was immediately heard to come from the old man who has already been thrown backwards. Then after he picked up his two cronies, they immediately ran for their lives. It was only then that I was finally able to see that the person who had saved me was a beautiful young woman!”

A thought immediately struck Zhuo Yi Hang as he blurted out, “Yu Luo Cha!” Bai Min asked, “What Yu Luo Cha?” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “That woman’s name is Yu Luo Cha, she is a powerful bandit in the Southern Shaan area. Didn’t you know?” Bai Min said, “Oh, so she knows you! No wonder she told me to come find you. Well, back to the story: as the old man start running away, she didn’t chase after him but only remained behind and laughed while saying, ‘Your Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds is not too shabby. When do you want to get together for another fight?’ After the man had escaped a far distance, she suddenly grabbed my hand and flipped over my palm to study it. I asked her, ‘Hey, are you going to read my fortune too?’ She said, ‘Silly boy, who said I was reading your fortune? You’ve been injured by the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds.’ And then she took out a pill and told me to swallow it before saying, ‘I can only prevent your martial arts from degenerating by helping to preserve your central Qi. But I don’t know how to cure the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds. Hurry to Zhuo Yi Hang’s place, he’s the sole disciple of Wu Tang’s Purple Sun Taoist Priest. The old priest Purple Sun is experienced with curing these kinds of venomous poisons. Go now! Hurry!’”

Zhuo Yi Hang remarked, “No wonder your symptoms are so moderate! So it was Yu Luo Cha who used medication to preserve your central Qi.” To cure these kinds of venomous and deadly poisons was indeed the specialty of Wu Tang’s Purple Sun Taoist Priest. By studying under him during the last twelve years, Zhuo Yi Hang was able to inherit this skill as well. Therefore, he took out his golden needles and pierced the essential acupoints for Bai Min in order to relieve his poison and then helped him to resume his proper blood circulation. The operation was finally completed after quite a while of bustling about. By that time, Bai Min was already busy snoring away, lost in deep slumber.

When Zhuo Yi Hang went over to check on the emissaries, he found that they were also in the midst of sweet slumber. Thus Zhuo Yi Hang took a walk outside his house’s back garden along with the Commander Qin who had accompanied the emissaries on this trip and said to him, “If anything happens, you can take the honoured emissaries and escape out the side doors in the western corner. There will be a secluded path that leads straight to the top of the mountain.” Then Zhuo also walked him through the front and back portions of the mansion, making sure that he was familiar with the surroundings before returning inside. He then ordered his servants to first go inside the kitchen to heat up ten pots of boiling water and then bring Bai Min and the two emissaries inside the kitchen. He also ordered Commander Qin and an old servant to go inside the kitchen to take care of the patients, but this was only after they themselves have consumed some extremely cold medicine. [6] They were to take off all the patients’ clothes and then use the heated force from the water’s steam to expel the poison from within their bodies. When the doors were opened again after four hours, the old servant was so overwhelmed with heat that he almost fainted. Zhuo Yi Hang and Commander Qin helped the three patients into their clothes and brought them outside, they then fed them the freshly boiled ginseng extract that was made from the first grade ginseng. After massaging them for a while, they watched them fall into a deep sleep before finally leaving their side. Zhuo Yi Hang had bustled about for the whole day and by that time it was already midnight. An old servant came up to him and said, “Yan An City’s District Magistrate [7] sent someone over to call upon us, but because master you were busy at that time, we didn’t report to you.” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “Deliver a thank you card to them tomorrow. We will send them an obituary notice when we officially conduct the burial ceremonies.” In regards to such small matters, Zhuo Yi Hang really didn’t bother taking it to heart and therefore immediately went to bed instead.

By the next day, the two emissaries and Bai Min were already significantly more energized and could begin to consume some diluted congee. By dusk, aside from having not yet regained his full strength, Bai Min’s body had already recovered to functioning with the regularity of a healthy person. Zhuo Yi Hang spent some time chatting with him in the study, and found that his character was so kind and honest that he could converse with him quite naturally and without any restrictions. They were suddenly interrupted in the midst of their causal conversation by the noises coming from a crowd of horses and men that drifted in from outside. An old servant came in to report, “The prefecture’s military defence officer Wang has brought his men here and is asking to see you Master.” Zhuo Yi Hang’s eyebrows knitted together as he thought to himself: Grandpa is no longer an official, why must they persist in badgering us with bribery and string pulling? After issuing a command of “Bring them in,” he stepped foot outside the main reception hall only to find that the military defence officer Wang had already brought twenty or thirty men into the reception hall. Perplexed, Zhuo Yi Hang wondered to himself why this official was daring to be so rude. He originally thought that Officer Wang had brought his men here to service the Zhuo family, but never would he have expected Officer Wang to suddenly shout, “Zhuo Yi Hang you are under arrest!”

Zhuo Yi Hang asked, “What crimes am I guilty of?” Officer Wang retorted, “You’re committing the huge crime of harbouring a convicted criminal.” Zhuo Yi Hang shouted with anger, “My family has been governmental officials for generations! How dare you spew out such a load of garbage!” Officer Wang gave a cold laugh and said, “How dare you try to intimidate us with your powers and connections? Search his house!” His troops started to rush into the inner rooms while Zhuo Yi Hang shouted, “You dare disturb the Imperial emissaries?” Officer Wang gave a cold snicker and said, “I’ve received the orders of the imperial courts and would very much like to report to the emissaries.” The clanging and banging sounds of fighting was heard to come from the direction of the study. Zhuo Yi Hang shouted, “Brother Bai! Don’t fight with them! We’ll go to the courts of Yan An and reason with them!”

Officer Wang commanded his men to tie Zhuo Yi Hang up, causing Zhuo to be so infuriated that with a cold laugh, he placed his two hands on the rosewood table and with a press, caused the whole table to immediately flip over. Zhuo Yi Hang shouted, “I’ll go only if you reason civilly. But if you use brute force, I will only hurt you first and then worry about pleading guilty when I get to the capital.” The two soldiers standing beside Officer Wang gave a wink of their eyes and Officer Wang immediately got the hint and thus said, “Fine! Taking account of the fact that you’re the descendant of a high official, I’ll let you save some face!” Zhuo Yi Hang rushed ahead of Officer Wang, and charged straight into the inner rooms. Yet when he pushed open the doors, the two emissaries were nowhere to be found!

Zhuo Yi Hang was greatly taken back but immediately thought to himself: Can it be that they had run away because they thought the ruckus outside signalled the attack of bandits? Officer Wang came up behind him and laughed coldly while saying, “So where are the emissaries?” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “Let me go find them for you.” Officer Wang said, “The emissaries were already murdered by you, where are you going to find them?” A thought suddenly flashed across Zhuo Yi Hang’s mind as he suddenly whipped his head around and grasp out with his hand while yelling, “So you’re the scoundrel who’s committing those villainous acts!”

A soldier from behind officer Wang blazed forward and extended out his arms to ward off Zhuo before quickly transforming his stance into in a grappling attack. Through the exchange of that one stance, Zhuo Yi Hang and the soldier were equally matched. The man shouted, “First you murder the emissaries and now you dare to resist arrest?” Zhuo Yi Hang collected his thoughts briefly and said, “Fine, then we’ll bring this case to the royal courts!” The soldier took out shackles and barked, “You were still able to deny your guilt before because we didn’t have any solid proof. But now the emissaries are gone, what else do you have to say for yourself? There are laws in our country, and there’s no room for you to put on airs and make your own rules! Hurry and put these shackles on!” Zhuo Yi Hang’s countenance immediately changed colours, but just when he was about to resist arrest, he immediately thought to the fact that his grandfather and father were both high officials within the imperial palace. If he resisted arrest, then he would be willingly taking on the blame of a rebel, thus slandering and bringing shame onto his whole family’s legacy. Having thought to this, his hands started to lower unconsciously, leaving the soldier to cuff the manacles onto his wrists.

After all the commotion, the whole Zhuo household was left in an utter state of mayhem and chaos. All the old servants were crying and wailing as Zhuo Yi Hang said to them, “You don’t have to worry about me. The divine Emperor presides over the millions miles of land, he most definitely will clear this unjust charge for me.” But despite these words, when Zhuo Yi Hang thought to how his father ended up being wrongfully executed, he couldn’t help but be chilled to core of his heart. Zhuo Yi Hang was just able to leave orders for his housekeeper, “You have to take good care of the old master’s altar” before officer Wang urged, “Move!” and pushed Zhuo Yi Hang outside the main gates. Already waiting for him was Bai Min who had been brought outside after having been tightly bonded.

The troop of soldiers took away the two of them and traveled all throughout the whole night, so that by the time they arrived in the Yan An City it was already dawn. After waiting two hours, the courts rose for the trial. However, it was not the district magistrate for the Yan An City who resided in the position of the judge but instead, it was another official of the second rank [8] who sat in his place.

He questioned Zhuo Yi Hang first, “Your family has been blessed with the imperial court’s care for many generations. Why did you conspire with rebels to induce harm onto the imperial emissaries?” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “The emissaries were indeed attacked by somebody, but I was not that perpetrator.” The official asked, “Then who was it?” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “Officer, please give me one month’s time and I will personally bring the perpetrators who furtively attacked the emissaries to you.” The judge knocked his wooden gavel [9] and bellowed, “Rubbish! An imperial officer is not a three year old child who can be so easily deceived by your slick words that they will end up releasing you!” Zhuo Yi Hang said, “If I was intending to escape, I need not come here in the first place!” The judge knocked his wooden gavel again and said, “Then confess everything!” Zhuo Yi Hang retorted, “I have nothing to confess to.”

The Judge said, “You say that you didn’t bring any harm onto the imperial emissaries, but then how would you know who the true perpetrators were that harmed them?” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “I will reveal this only to the revered Emperor.” The presiding judge was enraged and shouted, “Am I not worthy enough to question you?” Zhuo Yi Hang remained silent and did not reply while the judge picked up a command stick and was just about to give orders for the administration of punishment on Zhuo, when for some reason he suddenly decided to hold back and commanded instead, “Bring forth the accomplice convict!” When the soldiers brought forth Bai Min, the Judge asked, “What is your name and where are you from?” Bai Min replied, “I’m Bai Min and I’m from Beijing.” The Judge asked, “You are the disciple of the Crown Prince’s Primary Martial Arts Instructor Meng Can, are you not?” Bai Min replied, “Yeah! You’ve heard of me?” The Judge slammed down his gavel again and said, “For what reasons did you travel these thousands of miles to arrive in Yan An? Confess now and don’t you dare hold anything back!” Bai Min raised his head up high and said, “A true man would never conceal his actions! I came to Yan An because I wanted to look for a friend. Is that illegal now?” The Judge asked, “Who are you looking for?” Bai Min loudly replied, “Wang Zhao Xi!” The Judge knocked his wooden gavel so hard that the sound reverberated to the heavens and shook the ground. The whole court ruptured into a loud murmur while the prefect of the Yan An City who was also present during the trial suddenly underwent a change of countenance.

The presiding judge told the recording clerk to write down the testimonial and hand it over to Bai Min before ordering him to sign his name. After Bai Min made sure that the recorded testimonial did not add in any false allegations, he immediately picked up the ink-brush and wrote his name without any deliberation. The presiding judge handed the testimonial over to Yan An’s district magistrate and smiled, “We’re finished here then.” He then gave a final knock with his wooden gavel and said to Zhuo Yi Hang, “Your accomplice has already confessed to all his crimes, are you not going to follow in his steps?” Zhuo Yi Hang was completely baffled as he asked, “What did he confess to?” Yan An’s prefect shouted, “Wang Zhao Xi and his father are the malicious bandits who terrorizes our city, everybody knows that!” Zhuo Yi Hang was greatly taken back and was left completely speechless. The presiding judge said, “The fact that you’re daring to conspire with such malicious bandits is already a severe crime.” Zhuo Yi Hang said, “Say whatever you will, I want to argue this case with you in the capital’s royal courts!” The judge ripped out into cold laughter and said, “Did you think you will still be going to the capital?” and told a prison guard to transport him to the prison cells. Zhuo Yi Hang was shocked and angry, while Bai Min who was standing beside him asked, “Is Wang Zhao Xi really a bandit?” Zhuo Yi Hang did not answer him, but his face was green with rage. Bai Min was incredibly devastated as he hurriedly said, “It’s all my fault!” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “It’s not your fault” while the prison guard barked, “Prisoners are not allowed to talk in private!” and thus separated the two of them into different cells.

Zhuo Yi Hang was put into a prison cell all by himself, but the cell was actually surprisingly tidy and clean, not at all resembling that of a typical prison cell. However, three days passed and he still did not receive a single visitor. Within his heart, he really hoped that his servants would come to visit him for he wanted them to go seek help from his grandfather’s students and friends. But three days passed and nobody came, not knowing whether it was because his servants didn’t have the courage to approach, or whether the courts were refusing them the rights to enter. It was only until the fourth day, did military defence officer Wang and the soldier who exchanged stances with Zhuo the other day suddenly arrive to take him out of the cell. They passed by room after room and weaved through corridor after corridor, walking quite a while before finally arriving at their destination. They promptly threw Zhuo inside the room and immediately locked up the doors behind him.

When Zhuo Yi Hang lifted his head, he saw that in the middle of the room stood a red-faced old man with the most dark and demonic glint in his eyes. He gestured for Zhuo Yi Hang to have a seat while saying with a sly smile, “The Crown Prince highly praises you.” Zhuo Yi Hang had absolutely no clue what was happening. The old man continued, “The divine Lord of a million years is old now and often ridden with illnesses. The Crown Prince will be ascending the throne very soon, but I’m afraid that he will still need to rely on the help of Eunuch Wei on many matters.” Zhuo Yi Hang’s face changed colours as he said, “I am a convict, if you want to say something then say it. What are you telling me all this for?” The old man thus said, “Eunuch Wei also highly praises you.” Zhuo Yi Hang retorted with anger, “Who cares for his praises?” The red faced old man praised, “You are quite the tough guy! But did you know that your life is now in our hands?” Zhuo Yi Hang laughed coldly and said, “What is it that you want?” The red faced old man suddenly asked, “You were old acquaintances with Zheng Hong Tai weren’t you?”

A thought suddenly flitted across Zhuo Yi Hang’s head as he asked, “So what?” The red faced old man continued, “What did he say to you before he died?” Zhuo Yi Hang retorted, “What are you talking about? I don’t know anything!” The red faced old man laughed and said, “Alright, let’s lay all our cards on the table. My name is Yun Yan Ping, have you heard of my name before?” Zhuo Yi Hang suddenly unleashed a loud roar while he immediately stretched his arms out to the sides and broke apart the manacles binding his hands. Then with a forward sweep of his palm, he shouted, “So you’re the traitor!” The red faced old man leaned backwards and kicked out with the tip of his foot, causing the stool to fly forward. All that was heard was a loud smashing sound as the stool splintered into a million pieces under the force of Zhuo Yi Hang’s palm. Yun Yan Ping then took down his belt and whipped it forward while laughing, “So I finally got it out of you didn’t I? Zhuo Yi Hang, are you going to confess now or what?”

You may be wondering why Zhuo Yi Hang would suddenly become so angry? Well, that day before Zheng Hong Tai died, he revealed the identity of five conspirators who were bribed by the Manchurians. There were three people amongst that list who were guards within the palace while the other two were bandits of the underground world. Amongst the guards who were listed as spies, there was one who was called Yun Yan Ping!

With a flex of his body, Zhuo Yi Hang attacked with his palms while Yun Yan Ping retaliated by slashing out with his belt and bringing forth a sudden gust of fierce winds. Zhuo Yi Hang struck out consecutively, but whether he swept from the side or hacked from the front, Yun Yan Ping’s movements still remained to be incredibly agile, as he dodged, attacked and navigated around the cell-like room with ease. The belt in his hand was wielded like a soft whip, and even after the duration of twenty, thirty stances, Zhuo Yi Hang was still unable to gain the lead by even a single stance. He suddenly thought to himself: since the situation has come to this point, then why don’t I just escape and then report to the Crown Prince myself? He increased the intensity of his strikes and bludgeoned forward with a few stances before suddenly turning around and with a loud “bang,” kicked open the room’s door. Yun Yan Ping shrieked with laughter and said, “Think you’re getting away from me? Dream on!”

With a huge leap, Zhuo Yi Hang attempted to flit by Yun when suddenly the room was filled with the chilling draft of a palm’s strike that was blasting towards Zhuo with full force. Zhuo Yi Hang slanted his body and slid over to the side, but just when he was about to retaliate with his palms, somebody suddenly flitted in and struck out with vermilion coloured palms, catching Zhuo completely off guard. Two palms were immediately thrown out, accompanied by gusting winds that tore through the room like a raging storm. Zhuo Yi Hang roared with anger, “Did you think I was afraid of your Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds?” and then by executing the “Five Men Demolishing Mountain Palms,” he hurtled palm after palm of raw force, staking his own life by undergoing the risk of mutual fatality. That man didn’t dare to intercept Zhuo’s palm attack directly, but instead targeted his palms towards Zhuo Yi Hang’s acupoint. Zhuo Yi Hang didn’t dare to sustain that palm attack with his body and since he couldn’t barge forward, he could only retreat back inside the room. With a twist of his belt, Yun Yan Ping was able to entwine Zhuo and then with a tug brought Zhuo Yi Hang crashing to the ground. The old man who used the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds immediately followed inside and closed the door behind him.

While standing guard by the door, the old man asked, “Brother Yun, were you able to get it out of him?” Yun Yan Ping replied, “The little rascal won’t confess the truth. Just finish him off with one of your palms brother Jin.” The old man surnamed Jin lifted his palm and prepared to smash it down against the back of Zhuo Yi Hang’s head. Zhuo Yi Hang did not show an ounce of fear but only said coldly, “Even if you kill me it won’t do you any good. After I die, my friends will go to the capital and request for an imperial trial. They will disclose the true identities of all of you and reveal your conspiracy.” A shock went through Yun Yan Ping’s body as he asked, “Are you talking about Yu Luo Cha?” Zhuo Yi Hang lifted his head and stared straight ahead, ignoring Yun’s question but all the while bearing a proud expression on his face.

The old man surnamed Jin said, “Oh really? You little squirt! I never expected that you would have the guts to make acquaintances with Yu Luo Cha.” Yun Yan Ping suddenly unleashed an evil cackle as he snickered, “It seems that this kid will come in very handy.” The old man surnamed Jin suddenly kicked out with his leg to impact on the “Wei Zhong acupoint” located on curve of Zhuo’s back leg. This acupoint was situated right in the juncture where the upper leg connected with the lower leg, and was one of the nine numbing acupoints of the human body. Zhuo Yi Hang immediately fainted and Yun Yan Ping then called in military officer Wang, ordering him to bring Zhuo back into the prison cell.

After Zhuo Yi Hang was taken away, Yun Yan Ping and the old man Jin looked at each other and smirked. But these two men were not the only traitors who were conspiring with the Manchurians, for Wei Zhong Xian also had associations with Manchuria. After Zheng Hong Tai’s death, Yue Ming Ke arrived at the capital and reported the secret of Zheng Hong Tai’s death to Military Commissioner Xiong. Xiong then brought this up during daily court, thereby disclosing the identity of the traitors. But Ming Shen Zong only laughed and labelled this report as “unsupported rumours,” thus ignoring the issue by setting it aside. The three palace guards were actually quite efficient in their methods of obtaining news, for the moment they caught a whiff of the brewing trouble, they immediately ran away. Therefore by the time Ming Shen Zong received news of the guards’ escape, despite his regrets, it was already too late to do anything.

Although the three guards did indeed escape out of the imperial palace, yet they remained within the capital for they were all acquaintances of Wei Zhong Xian. As for Zheng Hong Tai, his relationship with Wei Zhong Xian was relatively more removed, for through his communications with the Manchurian messenger he was only able to discover that the three guards were part of their group and was not aware of the fact that Wei Zhong Xian also had a part to play. Wei Zhong Xian himself knew that Zheng Hong Tai was a co-conspirator, but because the two of them has never mentioned this matter to each other, Wei Zhong Xian was never able to figure out whether Zheng Hong Tai was aware of his secret identity. Overcome with anxiety, Wei Zhong Xian decided to secretly send the three guards to the Shaan area. He also ordered another one of his trusted men who was an imperial official to arrive at the Yan An City and impersonate as an emissary in order to draw out the secret from Zhuo Yi Hang. But coincidently, the Emperor really did end up sending two emissaries over to Zhuo’s household for the proclamation of the imperial edict. Therefore, Wei Zhong Xian immediately devised the malicious plot of sending his two guards to kill the emissaries in secret so that they may slander blame onto the Zhuo household. By using this crime as an excuse, Wei Zhong Xian can then capture Zhuo Yi Hang and interrogate him in private.

Amongst these two imperial guards, there was one who was skilled in the “soft martial arts,” a skill that was secretly passed down from Tibetan Buddhist’s branch of martial arts. This was the Yun Yan Ping who used his waist belt to combat Zhuo Yi Hang earlier. When the practitioner of this “soft martial arts” has reached the pinnacle levels, they have the ability conquer the hardest forces by using the softest objects. Although Yun Yan Ping has not been able to reach the highest pinnacle of this skill yet, yet he has already captured the majority of its essence. The other man who used the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds was called Jin Qian Yan. His Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds had the ability to kill people within a crowd and still allow the perpetrator to escape undetected due to the fact that the first symptoms won’t start appearing until three days later and it is only after seven days would the victim die from its poison. This time, they had received Wei Zong Xian’s orders to furtively attack the imperial emissaries along the journey in order that they may charge the Zhuo household with this crime. But they never would have dreamed that Zhuo Yi Hang would actually be able to discover this plot and end up rescuing the emissaries. This incident ended up causing a series of secret and public feuds within the imperial courts, but this concerns a subsequent matter and will not be revealed presently.

Back to Zhuo Yi Hang who was becoming increasingly possessed by hatred after being brought back to the prison with his “Wei Zhong acupoint” sealed. Although his blood was boiling with rage, his whole aching body was numb and limp without a single shred of strength left in him. He secretly lamented to himself, “Crap!” for thought to how: the Manchurians have now bought out high officials, imperial guards and bandits of the underground world – this all concerns a very serious matter. I only know the identity of five traitors, but who knows how many more there are that I don’t know of? I must report to the Crown Prince immediately, but now that I’m imprisoned in this cell with nobody to save me, I must rely on my own powers to escape out of this place. The moment I get angry, my respiration and blood flow will not be able to circulate properly. Therefore, how can I release my sealed acupoint if I keep up this blind rage? Therefore his anger slowly dissipated as he sat down and meditated quietly, concentrating his attention as he generated his energy flow. Zhuo Yi Hang’s inner energies were originally well established, and after sitting for two hours he felt his Qi to have already circulated throughout his vital points and coursed through his whole body in order to release his sealed acupoint. He was just about to snap apart his manacles and break through the door to escape when he suddenly heard what sounded like noises of combat coming from afar.

Zhuo Yi Hang pressed his ear against the floor in order to hear more clearly and discovered that the sounds of combat were approaching closer and closer towards him. While he was still in the midst of his surprise, the dungeon doors suddenly blasted opened. Zhuo Yi Hang immediately stood up. Standing there was Yun Yan Ping with a evil grin filling his face as he slowly approached. Zhuo Yi Hang shouted, “What do you want?” Yun Yan Ping said, “Your good friend is here, why don’t I take you to her?” and before he could even finished these words, a loud thunderous boom was heard as the doors to the Prefecture office exploded, blasted apart by a cannon’s [10] fire. In the background, the glare coming from the flames can be seen to flare towards the skies. Yun Yan Ping’s face immediately changed colour and with a flip of his palms, he suddenly clamped down on Zhuo Yi Hang’s wrist.

Once the “Wei Zhong acupoint” has been sealed, it requires a minimum of twelve hours before it will automatically release itself. Therefore, thinking that everything was under control and within his grasp, Yun Yan Ping was not on his guard. Little did he expect that Zhuo Yi Hang would unleash a thunderous roar and then with a jolt of his arms, his handcuffs would fly out as his legs kicked out repeatedly, one foot coming after the other. Because Yun Yan Ping was caught off guard, he immediately sustained a kick to the knee and fell to the ground. But his martial arts were not of a low grade, and with just a roll on the ground he was able to escape Zhuo Yi Hang’s attack.

By the time he stood up, his belt was already in his hands, and with a forceful slash, the belt was then wielded like a soft whip as it sliced towards Zhuo Yi Hang’s waist area. Since Zhuo Yi Hang knew that backup help was outside, his spirit was completely rejuvenated. Wherever his body flitted to, he would execute a “Fingers striking across the Pipa” as he flipped his body over and attacked. With a whip of his belt, Yun Yan Ping attempted to entwine his opponent’s arms while Zhuo Yi Hang suddenly bent over backwards at the waist and transformed his palm strike into a fist punch. Every one of his punches whistled in the wind as each stance forcefully impacted forward, causing Yun Yan Ping to retract his belt and retreat a few steps.

Zhuo Yi Hang continued to advance forward with mad ferocity, throwing out punch after punch while Yun suddenly brought up his left palm to ward off Zhuo’s blows, taking advantage of the chance to immediately whip out with his belt. With a loud slap, Yun’s belt impact on the side of Zhuo’s body in the area under his arms. Zhuo Yi Hang pressed his arm against his body, holding Yun’s belt in place while simultaneously pulling backwards. But he was unable to pull Yun forward by even a single inch. Yun Yan Ping laughed coldly and with a whistling sound, his left palm slashed forward towards Zhuo, forcing him to have no other choice but to bring up his palms in order to counter the attack and thus freeing up Yun’s belt in the process. Yun’s belt was now free to swish around like an lithe snake, curling upwards to bind Zhuo’s upper arm and shoulder.

Because Zhuo Yi Hang’s upper right arm and shoulder was restrained, he could only use his left hand to ward off the attacks. But even though Zhuo Yi Hang had already used the “Pressure of a Thousand Pounds [11]” to stabilize his body, when Yun Yan Ping retracted his belt, the force pulling him back was so strong that Zhuo could barely keep his balance and was almost tugged down to the floor in the process. Just when he was struggling, sounds of footsteps was heard to approach as someone was suddenly heard to shout, “Brother Yun, they’re on to us, let’s go!” Yun Yan Ping’s face paled greatly, but he continued to exert force with his wrists in hopes of pulling Zhuo Yi Hang over so that they may then use him as a hostage. Suddenly, a series of laughter that chimed like silver bells drifted into the room. Although Zhuo Yi Hang was alarmed, he was similarly ecstatic at the same time as he cried out, “Yu Luo Cha!” Yun Yan Ping hurriedly loosened his grip and retracted the belt while immediately turning around to dash out of the dungeon.

Zhuo Yi Hang’s guess was right, the person who had directed an army to charge into the town was indeed Yu Luo Cha. After she had struck up an alliance pact with Wang Zhao Xi’s father Wang Jia Yin, she had originally intended to meet up with him in the Northern Shaan area. But her pact to duel with Ying Xiu Yang on the peak of Mountain Hua caused her to tarry this meeting for three-quarters of the year. This time, she brought along a few dozen female troops with her as she traveled towards WaYaoBao in order to meet up with Wang Jia Yin. But along the journey, she happened to save Bai Min’s life and afterwards, the more she thought over this incident, the more suspicious she got. She repeatedly thought to Zhuo Yi Hang and therefore sent someone into town in hopes of finding out some news. By the time she received news of Zhuo Yi Hang’s arrest, Wang Zhao Xi has also received the same news. He brought a troop along with him and handed them over to be directed and commanded by Yu Luo Cha. They then charged the city’s gates during the middle of the night, breaking through the gates in less than a two hour span and entering into the city to invade the prefecture’s building.

As soon as Yun Yan Ping charged out of the dungeon, the first thing he saw was Jin Qian Yan standing 30 feet ahead of him engaged in intense battle with a young girl. By that time, Jin Qian Yan was already in an extremely dangerous predicament for he was encased under the rays of the sword.

Yun Yan Ping hurriedly whipped out his belt and with a “Golden Dragon [12] Coiling Pillar,” tried to wrap his belt around Yu Luo Cha’s sword, hoping to use the soft force conquering hard force method to pull Yu Luo Cha’s sword to his hand. Yu Luo Cha smiled dazzlingly and with a side sweep of her sword, Yun Yan Ping immediately felt a pain struck at the area between his thumb and index finger. [13] He hurriedly loosened his grip only to discover that his belt had already been broken into two parts by Yu Luo Cha. It should be understood that this method of “conquering hard with soft” relies completely on the strength of one’s internal energies. Although Yun Yan Ping’s internal energies were above the likes of Zhuo Yi Hang, yet he was also inferior to Yu Luo Cha. Therefore, to use this “conquering hard with soft” method on Zhuo Yi Hang may be feasible, but when used on Yu Luo Cha, it was useless.

Jin Qian Yan took advantage of the fact that Yu Luo Cha was battling Yun Yan Ping by spreading out his palms and attacking Yu Luo Cha’s shoulders. Yu Luo Cha’s stances were unbelievably fast and after tearing apart Yun Yan Ping’s belt with just one swipe, she followed with a rotating kick of her legs. Immediately, cold lighting flashed as the thick Qi emanating from her sword’s blade filled the air as Yu Luo Cha’s blade arrived at Jin Qian Yan’s throat. Jin Qian Yan became so petrified that even his soul was about flee from his body, thus he immediately ceased his attack and devoted all his attention to defending instead. Although Jin Qian Yan’s palm attacks were deadly, yet Yu Luo Cha’s sword skills were so lethal and merciless that Jin Qian Yan couldn’t even approach her. If Yu Luo Cha hadn’t been slightly restricted due to the fact that she was harbouring a little caution, Jin Qian Yan would most definitely have been obliterated a long time ago. Yun Yan Ping took a deep breath of cold air and realized that since things have gotten to this point, there was no way that he could escape and therefore was left with no other choice but to fight. Thus he attack from the side and used the 18 grappling palm stances in attempts to counter the enemy and save his acquaintance. Although they were already giving it their all as they combined the power of two people and battled for their lives, yet the fact still remained that they were residing in the position of the losing side.

The moment Zhuo Yi Hang stepped outside and saw that Yu Luo Cha was engaged in battle with two powerful fighters, he immediately prepared to help out by entering into combat. But Yu Luo Cha called out, “Go to the back and help Wang Zhao Xi, these two clowns are no match for me!” Zhuo Yi Hang was experienced enough to discern with just one glance that Yu Luo Cha’s words were indeed true, therefore he ran towards another corridor and was immediately met with the sounds of slaughter that were shocking the peace of the still night. In the corridor stood two men who were engaged in battle while simultaneously in flight and the man who was running ahead was none other than Wang Zhao Xi. Wang was brewing up a storm with the force of his sword stances, but his opponent’s skills were not bad either as he used his sword to block towards the left and impede attacks from the right, attacking while simultaneously defending. The match was evenly tied between the fighters.

The man who was fighting with Wang Zhao Xi was the same man who had accompanied Officer Wang to arrest Zhuo Yi Hang a few days ago. Zhuo Yi Hang’s anger flared up the moment he laid eyes on the man and immediately pounced towards him. The back of Zhuo’s fists swept outwards to the left and right sides respectively and with a “Gold-shattering hands, double-hanging fists,” he attacked the two “Tai Yan acupoints” on his opponent. That soldier was originally the number one warrior under the governor of ShaanGan, and although his martial arts were not bad yet how could he possibly withstand the combined attack of two skilled fighters? Therefore he managed to dodge Zhuo Yi Hang’s punches, but was unable to escape Wang Zhao Xi’s sword. As soon as he evaded Zhuo’s attack by moving his shoulders to the side, Wang Zhao Xi’s sword had already pierced into the “Tian Zhu acupoint” located on his shoulder blade before he even had time to turn around. His life was ended there immediately.

Wang Zhao Xi said, “Brother Zhuo, your unworthy brother has arrived much too late, causing you to suffer for much too long!” Zhuo Yi Hang nodded his head but remained silent. Judging from the current situation, Zhuo Yi Hang finally accepted the fact that Wang Zhao Xi really was a powerful bandit of the Northern ShaanXi area. Wang Zhao Xi continued, “Let’s go watch how Heroine Lian finishes off those two crooked villains.” Although Zhuo Yi Hang was not willing to associate with bandits, yet he could still differentiate between what was right and what was wrong. Since others have risked their lives by coming here to rescue him, he most definitely could not leave with just a wave of his hands. Therefore he could only follow Wang Zhao Xi as they walked towards the other corridor where Yu Luo Cha was dominating the scene.

Under the shimmer of her sword’s radiation, when one observed the battle from afar, one was almost unable to differentiate the identities of the different fighters. Wang Zhao Xi praised, “Yu Luo Cha really is amazing. These two crooks will soon be facing complete annihilation!” The moment he finished his words, a sweet sounding voice was suddenly heard to say, “I doubt that!” Wang Zhao Xi’s countenance immediately changed colours as a figure suddenly sprung down from the eaves of the corridor. It was a young girl whose face was concealed by a cloth. But judging from her voice and figure, she seemed to be even younger than Yu Luo Cha by a few years!

Wang Zhao Xi cried, “What are you doing here?” The masked young girl said, “You came! So why couldn’t I? Hey, someone’s waiting for you. Let me go cross swords with Yu Luo Cha first, I’ll come back and talk with ya later.” Zhuo Yi Hang asked, “Who is that? Is that your friend brother Wang?” Wang Zhao Xi looked embarrassed and said, “You can say that we’re acquaintances” and immediately chased after her.

Yu Luo Cha was currently engaged in the midst of an intense battle with Yun Yan Ping and Jin Qian Yan, but her sword’s force was lighting up the night like a rainbow, where each and every single metamorphosis executed under her sword was mystifying and unimaginable. Though Jin Qian Yan knew the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds, yet he couldn’t even touch the corners of Yu Luo Cha’s clothes. All he could manage to do was to shrink the size of the combat ring and exert all his powers into self-defence. Yu Luo Cha’s every stance was insistent and menacing, its force was as overwhelming as the billowing cold waves and high tides that rushed towards shore. After fighting a little longer, the two men found that even self-defence was proving to be an increasingly difficult task. But just when Yu Luo Cha was about to finish them off with her final move, she suddenly heard the sound of a blade slicing through the air come up from behind. With a back sweep of her sword, a loud ringing sound rang out accompanied by sparks that shot out like fireworks. Yet surprisingly, her attacker actually managed to not let her sword fly out of their hand!

Yu Luo Cha was slightly taken back as she turned around for a look only to discover that it was a masked young girl. She shouted, “Are you trying to get yourself killed?” while the young girl replied, “Everyone boasts of how great your swordsmanship is, I want to witness it for myself.” Yu Luo Cha thus retorted, “Fine, take a good and close look then!” and with a whirl of her sword’s handle, her blade twisted around a semi-arch and sliced towards her opponent’s heart. The young girl swept her sword to impede and by rushing forward with all her strength, she was actually able to block off Yu Luo Cha’s stance!

Yun Yan Ping and Jin Qian Yan both breathed a sigh of relief as they immediately leaped up onto the roof. Yu Luo Cha shouted, “Wang Zhao Xi stop them! I’ll be there right away!” Wang Zhao Xi’s toes tapped on the floor as he pounced onto the roof to chase after them, all the while calling out, “Heroine Lian, please have mercy on her!” Zhuo Yi Hang knew that Yun and Jin’s martial arts were above Wang Zhao Xi’s, therefore after a slight hesitation and one last look, he also chased after them.

Yu Luo Cha had originally thought that she would be able to wound the masked girl within three stances, but she never expected that all three of her stances would be warded off by the young girl. Listening to the sounds of combat on the roof drift further and further away, she couldn’t help but be greatly angered.

In order to ward off these last three deadly stances that Yu Luo Cha has executed, the young girl had to exert every ounce of strength she had, drawing out even the primordial energy left from her su*ckling days. She now realized that Yu Luo Cha’s swordsmanship was truly far above her own, and after throwing out another stab, she immediately retracted her sword and attempted to escape. Yu Luo Cha laughed and said, “Oh, so the little puppet actually dares to fight back huh?” Although there were traces of a smile on Yu Luo Cha’s face, yet there was really resentful anger within her heart. With two slashes of her sword, Yu Luo Cha forced the young girl to dance around in circles, giving her no chances of escaping.

The young girl cried out, “Since I’m not your match, I can only admit to defeat. Why won’t you let me go?” Yu Luo Cha retorted, “Even admitting to defeat is not good enough!” The masked girl said, “If you have the guts, I dare to you follow me and go face up to my papa instead!” Yu Luo Cha replied, “I’m going to face off against you first!” Her sword swiped out and the young girl immediately felt a thick and chilly draft envelop her as Yu Luo Cha’s sword swished and slashed about in front of her face. After a startled scream, her face shield was peeled off by Yu Luo Cha’s sword and it was then that Yu Luo Cha discovered that she was actually an attractive young girl. Thus she said, “Fine, I won’t kill you, but I’m going to leave my mark on your face instead!” and then immediately pierced forward, about to leave a scar on the young girl’s face.

When the young girl heard these words, she was so terrified that in the midst of her anxiety, she flipped up her dark steel sword and pierced upwards from bottom to top, striking against Yu Luo Cha’s sword. Then with a sudden slide of her blade, what was originally a stance that was obviously attacking towards the left suddenly switched directions halfway to attack towards the right side, piercing towards the “Jiang Tai acupoint” located on the left side of Yu Luo Cha’s chest. Yu Luo Cha was suddenly dumbfounded, while the young girl took the opportunity to leap up onto the roof. Yu Luo Cha screamed out, “Where did you learn those sword stances?” as she chased after her.

Back to Wang Zhao Xi and Zhuo Yi Hang who had followed Yu Luo Cha’s orders and were now chasing after the two villains. But they waited and waited, yet Yu Luo Cha was still nowhere to be seen. Since the martial arts of Yun and Jin were above Zhuo and Wang, after the four people have combated with each other for a dozen or so stances, Wang Zhao Xi and Zhuo Yi Hang were already forced to the point of where they only had the ability to defend themselves and not to attack. Jin Qian Yan and Yun Yan Ping were only concerned with escaping and had no intentions of dallying in battle, therefore as soon as they took over the position of the attacker, they quickly faked an attack and then immediately turned around to escape. Wang Zhao Xi asked, “Do we chase after them?” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “Yes! These two people have sold out their country to act as Manchurian spies!” At that time, Wang Zhao Xi’s men have already set fire on the prefecture building, its roaring flames were blazing towards the skies as heavy smog and thick smoke filled the air. By the time that Zhuo Yi Hang and Wang Zhao Xi chased to the outside of the prefecture building, they could no longer find any traces of the two villains.

Zhuo Yi Hang surveyed all four directions with his sword ready in his hand when suddenly a white flash shot out from amongst the smog and zipped right past him with a loud whooshing sound. It was the young masked girl they saw a moment ago, except her mask was now uncovered and she had sneaked out from amongst the smoke and smog. Another whoosh immediately followed, as another white bolt shot out again from amongst the smoke. Wang Zhao Xi cried, “Heroine Lian, the two crooks have escaped. Why don’t the three of us split up into two groups and chase after them?” Yu Luo Cha replied, “It’s more important to chase after that little kid!” Zhuo Yi Hang insisted, “Those two people are conspiring with the Manchurians, it’s much more important to chase after them!” Yu Luo Cha immediately shot forward while stating with determination, “I said it’s more important to chase after that little doll!” Wang Zhao Xi had no other choice and could only along with Zhuo Yi Hang, chase after Yu Luo Cha. Although Zhuo Yi Hang could not comprehend Yu Luo Cha’s actions, yet he was extremely displeased for he felt that Yu Luo Cha was completely disregarding the weight between important and minor matters by letting the big crooks run away in order that she may chase after a young girl instead.

You’re probably wondering why Yu Luo Cha was acting this way? Well, the very last stance that the masked young girl executed was a stance taken out from the exclusive school of sword art that was created by Yu Luo Cha’s ShiFu. Yu Luo Cha has accompanied by her ShiFu’s side since she was a young child. They lived together in the ancient cave, not only practicing martial arts together, but also relying and leaning on each other for support. Thus Yu Luo Cha was absolutely certain that her ShiFu did not take any other disciples. That was why she was so shaken when she saw the masked girl execute that stance, for within her heart she was worried that it was Yue Ming Ke and Zhuo Yi Hang who had taken her sword manual and then secretly passed it off to others afterwards. That day Yu Luo Cha left in a huff after she tied Yue Ming Ke in their sword fight, but when she thought over her actions more carefully afterwards, she truly regretted them. She returned to the cave and searched around, yet not only could she not find the sword manual, but even the sword stances that were carved onto the walls have been abolished. Yu Luo Cha thus silently made a vow to herself that she will retrieve and bring back her ShiFu’s sword manual. Therefore, having just seen with her own eyes the masked girl executing the exclusive sword stances of her school, how could she possibly not chase after her with haste?

The young girl ran ahead of them while Yu Luo Cha, Zhuo Yi Hang and Wang Zhao Xi trailed tightly behind her. After a while, Yu Luo Cha had already caught up to the young girl while Wang Zhao Xi and Zhuo Yi Hang were left behind. Probably due to the fact that she was being pursued so urgently, the young girl started to scream loudly, “Papa!” Yu Luo Cha slowed down slightly and laughed, “Alright, I’ll wait till I see your father before I question you.”

By that time, they have already arrived at the foot of the QingFeng mountain located outside the city gates. The young girl was screaming for her father all the while as she was running up the mountain, but Yu Luo Cha stuck to her like a shadow. Yu Luo Cha’s sword swayed back and forth as she followed closely behind, while the tip of her blade would constantly arrive at the back of the young girl time after time. The young girl was terror stricken and petrified, but whether she dodged to the left or ducked to the right, she was still unable to escape. Meanwhile Yu Luo Cha was like a nimble cat toying with her mouse, enjoying herself tremendously while “playing” with this toy. Yu Luo Cha’s mischievous and playful laughter rang out incessantly while the young girl was so terrified now that she had started to shriek hysterically. The sounds of laughing and shrieking mixed together and rang throughout the night. Suddenly, the young girl tripped forward and screamed, “Papa!” as a strange whistling sound came from the mid section of the mountain.

When Yu Luo Cha retracted her sword and observed closely, all she could see was a grey flash hurtling straight down towards them like a shooting comet and blazing meteor, truly arriving with the speed of sound. Yu Luo Cha jumped a few steps to the side and immediately saw a tall old man with a nose like an eagle and a jaw resembling a lion. A bristly beard filled the lower half of his face to finish off a most unattractive appearance. He roared loudly, “Who dares to pick on my daughter?!” The young girl’s face was streaked with tears as she quickly ran up to hide behind the old man while saying with a pampered pout, “Papa! Rip out the eyes of that thieving wench for me!”

With a cold laugh, Yu Luo Cha pointed with her long sword and said, “Return my sword manual to me right away old bandit!” The old man paused briefly and growled in a low voice, “What sword manual?” The young girl sobbed, “Papa, that thieving wench is accusing me of being a thief! But when did I ever set eyes upon her so called sword manual? She kept on pressing her sword against my back earlier, she’s obviously intent on picking on me! Papa, you have to gouge out her eyes for me!”

The young girl was repeatedly insulting Yu Luo Cha by calling her a “thieving wench,” causing Yu Luo Cha’s blood to really boil with anger. Though the smile on her face has not yet disappeared, yet the sword in her hand had already pierced out! The old man uttered a “Hey!” and retreated three steps as he pushed the young girl away with his palm while saying, “Stand on top of that crag for now. Don’t you dare help out, I saw everything that just happened.”

When Yu Luo Cha did not succeed with her first stab, her second and third stance immediately pierced out in sequential fashion. The old man ripped out with an angry roar as his body soared up, the fingers on his left hand thrusting out like lances, piercing straight for Yu Luo Cha’s eyes. His right palm swept out like a sabre, chopping towards the lower part of Yu Luo Cha’s legs. His two hands were placed respectively at the top and bottom, a form resembling the Yue [14] family’s “Rafter propping hands.” But when compared to the authentic “Rafter propping hands,” the dynamic force of this man’s palms was even more powerful! Yu Luo Cha had already struck out and could not retract her stance in time, therefore with a sink and charge of her body, she immediately executed the “Sparrow gliding through clouds” supreme levitation skill in order to soar up thirty feet into the air without using the help of any objects. She twisted a full circle in mid-air to land on top of a large stone crag located on the median point of the mountain.

The old man immediately followed by jumping up and shouting with rage, “Never in my life have I encountered anybody who dares to issue a challenge to my face, how dare you be so rude? What is the name of your ShiFu?” Yu Luo Cha’s expression changed ever so slightly as she immediately ripped out into laughter and said, “Never in my life have I met anybody who dared to scream and shout in my face. What is the name of your ShiFu?”

The old man was a wandering martial arts master who possessed rare abilities, and it is true that within his life, he really has remained undefeated. He asked Yu Luo Cha about her ShiFu and school of martial arts by assuming the status of an senior and elder, but little did he think that such a young girl like Yu Luo Cha would also dare to demand him for the background of his ShiFu and school, treating him like a junior and student. The old man was so angry that even his beard and eyebrows were rippling with fury as he thundered, “You pompous little runt! Answer to my palm!” Yu Luo Cha smiled faintly before suddenly diving down from the top of the crag.

Such is: The Demoness faces off against the Old Freak, the champion determined through the sword and palm.

 

 

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[1] “me”: The actual term used in the original novel was actually “Zhen” (literally means “I/me”) which is a term that is solely reserved for the Emperors’ use.

[2] “Imperial Announcement”: the original term is “Di Chao” which is sometimes also known as “Di Bao” (“Bao” can literally translate as “announcement/newsletter/paper”). The Imperial Announcements basically served the purpose of a periodical newsletter that is delivered to the major officials in order to detail the recent decisions and major events of the imperial courts.

[3] “Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds”: The original title of this martial art was actually “Yin feng du sha zhang” which should literally translate as something like: “Palms of the Yin Winds and Venomous pellets/grains/sand.” But because this martial art is mentioned quite often, the translator has decided to shorten the title in order to bring about a better linguistic flow.

[4] PanLong Shan: translated as CoilingDragonMountain.

[5] TianQiao: translated as Bridge of Heaven

[6] Cold medicine: refers to the temperature characteristics of the herbs. Herbs can be classified into “hot,” “neutral” or “cool” categories that will have an influence on the Yin and Yang patterns of the body.

[7] “District Magistrate”: low-ranking officers/prefects who were responsible for the supervising a district.

[8] “official of second rank”: the imperial system assigned their civil officials ranks so as to designate their importance and power. There are officially 9 ranks, but because often each rank will be separated into various classes, there are actually 30 grades in total. The 9th rank is the smallest, while the 1st rank represents the highest grade.

[9] “wooden gavel”: Though I used the word “gavel,” the actual object used by Chinese imperial judges to silence the courts, or add emphasis should look more like a small block/slab of wood rather than the hammer or mallet-like object as used by western courts.

[10] “Cannon’s”: The term that was used in the novel was “tu pao” which literally translates as “earth cannon.” I’m not exactly sure whether these cannons were any different in size and power when compared to the larger cannons we typically see, but the following link shows a picture of a cannon from the Ming dynasty (1368): External Link

[11] “Pounds”: The term used in the novel was “Jin” which when translated correctly should be “Catty” which equals to approximately 1.1 pounds. Therefore, I’ve opted to use the word Pounds instead of Catty.

[12] “Golden Dragon”: The literal translation should be “Golden SCALY dragon”

[13] “the area between his thumb and index finger”: The original term is “hu kou” which literally translates as “Tiger’s mouth.” This area should be the muscle/flesh part situated between the thumb and index finger, which should be analogous to the group of “abductor pollicis” muscles in the hand.

[14] “Yue” Referring to Yue Fei, the Song Dynasty general whom as legend has it, was the founder of various different and important styles of martial arts.