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A Deadly Secret by Jin Yong


A Deadly Secret, also translated as Requiem of Ling Sing and Secret of the Linked Cities, is a wuxia novel by Jin Yong (Louis Cha).

The story revolves around the adventures of the protagonist Di Yun, an ordinary young peasant, who is imprisoned after being framed. In his quest for vengeance, he accidentally acquires the Liancheng Swordplay manual, an ancient artefact not only prized for the skills detailed inside, but also for containing a secret leading to a treasure.

A Deadly Secret

Chapter 1 The Countrymen Enter the City

Tuo! Tuo Tuo Tuo! Tuo! Tuo Tuo!

Two wooden swords clashed with intense force, emitting rattling sounds. Sometimes there were intermissions between collisions, while other times the swords collided quite fiercely.

This was the village of Maxi located in the Yuanling province in Western Hunan. On the field outside a three-room cottage, a young man and woman were practicing their sword skills. In front of the cottage, an old man was sitting on a small stool, biting on a very thin tobacco pipe while weaving straw sandals with his hands. Occasionally, he would look up at the young pair fighting and give a faint smile of acknowledgment. The sunlight illuminated the pale grey smoke exhaled from his mouth. The old man had a head full of white hair; his face was quite wrinkled, but whenever he exhaled a breath of smoke, his eyes would be filled with energy. In fact, he wasn’t really that old, no more than 50 years of age.

The girl was about 17 or 18 years old. She had a round face and big black eyes. When she felt tired and sweat filled her forehead, there would be a streak of sweat streaming down her left cheek and flowing down her neck. She would wipe off the sweat with her left sleeve. Her cheeks were red like a string of red peppers hung under the eaves of a cottage. The young man she was sparring with was about two or three years older than her; his face was long and dark, his cheekbone was high, and he had rough hands and big feet. Although he was a typical peasant in the countryside, the wooden sword in his hand was handled quite dexterously.

Suddenly, the young man slashed downwards from the left, retreated slightly, and unleashed a direct strike with his sword. The young girl avoided the attack by lowering her head, but the sword kept thrusting at her with strong and rapid momentum. The young man backed off two steps, swung the wooden sword out, and then with a loud cry, swept the sword horizontally three times. The girl had kept her opponent in check until now, but at this point she withdrew her sword and stood still, defenseless.

“I guess you’re good, okay?” she scorned. “Just kill me!”

The young man had not anticipated that she would suddenly retract her sword without defending, so his third strike nearly cut her waist. He tried to relinquish his attack at once, but the force of the strike was already emanated, and with a loud clap, the sword hit himself on the back of his left hand and he let out a slight cry of pain.

The girl applauded and laughed. “Aren’t you ashamed? If that was a real sword, do you think your hand would still be in tact?”

There were traces of redness on the man’s dark face. He replied: “I was afraid I would cut you, otherwise I would not have hurt myself. In a real fight, do you think I would really go easy on you like that? Teacher, why don’t you be the judge?” As he said his last word, he looked over to the old man.

The old man was still holding a half-finished straw sandal, but now stood up and said: “The two of you have fought well for about 50 stances or so, but the later stances were executed poorly.” From the young girl’s hand he grabbed the wooden sword, positioned himself in a fighting stance and continued, “This technique ‘Brother Weng Shouts Up’ followed by the technique ‘Dare not Cross the Horizontal’ should be executed horizontally, not straight. A’fang, in regards to your two techniques ‘The Wind Suddenly Blows’ and ‘The Mountain Escapes Like a Cloth’; the image of your sword should look like a bolt of cloth running away. A’yun’s two techniques ‘Falling Mud Welcomes Big Sister’ and ‘The Horse Blows a Little Wind’ were executed decently, but the latter technique is called ‘A Little Wind’ and you put too much strength into your strike. This swordplay has a famous name in the martial world, it is called the ‘Reclining Corpse Swordplay’. With every stance, the essence is to make your opponent recline like a dead body. Since we are only sparring in good spirit, there is no need to be so serious, but the ‘reclining corpse’ part of the name must be remembered to heart.”

“Father, our swordplay is very good, but the name of the swordplay isn’t… isn’t very good,” the young girl remarked. “Reclining Corpse Swordplay sounds scary.”

The old man replied: “You can say that it is scary, but it is also equally impressive. Before the battle even begins, your opponent is already struck with fear.” He was still holding the wooden sword, and demonstrated those six techniques to the young pair. His sword movements appeared quite heavy yet regressed lightly at the same time; it was actually very deadly and powerful. The young man and woman admitted their inferiority and applauded. The old man then gave the sword to the young girl and said, “The two of you should keep practicing these stances. A’fang, don’t always think about fooling around. If your elder martial brother did not go easy on you, do you think you would still be alive?”

The girl stuck out her tongue, and suddenly stroke out with her sword in rapid speed. The young man was caught off guard and immediately tried to defend with his own sword, but the young girl got the initiative of striking first and continued attacking in a continuous motion. The young man could find no way of counterattacking. Suddenly, the sounds of horseshoes were heard approaching from the northeast direction; a horse made its way to the cottage.

The young man turned around and said, “Who could that be?”

The girl retorted: “You lost, don’t make up excuses. What does it matter to you who is coming?” And with another three continuous strokes the girl attacked while the young man tried hard to defend.

The young man became annoyed and said: “Just take it that I’m afraid of you, okay?”

The young girl smiled. “You say you aren’t afraid, but you really are.” She executed a stance with a stroke on the left and a stroke on the right, both techniques were quite dexterous.

At that time the rider had already reined his horse and shouted: “’The Sky Flowers Fall Endlessly, The Birds Fly Everywhere!’ Excellent!”

The young girl let out an interjection of surprise and jumped backwards to face the rider. She saw that the man was about 23 or 24 years of age and dressed in elegant attire, most likely a man from a rich family from the city. She could not help but blush a bit, and spoke softly, “Father, how… how does he know?”

The old man heard the equestrian speak out the name of his daughter’s two techniques she had just executed and felt surprised as well. At this moment, the equestrian wished to consult with them, so he got off his horse and said: “If I may ask this elder, in Maxi there is a renowned swordsman by the name of ‘Iron Lock Across the River’ Qi Zhangfa, do you know where he lives?”

“I am Qi Zhangfa,” the old man replied. “The title of renowned swordsman I do not dare to receive. May I ask why you are looking for me?”

The young man kowtowed and said: “Your junior Bu Yuan greets Uncle Qi. I come on behalf of my teacher to visit you.”

“No need for such salutations,” Qi Zhangfa replied. He helped the young man up with his hands. A strong energy was felt when they made contact. Bu Yuan felt a slight numbness on half his body and his face flushed red.

“Uncle Qi must be testing junior,” Bu Yuan remarked, “our first meeting and I have already been embarrassed.”

Qi Zhangfa smiled and replied: “Your internal energy is a bit lower than that of my students. Which disciple of Brother Wan are you?”

Bu Yuan’s face flushed red again and answered: “Junior is teacher’s fifth unsuccessful student. Teacher often mentions that Uncle Qi’s internal energy is profound, how else would you be able to provoke junior so easily?”

Qi Zhangfa laughed heartily and asked: “How is Brother Wan doing? We old brothers have not seen each other in over ten years.”

“Thanks to elder’s fortune, my teacher is well. Those two martial siblings, are they elder’s disciples? Their sword techniques are profound!”

Qi Zhangfa made a hand gesture and said: “A’yun, A’fang, come see your Brother Bu. This is my disciple Di Yun, and this is my daughter Ah Fang. Oh, countrywoman, there is nothing to be shy of, we are of the same family.” Qi Fang hid behind Di Yun and gave a faint smile.

Di Yun asked: “Brother Bu, are your sword techniques from the same school as ours? Otherwise, how could you identify my martial sister’s technique with just one glance?”

Qi Zhangfa spat out some phlegm and remarked: “Your teacher and his teacher are from the same clan, of course we would be learning the same sword techniques, is there any reason to ask?”

Bu Yuan lifted the cloth next to the saddle and produced a bag. He presented it with both hands and said: “Uncle Qi, teacher said this is a small gift, please accept it.” Qi Zhangfa expressed his thanks and told his daughter to put it away.

Qi Fang brought it inside the room and opened the bag. Inside the bag was a gown made of a brocade of sheep fur, a gem wrist bracelet, a felt hat, and a black coat. Qi Fang took it out, laughed and said: “Father, you have never worn such beautiful clothing, if you wear this, how would you look like a countryman? People will think you became a rich government official.”

Qi Zhangfa gave a glance at it and could not help but chuckle. After a moment, he timidly said, “Brother Wan… this… haha… this is really…”

Di Yun went to the front of the village to fetch three catties[1] of white wine while Qi Fang went to slaughter a chicken. She placed it in the middle amongst some Chinese cabbage and other vegetables altogether in a pot. There was also another big bowl of red pepper in the fluid. The four of them were sitting together at the dining table.

Qi Zhangfa asked for the reason for the visit, and Bu Yuan replied: “Teacher said he hasn’t seen Uncle Qi in over ten years and misses him dearly. He thought of visiting Henan personally, but because teacher is busy practicing the Liancheng Swordplay every day he could not find any leisure time…”

Qi Zhangfa put the bowl of wine beside him, and suddenly spat out the mouthful of wine he just downed. “What? Your teacher is practicing the Liancheng Swordplay?” he quickly asked.

Bu Yuan’s expression was complacent. “On the fifth of the last month, teacher has already completed his training of the Liancheng Swordplay.”

Qi Zhangfa felt even colder. All of a sudden, he slammed the bowl of wine on the table. More than half the bowl of wine spilt out as a result, causing his clothes and the table to be flooded with wine. He sat motionless for a while, and then suddenly burst into laughter. He tapped his hand on Bu Yuan’s shoulder and said: “Damn that brat, your teacher has always been known to exaggerate such things. Even your grand-teacher could not complete the Liancheng Swordplay; your teacher’s lies aren’t very well-thought. Don’t deceive your uncle anymore… let us drink…” And with that he finished off the remaining half of his wine, while he grabbed a hot red pepper with his left hand and chewed on it.

Bu Yuan’s face showed no hint of laughter. Instead, he continued: “Teacher knew that Uncle Qi would not believe him. On the sixteenth of next month, it is teacher’s 50th birthday. May Uncle Qi bring his disciples with him to Jingzhou for some wine. Teacher specifically told junior to come visit to request Uncle to come at any cost. Teacher said that there are some spots in the Liancheng Swordplay that he has not yet perfected and would like to discuss with Uncle. Teacher has always said that Uncle’s sword techniques were profound. If my martial brothers and I could receive some advice from Uncle, we would definitely show significant progress.”

“Has your Second Uncle Yan Daping already been invited?” asked Qi Zhangfa.

Bu Yuan replied: “Second Uncle Yan Daping wanders around leisurely, teacher has already sent Second Brother, Third Brother, and Fourth Brother to search around Henan, Jiangnan, and Yungui, but we have not found him yet. Does Uncle Qi know the whereabouts of Second Uncle?”

Qi Zhangfa sighed and said: “Among us three martial brothers, Second Brother has the most powerful martial arts. If he practiced the Liancheng Swordplay, I may believe that he could master it. But your teacher? No way!”

With his left hand he grabbed the wine jug, filled his bowl with wine and declared loudly, “Alright! On the sixteenth of next month, we will go to Jingzhou to celebrate your teacher’s birthday, as well as see how well he has practiced his Liangcheng Swordplay.” He slammed the bowl of wine on the table again, and half the bowl of wine spilt out over the table and on his shirt.


“Father, if you sold our cattle Dahuang, how can we farm next year?” asked Qi Fang.

“We will worry about next year when next year comes, why worry so much now?” replied Qi Zhangfa.

“Father, isn’t it better if we stay here? What’s the point of going to Jingzhou? Even if it’s Uncle Wan’s birthday, we shouldn’t sell off Dahuang…”

“I promised Bu Yuan that I would go, so I must not go back on my word. Besides, I can bring you and A’yun to a bigger place, so you don’t stay a rustic bumpkin your entire life.”

“What’s wrong with being a bumpkin? I don’t want to see the outside world. I have raised Dahuang since I was little. I gave him grass to eat and brought him back home. Father, can’t you see Dahuang is in tears, he doesn’t want to go.”

“Silly girl, that cow is a beast, what does it know? Let go of it.”

“I won’t let go! If you sell it to someone else, they will kill him and eat him, I can’t bear it.”

“They won’t kill him, they will only have him do farming.”

“Yesterday what did you say? You said you will definitely sell Dahuang to be killed. You lied to me. Dahuang is in tears. Dahuang, Dahuang, I won’t let you go. Brother Yun! Come quickly, father wants to sell Dahuang…”

“A’fang, your father doesn’t want to sell Dahuang either, but how can we go to Uncle Wan’s with empty hands?” reasoned Di Yun. “Besides, our clothes are dirty and ruined. We should get new clothes so people don’t think lowly of us.”

“Didn’t Uncle Wan give you a new hat?” added Qi Fang. “When you wear it, it gives off an aura of greatness.”

“Hah, the weather is so warm, how can I wear this sheep gown?” replied Qi Zhangfa. “Besides, your uncle claims to have completed the Liancheng Swordplay and I don’t believe him, I must see it for myself. Good child, please let go.”

Qi Fang said: “Dahuang, if they want to kill you, then use your force to attack them, and run back to us! Or not! They will chase after you, and then you should run as far as you can, up to the mountains…”


Half a month later, Qi Zhangfa brought his disciple Di Yun and his daughter Qi Fang to Jingzhou. The three of them wore new attire. It was their first time entering a big city, so it was a bit overwhelming and caused some anxiety. They could not help but feel a bit helpless as they searched for “Five Cloud Hand” Wan Zhenshan’s whereabouts. They heard people say, “The whereabouts of Old Hero Wan’s residence, is there really a need to ask? It must be wherever the biggest house is.”

As Di Yun and Qi Fang approached the Wan Family’s residence, they saw the high walls and red-lacquered doors at the entrance. There were colourful lamps hung on the doors, showing the prestige of the family. Qi Fang held closely to her father. Qi Zhangfa was about to speak for entrance when Bu Yuan came out the front door.

Qi Zhangfa was delighted and said: “Worthy nephew, I have come!”

Bu Yuan quickly approached and said with joy, “Uncle Qi has arrived! Brother Di, Sister Qi, how have you been? Teacher was just thinking of Uncle, always saying, ‘Why hasn’t Brother Qi arrived yet?’ Let us go inside!”

As Qi Zhangfa and the other three entered through the front gate, they were greeted by the sounds of drummers playing a happy tune; the flutes played unexpectedly, giving Di Yun a shock. In the main hall, a burly old man could be seen greeting various guests.

Qi Zhangfa called out, “Brother, I have come!”

The old man turned around and looked as if he could not recognize him. The man felt a little stunned, but then a smile ran across his face. He laughed and said: “Old Third, you really have aged. I could barely recognize you!”

The two brothers were about to hold hands and reminiscent old times, when suddenly a strange aroma filled the room, followed by the sound of a smashing gong. A voice was heard: “Wan Zhenshan, ten years ago you owed me money, today will you pay up?” Qi Zhangfa turned to look at the speaker, a person was carrying a wooden bucket filled with dirty toilet water with both hands. The person splashed the bucket at Wan Zhenshan and himself. Qi Zhangfa saw that his daughter and disciple were standing on the side; he knew he could dodge the splash himself, but it would definitely land on her daughter. With some quick thinking, he came up with an idea. He grabbed his gown with both hands and unrobed. The dirty toilet water splattered all over his robe. With his precious robe ruined, he conveniently threw the gown at the assailant.

The person parried the toilet bucket to the side, causing both the robe and bucket to fall on the ground. A putrid smell filled the air. Qi Zhangfa saw that the person had a long beard and a monstrous appearance and stood with confidence. The assailant laughed and said: “Wan Zhenshan, our brothers come from thousands of lis[2] away to celebrate. Although we are missing some gifts, we instead bring you ten thousand taels of gold. Wish you all the best!”

The eight disciples of Wan Zhenshan saw that this person was here to cause trouble and even dirtied one of the lamps in the room. In a fit of rage, the eight of them ganged up on this man, about to beat him half to death, when Wan Zhenshan ordered, “Don’t move!”

The eight disciples remained still. His second disciple Zhou Qi yelled: “Bastard! Who do you think you are? Today is Old Wan’s birthday, yet you have the audacity to mess around. If I don’t teach you a lesson, you won’t realize the power of the Wan family!”

Wan Zhenshan recognized the background of the bearded man and said: “And I was wondering who it could be. It is none other than Taihang Mountain’s Leader Lu. In the past few years Leader Lu has made a great fortune; his residence is filled with thousands of taels of gold, so naturally he would carry so much around.”

When the crowd heard the name of ‘Taihang Mountain Leader Lu, many exchanged whispers. One said: “So it is Taihang Mountain’s Lu Tong. He seems to have a misunderstanding with Elder Wan.”

Lu Tong was considered the most powerful person amongst evil men in the Five Northern Provinces[3]. He was proficient with the techniques of the Six Sabre Stances and Six Fist Stances, and made a good name for himself around the Yellow River. Someone said: “People with good intentions don’t come, and people who come have bad intentions! Today, there may be some trouble.”

Lu Tong laughed and said: “Ten years ago, my brothers and I were at the Taiyuan Prefecture doing a trade, when someone secretly spread the word and ruined our sale. That’s not the bad part, what’s worse is that this caused my brother Lu Wei to get arrested and die of injustice. It wasn’t until three years ago that I found out that it was the doing of this bastard Wan Zhenshan. How do you say we settle this?”

Wan Zhenshan replied: “You are correct. It is indeed I with the surname Wan who spread the secret. For someone trying to make a living in the realm, doing an unjust trade is already unforgivable, but what’s worse is your brother Lu Wei raped innocent women, and even murdered four people. When I realized he was doing such horrible deeds, I could not let such injustice go unpunished.”

When everyone heard this, they all shouted: “Such unrighteous deeds! Have you no shame!” Another said: “You bastard, you should be arrested by the authorities.” Another added: “You rapist, how dare you cause trouble in Jiangling?”

Lu Tong turned tail and was about to leave, but shouted: “Wan Zhenshan, if you really think you are heroic, you should have come out in the open about the matter, then I would have respected you as a worthy fellow. Why be sneaky and snitch on us to the authorities? And why did you steal the six thousand taels of silver that we earned? You bastard, you are cheap and shameless! If you have the guts, come and let us have a fight to the death!”

Wan Zhenshan laughed. “Leader Lu, after having not seen you for ten years, your martial arts has increased substantially. It is unfortunate that with the likes of you, the higher your martial arts, the more people you will hurt. I am of old age now, but we will compare our skills.” And with that, he stepped out.

Suddenly, amidst a group of people emerged a young man with thick eyebrows and big eyes. With a flip of his arms, he hooked both arms of Lu Tong and shouted: “You ruined my teacher’s new clothes, you must pay for the damages!” The speaker was Qi Zhangfa’s disciple, Di Yun.

Lu Tong tried to break Di Yun’s lock, but Di Yun held him too tightly without giving him a chance to escape. If Lu Tong could use his arm strength, he could use his renowned Iron Arm technique to repel him, but his arm was locked tight and the could not exert any strength. In a fit of rage, he attacked Di Yun’s stomach with his left knee and yelled, “Let go of me!” Di Yun felt great pain and his arm lock weakened. Lu Tong followed with a stroke of “The Wind and Cloud Suddenly Rises” and broke his lock. Then he continued with a fist stroke of “The Dark Dragon Visits the Ocean”, one of the techniques in his Six Fist Stances.

Di Yun retreated a few steps. “I won’t fight with you,” he said. “My teacher’s new robe cost three taels of silver. We sold our cattle Dahuang and sewed three pieces of clothing. Today was only his first time wearing it…”

“Silly child, what nonsense do you speak of?” Lu Tong retorted.

Di Yun moved forward three steps and shouted, “Quickly pay the damages!” Since he had been raised in the countryside, he had a passion and understanding for the hard work people put into making stuff. He knew that his teacher sold his beloved cattle to purchase three new pieces of clothing; today was only his first time wearing it, yet it was already ruined by this bastard. How could he let this matter drop? He didn’t care what misunderstandings Lu Tong had with Wan Zhenshan, his teacher’s robe must be repaid.

“Nephew Di,” Wan Zhenshan called out, “I will pay for your teacher’s robe. Please step back.”

Di Yun replied, “I want him to pay right now. If he leaves and you go back on your word, who is going to pay?” As he said this he went to Lu Tong to undress his robe, but Lu Tong dodged and punched Di Yun hard on the chest.

Wan Zhenshan repeated his command in a harsher tone, “Nephew Di, step back!”

Di Yun’s eyes were red with fury and he said: “First you are unwilling to pay, and now you’re beating me up. You are very unreasonable!”

Lu Tong laughed. “So what if I hit you?”

“Then I will hit you too!”

Di Yun got in a fighting stance, he attacked with his left palm and supported with his right palm. Lu Tong unleashed the “Attacking Tiger Stance”; he attacked with his right fist while his left leg remained idle. In a brief moment the two had already exchanged over a dozen stances. Di Yun had been training under Qi Zhangfa since he was young, and often sparred with his younger martial sister Qi Fang. He practiced swords every day without rest. Even though Lu Tong was an infamous bandit who made a name for himself amongst evildoers, at this moment he could not easily beat Di Yun. Several times he tried to unleash his Iron Arm technique, only to have it dodged by Di Yun. He hit him on the shoulder twice with two fists, but Di Yun had strong muscles and bones and was not easily wounded.

They continued to battle for several stances, when Lu Tong got frustrated and suddenly changed his fist technique from “Six Fist Stances” to the “Red Sacrum Connecting Fist.” The latter was actually a part of “Six Fist Stances”, but it was a variation which had a different essence altogether. Di Yun had never seen such a fist technique, and with a fright, his left leg was hit by Lu Tong twice.

Wan Zhenshan could tell that Di Yun was losing and said, “Nephew Di back off, you can’t beat him.”

“Even if I can’t beat him we still have to fight,” Di Yun retorted. With a loud crash, his chest was hit by Lu Tong again. Qi Fang was watching from the sidelines and her face was full of worry. She could not resist anymore and said, “Martial brother, don’t fight anymore! Let Uncle Wan handle it.”

But Di Yun was relentless and continued to attack, saying, “I’m not afraid of you! I’m not afraid of you!”

Di Yun was struck again. This time his nose was hit with a fist and blood splattered everywhere. Wan Zhenshan’s eyebrows creased with worry. “Brother, your disciple won’t listen to me. Why don’t you tell him to stop?” he suggested.

Qi Zhangfa replied, “Let him taste defeat. In a moment, I will fight this bastard myself.”

Suddenly, from the front door entered an old beggar with a dirty face. He held a broken rice bowl with his left hand while he used a crutch on his right hand. “Today is elder’s birthday, please be kind enough to spare a bowl of cold rice,” he said.

Everyone present was watching the battle between Lu Tong and Di Yun, so nobody paid any attention to this old man. The old beggar cried, “Ohh! I’m going to starve! I’m going to starve!” Suddenly, his left foot accidentally slipped on the dirty toilet water on the ground. As he was about to fall over, he shouted, “Ah! I’m going to fall!” The bowl and bamboo stick he was holding in his hands both fell at the same time. Coincidentally, the broken bowl hit Lu Tong exactly on the “Zhitang Acupoint” on his back, while the bamboo stick hit Lu Tong’s “Ququan Acupoint” around the curve of his knees.

At once Lu kneeled on his left leg and felt numbness around his entire body. Di Yun took the opportunity to unleash two fists at once, and with two loud claps, sent Lu Tong’s large body flying across the hall. A splashing sound was heard as Lu Tong’s body landed right amidst the pile of shit.

The sudden change of circumstances was quite unexpected. The crowd watched as Lu Tong made his way back up in a complete mess. Everyone in the audience burst into laughter. One of them shouted, “Capture him! Don’t let this thief escape!”

“Pay the damages for my teacher’s robe!” demanded Di Yun.

He wanted to attack again, but was grabbed on the shoulder from behind and couldn’t move. He turned to look and saw that it was his teacher. Qi Zhangfa said, “You got lucky to win, why pursue?” Qi Fang took out a handkerchief and wiped the blood off Di Yun’s face.

Di Yun looked down and saw that his new clothes were now ruined by many stains of blood, and shouted, “Oh dear! My… my new clothes are also ruined.”

The old beggar was about to walk out the door, saying to himself: “Not only did I not get any food, I even lost my bowl!” Di Yun knew that his fluke victory was all thanks to the beggar’s slip, so from his bosom he produced twenty coins that his teacher gave him as expenses. Di Yun rushed out the door to hand him the money. The beggar expressed his gratitude and left.


That night, Wan Zhenshan prepared a banquet and treated with great honour the many guests that were present. He was a famous person in Jingzhou and as such he received a scroll of good fortune from the prefect. The words were glossed with gold and appeared quite prestigious. Everyone was discussing the events from earlier today, speaking of how Di Yun was blessed with good fortune when the old beggar entered at an opportune moment, causing Lu Tong to lose his concentration. Everyone was impressed that Di Yun had such bravery at such a young age; exchanging several dozen stances with an evildoer was quite an accomplishment. Everyone wished the best for Wan Zhenshan’s birthday, saying that even though it was a coincidence that the old beggar entered, had Wan Zhenshan himself stepped in to battle, he would have defeated Lu Tong in a matter of a few stances. But for Wan Zhenshan to not have to step in and lower his dignity was just as well.

Di Yun received many compliments, causing the eight disciples of Wan Zhenshan to feel a bit ashamed. Lu Tong was after their teacher, yet they could do nothing to stop him. Instead, they had a petty disciple of their martial uncle to step in to fight. The eight disciples felt angry at heart but could not express their feelings.

After Wan Zhenshan gave a toast to everyone present, his first disciple Lu Kun, second disciple Zhou Qi, third disciple Wan Gui, fourth disciple Sun Jun, fifth disciple Bu Yuan, sixth disciple Wu Kan, seventh disciple Feng Tan, and eighth disciple Shen Cheng also made a toast to the people around. Among them, third disciple Wan Gui was the only son of Wan Zhenshan; he was tall with a great stature and looked like a gentleman born of a rich family, unlike first disciple Lu Kun and second disciple Zhou Qi, who had an average appearance.

After the eight of them offered a toast to the various famous scholars and clan leaders present, they offered one to their uncle Qi Zhangfa and conveniently offered one to Di Yun as well. Wan Gui said: “Today, Brother Di gave my father a lot of face. Among our eight martial brothers, we must all drink with Brother Di.”

Brother Di had never been a drinker in the past, so he said, “I won’t drink it, I won’t drink it.”

Wan Gui continued: “Today my father thrice requested for Brother Di to back off, yet Brother Di did not listen, as if my father was talking to thin air. Now we are offering you a drink and you refuse, do you mean to take the Wan family lightly?”

Di Yun was stunned by his words and uttered: “No… no I don’t.”

Qi Zhangfa could sense the negative implications of Wan Gui’s statements, and said, “Yun’er, just drink it.”

“I… I… I don’t drink,” said Di Yun.

Qi Zhangfa got frustrated and declared: “Drink it!”

Di Yun had no choice but to obey. He downed one drink to each of his uncle’s disciples, making eight drinks in total. His face flushed red and his stomach felt a bit nauseous.

That night when Di Yun went to bed, he felt nauseous and pains excruciated his chest, shoulders, and legs; the areas where Lu Tong had hit him during the fight. In the middle of the night, amidst his dreams, he suddenly heard someone yelling from out the window, “Brother Di, Di Yun, Di Yun!”

Di Yun quickly awakened and asked, “Who is it?”

The man outside replied: “It is Wan Gui, I have something to say to you, can Brother Di please step outside for a moment?”

Di Yun felt a bit dizzy, got out of bed, put on his clothes and sandals, and opened the window. All he could see was eight people lined up, each holding a long sword in hand. It was the eight disciples of Wan Zhenshan. “What did you call me for?” asked Di Yun.

Wan Gui replied: “We wish to test our sword skills with Brother Di.”

Di Yun shook his head and replied: “My teacher said that I’m not allowed to spar with Uncle Wan’s disciples.”

Wan Gui smirked: “Looks like Uncle Qi has already acknowledged our superiority.”

Di Yun angrily retorted: “What do you mean acknowledged?”

Chi! Chi! Chi! Suddenly, three sounds were heard as Wan Gui stroke Di Yun three times with his sword, the blade of the sword missing his face just barely. In shock, Di Yun moved back a few steps; he accidentally tripped his leg over a stool and fell, looking quite pathetic. Wan Zhenshan’s eight disciples laughed heavily at the scene. Di Yun became enraged and produced a long sword from underneath his pillow and jumped out the window. He saw the eight unfriendly faces of Wan Zhenshan’s disciples and wanted to attack, but remembered that his teacher told him not to get on bad terms with them, so he could only say, “What do you want from me?”

Wan Gui faked a stroke with his sword and said: “Brother Di, today you stepped out to fight out of bravery, thinking that our family in Jingzhou would have perished if not for your help, right? Do you take it that among the Wan clan, there is no one who is a match for Brother Di?”

Di Yun shook his head and said: “That person ruined my master’s clothes, so of course I have to make him pay up. What does it matter to you?”

Wan Gui replied coldly: “You made a performance in front of all these renowned guests today and gave yourself a lot of face, while us eight brothers were shamed to no end. Not even to mention roaming the realm from now on, even within Jingzhou, how can we have any sort of respectable status anymore? What you did today, don’t you think it was going a bit too far?”

Di Yun was stumped for words and said: “I… I don’t know.”

The eldest disciple, Lu Kun remarked: “Third Brother, this brat is playing us for a fool, why talk to him? Let’s fight!”

Wan Gui unleashed his long sword, aiming for Di Yun’s left shoulder. Di Yun could tell that this was a fake stroke, so he did not defend himself at all. Wan Gui withdrew his sword after realizing Di Yun outwitted him and became even angrier. “Good, so you won’t fight back?”

Di Yun replied: “Teacher said that I definitely cannot fight with uncle’s disciples.”

Suddenly, Wan Gui stroke out with his long sword and made a slash on Di Yun’s right sleeve. Di Yun loved this new garment greatly, and now that it was unreasonably ruined by Wan Gui, he could not hold back his anger anymore and shouted: “You slashed my garment, you need to pay the damages!” Wan Gui laughed coldly and made another stroke with his sword, slashing his left sleeve. Di Yun quickly unsheathed his sword to counterattack. The two began to fight, the pace growing quicker and quicker as the fight prolonged. The two were using identical sword techniques, and after a dozen or so stances, Di Yun got annoyed and started to aim for Wan Gui’s vital areas.

Zhou Qi shouted: “Hey! This brat really wants to take your life? Third Brother, no need to hold back!”

Di Yun was held aback by his words. “If by accident I really wound him, nothing good could come out of that.” Accordingly, Di Yun started to lower the intensity and fatality of his strokes. Wan Gui realized that he was not as proficient with the sword as Di Yun, nor were his strokes fatal enough. Di Yun slowly backed off, then said: “I’m not really fighting you for real, what are you doing?”

Wan Gui replied: “What am I doing? I want to stab you a few times!” And with that he attacked again with his sword vertically; Di Yun dodged to the right and saw that Wan Gui’s right shoulder exposed an opening, so with his long sword he stroke vertically at Wan Gui. But upon realizing that Wan Gui’s shoulder would most certainly suffer damages, Di Yun turned his wrist and flipped the blade of his sword so that it was flat, then tapped his shoulder a few times.

Di Yun figured now that the outcome of the battle has been decided; this should be the point where Wan Gui admits defeat and backs off, as was often the case when he sparred with Qi Fang. But much to his surprise, Wan Gui’s face flushed red with anger and actually stroke his sword vertically. Di Yun was caught off guard and was stabbed by Wan Gui on his left leg.

Lu Kun, Zhou Qi and the others applauded and said: “You little brat, fallen already? If you beg for mercy we might just let you go.”

Another said: “It turns out that Uncle Qi’s disciple from the countryside is nothing but an amateur!”

Di Yun was already enraged from being stabbed, but now upon hearing the others mock his teacher, he became even more furious. He gritted his teeth and brandished his sword with the intensity of a rainstorm. Wan Gui saw that his opponent was losing his mind and started to get nervous. Since he was little he had always been treated with utmost respect; even though his swordplay was decent, he had never fought a battle as serious as this before so he felt a bit frightened. It was evident as his sword moves began to weaken.

Bu Yuan saw that his third brother was going to lose, so he lifted a brick and threw it at Di Yun’s spine. Di Yun was completely focused on attacking Wan Gui, when suddenly he felt a great pain on his back as he was hit hard with a brick. He turned around and reprimanded: “You guys have no shame, now fighting two-on-one?”

Bu Yuan replied. “What? What did you say?”

“Even if all eight of you fight me at once, I cannot put my teacher to shame,” said Di Yun. He disregarded the sharp pain on his back and aimed his sword at Wan Gui. But by this time his sword stance was already disrupted by pain and as such he left many flaws and openings in his attack. However, he still exuded an aura of confidence and Wan Gui was hesitant to counterattack.

Bu Yuan gave a signal to his sixth brother Wu Kan and said: “Third Brother’s swordplay is proficient, this brat cannot handle him. We should step in and break them up before he suffers any real damage for fear of being scolded by Uncle Qi.”

Wu Kan nodded and said: “Good idea, we brothers should pay attention and not let Third Brother harm anyone with his sword.” The two of them positioned themselves left and right and slashed Di Yun on the back.

Di Yun’s swordplay originally was not more impressive than Wan Gui, it was only thanks to his mindless aggression and bravery was he able to take the upper hand. But now when Bu Yuan and Wu Kan went forward to attack together, it was three-against-one and Di Yun instantly faltered. With a sword stroke, his left leg was stabbed. This stab was not a light one. In fact he could no longer keep his balance and fell over. He did not let go of his sword, but he could not take the attacks of all three at once. Lu Kun groaned and with a flying kick sent Di Yun’s long sword flying out of his wrist and landing amidst the bushes. Wan Gui stroke with his long sword, aiming for Di Yun’s throat. Bu Yuan and Wu Kan both laughed heartily as they backed off.

Wan Gui, now having won the battle, laughed in great joy. “You rustic bumpkin, do you admit defeat?”

Di Yun replied: “Admit your face! The four of you ganged up on me, how do you consider yourselves honourable?”

Wan Gui made a faint stab on Di Yun’s throat and blood gushed out of his wound. “Still so stubborn? If I use just a bit my strength, I could instantly slit your throat.”

“Go ahead,” Di Yun dared him, “if you have the guts then slit my throat, if you don’t then you’re a coward!”

Wan Gui became furious, stroke with his left foot and kicked Di Yun hard in the stomach, then shouted, “Bastard, let’s see if you are still stubborn!”

This kick caused Di Yun’s internal organs to feel as if they were crushed. He screamed in pain, gritted his teeth and cursed, “You stupid bastard, you son of a bítch!” Wan Gui gave him another hard kick, this time on his face. At this point, Di Yun felt dizzy and could no longer retort. He began to feel faint.

Wan Gui sneered: “Today we will let you go, quickly complain to your teacher and martial sister, tell them that we outnumbered and bullied you! We expect you to go home crying.”

Di Yun indignantly replied, “Complain about what? A true gentleman who seeks revenge only does so himself and seeks the assistance of none other.”

Wan Gui expected him to say this, and replied: “Then let’s leave a marking on your face, so as to make your teacher speak out.” With that he gave Di Yun a hard kick on his right cheek and left eye that caused his face to swell; tears started to gush out of his eye.

Bu Yuan applauded and laughed. “Haha, the gentleman is crying! The hero turns into a fool!”

Di Yun was so angry that he felt his stomach was going to explode. He recalled how Bu Yuan went to his teacher’s cottage and was treated so graciously with wine and chicken. He was honoured with utmost respect without the least bit of mistreatment, yet at this point Bu Yuan was humiliating him.

Wan Gui said: “You can’t beat me, so why not complain to my father and have my father punish me to make yourself feel better. ‘Waaah! Uncle Wan, your eight disciples beat me up to a pulp and left me crying! Waah! Uncle Wan, won’t you correct this injustice?’”

“Only a sore loser like you would complain to the elders!” Di Yun scorned.

Wan Gui, Lu Kun, and Bu Yuan looked at each other and laughed, happy that they were able to expel their hatred. They retracted their swords back in their sheaths and said: “Brave fellow, if you have the guts then we will fight again tomorrow. We will take our leave now!” The eight of them laughed their way out.

Di Yun could only watch as the eight of them left him. In his heart he felt miserable, but even worse was that he could not understand their reasoning, thinking to himself: “I have never wronged them, and I have definitely not wronged their teacher, why did they beat me up so unexpectedly? Is it really the case that city folk are unreasonable?” With all his might he tried to summon the strength to stand up, but his head felt dizzy and he fell back down.

Suddenly, behind him a sigh was heard: “Alas, since you couldn’t beat them, you should have begged for mercy. Now you have been beaten for no good reason, isn’t that such a shame?” Di Yun turned to look at who the speaker was.

“I would rather be beaten to death than to submit to these cowards!” Di Yun retorted. He saw a man with a hunchback and worn-out sandals slowly approaching. He remembered that this was the beggar he saw from earlier today.

The old beggar said: “Alas, when a man grows old, the rheumatism on his back only gets worse. Little child, come massage my back!”

Di Yun felt angry, gave a “Hmph” and ignored him. The old beggar continued: “I have no descendants, and now that I’m old, there is no one willing to take care of me. Oh, the agony!” Holding his bamboo stick, he slowly trod his way out.

Di Yun saw that the beggar’s back quivered greatly. As he had just been beaten up badly, he felt commiserated for the beggar. He shouted: “Hey, I have a dozen or so coins, take it to buy some buns!”

The old beggar trod his way back slowly, received the coins and said: “The pain on my back is getting worse, help me knead it!”

“Alright, let me bandage the wounds on my leg first.”

“You only think of taking care of yourself and not others, how can you call yourself honourable?”

Di Yun was provoked by this statement, and said: “Fine! I will help you knead it!” He sat on the ground and started massaging his back with his palms.

After a few hits, the old beggar said: “Very good… very good, use a bit more strength!” Di Yun added a bit more strength to his hits. The beggar said: “Unfortunately it is not strong enough.” Di Yun added even more strength, and the beggar sighed: “Alas, you are indeed a useless child; after getting beaten half to death, you no longer even have the ability to give a proper massage to an old man. Why is someone like you still alive in this world?”

Di Yun angrily retorted, “If I hit any harder, I’m afraid I will break your old bones.”

The old beggar laughed: “If you were capable of breaking my back, you wouldn’t have been on the floor getting beaten up.”

Di Yun got very angry and increased his strength even more, the old beggar said: “Ah, that’s better, but it’s still too weak.”

Di Yun punched the old beggar hard with his fist, but the old beggar only laughed. “Too weak… too weak… useless.”

Di Yun said, “Old man, don’t joke around with me, I really don’t want to hurt you.”

The old beggar sneered: “Do you really think you can hurt me? Give it your best shot, hit me once and see.”

Di Yun gathered strength from his right arm, and was about to hit the beggar when the moonlight reflected the doddering physique of the old man. He became soft-hearted and said, “I won’t share such petty insight with you!” and only lightly tapped his back.

Suddenly, he felt his waist was being pushed back and repelled. In an instant, his whole body was sent flying like prancing clouds. Boom! He fell on the grass with a loud crash and felt dizzy. He took a while to recover but still felt a bit dazed when he got up. He wasn’t angry but was curious as to what happened.

“It was you… it was you who threw me?” he asked.

“Who else is here besides me?” the beggar replied.

“How did you throw me away?”

“On my bed I look at the moon, I bow my head and think of home[4].”

Di Yun became curious and asked: “That was the sword technique that my teacher taught me… how do you know it?”

“Fist techniques and swordplay are all the same. Besides, your teacher did not teach it to you correctly.”

Di Yun angrily retorted: “How did my teacher teach me wrong? How can a beggar like you even question my teacher’s abilities?”

“If your master taught you correctly, then why didn’t you win the fight earlier?”

“They were ganging on me three or four at a time, of course I couldn’t take them all,” Di Yun reasoned. “But if it was one-against-one, do you think I would lose?”

The old beggar laughed. “Haha, in battle, who says it has to be one-against-one? If you want to fight one-against-one and your opponents don’t, what can you do? Then you would have to kneel down and beg for mercy. If one person can take on a dozen people at once, then that is a true warrior.”

Di Yun thought that what the old beggar said wasn’t irrational, and replied: “But they are my uncle’s disciples, and our sword skills are comparable. How am I supposed to take on all eight of them?”

The old beggar replied: “I will teach you a few techniques which will guarantee you victory against the eight of them, do you want to learn it?”

Di Yun was overjoyed and exclaimed, “I want to learn it!” But upon further contemplation, he thought that such profound abilities may not exist in this world. Furthermore, the old beggar would most certainly not possess such abstruse martial arts, so he became hesitant. Suddenly, someone grabbed him from behind and sent his body flying into the air, this time spinning two full somersaults before falling heavily to the ground. His arm landed smack down on the floor and his joints were nearly dislocated. When he got back up, he was in so much pain he couldn’t speak, but in his heart he was extremely pleased, and said, “Old… old uncle, I want to learn from you.”

The old beggar said: “Tonight, I will teach you a few techniques. Tomorrow night, you will fight the eight of them again. Do you dare?”

Di Yun thought: “Your martial arts abilities are so high, how can I learn it in merely a day?” But when he thought about the opportunity of defeating Wan Gui, Lu Kun and the others, he could not resist and declared: “I dare! The worst that can happen is that I get beat up again, what’s the big deal?”

The old beggar extended his left hand, grabbed Di Yun by the neck and slammed it on the floor, and scolded: “Stupid brat, I’m teaching you martial arts, how can you lose to them? Do you not trust me?”

Di Yun felt pain from the fall, but he felt even more excited and quickly replied: “Right! Right! I spoke incorrectly. May elder please teach me now.”

The old beggar said: “First, execute the sword techniques that you have already learned, and as you are executing them, recite the names of the techniques!”

“Alright,” Di Yun replied. He saw that his leg was still bleeding and hastily wrapped the wound. Then he grabbed his long sword from the grass and executed the techniques that his master had taught him while reciting the names of the techniques. His pace became faster as he executed and recited the techniques quicker. He was still in the middle of executing his techniques when the old beggar suddenly laughed. Di Yun retracted his sword and asked: “Did I mess up?” The old beggar did not reply, he had his hands on his stomach and laughed heartily, Di Yun got a bit angry and said: “Even if I am not performing well, there is nothing funny about that.”

The old beggar abruptly stopped laughing and said: “Qi Zhangfa is indeed Qi Zhangfa, you are impressively vicious.” He shook his head and said: “Give me your sword.” Di Yun threw the sword over to the beggar. The beggar caught the sword and faintly recited: “The lonely bird rises from the ocean, the pond does not dare to care.” He executed his moves with the swiftness of a dancer, as if upon holding the sword he suddenly transformed into a different person. He had a calm composure and his sword moves were executed with elegance.

Di Yun observed the sword techniques, then suddenly a thought came to his mind, and he said: “Elder, today when I was fighting against Lu Tong, did you purposely throw your bowl at him to help me?”

The beggar replied with annoyance: “Do you even have to ask? ‘Six Fist Stances’ Lu Tong’s martial arts is much superior to yours, do you really think you could have beaten him?” He spoke all while still executing his sword moves. Di Yun felt strange as he noticed that the mnemonics the beggar recited were not much different from his own. It only the sounded different, yet the sword techniques were entirely different.

Suddenly, he switched his sword to his left hand and with his right hand he slapped Di Yun’s face. Di Yun was shocked and angrily said: “Why… why did you hit me?”

The old beggar laughed and replied: “I’m teaching you swordplay, and you aren’t even paying attention, of course you deserve to be hit.”

Di Yun thought that the old beggar was right, so he became calm and replied: “You’re right, my mistake. I was thinking that the sword mnemonics you recited were identical to my teacher’s, yet your execution of the moves are entirely different, how strange.”

The old beggar asked: “Do I perform it better, or does your teacher perform it better?”

Di Yun shook his head and said, “I don’t know.”

The old beggar returned Di Yun the long sword and said, “Let us spar.”

“My skill level is nowhere close to yours, I can’t spar with you,” replied Di Yun.

The old beggar laughed. “Well, looks like this silly child is not completely stupid. How about this: we will only compare techniques and not internal energy.” He held a bamboo stick on his hands as a substitute for the sword and aimed it at Di Yun. Di Yun adjusted his sword horizontally to block. He saw that the beggar did not move his stick and pressed forward to attack. But as he stroke his sword towards the beggar, the bamboo stick rose like a violent snake, and with a forward momentum he was hit on the shoulder.

Di Yun felt defeated and complimented, “Excellent! Excellent!” With his sword still horizontal he now aimed it directly at the beggar. The beggar flipped his bamboo stick and matched it next to his sword. Di Yun tried to counterattack but the beggar’s bamboo stick spun several circles on the sword and repelled any strength directed at him back to his opponent. Di Yun could not keep a firm grasp any longer and the long sword flew out of his palms. He was expressionless for a moment. After a while he said, “Elder, your swordplay is truly remarkable.”

The old beggar used his bamboo stick to pick up the long sword that fell on the floor. He picked up the sword effortlessly as if it was glued to the stick. “Your teacher has a set of good martial arts, and he only taught you this? Hmm, that is strange.” He shook his head and continued: “In regards to your clan’s ‘Tang Poem Swordplay’; every stance is a recitation of a line of a poem from the Tang Dynasty.”

Di Yun replied: “What Tang Poem Swordplay? Teacher said it is called the ‘Reclining Corpse Swordplay’[5], its essence is to force the opponent to recline like a corpse.”

The old beggar laughed. “It is ‘Tang Poem’ not ‘Reclining Corpse’!” he corrected. “Your teacher told you it was ‘Reclining Corpse?’ That is funny! The two stances ‘The Lonely Bird Rises from the Ocean, The Pond Does not Dare to Care’ talks about a lonely and isolated bird that rises from the ocean, sees a small pond on land, and doesn’t stop to rest. These two lines were written by the Tang Dynasty chancellor Zhang Jiu; he used an analogy of himself as a man of high status who does not fight for fame and glory. He turned this into a swordplay, hence a sense of pride and elegance in the technique. The ‘does not dare to care’ part means ‘does not dare to look’. Your teacher taught you ‘Brother Weng Shouts Up, Dare not Cross the Horizontal’; the former line became an outcry, the latter became overcautious. The original intent was to have nothing left of the sword. Your teacher is really remarkable. ‘Iron Lock Across the River’ teaches his disciples in such a way, impressive, impressive!” As he said this he grinned.

Di Yun was shocked by his words and sunk in deep thought. He was not very literate so he did not quite understand the meaning behind the stances. Although the old beggar may be right, Di Yun had always shown great respect towards his teacher, so he assumed that what his teacher said was flawless and never questioned him. Upon hearing the old beggar’s words, he felt a bit bitter in his heart. Then he turned around and said, “I’m going to sleep! I don’t want to learn anymore.”

The old beggar was surprised. “Why? Did I say something wrong?”

“You may very well be right, but you spoke poorly of my teacher, and as such I can no longer learn from you. My teacher is a farmer and isn’t very literate, so he would not understand what you just described.”

The old beggar laughed. “Your teacher is illiterate? Haha, that is very strange.”

“A farmer who is illiterate, what is there to laugh about?” Di Yun angrily replied.

The beggar laughed heartily, caressed him on the head and said, “Good! You are a child with a kind heart, I like you. I ask for your forgiveness, from now on I will no longer disrespect your teacher, alright?”

Di Yun was delighted and smiled. “As long as you don’t talk poorly of my teacher, I could kowtow to you.” And with that he kneeled on the floor and gave several loud kowtows. The old beggar laughed and happily accepted his kowtows. Then he decided to explain some of the sword mnemonics. What is meant by “The Wind Suddenly Blows, The Mountain Escapes Like a Cloth” is really “Facing Down Can Hear the Winds, Continuous Mountains Suppose Undulating Waves”; what is meant by “The Falling Mud Welcomes Big Sister, The Horse Blows a Little Wind” is actually “The Sunset Reflects the Banner, The Horse Cries Soughing Winds.” By Hunan dialect tones, the words “mud” and “day” were pronounced similarly. In all of the old beggar’s speech, he never mentioned anything negative about Qi Zhangfa and only intended to correct mistakes in Di Yun’s swordplay.

The old beggar said: “There are too many precarious segments to your swordplay, I cannot point them out all at once. Now I will teach you three techniques so tomorrow you will fight those eight pathetic bullies again. Remember these mnemonics carefully.”

Di Yun gave his complete attention to the beggar’s demonstrations with the bamboo stick. The beggar explained: “The first technique is the ‘Piercing Shoulder Stance’; if the enemy is stubbornly defensive and you can’t find an opening, you only need to unleash this sword phase attack, and you will immediately be able to break through his defense and pierce his shoulder. The second stance, ‘Slap-in the-face Stance’ was the one I used against you earlier; the sword switches to the left hand, and the right hand slaps the opponent right in the face. This stance is strange and unorthodox, even if your opponent knows what you are planning, if he dodges to the left then you hit to the left, if he dodges to the right then hit to the right; the more he tries to dodge the harder he gets hit. The third stance is the ‘Releasing Sword Stance’; it was the stance I executed earlier when I used my bamboo stick to knock the long sword out of your hand.”

These three stances had all been used against Di Yun during their battle. Originally, each one of them had an elegant name in the form of a line from a Tang poem, but the old beggar knew that Di Yun was quite illiterate and wouldn’t understand such complicated mnemonics. It would only make things harder to remember, so instead he changed these mnemonics to more convenient names.

Di Yun was not exceptionally clever. Although he had an ill-temper he was highly determined, and the three stances took him over two hours before he could execute them skillfully.

The old beggar laughed. “Good!” he complimented. “You have to promise me one thing: you must not speak to anyone that I taught you swordplay today, including your teacher and your martial sister, or else…”

Di Yun respected his teacher like his father and had already loved his beautiful martial sister secretly for quite some time. He had nothing to hide from his teacher, much less his martial sister, so he was at a loss for words.

The old beggar sighed and continued: “The reason herein, I cannot tell you at this point in time, but if you reveal the events of today, my life will be in jeopardy. I will most certainly to fall prey to ‘Five Cloud Hand’ Wan Zhenshan’s sword.”

Di Yun was astonished and said: “Elder, your martial arts are so powerful, how can you fear my martial uncle?”

The old beggar did not answer and slowly started to leave. Then he said, “Whether or not you have ill-intentions towards me depends on you.”

Di Yun rushed forward beside him and said: “I cannot even thank elder enough, why would I want to harm your life? Let it be known that if I break this promise, I shall be punished by heaven and earth.”

The old beggar let out a deep sigh and continued walking. Di Yun stood motionless for a bit, then remembered that he had not asked the old beggar his name, shouting: “Elder! Elder!” but he was already long gone.


Early the next morning, Qi Zhangfa noticed that Di Yun’s eyes were blue and his nose was swollen. He became curious and asked, “Who did you fight with to get beat up like this?”

Di Yun did not like to tell lies and found it difficult to give an adequate reply. Qi Fang laughed. “Isn’t it the fight from yesterday when you battled with the bandit Lu Tong that caused this?” she asked.

Qi Zhangfa could not remember last night’s events too clearly, so he did not further pursue the matter. Qi Fang pulled on Di Yun’s shirt and the two of them went out from the side door until they reached the side of a well. They looked to see that there was no one else in sight before they both sat on top of the well.

Qi Fang asked, “Martial brother, who did you fight with last night?” Di Yun did not answer. Qi Fang continued: “You don’t have to hide it from me, yesterday when you fought with Lu Tong, I remember very clearly where he hit you. He definitely didn’t hit you in the eyes or nose.”

Di Yun knew that he could not hide the truth from her, and thought: “As long as I don’t tell her about the elder, it should be okay.” So he told her everything that happened last night: how the eight disciples of the Wan clan came to look for him, how they fought, and how he badly he was humiliated.

As Qi Fang heard his story, her beautiful face flushed red with anger. “They fought you eight on one, what honour do they have?” she complained.

“It wasn’t all eight of them at once, just three or four at the same time,” Di Yun corrected.

Qi Fang retorted, “Hmph, it would only take three or four of them to defeat you, the others have no need to step in. If the three or four of them couldn’t beat you, then it would have been five or six, or seven or eight at once.”

Di Yun nodded in agreement. “That is probably true.”

Qi Fang stood up. “Let’s go tell my father, and have Wan Zhenshan dictate the justice.” In a fit of rage she did not even address him as “Uncle Wan” and instead addressed him by his full name.

Di Yun declined. “No, I lost a fight. If I complain to my teacher, people will take me for a coward.”

Qi Fang felt contemptuous, but felt sympathy when she saw how badly his clothes were ripped. From her bosom she produced a sewing kit and started to mend together the holes in his clothes. As her hair rubbed against his chin he began to feel itchy; he could smell the fragrant scent of her skin and his mind began to wander. “Martial sister!” he cried.

“Water Spinach, don’t talk!” she urged. “Don’t let people mistake you for a thief.”

The people in Jiangnan were highly superstitious, believing that people who talked while having their clothes mended would be accused of stealing. “Water Spinach” was the nickname that Qi Fang gave to Di Yun, which mocked his straightforward and unsuspicious nature.


At night time, Wan Zhenshan held a banquet in the dining room and invited Qi Zhangfa and his two disciples, as well as his own disciples, making 12 people in total sitting together in a round table. After three rounds of wine, Wan Zhenshan saw that Di Yun’s lips were greatly swollen and could not eat well. “Nephew Di, yesterday must have been difficult for you. Come, eat a bit more.” He grabbed a chicken with his chopsticks and placed it on Di Yun’s plate. Wan Zhenshan’s second disciple Zhou Qi snorted in contempt.

Qi Fang was already angry from the earlier events, but now she could not hold back any longer and shouted: “Uncle Wan, my martial brother’s wounds were not caused by Lu Tong, it was the doing of your eight disciples!”

Wan Zhenshan and Qi Zhangfa felt astonished at once, and asked, “What?”

Of the eight disciples of the Wan clan, eighth disciple Shen Cheng was the youngest and naturally the cheekiest. He quickly retorted: “Brother Di defeated Lu Tong and claimed that teacher did not have the guts to stir up trouble and was afraid to fight Lu Tong. He said that it was all thanks to his efforts in subduing Lu Tong that saved teacher from embarrassment. We could not take this humiliation so…”

Wan Zhenshan’s face changed colors, but then he laughed. “Yes, it was all thanks to Nephew Di that we saved face.”

Shen Cheng said: “Brother Wan said that he was offensive in his language and could not resist sparring with Brother Di. It seems like Brother Wan had the advantage.”

Di Yun angrily retorted, “You… you speak nonsense… I… when did I…” he was quite influent in speech and upon hearing Shen Cheng speak out such lies, he wanted to defend himself, but he was so angry that he could not make out his words properly.

“How did Gui’er hold the advantage?” asked Wan Zhenshan.

Shen Cheng replied: “Last night when Brother Wan sparred with Brother Di, we were not present to observe. Early in the morning Brother Wan told everyone that he used a technique… used a technique…” he turned his head towards Wan Gui and inquired: “Brother Wan, what technique did you use to defeat Brother Di?”

Wan Gui replied: “The Moon in Chang’an, The Wan Family Threshes Clothes’.” They completely omitted the fact that they had ganged up on him, as if it never happened. They did not mention how Wan Gui was provoking Di Yun. The ones who were present at the scene were all on Wan Gui’s side, so naturally nobody spoke of such matters. Furthermore, Shen Cheng was about 15 or 16 years old and had an innocent look. Nobody suspected him of speaking anything but the truth.

Wan Zhenshan nodded. “So that is what happened.”

Qi Zhangfa’s face turned bright red. He slammed the table hard and yelled: “Yun’er, I told you specifically not to get on bad terms with anyone from the Wan clan, let alone do battle!”

When Di Yun realized that even his teacher believed what Shen Cheng said, he began to shake violently in anger and defended, “Teacher, I… I did not…”

Qi Zhangfa slapped him hard across the face and scolded: “You did the wrong thing and you are still making excuses!”

Di Yun did not dare to parry his attack. Qi Zhangfa indeed gave a very hard slap; Di Yun’s face was already swollen and this made it even worse. Qi Fang quickly intercepted. “Father, you haven’t even confirmed this!” she reasoned.

Di Yun’s ill-temper suddenly got the best of him. He became furious and stood up, picked up one of the long swords situated behind him, unsheathed it, and stepped outside the room. Then he said: “Teacher, this Wan… Wan Gui said he beat me, tell him to fight me again and we’ll see.”

Qi Zhangfa grew furious and shouted: “Where are you going?” He left his seat and went out, clasping his fists together. Qi Fang tried to hold her father back, yelling: “Father! Father!”

Di Yun spoke loudly: “The eight of you should fight me again. If you have any guts then come all at once, whoever doesn’t come is a turtle bastard’s son!” Under extreme fury he could not control his tongue and uttered such foul language.

Wan Zhenshan’s eyebrows wrinkled and he said: “That being the case, why don’t you guys go and challenge your Brother Di’s swordplay?”

The eight disciples were anxiously hoping that their teacher would say this and gladly accepted. They each took their long swords and spread themselves in eight directions, with Di Yun in the middle.

Di Yun shouted contemptuously: “Yesterday night I was defeated by eight bastards ganging up on me, today we have another eight bastards…”

“Yun’er, what nonsense do you speak of?” Qi Zhangfa yelled. “If you are going to spar then spar, why talk trash?”

When Wan Zhenshan heard the word “bastard” spewed out of Di Yun’s mouth left and right, he became angry for real, since among his eight disciple was his biological son Wan Gui, hence Di Yun was indirectly insulting him. He saw his eight disciples position themselves in eight directions, planning to attack all at once. Wan Zhenshan scolded: “Your Brother Di looks down on you guys, planning to fight you guys one-against-eight, do you guys also look down on yourselves?”

The eldest disciple Lu Kun replied: “That’s right. Younger martial brothers please step back, let me first test the abilities of Brother Di.”

Fifth disciple Bu Yuan was one who was full of treachery. Last night he saw the sparring match between Di Yun and Wan Gui and realized that the former had some decent martial arts. This was a desperate situation, and his eldest martial brother may not necessarily be able to win. If Di Yun wins this first match, there will naturally be someone to defeat him, but the prestige of the Wan clan would have already been lost. Among the eight disciples, fourth disciple Sun Jun had the most formidable swordsmanship, it would be best to let him fight so there can be no excuses.

Bu Yuan said: “Eldest martial brother is the model of our clan, why should he be the one to fight? Let Fourth Brother fight instead.”

Lu Kun thought for a moment and understood Bu Yuan’s intention so he happily accepted the offer. Bu Yuan continued: “Alright, Fourth Brother, let’s see you in action.” The seven of them backed off to observe, leaving only Sun Jun and Di Yun in the middle of the circle.

Sun Jun was quite a reticent fellow and was not much of a talker. Instead, he focused his time on practicing martial arts. As a result, his swordsmanship was the best among his martial brothers. When he heard that his younger martial brother wanted him to fight, he immediately drew his long sword and curved his body slightly to a bow-shaped fighting stance. This stance was called “The Wans Admire Their Lineage, Bowing with Great Attire.” It was a sword stance of great customs. Back when Qi Zhangfa taught Di Yun swordplay, he called this stance “The Rice Dumpling Turns Foul, The Officer Bows to the Monkey” the meaning was that “I am a big bowl of rice, while you are a rotten rice dumpling, I appear to yield to you, to respect you, when I actually despise you deeply. I am an officer and you are a monkey; when I pay respect to you, it is an officer showing respect to a beast.”

When Di Yun saw that his opponent was executing this move he became even more furious. At once he drew his sword in a fighting stance and curved his body in a bow-shape, returning the same stance used against him, “The Rice Dumpling Turns Foul, The Officer Bows to the Monkey.” The two remained in a standstill, neither side showing any sign of weakness.

Di Yun attacked first and pointed his long sword dead on Sun Jun’s abdominal area. The disciples of the Wan clan were shocked. Sun Jun manoeuvred his sword to a defensive position and the two swords clashed against each other. Soon, the arms of both fighters became numb.

Lu Kun said: “Teacher, look at how ruthless this brat is, he wants to take Brother Sun’s life!”

Wan Zhenshan became a bit worried and thought: “This little bumpkin is so cynical, the battle has just begun and he’s already going for the kill?”

Ting! Ting Ting! Many rattling sounds were emitted from their swords. It was clear that both Di Yun and Sun Jun were giving it their all. After about a dozen stances, Sun Jun’s long sword slanted and revealed an opening on his lower abdomen. Di Yun shouted loudly and aimed his sword toward the opening. Sun Jun defended and managed to keep Di Yun’s sword at bay. With a loud crash from his palms, Sun Jun attacked Di Yun hard on the chest. All the Wan disciples were in shock, and one shouted: “You can’t even beat one of us, why exaggerate and try to take us all?”

Di Yun turned around, picked up his long sword, and forcefully attacked like a violent storm. Sun Jun blocked several stances and drew his long sword to counterattack, when suddenly Di Yun’s long sword started to jitter and a light stabbing sound was heard—he had already stabbed into Sun Jun’s shoulder. This was the “Piercing Shoulder Stance” that the old beggar had taught him.

The “Piercing Shoulder Stance” was indeed uncalled for and was beyond all expectations. Upon seeing that Sun Jun tremble as his shoulder bled profusely, all of the Wan disciples were taken aback. Lu Kun and Zhou Qi both drew their swords and rushed forward to attack. Di Yun slashed left and right with his long sword and two stabbing sounds were heard. Both Lu Kun and Zhou Qi’s right shoulders were pierced by his long sword, and the sword in their hands both fell to the ground.

Wan Zhenshan’s face began to sink, then he remarked, “Very good!”

Wan Gui held his long sword firmly, staring at Di Yun with great contempt. Suddenly, he shouted violently and rushed in to attack. He swiped his sword three times but Di Yun parried them all. Then he switched his sword to his left hand, and with his right hand he gave a backhand and smacked Wan Gui hard on the face. This technique was even more sudden than the last. Wan Gui was completely startled. Di Yun gave a flying kick with his left leg and kicked Wan Gui hard on the chest. Wan Gui could not endure the blow and fell on the ground. Bu Yuan quickly went to assist Wan Gui but was intercepted by Di Yun. Bu Yuan could only lift his sword up to defend. The remaining three disciples Wu Kan, Feng Tan, and Shen Cheng saw that Di Yun was very brutal. He had knocked down Wan Gui so hard that the latter could not even draw the strength to get back up. Furious, they each drew their weapons and circled around Di Yun. At this time, the maids in the Wan family heard the sound of battle from the dining room and quickly went to observe.

Qi Zhangfa stared intensely at the battle with startled eyes. He seemed hesitant and did not know what to do.

Qi Fang shouted: “Father, they are all picking on martial brother! You must save him!” At once she unsheathed her sword from her waist and rushed beside Di Yun, blocking the two sword attacks of Wu Kan and Feng Tan.

[1]1 catty = 500 g

[2]1 li = 500 m

[3]The Five Northern Provinces refer to Zhili, Shandong, Shanxi, Henan, and Shaanxi.

[4]This is the last two lines of a poem by Li Bai during the Tang period, which talks about reminiscing one’s hometown.

[5]In Chinese, “Reclining Corpse” is pronounced “Tangshi” which is just like “Tang Poem”.

Written by Jin Yong
Translation by devilz91
Edited and proofread by audiowuxia.

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