The Young Flying Fox is a wuxia novel by Jin Yong (Louis Cha). he novel is a prequel to Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain and was written a year after its literary predecessor.
The story is set in China during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1735–1796) of the Qing dynasty. The protagonist, Hu Fei, is a young martial artist who was raised by Ping Asi after the death of his father, Hu Yidao. While traveling around the land in search of adventure, Hu Fei encounters Feng Tiannan, a ruthless villain, and wants to kill him to deliver justice for the victims. He also meets a young maiden, Yuan Ziyi, who shows signs of affection toward him. She stops Hu Fei from killing Feng Tiannan each time when he is close to killing Feng.
The Young Flying Fox
Chapter 1 Heavy Rain At The Shang Manor
“Hu Yi Dao, crooked pond, central sky!”
“Miao Ren Feng, earthly warehouse, folded valley!”
A low rasping voice came from a coarse throat, its tone filled with hate and loathing, and with it every word sounded like an emanation of a hateful blood and vengeance covered curse that lasts for years and years.
“Tuk, tuk, tuk, tuk”, four streaks of golden lights came out, and one after another 4 golden darts landed at two human-shaped boards.
The fronts and backs of the boards were shaped in the likeness of human figures. One of the boards was drawn with the face of a bearded large man, labeled with the name Hu Yi Dao. The other one was drawn with the image of a skinny and tall man, labeled with the name of Miao Ren Feng. The human boards were fully labeled with the important pressure points of the body, and they were held upright with wooden poles supported by two strong men who moved to and fro in a large training hall.
At the southeast corner of the hall, an old woman in her 50s was sitting in a chair, shouting the names Hu Yi Dao and Miao Ren Feng and random names of the body’s pressure points at irregular intervals.
A handsome looking 20 something-year-old young man in elegant clothing was carrying 10-20 darts in a pouch. After each call from the old woman, darts would shoot out and land themselves on the boards.
The two burly men were wearing protective woolen/leather jackets and caps woven with iron threads. Both of them were swaying the boards to and fro, bent on preventing the golden darts from hitting it.
From a window outside the hall, a young man and a young girl were crouching low; both of them were looking through two newly poked holes made on a paper window. From their vantage point, both of them were amazed by the dart throwing skills of the young man and gave each other the looks of awe.
The sky was gloomy and filled with dark clouds; rain came pouring down, followed by flashes of lightning and thunder that made a terrifying din. Raindrops the size of yellow beans fell down on the ground, hitting both man and girl at the same instant.
They were wearing waterproof clothing, oblivious of the rain. Instead, they were curiously drawn by what was happening in the hall. They peered closer to their peepholes. “It doesn’t matter if you miss a little; it is your strength that is lacking. Our training stops here today.” After saying this, the old woman slowly got up from her chair.
Meanwhile, the young girl outside the hall got up and pulled the young man that was with her away from the wall of the hall. The young man asked softly, “what kind of game is this?” “What game? This man is training with darts. His accuracy is not bad”, the girl replied. “You don’t have to tell me that. What I mean is why are the target boards labeled with the names of Miao Ren Feng and Hu Yi Dao?” “This is a strange thing indeed. If you don’t understand it, how am I to know what it is about? I think it might be better if we ask Daddy about it,” the young girl replied.
The young girl herself was about 18 or 19 years of age, she had a round face shaped like a goose’s egg, her eyes were very dark while her cheeks were pink. In whole, it can be said that her body exudes a beautiful aura of youthfulness. The young man was six or seven years older than the girl and has a rough and pimply face. His whole body however, was full of vigour and his steps were light. From afar, he might be seen as a tough and strong man.
Both of them went through a courtyard. Rain fell in a greater strength, causing their faces to be filled with beads of water. The girl pulled out her handkerchief and wiped away the drops of water on her face, an act which caused her face to glisten in a sheen of white and pink, and thus making her look even more youthful. The young man watched this act with his head lowered, obviously dazed by the sight of the young girls face.
The girl notices this, and purposely tilted her wet straw hat, which in turn causes water droplets to pour into the young man’s shirt collar. When she saw that he was irresponsive, she giggled and called the young man, “silly fellow”. With this, she entered into another hall.
At the eastern side of the hall, a huge bonfire was blazing. About twenty men were gathered around it warming their bodies and drying out their wet clothing. A majority of these people were dressed in dull black and blue-colored short clothing. These were actually a group of workers from an escort agency. Some of them acted as bodyguards while the rest looked like cart drivers. Among the group, three of them were government officials. These three officials had actually entered the hall not too long ago to evade the rain. They were just about to shed off their rain soaked clothing when one of them saw an attractive young woman making her way into the hall they were in. Immediately, his eyes brightened.
The girl went amongst the crowd and pulled away a dry and skinny looking old man from the rest of the group, and told this old man everything that had happened at the training hall. The old man was about 50 years of age but he looked exceptionally spirited. He had traces of white hair about his head and stood no taller than 5 feet. His eyes were very penetrating and hard looking. When he heard what the girl wanted to tell him, his brows furrowed and he spoke angrily at a low voice to the girl, “you are looking for trouble again, aren’t you! If someone finds out about this, the consequences will be yours for the taking.” The girl stuck out her tongue and smiled, “Daddy, this is the first time I went out with you on an escort mission, but before we had even ended this job, you have scolded me for at least eighteen times already!” The man replied, “This is no joking matter! If someone came and spy at you when I am teaching you martial arts, what are you going to do then?”
The girl was actually very happy at her exploits, but after hearing her father’s words she became very sullen. She remembered a similar incident last year where she caught someone watching her father practicing martial arts. Her father knew about the presence of the spy, but he kept it silent. But nevertheless, he shot out an arrow from a concealed spring loaded mechanism and blinded one of the perpetrator’s eyes. If he had not shown some mercy and restrained himself from using his full force, the arrow would have penetrated the fellow’s brain and killed him that instant. Her father later explained that spying at people that is practicing martial arts is the martial arts world’s most despicable act, and it is considered 100 times more despicable than the act of stealing one’s material possessions.
The girl though for a while, and immediately felt a pang of regret. She felt that she should not have spied on that person. But she was in nature a proud and arrogant person, and would not easily admit her own mistakes. So, instead of feeling sorry, she said, “dad, the man’s skills were quite ordinary. There is really nothing of much worth to be learned from him”. The old man was displeased by her answer and chided, “Silly girl, instead of apologizing, you have accused other people’s skills to be inferior!” The girl smiled at this answer and replied, “Who can blame me for being the great ‘hundred sure wins godly fists’ old head escort Ma’s daughter!”
The three officials that stood by the fire gave sideway looks at the beautiful young girl from time to time. Although they couldn’t catch out much of what is said, all of them clearly heard the words “‘hundred sure wins godly fists’ old head escort Ma’s daughter”. They looked at the aforementioned old man and found out that he was a skinny person and seemed not to weight more than two liang(a unit used for weight measurements) and at the yellow banner with an embroidered flying black horse that was place at the door of the hall, and thought, “hundred sure wins godly fists indeed, what a boast!”
The old man was named Xin Kong, with the surname of Ma. In the martial arts world, he was commonly known as the ‘hundred sure wins godly fists’. The girl beside him is his favorite daughter, Ma Chun Hua. The girl’s name was a bit old fashioned. But in the world of martial arts, people are mostly not very educated, that is why simple names like Hua Er or Chun Er are commonly used for girls. The young man that accompanied her was surnamed Xu, and goes with the single name of Zhen. He is Ma Xin Kong’s disciple.
Xu Zhen was drying himself up by the fire when he noticed that one of the three officials was staring incessantly at his martial sister. He got angry by this act, and started to glare sharply at the official. The official, who did not notice this, suddenly turned his head around and was met with Xu Zhen’s icy stare. The official was puzzled at the fierce expressions of the young man, and knowing not what the young man means by this, he stared back at him with a fiery gaze. Xu Zhen was already very angry, but when he saw the official return his look, he got angrier and replied it with a more hateful face.
The official was in his 30’s. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and his face was adorned with a fierce countenance. He laughed and said to another official sitting at his left, “That boy looked like an offended chick of a fighting cock, did you steal his wife or something?” Hearing his joke, the others guffawed at Xu Zhen.
Xu Zhen was suffocating with rage. He got up and shouted, “What did you say?!” The official smilingly replied, “Well, little boy, did I say something wrong? I truly apologize if it was so.” Xu Zhen was an honest and straight-minded person. After hearing the man’s apology, his anger subsided and he immediately forgave him. He was about to sit down again when the man laughed again and said, “I now know that it is not your wife that was stolen, but it is your sister!”
Xu Zhen jumped up angrily at this and ran towards the official to attack him. Ma Xin Kong, witnessing this, immediately said, “Zhen Er, sit down!” Xu Zhen dared not to disobey his master’s orders, so he stopped; but his face was already flushed red with anger and said, “Did you not hear what they said, master.” To this, the old man serenely replied, “The old officials are just having a round of jokes, what does this have to do with you?” Xu Zhen in his lifetime had never once shown any disobedience to his master, as a result, he had to bitterly swallow his anger and slowly seat back to his own place. Meanwhile, all of three officials laughed at Xu Zhen and continued to stare lustily at Ma Chun Hua.
Ma Chun Hua knew of the disrespectful actions of the officials towards her and was itching to get even with them; but because she knew that her father had always respected and revered government officials, she did not dare to do anything rash and was secretly thinking of a plan to avenge herself. Suddenly, lightning flashed-its light illuminating the hall briefly-and was followed close by a deafening roar of thunder that was so loud that it seemed to have struck the hall itself. At that instant, a gap in the sky opened anew and rain fell down to the moist and wet earth again.
Amidst the sound of rain, a lone voice can be heard clearly, “this rain is really fierce, we have no choice but to seek shelter in this manor.” A humble voice of a male house servant then replied, “There is a fire lit in the common hall today, you people are welcome to come in and warm yourselves.” The door of the hall was pushed open, and a couple entered. The man was about 37 or 38 years of age, tall and of refined features, and he was carrying a bag. The woman was about twenty two or three years old. Her skin was whiter than snow and her eyebrows and eyes looked as if it was exquisitely drawn like a beautiful painting. Overall, she was truly a beautiful woman. Ma Chun Hua can be considered as a beauty, but if she was compared to this woman, her beauty would be a few levels lower still. The couple did not wear any waterproof clothing. The young woman was covered by the man’s outer garment and both of them were already soaked through. The man was holding the young woman’s hand in an intimate manner, which suggests the possibility that they were newly-weds. The young man found a sack of barley in a corner of the hall and started to spread them on a portion of the floor. He then led the young woman to sit on the dry and newly covered floor with a gentle and benign manner. Their clothing was of the expensive and luxurious type. On the head of the young woman was a pearl encrusted gold phoenix hairpin. The pearl on this ornament was as big as a man’s small finger. It was round and brilliant and its worth would be considered of immense value. Ma Xin Kong observed the features of the couple and felt suspicious. He thought, “The area around here was never a safe place to begin with as it was constantly filled with robbers and highwaymen, but yet this couple dared to travel in a night like this without any bodyguards or companions of any kind.” Ma Xin Kong had spent most of his life in the world of martial arts and knew many people, but yet he could not guess who this couple was.
Ma Chun Hua noticed that the young woman was tired out and her eyes were swollen and red. She must have probably encountered the rain somewhere along the way here. Ma Chun Hua thought that if the woman dried her body with wet clothing on, she would have easily gotten sick. So, being a considerate person, Ma Chun Hua pulled out a trunk containing her clothing and took out one of her dresses and went near the woman, saying, “Good woman, I have here some rough clothing that you can borrow. Wear it first until your own clothes are dried.” Hearing this, the woman felt grateful and smiled at Ma Chun Hua. She then stood up and looked enquiringly at her husband, who replied her with a nod and a smile to Ma Chun Hua. At this, both women went to the back of the hall to borrow a room in which they can change her clothing.
The three officials looked upon each other, and strange expressions crept up their faces. They were all thinking about how lovely the young woman would be if she was changing her clothing. The official who was provoking Xu Zhen earlier was the bravest among them. He said, “I’ll go and take a look.” The other official smiled and said, “Old He, be careful, don’t make a big scene out of yourself.” The official with the surname of He blinked several times, got up, walked several paces, and then went back to pick up a saber from the ground before going out of the hall.
Xu Zhen was humiliated several times by the old man, and he was not going to forget it so soon. When he sensed that the official had some mischief in mind, he got up and was about to follow him when he looked back and saw that his master had closed his eyes and was in deep meditation. He had also observed that two of his master’s subordinates, who were surnamed Xhe and Yang, were vigilantly guarding the rest of the escort team; which consists of five bodyguards and ten cart drivers. If anything should go amiss in his absence, they would be able to face it without much difficulty.
The official heard footsteps following behind him and turned his head around for a look. It turned out to be Xu Zhen. “Little punk, how are you!” “Fine, smelly official”, replied Xu Zhen. “Need some beating, punk?” Asked the official. “Yes, my master wouldn’t allow me to fight out in the open, so I think we should settle for one in secret”, replied Xu Zhen. The official thought that his martial arts were good, and never gave the so called stupid kid a second thought. But he was secretly afraid of the numerous people of the escort agency, because if he had gotten into a serious dispute with them, his company of three would never be a match against the ten score members of the escort agency. Now, luckily the kid is willing to fight in secret, so no matter what the outcomes of the fight is, the kid would eventually suffer the worst. “We shall fight in a place as far away from your master as possible, otherwise there wouldn’t be a match if he finds out,” the official said smilingly.
Both of them then went through a courtyard in search of somewhere to fight. Through several winding corridors, they met a man. He was wearing a new robe and looked sharp and alert. He was the man that had practiced with darts just a while ago. When Xu Zhen saw him, he was immediately reminded of the young man’s training hall and had some notion to use it. So, he went up to the young man with clasped hands and bowed low, saying, “Can I ask you for a favor, brother?” The young man returned the greeting and replied, “What is it that kind master needs?” Xu Zhen pointed to the training hall and replied, “My humble self and this old senior here have some feuds to settle, and would be very much thankful if kind sir can borrow your training hall for this particular purpose.” The young man was mystified on how outsiders can know that he had a training hall, but as a practitioner of martial arts, he couldn’t resist the temptation to watch a fight. So, he obliged and said, “brilliant idea” before leading them into the training hall personally.
At that time, the old woman and the rest of the attendants had left, and the hall was deserted. The official observed that the four walls of the hall were lined with the racks of various weapons like sabers, spears, swords and three-pronged forks. Besides that, there were also a collection of sandbags, bull’s eyes, stone weights and large rocks scattered all over the floor of the hall. On the west side of the hall, 72 plum flower-standing pillars were planted into the ground. The official gave an inconspicuous nod and thought, “it seems that this family knows martial arts, and they were not too bad at it too.” He then gave his respects to the young man and said, “It is very generous of you kind Master for lending this humble servant a shelter against the raging storm, but young Master here had not yet given us your great name or surname.” The young man briefly repaid the courtesy and said, “I am surnamed Shang, and my given name is Bao Zhen. What are your names?” Hearing this, Xu Zhen hurriedly answered, “I am Xu Zhen, and my master is the Flying Horse Escort Agency’s leader ‘Hundred Sure Wins Godly Fists’ Ma Xin Kong.” When he was saying this, his eyes roved towards the official and thought, “now that you know who my master is, know you not how powerful he is?” “I have long heard of him already, well met!” Said Shang Bao Zhen. “What about you, old senior?” “I am the emperor’s personal bodyguard, He Si Hao,” replied the official. “So, you are an imperial bodyguard. I have long heard of the capital’s 18 Great Masters of the Imperial Bodyguards. I suppose you knew some of them, do you?” said Shang Bao Zhen. “Yes, I knew quite a good many of them well enough,” replied the official again. In reality, the Emperor’s bodyguards are divided into four subgroups that were color-coded by the flags they bore. These groups, with colored flags of yellow, inlaid yellow, white and blue were put under the command of a head commander and his deputy. Out of all the selected bodyguards, 18 of the most skilled were selected to be the 18 Great Masters, who acted as some of the Emperor’s most trusted servants and bodyguards. The other lesser bodyguards (mainly yellow, inlaid yellow and white ranked ones), which were marked by the plumes they wore, mostly consisted of the royal family. By contrast, the blue plumed guards are of the race of Han and not of the royal Manchu family, and so they were of the lowest rank. As a matter of fact, He Si Hao was a blue ranked bodyguard of low importance that was nearly on the last place of the bodyguard’s list. So, naturally he would know each of the 18 Great Masters, but they would never really care to know him.
“Master Shang, you can be the judge of this fair match between myself and senior He here. No matter what the outcomes of the match are, none of what happened here will be leaked out to anyone else,” said Xu Zhen. He said this out of the fear that his master might found out about this matter. Hearing this, He Si Hao laughed and said, “Defeating you will not be of great glory anyway, so there is no need to boast it out to anyone else. Foolish boy, lets start!” He Si Hao then pulled up the hem of his robe and tucked it into his belt while Xu Zhen removed his outer garments and tied his braid of hair around his neck. Xu Zhen’s hands were clasped into hard fists and his legs were placed close to each other. He felt calm and relaxed; each of his limbs was in sync with each other and put forth into a steady stance.
He Si Hao saw that Xu Zhen’s stances looked like the stances performed by the Cha (Examiner’s) fist techniques and felt immensely relieved. He thought, “What of the boast about the ‘Hundred Sure Wins Godly Fists’. Why, even a kid of three could perform those moves! These people are really big boasters!” Actually, Tham(puddle), Cha(examiner), Hua(flower) and Hung(swift/fierce current) fist techniques were the four most studied fist techniques of the Northern Region Martial Arts Schools. The Tham fist techniques specialize on the great strength of the legs while the Cha and Hua fist techniques gave more importance on the fist stances. Anyone who had learned the martial arts of the fist would at some point learn one of the famous school’s techniques, and they were considered to be the most basic skills of a fist maneuver.
He Si Hao pondered at Xu Zhen’s skills and could not help but to smile at Shang Bao Zhen while saying, “Pardon me for my lowly skills” before unleashing a move called ‘separating a wild horse’s mane’ at Xu Zhen. The martial arts he used were Tai Chi, a type of internal martial arts technique. At that timeline, Tai Chi was famous throughout the country, and its power and potential were recognized by all.
Xu Zhen dared not to act rashly. He took a step backwards and made a crouching pose. His right hand was pressed downwards while his left hand took a swipe upwards. This move was called ‘sweeping upwards with crossed palms’. He Si Hao sensed that this oncoming move was not weak and retaliated with ‘turning a back to take a tiger to the hills’, which enabled him to avoid the attack. Xu Zhen then continued his attack with the move ‘bow legged strike’. His right fist went fast and it was aimed at his opponent’s face. He Si Hao blocked this with a move ‘sealing resembled closing’ and brought his hands together in a blocking motion. As a result, both of their fists and palms collided together. He Si Hao felt a jarring pain in his wrists and thought, “this boy’s brute strength is really great.”
They then continued their fight and exchanged ten or so moves. In a corner of the hall, Shang Bao Zhen was unobtrusively watching the entire proceeding. He noticed that while Xu Zhen’s steps were firm and his fists were powerful, He Si Hao’s moves were light and swift, betraying clear traces of a strong foundation in lightness martial arts.
When the fighting was getting most intense, He Si Hao laughed and unleashed a palm that struck Xu Zhen’s shoulder. Xu Zhen returned the blow with a flying kick, but He Si Hao managed to evade it. He Si Hao attacked again, this time using a move called ‘pure maiden shuttling back and forth’, and struck Xu Zhen’s forearm. Xu Zhen didn’t care anymore; he attacked with all his might and used a chopping blow with his fists, called ‘bow legged dividing strike’. A sound of something being struck was heard, and He Si Hao was hit. This blow was made with a great force, causing He Si Hao to stagger a few steps backwards before he fell slumped on the ground. At that moment, a tender feminine voice that came from behind the hall said: “Good!”
Shang Bao Zhen looked back and saw a young married woman and a girl standing by the door of the hall. He was originally watching the fight with rapt attention, and had failed to notice when the two women had came in. Actually, when the two had finished changing the woman’s clothing, they were walking back to the hall with the bonfire when they noticed people fighting in the training hall. Ma Chun Hua saw how his fellow apprentice brother felled the official and couldn’t resist the urge to give a cheer.
He Si Hao was in extreme pain from the blow he received from Xu Zhen, but when he noticed that his defeat was watched by two women, he became extremely humiliated and angered. He jumped up, unsheathed his saber, and immediately attacked again. Xu Zhen was not scared, and he was still using the Examiner’s fist technique. But now, he was wary of his opponent’s weapon, and his moves now were more defensive than offensive. When Ma Chun Hua saw that the official was in great rage and shame, and his intent in this fight now was not of a friendly contest, she started to get worried about Xu Zhen. At that moment, the woman who was standing beside Ma Chun Hua tugged her sleeve, and said, “let us go! I hate watching people fight and threaten each other with weapons”.
In a desperate situation like this, how can she leave? Ma Chun Hua pleaded, “Can we look for just a while longer?” But the woman beside her just wrinkled her eyebrows, and walked away.
Shang Bao Zhen was busy observing the official’s saber techniques and Xu Zhen’s dodging techniques with a golden dart in hand. If the official injured Xu Zhen in any way, he would have to interfere. But Xu Zhen’s eyes were constantly following the saber’s movements: if the saber went turned right, his eyes would move right, if the saber turned left, his eyes would also turn to the left. When the saber nearly reached his face, he managed to move his body away and unleashed a kick at the hand that was holding the saber. But He Si Hao turned his saber around, avoiding the blow and made a side sweep cut that was aimed at Xu Zhen’s foot. Xu Zhen’s arms were quite long, before the saber struck him; he extended his hand and hit He Si Hao squarely on the nose. In this moment of weakness, Xu Zhen grabbed He Si Hao’s hand and twisted his wrists, which in turn enabling him to release and snatch the saber from He Si Hao’s hand.
He Si Hao was afraid that Xu Zhen would use the saber to hack him, so he retreated backwards and subconsciously wiped his face. He found that his hand was covered with blood. Xu Zhen threw the saber down and said, “Now, do you still dare to scold people blindly anymore?” He Si Hao felt shameful, and did not utter a sound.
Shang Bao Zhen then tugged at Xu Zhen’s shirt and made a face. Xu Zhen did not understand this, so Shang Bao Zhen said aloud, “since we cannot decide who is more powerful, we shall announce this fight a draw.” “Why can’t you pick a winner?” Xu Zhen questioned hurriedly. “Both of you are a match and powerful with your own unique skills. Xu Zhen’s skills with the ‘Examiner’s’ fist techniques are well rehearsed while senior He’s Tai Chi fist and saber techniques are distinguished. Xu Zhen was just lucky this time, if it is up for real martial arts, senior He should be the winner.” Shang Bao Zhen answered this while pulling out a handkerchief to wipe the blood off He Si Hao’s face. Xu Zhen wanted to protest but Ma Chun Hua said, “martial brother, don’t listen to him. Let us go.”
Xu Zhen had abated his anger a bit when he had struck He Si Hao twice. But Shang Bao Zhen’s verdict was unclear and biased, making him look like the loser instead. It made him angrier the more he thought about it. He then looked back angrily at Shang Bao Zhen before following Ma Chun Hua out of the hall. When they had reached a courtyard, a distant sound of thunder arose from the sky, seemingly mingled with the distant but audible laughter of Shang Bao Zhen and He Si Hao. It seemed that both of them were laughing at Xu Zhen behind his back.
As Xu Zhen sat back to his seat beside the fire, he grew restless and uneasy, because it was he who had won the fight and not the other way around. Meanwhile, his master, Ma Xin Kong, seemed to be asleep with half closed eyelids. After several moments, He Si Hao entered the hall and joined his companions. It was not known what lecherous words he had spoken to the other two officials, but they had all broken into a fit of laughter and made sideway glances at the young woman in response to that.
Ma Xin Kong slowly opened his eyes and stretched his own body. He then got up and went to a nearby escort carriage and examined it as if he was performing a check before turning around and said, “Zhen Er, come and see what happened here.” When he was saying this, his face was facing the wall. He continued his examination on the carriage and softly exclaimed, “you useless thing! Your kicks are all crooked. If you had kicked any straighter the fight would have ended sooner.” Xu Zhen was shocked by this. With a shaky voice, he exclaimed, “so, Master had seen it all already?” Ma Xin Kong then made a humphing noise before he replied, “don’t you play tricks with your Master. When your opponent was using ‘raising a leg to touch a horse’, why didn’t you counteract with ‘bow legged double palms’ and hit him straight on? Are you afraid that time?” Hearing this, Xu Zhen thought back for a while. During that time, he did not know the strength of his opponent, and was naturally somewhat afraid of him. As a result, some of his moves were used with unnecessary force because he was unsure of himself and wanted to ensure that he hit his opponent hard. Little did he know that his master had already guessed his intentions and were spying at the hall’s window all along, witnessing everything that had happened.
“Now, you can go off now and thank the Shang boy. That kid is younger than you, but he sure is smarter.” Xu Zhen was confused, and he said, “Master, why should I thank him? He is a biased and bad person.” Ma Xin Kong gave a cold smile and replied sardonically, “Yes, he was unjust. But his biased decision was made just in order to save you, Master Xu.” Xu Zhen was even more confused by this reply. Now, he looked stupidly at his master, unable to decide what to do. Ma Xin Kong continued again in a low voice, “do you know who you have just fought with? That was an imperial bodyguard. Who are we to be able compared side by side with him? Remember, we are just ordinary escort guards who need to be fed to stay alive. If you made enemies with the Emperor’s people, we would have no choice but to go in hiding just to stay alive. That kid there had not only just saved the official’s face, but he had also ensured that no further trouble will arose from a fool like you!”
Xu Zhen now understood the whole thing. He immediately said “yes, yes” to his master before going back to the training hall. At the training hall, he saw Shang Bao Zhen rigorously moving his arms and legs and formed the stances ‘sweeping upwards with crossed hands’ and ‘bow legged dividing strike’, which came from the ‘Examiner’s’ fist techniques that he had previously used in the battle with He Si Hao. When Shang Bao Zhen noticed Xu Zhen’s presence, his face turned red and he stopped practicing his martial arts.
Xu Zhen gave a curtsy and said, “Gentleman Shang, I came here at the intention of my master to thank you. I truly regret my ignorance of not knowing your good intentions earlier and for cruelly harboring some hard feelings against you.” Shang Bao Zhen replied, “Brother Xu, your martial arts are better than the official for at least more than ten times. Little brother here is extremely amazed by you.” When Xu Zhen heard these words, he became extremely pleased, and continued to strike up a conversation with him. “Which sect’s martial arts are you practicing?” To this, Shang Bao Zhen humbly replied, “little brother had just begun his training, and had not acquired the mastery of anything yet. So, I do not dare to mention any names, lest I shame my instructor. Just now, the move that you have used to fight the old man; is it like this?” Shang Bao Zhen’s right leg stepped out, and a fist was unleashed flanked by a palm below.
Xu Zhen had used this move to defeat the official, and when he saw this winning move being performed again, he could help but to feel proud of himself. “This move has two formulas, they are called ‘staying firm at three sides by ignoring the land and sea’, and ‘caution towards the width when dividing the fist’. He was saying these words with an easy going manner before realizing that the formulas are his sect’s martial arts secrets that were passed down by his master, and should not be so carelessly told to others. He then quickly corrected himself, “You have performed perfectly, and that is the move.” Shang Bao Zhen then asked, “What does it mean by ‘staying firm at three sides by ignoring the land and sea’?” Xu Zhen replied, “I….have already forgotten what it means.” Because he was a bad liar, his face became red as soon as he said those words. Shang Bao Zhen knew that he was unwilling to say much, and so he did not press his question further. Later, Shang Bao Zhen showered Xu Zhen with many praises, causing Xu Zhen to feel so light headed that he thought he was floating on air.
Xu Zhen later said, “Brother Shang, we don’t have to be so courteous. Show me some of your martial arts, and if there are any mistakes, I shall correct them for you. Let us not waste today’s bond of friendship in vain.”
Shang Bao Zhen was happily replied, “Nothing could be better.” His first move was ‘rope hanging on a whip’ followed by ‘two crosses revolving around three points’. All of the moves he performed were from the ‘twelve ways of the Puddle (Tham) leg skills’. The moves, although it looked practiced, were infirm and not executed properly. The swift movement of Shang Bao Zhen generated a lot of small wind currents and his clothing seemed to be floating, but in an actual combat these moves would not be of great potency. Xu Zhen saw this and shook his head sadly. When Shang Bao Zhen finished the 12th move, called ‘rhinoceros looking at the moon’, Xu Zhen could not prevent himself from letting out a sigh. He said, “Don’t blame me for being so direct, but the master who taught you these martial arts is misleading you.” When he wanted to explain more, Ma Chun Hua’s head poked out from the door of the hall and said, “Martial brother, Daddy is calling for you.”
Xu Zhen then took leave from Shang Bao Zhen and hurriedly went back to the hall. When he reached the hall, he saw two newcomers among the crowd who were gathered around the fire. One of them was a man without a right arm and knife scar that went from the right eyebrow to the left side of the lip. The light reflected from this man’s face made him looked very ugly indeed. The other newcomer was a 13-14 year old boy. He had a yellow complexion and a skinny looking body. Both of them were wearing ragged clothing.
Xu Zhen looked at both of them, but did not give them a second thought. Instead, he went near his master and called him. Ma Xin Kong looked back sullenly at him and spoke softly, “you went for quite some time already, are you showing off again?” Xu Zhen replied, “I would not dare to do so. The one named Shang’s dart skills are quite excellent, but who can guess that his other martial arts are so poor.” Ma Xin Kong replied, “Fool! You have been tricked! With your current abilities, even if you can divide yourself into two persons, would still not be a match against him.” Xu Zhen smiled and replied, “I didn’t notice it then. His ‘12 ways of the ‘puddle’ leg skills’ looks good but it is really impractical in a real sense.” Ma Xin Kong asked again, “then do you know who his master is?”
Xu Zhen felt odd. He thought, “My master had never met Brother Shang or saw his martial arts before. How then can he know who his master is?” He then answered, “Your disciple doesn’t know. He might as well be a useless person.” Ma Xin Kong smiled coldly, lowered his voice again, and said, “Useless person? Humph! 15 years ago, your master was chopped by a saber and struck by a palm; as a result, he needs 3 years to recuperate from those injuries. Do you know who might that person be?” Xu Zhen got a shock. “Is it the Eight Trigram Saber Shang Jian Ming?” Ma Xing Kong replied again, “correct. Shang Jian Ming was one of the Shandong Province’s district officials. We happened to be in his district and coincidently this family is also surnamed Shang. We have entered here blindly to evade the rain, and we have failed to notice this fact earlier. Did you see the plaque above the door of the hall?”
Xu Zhen followed his master’s gaze and saw that on the door was a golden Eight Trigram. He got another shock and hastily said, “Master, get your tools out! We have just entered an enemy stronghold!” Ma Xing Kong then replied neutrally, “you need not to worry; Shang Jian Ming was already dead.” At that moment, Xu Zhen had recalled that his master was once defeated by a rich man from Shandong, a one called the Eight Trigram Saber Shang Jian Ming. That incident had brought great humiliation to his master, and so it was rarely mentioned. Xu Zhen had never asked for the finer details of that incident before, and could not have known that Shang Jian Ming had died. So Xu Zhen asked again, “did master get his revenge on him?” “Humph! I cannot master even a small bit of Shang Jian Ming’s martial arts, so what chances do I have with the toys I have now?” his master answered. Xu Zhen got more curious and asked again, “then who killed him?” Ma Xin Kong replied, “The boy who had practiced with the golden darts and the human figures-One of the figures represented by those boards is the one who had killed Shang Jian Ming.”
Xu Zhen’s eyes grew wide. “Is it Miao Ren Feng and Hu Yi Dao?”
Ma Xin Kong nodded. His face was suddenly full of worry, resembling the sullen and dark weather outside.
Xu Zhen was usually very awed and worshipful of his master, imagining that few people in this world could defeat the ‘Hundred Sure Wins Godly Fists’ Ma Xin Kong. But who knew that Shang Jian Ming can defeat his master, and this same Shang Jian Ming was also defeated by the more powerful Miao Ren Feng and Hu Yi Dao. He was confused and asked, “Who exactly are Miao Ren Feng and Hu Yi Dao?” Ma Xin Kong replied, “Hu Yi Dao’s martial arts are stronger than mine by tenfold, but unfortunately he died 10 years ago.” Xu Zhen let out a sigh, “is his death caused by sickness?” “Nay, he was killed.” Xu Zhen’s eyes grew wide again, saying, “This Hu Yi Dao is so powerful, how can anyone defeat him?” “It was the Great Defeater of The World, The Peerless Golden Faced Bodhisattva Miao Ren Feng (the name means a phoenix among mortals)”. These thirteen words: ‘Great Defeater of The World, The Peerless Golden Face Bodhisattva Miao Ren Feng’ was said in one breath. Although these words were whispered, he felt an aura of greatness surrounding it. Xu Zhen’s heart sank, he was about to say something in return when he suddenly heard the distant sound of hoof beats. In an instant, a ten score group of horses appeared out from the rain.
When the young gentleman and the beautiful young woman heard the hoof beats, they glanced at each other. Their gestures indicated masked fear, but they could not remove the hints of alarm on their faces. The young man then pulled the woman’s hand and moved her farther away from the fire. This act was done as if it was a reaction made through a fear of the fire, but this was not so.
The herd of horses stopped at the front door of the manor. There was heard a peculiar whistle, and 7-8 of the horses began to surround the wall of the manor. When Ma Xin Kong heard the whistle, his expressions changed and he said, “Calm down.” Xu Zhen at that moment couldn’t contain his excitement and blurted out, “are those things (referring to robbers and thieves) coming?” Ma Xin Kong did not answer, but he shouted, “Men! Get your weapons out and protect the loot!” Once this was said, confusion started among the members of the escort agency. They knew that robbers had come to steal from them, and each one of them stood up. Escort Xhe and Yang, along with five other guards, immediately told the cart drivers to arrange the carriages in a tight bunch. Ma Chun Hua, instead of worrying, was happy. She pulled out a willow leaf saber and said, “Daddy, what kind of robbers are they?” “We don’t know yet,” Ma Xin Kong answered with a furrowed brow. He later spoke as if he was only talking to himself. “This friend is strange; he didn’t give any warnings at all.”
As soon as he finished saying this, several thudding sounds can be heard on the walls. Suddenly, there appeared eight fully black clothed men lined on the wall. Each one of them was wielding a weapon. Ma Chun Hua raised her right arm, with the intention to release a hidden projectile hidden under her arms. Ma Xin Kong, with a straight face, intervened, “don’t be rash! Act according to my eye signals.” Meanwhile, the eight black clothed just stared at the hall without a word.
There was a banging sound, and the door of the hall was pushed open. A man wearing a set of richly decorated blue clothing entered. The man’s face was ugly, and his movements were sly and slinky, making him to look completely out of match with his fine apparel. This man looked up to the sky, and noticed that the rain was still strong. He grunted and laughed aloud, and with only the tip of his feet touching the ground he dashed forward. In an instant, his feet had carried him across the courtyard to the entrance of the hall. This movement was very fast; although the rain was heavy at that time, only a small part of his shoulder was wet. Xu Zhen and Ma Chun Hua had originally put little regard to this man, but when he showed this little bit of lightness martial arts, they began to put a guard against him, and stared at Ma Xin Kong.
Ma Xin Kong held onto his pipe and gave his respects to the man, and said, “You must forgive me for bad eyesight, for it prevented me from visiting you. Honorable friend, may I ask you where your stronghold is?”
Meanwhile, the young master of the Shang Manor, Shang Bao Zhen had heard the hoof beats of the horses a while ago and went to the hall to investigate. He had brought with him his golden darts and a sharp saber. He had only reached the hall when he saw the leader of the robbers wearing a jasper ring and a long gown set with shining gold buttons. The man himself was snuffing out from a jadeite snuffbox. He did not bring a weapon, but by the looks of the man, he can be easily mistaken for a rich business man. He heard the man saying, “I am surnamed Yan, with the name of Ming Ji. This old hero must be ‘the Hundred Sure Wins Godly Fists’ Ma Xin Kong.”
Ma Xin Kong clasped his hands together and said, “I do not dare to call myself so, this is only a grand nickname given to me by good friends. It doesn’t really worth the mention.” But deep in his heart, he thought, “Yan Ji? I have never heard of anyone with such a name before.”
Yan Ji laughed aloud. He pointed to the men standing on the wall and said, “My brothers had been hungry these four days, would hero Ma spare something for them to eat?” Ma Xin Kong answered, “Master Yan, you are really too serious. Zhen Er, take out 50 taels of silver and distribute them to Master Yan’s brothers.” He was doing this by the way of the world, but by the feel of this group of people, 50 taels of silver would not be enough to get them to leave in a satisfied mood.
It turns out that Yan Ji looked up the sky and laughed aloud again. He said, “Master Ma’s occupation requires him to escort over 300000 taels of silver. Although I am not a greedy person, 50 taels of silver is certainly too small an amount.” Ma Xin Kong’s heart thought, “This man’s sources must be good. How can he know that I am escorting over 300000 taels of silver?” He furrowed his eyebrows, and continued this proceeding with the ways of the martial arts world. “How can I live up to that? My friends must have been making a big boast. Since we shall meet no matter where we are, I am quite happy now that I have you as a friend. I wonder what your orders would be.”
Yan Ji replied, “To order you I would not dare. But my eyes will surely be opened at the sight of wealth. Since 300000 taels of silver have passed through my nose, it will be against my conscience not to take it. Since old man Ma has taken me as a friend, I shall then just take half of it. 150000 taels will be just enough for me.” To these words he did not wait for an answer, and he continued by waving his hand. Instantly, the 8 men jumped down from the wall and went inside the hall. One of them asked, “Shall we take it all?” “No, just take half of it and leave the rest. We shall sh*t together and eat together if we must (TR-means that troubles and fortunes are equally shared among good friends).” The men loudly agreed to this statement in unison and reached towards the carriages.
Ma Xin Kong got angry. When he saw the way these men leaped down from the wall, he deduced that their martial arts are weak, and none of them were experts; and this fact eases his heart a bit. He said, “Master Yan, truly you do not want to give me any face.” When Yan Ji heard this, he felt consternated and said, “What do you mean I don’t give you any face. Didn’t I say that I’ll just take half of it and leave the rest? Aren’t we brothers? Everything is negotiable and can be divided properly.”
Xu Zhen could not contain himself any more. He took a few steps forwards and said, “You called yourself a dealer/gangster. But haven’t you heard of the reputation of the Flying Horse Escort Agency?”
Yan Ji replied, “My mistress and my little son had certainly heard of it before. But damn it, this is the first time I’ve heard of it!” As soon as he said this, the shadow of his body flashed; and he was already on the other end of the hall. He then proceeds to grab a flag of a flying horse from a carriage, snapped the flag pole in half, and threw these objects down before he stamped his feet upon it.
This act had broken an ethical rule in the martial arts realm. Stealing from escorts was common in those days, but such a despicable act was rarely heard of, unless one wishes to make an enemy and stake one’s life upon it. When the escort team saw this, they immediately showed their protests.
Xu Zhen did not say anything when he saw this. He took a step forward and began his attack using a stance called ‘to strike once with each step’ with his left palm aiming at Yan Ji’s chest. Yan Ji evaded the blow and said, “Little kid, do you wish to fight?” before he brought down his hand to grab Xu Zhen’s left wrist. Xu Zhen responded to this move by changing his stance to ‘turning backwards with a dispersing hand’. His left hand moved backwards while his right fist reached towards Yan Ji’s lower jaw. But somehow, Yan Ji is able to turn his head away and managed to unleash a punch with his right fist. His fist movement was strange, and when Xu Zhen tried to move his head away and prevent himself from being hit, the fist landed on his shoulder with a bang instead. The power of the fist was great, and it causes Xu Zhen’s chest and back to throb with pain. His feet wavered and he nearly fell, but he was still strong, and with a quick and resourceful thought he changed his stance to ‘kneeling downwards with thrusting palms’. His body bowed down with his right knee on the ground, and with his hands extended he counter balanced the force that was applied to him by Yan Ji. This stance is the ‘Examiner’s’ fist techniques specialties.
Yan Ji did not care much at Xu Zhen’s change of tactics. He just made a faint smile and counterattacked with a reverse kick. This move was most unusual, and Xu Zhen, who had a shock, was forced to leap backwards. But Yan Ji continued his assault with another punch, and exclaimed, “I wish you a prosperous new year!” His fist, with a bang, had struck Xu Zhen’s chest again. This blow was a severe one, because Xu Zhen went down at once. Xu Zhen then rolled on the ground several times and coughed out several mouthfuls of blood. He was a hale and strong boy, but he was defeated so throughoutly that he cannot even stand up anymore. The other robbers, who had witnessed their master’s conquest, applauded and said, “This blow alone will make you suffer long enough, boy!”
The escort company saw that Yan Ji’s actions very ruthless and evil, and could barely help from feeling scared as well as angry. Meanwhile, Ma Chun Hua went to get Xu Zhen. She was so anxious of his martial brother that she had started to cry, and could not stop herself from saying, “are you all right?” Ma Xin Kong had traveled the martial arts world for a long time, and during his time, he had met many interesting people, and encountered many hardships and difficulties. But yet he cannot even identify who this robber chief was and what kind of martial arts he possesses. The 3 palace guards, however, were conversing with each other. “Which sect’s martial arts does it look like?” “I can’t quite recognize it, but it looks like the ‘five movement fists’”. “No, the ‘five movement fists’ aren’t supposed to be that vile.”
Ma Xin Kong then took two steps forward and greeted. “Master Yan’s martial arts are quite exemplary. Thank you for giving my disciple some guidance. It is better to let him know that there are many able people in the martial arts world.” Yan Ji smiled and said, “My mediocre skills are but mere play things. I am not even worthy to take your shoes or to collect your chamber pots. I am as bare as a wooden rod, and all that I have is this. It is better for me to learn a bit from Hero Ma’s ‘Hundred Sure Win’s Godly fists’.” Ma Xin Kong observed how greasy his face looked and the way he spoke made each word sounded like an insult, and was very sure that the fellow was a rascal and a hooligan in every way. And yet, he is able to learn such a strange form of martial arts. He felt odd and made a decision to defend himself more than to attack in this fight. This way, he can know what kind of martial arts his opponent possesses. He concentrated his attention on his opponent and clasped his fists lightly.
The three officials, Shang Bao Zhen and the escort company put their attention on both of them. Each one of them there knew that the stakes of this battle are the 300000 taels of silver, along with Ma Xin Kong’s life, properties and the reputation that he had gained throughout his entire life. The people in the hall became still, and all that can be heard now was the cracking and popping sounds made by the burning sticks, coals and dry branches of the bonfire. Rain continued to pour at the courtyard outside, showing no signs of stopping. The exquisitely clothed young man and the beautiful woman were sitting side by side talking animatedly in low voices. They did not seem to have a care at all at the imminent battle between Ma Xin Kong and Yan Ji.
Yan Ji took out, from the bosom pocket of his clothing, a shining golden snuffbox, and snuffed it once. He then tied his braid of hair around his head, and prepared himself, because he knew that Ma Xin Kong is not an ordinary opponent. He said, “This hoodlum’s ancestors might not have done their proper share of good deeds, and now this generation have paid the price and must stake even their own lives to earn a living. Damn you, mother!” As soon as he said this, his body pranced forward with his left fist striking out. Ma Xin Kong waited until his left fist was about half a feet from his chest before he took a step backwards and retaliated with a stance called ‘the crane spreading it’s wings’. His body bent into a crouched position, and with his hands crooked flailed out horizontally, releasing a ‘fu’ sound. This stance is actually one of Shaolin’s ordinary ‘Examiner’s’ fist techniques, but under the hands of an experienced user, it can be quite powerful and precise.
The gentleman at the hall originally did not care about the feuds between the robbers and the escort agency, but when he incidentally saw the unique leg skills displayed by Yan Ji, he got interested, and began to watch them. The lady, who was at his side, got annoyed, and called out, “Gui Nong, Gui Nong”. The gentleman offhandedly nodded, but he was still watching the fight. The beautiful lady shrugged, and said, “Is an old frog and a rascal fighting with each other that interesting?” The gentleman was unhappy when he heard this, and quickly turned around and smiled, “The rascal’s martial arts are quite strange indeed”. The woman, hearing his reply, sighed, “All you men ever think about is killing and fighting.” The gentleman smiled again, and said, “If you don’t want me to watch, then so be it. But you’ll have to face me, so that I can satisfy myself with your beautiful face”. The lady, hearing this, actually let out a small smile. She truly is a real beauty. She looked up at the man, and they were locked eye to eye, and their faces were full of passion and love for each other.
At this time Ma Xin Kong and the rascal fought like an intense and raging storm of fire. By the time he had used up all the stances of the ‘Examiner’s’ fist technique, he had yet to gain even one single hope of victory. Yan Ji’s stances, from start to finish, all consisted of the same repetitive ones. It was either a straight punch ahead, a hooked kick to the back, a lowered elbow followed with a hooked grip, a hacking blow or a combination of it with a kick. The three officials had watched for a while, and found out that although Yan Ji’s stances were limited, Ma Xin Kong with his multitudes of different stances couldn’t even touch him, and felt that this was funny.
Ma Xin Kong changed his stances again, this time utilizing one called ‘a blocking horse and a pushing fist’. His legs assumed the horse riding stance, with his right hand pulled backwards and his left one pushing forwards. He Si Hao suddenly cried out, “He’ll bring down his elbows and grip his opponent’s hands.” As expected, Yan Ji really did bring down his elbows and tried to grab his opponent’s hands. Ma Xin Kong quickly changed his stances again, this time pulling back his hands and twisting his body slightly. He Si Hao smiled as he watched this and ejaculated again, “this time it’s the reverse hooked kick.” True to his words, Yan Ji di performed a reverse hooked kick. Ma Xin Kong’s martial arts had exceeded He Si Hao’s martial arts by God knows how many times, but somehow He Si Hao can still predict Yan Ji’s next move. So, it is impossible for Ma Xin Kong to be unable to do the same. But it is also strange to note that, while he was able to predict that the hooked kick comes next, he was still unable to find a way to counteract it.
Ma Xin Kong’s nickname is the ‘Hundred Sure Wins Godly Fists’, and he was able to memorize Shaolin’s every branch of martial arts by heart. Now, when he found out that the ‘Examiner’s’ Fist Technique was useless, he changed his strategy, and lashed out in a series of quick punches and kicks. His movements and style was like the wind, and this type of martial arts is known as the Yan Qing Fist.
Yan Qing(refer to the Water Margin) was a good Han hero who lived in a particular mountain during the Song dynasty. His sumo/ (wrestling?) skills were equal to none, and most of his martial arts were carefully passed down till this day. The important aspects of this martial art are the pouncing and crouching skills, as well as the calf twisting and the tripping tricks. To summarize it, most of the stances of this martial art are used for attack purposes. Ma Xin Kong was quite aged, but he was still agile and fast, and he was now leaping up and pouncing down with the dexterity of a civet. Yan Ji watched as his opponent changed techniques, but he did not take this change seriously. He continued to use the few stances of his awkward and ugly looking martial arts repeatedly without even missing a beat.
Shang Bao Zhen, Xu Zhen, Ma Chun Hua, Escort Xhe and Yang watched the display of Yan Ji’s strange martial arts with a mixture of curiosity and amazement. At this point, the people can already guess that Yan Ji’s next move would either be a straight punch or a combination of a hacking blow and a kick. They couldn’t resist the temptation to call out the next move with He Si Hao. But incredibly, Ma Xin Kong still could not do anything about it. He started to use a hooked punch, followed by three furious punches aimed at the face, crossed blows, ‘the counter- figure hammer’, and ‘the cloudy crossed fist’ coupled with a kick aimed at the genitals. One move was followed by the next one in without a pause, and the movement of his fists and legs were fast and full of fury, just like the power of the wind and storm raging outside the hall. Yan Ji, as predicted, made an unlearnt and awkward straight punch, and all of Ma Xin Kong’s intricate and unique martial arts were undone.
The invalid and the yellow faced boy, at the moment, stayed hidden at the corner of the hall, watching the ongoing battle. The invalid said to the boy, “Little Master, you must observe the robber carefully. Do not forget his face!” The boy replied, “Why must I do that?” The invalid answered, “You must remember him, and never again must you forget him.” The boy asked again, “Is he a bad person?” The invalid listened to the question with gritted teeth, and said, “Bad timing, it seems, that we have to meet here. Look at him closely now, but do not let him see you.”
After a while, the invalid spoke again, “You have always complained that your martial arts are not right somehow. Now I say to you, boy, observe and learn from him, and you will be able to perfect your martial arts.” “Why must I do that?” the boy asked again. The invalid’s eyes were glassy and brimming with tears as he heard the question. And softly, he replied, “I cannot tell you yet, but after you have grown up and perfected you martial arts, I’ll tell you everything.” The child continued to watch Yan Ji’s ugly display of martial arts for a while, up to a point when he felt a sudden understanding to all this. The boy called aloud, “fourth uncle!” The invalid responded, “Hush! Not so loud”. The child nodded and softly exclaimed, “I have begun to understand this man’s martial arts.” “Good, look closer now. Your fist and saber martial arts manual have two pages missing from it, and that is why your martial arts are not perfect. The two pages are in this man’s possession.” The boy was surprised when he heard this, and his yellow egg shaped face grew red not long after that. He continued to stare at Yan Ji. He then asked again, “how come he has it?” The invalid replied, “I’ll tell you that in the future. This man actually did not know martial arts, but after he acquired the two pages of the manual, learned imperfect ten score moves, he became a match against a top martial arts expert. Imagine that, the original manual have over 300 pages in all. If you can learn it all, imagine what your potentials can be.” When the boy heard this, he became agitated and his eyes sparked with an excited flare.
This was only a fight between two people, but only one of them had earned the crowd’s immediate attention. Yan Ji’s selfsame moves, performed over and over again, had put off the people’s interest, while Ma Xin Kong’s martial arts, with it’s hundreds of variations, kept them interested.
All of the Yan Qin fist techniques were used up after a short span of time, but still it cannot avail against his opponent. So, Ma Xin Kong changed his martial arts again, this time utilizing “Lu Zhishen’s Drunken Fall”. He became seemingly crazed and mad at the same time, drunken and raging, alternating his body between falling down and standing up, such as it is with the stances “the Lo Han sleeping sideways” and “Immortals wishing for a nap”. This new set of martial arts looked wild and uncouth, but in fact there are deep intricacies held within it wild stances. Yan Ji’s ten score stupid looking moves slowly became useless. He cannot understand the passage of his opponent’s fists and feet, and he became worried in heart. Suddenly, Ma Xin Kong shouted, “Got you!” His feet came in the form of “the troubled carp turning over, failing a standing leg”, and struck Yan Ji’s waist. Yan Ji cried out in pain and bowled over.
Ma Xin Kong knew that his opponent was not weak, and even though this strike had felled him, that does not necessarily mean that Yan Ji is seriously injured. If this is a contest held under normal circumstances, he should have stopped after he had felled his opponent. But this particular contest involves the possible change in the ownership of the 300000 taels of silver, so it is impossible for him to let his opponent to have a breather. If the contest were to start all over again after this, he might not even win again. So, once victory was achieved, the prisoners and losers are not to be spared. He continued to launch another attack, aiming for Yan Ji’s back using the “cripple’s kick”.
The robbers screamed with dismay at the sight of this. But Yan Ji used his hooked kick again, aiming at an indiscernible direction. Ma Xin Kong, an experienced fighter that he was, couldn’t block this blow, and toppled backwards when the kick came in contact with his stomach. Ma Chun Hua and Xu Zhen immediately came out to support him. Ma Xin Kong coughed a few times and his face was as white as paper. All he managed to say to his supporters was to protect their escort items at all costs.
Xu Zhen and Ma Chun Hua both held onto their sabers as they tried to protect Ma Xin Kong on both sides. Yan Ji, however, ignoring the great pain in his waist, waved his right hand wildly and ordered his men to advance. Two of the black clad men came to him, and they were told to get the loot. The robbers, at this command, took out their weapons and began to attack the escort company. Ma Chun Hua, Xu Zhen, Escort Xhe and Escort Yang screamed in a unified clamour as they held onto their ground in defense.
The robbers were many, but other than Yan Ji, none of them were really proficient in martial arts. Ma Chun Hua and Xu Zhen, who were divested of their own attention to protect Ma Xin Kong from further harm, actually faced a more dangerous situation than those faced by the escort company. Shang Bao Zhen, who was also there, took out his saber and said aloud, “officers, shall we begin?” He Si Hao replied, “Yes, we’ll drive them out.” And so the four new forces joined the ongoing battle.
Shang Bao Zhen, joining in the midst of battle, noticed that Ma Chun Hua was deeply locked in battle with two of the robbers, resulting in her not being able to have full mobility. He hurriedly went to her aid, and shouted, “Men bullying woman, and it is two at that. Don’t you people know the meaning of shame?” After saying that, his saber made a sideway cut aimed at the head of taller robber of the two, only to be blocked by the robber’s whip. They fought for several rounds before Shang Bao Zhen grabbed his opponent’s wrist and made a swiping blow at his chest, and threw him completely out of battle. Ma Chun Hua, with a panting voice, she said, “very good, now I can take this remaining robber.” Shang Bao Zhen smiled at that as he was retreating and turned his attention to help Xu Zhen. With several blows, he managed to defeat another of the fighting robbers. Xu Zhen was grateful for this act, and he grew respectful towards his master’s good judgment, who had put this youth’s martial arts a level above his.
At the coming of an event such as this, the situation in the hall changed perceptibly. The robbers were slowly being defeated and driven off to the door of the hall. Suddenly, a clear and loud voice rang out. “Stop everyone! Let me say something first!” The people, who were still fighting intensely, did not pay heed to the call. Shang Bao Zhen suddenly saw a shadow flicker before him, and he immediately slashed his saber before him to maim the would-be attacker. The person who was under the attack extended a right hand that was shaped into a hook and held onto Shang Bao Zhen’s saber before disarming him completely. The man then threw the saber to the ground. Shang Bao Zhen was shocked by this and quickly retreated to a safe distance. When he could eventually discern the person who had disarmed him, it turned out to be the well dressed gentleman.
The gentleman took several large steps to the fighting crowd, and single handedly hooked, disarmed, and flailed at the fighters. There can be heard a continuous tinkle of metal as weapons from all directions were knocked down to a useless clutter. He had displayed a profound knowledge of “Little Qin La Hand”, the art of taking down weapons. The robbers and the escort company, in shock and fear, retreated and stared weakly at the gentleman. Yan Ji was stunned, but he had remembered something familiar that had happened more than ten years ago. He called out, “Master Tian, it is you!”
The gentleman did not show any signs of recognition at Yan Ji, so he asked, “do you really recognize who I am?” Yan Ji smilingly replied, “13 years ago at Cangzhou government office, this little servant had once served you, great master.” The gentleman lowered his head to ponder at this for a while before replying, “Yes, you are that medicine man. How did you learn martial arts and became a gang leader?” Yan Ji came nearer to him and paid his respects, “It is all due to the chance that you have given me back then.” So, this gentleman is actually the leader of the northern division of the Sky Dragon Gate sect, Tian Guinong.
The escort company had originally thought that they could defeat the robbers, but who would have thought that not only did gentleman Tian have powerful martial arts, but he is also a long time friend of Yan Ji. What a fix the escort company was in this time. Ma Xin Kong gathered his followers around, and told them to protect the escorted and act according to his given signals.
Tian Guinong looked through everyone in the hall with both his eyes, which is from left to right and from right to left, before turning to the courtyard opening which still allowed the pouring rain in, and finally to the silver laden carriages. He said, “Brother Yan, I think you will have to cover the losses of today’s business.” Yan Ji replied this with a smile, “Don’t you old folks be offended. We brothers had gone hungry for quite some time already. We are practically at the end of our ropes now, and are left with no choice but to involve ourselves with a ‘capital exempted’ venture such as this. I promise that I’ll repent and I won’t forget the kindness that Master Tian had showed me today.” Tian Guinong laughed aloud when he heard this, “Old Yan, why don’t you take 50000 taels of silver. Will it be enough for you?” Yan Ji was startled when he heard this, “old senior must be joking.” “What am I joking about? There are 300000 taels of siver here. I’ll take 150000 while you can get your 50000 taels. The remaining problem is how are we going to divide the left over amount of 100000 taels?”
Yan Ji was happy and eager to comply, “old senior can just take the rest. There is no need to talk about dividing it anymore. Tian Guinong shook his head and reasoned again, “this is not right, how can I be fit to be called noble if it is done like this. When we came here, my little wife’s clothing was wet….” The young woman’s face grew red with embarrassment when she heard the three words ‘my little wife’, and smiled faintly at Tian Guinong. Tian Guinong returned the gesture with a smile of his own before continuing, “The escort company girl had lent some dry clothing to my wife. This deed cannot be left without repay. We shall give her 50000 taels. There are also three government officials here, so we shall follow the saying ‘witnesses are also co- conspirators/ (partakers?)’ and give each of them 10000 taels. As for the remaining 20000 taels, we shall give to the master of this house. What do you think of this, is it fair enough?” Yan Ji clapped his hands in agreement and replied, “It is truly fair! I have said long ago that Gentleman Tian is the world’s most generous hero.”
Ma Xin Kong, Xu Zhen, and Ma Chun Hua heard this loud discussion done in a way as if the 300000 taels of silver were never theirs to begin with. Ma Xin Kong, in his injured state, nearly passed out when he heard what was being said. Xu Zhen looked at his master with alarm, and only managed to say, “What should we do? What should we do?” Ma Chun Hua, who heard this, angrily replied, “What do you mean by that?” She then bent down to pick up her fallen lone saber before calling out, “the one surnamed Tian, do you still regard us as living or dead people?” As she said this, she lifted her saber up to attack Tian Guinong.
Tian Guinong only managed to smile when he saw this, “do not force me to retaliate. My wife gets jealous easily.” The beautiful woman spat, and said, “Such impudence”. But for a woman such as her, she was uncommonly pleased by these kinds of manners. Ma Chun Hua became even angrier when she had been spoken to in such a disrespectful way. She took one step ahead and hacked her saber horizontally. Tian Guinong smiled again, “Aiyo, this won’t be good, my wife had never allowed me to fight with women before.” And with a flick of his finger, he struck at the back of the saber blade. The impact of the blow was so strong that Ma Chun Hua could not hold on to her weapon. She was subsequently disarmed. Tian Guinong’s movements were quick, he conveniently grabbed onto the saber with his right hand while his left hand held onto her wrist. He raised the saber as if he wants to hack Ma Chun Hua’s neck. As he did this, he lamented, “A beauty comparable to the flower and moon has presented herself before me, and how foolish can I be if I do not show her my tender affection!”
Shang Bao Zhen and Xu Zhen rushed out when they saw Ma Chun Hua being treated like that. Shang Bao Zhen released his golden dart at Tian Guinong, taking care to aim at his right eye while Xu Zhen, who had in his haste, forgotten to pick up his saber, compensated by aiming a kick at his back. Tian Guinong turned, dropped his saber and grabbed at Xu Zhen’s incoming leg. He then pulled Xu Zhen’s leg upward while he was still in mid air, causing Xu Zhen’s body to be turned around in an arc. Xu Zhen suddenly felt a great pain in his right leg, looking down only to discover that the golden dart had struck his leg. He couldn’t help but to utter a scream of pain. Tian Guinong then waved his hand again, sending Xu Zhen’s body flying across the hall like a broomstick. He landed on Ma Chun Hua’s leg, resulting in both of them falling down over each other. When the people saw that Tian Guinong had fought off the two of them as easily as like fighting babies, nobody else dared to come forward to face him.
Tian Guinong then said, “Brother Yan, handle the silver according to my instructions. And don’t forget to prepare a carriage for us. We husband and wife has urgent matters to attend to, and have to hurry along in spite of this rain. Yan Ji was happy when he heard this, and quickly complied. His robbers quickly removed the silver from the carriages in piles of 50000, 30000, and 20000 taels to the ground. The robbers had also ordered the carriage drivers, “you will be obedient and keep to your travel schedules.” The robbers of the northern roads had a custom, they will not hurt the cart drivers if they can, and will even reward them a small sum of wine money for their compliance. But of course, the situation will be different if they did not obey. In a situation like this, none of the cart drivers had even the slightest thoughts of resistance. Willingly, they braved the rain and pushed the silver carriages out, preparing to go at the soonest possible moment.
Ma Xin Kong felt a fresh stab of pain every time a carriage went out of the hall. When one of the mule carriages was about to leave, Tian Guinong held his wife and prepared themselves to board it. When this particular mule carriage left, Ma Xin Kong’s reputation will be lost forever. All that he had worked upon for the rest of his life will be like water, flowing away in the end into nothingness. He forced himself to stand groggily up, before running up and cried aloud, “I’ll bet my life with yours!” Both of his hands became like iron hooks as he slashed them on Tian Guinong’s face. The beautiful lady got startled and screamed. In response to that, Tian Guinong unleashed his palm, and struck forcibly at Ma Xin Kong’s shoulder. If Ma Xin Kong had not been injured, this blow wouldn’t have struck him. But at this time, all of his bones and muscles won’t obey him. He could see the blow coming, but still he couldn’t evade it. With a bang, his body flew across the courtyard and landed outside.
Suddenly, a low and deep voice laughed coldly, “He He He”.
When this laugh drifted across the hall, Tian Guinong and his beautiful wife perceived this laugh as one of the most frightening sounds on earth. Their faces turned pale like white paper and their bodies began to shake like. With little effort, Tian Guingong pushed his wife into the carriage. He then lifted his body up and laded onto the mule. He squeezed his tights together at the mule’s abdomen, urging it to go, and whilst doing so, procured a whip from the saddlebag and began whipping the animal in turn. The mule had only taken two steps before it stopped completely, refusing even to go half a step more.
Everyone had moved onto the door of the hall. Through a curtain of rain, they could discern a form of a tall and skinny man carrying a on his back with his left hand while his right hand held onto the mule carriage’s cowl. The mule was whipped and urged so much by Tian Guinong that it had tensed up its body and reared itself for a dash. But even if it was so, the carriage wouldn’t move, being pinned down on the cowl by the man’s hand. This man’s Godlike strength is truly incredible.
The man laughed coldly again. Tian Guinong was at loss while the beautiful lady scrambled out of the carriage and back into the hall again. She did not even turn around to look at the man. Tian Guinong then slowly came down the mule and followed the lady. His body was wet with rain, and yet he did not seem to notice this. His eyes looked blank and seemed uncontrolled. Meanwhile, the beautiful lady kept waving and urging him to come quickly into the hall and sit beside her.
The tall and skinny man took big steps into the hall and sat beside the fire. He did not look at anyone else in the hall. He removed his bundle and opened it, and inside laid a little girl aged at about two years old. The man seemed afraid that the little girl would catch cold, and so he held her near the fire to warm her. The little girl was fast asleep with remnants of teardrops still present at the sides of her round eyes.
Ma Chun Hua, Xu Zhen and Shang Bao Zhen were holding Ma Xin Kong. They were amazed as well as happy when they saw how Tian Guinong had feared this man. Ma Chun Hua asked his father, “Are you all right, Dad? And who is this?” Ma Xin Kong weakly replied, “He… He is… The Defeater of the World, the Peerless…Golden… Golden Faced Bodhisattva Miao Ren Feng…” When he had finished saying this, he fainted due to the pain of his injuries.
The escort company people were grouped on the east side of the hall, while Yan Ji and his men were on the west side. Shang Bao Zhen and the three officials, meanwhile, stood behind a chair. Every pair of eyes was now looking at Miao Ren Feng, Tian Guinong and his wife.
Miao Ren Feng was just looking at the little daughter that he held. On his face was great love and tenderness. If the people had not seen the great strength that he had displayed by stopping the mule carriage, they would not have known that it is the same man that they were now looking at in the hall.
The lady acted as if nothing had happened. But even as she looked blankly at the fire, her lips formed a thin line of a cold smile. Only a careful and observant person would notice that the same lips trembled, giving a hint that her heart was troubled, and great unrest was in her.
Tian Guinong’s face was as white as paper, and he looked at the rain outside nonchalantly.
These three people were looking at a different direction, and not at one another. They sat still at their respective positions, and did not even talk to one another. But the hearts of the three of them were like the violent and continuous movements of great waves. There was great joy, great sorrow, great anger and great fear.
END OF CHAPTER 1
Written by Jin Yong
Translated by Wuxia Fan
Edited and proofread by audiowuxia.
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