Chapter 2 – The Peerless Celestial Sword ~~ Juedai Shuangjiao/ Legendary Siblings / Handsome Siblings / The Proud Twins

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Chapter 2 – The Peerless Celestial Sword

A simple street, an ordinary house filled with friendliness of men.

It was an ordinary town, the fiery sun brightened up the only street in this town. The sun shone on the banner of a wineshop, which was made from a green cloth. This wineshop was called Taibai Shop.

It was a simple wineshop in an ordinary small town, business was not very good. The waiter leaning over the counter and was yawning, but there was one customer. But he was too lazy to attend to that customer, for the past two, three days that fellow had came here for wine. He only ordered the cheapest wine in the shop and did not even order dishes to go with the wine.

This customer was too poor for words, he was so poor that there were holes in his shoes. Which was quite visible now, since he put his feet on the table. He leant his back to the wall and had his eyes closed, he was very tall almost two metres. He looked like a sleeping tiger in this wineshop.

The sun also shone on his face revealing his thick eyebrows and edgy cheekbones and giving his short beard a greenish colour.

Suddenly he frowned and used his skinny but huge hand to block the sun and with the other hand holding on to his rusty and practically worthless sword, he yawned a few times too before actually falling into a deep sleep.

Noon had just passed and everything remained peaceful and quiet in this little town, till suddenly a group of horses swiftly galloped into town and stopped in front of the wineshop. A lot of passers-by took a look at the horses and riders. It was a group of men in rather expensive brocades and all of them entered the little wineshop.

First man was a big man with a precious sword stuck in his girdle, he looked very proud and it seems that his pimples were extraordinary too. He laughed loudly:”Taibai Shop……..such a worthless, shabby shop is called Taibai Shop….”

Walking behind him was a rather fat man with also a sword in his girdle, he looked like a proprietor of a big restaurant, smiled:”Brother Lei, you’re mistaken. Li Taibai[1] wrote some wonderful poems in his days, but he was a poor man without any power. So living in a shabby place is his style.”

That brother Lei laughed even louder:”Too bad he has been dead for so long, otherwise I would have invited him for a few cups of wine with us. Hey, you! Bring us some fine wine and some fine dishes and be quick!”

After a few cups of wine they laughed even louder, the tall man in the corner woke up from his nap and stretched himself and said softly:”Riff-raff..riff-raff…”
Suddenly he hit the table very hard and yelled:”Bring me some wine to quench the vulgair air here.”

That smack and that roar sounded like thunder and all those men jumped up.

Brother Lei’s face changed and stood up, but another rider pulled his sleeve and said softly:”The chief will be here shortly, don’t create trouble.”

This man was rather short but he looked quite tough and smart.

Brother Lei grunted and sat down again, he poured himself another cup and asked:”Third Sun, are you sure that the chief said to meet us here?”

The short man smiled:”I am sure. Second brother Qian also heard the chief…..”

The fat man interrupted with a laugh:”Yes, this is the place. The chief is here to meet a great hero, so he ordered us to bring the presents here first.”

Brother Lei asked:”Do you know who he is going to meet?”

Second brother Qian smiled and whispered a name.

Brother Lei immediately exclaimed with shock:”Him!?! So we’re going to meet HIM?!? Why would he even go to a place like this?”

Second brother Qian said:”If he wouldn’t come, why would our chief hurry over.”

Immediately these people quiet down and their laughter also became softer, but they drank more wine now and kept whispering.
“It is said that he holds a sword given by an immortal, slicing metal like butter and it gives light during the night.”

“Hm, yes! Without such a sword how can he chop off the heads of the ghosts of Mount Yin in a matter of moments.”

At this point all of them removed their swords from their girdles and some even unsheated used their sleeves to polish it.

Brother Lei laughed loudly:”My sword isn’t too bad either, but compared to his it is still lacking a bit. If not I would be as famous as he is.”

Second brother Qian shook his head and said:”No….no…. Even with the same sword it is impossible to be as famous as he is. Not taking other things in account but just his level of perfection in the lightness martial arts…hah! You’ve seen the walls of Beijing too, he just casually leapt over the wall.”

Brother Lei stuck out his tongue and said:”Really?”

Second brother Qian continued:”Yes.I heard he was still drinking wine in Beijing in the evening and before dawn he had reached Mount Yin. The ghosts saw a flash of light and all their heads were chopped off…..hah. It was said that the flash of light looked like thunderbolt and everyone in a radius of a few hundred kilometres could see that light.”

The poor tall man was drinking his wine too and used his sleeve to wipe the blade of his sword, but when he heard this he laughed loudly:”Impossible! No one is capable of doing that, and where on earth would one find a sword like that!”

Brother Lei looked angry now and hit the table, he shouted:”Who is spouting nonsense here! Come out!”

The tall man did not respond he continued to polish his blade and drinking wine.

Brother Lei was furious now and jumped up and wanted to go over, he was stopped by second brother Qian. He winked at brother Lei and staggered slowly over to the tall man.

He smiled:”My friend, it seems you’re a practitioner of the sword too. It is not strange that you would not believe our words, but do you realise who we are talking about?”

The tall man casually and carefree asked with a smile:”Who?”

Second brother Qian said:”The great hero master Yan, Yan Nantian. Celestial Sword Yan……hahahaha! If you are really a practitioner of the sword you must have heard of him. Now do you believe our words.”

The tall man rolled his eyes and smiled in a silly way:”Yan Nantian? ……. Who is Yan Nantian?”

Second brother Qian was laughing loudly now:”You haven’t heard of Yan Nantian, you’re not a learner of the sword.”

The tall man laughed too:”In that way, you must know him! How does he look like and what about that sword…..”

Brother Lei could not control himself anymore and rushed over and used his fist to hit the table bamm, he shouted:”We don’t know him either. But we do know he is ten times more handsome than you and his sword is also at least ten times superior than that rusty piece of garbage you have.”

The tall man laughed:”It seems that you are armed guards, how can it be that you have such poor eyesight. Although I am not handsome, but this sword of mine…..”

Brother Lei laughed loudly:”Don’t tell me that rusty piece of iron of yours is some sort of treasure.”

“This sword of mine is really an invaluable treasure. It cuts through metal like tofu.”

Everyone in the wineshop started to laugh now.

Brother Lei laughed:”If that sword of yours is really a priceless treasure, we should at least treat you to a good meal. And…..”

The tall man stood up now and interrupted him:”Allright, draw your sword and we will test my sword.”

When he was seated, there was nothing seemingly impressive about him. But now he stood up, brother Lei unintentionally backed a bit away from him. Second brother Qian was a fat man but compared to his muscular and big body he looked like a skinny man. His shoulders were very broad and his arms were long and his hands were big.

At this point a pale young man in a green robe entered the wineshop and when he saw what was happening he leaned over the counter and chuckled.

Brother Lei drew his precious sword made from fine metal and mustered his courage, he roared:”Allright! I will test your sword.”

The tall man said:”Use all the strength you have.”

Brother Lei laughed arrogantly:”Watch out! Don’t blame me if you’re injured.”

He twirled his sword and hacked at the sword of the tall man.

The tall man was holding a cup of wine in his left hand and casually used his sword to intercept that blow and everyone heard craaannng. Brother Lei backed away with two paces and was holding half a sword now, everyone was surprised and nobody believed their eyes.

The tall man touched his sword and laughed:”What do you think?”

Brother Lei swallowed his saliva and stammered:”A wonderful sword, a true treasure.”

The tall man sighed:”Unfortunately such a treasure is wasted in my hands.”

Brother Lei’s eyes gleared up and said:”My friend……do…do you have intentions of selling this….magnificent weapon?”

The tall man said:”I have the intention but I haven’t met the right buyer yet.”

Brother Lei was very happy and one could see it on his face:”I….me….what do you think of me as a buyer?”

The tall man examined him carefully for a moment and said:”Well, you do have somewhat of the grandeur of a hero in you and fit this sword quite nicely….but….but…..your knowledge is only mediocre. I wonder how high your bid is first.”

Brother Lei was very happy and said:”We can talk about that…..we can discuss a reasonable price.”

He gathered his friends around and were softly discussing this deal, in awhile all of them reached for their money bags. They were seeing how much each could spare.

The tall man did not pay any attention to it and continued to drink wine.

After some time, brother Lei walked over and said carefully:”How about 500 taels of silver……”

The tall man stared at him and said:”How much?”

Brother Lei immediately laughed:”How about 1000 taels of silver, would that be enough? To be honest we have emptied our money bags and this is all we can muster together.”

The tall man remained pensive for a moment before saying:”This sword is a priceless treasure, as the saying goes vermillion cosmetics are only fit for a beauty and a good sword only fits a true hero. Allright, it is a deal. I will sell this sword to you for 1000 taels of silver.”

Brother Lei never thought he would agree that fast, he was afraid that he would change his mind and quickly gave the tall man the silver and laughed:”Here is your 1000 taels of silver, please count them for yourself.”

The tall man put the silver in his bag and laughed:”No need to count it, I believe you. The sword is here, only the chosen one is fit to wield such an immortal sword. Do be humble in the future, otherwise even an immortal sword can turn into a piece of worthless iron.”

Brother Lei said happily:”Of course….of course.”

He took the sword with both hands and was estatic, like he had found a priceless treasure. Which he did.

The tall man took out an ingot of silver and threw it on the table, he stretched himself and yawned one more time before laughing:”This round is on me, I’m off.”

Without looking back, he walked out the wineshop with big paces.

The young man in green robe looked at brother Lei and his friends and chuckled one more time before following the tall man.

Brother Lei was so happy that he almost forgot his family name.

Second brother Qian smiled:”Now that our brother Lei has such a marvellous sword, he will be practically invincible. The realm will become brother Lei’s playing field.”

Brother Lei laughed proudly:”Thank you….thank you….. Well, I have thank all my good brothers here for helping out. Hahahahaha, it seems that luck has changed for me, if not how would such a golden opportunity ran up to me.”

Second brother Qian said:”With this sword even Yan Nantian will turn pale, I think our armed guard agency will have a new chief soon.”

Brother Lei laughed even happier now:”If that really happens, I will not forget my good brothers here.”

He was holding his sword tightly, he did not whether to sit or to stand….he was so exhilarated that he had lost all track.

A voice from outside laughed:”Why are all of you so happy?”

A man stepped walked into the wineshop, this man was rather short but looked very tough and intelligent and his eyes were sharp. Furthermore he had an impressive grandeur as he walked and moved, with one look you would know that he is the sort of person who is accustomed to giving orders.

Second brother Qian and others got up and smiled apologetically:”Chief Shen…”

They were all talking through each other and explained to chief Shen what just happened.

Chief Shen smiled:”Really? Congratulations for acquiring such a splendid weapon.You’re most lucky.”

Brother Lei laughed too and started to walk over to chief Shen, but suddenly he realised his new status with his new sword and stood still.

He laughed:”Chief…brother Shen is right. I am most fortunate to have acquired this magnificent sword.”

He changed very fast and he also changed the way of addressing chief Shen.

Chief Shen did not notice the change and smiled:”To be honest I too would like to admire this weapon. Brother Lei, would you mind?”

Brother Lei laughed:”This is easy! Brother Shen, go ahead.”

Chief Shen said:”Brother Qian, could I use your sword for a moment?”

After borrowing the sword of second brother Qian, he rolled up his sleeve and smiled:”Brother Lei, be careful now.”

Chief Shen twirled the sword and hacked at the sword of brother Lei, brother Lei imitated that tall man. He too was holding a cup in his left hand now and was about to drink when he saw that the sword was coming at him with quite some speed, he immediately used his sword to intercept.

clang, clang, clang, baafff could be heard. Indeed a sword was broken but not the sword of chief Shen, it was the precious sword of brother Lei which was broken now.

The first clang was met the two swords met, the second clang was when the blade broke and dropped on the ground, the thrid clang was when brother Lei dropped his cup. As for the baaafff sound, that was brother Lei falling.

Brother Lei sat on the floor totally confused and shocked, he did not spoke but was totally flabbergasted.

Chief Shen threw the sword back to second brother Qian and scoffed:”Some splendid weapon!”

Brother Lei put on a pitiful face and stuttered:”But I…..he…..it was……”

Chief Shen coldly said:”Just awhile ago you were deceived.”

Now brother Lei leapt up and shouted:”I am going to look for that fiend now!”

Chief Shen ordered:”Stop!”

Brother Lei instantly obeyed and stood still, he asked:”Chief…chief, what are your orders?”

He adressed chief Shen differently again, but chief Shen seemed to be oblivious to that change and coldly asked:”Do you remember how that man looked like?”

Brother Lei said:”Just like some ordinary poor low-life, just a bit tall.”

Chief Shen remained pensive for a moment, suddenly he turned pale and asked:”Did he have thick eyebrows? And were his cheekbones edgy? And were his eyes half-closed the entire time, like he was about to doze of into a sleep?”

Brother Lei said:”Yes, chief. Do you know him?”

Chief Shen looked at him for a moment and looked at second brother Qian, then he sighed:”You have been working for me for a great deal of years, haven’t you learnt anything in all those years?”

Brother Lei did not dare to look up and only said:”Yes….yes….”

Chief Shen asked:”Do you know who that man was?”

All those men looked at each other before asking:”Who?”

Chief Shen said slowly:”He is number one peerless celestial sword of the realm, Yan Nantian. He also the man I deliberately wanted to pay respects too this time.”

After he heard that brother Lei fell down once again.

That pale-looking young man was following Yan Nantian after both of them had abandoned the main street, he said:”Are you master Yan?”

Yan Nantian continued walk grandly and just asked earnestly:”Are you sent by second brother Jiang?”

The young man answered:”Yes, I am. My name is Jiang Qin, I am the page of young master Jiang.”

Yan Nantian now turned around and sternly said:”Why are you so late?”

It looked like his eyes shot out fire and Jiang Qin was terrified and trembled, he stuttered:”I….I….was afraid of being followed, so I only travelled after sunset….although I have been working for young master Jiang since I was a small boy, but my lightness martial arts are very bad.”

Yan Nantian was somewhat pacified by this answer and had his eyes half-closed again now, he asked:”Your master sent me a letter saying that he will meet up with me here. He did not explain why, but I take it is of great importance. Tell me what has happened.”

Jiang Qin said:”Master Jiang has sold all his belongings for some reason, he has also dismissed all his servants except me. He instructed me to meet up with master Yan first. Master said that he will explain everything to master Yan when he sees master Yan. It seems….it seems that…..the young master is running from….from….some great, formidable enemy.”

Yan Nantian was surprised and said:”Hmm? Really! Why didn’t he tell me earlier? …..(sigh*) Second brother is a bit too muddle-headed, even if there is some formidable nemesis the two of us can handle it.”

Jiang Qin bowed and respectfully said:”Of course.”

Yan Nantian asked:”When did your master set out?”

“Judging from the day he left, he should be here in a matter of hours.”

“You should have travelled faster! If something would happen……”

Suddenly a voice shouted:”Master Yan…….master Yan……”

A group of people were running towards Yan Nantian, the first man was rather short but looked tough and intelligent. His lightness martial arts were very good, it was chief Shen.

Yan Nantian frowned and asked seriously:”Are you the chief of the united armed guards agency of Zhenyuan, Weiyuan and Lingyuan? The famous Shen Qinghong, Flying Petals Through The Sky And Descending Without A Sound.”

Shen Qinghong respectfully bowed and said:”Master Yan, I wouldn’t dare to claim such a title, please forgive my guard’s ignorance.”

Yan Nantian laughed:”I was a bit upset when I heard them saying that they wanted to invite the poem immortal for wine. On your behalf I could not just hit them, but at least I had to let them pay somehow for their insolence.”

Shen Qinghong bowed deeper:”Yes, they are too rude and deserve to be punished severly.”

Yan Nantian stopped laughing now and asked:”Are you here to see me?”

“This humble disciple has come to pay his respects to you, master Yan.”

Yan Nantian was only a few years older than Shen Qinghong and Shen was also a respected martial artist in the realm. However his own reputation paled in comparison with Yan Nantian’s fame, that is why he adressed himself as a junior in front of Yan Nantian.

Yan Nantian sternly asked:”How did you know I was here?”

“This humble disciple was quite frantic when I met up with an elder who directed me to this place. He said that master Yan will come here within these two days, that is why I hurried over.”

Yan Nantian laughed happily:”That drunkard has slipped his tongue again…..”

He turned around and looked at brother Lei who was still holding half a sword now, he laughed to brother Lei:”I take it you’re still confused.”

Brother Lei lowered his head and said:”This lowly disciple…..I…..this sword….”

Shen Qinghong chided:”You’re a total embarrassement! Don’t you know that master Yan without a sword is even superior to all renowned swordsmen with a sword. Any old piece of iron becomes a powerful weapon in the hands of master Yan.”

Yan Nantian smiled:”You must have something to ask of me, otherwise you wouldn’t flatter me that much with such nice words.”

Shen Qinghong sighed:”To be honest master Yan I recently received an order to protect a large treasure, which is practically priceless. Nobody even knew about this order but somehow the 12 Zodiacs got wind of it. They sent me a [dawn receiving invitation] saying that they will raid my convoy, that is why I do not dare to escort this convoy now.”

Yan Nantian said:”Are you asking me to protect the convoy?”

“This humble disciple wouldn’t dream of asking master Yan to do that. But I have arranged to meet the 12 Zodiacs nearby, I was wondering if master Yan would accompany me. Master Yan only needs to give a few orders and the 12 Zodiacs won’t even consider raiding anymore.”

Yan Nantian said seriously:”If you don’t have the capabilities to protect the convoy, why did you accept the order in the first place?”

“I deserve to die….I deserve to die…..I just beg of master Yan….”

“The 12 Zodiacs are infamous thugs, and they really know to hide themselves from the outside world. I too have long planned on ridding the realm of them, it is not that I do not….”

Shen Qinghong was very happy and said:”Thank you, master Yan.”

Yan Nantian shook his head and said:”Don’t thank me, although I would like to help you but I have another pressing matter to attend to right now. That cannot be delayed.”

After he finished he turned around and walked away.

Shen Qinghong was startled and called out panickly:”Please wait, master Yan.”

He waved his hand and second brother Qian walked up with a chest, Shen Qinghong opened the chest and it was filled with golden ingots.

Shen Qinghong knelt down respectfully and said:”This lowly disciple knows that master Yan is unrestrained when it comes to using money, so I…..”

Yan Nantian laughed arrogantly now and said sternly:”Shen Qinghong, even if you put all the gold in the world in front of me I will not delay my meeting with my brother Jiang Feng…..”

He tapped on the shoulder of Jiang Qin and said loudly:”I am going first, follow me.”

After saying that he was about 30 metres away now.

Shen Qinghong turned pale now, second brother Qian said softly to himself:”A most peculiar man, going through all that effort just to cheat us out of 1000 taels of silver, but when offered a chest full of gold, he just casually goes away…..”

In the boundless twilight it was impossible to see Yan Nantian clearly, he was moving with utmost speed and it seemed like a greyish shadow floating through the woods.

He could only hear the wind, no sounds of a horse, carriage whatsoever.

Still travelling with great speed, Yan Nantian thought: Strange, brother Jiang should be on this road by now….

He looked up and saw two birds flying, one was a weak swallow the other was a hawk.

The swallow was tired and weak, and in a moment it would fall prey to the claws of the hawk.

Yan Nantian roared:”Audacious hawk! Just like humans picking on the weak!”

Yan Nantian’s family name was [Yan] meaning swallow—-so he felt obliged to help out the swallow here.

He was angered and leapt up like an arrow towards the hawk, the hawk spread its’ wings and dove towards the swallow. Hence Yan Nantian missed the hawk and the swallow was injured by the claws of the hawk.

The hawk seemed to be thrilled and had captured the swallow in its claws. And Yan Nantian roared:”Impressive, you managed to escape my attack!”

He roared again and leapt up once more, he powerful gust of energy hit the hawk and the hawk made a somersault and landed on the ground.

Yan Nantian laughed:”Brother, brother….if you could see me now. With my bare hands killing a hawk.”

He walked over and freed the swallow from the hawk’s claws. The swallow was injured badly and could not fly anymore.

Yan Nantian said softly:”Good little swallow, just be patient. You won’t die….”

He sat down on the ground and took out some herbal medicinal ointment and carefully attended to the wounds of the swallow. It took some time but gradually the swallow was able to fly a bit about again.

The medicinal ointments used by this great hero were of course only the superior kinds.

The swallow flew a few times around Yan Nantian before it flew into the twilight again.

Yan Nantian laughed at himself:”10.000 taels of gold could not delay me, but a mere little swallow took up so much of my time.”

He was laughing happily and continued to walk forward.

Suddenly he heard cries of a baby from afar.

Yan Nantian was very happy and thought:”Could it be that my brother has a child now?”

He moved as fast as he could towards the crying sound, when he reached that spot he saw a tragic scene, corpses everywhere……

Yan Nantian was gone out of sight, even Jiang Qin was gone now. But Shen Qinghong still stood there dazed.

Second brother Qian asked worriedly:”Chief, when will you meet up with the 12 Zodiacs?”

Shen Qinghong answered:”Tonight.”

Second brother Qian called out with fear and shock:”Tonight?!? ……Where?”

“Just further ahead.”

“H…how many of them?”

“On the dawn receiving invitation, there were the names of the black-faced lord, the receivers of dawn, presenter of fruit and the welcomers.”
“……So….so…..the pig, rooster, dog and monkey will all be present…..”

“Exactly.”

Second brother Qian’s voice changed even more now:”Chief, let us get out of here while we still can. We…we cannot….”

Shen Qinghong grunted coldly:”You can leave now.”

“But what about you, chief?”

“I have received the order myself to protect the treasure of the customer, I cannot back away from my responsibility. You…..”

He did not finish and started to walk forward.

Second brother stepped forward and called:”Chief…..”

But stood still again.

Brother Lei said:”What? Aren’t you going?”

Second brother Qian said softly:”Well, let him do the honourable thing! We don’t have that responsiblity.”

Brother Lei was furious and scolded loudly:”Cowards! All of you are cowards! I, Lei Xiaohu, won’t be like you.”

Second brother Qian said:”Fine! We’re cowards and you’re a hero.”

Lei Xiaohu shouted:”Cowards! Well, at least I have seen your true natures!”

He continued to curse them and started to follow Shen Qinghong.

Shen Qinghong moved forward with big steps but he was most cautious, he was headed for the twilight.

He heard someone was following him and stopped, he did not turn around and said:”Is it Lei Xiaohu?”

Lei Xiaohu answered:”Yes, chief. It’s me.”

Shen Qinghong sighed:”I knew you were the only one who would accompany me.”

“Chief, just hearing that I will lay down my life for you. Lei Xiaohu may be an idiot but he’s not a coward, but chief, this time….”

“You’re surprised why I did not invite any of my friends to join me.”

“Yes, I am a bit surprised.”

“Each of the 12 Zodiacs have a special skill, only a few people in the realm are able to defeat them. If I have asked my friends to assist me, they will help without any hesistation even if they don’t want to come. They will accompany me because of a sense of righteousness, but how can I stand by and see my friends getting killed.”

Lei Xiaohu looked up and said with awe:”The chief will always remain the chief! Even if I had your martial arts I can never become the chief of the three united armed guard agencies….”

All of a sudden he was interrupted by the howling of a dog.

It is not strange to hear dogs howling in desolated areas, but this dog sounded awfully eerie.

Lei Xiaohu’s face changed and said:”Are they here….”

Suddenly all the dogs in the area seemed to start howling.

Lei Xiaohu was a rather courageous man normally, but now he was trembling, but when he saw that Shen Qinghong was not impressed by the howling. He mustered his courage and said with an enforced smile:”The 12 Zodiacs are quite mysterious….”

Shen Qinghong said earnestly:”The 12 Zodiacs love to terrorize people, scaring them first before attacking. We shan’t fall for their tricks.”

Lei Xiaohu put up his chest and said loudly:”Who is afraid! There are no cowards here!”

Even though he said that he was quite terrified in his heart. It was dark, dogs howling a desolated area in the middle of nowhere, quite soul-stirring.

Shen Qinghong put his fists together to form a greeting and said clearly:”Where are the 12 Zodiacs? Shen Qinghong of Luoyang City is here to meet you.”

He was a short man but his voice travelled far and outvoiced the howling of the dogs, showing that his internal strenght was quite good.

In the dark two figures appeared, looked like a man riding a horse or some sort. On closer look it was just a gibbon riding on a big dog with fierce teeth.

This dog was extremely big, it even resembled a wolf or even a small tiger. It was growling the entire time, intimidating people. The gibbon’s eyes were very twinkly even scary. This dog and monkey seemed to have come from the netherworld.

When the dog and monkey stood in front of Shen Qinghong, the monkey presented a peach.

Shen Qinghong scoffed:”Marvellous indeed the divine dog welcomes the guest and the sacred monkey presents fruit! But I am here to meet the people of the 12 Zodiacs not these animals.”

The gibbon seemed to understand human tongue and made a somersault and presented a white cloth.

It was written:
If you eat the peach, we will see you.

Shen Qinghong sneered:”If the 12 Zodiacs are really underhanded low-life, Shen Qinghong would not have come……I trust you, but even if it is poison I do not fear it.”

He was about to reach out and take the peach, but Lei Xiaohu beat him to it and gobbled up the peach.

He laughed:”A free peach, such a waste not to eat it.”

Now a sinister voice laughed:”Not surprising why the Three Yuan Armed Agency is so famous, you seem to have a few courageous men working for you.”

Eight figures appeared from the dark laughing.

Shen Qinghong was a short and skinny man, but this man was even skinnier than Shen Qinghong. He wore a golden-coloured brocade, he had a monkey face. You could say he only resembled a man for 30% and the other 70% was monkey.

The other seven men were black robes and had a cloth covering their faces only revealing their sinister eyes.

Shen Qinghong said:”You must be……”

The man in the golden-coloured robe chuckled:”Judging by our appearances you must know who we are.”

Shen Qinghong coldly said:”I was just surprised why the black-faced lord and the receivers of dawn aren’t here.”

The golden monkey constellation laughed strangely:”They have another appointment, I think we will be more than enough to deal with you.”

Shen Qinghong laughed clearly:”I am here by myself, I have no intentions of returning alive. I would be pleased if I could meet a few more of the 12 Zodiacs, I would be somewhat disappointed if I didn’t.”

The golden monkey constellation laughed evilly:”Well said, I knew you have courage. And it seems your tongue is also not too bad either, no wonder you are the chief of the three united armed agencies. It would be a shame to lose that position today.”

Shen Qinghong said sternly:”I am not here to debate with you!”

“You want to fight?”

“Exactly! If I win, you will have to leave my convoy alone.”

“What happens if you lose? Will you leave behind the treasure?”

Shen Qinghong laughed:”The treausure is being protected by the vice-chief of my agancy, dual rods Song Deyang. He is leading the convoy to its’ destination as we speak, I am here to distract your attention.”

The golden monkey constellation waved his hand and one of the black dog stars handed him a small wooden box, he opened the box and shouted sinisterly:”Take a look at this!”

It was a head, it was the head of the dual rods Song Deyang.

Shen Qinghong’s face turned pale now and shouted:”YOU…..YOU…..”

The golden monkey constellation laughed:”If we’re so easily deceived we wouldn’t be feared throughout the realm for so long. We have the treasure, we came here to claim your head.”

He waved his hand and ordered:”Attack!”

The gibbon leapt up and stormed at Shen Qinghong, its’ claws were aimed for the eyes of Shen Qinghong.

That big dog also leapt towards Lei Xiaohu, Lei Xiaohu tried to avoid that jump. But the dog was very agile in spite of being so big and it had already jumped on Lei Xiaohu. The dog opened its’ mouth and was about to bite Lei Xiaohu on the throat, Lei Xiaohu tried his best to push away the head of the dog. Both man and dog were fighting like beasts now, the dog was growling and Lei Xiaohu was roaring.

Shen Qinghong struck two stances at the gibbon, but the monkey was also very agile and avoided those attacks and was still aiming for the eyes of Shen.
The golden monkey constellation laughed:”What a joke, the armed guards of the Three Yuan agency cannot even defeat a few animals.”

After he finished Shen Qinghong reached for his girdle and took out his 3 metre long pliable silver whip, he whirled his whip around and the gibbon was forced back.
Shen Qinghong chided:”Nowhere to run!”

Suddenly ten odd metallic projectiles were shot out, half of them were aimed at the gibbon and the others at the black dog stars and the golden monkey constellation. Although the gibbon was agile, he could not avoid the famous secretive weaponry skills of this skilled martial artist. The gibbon was hit and died on the spot, while the golden monkey constellation and the black dog stars leapt up.

The golden monkey constellation yelled:”Impressive! Worthy of being called [flying petals through the sky]!”

All eight of them attacked Shen Qinghong, even if Shen had three heads and six arms he could not avoid this joint attack. He rolled away from their storm and wielded his whip like a shield protecting his chest, but his eight adversaries had gained the advantage now and there was no escape anymore for Shen Qinghong.
While the big dog had bitten into the shoulder of Lei Xiaohu and he bit the dog in his throat, both were still wrestling in a pool of their own blood.

At this point a loud roar startled all of them, the roar sounded like a big thunder and a figure descended from nowhere——like a god.

The golden monkey constellation and the black star dogs were too surprised to attack and they saw a tall, muscular man about two metres tall. His eyes were red and furious, his hair chaotic and his face was filled with hatred. One look was enough to scare the living daylights out of anyone, but strange enough he was carrying a baby on his back.

Shen Qinghong who was thrilled and called out with joy:”Master Yan!”

The golden monkey constellation’s face changed and called out:”Yan Nantian?”

Yan Nantian roared:”The 12 Zodiacs, prepare to die!”

The golden monkey constellation retorted:”There are no animosities between you and us, why…..”

Before he could finish his sentence, Yan Nantian had already reached one of the black dog stars. That man was terrified and raised his fists and struck Yan Nantian twice on the chest bom, bom. However Yan Nantian was not at all affected, but the wrists of that black dog star were broken now. Before he could cry out in pain, Yan Nantian had already grabbed him by his chest, in his anxiety he kicked towards Yan Nantian with everything he had.

He was a practitioner of the northern martial arts school form formless kicks, it was indeed formless and unexpected. Which were the characteristics of this style.
Yan Nantian grabbed his leg without even looking with one loud roar he ripped that black dog star into two pieces, blood splattered all over Yan Nantian’s body.
The other six black dog stars called out in anger and stormed towards Yan Nantian.

These seven black dog stars were not first rate martial artists in the realm, but because they have trained together and fought and each others’ side for many years they had developed a sort of attack formation. This attack formation was quite lethal, even with six stars now.

Shen Qinghong could help himself to say:”Master Yan, be careful!”

Yan Nantian stormed towards them, he was like a tiger entering a herd of sheep, those two parts of corpses became two iron maces in the hands of Yan Nantian. There was a rain of blood, it was the blood dripping from the corpse.

In just a matter of seconds there were cries like aaahhhh, cruck, three of them had already died now. One gritted his teeth and stormed towards Yan Nantian, Yan Nantian used one corpse part to strike out and hit that man on the chest. He was killed instantly, all the bones in his chest were smashed.

Another one was too shocked to fight anymore and turned around to run away.

Yan Nantian laughed arrogantly and chucked one half of the body towards him, that body hit the man on the back. The man screamed but his legs continued to walk a few steps, but his upper body fell backwards. His spine was snapped into two.

The remaining one hoped that Yan Nantian did not see him and sneaked behind hoping to use the baby as a hostage.

But it was like Yan Nantian had eyes in his back and shouted:”Stop right there!”

The man was stunned by the roar of Yan Nantian, Yan Nantian used the remaining half of the body to hit him on the head. Blood splattered everywhere including on Yan Nantian’s face. The last black star dog was killed too, half his body sank into the ground, it was like he was a nail and Yan Nantian used a hammer to hit him.
Shen Qinhong had goosebumps now and even a thug like the golden monkey constellation who was used to killing was scared stiff.

Yan Nantian roared to him:”Do you want me to kill you personally?”

The golden monkey constellation stuttered:”Why…..why?”

Yan Nantian yelled angrilly:”Why? Do you know that Jiang Feng is my sworn brother!”

The golden monkey constellation exclaimed:”The pig….is…are they…”

Yan Nantian said:”Everyone else is dead, there is no point for you to live either. Die!”

When he finished he had reached the golden monkey constellation and with his iron palms he grabbed the chest of the golden monkey constellation and lifted him up.
But the golden monkey constellation did not move and fight back, Yan Nantian put force into his palms and his fingers penetrated the fles of the golden monkey constellation.

But still he did not cry out in pain nor grunt.

Yan Nantian said:”I am surprised that a small man like you can withstand pain this well. Normally I would spare you, but today…..(*humph)…What do you have to say?”

The golden monkey constellation started to laugh loudly now and said:”I am surprised that a tall, tough fellow like you isn’t a real man.”

At this point if he would curse Yan Nantian, Yan Nantian would not be surprised and ignore his cursings. But this sentence surprised Yan Nantian and he shouted:”I have roamed the realm for a long time, my deeds are known by all. And it is not strange that people will curse me behind my back, but it is only natural evil and good cannot coexist with each other. But I would like to hear what you mean with that sentence.”

The golden monkey constellation sneered:”You’re muddle-headed, unclear in who you real enemy is. You call yourself a true man!”

Yan Nantian angrilly said:”I….”

The golden monkey constellation loudly interrupted him:”If you really know how to distinguish right and wrong, you will not kill me.”

Yan Nantian asked:”Why can’t I kill you?”

The golden monkey constellation asked:”Why do you want to kill me?”

Yan Nantian sternly said:”Because of my brother Jiang….”

Again the golden monkey constellation loudly interrupted him:”Right! If you kill me for another reason I have nothing to say. But if you kill me to avenge Jiang Feng than you are at wrong.”

Yan Nantian angrilly said:”So in other words the 12 Zodiacs did not raid my brother Jiang Feng?”

The golden monkey constellation said:”You’re right again, we did raid Jiang Feng. But we are robbers, you should know that. We steal and rob from the rich, that is what we do. There is no point debating about that, but you should kill the one who informed us of the route of Jiang Feng. Do you want to know who that is?”

He spoke with boldness and not showing any sign of fear, Yan Nantian was filled with hatred but was still stunned by his words.

The golden monkey constellation laughed arrogantly:”You’re not looking for the real killers, but you came looking for us. Even if you killed all the 12 Zodiacs you wouldn’t have avenged Jiang Feng.”

Yan Nantian looked pensive for awhile before shouting:”The one leaking information to you is that the page of my brother? Is it Jiang Qin, that little bastard! He was the only one who knew the route of my brother.”

The golden monkey constellation’s face changed a bit and scoffed:”Right! You’re not just a simple buff, it seems you do have a brain. Jiang Feng was betrayed by his trusted page, for only 3000 taels of silver.”

Yan Nantian almost exploded with anger and cursed:”THE BASTARD!…..THE BASTARD……”

The golden monkey constellation coldly asked:”Do you know where the bastard is now?”

Yan Nantian turned around and asked loudly:”Shen Qinghong, did you see where that bastard went to?”

Shen Qinghong was also flabbergasted by his intimidating grandeur, he knew that Yan Nantian had no bad intentions towards him. But nonetheless he was terrified and stammered:”This…I…I….did not notice where he went off to?”

Yan Nantian lifted the golden monkey constellation even higher and shouted:”You know where he is, right?”

The golden monkey constellation remained calm and said:”If I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have talked so much.”

Yan Nantian roared:”Where is he?”

The golden monkey constellation was still very calm and unaffected by his roar and asked with a smile:”What if I don’t want to tell?”

Yan Nantian looked at his calm face and said slowly:”If you don’t tell, I will respect you.”

If he shouted that he will the golden monkey constellation or cut off his arms, legs etc. He wouldn’t be afraid, because he knew that Yan Nantian needed his information on the whereabouts of Jiang Qin. But when he heard what Yan Nantian said, he shivered and asked:”What…what if I told you?”

Yan Nantian said:”If you tell me I will only take your eyes!”

Shen Qinghong almost called out with surprise and thought: Yan Nantian is quite unreasonable. If he is speaking he will take away his eyes, this way the monkey will never talk.

But before he finished his thought he heard the golden monkey constellation sigh:”Blind is better than dead, allright I accept your terms.”

Yan Nantian shouted:”Talk!”

The golden monkey constellation said:”Even if I told you, you wouldn’t dare to go.”

“I fear nobody and nowhere.”

The golden monkey constellation had his eyes half-closed before saying with a strange grin:”Jiang Qin is no fool either. He knows that the 12 Zodiacs kill without thinking twice. He had the nerve to bargain with us, so isn’t he afraid to lose his head.”

Yan Nantian said:”Hmm, continue.”

The golden monkey constellation said:”The reason for him being so bold is simple, he has found a good hiding-place. The 3000 taels of silver will cover his expenses, even if the 12 Zodiacs combined we wouldn’t dare to enter that place.”

Yan Nantian laughed sternly:”Floral Palace? That is one of the places I was planning on going anyway.”

The golden monkey constellation said:”The Floral Palace isn’t the only sacred, forbidden place in the realm.”

Yan Nantian shouted:”Mount Kunlun and [the Valley of Evil]……”

When Yan Nantian uttered these few words, Shen Qinghong who was listening attentively was starting to tremble and said loudly:”Master Yan, you…you cannot go there.”

Yan Nantian looked at the golden monkey constellation sternly and roared:”Are you telling the truth?”

The golden monkey constellation replied:”I have told you what I know. It is up to you whether you believe me or not.”

Shen Qinghong said with a shaky voice:”The valley of evil is the gathering spot of all the most evil thugs in the realm. Rogues who have been forced to leave the realm and seek a new hide-away, the valley is packed with all the most vile and cruel martial artists of the world. Everyone in that valley is hated by all, but because they have consolidated themselves in the valley no one dares to look for them. Even the Seven Swords of Kunlun, the Four Divine Elders of Shaolin and the swordsman of the south Feng Xiaoyu would not…..”

Yan Nantian said earnestly:”I am not a Shaolin divine elder, nor am I the swordsman of the south.”

Shen Qinghong said:”I know that the swordsmanship of master Yan is matchless throughout the realm, but the valley of evil……the valley is filled with all kinds of evil monsters from the past and present…..”

Yan Nantian said loudly:”It is my responsibility to go there, even if I have to cross mountains of fire I will not be discouraged.”

Shen Qinghong said loudly:”But what if the golden monkey constellation is deceiving you, he hates you to the bone. That is why he wants you to go to the valley of evil to meet …..”

He did not say the last word but it was evident what he was going to say.

Yan Nantian laughed loudly:”Even if the valley of evil is made from moutains of blades and seas of fire, it will not be able to take my life.”

Shen Qinghong said:”But…but….”

Yan Nantian said loudly:”My mind is set, you needn’t say another word.”

Shen Qinghong was stunned and sighed deeply and stayed silent.

The golden monkey constellation sighed too:”Good! Yan Nantian is really a true hero. Not even afraid of the valley of evil, even if you don’t return from it you will be respected by everyone in Wulin.”

Yan Nantian said:”Do you have anything else to say?”

The golden monkey constellation said:”No, you can take my eyes.”

There was a pain of cry and that pair of sharp, shining eyes of the golden monkey constellation were gone. There were just two bloody sockets, Yan Nantian chucked him in front of Shen Qinghong and said:”He is yours.”

And with that he left.

That Lei Xiaohu was lying on top of the dog, both were bleeding heavily and were about to die.

Shen Qinghong looked at him and turned his attention to the golden monkey constellation and said hatefully:”The famous intelligent golden monkey constellation has finally made one stupid mistake.”

Although the golden monkey constellation passed out when his eyes were removed but now he had woken up and was attending to his wounds. He took out a bottle of herbal medicinal ointment and was smearing it on his sockets.

He said with a shaky voice:”Me, stupid?”

Shen Qinghong said:”Yan Nantian may have spared your life, but now you’ve fallen into my hands! Do you expect me to let you live? There is not enough ointment in the world to save you now. Why bother attending to your wounds?”

The golden monkey constellation said:”Of course I have to look after my wounds, because I won’t die.”

Shen Qinghong laughed loudly:”Who will save you now?”

The golden monkey constellation said:”I will save myself.”

Shen Qinghong shouted:”I would like to see how you’re going to save yourself.”

He lifted his palm and was about to strike the golden monkey constellation on the skull.

“Don’t you want to find your lost treasure?”

Shen Qinghong immediately retracted his palm.

The golden monkey constellation laughed:”I knew you would not kill me! If you want to retrieve your lost treasure, you will let me live. Unless you don’t want the treasure anymore.”

Shen Qinghong was hesistating and his palm was trembling. He didn’t know whether to strike out or not, finally he sighed deeply:”You’ve won.”

For the sake of the Three Yuan united armed guard agency he had to let him live, he cannot disappoint the clients who entrusted the safe-keeping of the treasure to him.

The golden monkey constellation laughed:”Shen Qinghong, now you must know! Nobody can easily kill me!”

It was late now, most lights in the town were out now. Even the last few drunkards of the Taibai wineshop were staggering home now. The waiter was rubbing his eyes and was about to close up for the night.

Suddenly a carriage came this way, it was not being pulled by a horse but by a man. It was that tall man who swindled that armed guard earlier.

But he looked different now, his body was covered with blood and he looked as if he was ready to kill. The waiter was scared stiff and wanted to hide, but the tall man stopped in front of the wineshop. The man pulled the carriage like it was nothing, a carriage that would take a strong horse to pull. What an impressive strength.
Yan Nantian took the baby in his arms now and walked into the wineshop, the baby was sleeping.

The waiter mustered his courage and asked:”Sir…..sir….what kind of wine would you like?”

Yan Nantian shouted:”Who said I wanted wine?”

The waiter was stunned and asked:”What do you want, sir?”

Yan Nantian said:”Rice soup!”

The waiter was even more stunned and frowned:”We don’t….selll…”

Yan Nantian smacked a table very hard and said:”Bring me some rice soup first and then some wine!”

The waiter was almost scared to death and did not even consider saying no.

After the baby had eaten, he sleapt even deeper. Yan Nantian sat there drinking, with every cup his grandeur seemed to grow. The waiter did not even dare to look at him now.

But he secretly peeked and noticed that Yan Nantian he drank 17 big bowls of strong wine, the waiter stuck out his tongue.

Suddenly Yan Nantian threw two ingots of silver on the table and said loudly:”Go and buy me two coffins!”

The waiter fell down and did not believe his ears, he was too scared to even respond.

Yan Nantian smacked on the table again and two ingots flew up and fell into the lap of the waiter, Yan Nantian yelled again:”Coffins! Two coffins of the best materials! Did you hear me?”

The waiter stammered:”I…heard…..you….”

Yan Nantian shouted:”Well, what are you waiting for?”

The waiter turned around and quickly went out, when Yan Nantian was about to drink his 28th bowl he had returned. The waiter was a clever man and knew that this was not the point to be asking questions or to raise objections.

Yan Nantian carefully took out the bodies of Jiang Feng and Hua Yuenu from the carriage and carefully put them in the coffins. He did everything personally even when he hammered the nails through the lid. The waiter was totally surprised and wondered what this man was.

When he was facing the two coffins, Yan Nantian drank another seven bowls although he was not weeping but he looked so tragic it was worst than crying.

He was holding the last bowl of wine, he looked at that bowl for a very long time for almost an entire hour, the waiter just stood by his side.

In the end Yan Nantian said:”Brother, I want you to accompany me. I want you to see me kill that treacherous bastard!”

It was afternoon now, and in the main street of Taiyuan there was a big banner with shining golden characters:A thousand Kilometre Fragrance

This shop was famous in Shanxi province. The spices and ingredients were indeed very fragrant.

Around dusk some ten workers were eating and the main street was quite busy now. All of a sudden a carriage came this way and the man pulling the carriage roared loudly telling people to make way. His roar was most loud and he stopped in front of the inn.

Those ten workers angrilly walked up and when they saw the tall man all of them felt numb and let him and take those jars of spices away and he put them into the coffin.

When he was about to leave he shouted:”After an hour or so you will be able to move again! I will pay double for the spices I took today in the near future.”

Everyone was impressed by the powerful charisma and grandeur of this man, nobody would dare to stop him and the carriage.

It was afternoon and a melon field was emitting a sweet fragrance. A ordinary peasant woman was sitting in the shades. She was breastfeeding her baby and almost fell asleep when a soft breeze provided for some cooling.

In her sleepy state she felt that someone was looking at her breasts. A lot of young and naughty youngsters in the village had peeked at her bosom before. She was never really upset about it, she only had interest in her newborn baby.

But this time she felt that the stare was different and she saw that a tall man was indeed looking at her bosom. She had never saw him before and looked rather sickly but still very grand, furthermore she notices he was holding a baby too.

The baby was crying very loud, she had just became a mother and was filled with maternal love. When she heard the crying she looked up and saw that the man’s eyes were not filled with lust but with request.

She asked with a smile:”Isn’t the mother of this child around?”

The man shook his head and said:”No.”

She was quiet for a moment before saying:”He must be hungry.”

The man nodded and said:”Yes, he is.”

She looked at her own baby and suddenly smiled:”Give me your child, I will feed him. I’ve just eaten two chickens over the past few days, so I have plenty of milk. My little daughter cannot finish it all by herself.”

The man looked very happy and handed her the baby and he thanked her.

She saw that the baby was very little and she knew he was only born a few days ago, when she saw the scar on his face she frowned:”You have to be careful when you’re taking care of babies. The mother of this child should pay better attention to him, how could she leave the care of her son to a grown man?”

She shook her head.

The man said sadly:”The child’s mother passed away.”

She was a bit shocked and gently touched the baby’s face and sighed sadly:”So young and already motherless. How sad!”

The man sighed deeply too and looked at the baby, his heart was filled with sorrow but also love for this child.

This baby was born into a nightmare, he encountered horrible death and destruction on his very first day on this world. It is sad that he does not know that and on his face there is now a happy smile.

__________

[1] Li Bai (701 – 762 AD): He is one of the most famous poets in Chinese history, even till now people praise and admire his wonderful poems.

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