The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖) Chapter 21 – In Jail

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The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖) Chapter 21

[Before Black-White Piece could figure out his mistake, his wrist was already seized. In a hurry, he rotated his wrist to grab back while pulling his arm back, and then swiftly kicked out with his left foot.]

Chapter 21 – In Jail

Before Black-White Piece could figure out his mistake, his wrist was already seized. In a hurry, he rotated his wrist to grab back while pulling his arm back, and then swiftly kicked out with his left foot.

When Linghu Chong finally came around, he found himself surrounded by complete darkness, knowing neither where he was nor how long he had been out cold. The headache was so bad that he almost felt as though somebody had cracked his head open and loud thunder-like rings still rumbled continuously in his ears. He tried in vain to get back onto his feet but found no strength left in him at all.

“I must be dead already and have been buried into a grave,” he thought as the strong sense of grief and fuss quickly overwhelmed him and he fainted once again.
By the time he woke up the second time, although his headache didn’t get any better, the ringing in his ears did lighten up a great deal. He felt something cold and hard underneath him as though he was lying upon something made of iron or steel. A quick feel with his hand soon confirmed that it was indeed an iron plate underneath the straw mat. As soon as he moved his right hand, a light clank broke out, and at the same time he felt something icy-cold tied around his wrist. When he tried to feel it with his left hand, the clanking sound rose again. Turned out that his left wrist also had something tied around it. A mixed feeling of shock, joy, and fear soared in his heart. Now he was sure that he had not died but had been shackled. He felt it again with his left hand and then came to realization that it was a thin steel chain tied around his wrist. A slight move of his two feet also revealed steel chains shackled around his ankles. He opened his eyes as wide as he could and stared forward, but did not see even a glimmer of light.

“I was having a sword match with the Revered Mr. Ren right before I fainted. How did I fall for the machination of the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan?” he asked himself. “It looks as though I am also locked up in the dungeon underneath the lake. Have I been locked up in the same cell together with the Revered Mr. Ren?” At that thought, he called out immediately, “Revered Mr. Ren? Revered Mr. Ren?”
He called out twice, but did not hear anything in return. Feeling of great shock grew stronger and stronger in his heart and he called out even louder, “Mr. Ren! Mr. Ren!” But once again, all he could hear in the pitch black were his own hoarse and vexed cries.

As desperation began to sink in, he shouted out at the top of his lungs, “First Master! Fourth Master! Why have you locked me in here? Let me out! Let me out!” But other than his own shouting, there was not another sound all the while.

Soon panic turned into rage, and he began pouring our streams of abuses, “You despicable, brazen, evil scum! You couldn’t beat me in the sword matches, so you figured that you could lock me up here to get even? How shameless you are!” But the thought that he would be locked up in the dark dungeon underneath the lake for the rest of his life just like the Revered Mr. Ren instantly made his hair stand on end and his heart filled with despair. The more he thought about it, the more afraid he became, he couldn’t help but bawl on top of his lungs, and before he knew it, the bawling had turned into loud wails, and tears had streamed down his cheeks uncontrollably.

“You four…four despicable scoundrels…of the Plum Manor,” he cried in a hoarse voice, “If I can make it out of here one day, I’ll…I’ll blind…blind your eyes with my sword, and cut…cut off both your arms and legs…. Once I escape the dark dungeon….” But suddenly he fell silent when a loud voice echoed in his head, “Can I ever escape the dark dungeon? Can I ever escape the dark dungeon? Even Revered Mr. Ren, such a capable man, couldn’t get out. How…how can I ever get out?” Anxiety immediately surged in his heart. Feeling really sick in his stomach, he vomited, and after a few gags of blood, he fainted again.

In the wooziness, he thought he heard a cracking sound, and immediately after, bright light dazzled his eyes. Waking up abruptly, he leapt to his feet, but he forgot that both of his wrists and ankles were still shackled by steel chains. Furthermore, he did not have much strength left in him, so only instants later, he fell back down heavily and all the bones in his body seemed to have been falling apart. Having been in complete darkness for a long while, his eyes were not adept to sudden lights, but for fear that the gleam of light might just vanish as abruptly as it appeared, voiding him of any opportunity to escape, he kept his eyes wide open and stared hard toward the origin of the light despite the stinging pain.

The gleam of light had come from a one-foot wide, square-shaped opening. And he remembered at once: the dungeon cell Revered Mr. Ren lives in also had a squared-shaped opening on the iron door. In fact, it had one exactly identical to this one. He took a quick glance around and then confirmed that he was, indeed, also locked in the same kind of dungeon cell.

“Let me out of here! Huang-Zhong, Black-White, you despicable scoundrels, let me out if you’ve got any guts!” he shouted out.

A large wooden tray came forth slowly through the square-shaped opening, on top of which was a large bowl of rice with some cooked food piled on top. There was also an earthen jar, which apparently held some soup or water.

This sight made Linghu Chong even angrier, thinking, “Bringing food and water to me only means that you want to lock me in here for an extended period.” So he cussed loudly, “You four dirty swine, listen up! If you want me dead, just come forward and give me your best shot. Stop playing games with your uncle here!”

But the wooden tray remained still. The person outside the door obviously wanted him to take the tray in. Infuriated, Linghu Chong reached out and struck it hard. Loud clangs echoed as the rice bowl and the earthen jar fell to the ground and smashed into pieces. Food and soup splashed everywhere. Slowly, the wooden tray retracted out of the opening.

In a storm of rage, Linghu Chong threw himself at the squared-shaped opening, and then he saw a completely gray-headed old man, a light in his left hand and the wooden tray in his right hand, turning away unhurriedly. Deep wrinkles covered the man’s entire face, a face Linghu Chong had never seen before.

“Go get Huangzhong or Black-White here! Tell those four shameless scoundrels to come here and fight me like a man if they’ve gotten any guts!” Linghu Chong shouted out.

But the old man didn’t pay him the slightest attention and kept walking further and further away unhurriedly, stooping low with his back.

Linghu Chong watched on as the man slowly disappeared around the corner of the tunnel. The light also gradually dimmed until it finally faded into gloom. After a short while, he vaguely heard the sounds of gates opening followed by sounds of the wooden gate and the iron gate closing down one after another. And then once again, the tunnel was enveloped by complete darkness, without a glimmer of light or the slightest of sound.

Linghu Chong felt another strong dizziness in his head. After staring blankly into the blackness for a moment, he decided to lie down on the bed for better concentration with his thoughts.

“The old man delivering food to me must have had strict orders to not exchange any word with me. It would be useless to shout at him,” he thought to himself. “This dungeon cell looked identical to the one Revered Mr. Ren lives in. I guess there are quite a few prison cells built under the Plum Manor. I wonder how many people they have locked up down here. If somehow I can connect with the Revered Mr. Ren, or with any other fellow prisoners here, by working together and uniting our efforts, who knows, we might be able to find a way out of here.”

At that thought, he extended his arm and knocked on the wall. But the clanking sounds clearly indicated that it was made of sheer steel. The sounds were both heavy and dull. Obviously there was no space on the other side of the wall except solid ground.

He walked to another wall and also knocked on it, but again, the responding sounds were both heavy and dull. Not willing to give up, Linghu Chong sat back on the bed and knocked on the wall behind him. Once again, the sounds were still the same.
Feeling his way along the walls, he carefully knocked on every inch of all the three walls, but other than the side of the wall with the iron door, this dungeon cell seemed to have been buried deep underground all alone. There, of course, had to be other dungeon cells underground, at lease one another, which had the Ren named old man locked in. But he had no clue where that dungeon cell might be or even how far it was from his own cell.

Leaning against the wall, he very carefully reviewed, in his head, the series of events that had happened before he fainted. He could remember how the old man’s sword moves became faster and faster as his shouting also became louder and louder. Then, all of a sudden, there was that earthshaking roar, right after which he lost his consciousness. But how on earth was he captured by the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan, and then sent to this prison cell, he couldn’t remember a thing about it.
“The four Manor Masters all appeared to be talented persons of poetic temperament on the surface, even their day-to-day amusements are related to Music, Gamesmanship, Calligraphy, and Painting these Four Arts. Who would have imaged that underneath their pretending skin, they were all filthy, contemptible characters who stop at no evil,” Linghu Chong thought to himself. “There were many vile characters like these in the Martial World and it shouldn’t have come to one’s surprise. But the strange thing was that these four Manor Masters did hold genuine interests in the art of music, gamesmanship, calligraphy, and painting, which would have been impossible for them to pretend. When Mr. Bald-Brush wrote the “General Pei Poem” on the wall, his writing was completely free from inhibition, something not a normal martial arts master could have accomplished.”

Then he thought, “Master once said, ‘Only people with extreme aptitude are capable of extreme evil.’ That is so true. The scam the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan pulled is indeed hard to guard against.”

Suddenly a thought struck him. He cried out and jumped back onto his feet, his heart pounding madly. “What happened to Big Brother Xiang? Has he fallen for their murderous scheme as well?” But then he thought, “Big Brother Xiang is a man of shrewdness and improvisation. He seems to have known about the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan’s conducts beforehand. As the Right Advisor of the Demon’s Cult, he has roamed the Martial World for many years. He won’t fall for their trap easily. And as long as he is not stranded by the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan, he will try to rescue me for sure. Even if I were to be locked up one thousand feet below ground, Big Brother Xiang would still be able to get me out of here. He has the ability to do that.” At that thought, he found himself much relaxed. Carrying a big grin on his face, he muttered to himself, “Linghu Chong! Linghu Chong! Did you know that you are a real coward? Scared into crying like a baby, where are you going to put your face if people find out about it?”

Feeling relieved, he stood up slowly, then immediately realized how thirsty and hungry he had been. “Too bad I threw a fit and knocked over the perfectly fine rice meal and the water. If I don’t stuff myself, after Big Brother Xiang rescue me out of here, where am I gonna find strength to battle the Four Skunks of Jiangnan? Ha-ha, that’s right, the Four Skunks of Jiangnan! How can such vile skunks be worthy of the title the ‘Four Playfellows of Jiangnan?’ Out of the four skunks, Mr. Black-White had to be the most sinister one, always wearing that blank, collected countenance on his face. He is probably the one who came up with the entire scheme. Once I break out of here, killing him will be the first thing on my list. Mr. Paint, on the other hand, seems to be relatively frank; I might as well spare his despicable life. But in regard to his collection of great wines, ha-ha, I’ll drink them all up, leaving not even one drop behind.” At the thought of Mr. Paint’s great wines collection, he found his mouth burning with thirst.

“How long have I been unconscious? Why hasn’t Big Brother Xiang come to my rescue?” he wondered. Then another thought popped out, “Oh, no! If it were a fight one-on-one, Big Brother Xiang’s Kung Fu skills are more than sufficient to defeat any one of the Four Skunks of Jiangnan. But if those four skunks attack Big Brother Xiang all at once, then Big Brother Xiang would have a hard time winning the battle. Even if Big Brother Xiang gave full play to his ability and kill all four of them, it would be impossible for him to find the entrance of this underground dungeon. Who would have expected to find the dungeon entrance hidden underneath Mr. Huang-Zhong’s bed?”

Feeling completely worn out, he lay down on the bed when another thought suddenly came upon him. “The Revered Mr. Ren’s Kung Fu skills are undoubtedly greater than those of Big Brother Xiang’s, and his wit, experience and foresight also outclass that of Big Brother Xiang. Even he became a prisoner in the dungeon, what makes Big Brother Xiang so special that he could ensure victory? Straightforward gentlemen often fall prey of machination from the vile. It is well said that covert attack is far more difficult to defend against than overt attack. Since Big Brother Xiang hasn’t come to my rescue after such a long while, could he have fallen for their trap?” He instantly forgot all about his own trouble, but began worrying about Xiang Wentian’s safety, instead.

He let his thoughts went off into wild flights of fancy, and before long, he fell asleep. When he woke up again, he had no idea what time it was, and all he could see was still complete darkness.

“It is simply impossible for me to escape by myself,” he thought to himself. “If, unfortunately, Big Brother Xiang also falls for their scheme, then who else might come to free me? Master has announced to the entire world that I am expelled from the Huashan Sword School; of course people from the orthodox schools won’t be coming to my rescue. Ying-Ying, Ying-Ying….”

As soon as he thought of Ying-Ying, his spirit soared, and he sat up, thinking, “She asked Old Man to spread the word to the entire Martial World that she wants me killed; those people from the unorthodox schools of course won’t be coming to my rescue, but what about her, herself? If she learned that I am trapped here, she would surely come to save me. Many people from the unorthodox schools follow her command. All she needs to do is to let the word out. Ha-ha….” He suddenly chortled, thinking, “This girl is so bashful. What she fears the most is people saying that she likes me. Even if she does come to my rescue, she would surely come alone and would never ask for help from anyone. And if someone learns that she is coming to save me, he most probably would lose his life because of that. Alas, what goes on in a girl’s thinking is truly incomprehensible. Like, for example, Little Apprentice Sister….”
As soon as Little Apprentice Sister came to his mind, his heart ached, and the feeling of grief and despair deepened. “Why am I hoping that someone might come and rescue me? By now, Little Apprentice Sister and junior apprentice brother Lin probably have already wedded. Even if I can get out of here somehow, what’s there to look for outside? It’s probably much better if I get locked up in this dark dungeon for the rest of my life and I never find out what happens outside.”

Once he figured out the benefit of being locked up in the dungeon, his worries seemed to have slipped away and he even felt somewhat pleased with the situation. But the elated feeling did not last long when he was soon overwhelmed with hunger and thirst. Haunted by the memories of the great enjoyments he had when he drank bowls after bowls of wine served with large steaks in the various wine houses, he decided it would still be better if he could get out of the dungeon, after all.

“Well, if Little Apprentice Sister wedded junior apprentice brother Lin, so what? I’ve already been pushed around by them many times, anyhow. I am already an invalid with none of my inner strength left in me. Doctor Ping said that I don’t have many days left. Even if Little Apprentice Sister is willing to marry me, I can’t marry her. How can I let her stay a widow the rest of her life?”

But deep in his heart, he still felt that even though he wouldn’t let Yue Lingshan marry him even if she wanted to, Yue Lingshan’s falling in love with Lin Pingzhi was just too agonizing for him to withstand. But what could he wish for? “I wish Little Apprentice Sister were still the same as before. I wish none of this had ever happened, and I would still be practicing sword arts with her in the waterfall atop Mount Huashan, and junior apprentice brother Lin never came to Mount Huashan, and Little Apprentice Sister and I would be happily spending the rest of our lives together. Alas, Tian Boguang, Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, apprentice sister Yilin….”
At the thought of Heng-Shan Sword School’s little Sister Yilin, he could no longer hold a straight face and a gentle smile crept onto his lips. “I wonder how this apprentice sister Yilin is doing right now,” he thought. “If she learns that I am locked up here, she must be very worried. Her Master undoubtedly wouldn’t allow her to come and save me after reading the letter from my Master, but she might ask her father, Monk No Commandment, to do it for her. Who knows, Monk No Commandment might even invite the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies to tag along. Ha, those seven are a total mess and would only mess things up even more. But having people coming for my rescue is still better than having no one paying any attention.”

When he thought of the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies’ constant nagging and arguing, he couldn’t help but grin. When they were around him in the past, he did belittle the six brothers somewhat, but at this point in time, how he wished they could be accompanying him inside the prison cell. Their unintelligible remarks would have sounded like heavenly music to his ears at the moment. He let his thoughts run wild and soon dozed off once again.

In the pitch black dungeon cell he had no way of knowing the time. In his wooziness, he noticed a glimmer of faint light coming though the squared-shaped opening. Linghu Chong was ecstatic. He sat up immediately, his heart thumping wildly, thinking, “Who has come to rescue me?” But his joy did not last long. Soon came the sound of heavy and slow footsteps, apparently from the old man who brought food to him. Much dispirited, he let his body collapse back down.

“Ask those four skunks to come here; see if they’ve still got any guts to show their faces here!” Linghu Chong shouted.

He could hear the sound of the footsteps getting closer and closer. The light also became brighter and brighter. Then a wooden tray was pushed in from the squared-shaped opening on the door. On the wooden tray were a large bowl of rice and an earthen jar just like the last time. Linghu Chong had been fighting his hunger for a good while and his thirst had also become unbearable. After a slight hesitation, he reached out and took the wooden tray. As soon as the old man let go of the wooden tray, he turned around to walk away.

“Hey! Hey! Wait a second! I have something to ask you!” Linghu Chong called out.
But the old man completely ignored him. Sound of footsteps faded gradually as the old man dragged his feet along the way and the light also fainted gradually. Linghu Chong murmured a few curses and then picked up the earthen jar. Raising the jar next to his mouth, he poured the content into his mouth. Sure enough, the jar was filled with clear water. He drank up almost half jar of water in one breath before touching the bowl of rice. Piled on top of the rice were some vegetables. He tasted them in the dark and was able to tell there were some radish, tofu, and the like.
The same routine went on for seven or eight days. The old man would bring food to him once everyday and then collect the previous day’s utensils and water jar together with the jug for human waste. Regardless of what Linghu Chong said to him, his face remained expressionless. Then one day, as soon as Linghu Chong saw the light, he threw himself at the square-shaped opening and grabbed the wooden tray, shouting, “Why don’t you speak to me? Haven’t you heard me?”

The old man pointed at his own ear and shook his head, indicating that he was deaf. Then he opened his mouth. What Linghu Chong saw shocked him and he couldn’t help but gasp. The old man only had half of his tough left in his mouth; the scene was horrific.

“Someone cut your tongue off? Did the four god-damned Manor Masters do this to you?” Linghu Chong uttered.

The old man did not answer and simply pushed the wooden tray through the square-shaped opening. He obviously could not hear Linghu Chong’s words. Even if he could, he had no way of answering.

Linghu Chong was terrified. Even after the old man had long left, he couldn’t bring himself to eat. The terrifying image of the old man’s remaining portion of his tongue flashed again and again in front of his eyes.

“Those Four Skunks of Jiangnan are too evil,” he murmured to himself as hatred quickly filled his heart. “Unless I am locked up here for life, if one day Linghu Chong can escape from this dungeon, I swear that I’ll find the four skunks and one by one, I’ll cut off their tongues, drill their ears, and prick their eyes….”

Suddenly he thought of something from deep within his memories. “Could it have been them…them…?” He remembered that night how he blinded the fifteen masked men’s eyes outside of the monastery, but as to the origin of those people, he never found out. “Could it be that they locked me up in this dungeon cell to take vengeance for their suffering?” At that thought, he heaved a long sigh, and much of the grudge and hatred built up in the past many days evaporated instantly. “I blinded those fifteen men’s eyes. It’s only natural that they want their revenge,” he thought aloud.
Once his anger eased off, each day seemed to be a bit easier to get by. There was no difference between days and nights in the underground prison; Linghu Chong completely lost track of days and could only tell that each day was hotter than the previous day. He figured that it must have been mid-summer already. There was not even a whiff of wind in the small dungeon cell. The humid heat just got worse and worse everyday. Then the day came when the heat became simply unbearable. With steel chains shackled around his wrists and ankles, he could not take off his clothes completely. Having no other alternatives, he could only pull his shirt upward and pushed his pants downward as much as he could. After rolling the ragged mat on the bed and placing it to a corner of the bed, he lay down on the steel plate half naked. Immediately, he felt cool and refreshing and his perspiration also improved dramatically. It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep. A few hours went by quickly. In the daze, when he felt the part of steel plate under his body had been heat up by him, he moved his body inward to find a cooler spot. Pressing his left palm on the steel plate, he vaguely felt some kind of lines of patterns carved onto the steel plate, but in the heavy drowsiness, he paid no attention to it and soon was sound asleep.
This nap was so comfortable; when Linghu Chong woke up, he felt completely refreshed. Not long after, the old man came as usual, delivering food to him. Linghu Chong had great sympathy for the old man, and every time when the old man pushed the wooden tray in through the square-shaped opening, he would always pinch the old man’s finger gently or pat a few times on the old man’s hand to show his compassion. This time was no exception. After he took the wooden tray and was just about to retract his arms, all of a sudden, under the dim light, he spotted three words imprinted on the back of his left hand. It clearly said, “Woxing gets stranded.”
Linghu Chong was dumbfounded, having no clue where these words had come from. After a short contemplation, he hurriedly placed the wooden tray on the floor and reached out to feel the steel plate on the bed. Turned out the steel plate was covered with carved words, so thickly dotted, he couldn’t even tell how many there were. Linghu Chong understood at once. The words were carved onto the steel plate before he even came, but because the steel plate had always been covered by the mat, he never found out about it, until yesterday when he slept half-naked directly on top of the steel plate. That was how the words got imprinted on the back of his hand. Extending his hand to his backside he felt his back and his behind, and he was unable to stifle a laugh. There were words marked on his skin everywhere he felt. Each character was about the size of a copper coin. The strokes were very deep, but the handwriting was hasty and careless.

By then the old man who delivered the food had been long gone and the dungeon cell was once again engulfed in complete darkness. Linghu Chong’s curiosity overpowered his hunger. After taking a few quick drinks from the earthen jar, he began feeling the words carved on the steel plate slowly from the very beginning, one character at a time, and read them out in a soft voice:
“I have been straightforward and willful all my life, killing people like flies.
Imprisonment underneath the lake probably is the retribution I deserve. Only that when the old fellow Ren Woxing gets stranded…” At this character, Linghu Chong thought, “So the words ‘Woxing gets stranded’ came from this sentence.” He went on feeling the characters and the words continued, “…here, his extraordinary divine art which exceeds lofty will inevitably perish together with the old fellow’s skeleton, and people in the aftertime would not have known his exceptional and magical power. What a great pity that would be!”

Linghu Chong paused and raised his head. “Old fellow Ren Woxing![1] Old fellow Ren Woxing!” he pondered. “Then the man who carved these words of course is named Ren Woxing. So this man’s last name is Ren as well. I wonder if he is related to the Revered Mr. Ren in anyway.” But then he thought better of it, “This underground prison probably was built a long time ago, and the man who carved these words probably had passed away decades or even centuries ago.”

He went on feeling the characters and the carvings read, “That’s why I am writing down the succinct principles and secrets of my divine art, so people from the aftertime can practice the divine art and gain the ability to freely roam the world, then although the old man’s flesh will parish, his name will become immortal. Number one, Sitting Meditation….” Then what followed were various breathing exercises and meditation techniques.

Ever since Linghu Chong learned the “Dugu Nine Swords,” he was only fond of sword art in the many types of Martial Arts, and since he had lost all his inner strength, when he recognized the words “Sitting Meditation,” his heart was filled with disappointment. He hoped that somewhere in the remaining words he would be able to find a form of exceptional sword art, and he might as well learn this sword art as self-entertainment inside the dark dungeon cell. The hope of escape had become more and more distant and indistinct. If he didn’t find something to occupy himself, life in prison could be very difficult. But the words afterwards were always terms for inner strength cultivation such as “breathing,” “concentrate the spirit in the lower abdomen,” “redirecting the strength to Jin-Jing,” “Ren Channel” and the like. He followed the characters all the way to the end of the steel plate and still couldn’t find even one character resembling the character “sword.”

Linghu Chong found himself utterly frustrated. “What extraordinary divine art which exceeds the lofty? This man has played a good joke on me! It could have been any other type of Martial Arts; why did it have to be an art of inner strength cultivation, the only one I cannot practice? As soon as I try to gather my inner strength, the energy streams inside my chest and abdomen would roll over and over, clashing with each other. I’d be asking for trouble myself if practice inner strength cultivation.” He heaved a heavy sigh and picked up the rice bowl to eat, thinking to himself, “What kind of character is this Ren Woxing? He was certainly very arrogant, talking about exceeding lofty and roaming the world, as though he had no match in the entire world. It turned out this dungeon is specifically used to imprison superior Kung Fu Masters.”

When first discovered the words carved on the steel plate, his excitement soared high, but by now he had the least interest left in him, thinking, “Heaven can really play tricks on mortals. I probably wouldn’t feel so down if I never found these words.” Then he thought, “If that Ren Woxing was as capable as how he boasted himself, why he was still stranded here and couldn’t get away? Evidently this underground prison is simply too durable and secure to break out. Regardless of how capable the captive is, once he is locked in, all he could do is to slowly and painfully wait for his end to come.” Having come to a conclusion, he paid no more attention to the words on the steel plate.

The city of Hangzhou almost turned into a steam box in the hot summer time. The dungeon was located deep underneath the lake. Without getting the heat from the direct sunshine, it should have been much cooler, but firstly, the dungeon had no ventilation, and secondly, it had always been overly humid, it was simply a different type of misery for its occupant. Everyday Linghu Chong would strip as much clothing as he could and sleep on the steel plate half-naked. Whenever he moved his hand, he would feel the carved characters on the steel plate. As days went by, he had memorized many of the words and sentences unconsciously. One day when he was wondering where his Master, Master-Wife and Little Apprentice Sister might be and whether they ad returned to Mount Huashan, he suddenly heard the sound of footsteps coming toward him. This time, the sound was quick and light, completely different from the sound made by the old man who delivered food. After spending many days locked inside, he had not been as anxiously looking forward to a rescuer, so when he suddenly heard the sound of a different set of footsteps, the feeling of surprise and joy instantly welled up his heart. He had wanted to leap to his foot, but the ecstasy was so strong and overwhelming, he suddenly lost all his strength and could only lie still on the bed not able to move a muscle. The sound of footsteps quickly approached the iron-door.

A voice came from outside the iron-door, “Mr. Ren, it has been very hot in the last coupon of days. May I ask if you still enjoy your good health?”

From the sound of the speech, Linghu Chong recognizes the speaker as Mr. Black-White. If Mr Black-White had come to his cell a month before, Linghu Chong would have shouted abuses and swore visciously at him. However, having spent quite some time being imprisoned, his anger had greatly disappeared and he was able to think calmly. He thought “Why does he call me Mr. Ren? Has he gotten the prison cells mixed up?” Immediately, he kept silent and only listened to Mr. Black-White who continued “Every two months, I come and ask you the same question. Today is the first day of July so please let me ask again. Would you agree to my request?” Mr. Black-White asked this question very respectfully. Linghu Chong secretly laughed and thought “Mr. Black-White really got the wrong prison cell and thinks I am Senior Ren. How did it happen?” Immediately, his heart turned cold when he thought “Among the Jiang-nan four play fellows, Mr. Black-White is the most meticulous. If this person were Mr. Bald-Brush or Mr. Paint, it’s possible that they could get the wrong prison cell. But how can Mr. Black-White actually make such a mistake. There must be a reason behind this.” Therefore, he still kept slient while Mr. Black-White said, “Venerable Ren, you are a great hero. Why do you choose to languish and decay in an underground prison? If you consent to my request, I will keep my promise and help you get out of this prison.” Hearing this, Linghu Chong’s heart thumped madly and innumerable thoughts raced through his mind “Mr. Black-White comes by himself to ask a request, but I don’t have any clues what his intentions are.” Mr Black-White asked again “Venerable Ren, will you consent to my request?”

Linghu Chong knew that this currently may be the opportunity to get out of his trouble. He doesn’t know why he is inexplicably stranded in this jail cell. He doesn’t know what Mr. Black-White is after or what his intentions are. For fear that Mr. Black-White may recognize his voice and to see what kind of opportunity might present itself, he held his tongue and kept silent.

Mr. Black-White sighed and said, “Venerable Ren, how can you not make a sound? Previously, when that boy surnamed Feng came to compare sword skills with you, with great kindness, you kept my requests and visits secret. I thought that sword fight might have aroused great heroic feelings in your heart. Outside, the world is broad and alive. Once, you leave this dark prison cell, nobody in the world, male or female, old or young would dare defy you and the world would be yours for the taking. Wouldn’t that be very satisfying rather than rotting in his jail cell? Why do you stubbornly keep refusing me for 12 years?”

Linghu Chong felt that Mr. Black-White seems to sincerely believe that he is addressing Senior Ren. He was more puzzled in his heart and wondered what this matter was that Mr. Black-White wants consent for. Linghu Chong desired to learn more details about the matter but he was also anxious that if he revealed himself, the situation could turn bad immediately and thus, dared not make a sound.

Mr. Black-White continued, “Old gentleman Ren, you are indeed very tenacious, I’ll be back again in two months. Goodbye.” Suddenly, with a gentle smile, he added “Today, unlike other times, you did not scold me, it looks like you may be thinking more favorably towards my request. I will come back in two months time to ask you to consider my request again.” Saying this, Mr. Black-White turned around to go to the exit. Linghu Chong became quite worried when he thought Mr. Black-White would not come back for 2 months once he quite the underground. A day in this dark prison seemed like a year for him already, how can he bear to wait 2 months? He waited for Mr. Black-White to take several steps away, and then clears his throat and said in a thick voice “What matter do you ask me to consent?”

Mr. Black-White turns around immediately and came quickly to the square hole in front of the prison door and said tremblingly “You…. You are willing to consent?”

Linghu Chong turned around to the wall, put the palm of his hand on mouth and said in a muffled voice: “What matter do you want to me consent to?”

Mr. Black-White answered, “For 12 years, I have taken a lot of risk visiting you 6 times a year to earnestly request the same matter. How could Mr. Ren not know already what I am requesting?”

Linghu Chong let out a humph and muttered, “I have forgotten.” Mr. Black-White replied, “I asked Senior to teach me your great Qi-Gong method fully and in exchange promised to help you escape from prison.”

Linghu Chong deliberated, “Has he really mistaken me for Senior Ren? Or is this a clever trick that he is pulling with me? I am not sure what he really means and must think for a while.” Thinking this, Linghu Chong mumbled something indistinct. Mr. Black-White naturally could not understand the reply so asked repeatedly “Does Senior consent? Does Senior consent?”

Linghu Chong asked, “How can I trust you to keep your word in this arrangement?”

Mr. Black-White asked in reply, “What will serve as a guarantee for Senior to believe my words?”

Linghu Chong said, “We must have an agreement.”

Mr. Black-White answered, “Senior is worried that after teaching me this big method, I will break my promise and not let you escape, right? Senior must put your trust in my arrangment.”

Linghu Chong asked, “What kind of arrangement?”

Mr. Black-White asked in return with evident surprise and pleasure, “So, Senior have consented?”

Linghu Chong thought very quickly, “He asked if I will pass him the big way method. How do I pass on this method ?? to him? I might as well listen to what he means by this arrangement. If I manage to deceive him using these secrets on the iron panel, he can let me out of here.”

When Mr. Black-White did not hear an answer, he added, “After Senior pass the big method to me, I then will be your disciple. Disciples of the (Sun-Moon) Sect who deceive their teachers (masters) and obliterate their roots have always been punished with the slow and lingering process of having their skin peeled off and their limbs dismembered. No one has been able to escape it in the past several hundred years.How will then disciple dare not help Senior escape?”

Linghu Chong humphed and replied, “So that’s how it is. Then, after three days, you can come and get your answer from me.”

Mr. Black-White said, “If Senior will consent to my request, why would you want to delay and spend three days in this dark prison cell?”

Linghu Chong thought, “He is much more impatient than me. Even though I will have to suffer for three more days, it might give me time to see what clever trick he might pull” and produced several humph as if he was really angry at Mr. Black-White’s impertinance.

Hearing the humphs, Mr. Black-White hurriedly agreed and said “Right! Yes! After three days, I will come here and consult you again.”

Linghu Chong had disquieting thoughts after listening to Mr. Black-White going out the tunnel and then closing the iron gate. “How can Mr. Black-White mistaken me for Senior Ren? Mr. Black-White is very astute. How did he end up making such a mistake?” He suddenly remembers “Is it possible that Mr. Huang Zhong found out that Mr. Black-White’s been secretly visiting this cell every two months this past 12 years? Perhaps Mr. Huang Zhong had imprisoned Senior Ren secretly in another room and had actually put me in here?”

Suddenly he remembered what Mr. Black-White just said to him, “Disciples of the (Sun-Moon) Sect who deceive their teachers (masters) and obliterate their roots have always been punished with the slow and lingering process of having their skin peeled off and their limbs dismembered. No one has been able to escape it in the past several hundred years.” Deliberately considering this statement, he couldn’t help but wonder “Is it possible that Senior Ren and the four skunks of Jiangnan are all Demon Cult’s members? I don’t know what game they are playing but I am actually implicated in this mess.” As soon as he thought of the Sun-Moon Sect, he sensed that there are layers upon layers of hidden elements in this matter and found it difficult to understand the whole situation. He stopped thinking further and concentrated only on answering this question, “Are Mr. Black-White’s actions based on his true feelings or was he only pretending? When he asks me again after three days, how shall I answer?”

All kinds of strange thoughts went through his mind going this way and that way but he still was not able to guess what Mr. Black-White’s true intentions were. After some time, he became extremely weary and fell asleep. As soon as he woke up, his first thought was “If brother Xian were here, with his experience, he may be able to guess Mr. Black-White’s intention relatively quickly. Senior Ren was obviously very smart, may be smarter than brother Xian…” and “Oh!” escaped from his mouth in a shout.

He thought to himself, “For the last 12 years, Senior Ren refused to consent Mr. Black-White’s entreaties. Naturally, this must be because there must be a strong reason. He is the type of person who must surely know how formidable his enemies are.” Immediately, he reasons, “Senior Ren, no doubt was not able to consent. How am I going to be able to consent when clearly I’m not at the same level as Senior Ren.”

He knows for sure this matter, if not handled properly, could result in enormous calamity for him. But his heart is set on using this opportunity as a means to escape from this dark prison cell whatever the cost. He decides quickly, “When the three days is up and Mr. Black-White asks me again, I will consent to his request and transfer to him the secret of breathing exercise practice instructions from the iron panel. Then, I will see how the situation will turn out and act accordingly.”

Having decided, he started tracing the handwriting on the iron panel silently to memorize the instructions thinking, “I must manage to understand this rotten skill, otherwise when I teach him, I might blurt out something he would disbelieve. Only my voice and Senior Ren’s voice are too different that I have to really dampen my voice. I can shout one word and mute the other one, that way it becomes more ambiguous and not easy for him to find out.”

Using mnemonics, he started memorizing the text by shouting them out in a very loud voice knowing that the dark prison cell is deep down underneath the lake, separated from the nearest exit by a long tunnel and two gates in between. Even if numerous firecrackers were exploding in the prison cell, it is unlikely for the least bit of sound to go outside. Linghu Chong then switched to singing in an operatic style, making up lyrics using the mnemonics from the instructions on the iron panel. Afterwards, thinking rude thoughts about the the Four Skunks of Jiangnan, he was unable to restrain himself and laughed heartily.

Suddenly, Linghu Chong came to the sentence, ” When inner energy is stored in the dan tian (pubic region), it is like a reservior that can accommodate a large amount of water. Once things have come to a rest, the energy will be then be distributed to other parts of the body.”

Linghu Chong had read this sentence several times before but he did not think deeply about its meaning because he thoroughly disliked practicing breathing exercises. Just now, he grasped meaning of the sentence and found it very strange. “When master teaches us the basics of inner strength cultivation, he teaches that the cultivated energy has to be stored in the lower abdomen (dan tian/pubic region) from where it acts as the source of power. Why did these instructions actually say energy cannot be saved in the dan tian. If inner strength cannot reside there, where should it go? The practice of this sentence is contrary to all of the martial arts methods of inner strength cultivation including that of Huashan’s. This big technique must be a joke. Ha ha, Mr. Black-White is mean and shameless. Why don’t I pass this method on to him, and let him work it out?”

Tracing the handwriting on the iron panel, Linghu Chong slowly ponders over the meaning. The first several hundred characters teaches techniques to disperse a person’s own inner energy completely. Realizing this, he was startled into wondering, “Who in the world is so that he is willing to lose a life time of inner energy cultivation and practice the instructions here? Only a person who has made up his mind to commit suicide would be willing. On the other hand, if a person were to commit suicide, wouldn’t a sword slash across the neck be quicker? Why waste so much time to kill oneself? of internal energy is certainly much more difficult than it. How is this method really useful?”

Thinking of the coming meeting with Mr. Black-White, Linghu Chong couldn’t help but get depressed. “It will not take Mr. Black-White long to find out that the worthlessness of this method and realized that he’s been cheated. Teaching him this method may not work out well” Linghu Chong worried while continuing to recite more of the mnemonics, “The energy enters the dan tian and then disperses into the body through the arteries…”

After reading for a while, he became angry and hits the iron bed saying “Damn this person. Just because he was angry for being stuck in this dark prison cell, he arranged this clever trick to make fun of other people.” Linghu Chong scolded the previous occupant of his cell for a while and then fell asleep. In his sleep, his mind continued going over “the energy enters the dan tian and then disperses into the body through the arteries….” part of the inner energy cultivation method on the iron panel and unconsciously his body followed the method’s directions. Suddenly, he felt some of the inner energy in his body flowing out from the dan tian and dispersing through his arteries into all parts of his body. He was overcome with a strong urge to defecate and was quite uncomfortable.

After a good while, he became consciously aware of streams of inner energy moving throughout his body while his dan tian remains calm. “Oh, this is not good! My inner energy is certainly not flowing out. How can it be that I have not turned into a disabled person instantly?

Startled, he immediately sat up and probed his inner energy. The streams of energy inside him seemed to be circulating throughout and energizing his body. He was quite dizzy at first but after some time felt all his conflicting inner energies settled down and was pleasantly surprised.

The illness I suffered from was difficult to cure because there were 7-8 heterogeneous inner energies from the Peach Valley Six Immortals and Monk No Commandment running wild in my body. Dr. Ping was unable to treat me. Shaolin abbot Master Fang Zheng said that only the Tendon Altering Sutra will be able to tame the energy streams and cure me. The method engraved on the iron panel, however, does not teach me how to cultivate inner energy but how to disperse it. Ha ha, Linghu Chong, fate is certainly on your side, while others fear the loss of their inner strength, you actually benefit from it.

Thus, Linghu Chong unceasingly continues to read aloud the mnemonics the rest of the day. That night, in his dreams he was still going over the concepts unconsciously making sense of it and practicing it in his sleep. But he couldn’t fully understand the method beyond the first line. By now, his spirit was inspired to fully comprehend the method and see the result for himself. Now, at last, he sat cross-legged and put into practice what he had learnt. After practicing for a while, he sensed the long pent-up heterogeneous energies getting wild in his dan tian and dispersing into his arteries. Although he still cannot get rid of the remaining energy streams, the tension in his body was greatly reduced.

He felt extremely happy and sang songs until his voice became hoarse. Originally he was singing and shouting loudly to find a way to disguise his voice. Now, unexpectedly, his voice has become hoarse and he thought, “Ren Woxing, Ren Woxing, you leave these methods on the iron panel with the intention of injuring someone. How would you have known that your method would prove harmless to me and in fact benefits me a great deal? You must be turning over in the grave with anger. Ha ha, ha ha!”

During this brief practice, even though the energy streams were not completely dispersed, he felt somewhat comfortable. He thought “After I got the energy streams from Peach Valley Six Immortals and Monk No-Commandment dispersed, I will have to regain my internal strength by practicing what my master taught me at Huashan. Since I will have to start over from the beginning, I fear I must spend a part of my life to recover what I have lost. If brother Xian Wentian finally came and rescue me from here …”

Suddenly Linghu Chong thought that, “Both master and Master-Wife expelled me from the Huashan sect, why should I practice Huashan school’s internal strength again? In the martial arts world, there are many ways of cultivating internal strength. Why couldn’t I ask for Brother Xian Wentian or Ying-Ying’s help in this and study from them? This made him less miserable and excited. After eating the day’s meal, he practiced the technique again. He sensed his body became more and more comfortable and couldn’t help but laugh heartily.

Suddenly he hears Mr. Black-White calling to him outside the prison door, “Senior, I hope you are feeling well. Junior is here to serve you.” Linghu Chong has been concentrating only on learning and practicing the inner energy technique of Ren Woxing for the past three days that not only had he forgotten how much time has passed but also didn’t notice Mr. Black-White’s arrival. It was lucky that he hadn’t spoken a word before and gave himself away. He let out several hollow laughs as answer to Mr. Black-White.

Mr. Black-White said, “It seems today Senior is feeling very high spirited. How should I, your diciple, proceed?”
Linghu Chong deliberately considered, “Should I consent and receive him as a disciple and pass on this method on the iron panel? As soon as he opens the door to come in, he would immediately see that I am not Senior Ren and naturally would get angry enough to kill me on the spot. On the other hand, if I were to pass on the whole method, even if he still believed me to be Senior Ren, once he finished practicing, most likely he would try to kill me rather than help me escape. All he has to do is put some poison in the meal and I am done for. No wonder Senior Ren was not willing to pass on the method to him for last 12 years.”

When Mr. Black-White did not hear an answer, he said, “After Senior passes on the big method to me, the disciple will serve you with a fat chicken and good wine to show filial piety.”

Linghu Chong has been imprisoned for more than a month and a half. Everyday he has been only eating green vegetables and tofu. The sound of “a fat chicken and good wine” was too tempting. With his mouth salivating greedily, he said, “Good, you can first bring me a fat chicken and some good wine. After I have eaten them to my heart’s content, I will then pass on the method to you.”

Mr. Black-White hurriedly replied, “Well, I will certainly bring you good food and wine. However, I’m afraid it will not be possible to bring them today. Tomorrow, if I have a lucky chance, I will then bring my offerings.

Linghu Chong asked, “Why is it not possible to bring the food today?”

Mr. Black-White replied, “To get here, I have to pass through my eldest brother’s bedroom. Only when he’s away, I can … can….” Linghu Chong snorted but did not say a word. Mr. Black-White was worried about Mr. Huang Zhong’s return to the bedroom and not daring to delay, he said goodbye and went away.

Linghu Chong in his heart thought that, “If I can tempt Mr. Black-White to come into the prison cell, would I be able to kill him? He is sly and it would be impossible to swindle him. Even if I was able to kill Mr. Black-White, I still won’t be able to pull off these chains on my hand and foot to get out of here.” With this last thought, his right hand unconsciously went to the steel ring on his left wrist and made an effort to pull. As soon as he pulled the ring it unexpectedly yielded and widened. Excited, he pulled the circle wider and wider, until his left wrist was free from the shackle. Pleasantly surprised, he examined the steel ring only to find a fracture there. He would not have been able to pull apart even the fractured steel ring in his original state when he had no inner strength. However, within the the last two days, he had been able to disperse the combined inner strengths of the six Peach Valley Immortals and the Monk No-Commandment throughout his body and this had given birth to a strong inner force. He found an identical fracture on the steel ring on his right wrist. He had traced over these steel rings several times before but hadn’t notice these fractures until now.

Using his left hand, he immediately freed his right hand, and then examined the shackles on his ankles and found fractures in both. After expanding much effort, he was able to free himself completely from all the shackles. By this time, his whole body was perspiring profusely and he felt quite breathless.

Puzzled he asked himself “Why does each steel ring has a fracture? How could these shackles with fractures have fettered anyone?”

The next day, the deaf and mute old man delivers the daily meal. Using the light which came with the old man, Linghu Chong was able to see that in the place where the steel rings have fracture, they have been cut through with a very fine and extremely thin steel wire saw. There were no rust on the fractures indicating that the cuts were made recently. He asked himself “How come these shackles have been cut? Is someone trying to rescue me in secret? This underground prison is so well hidden. It’s unlikely that my rescuer is someone from the outside. This person must surely be from this Lone Manor. He must not have been willing to plot against me and imprison me here. While I was unconscious, he must have come here secretly and used the steel wire saw to cut the shackles. It follows that my rescuer cannot openly declare himself an enemy of this manor, so he can only act when he has an opportunity. He will surely help me escape when the next opportunity arises.” Thinking this, his spirit was greatly lifted.

That night, in his dream, Linghu Chong saw Mr Paint coming forward, opening the door of the prison cell and letting him out. Awaking with a start, Linghu Chong realised that it was only a Nanke dream [Nanke dream is a saying that comes from a well-known Tang (Dynasty) performance], an illusory joy that was not true. However, he did not become depressed. Instead, he thought: “He has not come to rescue me today, only because he has not had the opportunity to do so. He will naturally come and rescue me soon.”

“The mnemonics and methods on the steel plate are extremely useful to me, but terribly dangerous to others. Anyone else who gets incarcerated in this dark prison in the future would naturally be a good man, so he cannot be allowed to fall into Ren Woxing’s great trap.” Thinking this, Linghu Chong traced the words on the steel plate with his fingers and read the entire passage ten times from beginning to end. Then, he took the iron handcuff and scraped off more than ten words in the passage.

Mr Black-White did not come that day, but Linghu Chong did not care about it. Instead, he continued to cultivate his internal energy according to the methods stated by the mnemonics. Mr Black-White did not appear for many more days. Soon, Linghu Chong began to feel a significant improvement in his practice of the methods, for six- to seven-tenths of the diverging energy streams that the Six Fairies of the Peach Valley and the No-Commandment Monk left in his body had been expelled from the ‘dan tian’ and dispersed along the channels of ‘Ren’ and ‘Du’. He thought: “I only have to persevere, and all the diverging energy streams will be completely expelled.”

Linghu Chong recited the full set of mnemonics more than ten times each day, before scraping off yet another ten words or so from the steel plate. As he did, he began to notice an increase in his strength. He no longer needed to exert himself much when he scraped the steel plate with the iron handcuff. More than a month passed in this manner. Although he was trapped in the ground, he could feel a gradual drop in the sweltering summer temperature. He thought: “There is indeed divine intervention during the time of darkness. If I had been incarcerated during winter, I would not have found the words in the steel plate at all. Perhaps Mr Paint would have had me rescued before summer comes again.”

Suddenly, Linghu Chong heard the sound of footsteps outside and recognized them as Mr. Black-White’s. He quickly turned his face towards the wall from his resting position on the bed. Mr. Black-White stopped outside the prison door and apologetically spoke, “Senior Ren, I am truly very sorry… not to have come earlier. Daily… I was anxious to come and pay you my respect but did not get a chance because my eldest brother did not leave his room. I hope you are not offended… because of the long wait.” Saying this, Mr. Black-White opened square-shaped opening of the prison door and the fragrant smell of wine and roasted chicken wafted through into the cell. It had been many days since Linghu Chong had tasted a drop of wine. As soon as the smell of the wine hits his nose, he quickly turned around and said “Quickly give me the food and wine.”

“Yes, yes. Has Senior decided to teach me your marvelous secret technique?” replied Mr. Black-White.

Linghu Chong answered, “Each time you deliver three catties of liquor and a chicken, I will teach you four mnemonics. This way, you would have learned the entire method by the time you have delivered to me 1000 chickens with accompanying liquor.”

“Senior Master, I’m afraid too much time will be wasted with this arrangement. Can you not teach me eight mnemonics at a time in exchange for 2 chickens and 6 catties of liquor?” Mr. Black-White bargained.

Linghu Chong smiled at this and said “You are certainly greedy but I won’t disagree with your proposal. Come, come, give me the food.”

Through the square opening, Mr. Black-White handed over a wooden plate with a plate of fruit, a pot of wine and a fat chicken.

Linghu Chong thought “Since I have not taught you the mnemonics, you wouldn’t have put poison in the food to kill me right now.” Not able to resist any longer, he picked up the wine pot and took big gulps of it.

The wine was not really good but Linghu Chong savored the taste of it as if he were drinking Mr. Paint’s beautifully mellow Turfan grape wine which has been distilled and fermented for four cycles. After drinking half the pot, he tore into a huge chunk of chicken leg, chewed it with relish. Taking turns eating and drinking, he emptied the wine pot and picked the chicken clean. He patted his belly and with great approval declared “Good liquor, good liquor!”

Mr. Black-White says with a smile, “Now that Senior has eaten the fat chicken and drank the good wine, will you please teach me the mnemonics.”

Linghu Chong noticed that Mr. Black-White did not acknowledge him as a teacher again but only talked about giving him the food and wine. Momentarily he was at a loss thinking of a suitable answer and did not reply immediately. Finally he said “Good, remember these four mnemonics well. ‘Gather the energy in your dan-tian and direct it towards Yu and Shanzhong points through the eight channels’. Do you understand?”

The original mnemonics written on the steel panel was “Gather the energy in the dan-tian and then disperse it to the four limbs through the eight channels.” Linghu Chong had deliberately changed the meaning of the method.

In Mr. Black-White’s mind, these four mnemonics does not seem wonderful or extraordinary. He felt the method is not different from an ordinary breathing exercise method. So, he asked “Senior, could you tell me the four mnemonics again because I don’t quite understand it yet.”

Linghu Chong thought to himself, “When I changed these four mnemonics, they became quite ordinary. I do not have sufficient knowledge to fool him. I will read something extremely strange to frighten him,” so he said “Today is the first day of the month, I will teach you four more mnemonics. You should try to memorize it well. “Maintain positive energy by splitting it along Zhen channel and dissipate the negative energy through a strategic pass.”

Mr. Black-White said in alarm, “This… This… This sentence is very strange. How do a person achieve success by passing energy through eight channels? I, your junior, does not understand these… these mnemonics completely. ”

Linghu Chong said, “How can such a rare and wonderful inner energy cultivation method be easily understood by everyone? It’s simply not possible for an average man to understand the complex and subtle meanings of this method so easily.”

At this point, Mr. Black-White, who has been intently listening, became more and more aware of differences in the tone and manner of speaking between Linghu Chong and Senior Ren and cannot help but suspect that the speaker is not Senior Ren. Linghu Chong had spoken to him twice before but he had muffled his voice and said very little. This time, somewhat intoxicated with wine, Linghu Chong had spoken much. Mr. Black-White has been on high alert for any suspicious signs because he expected Linghu Chong will make up the mnemonics. So, to be sure that he was not being cheated, he asked, “Senior, did you say ‘ The energy is cultivated when the divided energy from eight channels are completely dispersed?’”

Linghu Chong answered, “Naturally.” Sensing that Mr. Black-White is getting suspicious, Linghu Chong dared not say more than “You would have to study what I have taught you comprehensively to completely understand it.” So saying, he put the wine pot on the wooden tray and pushed it through the square hole. Mr. Black-White held out his hand to receive the tray. Linghu Chong suddenly cried out “Oh!” and at the same time, leaned his body forward and hit the iron door with his forehead.

Startled, Mr. Black-White uttered, “How? This person possesses excellent wu gong skills with extremely fast response,” and put his hand through the square hole searchingly where he came into contact with the wooden tray. Nervously he grabbed the tray lest the wine pot fell to the ground and break. Just at that moment, as quick as lightening, Linghu Chong grabbed Mr. Black-White’s right hand with his left hand and said with a laugh, “Mr. Black-White, do you know who I am?”

Mr. Black-White was greatly surprised that he uttered in a trembling voice: “You… … You… … ”

When Linghu Chong handed the wooden tray out, he did not have the intention of grabbing Mr. Black-White’s hand. However, when he saw Mr. Black-White’s palm shaking under the faint light of the oil lamp while he was waiting for hand over the wooden tray, he felt a sudden impulse that he found impossible to supress. He had been imprisoned here for many days because of this person’s sly and calculated tricks; so if he were able to break Mr. Black-White’s wrist, he would be able to vent a little of his anger and hatred. Also, Mr. Black-White’s likely to be frightened stiff if his hand was suddenly seized. Since this person is so deceitful, what was wrong with scaring him? He was unsure if it was for revenge or due to his mischevious nature when he pretended to fall and led Mr. Black-White to stretch out his hand to be grabbed.

It goes without saying that Mr. Black-White had been extremely vigilant, but what happened to him occurred very suddenly and extremely fast. Even if he had foreknowledge, he would not have not been able to evade from getting his wrist captured. Mr. Black-White hurriedly twist his hand around to loosen his opponent’s vise-like grip on his wrist. As he twisted around, by chance, his “inside pass” and “outside pass” acupunture points fell directly under the fingers of his opponent. Unbelievably, he felt his inner energy coming out of the two points. Just at that time, with a loud sound, three of the toes of his foot broke, and in extreme pain, he shouted out.

How is it that Mr. Black-White strangely injured his left foot when it was his right hand that was being held? At first, Mr. Black-White had been showing respect towards his opponent out of fear. Now that he found himself captive, he became worried for his life, and in a hurry used the move called “Scaly dragon leaving the deep pool”. Used when an arm is seized, the move involves kicking out undetected with the left foot towards the enemy’s chest. The kick is extremely fierce and lethal; the enemy would usually die spitting blood if they did not succeed in avoiding it. It is impossible for someone to avoid the kick without releasing his opponent’s arm quickly.

In this moment of extreme distress, Mr. Black-White was so eager to escape that he forgot he was separated from his enemy by a thick iron door and used this “Scaly dragon leaving the deep pool” method. His kick was swift, fierce and right on target. Only, it’s a pity that his foot hit the center of the iron door with a loud “bang”. Hearing the loud noise coming from the iron door, Linghu Chong instantly realized how the iron door had protected him from Mr. Black-White’s extremely formidable kick. He couldn’t help but laugh out loud and said “Do kick again! If you kick as fiercely as the first time, then I might just let you go.”

During that time, Mr. Black-White became frighteningly aware that his inner energy had been flowing out in a steady stream from his right wrist’s “inner pass” and “outer pass” points. This was something he was most afraid of and he was scared out of his wits. He tried to control his panic so as to slow down the energy loss. At the same time, he couldn’t help but sorrowfully plead, “Old… old gentleman, I beg… you… you…”

As soon as he speaks, his inner energy gushes out of his body in a huge wave that he had to stop talking but his energy kept flowing out rapidly.

Linghu Chong had practiced the method on the steel panel for quite some time and at this moment, his dan-tian could be likened to an empty bamboo or a deep valley into which Mr. Black-White’s inner energy flowed in.

However, Linghu Chong was not aware of this. He only sensed that Mr. Black-White’s wrist was quivering as if in fear. His anger towards Mr. Black-White hasn’t abated yet and thinking to frighten Mr. Black-White further, he shouted out, “I taught you martial arts and therefore you are my disciple. Yet you took unfair advantage of your illustrious teacher. Shouldn’t I punish you for your crime?”

Mr. Black-White only sensed that his inner energy is rushing out of his body quickly. With much effort, he held his breath and was temporarily able to stop the energy from flowing out. However, eventually it was unavoidable that he had to take a breath, and in between exhaling and inhaling, great amount of his inner energy rushed out of his body. By now, he had forgotten the aches from his injured toes. He only wishes to free his right hand out of this square hole even if he were to lose an arm and a leg in the process. As soon as he thought of this, he drew his sword from his waist with his free hand. With the sudden body movement, the two acupuncture points “inner pass” and “outer pass” on his wrist opened up and from them the inner energy from his whole body rushed out as if it was river water bursting through the dikes. It was much more difficult to stop the flow again.

Mr. Black-White knew only that he couldn’t afford to suffer for long or all his internal energy will be absorbed. Gritting his teeth, he decided to chop off his own hand and promptly did his best to extract his long sword from his waist and lifted it up. However, as soon as he exerted his strength a little, his inner energy surged forward like a wave and flowed out of his body. His ears buzzed, his whole head swam and finally he lost consciousness.

Linghu Chong had seized Mr. Black-White’s hands only to frighten him. At most he was only going to twist and break Mr. Black-White’s wrist to vent his anger. He did not expect Mr. Black-White would get so scared out of his wits that he passed out of fright. Linghu Chong laughed out loud and released Mr. Black-White’s wrist. As soon as he let go, Mr. Black-White’s body collapsed to the floor and his right hand retracted from the square hole.

Suddenly, a thought flashed through Linghu Chong’s mind and he hurriedly try to seize Mr. Black-White’s hand. Luckily, he was quick as lightning and managed to held on to the palm. He thought, “Why don’t I use the steel handcuffs to shackle him? That way, Mr. Huang Zhong will be forced to release me.” Immediately, he used his strength to pull Mr. Black-White’s hand closer. Unexpectedly Mr. Black-White’s head came in also through the square hole and Linghu Chong cried out in surprise as he managed to pull in the entire body into the prison cell.

This really was a big shock for Linghu Chong beyond all his expectations. He scolded himself severely for being so stupid. The square hole is 1/3 of a meter and wide enough to put a head through. As long as the head can go through, so can the body. If Mr. Black-White can be pulled in, how couldn’t he able to get out? It would have been impossible for him to escape from prison previously when his hands and legs were shackled in steel chains. However, some time ago, someone had secretly sawed through the steel chains which enabled him to free himself from them and now he would be able to escape. He ponders, “Mr. Paint must have secretly helped me by sawing the steel chains. He might have been hoping that I would make my escape by following the old man who delivered me food daily. He must have been extremely anxious waiting for my escape.

When Linghu Chong found the steel chains were sawed through, he had been practicing the skills on the iron panel but had not yet learned them by heart nor had achieved a measure of success. With both his mind and body focused on practising, he didn’t feel the need to escape and therefore did not think of running away. As he hesitated to make a decision, an idea came to him. He hurriedly removed Mr. Black-White’s clothes and changed into them. Then he put on Mr. Black-White’s cap and thought to himself, “When I get out of here, if other people see me, they will say I am Mr. Black-White”.

Afterwards, with Mr. Black-White’s long sword hanging by his waist, his sprit was greatly lifted. He shackled Mr. Black-White’s hand and foot with the steel handcuffs and used his strength to pinch the rings shut together so that the rings fit so tightly that they sink into the flesh. Mr. Black-White groaned as he was awakened by the pain. Linghu Chong smiled and said “We, brothers, are both cunningly pulled into this place! At least now, the accounts are settled and it is your turn, old man, to be delivered food and water.”

Mr. Black-White moaned “Ren…. Old Genetleman Ren…you…you used the Art of Essence Absorbing”. Linghu Chong remembered that when he was fighting along side Xian Wentian, some people from the group of opponents called out “Evil Art of Essence Absorbing”. Now, hearing the name again from Mr. Black-White, he couldn’t resist but ask “What is the Art of Essence Absorbing?” Mr. Black-White answered “I… I…deserve…deserve… to die”.

Linghu Chong withdrew from Mr. Black-White’s side deciding not to stay and listen to his reasons or explanations. First. he poked his head out through the square hole. Then, he extended both his arms out of the hole and putting his palms on the iron door, pushed his whole body out through the hole into the tunnel. When he stood up after steadying himself, he became aware that there was a great amount of stored inner energy in his dan tian and it was making him quite uncomfortable.

He did not realize that he had absorbed all of Mr. Black-White’s inner energy. He just thought because he hadn’t practice martial arts for some time, the Peach Valley Six Immortals and Monk No-Commandment’s inner energy streams have returned to his dan tian. At this time, he only wished to depart from this dark prison as soon as possible. So, he picked up the oil lamp that Mr. Black-White had carried earlier and went out from the tunnel.

He found the door at the end of the tunnel unlocked and guessed that Mr. Black-White might have left it open for himself to go out again. Thus, Linghu Chong was able to escape from the prison without much effort.

As he stepped over the stone gateway in the tunnel, he remembered the days he had spent in the dark prison and felt as if they had occurred in a different lifetime. Unexpectedly in between, his resentment towards Mr. Huang Zhong and others had also melted away. Now, at last he felt free and other things do not matter to him any more.

When he got to end of the tunnel, he climbed the last ten steps. Then he put his head against the iron door and with bated breath listened attentively to sounds above. Even though he had not encountered any trap, he was being very careful and cautious. Instead of rushing up the stairs and dashing through the door, he stopped and listened for a sound from the other side. Hearing nothing even after some time, he felt certain that Mr. Huang Zhong must not be in the bedroom. Thus, he gently lifted up the iron door and climbed up. After leaping out of the hole in the bed, he put the iron door shut, pulled the bedding in place, and treaded softly on tiptoe to get out of the room when suddenly from behind, he heard a person spoke with immense sorrow, “Second younger brother, what are you doing?” Startled, Linghu Chong turned around, only to see Mr. Huaung Zhong, Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint each pointing their weapons at him while completely surrounding him.

He didn’t know that on top of the secret door there’s a trap. When he rushed out, the trap rang a bell which informed Mr. Huang Zhong, Mr. Bald Brush and Mr. Paint that the door had been opened. He was now wearing Mr. Black-White’s mask and robe, so no one was able to recognise him. However, Linghu Chong was still frightened.
“I…. I….” he stuttered.

“I what? I had a feeling that you were up to something. You went in the prison and ask Ren Woxing to teach you Xixing Dafa, didn’t you? Humph…, did you remember what vow you pledged all those years ago?” Mr. Huang Zhong coldly said.

Linghu Chong was confused, he didn’t know whether to keep pretending as Mr. Black-White or to reveal himself. He was undecided for a while before he pulled out the long sword on his waist and thrust it towards Mr. Bald Brush.

“Good second brother, is it appropriate for you to thrust that sword at me?” Mr. Bald Brush sniggered and lifted his brush at the same time.

This sword thrust by Linghu Chong put everyone on their guard. However, it was just a fake as he quickly turned around and dashed out of the room. Mr. Huang Zhong and the rest promptly chased after him.

After running for a while, he reached the front hall of the Plum Manor.

“Second brother, second brother, where are you going?” Mr. Huang Zhong shouted.

Linghu Chong didn’t answer him but kept on running. He arrived at the front courtyard where a person stands guard in the middle of the gate.

“Second master, please halt!” the guard shouted.

Linghu Chong kept running towards the guard and hit him head on. The guard flew outside and landed a few feet outside the gate. He took a look and recognised the guard as “straight line lightning sword” Ding Jian. He was lying down straight and stiff, his body resembling part of his nickname “straight line”. He could now be called “double straight line lightning sword”.

He never stopped moving his feet and ran towards a small lane while Mr. Huang Zhong reached the gate and stopped chasing.

“Second brother, second brother, come back. We brothers can always talk things through,” Mr. Huang Zhong pleaded.

Linghu Chong had picked a secluded little road and later arrived at an uninhabited valley, which is quite a few li away from the HangZhou city’s wall. He has been running flat-out since escaping from the Plum Manor. However, when he stopped, he didn’t feel tired and was not even short of breath. On the other hand, his stamina seemed to have been even better than before he got injured.

He then took off Mr. Black-White’s mask and started walking towards the sound of running water, which turned out to be a creek. Using both hands to scoop some water to his mouth, he suddenly saw a person’s reflection on the water. That person on the water has his hair loose, his face filthy, and had a very ugly expression. Linghu Chong was startled then laugh dumbly as he realised it was his own reflection on the water. He’d been a prisoner for several months and had not bathed during all that time, naturally he would turn dirty. Suddenly, he felt his body itching all over. He quickly removed his robe, jumped into the creek and washed every nook and cranny on his body.

“The dirt on my body has been building up for these last few months, there must be at least 30 jin worth of dirt on me,” he thought.

After he’s done washing his body and drunk to his heart’s content, he pulled his hair and tied it at the back of his head. Checking how he looked on the water reflection, he found he had recovered his natural look. As he was wearing his robe, he felt that the qi between his chest and stomach didn’t feel smooth, so he sat down and meditated. After a while, he felt that the qi in his “dan tian” had scattered through the 8 arteries. Once again, the qi in his dan tian felt empty like the hollow of a bamboo while his body felt refreshed and his qi smooth.

He didn’t realise that he had finished learning the entire generation’s number one ranked kungfu. Taking into consideration that the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, Monk No Commandment and Fang-Sheng’s eight types of internal energies have merged in his body along with Mr. Black-White’s energy; and added to that his whole life worth of internal energy repaired, all of these combined into a very high internal energy.

Suddenly, he jumped up, pulled out the long sword on his waist and thrusted it at a green willow at the side of the creek. His wrist trembled and a soft sound can be heard. The long sword was returned to its sheath. He then landed back down on his left foot. Lifting his head, he was able to see 5 leaves from the green willow slowly floating down.

The long sword cleared its sheath for the second time and made an arcing slash, all 5 leaves ended up on the sword’s edge. Using his left hand, he picked up one of the green willow leaf from the sword’s edge. A feeling of happiness rose in his heart, but he also felt strange.

“Master and Master-Wife can’t teach me kungfu anymore. But, I prefer everything going back to the way it was. Although the qi-branch sword technique is useless, I was happy at HuaShan Mountain, spending time with apprentice sister from morning till dusk. Now I’m wandering the Jiang Hu world alone like a ghost,” he sourly thought to himself.

He felt that his kungfu had never been as high as at this moment, but he also felt that he had never felt as lonely as he was right now. All his life he’d always been lively and been fond of wine, but in the past few months, he’d been all alone locked away in an underground prison. However, even though his body was free at the moment, he still felt lonely. Standing by himself besides the creek, the feeling of happiness gradually disappeared. The gentle wind brushed his body and the cold moon cast his shadow on the ground while in his heart, he felt boundless despair.

__________

[1] Ren Woxing means “go anywhere I wish” in Chinese.

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