The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖) Chapter 22 – Out of Trouble

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The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖) Chapter 22

[Ren Woxing picked up the wine kettle and filled a cup with wine. “It’s fate that have brought us here together.” Said he, “If you agree with my suggestion, then please drink up this cup of wine.”]

Chapter 22 – Out of Trouble

Linghu Chong sadly stood still for a long time until the moon was directly above his head. The night was still and he pondered over the events that occurred at the Plum Manor. He decided to go back to the manor to understand what had happened and also to rescue senior Ren if he was not a bad person.

Having finally decided on this course of action, he started his journey back to the Plum Manor. He went up Mount Gu and approached the Plum Manor through the forest surrounding it. He listened for sounds inside the manor and after awhile, having heard no sound, he lightly jumped over the fence onto the manor’s ground. All the ten or more rooms inside the manor were shrouded in darkness. However, there was one window on his right with lights from inside the room. He silently walked across the ground and crouched underneath that window. From inside the room, he heard the voice of a person.

The voice sounded very strict. “Mr. Huang Zhong, do you know your crime?”

Linghu Chong was surprised. He wondered what Mr. Huang Zhong’s position was in this manor when there was someone who could actually use this kind of tone when speaking to him. He peered inside the room from a crack in the window and was able to see four people sitting in a row. Three of these are men around fifty to sixty years old while the other one is a middle aged woman. They were all wearing black robes with a yellow belt tied around their waists. Mr. Huang Zhong, Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint were standing in front of them with their backs to the window. From this, Linghu Chong could tell that those people sitting have higher rank than them.

“Yes, your subordinate knows his crime. On the elders’ arrival, we didn’t go far to welcome you. Very guilty, very guilty,” Linghu Chong heard Mr. Huang Zhong’s reply.

“Hmm, not going far to welcome us, is this a crime? Where’s Black-White? Why doesn’t he come out to see me?” the gentleman sitting in the middle coldly asked.

Linghu Chong laughed inside, “Mr. Black-White has been imprisoned by me inside the underground prison, but Mr. Huang Zhong and the rest of them thought that he has run away from the manor.” He also thought, “What elder? What subordinate? They all must be people from the devil cult.”

“Four elders, your subordinate has not been strict enough. Mr. Black-White’s temperament is strange and recently he has been acting like his former self. In the last few days, he has unexpectedly disappeared from the manor,” Mr. Huang Zhong replied.

This elder’s eye flashed and stared at Mr. Huang Zhong.

“Mr. Huang Zhong, Chief ordered you four to guard the Plum Manor. However, from what we heard, you’ve been playing zither, drinking wine, drawing and playing go. Is this true?” the elder coldly asked.

“We four subordinates have accepted Chief’s order to stay here and guard the traitor,” Mr. Huang Zhong replied while bowing.

“That is correct. How’s that traitor doing?” the elder asked.

“We can report to the elder that the traitor is still being held inside the underground prison. Over the last twelve years, subordinate has never stepped foot outside the Plum Manor. We do not dare to relax our guard,” Mr. Huang Zhong reported.

“Very good, very good. You never stepped foot outside the Plum Manor and do not dare to relax your guard. So for sure that traitor is still being held inside the underground prison?” the elder questioned.

“That’s true,” Mr. Huang Zhong replied.

Suddenly, that elder lifted his head and laughed loudly facing the roof. The dust from the ceiling was seen falling around the room.

“Very good! Bring that traitor here for us to look at,” shouted the elder.

“Four elders, please forgive us. Chief’s strict order was not to let anyone visit the traitor except for Chief himself. We don’t dare,” replied Mr. Huang Zhong.

The elder took out something from inside his robe and lifted the object he took out high above his head. The other three elders stood up immediately as well, looking at the object reverently. Linghu Chong squinted his eye trying to look at the object. It was a half-foot high dried up black wood. On top of the object was some kind of flowery patterns carved on it which looked completely strange to Linghu Chong.

Seeing this object, Mr. Huang Zhong and the rest of the people in the room bowed towards the object.

“Chief’s Black Command Wood is here, it’s as if Chief himself is here, subordinate is ready to receive order,” Mr. Huang Zhong said.

“Good, bring that traitor here!” commanded the elder.

“That traitor’s hands and feet are bound in metal chains. We can’t…. we can’t bring him up here,” said Mr. Huang Zhong hesitantly.

“Even until this moment, you still refuse to bring him here. I ask you, has that traitor escaped?” the elder asked coldly.

“That traitor… that traitor has escaped? Im.. impossible. That person is still locked away in the underground prison. I have just seen him recently with my own eyes. How… how can he have escaped?” Mr. Huang Zhong answered in fright.

“Oh, so he’s still in the underground prison. I’ve wronged you. Please forgive me,” the elder spoke warmly with a softened expression.

Then, the elder stood up and slowly approached Mr. Huang Zhong. It looked like that he was going to apologise to the three masters of the Plum Manor. But he suddenly extended one hand to pat Mr. Huang Zhong’s shoulder. Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint simultaneously retreated two steps in a hurry. Although their movements were really fast, that elder’s hand moved even faster. Two sounds “bang, bang” can be heard as both of Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint’s right shoulders were hit. As he carried out this sneak attack, the elder was still showing a smile on his face. Actually, even with Mr. Huang Zhong’s skill in Jiang Hu, he had no chance of avoiding this sneak attack. Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint’s skills were inferior, so even if they were aware of the attack, they had no chance of escaping the strikes.

“Elder Bao, what sin have we committed? Why do you use such a vicious method to deal with us?” said Mr. Paint loudly. He sounded both injured and angry.

“Chief ordered you to guard the traitor here. But you’ve let that traitor escaped. Don’t you think you deserve to die?” the smirking Elder Bao said slowly.

“If that traitor has really escaped, then subordinate deserves to die. But he’s still being held in the underground prison. Elder Bao, you’re too vicious, we brothers cannot accept this,” replied Mr. Huang Zhong indignantly, as he was leaning slightly to one side.

Linghu Chong outside the window could see Mr. Huang Zhong sweating profusely. He thought that Elder Bao’s palm strike was very good as he managed to subdue Mr. Huang Zhong, whose kung fu was already powerful, using only one palm. However, he also thought that Mr. Huang Zhong’s kung fu could not be inferior to Elder Bao’s. If not for Elder Bao’s sneak attack, Mr. Huang Zhong may not have lost.

“Go to the underground prison and have a look. If that traitor is still in there, I… humph… I, Bao Dachu, will give you three kowtows to apologise. Naturally, I will also immediately forgive you from this sin,” said Elder Bao.

“Ok, four elders please wait here,” said Mr. Huang Zhong.

Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint immediately went out of the room to follow Mr. Huang Zhong. Linghu Chong trembled as he saw these three people walking away from the room. He thought that he shivered because of the injuries still affecting him. But it was merely because he was excited from watching all the things happening right in front of his eyes.

Fearing the four people inside the room detecting him, he didn’t dare to look inside again and slowly sat down on the ground.

“The Chief they’re talking about must be the current world’s number one Dongfang Bubai. He assigned the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan to guard this traitor and they’ve been at it for 12 years now. Of course the traitor they’re talking about isn’t me then. It must be that senior Ren. And he has managed to escape without Mr. Huang Zhong and other’s knowledge. Wow, this senior Ren is really resourceful. That’s right! They all really didn’t know that senior Ren has escaped. Otherwise, Mr. Black-White wouldn’t have mistaken me for senior Ren,” thought Linghu Chong.

Thinking that once Mr. Huang Zhong and his brothers entered the underground prison and recognised Mr. Black-White, things will get very complicated for them; Linghu Chong felt wonderful and very happy.

“Why did they also imprison me in the underground prison? All I did was to compare sword art against senior Ren. They must’ve been afraid that I would leak their secret out, so they locked me up in there too. Humph, this is called eliminating a potential informant without murder. But eliminating a potential informant in this way is just the same as murder. This time, they would be the ones to suffer difficulties. See how they like it. This will repay for the wrong that they did to me,” thought Linghu Chong indignantly.

Linghu Chong heard the four people inside the room sat back down without saying a single word. He didn’t dare to breathe loudly. Even though there’s a wall that separate him with the four people in the room, the distance between them is only around 10 feet. He only had to breathe slightly heavily and they’d be able to detect him immediately.

Suddenly, a cry of “ah” could be heard in the still and quiet night. It sounded full of pain and dread. Whoever heard it could not help but feel absolutely terrified. When Linghu Chong recognised that it was Mr. Black-White’s voice, he felt sorry for him. However, this Mr. Black-White had plotted his own demise, it could be said that the consequences matched his own action. But now that he has fallen on Elder Bao’s hand, this is even more unfortunate for Mr. Black-White.

He could hear their steps coming closer. Then, he heard Mr. Huang Zhong and his brothers entering the room. Linghu Chong edged closer to the window’s crack to take a look inside the room. Inside, he could see Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint carrying Mr. Black-White. Mr. Black-White’s face was pale and his eyes lacked any spirit. The atmosphere inside the room was completely different than before.

“Report… Reporting to the Four Elders. That traitor has… has escaped. Subordinate is ready to receive death,” said Mr. Huang Zhong while bowing down.

He looked like he already knew what his fate would be. His speech was calm and collected, unlike before.

“You said that Black-White is not in the manor, how come he’s here now? How can it be?” calmly replied Bao Dachu.

“All sorts of reasons. Actually subordinate is really confused. Ai, all because we four subordinates are too engrossed in the arts and has let other people looked at our weaknesses. And they have managed to take away that traitor from right under our noses,” replied Mr. Huang Zhong.

“We four people have received Chief’s order to come here and verify that the traitor has escaped. It seems that you have reported truthfully now and is not trying to deceive us anymore. Then… then, maybe we can plead mercy to Chief on your behalf,” said Bao Dachu.

Mr. Huang Zhong sighed and said, “Even considering Chief’s mercy and the four elders’ compassions, how can we, subordinates, still live in this world with all this shame? The whole event is very complicated, subordinate doesn’t understand the true story. Even after we’ve died, we won’t be content. Elder Bao, is Chief… is Chief in Hangzhou city at the moment?”

“Who said Chief is in Hangzhou city?”

“That traitor has just escaped yesterday, how did Chief know about this so fast and sent four elders to Plum Manor immediately?”

“Humph… you’re becoming more and more stupid. Who said that traitor escaped yesterday?”

“That person really escaped yesterday at noon. At that time, we three people thought that person was Mr. Black-White. We didn’t know that he had switched places with Mr. Black-White. He was wearing Mr. Black-White’s robe when he escaped. In this matter, we three brothers… four brothers are certain. Also, there’s still Ding Jian, who that traitor knocked down, and got several of his ribs broken…” Mr. Huang Zhong said assuredly.

Bao Dachu turned his head to look at the other three elders.

“This person is talking nonsense. I don’t know what he’s talking about,” scowled Elder Bao.

“We received the message last month on the 14th…” A fat and short elder said while calculating with his fingers. “This is the 17th day.”

Mr. Huang Zhong fiercely withdrew two steps and hit the wall with a “bang”.

“No… This can’t be! We’re really certain. We saw him escaped yesterday with our own eyes.”

Mr. Huang Zhong walked to the door and shouted “Shi Lingwei, bring Ding Jian here!”

“Yes!” Shi Lingwei replied from somewhere distant.

Bao Dachu walked up to Mr. Black-White, grabbed his chest, and lifted him up. Mr. Black-White’s hands and feet were dangling down. It seemed that all the bones in his body had been broken. His body looked like a sack of leather.

Bao Dachu lost all colour from his face as if he was scared to death. He quickly let go of Mr. Black-White’s body, which crumpled to the ground.

“Correct, this is that bastard’s … that bastard’s Art of Essence Absorbing. It can absorb the whole body’s energy clean,” said a tall and strong looking elder, his voice quivering and looking completely scared.

“When did you get in his way?” Bao Dachu asked Mr. Black-White.

“It… It… was yesterday. That bastard… that bastard grabbed my right wrist. I… I couldn’t move at all. He controlled me completely,” answered Mr. Black-White.

Bao Dachu looked completely baffled. His face muscle twitched slightly and his eyes looked bewildered.

“And after that?”

“He then pulled me through the hole in the iron gate, removed my robe and wore it. Then he shackled my hands and feet with the steel chains. He then escaped… escaped through that hole.”

Bao Dachu scowled and asked, “Yesterday? How can it be yesterday?”

“The shackles for the hands and feet were made out of steel. How did he break them?” asked the fat and short looking elder.

“I don’t know,” answered Mr. Black-White.

“Subordinate examined the shackles and found that they were sawed through by a fine steel saw. I don’t know where this bastard got the saw from,” said Mr. Bald-Brush.

After Mr. Bald-Brush finished speaking, Shi Lengwei and two servants entered the room bringing Ding Jian and laid him down on the carpet. Ding Jian’s body was covered by a thin quilt. Bao Dachu lifted the quilt and lightly poked his chest. Ding Jian screamed, showing that he was in extreme pain. Bao Dachu nodded and waved his hand telling them to take Ding Jian away. Shi Lingwei and the two servants carried Ding Jian out of the room.

“This hit is definitely caused by that bastard,” said Bao Dachu.

The middle-aged woman who until this moment had not said a single word yet, suddenly said “Elder Bao, if that bastard escaped yesterday, then the message we got last month must be a fake. That bastard’s follower is still outside spreading confusion, trying to make us sway in our loyalty.”

Elder Bao shook his head and said, “It cannot be a fake.”

“Cannot be a fake?” asked the middle-aged woman.

“Lord Xue Xiang’s whole body was covered by a metal gown. He used this metal gown to practise kung fu and even a sabre cannot chop through it. But someone managed to grab and dig out his heart using just his five fingers. Besides this bastard, in this world, there’s no second person who can do this… ” reasoned Bao Dachu.

Linghu Chong was lost in thought while listening to the conversations inside the room. Suddenly, he felt his shoulder patted by someone. He was truly startled and quickly jumped three steps away. He pulled his sword out, turned his head and saw two people standing there.

As the moon was at the back of those two people, he couldn’t see their faces. One of them turned his head and said, “Brother, let’s go in.”

It was Xiang Wentian’s voice.

Linghu Chong was overjoyed and he whispered “Brother Xiang!”

However, the people inside the room had heard the sound of the sword being drawn and Linghu Chong’s answer.

“Who’s out there?” Bao Dachu shouted.

“Ha Ha Ha,” the person beside Xiang Wentian laughed loudly.

This laugh shook the tiles inside the room while Linghu Chong started to feel an unbearable pain. He started to hear a “weng, weng” sound inside his ear and felt blood rushing up his stomach. That person took a step forward and used both hands to push towards the wall. A thunderous sound was heard. In the middle of the wall was now a big hole, which that person then used to enter the room.

Xiang Wentian stretched his hand and grabbed Linghu Chong’s right hand. They entered the room side by side. Inside the room, the four elders were standing up and had their hands ready in front of them. Their faces looked very intense. Linghu Chong was anxious to know who this person was but the person’s back was facing him. He looked very tall with black hair and was wearing a suit of blue-green gown.

Bao Dachu’s voice was trembling when he said, “It’s… It’s Ren… Senior Ren has arrived.”

“Humph,” that person answered and took a long stride forward.

Bao Dachu and Mr. Huang Zhong involuntarily took two steps backwards. That person turned and sat at the chair which Bao Dachu sat in earlier. Linghu Chong now managed to see his face clearly. That person’s face was long and white as snow, not a trace of blood could be seen on the face. His feature was handsome. But his white complexion was just like a corpse which had just come out from the grave.

He beckoned to Xiang Wentian and Linghu Chong, “Brother Xiang, Brother Linghu Chong, please come and sit here.”

When Linghu Chong heard his voice, he was pleasantly surprised.

“You… You are Senior Ren?” asked Linghu Chong.

That person smiled slightly and said “I am. Your sword art maybe much better.”

“You’re really out of trouble already. Today… Today, I came here to rescue you… ” said Linghu Chong excitedly.

That person laughed and said, “Today you came here to rescue me out of prison, didn’t you? HaHa, HaHa. Brother Xiang, your brother Ren has so many friends.”

Xiang Wentian pulled Linghu Chong’s hand and seated him on the right side of Senior Ren. Then he sat himself down on the left side.

“Brother Linghu is really sincere in dealing with people. You’re really the world’s most upright and couragous person,” said Xiang Wentian.

“Brother Linghu, you’ve given up more than two months of your life to live in the dark underground prison. I feel very sorry for you. HaHa, HaHa!” said that person.

By now, Linghu Chong had an inkling but was not able to completely understand what was going on.

With a smile on his face, that person Ren looked at Linghu Chong and said, “You were imprisoned for more than two months because of me, but in that time you’ve finished learning the Art of Essence Absorbing that I had written on the iron panel. Hey Hey, that means I’ve paid you back for your time in there.”

“That secret on the iron panel was written by senior?” asked Linghu Chong in surprise.

“If it wasn’t me, then who else in the world knows Art of Essence Absorbing?” answered that person with a smile.

“Brother, Chief Ren’s Art of Essence Absorbing has been passed on to you only. Congratulations!” said Xiang Wentian.

“Chief Ren?” asked Linghu Chong confused.

“Originally, when you arrived here, you didn’t know Chief Ren’s position. Chief Ren is the chief of Sun Moon Sect. His name is “Woxing”. Have you heard of this name before?” asked Xiang Wentian.

Linghu Chong knew that “Sun Moon Sect” was the Devil sect, but he didn’t know the origin of this sect. And the Jiang Hu people mostly knew of this religion by the name Devil Sect, and Devil Sect’s chief had always been Dongfang Bubai. Where did Ren Woxing come out from?

“Chief… Chief Ren’s name, I found it carved on the iron panel, but I didn’t know that he was Chief,” muttered Linghu Chong.

The tall and strong looking elder suddenly shouted, “What Chief is he? Everyone under the heaven knows that our Sun Moon Sect’s chief is Chief Dongfang. This person Ren was expelled a long time ago for rebelling against our sect. Xiang Wentian, what you said was heresy, this is a big sin.”

Ren Woxing slowly turned his head and stared at this elder. He then asked, “You are Qin Weibang, aren’t you?”

“Correct,” said that tall and strong looking elder.

“When I was the Chief, you were the master of our Jiangxi headquarter, correct?” asked Ren Woxing.

“That’s right!” answered Qin Weibang.

Ren Woxing sighed and said, “You’re now one of the Sect’s 10 elders. You were promoted rather quickly, don’t you think? How come Dongfang Bubai rates you so highly? Is it because of your martial art or is it because of you can take care of sect’s business?”

“I’m loyal to the sect and takes care of sect’s business. Also, my accomplishments in the past 10 years earned my promotion,” replied Qin Weibang.

Ren Woxing nodded his head and said, “That’s not too bad.”

Suddenly, Ren Woxing’s body shook. Before anyone can react, he was already in front of Bao Dachu. His left hand quickly shot out and grabbed Bao Dachu’s throat. Bao Dachu was startled and he tried using his right hand, shaped in a knife-form, to deflect the grab but it was too late. So he used his left elbow to protect his throat. At the same time, he used his left foot to retreat a step, while using his knife-form right hand to hack down. This was done in an instant, one hand defending tightly and one hand attacking fiercely. A wise technique to use.

But Ren Woxing wasn’t finished yet. His right hand was now coming in fast to grab Bao Dachu’s right hand. Before Bao Dachu was able to use his knife-form right hand to chop down, his chest was grabbed and his gown torn open. In Ren Woxing’s left hand was now an object that he’s grabbed from inside Bao Dachu’s gown. It was the Black Command Wood. With his right hand turned over, he twisted Bao Dachu’s right wrist.

At the same time, three “dang, dang, dang” sounds were heard. This was Xiang Wentian using his long sword to separate Qin Weibang and the other two elders from Bao Dachu. Each of the three elders had drawn their weapons. Xiang Wentian had attacked three times, but these attacks were only meant to prevent the three elders from helping Bao Dachu. When these three attacks were finished, Bao Dachu was completely under Ren Woxing’s control.

Ren Woxing smiled and said, “I haven’t used my Art of Essence Absorbing yet, you wanna taste it?”

Bao Dachu knew that if he didn’t surrender then he would be killed in an instant. He has no other option but to surrender. So he made the decision quickly and said, “Chief Ren, Bao Dachu from now on vows loyalty and devotion to you.”

“Once in the past, you swore loyalty to me and then you betrayed me,” answered Ren Woxing.

“Chief Ren, please allow subordinate to atone for my sin by pledging my service to you,” quivered Bao Dachu.

“Alright! Eat this pill first,” said Ren Woxing and released his wrist.

He took out a small medicine bottle from his chest. He turned it over to get a fiery red pill out and threw the pill over to Bao Dachu. Bao Dachu grabbed the pill. Without looking at it, he put it in his mouth and swallowed it.

“This… This pill is “Three Corpse Brain” pill?” muttered Qin Weibang.

Ren Woxing nodded his head and said “Correct. This is definitely the “Three Corpse Brain”!”

He took out six more “Three Corpse Brain” pills and threw it on the table. The pills rolled on the table.

“Do you know how terrible these “Three Corpse Brain” pills are?” asked Ren Woxing.

“After taking the brain pill, our lives will be in Chief’s hand, so we must forever follow Chief’s order. Otherwise, the corpse bugs in the pill will be released and they will enter the brain and start eating it. The pain would be unbearable. Also, you will become insane just like a crazy dog,” explained Bao Dachu.

“What you said is very true. You already knew the efficiency of my brain pill, how come you still took it?” asked Ren Woxing.

“From now on, subordinate will be loyal to Chief forever. Even though this brain pill is very efficient, it’s irrelevant to me.”

“HaHa! HaHa! Very good! Very good! Who else wants to take these pills?” said Ren Woxing laughing.

Mr. Huang Zhong, Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint looked at each other in dismay. Along with Qin Weibang and the other two elders, these six people had been in Sun Moon Sect for a very long time. So they already knew that the corpse bugs inside the “Three Corpse Brain” pill didn’t just break out suddenly. Usually, at noon every year at the dragon boat festival, they had to take the medicine to restrain the corpse bugs. If they didn’t, then the corpse bugs would be released. Once the bugs entered the brain, this person would become like a ghost and would no longer have the capacity to reason. He would also lose all rationality. He would even eat his own parents or wife. No other poison in the world is as potent as this. Furthermore, the “Three Corpse Brain” pills were made by many different people and have different natures. So Chief Dongfang’s medicine wouldn’t have any effect on Ren Woxing’s “Three Corpse Brain” poison.

They were all scared to death hesitating what to do. Suddenly, Mr. Black-White said loudly, “Chief, have mercy, please. Subordinate will take one first.” He was struggling to the table to take the pill. Ren Woxing lightly brushed away with his sleeve. Mr. Black-White was hit and fell hard on the ground, his brain matter scattered all over the wall.

“You’re a crippled and have lost all your martial art already. Don’t waste my wonder pill,” coldly smiled Ren Woxing.

“Qin Weibang, Wang Cheng, Sang San Niang, you guys don’t want to take my wonder pill?” asked Ren Woxing as he turned his head to them.

The middle-aged woman, Sang San Niang, bowed and said “Subordinate vows her loyalty to Chief from now on.”

The fat and short looking elder, Wang Cheng, honestly said, “Subordinate sacrifice myself willingly to Chief.”

Both took a pill each from the table and swallowed them. Those two people dreaded Ren Woxing completely. They had already seen with their own eyes Ren Woxing’s ruthlessness. They would never dare to revolt again.

When Ren Woxing was Chief, Qin Weibang was in charge of the headquarter responsible for several districts. He had seen the various fierce methods that Ren Woxing used.

“I won’t accompany you!” shouted Qin Weibang as he jumped through the hole in the wall.

“HaHa, HaHa!” laughed Ren Woxing without trying to stop him escaping.

Qin Weibang’s body was outside the wall when a long and slender black whip shot out from Xiang Wentian’s left sleeve. Everyone in the room heard a cry of “Ah” from outside the wall as the whip was now being pulled back through the hole in the wall. Qin Weibang was being dragged back through the wall with the whip coiled around his left foot. He struggled with all his might, rolling around on the ground trying to break free.

“Sang San Niang, take a brain pill and peel its outside skin,” said Ren Woxing.

“Yes!” responded Sang San Niang.

She took one pill from the table and used her finger to peel its shell. Inside the pill was a small gray coloured round ball.

“Feed it to him,” ordered Ren Woxing.

“Yes!” answered Sang San Niang. She went in front of Qin Weibang and ordered, “Open your mouth!”

He turned around and shot out a palm. Even though his kung fu was slightly above Sang San Niang, but his ankle was under the whip’s control. So his palm power was greatly reduced. Sang San Niang’s left foot kicked his wrist, followed by her right foot kicking his chest, and in Yuan yang mandarin style, her left foot kicked again at his shoulder. These three kicks had sealed his accupoints. She then used her left hand to pinch his jaw forcing it to open and her right hand put the peeled brain pill in his mouth. Her right hand followed by pinching his throat, making him swallowed the pill.

Linghu Chong had been observing everything intently. He thought that these people had acted as if these things happened all the time in their normal ordinary days.

“This granny’s hand and foot movements are clever,” Linghu Chong thought. He didn’t know that Sang Sa Niang used her “hand capturing” martial art to show off her vitality and unique skill to Ren Woxing. Also, she wanted to show the Chief that she was loyal to him. Ren Woxing nodded his approval and smiled. Sang San Niang got up and stood guard respectfully besides Qin Weibang.

Ren Woxing turned around and looked at Mr. Huang Zhong and his two brothers. They understood that he was asking them whether they were going to take the pill or not.

Without speaking a single word, Mr. Bald-Brush went to take a pill and swallowed it.

Mr. Paint was mumbling to himself before he finally went and took a pill.

Mr. Huang Zhong looked grieved. He took a book out of his bosom. This was the “Guang Ling San” music score. He walked to Linghu Chong and said, “Your honorable’s martial art is very high. You are also very wise to setup this strategy to help Ren Woxing got out. I admire you. This music score has harmed us four brothers. I return this to you.” He then tossed the music score to Linghu Chong.

Linghu Chong was startled. He then saw Mr. Huang Zhong turned around and walked towards the wall. Feeling regret and sorrow watching Mr. Huang Zhong walking towards the wall, he couldn’t help thinking, “This was all Brother Xiang’s plan to save Chief Ren. I didn’t even know anything about it. But Mr. Huang Zhong and the two brothers will hate me always. I can never separate myself from this matter.”

Mr. Huang Zhong leaned against the wall and said, “Originally, we four brothers entered the Sun Moon Sect with the intention of upholding justice in Jiang Hu. But Chief Ren’s temper was very irritable and he used the power for his own gain. So we four brothers didn’t get involved much in sect’s affairs. When Chief Dongfang became Chief, he was crafty and villainous, and he expelled a lot of brothers from the sect. We four brothers became downhearted. So we asked to be sent here, to be far away from Dark Wood Cliff and not to be involved in other people’s affairs. So we stayed in the West Lake cherishing the arts. In the past twelve years, we’ve enjoyed a lot of happiness and good fortune. A man’s life is full of worry and short of happiness. This is fate… ” Speaking until here, a “heng” sound was heard. His body slowly dropped down.

“Big Brother!” shouted Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint. They ran to Mr. Huang Zhong’s side to support him. Only to see a dagger sticking out of his heart, his two eyes opened wide, and his breath had stopped.

“Big Brother! Big brother!” cried both of them, their tears pouring down.

Wang Cheng applauded and said, “This old fellow didn’t follow Chief’s order. Now, he’s killed himself fearing his crime. He’s also added one more crime to his name. What are you two chaps being noisy about?”

Mr. Paint, his face full of anger, turned around. He wanted to charge at Wang Cheng disregarding his own life.

“What? You wanna rebel?” smirked Wang Cheng.

Mr. Paint remembered that he had taken the “Three Brain Corpse” pill already. From here on, he mustn’t defy Ren Woxing’s order at all. With this in mind, his anger subsided. He merely lowered his head and wiped his tears.

“Bring his corpse and this crippled corpse outside. Bring in the wine and dishes! Today, I’m gonna get drunk with Brother Xiang and Brother Linghu!” said Ren Woxing.

“Right away!” said Mr. Bald-Brush after he’d brought Mr. Huang Zhong’s corpse outside.

A servant came in and arranged six sets of bowls and chopsticks.

“Take away three sets. How can we share a table with Chief?” said Bao Dachu while helping to setup the bowls and chopsticks.

“You have worked hard also. Have a drink outside,” said Ren Woxing.

Bao Dachu, Wang Cheng, and Sang San Niang bowed together and replied “Thank you for Chief’s grace.” They then withdrew out of the room slowly.

After Linghu Chong saw Mr. Huang Zhong’s suicide, he came to regard him as a righteous and upright person. He remembered the day when Mr. Huang Zhong offered to write a letter to Shaolin Abbot Fang Zheng to treat Linghu Chong’s illness. Linghu Chong couldn’t help but feel sad at Mr. Huang Zhong’s death.

“Brother, you’ve had a really good fortune being able to learn Chief’s Art of Essence Absorbing. Let’s hear your story,” said Xiang Wentian smiling. So Linghu Chong told them how he found the skill on the iron panel and everything that went on afterwards.

“Congratulations, this type of opportunity is really precious. It makes brother’s life good and happy,” said Xiang Wentian happily. As he finished speaking, he lifted his wine cup and chugged it down in a mouthful. Ren Woxing and Linghu Chong also lifted their wine cups and chugged them down.

Looking happy, Ren Woxing said, “When you look at this matter, it is actually very dangerous. Initially, when I engraved this martial art’s secrets on the iron panel, I was just feeling melancholy and wanting to kill some time. I didn’t actually have any intention to preserve this martial art. This divine martial art is of course real, but I didn’t leave any direction to help in learning or to avoid having “fire deviation”. This is to prevent people from getting this skill. There are two major difficulties in learning this divine skill. The first difficulty involves scattering all of the body’s internal energy and emptying everything from the Dantian region. If the internal energy is not emptied out or if it was scattered into the wrong acupoints, you will get “fire deviation”. At best, your whole body will be paralysed and you will be crippled. At worst, your meridians will flow backwards and you will bleed to death from 7 holes in your body. This martial art was created by Cheng Yida several hundred years ago and it is rare to get instructions for it. Also, very few people finished learning it completely because this scattering step is very difficult. Brother Linghu actually had a few big advantages. First, you have lost all of your internal energy. So you didn’t care about scattering your energy and it didn’t take too much effort for you to complete the first step. For other people, this is the most difficult and dangerous step. You, on the other hand, passed this step unexpectedly and unwittingly. After scattering your internal energy, it is essential to absorb other people’s qi immediately. This energy from another person must be stored in your Dantian and then scattered into your 8 meridians. Ordinarily, this step is also very difficult. Your whole internal energy has just been dispersed into the meridians. You then must absorb someone’s qi. How can this be an easy thing to do? Who wants to give up his life for you to practice this skill? Brother Linghu again had an advantage with this second difficulty. I’ve heard Brother Xiang said that, there are 8 types of internal energy in your body from various masters. Although they are only a portion of each person’s qi, each one is already extremely good. Brother Linghu, you’ve passed these two major obstacles very easily and finished learning the skill. It must be heaven’s will.”

Linghu Chong’s palm was wet with cold sweat. He said, “Luckily all my internal energy was lost already. Otherwise, I don’t dare to think what would have happened. Brother Xiang, how did Chief Ren escape from the underground prison? Little brother still doesn’t know how this happened.”

Xiang Wentian chuckled and took out an object from his bosom and put it on Linghu Chong’s palm.

“What’s this?” asked Linghu Chong as he felt a hard ball on his palm. It was the object that he gave to Ren Woxing on that day. He opened his palm and saw a metal ball. There was an inlay with a metal bead on the ball. He pushed the metal bead and it turned around in the inlay. When he pulled on the bead, an extremely fine metal thread came out of it. The end of this metal thread was connected to the ball on his hand. With a row of saw tooth, this metal thread was just like a metal wire saw. Linghu Chong was suddenly enlightened.

“So that was how the shackles on Chief’s hands and feet were broken!” exclaimed Linghu Chong.

“I completely knocked out all five of you by laughing a few times using my internal energy. Then I used that metal saw to cut the shackles. How did you deal with Mr. Black-White when you were escaping? What do you think I did?” asked Ren Woxing with a smile.

“First, you switched your clothes with mine and then you shackled my hands and feet. No wonder Mr. Huang Zhong didn’t notice what happened.” beamed Linghu Chong.

“Of course, it wasn’t easy to conceal this from Mr. Huang Zhong and Mr. Black-White. But when they woke up, Chief and I had already left the Plum Manor. We left them the chess book, the music score, the calligraphy and the painting. Seeing these probably made them very happy. How can they suspect that the person inside the prison has escaped?” explained Xiang Wentian.

“Brother’s strategy was certainly divine. No other person could have done it this well.” said Linghu Chong. But in his heart, he was thinking, “You planned all of this from the very beginning. You deceived these four people to lead us inside the prison. But it has been a long time since Chief escaped. How come it took you so long to rescue me?”

Xiang Wentian noticed the change of color on Linghu Chong’s face and guessed correctly what Linghu Chong was thinking.

With a smile, he said, “Brother, Chief had many major matters to deal with after the escape from prison. We cannot let the enemy know of the escape at the time. So, it was better to wrong you and let you stay under the West Lake for several days first. Didn’t we come to rescue you today? However, we found you’ve turned bad luck into good fortune and have finished learning this marvelous martial art. That should compensate for your time in there. HaHaHa. Wasn’t it a fair trade?” Saying this, Xiang Wentian filled their wine cups to the brim.

Ren Woxing laughed loudly and said, “Cheers!” Each of them gulped their wine down.

“What fair trade? I have to thank the two of you. Originally, I had serious internal injuries that have no cure in this world. After learning Chief’s divine martial art, this internal injuries were healed, giving me back one life,” smiled Linghu Chong.

The three of them laughed loudly, feeling very happy.

“Twelve years ago, Chief went missing and Dongfang Bubai seized power. When I found out about this matter, I could only bear patiently. So I worked together with Dongfang Bubai with little interest. Until recently, when I found out that Chief was being imprisoned here. I came here straight away to help Chief escape from this prison. How was I supposed to know that when I descended from Dark Wood Cliff, that bastard Dongfang Bubai would send many groups to kill me. Then I accidentally met with those orthodox sect scoundrel bastards when they were having a meeting. Brother, that day at the bottom of the valley, you told me the reason for losing your internal energy. At that time, I thought of scattering your various strange internal energies. At the present age, only Chief can do this,” reasoned Xiang Wentian.

After drinking more than ten cups of wine, Linghu Chong thought that this person RenWoxing’s style of speaking was heroic, his knowledge and experience were not ordinary. He really was a rare grand hero. He couldn’t help but to admire him. At first, when he saw how he dealt with Qin Weibang, Mr. Huang Zhong and Mr. Black-White, he thought that his method was excessively vicious. But after hearing him talk, he quite resembled that of a hero. Also, he thought that his temperament couldn’t often be this vicious. Hence, his heart, which at first, held a resentful thought towards Ren Woxing gradually subsided.

“Brother Linghu, when we treat with the enemy, we treat them viciously. Managing subordinates must also be strict. You’re probably not accustomed to it. But you think, how long have I been locked up under the West Lake’s underground prison? You’ve been imprisoned in there, you know how it feels likes. How do others treat me? Regarding the enemy’s rebel, can you treat them compassionately?” said Ren Woxing.

Linghu Chong nodded agreeing with him. Suddenly, he wanted to deal with a matter and stood up.

“I have a matter to request from Chief, hopefully Chief will agree to it,” said Linghu Chong.

“What matter?” asked Ren Woxing.

“The day when I first met Chief, I heard Mr. Huang Zhong said, that when Chief escaped and re-entered Jiang Hu. That you will give Huashan School great trouble. I also heard Chief said that if you meet my master then you will give him some embarrassments. Chief’s martial art is godly, if you give trouble to Huashan School, then no one there would be able to withstand it,” said Linghu Chong.

“I heard Brother Xiang said that your master announced to everyone that you’ve been expelled from Huashan School. I’ll go and disgrace them. After we’ve found them, we’ll wipe Huashan School out from the Wulin world. This is to substitute for the bitter feeling in your heart,” told Ren Woxing.

Linghu Chong shook his head and replied, “My parents died when I was young. It was Master and Master-wife’s kindness that they took me in. They took care of me when I was growing up and then took me in as a disciple. They’re like parents to me. It was my fault that Master expelled me from the school. Also, there might be some misunderstanding between us. I wouldn’t dare blame my kind Master.”

“It was Yue Buqun who treated you heartlessly. But you’re not willing to seek justice?” smiled Ren Woxing.

“I beg for Chief’s kindness and to be broadminded. Please don’t go after my Master, Master-wife, and Huashan School’s disciples,” said Linghu Chong.

“Emm, I’ve escaped from that dark prison and you’ve also had your strive at the same time. But I’ve passed on to you the divine skill Art of Essence Absorbing and saved your life. Both things should be equal. I’ve re-entered Jiang Hu and have a lot of grudges. I can’t agree to your request. Later, when I handle my affairs, I can’t have both my hands and feet tied,” answered Ren Woxing.

Hearing him said this, Linghu Chong felt that his master would meet great difficulty. He couldn’t help but felt anxious.

Ren Woxing laughed and said, “Little brother, sit down. Today, in this world, I only trust you and Brother Xiang. You requested one matter from me. We can always discuss this. How about this? I also have a request to make to you. Why don’t you agree to this matter for me first? After today, when I meet Huashan’s disciples, as long as they’re not disrespectful towards me, then I won’t bother them. Even if I must teach them a lesson, if I see you at that time, I will hold my hand and only use thirty percent of my power. What do you say to this?”

Linghu Chong was very happy. He replied, “I’m deeply grateful for this. Who dares not to follow Chief’s order?”

“We three are now sworn brothers, from today, we’ll share all happiness and woes together. Brother Xiang is Sun Moon Sect’s Guang Ming Zuo Shi (left protector). You will become my sect’s Guang Ming You Shi (right protector). What do you think of this?” said Ren Woxing.

Linghu Chong was startled when he heard this. He didn’t anticipate that Ren Woxing wanted him to join the Devil Sect. When he was young, he heard from Master and Master-wife that Devil Sect has many kinds of evil and vicious people. After he’d been expelled from Huashan School, he was thinking of just leisurely wandering the Jiang Hu and not belonging to any school or sect. Even if his body wanted to join the Devil Sect, his mind thought that he should not. His heart was disconcerted. He didn’t know how to answer.

Ren Woxing and Xiang Wentian were staring at him. The room was now completely quiet and not a single sound could be heard.

After some time, Linghu Chong said, “Chief is very kind to let me, Linghu Chong, enter the sect so late. But how would I dare to stand side-by-side with Chief? Also, I’m still hoping that, even though I don’t have a chance to rejoin Huashan School, Master will have a change of attitude and take back his command….”

Ren Woxing smiled tastelessly and said, “You call me Chief. Actually, although I’ve escaped from prison, my life is still in a precarious state and this word “Chief” means nothing. It’s only good to hear. Today, everyone knows that Sun Moon Sect’s Chief is Dongfang Bubai. This person’s kung fu is high and is not below me at all. His strategy and wisdom are also above me. With a signal from him, many people will rush to help him against only Brother Xiang and me. So, taking the position of Chief from him is a hopeless battle. It’s a foolish and deluded action. You’re not willing to be my sworn brother. Of course, this is a wise idea to protect your own life. Come, come, come! Let’s drink wine and be happy. Let this matter rest.”

“How did Dongfang Bubai take away Chief’s power and position? Also how did you get imprisoned in the underground prison? There are many matters that I still don’t understand. Can these two matters be explained?” asked Linghu Chong.

Ren Woxing shook his head. His smile was mournful. He said, “I’ve been living under the lake for 12 years. What fame and authority do I have left? Hey, hey. I’ve grown older and my temper has also become worse.”

He filled a wine cup to the brim, drank it in a mouthful, and laughed loudly. His laughter sounded sad and forlorn.

“Brother, that day Dongfang Bubai sent a lot of people to chase after me, you’ve seen his vicious method with your own eyes. If you didn’t give me a hand, I would’ve become minced-meat in that pavilion. Right now, your heart is divided between the orthodox school and the Devil Sect. But on that day, those several hundred people from both sides allied together and tried to kill the two of us. Where is the division? What orthodox school? What devil sect? Actually this division is only artificial. Inside the orthodox schools, there are good people. But don’t they also have some despicable and evil diciples? Although the Devil Sect has no shortages of bad people, but we three people would be able to hold the power in the sect. So we’ll be able to reorganise the sect well and get rid of those evil degenerates. Won’t we then be seen as a proud and heroic sect in Jiang Hu?” Xiang Wentian said.

Linghu Chong nodded and said, “What big brother said is true.”

“Back in those days, Chief treated Dongfang Bubai fairly. He was promoted to the position of left protector and was given all the power in the sect. Meanwhile, Chief was concentrating on correcting some small flaws in the Art of Essence Absorbing. That wolf Dongfang Bubai, with his unexpectedly wild ambition, took care of everyday affairs. On the surface, he treated Chief respectfully and didn’t dare to violate anything. But secretly, he gathered power to himself and did things on false pretexts. He removed all the ministers loyal to Chief, all were possibly killed. A few years later, all of Chief’s trusted people were all gone. Chief is an upright and most sincere person. He saw that Dongfang Bubai was respectful and prudent so he didn’t suspect anything. But Dongfang Bubai had positioned himself well in the sect with his hands in everything. He had everything arranged to his liking. We didn’t have any suspicion from the beginning to the end,” explained Xiang Wentian.

Ren Woxing sighed and said, “Brother Xiang, I’m actually very ashamed of this matter. You honestly told me many times to guard against treachery. But I trusted Dongfang Bubai too highly and I didn’t like to hear those honest talk. Instead I thought you were jealous of him. After I blamed you, you sowed dissension and a lot of lives were lost. Then you left in anger and from then on we haven’t met again till now.”

“I wouldn’t dare to blame Chief. I merely saw that something wasn’t right. That Dongfang Bubai encircled us secretly then launched his attack. If subordinate was besides Chief at that time, then I would also suffer his violent treachery. Although I was willing to face difficulty and death for the sect, I had to consider about the future in this case. So I felt that I must have a way to escape for every situation. If Chief was able to see through his deceitful heart and ordered him to not pursue his own goals, then I would have been really happy. Otherwise, I should be outside the sect. At the very least, I should avoid him unless he discovered about my suspicion,” said Xiang Wentian.

Ren Woxing nodded and said, “That’s true. But how did I know about your pain at that time? I only saw you left without saying goodbye and felt really angry. At the same time, my martial art practice had just reached its critical point and I nearly had a calamity. That Dongfang Bubai actually did everything to please me and advised me not to worry. Then I fell even deeper in his plot, I went as far as giving him the sect’s secret Sunflower Scripture.”

When Linghu Chong heard of this “Sunflower Scripture”, he let out an “ah”.

“Brother, you also know about the “Sunflower Scripture”?” asked Xiang Wentian.

“I only heard master mentioned this name before. I knew that it’s a deep and profound martial art secret. But I didn’t know that it was in Chief’s possession,” answered Linghu Chong.

“For many years, “Sunflower Scripture” has been Sun Moon Sect’s well guarded treasure. It is handed down from the previous Chief to the next. When I was practising the Art of Essence Absorbing, I neglected to eat and sleep. I didn’t care about any matters at all and I wanted to give up the position of Chief to Dongfang Bubai. So I gave Dongfang Bubai the “Sunflower Scripture”. This is to make him understand clearly about my intention. That not long after, I was going to give the position of Chief to him. Ai, originally Dongfang Bubai is a very intelligent person. But once he understood that he was going to get the position of Chief, why did he have to rush in getting it and not willing to wait until I formally give him the position myself? Why did he instead rebel to seize this position?” said Ren Woxing.

He scowled and it appears that even until now he didn’t understand clearly about this matter.

“Apparently, he couldn’t wait a moment longer. He didn’t know when Chief was going to formally give him the position. So he worried and afraid that something might suddenly change,” explained Xiang Wentian.

“Actually, he already secured everything for himself. What sudden change should he be afraid of? It’s difficult to predict the minds of other people. When I was in the underground prison, I went over his treasonous plan from many different angles, trying to understand. Why did he suddenly launch the attack? Even until now, I still don’t understand his logic. Originally, he was a little bit jealous of you, afraid that I might give the position of chief to you. But he’d seen you left with his own eyes. So it was better for him to just wait for a little while,” reasoned Ren Woxing.

“At the night of the dragon boat festival’s feast in the same year that Dongfang Bubai launched his attack, Miss said something at the banquet. Does Chief still remember what she said?” asked Xiang Wentian.

Ren Woxing scratched his head pondering, “Dragon boat festival? What did that little Miss say? Hmm. What’s the connection? I don’t remember.”

“Chief, don’t treat Miss as a little child. She’s very clever and thoughtful, and no lesser than any adult. That year, miss is seven years old, right? She was at the banquet looking at people when she suddenly asked you, “Dad, dad, how come when we drink wine at the dragon boat festival every year, there’s always one person less?” You were startled and asked her, ” What do you mean there is one person less every year?” Miss answered, “I remembered there were 11 people last year. The year before, there were 12 people. This year, one, two, three, four, five… we only have ten,”” recounted Xiang Wentian.

Ren Woxing sighed and said, “That’s true. Ahh. At that time, when I heard what little miss said, I felt very unhappy. The year before, Dongfang Bubai had executed younger brother Hao Xian. The year before that, Elder Qiu died at Gansu with no clear reason. When I think about it now, this must have been Dongfang Bubai’s evil doing. And one year before that, Elder Wen was removed from the sect and was killed by the masters from SongShan School, TaiShan School and HengShan School. That disaster must also be Dongfang Bubai’s doing. Ai, little miss accidentally said the right word and revealed his plan. At that time, my mind was like in a dream, I couldn’t comprehend it.”

He stopped for a while and gulped his wine down.

He continued, “This Art of Essence Absorbing was created by Xiao Yao Sect in times of Northern Song. It was a combination of the two skills, BeiMing Shen Gong and Hua Gong DaFa (Author’s note: Please read “Tian Long Ba Bu”), which were left behind by Dali’s Duan family and XingXiu Sect respectively. They were combined into one, and became the Art of Essence Absorbing. The Art of Essence Absorbing’s main principle is inherited from Hua Gong DaFa. But the scholars who wrote the formula down didn’t know the proper way, so there were some flaws on the skill. In the meantime, for more than ten years, I’ve been repairing this Art of Essence Absorbing. In Jiang Hu, this divine martial art still has a big reputation. When people from orthodox school hear this name, they still tremble with fear. But I know that this divine martial art has a few big flaws in it. In the beginning, I didn’t feel anything wrong. But later, a disastrous problem was slowly revealed. In those several years, I came to understand the problem deeply. I knew that if I don’t find the remedy soon, I would one day die by “fire deviation”. Those energy that I’ve absorbed from other people could suddenly reverse. Because I’ve absorbed a lot of energy, the reverse energy would also be just as big.”

When Linghu Chong heard all this, he secretly felt that there was one big thing that wasn’t right. Ren Woxing continued, “At that time, I’ve already absorbed the internal energies of ten evil masters. But because each of the ten internal energies was very strong and different, they prohibited each other from being sent to different gates. I believed that there must be a way to make all these internal energy harmonious and whole so that I could use them. Otherwise, I will always be in danger. In those few years, I thought day and night on how to solve this problem to the point that I neglected everything except thinking on this matter. That day at the Dragon Boat Festival feast, although I was drinking wine and cracking jokes, but in my heart, I sought a way that would allow the energy in my body to flow freely amidst the twenty-two acupoints of the Yangjiao Channel and the thirty-two acupoints of the Yangwei Channel. These made up a total of fifty-four acupoints, through which the energy could flow in its passage from the Yangjiao into the Yangwei and vice-versa.”

“At that time, I also thought that it was strange as Chief is usually alert. Chief only needs to hear half a word to know what a person wants to say. You observed everything and missed nothing. But in those several years, not only were you not aware of Dongfang Bubai’s treasonous plan, but also every day… every day… ” sighed Xiang Wentian.

Ren Woxing smiled a little and said, “Everyday I was dazed and witless. My mind seemed to be elsewhere all the time.”

“That’s true. Ahhh. After miss said those words, Dongfang Bubai laughed and said, “Miss, you love things to be lively, don’t you? Next year, we’ll invite more people to drink wine” When he said those words, his face was full of happiness. But when I observed his eyes, it was full of hesitation. He must’ve suspected that Chief knew of what he was up to. And that right then, Chief was just pretending to be ignorant to test him. He knew that Chief is astute so he expected that Chief knew about his plan already,” said Xiang Wentian.

Ren Woxing scowled and said, “I couldn’t remember at all what little miss said at the dragon boat festival’s feast twelve years ago. I now remember only after you mentioned about it. That’s right, when Dongfang Bubai heard those words, how can it not raise his suspicions?”

“Also, Dongfang Bubai was afraid that Miss would see through his treasonous plan in a year or two when she had grown up and gotten even smarter. Furthermore, he was afraid that if he waited until she became an adult, Chief might give the position of Chief to her. So, when Dongfang Bubai heard this, he didn’t dare to wait any longer. He took a risk and launched the attack. This is the logic behind all this,” Xiang Wentian explained.

Ren Woxing nodded his head agreeing with what Xiang Wentian said.

“Ai, if my daughter is by my side right now, then we’ll have one more person and our position wouldn’t be as weak as right now,” said Ren Woxing.

Xiang Wentian turned to Linghu Chong and said, “Brother, Chief has already said that there’s a big flaw with the Art of Essence Absorbing. As far as I know, Chief was working on a solution to fix this divine martial art while he endured being imprisoned for the last 12 years. Of course, by the time he escaped from that prison, he already had a breakthrough and found the solution for this divine martial art. Chief, is this right?”

Ren Woxing rubbed his thick black fine beard, laughed, and was feeling proud of himself. He said, “Of course. From now on, when I absorb other people’s energy, I don’t have to worry about these energies suddenly reversing. HaHa! Brother Linghu, take a deep breath, don’t you feel there’s qi drumming fiercely at your Yuzhen and Shanzhong acupoints?”

Linghu Chong took a deep breath and felt a faint qi flowing at his Yuzhen and Shanzhong acupoints. He couldn’t help that his complexion changed as he did this.

“You’ve only begun your practice, so you can probably only feel it a little bit. But during those years, before I found the remedy, the qi in these two pressure points was drumming really fiercely. It felt like the sky was falling down and the earth shaking. It was torture. Even though I looked calm and quiet outside, inside my ears, it sounded like there were a thousand horses charging through. Sometimes, it sounded like thunder continuously striking down. Ai, if I wasn’t having such a big disaster with my qi, how can Dongfang Bubai’s treasonous plan have succeeded?” said Ren Woxing.

Linghu Chong knew that Ren Woxing was saying the truth. He also knew that Xiang Wentian mentioned this problem to get him to ask for advice from Ren Woxing. But he was determined not to join the Sun Moon Sect and ask for Ren Woxing’s help. He couldn’t say anything, but in his heart, he was thinking, “I’ve already learned his Art of Essence Absorbing. This skill absorbs other people’s energy for myself to use. It’s a very selfish and vicious skill. I had decided not to practise and use it. If I can’t stop these absorbed energies from reversing, then that’s the way it’s gonna be. This is gonna be my fate. How can Linghu Chong be greedy and be afraid of death? How can I commit a big violation over this when I’m originally sincere?”

After he mulled over this matter in his mind, he said, “Chief, I would like to consult you on a matter I still don’t understand. My master said that the “Sunflower Scripture” is the most supreme martial arts secret. No one will be able to match you in the whole world after learning this martial art. He said your life would also be prolonged to over 100 years. How come you didn’t learn this martial art and instead learned that dangerously fierce Art of Essence Absorbing?”

Ren Woxing weakly smiled and said, “I don’t think outsiders are worthy enough to know the reason.”

Linghu Chong’s face turned red when he heard this. He said, “Yes, I was too bold.”

“Brother, Chief is already old, your big brother is also only a few years younger than him. If you enter the sect, then Chief’s successor will of course be you. I know that you dislike the Sun Moon Sect’s bad reputation. But when you’re chief, wouldn’t you have the power in hand to reorganise the sect so that people in this world would benefit from it?” Xiang Wentian logically told Linghu Chong.

Linghu Chong felt that Xiang Wentian’s speech was logical and reasonable. He was moved. He saw Ren Woxing picked up his wine cup and with his right hand, picked up the wine pot and filled the cup to the brim. Ren Woxing then said, “Several hundred years ago, there was enmity between my Sun Moon sect and the orthodox sects and schools. After that, we couldn’t coexist anymore. If you adhere stubbornly to this opinion and don’t enter our sect then your internal injuries will be difficult to heal and your life isn’t guaranteed. This doesn’t need to be said. Also, I’m afraid that your Master and Master-wife of Huashan school… Hey, hey, I want to make all of Huashan School disciples perish and stamp Huashan School out of existence from the Wulin world. This isn’t a hard thing to do at all. It was fate that brought us here together. If you agree with my suggestion, then please drink this cup of wine.”

These words were said threateningly. Linghu Chong’s felt his anger rising up and in a clear voice said, “Chief, big brother, originally my injuries were enough to shorten my life and I was only living from day to day. Then I accidentally learned Chief’s divine martial art. But now, because I’m unable to meld all the energies together, I might not live long. So it’s just like my old injuries. This is no big deal. For a long time, I’ve already thought my life was unimportant. Dead or alive, I still have my life now. Huashan School has been around for several hundred years and has managed to survive till now. It’s not necessarily true that other people can just raise their hands and destroy Huashan School. Today, we’ve finished our talk. Let us part here.”

As soon as he finished speaking, he cupped his hands in salute towards the two people, turned around and left.

Xiang Wentian still had words to say but Linghu Chong was already far away. As Linghu Chong ran out of the Plum Manor, he felt the cold air brushing his body and he felt unrestrained in his heart. As he sighed and raised his head, he saw the crescent moon hanging from the tip of a willow branch. In the middle of the lake, he could see reflections of the bright moon and the clouds on the water. When he reached the bank of the lake, he stood there quietly for some time and thought, “Chief Ren must now be going to Dongfang Bubai to settle the matter concerning the position of Chief. He wouldn’t search for Huashan School straight away to bring them trouble. But, Master, Master-wife, and martial brothers and sisters didn’t know about this matter. If they meet him, they may suffer under his violent hands. I must tell them as soon as possible so that they can be prepared. But I don’t know whether they’ve returned from Fuzhou or not. From here, it’s not that far to Fuzhou. I don’t have anything else to do. I’ll just go to Fuzhou for a trip. If they’re on their way back, then maybe I’ll meet them on the way.”

His thought immediately turned to the letter his master wrote to the Wulin world. In that letter, his Master announced that he’d been expelled from Huashan school. A sour feeling rose up in his heart as he remembered this. He thought to himself, “I’m going to report to Master and Master-wife about Chief Ren compelling me to join his sect. They will understand that I didn’t intentionally make friends with people from Devil sect. Maybe Master will take back his command and will only punish me to spend three years on top of that cliff thinking about my fault. If that’s the case, then it’s going be good.” Thinking that there may be a chance to re-enter the school, his spirit rose.

He immediately started off to look for an inn to stay overnight. He felt that he would be able to sleep long until noon this time. Then he thought that as he hadn’t seen Master and Master-wife, it would be better to hide his original appearance. Furthermore, Yingying gave orders to those people to take his life. So, he felt it’d be best to disguise himself and not look for trouble. But what appearance should he take on for his disguise?

As he was deep in thought, he arrived at an inn. He walked slowly into the inn. Just as he entered the courtyard, he suddenly heard the sound of a door being opened and a basin full of water splashed towards him. He evaded quickly as the basin emptied out. In front of him was an angry looking military officer glaring at him, holding a wooden wash basin. The officer rudely shouted, “Did you not bring your eyes? Didn’t you see grandfather throwing water out?”

Linghu Chong was feeling angry. He couldn’t believe that such an unruly and unreasonable man existed. With a fine thick beard, this military officer looked like he was around forty years old. He was wearing a full body military gown and there was a Yaodao saber on his waist. Linghu Chong thought that he was probably an officer from a military school. With his chest flat and his belly bulging out, he looked accustomed to the good living.

That military officer loudly shouted, “What are you looking at? You don’t recognise your granddad?”

Linghu Chong suddenly got an inspiration, “Why don’t I disguise myself as this military officer? He’s quite interesting. I’ll be walking around Jiang Hu in an impressive disguise. People in Wulin won’t even give me a second look.”

That military officer shouted loudly again, “What are you laughing at? Your granny, what’s so funny?” (Translator’s note: Your granny is a swear word that this officer likes to use)

Linghu Chong unconsciously smiled, feeling proud of himself. When he went to the counter to pay for a room and meal, he whispered to the innkeeper, “What’s the background of that military officer?”

The shopkeeper frowned at his question, but he still answered, “Who knows where he comes from? He came from Beijing and has stayed here for one night. The servants served him three meals already. He’s also ordered a good quantity of good wine and good meat. Don’t know if he’s going to pay or not.”

Linghu Chong nodded and walked into the teahouse. He brewed a pot of tea and slowly drank it. After waiting for an hour, he heard the sound of a horse trotting. That military officer was going out of the inn on a red jujube-coloured horse. While lashing his horsewhip making a “Pai, pai” sound, he was loudly bellowing, “Make way! Make way! Your granny, hurry up and get away!” A few people were too slow getting out of his way and got lashed by the whip.

Linghu Chong already paid for his tea, so he got up and followed the horse. He saw the officer exiting from the west gate and galloping away on the southwesterly road. After a few li, there were less and less people on the road, so Linghu Chong quickened his steps. He rushed to the front of the horse and raised his right hand. The horse was frightened and reared at him causing that officer to almost fall from the horse.

Linghu Chong shouted loudly, “Your granny, didn’t you bring your eyes? Your horse almost kicked this old man to death!”

That officer didn’t open his mouth but he looked indignant and snorted three times. He waited till his horse’s front foot dropped back down before he selected a whip and lashed out towards Linghu Chong’s head. He saw that it’s inconvenient to settle this matter on the main road so he shouted, “Ai yo!” and staggered into the forest. That officer wasn’t willing to just let Linghu Chong go like that. So he dismounted his horse and quickly tied the horse’s rein on a tree. He was madly impatient to start chasing.

Linghu Chong shouted, “Ai yo! I want my mommy!” as he fled into the forest.

That military officer started pursuing and raised a clamor as he was running through the forest. Suddenly he felt a tingling sensation on the side of his body and fell down on the ground. Linghu Chong’s left foot stepped on his chest and laughingly said, “Your granny, your skill isn’t good. How can you march to war?” He searched the officer’s bosom and took out a big envelope. On the envelope was the “Seal of the Ministry of War Office” on red vermillion and a written word “Announcement” in big letters. He opened the letter and took out a thick paper. It was the ministry of war office’s appointment order. Written on it was the promotion of Hebei’s Cangzhou prefecture’s officer Wu Tiande to become Fujian’s Quanzhou prefecture’s general.

Linghu Chong laughed and said, “Oh, it’s big general, so you’re Wu Tiande?”

That officer was pinned underneath Linghu Chong’s foot and his face starting to turn purple.

“Let me get up! Quickly! You… you… very daring. Insulting a government official, not… not afraid of the law?” shouted that officer. Although he was shouting, his anger had long been exhausted.

Smiling, Linghu Chong said, “Your old man doesn’t have anything to tie you up with but I want to borrow your clothes to try on,” After saying so, he knocked out the officer by hitting him on the head with his palm.

He then quickly took the officer’s clothes off. Thinking that this guy was hateful, he decided to teach him a lesson and took off all his underwear, leaving the officer buck-naked on the ground. He then picked up the officer’s bundle and opened it. Inside, there were several hundreds silver taels and three gold coins. He thought, “This must have been taken away from good and honest people. It’s going to be hard to return these to the owners. I’ll just have to use it to buy wine for my General Wu Tiande.” He chuckled as he thought of this. Immediately, he took off his clothes and put on the officer’s clothes, leather boots, and Yaodao saber. He also took the bundle with him. Afterwards, using a strip of his own clothes, he tied the officer’s hands to a tree and stuffed his mouth full with mud. He thought for a while and took his knife out to shave the officer’s beard and put those shaved beard in his bosom. He smiled and remarked, “You’ve changed into a pretty face now. You’ve become much more beautiful.”

When he got back to the main road, he untied the horse’s rein and mounted it. He lashed out with the whip and shouted, “Make way! Make way! Your granny, didn’t you bring your eyes? HaHa, HaHa!” Laughing loudly, he galloped away to the south.

That same night, he arrived at an inn at the border area of Hangzhou. The shopkeeper and servant at that inn greeted him with “Army officer, army officer”. At daybreak, Linghu Chong asked the shopkeeper the road to Fujian. After receiving 5 taels of silver, the shopkeeper and his servant accompanied him while bowing all the way to the door. Linghu Chong thought, “You guys are fortunate that you met my general; if you had actually met the real General Wu Tiande, you would certainly have suffered.” After leaving the inn, he went to a store and bought a face mirror and a bottle of glue water. Once he got outside the city, he looked for a desolated place. Once he got there, he took out the mirror and carefully glued the shaved beard on his face. This took him around an hour. When he checked himself in the mirror, his cheek was full of fine thick beard and couldn’t help but laughed at himself.

On the way south, he reached Jinhua prefecture and arrived at the prefecture office. In this area, he found it hard to understand the southern accent. But it was good that he was dressed in military attire because people started talking to him in a more formal manner, which made him able to understand them much better. In his whole life, he’s never had this much money before, so he kept ordering wine and drank to his heart’s content.

The many different internal energies that he had were circulating throughout the meridians in his body, not a trace of it was leaving his body. When suddenly, an energy stream rushed towards his Dantian region making him dizzy, seeing stars, and wanting to vomit. This was Mr. Black-White’s qi. He felt the pain was even more unbearable than before. Whenever this happened, he only had to follow the method written by Ren WoXing on the iron panel and expel the qi out from the Dantian region. After the qi in the Dantian was emptied, then his qi would become smooth and he would feel vigorous immediately. If he followed this practice every time this happened, he knew that his energy would also increase by a level but he would also be deeper in trouble by one level. He was always upbeat in his thinking. “I already got my life back. Living for one more day, even for one more minute is already good.” He calmed down straight away.

That afternoon, he entered the Xianxia mountain range. The area was rugged and as he went on, he got higher and higher and could see less and less smokes from the mountain people’s habitation. He rode on for another 20 li and no house was around anymore. He knew straight away that he had made a mistake by going past the last inn so now he had to stay the night on the road with robbers around the area. The night was getting darker as he picked a fruit up and ate it. Then he spotted a small cave underneath the cliff. It looked dry and seemed as if there were not many bugs inside to bother him. So he tied his horse’s rein on a tree and let it eat some grass, while he went to collect some dry grass to spread inside the cave.

He felt that the qi in his Dantian wasn’t relaxed so he sat down to meditate. With more practice, Ren Woxing’s divine martial art was going to get even harder to restrain and he was going to feel uncomfortable more often. When he finished meditating, his whole body felt relaxed and light. It was as if he was on a cloud. He then expelled the breath in his mouth, stood up, and smiled bitterly. ” That day when I asked Chief Ren, how come he still wanted to learn the Art of Essence Absorbing when he already had “Sunflower Manual” in his possession, he didn’t answer willingly. But now, I understand why. This Art of Essence Absorbing, after you practiced it, you won’t be able to give it up.” After reaching this conclusion, he couldn’t help but feel frightened. “I heard Master-wife said before about Miao people raising poisonous evil things. Even when they knew it was evil, it was hard to give up. If they don’t use those poisonous bugs to harm people then the bugs would harm the host’s body. In the future, will I become just like those Miao people?”

When he walked out of the cave, he saw a lot of stars in the sky and heard the chirping of insects. Suddenly, he heard people coming towards the mountain. It seemed that they’re still quite far away but his internal energy allowed him to hear further. Immediately, he went to his horse, loosened its rein, hit its back to make the horse move into the cave. He then hid himself behind a tree. After some time, he heard the steps coming closer. The light from the stars allowed him to see many people with black gowns and yellow waistbands, walking along. From the outfits, he reckoned they were people from the Devil Sect. There were more than thirty people in the group and none of them spoke a word. Linghu Chong thought, “They seemed to be going south towards Fujian. I wonder if they have anything to do with my Huashan School. Have they received orders from Chief Ren to cause trouble for Master and Master-wife?” He waited until those people were gone far enough before he quietly followed.

After he had walked for several li, the mountain road became really steep. Then he saw the two mountain peaks besides each other with a very narrow mountain road going through the middle. It would be impossible for two people to go up side by side on this road. Those thirty people were climbing through the pass in a single file. Linghu Chong thought, ” If I were to follow them up now, it’s possible that once they reached the top, one of them might accidentally turn his head around and see me.” So he quickly hid himself in the bushes to wait for them to finish climbing the slope and to start going down on the south slope before he started chasing again. But when these people reached the peak of the slope, they suddenly scattered and hid themselves behind the mountain rocks. Not a single shadow was seen.

Linghu Chong was frightened. The first thing that entered his mind was, “They saw me.” But he knew immediately that he was wrong. He considered further, “They’re going to ambush people who will go up the slope. That must be it! This is the perfect place to plan an ambush. Whoever climbed up here would have trouble escaping. Who are they trying to ambush? If Master and Master-wife had gone back to the North, what urgent matter do they have to go back to Fujian that they would be walking through here at night? Will I see my little martial sister tonight?” As his thought turned to Yue Lingshan, his whole body became hot. He quietly stepped away from the bushes. After he had gained a bit of distance away from the mountaintop, he quickly dashed down from the mountain. After several bends, he turned around and couldn’t see the mountain slope anymore. Then he headed back north away from the mountain pass. He scampered along the road while trying to listen if anyone was coming towards him. After 10 more li, he suddenly heard voices from a hillside on the left. “Linghu Chong is a dirty rascal. You’re still defending him!”

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