On the peak of Mount Hua.
Early the next morning Guo Jing and the others quietly left Xiangyang through the north gate for Mount Hua (Hua Shan). They avoided the troops and the people’s festive farewell. They walked slowly since Zhou Botong, Lu Wushuang, the Wu Brothers and the Fisherman (Secret Fisherman from Si Shui ‘si shui yu yin’) still had not recovered from their injuries. They covered only about 10 li everyday.
By the time they arrived at Mount Hua, those who were injured had recovered. Yang Guo showed them Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng’s graves, which were side by side. Huang Rong had purchased chicken, vegetables and other supplies. She lit a fire and prepared the food just as Hong Qigong liked it, as a memorial to him. Immediately they performed the ritual ceremony.
Guo Jing did not want to show respect toward Ouyang Feng’s grave. He still remembered how his five masters died by the Western Poison’s hands. True, it had been decades ago, but he could not forget it. Yang Guo was different. Together with Xiao Longnü they knelt in front of Ouyang’s grave. Zhou Botong only clasped his fists in front of the grave and said, “Old Poison, Old Poison! You committed countless crimes in your lifetime. And after you died, your grave is right next to the Old Beggar’s. I’d say you are very lucky! Today everybody else is kneeling in front of the Old Beggar, except these two kids. If you knew this, you would probably regret your ruthlessness!”
Everybody was amused to hear the Old Urchin’s (Lao Wan Tong) jabbering.
They were about to eat dinner after the ceremony when suddenly they heard distant sounds of weapons clashing and people cursing. Zhou Botong was always ready to have fun. He was the first to run toward the battle sound. The others followed behind.
After a couple of bends the path led them to a plateau. There they saw about thirty or forty people battling each other. Some were short, some were tall, some were old, some were young, and there were priests, monks, men and women. They did not pay any attention to the newcomers. Perhaps they thought these newcomers were tourists or pilgrims.
“Ladies and Gentlemen hold on a moment!” a big burly man shouted. “Fighting chaotically like this will not determine who will be the ‘Number One Valiant Hero under Heaven’. Let us take turns fighting. Whoever wins last shall hold the title.”
“That’s right!” said a priest with long whiskers. “There were Sword Meets on Mount Hua in the past. Why don’t we do the same? Let us see who will win.” That proposition was unanimously accepted.
“All right, who will go first?” Several people stepped forward.
Botong and the others looked on. They did not know who these people were.
When the first Swords Meet on Mount Hua was held, Guo Jing was not even born yet. The Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor, Northern Beggar and Central Divinity were fighting for the ‘Nine Yin Manual’. In the end the Central Divinity won the title of ‘Number One Valiant Hero under Heaven’.
The second Swords Meet on Mount Hua was held twenty years later. Wang Chongyang, the Central Divinity had passed away by then. Eastern Heretic, Western Poison and Northern Beggar, Zhou Botong, Qiu Qianren and Guo Jing all attended. This time there was no clear winner. Who would have guessed that after decades there would be a third Swords Meet on Mount Hua, with unknown people as contestants? Therefore, Huang Yaoshi and the others were bewildered. Could the saying be true: “The later waves of the Chongjiang River always push the previous ones? The newer generation is competent to gain victory over the older one.” Could it be that they, Huang Yaoshi and the others, were like ‘a frog at the bottom of the well’ and were ignorant of ‘heaven above a heaven’, ‘people above the others’?
They saw six people fight in three pairs. As soon as they fought, Huang Yaoshi and the others began laughing; even the composed Reverend Yideng smiled. We don’t need to compare them with the experts; they were far inferior even to Guo Fu or Guo Xiang.
Hearing the laugh, the six people stopped the fight, leaped back and somebody barked, “You’re a reckless bunch! Your masters are having a contest here, and you are laughing? Go away, we may show mercy to you!”
Yang Guo laughed and whistled loudly. His voice echoed throughout the valley. Those people were shocked, and they were frightened to death. They threw away their weapons, and then they scrambled away.
“Ladies and Gentlemen…Come to me!” Yang Guo shouted.
The people looked up, screamed and ran away. Somebody shouted indistinctly, “Go! Go away quickly! That was the Eagle Hero!” A moment later the plateau was empty. Cheng Ying, Guo Fu and the others chuckled.
“There are useless people out there, but I couldn’t have dreamed they would dare hold a Swords Meet on Mount Hua,” Huang Yaoshi sighed.
“There were Five Experts,” said Zhou Botong. “With the death of Western Poison, Northern Beggar and the Central Divinity, who could take their places?”
Five Experts Zhou Botong referred to were: Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor, Northern Beggar and Central Divinity. Among them only Eastern Heretic Huang Yaoshi and Southern Emperor Reverend Yideng were left.
Huang Rong chuckled, she said, “Reverend Yideng and my father have always improved their skills. Therefore, they were among the Five Experts then, they should be now. Frankly speaking, my husband has inherited Northern Beggar’s skills; he is one of the Experts. Guo’Er is young, but his martial arts are extraordinary. He is unmatched in his generation, plus he is Ouyang Feng’s adopted son. Therefore, he deserves to be one of the Experts so he inherits Western Poison’s title.”
Hearing her Zhou Botong shook his head. “No, no it’s not right!” he said.
“Why not?” Huang Rong asked.
“Because Western Poison was venomous, while this kid Yang Guo is not! We dare not call him ‘Western Poison’?”
“Well, Brother Jing is not a beggar!” Huang Rong laughed, “While Reverend Yideng is not an emperor anymore. I think we’d better modify their titles a little bit. Father is the Eastern Heretic. It is a trademark; no modification is necessary. Reverend Yideng has become a monk; let us call him the Southern Monk. Now, about Guo’Er, I’d like to propose a title, ‘Passionate Hero’. How’s that sound?”
Huang Yaoshi was the first to say: The “Eastern Heretic” and “Western Passionate Hero, the old and young. Yes! This is a good title.”
“Pardon me,” said Yang Guo, “I am too young, I do not dare to be compared with the Seniors …”
“Ha-ha… Little Brother!” said Huang Yaoshi. “You are wrong! You are called ‘Passionate Hero, why can’t we act it out for a moment? Besides, your name, your skills, don’t they exceed those of the Old Urchin?”
Huang Yaoshi understood Huang Rong’s intention. She did not mention the Old Urchin’s name to provoke him. Yang Guo also understood the father and daughter’s intention. He exchanged glances with Xiao Longnü; they both laughed. He thought, “These words ‘Passionate Hero’ is so appropriate …”
“Southern Monk and Western Passionate Hero have been settled. How about the Northern Beggar?” asked Botong.
“I propose the word ‘Hero’, hence the Northern Hero,” said Zhu Ziliu. “The valiant people of this era call Brother Guo Jing as Great Hero Guo [Guo Da Xia]. He did a great service for his country. He has defended Xiangyang for decades; he protects the people and secured the peace. His valor is superior to Zhu Qi or Guo Gai of yesteryear. I believe it is very appropriate to call him the ‘Northern Hero’.”
“Agreed!” Reverend Yideng, Wu Santong and the others voiced their support.