It was a matter of life or death for Wenchang. He'd thrown knives and even a piece of the canopy support beam to stop Blissful Monk, and now he was thinking of defending himself with Lightning Bolt, but Black Zombie attacked him from behind with his stench palm before he had a chance.
The girl had gotten there a tad too late, but she drew her sword and attacked Black Zombie. Black and white light off her sword swirled around as a tempest mounted.
Black Zombie was shocked to to see the black and white afterimages of the sword slashing through the air. He flourished his big sleeves for defense and backed away and cried harshly, "Stay your hand! Nangong Lang has something to say. Stay…"
His sleeves weren't going to stop the ferocious surprise attack of those sword arcs. Even the force of air pushed by the swords was enough to deflate his sleeves as they were blown backward like they were caught in a gust of wind.
Luckily another person in black arrived and held out a white bone cane. "Boss, take your weapon… Ah…"
Black Zombie had just grabbed the cane when the man who had given it to him bore the brunt of the attack, sword flashing and flashing. The man screamed and fell, tumbling more than ten feet away and rolling over three times before he came to a stop, silent, unmoving, blood gushing like a fountain from his chest.
The girl pushed in. "Xiaolan, give him a cleansing vacuity pill to maintain his pulse."
Black Zombie seized the moment to sidle away, flitting twenty feet to the right and backing up another ten feet, finally out of reach of the girl's aggressive attack. He shouted, "Please stay your hands. How could a lady from Forsaken Valley be so unreasonable?"
At the same time, the middle-aged man thrust with his sword eight times in succession, forcing Blissful Monk to retreat ten feet. The monk boomed like thunder, but his heavy steel alloy staff could not resist the man's light and quick sword. His staff, impervious to seemingly everything so that not even wind and rain could get through was yet unable to stop the sword's arcing, wild, aggressive attack.
His Holiness will have it out with you." The monk shouted in raving fury and changed his staff stance, no longer blocking, but not thrusting straight ahead quickly, using the length of the weapon to his advantage as he attacked wildly in a manner that would likely lead to harm for both sides.
Sparks screamed off as they clashed and then quickly parted, each backing out eight feet to the right. They were pretty much equal in strength, hitting each other head-on.
The monk stood firm, the veins on his forehead bulging out as sweat poured down his face. The violent ferocious look in his eyes slowly faded, replaced by a look of surprise.
The muscles in the middle-aged man's jaw twitched, sweat beading off his forehead, but he looked even more fierce than he had before. He suddenly sheathed his sword and reached into his robe and took out his radiant silver Chief Star Brush and came forward step by step. "No wonder, you've already reached a state of perfection in your arts, so you can run roughshod across the world doing evil throughout the jianghu. The mere sight of you sends fear into friends of the martial fraternity. So you really are extraordinarily skilled so that you can look down on the world and become world-renowned. It wasn't just luck. Let's put our true abilities to the test and see whose blood will stain King Yu Gully."
The light reflected off the Chief Star Brush was dazzling because the shaft was not cylindrical, but was composed of innumerable irregular flat facets that shone from the sunlight, each facet like a mirror reflecting light in all directions. The intense radiance was blinding. If one were to attack with it facing the sun, his opponent would certainly be dazzled and disoriented, and in that moment of giddiness and temporary blindness, he would be ineffective in a fight. It was really potent.
Blissful Monk's face sank in shock. "Misery Valley's Beguiling… Beguiling Brush. You're… You're…"
The middle-aged man laughed icily and said evenly, "Monk, defeat Misery Valley's Beguiling Brush, then you'll have plenty of time to ask."
Right now the sun was high in the sky, slanted slightly to the north. The man stood on the south side and lowered his Chief Star Brush and three intense rays of light flashed into Blissful Monk's eyes, the dazzling light making him see spots.
He roared and raised his left hand and a string of prayer beads became a rain of beads shooting toward the man. His roar when he loosed the beads was sharp enough to make one loose one's bowels, and in that instant he put his sublime lightness skill to work and ran off to the side.
"Lecherous monk, why are you running away without a fight?" the man called. "Come back!" He sprinted after him.
Blissful Monk assumed he was Forsaken Pilgrim and so was shocked. Years ago Forsaken Pilgrim was given the nickname One Stroke Soul Snatcher. His Chief Star Brush was practically invincible. He was hard to deal with before when he was just using a sword, so how would he be able to take on the famed Chief Star Brush? He would be a fool not to run away.
Black Zombie called for a halt and the girl held up. "First hand over the Cadaverine Palm antidote, or else…"
Black Zombie got a good look at the strange sword in the girl's hand and his face fell. Yes, one side white, one side black, therefore the dazzling black and white light. Heavens! It was the Yin-Yang Bone Sword of Madame Fu, Dong Shuang'e, of Misery Valley. The bone diagram looked to be floating before his eyes. No wonder the force of his violent sleeve punch was dissipated when it hit the sword.
He didn't wait for the girl to finish talking, for he saw the strange radiant flash of the Chief Star Brush out of the corner of his eye and saw Blissful Monk running for his life and so he too, without a word, turn and took off running.
A person's reputation is like a tree's shadow. There must be some genuine talent behind it for the person to acquire such a reputation. The people of Misery Valley were profoundly skilled and Misery Valley's retaliation was incredibly savage. No one dared enter their territory, that was enough. But Black Zombie got a clear look at the weapon, and a young lady wielding it at that, attacking him in a frenzy and flustering him. Who else could it be but someone from Misery Valley? He couldn't afford to offend Misery Valley. Even that lecherous fiend, Blissful Monk, who wasn't afraid of anyone, was running for his life; how could he not flee as well?
In the rear, forty feet away, was the high bank of the river. He was saved! He leapt into the river and called out, "Master Magnanimous, jump into the river."
Blissful Monk didn't need to be told. He rolled and tumbled off the high bank and splooshed into the water. A cornered dog will jump over a wall, so why not jump into a river?
The other man in black high-tailed it out of there as soon as he caught sight of the Yin-Yang Bone Sword. He was long gone. The only escape rout was along the river, so the guy had probably jumped in himself earlier.
Misery Valley was at Whitecap Mountain in Yunyang, Sichuan on the upper reaches of the Three Gorges. The Yangzi was closeby to the east, and to the northwest was Whet Knife Creek. So how could the Fang family not be good swimmers? But the river here flowed rapidly, and father and daughter were not about to remove their clothes and go in after them, so they could only watch as they they swam away, too late to be pursued.
The girl was quite anxious. "Dad, if we don't catch Black Zombie we can't get the Cadaverine Palm antidote…"
"Little Juan, how can we go after them? Forget it, we'll just have to do what we can."
"But… But…" She was at a loss what to do, so apprehensive she couldn't get any words out.
The man put on a stern face and suddenly pulled her back. "Child, what's wrong? You…"
"Dad, we can't! We have to catch that fiend and get the antidote."
"Child, from anxious look of concern I can tell you have secret feelings for Cai Wenchang. Listen, you have to wake up."
"Your daughter is already awake," she said desperately, tears running tracks down her cheeks.
"You're as muddleheaded as ever, child."
"Dad, you… Right, dad. Last month in Chang'an i saw him several times, but I didn't feel anything then. He was just like a thousand other men of the jianghu. But today, your daughter is starting to see him in a new light…"
"You're being feckless! Child. Cai Wenchang is not only a notorious bandit of the jianghu, he's also a lecherous jianghu reprobate. Last time when your uncles Peng and Fu grabbed your brother and took him back home I learned that Xiaoshan had made friends with someone like that. Angered, I punished him by confining him to Penitence Park for a year of diligent training. Think about it, how can you waste a thought for jianghu scum like that? Heavens! You're getting enmeshed in your own web. You'll forfeit your future!"
She gave him a frigid look and said faintly, "Dad, he's not bad at heart."
The man stamped his feet over and over, then said gravely, "There are more sons of good families in this world than there are stars in the sky. There are plenty of outstanding, honorable heroes of the martial fraternity, but you've never wanted to consider any of them, but…"
She hmphed and shut her eyes. "That's right, there's lots of sons of good families and outstanding heroes, there all high-born and elite, blameless beyond reproach in both words and deeds, all great people, they all have splendid futures. But your daughter feels there's no need to gild the lily. They don't need your daughter to raise their status and make them shine more, they already have bright futures and continuous good fortune, but what about Cai Wenchang? I don't even need to say it. Anyway, an unfortunate person, one who's fallen into the eighteen pit of hell, one who still longs for a happy future, is not inferior to any son of a noble family. That kind of person is worth helping. He needs someone to rescue him and pull him out of the pits of hell. Your daughter doesn't want to gild a lily. She yearns for a flawed beauty…"
"Dad, from what you saw in the wine shop, does Cai Wenchang seem like the same bad guy from all the jianghu rumors? Does he seem like an incorrigible, dissolute person who's beyond saving? Dad, don't forget, if he hadn't been supremely honorable and righteous in risking his like to stop Blissful Monk so his friends could escape, and if he hadn't warned me to leave, then how could he have been hit by that vile Nangong's palm?"
"He had bad intentions toward you," the man said firmly.
She smiled sadly and said pathetically, "Really, dad?"
He looked embarrassed, unable to answer.
She continued, "Dad, you've been roaming the jianghu a long time and have a lot of experience. You can tell good and bad at a glance, why must you lie to your daughter like that?"
He shook his head and smiled wryly. "Your grandpa isn't here. What would he say? What would he think? Ah!"
"Your daughter thinks, Grandpa's very discerning…"
"Alright, enough. Let's see if we can do anything for him or not."
The girl seemed to awaken from a dream and she hurried over to him.
Xiaolan had Wenchang flat on his back, at a loss what to do. They came over and the girl knelt down. "Xiaolan, how is he?"
Xiaolan stood up mournfully and shook her head. "I fear… if he doesn't get Black Zombie's special antidote within an hour…" She shook her head lightly, unable to finish her sentence.
The girl hurriedly took off her travel bag, but the man placed his hand on her shoulder. "No! The cleansing vacuity pills will not be very effective, and if you give him too many, it might counter the effects…"
Wenchang's face was green and he was breathing thinly. He suddenly opened his dull eyes and sucked in a huge breath and woke up. Once he saw where he was he said, "Elder, please give me another of those pills you gave me earlier."
The girl had already fumbled the pill out and helped him sit up without any thought to propriety. She helped him swallow the pill and asked apprehensively, "Sir Cai, how do you feel?"
Wenchang smiled absently. "Thank you, miss. That asshole's strike didn't fully hit me. His vicious poisonous palm miasma didn't get into my meridians, and that wonderful medicine helped stopped it from invading. I won't die. Elder, can I trouble you to take the needle case out of my leather bag and I can tell you how to use them to stop the deadly poison from invading further, I just need you to place the needles for me."
"Sir Cai, are you sure?"
"Yeah. Ah! I might be ruined for life, but I won't die."
"Can you stop the poison from spreading?" the man asked.
"It's hard to say. I know a bit about circulating my true qi to heal injuries. I just need to get myself a bit more time and I might be able to slowly work the poison out of my meridians."
The man got the needle case and gestured for the two girls to leave, then he helped Wenchang remove his clothes. His expression was grave. "Young man, please instruct me in the acupuncture methods. I know a bit about this already, so you can relax. Your needle case doesn't have the long steel ones, though, might not be enough."
Wenchang clenched his teeth and said, word by word, "Put a rounded needles in the Palace of Wind and rub."
The man took a rounded needle that was 1.6 inches long and put it in his mouth to warm it, then grunted assent and turned Wenchang over and stuck the needle into the Palace of Wind acupoint on the back of Wenchang's neck. Rubbing was the name of the needle turning technique. Inserting and twirling in one motion was the process of rubbing.
As he was needled, Wenchang's body shook. He called out a chain of instructions, "Lancing needle, Way of Happiness, catch. Sharp round needle, Suspended Pivot, twist. Sword needle, Triple Burner Transport, shake. Large needle, Yang Pass, wind. Large needle…"
Every word was followed by the man to the letter. He worked the needles deftly and knew all the acupoints accurately, and his insertion skill was exceptional. He was clearly not a novice."
"Three-sided, Long Strong, catch."
The man hesitated, then suddenly clenched his teeth and the three-sided needle plunged quickly into Wenchang's Long Strong acupoint. When he pulled the needle out, a stench emanated and a briefly gray whizzing arrow of blood shot out, staining the nearby weeds with drops of blood.
"Thank you, elder. Please give me another pill." Wenchang let out a deep breath and the pale ashen color in his face subsided quite a bit, and he spoke with more vitality as well.