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Monday, March 23, 2009

Smiling Proud Wanderer: Chapter 21 (7)

Today is a wonderful day, because I finally finished the draft of my dissertation proposal! To celebrate this monumental moment, I am posting the last installment of Chapter 21. Enjoy!

Read the first 20 chapters here!

 Linghu Chong was in a rush to finally get out of the dungeon. He didn’t pay any more attention to Mr. Black-White. Sticking his head out from the square-shaped opening and also extending his arms out, he pushed gently on the iron door. His body shot out swiftly and he landed on the ground without a stagger. He felt a great amount of inner energy depositing inside his Dan-Tian region once again, which made him quite uncomfortable. He had no idea that the inner energy streams were actually absorbed from Mr. Black-White, and only concluded that the energy streams from Peach Valley’s Six Fairies and Monk No-Commandment had returned to Dan Tian because he hadn’t practiced his energy cultivation techniques for a while. He decided to not worry too much about that and focus on how to get out of the dark dungeon as soon as possible, so he picked up the oil lamp Mr. Black-White had left outside and began following the tunnel out.
All the gates in the tunnel were left unlocked. He figured that Mr. Black-White must have decided to lock them on his way out. This made his escape so much easier. As he stepped through the many solid gates one after another, the many days of life in the dark underground prison suddenly felt as though they had occurred in a different lifetime. Strangely, his resentment toward Mr. Huang-Zhong and the bunch also seemed to have significantly lessened. All he could think of was the sweet smell of freedom, and everything else in the world no longer mattered to him.
At the end of the tunnel, he followed the steps upward until he was directly under an iron plate. He listened carefully but didn’t hear anything from the outside. This underground imprisonment experience had taught him to be more careful and cautious, so he didn’t rush out immediately, and instead, waited a good while underneath the iron plate and made sure there was no sound from the outside. By then he felt certain that Mr. Hung-Zhong was indeed not in his bedroom. Lifting up the iron plate gently, he climbed up and then leapt out from the hole in the bed. After carefully returning the iron plate to its original position and pulling the bamboo bedding sheet to cover it up, he treaded softly on tiptoe toward the door way. Then all of a sudden, someone spoke behind him in a gloomy voice.
“Second brother, what are you doing?”
Startled, Linghu Chong turned around and then saw Mr. Huang-Zhong, Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint completely surrounding him, each wielding his weapon in hand. He didn’t know that the entrance was equipped with secret trapping devices, and his breaking out had triggered the alarm and attracted Mr. Huang-Zhong and the others. Because he had a black mask on and was also wearing Mr. Black-White’s robe, no one had recognized his true identity.
Greatly frightened, Linghu Chong could only stutter, “I…I….”
“I what?” Mr. Huang-Zhong demanded in an icy-cold voice. “I had a feeling that you were up to something. You went down the dungeon and asked Ren Woxing to teach you the Evil Art of Essence Absorbing, didn’t you? Humph! Do you still remember what vow you pledged all those years ago?”
Linghu Chong found himself quite muddle-headed, not able to decide on whether to reveal his true identity or to keep pretending as Mr. Black-White. After a short hesitation, he drew the long sword by his waist and thrust it toward Mr. Bald-Brush.
“Good second brother! You really want to fight us?” Mr. Bald-Brush bellowed as he raised his brush to ward off the sword.
Linghu Chong’s sword thrust was only a fake. Seeing Mr. Bald-Brush’s attempt to block his attack, he quickly turned around and dashed out of the room. Mr. Huang-Zhong and the rest immediately chased after him. Running with all his might, Linghu Chong reached the front hall in no time.
“Second brother! Second brother! Where are you going?” Mr. Huang-Zhong shouted from behind.
Linghu Chong didn’t answer and kept on running full speed. He suddenly spotted a man standing in the middle of the front gate right in his path.
“Second Master, please stop!” the man uttered.
Since Linghu Chong was in such a hurry, he failed to slow down and ran right into the man. The collision sent the man flying in the air and landed almost thirty feet outside of the gate.
Linghu Chong threw a quick side glance and then recognized the man. It was “Straight Line Lightning Sword” Ding Jian, who, at this very moment, lay straight and stiff on the ground. His body position indeed resembled part of his nickname “Straight Line;” however, it had no relation whatsoever with the other part “Lightning Sword.”
Linghu Chong dashed along a small road nonstop. Mr. Huang-Zhong and the others stopped at the gate of the manor and gave up the chase. Only Mr. Paint continued shouting out loud.
“Second brother! Second brother! Come back! We brothers can always talk things through….”
Linghu Chong intentionally picked desolated small roads to follow and eventually arrived at an uninhabited wilderness, a place obviously quite a distance away from the city of Hangzhou. Although he had been running continuously at his top speed, when he stopped, he wasn’t tired at all and wasn’t even out of breath. It seemed as though his stamina was even better than the time before he got injured.
He took off the cloth mask and then heard the sound of gurgling water. Feeling very thirsty, he traced the sound and soon found a small creek. He squatted down and then leaned forward so he could scoop some water to his mouth when he suddenly saw a man’s face in the reflection of the creek water. The face was covered in filth, and with the disheveled hair it looked very odd and ugly. Linghu Chong was briefly startled, and then he could help but grin. Anyone who got locked up for several months and never bathed would look this filthy. He all of a sudden felt his body itching all over. He quickly removed his robe and jumped into the creek for a good deep cleansing, thinking, “the filth on my body must have weighed more than thirty catties.”
After he had thoroughly cleaned himself and also had a stomachful of clear water, he tied his long hair on top of his head. Checking in the water reflection, he found the familiar face again, a face that had no resemblance to that swollen face of the Feng Er-Zhong. As he was putting the robe back on, he felt some discomfort and blockage between his chest and stomach, so he sat down and meditated for a while using the newly learned inner energy cultivation techniques. Soon he could feel that the inner energy streams inside his Dan-Tian had been successfully dispersed into his unique channel and eight passages. The Dan-Tian region was once again like a bamboo that was empty inside or a valley that was always void. His entire body seemed to be vigorous and he also felt a soothing feeling of carefree beyond words. He didn’t realize that he had mastered one of the best martial arts in the entire world. The seven streams of inner energy from the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies and Monk No-Commandment, together with the inner energy streams infused into him by Great Master Fang-Sheng when he was treated at the Shaolin Temple, had all been transformed into his own. And when he gripped onto Mr. Black-White’s wrist, he had also absorbed into his Dan-Tian the entire load of inner energy Mr. Black-White had cultivated for his entire life. Once he dispersed those into his unique channel and eight passages, he had gained the inner strength of another superior master. Naturally he would feel utterly vigorous.
He leapt up, drew the long sword by his waist, and leisurely thrust it toward the hanging branch of a green willow by the side of the creek, whisking his wrist gently as he thrust out. The blade whistled as it cut through the thin air and then swiftly returned to the sheath before he landed smoothly on his left foot. Lifting his head, he watched as five leaves slowly drifted down in the air. The long sword cleared its sheath for a second time and made an arcing slash, catching all five leaves on the side of the blade. He picked up one of the willow leaves from the side of the blade with his left hand as a mixed feeling quickly submerged his heart. It was a mixture of joy and disbelief. He stood silently by the creek, and all of a sudden, found deep grieve in his heart.
“The superior Kung Fu I have right now would not have been possible from Master and Master-Wife’s teaching. But I would rather everything was the way it was as before, when my inner strength and my sword art were equally futile, when I could live a carefree life inside the Huashan School, spending time with little apprentice sister from morning till dusk, instead of wandering the martial world alone like a loitering ghost.”
His martial arts skills had reached the most superior level, but at the mean time, he had never felt so lonely and desolate in his entire life. All his life he’d enjoyed lively crowds, bosom friends, and tasty wines. In the past several months since he was locked away in the underground dungeon, he had no choice but to be alone. Now that his body had finally break free, but his mind was just as lonely. Standing next to the gurgling creek all by himself, the feeling of joy graduated waned away. The cold moon casted his lonely shadow on the ground as the gentle breeze brushed his body, filling his heart with boundless despair.
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Picture of the Day:

The beautiful West Lake in the city of Hangzhou, China. Remember, the Plum Manor resides along the bank of the lake, and the dungeon prison is somewhere underneath the lake.