The Story from Qingcheng Mount, part 5

   “Second apprentice brother, could they have been practicing a new sword formation?” the tall apprentice asked. 

   “That was possible,” Lao Denuo said, “but they were mostly practicing in pairs; and the attacking side was using all the same type of moves as the defending side. It didn’t look like a sword formation to me. The morning after that, I walked by the exercise field again, but this time the whole field was completely empty. I knew that they were trying to hide something from me, so my suspicions were aroused even more. I was just wandering by and happened to glance in their direction from far away. What secret could I have seen? It seemed that they were really practicing a powerful set of sword techniques to counter us, otherwise why would they worry so much about what I had seen? 

   “That night, I lay on my bed and couldn’t sleep, thinking over the whole matter. Then I heard the dim clash of weapons coming from a distance. I was startled. Did some powerful enemy just invade the Pine-Wind Temple? My first thought was that perhaps Big Apprentice Brother had gotten angry because of the punishment he received from our Master, and decided to attack the Pine-Wind Temple. He was just one person, and would not be able to fight the people of the entire temple; I had to go help him. I did not bring any weapon with me when I went to Mount Qingcheng, and in my hurry, I could not stop to find a sword either, so I had to rush out with just my bare hands….” 

   “Amazing!” Lu Dayou praised. “Second apprentice brother, you have great courage! I would never dare to go fight Master Yu, the Head Master of the Qingcheng Sword School, with only my bare hands.” 

   “Monkey-Six, what are you babbling about?” Lao Denuo yelled angrily. “I didn’t say that I went to fight Master Yu with bare hands. I was just worried about Big Apprentice Brother’s safety, so although I knew it was dangerous, I just had to go. Would you have me hide under my covers like a coward?” All the apprentices laughed when they heard this. 

   “Here I am showering you with praise and admiration, and you get angry at me?” Lu Dayou made a face. 

   “Thanks, but your kind of compliments don’t sit well with me,” Lao Denuo replied. 

   “Second apprentice brother, go on with the story. Don’t pay any attention to Monkey-Six,” several other apprentices urged. 

Lao Denuo continued, “So I got up quietly and went in the direction of the sounds. Hearing the clash of weapons getting louder and louder, my heart beat faster and faster. I thought, ‘The two of us are deep in the enemy’s lair now. Big Apprentice Brother has excellent Kung Fu skills. He might be able to escape without injury. But for me, it’s a different story. I am in big trouble now.’ I heard the sound of weapons float out from the Back Hall. All kinds of lights and candles were lit there making it seem like broad daylight. I crouched down to sneak in closer, and looked inside through the cracks of the window. Then I gasped and almost burst into laughter. It turned out I was just imagining things. Because Master Yu hadn’t met with me for so many days, my imagination got carried away, and I imagined the worst thing that could happen. It wasn’t Big Apprentice Brother coming to make trouble after all! There were two pairs inside practicing their sword moves. One pair was of Hou Renying and Hong Renxiong, the other pair was of Fang Renzhi and Yu Renhao.” 

   “Ha, the apprentices of the Qingcheng Sword School really work hard, not even rest at night,” Lu Dayou mocked. “I guess this is what they call ‘sharpening one’s spear only before going into a battle,’ or ‘no joss sticks in fair weather, but clutching the feet of Buddha in crisis.’”

    Lao Denuo gave Lu Dayou a glare and continued, “In the middle of the Back Hall sat a short Taoist priest in a blue Taoist robe. He was about fifty years old and had a thin face. By the look of him, one could tell that he weighed no more than eighty pounds. It was said in the Martial World that the Head Master of the Qingcheng Sword School was a short Taoist priest, but if I had not seen him with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have expected him to be so short, and wouldn’t have believed that he was the famous Master Yu. There were many apprentices standing around him, attentively watching the four practicing. After watching a couple of moves, I knew instantly that they were using the new moves they had been practicing over the last couple of days. 

   “I knew it was very dangerous for me to be there at that time. If the people from Qingcheng Sword School had found me, not only would I be harshly punished, but the reputation of Huashan Sword School would also have been hurt badly if the news got out. Although Master punished Big Apprentice Brother harshly for kicking the top two of ‘The Four Aces of Qingcheng’ down the stairs, saying that he had violated the school rules and caused all kinds of trouble, and offended friends, in Master’s heart, I believe he was actually glad. At least Big Apprentice Brother had gained good publicity for our school. ‘How can they be the Four Aces of Qingcheng? They couldn’t even fend off a single kick from the senior apprentice of the Huashan Sword School.’ But if I got caught sneaking around, digging up other people’s secrets, it would look worse than stealing money. And when I got back to Huashan, Master would most likely have me expelled from the Huashan Sword School.  (To be continued)

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