Chapter 16: Between Life and Death
A beautiful red handsome horse was galloping in great haste on the main road. On the horse was a captivating young maiden in a cotton garment and in her embrace was a young man. She did not seem to be avoiding attention and thus attracted a great deal of attention.
But the horse she was riding on was simple too fast. Even though people wanted to have a good look at them but in a blink of an eye, they were gone like the wind. Only dust covered the back of the vanishing horse.
The young maiden was sterling the horse and at the same time kept lowering her glances to look at this young man. Her face was full of care and love! If the unconscious young man would regain conscious and witness such a captivating young maiden looking at him with such concern and love that was so protective, he might feel that he was the most blissful man in the entire world!
However this young man was in an unconscious state therefore even though the young maiden had displayed a million types of tenderness and affections, he would never know. Moreover, his face was burning red like fire, his breathing was rough and his chest was heaving rapidly. It was obvious that his life was in terrible danger!
The young maiden became even more anxious when she had seen that the young man in her embrace could no longer make it anymore; His temperature was gradually getting higher and higher. It was just like she was carrying a burning fire.
So she became even more restless as she traveled. She thought, “From the looks of it, I don’t think I can make it back in time back home. But in this wilderness, where should I find a physician to treat Brother Zhan’s illness…”
“Oh curses!” She began to think aloud, “If only I had brought a couple of our family ‘The Vigor Rejuvenate Pill’ that my ancestors had passed down; It is most useful for treating injuries. Then I will not have to rush so relentless now!”
“Aiya!” When the young maiden thought of her ancestor’s divine medicine, she was reminded that the red face old man had given her an antidote. It was because she was too sure of her ancestor’s divine medicine that till now, she did not feed it to Zhan Bai yet. Why don’t she first feed this antidote to Zhan Bai to save his life…
When she had thought of this, she gave a grasp for she was scolding herself for being so muddle-headed. So she looked around with her watery eyes around her hoping to spot a household so that she could ask for some boiled water so that Zhan Bai could gulp the antidote.
But it was wilderness all around. Except for tall grasses and some pots of farmlands, there was not a single household to be seen.
Then she spotted a ridge that was five to six miles away. Although the young maiden rarely ventured far from home, she was bright beyond comparison. In her home, she was a pampered mistress that had all the finery and riches but her senses were exceptional honed and sharp. So she immediately thought of riding to the ridge and looked around to see if there were any households around. It was better than riding blindly like what she was doing now!
The big red horse that she was riding was the famed ‘Thousand Mile Equine’. Its footings were very swift. Even though they were now traveling across the wilderness but in a twinkle of an eye, they had traverse five to six miles.
She got down and looked around her. Green hills and crystalline ravines dotted the back of the ridge. Then she spotted the red edge of what seemed to be a red building in the hills and mountains. But that place was tens of miles away. Other than that, she could not see any other households in this wilderness.
Therefore, she got on her horse again and rode towards that red edge!
Her equine was indeed a treasure. Not only could it gallop like it was flying along leveled ground but in this rocky wilderness, it was still the same. In a twinkle of an eye, they had reached the location of the red edge.
The young maiden in cotton garment immediately carried the unconscious young man down from the horse and walked to the front of the entrance to take a look. Suddenly, she turned ashen!
This house was very unique. It was red from top and had white stones as its walls. Even the wooden door was white. But on the white door were three words written with ink ‘Dead Men Dwelling’!
Even though the young maiden was highly skilled in martial arts but she rarely wandered in the pugilistic fraternity. So how could she have known of such a strange place? Even though this place was built along the mountain slopes but it was not a temple. It did not look like a cemetery either yet on its door hang the characters ‘Dead Men Dwelling’.
This caused the young maiden to be momentarily stunned in front of the door. She really did not know whether should she retreat or enter. Therefore she could only stared with a stunned expression with her big lovely eyes!
She pondered how could there be such a weird place as this? Who would hung such a thing as a ‘Dead Men Dwelling’ on their own door? Even if it were a cemetery, it should not be written in this manner?
But such a thing and fact existed and it was right in front of her. The world was filled with strange and wondrous things indeed!
Just when she was pondering what to do, the young man in her embrace gave a painful moan as he jerked for an instant…
This shook the stupefied young maiden as she thought carefully. What was most important was to save a life. Why should she care if it were a dead man or living man inside? She decided to enter the house and decide what happened next!
The power of love was indeed magnificent and selfless! The pampered and rich young mistress gained the will to cast away all her fears and sense of dangers because of her love for this young man, decided to venture alone in the ‘Dead Men Dwelling’ now!
Leaving her horse behind to feed on the grass itself, she pursed her lips and with a firm conviction, she carried the unconscious Zhan Bai and shouted in front of her. “Is anyone there?”
She shouted many times and could only hear the echoes coming back from the mountains. No one answered her calls. She mustered her courage and tipped slightly with the tip of her shoe and the white wooden door swung opened with a crackling sound!
Inside the door was a small courtyard and she saw dying flowers and trees It gave a eerie and creepy atmosphere. It was unusual quiet and it generated a terrible horrible feeling!
In the courtyard, there was a pavement leading to a red house. The red house had its door and windows shut tightly and it seemed to hide something mysterious!
But this young maiden mustered a courage that exceeded the norm and actually walked towards the mysterious and terrible red house all the while carrying the unconscious young man!
When she walked to the door of the red house, written on the white wooden door was the same characters painted in black, “Dead Men Dwelling, Forbid to the Living”.
The young maiden crunched her teeth and yelled aloud, “Yo dead men! You got a living visitor!”
Suddenly there were a series of shrieking sound caused by a strange bird. It cuckoo twice before flying off from the roof towards the back of the hills.
The young maiden was so startled and frightened by it that her guts almost jumped out! But after a while, upon seeing that there was nothing in it and that there was no one, she mustered her courage once more. She pushed the door opened with the tip of her foot.
Like the door to the courtyard, the door to the house was not locked. But the interior was tidy and without any dust. Needless to ask, this ‘Dead Man’ must be fond of cleanliness.
The young maiden remained guarded and alerted while scanning her big eyes around to survey the hall. She saw white furniture, white table and besides it were two white chairs. All these were made of white wood. Just like the doors and windows, all these were made from the woods from the mountain forest and no paint was added. However the scent from the hall reminded her of coffins. That was because, that was precisely the same scent as that of a shop that sold coffins!
After surveying for a while and observed that nothing was amiss, she put the unconscious young man onto the white chair. That was because even though she was well trained in martial arts but after carrying him for half a day, her two shoulders felt numb.
She put down the unconscious young man and let him on the chair. Finally she heaved a sight of relief and thought, “This deserted ghost place! Fancy it being a ‘Dead Men Dwelling’ but yet there was not even a sight of even a dead man!…”
Unconsciously, she began to take a look around her once again and noticed that towards the middle of the wall, hung a curtain. When the wind blew slightly in, the curtain began to flutter and something seemed to be behind the curtain.
Out of sheer curiosity, she mustered her courage and reached out to pull the curtain aside. Behind the curtain looked like a shrine to something and there was a tablet in it. The tablet too, was made of white wood and the words that were carved on it were extremely intricate; it read ‘The divine resting place of our benefactor, The Great Hero Zhan of the Thunderous Sword fame, Zhan Yun Tian!’
The young maiden almost cried out. She remembered very clearly when she saved her Brother Zhan, she had asked about his background. At the moment, Lei Dashu had barged in from the window and griped his hands and asked hurriedly, “Who is Zhan Yun Tian to you?…”
This was a shrine to Zhan Yun Tian in this ‘Dead Men Dwelling’. Was there an intimate relationship between this Zhan Yun Tian and her Brother Zhan?
So this young maiden was none other than WanEr. She had fallen in love with Zhan Bai but because she was terrible upset that Zhan Bai was with Fan Suluan that she stormed all the way to her room. But later, when she had heard that Zhan Bai was taken away by the [Divine Donkey with the Iron Gut] Dong Qianli, she felt extremely uneasy. So she secretly rode off with her father’s Thousand Mile Horse ‘Chi Hualiu’ and left her home to search for Zhan Bai.
Even though she had developed a deep understanding in martial theories and had mastered several powerful martial skills but she had never been away from home before. Moreover, it was the intrigue pugilist world. When she had left her home, she did not really know in which direction should she begin her search for Zhan Bai. But as luck would have it, she found Zhan Bai at the Town of Xin Lu.
At that time, she was dining at a wine tavern. It just that she was upstairs while Zhan Bai was downstairs. Therefore they had not seen one another. But afterwards, when the crowd had gathered and she heard the clanging of weapons, did she run down to take a look. She found Zhan Bai fighting with tens of top martial exponents, his composure steady and seems to have the upper hand.
Therefore she stayed away from view. Only when the [Red Dragon with Red Hand] had tried to harm Zhan Bai after the three palm strike, did she unleash her whip in a bid to save him.
And now, once more, she had in a stroke of luck, ran into this ‘Dead Men Dwelling Place’ and also chanced upon the spiritual tablet of Zhan Yun Tian. And this was something that had to do with her Big Brother Zhan, so how would she not be concerned?
She looked around in her surroundings in a careful manner, forgetting that she supposed to find water for her Brother Zhan to go with his medicine. On the shrine, were flowers that had some water vapor on it, fresh fruits and joss sticks that were burnt halfway. It was obvious that some one had recently paid their respect.
Beyond the shrine was a hallway and there were two doors on the left and right. The doors of the hallway were made of white wood as well. The door on the left side had a piece of white paper hanging on top of it with the inscription in black ink, ‘Living Dead Man’. The door to the right had a similar paper but with the words, ‘Dead Living Man’ written on it. Both doors had an couplets on both sides, with the inscriptions, ‘If kindness is not repaid, it is as good as dead.’ The other couplet read, ‘It is humiliating that vendetta cannot be seek. Vengeance must be pursued and kindness must be repaid.’
After WanEr had seen those words, she could begin to comprehend half of it. The one that stayed in this Dead Men Dwelling Place was not a dead person but because he was indebted to Hero Zhan but now that he had been wrongfully killed, he was unable to find the killer to avenge him; the kindness and benevolent that he received could never be repaid, hence he called himself a dead man…
When WanEr had concluded to this point, suddenly she felt it strange that she saw no sight of either the [Living Dead Man] or the [Dead Living Man]. Unconsciously, she had walked to the left side of the hall and used her hands to push open the door.
In the room were a table and a chair. The room had just a simple setup. There was no bed or even bedding. But at the corner of the room was a white coffin!
The white coffin was sealed very tightly. After looking around for a while and finding nothing, she turned around and walked into the door to the right to take a look.
Who would expect that the other room was exactly the same and equally identical! Both rooms just had a table, chair and a white coffin!
In such a big house, there was no one and there were two big white coffins in the rooms. Having such an unsightly name like the ‘Dead Men Dwelling Place’ was weird enough. To a young maiden like WanEr that had never stepped away from long distances from her home, it was extremely eerie and creepy. It frightened her and caused her mind to wander, unable to calm down to think.
Just when WanEr was still feeling dumbfounded in the room to the right of the hall, she heard a loud ‘Dong’ sound coming from outside. It caused her to be startled and with her left hand holding her chest, she sprang out of the room only to see her Brother Zhan lying on the ground, after falling down from the chair.
Without any hesitation, she sprang to his side and saw his face burning red. His breathing was extremely weak and blood was snoozing from his mouth…
WanEr was shocked and stunned at the same time. She examined Zhan Bai carefully but found no visible wounds on him. She concluded that when she left to investigate the rooms, her Brother Zhan must have fell on his own. She scolded and blamed herself silently. Why did she have to do the most trivial things and left the most pressing matters undone?
She carried Brother Zhan tightly and carried him to sit on the chair. She took out the green color antidote that the red face old man had given her. But because she could not find any water in this moment of need, she pondered for a while before she opened her small mouth, using her saliva to substitute as water. Mouth to mouth, the antidote was sent down Zhan Bai’s throat.
Because WanEr’s heart was innocent and pure, she did not even think that between a man and a woman, such a thing, could only be done between a man and a wife. Moreover, it was also because WanEr loved Zhan Bai from the bottom of her heart.
And because it was urgent, without pausing to consider much ado, she used her saliva to substitute it as water for Zhan Bai, for fear that he might lose unconscious and could not swallow the pill down his throat.
Immediately afterwards, she began to use her palms to massage Zhan Bai on his chest. Just then, she felt something between her fingers.
WanEr did not know what Zhan Bai had hidden in his clothes, so she reached for and retrieved out a book with multi color cover.
WanEr unwillingly giggled and thought to herself, “This Brother Zhan of mine is like a small kid. He is so big yet he is still looking at picture book!…Huh!”
As WanEr was thinking to herself, she carelessly flipped the book. She did not expect that in the book was all drawing of maidens in the nude. The posture was extremely mesmerizing, beautiful, heart-stopping and beholding…
WanEr had a dumbfounded expression on her face as she flushed. She muttered in a low voice, “So disgusting! You…” She forgot that Zhan Bai was unconscious and threw the book back to him. The book hit Zhan Bai and fell to the ground…
Suddenly there was a thunderous shout, “Who is so outrageous and bold? There is actually someone that dared to disturb the Dead Men Dwelling Place!”
Even before WanEr could turn her back, she could feel a gush of wind flurrying towards her.
As she was afraid that her Brother Zhan would come to harm by the stranger, without dodging and pausing to inquiry, she displayed the stroke ‘Reversal’ and flipped around with both of her hands extending out to welcome the gush of flurrying windforce.
“Omg! It’s young benefactor…”
The instant WanEr turned her body, the stranger had already clearly seen Zhan Bai’s face and immediately shouted, withdrawing his attacks.
But still, it was still too late as the pair of palms clashed with one another. WanEr’s arms were sore from the clash!
She was startled and thought, “Such powerful palm force!” She lifted her head and saw two weird looking men that dressed themselves in white clothing. They looked eerie and had a dead expression on their faces. They stood exactly besides one another, left and right in front of WanEr, looking like a zombie. WanEr felt a chill running down her spine.
The two weird men began to stared coldly at WanEr and then at Zhan Bai. And then back to her.
As they looked terrifying and eerie, with crafty eyes, WanEr was afraid that they might have malicious intentions towards her Brother Zhan. Even though she knew she was not their match but in order to protect her Brother Zhan, she mustered her internal power to prepare a final showdown. She did not have any trace of fright or any intention to run but instead was determined to fight. If the two men were to raise their hands against her Zhan Bai, she would immediately fight it all out with them…
“Young benefactor looks like he is badly injured!” The weird man on the left said to no one in particular.
“So I say we mustn’t die. We should continue our meager existence for there are still many things for us to do!” The weird man on the right exclaimed.
WanEr was puzzled at their behavior and speech. She looked at their icy cold stares and then took a glance at her Brother Zhan.
“Young lass! Are you the one that injured young benefactor?” The weird man on the right suddenly thundered.
“Just who are you?” Instead of replying him, WanEr retorted. She continued, “Why would I injure Brother Zhan?…Huh!”
The weird man on the right suddenly shouted at her in a thunderous voice and then charged at her, using his left hand to push WanEr aside and then plunged towards Zhan Bai.
“What are you trying to do?” WanEr was afraid that the weird man would try to harm her Brother Zhan, therefore she shouted, ‘Opposing the Tidal Force’ as she reached out her right hand to grip the weird man’s shoulder.
As WanEr had hurriedly attacked, this stance used all her strength. Needless to say a human’s shoulder, even an iron would be blend by her.
But the weird man seemed not to notice this all almighty attack from WanEr; he did not dodge and evade. Instead, he continued to plunge towards Zhan Bai.
WanEr hit his left shoulder but it was as solid as steel. It caused her upper body to be numbed with paralysis. She was knocked back five to six steps before she could regain her balance. Her hands were crying out with excruciating pain!
She saw the weird man came in front of Zhan Bai and hit his front vulnerable points with his big hands.
WanEr was startled and panicky. She cried out aloud, “Old ugly monster! Dare you to touch my Brother Zhan! I will fight it out with you!”
WanEr attacked him again with all her might but he just nudged off her attacks like it was nothing.
“Young lass! Restraint yourself! You…” As he knocked WanEr backwards against a wall.
WanEr almost fainted after being knocked backwards. She found her vision growing dim. Hurriedly, she tried to circulate her breath before she opened her eyes and was horrified to see the weird man pressing her Brother Shane’s ‘Life Channels’ accupoints.
One must know that the ‘Life Channel’ was the death accupoint of a human being. Should the weird man hit hard on this point, Zhan Bai would instantly lose his life. Tears began to drip from WanEr’s eyes in her moment of helplessness…
But when she took a closer look, she finally realized that the weird man was not trying to harm her Brother Zhan but was trying to use his life force energy to help Zhan Bai to clear his channels. It was because she had noticed that the redness from Zhan Bai’s face had retreated and his eyes were fluttering.
WanEr could not help it but muttered in her heart, “Such embarrassment!” She leaned backwards on the wall and used the opportunity to regain the circulation of her breath…
The other weird man had walked near to Zhan Bai but his eyes were on the multi color book that was beneath his legs.
“Alas!” That weird man picked the book. With only one glance at the book, he began to exclaimed excitedly, “Bones Blinder, Soul Destroyer Secret Manual! Elder Brother! Elder Brother! Come and have a look…”
He looked up and saw wisps of steam floating above his brother’s head. He seemed to be in full concentration trying to clear Zhan Bai’s blood channels. And it was now at the most crucial part. Therefore he immediately left his sentence unfinished.
But even then, his icy cold face had an excited, uncontrollable expression. His eyes were glowing and even the hands that were holding the book were trembling!
He was startled and lifted his head, only to see his elder brother had a wisp of steam rising from his head. It is obvious that he had reached a crucial point of helping Zhan Bai to clear his blood channels. He immediately halted what he was trying to say.
But his cold and eerie expression was full of excitement. His eyes were beaming and even the hands that were holding the book were trembling.
Even WanEr, who was leaning against the wall and was trying to regain her breathing circulation, received a sudden jolt when she suddenly heard the weird man suddenly shouted, “Bones Binder, Soul Destroyer Secret Manual!”
That was because she had once unintentional overheard her father conversing with his protégé guests on the affairs of the martial fraternity that two hundred years ago, there was a Martial Fraternity Sage by the name of the Lord of the Only Eye. He left behind a manual called the ‘Bones Binder, Soul Destroyer Sacred Manual’
This manual had been acknowledged by the martial fraternity as the most wondrous book ever. Whoever could obtain this wondrous book and learnt the skills within it, would dominate the martial fraternity as the most powerful martial arts expert…
WanEr was bewildered at this point. That was because she had just browsed through the book and within the book, were all pictures of women in the nude. There weren’t any martial formula. Could it be that the posture of the naked women be martial stances?…
WanEr’s mind was pacing with thoughts and was making plenty of wild guesses as she looked at the weird man; he was flipping the pages one by one, reading with his hands trembling…
On closer look, the weird man began to have a strange expression on his face. His eyes were darting and his mouth was trembling. His eyes had a strange kind of glow and his white and colorless face began to flutter in tint red…
Slowly, the weird man began to shiver as though he could no longer control the powerful excitement. Finally he closed his eyes…
WanEr was momentarily distracted by the another weird man that was treating Zhan Bai. The weird man’s head was now thick with steam and he had three wisps of white cloud above his head. From afar, it looked like three white lotuses.
WanEr was startled. She knew that this is the ‘Halo of the Three Flowers’. Unless one had practiced inner strength to its peak, this phenomenon would never appear! She would never imagine that this man that looked like a ghost would have such unbelievable depth of inner strength. As a result, she was mesmerized by the scene…
Suddenly, she sensed two sharp beam of light nailing her body. She turned her head around and saw that the another weird man that was reading the ‘Bones Binder, Soul Destroyer Sacred Manual’ earlier, had opened his eyes.
His entire face was red and he was trembling. His eyes were looking intently at her body. Suddenly, he started to walk towards her…
WanEr was a naïve young girl whom innocent had not yet been shed. How could she have known that man when they were thirsted for sex, would be so bestial and crazed?
This weird man was a martial recluse and moreover, he had decades of martial training. Only a few in the martial fraternity could match his martial prowess and the strength of his willpower. Who would expect that a book would cause him to lose control of his self-will!
At the moment, his lust was at its pinnacle and he had broken free of his decades of self-restraint. He could no longer restraint his lust that was like a fiery fire. Facing a young and beautiful young maiden like WanEr, he had actually forgotten his very own identity. He even forgot about his life promises. He had even forgotten that his brother was just besides him. He had also forgotten his benefactor’s son…
His lust had consumed him and caused him to lose his reasoning. He was now like a hungry tiger that was plunging towards a sheep.
WanEr was startled and quickly displayed a ‘Enclosure’ stance as she gathered and circulated her inner strength as she extended her hands towards the crazed weird man’s chest in a furious and panicky manner.
There was a thunderous loud sound as the weird man took the impact of WanEr’s palms without questioning and dodging.
WanEr had displayed at least five hundred to six hundred catty of strength through the deliverance of this stance but against this weird man, it just caused his body to shutter two times in quick succession but it failed to halt his advance. In response to this attack, it was like his movements had quickened instead as he opened his arms and pushed WanEr’s slim body into his embrace.
WanEr felt like she was being pressed against steel and the pressure in her chest was so heavy that it caused her circulation to be disrupted. Because her hands and legs could not moved, she was stunned and in great anxiety. Eventually and finally, she passed out…
The weird man who had been consumed by the fires of lust was like a crazed person as he started to tear apart WanEr’s embroidered silk dress. He was now panting very hard as he finally tore off the embroidered silk dress that was worth a thousand gold, revealing WanEr snow white body…
WanEr was as alluring as a flower. Now that she was unconscious, she even had to brave through the cruelty of the thunderstorm and the hurricanes that was about to become her fate. She was like a flower that was quickly going to be despoiled. It was cruelty at its extremity…
Suddenly, there was a chilly heng. It was by the weird man that was helping Zhan Bai to treat his injuries. He sprang in a startling flash of revelation with his fingers extending out and struck furiously on the spine accupoints of the other weird man who was embracing WanEr.
There was a loud crashing sound as the struck weird man collapsed onto the floor. He then proceeded to hit three of his major accupoints; “Chang Qiang”, “Ling Tai”, “Shen Men”. After that, he lifted him up and sprang in a startling movement into the room on the left before throwing him into the coffin.
Like a wind, in a blink of an eye, he proceeded to lift and carry WanEr into the coffin to the room on the right. At the same time, he had also picked the “Bones Blinder, Soul Destroyer Secret Manual” and stuffed it into his garment. Next, he continued to pat furiously on Zhan Bai’s twelve accupoints on various parts of his body.
It was as though nothing had happened in the hall.
When Zhan Bai had awakened and his first sight was the ghastly weird man, he was too stunned for action.
“Young Hero Zhan, do you still recognize me?”
Zhan Bai was instantly jolted as he recalled how he had tried to steal his sword in the Pine Forest and how both of them had tried to commit suicide by banging their heads against the trees but failed. He asked in a startled voice, “How did I come to be here? And where is your other companion?”
The weird man shook his head and said, “That companion of mine has gone out and yet to return. As for why you are here, you have to ask yourself!”
“Have to ask myself?” Zhan Bai was puzzled. He could only remembered how he had encountered a red face old man in a little town and took his blows from him. After that, he was engulfed in a strange burning sensation and had passed out. Then how did he manage to come here? A thought struck him and he asked, “Old Senior, is that you who has saved me?”
“I myself do not know who have delivered you. But I did lend you a helping hand here. Young Hero Zhan, why not you tell me after we had parted, where else had you been to?”
Therefore Zhan Bai began to relate to him his encounters.
After listening, the weird man began to sigh and said, “Is it all really pre-destiny? I have tried to commit suicide many times but failed to. Is it because I am meant to preserve my wretched life for my benefactor’s descendant!” Upon finishing, he led Zhan Bai to the spiritual tablet of Zhan Yun Tian and said, “This benefactor of mine is in fact your father!”
When Zhan Bai saw his father’s tablet, he began to shed his tears uncontrollable as he fell into his knees to kowtow thrice. In that instant, he started to recall all his humiliations and tribulations that happened to him all these years. Unable to hold back his emotions, he began to cry out loud in great sorrow.
When the weird man saw Zhan Bai’s sorrows, he too began to recall how he had chosen to hide his name and identity, unable to face the world, forced to stay in the Dead Men Dwelling and to sleep inside the coffin. He too, was heart wrenched and cried out, beating his chest like Zhan Bai.