Qianmen The Door Qianmen the Secret Manual Volume 1 Chapter 5

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Chapter 5 A Disaster of Snakes (Part 4)

Everyone helped Wenjia get down from the tree. After hearing about his experience, they didn't know what to believe. They'd never heard of bizarre people like "the black snake and the white snake." Only Zonghan looked worried and said, "It's a big world out there and there's plenty of talent. If Nangong Fang really asked those two people to deal with us, then our village is in trouble."

"Uncle, let's tell the authorities," Wenjia added.

"What's the point? There's no proof of what you just saw. Who'd believe us? Unless we can catch that couple, we'd have no case against Nangong Fang," Zonghan reminded everyone as he looked around. "From tonight on, we have to be super vigilant, especially around trees, roofs, and other secluded areas. We need to move in groups of ten people and not be on our own."

Everyone agreed and scattered. Wenjia realized his suggestion wasn't going to be heard, so he also headed home along with others.

The next morning, Wenjia heard the gong sound for an emergency meeting at the temple. He ran over and saw many villagers had already gathered there. Everyone looked serious—Zonghan especially so. He seemed to have aged a lot in one night. In the middle of the temple was the body of a man. Wenjia knew he was a strong and healthy villager, who seemed to have perished at home early that morning.

"I got up early to feed the pigs, then made breakfast and called my husband, but I saw he was . . . He was fine last night, but . . ." A woman kneeled next to the body. Her face was etched with grief but also fright; a family member dying suddenly in a mysterious way would terrify anyone.

Everyone looked at each other, seemingly at a loss for words. They looked to Zonghan, who stroked his beard and surveyed everyone. "I already had the body examined; there was no sign of injury or any poisoning. Even if we reported this, they'd think he died suddenly. This is beyond us, so this morning, I had my son go find the head of the Yangzhou Martial Arts Studio, the famous Iron Fist of Jiangnan, Ding Jianfeng. He has always been a noble guy. When he was fighting the Thirteen Wolves of the Taihang, he had grave internal injuries, and I was the one who carried him across mountains to find a good doctor and helped save him. He owes me a favor; if he can help us, we can fight the black and white snakes for sure."

People breathed easier with this news and stuck out their thumbs at Zonghan. "Wow, our patriarch is amazing; we really respect you."

Just as the conversation slowed down, the sound of horse hooves trotting was heard. Someone guarding the temple shouted, "It's Brother Luo! He's back!"

Brother Luo was Zonghan's older son. Since the voice sounded anxious, Zonghan rushed out to see the commotion. A skinny horse ambled over with his son on its back; the young man seemed to be asleep on the horse and motionless.

"Ah-Long!" Zonghan called out his son's nickname and checked his condition. With help, he got his son onto the ground, and realized that even though the kid was unconscious and his eyes were closed, he was still breathing, however faintly.

"What happened? How did he get like this?" Zonghan demanded as he glanced at those gathered.
One young man answered. "He left for about twenty minutes, but came back like this; it's like he got possessed or something!"

Anger shone in Zonghan's eyes. He picked up his nine-ring knife, ran outside, and yelled to the sky, "Hey, black snake and white snake! Come and fight me if you dare! You're cowards for hurting innocents!"

Several crows scattered with the yelling and flew off from the tree. There was no other noise except for the birds' cackles. No one answered Zonghan's rant, so he went back to the temple dejectedly, asking people to transport his son to the doctor.

The people of Luo Village spent the day in terror and helplessness. By dusk of the next day, Zonghan's unconscious son had died. It looked like the black and white snakes followed the rules of killing one person every day and not letting anyone leave the village.

Dim lamplight revealed Zonghan's exhaustion; he looked ten years older overnight. He surveyed his people, who were all looking at him with anxious hope. He said slowly, "I'll have to go to Yangzhou City myself. It's getting dark now, so I'll leave the village now and get there tomorrow morning. If Master Ding will help us, we'll be safe."

Zonghan was about to leave with his nine-ringed knife when Wenjia came out of the crowd and blocked his way. Seeing Wenjia's despondent expression, he tried to make light of the situation. "Don't worry, your uncle was once someone, too. I have killed many scoundrels with this knife of mine. If the black and white snakes try to stop me, I can get away at least, even if I can't beat them."

Wenjia mumbled, "I know you're still as strong as ever, but maybe it's better if I snuck off to Yangzhou via another route?"

Zonghan was quiet for a moment. He made it seem easy, but he knew if the snake duo got to him, his rudimentary skills would be no match for them. If Wenjia tried to get to the city another way, it could be a good solution.

He took a jade pendant from his clothes and handed it to Wenjia. "This is a memento Master Ding gave me years ago. He once told me that if I ever needed his help, just send someone with this to see him, and he'd help me no matter what. I never asked for payment for my help or thought I'd need this jade pendant, but now that our village is in danger, we really need his help. When you see Master Ding, just show this pendant. He'll know what to do."

"Don't worry, Uncle, I won't disappoint you!" Wenjia answered and tucked the jade carefully into his clothes. Zonghan nodded and patted his shoulders. "You're well-read and can speak well, too, so you're the best messenger. I'll distract the snake duo on the open road, and you go to Yangzhou via the river. The dozens of lives in the Luo Village are in our hands!"

"Yes!" Wenjia nodded. Though he was a scholar without muscles, passion was in his heart.

By nightfall, Zonghan carried a torch and rushed toward Yangzhou on the main road, while Wenjia bid goodbye to his mom and took a small boat toward the same destination, but traveling in the opposite direction. He had to leave the village safely before he could circle back to Yangzhou City.

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