Or, Guo Jing Levels Up
Our intrepid couple, Lotus and Guo Jing, continue on their collision course with Lotus’ father, the fearsome Apothecary Huang, Lord of Peach Blossom Island. Trapped on Peach Blossom Island with Zhou Botong, Guo Jing helps his martial brother develop an entirely new style of kung fu!
So it turns out that the Immortal Wang actually faked his death (using the ol’ neigong to slow his breathing trick) in order to draw our Viper Ouyang, who was known to be looking for the Nine Yin Manual. In a surprise attack, Wang paralyzes Ouyang’s Exploding Toad kung fu (remember the easter egg from the Kung Fu Hustle video?), forcing Viper Ouyang to retreat.
And then (this is ludicrous) Immortal Wang keels over dead, because the surprise attack pulled too much of his qi. So this time, he really is dead. Dead dead.
Zhou takes the Nine Yin Manual, intending to hide it in the mountains. Along the way, he runs into Apothecary Huang and his new bride (Lotus’ mom). Although Zhou tries to hide it, Huang’s young bride manages to trick the manual out of Zhou, using the same tricks that everyone else does. At least everyone is consistent, always falling for the same trap.
Huang placates Zhou by insisting that his young bride only wants to read the manual, and that she is not trained in the martial arts. Unfortunately for Zhou, the young woman is able to read and memorize the entire manual in one sitting. In this way Huang is able to return the manual to Zhou, while making a copy for himself when he returns to Peach Blossom Island.
When Zhou discovers Huang’s treachery, he goes to Peach Blossom Island to confront him. They fight and Huang wins, and he leaves Zhou crippled and lost on the island. For the next FIFTEEN years, Zhou putters around the island, being tormented daily by Huang. See, Zhou has the original copy of the Nine Yin Manual, and (at this point in time) Huang doesn’t have the second volume because Cyclone and Hurricane took off with it. So Huang wants the original copy of the second manual, but he also won’t stoop to just poisoning Zhou. So they just sit…in this weird stalemate. For years.
Until Guo Jing shows up.
The Lord of Peach Blossom Island continues to feed his captives, so Guo Jing and Zhou work on their kung fu to pass the time. Zhou is delighted to have someone to spar with after being alone for so long. He first teaches Guo Jing the Luminous Hollow Fist technique (in which I see nods from Cradle again, in Lindon’s Void emblem, and Eithan’s Hollow King path).
After Guo Jing masters the Luminous Hollow Fist, they move on to fighting each other with each hand performing different kung fu. So instead of two people fighting with two hands each, it is four separate hands fighting in a brawl. Guo Jing slowly learns to split his techniques and energy between his two hands, and the two of them dub the new technique Competing Hands (and I see a bit of Lindon’s Path of Twin Stars here).
Lotus begins to cook some of the food that goes to the prisoners. Guo Jing recognizes her cooking, and finds notes to him sealed in mantou. She is still trying to bring her father around to accept him.
One day Zhou is bitten by a snake. To save him, Guo Jing sucks the poison from the wound. With his system hardened by the magic snake blood, the poison does not affect him and he saves Zhou.
Zhou is now beside himself. His new martial brother is not only a worthy student, but he also saved his life! How can he repay Guo Jing? Zhou concocts a plan to teach Guo Jing the Nine Yin Manual, without telling him exactly what he is learning. And then in this way Zhou can learn the Nine Yin Manual back from Guo Jing, without technically violating his oath to Immortal Wang to not learn the Nine Yin Manual ‘from the book.”
Zhou would have made a fine lawyer.
He proceeds to brute force the entire Nine Yin Manual into Guo Jing. Slowly but surely, our plucky hero crams it all down like he’s eating an elephant. Step by step, his kung fu grows in strength each day.
It all seems to fall apart when Lotus’ next message says that Viper Ouyang has asked Apothecary Huang for Lotus’ hand in marriage to Gallant Ouyang, and her father has agreed.
Guo Jing is crushed! Zhou doesn’t have a high opinion of women (understatement) and he doesn’t understand why Guo Jing would want to marry a woman, when he could continue to devote himself to kung fu. Guo Jing wanders off and comes to a realization that he will do anything to be with Lotus. Lotus sends the condors with another note, that she will take her own life if forced to marry Gallant Ouyang. Guo Jing sends the condors back with his own note, “live together, die together.”
Wow, this is the best part of the books so far. We’ve got high stakes, protagonists who are just about at the level they need to be to overcome their antagonists, and characters taking steps to make the future they want for themselves.
That night, a herd of snakes slithers across the island, startling Guo Jing and Zhou. What could be happening? Find out next week in the next installment! 😊