Ken Bebelle

Magic – Monsters – Mayhem

Or, Damn Lotus Can’t Leave a Good Thing Alone
Or, Why Have Just One Enemy, When You Can Have Two?

Qiu Qianren? No! This was the fake one!

Armed with the Dog Beating Cane, Lotus makes her claim as the Chief of the Beggars. The Washed beggars remain supportive of Yang Kang. Lotus makes a grand show of her knowledge of Dog Beating Cane kung fu, running figurative circles around Yang Kang. 

One of the leaders of the Washed, Elder Liang, trades techniques with Lotus, attempting to determine her worthiness. Lotus takes the opportunity to flex every bit of kung fu she learned from Count Seven, and humiliates Liang. The rest of the beggars marvel at how she has mastered so many of Count Seven’s techniques. 

Elder Jian then steps in and they trade blows with their weapons, Lotus finally using the Dog Beating Cane in all its glory. Again, she easily bests Elder Jian. Jian and Liang both bow to her as the Chief.

The final Washed Elder, Peng, moves as if to bow, but then tries to hypnotize her as before. The other elders protest, but Peng presses on, unwilling to bow to such a young girl. Lotus manages to bounce the technique back on Peng, forcing him into convulsive fits of laughter. Her case made, Lotus is made Chief of the Beggar Clan. She demotes Peng, and places Surefoot Lu in charge. 

Yang Kang and Qiu Qianren have left in all the confusion. Lotus and Guo Jing leave the beggars, intent on finding Yang Kang.

Back on the mainland, Lotus and Guo Jing manage to run into Qiu Qianren again. This time he seems to be the lackluster version of himself again, unable to muster even the most basic kung fu to defend himself. He resorts to threatening to–ahem–drop his pants, as a ploy to keep Lotus away from him.

This works.

Guo Jing finds them and is ready to unleash his fury on Qiu Qianren but Lotus stays his hand. Qiu Qianren asks them to meet him at Iron Palm Mountain in a week, when his stomach issues will be resolved (ugh, again?) and he is willing to meet them in battle.

Guo Jing is confused by the different versions of Qiu Qianren they keep meeting. Lotus, however, is more focused on the description given of Iron Palm Mountain, which she believes is described in the painting she gave Guo Jing with the General’s poem. (See? I told you it would be important!)

Lotus and Guo Jing race off to find Iron Palm Mountain. When they find it, they come upon a small house, and inside they see Qiu Qianren performing amazing acts of kung fu. Guo Jing is amazed, but Lotus is sure this is some kind of trick. Before they can determine what to do next, Qiu Qianren is upon them. He strikes out at Lotus. Lotus stands still, believing Qiu Qianren to be a fraud, and relying on her Hedgehog Chainmail to protect her.

At the last moment Guo Jing realizes Lotus is truly in danger and he launches a counterstrike at Qiu Qianren. The two men clash but Lotus is caught in the middle and wounded, despite her chainmail. Guo Jing is chilled. He feels Qianren’s neigong and he knows he is not this man’s equal. He grabs Lotus and flees. But the alarm has been sounded and the mountain is soon thick with Iron Palm members searching for them. Guo Jing can only go up the mountain.

Guo Jing heads up the mountain, up the third finger of the mountain, and finds a hidden cave in which to revive Lotus and tend to her wounds.

Inside the cave they are greeted by none other than Qiu Qianren! But Qianren is again a hopeless kung fu amateur. Lotus has figured it out and sends Guo Jing to the mouth of the cave to look down the mountain, where he sees another Qianren at the head of the Iron Palm Gang. 

Twins.

Guo Jing immobilizes the fake Qianren and gets the story out of him. The Iron Palm Gang won’t attack them because they happen to have found the gang’s funerary cave, where their leaders go to die. I guess it’s like their elephant graveyard? In any case, it’s sacred ground to them, only enterable by those who are about to die. 

Inside the cave, Guo Jing finds the lost writings of General Yue Fei. But the good news doesn’t last long as the Iron Palm Gang figures out that they can just set fire to the whole mountain and smoke out their intruders.

Guo Jing unlocks fake Qianren, grabs Lotus, and runs further up the mountain. But even he’s smart enough to realize there’s nowhere to go.

Lotus suggests he call the condors to them, because they might as well try. Guo Jing whistles for his birds using the strength of his neigong, and they respond. Lotus is tied to one condor and Guo Jing mounts the other. 

I had no idea the birds were so big!

They take off and are just about to get away when fake Qianren begs to be saved and makes some comment about the treasures in the cave. Lotus actually goes back (Queen of Bad Decisions!) and fake Qianren jumps onto her condor! He nearly drags them to the ground until Guo Jing’s condor arrives to knock fake Qianren off, sending him falling to the ground below. Our plucky couple fly off into the night.

That’s it! The end of book three! I’m going to take a break next week for the holidays, and pick up again in the new year with chapter one of book four, A Heart Divided.

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