Chapter 1 - The Wrong Child

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<Dialogue inside chevrons in this chapter is "translated" from Mandarin.>

Xiaoli's most unforgivable sin was being born a girl. Her mother, in the only act of kindness she would ever show her daughter, decided not to kill her immediately after she was born. Instead she was abandoned alone in the woods, her fate left to the heavens. The Zhou's simply couldn't squander their only opportunity to have a son by wasting it on a girl.

Wan Huiqing was down from the mountain to collect rare herbs for a sacred pill to clear the meridians and aid the flow of qi. As she sniffed some leaves to evaluate their ripeness, she heard the distinctive cry of a baby.

* * *

The secret to cultivating one's neijing, the Abbess had explained, is the ability to clear one's mind of all conscious thoughts. Xiaoli had, if nothing else, highly developed neijing.

Xiaoli wasn't what anyone would describe as a bright student. Nothing ever came easy for her. Xiaoli was not, however, a poor student. If it took her five times as long to learn a move as her peers, then she practiced it for ten times as long.

From the time she was old enough to walk Xiaoli had been tutored in the martial arts, never once leaving the seclusion of the mountain monastery. Thanks to her energy and dedication Xiaoli was the number two disciple on Mount Emei not long after her 18th birthday.

Xiaoli had never left the mountain since she was a baby. She had never met a man, although she had seen pictures of men in books and felt herself quite thoroughly schooled on the subject by the Abbess.

* * *

"<I've come for my granddaughter,>" said a rather scruffy looking old man. He stank of alcohol.

"<Men are not permitted here,>" sneered Wan Huiqing.

Her hand went to her sword, originally as a warning but the scruffy man moved so quickly she found herself drawing it in response.

The two exchanged three stances, the strange man easily overwhelming Huiqing's swordplay with two of the fingers on one hand. He disarmed Huiqing with this finger-sword before she could execute a fourth maneuver.

Huiqing went flying backwards, using her high level qinggong to quickly ascend the mountain. She had to warn the others; this man was about to commit an unforgivable sin against the Emei sect.

By the time the scruffy old man arrived at the steps leading to the entrance of the monastery some of the strongest students of the Emei sect had assembled there. This included Wan Huiqing with a fresh sword. They had no intention of being sporting about the battle; this man had offended the honor of the Emei sect.

"<I've come for my granddaughter,>" said the scruffy old man "<Give her to me and I will leave.>"

"<Take one step further and you will provoke the vengeance of the Emei sect,>" Huiqing warned.

All four of the gathered Emei swordswomen drew their blades and took up the stance of Descending Flower Swordsmanship. The old man was already in flight towards them, in the middle of executing the deadly Spill The Wine Cauldron twice, once in each hand. Wan Huiqing and Yao Guang, the two Emei fighters closest to the old man, were forced to leap back to avoid tremendous internal strength of the twin attacks.

The swords of two other swordswomen came flying at the old man's neck, but he caught the blades between the index and middle finger of either hand. With a flick of his wrists he bent the tips of the swords, ruining their balance. The two Emei fighters dropped their now-useless weapons and assumed the stance of Snowing Mist Penetrating Palm.

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