Thus the murmur grew. Then one, more impetuous than the rest, swung clear his sword and drew it. For the first time Tian understood that treachery was afoot. He looked round for any of his band, but found that he was as a foam-tossed cork upon a turbulent Whang Hai. Cries of anger and derision filled the air; threatening arms waved encouragement to each other to begin. The one with drawn sword raised it above his head and made a step. Then Tian, recognizing that he was unarmed, and that a decisive moment had arrived, stooped low and tore a copper hoop from off his horse’s foot. High he swung its polished brightness in the engaging sun, resolutely brought it down, so that it pressed over the sword-warrior’s shattered head and hung about his neck. Having thus effected as much bloodshed as could reasonably be expected in the circumstances, Tian curved his feet about his horse’s sides and imparting to it the virtue of his own condition they rose into the air together. When those who stood below were able to exert themselves a flight of arrows, spears and every kind of weapon followed, but horse and rider were by that time beyond their reach, and the only benevolent result attained was that many of their band were themselves transfixed by the falling shafts.
In such a manner Tian continued his progress from the town until he came above the Temple of Fire and Water Forces, where on a high tower a strong box of many woods was chained beneath a canopy, guarded by an incantation laid upon it by Leou, that no one should lift it down. Recognizing the contents as the object of his search, Tian brought his horse to rest upon the tower, and breaking the chains he bore the magic sheaths away, the charm (owing to Leou’s superficial habits) being powerless against one who instead of lifting the box down carried it up.
In spite of this distinguished achievement it was many moons before Tian was able to lay the filial tribute of restored power at Ning’s feet, for with shallow-witted obstinacy Ti-foo continued to hold out, and, scarcely less inept, Ah-tang declined to release Tian even to carry on so charitable a mission. Yet when the latter one ultimately returned and was, as the reward of his intrepid services, looking forward to a period of domestic reunion under the benevolent guidance of an affectionate father, it was but to point the seasoned proverb: “The fuller the cup the sooner the spill,” for scarcely had Ning drawn on the recovered sheaths and with incautious joy repeated the magic sentence than he was instantly projected across vast space and into the trackless confines of the Outer Upper Paths. If this were an imagined tale, framed to entice the credulous, herein would its falseness cry aloud, but even in this age Ning may still be seen from time to time with a tail of fire in his wake, missing the path of his return as N’guk ordained.