In the courtyard of his home, Yan Jiming continues to train his swordsmanship under Li E's instruction. He charges at his friend with a yell, both hands on his weapon, but is instantly struck in the back by Li E's stick. "One kill", Li E shouts. Jiming does a wide swing at Li E's head, but the Assassin ducks under it and counters with a smack to his cheek. "Two kills!" Before Jiming can recover, Li E strikes him eight more times in rapid succession: "Four kills! Five kills! Six kills! Seven kills! Eight kills! Nine kills!" He finishes with a thrust to his chest: "Ten kills!" Jiming falls to the ground onto his back by this last blow.
Li E admonishes him for facing his opponent full frontal, asserting that he would have already been dead ten times over. He offers his hand to ask if Jiming would like to try again, and the determined scholar assents. Pulling Jiming back on his feet, Li E explains that his entire body's form is wrong. With his hand, he traces an imaginary line down the centre of Jiming's body, naming the following critical points along that line: "the brow, the philtrum, the lower jaw, the neck, the precordium, the dantian". For Jiming to defend those points, he must shift his body to face the side while relying on his sword to keep it hidden. Li E further tells him to relax his off-hand and release it from the sword, so that it may be at the ready to hinder the enemy's blade should his sword-arm fail. Losing one hand could mean saving his one life.
Then, he teaches Jiming a technique that should only be used as a last resort. Xianjishi (掀擊勢), as he calls it, involves awaiting the enemy's attack rather than taking initiative, then reversing the positions of attacker and defender with a fluid counter-attack. He immediately compels Jiming to test this technique step-by-step, and in three movements, his friend is able to land his blade on his wrist. Li E compliments him, "Not bad! Were it a real sword, my arm would have already been chopped off." The elated Jiming asks, "Really? You're not lying?" To his dejection came this reply: "Of course I'm lying. You still need to practice more."
Sparring with He Hong'er
Just as Jiming proclaimed his enthusiasm to keep training, a young woman appears with a training sword of her own at the ready. Greeting Li E, she politely requests that he teach her as well. Intrigued, he asks if she has had prior training, to which she replies that she would demonstrate here and now what she has picked up thus far. Jiming then introduces her as his wife and childhood sweetheart, He Hong'er, and Li E praises her posture before commencing. The two spar a few bouts, during which the Assassin is surprised but impressed by Hong'er's skill and neither are able to land strikes on one another.
Upon her claim that she had derived additional training by herself after only some initial instruction before, Li E remarks that she is talented. At that, Hong'er formally closes their sparring match and lets the men know that Jiming's father, Yan Gaoqing, had returned to the office a while ago and has been waiting for them.
The three gather in a war room with generals of Changshan to listen to Gaoqing apprise them of the dire situation. Seventeen days prior, Chenliu had fallen, and tens of thousands of people were slaughtered. With An Lushan pursuing a scorched earth strategy, everywhere he went, even grass would die. Fourteen days prior, Xingqing had fallen, the defenders overpowered, the casualties uncountable. Ten days prior, the eastern capital of Luoyang had fallen. With defeat after defeat, Tang troops withdrew to Tong Pass. All the land from Fanyang to Luoyang is now occupied by An Lushan's forces.
According to Gaoqing, the only way to turn the tide is to seize the strategic position of Tumen Pass. Though it is garrisoned by a massive force under Lushan's generals Gao Miao and Li Qincou, should it be taken back, then Tang forces can advance from Taiyuan into Hebei and sever Lushan's supply lines. Reports had flowed in today that General He Qiannian is on the way with a force of elite marksmen to reinforce Tumen Pass and would arrive in Changshan by the following day. So urgent are the circumstances that Gaoqing declares that their troops must move this very night and establish a link with the army in Tong Pass.