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Thread: Legend of the Tang Dynasty Two Dragons [大唐双龙传] - Unabridged

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    Default Book 25 Chapter 8

    Chapter 8 Discussion With The Tiger While Scheming To Peel Its Skin[1]

    Xu Ziling continued, Its very likely that Yin Gui Pai people will participate in this matter, so I absolutely will not confront Xi Ying face to face. Hou Xiong may set your heart at ease.

    Smiling wryly, Hou Xibai said, How can I set my heart at ease? Xi Ying has always been ranked above An Long. This time he returned to the Central Plains, clearly he has made a breakthrough in his demonic skill and does not fear Song Que anymore. Chasing away the Da Shi Temple monks is the same as publicly provoking Song Que for battle. Ziling, although you are extraordinarily brilliant, but to be frank with you, you are still a notch or two below An Long; forget about directly dealing with the Heavenly Lord Xi Ying.

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Thank you for Hou Xiongs concern, I have my own discretion. It would be a big help to me if Hou Xiong could understand the Immortal Image Method quicker than Yang Xuyan.

    Hou Xibai acted as if he did not hear him at all; muttering to himself irresolutely, he said, Xi Ying and Zhu Yuyans relationship has always been extremely distant, why would Yin Gui Pai dare to take the risk of offending Song Que by standing on Xi Yings side? Maybe Ziling misunderstood?

    Xu Ziling has never thought about this aspect, he only thought that all demonic school people were naturally on the same side. But now that Hou Xibai brought it up to his attention, his heart was moved, he said, Lets make a hypothesis first: supposing Lin Shihong is a Yin Gui Pai man, under his current situation, what would Lin Shihongs most brilliant strategy be?

    Shaken, Hou Xibai said, Naturally he wants to pacify the south, to seize control the cities north and south sides of the Yangtze River. At that time, even if the north is unified by some other power, he could expect to stand in north-south confrontation, each side occupying half of the country.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, Now I dare say with ninety-percent confidence that Lin Shihong is a Yin Gui Pai man. If he could kill Song Que via Xi Yings hands, Lin Shihong could extend his evil clutches toward Lingnan. After seizing control over Song Familys wealth and resources, he could rapidly expand, taking advantage while everybody is preoccupied in going north, he would consolidate his power in the south. This is precisely the reason Yin Gui Pai cooperates with Xi Ying. Otherwise, why would they want to trouble-the-troops-dispatch-the-crowd by sending the Four Great Elders to come here?

    Hou Xibai nodded and said, Zilings analysis is very convincing. If Bian Bufu is one of the Four Great Elders, we might call on An Long for help.

    An Long? Xu Ziling blurted out.

    Hou Xibai said, Due to an old grudge of many years ago, those two cannot exist together. Bian Bufu created the Mo Xin Lianhuan [Demonic Heart/Center Chain (lit. connecting rings)]. The name is precisely in response to An Longs Tian Xin Lian Huan [Lotus Ring at the Center of the Sky (different Lian)]. If An Long did not have any misgivings toward Zhu Yuyan, he would have killed Bian Bufu early on. Therefore, as long as he is dealing with Bian Bufu, An Long would forget everything else. Ha! I am just speaking casually, Ziling must not take it seriously.

    Xu Ziling said, I dont want to look for any helper.

    Hou Xibai turned serious as he cut him off, Even if Xi Ying dropped in on his own accord, I am afraid Ziling still do not have enough capability to kill him; therefore, this time I am not to be shirked without dishonor. Ziling, please tell me, what kind of brilliant plan are you going to resort to lure him out?

    Xu Ziling hesitated inwardly. Yue Shans identity was his secret; letting Hou Xibai find out about it did not seem to be too appropriate. But looking at his earnest enthusiasm, he had a bit of cannot-bear-to-refuse feeling. Without any better option, he said, Originally I wanted to find out Yin Gui Pais elders whereabouts from Zheng Shiru, but this is just one way out of no-way. How about well meet again tomorrow to exchange information, and then well decide what our next action be?

    Frowning, Hou Xibai asked, What is the relationship between Zheng Shiru and Yin Gui Pai?

    Xu Ziling replied in low voice, There is a hopelessly muddled relationship between Zheng Shiru and Yin Gui Pai, but as for the details, please forgive me since it is inconvenient for me to say.

    Hou Xibai revealed a hint of bitter smile, but he did not pursue. After agreeing on the time and place to meet, he quizzically asked, Ziling looks like you are hurrying someplace; do you have an appointment?

    Xu Ziling suddenly remembered something; instead of answering, he asked, Do you have any information about You Niaojuan?

    Hou Xibai said, Other than me, I am afraid nobody can answer your question. He entered the city earlier than you did by no more than two sichen. Originally I did not know it was him either, but because all along I was watching An Long, I was guessing that it was him, the Going Against The Tide You Niaojuan.

    Xu Ziling suddenly understood. No wonder Hou Xibai knew An Longs situation like the back of his hand; turned out he had been monitoring An Longs movement, so that they were fortunate enough to save Cao Yinglongs life.

    Where could You Niaojuan be? he asked; while thinking that were it not because You Niaojuans injury has not healed, he might stand on An Long and Yang Xuyans side, and then perhaps Hou Xibai might not necessarily be able to obtain half of the Immortal Image Scroll.

    Hou Xibai said, You Niaojuans hiding place is so secret that even An Long himself does not know. But he and An Long definitely will meet again; Ziling might be able to find him from An Long.

    After a short pause, he laughed and said, Do you need Xiaodi to guide you?

    Xu Ziling blurted out laughing and said, How could I dare to inconvenience Hou Xiong? As long as Hou Xiong tell me where I can find An Long, I am already extremely grateful.

    Smiling wryly, Hou Xibai said, I really dont understand why you always refuse my help? This moment, An Long might hide in Bie Yuan [lit. other courtyard] at the Jin Ma [golden horse] Lane in the northern part of the city to recuperate. That is one of An Longs secret nests. It was because I was following Zhu Meis tracks that I found out about that place.

    And then he explained in details how to find Bie Yuan, and only then did Xu Ziling leave.

    Xu Ziling put on long robe, wore the Yue Shan mask, and after making sure that there was no flaw, he jumped down from the roof and strode forward with head high toward An Longs courtyard house and struck the ring doorknocker.

    The long robe was authentic Yue Shans garment given to him by Shi Qingxuan. Other than it could hide the difference in body shape between Yue Shans and his, it was also Yue Shans signature attire, which made it easier for people like An Long, who knew Yue Shan to be convinced.

    In the scroll that Yue Shan left behind, he recounted his association with the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Way. Apart from Zhu Yuyan and Xi Ying, who had particularly profound gratitude and grudges with him, the others were just people that he only met a few times, with whom he only exchanged no more than a few words. This situation was naturally very beneficial to Xu Ziling in impersonating Yue Shan.

    In fact, during his life, Yue Shan was a very lonely and quiet person who did not like to talk.

    Creak!

    The courtyard door opened a little; a senile, thin and short old man with grey head and squinty eyes asked in astonishment, Who is Daye looking for?

    Letting out a cold humph, Xu Ziling reached out and pushed his palm against the mans face. Immediately the old mans eyes opened wide. While he was stepping back in shock, Xu Ziling stepped over the threshold, while also closing the door in passing.

    Laofu Yue Shan, he growled, Where is An Long hiding?

    Hearing Yue Shans name, the short old mans countenance changed. But before he had the opportunity to speak, An Longs voice came from the direction of the eastern wing, It is indeed Old Yue. Please come in!

    The short old man stepped aside with his hands hanging by his side. Without even looking at him with the corner of his eyes, Xu Ziling walked over, upright and unafraid, toward the east wing in large strides. He said with a laugh, Is An Pangzi [Fat An] wondering how Ol Yue could find you here?

    An Longs voice, neither warm nor fiery, replied from the east wing, Whats so strange about it? As long as you are not dead, I have no doubt that you would come to Chengdu to enjoy the festivities; and once you are in Chengdu, how could you not look for me, An Pangzi? I also have your other old friend here. He had just told me that you helped Shi Qingxuan in dealing with him!

    Xu Ziling cried inwardly, What a close call! In the scroll he left behind, Yue Shan referred to An Long as Fat An, but Xu Ziling was not sure if in the olden days Yue Shan really called An Long with this name, but now he knew had hit the nail on its head.

    The east wing was pitch-black. By the time Xu Ziling entered the wings living room, two pairs of penetrating gaze fell on his face at the same time.

    What a coincidence! Xu Ziling nonchalantly said, Which wind blew You Xiong to this place?

    In the dark hall, the other person besides An Long was surprisingly the Going Against The Tide You Niaojuan.

    You Niaojuan laughed eerily and said, Why does Yue Dao Bas [saber overbearing] voice become so hoarse and unpleasant to hear like this? Was it because during Huan Ri Da Fa training you suffered a setback? And where did your Ba Dao [overbearing saber] go? The other day I did not believe it was you. Were it not for An Pangzi told me that all along you were secretly in love with Bi Xiuxin, I would not have understood.

    Remaining calm, Xu Ziling sat down without any care in the chair by the window, opposite the two men; he said coldly, Old You, are you still holding grudges because Ol Yue wounded you the other day? Looking at how you did not make much progress, Ill say Zhu Yaofu [witch] is superior to you. That day in Luoyang, with just one look she knew that I have already abandoned my saber because I have mastered the Huan Ri Da Fa. As for why the tone of my voice changes, it would be best if Song Que answer this question.

    Both An Long and You Niaojuan were stunned. The former frowned and said, Since you, Old Yue, confirmed it with your own mouth, I dare to believe the rumor; but how could Zhu Hou [Empress Zhu] be willing to let you off?

    Throwing his head back, Xu Ziling let out a long laughter and said, She did not have any confidence that she would be able to kill me, naturally she had to let me go. Could it be that she had a sudden outburst of virtuous intentions? There will come a day when I will make her regret deeply. Xu Ziling cleverly borrowed Zhu Yuyan to confirm Yue Shans identity.

    If Zhu Yuyan thought that he was Yue Shan, how could outsiders have any suspicion?

    You Niaojuan was Yin Gui Pais archenemy, hearing that, his attitude relaxed considerably; he nodded his head, but did not say anything.

    An Long said, For the last few days I have been waiting respectfully for your honorable selfs arrival. Since hearing that Yue Xiong is returning to Jianghu, I knew that because of Xi Ying, Yue Xiong may rush over to Bashu; hence early on I already left secret mark around the city gate, and now finally Yue Xiong appears!

    Again Xu Ziling cried inwardly, What a close call! Originally he was thinking that he would have to find some good pretext to explain how he could find this place; fortunately he had not said it. From this, it appeared that the real Yue Shan had a rather close relationship with An long.

    You Niaojuan spoke heavily, How would Yue Xiong deal with Xi Ying?

    Instead of replying, Xu Ziling asked, I wonder if you gentlemen, Laoxiong [old chap] knew whether Zhu Yaonu and Xi Ying have formed an alliance?

    An Long and You Niaojuan were shaken at the same time. You Niaojuan shook his head and said, Thats impossible. Xi Ying and Zhu Yaopo [demonic grandmother] are like water and fire; how could they mingle together?

    Letting out a cold laugh, Xu Ziling said, That was the thing of the past. Currently they have a common goal, which gives rise to another situation. Dont forget that there is also Bian Bufu whos acting as a go-between.

    This time, the manner in which he spoke was modeled on the words that Yue Shan left behind. Although he did not have a hundred-percent confidence, he had at least seventy, eighty-percent confidence; unless it was someone who had deep relationship with Yue Shan, others should get the impression that he was indeed Yue Shan.

    Taken aback, An Long asked, What is the goal? His eyes welled up with deep hatred on the mention of Bian Bufus name.

    Xu Ziling indifferently replied, Song Que, of course. Is there anyone else?

    An Long was dubious. Zhu Hou and Song Que have always been like river water does not interfere with well water. How could she and Xi Ying suddenly do something with grievous consequences like that?

    Xu Ziling noticed a hint of eerie smile appearing on the corner of You Niaojuans mouth, his heart was moved, he said, Old You, dont play dumb! Dont tell me that you dont know Lin Shihongs background.

    You Niaojuan spoke resolutely, Zhu Yaopos crafty scheme can deceive others, but she cant conceal it from me, You Niaojuan.

    And then he turned to An Long and said, If I am guessing correctly, Lin Shihong ought to be Yunyu Shuang Xiu [cloud and rain double cultivation] Pi Shouxuans proud disciple. I have exchanged blows with Lin Shihong before; I am confident that I cant possibly make an error of judgment. And now that I received Yue Xiongs pointer, I am even more certain of it.

    Xu Ziling was convinced even more that this trip was not in vain; at least Lin Shihongs identity was verified by the mouth of the people from demonic school.

    He also cried, Lucky! inwardly, because it was the first time that he heard that Yin Gui Pai had such figure in their organization. If he talked big randomly, no doubt he would reveal the cloven hoof [i.e. unmask his true nature].

    Showing a shocked expression, An Long was silent for quite a while, before saying to Xu Ziling, Old Yue, you came to me, An Pangzi, whats in it for me?

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Bian Bufu is yours, Xi Ying is mine. What do you think?

    You Niaojuan spoke heavily, Ba Dao [overbearing saber] Yue Shan has always been a loner, why do you need a helper this time?

    Xu Ziling spoke slowly, Joined hands, we are strong; divided, we are weak. An Pangzi is Shi Zhixuans good brother, naturally you are a thorn in Yin Yaofus eyes. And due to Shengdi Sheli [holy emperor relics], Old You has tied unsolvable deep enmity with Zhu Yaofu. However, even if you are unwilling to participate directly, Ol Yue will never blame you. All you need to do is just to reveal Xi Yings hiding place to Ol Yue.

    You Niaojuan sighed dejectedly and said, The problem is not on me, but on the new offense that An Long committed against Shi Zhixuan. Since he will be too busy to attend to this matter, he wont be in leisurely mood to take care of other matters.

    Just by listening to the tone of his voice, Xu Ziling knew that You Niaojuan has also come to plead with An Long to help him dealing with Yin Gui Pai people, but he was refused.

    Naturally Xu Ziling could not tell An Long that the one making the move at the Da Shi Temple was Shi Feixuan, and not Shi Zhixuan at all; he even had to pretend to be surprised and asked for the details.

    Naturally An Long would not tell Xu Ziling what really happened to him; frowning, he said, Old You, dont exaggerate. Come to think about it, it must be a case of seeing a bow reflected in a cup as a snake [idiom: overly fearful]. However, the person attacking me in the dark surely had an extremely brilliant skill. The reason I do not wish to be drawn into this matter is simply because of my deteriorating relationship with Xie Hui, and I cant afford to have the not-to-be-trifled-with Zhu Hou to personally come to deal with me. The leaving monks unable to leave the Temple, many years of hard work in doing business may go down the drain, and you

    You Niaojuan impatiently cut him off, How can you choose to shrinking your head and take the beating? Now that we have Yue Ba [overbearing] joining us, it will increase our chance of success. Who does not know that Yue Shans one word worth nine sacred tripods, and he had never broken faith by abandoning his promise?

    Greatly moved, An Long muttered to himself irresolutely, Of course I trust Old Yue, but you, You Niaojuan, have never been known as one who keep promises and value loyalty; so how could I dare to trust you?

    You Niaojuan blurted out laughing and said, So thats how it is. But it seems like I have never deceived you, An Daye. What if I swear by demonic schools curse and make an oath?

    Shaking his head, An Long said, Still not enough.

    Xu Ziling and You Niaojuan looked at each other in astonishment.

    An Longs eyes shone with sharp light; he met Xu Zilings eyes, and spoke slowly, word-by-word, Except you, Old Yue, can prove that your Great Method of Changing the Sun can surpass Xi Yings Purple Cloud Heavenly Mesh. Only then will we have something to discuss.

    Suddenly it dawned on Xu Ziling.

    The fact was that early on An Long had openly offended Wanwan, so his desperate battle against Yin Gui Pai was already like an arrow leaving the bow. The momentum must be released, yet he was putting up a pretense that he was the virtuous person here, only wanted You Niaojuan to guarantee that he would fight to the end together with him, creating the situation where the emperor was not anxious, but the anxiety was driving the eunuch crazy.

    And Xu Ziling, this fake Yue Shan who had just dropped in, was a good helper. That was the reason he left secret markings that only the real Yue Shan would recognize, hoping that Yue Shan would find him here. As a result, the dream became real, An Long naturally wanted to go one step further by verifying clearly how much value would Yue Shan, who was just returning to the fray after a period of inactivity bring to the table?

    An Long was indeed an old, good, tremendously cunning man!

    Laughing coldly, Xu Ziling said, Ill just sit here, Ill take your, LaoGes two moves of Lotus Ring at the Center of the Sky, and well see!

    Stunned, You Niaojuan said, Old Yue, you must be joking! Even Zhu Yaofu and Shi Zhixuan will not dare to take An Longs Lotus Ring at the Center of the Sky sitting down.

    Xu Ziling knew that he had brought suffering to himself. Relying on his understanding of the Luohan hand image, plus the Nine-character Incantation Hand Image taught by Reverend Zhen Yan, he had at least seventy, eighty-percent confidence that he could receive An Longs Lotus Ring at the Center of the Sky.

    But if it were real fight with proper style, Lotus Ring combined with Lotus Step, there was great possibility that he might reveal his true identity. Therefore, he simply must take this risk. His heart was scared, but his face showed an air of arrogance brimming with confidence. If I dont do that, he spoke calmly, How could I show that Ol Yues Huan Ri Da Fa is definitely not inferior to Shi Zhixuans Bu Si Yin or Zhu Yaofus Tianmo Gong?

    He was well aware that the previous night, due to the wear and tear in his true power, An Long would not want to risk his life in desperate combat; at most he would only send out one move to start and the second move of Lotus Ring at the Center of the Sky to stop. Relying on his wonderfully effective recovery of his true qi, even if he received injury, he could pretend that nothing had happened, and then quietly restored his qi speedily.

    An Long also showed a hard-to-believe look; half-believing, half-doubting, he asked, Yue Xiong is sure you are going to receive it sitting down?

    Throwing his head back and roared in laughter, Xu Ziling said, Come! When did Ol Yue ever say anything that did not count?

    An Long sprang out from his chair and shouted, In that case, Yue Xiong, watch out!

    Carrying out strange footwork, his fat hands folded like a lotus, in an instant he sent out three clumps of Lotus power, separately attacking Xu Zilings left and right jianjing [shoulder well] acupoints and his face.

    Hot qi filled the air.




    [1] Chapter title: idiom, meaning harmful to each others immediate interests and is difficult to achieve the goal (Baike Baidu)

  2. #302
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 25 Chapter 9

    Chapter 9 Heavenly Lord Xi Ying

    As these three clumps of Lotus power was released in succession, the strangest thing was that the first to be released was slow, but the subsequent was fast. By the time the attack reached Xu Zilings three vital acupoints, there was no distinction between earlier or later, they all stamped his body at the exact same time.

    Such a successive qi-inducing power also quickly flowed from the heart; indeed it has reached perfection, fully worthy of others admiration.

    The moment just before the Lotus power reached Xu Zilings body, the scalding hot, ruthless and fierce, condensed and refined true qi already attacked, like an inescapable net enveloping Xu Ziling inside it; swift and severe, far exceeded Xu Zilings estimation.

    If this kind of scorching and fully devastating qi power invaded his body, the damage could be easily inferred. Regret at this moment was already too late.

    In this juncture between life and death, the Great Method of Changing the Sun from the scroll Yue Shan left behind, the Nine-Character Incantation Hand Image from Reverend Zhen Yan, along with the Death Hidden Within Life, Life Contained Within Death from Immortal Image Method that Hou Xibai told him, these three different kinds, plus the Buddhist Schools No-Upper xinfa pertaining to the carved image, combined with the five hundred Luohan images from the previous generations holy monk Kumarajiva, flashed through Xu Zilings mind at the speed of lighting or sparks from the flint, and were fused together into one.

    In between the breathing, Xu Zilings two hands produced as series of poses, beginning with the fundamental motionless pose, to the Great Vajra Chakra pose, inside and outside Leo pose, outer bound and inner bound pose, wisdom first, Sun Chakra, and Aquarius [lit. precious/treasured vase/bottle, see Chapter 4].

    While performing the pose, inwardly he recited the incantation [true statement], the mind completely focused on it, the heart and the breathing independent of each other, the intent and the spirit in balance, the innate true qi in his body originating from the Secret to Long Life and Jade Annulus of He Clan followed the pose and flowed along the Eight Extraordinary Channels and concentrated in different styles according to the Three Meridians, Seven Chakras, forming clump after clump of true qi like blooming fresh flowers.

    The last one was Motionless Vajra pose, which was also the shedding-ones-mortal-body-and-exchange-ones-bones general pose, which was the convergence of the shifting-the-sun-exchanging-the-moon of the Huan Ri Da Fa.

    Ten thousand thoughts became empty.

    Inside the no-man-no-self spirited emptiness, Xu Ziling felt like he was a mere spectator in the unbounded land that extended to infinity. This moment the three clumps of Lotus power simultaneously stamped his left and right jianjing [shoulder well] and meijianlun [ajna, the third eye chakra].

    An Long and You Niaojuan went pale in shock; how could there be anybody who was stupid enough to receive Lotus power without blocking, without parrying?

    Xu Ziling threw his head back; his left and right shoulders rapidly shook.

    First, a scorching heat assaulted his face, which prompted him to throw his head backward; and then the Lotus power strike on his meijianlun changed from three-dimensional to planar, which slipped like a wave along the qi covering his face before dissipating away.

    Bang! Bang!

    After most of the other two clumps of Lotus power were neutralized, the remaining scorching hot qi power was still invading his acupoints and entering his meridians. This kind of unbearably burning pain nearly made Xu Ziling screamed. However, naturally he could not act this stupid and cowardly. Without any better option, his mouth spat out incantation, word-by-word he quickly shouted, Huan Ri Da Fa!

    The Motionless Vajra Image suddenly turned into Inner Bound, Outer Bound, two poses.

    The true qi was waging war in the meridian channels inside his body, the previously already-waiting-in-tight-disposition true qi met the invading Lotus power in a frontal assault, and neutralized it completely right before the Lotus power invaded his internal organs. But the jianjing positions on both sides were already burning and grew numb.

    Watching this, both An Long and You Niaojuan were dumbfounded.

    To neutralize the Lotus power, You Niaojuan thought that he would be able to do; but he had to rely on some kind of palm, or fist, or other type of power method [gongfa], which had to be put into practice before the Lotus power reached his body. Meeting the attack head-on by just using his face was indeed inconceivable.

    And the ability to meet the Lotus power head-on was an even more universally shocking cultivation.

    Because they did not know that Xu Zilings real face was hidden behind a fake one, they saw how his face did not change its appearance while receiving these three clumps of Lotus power, inwardly they were shocked, and were even more dumbstruck.

    Actually, Xu Ziling was in so much pain that his face turned green and his lips white. If An Long were to send another clump of Lotus power, it was almost certain that he would die on the spot.

    After An Long and You Niaojuan looked at each other for a moment, the former dejectedly retreated and sat down, back into his chair. Heaving a deep sigh, he said, Huan Ri Da Fa is indeed not a common chord [idiom: outstanding]. In the past, when Yue Xiong and I were discussing the difficulties in training the Da Fa, you mentioned that you were unable to understand the real purpose of the Tianzhu hand gestures, but now evidently you have obtained their true essence. Please accept Xiaodis heartfelt admiration.

    You Niaojuans eyes flickered with admiration and jealousy as well; he sighed and interjected, Yue Ba discards the saber, but your power now triumphs over your power in the past; no wonder even I had to suffer big loss. An Long, this time you have nothing to say, right?

    Smiling wryly, An Long said, What more can I say? His voice was brimming with bitterness.

    It was only this moment that Xu Ziling was able to speak. Without having to pretend, his voice was already hoarse and unpleasant to hear. Taking a deep breath, he struggled hard to gradually recover from the excruciating pain coming from the jianjing acupoints on both sides of his shoulders. Where is Xi Ying? he spoke slowly.

    The first watch of the night [7-9 pm].

    An Long lifted up the curtain of the carriage, and pointed to the San Hua Lou, resplendent in bright lanterns. He said to Xu Ziling and You Niaojuan, This is Chengdus San Hua Lou; before tonight, that fellow Bian Bufu has come here twice, both times asking for the lady of the Hua family by name. Tonight he reserves a wing; what do you say we drop in to say hello to him?

    Frowning, You Niaojuan said, Is Xi Ying with him?

    An Long replied, Both times the previous nights Bian Bufu came alone; he even stayed the night until daybreak. Although in the past Xi Ying loved to hang out with that thief Bian Bufu with all the majesty of an emperor, but this time, when Song Que might arrive in Bashu any moment, how could Xi Ying dare to be reckless?

    Shaking his head, You Niaojuan said, An Pangzi, you only know one but dont know two; Ziqi Tian Luo [purple cloud heavenly mesh] is overbearing to the extreme point. One thing went wrong, the dog might come back to devour its master. The higher the gongfa, the greater its need to be reconciled. Just like after killing people, I have to go to casino to wind down. If you dont believe me, ask Old Yue; who knew the Heavenly Lord Xi Ying better than he did?

    Laughing evilly, An Long said, You mean looking for a little young gentleman [i.e. male prostitute] to play with?

    Hearing that, You Niaojuan only laughed lewdly, but did not say anything.

    Hearing that, all the hair on Xu Zilings body stood on its end, while also realized that he had no choice but to act better, and naturally he was even more afraid to say the wrong thing and thus revealing the cloven foot. If we go in, wont everything be clear? he spoke heavily.

    Remaining tranquil and calm, An Long said, If there is only Bian Bufu, one person, Old Yue, what are you going to do?

    Xu Ziling cursed him inwardly. An Longs move was extremely sinister. If he were the real Yue Shan, and he openly helped An Long dealing with Bian Bufu, it would be tantamount as formally declaring war against Yin Gui Pai.

    While whether he could get rid of Xi Ying was still unknown, toward the real Yue Shan it would only be harmful without any benefit, and would only sink his feet deeper into the mire, and later on he had no choice but to stand on An Longs side.

    However, to the fake Yue Shan Xu Ziling, this matter would only bring benefit without any harm. Naturally he must not respond in a frank and straightforward manner, because it was absolutely not the subtle and reserved style of the real Yue Shan. Thereupon he let out a cold snort and said, At that time, we will change according to the situation. Under your, An Pangzis Tianxin Lian Huan, his Moxin Lianhuan [demonic heart chain] is only a joke. Me and You Niaoer [birdy You] will make sure that no one else will interfere.

    Displeased, You Niaojuan said, I hate it the most when people are calling me You Niaoer; only Zhu Yaofu calls me that.

    How would Xu Ziling know that when Yue Shan wrote about You Niaoer in his scroll, it was actually started by Zhu Yuyan? He had no choice but to shut his mouth.

    An Longs eyes were flashing with cruel, vicious, and malicious evil light; sticking out his tongue to lick his lip, he acted as if he was enjoying the taste of Bian Bufus blood, as he slowly said, All right! Two LaoGe watch out for Xiaodi; more than twenty years worth of debt will be settled in full tonight. And then he shouted at the old servant driving the carriage, Go to San Hua Lou!

    An Long was the first to step down from the carriage. Wen Gu personally led two maids to welcome him, and fawned on him in every possible way, calling him An Laoban [boss An] this and An Laoban that.

    After casually introducing his two companions, An Long pulled Wen Gu to the side and whispered in her ear for a while. Wen Gu led the way. An Long fell back to the two mens side and said with a bitter laugh, Xi Ying is really here!

    Immediately You Niaojuans countenance changed.

    His belly was full of evil tricks; especially concerning An Long. He just wanted to drag Yue Shan down to deal with Yin Gui Pai, he had never thought that he would be in a head-on conflict against Xi Ying for real.

    Within the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of Demonic Way, the ones regarded as the foremost were, quite naturally, Zhu Yuyan and Shi Zhixuan. Next in rank were Mo Shi [demonic master/teacher] Zhao Deyan and Tian Jun [heavenly lord] Xi Ying. All these demonic people were utterly vicious, extremely evil, and definitely not to be trifled with. And now, although You Niaojuan pointed out the possibility of Xi Ying might show himself here, it was purely to mislead Xu Ziling, the fake Yue Shan, to fall into the trap.

    Who would have thought that he made an error in judgment and had to run into Xi Ying for real? This moment he could not withdraw midway, and could only sigh inwardly for his bad luck.

    Xu Ziling also did not know whether he ought to be excited or afraid; however, looking at An Longs smiling expression and You Niaojuans cowardly appearance, he could tell the Heavenly Lord Xi Yings prowess.

    Besides, Xi Ying should be aware that currently Chengdus martial art masters have gathered here, yet he still openly fool around at the pleasure house with Bian Bufu; evidently he felt secure in the knowledge that he had strong backing, so that he disregarded even Xie Hui, Shi Feixuan, and the others.

    He was wondering whether he was like a moth throwing itself into the flame, overestimating his own capabilities? Steeling himself, Xu Ziling asked, Which room is he in?

    An Long replied, West wing, second floor, the fourth room on the northern extremity. Ours is two rooms down, the second room on the same wing. The first room is the Chuan Bangs [Sichuan Gang] Fan Zhuo and Ba Mengs [Sichuan Alliance] Monkey King Feng Zhen. In the third room are several younger generations of the famous and influential families in Chengdu. It is really lively tonight.

    You Niaojuan spoke in low voice, Did Fan Zhuo and Feng Zhen know that Bian Bufu and Xi Ying are in the room down the hall?

    An Long sighed and said, You think I am the worm in their belly?

    But Xu Ziling cursed him inwardly; An Long practically had made up his mind to deal with Bian Bufu, hence he knew which room to book. Otherwise, even if Wen Gu wanted to curry his favor, she could not possibly coincidentally arrange a room just separated by another room from Bian Bufus.

    This moment the three men were following Wen Gu climbing the stairs toward the second floor. Hardening his heart, Xu Ziling said, Let Ol Yue say hello to the two old friends first.

    Both An Long and You Niaojuan were from demonic school; since they were young they were accustomed to licking the blood from the saber blade. When things come to a head, they would automatically throw all apprehensions. They figured that if by using the ten-thousand-catty-thunderbolt tactic they were able to kill the two men in one move, it would be extremely ideal.

    Nodding his head, An Long said, It would be best to lure them to fight in the garden. This way it would be very difficult for other people to intervene. We will watch your back for you.

    It should be noted that such a famous-throughout-the-country brothel like San Hua Lou, if it was not owned by great figures of Wulin like Qiang Ba [spear overbearing] Fan Zuo or Hou Wang [monkey king] Feng Zhen, then they must be doing business under their protection.

    Supposing Xu Ziling disregarded the safety of the ladies accompanying them in the room by fighting inside the room, Fan Zhuo, Feng Zhen, and so on, definitely could not watch with folded arms, and thus they would tie an enmity with them.

    After the event, naturally Xu Ziling and You Niaojuan could simply pat their butt and steal away, but An Long, who had painstakingly put down his roots in Bashu, would gain two additional formidable opponents, who separately held leadership position of the Chuan Bang and Ba Meng for no reason at all.

    If Xie Hui was added to the equation, how could An Long make a living in Bashu?

    Being a Jianghu veteran, You Niaojuan leaned close to An Long and said, Why dont you go say hello to Feng Zhen and the others first? They cant possibly have too good of an opinion on Xi Ying and Bian Bufu?

    Smiling wryly, An Long said, Too bad they dont have too good of an opinion on me either.

    Wen Gu just opened the door. With a smile on her face she welcomed them, saying, Three Da Laoban, please come in.

    Xu Ziling took a deep breath, and strode past Wen Gu toward the north wing.

    While Wen Gu was stunned, An Long pulled her by the waist, and took her into the room in his embrace.

    Focusing his power in his ears, immediately Xu Ziling was able to hear everything in the four rooms of the west wing. Recognizing Bian Bufus laughter, he would be lying if he said that he was not nervous. The previous night, when he refused Shi Feixuans offer for assistance, and resolutely decided to go with single spear and horse [idiom: single-handedly] to deal with Xi Ying, he was actually letting his emotions affecting his decisions a little bit. However, recalling Ba Fenghans heroic passion and powerful air in challenging Qu Ao for battle, his heart felt relieved.

    If he did not put himself in that kind of nine deaths and still alive [idiom: narrow escape] situation, how could he make a breakthrough in the martial way?

    Xu Ziling stopped and stood in front of the north rooms door. Before he knocked on the door, a gentle and sweet-sounding, deep and low, pleasant to listen to male voice came from inside the room, Which friend has come here?

    Inside the room suddenly grew so quiet that even the sound of falling pin could be heard, but the neighboring room seemed to grow warmer and noisier.

    Xu Ziling shivered inwardly.

    While walking here, he was certain that he did not make any sound, yet this person, who ought to be Xi Ying was still able to sense his presence. From this, he knew how superior Xi Yings martial art skill was.

    Just as he was about to push the door, the door opened automatically; greeting him was a pair of severely fierce eyes, flashing with demonic light. Xi Ying was wearing scholar-style black clothes from head to toe. He was tall and thin, his face looked refined in manner, his bearing elegant. There was a smile hanging on his fair-skinned, lean face, without any sign of excitement of seeing Yue Shan suddenly appeared before his eyes.

    Uninformed people might regard him as a weak middle-aged scholar; but if they looked clearly at the pair of distinct eyes under his thick eyebrows, they would see the sinister and cruel, fierce rays of light. The pupil of his eyes even emitted a ring of purple light, eerie and terrifying.

    Bian Bufu was sitting on the other side; each man had their arm around a woman sitting on their lap, teasing and having fun with each other. Xu Zilings eyes swept pass Bian Bufu before returning to Xi Ying. With his hands behind his back, he laughed coldly and said, Xi Ying, you are not dead yet?

    At first the two women thought that Xi and Bian, two mens old friend has come to visit, so their faces were full of smile; but when they looked clearly, they saw Yue Shans serious countenance and gloomy and cold expression, and then listened to his remark, which was brimming with challenging overtone, they knew it was not a peaceful situation. They were so frightened that they suddenly went quiet; their flowery countenance lost its color.

    In the adjacent room, the warm, noisy atmosphere subsided. Evidently they became aware of the unusual situation happening over here. Naturally there was no sound coming from An Longs room either. And then, even Feng Zhen and Fan Zhuo, two men also ceased their conversation, so that the entire west wing was immediately filled with an unusually quiet atmosphere.

    Xi Ying laughed calmly and said, Old Yue, didnt you say you wanted to see Xiaodi at the third watch of the night [11pm-1am]? And now you came like this disrupting Xiaodis keen interest; arent you being impatient to live a couple of sichen longer?

    Xu Ziling casually stepped into the room and walked straight toward the big window on Xi Yings left, to face the evening breeze, brimming with the taste of autumn. Gazing at the spacious wooded garden full of flowers and plants below, he smiled and said, Ol Yue is not impatient at all, rather, I have been painfully thinking about you. Since we parted forty years ago at Longxi [county in Dingxi, Gansu], I have had no opportunity to reminisce with Xi Xiong. This time we meet again, I just hope that Xi Xiongs Ziqi Tian Luo will not disappoint Ol Yue. Otherwise, Ol Yues Huan Ri Da Fa would have been mastered in vain!

    Bian Bufu shook his head and said with a laugh, Even though you, Yue Laoer [lit. old kid] mastered Huan Ri Da Fa, your dead character still has not changed; you only love to brag. Anybody knows that Huan Ri Da Fa is just a small plaything of Tianzhus dissenting religious sect. Perhaps it could heal your injury, but because you always take vastly different approach in your walk, it would make your power decline substantially. Were it not for Zhangmen Shijie [martial art (older) sister, head of a sect] saw through this point, how could she let you leave Luoyang alive?

    Remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, Xi Ying lightly slapped the girl, who was sitting on his lap, on her plump buttocks, indicating he wanted her to leave, before stretching his muscle and bones and said with a laugh, Remembering your, Old Yues painstaking effort, let me send you off tonight, so that you can meet your wife and child soon.

    Xu Ziling looked up at the night sky; a righteous indignation was welling up in his heart, out of sympathy toward the real Yue Shan. The little bit of trepidation in his heart vanished without any shadow, without any trace.

    Speaking about age, Yue Shan ought to be more than ten years Xi Yings senior. When he made his name, Xi Ying had just made his debut. Because his school was having a little bit of grudge against Yue Shan, he paid Yue Shan a visit and challenged him to a battle, and was barely defeated by just one move. Harboring resentment in his heart, unexpectedly he took the opportunity while Yue Shan was away from home to kill his family with brutal means, thereupon sowing deep enmity between them.

    Taking a deep breath, Xu Ziling slowly said, Tonight, if you dont die, then I perish. Let Ol Yue see whether your purple eye and fiery eyeballs heavenly mesh demonic skill have been trained so that you can preserve your two little lives.

    Before Xi Ying and Bian Bufu had any chance to retort, from the southern end of the wing came a deep and heroic voice, saying, This is untalented [me (humble)] Chuan Bangs Fan Zhuo. May I ask whether speaking over there are Yue Bazhu [overlord/hegemon, or simply overbearing master] Yue Shan and the Heavenly Lord Xi Ying Xianxiong [virtuous brother]?

    Another voice continued, The other friend, if Feng Zhen did not guess incorrectly, ought to be Bian Bufu, Bian Xiong? We are honored by your presence in Chengdu, but why didnt you say hello to us? At least let us do the honors to act as the host.

    Fan Zhuo and Feng Zhen were both awe-inspiringly-resounding-across-eight-directions-around-Bashu-Wulin names; but to Xi Ying and Bian Bufu, demonic schools martial art masters whose name shook the world, other than Xie Hui, they did not care about anybody else in Bashu. They just looked at each other, and broke into a disdainful laugh.

    Xu Ziling responded, Two gentlemens guess is not incorrect; please forgive Yue Shan for being rude, tonight is about personal gratitude and grudges, two gentlemen please stay out of it, Ol Yue will be extremely grateful.

    Letting out a cold sneer, Xi Ying said, Yue Laotou, since when did you become this polite and courteous?

    Fan Zhuos voice laughed coldly and said, Yue Bazhu, please dont worry, Bashu Wulin still have a little bit of patience left.

    An Longs voice rang out, Xi Xiong, Bian Xiong, how are you? Xiaodi An Long sincerely paying my respects.

    His countenance did not change, Bian Bufu laughed aloud and said, Turns out An Long Dage also came to enjoy the excitement; you want to see with your own eyes the tragic end of our generation saber overbearing [Dao Ba] Yue Laoer? I thought you were shrinking back into your fat shell, like a turtle shrinking its head without saying a word.

    You Niaojuan has been stalling for time, and now, with his trademark gloomy voice and delicate breathing he responded, It is Bian Xiongs dead character that has not changed. This time Yue Xiong reentered the Jianghu, how could he without the slightest bit of confidence? Which one is boasting shamelessly, well find out as soon as you fight. Ha! Not only Bian Xiong is pitiful, you are ridiculous as well.

    The purple light in Xi Yings pair of eyes flared out, but for the first time that night Bian Bufu revealed a grave expression. Pushing the trembling-in-fear-from-head-to-toe pretty lady in his embrace away, he signaled Xi Ying with his eyes.

    Xi Ying slightly nodded his head. Looking at the standing-across-one-table-and-one-chair Yue Shan, who was looking outside the window, he spoke indifferently, Where does Yue Xiong want to fight?

    Throwing his head back, Xu Ziling let out a long laughter, and leaped out of the window, and landed on a piece of grassy land in the middle of San Hua Luos garden.

    Xi Xiong, please! he spoke unhurriedly.

  3. #303
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 25 Chapter 10

    Chapter 10 Revitalization of Prestige

    It was when the Heavenly Lord Xi Ying landed on the grass that Xu Ziling realized that Xi Ying was very tall, more than a cun taller than he was, plus his imposing manner was intimidating; with his two legs supporting him on the ground, there was quite a mountain-top, highest-peak bold and powerful imposing disposition, the gentle and weak scholar impression was gone.

    The mysterious appearance with which he was standing was very peculiar; even though he was standing as steady as a mountain, there was also a strange impression that he might drift to a certain position at any time.

    On the scroll that Yue Shan left behind, there was a detailed reference about Xi Yings demonic schools brilliant skill of Purple Cloud Heavenly Mesh; otherwise Xu Ziling would not have known that when this demonic power has been successfully mastered, the practitioner would appear to have purple eyes and fiery eyeballs.

    Purple Cloud [orig. purple qi] did not refer to the color of the true qi at all; rather, it referred to the skin pigment when the power was activated, hence it was called purple qi.

    The most formidable aspect of the Purple Cloud Heavenly Mesh was that when the power was at its peak, the released power was able to form layer upon layer of nets of qi all around the enemy like woven cloth, constricting the opponent like the fish in the net, so that it would be difficult to escape death.

    If Xi Ying had really been able to train to the highest level where he could spread the net according to his wishes, then he would be the first person who mastered the Ziqi Tian Luo in nearly three hundred years.

    Although in the scroll that he left behind Yue Shan theorized on all kinds of method to defeat the Purple Cloud Heavenly Mesh, yet even he himself did not have any confidence that it would work; let alone when he and Xi Ying fought, Xi Yings Ziqi Tian Luo has not been mastered yet.

    Xu Ziling was sizing Xi Ying up; Xi Ying was also examining him carefully, by walking and stopping around him, increasing the threat and the pressure indefinitely.

    Practically Xu Ziling was not afraid Xi Ying would attack from behind. Relying on his spirited and acute senses, he would immediately feel it and come up with counterattack.

    On all four rooms of the west wing, the windows were full of shadows; nobody wanted to miss this life and death decisive battle between the top martial art masters of Jianghu.

    After two complete circles, Xi Ying stopped right in front of Yue Shan, with a hint of disdainful smile leisurely escaping from the corner of his mouth. The purple light on his eyes growing stronger, yet the tone of his voice was surprisingly calm. Shaking his head and sighing, he said, Since Ol Xi made a breakthrough in the Ziqi Tian Luo, the number of those who can stand as my opponent really can be counted on ones fingers. Yet even though Ol Xi knew that Yue Xiong is still in the world of the living, Yue Xiong does not have enough qualifications to be ranked among them. However, a figure like Yue Xiong dropping by to give Ol Xi an opportunity to test my moves, Ol Xi is still extremely grateful.

    From the purple qi emitted by his eyes, Xu Ziling was able to confirm that Xi Yings internal energy was of a common origin, yet different from Zhu Yuyans Tianmo Da Fa [demonic great method].

    When Tianmo Da Fa was executed, it would create a vacuum-like phenomenon. But Xi Yings Ziqi Tian Luo was just the opposite; with Xi Ying at the center, the qi power was swelling in wave motion, as if space was unceasingly expanding.

    Actually, when Xi Ying was circling twice around Xu Ziling, it was extremely deliberate. On one hand, he was feeling out the opponents real situation and seeking for any gap to exploit; on the other hand, he was luring the opponent to make the first move. Who would have thought that although Xu Ziling did not make any hand pose, in essence, the true qi within his body was already forming the Great Vajra Chakra pose; as steady as Mount Tai. Although he did neither attack nor defend, the fact was that he did not reveal the slightest amount of gap.

    Hearing Xi Ying said that, he laughed hoarsely and said, Xi Xiong, you are arrogant and conceited, and that still hasnt changed. You need to take this move first before expressing your gratitude!

    Under the eyes of everybody upstairs looking down, Xu Ziling slowly raised his hand. He started with his five fingers open, and then slowly closing the hand into a fist. In a split second he created a condensing qi that rose violently like a river and mountain peak.

    Such martial art, not only it was never seen, it was never even heard of.

    For the first time that night Xi Ying showed a grave expression.

    Only he could understand that the opponents every move was targeted at the marvelous move of his Ziqi Tian Luo.

    Just now, when he was bragging that Yue Shan did not have qualifications to be his opponent, he was not being arrogant and conceited at all; rather, he intentionally wanted to provoke the usually hot-tempered and ruthless Yue Shan to make his move, so that he would fall into his trap.

    Purple Cloud Heavenly Mesh could be compared to weaving spider web using qi; whenever a prey bump into the web, the more it struggled, the tighter it would be entangled inside the web; it was weird and sinister to the extreme point.

    If the opponent grabbed the initiative by attacking first, Xi Ying might lure the opponent to have a free hand in violent attack, and then he would spit out a thread of power, using soft to control hard, until the opponent had his hands and feet bound, having power but unable to unleash it, and only then would he kill the enemy in one move.

    How could he know that Yue Shan, who seemed to become another person altogether, appeared to be able to see through his mind, so that in this one move he seemed to be on the offensive yet not exactly attacking, he seemed to be in the defensive, yet not exactly defending; he appeared to not using the least bit of amazing stroke, yet he made Xi Ying completely lose the initiative, and momentarily was at a loss of how he ought to cope with it. Without any better option, he had to stay unmoving, waiting for a change.

    A hint of smile escaped from the corner of Xu Zilings mouth; suddenly he shouted, En garde!

    The fist closed.

    Like running water the true qi flowed through the thousand streams, a hundred rivers of the meridian and acupoints within his body, converging into a powerful current. Although he did not strike a pose of sending out a punch, an enormous, swift and fierce qi power unexpectedly shot out of his fist, heavily striking the strongest point on Xi Yings invisible, yet real Heavenly Mesh qi net; so accurate that Xi Ying was extremely shocked.

    Upstairs, no one who watched this scene unfolded was not dumbfounded. Nobody could even imagine that Xu Ziling would be able to apply his energy and send out his power like this. His entire body was like a ten-thousand-catty boulder formed entirely by true qi that was launched by a trebuchet.

    Bang!

    Qi power collided.

    Xi Yings entire body shook severely; he was pushed one step sideways.

    Xu Zilings upper body only swayed slightly, not because of his power surpassed Xi Yings, but because his power was concentrated on his fist, while Xi Yings power was distributed over a larger areas net, hence he gained the upper hand.

    Finally Xi Yings countenance changed, knowing that if he let Xu Ziling continued to take the initiative, in the end he would only fall into a one-sided situation where he could only take a beating.

    Letting out a sharp whistle, Xi Yings legs moved with strange footwork, while the purple cloud was starting to appear on his face; he drifted indeterminately several steps backward to snatch the position to the left of Xu Ziling. His right hand swiftly chopped. It looked like an ordinary, nothing special move, but everybody upstairs felt that his palm strength was as powerful as three armies storming together, carrying a no-one-can-resist potential. It did not matter who was blocking it, he could only momentarily withdraw.

    The more shocking thing happened to Xu Ziling; they saw him unexpectedly closing his eyes, and taking the palm by moving sideway, as if he already knew what would happen. His two palms coming together, all ten fingers made an exquisite, mysterious-beyond-human-comprehension movement, like a blossoming flower without yielding at all he met Xi Yings world-shaking palm chop one step ahead.

    The instant the Heavenly Lord Xi Ying evaded the fist by moving across, Xu Ziling was able to clearly grasp the movements and the shift in the central core of Xi Yings entire Heavenly Mesh Qi Net; thereupon he might as well close his eyes so that he would not be confused by his footwork, and meet this fierce-without-equal move head on.

    Boom!

    Xi Ying let out a stifled grunt and flew back, as if he was afraid that Xu Ziling might seize the opportunity to pursue and attack.

    Xu Ziling still had his upper body swayed backward, before returning to his original posture, which was as steady as Mount Tai. At the same time, he made a big decision.

    Just now he was using the Inner Bound and Outer Bound, two poses from the Jiu Zi Zhen Yan Shou Yin [nine-character incantation hand image]; first, it was to take Xi Yings qi power as is, which he channeled via his fingers and disperse it out. And then he fiercely used someones spear to attack his shield [idiom: turning a weapon against its owner, attributed to Han Feizi (c. 280 233 BC, Chinese philosopher of the Warring States period Chinese Legalist school], by piercing Xi Yings Heavenly Mesh Qi Net, which was coming to envelop his body. Even with his brilliance, Xi Yings only way out was to withdraw immediately.

    After retreating for about a zhang, Xi Ying stopped. His eyes flashing with ominous glint, he spoke coldly, What kind of ghost school way was that?

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Ziqi Tian Luo is nothing more than this; if your, Xi Yings, skill is limited to this, than this date next year will be the anniversary of your death.

    With a loud shout, he sent out a punch across the empty air.

    Upstairs, the crow and peacock made no sound; simply because until this moment, nobody was able to tell clearly which side had the upper hand.

    Seeing Xu Ziling took the initiative by sending out a punch, instead of alarmed, Xi Ying was delighted. Lifting both arms high like a giant roc spreading its wings, his ten fingers spread out and then rapidly closing together, he wrapped his arms around his own chest, while at the same time he took quick steps forward to meet the powerful wind of Xu Zilings no-stronghold-he-could-not-overcome fist momentum; this move was extremely weird.

    Letting out a long laughter, Xu Ziling said, You fell into the trap!

    Abruptly he pulled his fist back; the fist turned into a palm, the palm turned into fearless image. The qi power, in spiraling manner, was pulled back into the hollow of his palm, forming a vacuum similar to the Tianmo Gong.

    He stole this technique from Wanwan. That night at the Da Shi Temple, relying on Tianmo power, Wanwan not only made Yang Xuyan not daring to press his attack, she also seized the opportunity to pursue and attack An Long, storming at him so that he escaped in panic.

    But were it not for on the plank walkway the other night this jiejie [older sister] transmitted her power via his channels to deal with You Niaojuan, he would not be able to grasp the profound mystery within it.

    Now with the true energy force field formed by his spiraling power, although compared to demonic-and-weird, exquisite-and-amazing Tianmo Da Fa with its countless changes was still a few notches inferior, it was actually just right, like the right medicine prescribed for a certain illness; it was just right to control Xi Yings full-forced strike.

    Xi Ying was just unleashing the Ziqi Tian Luo by utilizing both hands to weave thousands of fine threads crisscrossing each other to form the Tian Luo net of qi, which he drew out toward the opponent.

    This formless net not only could withstand the fist wind and palm power from the opponent, it could also receive and send energy from his core, which could change shape at any time.

    As he gathered his power in his arms, the Heavenly Mesh was pulled together into big and small qi power like wheels, striking horizontally across at Xu Ziling, with the intention of cutting apart the power of his punch, and giving Xu Ziling a heavy blow. Suddenly the Heavenly Mesh qi power became a void without any strength. But the one thing that shocked him the most was that unexpectedly the wheels of qi were unable to maintain their original state, because they were sucked by the powerful vortex of energy generated by the opponents palm image, so that the round wheels were pulled into ovals, and then into strips, which, in turn, were pouring down in torrents into the hollow of the opponents palm.

    Xi Yings soul flew away and scattered; hurriedly he pulled his power back, and his retreat this time was even more awkward than the last time.

    Inwardly Xu Ziling cried, What a close call! If Xi Ying had not misunderstood his using Tianmo Gong and still used the original style without changing anything to meet Xu Zilings palm strike head on, based on Xi Yings demonic power level, which, by this time was still at least one notch above Xu Zilings, as well as that Xu Ziling did not know how to suck energy and borrow energy as he wished like Wanwan, Xu Ziling would have suffered big loss to some degree.

    Fortunately, Xi Ying was very cooperative; instead of advancing, he retreated. How could Xu Ziling be willing to miss this golden opportunity? Letting out a long laughter, like a shadow-following-a-shadow, he followed Xi Ying closely behind to press down the attack.

    None of the spectators was able to see clearly, but anyone could see that instead of attacking, Xi Ying was retreating, and hence lost the initiative.

    Bang!

    After all, Xi Ying was a grandmaster of the demonic school; after retreating for a zhang or so, he swept back to attack Xu Ziling from the side. Both combatants were using exquisite, abstruse technique in a desperate exchange of moves.

    The two men suddenly separated, so that once again they were standing face-to-face.

    The spectators nervously watching the battle found it difficult to breathe, all because each flutter of the two mens clothes, each brush of their sleeves, carried full strength, devastating qi power, ready for the next earth-shattering offensive.

    Xi Ying shouted sternly, I am afraid what Yue Xiong used just now is not Huan Ri Da Fa?

    Xu Ziling laughed slyly and said, Actually, whatever skill, whatever method, please forgive Ol Yue since it is not convenience to divulge. May I ask, currently, how much confidence does Xi Xiong have that you will win?

    Upstairs, An Long laughed heartily and said, Old Xi, no need to make an exception by telling the truth!

    You Niaojuan also let out a mocking, weird-sounding laugh.

    Such battle outcome was indeed greatly beyond the two mens expectation.

    Xu Ziling cried, Lucky! inwardly. Were it not for him taking risk by imitating Tianmo force field and was successful, the result would be different.

    Instead of being angry, Xi Ying laughed. His palms fluttered like butterfly passing through the flower, fantastically filling the air with palm shadows, along with the footwork stepping forward, completely enshrouding Xu Ziling with hiding-the-sky-and-covering-the-earth attack, with gossamer of qi blanketing the space within two zhang radius. It was powerful and overbearing to the extreme point.

    The skin of all the parts of his body exposed outside his clothes was imbued with purple qi, giving people stronger impression of the weird and magical character of his Tian Luo demonic skill.

    Although he was in perilous situation due to the opponents full-strength attack, Xu Zilings, whose hands were performing the motionless JinGang [Vajra] image mind was approaching the see-through and quick-witted realms like the moon in the well, not moved by the opponent the slightest bit.

    The instant several strands of gossamer of qi attacking his body, he swiftly slid across, while launching three palm chops and one fist strike onto an empty air.

    No matter how rich Xi Yings imagination was, he had never imagined that Xu Ziling would deal with his Ziqi Tian Luo with this kind of technique.

    Ziqi Tian Luos most formidable aspect was that the gossamer of true qi could go round to attack the enemy from any angle. Xu Zilings three palm chops seemed to hack down on totally unrelated empty spaces, but they actually cut off his three streams of gossamer of energy. The last punch actually rendered a heavy blow onto the strongest point of his palm momentum, entirely sealing his retreat path.

    Xi Ying suddenly realized that he could no longer understand the depth of the attainments of this old friend standing in front of his eyes. Formerly, Yue Shan has never been this creative, with improvised moves like a heavenly steed soaring across the skies like this.

    Bang!

    Vortex of energy shot out. Slow at first, but quickly becoming fast, accurately drilling its way into Xi Yings meridians. This move was even more beyond Xi Yings expectation. Immediately, because his hastily released Heavenly Mesh qi power was penetrated by Xu Ziling, it was difficult to concentrate the power on his palm to protect himself, his five viscera immediately received serious injury.

    Under the spectators unblinking gaze, Xi Ying staggered and fell back, his awe-inspiring authority immediately vanished.

    Xu Ziling inwardly cried, What a close call! He had already taken out all the skills that he had kept at the bottom of his trunk and had been giving it his all to deal with Xi Ying. His only unfair advantage was that the opponent only knew Yue Shan and did not know anything about Xu Ziling.

    The first one was Zhen Yan Shou Yin [true statement (incantation) hand image], followed by an imitation of the Tianmo Da Fa, Yijian Technique, and the last one was looking-a-cun-out-of-the-doorway Secret to Long Life and Jade Annulus of He Clans spiraling-wonder-energys one move to subdue the enemy. If Xi Ying were able to neutralize it just like he did a moment ago, it would be Xu Ziling who would be receiving the beating. Then naturally the end would be much different.

    His spirit was greatly aroused, Xu Ziling pressed on the attack from all sides. For a period of time his fist power and palm wind permeated the battleground. Xi Ying, who had already lost the key moment, immediately fell into disadvantageous defensive position, where not only he was unable to unleash Tian Luo net of qi, he must use thousand ways, a hundred plans to protect his own little life. In such a close-quarter combat situation, he had to passively ward off Xu Zilings seemingly-clumsy-but-was-actually-ingenious, not-leaving-any-traces, brimming-with-foresight-aggressiveness violent attacks and fierce strikes.

    None of the spectator was not moved.

    The sound of qi power clashing against each other rang out incessantly. Enhancing the sinister nature of this battle was that the two shadows were alternately advancing and retreating in endless violent battle. Everybody watching was overcome with a feeling that their breathing could not flow freely.

    In this close-quarter hand-to-hand combat, the two men had to use speed to defeat speed, to counter every move. Under this kind of circumstances, Xi Ying suffered more disadvantages. The problem was that Xu Zilings moves were basically without any specific palm techniques; every single move was unleashed in passing, created just in response to the situation. Plus his true qi was changeable, so that under this kind of attack, Xi Ying could only display less than fifty-percent of Ziqi Tian Luos formidable power, hence he was unable to turn the tide.

    Boom!

    Two mens four palms collided, both men retreated backward, but their fierce gaze was tightly locked at each other.

    Bian Bufu thought that Xi Ying was going to snatch the initiative back. Good! he shouted loudly.

    Xu Ziling laughed calmly and said, How does Huan Ri Da Fa taste like?

    The pit of Xi Yings stomach suddenly moved up and down violently; he ferociously said, You are not

    How could Xu Ziling let him finish saying, You are not Yue Shan? His hand made Great Sun Chakra image, astonishing qi power sliced the air, promptly cutting off the rest of the sentence already hanging at the tip of Xi Yings tongue.

    Xi Ying roared and risking his life by blocking it with all his might.

    Bang!

    The shadows suddenly separated.

    Xu Ziling was back to his original place, standing as steady as a lofty mountain. [Translators note: play of words here. Yue Shan literally means highest peak mountain.]

    As if he was drunk, Xi Yings face turned completely scarlet, as he tumbled back and spun around. Those with superior eyesight could see his fatal injury, which came from Xu Zilings heavy kick on his lower abdomen.

    Bang!

    Another crashing noise came from upstairs. Bian Bufu broke the window and flew out; and just like that he fled in the direction of the courtyards wall. How could An Long and You Niaojuan be willing to let him go? They also shot out of the window to run after him.

    Xu Zilings pair of tiger-eyes was still fixed on Xi Ying; he did not dare to relax at all. Immediately he transferred his qi to treat his own internal injury, which could not be called light either.

    This nearly impossible thing was after suffering untold hardships finally accomplished.

    There was a sudden rustling noise as two figures leaped down onto the garden, and completely sealed Xi Yings escape route. Obviously they were afraid he still had some strength left.

    Without turning around, Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, What advice does Feng Mengzhu [alliance leader] have for me?

    Feng Zhen came to his side and said with a smile, Yue Lao is too polite! Xiaodi just want to know whether Yue Lao will stay over in Chengdu for a couple more days. If so, would you give Xiaodi and Fan Xiong the honor to act as the host?

    Xu Ziling replied indifferently, Two gentlemens kindness, Ol Yue appreciate it wholeheartedly! Its just that this person has never been good in social niceties; besides, I have another important matter to attend to. Please forgive me for failing to accompany you.

    Finished speaking, he leaped over the wall and left.

  4. #304
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    Default Book 25 Chapter 11

    Chapter 11 Touring the Three Gorges

    By daybreak, the villagers fleeing the disaster gradually returned. Seeing their village was safe and sound, everybody was elated.

    The Li ethnic young girl peeked through the window and saw Kou Zhong was having a good dream; she did not disturb him and let him stay in the dreamland.

    Kou Zhong was actually awake; he was happy to enjoy the peaceful and quiet thatched hut, pondering over who might the martial art master who killed Cui Jixiu and the others be?

    There was a commotion outside. Kou Zhong was startled; he sprang up and rushed out with the saber in his hand, and saw that everybody was starting to flee in confusion.

    With a frightened expression on her face, the young girl was running along with the other villagers toward the mountain area, while shouting at him, The pirates are back!

    While Kou Zhong was still bewildered over what was happening, the villagers have left until not a single one remaining.

    Kou Zhong wondered if they were Cui Jixius reinforcement coming to invade the area. But then he thought that Ouyang Qians Li Liao warriors were still in the neighboring village; they could not possibly let Lin Shihongs thief army get away with it. Thereupon he decided to go to the beach to take a look.

    Passing through a forest, the ocean ahead extended as far as the eye could see, under the bright sunlight filling the whole sky. Sure enough, he saw a ship cruising along the coastal area.

    Focusing his attention to look, Kou Zhong let out a shriek, and threw himself toward the beach, while at the same time letting out a long whistle.

    Surprisingly, it was Bu Tianzhis modified warship.

    By the time Kou Zhong jumped onto the deck, Bu Tianzhi hugged him fiercely, while the rest of their men surrounded the two with thunderous cheers.

    Laughing heartily, Kou Zhong asked, Are you all right?

    Everybody replied in chorus, We are all right!

    Grabbing his shoulder, Bu Tianzhi chuckled and said, Although we know those Gaoli people could not do something to Shao Shuai, we were anxious for two days and two nights.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, This is called the Heaven helped me. Were it not for that storm, which came just in time, to whom the deer falls [i.e. the victor] was yet to be seen. But now that Jin Zhengzongs multi-decked ship has turned to, at least, half dead deer, they must have been praying that Haishen Yeye [grandfather Emperor of the Sea] would bless and protect them.

    Everybody howled in laughter; the atmosphere was blazing.

    Kou Zhong raised his arm and shouted loudly, Brothers! We immediately depart for Lingnan.

    The crowd erupted in thunderous cheer.

    When Xu Ziling awoke, the morning sun was already three poles high.

    After going through full four sichen of regulating his breathing, the injury due to the battle against Xi Ying has disappeared without any trace. His heart was overwhelmed with emotion.

    Since leaving Yangzhou and living a life as fugitives to the other end of the world, from two noisy, nameless kids, he and Kou Zhong have joined forces to assassinate Ren Shaoming, revealing their outstanding talent in the process, to the present day, where, in one-on-one duel, he made one of the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Way, the Heavenly Lord Xi Ying give up his soul while nursing a grievance. As for the bizarre twists and turns in this matter, perhaps ten days and ten nights would not be enough to tell everything, not to mention it was difficult to explain.

    Last night, under pressure from Xi Ying, he fused and linked up all gongfa, especially during the final hand-to-hand close combat, he started with the Bloody Battle Ten Styles taught by Li Jing, and alternately used Tu Shufangs Severing Meridian Technique and Zhen Yans Handprints, to create strange moves. By the time the battle reached its peak, all the moves melted into one; where his mind went, his hand followed. This kind of carefree, pleasing and beautiful feeling, was extremely touching.

    This incomparably hard-to-defeat opponent has enabled him to make an important breakthrough in the cultivation of the martial way.

    Suddenly remembering his appointment with Hou Xibai, he hastily took off his Yue Shan mask, put on his long robe, and incarnated into the Scar Face Guest Gong Chenchun. Leaving the rear courtyard of someones house where he had been hiding, he went to the appointed meeting place at a restaurant on the Lower Lotus Pond Street. Most of the traveling merchants and tourists who came to Chengdu for the Mid-Autumn Festival have not left town, hence the city was still unusually flourishing.

    If Luoyang was called the melting pot city and county where the Han and non-Han people coexist, then Chengdu was the commerce center where the Han people deal with all different ethnic groups. It was brimming with variety of ethnic groups local conditions and customs and distinguishing features, which increased the brisk vitality and the atmosphere of Chengdu.

    Hidden behind the scar-faced mask, naturally Xu Zilings sex appeal was reduced substantially, but due to his proud, tall and straight elegant body shape, he still attracted a few coquettish glances.

    But Xu Zilings mind was only on the thought about his immediate departure; after meeting his appointment with Hou Xibai, he already made up his mind to leave Sichuan immediately, and then let the events of these last few days grow into an increasingly distant past. Shi Qingxuans seemingly passionate yet heartless toward him has rendered a big blow on his heart.

    When he was under pressure and facing threats, he was able to cast her aside and not think about her. But like right now, when his heart was not occupied with other matters, inevitably it drifted to the scenes that recalled past memories, so much so that he was afraid he could not hold back from looking for her again, miserably trying to see if there might be a turn for the better.

    Shi Qingxuan was unlike Shi Feixuan, who, from the very beginning has already raised her banner of not setting foot into the passion between a man and a woman. Presently, the most moving moment for him was the breathtaking sensation when he had just arrived at Chengdu, where he caught a glimpse of her graceful figure under the lantern light, the scene that was still lingering on his mind until now.

    He did not wish to be bothered by man-woman feeling anymore, and the only way was to go far away as quickly as possible.

    In Chengdu, there were many streets named after rivers, lakes and bridges, like the one he was currently walking along, the Lower Lotus Pond Street. And then there was the one he passed through just now, the Princely Dyke Street, Bluestone Bridge Street, Arching-Back Bridge Street, Kings Belt Bridge Street, and so on. Upon reaching the street, one would know that very soon one would cross over the bridge with the same name; it was a very fascinating feeling.

    When the destination was in sight, Hou Xibais voice calling out from a small alley, Gong Xiong, over here!

    Following the voice, Xu Ziling entered the alley, and saw Hou Xibai looking like he had spring breeze across his face. Astonished, he asked, Has Hou Xiong made a breakthrough in the Bu Si Yin Fa?

    Hou Xibai warmly pulled his elbow to take him to the other side of the alley, saying, You could say that. Last night Xiaodi saw Feixuan; we chatted for the whole sichen, I benefited a lot, naturally my mood could not go wrong.

    Xu Ziling thought, So thats what happened, it looked like Shi Feixuan was pretty good to him. Smiling, he said, In that case, I should congratulate Hou Xiong. Arent we going into the building [orig. lou, multi-story building; perhaps he was referring to San Hua Lou]?

    Frowning deeply, Hou Xibai said, Xiaodi was entangled by that crafty and unruly woman Fan Caiqi until I nearly lose my life; I will absolutely not show my face in public place. Did Ziling know that Xi Ying is dead?

    Putting on an act, Xu Ziling blurted out, What?

    Exhaling slowly, Hou Xibai said, This could be the most sensational affair in Wulin for the past few years. Last night, the returning-to-the-fray-after-a-period-of-inactivity Overbearing Saber Yue Shan, under escort of An Long and You Niaojuan, broke Xi Yings Ziqi Tian Luo, and killed Xi Ying on the spot. According to eyewitness, Yue Shans Huan Ri Da Fa was extremely brilliant; without moving a blade he managed to take care Xi Ying, who considered himself unexcelled in the world. Ziling no longer need to have a headache in dealing with Xi Ying!

    Even with his simple character, hearing that, inwardly he was proud of his achievement. However, naturally on the surface he still put an act and did not show his bursting breast; on the contrary, he repeatedly inquired on what happened, until finally he took the opportunity to say, Xiaodi has nothing else to do in Chengdu, I want to leave immediately. Someday, if we are brought together by fate, I will drink and chat with Hou Xiong again.

    Stunned, Hou Xibai asked, Why does Ziling look like you are so anxious to leave? Why not stay a day or half a day longer? Its rare that I dont have anything important to do, let Xiaodi act as a guide to take Ziling to tour the Cong Hua Xi [lit. gurgling flower creek] in the western suburbs, to leave a beautiful memory before you go.

    Shaking his head, Xu Ziling said, I am anxious to leave because of my appointment with Kou Zhong.

    Cutting him off, Hou Xibai laughed freely and easily, Since Ziling insist on leaving, let Xiaodi send you off then. You were entering Sichuan via the plank walkway going around the mountain, why not leaving Sichuan via the Three Gorges [of Yangtze River: Qutang, Wuxia, and Xiling Gorges]? Xiaodi will arrange everything.

    Xu Zilings heart was moved; the beauty of nature attracted him more than any other things, naturally he nodded his agreement.

    At dusk, the sailboat caught a tail wind, their speed doubled as they cross the South China Sea.

    Coming to Kou Zhongs side, who was standing on the bow, Bu Tianzhi said, The land on the far right is Hepu County; the big island on the left is Zhuya County, which is also Nanhai Pais [South (China) Sea Sect] base camp.

    Kou Zhong cheerfully said, No wonder people say that reading ten thousand scrolls of book is not as good as traveling ten thousand li of road; they also say that seeing something for oneself is better than hearing about it from others. It does not matter how well you guys described the scenery of Lingnan, it was not as good as the scene before my eyes right now. Hey! That kind of five-zhang tall trees, what are they called? The shape is very strange.

    Bu Tianzhi replied, Those are coconut trees, Zhuyas regional specialty. Evergreen across the four seasons, and the whole tree is a treasure. The trunk can be used to build houses, the fruits have abundant meat and plenty of juice, the shells can be made into various kinds of household utensils, they can even be used to resist the sea breeze.

    Gazing into the distance, Kou Zhong could only see coconut trees densely lining up the island shore, tree shadows swaying in the wind, an expanse of thick green scenery, producing rustling noise from the breeze, in cadence with the sound of the waves lapping the shore. Under the twilight sun, a few would doubt that it was the celestial scenery in the human world, an out-of-the-world peach garden of immortality.

    Close to shore were more than a dozen fishing boats in full sail, returning to port. Just by looking at how deep the hull was in the water, one would know that they were returning from a rewarding journey.

    Beneath the rippling, clear seawater were thousand-beauty-ten-thousand-shape colorful coral reefs. Kou Zhong mused inwardly that if he was not in a hurry, he would love to dive down to explore, which certainly would bring him endless delight.

    Overwhelmed with emotion, he sighed lightly and said, Looks like Ling Shao is smarter than me. There are so many good places on earth more than enough to travel all my life, why would I want to painstakingly struggle over the world?

    With the qualifications of one with much experience, Bu Tianzhi laughed and said, Sometimes Zhi Shu is also like you, feeling burnout; but in a flash that feeling would vanish without any trace. People need to play around and rest; Shao Shuai is too tired!

    Embarrassed, Kou Zhong said, I was just making a casual remark! From Nanhai Pai, I remember a certain Huang Gongcuo. I seem to remember that the Zhangmen [headmaster] is a young and promising man; what was his name again?

    Bu Tianzhi replied, Its Mei Xun. This year he ought to be around twenty-seven, twenty-eight years old; an expert in using golden spear, the most famous martial art master of Lingnans new generation, he ranks barely second to Song Shidao. But his martial art skill is definitely not under Song Shidao. Its just that Song Ques fame for fighting prowess is too flourishing that Song Shidao, who is related to him, is also considered a tad higher.

    Curious, Kou Zhong asked, Why did Nanhai Pai and the Song Family become enemies?

    Bu Tianzhi replied, This is called one mountain cannot hide two tigers. Nanhai Pai still has a little bit of influence to the coastal counties and towns. A bit deeper inland is the Song Familys world. Tell me, how could Nanhai Pai be willing to accept that?

    Greatly interested, Kou Zhong said, Since Song Que considers himself unexcelled in the world, why didnt he go to Zhuya, beat old fellow Huang until he begs for forgiveness? Wont that settle the issue?

    Bu Tianzhi laughed involuntarily and said, Shao Shuais remark sounds like a nave big kid. Perhaps defeating Huang Gongcuo is not difficult for Song Que, but then he would become the-two-cannot-exist-together mortal enemy with Nanhai Pai; there wont be any benefit to either party. Therefore, it is still better to get along peacefully with each other.

    Kou Zhong asked, Where am I going to go ashore tonight?

    Bu Tianzhi replied, In two sichen, we are going to proceed into Qin River. Shao Shuai may go ashore at Zunhua, then continue north toward Yu River. After crossing the river, you will reach Yulin County. The Song Familys mountain city is in the western suburb of Yulin City. I have prepared a detailed map, Shao Shuai shouldnt have any difficulty in finding Song San Xiaojie [third miss].

    Kou Zhong blurted out laughing, Even Zhi Shu is teasing me!

    While Xu Ziling was sitting alone in a corner of the inns dining hall enjoying tea and getting some rest, Hou Xibai came back freely and easily. He sat down and cheerfully said, Luckily I did not disappoint you. Recently, because of the tense situation downstream, passenger ships and traveling merchants are not willing to go. Fortunately Xiaodi still have a bit of face; I went to call on the most popular Wu Jiang Bang [black river gang]. Currently, only the passenger ships that they operate are not affected by the political situation. After evening meal, Xiaodi will take Ziling to board the ship.

    Muttering to himself irresolutely, Xu Ziling said, Is it because Xiao Xian and Zhu Jies battle is getting intense?

    Hou Xibai sighed and said, Probably so! You should know better than me. Three days ago the two sides fought a hard battle on the river next to Badong. Zhu Jies entire navy died, and the loss on Xiao Xians side was also quite heavy.

    Secretly Xu Ziling guessed that most probably the warship on Xiao Xians side was under Yun Yuzhens command. Thinking about this woman, a burst of hatred and disgust welled up in his heart, while he had to admit that he was completely unable to understand her. All that she did in the past, what benefit might those things bring for her?

    Hou Xibai continued, Both Zhu Jie and Xiao Xian have sent their men to Bashu as lobbyist, hoping to, at least, have Bashus three major powers to remain neutral. Its just that the Li Clans current prestige is like the sun in the middle of the sky, so whatever they say, I am afraid in the end their work will be to no avail.

    Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, Zhu Jies lobbyist ought to be Zhu Mei. Compared to Shi Feixuan, she is like firefly compared to the sun; what kind of outcome could she possibly achieve?

    After calling the attendant and ordered some good food and drink, Hou Xibai hesitated for a moment before saying, The current situation is obvious. Those that can contend against the Li Clan in the struggle over the world, in term of strength there is Wang Shichong, Dou Jiande and Liu Wuzhou, three parties. In term of personality, there is only one.

    Stunned, Xu Ziling asked, Why did you say that?

    Hou Xibai replied, It wasnt me, rather, it was Shi Feixuans analysis. The reason why the Li Clan is able to obtain their currently favorable situation is completely due to Li Shimin being in charge of the overall situation. He is like the bright moon in the sky, the outstanding heroes [or warlords vying for supremacy] under the heavens are just the dots of starlight in the background. Although Wang Shichong, Dou Jiande and Liu Wuzhou, three sides have enough power to contend against him, but in the end, they cannot compare against Li Shimin in terms of political and military affairs, and will be defeated. Dou Jiande and Liu Wuzhou are a bit better. The former has Liu Heita, the latter has Song JinGang, both are valiant military leaders with all-around wisdom and bravery. Wang Shichong does have famous generals, but he does not know how to use them. He should be defeated the soonest, the fastest.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, This, I understand; but in term of personality there is only one, who are you referring to?

    After staring at him for half a day, Hou Xibai spoke in heavy voice, The one Feixuan was referring to, other than your good brother Kou Zhong, who else could it be?

    Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, Dont you think Shi Feixuan thinks too highly of that kid?

    Shaking his head, Hou Xibai said, Feixuan wont casually compliment just anybody. Both politics and military affairs, two aspects, are Li Shimins strong points. He is open-minded, generous in spirit, and has deep understanding on how to utilize people; a rarity since ancient times. And the only person who can strive against him is Kou Zhong. Were it not for Ziling having no intention of vying over the world, but with all your might you are helping Kou Zhong, I am afraid Li Shimin will end up nursing a grievance.

    Xu Ziling blurted out laughing and said, Hou Xiong must not flatter us too much; the two of us just happen to be present at the right time! Looking at the current situation, we practically cannot have any accomplishment.

    Hou Xibai laughed and said, Frankly, at that time my response to Shi Feixuans high assessment toward Kou Zhong was similar to yours; she was only smiling, but did not say anything. Obviously she has strong conviction of her own opinion.

    Xu Ziling pondered for a moment, and then asked, Can I ask Hou Xiong a personal question?

    Hou Xibai calmly replied, Ziling, please speak forthrightly; I really consider you as a close friend.

    Meeting his gaze, Xu Ziling slowly said, In your capacity as the direct disciple and heir of Hua Jian Pai, what expectation does your esteemed master have over you? In any case, it couldnt be just for the intoxicating song and wonderful dance, and consideration for ladys chamber and passion, a life of wine-jar first and flowers next, could it?

    Laughing in spite of himself, Hou Xibai said, Ziling must not laugh at me, because I am extremely in admiration and am engrossed in this kind of lifestyle. However, my pursuit is not the outer beauty of things, rather, it is the charm, grace and personality traits. Only by this will the outside and inside be identical, and will bring out the best in each other. By making that remark, Ziling is hinting that you doubt Xiaodis motive. With my character, I usually did not see any need to explain, but Ziling is an exception. Ay! I dont know how to say it.

    Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, If it is to embarrassing to mention, then you dont have to answer.

    Smiling ruefully, Hou Xibai said, Shi Shis only expectation on me ought to be the unification of Demonic Schools Two Sects Six Ways, to return the six volumes of the Tian Mo Ce [demonic policy] back into one. Tell me, under current circumstances, do you think its impossible?

    Puzzled, Xu Ziling asked, Both Hou Xiong and Cao Yinglong mentioned that there are only six volumes of Tian Mo Ce; but Shi Feixuan said that Tian Mo Ce has ten volumes in total; why is that?

    Hou Xibai replied, Tian Mo Ce originally had ten volumes, but what we inherit today are only six volumes.

    The food and wine arrived. The two toasted each other.

    Xu Ziling still did not understand, Since Hou Xiong is a demonic school disciple, how could there be so much difference with the other demonic school people? To say the least, you and Yang Xuyan are two different kind of people.

    Hou Xibai grabbed a mantou [steamed bun] and handed it over to Xu Ziling, saying, I am afraid it is a bit related to nature and nurture. Although my character and my conduct are straightforward, but because I take pleasure in various arts, like painting, for example, I have no ambition toward power, riches and honor. In fact, this is also Hua Jian Pais tradition: the pursuit of self-improvement, not to drift with the waves and go with the flow.

    Puzzled, Xu Ziling asked, In that case, why was Hua Jian Pai considered to be heretical and demonic way?

    A hint of helpless smile escaped from the corner of Hou Xibais mouth; he answered calmly, First of all, Hua Jian Pais martial art originated from the Tian Mo Ce; this is an undeniable fact, nobody can say otherwise. Secondly, because Hua Jian Pais xinfa emphasizes entering passion before getting out of passion, only then one would surpass the true meaning of attitude of the heart and grasping the passion. To a lot of people, this is precisely one hundred percent heretical and strange behavior.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, It is indeed very difficult for people to accept. If Hou Xiong appeared publicly as Wuqing Gongzi [pitiless no passion, prince (reminder: Hou Xibais nickname was Duoqing Gongzi, which literally means young master with lots of passion)], others couldnt say anything instead.

    Hou Xibai sighed and said, Our Sects xinfa is extremely subtle; it is rare that once Ziling hear it, you understand immediately. The reason why Shi Shi, using a thousand ways, a hundred plans, created the Immortal Image method was precisely to make a breakthrough in Hua Jian Pais xinfa. Otherwise, because of Bi Xiuxin, he would never be able to advance and pry into the demonic school way, he could only obtain it partially, but not wholly.

    His heart was moved, Xu Ziling asked, Hou Xiong is unable to paint Shi Feixuan on your fan, was it also because of entering passion, but unable to get out of passion?

    Shaken, Hou Xibai said, Finally Ziling could see through it. Our humble Sect wants to wander about unhurriedly among the blossoms [reminder: Hua Jian literally means among the flowers], aiming to be free and at leisure, to be passionate as well as without passion. Once the passion is made known, it can be covered for the sake of passion, it can take advantage of the demonic way for the sake of the heart. Therefore, although I could obtain only half of the Immortal Image Scroll, it is of a great significance for me.

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Time is running out! Let Xiaodi toast Hou Xiong with a cup.

  5. #305
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    Default Book 25 Chapter 12

    Chapter 12 Fated Encounter

    By the time they reached the pier, there were already several dozens of men, women, young and old waiting to board the ship. Xu ZIling still maintained his Scar-faced Guest Gong Chenchun identity to avoid unnecessary trouble.

    Knowing that Xu Ziling did not like publicity, Hou Xibai said, Xiaodi will only send Ziling off thus far; Ziling only need to give your name to the Wu Jiang Bang people onboard, then you wont have to worry about anything else. Xiaodi already paid the fare, everything has been arranged properly.

    Xu Ziling asked in passing, How could Wu Jiang Bang have so much face?

    Hou Xibai replied, Wu Jiang Bangs Sha Laoda [big boss] has more than ten years history of doing business around the Three Gorges, transporting people and goods, his credibility is outstanding. Because of its long history with Baling Bang, also because they are in charge of buying provision and arranging payments, as well as transporting the goods for Xiao Xian, they are getting on well with each other. Ziling can rest assured.

    So thats how it is, Xu Ziling said, No wonder such a big ship only has twenty, thirty passengers. Transporting cargo ought to be their main business, and the passengers are only secondary business?

    Hou Xibai laughed and said, But the real money actually comes from the passengers. Knowing that the situation may change at any moment, they only have fifteen cabins. If not a well-off passenger, it is impossible to get a bed. I went to talk directly to Sha Laoda, only then was I able to make this arrangement for Ziling.

    Patting Hou Xibais shoulder, Xu Ziling said, Thank you very much Hou Xiong for making this arrangement, Xiaodi is leaving!

    Reluctant to part, Hou Xibai said, Were it not for Xiaodi unexpectedly must train in secret to delve into the xinfa on the Immortal Image Scroll, I would definitely accompany Ziling touring the Three Gorges. Ziling, please take a good care of yourself.

    Xu Ziling shook hands with Hou Xibai to bid him farewell, and then walked over to the pier. The passengers have just started boarding the ship. Xu Ziling was at the end of the line. When he looked back, Hou Xibai has already disappeared without any trace.

    Since leaving Yangzhou, this was the first time he took long-distance passenger ship. It was a novel and fascinating feeling. What he did not understand the most was why must they sail at night? It carried some kind of fleeing from calamity impression.

    Under the flickering wind lantern, the river water appeared to be an expanse of darkness, all he could hear was the sound of the water beating against the hull and lapping the shore. The dock and the city were separated by a wooded area, all he could see was faint dots of light on the other side of the forest; it looked as if it was another world altogether.

    Other than the Wu Jiang Bangs passenger and cargo ships, moored upstream of the river were several dozen sailboats, big and small. This moment those boats were dark without any light. On such a big dock, theirs was the only ship showing any activities, with several dozen of big men continuously taking goods from the covered shed and carrying it to the ship.

    The four big men in tight warrior outfits in charge of receiving the passengers were quite polite and courteous; they even helped carrying the passengers heavy luggage on board.

    In front of Xu Ziling was a small family of three. The man appeared to be a scholar; the woman was beautiful and dignified. Both husband and wife seemed to be in their twenties, with the boy looked to be around four, five years old.

    Seeing Xu Zilings scarred face, apparently they were a bit wary, so much so that they forbade the boy to look back at him.

    Most of the other passengers were dressed like traveling merchants, in groups of three or four. Only about five or six people appeared to be Jianghu people.

    When Xu Ziling came on board and gave his name, the Wu Jiang Bang man was even more courteous; he even shouted, Chief! Gong Ye is here!

    The woman ahead of him could not resist her curiosity; she looked back to cast him a glance. Xu Ziling nodded at her and smiled. Unexpectedly it frightened her even more that she hung down her head in panic and hurriedly walked up the deck.

    Xu Ziling was accustomed to mingle around in Jianghu. He immediately thought that this family of three must be in trouble; otherwise, they would not be like a bird startled at the twang of a bow like this. He could not help secretly elevating his vigilance.

    Arriving on the deck, a short and stout man greeted him, Gong Ye, how are you, Senior? Xiaoren Lin Lang, the Xiangzhu [fragrant master] of Wu Jiang Bangs Meihua Tang [plum blossom hall]. Sha Laoda already instructed us not to neglect hospitality toward Gong Ye. Please come this way.

    Xu Ziling really wanted to tell him not to be overly courteous toward him, but realized that it would not work. Toward such a celebrity martial art master whose name was known throughout the country like Hou Xibai, naturally local gangs and societies would do their best to curry favor from him, to win a big favor from him, so that when something happened in the future, Hou Xibai would stand up for them.

    The ship was sturdy and spacious; the hold was divided into three decks, unexpectedly Xu Ziling got a single-occupancy cabin, which was beyond his expectation.

    After some chitchats and good wishes, Lin Lang left.

    Xu Ziling walked over toward the window to look out; the goods from the shed have been completely transferred to the ship. Myriads of thoughts burst in his heart. Bashu was certainly a very special place for him, yet he just wanted to leave as soon as possible, so that everything that happened here could be forgotten.

    The main reason was Shi Qingxuan, a woman who, in certain instant was able to move him into revealing his true feeling. In the end Xi Ying was killed singlehandedly by him; what would she, or perhaps Shi Feixuan, think?

    The hull shuddered, the anchor was raised and the ship started to sail.

    Suddenly there was a thunderous sound of hoof beats.

    More than dozen riders swept through the forest like a tornado, rushing toward the dock. The riders called out loudly to stop the boat.

    Obviously Wu Jiang Bang men did not know who these people were; they put the punting poles out and pushed the boat faster off the shore. They sailed downstream following the current. At first they could still see the group of riders giving chase along the shore, but in the blink of an eye the ship has left them far away behind.

    Xu Ziling has not had a good sleep for more than ten days. He went to the bed and collapsed, and was immediately entering the land of dreams.

    In the morning light, all around them strange mountain peaks, with dangerous ridges and lofty peaks, as if they were pared by a hatchet stood in great numbers. Layered rocks and piles of stones were heavy in bluish-green color; beautiful landscape appeared one after another.

    Although watching all these Kou Zhong was gasping in amazement, he knew that he had lost his way; he could not find his way toward Yulin County. Otherwise, after rushing about all through the night, it was impossible for him not to find even a shadow of a single official road.

    In this layer upon layer of mountains and overlapping rivers, among the towering mountains and precipitous ridges, finding man-made road was not an easy thing to do.

    Originally he was heading west on the northern bank along the Yu River, who would have thought that mountains and streams were in the way? He thought about making a detour to continue, but after making a few turns he came to this ahead no village was to be seen, behind there was no place with any people on it place.

    Exasperated, Kou Zhong thought he might as well climb one of the peaks. This peak towered above the range of hills. Climbing halfway, he was already enveloped by clouds and mist. There was a stream meandering among the strange-looking rocks and unusual trees. When he reached the peak, he looked to the west, and saw a fortified village about ten li away, hidden among the mountain ranges covered by the trees. There was a longwinded stone path leading to the main gate of the stronghold. There were also terraced rice fields, where the water reflected the light like luster of gems.

    It was already the end of autumn, the beginning of winter. The forest leaves had turned golden yellow. Surrounded by the mountain and embraced by the river, there was an out-of-the-world, stand-alone, oblivious-of-human-world feeling about the village.

    Watching all these, Kou Zhongs thoughts wandered far away, thinking to himself that if he did not have important matter to attend to, it would be extremely enjoyable if he could stay here for ten days or half a month. But thinking about Song Yuzhi, his hesitation was gone; he quickly rushed toward the fortified village.

    Sailing downstream following the current to the east, in just one night they already passed Meishan, Jianwei, and Luchuan, three counties. After eating breakfast provided by the ship, Xu Ziling went to the bow and stood facing the wind, enjoying the beautiful scenery along the river.

    On this section of the river, the water was deep, the current swift, and the tide was surging. Overhanging cliffs stood opposite of each other on both sides; arduous, high and steep. Following the torrential current, the sailboat carried a flowing-out-swiftly-for-thousand-li momentum.

    Seeing all these, Xu Zilings heart yearned, his spirit raced; he felt deeply that the trip has not been made in vain, so he was even more grateful to Hou Xibai for this good suggestion, thinking that if Kou Zhong were here, chatting and joking with him, it would be even more free and pleasing.

    He could not help thinking about Shi Feixuan accompanying Hou Xibai touring the Three Gorges as well, momentarily a hundred different emotions running through his heart.

    While he was still deep in thought, Lin Lang came over and said, By noon today, we will pass through Ba County. From Ba County to Badong, the section of the river is even more strategic; if we get tailwind, by nightfall tomorrow we are going to reach Zheng County, where we are going to stop over for one night. Over there, they have numerous shrines; if Gong Ye is interested, you may want to go into the city to take a look around.

    Xu Ziling asked, When are we going to enter the Gorges?

    Lin Lang replied, After Baidi City, probably about a sichen later will be the mouth of the gorge. For us who are used to seeing it, its nothing, but if this is the first time Gong Ye tours the gorge, that kind of towering mountain peaks clasping the river in between with steep terrain might make Gong Ye sigh pretty darn good.

    Xu Ziling was extremely interested; Chang Jiang [Yangtze] was like a jade belt of vast water forest, extending into the peaks of the mountain range. Nodding, he said, Before entering the gorge, the scenery is already this spectacular; after entering the gorge, naturally it will be even more worth seeing.

    Appearing to be casual, Lin Lang asked, Last night, those people who chased after us demanding to stop the boat, did Gong Ye recognize them?

    Xu Ziling was well aware that this was the real purpose of him coming to speak to him; shaking his head, he said, It has nothing to do with me. Does Lin Xiangzhu know which side those people belong to?

    Doubtful, Lin Lang replied, Xiaoren is unclear of their identity, hence I came to inquire of Gong Ye. In that case, it may be related to other guests on board. Gong Ye need not take it to heart.

    After some more pleasantries, Lin Lang took his leave to go back to his job. But the image of those young couple and the little boy floated in Xu Zilings heart.

    If those riders persevered by taking a boat to continue their relentless pursuit on their tail, then something might happen during their stop over at Zheng County tomorrow night.

    Thinking to this point, he heard the pitter-patter of footsteps from behind him. Xu Ziling looked back, and saw the little boy skipping over toward him. Hastily he reached out to catch him. Frowning, he said, Child, how could you rush around randomly on the boat?

    The child had red lips and white teeth, his features delicate; he was extremely refined and cute. Acting like a spoiled kid, he said, Bobo [uncle, older than ones dad] pick me up, Jieer wants to see.

    Sweeping his gaze around, Xu Ziling was surprised not to see the childs parents. Thinking about little Lingzhong, his heart was filled with infinite tenderness. Picking him up, he spoke softly, There, can you see now?

    Little Jies big eyes, which black and white were distinct, without the least bit of contamination of grownups muddy aura sparkled brightly as he looked around, full of curiosity.

    Xu Zilings emotion was stirred. Only a little child, with his inquisitive mind and his power of mental association would be able to see things with purity and innocence like the heart of a newborn; full of passion, and full of desire.

    Although Xu Ziling could see with his spirit, but in his heart different thoughts were surging, his mind was full of the adult worlds matter, brimming with disturbing gains and losses, far inferior to Little Jies pure and unadulterated focus and intentions.

    Light footsteps entered his ears.

    Inwardly Xu Ziling shivered slightly. This was the sound of footsteps of a woman who knew martial art.

    Sure enough, the pretty young mother came behind him and chided, Jieer, how could you be so disobedient and bother this Dashu [big uncle (younger than ones dad)]!

    Xu Ziling put Little Jie, who did not want to let off easily, down on the deck, before turning around to meet the young mother face-to-face.

    Stooping down slightly, she picked Little Jie up, hung down her head to avert his gaze, and spoke in low voice, I am so sorry, Jieer has bothered Dashu!

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Dont worry about it!

    Carried in his mothers bosom, as they walked away, Little Jie was still grinning while waving his little hand to him. Right this instant, Xu Ziling made a firm resolution that if Little Jie and his parents were in danger, he would definitely not watch with folded arms.

    The closer he was to the fortified village, the more Kou Zhong felt this places fascinating scenery, its strange beauty and serenity. A stream of river flowed from the northwest, winding its way through the middle of the fortified village, and continued to the southeast. The stockade consisted of long buildings with shingle siding scattered around on both sides of the stream in clusters of four to six houses.

    The houses located at the edge of the water or on the slope had their foundation supported by wooden pillars, forming some kind of platform, so that it looked like the house had hanging feet; very distinctive.

    The smaller stockaded village had more than a dozen households, the bigger ones had more than a hundred households; some were hidden among the trees, some were built on the cliff at higher elevation, with small path crisscrossing among the buildings.

    He had not entered the village yet, the dogs were already barking.

    A group of about a dozen Li Liao women was sitting in a circle at the entrance to the village, chatting idly while doing their embroidery work. Seeing a stranger came, they all showed alert expression.

    The bell rang.

    After his past experience, Kou Zhong did not dare to rashly enter the village. He stopped and raised his voice to call out, Anybody speak Han? I just want to ask for directions!

    Greeting him was nearly a dozen of vicious dogs, big and small, rushing toward him, but stopped at approximately a zhang away from him, while continuing to bark furiously; fortunately the dogs did not pounce straight at him.

    Maybe the men of the village were out hunting, but other than the women at the mouth of the village, he only saw old men and young children. Everybody was looking and pointing at him, as if he was some kind of a freak; obviously no one understood his words.

    Thinking that entering the village would not bring any result, but would provoke unnecessary misunderstanding instead, Kou Zhong felt that perhaps it would be better for him to rely on his own natural senses of geographical acuity to find his way.

    He was just turning around, ready to leave, when a pleasant female voice rang out behind him, Kou Zhong! What are you doing here?

    Shaken, Kou Zhong turned back. He could not believe his eyes for, standing at the village entrance, wearing tight warrior outfit, facing the wind awe-inspiringly, was Song Yuzhi, the beauty he yearned for day and night these past few days.

    When Xu Ziling was returning to his cabin, Little Jies dad was talking with Lin Lang. The latter did not stop shaking his head.

    Without thinking, Xu Ziling asked, Whats the matter?

    Little Jies dad shot a wary glance at him; evidently he did not like Xu Ziling being meddlesome and interrupted their discussion.

    Lin Lang said, Gong Ye, please help me speak reasons. When all is said and done, this ship is going to Jiujiang; which route to take, which harbor to dock, everything has been predetermined, how could we change it arbitrarily? This Mr. Han Zenan does not want to understand.

    Han Zenan spoke in distress, Its not that Zaixia did not understand, I am just asking Lin Dage for a favor to let us disembark at Bashao; thats all!

    Displeased, Lin Lang said, How many times do I have to tell you, Ba County is Chang Jiang Lians [Yangtze River Alliance] territory. We, Wu Jiang Bang recently have some disagreement with them. If we suddenly cast anchor on the shore, there will be trouble.

    Inwardly Xu Ziling was aware of whats going on, but he also knew what trick Lin Lang, this seasoned Jianghu man, was playing. In just one glance anybody would know that the riders last night were not benevolence people at all. If they caught up with them later and knew that Wu Jiang Bang had let some people off midway, they might not be willing to let the matter drop. But if Han Zenan, husband and wife, left after they cast anchor at Badong County, then Lin Lang would be able to wash his hands clean.

    This was the established rule of Jianghu; no one could refute it.

    Xu Ziling said, Let me talk to Han Xiong.

    Lin Lang respectfully said, Gong Ye is indeed very understanding.

    Finished speaking, he simply left.

    Han Zenan was so disappointed that he seemed to be losing his mind.

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Han Xiong, can we talk?

    Han Zenan glared at him angrily, and spoke coldly, There is nothing to talk.

    Just like that, he returned to his cabin.

  6. #306
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    Default Book 25 Chapter 13

    Chapter 13 Engraving Name on Whetstone

    Kou Zhong followed behind Song Yuzhi toward a big rock by the stream.

    Coming to a halt, with her back facing Kou Zhong, Song Yuzhi asked again, What are you doing here?

    Suppressing the undulating emotion in his heart, Kou Zhong spoke softly, Naturally for my Song San Xiaojie [third miss]. I came specifically to apologize.

    Song Yuzhi shook her head and said with a sigh, Kou Zhong, how could you be wading in mud and water like this, becoming a hopelessly muddled person? That day in Luoyang both of us agreed to make a clean break, so we made a clean break; henceforth we have nothing to do with each other. Beware that Yuzhi might look down on you!

    With a bitter laugh Kou Zhong said, By all means, Yuzhi must not misunderstand. This time I came here not to plead with you to renew old cordial relations!

    Snorting disdainfully, Song Yuzhi said, Dont flatter yourself [orig. stick gold on your face]! Who has had cordial relation with you? What old friendship is there to renew?

    Kou Zhong showed his natural instincts; laughing, he said, That time in Rongyang, on that small alley outside Shen Luoyans residence, didnt we have cordial relationship?

    Song Yuzhi was so angry that her large, round eyes were opened wide. She spoke furiously, Lets see if you dare to say that again!

    Kou Zhong remembered his hooligan days in Yangzhou; when someone challenged him to repeat something, and he did really repeat it, that would be the beginning of a big fight. Thereupon he busily waved his hand and said, Zhizhi, please calm down; forgive me for babbling nonsense. Hey! Back to the main point, I just want to see you again; there is no other wishful thinking.

    Song Yuzhi stared at him without blinking at all, and without speaking. She appeared to be scrutinizing his sincerity.

    The more he looked at her, the more Kou Zhong loved her. Zhizhi is losing weight? he spoke softly.

    Displeased, Song Yuzhi said, What does that have anything to do with you, Shao Shuai Kou Zhong? Speak up honestly! Why did you spare no effort in rushing to Lingnan?

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Cant we sit down and talk? Could it be that in this kind of Peach Garden Holy Land that can completely wash away the dust and the vulgarity of the world we still cannot chat civilly? Even if you dont consider me as hey! Cant you just consider me as an acquaintance whom you once met?

    After staring blankly at him for half a day, Song Yuzhi nodded and said, All right!

    She walked over to the riverbank and sat down, her pair of legs covered in boots swaying gently above the water.

    Gently and cautiously Kou Zhong sat down side by side with her, separated by about a chi of safe distance. Thinking out loud, he said, Frankly speaking, I had never intended to come to Lingnan, simply because I am well aware that Zhizhis temperament has not changed. But for some reason, under the full moon of the Mid-Autumn [Festival], suddenly my heart was filled with a strong desire, that is, before the army is defeated and the body perishes, I want to see Zhizhi one more time. This is the truth, coming from the bottom of my heart.

    The tone of his voice revealed some kind of undisguised sincerity. Hearing that, Song Yuzhis fragrant heart trembled.

    Her jet-black eyebrows lightly knitted, she said, Dont lie to me. You, Kou Shao Shuai had just recently spread out your divine power greatly; successively thwarting Yuwen Huaji and Li Zitong, seizing control of Pengcheng, Liangdu, Donghai, and the others, more than twenty cities. Even more, you broke Cao Yinglong, Xiao Xian, and Zhu Jie, three sides coalition army. Unexpectedly, opening your mouth, closing your mouth, you speak like you might suffer defeat and die any moment. Are you trying to win my sympathy?

    Kou Zhong slowly said, My current slight achievement is just like a rainbow in the sky. Although it is beautiful, not only it isnt real, it will vanish in the blink of an eye. That Li kid has already occupied Guanzhong; he also receives full support from Wulins white way [orthodox, the righteous] headed by Ci Hang Jingzhai, the heart of the people has turned toward him. My defeat is just a matter of time. If I dont see Zhizhi one more time, I, Kou Zhong, will not die with my eyes closed.

    Closing her beautiful eyes, Song Yuzhi spoke word-by-word, Since that is the case, why dont you withdraw from this whirlpool of the struggle over the world, like your good brother Xu Ziling, howling over the mountain and the forest? Wouldnt it also mean that you are not going to turn your back all your life?

    Shaking his head, Kou Zhong sighed and said, If I could do that, I would have washed my hands in the golden dish early on. A real man is to be buried in a horsehide [idiom: to give ones life on the battlefield], dying will also have to be that kind of death. You want me to bend my head and admit defeat to Li kid, that is not going to happen. Even if I have to battle until the last soldier the last man, I still want to contend with his Li Family until the end.

    Song Yuzhi pondered quietly for half a day; hanging her cicada head down, she spoke softly, Since thats the case, why do you want to see me?

    Severely shaken, Kou Zhong blurted out, Zhizhi!

    Song Yuzhi rose to her full height. Bending her head down to look at him, her eyes revealed a complicated, intense emotion, as she spoke softly, If, between the strive for the world and Yuzhi you can only choose one, what would Kou Shao Shuai pick?

    Dejected, Kou Zhong smiled ruefully and said, Zhizhi ought to know that I have my feet deep in the mire; how could Zhizhi have the heart to force me to make such a cruel decision?

    Song Yuzhi revealed a splendid, like a fresh flower in full bloom, but sad and emotional smile, and spoke calmly, Its you who are cruel, not me. Yuzhi has fled back to the south, precisely in order to forget you. Why do you still want to come and see me for whatever last time you are talking about? Whats the reason behind this?

    I was wrong, Kou Zhong blamed himself, I thought that by doing this I could still win Zhizhis favor, to let Zhizi leave a beautiful memory in my heart. Only now do I know that Zhizhis love for me is that deep.

    Stunned, Song Yuzhi asked, Who has deep love toward you?

    Kou Zhong was confused; grabbing his head, he said, If Zhizhi does not love me, why did you flee to the south and make every effort to forget me?

    Song Yuzhi leaned her pretty face to the side and pondered deeply for half a day. Nodding, she said, I have thought about this matter, and finally came to a conclusion. Do you want to hear it?

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Without you saying it, Xiaodi can already guess that it could not be anything that is pleasant to hear. All right! Speak up! Nothing sadder than a withered heart [idiom (attributed to Confucius by Zhuangzi): the worst sorrow is not as bad as an uncaring heart].

    Song Yuzhi spoke with great fury, You are adept in using strategy; is in this move you are posing as a pitiful creature?

    Kou Zhong replied with a wry smile, Affairs of the heart is just like battlefield, some strategy must be used. But now it does not seem to be effective. How about speaking forthrightly?

    Song Yuzhi bent her knees to sit on the rock again; with smiling face, she laughed tenderly and said, You nearly angered me to death.

    Beating the snake following the stick, Kou Zhong said, Can I kiss Zhizhis left and right cheeks one time each?

    Immediately red clouds appeared on Song Yuzhis jade cheeks; really angry, she said, What kind of person do you think I, Song Yuzhi, am?

    In a flurry Kou Zhong changed the subject, Zhizhi has not explain your view of the love and hate intertwining relationship between us!

    Hanging her head down, Song Yuzhi whispered the words love and hate intertwining relationship twice, before speaking softly, My conclusion is that the reason I am hopelessly muddled with you is thirty percent pity, thirty percent friendship, and the remaining forty percent involve the feeling between a man and a woman. But within this forty percent, there is a lot of hate but very few love. Am I speaking forthrightly enough for you?

    Slapping his thigh, Kou Zhong said with a laugh, As long as theres ten percent of love between a man and a woman, I, Kou Zhong, am so happy that I feel like going crazy!

    Displeased, Song Yuzhi said, Typical you, speaking like that.

    With solemn expression Kou Zhong said, Zhizhi believes it, great; Zhizhi dont believe it, its also all right. This time I am sincerely paying a visit, it is indeed because I was unable to restrain my emotions; I really longed to see Zhizhi again. Why dont we throw everything out and start anew, carefree and without worries playing his mother hey! No! Lets just treat each other as an honored guest to get along well for three days, and then Ling Shao and me will have to hurry up to Guanzhong for a treasure hunt. As for what will happen next, when humans effort fails, we will listen to the mandate of heaven.

    Her countenance changed, Song Yuzhi said, Li Family is setting up an inescapable net waiting for you in Guanzhong, the two of you still want to go there to throw your lives away?

    Greatly astonished, Kou Zhong said, And yet you said that you have a lot of hate but very few love? Turns out Zhizhi is so concerned about me.

    Song Yuzhis pretty face blushed slightly, she angrily said, I have never seen anybody with thicker face than yours. You and Xu Ziling are Yuzhis friends, could it be that seeing you go to die I would just watch in vain without groaning half a word?

    Returning to his distinctive character, Kou Zhong giggled and said, The more Li kid is adequately prepared, waiting with tight troops disposition, the trip to Guanzhong will be even more interesting. Since I was young, I, Kou Zhong, have always been one who is unwilling to be left out. That Li kid is willing to accompany me playing, I should be grateful to him.

    With her beautiful eyes Song Yuzhi gazed deeply at him for a moment, and then hanging her head down, she said, No wonder Die said that by nature you are someone who cannot be tamed!

    Taken aback, Kou Zhong asked, Has your Die seen me?

    Song Yuzhi replied indifferently, Do you know why you could come across me in this place?

    Kou Zhong drew a blank; he shook his head quietly.

    Song Yuzhi slowly said, I was looking for nearby Li Liao brothers to ask for help, so that I could intercept you at the earliest possible time, so that you wont go to our mountain city home.

    Kou Zhong was baffled. If I go to your mountain city home, whats the problem? he asked.

    Revealing a hint of helpless wry smile, Song Yuzhi hung her head down and said, Die is going to kill you!

    What? Kou Zhong blurted out.

    By the time Xu Ziling entered the cabin hall, he saw seven, eight passengers occupying one of the two round tables, talking loudly with each other, so that the hall was very noisy.

    Some wanted to greet Xu Ziling, but seeing his uncouth appearance and the dignified scarred face, they knew he was not a benevolent man; hence they busily swallowed their words back into their belly.

    Xu Ziling sat on the other table, facing the window, with his back against them. He heard that the topic of these peoples conversation was business and how to make money, hence he did not have any interest in listening. His mind turned back toward Han Zenans family of three.

    Supposing that the pursuing troops overtook them midway, it would actually be a lot easier to deal with them then. He could directly make his move by beating back the pursuing troops.

    But if they left the boat and fled after reaching Zheng County, it would be difficult for him to help; he could not trail them in secret for a long time; it was neither practical nor feasible.

    The only way was to reach out to Han Zenan to have a frank and good conversation before reaching Zheng County, to see whether he could be persuaded.

    He was absolutely not a meddlesome person, but little Jieer reminded him of little Lingzhong; how could he let innocent children become evil peoples fish or meat?

    Thinking to this point, he scolded himself for being stupid. If he wanted to learn about Han Zenans difficulty yet he could not investigate it openly, why not do it secretly?

    He was about to get up to return to his room, when suddenly someone came beside him, put down an earthen jar of wine on the table with heroic spirit, and said with a laugh, Five lakes and four oceans [i.e. all parts of the country] are brothers. LaoGe [ol elder brother], are you interested in accompanying me drinking a cup of watery wine?

    Song Yuzhi spoke indifferently, Earlier Die left town and went out for ten days, and returned only the day before yesterday. Upon returning to town, he had Zhi Shu [uncle], Lu Shu, and me summoned into his Ge Dao Ting Yu Tang [lit. hall to place the saber and listen to the rain], indicating that you might come to the mountain city within three days.

    Kou Zhong blew a mouthful of cold air. Turns out he, the Senior, personally made his move to kill Cui Jixiu, he said, No wonder it was like a performance; sharp and clear, neat and tidy.

    Song Yuzhi was stunned, Have you seen Die? she asked.

    After giving her a brief explanation, Kou Zhong asked, Between your Die and I, there is no grievance today, and there was no enmity in the past; why would he want to make life difficult for me? Could it be that he did not know that if he het rid of me, his treasured daughter might not want to call him Die anymore in the future?

    A clump of tender and beautiful, replete with moisture red cloud rose up on both sides of Song Yuzhis sparkling-and-translucent-like-jade powder cheeks; she spoke furiously, If Die slaughter you, this kid, I would not know how to thank him.

    Pretending to be humble, Kou Zhong said, San Xiaojie, please enlighten Kou kid; since San Xiaojie is so happy to see Kou kid being slaughtered, why would you want to warn Kou kid, telling me to escape?

    Song Yuzhi seemed to be stumped for words; and then even her ears were blushing. Hanging down her head, in weak and feeble voice she tried to get herself out of trouble by saying, You are my friend!

    Kou Zhong slowly reached out to stroke her cheek.

    Song Yuzhis tender body shook; moaning tenderly, she said, Ah, Kou Zhong! Dont

    Kou Zhongs big hand caressed her burning-so-hot-that-it-made-peoples-soul-melted face; the tip of his fingers lightly brushed her smooth and round earlobe. Leaning forward, he spoke with love as deep as the ocean, Can we not deceive ourselves and endure hardships any longer? Oh!

    Shaken, Song Yuzhi said, I was not joking with you; Die really engraved your name on the whetstone inside the Mo Jian Tang [lit. grinding sword hall]. That means you are his next opponent.

    Kou Zhong sprang up from the ground, Zhizhi is his precious daughter, but you dont understand his, the Seniors intention better that me, his future son-in-law. He wants to see my good faith toward his daughter; even more, he wants to measure my, Kou Zhongs weight.

    Song Yuzhi had no time to argue about his considering himself future son-in-law; she blurted out, You practically dont understand what kind of person Die is. Whoever has his name engraved on the whetstone, in the end he might become the wandering soul under his saber. This is not a joke. Ay! At most I can accompany you for three days. But after three days, you must go as far away as possible, and you must never come back.

    Shaking his head, Kou Zhong sighed and said, If I run away to the wilderness like that, I would forever lose my qualifications to obtain Zhizhi. Do you know why I understand your Die better than Zhizhi? Because we are the same kind of people.

    Song Yuzhi furiously said, You are reverting to your old ways again.

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, I am striving to surpass the three days. After obtaining ten percent of Zhizhis love, I suddenly regain my life force. I have full confidence for the day I am going to deal with Li kid. Life has never been this good. I wonder if Zhizhi would want to give me a little reward?


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  7. #307
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    Default Book 26 Chapter 1

    Book 26 Chapter 1 Grandma Tong Tian

    Turning his head around, Xu Ziling looked at the uninvited guest who disturbed his tide of thought.

    The man looked to be around thirty-five, thirty-six, tall and thin, with tapered face, and a piece of goatee at the end of his chin. It would appear that his face was like a hybrid between a horse and a goat. While walking up the road, he seemed to be trying hard to straighten his originally hunched back and stick out his chest and belly. Looking at his overall posture, he appeared even more like a Qin [dynasty] itinerant con man, who drifted around everywhere.

    The clothes on his body were bright and neat, whether in terms of material or the craftsmanship, it was obviously expensive, fine goods. However, Xu Ziling saw through at first glance that this frivolous-looking gentleman was definitely not as simple as his outside appearance suggested.

    His eyes were calm and collected, and nimble too, as if he was continuously looking for other peoples weak points. The skin exposed outside his clothes appeared to have some kind of peculiar sheen, which was the outcome of a long-term true qi cultivation from internal school. His hands were slender and neat. Even within his exaggerated movements, there was a strong impression of his power and agility. The little finger of his left hand lacked its last segment, as if someone cut it off.

    Without any trace of politeness he sat down beside Xu Ziling, and poured a cup of wine for him. Introducing himself, he said, Xiao [small/little; I am under the impression there is missing character here] surnamed Lei [thunder]; but everybody calls me Lei Jiuzhi [lit. nine fingers] for so long that I have forgotten the real name that my Die and Niang gave me! LaoGe, may I ask your honorable surname and great given name?

    The passengers sitting on the other table stopped talking; like people who loved to enjoy watching a bustling scene, they watched Xu Zilings reaction and listened attentively to the two mans conversation.

    Remaining tranquil and calm, Xu Ziling said, Who made you from having ten fingers to nine?

    Lei Jiuzhis pair of eyes flashed with mysterious light, which quickly faded. Continuing his exaggerated gestures and expression, he said, That is the cost I have to pay for playing before my skill was refined.

    And then he leaned closer and spoke in low voice, LaoGe, are you interested in making a large fortune?

    Not interested! Xu Ziling coldly replied.

    Lei Jiuzhi revealed a I understand thoroughly expression; leaning back to his seat, he raised his cup and said, Good man! Let Lei Jiuzhi toast LaoGe with a cup!

    Inwardly Xu Ziling praised him as worthy to come out and mingle in Jianghu; he deeply understood the way to see the wind and sail speedily. Asking him to leave, Xu Ziling said, If Lei Xiong is here just to tell me this, you may go as you wish.

    Lei Jiuzhi laughed aloud and said, Just let Xiaodi speak a few more words. And then he leaned over again and spoke in low voice, LaoGe must think that I make my living in Jianghu; am I right?

    Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, Who are you, then?

    With serious expression Lei Jiuzhi replied, I gamble all over the place north of the Great River, someone who researches all kinds of gambling technique.

    Laughing involuntarily, Xu Ziling said, What difference does it have with Jianghu drifters?

    Putting his wine cup down, Lei Jiuzhi putting on an act, saying, Naturally there is a big difference. Please listen to Xiaodis detailed explanation.

    Xu Ziling groaned inwardly that he had been duped; but it was too late to regret now.

    Because the people on the other table could not hear their conversation clearly, they lost interest and continued their own previous endless chat [orig. discussing the heaven speaking about the earth].

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, I have zero interest in gambling. Lei Xiong, just find somebody else to listen to you.

    Lei Jiuzhi laughed and said, Even though it is a minor art, it certainly has considerable gain! LaoGe does not have any interest just because you dont understand it. The fact is, gambling can spread for all eternity. Not only there are a thousand schools ten thousand categories, they are wide-ranging and profound. You only need to understand one or two, then you can reap infinite benefit throughout your life.

    Sneering, Xu Ziling said, In the end, doesnt it boil down to two words, win or lose? If I have zero interest in getting rich, why would I want to learn it? Besides, you and I are total strangers, why did Lei Xiong suddenly come to me to give me small advantages?

    Lei Jiuzhis eyes flashing, he said, LaoGe is indeed a sensible man. This place has too many people and miscellaneous ears, can we find another place to talk?

    Ever since he came to talked to him, Xu Ziling has not been able to figure out his school or which path he was coming from; this moment his heart was moved, he asked, Last night, those men who intercepted the ship before we sailed, what dispute or grudges do they have against Lei Xiong?

    Lei Jiuzhi looked at Xu Ziling in astonishment; evidently he wanted to reassess Xu Zilings expression. LaoGe is indeed brilliant; your associative power is even more extremely rich, he spoke in heavy voice, If I, Lei Jiuzhi, still cover up the left and conceal the right, LaoGe would definitely look down on Xiaodi. Thats right! Those bunch of men last night were coming for me. They are from Chuan Nan Du Fang [South Sichuan Casino].

    Xu Ziling cheered inwardly. Unexpectedly, quite by accident he resolved the Han familys difficulty; the remaining problem was to let Han Zenan know that the bunch of men were not his enemy, it was just a misunderstanding.

    Rising to his full height, he said, Lets talk in my room!

    It was greatly beyond Lei Jiuzhis expectation; he had never thought that after he exposed his own identity, the opposite party would become friendly instead. Momentarily he was stunned speechless.

    Song Yuzhi threw a tender tantrum; she said, You speak this kind of frivolous word to me again, I will ignore you forever!

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Zhizhi fell into the trap! I just wanted to see your touching appearance like this, hence I deliberately spoke those frivolous words. Hey! Back to the main point, which direction is your mountain city home?

    Song Yuzhi was so angry that her apricot eyes grew even bigger; folding her arms on her chest, she shook her head and said, Dont even think that I am going to tell you.

    Kou Zhong stepped forward and spoke in low voice to calm her down, Everything ought to be considered in the big picture. Just think, if just because your Die engraved my name on the whetstone I got so scared that I run away to the wilderness while pissing in my pants, and another day I came to propose a marriage, since your Die is an outstanding hero, how could he want to have a good-for-nothing for a son-in-law? Trust me! Your Die just wanted to see the color of my guts. I guarantee that when I climb up the mountain city, he, the Senior, would open the main gate wide to welcome me.

    Song Yuzhi nearly wanted to cover up her ears; sighing, she said, Your boastful words are more unpleasant to hear than your frivolous words.

    Kou Zhong proudly said, This is precisely my, Kou Zhongs most valuable aspect to San Xiaojie; which is to enable San Xiaojie to touch things that you have never dreamed about before.

    Song Yuzhi nearly wanted to reach out and pinch and snap his throat. Stomping her feet, she said, Only ghosts would dream about those things. Whether you are a first class saber expert or ninth class lobbyist, I want you to get lost. I do not want to see you again.

    Kou Zhong hastily smiled apologetically and said, My bad! Zhizhis genuine kind intention, I understand completely.

    Song Yuzhi was taken aback, What genuine kind intention? she asked.

    Kou Zhong leaned over to her ear and lowered his voice until it could not be lowered anymore. You are afraid that your Die is going to kill me, hence you pretend to be heartless and told me to get lost! Am I right?

    Pfft! Song Yuzhi could not help giggling. Smiling wryly, she said, I am really helpless against you. Your biggest shortcoming is that you dont have self-knowledge, and your skin is so thick; when you speak, I dont know what you are driving at. Ay! Just consider that I am afraid that you, Kou Shao Shuai, would really go up the mountain city to throw away your life!

    Full of confidence, Kou Zhong said, Is it not clear enough for you? If your Die really want to kill me, he could have made his move that night.

    This is just because you dont understand him! Song Yuzhi said, Dies conducts are always in and out of reason and outward appearance, difficult to speculate. Theres no harm in telling you: Die one time asked me if I wanted to marry you, I expressed my determination, and then set up an oath in front of successive generation ancestors that I will not marry you. Therefore, Die practically will not regard you as future son-in-law.

    Kou Zhong felt as if someone punched him on the stomach. Falling three steps back, with the color draining out of his face, he cried out involuntarily, What?

    Xu Ziling took Lei Jiuzhi into his cabin. As they were passing Han Zenan, husband and wifes cabin, he intentionally raised his voice, How did Lei Xiong incur those Chuan Nan Casino mens hatred so that last night they did not spare any effort in trying to stop the boat?

    Lei Jiuzhi cast him a glance, his eyes revealed a singular look, but he did not answer the question.

    Xu Ziling praised him inwardly, knowing that this man was worthy to make a living in Jianghu, he was able to obtain clues from the way Xu Ziling raising his voice. But since his goal has been achieved, he did not bother to pursue this matter further.

    At the same time, he focused his power into his ears, and was immediately able to hear the woman speaking to Han Zenan, XiangGong [an old form of address for ones husband]! Did you hear that?

    Han Zenan merely responded with an Oh!

    Xu Ziling pushed the door open and said, Lei Xiong, please sit down.

    Without any trace of politeness Lei Jiuzhi sat into one of the two chairs by the window, and put the small wine jar casually on the table. After Xu Ziling sat down in the other chair, he sat up straight, as if he became another person altogether, dignified, exuding his strong presence. The tone of his voice changed from exaggerated to calm and collected. He sighed and said, I really could not tell that LaoGe is actually a man whos willing to help others so much. A moment ago when I saw your interest in Han Family, husband and wifes affair, I thought you had another purpose, to the extent that I saw the color to determine the heart. But now I know that you are really good toward them.

    More and more Xu Ziling felt that this man was really not simple; he was definitely not an ordinary Jianghu drifter. He spoke indifferently, Since Lei Xiong knew that the Han Family, husband and wife mistakenly thought that Chuan Nan Casino men were their family enemys pursuing troops, why didnt you point it to them to let them know? Arent you harboring another evil intention?

    Lei Jiuzhi calmly said, If I hastily talked to them, would they believe me?

    Nodding his head, Xu Ziling said, Very well! We wont discuss that aspect anymore. But why does Lei Xiong look upon Ol Gong?

    Lei Jiuzhi turned his head around to look at him; he said, Turns out its Gong Xiong. Gong Xiong ought to be a greatly famous character in Jianghu, but Xiaodi has never heard about you. Only by looking at how Wu Jiang Bang people were particularly deferential and respectful toward Gong Xiong, I know that Gong Xiong is someone with a head and a face [i.e. someone important]. This is very strange.

    Displeased, Xu Ziling let out a cold snort and said, Evidently Lei Xiong has researched the roots and investigated the base of Jianghus big names. Lei Xiong, please be careful with your words and actions.

    Unexpectedly Lei Jiuzhis thin face revealed a delighted expression; he said, Gong Xiong must not take any offense. Just now I was just using words to sound you out. Gong Xiongs reaction has confirmed Xiaodis opinion. Gong Xiong, please forgive Xiaodi for my irreverent remark.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, What are you trying to sound out?

    With serious expression Lei Jiuzhi replied, I want to see if Gong Xiong is really a chivalrous man? If Gong Xiong is a figure from the heretical way, what I said just now would bring Xiaodi the disaster of getting myself killed. Based on Gong Xiongs martial art skill, taking care of me should just be the exertion of lifting your hand.

    Xu Ziing did not expect that this man was able to see through the depth of his martial art skill merely by observation; shivering inwardly, he spoke in heavy voice, Lei Xiong might as well speak up clearly your purpose in coming, and please do as you wish, but do not waste Ol Gongs time.

    Smiling, Lei Jiuzhi said, This matter is complicated and not easy to express succinctly. First of all, let me ask Gong Xiong, would Gong Xiong be willing stand up for the heavenly way, while at the same time make a great fortune?

    Remaining tranquil and calm, Xu Ziling said, I am afraid Lei Xiong will have to find another candidate; simply because Ol Gong has an important matter I have to attend to, hence it will be difficult for me to come to your aid.

    And then he quizzically asked, If Lei Xiong wanted to evade the pursuing troops, you can jump into the river to escape, then you would break the clues pursuers were tracking. In this time, where the world is in chaos, who would have the ability to go all over the world to search for you?

    Avoiding the question, Lei Jiuzhi said, Since Gong Xiong have no intention to lend a hand, Xiaodi has no choice but to find another way. Excuse me, please!

    Song Yuzhi dejectedly said, Just forget Yuzhi! With your, Kou Zhongs qualification, who among the beautiful women around the world would not greatly admire you? If you are really good to Yuzhi, hereafter please do not enter Lingnan even for half a step.

    Finally Kou Zhong recovered his composure. With mouth wide open he gasped for breath for a moment, before shaking his head and said with a sigh, Song Yuzhi, you are too heartless to me!

    Involuntarily he waved his hand to say goodbye, and then flew backward. In the blink of an eye he disappeared into the woods.

    Song Yuzhi tightly bit her cherry lip; her pretty face was deathly white. Suddenly her cherry lips opened up and she vomited a mouthful of blood before collapsing backward.

    Unexpectedly a shadow flashed across and caught her waist just before she fell to the ground, and then the shadow flew in the direction where Kou Zhong disappeared.

    In one breath Kou Zhong rushed for about twenty li in the wilderness; his heart was filled to the brim with resentment and sorrow. In the land of love, he had been utterly defeated.

    First it was Li Xiuning, and now it was Song Yuzhi.

    When he came, he was brimming with hope, but now all his vision for the future and fantasies have been smashed to pieces by a few words from Song Yuzhis mouth.

    Suddenly he became aware that he was traveling along an official road. There were other vehicles and horses, as well as pedestrians. At this moment he did not want to think about anything; he just wanted to find a wine shop and drink until he pass out. He would think about making other plans after he woke up.

    As far as Song Yuzhi was concerned, he had totally given up all hope.

    While still in daze, he entered the county town, and unexpectedly it was the Yulin County that he was looking for.

    After paying the tax to enter the city, he walked leisurely along the main street, looking for a wine shop. He entered in and bought wine to get himself drunk.

    This wine shop was very unique; it had two elongated rectangular-shaped sections, inside and outside, joined in the middle with an open-air courtyard. There was an oval shaped fishpond in the middle of the courtyard, while potted plants were spread all over the place.

    If it were during the peacetime, Kou Zhong would definitely enjoy the atmosphere. This moment, however, he simply walked to the end of the shop, and sat down on the table in the corner.

    The waiter cordially greeted him, This Daye must be from out of town. Our Jian Long Zhais [lit. seeing dragon building] wine and dishes are second to none in Yulin; Daye really have good taste.

    Kou Zhong swept his gaze around, and noticed that the shop was quite sparse, with only six or seven tables had customers on them, how could he believe his bragging? He was not interested in chitchat even more. I dont want any dish, just wine, he said, And I want your strongest wine.

    Contrary to expectation, the waiter was quite astute; he left without saying anything.

    Thinking about Song Yuzhi being so heartless, a tearing-the-heart, splitting-the-lungs pain burst in Kou Zhongs heart, he had difficulty breathing, and he felt like bawling his heart out, yet not even half a teardrop wanted to come out of his eyes. He began to realize the depth of his love to Song Yuzhi, which greatly beyond his own expectation.

    But then he immediately comforted himself. All these things would pass, just like that time he was dead drunk because of Li Xiuning. When he sobered up, he would strive his hardest to forget Song Yuzhi. This was also the only thing he could do. He really could not understand Song Yuzhi. And for the first time he realized it was impossible to fathom the real thought in her heart.

    It was obvious that this naturally proud woman, who came from prestigious school and big clan liked him; even if previously there was some gratitude and grudges between them, seeing him, Kou Zhong, as if he was making a pilgrimage, taking time out of his busy schedule, defying ten thousand rivers and a thousand mountains along distant road to come to seek her, she should have thrown all past disagreements and come to welcome him!

    Who would have thought that the ending would be like this?

    The wine came.

    Kou Zhong suddenly felt something was not right. Looking up, he saw that the one bringing the wine to him was surprisingly the Silver Dragon Song Lu. Startled, he hurriedly rose up.

    Song Lu affectionately pressed down his shoulder and warmly said, Sit down first, well talk later.

    Knock! Knock! Knock!

    Xu Ziling was studying the newly learned Zhenyan Shou Yin when he heard knocks on his door.

    Come in!

    It was Lin Lang. He said nervously, They are here!

    Xu Ziing immediately knew that the Chuan Nan Casino men were renewing their pursuit, simply because only they had the ability to catch up with them in such a short period of time. What does Lin Xiangzhu intend to do? he asked.

    Lin Lang indignantly said, Everything must be handled according to Jianghu rules. This is our Wu Jiang Bang ship; if the other party wants to cause difficulties on the ship, that is, not giving us Wu Jiang Bang any face, how would we stand in Jianghu in the future? After arriving in Jiujiang, naturally we will not meddle in other peoples business.

    Xu Ziling praised him inwardly. No wonder Hou Xibai said that Wu Jiang Bangs prestige was outstanding, while at the same time his impression on Lin Lang greatly increased. This was what was called he who comes is surely ill-intentioned, no-one well-meaning will come [idiom]; since the other party dared to hold on to their tail and pursue them, naturally they had enough power and confidence that they would be able to eat Wu Jiang Bang men.

    Smiling, Xu Ziling said, Do you know who the other party is?

    Lin Lang shook his head. There is no identifying banner, he said, There seem to be more than a hundred men. This is really strange. Most of the gangs and societies of the same way [principle] doing business along the Chang Jiang have had drinks with me and have good relationship with me; even if there is no good relationship, at least we nod and greet when we are passing each other. But this group of people looks very unfamiliar. I wonder whats their background.

    Xu Ziling said, I just received the information; the pursuers are likely to be the men from Chuan Nan Casino.

    His countenance changed, Lin Lang asked, Where did the information come from?

    I heard it from one of the passengers on this ship, Xu Ziling replied.

    Greatly worried, Lin Lang said, If they are indeed from Chuan Nan Casino, it will be extremely thorny. Among the gambling establishments in Chengdu, Chuan Nan Casino is the largest in term of scale. Even Xie Hui has to give them a bit of face. No wonder they are this overbearing and did not give any consideration to us.

    Remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, Xu Ziling asked, Who has such a big face?

    Lin Lang replied, The big boss of Chuan Nan Casino is the Golden Abacus Huo Qingqiao; he could be ranked among the martial art masters of Bashu. His reputation is barely second only to Xie Hui, Fan Zhuo, Feng Zhen, and other regional overlords. His son Huo Jitong is well known for being a bully; very daring and ruthless. Their Huo Family also runs pleasure house business. I really dont understand how that Han Zenan could provoke this kind of man?

    Probing him, Xu Ziling asked, Could it be that because the other party is Chuan Nan Casino that Lin Xiangzhu changed your attitude?

    Lin Lang sighed and said, That depends on whether they have any reason to stand. Our Wu Jiang Bang is not that easy to provoke either. Our Laoda and Xie Baozhu [fort master] have always had friendly relations. Chuan Nan Casino men will have to follow compass and set square in their reasoning.

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, What Lin Xiangzhu just said is enough for me! If the other party is using their strength to mistreat others, being insolent and irrational, I will take the whole thing as my responsibility.

    Stunned, Lin Lang said, Gong Ye must not do that! If something happened to Gong Ye, how could our Sha Laoda answer Hou Gongzi?

    Xu Ziling knew that Lin Langs trepidation was due to the opposite party was Chuan Nan Casino men; he was afraid that this matter would escalate. Thereupon he said, Lin Xiangzhu need not worry. I, Gong Chenchun, have mingled in Jianghu for many years, what wicked men have I not seen? By the time I am done and leave, there wont be any pretext for the opponent to give you trouble.

    Seeing how reasonable and understanding he was, Lin Lang delightedly said, Gong Yes righteousness reaches up to the sky; indeed you are our Wu Jiang Bang friend.

    Rising up to his full height, Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, Let me see whether Chuan Nan Casino men have three heads and six arms!

  8. #308
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 26 Chapter 2

    Book 26 Chapter 2 Inside Secret

    Kou Zhong watched as Song Lu poured the wine into two cups, and said, How did Lu Shu know that I am here?

    Song Lu raised his cup. After both men drained their cup in one gulp, he laughed and said, Yulin is our Song Family territory; any wind blowing the grass moving, nothing can be concealed from us; not to mention that I am in town specifically to wait for your honored self. Its just that you encountered Yuzhi first!

    The strong liquor entered Kou Zhongs throat and drilled into his anxiety [lit. worry intestine]; his emotional stirring breaking out everywhere, he said with a wry smile, Since Lu Shu has seen Yuzhi, naturally you knew why I came here to drink. Is this moment she is in town?

    Song Lu amiably reached out to pat Kou Zhongs wide shoulder; he spoke warmly, Xiao Zhong, you must not blame her. It is because she has great difficulty that she had to harden her heart and refuse you. I started to learn about it only recently.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, She told me that Song Fazhu [clan leader/master] engraved my name on the whetstone. Ay! Is that true?

    Song Lu nodded and said, This is indeed true. I personally asked Da Xiong [eldest brother] but he only smiled without saying anything, hence I could not make head or tail about it. But the reason she rejected you has nothing to do with it.

    Dejected, Kou Zhong asked, So what is it?

    Song Lu poured another cup for him first, before speaking slowly, She does not want our Song Family to be directly drawn into the struggle over the world because of you.

    What? Kou Zhong blurted out.

    With serious expression Song Lu said, Within our Song Family, there are two views on the current world situation. One view believes that this is the best time to revive our Song Family. Those who hold this view can be called the pro-war faction, headed by Song Zhi. He advocated strongly that we use Lingnan as our base, and then expand to Chang Jiang, and establish an imperial court with the south as the main power. Worst case scenario, we can divide the colors of spring evenly with the northerners.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, The other view is naturally the peace faction. As long as the Song Family is able to stabilize and defend Lingnan, due to the seas and oceans and high mountains providing natural barriers, it does not matter who obtained the world, they could only adopt cai ji mi policy [lit. gathering/harvesting ji millet/rice gruel; policies of the local officials used by the Chinese dynasties to manage ethnic minorities]. The mountain is high, the Emperor is far away; it will be like the Song Family is relying mainly on scratching the surface of the earth, but there will be people who would want to settle the account with you. I wonder whos leading this faction?

    Precisely Shidao and Yuzhi, Song Lu replied, I personally think that both strategies are feasible. But Shidao and Yuzhi cannot bear to see the Li people, the only ethnic group who has been following us blindly, to wither and have their heads roll and their hot blood shed for the sake of our glory.

    Kou Zhong understood. But new question arose, How about Fazhu? Which faction is he, the Senior, leaning to?

    Song Lu replied, He never expressed his position.

    Stunned, Kou Zhong asked, How could it be?

    Song Lu helplessly replied, Da Xiongs conduct has always been difficult to fathom. On one hand, he let Song Zhi recruiting troops, carrying out all kinds of training and spending efforts on preparation to war. On the other hand, he indicated that the fortunate timing has not yet arrived, so he ordered Song Zhi to hold back his troops without moving. Now you ought to understand why Zhi Xiong is so enthusiastic toward you and Yuzhis affair. And Yuzhis feeling to you is obviously as deep as the ocean, yet she has to put an act as if she is heartless toward you, so this is a hopelessly muddled affair.

    As if his entire being had just been freed from a malicious spell, Kou Zhong laughed aloud, raised his wine cup, and said, Come! Let me toast Lu Shu a cup.

    Song Lu cheerfully drank with him.

    And then, Kou Zhong, whose vigor had just returned to his eyes, took the turn to refill the cup for Song Lu. Laughing aloud, he said, I am so happy that I feel like singing for the wine. Turns out in her heart Zhizhi loves me. This matter is not difficult to solve. If I can really obtain the world, I will come to escort the bride to the wedding ceremony. In case misfortune befell me that I lost the war and died, naturally this matter became void. I practically do not need a single soldier a single troop from you; I just need your supplies to support me.

    This matter is important, Song Lu said, It will need Da Xiongs nod to work. The problem is that he already engraved your name on the whetstone, which usually means you already become his target opponent. Letting you to see him could be good or bad, its difficult to guess. Therefore, Yuzhi must stop you from seeing him. Zhi Xiong is also worried about this matter.

    Where is Zhizhi now? Kou Zhong asked, I want to see her first.

    She has already returned to the mountain city, Song Lu replied, I just received news from the mountain city via pigeon post, hence the reason I knew you have met her.

    Kou Zhong raised his cup and drained it so that not a single drop remained. His tiger-eyes flashing, he said, We need to go to the mountain city immediately; I do not want to wait a single moment!

    The sailboat was continuously getting closer and closer. On the bow stood more than a dozen people, tall and short.

    Xu Zilings vision far surpassed Lin Langs; he was able to see that two of those people were women. The older one was a granny whose hair had turned completely white, the younger one was a well-developed, charming woman, wearing multi-colored Miao attire. Because they were still about a li away, Xu Ziling could not see their face clearly.

    Puzzled, he said, Unexpectedly there is an old granny on board. I wonder who she is?

    Lin Langs countenance changed, he said, Gong Yes eyesight is really outstanding. This old granny, does she have white hair, and is holding a whisk in her hand?

    Focusing his power into his eyes, Xu Ziling nodded and said, Indeed she is holding something that looks like a whisk. Who is this Senior?

    Severely shaken, Lin Lang said, Tong Tian Laolao [maternal grandmother] Xia Miaoying has never paid any attention to Jianghus affairs. Although Hou Jitong is her son, he could never be able to move her.

    Xu Ziling mused that the three-letter name Xia Miaoying sounded so familiar, and then she remembered Zhai Jiao mentioned her name once, saying that she had the divine ability to communicate with the spirits, that she could have a dialog with the dead in the netherworld. Zhai Jiao even said that she wanted to go to Sichuan to look for her, because she wanted to know Zhai Rangs condition after he died, to see if he has been reincarnated, and things like that.

    It had never occurred to him that he would suddenly run into her here, and in such situation where it would be difficult for him to explain clearly.

    He asked again, Theres also a Miao lady next to her; she looks quite pretty.

    Sucking in a mouthful of cold air, Lin Lang said, That must be Ba Mengs Mei Ji [lit. beautiful woman/concubine/courtesan] Sina. She is Xia Miaoyings proud disciple, as well as the heir of He Yi Pai [lit. the united (or unity) sects]. I hear that in the near future Xia Miaoying is going to hand over the Paizhu [sect leader/master] position to her.

    And then his face showed a pained expression as he said, Both He Yi Pai and Ba Meng [Sichuan Alliance] are big gang, big sect that we, Wu Jiang Bang cannot afford to offend. This time, I am afraid even our Sha Laoda will not be able to cover it.

    Xu Ziling was about to talk, Xia Miaoying already shouted, with voice full of qi, Indeed it is you, Gong Chenchun. I thought you are already dead!

    Just by listening to her voice, which, after traveling that far, yet every word was still very clear, it was evident that her inner power has reached the stove fire has turned bright green [(allusion to Daoist alchemy), idiom: brought to the point of perfection].

    Xu Ziling felt his whole face was burning hot; especially under Lin Langs stunned luminous gaze, he felt even more embarrassed.

    He had put on the appearance of one who saw what was right and acted courageously [idiom from Analects]; who would have thought that this matter boomeranged and hit the Gong Chenchun? Fortunately he had Gong Chenchuns skin covering up his embarrassment; otherwise he really wished he could find a hole in which to hide himself.

    Without any choice he turned toward Lin Lang and said with a bitter smile, Lin Xiangzhu, please bring the ship near the shore; let me settle this dispute with them [female form] on shore! You need not pay attention to me.

    Astonished, Lin Lang said, Gong Ye obviously did not know Xia Miaoying, how could she act as if she and Gong Ye are old acquaintances?

    Xu Ziling knew that Lin Lang started to suspect something. He spoke helplessly, This matter is hard to explain in a few words. The situation is urgent, Lin Xiangzhu, please bring the ship close to the shore.

    Lin Lang spoke in low voice, How much confidence Gong Ye has that you will be able to deal with the opponent?

    Xu Ziling watched the closing-in enemies, which had been closing in to within fifty zhang away with rapt attention. Shaking his head, he said, This is hard to say; if they attack together, victory or defeat is difficult to tell, but to escape should not be a problem.

    Shaken, Lin Lang said, Tong Tian Laolao is the master of a sect, she will never join hands with others in group attack. Since Gong Ye has that kind of confidence, lets wait until they come over and see who would have the real skill. Please forgive us for not being able to interfere; Gong Ye please do not blame us.

    Xu Ziling was grateful; he said, Lin Xiangzhu is a true friend indeed. Regardless of the development, I, Gong Chenchun, will definitely not get your honorable Gang involved.

    Right this moment, Lei Jiuzhis voice suddenly rang behind the two men, If Gong Xiong wont turn your back on me, Xiaodi wishes to advance or retreat together with Gong Xiong.

    Stunned, Xu Ziling and Lin Lang looked at each other; they were completely at a loss as why Lei Jiuzhi would be stupid enough to wade in this muddy water.

    The Song Familys mountain city was located on the confluence of Yu Shui and He Liu. Three sides facing the water, and magnificent mountain and towering peak behind them. The stone city was built of rock piles from the waist of the mountain, following the curvaceous topography of the mountain, graceful like a dragonfly. The main building complex dominated a wide expanse of open area along the mountain ridge. The terrain was steep, with a lofty quality of a grand mountain pass. It overlooked the neighboring mountain and fields, standing face-to-face with Yulin County in the distance, symbolizing the ruling power protecting the safety of the entire Lingnan region.

    Several dozens of big warehouses, as well as hundreds of piers, big and small, were built along the Yu River. When Kou Zhong, riding on a boat with Song Lu, was crossing the river, the docks were full of boats, big and small, with more sailing in either direction along the river. This kind of prosperous, thriving atmosphere gave him a great sense of grandeur.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, The mountain range lingers on, Yu River flows in circle, rugged, dangerous and difficult, even if I have several tens of thousand elite troops, I am afraid it will be difficult to find favorable position to be used for my advantage.

    Fiddling with his beard, Song Lu smiled and said, This mountain city consumed I dont know how much manpower and physical resources, and yet it still took three generations and more than a hundred years before it is built to its current scale. The long-term reserves inside the city include more than a year supply of grains, and a spring of water, clear, sweet and delicious, perfect for making tea.

    Kou Zhongs eyes fell onto the inclined road going around the mountain, which was wide enough for five horses galloping together side by side; he laughed and said, In that case, I simply must drink two more mouthfuls!

    Song Lu said, The construction of the mountain city relied mainly on its strange and rugged terrain, difficult to climb down. But if there were no rich and fertile Yulin County, the only thing that the mountain city had was grand and strange exterior surface. But now the two complement and enrich each other, plus the benefit of land and water transportation that can reach the whole country.

    The small boat was moored on the shore. There were already more than a dozen Song Family warriors in dark green tight warrior outfit waiting with horses. Everybody was in high spirit, not a single one was not an expert in powerful defense. Toward Kou Zhong, they all showed courtesy and were very respectful, while also revealing a look of utter admiration and reverence.

    The two men flew onto the horseback, and then, under escort of the Song Family martial art masters in front and behind them, they left the dock area to gallop up the mountain.

    Going up the mountain road, whenever there was a dangerous cliff, it looked like they were facing emptiness suspended in midair, while down below the river water was surging. There were endless strange and wonderful places.

    Seeing all this, Kou Zhongs heart loosened up, his spirit relaxed. Thinking that very soon he would comfort a jade person [i.e. beautiful woman], he could not help letting out a long whistle, while pressing his legs on the horses belly to urge it to run faster.

    Everybody else responded to the whistle by lashing their whips. More than a dozen riders flew along the mountain road like a whirlwind.

    The city gate was open wide; the drawbridge was down. The Earthly Sword Song Zhi, whom he had not met for a long time, was out to meet him, saying, Fazhus order: Shao Shuai is invited to immediately go to the Mo Dao Tang [grinding saber hall] to see him.

    Since the Wu Jiang Bang ship was slowing down, the enemy ship quickly closed the distance between them. Xu Ziling had no time to ask Lei Jiuzhi why he saw what is right and act courageously; he just warned him with heavy voice, Lei Xiong must not get involved. Ol Gong has a way to deal with them.

    With sudden gust of wind, shadows were flashing one after another; a total of seven people soared from the enemys ship and flew toward them. The three men quickly retreated to open up an empty space at the bow.

    Seeing the speed with which the enemies ascended the ship, they could immediately tell their relative superiority.

    The Tong Tian Laolao Xia Miaoying was the most calm; she only leaped at an angle for about a zhang, and then suddenly changed direction to take the lead in traversing the more than two zhang empty space to be the first to land on the deck of the ships bow. If someone had tried to intercept her based on the angle and speed of her leap, because of her sudden change in direction, the estimate would have been wrong.

    As the master of a sect, she was indeed outstanding. She reminded Xu Ziling of Yin Gui Pais Yinfa Yan Mei [silver-haired amorous demon] Tan Hui. Both had white hair, but still preserved the elegant bearing of younger women. The difference was that Tan Hui still had her beauty, while Xia Miaoying was giving a withered, gloomy and cold impression.

    Her nose, her head, neck, hands, waist, feet, all were adorned with precious stone, fine jade, pearl, cowrie shells, and so on, all kinds of jewelry. When she was leaping in the air, these ornaments jingled. But all these bright pearl, jewel aura, and her peacock-like colorful clothes could not cover up the gloomy, malicious, and peculiar light shooting out of her eyes.

    On top of that, her sharp fingernails, which were so long that they curved looked exactly like a female zombie that had been resurrected from inside the coffin, carrying with her all the paraphernalia of funerary objects.

    On the contrary, Mei Ji Sina was a beautiful, touching, young Miao woman; her hair was long, black and shiny. Quite unusual however, she did not wear Miao hat or even had her hair tied in colorful ribbon. Even though like right now, for example, she was leaping over to fight and stake her life, she was still smiling prettily, as if her heart was filled with passion, and was enjoying life to the fullest every moment.

    Her cheekbones were quite high. Were it not for her equally high aquiline nose, which matched very well with her facial features, she would look extremely unsightly. As it was right now, it only made her look a hundred percent haughty, but with ten thousand kinds of flirtatious expressions.

    Both she and her master Xia Miaoying wore similar pleated skirts, but her skirt only reached to her knees, revealing curvaceous and extremely beautiful leggings and a pair of cowhide boots; her entire being exuded a peachy, teasing overtone.

    But the skill she displayed was slightly inferior to Xia Miaoying. Following closely behind her, as she landed on the bow, the deck did not shake the least bit.

    From the sword sheathe protruding from behind her right shoulder, Xu Zilings eyes moved to the third person, a young man arriving on the deck. This gentleman must be Chengdus young evil tyrant Huo Jitong. On top of his tight warrior outfit, he wore gorgeous brocade gown. There was a long saber hanging on his waist. His build was strong and muscular, his skin swarthy; although he could not be called handsome, he exuded a valiant masculine charm. His least pleasing aspect was his arrogant demeanor, as if his eyes can see nothing worthwhile all around [idiom].

    Only after these three, headed by Xia Miaoying, stood on the bow in triangular formation, the other four men arrived one after another. Two of them were Miao, while the other two were Han, who ought to be Huo Jitongs cronies.

    Lin Lang was the first to cup his fist to salute; he greeted the three according to Jianghu custom. After his opening remark, he said, Since Laolaos immortal self has arrived, I

    Xia Miaoying did not even look at him with the corner of her eye; she just stared ferociously at Xu Ziling. Waving her hand to cut him off, she said, Less idle talk. And then she grimly said, Gong Chenchun, your guts is indeed big; after shrinking your head for so many years, you have the cheek to swagger into San Hua Luo to have fun. Do you think that I, Xia Miaoying, am so old that I forget your past conducts and deeds and no longer want to bother about you?

    Seeing the bitter resentment and indignation in her eyes, Xu Ziling had a feeling that the enmity between her and Gong Chenchun could not possibly that simple; perhaps there was even entanglement of gratitude and grudges between a man and a woman. Inwardly he groaned for his bad luck. He also knew that as soon as he started speaking, he would immediately reveal the cloven foot, yet it was impossible for him not to speak. Without any choice he could only sigh and shook his head with a rueful smile.

    Mei Ji Sinas almond eyes grew big; scolded tenderly, she said, Because you randomly abandoned her, Da Shijie [oldest martial sister] died in grief, even if you, Gong Chenchun died ten thousand times, it is still not enough to redeem your guilt.

    Inwardly Xu Ziling heaved a sigh of relief, while was amused at the same time. At first he thought he and Xiao Miaoying had some love affairs; turned out it was with her first disciple. Smiling wryly, he said, This affair is exceptionally complex, would ladies and gentlemen care to hear my explanation?

    Huo Jitongs eyes flashed with ominous glint; he angrily shouted, Just by looking at how when you heard the news of her death you did not show the least bit of grief, I immediately know that you, Gong Chenchun, are completely lacking any feeling; you have the heart of a beast and the lungs of a dog.

    Behind Xu Ziling, Lei Jiuzhi let out a weird sounding laughter and said, Huo Jitong, where do you think you are going? In Chengdu alone, the number of women who you raped and abandoned is too many to count. Ah Da [the first/oldest (son)] shouldnt tell Ah Er [the second (son)]!

    For the first time Xiao Miaoying and the others eyes moved away from Xu Ziling to Lei Jiuzhi, who had changed from a stoop-backed into a straight-backed man.

    Ah! Huo Jitong exclaimed. Pulling the saber on his waist, he stepped out from the crowd and shouted sternly, Who are you?

    Xu Ziling knew it would be difficult for this matter to end well. The only way was to make the opposite party sound out the difficulties and retreat to avoid defeat [idiom]. But his biggest problem was that he must not reveal any Yue Shan martial art with which he defeated Xi Ying.

    Swiftly moving forward, he let out a cold snort and said, If you can block my three moves, Ol Gong is willing to have my hands tied and waiting to be captured, and you can punish me however you wish. But if you cannot block, all of you must leave immediately, and have to promise never to bother me again. Huo Jitong, do you have the qualifications to make the decision?

    Rubbish! Huo Jitong shouted angrily, while simultaneously charging forward and brandishing his saber in swift chop.

    The saber created whooshing wind. Lin Lang hurriedly stepped back.

    On the ship, most of the Wu Jiang Bang men, except the man in charge of the helm, were gathered on the bridge to watch the excitement. The other passengers also swarmed out of their room and crowded inside and outside the cabins door to watch; Han Zenan being one of them.

    Xu Ziling calmly laughed, his forehead moved following the opponents saber momentum, his right hand reached out, looking like a claw, but also like an open palm, but just before it made contact with the blade of the opponents saber, the fingers suddenly gathered together to form a palm chop.

    Bang!

    The qi power took on the saber momentum head on. It was as if Huo Jitong was struck by lightning; his entire body, along with his saber, was hacked down by Xu Ziling that he staggered six, seven steps backward.

    None of the spectators was not emotionally moved.

    Actually, Xu Ziling was only using half of his power. If he had used his full power, perhaps Huo Jitong would have spurted blood on the spot.

    Xia Miaoying shouted loudly, Jitong, back off!

    Fast as lightning Mei Ji Sina moved forward to prevent Xu Ziling from following up the victory and press home the attack. Scolded tenderly, she said, If you could defeat me in three moves, we will immediately turn around and leave.

    Full of resentment Huo Jitong return to Xia Miaoyings side. Although he did not accept his defeat, but since the blood and qi in his entire body were surging, he did not have the strength to continue fighting.

    No matter how brilliant Xu Zilings power was, he was well aware that Sinas skill far surpassed Huo Jitongs; however, if he could make the enemy retreat by doing this, it would be extremely ideal. Steeling his heart, he said, One word and its settled [idiom: its a deal]. If within three moves Ol Gong cannot beat you, I will let my hands tied and waiting to be captured, and definitely will not eat my own words.

    Immediately sneers and jeers rang out from Xia Miaoyings side, they thought he was overestimating his own capabilities.

    Wu Jiang Bang and the other passengers were also buzzing. In their heart, they were all standing on their fellow passenger, Xu Zilings side; naturally they were worried and felt that his unwise decision was a great pity.

    It should be noted that Mei Ji Sina was one of the four great chiefs of Ba Meng, her name shook Bashu, defeating her was not easy, let alone trying to score a victory within three moves.

    If Xu Ziling were now Yue Shan instead of Gong Chenchun, it would be a different story altogether.

    Sina laughed tenderly and said, Gong Chenchun, you are indeed arrogant and brazen.

    Ring! the sword left its sheathe.

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Hold on!

    Xia Miaoying shouted sternly, Are you trying to go back on your word?

  9. #309
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    Default Book 26 Chapter 3

    Book 26 Chapter 3 The Song Familys Mountain City

    The outside appearance and the inside of the Song Familys mountain city would give people two completely different feeling. If in the former there was a reminiscence of offensive and defensive, killing and attacking, the latter could only make people associate it with peaceful, leisurely ambience.

    Several hundred houses were scattered around within the city, connected to each other by more than a dozen neat and tidy bluestone-paved big streets. The most distinctive feature was that the houses were built in layers following the topography of the mountain. Each layer was connected to the next by stone steps and ramp to provide convenient access for the residents, as well as the vehicles and horses.

    Trees, flowers and shrubberies were planted on the sides of the road. There was also irrigation system by diverting streams from the mountain springs. Interspersed among the gardens and residences, the streams became small bridges and running water, with endless ponds and pavilions, creating beautiful scenery. The open space was spacious but cozy, a garden design very specific to Jiangnan landscape. Standing in it, one would feel like he was in a big garden on the mountain.

    The main building complex was situated on the very top, the ninth layer, on a flat plain about two li wide. The buildings were lofty and steep, the construction elegant, the main materials were wood and stone. From the ornamented eaves to the decorative windows, not a single one was not meticulously crafted. The design was brimming with some kind of vigorous, imposing style of southern cultural feel, giving other people the stronger feeling of the Song Clans influential position in the south.

    Kou Zhong followed behind Song Lu and Song Zhi, two men, weaving around the pavilions and gazebos, and garden of flowers and trees, until they reached the courtyard gate of the Mo Dao Tang [grinding saber hall], at the end of the mountain city.

    Song Zhi stopped and said, Shall the two of us accompany Shao Shuai to see Da Xiong?

    Song Lu heaved a sigh and said, Listening to the tone of your voice, Da Xiong ought to have instructed you that he wants to see Xiao Zhong alone.

    Song Zhi nodded with a wry smile.

    Staring blankly, Kou Zhong said, Lu Shu and Zhi Shu are afraid that Fazhu would want to test his saber on me?

    Worried over Kou Zhongs safety, Song Zhi said, He will definitely test your saber technique; question is: will he kill you? Usually the person whose name he engraved on the whetstone ended up losing his life under his saber.

    Puzzled, Kou Zhong asked, Why would he suddenly want to kill me? What benefit would killing me bring to him, the Senior?

    Song Zhi replied, Da Xiong conducts are always difficult to measure. He secretly went out of the mountain city for a while, and when he returned, he engraved your name on the grindstone. I tried sounding him out many times, but he refused to disclose even the slightest hint. Therefore, in this matter we can only bet on your luck. If Shao Shuai decided to leave the city immediately, we will definitely not blame you.

    Laughing aloud, Kou Zhong said, How can I, Kou Zhong, be someone who shrink back as the time for battle approaches? I am even more confident that I am going to get out alive and will look for two gentlemen for a drink.

    Xu Ziling laughed indifferently and said, Laolao, please do not misunderstand; I just want to see if I could borrow a saber.

    Everybody was greatly astonished. To do a good job, an artisan needs the best tools [idiom]. Even sabers forged by the same blacksmith would differ in weight, sharpness and speed. That was the reason why martial art practitioners attached great importance to the weapon they carried on them. Because without spending a long period of time to master the characteristics of the weapon, one might be encumbered by it and would not be able to unleash their moves and skill to the highest realm.

    Like Xu Ziling, for example; he wanted to defeat Mei Ji Sina in three strokes, but whether or not he could unleash the weapons characteristic would be the key influencing the outcome. Moreover, he urgently borrowed a weapon that his hand had not had a chance to adjust at the last moment, the biggest possibility was that before he had grasped clearly the weapon characteristic, and the three strokes would already be over.

    Lin Lang untied the saber hanging on his waist and handed it over to Xu Ziling, saying, Gong Ye, please take a look if this can be used.

    Huo Jitong snorted coldly; apparently he was unhappy with Lin Langs action.

    Xu Ziling took the long saber, and slowly pulled it out of its scabbard. Holding the scabbard in his left hand and the saber in his right, his eyes shot fierce lightning light toward Huo Jitong, who was standing next to Xia Miaoying, as he spoke heavily, No matter how this matter will develop, the affair between me and you has absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with Wu Jiang Bang. If I, Gong Chenchun, suffer defeat and meet a misfortune of being captured, naturally I wont have any credibility to speak. But in the event that Ol Gong is lucky and score a victory, and in the future you, Huo Jitong are giving trouble to Wu Jiang Bang, I, Gong Chenchun hereby vow that no matter the size of the trouble, I will definitely take your life.

    The moment the saber left the scabbard completely, a burst of burning hot saber qi immediately emanated from the core of the long saber, like it was secretly rushing forth to attack the enemy. Combined with his threatening heroic aura and the determination in his voice, it was indeed full of extremely intimidating power.

    Mei Ji Sina, who bore the brunt of this silent attack, has never even dreamed that unexpectedly there was someone who could exploit the momentum of a saber being pulled out so that it exuded such a formidable and fantastic qi power. Immediately, as if her body did not want to follow its masters will, she recoiled one step back, while brandishing her sword to block the opponents invisible, yet so real, enormous saber qi.

    Xia Miaoyings countenance was changed as well.

    Huo Jitong has early on felt the chill creeping in his heart just from his gaze. When the saber qi surging like the tide arrived, unexpectedly he could not withstand and had to take two steps back; momentarily he did not even dare to say anything to retort.

    The other people felt that Xu Zilings words were quite fair and reasonable, simply because if in her capacity as the heir of Sichuans He Yi Pai, plus her position as one of the four major chiefs of Ba Meng she was defeated in just three moves, then in the entire Sichuan, quite possibly the Wulin Magistrate Xie Hui was the only person with the ability to protect Huo Jitongs little life; other people could simply forget about it.

    Besides, if Huo Jitong disregarded the rules of Jianghu like that and relied on his power to vent his anger on Wu Jiang Bang later on, with Xie Huis ordinarily impartial style, he would never interfere or even care about it.

    Knowing that he already intimidated Huo Jitong, Xu Ziling turned his gaze toward Mei Ji Sina, while pointing the blade of his saber toward her.

    Strange thing happened.

    The surging, churning scorching saber qi suddenly vanished without any trace. In its place was a yin in nature, an intensely cold, qi.

    Finally Xia Miaoying was overwhelmed with shock. Naer, back off! she shouted sternly, while stretching out her whisk.

    By this time, everybody knew the strength of Gong Chenchuns martial art skill was far beyond Xia Miaoyings imagination, which made her completely lost confidence in Sinas ability to fight desperately in three moves.

    By nature, Sina was obstinate, naturally she was unwilling to admit defeat before even fighting for one move. Clenching her teeth, she called out, Shifu, dont worry!

    The sword in her hand created layer upon layer of fantastic sword shadows; turning from passive to active [lit. the guest acts as host (idiom)], she suddenly attacked, her sword rained down on Xu Ziling as if it was hiding the sky and covering the earth, while carrying abundant power.

    Using the man to play the sword, using the sword to play the enemy.

    Every action and every word of Xu Ziling were all in compliance with the law of the Yijian Technique, so finally Sina was forced to take the initiative by attacking first, which would save him not a few of effort.

    If she had been on the defensive, quite possibly he would be the loser in this limited-to-three-strokes battle.

    Actually, he had pulled a legitimate trick. When he was pulling the saber, he seized the opportunity to release the burning hot qi power from the Secret to Long Life, which he suddenly turned into a cold qi according to Kou Zhongs technique from the Secret to Long Life. Therefore, although he did not move a single stroke, he had actually already made his move.

    If Sina suffered defeat in this momentum face-off, then he would go all-out and make his move by drawing on this opportunity of qi advantage and use just one saber strike to seize victory.

    Sina was already forced to take one step back by his saber qi. She has just steadied her footing and had never expected that the opponent was able to transform heat into cold. Immediately her mind was in great chaos. If she did not counterattack, her only way out was to retreat more; certainly it would be even more detrimental to her.

    In this momentum face-off, she had been utterly defeated. Inwardly she clearly knew that she was definitely not Xu Zilings match. Her only hope was that she could rely on her swordplay to pass the three moves.

    When martial masters were vying against each other, if ones will was snatched away, ones confidence would suffer blow, ones power would naturally be greatly reduced. And Sina had definitely fallen into Xu Zilings carefully laid trap.

    Whether it was ability, wisdom, or martial art, the gap between the two was simply too far.

    Xia Miaoying raised her whisk up, while pursuing closely behind Sinas back, intending to enter the battle arena, but she was still one step too late.

    Xu Ziling took half a step back, the saber in his right hand drew a beautiful arc in the air, moving the heavy saber as if it was light, hacking down on the empty air.

    Sina felt as if her sword qi was being sucked dry that not even half a drop remained. Her sword move became empty, like it was only a stance without any substance at all. Furthermore, she felt as if she was drawn toward his saber to receive her death. Her soul flew away and scattered, she no longer cared about the three strokes, and withdrew her sword and retreated in panic.

    Xia Miaoying followed Sina advancing and retreating. Brushing past, her whisk, imbued with whistling true power swept across toward Xu Ziling.

    Xu Ziling cried Lucky! inwardly. Using his borrowed saber, he emulated the Tian Mo Da Fa [demonic great method] to thirty-, forty-percent resemblance, so that without blood on the mens swords [idiom: effortless victory] he managed to scare this brimming-with-ethnic-bearing Miao beauty that she retreated.

    This moment, seeing the arrival of the whisk, without even thinking Xu Ziling executed the Troops without Regular Power from Li Jings Bloody Battle Ten Styles, sweeping the strongest point of Xia Miaoyings escaping one.

    Pow!

    Xia Miaoyings whisk was met head-on by his seemingly random saber sweep. All the exquisite follow-up changes were immediately sealed, while a burst of abundant, unfathomable and irresistible saber qi penetrated her defense via the whisk. Letting out a stifled groan, although inwardly she really did not want to concede, she knew that she was completely unable to parry the hack, let alone to push him back.

    Xu Zilings saber momentum changed from Troops without Regular Power to the tenth style, the Ruler Overlooking the World stance, where it embodied both offense and defense, and was able to control the opponent remotely.

    Even with Xia Miaoyings ability, she still felt that if she continued her attack in this disadvantageous position, she would only bring disgrace to herself. Unexpectedly, for a moment she was forced to retreat again, and thus she dispelled any idea of counterattack.

    The two sides resumed their initial position of standing face-to-face against each other. Naturally Xu Ziling was unwilling to push others too far; thereupon he cupped his fist and said, Both in terms of theory and practice, Ol Gong basically did not have any confidence to surpass Sina Dangjia in three moves; I was merely utilizing my comprehension of the little plaything of troops deployment to dangerous situation, which I had hidden for many years. Whether we still want to continue, Ill ask Laolao to decide.

    This remark could be considered giving the other side some face. After exchanging a glance with Sina, Xia Miaoying abruptly stomped her foot and said, Defeat is defeat; theres no need for you to flatter us. Were leaving.

    Behind the door was a long corridor zigzagging across the pond and flowerbed. He continued walking forward along the corridor, turning left and rounding right, while absorbing everything with his eyes. Green garden was everywhere; each step brought him to a different scenery, as well as unusual artistic concept.

    At the end of zigzagging corridor was a hexagonal stone pavilion, located just in the dead center of a pond, which was connected to the winding corridor of the surrounding courtyard by a stone bridge.

    The stone bridge was pointing at another entrance. Hidden from view was another open space, with an ancient tree towering to the sky, lush, big and sturdy, full of vitality.

    Kou Zhong walked pass the stone pavilion, over the bridge and across the corridor, through the second layer of courtyard gate, where wide-open space suddenly appeared before his eyes. At the end was a magnificent five-bay wooden structure, with a locust tree, more than a dozen zhang tall, standing proudly in the middle of the courtyard, creating myriad of ambience, like a gauzed umbrella hiding the structure and the courtyard in its shade. Under the bright sun, the tree shade seemed to blend with the main structure into one entity, mutually enhancing each others jagged silhouette to form a brimming-with-poetic-feeling still picture.

    Kou Zhong felt a great sense of freedom. He walked slowly around the locust tree to fully enjoy the scenery before slowly climbing the white stone steps of the building, underneath a horizontal board with three characters Mo Dao Tang [grinding saber hall] engraved on it.

    On the vast open space inside the Mo Dao Tang, a man was standing in the middle of the hall with his back facing the door. There was no visible weapon on him. His build was straight like a javelin, with dark green and blue long gown draped over his body, high and steep, majestic like a mountain. His jet-black hair was tied into a bun on top of his head with a red ribbon. And he had his hands behind his back. Although Kou Zhong had not seen the outline of his five sense organs, he already felt the consider-oneself-unexcelled-in-the-world, the look-at-the-world-disdainfully-out-of-the-corner-of-his-eyes lofty spirit.

    On the walls on either side of him hung more than a dozen treasured sabers in all different shapes and sizes. On the far side wall opposite the door, there was a huge rock, about a persons height that looked like a stalagmite, dark and glossy, making the already peculiar atmosphere of the Mo Dao Tang even more hard to describe.

    Kou Zhong was a man who did not follow conventions and was extremely daring, yet when he was in the presence of this outstanding personality, who was hailed as the number one saber expert in the world, he could not help trembling a little with fear. He sincerely saluted toward his back, saying, Houbei [younger/later generation] Kou Zhong paying my respect to Fazhu!

    A gentle and pleasant to hear voice replied, You are late!

    Stunned, Kou Zhong echoed, I am late?

    Like a whirlwind Song Que turned around and coldly said, You are at least one year late.

    Kou Zhong finally came face to face with the Heavenly Saber Song Que, whose name shook the heaven, who, since his debut, has never met his rival, the father of Kou Zhongs beloved.

    Lei Jiuzhi pursued behind him into the cabin. Displeased, Xu Ziling said, Why are you following me?

    Lei Jiuzhi closed the door to cut off other peoples vision. Drawing close to Xu Zilings back, he said in low voice, Naturally I have an important matter I need to discuss with you.

    Letting out a cold snort, Xu Ziling said, You and I had no relation before, and will never have any in the future. If you are sensible, you would get out of my way; otherwise, dont blame Ol Gong for being rude to you.

    Lei Jiuzhi laughed and said, Gong Xiong, please do not scare me. You, this person, are cold on the outside, but hot on the inside. Moreover, you are not one who uses your strength to mistreat people. As long as you are willing to listen to a few words of mine, I guarantee that you will revise your point of view toward Xiaodi.

    Xu Ziling turned around to face him. Nodding, he said, You answer me first; just now, why were you so eager to stick out your head like that?

    Lei Jiuzhis pair of eyes flickered with lively light, he spoke in heavy voice, Because you are wearing the mask that my Enshi [benevolent master] crafted with his own hands.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, Lei Xiongs eyesight is surely brilliant, but I wonder whats the honorable surname and great given name of your so-called Enshi?

    Revealing a hint of pained smile, Lei Jiuzhi dejectedly replied, Although I regard Lu Miaozi Dashi [great master] as my Master, but he was never willing to acknowledge me as his disciple. Yet the reason of my, Lei Jiuzhi, accomplishment today is all thanks to him.

    Xu Ziling was not moved emotionally at all; he calmly asked, When did you see through that I am wearing a mask?

    I was only guessing, Lei Jiuzhi replied, My pair of ears have received special training. Not only they can hear the subtle difference of the dice rolling around inside the bowl, they can even eavesdrop someone elses word from a distance. When I found out that unexpectedly you did not know that Xia Miaoying was rushing over for you, I then guessed that you are not the real Gong Chenchun. As a matter of fact, you are a hundred times more superior to Gong Chenchun. Therefore, I deliberately walked behind your back to scrutinize the difference in skin tone between your neck and your face. Only then was I certain that you are wearing a mask. Also, only masks that came from Lu Shis [master] miraculous hands could be without any flaw like this.

    Xu Ziling sat down on the chair by the window. He spoke indifferently, Since Mr. Lu had never acknowledged you as his disciple, what is your relationship with Mr. Lu then?

    Lei Jiuzhi sat down on the other chair. His face revealed a reminiscing look, he spoke slowly, It happened more than thirty years ago. At that time I was only fifteen, I ran errands in one of the casinos in Guanzhong. One day Lu Miaozi came to gamble. Using an incomparable gambling technique he ferociously won a sum of money. When he was leaving, I ran behind him and begged him to teach me his technique to win money. Ay! At that time I thought he was just a gambler whose skill was more superior to others.

    Xu Ziling could imagine Lu Miaozis reaction. Smiling, he asked, What did he say?

    Stroking his cheek, Lei Jiuzhi said, He bestowed me a slap on my face, and then he roared in laughter and said, Those who seek instant benefit, like cheating and scheming to become rich, will forever be Dulin masters [play of words: Wulin martial art forest, Dulin gambling forest]. Since I have slapped you, let me pass on to you a two-word secret [of an art] method!

    By this time Xu Ziling already believed Lei Jiuzhi at least seventy-, eighty-percent, because it was precisely the arrogant Lu Miaozis style of speaking. Greatly interested, he asked, What two words?

    Lei Jiuzhi sighed and said, Precisely the quit greed, two words.

    Xu Ziling burst in laughter. Mr. Lu is absolutely right, he said, What else can you tell me?

    Lei Jiuzhi said, At that time I was dumbstruck and unable to reply, but Lu Shi continued, Relying on my gambling technique, I could easily win over a casino like this. But I only won fifty taels and left; this is precisely quit greed. Only those who can completely put their greed under control will have the qualifications to win other peoples money, so it was not a random talk at all.

    In his mind, Xu Ziling drew the picture of Lu Miaozis facial expression and his demeanor when he talked like that; thinking about the distant separation between Man and Heaven, a pang of pain appeared in his heart.

    When it happened, Lu Miaozis death did not bring him much grief; but afterwards, each time he recalled Lu Miaozis voice and features and his smiling face, his grief, admiration, as well as the feeling of missing him, grew with each passing day.

    On Susu, he did not even dare to think about her, because it was simply too heavy and painful!

    Lei Jiuzhis voice entered his ears, When I thought that Lu Shi was abandoning me and was leaving, suddenly he came back and stroked my head. Muttering to himself, he said, You, this kid, have a very good skull; your are quite spirited as well. Since I am looking for a helper, how about you come with me for a period of time? And thats how it started. Those were the happiest days of my life. He never taught me anything, but he never stopped me from watching and learning from the side. Too bad it was only for a short half-a-year period. Is he, the Senior, well?

    Xu Ziling spoke heavily, Mr. Lu has become an immortal early on.

    Lei Jiuzhis entire body shook severely; tears flowed down his face.

  10. #310
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    Default Book 26 Chapter 4

    Book 26 Chapter 4 The Heavenly Saber Song Que

    The handsome face without the least bit of blemish, the dazzling-like-shiny-precious-stone and in-high-spirits eyes under a clear pair of thick eyebrows, the wide forehead that showed above average intelligent, the melancholy hidden within the gentle facial expression that could move anybodys heart, but could also make people feel that the affection was so deep that it was hard to pin down.

    Although frost had started to appear on Song Ques temples, there was not the slightest sign of aging. On the contrary, it actually increased his imposing manner as the lord of a prestigious school, a big clan, his elegance as a Confucian scholar, while also his intimidating power at the first glance, an unattainable impression. Combined with his well-proportioned elegant build and deep-pool-highest-mountain-peak posture, there was an intoxicating charisma of the finest martial art master, who considered himself unexcelled in the world.

    He was about a cun taller than Kou Zhong. With his gaze sweeping him, Kou Zhong was overwhelmed with uneasy feeling as if he could not hide anything from this man.

    Song Que raised his head to look at the beam of the building, while remaining tranquil and calm, he said, Since Jin dynastys Emperor Min was captured by Liu Yao the Huns [orig. Xiongnu], Western Jin dynasty fell, the world also fell into all-split-up-and-in-pieces situation. Since then Hu people [barbarians, non-Han people] wreaked havoc, until the Sui dynastys Emperor Wen in his ninth year of reign exterminated the Chen, and the world returned to its unified state. During the two hundred and seventy years in between, demonic people held power, putting our Han peoples orthodox way into chaos. Although the Sui dynasty reigned for barely thirty-eight years, and it ceased to exist by the time Yuwen Huaji murdered his superior Yang Guang in Yangzhou, such a short period of time opened up the golden opportunity for whoever is able to unify the world to accomplish much.

    His gaze again fell on Kou Zhongs face, he let out a cold humph and said, Shao Shuai evidently know how Yang Jian was able to obtain the world?

    Muttering to himself irresolutely, Kou Zhong said, Must be the time has come and his luck has arrived?

    Song Que threw his head back in long laughter, Well said, he said, At the time the young emperor succeeded to the throne, Yang Jian was in a position of power; since the ancient time, there has never been one like Yang Jian who obtained the world quite easily. From the time Yang Jian started the secondary government until he seized the throne and established the Sui dynasty, from head to tail there were merely ten months. His success came fast, it has never been seen then and now.

    And then he smiled and said, Does Shao Shuai know why Yang Jian was able to accomplish his great undertaking so fast?

    Inwardly Kou Zhong was glad that he had read and reread Lu Miaozis legacy scroll until he was familiar with it. He replied, Incompetent opponents, Northern Zhous [Dynasty (557-581)] monarch had not established power, thereupon Yang Jian was able to seize the momentum and rose up. This is just Xiaozis [kid] view, Fazhu, please bestow directions.

    Song Que nodded and said, Shao Shuai is right, only you missed the most important point, which was the Han unification is on the rise again.

    Finished speaking, his face showed a deep-in-thought expression; still with his hands behind his back, he strolled on Kou Zhongs left side, and stopped and stood motionless when he was about five paces behind Kou Zhong. His eyes emitted profound emotion, as he gazed at the locust tree in the courtyard.

    He spoke glibly, The reason Northern Wei [(386-534), founded by the Tuoba branch of Xianbei] was able to unify the north was simply because the Xianbei [or Xianbi, group of northern nomadic people] barbarians were brave and adept at war, practically Han people were not their match. But since the barbarians wreaked havoc in our Central Earth, our Han people are strong-willed, in the matter of life and death, we knew that if we did not strive for self-improvement, it would be difficult to defend ourselves. We must turn the wind to the esteeming of military skills, and to wash away the crumbling Confucian and literary cultivation that have been revered since the Emperor Wu [of the Han dynasty (141-87BC)]. Before the Northern Zhou was even one year old, the high-ranking military officers as the backbone of the army were all Han people, and Yang Jian was precisely the great general who grasped military leadership for many generations. It is thus clear that the reason Yang Jian was able to ascend the emperors throne was indeed the inevitable outcome of the restoration and rise of the Han peoples power.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Fazhus view is very thorough. I have never thought that deeply about this issue. No wonder presently Central Earths heroic and mighty men come forth in large numbers, the situation is prosperous and bustling with excitement.

    Song Que spoke heavily, But only two are worthy to be considered in my eyes; one is Li Yuans second son Shimin, the other is you, Kou Zhong.

    Kou Zhongs old face blushed; a bit embarrassed, he said, Fazhu overpraised me! But his eyes could not help looking at the whetstone that looked like a spirit tablet enshrined and worshipped at the end of the hall. Searching through more than a dozen names engraved on the stone, surprisingly he found that his name was carved on the highest place on the stone; he could not help feeling frightened.

    Song Ques voice turned gentle, he spoke softly, Since the Han dynasty was defeated and perished, the world continues to be put in the situation where the north and the south are standing opposite to each other, and the reason is simply because of the Chang Jiang acting as the natural barrier. Did Shao Shuai know that the Li Family of Guanzhong has already reached agreement with various hegemons in Bashu? If the Li Family is able to take Luoyang, then Bashu, under Xie Huis leadership, will align their allegiance to the Li Family. At that time, because Bashu will belong to the Li Family, and Chang Jiang will no longer be natural defense, the south will fall into the Li Familys hands. As long as they have enough warships, the Li Familys main forces can just go west along the river, and then who would have power to resist them?

    Kou Zhong sucked in a mouthful of cold air; his greatest fear was finally happening.

    Shi Feixuan was indeed more formidable than magnificent army with thousands of men and horses; with no blood on the mens sword, she won half of the country for Li Shimin.

    Not many people knew better than he about Wang Shichongs real situation. Even a seemingly impenetrable city like Luoyang was still far away from being Li Shimins match.

    Song Que sighed and said, If a year ago you, Kou Zhong, could have momentum and prestige like todays, I, Song Que, would fully support you, I might even get through to Xie Hui to have Bashu stand on your side. Too bad the current situation has changed. Unless you make an oath in front of the whetstone that you will withdraw from the striving over the world, you can forget about leaving Mo Dao Tang alive today. Although Li Shimin has some barbarian lineage, by chasing the root and tracing the source, Song Que can still consider him a Han, so Ill let him tidy up this all-split-up-and-in-pieces terrible mess! However, were it not for the Li Family drew a clear dividing line with the Tujue, Ol Song would never had made this decision.

    Listening to this, Kou Zhongs scalp went numb. It was only now that he understood why his name was engraved on the whetstone, and why Song Yuzhi, using thousand ways, a hundred plans, was trying to stop him from seeing Song Que; it was definitely something that Kou Zhong had never expected.

    Some kind of preposterous feeling bubbled up in his mind, Kou Zhong threw his head back and laughed heartily, saying, Since thats the case, Kou Zhong would be happy to ask for advice from Fazhus Heavenly Saber secret art. Please!

    Xu Ziling waited until Lei Jiuzhi regained his composure, and then removing his mask, he said, I am Xu Ziling. It was not until Lei Xiong revealed your true feeling that I dare to believe Lei Xiongs words.

    Lei Jiuzhi focused his attention to look at him. Lowering his voice, he said, Carefully sailing the boat for ten-thousand years [a quotation from Zhuangzi (369-286 BC), a Daoist author (Baidu Zhidao, in Chinese)]. Xu Xiongdis attitude is correct. Ay! I should have guessed early on that you must be Xu Ziling. I wonder if Ziling has another Yue Shan mask?

    Xu ZIling nodded to affirm.

    After inquiring about Xu Zilings relationship with Lu Miaozi, Lei Jiuzhi regretfully said, Based on Zilings astonishing strength, which is enough to kill the Heavenly Lord Xi Ying, if you could help me, then where water flows, a canal is formed [idiom: when conditions are right, success will follow naturally]. However, of course I understand that Ziling has an even more important matter to attend to. Without any better option, I will have to find a way to resolve my problem.

    Theres no harm in Lei Xiong giving me further explanation, Xu Ziling said.

    Lei Jiuzhi muttered to himself irresolutely for half a day before saying, I had a fight with Xiang Gui of Baling Bang. Also, although on the surface the Huo Family, father and son, have no relationship with the Xiang Family, the fact is that they are actually Baling Bang people in charge of their brothel and casino business in Bashu.

    Xiang Gui was actually Xiang Yushans ol dad. Upon hearing this, Xu Ziling was greatly interested; he asked, No wonder when Lei Xiong saw Huo Jitong coming to pursue us, you mistakenly thought that they are coming to bring you trouble. Could you tell me a bit more details?

    Lei Jiuzhi said, This matter is complicated and not easy to express succinctly. There has always been rumored in Jianghu that not only Baling Bang has been going around both the Central Earth and abroad in search of beautiful women for that dead ghost Yang Guang, they are also secretly engaged in shameful shady business of trafficking those women. But so far nobody has been able to grasp any tangible evidence. It was quite by accident that I encountered this kind of activity at Yunnans Dali region.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, Wasnt that a thing of the past?

    Snorting disdainfully, Lei Jiuzhi said, Such a lucrative business, how could their Xiang Family be willing to give up? In my opinion, even Xiao Xian himself is kept inside a drum, so it has become solely their Xiang Familys business. This way, even if in the future Xiao Xians army is defeated, their Xiang Family could still enjoy glory, splendor, wealth and rank to the fullest. Since ancient times, prostitution and gambling, these two industries have never declined.

    Inwardly Xu Ziling thought that whether it was for common good or personal reason, he and Kou Zhong absolutely must not let Xiang Yushan do this kind of devoid-of-conscience evil deeds and get away to enjoy endless riches, honor and peace.

    How could they keep this human trafficking business in secret this long? Xu Ziling asked.

    Lei Jiuzhi replied, They have two ways to do that: first, they wont let any outsiders know that those brothels and casinos are actually under their banner. Secondly, they specifically go to remote places, by making threats and promises via lowly middlemen to buy young, oftentimes underage women, whom they trained and then supplied to brothels and depraved matchmakers in all parts of the country. Formerly there were corrupt bureaucrats of the Sui dynasty who covered up for them. But now that the whole country is in rebellion, nobody has the time to pay them any attention.

    Xu Ziling asked, What is Lei Xiongs plan to deal with them?

    Revealing a smile full of confidence, Lei Jiuzhi said, I want to force Xiang Gui to get out and make a big bet against me.

    Song Que passed slowly by Kou Zhongs side again. He smiled and said, In terms of view, appearance and martial art, Shao Shuai is indeed qualified to be my, Song Ques opponent. However, there is one big flaw that will doom you to your death.

    Looking at Song Ques imposing, outstanding-like-pine-and-cypress-on-lofty-mountain back was he walked over toward the whetstone, Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, Fazhu is absolutely right; how could I, Kou Zhong, have any desire to kill my sweethearts father?

    Song Que suddenly stopped. In that case, he shouted sternly, You might as well kill yourself and be done with it! Unless you can abandon everything else but your saber, even if you train saber technique for a hundred years, you still cannot reach the pinnacle of the saber technique.

    Sneering, Kou Zhong said, How could there be any pinnacle on earth? If there was limit, wouldnt it represent some kind of stagnation?

    Song Que turned around like a whirlwind. The unusual light on his eyes flared out like the brightest star in the depth of the night, like a sharp arrows his gaze met Kou Zhongs, but his flawless complexion was still like a still water without any ripple, as he coldly said, That is just the words of the ignorant. Everybody, in a certain time, has his own limit. Like leaping high with all ones strength; no matter how one exerts oneself physically, one could only reach certain height. But if one is carrying heavy object, the height of what one can achieve might be reduced. The rest is just nonsense.

    Stunned, Kou Zhong said, I was talking about different thing, it was just a general reflection. But to Fazhu, perhaps it was also a nonsense.

    It was definitely a nonsense, Song Que spoke matter-of-factly, When the will is undivided, it will condense into spirit. When the spirit condenses, it starts to reach the intention. Only when the intention moves the hand will we be able to talk about method. When one who follows the method reaches the no-method realm, one would begin to understand how to use the saber.

    Appeared to be deep in thought, Kou Zhong muttered, Whats the difference between spirit and intention?

    Song Que stretched out an arm toward the wall and pushed.

    Ring!

    As if it was alive, one of the sabers created a noise, and unexpectedly it moved out of the scabbard, exactly like if it was pulled out by a hand.

    Watching this, a chill crept into Kou Zhongs heart.

    Song Que grabbed an empty air again, the thick-backed broadsword was like being pulled out by an invisible thread, and fell into the palm of his outstretched left hand.

    Strange change suddenly occurred.

    The moment the thick-backed broadsword fell into Song Ques grasp, Kou Zhong felt that Song Que and his saber have become an indivisible merged-into-one entity. It was a completely intense and profound feeling, so subtle that it was hard to describe.

    At the same time Song Ques eyes shot lightning-like spirited ray, enveloping Kou Zhong so that he felt that his entire being, inside and outside, none can escape the gaze of this number one saber expert in the world; he was seen through completely, as if he was stark-naked and was being exposed to cold wind and icy snow.

    The instant the saber touched Song Ques palm, an impenetrable wall [orig. like copper wall, iron bastion], formless yet real saber qi shot out from Song Ques core and pushed toward Kou Zhong, so that he was forced to apply his qi to resist; worse yet, he had to force himself to raise his will to fight. Otherwise, his courage would turn cold, and he would break down without fighting.

    Such martial art skill, if someone had told him, but he did not see with his own eyes and feel it with his own body, he would not have dared to believe that it was true.

    Song Ques expression was still calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos; casually he spoke without any emotion, Spirit is of the heart, intention is of the body. Every single saber strike, the whole body follows accordingly. The spirit and the intention become one, just like this one saber strike.

    Finished speaking, he took a step forward. An enormous momentum burst forth violently, as if it burst from the heaven above and the earth below, following his confident and vigorous step, carrying along a chilling-to-the-bone saber qi, rolling over toward Kou Zhong.

    Qiang!

    Kou Zhong drew the Moon in the Well right on time when Song Ques thick-backed broadsword pressed the air in front of him, amazing in shape, brilliant and varied, changing continuously within two zhang radius of space, every change was so clear as if the intention was spelled out clearly using the saber.

    The worst thing was that with each change, all countermeasures that Kou Zhong had carefully planned were defeated, so that he was overcome with dejected feeling of all his previous achievements have come to waste.

    Song Ques use of the saber to this point has reached the realms of great heights, the acme of perfection.

    With the change of saber momentum, the footwork also changed accordingly. Kou Zhong was not even able to fathom from what angle his last attack would come from.

    Facing such a terrifying powerful enemy, Kou Zhongs fighting spirit soared instead. Unprecedented spirited light burst forth from his pair of tiger-eyes, as he watched the opponent attentively without blinking at all.

    Only when the enemys saber was only about three chi away from him, when the rushing forth saber qi violently arrived did he let out a cold shout and rushed forward, with the Moon in the Well swiftly parried the attack, with abundant succeed-or-die-trying, no-momentum-was-spared feeling.

    Dang!

    The two sabers clashed.

    Kou Zhong let out a stifled grunt; both his body and his saber were swept by Song Ques thick-backed broadsword that he staggered three steps backward, but he was able to seal Song Ques follow-up change.

    Seeing Kou Zhongs face losing his ruddy complexion, Song Que pointed his saber toward this young opponent, but he did not seize the opportunity to pursue and attack. Throwing his head back in long laughter, he said, Shao Shuai is indeed outstanding; unexpectedly your state of mind did not reveal any flaw at all, you were able to see through that only by meeting this saber strike head-on in braving-death, disregarding-everything block that you will have a chance to save your life. If it was an ordinary fighter, because he could not see through the many changes within the strike, he would certainly adopt defensive position or perhaps attempt to dodge, and that would result in an immediate downfall. Now you ought to know what the intention of the body means!

    His countenance returning to normal, Kou Zhong nodded and said, Practically I could not see through the changes in Fazhus saber momentum; but the moment I put myself in death, my hand unexpectedly seemed to know how to preserve my little life. This is probably the general idea of the intention of the body!

    Song Que smiled and said, The intention of the body is precisely the overall outcome of all previous hard work, discipline training, and actual combat experience. What the heart and the spirit desire to do surpasses the thinking, but if you could do it only once in a while, you still cannot be considered an expert. Only if in each stroke each style the spirit and intention are blended together will the saber technique follow your hearts desire. Watch! This is the second saber strike.

    Kou Zhong cried inwardly, Help! Until now, the blood and qi in his body were still surging, his unbearably painful and numb arm had barely recovered. He was well aware that whether in internal power or saber technique, he was inferior to the opponent by more than a notch.

    And from Song Ques saber push just now, he was able to determine that Song Que indeed had the intention to kill him, because there was no leniency in his move at all. So, if he was unable to block this saber strike, he would die. Even Song Que himself would be unable to change this inevitable outcome.

    Fortunately Kou Zhong had a firm and persistent will, so he would definitely not lose his will to fight just because he knew he was not the opponents match. Letting out a cold snort, he took the initiative by attacking first.

    Song Que took a step forward, creating a pow! noise, and unexpectedly the entire Mo Dao Tang was shaking. Following his footwork, the saber cut across, without the least bit of fancy variation, yet it was able to push and break all changes in Kou Zhongs saber technique.

    Kou Zhong felt that Song Ques seemingly mediocre, nothing-special saber strike, was actually highly skillful but looked clumsy, it was able to change something rotten into something magical, eliminating all escape paths, so that he could not carryout anything else; the initiative was immediately reduced to passive.

    Clang!

    Kou Zhong retreated three more steps from the hack.

    The blade of Song Ques saber touched the ground, he glibly said, Can Shao Shuai see through the mystery of my saber strike?

    Kou Zhong regulated his breathing quietly. Nodding, he said, Countless changes contained within one variation, the subtlety is not something that can be described.

    Song Que sighed and said, Child can indeed be taught. Its a pity that you will lose your life under Ol Songs saber.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud, the Moon in the Well hacked swiftly, immediately wind and thunder erupted simultaneously, the saber momentum was bold and powerful beyond human comprehension, yet there was agility and elegance hidden within it, giving the impression that he was able to combine these two extreme feelings into one. In itself, it was a marvel that was hard to believe.

    Good! Song Que thundered. His keen eyes lit up with unusual glint; however, his handsome-without-equal face did not reveal the slightest amount of emotion [orig. four types of human emotions: happiness, anger, sorrow, and joy], while the thick-backed saber in his hand swiftly hooked forward. It changed nine times before it hit the blade of Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well.

    With his confidence in his own saber technique, Kou Zhong had to wholeheartedly concede that at his peak condition since he made his debut, Kou Zhong originally thought that in this saber strike he would be able to snatch a bit of decisive opportunity; who would have thought that Song Ques seemingly casual counterstrike completely seized the initiative, just like the Yijian Technique, so that he could not carryout his remaining move even for half a cun.

    Song Que momentum was continuously expanding; as a result, the pressure on him was growing as well, as if his hands and feet were tied, and he was unable to use half his normal skill.

    Qiang!

    The two men suddenly separated but quickly came together again.

    In the blink of an eye the two sabers clashed more than a dozen times.

    If someone was watching on the side, he would see that each saber strike from Song Que appeared to be simple, plain, even clumsy. Yet Kou Zhong, who was in close proximity to him, knew that each rise and fall of the saber concealed a thousand changes ten thousand variations, so that no one would be able to understand the traces of his movements, and thus could only counter every move. Under this kind of circumstances, all those using the man to play the sword, using the sword to play the enemy could not be used, let alone trying to find the opponents escaping one.

    After blocking Song Ques sometimes-light-sometimes-heavy, its-speed-followed-the-heart, and-could-attack-from-any-angle twenty-seventh strike, Kou Zhongs inner qi was nearing the lamp-which-oil-was-drying-out level and was in desperate straits where he did not have time to replenish it.

    Under Song Ques impossible-to-resist, startling-the-ghosts-and-immortal-on-heaven-and-earth saber technique, Kou Zhong felt like he was struggling to survive in the perilous situation of the ocean under torrential rain and gale; his only regret was that this moment he was already exhausted, and was facing the disaster of the crown of his head drowning.

    Taking advantage of while he still had a bit of strength left, Kou Zhong suddenly spun around, the Moon in the Well ferociously swept across the opponents long saber.

    Dang!

    It was extremely amazing; right the moment he spun around, Kou Zhong borrowed the spiraling force to miraculously escape from within the range of Song Ques enveloping saber wind and the sharp blade, and then by throwing himself at the point where Song Ques saber momentum was the strongest, even with Song Ques ability, he was forced to block this saber strike head on.

    Going in and out, the saber technique was like a heavenly steed soaring across the skies, leaving no trace at all.

    It was the first time since the battle began that he managed to regain a little bit of initiative.

    Dang! Dang! Dang!

    Taking advantage of this split second opportunity, Kou Zhong sent out continuous, unbroken hacks at Song Que from three different angles, three different saber strikes without any flaws in between.

    Since he speculated that he was going to die anyway, these three saber strikes were completely without reserved momentum. Immediately it generated powerful-without-equal violent force and fierce momentum, brimming with ever-onward-no-retreat spirit.

    Letting out a long laugh, Song Que said, Delighted! Delighted! I have never had such a good time.

    Just like that the saber momentum turned over and flew, it successively met Kou Zhongs three saber strikes.

    After three saber strikes, Kou Zhong lost his will to continue. This moment Song Ques saber swept across, sending the saber, as well as Kou Zhongs body, flying backward. Kou Zhong rolled out of the door, and fell on his butt on the ground in the courtyard.

    Wah!

    Finally Kou Zhong was unable to stop fresh blood from gushing out of his mouth and filling the air.

    While he was certain that he was about to die, he heard Song Ques voice, saying, By the time the sun is setting, we will continue this unfinished predestined meeting!

  11. #311
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    Default Book 26 Chapter 5

    Book 26 Chapter 5 Keep on Fighting Despite Continual Setbacks

    His eyes lit up, Lei Jiuzhi spoke in heavy voice, Not concealing anything from Ziling Xiong, for the last dozen of years or so, it could be said that LaoGe has been gambling in casinos all across the country, big and small. When people say Bei Lei Nan Xiang [lit. northern thunder southern fragrance], the northern thunder is referring to me, Lei Jiuzhi [reminder: his surname literally means thunder], and the southern fragrance is naturally Xiang Gui [his surname literally means, you guess it, fragrance]. Even without this human trafficking affair, I have always wanted to have a showdown on the gambling table against Xiang Gui.

    Puzzled, Xu Ziling asked, Even if you could defeat him on the gambling table, what does it have to do with his human trafficking business?

    Lei Jiuzhi explained, Two years ago Xiang Gui publicly performed the washing hand in golden bowl ceremony [i.e. retiring]; he would no longer pay attention to the affairs in Jianghu. He also put on an act of closing many casinos and brothels, which everybody knew to be operating under his banner. But actually he was pulling wool over peoples eyes, so that those who intend to seek him would lose the trail. And now nobody knows where Xiang Gui lives. But if I could lure him out, perhaps we could find clues from him. With such a big business, there must be small-hill-like piles of account books, roster, and so on, recording all settlements and transaction. As long as we can make it public, Xiang Guis evil empire will crumble immediately, and he will be a contempt of the world.

    Xu Ziling was still confused, Since he has washed his hand in golden bowl, how could he eat his own words and come out to have a showdown against Lei Xiong on the gambling table?

    Lei Jiuzhi said, His washing hand in golden bowl is merely a pretense; the fact is that within the Xiang Family, the one with most ambitions is his son, Xiang Yushan. I hear that recently he left Xiao Xian and turned his effort to expand the family business. As for the real reason, opinions differ. One of those opinions says that he had offended some opponent whom nobody dares to provoke, hence he needs to conceal his track. Ha! If even Xiao Xian is helpless to protect him, the disaster he invited upon himself must not be a small matter.

    Lets talk about that later, Xu Ziling said, Could Lei Xiong tell me how you are going to lure Xiang Gui, father and son, out of their hiding?

    Lei Jiuzhi thought deeply for half a day before answering, Only by winning big over Xiang Gui until he loses his cool will he be willing to come out to bet against me.

    Muttering to himself irresolutely, Xu Ziling said, How would you know that the casino is operated by him?

    Lei Jiuzhi smiled and said, Every casino has its own many taboos, layout and tricks. As soon as I enter the casino and make a round, I will know which family or which Sect presided over the plan, you can forget about deceiving me. Right now I already win big in Xiang Familys casinos one by one, and each time I appear in different disguise; I must have already provoked Xiang Guis attention, hence I mistakenly thought that Huo Jitong was coming to settle the score with me. I dont know if it was to deal with you, but in recent years he spends a lot of money to invite and hire martial art experts from various regions in order to increase his strength, but at the same time it also makes my situation very dangerous.

    Since thats the case, Xu Ziling said, how would your plan work? Xiang Gui practically does not need to face Lei Xiong on the gambling table; he only needs to send his martial art masters to use force to deal with you. Perhaps he would even be able to recover all the money that you won from him earlier.

    With a card up his sleeve, Lei Jiuzhi said, Naturally it wont be that simple. Currently, I have stirred up the nest enough that the casinos under his banner are jittery [orig. wind sighing and crane calling] and anxious that they are unable to carry on even for a single day. It is critical for him to resolve this situation, and its not me who is anxious whether he would come out to bet against me or not. I only need him to openly issue a challenge to me. Of course it has to be handled according to Jianghu rules. But before it happens, I have to be exceptionally careful to preserve my life. Hence the reason I previously invited you to work with me.

    Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, Whether its for public or personal interests, both Kou Zhong and I are willing to deal with this matter. How about we wait till we see Kou Zhong before discussing the details?

    Greatly delighted, Lei Jiuzhi said, With Ziling and Shao Shuais help, the Xiang Family wont be able to escape this calamity. Let me explain in details the gambling techniques that I learned over the years to Ziling.

    Surprised, Xu Ziling said, It wont be me whos going to gamble, why would you want to teach me?

    Revealing a bit of sly smile, Lei Jiuzhi said, Since you are my assistant, how could you not understand a word of gambling technique [orig. does not even enter a single aperture of ones head]?

    When he woke up from his deep meditation, he was unable to see the sun anymore, since it has already dropped behind the courtyard wall. A flock of birds was frolicking and twittering noisily inside the dense shade of the locust tree leaves, producing unending zi zi cha cha racket.

    Nevertheless, his entire body felt relax and peaceful. After surviving the ocean, this was the second time that he exhausted his true qi, but this time he only needed a little more than two sichen [i.e. 4 hours] to fully recover, and his true qi was surging even faster, more refined and pure; proving that his previous inference was correct.

    If his true qi was exhausted, when it recovered, it would grow even more fantastic.

    To average people, this kind of situation rarely happened. What usually happened was that when the true qi could no longer continue, for example when ones strength was exhausted during fierce battle, one would end up dead. Only a few people could recover as fast as he did.

    Last time, when he was in the ocean, he exhausted his true qi because he was using inner breathing while diving under water. This time, it was due to Song Ques world-shaking, continuous saber technique that made his strength exhausted, his spirit weary, but it also made his true qi grew faster after being scattered and recovered.

    In the past, even when facing opponent as powerful as Wanwan, he still had gaps to recover his qi; but Song Ques heavenly saber was just like gigantic waves in the angry ocean, so that even a sliver of time to reconcile his breathing was difficult to seize.

    Encountering such an opponent, all he could do was to have desperate contest to see whose qi and meridians would last longer. Yet now, evidently he was far below Song Que.

    But this was not possible. He, Kou Zhong, has always been young and vigorous. What he trained was the Secret to Long Life plus the Jade Annulus of He Clan, two great mystery-within-a-mystery, wonder-on-top-of-wonder innate true qi. Even if his maturity level could not surpass Song Ques, but it was inconceivable that when the opponent still had abundant, with plenty leftovers true qi, he would fall down first.

    There must be some other crucial point.

    Thinking to this point, a divine light flashed in his mind.

    Song Ques voice came through, Shao Shuai, please come in. This time, if you could block eighty saber strikes, Ol Song would let you think one more night.

    Kou Zhong cried out for his Niang inwardly. Just now the battle was just around thirty saber strikes, and he was hacked that he rolled out of the Mo Dao Tang. And now he will have to take eighty more saber strikes, chances are he would not even have the luck to roll out the hall.

    But things have come this far, what could he say? Springing up, upright and unafraid he entered the Mo Dao Tang, which looked like a whale opening up its mouth ready to swallow him.

    Inside the darkening big hall, Song Que was standing erect, his right hand was grabbing the scabbard, while his left hand slowly pull the long saber out of its sheath.

    Focusing his power into his eyes, Kou Zhong looked closer, and saw the saber blade was thin like satin, soft and nimble like feather, while exuding some kind of bluish, gleaming luster. If he had not seen it with his own eyes, he would not have believed that there was such man-made treasure in the world.

    Immediately half of Kou Zhongs heart turned cold. The ideas he thought earlier of dealing with Song Que was entirely based on how to cope with his thick-backed saber; who would have thought that unexpectedly Song Que exchanged his weapon with an entirely different treasured blade? It was not difficult to infer that this weapon would use different kind of saber technique, so that the countermeasure he had thought up would completely come to nothing, and definitely could not be used anymore.

    Song Que caressed the blade of the saber with his eyes. He spoke softly, This saber is called Shuixian [lit. water immortal; legendary aquatic immortal, or Narcissus flower (Narcissus tazetta)]. Based on this sabers characteristic, I created Tian Dao Ba Jue [heavenly saber eight secrets (of an art)]. Each secret consists of ten strikes, for a total of eighty saber strikes. The saber is ruthless, Shao Shuai must be careful!

    Qiang!

    Kou Zhong pulled the Moon in the Well. Immediately yellow glow flared out. With neither happiness nor anger showing off of his face, he spoke indifferently, I wonder if these eight secrets have any pleasant-to-hear names; would Fazhu let me know, so that my ears will be opened?

    Song Ques eyes moved away from the treasured blade Shuixian to look at Kou Zhong, but he laughed involuntarily and said, What do you mean your ears will be opened? But the way that you dont follow traditional conventions is precisely your strong point. Since my debut, I, the Heavenly Saber Song Que, have never had anybody dared to cross blades with me, without yielding the least bit, able to meet more than thirty saber strikes head on, with the cost of just a mouthful of blood. It was the reason I made an exception by letting you rest before continuing the battle, not that I changed my mind by sparing your life.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Surprisingly Heavenly Saber Song Que can speak much superfluous words; when did I ever expect Fazhus saber to show any leniency? By saying that, could it be because your intention to kill me is not firm enough that you have to say it out loud to convince yourself?

    Song Que was slightly startled. And then he nodded and said, Your comment is not without any reason. If I say that Yuzhi has no influence in my determination to kill you, I would be lying to you. I wonder if Shao Shuai would be willing to reconsider Ol Songs advice to you about quitting this vying-for-the-world business?

    Laughing in spite of himself, Kou Zhong said, Fazhu still cannot figure out what kind of man I, Kou Zhong, am?

    After staring closely at him for half a day, Song Que spoke in astonishment, If you die in here, what world are you going to strive for? The so-called good death is not as good as ugly living. Even though you are not afraid of death, the fact is that such death is completely meaningless.

    Shrugging his shoulders elegantly, Kou Zhong said, I can only blame Fazhu for not being good. Since you made the agreement about eighty saber strikes, I am not afraid to tell you that Xiaozi [this kid] practically does not believe that Fazhu can slaughter me within eighty saber strikes. With one more night of consideration, perhaps tomorrow I will be able to walk off without a second thought for those I leave behind!

    Song Que casually tossed the scabbard away, his left hand raised the saber high, he threw his head back in laughter and said, Very well! Since ancient times, hero came from the youth. The first style of Tian Dao Ba Jue is called Tian Feng Huan Pei [heavenly wind ring/hoop girdle ornaments]. The artistic conception is a fairy going back and forth high in the clouds, riding the wind. Although we cannot see her, we can hear the clear heavenly music of her resounding hoop girdle ornaments.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Really worthy to be the first style the Heavenly Saber created. Just by hearing the name, I know it is a marvelous move like a divine dragon that we can see the head but not the tail. Fazhu, en garde!

    Having learned a lesson from his previous mistakes, he did not dare to let Song Que gain the initiative by striking first.

    Of course, facing such a terrifying enemy, he did not dare to advance rashly either. Presently he raised his saber and pressed forward, but his eyes were fixed on Song Que.

    An enormous saber qi immediately burst forth toward Song Que; cold qi permeated the hall.

    Astonished expression flashed through Song Ques eyes. Nodding his head in praise, he said, No wonder Shao Shuai spoke conceited nonsense. Turns out not only your power has recovered completely, you even made outstanding progress. It is indeed extremely rare.

    Kou Zhong suddenly rushed forward and swept the saber across, turning it into yellow light, swiftly cutting into the pit of Song Ques stomach; fierce and powerful like lightning flashes.

    Standing unmoving like a mountain, Song Que watched until the Moon in the Well was only about a chi away from his chest before swiftly moved backward, while the thin-bladed Water Immortal in his hand turned into thousands of blue gleaming saber light enveloping Kou Zhong, along with his saber, inside. The saber technique was exquisite beyond compare, and was incredibly difficult to believe.

    Inwardly Kou Zhong knew that the turn of events was not too encouraging; he also knew that the fast, erratic saber technique was practically unfathomable, and was beyond his ability to understand it well.

    The saber wind screamed all around him. Kou Zhong fiercely gnashed his teeth. In this critical moment where his life was hanging on a thread, he was relying purely on his intuition to guess where Song Ques murderous aura was, where the murderous aura was the strongest, and then, turning the complicated into simplicity, his body following his saber, he launched one saber strike.

    Ding!

    After one clear ring, blue light and yellow light clashed continuously.

    Kou Zhong blocked Song Ques no-trail-could-be-tracked like flying bird or swimming fish, nine consecutive saber strikes, which came one after another, attacking him until he was sweating profusely, and made him nearly abandon his saber and flee.

    The two men suddenly separated.

    Kou Zhong stood with his saber across his chest, while secretly regulating his breathing, momentarily he was unable to speak.

    Song Que calmly stroke his saber and said with a laugh, Now, does Shao Shuai understand what saber intention is?

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong replied, Even if I did not want to understand, I cant. Turns out feeling is so important. But if I am guessing correctly, Fazhu does not really want to kill me. Otherwise, once you unleash his mothers Tian Dao Ba Jue, I am afraid I could only try to understand saber intention or whatever on my way to the nether world.

    Heaving a deep sigh, Song Que said, You are wrong to think so. Just because you dont know how lonely I am; its rare to have such a good opponent like you, hence I dont want you to quickly return to heaven [i.e. die] that easily.

    Finished regulating his breathing, Kou Zhongs confidence increased substantially. Smiling, he said, Be careful; it will be increasingly difficult to kill me. So whats the second secret called?

    Song Que delightedly said, The more difficult to kill you the better. The second secret is called Xiaoxiang Shui Yun [lit. water and cloud of Xiangjiang (river, in Hunan province)]. Although it has ten saber strikes, it is like the red clouds and curling up fog, hiding within it the water light and the cloud shadow, which continuously on the move, with infinite bearing. En garde!

    Wait! Kou Zhong shouted hastily.

    Remaining tranquil and calm, Song Que said, If I find out that Shao Shuai is stalling for time, Shao Shuai will regret it very much.

    Sneering, Kou Zhong said, I, Kou Zhong, will never have regret over such thing; I am not interested in stalling for time even more. Its just that Fazhus one secret ten strikes reminded me of a set of fierce saber technique, the Ten-Style Bloody Battle. If Fazhu could defend without attacking, and allow me to fully use the saber technique, I guarantee you will be extremely delighted to enjoy its beauty.

    Song Que laughed aloud and said, I thought you were going to say that you would cut your own throat to kill yourself. But the name of this Ten-Style Bloody Battle could move my heart, so lets see it. If the name does not correspond to reality, dont blame me for not having the patience to continue watching until the end.

    Kou Zhong mused inwardly that the most important thing was that you are willing to wait. Letting out a hey, hey! laughter, he said, Fazhu better be careful!

    Immediately he raised his saber and struck a posture. Bending his waist and back, his upper torso slightly leaned forward, his Moon in the Well pointing at Song Que from a distance, his eyes shot fierce and sharp flashes, he stared fixedly at the opponent without blinking at all, while his posture suggested that he was about to pounce forward.

    It was such an intimidating imposing manner; if it were some ordinary martial art master, perhaps he would immediately break down without fighting, abandon his weapon and flee for his life. However, Song Que only stood with his saber; nodding his head, he said, It indeed has a bit of facing-the-enemy-on-the-battlefield, in a blood-soaked-and-hard-fought-struggle impression.

    Kou Zhong shouted with a heavy voice, This style is called Two Armies Encamped Face-to-face.

    Before he even finished speaking, the Moon in the Well turned into a yellow light, and shot toward Song Que, who was standing about a zhang and a half away.

    Because he was not afraid that Song Que would use attack to respond to his attack, his momentum was fierce and severe, with a strong once-gone-no-turning-back feeling.

    Song Ques eyes emitted strange light. The most formidable point in Kou Zhongs saber strike was not the saber technique, but the saber intention. From his saber posture to the pouncing-forward violent attack, all the movements were blending together into indivisible entity. Although only the right hand was moving the saber, this saber strike embodied the power of his entire being, so that others would not dare to underestimate it.

    But one thing that made Song Que quite mad, while was amused at the same time the most was that clearly Kou Zhong was able to see that his Water Immortal treasured blade was most suitable in offense but not in defense; thereupon he deliberately use words to trap Song Que to be on defensive, but not in offensive. Song Que could only stare blankly while realizing he had been put into disadvantageous position.

    Dang!

    Song Que evaded sideways; the Water Immortal in his left hand scooped up at an angle to block the blade of Kou Zhongs saber.

    The saber in Kou Zhongs hand glowed brighter; he shouted coldly, Showing off ones ability!

    Ten million dots of saber rays, like countless flowers among a wave of butterflies rained down on Song Que, with a momentum like the rainbow.

    Good! Song Que shouted, and then, holding the saber with one hand, Swish! Swish! Swish! he flashed three steps in succession, unexpectedly he was able to weave through the saber rays unhindered, until finally he moved the saber to cut diagonally, to hack on the Moon in the Well about three cun away from the blade.

    Unexpectedly Kou Zhongs next move, the Light Cavalry Charging Ahead, could not continue, so he changed to the fourth style Feeling the Pocket and Taking Something Out, by swiftly poking into Song Ques waist and lower abdomen.

    Sneering, Song Que said, Shao Shuais skill is poor! Huh? He saw Kou Zhongs poking saber had the saber intention that was constantly changing, both in terms of speed and angle of attack; therefore, although on the surface it appeared to be simple and direct, but in the eyes of a saber expert like Song Que, it carried an unfathomable characteristic. If he was waiting passively, inevitably he would not be able to parry it.

    Even if he could block this move, albeit with difficulty, subsequent offensive could make a brilliant master like Song Que fall into disadvantageous position; after that, to level the score again would not be easy to do.

    In Kou Zhongs eyes, noticing Song Ques hesitating expression, he was well aware that finally Song Que has fallen into his trap.

    From the last clash to this moment, it did not matter how he fought with all his might, he could never seize the upper hand, or even snatch the initiative. It could be said that Song Que had always led him by the nose.

    In his desperation, he suddenly had an idea, which was to use the tangible Ten-Style Bloody Battle to lure Song Que to underestimate the opponent first, and then using the saber intention, which he stole from Song Que, in a using-someones-spear-to-attack-his-own-shield tactic to force Song Que to change from defense to offense, so that psychologically Song Que felt like he already lost, and thus the imposing manner of his state of mind would be somewhat reduced.

    Before his eyes, Song Que was hesitating just before the battle; and this was precisely the conclusive proof that Song Que has fallen into his trap.

    Song Que let out a cold laugh; the Water Immortal in his left hand immediately turned into water-light, cloud-shadow-like layer upon later of saber light meeting Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well head-on. Finally he abandoned the original plan of only defending without attacking.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, I told you it was impossible to defend without attacking at all!

    Suddenly traversing across, he brandished the saber to hack down on empty space.

    For the first time, he was finally able to understand Song Ques saber technique, and was able to fully use the Yijian Technique.

    By nature, Song Que was arrogant. Kou Zhongs remark was more difficult to bear than being hacked by his saber. Immediately his murderous intent flared up.

    Who would have thought that Kou Zhong suddenly retreated to the position where his saber momentum was the weakest? The saber hacking down was even more like a heavenly steed soaring across the skies; it was marvelous to the highest limit. If he did not change his original style, it would be tantamount to letting his Water Immortal being chopped by Kou Zhongs saber. Not only that, Kou Zhongs shenfa had suddenly become strange and hard to fathom, just like the fish in the water; even though it was motionless, as soon as you stir the water nearby, he would rapidly run away.

    Dealing with that kind of intense-movement-hidden-within-the-stillness characteristic, even with his keen eyesight, which was able to see through any changes, he still felt big headache.

    In that instant, Song Que knew that his slight hesitation just now had given this genius kid traversing sideways the opportunity to seize the initiative and the upper hand.

    Unable to continue his Xiaoxiang Shui Yun, instead of getting angry, Song Que laughed and said, Shi Shang Liu Quan [rock upstream of the spring]!

    Saber style that appeared like continuous water stream suddenly turned into a streak of bluish green luminous light, like the water from the spring came alive, boring through the rock and gargling over the stones. The Water Immortals blade slashed out a streak of blue light, following a certain graceful-surpassing-any-words-can-describe arc to take on Kou Zhong.

    Kou Zhong evaded to the other side, while raising his saber horizontally to block. It appeared to be moving fast, but it actually contained speed within the slow, and turned skillfully into a twist.

    Bang!

    And then a string of clear noise of weapons clashing against each other lingered on faintly.

    Although the momentum of Song Ques saber was continuously expanding, Kou Zhong has not been put in a completely inferior position where he could only take a beating and suffer humiliation either, or even a helpless, without-any-freedom-to-act-independently situation where if Song Que wanted him to move east than he moved east, or to the west and he moved west. Rather, he attacked and defended properly, and gave Song Que enough headaches by coming up with strange strokes.

    The biggest benefit was that Kou Zhong was able to learn how, in the midst of Song Ques stormy-sea-like saber technique to circulate his qi, in correlation to the degree of his confidence; defense concealed within the offense, offense contained within the defense.

    Each time he attacked or blocked with all his might, he would have a bit of strength left, with which he was able to regulate the true qi within his body, the subtlety within it was not something that could be grasped just before the battle, while in the face of the enemy.

    It was a bit like going up the surface of the water to take a breath after diving underwater for a period of time, and not like desperately continuing underwater until the power exhausted, the qi depleted.

    Under enormous pressure from Song Que, Kou Zhong gave everything he had, without any reservation at all, unleashing all the saber technique he learned in the past to extreme saturation. He even put the new things he learned from Song Que into practice. The longer he fought, the more he was reaching toward the what-the-heart-wishes-the-hand-accomplishes level; so he was extremely delighted.

    Song Ques saber technique suddenly changed, Wu Ye Wu Qiu Feng [Wutong tree leaves dancing in autumn breeze]! he shouted loudly.

    His entire body spun around, the Water Immortal seemed to be attacking randomly, there was no saber path that could be traced; on top of that, his shenfa was weird, so that the advantageous situation that Kou Zhong was able to maintain immediately melt like ice and broke like tiles.

    Dang!

    Although Kou Zhong was ten million times unwilling, he was still thrown into great confusion by Song Ques move, so that all he could do was to defend passively without any opportunity to recover his qi. The divinely skillful saber technique has pushed him to be at his wits end. By the tenth stroke, Song Ques hack pushed him, along with his saber, staggering back, until finally, thump! he landed on his butts, just one step away from repeating his earlier defeat of rolling down the stone steps.

    Song Que pursued to the door. Staring down at Kou Zhong, his eyes shone with unusual light.

    Nobody knew since when the moon secretly climbed over the courtyard wall, but its light penetrated the dense locust tree and sprayed the courtyard with patches of golden light.

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, I did not have time to count how many saber strikes Fazhu actually used; I just hope it was not seventy-nine!

    Grim expression appeared on Song Ques face, the murderous intent in his eyes flared out, he spoke in heavy voice, You are not afraid to die?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Kou Zhong replied, I would be lying if I said I am not scared. But I am also quite curious; what happen after death? I just have to trouble Fazhu to tell Zhizhi that I was sincere to her.

    A hint of smile appeared on the corner of Song Ques mouth; immediately the grim expression on his face, as well as the murderous intent in his eyes dissolved. He spoke indifferently, Leave those last words for tomorrow!

    Turning around, he went back into the Mo Dao Tang.

  12. #312
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    Thanks foxs

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    Default Book 26 Chapter 6

    Book 26 Chapter 6 Intentional and Unintentional

    I wonder which gambling method Ling Ye is familiar with? Lei Jiuzhi asked.

    Xu Ziling said, Dont use Ye this and Ye that [master, as in master/servant] to call me, I am greatly unaccustomed to that. When I was little, I used to watch people playing dice, also some dominoes, but my share was just to watch. Ha! When I say watch, actually I watched people winning money from those fat sheep.

    Lei Jiuzhi asked, What kind of dice game is prevalent in Yangzhou? Is it big and small, betting on two gates, eighteen gates, or is it counting the dots on individual die?

    Xu Ziling replied, Its the former two methods mixed together; you could bet two gates or sixteen [sic] gates. Why do you ask those questions?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Lei Jiuzhi said, No reason. The real experts in playing dice may use Tian Jiu Pai [heavenly nine (playing) tiles, Tien Gow] style to bet against each other. Three dice combination can become all kinds of Tian Jiu Pai; winner and loser can be determined according to Tian Jiu rules, it is a lot more interesting.

    Xu Ziling said, Yangzhou also has several famous gamblers, our Yan Laoda was one of those, but he was never willing to teach us. His favorite was using hollow dice; he poured mercury inside to cheat.

    Lei Jiuzhi spoke disdainfully, Dice that are rigged with mercury, lead, or ivory powder, are all called drugged dice. Those who are a bit smarter use iron fillings inside the dice, and then controlling the dice using magnet from underneath the table. With some technique, you want single dot youll get single dot, you want double, youll get double. But these are all considered low hand. Real experts would use the technique of listening to the dice. Relying on the sound the dice falling into the bowl, from the subtle noise of dice colliding against each other and the friction of the dice against the bowl, one could tell the difference which surface, from one to six dots, facing down, and determine the points. In my case, I have up to eighty-percent confidence.

    Speechless, Xu Ziling said, No wonder you win every bet.

    Lei Jiuzhi said, Theres no such thing as a sure-win technique in the world; swindlers can be exposed. Watch this!

    Xu Ziling watched him spreading out his hand, which was more slender than average person; there were two ivory dice on the hollow of his palm. Frowning, he said, I have never been interested in predatory shady business. If it were Kou Zhong, you cant escape even if you dont want to teach him.

    Lei Jiuzhi smiled and said, Ziling only need to think that this is some kind of doing business on behalf of the Heaven, the money you win will be used entirely to buy food and for the relieve of the people, then gambling will not be predatory business at all!

    Xu Ziling only responded with a wry smile.

    Kou Zhong woke up from the deepest sleep he had ever had, and found out that he was still sitting cross-legged with his spine straight. Not only the true qi within his body had been fully recovered, he even progressed one layer further. The perception of his five senses was more sensitive than before.

    Opening up his eyes to look around, he found out that the half moon had quietly moved from the courtyard hall to the top of his head. Outside the reach of the green bursting light of the moon, the deep black night sky was embedded with dense twinkling stars; an extremely touching scene.

    Kou Zhong picked up the Moon in the Well resting on his knees, some kind of unprecedented sensation bubbled forth wildly in his heart, as if the treasured saber has become one entity with his flesh and blood body, the blade was like obtaining new life, no longer a mere object and tool.

    Unable to restrain his emotions, he raised the saber and looked closely at it, while his other hand lovingly stroke the blade. His entire being became ethereally transparent, not contaminated by a single speck of dust.

    Clang!

    The Moon in the Well rose high above his head, and then swiftly hacked down, stopping level with his chest.

    The saber qi was like waves surging over to both sides, rolling up the dead leaves of the old Chinese scholar tree standing in the yard into the air.

    Qiang!

    The Moon in the Well returned to its scabbard.

    That saber still looks good!

    Kou Zhong looked at Song Que, who had just appeared on the stone steps outside the door; he spoke indifferently, I thought Fazhu already went to bed!

    Song Que had his left hand behind his back, his right hand hanging lightly by his side, he walked down the steps smoothly and stopped about two zhang in front of Kou Zhong. His eyes gleaming bright, he smiled and said, Such a fine time, beautiful scenery like this, wouldnt it be a pity if we miss it? Shao Shuais last saber strike, from following-the-law [or technique] it entered into without-the-law boundary, in your heart you did not have any worry about established rules, but you still one stripe lacking from reaching the genuine great expert level.

    Toward Song Ques saber technique, Kou Zhong prostrated himself in admiration. Hearing that, he modestly asked for instruction, saying, May I ask Fazhu, what exactly does Xiaodi lack?

    Song Que looked up to the sky, at the moon and the stars, his deep gaze shone with exquisite light, he slowly said, word-by-word, Following-the-law is the earth level. Without-the-law is the heaven level. Without-the-law contains following-the-law within it; following-the-law is hidden inside without-the-law this is the highest level where the heaven, the earth and the man blend together to become one. Only a talented person can link heaven and earth together, so that without-the-law is following-the-law, and following-the-law is without-the-law.

    Kou Zhong pondered for half a day; finally he shook his head and said, I still dont understand. As far as Im concerned, the so-called following-the-law is making the moves by following a predetermined style. Even though while facing the enemy it can change according to the situation, it is still based on specific law or some derivation of it. Without-the-law means it is not restricted to any established rules, the moves are made as one pleases, hence it could be unconventional.

    Song Que leisurely moved his left hand, which was hidden behind his back, to the front of his chest. Unexpectedly there was another treasured saber inside its scabbard in his hand; ancient looking, and looked to be exceptionally heavy. His hand then grabbed the hilt and slowly pulled the saber out of the scabbard, while his eyes followed the movement of his right hand.

    He spoke gently, The Heaven has the heavenly law, an object has its own physical property. Its not that reason and law do not exist, but by the time you could master reason and law, it will be just like Chef Ding chopping up a cow. Its not that the cow does not exist, but when it entered the kitchen, it already turned into pieces of beef. After obtaining the cow, you forget that the cow exists; after obtaining the law you forget about the law. Therefore, in using the saber, the most important thing is the saber intention. But if it is intentional, it will leave a trace; if it is unintentional, it will be squandered. The most desirable is between intentional and unintentional. This creative concept, if you understand it then you understand it, if you dont understand it then you dont understand it. Just like this saber.

    The saber left the scabbard and hacked down on Kou Zhong seemingly in a careless way.

    Chef Ding cutting up an ox was a fable by ancient sage Zhuang Zhou[1], speaking about a chef that was adept at scraping the meat from the bones of an ox, using thin blade that was able to enter the narrow slit between the bone and the meat, hence he was able to do it with ease.

    Kou Zhong was still thinking; he never expected that Song Que would hit as soon as he said he would hit, practically not giving Kou Zhong any time to ponder over it. Furthermore, this saber strike was like antelope antler; not only it had no beginning, it had no end either.

    Suddenly the saber was already chopping in front of his face, and the saber momentum had already sealed all escape paths; there was no way he would be able to evade it. The most formidable part was that he had no idea which part of his body this blade was going to chop. In particular, this close to a hundred catty, plain black heavy saber, in Song Ques hand it appeared to be as heavy as a thousand jun [1 jun = 30 catties], but it also appeared to be as light as a feather, so that he was unable to grasp its path.

    Just by looking at it, it already made him unbearably dizzy.

    With no other choice, Kou Zhong hastily pulled the Moon in the Well and raised it up to block.

    Meeting Song Ques saber, naturally the Moon in the Well changed direction.

    Dang!

    The two sabers clashed and stopped midair.

    An enormous-without-equal true qi penetrated the saber and burst into his body. Kou Zhong was forced to exert the qi from all the meridians in his entire body before he was able to barely withstand the opponents first round of qi power.

    Revealing a hint of smile, while continuously sending out true qi to attack Kou Zhong, Song Que spoke indifferently, Can Shao Shuai see the mystery of this saber strike?

    Kou Zhong was struggling hard to resist Song Ques invading qi power. He felt that Song Ques saber was getting increasingly heavier and heavier; it could crush both the saber and the person any moment. Hearing the question, he painstakingly said, Within its constant state, Fazhus saber strike contains countless changes; it appeared to be intentional, yet also seemed to be unintentional. But my block is not too bad either! Ha! It is between intentional and unintentional.

    Song Que suddenly shook his wrist, he forcefully pushed Kou Zhong that he staggered three steps back. The two separated.

    Kou Zhong cried, Thank Heaven thank the earth! inwardly. Three more steps, and his back nearly bumped into the locust tree before he was able to steady his footing, ready to deal with Song Ques second saber strike.

    With the scabbard in his left hand and the saber in his right, Song Que stood in the middle of the courtyard like a deity; there was no wind, but his clothes were fluttering. With delighted expression, he said, Only the last saber strike was Song Ques real skill; even if Ning Daoqi came in person, he would not dare to meet the strike head on, but you, unconstrained and with ease, have blocked it. If you want to listen to compliments, I, Song Que, can let you hear it: if you train a bit more, your accomplishment would surpass me, the Heavenly Saber Song Que, and you would become the Number One Saber Expert in the world.

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, Therefore, Fazhu has already determined to kill me. Otherwise, why would you be willing to compliment me? Am I right?

    Song Que shook his head and said, You are wrong. From the beginning to the end I never wanted to kill you. But if I didnt do this, how could you make this big step?

    Although with his mouth he said so, his momentum was increasing without any letup, pressing Kou Zhong that he could not breathe.

    Severely shaken, Kou Zhong said, But Fazhu, when you make your move to attack me, definitely you were using moves to take my life; once you are not careful, I might lose my life, and even Fazhu cant control it.

    Throwing his head back in laughter, Song Que said, If not so, how could I force your natural talent, which was hidden beneath the surface, to come out? If you lose your life under my saber, you do not deserve to receive my love and appreciation.

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, Since thats the case, why do you still act like you want me to die?

    Song Que spoke heavily, Do you know the name of this saber in Ol Songs hand?

    Startled, Kou Zhong said, This saber must have a pleasant-to-hear name.

    The flashing light in Song Ques eyes grew brighter; he spoke word-by-word, This is the unequalled Heavenly Saber with which Ol Song wander and run amuck all over the world.

    The Moon in the Well suddenly turned into yellow light shooting toward Song Que.

    If he waited a bit longer, he might not be able to hold on.

    Song Ques eyes revealed a smiling expression; he casually brandished the saber, calm and unrestrained. Combined with his unequalled handsome face and his tall and straight build like pine and cypress, he looked indescribably pleasing to the eye.

    Although it was a casual saber strike, Kou Zhong felt that no matter how he changed his saber momentum, how he altered the angle and timing, in the end he would have to meet the strike head on.

    He knew even more that it was impossible for him to retreat, because under the pulling force of the qi, Song Ques Heavenly Saber might be like flood bursting the dike and rushing forth from the gap, destroying everything blocking its way.

    Qiang!

    The Heavenly Saber created a huge attractive force, sucking in Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well solidly.

    The two sabers pressing each other, four eyes met.

    Song Que shook his head and said with a sigh, You still have the biggest weak point; which is you can send out but cannot restrain. If in your saber strike right now you left a spare force, you couldnt possibly be sucked by my inner power and unable to defend. This is too much for you. Xiaozi [kid], do you understand?

    Qiang!

    The saber qi surged like the tide. Kou Zhongs entire body was thrown away, almost like a rolling gourd.

    With the saber straight out, Song Que pressed on. Dense murderous aura burst out of the saber blade, enveloping Kou Zhong completely.

    Kou Zhong froze on the spot.

    The Heavenly Saber slashed.

    Kou Zhong swiftly flicked his strong wrist, continuously making seven, eight changes, blocking and deflecting, while was also hacked by the opponent that he retreated three steps.

    Good! Song Que shouted.

    He sent out another saber sweep, bold, powerful and unyielding, while also nimble, marvelous and mysterious, no clear path, and no trace.

    Kou Zhong was well aware that every single one of Song Ques attack was sent out with all his strength; if he failed to block even one, he would end up with his head separated from his body, and no one could change that.

    Hastily he raised his own spirit to block.

    With a muffled grunt, he only retreated two steps this time.

    Song Que chuckled happily. His saber chopped down on Kou Zhongs head. The saber momentum was like the sun in the middle of the sky, dazzling the earth.

    Kou Zhongs murderous intent flared out, the Moon in the Well swoop up. Ding! it hit the Heavenly Saber, and then he flew back.

    Song Que remained rooted on the spot, while holding the saber across his chest. Nodding his head, he said, Kou Zhong, you are definitely a natural talent. Probably nobody in this world could surpass you. These three saber strikes already contained send and restrain according to your intention. Now, even if I really want to kill you, I will have to spend a lot of effort. Come! Take a stab at me.

    Lei Jiuzhi pressed the dice bowl down on the table. Staring at Xu Ziling, who was listening with rapt attention, he asked, How many dots?

    Ought to be one three dots and two five dots, Xu Ziling replied.

    Lei Jiuzhi uncover the bowl, and said with a sigh, You graduated!

    Turns out it is that easy, Xu Ziling said.

    Smiling wryly, Lei Jiuzhi said, My Ling Da Shao [big young master]. Dont you know that even the Heavenly Lord Xi Ying fell head first under your hands? Although the world is big, if you count the number of people who can be your match, I am afraid the number of fingers on one hand will be greater than that. With your martial art skill plus your natural talent, others might not be able to learn a skill in a lifetime, but youll learn it in two sichen. When the boat stops at Badong, you may go ashore for your first real life test. Win some money to be used as our capital for the next stop.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, Dont you have a huge sum of money on you?

    Pointing to his own head, Lei Jiuzhi said, Lu Shis two words, quit greed are forever engraved in my head. Therefore, when the amount of silver in my bag already reached certain amount, I would distribute it to those in need, hence in my bag right now I only have about a dozen ingots of gold. In big casinos like the one in Jiujiang, this amount will not be enough.

    Are you planning on betting big as soon as we embark at Jiujiang? Xu Ziling asked.

    Lei Jiuzhi replied, Jiujiangs Yin Ru Ge [lit. just because pavilion] ranks number seven in the Top Ten Casinos in the world. They are the most famous casino in Chang Jiang region. The manager is a man called Du Gui [gambling ghost] Zha Hai, a character with resounding reputation in Dulin [reminder: gambling forest, as opposed to Wulin (martial art forest)], who is also one of the Four Major Generals under Xiang Guis command. If we can defeat him on the gambling table, even if Xiang Gui did not want to make personal appearance, he simply couldnt.

    Wheres the number one then? I wonder if it has any relationship to the Xiang Family? Xu Ziling asked.

    Lei Jiuzhi replied, The worlds most famous casino is Ming Tang Wo [lit. bright hall nest] in Guanzhong, ChangAn, located next to the most famous pleasure house Shang Lin Yuan [lit. upper forest park]. The manager is the brilliant, famous Da Xian [great immortal] Hu Fo, the Zhangmenren [headmaster] of Hu Xian Pai [lit. lake immortal sect], the most revered old castaway in gambling schools.

    Old castaway was a Jianghu terminology, referring to people who cheated in gambling.

    Puzzled, Xu Ziling asked, Isnt Hu Xian a fox? If Hu Fo is clearly a cheater, who would want to go to his casino?

    Lei Jiuzhi said, Being an old castaway was a matter of the past, when Hu Fo first made his debut. After making his fortune and establishing his reputation, twenty years ago Hu Fo publicly, using the whole pig and sheep, made offerings to the Lake Immortal, vowing that he would no longer cheat, and guaranteed that his casino would absolutely not tolerate any kind of cheating. Therefore, gambling in his Ming Tang Wo, you can feel reassured more than gambling in any other places.

    In that case, Xu Ziling said, Hu Fo must not be Xiang Guis man!

    Lei Jiuzhi said, Not only there is no relationship, they are actually enemies. One time Xiang Gui sent his oldest son to Guanzhong to open a casino, but Hu Fo beat him on the gambling table until he abandoned his armor and dragged his spear and fled; his loss was disastrous. Therefore, if Xiang Gui wants to have a face off with me, I will designate Hu Da Xians Ming Tang Wo of ChangAn as the meeting place, I think well enjoy the scenery. Ha!

    Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, You, LaoGe knew that when Kou Zhong and I get to ChangAn, our presence will be brought out into the open immediately, simply because when we see the light, we will be dead. Besides, some of Li Shimins men have already seen my current appearance; they might know that I, Xu Ziling, have arrived.

    Lei Jiuzhi said, Other than gambling technique and martial art skill, I still have disguising skill that I learned when I worked for Lu Shi. When the time comes, I will do my magic. Right now, the most important thing is not to let anybody know my relationship with the two of you. Its late! I wont stop Ling Shao from taking a rest anymore.

    Dang!

    Kou Zhong lost count on how many saber strikes he had launched, but Song Que was still like high mountain lofty peak; although swept by the wind and battered by the rain, it was difficult to shake him even for a hairsbreadth.

    However, Kou Zhong was unprecedentedly happy. An opponent as tyrannical as Song Que, it was only here he could find one.

    Plus Song Que constantly giving him pointers, and each comment hit the target and did real damage [idiom]. In one night, he learned from Song Que as much as half a lifetime from other people.

    Kou Zhong suddenly pulled his saber and retreated. Full of respect he said, Thank you for Fazhus directions. My future success is entirely bestowed by Fazhu tonight.

    Song Que also returned his saber into its scabbard and said with a smile, There is no need to speak nonsense between the two of us. It will be daybreak soon! Eat breakfast before you leave!

    Kou Zhong stared blankly for a moment before starting to follow Song Que leaving the Mo Dao Tang, a place he would never forget for as long as he lived.


    [1] Zhuang Zhou, same as Zhuangzi (369-286 BC). 庖丁解牛 The metaphor means with repeated practice, one would be able to grasp the objective rhythm, and would be able to do it with ease. (Baike Baidu, in Chinese)

  14. #314
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    Default Book 26 Chapter 7

    Book 26 Chapter 7 To Be Your Queen

    The Song Familys mountain city consisted of several hundred courtyards, big and small. The courtyards became an inseparably close system and linked to each other, with the ancestral hall, which contained the spirit tablets of the past generations of Song Family at the center.

    Each courtyard was divided equally into straight courtyard and slanted courtyard. None of the dividing structures was not constructed from choice material of superior quality, the workmanship was exquisite.

    Under the hazy light of the dawn, Kou Zhong and Song Que walked side-by-side to the Ming Yue Lou [bright moon building], which was located right next to the Mo Dao Tang. As they stepped into the flower garden, he saw an old man with white hair peppered with grey pruning the flowers and plants. After casting a sidelong glance to the two men, he turned a blind eye to them and continued working.

    While Kou Zhong was greatly astonished, Song Que laughed and said, Fang Shu [uncle] is the only person in the mountain city who is not afraid of me, because he has been serving me since childhood. Kou Zhong nodded his head, indicating that he understood.

    Passing through a long corridor, with flowers and trees supported on trellises on both sides there was a stone beam bridge spanning across the pond. All around them the trees were quite dense; there was quite a seeking-serenity, exploring-beautiful-scenery ambience. The other side of the pond was precisely the main gate of a two-story wooden construction, above which door was hanging a wooden board, carved with three characters Ming Yue Lou in gold lettering.

    The wooden door and windows were fretwork with ornamental design. The interlocking wooden brackets between the top of the columns and crossbeams reached high into the eaves, embedded with stone carving; refined, colorful, brilliant and varied.

    Song Que stopped in the middle of the bridge. Leaning over the railing, he looked down and fixed his gaze on the fish swimming lazily in the serene pond. He asked, Your shenfa, did you develop it based on the swimming fish?

    Full of admiration, Kou Zhong said, Fazhu is indeed formidable; you could even see through this.

    Shaking his head, Song Que said, I never understood a real natural talent, until now. Hows Xu Ziling compared to you?

    Kou Zhong said, Ziling is the only person in the world that I really admire, so much so that I am afraid of him. Luckily he is my best Xiongdi. If he is willing to help me to obtain the world, it would be much easier for me.

    Song Que said, Everybody has his own aspiration, you cant force it. Come! Dont let them wait too long!

    Kou Zhong was stunned; who might be waiting for them?

    Xu Ziling was awakened by a childs cry, followed by the voice of Han Zenan, husband and wife, comforting the child. After Little Jie went back to sleep, Han Zenan spoke in low voice, Xiaochang [lit. little skirt]! What kind of person do you think that Gong Chenchun is?

    Originally Xu Ziling did not have any intention to eavesdrop personal conversation between a man and his wife, but since his name was being mentioned, naturally he focused his power on his ear to see how Mrs. Han would respond.

    Lowering her voice, Mrs. Han, who was called Xiaochang, replied, Although his appearance is fierce and tough, his manner of speech and his bearing are like a very cultured man; he is also quite kind and cherishing Xiao Jie. Is Xianggong [husband] thinking of asking him for help? Ay! Its hard to fathom a persons mind, Xianggong needs to think three times before going.

    After muttering to himself irresolutely for half a day, Han Zenan said, Although his name did not spread far and wide in Jianghu, but looking at how effortlessly he forced He Yi Pai people to retreat, this mans martial art skill is strong enough to be comparable with people of Xie Huis level. If he is willing to help, perhaps we would be able to break away from those people.

    Sighing, Xiaochang said, Why would he want to invite disaster on himself?

    Han Zenan said, Even if he declines, we have nothing to lose anyway. I have a strange feeling that he seems to really care about us.

    Xiaochang said, That is precisely what qie [I, your servant] is most afraid of; I am afraid he has some other evil intentions.

    Smiling ruefully, Han Zenan said, With his skill, while the world is in chaos like this, dealing with us, a family of three, is actually as easy as a hands turn, there is no need to plot and scheme. That Jianghu fellow surnamed Lei has been talking with him behind closed door for the whole day, I wonder what they are talking about.

    Xiaochang said, Lets talk about this when we get to Jiujiang! Perhaps we would be able to throw off the pursuing troops by then, and then the wide sea and the sky would let us soar into it!

    His sleep completely abandoned him, Xu Ziling got out of bed, put on his clothes, and went out to the deck.

    Following behind Song Que, Kou Zhong entered the Ming Yue Tang, which, in term of scale, was as grand as the Mo Dao Tang. He saw several young warriors of the Song Family were setting up a sumptuous table of breakfast. Song Zhi, Song Lu, two men immediately rose up from their seats.

    Seeing how respectful they were toward Song Que, it was obvious that within the Song Clan, Song Que held supreme authority.

    After the host and guest sat down, Song Que waved his hand to dismiss the young warriors from the building, and then he asked Song Lu, Wheres Yuzhi?

    Song Lu replied, Just now she was getting ready; she should be here soon!

    Only this moment did Kou Zhong feel deeply the inscrutable style with which Song Que conduct himself. Just by looking at the steaming hot, elaborate and tastefully chosen vegetable and meat dishes of various kinds on the table, he knew that the chef must have started working in the middle of the night, while at that time he was still engaged in a life and death battle against Song Que.

    It was obvious that before then Song Que has already had accurate judgment on him, hence he had the feast in front of them prepared in advance.

    Thinking about he was going to see Song Yuzhi soon, inwardly he was really happy but scared at the same time, simply because he was unsure on how hospitable Song Yuzhi would be toward him, furthermore, he was unsure on how Song Que would handle the two of them.

    Song Que was in high spirits; he poured wine for the other three cheerfully. Turning to Kou Zhong, he said, This is Hangzhous specialty, the Osmanthus wine. Not only the flavor mellow and rich, the taste smooth, it also has calming effect and nutritious, and can improve blood circulation; harmless to drink a bit more.

    Kou Zhong looked at the amber colored wine in his cup, transparent and clear, emitting the sweet fragrance of Osmanthus flower, which was quite intoxicating. Even without drinking it he could already taste the wonderful floating-in-the-air, high-in-the-clouds feeling.

    A single look at the table and he noticed the utensils, whether it was the cup, dish, bowl, plate, goblet, oil lamp, were all of meticulous craftsmanship, appealing and elegant. The most particular thing was that all the vessels were glazed with dots like raindrops; the base color was black, but it was covered with silvery-white tiny dots in radial pattern. The bigger dots were about the size of a pea, the small ones were about the size of a millet, like pleated silvery light.

    Only this kind of precious household utensils would fit Song Clans position, which surpassed the other big clans.

    Noticing Kou Zhong was paying particular attention to the vessels containing exquisite wine and culinary delicacy on the table, Song Zhi said with a laugh, This type of raindrop glaze is also known as Heavens Eye glaze. From the chi-long pitcher to cun-size basin, all are considered out-of-the-world treasure; even the fragments can worth as much as gold and jade. We have only been able to collect this set after searching for a long time.

    This was the second time Kou Zhong sat down and talked with Song Zhi, already he felt the difference.

    From Song Zhis cordial tone, Kou Zhong clearly knew that he had already considered Kou Zhong as family. Surprisingly, it was Song Lu who proposed a toast.

    For more than ten years, he said with a laugh, This is the first time that I see Da Xiong with so much smile on his face. This toast is for Da Xiong; the next one is Xiao Zhongs turn.

    Laughing involuntarily, Song Que said, Lu Di [younger brother] must have kept that remark in your heart for close to ten years, and only today you can take others precarious position to reveal your feeling. Ha! Lets drink for victory.

    And then they took turn toasting each other.

    After several rounds, Song Que suddenly asked indifferently, Did Shidao fall in love with that Gaoli [Korean] woman?

    Kou Zhong was caught off-guard; a bit flustered replied, On that ! Fazhu, please do not get angry; the truth is ay! I cannot escape the blame, because

    Song Que cut him off, This affair, we already knew the details from the letter that he sent to us, so no need to repeat. I just want to know, based on Shao Shuais observation, whether Shidao is in love with that Gaoli woman, Fu Junyu.

    Kou Zhong did not dare to lie to him; smiling wryly, he said, Strictly speaking, Er Gongzi [second young master] ought to be in love with the house and its crow [idiom: love me, love my dog]. However, whether a feeling would develop gradually, this is very difficult to say.

    From the start, Song Zhi and Song Lu have been interrogated by Song Que about Song Shidao, so they did not dare to utter a word or half a sentence. It could be inferred that Song Que had exploded over this matter, hence nobody dared to butt in.

    Song Que was deep in thought for a moment. Suddenly he picked his chopsticks and got a dish for Kou Zhong, as if he already forgot about Song Shidao, and said with a smile, This is Ma Xiang [lit. sesame fragrant] chicken, eat it while its still hot and crispy. I heard you and Ziling used to be chefs at the Flying Horse Ranch, you must be more expert than we are.

    Kou Zhong took a bite; emotionally moved, he said, Compared to the expert who prepared this Ma Xiang chicken, Xiaodi is far too inferior!

    Song Que turned to Song Zhi and said, Is there any new development about the Heavenly Lord Xi Ying?

    Song Zhi replied, According to the latest flying pigeon dispatch from the Du Zun Bao the day before yesterday, Xi Ying has not shown his face; but Yin Gui Pais Wanwan has made appearance in Chengdu.

    Kou Zhongs heart skipped a beat; he could not help feeling worried for Xu Ziling. Unable to hold himself, he asked, This Heavenly Lord Xi Ying, what kind of fellow is he?

    Song Lu laughed and said, Xi Ying is a demonic schools martial art master who is ranked number four within the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Way, barely below Zhu Yuyan, Shi Zhixuan, and Zhao Deyan. In the past, he has suffered crushing defeat under Da Xiongs hands, and ran away abroad for many years, but recently returned to the Central Plains. He even openly show off his prowess toward Da Xiong; should be because his demonic skill has had great progress that he dares to abandon restraint.

    Letting out a cold snort, Song Zhi said, If he really has guts, he ought to climb over the mountain city to issue formal challenge, but now he hides in the distant Sichuan, baring his fangs and brandishing his claws; obviously he is harboring evil intent.

    Song Ques countenance became incomparably grim; he spoke slowly, Even if Zhu Yuyan has the audacity to prop his waist, it will still be difficult for him to escape his fate to have his soul cutoff under my, Song Ques saber.

    Light footsteps were heard; Song Yuzhi arrived. This graceful beauty did not wear any cosmetics; her beautiful hair was rolled into a simple bun on top of her head, she wore blue flowers on white background dress, with jade belt around her waist, lucid and elegant like the lotus in the middle of the pond.

    Her pale countenance, minus her usual somewhat unyielding temperament, made her somewhat more lovely and touching; some kind of when I see you, I feel compassion toward you beautiful demeanor.

    Deliberately avoiding Kou Zhongs burning hot gaze, she sat on the other side of Song Que.

    Song Lu lovingly poured wine for her, but a little displeased, Song Que said, Zhier, whats delaying you?

    Song Yuzhi lightly hung her head down and spoke in low voice, Just received flying pigeon letter from Xie Baozhu [fort master] in Chengdu. Last night the Heavenly Lord Xi Ying was killed bare-handedly by Yue Shan, who has returned to the fray after a long period of inactivity, at San Hua Lou. The witnesses include Chuan Bangs Fan Zhuo and Ba Mengs Feng Zhen.

    What? Kou Zhong blurted out.

    Song Que and the others gaze were immediately turning toward him; even Song Yuzhi could not help looking at him. Nobody understood why his reaction was more urgent and intense than anybody else in the room.

    Recomposing himself, Kou Zhong smiled an embarrassed smile, while taking the opportunity to meet Song Yuzhis limpid, profound gaze.

    Song Zhi moved his gaze toward Song Que, whose expression remained serene; he said, This is certainly no small matter; could it be that Xi Yings Ziqi Tian Luo still had not reached great height yet?

    Song Yuzhi said, Repeating Fan Zhuo and Feng Zhens words about the situation, Xi Yings Ziqi Tian Luo had astonishing prowess, its just that it was not a match for Yue Shans empty hand, empty fist using Huan Ri Da Fa. With this battle, once again Yue Shan has climbed over to the top martial art master position.

    Exhaling a mouthful of cold air, Song Lu said, This man Yue Shan has always been narrow-minded; this time he has mastered Huan Ri Da Fa, he must be coming to Sichuan city to settle old debts.

    Song Que casually said, I am most afraid that he wouldnt come.

    Suddenly throwing his head back in long laughter, he said, Good Overbearing Saber Yue Shan, please forgive me, Song Que, for underestimating you.

    Turning toward Song Yuzhi, he instructed, Notify Chengdu immediately, I dont care how they do it, they must find Yue Shans whereabouts. Because I went out to deal with Cui Jixiu and his gang, I already missed Xi Ying. This time I dont want to lose another opportunity.

    Inwardly Kou Zhong cried, This is desperately serious! Helpless, he forced a smile and said, Fazhu, I am afraid this time you will be disappointed again!

    Stunned, everybody turned their eyes to him. Steeling himself, Kou Zhong added, Because this Yue Shan is an impostor.

    His countenance did not change at all, Song Que said, Can you explain that?

    Kou Zhong leaned back into his chair; slapping the table, he said with a sigh, The one killing Xi Ying was Xu Ziling, who was wearing Yue Shan mask personally made by Lu Miaozi. This kid is really good that he even managed to kill the fourth ranking man of the demonic ways martial art master list.

    Everybody, including Song Que, was emotionally moved.

    After giving brief explanation, Kou Zhong said, Xiao Ling must have had another breakthrough in the martial way, otherwise, he would not be formidable to such a degree.

    This time it was Song Ques turn to smile wryly and said, This is called all ones hopes and efforts come to nothing. In the future, I am afraid the Central Plains Wulin will belong to you and Xu Ziling.

    And then he calmly declared, On behalf of the Song Family, I have reached agreement with Shao Shuai; although our Song Family will not be directly involved in Shao Shuais struggle to obtain the world, but we will give him our full support in the background. If Shao Shuais army is defeated, this agreement will be voided. But if in the end he can unify the world, Yuzhi will become his empress. Ladies and gentlemen, is there any objection?

    Song Zhi and Song Lu did not say anything. Only Song Yuzhis pretty face suddenly blushed; the red clouds color went straight to the tip of her ears, as she hung her head low.

    Song Que rose up to his full height and walked over behind Kou Zhong. Reaching out to grab his shoulders firmly, he said, After breakfast, Yuzhi may send Shao Shuai off. As for the other details, you may discuss it carefully later!

    Finished speaking, he laughed aloud and floated away.

    Standing on the bow, Xu Ziling was enjoying the light of the river and the color of the mountain, while myriad of thoughts was surging in his mind.

    Han Zenan, husband and wifes martial art skill was definitely not ordinary. Mrs. Han, Xiaochang was even more superior, enough to place her among famous martial masters of Jianghu. What kind of enemy would make them flustered and panic like this?

    Even with his Gong Chenchun prestige of beating He Yi Pai back, Xiaochang still described asking for his help as inviting disaster upon oneself; evidently their familys foe was tremendously powerful, at least it was on par with his perceived martial art skill, so that the good-hearted Xiaochang was afraid to incriminate him.

    While he was still in deep contemplation, Lin Lang came behind him and said reverently, Turns out Gong Ye is a sage presents as an ordinary person, no wonder Hou Gongzi, who is inordinately proud of his ability, was willing to rush about to make arrangement for Gong Ye.

    Xu Ziling was amused inwardly; he had never declared that his martial art skill was meager, so how could he be called a sage who presents himself as an ordinary person? But he has indeed not shown his true colors, simply because he was wearing a mask. Are we going to cast anchor today? he casually asked.

    Lin Lang nodded and said, The big city ahead is Badong County. We may stop over there for half a sichen to replenish our water and provision.

    Focusing his power to his eyes, Xu Ziling looked ahead, and was able to see the outline of city wall. On both sides of the river, the number of buildings among the forest was increasing dramatically, not scattered like before.

    At this time Lei Jiuzhi came, thereupon the two of them went to the hall to have breakfast.

    They were the first guests to arrive. As soon as they were seated properly, Wu Jiang Bang people were scrambling to serve them. Naturally Lei Jiuzhi received the benefit of Xu Zilings glory.

    After some small talks, not even one out of three sentences that Lei Jiuzhi spoke meandered from his profession; he was talking about gambling again. This time he was talking about Paijiu [pai gow]; fortunately he was quite expressive, like springtime grew out of the corner of his mouth, so that it was not too boring.

    He said, Casinos have a taboo, which is there is no number eleven, and nobody is allowed to say eleven. Because in Paijiu, theres a combination of five and six, which make eleven, which almost always lose. Theres also a ten, because in Paijiu, number ten is the smallest. When someone swore limping ten, it came from this tile combination. Two-plank six is also a cuss word, because two-plank makes four, and four and six combination makes ten. Ha!

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, If you tell it like that, it might be easier for me to learn.

    Immensely proud of himself, Lei Jiuzhi bragged, The secret of Paijiu is in killing to the last one, this four-word saying [gan jin sha jue] is the most sentimental emotion.

    This moment the hull slightly shook, while the speed was gradually reduced, as the ship was touching the riverbank on their port side.

    Lei Jiuzhi praised, Wu Jiang Bangs skill in steering the boat is definitely topnotch. No wonder that although over the years shipwrecks and accidents over the Three Gorges have been heard repeatedly, but none ever happened to their boat.

    The sailboat finally stopped at the dock.

    Xu Ziling was looking down, he was about to drink a bowl of thin rice porridge, when there was the sound of sleeves splitting the air. When the two men were looking at each other in surprise, a burst of weird-sounding laughter came from the deck, followed by a voice saying, We have a business to attend to in here, anybody dares to meddle, dont blame my staff for not showing any mercy.

    Another tender female voice called out, Hey Xiaochang! Jiejie [older sister] is coming to give my respect and wish you a good health! Why havent you rolled out for me?

    Xu Zilings heart was shaken; he finally knew whom Han Zenan, husband and wife, were afraid of.

    And they definitely had reason to be afraid.



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  15. #315
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 26 Chapter 8

    Book 26 Chapter 8 Here We Part

    Song Yuzhi accompanied Kou Zhong to the dock, where a small sailboat with its sail opened was waiting respectfully. Along the way, Song Yuzhi did not even speak half a word.

    Knowing her temper, Kou Zhong did not dare to provoke her. He sighed and said, Here we part, I wonder if there will be days ahead I can see Zhizhi again. If I could not find the Duke Yangs Treasure in Guanzhong, I practically do not have any capital to strive for the world against that Li kid; then, per our agreement, you wont be allowed to marry me. Even if I really obtain the Duke Yangs Treasure, comparing my strength to that of Li kids, I am still in the inferior position where there is more chance of defeat than victory. Because victory or defeat in the war is really not determined by the amount of wealth, otherwise, Yang Guang would have not lost the world.

    Remaining calm, Song Yuzhi said, You shouldnt have come. Things have come this far, what else can Yuzhi say?

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, Things have come this far, Zhizhi still cannot speak a couple of caring words to me?

    Song Yuzhi cast her gaze onto the surging river; shaking her head, she said, Die is fully aware that we must not do it for the sake of doing it. Hence the reason he is unwilling to dispatch troops directly to help you. The Li Clans fame and power grows with each passing day, while you are still being a fool whos been dreaming about the Duke Yangs treasure. All right! Supposing you really find the treasure, how are you going to transport those things out of the Li Clans territory? Ah, Shao Shuai! How about becoming a bit more rational? Just consider me begging you!

    Kou Zhongs deep and low, but determined voice entered her ears; he spoke slowly, Dont look at my loving to laugh, hee hee ha ha, and my thin skin, rascally appearance, my love to Zhizhi will not change as long as I live. Zhizhi may blame me that for the sake of striving over the world, I am abandoning you. While it is true that currently I have my feet deep in the mud and its difficult to withdraw, but the real reason is that a man must set a lofty goal for himself, and then he would never regret that he forge ahead toward this goal, taking no account of success and failure, the gains and losses. The difference between Ziling and I is only in the goal. Besides, just look at the people around you! Is there one who is happy and contented? The only thing that we can do is to find joy in sorrows! To find something really interesting during the peacetime has never my, Kou Zhongs fate. Only the great time of startling-the-heaven-and-the-swelling-sea strive and struggle, fearing-whether-the-next-moment-will-be-my-demise will make me feel my own value and existence. Now, in my own inferior circumstances, all I can do is do the best I can. Contending for supremacy among two or three people in Jianghu no longer move me, only striving for victory among magnificent army with thousands of men and horses on the battlefield can turn me upside down. I was originally a man not having anything at all, so I am not afraid to become a man not having anything at all again. But as long as I know that Zhizhis heart already turned towards me, Kou Zhong will not turn my back on this life.

    Finished revealing the words from the bottom of his heart, Kou Zhong soared and flew toward the boat.

    Finished listening to his seemingly heartless yet passionate words of love, looking at his lofty, considering-himself-unexcelled-in-the-world magnificent figure from behind, Song Yuzhis vision blurred up. But it was unclear whether it was because of glistening teardrops, or because of the reflection of the water.

    She wanted to call him back to her side, but when the voice reached her throat, it stuck in the throat.

    Parting this time, would there be a day that they see each other again?

    Xu Ziling rushed out of the hall. Han Zenan, husband and wife, were carrying their son rushing away from their cabin in panic along the corridor; he shouted hastily, Han Xiong, dont go out, leave everything to me.

    Stunned, the two looked back at him. Xu Ziling came to their side; reaching out, he lovingly patted Xiao Jies face. He said to Lei Jiuzhi, who was rushing over from behind, Lei Xiong must not show your face either.

    Han Zenan shook his head and said with a sigh, Gong Xiong must not, by all means, get involved in this matter. Gong Xiong probably wont look at these two persons in your eyes, but the school and sect they are coming from is definitely not a small matter. After getting tangled with them, unless we fall dead, we can forget about passing our days in peace and happiness.

    Lei Jiuzhi caught up with everybody; he said, One is the Evil Monk Fa Nan, the other is the Amorous Nun Chang Zhen; nobody knew their background.

    This moment Fa Nan was shouting at them from outside the cabin, Hong Xiaochang, even if you grew wings this time, you cannot fly away. If you wont come with us obediently, we will open up the oath [Buddhist monastic discipline] against taking lives.

    Hong Xiaochang mournfully said, Nan Ge [older brother] please take good care of yourself, please look after Jieer, and then to Xu Ziling she said, No word can describe my gratitude for your great kindness. Gong Ye, please take them to a safe place.

    Han Zenan clutched on Hong Xiaochang; his eyes brimming with tears, he said, If you want to die, well die together. We will never separate.

    Xiao Jie was staring blankly at his Die and Niang, completely bewildered. Obviously he did not know what was going on.

    Remaining tranquil and calm, Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, Han Xiong and madam sister-in-law, please set your heart at ease. Fa Nan and Chang Zhen are Zhu Yuyans bandit hunting dogs; I am very clear about this. I know even more clearly what kind of trouble I am getting myself into. After taking care of them, Ill come back to discuss with Han Xiong and madam sister-in-law on what should we do next.

    While Han Zenan, husband and wife, were still staring at him in disbelief, Xu Ziling casually borrowed the long sword in his hand, crossed over the cabin door, and stepped onto the deck.

    He saw Lin Lang and more than a dozen of his men, all with weapons in their hands, were standing in confrontation with Chang Zhen and Fa Nan at the stern of the boat.

    Seeing Gong Chenchun came out to take charge of the general situation, Lin Lang heaved a sigh of relief and said, Gong Ye, please uphold justice on our Wu Jiang Bangs behalf.

    Immediately Xu Zilings good impression on Lin Lang and his entire Wu Jiang Bang grew; no wonder an arrogant man like Hou Xibai praised Wu Jiang Bangs outstanding reputation. If Fa Nan and Chang Zhen were following Jianghu rules, using peaceful measures before using force by explaining the whole story to Lin Lang and indicating that they wanted to resolve gratitude and grudges with Han Zenan, husband and wife, in private, then Lin Lang would definitely have no right to stop them. After all, Han Zenan, husband and wife, were just their customer, they were neither relatives nor friends.

    But like what Fa Nan and Chang Zhen were doing right now, they were relying on force to charge onto the boat, regarding Wu Jiang Bang as nothing, and making so much noise about opening their oath against taking life; they had really violated Jianghus big taboo.

    Jianghu people spoke about face the most; even if they knew that they were no match for the enemy, Lin Lang and the others simply must go on.

    Fa Nan and Chang Zhens eyes immediately turned toward Xu Ziling; both looked alert.

    Xu Ziling spoke to Lin Lang in low voice, Leave this matter entirely to me, Lin Xiangzhu must never attract trouble on yourself, quickly tell your brothers to withdraw their weapons.

    Inwardly Lin Lang was very grateful. Evil Monk and Amorous Nuns stinky names have been spreading far and wide around the Chang Jiang region; they were well-known for being difficult to provoke. If there was any choice, nobody wanted to incur their hatred.

    Hearing Xu Ziling, Lin Lang shouted, Todays matter, our Wu Jiang Bang will not get involved. Put away your weapons.

    Obeying the order, his men withdrew and gathered behind Xu Ziling to become spectators.

    The Evil Monk Fa Nans huge, copper-bell-size eyes were flickering with ominous glint. He stared at Xu Ziling from head to toes, and then spoke with cold laugh, Who are you? You want to take others place in throwing away your life?

    The Amorous Nun Chang Zhen cranked up her seductive appearance to its highest level; she laughed tenderly and said, It must be because of that ugly scar that looks like a poisonous insect that women dont like him; therefore, he is tired of living!

    Xu Ziling took a step forward, laughed calmly, and said, Less nonsense. If you have guts, dont run away with your tail between your legs.

    Like a trembling stem of flower, Chang Zhen laughed, while throwing coquettish glances toward Fa Nan, and said, Shixiong, did you hear that shameless boast?

    Finished speaking, she spun around. The xiaohun caiyi [lit. melting soul colorful clothes] draped over her body slowly rose like a clump of cloud, revealing her smooth, bare, cookie-dough white arms, putting her stirring-up-the-fire body, which was covered in tight warrior outfit, on full display. Combined with her bald head, it actually increased her seductive, lust-attracting power.

    Everybody knew that from head to toe, her entire body was practically a venomous sting, which must not be aggravated.

    Fa Nan stomped the heavy steel staff in his hand on the deck, immediately wood fragments splashed, while a big crack appeared.

    On the other dozen or so cargo and passenger ships moored on the dock, everybody stopped their activities to watch the excitement from a safe distance.

    Han Zenan and the others have also moved toward the cabin door; naturally they all worried for Gong Chenchun. Compared with He Yi Pais Tong Tian Laolao Xia Miaoying and Mei Ji Sina, although these two Evil Monk and Amorous Nun were more notorious, but there was still a considerable distance between them.

    Pow!

    Chang Zhen continued spinning her body, flinging her xiaohun caiyi, while her delicate hands separately grabbing the collar and the hem of her skirt, and raised it to cover her erect breasts, saying, Let Nujia accompany you playing for two strokes first!

    When speaking the last word, she suddenly turned into a clump of rosy clouds, flying at an angle toward Xu Ziling; it was both a strange and nice-looking spectacle.

    Listening to her, everybody thought that she was going to deal with Xu Ziling alone; who would have thought that without saying anything further, Fa Nan sent out his staff to pound on the pit of Xu Zilings stomach, in full display of his prowess.

    The most formidable thing was that the clothes were flexible, while the staff was rigid; one was light, the other heavy, the two working together like seamless heavenly clothes.

    Without even looking, the sword in Xu Zilings right hand swiftly swooped up, while his left palm hacked down. In the eyes of the beholders, this move appeared to be simple, mediocre, without anything special. But to Chang Zhen and Fa Nan who were inside the range of this attack, it felt as if the opponent has already known and accurately grasped the angle and timing of their attack, and that even if they wanted to change their move, they could not deviate the slightest bit.

    These two persons have worked together for more than twenty years, and have dealt with countless powerful enemies. Immediately they cried, Wonderful! inwardly, while both concentrating the true power in their entire body, without leaving any spare power, trying to kill the enemy in just one move. They both thought that no matter how brilliant and strong this person was, he could not possibly match their combined strike with the power with nearly sixty years maturity.

    Moreover, the two persons attack of one hard, one soft was most difficult to block.

    Who could have thought that Xu Ziling actually was luring them to think and do exactly that? If the two were not fighting together, either one of them was more or less of the same level with Mei Ji Sina. But working together, they were more formidable than Sina.

    And because more and more demonic skill was emerging, if the real hand-to-hand fight continued, there was a possibility that Xu Ziling might have to use the skill that he kept deep at the bottom of his trunk to score victory. But then, there would be great possibility that Fa Nan and Chang Zhen, who had fought with him twice, would sense that he was Xu Ziling, and that would be extremely worrisome.

    It could be said that Xu Zilings previous skill has been used out in fighting, and now he had to fight another fight. In order to conceal his Xu Ziling identity, he had to rack his brains to create new strokes, to use some kind of different style, so that others would not associate him with Xu Ziling. Inadvertently it had forced him to make another breakthrough and try to think from different angle.

    As for the use of true qi within his body, he had become a master of many arts and crafts, and was able to transform all kinds of unimaginable magic tricks.

    This time, naturally he must not use more than 50-percent of Tianmo Dafa; instead, he had to use the circulating qi method that he drew from the Jade Annulus of He Clan.

    Swoosh!

    The sword swooped at the melting soul colored clothes first, and then the left palm hit the head of Fa Nans heavy steel staff.

    It was precisely this split-second difference that determined who won and who lost.

    In term of grasping the time, Xu Ziling was accurate and did not miss a hairsbreadth; otherwise, the one suffering the lost would be him.

    Using soft to subdue soft, using hard to control hard.

    The moment Chang Zhens xiaohun caiyi was pricked by the long sword, unexpectedly her energy had nowhere to go; it was a terrifying feeling just like she was throwing a stone into the sea and saw it sank without any trace. Just as she was about to fly back, the long sword already turned into many sword flowers, like a violent storm coming to envelope her. Because practically there was no reaction force she could borrow, while her body was soaring high in the air, Chang Zhen violently clenched her teeth and unleashed the consummate skill of her school. The colored clothes rolled toward the enemys sword at full force.

    Xu Zilings left palm chopped heavily on the steel staff, while at the same time he secretly performed Great Vajra Chakra Print.

    Chang Zhen saw him dealing with Fa Nan with all his might, inwardly she was greatly delighted. Suddenly the sword flowers subsided. The enemys sword has been wrapped tight by her colored clothes; hastily she applied her power to pull, thinking that as soon as the opponent divided half of his strength to deal with her, then Fa Nans heavy staff strike would certainly inflict internal injury.

    Who would have thought that when the long sword met the clothes, unexpectedly it felt as light as a feather without the least bit of strength? Inwardly she knew that she had fallen into a trap, but it was just too late.

    Bang!

    Abundant, unfathomable innate true qi penetrated the staff and burst in, so that not only Fa Nans attacking qi power was repelled back into his body, it also carried an additional gift.

    Fa Nan let out a miserable grunt and staggered backward, and then he spurted two mouthfuls of blood. Thump! By the time he fell on his butt on the deck, his countenance was so pale that he looked like a dead person.

    Chang Zhen, who still had the long sword rolled inside her clothes, was still soaring in the air, but she felt unbearable discomfort that she nearly vomited blood. However, she was outstanding as well. Seeing Fa Nan met a disaster, her colored clothes brushing away, the long sword turned into a long rainbow, and shot back toward Xu Ziling, while she herself made a somersault midair and landed in front of Fa Nan.

    Watching this, all the spectators on the ship were dumbstruck; nobody would have guessed that Evil Monk and Amorous Nun, whose name shook the Chang Jiang river basin, who ran amuck unscrupulously, would suffer big defeat in just one meeting.

    Natural and unrestrained, Xu Ziling spun his body around, waiting for the long sword to flit near him, and grabbed the hilt of the sword with ease, before facing the two again and pointed his long sword toward them. Letting out a cold laugh, he said, Get the hell out of here, as far away as possible. Otherwise, dont blame me for opening up the oath against taking lives.

    Opening up the oath against taking lives was precisely the words that Fa Nan spoke just now, which Xu Ziling repeated verbatim. Secretly all the spectators were delighted.

    Chang Zhens eyes shot bitter resentment and hatred. Nodding her head, she said, Very well! You win today! But you already provoked gargantuan trouble. Very soon you will know what regret is.

    Wrapping her jade arm around Fa Nans left flank, she propped his huge body up, and then with a tender shout she flew toward the dock, and in the blink of an eye disappeared into the distance.

    Xu Ziling sighed inwardly. Yin Gui Pai was well known for the soul of a deceased has not yet dispersed [idiom: the influence still lingers on] and was extremely difficult to deal with. Although in this battle he gained the victory effortlessly and easily, but if he provoked the opponents elder-level martial art masters, while he had to protect Han Zenans family of three, the situation would not be so optimistic.

    Kou Zhong sat quietly by the window. The undulating tide of thought moved from the cherished memory of Song Yuzhi toward the two nights of struggle where he staked everything against Song Que.

    Clang!

    He drew the Moon in the Well out of its scabbard. Under the slanting column of sunlight through the window, the blade flickered brilliantly.

    All of a sudden he knew clearly that under Song Ques without-any-reservation, breaking-a-new-ground enlightenment, his cultivation in the saber way has taken an incomparable step forward.

    The Kou Zhong who stepped into the Song Familys mountain city and the Kou Zhong who left the mountain city were as different as raw rock and precious jade. Although in term of size, outwardly these two are completely identical, but the contents being held inside were vastly different.

    His essence, qi and spirit, and the precious blade in his hand integrated into one, being fused into one entity, reaching the marvelous realm of intention approaches the saber, the saber approaches intention.

    Although there was no master/disciple relationship between Song Que and him in name, there was master/disciple relationship between them in reality.

    If Song Que had used the Heavenly Saber from the beginning, perhaps he would have been defeated and died violently early on.

    Song Que put Kou Zhong in the danger spot where he was sure to be defeated first, and then, using life and death threat and pressure, he systematically enlightened him to coax his potential and inspire his spirit and wisdom, so that from a stone, he shed his old body and became jade.

    This kind of hell-style training has made him fully improve his saber technique and his internal energy.

    Upon reaching Jiujiang, he would go ashore and continue north to Xiangyang, to rendezvous with Xu Ziling. Originally he was going to take the boat up north, along the Great River and turn into Han River and continue on to Xiangyang. But this route would expose him too much. Right now, it was most important for him to keep his whereabouts a secret.

    Taking advantage of these few days of peace and happiness on the boat, he would forge ahead vigorously to spur his advancement, to study the exceptional saber technique from Song Que, and fuse it thoroughly, to prepare himself well for the treasure hunt in Guanzhong later on.

    In this instant, he completely forgot everything else. Apart from the Moon in the Well, there was nothing else in his mind.

    Only after listening to everybody singing his praises did Xu Ziling manage to extract himself with difficulty and return to the cabin with Lei Jiuzhi in tow. Who would have thought that Han Family husband and wifes room was already empty?

    Speechless, the two looked at each other.

    Lei Jiuzhi spread out his arms and said with a wry smile, They are good people; chances are they do not want to incriminate us, hence they just go away!

    Xu Ziling helplessly said, We are already implicated; I just hope that the Heaven will help the worthy.

    From behind, Lin Lang stuck his head in to take a glance, and said, Somebody saw them sneakily disembarked from the bow, and fled along the river. But that route is very unsafe. They are so stupid; there is Gong Ye here looking after them, what are they afraid of?

    Rolling his eyes, Lei Jiuzhi asked Lin Lang, Is there any decent casino in Badong?

    Lin Lang replied, If you want to gamble, naturally the best is Yin Ru Ge [just because pavilion, see Chapter 6] in Jiujiang. Lets not mention the gamblers north and south sides of the Great River who are flocking in as if they are greedy, even people who do not like to gamble must experience it once. Furthermore, this is the time where Yin Ru Ge is holding their annual gambling meet.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, We only have about a sichen here; how could there be enough time to gamble?

    Lei Jiuzhi laughed and said, I was just casually asking. If there is enough time, wherever we cast anchor, we might want to gamble there. Otherwise, you wont have enough opportunity to practice.

    Lin Langs heart was unbearably itchy, he said, If you want to gamble, that is very easy. We have all kinds of gambling equipment on the boat; how about we play a couple of hands?

    Lei Jiuzhi put his hand on Lin Langs shoulder and said with a laugh, How could we have the nerve to win Lin Xiangzhus hard-earned money? When we get to Zheng County, let the three of us form a partnership and gamble together until the sky faint and the earth dark. No matter how much we win, we will split it evenly three ways. I guarantee that when Lin Xiangzhu return to Wu Jiang [River Wu], you can bring a beautiful concubine into your big house.

    Skeptical, Lin Lang said, If it is that easy to win money, why do LaoGe still rush about painstakingly?

    Xu Ziling was not interested to listen to their groundless entanglement. He was about to return to his cabin when someone cut him off, saying, Gong Ye, could you spare a moment to talk?

    Xu Ziling recognized him as one of the passengers on the ship; about thirty years old, looking a bit scholarly, handsome, educated and feeble, medium build, and wore traveling merchant attire. Nodding his head, he said, Lets get in and talk inside.

    The man followed him into the cabin, and then he introduced himself, Xiaorens [the lowly one] two-character surname is Gongliang, my lowly name is Ji, of Qinghua County. This time going to Jiujiang is to collect a sum of overdue debt. If Gong Ye is willing to help, I am willing to give half to Gong Ye. Ay! If I fail to collect this debt, I dont know what to do.

    Inwardly, Xu Ziling was smiling ruefully; but listening to his sincerity, and looking at his upright-eyes-and-straight-nose honest appearance, he did not have the heart to flatly refuse. Without any choice, he asked, What exactly is going on? Would Gongliang Xiong please tell me the detail? But you must not hide anything from me.

    Gongliang Jie sighed and said, This is what happened: for generations, our Gongliang family has been engaged in medicinal ingredient business. Five months ago, someone called Jia Chong came to order a large quantity of famous and valuable medicinal ingredients, saying that he would pay in gold. Thereupon we went all over the place to collect the goods. Once thats done, we delivered the goods, while receiving the gold. Who would have thought that although at that time it was clearly gold ingots, but when we got back, everything became rocks, so we knew we have been cheated. Jia Chong was actually jia chong [an impostor (play of words, different jia characters)]. In order to pay for our debts of the medicinal ingredients, I already lost my family fortune, and have nothing at all.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, Since he is a swindler, how could he let you know that he lives in Jiujiang?

    With worries splashed all over his face, Gongliang Ji said, I am not sure whether it was good luck or bad luck coming right into my face, but a Jianghu friend told me that this man is Jiujiangs famous con-artist [orig. cheating stick] nicknamed dian shi cheng jin [lit. touching stone and turn it into gold] Lai Chaogui. Gong Ye, please help Xiaoren administer justice.

    Xu Ziling was about to reply, Lei Jiuzhi pushed the door and entered, saying, Lai Chaogui is not just a big cheating stick, he is also a crook doing prostitution, gambling, drinking, bragging, and all kinds of immoral behaviors. When we get to Jiujiang, well fix him up!



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  16. #316
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    Default Book 26 Chapter 9

    Book 26 Chapter 9 Meeting Again at Different Place

    This would be Kou Zhongs third visit to Jiujiang.

    The first time was the trip to assassinate Ren Shaoming, which propelled his and Xu Zilings fame of fighting prowess, which inspired awe throughout the empire.

    The second time was on their way to break the siege on the Flying Horse Ranch, where they had to pass through this city, and accidentally rescued back Luo Fang.

    Because this place was within Xiao Xians sphere of influence, Kou Zhong had to be extra careful. Not only he put on the mask that transformed him into a full-bearded man with aquiline nose, he also wrapped a piece of cloth around the Moon in the Wells scabbard, which was a common practice at that time, hence it did not look so out of place.

    Although the Song Family had good relationship with Xiao Xian, but during this time, Kou Zhong did not dare to disembark at the dock; he instructed the Song Family disciples who took him there to go about a li downstream from Jiujiang before letting him off, and then he rushed along the coast toward Jiujiang.

    His plan was that after reaching Jiujiang, he would look for a passenger ship going along the Chang Jiang to the north toward the Han River and continued on to Xiangyang. Not only it would save him energy, he was hoping, relying on his quick mouth, to get familiar with the other passengers on board, and then enter the city together, so that he would not attract any attention.

    Very soon he was already outside the city wall of Jiu Jiang.

    Jiujiang was an important city along the water way of Yangtze River; it was prosperous and bustling with activities. On the coastal area moored nearly a thousand ships and boats, big and small, connected by sampan [flat-bottomed wooden boat]; their sail and banner filled the sky. On the shore, mule carts and horse carriages going back and forth in unending stream.

    Xiao Xians Great Liang Dynastys army were setting up checkpoints in strategic places and intersections, the security was very tight, the situation was quite intimidating.

    Jiujiang City was the focal point of the struggle between Xiao Xians Liang Army and Lin Shihongs Chu Army. Whoever could control this highly strategic city would be equal to having the ability to choke the throat of the Great River and the waterway west of Lake Poyang.

    Currently it had fallen into the Liang Armys hands. Even if Lin Shihong could control Poyang and the waterways of the south, he could advance neither to the west nor the north; hence he was unable to move a single step.

    To the east there were Du Fuwei, Li Zitong, and Shen Faxing, which made it even more difficult for Lin Shihong to advance even for a cun. However, since Zhu Jiang [sic] and Xiao Xian became enemies, after many battles, both sides strength suffered considerable injury, hence the Chu Army, who, all along, had been under pressure from Xiao Xian that they could not breathe, was beginning to get restless.

    According to the Song Familys intelligence, Lin Shihong was building up his navy in Lake Poyang, with the intention of invading Jiujiang.

    Kou Zhong carried a pass of safe conduct issued by the Song Family, so he entered Jiujiang without any difficulty at all. As he was going down the memory lane, unconsciously his thoughts and feelings were stirred.

    After seven days of cultivation in hiding, not only he was able to fuse and thread together the saber technique he learned from Song Que, taking advantage of the rarely-found leisure time among his busyness these days, he even went one step further by assimilating it with the real combat experience he gained for the past few years, into a comprehensive and systematic thought.

    By the time he left the boat, he felt completely brand new, as if in the cultivation of the saber way, it was only this moment that he could consider to be great achievement.

    He was about to find an inn to stay for the night, when a horse-drawn carriage, which had just entered the city, passed by his side. He heard a faint female voice speaking inside the carriage, and Kou Zhongs heart shivered slightly. The voice sounded familiar, but momentarily he was unable to recall to whom the voice belonged to.

    Even more baffling was, why, on this noisy big street, crowded with people and vehicles to bursting point, he was able to distinctly hear the voice inside a carriage speeding past? In the past, this was practically an impossibility.

    His heart was moved, he decided to follow the carriage closely.

    From the north gate, the target carriage was traveling southbound along the main street, and then turned into another big street heading east.

    Focusing his power into his ears, Kou Zhong was able to hear two women talking inside the carriage. He heard that quite familiar female voice saying, We have investigated Gong Chenchuns background; he must be the martial art master who many years ago ran amuck for a period of time around YunGui region. Afterwards, for some unknown reason he offended many people, and disappeared without any trace. Unexpectedly this time he returned to Jianghu and has become that formidable. From the saber scar on his face, he earned the nickname Dao Ba Ke [saber scar guest].

    Kou Zhongs heart was shaken; could it be that she was talking about Xu Zilings disguise of the Scar-faced Hero?

    Another female voice coldly said, Facing Fa Nan and Chang Zhen, he was able to inflict heavy injury on Fa Nan in just one move, so his martial art skill has reached the universally-shocking level. How could such person suddenly appear in Jianghu without any rhyme or reason? I wonder if he is Xu Ziling in disguise? Both he and Kou kid have the ability to change their appearance.

    Wonderful! Kou Zhong cried inwardly. Not only he was able to confirm that this Gong Chenchun was indeed Xu Ziling, but also because of the mention of Fa Nan and Chang Zhens names, he was able to guess that the woman must be Bai Qinger; and the other was a Yin Gui Pai elder, with whom he has had predestined affinity to battle in Luoyang, Wen Caiting.

    How could there be such a coincidence?

    Bai Qinger said, At first I also had the same suspicion, because the time and the place were quite fitting. But according to the latest intelligence, this Gong Chenchun is a hundred percent gambling ghost; wherever the boat stop, there he would go gambling, and his gambling method is quite ruthless. Do you think Xu Ziling could be this kind of man? In any case, when his ship arrives tonight, we can ascertain his foundation.

    Hearing that, Kou Zhongs confidence was immediately shaken. Nobody knew Xu Ziling better than he. Not only Xu Ziling was not good at gambling, he did not even understand gambling.

    Apparently Wen Caiting was also persuaded by Bai Qinger; she said, According to what you said, he cant be Xu Ziling. But no matter who he is, capturing Xiaochang back is secondary; Zhangmen Shijie issued strict order to eliminate this man at all cost. Do you have any information on your Bian Shishu [martial uncle]? I havent seen him since we parted in Chengdu.

    Bai Qinger sighed and said, Under An Long and You Niaojuans joint attack, Bian Shishu received serious internal injury; fortunately Shijie came in time to rescue him and sent him to a secret place to recuperate. Wen Shishu may set your heart at ease.

    This moment the carriage turned into a mansion. Kou Zhong did not dare to recklessly charge inside, so he quietly left. At the same time, he was inwardly happy. Yin Gui Pai assembled their manpower here to deal with this gambler called Gong Chenchun. This guy must be very formidable that he could alert Zhu Yuyan to send martial art master of elder level to deal with him. Could it be that he had three heads and six arms?

    By this time, just like Wen Caiting, he did not believe that Ba Lian Ke [scar-faced guest] was Xu Zilings ba lian daxia [Scar-faced Hero]. He figured that he would stay one night in Jiujiang. If this Gong Chenchun did not come tonight, he might try to find Yin Gui Pais lair and strike them [feminine] and put them in a sorry state. The most important thing was naturally to test the saber technique that Song Que imbued on him.

    Thinking to this point, his mood was improving tremendously.

    He had just entered the main street leading to the north gate when a group of riders galloped into the city. The leader was unexpectedly the Gang Leader of Jukun Bang, with whom he has had endless gratitude and grudges entanglement, Yun Yuzhen.

    Kou Zhong had thought of the possibility of coming across her here, but he never expected that he would see her as soon as he entered the city. New animosity and old hatred rushed forth in his heart, he quietly ran after them.

    Xu Ziling was still deep in thought while facing the beautiful scenery of the Three Gorges when Lei Jiuzhi pushed the door and entered in. Sitting down next to him, he said, Theres still one sichen before we arrive in Jiujiang. Lin Lang might make arrangement for us to stay in an inn that have some connection with them. Tonight we are going to kick the gambling ghost Zha Hais gathering place.

    How do you feel about Gongliang Jis character? Xu Ziling asked.

    Gongliang Ji was the medicinal ingredient businessman who was cheated by the con-artist Lai Chaogui until he lost his family fortune.

    Lei Jiuzhi said, I asked Lin Lang, Gongliang Ji was telling the truth. Gongliang Family is big philanthropist, famous in Qinghua region; they give away medicine to poor people. Therefore, although their medicinal ingredient business is very big, their family property is not so much. Wu Jiang Bangs Sha Laoda [big boss] is sending him to Jiujiang without charging a single cent. Not only that, he also instructed Lin Lang to plead with people who have some face within the gangs and societies in Jiujiang to help, but naturally they wont be as good as our Gong Yes rough hand and strong fist.

    After hanging around each other for many days, the two men got along so well that they did not stand on ceremony anymore.

    Xu Ziling said, I want to take care of Gongliang Jis rotten account first before going to the casino.

    Lei Jiuzhi said, This is called the money is in the bandits hand, once we go, there is no turning back. Killing him is not going to make any sense. It would be better if we could win Gongliang Jis money back on the gambling table.

    Arent you contradicting yourself? Xu Ziling crossly said, If he already squandered away the money he cheated from him, then whats the difference between using blade or using gambling table? In the end we wont get the money back.

    Remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, Lei Jiuzhi said, We shout and scream to force him to return the money, if he is willing to follow Jianghu rules and return fifty-percent, it could be considered pretty good. But on the gambling table, he cannot but follow casino rules. Whatever amount he loses, he must pay in full. Casinos attach most importance to trust; he wont dare to mess with it.

    Frowning deeply, Xu Ziling said, How are you going to lure Lai Chaogui to gamble big against us?

    With a card up his sleeve, Lei Jiuzhi replied, From Gongliang Ji and Lin Langs mouth, I already understood this persons style. Speaking about cheating in gambling, all those in order to capture, one must let loose, bluffing, engaging in fraudulent activities, he does not even have the qualification to be my disciple or grandson. As long as Ling Shao is willing to stay in Jiujiang for two more days, I guarantee he will be caught by my fishing hook.

    Xu Ziling seriously said, Ill give you two days. Otherwise, we will proceed according to my distinguished method.

    Muttering to himself irresolutely, Lei Jiuzhi said, Its really strange, how come Yin Gui Pai does not shown any sign of acitivity?

    Xu Ziling analyzed, Yin Gui Pai, with Wanwan as the main force, deployed their martial art masters into Bashu. Because of her lofty position, Zhu Yuyan cant possibly undertake this task personally, while naturally moving an army and sending a general takes time. But Jiujiang is their last chance. After this, finding us will not be so easy.

    Lei Jiuzhi laughed and said, He has Zhang Liangs plan, I have the ladder to climb over the wall [idiom: you have a plan to in place deter me, but I have the perfect counter[1]]. As soon as you, this Gong Chenchun, suddenly vanish from the human world, even if Zhu Yuyan personally came, what can she possibly do?

    Shaking his head, Xu Ziling said, I may be able to avoid her momentarily, but I cant avoid her for a lifetime. In the end, I will have to meet with Zhu Yuyan and the others, to take this opportunity to battle them. You, along with Gongliang Ji and Lin Lang, must not be seen together with me. We will contact each other using some secret method; wont it be more interesting and fun?

    Kou Zhong went to the inns public bath. After heartily washed himself clean, he went down the street. It was early evening, the time when the lanterns were first lit. The street was bustling with noise. The people going back and forth on the streets were traveling merchants from all over the place and all kinds of Jianghu characters.

    When he was following Yun Yuzhen before, it was not until she entered the governmental mansion Zhenjiang Lou [lit. town and river building, not sure if this is a name], representing Jiujiang political power, located at the city center, that he continued his quest for an inn to have a rest.

    Up to this point, he still did not know how to deal with her.

    If using secret assassination method, based on his current saber technique, skill and experience, after the mission was accomplished, he would still be able to leave easily. But he was well aware that he would not be able to make his move.

    He has always had a soft heart toward women.

    He selected a restaurant from which he could watch the north gate as he dined. If that guy called Gong Chenchun was coming from Bashu by boat via the Three Gorges to Jiujiang, he ought to be coming from the dock outside the city.

    Jiujiang actually had a waterway that went directly inside the city, but it was restricted for the Liang Navy boats use only. All other ships and boats, without exception, must drop anchor outside the city.

    The two tables by the door were already occupied, while from the rest of the room, one could not see the situation outside the shop. Unleashing his consummate skill money can get through the gods, Kou Zhong took out three taels of silver and came to one of the table, Bang! he slapped the silver onto the table. He smiled and said, If you are willing to let me have this table, you can divide the silver among yourselves.

    Those three men were obviously friends; without second thought they took the silver, paid the bill and left, for fear that if they were even half a step late, this ostentatious, ugly-looking foolish man would go back on this deal.

    Again, Kou Zhong heavily tipped the attendant, ignoring the gaze with raised eyebrows of the entire shop, and said, Give me full set of bowls and chopsticks, I am meeting friends.

    The waiter, as if he received imperial decree, followed the order and obeyed wholeheartedly, and waited on him in every possible way.

    Kou Zhong made a big show of sitting down and untied the Moon in the Well from his back and put it on the table. This way, unless someone ate leopard gall bladder, nobody would dare to sit at his table.

    After ordering food and wine, Kou Zhong gazed at the main street leading into the city. There was still a steady stream of traveling merchants from out of town entering the city; it was a level of prosperity that was a bit out of place.

    When the waiter returned to offer the good wine, Kou Zhong casually asked, I never thought that Jiujiang would be this lively.

    The waiter laughed politely and said, Daye didnt know, but they all came to take advantage of the excitement of Yin Ru Ges annual gambling meet. And then, lowering his voice he went on, The extent of your luck not only limited to the chance of winning money, there will also be beautiful women keeping you company all night. Daye, tell me, who would want to miss this opportunity?

    Kou Zhongs heart was moved, thinking that this casinos style was rather like Xiang Yushans casino, plus Jiujiang was currently Baling Bangs territory. Perhaps this Yin Ru Ge was under his Xiang Familys management as well.

    Thinking to this point, murderous intent flared out in his heart. But on the surface he remained calm and collected as he laughed aloud and said, Turns out there is such a fun place like that. When it comes to gambling, my luck has always been not bad. Which way to the Yin Ru Ge?

    After taking the time to give Kou Zhong a detailed direction, the waiter turned around to wait on other guests.

    While Kou Zhong was still deep in thought, a voice, reverent and respectful, rang out by his side, saying, Daye, please forgive Xiaorens offense by disturbing you.

    Kou Zhong looked up. The speaker was a man about forty years old, slightly-built, with the pale complexion of a man who had excessive wine and women. Although he was trying to show some kind frank and honest look, his narrow eyes revealed his sly character. His countenance was not bad, but experienced person would be able to see that he was the kind of Jianghu people who make a living by stealing and swindling.

    Kou Zhong knew that he would violate the wealth does not betray the eyes big taboo of the Jianghu by inciting this drooling drifter. But since he was bored, plus this kind of person was an ideal candidate if he wanted to go one step further by inquiring about everything pertaining to Yin Ru Ge, thereupon he said, Sit down and tell me!

    As if he was overwhelmed by favor from superior, the man sat down to Kou Zhongs left and spoke in flattering way, Xiaoren Liu An; Daye, may I ask your honorable surname and great given name?

    Kou Zhong was disgusted, but he forced himself to suppress his irritation toward this man. Whatever you want to say, just say it, dont talk nonsense, he replied impatiently.

    In fear and trepidation, Liu An said, Daye, please calm down. It is because Xiaoren noticed Dayes outstanding appearance, with marvelous shine across your face, and good luck imminent on your countenance that I am thinking of a good proposal that I guarantee Daye will be pleased.

    Kou Zhong sniggered inwardly. His appearance right now was certainly extremely outstanding, but it was the unbearably-ugly kind of outstanding. However, on the surface he put on an act that he took the compliment at face value. Staring at Liu An, he said, If after you tell me and I am dissatisfied, I am going to chop you with this saber.

    Liu An hastily smiled apologetically and said, Daye really loves to joke. And then, leaning closer, he spoke in low voice, Isnt Daye interested to try your luck at the Yin Ru Ge? Not only Xiaoren can take you in, but I can also help Dayes skill to put everyone there under control; you can obtain both the money and the people.

    Displeased, Kou Zhong said, You think I am an idiot? If you really have such ability, why not use your skill to put everyone under control? Why would you want to give me the advantage? Get the hell out of here right now, or Ill kill you for real.

    Liu An hastily said, Daye, please listen to Xiaorens explanation. Heres the truth: the highlight of the gambling meet is the Tian Jiu [lit. heavenly nine, Tien Gow] competition, which will be held tomorrow night. Whoever can win the highest number of gaming chips will be declared the winner. But those who want to enter the contest must register three days ago, and have to be present for the draw to determine the table and the opponents. Look!

    Spreading out his right hand, he revealed a uniquely-shaped bronze token, engraved with a number and Yin Ru Ge logo; the lines were very fine.

    Staring blankly, Kou Zhong said, Are you trying to sell me this bronze token? Humph! You really know how to do business.

    Liu An put away the bronze token; he laughed and said, My problem is that I lack the gambling capital. Simply because the gambling meet provision stated that the competitor must purchase gaming chips worth twenty taels of gold, those who lose everything will be immediately kicked out of the arena. This was the reason I was looking for Daye to work together.

    Kou Zhong was not interested to continue talking with him. Shaking his head, he said, Im sorry, in my pocket right now, scraping to the east and gathering from the west, I only have twelve taels of gold. Therefore, it does not matter how brilliant my gambling skill is, I still lack eight taels of gold before I can even qualify. Just get lost and go find your second fat sheep!

    While Kou Zhong thought that Liu An would sound out the difficulties and retreat to avoid defeat, Liu An rolled his rat-eyes, and without changing his expression at all he laughed and said, No problem; as long as Daye is willing to cooperate, isnt winning eight taels of gold as easy as a hands turn? Tonight, Jiujiangs streets are crowded with sheep to the bursting point; as long as we have enough capital in hand, Xiaoren can work together with Daye to make a lot of money.

    This moment the dish arrived. Kou Zhong perfunctorily said, Let me think about it!

    Of course! Of course! Liu An replied, If Daye is interested in Xiaorens proposal, you can go to Yin Ru Ge to look for Xiaoren. Xiaoren is an expert in reading peoples aura; Daye is currently in the winning form. Otherwise, Xiaoren would not waste that much time explaining.

    Muttering to himself irresolutely, Kou Zhong said, If we get enough money to be exchanged with gaming chips, who would compete? Will it be you, or me?

    Liu An said, Of course Daye can personally play. Afterwards, Xiaoren will be perfectly content to get ten percent.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, All right! If Im interested, I will look for you at Yin Ru Ge tonight.

    Thinking that he had persuaded Kou Zhong; Liu An left in high spirits.

    Kou Zhong snickered inwardly. Lifting his chopsticks, he was about to pick the dish when Xu Zilings Scar-faced Hero swaggered into the city from the north city gate.





    [1] Zhang Liang was a strategist and statesman who lived in the early Western Han dynasty. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhang_Liang_(Western_Han) (Courtesy of Lance23)

  17. #317
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    Default Book 26 Chapter 10

    Book 26 Chapter 10 Yin Ru Casino

    Having just disembarked from the ship, Xu Ziling had a feeling that he was being watched. And then he saw the official boat that Bai Qinger took. Evidently, at least on the surface, the relationship between Xiangyangs Qian Duguan and Xiao Xian was quite good.

    Lin Lang has personally removed any obstruction he might encounter at the city gate by issuing a pass of safe conduct to him just before they landed, so that all he needed to do was to pay the tax and he could enter the city immediately.

    Walking along the main street, heavy with endless stream of horses and carriages, Xu Ziling had a feeling that he was returning to the mortal world. This Three Gorges trip would forever be engraved in his heart.

    In less than ten steps, Xu Ziling already sensed an unusual feeling, like a bucket of iced water was poured on his head and soaked his entire body. Instantly he reacted by looking at shop on his right. The first thing he saw was a powerful, as bright as lightning, abundant in divine light, fierce and severe without equal pair of eyes.

    And then he saw Kou Zhong.

    In that instant, he knew that just like him, after they parted, Kou Zhong had made incredible breakthrough in his martial art skill; he was not the same as the former Kou Zhong.

    Kou Zhong was raising his cup to toast him, with a bright, ugly smile on his face.

    But this smile could not hide the profound, touchingly strong emotion exuding from his pair of tiger-eyes, brimming with delight, joy, and excitement of meeting again after a long period of separation.

    Xu Ziling signaled with his eyes from a distance; he suddenly walked faster and disappeared into a side lane.

    Inside the shop, Kou Zhong put down his cup and shouted loudly, Three taels of silver, I want the table closest to the back door.

    After throwing off the people who were following his tracks, Xu Ziling entered the shop via the back door. Kou Zhong already poured him a cup of good wine and waited respectfully for his honored-selfs arrival.

    One cup of wine gone, the two boys four eyes met, they looked at each other and then laughed. In this moment, being able to stay alive was indeed a rarity.

    Kou Zhong poured another cup of wine for him; lowering his voice, he said with a sigh, Kid, you are amazing; unexpectedly even the Heavenly Lord Xi Ying was slaughtered under your hands.

    Stunned, Xu Ziling said, Did you develop a pair of tail-wind ears [fig. a well-informed person]? Unexpectedly your information is so fast and abundant.

    Immensely proud of himself, Kou Zhong said, It was Yuzhi who told me. Luckily I told Song Que that Yue Shan is your disguise; otherwise, you, this kid, will be killed by Song Que without knowing whats going on. If you dont see it with your own eyes, you wouldnt know to what extend the awesomeness of his Heavenly Saber; even my eggs were nearly cut off by him.

    He has been keeping his belly full of foul language in check, so now he needed to pour out everything.

    Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, Unexpectedly you sneaked away to Lingnan to meet the beauty; too bad I have promised Song Yuhua not to let you see her Die.

    Staring blankly, Kou Zhong said, I am not mountain spirit or demon, why would she talk to you about stopping me from seeing her Ol Dad?

    Although Xu Ziling had thousands of words, he did not know how to bring it up. Changing the subject, he said, How did you know to wait here for me to enter the city?

    Kou Zhong picked some food and put it in Xu Zilings bowl. Leaning closer, he said, When there is an effect, naturally there is a cause. Today, I met face to face on a narrow path with two groups of old friends. One is Yin Gui Pai yaonu yaofu [female demon and witch] who conspired to split your corpse five ways by pulling it with horses. The other group was led by Yun Yuzhen, that stinky poniang [reminder: woman (derogatory)]. Ay! Seeing you alive and well, there is no need for me to have a headache alone.

    And then he stared blankly at Xu Ziling, who had become fine-gem like jade, clean, beautiful and lustrous. Lifting his hand holding the chopsticks, he said, What actually happened? It made you appear like you shed your mortal body and exchanged your bones.

    While eating, Xu Ziling said, Its complicated and not easy to express succinctly. Right now I must hurry to the casino. Ill tell you on the way!

    Yin Ru Ge was located in the heart of the most prosperous business district in Jiujiang, about seven, eight buildings away from Chun Zai Lou where they assassinated Ren Shaoming. The scale was grand. The main building complex consisted of five wooden structures on a central axis, connected to each other by corridors. On both sides of the corridors, there were ponds, mountain rocks, flowers and plants in pots. Outside the main complex, there were more than a dozen smaller buildings, courtyards and residences, in all-the-stars-cup-themselves-around-the-moon configuration [idiom, from Analects: to group around a revered leader] with the five main halls as the core, surrounded all around by high walls.

    This moment the entire complex was as bright as white painting; the external wall facing the main street was resplendent with colored lanterns. Outside the main gate vehicles and horses were forming a long queue, as they slowly entered in. The streets in the vicinity were crowded to bursting point with pedestrians; some were there just to enjoy watching the bustling scene, some others, because they did not have enough money to pay the admission fee for the gambling meet, were unable to get in.

    Everybody who had head and face in Jiujiang was there; hats and head coverings converged into one place. It was indeed a magnificent and unprecedented event.

    Watching the bustling scene outside the main gate from a distance, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were both speechless. Emotionally moved, the former said, Just like that time we went to Wang Tongs mansion to listen to Shi Qingxuans flute; history repeats itself, very quickly it has been several years! At that time we were on the run every day. But now, even if Zhu Yuyan and Ning Daoqi came to give us bad luck, we, two brothers, are not afraid of his mother.

    Having his bad memory of Shi Qingxuan mentioned, Xu Ziling hung his head and did not say anything.

    Kou Zhong thought Xu Ziling was recalling his lot in life, just like he just did, so he did not mind him; he went on, When we have time later, I must try how formidable your Nine-word Incantation Handprint is.

    Putting his worry out of his mind, Xu Ziling laughed and said, I knew you would not let me get away with it. Dont blame me for not giving you a warning in advance; if somehow my hand slips and I injure you, I dont care how many faces you have, you will lose them all!

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Kid, stop showing off, your words are too full of yourself. How can I, Kou Zhong, be like Xi Ying, flaunting off his demonic name without restraint, looking impressive but was actually worthless?

    The two have not teased each other for a very long time, so they both found it amusing. After looking at each other and roaring in laughter, they walked toward Yin Ru Ges main entrance.

    From a side alley someone rushed out and blocked their way. He was wearing brocade clothes and gorgeous attire, but his face looked unfamiliar. Kou Zhong was about to bark and cuss, Xu Ziling just saw that this person was Lei Jiuzhi in disguise. Hes a friend, he hastily said, This is Lei Dage.

    Lei Jiuzhi did not know Kou Zhong. After the introduction, he was immediately pleased beyond his expectations to finally meet him. Due to their mutual relationship with Lu Miaozi, naturally Kou Zhong and Lei Jiuzhi hit it off right away.

    The three stepped aside into an alley to discuss their grand plan. Xu Ziling asked in surprise, Didnt Lei Dage say you wanted to force Xiang Gui out using Lei Jiuzhis identity? Why are you dressed like this?

    Smiling, Lei Jiuzhi replied, This is Lei Jiuzhis real appearance; I am using false in place of real. When I am not in Lei Jiuzhi disguise, I can make my nine fingers appear to be ten. Lu Shi was a great master precisely in this kind of trickery, I have a model to learn from!

    What are you going to play tonight? Kou Zhong asked, I hear that the Tian Jiu competition is not going to start until tomorrow night.

    Astonished, Lei Jiuzhi said, Shao Shuais news is indeed fast and abundant. The difference between tonight and tomorrow night is that the participants of tomorrow nights Tian Jiu competition are by invitation only; people who, if not giant businessmen, then must be leaders of gangs and societies, anybody who has name and surname within the Dulin [reminder: gambling forest] world.

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, Turns out that little con man used fake token to swindle me; but the fake article looked very exquisite.

    Lei Jiuzhi opened up his palm to reveal a round bronze token. He laughed and said, The real bronze token looks like this.

    Stunned, Kou Zhong said, Thats the token, only the number is different.

    After listening to Kou Zhongs explanation one more time, Lei Jiuzhi said, I wonder if Shao Shuai remember the number?

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Lei Dage asked the right person. Ling Shao can read ten lines at a glance, but once I see it, I wont forget it. It looked to be Ha! It looked to be forty-eight. No! Now that I think about it, it ought to be twenty-eight. Yes, I am sure it was twenty-eight.

    Lei Jiuzhi said, If it is indeed twenty-eight, then this is called heaven's net has wide meshes, but nothing escapes it [idiom, from Laozi]. Turning toward Xu Ziling, he said, The nicknamed dian shi cheng jin [Midas touch see Chapter 8] Lai Chaoguis number is precisely twenty-eight.

    Xu Ziling could not believe his ears; he said, You disembarked just a moment before I did; how could you be so quick that you even looked up Lai Chaoguis number?

    Lei Jiuzhi laughed and said, Under heavy rewards, there must be brave men. The power of this saying is more effective toward gamblers than anything else. The people who came to participate in the gambling meet this time, a lot of them are my old friends. Looking up this kind of thing is just a matter of the exertion of lifting my hand!

    Kou Zhong drew a blank. Whos Lai Chaogui? he asked.

    Lei Jiuzhi said, Shao Shuai, please give us the description of that Liu Ans outward appearance and body shape. According to reason, based on Lai Chaoguis status and prestige, he could not possibly do such a thing.

    Thereupon Kou Zhong described how he looked, as well as what happened then.

    Lei Jiuzhi sighed and said, Indeed this guys character does not change even if hes dead. This Liu An fellow is Lai Chaoguis agent [lit. middleman]. Before the Tian Jiu meet, he went everywhere looking for a fat sheep on sedan chair. First, they would let you win big, so that youd think that you are in collusion with him to swindle the other fat sheeps money, while actually you are the fat sheep. This kind of gambling cheat is called releasing the kite. First, they let you win small, afterwards, lose big. After the event, they would even push the blame on you.

    Xu Ziling happily said, Lai Chaogui shouldnt have enough capital to compete tomorrow night!

    The admission fee was actually a tax that has to be paid to the local government. During the time when money was desperately needed like right now, governments in all parts of the country administered all kinds of way, concocted various items to draw taxes.

    Yin Ru Ges admission tax was collected by a gambling officer dispatched by the local government, and was then transferred into the government coffers bypassing the casino.

    Starting in the Warring States period [475-221 BC], due to severe devastation caused by gambling, which oftentimes made one losing his family fortune, also because it attracted all kinds of damage to the societal order and corrupt practices in general, there was a law that prohibits gambling. Then Qin Shihuang unified the world, so Li Si [c. 280-208 BC, Legalist philosopher, calligrapher and Prime minister of Qin kingdom and Qin dynasty from 246 to 208 BC] drew up the law to prohibit gambling. Light punishment would be to tattoo criminals on the face or forehead, heavy punishment would be flogging on the thigh.

    The Han dynasty also continued this gambling prohibition.

    Until the Wei, Jin, and North-South dynasties, during the rise of the land-owning class, the prohibition relaxed. Although in name, the gambling prohibition provision remained, the reality was gone.

    During the last years of the Sui Dynasty, governments slackened and crippled, bureaucrats and businessmen in cahoots, gambling industry flourished, they joined hands to make big fortune.

    After the Sui Dynasty collapsed, this style aggravated, all over the place government authorities happily increased their revenue by collaborating with businessmen to form joint venture like Yin Ru Ge.

    Kou Zhong handed over the admission tax and entered the casino.

    Yin Ru Ges reputation as the most famous casino along the Yangtze river basin was not in vain; the furnishings were gorgeous and tastefully chosen, the halls connected by the corridors were setup with various gambling equipment. There were also VIP rooms for people with special status to enjoy.

    This moment there were three, four hundred gamblers gathered in each hall, yet it did not feel crowded or stuffy at all. In the brightly lit halls, the overwhelming majority of the guests were men. Although there were only a small number of women guests, they all looked exceptionally beautiful, comparable to Auntie Hong of Chun Zai Lou; some gambled even more ruthlessly than the men.

    Adding the beginning of spring [i.e. thoughts of love] feeling to the atmosphere were the female attendants going back and forth in the hall; none was not young, beautiful women with jade appearance. Their silky breasts were half-exposed, their jade arms brilliant and varied, sexy and captivating.

    Kou Zhong was not good at betting. After going around the hall once, he realized that the most familiar to him were domino solitaire, tou bao [lit. precious dice; Sic Bo], and fan tan [lit. repeated divisions; Fan-Tan], three types of gambling game. [Translators note: in case you want to know more, Baike Baidu has all three entries (牌接龙、骰宝、番摊) in Chinese, Wikipedia only has the last two in English.]

    While he was considering whether he should try a couple of games, Liu An appeared from who-knows-where, enthusiastically pulled the sleeve of Kou Zhongs garment, and took him to a corner, where several mahogany chairs were provided for the guests to sit down, and said with a laugh, Daye really came! Xiaoke [(polite) my humble person] just saw four fat sheep, I could pick one for Daye, and then we could go to the VIP lounge to make big fortune. Yin Ru Ge may only draw 10% commission, so the money Daye win will stand for 70%, because Xiaoren will be perfectly satisfied with 20%. After we get our moneys worth, Xiaoren will hand the token to Daye to take part in the competition. If Daye reaped total victory, you may share 20% to Xiaoren, otherwise, Xiaoren will not receive a single penny. What does Daye think?

    Kou Zhong pretended to act boorish; he waved his hand to tell the female attendant in front of him, who was going to serve him, to hurry up and leave, and then assuming a greedy look he said, Where are those four fat sheep? Why would they want to bet against us?

    Lowering his voice, Liu An replied, Naturally we must play a little bit of trick, which is we put on an act, let them think Daye is a fat sheep, naturally they will be happy to keep you company. Daye, dont worry, at that time Xiaoren will arrange everything. Right now the first step is to select the sheep. All these four fat sheep show bankrupt aura on their faces, they will undoubtedly lose.

    Finished speaking, he took Kou Zhong to select the fat sheep.

    Xu Ziling and Lei Jiuzhi entered the casino about half a sichen later than Kou Zhong. This time Lei Jiuzhi has turned into a rather rich and respectable-looking old and gray-haired elderly gentleman with ten fingers.

    But tomorrow night, he would appear with Lei Jiuzhi face.

    Xu Ziling was still the scar-faced man; following Lei Jiuzhi, they went into the second hall, where nearly a hundred people were surrounding a fan tan table. Presided over the game was a middle-aged, but still attractive woman, brimming with windblown dust impression; her technique was quite skillful.

    Fan-tan was also known as tanqian [lit. bearing part of the cost] or yanqian [covering up the money]. The rule of the game was that the casino personnel occupy the home position. During the game, the home position grabbed short small bamboo tokens as the stall, which was covered quickly with a bowl, so that people could not see the number. After the people put their bet, the stall was open to see who win who lose. The method of calculation was the stall was taken four at a time, the remaining number could be one, two, three, or four, four different gates. Those who bet on the winning gate was compensated three to one, which was called fan [occurrence]. Betting on two gates but hit one of the gates would be compensated one to one; this is called jiao [corner].

    When the two arrived, the fan-tan has been played three times with two repetitions; the atmosphere was boiling, the warmth shook the heavens. Many of those people who were usually dignified, this moment were gnashing their teeth, making a fist or waving their palms, shouting loudly at the stall gate that they put their bets on, as if the louder they shouted, the more it would influence the number of the stall.

    Lei Jiuzhi leaned over to Xu Zilings ear and said with a laugh, This poniang is one of the four prominent figures within Jiujiangs Dulin world, the gambling ghost Zha Hais capable assistant; her technique is not bad.

    Astonished, Xu Ziling said, You mean theres trick in their skill? On the surface, it looks very difficult to cheat in this game!

    Lei Jiuzhi said, Nine out of ten gambling games can be cheated, anything can be cheated. The most common tricks in Fan-tan are la zhu [leaving out tree trunk] and fei zi [flying pieces], two types of tricks. In la zhu, the stall is rigged, so that if necessary, one can be divided into two. In fei zi, the stall can fly away using some trick. Either way, there are accomplices nearby prying on the side, using tobacco smoke or some other method to divert other peoples attention, so that the old castaway [see Chapter 6] presiding over the game can play his trick. Naturally big casino like Yin Ru Ge will not resort to such trick, but at the top of the streets and the bottom of the alleys [idiom: everywhere in the city], most of the temporary Fan-tan stalls use such deceptive tricks. [Disclaimer: I am not familiar with gambling world, so I just translated it as is; might be grossly inaccurate. Apologies.]

    These days, Xu Ziling have learned not a few of on-the-job clever tricks related to gambling from Lei Jiuzhi. Curious, he asked, In this kind of game, what technique would Lei Xiong use to ensure victory?

    Lei Jiuzhi laughed and said, Unless we are cheating, there is no way we can ensure victory. But if in ten bets we win five, due to the high rate of the compensation, it is equal to certain victory. When the home spills the tokens on the table and cover them with the bowl, relying on the eyes and the ears, there will be 50% chance of success.

    Speechless, Xu Ziling said, Lei Xiong is really formidable.

    This moment the bowl was lifted up, the tokens were spread out, unexpectedly it was the second stall. Everybody sighed in despair, shouting about dishonest practices.

    The two men moved toward the third hall; the main game in this hall was tou bao. The number of people in this hall was higher than the previous two halls. Every table was surrounded by so many people that it would be difficult to insert a needle; the atmosphere was blazing.

    Lei Jiuzhi swept his gaze around; he still did not see Kou Zhongs shadow, thereupon he proceeded toward the fourth hall. The main game in this hall was card games; all those orange bulrush [橙蒲], double-continent, leaf play, dominoes, Tian Jiu, Pai Jiu [pai gow], horse crane, and so on; everything that should be there was there.

    After many days hanging around the casinos, Xu Ziling was very clear about why gambling continued despite repeated prohibition. The casino world, where people were able to indulge themselves, was able to offer the excitement of getting lucky while taking the risk, which could not be obtained under normal day-to-day circumstances.

    Look! Lei Jiuzhi suddenly said.

    Following his gaze, Xu Ziling saw a particularly-bustling-with-noise-and-excitement Pai Jiu table, where sitting in one of the seats around the table was a young woman. This womans eyebrows were like crescent moon, her eyes looked like limpid autumn waters, her face, her complexion were extraordinarily beautiful, enough to match other beauties of Shen Luoyans caliber, and definitely would not be inferior in any respect. Especially alluring was the exquisite curves of her fully developed figure.

    The number of spectators continuously grew. It was an inevitable matter.

    Lei Jiuzhi spoke in low voice, This is Hu Xiaoxian [lit. little fairy], the Da Xian [great immortal Hu Fos only daughter. I did not expect her to come to join in the fun. The Tian Jiu Big Meet tomorrow night will be more interesting.

    It was only then did Xu Ziling recall that Hu Fo was the Hu Xian Pais zhangmen daxian [great immortal head of the sect], who opened Ming Tang Wo in Guanzhong, the most famous casino in the nation. Hu Xiaoxian was his beloved daughter, who had obtained the gambling skill that he personally passed on to her.

    Lei Jiuzhi suddenly give Xu Ziling a push in his back and said, Go on, play with her a few hands.

    Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, I am not well-versed in Pai Jiu at all!

    Laughing, Lei Jiuzhi said, Without a novice, how could there be any skilled person? The rule here is that any gambler can take turn being the banker; the casino will only draw commission. Look, the house banker has been under pressure from her that his eyes nearly pop out. Ziling may take over the banker position to have some fun, the banker you protect will be extremely grateful to you.

    Xu Zilings scalp went numb; trying to decline in any possible way, he said, Arent we going to use the hard-earned silver we won for tomorrow nights Tian Jiu competition? If I lose it clean, what are we going to bet with in the Tian Jiu competition?

    Lei Jiuzhi laughed and said, This is precisely the most brilliant aspect of our plan; in the past few days, you never worried about losing money, hence you were able to gamble with confidence and at ease, completely without any pressure. Just consider this time a test and a challenge for you. If you can apply the gambling technique and tactics that your LaoGe taught you, and you are able to put it in real-life application of life and death battle on the gambling table against a worthy opponent, if you win, I could say that you graduate with honor!

    Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, Dont we have an appointment with Kou Zhong to help him select the fat sheep? How could a new branch grow out of a knot [idiom: side issues keep arising]?

    Lei Jiuzhi burst out laughing, saying, Dont push to the left and ward off to the right; just look at Hu Xiaoxian as someone like Evil Monk or Amorous Nun, then youll do just fine. While saying that, he pushed the pouch containing the gambling chips into Xu Zilings hand.

    Under repeated push from Lei Jiuzhi, Xu Ziling had no choice but to steel himself [lit. harden his scalp] to squeeze in by the bankers side and said, Let me be the banker for a few rounds.

    Everybody was stunned; they thought how could there be such a stupid person that went so far as to take over while the banker was in disadvantageous position?

    Hu Xiaoxian cast a disdain glance toward him, giggled tenderly and said, Why not? Zhuangjia DaGe [big brother the banker (in gambling)] is exactly what Ive been looking for!

    Everybody roared in laughter in response to her remark.

    Xu Ziling felt his face was burning hot, but this moment if you ride a tiger, it's hard to get off; without any choice he took the bankers, who was slipping away from his seat, position.



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  18. #318
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    Default Book 26 Chapter 11

    Book 26 Chapter 11 Wind and Clouds[1] in the Casino

    At the corner of the last hall, Liu An said with a laugh to Kou Zhong, Xiaoren was right! These four fat sheep are all from out of town. I wonder which one is Dayes heart leaning to?

    Kou Zhong was greatly astonished. Just now Liu An pointed four men to him, one of them was definitely the Midas Touch Lai Chaogui who disguised himself as a fat sheep. But the other three were really out-of-town fat sheep; he could not help feeling at a loss. If he did not choose Lai Chaogui, wouldnt Liu Ans cheating scheme be difficult to succeed?

    The hall he was entering only had one gambling style, which was Tian Jiu.

    Tian Jiu and Pai Jiu were both using the same dominoes, but they were played differently.

    Tomorrows Tian Jiu big meet should be held in this thirty-table hall. This moment every table was surrounded by more than a hundred people, so it was very noisy.

    Liu An leaned close to Kou Zhongs ear again and said, Perhaps wed better divide these four men into four doors, in succession. Daye can then take two doors.

    Kou Zhongs had an idea, he said, Lets take the two doors at the back! Lai Chaogui was not in one of those doors; he wanted to see how Liu An would react.

    Unexpectedly Liu An shouted an acclamation before glibly said, Daye really has ability; you are able to see the two doors at the back are not as good as the sheep at the front two doors; certainly you have original insight. The fat sheep at the two front doors, the one wearing blue gown surnamed Jia, has the worst gambling appearance. Naturally it cannot escape Dayes discerning eye.

    Kou Zhong was angry but was amused at the same time. This kind of swindling skill, he also had enough to show off. On the surface it looked like you are the one making selection, while actually it was the other party using his glib tongue doing the selection for you. But the fisherman can be hooked as well.

    Kou Zhong pretended to be unsure, Of course, he said.

    By lucky coincidence, this moment he saw Lei Jiuzhi entering the hall, so he busily waving his hand to greet him. Lei Jiuzhi only nodded his head slightly, before squeezing himself into one of the gambling table to make a bet.

    Surprised, Liu An asked, Is that Dayes friend?

    Lowering his voice, Kou Zhong replied, Speaking about fat sheep, that guy is really a big fat sheep. He owns more than dozen pottery factories in Jiangxi, as well as abundant family property. He may lose one, two thousand taels of silver, and his countenance wont change a bit.

    Liu Ans pair of mousy eyes immediately lit up. He said, Why not invite him to gamble together to your hearts content?

    Shaking his head, Kou Zhong said, There are a lot of choices to place a bet in here, plus he knew that my gambling skill is brilliant, how could he be willing to bet against us?

    Liu An roused his tongue like a reed [idiom: glib tongue] and said, You are right, but right now the casino is too crowded, you can only place a bet on other peoples cards; how can it compare to the excitement of betting on your own cards?

    Frowning, Kou Zhong said, Didnt we already find our fat sheep?

    Liu An said, Two fat sheep are naturally better than one. Let us decide on some signals now, we can go separately to move this plan forward!

    Xu Ziling lost three times in succession; he lost more than half of his gambling chips. More and more people were gathered around the table, they all placed their bet on Hu Xiaoxians cards. Even the gamblers who were originally playing against her were now placing their bets on the face-off between Xu Ziling and Hu Xiaoxian.

    For Xu Ziling, whether it was a win or a loss, everything was extremely important; but for Hu Xiaoxian, at most she only lost a bet.

    Under the gaze of Hu Xiaoxians black, fluid beautiful eyes, which were as calm as still water, Xu Ziling felt like he wanted to bore a hole on the ground and hide in it. Without any better option he pretended to look down to shuffle the cards, not daring to look at her. Inwardly he cursed Lei Jiuzhi, who had gone without any trace.

    Pai Jiu card game used the dots of two dice to make up thirty-two cards, twenty-one styles of cards, nine types of odd numbers, twelve kinds of even numbers.

    In general, the game could be played by two to four people, using the roll of the dice to determine the number of dots, each draw was six cards, the banker drew an extra card and took the lead to play his cards, and then the other players play their cards in succession, whether to meet with and defeat or just to get rid of their cards. The cards in their hands could be composed of two suits plus one barbarian suit [not sure: 夷牌 (yi pai)], which could be pushed forward to triumph over the opponent. The winning bet was calculated according to the suits ratio and the yi pais points. [Note: the cards here refer to domino tiles, not western playing cards.]

    Xu Ziling was about to roll the dice and deal the cards when a clear, sweet, gentle and beautiful voice rang out, Hold on!

    Stunned, everybody looked up. A thousand-tender, a hundred-charming beauty, using who-knows-what kind of shenfa already squeezed through the crowd and took position at the very front, in a graceful and touching posture sat down on the seat between Hu Xiaoxian and Xu Ziling. With a hint of smile on her face, she said, Nujia came to take advantage of the excitement.

    Everybody could only stare blankly at her, bedazzled by her beauty, momentarily they forgot to protest that with this interference, the game was delayed.

    Beauty like Hu Xiaoxian was already rare in the world, and yet this newcomer beauty was at least half a notch above her.

    Shockingly, she was Wan Yaonus Shimei, Bai Yaonu [female demon], Bai Qinger.

    In that instant, Xu Ziling suddenly calmed down completely. His heart was as bright and clear as the moon in the well, not contaminated the slightest bit by distracting thoughts.

    Hu Xiaoxian was also curiously sizing up this beautiful and alluring addition to their game.

    Xu Ziling met Bai Qingers limpid and bright gaze. Laughing calmly, he said, Since thats the case, well start with new game.

    Bai Qinger performed the beautiful movement of shrugging her shoulders, indicating that she did not mind. Please do as you wish! she spoke indifferently.

    Xu Ziling reached out to shuffle the tiles.

    For some unknown reason, the crowd felt their heart suddenly tensed up; nobody made any noise, they all held their breath to watch with full attention.

    Bai Qingers eyes were fixed on Xu Zilings sparkling and translucent like jade slender palms without blinking at all, as if she was trying to pry into the depth of Xu Zilings foundation from the hands. Just like Hu Xiaoxian, she renounced the right to shuffle the tiles.

    After repeated Click! Clack! noise, Xu Ziling piled up the tiles neatly.

    It was because now he had a powerful enemy nearby that he was finally able to control his mind and unleashed the stacking-tile skill that Lei Jiuzhi taught him. By using his schools unique skill of listening to tiles rubbing against tiles he was able to remember several cards. Naturally it would be ideal if he could remember all 32 cards, but it was simply impossible.

    Lei Jiuzhi was only able to remember six to eight cards, but five was Xu Zilings limit, yet it was extremely useful already.

    For the first time Hu Xiaoxian revealed a grave expression; obviously it was because of Xu Zilings technique and his listening to the tiles skill.

    Everybody started to place their bets. This aspect was taken care of by the casino personnel, calculation and compensation were generally taking care all by itself, so Xu Ziling did not have to worry about it.

    Xu Ziling smiled, handed the dice to Hu Xiaoxian, and said calmly and indifferently, How about Xiaojie [Miss] roll the dice for this round?

    Hu Xiaoxian was startled, but then she took the dice and threw them on the table.

    Xu Ziling looked at Bai Qinger; the divine light in his eyes suddenly flared out.

    Bai Qinger was caught off-guard by his gaze, her fragrant heart shivered slightly.

    Xu Ziling sent out his true qi from the tip of his toes that flowed upward along the leg of the table and traveled toward the dice still rolling on the table. Not only this move was not something that Lei Jiuzhi could accomplish, the fact is that not many people in the world could do this.

    Due to the subtle relationship between Xu Ziling, Hu Xiaoxian and Bai Qinger, this corner of the hall was enveloped in extraordinary atmosphere; it was tense like the bow that has been pulled taut, full of accumulating potential energy.

    By the time Xu Ziling turned his gaze toward the dice, the dice have stopped rolling; all three of them showed three dots, for a total of nine points.

    Gasps of surprise rippled among the spectators.

    Hu Xiaoxian suddenly said, I have not asked for Sires honorable surname and great given name.

    I am Gong Chenchun, Xu Ziling casually replied. And then, turning toward the stall officer representing the casino, he said, Please deal the cards.

    It was only this moment that the stall officer realized that Xu Ziling was a master; he thought that previously Xu Ziling was just playing dumb; busily he dealt the tiles for the three.

    The crowd craned their necks, watching attentively in full concentration. Although all around them the noise shook the hall, in this corner the crow and peacock made no sound.

    Xu Zilings self-confidence and composure in the face of the enemy has been fully restored. When each of them has received two cards, he suddenly called for a halt and said, What do you say we bet on big or small, with the card as the tie-breaker?

    Hu Xiaoxian did not even cast a glance with the corner of her eye toward the cards on the table; her pretty eyebrows slightly knitted, she looked at Xu Ziling. For the first time that night she felt that she has fallen into a disadvantageous position.

    This kind of gambling method was not Xu Zilings new creation. Turned out Pai Jiu has many variants of gambling method, one of which being two cards become a group, after the roll of the dice, the number of dots indicate the points that one earned, which then extended with the spread-out tiles to determine the winner. This was commonly referred to as Small Pai Jiu.

    But changing gambling method at the last moment like Xu Ziling did was very rare; however, it increased the excitement of the game, so that the crowd was greatly delighted.

    Hu Xiaoxian seemed to be no match for Xu Zilings gaze; turning toward Bai Qinger, she said, This Jiejie [older sister], what do you think?

    Bai Qinger met Xu Zilings sharp and grim gaze; she spoke slowly, Can I increase the bet?

    Xu Ziling sniggered inwardly, knowing that she did not realize that he was playing a trick. But he could not blame her either, because no matter how brilliant she was, it would be difficult to see through the number one skilled artisan Lu Miaozis gambling art.

    Of course you can, Xu Ziling replied.

    Her countenance did not change, Bai Qinger said, In that case I am adding ten taels of gold, well decide win or lose by laying our cards on the table according to what you said!

    The crowd was in an uproar.

    Kou Zhong took Lei Jiuzhi to meet with Liu An at one corner of the casino.

    Lei Jiuzhi proudly said, The most delightful gambling is using real gold and white silver to place a bet. If you want to see me, you have to have real silver; if you want credit, save yourself from asking.

    Smiling apologetically, Liu An said, That shouldnt be a problem. Laoban [boss], may I ask your honorable surname and great given name?

    I am surnamed Chen, Lei Jiuzhi replied.

    Turns out its Chen Laoban, Liu An said, I wonder how much Chen Laoban wants to bet, and which game you want to play?

    Lei Jiuzhi said, Naturally its Tian Jiu; just consider it a warmup before the big meet tomorrow. Each bet is one tael of gold, four cards break even, five cards win one bet, each tile loses four bets, binding tiles win five bets. For supreme, regardless of the outcome, everybody bestows two bets; if the supreme produces another binding, each person bestows four bets. You get it? [Translators note: sorry, I dont get it. I have no idea what he was talking about.]

    Liu An was greatly delighted, thinking that you, this fool, wanted to have such a grand gambling, it would be strange indeed if I cannot beat you until you lose your family fortune. It would be ideal if there is another fool joining in, then this game could be said to have only victory and no loss. He hurriedly said, Everything will be as Chen Laoban wishes. This way, please, Jia Laoban [boss Jia] is waiting respectfully for the two gentlemen in the side hall.

    Xu Ziling thought at most she would add a hundred taels of white silver, which was already a heavy bet enough to build a decent house for most common folks; who would have thought that it was ten taels of gold? Immediately he groaned inwardly.

    Bai Qinger put the glistening yellow gold on the table, and said with a tender laughter, If the banker loses this hand, would he have enough money to pay?

    All eyes were focused on Xu Zilings remaining gambling chips; no one did not shake his head.

    By this time everybody knew that Bai Qinger had come specifically to deal with Xu Ziling.

    Hu Xiaoxian smiled and said, Gong Xiong, would you like Nujia to lend you money to meet a contingency?

    This time, forget about the spectators, even Xu Ziling himself was taken aback. If he was showing his true identity, it could be said that Hu Xiaoxian took a fancy to him. But with his current scared face, even looking at himself in the mirror, he would be less than impressed; why would Hu Xiaoxian treat him well?

    Suddenly a female voice familiar to Xu Ziling rang out, This ten taels of gold, let me, Yun Yuzhen cover for him, Madame Qinger shouldnt have any objection.

    Wave after wave of strange things kept happening, everybody felt confused and disoriented, they could not tell east from west anymore.

    The crowd separated a bit. Escorted by a middle-aged man with grim expression and the skin of his face suffused with green-white color, Yun Yuzhen lithely came behind Xu Ziling.

    The man saluted toward Hu Xiaoxian and Bai Qinger, saying, Zha Hai of Jiujiang pays his respect to Miss Xiaoxian and Madame Qinger. Unexpectedly he was the big boss of Yin Ru Ge, the Gambling Ghost Zha Hai.

    Zha Hai went on, If Gong Xiong could win this hand, Xiaodi will give Gong Xiong the token to take part in the competition to show my respect to you. But there is one condition.

    Xu Ziling guessed that Yun Yuzhen and Zha Hai have been standing behind him all this time, and thus have witnessed the entire course of events. Furthermore, Yun Yuzhen must have recognized him from looking at his back, as well as from his voice.

    Ay!

    How should he deal with this woman?

    Hu Xiaoxian did not even bother to pick her two tiles; she forcefully slapped creating a crisp, sharp noise that shook everybody to the core and casually opening the cards up and spread them on the table.

    Those who put their bets on her exploded into cheers.

    The tiles showed a pair of four, which, in Pai Jiu, is man suit, which belonged to the big tiles of civil suit. Other than heaven and earth, no combination could beat hers, so the chance of winning was very high.

    Bai Qinger also flipped her tiles for everybody to see; it was the military suit of four and five, resulting in red nine. Although it could not beat Hu Xiaoxians man suit, the odd of winning could be considered extremely high as well.

    Showing no emotion on his face, Xu Ziling looked at the two sets of tiles, and spoke in heavy voice, May I venture to ask Zha Dangjia [manager] which condition are you going to raise?

    It was only then that everybody remembered that just now Zha Hai has not fully expressed himself.

    Zha Hai glibly said, I wonder if before the tiles are flipper over, Gong Xiong is able to tell whats at the bottom of the tiles?

    The crowd burst into an uproar.

    If under this kind of multitude-of-staring-eyes situation Xu Ziling was still able to come up with a trick, he was certainly extremely skillful.

    Xu Ziling shook his head and said with a sigh, Zha Dangjia is indeed formidable; then in this hand I can only hope to win over Madame Qingers ten taels of gold. As for the others, I wont fetch a single wen.

    People felt that it would be very difficult to blame him, because he did not admit that he knew, nobody had any proof that he cheated.

    Zha Hai threw his head back in long laughter, You have guts! he said.

    Hu Xiaoxian smiled and said, Gong Xiong, dont make a mistake by saying the wrong thing!

    Shrugging his shoulders, Xu Ziling said, If Im wrong, then Im wrong! Whats the big deal? This is a pair of laoyao [lit. youngest], please open it up for Ol Gong.

    Zha Hai signaled the stall officer with his eyes; the latter received the order and open up the tiles. Indeed it was a pair of laoyao, earth suit, just enough to beat Hu Xiaoxians man suit.

    Those who stood in a circle and watched suddenly broke into thunderous uproar.

    Yet Xu Ziling was inwardly wiping his cold sweat. He could only remember four cards; the other was just lucky guess, hence he had to come up with all kinds of technique to score victory after every pair of cards was spread out on the table, so this win was an extremely close call.

    Bai Qinger pushed all the golden ingots to his direction; standing up daintily, she said, I hope Gong Xiongs skill and luck will always be this good!

    Finished speaking, she left without saying anything else.

    Yun Yuzhen said, Gong Xiong, can we step aside to talk?

    Outwardly, Lai Chaohui, who was using the name Jia Chong, not only did not look like a con man, his appearance was stately, like an intelligent man. His age was around forty, he dressed in a refined manner, carrying the air of a man with riches and honor. He spoke calmly, with a pleasing smile hanging eternally on the corner of his mouth.

    Kou Zhong and Lei Jiuzhi both thought inwardly that no wonder he was able to swindle Gongliang Ji until he lost his family fortune.

    The four men met in the VIP lounge, where a young, beautiful female banker officer called Ling Gu [or Auntie Ling] presided over the room. It was the casinos rule, which all gamblers using the VIP lounge had to follow.

    Putting on an air of arrogance, higher-than-anybody-else attitude, Lei Jiuzhi took out thirty taels of glistening yellow gold from his pouch, which he put on the table for everybody to see, and said, Whoever has ability may win these gold, and then tomorrow morning Ill take the boat to go back home.

    Lai Chaogui and Liu Ans four squinty eyes immediately lit up.

    Putting on an air of embarrassment, Kou Zhong took out all the eighteen taels of gold that he had in his possession, and said with a forced laugh, My gambling capital is less than that, I hope it is all right?

    Most of the gold were given to him by Ba Fenghan due to his righteousness reaches the clouds and the sky. If he really lost it, he would go back to his original shape of having only one wen to his name.

    Altogether the two mens capital amounted to forty-eight taels of gold. At that time, this amount was enough to buy three or four multi-decked ships. Therefore, even the banker officer Ling Gu could only stare blankly at the gold.

    Lei Jiuzhi fixed his gaze on Lai Chaogui and Liu An.

    Lai Chaogui laughed aloud and said, Chen Xiong and Zong Xiong are indeed grand gambler warrior, naturally Xiaodi will be honored to accompany you. Its just that unlike two Laoxiong [old chap] whose purse contains that many gold, Xiaodi oh!

    Lei Jiuzhi brushed his sleeve away and said, Without gold, how could we have a delightful game? Reaching out, he put the gold back into his pouch.

    Lai Chaogui hastily said, Hold on! Could Chen Xiong give Xiaodi a quarter of sichen to get the gold?

    Lei Jiuzhi leaned back into his chair and said, I will wait for a quarter of sichen only. Dont waste my time.




    [1] Wind and clouds, fig. unstable situation.




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  19. #319
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    Default Book 26 Chapter 12

    Book 26 Chapter 12 Ten Gambles Nine Cheats

    Closing the door of the VIP lounge, Yun Yuzhen said, Nobody can hear us now; these walls are specially made, it can stop noise from leaking out, disturbing other people [Translators note: the sentence stopped here. I checked all four of my sources, and they are all the same.]

    Xu Ziling sat down and asked, Does Zha Hai know who I am?

    Yun Yuzhen sat down on his left, and then said, Naturally I would never tell him you are Xu Ziling; I just told him that you and I knew each other, and that we have a little friendly relation between us. I always have a wide circle of friends, so he will never be suspicious. Nobody has ever thought that Zilings gambling skill is this formidable.

    Heaving a deep sigh, Xu Ziling said with a wry smile, Is there anything good to say between us?

    Yun Yuzhen was silent for half a day. Finally she asked in soft voice, Is Kou Zhong coming with you?

    Xu Ziling sensed that he could not trust her anymore; shaking his head, he said, I came with a friend, but not Kou Zhong.

    Yun Yuzhen stared at him; biting her lower lip, she said, That night at Baling, why did you not kill Xiang Yushan and me?

    The load in Xu Zilings mind was evoked, his tiger-eyes shot grieved expression; shaking his head, he said, I dont know! I really dont know! If I could not harden my heart toward Xiang Yushan, I could not make my move against you even more. Ay! Even until now, I still dont understand why you want to help Xiang Yushan to harm us?

    Yun Yuzhen hung her head low and spoke in distress, If you believe me, thats good, if you dont, thats all right too, but I never expected that things would go this far. Plus I, Yun Yuzhen, also suffer the retribution; I found myself utterly isolated [lit. people rebelling and friends deserting (idiom)]. Jukun Bangs name remains, but the reality is gone; day in and day out I am living my life like a walking corpse, so much so that I hate myself. I am thinking that rather than passing the rest of my life in pain like this, death would be much better. I have been completely defeated.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, But on the surface you still appear to be well-off!

    Shaken, Yun Yuzhen said, To Xiang Yushan, I am just a plaything which value lies in the usefulness that he could exploit. And now my usefulness has decreased substantially, and by his side there are beauties surrounding him like a cloud, and his riches can overturn a nation; why would he still want me, Yun Yuzhen? My only regret is that it was only today that realize it. Xiang Yushans martial art skill is nothing to be talked about, but speaking about crafty plots and machinations, he is an expert among the experts. Your firsthand experience on this regard ought to be more profound than mine.

    Xu Ziling mused inwardly that it was indeed too profound. He spoke heavily, Hows Xiang Yushans recent development?

    He was deliberately pretending that he knew nothing about Xiang Yushans situation, to see if Yun Yuzhen was still defending him.

    Yun Yuzhen replied, Since the Great Liangs armys grand plan of advancing to the north has been crushed by you and Xiao Zhong, Xiang Yushan no longer thinks highly of Xiao Xian; he retired with the pretext of being sick. The fact is that he wanted to separate himself from Baling Bang, and wanted to establish his own business empire by relying on his Xiang Familys more than twenty years of hard work in operating their business. Because he is afraid of your revenge, even I do not know where he is.

    Xu Ziling mused that this was probably the real reason you woke up. He said, Xiao Xian is not a lay practitioner of Buddhism [i.e. good person]; how could the Xiang Family, father and son, say they are going to leave and simply leave?

    Yun Yuzhen replied, This is a big puzzle for me. My guess is that there is some kind of mutually beneficial agreement between the two sides; in case the troops are defeated, Xiao Xian could still enjoy the Xiang Familys riches and honor without any harm. Ay! If you have never had a chance to pass your days in riches and honor and power, it is still all right, but after tasting riches and honor and power, it is hard to return to ordinary life! The feeling of losing what one has just obtained is the most difficult feeling to endure!

    Xu Ziling began to understand her current desperate mood and wretched state. Sighing lightly, he asked, So what are you going to do?

    With tears gushing out of her eyes, Yun Yuzhen hung her head low, shook it, and said, I dont know; I already do not have anything at all. I dont want to think, or even talk about it. Thinking about it seems to drain all the strength from my body. Ay! Please just kill me!

    Smiling ruefully, Xu Ziling said, If I could do that, I would have done it long ago.

    Wiping her tears, Yun Yuzhen spoke in low voice, Are you and Xiao Zhong still planning on going to Guanzhong?

    Xu Ziling remained silent.

    Yun Yuzhen said, Xiang Yushan intentionally sent out his people to broadcast this information, so that nobody under the heavens does not know it. If you cannot cancel this trip, you must be extremely careful. Simply because you and Xiao Zhong have body type and bearing that are one in a million; very easy to recognize.

    Deep hatred toward Xiang Yushan welled up in Xu Zilings heart; he thought that even though he could not harden his heart toward Xiang Yushan, but if he could expose his Xiang Familys shady business in human trafficking and harm him until he lost his family fortune and destroy his casino, it might make him suffer, which was more unbearable than simply killing him.

    Ziling, could you make arrangement for me to see Xiao Zhong? Yun Yuzhen asked.

    It would be best if you dont see him, Xu Ziling replied, He definitely does not have any good thing to say to you.

    Yun Yuzhen forlornly said, I have nothing else to fear.

    Xu Ziling rose up to his full height and said, Let me talk to him first! How do I find you?

    Lei Jiuzhi watched as Lai Chaogui put thirty taels of gold on the table; turning his eyes toward Liu An, he said, Wheres your gold?

    Liu An took out eight taels of gold from his pouch; he said, If Chen Ye can win my gold, Xiaoren will be immediately out of the game.

    Lei Jiuzhi shook his full-of-white-hair head; his excitement rose up, he shouted, We take turn rolling the dice and shuffling the tiles!

    Ling Gu pushed the deck to the middle of the table to let the four men shuffle the tiles. Immediately continuous clickety-clack was heard, the atmosphere was blazing hot.

    Watching the two mens hand movement, Lai Chaogui knew that Kou Zhong was obviously a novice, while Lei Jiuzhi was not going anywhere either. Greatly delighted, he said, Chen Xiong, how do you want to play it? I have a good proposal, which will make gambling even more enjoyable.

    Knitting his brows, Lei Jiuzhi shook his head and said, Whatever the gambling format is, that is how we are going to play; how could we change it randomly?

    Lai Chaogui signaled Liu An; in turn, Liu An signaled Kou Zhong. Kou Zhong had to struggle not to laugh. He said to Lei Jiuzhi, Lets hear what Jia Xiong has to say first, and then Chen Lao [old Chen] can decide. Naturally we will comply with your, the Seniors opinion.

    Lei Jiuzhi mumbled his response, indicating that there was no harm in listening.

    Lai Chaogui struggled hard to suppress the ecstasy in his heart; he said, This gambling method is extremely popular in Jiujiang. Everybody gets eight cards, which you could make into four pairs any way you want. First, do not let other people see it. And then four players turn the cards over at the same time. Of course, big and small still follow card rule. In order to determine the biggest, count the points of the cards that do not form a pair. If it is more than ten, we only count the remainder. For example, regular five and regular six [orig. ma wu and ma liu, respectively, no idea what it is] make a total of eleven points, but it is only counted as one. If the sum of two cards is ten points, then it is a chang shi [lit. overcoat ten], a definite lost. This method is simple and easy to understand.

    Under Liu Ans signal, Kou Zhong hastily agreed; he said, Betting this way is definitely extremely delightful; it should be settled appropriately.

    Lei Jiuzhi watched attentively at Ling Gus skillful hands staking the tiles for everybody; albeit reluctantly, he said, All right! But if anybody can seize total victory with four sets of cards, the win will be doubled. If the banker seizes total victory, the other three players will also pay double. We may even take turn to be the banker.

    Ling Gu laughed tenderly and said, Chen Laoban indeed has heroic spirit; this kind of gambling is very exciting!

    Lei Jiuzhi took out half an ingot of gold and stuffed it into Ling Gus hand, while stroking her cheek in passing. Chuckling, he said, Niangers [young lady] mouth is really sweet.

    Lai Chaogui and Liu An noticed that he still had some gold in his pouch, which he lavishly spent, in a throwing away a thousand gold without hesitation style; their hearts were burning like a blazing coal.

    Ling Gus eyebrows blossomed, her eyes laughed; she leaned close to Lei Jiuzhi and whispered in his ear expressing her thanks in tender voice oozing with flirtation, before rolling the dice on the table to determine who would be the banker first.

    The game finally started.

    Xu Ziling returned to the gambling hall. Lin Lang came to his side and said in low voice, Lai Chaogui is inside!

    Xu Ziling asked in low voice, Is there any place we can hide? Right now we are too exposed.

    Lin Lang gave him an address, saying, It would be best if Gong Ye can leave one step earlier, Gongliang Ji is there, waiting for our good news.

    Xu Ziling nodded his agreement, and walked in the direction of the main door. Suddenly someone came toward him from the side, followed by a whiff of fragrance. By the time he saw clearly that it was the beautiful and alluring, tender and charming Hu Xiaoxian, this beauty, who was born of gambling influential family, was already on his left, walking alongside him. She laughed and said, Gong Xiong has a startling-the-world skill, yet Nujia has never heard Gong Xiongs name; isnt that very strange? Where did usually Gong Xiong make your fortune?

    Its just insignificant talent plus a bit of luck mixed in it, how could it deserve to enter Miss Xiaoxians discerning eye? Xu Ziling modestly replied, Ol Gong has always been moving about Yun Gui region, and rarely came to the Central Plains.

    Hu Xiaoxian lightly pulled his sleeve, steering him toward the corridor leading away from the first hall, toward a fishpond outside. She smiled and said, Xiaoxian has no hostility at all toward Gong Xiong, I am just curious! Gong Xiong must not take any offense.

    Seeing she was so courteous toward him, Xu Ziling started to have good impression on her; he asked, Does Miss Xiaoxian want to know which family, which sect I was coming from?

    Hu Xiaoxian shook her head and said, That is Gong Xiongs personal secret; even if Xiaoxian wanted to know, it is inconvenient for me to inquire. I just wanted to know if Gong Xiong is going to participate in the Tian Jiu gambling meet tomorrow, because Xiaoxian still could not accept my lost.

    Laughing involuntarily, Xu Ziling replied, I havent made my mind on that yet; in fact, I have quit for many years, its just that these past few days my gambling desire suddenly flared up, I could not hold my hands. Thats all.

    Disappointed, Hu Xiaoxian said, Thats very disappointing. I hope Gong Xiong will not flee. This time Xiaoxian came all the way to Jiujiang, my desire is to meet the so-called Du Xia [gambling hero] Lei Jiuzhi. This mans gambling skill has already reached perfection, it has entered the calling the wind and summoning the rain realm. Does Gong Xiong know him?

    Xu Ziling did not want to lie to her; smiling, he said, Can Zaixia not answer this question?

    Casting a sidelong glance at him, Hu Xiaoxian said, Gong Xiong always show profound mystery aura everywhere. If not for all your ten fingers are intact, I would think that you are him. That opponent of yours was very beautiful.

    Neither confirming nor denying, Xu Ziling slightly shrugged his shoulders, and spoke calmly, Thank you, Miss, for your praise. Because Zaixia has an important matter, I have to ask to be excused, I am asking for Misss forgiveness.

    Finished speaking, he left without waiting for an answer.

    Hu Xiaoxian called out, I hope to see Gong Xiong tomorrow night!

    Watching Xu Zilings back as she followed him getting farther and farther away with her eyes, some kind of hard-to-describe feeling bubbled up in Hu Xiaoxians heart.

    This man, who was several years her senior, his external form was boorish, tall and straight, although definitely he was not even borderline handsome, his domineering prowess was brimming with masculine charm. Furthermore, his voice was sweet sounding, his speech was cultured and refined, neither haughty nor humble. Not a single one of his movements was not touching, confident and at ease. Plus his gambling skill was outstanding, his conduct brimming with mystery.

    Even she, who has always looked for young, good-looking gentlemen as husband material, could not help having her heart moved. Would she see him tomorrow?

    The cards moving back and forth, four men had played for more than a dozen rounds; each man has been the banker three times. Following ample instruction from Liu An, Kou Zhong deliberately lost in succession to the two fat sheep, one fake and one real, by acting as if he wanted to recapture his earlier loss. Naturally he could only let the opponent win small, otherwise he would run out of gold really quick.

    To him, the real fat sheep was Lai Chaogui, the fake fat sheep was Lei Jiuzhi. But to Liu An and Lai Chaogui, the opposite was true, plus Kou Zhong was the other fat sheep.

    The situation was complex and subtle.

    It was Lei Jiuzhis turn to be the banker. After dealing the cards, Lei Jiuzhis hand was, from right to left, regular three [(ma san) see my note above], three and three, five and six, and four and five. Other than four and five, which was of military suit, the rest were good, valuable card of the civil suit. Even the four and five was the red nine of military suit, the point was the highest.

    Ma San was even stronger. Three and three was commonly referred to Twelve Mount Wu. Five and six was Chu-Han Contention [(206-202 BC), power struggle between Liu Bang of Han and Xiang Yu of Chu]. As the cards were laid out, unexpectedly it was the case of banker eats all.

    According to the rules previously agreed, the other three players had to pay double.

    Ling Gu uttered a sigh of admiration. While looking at the cards, half of her body was leaning against Lei Jiuzhis shoulder.

    But Lai Chaogui and Liu Ans faces did not change. Although until this moment they have not played any trick, they only use their hand to feel the number of dots on the card and determine which card to play, but because Kou Zhong was willing to cooperate with them, there has been no problem and they had the situation under control. This time they actually let Lei Jiuzhi scored a big win, playing the throwing a brick to attract jade trick.

    Lei Jiuzhi reached out to stroke Ling Gus cheek again. Assuming an air of considering-himself-unexcelled-in-the-world, he sighed dramatically and said, The tailwind on my hand is just too strong! Three gentlemen still want to continue?

    Letting out a fake laughter Liu An said, Is Chen Laoban getting bored just sitting here?

    Lei Jiuzhi laughed and said, How can winning money be boring? I am just thinking of having a heart-to-heart chat with the beauty, seeking some pleasure!

    Ling Gu giggled tenderly; her attractiveness has just shot through the roof.

    Kou Zhong suddenly realized that Ling Gu must be someone from Lai Chaoguis side, because big casinos like Yin Ru Ge would never allow their staffs to flirt openly with the guests.

    Plus Lai Chaogui and Liu An might be afraid that in order to seek reward, Ling Gu might help Lei Jiuzhi.

    Lai Chaogui pushed his remaining twenty something taels of gold to the middle of the table and calmly said, Since Chen Xiong is anxious to seek pleasure, we might as well put big bet. Win or lose will be decided in one hand. Chen Xiong, what do you think?

    Lei Jiuzhi laughed aloud and said, Even if Jia Xiong wins, you could only win half of the money in my hand. But if you lose, you will be immediately out of the game. Jia Xiong better think clearly.

    Remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, Lai Chaogui took another ten taels of gold from his pouch, which he added to the pile of gold already on the table. Smiling, he said, How about this?

    Lei Jiuzhi and Kou Zhong pretended to be greedy; they stared without blinking on the small hill of gold on the table.

    After signaling Kou Zhong with his eyes, Liu An also pushed out his remaining six taels of gold, and cried out, I will also go all out in this hand!

    When the three mens eyes turned toward him, Kou Zhong showed an uncertain expression first, and then gnashing his teeth he said, I will join you.

    Lai Chaogui took out his smoking pipe, lit the tobacco, took a deep pull and then said, Shuffle the cards!



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  20. #320
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    Default Book 26 Chapter 13

    Book 26 Chapter 13 Crafty Retribution For Crafty People

    Ling Gu leaned close to Lei Jiuzhi again, her fragrant lips brushed against his ear, she said, Where will Chen Laoban take me to seek pleasure? I wont be going home before the third watch of the night [midnight, between 23:00 01:00]!

    While shuffling the cards, Lei Jiuzhi acted as if he was a man of outstanding soul; laughing lewdly, he said, Lets not say about the third watch, even if a year or a half, I will still wait for you.

    Liu An was constantly sending signal to Kou Zhong. Suddenly Lai Chaogui blew a mouthful of thick smoke, so that the table was immediately clouded by the smoke. Right this instant, when everybodys sight was obstructed, Lai Chaogui unleashed his swift-beyond-comprehension trick; he piled up his tiles following a certain combination.

    The cleverest thing was that while Lai Chaogui was focusing his mind in piling up his tiles, Liu An was busy sending signals to Kou Zhong to distract his attention, while Ling Gu also unleashing her charm toward Lei Jiuzhi, but Lei Jiuzhi, using an exquisite technique, also swapped the dice.

    None of these things could escape Kou Zhongs sharp eyes.

    Only after stealing a kiss on Ling Gus fragrant cheek did Lei Jiuzhi use both hands to pile his tiles.

    Ling Gu sat her tender body down, and said with a laugh, Chen Laoban, please roll the dice.

    Lei Jiuzhi cupped the dice inside his hands, while his mouth mumbled something, and then, after blowing the dice in his hands, he tossed them onto the table.

    Lai Chaogui and Liu Ans countenance immediately changed.

    Lei Jiuzhi laughed aloud and said, Seven points. Ling Gu, quickly deal the cards.

    His face turned ugly, Lai Chaogui shouted, Hold on! The dice are rigged.

    Kou Zhong reached out to pick one of the dice; slightly exerting his power, the ivory die immediately turned into powder. Knitting his brows, he said, What do you mean rigged? Is it because the iron fillings inside are gone so that the magnet does not work anymore? Now, that would be rigged!

    Lai Chaogui, Liu An and Ling Gu were intimidated at the same time; their faces were as unsightly as dead people.

    It should be noted that ivory dice were durable and sturdy, even martial art experts must spend a bit of effort to crush it.

    Yet Kou Zhong was able to crush it and turn it into powder without any difficulty. Merely this skill, no one in Jiujiang would be able to imitate.

    Lei Jiuzhi spoke coldly, If you agree to bet you must accept to lose. Jia Chong, are you or are you not going to admit defeat? One word will suffice.

    Being called by his fake name Jia Chong, naturally Lai Chaogui knew that from doing the cheating, he was now being cheated. Beads of sweat forming on his forehead, he spoke heavily, Sire, who actually are you?

    Lei Jiuzhi stroked Ling Gus face, who kept quiet out of fear, before waving his hand to Kou Zhong, indicating that he ought to gather all the gold on the table into his pouch, and said proudly, I am Dian Shi Cheng Jin [touching stone and turning it to gold, Midas touch see Chapter 8] Lai Chaogui. Jia Chong Xiong must not forget.

    Lai Chaogui, three persons, were immediately shaken. They were beginning to realize that the other side have already seen through their ins and outs, and that they were the real target of this operation. Only too bad they found out about it too late.

    Kou Zhong heaved the heavy sack hanging on his waist and spoke indifferently, If Jia Chong Xiong can block ten saber strikes from me, this bag of gold will be all yours. But if you cannot block, I am afraid I will have to chop both of your hands. This is called proper behavior is based on reciprocity [idiom: to return politeness for politeness]. Would Jia Chong Xiong like to try your luck outside of gambling?

    Lei Jiuzhi brushed his sleeve as he rose to his full height. The dice with iron fillings hidden inside his sleeve shot out and embedded themselves inside the sturdy tabletop, until they were flush with the surface of the table; not a fen more, not half a hairsbreadth less, in full display of his beautiful skill.

    Lai Chaogui slapped his palm on the table heavily, leaped up, and shouted wildly, All right, tonight I, Lai Chaogui, accept misfortunes as decreed by fate!

    Qiang!

    Kou Zhong pulled the Moon in the Well from his back, and sprang out of his chair, sweeping his saber toward Lai Chaogui.

    Lai Chaogui did not even have the opportunity to shoot the more than a dozen iron pellets hidden inside his hand, his entire body was already enveloped by the swift and severe saber qi. He could only look on helplessly as the blade slashed his left hand, which was holding his secret projectiles and was unable to evade at all.

    Ah! Letting out an alarming-the-heaven-moving-the-earth miserable scream, Lai Chaogui fell backward. Bang! His back slammed against the wall by the door.

    His severed-at-the-wrist left hand, along with the iron pellets inside it, dropped to the floor, producing a series of clear and crisp Tink! Tink! Tink! noise.

    Clang!

    Kou Zhong returned the saber into its scabbard. His eyes swept passed Liu An and Ling Gu, who did not dare to move even half of a finger of their hands as if they were nothing. Smiling, he said, Lai Xiong indeed have guts; you dare to stake your life for gold. Too bad you overestimated your own capabilities too much, unexpectedly you cannot even block one move from Xiaodi.

    And then, turning to Liu An, he said, Next time you see fat sheep, dont forget to find me another Jia Chong to cooperate with me.

    Naturally Liu An did not dare to answer.

    Lei Jiuzhi left the table to walk to Kou Zhongs side; turning toward Lai Chaogui, who was so much in pain that his face was devoid of any blood, and was applying his power to seal his acupoint to stop the bleeding, he laughed and said, I hope Lai Xiong is using your right hand in putting your Dian Shi Cheng Jin skill to use; otherwise I am afraid you may have to change your nickname in the future.

    The two men roared in laughter together, before disdainfully pushed the door and left.

    Xu Ziling stepped out of the casino door and into the street where there was endless stream of horses and carriages, and walked in the direction of Chun Zai Lou.

    Prostitution and gambling are like a pair of loath-to-part, in-search-of-a-home lovers. When you see one, chances are you will see the other nearby.

    Chun Zai Lous bustling atmosphere was not inferior in any respect to Yin Ru Ge. The warm sound of woodwind and string instrument, mixed with voices talking and laughing, filled the air. Thinking about how in the past they lay in wait for the enemy in miserable condition, and assassinated the Green Dragon Ren Shaoming in nine-deaths-and-still-alive dangerous situation, time seemed to flow backwards to that moment.

    At that time, Susu already married Xiang Yushan; Yun Yuzhen, Bu Tianzhi, Xiang Yuzhan, and the others were working together as a team. But now the situation was entirely different.

    He no longer had any hatred toward Yun Yuzhen. In fact, perhaps even she herself could not explain why she treated the two boys the way she did.

    In life, myriad changes could happen in an instant. Momentary lapse of judgement might lead to dire consequences, which could not be predicted beforehand.

    Under pressure of the situation, as well as influence from all sides, it would be difficult for those without resolute will to be their own master. Yun Yuzhen was definitely not someone with resolute will, even more so in relationship between men and women.

    Her initial goal might be just to make Jukun Bang even more magnificent. But after coming across the crafty and eloquent Xiang Yushan, the development of the matter was no longer under her control.

    He also believed that Yun Yuzhen really did not have any intention to harm him and Kou Zhong; she just wanted to draw them to throw their lot into Xiao Xians side. But because they were unwilling to submit, the situation deteriorated to such a degree where there was this deep hatred, with enmity that could not be resolved between the two parties.

    After all, Yun Yuzhen was just a pitiful creature who did not know what she was doing. After she was abandoned by Xiang Yushan, she suddenly and completely realized her own stupidity of letting others exploited her. The criminal ringleader, the main offender was still Xiang Yushan.

    He entered a secluded side street and strode toward his destination, following Lin Langs directions.

    He felt some kind of tiredness and emptiness that came from the loss of excitement of gambling, and it was not a good feeling. After personally tasted gambling, the less he liked this kind of game. The only benefit for him was that it made him understand gamblers mentality. Probably there existed in everybodys heart some kind of hidden tendency to prevail over his opponent, the pursuit of some kind of pleasure in overpowering other human beings, which sprang up unbidden in the heart.

    The combination of using the gambling table to nurture the lust for material possession and the intellectual thinking behind the skill in opposition to each other with equal harshness, certainly provided incomparable excitement.

    But this was precisely the most dangerous aspect of gambling. Once one was addicted to gambling, it was difficult to free oneself from its power. Furthermore, it fostered greed, cunning, and lucky mentality, so that one could no longer be normal person who was in control of ones life, and would bring about grave destruction not only to himself, but to his entire family as well.

    War was just another form of gambling. The stake was no loner money, but human life. Its destructive power was ten-million times more terrifying than gambling. But just like gambling, no one is able to really put a stop to it.

    While thinking about all these things, suddenly an alarm went off in his heart.

    From the wing, the two men returned to the main hall, still in a very high spirit. Kou Zhong laughed and said, Perhaps Lai Chaogui has never imagined, not even in his dream that a day like today would come. This is called cheating man is being cheated. LaoGe, you are really good. I clearly see that you did not look at the table even for half a glance, how did you know that they stacked the tiles in certain way and even throw the appropriate points on the dice, so that even Lai Chaoguis pants were lost to you?

    Lei Jiuzhi replied happily, Simply because LaoGe has a mirror hidden in my sleeve; dont think that by stroking Ling Gus cheek, I was taking advantage of her. The fact is that I was letting my sleeve slipped down so that I was able to spy on the enemy.

    While pulling him toward the exit, Kou Zhong, with great interest, asked, Did you have mercury inside your dice? How could you lightly and easily throw whatever points your heart desires?

    Enormously proud of his success, Lei Jiuzhi put his hand on Kou Zhongs shoulder, and whispered in his ear, First of all, you have to have a good grasp of the shape of the dice, and hold them between your fingers in a certain way. Next, you need to select the angle, to understand the property of the wood of the table. And then by using certain strength and technique, you want a ma you can throw a ma, you want a six you can throw a six[1]. Zhong Xiaodi, if you are interested, LaoGe will definitely not conceal it from you. Ha! Your saber technique has reached the great experts perfection. You and Ziling walk together, I am afraid even Ning Daoqi will have to give way in the face of superior strength [orig. to retreat three days march].

    Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, Its rare that someone like you, LaoGe, would be so generous and open-minded. I do want to learn this art so that I could make the treasure stick to my body, but unfortunately nobody gave me instruction!

    Lei Jiuzhi burst into laughter; he said, You want to learn this art to make the treasure stick to your body; you really know how to crack jokes.

    Midway along the corridor, Lin Lang came to meet them. Seeing the two mens returning-in-triumph, flushed-with-success expression, Lin Lang spoke in great delight, Success?

    Patting the bulging pouch hanging on his waist, Kou Zhong said, This time its touching-the-stone-and-fail-to-turn-it-to-gold Lai Chaoguis turn to lose his family fortune, with a bonus of losing his left hand as well. From now on, I am afraid he will have to add one hand two characters before his new nickname touching-the-stone-and-fail-to-turn-it-to-gold. Ha! Du Shou Dian Shi Bu Cheng Jin, such a queer, lame and twisted nickname.

    Lei Jiuzhi and Lin Lang doubled up in laughter. Punishing a cheater was definitely the most satisfying thing.

    Toward this kind of people, nothing you say would be able to change them. Striking them without leaving anything would still be the best policy.

    Lei Jiuzhi put his other hand on Lin Langs shoulder. Happy and excited, the three walked toward Yin Ru Ges exit.

    Turning toward Lin Lang, Lei Jiuzhi asked, Hows the wind in your hand?

    Lin Lang replied, Without you, Lei LaoGe on my side illuminating the way, how could I dare to lay a bet? The money I won these last few days is enough for me to live comfortably for many years, therefore, I have decided not to bet a single penny anymore.

    Greatly astonished, Kou Zhong said, I thought that after experiencing the sweet taste of victory, Lin Xiangzhu would be more addicted to gambling!

    Smiling ruefully, Lin Lang said, After witnessing Lei LaoGes gambling technique, if I still want to gamble, I definitely am an absolute idiot.

    This remark immediately provoked the two men that they howled with laughter. Compared to the warm, shaking-the-heaven noise inside the casino, it was definitely more irritating.

    The three stepped over the threshold together, and down the stone steps into the plaza outside the gate, where vehicles and horses were parked.

    Strange changes occurred suddenly.

    Dozens of armed men swarmed out from behind the vehicles and horses, surrounding the three men so tight that not even water could leak through. A hoarse humph came from the stone steps behind them, followed by a voice saying, I am Du Gui [gambling ghost] Zha Hai. Three Renxiong [dear friend (of the same level)] certainly have bigger guts than anybody else, unexpectedly you dare to swindle others money and injure them in Ol Zhas place; do you think you can leave this place easily?

    Lin Lang was the only one whose countenance changed. Alarmed, he said, This is really bad, Gong Ye has already returned.

    He did not know Kou Zhongs real identity, plus he had never seen him in action, naturally he did not have any confidence.

    Lei Jiuzhi whispered in his ear, Lin Xiangzhu, relax. Just wait and enjoy a good show!

    With a hint of smile on his face, Kou Zhong patted Lin Langs shoulder. Remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, he turned around to face the Gambling Ghost Zha Hai, who was under escort of more than a dozen casinos martial art masters. He calmly said, What a joke. You condone small Jianghu character like that Lai Chaogui and I did not punish you, Zha Xiong ought to thank God for your good fortune. And now you have the impertinence to push the blame on me?

    Seeing how under heavy siege like this he was still calm like nothing happened, Zha Hai was puzzled. Frowning, he said, May I ask Sires honorable surname and great given name? A friend from which path are you?

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Walking, I dont change my name; sitting, I dont change my surname. It has always been Xiang Yushan. You dont even know me, yet you dare to open a casino in my Baling Bang territory.

    None of the men on Zha Hais side did not explode in rage.

    Qiang!

    Kou Zhong drew the Moon in the Well and struck backhandedly, sweeping the weapons of two men pouncing on him from behind. The two men had their weapon broken at the same time and were sent stumbling backward, and then with faces devoid of any color they fell sitting down on the ground, but they did not suffer any injury.

    This move not only subdued and intimidated the opposite side, it also placated Lin Langs timid heart.

    Returning the saber to its scabbard, Kou Zhong laughed and said, Ol Xiangs saber technique is not bad, is it? This was just a trial move, hence I only touched and left it there. If anyone dare to show off, dont blame Ol Xiangs saber for not showing any mercy.

    Zha Hais countenance alternated between red and white, but it was hard for him to step down from the stage.

    In this unbearably awkward moment, suddenly a voice came from outside the courtyard gate, My son, I trust you have been well since we last met, and your saber technique has enjoyed good progress, Laofu [old man] has nothing to regret.

    This time it was Kou Zhongs turn to have his countenance changed, but no one could see it.

    Three figures jumped down separately from the eaves, surrounding Xu Ziling in the middle. Just by looking at the fast-as-a-demon shenfa, the angle from which they came, and the position they chose, it was clear that the opponents were adept in joint battle.

    Sweeping his gaze around, Xu Ziling smiled and said, Since three Miss dare to intercept Ol Gong in the middle of the street, why do you cover your faces in heavy gauze and do not dare to show your real appearance to me? Are you afraid that if you fail to stop me, your true identity will be leaked out?

    These three women in splendid clothes all had charming figure. Although they did nor reveal their beautiful countenance, it was enough to make people feel that their appearance could not possibly be lacking.

    One of the women said, We practically never thought about our secret may leak out. Even if you saw our faces, you will not know who we are.

    Another woman scolded tenderly, Whats your relationship with Hong Xiaochang? Why did you stick out your head for her?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Xu Ziling said, Even if I tell you, you wont believe me. We are just strangers coming together by chance. Its just that I could not stand to see Fa Nan and Chang Zhens arrogance that I made my move to teach them a lesson. May I ask what relationship the three Miss have with Fa Nan and Chang Zhen?

    The last women laughed and said, When you get to the nether world, you can ask Yan Huang [King of Hell, Yama] yourself!

    One finger shot out.

    The other two women launched their offensive at the same time.

    A huge pressure shrouded his entire body.

    Yin Gui Pai elders were certainly not run-of-the-mill characters. Although Xu Zilings power had advanced greatly and he was not the same person as his old self, upon self-examination he realized that it would be difficult for him to withstand the full-strength joint-attack of the three opponents.

    Especially worrisome was that female demon Bai Qinger has not showed herself. She was Wanwans martial younger sister. If she had even seventy- or eighty-percent of Wanwans formidability, and she waited on the side for the opportunity to mount a sneak attack, it would be guaranteed that he would nurse a grievance in Jiujiang.

    If all else fails, retreat has always been his and Kou Zhongs strategy. This time, why didnt he execute this brilliant scheme?


    [1] ma (么) came from the term 呼幺喝六 - refers to the buzz when gambling; The shouting when the dice rolls . 幺 is one, losing point, six is ​​the winning point, and the other person usually shouts "幺" when throwing and shouts "六" when throwing himself. (Courtesy of Akolaw and baike.baidu)
    Last edited by foxs; 06-28-18 at 09:06 PM.

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