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

  1. #41
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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 6

    Book 4 Chapter 6 Meeting Susu Again

    The fall of Xingyang was actually one of the turning points related to the rise and fall of the Great Sui; moreover, it was the starting point of Li Mis contention to gain control of the world [tian xia].

    For this great undertaking, for the last twelve years Li Mi has been joining Wagang Army. This man was very resourceful; he had great aspiration, and knew how to exploit the potential of Wagang Army and Zhai Rang like the sun in the middle of the sky. Also, relying on his superior martial art skill, he subdued smaller militias and different powers nearby, and hence exponentially enhanced the power of the Wagang Army. At the same time, he was able to see clearly that the river section on which they had always been relying on to transport military supplies was in fact the Achilles heel in the development of the Wagang Army, because it was insufficient to supply the necessities.

    Therefore, he made a suggestion to Zhai Rang, Take Xingyang first, rest the troops, build storehouse. When the troops and horses are satisfied, we will have advantage in our fight against others.

    Just by this insight, it could clearly be seen that Li Mis power, talent, greatness and resourcefulness were superior to Zhai Rangs.

    If they were able to exercise control over Xingyang and the surrounding area, they could solve the long-term food supply problem, further expanded their influence, posed a direct threat to the Eastern Capital Luoyang, and affected the military affair relations between the Capital, Luoyang and Jiangdu, three strategic cities.

    After gaining Zhai Rangs approval, in the tenth month of the same year, Wagang Army launched a large-scale military operation. They took the counties around Xingyang first before advancing toward Xingyang City.

    Yang Guang valued this area very much, hence he dispatch Zhang Xutuo, who, at that time, was a top rank valiant general who suppressed the twelve counties along Henan road, to defend Xingyang, leading twenty-thousand elite troops to meet the enemy head-on.

    Whether in imperial court or in Wulin, this man had famous reputation; his skill Wild Wind Spear Technique was the de facto number on spear technique of the present age. His character was arrogant and conceited; naturally he looked down upon Li Mi, whose reputation was only so-so.

    Previously, each time Wagang Army met Zhang Xutuo, they were always defeated really bad that they ran away abandoning their armors and throwing away their spears; therefore, Zhai Rang feared him like a tiger.

    Hearing that the attacking enemy was this nemesis, he immediately wanted to retreat, saying, This man is proficient in the art of war, his spear skill matchless; moreover, his generals Luo Shixin, Qin Shubao, are brave and good at fighting. Wed better evading the point of his spear for the time being, and draw a future plan.

    All the rest of his subordinates courage grew cold, everybody agreed; only Li Mi stood his ground against the opinion of the masses. He asked Zhai Rang to take command of the main force to confront the enemy head-on, while he, leading four capable generals Wang Bodang, Zu Junyan, Shen Luoyan, and Xu Shiji, took command of about a thousand or so martial art experts to set an ambush in the jungle north of Dahai Temple.

    When the two main forces met, as expected, little by little Zhai Rangs main force was losing, and Zhang Xutuos forces pursued them for about ten li, until they came to the area north of Dahai Temple. Li Mi went into action, his troops launched a surprise attack from behind Zhangs forces. Zhai Rang joined the battle by turning around and attacked from the front. Under this converging attack Zhangs forces suffered heavy casualties. Li Mi even went into action personally and killed Zhang Xutuo.

    This battle catapulted Li Mis fame throughout the world, he became the most prestigious figure within the Wagang Army, even above their Big Boss Zhai Rang.

    This great victory established the Wagang Armys foundation, it also inflicted serious damage to Sui Armys prestige.

    Under this kind of situation, Zhai Rang had no choice but to let Li Mi led an army, which was known as the Duke of Pushans Battalion.

    Li Mi was of noble birth, his previous generation was bestowed a title, hence he inherited the nobility title Duke of Pushan, and decided to use this name.

    Li Mi had great ambitions; already obtained Xingyang, he aimed to get Xingluo Warehouse. This warehouse was the Sui Dynastys biggest granary, which was extremely important to Yang Guang, so he sent brave warrior general Liu Wengong and his twenty-five thousand strong cavalry advancing from the Eastern Capital Luoyang in an attempt to reverse the situation.

    Yang Guang also dispatched Pei Renji from Tiger Prison to attack Wagang Army from behind, hoping that with these two big forces they could curb Li Mi.

    At the same time, Yang Guang even dispatched his competent subordinate Wang Shichong to Luoyang to have direct confrontation with Li Mi.

    When Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong arrived in Xingyang, the opposing forces were in deadlocked situation, anything could happen at any moment.

    After repelling Yuwen Wudi, the two boys confidence increased sharply. Also because of this real combat experience where they were facing deathly danger yet came out alive, during martial art training they no longer blindly charging blindly striking like before; therefore, during these past twenty days or so of traveling, the two boys spirit and skill have advanced by leaps and bounds.

    If someone who knew them back in Yangzhou came across them at this moment, they would certainly be astonished by the change.

    Xu Ziling looked even more scholarly elegant and unconventional. His shoulders broad his legs long, his physique stood straight like the pole of a spear. Under his wide forehead a pair of tiger-eyes flickered with divine light, filled with intimidating charisma. Although he had just turned nineteen, he had the impression of a grownup.

    On the other hand, Kou Zhongs domineering aura was growing by day. Although he was about a cun shorter than Xu Ziling, yet he was already half a head taller than average men. Due to his especially thick shoulders and back, his physique looked even more imposing.

    If Xu Ziling was elegant, then Kou Zhong was heroic.

    Rarer still, Kou Zhong often assumed a cynical look; but with his forceful and domineering aura, the combination produced a more neutral look, a style that was unique to him.

    However, the two boys were still unaware that they had entered the rank of martial art masters; when going into the city they were still nervous, acting like if anything happened, they were ready to escape without a trace.

    At this time, the security around the city gate was extremely tight, the two boys have just stepped foot over the gate, immediately they were interrogated by Wagang troops wearing blue warrior outfit. As the leader saw that they were wearing long sabers and their unusually imposing manner, he questioned their family and school background, the purpose of their visit, and so on.

    Kou Zhong cooked up some nonsense, but the captain was still not satisfied; he asked, Everybody coming in and out of the city must obtain a pass signed and issued by Zu Junshi. Looking at you, I dont believe you are lawbreakers, but military order cannot be disobeyed; forgive me for not allowing you to pass.

    Since the captain polite and courteous, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had good impression on him. Xu Ziling calmly said, Not to conceal anything, this time we came here to look for our close friend, Jiejie Susu; she is your hey! Your Da Longtous [lit. big dragon head, Big Boss] missing beloved daughters maid. If you dont believe me, you may find her and ask, then youll know.

    The captain frowned and said, Dont speak nonsense, Big Miss returned from her tour outside last month; what do you mean missing?

    Instantly Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were stunned; they were completely at a loss. At the abandoned village that day, they saw it with their own eyes how Zhai Rang was struck by the strange man who conspired with Zu Junyan; how did Susus Miss suddenly return safe and sound?

    However, the captain did not suspect them; he said, I also know Su Jie; after she was separated from Miss in Jiangbei, she returned here. It was I who personally escorted her back to Da Longtous mansion. How about this: take off your saber first, let me send people to notify her.

    After a short pause, he continued, What are your names?

    Kou Zhong gratefully replied, Please just tell her that Xiao Zhong and Xiao Ling came to look for her. He exchanged a glance with Xu Ziling. Because Susu was safe, they were quite excited.

    The captain ordered his men to take the two boys to wait in the officers hall near the city gate, and then he sent another man to ride a horse and gallop away to notify Susu.

    The two boys were seated in a small stone room, the door was made of steel, obviously it was a small prison room.

    Kou Zhong did not understand, Clearly Zhai Rang was struck and injured by that strange man, how did the daughter get rescued?

    Xu Ziling replied with a wry smile, Do you expect me to have the answer? Ay! The city defense is this tight, and every single one of the Wagang troops looked like they have fought a couple of times. Even if Susu Jiejie is willing to come with us, we wont have the ability to take her away.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Dont be that pessimistic! The matter depends on the individual, we can always find ways; for example, we can try to steal his mothers two passes. Hey! Who would have thought that the one who issue and sign the passes is Zu Junyan; himself is a traitor. Do you want to expose him to Zhai Rang?

    How far can it get us? Xu Ziling replied, Right now I am most afraid to come across Shen Luoyan, that b1tch and her subordinates who have fought against us. If that happens, we will be in big trouble.

    However, Kou Zhong was very optimistic; very pleased with himself, he said, Shen Poniang [reminder: b1tch] is Li Mis Pretty Junshi, naturally she follows the troops going to war. The master has something to do, the skulk of foxes and pack of dogs under him have no choice but to wait upon him on his side. I am not worried.

    And then he added, Wagang troops seem to behave a lot better than Ol Dies Jiang Huai [River Huai] troops; were it not for we have other plan, joining Wagang Army does not seem to be a bad idea!

    Xu Ziling snorted, but did not answer him; he closed his eyes and practiced his internal energy.

    These days, whether walking, sitting or lying down, the two boys were hard at work cultivating their internal energy. Kou Zhong was originally not a hardworking person, but after their fight against Yuwen Wudi, he knew that practicing martial art was the only way he could save his life; hence he had to be proactive in training hard, so that his motivation now did not fall short compared to Xu Zilings.

    Very quickly they had already entered the extremely calm state where people who train martial art difficult to seek even in their dreams. The true qi in their body surged, it was flowing endlessly.

    In this no-consciousness no-feeling state, time passed quietly.

    Suddenly the door was pushed open. The two boys reacted instantly; they both opened their eyes and looked toward the door.

    The quietness did not diminish much, but the end result was the beautiful Susu rushed in, carrying a whiff of fragrant wind around her, toward the two boys who had just sprang up from their seated position, and embraced them.

    The three people cried and laughed, and laughed and cried, but there was not even half a sentence spoken.

    However, because there was an outsider nearby, Susu reluctantly let the two boys go. With hot tears rolling down her face she said, I thought Id never see you anymore! Ay! Unable to control her emotion, she threw herself into the two boys embrace again, while weeping uncontrollably, revealing her true feeling.

    The captain of the guard outside the door saw the red-hot brother-sister emotion in them, his heart was touched; lightly he closed the door to let the three freely talk about what happened to them after they parted.

    Kou Zhong stroked Susus collar, seeing she appeared to be pear blossom soaked in rain, his heart ached. Susu Jie must not cry, he said, You ought to laugh.

    Holding her fragrant shoulders, Xu Ziling said, Did Susu Jie receive wrong treatment here?

    Still in tears, Susu shook her head and said, No! Miss is still treating me very well! Ay! You two boys have grown tall and strong; there must be a lot of girls fall for you.

    Kou Zhong awkwardly replied, As it turns out, quite the opposite is true. Every time we met beautiful women, other than Susu Jie, if not shouting beat them, then they would shout kill them. Thats why we had no choice but to come looking for you, Susu Jie.

    Susu was accustomed to crack jokes with them; just like clear sky after the rain, Pft! she burst into tender laugh as she said, You are still the same. Ay! You dont know how much tears other has shed for you, two brothers.

    Wanting to amuse her, Xu Ziling pretended to be puzzled, Thats strange! How come the more Susu Jie cried, the more beautiful your eyes become?

    Susu laughed while leaning on the two boys shoulders.

    The love between these brothers and sister was genuine; although they could not avoid suspicions, there was no carnal desire between men and women, not the slightest bit.

    Kou Zhong whispered on her small ear, What about Li Dage?

    Susus tender body shook; lifting up her tear-stained pretty face, she said, After he escorted me back here, he went to the Eastern Capital.

    Looking at her expression, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong knew that this good sisters feeling toward Li Jing has rooted deep in her heart.

    Xu Ziling asked with a frown, He didnt ask you to come along?

    Susu bowed her head and said softly, It was me who refuse to go with him. He is a real man and true hero, naturally he ought to take advantage of his young age to make a break through on his own career.

    The two boys felt deep veneration for her.

    Kou Zhong seized the chance to say, Although the two of us are real men, we are simply not true heroes; Susu Jie please come with us.

    Susu was shaken, I still need to wait upon Miss, she said.

    Xu Ziling urged her, If you stay, you might lose your life; we saw it with our own eyes how Zu Junyan conspired with outsiders to injure your Laoye [old master].

    Susu was stunned, Nonsense! she said, Laoye is fine, how could you say he is injured?

    Kou Zhong was taken aback, Wasnt your Miss captured by the enemy? he asked.

    There is no such thing! Susu replied.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other; they were dumbstruck.

    Xu Ziling changed direction; he asked, Didnt your Miss go missing for a short period of time, and then she suddenly came back?

    Susu answered, When I came back, Miss was still traveling outside and came back home only last month. It was Zu Junshi who personally escorted her back.

    Kou Zhong slapped his thigh, This Zu Junyan is very crafty; be a good man, be a bad man, he did all.

    Thereupon Xu Ziling narrated their encounter at the abandoned village. Listening to him, Susus countenance changed continuously; finally she said with determination, I must tell this to Miss, and then let her inform Laoye. Ay! Now that you mention it, I remember something. When Miss came back, she was a lot thinner than before; also, its just so not like her to scold us a lot.

    What? Kou Zhongs voice broke, Does she like to scold people? Why did you say she is treating you very well?

    Susu earnestly said, Her temper is not good, but her character is very good. I served her for many years, I have the clearest understanding. And then she grabbed the two boys arms and shook them, imploring them, For Jiejies sake, would you help Miss and Laoye just this one time? With someone like Zu Junyan in the army, sooner or later it will lead to disaster. If you are telling the truth, Laoye will definitely believe you!

    How could he not believe us? Kou Zhong said, Otherwise, how could we know this much details?

    It depends on whether we can speak directly to Zhai Laoye, Xu Ziling surmised.

    Seeing the two boys were persuaded, Susu was greatly delighted, Whether you can speak directly to Laoye, it will be entirely up to Miss, she said, Maybe you can convince her.

    Theres no time to lose, Kou Zhong said, Well have to see Miss immediately!

    Susus pretty face blushed, It will also up to Miss, she said, Just wait here patiently for a while. Because even if Miss nods her head, we still need to get formal approval before you can stay in the city.

    The two boys had no choice but to look at each other with a wry smile.

    Who would have thought that waiting until deep into the night, there was still no news? Fortunately there were enough tea and food. The two boys might as well practice their martial art, so that they would not feel the bitterness of imprisonment.

    When Xu Ziling woke up the next morning, he saw Kou Zhong was sitting on a chair, staring blankly with face deathly pale. Xu Ziling was greatly shocked, What happened? he asked.

    Scowling miserably, Kou Zhong replied, I dont know whether it was fire deviation during practice, but I cant draw true qi from Tianling acupoint anymore.

    Aghast, Xu Ziling did quick self-examination, and his countenance immediately changed, I am the same thing; could it be that someone put poison in our food?

    Kou Zhong moaned miserably, Looks like its something like san gong wan [scattering energy pill]. Who would want to harm us like this?

    Xu Ziling closed his eyes and circulated his qi, suddenly he felt his dantian [a point two inches below the navel where the qi resides] growing hot; the true qi was gradually condensing again. Opening his eyes, he happily said, Try again, I seem to be able to gather my qi.

    The two boys sat on chairs, closed their eyes and circulated their energy. Half a day later their skin emitted hot perspiration, which smell a little bit like medicine.

    They had never imagined that they would become this formidable; unexpectedly they could even discharge the poison from their body. While they were rejoicing inwardly, the iron door opened.

    The instant the two boys heard the lock, they immediately wiped the perspiration from their head and face, exchanged an eye signal, and pretended to look dejected, but inwardly they were in full alert.

    The incoming person was, surprisingly, the one with beauty like a fairy, but the heart as poisonous as snakes and scorpions, Shen Luoyan. She was smiling coquettishly as she came in and walked over to the two boys. Bowing with cupped fist she said, Two Gongzi, how are you?

    Kou Zhong took a furtive look behind her; seeing there was only someone who looked like a city gate guard, he was relieved.

    Why are you harming us? he asked hatefully, If you are a heroine[1], come and have a fair fight with us.

    With flowery face and tender voice Shen Luoyan said, I only want you to be a bit quieter! However, one day I dont give you the antidote, two Gongzi may forget being as naughty and active as before. But you must not blame me, Jiejie only received Duke Mis order, we must guard against anybody suspicious, thats all. [Translators note: in this entire conversation, she was referring herself as renjia, basically means other people.]

    Xu Ziling angrily said, Dont you know that we are you Da Longtous precious daughters honored guests?

    Calm and unfazed by the accusation, Shen Luoyan said, Naturally I do. Right now the city of Xingyang has become my, this bad woman, responsibility to administer. Were it not for reading the file that Zhai Jiao girl submitted to apply for pass you you, I would not have known that two Gongzi have honored us with your presence.

    Kou Zhong dejectedly said, Are you really dying to get married? Alright, let me take you, beautiful b1tch as my wife!

    Shen Luoyans beautiful eyes flickered with murderous intent, which quickly died down. After carefully sizing up Kou Zhong for half a day, also examined Xu Ziling carefully, she smiled and said, Long time no see, you have made a little bit of progress, but it will still be difficult for me, Shen Luoyan, to have you in my eyes. You are very good at adapting to circumstances, if you are willing to obediently tell me the whereabouts of the Duke Yang Treasure, I will let you go immediately. Otherwise, I will have to kill you, once for all, so that no one will be kept in suspense.

    Xu Ziling forced a laughter and said, I thought you were a bit more special; in the end it is still greed at play.

    Shen Luoyan sighed silently.

    The two boys knew that the time she was going to make her move was at hand; they quickly focused their mind and spirit in full alert.

    Right this moment, a feminine voice scolded from outside the room, Who dares to stop me, Zhai Jiao?

    Shen Luoyans countenance changed slightly. It looked like she was going to make her move to kill the two boys, but then she immediately withdrew to the side.

    Someone stormed in, a woman, who was thick and solid like men, who was completely different from the image of the Miss that the two boys had in mind, who was wearing colorful clothes, suddenly appeared in the room, followed by indignant-looking Susu.

    Shen Luoyan saluted and said, Good morning Miss!

    Zhao Jiao, who did not look delicate at all [jiao means tender/delicate/frail], glowered at her with her round, copper-bell like eyes. Shen Junshi still considers me Miss? she said, I told you yesterday that I want to see these two boys; why are you still unwilling to let them go until this morning?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling turned as dumb as wooden chicken; they stared blankly at this Miss, who did not have the slightest womanly flavor.

    Actually, she could be considered as having regular features; only her cheekbones were too high and round, her hair thick and her eyebrows coarse, her waist straight and her body sturdy, so that although she was wearing makeups, she looked nondescript [orig. neither fish nor fowl], enough to give a man who look at her nausea.

    On the outside, Shen Luoyan appeared did not dare to defy her. Smiling apologetically, she said, As per our usual practice, Luoyan only wanted to cross-examine them! Miss may take them right now, the pass will be delivered to Miss later.

    This time around the two boys were greatly amazed. How could Shen Luoyan be this agreeable?

    Zhai Jiao maintained her reputation; she barked her order at the two boys, You, these two slaves, have not quickly crawled out to follow me, do you want to be locked up in here forever?

    Looking at the smirking Shen Luoyan, and the apologetic and pleading expression on their good older sister Susus face, what could the two boys say? Without any choice they smiled wryly and crawled out of the room.

    They still heard Shen Luoyans voice giving them warning, Dont ever say that I drugged you, I would never admit it; I would kill you instead.

    [1] Hero heroine. Orig. Chinese only have word for hero, ying xiong, ying brave, xiong male, could be used both for humans and animals. Here Kou Zhong said ying ci, ci female, counterpart of xiong.

  2. #42
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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 7

    Book 4 Chapter 7 Learning The Art of Taking Refuge

    The big boss mansion was situated in the center of Xingyangs inner city. Previously it was the official residence of the governor in charge of the city. After it fell into Zhai Rangs hands, he built extension to the building. The originally magnificent mansion house now became even more spectacular.

    Xingyang was located south of the stream crossing the Grand Canal, along the canal connecting the land west of the Yellow River, passing Hulao [lit. Tiger Cage] and Yanshi, two cities, and continued on to the Eastern Capital Luoyang, comprising of several major water ways; therefore, Wagang Army was able to grow their roots and establish their foundation here, posing a significant threat to the Sui dynasty.

    If the Eastern Capital fell, not only it would cut off the waterway link between the west side of the Capital and the East, psychologically the victor would also be able to leap to the throne over the numerous militias and overlords all over the world [tian xia, i.e. China].

    Due to its strategic geographical position, Xingyang has become the transit center of Yellow Rivers Grand Canal and other rivers, also an unavoidable fast horse relay station of past dynasties; for this reason, ever since Spring and Autumn, the Warring States period, it has been exceptionally thriving. In term of east-west waterborne transport center, its importance was second only to Luoyang.

    Even in this chaotic time of war, Xingyang remained unusually prosperous. Along the street section from the southern gate to the Big Boss Mansion, grain retailers, oil mill, grocery stores and restaurants stood in great numbers, their doors were interlinking with each other.

    The streets were exceptionally wide and could accommodate ten horses running side by side; the exact ambience of big town, big city.

    Xingyang and the nearby Xingze along the Grand Canal, one was primary, the other one secondary; these two cities were practically one.

    If Xingzes pier were of the same scale as Xingyang, it would also become the shipping and distribution center, plus Xingyang was transit center for southern ships and northern horses, as well as the goods shipped between the River Wei and the Grand Canal.

    Both places were located along a major route, in between was a very long official road, the houses and stores on either side of the road were linked together, became a major feature of this city.

    From time to time, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling saw towering temples and pagodas, tall buildings and big houses. They mused that no wonder Wagang Army wanted to seize this big city to be their base of operation.

    After they arrived at the big boss mansion, Susu led them to have a bath and change their clothes; she also repeatedly urged them to abide by the rules before taking them to the hall of Zhai Jiaos lady chamber to see this arrogant Miss.

    The two boys saw the reverent and respectful expression on Susus face, as she bowed humbly and complied fully with the courtesy, and stood with both hands hung down in front of the big miss of the Zhai family who was sitting on the host seat on a raised pedestal; just like a prisoner under interrogation.

    After barking her order to the servant girls and old servants on her left and right to withdraw, which included even Susu, Zhao Jiao stared coldly at the two boys for quite a while, without any intention of asking them to sit down at all.

    While the two boys were cursing her in their heart, Zhao Jiao said, Tell me again.

    Kou Zhong sighed inwardly and took a deep breath, and then he vividly narrated what happened that day to her. Afterwards he asked, I wonder where Miss was at that time?

    Zhai Jiao barked with her hoarse voice, Right now I am asking you, or are you asking me?

    Kou Zhong was speechless; he did not know how to respond.

    Xu Ziling was angry too. May I ask Miss, is Da Longtou in? he asked.

    Zhai Jiao slapped the small table by her side, she roared, What a brazen slave material! Are you deaf? Always speaking unnecessary words; perhaps you want me to give you a beating before you are willing to behave yourselves.

    [Translators note: slave material 奴材 nu cai, nu slave, cai material. During Deer and Cauldron project, the word was奴才 nu cai slave. I dont know whether the text is incorrect or Huang Yi intentionally used奴材 instead of奴才. Unless somebody could verify for me, I will use the literal translation: slave material.]

    Kou and Xu, two boys looked at each other in astonishment. They brought this important and very useful information, who would have thought that they were considered slave material this and slave material that, and each time she opened her mouth she was shouting about beating and killing?

    Seeing the two boys finally kept quiet out of fear, Zhai Jiao started to feel satisfied. Pointing to Xu Ziling, she said, You look a bit honest, you tell me.

    Suppressing his anger, Xu Ziling said in low voice, Please inquire, Miss.

    Zhai Jiaos expression relaxed slightly; she nodded and said, How did you climb up the beam? Based on Dies martial art skill, how could he not know that you were hiding there? Moreover, based on Dies martial art skill, even if someone was hiding in the chest wanting to mount a sneak attack on him, it is unlikely that he would succeed. Ill say Die did not look like he received any injury at all; that man covered in Buddhist monks robe mustnt be my Die.

    Kou Zhong was stunned. This matter is very easy to confirm, he said, As long as Miss asks Da Longtou, wont everything be clear?

    Zhai Jiao roared, Shut up! Who allowed you to talk?

    Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, I was just going to say the same thing. Find Da Longtou, one question, and the whole truth will be revealed.

    Zhai Jiaos plump, but not exquisitely shaped huge breasts, which looked like inflated protrusion on her chest, heaved violently up and down several times; her big eyes glowered at them as she said, I will deal properly with this matter; you stay here, wait for Die to be back.

    Xu Ziling knitted his eyebrows and said, How long must we wait?

    Zhao Jiao was a bit gentler toward Xu Ziling; unexpectedly she was willing to answer, Ten days, eight days, nobody can tell. What can you do? I cannot feed you for free.

    Hearing that, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong looked at each other. This Big Miss of the Zhai family, whom Susu said that her temper was not good, but her character was very good, did indeed treat them as slave materials who came to seek shelter to her.

    Kou Zhong tested her, Excuse me, Miss, may I talk now?

    Zhai Jiao seemed to particularly loathe Kou Zhong; she impatiently said, Speak quickly.

    Kou Zhong pressed on, Is it possible for us to rest for several days, and well decide on what kind of work we do after Da Longtou returns?

    Zhai Jiao replied crossly, I wish I had known earlier that you are a lazy guy. Was the rest last night not enough? Whenever the kitchen lacks manpower, you go there to help. Remember, you are not allowed to tell anybody about this matter; otherwise I will chop your head.

    Kou and Xu, two boys did not know whether they should cry or laugh. Right there and then they decided that they must persuade Susu to leave with them.

    At the kitchen, the two boys moving and lifting, chopping melon and slicing meat, washing the dishes and plates, and were very busy in general until late at night before they could return to rest in the small room for the workers.

    While they sighing in despair, Susu came. Apologetically she said, I dont understand either, why Miss treats you this bad. But my two good brothers [didi, younger brother], please bear with it for a while. When Da Longtou returns, everything will be different.

    Kou Zhong tried to analyze the situation, I think she is annoyed that we unmasked the fact that she was abducted. She is the kind of person who puts emphasis on saving her face; naturally she is not happy.

    Susu was displeased, Can you not talk abut her like that? she said.

    Xu Ziling shrugged his shoulders and said, Now your Miss is clear about the whole thing, Jiejie has also fulfilled your obligation, it would be better if we leave immediately, go to Luoyang to find Li Dage.

    Susus pretty face changed slightly; she shook her head helplessly.

    Kou Zhong was confused, Could it be that Susu Jie does not miss Li Dage?

    Biting her lip, Susu said in small voice, Even if I do, whats the use?

    Hearing that, the two boys heart sank. Could it be that this divine woman had the heart, but in his rush to be a ruler Li Jing did not have the dream?

    Susu looked at the two boys distressingly for a moment, and then she said with a hollow laugh, Your Li Dages ambition is higher than the sky, he does not have any care about boy-girl feeling; I plead you from now on not to put he and I together, is that alright? Besides, I basically am unworthy of him.

    The two boys were left speechless, they both felt sorry for her, although they did not understand why she thought that she was unworthy.

    Susu changed the subject; she smiled and said, You have not had the opportunity to tell Jiejie your encounters after we parted; why dont you let Jiejie listen?

    It was just like the two boys have just met the only family they had in this whole wide world; chatting and laughing they narrated their experience this past year or so.

    Susus pretty face blushed slightly as she said, Two Didi are so bad; all day long the only thing in your mind is visiting brothels.

    Xu Ziling did not expect that after telling her about all kinds of exciting and dangerous adventures, the only thing Susu noticed was this aspect. Feeling terribly wronged, he said, It was Kou Zhongs idea, I was only forced to follow him.

    Embarrassed, Kou Zhong laughed awkwardly, You, this guy, only know how to put the blame on me; you yourself dont have that desire?

    Susus pretty face turned even redder; she irately said, Stop it! All men are like that.

    The two boys looked at her in astonishment.

    Susu lowered her pretty face, suddenly she spoke in mosquito-like voice, Do you want Jiejie to serve you?

    Xu Ziling was greatly shaken, Susu Jie! he gasped.

    Susu distressingly said, Jiejie already accompanied other men, and you are not my flesh and blood Didi, so whats the problem?

    Kou Zhongs countenance changed, How could Jiejie be good with other men? Li Dage hey

    Big drops of tears rolled down from Susus elegant eyes; hanging her head low she said, Jiejie is only a servant, masters order, I must obey; how can I make decision for myself?

    The two boys suddenly understood; righteous indignation immediately filled their breasts!

    Kou Zhong stood up suddenly, he cursed, Ill go staking my life against that b1tch.

    Horrified, Susu pulled him back and cried out in grief, It has nothing to do with Miss!

    With eyes shooting flames Xu Ziling said, Then who did it?

    Susu forced Kou Zhong back into his chair first before speaking with a sob, That time Miss has not returned yet, Laoye was entertaining his subordinates in the mansion, Duke Mi also came. That night I came out to serve, someone asked for me from Laoye. Laoye agreed

    Speaking to this point, her sob turned into silent tears.

    The two boys were seething in anger, but when they asked that mans name and surname, Susu was unwilling to tell them.

    Quite a while later, the three peoples emotion cooled down a little bit.

    Must be Li Mi, that son of a b1tch, Kou Zhong angrily said, Let us go and stake our lives against him.

    Susus countenance changed, It wasnt him! she said.

    Xu Ziling probed her, If you dont tell us, well just assume it was him. Old fellow Zhai is not a good man either.

    Susu anxiously said, Laoye had no choice either; since the great victory over Xingyang, everybody said the greatest meritorious service belonged to Duke Mi, the fame of Duke of Pushan soared even higher. Ay, I am not supposed to tell you.

    Gnashing his teeth in anger Kou Zhong said, If we had known, Susu Jie shouldnt come back here.

    Susu wiped the tears using the corner of her sleeve, she forced a faint pained smile as she said in low voice, Now you know why Jiejie didnt want to see Li Dage again. Besides, he regarded me as his little sister. After that matter happened, Jiejie did not wish to live anymore, but I always felt that you are always lucky and under Heavens care, so I bore humiliation, hoping that there would come a day when I see you again. And now my wish is fulfilled.

    Xu Ziling seriously said, Susu Jie must never have any thought of suicide. We are leaving tonight. As long as we can find some kind of hook and rope, we can bring Jiejie out. Afterwards we sister and brothers will not part anymore.

    Susu simply shook her head.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Why is Jiejie still reluctant to leave? Is it hey

    Dont make random guess, Susu firmly said, I really wish to tear that traitor into ten thousand pieces, but I am thinking of Miss kindness. Ay, how about this? After Laoye is back, and everything is made clear, Jiejie will entirely listen to your thought.

    Xu Ziling did not have any mood to stay; he resolutely said, As soon as Zhai Rang hear it, he will immediately know whether this matter is true or bogus, there is no point in us staying here. If Jiejie is determined to follow us, tomorrow we will slip out of the mansion to procure the tools to escape. Well leave in the dark.

    The most critical thing is that we must avoid Shen womans eyes and ears, Kou Zhong added.

    Under the two boys expectant eyes, finally Susu nodded her head.

    Zhai familys maids, servants, odd-job workers, guards, etc. numbered as much as around three hundred. Zhai Rang only had one daughter. His first wife died about two years ago. In Zhai Rangs absence, Zhai Jiao was in charge.

    Zhai Rang had three concubines, but none of them dared to provoke Zhai Jiao, this female overlord; thereupon Zhai Jiao, one person, ended up monopolizing the affairs within the Mansion.

    In Zhai Mansion, because Susu was Zhai Jiaos personal maid, although she did not like to stick her head in the mansions affairs, but most people were more or less looking at her face and thus treated Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling well.

    As a matter of fact, by this time the two boys were even taller, robust and magnificent compared to those mansion guards. Their eyes lively and showed their quick-witted, no servants in the mansion dared to provoke them.

    But because Zhai Jiao was deliberately tormenting them, the two boys job was heavy work of cleaning and other low-grade work in the kitchen. Naturally nobody dared to change this arrangement.

    Since before dawn the two boys had been called to work and continued on until the kitchen finished preparing and serving breakfast. After being busy for two sichen [i.e. 4 hours] the two boys finally found the opportunity to slip out of the kitchen.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, While washing the dishes, I did my best to practice. I never knew it could be so relaxing.

    Xu Ziling was also very pleased of himself; he said, These past few days whenever I circulated the true qi within my body, more and more I was able to hear random things. Try it, send your true qi to the acupoint on your eardrums, we can even hear very clearly people far away gossiping about us in low voices.

    Kou Zhong was greatly delighted, I will definitely try as soon as we go back, right now shopping is more important, this Da Longwan Fu [big dragon stupid mansion] is lifeless, its not suitable for us to stay for a long time.

    Xu Ziling wrapped his arm around Kou Zhongs shoulder as they strode toward the front courtyard. He sighed and said, When I think about our Big Miss, everything came to a halt, I just want to leave quickly.

    The two boys were wearing servant attire in which they worked, not only their clothes were stained with grease and patches of splashing water, their heads, hairs, hands and faces were not spared either. In fact, they did not look any better than when they were still in Yangzhou.

    Kou Zhong proudly said, That so-called uncle manager or big kitchen manager or what have you, I saw his technique in cooking dishes and seasoning; coming and going, he only uses several tricks, so I knew that the dishes he is preparing will all taste the same. If we brothers are in charge of his mothers cooking, I guarantee that those Madame and Miss saliva will run over.

    By the time he finished talking, they have not crossed the wall surrounding the mansion yet, suddenly a cold snort coming from the front. At this point they were still walking along the corridor by the mansion, heading toward the large square in front of the mansion. Three mansion guards appeared from nowhere and blocked their way. The leader was one named Zhang Li, Susu has introduced them to him, hence they recognized him. This time he was confronting them arrogantly.

    The two boys halted their steps and asked in surprise, Whats the matter?

    Zhang Li stood with his hands akimbo; casting a sidelong glance toward the two boys, he said, Didnt anybody tell you? Inner mansions servants are not allowed to go to the front mansion. Not abiding by the rules so soon, are we?

    Kou Zhong tried his luck; he laughed and said, We are not going to the front mansion at all, we are going to the street.

    The other mansion guard said, Who sent you to go outside?

    Kou Zhongs finger rubbed his own nose; he said, Me.

    Zhang Li snapped, Go back quickly. Without her order, you are not allowed to leave the mansions door even for half a step.

    Xu Ziling laughed aloud and said, This is the greatest joke. We are not prisoners, at most we only skip work. We insist on leaving.

    Zhang Li and the others, three men, immediately appeared angry. One of them thundered, How dare you? Are you tired of living?

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, This brother of mine is bad-tempered, three Dashu [great uncles] Daren [title of respect toward superiors] are Daliang [magnanimous], please forgive us this time.

    Pulling Xu Ziling along he turned around and left. He spoke in low voice, Hero will not suffer loss frontally. If the entire Zhai mansion guards surround us, we, the two newly emerged martial art masters, will immediately fall from glory.

    And then he added, Just now I tried the skill you told me about, focusing my energy on the ears, instantly I was able to hear soft even breathing, as if it was not there, from inside the main hall. This person is a lot more formidable than Zhang Li and those abysmal characters. Evidently he is the real martial art master in the mansion.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, Ol Zhai is afraid his beloved daughter will be abducted again, naturally he dispatched martial art experts to protect her. Are we going back to our room to sleep now?

    With an air of complacency Kou Zhong said, If the front door is impassable, well take the back door, and well leave immediately. People like Zhang Li and those lowly figures, it would be strange indeed if they dont sow discord by telling that female overlord. Therefore, after we buy our stuffs, we must hide it well inside the mansion, so that that evil woman will not snatch it to become her own mother monkey climbing the tree training tool. Ha!

    The two boys walked over the gravel path connecting the front and rear courtyards. A pack of five, six good-looking maids were walking directly toward them. Seeing the two boys, their eyes lit up. The bold ones even raised their eyebrows and made eyes with them, with a hint of smile at the corner of their mouth.

    Although these maids were only slightly good-looking, they have given a big boost to the two boys confidence of their own sex appeal, making the two boys felt like they were walking on air.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Too bad we are going to slip away tonight. Otherwise we may not need to go to the pleasure house to shed this litter-of-the-nest, green-head status.

    Xu Ziling admonished him, Those are daughters of decent families, if we spoil them, we may not be able to feed them far and wide, and then we will be bored to death.

    Kou Zhong was shaken. I have not thought about that aspect, he said, Looks like going to the pleasure house is more direct and efficient. Ay, but after this there will be Susu Jie watching on the side. On a lot of things we must be a bit more careful.

    In the meantime they have reached the big flower garden at the back of the mansion. Water was flowing in the little creek, the landscape was in good taste. Two good-looking maids were pruning the flowers and plants. Seeing the two boys coming, they whispered to each other and their pretty eyes stole a glance at them, a glance heavy with desire. However, the two boys could only avert their eyes as they walked straight pass them.

    When the back door was in sight, they saw a middle age man wearing grey clothes was sitting quietly on a stone bench in the little pavilion on their left. The man was smoking pipe leisurely, swallowing clouds and blowing out fog, seemingly oblivious of these two boys.

    The two boys did not give him any thought either; but as they were about to push the door and go out, the man in grey suddenly called out, Two Xiao Xiongdi, please come here and speak a few words with me.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged a glance; they knew something was not right, yet they did not have any idea how to deal with it, hence they could only brace themselves and walk over to the pavilion.

    The man in grey looked ordinary, but his bones and joints looked thick and solid, his complexion carried a strange red-purple aura, his eyes looked lively but also looked dull at the same time. He was indeed a profound mystery.

    The two boys remembered seeing him in the mansion from a distance, and the other people were very respectful toward him, but they did not know his status.

    With his pipe he pointed to the two stone blocks across the stone table from where he sat, and said, Please have a seat.

    The two boys had no choice but to sit facing him.

    The man in grey smiled and said, I am Tu Shufang, the Longtou Mansions zongguan [chief manager]; my specific responsibility is the security of the mansion. I wonder where are two Xiao Xiongdi going?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Kou Zhong said, Just want to slip away to the street to roam around! Ever since we arrived at Xingyang, we havent had a chance to look around, its too bad.

    Tu Shufang nodded, That is only natural, he said, But Miss commanded that if two Xiao Xiongdi did not have any urgent matter to attend to, it would be best if you dont leave Longtou Mansion, everything can be discussed when Longtou Laoda is back.

    Xu Zilings temper flared, Wont that mean we are prisoners here?

    Tu Shufang sighed, We dont have any choice in this matter either, he said, and then continued, May I ask what animosity two gentlemen have against Shen Luoyan?

    The two boys were shaken; they inwardly blamed themselves for being muddleheaded and have not given any thought that Shen Luoyan would surely keep her tiger-eyes on them, and that Longtou Mansion was actually the only safe place for them.

    Kou Zhong did not answer, but asked a question instead, Did Miss ever tell Zongguan why we came here?

    Tu Shufangs eyes were gleaming with lively ray, showing his consummate profound internal energy. He fixed his gaze on Kou Zhong for half a day before speaking in heavy tone, When Miss told the Ol Tu to inquire two Xiao Xiongdis affair, she only said I must protect you with all my strength. Naturally Ol Tu must follow the order.

    Xu Ziling spoke in low voice, How long has Zongguan been with Da Longtou?

    Tu Shufang also replied in low voice, Two gentlemen please feel free to speak up, since whenever Da Longtou has something in his mind, he wont conceal it from me either.

    Kou Zhong was not convinced yet. He asked, What had happened to Miss recently, is Zongguan clear about that?

    Tu Shufangs countenance showed a trace of fear. It was quite a while later that he finally said, Naturally I am clear, but I wonder which matter the two gentlemen were referring to?

    Xu Ziling said, Naturally it is concerning Miss traveling outside. Miss told us not to tell anyone, will Zongguan have the guts to hear it?

    Tu Shufang threw his head back and let out a long laughter, his bearing looked heroic and imposing; he said nonchalantly, You have guts to speak up, I will have the guts to listen.

    Seeing he did not have the slave mentality, the two boys impression on him improved by leaps and bounds, so why would they take Zhai Jiaos warning to heart? Thereupon they told him first about their encounter with Susu, and then they narrated in detail what had happened in the abandoned village.

    When they finished, Tu Shufangs countenance turned extremely unsightly.

    It was quite a while before Tu Shufangs countenance returned to normal. He asked in amazement, In that case, two Xiao Xiongdi must have possessed divine skill; otherwise, how could you hide on the beam, and could evade those peoples eyes and ears? On the surface, although two gentlemen have lofty physiques, your waist and steps steady, and you are calm and composed, your eyes do not reveal inner gleam; could it be that you have reached the unpolished gem returns to the truth boundary instead?

    Kou Zhong knew that although he spoke politely, the bottom line was that he doubted the authenticity of their tale. He calmly replied, That is because our internal energy departs from the usual path, it differs greatly from martial art skill in general. If you dont believe me there is no harm in testing us.

    Tu Shufang held out his hand and said with a smile, In that case lets just shake hands!

    Kou Zhong gulped. Although he agreed to also reach out and shake his hand, he still said, You must not apply a heavy hand!

    Tu Shufang smiled mischievously and said, Of course! while applying his strength at the same time.

    At first Kou Zhong felt that the opponents hand suddenly turned into an iron hoop, which was continuously tightening up; when his finger bones were about to crack, the true qi inside his body automatically flowed through his wrist. Although he still felt severe pain, he was able to endure it.

    Tu Shufang was shocked. Xiao Xiongdis internal strength is indeed unusually strange; it seems to exist but not there either. It is deep and unmeasurable.

    For the first time the two boys received an assessment from a martial art master; they were greatly delighted.

    Tu Shufang consecutively sent his strength to break the opponents true qi, but each time it was neutralized by Kou Zhong. Finally he let go and said, Ol Tu believes.

    But then he frowned and asked, Based on your skill, why are you willing to stay in the kitchen and receive such maltreatment?

    Xu Ziling said with a bitter laugh, What can we do? Its Miss order.

    Tu Shufang pondered for half a day, and then he shook his head and said, But Da Longtou did not look the least bit like he suffered internal injury. What actually happened here?

    Kou Zhong said, Did Miss really get abducted and taken away, later on Zu Junyan pretended to rescue her and bring her back?

    That is correct, Tu Shufang replied, But in the Mansion, other than the Ol Tu, nobody else knew about it. This is no small matter, presently I can only be regarded as not knowing. Everything has to wait for Da Longtous return and then let him decide.

    Seeing him this sensible, Xu Ziling let out a breath of relief, So we can go out and roam around? he asked.

    Tu Shufang shook his head, You cant go out even more, he said, Right now Shen Luoyan stationed her men outside; the Mansion is under close surveillance. I dare not report this matter to Miss, afraid that she might create a disturbance; thats why I hope Da Longtou would come back soon.

    Recalling Shen Luoyans ruthlessness, how could the two boys still dare to swagger out to buy the tools they were going to use to flee?

    Where is Da Longtou? Kou Zhong casually asked.

    Seeing that the two boys bared their soul to him, plus they were still nave, candid and lovely, Tu Shufang felt some indescribable feeling welling up in his heart. He replied, Da Longtou and Duke Mi are going on an all-out effort to attack Xingluo Storehouse. If we win this battle, the muddleheaded rulers days are numbered.

    Kou Zhong scratched his head and asked, What kind of storehouse is Xingluo Storehouse anyway? Why is it so important?

    Tu Shufang patiently explained, Xingluo Storehouse is located east of Luoyang, at the mouth of River Luo west of Xingyang, which is the confluence of the Canal and the Yellow River. The storehouse city wall encompasses twenty-something li, incorporating three thousand big cellars, each cellar contains eight thousand dan [dry measure of grain, approx. 100 liters/28 bushels]. If we can obtain such storehouse, our Wagang Army need not worry that we wont have enough army provisions for the next ten years.

    Xu Ziling was puzzled. Is the Sui Dynasty that stupid? he asked, Why would they set up such a clear target for others to attack?

    Tu Shufang let out a hollow laugh; he said, When they set up the storehouse, how could they know that such a day would come? In those days, the primary objective of setting up such storehouse was to collect rice grain taxation to supply the imperial court. You should know that when Emperor Wen established Changan [modern day Xian], oftentimes the Guanzhong Plain [Shaanxi, valley of River Wei] did not produce enough crops to supply the demand of the Capital. Transporting the grains from the east one must take the dangerous and difficult path of Sanmenxia [lit. three-gate gorge], plus it was time-consuming and effort-heavy. After this big granary was built, the Capital was able to maintain the stability of grain supply.

    Kou Zhong was distressed. In that case, he said, Nobody knows when Da Longtou will be coming back; wont that mean that we will still have to continue chopping firewood, fetching water, washing the dishes and mopping the floor every day?

    Tu Shufang laughed. Thats easy, he said, Let me talk it over with Miss.

    For lack of better option, the two boys helplessly agreed. Besides, on further thought they still had Susu to accompany them, plus they could take this opportunity to secretly train their martial art. After all, this Big Boss Mansion could still be considered as a cozy refuge.

    Thinking to this point, they were even more relieved.

    Beating the snake following the stick [see Book 3, Chapter 3], Kou Zhong said, Apart from our internal energy, which appears a bit decent, our punching and kicking skill is only so-so. I wonder if Zongguan would mind giving us a bit of pointers.

    Tu Shufang gladly said, Because of your honest humility, you can consider this time you found the right person. Considering I have heard the news that you upheld justice in faraway places, also you have saved Susu, I cannot be stingy. Let me pass on to you the skill that I am most proud of, the Twelve-hand Qinna [grab and capture, grappling technique] Meridian-severing Technique. Lets see if it will be useful for you.

    In great delight the two boys immediately bowed with cupped fist to express their gratitude.

    This moment, even if someone chased them away with a stick, they would definitely refuse to leave.

  3. #43
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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 8

    Book 4 Chapter 8 Bird Inside The Cage

    Indeed other than Zhai Jiao, Tu Shufang was the most influential person in the Longtou Mansion. That very same day they were excused from the drudgery of the kitchen work, and their accommodation was also upgraded to the guards living quarters at the inner courtyard, where each person had a spacious bed to sleep on.

    For the past many years, the two boys have been sitting and lying down together like form and shadow; momentarily they felt unaccustomed to it, but they also felt it was a novel experience.

    Whenever Susu had spare time, she would visit them, she also sewed new clothes for them. The sister-brother feeling grew even deeper as they lived happily together.

    Tu Shufang grew fond of the boys as well; he unreservedly passed on his most exquisite skill of Twelve-hand Qinna Meridian-severing Technique, he even gave them pointers in their other martial arts.

    Tu Shufang was able to become the Longtou Mansions Zongguan, certainly it was not by luck at all. In Jianghu, he was an all-powerful figure [orig. rebuke the Heaven and Earth]. Within the Wagang Army, in term of martial art skill he ranked under Zhai Rang, Li Mi and Wang Bo. Receiving this kind of martial art masters direction, naturally the two boys skill advanced by leaps and bounds.

    When this great Tu Shufang taught them acupoint sealing technique, he said, Everybodys arteries, veins and qi are like the lines on our palms, no two are alike. Also, following the time of the day, the weather, different air circulation, the timing must be flexible, the response adaptable, otherwise it will be difficult to achieve the desired effect.

    Thats easy, Kou Zhong cheerfully said, As long as we send a stream of true qi first, and the mind following the qi, we can sense what is true and what is false.

    Tu Shufang was shaken, Mind following qi? he said, Are you saying that after the true qi enters someone elses body you can still interact with the condition of that stream of true qi?

    Xu Ziling nodded, Exactly, he said, We always do it that way, its really fun!

    With an incredulous expression on his face Tu Shufang said, That kind of realm, I am afraid even Da Longtou is not able to achieve. Could it be that Secret to Long Life is really that formidable?

    After spending time together for several days, Kou and Xu already told him what happened in the past, hence he was clear about the origin of the two boys martial art.

    Kou Zhong said excitedly, Even that chicken freak Yuwen Wudi was beaten by us that he covered his head and sneaked away like a rat. Turns out our internal energy is so unusual.

    Tu Shufang said in shock, You mean Yuwen Wudi of the Yuwen Clan? This part they have yet to tell Tu Shufang, hence they told him what happened.

    Tu Shufang shook his head and sighed, Over time, perhaps the two of you will be added to Ning Daoqis rank. When I learned Twelve-hand Qinna Meridian-severing Technique from Enshi [benevolent master], I had to train hard for three years before making a small progress. You only learned it for three days and already have clear and logical understanding; the only thing lacking is maturity. If I am telling it to others, nobody would believe me.

    Kou Zhong was about to speak, one of the underlings came to report that Shen Luoyan wanted to see them.

    Tu Shufang was already aware of their conflict with Shen Luoyan; he said, Even if she had gargantuan guts, she would not dare to behave atrociously in here. Let me come with you, I want to see what kind of trick she is going to play against you.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had their own difficulty, because they had not told Tu Shufang the matter concerning Duke Yang Treasure; naturally they were afraid Shen Luoyang might bring it up. Thereupon Kou Zhong said, We are not afraid of her. Let us deal with her alone.

    Tu Shufang thought that he was showing off, hence he did not insist.

    The two boys went to the main hall and saw Shen Luoyan was enjoying a pot of indoor plant.

    It was the first time that the two boys set foot on this main hall, which Wagang Army considered Main Conference Hall. The lobby of this leaders mansion was magnificent and extravagant. The layout was set according to seat on the north facing south, three pillars seven beams, resting-on-the-mountain style, which was heavy with meaning and symbolism.

    The hall was furnished with primarily red wood furniture, the four walls were filled with famous paintings. Six octagonal palace lanterns were hanging from the beam; rich, beautiful, and elegant. Most impressive of all, beyond the rectangular window that all four sides were highly decorated, one could see the hundred years old tree and the dancing and swaying bamboo grove outside, along with the autumn sun, which shone its light into the hall, resembling the nature itself.

    It was in this mesmerizing scenery that this beautiful Shen Luoyan, wearing her charming face barely hidden behind a fashionable veiled hat, appeared before the two boys. From their angle of view, the veil at back of the hat hung down to her waist, the skirt of the hat drooped down over her arms and was open, trailing over her shoulders, greatly amplifying the elegance silhouette of her back and shoulders. Watching all of these, the two boys momentarily could only stare blankly.

    Shen Luoyan slowly turned around, with sweet, enthralling smile she said, I came to make peace with you!

    Hearing this, the two boys looked at each other. If this b1tch was really willing to make peace, that means the sun could also rise from the west.

    Kou Zhong smirked and said, And the condition?

    Shen Luoyan lightly took jade steps, lithely and with flair went over to the two boys. It was only then did they find out that her clothes was rather revealing. It was an embroidered butterfly gown with round neck and narrow, straight sleeve, reaching down toward her feet. The line and pattern were delicate, the color simple yet elegant; but the neckline was low, almost reaching to her cleavage, exposing her fully rounded, milky white breasts.

    Noticing the two boys stare was dead centered her silky bosom, she was greatly displeased, How can you be this rude, staring on certain place on my body?

    Glug! Kou Zhong swallowed his saliva; having difficulty breathing, he said, Clearly it was you who came here to seduce us; just consider us surrendering to you. All right, Ill take you as my wife for the night.

    Shen Luoyan cast him a sidelong glance and said, A woman cannot have two husbands, which one of you should I marry?

    Xu Ziling was more clear-headed; he cautiously said, Are you thinking of driving a wedge between us, brothers?

    Shen Luoyan forced a smiled and said, Is the brotherly feeling between you that weak? Ay! I am not here to blather with you; back to the topic: may I ask, do you want these two antidotes? Spreading her jade palm, she showed two light green pills, which, in the two boys eyes, looked dazzling.

    Kou Zhong recalled that they had already fallen into her trap once, he was on alert inwardly. He smiled and said, How do we know this is not piercing intestine poison? And then when we get to the Yellow Springs, you would jeer at us.

    Shen Luoyan returned the pills into her bosom. Nonchalantly she said, If you dont want it, then lets forget about it. Just dont say that I, Shen Luoyan, did not remember you. Those who took strength-scattering drug and did not take the antidote within ten days will become useless people who cannot train internal energy forever. At that time, dont you regret it!

    Seeing her coy smile and flirtatious manner, Xu Ziling knew clearly that her words were incomparably sinister; anger arose in his heart, Even if we die, we wont need people like you to feel sorry for us.

    Shen Luoyan pretended to be surprised, Why do you treat me like you have ten grievances and nine animosities against me? Whatever Luoyan did, I do it all for the sake of Wagang Army. Since you sincerely want to rely on Da Longtous help, we are on the same side; we ought to make peace now!

    Kou Zhong sneered and said, You just did it all for your Pushan whatever Duke Mi. Ha! You still want us to have a good impression on you? Just like last time, not only we helped you breaking Qin Shubaos heavy siege, we helped you turned defeat into victory. Those many different kinds of favor, you repeatedly harmed us in return. Now I have thought it through, I dont want you, this b1tch, to accompany me even for one night!

    Shen Luoyan did not seem to take any offence at all, she only said crossly, Even though you repeatedly insulted me, I have yet made any move against you, two little demons; are you still saying I dont remember past friendships? All right! En garde!

    The two boys were startled; they have forgotten all about any moon in the water mental cultivation, and retreated hastily and in fear.

    Actually, Shen Luoyan did not have any intention to make any move; laughing merrily like quivering flower stems she said, Turns out somebody already neutralized the poison in your body. No wonder you dont want to be seduced. But your experience is really shallow; with only an empty threat others can see through you clearly.

    The two boys lost too much face; without any choice they had to curse their own uselessness. At the same time they realized that if they were not confused and disoriented by the seduction of her alluring beauty, how could they fail to see whether her move was fake or real? A real martial art master would never be confused by the charm of a woman.

    Shen Luoyan turned around and walked over toward a redwood table and chairs set on the corner. She sat down, placed her elbows on the table, struck a very charming posture with her hands supporting her chin, and said tenderly, My two Xiao Didi [little younger brother] who want to marry me, sit down! The time to talk has come.

    Displeased, Xu Ziling said, What makes you think that you can boss us around?

    Shen Luoyan calmly replied, Does the word someones treasure carry enough weight?

    Immediately the two boys countenance changed.

    Just based on this one sentence, they knew that Shen Luoyan had planted a spy in the Big Boss Mansion. Moreover, the spys status could not be low, so that she knew that the two boys have concealed the Duke Yang Treasure matter from the people in the Big Boss Mansion.

    If this matter leaked out, it would be greatly disadvantageous to the two boys. Worse yet, nobody knew what kind of method Zhai Rang was going to take to deal with them.

    Helplessly they had to sit across from her.

    Shen Luoyan rolled her beautiful eyes on the two boys faces for a moment before smiling sweetly and said, If I could pick, I will choose Xiao Ling as my husband, and Xiao Zhong as my lover. Then the two little demons could share nujias cup of soup. [reminder: nujia female slave, a humble way a woman referring to self.]

    Kou Zhong dejectedly said, Beautiful must not toy with us, just be direct!

    In all honesty, even Shen Luoyan herself did not understand why she loved to tease them. All along she had always been showing her proud and arrogant side to men, and that was not a fake display. But when dealing with these two boys, unwittingly she had the urge to tease and make fun of them in regards of men-women relationship.

    Shen Luoyan sighed and said, Do you understand the present situation? First of all, the people of Da Longtou Mansion do not allow you to leave the mansion even for half a step. Secondly, I may do everything in my power to prevent you from leaving Xingyang. Therefore, although presently you appear to be free and easy, the fact is, you are no more than birds inside the cage; you have absolutely no power to be independent.

    You dont need to worry about that, Xu Ziling coldly said.

    Shen Luoyan lowered her voice and said, Right now within the Wagang Army, I am the only one who knew that you have the secret to Duke Yang Treasure in you, but if I reveal it, even Nujia does not know what kind of situation might develop. Just a friendly reminder, Wagang Army has specialists in extracting confession by torture, those experts will not be as polite and fun as I am.

    If thats the case, Kou Zhong wondered, Why do you still need to be this longwinded?

    Because, Shen Luoyan replied, I have a favorable impression toward you! I do not wish to see you being tortured that while still alive, you will be reduced to become crippled people. Furthermore, it will also implicate your Su Jie. Although she could be considered Wang Bodangs woman, under that kind of circumstances, even Wang Bodang himself wont shield her.

    The two boys were greatly shaken; on one hand they knew she had their Achilles hell, on the other hand, now they knew the traitors name who raped and humiliated their Su Jie.

    Looking at the two boys expression, Shen Luoyan was satisfied. Therefore, she said, It would be best if we can make a fair dealing. My two good Xiao Didi, what do you say?

    Kou Zhong felt that they had fallen into absolute disadvantageous position, that they were being led by the nose by this concealed dagger within a smile beauty. With a wry smile he said, If we knew where the treasure is hidden, we would have plundered it early on; why would we want to bicker with you in a hopelessly muddled way like a pair of husband and wife?

    Shen Luoyan shrugged her shoulders and said nonchalantly, All right! In that case Ill go see Miss immediately, lets see how she is going to handle you, the two little demons.

    Kou Zhong smiled apologetically and said, Everything is negotiable. If you want the location of the treasure, we can casually give you one to satisfy your curiosity!

    Shen Luoyan angrily said, Looks like you absolutely dont know the meaning of regret. Very well! Lets not talk about whether you really dont know or just pretend not to know the location of the treasure, tell me quickly why Miss is so protective of you? And dont tell me that it is as simple as because you rescued her little maid.

    The two boys immediately felt their scalp grew numbed. Who could tell whether Shen Luoyan was not Zu Junyans accomplice?

    Shen Luoyan straightened her tender body, her beautiful eyes flashed with cold rays. Since you arrived here, Miss has deployed a troop division under Da Longtous direct command from outside the city, their number reaches five hundred men. What actually is going on here?

    By this time the two boys were already fully occupied by bemoaning the craftiness of this lovely b1tch; they hurriedly racked their brains to get out of this situation.

    Kou Zhong rolled his eyes; he was about to concoct some stories when Shen Luoyan said with a laugh, Are you thinking of lying to me?

    Right this moment, when the two boys were completely at a loss of what to say, one of Shen Luoyans underlings rushed in and reported, Our troops have attacked and captured Luoxing [sic] Storehouse [it was Xingluo in the previous chapter]; Duke Mi is sending his order to send reinforcement right away, would Miss please make decision.

    Shen Luoyan stood up in great delight; she said to the two boys, I have no time to chat nonsense with you right now, plus you cannot leave anyway, so Ill find another day to deal with you, two little demons! Finished speaking she left in a hurry.

    Recalling that the Big Boss Zhai Rang would soon return, the two boys could not stop their hearts from thumping wildly. Since Zu Junyan was Li Mis trusted aide, would they incite conflict between those two?

    That evening, Shen Luoyan led the army leaving the city. Almost at the same time, Zhai Jiao also left the city. But Tu Shufang would not reveal her destination; everything seemed to be very mysterious.

    Without Zhai Jiao, the Zhai Mansion immediately regained its liveliness, everybody seemed to be breathing a bit easier. Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong and Susu, three people ate their dinner together. Soon afterwards, Tu Shufang came in to join them. He asked about Shen Luoyan. Kou Zhong mentioned the part about neutralizing the poison, but he did not say anything about the hidden treasure.

    By speaking half-truth half-lie like this, Tu Shufang did not suspect anything. He only expressed his great amazement that they were able to force the strength-scattering drug out of their body using their internal energy.

    But while talking about the capture of Luoxing Storehouse, Tu Shufang actually looked very worried. He sighed and said, The reason we are able to capture Luokou Storehouse this time lies entirely in Duke Mis merit in deploying soldiers and dispatching generals. Although nominally Zhai Ye is the head, in reality the power actually lies in Duke Mis hands.

    Li Jings analysis remained fresh the three peoples mind, naturally they understood the cause of his concern.

    Tu Shufang also said, Luokou fell, the imperial court must be shocked. Right now Yang Guang must be thinking of regaining Luokou at all cost by pulling things around. He must have ordered Liu Changgong and Pei Renji, two people to separately deploy their main forces from Luoyang and Hulao [tiger cage] to attack our troops at Luokou from two directions. If this battle is won, then we can be considered truly obtain Luoxing Storehouse. Otherwise we will have to return everything, both the capital and the interest.

    After Tu Shufang left, Kou Zhong spoke in high spirit, Shen Poniang went out to war, Su Jies Big Miss also left and we dont know where she went. If we dont leave now, what are we waiting for?

    Susu mournfully said, Why dont you two leave by yourselves?

    Xu Ziling was stunned, That kind of master who regarded you as a gift they could give others at will, why is Su Jie so reluctant to leave? he asked.

    Susu sobbed and said, Dont say anymore. This is for Miss sake. How could I abandon her and leave in this kind of situation?

    The two boys were panicked; they busily raised their sleeves to wipe her tears.

    Kou Zhong gently said, My good Jiejie, please dont cry; well stay with you. Ay! But even if we stay, we wont do you any good.

    Susu said, After Laoye comes back, Jiejie will leave with you!

    For lack of better option, the two boys could only nod their agreement.

    Early morning the next day, the two boys woke up and practiced their martial art in the big garden at the rear courtyard, but Tu Shufang did not show up.

    Due to Tu Shufangs influence, the two boys had full access to any weapon in the armory. This moment the two boys were in high spirit, they simply took out a bunch of different types of weapons: swords and spears, sabers and halberds, long weapons, short arms, they tried it all, testing all kinds of weapon, and were having a lot of fun.

    Susu cheered on the side. The three sister and brothers had a happy and warm relationship.

    Gradually there were more and more maids and servants coming and going; they did not want to show off too much, plus the boys were scared at the maids passionate looks and coquettish glances, hence they called it a day. After taking a bath they changed into the new clothes Susu sewed for them. In their excitement, they wanted to seize this opportunity to slip away to the streets.

    Somewhat nervous, the three of them sneaked out via the back door. Once they reached the street, they saw dead leaves covering the road; a desolate autumn scenery. Thinking about from the day they first met until today, two years had passed in the blink of an eye, right now Li Jings whereabouts was unknown; they could not help feeling emotional.

    Amidst the whistling autumn breeze, the three people walked side by side, with Susu holding on to the crook of the two boys arms, strolling along the street.

    The city of Xingyang was surprisingly thriving. According to Susu, it was due to Li Mis deep understanding on how to win the peoples hearts; therefore, the people in nearby towns and counties had their hearts attached to them while obtaining Wagang Armys protection.

    After walking not even half a block, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling became aware of people on their trail. What they were most afraid of was Shen Luoyan, but since they knew she was out of town, there ought to be no one else who could deal with them. Therefore, they did not take it to heart and simply continued walking while joking, talking and laughing.

    In the north, due to heavy influence of non-Han [hu] people, in general men and women were more unrestrained by convention. Therefore, although the three of them were having fun affectionately with each other in public, passers-by did not think it strange.

    The three of them found a dumpling restaurant, so they sat down and ate and drank as much as they liked.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, After this well go to cosmetics store, let Su Jie add flowers on brocade [i.e. decorating something that is already perfect], so that she will be more beautiful and alluring, and will pull mens heart even more.

    Xu Ziling excitedly joined in, And then well go to silk and satin store, so that relying on her pair of magical hands, Su Jie can sew herself a gorgeous new clothes to celebrate the New Year.

    Susu nodded slightly, but her countenance remained grim.

    Gnashing his teeth, Kou Zhong said, Su Jie, please be assured that one day we will slaughter this lecherous traitor Wang Bodang so that Jiejie can purge your disgrace and wash away your hatred.

    Susus flower-like countenance turned pale, How did you know it was him? she asked, You must never mention this matter anymore. Speaking about martial art skill, within Wagang Army, after Laoye and Duke Mi, he ranks next in line.

    And then she turned sad again and said, This is the fate of a slave servant, Jiejie has to accept the misfortunes as decreed by fate. I forbid you to let your imagination run wild regarding this matter.

    The two boys remained silent in disappointment.

    At this point, they suddenly sensed that there was someone coming straight at them from the front door. Kou and Xu turned their gaze toward the approaching person, and were shocked.

    Turned out it was a Baling Bang member who they once thought had a strong yiqi toward them, the son of the boss of Cuibi Lou of Pengcheng city, Xiang Yushan.

  4. #44
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 9

    Book 4 Chapter 9 Sincere Collaboration

    Xiang Yushan still looked like he was not completely awake yet, the look of a second generation prodigal son with green face and white lips, but his smile was still very much amiable. Without any trace of politeness he simply plopped himself down on a seat, and cheerily said, Meeting old friends in a foreign land is indeed a real joy in life. And this is

    Kou Zhong had no choice but to introduce, This is our Jiejie.

    Ever since Xu Ziling found out that he belonged to the notorious Baling Bang who specialized in human trafficking, he truly loathed this person from the bottom of his heart. He said coldly, Since Xiang Xiong is Baling Bang man, it can be said that persons who walk different paths cannot make plans together. Right now we are not even friends, Xiang Xiong please excuse yourself.

    Listening to this remark, even Susu was confused; she was not clear about the relationship between Xiang Yushan and these two boys.

    But Kou Zhong giggled and said, What a coincidence, I wonder if Xiang Xiong has received favor from that Peng Liang Hui s1ut and is thinking of transferring us as your property to her?

    Xiang Yushan was still a slick and sly man; raising his hands in mock surrender he said, Xu Xiong, Kou Xiong misunderstood me. You misunderstood our humble gang even more. Please let Xiaodi [little younger brother]

    Xu Ziling impatiently cut him off, Could it be that Baling Bang is not in the business of selling human flesh but in selling pork meat?

    Kou Zhong patted Xiang Yushans shoulder, while with brows raised in delight and eyes laughing said, I heard your precious gang is Yang Guang, that fatuous monarchs lapdog, and here is precisely the Wagang Army territory; if Xiang Xiong does not get out of here, this time it will be our turn to sell you.

    Xiang Yushan smiled wryly and said, Ever since we got to know each other, other than a bit of misunderstanding, we do not have any grudges. Could it be that two Xiongtai [brother, a polite appellation for a friend of ones age] will not even willing to give Xiaodi a chance to offer an explanation?

    Noticing that even after receiving a hundred insults from these two boys this man was still humbly stooping down trying to defend himself, Susu could not bear not to speak up, Just give Xiang Gongzi a chance to offer an explanation!

    Xiang Yushan gratefully said, Jiejie is really good.

    She is not your Jiejie, Xu Ziling crossly said.

    While Kou Zhong snapped, Spit it out! [orig. you have fart, let it out]

    But Xiang Yushan was amazingly patient; unexpectedly he still did not take any offence. Lowering his voice, he said, Within Eight Gangs Ten Societies, our Baling Bang ranks second of the Eight Gangs, our reputation is extremely resounding; however, it was destroyed by some people who are blinded by greed in order for them to curry favor with Yang Guang.

    Kou Zhong leaned closer to his ear and giggled in a weird way and said, Certainly Xiang Xiongs manner looks just like those blinded by greed people!

    Not to know whether to laugh or cry, Xiang Yushan said, Kou Xiong please do not speak sarcastically to Xiaodi.

    Xu Ziling asked in amazement, People who resort to propriety must have some favor to ask. Since Xiang Xiong submits to humiliation like this, there must be a conspiracy behind this.

    This has made Susu unable to stand by idly and watch; slightly on edge, she said, Even prisoners have the right to speak, couldnt you just let him finish?

    Xiang Yushan delightedly said, Miss[1] indeed understands reason. I, Xiang Yushan hereby swear that other than owning and operating casino and brothel, I have never participated in that kind of offending Heaven and reason activity the two Xiongtai are referring to.

    Kou Zhong sneered and asked, Then where did you get those beautiful women in your casino from?

    Xiang Yushan replied, If there is a single woman that our Xiang family has abducted and forced to be a prostitute, let me, Xiang Yushan, not die a good death.

    The two boys were simply too stunned for words.

    Xiang Yushan heaved a sigh, and then he continued, Truth be told, we have been harmed by that incapable ruler that we became like this. It was because our gang has always been in good relationship with the imperial court, plus there are members of our gang who became government officers. At first we only helped that muddle-headed ruler to gather beautiful women from all over the world for his merriment and sexual enjoyment. Who would have thought that this fatuous monarch is avaricious and insatiable? Just because he loves to go on a tour, he built palaces everywhere. Just from Luoyang to Yangzhou, he built no fewer than forty temporary imperial residences. And on each site he wanted over a hundred beauties to wait upon him. On top of that, he himself has several thousand imperial concubines and palace beauties. Just think, how many women he has altogether? We also have our hands and feet stuck deep in the mire.

    Of course the two boys had never imagined that Baling Bang had this kind of predicament; unwittingly their hostility toward Xiang Yushan was reduced by several degrees.

    Xiang Yushan forlornly said, Yang Guang not only loves women, he also loves men. And if that is not enough, the most terrifying thing is that he loves to do new trick every day. For example, he wants to make ceremonial clothes from the feather and plumes of birds and beasts, so all birds and beasts with the desired feather and plumes were caught until almost nothing left. Or like during the second year of the great undertaking, Tujues Qimin entered the imperial court. In order to show off his wealth, Yang Guang ordered to have the previous dynastys younger generations to act as his family members; unexpectedly he enlisted more than thirty thousand people in the imperial court. And when he did not have enough officers and men, we were forced to do it. In reality, we are also victims.

    And then he let out a cold snort and said, But now the situation is reversed. We no longer have to listen to his order.

    Kou Zhong frowned and said, You shouldnt have listened to his order to begin with!

    But if we did not do it, someone else would, and the outcome would not be much different, Xiang Yushan argued, And inevitably our Baling Bang would have immediately fallen from power.

    So what do you want from us now? Xu Ziling asked.

    Xiang Yushan smiled apologetically, That day Xiaodi had eyes but failed to recognize Mount Tai; turns out two gentlemen are important characters whose names shook the Jianghu recently. Currently I am under Er Dangjia [second master, see also Book 3 Chapter 8 on Ren Meimei] Xiao Xians order to come specifically to explore the possibilities of mutual cooperation.

    Kou Zhong laughed in spite of himself, You are too polite. Turns out you are also after that treasure, which we basically dont know anything about.

    Xu Ziling sneered and said, You might as well not explain it. Right now the rumor is spreading around everywhere; what was false has become the truth. Who would believe that we really dont know the treasures whereabouts?

    Gentlemen are wrong, Xiang Yushan said with serious expression, From the start Xiao Er Dangjia did not believe that you know the treasures whereabouts.

    The three people could only stare blankly.

    Susu knitted her eyebrows and said, Then why did you take the risk to find my two Didi? For what?

    Xiang Yushan lowered his voice, That is, of course, for the account book!

    Immediately Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other. Other than people from the Li Clan and the Yuwen Clan, who would know that the account book was in the two boys possession?

    Xiang Yushan smiled and said, Just by looking at gentlemens expression, I knew that Er Dangjias belief is not bad. I, Xiang Yushan, had no choice but to prostrate myself in admiration. Right now the whole world is being led by the nose by two gentlemen.

    In full alert, Kou Zhong swept his gaze around the small dumpling restaurant, he sternly said, So you are going to rob the account book from us!

    How could Xiaodi dare? Xiang Yushan hastily said, Since Kou Xiong and Xu Xiong were able to snatch the account book from Yuwen Chengdus hand, and were able to elude Yuwen Clans pursuit, plus you were able to inflict injury to Yuwen Wudi, how could Xiaodi have the guts to provoke the tiger? I am only here on behalf of our humble gang to discuss the conditions of our cooperation.

    And then he continued surreptitiously, Dont gentlemen wish to bring down Yuwen Huaji? He also happens to be our humble gangs number one enemy.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were dumbstruck. It was half a day later that the former let out a cold air and said, You, this kid, are indeed very well-informed.

    Xiang Yushan smiled and said, Over the years, we, under different names, have opened more than two hundred pleasure houses and close to three hundred casinos, big and small, across the country, and hence have established a vast investigative network. Whatever matter we want to investigate, naturally it is relatively easier for us to do than other people.

    Xu Ziling said, But I am afraid you wont get any information about Yuwen Clan by visiting brothel and playing in the casino!

    Xiang Yushan nodded, Thats a fact, he simply said.

    Kou Zhong knew that he was not going to speak up; greatly intrigued, he asked, Why would you want to deal with Yuwen Huaji?

    Xiang Yushans countenance showed grief and indignation; hanging his head low he said, Fifteen days ago, our humble gangs Da Dangjia [first master] Lu Kangshou met the shadow assassin and lost his life. According to our investigation, the biggest suspect is someone from Yuwen Clan. We must avenge this enmity no matter what.

    The three people suddenly understood; no wonder he kept saying Er Dangjia Xiao Xian this and Er Dangjia Xiao Xian that. Turned out this matter involved some complex political power struggle, so naturally Xiang Yushan was unwilling to casually tell them.

    Xiang Yushan said in low voice, Our San Dangjia [third master] is leaning toward Yuwen Clan people. After the incident, Er Dangjia already sent our in-house law enforcement people to take care of him. We were also able to extract from his mouth the information that Yuwen Huaji and that incapable ruler are related to this matter.

    That Yuwen Huaji really made a blunder this time! Xu Ziling said, He should have eliminated your precious gangs Er Dangjia as well.

    Xiang Yushan let out a cold snort and said, Do you think he didnt think about that? Its just that they did not know the level of Xiao Er Dangjias real skill. He has actually surpassed Da Dangjia early on, only it was kept a secret. Although the shadow assassin was formidable, he failed to take his life; furthermore, Er Dangjia pretended to be dead to lure San Dangjia to reveal his true colors. Otherwise, our gang would have fallen into Yuwen thieves and San Dangjias hands early on.

    Who was that shadow assassin? Susu asked in wonder.

    That persons identity is still a mystery, Xiang Yushan replied, It is rumored that he is still very young, perhaps he belongs to the imperial family, specializing in assassinating those who are unpleasant to the fatuous monarchs eyes. His favorite is making his move in assassinating the target during full moons. Even Du Fuwei nearly suffered a major setback.

    The two boys let out a mouthful of cold air. If this assassin had the guts to target Du Fuwei, the level of his formidability should be easy to determine.

    Xiang Yushan took out a letter from his bosom and said, To show our humble gangs sincerity in proposing this collaboration, Xiao Er Dangjia specifically wrote a letter, in his letter he pledged a heavy oath that he wont be just like others who only want to exploit two gentlemen, but afterwards mean harm to you. After two gentlemen read this, you will understand, but please destroy this letter immediately.

    Kou Zhong received the letter, opened it and read. Sure enough, Xiao Xian put it in black and white that he swore a heavy oath; in addition, he put his personal seal on it. After passing the letter to Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong sighed and said, Your Er Dangjia must be a powerful, capable and broad-minded man. Hey! Now he ought to be the Da Dangjia.

    No! Xiang Yushan replied, He is still Er Dangjia. Unless that muddle-headed ruler is dead, he is unwilling to take the Da Dangjia position.

    Xu Ziling handed the letter over to Susu; he said in low voice, What do you want us to do? Is it to hand the account book over to you? We cant do that!

    Xiang Yushan received the letter back from Susu; using his internal strength he rubbed it until it turned to powder, and then he said with a laugh, Of course not. We will ask two gentlemen to kindly participate in this matter, enjoying the delight of watching that incapable ruler and Yuwen Clan fighting against each other. As soon as two gentlemen nod your head, I will immediately make arrangement for you. Hey! The three of you ought to leave this place in secret [orig. gods do not know, ghosts do not detect].

    And then he chuckled softly and said, Shen Luoyan and two gentlemen dont get along too well!

    Susu was shocked. We cant leave now, she said, We must wait for Laoyes return before we could leave.

    Surprisingly Xiang Yushan did not even ask why; he simply nodded and said, So be it. Whenever you are ready to leave, just come to Daiqing Yuan [lit. greenish-black mascara courtyard] in here, and tell them you want to see Peipei, someone will definitely contact you, and will arrange everything.

    With a loud laughter he stood up, and cheerfully said, When I first met two gentlemen, I already felt we are of kindred spirits, and now we have the opportunity to work together.

    And then facing Susu, he raised his cupped fist and said, I do hope to see Miss very soon. Finished speaking, he simply left.

    The three of them you look at me, I look at you; momentarily they did not know what to say.

    Although they had the account book in their possession, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were still hazy and did not have clear plan on how to actually used it to harm Yuwen Huaji. Now that this matter has turned for the better, they were happy, but were also anxious that it would not be as simple as Xiang Yushan said.

    Seeing Susus pretty eyes slightly blushed, Xu Ziling pondered a bit. Astounded, he said, Does Su Jie like that guy?

    Susu was greatly displeased, Stop talking nonsense!

    Kou Zhong said, This guy is a world-class expert in patting the horses bottom, the words that come out of his mouth, not even half a sentence will not make people happy, and when he sees something good, he knows how to get it at once. Coaxing girls, he is even more formidable. Su Jie must not fall into his trap.

    Susu was greatly embarrassed; standing up, she said, You still want to stroll down the street?

    Whenever the two boys went, there would always be people spying on them, so they could not help feeling anxious for Xiang Yushan. But since this man possessed great magical power that he was able to find them under these circumstances, he must also have his own way to evade surveillance.

    When they returned to the Big Boss Mansion, Tu Shufang berated them for going out without telling him first. The two boys humbly asked for forgiveness, hence this matter was dropped just like that.

    The two boys started to examine the account book in details. They found out that the records were mainly on Li Clan and Yuwen Clans arms acquisition from Dong Ming Pai: the type and quantity, the time and place of the delivery, and so on. The records were quite exhaustive, and most of the transactions happened in the last two years or so. If it fell into Yang Guangs hands, and he did not suspect that they were going to rebel, it would be strange indeed.

    That night after dinner, the two boys had a secret meeting in Xu Zilings room.

    Xu Ziling probed, Looks like for the time being we cannot go to Luoyang.

    Going sooner or later is not the problem Kou Zhong said, If it is our destiny, we will obtain the treasure. After the Jade Annulus of He Clan is in our hands, we can head to Changan and try our luck to find the Duke Yang Treasure. If both are successful, we will recruit soldiers and buy horses. At that time, I want to see who would be able to strive against us, the Two Dragons of Yangzhou?

    Xu Ziling sighed, You are thinking too far, he said, Right now I am worried about Su Jie. The scariest thing for me is that Baling Bang would abduct her and use her to threaten us. Dont look at right now that Xiang guy is taking our insult and our curses with a smiling face; just think about ever since we came out to travel around the country, from those who we met, how many are really good people?

    Kou Zhong also frowned. Right now Susu could be considered their only family, no matter what they could not let her be hurt.

    We have to be more careful, Xu Ziling continued, After avenging Niang, well bring Susu Jie to the south, find a place to settle her down, and only then can we think about any fun thing to do and how to earn a living.

    There was a knock on the door followed by Susu pushing the door open and storming in. Miss is back. She wants to see you right away, she said in panic.

    The two boys groaned inwardly. What the fear the most right now was precisely to see this Big Miss of Zhai family, whose appearance and temperament were so ugly.

    Zhai Jiaos face, which was as black as the bottom of an earthen pot, looked tense and jittery, her eyes flickered with cold rays; with one hand on her as-thick-as-a-chamber-pot waist and the other hand pointing at them, she cursed, I was out for five days, and you are already rebelling. You have the cheek to sneak out and stroll around the entire day before coming back. If anything bad happened, how am I going to explain to Die? Now I have reported everything to Die, he said that no matter what you are not allowed to leave the Mansion for even half a step. Wait for his return and then well talk.

    Kou Zhong mused, Wherever Laozi [I, your father] wants to go, its none of your, this b1tchs, [email protected] business. But of course he did not dare to say it out loud. Smiling apologetically, he said, Its our, two slave materials, fault; would Miss please calm down.

    Zhai Jiao pulled back her thick finger that was pointing at the two boys. She spoke harshly, Other than Susu, does anybody else know about this matter?

    With a straight face and a voice full of incomparable confidence Kou Zhong replied, Of course not.

    Xu Ziling added, Since Miss has seen Da Longtou, you should know that we did not lie to you!

    With a hint of frustration in her voice, Zhai Jiao angrily said, Die did not say anything, except that he will be home as soon as possible. He also commanded that this matter must be kept secret. I have already warned Susu, now I am warning you, these two slave materials.

    The two boys were already accustomed to her throwing a tantrum; hence they could only let her shouting and cursing.

    Zhai Jiao vented her anger a while longer. But then she suddenly said, Do you want women to accompany you for the night?

    What?!? the two boys voice cracked.

    Zhai Jiaos temper cooled down somewhat; her voice was softer as she said, Die told me that you are free to pick any women you fancy among the maids to keep you company at night. And when he is back, there will be other rewards as well.

    Kou Zhong was very tempted, but then he remembered that if he did that, what would the difference between he and Wang Bodang be?

    Xu Ziling resolutely refused, Thank you for Da Longtous good intention, but we two brothers definitely cannot accept it.

    As if relieved from a burden, Zhai Jiao said, You dont want it, that is the best. Who would want to accompany you, two little demons anyway?

    The two boys were infuriated, but they had no choice but to keep silent.

    After staring hard at the two boys for quite a while, Zhai Jiao told them to get lost. As if they had just received the emperors amnesty, they hastily slipped away.

    [1] The word Miss here is guniang, not xiaojie like the one they used to refer to Susus boss, Zhai Jiao. The easiest explanation would be: xiaojie (miss) is the counterpart of shaoye (young master), while guniang (miss) is the counterpart of gongzi (young master). Am I confusing you? ;-)

  5. #45
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 10

    Book 4 Chapter 10 Revenge and Repaying Debts of Gratitude

    Recalling that they would soon go to Jiangdu to seek revenge against Yuwen Huaji, the two boys were even more dedicated in training martial art.

    The weather gradually turned colder, by the time the first Great Snow [21st of the 24 solar terms, December 7 21] arrived, report of victory also arrived. Sui generals Liu Changgong, leading twenty-five thousand strong cavalry, advanced from Luoyang to the east, to rendezvous with Pei Renjis forces from Hulao [Tiger Cage], and proceed together in joint forces to the south, ready to annihilate Wagang troops in one fell swoop.

    Who would have thought that Li Mis spy found out about this, and immediately opened the Storehouse door to feed the people, and thus he bought the peoples heart, so that he won the citizens of all counties in the vicinity before together with Zhai Rang led their forces to engage the enemy.

    Li Mi divided his elite troops into ten teams. He himself led four teams to set an ambush from across the mountain range, while Zhai Rangs six teams were arrayed in battle formation on the eastern bank of River Shizi, a tributary of River Luo, waiting for the enemy.

    Liu Changgongs main forces arrived first. Seeing Wagang Armys small number, he thought that during the battle to attack Luokuo, the enemy suffered heavy casualties. Unexpectedly, without giving his own troops some time to rest and eat, he drove his forces across the river to attack, forgetting his agreement to join forces with Pei Renji.

    Sure enough, Zhai Rangs forces suffered defeat and retreated.

    Having tasted the sweet victory, Liu Changgong tucked his tail and pursued. His troops immediately fell into Li Mis ambush. Liu Changgongs weary and hungry troops were routed completely, countless casualties fell that day. Liu Changgongs defeated remnants slipped back to Luoyang.

    Learning about Liu forces defeat, Pei Renji did not dare to proceed alone. He withdrew to Baihua [lit. hundreds of flower] Valley and setup a fortress there, no longer dare to go out to war.

    Thereupon Wagang Armys prestige was greatly boosted.

    Because the victory this time was due to Li Mis brilliant strategy, his popularity was like the sun in the middle of the sky.

    Inside the city of Xingyang there was gaiety everywhere; incessant sound of firecrackers filled the air.

    And then heavy snow fell for several days. Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings childish heart was greatly aroused; they built snowmen in the garden for fun. Seeing they were having so much fun, several pretty maids were emboldened to join in. The two boys had never had girls playing with them; they were beside themselves with joy.

    Kou Zhong and the bunch of pretty maids bumped into each other, sometimes he took advantage by intentionally bumping onto them; he was extremely delighted.

    One of the pretty maids was quite cute, her face was especially pretty; in term of beauty, she was only a tad below Susu. But her figure was alluring, plus she was particularly provocative, teasing Kou Zhong relentlessly, so that his heart was unbearably itchy.

    As soon as he had the chance, he came to Xu Ziling and said, I cant stand that girls teasing anymore. Since Zhai Jiao does not mind me hooking up with her maid, if I can have her for a night of passion, you wont oppose me, will you?

    Xu Ziling knew his character very well; if he wanted something, he would not be content before obtaining it. Thereupon he whispered, What if she gets pregnant?

    Kou Zhong was stunned. Cant be that easy! he said, Others have been married for many years, yet a lot of them still do not have any child.

    Xu Ziling said, If you want it, you do it yourself! But remember that she is the daughter of a good family, you must not abandon her without any reason!

    Pow! a snowball was thrown right on target, making Kou Zhongs face fully covered in snow.

    Chuchu [lit. cute/lovely] and the other five pretty maids cried excitedly, Bulls eye! Bulls eye!

    Kou Zhong leaned over to Xu Zilings side and said, Xiongdi is right, but I can always kiss and stroke their face! Finished speaking he opened his arms wide and shouted, Whoever got caught, the punishment is a kiss on the mouth!

    The pretty maids immediately scattered in all directions in fright. Kou Zhong identified Chuchu clearly, and then ran toward her.

    Watching Kou Zhong and the girls laughing and playing and chasing each other on the snow, Xu Zilings heart was overwhelmed with emotions.

    In the past, when they could not guarantee three square meals a day in Yangzhou, who could have imagined that today they were able to play and have fun with the pretty maids of Big Boss Zhai Rangs mansion?

    Pow! the back of Xu Zilings head was hit; the snow slipped into his collar that his neck was icy-cold.

    Based on his current eyes and ears, it should be very easy to dodge, but somehow he lost interest. Recalling Kou Zhongs remark about kissing and stroking their face, his heart grew warm. He turned around and gave another beautiful maid a chase.

    The beautiful maid was straining herself that her jade cheek turned rosy like red clouds. Whether intentionally or otherwise, she ran toward the cluster of trees nearby; how could Xu Ziling not understand her intention? He was about to run after her and take some advantage like Kou Zhong, suddenly a shadow flashed; Tu Shufang blocked his path.

    Da Longtou is back, he said solemnly, He wants to see you immediately.

    Struggling to control themselves, the two boys went into the inner courtyard where Zhai Rang resided. They saw the people guarding the door were all unfamiliar faces; every one of them had their Taiyang [sun] acupoint [on the temples] bulging high. With just one look they knew that these people were all martial art masters.

    It was the first time that the two boys set foot on this part of the mansion. Along the way a forty-something scholar came out to meet them, and politely said, Zaixia Wang Ruxin, Minister of War. Two Xiao Xiongdi please follow the Ol Wang, Tu Zongguan may go back.

    Tu Shufang was slightly taken aback. Wang Ruxin already led the two boys toward Zhai Rangs living room.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were not the little kids of the former days who lacked Jianghu experience; upon unleashing the power of their eyes and ears, they detected that the surrounding area was heavily guarded. There were warriors spread around the forest beyond the two-story building, the situation was as if they were about to face a powerful enemy. The two boys could not help but wonder.

    Wang Ruxin led them to the door of the inner residences opened-wide front door, where he stopped and said, Da Longtou is waiting for you, two gentlemen please come in on your own.

    The two boys thought that it would not be appropriate to discuss such a secret affair in front of other people, hence they did not suspect anything; stepping forward, they entered the hall.

    The man guarding the door immediately closed the door behind them.

    Bang! As they heard the sound of the double-door closing up behind them, the two boys saw a tall, slim, as straight as a ramrod, middle age man with beautiful beard, was pacing back and forth in the hall with hands behind his back. When he heard the door closing, he turned his head toward the two boys, his eyes flashing with energy; not at all looked like someone who was suffering an internal injury.

    The man had a grand appearance, with a long hawk-like nose, making his expression gloomy and heavy, giving the impression that he was a man with heavy responsibility, but at the same time also gave the impression that he was a selfish and ruthless man.

    The hair on his temples ash-grey, his forehead narrow and wrinkled, looking as if it was portraying the difficult times that has come and gone over the years.

    After the two boys saluted respectfully, Zhai Rang said, Have you seen me?

    Kou Zhong hurriedly replied, At that time we were hiding on the beam, and did not dare to look. Considering Da Longtou come and go like the wind, we did not see Da Longtou.

    Zhai Rangs eye turned toward the window, as he gazed at the snow-covered winter landscape, he said flatly, Then how can you be sure that that person was me?

    Xu Ziling replied, That was after the fact; we heard Zu Junyan and that strange man who hid inside the trunk mentioned it.

    Undisturbed, Zhai Rang said, Did you see that strange man?

    Only a glance, Kou Zhong replied, His figure imposing, compared to Zu Junyan he was at least half a head taller. However, because he was wearing mask, we could not see what he looked like.

    Zhai Rang was visibly shaken. What did his voice sound like? he asked coldly.

    Very gentle and pleasant to hear, Kou Zhong promptly replied, After he finished speaking, it seemed to me that his voice still lingered in the air.

    Zhai Rangs chest sharply moved up and down several times. After a long time of silence he finally let out a stifled grunt and said, What is exactly your school, your sect? How did your inner power become so strange that you were able to evade that strange man and my eyes and ears?

    Kou Zhong happily said, Turns out the one we saw was indeed Da Longtou. Da Longtou is really formidable. That strange man said that he injured you! Turns out he was just tooting his horn.

    Zhai Rang coldly said, You have not answered my question.

    Xu Ziling said, Our martial art was taught by Niang, but Niang has died.

    Good! Zhai Rang said in heavy voice.

    The two boys were greatly surprised. As he heard that their Niang has died, why did he applaud?

    Right this moment, Zhai Rang made his move. In the blink of an eye he was already in front of the two boys; both of his sleeves rose up together.

    The two boys had never imagined that someone with his status would suddenly mount a sneak attack. They saw his hands came out from inside his sleeves, with an astonishing power his palms struck onto their bodies. There was not enough time for them to block.

    The two boys cried out in shock and flew backward.

    Bang! Bang! Zhai Rangs two palms separately landed on the pit of the two boys stomach.

    A blast of strong, violent, and hard to resist qi power penetrated their body from the chest. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling immediately spurted out a mouthful of blood, as their bodies were lifted off the ground and flew down. Thump! Thump! their backs crashed onto the wall on the left and right of the door, slipped down along the wall, and finally landed sitting down on the floor.

    The pain was so severe that they felt their five viscera [i.e. heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys] were about to burst, their qi and blood surged over, they no longer had any strength left to fight.

    Who would have thought that Zhai Rang was actually more shocked than the two boys? He originally thought that with one palm strike he would be able to send them back to the Western Paradise, but to his surprise, as his strike hit the opponents chests, he felt two jolts of reacting forces, one cold and one hot, coming out of the pit of their stomachs. Not only these forces neutralized most of his own power, the forces also entered his body, sapping his strength that he could not even apply his inner power.

    Although Kou Zhong lost the strength in his entire body, he could still open his mouth to shout, You what are you doing?

    Zhai Rangs eyes flashed with ominous glint. Shut up! he said, You can only blame yourselves for knowing things that you are not supposed to know. And he stepped toward the two boys.

    Xu Ziling rolled over to embrace Kou Zhong, he said, If we are to die, lets die together!

    While casting a sidelong glance, Kou Zhong embraced Xu Ziling and whispered in his ear, Circulate your energy! Ill distract him.

    Meanwhile Zhai Rang has arrived in front of the two boys; suddenly he let out a dry cough, and with a hoarse cold laugh said, Just let Ol Zhai fulfill your wish!

    The two boys were crying inwardly, saying goodbye to the world, while Zhai Rangs palms landed on the tianling acupoint on the top of their heads.

    A loud crash severely shook their brains, they vision turned black, but immediately they regained their consciousness.

    While pondering whether they had arrived at the gate of hell, they found out that they were still sitting on the floor in the main hall. When their mind cleared up, they saw it was Zhai Rang who fell prostrate on top of their bodies; his face blue and his lips black, his entire body, from head to toe, trembled.

    The two boys were keen; they immediately realized that Zhai Rang had indeed received serious internal injury, only he suppressed it down, acting as if nothing had happened. Presently, in order to kill the two boys, he rushed his true qi indiscriminately, so that his internal injury flared out, in turn it rendered him useless like this.

    Kou Zhong pushed Zhai Rangs body and rolled him over on the floor. Stroking his chest he moaned, This guys palm power is really formidable. Xiao Ling, how are you feeling?

    Xu Ziling was still sitting on the floor. Massaging his chest, he said, Is everybody in the world only know how to bite the hand that feed him? Both father and daughter are just like that.

    Kou Zhong said, Right now escaping is more important, we must circulate our energy to treat our injury. Oh! He shuddered.

    With a bitter smile Xu Ziling said, You are cold as hell, but I am unbearably hot. My five viscera and six bowels feel like on fire.

    Suddenly they both were shaken, as if they came to realization together, and looked at each other with great delight.

    Kou Zhong pulled himself together, raised both his palms and said, You send your true qi from your right palm into the hollow of my palm, and I will send my true qi from my right palm into your body. Ha! This is our original creation on how to heal our injury.

    Without slightest hesitation Xu Ziling quickly raised his palm according to Kou Zhongs instruction, circulating his power and transferring his qi. At first it was still extremely painful and very difficult. From time to time they still vomited wisps of blood, but soon cold and hot streams were flowing together; round and round the streams cycled inside their bodies, continuously without any break.

    They did not know that this kind of blending of cold and hot stream had actually saved these two boys little lives.

    What happened was that although the two boys unwittingly achieved success in training the qi-circulating technique from one of the diagrams in the Secret to Long Life, their result actually tended to be too cold or too hot. During the initial phase, this matter did not pose any problem. However, as the qi inside their bodies started to build up, they were approaching the critical stage where too much is as bad as not enough. If this condition continued, inevitably they would suffer fire deviation. In the too cold situation, their meridian would freeze and congeal, and they die. In the too hot situation, their yueyong [lit. moon forever] channel would burst and they perish.

    Therefore, in critical moment this time the two boys mutually transferring the true qi from his own body to treat the others injury, because the source of their true qi was identical, it was tantamount to the two boys separately cultivating their internal energy, hence the two streams of qi merged together; not only it has greatly accelerated the progress of their cultivation, it has also brought up the miraculous result of the Secret to Long Life, which most people had never even dreamed about.

    If it were someone else, even if that persons talent was better than these two boys, by the time he reached the last two diagrams, he could forget about obtaining any result without spending eight or ten years.

    Deviating from the norm, the two boys have always trained separately, plus they did not understand how to blend the cold and the hot; therefore, contrary to expectation, they achieved the very purest result instead. Now that they blended with one another, it was as if individually they gained two-year worth of maturity.

    Up to this point, the two boys success was only a small part of the Secret to Long Life, but now they no longer deviate from the norm.

    Nobody knew how much time has passed; the two boys pain was gone. Although they still felt weak due to the blood loss, their spirit was very much alive; their senses and their mind were much keener than before.

    Zhai Rang was still lying on the floor, but he no longer shivered, his countenance looked much better than before.

    Kou Zhong withdrew his palms and said in low voice, Do you want to get rid of this ungrateful [lit. forget favors and violate justice] fellow first?

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, If we do that, Su Jie will never forgive us. Hey! Your cold true qi felt very comfortable to me. Thats strange! Why does my tianling acupoint feel like it opens wide, and a cold stream flowing continuously inside? The tip of my tongue also tastes sweet.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, And my yongquan acupoint is steaming hot. Come! Lets go, we must find Su Jie.

    Xu Ziling followed his lead and stood up. After looking cautiously at Zhai Rang on the floor, he whispered, There are so many people outside; what should we do?

    Kou Zhong said, It seems like they do not know what happened here yet; well change according to the situation.

    Steeling himself, Xu Ziling pushed the door open and walked out.

    Wang Ruxin was waiting outside the door. Seeing the two boys came out, his countenance became very strange; his mouth agape and he was speechless.

    Looking at his expression, the two boys knew that he was aware that Zhai Rang was going to kill them to shut their mouths. Hence when he saw the two boys strutting outside, alive and well, his face became ridiculously weird.

    Kou Zhong beamed in smile; pointing to his own noggin, he said, After listening to our story, Da Longtou knew there was some misunderstanding. But it has created new anxiety on him, so he told us to leave so that he could think quietly. He said nobody is allowed to come in and thus interrupt his train of thought.

    This was Kou Zhongs brilliance; knowing that Wang Ruxin understood the inside information, he used it against him.

    Xu Ziling gently closed the door, and while Wang Ruxin still did not know what to do, he ran after Kou Zhong, swaggering out of that place.

    As soon as they were out of the inner courtyard, the two boys rushed toward Zhai Jiaos personal quarter.

    Kou Zhong said, It would be best if we could sneak out with Su Jie and immediately go to Daiqing Yuan to find that Peipei that Yiqi Shan [see Book 3 Chapter 7] was talking about. Otherwise, if we are late by half a step, people might chop us to pieces.

    Xu Ziling was exceptionally cool-headed; he said in a low voice, I feel that my power has doubled; maybe I can jump over the city wall. But if I have to carry Su Jie, I dont have any confidence. To be honest, until now I am still not sure if Yiqi Shan really has yiqi [reminder: spirit of loyalty, code of brotherhood].

    Kou Zhong said, Our matter is as urgent as a horse running on the field, well borrow Yiqi Shans bridge first; whether after crossing the bridge wed pull the plank out or not, well think about it later.

    By this time the two boys have arrived at the main gate of Zhai Jiaos courtyard. One of the four guards at the door shouted, Did Miss summon you?

    With a pained expression Kou Zhong whispered, Were it not for her order, would you be willing to come see her?

    The guards all smiled knowingly. The two boys swaggered inside. That beautiful maid Chuchu happened to pass by inside the residence. Tugging at her sleeve Kou Zhong said with an embarrassed smile, Beautiful, how are you? Do you know where Su Jie is?

    Chuchus powdered face blushed slightly, casting a sidelong glance at him she snapped, You are not looking for me, how should I know where she is?

    Flinging his hand, she took a few steps forward before turning her head back and with a sweet smile said, Su Jie is serving Miss! Dummy! Finished speaking, she covered her laughing mouth with her sleeve, and then gracefully walked away.

    Noticing that at a moment like this Kou Zhong was still watching her in daze, he pulled him, hard. Kou Zhong came to his senses and followed Xu Ziling toward the door.

    Before they saw the person, Zhai Jiaos unpleasant voice was already heard, as she said angrily, I dont know what trick Die is playing, I only said a few words and he immediately wanted to see you, these two little demons. Didnt I already tell him everything? He should have let me to be present to listen to you.

    Kou Zhong rolled his eyes. Stepping into the hall, he cupped his fist and respectfully said, Da Longtou asked Miss to come see him. He also said he has a gift for Miss!

    Even Xu Ziling had to admire Kou Zhongs quick wit.

    Zhai Jiao was sitting in a chair inside, while Susu was standing by her side with a blank expression on her face. Hearing Kou Zhong, Ah! she exclaimed, and stood up and rushed out, stormed between the two boys, and darted out the door.

    The two boys were overjoyed at this unexpected turn of events. They bolted forward to grab the shocked Susu from left and right.

    Dont ask, Kou Zhong urgently said, If we dont leave now, I am afraid we wont have the chance forever.

    Susus countenance suddenly changed; her eyes were fixed at the door. The two boys hurriedly turned their head around, immediately their soul flew away and scattered, while in their heart they were continuously calling for their Niang.

  6. #46
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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 11

    Book 4 Chapter 11 Night Visit to the Pleasure House

    Zhai Rang, alone, stood in the middle of the door, staring coldly at the three people.

    Susu also felt that Zhai Rang was greatly different from usual; with a trembling voice she called out, Laoye!

    The two boys let off Susu and stood in front of her, preparing to fight to the death.

    Zhai Rangs countenance was back to normal, but it looked like he had aged by several years. With hands behind his back he slowly walked toward a chair, sat down, and spoke with soft voice, Susu, go inside, I want to speak with your two Didi.

    Obeying him, Susu was about to move, but Kou Zhong pulled her back; he said in heavy voice, How do we know that you dont have people waiting in the back for Su Jie.

    Seeing Kou Zhong was so rude toward her old master, Susu was so scared that the blood drained from her jade countenance.

    With a cold sneer Zhai Rang said, With just one order from me, do you think you will still be alive? There is no need for me to take you into my consideration.

    Susu implored the two boys in low voice, Please just listen to Laoye! Shaking off Kou Zhongs hand, she wobbled inside.

    The two boys exchanged some glances, and then both of them sat in front of Zhai Rang.

    Zhai Rang sized up the two boys in silence. Suddenly he said, Who is your Niang?

    Xu Ziling opened his mouth, he coldly replied, That is our secret.

    Zhai Rang flashed an angry look at first, but then it was as if his anger dissipated. Forget about it! he said, Just now you had the chance, but did not make your move to kill me. No matter how shameless or how despicable, I, Zhai Rang, will not make my second move! Previously I wanted to kill you to shut your mouth, I was indeed had no choice due to a predicament. Its finished! Everything is finished. I wanted to kill you because of my recurrent acute injury, its Laotian [Heaven] punishing me for repaying kindness with evil, I am the one to blame for inviting trouble for myself!

    Looking at this once all-powerful [orig. rebuking Heaven and Earth] figure under this all path exhausted, the road ended situation, the two boys were at a loss.

    Xu Ziling said, Da Longtou is back from great victory; even though Zu Junyan is in cahoots with outsiders, cant Da Longtou give your order and have those renegades head fall to the ground?

    Zhai Rang shook his head and sighed. He slowly said, Inside situation really must not be discussed with outsiders. Right now Ol Zhai only have one request, I wish two gentlemen can stay here ten days longer. After ten days, I will send people to escort you and Susu out.

    Die! Zhai Jiaos voice was heard from the door, You said you wanted to see daughter, why did you sneak up here instead?

    Zhai Rang looked at Wang Ruxin who came with Zhai Jiao, he said, Notify Duke Mi immediately, I want to have an emergency meeting in Longtou Mansion immediately.

    Everybody was stunned.

    Xu Ziling was lying on the bed. Kou Zhong was pacing back and forth in the room. Both had their eyebrows knitted deeply, they were completely baffled. Why did Zhai Rang want to kill them to shut their mouth? According to reason, he ought to be grateful to them for providing him with such useful information.

    Xu Ziling slapped the bed and said, It must be this: the mastermind behind Zu Junyan must be Li Mi, thats why old Zhai is having such a headache.

    Kou Zhong sat on the bed; he mused, But he does not have to kill us. The guy who plotted against the old Zhai was wearing a mask, and he was hiding inside the trunk to make his move, naturally it was because he was afraid Old Zhai would recognize him. Based on Old Zhais skill, the number of people who are qualified to plot against him cannot be too many; so who could it be?

    The two boys were severely shaken at the same time; they looked at each other.

    Trembling with excitement, Kou Zhong said, Are you thinking what I am thinking?

    Xu Ziling sat up, his eyes showed a horrorstruck expression, Must be Li Mi! he whispered.

    Kou Zhong took a deep breath. This is bad, he said, Old Zhai summoned Li Mi to have a meeting, obviously he is going to reveal his last card; wont he bring disaster to us and Su Jie? Speaking about scheming skill, old Zhai is not Li Mis match, especially now that he is injured so bad that he could not even kill us.

    It would be best for us to slip away as soon as possible, Xu Ziling said, But I know that there is a chance that Su Jie has heard Old Zhais remark that we are to stay ten more days before we can leave.

    Kou Zhong said, Wed better go to Daiqing Yuan [see Book 4 Chapter 9] first to get to the bottom of it. When we slip away in the future, it will be a lot more convenient; besides, if we stay ten more days, wont we find out whats going on?

    Xu Ziling said, But right now we have more martial art masters coming back with that Old Zhai, getting in and out will be very inconvenient.

    Kou Zhong said, Old Zhai did not say that we cannot stroll down the street. We can just strut down the main gate and test their reaction.

    Xu Ziling sprang up from the bed. They were about to go when from Kou Zhongs adjoining room they heard knocks on the door.

    Whos looking for me? Kou Zhong whispered, Its already late.

    Soon afterwards the knocks moved onto Xu Zilings door, followed by a sweet voice calling out, Kou Zhong! Kou Zhong!

    Kou Zhong stared blankly. Its Chuchu! he said, Really bad! He jumped; first three steps, and then two steps, and finally pulled the door open.

    Seeing Kou Zhong, Chuchus eyebrows rose up in delight; her gaze flitted over Kou Zhongs broad shoulders and she stole a glance toward Xu Ziling as she reached out to grab Kou Zhongs sleeve and pull him out.

    It was quite some time later that Kou Zhong returned, red-faced. Wiping his mouth, he said, The passion is really fierce, she also wanted to pull me into her room. This must not be the first time for her, otherwise she would not be able to teach me how to do things right like just now.

    Xu Ziling was horrified, Did you really f*ck her?

    Get lost! Kou Zhong snapped, Just kiss on the mouth, and stroking her fragrant shoulders! Our business is more important, lets go!

    Side-by-side the two boys left the courtyard of their living quarters, and walked toward the main gate.

    Flakes of snow were falling down from the sky like floating feathers, the moon and the stars did not show their light, the air was thick with an impenetrable feeling of tranquility, they met several mansion guards along the way, but nobody stopped them.

    When they reached the plaza in front of the main entrance, Tu Shufang caught up with them from behind. Where are you going? he asked.

    The boredom is driving us crazy, Kou Zhong replied, We want to go out to have a stroll!

    Tu Shufang cordially joined them, he accompanied them going through the main gate and onto the street. He asked in low voice, When you see Da Longtou today, what actually happened?

    The two boys did not really know how to answer; hence momentarily they were at a loss for words.

    There were very few people on the street; those they encountered were passers-by who curled up shivering while walking hurriedly to get out of the cold winter breeze, in stark contrast to the three mens heavy gaits, giving the impression that they were moving in sluggish, slow-motion steps.

    Tu Shufang sighed and said, Da Longtou is really injured, isnt he?

    The two boys nodded blankly.

    Tu Shufang continued, Did Da Longtou say who was that man who mounted a sneak attack on him?

    Kou Zhong shook his head, He did not say, but we were guessing it was Li Mi.

    Tu Shufang was severely shaken; he was pondering in silence.

    Xu Ziling looked around. Tu Shufang said, Dont bother, I guarantee nobody dares to follow you. Shen Luoyan does not have that kind of guts.

    Kou Zhong was shocked. When did that b1tch return? he asked.

    Just yesterday, Tu Shufang replied. And then he continued, I have long suspected Li Mi. His only apprehension is precisely Da Longtous martial art skill. These last half a year were indeed not good for Da Longtou; not only he had to pretend that he is not injured, he had to fight war on all sides. Were it not for this, Li Mi would have rebelled early on, then it would really be a great loss for Da Longtou.

    Kou Zhong seized this opportunity to ask, Da Longtou must have determined that the person who wounded him must be Li Mi; he summoned him to have a meeting, was it because he wanted to kill him?

    Tu Shufang shook his head, Ever since Zhang Xutuos defeat, they have been on guard against each other. Unless its a direct confrontation, nobody will be able to take advantage over the other. Ay! Each time Li Mi wins a battle, Da Longtous position suffers one big shaking, sending us into a situation where we take a complete beating. Most of the high-ranking military officers secretly express their loyalty and devotion to Li Mi only. Now that Da Longtou is injured, we dont have any asset with which we are going to confront Li Mi.

    Xu Ziling said, In that case, why not urging Da Longtou to avoid the problem by walking away from it? He could go someplace else and lay another foundations; it will definitely be better than staying here, waiting to be slaughtered by others.

    Tu Shufang halted his steps; he let out a wry smile and said, This matter has to be decided by Da Longtou, we can only do what he commands us to do. I want to go back now, you must not stay out too late.

    Waving his hand, he walked away.

    Hearing him, the two boys felt as if their heart was weighed down by lead; absent-mindedly they continued toward the direction of Daiqing Yuan.

    Kou Zhong looked up, letting the snowflakes landed on his face, enjoying the feeling of cold ice on his skin. He sighed and said, The struggle over the world [tian xia] has just begun, internal strife already appeared within the Wagang Army. Looks like Wagang Army is not a good material to vie for the world.

    Xu Ziling said ruefully, Just in that term vying for the world, naturally everybody will be you fight, I snatch. The greats will fight over big thing, the small will fight over small thing. Zhong Shao, do you still have the interest to enter the contest?

    Kou Zhongs spirit was shaken. He said, If the world is won by Li Mi, Ol Die, those kind of people who are crafty scoundrel by nature, wont common people suffer calamity? Dont you think it would be better if we became the emperor?

    Xu Ziling sneered and said, There can only be one emperor; you can become one. I am not interested.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud. When he looked up, he saw the Daiqing Yuans big courtyard and the golden-lacquered signboard. We are here! he happily said.

    Xu Ziling pulled him back. Are we going to go in and ask for Peipei right away? he asked.

    Kou Zhong was bemused, If we are not looking for Peipei, then whom are we looking for? he said.

    This place is Shen Luoyans old nest, Xu Ziling reminded him, Although she does not dare to send people trailing us openly, its impossible for her not to know if we are randomly barging all over the place. And then when she investigates later, she would immediately find out that as soon as we get in, we single out Peipei, as if we are her old flames. It would be strange indeed if that did not raise her suspicion.

    Kou Zhong slapped his forehead, You are very thorough, he admitted, What should we do then? Are we going in or not?

    We are definitely going in, Xu Ziling said, But it must be the procuress herself who introduces us. At that time well play it by ear!

    Kou Zhong let out a forced laugh; he said, We must not fail our bodies in vain. The fire in me lighted up by Chuchu has not stopped burning until now!

    Amidst the happy giggle, the two boys strutted into Daiqing Yuan.

    Seeing the robe the two boys were wearing had Big Boss Mansion insignia embroidered on it, the guards at the door did not dare to be negligent. Bowing respectfully with clasped hands they welcomed the two boys into the reception area, and handed them over to the female brothel keeper who was coming out to greet them.

    Although the two boys had never really enjoyed the gentle and soft taste of the inside of the pleasure house, they were already familiar with the initial procedure. First, they bestowed a tip, and then they found a set of chairs to sit down.

    The reception lobby was noisy, several pretty maids shuttling around six, seven groups of guests, waiting upon the customers attentively, while teasing and laughing with them; the air was thick with the thoughts of love.

    The procuress serving the two boys was called Lan Yi [lit. orchid aunt], a middle-aged, but still attractive woman, she still looked rather pretty. Just by looking at her good looks, they knew that the brothel Baling Bang operated was a first-class business.

    Lan Yi noticed the two boys were handsome and of outstanding quality. Xu Ziling was scholarly and classy, Kou Zhong was straight and impressive looking. It was the first time that she came across this kind of men in this kind of place. Her beautiful eyes were nearly burning with passion. With a smiling face that looked like a flower she said, Two Gongzi mustve just been back in triumphal return with Da Longtou, otherwise, how come tonight is the first time you came to visit us?

    Taking a cup of fragrant tea offered by a pretty maid, Kou Zhong giggled happily and said, There will always be first time for everything. Tonight it is the first time that I came across such an enchanting beauty like Lan Yi. Who knows? Perhaps in our previous lives we were husband and wife!

    Hearing that, Lan Yi covered her mouth while laughing tenderly; like a fluttering stem of flower she said, Gongzi really knows how sweet-talk a girl; be careful now, nujia might disregard the girls resentment and hog you for myself!

    Xu Ziling was quite amused to see Kou Zhongs action in pretending to be an old hand in the midst of a cluster of flowers; but he only watched silently from the side.

    However, how could Lan Yi be willing to spare him? Her beautiful eyes swept across, she threw a coquettish glance over at him and said, Xu Gongzi is a lot quieter than you are, but all the same nujia is bewitched that my mind is in chaos.

    Kou Zhong sank himself in the soft chair; he sneered and said, He is the one who ought to be bewitched; if you let this kid climb onto your bed, do you think he would still be able to maintain his current dignified air of a sour-looking old scholar?

    Noticing Xu Zilings face was blushing, Lan Yi laughed happily. She reached out to pat Kou Zhongs thigh and while catching for her breath, she said, Right now Kou Gongzi is like this, but when you are on my bed, will you be like a dead person?

    Inwardly Kou Zhong was smiling wryly; because if he really went into her bed, practically he did not know how to start. But of course on the surface he still maintained the air of a veteran who has criss-crossed the field of love. Slapping the arm of the chair he said, Who are the most popular girls in here?

    Lan Yi gladly obliged, Those with the highest status are already booked, but looking at two Gongzi, nujia may make exception to arrange for them to visit you. Let you meet them first, and then you can make your reservation. What do you think?

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Can you at least tell us their fragrant names first?

    Lan Yi mentioned five, six names in succession, like Cuier, Qinger, and so on, but there was no Peipei.

    Kou Zhong rolled his eyes; he laughed and said, Other than Lan Yi, who might be available to accompany us enjoying the night?

    Lan Yi cast him a sidelong glance in mock anger; she sultrily said, If Kou Gongzi tease nujia again, lets see if nujia will let you get away. And then she mentioned another string of names, but still there was no Peipei.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling felt a headache was coming. It was only then did they regret not asking Xiang Yushan for more details. But this moment they were already riding a tiger, it would be hard to get off.

    In the past, although the two boys adored pleasure houses, but since each time they visited a brothel they always had danger lurking on every side, plus they were anxious over Susu, as well as anxious over the risky conditions in which they were planning to escape, they lost the mood to have fun with women [orig. cuddle with the red and lying down with the bluish-green].

    However, if they turned on their heels just like that, it would be inappropriate; yet if they pressed on and continued questioning her, they would raise her suspicion. Logically speaking, it was unlikely that the entire brothel, from top to bottom, were Baling Bang people. If they were not careful, they would reveal their secret.

    Suddenly someone came to Lan Yi, leaned close to her and whispered a few words. When the man left, Lan Yis countenance became a bit unnatural; forcing a smile, she said, A room has just become available. It would be better for nujia to take two Gongzi there first, at least it will be better than waiting in this crowded room.

    The two boys knew she was not telling them the truth, but they both thought that very likely that Peipei found out about their arrival, hence they gladly followed her going upstairs.

    When the door opened, the person their eyes saw was Shen Luoyan, who was sitting calmly inside. She was greeting them with her charming smile.

    Lan Yi spoke in low voice, Nujia is only following order, two Gongzi please forgive me.

    The two boys felt as if a bucket of cold water had just been dumped onto their head, they both groaned inwardly.

    Kou Zhong carefully examined the surrounding; other than the young maid waiting upon them, there did not seem to be any troop lying in ambush. Therefore, he bravely walked in, and sat down across from her. Xu Ziling had no choice but to sit next to him.

    After the young maid left, Kou Zhong leered at her, Tonight, are you going to accompany me, or him?

    Shen Luoyan indifferently said, Of course I will accompany both of you. But only in this room, drinking wine and having a heart-to-heart chat.

    Tonight she was wearing plain white clothes, while outside the window the fine snowflakes floating in the air. The two boys felt that it was so hard for them to grow hostile toward her, yet they were fully aware that they were facing imminent catastrophe at every turn. It was indeed a very contradictory feeling.

    Xu Ziling sneered and said, Spit it out, Shaoye still needs to go home to sleep.

    Shen Luoyan raised her wine cup and cheerfully said, The night is young, raise your cup and have a heart-to-heart chat; isnt that a delight in ones life? Let Luoyan toast two gentlemen a cup.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, How do we know you didnt put any drug in the wine?

    Displeased, Shen Luoyan put down her cup; she said with a laugh, If I want to drug you, I dont need to show myself! You havent made any progress at all; instead of seeking pleasure in Longtou Mansion, where most imperial concubines from Yang Guangs temporary imperial residence live, you came here to spend your silver to buy some smile. I wonder if all men are miserable wretch like you?

    Kou Zhong countered by saying, Somebody received someone elses benevolence, yet instead of thinking about repaying the debt of gratitude, she only thinks about how to conspire against her benefactors. I wonder if those people were born with the heart of wolf and the lungs of dog?

    Pfft! Shen Luoyan burst in laughter. Touche! she said, But I am here now precisely to pay the debt of gratitude. Actually Luoyan is committed to give myself wholly to marry one of you, Shaoye!

    Here we go again! Xu Ziling was upset, If you continue like this, well just brush away our sleeves and leave.

    Shen Luoyan said, Xu Shaoye must not take offense, there is a rumor in Jianghu recently, Yuwen Wudi was beaten by you that he ran away in panic. If this continues, perhaps one day your fame and power will surpass Ba Fenghan and the shadow assassin Yang Xuyan, who are currently like the sun in the middle of the sky.

    Hearing the name Ba Fenghan, and found out about the name of the shadow assassin, the two boys spirit was shaken; they both had a faint feeling that one day these two men would become their opponent.

    Observing their countenance, Shen Luoyan was greatly astounded, Turns out the rumor is not false at all, she said, In that case, it was indeed you yourselves who dispelled the strength-scattering drug from your body by circulating your internal energy; no wonder at that time your forehead was gleaming with perspiration.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, All of those things have nothing to do with you. To make a long story short, Shaoye still want to seek pleasure.

    Shen Luoyan smiled and said, Then you ought to answer Luoyans question: among the outstanding heroes of today, who could surpass Duke Li?

    How about the Li Clan? Xu Ziling blurted out.

    Shen Luoyan showed disdain, From the four clan leaders, speaking about martial art skill, Li Yuan can only be ranked at the last of the list; speaking about ability and sagacity, he is also number one, if you count backwards. Speaking about personal character, he is cowardice, afraid of getting involved, indecisive, and just like you: he clings to the loveliness of a woman too much. Even knowing that it was a crime punishable by beheading, he still privately accepted from the palace supervisor of Jinyang Palace, Pei Ji, two stunning beauties hand-picked from Yang Guangs collection of palace maids. How can this kind of person accomplish big thing? I cant believe your vision is severely lacking like this!

    How would the two boys know that Li Yuan was that kind of person? But by looking at how Li Shimin was using a thousand ways and a hundred plans trying to get him to revolt, they knew that even if Shen Luoyan did not hit the target, she was not too far off.

    Shen Luoyan complacently said, As for your Old Die Du Fuwei, he can only be considered an ambitious and ruthless character of the underworld. Vying for territory in Jianghu, he is more than adequate, but vying for the world? When will his turn come?

    After a short pause, she continued, Right now Duke Mi has opened the storehouse to aid the common people. He also calls the world to arms, by enumerating Yang Guangs ten major crimes. The heart of the people all over the world, none did not turn toward him. Those with a clear view of things ought to know who has received the Heavens command to be the master.

    Xu Ziling let out a cold laugh and said, You open your mouth, you close your mouth, its always Li Mi this and Li Mi that; where actually have you placed Da Longtou?

    Totally unfazed, Shen Luoyan calmly replied, You can only blame yourself for being muddleheaded. Today Duke Zhai already informed me formally to notify Duke Mi that he is going to abdicate to yield to a more worthy person. As soon as the high-ranking military officers assemble, he will publicly announce this matter. Hence the reason I open my mouth, I close my mouth, its always Li Mi this and Li Mi that. So whats actually the problem?

    Hearing that, the two boys looked at each other. It was only then did they find out that Zhai Rang already publicly conceded, and gave up the Da Longtou [reminder: big boss] position of Wagang Army to someone else. Immediately they felt some kind of heavy burden has been relieved from their heart.

    A weapon of war ought to be kept in check.

    Shen Luoyans pretty eyes lit up, flashing an unfathomable expression.

    Kou Zhong still refused to concede; he said, What about the other three Clans? Will they be willing to sit back and watch the world falls into your Wagang Armys hands?

    Shen Luoyan cunningly and leisurely replied, The Song Clans power is in the south, they can only rely on northern power to get the things done; hence we can set them aside. Dugu Clans association with the imperial family is too deep; without the lips, the teeth feel the cold [i.e. interdependent], hence they also have no power to strive for the world. Only Yuwen Clan has sufficient manpower and enough talent to accomplish something small. But because they have been hunting dogs for so many years, they planted enmity everywhere. If Yang Guang perishes, Yuwen Clan will turn into a target of a multitude of arrows. Even if they have three heads and six arms, they will not be able to deal with it. Hee hee ! Plus you wont let Yuwen Huaji off. Is Luoyan correct?

    The two boys were silenced by her.

    This woman knew the current situation, big and small, from top to bottom, like the back of her hands; it was not surprising that Li Mi put her in an important position.

    Xu Ziling said, What about Guo Zihe, Liu Wuzou, Liang Shidou, three people? They have the Tujues behind their back. I am afraid your Duke Mi is not Bi Xuans match at all!

    Still relaxed, Shen Luoyan calmly said, As it turns out, that is precisely their biggest weakness. Honestly, do you want Tujues evil claws to be extended to the Central Plains? Duke Mi often says that opposing the will of the people is the surest way to defeat. Yang Guang is the best example.

    Kou Zhong looked like he was about to speak, but stopped himself at the last minute.

    Shen Luoyan laughed and said, You were going to ask about Dou Jiande, Wang Bo, or perhaps Shen Faxing, Li Zitong, Xu Yuanlang, and the others, werent you? Among the warlords vying for supremacy, only our Wagang Army has tight control over the throat of the canal connecting Yellow River and its tributaries. From the west going toward the Eastern Capital, from the east facing Jiangdu, just looking at the geographical location and the terrain, nobody can compete with us.

    Kou Zhong was totally unyielding; he sighed and said, After all is said and done, all you want from us is the secret of the Duke Yang Treasure. How about this: you marry one of us, the treasure will be yours so that in turn you can hand it over to Duke Mi to ingratiate himself with.

    Seeing that even though she had exhausted all arguments and still failed to convince the two boys, she was greatly frustrated, Go to your Niang, you little demons with garrulous tongue; just watch if I dont pull your tongue out.

    The two boys did not expect that Shen Luoyan who has always been refined, gentle and soft, could imitate them in speaking vulgar language; they were overjoyed.

    Finally Shen Luoyan was unable to hold her temper; brushing away her sleeve, she walked away and said, This is called refusing a toast only to be forced to drink a forfeit. If you could leave Xingyang safe and sound, I, Shen Luoyan, will

    The two boys exchanged a wink, and then together they loudly continued, Will give myself in marriage to you, two little demons.

    Shen Luoyan was taken aback, but then she regained her usual composure as she smiled sweetly and said, So be it!

    Listening to her footsteps disappearing in the distance, the two boys felt their scalp went numb.

    Why didnt she deal with them right away? Could it be that there was a larger conspiracy brewing?

  7. #47
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 4 - Chapter 12

    Book 4 Chapter 12 Disasters Sudden Arrival

    The next day Zhai Rang invited them to have breakfast together, accompanied by Wang Ruxin and Tu Shufang, but Zhai Jiao was not present.

    Zhai Rang appeared melancholy. After asking the two boys some everyday life, current situation matters, he silently drank his tea. The other four had no choice but to also keep silent.

    Out of the blue, Zhai Rang suddenly asked, Hows the situation over there?

    But Wang Ruxin seemed to understand what he was talking about; he replied, Yesterday I bumped into Xu Shiji; he said that Duke Mi is thinking about taking Liyang Storehouse. After Luokou is captured, militias from all parts of the country will come to realign their allegiance, so our armys prestige will be even more flourishing.

    Zhai Rang let out a stifled grunt, Any news from Yang Guangs side? he asked.

    Wang Ruxin said, Right now Wang Shichong is already in Luoyang, plotting a counterattack plan. This man is a great general of the imperial court, he is also proficient in military strategy and tactics, this time Duke Mi will meet a formidable opponent.

    Kou Zhong asked Tu Shufang in low voice, What kind of guy is Xu Shiji?

    Tu Shufang replied with a smile, He and Zu Junyan are known as the Two Valiant of Wagang Army, he is also Shen Luoyans boyfriend. But until now Shen Luoyan is still unwilling to marry him.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were greatly stunned; turned out Shen Luoyan was already taken [orig. famous flower has its owner]. A sour, helpless feeling suddenly floated in their hearts.

    Wang Ruxin added, I heard there is also a Sui government official called Wei Zheng[1], who is in charge of Wuyang County regions Cheng Yuans Treasure Code; three days ago he offered the entire set of the Treasure Code to Duke Mi, so that nowadays Li Mi has become the most prestigious figure among the militias.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling noticed how Wang Ruxin seemed to be constantly provoking Zhai Rang; inwardly they felt very strange.

    Zhai Rang pressed on the table and stood up; turning toward Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, two people, he softly said, Come with me to the garden!

    Unable to make any sense of it, the two boys simply followed him to the garden.

    Zhai Rang walked ahead of them, with his hands behind his back; he seemed to be deep in thought.

    The snow had stopped, but the snow accumulation on the ground reached about a chi deep; icicles were hanging down from the trees. Several servants were busy shoveling the snow; seeing Zhai Rang, they hastily went down on their knees to kowtow.

    Zhai Rang went straight toward the small pavilion in the middle of the garden. He looked up to the sky, and with his back still facing the two boys, he said, Sit down!

    The two boys sat down absentmindedly.

    Zhai Rang spoke in heavy voice, When I heard about you, I immediately sent people to check the events surrounding your past. Only last night they returned to report back to me. I really did not know that your names have already spread all around Jianghu. Evidently there are a lot of things that Li Mi is keeping from me.

    And then he turned around; with eyes burning he looked at the two boys and said, Do you really know the location of the Duke Yang Treasure?

    With a bitter laugh Kou Zhong replied, If we did, we would have gone to get it early on.

    Zhai Rang nodded. That is reasonable, he said, No matter how much Luocha Nu [woman] cherished you, in the end she was still a Korean, its improbable that she would entrust such matter concerning the rise and fall of her country two a couple of Central Plains people like you.

    In their hearts the two boys cried out, Close shave! It was best if Zhai Rang thought like that.

    Zhai Rang sighed and said, If I were as young as you are, I would definitely run far away from here. After my internal injury recovered, I would fight for the rivers and mountains again. But now I am already old, I dont have the courage to do it all over again.

    And then he continued, Were it not for Li Mis malicious plot against me, today to whom the deer falls [i.e. the one to seize the empire. On side note: Jin Yong explored this idiom in Deer and Cauldron.] is still unknown.

    Seeing the two boys were not surprised at all, he nodded and said, You have already guessed that the man hiding inside the trunk who plotted against me was indeed Li Mi.

    The two boys had no choice but to nod.

    Zhai Rang breathed out a mouthful of air; he continued, I can never let the enemy, as well as my own side, that I really suffer internal injury. Even Wang Ruxin thinks that Li Mis plot against me had failed. Thats why he is trying to incite me to kill Li Mi and seize the power back into my hands.

    Xu Ziling was baffled, Then why did you tell Shen Luoyan that you are giving up the Da Longtou position? Wouldnt it be the same as telling them that you are injured?

    Zhai Rangs countenance changed. Did you come across Shen Luoyan last night? he asked.

    The two boys narrated what had happened the previous night.

    Zhai Rangs countenance turned incredibly ugly. He sighed and said, You have fallen into her trap, basically there is no such thing. She intentionally said that because she knows the current close relationship between you and me, so she was testing your reaction. Supposing you did not show any sign of surprise, it would authenticate that I really suffer internal injury.

    Stunned, the two boys looked at each other, their mind was in turmoil.

    Zhai Rang recovered his composure, Dont blame yourselves, he said lightly, First of all, it was due to your lack of experience, secondly, Shen Luoyan is as crafty as a fox. All we have to do right now is to think of a way to remedy the situation.

    Xu Ziling apologetically said, We have implicated Da Longtou!

    Kou Zhong was overwhelmed with guilty feeling that he nearly wanted to kill himself. Slapping the stone table, he said, We shouldnt have slipped out.

    Zhai Rang sat down across the table from them, with an extremely solemn expression he said, We must beat them at their own game; lets get the throne out, hopefully it can buy us some time.

    After a short pause, he continued, Right now Ol Zhai has something Id like to entrust to you; I wish for you to take Jiaoer to a certain place, then I will have no fear of trouble in the rear, and will have free hand in dealing with Li Mi.

    The two boys felt big headache; dealing with this hard-to-please Zhai Jiao, a short time already felt like forever, how would dealing with her for a prolonged period of time feel like?

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Shen Luoyan hates us the most; just before leaving last night she said that she guarantees we wont be able to leave the city. Da Longtou is asking the wrong person.

    Zhai Rang was staring blankly for half a day. Finally he murmured, Who in the world does not want to catch you, yet you are still able to live free and easy. Its a clear sign that you do have some abilities.

    Hastily Xu Ziling declined modestly, That is because the opponents did not really want to kill us. Besides, all those times it was only the two of us, naturally making our escape were a lot easier.

    Zhai Rang nodded his agreement, In that case, he said, Ill have to make different arrangement to send off Jiaoer. Do you want me to send Susu along?

    The two boys hurriedly replied, That wont be necessary!

    Zhai Rang smiled wryly and said, It was because I spoiled her, nowadays everybody is afraid of Jiaoer. Only she and Susu happen to be especially good to each other. Ay!

    Remembering that Zhai Rang let Susu to accompany Wang Bodang, the two boys did not feel particularly sympathetic toward his laments.

    Zhai Rang continued pouring out his heart to the two boys, When you reach to where I am, you will know that youll have to do a lot of things against your will. It was because I am not as ruthless as Li Mi that today I came to this plight.

    The two boys did not know how to comfort him.

    Zhai Rang suddenly took off the dragon-engraved ring from his left middle finger. Stuffing it into Kou Zhongs hand, he said, Jiaoer will leave today, and tomorrow it will be your turn. One more day Li Mi has not returned, one more day the city of Xiangyang remains in my control.

    Kou Zhong looked down to examine the ring in his palm; he was confused, This is

    Zhai Rangs voice was heavy, I dont have any face to ask you to help me. But in order not to let my men suspect that I am a coward, I can only go to outsiders like the two of you to do it.

    Xu Ziling said, Whatever errands Da Longtou wants us to do, there is no harm in telling us.

    Zhai Rang said, Supposing my delaying tactic succeeded, I want you to take this ring to Leshou and look for Dou Jiande. In terms of talent, wisdom and martial art skill, this man is above me, plus he has a deep friendship with me. You can truthfully tell him my situation. What comes next, just leave it to him to handle.

    Kou Zhong received the ring, and resolutely said, Such a trivial thing, we can certainly do it for Da Longtou.

    Zhai Rang suddenly revealed a cold and ruthless smile as he said in low voice, He is ruthless, I wont hold on to righteousness. I only need to spill a bit of secret to Wang Shichong, I guarantee thatll teach Li Mi a lesson in suffering defeats. And then the legend that he emerged victorious in every battle will collapse.

    Hearing that, Kou and Xu felt a chill crept in their heart.

    Although right now they were standing on Zhai Rangs side, they did not dare to give compliment toward the way he conducts himself or his method.

    Zhai Rang also seemed to realize that he had committed a faux pas. You may go back now, he said, I still want to sit here and think about how to arrange for your departure. I will let you know later.

    The two boys breathed a sigh of relief and withdrew in haste.

    Li Mi may come back any minute, they went to Tu Shufang; Kou Zhong asked for a long saber, but Xu Ziling wanted to use short halberd. They both thought that starting now, even going to sleep they had to have their weapons in their bosom.

    The two boys also went to find Susu, telling her that they were leaving tomorrow night. Afterwards they went back to the courtyard to practice martial art.

    That day passed uneventfully. After dinner, the two of them returned to hide in their room.

    Kou Zhong said, Since that loathsome granny Jiao is leaving tonight, wed better have Su Jie sleep in my room, while the two of us sleep together here like before. If something happens, escaping will be more convenient.

    Xu Ziling agreed, Old Zhai is asking us a favor, he wont dare to oppose. Whatever we do, even if his eyes are wide open, he would have no choice but just turning a blind eye on us.

    He has not finished speaking, there was a knock on the door, Susus voice was heard outside, Are you there?

    The two boys were greatly delighted; busily they welcomed Susu inside. Who would have thought that as soon as the door was closed, she threw herself to the two boys and cried bitterly? Miss has left! she said with a sob.

    Recalling Zhai Jiao, no matter how hard they tried, they simply could not emulate Susus distress.

    Some comforting words later, Susu was calming down somewhat, but her pretty eyes were quite red and swollen from crying.

    Susu agonizingly said, Now you are the only family Jiejie has, will you leave Jiejie?

    To comfort Susu, Kou Zhong laughed and said, Of course not, unless Jiejie really loves that Yiqi Shan. Married woman naturally cannot have us cherish our Jiejie anymore.

    Susu turned tears into laughter; pouting playfully, she reprimanded him lightly. The two boys hastily carried out their magic, and only when she seemed to forget Zhai Jiao that they made their proposal to have her stay in the adjacent room.

    Susu rolled her pretty eyes; blushing, she said, The bed is so big, if the three of us sleep together, wont it be safer?

    Xu Ziling jumped in fright, How can that be?

    Susu crossly said, Dont you dare having ideas. Between us, sister and brothers, we are as bright as the sun and the moon, its just that this time we are a bit closer than usual! This is everybodys dream, actually.

    Kou Zhong stammered, If people find out, what would they think?

    Susus pretty face blushed slightly, but she persisted, Who would find out? Dont tell me you dont think it is fun?

    Finally Xu Ziling conceded, Jiejie is not afraid, what are we afraid of? Tonight the three of us, sister and brothers will share the bed. Zhong Shao, you must not make any illicit move.

    Kou Zhong cried out to heavens for the injustice he received, Who do you think Zhong Shao is? Much less I revere Jiejie as an immortal. Xiao Ling, I demand an apology.

    Susu cheerfully said, I trust you, that should be enough.

    Xu Ziling warned her, This kid Kou Zhong always brandish his hands and swinging his legs during sleeping, for the past many years I dont know how many times I was punched by his fist, was kicked by his legs.

    Kou Zhong laughed bitterly and said, Worst case scenario, Jiejie can sleep on your side over there.

    Susu shook her head, No! she said, I want to sleep between the two of you. Both are my good Didi.

    The two boys were overwhelmed with emotion that they felt like crying. Right now the three sister and brothers only had each other to depend to.

    Be careful, Xu Ziling reminded Kou Zhong, Chuchu might come to look for you. That will spoil our grand plan.

    Ah! Susu exclaimed; from her bosom she took out a necklace with jade pendant, and solemnly said, I came here this time, it was actually on behalf of Chuchu, to give this jade pendant to you; she implored me to personally witness you putting it on your neck.

    Kou Zhong was shaken. Did she leave with your Miss? he asked.

    Susus emotion was stirred up with concern again, her elegant eyes turned red; hanging her head, she nodded.

    Kou Zhong solemnly took the jade pendant and put it on around his neck, and then he sighed and said, Why does the love between man and woman cause so much pain?

    Stomping his feet, Xu Ziling said, You should have asked Old Zhai to leave her behind.

    With a wry smile Kou Zhong said, At that time I practically did not even think about her. But now I am very sad, just like if I have lost something very precious in my life.

    Xu Ziling asked Susu on his behalf, Do you know where your Miss is going?

    Susu shook her head, Even Miss herself did not know, she replied, Only Tu Shufang knows.

    Xu Ziling said, We can always ask Old Zhai tomorrow.

    Kou Zhong felt a little relieved; he was back at his giggling manner as he teased Susu, Jiejie, can we go to bed now?

    Susu gracefully rose up, kicked her boots, threw off her silk gown, exposing her even more well-developed curves.

    Dont take off more clothes! Xu Ziling hastily said, If something happens we can go a bit faster.

    Susu stomped her feet in anger, Xiao Ling, really! Who wants to take off more clothes?

    Although the three of them were babbling about Li Mi was going to attack Big Boss Mansion tonight, but actually none of them really thought that Li Mi would return tonight.

    From his pile of clothes in the trunk Kou Zhong took out a cloth belt, tossed it toward Xu Ziling and said with a laugh, I want you to take care of this life-saving rope; if something happens, you carry Su Jie on your back, while I will be responsible to open up a path, killing our way out of the heavy siege.

    Susu shuddered. Can you not talk about scary things like that? she said.

    Xu Ziling lifted up the mosquito net and respectfully said, Jiejie, please!

    Smiling, Susu gracefully climbed onto the bed, and lay down in the middle. Flustered, the two boys hastily blew out the oil lamp and took off their outer robe. And then one after another they climbed from the foot of the bed and lay down on Susus left and right.

    In the darkness of the room, the three peoples heart was throbbing. Susu suddenly broke into giggle; gasping for breath, she said, I will be surprised if you dont fall off the bed tonight; cant you get closer to me?

    The two boys also giggled and scooted closer to her. An unbounded sweet and warm feeling welled up in three peoples heart. Susu pulled the quilt over to cover all of them. She sighed and said, Even if I die tonight, Jiejie has two such good Didi like you, I feel that my life has not been in vain.

    Uh? she suddenly exclaimed, How come you did not even take off your boots?

    The two boys laughed hysterically. Kou Zhong struggled hard to take a deep breath to say, So that when we have to flee it will be a bit more convenient!

    Susu was cross; she sat up and had the two boys take off their boots.

    While they were busy doing her bidding, suddenly there was a Pop! Pop! noise out of nowhere, followed by sound of people shouting.

    Kou Zhong sprang up, pushed the window open and saw blazing fire from the direction of the front courtyard, the intensity of the fire was terrifying.

    By this time Xu Ziling and Susu had come to his side; watching the scene, they were dumbstruck.

    The fire is strange, Kou Zhong said, Must be an insider job. Before he even finished speaking, sound of fighting came from four sides, eight directions.

    Staying calm, Xu Ziling kneeled down and called out, Jiejie, quickly climb onto my back.

    Susu was so frightened that her knees went soft. She had to leaned on Kou Zhong, who quickly grabbed her and helped her up on Xu Zilings back.

    Althought Xu Ziling felt that Susus body emitted a high degree of attractive force, his heart was pure; he hastily cleared his mind and steered away his thought from that direction.

    Susu only felt that this little brothers broad back was warm and safe. Considering that she was scared out her wits [orig. lost soul, dropped spirit], for the time being she was not lost in wild and fanciful thoughts either.

    The sound of clashing weapons kept coming in. After tying Susu well, Kou Zhong fetched the short halberd for Xu Ziling, while took the long saber for himself.

    You follow behind me, he said coldly, If we get separated, well meet again at Daiqing Yuan. You must never try to leave the city, Li Mi will never let anybody out of the city.

    Finished speaking, he rushed out of the window.

    Xu Ziling gathered his thought, and then followed behind him.

    Kou Zhong leaped to a high place, and saw all around him were warriors wearing red cloth on their heads, attacking in full force, killing the guards of the Big Boss Mansion, even the maids and servants were not spared. For a short while the sound of wailing shook the sky.

    Zhai Rangs voice was heard coming from the left, Revel thief Li Mi, do you dare to fight mano a mano with me, Zhai Rang?

    Li Mis gentle and pleasant-to-hear voice responded, Da Longtous request, how could Li Mi dare not to comply?

    This moment Xu Ziling already caught up with Kou Zhong; he called out, This is the only chance to escape!

    Kou Zhong understood immediately. If they did not take advantage of the moment Zhai Rang pinning down Li Mis main force to escape, they might never have the chance to leave.

    With a loud shout Kou Zhong raised his saber and flew toward the eaves of the building to their right.

    End of Book 4


    [1] Wei Zheng (580-643), Tang politician and historian, notorious as a critic and editor of the History of Sui Dynasty.

  8. #48
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 1

    Book 5 Chapter 1 Escape By The Skin Of Their Teeth

    Most of Zhai Rangs Big Boss Mansion had caught fire, and the fire was continuously spreading, the flame illuminated the sky, reflected by the dark cloud above that it felt like a big rock pressing on their hearts. Although the fire intensity was increasing, nobody was fighting it. The shouting from the killing shook the heavens; dead bodies were everywhere. Li Mis men had their faces covered in black cloth like nightwalkers, making it difficult to recognize them.

    Kou Zhong raised his saber to open up a path, Xu Ziling, with Susu on his back, followed behind him. They had just leaped up onto the tiled roof when four men in black pounced on them like mad tigers. When they saw that Kou and Xu, two people were not wearing black, they immediately raised their swords to slash at them.

    Kou Zhong met the attack head-on. In this critical moment, automatically the true qi within his body surged on; an extremely cold qi, hidden inside a warm stream, flowed from his hand onto his long saber, emitting a whistling noise as it slice the air, cutting across the enemy.

    The man had never imagined that the sabers momentum could be this swift and fierce. The most frightening thing was that the opponents blade carried a blast of incomparably frigid cold saber qi, so that when the enemy met it, he would immediately feel the chill in his heart, that even his qi and blood could not flow unimpeded.

    By the time the man allocated at least half of his strength to resist Kou Zhongs saber qi, Kou Zhongs long saber had already hacked onto the mans sword so that from attacking, the sword turned into blocking the saber instead.

    Dang! A clear ringing noise was heard, the man let out a miserable scream; unexpectedly the sword, along with the man, were hacked by Kou Zhongs saber that he fell off the roof tile.

    Kou Zhong was also shaken by the mans reacting force that his wrist felt numb. But a sudden qi arose from within his body; the numbness and pain immediately subsided.

    At this moment his eyes, ears, nose and the other senses have become incomparably sharp; so much so that his skin was able to clearly sense the variation in the air surrounding him due to the opponents movements. Although by this time, due to lack of experience he was unable to reach the state all-seeing, but the day would come when even if his two eyes were blindfolded, he would be able to see the opponents attacking move.

    After the enemy taking the lead to attack had fallen, the other three men were obviously so shocked that their actions suffered a split-second delay, exposing a gap in their offense. Without even thinking Kou Zhong swiftly charged from the slanted roof tile surface going upwards, entering the gap in the middle of the enemys attacking formation. His long saber swept in a large circle, slashing the three enemys swords in succession.

    This time, the people following Li Mi in the raid on the Big Boss Mansion were all handpicked from among Li Mis troops, every one was skilled, valiant, and ferocious; but encountering Kou Zhong, who was even braver and more unstoppable than they were, their acute spirit was dampened. The first two men had their swords hacked by Kou Zhong; they let a stifled grunt, and were forced to retreat.

    After dispelling the threat from these two swords, Kou Zhongs murderous spirit arose. With a loud shout his broadsword increased in speed, with all his strength he hacked down on the last mans sword.

    The man brandished his sword to block, but he felt the opponents saber strength was as heavy as a mountain; his entire body felt like he has just entered an icehouse. With a miserable scream he was hacked down by Kou Zhong that he rolled down to the ground.

    While Kou Zhong was still pondering why he became very formidable, Xu Ziling swept past to his side, while hurling another man in black in Kou Zhongs direction. The man was jolted back by Kou Zhong that his qi and blood surged, and the icy cold saber qi penetrated his meridian; the feeling was unbearable. Suddenly hot tears welled up like lightning in his eyes. He was just about to raise his sword to block, the pit of his stomach felt as if he was struck by lightning. Without even having time to scream, he was thrown backward, fell face up on the ground and died a violent death.

    The other man was so scared that he turned around and ran toward the other side of the roof, while pursing his lips to send out a whistle, calling for help. The two boys exchanged glances; they did not dare to remain on the roof, hence they jumped down to the ground and relying on their memory, they killed their way to the left, toward the three buildings in the eastern courtyard. As long as they could cross the eastern courtyard, they would be able to climb over the high wall, and out of the Big Boss Mansion.

    However, Li Mis force was very organized; in groups of three or five, they combed the area looking for the enemy. Whenever they saw people not wearing black clothes, they showed no mercy and simply killed them.

    On the other hand, the mansion guards on Zhai Rangs side was like a sheet of loose sand; every body was trying desperately to break out of the siege, no longer had any heart to continue fighting. Which one was the strong, which one was the weak, it could be clearly and easily seen.

    Kou and Xu, two boys had just taken about ten paces or so, they already met a group of enemy numbering about a dozen, some of them even burst out of the window of a nearby building, charging madly toward the two boys.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were scared out of their wits; they accelerated forward so that in the twinkling of an eye the distance between two sides increased considerably.

    Kou Zhong was afraid the opponent would harm Susu with secret projectiles, hence they turned around behind the main hall, and like arrows the three of them flew toward the eastern courtyard.

    Ahead they saw a group of men in black were surrounding about a dozen or so Zhai Mansions guards, engaging them in fierce battle. Xu Ziling was thinking about leaping onto the roof, but he suddenly felt splatter of blood coming from someone who was falling off the roof. Clenching his teeth, he rushed even faster forward, sweeping toward two men who had their back towards him.

    The two men suddenly felt a blast of qi entering their body; abandoning the enemy in front of them, they turned their swords around to block. Xu Ziling let out a wild roar, his short halberd swept the sword of the one on the right first, jolting the man so that he was thrown aside. Immediately afterwards he changed his move, the short halberd pulled and pushed, so that the other man was blocking an empty space, and then Xu Ziling watched for a gap he could exploit, the tip of his halberd entered the mans chest.

    By the time the man fell dead, Xu Ziling, with Susu on his back, already entered the center of the hard battle. Like a shadow Kou Zhong followed closely behind him; flipping his broadsword up, he deflected an incoming lance, and then with another flip he hacked another mans flank.

    As the Zhai Mansion guards felt the hard pressure suddenly decreased, they all scattered in all directions. The situation was extremely chaotic.

    Kou Zhong turned his head around and saw the dozen or so enemies they left behind were closing in fast. Aghast, he yelled, Go!

    Xu Ziling was also aware that the situation was extremely critical, if the enemy managed to cut their path, they would lose their lives right then and there. Additionally, he felt Susus body on his back was trembling violently. His heroic spirit rose up; using only the toes on his feet as a support, his short halberd turned into hundreds of flashing blades, forcing the four enemies right in front of him to scatter away, and thus he managed to split the encirclement, and was finally able to dash toward the eastern courtyard.

    But the situation on the area surrounding the Zhai Mansion was even more dangerous. Apparently Li Mi has deployed a massive military force to prevent anybody from the Zhai Mansion from escaping. They saw human shadows everywhere; you chase after me, I pursue you, the killing was so intense that the moon and the stars lost their light.

    The three people dashed to the left and darted to the right; each time they were forcing their way toward the eastern courtyard, they were always repelled by the enemy. Not too long afterwards, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling already suffered countless minor injuries; even Susus milky white back also suffered a long blade cut. Fortunately, in their attempt to escape, the several dozen Zhai Mansion guards were also rushing the same way, so that they impeded the enemys movement. Otherwise, their lives would definitely be hard to protect. Moreover, the two boys had already cut down at least a dozen men from the enemys side.

    After cutting down five more enemies, under the light from the raging fire the two boys saw that the enemy had seized complete control over the situation; they were surrounding and killing the remaining thirty or so Zhai Mansion guards and slowly pushing them into a corner, unlike the previous you chase after me, I pursue you situation, where everybody was running randomly in all directions.

    By this time the three people had arrived at coppice woodland outside the reach of the firelight; it seemed that the enemy has temporarily forgotten about them. Looking to the west, most of the buildings in the Zhai Mansion complex had already engulfed in flame, while burst of shouting, yelling and screaming of the battle still came intermittently.

    Susu wept. Laoye must be dead, she cried.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged a glance; they both felt their qi was depleted their strength gone, they no longer felt as brave as before.

    Kou Zhong asked, Is there any hiding place around here?

    Susu was still shaking in fear by a miserable scream from the direction of the battle; hearing the question, she stared blankly for a moment before pointing toward a rockery in the middle of the pond situated north of the eastern courtyard. Lets go that way! she said.

    Without even thinking Xu Ziling carried her on his back flying toward the big pond about a dozen zhang away.

    Kou Zhong caught up next to Susu and asked, Is there any place in the pond we can hide?

    Susu anxiously replied, Inside the rockery there is a little pond that was used as fish hatchery; after the water was drained, it became a dry well. It is completely hidden.

    The two boys were greatly delighted; increasing their vigilance, they listened to eight directions. After evading two groups of the enemy, they proceeded cautiously; making sure nobody noticed their movements. Taking advantage of the immensely golden opportunity while the enemys attention was focused on stopping the Zhai Mansion guards from escaping, they flitted across the side of the pond, and landed on the fake rock, which diameter was close to two zhang.

    Following Susus direction, the three of them squeezed into the small well, about five chi deep and four chi across [1 chi is approx. 1/3m or 1ft]. Unless someone deliberately broke into the crack in the rock and reached the side of the well, nobody would be able to find the three people.

    Thump, thump, thump They heard each others heart beating wildly. It was quite a while before, like the killing noise outside, their hearts gradually calmed down.

    Kou Zhong said in a low voice, Is Zhai Rang finished?

    Xu Ziling was about to reply when suddenly he felt his collar was dripping wet; turned out Susu was crying silently. Although the well was dark and he was unable to see Susus expression, he knew that she was choked with the bleakest emotions; his heart ached as he said, Dont cry! Your Laoye has led uprising in the past; he would have known that a day like this may come. The situation right now is if you dont kill me, then Ill kill you.

    Pressing himself against Susus back, Kou Zhong also whispered comforting words in her ear, In the future it will be the two of us who take care of Jiejie!

    The noise outside suddenly died down, even the crackling noise of the fire seemed to disappear; only occasional rustling noise of the sleeve against the breeze was still heard. Apparently Li Mis men were conducting thorough search to ensure no one slipped through their net.

    The three people knew it was a critical moment, they were so scared that they did not even dare to let even half a mouthful of heavy breathing escaped from their nostrils. Additionally, from time to time there were people raising their torches high to look at the rockery; fortunately no one could ever imagine that there was a dry well inside it.

    After nobody knew how long, a gentle and pleasant to hear voice was heard from the edge of the pond, Still cant find those two kids?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling recognized Li Mis voice; immediately in their hearts they did not stop crying out for their Niang.

    Luckily the other party was separated by a distance of four, five zhang, plus the three of them were hidden in the well under the fake rock; otherwise, it would be impossible to conceal their presence from this martial art master whose name shook the world.

    Zu Junyans voice was heard, They were last seen around this courtyard; that Xu kid was even carrying that precious little maid Susu on his back. And then in the confusion nobody knows where they sneaked out to.

    A loud and clear male voice was heard, Logically speaking, they must be hiding inside the Mansion; but now all rooms have been burned down, the underground tunnel has also been blocked. Where could they go?

    Shen Luoyans tender voice was heard next; she let out a snort and said, Even if they were able to escape from the Mansion, they can forget about leaving the city.

    While inside the well Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were busy raining down curses on her, Li Mi spoke indifferently, In any case, dont let these two boys escape. If we cant use them, finish them off with a blade, to avoid a new branch grows out of a knot. Understand?

    Zu Junyan and the other chorused their compliance. The sound of footsteps was getting farther and farther away.

    The three people have just breathed a sigh of relief, Shen Luoyans sigh was heard, Shiji, my heart is a bit uneasy.

    It was only then did the three people realize that the man with a loud and clear voice was Li Mis other general, Xu Shiji, who also happened to be Shen Luoyans boyfriend.

    Xu Shiji said, Luoyan, your wisdom and intelligence have always surpassed others, you always plan in advance; why are you suddenly sounded so bleak, as if you have lost all hopes?

    Shen Luoyan let out a gloomy sigh again, and gently said, These two boys skill is getting better every day, each encounter is more formidable than the last; even Bai Laoliu [ol six], Xie Hei, those kind of martial art masters were sent to the western paradise just in a few encounters with them. Moreover, the cause of their death was because their heart and artery were shattered by their powerful qi. If this time we are unable to hold them down, in the future they will become a disaster for us.

    Listening to his, Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings heroic spirit swelled uncontrollably; they had just found out that turned out they carried enough weight in the minds of the enemy.

    Xu Shiji let out a cold snort and said, If it werent for the fact that our attention was focused on that dead devil Zhai, how could they have the chance to show off? Leave the search to me! Even if they flew to the end of the sky, I will bring their body back for you to see.

    The noises outside died down.

    The three people were unable to resist their exhaustion; they fell asleep in each others embrace. Finally they were able to accomplish the magnificent feat of sleeping together.

    One after another the three of them were awakened by the cold falling snowflakes.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling have mastered the divine skill of Secret to Long Life, it was only natural that they were able to withstand the cold. Susu was wearing fur coat, plus she had practiced a little bit of martial art, and on top of that, she put on a cloak, which rendered her cold proof. The unbearable thing was that Kou Zhong, who pressed himself against her back, was emitting a stream on strangely cold qi that made her feel extremely uncomfortable; while on the other side Xu Ziling was emitting an incomparably hot qi. It was as if her body was subjected to a severe winter on one side, and intense summer on the other; half cold half hot. She did not know whether she ought to feel painful or happy.

    Xu Ziling was the first to realize this situation; he knew during sleeping Kou Zhong would spontaneously circulate his qi. Zhong Shao, he called out softly, Still havent restrained your inner qi?

    Kou Zhong obeyed him and woke up. Susu immediately felt a bit better.

    By this time the heavy snow had nearly filled the space above the three people to the brim. Naturally Kou and Xu, two boys had no problem. Automatically the true qi within their body reacted; the breathing from their mouth and nose was severed, they entered the inner-breathing state like a fetus. However, Susu did not have this kind of ability; she felt drowsy very quickly. I am stuffy! she moaned.

    Xu Ziling was about to push the snow out to let Susu breathe a bit of fresh air. A multitude of footsteps was coming near, someone spoke, Drain the pond water, I heard they are proficient in breathing-under-water skill, perhaps they are still hiding at the bottom of the pond. Humph! Let me search this pond carefully one more time.

    Recognizing the voice as belonging to Xu Shiji, how could the three people dare to move? Listening to Susus breathing that was increasingly short and hurried, the two boys were greatly anxious. If this condition continued, just the sound of her breathing would be enough to alert the enemy; not to mention she might be suffocated to death.

    They heard the sound of rushing wind; obviously someone was crossing the pond, flying toward the fake rock.

    Xu Ziling was facing Susu. Although he could not see Susus expression due to the thick snow above them, from the heaving of her breasts he knew that she was on the verge of taking her last breath, yet for the sake of the two boys, she fought hard to restrain herself. Critical situation gave birth to quick-wittedness; pressing his lips against her fragrant lips, he transferred his true qi to her.

    Susus tender body trembled a little before calming down. Her icy-cold lips gradually warmed up, as she silently receiving the true qi that made her entire body relaxed.

    The three of them felt people were walking back and forth above; hence they were forced to beseech the gods and pray to Buddha that the people above would not step onto the snow covering the hole above their heads; otherwise, they would definitely be able to tell that there was something different with the snow.

    Crash! Someone opened the sluice, with a loud crash the water flowed out of the pond.

    Shen Luoyans voice was heard from the outside, I think they have already escaped. With a glance you can already see the bottom of the pond, there is no way anybody could hide in here.

    Xu Shiji clearly shared similar impression; he coldly said, They must be still in the city, well mobilize our troops immediately to search for them house-to-house, I want to see where can they go?

    A long time after Shen Luoyan and the others left, Kou Zhong was the first to stick his big head out of the snow and happily said, They are all gone! Only then did Xu Ziling leave Susus fragrant lips and help her to stand up.

    Turned out it was already dawn. Heavy snow was still swirling in the air; the Zhai Mansion had turned into broken-roof crumbling-wall ruins after the fire.

    Susu has been sitting with bent knees all night long, her legs went numb. Were it not for Xu Ziling holding her arm, she would not be able to stand.

    Noticing the slight blush on Susus pretty face, plus her bashful demeanor as if she did not dare to look straight at him, Xu Ziling could not help recalling the interlocking of the two sets of lips just now, and some kind of peculiar feeling grew in his originally pure heart.

    How could Kou Zhong be willing to let him get away with it just like that? Leaning closer to Susu, he whispered in her ear, Jiejie was kissed by Xiao Ling, how about letting him marry you?

    Dont talk nonsense, Susu snapped at him, Xiao Ling was doing that to save my life! How can you say that?

    Kou Zhong slapped his forehead and remorsefully said, I deserve the scolding! I nearly forget that when sister-in-law is drowning, we must lend a helping hand. [Translators note: I believe he was referring to Confucianism restriction in man-woman relationship.] Therefore, in this situation Xiao Ling was also helping Jiejie hey! There is nothing strange about it.

    Susu turned around planted a very light kiss [orig. the dragonfly touches the water lightly] on Kou Zhongs lips; she spoke tenderly, This way I treat you fairly. Dont laugh at Xiao Ling again.

    While Kou Zhong was as dumb as a wooden chicken, Xu Ziling said, Dont be ridiculous; right now running away for our lives is more important. What should we do?

    At this time the three of them still had the lower part of their bodies hidden inside the snow-covered well, only their upper bodies were exposed outside. While helping Susu brushing off the snowflakes from her beautiful hair, Kou Zhong mused, Now our hope is on the one called Peipei from the Daiqing Lou [sic. It was yuan in previous chapters.] But if we go there to look for her just like this, chances are we are going to reveal ourselves. Besides, at the moment we are not able to move a single step within the city of Xingyang. It would be best if we could find a place where we could hide for his mothers several days, waiting for the smoke to clear, and then when Shen Poniang [b1tch] and the rest think that we have gone far away, well go to Peipei, asking her to find a way. This way it will be absolutely safe.

    With a bitter laugh Xu Ziling said, Who dares to offer shelter to us now?

    Susus voice was trembling, They said they are going to conduct house-to-house search, it would be better for us to just stay here.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, In this kind of weather, if we stay here, we will either die of the cold, or die of starvation. Ha! Does Jiejie know where that Shen Luoyans thieves lair is?

    Susu was shocked. You are not thinking of hiding in her home, are you? she asked.

    Kou Zhong laughed. Where can we find a hiding place more secure than her place? he said, Right now this b1tch is under Li Mis order to search for us, she shouldnt have time to go home to sleep, we will enter by exploiting this weak spot and put up with her place just for a few days. By the time she goes home, it will mean that the search is over, and then we can go to find Peipei.

    Xu Ziling was greatly moved; he nodded and said, According to reason, Shen Poniang wouldnt be so bad that she wont even spare her own thieves lair. This plan is certainly feasible.

    Susu still did not feel at ease. But there other people in her home! she said in fear.

    Nothing more than several maids, servants and low-grade workers, Kou Zhong proudly replied, Do you think she will station a massive military force over there, to guard the ladys chamber like the battlefield? Ha! Xu Shiji coming is another story altogether.

    Finally Susu was persuaded; she told them where Shen Luoyans official residence was located.

    The three of them waited until dark. This time Kou Zhong carried Susu on his back. Unleashing their Bird Crossing Technique, they leaped onto roofs and vaulted over walls toward Shen Luoyans residence to hide.

  9. #49
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 2

    Book 5 Chapter 2 Big Hiding Place in the City

    Were it not for Susu had once come with Zhai Jiao to call on Shen Luoyan, even if they had her address in hand, perhaps they would have to waste considerable time before they could find this vicious and merciless beautys fragrant residence.

    Shen Luoyans house was located in a residential area by the eastern city wall, where the buildings were situated next to each other. Including her residence, there were thousands of courtyards surrounded by walls with dark green bricks and dark green roof tiles, linked together by small alleys, taking shape of deep alley between high walls. The alleys were narrow and winding; several hundred streets and alleys winding and turning, criss-crossing each other, and they all paved with large dark green flagstone, which looked virtually the same.

    After braving the snow, the three people arrived here and felt that that they were entering a maze; it was difficult to tell one street from another. Particularly during this time of the night, where the only light they could rely on was the dim lantern light coming out from the buildings; it felt even more like entering a ghost area.

    But they felt unusually safe instead.

    Because in this kind of place, it would be very convenient for them to either fight or stay.

    Kou Zhong slipped into an alley and said with a laugh, That Shen Poniang must have a lot of enemies that she lives in this kind of place that will make people faint with blurred vision.

    Xu Ziling also felt relaxed. While walking and stretching at the same time, he said, When I first heard that Shen Poniangs lover [orig. male adulterer] Xu Shiji said that they were going to conduct house-to-house search, he gave me a real scare. Turns out he was just tooting his horn; if he came to this side, we would go to that side. How could he deal with Wulin martial art masters like us?

    Susu was still having a lingering fear, Can you not be so carried away like that? she said, The people of Xingyang are all fervent supporters of Wagang Army. All it takes is just one person spotting us, and I guarantee that he will report it to them oh!

    Before she finished speaking, Kou Zhong already had his arms around her waist and whisked her up to the roof of a building on the left. Xu Ziling also leaped at the same time.

    The three of them lay low on the roof and looked down toward the mouth of the alley some distance ahead. Amidst the swirling snowflakes, all they saw was quiet, silent and lonely footprints.

    Susu was baffled, Is there anybody here? she asked.

    Kou Zhong replied in low voice, My intuition cant be wrong. Its really strange, how come I cant even see anybodys shadow, I cant hear anybodys voice, but I can feel that there is danger approaching?

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, I also feel a warning in my heart. Look!

    They saw a squad of about a dozen warriors in dark green clothes, coming from the alley on the other side, along the way they knocked on every door. Needless to say, obviously they were looking for the three people.

    Watching these men, the three people felt their scalp went numb. This Xu Shiji apparently someone who did what he said he would. By the time the entire city knew about these three fugitives, they would not be able to move a single step.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were not ordinary people, their look was particularly easy to recognize, to conceal it from others would be more difficult than ascending the heavens.

    After the search party went far, the three of them cried out inwardly, What a close shave! If it were not for the heavy snow, Xu Shiji only needed to send his men to watch from vantage points, while the other team was conducting house-to-house search, and then even if the three people grew wings, it would still be difficult for them to fly away.

    But right now the weather was bitterly cold, plus visibility was very low, naturally Xu Shijis men only worked halfheartedly.

    Gnashing his teeth, Kou Zhong said, All along we only receive beatings without being able to hit back, greatly damaging our reputation as the Yangzhous Two Dragons. Since we have Daiqing Lous Peipei as our way out, we might as well strike back without restraint, making his mothers trouble that will turn the sky and the earth upside down, and thus venting the resentment in our hearts.

    Susu was extremely nervous [orig. a bird startled by the mere twang of a bow]; overwhelmed with horror, she said, How can you do that? How can you fight them?

    Xu Ziling, however, was greatly excited; he said in a low voice, If you want to be famous, naturally you must establish your prestige. However, wed better find a dependable hiding place first before making a grand plan.

    Jiejie, come! Kou Zhong excitedly said.

    As soon as Susu was perched on Kou Zhongs back, he brought her soaring into the air like a big bird.

    She suddenly had a feeling that she did not have clear understanding of these two brothers of hers. If it were other people, they would either be so terrified that they pulled their heads like a turtle and refused to come out, or with a thousand ways, a hundred plans would try to escape without a trace. How could they be like these two boys, who were fully aware that the enemys power was a thousand times, a hundred times bigger than theirs, yet they still had the courage to strike back, just like striking a stone with an egg?

    Looking at Shen Luoyans fragrant residence from the outside, there was really no difference from the other houses in the neighborhood, only the door decoration was comparatively more exquisite, unlike the peeling off door and walls of the next door neighbors.

    But the inside was a different story altogether. Not only it was spacious, elegant and pure, the garden and courtyard were integrated into one continuous entity, the layout gave a beautiful and secluded impression, the building displayed original architecture, and was quite distinctive.

    The house was called Luoyan Zhuang [lit. falling wild goose manor], where the manors courtyard was dominated by the main residence hall; water and rock in contrast with one another, pathways and winding corridor were running through rock garden, which also function as separator. The winding path went up and down, what is true and what is false engendered one another.

    North of the pond was a small two-story building styled as if it was resting on a hilltop, with five continuous pillars over two levels, and overhanging eaves, like butterfly flapping its wings ready to fly; very unique. Shen Luoyans boudoir was precisely in that building.

    Behind the small two-story building was an artificial stream, with two small bridges connecting the rear court with the maids and servants apartments, as well as the storehouse.

    Luoyan Zhuang did not cover too large of a land, but it was just like a remote, secluded area; simple and unadorned, yet exquisite, and highly poetic.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling jumped over the sidewall into the courtyard, momentarily they were staring in awe. It never occurred to them that Shen Luoyan was the type of person who knew how to enjoy life, her dwelling was rather like a Big Hiding Place in the Alley.

    Not too long afterwards, Kou Zhong already gathered the information that the manor only had four young maids, and a pair of husband and wife servants, none of which knew martial art.

    The three people finally settled on hiding in a guest room, which seemed like no one has slept in it for a very long time. The most wonderful thing was that this room was already well stocked with everything they needed. The three were not bashful; after drinking enough stolen tea, they fell asleep immediately.

    By the time Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were awakened because they heard unusual noise, the day has already brightened.

    Kou Zhong moved away Susus arm, which was resting on his chest, walked over to the window, and peeked outside. Turned out it was the only male servant, sweeping the snow on the yard.

    Xu Ziling also got out of bed came over to him; he whispered, The snow has stopped!

    Without averting his gaze, Kou Zhong asked, Are you hungry?

    Hungry as hell! Xu Ziling replied.

    Kou Zhong whispered, We cant steal food in here, otherwise they will discover us. Let me go out to take care of the food and then Ill come back!

    Xu Ziling said, Going to the street could be very dangerous.

    Kou Zhong laughed, Dont worry! he said, As long as the three of us dont walk together, it wont be that conspicuous. Ill even scout around for the news.

    Xu Ziling knew that Kou Zhong was full of craft and cunning, plus he has been hungry since last night, so after warning him repeatedly, he said, The sooner you go, the sooner youll come back.

    Kou Zhong consented; he then sneaked out of the rear window.

    Having nothing to do, Xu Ziling was about to sit cross-legged silently, when from the bed Susu called out, Li Dage! Li Dage!

    Xu Ziling was startled; he jumped onto the bed to cover Susus fragrant lips.

    Susu woke up. As soon as she regained her consciousness, her pretty eyes immediately shot a panic-stricken look. When Xu Ziling lifted up his hand, she cried out in low voice, The enemys coming?

    No! Xu Ziling shook his head, But Jiejie was talking in your sleep. I was just afraid you might alert the man sweeping the snow outside.

    Susu was relieved, but then her charming face turned red as she said, What did I say in my dream?

    Xu Ziling sighed inwardly. Nothing! he said indifferently, It was practically some unintelligible words.

    Susu sat up. Knitting her brows, she asked, Where is Xiao Zhong?

    After Xu Ziling told her, she began to worry again.

    Suddenly there was a sound of footsteps approaching. The two people were scared and busily folded the blankets back to their previous condition, and then they went into hiding under the bed.

    They were barely hidden when two young maids came in and started sweeping and dusting, as well as replacing the bedding with a fresh one.

    One of the maid said, Miss has not returned home for eight full days, and last night Longtou Mansion was burned to the ground. And now rumors are flying all around town, making me really worried for Miss.

    Under the bed, Xu Ziling mused that it was other people who should be worried; definitely not that Shen b1tch.

    The other maid laughed and said, Xiao Ju [lil chrysanthemum], you are worried over nothing. Last night Duke Mi has just deployed the troops to take over Liyang Storehouse. What happened to Longtou Mansion cant be helped; who told old ghost Zhai to be so stubborn that he adamantly refused to abdicate? Speaking about competence, how could he be Duke Mis match?

    Xiao Ju was astounded, How could Lan Jie [elder sister orchid] know so clearly? she asked.

    Xiao Lan proudly replied, Naturally somebody told me!

    Xiao Ju laughed and said, Must be that guy Li Jie, hee hee Have you slept with him yet?

    And then chasing and hitting each other the two maids left the room.

    Xu Ziling and Susu crawled out of under the bed. Breathing out a sigh of relief, Xu Ziling said, Li Mi is gone! Other people I am not too scared.

    Susu sat next to him on a long wooden bench; she said, They have many men, great force, you guys only have two pairs of fists, plus you have to take care of me. You must not be eager to excel and want to show off your heroism!

    Xu Ziling spiritedly replied, Dont look down on your two Didi; these past two years, I lost count on how many times we met mishaps, but every time we escaped alive from mortal danger, our skill seemed to be getting better. Hey! Jiejie may rest here for a while, Ill go around to take a look.

    Susu hastily grabbed his arm; her voice cracking, What if someone finds you?

    With a hundred-percent confidence Xu Ziling said, I have been an expert in imitating the dog and stealing chicken since childhood; I will not make an unwise move. This is called know yourself, know your enemy. The more we know about our surroundings here, the more confident we will be when something comes up and we have to deal with it.

    Susu had no choice but to let him go.

    Very scared and on edge she waited for half a sichen [reminder: 1 sichen is 2 hours]; keeping watch alone and was bored, she could not help thinking about Zhai Mansion people who met calamity, thus she cried inwardly. Fortunately Xu Ziling returned with excitement on his face. There was also a folder in his hand.

    All thanks to the skill we learned from Chen Laomou for several days, I managed to find Shen Poniangs treasure she hid inside her secret chamber, he proudly said.

    Seeing he came back, the distress and terror in Susus heart reached its limit. Forcing herself to share his excitement, she asked, Whos Chen Laomou?

    Xu Ziling sat down and put the precious and heavy folder on his lap; he said, Chen Laomou was Jukun Bangs man, his specific responsibility was to train the gang member how to steal and gather information, which they would then sell for money. Oh! He is back.

    Following his gaze, Susu saw Kou Zhong, with two big bundles in his hands, pushing the door from the anteroom and walked in. Kou Zhong laughed and said, One bundle of clothes, one bundle of food. Mission successfully accomplished. The most wonderful thing is that all the maids and servants have returned to their apartments in the rear courtyard.

    Xu Ziling and Susu cheered together. While they were eating and drinking as much as they liked, Kou Zhong said with radiant delight, That guy Xu Shiji searched the entire City of Xingyang and nearly turning it upside down; there are checkpoints at the mouth of every street, patrolling troops are everywhere. Seeing the look of things was anything but reassuring, I went to steal from house-to-house, in a random, different parts of the city. I guarantee nobody would suspect anything.

    Xiao Ling also stole something! Susu said.

    Only now did Xu Ziling remember; hurriedly he took out the folder that he stuffed into his pocket earlier and handed over to Kou Zhong. Look at this, he said, Do you think this looks like Shen Poniangs roster of spies in all parts of the country? Plus there are records of expenditures, big and small, and the amount of money exchanges, that kind of stuff.

    Kou Zhong stuffed the remaining mantou [steamed bun] in his hand into his mouth, freeing up both hands to thumb through the folder. A bit unsure, he said, Ha! Let my methodical eyes look at it, I guarantee nothing will be hidden from me. This guys name is really weird, Chen Siya [lit. dead duck]? Also his address and communication method? Last month he received a hundred taels of silver. Turns out it is that easy to earn money.

    Susu leaned over to take a look. She angrily said, He is called Chen Shuijia [lit. water armor], not Chen Siya. You randomly change peoples name.

    Kou Zhongs eyes shone, Xiao Ling, he said, Based on this treasure, do you think we can ruthless rip some money off that Shen Poniang?

    Xu Ziling let out a cold snort, She harmed us like that, how could some money compensate us?

    Horrified, Susu said, If you hand this thing over to the authorities, it will implicate a lot of people; their houses will be searched, their possessions confiscated, their heads chopped off.

    Kou Zhong put the roster into his pocket; he laughed and said, How can we make things easy for the emperors baby boy? As for how we are going to use this thing, lets think about it later.

    Turning to Xu Ziling, he said, Its time for us to change our appearance a little bit. I dont know who did such a good job in painting our faces, but our three revered countenances are being pasted all over the streets, making our effort to call on Peipei of Daiqing Lou becomes extremely dangerous.

    Xu Ziling said, Just now in the storage room at the rear court I found ten big earthen jars of kerosene. If we can find that guy Xu Shijis house, we can torch it and burn it to the ground; a tooth for a tooth. Oh, and I havent told you yet, but Li Mi is out to fight a battle, he is not in town.

    Kou Zhong let out a ya, ya laugh like a crow cawing, and said, Xu Shiji is just a four-legged crawling lackey. Since Li Mi is away, we might as well burn his old nest. Hey, I wonder where that guy Li Mis doghouse is anyway.

    Noticing the two boys gaze was fixed on her, Susu pouted her lovely lips and tut-tutted, Dont even think that I will tell you. You said we are here to keep away from the way the wind blows, if you make such disturbance, everybody will know that we are still in the city. Whats more, Duke of Pusans Mansion has martial art experts as numerous as the cloud, if you are going there to create trouble, it will be nothing more than delivering your own lives!

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, This is the most exciting place; they know very well that we are still in the city, but they cant find us. Even better, right now the military is in a state of emergency, Xu Shiji and the others cant put us above the war. Therefore, as long as we are able to create internal anxiety for them, I guarantee they will have no room to advance or retreat.

    Xu Ziling added, It would be better if after setting on the fire, we lure them to pursue us, and we flee out of the city right in front of their eyes. Afterwards we can come back to fetch Jiejie. This will be even more foolproof.

    Kou Zhong frowned and said, The city wall is so high, can you jump out?

    Xu Ziling dejectedly replied, I cant.

    Pfft! Susu broke into a giggle. Casting a sidelong glance toward the two boys, she chastised them, Just a couple of kids who love to fool around.

    Kou Zhong stole a lightning speed kiss on her cheek; he sighed and said, Jiejies eyes can really hook peoples soul!

    At first Susu was beaming with delighted, but then her smile faded; perhaps she remembered Li Jing?

    Xu Ziling suddenly said, Does Jiejie know who is in charge of the city defense?

    The one really in charge, I do not know, Susu replied, But citys affairs have always been managed by Xu Shiji, so it ought to be his men.

    Kou Zhong was shaken, I got it! he said, Xiao Ling, are you thinking of escaping via the sewer like we did in Yangzhou?

    Susu was shocked, Down there is so dirty, how could we do that? she said, Arent you going to ask for Peipeis help?

    Xu Ziling said, Under present circumstances, I am afraid nobody will be willing to help us. Besides, as soon as we go to Daiqing Lou, we will be recognized immediately.

    Kou Zhong said, No good will come of receiving favor from someone like Xiang Yushan. Xiao Lings idea is really unique. Tonight we are going to Xu Shijis house to steal, trying our luck. Chen Laomou said that any city must have architectural drawings; otherwise, how are they going to do maintenance and repairs?

    Susu was helpless, Your prejudice toward Xiang Gongzi is too deep, she said. She proceeded by telling them the location of Xu Shijis residence, and then she said, I want to try the clothes that Xiao Zhong brought back. So the two boys slipped out of the room.

    After closing the door, Xu Ziling pulled Kou Zhong aside and said, Just now I heard Su Jie calling Li Dage in her dream. Ay, Jiejie is so forlorn! But in this kind of matter, nobody can help her.

    Kou Zhong slumped in silence; he sat down and after thinking long and hard he said, Wed better go to Luoyang first to look for Li Dage, and tell him directly about Jiejies situation, see if he has a way to help Jiejie settling down.

    Xu Ziling shook his head and said, That will make Li Dage feel very awkward; once things turn bad, it will also place Jiejie in an awkward position. Furthermore, because of that lowly scum Wang Bodang, Jiejie seems to abandon herself in despair a little. One moment she said she is coming with us, the next moment she speaks up on that fellow Xiang Yushans behalf. Forcing her to go to Luoyang might be counter-productive.

    In this kind of man-woman relationship, Kou Zhong, who was always full of craft and cunning, completely had his hands bound and was unable to do anything about it.

    While he was sighing in despair, Susu came out wearing the new clothes. The two boys promptly made a supreme effort to flatter her by saying all good things they could muster.

    Although Susu repeatedly laughed charmingly, inevitably there was a trace of unraveled melancholy on her beautiful eyebrows, giving the impression that she was merely forcing herself to look happy.

    Kou Zhong finally surrendered, Does Jiejie still want us to go to Peipei of Daiqing Lou?

    With a not-so-hidden bitterness Susu said, Does Jiejie have any right to mind your business?

    Naturally the two boys understood her intention; busily they made an oath and swore that they would listen to her opinion in handling this matter. Only then did Susus joyous expression return. And then they discussed how to evade the patrolling troops eyes and ears to find this woman named Peipei.

    Kou Zhong came up with an idea, How about we go to the silk fabric store and buy a set of highest-quality silk brocade, and indicate that this is a present for Peipei. We will tail the delivery guy and see who will receive the gift, then we ought to know which one is Peipei.

    Susu frowned and said, But if the silk fabric store people recognize you as the fugitive wanted by Wagang Army, wont you harm Peipei instead?

    Kou Zhong was ready with the answer, Inevitably there will be people who dont have the least bit concern over the matters of the world, or perhaps they are simply ignorant. When I went out to steal Jiejies new clothes, one of the clothing stores bosses was an old man who looks as if his vision is already blurred of age; he is relying on two young lads to deliver the goods. As long as we wait until he is alone in the store, our great plan can be executed.

    Susu happily said, It would be even better if I pretend to be Peipeis young maid and am doing my Miss shopping; it would be more foolproof.

    Noticing she was regaining her vitality, Kou Zhong laughed and said, But Jiejie cannot wear this clothes!

    Susu began to realize that she was the dirty rotten thief who wore the stolen clothes from that exact store. Smiling sheepishly she returned to the room to change.

    The two boys looked at each other with wry smile. Xu Ziling sighed and said, I do hope Jiejie does not take a fancy to Xiang Yushan! You saw it yourself, as soon as we agreed to look for Peipei, her entire personality changed instantly.

    Full of confidence, Kou Zhong said, Which part of that Xiang guy deserves Jiejie taking a fancy of? In my opinion, she is just bursting with joy from knowing that we wont take the risk of going to Xu Shijis house to set fire and steal things, and also from knowing that we esteem her opinion!

    Not too long afterwards Susu came out wearing suitable clothes. The three of them hence went out of their hiding place. Avoiding several groups of Wagang Army troops, they reached the small alley across the street from the clothing store.

    Susu went in according to plan, while the two boys waited in a dark corner, ready to render assistance if needed.

    The snow was falling again, the streets were deserted; it was so peaceful that it felt like nothing had ever happened.

    But Xu Ziling knew that the Wagang Army, whose fame was currently at its height, has already developed irreparable rifts internally due to Zhai Rangs murder. He could easily imagine that because Zhai Rang was the initiator of Wagang Army, no matter how well Li Mi won the peoples heart, he could not entirely displace Zhai Rangs deep-rooted influence of the past. Inevitably disloyalty would grow among his men who had always been following Zhai Rang in the past.

    Meanwhile, Kou Zhong was also thinking about Li Mi. He recalled Zhai Rangs remark about him being not ruthless enough, and thus he failed in his fight against Li Mi. Therefore, is being vicious and merciless the most important prerequisite one must have if one wants to contend for control over the land under the heavens?

    While he was entranced in his own thought, Xu Ziling called out softly, This is bad!

    Kou Zhong was startled; his alertness returned, he looked toward the street, and the first thing that caught his eyes was Shen Luoyan, with her phoenix-like beauty and grace. And then his eyes were drawn into the girl in the prime of youth by Shen Luoyans side.

    At first glance this girl did not look too pretty; perhaps because her silhouette was reminiscent of a man. But her skin was snow white, glowing with healthy pink; her demeanor was noble and elegant, her legs long and her waist slender, she was approximately two cun taller than Shen Luoyan, she had bright eyes and white teeth, and all these features fit together perfectly, making her not the least bit inferior to Shen Luoyan, forming a very unique personality traits.

    In front and behind the two women were their attendants. They were strolling down the street, with Shen Luoyan pointing here and there while talking and laughing with her; it seemed that Shen Luoyan was acting as her tour guide.

    In about ten paces or so the women and their party would reach the door of the clothing store where Susu was. The two boys' hands automatically reached the hilt of their weapons. Their scalp went numb as they watched step-by-step the enemy approaching the dangerous position where they would be able to see Susu.

    Right this critical moment [orig. a thousand catty hanging on a thread], that healthy-looking, carefree beautiful woman suddenly halted her steps. Without showing any emotion she spoke to Shen Luoyan and then she stepped into the arts and crafts store right next door to the clothing store. Shen Luoyan cheerfully followed her inside.

    Those dozen or so attendants spread out; a small number of them followed the women inside, while the rest of them stood around the door, assuming bodyguards position.

    In the meantime Susu has just walked out of the clothing store. Seeing a bunch of armed men gathered outside the shop next door, she was terrified. Hanging her head low, she hurriedly crossed the street toward the alley where the two boys were waiting for her.

    The men did not pay her any attention. As soon as she was out of sight of the enemy, she met with the two boys. Her face paled as she said, "I am scared to death!"

    Having just recovered from a shock, the two boys pulled her deeper into the small alley. Once they were well hidden, Kou Zhong whispered, "Success?"

    Susu nodded, "No problem. But the boss said that it is too late today, they will deliver the goods tomorrow."

    Xu Ziling sighed. "That would be bad," he said, "Pleasure house girls sleep all day. If the delivery is received by other person, our effort will be wasted."

    Pleased with herself, Susu said, "Don't worry! I already gave him instruction that the goods are to be delivered within shenshi [between 3-5pm] hour tomorrow. That old man already promised!"

    For lack of better option, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had no choice but to take Susu back 'home'.

  10. #50
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 3

    Book 5 Chapter 3 The Shadow Assassin

    Returning to the beautiful, secluded, elegant and calm Shen residence, the three of them had a feeling like they had just escaped alive from a mortal danger. Also, recalling that tomorrow they were going to find Peipei, they felt that their situation was not as hopeless, without any way out, as before; therefore, their mood was greatly improved. Giggling and laughing the two boys narrated to Susu their nearly two years of experience. The more the listener was engrossed in the story, the more the story tellers were getting excited. In the blink of an eye it was already evening.

    The Shen Mansion was bright with palace lanterns everywhere, the front and rear courtyards were as bright as daylight.

    After eating their dinner, Kou Zhong lazed around on a chair and contentedly said, Jiejie really loves cleanliness, you even swept this room, inside and out, clean. If it were us, we would not do that.

    Susu stared at him blankly, How could I have spare time to think of such thing? she said, It was those people this morning who came here to clean up!

    Kou Zhong suddenly sat up with a start. Oh, no! his voice broke.

    Stunned, Xu Ziling and Susu looked at him.

    Kou Zhong said, When we got here yesterday, the room was full of dust, obviously it hasnt been occupied for a long time. Now all of a sudden somebody came in to clean up, evidently there will be guest who is going to stay here!

    Xu Ziling cursed his own negligence inwardly; he sprang up and said, Must be Shen Poniang is going to entertain that beauty whom she accompanied just now. No wonder it is so bright outside. Come! We must quickly tidy up and sneak out.

    While the three people were busy tidying up the room, they heard faint hoof beats and voices from the front courtyard. Shen Luoyan and her guest have arrived.

    Not daring to tarry any longer, while Shen Luoyan was still at the front yard, the three of them hastily hid themselves in another firewood shed behind their building.

    Sure enough, a moment later they saw people entered the guest house; occasionally they even heard voices and the sound of movements.

    All the lanterns in the four rooms of the guest house were lit. The three people no longer felt safe. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling took turn monitoring the activity outside. In the meantime, the snow stopped. Apparently the guests have settled down, because they did not hear as much activity as before.

    Kou Zhong, who was peeking out through a small window, suddenly signaled a warning. Xu Ziling and Susu hastily crowded next to him in front of the window. The three of them looked out together.

    They saw Shen Luoyan leading the energetic-looking, alluring and youthful girl, walking toward the small garden right outside the firewood shed. The former started the conversation, Luoyan loves to see the scene of prodigious abundance of fruit the most, hence I planted mostly fruit trees.

    Yan Jie is very thoughtful, the woman praised, Who would have thought that unexpectedly there is such a world-class scenic spot deep in these alleys?

    Shen Luoyan modestly replied, Yuzhi please dont laugh at me, your Song Familys Huai [Chinese scholar tree/Japanese pagoda tree/Sophora Japonica] Garden is ranked among the top ten gardens of the Wulin; how can my tiny nest be compared to that?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were shaken; it was only now did they realize that this charming and independent beauty belonged to the Song Clan. They were wondering what her relation to Song Shidao was.

    The two women stopped to enjoy the icicles hanging from the tree branches.

    Song Yuzhi nonchalantly said, This time Yuzhi pays a visit, based on Yan Jies ability and wisdom, you ought to be able to guess one or two reasons?

    Shen Luoyan muttered to herself irresolutely, I wonder if it has something to do with Yuwen Huaji start rumors and create trouble in front of that muddleheaded ruler?

    Song Yuzhi laughed and said, I knew we cant hide it from Yan Jie; but that is only one of the reasons.

    Shen Luoyan slyly said, In that case the other reason must be related to Du Fuwei. I heard that after capturing Liyang, he cut the Yangtze Rivers water traffic, by wantonly and indiscriminately looting the sailing vessels. According to our information, they even confiscated three of your salt ships! Is that true?

    Song Yuzhi was indifferent. Yan Jie is indeed very well informed, she said, No wonder Duke Mi relies heavily on you!

    Shen Luoyan shook her head and sighed, I really dont understand whats inside Du Fuweis head; while Yang Guangs main force is establishing their presence east of the River, he still has the audacity to provoke such a powerful enemy such as your precious Clan. Perhaps he is tired of living?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling suddenly understood. Yangtze River was the Song Clans lifeline in transporting the salt. By cutting off the salt ship traffic, Du Fuwei has greatly threatened the reputation, as well as the livelihood of the Song Clan. Therefore, the Song Clan sent Song Yuzhi with special mission to link with Li Mi, so that with north and souths joint forces they could attack Liyangs Jianghuai [River Huai] Army, headed by Du Fuwei and his lieutenant Fu Gongshi, from two fronts.

    But presently Wagang Army was suffering from internal strife, plus they were facing Sui Armys counteroffensive, therefore, chances are Li Mi would not have time to take care Du Fuwei.

    Song Yuzhi smiled and said, Du Fuwei thinks he is forced by circumstances, but he shouldnt have provoked our Song Family. We have time and again negotiated with Du and Fu, two men, all failed to grasp the main points. My father is extremely furious over this matter, he determined not to spare anything in giving a good lesson to Du Fuwei. However, because he does not know Duke Mis intention, he sent Yuszhi to have an audience with Duke Mi.

    Shen Luoyan sighed and said, Yuzhi should be aware that we always have mutual apprehension toward Jianghuai Army ?

    Song Yuzhi cut her off, According to our latest information, after the Jianghuai Army captured Liyang, unexpectedly they hold back their troops without moving, simply constantly consolidating their foothold of the area. Indeed their motive is unpredictable. Did Yan Jie hear about it?

    Shen Luoyan said, Is Yuzhi referring to Du Fuweis desire to wait for Yang Guang to be impatient and turn his attention to deal with us?

    Song Yuzhi was still indifferent, Only this matter is not enough to make Yang Guang deal with you.

    And then abruptly she changed the topic, I wonder if Yan Jie has ever heard of certain Qu Ao [lit. proud/arrogant song], a Tiele[1] man?

    Shen Luoyan was surprised, Is Yuzhi talking about Qu Ao, the Da Kui [lit. big helmet], who run amuck on the western border? This mans fame is resounding; very soon he will catch up to Tujues Wu Zun Bi Xuan. I am afraid that Du Fuweis invitation cannot even move him. I wonder why Yuzhi suddenly mention this person.

    Song Yuzhi seriously said, That was then, now it is different. Tiele people have always been mortal enemy of the Tujue people; seeing the Tujues influence in the Central Plains is growing deeper has sprouted their ambition to get a share of the cup of soup. Qu Ao has received Tiele Kings secret mission to connect with new rising powers of the Central Plains, with the hope of fishing in troubled water, and acquire a little bit of profit.

    Knitting her brows, Shen Luoyan asked, Qu Ao really has any regards toward Du Fuwei?

    Calmly and confidently Song Yuzhi replied, Not only that, they even conspire to assassinate Duke Mi. If they succeeded, Yang Guang would definitely take advantage while Wagang Army is in chaos, to go all out to attack you. At that time Du Fuwei would also seize that opportunity to absorb the scattering Wagang Armys troops, and then expand his influence to the north. Otherwise, the longer your Wagang Army exists, the more difficult it will be for Du Fuwei to expand northward.

    Just by looking at Shen Luoyans expression, Kou Zhong and the others knew that this Qu Ao was no trivial matter.

    Meanwhile, someone hurriedly came to report that Xu Shiji has arrived. Thereupon the two women went toward the front courtyard.

    Kou Zhong followed the two women with his eyes as they disappeared into the woods, dyed white by the snow and the frost. Breathing a mouthful of cold air he said, We might as well change profession to become assassins; it is the most profitable business. At least it will be a clean job, not as messy [orig. wading in mud and water] as stealing peoples belonging to blackmail them.

    Recalling Shen Luoyans secret roster, Xu Ziling was anxious. If Shen Poniang found out that her roster is gone, it would be extremely bad, he said, We can forget about escaping out of town.

    Looks like stealing that ghost thing not worth the risk well have to take, Kou Zhong admitted, Hee ! But how could she guess that it was us who took it?

    Xu Ziling thought Kou Zhong was right. He laughed and said, This is called empty evil intention.

    But Susu was anxious endlessly; she said, Wed better secretly put that roster back where it came from! The most urgent matter right now is sneaking out of the city; its always better to have one less thing to worry!

    Listening to her, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were greatly moved.

    When Xu Ziling stole the roster, his first intention was only for fun and perhaps to exact revenge on Shen Luoyan; essentially he had never thought about any benefit from extorting her with this roster. Better yet, right now both Shen Luoyan and Xu Shiji were in the main buildings hall; considering it was an easy trip on a familiar path for Xu Ziling, returning the roster to its original place should not be a difficult task.

    Kou Zhong said, Su Jies order, we should follow.

    Susus mind was filled with conflicting thoughts, But there are so many people out there, she said hesitantly, If you walk around in the courtyard, people might see you!

    Xu Ziling also expressed his lack of confidence in himself, What should we do then? he asked.

    Kou Zhong patted his chest, This is called intention can be regarded as unintentional. There is benefit in many people present: it is comparatively easier to fish in troubled waters. Su Jie can stay here, we will be back soon.

    The two boys slipped out of the firewood shed. Under cover of the trees, they swiftly walked toward Shen Luoyans private chamber.

    Unleashing the full potential of the true qi within their body, in an instant their spirit and mind reached the highest boundary. Not only their eyes, ears, nose and other senses were several times sharper, rarer still was that they had some kind of perception, which transcended physical senses.

    This was exactly the mystery of the Secret to Long Life, which was beyond the context of the general martial art study. Not only it surpassed the self-sufficient treasure trove hidden deep within oneself mentioned by Yi Jian Dashi [see Book 1 Chapter 3] Fu Cailin, it even reached the oneness of heaven and humanity realm, which people who practiced martial art spent their lifetime striving to achieve.

    Since time immemorial, people whose innate talent surpassed others like Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were extremely rare. By coincidence, they had the opportunity to train the knowledge from the Secret to Long Life, which has long been called a scam, and made a breakthrough into the extreme boundary of first-class martial art skill, attainable only by Ning Daoqi, Bi Xuan, and the like, people who were able to understand the realm of divine truth.

    Therefore, in just two short years, each of them doggedly trained their respective method and achieved unique mental cultivation in martial art, which has time and again helped them avoid great catastrophe.

    This moment, for instance, even though there were numerous martial art experts surrounding them like a cloud, relying on their unique senses, they were able to sniff danger one step ahead, and their hearts automatically guided them another way to evade the enemys detection. Not even for an instant did they ever stir up the alertness of the martial art masters in the house.

    Naturally at this point in time the two boys did not have such a clear understanding of what was going on. They only thought that their own qinggong was so superb that they were this formidable.

    They swiftly crossed the rear courtyard, along the side of the guesthouse, and straight toward the main garden in front of Shen Luoyans private chamber.

    Crouching in a cluster of underbrush, they focused all their power into their ears to listen carefully, and immediately ascertained that there was no one inside the second floor of the building.

    Although there was not a trace of noise inside, they saw faint lantern light coming from downstairs.

    Xu Ziling said, Ill go upstairs to return the folder, you stay here and be on the lookout for me.

    Kou Zhong nodded.

    Xu Ziling looked around, and after he was sure that there was nobody around, fast as a ghost he leaped out of the underbrush and flitted toward the main door of the small building; pushing the door open, he slipped in.

    Just as expected, the hall was quite with no one in sight; coupled with light from the palace lanterns, the room exuded some kind of tranquil sensation. But Xu Ziling did not dare to hesitate; he swiftly flew upstairs.

    At this moment there was only emptiness in his heart and mind, no thought no reasoning. It was not a deliberate state of mind on his part, but it simply arose spontaneously.

    He had just stepped into the small hall in front of Shen Luoyans private chamber, when a hard-to-describe feeling suddenly burst forth in his heart.

    He could not explain what he felt, just that it was very uncomfortable, as if there was an invisible pressure disturbing his clear-water-reflecting-the-moon state of mind.

    Xu Zilings consciousness suddenly arose to its upper limit, his true qi flooded his meridians; without the slightest hesitation he drew his short halberd.

    The hall brightened instantly.

    It was not because someone lighted the lantern at all, but because of the true qi at work in his body, his eyesight sharpened considerably. As he scanned the room down, even the dust particle remained on the floor after being swept could not escape his sharp eyes.

    It was a new level that Xu Ziling has never been able to reach before.

    Previously, although frequently he was able to multiply his reaction speed due to applying the entire power within his body, he has never been able to reach the clarity like he did this time.

    It was not only because this time he had reached the extremely-still state of mind, but most importantly it was because he sensed an enormous danger.

    The most frightening thing was that this sense of danger flashed across his heart, and then immediately vanished. Like right now, he suddenly felt the situation was no longer threatening.

    After scanning the floor back and forth several times, Xu Zilings eyes faintly saw some kind of clues; thereupon he scanned the floor again very carefully.

    Immediately his heart shivered in fear.

    Turned out in several places on the floor he caught a glimpse of a pair of dust traces, so tiny that it was nearly invisible. It appeared that someone was using the tip of his toes flitted over out of Shen Luoyans private chamber and stopped at the top of the stairs.

    Thinking to this point, a dark shadow suddenly flashed out of the room.

    Xu Ziling was not someone who had never seen a battle, but he had never thought that there was such a terrifying martial art skill in the world.

    By the time he realized that he was under attack, his entire body had already fallen into some kind of whirlpool with nearly irresistible power. Hundreds, thousands of strands of forces; some pulled him forward, some pressed him back, still some acting laterally and rotationally. It just felt like falling into a vortex in the midst of a raging sea, where it was impossible for anybody to have any control of anything.

    Fortunately Xu Ziling was one step ahead since before the attack came he was already on guard; otherwise perhaps by this time he was already swaying indeterminately from side to side, and was unable to stand steadily. Knowing that this was the critical moment, without even thinking Xu Ziling transferred all his strength into the short halberd in his hand. Leaning over, he assumed a horse stance, while at the same time he stabbed at the incoming person and looked up at him.

    Momentarily, all he could see was a dark shadow.

    And one dot of the tip of the sword, which was growing fast in front of his eyes.

    A sword qi, which no stronghold can overcome, burst out of the sword, making his breathing stop, and his whole body felt like it was cut in two.

    From the moment Xu Ziling climbed the stairs to get here and detected that something was wrong to the time this dreadful adversary mounted a sneak attack on him, it was only two blinks of an eyelid, yet it already caused Xu Ziling to fall into dangerous situation that he had never encountered in his whole life.

    When the blade of the short halberd in his hand was about to block the enemys weapon, the opponents sword suddenly changed direction; unexpectedly Xu Zilings short halberd struck empty air.

    This kind of situation, where he used incorrect amount of force that the momentum was out of his control, was very uncomfortable that Xu Ziling almost vomited blood.

    The enemy was out of his line of vision.

    Fortunately, utilizing his crystal clear senses he knew that by some strange and inscrutable footwork, the opponent has moved to the blind spot on his left.

    The strangest thing was that his eyes were still seeing a little bit of the sword tip, which was flashing continuously so that although his eyes were open yet he felt as if he was blind, and was only able to react relying purely on his feeling.

    A stream of tapering sword qi seemed to be moving to stab the small of his back from the left side.

    Such a formidable body movement and sword stance was definitely terrifying to the extreme. How could Xu Ziling take his time to think? Withdrawing his short halberd that was striking empty air, he twisted his body and hacked; while at the same time he turned his head around to look at this frightening enemy.

    A shadow flashed. For the second time in a row Xu Zilings short halberd struck empty air.

    This time Xu Ziling was a bit smarter. Before the force reached its limit, he immediately changed his stance, while swiftly moved back.

    He did not have any intention to run away at all; rather, he wanted to stabilize his footings.

    Although it was only two moves, he had done everything he could, staking his little life to fight bravely to the end.

    Suddenly the sword tip seemed to swell; four sides eight directions seemed to be full of howling and flashing sword rays, what is true and what is false was hard to fathom.

    But Xu Ziling was able to clearly grasp that not only the opponent was right in front of him, the frightening sword was also moving at lightning speed toward his lower abdomen.

    The opponents speed was clearly several notches above his, so that even if he retreated swiftly, the initiative was still in the opponents hands. In this life-and-death border, Xu Ziling moved the short halberd to bring out the short halberds rotational characteristic, by twisting it and striking at the blade of the opponents stabbing sword.

    Since the battle began, it was the first time that he came in contact with the opponents weapon in a tangible way. Due to the short halberds unique structure, supposedly it was the best way to lock the enemys weapon.

    Who could have thought that as the halberd and sword clashed, none of his expectation happened?

    First of all, Xu Ziling felt that his true qi, which was concentrated on the body of the halberd, was very quickly sucked dry by the enemys sword; afterwards the sucking force of the enemys sword grew so that he was unable to yank his halberd back, even if he tried.

    At this critical moment Xu Ziling did not panic; he was about to abandon his halberd and flee for his life when the opponents sword, with the halberd still attached to it, like a viper rose up and stabbed toward his lower abdomen.


    [1] Tiele is the ancient name of people living to the north of China and in Central Asia. Other names include Chile, Gaoche, Dingling and Tele (or Teleg).

  11. #51
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 4

    Book 5 Chapter 4 Stealth Dragon Turns Into Phoenix

    After Xu Ziling left, Kou Zhongs attention was focused on the front courtyard, with the idea of as soon as there was any unusual movement, he would immediately meow like a cat to alert Xu Ziling to flee.

    Looking at Xu Zilings full confidence as he pushed the door and went in, Kou Zhong also thought that this matter would be easy and effortless. He was even thinking that when they left the town the next day, he wanted to lead away a goat in passing, and steal the roster a second time, to inflict damage to Shen Luoyan by giving something to be anxious about.

    This kind of cold and ruthless woman [orig. completely lacking any feeling or sense of justice], even if she killed him, she would not let even half a sigh for him. Kou Zhong could not help thinking about Li Xiuning, and found out that her impression in his heart has been diluted considerably, unlike previously, where it was wind-around-his-dream and bound-his-soul kind of profound feeling.

    Right this moment, from the second story of the small building in front of him suddenly came the noise of clashing qi and rousing battle. Kou Zhong was shocked. No longer cared whether people would see him or not, he raised his saber and rushed upstairs.

    Bang! Following the sound of falling weapon, Xu Zilings back crashed onto the large window of Shen Luoyans private chamber, carrying with it a splash of blood, and continued dropping down.

    In that split second Kou Zhong recalled Xu Zilings remark, If Xu Ziling is injured, would he, Kou Zhong, still be able to maintain the moon in the well mental state?

    Like a ghost dark shadow flashed out to pursue the falling Xu Ziling, with one palm hacked down, splitting the air. Obviously his intention was to kill.

    Kou Zhong forced himself not to think about what fate befell Xu Ziling; he quickly focused his mind and threw the saber in his hand out toward the enemy, while he himself swiftly flew toward Xu Zilings body, and shouted, Help! Thief!

    It was the full display of the superiority of Kou Zhongs cunning and quick-wits. He knew that since the opponent was able to badly injure Xu Ziling in such a short period of time, he, Kou Zhong, was definitely not able to stop the enemy. The only way was to alert the people in Shen Luoyans residence, to give the enemy, whose movements were so stealthy, a little bit of concern.

    Of course, there was always the possibility that this person was the hidden troop planted by Shen Luoyan herself; however, seeing how this person also wanted to keep his movement a secret, that possibility was not too great. In the twinkling of an eye Kou Zhong already drew up a strategy, which sole purpose was to save Xu Zilings little life.

    That person apparently had never expected he would come across such a vicious opponent like Kou Zhong; because based on his astonishing sense of hearing, any movement in the flower garden should not be able to escape his detection. Yet the fact was that not until Kou Zhong shot his big saber did he realize his presence.

    Actually, it was also one of the reasons the intention to kill Xu Ziling emerged in his heart. It was not until Xu Ziling pushed the door and entered the second floor did his senses detect his presence. Thereby he came to himself with a start that this kid was anything but.

    He was actually not a narrow-minded or someone who was jealous of others more talented than he was, its just that he misunderstood Xu Ziling as Shen Luoyans man. Hence he tried with everything he had to kill Xu Ziling.

    This person was precisely the world-famous Shadow Assassin Yang Xuyan. In this mission he was hiding in Shen Luoyans private chamber, the main purpose was to assassinate Shen Luoyan, so that when the Sui Army deal a blow to the Wagang Armys old nest later on, they would gain the upper hand. However, because he saw Xu Zilings profound expertise, his assassination target changed. So it was obvious that he thought highly of Xu Ziling.

    Like a flash of lightning the long saber shot toward his flank just below his ribs. The sabers blade emitted a dense, cold qi, which completely enveloped his body even before it reached him. With Yang Xuyans ability, he still had no choice but to postpone pursuing Xu Ziling and killing him, and had to use his entire strength to deal with this attack.

    While midair, suddenly his body twisted, surprisingly he was able to catch the long saber. In the meantime, Kou Zhong already arrived at the spot where Xu Ziling was about to land, and was able to catch him.

    Yang Xuyan let out a cold snort and threw the long saber he caught straight toward Kou Zhongs back. Based on the force he exerted, he was confident this saber would skewer both men.

    Without even thinking Kou Zhong pushed the ground with his toes, and still hugging Xu Ziling, who by this time was drenched in his own blood and has fell into a coma, he rolled toward a nearby underbrush, and thus missing the lightning fast shooting saber by a hairbreadth.

    Yang Xuyan was about to continue pursuing the two boys when from all around he heard sound of flapping sleeves and rustling clothes against the wind. After a short contemplation, he realized that he would not be able to kill Kou Zhong in one or two short moves, thereupon he sighed; unleashing his qinggong he soared into the air.

    Kou Zhong brought Xu Ziling rolling toward the other end of the underbrush. As he jumped up and about to flee, he suddenly came face to face with the most difficult decision he had to take in his whole life.

    If he ran back to the woodshed where Susu was hiding, he was sure they could not escape everybodys eyes and ears, plus Xu Ziling would not receive the medical treatment he so desperately needed and might die from his heavy wounds.

    But if he ran away immediately, Susu would be isolated and without help, and it would be very easy for the enemy to find her.

    What should he do?

    Shen Luoyans tender voice was heard from above, Who dares to cause trouble? Followed by the sound of clashing weapons in succession, and a miserable grunt!

    Kou Zhong felt pain so deep that he nearly cried. Clenching his teeth, he brought Xu Ziling toward the outer wall and leaped out. Sounds of shouting and yelling immediately followed him, but he was simply unable to deal with anything else.

    Kou Zhong ripped open Xu Zilings outer garments, and what he saw was the pierced roster.

    This place was the storeroom at the rear courtyard of a residential building nearby, which scale was comparable to Shen Luoyans. After evading the pursuing troops, Kou Zhong brought Xu Ziling to hide in here.

    Kou Zhong cried out inwardly for their luck; were it not for the roster blocking the sharp and powerful sword qi, perhaps Xu Ziling had already breathed his last.

    He laid Xu Ziling on the grass; his eyes closed, his face pale as death, but surprisingly his breathing was still unusually even and soft, not urgent and harsh. Kou Zhong set the roster aside, tore his own clothes, and upon careful examination, he found that Xu Zilings wound has already closed up and no more seeping blood.

    Feeling relieved, Kou Zhong pressed his palms against Xu Zilings, and quietly transferred his true qi into Xu Zilings body, hoping to help him recover faster.

    After nobody knows how long, Xu Ziling breathed out a mouthful of air, and regained his consciousness; his face was also back to its original color.

    Kou Zhong was greatly delighted; he could not hold tears of joy from streaming down his face as he exclaimed sorrowfully, Xiao Ling! Xiao Ling! You scared me to death!

    Xu Ziling opened his eyes. Aghast, he asked, What is this place?

    Kou Zhong busily explained. Xu Zilings countenance changed, How could you leave Su Jie alone in there?

    Kou Zhong mumbled, I had no choice but to do it. Dont worry! You stay here and rest, I will get Su Jie and bring her here.

    Xu Ziling was upset, Then what are you waiting for? Su Jies guts is so small, she must be really frightened.

    Kou Zhong reached out to pat Xu Zilings cheeks. Out of habit he reached behind his back to fetch his long saber, but naturally he was only touching the empty scabbard, and immediately remembered that he did not have the treasure with which he could protect his body anymore.

    He was just about to leave, Xu Ziling suddenly called him back. The blood drained from his face; he said, No need to go!

    Kou Zhong was stunned.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, Based on Shen Luoyans astuteness, from the short halberd I left behind upstairs, she would immediately know that it was our doing. But when she saw that only the two of us escaping, how could she not guess that Su Jie must be somewhere in the vicinity? Therefore, I guarantee 100% that by now Su Jie has already fallen into her hands.

    What should we do then? Kou Zhong dejectedly asked.

    Xu Ziling struggled to sit up; he said, Just help me circulating my qi, by daybreak we will go together to Shen Luoyan to get Su Jie back.

    Bang! Bang! Bang! The brass ring was banged against the main gate of Shen Luoyans mansion. And then Kou Zhongs voice followed, Lovely wife Luoyan, your husband Zhong Shaoye is back!

    Not too long afterwards, the main gate opened; surprisingly enough, only Shen Luoyan, one person, gracefully stood at the door, her jade countenance was as cold as the ice and snow outside, as she glowered at the giggling Kou Zhong.

    Naturally Kou Zhong knew that the other people were preparing an inescapable net, so that even if he grew wings he still could not fly away.

    Shen Luoyan coldly said, Hand the roster over first, and then we can talk about other things.

    Only from this one sentence Kou Zhong knew that Susu had indeed fallen into Shen Luoyans hands; otherwise, how could she be that sure that the roster was in their hands?

    Kou Zhong shook his head and said with a sigh, Were it not for Xiao Ling blocking that guy from last nights sword for you, you, beautiful woman, would have been dead. And now as soon as we met you already show no trace of politeness. Ay! A beauty like you looking down on a man like me, that is normal. But someone completely lacking any feeling or sense of justice like you, that is certainly unprecedented and never be duplicated!

    Shen Luoyans countenance returned to normal. Chi! a giggle escape her mouth as she said, I am really at a loss on how to catch you, these two little demons; unexpectedly you had an idea of hiding in my place. All right! Hand the roster back to me, Nujia will return your Su Jie back to you, I will also give you free rein to leave town. As for what happen in the future, youll just have to rely on your good fortune.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Shen Beauty, you really know how to crack a joke; you knew that since Xiao Ling is injured, we cant go very far. Ha! Let me tell you the truth: Xiao Ling is all right. Look! Isnt that him standing behind you?

    Shen Luoyan sighed, Please dont put on an act, she said, Xiao Ling left a large pool of blood, you arent deceiving anybody. Based on the Shadow Assassin Yang Xuyans skill, if hit by his piercing blow and did not die, he could be considered the first!

    Kou Zhong cheered inwardly; it was precisely the remark he was expecting.

    Assuming a grieving and indignant look, he glowered at her and said, Turns out that guy is Yang Xuyan!

    Shen Luoyans delicate body shivered a little bit, her elegant eyes shot an incomparably complex expression, but immediately she collected herself as she said in heavy voice, Dont lie to me. Xu Ziling is dead, isnt he?

    Kou Zhong indeed wanted to lead her to have this misconception, so that in her eyes, he was the only person who knew the secret of the Duke Yang Treasure.

    Pretending to struggle hard in suppressing the pain and grief in his heart, he shook his head and said, Dont make a random guess; the roster is precisely in his hands. If Su Jie and I can go back safely, I guarantee that he will immediately give you the roster back; otherwise, after certain time limit, he will immediately run away and hand the roster over to Yang Guang. If that happens, your Wagang Army will have your spy network broken, and you will become deaf and blind.

    Shen Luoyang hung down her pretty face, but she still pursued on, Is Xiao Ling dead?

    Finally Kou Zhong detected her unusual expression. Could it be that she is in love with Xiao Ling? he mused. But then he convinced himself that that was not the case, because she had always treated them, the two boys, viciously and mercilessly. Even if he was letting his imagination running wild, he simply could not believe this aspect.

    Displaying his perfect acting skill, Kou Zhong suddenly shouted, Dont ask! Are you or are you not going to hand her over?

    Shen Luoyan slowly lifted up her pretty face; her eyes shot a deep, dense cold ray that made others shudder. But the tone of her voice was incomparably tranquil, No need to lie to me, Xiao Ling is dead. If I catch you, I guarantee I will find the roster in your possession.

    Kou Zhong threw his head backward and laughed sorrowfully. From his pocket he took out the roster, which was rolled up and was bound with a piece of bloodstained cloth. Holding it horizontally across his chest, he said, Do your worst! If you could retrieve an intact roster, I will change my name.

    Shen Luoyans eyes fell on the bloody roster; her delicate body trembled again. Where is his body? she whispered.

    Kou Zhong couldnt help but wonder, When he was alive I didnt see you care about him, now that he is dead, you peppered me with questions. What is this all about?

    Shen Luoyans phoenix eyes turned cold. This is none of your business, she coldly said, Just give me back my roster, I will let you and Susu leave. I guarantee nobody will run after you. As for how you are going to go through Shijis city defense, forgive Xiao Nuzi [little/lowly woman] for not being of any help.

    Kou Zhong said, Where is she?

    Shen Luoyan recovered her usual calm; she said nonchalantly, Hand the roster over first and then you can have her. Humph! Dont you forget that even if the roster is destroyed by you, we can always spend a little bit of effort to recreate it.

    Kou Zhong slyly said, Since you are not afraid of losing all accounts of previous transaction, and you are not afraid of losing the opportunity, I might as well destroy the roster first before staking everything in life and death fight against you. Xiao Ling is dead anyway, there is no point in me and Susu to keep on living!

    This was precisely the most crucial point in the plan that Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong cooked up. They wanted Shen Luoyan to believe that since Xu Ziling was dead, Kou Zhong was starting to have suicidal thought, and thus giving pressure to Shen Luoyan. It would also lead the enemy into mistakenly assessing their strength.

    The only thing they did not anticipate was Shen Luoyans reaction upon hearing the news Xu Ziling was dead.

    Shen Luoyan did have the intention of mistreating Susu to force Kou Zhong to surrender, but hearing Kou Zhongs last remark, she swallowed back whatever it was she was going to say. She only sigh and said, Ay! So be it! But there are some things I find it difficult to make decisions.

    And then with her delicate voice she called out, Get Susu out!

    Not too long afterwards, the Old Man of the Field Mo Cheng, who had once captured Kou and Xu, two boys, on the river using brilliant scheme, came out escorting Susu and brought her to Shen Luoyans side.

    Susus tears were already flowing freely as she cried out sorrowfully, Is Xiao Ling really dead?

    Kou Zhong had mouth, but found it difficult to talk; he did not dare to signal her with his eyes either.

    With desolate expression Shen Luoyan said, One hand deliver the book, the other hand deliver the person. I guarantee my subordinates wont pursue and attack you. Only one word No from you, Susus corpse will lie horizontally on the ground, and we will go all out to kill you.

    Kou Zhong pretended to surrender. He lay the book down on the ground, but stretched his feet to step on it. Release her! he said.

    Shen Luoyan nodded slightly. Mo Cheng grabbed Susu and tossed her high in the air, so that if he wanted to catch her, he would have to step back.

    Kou Zhong was really obedient; he leaped backward to catch Susu, and then like a burst of wind they went away.

    Mo Cheng picked the roster. With great difficulty he opened up the bind, and take a look. His countenance changed. Miss, not good, he said, That kid has the guts to swindle us.

    Shen Luoyan took the book and looked. Other than the last two pages, the rest of the book was Old Master Kongs Analects of Confucius, which gods know where they stole it from. Her pretty face immediately turned deathly white from anger. Her eyes flashing with murderous intention, she said, I want to see where can they run away?

    Immediately her jet-black eyebrows knitted as she softly said, Could it be that he is not dead yet?

    Speaking to this point, she felt her pretty face was burning, she did not even know what she felt in her heart. Could it be that this little demon had somehow taken a place in her heart?

    Xu Ziling hugged the laughing and crying Susu tight in his bosom; he said in great delight, I did not expect Shen Poniang would really fall into our trick.

    Kou Zhong sat down with his back against the wall. Your stratagem was indeed formidable, he said, First of all, you predicted that Shen Poniang was waiting for us to come back to rescue Su Jie. You even predicted that she would be willing to return Su Jie to us, to increase the difficulty of our escape effort. However, you still missed something.

    Xu Ziling was puzzled, What thing? he asked.

    Susu whispered, She seemed to be very fond of you!

    Xu Ziling scoffed. I dont care whether she is fond or not fond of me, he said, That kind of woman, even if she is given to me as a present, I wont accept it.

    Turning to Susu, he asked, Did Shen Poniang treat Jiejie badly?

    Susu shook her head and said, She lied to me by saying that she has caught Xiao Zhong, and she pressured me into telling her what had happened in the last few days, so Jiejie had to tell her.

    Kou Zhongs countenance changed. Jiejie did not mention anything about Daiqing Lou, did you? he asked.

    Susu sat up straight. Of course not! she snapped, How could Jiejie not know the severity of this matter?

    Kou Zhong scooted over and wrapped his arm around Xu Zilings shoulders. You can be considered very lucky! Turns out that guy who injured you was the Shadow Assassin Yang Xuyan, who even dared to assassinate our Ol Die.

    With hatred in his voice Xu Ziling said, Were it not for I managed to promptly transfer my inner power to neutralize his inner power entering my body, an insignificant book would not save my life. Humph! If this time we can escape alive, I want to take a good look on him.

    Kou Zhong patted his chest, Those who dare to offend us, the Two Dragons of Yangzhou, will not have a good end. Take Shen Poniang for example, I guarantee that these coming days she wont be able to sleep peacefully.

    Xu Ziling helped Susu up and said with a wry smile, I am afraid for the next few days I wont be able to fight. Supposing Peipei cannot help us, we have no choice but to exchange the real roster with our freedom.

    Kou Zhong accompanied him in heaving a sigh.

    Suddenly they heard faint barking of dogs in the distance.

    The three of them exchanged glances. They knew that if they did not slip away now, they could forget about leaving forever.

  12. #52
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 5

    Book 5 Chapter 5 Entanglement of Passion and Evil

    Xingyang City.

    Heavy snow.

    Daiqing Lou has not opened its door to welcome the guests. Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling and Susu, three people were hiding inside a small uninhabited two-story side-building by the front courtyard, waiting quietly for the clothing store delivery boy.

    Peipei has become their only hope of escaping.

    Now that Xu Ziling was seriously wounded, relying on Kou Zhongs strength alone, it would be impossible for him to bring the other two escaping from the city.

    Losing the roster, Shen Luoyan would definitely do everything in her power to hunt them down, because this matter involved the rise and fall of the Wagang Army.

    Kou Zhong leaned against the window and looked out; he said in low voice, I am not lying to you, when Shen Luoyan, that b1tch, thought that you died, she was acting differently from her usual manner, and I know that she was not pretending.

    Xu Ziling was sitting cross-legged to recuperate; hearing Kou Zhong, he opened his eyes and said impatiently, Stop talking! Whenever I remember her, my heart is burning.

    Without turning his head, Kou Zhong warned him, Dont be impatient; be careful, or else you might suffer fire deviation.

    Xu Ziling was shocked. He realized that after sustaining serious injury, his strength was in decline, and his state of mind was prone to fluctuate. Hastily he focused his attention to recover his mental state to its original crystal clear condition.

    Her pretty face blushing slightly, Susu said, Shen Luoyan did ask about Jiejies relationship with you two; when I told her, she did not seem to be convinced. Come to think about it, maybe she is really jealous!

    Kou Zhongs gaze returned to the floating snowflakes filling the heaven and the earth outside. He nodded and said, Shen Poniang once said that if she married, she would marry Xiao Ling, but she wanted me to be her lover. At that time she was joking, but now I think there is 30% truth in what she said. Ha! If we can create distress in her mind, all enmity is paid in full!

    And then he excitedly said, Hey! Hes here!

    Bang! Bang! Bang! there was a knock on the door. The shop assistant holding a bundle of cloth in his hands shouted against the cold wind, Satin brocade delivery!

    A big man came out of the main halls door. He walked across the front courtyard, and pushed the main gate a little. What is it? he asked.

    The shop assistant handed the bundle over to the big mans hands and muttered, Naturally it is highest quality silk fabric; its for Miss Peipei. Finished speaking, without even turning his head around he hurriedly trudged away, braving the snow.

    The big man was stunned; he stared blankly for half a day before carrying the bundle back into the building.

    Kou Zhong quickly dropped down on the floor and stuck his ear to listen to the activity downstairs.

    He heard a woman asked, He Fu! What is it?

    He Fu replied, Really strange! Someones sending highest quality silk fabric and specifically indicated that it is for Lady Boss!

    That is strange indeed! the woman said, Lady Boss has not personally come out to greet the guests for a long time, unexpectedly someone is trying to curry favor with her. Just deliver it to her place, well talk about it later when she comes back!

    Noiselessly Kou Zhong flashed out of the side-room. A moment later he came back and said, Turns out Peipei is the lady boss of this place. She lives in a secluded room at the rear courtyard, but right now I dont know where she went.

    This is not a good place to hide, Xu Ziling said, Wed better go to hide in her private chamber!

    Kou Zhong cheered, praising his good thinking. Carrying Susu, he left first to lead the way. Xu Ziling had no difficulty running after him.

    If Yang Xuyan were to personally witness the current situation, he would be shocked and would not dare to believe his eyes.

    Because he did not know that the Secret to Long Life was Taoist Schools secret, which was not passed on throughout the ages. It was also the secret that controlled nature; that gods and ghosts could not comprehend.

    When Yang Xuyans sword pierced Xu Zilings lower abdomen, it was blocked by the roster, so that the speed was somewhat reduced. However, this split second buffer was enough for Xu Ziling to prevent the sharp tip from delivering fatal qi into his body.

    Lower abdomen was like the sea of qi, if this part were wounded, it would be very difficult to recover. To martial art practitioners who cultivate qi, it would be especially devastating.

    Yet the Secret to Long Lifes function was precisely to save ones life and to prolong it. On top of that, there was Kou Zhongs true qi, which came from the same source, giving aid to him in treating the injury. Therefore, within a period of one night, Xu Ziling was able to recover most of his strength, creating a miracle, which other people found it hard to believe. Meanwhile, Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling and Susu naturally thought that it was as it should be; they were not surprised at all.

    It was Shen Luoyan who has miscalculated; she had the search concentrated in the dense lanes, alleys and houses within two li radius from her residence, resulting the three people could easily come and hide in this place.

    By this time the girls of Daiqing Lou have not gotten out of bed for too long, everybody was taking a bath and changing their clothes, and have not left their rooms, hence there were only a few maids and servant walking along the corridor, so that the three people could arrive at the Lady Boss Peipeis building without any surprise, without any danger. Avoiding two young maids at the anteroom, they slipped into her personal chamber.

    Without any politeness Kou Zhong pulled open the bedspread and asked shivering Susu to get into the quilt first, and then he had Xu Ziling lying down on the other side, while he himself sat at the foot of the bed.

    He laughed and said, Looks like there is nothing special about the Wagang Army, at least up to this time they still cannot do anything to us.

    Susu angrily said, The worst thing about Xiao Zhong is that you are very easy to be complacent. Wait until we can escape out of town, feeling proud about yourself at that time wont be too late!

    Xu Ziling said, Since leaving Yangzhou, night and day we lived a fugitive life. I really wish we could find a place with verdant hills and limpid water where we can settle down, living a quiet and peaceful life.

    Susu excitedly went into detailed discussion on what kind of place would be ideal for them to settle down.

    Soon afterwards Kou Zhong asked about Yang Xuyans martial art skill. After Xu Ziling told him everything he knew, as if he was still terrified he said, This persons internal energy has reached the following-ones-heart-desires level; not only the tip of his sword could spit out qi power, it was even divided further into hundreds and thousands streams, each one with different level of pulling force, so that I was completely unable to display my usual level.

    Kou Zhong muttered to himself, This is very unusual for sure, but since he could achieve it, we ought to be able to do the same.

    Xiao Ling, Susu was curious, You really could not see his appearance clearly?

    Thats what more surprising, Xu Ziling replied, The place we fought was dark without any light, but clearly my vision was filled with sword rays, plus his movement was as fast as a ghost or a demon; I could not even tell whether he is tall or short, fat or thin.

    Kou Zhong slapped his thigh, I understand, he said, Try pressing your eyeball with your finger; very quickly you will see stars. Yang Xuyan must be exploiting this principle; he used the sword qi to create pressure to your eyes, so that your misperception flared out. Ay! This guy can be considered really formidable!

    Xu Ziling nodded, Perhaps it did happen like you said, he said, But his sword was even more terrifying. Obviously strike would hit the target, but suddenly it hit empty air, and the real strike came, it was so slick that I could not block it. No wonder there are so many dominating characters harboring a grudge under his sword.

    Kou Zhong breathed out a mouthful of cold air; he said, This guy is really proficient. Huh?

    The three of them shut up immediately.

    Sound of footsteps coming from afar, even Susu was able to hear it. Followed by the two maids in the outer hall spoke in chorus, Madame is back!

    Inside the room, the three people were greatly delighted; knowing that finally they were going to find Peipei.

    A somewhat cold and detach, deep, but pleasant to hear female voice spoke, What is this?

    One of the maids replied, Somebody bought a bolt of silk fabric from the west street shop and have it delivered here, indicating clearly that it was for Madame. This matter has been reported to Yun Niang.

    Peipei was silent for half a day before finally spoke calmly, Go get Yun Niang for me.

    The two maids complied and left.

    Straining his ears to eavesdrop, Kou Zhong heard Peipei sat down; he whispered, Lets hear what they have to say first.

    Xu Ziling said, Isnt Yun Niang the flirtatious lady who received us the other day?

    Kou Zhong nodded.

    Suddenly the three people felt somewhat nervous.

    Right now it could be said that Peipei was their last hope.

    If this road is blocked, then they could only rely on their own power to escape.

    Previously, when Xu Ziling was not injured, it was already hard to accomplished; right not it was even more difficult to do.

    Soon Yun Niang arrived. After dismissing the two maids, Peipei said, What did you find?

    Yun Niang respectfully replied, I have investigated this matter. The one buying the cloth must be Susu, the time was yesterday afternoon. It appears that the two boys are using the toss a stone to find out whats ahead trick trying to find Madame.

    The three people listening inside the room shuddered in fear, because when speaking about them, Yun Niangs voice did not have any trace of politeness.

    Peipei was silent for half a day; she said, It should be so. But I am afraid they wont be able to come. Right now Xu Ziling is injured by Yang Xuyan, whether he will live or die is still to be seen. Shen Luoyan is going all-out to search for them. Just now she passed on a message to me, telling me that if our Baling Bang dared to interfere, she would not be polite. Therefore, we simply must not stain our hands.

    When Kou Zhong and the others, three people, heard this, they looked at each other, their hearts sank.

    Outside, Yun Niang griped, This time we are going to be killed by Xiang Shaoye! Offending Wagang Army, how can we set out foot in Xingyang?

    Peipei said, The only way is to cooperate nicely with Shen Luoyan. Just now I went out by myself to see whether Kou Zhong would show himself to meet with me. And now we have confirmation that he has not come, I will notify Shen Luoyan about this matter. If they did come, you have to try to detain them here; wait for my return and then well talk.

    Finished speaking, she went out of the room.

    Now that the three peoples last hope was dashed, after putting everything in the room to its original condition, they quietly left.

    Using the heavy snow as a cover, with Kou Zhong carrying Susu on his back, they swiftly traversed several buildings, and reached the large garden of Xu Shijis official residence.

    After surveying the surroundings for a moment, Kou Zhong said, According to Chen Laomous instruction, Xu Shijis office must be in one of the side rooms east and west of the main building. And Xingyangs city blueprint ought to be there as well.

    Xu Ziling said, That will be easy to find out. Lets go!

    The three crossed the garden and headed toward the front courtyard.

    By this time Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings experience was already very rich; they knew when to come and when to leave, hence they stopped and proceeded accordingly. After avoiding several servants and maids of the mansion, they arrived at Xu Shijis study, a room filled with scroll after scroll of documents.

    Following Chen Laomous method, they searched around speedily, thumbing through the documents, and returned them to their original conditions so that not a trace of sign would be found that they have been manipulated.

    The number of documents in the room exceeded a thousand scrolls, therefore, this task was time consuming and laborious.

    The entire Xu mansion appeared to be deserted, it wasnt clear whether all the martial art experts in the mansion were involved in the operation to hunt and arrest them.

    The two boys focused their strength into their eyes, flipping over the left and uncovered the right in the dark, all the way until the first watch of the night [between 7-9pm] before finally Kou Zhong made a breakthrough.

    The three huddled together, looking at a roll of drawings Kou Zhong spread over the table. Susu lighted an oil lamp on the table. Kou Zhong took off his outer garment to mask the lantern, so that the light would not leak out.

    Xu Ziling turned to the third page from the bottom and called out happily, This is it.

    It was the map of Xingyang Citys underground sewer system, the drawing was very detailed, and it was well-annotated.

    Kou Zhong pointed to a sewer at the south of the city and said, This sewer is connected to the moat, the width reaches five chi [reminder: 1 chi is approx. 1 foot or 1/3m] enough for us to pass through.

    Xu Ziling pointed to the intersection between the sewer and the city wall river and said, There must be a drainage fence or some kind of barrier installed here at the mouth of the sewer; we must bring a saw or some other tool to break out.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Thats easy, just leave it to me. Right now let me find the way first, you two hide in here, wait for me to come back.

    The three studied the map a bit longer. Susu dejectedly said, I am not leaving! Such a long underwater passage, I will be suffocating to death.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, There is Xiao Zhong here, how can Jiejie have any problem? Last time Xiao Ling sucked Jiejies mouth, this time its my turn!

    Susu glowered at Kou Zhong, her pretty face turned red.

    Xu Ziling admonished him, Zhong Shao, how can you speak such frivolous words to Su Jie? Our sister-brother relation is clear and white; that time it was an emergency!

    Kou Zhong busily apologized to Susu. Sweeping his eyes around, he said, Youd better hide inside that big wardrobe. I only need to take some of the contents out, it should have enough space for you to hide. Xiao Ling, use this opportunity to recuperate, Su Jie, try to get some sleep.

    By the time Xu Ziling awoke, Susu was still sleeping soundly in his bosom; her breathing was soft and even. He busily woke Susu up and whispered, Someones coming!

    Susu woke up with a start and turned around to bury her face into his bosom; she did not even dare to take even a half of loud breathing.

    The door was opened, Shen Luoyans voice was heard outside the wardrobe, Shiji! Where is the city map?

    After a series of light rustling noise, there was a sound of a scroll being opened. Xu Shijis voice said, We have searched the entire southern part of the city, still we cant find those two kids. We must expand the scope, while at the same time sealed off the places we have searched, so that they cannot slip back in.

    Xu Ziling groaned inwardly.

    Relying on his fantastic true qi, it shouldnt be difficult to evade these two peoples eyes and ears. But Susu only knew punching and kicking skill; she did not know any first-class internal skill at all. When Shen and Xu, two people have calmed down, they would definitely be able to tell that there was something unusual inside the wardrobe.

    Thinking to this point, he had a sudden inspiration; quickly he covered Susus lips and slowly transferred his true qi into her mouth. As expected, Susus external breathing stopped. A pure, based on internal-breathing qi flowed in and out; from external breathing turned into internal breathing.

    Shen Luoyan and Xu Shiji discussed step-by-step method to search the entire city. While they were deciding on how to seal off the area, Shen Luoyan suddenly let out a tender cry; and then there was a sound of people kissing on the outside.

    Shen Luoyan furiously said, Dont do that! I am not in the mood.

    Xu Shiji let out a cold snort and said, Not in the mood? When did you ever be in the mood? How long has it been since we had some kind of intimacy?

    Displeased, Shen Louyan backed off, When Miss is not in the mood, that means the Miss is not in the mood. Could it be that Xu Ye is having some regret?

    Xu Shijis tone softened somewhat. In an almost pleading tone he said, Luoyan! You should know I am wholeheartedly devoted to you, dont let any outsider affect out deep affection to each other!

    Inside the wardrobe, Susu snaked her hand around to lightly pinch Xu Zilings lower back, indicating that the outsider who affected their relationship ought to be him.

    Shen Luoyans voice turned icy-cold, Dont talk nonsense, she said, What outsider, insider? How can it involve any third person? You, Xu Ye, have always been very romantic, whether you have me, one person, or not, what does it have to do with you? You can be wholeheartedly devoted to me, I am afraid that was only a joke!

    From slightly ashamed, Xu Shiji flew into rage, Originally I did not want to say this, I have been playing along according to the situation [orig. find a stage, put on a comedy], and you know it. Why do you settle the score only now?

    After a short pause, he continued, Ever since you came across that guy Ba Fenghan, his sweet speech and honeyed words swept you off your feet, so that you roamed around together with him all day long. Upon returning, you suddenly changed. Even Duke Mi asked me about you. Tell me, what should I tell Duke Mi?

    This time it was Xu Zilings turn inside the wardrobe to feel awkward, but he was also greatly disgusted. Turned out Shen Luoyan came across Ba Fenghan, and perhaps they even went to bed together, otherwise Xu Shiji would not be that jealous.

    On the other hand, Susu was greatly surprised, because when she thought that Xu Ziling was killed, her demeanor changed, how could now suddenly Ba Fenghan come into the picture?

    She heard Shen Luoyan furiously said, Your affair, I do not give a damn; my affair, I dont need you to care.

    Xu Shiji softened up; he sighed and said, Not only Ba Fenghan is a foreigner, this time he came to the Central Plains, it is clearly to stir up the wind and the rain. Ever since he made a name in that sword duel, he has already defeated more than a dozen renowned masters in various regions. Pulling up a relationship with someone like him wont give us the slightest bit of advantage.

    Shen Luoyan was silent for half a day; suddenly she said, Right now I am only thinking of how to get the roster back; if we let it falls into the governments hands, the repercussion is simply unthinkable! Lets go quickly.

    Only after the two people left that Xu Ziling and Susu finally breathed a sigh of relief.

    Susus raised her pretty face, with her breathing as fragrant as the orchid she said, Xu Shijis fear is misplaced!

    Xu Ziling let out a wry smile and said, Its because Jiejie has not seen Ba Fenghan that you said so. Not only this man has superior martial art skill, his appearance exudes a very breathtaking charm. All he has to do was to make an appearance, and automatically everybodys eyes were drawn to him. Compared to him, I am really far too inferior.

    Susu was displeased, I dont believe you, she said, Its just because you and Xiao Zhong are still young. But in time, Jiejie dont believe there are people who will overshadow your radiance. You just dont know it yet! In fact, every day you are still changing. Most of all, each one of you has your unique personality traits, even Jiejies heart is being moved by you!

    Although the two of them were in such a close, intimate situation, there was no amorous thought in their hearts, only pure love between sister and brother.

    Embarrassed, Xu Ziling said, Jiejie must not laugh at me, how about getting some more sleep?

    Susu yielded; she nodded, and then like a docile little lamb she obediently buried herself in his bosom and closed her beautiful eyes, and fell asleep.

    With Susus alluring tender body in his embrace, myriads of thoughts were surging in Xu Zilings mind. All of a sudden he was overwhelmed with the feeling that he was completely at a loss.

    The first thing he had to consider was not how to deal with Yuwen Huaji to avenge Fu Junchuo, but rather how to arrange a place for the good Jiejie in his bosom to settle down.

    The problem was that all along the two boys were unclear on the relationship between Li Jing and Susu.

    Even if they found Li Jing, they might only make things worse.

    It was the time when the soldiers mutinied and the troops rebelled, they would not feel at ease leaving Susu just anywhere.

    On the other hand, taking her along would also be extremely dangerous to her, considering the two boys have become the target of a multitude of arrows.

    While he was racking his brains until his head felt bloated, Kou Zhong came back.

    By this moment the sky has brightened. Kou Zhong slipped into the wardrobe and dejectedly said, This time we are doomed; turns out when the sewer reaches the exit, it is divided into a dozen passages so small that even a dog cannot pass through. We are wasting our effort, and have been rejoicing in vain.

    Did you go down to check it? Susu asked.

    Kou Zhong nodded, Of course I did, he said, I had just stolen another set of clothes to change. Ay!

    No wonder you smell different! Xu Ziling remarked.

    Kou Zhong said, While I was out, I also checked the situation of the city defense. There are Wagang Army troops everywhere, the city does not lack elevated lookout posts; leaving the city is merely lunatic ravings. Hey! Xiao Ling, are you better now?

    Three more days before I am fully recovered, Xu Ziling replied. And then he said, I have an idea.

    You are really smart, Kou Zhong said in amazement, I have already exhausted my brains. Speak up quickly, let us hear it.

    Its that roster, Xu Ziling replied, For Wagang Army, this roster is a lot more important than some Duke Yang Treasure Trove. We can use it as our bargaining chip. What do you say?

    Kou Zhong pondered silently for half a day; finally he nodded his agreement and said, Certainly its the only way out in the middle of no way out. However, it would be best if we wait till you are fully recovered before going out to strike a deal with Shen Poniang, that way we will have a bit more assurance.

    Xu Ziling shrugged his shoulders, We are not going to fight, he said, A bit sooner or a bit later wont make much difference. But according to the news we just heard, this morning Shen Luoyan may begin searching this area. If we strike the deal after we are found out, it wont have as much value.

    All right! Kou Zhong said, Ill go find Shen Poniang then!

    Susu pulled him back, Xiao Zhong! she called, Jiejie is very scared!

    Kou Zhong planted a light kiss on her cheek; he said with a giggle, Jiejie, set your heart at ease! Whoever wants to deal with us, Yangzhous Two Dragons, must bag the food they cant finish and take it away [Not sure about this, must be some idiom].

    And then it was Xu Zilings turn to pull him back, and without missing a word, he told him everything he heard from Shen Luoyan and Xu Shijis discussion about the hunt and arrest operation.

    Thank Heaven and thank the Earth! Kou Zhong happily said, This time they can forget of standing by my side at all!

    It was only then did he really leave.

  13. #53
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 6

    Book 5 Chapter 6 Vying for the book

    Snowy evening. Like a bolt of lightning Kou Zhong flitted passed several buildings, and in short time he already ascertained that Shen Luoyan was not at home.

    Although just like other people, with all her power and influence Shen Luoyan also wanted to hunt and arrest them, Kou Zhong had always felt that this pretty Junshi [military counselor] had some kind of subtle connection with them, that she was one with whom he could talk to.

    To Shen Luoyan, this book represented the entire strength distribution and intelligence network of the Wagang Army, its importance was indeed incomparable. Moreover, the book was lost while in her possession, naturally she would be held responsible. Therefore, in this business deal, he had no worries that she would not yield.

    Question is: how to contact her?

    Shen Luoyans private chamber was pitch-black, the inner courtyard of her mansion was also devoid of any guard reinforcements.

    Although Kou Zhong felt as if he was entering a no-mans land, his heart was actually full of disappointment and sense of loss.

    After waiting painstakingly for a long time, he still did not see Shen Luoyan came back. Without any other choice, he was thinking of returning to Xu Ziling to discuss this matter further.

    As he leaped over a high wall and landed on the roof of another house nearby, an alarm suddenly went off in his heart.

    Kou Zhong was very astute; quickly he changed direction and traversed sideways. Who would have thought that his left ankle suddenly tightened? Something like a rope wound itself tightly around his ankle.

    Kou Zhong was shocked. He wanted to use the fastest and quickest way to pull the broadsword from his back, but then suddenly remembered that he had thrown his broadsword away in his effort to save Xu Ziling. While his hand was grabbing an empty air, he was pulled back that he rolled over the roof tile and fell. A thin stream of finger wind attacked him, threatening the vital acupoint on his back.

    In this critical situation, Kou Zhong remained calm; exerting his true qi, he sent out both palms backward to strike the enemy.

    The opponent did not expect Kou Zhong to be this outstanding; he swiftly retreated to the end of the narrow alley to evade the wind from Kou Zhongs palms.

    Bang! Kou Zhongs back landed on the ground. He was going to spring back up when a stream of strange energy flowed out from the rope binding his foot and penetrated his body, and in an instant permeated the meridians in his entire body.

    Kou Zhongs sturdy body was severely shaken, immediately his hands and feet went numb, and he fell back to the ground.

    A shadow flitted over; the shadows right foot gingerly stepped on the right side of the small of Kou Zhongs back.

    Kou Zhong immediately felt severe pain that his waist felt like it was about to burst; but the true qi in his body quickly reacted, from his tianling [at the top of ones head] acupoint it burst forth downward; not only it neutralized the numbness of his limbs, it also blocked the stream of energy from the tip of the opponents foot entering his lower back.

    Kou Zhong was about to strike back when that person bent down and reached out to brush the pit of Kou Zhongs stomach.

    It was only then did Kou Zhong see that the opponent was wearing night-walker outfit, complete with head covering, revealing only his eyes and mouth and nose.

    Kou Zhong inwardly called, Come closer! Unleashing the Meridian Severing Technique taught by Tu Shufang, his fingertips brushed over the opponents wrist first, and then using the qinna technique he grabbed him.

    That person obviously did not expect Kou Zhong still had the ability to fight back; his body went weak and he fell into Kou Zhongs embrace.

    Kou Zhong did not dare to hesitate; taking advantage while that person was still unable to defuse the stream of qi from Kou Zhongs fingertips that was blocking his channels, he rolled over and pressed the opponent against the ground.

    Unexpectedly that person let out a tender grunt as his four limbs were entangled by Kou Zhong that he was unable to move a single step.

    Kou Zhong was very proud of himself, thinking that this he was unexpectedly a she, as he groped around and discovered that she was very well developed. After retracting his right hand that locked the vital acupoint on her backbone, he peeled off her head covering.

    Ah! immediately both people cried out at the same time.

    Like a cloud her beautiful black hair cascaded down on the snow-covered ground of the small alley. Under the dim light reflected by the snow, her eyes twinkled in the dark like a pair of precious stones. To his surprise, she was none other than Song Yuzhi, whose beauty was brimming with masculine air.

    Kou Zhong was stunned. So its you! he said.

    Not only Song Yuzhi was not shy at all, she spoke in cold manner, Let us make a business deal!

    Kou Zhong was tempted to take a little bit of advantage on her; for instance, kissing her fragrant lips or something like that, to see whether she would remain this aloof. However, he was intimidated by her cool-headedness, and in turn did not dare to offend her. Giggling, he said, If you want to use your body to make a deal, you can spare the haggling, because I, Kou Ye [master], will not be coerced by female charm trick. Ha! Turns out the thing wrapping around your Shaoyes big foot was the beautys flexible whip. Very formidable. Do you usually keep it wrapped around your tiny waist?

    Recalling that she was the Clan Leader of the Song Clan Heavenly Saber Song Ques daughter, whose status and honor incomparable, yet he had given her body an all-around groping, he could not restrain a burst of excitement from rising up.

    Song Yuzhis black eyebrows frowned slightly; she sighed and said, Dont be too complacent! Your skill is still not enough to defeat me, its just that I underestimated the enemy, and was unable to gauge your foundation, hence I committed a blunder, thats all! If you speak frivolously again, or do more improper things to me, unless you kill me afterwards, I will make sure that you will face endless disaster.

    Kou Zhong asked in surprise, You are encouraging me to continue pressing your alluring body? To a lady of a large, influential family with high status like you, the fact that a guy from a poor and humble family that is not even worth mentioning has taken advantage of you, should give you enough reason to commit suicide!

    Song Yuzhi nonchalantly replied, Since you already pressed me down, so what if you want to press me down half a day longer? All right! Are you ready to talk business?

    Kou Zhong reached out to press her Jianjing [lit. shoulder well] acupoint; he smiled and said, Beauty really know how to put an act. Turns out very soon youll unseal the locked acupoints, therefore, you deliberately talked to me like that to swindle me. Hee ... hee I am off!

    Song Yuzhis eyes gleamed; she softly said, Dont go. If you go, wholl shelter me from the rain and the snow?

    For the first time Kou Zhong felt that this beauty with unique charm was unfathomable. Although he appeared to gain the upper hand, the initiative actually lay in the opponents hands.

    Song Yuzhi continued, You ought to know that I did not mean to hurt you. Based on this fact, can we make a deal now? Arent you looking for Shen Luoyan to make a deal?

    Kou Zhong forced a smile and said, You have seen through me; just consider me afraid you! Is Song Shidao your esteemed older brother? You must be aware that he and I have friendship relation, hence the reason I did not really dare to touch you.

    Song Yuzhi indifferently replied, You are people whom the streets know the alleys heard about, no one is unaware of your matter. Were it not for as early as three months ago I learned about your ability from my Dage [eldest brother], but underestimated your progress, tonight I would not have underestimated the enemy and suffered your frivolous treatment. But my intuition was correct, you are not a despicable man. Ao! How could you

    Kou Zhong rolled away and sat up; he awkwardly said, It was a natural reaction of a normal man. Miss Song, please forgive me.

    Song Yuzhi immediately burst her acupoints open. Raising her tender body, she said with slight anger, Seeing you were unintentional, I let you off this time! But you must forget this matter; if I find out that you ever mention this to anybody, I will definitely take your little life. Finished speaking, she bent down to untie the whip rope on his ankle.

    Looking at her loose beautiful hair, Kou Zhong felt a bit unsure about their relationship; he sounded her out by asking, Just now you were attacking me viciously, why suddenly become this considerate and kind to me?

    Song Yuzhi wrapped the entire five zhang of flexible whip around her waist; she said coldly, Whos considerate and kind to you? I never said that I wouldnt fight with you. Its just that seeing your natural character is simple and good, I am a bit more polite to you. Thats all!

    After staring blankly for half a day, Kou Zhong scratched his head and said, I really dont understand you.

    Song Yuzhi moved her tender body slightly farther away from him; with her beautiful eyes, which pupils looked very black against the white eyeballs, she stared at him and said calmly, Who needs to be understood by you? Just listen carefully: under the current situation, sooner or later you will be caught by Wagang Army. Dont think that I simply said frightening words to scare you, Shen Luoyan already sent express report to Li Mi, asking him to dispatch Zheng Zong back to participate in this hunt and arrest operation. This mans nickname is Flying Feather, an expert in tracking and pursuing people; he raises birds with the sole purpose of tracking people. As soon as he is here, you wont have a place to hide.

    Kou Zhong was greatly surprised; while at the same time realized the reason Shen Luoyan dared to make a bet that she would be able to catch them three times at the mouth of the river was because this man was working for her in secret.

    He giggled and said, Dont stare at me like that! Look, we met in such a strange situation. This is a narrow alley, and it is snowing heavily, plus it is hard to say whether we are friend or foe, yet you want to make a deal? Ha! Very funny!

    Song Yuzhi showed a thoughtful look, but then she looked annoyed as she said, Are you saying that I am lying to you to scare you?

    Kou Zhong leaned forward slightly; his tiger-eyes shot a scary gleam as he looked deep into her eyes and said, Until now you are still looking down on me. Humph! We two brothers have never needed anybody to pity us. You want Shen Luoyans roster? If you have the ability, come to steal or to rob it from us! I, Kou Zhong, have no interest in making any deal with anybody.

    Finished speaking, he straightened up and stood tall, brushed away the snow from his body, smiled slightly, and turned away to leave.

    Song Yuzhi also suddenly stood up and said coldly, Dont go!

    Kou Zhong looked at the especially long whip around her waist, he humphed and said, I know your magic weapon already, if you want to try it again, it wont be effective!

    Song Yuzhi loftily said, You think what kind of people are our Song Family? Since I failed to capture you, would I shamelessly try for the second time? If you dont want to leave this city, then get lost as far as you can, and dont let me come across you again, because by that time, it would be to late to regret.

    Kou Zhong was not the least bit angry; still giggling, he said, Beauty, please calm down. Since you already have this kind of good intention, as long as you do not covet my book, or that Duke Yang Treasure that your Shaoye does not even know where, everything else can be discussed nicely.

    Song Yuzhi crossly said, What do you think you are? Do you think for no reason I am going to offend Wagang Army just to help you? Besides, very soon you cant even guarantee your little lives, yet you are still holding on to the book that has no usefulness to you whatsoever.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and floated away.

    Song Yuzhi stomped her feet in anger, but she was totally at a loss on how to deal with him.

    In Xu Shijis study room, Susu and Xu Ziling listened to Kou Zhong narrated his encounter with Song Yuzhi. The former anxiously said, How are we going to deal with it? Speaking about tracking and pursuing skill, within the Wagang Army the Flying Feather Zheng Zong undoubtedly occupies the first spot. Even if we manage to escape from the city, sooner or later he will overtake us.

    Xu Ziling shrugged his shoulders and said, We have already encountered him. His most formidable weapon is that magic bird. We are not afraid of him.

    Dont be complacent like that, all right? Susu reproached him.

    Kou Zhong was deep in thought for half a day. Suddenly he laughed and said, It would be best if we swagger out, then look at Shen Luoyans face!

    Xu Ziling shook his head, That will diminish Shen Luoyans standing too much. Furthermore, her worst fear is that the content would leak out; she would rather destroy it.

    With head hanging down, Susu said, If you dont have Jiejie as your burden, right now you wont have such a headache.

    The two boys promptly spoke comforting words to her.

    Xu Ziling scratched his head and said, With a thousand ways, a hundred plans we are trying to find a way, but most are unrealistic. Why dont we try just charging our way out of the city? As long as one of us can get out, we can haggle over the price with Shen Luoyan.

    Hearing this, Kou Zhongs heart was greatly moved. Hows your lower abdomen injury? he asked.

    Xu Ziling lowered his voice, If I tell you, you wont believe it, but I feel even better than before.

    Kou Zhong was greatly excited, Now thats different, he said, We might as well go all out, turn the city of Xingyang upside down. Do you still remember those dozen or so jars of kerosene in Shen Luoyans house?

    Xu Zilings eyes immediately lit up.

    The stable in Xu Shijis official residence was the first to catch fire. More than forty horses stampeded out of the opened-wide back door and bolted wildly off into the street.

    Next several spots of fire appeared in the main building. The melting ice and snow actually intensified the fire.

    Most of manpower in the mansion had been deployed to join the search operation for the three people; in the confusion that ensued the maids and servants fled for their lives. The fire spread out rapidly, fortunately because of the high walls all around the premise, plus due toe the heavy snow, it did not spread to neighboring buildings.

    By the time the people involved in hunt and arrest operation rushed over in panic, on the other side of town Shen Luoyans manor burst into flames, making the Wagang Army tired of constantly running for their lives.

    This moment Shen Luoyans beautiful body was standing on the roof of a building. Standing next to her, other than the Old Man of the Field Mo Cheng, there was also a team of handpicked martial art experts from the Wagang Army.

    Like the heavy snow falling into the earth, intelligence reports unceasingly brought up by the troops to her, but Shen Luoyan simply fixed her cold gaze on the two fires rising in the distance, but the fire was apparently under control.

    Mo Cheng took a step forward behind Shen Luoyan, he respectfully said, It appears that this is all those two guys doing. I really dont understand why after being stabbed by Yang Xuyan, not only Xu Ziling did not die, he is even able to raise such a big wind and a big rain?

    A faint bitter smile escaped from the corner of Shen Luoyans mouth; she said nonchalantly, I did not underestimate them at all, but I still miscalculated. Now that I calmly think about it, I ought to know that since they are continuously making progress, not only their martial art skill are getting stronger with each passing day, their ability and wisdom should also grow along with their experience, so that they become very difficult to deal with.

    Mo Cheng snorted and said, It doesnt matter what they have become, tonight they are going to lose their lives. Zheng Zong has just arrived here, now he is with Xu Ye [master Xu] setting up the net to intercept them; guaranteed that they wont be able to escape for too long.

    Shen Luoyan coldly snapped, Uncle Cheng! You are angry.

    Mo Cheng was stunned.

    Shen Luoyan calmly said, The number of people who want to seek the Duke Yang Treasure Trove from them is too many to be counted. But the fact is that until today, nobody is able to do anything to deal with them. If we still underestimate the enemy like before, we might fail and might be wiped over the floor. The missing roster is of grave importance, if they really take it with them, I would have no choice but to atone for my crime with death.

    This moment someone was coming to report that they have stopped the herd of horses running away from the Xu Mansion, but they failed to see the three peoples vestige.

    Mo Cheng sighed and said, Xingyang City is so big, they only need to find a place to hide, we will have to waste so much effort to find them.

    Shen Luoyan shook her head, No! she said, I understand their character very well, especially that guy Kou Zhong; he is not that patient. Tonight they will go all-out in creating disturbance to take advantage of the situation to escape.

    After a short pause, she continued, What surprised me most is why did they seem to know about our hunt and arrest operation so that they come and go freely in the city? It is as if they personally listen to Xu Shiji and me planning it.

    Right this moment, Xu Zilings voice was heard from behind them, Shen Luoyan! Do you have time to chat with us?

    Shen Luoyan and her mens countenance changed immediately; they turned around to look.

    Under the heavy snow swirling in the air, Xu Ziling stood upright and unafraid on the roof ridge of a nearby house, he was speaking calmly, composed, elegant and stylish.

    An indescribable feeling welled up in Shen Luoyans heart. She felt it deep in her heart that Xu Ziling had grown up, not at all like the naughty, big kid, who still loved to play, impression she previously had. And she was not referring to his tall and straight figure, the most significant change was that the repeated crises and hardships have nurtured in him his current bearing and gallantry, which made up the distinctive style of Xu Zilings intimidating charm.

    Without waiting for her to respond, her men had already flown over and surrounded Xu Ziling, in a swords-drawn, bows-bent like situation.

    Shen Luoyan gathered her thought and flew over; in the blink of an eye she already stood face to face with Xu Ziling on the roof ridge.

    The two peoples eyes were locked toward each other; both were having a hundred and one thoughts swirling in their minds.

    Xu Ziling nodded slightly, he calmly said, From laughing, giggling and playing together, we have turned into archenemies who are fighting life and death battle against each other. Each time I am thinking about this I really feel downhearted.

    The affection in Shen Luoyans heart was even harder to describe.

    Right now Xu Zilings face still showed paleness due to the loss of blood, but it did not compromise his scholarly, refined appearance; on the contrary, it added some kind of profound depth and a sense of maturity to his demeanor that only sufferings could bring.

    In all her life, a few men did indeed move her heart, but because helping Li Mi to gain the world has become her objective, love and family affairs have to be shoved to the side. So much so that she tried to make herself cold-hearted, that she would consider anything from the point of view whether this matter would be useful to their cause or not.

    After encountering Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, every time she had to deal with these two boys, she had to go through a struggle in her heart. But at that time she only thought her heart was torn because she was fond of their talents.

    However, she was acutely aware that she was actually happy to see them, that butting heads with them actually left a rich aftertaste in her mouth. Still, she never thought that there was any love between man and woman in her heart toward them.

    When she found out that Xu Ziling was injured by Yang Xuyan, at the time where his life or death was still unknown, it suddenly dawned on her that Xu Zilings death may actually deal an unbearable blow to her.

    It was as if she was losing the most precious thing in the world.

    Now that she was standing face-to-face as enemies with this young martial art master, who was three or four years younger than she, the complicated contradiction in her heart was not hard to understand.

    After taking a very deep breath, in the most calm voice she could muster Shen Luoyan said, Are you at the end of your rope?

    Xu Zilings eyes flashed with spirited rays; calmly he swept the enemies all around him with his gaze. As if nothing happened, he said, Order them to stand back a little first, otherwise I will attack immediately.

    With a cold laugh Shen Luoyan said, Dont overly overestimate yourself, I can order them to withdraw, but its not because I am afraid of your threat.

    Xu Ziling said indifferently, My threat includes a book, which you will never get back. But in case you dont believe me, this time I intentionally came to return the book to you, so that you wont bear the criminal charges. However, you are accustomed to repay kindness with evil; therefore, no matter what you think, I will not think it strange.

    Shen Luoyan was silent for half a day; finally she waved her hand to order her men to retreat, and then she sighed and said, At a time where everybody, by hook or by crook, fighting over the world [tian xia], any gratitude and grudges is just a waste of time. Hows this: if you hand over the book, I will guarantee your safe passage out of the city.

    Xu Ziling shook his head, How can that be enough? he said, I also want your personal guarantee that no matter what happen in the future, as long as its not us who stir it up, you must not come looking for us to give us trouble.

    Shen Luoyan dismissed him by saying, The decision maker in the Wagang Army is Duke Mi and not me, Shen Luoyan. Even if I guarantee it, it will be useless.

    Xu Ziling helplessly shrugged his shoulders and said with a bitter laugh, Do you want me to wait for Duke Mis return? Right here, right now, you are the decision maker, hence the reason we have no choice but to look for you. If later on Duke Mi overthrow your commitment, I certainly cant blame you.

    Shen Luoyans tender heart shook; she suddenly came to realization why between Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, her favorable impression lay with Xu Ziling. It was simply because he always projected some kind of upright and true personality, unlike Kou Zhong who was frivolous and full of slick-cynicism.

    She herself was a cunning, smart person who was used to handling any matter unscrupulously, yet she was obviously moved by Xu Ziling, someone with special quality that she lacked, someone that was totally different from her.

    Xu Ziling was constantly on alert of any movement around him. Right now he caught a glimpse of the arrival of Xu Shiji and a group of competent-looking subordinate, who then stationed themselves on the roof ridge of a big residential building about a dozen zhang away to his left. But of course he was unclear whether the Flying Feather Zheng Zong was among these men.

    Shen Luoyan signaled Xu Shiji that everything was under control. She affectionately fixed her gaze on Xu Ziling for half a day before speaking softly, Very well! I agree to this condition. Where is the book?

    Xu Ziling suppressed the ecstasy in his heart; lowering his voice, he said, Withdraw your men from the eastern city gate immediately, open the east city gate, let Kou Zhong leave first, and then you alone accompany me going out of the city, I will return the book to you then.

    Shen Luoyan sighed and said, Xiao Ling, you still dont have enough experience. By saying that, it is obvious that the book is in your hands, because Kou Zhong must get Susu to a safe location as soon as possible

    You are thinking of going back on your words? Xu Ziling cut her off.

    Shen Luoyan knew that Xu Ziling had seen through her attempt to sound him out; she smiled and said, Of course not! Please take a good care of yourself, my little sweetheart.

    While Xu Ziling was baffled because she had called him her little sweetheart for no reason, Shen Luoyan already flew away and landed by Xu Shijis side, and then they were whispering into each others ear.

    It was only then did Xu Ziling discover that his entire body was drenched in cold sweats.

    After going through numerous twists and turns, they were finally able to leave the city.

  14. #54
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 7

    Book 5 Chapter 7 Subduing Enemy on Snowy Ground

    Side-by-side Xu Ziling and Shen Luoyan went out of the city. The former saw the marker Kou Zhong left at the city gate, so he knew that Kou Zhong and Susu already departed safely. His mood improved, he could not help the hostility in his heart toward Shen Luoyan decreasing a little.

    The two of them silently unleashed their foot technique, very soon they left the city of Xingyang far behind in the vast and indistinct wind and snow.

    When they reached the top of a hill, Xu Ziling stopped. He took out the book from his bosom, and without the slightest hesitation handed it over to her.

    Shen Luoyan flipped through it, and after verifying that it was indeed her roster, she put it inside her pocket. Sighing softly, she said, If my guess is correct, Xu Shiji will not let you off just because I gave you my promise. Therefore, unless you are fully confident that you are able to break away from Zheng Zongs pursuit, you must by all means avoid meeting with Kou Zhong and Susu right away; otherwise it would be the moment the three of you lose your lives.

    Xu Ziling was greatly puzzled, Why did you tell me that? Zhong Shao and I are already aware that your Wagang Army might go back on your word; but we did not expect that you would really be willing to let us go.

    Shen Luoyans pretty face blushed slightly; she said softly, I owe you so much, I ought to brag a little bit that I am also a good person. However, even though you heard Zheng Zongs name, you were not the least bit surprised. Evidently you have someone who already disclosed this information to you; no wonder you already planned in advance.

    Xu Ziling was secretly terrified; this woman was extremely intelligent and crafty, the more they talked, the more she would deduce their actual situation.

    While pondering how he could leave as soon as possible, Shen Luoyan looked deep into his eyes, and then lightly said, Im sure well meet again someday!

    Xu Ziling mused, Who wants to meet with you again someday? But without saying a word, he turned around and ran down the hill.

    Just before entering the forest at the foot of the hill, he looked back, but Shen Luoyan already disappeared without any trace.

    Xu Ziling turned around and ran back to the place where he parted ways with Shen Luoyan. Not too long afterwards he found the marker left by Kou Zhong, i.e. a small twig indicating the direction they were fleeing; there were also seven small pebbles, indicating he should go that way for more than seven li.

    Xu Ziling messed up the marker, looked up to the heavens, and just as expected, he did not see Zheng Zongs magical bird. This moment the snow was swirling heavily in the air; he had already guessed that it would be difficult for Zheng Zong to follow their trail on horseback.

    Just as he was about to leave, he seemed to hear Shen Luoyans tender voice shouting from about half a li to the west. Without even thinking Xu Ziling went at full speed toward that direction.

    Following the shout was a series of clashing qi noise like a muffled thunder. Xu Ziling unleashed the true qi in his body to its limit; he flew like a streak of shooting star splitting the snowstorm blanketing the big earth.

    Since Yun Yuzhen taught them the Bird Crossing Technique, they had experienced countless setbacks, attempts, and hard work to get better. But because they had eventually succeeded in training the Secret to Long Life, in turn their fantastic true qi could be applied in qinggong, so that each one of them was able to come up with amazing, beyond compare, shenfa. [Translators note: this is rather hard to translate without wordy explanation, basically it is a pose or motion of the body specifically in martial art.]

    Because of different interests and focus in developing their lightness skill, their qinggong style was also vastly different from each other. When they started training the Bird Crossing Technique, Kou Zhong loved to observe the marine ecosystem of swimming and cruising fish; therefore, automatically he developed movements mimicking the best of variety fish motion, full of vivacious postures. Still as a maiden, moving like a fugitive.

    Xu Ziling, on the other hand, loved to observe the trajectory of all kinds of bird flying in the air; therefore, naturally the postures he adopted were full of soaring-bird and diving-falcon style. Like a heavenly steed soaring across the sky, difficult to trace its track.

    Supporting them to attain their ideal body movement [shenfa, see above] was the true qi coming from diligent practice of the Secret to Long Life, which grew and multiplied without an end within their bodies.

    Their pursuit of lightness skill style was actually matching their inner true qi. According to the five-element principle: fish is water and bird is fire. The true qi within Kou Zhongs body was cold; while Xu Zilings was hot. Hence Kou Zhong imitating fish and Xu Ziling copying birds was a good fit like seamless heavenly clothes.

    When they were injured by Zhai Rang, the two boys applied their inner power to heal each other, accidentally generating heat in the midst of cold, and cold in the midst of heat. Under the blending of Yin and Yang, it was no longer like before, where a lone Yang could not last and exhaustion was an endless recurring condition.

    The most noticeable change was in the current utilization of the qinggong.

    Hence the reason this moment as Xu Ziling unleashed his shenfa, he felt that his true qi circulated endlessly. The more he ran, the faster he was, until finally even he himself was a bit scared.

    The sound of fighting suddenly ceased. Xu Ziling was alarmed, thinking that based on Shen Luoyans martial art skill, unless she was facing an opponent of Du Fuweis caliber, she should not have any problem defending herself; why was that within more or less ten moves she seemed to be subdued by the enemy?

    If that was the case, wouldnt it mean that the opponent was of his old dads caliber? Could it be that the Shadow Assassin Yang Xuyan has come?

    Thinking about that, his heart shivered in fear. Instantly the true qi within his body from clear turned murky, from pure it became mixed; from flying in the air he suddenly dropped down to the ground. Hastily he took a sharp breath to dispel his apprehension toward Yang Xuyan.

    Hastening the movement of inner breathing in his body, he focused his heart and mind, and immediately entered the moon in the well realm. His five senses sensed the world around him, nothing could escape his detection.

    Not only he was able to feel every single snowflake falling onto his body, he could even hear the sound of snowflakes touching each other within several zhang radius from him.

    The heaven and the earth lit up; the wind, the snow, everything sounded very clear in his hearing.

    This unprecedented amazing feeling only lasted for a blink of an eye; just as it happened suddenly, it also disappeared quite suddenly.

    Shocked, Xu Ziling dropped down on his knees on the snowy plain, thoughts flashed in the speed of light in his mind. He gained a sudden enlightenment; he knew that his fear of Yang Xuyan has inadvertently stimulated the self-sufficient treasure-trove within his body; unexpectedly he rose to another level of new realm.

    While he was scared and delighted at the same time, a sparkling object on the snow caught his attention.

    Xu Ziling gathered his thought. Springing up from the snowy ground, he walked over to pick up the object; to his amazement, it was Shen Luoyans soul snatching hairpin. He could not help but was shocked.

    It appeared that Shen Luoyan was really in danger so that even her golden hairpin fell on the ground.

    Xu Ziling hastened the circulation of his inner breathing; he drove away all shock and anxiety from his heart, and then launching his lightness skill, he searched along the vast snowy ground. A short while later, he did find some footprints that were already obscured by the falling snow.

    These footprints, one after another, pointed to a dense forest in the southeast direction, each footprint was separated by almost eight zhang distance [80ft/25m], the evenness and accuracy of the footprints was quite shocking.

    Just from the distance it was quite clear that this persons martial art skill was really high, almost to the unimaginable level.

    Xu Ziling asked himself: under normal circumstances, on solid ground, if he gave everything he had, perhaps he would be able to cover the same distance in one jump. But absolutely not on soft, snowy ground. It was not something that he could accomplish alone, much less if he had to carry someone else on his back.

    However, it was not enough reason for him to give up rescuing Shen Luoyan. After taking a sharp intake of breath, he swiftly chased forward.

    The snowstorm attacked him head-on, giving him the full taste of frigid wind and painful snow.

    He could see the feeble light from Xingyang City painting the distant horizon on his left, amplifying the desolate feeling the snowstorm already given him.

    Xu Ziling had just entered the fringe of the snowy forest when his acute hearing already caught some kind of strange noise.

    It was the sound of a woman panting and moaning.

    Xu Ziling immediately realized what was going on. A righteous anger welled up in his heart, yet his mind was still incomparably calm. Carefully but swiftly he moved toward the source of the noise.

    The perpetrator must be someone who has been lurking in Xingyang City, secretly watching their fight against the Wagang Army. And then taking advantage of the moment when he and Shen Luoyan split up, he made his move and launched a surprise attack. This person was not satisfied just by obtaining the roster, he still had to subject Shen Luoyan to his beastly atrocity.

    Fast like a ghost Xu Ziling ducked to the left and slipped to the right in the snowy forest; he tiptoed on the snowy ground, so that he did not create any noise at all. He even severed his mouth and nose breathing, and was only using the continuous internal qi to breath.

    His eyes brightened, he was able to utilize the faint glow of the snow in the night, which average person would not be able to see, so that in that pitch-black forest he was able to distinguish objects and faintly see the fluorescent green of the snowy wonderland.

    The sound of heavy breathing was becoming clearer.

    Moments later, deep in the snowy forest a tall, majestic figures back caught Xu Zilings eyes. This mans shoulder was particularly broad, yet his waist was surprisingly slim; his long hair was draped over his shoulder, giving others a memorable impression.

    This moment he was pressing Shen Luoyans body against the trunk of a big tree. His pair of hands slipped inside the beautys half-opened clothes, voraciously fondling her breasts.

    Xu Ziling sent his power to increase his vision; he saw Shen Luoyans face was beet red, her elegant eyes were tightly shut, her mouth was also tightly closed, the expression on her pretty face was a mixture of pain and contradiction, with tears across her whole face.

    Every fondling of the mans hand brought a shiver over her entire body, plus a moan and a gasp.

    A grating voice like a wolf in heat said with a laugh, My, Dugu Ba, technique can turn a chaste woman [lit. woman who dies fighting for her honor or who follows her husband in death] into a wh0re, let alone you, a s1ut. After you have a taste of me, I guarantee that you, the Pretty Junshi [military counselor] will never leave me, and will obediently become my woman.

    Moaning and panting, Shen Luoyan said, Just kill me!

    Dugu Ba clicked his tongue and then with a strange-sounding laughter he said, Your figure is so well developed, your skin is so tender and smooth, how can I bear to harm you? After you become my woman, you will be delighted to work for my Dugu Clan.

    Shen Luoyan suddenly let out an especially intense moan, obviously Dugu Ba has violated the part that has caused her extreme discomfort.

    From behind a tree Xu Ziling noiselessly flashed out, slowly creeping toward Dugu Ba.

    He was certain that he was not Dugu Bas match; the only way was to take advantage when the opponents attention was completely absorbed in his lascivious behavior, to mount a sneak attack.

    The golden hairpin rose up, it was aimed at Dugu Bas back.

    With a trembling voice Shen Luoyan said, Even if you obtain my body, dont even think that you will obtain my heart.

    Obviously Dugu Ba was extremely proud of himself; gasping for breath, he laughed and said, Arent you in love with that kid just now whose smell of mothers milk not yet dried? Were it not for you lost your soul and dropped your spirit after you two parted, I am afraid it would not be this easy for me to succeed, to enjoy Li Mis woman. Ha!

    This moment Xu Ziling was still about a zhang away from Dugu Ba. Hearing what was said, his spirit trembled a little, his footstep immediately getting somewhat heavier.

    Unexpectedly Dugu Ba was able to react; his powerful body shook, as if he was moving.

    Xu Ziling did not dare to hesitate. The gold hairpin shot out, while at the same time he also shot forward at full speed, his entire strength was focused on the middle finger of his right hand, piercing Dugu Bas back.

    Although Dugu Ba was outstanding, he had never imagined that there existed a martial art expert who was able to conceal all phenomena of life, such as breathing, body temperature, heartbeat, et cetera, and was able, to certain degree, to become invisible. Combined with the fact that his attention was focused on Shen Luoyans alluring body, thus he was doomed to suffer this big loss.

    However, even in this such a disadvantageous situation, he was able to traverse in time, avoiding the strike to hit the major acupoint on his back.

    Just before the golden pin entered between his right ribs, it suddenly bounced back, while he also already traversed three chi.

    Like a shadow Xu Ziling followed him toward his right side, and his finger jabbed again, the target was another vital acupoint under his ribs.

    Before the finger arrived, a burning hot finger wind had already assaulted Dugu Bas body.

    Previously the needle, which was full of true qi, had already stabbed Dugu Bas muscles and bones, breaking the true qi protecting his body, enough for Xu Zilings true qi to penetrate his body.

    This time he was unable to endure the finger wind, so that he suddenly spouted a mouthful of blood and let out a wild roar. Turning around, he used the back of his palm to slap Xu Zilings face.

    Now the two men were fighting face to face.

    Dugu Ba was around thirty years of age, his face was long and narrow, his eyes were also narrow and malicious-looking, his nose like an eagles beak, his lips extremely thin, giving others an impression that he was a cruel man with lack of justice.

    Xu Ziling changed his finger stab into a fist, meeting Dugu Bas attack head-on.

    Bang! Dugu Ba spurted another mouthful of blood; letting out a miserable scream, he ran away as fast as he could.

    On the other hand, Xu Ziling was also jolted back three steps; the entire qi and blood in his body was surging, making him groaning inwardly. Even after Dugu Ba was seriously injured, his palm strength was still that formidable. Evidently, under normal circumstances, Xu Ziling was definitely not his match.

    After regulating his breathing, he came over to Shen Luoyan, who was still standing with her back leaning against the tree, and her head down.

    Shen Luoyans clothes was still half-open half-closed, so that her ridges and peaks were visible. The blush of her jade countenance has not faded yet, making her extremely captivating.

    But her expression was unusually serene; with her shining eyes she looked at him up and down, sizing him up.

    Xu Ziling was somewhat at a loss. How are you feeling? he asked.

    Chi! suddenly Shen Louyan giggled. I was just giving him a bit of hand and feet advantage, not a big deal, she said, If you are interested, I guarantee I wont resist you.

    Xu Ziling was relieved, Where is the book? he asked.

    Shen Luoyan raised her lily-white hand, letting him see she had a secure grip of the book. She smiled and said, Dont blame me as a horny b1tch; I deliberately moaned in loud voice to attract your attention, but I still did not expect you would come that quickly. When you showed up just now, I intentionally made up an act to distract his attention, while at the same time grabbing the book. When he was evading you, the book then returned to my hands!

    Concerned, Xu Ziling asked, Is your acupoint still sealed? Why havent you straightened out your clothes?

    As if nothing had happened, Shen Luoyan laughed tenderly and said, So that you can see! As soon as his hand left, I recovered my strength. Oh! Are you interested or not? Being messed up by him, I really want to have a man.

    Xu Ziling angrily said, Go back to Xu Shiji! I am going to leave.

    Shen Luoyan smiled sweetly as she stood her lovely body up. Soon afterwards her clothes have been straightened out properly, and her jade countenance returned to its usual calm and composed look.

    Xu Ziling picked up the golden hairpin and handed it over to her, saying, Next time be more careful! Is that Dugu Ba a Dugu Clans man? His martial art is certainly very formidable.

    Shen Luoyans eyes flashed a murderous look; she hatefully said, He is Dugu Fengs only brother, but their age difference is twenty years. He is famous for having voracious desire for flowers and being lecherous, but his martial art skill is second only to You Chuhong and Dugu Feng. Next time you meet him, you are the one who really have to be more careful.

    Let me walk you back, Xu Ziling said.

    Shen Luoyan cast him a sidelong glance and said, Do you think I am a pitiful woman who is too weak to stand up to the wind? Were it not for him buried himself under the snow and taking advantage while my mind was not focused to mount a sneak attack, I would at least have the chance to fight and launch fireworks to call for reinforcements at the same time. Ay! I was really a bit reluctant to part with you, but you must not think that I am really falling in love with you!

    Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, How could I have such thought? The one you really fancy is Ba Fenghan, right?

    Shen Luoyans tender body shook; but as she was staring at him, Xu Ziling drew back, and then swiftly disappeared into the depth of the forest.

    In the meantime, in another forest about ten li away from where Shen Luoyan was humiliated, Kou Zhong and Susu were crouching down at the edge of a cluster of trees. The former was concentrating completely on the situation outside the forest.

    Susu said in a low voice, Perhaps Xiao Ling is in trouble?

    Of course not, Kou Zhong replied, If it were me, it would be hard to say! I dare say than Shen Luoyan has developed a subtle feeling for him; besides, its not like we have some unsolvable enmity between us, Xu Zhiji did not even know that Xiao Ling is his rival in love, Xiao Ling can certainly get away. But thats really strange!

    Whats really strange? Susu asked.

    Why there is nobody tracking us, Kou Zhong replied, Its a lot easier than tracking Xiao Ling.

    Susu said, Didnt you just say that in this kind of heavy snow Zheng Zongs magic bird may become a stupid bird?

    Kou Zhong said, If every time there is a wind or snow Zheng Zong could not find a solution, he need not come out to mingle in the Jianghu. Therefore, chances are he has other animals he trained to follow someones tracks. Right now he is simply waiting for us to rendezvous with Xiao Ling, and then catch us all in one net.

    Susu was horrified, What should we do? she asked.

    Kou Zhong whispered, First we must catch the animal following our track and eat it. Hey! How big are Jiejies guts?

    Susu forced a smile, You ought to be very clear about that, she replied, Speak up! Whatever you want Jiejie to do, Jiejie will do it.

    After Kou Zhong explained his plan in low voice to Susus ear, Susu crawled up and went deeper into the forest. Kou Zhong put his ear on the ice-cold snowy ground, and applied his power to listen.

    The sound of Susus footsteps was immediately transmitted to his ear, but he did not hear any other unusual sound.

    Ah! he suddenly heard Susus tender voice shouting, startling him that he hastily ran over toward her. Turned out because Susu could not see a thing, she tripped over a shrub and fell to the ground.

    Kou Zhong picked Susu up and whispered, Zheng Zong personally came. This man is knows as Flying Feather, his qinggong must be extremely superior.

    What should we do? Susu asked.

    Kou Zhong was about to speak, sound of hoof beats suddenly came from the northwest direction.

    The two peoples countenance changed suddenly. If they left just like that, wouldnt they lose contact with Xu Ziling?

  15. #55
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 8

    Book 5 Chapter 8 Familiarity at First Sight

    Xu Ziling ran at full speed toward the jungle indicated by the marking Kou Zhong left behind.

    After leaving Shen Luoyan, he immediately threw her to the back of his mind.

    In fact, up to this time, when he was flying over the snowy ground, he had encountered not a few beautiful women, yet none ever occupied any place in his heart.

    He was content just by practicing the energy cultivation of the Secret to Long Life; his mind was focused solely on the martial art training. It was not because he was after fame or fortune, but a personal pursuit; he wanted to surpass his own previous achievement.

    Lying in bed every night, he immediately entered the state of mind where he trained his qi, the state of forgetting object, forgetting self that fascinated the heaven and the earth.

    Although during his waking hours he occasionally remembered Shan Wanjing, Yun Yuzhen, Shen Luoyan, and other beauties, but there were only vexation and loathing feelings in his heart, not the longing feeling between men and women.

    Only martial art cultivation brought him the greatest satisfaction; in everything else he was satisfied with himself, and nothing he wanted to seek.

    However, Kou Zhongs ambition was clearly much bigger than his, so that he started to feel that their differences continue to widen with each passing day. Other than that, speaking about deep affection for each other, naturally they were still the best brothers and the best of friends.

    Right this moment, from a distant place ahead and to his left came the sound of hoof beats. It was the sound of horses hooves kicking against the snow.

    Xu Ziling was startled, but also felt strange.

    The hoof beats came so suddenly, the only explanation would be that these people were already there, but were only showing themselves up this moment. Judging from the sound of it, there should be no less than thirty riders, yet previously he did not even hear any horse whinnying, so obviously these horses must be well-trained war-horses.

    He rapidly eliminated the possibility that these people were from Wagang Army. Because Xu Shiji simply did not have time to make such arrangement.

    Could it be that these people were related to Dugu Ba?

    The hoof beats stopped abruptly, as abrupt as they appeared.

    Xu Ziling found these mysterious riders unfathomable. Stretching his true qi to its limit, he darted toward the forest.

    Kou Zhongs voice suddenly rang out, Hurry up! Someones coming!

    Knowing that Kou Zhong and Susu were still safe and sound, Xu Ziling immediately felt relieved, and bolted toward the voice.

    Kou Zhong, with Susu on his back, jumped down from a big tree, and then side-by-side they ran deeper into the forest. Kou Zhong called out, Lets see between they and us, who will have longer breath.

    Xu Ziling relaxed his tensed body.

    It should be noted that in this dense forest, which extended for hundreds of li, even using strong horses one could not travel easily. When it comes to leg muscles, the number of Jianghu people who could catch up with them in a short distance was not lacking, but other than people of Du Fuwei caliber, who would be able to compete with them in generating continuous internal breathing obtained from the Secret to Long Life, without feeling exhaustion at all?

    Therefore, finished speaking that last sentence, they did not talk anymore. From external breathing they switched to internal, concentrating their mind and spirit on fleeing, fast like a meteor they weaved to the left and slipped to the right, leaped high and crouched low, in that dense forest, only trying to get as far away as they could.

    On the other hand, Susu, who was crouching on Kou Zhongs back, was overcome with safe and warm feeling. These two boys were merely strangers coming together by chance, yet to her they had suddenly become brothers closer than flesh and blood siblings.

    They always put her first in everything. No matter how bad the situation, they would never hesitate; even more, they would never cower. Currently they were sharing trials and tribulations together; hence the feeling in her heart was understandable.

    They ran all through the night until daybreak, when they were finally out of the jungle. By this time the snowstorm has stopped, the heaven and the earth were blanketed in white, sparkling snow.

    In the still, pure white open plains, the three of them were suddenly overwhelmed with what next? feeling.

    Although the two boys inner breathing was still vigorous, their flesh and blood four legs were dead tired; hence they took this opportunity to rest on a small hill full of towering spruce.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Finally! We escaped!

    Who are those people last night? Susu asked.

    Xu Ziling replied, I dont care what kind of saints those people are, I am sure they are not people of the good way; most probably they are Dugu Bas men.

    Kou Zhong and Susu were stunned. After listening to Xu Ziling narrating what happened the previous night, Kou Zhong frowned and said, If that guy were not lecherous, perhaps we would have suffered a calamity. I did not expect Dugu Clan has such a formidable figure; I thought all of them were good-for-nothing characters like Dugu Ce.

    Xu Ziling commented, If they dont have a trick or two, how could Dugu Clan obtain the same fame in Jianghu as the other three Clans? All right! Tell me, are we going to Luoyang? Or going back to our old home Yangzhou?

    With head down, Susu resolutely said, Go back to Yangzhou!

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged a glance. They said in low voice to Susu, We want to go to the Eastern Capital, the purpose is to try our luck in finding the Jade Annulus of the He Clan. Hey! Not necessarily to look for Li Dage.

    Susu shook her head and adamantly said, If you want to go, the two of you can go on your own!

    Supporting Susu, Xu Ziling said, Of course we should listen to Su Jie. Turning to Kou Zhong, he reproached him, What could be more important than causing harm to Yuwen Huagu? The night is long, the dreams are many; if we miss this golden opportunity, are you going to assume the responsibility?

    Kou Zhong gave up. I was wrong! he said, Hey! Which way to Yangzhou?

    Xu Ziling was stunned. Didnt you already calculate the direction before leaving? How could you be this muddleheaded? Didnt you say you are proficient in mountains and rivers geography?

    Stop arguing! Susu said, From here go to the northeast, sooner or later we will reach Tongji Canal. From there as long as we can find a boat going south, passing Junyi, Chenliu, Yongqiu, Xiangyi, Songcheng, Yongcheng, Xiaqiu, we will reach Yutai. From there going east, we can enter Kangou, and then go south to Jiangdu. That simple.

    Red-faced, Kou Zhong said, Turns out the most formidable one is Su Jie.

    Chi! Susu giggled and said, Its not that Jiejie is formidable, but that was the route we took that year when Jiejie followed Miss to the south.

    Xu Ziling asked in amazement, How come Su Jie suddenly become bursting with joy?

    Susus jade cheeks turned as red as the sunset clouds, Dont talk nonsense, she said, I am not bursting with joy.

    The two boys were baffled.

    Kou Zhong rubbed his tummy as he stood up and said, Lets find a town first to find a cure for serious illness of hungry stomach, and then well make a plan.

    Xu Ziling helped Susu up and cheerfully said, This time let Xiaodi [little brother] be Susus mount.

    Kou Zhong protested, You always know how to fight over my enjoyment.

    Susus pretty face went beet-red as she said, Turns out both my Didi are bad-eggs.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling laughed aloud as they pushed and shoved each other, very proud of themselves, and were brimming with sincere affection toward each other.

    It was only this moment that the three of them felt the joy of free and easy life.

    Susu was about to speak, the two boys suddenly froze up, and turned their gaze to the west.

    They saw three men on the snowy ground, like an arrow coming toward them. The distance between them was less than two li.

    Susu jumped in fright, Hurry up! Lets go!

    Kou Zhong took a deep breath and said, Its too late!

    It was not clear which side did those three men belong to, but in the blink of an eye they were already ascending the small hill, and suddenly stopped in front of the three. The men cupped their fists in greeting; their manner was very polite.

    The one in the middle was a man about twenty-seven, twenty-eight, wearing grey clothes. There was a cane strapped onto his back, there was a gentle, cultured manners in the midst of his heroic-looking features; a tough and stocky build man [orig. back of a tiger and waist of a bear], but there was something in his outer appearance that broke peoples heart.

    From the other two men, one was a forty-something short and stout man, while the other was a middle-aged man dressed like a Confucian scholar. Both were extraordinary-looking men.

    Just from the fact that even after running at full speed like that, the men were still calm and composed, it was clear that these men were top quality martial art masters.

    The man in grey laughed aloud and said, Finally we are able to catch up with two Xiongdi, we are indeed very pleased. I am Liu Heita, the Cavalry Commander under the banner of King of Xia.

    And then he proceeded to introduce the Confucian Scholar on his left, This gentleman is known in Jianghu as the Iron Fan, Zhuge Dewei; he is also Ol Lius sworn brother.

    Zhuge Dewei waved his left hand, like magic a [folding] fan suddenly appeared. Cha! the fan opened, and he lightly fanned himself a couple times; his manner was full of confidence.

    Liu Heita pointed to the short and stout man and said, Dong Shu [uncle, younger than ones father] is known as the Door God. His skill is equally famous with the newly acquired general under Li Mis command, Qin Shubao, their fearlessness is without a rival.

    This Door God was surprisingly modest. Gongzi must not paste gold on my face, he declined, I am Cui Dong, only an errant-boy serving under Gongzi!

    Kou Zhong was bewildered, Who is this King of Xia? he asked.

    Liu Heita replied, No wonder the three of you did not know, our humble master Dou Jiande has founded a kingdom named Xia; it has not been announced to the world yet.

    The three people looked at each other; it was only then did they know that these men were on Dou Jiandes side.

    Liu Heita suddenly said, Would Miss turn your back around? Because Ol Liu has a first meeting gift Id like to present to these two Xiongdi, but I am afraid it will be frightening to Miss.

    Xu Ziling was astonished, What first meeting gift? he asked.

    Susu apprehensively turned her tender body around.

    Liu Heita smiled calmly; he gave a hand signal, the Door God Cui Dong immediately untied a cloth bag, with some unknown object inside, hanging from his waist, and casually tossed it toward Kou Zhong.

    Puzzled, Kou Zhong caught it, but very soon his countenance changed greatly. Immediately he tossed the cloth bundle back to Liu Heita and cried out in terror, My Niang! Whose head is this?

    Amidst Susus shrill scream, Liu Heita caught the bundle, calmly reached into it, and grabbed the head by the hair and took it out. Holding it in front of the two boys eyes, he said, Let Ol Liu introduces him to you. This man surnamed Zheng, given name Zong, known as the Flying Feather. If he did not lose his head and thus could not walk, I am afraid the three of you would have fallen into Wagang Armys hands.

    Inwardly Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were scared and very nervous, but seeing the opposite partys men did not show any changes in their countenance, they suppressed their fear of this dead mans head. The former let out a dry cough and said, Hey! Would Liu Xiong take this away first? We dont want to scare our Jiejie.

    Although Liu Heita had no problem with that, Zhuge Dewei and Cui Dongs faces flashed a mocking look; obviously they looked down on these boys for being scared by a human head like that.

    Liu Heita handed the head over to Cui Dong and said, Hang this head on a prominent place as a way for us to greet Xu Shiji.

    Cui Dong accepted the order and left.

    With normal expression Liu Heita cupped his fist and said, Now that two Xiongtai have become characters that everybody in the world wants to obtain, I wonder what your future plan may be?

    After exchanging a glance with Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong cleared his throat and said, We dont know what kind of luck we have walked into that everybody believes we know the whereabouts of the Duke Yang Treasure, while the fact is

    Liu Heita showed his displeasure as he cut him off, Kou Xiong, do you think I, the Ol Liu, am also looking for you for the treasure? You are gravely mistaken!

    After a short pause, he continued, This time we hit the road, is because we received King of Xias order to confer with Da Longtou, to advise him to gain the initiative by striking first by eliminating Li Mi. Who would have thought that we were one step too late, Zhai Mansion has become ashes. We investigated for many days before discovering that only the three of you escaped the great catastrophe. Not only that, you also turned the City of Xingyang upside down. You gain Ol Lius utmost admiration.

    With her back still facing them, Susu asked, Has the human head been removed?

    Miss Susu, please set your heart at ease, Liu Heita apologetically said, Human head is gone!

    Still with fear and trepidation Susu turned around. Looking at her moving expression, frightened and timid, as if she was asking for pity, Liu Heita could only stare blankly.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling did not care, but Susu asked, One day earlier Miss was sent off by Laoye, she left under the protection of Tu Guanjia [housekeeper/manager]. I wonder if General Liu has heard any news about her.

    Liu Heita replied, With a martial art master of Tu Shufangs caliber protecting Miss Jiao, she should have no problem. I will dispatch my men to make inquiries on their whereabouts.

    Susu laughed cheerfully and said, With Gongzi giving your promise, Susu is relieved!

    Seeing her blooming-flower-like smile, once again Liu Heita could only stare wide-eyed on her. This time Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling noticed something different about him; all their eyes were on him.

    Zhuge Dewei let out a dry cough and said, Er Di [second (younger) brother], this place has danger lurks on every side, wed better rush to Yangwu first, and then we can have a heart-to-heart chat over wine much more comfortably.

    As if he was just awakened from a dream, Liu Heita noticed Kou and Xu, two boys peculiar look; his old face turned red from embarrassment as he said, As soon as Dong Shu is back from his task, we will set out immediately. To tell you the truth, I feel instant connection with the two gentlemen [orig. people of talent appreciate one another (idiom)/to sympathize with one another]. This is the time the worlds outstanding heroes rise up, a great time for those who are able to be kings. In sincerity Id like to invite two gentlemen to join our army. In the future riches and honor we will enjoy together. If there is any fake word in me, let me, Liu Heita, not have a good ending.

    Toward this young martial art master who was full of heroic spirit, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had quite a favorable impression; but joining his group was another matter altogether.

    Kou Zhong let out a dry cough and said, I also will tell you the truth; right now we have something important to do, about joining your precious side, lets talk about it a bit later.

    Liu Heita looked disappointed; he said, I hope the two gentlemen are really tied and not just finding excuses to decline the Ol Lius invitation.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling did not expect him to be this vain; they found it a bit hard to explain.

    Susu interjected, They really did not deceive Liu Gongzi, I can be their witness.

    Liu Heita laughed aloud and said, Since Miss says so, naturally I have no doubt. Its just that I was wondering if in this matter the Ol Liu can be of any help?

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Liu Xiong seems to have too much time in your hands, plus you are showing undeserved favor toward us, so we thank you in advance. However, this is a very delicate matter, involving our deep enmity with Yuwen Huaji; therefore, we simply cannot involve other people.

    Liu Heita shrugged, Turns out the widespread rumor in Jianghu that you have obtained evidence that Li Clan and Yuwen Clan are about to rebel is indeed not a wind from an empty cave.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other. It should be noted that only a few people were privy about this account book matter; who might have leaked it?

    Xiang Yushan came to look for them, the two boys still did not think much about it; but now Liu Heita also said the same thing, the two boys started to be afraid.

    Just one Duke Yang Treasure-trove already made them jumpy and jittery, now the account book matter was piled on top of that; would they still have days of peace and happiness? Yuwen Clan alone was enough to give them a pounding headache.

    In the meantime, Ciu Dong came back, Liu Heita stopped talking, he urged everybody to hasten.

    Kou Zhong and the others also knew it was unwise to tarry, plus they had a good opinion on Liu Heita, hence they decided to travel together with them, so they set out toward Yangwu.

  16. #56
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 9

    Book 5 Chapter 9 Shaking Hands in Agreement

    By nightfall, heavy snow started to fall again. After hastening on their journey, Kou Zhong and the others, six people, managed to cover more than forty li that day. Afraid that Susu would not be able to withstand the cold, plus coincidentally they came across an abandoned manor due to the chaos of war, they all decided to stop for the night, occupying one broken-down room, burning firewood, and sitting in circle to warm themselves.

    Liu Heita took out his provision and fresh water, and politely offered it first to Susu, who was sitting between Kou and Xu, two boys. His demeanor looked like someone who was infatuated or intoxicated by beautiful face, but Susu did not seem to think anything.

    Recalling about the sound of hoof beats against the snowy ground the other night, Kou Zhong asked, Did Liu Xiong follow our trail last night?

    You could say that, Liu Heita replied, Li Mis underlings would do anything, by hook or by crook, to get what they want, no one is willing to abide by Jianghu rules. Therefore, we have already guessed that they would not give up on the three of you.

    Xu Ziling was staring at the dancing sparks of the firewood; hearing him, he asked, Then who were those riders? It seems to me they are not from the Wagang Army!

    We are not sure either, Cui Dong replied, Two gentlemens legs were very, very fast, even with Miss Susu on your back, you still covered quite a lot of distance.

    Kou Zhong laughed, Fleeing for our lives, naturally we were running a bit faster than usual.

    Zhuge Dewei said, Tomorrow we will reach Yangwu, where are the three of you heading?

    Susu said softly, We will go back to Yangzhou first, and then make other plans.

    Liu Heita knitted his brows, Yang Guang and Yuwen Huaji are in Jiangdu; if you reveal your track, I am afraid disaster will immediately come.

    We will be careful, Xu Ziling replied nonchalantly.

    Looking at his determined expression, Liu Heita had no choice but to shut his mouth.

    Kou Zhong changed the subject, Your precious army occupies Leshou, which is in the north. I wonder if there is any new development lately?

    Zhuge Dewei replied, The three most sensational news recently are the revival of the Tuyuhun [nomadic people of Xianbei], the Li Clan occupying Taiyuan in rebellion to the Sui, and Li Mi sent Zu Junyan to promulgate the ten major charges against Yang Guang to the world.

    Kou Zhong happily said, Finally Li Yuan is willing to revolt! His face showed a very proud look.

    Li Yuan cant be considered anything, Cui Dong said in disdain, Unexpectedly he has the audacity to submit himself to the rule of Shibi Khan of the Tujue people, promising him to send the boys and girls, jade and silk, obtained from his conquest to Tujue people, so that he gained the ridicule of other people.

    Hearing this, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other, completely speechless.

    Zhuge Dewei said, According to the latest intelligence we acquired, Li Yuan proclaimed himself as the Great General, appointed Pei Ji as the Chief Historian, Liu Wenjing as the Minister of War, his oldest son Jiancheng, his second son Shimin, and the Commander-in-chief and the Second-in-command of their three armies, ready to advance to Guanzhong.

    Giving a cold shoulder, Liu Heita said, Li Clan is simply counting their chicken before they are hatched, they do not know whats in Liu Wuzhous mind. As soon as Taiyuan is empty, it would be strange indeed if Liu Wuzhou did not seize that opportunity to attack Taiyuan. Moreover, along the route to Guanzhong, there are fierce generals of the Sui, Song Laosheng and Qu Tutong, along with their respective large army, separately guarding the pass. Li Clans prospect, nobody dares to be optimistic.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were greatly embarrassed; turned out the real situation out there was this discouraging.

    Susu did not understand; she asked, Dont the Li Clan know that submitting themselves to the Tujue is akin to leading the wolf into the sheep pen?

    Liu Heita smiled and said, They are wolves themselves, so whats the problem with other wolves? Li Yuans wife is a Xianbei woman; although they are not like Yuwen Clan who are barbarians per se, but they are hardly any better. Furthermore, the Li Clan are deeply influenced by barbarian customs, hence they are no different from the barbarians.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling recalled during the welcoming dinner that day Li Xiuning was wearing barbarian clothes; they had nothing to say even more.

    It was half a day later that Kou Zhong finally asked about the Tuyuhun revival.

    Liu Heita replied, Tuyuhun are archenemies of the Tiele, its king, Fu Yuns ambition has always been very big, from time to time he sends martial art experts to the Central Plains to gather information. One time Yang Guang sent Wang Yangxiong and Yuwen Shu, two generals to assassinate Fu Yun; they killed thousand of people, captured countless prisoners, but relying on his superior martial art skill, he led his brutal troops to kill their way out of the siege, and ran away to Dangxiang. These last couple of years, taking advantage while the Central Plains is in chaos, to send his entire army to recover lost territory, and to conspire on a large scale, becoming our Central Earths major disaster outside of Tujue and Tiele, two ethnic groups.

    Zhuge Dewei joined the discussion, The most disconcerting thing is that Fu Juns son, Fu Qian is a talent of this age; not only his martial art skill has reached perfection, his strategy skill is outstanding, and his ambition is not inferior to his fathers.

    Cui Dong laughed and said, They say that when he was born, he already had horned-dragon whiskers, hence since he was young he grew horned-dragon beard. Such a preposterous matter, only barbarian dogs can think of it.

    Chi! Susu giggled tenderly. A baby with horned-dragon whiskers, his appearance must be ridiculously weird, she muttered.

    Looking at her cute and tender expression, and listening to her naivet, Liu Heita could not help staring blankly at her.

    Zhuge Dewei was wired up from the conversation; he laughed and said, Do you want to listen to the ten charges Li Mi brought to Yang Guang?

    Kou Zhong was delighted, Please, tell us quickly! he said.

    As if he was enumerating his family valuables, Zhuge Dewei listed in one breath, One: patricide. Two: incest. Three: excessive drinking. Four: building palaces and pagodas, extravagant and wasteful. Five: exorbitant taxation, crushing common people. Six: cruising the world [tian xia], building great walls. Seven: sending punitive expedition to Korea, engaging in wars of aggression at will. Eight: refusing sound advice, killing the frank scholars. Nine: rampant bribery; persons of noble character are out of power, lowly people rise to important positions. Ten: going back on his own words. Ha!

    Xu Ziling shook his head and sighed, No matter how we count it, we cant enumerate all criminal charges against this fatuous ruler. Speaking about the deep disaster our country is in, this fellow can be considered unprecedented and never will be duplicated.

    Kou Zhong said, He promoted his own family behind closed doors, sooner or later the imperial court will be dominated by him. The most terrifying thing is attracting foreign invasion, making our countrys territory all split up and in pieces, and the people are in a terrible situation. Yang Guang is the greatest sinner.

    Liu Heita slapped his thigh and said, Well spoken. In todays world, with the exception of Duke Jiande, who does not collude with foreign power and helping out each other? Since the two gentlemen already have ambition to be of help of the world, other than joining our army, is there any other alternative?

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, Liu Xiong seems to think too highly of us, two brothers!

    Zhuge Dewei said with a laugh, Jianghu has never been bustling with excitement like it was recently, probably the heavens good fortune has arrived, because outstanding heroes of the younger generation are rising. Other than Heita, the ones in the limelight most recently, from the men: Yang Xuyan, Ba Fenghan, the two Xiongdi, and one who called himself Passionate Prince[1], Hou Xibai. But speaking about sensation, no one surpasses you, two gentlemen.

    Susu happily said, Turns out my two Didi have become celebrities!

    Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, Our most formidable ability is to escape; I couldnt believe it has made us this famous.

    Liu Heita burst out laughing and said, Kou Xiong is too modest, not a genuine article and without good material, how could you have any qualification to escape? Furthermore, not only you were able to snatch the account book from Yuwen Chengdus hands, you also beat Yuwen Wudi, who considers himself unexcelled in the world, whose arrogance soared into the sky, that he escaped with his tail between his legs; how could we say that you have false reputation?

    Xu Ziling asked, Just now Mr. Zhuge mentioned that these people are from among the men! What about the women?

    Liu Heita was about to speak, Kou Zhongs countenance changed as he hissed, Someones coming!

    Everybody scrambled to extinguish the fire. Cui Dong, who has just darted out to scout, flitted back inside the room, and spoke in heavy voice, Too late! The enemy has already surrounded us heavily.

    How many? Zhuge Dewei asked, Who are they?

    Ought to be more than a dozen, Cui Dong replied in low voice, Its hard to see in the dark.

    This moment, a nondescript, soft, androgynous voice came from the outside, I am Tuoba Yu, under the order of my master [here, the word is shi, as in master-disciple relationship], Bi Xuan, to come with a specific purpose in mind to greet Kou Gongzi, Xu Gongzi, two gentlemen, and to inquire about your well-being.

    Everybodys countenance changed; they did not expect that the visitor were Tujue martial art masters, even more surprising, Bi Xuans disciple was the one in charge.

    Liu Heita spoke in low voice, He does not seem to know that we are mingling in here. Who has heard about this man?

    Both Zhuge Dewei and Cui Dong drew a blank and shook their heads.

    To stall for time, so that Xu Ziling could tie Susu behind his back, Kou Zhong responded loudly, We, two brothers are still as lively dragon and animated tiger, Tuo Xiong, no! It should be Tuoba Xiong, thank you very much for your concerns. This late at night, you still have us surrounded like this, afraid that we might escape. What is exactly your purpose?

    Seeing Kou Zhong had no weapon, Cui Dong took out his pair of weapons [orig. iron, but it could mean hard object or weapon in general] and stuffed one into Kou Zhongs hand.

    Liu Heita himself was using a single cane as his weapon, but inside his overcoat, he hid a long dagger, almost a chi and a half in length, which he handed to Xu Ziling.

    Tuoba Yu laughed aloud and said, Your precious country has a saying, one does not visit a temple without a cause [fig. to visit with an ulterior motive (esp. to ask for something)]. Xiaodi [younger brother, referring to self] this time came from a thousand li, on my masters order to borrow from the two gentlemen the Taoist treasure, the Secret to Long Life. The journey was hard, so please two Xiongtai, do not disappoint Xiaodi!

    After a short pause, he laughed and continued, I dont know the three renxiong [friend, honorific address, see also Book 3 Chapter 6] are which heroes? Why dont you let Xiaodi get acquainted as well?

    Everybody was shocked. Just from the keenness of this mans ears, it was obvious what kind of first-class master the opposite party was.

    Liu Heita replied, Just nameless soldiers, not worth Tuoba Xiongs hearing.

    Tuoba Yu laughed three times.

    The first laugh, he was still some distance away from the building. The second laugh, he was already at the door. By the third laugh, Tuoba Yu has already stepped over the threshold of the door to their room; calmly and leisurely as if he was exploring a friends house. His left hand carried a lantern.

    This man looked around twenty-five, twenty-six years old, his hair was tied in a warrior bun, he was dressed in warrior outfit with a leather vest on top of it. His appearance was attractive and intelligent, on his shoulders hung a pair of flying hooks. He looked a bit like a pampered son of a wealthy family; at first glance it looked as if he was too weak to stand up to the wind.

    Everybodys eyes fell onto the flying hooks on his shoulders. In Jianghu, this type of weapon was rarely used; the two hooks were shaped like eagle talon, with a thin rope about a zhang long; with just one look people would know that this weapon was extremely hard to control.

    When Tuoba Yus eyes were sweeping across everybodys face, no one did not feel strange feeling. It felt like the opposite partys eyes carried some kind of formless, yet plain, unusual power.

    Liu Heita took a step forward, laughed aloud, and said, Let me get acquainted with Tuoba Xiong first. His right hand reached behind, the iron cane left his back and rose up; immediately a cold ray radiated all around, a dense cold air swamped everybody, but the target was Tuoba Yus chest, the momentum was swift and powerful, it was indeed the air of a great general.

    Kou Zhong and the others did not expect Liu Heita to make his move as soon as he saw the opponent; they were all delighted. Except for Susu who cried out in alarm and closed her beautiful eyes.

    Tuoba Yu laughed aloud as he traversed sideways as fast as lightning, while his right palm shot out.

    Whoosh! The edge of Tuoba Yus palm sliced down on the canes head. Liu Heitas earth-shattering move vanished instantly. It appeared he suffered loss; fast as lightning he changed style, and retreated backward.

    Tuoba Yus handsome face turned cold, as he sneered and said, We have not gotten acquainted yet! While speaking, fast like a whirlwind he suddenly moved to the blind spot on Liu Heitas left. It was unclear what kind of technique he was using, one of the flying hooks on his shoulder took off from the shoulder and flew like an eagle talon, creating a whistling noise as it split the air; swift like lightning bolt it circled around toward Liu Heitas groin. A very sinister technique indeed.

    These two exchanges happened like lightning flashes, dazzling the eyes of those who watched the fight.

    Liu Heita was an outstanding character as well. In the critical situation, he did not panic. Knowing that the opponent did not give him the opportunity to take a breath, he spun his body around toward the door, and then brandishing his cane, it followed the flying hook like its shadow.

    Dang! Following the clear ringing sound Liu Heita let a stifled grunt as he was pushed back half a step and crashed against the broken wall by the door.

    Tuoba Yu let out a cold snort of contempt. His right hand reached toward the middle of the rope connecting the flying hooks; with a slight shake, the eagle talons on both ends immediately turned into thousands of dots of light, which, like a splash of mercury, stormed toward Liu Heita, who was leaning against the wall. At the same time, his left hand tossed the lantern, and it landed neatly on the horizontal beam above, not missing a single fen [1 fen is approx. 1/3 of cm or 1/8].

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling watched with mouth agape.

    Liu Heitas cane skill was brilliant; the technique, the vigor, the proficiency, all have reached first class level. Rarest of all, he had guts, bold and daring spirit, and did not have much regard for life and death; once he took out his cane, a sweeping thousand army might took shape immediately. Who would have thought that this disciple of Bi Xuan was able to break through his defense and counterattack? In just a few moves he had him brought to a disadvantageous position; surely it was extremely shocking.

    From this fact, it could be clearly seen that Bi Xuan was able to gain fame, to rise among the three top martial art masters inside and outside the Great Wall, everything was not for nothing.

    Liu Heita let out a sudden roar; his cane withdrew and became a circle of rays of light, protecting all vital points on his body, from top to bottom, as he shifted sideways while still sticking close to the wall. The body followed the cane, just waiting to mount an offensive.

    Suddenly the cane ray was muted; turned out the iron cane was caught by the eagle claws five fingers open wide from one of the two Tuoba Yus flying hooks, while the other eagle claw shot toward Liu Heita.

    Nobody had ever expected that the opponents eagle claw had this kind of freedom of action; they were all shocked by this extremely weird phenomenon. As Susu was screaming, like howling wind and torrential rain Zhuge Dewei and Cui Dong stormed toward Tuoba Yu. Seeing the critical situation, they disregarded Jianghus rule and threw themselves into the battle.

    Tuoba Yu laughed grimly; his left hand waved slightly, the eagle claw at the other end of the rope immediately turned into dots of sharp rays, like a tidal wave storming toward the two men. At the same time his leg flew up to kick Liu Heitas lower body; all his movements were calm and smooth, making the observers gasped in amazement.

    Liu Heita unleashed his hidden ability; below he met the leg with his leg, above he seized the opportunity while the claw intertwined with the cane, to meet Tuoba Yus internal energy head-on, trying to engage the opponent so that Zhuge Dewei and Cui Dong would have a chance they could exploit.

    Amidst the sound of internal power collided and the continuous ringing on weapons clashing, Tuoba Yu did not hesitate to let the iron cane off, and released the full potential of the flying hooks, rolling up the three martial art masters inside the dots of sharp rays of the eagle claws. Every single move was an exquisite, beyond compare, consummate skill.

    Although the battle inside was fierce, the enemy outside did not make the slightest noise; which was quite baffling.

    With his right hand on the handle of the iron [see my note above], Kou Zhong stood outside the edge of the circle, watching Tuoba Yus hooks with rapt attention.

    Xu Ziling also focused his attention to the hard fighting of the four people; the astonishment in his heart was hard to describe.

    Speaking about martial art skill, Liu Heita was definitely a level above Shen Luoyan. Even if he came across Du Fuwei, he would still have a chance to give a strong resistance. Zhuge Dewei and Cui Dong were also first class masters. Yet right now with the threes combined power, they were barely able to fight Tuoba Yu evenly. It is thus clear that one random disciple of Bi Xuan was already about the same level of martial art experts of Du Fuweis caliber; how could Xu Ziling not be shocked?

    Right this moment, Tuoba Yu suddenly let out a long laugh, and retracted his claws. It looked like a defensive move, yet it engaged the three men so that they all felt there was a formidable killing move within his move; unexpectedly, as if by prior agreement all four men leaped backward in four directions.

    Merely based on this one move, where he was able to make the three opponents feel the threat of the flying hooks at the same time, it was clear that he had reached the using one move to communicate intention level, a state of mind in which he relied purely on his qi power to control the enemys mind.

    Tuoba Yus eyes shone with cold light, the flying hooks intersect; it turned into a column of rays, shooting in full power toward retreating Liu Heita. Shockingly, it was even a tad faster than the retreating opponent.

    Zhuge Wude and Cui Dong cried out in alarm. [Translators note: at the beginning, it was Zhuge Dewei, but somewhere in the middle it changed into Zhuge Wude. At first I thought it was a typo, but after several Zhuge Wude, I decided to follow the text.] But because they had withdrawn some distance away from each other, plus they were still being carried away by their retreating momentum, there was no way they would be able to render any assistance.

    Tuoba Yus battle strategy was indeed ingenious, his method was very ruthless, and his technique fantastic and mysterious; everything about him wowed the onlookers that their throat could not even cry out.

    While it appeared that Liu Heita was about to be injured by this full-powered attack, Kou Zhong suddenly shouted, followed by his body moved sideways to the left to bump into Tuoba Yu.

    For the very first time that night Tuoba Yu revealed an astonished look on his face, and was forced to abandon his attack toward Liu Heita. His flying hooks, one held back the other released, changed course to meet Kou Zhongs attack.

    Against all expectation, like a fish Kou Zhong suddenly traversed diagonally for three chi, so that he was face to face with Tuoba Yu, and thus he was right in between Tuoba Yu and Liu Heita; proximity transformed complexity into simplicity, with just his head he struck toward Tuoba Yu.

    Again for the first time that night Tuoba Yu revealed a serious look on his face; his hook became thousand shadows, he blocked Kou Zhongs simple, nothing-out-of-ordinary move.

    Pow! The hook shadows dispersed, Kou Zhong let out a stifled groan, and was pushed three steps back.

    On the other side, Tuoba Yus entire body shook, he was also pushed half a step backward, his eyes were shooting deep murderous look as he stood face-to-face with Kou Zhong, who by this time was standing with his back bent down slightly like a crouching tiger who was unwilling to back off.

    Everybody else stopped; nobody made any noise. The only thing audible was Susus nervous breathing.

    Among these people, Xu Ziling was the only one who understood that Tuoba Yu has incited Kou Zhongs fighting spirit that he forgot about life and death, and has entered the moon in the well realm, which was far higher than his normal level of achievement. Combining the shenfa [pose or motion in martial arts] he learned from the swimming fish with the fantastic internal energy from the Secret to Long Life, he challenged Tuoba Yus ferocity.

    That martial art was from the Secret to Long Life, right? Tuoba Yu asked in heavy voice.

    Kou Zhong smiled slightly, How did it feel? Not bad, huh?

    Xu Ziling shouted, The Secret to Long Life is not in our possession. If Tuoba Xiong insists on getting it, we will rather die than submit. If that happens, not only Tuoba Xiong will not obtain the Secret to Long Life, people might get hurt. Would Tuoba Xiong please think it over?

    Xu Zilings comment was extremely formidable; it showed clearly their determination that they would rather be broken jade pieces than becoming roof tile, which matched the prowess Kou Zhong showed when he forced Tuoba Yu to retreat with just one move, yet there was also an intimidating power behind it.

    In the meantime, Liu Heita and the others did their best to regulate their qi, preparing themselves to go all-out if they need to strike back.

    Suddenly a charming laughter came from the outside, followed by a young woman appeared from the big window to their left. The girl was wearing a hat with beads of green-jade curtain in front on her head, and an oversized gauze gown on her body, but a pair of bare feet was peeking out from under her skirt.

    Casually she leaned over the broken-down window, one leg stepping on the window sill, the other leg dangling down, swinging back and forth like a pendulum; looked like she was enjoying herself very much.

    This girl was extremely charming and cute; there were freckles on her melon seed face and her two cheekbones like the stars in the sky, giving the impression of a witty, wild and brutish girl. Her handsome eyes were long and enchanting, the jet-black pupils of her eyes were twinkling with wild, untamed animal-like look as she was sizing Kou Zhong up and down with great interest, as if the other people did not exist at all.

    However, everybodys eyes were fixed on the odd-shaped dagger, which was usually hanging on the waist, but at this time was in her hand as she was playing with it.

    This kind of dagger was very popular among the Tujue[2], the blade was slightly curved, the front part sharp, the back slanted, with no hand-protector, the hilt was only wrapped with strips of cloth, the blade started straight and curved down to pare, it was ground flat without any dent. Because the edge of the blade was only about a cun [approx. 1 inch/a thumb] wide, it was extremely sharp. Plus the dagger in this girls hand appeared to be of a very high quality. Under the illumination of the lantern, which was sitting high on the beam, it flickered with cold rays. Just from her sudden appearance, it was clear that her martial art skill was not inferior to Tuoba Yu.

    This cute girls mouth pouted; she shifted her gaze toward Xu Ziling, and spoke in disdain, Turns out the Central Earth is full of foolish conceits [orig. Yelang thinks highly of itself], no wonder Yang Guang overestimated his own capabilities and sent a military expedition to Gaoli [Korea]. I, Chunyu Wei, want to see your rather die than submit thingy.

    Tuoba Yu laughed aloud and said, My Shimei [martial (younger) sister] is accustomed to be favored by Shizun [venerable master]; gentlemen, please dont mind her. This time Xiaodi received the order to request the Secret to Long Life; not to rob or seize by force. Shizun did say that after he has a quick look on the Secret to Long Life, he will immediately give it back, and in return, he will pass on a different set of consummate skills to each of Kou Xiong and Xu Xiong. I am asking two Xiongtai not to mistakenly think of our Master as someone who only want to take advantage of other people.

    Everybody exchanged a glance with each other; they all felt that Bi Xuan did not fail his poise as the grand master of this age.

    Chunyu Wei smiled sweetly at Kou Zhong and said, Your martial art skill is not bad! However, this time we came here, other than the two of us, brother and sister, there are still Duobei Desert Eighteen White-horse Riders who are also personally trained by Shizun, every one of them is dauntless and fear no death. If we fight, I am afraid not many of you will escape alive.

    After a short pause, she continued, I forgot to tell you that as long as you are still breathing, we will have a way to grant a new lease of life for you, then wont we be able to get the Secret to Long Life?

    Her voice was tender and sweet with a slight foreign accent that it gave some kind of exotic flavor.

    Tuoba Yu frowned and said, Shimei, could you be a bit more polite? If we could avoid fighting, certainly that would be best.

    Two martial brother and sister, one hard the other soft, especially since Tuoba Yu had already demonstrated his power in pressurizing the group of heroes, certainly they were putting these people under a lot of pressure. Much less there were still at least eighteen powerful opponent, which were personally trained by Bi Xuan, waiting outside, hence which side was strong and which side was weak was very easy to see.

    By this time they had formed a small circle, protecting Susu, who was strapped onto Xu Zilings back, forming a barrier that clearly demarcated the opposing sides.

    Liu Heita laughed aloud and said, Its hard for soldiers and generals to avoid dying in battle, if the Heaven destines me, Liu Heita to die in this fight, Laozi [I, your father] will not knit half of an eyebrow. No need to talk too much, let it be decided under our hands.

    This mans natural character was heroic and brave, immediately everybodys fighting spirit was aroused.

    Tuoba Yu took a step forward and said in astonishment, Turns out Sire is the number one general under Dou Jiande, Liu Heita; no wonder your hands are that strong. But there is one thing Xiaodi does not understand. It is apparent that we all can exchange weapons of war for gifts of jade and silk [i.e. turning hostility into friendship], but why did Liu Xiong strongly advocate for battle?

    Liu Heita knew Tuoba Yu was trying to divide his side; inwardly he cried out, Formidable! Yet without the slightest hesitation he said, Supposing this time Tuoba Xiong came only to discuss about borrowing a book, there was no need to deploy so many manpower. It shows clearly that you are relying on force to demand the book. However, now that we have three more people on our side, Kou Xiongdis power thus exceeds your brilliant anticipation, hence you changed your tone of speech, from demanding to borrowing. Did I say it wrong?

    Chunyu Wei laughed and said, Of course you did. This time we came to the south, borrowing the Secret to Long Life is just one of our missions. The other important matter is to hunt and kill that evil disciple Ba Fenghan, to cut his stinky head and present it back to Shizun. Do you guys understand?

    Susu, who had been silent, suddenly spoke out, If we give the book to you, can you guarantee that you will no longer disturb us?

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were about to speak, but then they swallowed back the words into their belly, because they simultaneously thought that even if they hand over the book to Bi Xuan, he would not be able to make any sense of what he was reading anyway. Therefore, they did not see any reason to sacrifice everybodys life just for the sake of this book.

    Tuoba Yu happily said, It is best that Miss is so reasonable. Whatever our Master has said, he always keeps it. In fact, Zaixia [lit. under] does have the intention to make friends with Liu Xiong, Kou Xiong and Xu Xiong. If we all can be polite and amiable, nothing can be more perfect than that!

    Kou Zhong said, Honestly my hands are itching very much right now, I really want to fight; winning or losing is not a big deal. However, not fighting also has its own benefit. Its just that we buried the Secret to Long Life in a secret place, it will take a considerable effort for us to get it and hand it over to you. Problem is, we need to resolve an affair before we can handle this matter. I wonder what is Tuoba Xiongs opinion about it?

    Chunyu Wei interrupted, You are very interesting, so amusing that I like you a lot!

    When everybody heard that, they could only stared blankly with mouth agape; nobody had ever expected that this loveable and charming girl would publicly announce her interest in some stranger man.

    Tuoba Yu laughed and said, My humble Shimei has always been this straightforward, but the number of men she likes actually cannot be counted, Kou Xiong must not take it to heart.

    Chunyu Wei crossly said, How could Shixiong say such thing about me? This time it is different!

    Kou Zhong facetiously asked, Isnt every time different than the others?

    Liu Heita and the others could not help feeling amused; they never expected that the three parties who were originally with swords drawn and bows bent would suddenly be tangled up in this matter.

    Chunyu Wei was going to speak, but Tuoba Yu cut her off, We still need some time to hunt and kill Ba Fenghan anyway, supposing I give two gentlemen half a year time, would you be able to fetch the Secret to Long Life?

    For the first time everybody started to have favorable impression on this eccentric Tuoba Yu, whose hands were unspeakably ruthless, simply because he attached most importance to keeping his words. Only people who keep his own words would put his trust that other people would also keep their words.

    It should be enough, Kou Zhong replied, Half a year later we will meet in Luoyang. Even if we still dont have the Secret to Long Life in hands, we will take Tuoba Xiong to go fetch the book.

    Tuoba Yu raised his cupped fist and said in a loud and clear voice, Its settled then. Xiaodi asks to be excused.

    With a flash he was already outside the door.

    Everybody turned their eyes toward Chunyu Wei, but this girl had already disappeared as well.

    It was quite a while later that Liu Heita exhaled a mouthful of cold air and said, This time Ba Fenghans little life is really in danger!

    None of the others did not share the same sentiment. If Bi Xuans two regular disciples were that formidable, wouldnt that mean that Bi Xuans martial art skill was much higher than anybody could imagine?

    [1] Prince is machine translators result, orig. gongzi (young master), but I thought prince will go well with passionate.

    [2] The text added最利马戏 zui li ma xi after this sub-sentence; the closest I could find after googling it was shamsir and scimitar. A search on Turkic dagger returned Kilij. So I dont really know what it is.

  17. #57
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 10

    Book 5 Chapter 10 Yuwen Chengdu

    The farther north they travelled, the weather was growing colder and colder, the snow on the ground reached knee depth. The six of them forged ahead at full speed on the sea of forest and plains of snow, which extended as far as the eye could see. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling took turn carrying Susu on their backs.

    After their battle against Tuoba Yu, they were more careful, not daring to be as negligence as the previous day.

    The snowstorm has stopped, the heaven and earth was a vast expanse of desolation, with occasional howling of the wolves, that as they heard it, their hair was standing on its end.

    After hastening for two days, one evening they reached the forest around the southern bank of the Tongji Canal. The deep dark-colored forest looked like a wall or a rampart, layer upon layer, standing up all around, if one was not careful, it would be very easy to get lost.

    Even if their bodies were made of iron, after running away for their lives like that for a couple of days, they would be extremely exhausted. It was not clear who started it, but eventually everybody slowed down until finally they walked as slow as marching ants or crawling tortoises, as they looked for a lodging place that could provide shelter from the wind and the snow.

    The mountain and the forest were blanketed in complete silence [orig. ten thousand pipes are still], only noise they heard was the rustling of soft snow underneath their own feet.

    Occasionally a light wind would blow, shaking the snow on the branches that it rained down to the ground below and filled the air with snowflakes.

    Finally they stopped in a clearing in the middle of the forest. Liu Heita said, Looks like tonight we cannot find an abandoned house or a cave to spend the night, so well have to put up with building a bonfire in here and sit until daybreak before hasting up on our journey tomorrow. According to my estimation, we will reach Yangwu by tomorrow afternoon.

    In the meantime, Susu slipped down from Xu Zilings back onto the snowy ground below. Although she was wearing cotton coat, she was still shivering in cold. Without the slightest hesitation Liu Heita took off his sheepskin coat and draped it tenderly over her shoulder, while speaking softly, When we get the fire going, it wont be so cold anymore.

    This iron man was showing so much consideration and thoughtful action, it was quite touching, actually.

    Liu Dage is not afraid of cold? Susu gratefully asked.

    Liu Heita laughed and said, After being in battle for so many years, what kind of hardship I havent been through? Su Jie, set your heart at ease!

    Xu Ziling took off his outer robe and spread it over the snowy ground; he said with a laugh, Now I am really not afraid of cold, unlike the mighty Liu Dage. Su Jie please sit down.

    Susu knew that due to his Secret to Long Life internal energy, he really was not afraid of either hot or cold; she gladly sat down.

    Kou Zhong reached out and wrapped his arm around Liu Heitas shoulder; he said with a giggle, Let me give Liu Dage a bit of warmth! Hey! You, this fellow, are lacking in manners, you just copying us calling her Su Jie; you ought to call her Su Mei [younger sister].

    After many days of close association, they had known each other better. The two boys grew very fond of this brave and cunning young general. Cui Dong did not like to talk, but he was a hot-blooded man. On the other hand, Liu Heitas sworn brother Zhuge Dewei always gave out the impression that he was a slick and sly man, while his actual character was a gloomy one; he did not seem to like the two boys too much.

    Seeing Liu Heita was showing some interest on Susu, Xu Ziling had a mind to play matchmaker, so that Susu might forget Li Jing. Turning to Susu, he said, Su Jies legs had to be bent all day long, right now you must be numb and sore, while we are going to fetch firewood, why dont Liu Xiong give you a leg rub?

    Susu jumped in fright. I am all right, she cried out in fear, No need to rub!

    Liu Heitas black face turned red [Translators note: hei from Liu Heitas name means black], Ill go fetch firewood, he said. And then with Cui Dong and Zhuge Dewei he left without saying anything.

    Susu said, You should also go to help!

    Xu Ziling sat down by her side and shook his head, If we go, who would protect Jiejie if the hungry wolves are coming? he said.

    Susu shivered, and no longer dared to insist.

    Kou Zhong sat down on her other side and muttered to himself, I wonder if Xiao Ling also has the same feeling; beginning yesterday afternoon, I have a feeling a disaster is looming ahead. Sometimes this feeling was strong, sometimes it was weak, as if someone was hanging on our tail.

    Overwhelmed with shock, Susu said, What should we do?

    Xu Ziling exposed an astonished look; he blew out a mouthful of breath, which became fog, and said, I thought I was being paranoid, turns out you are having the same feeling. There must be a martial art master following our trail, seeing that we are of many men with a great force, he is forced to wait for an opportunity to make his move.

    Kou Zhong said, If his target is the account book in our hands, what he wanted to get hold of at first must be Su Jie, so that he could use her to threaten us. So no matter what happens, we must have at least one person by Su Jie all the time.

    Xu Ziling said, The enemy is in the dark, we are in the open; the one who will suffer losses will be us. I wonder if there is a way to turn the table around and lure him out to the open!

    Kou Zhong happily said, What do you have in mind?

    Xu Ziling said, When Dugu Ba plotted against Shen Luoyan the other day, he had himself buried in the snow, and then when she passed through, he seized the opportunity to attack. We can copy his trick.

    Right this moment, there was a howling of the beast from a distance; hearing that, Susus hair stood up on its end, and she threw herself on Kou Zhongs back.

    Kou Zhong continued, This person was able to follow us for a day and a night, and is still undetected, obviously his skill is extremely superior. Besides, he cant possibly accidentally walk through right above you. Dealing with him will require our cooperation. And then he added dejectedly, How are we going to bury ourselves in the snow anyway?

    Xu Ziling triumphantly said, I had thought about that problem before. Look! Finished speaking, he moved away a little, lay down on the snow, closed his eyes and applied his internal energy. Soon the snow on which he lay melted, and his whole body sank in, and Xu Ziling disappeared underneath the layer of snow.

    Kou Zhong knew that he was using his internal energy to generate heat; while he was inwardly cheered, Liu Heita and Zhuge Dewei came back with large pile of dry branches in their hands. The latter asked in surprise, Where is Xiao Ling?

    Kou Zhong and Susu laughed; they immensely proud of themselves. Kou Zhong said, A wolf ate him!

    Liu Heita was displeased; he dumped the dry branches in front of the two people, and said with a laugh, Quickly call him back to scrape the snow from these sticks. Su hey Su Mei might be too cold.

    Where is Dong Shu [(younger) uncle]? Susu asked.

    Zhuge Dewei replied, He was afraid dry ration would not help Miss Su resist the cold, so when he heard the sound of wild animal, he went hunting!

    Liu Heita plopped his butt on the snow next to where Xu Ziling buried himself; he was still completely oblivious. I am best at roasting meat, I guarantee after eating it, Su Mei wont be cold anymore!

    Kou Zhong remembered something; he sprang up and cried out, Not good! Quickly call Dong Shu back, dont let him go alone!

    Before he even finished, there was a violent hiss coming from a distant place in the southeast direction.

    Zhuge Deweis hands shook that the branches fell off to the ground; his countenance changed. Its Dong Shu! he said.

    Liu Heita already leaped up and pulled Kou Zhong, who was about to run, back. Stay here and protect Su Mei, he said, Where is Xiao Ling?

    Kou Zhong did not have time to explain, he cried, He is all right! Go quickly!

    Liu Heita, two people, felt their hearts were burning, without thinking anything, they shot away like an arrow.

    Kou Zhong had a brainwave; he spoke to Xu Ziling under the snow, Dont come out no matter what! This must be the luring the tiger away from the mountain stratagem.

    As soon as he finished speaking, a dark shadow descended from the sky, with astonishing power the wind from the palm strike pressed down on the top of their heads.

    While Kou Zhong was thinking of grabbing Susu and brought her rolling away to the side, the strong wind already arrived. Left with no other options, he raised both fists upward to meet the enemys palm head-on.

    There was a powerful Bang! Kou Zhong felt his arms were about to break, his brain felt as if a lightning has just struck him, and his body was jarred that it flew backward. By this time his combat experience was already very rich; the moment before he fell, the true qi inside his body already circulated several times, neutralizing the enemys destroying the heart, splitting the lungs force.

    By the time he struggled to stand up, Susu already screamed, because she had fallen into the incoming enemys hands.

    This kind of martial art skill was extremely frightening.

    The man had one arm wrapped around Susu, the other hand was pressing on her tianling acupoint [top of the head]; he roared in laughter and said, Kid, stay where you are, you move half a finger, your Jiejie wont live.

    It was only then did Kou Zhong see clearly that the opponent was a middle-aged man that appeared full of confidence, heroic, but also at ease. His nose was especially big, so that his eyes appeared slim, but his eyeballs flickered with very cold rays, that it chilled those who looked at him.

    Kou Zhong pulled the iron [see my note in previous chapter] Cui Dong gave him for self-protection. You dare hurting her? he angrily roared, while in his heart he was praying that Xu Ziling would not come out of the snow right this moment, otherwise Susus life would be in danger. An idea popped out in his head, he called out, Kid, you must also stay where you are. You should not make any move until I say so.

    How could the man know that he was speaking to Xu Ziling, who was buried in the snow? With a cold laugh he said, You are so scared that you turn mad. Just stop talking, get the Dongming Pais account book out and give it to me. Otherwise this baby girl will lose her life.

    Kou Zhong signaled Susu with his eyes, telling her not to panic. When he was about to speak, Liu Heita and Zhuge Dewei rushed back. Seeing Susu had fallen into the enemys hands, they both roared furiously, and then together with Kou Zhong, they formed a triangle with the enemy surrounded in the middle.

    Where is Dong Shu? Kou Zhong called out.

    Liu Heitas eyes flickered fiercely, but surprisingly his expression was heavy and cold. He slowly said, He had fallen into this thiefs evil scheme.

    Kou Zhong was terribly grieved. Who are you? he asked, What enmity do we have against you?

    I am Yuwen Chengdu, that man calmly replied, How could there be no enmity no grudges between you and I? If you are done chatting, I am going to count from one to ten, if you havent handed the account book over to me, your Jiejies head will burst open.

    He paused, and then, Huh? Where is that Xu kid? he asked.

    Everybody shivered inwardly; they knew that among the four top martial art masters of the Yuwen Clan, Yuwen Chengdus rank was only a tad lower than Yuwen Huaji. Although he might not necessarily be able to defeat their combined power, but they could forget about stopping him either.

    Afraid that he might suspect Xu Zilings whereabouts, Kou Zhong fetched the account book from his pocket and lifted it up high above his head. Release Su Jie, he said, I will toss the account book to you.

    Seeing the account book, Yuwen Chengdus eyes lit up. Rolling his eyes, he let out a cold snort and said, If I release her, but then you did not hand the account book to me, wont I suffer heavy losses?

    Kou Zhong mockingly said, Is your head stuffed with straws? Such a simple matter you failed to understand. Now I am going to withdraw two zhang back but put the account book on the ground. You tell my Jiejie to pick it up and throw it to you. But remember, before my Jiejie picks the book, you must not move even half a step. Otherwise, my two companions will immediately attack you.

    Yuwen Chengdu thought that if that was the case, then could always take the initiative to lay his evil scheme on Susu. Nodding, he said, So be it. You must not play any trick, otherwise I can send out a palm strike over the empty air to take your Jiejies life. While in his heart he had made up his mind that as soon as Susu threw the account book to him, he would kill Susu at the same time, so that Kou Zhong would be grieved and his mind would be a confused mess.

    Kou Zhong called out loudly, You must act according to my order! Naturally this sentence was directed to Xu Ziling.

    By this time Yuwen Chengdu no longer cared to argue with Kou Zhong. Seeing Kou Zhong really put the account book down and backed away, he eagerly pushed Susu forward. Pick the book and throw it over! he ordered.

    Naturally Susu understood Kou Zhongs plan. With weakened knees, she forced herself to walk toward the account book.

    Kou Zhong withdrew about a zhang and a half and stopped; gathering his strength, he waited.

    Susu stopped in front of the book. Her knees gave up, she fell sitting down on the snowy ground.

    Yuwen Chengdu anxiously called out, if you want to live, throw the book here!

    Susu was a bit lost; she stared blankly at the book in front of her. Kou Zhong suddenly thundered, Now!

    Yuwen Chengdu still thought that Kou Zhong ordered Susu to hurry up and pick the account book. Suddenly a wave of snow burst forth from behind him, followed by a violently hot palm strike hitting his back; it was only then did he realize that he had fallen into the enemys scheme. While spurting a mouthful of blood forward, his palm struck backward; to his surprise, however, he struck empty air. Knowing that the situation was not good, he hastily pulled back and leaped away.

    Meanwhile, Kou Zhong already rushed toward Susu. Liu Heita and Zhuge Dewei also soared; one cane and one fan attacked toward Yuwen Chengdu midair.

    While his first attack went smoothly, Xu Ziling second move hit empty air. This Yuwen Chengdu was indeed a first-class martial art master; although he was unable to guard against Xu Zilings palm strike against his back that he was injured and spurted a mouthful of blood, his true qi reacted and shocked Xu Ziling that blood and qi surged, which rendered him unable to pursue.

    The three men exchanged blows midair. Yuwen Chengdu screamed miserably. Although he managed to block Zhuge Deweis iron fan, his left shoulder was hit by the extremely angry Liu Heitas cane that his bone broke and his flesh split, and he was thrown sideways.

    But this man was really outstanding; he was still able to rouse his qi and landed on the branch of a large tree nearby. Borrowing the momentum, he ricocheted and flew like a bird into the depth of the forest; in a few blinks he disappeared in the darkness.

    The pit of Cui Dongs stomach was hit by a palm strike, his sternum fractured and he perished. Everybody was inconsolably grieved; they vowed to avenge this great enmity for Cui Dong. That very night Liu Heita looked for a rather secluded spot on an elevated ground, dug a deep hole, and spread large rocks over the place where he buried Cui Dong, so that hungry wolves would not catch the smell and dig the corpse and eat it.

    Recalling that it was because Cui Dong wanted to find a game to be roasted to help her resisting the cold that he went alone and was murdered by Yuwen Chengdu, Susu cried uncontrollably that her tears rained down like pear blossom. Recalling that Cui Dong died because of the account book, Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings grief was inconsolable; but they were also greatly puzzled.

    Surprisingly, it was Liu Heita who was open-minded. After kowtowing in front of the grave, he spoke to the tombstone in a loud and clear voice, Dong Shu, you went a step ahead of us. After Xiao Hei [little black, from Liu Heitas name] takes advantage of this numerous and disorderly world and damn play for a while, a bit later I will go down the spring [i.e. underworld] to find you to play finger-guessing game and drink wine.

    And then he walked over to Susu, who was supported by Kou and Xu, two boys; smiling, he said, Su Mei, please dont be sad, summer went, winter came [Translator's note: the 'dong' in Cui Dong's name means 'winter'], to be born, to grow old, to get sick and to die, life is nothing more than that." Finished speaking, he preceded the other to leave.

    With a grim expression Zhuge Dewei said, "Let's hit the road! If others don't kill me, then I will kill others. After fighting several battles, everything will be clear!"

    Hearing that, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were somewhat comforted. Helping Susu up, they followed the two men continuing their journey toward Yangwu.

    By midday, they cut through the mountain and fields toward the official road of Yangwu. They saw the road pas packed with refugees who were leaving Yangwu, pedestrians and carts fighting over the road, the cries of grief shook the heavens, so that the people who were already suffering from the intense cold weather became more miserable and flustered.

    Liu Heita and Zhuge Dewei keep their calm in the face of the unexpected; their expression remained aloof as they tried to ask around. They found out that Li Mi recaptured Liyang Storehouse, Wang Shichong led his main force to reinforce the Sui Army, but was defeated by Li Mi. Li Mi then recruited a large number of surrendering Sui soldiers and generals, so that his fame and power was greatly flourishing; he was about to march toward Yangwu; therefore, common people in the neighboring area abandoned their homes to flee.

    After hearing this news, Susu was aghast, "Li Mi is coming! We must run away now!" Hearing Li Mi's name, her countenance changed as if she was hearing a tiger was coming.

    Liu Heita led them into the woods next to the road to get away from the crowd; he said with a laugh, "If you think these people are running away from Li Mi, you are gravely mistaken. These are peasant families from the rural counties near Yangwu. What they are afraid of is the defeated troops would scatter in all directions and looting the people. Yangwu closed its gate and not allowed them to enter the city, hence they had no choice but to flee for their lives first."

    Zhuge Dewei said, "Li Mi is the best at buying the people's heart, chances are he will send grain to relieve the people; how could those common people fear him?"

    Frowning, Kou Zhong asked, "If that's the case, won't we be able to enter the city as well?"

    Liu Heita had already planned in advance, "Leave this matter to me," he said, "We have several officers of Yangwu who have dealings with us in secret, plus I have an official pass. As long as we are willing to spend a few pennies, bringing in two or three more people inside wont be a problem.

    Zhuge Dewei said, We also have some connections with the clans and societies in there, if the three of you still insist on going to Jiangdu, we can make some arrangements to have you take a boat. It would definitely be a lot more comfortable than going on foot!

    Xu Ziling said, What I am afraid the most is Yuwen Chengdu waiting for us there. After all, Yangwu is under the influence of his Yuwen Clan.

    Liu Heita said, Before entering the city, I can disguise the three of you first, turning you into granpas and grandma. We will also change our appearance to avoid attracting undue attention.

    Zhuge Dewei proposed, It would be best if we enter the city in two batches, it would be even more foolproof.

    Kou Zhong slapped his thigh and cheered, I have heard about disguising skill in Jianghu, turns out two gentlemen are experts in it, he said, Would it be possible for you to teach us, brothers and sister, a trick or two? It would help us as self-protection skill when we have to escape.

    Liu Heita gladly said, I only have superficial knowledge on this, Dage is the genuine expert; within our army, he occupies the first place. If you want to learn, youd better beg him to teach you.

    Zhuge Dewei laughed and said, Such a trivial trick, there is no need to use so much fuss on me; we all are friends in times of tribulations, to be able to catch your appreciation, you dont know what a privilege that is to me.

    The three peoples favorable impression on Zhuge Dewei suddenly enjoyed a great boost. Chatting and laughing, they went against the flow of people leaving Yangwu. Temporarily the grief of Cui Dongs demise was pushed toward the back of their heads; their life force has returned.

  18. #58
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 11

    Book 5 Chapter 11 Imperial Courts End of the Road

    Kou Zhong washed the disguise from his face and hair; breathed a sigh of relief, he said, I didnt know disguise can be so difficult to bear. Look! My skin is red.

    Xu Ziling was squatting by the stove on the other side of the kitchen, rinsing his face with cold water, after seeping it with freshly boiled water; deeply in agreement he said, This kind of starch paste Wei Ge [older brother, referring to Zhuge Dewei] concocted is indeed a first-class deceiving trick, but it is also a first-class evil punishment.

    They were in an ordinary courtyard house inside the city of Yangwu, Liu Heitas guarantee indeed came about as predicted, the five of them entered the city in batches without a hitch. After settling them down in this house, which was the secret hideout of the Dou Army, Liu Heita and Zhuge Dewei went out to observe outside activities and scout for information.

    Kou Zhong went over to Xu Zilings side and whispered, Do you think the Old Liu has some interest in Su Jie?

    Xu Ziling was wiping the last piece of starch paste off his forehead; he was about to wash his hair when he heard what Kou Zhong said. Not just some interest, he replied, He is very interested. When he looks at Su Jie, his eyes seem to be shining.

    But then he sighed and said, But it appeared that Su Jie is avoiding him!

    Kou Zhong assumed the haughty manner of an expert; acting as if he was taking things very seriously, he shook his head and swayed his noggin and said, Girls are like that, the more she is interested in you, the more she will act indifferently, playing with your emotion and driving you crazy. She will even lure you and make your heart unbearably itchy. In terms of qualifications, Old Liu is not at all inferior to Li Dage, plus he knows how be particularly attentive and spare no effort to win her sympathy. I dont believe Su Jies heart is not moved. While speaking, he handed the towel to Xu Ziling.

    Xu Ziling took it to dry his hair; he said in a low voice, Do you want to fix them together? But Old Liu will go to war three hundred days in a year; if Su Jie marries him, wont she have to keep watch of an empty boudoir alone? Plus she will always worry that he wouldnt come back.

    With a wry smile Kou Zhong said, I was thinking of the same thing. But if she marries Li Dage, wont it be the same? The most important thing is to gauge Su Jies heart. Let me go out to sound her out.

    Ignoring Xu Zilings advice to stop, Kou Zhong went to the eastern wing where Susus room was. Knocking on the door, he called, Su Jie!

    Come in! Susu replied.

    Kou Zhong pushed the door to enter. Susu was leaning against the window, looking outside; she appeared to be enjoying the snow scenery of the small garden in the middle of the courtyard. He came over behind her and said in a low voice, Does Jiejie have something in your mind?

    Susu trembled slightly, No! she replied, There is nothing.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Is it that fellow Liu Heita?

    Susu turned around, her almond eyes opened wide, she said crossly, What are you talking about? Ay! You are thinking that far already.

    Dont you feel that he is especially good to you? Kou Zhong asked.

    Susu rolled her eyes on him, Dont be meddlesome, she said, You always love to let your imagination run wild. Are you tired of Jiejie following you?

    Kou Zhong cried out to Heaven for the injustice, How could Su Jie have such thought? We just care about you!

    After staring at him for quite a while, Susu sighed; half-leaning onto the windowsill, she gloomily said, Liu Dage is a one-hundred percent hero, but ay! Jiejie really dont know how to explain it!

    Kou Zhong happily said, That means Jiejie has a good impression on him; whats so difficult to explain?

    Susu shook her head sorrowfully; reaching out to pat Kou Zhongs cheek, she hung her head down as she said softly, You wouldnt understand the burden in Jiejies heart.

    Kou Zhong was dismayed, If Jiejie did not tell me the burden in your heart, how could I understand? he asked, Looking at Jiejies appearance, I am truly heartbroken.

    Susu pondered silently for half a day; finally she smiled bitterly and said, Every time I see Liu Heita, its just like I am seeing Li Dage. They both are of the same type of person, Jiejie is very scared. Do you understand what I am saying?

    Kou Zhong had no idea that she was having that kind of feeling and thoughts; greatly stunned, he was speechless for quite a long time.

    Susu forced herself to look excited as she said, Jiejie has decided that from now on I will serve and take care of you, two wild boys, I wont marry for as long as I live; so in the future you must not be heartbroken for Jiejies sake.

    Kou Zhong lost the interest to talk; he finally said, Jiejie must not set any rules for yourself like that; otherwise, if you meet someone that you fancy, you might miss the opportunity because of these words.

    Susu was slightly angry, Jiejie has given this matter careful consideration, I dont need you to lecture me.

    This moment Liu Heitas voice was coming from the main hall, the two people hastily went out of the room. Seeing the abundance of food and drink Liu Heita has purchased and brought back, without any trace of politeness Xu Ziling sat down in front of the table and started to chew. Kou Zhong and Susu promptly joined him.

    Susu watched as the three men busily sending the food to their bowls and to their mouths. Where is Wei Dage? she asked.

    Liu Heita replied, Yangwu water transportation is extremely scarce nowadays, money alone is useless, we must also have some power. Dage is trying to talk with Baling Bang people, they are the only one who can tread on both black and white ways right now [i.e. both underground (criminal) and official] right now; other clans and societies are out of the question.

    Kou Zhong, three people, looked at each other; they did not expect that in the end they still had to deal with Baling Bang.

    Noticing their unusual expression, Liu Heita asked in surprise, Havent you had any dealings with them before?

    It was not a dealing per se, just some encounters, Kou Zhong replied, Liu Xiong, have you heard the name Xiang Yushan?

    Not only heard, I even met him face-to-face once, Liu Heita replied, This fellow is one of the newer well-known figures of Baling Bang. He knows a lot about business, rather popular in both the black and white ways; his public relation skill is exceptionally good.

    Hearing this, Kou Zhong could only stare blankly; he had never imagined that such a second-rate character like Xiang Yushan could also have some standing in Jianghu.

    Liu Heita lowered his voice, Although this persons martial art skill is sloppy and very ordinary, he is very resourceful. Currently, Yang Guangs two most favorite imperial concubines, one is Madame Xiao, the other is Zhu Guier. From what I heard, Zhu Guier was personally presented to that fatuous ruler by Xiang Yushan.

    If thats the case, Xu Ziling said, Why did Yang Guang send an assassin to murder Baling Bangs big boss?

    Liu Heita said, These things, we, as outsiders, can hardly understand.

    What other news did Liu Dage hear? Susu queried.

    The beauty stooped down to ask information, Liu Heita felt he gained a lot of face; excitedly he replied, Naturally the situation is very good: last month Li Yuan started a rebellion from Taiyuan; Li Mi repeatedly gained victory; Du Fuwei, Fu Gongyou, two men, flaunt their power in Jiang Huai, our army is known as Mighty Yan and Zhao [my dictionary gives beautiful women as alternate definition]. The only places Sui household can defend right now are the western capital Changan, eastern capital Luoyang, and Yang Guangs nest Jiangdu, Yangzhou. Other places, like where we stay temporarily, Yangwu, are basically without any ability to defend itself. The high-ranking military officers guarding the city are merely looking around to see which side they would surrender to!

    Xu Ziling excitedly asked, Hows the situation of the Li Clan?

    Liu Heita shrugged, They rely on help from the Tujue, becoming their hunting dog; there is nothing left to say.

    Xu Ziling was greatly disappointed; he also had nothing left to say.

    There is one this that is really puzzling, Liu Heita went on, The rumor in Jianghu is that the two of you know the secret of the Duke Yang Treasure Trove. Whether this is just a rumor or not, Xia Wang [king of Xia] and I have repeatedly researched it, and our final conclusion is that this treasure is just make-believe tales.

    Why do you think the treasure does not exist? Kou Zhong wondered.

    Liu Heita said, When Yang Guang murdered his own father and declared his independence, he also murdered his brother Yang Yong. In this matter, Yang Su had expended a lot of effort for him. At that time Yang Guang was still putting on the cloak of righteous ruler on him, so he showed a lot of favor and trust toward Yang Su. Although time and again he wanted to kill Yang Su, on the surface he did not show the least bit of sign. This was about a year before Yang Su died. Logically speaking, Yang Su would not have the mind to rebel or hide a treasure.

    Xu Ziling joined in, Its possible that the treasure was prepared during the Emperor Wen, Yang Jians time [c. 581-604 AD]. Due to Yang Sus rigorous schemes and deep foresight, he ought to know that high meritorious service would shake the master, nothing good ever comes out of it.

    That is a reasonable argument, Liu Heita said, But later on Yang Sus son Yang Xuan raised an army in rebellion, his men did not even have a single decent weapon, and oftentimes he lacked the fund to pay the soldiers salary. This does not make sense. How could Yang Su not tell his son about the hidden treasure?

    Kou Zhong could not resist, The place where Yang Xuan rose in rebellion is Liyang, the western capitals mountain is long and its water far, perhaps he did not have time to get the treasure!

    Liu Heita slapped the table and laughed, Two Xiongdis Jianghu experience is indeed too shallow; in just a few sentences you uncovered the secret to me that the treasure is at the western capital.

    Xu Ziling indignantly said, Who would have thought Liu Xiong would swindle us?

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, Liu Xiong just wanted to coach us in discipline. But we only know that the treasure is in Guanzhong. Before Niang could tell us, she already passed away. Otherwise, who knows? Perhaps we would give the treasure to Liu Xiong.

    Liu Heita was delighted, Hearing what you said is enough. Honestly, I dont believe such treasure would accomplish much.

    This moment Zhuge Dewei came back. He sat down and said, Tonight Baling Bang may have a ship sailing for Jiangdu, with a cargo of all kinds of thread, gauze and satin for the muddleheaded ruler, so that the fatuous ruler can have his people cut it into flowers and leaves, and sew it onto the branches, and spread it over the pond, just so that he could enjoy the beauty of spring and summer in the middle of the winter. I already made arrangement; you can hitch a ride with that ship. This time Baling Bang really gives us a face.

    Liu Heita sighed and said, Death is near at hand, that muddleheaded ruler still does not repent.

    And then, broken-hearted at having to part, he said, We are going to part company!

    Susu hung her head low, she did not dare to meet his gaze.

    Kou Zhongs blood was boiling; straightening up his body he said, Liu Xiong, I have something Id like to ask your guidance in private.

    Liu Heita was a bit surprised; as he followed Kou Zhong toward the garden outside, he asked in low voice, What is it? Are you hard pressed for funds?

    Kou Zhong patted the money pouch hanging on his waist; assuming a rich man air, he said, We have enough money to spend on wine and pleasure, Liu Xiong need not worry.

    Then, lowering his voice he said, I noticed that Liu Xiong is showing some interest on our Su Jie, is that correct?

    Liu Heitas thick face turned scarlet. In this kind of matter, naturally I cannot conceal it from you two, he admitted, The strange thing is, I have met not a few girls, but as soon as I saw your Jiejie, its hard for me to maintain self-control, ay!

    Kou Zhong was puzzled, This is a good thing, he said, Why did Liu Xiong sigh?

    Liu Heita dejectedly said, Five years ago, someone told my fortune by reading my facial features. He said my mountain root [upper part of the nose (courtesy of Akolaw)] appears too low, my two eyebrows are squeezing my qi extensively, perhaps before I turn forty-one I would have passed. Therefore, I have made up my mind, I will enjoy my forty years of life without the slightest hesitation. Other things, I dare not think.

    Kou Zhong downplayed his remark, How can we believe Jianghu charlatans words?

    Liu Heita smiled wryly and said, Problem is, that person was not a Jianghu charlatan at all; rather, it was the Number One Expert of the Central Plains, Ning Daoqi. And it was because I was not afraid of the truth that I implored him repeatedly before he was willing to tell me.

    Kou Zhong was severely shaken, Have you seen him? he asked.

    Liu Heitas face revealed an awed expression; he nodded and said, Only for a moment, and in a hurry. But his simple, relaxed and calm demeanor, I will never forget until the day I die.

    Reaching out to pat Kou Zhongs shoulder, he said, My deep affection for your virtuous sister can only be buried deep in the bottom of my heart; I do not dare to implicate her. Furthermore, when I come back this time, I am going to fight in one place after another all around the world [tian xia, i.e. China], life or death is unpredictable, I dont know if in the future I will have the good fortune of seeing the three of you again. Kou Xiongdis good intention, Xiongdi is deeply grateful.

    What else could Kou Zhong say?

    Heavy snow was starting to fall from the sky, again.

    By nightfall, Baling Bang sent a carriage to pick up the three people. With heavy heart Liu Heita and the others bade farewell to the three people; recalling that they might never meet again in the future, everybodys heart was brimming with sorrows.

    After taking a seat in the carriage, Susu was overwhelmed with emotion, she bowed her head and shed some silent tears. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were scared; they did not dare to disturb her, they simply looked out the window, silently watching the snowflake fluttered in the air along the street.

    The driver, Baling Bang man, was polite and very hospitable; he drove straight out of the gate toward the big pier by Tongji Canal outside the city, led the three people to a skiff, and a moment later they reached a huge five-mast ship anchored in the middle of the river.

    The three have just stepped foot on the deck, someone, beaming from ear to ear, already greeted them, Kou Xiong, Xu Xiong, Miss Susu, how are you?

    Ah! Susu was pleasantly surprised, Its Xiang Gongzi!

    The man welcoming them was unexpectedly Xiang Yushan. Noticing the ill expression on Kou and Xu, two boys faces as they looked at him, he hastily bowed respectfully with clasped hands and said, Two Dage must not blame Xiaodi, I have done everything in my power to find you threes whereabouts, but all those hard works accomplished very little. Fortunately I guessed correctly that to go to Jiangdu, unavoidably you will have to pass through Yangwu, so I came here to wait for your news. Sure enough the Emperor of Heaven did not turn his back on resolute person, in the end I can meet once again with the three of you!

    With frigid irony and scorching satire Kou Zhong said, We were also very fortunate not to go to your Peipei or what have you, or else we would have fallen into the Wagang Armys hands early on.

    Xu Ziling let out a cold laugh and said, Xiang Xiong indeed know how to introduce us to good people.

    Xiang Yushan was shocked, Is there such thing? he asked, Humph! If verified, Xiongdi will definitely punish the traitor according to gang rules.

    Kou Zhong said, If we encounter something in the future, how would we know that you will not betray us like Peipei?

    Xiang Yushan feigned helpless ignorance as he lamented, How could Kou Xiong look down on me, Xiang Yushan, like that? If I have that kind of intention, let me not have a good end.

    Susu could not bear not to say something, We did not know Xiang Gongzi have his own problem, you two must not blame him again.

    Xu Ziling swept his gaze around; he noticed the sailors were raising the anchor and untying the sail in preparation to set off. Turning to Xiang Yushan he said, Very well! But if we discover later on that you are playing trick on us, I will immediately tear you apart.

    Xiang Yushan indignantly puff out his chest and said, The three of you may set your heart at ease, I, Xiang Yushan is definitely not a despicable man.

    After a short pause, he continued respectfully, Xiaodi has prepared a banquet inside the cabin, especially in honor of the three of you. Miss Susu, please!

    After staring at Xiang Yushan for a few seconds, Susu gladly walked over, Xiang Yushan delightedly led the way. Seeing Susu accepting the invitation and entered the cabin, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had no choice but to follow behind her.

    The cabin was brightly lit, plus there was a stove in the corner, so that it was as warm as springtime. In the middle of the room was a table of sumptuous banquet, by the table was a beautiful lady in white. Leading four good-looking maids, she bowed to greet the guests.

    Xiang Yushan made the introduction, Xiao Dajie [big sister] is the younger sister of our humble gangs Fu Bangzhu [Deputy Gang/Clan Leader] Xiao Xian; she manages the daily expenses and necessities of the imperial concubines in the imperial palace, she knows the imperial palace situation like the back of her hands. With her working out a strategy, this time Yuwen Clan is in danger.

    [Translators note: so far I always translated Bang as Clan, like in Beggar Clan (gai bang), or Clans and Societies (bang hui) just because this term is widely known in our circle; however, since in this story there are a lot of references to family clan (fa), I feel that I need to differentiate these two. So I will make conscious effort to use gang instead of clan when referring to these organizations.]

    This Big Sister Xiao was about twenty years or so, in terms of beauty, she was inferior to Shen Luoyan, Shan Wanjing, and the like, but her figure was like standing jade, her body alluring, her bearing elegant; in short, she was sexually very attractive.

    Big Sister Xiaos laughter sounded like the ringing of a bell; absolutely unrestrained, she sized Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling up and down, and laughed again before even speaking, You are fine specimen indeed, no wonder as soon as he saw you, Yushan has such a high regard of the two gentlemen!

    Awkwardly Xiang Yushan cleared his throat and said, Please sit down.

    After everybody was seated, the pretty maids poured wine into their cups and then withdrew from the cabin.

    Susu did not drink wine, she asked for fragrant tea instead. Xiang Yushan, who was sitting next to her, politely served her.

    With licentious look, Big Sister Xiao repeatedly urged Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling to drink their wine; it was such a warm atmosphere.

    After three rounds of drink, Xiang Yushan said, Know yourself and know your enemy, and you will never be defeated [idiom, from Sunzi's The Art of War]. I wonder if two Dage are familiar with Yuwen Clans affairs.

    Kou Zhong was particularly blunt toward Xiang Yushan; knitting his brows, he said, If you dont tell me, how would I know?

    Big Sister Xiao laughed coquettishly and said, Yushan is so bad, when he started, he gave two Gongzi bad impressions. Just consider this cup as my apology on behalf of Yushan.

    Since she spoke up the load in their mind in such a forthcoming manner, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling felt embarrassed instead; they promptly drank their cups.

    Like a blossoming flower Big Sister Xiao smiled toward Susu and said, If I had two good Didi like Miss Susu, I would be extremely thrilled.

    At first Susu was uncomfortable with this young but acted as if she was a seasoned windblown dust [i.e. prostitute] who had gone through everything woman, who incessantly threw flirtatious glances toward Kou and Xu, two boys; but with such flattering remark, her ill will immediately diminished greatly. A smile burst open on her pretty face.

    Xiang Yushan was a bit mesmerized by her flourishing fresh flower-like smile; he sighed and said, If I could be like Kou Xiong and Xu Xiong who have a sister like Miss Susu, that would be really good!

    Susu rolled her eyes at him; her pretty face blushed, she hung down her head and said in a low voice, How could Susu dare to accept the compliment? I am only a maid.

    Xiang Yushan replied in earnestness, I dont care what Miss Susus status is, in my, Xiang Yushan, heart, you are a fairy from heaven.

    Susus pretty face blushed even redder, but her expression showed that she was delighted.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged a glance; they both felt it was inappropriate. The first time Susu met Xiang Yushan, she already spoke up on his behalf. If this time Xiang Yushan mixed some sweet nothing in his old hand technique to arouse the romance and thus force his way inside her heart, wouldnt it be very bad?

    While both of them separately plotting a countermeasure, Big Sister Xiao said, About Yuwen Clans affairs, let me tell you! The two most formidable persons in Yuwen family are Yuwen Shang and Yuwen Shu. The former concentrates fully on martial art training. Along with the Song Clans Heavenly Saber Song Que, they are known as the Central Plains two greatest martial art masters after Ning Daoqi. His martial art skill is matchless, but he never set foot in officialdom. He begets two sons, Yuwen Chengdu and Yuwen Wudi.

    Kou Zhong was dumbstruck. I thought Yuwen Huagu is his son, turns out he is not, he said.

    Big Sister Xiao shook in laughter like a flower at the trip of a branch. Yuwen Huagu? she said, Fancy that you came out with that name.

    Kou and Xu could not avert their eyes from her silky breasts, which were trembling in sync with her shaking body due to the laughter; they found it to be highly captivating.

    Xiang Yushan interjected, Yuwen Shu successively held high positions in the imperial court, until his nobility rank reaches Guo Gong [state duke], the highest possible official positions. He has three sons; Yuwen Huaji is the oldest, followed by Yuwen Shiji [士及] and Yuwen Shiji [智及]. Although Yuwen Shiji is not among the four great martial art masters of the Yuwen Clan, but since he is the most inscrutable, we must never underestimate him.

    Big Sister Xiao continued, Yuwen Shang never held any official position, his specific responsibility is Jianghu matters. From Yuwen Shus three sons, Yuwen Huaji inherited his fathers Guo Gong nobility, his official position is the Commander of the Right Reserve Officers, and the Zongguan [Chief Manager] of the Capital. His second son Shiji married Yang Guangs daughter Princess Nanyang, so he is the Sui Dynastys prince consort.

    Xiang Yushan joined in, Yuwen Shiji [the third son] is proficient in wood construction. Yang Guangs minor jail, north of Jiangdong citys Guiyan Palace, Huiliu Palace, Songlin Palace, and the others, the Shugang Ten Palaces, were all built under his supervision.

    Xu Ziling breathed out a mouthful of cold air, Yuwen Clan is in such a close relationship with the imperial household, how could one account book make any difference?

    Thats why we must make a careful plan, Xiang Yushan said, Otherwise we wont be able to harm them but suffer a heavy loss instead.

    It was only now did the two boys realize the dangerous nature of their mission; it was definitely not as easy as they thought.

    But they were already riding on the tigers back; there was no way they could shrink back.

  19. #59
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 5 - Chapter 12

    Book 5 Chapter 12 The Battle of Two Clans

    Xiang Yushan made arrangement that the three stayed in the cabins on the second level just below the top deck; the other three cabins across the hall, two belonged to Big Sister Xiao and Xiang Yushan. As for the last cabin, Xiang Yushan did not reveal the occupants identity to them.

    For the last few days, Susu has been tossed from side to side, she was already exhausted. After the banquet, her qi bubbled up, she immediately went back to her room to sleep.

    Kou Zhong went to Xu Zilings room to chat. This time we are doomed, he said, Looks like Su Jie has some interest toward that Xiang fellow. I dont understand it, even toward someone like Liu Heita she did not show any regards, but toward this fellow, whose face green and whose lips white all year long, who looks like he never have enough to eat, she could have good impression.

    Xu Ziling was certain, I have no doubt that Su Jies real sweetheart is still Li Dage. I just dont know what had actually happened between the two of them that made Su Jies heart seems to be dead to him. No way! We must not let Su Jie fall in love with this fellow with dirty past.

    Kou Zhong said, Unless we leave right away, it is very difficult for us to get involved in this kind of matter. But if we avoid the problem by walking away, we must think first whether Su Jie will be willing to, also not only it does not make sense, we will even lose the opportunity for revenge. Could it be that we can take the account book on our own and stop the sedan chair to cry out our grievances? [Translators note: the picture here is stopping government official on the street (who was usually traveling by riding sedan chair) to lodge a complaint.] With one chop Yuwen Huaji would be able to kill us.

    Do you trust that Xiang kid? Xu Ziling asked, If we dare to believe his words, simply hand over the account book to him, let him deal with it. And then we can go to Luoyang to look for Li Dage. That would be better than watching Su Jie with worried frown all day long.

    What do you mean worried frown? Kou Zhong countered, Didnt you see that Xiang kid managed to coax happiness from her just now? But your proposal is worth considering; if we came across Yuwen Huagu in Jiangdu, our little lives would be difficult to protect!

    Xu Ziling shook his head and said, Still wont work. Niangs enmity must be avenged by us personally, if just because of little difficulty we then use someone else to achieve it, we are practically letting our own conscience down.

    Kou Zhang was cross, Crooked, it was you who said it; straight, it was also you who said it, but now you seem to blame me?

    Xu Ziling smiled apologetically, Just consider I am in the wrong! Hai! That loose Dajie [big sister] seems to be very interested in you; perhaps tonight she is going to grope your bed!

    Kou Zhong jumped in fright, Dont talk nonsense, he said, If she found out that I am a green-head kid [i.e. a rookie], and afterwards she revealed my sealed red-packet, will I still a face to live my life? Ha! When we return to our hometown in brocade gown later, we must visit the biggest brothel, that Tianxian Lou [tianxian fairy, lou storied building], to look for that places most popular Miss Yuling to accompany us for a drink. Who knows? Based on our status, we may be able to get intimate with her.

    Xu Ziling was not the least bit interested; he said, If you want to go, then you can go alone! Just make sure you wont bump into Yuwen Huagu.

    Kou Zhong was astounded, Since when did you change your nature? Previously, didnt you want to hang around in the brothel more than I do?

    As if he still had some lingering fears, Xu Ziling said, Every time we went to the brothel, which one did we have good ending? If you dont have the guts to look for a woman to accompany you for a drink, just ask that Xiang kid to come with you. Perhaps Tianxian Lou also belongs to his family.

    Kou Zhongs eyes grew big. Ha! I get it, he said, Your interest is on that Zhen Sao who sells steamed buns [see Book 1, Chapter 1 & 2]. Kid, you are really bad!

    Xu Ziling was so angry he nearly punched Kou Zhong to teach him a lesson. Am I that kind of person? he furiously asked, Zhen Sao is Old Fengs concubine. If you keep speaking nonsense, I wont talk to you anymore.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Daye, please calm down. I just saw that you are too uptight, so I deliberately provoked you. You knew so well that brothels are very dangerous, yet you still want me to go alone to take risks? Can you be considered my brother?

    Unable to argue with him, Xu Ziling helplessly said, Just do whatever you want to do! But you must never let Su Jie know.

    Kou Zhong was greatly delighted, We have learned a little bit of disguising skill anyway, we could disguise ourselves as a bit older men, Yuwen Huagu has not seen us for many years, even if he came face-to-face with us, I guarantee that he would not have any idea.

    Right this moment suddenly there was a knock on their door, Xiang Yushans voice said, Are two Dage still awake? May Xiaodi come in to chat for a moment or two?

    The two boys frowned, but they really had no reason to refuse; without any better option, they had to let him in.

    Xiang Yushan sat comfortably in front of them; he said with a laugh, I am accustomed to sleep late, I cant sleep before the third watch [between 11pm 1am]. I am really jealous of people who have the good fortune of falling asleep as soon as they lie down like Miss Susu.

    Kou Zhong stood up; he left the bed and walked over to sit in one of the chairs by the window. Giving Xiang Yushan a sidelong glance, he said, No wonder your face is green your lips white all day long, like people who are drowsy.

    Xiang Yushan let out a wry smile and said, My countenance is unsightly, but its definitely not because of lack of sleep, but two years ago, when I was training internal energy, I suffered fire deviation. Kou Xiong misunderstood!

    Xu Ziling was astounded, So thats how it is. What exactly was the martial art that created a problem?

    Xiang Yushan seriously said, Have you heard about the Yin Hou [Empress Yin] Zhu Yuyan?

    The two boys shook their head with blank expression.

    Xiang Yushan said, I am not surprised that you have not heard about her. Yin Hou Zhu Yuyan is the Sect Leader of Yin Gui Pai [not sure if it means anything or perhaps a place name: yin negative/feminine (from yin-yang), gui tenth in order, pai sect/school]. It is said that this Sect is the most mysterious gang or sect [bang pai] in Jianghu, extremely heretical. They are the mortal enemy of the equally mysterious, unfathomable Ci Hang Jing Zhai [again, not sure how to translate this: ci compassionate, hang boat/to sail, jing calm/not moving, zhai building/fort]. Every once in a while, both factions would send out their prominent disciples to have a life or death decisive battle against each other. It is said that whichever faction lost, for the next twenty years no one from that faction is allowed to take even half a step in Jianghu. Fortunately, for the last hundred years or so, Ci Hang Jing Zhai has always been the winner, otherwise, if Yin Gui Pai appeared and do evil, I really dont know what kind of disaster would befall the Jianghu.

    Listening to his narration, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were you look at me, I glance at you, thinking that anything that happened in Jianghu, nothing could be considered too bizarre.

    So this Zhu Yuyan is very formidable? Xu Ziling asked.

    Xiang Yushan breathed out a mouthful of cold air, Do I need to tell you that? Our previous generation considered her to be the number one martial art master of the heretical world. According to our intelligence, after nearly a hundred years, the most outstanding masters Yin Gui Pai sent out are extremely confident that they would defeat Ci Hang Jing Zhais representatives in the next battle. If that were the real case, the ups and downs in the Jianghu would have another variable that is a lot more difficult to predict.

    Is this person a man or a woman? Young or old? Kou Zhong wondered. [Translators note: in Chinese he and she sounds the same, although Xiang Yushan used female radical.]

    That, I do not know! Xiang Yushan replied, My father has a bit of relationship with one of Yin Gui Pai elders, the information we have actually came from him, but it is limited to that much. Those who want to enter Yin Gui Pai, every single one of them must make heavy oath never to divulge any Sect matters to outsiders. That elder was drunk and had a slip of the tongue; afterwards he was extremely remorseful and implored my father not to tell others what he had just said.

    Kou Zhong was baffled, If thats the case, why is it that you have no scruples in telling us about this matter now?

    Xiang Yushan angrily said, Because, it was because of him that I trained and damaged my body. Before leaving, he wrote a secret instruction on how to train martial art, telling my father to practice it. Realizing that he himself is not a good material to train upper-class martial art skill, my father handed over the secret manual to me. Who would have thought that it was something harmful? If the practitioner cannot refrain from sexual desire, his meridians and qi will deviate and he will perish. Not only that, once one started, one will be addicted and will practice endlessly until fire deviation occurs. Fortunately I have always been lazy, plus I dont like to sleep around with women. After suffering fire deviation, Jing Xian [sic, I think previously it was Xiao Xian] Bangzhu [gang leader] wasted considerable energy to save me, so that I did not become a handicapped person. Tell me, should I keep a secret for someone like him?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stared blankly; it was only then did they realize that such a vicious, despicable man existed in the world. They could not help sympathizing with this Xiang Yushan fellow.

    Kou Zhong cleared his throat and said, I cant believe you dont like sleeping with women.

    Xiang Yushan embarrassedly said, Its not that I dont like sleeping with women, its just that I dont like to frequent brothels [orig. to pick the flowers and trample the grass], unless its with the woman that I really like. After fire deviation, my power diminished considerably, otherwise, why would I stop if I achieved any success?

    Are you completely recovered now? Xu Ziling asked.

    Xiang Yushan dejectedly replied, If I am fully recovered, my countenance would not be so unsightly. Every time theres a wind or a rain, extreme cold or extreme heat, I am aching all over and the pain is so unbearable that I wanted to commit suicide. That old thief indeed inflicted much suffering to me.

    It cant be treated? Kou Zhong asked.

    Xiang Yushan sighed. I lost track how many people have examined me, final verdict was unless someone with both extreme heat and extreme cold innate qi helping me unblocking my eight extraordinary channels, it would be difficult for me to recover.

    Kou Zhongs heart was moved, Can two people do it? he asked.

    Not impossible, Xiang Yushan replied, But to succeed, both cold and heat must be of common origin. Ay! Ordinarily, when people cultivate internal energy, they would lean to either hot or cold. The most appalling thing is that these two aspects must be innate qi. Martial art master who has this kind of innate qi, to find one is already very difficult, much less someone who simultaneously has both hot and cold qi? I have already given up early on!

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other; and then both of them burst out laughing at the same time, Kid! they said, You are saved!

    By daybreak the next morning, the ship sailed past Chen Liu. Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, Susu and Xiang Yushan, four people were having breakfast inside the cabin. Susu said in amazement, Xiang Gongzi must have had a very good sleep last night, you look a lot more spirited!

    Xiang Yushan excitedly said, It has nothing to do with me sleeping well, but the chronic ailment that has been plaguing me for the last two years has been cured half by the two Dage last night. One more night and then I will be completely recovered. Kou Xiong and Xu Xiong have become like my second parents.

    Kou Zhong was still alive, but he had no spirit, Not only I am not your parent, I am not your, this old kids Dage. You are merely counting your chickens before they are hatched, just one night and I am so exhausted that I feel like I am dying, and you want me to do it again tonight?

    Xu Ziling still had lingering fears as well, Turns out Xiang Xiongs injury is so severe; I will need at least two days of rest before I could continue.

    After asking what had happened, Susu said, If you want to save someone, you have to save him to the end! Today you ought to sit in meditation to cultivate your internal energy, once your spirit is restored, you ought to send streams of qi to cure Xiang Gongzis injury.

    Xiang Yushan was both grateful and apologetic; he said, You should take two-day rest.

    Kou Zhong was unhappy, Well see about that! he snapped, Right! Last night I forgot to ask you why the battle between Dugu Clan and Yuwen Clan is so fierce. Logically, since Yang Guangs birth mother was from the Dugu Clan, compared to the Yuwen Clan, they have a lot closer relationship with the imperial household, why would they let Yuwen Clan gain an upper hand?

    Its a long story [orig. as long as a bolt of cloth], Xiang Yushan respectfully replied, All Yang Jians [first emperor of Sui (541-604), reigned 581-604] five sons were born of the Empress from Dugu Clan. At that time Yang Jian was immeasurably content, thinking that since they were blood brothers who shared the same mother, there would not be any strife over power or battle over the throne. Who would have thought that Laoer [second son] Yang Guang would murder his father and brothers in cold blood? Not only that, he also raped Yang Jians beloved imperial concubine Madame Chen, and promiscuously slept around womens apartment at the palace. Dugu Clan people have the most detailed knowledge about these matters; therefore, Yang Guang is extremely wary of them. For that reason he turned to the Yuwen Clan and trained them to control the Dugu Clan. Naturally there are a lot of others details in this matter that outsiders are not supposed to know, and thus I am not clear on it myself!

    Xu Ziling asked, Right now, who is from the Dugu Clan serving as a government official in the imperial court?

    Xiang Yushan replied, The one most trusted by Yang Guang is actually the second figure of the Dugu Clan, Dugu Sheng. He is Yang Guangs personal bodyguard; wherever Yang Guang is, he will also be there.

    Kou Zhong seized this opportunity to ask, Hows this persons martial art skill compared to Dugu Ba?

    Speaking about martial art skill, Xiang Yushan replied, Naturally You Chuhong ranks first. Compared to her Clan Leader son Dugu Feng, she is still far more superior. After these two are Dugu Sheng and Dugu Ba. In my opinion, Dugu Sheng is a bit more experienced and careful than Dugu Ba.

    Nowadays, are there other people who are close to Yang Guang? Xu Ziling asked.

    Xiang Yushan replied, These days, the most popular two people by Yang Guangs side are the Interior Minister Yu Shiji and Imperial Censor Fei Yun, two crafty and fawning vile characters. What Yang Guang likes the most about them is that they report only the good news, not the bad news, by blocking all documents and reports of urgent matters and emergencies from reaching him.

    Xiang Yushan sighed and went on, This time Yang Guang flees to Jiangdu. From the up to 150,000 soldiers and generals who came with him, other than handing down imperial edict to indict people to get their money as their only morale booster, they cannot do anything. Its a pity that he is still as licentious as before, becoming someone who refuses to face reality, which is really hard for us to understand.

    Yu Shiji and Fei Yun must be civil officials, Kou Zhong said, What about other people? Is there anybody with strong martial art skill?

    Xiang Yushan replied, Dugu Clan has Dugu Sheng, which I have just mentioned. Yuwen Clan has Yuwen Huaji and Yuwen Shiji, two brothers. And then there is the Imperial Guard Commanding Officer Sima Dekan, a martial art master who is equally famous to Wang Shiyun, who, for the time being, is stationed in Luoyang. Were it not for these four men, that muddleheaded ruler Yang Guang would have been assassinated early on.

    There is one thing we dont understand, Xu Ziling said, On the surface, they still maintain a good relationship with Baling Bang; why did as a member of the royal household the Shadow Assassin Yang Xuyan obey Yuwen Clans order to assassinate your precious gangs Bangzhu?

    Xiang Yushan sighed. He said, Not to conceal anything from you, but in the struggle between the Dugu and Yuwen Clans, our late Bangzhu was leaning toward the Dugu Clan, hence he earned the hatred of the Yuwen Clan and was thus eradicated.

    Kou Zhong was even more confused; frowning, he asked, But how did Yang Xuyan involve himself in this struggle?

    Until today, the reason Yang Xuyan aligned himself with the Yuwen Clan remains a mystery, Xiang Yushan explained, But according to our secret information, Yang Guang was kept in the dark concerning Yang Xuyans assassination of our late Bangzhu; which is definitely thought-provoking.

    Susu said, When we get to Yangzhou, what exactly can Xiao Zhong and Xiao Ling do to help you to deal with the Yuwen Clan?

    Xiang Yushans spirit rose. Good question, he said, I will make arrangement for Kou Xiong and Xu Xiong to see that muddleheaded ruler.

    The three were shocked. What?!? their voice cracked.

    Big Sister Xiaos laughter came from the cabins door, That is the most brilliant deployment, she said.

    Like a wisp of smoke, this charming beauty whose looseness penetrated the bones, sauntered lithely into the cabin, carrying with her a whiff of fragrance. Stopping behind Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, she intimately reached out and put her hands on the two boys shoulders. Bending over, she laughed next to the two boys ears and said, Right now Yuwen Huaji put the blame on the Secret to Long Life affair entirely on the two gentlemen. We might as well beat them at their own game by the two gentlemen personally present a memorial to that muddleheaded ruler that Yuwen Huaji had hidden the Secret to Long Life for personal gain. With the account book on top of that, it would be strange indeed if the muddleheaded ruler did not suspect the Yuwen Clan.

    Kou Zhong exhaled a mouthful of cold air, Yang Guang is well-known for committing murder without blinking an eye; what if something goes wrong and he get rid of the two of us immediately?

    Xu Ziling added, We must never let that fatuous ruler to see Su Jie; otherwise the outcome will be difficult to predict.

    Xiang Yushan hastily said, Gentlemen, please be assured that we have prepared a meticulous plan; from the two imperial concubines Yang Guang most doted on, Zhu Fei [fei means imperial concubine] is our people. She has already sweet talk Yang Guang [orig. pouring confusing soup], indicating that there is another story within the Secret to Long Life matter; as a result, now the muddleheaded ruler has issued an imperial decree to summon the two of you, because he wants to find out the facts. Nothing ventured, nothing gain [orig. how do you catch the tiger cub without entering the tigers lair?], the risk is worth it.

    Big Sister Shaw took her hands off the two boys and sat on Kou Zhongs left; she cheerfully said, With Dugu Sheng speaking up by your side, how could Yang Guang not believe you? I can guarantee that there wont be any surprise and danger to the two Gongzi.

    But our relationship with the Dugu Clan is not so good, Kou Zhong stammered, Just a few days ago Xiao Ling injured Dugu Ba due to ambush.

    Xiang Yushan and Big Sister Xiao stared at Xu Ziling with that hard to believe expression on their faces, so Xu Ziling told them what happened.

    That should be no problem, Big Sister Xiao said, Besides, Dugu Ba wont be in Yangzhou very soon. Even if he were, with them facing a powerful enemy, who would be foolish enough to bother about personal gratitude and grudges?

    Xu Zilings scalp went numb as he said, After we enter the Palace, wont we lose our freedom?

    Xiang Yushan said, Gentlemen are not thinking of going everywhere, are you?

    Big Sister Xiao said, It depends on the development of the situation. We have had a discussion with Dugu Sheng before, in the future he might pretend that he loves talent and takes you as his disciples in Yang Guangs present. After two Gongzi obtain some status, the situation will be utterly different!

    Kou Zhong nodded; he said, Turns out this mission is rather fascinating. This time we will definitely have Yuwen Huaji bag his food and leave before he finish eating.

    Susu anxiously said, But that muddleheaded ruler is so temperamental; are you sure its going to be okay?

    Nobody knows that muddleheaded rulers character better than Zhu Guifei [imperial consort], Xiang Yushan said, Thats why she has prepared a bunch of arguments that Kou Xiong and Xu Xiong could deliver to the muddleheaded ruler. As long as you could cajole him that he is in a good mood, he might even bestow you official position to do part-time job. Miss Susu please set your heart at ease.

    Kou Zhong glowered at him for a moment and said, No wonder you, this fellow, are so insistent in cooperating with us; turns out you already prepared this scheme.

    Xiang Yushan protested for the injustice, Gentlemen are my great benefactors who are like a second parent to me; how could I harm you? If any calamity befalls you, I, Xiang Yushan, will commit suicide to apologize to you. Let the Heaven be my witness in this matter, if I ever renege my promise, let me not have a good end.

    By this time Big Sister Xiao has already noticed the vast improvement in Xiang Yushans countenance. After some inquiries she found out what happened; she was astonished. Secret to Long Life is indeed a rare martial art manual, this is really unbelievable.

    Kou Zhong was wary. Is Dajie being tempted by the Secret to Long Life? he asked.

    Big Sister Xiao was cross, Unless I am willing to discard the martial art I already trained, even if I obtain the Secret to Long Life, what good will it bring? Training randomly will only cause fire deviation. You look down on me like that, I demand an apology.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, I was just blurting out without thinking, why would Dajie take it seriously? You want apology, then I apologize.

    Big Sister Xiao cast him a sidelong glance filled with ten thousand amorous feelings; she cursed in low voice, Truly without half a shred of conscience; I wonder how many poor girls will be swindled by you in the future.

    After eating and drinking to his hearts content, Xu Ziling stood up to excuse himself, Just continue your chat! Last night I did not sleep a wink, I want to go back to bed and sleep.

    Kou Zhong seized this opportunity to leave the banquet table. After excusing himself, he followed Xu Ziling going back to their room.

    Along the way, Kou Zhong said, One mistake from us, we will become the chess piece of Baling Bang and the Dugu Clans effort to frame the Yuwen Clan. Even though we will also benefit from it, but whether it will be a blessing or a curse, it is still difficult to predict.

    Xu Ziling said, How are we going to take Su Jie with us? Particularly that muddleheaded ruler must not see her; otherwise, if something went wrong, we cant even slip away. Baling Bang people must agree to this first.

    Kou Zhong said, Right now its they who came to ask for our help, how could they not agree? After Xiang kids countenance improves, he appears a lot healthier. Yin Gui Pais martial art is really heretical, unexpectedly it could make people appear to be completely under evil influence.

    By this time they were stepping into the corridor leading to their rooms; suddenly they heard creaking noise, as if someone was opening and closing the door to one of the sleeping compartments, and slipped inside.

    The two boys exchanged glances; they both felt something was amiss.

    Kou Zhong whispered, Lets see who it is.

    Xu Ziling quickly walked over to the door, raised his hand to knock and said, We saw you! Quickly open the door!

    Actually, he did not see anybody, but since that person hid like that, he must be someone that they knew, so Xu Ziling was bluffing to swindle the opponent.

    The room was quiet. Only after a long time did the cabin door finally creaking open.

    Both parties were coming face-to-face, and the two boys cried out in surprise.

    The person inside the room was surprisingly the Beautiful Shifu who taught them the Bird Crossing Technique, Yun Yuzhen.

    This beauty looked a bit thinner, but her smile was still coy, her attractive bearing was even better than ever. This moment, with a smile that was as beautiful as a flower, she looked at the two boys up and down; her beautiful eyes lit up as she said, My two good disciples finally grew up to be adults. Looking at your imposing, formidable appearance, your master is very pleased.

    Suddenly the two boys realized that they were at a loss.

    Kou Zhong was the first to recover; giggling, he said, Where in the world would you find a master who is afraid to see his disciples? Even rarer, where could you find a Shifu who harms his disciples?

    And then, craning out his neck to look inside the room, he pretended to be astonished as he said, Why cant I see Shifus boyfriend Dugu Ce?

    Yun Yuzhen sighed and said, Just consider your Shifu is wrong! Afterwards I regretted it so much that I wanted to kill myself, plus because I thought that you were buried at the bottom of the cliff, I cried for so many days; can you not settle old scores with me?

    Xu Ziling said, Then why were you being evasive just now?

    Yun Yuzhen reached out to grab the two boys hands and dragged them inside. After shutting the door, she leaned against the door and closed her eyes. Because of guilty conscience, naturally I did not dare to face you! she said softly, But now that we are good, there is no need to hide anymore.

    The two boys had no way of pressing her. Kou Zhong said, Let bygone be bygone. What kind of game are you playing now?

    Xu Ziling angrily said, That Xiang kid has the cheek to hide you from us, I am going to break our partnership right away!

    Yun Yuzhen opened her beautiful eyes; she said with a wry smile, Dont blame Xiang Gongzi, it was me who asked him to keep this matter a secret. Just now I wanted to slip out to see you, but when I heard your footsteps, for some reason I sneaked back into my room.

    Kou Zhong spread out his arms and said, All right! You are our Beautiful Shifu after all, past events can be disregarded, just one kiss and well call it even.

    Yun Yuzhens almond eyes grew big. What did you say? she angrily said, How can a disciple kiss his master?

    Kou Zhong put an act by pulling up his sleeves; striding over, he said, You think you are our real Shifu? It was just a nickname we, two brothers, gave you.

    Yun Yuzhen recovered her countenance; smiling coquettishly, she said, You want a kiss, then so be it! Good disciple, you think your Shifu is afraid of you? Spreading her jade arms wide, she was ready to take Kou Zhong into her fragrant embrace.

    Now it was Kou Zhongs turn to be so scared that he took several steps back. With a charming laugh Yun Yuzhen opened the door and slipped out.

    The two boys looked at each other, and then they both roared in laughter together.

    Unexpectedly life could be so much fun.

    End of Book 5

  20. #60
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    Default Book 6 - Chapter 1

    Book 6 Chapter 1 Duke of Pushans Decree
    Translated by Foxs

    There was a knock on the door. Xu Ziling, who was sitting in meditation on the bed, opened his eyes and called out, Who is it?

    Kou Zhong pushed the door with hand and foot, and slipped inside. After closing the door, he still put his ear on the door to listen intently for quite a while before breathed a sigh of relief and walked over to sit on the bed. I have just scouted the situation in the enemy camp, he said proudly.

    Xu Ziling was bewildered, What enemy? he asked.

    Kou Zhong excitedly said, For us, there are only two kinds of people in the world; those we know, and those we dont know. From those that we know, we can further divide into two categories: friends or enemy. Anybody who is not our friend ought to be categorized as our enemy. Do you think Yiqi Shan [referring to Xiang Yushan, see Book 3 Chapter 7] is our friend or not? Is Beautiful Shifu our friend? Of course not! Therefore, before it is crystal clear to us, they ought to be regarded as the enemies. Ergo, why cant I say that scouting their situation is scouting the situation in the enemy camp?

    Xu Ziling nearly burst out laughing. Painstakingly keeping a straight face, he said, You either took the wrong medicine, or have gone insane. You were simply eavesdropping other people talking and already so excited that you talk without rhyme or reason.

    And then, he lightly patted Kou Zhong shoulder and lowered his voice, What did you hear? [email protected] it out! See if it worth my consideration.

    Kou Zhong giggled mysteriously and said, I heard the sound of a female enemy panting.

    Xu Ziling scratched his head, Female enemy panting? he asked, Is it Yun Yuzhen or Xiao Dajie? Those two appear to be the kind of women who love to pant.

    Kou Zhong slapped a thigh and cheered, but it was Xu Zilings thigh. Roaring in laughter he swayed back and forth and said, Women who love to pant, thats a good one. Only a lecher whos disguised as an upright gentleman like you could come out with that, making those who hear it could not refrain from having a fleeting cloud, pouring rain kind of reverie.

    Xu Ziling knitted his scimitar-shaped eyebrows as he rubbed the sore thigh Kou Zhong slapped. This time this kid has really gone mad, he muttered under his breath.

    Kou Zhong scooted over that they were now sitting side by side. Wrapping his arm around Xu Zilings shoulder, he said, Just now I touched Beautiful Shifu.

    Xu Ziling was visibly shaken, What did you touch? he asked.

    Kou Zhong boldly said, Her slender lily-white hand.

    Xu Ziling scoffed, And I thought it was someplace important. When she taught us the Bird-Crossing Technique, didnt she also touch my hand? Earlier she was letting you to kiss her, why did you run away in panic?

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, This is called now is now, then is then. This time it was this Shaoye who made the move, so its a different matter altogether. After I touched her, she acted as if nothing had happened and went into hiding in her room, but when I focused my power to my ears, immediately I was able to hear that this female enemy unexpectedly was leaning against the door and panting. Obviously my sex appeal to her is just too strong.

    Xu Ziling was angry, Sex appeal your granny! he cursed, Could this woman be a good person? The lesson you learned from Li Xiuning is not enough? Right now we are going to avenge Niang

    Smiling mischievously Kou Zhong slapped his back and said, No need to get angry. This Shaoye wont blame you for being shortsighted, because you didnt know that moving troops with chat and laughter is the highest realm of the military tactic. Whats not good about bad woman? At least she has ample experience in that kind of thing that she will be able to give guidance to the upstart boys. That was the reason why I gave her the nickname Beautiful Shifu, so you see, I already had the foresight.

    But then he sighed and went on, Actually, I was not happy because of her reaction, but I was happy for us, two brothers. Thinking about the first time we came across her, we were still frustrated and feeling inferior, but now not only I can touch her without getting scolded, I can also make her feel that I am a man qualified to touch her. Hence it is clear that we have earned our place in Jianghu.

    Xu Ziling muttered irresolutely, You remind me of an immeasurably self-satisfied newly rich, or perhaps a snob who seeks governmental position and riches by hook or by crook.

    Kou Zhong forcefully slapped Xu Zilings shoulder; he was in complete agreement, This four-character saying by hook or by crook [Translators note: most Chinese sayings/idiom have four characters] is very true. If not by hook or by crook, if it was with hands and feet tied, then there wont be enough people fighting. Because Li Mi understood by hook or by crook, he became the Big Boss of the Wagang Army. Of course! My by hook or by crook is only directed toward the enemy.

    Xu Ziling sneered. I am sorry, he said, My understanding of this four-character mantra is a bit different from Zhong Shaos. If we are talking about a friend, there wont be any by hook or by crook! Not only Zhai Rang was Li Mis superior, he was his comrade-in-arms and benefactor. Now thats what I call by hook or by crook.

    With a wry smile Kou Zhong said, The main reason you are mad at me is because I am colluding with the female enemy. Ay! One lifetime two brothers, Ill do whatever you think is good! Worst-case scenario Xiaodi [I, little brother] will have to find another Beautiful Shifu inside the women apartment at the Tian Xiang Lou [heavenly fragrance building], Miss Yu Ling. I hope my foresight is a bit keener this time.

    Xu Ziling punched Kou Zhongs thigh; he laughed and said, You just want to make me laugh.

    Kou Zhong sighed; he said, In this world, there is nothing that I, Kou Zhong, fear. The only thing I am afraid of is seeing Ling Shaoye get angry and refuse to laugh. Hey! I have always wanted to ask you this: do you think Li Dage can be considered our brother?

    Xu Ziling was taken aback, I have never thought about it, he said, Why do you ask?

    Kou Zhong replied in a heavy voice, We knew Su Jie at least one or two sichen [1 sichen = 2 hours] earlier than we knew Li Dage, hence we ought to be a bit closer to Su Jie. Given that Su Jie is such a good woman yet Li Jing did not know how to cherish and take a good care of her, I felt very uncomfortable.

    Xu Ziling was about to reply when Big Sister Xiao, whose looseness penetrated the bones, called them out, Come to the main cabin, theres an important think we need to tell you!

    In the main cabin, everybody was sitting around the table. Other than Big Sister Xiao, Xiang Yushan and Susu, Yun Yuzhen also joined for the first time.

    Xiang Yushan and Susu sat together; from time to time four eyes met in such an intimate manner.

    Big Sister Xiao spoke up seriously, Just received the latest news: Li Mi claimed that you killed his trusted lieutenant the Flying Feather Zheng Rong, as a result, he issued the Duke of Pushans Decree, vowing to cut off your heads. Whoever can capture you alive will not only receive a thousand taels of gold, but will also become his Junshi [military counselor, just like Shen Luoyan]. Whoever can present your heads to him will not only receive reward, but will also be promoted to be his great general.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong looked at each other in dismay. Zheng Rong was killed by Liu Heita, yet the blame was put on their heads; in the end, it was just an excuse to kill them.

    The person Susu feared the most was Li Mi; her countenance changed. What should we do? she asked.

    With a cold laugh Kou Zhong said, I am not afraid of him! He did not know how lucky he is I did not come to settle the debt with him, now he is taking advantage of us by putting the blame on us, two brothers.

    Kou Xiong, please do not get angry, Xiang Yushan hastily said, Right now Li Mis fame and power covers the world, drawing the hearts of millions of people. Since he blatantly issued a decree to kill you, it is clear that he will spare no effort to deal with you. After Yangzhou mission is completed, Xiaodi can make arrangement to have two Dage to lie low until the fuss dies down; you must never let your emotion affect your decision.

    Big Sister Xiao added, Right now Li Mi has the greatest chance to become the Emperor, plus he knows to buy the hearts of the people; hence all the heroes of the world are looking up to him for leadership. Since he is offering heavy rewards, there must be a lot of people who will blindly follow him and give you trouble. Only an outstanding talent can recognize current trends; you hide for a while, nobody will dare to say that you are cowards.

    Looking at their hard-to-appease anger, Yun Yuzhen, who was rather familiar with their character, said, Li Mi issuing the Duke of Pushans Decree is really unwise, because you are alive and well a day longer, he could not get out of it a day longer too. The further it drags along, the heavier the damage to his reputation will be. It would be best if the two of you make appearances here and there from time to time; he will be like riding a tiger and cannot get off.

    Her remark was very effective. Kou Zhong immediately nodded and said, All right! He wants to drive us away, we swear to fight him to the end, so that he will find it hard to sleep, and he will eat without tasting the food.

    Xiang Yushan laughed and said, And plus two Dages reputation will be flourishing even more. Even now there are people who place you on par with people like Ba Fenghan, Yang Xuyan, the Passionate Prince Hou Xibai and the others. They believe that outside the Four Powerful Clans, you are the most prominent rising stars.

    Kou Zhong was greatly delighted, Where did Xiang Xiaoge [little big brother] hear it from? he asked, Did you disembark and listen to other peoples talk?

    Xiao Zhong! Susu scolded him, Can you watch your mouth?

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, This kid is too excited today.

    Kou Zhong shot a sidelong glance toward Yun Yuzhen; he said with a chuckle, Beautiful Shifu is very good to us, naturally her disciples are particularly happy.

    Yun Yuzhens pretty face blush a little; she glowered at him in return.

    Big Sister Xiao said, While we have time, lets eat dinner first, and then we can discuss how we are going to deal with that muddleheaded ruler!

    Changing the topic, Kou Zhong asked, What kind of person is Hou Xibai anyway? How come his nickname is so weird?

    Xiang Yushan laughed, If you want to know clearly, you ought to ask Yun Bangzhu, he said, She has met Hou Xibai.

    A complicated look flitted across Yun Yuzhen elegant eyes; she said softly, I dont want to talk about this person.

    Big Sister Xiao let out a cold snort, What passionate? she said, Just being lenient everywhere, thats all! Funny thing is that he loves to seduce women. In fact, no one has ever heard him having a good relationship with women. This mans background is more mysterious than Yang Xuyan and Ba Fenghan.

    Going back to the topic at hand, she turned to Kou Zhong with slight edge on her voice, Can we talk about proper business now?

    Xu Ziling answered for him, Xiao Dajie, please speak.

    Big Sister Xiao cast Kou Zhong a sidelong glance; smiling mischievously, she said, To convince Yang Guang, first of all, you have to fit his fancy; report only the good news, not the bad news.

    Xiang Yushan joined in, Yang Guangs mood is extremely unstable, from time to time he wakes up from a dream, shouting and screaming about ghosts who died of injustice demanding his life. Even when he is laughing and looks so happy, he must not be provoked at all. If his underlings said something untoward and he happened to hear it, light punishment will be flogging, heavy punishment will be beheading. Therefore, everybody has to follow his tone and likes and dislikes in their talk.

    Susu asked, Hows his martial art skill? Is he formidable?

    Yun Yuzhen laughed and said, His martial art came from Yang Jian, naturally he has some real skill. However, after wine and women nibbled away at his body and mind for so many years, how much weight left is kind of hard to say.

    Big Sister Xiao also coached the two boys on the court etiquette, and how to curry favor with Yang Guang. She stopped only when the maids came in bringing meat dishes for their dinner.

    The overwhelmed Kou Zhong said, This muddleheaded ruler is really difficult to serve.

    Susu reminded him, Helping people must be through the end, later you must remember to do your best in treating Xiang Gongzi of his former ailment.

    Kou Zhong was actually unwilling, but he was helpless to refuse.

    On the other hand, Xu Ziling readily agreed.

    Xiang Yushan expressed ten thousand thanks for a thousand kindnesses.

    When the two boys finally took a walk on the cabin deck, Kou Zhong blamed Xu Ziling, How could you agree so readily? I was thinking of dragging this matter with that Xiang kid as long as possible, to teach him a lesson that he should not carelessly take any rash action.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, I only do that for Su Jie.

    Kou Zhong was still resentful about it, Cant you see that that kid deliberately courting Su Jie only because he wants us to heal his injury?

    Xu Ziling reached out the bow of the ship, he grabbed the railings horizontal pole and breathed deeply of the ice-cold air of the river breeze. He said in heavy voice, If in the future Xiang Yushan dare to turn his back on Su Jie, I, Xu Ziling will be the first not to let him off.

    Seeing how resolute and decisive [orig. chop the nail and slice the iron] Xu Ziling was, Kou Zhong knew that there was no room for discussion in this matter. Changing the subject, he said, How do you think we should deal with that dog thief Li Mi?

    Xu Ziling said, Unless you have a magnificent army with thousands of men and horses, what can you do? Just Wang Bodang that lowly man we are already unable to deal with him, much less Li Mi?

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, What you said is in deep agreement with my thinking; right now he is forcing us to our head, therefore, we must establish our own troops, must make a supreme effort to recruit soldiers and buy horses. Just like everything else, without money nothing can be done. I am thinking that before we get the Duke Yang Treasure, we need to borrow money from the Xiang kid. After we get money, naturally doing things will be easier.

    Xu Ziling was shocked. It is for Niangs sake that we are doing this; how could we want other peoples money?

    Kou Zhong felt snubbed big time; with a wry smile he said, Ay! How come nowadays every time I came up with any plan you always disagree?

    Xu Ziling reached out to wrap his arm around Kou Zhongs shoulder; he said, If we want to earn money, we have to earn it using our pair of hands. Since temporarily we need to go into hiding, we might as well hide at the training beach, take that batch of salt out, transport it to the northwest and gain great wealth. After we have the money, we can buy a large house to be our base of operations. At that time, you could shut the gate, declare yourself a king or proclaim yourself a hegemon or whatever you want.

    Kou Zhongs eyes lit up immediately; he excitedly said, Wed better do it sooner rather than later. Taking advantage while the Ol Die is cutting off the Song Clans livelihood and the price of salt is skyrocketing, we will make a good fortune. Ha! This time we will succeed!

    Footsteps were heard from behind, Susu was coming. Squeezing herself between the two boys, she wrapped her arms around the boys waists, and said in a low voice, Are you angry at Jiejie?

    Kou Zhong was puzzled, Angry at Jiejie for what? he asked.

    Susu hung her head low and said, Angry at Jiejie for forcing you to treat Xiang Gongzis illness. Ay! His character is not as bad as you think. He even told me about cricket fight he used to do when he was young. I did not know cricket has intelligence!

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong exchanged a glance; the former seized this opportunity to ask, Does Jiejie like him?

    Susu was blushing so deep that even her ears were red; greatly displeased and annoyed, she said, I only get along well with him! Jiejie has already said I wont marry!

    Suddenly Kou Zhong was severely shaken, Disaster! he exclaimed.

    Xu Ziling and Susu followed his gaze and saw under the moonlight, on the river ahead, two big ships sailed speedily like torrential rush, from the tributary, blocking their way.


    Alarm sounded on their ship, Xiang Yushan, Yun Yuzhen, Big Sister Xiao, and about a dozen Baling Bang martial art masters rushed out. When they got to the three peoples side, they looked suspiciously to the two big ships, which were gradually getting closer.

    Frowning, Xiang Yushan said, They are Li Zitongs ships. If this time he is personally coming, we will be in big trouble.

    Kou Zhong sneered and said, Isnt Xiang Gongzi getting on very well with people from both the black and white ways?

    Xiao Zhong! Susu scolded him, At this moment you still say such thing?

    Xiang Yushan smiled wryly and said, Whenever it involves the struggle over the world, there is no favor between sons and fathers, to say nothing of our Baling Bang has had no dealings with Li Zitong before.

    Xu Ziling said, We have also heard about this man, but we dont know enough details.

    Yun Yuzhen said, Li Zitong is a hegemon of the Eastern Sea, a vicious and merciless man. At first he was the leader of the uprising at Changbai Mountain; after crossing the Huai River, he supported Du Fuwei as the leader. Later on for some unknown reason he had a fall out with Du Fuwei; leading his own troops he occupied Haling and called himself the Commander-in-Chief, his fame and power is extremely flourishing.

    Big Sister Xiao added, His bamboo joint copper whip is shaped like a long stick, it ranks among the amazing skill incredible art, it can be flexible it can be stiff, its specialty is to break the inner power and true qi of the opponent; very formidable.

    And then she continued softly, Two Gongzi and Miss Susu better avoid it in the cabin, let us deal with them.

    Kou Zhong swept his gaze around; seeing all of the Baling Bang masters on the ship were waiting in tight formation, his heroic spirit was aroused at once. So much avoidance already, he said, Can I borrow a saber or something? Xiao Ling will be in charge of protecting Su Jie.

    One of Xiang Yushans subordinate respectfully asked, What kind of weapon does Xu Ye want?

    Xu Ziling shook his head, I dont need weapon, he said.

    The man was startled, and then he simply left.

    Yun Yuzhen asked in astonishment, Xiao Ling dont use weapon?

    Xu Ziling did not have the least bit of good opinion on her, he coldly said, My hands are my weapon.

    Meanwhile the incoming ships were only about ten zhang away from them. The opposite party flashed them a signal, requesting them to lower the sail and stop the ship.

    They saw the two ships deck, as well as the viewing platform, were densely packed with people; it was indeed an impressive show of force that intimidated the peoples heart.

    Their ship was actually half size bigger than the opposite partys, but it was design mostly to ferry goods. In battle, not only it would not win against the nimble enemys warships, it would also become a prominent target for fiery arrows and sling stones attack, because the bigger the ship, the more difficult it was to protect.

    The situation right now was that although the opponent was strong, but to easily give in and surrender would also seem to be unwise.

    Xiang Yushan muttered, I did not expect Li Zitongs influence would reach to this place. And then, waving his hand, he gave his order, Prepare to break a siege!

    Baling Bang people acknowledged the order loudly.

    Suddenly a cold snort, which actually rose above the hundred or so peoples voice shouting their acknowledgement, was heard from the enemys ship, followed by a one hundred percent bold male voice, Excuse me, may I ask if the Er Dangjia Xiao Xian Xiong [second master, see Book 4 Chapter 9] is on board, presiding over the current situation?

    Big Sister Xiao laughed tenderly and responded, Turns out it is indeed Li Longtou [lit. dragon head, i.e. big boss] himself who is coming to visit; Xiao Huan pays her respect!

    When everybody heard that it was indeed Li Zitong himself, they all groaned in their hearts.

    Li Zitong laughed aloud and said, Turns out it is the Coquettish Lady Xiao Dajie. Looking at your esteemed brothers face, this time the Ol Li will act according to Jianghu rules; everybody please stay where you are.

    Xiang Yushan knew that he was going to come; hastily he ordered his men not to act.

    Before he even finished speaking, a man in white already soared from the deck of the enemy ship, across about a dozen zhang of empty space between the ships, and landed steadily on the bow of their ship.

    Composing themselves, they saw that this Li Zitong was about thirty-five or thirty-six years old, his appearance was rather handsome and majestic. However, the hair on his temples was frosty white. His white clothes fluttered under the caressing of the river breeze, giving a bit of impression that he was a confident and at ease, someone who was above the dust of the earth. The only defect would be his eyes, which were thin and long, so that it felt out of proportion, something that did not match the perfect outline of his face.

    They did not expect Li Zitong to be this refined and graceful, so every felt a bit surprised.

    Li Zitong stood with hands behind his back, his bright and glistening eyes slowly swept across everybodys face. Finally he stopped at Xu Ziling and Kou Zhongs faces. Acting as though there were nobody else present, he said, I want the two of you to follow the Ol Li obediently! I guarantee glory, splendor, wealth and rank, as well as endless benefit for you.

    Meanwhile the enemys two ships turned around nimbly. One in front the other at the rear, they sandwiched the big ship in the middle.

    Yun Yuzhen saluted and said, Jukun Bangs Yun Yuzhen pays her respect to General Li; I was wondering

    Li Zitong cut her off offhandedly, Turns out it is Yun Bangzhu. Unexpectedly you look this beautiful; no wonder there are so many heroes of Jianghu are infatuated with you.

    On the surface he was putting it nicely, but it was actually a very mean remark; he was implying that Yun Yuzhen was a very loose woman. Other than being extremely rude, he was also making it very clear that he did not have any regards toward Jukun Bang. Of course everybodys countenance changed.

    Yun Yuzhens pretty face turned cold; she was about to flare out when Xiang Yushan took a step forward in front of her and said, Wanbei [younger generation] Xiang yushan, my humble father is Xiang Gui. May I ask what kind of task General Li has for these two brothers of mine?

    Li Zitong cast a disdained glance toward Xiang Yushan; with a mocking tone he said, I dont care if your father is here; would the Ol Li take any instruction from him?

    Kou Zhong signaled Xu Ziling with his eyes; he shouted, I dont care if you are Li Zitong of Li Butong [butong means dont understand/does not make sense], if you want us to obey your orders, you will have to show us a bit of your real skill; would we, two brothers, be afraid of anybody?

    Seeing Kou Zhong playing a joke on his name, surprisingly Li Zitong did not feel it to be disrespectful at all; he laughed aloud and said, Young upstart hero, no wonder Old Du also viewed you in a new light. Let us make a bet, as long as within a hundred moves I can beat the two of you together, both of you must obediently follow me, and listen to everything Ol Li orders you to do.

    Kou Zhong took the steel saber that was handed over to him; he strode out and said with a cold laugh, What if you cannot force us? I definitely dont want to follow you by your side like a dog!

    Li Zitong finally could not take it anymore, his eyes flashed a murderous look, he swiftly moved forward.

    Kou Zhong stayed calm without showing any fear, his saber also moved swiftly to hack.

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