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

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    Default Book 7 - Chapter 10

    Book 7 Chapter 10 Street Assassination

    Kou Zhong brashly, but with elegance, helped Yun Yuzhen climbed to her mount, and then he himself also flew up onto the horseback. Side by side they galloped together out of the General Mansions main gate.

    Beautiful Shifu, he said with a laugh, You look more and more beautiful!

    Yun Yuzhen lightly squeezed the horses belly; glowering at him, she said, Since when did you pick up this bad habit of speaking in flowery language?

    Kou Zhong laughed involuntarily. He shook his head and sighed, while looking at the busy street ahead, full of carriages and pedestrians. This is called it is easier to change mountains and rivers than to alter ones character, he said indifferently, Fortunately, the disciples small fault in the eye of Beautiful Shifu might just be disciples strong point. Although on the surface Shifu looks sad, in reality you are delighted inwardly. Otherwise, your stern glance would not be so sweet and charming, so captivating.

    Pfft, Yun Yuzhen could not help laughing. I dont have this kind of inferior disciple whos an expert in infatuated with self skill, she said crossly, Henceforth you are expelled from my school, never to be readmitted.

    Kou Zhong turned his head around toward Xu Ziling and cried out, Xiao Ling! We are being expelled from Beautiful Shifus school! Henceforth we can do whatever we please.

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, Dont bother me! I am enjoying the scenery of the city.

    Seeing Xu Ziling was unwilling to respond, Kou Zhong turned his attention to Yun Yuzhen and lowered his voice, I can do whatever I please; Yun Bangzhu, are you scared?

    Yun Yuzhen boldly met his gaze. Giving him a coquettish glance, she said, If I am scared, I wont personally come with you to Jiujiang. In my eyes, you and Xiao Ling are big kids who will never grow up.

    Kou Zhong pretended to be surprised; he said, Beautiful Shifu forgot that I have kissed you, I have also taken the liberty of running my hands and feet all over you.

    Yun Yuzhens pretty face immediately blushed. In great anger, but in a mosquito-like voice she said hatefully, Are you forgetting that this is a big street? There are people all around us; shame on you for saying such a scoundrelly words.

    Seeing her embarrassment, Kou Zhong cheerfully said, Enough provoking each other! Which man can incite such an intense reaction from Beautiful Shifu?

    While Yun Yuzhen was unable to ward off, the two of them reached the street with two-story buildings on both sides. Kou Zhong also felt the alarm went off in his heart.

    The changes happened so suddenly.

    One of the big, finely carved windows facing the street on the covered porch on the second floor of the building, which bottom was approximately two zhang from the ground, suddenly exploded into millions of wood fragments, each one was infused with powerful qi, shooting toward the caravan passing through the street below.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong, who were already on guard, were the first to react.

    In the instant before Yang Xuyan made his move, Xu Ziling has already ascertained that this most terrifying assassins target this time was not them; rather, it was Xiang Yushan.

    This was no doubt a carefully planned mission, not an operation that was executed at the spur of the moment, because they arrived at Baling just the previous night. Unless Yang Xuyan was some kind of an immortal, how could he know that they were going to pass by here and pay him a visit?

    Xiang Yushan was an important figure within the Baling Bang. Just like Shen Luoyan of the Wagang Army, his main responsibility was intelligence.

    Ever since its founding, Baling Bang has always been engaged in brothel business; the pleasure houses under its banner covered the whole nation, therefore, their news network was very fast and abundant, it could even be said that no other entity could surpass it. The reason Xiang Yushan was promoted to be a general was precisely because he was responsible for this critical task.

    If he were assassinated, Baling Bangs striking power would suffer a very heavy blow.

    Xu Ziling did not dare to be negligence; while pulling the Severing Jade dagger from inside his trouser leg, he shot up to meet Yang Xuyan midair. Like a thunderbolt Yang Xuyans sword flashed down amidst the rain of flying wood fragments, his target was Xiang Yushan.

    As the alarm went off in his heart, Kou Zhong looked up and saw a blinding light. In that instant, based on previous experience, he knew that he was looking at Xu Zilings body, but his eyelids were subjected to the pressure from the swords qi, so that he was unable to see anything.

    Were it not for he knew this deceitful trick, by this time any other person would definitely be thrown into panic. But Kou Zhong was cool-headed, like the moon in the well water. Whoosh! The whip in his hand lashed out to the air, carrying with it a sharp whistling noise, ferociously whipping toward the source of the sword qi.

    Xiang Yushan, Yun Yuzhen, and all the personal attendants were thrown into confusion. First of all, they were shot by the wood fragments, so that several attendants, who were comparatively weaker, had the qi protecting their body shattered so that they suffered a crushing defeat.

    Those with outstanding power like Xiang Yushan and Yun Yuzhen, because their mounts were also being attacked that their legs buckled, they were thrown down in such a sorry state, so they could forget about launching a counterattack.

    Ding!

    Xu Zilings Jade Severing dagger parried the tip of Yang Xuyans ten-thousand jun [1 jun ~ 30 catties] lightning bolt sword strike.

    Yang Xuyans sword immediately generated a stream of strange sucking force, so that not only Xu Ziling was complete unable to use his strength, the Jade Severing dagger was nearly knocked off of his hand.

    Apparently this world famous assassin had never expected anybody to be able to block his sure-kill sword strike. By the time he was about to follow-up with another killer strike, the tip of Kou Zhongs whip has already arrived on his back.

    Even with his skill level, Yang Xuyan was helpless to continue his attack toward Xu Ziling, while dealing with Kou Zhongs killer move at the same time. Sighing inwardly, he suddenly soared into the air.

    Swish! Swish! Swish!

    Just before he soared into the air, Xu Ziling suddenly launched three dagger strikes. Yang Xuyan met these three strikes head-on, while at the same time borrowing the reaction force to propel himself toward the broken window on the second floor.

    Meanwhile Kou Zhong also pursued behind him, the long whip in his hand shot toward Yang Xuyans feet trying to coil it around his ankles. To Kou Zhongs surprise however, with some unknown technique, Yang Xuyan suddenly threw his outer robe down; it descended upon Kou Zhong like a cloud.

    While Xu Ziling was being forced to fall back to the ground, and Kou Zhong was shifting to the side to evade the enemys strange tactic, Yang Xuyan disappeared into the hole.

    From the time the fight began until now, what everybody saw was Yang Xuyans ghost-like shadow; nobody was able to see his appearance.

    It was only now did Xiang Yushan finally pulled his sword and shouted his order, After him! But he himself knew that relying on his astonishing qinggong, Yang Xuyan had already gone that not even his shadow could be found.

    Xiao Xian, wearing the yellow royal robe, personally led his personal attendants to go out the door to receive them and lead them to the main hall. Finished listening to the thrilling narration of assassination attempt toward Xiang Yushan, he sighed and said, Yushans good fortune is indeed flooding the heavens. If the two Xiao Xongdi were not by your side today, inevitably there would be more chance of misfortunes, less chance of good. It can clearly be seen that my Great Liang Dynasty bears the Heavens blessing, and no human power can alter it.

    This Emperor of the Great Liangs physique was thick and solid; he looked formidable. His height nearly surpassed Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, his age looked to be around thirty-five or thirty-six. Whether he was really enjoying the Heavens blessing or not, his entire being seemed to glow, his vigor seemed to illuminate other people. It was obvious that his qigong cultivation has reached first-class masters level. Sooner or later he would be able to compete against Du Fuwei and the others in the struggle over the world.

    An eternal smile seemed to freeze on his face. Perhaps this was due to the upturned corners of his mouth that made him looked friendly and cheerful. But if one was looking deep into his eyes, one would find some kind of calm and collected composure, as cold as ice and frost, which would make others feel the chill in the air.

    This man was definitely not a simple, ambitious and ruthless character of the underworld.

    Yun Yuzhen, who was walking behind him, was puzzled, In the past, when Emperor Yang was still alive, it could be said that Yang Xuyans operation was under that muddleheaded rulers order; but nowadays, who is he working for?

    Most likely Wang Shichong, Xiang Yushan replied, I heard that Wang Shichongs daughter is an outstanding beauty [orig. national grace, divine fragrance], a beauty whom Yang Xuyan admires.

    Meanwhile the procession had reached the main hall. As soon as they stepped in, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were stunned.

    They were expecting civil and military officers to line-up on either side, with imperial bodyguards standing around to protect them; who would have thought that not even half a guard was even seen in the main hall. The strange thing was that Xiao Xian took them straight passed the main hall, and into a small hall in the back, where two sets of rosewood table and chairs were arranged in a simple, yet elegant, royal atmosphere.

    Even more surprising to the two boys was that Xiao Xian halted his steps, sighed, and said, This dragon robe and crown is really annoying; so uncomfortable to wear.

    And then two attendants served him in taking off his hat and robe, revealing the scholar attire underneath, immediately giving Xiao Xian some kind of refined, scholarly look.

    Noticing the two boys stared at him, dumbstruck, Xiao Xian burst into laughter and said, I proclaimed myself Emperor because I was forced by the situation. If you dont declare yourself Emperor, others would think that you lack ambitions; not only would they not be willing to attach themselves to you, they would not be afraid of you either. Therefore, in front of outsiders, I always put an act as the Emperor. But since Kou Xiao Xiong and Xu Xiao Xiong are one of our own, there is no need to do more than is required.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged glances; they both were able to see the fear in each others heart. Xiao Xian was indeed not a simple man, his technique in winning others over was brilliant yet subtle; his amiable character attracted others favorable impression.

    Xiao Xian smiled leisurely and said, Come! Sit down first so we can continue chatting!

    Following his lead, Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, Yun Yuzhen and Xiang Yushan sat themselves around the table.

    Xiao Xian was sitting with his back toward the window overlooking the big garden outside resplendent in bright sunlight. He shook his head and sighed, It is indeed a pity, Yushan told me that two Xiao Xiong have no intention of joining our army. But everybody has his own ambition; naturally I, Xiao Xian, respect the two Xiao Xiongs decision. Much less two Xiao Xiong and I have made friendships, for which I am very grateful.

    Kou Zhong slapped the table and sighed, No wonder under Er Dangjias [see Book 4 Chapter 9] leadership, Baling Bangs prestige far surpasses the former glory. Now that I have met Er Dangjia, I suddenly know the reason why.

    Xiao Xian chuckled and said, Kou Xiao Xiong really know how to flatter people. Back to the topic at hand, why do the two Xiao Xiong have so much confidence that you will be able to assassinate Ren Shaoming?

    After a short pause, he continued thoughtfully, His meteor hammer ranks among the fantastic skill amazing arts, his mastery has reached perfection, suitable for both long-range attack and close combat. In all his life, other than crushing defeat from the Heavenly Saber Song Que that he was chased out of the Lingnan area [old term for south Shina, esp. Guangdong and Guangxi], he had never met his match.

    Kou Zhong revealed a smile full of strong confidence; he said indifferently, If one does not take a bit of risk, how could he accomplish great things?

    Hearing his heroic, passionate and swelling-with-pride speech, and watching his somewhat hard-to-describe charming smile, Yun Yuzhens graceful eyes shot a perplexed expression.

    Kou Zhong seemed to sense this; he cast her a glance filled with meaningful smile. This beautiful Gang Leader suddenly felt her cheeks were burning. Angry and bashful at the same time, she hung her head low; her demeanor was graceful, charming, and alluring.

    Xu Ziling, who was watching her, was touched as well. His perception on her was slightly improved.

    Xiao Xian, on the other hand, acted as if he did not see anything. His gaze landed on Xu Zilings face and he asked warmly, Xu Xiao Xiong seems to be a man who values his words like gold.

    Full of confidence, Xu Ziling shrugged his shoulder leisurely and said, Xiao Dangjia misunderstood, I just do not know what to say!

    Xiao Xian roared in laughter. Well said! I like it best when I make friends with true-natured people. Two gentlemen are both passionate men, men with character, which can be clearly seen from your sister-brother relationship with Madame Susu. Currently, whether the two of you can successfully assassinate Ren Shaoming it is still too early to say, but if it is too dangerous, Kou Xiao Xiong and Xu Xiao Xiong must tolerate him for the time being, let us temporarily drop this subject.

    Inwardly Kou Zhong praised Xiao Xian for being formidable. He nodded and said, Er Dangjias sincere advice, we, two brothers will engrave it in our hearts.

    Xiao Xian said, This time you are going with Yushan, you may utilize all manpower and physical resources to your aid. Other than being wary of Ren Shaoming, you ought to also keep an eye on Lin Shihong. Not only this man has superior martial art skill, he is crafty, vicious and ruthless. Plus the martial art masters under his command is as numerous as a cloud. One in particular is Cui Juexiu, whom he appointed Guoshi [master/teacher of the state[1]], a man well versed in letters and military skill, whose knowledge and scheming skill surpassed others. You must be especially mindful of him.

    Xu Ziling asked in surprised, It is really not necessary for General Xiang to risk this danger alongside us.

    I am the only one who is clear about Jiujiangs situation, Xiang Yushan interjected, I can make the most suitable arrangement. If it were some other people, it would be difficult for them to take on this task.

    If you can advance, then advance; if you must retreat, then retreat, Xiao Xian decisively said, Without Yushan accompanying you, how could I feel at ease? Two Xiao Xiong must not refuse.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong looked at each other with a wry smile; they both thought that if any mishaps should happen to Xiang Yushan, how could they explain it to Susu?

    At dusk that day, a Jukun Bangs medium sized fast ship departed Baling, going downstream to the east.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were standing at the stern, looking at the splashing, rippling water on the ships wake. The sad scene of Susu bidding them farewell sorrowfully was still playing in their heads, making them nearly wanted to turn back to comfort her, to tell her that they would be by her side forever.

    They felt that the heavy burden of Xiang Yushans safety has now rested on their shoulders.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, I did not expect Xiao Xian to be such a formidable character; he did not mention even a single word about the Duke Yang Treasure. Apparently he adheres to his position previously stated in his letter [again, see Book 4 Chapter 9].

    This man is very difficult to fathom, Xu Ziling said, He is somewhat enigmatic. I am sure he is a first-class master in both martial arts and tactics. Compared to the Ol Die he is a lot slicker.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, If there is a master, there must be subordinates. Now I know where that Xiang kid stole his skill from.

    Xu Ziling silently stared at the as-beautiful-as-a-painting distant clouds and mountains, which were dyed red by the twilight sun, for half a day, before he said in a low voice, Why do we dislike Xiang Yushan this much? Is it because some kind of prejudice? Or perhaps of jealousy, because he took Su Jie away from us?

    Kou Zhong was slightly taken aback. He pondered over it for quite a long time before finally saying, Perhaps the first impression is very important. In the first place, he is a businessman who operates brothel and casino; very few of these men are upright gentlemen. Secondly, he abused his power to sell us to that gaudy woman Ren Meimei of Pengliang Hui, so in our hearts we always see him as someone we should not rely on. Ay! Right now we can only hope that his feeling toward Su Jie is sincere, and not just exploiting her to scheme us.

    And then he laughed and said, How about not discussing this kind of things that will give you headache and make you upset? Very soon we will have the opportunity to leave the ranks of green [or young] head, one lifetime two brothers, I will let you have the first chance. Have some yiqi!

    Xu Ziling stared blankly for a moment, after half a day he finally understood what Kou Zhong meant; frowning, he said, You should know the answer. I would rather you go to a pleasure house girl than doing it with Yun Yuzhen.

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, One big difference between Beautiful Shifu and a pleasure house girl is that she has the freedom to select her opponent from the forest. Besides, women as beautiful as her are extremely rare in the pleasure house. Xiao Ling, you really have no reason to fight against it.

    Xu Ziling replied indifferently, There is another big difference: you deal with the pleasure house girl using money, while you deal with Yun Yuzhen using emotion. I want to see who will pay higher cost in the end. If you want to exploit her to take control of Jukun Bang, my heart will be very uncomfortable.

    Kou Zhong was silent for half a day. Finally he said in low voice, Supposing I really like her?

    Xu Ziling sneered and said, If you really like her, you would not compare her to pleasure house girls.

    Kou Zhong said with a wry smile, Power struggle over the world is something where you cannot yield even for one cun. If I follow your example of always emphasizing principles in everything, my hands and feet are tied. And if I had to contend for supremacy against Li Mi, Wang Shichong, those vicious and merciless, treacherous and cunning foxes, there wont be much difference to delivering my life to die.

    Xu Ziling reached out and placed his hand on Kou Zhongs shoulder; he smiled and said, On this, I understand completely, hence I advised you not to mingle in this turbid pond water. But since you already established great aspiration, I cant possibly stop you from within, so that your hands and feet are bound. But since you asked for my opinion, it is only natural that I wont speak anything against my convictions just to make you happy.

    River breeze blew, their clothes created rustling noise.

    Kou Zhong stared blankly at the river flow; he muttered, Sometimes I really dont know what I am doing. So much so that I wanted to abandon everything and just hanging around with you everywhere, passing the free and unconstrained days. But if I did that, I would miss countless exciting things. Furthermore, I really want to spend a bit of my heart and strength for this chaotic world, so that all the people can have days of peace and happiness. Did you forget that we have witnessed firsthand the dreadful catastrophe brought by the fire of war?

    Xu Ziling said, This is called everybody has his own aspiration. But if you really want to bring happiness to all the people, you can choose virtuous deeds; add to it your zeal, and you can still reach your cherished desire.

    Kou Zhong scoffed at him and said, With that muddleheaded ruler Emperor Yang as an example, I will not trust anybody lightly, especially those people from respected school and big clans, those who practically look down on us, people who came from marketplace. Ay! Its late! We should go to bed and have a good night rest.

    Xu Ziling sighed inwardly, thinking that that would be the last time he persuaded Kou Zhong to give up his ambition of vying over the world. Henceforth he would not mention this subject nor persuade him anymore.

    Back to his room, Kou Zhongs mood was extremely downcast; he knew in his heart that due to different goals, the difference of opinion between him and his brother was growing wider.

    Problem is neither side was willing to change.

    He paced back and forth in the narrow, limited space of his cabin. Very soon he entered the state of nothingness, forgetting self, in his mental cultivation.

    His and Xu Zilings style of cultivating internal energy were the exact opposite of each other. One moving, the other still. Perhaps it was precisely the difference between him and Xu Ziling. One was seeking excitement, the other was seeking peace and quiet. In the end it turned into Kou Zhong was striving toward hegemony of the world, while Xu Ziling only wished to retreat to some remote mountains.

    Knock! Knock!

    A knock on his door roused Kou Zhong up from deep within his internal cultivation. Pulling the door open, he saw Yun Yuzhen, smiling coyly, standing quietly outside the door.

    If this happened before he has had a talk with Xu Ziling, with Yun Yuzhen delivering herself to his door, it would be no time before Kou Zhong would welcome her with open arms. But now not even half a desire between a man and a woman remained in his heart. He simply spoke indifferently, Not sleeping yet?

    Yun Yuzhen replied softly, I have just had a talk with Yushan. May I come in to chat with you?

    Neither for nor against it, Kou Zhong simply let her in.

    After she was seated, Yun Yuzhen said, Latest news: Lin Shihong at present remains in Poyang. The day after tomorrow Ren Shaoming may return to Jiuyang first ahead of him, because he has such a crush on the most popular auntie of the Chun Zai Lou [lit. spring in the second floor], Huo Qi.

    His spirit greatly aroused, Kou Zhong asked, Does Chun Zai Lou belong to Baling Bang?

    How can there be such an ideal situation? Yun Yuzhen replied, The first day Poyang Armys main force entered the city, Baling Bangs four casinos and two pleasure houses big and small were razed to the ground. And now Baling Bang people in there have to make their living sneakily; if their identity is discovered, they would immediately lose their lives.

    Frowning, Kou Zhong asked, How are we going to enter the city then?

    Thats easy, Yun Yuzhen replied, Because we have Tieqi Huis main force at Panyu under control, and Du Fuweis Jianghuai Army is forcing Lin Shihong to deploy his troops to Xinan County south of Liyang, Jiujiangs military force is not strong, the city defense is lax. Moreover, due to Lin Shihongs tyrannical rule and he condones powerful disciples of Tieqi Hui raping local women, he does not enjoy local support, to such an extent that the discipline of the newly recruited peoples militia to guard the city degenerates substantially. No one willingly throws their lives in for Lin Shihong. Among those people, we even managed to bribe some of the military officers.

    After pondering for half a day, Kou Zhong said, In that case we must seize the opportunity before Lin Shihong arrives to assassinate Ren Shaoming. Do you know if there are any martial art masters by his side?

    Yun Yuzhen said, Ren Shaoming is very conceited over his own martial art prowess. He always like to travel light with just a small escort of only four, five attendants. But these people are all first-class martial art masters. And if either one of the Evil Monk Fa Nan or Amorous Nun Chang Zhen is by his side, the risk of our mission will increase many times over.

    Kou Zhong asked, Who are these two, actually? How come they are so formidable?

    Yun Yuzhen replied, These two are Ren Shaomings ministers who have given outstanding service during the establishment of the Tieqi Hui. It is rumored that either Ren Shaoming has some Tiele [see footnote, Book 5 Chapter 3] blood in him, or that Tiele King sent him with covert identity to come to the Central Plains to stir up havoc, because he is extremely cruel to us, Han people. The Evil Monk Fa Nan used to be big bandit of Jiangnan; he killed and burned, raped and looted, and would not stop at anything. Afterwards because he incited the wrath of the people, he finally seek refuge under Ren Shaomings wings, while continuing his evil deeds and going on the rampage. Until now, nobody is able to do anything to him.

    Kou Zhong was puzzled, Isnt he a man who has left his family [to become Buddhist monk or Daoist priest]?

    Yun Yuzhen simply shrugged her shoulders, Nobodys clear about that, nor do any schools or sects acknowledge him as their disciple. All that we know is he loved to wear crimson kasaya [Buddhist robe], plus he shaved his head clean, and he keeps calling himself pinseng [lit. impoverished monk; humble term used by Buddhist monk to call himself]; hence he is known as the Evil Monk.

    With great interest Kou Zhong continued asking, And how about the Amorous Nun? Is she really beautiful and alluring like a flower, but poisonous like a viper or scorpion?

    Yun Yuzhen gave him a vicious look. You, men, are really incorrigible; as soon as speaking about beautiful women you give out a malicious, lustful look.

    By this time Kou Zhong had already forgotten about his unpleasant talk with Xu Ziling a moment ago; giggling, he said, With Beautiful Shifu here, how could I have spare time to think about other women?

    Yun Yuzhen cast him a sweet and charming glance before continuing, The Amorous Nun is the Evil Monks woman. But oftentimes she also fools around with other men, leaving everything in a tremendous mess [orig. foul black smoke atmosphere], yet Fa Nan seemed to be see no evil, hear no evil [orig. not to hear, not to question]. We suspect that Chang Zhen belongs to the worlds most mysterious, most sinister sect, the Yingui Pai.[see Book 5 Chapter 12], even Fa Nan is of the same origin; but we have no way of confirming it!

    Kou Zhong was greatly surprised.

    Yun Yuzhen went on, This pair of wicked monk and nun is Tieqi Huis protector of the law, just like Ren Shaomings right and left arm. In the past, were it not for them risking their lives to protect Ren Shaoming, it was quite probable that he would lose his life under the Heavenly Saber Song Ques hands.

    Kou Zhong said heavily, In that case lets just get rid of them once and for all!

    Yun Yuzhen snapped at him, Evil Monk and Amorous Nun are practically public enemy number one, but up until now they are still alive and well; do you think it was merely due to their good fortune?

    Kou Zhong stretched; his entire body rose up as he said, Its late! Wed better sleep!

    Yun Yuzhen also stood up; she said, Sleeping early is also good; once we get to Jiujiang, it will be difficult to find such an easy time like this.

    With pomp Kou Zhong swaggered toward the door, pulled the latch, stretched out his finger and lightly flicked it, the oil lamp immediately went off and instantly the room sank into darkness.

    Yun Yuzhen jumped in fright. What are you doing? she whispered.

    Kou Zhong suddenly moved behind her. His long arms snaked out from behind and embraced her. His pair of hands gently stroked her lower abdomen, while he bit her small ear and said, Shifu, please give me pointers!

    Embraced by him like that, Yun Yuzhens tender body weakened. In her daze, he wrapped his arm over her waist and brought her over to the bed. She could not even utter half a word of protest.

    [1] Side note: In Jin Yongs Shen Diao Xia Lu (Return of the Condor Heroes/Divine Eagle Gallant Knights) third edition, Jin Lun Fa Wang [lit. golden wheel protector king, in this forum he is more popular as golden wheel monk] was changed to Jin Lun Guoshi, which Athena translated as Imperial High Priest, the same Guoshi word that is being used here.

  2. #82
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 7 - Chapter 11

    Book 7 Chapter 11 Penetrating Deep Into the Tiger Cave

    Xu Ziling woke up the next day. Declining the offer to get together with Xiang Yushan and the others on the lower deck, he sat in meditation alone in his room.

    Every time he finished training, he always felt some kind of contentment and satisfaction, a sense of self-sufficiency that did not come artificially from the outside.

    Strange thing was that he used to be like Kou Zhong, who loved to eat. But as his inner cultivation grew deeper, his appetite progressively decreased. He was especially sick of meat and fish, instead, wild fruits and green vegetables became more and more to his liking. So much so that for two, three days went by without eating and he still had no problem.

    The reason he wanted to stay alone in his room today was that he left a fantastic development all over his body. Unexpectedly he has shed an entire layer of his skin, just like a snake shed its skin.

    The new layer of skin was smooth and tender, almost like a babys skin, so that his complexion looked different to ordinary men.

    Xu Ziling did not care about such changes too much. Lifting both hands up, he struck various poses, while at the same time sending his true qi up to his hands. He started to have more and more confidence to his pair of beautiful, more and more sparkling and translucent, hands. When he concentrated his true qi, even blocking any divine weapon head-on, he was not afraid that he would suffer the slightest injury. Besides, there is no divine weapon that was more flexible and follow his hearts desires.

    When he had confrontation with Yang Xuyan the previous day, he clearly felt his progress in the martial art study. Yang Xuyans sword-play, in which he moved like an immortal, was no longer that hard to pin down anymore. It was due to his grasp of Yang Xuyans fantastic sword technique that he was able to save Xiang Yushans little life.

    Although Xu Ziling was not aggressive at all, he was fully aware of the Jianghus truth that the strong would rule: if you dont kill, you will get killed; especially in this turbulent era, where justice practically did not exist.

    This moment, Kou Zhong walked in high spirits; after a quick glance, he exclaimed, Huh? How come you look so much different than before? Your entire body seems to be glowing.

    Xu Ziling replied indifferently, Havent you also changed? Look at your smug appearance. But please, dont tell me what happened last night.

    Kou Zhong was well-aware that he could not conceal anything from Xu Ziling. Awkwardly he sat down by the bed and said hoarsely, Some things are bound to happen sooner or later.

    After glancing surreptitiously to the left and to the right, he went on, I heard that Xiang kid said that Ren Shaomings martial art differs very little to the Ol Die, at most he is only one or half a notch inferior. Seems like this matter is extremely thorny.

    Do you think Ba Fenghan is formidable? Xu Ziling asked, Compared to Ol Die, isnt he a bit more formidable?

    Kou Zhong knitted his brows and said, That is really hard to say. My guess is that Ba Fenghan is slightly more formidable, because he is still very young, he is still making progress on a daily basis.

    Xu Ziling said, If we join hands against Ba Fenghan, what do you think our odds of success are?

    Kou Zhong pondered silently for half a day; finally he said with a bitter laugh, Although we have a higher chance of winning, he will surely drag one of us along to accompany him to the nether world. This kid is really difficult to deal with. That day, were it not for us attacking him while he was unprepared, I am afraid we, two brothers, will have to lie flat in that jungle forever.

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Forgive me, but this time I beg to differ. I disagree with your, Zhong Shaos judgement. If we fight against Ba Fenghan again, he will undoubtedly lose, because I have figured out the Yijian Technique; better yet, I have figured out a way to chop Ren Shaomings stinky head.

    Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, This is the first time that I am very excited that you have a different idea. Tell me, quick!

    Xu Ziling turned his gaze out of the window, at the continuously changing scenery of the river bank. With a wistful look on his face he said, It started when we beat back Li Zitong that time, I discovered that your and my martial art can complement each other and double our might to become combined striking power, but I could not think of how to actually carry it out.

    Taking a deep breath, he then continued word-by-word, Last night I finally figured it out.

    Kou Zhong stared at him. I understand it, he said, Its the Yijian Technique.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, Its precisely Yijian Law. Just think, supposing we can grasp the overall situation, and then transcend the battlefield like the chess board [reminder: yi from Yijian means (game of) chess], relying on our mutual understanding, which we have cultivated since childhood, and join hands to deal with just one person; perhaps even Ning Daoqi, Bi Xuan and other martial art experts their caliber dont dare to say, but I dare to guarantee that even Ba Fenghan, Ol Die and the others will lose their lives, let alone Ren Shaoming.

    Kou Zhong slapped his thigh, I really understand! he said, Our chess techniques most formidable feature is the constant permutation, completely without established rules. I am the swimming fish, you are the flying bird; moreover, one cold one hot, who could withstand? Ha! Finally we are nearly unequalled under the heavens [tian xia, China]. Its a pity that we still have to rely on more to take unfair advantage of less.

    Xu Ziling shook his head and said, It doesnt matter how many the opponents are, it will still be the two of us dealing with them. Ah, right! You lost your Moon in the Well, what shall you use to replace it?

    Scratching his head, Kou Zhong said, I am a bit tired playing with saber, but I dont know what kind of toy I want to play with next?

    Xu Ziling said, That day I noticed that you are very skillful in using the horsewhip. Using the flexible whip to break the meteor hammer, it should be very interesting.

    Whoosh

    The long whip lashed across the two-zhang space on the deck. With Xiang Yushan, Yun Yuzhen, and a group of Jukun Bang disciples as spectators, first it traversed the deck like a quick snake, and then when it was about three chi away from Xu Zilings feet, the tip of the whip suddenly rose up like the snakes head, and fast as lightning it struck toward Xu Zilings lower abdomen. Nobody did not gasp in amazement. In Kou Zhongs hand, the two and a half zhang long whip became alive.

    Xu Ziling did not even look at it, his right thumb simply pressed down, right at the tip of the whip.

    The two boys were severely shaken simultaneously, and both recoiled one step back.

    Losing its forward momentum, the whip flicked back toward the top of Kou Zhongs head, where it looped around five, six times. It was very beautiful to watch.

    Xu Ziling shook his head, No way! he said, It did not have the same feeling as when it lashed out toward Yang Xuyan.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, It was simply because before I moved the whip, I had a quick look at Beautiful Shifu, so it was hard for me to concentrate.

    Standing on the side, Yun Yuzhen scolded, You are the one who is inadequate, yet you blamed it on somebody else.

    Xu Ziling said, Concentration is not the problem; the problem is that it had too much vestige. Flexible weapons have flexible weapons characteristic, unlike stiff weapon, such as saber, which is constrained by its direction and angle. Do you have a way to make the whip as if it has eyes on it, and is able to change its course automatically to attack the position the enemy least expected?

    Kou Zhong was staring blankly for half a day. Suddenly, as if the whip had a head and brains of its own, it lashed toward Xu Ziling. When the whip was about to hit, Xu Ziling suddenly sidestepped. Who would have thought that a section of the whip, about six chi long, suddenly bent and coiled itself toward Xu Zilings back, and brushed away toward the back of his head?

    Now, that is not bad! Xu Ziling shouted. With a flash of his body, the whip hit empty space.

    The whip seemed to recoil in Kou Zhongs direction; suddenly the entire length of the whip vibrated in a wave-like pattern, becoming more than a dozen whip shadows, which all flew toward Xu Zilings face. It was brilliant to the extreme.

    Watching this, Xiang Yushan, Yun Yuzhen and the others could only stare blankly with mouth agape. They all knew that it was the very first time Kou Zhong picked up a whip and used it in a practice, but it was as if he had been using whip for as long as he lived, there was not the least bit of rookie or upstart impression about him.

    The most formidable thing was that not only he was able to transmit his qi through the tip of the whip, he was also able to use his true qi to control the whip so that it was able to change direction randomly, to attack the enemy at the position that was impossible to defend effectively.

    Crack!

    Xu Ziling used his palm to break three whip rings in succession, while flying backward simultaneously, and thus evaded Kou Zhongs round of attack.

    Kou Zhong casually pulled the whip back, which, like a snake, coiled itself around his waist. Raising his hands high he said, Whip is gone!

    Xiang Yushan was shaken; he said, If Kou Dage could use other weapon first to confuse the enemy, and then suddenly take out the whip, it could be even more difficult for the enemy to resist.

    Kou Zhong was taken aback; and then he raised his thumb and said, General Xiang is indeed very astute, I will follow your advice. But you must find a good saber for me. Saber on the left and whip on the right, Ren Shaoming will have to bag his food before he finish eating and go to the nether world.

    A Jukun Bang disciple hurriedly took out the saber hanging on his waist and presented it to Kou Zhong, while shouting, Sabers coming!

    Everybody cheered and clapped; they were in very high spirits.

    Kou Zhong received the saber. Cha! Cha! Cha! he chopped the air three times, emitting a hard and sharp saber qi.

    Suddenly the saber stopped. The tip pointed at Xu Ziling.

    In a flash Xu Ziling already arrived in front of Kou Zhong. His two hands turned into palm shadows filling the air, hiding the sky and covering the earth in an overwhelming offensive toward Kou Zhong.

    The saber in Kou Zhongs left hand rapidly chopped several times. Saber and palms collided, a stream of powerful qi swept through the air like a cyclone, forcing the crowd to take several steps back.

    Suddenly Kou Zhong withdrew. His right hand moved to his waist, like a fierce dragon the whip left his waist and shot toward the pit of Xu Zilings stomach. And then abruptly it changed course upward to circle around Xu Zilings neck. The change was so skillful that the spectators could only stare in shock.

    Xu Ziling stretched out his finger and flicked the tip of the whip. Who would have thought that Kou Zhong spun his body around? Not only the saber in his left hand hacked down, the whip in his right hand circled around toward the lower back of Xu Zilings body, lashing around Xu Zilings legs.

    Xu Ziling soared into the air, the tip of his palm swept across the sabers blade, while at the same time his fist shot toward Kou Zhongs face. His movement looked unhurried, full of confidence and at ease, very nice to behold.

    The crowd burst into cheering and applause.

    Like a swimming fish Kou Zhong slid sideways to evade. He laughed aloud and said, My mistake was using the whip too early. If I can hack on you that you forget Laozis whip, I would have a chance to fix you, this kid, up.

    Xu Ziling landed on the deck and solemnly said, That is exactly the crucial point. If you could make Ren Shaoming to go all-out in warding off your attack, the whip would have a chance of success, because not even in his dream he would have thought that you would have another killer move.

    Scratching his head, Xiang Yushan said, Even to my death I could not believe that Kou Dage has never used left hand saber before. Even more unbelievable you have never officially picked up a whip and used it to fight.

    After returning the saber to its owner, Kou Zhong walked over with a chuckle. He said, General Xiangs guess is right; Beautiful Bangzhu ought to have the clearest understanding. In the past, at the beach where our boat crashed against the rock and capsized, day and night Xiao Ling and I trained our martial art, both using our right hand and left hand. When we are in the mood, wild vine also became our whip. Hence now naturally we can easily master the weapons.

    Xu Ziling added, I have to admit that we rely mainly on the fantastic true qi from the Secret to Long Life, which continuously flowing inside our bodies. Therefore, each part of our bodies can be easily controlled and has freedom of action, our training becomes half the work, twice the effect.

    Yun Yuzhen sighed in envy. She said, It is still unbelievable. You dont realize how useless you were back then. Even with one hand tied behind my back, I would still be able to beat you that you fall face down to the left and tumble to the right.

    Kou Zhong changed the subject, How much longer it is to Jiujiang? I am a bit impatient.

    Xiang Yushan answered, Two Dage may go up your cabin, Xiaodi guesses we will arrive in about five sichen.

    Yun Yuzhen said with a laugh, One side calls General Xiang, the other side uses Dage Xiaodi; in the ears of outsiders, your relationship with each other is really hard to understand.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, What about you and I? One side calls Beautiful Shifu, the other side calls Kou Gongzi or Kou Xiaozi [kid]. Whats the relationship between us?

    Yun Yuzhen cast him a stern look; she said crossly, Who wants to talk nonsense with you?

    After casting charming eyes toward both Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, her slim and graceful figure disappeared into her cabin.

    At this time the sun was setting in the west, the sky over the Great River gradually turned grey. The big ship continued sailing speedily downstream to the east.

    At the door of his cabin, Xu Ziling was about to enter to lie in his bed and cultivate his qi, but Kou Zhong pulled him forcefully toward his room next door. Wrapping his arm around Xu Zilings shoulder, Kou Zhong took him to the window and said, Xiao Ling, did you see the beautiful starry sky and the open country outside? The most touching thing is that it contains countless challenges and immeasurable changes.

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, Whatever it is, just spit it out! Do you still have to talk in circle with me?

    Kou Zhong said, I have a feeling that after last night, I truly think that I have become an adult, and I am eligible to have any beautiful woman in the world. The most wonderful thing is the power over others and the conquering feeling. Normally Beautiful Bangzhu assumed a cold, untouchable haughty manners, but in that moment if I, Zhong Shao want her alive she would be alive, if I want her dead she would die, or perhaps she would want to live and die.

    Xu Ziling shook his head and said, In man-woman relationship, I do not have the desire to conquer the other side at all. I only feel that when the two lovers are in harmony with each other, when they advance to sexual intercourse [orig. the joy of fish in the water], both sides will go hand in hand to pursue and break new ground in some kind of beautiful, wonderful, and boundless realm. Therefore, I can only seek sweet dreams together with a woman that I really like.

    Kou Zhong mused, In theory, I can accept your idealized way of thinking; but in reality I am incapable to break away from the pleasure of greatly spreading out my awe-inspiring conquest. Perhaps this is precisely the difference between you and me. Didnt you say that I am a leader who loves to issue order and be in command?

    After a short pause he patted Xu Zilings shoulder and said with a wry smile, Sometimes I really worry that you will turn into a vegetarian Buddhist monk.

    Xu Ziling roared in laughter. Get lost! he swore, I just have not met a woman who can command my admiration!

    Kou Zhong sneered and said, Shen Luoyan, Shan Wanjing, which one is not beautiful woman who has both first-class wit and charm? Yet your heart was not moved at all. Apart from you basically dont have any interest toward a woman, is there any other explanation?

    Xu Ziling elbowed Kou Zhongs flank so that the latter yelped in pain and had to release his arm wrapped around Xu Zilings shoulder. Only then did Xu Ziling said indifferently, The attractive thing about women, more important than their outward appearance is their inner essence and personality traits. Shen Luoyans ambition is too great, plus she is as cunning as a fox; what could possibly attract me, Xu Ziling? Presently Shan Wanjing and us are like fire and water, so we must stop mentioning her. You used these two women as an example, I should really beat you up.

    With a bitter smile Kou Zhong rubbed his painful flank; he said, I forgot that if we succeed in assassinating Ren Shaoming, most probably we will have another deep and unmeasurable formidable opponent, because that pair of evil monk and nun under Ren Shaomings banner, or perhaps even Yin Gui Pai might dispatch their people to create trouble.

    Xu Ziling stared blankly for half a day. Finally he sighed and said, This is the price of contending over the world. We are falling deeper and deeper into the trap, in the end, all around us there is no friend, only enemies.

    Kou Zhong breathed a deep sigh. He said slowly, There is an even greater possibility that Ren Shaoming is a spy sent by Tiele King in secret mission to create trouble in the Central Earth; therefore, we may very well be offending two great powers from inside and outside. Are you afraid?

    Xu Ziling smiled and shook his head. He said lightly, Without these challenges and pressures throughout this life, perhaps it would be difficult for us to pry into the pinnacle of the martial art way. The reason we can come this far is all thanks to every single one of those people who wanted to kill us.

    Chou hour that night [1-3am], the battle ship dropped anchor at a hidden jungle in a tributary of Yangtze River about ten li from Jiujiang. There was another ship, a freighter carrying grains, waiting at that dock. On board was Jukun Bangs Deputy Gang Leader Bu Tianzhi and the skilled workman Chen Laomou.

    As soon as they boarded the cargo ship, Chen Laomou immediately started to work to alter the appearance of these four people.

    First of all he changed Kou Zhongs appearance to that of a merchant with poor taste.

    Immensely proud of himself, Chen Laomou said, In disguising technique, the most critical application is to make others do not expect it, to create something that they cannot associate the new appearance with the old one, something that even an acquaintance will not see through it.

    Yun Yuzhen, Bu Tianzhi, Xiang Yushan and Xu Ziling who were watching nodded their heads in praise; their spirit rose up even more. Xu Ziling even gushed, An imposing figure like Xiao Zhong here, any disguise he takes will always expose some hole. Only by disguising him as a fat man who moves slowly will conceal his disguise from other peoples eyes and ears.

    Yun Yuzhen said, Kou Zhong must remember that you are from Yuanling [county, Hunan], taking Yuan River route, entering the Great River, to do business in rice and grain. You are delivering goods to Jiujiangs merchant Xing Fa Long, who has a long-established reputation. Because the army needs provision, Lin Shihongs Chu Army cant possibly give you any trouble. Much less you do have a copy of Xing Fa Longs purchase order and formal customs clearance document.

    Looking at his reflection in the copper mirror, Kou Zhong asked Yun Yuzhen, who was standing by his side, So whats my name?

    Bu Tianzhi, who was standing further down, replied on her behalf, Kou Gongzi will be Gu An, who, with a little net worth loves to roam pleasure houses and wine shops, but you are rather stingy, hence you are not welcomed by those sisters who love gold.

    Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, Is it because you all are afraid that I will squander your money that you made me into such a loathsome character?

    Yun Yuzhen laughed tenderly while covering her mouth. A bit awkward, Xiang Yushan replied, That is Yun Bangzhus idea; she is afraid you might really wander around the pleasure house and thus spoil our proper business. Hey!

    Bu Tianzhi went on, Xu Gongzi is your younger brother Gu Xiang, whom you always bully; he suffers enough from your pushing him to the east and to the west, your constant maltreatment of scolding and cursing him to your hearts content, but since his natural disposition is cowardly, he is angry, but not daring to speak up.

    Xiang Yushan added, I am your familys accountant, your manager; all tedious works belong to me. My name is Gu Ning, your [paternal] cousin.

    So who is Yun Bangzhu? Kou Zhong asked.

    Yun Yuzhens pretty face blushed slightly as she said, How about a young concubine you have just acquired?

    Kou Zhong roared in laughter. I must be afraid someone might steal you away, therefore, even doing business out of town I must bring you along by my side. Ha! Dont forget that we must stay in one room, otherwise people will be suspicious.

    By this time Chen Laomou has finished dying the hair on his temples slightly white, making him looked like a forty-something man.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, Chen Gong [honorable gentleman] is really talented. If Zhong Shao knew how to restrain the divine light in his eyes, nobody would be able to recognize him!

    The cargo ship shuddered slightly, it raised the anchor and set sail.

    Early morning, the two ships arrived at Jiujiang.

    Under the potbellied merchant Kou Zhongs supervision, the Jukun Bang people, who disguised themselves as porters, unloaded the goods onto mule carts, which were prepared well by Xing Fa Long. Xiang Yushan, who was disguised as an accountant, went with Xing Fa Longs man to the local water transportation office to file the document and take care of formalities. It was already noon when they all followed the goods into the city.

    Surprisingly the city was thriving, but by looking at their appearance and clothing, one would know that they were either traveling merchants or Wulin figures.

    Bu Tianzhi was very familiar with the situation here, he informed everybody in low voice, These past few years Tieqi Hui amassed large quantities of money and goods by plundering and looting, therefore, outsiders are thronging in here, if not for doing business, then for joining the Chu Army. Apparently many people are optimistic about this alliance between Lin Shihong and Ren Shaoming.

    Looking out the window, Xu Ziling said, Looks like these people are well-behaved.

    Bu Tianzhi laughed and said, Because it is still daytime. At night those Jianghu people, either because of personal vendetta or self-interest, would go into hard-fighting; the casualties are not a few. As long as it did not affect the life of the common people inside the city, Tieqi Hui and the Chu Army adopted the see no evil hear no evil stand; but the fact is, it is really very difficult to manage anyway. Especially pleasure houses, wine shops and casinos; anybody who does not have a bit of weight [i.e. social standing] would not dare to venture out at night.

    Frowning, Kou Zhong asked, Does Lin Shihong prohibit outsiders from entering the city?

    Xiang Yushan replied, That would make Lin Shihong lose a lot of taxation area outside the city, plus a lot of Wulin characters are more-or-less connected to Tieqi Hui, or perhaps they know somebody in Tieqi Hui. Not to mention Tieqi Hui is extremely keen to take in new blood, hence the reason Jiu Jiang is so crowded.

    Like most cities in Jiangnan, transportation inside and outside Jiujiang relied mainly on water ways. The principal layout was cross-shaped main flagstone streets connecting four city gates, wide enough for eight horses to gallop side by side. Lanes and alleys were arranged in square grids crisscrossing the main streets, everything was clear and in good order.

    Xing Fa Long was located at Sweet Green Jade Street, in the affluent part of the city. All houses along the street had their gates and multi-leveled buildings decorated with engraved roof tiles, the courtyards were lush with trees and flowers; it was a picture of serenity, without any trace of the fire of war.

    River channels interweaved with the streets, the banks were lined with luxuriant trees, with weeping willows brushing the water; another beautiful scenery.

    When the mule train pulled into the big warehouse behind Xing Fa Longs shop, everybody breathed a sigh of relief.

    By the time they finished freshening up and taking a rest, it was already dusk. They all gathered in a small pavilion at the rear courtyard to eat and drink. Xing Fa Longs owner Niu Fangcai, who was actually Xiang Yushans subordinate whom he had sent here, was a very competent man. He took this opportunity to report Jiujiangs situation to the party.

    Hearing that Ren Shaoming would arrive the next day, Xiang Yushan said, This time for the ceremony of forming the alliance, Lin Shihong and Ren Shaoming selected Jiujiang, obviously they want to show their fighting power to the world. I dont believe that various powers in the north are not concerned about it; those who are coming to wreck the alliance cant be just a few. Right now Jiujiang ought to be the place where dragons and snakes mingle, we must act with great care.

    Kou Zhong said, Sometimes being too careful wont work. Tonight let us go to Chun Zai Lou [see previous chapter] first to scout the enemy territory, to see if we could exploit the environment over there to slaughter Ren Shaoming.

    Niu Fangcai brought out a scroll of painting. After Bu Tianzhi moved the bowls and the dishes away to make room on the table, he spread the scroll. To everybodys surprise, it was an aerial view drawing [orig. birds eye view] of Chun Zai Lou; the drawing was very fine and detailed.

    Niu Fangcai said, Chun Zai Lous building complex is divided into the front and rear courtyards. The front courtyard consists of three two-story buildings, which are separated by a network of overlapping winding corridors and rock garden and fishponds. It is used mainly to receive general visitors.

    Yun Yuzhen asked, If Kou Gongzi and the others go there, could they be making merry in this area?

    Niu Fangcai nodded and said, They should be. The rear courtyard is twice as big as the front one, it is full with trees and flowers, one of Jiujiangs top ten scenic spots, and is known as the Spring Garden. Ten buildings are arranged symmetrically, it is used mainly to receive VIP guests [orig. with head with face] and those who are willing to spend money. One of the buildings, also called Spring Garden, is for Ren Shaomings exclusive use. It is the room he always go to whenever he is in Jiujiang.

    My granny, Kou Zhong exclaimed, Thats it.

    Xu Ziling said, Uncle Niu is really resourceful, you managed to investigate Chun Zai Lous situation very clearly.

    Kou Zhong said, Based on Ren Shaomings influence in here, he could have any woman he takes a fancy to be brought into his private residence; why did he let her staying there so that other people could also enjoy her sweet taste?

    Xiang Yushan said, That is precisely Ren Shaomings character. He will not let himself be preoccupied by any woman that it would negatively affect his great undertaking of vying over the world.

    Kou Zhong asked again, You must have a spy in there, dont you? Otherwise, how could you know Chun Zai Lous situation like the back of your hand?

    Xiang Yushan nodded. Of course, he replied, We have had the intention to assassinate Ren Shaoming. Its just that we never had the opportunity!

    Xu Ziling said, Ren Shaoming is obsessed with Huo Qi, is that also public knowledge [orig. the street aware the lanes hear]?

    Yun Yuzhen shook her head. Quite the contrary, she said, This is a top secret information. Other than select people at Chun Zai Lou, nobody else knows.

    That is even better, Kou Zhong delightedly said, Now who can take me to Chun Zai Lou?

    Naturally it will be Xiaodi! Xiang Yushan hurriedly replied.

    It would be better if General Xiang stay here, Xu Ziling said, We only need somebody to show us the way.

  3. #83
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    Default Book 7 - Chapter 12

    Book 7 Chapter 12 Running Amuck at the Pleasure House

    When Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling went to Chun Zai Lou, they changed their appearance again; they now looked just like ordinary Wulin figures.

    It was Yun Yuzhens idea, if anything bad should happen, they could return to their grain merchant identity, and nobody would know their identity.

    Under Chan Laomous skillful hands, Kou Zhong became a thirty-five, thirty-six years old man with a moustache. Xu Ziling wore thick eyebrows and his skin was darkened considerably, to conceal his scholarly and handsome features. He also had five strands of beard, so that even old acquaintances would find it hard to recognize him.

    Nobody knows how many ordinary-looking warriors like them were going in and out of brothels every day; therefore, when they appeared, the bouncer at the door [orig. turtle slave doorkeeper] did not pay the slightest attention. It was not until Kou Zhong stuffed a piece of gold into his hand that he realized the visitor was a big, rich man, and thus he busily bowed respectfully with clasped hands and respectfully welcomed them into the guest lounge.

    Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, I hope our luck this time is a bit better.

    Xu Ziling sighed, recalling that every time they visited a pleasure house, not once the outcome has been good.

    Meanwhile the turtle slave was pulling the bawd, Bai Niang [lit. white lady, I dont know whether it is a term to call a female brothel keeper in general], a woman with fancy eyebrows and laughing eyes, to greet them. This time Kou Zhong was getting even more serious, he stuffed two pieces of gold into her hand before saying, We came here because we admire Miss Huo Qis name, Bai Niang must not let us down!

    Bai Niang laughed cheerfully and said, Two Daye are so generous, of course Nujia will do anything for you! But every night Qiqi is so busy and has no time to spare. Nujia has to think of a way that she could come down and sing you a song to satisfy Dayes cherished desire.

    How could Kou Zhong accept that? Being more generous at the expense of Xiang Yushan, he stuffed another piece of gold into her hand and said, Singing in a hurry is just too bland; how about Bai Niang arrange an appointment for me and Miss Huo Qi tomorrow night

    Aiyo! Bai Niang cried out tenderly, cutting him off, Tomorrow is even more out of the question, even Nujia is helpless. Ay! You dont know how popular Qiqi is, if Nujia did not see how generous two Daye are, why would I be willing to receive a scolding to make arrangement for you?

    And then she went on, Gentlemen please stay here and have some tea, let Nujia go into the inner courtyard on Dayes behalf to find other courtyard with face, to select several beautiful women with excellent voice, face and skill for two Daye, and then Ill come back here to take Daye in.

    The two boys were taken into the noisy parlor and were seated in a set of table and chairs. After taking a cup of fragrant tea offered by a young maid, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stealthily looked around with great interest.

    There were more than a dozen sets of table and chairs arranged along the wall of the parlor, all filled with people. Everybody seemed to be afraid that their voice was not loud enough, so they talked and quarreled so loud that the clamor shook the heavens, just like rowdy people at the marketplace.

    Kou Zhong sipped his tea for a moment, and then he sighed and said, Sitting here in this place, who would have thought that the fire of war is ravaging the Central Earth, and the people are in a terrible situation?

    Xu Ziling spoke in low voice, You have to be careful, there are two guys by the door staring at us.

    Knitting his brows, Kou Zhong muttered, There should be nothing in our appearances that give us away; whats so good about looking at us, we are not popular aunties of the brothel.

    Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, We will find out soon enough; one of them is heading our way.

    The two boys pretended not to notice, and then when that person sat across the table from them, they pretended to look up in surprise. But as soon as they did, their soul flew away and scattered; they nearly spring up and run away.

    Because that person was the Dongming Princess Shan Wanjing, who disguised herself by wearing mens clothing.

    But this time her jade face was frosty, as she stared hatefully at the two boys and said, Even turning into ashes I will still recognize you, two little thieves.

    Having just recovered from shock, Kou Zhong recalled that they had indeed stolen her belongings, so her scolding them as little thieves was really difficult to refute. Therefore, he awkwardly said, Princess, how are you? Long time no see, I cant believe you are not only getting more beautiful, you are getting more mature too.

    Dongming Princess Shan Wanjings eyes were full of murderous intent; she said in heavy voice, Death is near at hand, you still dare to be loquacious. If I cry out either Kou Zhong or Xu Ziling, I guarantee you will never leave this brothel alive.

    And then, turning her gaze toward Xu Ziling, she said mockingly, I cant believe the haughty and conceited Xu Gongzi is not only a thief, but he is also a lecherous thief.

    Xu Ziling boldly returned her gaze. Focusing his eyes on her oval face, a hint of wry smile appeared on the corner of his eyes as he shrugged his shoulders and said, Whatever Princess wants to do to me, just do it!

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Princess seems to have a particularly close relationship with this brother of mine so that your scolding to him was not as severe as to me, Xiaodi.

    Shan Wanjing was slightly taken aback; a complex, undecipherable emotion flashed through her beautiful eyes. And then, looking down, she said, I indeed have close relationship with the two of you, with your two dogs life. Right now I am giving you two options: one, I will expose your true identity, two, you come with me to resolve the problems between us.

    Recovering his rascally character, Kou Zhong asked with a giggle, Princess, how many attendants do you have this time?

    Shan Wanjing replied with a cold laugh, To take care of you, two thieves, do I need any helpers?

    Kou Zhong stretched out and said with a smile, Princess, why dont you examine yourself: how do you fare compared to your Ba boyfriend?

    Shan Wanjing was greatly stunned. After staring blankly for a moment, she asked, What Ba boyfriend? Oh you

    Xu Ziling said indifferently, We have had confrontation with Ba Xiong. But may I ask Princess, this time you came to Jiujiang, what noble errand brings you here?

    Shan Wanjing was so angry that her seven orifices seemed to be spouting smoke. My business has nothing to do with you! she said, You dont even have the qualifications to ask.

    And then, glowering at Kou Zhong, she fumed, Ba Fenghan is just a friend I can get along with, there is no private matters between man and woman involved; dont you try to make others vomit blood.

    Kou Zhong spread out his hands and said, How about that Li guy from the Li Clan? Is he also just a friend you can get along with? I am asking this on Xiao Lings behalf.

    Naturally Xu Ziling knew that Kou Zhong was exploiting his subtle relationship with Shan Wanjing in an attempt to cross this difficulty; since he did not think it was inappropriate, he remained silent.

    Shan Wanjings tender body trembled slightly, her jade face turned ashen from anger; gnashing her teeth, she said, Full of nonsense! I swear that if I dont kill you today, I cannot conduct myself in the world.

    Laughing apologetically, Kou Zhong said, Princess, please calm down; in everything we must consider the outcome. For instance, fighting is definitely not a good thing, but if after the fight we can turn the enemy into a friend, this is a good thing. I admit that stealing is not a good thing per se, but if the outcome is the death of that muddleheaded ruler so that your other good friend that Li guy can have a better chance in contending over the world, we have changed a bad thing into a good thing. Hee hee ! Princess, please be magnanimous, Xiao Ling and I apologize to you.

    Shan Wanjing was silent for half a day. Finally she said softly, It doesnt matter if your tongue can grow beautiful lotus flower, tonight dont even think of escaping alive. Starting from now, within ten breaths, if you dont come with me out of this place, I will immediately shout Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling. I want to see what good thing will the outcome be.

    The two boys scalp went numb, but there was no way they would surrender to her will.

    If the grandiose Dongming Princess did not bring any attendants, they did not believe she had the ability to kill them. But that was not the reason of their distress; their biggest headache was that in this fight, they could only take a beating, otherwise, how could they bite the hand that feeds them by injuring Dongming Pai people?

    Seven breaths, eight breaths

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged a glance with a determined look on their faces to win.

    Nine breaths! Ten breaths.

    Shan Wanjings eyes were flashing with sharp, bright gleam. Suddenly she cried out with her tender voice, Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling are here.

    Her voice was backed by her inner power, the sound shook the main hall, penetrated every single ear.

    The main hall suddenly turned so quiet that the sound of a falling needle could be heard, more than a hundred pairs of eyes were staring at the three of them.

    Against all expectation, Kou Zhong suddenly laughed aloud. The entire length of his body rose up and he said, Turns out Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, those two kids are hanging around in here, but why did Xiongtai think it was necessary for you to stretch your throat by shouting and yelling?

    He has not finished talking, Shan Wanjings palm struck from across the table, carrying an intense qi power, like an arrow it shot toward Kou Zhongs broad chest.

    Kou Zhong thought saving his life was more important. Unwilling to reveal his skill, he slipped behind Xu Ziling like a swimming fish.

    The hall remained silent [orig. crow and peacock make no sound].

    Nowadays, anybody who was moving about in Jianghu would more or less hear about these two boys; not only about the two separate hunt-and-kill decrees on their heads, but also because of the widely spread rumors of their knowledge of the Duke Yang Treasure Trove secret.

    Xu Zilings eyes shone with unprecedented divine light as he fixed his gaze on the Dongming Princess Shan Wanjing and spoke slowly word-by-word, Do you know what you are doing?

    And then his palm struck the table. The entire solid Chinese cedar wood table immediately shattered into cun-long fragments, wood pieces sprinkled down all over the floor.

    Xu Ziling shouted loudly, Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling are here. Whoever wants to get the head above our neck may come here to make your move; otherwise, please get out of here, so that we, brothers, wont accidentally hurt bystanders.

    With the crashing sound of the table as it broke into pieces, three persons involved, including Xu Ziling himself, jumped in fright.

    Xu Ziling was so shocked because he only wanted to slap the table to vent out the resentment in his heart. Because by doing what she did, not only Shan Wanjing put them in a dangerous spot, the most insufferable thing was that she seemed to wreck their entire assassination plot, while the two boys obviously could not do anything to her to teach her a lesson. Who would have thought that his palm was so formidable that such a hard Chinese cedar wood table would disintegrate into pieces?

    Kou Zhong was so shocked, first of all because Xu Zilings palm strength seemed to increase all of a sudden, secondly, because he had never seen Xu Ziling that angry. Momentarily he threw all kinds of problem arising from the revealing of their identity to the back of his mind; inwardly he was comparing Xu Ziling to Du Fuwei, who shattered a rosewood table with his palm power the other day.

    Dongming Princess Shan Wanjings tender heart was severely shaken; other than she had never thought Xu Zilings skill has reached such state, she was deeply shocked by Xu Zilings display of power and his unfriendliness. Besides, having provoked Xu Ziling so that his reaction was that intense, she could not help feeling a bit of regret.

    Momentarily the three of them were staring blankly at the wood fragments on the floor. Xu Ziling and Shan Wanjing were still sitting on their chairs, separated by the debris. It was an extremely strange scene.

    Most people remaining in the hall were Wulin characters who came from various part of the country. At first some of them were itching to get their hands to capture or kill these two boys, but after Xu Zilings display of earth-shattering skill, they instantly grew quiet out of fear. One after another those sitting in several tables in the three peoples vicinity started to move away in fear.

    Kou Zhong was the first one to regain his wits. Pointing to Shan Wanjing, he laughed aloud and said, Gentlemen! This is a woman who dresses as a man, the Dongming Princess Shan Wanjing. This time she came to Jiujiang to assassinate the Green Dragon Ren Shaoming.

    Shan Wanjing was furious; pointing her halberd-like finger she said, What nonsense are you talking about?

    Kou Zhong winked at her and said in low voice, You can talk nonsense, we can also talk nonsense; its only fair. Ha! If we dont drag you down to suffer inconvenience together with us, we are idiots!

    When the people in the hall heard the sentence assassinate Ren Shaoming, not a single one of them had his countenance unchanged. Timid merchants and maids and servants were the first to scramble out to escape, followed by the Jianghu people. Nobody knew what would happen next, but either way, nobody wanted to be implicated.

    After quite a while, the noisy chicken flew dogs ran away hall became people left the hall empty.

    Except for one person, who was sitting on the table near the door.

    This persons build was as majestic as the mountain, his countenance handsome and grand, he wore a blue-green powerful-looking outer cloak; there was an unspeakable terrifying charm aura around him. It was none other than the young Tujue martial art who recently caused sensation in the Wulin world, Ba Fenghan.

    It suddenly dawned on Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling that the other day Fu Junyu and Ba Fenghan were talking about meeting Shan Wanjing, turned out the meeting place was this ups and downs city of Jiujiang.

    Ba Fenghan rose up to his full height, laughed aloud, and said, We are separated for only three days, I already have a whole new level of respect for you; I have never thought Xu Xiongs palm power could be this terrifying. Tonight I am brought by fate to meet with two Xiongtai, the Ol Ba is indeed very happy.

    Qiang! Kou Zhong pulled the fine-steel saber Yun Yuzhen gave him and pointed the blade toward Ba Fenghan. Heroically and loftily he said, Mutual desire to meet is better than chance encounter, even more importantly, Ba Xiong is in such a good spirit. Let us, two brothers, send you off on your journey first!

    A strange expression flashed through Shan Wanjings eyes. With her tender voice she scolded, Little thief Kou, you think I am nonexistent? Deal with me first and then you can do whatever you want.

    Ba Fenghans murderous intention was greatly aroused, but his face was still wearing a smile. He spoke indifferently, Right now Wanjing is not the only one who wants to kill you, even Ol Ba cant stop my hands from itching. How about Wanjing let Xiaodi beat the head of the [troops] formation?

    Xu Ziling rose up suddenly. Princess business, we will deal with it in a moment, he said coldly, But Ba Xiong is just pushing us too far

    Shan Wanjing sneered and said, He is pushing you too far, but you take advantage of superior number to gang up with him, one person. What kind of hero is that?

    Kou Zhong groaned inwardly. The only way they could deal with Ba Fenghan was precisely by joining hands. If Shan Wanjing insisted on interfering, not to mention she was herself a first-class martial art master, in dealing with her, they must not harm her or kill her; this was the most annoying thing and would definitely assure their defeat.

    Completely calm, Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, If thats the case, let me and Ba Xiong have a one-on-one combat, lets see who is taking advantage of whom.

    Shan Wanjing was completely helpless to conceal the slight change in her jade countenance. Do you want to die? she said angrily.

    Since his beautiful dream of assassinating Ren Shaoming was shattered by her, Kou Zhong has been dying to lie her down on his knees and spank her bottom really good. Given this golden opportunity, he pretended to be surprised, Isnt that what Princess has in your mind all along? he asked.

    And then, turning to Xu Ziling he said, Xiao Ling! Didnt I tell you that although on the surface Princess hates you, her heart has always been leaning toward you? Ah!

    Qiang!

    Shan Wanjings sword left its sheathe, bypassed Xu Ziling, and turned into dots of cold rays shooting toward Kou Zhong in raging temper.

    Seeing her outstandingly exquisite swordsmanship, and her extremely swift and fierce move, Kou Zhong did not dare to be negligence at all; he withdrew abruptly.

    Shan Wanjing rounded behind Xu Ziling, forcing Kou Zhong to withdraw to the other side of the hall. She scolded, Little thief Xu, since you dont know the immensity of heaven and earth, then go to hell for this Princess!

    Qiang!

    Ba Fenghan suddenly drew his sword. Immediately a burst of powerful, without equal, sword qi shot toward Xu Ziling, who was standing about two zhang away, enveloping him completely in the sword qi, so that even if the opponent wanted to shrink back, it would be impossible to do so.

    However, Xu Zilings mind was as clear as the moon in the well; there was no anxiety over victory or defeat, there was no distracting thoughts whatsoever. Raising the true qi inside his body to its extreme, he withstood Ba Fenghans astonishing power.

    Two young martial art masters, finally brought together into a life and death situation.

    Shan Wanjing bit her lip and tightly clenched her silvery teeth; with great difficulty she resisted the urge to look back. Her only hope was that this matter would be over soon, and henceforth she would try her best to forget it all.

    Even she herself did not understand what kind of place Xu Ziling held in her tender heart.

    On the other hand, Kou Zhongs mind was churning at the speed of light. He was trying to find a way to take advantage of the long whip around his waist, to gain control over Shan Wanjing in one move, and then together with Xu Ziling, they would have a chance to get rid of Ba Fenghan, this formidable opponent.

    Ba Fenghans mind was focused on Xu Ziling; without the slightest bit of hesitation the sword in his hand unceasingly sending out sword qi, no hole left unpenetrated as he tried to look for Xu Zilings weak point.

    Nonetheless, under this intense pressure, the opponent was still standing as stable as the mountain, who automatically exuding swallowing-river-and-high-mountain-kind of qi, with the imposing manner that no gap can be penetrated. Unexpectedly Ba Fenghan did not dare to act recklessly.

    While he did not dare to make his move, Kou Zhong did not dare even more. Momentarily four people fought separately in two groups.

    All of a sudden there was the sound of gushing wind from all directions, a clear sign that a large number of martial art masters was rushing over to this place.

    Ba Fenghan was about to take advantage of this window of opportunity to go all-out and take Xu Zilings little life, but in a strange turn of events Shan Wanjing abandoned Kou Zhong and rushed over to Ba Fenghan, while shouting tenderly, We have to go!

    Kou Zhong was greatly delighted; he rushed over to Xu Ziling and called out loudly, We must also leave!

    Ba Fenghan grudgingly withdrew his qi. Since he had the initiative, he was able to send and retract his qi at will.

    Shadows of people flashed through the windows and doors, martial art masters from Tieqi Hui have arrived.

    The four people, in two separate groups, soared to the air and broke through the roof, and landed on the roof tile outside. They saw torches everywhere, with countless people surrounding the area.

    Kou Zhong laughed heartily and said, Princess and your Ba boyfriend, Im sure we will meet again someday.

    Winking to Xu Ziling, he traversed the air. The two boys, one after another, flew toward the rear courtyard.

    They knew Chun Zai Lou situation like the back of their palm, naturally they were able to escape quite easily.

    On the other side, Ba Fenghan and Shan Wanjing knew that if they did not seize the opportunity to escape while the enemy has not yet in position, while their besieging formation was still incomplete, they would have to fight with all their might and might end up dead.

    Not daring to be negligent, they ran to the opposite direction and killed their way out, and escaped to the wilderness.

    Sound of clashing weapons was ringing continuously, followed by the clamor of people pursuing vigorously. But the noise gradually went far away.

  4. #84
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    Default Book 7 - Chapter 13

    Book 7 Chapter 13 Troops Movement Into Danger

    That night, Tieqi Hui and the Chu Army, who was responsible for city defense, conducted a house-to-house search operation. Xing Fa Long, where Kou, Xu, and the others stayed was no exception.

    Fortunately, everybody had formal entry-exit document, plus Niu Fangcai has secretly sent out bribes, hence they were able to get through this ordeal safe and sound.

    After the enemy left, Xiang Yushan made an executive decision, This time our plot fell through and stood exposed, Ren Shaoming is already alerted, we lost the opportunity. The most terrible thing is that he has seen through our intention to make our move at the Chun Zai Lou.

    Everybody understood that unless it was a public place like Chun Zai Lou, where they could have an accurate grasp of the time and place, basically they would have no way of proceeding with the assassination.

    Yun Yuzhen sighed and said, We will leave town first thing tomorrow morning. The longer we stay, the more danger we face.

    Chen Laomou, who was bandaging the skin and flesh wound on Kou Zhongs right arm, which he suffered during the escape, nodded and said, We would be very lucky if we could leave safely.

    Xu Ziling said indifferently, You all are leaving tomorrow, but Zhong Shao and I will definitely stay.

    Bu Tianzhi was stunned. That is not a sensible approach, he said.

    Giggling, Kou Zhong said, In short, one day we have not died, there is still chance of success.

    Xiang Yushan smiled wryly and said, In that case we all are staying. Besides, for the time being there wont be any problem with our identity.

    No! Xu Ziling resolutely said, You must leave tomorrow, while we will pretend we are staying to discuss some business. If you dont leave, in case we have to leave in a hurry there will be a lot of concerns.

    Yun Yuzhens countenance turned pale; she said in heavy voice, Is this risk worth taking? Whats the difference with delivering your lives?

    Kou Zhong said with a sneer, Beautiful Shifu, do you think we are idiots who would be willing to die for nothing? Please obediently return to Baling and wait for the news of our victory there!

    Biting her lower lip, Yun Yuzhen spoke with determination, You are not leaving, I will stay.

    A strange expression appeared on Bu Tianzhis face. After staring at his Gang Leader for a moment, he said, It would be best if two Gongzi tell us your plan. If Bangzhu thinks it is feasible, and she knows that our leaving will be advantageous to the gentlemens operation, she might be willing to depart one step ahead of you.

    This remark was reasonable and fair. Kou Zhong sighed and said, The reason is very simple: Ren Shaoming basically does not have any regards of us in his eyes.

    Xu Ziling added, Even if he really has any apprehension about us, he would never let others know, or perhaps let his subordinates know. Therefore, he might pretend that he did not care and would still go to Chun Zai Lou to look for Huo Qi.

    Of course! Kou Zhong said with a laugh, Even when he and Huo Qi are having sex, he would definitely have that pair of meteor hammers stuffed under the pillow. Ha! How can he sleep with that kind of pillow?

    Ignoring everybody elses reaction, Xu Ziling continued, Before the assassination operation, all Niu Shus [uncle] men over there must leave first, because we are going to use these identities to act.

    Frowning, Xiang Yushan said, But, under this kind of situation, Evil Monk and Amorous Nun will definitely be nearby to protect their master, even if you have a chance to act, you wont be able to harm even half a strand of Ren Shaomings hair.

    Niu Fangcai also nodded and said, Ren Shaomings men might even greatly enhance the security. Under these circumstances, I am afraid you wont even get a chance to get close to him.

    Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, If not for the danger, why would we insist on you leaving one step ahead of us?

    Xu Ziling added, Only when we have no fear of trouble in the rear will we have a chance to escape after the mission is accomplished.

    Echoing one another, Kou Zhong said, Dont forget that we are the world best when it comes to escaping. Otherwise we would not be sitting here urging you to cooperate with us.

    Bu Tianzhi agreed, We understand, he said. Turning to Xiang Yushan and Yun Yuzhen, he said, Wed better move upstream to wait for two Gongzi. As long as they manage to get back to the ship, we will be able to leave safely.

    Disgruntled, but had no other choice, Yun Yuzhen grumbled, You dont have any chance. And then she stormed back to her room.

    Losing Yun Yuzhens support, Xiang Yushan was forced to give in. After discussing the details of their plan, everybody returned to their room to rest.

    Kou Zhong followed Xu Ziling back to his room. Wrapping his arm around Xu Zilings shoulder, he said with a laugh, How did you do that with your palm? You scared the entire hall that they scrambled out in fear.

    Xu Ziling pondered over it for a while before responding, This is really strange. Just like when we were at the Training Beach that day, when we struck unintentionally; before, we never thought about that, after, we could not repeat it. It seems to me that we still have potential that we have not been able to bring out yet.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Your stance when you were facing Fengshi Han was also very brilliant. Humph! I want to see if that stinky Princess and that Ba guy still dare to look down on us, two brothers.

    Xu Ziling indignantly said, There will come a day I am going to knock that Fengshi Han down.

    Kou Zhong asked in surprise, You seldom care about victory and defeat, why is it that Fengshi Han is an exception?

    Xu Ziling sat down. He mused, Perhaps because I feel that he is playing with Yu Yis feeling?

    Kou Zhong sat down across from him. Leaning forward, he asked in a low voice, Is it really that it has nothing to do with Shan Wanjing?

    Of course not! Xu Ziling replied crossly, I have never really cared about her.

    Kou Zhong leaned back on his chair; slapping his own forehead, he said, If stinky Princess heard you, she will be inconsolably heart-broken. Toward you, she really cannot distinguish love from hate, otherwise, she would not have come between the two of you, forcing Ba fenghan to beat the gong to recall the troops.

    A bit agitated, Xu Ziling said, Its late! We really need some rest.

    Kou Zhong had no choice but to get up to leave. But as he reached for the door, he turned around and said, Xiao Ling! I really appreciate you. If you were unwilling to stay to help me deal with Ren Shaoming, I would have had to follow the troop home, and that would be the biggest regret that I will never be able to make up. Only then did he push the door and leave.

    Xu Ziling flicked his finger to put out the lantern before entering the darkness of his bedroom.

    The sound of hoof beats could still be heard from the street outside.

    This time tomorrow night, would they still be alive?

  5. #85
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    Default Book 8 - Chapter 1

    Book 8 Chapter 1 Meticulous Planning

    The next morning, the situation inside the city was still very tense. Tieqi Huis warriors and Lin Shihongs Chu Army could be seen galloping on horsebacks back and forth on the streets, patrolling and searching.


    Fortunately Niu Fangcai was in good relationship with the high-ranking military officer guarding the city gate; therefore, Yun Yuzhen, Xiang Yushan and the others were able to leave the city and went on board their ship without any surprise without any danger, so that Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling breathed a sigh of relief.


    After Niu Fangcai returned, he fetched a map of the City of Jiujiang, and coached the two boys in detail. He said, Jiujiang is located at the heart of the route connecting the north and the south. Those who want to travel from south to the north will most likely take the waterway first and then abandon their boat here to continue by land. There is a stone pier at the north side of the old city that has a reputation as southern boat northern horse; it is very prosperous.


    Kou Zhong said, This time Lin Shihong and Ren Shaoming are forming alliance in Jiujiang and announced it all over the world, their intention must be to display their strength to the heroes and warriors from both the north and the south. Ay! Vying over the world is really not a simple matter.


    Niu Fangcai went on, On the south Jiujiang is connected to Dongting [Lake], on the north it is connected to the Great River, network of waterways crisscrossing the city. The main part is the old city district. The city wall reaches fifteen zhang high, with four city gates and three sluice gates. My Xing Fa Long and the Chun Zai Lou are both located at the old city district, only one in the south the other in the north, at the ends of the North Gate Avenue and the South Gate Avenue, respectively. These two streets meet at the city center, where the city hall, Zhen Jiang Lou [lit. river town building] is located.


    Xu Ziling said, Fifteen zhang is such a high wall, we will need some kind of tool to climb over it.


    Or, find a way to slip out via the sluice gate, Kou Zhong said.


    Niu Fangcai said, The sluice gate is reinforced with double steel walls, extremely sturdy. Plus all three sluice gates are especially equipped with monitoring posts and are being patrolled regularly. Trying to destroy it in advance is also very difficult to do.


    Xu Ziling asked, Does Niu Shu [uncle] know the patrolling schedule and the times of the changing sentry guards?


    Niu Fangcai proudly replied, That is our main task, we have all the records. All together there are ten different schedules, which is changing once every five days, and then the schedule will cycle.


    Kou Zhongs eyes brightened as he said, As long as we conduct the assassination operation with an accurate grasp of the schedule of the patrols and the changing of the guards, we can get out from the sluice gate before the enemy finds out. But of course we need special tools.


    Niu Fangcai frowned and said, But that would alert the guards.


    Kou Zhong said, In that case we might as well get rid of them.


    Niu Fangcai smiled wryly and said, The guards post is on top of the city wall. If you can reach that place, you might as well climb over the wall to escape. But from the city wall, the closest house is at least twenty zhang away, if two Gongzi show yourself in that range, you will be immediately found out, and they are going to shoot arrows from the elevation; it is very difficult to deal with.


    That shouldnt be a problem, Xu Ziling said, We can stay underwater for a long time without needing to take a breath, we might as well take the water route, we break the sluice gate underwater and escape from there.


    Niu Fangcai agreed, If two gentlemen have this kind of diving ability, it is indeed a feasible strategy, because the enemy surely wont expect that you can hide underwater for a long time.


    But then he sighed and said, The biggest problem is still that it is impossible to get near Ren Shaomings place at Chun Yuan [spring garden] without being detected. This is, of course, assuming that Ren Shaoming will go there to visit Huo Qi tonight!


    Kou Zhong said in a heavy voice, In that case well ambush him on the way to Chun Zai Lou.


    Niu Fangcai shook his head and said, Because Ren Shaoming is ruthless and has killed a lot of people, he has a lot of enemies; therefore, he never takes the same route to a certain place. This method will be difficult to implement.


    Having a brainwave, Kou Zhong said, Arent there several banyan trees outside Chun Zai Lou? We can swing the tree up, borrowing the force to cross over the thirty some zhang distance and land on the back of the Xiang Yuan [fragrant garden] roof. Ay! But the escape will not be as easy.


    Xu Ziling said indifferently, Its always difficult to have ones cake and eat it too in this world!


    Kou Zhong took out the aerial drawing of the Chun Zai Lou and spread it out on the table. Pointing to the big tree at the southwest corner outside the Chun Yuan, he traced his finger to another big tree, which scale-wise was about five zhang away from the first tree to the north. He said excitedly, If we can tie a strong and elastic rope across the top of these two trees, we can escape by catapulting ourselves out. Oh, heavens! If we could lay out several elastic ropes on high places, wont we be able to come and go like flying? My only concern is that the enemy would notice it first.


    Niu Fangcai was emotionally moved; he said, That is a wonderful opening the heaven idea, but it is feasible. Ill find a way to make arrangement for the ropes. If we put iron hook on both ends, and paint it black, plus we put it high up in the air, hopefully nobody can see it. The only problem remaining is how to conceal all these preparations from the enemys eyes and ears. Furthermore, can the two Gongzi land your feet on these ropes without missing a hairbreadth?


    Kou Zhong said, Let the two of us worry about these two issues. Standing up abruptly, he laughed aloud and said, Well scout the site first. Unless Ren Shaoming does not go to Chun Zai Lou, he will lose his life tonight.


    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling sat on the table by the window on the second floor of a restaurant, both were looking out the window.


    The first thing that entered their vision was the wide street outside, wide enough for five four-horse carriages to come and go at the same time, and then they looked at the row of shops across the street from the main entrance of the restaurant, five of which were pharmacies. It can clearly be seen that since Jiujiang has always been prosperous, it was the common practice of the residents to frequently rely on medicaments. The other shops were grain retailer, oil mill, cloth shop, grocery store, et cetera.


    Every seven or eight zhang, there was a tree planted by the side of the road, to provide shade to the passerby.


    Toward the south, the high wall at the northeast corner of Chun Zai Lous rear courtyard was barely visible. Beyond the wall, behind the trees, patches of dark green roof tiles could be seen. It was a massive building, and was quite imposing.


    Inside the courtyard, fresh and green, verdant trees: elms, Chinese scholar trees, old banyan trees, had their luxuriant leaves rustling in the breeze. The trees did not seem to know that a life and death battle involving the fate of the world [tian xia] would happen that night.


    Taking a deep breath, Kou Zhong said in a low voice, We will install the first batch elastic ropes on the trees in this side of the road, and then when we get to the treetops at the other side of the road, well install the second batch of ropes with which we can shoot into the courtyard. This way with just a few ups and downs we could reach the Chun Yuan. We will get out following the same route.


    This moment the waiter came with some noodles. Kou Zhong quickly engaged him in some chitchats.


    After the waiter left, Xu Ziling started to eat his noodles and said, It would be best if we could be one step ahead of Ren Shaoming, lying in wait for him outside the Chun Yuan, so that we wont have to take the trouble of making our move inside the room. Also it would be a bit easier to escape.


    Kou Zhong nodded his agreement. Looking down, he concentrated on eating and drinking for a moment. But when he drank the soup, he suddenly said in heavy voice, If we fail to kill Ren Shaoming, we will die instead. We wont leave unless we succeed. Do you understand?


    Xu Ziling smiled, Fully understand, he replied, If we dont set up an impassable aspiration, we will never succeed.


    Kou Zhong sighed and said, This is actually my business, you should not get involved.


    With a forced smile Xu Ziling said, Why do you suddenly become sentimental? To achieve success, there is always a price to pay. With any challenge naturally comes pressure; have you thought about such contradiction?


    Kou Zhong slowly breathed out a long breath. Leaning forward a little, he said, What we are going to do might very well be our, two brothers, most important turning point in life. If we succeed, we will reverse the situation in the south immediately, while our names will shake the world at the same time. Ay! I know that you dont have the slightest bit of interest in this kind of thing. It is merely to help me that you are willing to risk your life. Tell me, dont you think I am able of having conflicting thought?


    Dejectedly he slumped back into his chair and said softly, All you need to do is just say the word, and we will drop the operation tonight.


    Xu Ziling said indifferently, All will go according to plan! By tomorrow morning, either Ren Shaoming will die a violent death around the Chun Yuan, or Shuanglong Bang will be finished. The only other possibility is if Ren Shaoming never show up.


    Leaving the restaurant, the two boys walked in the direction of Chun Zai Lou, oblivious of anything unusual.


    Kou Zhong was back into his usual relaxed self; he whispered in Xu Zilings ear with a laugh, I was right, wasnt I? That evil princess is very interested in you!


    Xu Ziling casually shrugged his shoulders and said, Have you forgotten that she and Fengshi Han were having private meeting in here? She is interested in me all right, but her interest is in taking my life, hence I dont think it is worth mentioning.


    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, A womans heart is the most difficult thing to fathom. Maybe the reason she is good with that Ba kid is merely because she wanted to forget you. But when she saw you, anything wet and cold will be cast out to the back of her mind. [Translators note: play on words shi shi han han (wet and cold), the character shi and han are the same as in fengshi han (rheumatism).]


    Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, You actually understand narcissistic people. Uh, looks like someone is following us?


    Kou Zhong also sensed it; lowering his voice, he said, Do you also feel that it was that guy wearing dark green clothes? He has been trailing us as soon as we left the restaurants door. Hey! Turn left!


    The two boys turned left into a side street. It was a secondary street only for pedestrians, with tall walls and deep courtyards, a serene and quiet alley, vastly different from the noisy and lively street outside; a very peaceful environment.


    He did not follow us! Kou Zhong said.


    Xu Ziling signaled him with his eyes, the two of them soared up to the left and right, separately jumping over the walls, entering the residents courtyard on either side of the alley.


    Not a moment later the man wearing dark green clothes also flitted over. By the time he heard the rustling gust of wind behind him, his retreat path has already been sealed dead by Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling.


    Standing behind him, Kou Zhong said with a laugh, This Xiongtai


    The man suddenly turn around and hissed, Finally I found you, two kids who dont know how to spell dead.


    Turned it was a woman dressed as a man, the big beauty of the Song family, Song Yuzhi.


    The three of them stepped out of the alley and walked over to an arch bridge constructed over the river. The stream winding its way toward Chun Zai Lous side of the city.


    Strewn randomly along the river bank were row upon row of houses at different elevations, with the stone steps in front of the houses leading into the river. The scenery was extremely unique.


    However, Song Yuzhis face, which had two strips of moustache on it to enhance her masculine air, was as cold as frost. She halted her steps on the bridge and spoke in a heavy voice, Why are you still here and have not slipped out? For no reasons you created havoc that now the entire city know that you have come here to assassinate Ren Shaoming, and in the process you destroyed our carefully drawn up plan.


    Kou Zhong smiled and said, I wonder if our agreement is still in effect? Have Miss Song discussed this matter with your esteemed father?


    Song Yuzhi turned her tender body around; seething with anger, she scolded in low voice, Whats the use of discussion? Under present circumstances, nobody will have any chance.


    Xu Ziling walked over to the edge, leaning against the bridges railing, he looked down on the water below, while silently listening to the two peoples exchange behind him.


    Calm and unfazed, Kou Zhong said, As long as the agreement is still in effect, that is enough for me. Miss, please immediately leave the city, I guarantee that by tomorrow you will hear good news.


    You must be mad, Song Yuzhi was not happy, If you want to kill yourself, why dont you just jump into the river?


    Giggling, Kou Zhong leaned closer to her pretty face; shoving the unbearably vulgar fake face with drools at the corner of his mouth to her, he said, How about making an additional bet? If, under this very difficult situation, I can still succeed, Miss will give yourself in marriage to me, Kou Zhong, okay?


    Song Yuzhi stared hatefully at him for a moment before angrily said, You fake belly touches me!


    Kou Zhong deliberately used his fake belly to squeeze her a bit before backing off and said with mischievous smile, Miss has not replied to my question concerning the rest of your life!


    Exasperated, Song Yuzhi said, Why are you so hopelessly muddled like this? Didnt I tell you that Die has already promised my hands in marriage to another? Besides, I see that you are always upset and angry, nobody will fall for you; just go home and look at yourself in the mirror.


    Turning around, she looked at Xu Zilings back and said, Xu Ziling! Do you have to accompany him in losing his mind?


    Xu Ziling spoke emotionlessly, Tonight will be the anniversary of Ren Shaomings death. Miss Song, please leave the city immediately.


    While Song Yuzhi was stunned by Xu Zilings answer, Kou Zhong, assuming a distressed face, said, Turns out Miss Song has had a change of heart, you are now falling for Xiao Ling. I, Kou Zhong, have no choice but to declare my withdrawal from this competition; I only want to kill Ren Shaoming and ow!


    Slap!


    With a crisp slapping noise, five traces of Song Yuzhis slender fingers immediately appeared on Kou Zhongs face, even the grease and powder were scraped off of his face quite a bit.


    Song Yuzhi herself was shocked, Why didnt you dodge? she asked.


    Stroking his stung face, Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, I wanted to see if I can sober you up, so that later on I wont have to cause trouble or illness to you.


    Song Yuzhi wanted to say something, but in the end she held her peace, and turned her beautiful face to look at Xu Ziling.


    Xu Ziling stood motionless, with his gaze fixed on a fisherman who had just appeared from the bend of the river; he seemed to be deep in thought.


    Kou Zhong saw several people were walking toward the bridge where they were standing. Pulling Song Yuzhis sleeve, he said, Go home, lets talk about this later!


    Xu Ziling suddenly trembled slightly. My Niang! he exclaimed, Zhong Shao! Fishing line!


    Forgetting Song Yuzhi, Kou Zhong walked over to Xu Zilings side and said in great delight, We are really stupid! What can be more elastic and invisible than fishing line in the world? That time Shen Poniang [reminder: b1tch] used super long fishing line to trap us, and in broad daylight!


    That moment those people were walking passed them, the three people remained silent.


    When those people were out of earshot, Song Yuzhi asked in bewilderment, What are you guys talking about? Have you really turned crazy?


    By this time, how could Kou Zhong be in the mood to bicker with her? If they were using fishing line, plus it was installed ten zhang above the ground, ordinary martial art masters would find it difficult to see, especially if they were not intentionally looking for it. Since now they had to move as soon as possible, Kou Zhong simply laughed and said, Miss Song, please move your jade self out of town. There is a good chance that tomorrow you will receive report of success!


    At the end of her patience, Song Yuzhi snapped, No! I want the two of you to follow me leaving the city.


    Kou Zhong was stunned. Turns out Miss Song is so concerned about us, he said.


    Song Yuzhi suddenly recovered her cold, detached demeanor. Of course I am! she replied in soft voice, If the Duke Yang Treasure fell into Ren Shaoming and Lin Shihongs hands, the whole world will suffer a calamity.


    Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, Turns out you are that good to me. Never mind! Let us now go our separate ways, but dont forget the agreement; otherwise your Song Family and I will have nothing to do with each other anymore.


    Song Yuzhis voice was as cold as ice as she stared at him and said, Do you really want to deliver your life?


    Bright and shiny light flashed through Kou Zhongs eyes. Exactly, he said decisively.


    Then go ahead and die! Song Yuzhi spoke indifferently.


    Brushing her sleeve, she walked away. Just like that.
    Last edited by Ren Wo Xing; 12-06-15 at 10:55 PM.

  6. #86
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 8 - Chapter 2

    Book 8 Chapter 2 The Fish in the Net

    By dusk, darkness gradually descended upon the sky.

    From behind the high wall of Chun Zai Lou came the melodious sound of birdsong. After looking to the left and right and saw no one, Kou Zhong hurriedly responded with birdsong.

    Xu Ziling looked down over the wall, and then together they ran to an alley some distance away. Halting his steps, Xu Ziling reported, Everything is in order and ready. According to plan, I put five strings of heavenly silkworm fishing line on the designated treetops inside the courtyard. Hows the situation at your side?

    Naturally there is no problem, Kou Zhong replied proudly, We are going back to the restaurant this morning, eat a little something, and then well proceed according to plan.

    In the noisy restaurant, most customers were Jianghu people, the topic of the conversation did not depart from Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings feud with Dongming Princess at the Chun Zai Lou the previous night.

    Kou Zhong perked up his ears to eavesdrop for a moment; radiant with delight, he said, Turns out our reputation in Jianghu is so resounding!

    Xu Ziling replied in very low voice, Well talk about it after tonight!

    Kou Zhong nodded. This is my weakness, he admitted, I am very easy to be so pleased that I lose my sense of measure. Right! I wonder where Fengshi Han and the stinky princess are hiding? If they are hiding in a small room together, the stinky princess chastity cannot be guaranteed.

    Xu Ziling nonchalantly said, You still have time to think about such thing? I am more worried about Song Yuzhi not having the opportunity to leave town!

    Kou Zhong was speechless for half a day. Finally he sighed and said, It seems like you really dont care about Shan Wanjing; otherwise, after hearing me saying that, how can your expression be as natural as before.

    Xu Ziling laughed and swore at him, Good kid! Unexpectedly you are harboring the intention to sound me out. Time is running out, lets go!

    The two boys paid their bill and went down the stairs. As they stepped out into the street, their countenance changed.

    Because they saw the big and round moon was just showing its immortal beauty at the eastern horizon, and for tens of thousands li above the sky was without a cloud. The moon bathed Jiujiang with its radiant light. It was a completely different night to the cloudy and dark night of the previous day.

    Damn it! Kou Zhong blurted out, In this kind of bright moon night, as soon as someone looks up to admire the full moon, we are finished!

    Too many ears, Xu Ziling hissed, Lets go someplace else and talk.

    A moment later the two boys jumped over the wall into the courtyard of a large residential building. They shed off their outer disguise clothes and scraped the powder and paste off of their faces to reveal their real identity. Inside, they were wearing black skintight night walker suit.

    Kou Zhong fetched his broadsword and whip, which he had hidden in this place earlier. After putting it on, he smiled wryly and said, This is called man proposes but God disposes. How would we know the moon would come out so quickly?

    No use complaining, Xu Ziling said, Well look at the situation first, if it is impossible, well have no choice but to slip away via the waterway.

    Jumping high and crouching low, the two boys returned to the roof of the restaurant they had just left, and cast their gaze toward Chun Zai Lou in the distance, to observe the situation carefully.

    Kou Zhong was greatly surprised, Thats strange! How come I dont see anything like both covert and undercover officers keeping watch? Could it be that Ren Shaoming is afraid of death and did not show up? Xiao Ling, whats your feeling?

    The rear courtyard of Chun Zai Lou was dedicated to serve VIPs only. All ten buildings in this courtyard were brightly lit, with a faint sound of strings and woodwind instruments coming through. Because it was still early, only maids and servants were occasionally seen moving about.

    Xu Ziling took a deep breath and replied, I have an uneasy feeling.

    Kou Zhong stared blankly for half a day; finally he said in low voice, Shall we beat the gong to recall the troops?

    Xu Ziling slowly shook his head. His tiger eyes shot a sharp gleam that Kou Zhong has never seen before. He said calmly, If we shrink back on approaching the battlefield without knowing what is true and what is false, this matter will stay as a scar in our heart and mind that will be difficult to mend! It will prevent us from ever reaching the pinnacle of the martial art realm, it will also represent our fear of death.

    Kou Zhong heaved a heavy sigh, breathing out the heroic pride that was surging wildly in his heart. Well said! he said huskily, Even if the enemy is spreading out the net waiting for us brothers to fall into it, we still want to penetrate deep into the tiger cave to stroke Ren Shaomings tiger whisker. This is called treading various deathly places to come back to life later.

    Looking at the brook flowing toward the Chun Zai Lou, Xu Ziling said, This river runs through Chun Zai Lous rear courtyard. Anybody with discerning eyes would know that this is a shortcut to sneak into Chun Zai Lou, hence we must not use water route to get in.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Question is: will Ren Shaoming come? If he is coming, the Chun Yuan and its surrounding area will be packed with martial art masters, so we cannot enter from the air either. It leaves us only the land route, and this way it will be very difficult to avoid falling into a heavy siege, which will force us to fight with all our might and will have death as the conclusion.

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Can you see the fishing line installed horizontally between those two trees?

    Kou Zhong turned his gaze twenty zhang away toward the empty space spanning the top of two old banyan trees outside Chun Zai Lous rear courtyard. Due to the trees reflecting the moonlight, even after sending enough qi to his eyes, he still found it difficult to see the fishing line that he had personally tied there. Thereupon he shook his head in satisfaction.

    Xu Ziling said, I have conducted an experiment: as long as you jump straight up and reach any spot approximately one zhang away from the line, you could barely see the line reflecting the light, and thus you can accurately grasp the lines position.

    Delighted, Kou Zhong said, If we were using pitch-black rope, under this kind of moonlight, it would be difficult to hide it from other peoples eyes.

    Calmly Xu Ziling said, We must change our plan; we must be sure that Ren Shaoming has arrived at the Chun Yuan before we break through Chun Yuan with ten-thousand jun [1 jun ~ 30 catties] lightning bolt force. If with one strike we fail to hit the target, we will have to leave immediately by means of the fishing lines installed in many places. This act will definitely be outside the enemys expectation, so that they cant even touch the corner of our garment.

    The two of them carefully studied the route and method to break through into the garden, before they finally hid themselves and took turns in surveying the Chun Yuans situation, while waiting quietly for the Green Dragon Ren Shaomings honored self to make his appearance.

    While watching the Chun Zai Lou from afar, which was gradually starting to get busier, Kou Zhong said softly, Ever since we started, we always wanted to go to Luoyang, but until today we havent been able to go. This time, after returning to Baling, we must immediately go north, I wonder if we can make a detour to Luoyang?

    Xu Ziling was lying down on the side of the roof opposite to Chun Zai Lou, where the moonlight could not reach, and was counting the stars in the sky. Hearing Kou Zhong, he sighed and said, Dont overestimate our luck too much; moreover, He Clans jade annulus involves martial art masters Buddhist nuns of the Ci Hang Jing Zhai [see Book 1 Chapter 7]. If you are not careful, you may have to bag your food before you finish eating. At that time please do not implicate me, your little brother.

    Kou Zhong said in distress, You guessed it again. Cant you pretend you are a bit dumber?

    And then he sighed and went on, Ill say Song Yuzhis impression on you is much better than her impression on me. Hey! Are you interested? She is in no way inferior to Shan Wanjing or Shen Luoyan.

    Xu Ziling irately replied, Dont you remember her Die already betrothed her to someone else?

    Kou Zhong sneered and said, Laozi dont believe it a bit, everything under the heavens can be changed, much less mere verbal engagement? Strange thing is, she must be over eighteen already, why hasnt she passed through the doorway [i.e. getting married]? There must be a problem somewhere.

    Xu Ziling said indifferently, You can do whatever you want to do, why make so many excuses?

    My Niang! Kou Zhong suddenly exclaimed softly, Ren Shaoming is here.

    Xu Ziling turned around and crawled to Kou Zhongs side. Looking over the top of the roof ridge, he fixed his gaze on the direction of Chun Zai Lous Chun Yuan. He saw a flurry of activity. Although he could not see clearly who was coming, yet he was able to tell that a VIP has arrived; otherwise, that person would not have such a large number of entourage.

    More than a dozen people filed into the Chun Yuan, leaving only four men, who looked like bodyguards, to stay outside the door.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other in dismay.

    Could it be that Ren Shaoming was not afraid of assassination at all?

    Is this a trap? Kou Zhong wondered aloud, But perhaps he really thinks we have slipped away.

    Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, Now we can only ask Laotianyes blessing and protection. Lets move!

    The two flipped over the rooftop and fast as demon and ghost they flew over another building, and then hiding along the trees lining up the riverbank they headed toward the external wall of Chun Zai Lou. Since they could not use the waterway, they jumped over the high wall, and landed at a flowerbed in Chun Zai Lous backyard. Without the slightest pause they flew toward a lush tree nearby, to hide and look down to survey the surroundings.

    From all ten buildings in the complex came the sound of laughter mixed with the sound of music. The complex across the courtyard from the Chun Yuan was even more bustling with noise.

    Other than the four bodyguards at the door, they did not see any other guards around the Chun Yuan.

    Xu Ziling pointed to the fishing line again and said, Well split to see if Ren Shaoming has his men hidden somewhere around here, and then well meet again on that big tree behind the Chun Yuan. Well decide how to proceed then.

    Kou Zhong nodded his agreement. The two immediately split up.

    A moment later, one after another they were back on the big elm tree behind the Chun Yuan, which was about a zhang or so taller than the other courtyard.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, It doesnt make any sense. Even if Ren Shaoming is not worried, his men would not be so negligent like this.

    Kou Zhong looked down at the Chun Yuan roof below him, he said with a wry smile, I also feel that something is definitely not right. But it is also possible that Ren Shaoming is not afraid of us or any other people. If we withdrew just like this, there is a chance that we missed an extremely rare good opportunity. I really want to take a peek inside, but perhaps we wont escape Ren Shaomings eyes and ears.

    Xu Ziling said heavily, Well separately crash into Chun Yuan from left and right. When we see a big man with pock-marked face and a tattoo of green dragon on his forehead, strike immediately. If it is a trap, break out of siege from the front door, remember that the seventh life-saving fishing line is between the two big trees fifteen zhang from the front door.

    Once they made up their mind, they swept down noiselessly and landed on the roof below. And then separated to the left and right they flipped over the eaves and charged inside.

    Bang! Bang!

    The wooden window shattered, the two boys broke into the main hall of the Chun Yuan. Quickly their eyes scanned the room and immediately they knew that they had fallen into a trap.

    Sitting around the two sets of table across the hall from the main gate were more than a dozen men. Not only they did not see anybody that looked like the Green Dragon Ren Shaoming, they did not see even half a person of the pleasure houses misses and maids. There were no food and drink on the table, on the contrary, there were all kinds of weapons in tight formation.

    As soon as the two boys feet landed on the ground and they sprang back up, the enemy was swarming toward them.

    The two boys met in the middle of the hall. While they were about to charge toward the main gate before the enemy arrived, they heard the sound of wind as a clump of rosy clouds suddenly descended from the beam toward the top of their heads, so that even if they wanted to jump up, they simply could not.

    At the same time countless torches lit up the area surrounding the Chun Yuan, so that outside was as bright as day; however, they did not hear a single shout.

    In just a short moment, the two boys have turned from gods appear and devils vanish assassins into the fish in the net, as they discovered that they had been heavily surrounded.

    A sharp, intense, ominous and cold qi was pressing down above their heads. With a loud shout Kou Zhong thrust his broadsword up. Meanwhile Xu Ziling raised both palms up; his right palm looked like it was lifting up a thousand-jin rock, but his left palm was light and floating indeterminately, giving a weird feeling to those who watched him.

    A bald, beautiful head suddenly appeared from the rosy clouds, it was precisely the Amorous Nun Chang Zhen.

    Her big eyes that could hook souls and melt spirits were black and bright, her delicate face was radiant with healthy glow, the corners of her thin, beautiful eyebrows arched upward, her cheek bones high, her nose straight, her pink lips matched perfectly with her straight, snow white teeth, so that her alluring aura was shining down on the two boys like the sun.

    Bang!

    The jade face faded, the rosy clouds swiftly pressed down.

    Kou Zhong felt his long saber was hitting a soft, pliable material that he was unable to continue pushing the saber farther. In his shock he withdrew his saber and retreated toward the main gate.

    The force from Xu Zilings heavy, overbearing right palm was also neutralized by the brightly setting-sun-red-clouds colored long robe, while surprisingly enough the yin-force of his left palm was met head-on by the opponent. A strange, demonic true qi, which was so gentle and reserved as if it did not exist, but so powerful as if it was capable of seizing his soul, penetrated his palm. In his shock Xu Ziling rolled away on the ground, so that borrowing the rolling momentum he was able to dispel the opponents qi.

    Amorous Nun Chang Zhen did not get it easy either.

    Basically she was looking down upon these two boys; she was thinking of subduing them with just one strike. Who would have thought that the two boys true qi were vastly different from each other? One cold the other hot; it was extremely strenuous for her to dissolve them.

    Although her schools unique skill Melting-Soul Colored Clothes [the dictionary gave me this definition: Ravishing Technicolor Dream Coat] was not only able to execute countless changes but was also very good at dissolving internal energy experts true qi, she was still struggling not to sustain injuries on the spot.

    But when she clashed with Xu Zilings left palm, which carried similar gentle and reserved character as hers, she was helpless to dissolve it, so that she had no choice but to meet it head-on.

    Letting out a tender grunt, Chang Zhens entire body bounced back upwards.

    By this time Kou Zhong had already rushed toward the closed main gate. Lifting up his foot, he kicked hard.

    Bang!

    By the time the wooden door succumbed to his leg and broke, four spears swiftly stabbed him. Blurs of shadows outside filled his eyes. Moreover, because of the torches, it was difficult to tell how many people were out there.

    Suddenly there was a warning sign in his heart, something was attacking him from behind.

    It was the barely audible sound of secret projectile splitting the air.

    In that instant, Kou Zhong had to make a decision; he could only deal with either the attack from behind the door he was about to break through, or with the secret projectile threatening his back. If he evaded the projectiles, these four spears would arrive, and most probably he would lose the only chance of escaping by means of the seventh fishing line.

    This moment, not only he had forgotten about his desire to contend for the world, he even forgot his own survival. His only thought was that even if he was struck by the secret projectile and died, before his death he could still cut a bloody path out of a battlefield, so that his good brother would have a path to escape alive.

    Letting out a wild roar, Kou Zhong brandished the long saber in his hand to create hundreds and thousands of sharp rays, the saber and the person had fused into one entity, with a sudden increase in speed he shot like an arrow toward the four spear-wielders, who by this time were almost climbing over the steps leading into the hall.

    Meanwhile Xu Ziling rolled behind Kou Zhongs back. From his angle of view, he saw the Amorous Nun Chang Zhen, while bouncing back into the air, while she was still high in the air, was shooting a handful of fine needles the size of cows hair, which, like a swarm of angry bees, were flying toward the back of Kou Zhongs head.

    By this time, the thirteen men who were originally sitting around the table, were also charging toward them and were already less than a zhang away from where he and Kou Zhong were. If he delayed even for an instant, the two of them would immediately be engaged in a hard battle.

    Their situation was deteriorating rapidly, and it was about to get worse.

    From the windows to their left and right more people were charging in; if they stayed in the hall, they would definitely die without any chance of survival.

    This was definitely a carefully laid out trap. The enemy seemed to know their plan like the back of their hands. First they were posing as all kinds of brothel visitors, and went to the other courtyard next to the Chun Yuan. Therefore, although the two boys did not see any ambush around Chun Yuan, there were actually hidden troops everywhere, which, in the end, gave rise to the current situation, where the boys were heavily surrounded.

    Xu Ziling sprang up, his palms made a circle in the air as if he was holding a ball, like magic the fine cows hair needles Chang Zhen shot were caught inside the qi generated by his palms, and then making another circle the needles were whirled out violently.

    The cows hair needles became a rain of sparkling dots, completely shrouding the twelve men charging at the two boys.

    Amidst the miserable scream, the men scrambled away in panic. In the flurry five men were hit by the needles.

    Xu Ziling himself did not know since when he became this formidable, and this moment he had no time to think. He swiftly backed off until his back was nearly touching Kou Zhongs back, who by this time was starting to fight his way out the door. Lightning fast Xu Zilings left and right hands reached out to snatch a saber and a sword, which were threatening Kou Zhongs back. Exerting his internal strength, he sent the two attackers flying backwards while spurting blood from their mouths. And then with a backhand swing, he sent the saber and swords in his hands out, each weapon lodged itself into the incoming enemys chest.

    Finally the two boys reached the yard in front of Chun Yuans main gate. The distance to the seventh fishing line was only about thirteen zhang away.

    But it felt like a journey through ten thousand crags and torrents.

    From the main gate the enemy flocked out, blocking the two boys retreat path.

    Under the dancing flame of the countless torches, they saw all around them were hundreds of enemies. They were trapped inside layer upon layer of heavy siege. Even to make one step progress they had to exert moving mountain and draining sea kind of effort.

    With every single chop of his saber Kou Zhong exerted enough power that as his saber was drawing a sharp rainbow, either the enemy blocking his saber was thrown back, or the enemy was shaken and was forced to retreat.

    Suddenly a spear and a saber attacked together from left and right, both were full of power; obviously these two attackers were outstanding martial art experts among the enemys ranks.

    Not only Kou Zhong already forgot about life and death, his mind was as calm as the moon in the water, which could reflect clearly every trace of change in this battlefield.

    He quickly figured out that it was impossible for him to block these two different weapons coming from two different angles of attack before the weapons made contact with his body.

    In normal times, he would be able to deal with the attacks by changing his position. But under the circumstances, even moving one step would entail withstanding very heavy pressure from the siege, plus if he evaded, Xu Ziling behind him was bound to suffer a calamity.

    With an angry snort his long saber slashed diagonally down, faster than lightning, to pare the enemys saber. His right shoulder also exerted powerful force, it shrank and immediately pushed out. Qiang! the saber-wielding enemy splashed blood and tumbled backward. At the same time blood also spattered from Kou Zhongs right shoulder.

    The enemys spear slipped off his shoulder, but when he wanted to follow-up with another thrust, Kou Zhongs shoulder continued on to crash against him that he was thrown back with blood spurting out of his mouth.

    The enemys ranks were immediately thrown into confusion. Wasting no time at all, Kou Zhongs saber and body moved as one, he swiftly charged forward.

    Xu Ziling took all attacks behind Kou Zhong, so that Kou Zhong did not need to worry about any trouble in the rear.

    The most formidable benefit was that whenever they were shaken by enemy that their qi and blood were churning, or perhaps they were out of strength at the end of a move, as long as Xu Ziling bumped his back against Kou Zhongs, the two boys qi would complement each other, so that they were able to maintain their power throughout the battle.

    Xu Ziling concentrated his true qi on his four limbs. With each clash of his limbs with the enemys weapon, he transmitted his power via the weapon, shaking the enemy that they were thrown back with depleted strength and fell to the ground.

    This moment two spears attacked together from left and right, carrying with it a tornado-like wind, so that their breathing was somewhat restricted. Apparently the attackers were not ordinary warriors.

    Xu Ziling stayed calm without the slightest sign of fear. Ignoring the many wounds on his body, his left hand swept backward, his right hand slapped straight on, meeting the opponents tidal-wave like surging spear rays; his technique was exquisite beyond imagination.

    Pow!

    His right hand met the tip of the spear. The spear wielder staggered to the left and bumped into another spear wielder.

    Xu Ziling had already snatched the mans spear and thrust it to the mans lower abdomen.

    By the time the two men screamed miserably and fell to the ground, with the spear in his hand Xu Ziling walked backward behind Kou Zhong, creating millions of spear shadows, forcing the enemies to stagger, exposing a large area of empty space.

    The seventh fishing line was still ten zhang away.

    Dang!

    A crisp sound shook everybody present. At the same time, Xu Ziling felt Kou Zhong was slamming onto his back, and his internal energy penetrating Xu Zilings body.

    Like a tidal wave the enemies surrounding them retreated. On behalf of Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling used his internal energy to neutralize the enemys qi entering their bodies. And then turning around, he used the spear in his hand to attack the enemy who forced Kou Zhong back.

    Dang!

    The enemy used his staff to sweep at the spear, parrying Xu Zilings attack. The staffs momentum continued exerting heavy pressure on Xu Ziling, forcing both sides to take half a step back.

    Both men were shocked. Surprisingly, the terrifying enemy did not seize this opportunity to press on; he withdrew three steps back instead, and then stood up holding his staff horizontally across his chest. Turned out it was a tall, ferocious bald monk wearing red Buddhist robe, with steel hoop around his forehead.

    The Evil Monk Fa Nan.

    With him guarding the escape route, there was no way Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling would be able to reach the seventh fishing line.

    Meanwhile more than a dozen layers of enemies already surrounded them. They had become the bird in a cage, the fish in the net, completely without any way out.

    A cold snort followed by tender laughter came from behind.

    And extremely seductive females voice said, Fa Nan Bro [orig. ge er brothers/boys, very informal]! You are glaring like a tiger watching his prey as if you want to swallow these two boys whole, how can they turn their heads around to admire nujia?

    Fa Nans huge eyes twinkled with laughter. He raised his heavy iron staff and put it on his shoulder. From one side he walked around to the other side, keeping his eyes on Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, sizing them up.

    The two boys also slowly turned around, following Fa Nan with their eyes, there was no time to admire the Amorous Nun, until finally they came face to face with the one whose prestige shook the southern part of the country, whose reputation was second only to the Heavenly Saber Song Que, who was equally famous with Lin Shihong, the Green Dragon Ren Shaoming, the target of their assassination mission.

  7. #87
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 8 - Chapter 3

    Book 8 Chapter 3 Turning Defeat Into Victory

    It did not matter how many people were standing by Ren Shaomings side, he would be easily recognized at a glance.

    This was not only because of the baring-its-fangs-and-brandishing-its-claws green dragon about half a hand palm size tattoo on his forehead, but because of his very particular shape and sharp and harsh expression.

    Ren Shaomings skin was shiny like burnished bronze, his entire body looked as if it was made of cast metal. His height exceeded Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong. Wearing black tight warrior outfit with white cloak, the contrast was quite intense, giving out the impression that he was extraordinarily powerful.

    His wide face was covered with pockmarks, his eye sockets were deep, his eyebrows were prominent on the ridge of his skull above his eyes, dark and thick like two strokes of dense ink. His long and narrow eyes were flashing with sharp cruelty that incited fear and hatred in the hearts of other people as he coldly stared at Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong.

    His bigger-than-average hands were hanging loosely on either side, each hand was carrying a meteor hammer forged of hardened steel, about as big as a human skull.

    Standing on his left was the Amorous Nun Chang Zhen, whose gaudiness radiated all around; on his right was a tall and slim scholar; with his tapered face and the moustache above his lips, he looked a bit like a goat. But his eyes were bright and cool.

    By the time the Evil Monk came to Chang Zhens side, the tall and slim scholar spoke up with a laugh, Zaixia Cui Jixiu. Its nice to see Xu Xiong, Kou Xiong.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong exchanged glances, both felt fear in their hearts.

    This Cui Jixiu was the number one strategic adviser under Lin Shihongs command, he was bestowed the title Guoshi [teacher/master of the state] by Lin Shihong, the new Emperor of Chu. He was widely known as a top strategist of the present age. It was very likely that the trap tonight was planned by his brilliant mind.

    Sure enough, Cui Jixiu laughed and said, It is said that new-born calf has no fear of the tiger; therefore, while everybody else thought that two gentlemen had sounded out the difficulties and retreated to avoid defeat, Zaixia was quite sure that the two gentlemen would move the troops into danger. By lucky coincidence Zaixias guess is correct.

    The Amorous Nun Chang Zhen let out a silvery bell tender laughter, her beautiful eyes were rippling with bright light as she swept her gaze over the two boys several times before saying, Two brothers skill is out of the ordinary; if you are willing to switch your allegiance to Huizhu [society master/leader, similar to Bangzhu for gang leader], Huizhu cant possibly treat two gentlemen with meager hospitality.

    Ren Shaoming let out a cold snort before speaking unhurriedly, If you want to switch your allegiance, you must do so in good faith. You dont need me to teach you how to do it!

    Kou Zhong said, Is it possible for us, two brothers, to discuss it first?

    Ren Shaoming nodded, As you wish! he said.

    Wrapping his arm around Xu Zilings shoulder, Kou Zhong put his lips next to Xu Zilings ear and said softly, If we dont surrender this time, well lose our lives for sure.

    While his mouth said so, his hand lightly squeezed Xu Zilings shoulder, indicating that he was lying.

    Noticing Ren Shaoming was watching them with rapt attention, Xu Ziling caught on. At the same time, he felt Kou Zhong was writing fight and fishing line, three characters on his shoulder. He whispered hurriedly, Unless he can personally defeat us, how can we surrender without any fight?

    Kou Zhong nodded. Stepping away from Xu Ziling, he laughed aloud and said, If Huizhu wants us to surrender to you, you must defeat us first, and then we, two brothers, will immediately present the Duke Yang Treasure as our meeting gift.

    Unexpectedly the several hundred people in there grew quiet, only the crackling noise of the torches was heard.

    A faint smile of disdain appeared on the corners to Ren Shaomings mouth. He looked like he was about to respond when Cui Jixiu spoke up, What if Huizhu defeats you separately? Will that count?

    Kou Zhong really wished he could punch this mans face a couple times. Pretending to be proud but astounded he said, We, the two kids, are only lowly juniors of younger generation, plus right now we are already injured and are weary. If we are fighting one-on-one against Huizhu, wont we show too much disrespect to him, the Senior?

    The Evil Monk Fa Nan raised the gigantic a zhang and a half long staff in his hand a little bit, and then he stomped heavily it against the floor. Not only it created a loud dull thud, it also seemed to make the earth shook. He laughed wildly and said, Just let Pinseng [impoverished monk, a humble term used by Buddhist monk of himself] serve two brothers then! Why must we inconvenience Huizhu?

    Xu Ziling said indifferently, If Dashi [great master, a term of respect to address a Buddhist monk] loses, will that be the same as if Huizhu himself loses?

    Fa Nan was taken aback. The ominous glint in his eyes reappeared.

    Ren Shaoming let out a cold snort again and said, If I dont fight personally, it will be difficult to make the two of you submit wholeheartedly. Come! Finished speaking he took a large stride forward.

    As soon as he took the first step, immediately suffocating killing aura filled the air. With his second step, a burst of unmatched powerful aura assaulted Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling. If they were ordinary fighters, they would have been shivering in fear early on, abandoning everything and run for their lives.

    It was only this moment that Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had firsthand experience of the prowess of this overlord of the black way [i.e. criminal world] whose name has been shaking the southern sky.

    Involuntarily the Tieqi Hui men who were surrounding Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling took a few steps back, opening up an even larger ring for this decisive battle.

    Kou and Xu, two boys fully realized that this mans character was fierce and fiery, hence by the time he took the third step, he would immediately launch a violent offensive. Therefore, pretending that they were intimidated by his powerful aura, they retreated backward. One saber and one spear flashed as they struck a pose, ready to fight.

    Naturally the people behind them did not know that the two boys were only about seven zhang away from the fishing line traversing the air above them; afraid that they would bring disaster to the fish in the pond [must be an idiom, but I think the meaning is clear], they backed off even more, opening up three more zhang of space behind the two boys.

    Just by moving four more zhang, they would be right below the fishing line.

    Right now the two boys were only thinking of slipping away unharmed.

    As time passed, Ren Shaomings imposing manner suddenly soared. With a flick of his wrists, two meteor hammers suddenly turned into millions flickering red dots as they reflected the torches flames, just like swarming bees and dancing butterflies, stunning everyone present.

    It was only after looking at Ren Shaomings skill did Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling finally understand why Song Yuzhi said that they did not know the immensity of heaven and earth. They had never imagined that someone would be able to handle the heavy meteor hammers and made them dance in perfection.

    The astonishing pressure did not come only from the direction of Ren Shaoming in front of them, rather, it appeared to come from four sides, eight directions.

    The more shocking thing was that Ren Shaoming was able to utilize the reflection of the flame so that he appeared to be vanishing, hiding somewhere in the flickering lights.

    The two boys were unable to either advance or retreat; forget about any essence of the Yijian Technique of transcending the chess game board. Furthermore, after the hard battle they had just gone through, they could not even use half of their normal strength.

    Suddenly a ball of flashing shadow, carrying with it a strong, severe gust of wind, smashed toward Kou Zhongs left shoulder.

    Kou Zhong realized the incoming attack just in time. With a loud shout he raised his saber to block.

    A loud dang! resounded. Kou Zhong staggered sideways toward Xu Ziling.

    The flashing shadow scattered, like a ghost Ren Shaoming suddenly appeared. Like flashing thunder the two meteor hammers in his left and right hands pursued Kou Zhong, who by this time was unable to retreat farther.

    A violent stream of qi exploded, forcing the several-zhang away spectators to back off even farther away. The miserable plight of Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling who bore the full brunt of this explosion need not be mentioned.

    Ren Shaoming did not spare any strength, relying on his powerful true qi, he relentlessly pressured the two boys that they were unable to move a single step; employing a blitzkrieg strategy, he wanted to finish these two boys in the shortest time possible, and thus showing off his prowess in front of his subordinates. To his shock however, even after fighting with everything they had, the two boys were still able to fight tenaciously.

    And now that he saw Kou Zhong was losing steam, how could he miss this opportunity? Immediately, with the power of a ten-thousand-jun thunder, he was ready to subdue the two boys in one fell swoop.

    At first glance, it appeared that his double-hammer chain attack was going to strike the two boys dead. But actually he had hidden softness in the middle of hard, so that he could seal the opponents acupoints.

    Kou Zhong slammed hard onto Xu Ziling. Contrary to everybodys expectation, Ren Shaomings included, the latters tiger body suddenly went stiff, so that Kou Zhongs body recoiled and shot toward Ren Shaomings double hammers.

    While Ren Shaoming was greatly stunned, Kou Zhong, taking advantage of Xu Zilings true qi replenishing his own, so that not only his qi and blood recovered and was able to flow unimpeded, also taking advantage of Ren Shaomings slight gap due to his shock, brandished his saber and hacked down on the gap, so fast that nobody was able to see clearly.

    Ren Shaoming quickly retreated half a step back. Letting out a muffled grunt, his left and right meteor hammers recoiled, and with unbelievable precision clamped down on the blade of Kou Zhongs saber. His reaction was shockingly fast that everybody gasped in amazement.

    Crack!

    The long saber snapped into two. Holding the broken saber in his hand, Kou Zhong fell back in shock.

    The meteor hammers turned into flashes of shadow filling the air, hiding the sky and covering the earth, they continued to enshroud him.

    While Kou Zhong was crying out for his Niang in his heart, Xu Zilings spear suddenly slipped through his flank and shot straight toward the center of the flashing shadows.

    The flashing shadows dispersed.

    Even with Ren Shaomings ability, he was still forced to take two steps back by this strange move, which broke his toppling-the-mountains-and-overturning-the-seas attack.

    Dang!

    The right hand meteor hammer clashed with the spearhead and was jolted sideways, while the spearhead was also jolted away by the impact.

    While Xu Zilings hands were going numb from the shock, Kou Zhong tossed his broken saber away, snatched the spear, and then with a loud shout he turned the spear into millions of light and shadow enveloping Ren Shaoming, using the sweeping a thousand-army stance.

    Even if this Society Leader of Tieqi Hui thought until he cracked his brains, he would never understand why after receiving such a heavy blow, contrary to his expectation, Kou Zhong was able to counterattack dauntlessly with such power that was even stronger than before.

    Inevitably Ren Shaomings imposing manner was somewhat impeded; without any other choice he was forced to spin around. Unexpectedly he entered into Kou Zhongs spear shadows, his meteor hammers moved fast toward Kou Zhongs spearhead.

    As a result Kou Zhong was unable to unleash the full potential of his spear technique. Holding the spear right in the middle, he used both the spearhead and the butt of the spear to parry the swift and fierce meteor hammers left and right.

    The two combatants moved very fast. A midst the raging meteor hammers shadow, the spear shadows, two human shadows were weaving in and out like rabbit escaping from the falcon. It could easily be seen that they were both fighting with everything they had in a life and death battle.

    Xu Ziling soared high toward the top of Ren Shaomings head. He could clearly see that Kou Zhong was already like an arrow at the end of its flight. Not daring to hesitate, he tossed away the thought of escaping from within his brain. With a cold shout both of his hands clawed down on the top of Ren Zhaomings skull.

    By this time the several hundred people watching felt as if they were suffocating, hence nobody even thought about shouting and cheering. The arena was so quiet that it felt unreal.

    Dang!

    The spear in Kou Zhongs hands snapped into two pieces, while blood spurted wildly from his mouth; fortunately just before the meteor hammers touched his body, he managed to slip away like a fish, so that Ren Shaoming, who was absolutely sure that his hammer would hit Kou Zhong, had to see the hammer hit empty air instead.

    Only then did Ren Shaoming lower his body in a horse stance, while raising his two hammers to meet Xu Zilings palms overhead.

    Bang! Bang!

    Xu Zilings entire body was jolted by the collision and he was thrown up toward the empty air bathed in bright moonlight.

    Kou Zhong was thrown away for more than three zhang, so that the spectators were forced to back off some more.

    Before his footstep was even steadied, he already leaped up to the sky with outstretched arms, while exerting his entire strength to catch Xu Zilings body, which was thrown into the air. Xiao Ling, run! he shouted.

    Ren Shaoming let out a long laugh. He also shot half way up before suddenly turned direction midair toward the two boys.

    Xu Ziling reached backhandedly to grab Kou Zhongs collar, pulling him along as they ascended two more zhang upwards before tossing Kou Zhong outward.

    Everybody thought that knowing their defeat was decided, the two boys wanted to escape. They all jeered and shouted insult to the two boys as well as cheering for their leader.

    The surrounding net expanded outwards, taking the shape of a kitten playing with a mouse. They wanted to see how Ren Shaoming was going to toy with the two boys.

    Ren Shaoming started later, but he arrived sooner. When he was about a zhang away from the boys, he casually put his pair of meteor hammers behind his back first before reaching out to grab the two boys back.

    The most unexpected thing happened.

    Suddenly, right in the middle of an empty air, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling separated, and paused for a split second.

    Ren Shaoming could not help but was greatly amazed, because he knew that it would be very difficult for him to stop midair and exert any strength, yet the opponents seemed to be able to hold their body still midair and borrow the reaction force to bounce back. While he was shocked out of his wits by this strange happening unfolding before his very eyes, like powerful arrows the two boys shot back toward him.

    Everybody on the ground was also shouting in shock, yet nobody was able to stop whatever it was from happening.

    At this point Ren Shaomings true qi had been depleted; he was no longer able to change his move to resist the enemy. On the other hand, the opponent was still able to go all-out; therefore, compared to before, the situation this time was vastly different.

    Bang! Bang!

    Ren Shaoming took Kou Zhongs punch and Xu Zilings palm strike, respectively. While he was going to borrow the reaction force to withdraw, suddenly his neck was wrapped by a flexible whip, which coiled forward from behind him, cutting off his escape route.

    And then there was a sharp pain at the top of his head, because Xu Zilings finger jabbed his tianling acupoint, a vital acupoint at the top of the head.

    Bang!

    Sucking in another mouthful of qi, Kou Zhong spun around; just before casting his whip away, he kicked the pit of Ren Shaomings stomach. Ren Shaomings breastbones shattered, blood spurted out wildly from his mouth.

    By the time Fa Nan, Chang Zhen, Cui Jixiu and the others recovered from their shock and rushed over, the two boys already borrowed the impact force against Ren Shaoming to soar upward again. Their toes bounced on the fishing line, like big birds they soared toward another fishing line about eight zhang away.

    Crash!

    Ren Shaomings lifeless body crashed heavily on the ground.

    By the time Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling crawled up the bank of the Great River, they had already left Jiujiang about ten li behind.

    This moment the sky has not brightened yet, but the two of them were extremely exhausted. They could only crouch on a mud mound on the shore, unable to move a single step.

    Gasping for breath, Kou Zhong groaned, Finally we got rid of that Ren guy. Ay! He was really formidable, I am afraid Fengshi Han would not be able to kill him; yet Ouch!

    With difficulty Xu Ziling raised his head to give him a glance before burying his face in the mud again. Straining hard, he said, You dont know how ridiculous your battered and exhausted look right now. Is it painful?

    Still gasping for breath, Kou Zhong said, As long as I am not laughing, it is still bearable. I just did not expect that under the circumstances, we were able to stab that dragon to death. Ha! Aiyo!

    After resting for half a day, Kou Zhong went on, Since we are heading to Luoyang anyway, we might as well slaughter Yuwen Huagu along the way to avenge Niang.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, You must never feel so pleased as to lose your sense of measure. This time we could kill Ren Shaoming, we relied on a little bit of good luck as well. It could be that because he had done so much injustice that he was finally strung through and filled with evil. Besides, although Yuwen Huagus fate is not so good that he suffered setback, he still has the Yuwen Clans support behind him. Plus Yuwen Shang is a grandmaster whose martial art cultivation enjoys equal fame with the Heavenly Saber Song Que. Zhong Shao, youd better concentrate on your effort to strive for the world!

    After a short silence Kou Zhong said in a heavy voice, But how could I see you braving the danger alone?

    Xu Ziling said, Lets wait until we find the Duke Yang Treasure before doing anything! Huh? A ship is coming our way!

    A medium sized sailboat appeared from the bend downstream, coming fast at their direction.

    Kou Zhong strained his neck to look, Did you see that? he said happily, The ship is flying the Song Clan banner; must be Song Yuzhi coming to find us.

    Xu Ziling responded heavily, Before recovering our strength, its not a good idea to meet with anyone.

    Kou Zhong nodded his agreement. Together with Xu Ziling he crawled into a pile of rocks, resolutely suppressing his inclination and waited quietly while the ship came and went.

    By daybreak, relying on their fantastic skill of complementary true qi, they managed to restore about eighty, ninety-percent of strength. After bathing in the river, although their clothes were still worn-out, it did not adversely affect their natural poise and shapely appearance.

    After picking up some wild fruits to allay their hunger, they unleashed their shenfa to rush toward the river bent where Xiang Yushan was waiting per their earlier agreement.

    As they run over the top of a hill, a beautiful scenery all around appeared before their eyes, so that they stopped to enjoy it.

    White clouds floating slowly in the sky, the rushing water of Yangtze River was seen down below to their left, the water looked so clear and sparkling, the unbroken chain of peaks on the opposite bank reflecting the sunlight, while to their right was a wide-open space. A small village adorned the scenery, with thousands of pathways crisscrossed the plain, lined by thick, bluish-green mountains. In this quiet world, the only sound was the surging water and roaring torrents of the River.

    A heroic feeling welled up in Kou Zhongs heart, like the incessantly surging water of the Great River. Suddenly he shouted at the top of his lungs, Kou Zhong is here!

    His voice echoed on both sides of the riverbank, it sounded like a low rumble of distant thunder.

    Xu Ziling also felt his chest broadened. Since the muddleheaded ruler was killed and they escaped from Jiangdu, this was the first time that he felt this kind of wide sea and open sky, which will enable me to soar high feeling.

    Kou Zhong slowly breathed out the heavy feeling pressing his breast, letting his blood boiled with heroic emotion and powerful passion. He said word-by-word, Starting from today, there will be no one under the heavens dare to despise us, two brothers. Whoever dares to do so will ultimately pay a painful price.

    Xu Zilings mood was also unusually good; he laughed and said, It is still too early to say. We were relying on our joint power plus meticulous planning in advance before we were able to get rid of Ren Shaoming. Next time someone is going to deal with us, they would definitely be wary of us [orig. he who comes is surely ill-intentioned, those well-meaning will not come (idiom)], so that it will be more difficult for us to deal with them.

    Kou Zhong stretched out and said, What I fear the most right now is that no one will come as a sacrificial offering for us to temper ourselves. Hey! What are you looking at?

    Xu Ziling turned his head to look at the direction of Jiujiang city. Didnt you see the rising dust? he asked, It could be the pursuing troops.

    Kou Zhong shrieked and took the lead to dash down the hill.

  8. #88
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 8 - Chapter 4

    Book 8 Chapter 4 Earthly Saber Song Zhi

    Kou Zhong looked at the sailboat coming fast at them from the upper reaches of the River. Stopping Xu Ziling, he said, Dont you think that boat look a lot like the ship that flew Song Clans banner last night? But now the flag has been taken down.

    Isnt it very easy if you really want to know? Xu Ziling replied indifferently. Suddenly he leaped onto a big rock by the beach. Applying his qi, he called out, May I ask if Miss Song is onboard? His voice was carried by the wind toward the approaching sailboat.

    Kou Zhong was stunned. He looked up at Xu Ziling, who was perched high on the rock, in disbelief. Completely at a loss, he asked, Arent you in strong opposition of me getting close to Song Yuzhi? Why today you are completely changed from your normal self? This kind of proactive action is really shocking.

    Xu Ziling let out a sincere and touching smile; he slyly said, Basically you already knew that it was the same boat as last night, yet you put an act by asking me. No matter what I say, you will always find a way to make me do what you want me to do. So I might as well help you accomplish your aim. Arent I a good enough brother for you?

    Kou Zhong roared in laughter, You are funny enough for sure, you got me there. Ha! Youll make me die of laughing!

    One after another the two boys leaped onto the deck. Song Yuzhi looked at them coldly, without showing any emotion she said, Turn around, return to port!

    Song Shuang, who was standing behind her, quickly transmitted the order. The sailors got busy immediately.

    Kou Zhong bowed to salute and said, Miss Song is going back and forth on the Great River, I wonder if it was for us, two brothers?

    Song Yuzhi stared at him coldly for quite a while. Suddenly she shook her head and sighed, How did you do it? she asked.

    Xu Ziling replied nonchalantly, Miss news is really fast and abundant.

    Upset, Song Yuzhi said, Only the deaf and the blind would not know about it. Ren Shaomings death has turned the entire Jiujiang region into chaos, nobody is able to put it under control. Tieqi Hui is expressing their rage toward the Wulin characters inside the city, a lot of people have died. I heard that Chu Army is also in conflict with Tieqi Hui.

    Listening to her, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other in dismay, thinking in their heart that they had implicated a lot of people.

    Noticing that her boat has successfully turned around and was now sailing against the stream, Song Yuzhi softened. How about two Gongzi giving me a face by coming inside for some refreshment, and food and drink?

    The two boys entered a small cabin at the end of a narrow gangway where a round table with more than a dozen chairs arranged around it. Immediately they were stunned.

    Seven or eight people were crammed along the wall opposite the cabin door. Only one of them sat, steady and stable; obviously he was the one with the highest status.

    The man looked to be around forty years of age, slim and tall, his skin was as white as snow, on his thin and narrow face was a pair of enigmatic, yet intelligent eyes. Along with a passionate and sensitive mouth with long, five-strand beard, and his scholarly attire, he was a picture of an elegant and handsome man, like Zhuge Wuhou[1] descended to the world of the immortals.

    Seeing the two boys entered, his entire body rose, and he said with a smile, Zaixia Song Zhi, welcoming two Gongzis honorable selves who grace us wih your presence. Please sit down!

    Unexpectedly he was the second-in-command of the Song Clan, the Earthly Saber Song Zhi!

    After regaining his composure, Kou Zhong saluted and said with a laugh, Turns out Song Er Ye [second master] has come.

    Song Zhi cheerfully said, Sit down first, well chat later.

    Only after Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were seated properly did Song Zhi also sat down. The other martial art masters of the Song Clan stood behind Song Zhis chair. Only Song Yuzhi and Song Shuang stood on the two boys side.

    Xu Ziling felt awkward, Why dont Miss Song and the others sit down? he asked.

    Calmly Song Zhi laughed and said, Just let Laofu [old man, referring to self] sit on their behalf! This time the two Gongzi were able to strike and kill Ren Shaoming under the heavy siege of Tieqi Huis as-numerous-as-the-cloud martial art masters, skillfully executed brilliant scheme, in battle of wits and battle of strength, inevitably the news about this battle exploded all over the world. However, with increasing fame comes increasing trouble. I was wondering what plan do the two Gongzi have for the future?

    Noticing that Song Zhi was well-aware of the situation as if he had personally witnessed it, the two boys heart shivered in fear, knowing that he must have an informant planted within the Tieqi Hui.

    Song Zhi went on, There is one thing that I am not sure two gentlemen are aware of. Ren Shaoming was actually Tieles Big Bandit Qu Aos son. This man is going on the rampage along western frontier, no one is able to put him under control. Speaking about prestige, he is second only to Wuzun [martial art venerable] Bi Xuan. But in terms of cruelty and killing skill, Bi Xuan lags far behind him.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were greatly astonished.

    Qu Aos name, they overheard it when they eavesdropped Song Yuzhi and Shen Luoyans dialog the other day. Song Yuzhi was emphasizing to Shen Luoyan that Qu Ao was colluding with Du Fuwei to deal with Li Mi. Unexpectedly he and Ren Shaoming had a father and son relationship.

    However, they were not afraid at all.

    Shrugging his shoulders, Kou Zhong said, A plan, we do not have any. But it is quite possible that Song Er Ye has never heard that we, two brothers, are planning to haul a batch of salt to the salt-deficient Guanzhong, hoping to earn his mothers large profit.

    Hearing Kou Zhong spoke vulgar words, although on the surface Song Yuzhi was frowning deeply, a feeling of intimacy and hard to describe thrill welled up in her fragrant heart.

    Song Zhi was silent for half a day. Suddenly he threw his head back and let out a long laughter. Looking out the window, he stared at the riverbank resplendent under the bright sunlight. He was quiet for quite a while with just a smile on his face. Finally his gaze returned to the two boys as he said with a hoarse laughter, Am I right in saying that two Gongzi do not consider me as a friend?

    Song Yuzhi, who was standing behind Kou Zhong, said in disdain, I already said that this man does not speak half a word of truth!

    Rather surprised, Song Zhi cast a glance toward his niece before turning to the two boys and spoke in earnestness, If that is indeed the two Gongzis only aspiration, you would not have killed Ren Shaoming, and would not have asked us to support Gui Xiliang to be the Bangzhu as the condition to our business deal. Is Laofu wrong?

    As if nothing had happened, Kou Zhong calmly said, How could Song Er Ye be wrong? But I was telling you the truth.

    Xu Ziling added, This time we are transporting salt to Guanzhong is indeed our, two brothers cherish desire to temper ourselves.

    A mysterious smile appeared on Song Zhis face. The Duke Yang Treasure is in Guanzhong, isnt it? he said lightly.

    The two boys heart shivered even more. This Song Zhis reputation as the Song Clans wisdom sack was indeed well deserved; unexpectedly he managed to deduce the fact with seventy, eighty-percent accuracy. Kou Zhong sighed and said, Song Er Ye is indeed formidable!

    Song Zhi said indifferently, Why not do a bit bigger business? Might as well do it.

    Kou Zhong was puzzled, How can we do a bit bigger business?

    Song Zhi smiled and said, No matter how much salt the two Gongzi want, we can supply it.

    After exchanging glances with Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong shook his head and said, One thing we, two brothers, are most afraid of is precisely falling into someone elses control.

    Its not that two gentlemen are afraid to fall into someone elses control, Song Zhi cut him off, Rather, you are unwilling to bow down to anybody. If I, Song Zhi, cannot see this point, I would not have spoken these words today.

    Song Yuzhi joined in, Er Shu [second uncle]! Yuzhi already said that they dont know the immensity of heaven and earth!

    Song Zhi laughed and said, Yuzhi should not say anything emotional; anybody who could kill Ren Shaoming is qualified to speak like Kou Xiaoxiong and Xu Xiaoxiong.

    After fixing his eyes on Kou Zhong for quite some time, he stroked his beard and said with a smile, Currently, with the death of Ren Shaoming, the situation in the south is reversed. Looking at all the warlords vying for supremacy, only Lin Shihong and Xiao Xian are more or less able to vie with our Song Family. If the two gentlemen have the aspiration to obtain the world, why not talk about the possibility of cooperation with each other?

    A fantastic feeling rose up in Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings heart, realizing that they were highly regarded after killing Ren Shaoming. Otherwise, how could they stand on equal footing with this second-in-command of the Song Clan? Let alone having high-level talk about cooperation with him.

    After short contemplation, Kou Zhong nodded and said, Only under one condition will we be able to really work together with a common purpose: your precious Clans Clan Master must be willing to betroth Miss Yuzhi to me, Kou Zhong.

    All the martial art masters of the Song Clan, who all long stayed silent, were stunned. Song Yuzhi even exclaimed, Ah! with her tender voice. Red clouds appeared on her jade cheeks, whether from happiness or anger, it was hard to distinguish.

    Only Song Zhi remained as calm and cool-headed as ever. After staring at Kou Zhong for quite a while, he laughed involuntarily and said, Kou Xiaoxiongs ambition is indeed not low, but you are simply counting your chicken before they are hatched.

    Xu Ziling remained unruffled. Nobody was able to see his innermost thoughts.

    Kou Zhong felt no qualms; maintaining a straight face he said craftily, The dowry is the Duke Yang Treasure.

    Song Yuzhi almost wanted to pinch Kou Zhong dead on the spot. No! she screamed, I am not going to marry him!

    Song Shuang, who doted on Song Yuzhi the most, could not refrain from saying, Yuzhi is already engaged!

    Song Zhi raised his hand to stop the two from speaking further. He looked at Kou Zhong, and then he looked at the ever-enigmatic Xu Ziling. Finally he nodded and said, Kou Xiaoxiong is definitely a worthy candidate to vie other the world. If our Song Clan missed this opportunity, my humble [elder] brother will definitely blame me.

    Severely shaken, Song Yuzhi exclaimed, Er Shu!

    Song Zhi smiled at her and said, The Duke Yang Treasure is still an exceedingly remote possibility. Besides, this matter will not happen unless we receive your fathers nods. Yuzhi, why panic?

    Kou Zhong was delighted, Miss Song, please set your mind at ease, he said, If when the day comes you say No, how could I, Kou Zhong, shamelessly force you?

    Everybody nodded their heads in approval; they all admired Kou Zhongs broad-mindedness and elegance.

    Only Song Yuzhi tightly pursed her lips, but she did not speak a single word of opposition either.

    Song Zhi laughed and said, This matter has thus been more or less decided. Would two Xiaoxiong require our assistance?

    Kou Zhong shook his head to decline. Lowering his voice, he said, Er Ye ought to give forming an alliance with Xiao Xian a careful thought. That Lin Shihong is being pressed by the enemy front and back; its hard for him to accomplish anything.

    None of the people from Song Clans side was not emotionally moved.

    Song Zhis eyes were gleaming with lightning flashes. It was quite a moment later that he said, All along we and Baling Bang are like river water that does not interfere with well water, yet there is no friendly relationship either, so

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Leave it to us, two brothers, to act as a go-between [orig. to thread a needle]. And now let us return to Baling. Whatever Xiao Dangjia thinks, we will let Er Ye know.

    Song Zhi chuckled and said, Talking with two Xiaoxiong, you act quick and you talk quick, it is indeed very stirring. Wed better have Yuzhi come with you to take a look what Xiao Dangjia has in mind.

    Er Shu! Song Yuzhi protested.

    Song Zhi smiled and said, This is an important matter, Yuzhi is the most suitable candidate, it will also show our Song Familys sincerity.

    Song Yuzhi gave Kou Zhong a hard stare for a moment before she finally sighed and said, Yuzhi accept the order!

    The three people disembarked the ship and hurried toward the appointed place where Xiang Yushans ship has dropped anchor.

    Song Yuzhi deliberately fell behind, she did not want to walk alongside the two boys.

    Half a sichen later, the two Jukun Bang ships appeared on the hillside below. Kou Zhong stopped abruptly, so that Song Yuzhi nearly bumped onto his broad back. However, Xu Ziling did not stop at all, he continued rushing down.

    Behind Kou Zhong, Song Yuzhi knitted her brows. Why are you stopping? she asked.

    Kou Zhong kept his gaze downward; he replied in heavy voice, Do you see that red and white flag hanging on the mast? That means there are enemies onboard, but the people on the ship are still all right.

    Song Yuzhi looked down below and saw the masts with the fluttering red and white flag towering over the wooded area by the riverbank. Her countenance changed, Then why did you let Xu Ziling brave the danger alone?

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, First of all, Xiao Ling is highly capable of dealing with any danger, alone. Secondly, people on our side still have the freedom to move freely, hence it can clearly be seen that the situation is not completely dire.

    Annoyed, Song Yuzhi said, But we are dilly-dallying here, arent we wasting our time?

    Without turning around, Kou Zhong giggled and said, As long as Miss Song is here with me, there is no problem of wasting time.

    Song Yuzhis pretty face blushed slightly. Kou Zhong, she said fiercely, Just remember that even if Die and Er Shu say yes, I, Song Yuzhi, will never marry you. You, this guy, basically dont have the least bit of sincerity.

    Kou Zhong replied indifferently, Supposing I do have sincerity, would Miss change your mind?

    Song Yuzhi kept a straight expression on her pretty face, as if she did not see him at all. Putting an air of a free spirit, she spoke casually, Expecting you to have sincerity is like expecting the sun to rise in the west!

    This moment Kou Zhong heard Xu Ziling issuing three birdcalls in succession. Come! he said, Miss Song is destined to always follow me, the Ol Kou.

    Without waiting for her response, he dashed downhill.

    On the deck of the ship, Xiang Yushan, Yun Yuzhen, Bu Tianzhi, Chen Laomou and the others were standing on one side, whereas on the other side stood the most outstanding martial art master of Tujues younger generation, Ba Fenghan, and the newly appointed master of Dongming Pai, the Dongming Princess Shan Wanjing.

    Looking at both sides demeanor, apparently they had not fought yet.

    Although Ba and Shan, two peoples martial art skill surpassed those of Xiang Yushan and the others, but they were heavily outnumbered by Xiang Yushans side, so that achieving victory would not be easy.

    Leading Song Yuzhi along, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling leaped onto the deck and joined Xiang Yushans side. Immediately Ba Fenghan and Shan Wanjing were put into the weaker side, yet the two did not show the least bit of disturbed look.

    When he saw the unique charm of Song Yuzhi, Ba Fenghans eye lit up. He said with a laugh, This Miss is

    Shan Wanjing cut him off, Turns out Song Familys Miss Yuzhi. I wonder why you came back with these two little thieves.

    Obviously Song Yuzhi was acquainted with Shan Wanjing; she replied indifferently, If Princess wants to fight with these two little hey! Two little kids, please dont involve Yuzhi. Our Song family is not going to meddle in your affairs.

    Xiang Yushan, Yun Yuzhen, and the others were greatly perplexed, they could not figure out Song Yuzhis relation with the two boys.

    It was unclear whether she was driven by jealousy, but Yun Yuzhen deliberately came close to Kou Zhong, affectionately put her mouth by his ear and said, Unexpectedly you guys really killed Ren Shaoming; a lot of people cant believe it! This illicit couple came here half a sichen earlier than you did, they insist on waiting for you here.

    Kou Zhong nodded. He turned to Ba Fenghan and laughed aloud, Hows Ba Xiongs martial art skill compared to Ren Shaoming? he asked.

    Letting out an indifferent laugh, Ba Fenghan replied, We have not fought each other, how would I know whos superior whos inferior? This time I came here to wait respectfully for the two gentlemens honored selves, it is precisely to get the answer to the question of whos superior whos inferior.

    It was only now did Song Yuzhi find out that that man was Ba Fenghan; she could not help looking at him with interest, sizing him up. She felt that both in terms of outward appearance and poise, he was not inferior to Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling. Not only his sharp features were not obnoxious, it even added an unusually appealing charm.

    Xu Ziling knitted his brows and said, Ba Xiong and us have never had any real enmity, why would you readily want to fight a life and death battle? But we are not afraid of Ba Xiong, not at all. We merely have deep respect out of believe that people of talent appreciate one another!

    Ba Fenghan did not expect Xu Ziling to speak so appropriately. He was stunned for half a day before finally spoke with a wry smile, Although I do not have any personal enmity against Kou Xiong and Xu Xiong, its a pity that two of Ol Bas close female friends are determined to kill two gentlemen. How could Ol Ba simply watch with folded arms?

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, If Ba Xiong can really watch with folded arms, the problem will be easily solved [orig. the bamboo splits as soon as it meets the knifes edge]. You dont believe me? Ha! Let me conduct an experiment and have you see it. Xiao Ling! Get out and stand over here, let the Princess kill you! By no means, do not hit back!

    Shan Wanjing, who all along has been silent, suddenly became agitated. Kou Zhong, she angrily shouted, Get out and roll over here to die first, lets see if I dare to kill you or not.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Ladies and gentlemen, did you see that? If Princess can really make her move to kill Xiao Ling, why would she want me, Zhong Shao, to take his place?

    Qiang!

    Shan Wanjing drew her sword, took two steps forward, and then with face as cold as ice she pointed the tip of the sword toward the two boys and said, Get out, both of you. To kill you, two little thieves, I do not need any help.

    Xiang Yushan spoke up respectfully, Princess, please think thrice. Once someone shed blood, the enmity that ensues will be difficult to resolve, resulting in endless entanglement.

    Shan Wanjing replied coldly, This is a matter between me and these two; it would be best if outsiders not interfere.

    Laughing tenderly, Yun Yuzhen said, Is Ba Fenghan considered an outsider?

    Resolute and decisive [orig. chop the nail and slice the iron], Shan Wanjing said, He cant interfere either.

    Ba Fenghan sat casually on the ships railings; unruffled, he said, I have something Id like to say: if it is a fair, one-on-one fight, the Ol Ba will not interfere.

    With a forced laughter Kou Zhong said, Princess is fully aware that we are unwilling to harm you; this is extremely unfair! Xiao Ling! You go first!

    Xu Ziling strode forward. He stopped about half a zhang in front of Shan Wanjing, and calmly said, Princess, please bestow instructions!

    Shan Wanjings beautiful eyes exuded an incomparably complicated expression as she stared at Xu Ziling for a moment. And then, as if she finally made up her mind, suddenly her lily-white hand started to move; in an instant it turned into millions of light and shadow, sword qi permeated the air, blanketing Xu Xiling completely in the inside.

    Everybody already knew that her swordsmanship was superb, but no one had ever expected that it would be this astonishing.

    Xu Ziling watched as the tip of her sword turned into a dot of cold star and shot into his chest, yet unexpectedly he did not respond at all.

    Kou Zhong raised his eyebrows; his eyes glinted sharply. He did not look at Xu Ziling at all; rather, he was staring viciously at Shan Wanjings serene yet terrifying eyes.

    He was the only one who understood that Xu Ziling was using his life as a gambling stake in an attempt to resolve this hopelessly muddled enmity.

    Ba Fenghan also revealed an astonished look on his face. His hand pressed on the sabers hilt; but it was unclear whether he was thinking of preventing this matter from happening, or he wanted to stop Kou Zhong and the other spectators from interfering.

    Xiang Yushan, Yun Yuzhen, Bu Tianzhi, Song Yuzhi and the others had their countenances changed at the same time, but it all happened so fast that they did not even have time to scream. The tip of Shan Wanjings sword was already only a cun away from the pit of Xu Zilings stomach.

    Kou Zhong leaned forward slightly, his eyes shone with lightning flashes. As soon as Shan Wanjings sword penetrated Xu Zilings chest for real, he would disregard everything to charge toward Shan Wanjing.

    Ba Fenghans eyes were also focused on Kou Zhong, he was also prepared to make his move.

    The sword qi was pressing on Xu Zilings tattered garment that it was fluttering wildly backward, but he still stood there upright and unafraid; his pair of tiger eyes was flickering with divine and unfathomable radiance, his countenance was as calm as the water in an ancient well without any ripple on it, without the slightest care of this sword, which was about to decide his life and death. Even his eyebrows did not wrinkle at all.

    Right this instant between life and death, Shan Wanjings eyes finally appeared to change. It was a subtle expression of distress mixed with anger. Sword qi suddenly subsided, the sword tip skewed three cun upward. The blade stabbed Xu Zilings flank.

    Xu Ziling clearly felt the sword blade reached his bone. But then Shan Wanjing swiftly pulled her sword and retreated.

    Blood spurted out wildly, but Xu Ziling was still as steady as the mountain, he was not swayed at all.

    Up to this point nobody made any noise yet, the more than a hundred people onboard two ships appeared to have turned into mutes.

    Kou Zhong breathed a sigh of relief. Ba Fenghans gaze returned to Xu Ziling. An admiring glance flashed through his eyes, followed vicious murderous aura, but it also quickly disappeared.

    Shan Wanjing retreated almost to the end of the bow. She looked down on her sword stained with Xu Zilings blood, her face turned ashen as she spoke with a trembling voice, Xu Ziling! Why didnt you fight back?

    Taking a deep breath, Xu Ziling transmitted his qi to stop the blood flow from his wound. He spoke gently, Has Princess anger subsided somewhat?

    Shan Wanjings breasts went up and down rapidly. Looking up, she met Xu Zilings eyes as she shook her head slowly and said, My anger will never subside, but the matter of stolen account book can be dropped at this point.

    Soaring high into the air, she made a somersault and disappeared into the forest by the riverbank. The most surprising thing was that she did not call Ba Fenghan to go together with her.

    Now everybody turned their eyes toward a little awkward Ba Fenghan.

    Having just recovered from the shock, Yun Yuzhen called out with her tender voice, Princess is gone, arent Ba Gongzi going to leave as well?

    Ba Fenghan shook his head with a wry smile. What good is it to chase a woman who has had a change of heart? he said.

    His body flashed, he left as if he suddenly disappeared into thin air.

    [1] Zhuge Wuhou Marquis of Wu, is the nobility title of Zhuge Liang, a famous character from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

  9. #89
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 8 - Chapter 5

    Book 8 Chapter 5 Night Talk on Yangtze River

    By dusk that day, the warship sailed out of the river bend and entered the Yangtze River, going upstream toward Baling. The cargo ship also sailed along the river going north.

    When Kou Zhong pushed the door and entered into Xu Zilings cabin, the latter was regulating his qi and his breathing. Other than the paleness due to slight loss of blood earlier, he did not look like someone who had just been stabbed by a sword.

    The two boys sat in the two chairs by the window.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Your guts are really not small. At that time I was so afraid that she could not stop her hand and hence take your life for real. Whenever I thought about it I am still having cold sweats.

    Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, It was the only way to resolve the enmity; otherwise, how would she be willing to step back? If we fought, no matter who got injured, the result would not be good.

    Kou Zhong seemed to be deep in thought. He said slowly, Ren Shaomings death not only alters the situation in the south, it also changes our fate, making us the target of a multitude of arrows. Although it has been like that for a while, but now the danger increases several folds.

    After pausing for a moment, he continued, There are two people that we must guard against even more so than before. Can you guess which two I am talking about?

    Xu Ziling mused, Is one of them Ba Fenghan? When Shan Wanjing let me off, I felt his murderous intention toward me. And the other one must be Tieles Big Bandit Qu Ao?

    If it were Qu Ao, I dont need you to guess, Kou Zhong replied, I was thinking about Yang Xuyan. He wanted to assassinate Xiang kid; obviously it was for Lin Shihong and Ren Shaomings sake. Now that we killed Ren Shaoming instead, it would be really strange if he did not come looking for us to create trouble.

    Xu Ziling turned his gaze toward the window, to the riverbank under the bright moonlight. He sighed, and then slowly shook his head, as if he wanted to throw away all the burden of his heart.

    Kou Zhong tried to sound him out, Even Ba Fenghan seemed to think that that wicked Princess has a great interest toward you.

    Xu Ziling absent-mindedly said, So what if she is interested. Dongming Pai has the strangest rule; Princess has already had prince consort early on. More importantly, I basically dont want to get married and have children. I just want to spend my days living a free and easy life. I am not like you with your lofty aspiration of saving the world or helping common people.

    Kou Zhong was upset, You are making fun of me, he said.

    Im just speaking the truth, Xu Ziling replied seriously, In terms of strategy, it would really help your cause if you could marry Song Yuzhi.

    Kou Zhong looked up at the cabins ceiling, there was a flash of longing look in his eyes, which was quickly replaced by a layer of blank expression. He spoke dreamily, Cant say for sure which part of her attracts me most, but I cant ever think of her like I do Li Xiuning, which keeps winding around in my dreams and pulling away my soul, that keeps me awake at night feeling sad, giving me both pain and pleasure. Ay! Is it because I learned my lesson with Li Xiuning that I no longer have the guts to rush into love relationship?

    Xu Ziling emphatically shook his head and said with a smile, Li Xiuning represents a key turning point in your, Zhong Shaos life. From that moment on, your desire for the fine things of the world was transferred to the great undertaking. Therefore, before you can figure out whether you love Song Yuzhi or not, you already decided to marry her. Because from your point of view, no feeling is more important than contending for the world. Hence anything that you have your eyes on, you only view it from this aspect. Am I wrong?

    Kou Zhong was stunned, In that case, have I lost the ability to love a woman deeply? he asked.

    Xu Ziling sympathetically said, This is called if you want to gain something you must lose something. A choice is a choice; since you chose one thing, naturally you lost something else.

    Grabbing his head, Kou Zhong lamented, Cant I choose two things at once? Cant I find balance?

    Upset, Xu Ziling said, Supposing right this moment Li Xiuning came to you and told you that she finally realized that the one she loved was you, and asking you to grow old together with her, would you be willing to give up Song Yuzhi?

    Kou Zhong was immediately dumbstruck and was unable to reply.

    This moment Yun Yuzhen pushed the door and walked in; smiling brightly, she asked the two boys, What are gentlemen, great heroes talking about? May I join you?

    Kou Zhong patted his thigh and said with a laugh, Beautiful Shifu, are you interested in sitting on the most comfortable seat in the world?

    With ten thousand flirtatious expressions Yun Yuzhen glowered at him and sat on the bed. Turning to Xu Ziling, she said, Are you still in pain? That Princess seemed to treat you with Seeing Kou Zhong kept signaling her with his hand, Yun Yuzhen quickly corrected herself, Ay! I almost forget to tell you the latest news: the Jade Annulus of He Clan has reappeared!

    Kou Zhong was visibly shaken, Could you tell me the details?

    Yun Yuzhen said, The widely spread rumor in Jianghu is that just before he left for Luoyang, while he was still at Duanwu, Ning Daoqi had given the Jade Annulus of He Clan to Shi Feixuan.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were puzzled. So the Jade Annulus of He Clan is in Ning Daoqis hand? Xu Ziling asked in bewilderment.

    Kou Zhongs interest was in something else, Who is Shi Feixuan? he asked, From the name, she should be a woman?

    Seeing the two boys interest, Yun Yuzhen was delighted, The rumor is highly doubtful, she said, First of all, both parties cant possibly leak this kind of information, which would only bring endless trouble for them. Plus whoever started the rumor must have very strong imagination and have deep understanding of unpredictable human psyche.

    Knitting his brows, Kou Zhong said, You havent answered my question: who is Shi Feixuan?

    Yun Yuzhen cast him a sideways glance and said, So you are very interested because the person involved was a woman?

    Kou Zhong burst out laughing, My Beautiful Shifu, even if you said that Ning Daoqi was giving the Jade Annulus of He Clan to someone called Kou Laoniu [lit. old cow], I would be very interested in this Kou Laoniu. This is called I am interested in the people involved, not the gender.

    With an enchanting smile Yun Yuzhen said, Just consider Shifu has blamed you wrongly, all right? Have you guys heard about Ci Hang Jing Zhai? She and Yin Hui Pai are very similar [see Book 5 Chapter 12 for first mention of these two organizations], they both enjoy supreme status, but both are equally mysterious. The difference is that one is upright the other is heretical!

    Xu Zilings tiger-eyes were flashing; he said slowly, That Shi Feixuan is the representative of Ci Hang Jing Zhai in the decisive battle against Yin Gui Pai.

    Yun Yuzhen nodded and said, Turns out you guys already know about these two upright and heretical major sects. This time you killed Ren Shaoming, Yin Gui Pai will definitely not let you off.

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, If there was no such enemy like Yin Gui Pai, we will never reach martial art master level like Ning Daoqi.

    Yun Yuzhen stared blankly at him for half a day. She could not help asking, Do you want to be the emperor, or you want to be a genuine Wulin expert?

    Xu Ziling replied indifferently, Beautiful Shifu talked about these two things as if it is as effortless as being a salt merchant or a chef. To Zhong Shao, these two objectives are the fish and the bears paw, you cant have both at the same time, both desires could be obtained quickly and later.

    Yun Yuzhen was pleased, Xiao Ling, it has been a long while since you called me Beautiful Shifu! What wind has been blowing today?

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, Tonight, whether Beautiful Shifus scowling or laughing, there is a little bit of sincerity that was not there before, so that my heart is touched, remembering those beautiful days when we first met.

    Yun Yuzhens charming body trembled slightly; she looked at Xu Ziling, and then gazed at Kou Zhong. Hanging her small head down, she said softly, When I knew you, you were urchins who have not grown up. Fast forward to today, you have killed a formidable figure who had dominated the south for more than ten years, I suddenly realized that you have finally matured into Wulin experts who assume personal responsibility.

    After a moment of pause she sighed and went on, Although I have schemed against you, the fact is that at that time the pain of contradiction in my heart was killing me. I dont know why, but I always felt you and I are kindred spirits; I am willing to trust you, to work for you. I dont trust Xiao Dangjia too much.

    The last sentence was spoken with a voice as tiny as a mosquito.

    Kou Zhongs eyes were gleaming with mysterious glint; he said in low voice, If Beautiful Shifu is willing to help me, I guarantee I will treat you right.

    Assuming a bit of helpless attitude Yun Yuzhen said, I hope you wont one day forget that promise. Xiao Ling is my witness.

    Xu Ziling could only smile wryly.

    Kou Zhong was progressively accomplishing his plan to build up his power and prestige. And successful mission to kill Ren Shaoming was the most important juncture. Otherwise, how could such a figure like Yun Yuzhen, a Gang Leader rich with Jianghu experience, express allegiance to him? Moreover, it appeared more complicated because it involved the man-woman attraction between them. Supposing in the future Kou Zhong let Yun Yuzhen down, what could Xu Ziling do?

    Kou Zhong showed an engaging smile toward Yun Yuzhen as he said tenderly, Beautiful Shifu may be rest assured! I understand revering master is a serious thing. Right! What kind of person is Shi Feixuan? Hows her martial art skill?

    Enchanted by the charm of his smile, Yun Yuzhen blissfully said, Shi Feixuan is just like Shi Qingxuan [Translators note: not the same shi and xuan characters]; they are both shrouded in mystery. The number of people who had seen them is really not many, but those who have, all of them are awed by her extraordinarily refined personality traits. She appears to represent the most beautiful thing of the world, so that people adore her, without ever arousing lust in their hearts. Moreover, she brings forth a feeling of inferiority in both men and women who are in her presence.

    Listening to her, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling could only stare blankly; unexpectedly there was a character like her in the world.

    Isnt she a [Buddhist] Nun? Xu Ziling was puzzled, How come she is using secular [orig. sujia, original home of a monk/nun] name and surname?

    No one knows, Yun Yuzhen replied, But although she grew a cloud of hair and used secular family name, her conduct and her way of living is no different from someone who has left home [to become Buddhist monk/nun]. She lives an ascetic, plain and simple life.

    Highly interested, Kou Zhong asked, What kind of weapon does she use?

    Yun Yuzhen shook her head and replied, On the surface she is not carrying any weapon, and no one has ever heard her fight with anybody. It is said that whoever came across her was overwhelmed with respect and adoration; how could they have any heart to massacre her?

    How did Shifu know so clearly? Kou Zhong asked in astonishment, Listening to your tone, you have not seen her either, have you?

    Yun Yuzhens pretty eyes radiated sadness and hurt; she hung her head down dejectedly and said, It was Hou Xibai who told me just before we parted, he is one of several people that Shi Feixuan look up to; he had once roamed Sanxia [three gorges of Yangtze River: Qutang, Wu and Xiling] with her, talking of the past and discussing the present. Ay!

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged some glances. They both felt Yun Yuzhens regret and misery from parting with Hou Xibai.

    Last time, when they mentioned Hou Xibai, she refused to answer; this time she spoke out calmly, apparently she was expressing her true feelings toward Kou Zhong, not wanting to arouse misunderstanding in the future.

    By throwing herself toward Kou Zhong, quite possibly she wanted to use him to forget her sorrow with Hou Xibai.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, Could it be that in her presence, Hou Xibai did not have any feeling of inferiority?

    A tender feeling flashed through Yun Yuzhens beautiful eyes as she said softly, He is an outstanding person, so free and easy. His literary talent distinguished and accomplished, his insights profound; perhaps only he fits to be friends with Shi Feixuan.

    The two boys looked at each other in astonishment; it was only then did they understand Hou Xibais position in Yun Yuzhens heart. Although they had separated, she was still unable to extricate herself from this entanglement of the heart.

    Did Hou Xibai try to pursue Shi Feixuan? Xu Ziling asked, Who is he, actually? What is his background?

    He is an enigmatic figure, Yun Yuzhen replied, No one knows his background or history, he seems to have unlimited money in his purse, he is always able to visit any world famous courtesans anywhere. He, himself, is a proficient guqin player, and an adept composer. Because he is multi-talented, he is known as the Passionate Prince. It was because of my curiosity that I intentionally went to a pleasure house that Yushan had just opened to get to know him; who would have thought ay I dont want to talk about it.

    Lets not talk about this aspect then, Kou Zhong indifferently remarked, Hows his martial art skill? What kind of weapon does he use?

    Yun Yuzhen replied, His martial art skill can only be described as deep and immeasurable. Since his debut less than five years ago, the number of flower-picking lascivious thieves who died under his hands is already over one hundred. The weapon he uses is a large folding fan with pictures of beautiful women on it, which he painted with his own hand. Each time he met a woman he admired, his folding fan would have one more portrait of that beautiful woman.

    Kou Zhong was amazed, This kid can really be considered romantic, he said.

    Yun Yuzhen sighed. She said in anguish, Can we not talk about him anymore?

    There was a knock on the door.

    Who is it? Kou Zhong asked.

    Song Yuzhis voice came from the other side of the door, Is Xu Gongzi free? Id like to talk to him a little bit.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong looked at each other in shock.

    What could she possibly want that she wanted to talk privately with Xu Ziling?

    Xu Ziling followed behind Song Yuzhi. Stepping out of the cabin, the river breeze assaulted their faces, rousing his spirit.

    When Jukun Bang people who were on duty on the deck saw him, they all busily greeted Xu Ye [master], in a very respectful manner. Perhaps it was due to his rising prestige from killing Ren Shaoming.

    Song Yuzhi walked in large strides toward the stern. Although her gait was not as graceful as Shen Luoyans or Yun Yuzhens, there was a delightful and refreshing feeling that invigorated those who saw her.

    When she stopped at the stern, Xu Ziling also stopped by her side, but he kept silent.

    Song Yuzhi let her long hair blown by the wind. With her hands resting on the railings, she sighed gloomily and said, You dont like to talk, do you? Or you simply dont want to talk to me? You dont even ask me why I risk others suspicion by talking with you out here.

    Xu Ziling kept his gaze on the vast river under the bright moonlight. Moored on the left bank in the distance were a dozen or so fishing boats, with a dim lantern light emanated from each one of them. When he thought about how each lantern light represented a warm home, his heart was overwhelmed with emotion.

    Since they were little until now they were grown up, they always lacked a real home, and quite possibly they would never have one. So he was used to the feeling of not having a home.

    Taking a deep breath of the river breeze, Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, Miss Song, please speak freely.

    Song Yuzhi turned her pretty face to look at him. She smiled and said, How could you and Kou Zhong become friends that are closer than brothers? Your personalities are so different from each other.

    Xu Ziling met her gaze. Shrugging his shoulders, he replied, This is called one wishes to give a beating, the other is willing to take a beating. Or perhaps when we were small we were a lot simpler, hence it did not take long to get used to and accept each other.

    Song Yuzhis eyes brightened like the continuously twinkling stars in the sky, while her face had a faraway look as she reminisced her past. She spoke quietly and calmly, Since childhood I have always been a tomboy, I loved to play with the boys of the family, and always considered myself one of them. My curiosity has always been bigger than the other kids. When I saw a mountain, I would ask whats beyond the mountain. When I saw a river, I wanted to know where the water is flowing to.

    Xu Ziling let out a hollow laugh, I would never have guessed, he said, Why did Miss Song recall these childhood memories?

    Song Yuzhi knitted her brows and shook her head, I dont understand it either, she said, Perhaps because I trust you? Whenever I come face-to-face with you, my mood feels particularly relaxed!

    Xu Ziling was stunned, That is even more unexpected, he said, Miss Song and I have just met, why are you willing to put your trust in me? Dont forget that Zhong Shao and I are partners; thats why people are calling us two kids or two little thieves.

    Pfft! Song Yuzhi burst out in laughter, which rarely happened. Casting a sidelong glance toward him, she said, Your craftiness is actually not the least bit inferior to Kou Zhong, its just that you are always collected and quiet, so that others are not aware of this side of your personality traits. But when I first saw you, I was able to immediately see that you are that kind of person, who is chivalrous by nature, who are always thoughtful toward others; thats why I am willing to put my trust in you, knowing that you wont lie to me.

    It was the very first time that Xu Ziling came into contact with her feminine, touching nature. After staring blankly for a moment, he smiled wryly and said, Can we not talk about that question anymore?

    Looking up to the starry sky, Song Yuzhi slowly said, Can you guess the question I wanted to ask you?

    Xu Ziling dejectedly nodded; he said with pained expression on his face, No matter what he did, Kou Zhong is my good brother. If you ask me anything about him, how am I supposed to answer that?

    Song Yuzhi looked down at the sparkling water of the River reflecting the moon and the stars above. She spoke in heavy voice, I just want to know the truth. Xu Ziling! Take your chivalrous heart out; tell me, Song Yuzhi, truthfully: Kou Zhong is only using me, isnt he?

    Seeing her gleaming eyes, as she stared at him, were shooting deep hatred, Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, Miss Song called me out this late at night to ask me such thing, even if tomorrow I do not tell that kid Kou Zhong that Miss fragrant heart is in chaos, he will definitely have a way to extract the information from me by glancing knock, sideways stroke [i.e. in roundabout way].

    So what if he knew? Song Yuzhi calmly said, He has already seen long ago that my mind is confused. That was the reason I wanted to know the truth, and you have already told me the answer.

    Xu Ziling was silent for quite a while. Finally he said gently, When did I answer Misss question?

    Song Yuzhi replied indifferently, Your mouth did not say it, from the way you are not willing to help him dealing with me, how could Yuzhi not understand your heart?

    Xu Ziling sighed, This is terrible, he said, That kid will definitely blame me to death!

    Song Yuzhi laughed in spite of herself, You are really forthcoming! she said, Ay, I cant believe I can still laugh. Isnt this finding joy in my sorrows?

    Experiencing the gentle and lovely aspect of hers, Xu Zilings heart welled up with compassion. He said tenderly, Kou Zhong may be an astute and formidable person, someone who exploits any benefits he could get; but he is not a bad person at heart, his affection for others is particularly abundant. Its just that currently he is throwing himself, heart and soul, into his dream of contending for supremacy over the world, so that to him, everything else is secondary! Ay! Does that count as helping him?

    Song Yuzhis beautiful eyes rippled with strange gleam. Shaking her head, she said, No! You are just telling me the truth. Kou Zhong is definitely not a bad guy; on the contrary, he is very promising. In all aspects, he has the quality that I, Song Yuzhi, am looking for in my ideal husband. But I know that he isnt really committed to me; I was fully aware of it from the start. Ay! Even knowing that, why would I still be willing to come with him to Baling? If I firmly refused, there was nothing that Er Shu could do to me.

    Xu Ziling let out a wry smile and said, Looks like Miss Song cannot extricate yourself from us, two brothers!

    A faint smile, brimming with confidence, appeared on Song Yuzhis face as she said calmly, Wrong! Its not that I cannot extricate myself from you guys; rather, I choose to meet this challenge face-to-face. This is my, Song Yuzhis, character: I will never cower. This time I came with you, I want to see how many tricks and tools Kou Zhong, that repulsive guy, has.

    Xu Ziling was at a loss, Since Miss Song already had that thought, plus you are also aware of Kou Zhongs intention, why did you come to me and ask all these questions?

    A helpless smile appeared on the corners of Song Yuzhis lips as she spoke wryly but tenderly, Because I am afraid that for the sake of Duke Yang Treasure, Er Shu will persuade Die to sacrifice his own daughters happiness.

    Xu Ziling mused inwardly that that possibility seemed to be great. Song Zhi was an old fox; Kou Zhong schemed against him, he also schemed against Kou Zhong, Song Yuzhi has become their chess piece. He said in heavy voice, Do you really dislike Kou Zhong?

    Song Yuzhi heaved a deep sigh; she spoke calmly, If I do not have any good impression toward him, I wont have to be this distressed. If I do not have any feeling toward him, for the benefit of my Clan, I wont refuse him, because I know that under any circumstances, I will not be sad for him. But now I am very scared. Do you understand my feeling?

    Xu Ziling did have deep understanding of her conflicting emotions: it was a hard-to-accept fact on top of a case of love and hate. To a certain degree, Kou Zhong has hurt her.

    Song Yuzhi suddenly stretched lazily and smiled, We are done talking; I feel much better! Xu Ziling, indeed you dont disappoint me. You are not willing to help tyrant Zhou in his oppression [idiom, meaning taking the side of the evildoer], but perhaps you can become my savior. Youll never know.

    Giving him a sweet smile, she walked away gracefully.

    Xu Ziling was left alone on the stern, lost in thought, pondering upon the deep meaning behind her last sentence.

    Xu Ziling tapped Kou Zhongs door lightly. Xiao Ling? Kou Zhong responded from the inside, Come in!

    Knowing Yun Yuzhen was no longer inside, Xu Ziling was relieved. He pushed the door and walked in. Beside himself with joy, Kou Zhong instantly rushed over to wrap his arms around Xu Zilings shoulders. He laughed and said, You have no idea how hard it was to wait for you. I wanted to ask, but am afraid your look will give it away. Hee ! Did she have change of affection, shift of love, and now she fancies you? Ha! One lifetime two brothers. If I really cannot gain her affection, I, Zhong Shao, would yield to you, albeit reluctantly. Afterwards I will find a way to mend this scar in my heart!

    With a wry smile Xu Ziling replied, Song Yuzhis insight is really not bad, she already knew long ago that you, this kid, are just exploiting her, not really in love with her.

    Kou Zhong was stunned. She is more formidable than what I imagined, he said, Looks like in this task my chance of losing is greater than my chance of winning. If I had known this, I might as well ask Beautiful Shifu to stay, then tonight I wont have to worry about being lonely. Ay! Dont be so serious, I was just joking to ease the pain in my heart.

    Xu Ziling was displeased, Basically you dont have any feeling at all. I am the one who suffers the most here, on one side is my good brother, on the other side is a good girl, and my good brother is going the cheat the good girls feeling, and all I could do is to implicitly encourage her so that she would not be cheated.

    Pulling his arms from Xu Zilings shoulders, Kou Zhong blurted, What? Wont that mean I will lose the love of my life? Wine! Wheres the wine?

    Xu Ziling dejectedly sat down. Shaking his head, he sighed and said, Stop playacting! If vying for the world means you have to use methods that are hurtful to other people, I am going to leave you!

    Kou Zhong sat down on the other chair; smiling apologetically, he said, Affection can be fostered, I guarantee that I will not hurt her. But speaking is useless; I hereby proclaim that this matter is finished. Are you satisfied now?

    Xu Ziling was deep in thought for half a day. Finally he slowly said, The matter between a man and a woman, once started, no one knows for sure how it will end. As your friend and more so, your brother, I can only give you a word of advice: feeling is sharper than the sword, plus it is a two-edged weapon; you have to take care of yourself.

    Kou Zhong solemnly said, I will take your advice to heart, I will never take a wrong step in this aspect. Right now I am going to declare to Song Yuzhi that the engagement is cancelled, so she no longer has to worry.

    Finished speaking, he pushed the door and left, leaving Xu Ziling alone in the room, smiling wryly.

  10. #90
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 8 - Chapter 6

    Book 8 Chapter 6 Love and Hate Difficult to Distinguish

    Kou Zhong tapped Song Yuzhis door and asked, May I come in and speak a couple of sentences?

    If only two sentences, you certainly may, Song Yuzhi responded.

    Kou Zhong sighed before pushing the door and coming in.

    The room was dark, only the moonlight from the window coming at an angle illuminated the lantern-less room. It happened to fall onto Song Yuzhi, who was sitting in the only chair in the room, enveloping her in faint golden glow.

    The womans beautiful long jet-black hair was untied, it draped loosely over her fragrant shoulders, her pair of eyes looked like deep and bright precious stones, and they were gazing steadily at him.

    Kou Zhongs spirit was greatly shaken. It was the first time that he found out that her feminine side and outward appearance were in no way inferior to Li Xiuning.

    Song Yuzhi was a bit impatient, Didnt you say you were going to speak a couple of sentences? Well, speak up, and then get lost.

    With a wry smile Kou Zhong said, This time I came just to acknowledge my mistake toward Miss Song, and to call off our wedding contract. From now on Kou Zhong will not dare to have any delusions toward Miss Song.

    Finished speaking, he turned around to leave.

    Song Yuzhi was dumbstruck. Come back here! she said.

    Kou Zhongs hand was already on the doors knob; hearing the call, he stopped on his track. With his back toward her, he said bitterly, I was wrong; I should not have linked the Duke Yang Treasure to Miss lifelong happiness together, and treated it as a business deal.

    Song Yuzhi was silent for half a day. Finally she said gently, Would you sit down so that we can talk, please?

    Kou Zhong shook his head and sighed, Right now I just want to hide alone and think about this matter quietly. These days all I can think about is how to gain victory in my contention for supremacy against other people, while ignoring other important matters. I really want to reflect upon myself for a while.

    Song Yuzhi raised her pretty eyebrows; somewhat unable to hold back her anger, she said, You, this kid, listen to this Miss and sit down. If you slip away just like that, I am going to hate you for the rest of my life.

    Like a whirlwind Kou Zhong turned around and asked in amazement, Dont you already hate me to the core? Are you telling me you were only pretending?

    Avoiding his sharp and penetrating gaze, Song Yuzhi hung her head down and said, When you came in just now, why did you, like a fool, look at me like that?

    Kou Zhong walked over to where she sat, kneeling on one knee, he put his right hand on the armrest, and said with a sigh, Because I suddenly realize that you, Yuzhi, are unexpectedly so touching, so that I could not stop an adoring feeling from growing out in my heart, and thus I reflected upon my own various wrongdoings.

    Song Yuzhi could not avoid smelling his body scent, as they were so close, almost face-to-face with each other, invoking the memory of when she was pinned down on the snowy ground the other day. Her fragrant heart fluttered, she said, Can you stand up first and sit down next to me?

    Surprisingly enough Kou Zhong obeyed her; after he was seated nicely, Song Yuzhi continued in low voice, What do you really want?

    Grabbing his own head, Kou Zhong said, Which one is Miss Song referring to?

    Song Yuzhi was back to her calm and composed self; she said indifferently, Naturally the contending for hegemony matter. When all is said and done, why are you doing it?

    Kou Zhongs eyes immediately lit up. Nodded, he said, Miss Song is the first person ever who is asking me that question; even Xiao Ling has no interest in knowing.

    After a short pause, he continued, I was born in the marketplace, from firsthand experience, I deeply feel how when the government completely loses its benevolence and righteousness, common peoples life would be so miserable and painful. Ay! At the beginning I just wanted to join a militia, which I think would have the most aspiration and prospects. But having encountered such people like Du Fuwei, Li Mi, and the like, none of them do not look for personal benefit, they are also vicious and merciless characters. If they became the emperor, it would definitely not be a good thing. Furthermore, since people like them can vie for the world, why cant I, Kou Zhong do it? What matters most in people is aspiration.

    He sighed before continuing, Question is, since I want to vie over the world, in no way can I treat benevolence and righteousness as idle chit-chat, to let benevolence and righteousness bind my hands bind my foot in all respects. Therefore, in Miss Songs eyes, I became someone who, in order to seek my goal, would do anything by hook or by crook. Hey! In reality, I just wanted to make one move and get two gains!

    Song Yuzhi pondered in silence.

    Kou Zhong rose up, stretched out his entire body in an exaggerated stretch and said, I want to go back to my room! Hee .. hee after talking it out with you, I feel much more comfortable.

    Song Yuzhi spoke gently, Do you know, Kou Zhong? Die and Er Shu would never let me marry someone with your background. You play games on them, they also play games on you.

    What? Kou Zhong blurted.

    Gracefully Song Yuzhi stood up and walked over to him; staring right into his eyes, she said, Why didnt you ask me whom Die has betrothed me to? Is it because you feel its beneath you to ask, or you simply dont care?

    Kou Zhong replied in embarrassment, Actually, I am bit scared of asking.

    Song Yuzhi spoke indifferently, Even if you asked, I dont think Er Shu would tell you. My future husband is Li Mis only son, Li Tianfan. The engagement was decided a year ago. As long as Li Mi could capture Luoyang, I would have to marry into the Li family. Do you understand?

    Hearing this, Kou Zhong could only stare blankly with mouth agape, unable to make any sound.

    Song Yuzhi reached out with her lily-white hand to stroke his cheek and said with a smile, Kou Zhong Gongzi, go back to your room and rest! Contending over the word is never a simple matter, but I really wish you would succeed.

    Xu Ziling flicked the oil lamp to extinguish it. Pulling the door open, he was just about to step out, while in his heart he was still thinking about Kou Zhong, who could be faking it, but could be really repentant after self-introspection, so that Xu Ziling was worried and delighted at the same time, and his heart was tumultuous, when suddenly a fragrant wind assaulted his face.

    Instinctively he backed off to evade it; who would have thought that a tender body was suddenly throwing itself into his bosom, a pair of delicate hands wrapped itself around his neck, and fragrant lips covered his mouth?

    It was only then did Xu Ziling realize what happened. Grabbing the other sides fragrant shoulders, he gently pushed her away a little, and while his handsome face turned beet red, he said, Its me!

    Yun Yuzhens charming body was severely shaken; she flung back, her jade cheek was burning like the sunset clouds.

    Recovering his confident and easy-going manner, Xu Ziling smiled good-naturedly and said, Now this is my romantic and beautiful memory. Finished speaking, without waiting for any response he simply turned back into the room.

    The ship arrived at Baling. Xiao Xian himself went out of the city gate to welcome them. Accompanying him was the Great General, the Left-field Marshall Zhang Xiu. This man was short, but his head was humongous, his hair unkempt, yet his vision was cool and razor-sharp, as if it could penetrate other peoples heart and soul, so that whomever he gazed upon would feel as if he was interrogating him. According to Xiang Yushans explanation earlier, his martial art skill was superior to the Right-field Marshall Dong Jingzhen, and was barely below Xiao Xians.

    Naturally Susu was part of the welcoming team. Seeing her husband-lord and two brothers returning safe and sound, and had established great merit, she was so happy that she felt her heart was turning upside down.

    The ones who really made Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling bursting with joy were Duan Yucheng, Bao Zhifu, Shi Jie and Ma Gui.

    These four kids were covered in scars from head to toe; turned out along the way they encountered countless thieves and robbers. But presently they were in very high spirits, apparently because their martial art skills were honed and they made great progress.

    Xiao Xian assumed a grateful, rely heavily upon and respect for the wise manner toward the two boys; he was even more respectful toward Song Yuzhi. Naturally he was thinking of the many benefits if he aligned himself with the Song Clan.

    That evening Xiao Xian hosted a banquet to celebrate, during which he praised the two boys without ceasing.

    After the banquet Song Yuzhi remained behind with Xiao Xian for a confidential meeting, while the rest returned to Xiang Yuzhans General Mansion. En route Susu reminded them of the promise they made that they would accompany her to go on a tour for several days. Since the two boys felt very deep attachment to her, they regarded her as if she was Fu Junchuo, naturally they readily agreed.

    Returning to the Mansion, the three sister and brothers chatted freely at the inner courtyards pavilion, recounted what had happened since they parted. While they were talking and laughing happily, Xiang Yushan came in a hurry.

    As soon as he sat down, he said, Tieqi Hui has been split into three factions: one faction throws themselves to Lin Shihong, one faction adheres to Shen Faxing, the remainders swear an oath to avenge Ren Shaoming. This last faction is headed by the Evil Monk and Amorous Nun.

    Susus flowery face lost its color, What do we do? she asked.

    Xu Ziling shot Xiang Yushan an unhappy look, blaming him for frightening Susu.

    Kou Zhong asked in astonishment, How did this happen?

    Xiang Yushan smiled apologetically toward Xu Ziling first, and then he comforted Susu before replying, The ranks within Tieqi Hui are very complex, good and bad people intermingled. Even before, there were different opinions as to whom they ought to align themselves with. Only because everybody was intimidated by Ren Shaomings power did they appear as millions of people all of one mind. But now that Ren Shaomings big tree has fallen, the monkeys and apes under the tree are all split up and in pieces.

    Kou Zhong was delighted, This is a good thing for the South, he remarked, Tieqi Hui was just a group of organized thieves anyway. If they gained momentum, the first to suffer calamity would be the civilians, the common people.

    Xu Ziling rarely heard him opening his mouth on behalf of the country, closing his mouth on behalf of the people; he shot a curious glance at him.

    Xiang Yushan said, The news of Ren Shaomings death is currently still confined in the South, yet it already stirred up a great deal of chaos. Once it is leaked out to the North, nobody knows what the consequences will be.

    Kou Zhong suddenly asked, Hows your relationship with Li Mi?

    In the past, Xiang Yushan replied, Because we worked for Yang Guang, it could be said that we were always at odds with Li Mi, our relationship has always been a bad one. However, there has never been any direct conflict; therefore, our relationship is in a very delicate balance. Why do you suddenly ask?

    Right this moment Yun Yuzhen arrived, hence Kou Zhong changed the subject and did not answer Xiang Yushans question.

    That night Song Yuzhi returned very late, everybody else was asleep already. By daybreak Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling went out for a stroll with Susu, while she was still asleep. By the time they came back, they found out that she had quietly slipped away.

    After dinner that evening, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had private discussion with Duan Yucheng, four people, about the route they were going to take to return to the North. Afterwards they returned to their rooms to rest.

    Trailing behind Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong proudly said, Ling Shao! This time I am listening to you! Last night I personally called off my engagement with Song Yuzhi, and this morning she left without even saying goodbye.

    Xu Ziling was amazed, You dont seem to have the least bit of displeasure of her leaving? he asked.

    Kou Zhong sat down dejectedly, looking at Xu Ziling, who was standing by the bed, about ready to lie down and sleep; letting out a wry smile, he said, I would be lying if I said I did not suffer any blow. But with so many things giving me headache right now, how could I have the luxury of worrying over this matter? Girls are like butterflies, if they want to fly away, just let them fly away! Ha! Not only we do not have any luck at the brothel, we dont have any luck with pretty girls either. All beautiful women seem to have ten grievances nine enmities with us.

    Xu Ziling was raising the mosquito curtain and was sitting down on the bed; hearing Kou Zhongs remark, his heart ached, recalling Fu Junchuo and Sister-in-law Zhen [See Book 1 Chapter 2]: the formers sweet soul was already gone, the latters whereabouts was unknown. He could not help feeling depressed.

    Currently Elder Sister Su was the closest woman to them, but her happiness was closely related to Xiang Yushan; would they be this helpless for the rest of their lives?

    Kou Zhong mused, Our trip back to the north this time could very well be the most dangerous journey we ever take. We dont even know for sure how many enemies we have out there.

    Taking a very deep breath, Xu Ziling said, Starting tomorrow, we will have Duan Yucheng and the others subjected to the most rigorous training we can muster, so that they at least will have the ability to protect themselves.

    Kou Zhong nodded. How many days do you think we ought to stay here? he asked, If we leave too early, Su Jie will certainly blame us.

    Why dont we stay with Su Jie for ten more days? Xu Ziling replied, Incidentally we can also use this time to drill Yucheng and the others.

    Kou Zhong agreed, Lets do it just as you said.

    Hows the situation with Beautiful Shifu? Xu Ziling asked.

    Of course she wants to come with us to the north, Kou Zhong replied, But she is going to make her own arrangement.

    And then immediately lowering his voice, he said, That Xiang kid told me quietly that she is going to rendezvous with Dugu Ce, thats why she is unwilling to leave Baling. Asking for this woman to be devoted to just one man is probably more difficult than plucking the bright moon from the sky.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, Why did that Xiang kid tell you this kind of thing? This is totally unlike him.

    Letting out a cold snort, Kou Zhong said, Naturally he received Xiao Xian, that old foxs order; he is trying to damage my relationship with Beautiful Shifu. Currently Haisha Bang has suffered severe setback, leaving only Jukun Bang, Shuilong [water dragon] Bang, and Dajiang [great river] Bang. In Xiao Xians eyes, Beautiful Shifu is a lot more important than us.

    Xu Ziling spoke in heavy voice, Just now our side warned Xiang kid, if Su Jie is the least bit unhappy, I will demand explanation from him.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Even if he has guts as high as the sky, he wont dare bully Su Jie. Ay! I still dont understand why did Su Jie agree to marry him.

    Shushing him, Xu Ziling said, Its no use talking about it now. After pausing, he went on, Do you know why I want to stay for that long, ten days? Although you agree, I know that you actually dont have any choice.

    Kou Zhong was stunned, I really have not thought about it, he replied, I only think that being with Su Jie right now is the most important priority. As long as I am with her, I feel relaxed and comfortable.

    Xu Ziling apologetically said, It was me who had weird thought. In my opinion, Evil Monk, Amorous Nun, and those vicious people would look for us to give us trouble. If we could ruthlessly inflict heavy losses to them first before starting out, our journey would be a lot smoother!

    Frowning, Kou Zhong said, This place is Baling Bangs domain; do you think theyd dare to come here and run amuck?

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, We came to their domain and killed Ren Shaoming, naturally they also want to kill us in our domain, so that they could show off their prowess. Therefore, unless they are not coming, they would definitely want to, using the ten-thousand-junpower, inflict the biggest casualties and heaviest damage in the shortest possible time.

    Raising his scimitar-like eyebrows, Kou Zhong laughed grimly and said, Hence they must be sending people in advance to scout the situation and gather information. If we could intercept these vanguard troops, we can defeat them before they start, humph!

    With an indifferent laugh Xu Ziling said, If I were they, I would take advantage while we go out with Su Jie on a tour to make my move; dont you agree?

    Kou Zhongs tiger-eyes immediately lit up.

    Xu Ziling went on, Once we are going up north to transport the salt, we will be in the open while the enemies are in the dark; we will be caught in the disadvantageous situation of an absolute passive position. Tactically, it is extremely unwise. If we cannot get hold of the initiative, I can guarantee that we will never reach Guanzhong.

    Kou Zhong was astounded, Whats going on today? he asked, It seems to me that you have never been this enthusiastic and proactive about these things.

    Xu Ziling shifted over to the window; with his hands behind his back he turned his gaze toward the starry sky outside, and said mysteriously, The moment we killed Ren Shaoming, I suddenly felt myself stepping into another stage of my lifes journey. Yet I know clearly that we have an unclear entanglement with several evil forces, and are being sucked into the maelstrom of the present age. We cant avoid it; either we choose to kill ourselves, or choose to confront it. There is no third possibility.

    Turning his head around, he noticed that Kou Zhong was staring at him with some strange expression. Why are you looking at me like that? he asked in astonishment.

    Kou Zhong stood up abruptly, and then spoke in earnestness, Because you have just displayed the prestige and style of a martial art master of the present age. What struck me the most was that it looked so smooth and natural.

    Xu Ziling smiled, Oh please dont lick Xiaodis butt, he said, Are you saying that you dont realize that recently your mannerism has also changed? Swindling, pretending, leading, listening, teaching, and every now and then speaking some pompous words, deceiving me big time.

    Kou Zhong slapped his shoulders hard and roared in laughter, Sometimes a man shouldnt be that forthcoming, he said, There is one more thing that I havent told you about: do you know who Song Yuzhis future husband is? My Niang! Its Li Mis only son.

    Although Xu Ziling was fully aware that Kou Zhong deliberately changed the subject, he still could not help crying out involuntarily, What?

    Kou Zhong let his hand off Xu Zilings shoulder; leaning on the window sill, he gazed into the boundless moonlit night, with gleaming eyes he said, This is the Song Clan and Wagang Armys business deal. North and south aligning themselves, together they are going to deal with the Li Clan of the northwest. If we cant find a way to crush this north-south union, the world will eventually fall into the hands of Li Mi.

    Letting out a wry smile, Xu Ziling said, Are you persuading me to agree with you in exploiting Song Yuzhi?

    Kou Zhong smiled and shook his head, You despise me, Kou Zhong, too much, he said, As long as we can prevent Li Mi from taking over Luoyang, the engagement will be invalidated. At that time, whomever the Song familys Big Miss wants to marry, I, Kou Zhong will not destroy her happiness. However, if by that time she finds out that she is helpless to leave the Ol Kou, it will be the Ol Kous good fortune. Hows that? Am I forthcoming enough for you?

    Xu Ziling shrugged his shoulders, All right! he said, We are all adults, lets leave this matter in Laotianyes hands. Right now let us focus our attention to deal with the enemy. Other things, we will think about it when we are still alive later!

    Knitting his brows, Kou Zhong said, Are you implying that we must go to bed now? We havent talked happily and excitedly like this, and havent been getting along so well like this for a long time. Ha! These words getting along well are so appropriate.

    Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, While we are getting along very well and our amiable talk is in full swing, Ive got a hunch that Evil Monk, Amorous Nun and their cronies are lying low in the vicinity of Baling, waiting for an opportunity to kill us.

    Kou Zhong sat down and mused, Perhaps they are even inside the city already. Is there any way we could lure them out?

    Calm and composed, Xu Ziling said, He who comes is surely ill-intentioned, no-one well-meaning will come. If we wait for them to act first, it would be difficult for us to avoid dead and injured; hence the best strategy is whether we could gain the initiative by striking first.

    A faint smile, brimming with confidence, appeared on the corner of Kou Zhongs mouth; he said slowly, This time we will be dealing with our enemy without relying on Xiao Xians support at all; only by doing this will we reach our goal of tempering ourselves.

    After thinking deeply, he added, In my opinion, due to their distinctive appearance, Evil Monk and Amorous Nun would not dare to venture into the city. Rather, they would send their people to spy and watch our movements. So they must be somewhere outside Xiang kids General Mansion, watching our coming and going. As long as we can find those spies, we can launch the anti-tracking operation, and will be one step ahead in killing the enemy.

    Xu Ziling said, After failed assassination attempt by Yang Xuyan, Xiang kids military mansions security is strengthened considerably; they even have hidden sentries outside the mansion. Therefore, if the opponents are sending people here, they must be good in hiding their tracks and are martial art experts in qinggong, so that it wont be easy for us to detect their movement and find their hiding place. Therefore, unless we have certain technique, it might be hard to find such people.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud. Dont worry! he said, Leave it to me. If even Evil Monk, Amorous Nun, I am unable to deal with, would I talk about vying over the world?

  11. #91
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 8 - Chapter 7

    Book 8 Chapter 7 The Mysterious Giant Ship

    Early morning the next day, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong supervised and urged Duan Yucheng, four people to train and spar against each other.

    While Kou Zhong, using a whip, was straining Bao Zhifu and Shi Jie to their limit, Yun Yuzhen came to stand by Xu Ziling and watch. Amazed at the situation in the arena, she said, These twos martial art skill is indeed not bad, how did you get them back here?

    Dang!

    Bao Zhifus broadsword was coiled by Kou Zhongs whip and was pulled away.

    Xu Ziling cast a sidelong glance toward the radiant-looking Yun Yuzhen. His eyes then fell onto the double-spear wielding Duan Yucheng, who was taking over Bao Zhifus position. Ma Gui, your turn! he barked his order.

    Ma Gui shouted his acknowledgement, his left and right hands successively shot three iron bullets toward the vital points on the pit of Kou Zhongs stomach and his crotch.

    Yun Yuzhen immediately jumped in fear, thinking that even the training looked a lot like a life and death struggle.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud, his body swayed, Ma Guis secret projectiles all hit empty space.

    Only then did Xu Ziling smile and asked, Beautiful Shifu, why are you up so early?

    Casting him a flirtatious glance, Yun Yuzhen replied, I was concerned over you guys!

    Forcing a laughter, Xu Ziling said, Shifu seems to mistake me for Kou Zhong again!

    Yun Yuzhens pretty face blushed slightly. Awkwardly she glowered at him and said, I thought you are not going to bring that matter up anymore.

    By that matter, naturally she was referring to she was throwing herself in Xu Zilings bosom and kissing him, mistaking him for Kou Zhong.

    Xu Ziling laughed indifferently, stepped into the arena, and shouted, My turn!

    Kou Zhong retrieved his whip and withdrew to Yun Yuzhens side. Xu Ziling used his bare hands to face the four men.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, These four boys are getting more and more formidable. It proves that we have original insight, and that we use the correct method in teaching them. Humph! Without me by your side last night, Beautiful Shifu naturally tossed and turned restlessly, hard for you to sleep.

    Yun Yuzhens powdered face turned even redder; she spat and said, I dont know how fragrant and sweet my sleep was. Why is it that men always arrogantly thought that girls cant do anything without them?

    Kou Zhong breathed a sigh of relief. Thats very good, he said, I was afraid Beautiful Shifu could not do without me. In that case, when I leave in a few days, I wont have to rush back anytime soon.

    Albeit knowing that Kou Zhong was teasing her, Yun Yuzhen could not help getting angry, Kou Zhong! she snapped, You bully me too much!

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, I was just testing Yun Bangzhus heart. Hee! Su Jie is here, do you want to go out and have fun with us?

    Yun Yuzhen cast him an angry look and said, Only ghosts want to accompany you!

    After giving him a sweet smile, she simply left.

    The carriage left the General Mansion. Eight riders opened up the path, eight riders protected from behind, plus Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling riding leisurely side by side with Susus carriage.

    Susu was relaxed and was in a very good mood, every now and then she chatted and laughed with the two boys through the window; they were happy and were in harmonious relationship.

    The cavalcade exited the city via the north gate, their destination was Linjiang Pavilion at the upper reaches of the River, a well-known scenic spot outside the city of Baling, from which they would be able to feast their eyes on the beautiful scenery of the Yangtze River.

    Outside the city, Susu followed the two boys suggestion to take a break in the wayside. Kou Zhong noticed that not only Xu Ziling seemed to be deep in thought, his face also seemed a bit pale. What are you thinking? Kou Zhong asked.

    Xu Ziling hesitated for half a day before relying, I suddenly remembered Yang Xuyan. I wonder whom does he work for?

    Frowning, Kou Zhong said, Didnt somebody say that he is in pursuit of Yang Shichongs beautiful daughter? They all surnamed Yang, naturally it should be easy to get close to each other! [I think it ought to be Wang Shichong. Authors error?]

    After a quick and thoughtful glance toward the dock outside the city, Xu Ziling said, Of course I remember that. I just think something does not fit here. Right now the person Yang Shichong fears the most ought to be Li Mi, and then Xiao Xian comes after him.

    Deep in thought, Kou Zhong commented, It wont make sense even more if he is working for Lin Shihong. Someone like Yang Xuyan, who is of the royal family origin, would not have anything to do with Lin Shihong, who is of lulin [lit. green forest, i.e. criminal world] origin. But you are also right, if I were Yang Shichong, how could I have time to deal with the things in the south?

    If Yang Xuyan is not Yang Shichongs man, Xu Ziling continued, He must be related to one of the Four Major Clans. The Song Clan is at odds with the royal family, plus they tend to stay in the south, so we can eliminate them. That leaves us with the Li Clan, the Dugu Clan, and the Yuwen Clan.

    Kou Zhong analyzed, Dugu Clan has always been an ally of Baling Bang, so they can also be eliminated. That leaves us Yuwen Clan and Li Clan. It seems to me that Yuwen Clan has a slightly higher possibility. Ay! But Yuwen Clan is also too busy with their own problems; just like Yang Shichong, they dont have time to meddle with the south. My Niang, could it be that Li Shimin guy?

    Xu Ziling was emotionally moved, That possibility is really high, he said, That Li guy has an acute foresight [orig. stand tall and see far], a man with power, aptitude, and broad outlook. Only he has the ability to see through the Xiang kids importance; if he were killed, Xiao Xian would turn half-blind. From this, it could be seen that that Li guy thinks highly of Xiao Xian.

    Kou Zhong nodded, In Sunzis [Sun Tzu] Art of War, it is said know yourself and know your enemy, and you will never be defeated. Speaking about the vastness and density of the intelligence network, no hole left un-entered, nothing surpasses Xiang kids network of brothels and casinos all over the country. Hey! Li guy plus Yang Xuyan, wont you say they are an interesting combination?

    This moment Susu opened the curtain and stuck her head out, Hey! Its so boring here! Come and chat with Jiejie, all right?

    Back at the General Mansion that evening, Duan Yucheng reported, Subordinates followed two Bangzhus instruction: from the time the carriage left the door, we monitor any movement all around, but we did not find anybody following your track, or any unusual activity.

    The two boys returned to their room, totally mystified, and even more disappointed.

    Could it be that they have guessed incorrectly? Or perhaps the enemies were clever enough to evade Duan Yucheng, four mens detection?

    Slapping the table, Kou Zhong exclaimed, It does not make sense. Yucheng and the others monitoring positions are strategically located and carefully selected; as long as anybody was following our trail, they would definitely see it. Unless hey!

    Xu Ziling caught on, I dont believe that the Evil Monk and Amorous Nun would be willing to swallow their pride to do it personally. That Evil Monk is irascible, he wont have the patience to wait for long. Unless

    The two boys looked at each other, with myriads of thoughts flashing through their minds.

    Unless they were waiting for reinforcement, there was no reason to miss their chances of attacking and killing them outside the city.

    Supposing Evil Monk and Amorous Nun were really Yin Gui Pai people, the reinforcement must be from Yin Gui Pai or perhaps martial art masters from Qu Aos side; this was definitely not a trivial matter.

    Kou Zhong blew a mouthful of cold air. We must never take Su Jie out of the city, he said, Well simply use an empty carriage as a decoy and forget about it.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, We must find a way to have our passive situation reversed; it would be best if we can do it ahead of the enemys martial art masters arrival, we need to be one step ahead by getting rid of Evil Monk and Amorous Nun, otherwise we will meet a disaster.

    Grabbing his own head, Kou Zhong said, Have you ever thought that this matter is really strange? On the surface, basically Evil Monk and Amorous Nun dont even know that we are related to Baling Bang, they did not even know that after the killing we would slip away to Baling. Why do we always think that they clearly know our whereabouts and are ready to ambush us anytime?

    This is purely some kind of almost supernatural intuition, Xu Ziling replied, I cant explain it.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, It is thus clear that the Secret to Long Life is indeed a Taoist treasure, plus in this aspect you are much keener than I am. Simply because your state of mind is closer to real warrior cultivation. No! You are basically an authentic [orig. replacement guaranteed if not genuine] Ziling Zhenren [lit. true/real person, Taoist Master]. Hee! The only thing lacking is the Taoist robe. It would be best if you and that Shi Feixuan make a pair, and snatch away Hou Xibais heart of love. Ha!

    Xu Ziling spoke in anguish, In time like this you are still talking nonsense.

    This is not nonsense, Kou Zhong seriously replied, Supposing you really have this kind of supernatural intuition, we might as well exploit it to our advantage. For example, can you feel the approximate position of the enemy?

    Xu Ziling was silent for half a day; he slowly shook his head and said, No! I simply have an ominous feeling. Thats all.

    Kou Zhong rose up to his full height and said, Wed better conduct an experiment. Lets go around the city first, if it doesnt work, then well go out of the city. Supposing the feeling of danger in your heart is getting stronger, it will mean that we are getting closer to the enemy. I guarantee that this kind of investigative method has not been used since the dawn of time until today. It will be unimaginable, and it can kill the enemy unprepared.

    Severely shaken, Xu Ziling said, We wont need to go around the city. Do you remember when we first came out of the city this morning, you asked me what am I thinking? I replied by asking you if you remembered Yang Xuyan; actually, that matter came later. At that time my feeling of danger was increasing substantially, my heart felt very uncomfortable. It was just like the feeling I got before Yang Xuyan mounted a sneak attack on us that day. That was the reason I was thinking of Yang Xuyan. But after we headed west, that singular sensation gradually disappeared.

    Kou Zhong was greatly delighted, That will do, he said, Outside the gates, the piers are full of ships and boats in all kinds of shapes and sizes, one must be the enemys hideouts. At that time they must be watching us in secret, to determine whether they should trail us and make their move; thats why it induced a reaction from you, just like the other day when Yang Xuyan was trying to assassinate Xiang kid. Ha! This time we hit the jackpot!

    Xu Ziling rose up suddenly. His tiger-eyes flashed with sharp glints, he spoke in heavy voice, There is no time to lose, well go now to give the enemies an unexpected shock they wont forget for the rest of their lives.

    The one-li-or-so long pier outside the city of Baling was full with docking ships and boats, big and small; at least there were two or three hundreds of them. On the vast shoreline stood about a dozen or so canopied structures, where goods and cargo, which did not make it into the city that day, were piled like small hills.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong followed the water line, and crouched behind a pile of goods, looking at the hundreds of flickering lights coming from the ships. They had no idea where to start looking for the enemy.

    Do you feel anything stronger anywhere? Kou Zhong whispered.

    Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, I dont feel anything at all. Ay! Shall we go back to sleep?

    Kou Zhong shook his head to indicate he had different ideas. He said thoughtfully, Supposing we stick our ears to the bottom of the boats and apply our inner strength to eavesdrop, do you think we will be able to listen to the conversation inside the boat?

    So what if we could? Xu Ziling was displeased, Supposing the people in the boat are sleeping or not talking, do you still want to continue taking turn in eavesdropping? Dont forget that there are hundreds of boats here. Even if we only listen for a moment each, we wont even cover one tenth by daybreak.

    Finally Kou Zhong relented. Well come back tomorrow then, he said disappointedly, I hope your feeling will be a bit stronger by then. Huh?!

    Following Kou Zhongs gaze, Xu Ziling saw a skiff, without any light on it, was weaving through the rows after rows of ships, coming toward the shore. By looking at the speed of the boat, they knew that the one steering it was a very capable sailor.

    Applying their inner power, the two boys focused their attention to the boat; they did not wish to miss any movement or sound.

    On the boat stood two people: one man and one woman. The youthful looking woman was standing on the bow. Just by looking at her clothes, they knew that she was a maid. She had a graceful and good-looking countenance, but there was a little bit of licentious feeling on her. The man looked thick and solid, but his face looked uncouth. Apparently this man had the same capacity as the woman; they were both maid and servant.

    The skiff was fast approaching. Before it even reached the shore, the maid soared into the air. With several ups and downs she reached the dark shore, while under the skillful hand of the servant the skiff stopped ashore to wait.

    The two boys were overjoyed at this turn of events. Although they could not ascertain if these two were Evil Monk, Amorous Nuns people, this matter was definitely incomparable to their previous situation where they had no clue of what to do.

    After exchanging eye signals, the two boys stealthily circled around and went down into the water outside the male servants range of vision. A moment later they reached the bottom of the boat and applied their strength to attach themselves to the boat. They used this opportunity to cultivate their strength to deal with the hard fighting that might come soon.

    Less than half a sichen later, the maid returned. The servant asked, Did you get it?

    Uh huh, the maid replied, indicating that she did indeed get what they were looking for.

    The skiff set off, the servant and the maid on the skiff no longer speak.

    Quite half a day later, the skiff reached a huge sea-going ship, and stopped by its side.

    The two boys left the skiff and dove under the giant ship. Sticking their ears to the hull, they seemed to hear voices, too bad the sound of the waves lapping against the hull distorted it, so that they could not hear it clearly.

    Kou Zhong pulled Xu Ziling away; as the two of them emerged from the water at the aft, he said, How do you catch the tiger cub without entering the tigers lair? Well?

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, No need to talk too much, go!

    The two boys looked at each others eyes and laughed. They climbed up, stopped at the edge of the deck, and craned their necks to take a peek.

    Even at its bottom, this ship already felt huge. Now that they looked from this angle, it felt even grander; the hull extended to more than two hundred chi. Three floors of cabin towered above the main deck, with more than thirty cabin windows, but only four of those windows were lighted, and they heard voices coming out of these windows.

    But the deck was quiet, no one was in sight.

    Putting his mouth close to Kou Zhongs ear, Xu Ziling whispered, I found two guards on sentry duty, both are on the third floor. Clearly their job is mainly to monitor any movement of other boats on the surface of the river, not to watch for any activity on the deck.

    Kou Zhong nonchalantly said, Well just have to gamble his mothers a bit; if things go awry, well escape via the water. Lets go!

    The two boys somersaulted over the railings. Crouching low on the deck, they crept toward the aft and hid in the shadow. Not only their movement was as fast as a ghost, they were in sync with each other, as if they had already practiced this mission a hundred or a thousand times before.

    They did not dare to rashly break into the cabin. Focusing their power in their ears, they listened carefully and quietly. A mans voice was heard inside. The man said, When the two boys fight together, they become especially formidable that even Ren Shaoming ended up in injustice death. Therefore, when we fight, we must pick just one and go all out to kill him, and then we can capture the other one and torture him to extort his confession. I dont believe he wont spill the Duke Yang Treasures secret.

    Listening to this, the two boys looked at each other in shock; wasnt it the voice of Dajiang Huis Second Chief Tiger Lord Pei Yan, who pursued and attacked them at the mouth of the river when they had just left Changshu? At that time there was also Wang Kuijie, whose martial art was extremely strong.

    This time they were looking for Evil Monk and Amorous Nun, but unexpectedly found a second carriage.

    Another unfamiliar voice said, We will wait for eight days until after they cross the River to the north before using the force of a ten-thousand-jun thunderbolt to either capture or kill them in one fell swoop. With our strength, dealing with them ought to be as easy as pinching a few ants.

    This person was speaking in a variable voice; sometimes it was low and muffled, sometimes it turned shrill and sharp, somewhat disjointed, so that it was quite uncomfortable to listen to.

    If his voice became like that due to the martial art he trained, then it must be an eccentric, strange, heretical and unusual martial art that was hard to estimate.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings countenance changed. Not because of the strange voice, but because the opposite side had such an accurate information of their whereabouts. Needless to say, someone must have tipped them off; no wonder they did not have to send anybody to watch the two boys movement.

    A muffled female voice filled with hatred said, Well kill that Xu Ziling, and captured Kou Zhong, who attacked us the other day. I want him to suffer all kinds of torture before we kill him.

    Just by listening to the fiery animosity in her voice, one would immediately know that she hated Kou Zhong to her heart and to her lungs.

    The two boys felt that the voice sounded familiar, but momentarily they could not figure out whose voice was it.

    Another charming and sweet female voice, as soft as the clouds in the sky, spoke indifferently, You Xiangus [female immortal/goddess/fairy] desire is definitely attainable. Those two boys must be proud for being able to facilitate the joining hands of Die and Shen Dangjia [Chief]. When we declare our kingship in the future, we can have them to thank!

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling immediately remembered that the woman who hated them to her guts must be Haisha Bangs pretty nun, You Qiuyan, the other Amorous Nun.

    Shen Dangjia must be Shen Faxing, to whom Haisha Bang recently pledged their allegiance to be his hunting dogs. The allied force has suffered devastating setback in the two boys hands; no wonder they were this thirsty of revenge.

    But who was the girls dad? It sounded as if Dajiang Hui was also taking orders from him.

    Shen Faxings voice was heard, This time Princess Mei presides over this mission, I am sure the two boys will fall into our hands. After we obtain the Duke Yang Treasure, plus the alliance of our Jiangnan and Garuda [Jialouluo], two armies, wont we have the world [tianxia China] in our bag?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings heart shivered in fear. They finally realized who this Princess Meis dad was.

    Among the warlords vying for supremacy over the world [China], in terms of brutality, nothing could surpass Zhu Can, who called himself Garuda King, whose fame and power was, currently, growing day by day.

    It was said that when Garuda Army lacked provision, they even cooked human beings for food. This matter might be grossly exaggerated, yet it showed how bad their reputation was.

    Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, What do we do? Perhaps we could carve Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were here with a knife, so that they would jump in fear.

    No! Xu Ziling shook his head, That way we will never become real martial art masters. We might as well go his mothers all out, so that in the future they will not be in our way.

    Kou Zhong grabbed Xu Zilings shoulder forcefully, his tiger-eyes were gleaming. All right! he said, We will change according to the situation. Well see whose fist is a bit harder. Hee!

  12. #92
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    Default Book 8 - Chapter 8

    Book 8 Chapter 8 Brilliant Scheme to Break the Enemy

    Kou Zhong was about to move, but Xu Ziling pulled him back. While he was baffled, Xu Ziling pressed his mouth on Kou Zhongs ear and said, Zhong Shao, you must not forget that we are now contending over the world, not trying to show off our bravery. We need to talk about strategy.

    Kou Zhong was stunned. What brilliant scheme are you thinking? he asked.

    Xu Ziling replied in low voice, Do you remember the battleship we took on our way from Jiujiang to Baling? The bow is equipped with pointed iron. If we drive it fast enough, I guarantee we can hit this gigantic and stiff ship squarely in the middle and break it into two.

    Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, You, this kid, are actually more aggressive than I am, yet you normally pretend to be Taoist teacher who dont care about fame and fortune. Hee! Dont you feel that tonight you are so not normal?

    Cut it out! Xu Ziling snapped at him.

    The two boys woke Bu Tianzhi, who remained on the [Jukun Bang] ship, up. Having understood the situation clearly, he excitedly said, Let me dispatch someone to notify General Xiang immediately. If we can capture Zhu Mei, it would be like severing one of Zhu Cans arms.

    Kou Zhong hurriedly said, The enemy is saving their oil by not lighting any lamp, plus they must have set up sentries onshore to send them warning. If you are going out with magnificent army with thousands of men and horses, the enemy would have to be bird-brained if they do not immediately run away. Fu Bangzhu [Deputy Gang Leader] must act according to our plan. You are in charge of driving our ship into theirs, we will be in charge of going underwater to capture the enemy. This is called cooperation and division of work. Do you understand?

    Xu Ziling also asked, Is Zhu Mei formidable?

    While nodding his head to acknowledge Kou Zhongs instruction, Bu Tianzhi answered Xu Zilings question, Zhu Mei is like having Zhu Cans brains but with beauty like flower, and poison like serpent and scorpion. I dont know how many heroes have met their tragic end under her floating cloud sleeves.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Good thing that under water no floating cloud sleeves can be used; let us see how beautiful and how fierce she really is.

    Bu Tianzhi suddenly sighed and said, Not only two Gongzis action is beyond expectation, the method you come up with is even more amazing, like opening up the sky. Tianzhi received benefits from your instruction!

    He summoned his men at once and had them quietly raise the anchor and set sail upstream.

    The warship slowly turned around. On the deck stood more than a hundred Jukun Bang warriors, each one skillful in using bow and arrow, ready to meet the enemy head-on. Twelve sets of catapult were also at the ready, poised for action.

    Ever since the two boys succeeded in killing Ren Shaoming, the Jukun Bang people honored them as gods. This moment they were serving under the two boys command, their morale was like rainbow, everybody was in high spirit.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, with bow in their hands, stood on the bridge, giving direction to the targets position. Bu Tianzhi continuously giving instructions, the ship was slowly accelerating.

    The river was quiet, the only audible noise was the waves lapping against the shore, a gentle reminder of natures perpetual motion. The moon already moved away from its zenith in the sky, the river reflected its light, creating patterns of light and darkness.

    There were hundreds of ships and boats, big and small, on the river that night, not one was aware of the impending battle.

    When they were about two hundred zhang away from their target, the giant ship, which cast its anchor, alone, at the outskirt of the harbor, the warship turned toward the bend on the opposite bank, preparing to increase its momentum.

    Kou Zhong said to Xu Ziling, To contend for hegemony over the world, we must line up talents. Otherwise, even though we have this brilliant scheme, we wont be able to execute it.

    Xu Ziling looked at the fully opened sail, but did not say anything.

    Kou Zhong could not help asking, Xiao Ling, why are you so proactive tonight?

    Xu Ziling turned his gaze toward the giant ship right ahead, he said in heavy voice, You are my best brother in the world, since I already promised to help you acquire the Duke Yang Treasure, how would it work if I am not being proactive?

    Kou Zhong felt his heart suddenly grew warm; he was unable to speak.

    Xu Ziling reached out and put his hand on Kou Zhongs shoulder, he said gently, It is also for Su Jies sake. Those people have a mole inside Xiang kids mansion, naturally they are very clear about Su Jies relationship with us. If they could not do anything to us, maybe they would try to get Su Jie into their hands. Therefore, we must capture one or two leaders from the opposite party alive, hand them over to Xiang kid, let him force confession by torture, uncover the mole within, and only then will Su Jies safety be guaranteed.

    The warship picked up speed, fast like a runaway horse it rode the waves straight toward the flank of the giant ship.

    Only this moment did the enemy find out something was amiss; alarm went off, human shadows flickered everywhere. But it was too late to change their fate. It was as if the sacred state of tranquility was suddenly shattered.

    Attack! Bu Tianzhi thundered.

    Like thunderstorm huge rocks, arrows and darts rained onto the enemys warship, battle cry shook the River.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling also shot their arrows. Wood pieces flew, the sail mast broke. Amidst the miserable cry of the enemies hit by the arrows, there was a loud Boom! as like a mad bull the pointy iron figurehead of Jukun Bang warship rammed into the weakest part on the starboard side of the enemys ship.

    The sound of the ship splitting and the wood snapping rang continuously, the enemys ship leaned toward the opposite side and spun around.

    Their own warship also shook suddenly and leaned sideways. After a burst of ear-piercing grinding noise, the warship rubbed itself along the bow of the enemys ship. The warship was pushed outward and thus recovered its balance.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling soared into the air, traversing the empty space between the two ships, toward a large gaping hole on the hull of the enemys ship, which, by this time, was still spinning slowly around.

    The enemy was thrown into chaos; the lantern lost its light, nobody knew how many people were thrown into the water that night.

    Other people on the ships and boats all around were awakened by the noise, so that there were commotions everywhere.

    By the time Kou Zhong landed onto the other sides bridge, the giant ship already started to tilt and sink down. The enemy simply did not have any heart to fight, one after another they slipped down into the water to escape. The pandemonium was like the coming of the doomsday.

    In this extreme confusion, he saw two graceful figures breaking out of the window and cast themselves into the river. Their movement was agile, fast and nimble.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and ran after them.

    On the other side, Xu Ziling landed on the bow. Like a tiger entering a flock of sheep he attacked like crazy, those who tried to block him were completely routed.

    By this time, due to the hull was tilting sideways, the deck has also sloped down, so that whoever got hit were rolling down the slope, straight into the river below, battered and completely exhausted.

    Suddenly there was a loud shout behind him, coming from above going down, coupled with a gust of wind.

    Xu Ziling was in the height of the fighting spirit; without even looking, after throwing down an enemy, his palm struck backhandedly.

    Bang!

    Xu Ziling was jolted by the impact that he nearly fell down the slope, but the enemy was also severely shaken that he staggered back and nearly fell down.

    Taking advantage of this slight intermission, the rest of the enemies scrambled away to run for their lives.

    This moment Bu Tianzhis warship already made a U-turn and rained down arrows onto the enemies still floating on the river.

    After taking a sharp intake of a mouthful of true qi, Xu Ziling turned around to see the enemy face-to-face. With astonishment he found out that it was none other than the Second Chief of the Dajiang Hui, the Tiger Lord Pei Yan, with whom he has had a predestined affinity to meet once.

    Pei Yans pair of vicious eyes flickered continuously; apparently because he had tested Xu Zilings extremely strong power, fear was starting to creep into his heart, and so he continuously withdrew toward the top of the slope.

    The giant ship has sunken down more than half. Other than they, there was no other enemy on the deck.

    Xu Ziling slowly pressed forward, using the edge of his palms like sabers, he sent out his true power by hacking from a distance, putting the opponent under his control. Laughing calmly, he said, Er Dangjia, you want to run away too?

    Pei Yan swung his broadsword. Pei! he spat while halted his step, and then shouted harshly, It wont be too late to leave after killing you, this kid.

    Lightning fast Xu Ziling slid sideways, and sent out a punch over the empty air. Pei Yan roared and nearly tumbled down.

    What happened was that because Xu Ziling suddenly changed position, plus his punch came from an unbelievably ingenious angle, it immediately hit Pei Yans right shoulder. Not only the pain penetrated his bones and marrows, he even nearly lost his grip on his saber. Actually, he was not this useless, its just that he was not in the mood to fight, and was already intimidated by Xu Ziling, and thus Xu Ziling was able to exploit this weakness.

    At this moment his desire to escape was growing, but while he was about to slip backward, like a ghost or demon Xu Ziling suddenly came to his right side. Helplessly he roared while turning the saber into his left hand, and then he counterattacked with everything he had.

    Xu Ziling chose to take a floating tactic; no matter how Pei Yan dodged, he was always able to force him to block with all his strength, jolting his left hand that it turned numb, and was incapable of carrying out even fifty percent of his usual strength.

    Under this constant barrage, before long Pei Yans left arm was hit by Xu Zilings finger, his broadsword fell off.

    Scared out of his wits, Pei Yan unleashed his pressing down on the box/chests bottom, he deliberately rolled down the slope, while his legs swept swiftly; it was extremely vicious.

    Xu Ziling let out a long laugh, his fists punched together. When he was about to subdue the enemy in one stroke, a burst of an extremely sharp wind shot from his left side.

    By the time Xu Ziling realized suddenly that the enemy has been hiding behind the cabin door, the enemys sword has already enveloped the space to his left, the sword qi pervaded the air.

    In that split second, Xu Ziling already determined that the attackers power was at least two notches above Pei Yans. If he did not go all-out to deal with him, most likely he would suffer a heavy loss. Therefore, without any choice he abandoned Pei Yan, turned around and waved his hand to parry the enemys sword.

    Bang!

    Palm and sword collided.

    Xu Ziling was shaken that his blood and qi bubbled up within him, and he was forced to slide two steps sideways to neutralize it.

    The attacker borrowed the reaction force from the impact to fly away, and landed on the tilting sail mast.

    Pei Yan had just reached the edge of the sloping deck; he had not entered the water yet.

    The attacker was covered in black clothes; he was lanky and handsome, with extremely heavy make-up on his face. Letting out a long laugh, he said, This time lets consider you win. But there will come a day when I, Bai Wenyuan, will repay you nicely.

    With a somersault he entered the river.

    His voice was sometimes low and muffled, sometimes shrill and overbearing; he was the person who spoke in the cabin.

    By this time the water has reached the bottom of Xu Zilings foot, the giant ship was finally sinking.

    Under water, Kou Zhong was chasing the two women for nearly a li. When he was about four zhang away from them, the two women split up to the left and right to escape.

    In the dark water, Kou Zhong selected one of them and exerted his strength to give chase.

    From the opponents beautiful diving and swimming style, he was quite sure that this mermaid was indeed You Qiuyan, particularly her sleek bald head; it was something that no one else would be able to impersonate.

    Kou Zhong has fought face-to-face with her many times. In terms of underwater skill, he definitely could not match her, an underwater expert. However, in terms of internal strength and punching and kicking, he was far superior to her; hence he did not have any concern that she would fly out of the hollow of his palm.

    Ahead, You Qiuyan seemed to lose strength, she started to slow down. Kou Zhong was amused inwardly, knowing that she was going to either release secret projectiles or throw a net; pretending not to know anything, he increased his speed instead, while at the same time his hand grabbed the whip around his waist, ready to give her a surprise shock.

    Three zhang, two zhang, one zhang, You Qiuyan suddenly turned around, the net was thrown over his head.

    Kou Zhong swiftly dove down, his right hand lightly groped his waist, the whip lashed out like a sea serpent to coil itself around You Qiuyan; his left hand reached out toward the edge of the net, and transmitted his true strength via the net.

    You Qiuyans tender body was jolted, while the whip wound around her slender jade leg, sealing off her acupoints.

    Succeeded in capturing his target, Kou Zhong brought her rising to the surface.

    Upstream, the River was still shaking with shouts and yells; obviously the hunt and arrest game was still growing strong.

    Kou Zhong planted a kiss on You Qiuyans sweet lips, and said with a giggle, Would Yan Jie [older sister Yan] like to make out in the River, or do you want to wait until we are ashore before we get intimate?

    After giving him a hard stare, You Qiuyan closed her beautiful eyes tightly. It was the only way she could show her helpless protest.

    Kou Zhong embraced her and brought her up to the sandbar; pressing her body underneath his, he smiled and said, Last time I let you off, thinking that you would feel grateful to me. Turns out the most vicious one toward me is you. Is your honored Bangzhu well?

    You Qiuyan opened up her beautiful eyes; staring at him coldly, she said, Just kill me!

    Kou Zhong put his mouth on her jade-like sparkling and translucent small ear, and nibbled on her earlobe. No! he said, I am still going to let you go! And then he proceeded by patting open her arteries and veins acupoint. Springing up, heroically and loftily he said, Because I like your beauty. The other day your honored Bangzhu wrapped his arm around your small waist, it irritated me so much that I did not know what I wanted to do to him. Ha! But in the end didnt I manage to hold you and kiss you and touch you?

    You Qiuyan sprang up, her beautiful eyes spun around and around for a while; finally she sighed and said, Kou Zhong, dont you regret it. When I have the opportunity, I will definitely not let you off.

    Kou Zhong reached out to stroke her cheek; he laughed indifferently and said, I know that you actually love me; hence the reason you hated me so much, but you just didnt realize it! Lets just wait and see.

    You Qiuyan was unsure whether she was mad at herself for not dodging when he stroked her cheek, or because she could not tell whether in her heart she loved or hated him; ferociously kicking the ground, she turned around and left.

    Watching her beautiful back gradually going away, Kou Zhong could not help thinking about the ambiguous relationship between Dong Ming Princess and Xu Ziling, and then he also recalled Li Xiuning. Sighing, he rushed back toward the upper reaches of the River.

    The first streak of dawn finally appeared on the eastern horizon.

    The Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling-led military operation was a total success, it sent tremors throughout the City of Baling. The enemies captured were more than thirty people, three of which were women, including the maid who went ashore last night. The dead and the wounded were difficult to count because most were underwater and were carried away by the river.

    Knowing that there was a mole inside the General Mansion, Xiao Xian and Xiang Yushan were extremely nervous; they launched an investigation immediately.

    Yun Yuzhen was a little upset. She blamed the two boys for not informing her before going personally to deal with the enemy; she blamed them even more for not gaining her approval before going into battle, which was quite overstepping her authority.

    However, under Kou Zhongs gentle ministrations, very quickly she went from anger to happiness. The two of them were soon laughing and joking as usual.

    That evening, Kou Zhong inquired about the investigation concerning the mole. Xiang Yushans countenance sank as he said, She found out about it and already escaped.

    Susu added, She is one of my personal maids; she has been missing since going out this morning. Ay! I treated her like a sister, unexpectedly she could do such thing.

    With a wry smile Xiang Yushan said, She has been serving me since her childhood, I cant believe she has been bought by the enemy.

    Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling asked, Does she know martial art?

    Stunned, Xiang Yushan shook his head.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, You have been deceived. If my guess is right, the little maid was murdered. The objective is that you will think that there is no more mole in here.

    Susu was severely shaken, Xiao Mei! she exclaimed, and burst into tears.

    Xu Ziling shot Kou Zhong a reprimanding look. Helping Susu up, he brought her into the inner chamber to console her.

    Kou Zhong slapped his forehead, My bad! he said remorsefully.

    Yun Yuzhen spoke in low voice, You are so good to Su Jie; others wont have anything to say.

    Xiang Yushan muttered, How can we dig this mole out and dismember his body into ten thousand pieces?

    Casting a glance toward the inner chamber, Kou Zhong heaved a deep sigh, and said heavily, Just by making Su Jie grieving and shedding tears, I wont let him off. Get that maid who was captured alive for me, I guarantee that I can get the moles identity from her.

    The maid was brought into the side pavilion. Kou Zhong waved the other people to get out of the pavilion.

    The maid looked to be around twenty, her countenance was quite pretty, albeit a bit pale. But her expression was quite firm, evidently she refused to give in easily.

    Kou Zhong sat leisurely in an imperial-tutor chair [i.e. armchair]; smiling, he said, Miss, please sit down!

    The maid shook her head with her lips closed tightly, showing clearly that she refused to talk.

    Remaining calm and unfazed, Kou Zhong said, As long as you agree to answer a few questions, I will immediately let you go, so you can enjoy your youthfulness well.

    The maid could only stare blankly, with a disbelief look on his eyes, but in the end she shook her head.

    Knowing that she refused to believe that there was such an easy thing in the world, Kou Zhong laughed and said, Who did not know that I, Kou Zhong, am a good person? Your master wanted to kill me, not because I did something bad, but because he is greedy of the Duke Yang Treasure; therefore, your master is the bad person. Ha! This logic is so simple; only idiots fail to understand it.

    Although the little maid did not speak, her face was no longer stretched so tight.

    Kou Zhong patted his chest and said, Let me, this good person, give you a guarantee: as long as you agree to answer three questions of mine, I will let you go.

    The little maids tender body trembled slightly; hanging her head down, she spoke hoarsely, If I answer your question, but you accuse me of lying, then

    Kou Zhong cut her off, Whether you lie or not, we will both know it. For instance, if you are hesitating, or perhaps you are stammering, then it will be clear that you are making up stories. In that case there is no need for us to continue!

    The little maid bit her lower lip. Are you really going to ask me only three questions? she asked.

    Kou Zhong spread out his arms, Of course! he said, I am not one who goes back on his word.

    Summoning her courage, the little maid looked up to meet his gaze; with her spirit returning to her pretty eyes, she said, As long as I do not hesitate, and I am not stammering, then I can go?

    That is correct, Kou Zhong assured her, But if you offend me by telling me lies, I will immediately waste your martial art, and then Ill sell you to a low-class brothel, so that youll have to serve at least ten patrons a day. Do you understand?

    Hearing that, the little maids countenance changed greatly.

    Actually, Kou Zhong did not even know how to waste anybodys martial art skill, plus he would not possibly sell her to any pleasure house. It was all nothing but intimidation.

    Quite half a day later, the little maid nodded her head in agreement.

    Such an easy matter, anybody would find it hard to refuse. Kou Zhong was just feeling her heart, he did not have any concern that she would not fall into his trap.

    His tiger-eyes gleamed with cold rays, Kou Zhong looked at the little maid, whose head was hung low, whose heart was trembling with trepidation, and said in heavy voice, Whats your name?

    The little maid was stunned. My name is Xiao Qiu, she replied, while in her heart mused whether such an easy question could be considered the first question.

    Slapping the small table next to him, Kou Zhong said, You passed the first question!

    The little maids heart was mad with delight; she spoke gently, Kou Gongzi, please ask me your second question!

    With the same gentleness, Kou Zhong said, The second question is, hey! Who is your master?

    Princess Mei! the little maid answered quickly.

    Kou Zhong was pleased. Congratulations Miss for passing two questions. After answering the next question, I will personally escort Miss out of the city to reunite with your family. It would be best if you dont come back to your Princess Mei. Such master with bad reputation, if you stay with her, disaster may come to you anytime. Let this time be a lesson to you.

    The little maid said in low voice, Gongzi, please ask your question!

    Kou Zhong deliberately stayed silent for half a day. When the little maid grew so nervous that her whole body trembled unnaturally, he suddenly shouted his last question, Who gave you the letter last night?

    The little maid suddenly opened her mouth, but no word came out.

    Kou Zhong thundered menacingly, You fail!

    Tears flooding out of the little maids eyes, she cried out anxiously, But I dont know his name!

    Kou Zhong did not give her any chance to think deeply, How tall is he? he shouted.

    The little maid did not dare to hesitate, she replied, Half a head taller than me.

    Subsequently Kou Zhong shot her more than a dozen questions in rapid succession. Finally he rose up and said, I know who he is, I will take Miss out. Please stop crying!

  13. #93
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 8 - Chapter 9

    Book 8 Chapter 9 Moon in the Well Champion

    With smile on his face Kou Zhong entered the main hall, he was met by Yun Yuzhen and Xiang Yushans expectant glance, but he noticed that Xu Ziling was standing by the window, with neither concern nor delight on his face. Kou Zhong asked in amazement, Xiao Ling, dont you want to know who the mole is?

    Xu Ziling replied indifferently, How could such a tender young child be your, Zhong Shaos opponent? Unless she basically does not know anything.

    Unable to hold back, Xiang Yushan asked, Whats the outcome?

    Kou Zhong sat down opposite the two people, Its one of your personal guards, he said, I think his name is Ouyang Ji or something. You know what to do!

    A strong murderous intent flared in Xiang Yushans eyes; without saying a word he stood up and left.

    Kou Zhong winked at Yun Yuzhen and said, Would Beautiful Shifu be interested in a trip out of town with us, two brothers? I promised to escort that poor girl out of the city!

    The next several days, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling devoted their heart and mind to push Duan Yucheng, four men to train martial art. The four, on the other hand, also realized that this matter concerned their honor and disgrace, their life and death, plus they obtained these two highly talented brilliant masters direction, therefore, they strived and hence advanced by leaps and bounds.

    The rest of the time, the two boys abandoned everything to go with Susu on scenic tours, doing their best to make her happy.

    Time flew. The next day they were going to start their journey north. Xiao Xian hosted a banquet to give them a farewell dinner.

    There was an additional guest at the dinner that night: Big Sister Xiao, Xiao Huan, who had just returned from Lingnan. Xiao Xians Left-field Marshal Zhang Xiu was unable to attend because just that morning he set out leading his army into battle.

    As usual, the ten-thousand-kind flirtatious Big Sister Xiao was continuously throwing the two boys flirtatious glances and raining them with sweet talks [orig. confusing soup].

    After saluting them with a round of drink, Xiao Xian said, Turned out the person who mounted sneak attack on Ziling to give Pei Yan the opportunity to escape was Bai Wenyuan, a newly rising martial art master of Jingjian Zong [lit. clean/net sword school], who is also Zhu Meis current lover [orig. handsome male companion, i.e. gigolo]. He is quite famous in Sichuan region, it could be that he is infatuated by Zhu Meis beauty that he came to take refuge in Zhu Can.

    Kou Zhong blurted out laughing; he said, Current lover. The term Xiao Dangjia used is definitely top-notch; it clearly showed that Zhu Mei used to have numerous lovers [here the term is adventurous head, also in subsequent paragraphs]. Ha!

    Big Sister Xiao glowered at him and said, Being Zhu Meis lover is not a good thing, because she is paranoid and jealous; if she suspected her lover was having affair with different women, she would not hesitate to kill him to vent her anger. Thats the reason Jianghu people call her Poisonous Spider. Obviously Bai Wenyuan dislike having a long life that he attaches himself to her.

    Xiang Yushan laughed and said, That kind of heavily-made-up person, how could two Dage have any regards for him? But Zhu Mei is indeed highly capable; rumor has it that she has mastered 90% of Zhu Cans skill. That night she did not fight back, simply because she was intimidated by two Dages fame for fighting prowess after you killed Ren Shaoming, plus she was unclear of the situation, hence she could only flee.

    Susu said anxiously, Since she is a narrow-minded person, certainly she would not want to let this matter rest; you two must be absolutely careful.

    Yun Yuzhen said with a laugh, Su Jie please set your heart at ease. Talking about wisdom and strategy, Xiao Zhong, Xiao Ling, are definitely not inferior to anybody. Su Jie just think, ever since their debut, the ones suffering losses were other people, when did they ever suffer any defeat?

    Big Sister Xiao laughed like a fluttering stem of a flower; she said, Since Yun Bangzhu is able to say such thing, surely you have suffered losses in the hands of these two boys!

    Yun Yuzhens pretty face blushed like red clouds; casting a flirtatious glance toward the two boys, she said, Dajie has never tasted any losses from them!

    Seeing her blatantly flirting with the two boys during the banquet, Susu was displeased, her jet-black eyebrows were knitted.

    Xiao Xian also felt rather uncomfortable with his younger sisters licentious behavior; changing the topic, he said, There is one thing that even now I still dont understand: how did two Xiaodi find out that Zhu Mei and Shen Faxing were hiding in ambush outside the city? They are all old hands in Jianghu; they even managed to keep our people in the dark.

    Naturally Kou Zhong would not divulge the fact that Xu Ziling possessed a supernatural intuition; inventing crazy nonsense, he said, That was a pure speculation. Funny thing is that at first we did not know it was them; we were looking for Evil Monk and Amorous Nun, but found them by mistake. Just consider it their bad luck, ha!

    Xiang Yushan smiled and said, This Kou Dage of mine often downplays their achievements, but always speaks cheerfully and wittily, so that with him around, the atmosphere is always full of joy.

    Big Sister Xiao could not help asking in bewilderment, Why is it that talking to the left General Xiang calls Kou Dage, talking to the left you calls Xu Dage? In term of age, you are older, in term of relationship, you are their jiefu [older sisters husband]. And Su Jie, why didnt you correct him?

    Susu happily said, My two Didi are not ordinary people, naturally Yushan wants to show his respect!

    Yun Yuzhen also smiled and said, Therefore, I also feel that Yushan did not use incorrect appellation.

    Xiao Xian chuckled, Well said, he said, Two Xiaodi are indeed not ordinary people that I, Xiao Xian, seldom encounter in my life; people who, opening up their palm they create clouds, turning down their palm they create rain, who, leisurely and casually, turned the entire situation of the South upside-down, who also caused our Great Liang kingdoms power and influence to flourish greatly. Although you have not officially joined my army, I, Xiao Xian, already consider you one of my own.

    And then, clapping his hands he called out, People!

    While everybody else was stunned, two beautiful maids carrying exquisitely embroidered cases, one long one short, appeared in front of the banquet table.

    Xiao Xian signaled with his hand, the two maids separately presented the long case to Kou Zhong, and the short one to Xu Ziling.

    After the maids withdrew, Xiao Xian cheerfully said, Small gifts, not worth showing my respect. Gentlemen, please open the cases and take a look whats inside.

    Kou Zhong opened his embroidered case. To his astonishment, it was a steel saber. At first glance it seemed to be an ordinary saber, nothing special about it. But after careful look, whether it was the saber itself or the scabbard, although there was neither ornate decoration nor any other embellishment, there was some kind of ancient, simple yet elegant taste on it, so that nobody dared to despise it.

    Watching Kou Zhong taking the saber out of the case, Xiao Xians eyes emitted some kind of unfathomable gleam as he spoke softly, This saber has no name, but it is said that it is a divine weapon from the ancient times, the steel quality is marvelous, the blade can emit faint yellow glow. Two hundred years ago it fell into the hands of the number one saber expert of the time, the Saber Overlord Ling Shangren [term of respect to address Buddhist Master]. Afterwards Ling Shangren retired from Jianghu, this saber also disappeared. Later on, after some twists and turns, it fell into my hands. Although I do not like to use saber, I do have special fondness toward it. Hence I have the intention to present it to Kou Xiaodi, to show my, Xiao Xians sincerity and gratefulness.

    Ring!

    Kou Zhong pulled the saber off its scabbard.

    Everybody focused their attention to look, but all was disappointed.

    The saber blade was dull without any luster; where was the yellow glow Xiao Xian was talking about?

    But suddenly the blade changed; although it was barely noticeable, there was no doubt a genuine soft yellow glow around it.

    Xiao Xian laughed aloud and said, Xiao Xiongdi is indeed the true owner of this saber; your true qi is able to incite this treasured sabers reaction. I have played with this saber thousands of times, but the blade has never displayed the yellow glow.

    And thus everybody understood that in the past, when Ling Shangren was using the saber, his true qi must have brought out the strong yellow glow of the blade, but if anybody else picked up the saber, it was no more than an ordinary iron. They all could not help clicking their tongue in wonder.

    Kou Zhong knew very well that Xiao Xian was trying to win him over, but still, he was quite delighted and said gratefully, From now on, this saber will be called Moon in the Well. This kid bows to Xiao Dangjia for bestowing this gift.

    Astonished, Xiao Xian asked, The name Moon in the Well has a heavy Zen flavor in it; whats the story behind it?

    Kou Zhong replied perfunctorily, I just saw a marvel in the well one night; nothing special about it.

    Xiao Xian suddenly sighed and said, In the past, my ancestor, Emperor Wu of Liang, Xiao Yan, loved to collect divine weapons. This saber cost him ten years of mental and physical efforts, he sent people on open enquiries and secret search, and went to the end of the world, before he had the destiny to obtain it. Afterwards the enemy troops broke the city defense, but because this treasure was hidden deep in underground storehouse, it was preserved.

    Only then did everybody understand why he was having a reluctant-to-part expression on his face.

    Curious, Susu said, Xiao Ling, why dont you see what kind of treasure Xiao Dangjia is giving you?

    Xu Ziling picked the case and presented it back to Xiao Xian; he smiled and said, I appreciate Xiao Dangjias good intention, whatever it is inside the case must be a rare treasure of the world, but I am a kind of person who doesnt like to be concerned about worldly possession, and I do not wish to know what unfathomable mystery is inside the box. I am asking for Xiao Dangjias forgiveness.

    Other than Kou Zhong, everybody else was surprised by Xu Zilings refusal. However, instead of being astonished, Xiao Xian simply sighed and said, Xu Xiongdi is independent and loves to travel alone, someday you will certainly become an exceptional and peculiar character. Not only Laofu [old man, referring to self] does not have the slightest displeasure, my heart is full of admiration instead.

    Everybody present was quite moved by Xiao Xians poise.

    Wanting to steer the conversation away from the Moon in the Well, Kou Zhong changed the subject, I wonder if Xiao Dangjias meeting with Miss Song the other day went well?

    Xiao Xian nodded and said, Arrangements are being made for me to meet with the Heavenly Saber Song Que, I have always had high esteem toward him, Senior. If we can bring this matter to fruition, two Xiao Xiongdis merit is great.

    Aware that Xiao Xian would not reveal the details of their meeting, Kou Zhong changed the subject once again by talking about the current situation of the warlords vying for supremacy.

    After the banquet, Big Sister Xiao unashamedly went back with them to the General Mansion. She was very passionate toward Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, and did not try to be discreet at all, so that Yun Yuzhen was pouting, and Susu was frowning deeply. But since they were aware that that was her nature, they were quite helpless to stop her.

    In the inner hall they chatted about this and that for the whole sichen, and then, although she was unwilling, Susu had to remember about the baby in her womb and had to take her leave to return to her room and take a rest.

    On the pretext that he had to accompany his tender wife, Xiang Yushan also seized that opportunity to take his leave; leaving Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, Yun Yuzhen and Xiao Huan, whose flirtatiousness and charm penetrated the bones. Immediately the situation became awkward.

    Xu Ziling rose up; with aloofness that push other people ten-thousand li away, he said, I also have to take my leave, forgive me for not accompanying you, but I need to go back to my room to train, to deal with the travel tomorrow.

    Kou Zhong also stood up, but before he even had a chance to speak, Big Sister Xiao already spoke crossly, We are just having interesting conversation here, how could you slip away just like that? Hee! How about Dajie and you go to your room and have some drinks?

    After sending him a my deep regret, but Xiaodi is unable to help however much I would like to look, Xu Ziling hurriedly slipped away.

    Kou Zhong noticed that Yun Yuzhen was fuming with anger while hanging her head down. For the first time in his life he envied Xu Zilings no woman is important view; with a wry smile he said, If I dont train but drinking and be merry all night with you, two beautiful women, the day after tomorrow you will forever not see me, this the will is there, but not the strength [idiom from Confucian Analects] kid.

    Early morning the next day, when the sky has not even brightened, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling left Baling. Together with Duan Yucheng, Bao Zhifu, Shi Jie and Ma Gui, four men, driving four mule carts loaded with salt, crossing the river to the north, starting their long journey.

    Their first destination was Jingling Prefecture by Han River.

    Learning from experience, this time they did not take the waterway, but opted for land route instead, which was more convenient to cover their tracks.

    By dusk, they stopped and pitched camp in the wilderness, while letting their mules to enjoy the beautiful grass around.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling sat down on underbrush by a pile of rocks. The former sighed and said, Xiao Xian is really formidable; he could eat people without spitting their bones.

    Xu Ziling lifted up his eyes toward the towering, steep mountain peaks vying to be the most beautiful, beyond the plain, which, under the glow of the setting sun, gave him some kind of elusive immortality feeling. Sighing with Kou Zhong, he said, With Su Jie in his hands, he does not need to be afraid we are going to take him down. If Xiang kid married Su Jie for the sake of Duke Yang Treasure, I will be the first who is going to take his little life away.

    Grabbing his own head, Kou Zhong said distressingly, This is more formidable than threatening Su Jie with a saber. Lets forget about Xiang kid treating us with deferential respect, the fact is that he is most probably more cunning than the two of us put together. To say the least, we have absolutely no way to take him down.

    Xu Zilings countenance sank; he said slowly, If we meet Li Jing someday, I will certainly ask him why he let down Su Jies affection toward him. Were it not for Su Jie, he would have lost his life in the South.

    Shaken, Kou Zhong said, Xiao Ling, this is the first time that you addressed him directly by his name.

    Xu Zilings palm struck a hundred-jin rock by his side.

    Bang!

    The rock crumbled immediately.

    While Kou Zhong was staring at him, tongue-tied, Xu Ziling let out a heavy sigh and said, Why is it that there are so many things in the world that we know that it should not be like that, but we are helpless to do anything about it?

    Kou Zhong hung his head down in silence, engrossed in his own thought.

    That night the two boys simply sat like that until dawn.

    Early the following morning they continued their journey.

    Two days later they entered the mountainous area.

    Along the way the scenery was extremely beautiful. The mountain road was nestled among the dense forest, one segment of the roads overlooked a hundred-zhang deep ravine, while below the mountain was the panoramic view of rice fields and cultivated lands. When they reached certain elevation, their eyes feasted on the range upon range of bluish-green, ten-thousand-hill going up and down as far as their eyes could see.

    That night they pitched camp at the foot of the mountain.

    Since that day when they sat staring blankly all night long, Xu Ziling was unusually silent. The two boys did not even sleep in the camp; instead, they stayed outside with the earth as their sleeping mat and the heavens as their bed curtain, as if they were back at the small valley where they buried Fu Junchuo.

    Sometimes when Xu Ziling was sitting alone far away, Kou Zhong would chat with Duan Yucheng and the others.

    Duan Yucheng respectfully said, For the four of us to come with Zhong Ye and Ling Ye out to temper ourselves in the world, is truly a blessing. In just a short two-month period, its like what other people would go through in several years; it is indeed eye-opening.

    Bao Zhifu and the others nodded their agreement.

    In order to avoid other peoples eyes and ears, they agreed not to address the two boys as Gang Leaders.

    Shi Jie also expressed his feelings, No matter how bad the situation, as long as Zhong Ye and Ling Ye are around, we are always full of fighting spirit and vitality; and we have the confidence to cope with any danger.

    Ma Gui joined in, The hardest to come by is that the two masters have never treated us as underlings; moreover, you never put on airs.

    Kou Zhong laughed nonchalantly and said, Right now we all are brothers, hands and feet, together going out into the world. Not only to establish great undertaking that will last hundreds of generations, we are wishing to bring peace into the world, so that everybody can live in peace and work happily. Destiny is made whenever there is a will to create.

    Hearing that, the four men seemed to be emotional and excited.

    Shi Jie hatefully said, What we detest the most is those dog officials and thieving soldiers; we want to kill them as many as possible without showing mercy.

    Duan Yucheng suddenly hanged down his head, his shoulders twitched. Real men dont cry easily; evidently he had a very painful past.

    Kou Zhong looked at him with astonishment; Ma Gui leaned over and whispered explanation on his ear, Xiao Duans fiance was raped and murdered by the thief soldier; he always cries bitterly every time he remembers it.

    Kou Zhong nodded sympathetically; reaching out, he put his hand on Duan Yuchengs shoulder and said, Let bygone be bygone! Tomorrow is our hope. Our destiny should not be in other peoples hands, but it ought to be in your hands and mine. Even if our heads are rolling away, our blood splatters; there will never be any regret.

    Kou Zhong walked over and sat cross-legged next to Xu Ziling, who was lying down, looking up at the sky. When Kou Zhong also looked up, he saw black cloud was rolling in, covering most of the originally starry sky. Sighing, he said, Looks like thunderstorm and heavy rain is coming!

    Xu Ziling remained silent.

    Kou Zhong looked down and asked, What are you thinking about?

    Xu Ziling sat up and spoke heavily, I am remembering the days when we lived in that small valley where we buried Niangs bones. Supposing we never left, today there would not be that many people whose spirit disappear whose soul broken in pain. Arent human beings always bringing trouble to themselves?

    A bean-size raindrop fell on the back of Kou Zhongs neck, and slipped into the collar of his clothes. As he looked up, a lightning happened to streak across the night sky, followed by the muffled sound of distant thunder, shattering the tranquility of the mountain and fields, as if it was playing overture to the incoming storm.

    Reaching out to Xu Zilings shoulder, Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, Fate does not have this if syllable in it. What has happened has happened. Supposing we did not obtain the Secret to Long Life by lucky coincidence, right now we would be facing different trouble and different pain; Yan Laoda would not have died and would continue abusing us, and we definitely would not have sat here waiting for the storm to come. Life is like that, Lao Daye [lit. old big master; another term for God] put you in such position, whether you want it or not, you simply must do your best to play that role.

    Crash!

    A crashing thunder was followed by a gale that swept the mountain and fields, and then the heavy rain was pouring from the sky.

    Letting the rain drenching his entire body, Xu Ziling said in a low voice, Since when did you believe in destiny?

    Revealing a hint of wry smile, Kou Zhong replied, I only believe that everything that has happened was fate. As for the future, I believe our fate is in our hands. If we did not have this thought, how could there be any fighting spirit and meaning in the way we conduct ourselves?

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, Since it is unknown, it does not exist. This is destinys most captivating aspect. No matter what the future holds, we are going to challenge the future, to seek our own ideals.

    Kou Zhong smiled, Ha! he said, Wed better sing a song together in this dark and stormy night, in order to unfold the solemn and stirring feelings toward life in our hearts. Ling Shao, what is your respected opinion?

    Xu Ziling laughed aloud and pulled Kou Zhong up.

    After exchanging a determined and full-of-passion glance, as if by prior agreement, they both broke out in loud singing, Deep in the mountains watching the heavens fate, everlasting thoughts appear one by one, since ancient times keep flourishing without end, heroes and sages are definitely able to strive

    The singing voice reverberated into the distance, even the thunderstorm could not cover it up the least bit. Duan Yucheng and the others heard the song, their heroic spirit was excited by this ode to their pride and longing.

    The rain was growing more violent, but raging flames have already sparked off in their hearts, there was not even a shred of fear of the blowing and beating wind and rain.

    The mule train passed through a valley, entering the plain southeast of Jingling city, gradually leaving the towering mountains and precipitous ridges behind. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling rode side-by-side ahead, acting as the vanguard of the mule train.

    In these last ten days of travel, everybody did not relax their guard, they forged ahead vigorously and worked very hard in training their martial art skill, so that they were ready to face the hard fighting that might come at any time.

    Pointing to a small lake in the distance to their left, Xu Ziling said, Well pitch camp by the lake tonight, plus we can take this opportunity to swim.

    Still sitting on horseback, Kou Zhong was looking at the map Xiang Yushan gave them. Hearing Xu Ziling, he said, By tomorrow afternoon we should reach Baizhang [lit. hundred-zhang] Gorge. This gorge extends as long as two li, with ten-thousand ren [not sure what it is, dictionary only says measure] steep cliffs on both sides. In some places we can only see a sliver of blue sky, there is even waterfall seemingly hanging down from empty air. It is an extremely strategic place. If anybody is going to ambush us over there, we cant guarantee the safety of the mule carts.

    Xu Ziling was an animal lover; he laughed and said, Tonight well take a bath in the clear creek, and then well go there to scout the route.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Good idea!

    Patting the horses bottom, he galloped toward the small lake. Xu Ziling also urged his horse to pursue closely. Duan Yucheng and the others had no choice but to urge their mules to go faster toward their destination.

    Wearing only shorts to cover his groin, Xu Ziling crawled up from the warm lake water, dripping wet. He turned around toward Kou Zhong, who was still floating face up, looking at the starry night sky, and said, That treasured saber of yours that was given by the Old Xiao, why did you give up the name Star Transformation and picked Moon in the Well instead?

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Its because I want to let our Xu Ziling Gongzi to use the name Star Transformation!

    Xu Ziling sat down on a large rock and crossed his legs; he said crossly, Please stop playing dumb in front of me, quickly explain the fact to this young master.

    Kou Zhong laughed to his hearts content before saying, The lost past has returned to me. This is one of the good times that I dont mind you cursing me about. There is no harm in telling you. Ha! Moon in the Well is Star Transformation; Star Transformation is Moon in the Well. The next move in the Moon in the Well is changes; isnt that Star Transformation? Do you understand?

    Xu Ziling was moved, It does make sense a little bit. Very well! Scouting time is here; get out of there right now!

    Kou Zhong acknowledged the order; he jumped up ashore.

    They dressed up using the fastest technique. After letting the four men know, they unleashed their shenfa using all their strength, flying toward the Baizhang Gorge.

    Half a sichen later, the two boys already covered a distance of nearly twenty li, a clear indication that compared to before, their qinggong has enjoyed great progress.

    By this time an expanse of dense forest appeared before their eyes. Under the dark night, where the moon and the stars did not show their splendor, from the outside, the forest looked gloomy and mysterious.

    The two boys childish heart was greatly aroused; as soon as they entered the forest, they jumped onto the tree branches and leaves with great delight.

    As they swept through the forest, they saw dots of flames outside the forest, while also heard the sound of fighting.

    Greatly astonished, the boys stopped by the edge of the forest and looked out.

    Outside the forest, far into the distance across the plain, was a row of towering mountains and precipitous ridges; the space in between as undulating hills and mounds and sparse woodlands. This moment the flames were flickering; several hundred torches covered the hills and plains as two groups of cavalries were engaged in life and death battle.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other; what was happening out there?

    Xu Ziling breathed out a mouthful of cold air, They are completely blocking the way to Baizhang Gorge. Shall we continue on our mission, or shall we turn around and go back to sleep?

    Focusing his power into his eyes, Kou Zhong turned his gaze to the two groups of riders fighting at close quarters about two li outside the forest. Did you see that? he said, There is a yellow lantern hung high right in the middle of the battlefield, it hangs from a wooden post on an elevated platform. There seem to be several more things hanging from the post, and there seem to be someone tied at the bottom of the post.

    Xu Ziling nodded, And that person is wearing yellow clothes, he added, Could it be that these two groups are fighting a life and death battle over that person?

    Kou Zhongs heart was unbearably itchy; he said, If I dont get to the bottom of this, how can I sleep tonight? Lets go!

    Xu Zilings curiosity was greatly aroused; he followed Kou Zhong rushing toward the platform.

    The closer they got, the louder was the battle cry; they were also able to see more clearly the two groups of riders in close combat. The torches were strewn at random, some were stuck on the ground, some were tied on the trees. The closer to the platform, there were more torches and placed more closely to each other.

    By this time the two boys were able to see clearly that one group of riders wore non-Han attire; obviously they were not people from the Central Earth. On the other hand, the other group was wearing black, tight warrior attire, so that the two groups were in stark contrast to each other [orig. like rivers Jing and Wei separate clearly]. Quite naturally, the two boys heart was leaning toward the black-clad warriors side.

    The situation on the elevated platform was even clearer, the person who was bound on the post was a woman wearing yellow clothes, her long cloud-like beautiful hair was loose, covering most of her face, so that nobody could see her jade countenance clearly.

    The warriors in barbarian clothes were blocking the black-clad warriors from attacking the platform, and they clearly were gaining the upper hand.

    The black-clad warriors numbered more than a thousand, more than twice the number of barbarian warriors; however, the barbarian warriors had the advantage of stronger martial art, so that they were successful in holding the enemy at bay.

    From time to time the swords qi and the sabers shine reflected the torchs flame that it looked like dots of continuously jumping will-o-the-wisp, giving the out-of-the-world impression from the stark horror of the battle.

    The fighting was spread over a large area. Although it was concentrated mainly around the platform, but there were fierce battle everywhere they looked. This group chased, that group pursued; it was an extremely bitter fighting.

    Forced at the edge of the battlefield was a group of five, six black-clad warriors, surrounded by a crowd of more than a dozen barbarian warriors. Sabers flashed and men fell down.

    Witnessing this view, the two boys blood was boiling in their breast; feeling of solidarity and anger against foreign enemy burst forth in their heart.

    Qiang!

    Kou Zhong drew the Moon in the Well out and strode forward. Without saying anything, Xu Ziling followed close by his side.

    Soon enough the dozen or so barbarian warriors discovered these two intruders presence. With eyes gleaming with ominous glint they swarmed toward the newcomers.

    There was only about a hundred zhang or so battlefield separating this corner from the elevated platform. The black-clad warriors were in absolute disadvantage; not only they were unable to maintain their formation, they were beaten so badly that everything was broken and in disorder, giving the enemy one opportunity after another to strike at their core strength.

    As the enemy arrived, like torrential rush spears, hatchets, sabers and halberds also swarmed in. Kou Zhong quickened his steps. Shaking the Moon in the Well in his hand, instantly the saber blade emitted yellow glow so strong that even the enemy blocking him was aware of it.

    Like flashes of lightning he swept to the left and hacked to the right, accurately striking the enemys blade and their bodies, so that two men were killed instantly.

    The most shocking thing was that unlike before, where, as they were hit by the saber, they would drop their weapons and fall down, the dead bodies stayed still, their weapons fell down first, and then like snapping pillars the bodies suddenly collapsed.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were greatly amazed. It was only then did they realize that this blunt, ordinary-looking saber was actually a divine weapon with an unmatched sharp blade.

    The rest of the barbarians only saw two flashes of yellow light, and immediately two of their men were killed on the spot under such a strange, baffling circumstance. Without exception everybodys guts suffered severe blow, thinking that who could possibly withstand such saber technique, where they could not even see how it happened? Immediately their will to fight was gone, and they all scattered in all directions.

    Kou Zhong pulled the saber back and scrutinized it under his eyes. Standing proudly, he ran his fingers along the blade and said with a sigh, From now on, other than Xu Ziling, you are my best companion. By no means, dont let down my, Kou Zhongs high expectation on you!

    This moment, another group of barbarian warriors was charging toward them, but acting as if he did not see them, Xu Ziling remained standing by Kou Zhongs side and said, Do you realize that before the blade even reached the enemy, the saber qi has already preceded the saber in invading their body and controlling their channels so that they obediently waited for death.

    Kou Zhong nodded, indicating that he was aware of it, but then he said in distress, In your opinion, was it because of my power has increased greatly, or was it entirely due to this amazing saber?

    Three iron spears were thrust swiftly toward them.

    Without even looking, Kou Zhong took a step forward, the Moon in the Well swiped toward the enemy, sabers ray swirling, yellow glow suddenly stormed, three spears met the saber and broke, scaring the three spear wielders that they staggered and fell, battered and exhausted.

    Two other foreign bandits were still heroically defying death by charging in, each one had a pair of hatchets in their hands. Kou Zhong casually turned his saber around, like a violent lightning yellow light flashed, the two enemies hatchets flew from their hands while they themselves died on the spot.

    The rest of the enemies dispersed in confusion.

    As if he was not aware the enemies had just attacked, Xu Ziling diplomatically replied, I think it was both. Watching you making your move these two times, I could tell there was a bit of Yijian Technique feel in it, in a sense that you were able to anticipate the next bestowing-death-to-the-enemy moves change one step ahead, pressuring the enemy that they were unable to change their move to counter, so much so that their acute spirit disappeared completely; otherwise, how could they be that useless?

    Kou Zhong sighed, Ay! he said, If only Ba Fenghan, Yang Xuyan, or the likes of them were here, I could have tested my saber to my hearts content!

    This scene was extremely weird.

    All around the cry of killing reached the sky, saber light and sword shadow everywhere, but it was as if the two boys were taking a leisure stroll over to this place, chatting idly discussing martial arts.

    Xu Ziling suddenly traversed sideways, with a lightning move of the hand he snatched one saber and one sword that sneakily attacked them from behind. His legs kicked twice, while at the same time throwing the saber and the sword in his hands, four foreign bandits were eliminated immediately. Momentarily no one else dared to mess with them.

    Returning to Kou Zhongs side, Xu Ziling elbowed his flank and said with a laugh, Dont forget you still have me as your competitor. Bring it on! Let me see if after obtaining the Moon in the Well, whether you become like a tiger that has grown wings, or like a mouse that has grown a tumor?

    While crying out in pain, Kou Zhong struck a posture, and with a squeal said, Lately you, this kid, have been admonishing me with straight face. This time I am going to repay injustice with injustice, animosity with animosity. En garde!

    However, the saber was hacking toward a young, heroic barbarian man, who pounced on them.

    Clang!

    Unexpectedly that man used his sword to block Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well, and was still able to fiercely launch a counterattack. The swordsmanship was swift and fierce, strange and mysterious, the power behind it profound. Obviously this was a martial art masters from the barbarian bandits side who heard about the newcomers and had come to his companions aid.

    Forgetting about Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong swiftly traversed sideways, thick fantastic yellow glow arose, like the billows of Yangtze River it met the incoming attack.

    The man blocked seven saber strikes in succession.

    Dang!

    Unexpectedly his sword broke right in the middle.

    Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well seized this opportunity to advance, but the man was indeed brilliant; right in time he produced a dagger.

    Ding!

    The dagger blocked the definite-kill saber strike, while, borrowing the momentum from the impact, he floated about a zhang back.

    By this time Xu Ziling was also heavily surrounded, but he still called out, I want to see something! His fist and his leg moved together, he simply fought his way out, and rushed in the direction of the elevated platform.

    When Kou Zhong wanted to run after him, shadows flashed in front of him, as three men barred his way, one of them happened to be the barbarian with superior skill, holding a fresh sword in his hand.

    The young barbarian shouted, Friend, who are you? Your skill is quite exceptional, what relationship do you have with Duba [lit. sole hegemony/dominator] Village [orig. mountain village/villa/manor]?

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud. What Duba Village? he replied, I have never heard of it. I am who I am and I'm not ashamed of my name: Kou Zhong it is. Where have thou cometh from? For what reason you show-off your guts by coming to my Central Earth and displaying shockingly bad behavior?

    Hearing Kou Zhongs name, the three barbarians countenance changed.

    Astonished, Kou Zhong asked, Do you know me?

    The barbarian that had just exchanged blows with Kou Zhong replied, I am Tieles Flying Eagle, Qu Aos third disciple Genggehuer. Kou Zhong, this time you dropped by, dont ever think that youll leave alive. Go!

    The two barbarians behind him immediately fanned out and surrounded Kou Zhong in the middle.

    Kou Zhong shrugged his shoulders and laughed, Turns out Ren Shaoming was indeed your man. Since my hands are unbearably itchy, and now you are here to offer yourselves as sacrifice for my saber! Ha!

    When Xu Ziling was breaking through layers upon layers of the enemys network of defense, burst after burst of shrill whistling sound was heard from the battlefield; there must be some sort of pattern and order, commanding the barbarians advance and retreat, because he suddenly felt increasing pressure from the enemy.

    However, the two boys have obviously impeded the Tiele troops main force, giving big boost to the black-clad warriors momentum, so that they launched wave after wave of attacks toward the elevated platform.

    Xu Ziling has entered the as-clear-as-still-water state of mind; although all around him was chaotic battle and tangled fighting, but he was able to clearly grasp what was true and what was false in both the enemys and his own sides movements, and was always a step ahead in evading or intercepting the enemies, so that they were unable to surround him.

    The black-clad warriors have also regarded him as an ally; every now and then they helped him blocking the Tiele peoples attack against him.

    By the time he was about ten zhang away from the elevated platform, a charming shout came from above.

    Xu Ziling quickly recognized her as a first-class martial art masters from the enemys side; thereupon he also let out a ferocious shout and soared into the air.

    Under the illumination of the torches, he saw a pair of milky-white arms, round navel, belonging to a beautiful woman in red dress, whose pair of short blades in her right and left hands turned into two balls of sharp-flame-like flashes of light, one on top of the other, striking toward his face and chest; unbelievably fast, and swift and fierce to the extreme.

    The womans silhouette was very pretty, her features were so clear and distinct that it was as if she was carved by a sharp knife, her pair of beautiful eyes sparkled spiritedly like precious stones; in short, she was extremely attractive.

    But Xu Ziling did not pay the slightest bit of attention to her beauty, one after another his left and right palms struck out.

    Bang! Bang!

    By the time the two combatants were interlocked with each other and then separated, they had already exchanged three moves.

    Xu Ziling had used a carefully calculated force, so that to her surprise, he was able to utilize the reaction force from the impact to propel himself up, and like a big bird he flew toward the elevated platform.

    Obviously the beautiful barbarian had never expected that not only Xu Ziling was able to meet her full-powered, swift and fierce move head-on, he was able to brilliantly borrow the force to fly upwards swiftly. By the time she wanted to run after him, it was already too late.

  14. #94
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 8 - Chapter 10

    Book 8 Chapter 10 Siren[1] or Saint?

    Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well was like a storm filling the sky; when he warded off the two broadswords from his left and right, Qu Aos third disciple Genggehuer stepped over in large stride, thrusting the sword in his hand straight toward Kou Zhongs face. Before the sword even arrived, cold air already shrouded the entire area in front of Kou Zhong.

    Kou Zhong knew that this one sword strike carried Genggehuers entire strength, taking advantage while he was blocking his two subordinates attack, he watched for a gap in Kou Zhongs defense and went straight in; it was an unusually formidable attack. However, Kou Zhong felt immense delight instead; his saber swiftly moved to parry the sword.

    Yellow light flashed everywhere, carrying with it an ear-splitting noise.

    Kou Zhong concentrated his strength as he stood still like a mountain, while Genggehuer subsequently took two steps back.

    Two sabers attacked again, making it difficult for Kou Zhong to pursue and attack.

    Although these two Tiele martial art masters skill was exquisite, Kou Zhong knew that if fighting one-on-one, he would be able to subdue any of them within three moves. However, when the two men joined hands and fought together, in terms of timing and angle of attack, they prevented him from dealing with just one of them with all his strength; therefore, he was feeling that he had the power but could not carry out his attack. Also, obviously the two men were using some kind of mysterious fighting technique, so that by fighting together, the two of them would be able to deal with a much stronger opponent.

    However, Kou Zhong remained calm without any sign of fear; his heroic spirit was swelling. Weaving left and right, his shenfa was as fantastic as swimming fish, as he dodged the enemys sabers.

    Whoosh!

    Genggehuers sword pierced; just like before, the sword went straight toward Kou Zhongs head.

    Although it was an incomparably simple sword strike, Kou Zhong felt helpless to evade, hence he sent his Moon in the Well to strike back.

    Dang!

    The yellow light from Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well intensified as he blocked the enemys sword once again.

    This time Genggehuer was shaken and had to take three steps back, but Kou Zhong was also forced to take half a step back.

    Both men were shocked.

    Kou Zhongs shock was because he felt that for no reason at all Genggehuers power suddenly increased; it was far stronger than the first one, so that his own qi and blood was churning. If the power behind the next sword strike increased proportionately, it would be strange indeed if Kou Zhong were not defeated.

    Genggehuers shock was because of Kou Zhongs resilience. It should be noted that his so-called Seven-Turn of Violent Wave was his schools unique skill, one of the Three Amazing Skills created by Qu Ao himself. Each strike was capable of absorbing a little of the opponents power, and turned it to enhance the power of his own sword; it was an extremely strange and crafty skill. Who would have thought that not only Kou Zhongs power was well stored-up and did not leak at all, it was also incomparably cold? Although he barely managed to suck in a bit of breath, he was actually feeling incomparable discomfort, so that the second time he exchanged blows, he was forced to take one step more than the first.

    It was only then did he realize why with his ability, Qu Te, who assumed the name Ren Shaoming, still had to succumb under the opponents saber.

    This moment Kou Zhong heard the sound of saber blade splitting the air behind him. His mind was churning at the speed of light, he knew that if this situation continued, he would be stuck in a completely passive situation where he was at the enemys mercy; so he cooked up an action plan.

    Following his body, the saber in Kou Zhongs hand also spun around, seemingly blocking the saber attacking from his left. But suddenly he crabbed sideways to face the saber chopping down from his right. Exuding a strong qi, the Moon in the Well sliced diagonally at the enemy.

    The Tiele master felt the yellow glow from the opponents strange saber suddenly flared up, the saber qi rushed down directly at him with a magnificent army with thousands of men and horses power. Scared out of his wits, he stopped right on his track, not knowing whether to advance or to retreat.

    The originally invulnerable fighting formation immediately revealed a gap, which ought not to be revealed.

    With a long laugh Kou Zhong suddenly straightened up his waist and back, his bearing became even more intimidating without equal; his confidence soared. Like a thunderbolt the Moon in the Well struck down on the Tiele master.

    Dang!

    The man raised his saber to block. Who would have thought that with a yellow flash, Kou Zhongs saber chopped down on both the saber and the man, throwing him outward, that he breathed his last even before his body touched the ground?

    By this time, Genggehuer had just managed to regulate his qi, indicating the intensity and the swiftness of the fight between these four men. Upon seeing this, he was greatly alarmed. Immediately he stepped forward and hacked down his earth-shattering third surge of violent wave.

    Meanwhile, the situation at the battlefield intensified, the fighting was concentrated around the elevated platform. There was continuous flow of people splashing their blood and falling to the ground, it was an extremely bitter fight.

    Another sword attacked from the left side.

    Kou Zhong struck a pose as if he was going to block; the Moon in the Well feigned a strike, but when the enemys sword was about to arrive, he shifted half a step sideways. The enemys sword flit across right in front of his nose; a hairsbreadth closer and his body would be cut open.

    Effortlessly the Moon in the Well swiped horizontally sideways.

    Dang!

    The martial art master was jolted by him that he spurted a mouthful of blood. He staggered back, and momentarily had no more power to attack.

    Having the pressure on him reduced, Kou Zhong let out a long laugh and took a stride forward. The Moon in the Well shook, like raging wave crashing onto the shore it attacked Genggehuer.

    For Genggehuer, it was the very first time that he encountered someone who was able to overcome his Seven-Turn of Violent Wave by receiving it head-on. His courage was shaken, unexpectedly he did not dare to take the saber, but flew back instead.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud. He did not pursue, but went toward Xu Ziling to provide support.

    Xu Ziling had just landed on the edge of the elevated platform. Over a dozen Tiele people guarding the platform divided themselves into two groups. One group swarmed forward to intercept, the other group positioned themselves around the post where the woman in yellow was held captive, tightly defending this ultimate target.

    Xu Ziling knew that if he failed to use lightning fast trick to knock down the Tiele people guarding this last defensive line, if that Tiele beauty had time to rush over, forget about saving people, there would be no guarantee that he could save his own life.

    Not to mention that the Tiele people currently attacking him obviously had significantly superior martial art skill compared to the Tiele warriors he encountered in the battlefield a moment ago, especially the huge man in the middle wielding a spear. Before the spear even arrived, the spear qi was already pressing down on him, powerful and harsh to the extreme.

    Not daring to underestimate the enemy, he soared to the air. As he reached approximately three-zhang altitude, unexpectedly he was able to apply his qi to make a somersault toward the wooden pole in the middle of the platform.

    The Tiele people underneath had never expected that Xu Ziling would be as nimble as an eagle in the air, and was able to flip over and fly. Momentarily they were caught off-guard and their formation became chaotic. The worst thing was that Xu Ziling was able to borrow the reaction force as he made contact with the post, and would be able to land anywhere he wished, so that they were unable to anticipate how to guard against him, and thus were at a loss on what to do.

    As they were still thinking about it, Xu Ziling struck the pole with his palm, grabbed it, and slid down the pole. With unequalled ferocity his qi pressed down on the heads of the six Tiele warriors guarding around the pole.

    This time, even if they wanted to kill the beauty tied on the pole, they did not have the ability to do so.

    Amidst the tender shout, the outstanding Tiele beauty has arrived on the platform. But the wooden post suddenly disintegrated into cun-size fragments.

    It was only then did the enemy realize that it was the handicraft of Xu Zilings palm. Even more, they now realized how formidable Xu Zilings palms were.

    But the realization came too late.

    The beauty in yellow was suddenly loosened from the pole, but as she was falling backward, Xu Ziling caught her. Soaring at an angle to the sky, he let out a long whistle, calling out to Kou Zhong, who had just caught up with him on the stage, to leave together.

    With Kou Zhong leading the way and Xu Ziling carrying the woman in yellow, they ran for more than twenty li at a stretch before reaching a small hill and came to a halt.

    Setting down the lady in yellow on the grass, Xu Ziling knitted his brows. Thats weird, he said, Her acupoints must be sealed; but no matter how I sent my qi to stimulate her blood flow, she remains unconscious.

    Copying him, Kou Zhong also squatted on the ground. As he reached out to push aside her beautiful hair, the two boys were dumbstruck.

    My Niang! How could there be such a classy, stirring beautiful woman like this in the world? If behind her closed eyelids she had beautiful eyes that matched her exceptional flower-like countenance, then those beauties like Song Yuzhi, Shen Luoyan, Shan Wanjing and the likes would have to yield to her somewhat.

    Staring at her figure, which was as elegant as the undulating mountains and rivers, her skin and flesh, which was as sparkling and translucent as the snow, so smooth and supple [orig. brimming with elastic energy], Kou Zhong breathed a mouthful of cold air and said, Beauty that is capable of causing the downfall of a country is probably no more than this. No wonder those two troops were fighting a life and death battle over her.

    Xu Ziling took a deep breath and said, Looking at her jet-black hair, her snow white skin, I feel like this is how the beauty of the nature ought to look like. I have never seen such beautiful, captivating hair and icy muscle; so beautiful that it is almost unnatural.

    Kou Zhong responded in amazement, You are right. But when I see beautiful women, usually my heart warms up, how come just now there was a chill in my heart?

    Xu Ziling looked at her from head to toe, but was unable to find on this incomparably well-proportioned figure anything that was enough to spoil her perfect and without the least bit of blemish body; on the contrary, the more he looked at her, the more he felt that she had a hard-to-describe, the kind that borders magical, out-of-this-world, beauty.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Could it be that she is basically not a human? Looking at her along, looking at her across, she looks more like a fairy than human; how could a human be this beautiful?

    Xu Zilings voice turned cold, You seem to forget why you squatted down to examine her!

    It was only then did Kou Zhong remember that he was supposed to find a way to unseal her acupoints. Embarrassed, he said, It was because her beauty is too shaking to the core. Huh? How come your countenance is so unsightly?

    Touching his face, Xu Ziling pondered and said, Perhaps because when I was trying to unseal her acupoints just now I used too much true qi!

    Kou Zhong secretly signaled Xu Ziling with his eyes, but his mouth said, That must be it!

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were connected at a deep level; standing up, he said, Let me look around to see if there is any enemy pursuing us. You stay here and think of a way to wake her up!

    How could Kou Zhong not understand his meaning? He also stood up and said, Its better for us to look together! Reaching out to Xu Zilings shoulders, he sent his true qi into Xu Zilings channels.

    The two boys distanced themselves from the peerless beauty for at least thirty zhang before Kou Zhong said in low voice, Extremely not right. Before, even after fighting with all your might, your countenance would not turn white suffused with green, and only after I transmitted my true qi the green disappeared.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, This woman not only has scary beauty, even her person is very scary; I seem to hit the right spot, but how could there be any acupoint sealing technique that we cannot unseal? Could it be that the person sealing her acupoint is stronger than Ba Fenghan? Thats impossible.

    Kou Zhong replied with a wry smile, If the person sealing her acupoint was Qu Ao? Dont forget that Qu Ao is just a tad inferior to Bi Xuan.

    Have you come across Qu Ao? Xu Ziling blurted out.

    Kou Zhong was upset, If I have come across Qu Ao, do you think I would still be alive and debate with you in here whether we should help this siren [see chapter titles footnote]? Ay! Such a beautiful siren, she made me feel that even if I was killed by her, I would be most willing.

    Noticing Xu Zilings ferocious stare, he busily added, Those bunch just now are Qu Aos men; that guy wielding a sword, and his skill in using the sword is not bad, called himself Qu Aos third disciple Genggehuer. The other side was Duba Village. Just listening to the name, I know they are not good people. [Reminder: duba means sole hegemony/domination.]

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, Why would they fight over this siren?

    Kou Zhong shook his head, indicating that he had no idea. Wrapping his arm around Xu Zilings shoulders, he took him down the sloping hill and said, Looking at her eerie beauty, I was having a panic-stricken feeling. Perhaps femme fatales are this kind of touching rarity. Tell me, have you ever imagined that there are women more beautiful than Shan Wanjing, Shen Luoyan, Li Xiuning, and the likes?

    Xu Ziling shook his head, indicating that he had not. Agreeing with him, he said, Our only option is: if everything else fails, retreat! Huh? How come you are walking slower and slower?

    Kou Zhong sat down dejectedly. Holding his head in his hands, he said, Xiao Ling! Tell me! Supposing we are actually good people who acted like thieves, that Miss is blameless, but because we are overly suspicious, we let her be captured back by Tiele people, or perhaps be eaten by wild beasts, would there be peace in happiness in our conscience?

    At a loss, Xu Ziling also sat down on another rock at the bottom of the hill; he said, But how do you explain why my face was turning green then?

    Kou Zhong asked, Before you rescued her, did you clash with any formidable opponent?

    Xu Ziling nodded, I encountered that Tiele beauty who wields double-dagger, he replied, But she is not yet qualified to injure me.

    Qu Aos martial art is strange, Kou Zhong said, Take Genggehuer for example, he was able to use strange technique to enhance his strength. Perhaps that Tiele beauty injured you surreptitiously. Therefore, there is still the possibility that we wrongly accused her as a siren.

    Taking a deep breath, Xu Ziling said, She is either a weak woman who does not know any martial art, or her martial art skill is so superior that we cant even detect the true qi within her body. Ay! I dont know how to deal with her either.

    Having a second thought, Kou Zhong said, According to reason, this cant be a trap set for us, because how could she know that we were going to rescue her?

    But why do we feel that something is not right? Xu Ziling mused.

    Kou Zhong rose up and said resolutely, Lets come back to take a look first before we talk further.

    The mysterious, captivating beauty was still lying without moving on the grass. This moment the black clouds have already past, the stars filled the sky, her brilliance was even more mysterious and enchanting.

    Suddenly there were wolves howling in the distance, it was unclear whether they smelled the reeking of blood from the battlefield and thus were flocking there.

    The two boys hid behind a bush, hesitating.

    Since their debut, it was the first time that they were caught in this kind of dilemma, where there was no room to advance or retreat.

    Staring at her undulating, alluring soft breasts, Kou Zhong spoke softly, Looking at her face, she could not be more than twenty. Even if her Shifu was Bi Xuan or Fu Cailin, its hard to imagine that her power cultivation is deep enough that she is able to conceal it from us.

    Sneering, Xu Ziling remarked, Unless she is another Shi Feixuan heavens !

    The two boys were shaken. It was indeed a possibility.

    Kou Zhong said in low voice, My granny! If she is a direct-line disciple of Yin Gui Pai sent out to have a duel with Shi Feixuan, everything becomes clear.

    Xu Ziling spoke in heavy voice, That possibility is high. Ren Shaoming is Qu Aos son, Evil Monk and Amorous Nun are Yin Gui Pai people; otherwise, why would they tie her to a post and just waiting for us to rescue her?

    Kou Zhong nodded, That must be it, he said, Lets go! I want to see how long she is going to lie down over there.

    Nonetheless, the two boys were only speaking without actually doing it; they did not leave.

    Suddenly a wolf was howling nearby. The two boys heart was still on the woman in yellow, they jumped in fright immediately.

    Several hungry wolves were running up the hillside. Seeing the woman in yellow, immediately their eyes brightened and rushed over toward her.

    The beautiful woman remained motionless. The two boys were unable to hold back; they rushed out to drive the hungry wolves away.

    After so much hard work, they finally assembled a stretcher from tree branches and vines. It was a cumbersome process, but in order not to touch her body, even if they had to spend more time, they would still have to do it.

    They were very much in fear. With utmost care and full alert, they finally managed to move her soft, as if it had no bones, and alluring body onto the stretcher. Only then did they breathe a sigh of relief.

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, Lets bring her back first and talk about it later!

    The two boys lifted up the stretcher, and then ran as fast as they could.


    [1] Chapter title: Siren, orig. 妖女 [yaonu] female demon, can also mean beautiful woman.

  15. #95
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    Default Book 8 - Chapter 11

    Book 8 Chapter 11 I, your servant, Wanwan

    Urging his horse, Kou Zhong caught on to Xu Zilings side, who was riding ahead of him; he said, She is not awake yet. If she continues without water, in a few days this jade woman will perish.

    Xu Ziling turned his head around to cast a quick glance on the mule cart, which was specially equipped with a canopy to shield her from the sun, suddenly his face showed a little smile as he spoke indifferently, Zhong Shao, have you noticed that both in terms of breathing and pulse, the frequency and amplitude are unswerving from start to finish. In my opinion, this is some kind of first-class, very exquisite Gui Xi Gong [lit. turtle breathing skill]. I dare to say that she must be the Yin Gui Pai ambassador sent out to deal with Shi Feixuan.

    Deeply vexed, Kou Zhong gloomily said, Last night, if we were willing to let the hungry wolves ate her, we would have found the truth. But I was afraid we might make one mistake and regret it for all eternity by harming other peoples little live due to our overly suspicious thought of some demonic character.

    Although all around them the wilderness was full of rustic charms, with floating mist, luxuriant forest, a truly poetic and picturesque beauty, but with this load of worry in their mind, the two boys were not in the mood to enjoy the scenery.

    Kou Zhong went on, Supposing she is really a Yin Gui Pai siren, she could simply join hands with Qu Ao to give us bad luck; why would she go to a lot of trouble dressing up as God, playing the devil on us?

    Xu Ziling replied seriously, It seems to me that her beauty has gradually conquered you; otherwise, why would keep speaking in defense of her? Dont you forget that things of the world often come as a surprise; for example, she might want to lure us to unseal her acupoints, and then uses some evil method to absorb our power; or perhaps she wanted to break the secret of our fantastic power cultivation, so that she could use it to increase her own power to defeat Shi Feixuan. Who would dare to ascertain that these possibilities are invalid?

    Grumbling to himself, Kou Zhong said, How could I be conquered or confused that easily by her? But after seeing her, Duan Yucheng those four guys have become dazed; this is what worries me!

    Xu Ziling spoke resolutely, Since she has come to our door, she will not be able to escape. We have no choice but to deal with her to the end, I want to see, other than pretending to be in a coma, what magic trick she could play.

    Kou Zhong asked in surprised, You seemed to be convinced that she is a female demon. If later on we can confirm that she is a pitiful woman who had her acupoints sealed by Qu Ao using some bizarre technique, wont it be a big joke?

    Revealing a confident smile, Xu Ziling replied in a laid-back manner, This battle is about patience and confidence; as long as we can drive her to show her true character, we win. Do you understand?

    Kou Zhong nodded, Your feeling cant be wrong, he said, Well simply go along with her to the end! I dont believe she can pretend to be asleep forever. Ay! I would rather face Qu Ao than falling into this thorny problem.

    By dusk that day, they have already covered a distance of approximately ten li, while studying the surrounding for a good place to set their camp that night.

    At this time they were only about six or seven li from Baizhang Gorge, but in order to avoid the battlefield the previous night, they had to make a detour, and thus had to travel seven, eight li extra distance. Besides, they would not be able to reach Baizhang Gorge tonight anyway, plus it was really not a good idea to journey through the Gorge at night.

    The route they were taking was all out-of-the-way mountain and fields, desolate terrain, where weeds grew and spread, without any sign of human habitation.

    Finally they decided to stop for the night at a flat, open space.

    After taking the woman in yellow into the tent, Duan Yucheng and Bao Zhifu walked out in silence as if they were in daze.

    Shi Jie and Ma Gui found an excuse to look at her. As a result the four guys looked as if they were bewitched. Seeing this, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were inwardly very anxious.

    Although the two boys have repeatedly warned those four guys, but not only they did not believe, they practically did not even listen to them.

    Pulling Xu Ziling aside, Kou Zhong said, And now we are really stuck between a rock and a hard place. If this woman is indeed a treasure that worth those two sides fighting over, then at least one side will prepare an ambush at Baizhang Gorge. In which case we can declare the end of our salt trading endeavor, and Yucheng and the others, those four guys life will be difficult to protect.

    After a short pause, he continued, If we go Baizhang Gorge tonight to scout, if someones coming to steal her, not only well lose her, Yucheng and the others will also lose their lives in vain. What should we do?

    Moving is not as good as staying still, Xu Ziling replied, We are staying here to guard tonight, tomorrow well go to the front of the Gorge and make plans there. Ay! Other than Baizhang Gorge, is there any other route we can take?

    Of course there is, Kou Zhong replied, But it will take ten days longer. Perhaps by that time the Jade Annulus of He Clan will already be snatched by someone else.

    Xu Ziling was upset, You already have Duke Yang Treasure, yet you still dwell on Jade Annulus of He Clan; since when did you become so greedy? he asked.

    Kou Zhong laughed apologetically and said, Ling Shao, please calm down. I was just making a real-life analogy! Cant I even joke with you?

    Before Xu Ziling could answer, a faint sound of hoof beats was coming from a distance, gradually getting louder. Could it be that speaking of Cao Cao[1], Cao Cao thus appears? If Qu Ao personally came, how should they deal with him?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stood side-by-side, calmly waiting for the enemys arrival. Duan Yucheng, four guys immediately got busy buckling up their mules, as well as taking the woman in yellow out of the tent and into the mule cart especially fitted to transport her.

    Under the light of the crescent-moon above, they saw thirteen riders galloping toward them along the route they took earlier; apparently they were following the tracks left by the mule carts.

    Obviously the newcomers had seen them, because they slowed down their horses.

    The leader was a big and tall middle-aged man, clad in black warrior attire, with a red cloak on the outside, and a thick black moustache above his lips.

    One of his features that left the deepest impression on the two boys was his face; the skin was full of holes and protrusions like rough lemon skin, but the pair of eyes embedded on that pockmarked face was shiny like a pair of small lanterns, making his entire person gives off some kind of both terrifying and powerful charisma like a wild beast.

    All the men behind him were also dressed in black; all came in various shapes and sizes: tall, short, lean and stout, but none did not reveal some kind or heroic air.

    Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, I am afraid the Village Master of Duba Village is here.

    Xu Ziling nodded, Speaking about which, last night he and us were comrade-in-arms, so if we can avoid fighting, lets not fight.

    Meanwhile the Duba Village men reined their horses to stop about ten zhang away from the two boys, and then they flew down together; their movement was orderly, fast and nimble.

    The leader stepped out of the formation, walked over toward the two boys, and then cupping his fist, he said, Zaixia Duba Villages Zhuangzhu [Village Master] Fang Zetao; I wonder if the two gentlemen are Kou Xiongdi and Xu Xiongdi, whose name shook the land under the heavens recently.

    Seeing his polite manner, good impression grew in the two boys heart.

    Kou Zhong returned the propriety and replied, Fang Zhuangzhu praised us too much; the two of us are merely fugitives driven to the east and chased to the west by other people.

    Fang Zetao laughed aloud and said, Success without arrogance is the sign of true heroes. How could we call those who were able to kill Ren Shaoming in the midst of magnificent army with thousands of men and horses, and were still able to get away easily, as mere fugitives?

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Fang Zhuangzhu needs not praise us. You are gracing us with your presence this time, is it for the sake of that lady in yellow whom we rescued last night?

    Fang Zetaos eyes shone with a warm and concerned look; modestly and politely he asked, Gentlemens kindness in rendering assistance to us last night, I, Fang Zetao, will never forget. May I ask where Miss Wanwan is now?

    Breathing a sigh of relief, Kou Zhong said, So she is called Wanwan. May I ask what is her relationship to Fang Zhuangzhu?

    Fang Zetao looked back to his men and said, Spread out and be on the lookout, be sure to be on your guard.

    After his men acknowledged his order and spread out to all directions, Fang Zetao said amiably, May we talk while walking?

    The two boys felt a little ridiculous for their previous paranoia. Nodding their heads, they led him toward the mule cart where Wanwan was.

    Fang Zetao said, Wanwans lot in life was extremely pitiful. When Ol Fang met her, her familys carriage and horses were robbed by thieves, not one of her family members was spared. Those lowly thieves had voracious desire for her loveliness, and were about to carry out their beastly desire when I encountered them by chance. So I killed the bunch of them and rescued her back to the Village.

    Kou Zhong said, Please forgive this kid for being short-sighted, but seeing your respected Villages troop arrangement last night, I know that you are definitely not nameless entity of Jianghu world, yet why have we never heard about your Villages distinguished name?

    Perhaps it is because the days of our Villages existence is still short, Fang Zetao answered, I was originally a Sui general. After the muddleheaded ruler was assassinated by Yuwen Huaji, I went to set my foot at Jingling, but I did not have any thought of proclaiming myself king like other people; therefore, together with many brothers who have accompanied me for many years we established Duba Village. On one hand it is to guard against robbers, on the other hand we want to wait for a wise master to appear, so that we can pledge our allegiance to him, and hence avoid Jingling from disaster and misfortune.

    The two boys nodded for this sudden enlightenment.

    However, Xu Ziling said, These two characters Duba seem to be extremely overbearing. Zhuangzhus not afraid others might have misunderstanding?

    Fang Zetao laughed and said, Without a domineering name, how could we suppress the thieves from everywhere? Presently marauders are forming alliances and building their powers, there are hundreds of such groups. They loot all over the place and enlist ruffians and runaway criminals. Included among these, Xiang, Fang, Mao and Cao, four major bandits are the most vicious as well as the most famous. Oh! Wanwan!

    By this time the three of them had reached the mule cart. As soon as Fang Zetao saw the peerless beauty Wanwan, who was lying on makeshift bed of straw, he disregarded everything and rushed desperately toward the cart; overwhelmed with emotion, his voice trembled, How is she doing?

    This moment the two boys no longer had even half a shred of suspicion. Kou Zhong explained her condition. Seriously and with utmost care Fang Zetao reached out and pressed his fingers on her wrist. Soon afterwards bean-sized beads of sweats appeared on his forehead. Disappointed, he said, What kind of acupoint sealing technique is this? Her meridian is empty and fluttering; it is not blocked, but it cant converge the qi and breathing either, as if she is weak from an incurable illness.

    Judging from what he said, the two boys were able to infer that Fang Zetao was an expert in internal, qigong skill, a first-class martial art master of the Wulin. No wonder he was able to proclaim himself hegemon in Jingling.

    Xu Ziling had quite good impression on him, he said, Is Fang Zhuangzhu familiar with Qu Aos acupoint sealing technique? Such a strange technique, which we have never seen before, must be Qu Ao personally put his hand to it?

    Until now, they were still unclear on how the battle started the previous night.

    Fang Zetao shook his head and said, Definitely not Qu Ao personally, because he has never set his foot on the Central Plains. The ones who came were his three disciples, Changshu Mou, Hua Lingzi and Genggehuer. Most probably it was Changshu Mous handiwork. This man reportedly has acquired eighty percent of Qu Aos skill. Qu Aos three major consummate skills with which his name shook the outer regions, only he is able to link up all three together.

    After committing the name Changshu Mou into his memory, Kou Zhongs tiger-eyes shone coldly as he said, How did Miss Wanwan get tied on that post?

    Fang Zetaos eyes softened as he looked at Wanwan tenderly, and then sighing, he said, It could be said a sudden and unexpected disaster. Half a month ago, I suddenly received Ren Shaomings letter, requesting me to realign my allegiance to Tieqi Hui. Naturally I categorically declined his request, and right away strengthened the city defense, afraid that they would come to attack. These past two years not a single day passed without we are making adequate preparation. With the support of the citizens, we dare to boast that even Ren Shaoming going on an all-out attack, we can easily defend ourselves for about a year.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, Naturally Ren Shaoming would not dare to provoke Du Fuwei and Fu Gongyou. If he managed to seize Jingling, he could establish a northerly-accessible military base north of the Yangtze River; thats why he was very interested in Jingling.

    Fang Zetao was astounded, I did not expect Kou Xiong to be so knowledgeable in this area, he said.

    Xu Ziling was puzzled, Ren Shaoming is dead, Tieqi Hui is all split up and in pieces, Changshu Mous men became lone army, why did they still come to provoke you?

    Fang Zetao replied distressingly, On this, even I cannot figure it out either. Three days ago, somebody suddenly broke into our Village. This persons skill was very high, not only he wounded more than a dozen of my men, he even kidnapped Wanwan. Ay! To be honest with you, nowadays Wanwan has become my, this Ol Fangs lifeblood. Its not that I have never seen beautiful women, but since the first time I saw her, I have fallen deeply in love with her. I just feel that if I lose her, everything else will lose its meaning. This scheme of Changshu Mou really pinched my crucial point, so that I was losing my mind.

    Duan Yucheng, Bao Zhifu, Shi Jie and Ma Gui, who were standing around listening, all nodded their head in empathy.

    It would be strange indeed if anybody who saw such a beautiful woman did not fall head over heels in love with her.

    Fang Zetao continued, Three days ago I received a letter from Changshu Mou, telling me that Wanwan has fallen into their hands, and told me to decide life and death outside Baizhang Gorge, as well as to decide Wanwans fate. Ay! It was the most difficult decision I have to make in my whole life. I knew very well that the opponent was using the moving the tiger from the mountain stratagem, but inside Jingling there are thousands and tens of thousands people relying on my protection. Between that and Wanwan, how am I supposed to choose?

    Kou Zhong and co showed an understanding and sympathizing look.

    Fang Zetao sighed and said, Finally I decided to hold back my troops without moving, I stayed in Jingling. Between public and private matters, I still know what to do and what not to do.

    Kou Zhong and the others looked at each other in bewilderment; if that was the case, how come there was war last night?

    Fang Zetao smiled wryly and said, I am not surprised gentlemen are at a loss, simply because my valiant general, who was also my younger brother Fang Zeliu, against my expectation went out with his troops privately to rescue Wanwan. It was only then did I know that he was also in love with Wanwan. Last night it was unfortunate that he died in battle. When the survivors came back to report to me that two gentlemen had rescued Wanwan, I was unable to hold back anymore. Leaving the city, I went to look for gentlemen, until finally I met with you here.

    Xu Ziling sighed inwardly that she was indeed a femme fatale. I wonder if Fang Zhuangzhu has taken Miss Wanwan as your wife? he asked.

    Fang Zetao shook his head dejectedly, That is something that I wanted very much to ask her every time I saw her, but each time I did not dare to open my mouth, afraid that she would flatly refuse, or worse, she would simply brush her sleeve and leave, he said, She does not like to talk, she likes to be alone, her character is very difficult to fathom, but obviously my adoration of her is growing with each passing day.

    Everyone was silent.

    Looking at this exceptional beauty, which looked like she was sleeping soundly, an image of beauty speaking softly and smiling tenderly appeared in everybodys imagination.

    Right this moment, a strong force was pressing down from above. The cart covering burst open.


    [1] Cao Cao (155-220), famous statesman and general at the end of Han, noted poet and calligrapher, later warlord, founder and first king of Cao Wei, father of Emperor Cao Pi; the main villain of novel the Romance of Three Kingdoms.

  16. #96
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    Default Book 8 - Chapter 12

    Book 8 Chapter 12 A Thousand Li to Save a Beauty

    Duan Yucheng, four men, had rather shallow power, they were the first to be jolted and staggered back, away from the mule cart.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were also aghast, knowing that the incoming persons martial art skill was at least at Ba Fenghans level that he was able to elude Fang Zetaos men who were guarding all around outside, and only after he dropped from the sky did they realize his presence and thus completely lost the key moment.

    Kou Zhong traversed one step sideways, the Moon in the Well left his back and went up to chop the air above him.

    Xu Ziling lowered his waist in a horse stance, with both palms raised up.

    Feng Zetao was an outstanding martial artist as well, pulling out his sword, he drew six, seven sword patterns in the air, to protect the area above Wanwan.

    Dang! Bang!

    Kou Zhongs Moon in the Wells yellow glow grew strong, it hit the enemys weapon squarely. But he immediately groaned inwardly.

    Turned out the weapons the opponent was wielding was a pair of flickering-with-golden-rays strange shields, each shield was about two chi long, wide on the top and pointy on the bottom, the edges were sharp like saber blade. This kind of never-seen-before strange-shaped weaponry not only could attack and defend, it also seemed to be impenetrable of the enemys weapon.

    As soon as the saber and the shield collided, a strong, peerlessly violent reaction force immediately shook the Moon in the Well that it bounced back.

    Before Kou Zhong had any opportunity to send out the second strike, like a clump of floating cloud the shields sharp edge already pared down in an oblique angle. Even though Kou Zhong was dauntless, he was caught off guard and had no choice but to move away.

    Xu Zilings double palms struck up and hit the center of the left shield. He felt the surface of the shield was covered with sharp spines. Although the spines failed to pierce his true-qi-infused muscle of his palms, he did not dare to go all-out; withdrawing his strength, the opponents strength immediately overpowered him and sent him rolling on the ground in such a sorry state.

    Fang Zetao wanted to take advantage while the enemy was dealing with Kou and Xu, two people, by thrusting his sword in the gap between the two shields to injure the enemy, who would have thought that in the blink of an eye Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were forced to retreat, and the pair of shield closed up?

    Bing!

    The sword was rigidly locked down by the pair of shields, which then continued to press down on his head. Having no way out, Fang Zetao dropped down to the bottom of the cart.

    A man, wearing snow-white outfit, handsome and slender, looked about thirty, descended on the mule cart like an immortal descended from the heaven, with a lofty quality as if he looked at the world disdainfully out of the corner of his eyes.

    His eyes emitted faint blue glint, a hint of gentle and soft smile seemed to be eternally carved on the corners of his mouth. His straight nose and strong jaws, his sharp contrast physique, his broad shoulders, made others felt like he was a lofty mountain that would not be easily knocked down by the enemy.

    With a slight smile on his face, he fixed his gaze on Wanwan. Putting the shields back behind his back, he praised, This stunning beauty is certainly the best in the world.

    This moment Fang Zetao came out from the bottom of the cart on the other side; he was accompanied by twelve of his men, who rushed over in a flurry. On top of that, with Kou Zhong and his company, their strength suddenly increased several folds. However, because they refrained from shooting at the rat for fear of breaking the vase, afraid that he might harm Wanwan, nobody dared to rush onto the mule cart to attack.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were baffled; the former came closer to the rear of the mule cart and said with a giggle, Are you that guy, Changshu Mou? Your pair of golden shields is quite interesting.

    On the other hand, Xu Ziling inched closer to the front of the mule cart and calmly stood there. There was not the slightest hint of anxiety or upset because of the setback they suffered on his face. Instead, it was Fang Zetao who lost his cool.

    Changshu Mou, he said sternly, If you dare to harm her, dont even think of leaving this place alive.

    Changshu Mous blue eyes cast a disdainful look at Fang Zetao, but he turned toward Kou Zhong and said, Do you know who Ren Shaoming is?

    Kou Zhong replied nonchalantly, I heard he was your Shifus illegitimate child; is that right?

    Murderous aura flashed briefly in Changshu Mous eyes. Throwing his head back and roaring in laughter, he said, You really have guts. But one day you will regret what you have just said.

    And then, turning to Xu Ziling, he smiled and said, Your punching and kicking skill is quite exceptional; that Luocha woman would definitely not have such disciple, was it from the Secret to Long Life?

    Calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, Xu Ziling replied, What I learned is just cheap tricks I pieced together from the east and gathered together from the west, how could it worth comparing to Changshu Xiong who received instruction from brilliant master?

    The two boys indifference toward him has incited a profound-mystery feeling in Changshu Mous heart. Suddenly he had an idea, How about I kill this woman first, and then we all fight with everything we have? he said sharply.

    His countenance changed, Fang Zetao shouted, How dare you!

    But Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Good idea! Jumping up suddenly, he brandished his saber and hacked down on Changshu Mou.

    At the same time the mules neighed in a start and jumped forward. Turned out Xu Ziling shot two streams of finger wind in secret, shooting at the butt of the two mules in front of the cart.

    Fang Zetao and the others turned pale with fright. They knew that as soon as Changshu Mou kicked with his toes, Wanwan would definitely perish, saints and deities would not be able to save her life back.

    Xu Ziling made a somersault and landed on the driver seat of the mule cart, and immediately sent out a punch toward Changshu Mou across empty air.

    Changshu Mou laughed aloud, like a pair of wings, his golden shields rose up to the left and right, subsequently blocking one saber and one punch. At the same time his toes kicked forward to provoke the beauty lying down at his feet. But suddenly his ankle tightened. Unexpectedly a whip wrapped itself several times around his ankle, and it was only then did he realize he had fallen into a trap.

    A huge force tugged him that he nearly fell facedown. Busily he applied his power to weigh himself down, but his left foot was already shifted four cun before he steadied himself and stood still.

    The mules were running faster and faster. Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong attacked simultaneously from front and back. Even with his conceit, Changshu Mou did not dare to deal with the two boys violent attack head-on, especially not with his left foot under the enemys control. Taking a sharp intake of qi, he leaped halfway into the air, his left foot spun several small circles to free himself from the entanglement of the whip.

    By this time the mule cart already rushed out five more zhang ahead.

    Fang Zetao, who was running after them from behind, soared into the air, his sword swept in a long arch to take a stab at Changshu Mous back.

    Still three zhang high in the air, without even looking Changshu Mou swept the golden shield on his right hand backhandedly, parrying Fang Zetaos attack that both the sword and the person were thrown to the other side, while at the same time he seized this opportunity to send out two streams of powerful qi with his shields, forcing Duan Yucheng and the others to roll sideways to evade.

    Meanwhile Changshu Mou borrowed the reaction force and raised his qi to propel himself like a shooting star to catch up with the racing mule cart from above, and launched an attack toward Kou Zhong, who was standing on guard on the tail end of the cart.

    Xu Ziling called out loudly, Fang Zhuangzhu, no need to run after us, we will meet again at Jingling!

    Being frightened, the mules ran wildly forward as fast as they could; by the time Xu Ziling finished shouting, they already covered more than a dozen zhang of distance.

    By this time Fang Zetao has just sprang up from the ground, he watched helplessly as the mule cart rushed onto a small hill, and vanished down the slope on the other side of the knoll.

    The yellow glow from Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well flashed suddenly, strike after strike the saber kept hacking down, each time the saber struck Changshu Mous golden shield, it forced him to fall back about a zhang, so that he had to exert his strength to keep up.

    Xu Ziling was in charge of driving the mule cart, and he quite enjoyed it.

    Changshu Mous heart sank, he was also furious that smoke was spouting through his seven orifices. Yet because Kou Zhong was waiting leisurely for the enemy to exhaust his strength, and he was tightly defending the rear end of the cart, plus his saber technique was swift and fierce beyond compare, even if Changshu Mou had ability that encompassed everything under heaven, all along he was unable to catch up with the mule cart, and thus was unable to unleash his specialty of neutralizing the saber with his pair of shields.

    Watching Changshu Mou chasing them from behind like a mad dog, Kou Zhong laughed involuntarily, Kid, run faster! Thats right! Like that! he hooted.

    Suddenly his saber swept down.

    Dang!

    Changshu Mou was forced back again.

    From the front, Xu Ziling jovially shouted, Is there any way you can chop and split his shield up? And then we can turn around to give him bad luck.

    Kou Zhong had a brainwave; lowering his voice, he said, Under the cart! Understand? And then throwing his head back, he roared in laughter, Whats so difficult about that?

    Suddenly he let out a roar; as if a scorching thunder emerged from the flat earth, his pair of sharp eyes, as bright as the cold star, exploded with unprecedented dense and biting coldness, his power spiked up abruptly, forceful and ferocious without equal. Kou Zhongs entire body leaped out of the cart, the Moon in the Well turned into a streak of glittering yellow ray shooting toward Changshu Mou, who, by this time, had managed to get as close as half a zhang away from the cart.

    Changshu Mou had never expected Kou Zhong to be this dauntless; even more, he had never anticipated that Kou Zhong would leave the cart to pounce on him. However, although he knew that Kou Zhongs saber strike would not be easy to block, in full confidence of his superior martial art skill, he was not afraid at all.

    His left shield went up to block, his right shield swept across Kou Zhongs legs. But suddenly he had a feeling that something was not right; instantly his soul flew away and scattered.

    What happened was that Xu Ziling unexpectedly dropped himself from the front of the cart to the ground, and let the cart passed above him, so that in a moment he was exactly below Kou Zhong. And then from the ground, he propelled himself up.

    Changshu Mou was also an outstanding character, in this critical moment he was not flustered. Changing the direction of the right shield, he cut down instead.

    Xu Ziling met the right shield with both palms; a loud clashing sound like a muffled thunder ensued as the two streams of qi power collided.

    At the same time, Kou Zhongs full-powered saber strike violently crashed onto his left shield.

    One cold, one hot, two streams of frightening qi power burst into Changshu Mous body together.

    Dang!

    The golden shield shattered in pieces.

    Like a kite with cut string Changshu Mou flew backward, with fresh blood sprayed out of his mouth.

    Flying ten more zhang back, as soon as he touched the ground, he ran into the sparse forest on the left.

    By the time Kou Zhong landed on the ground, Xu Ziling has already sprung up from the ground. As they exchanged victory smile, they suddenly realized that the cart carrying the beauty was still pulled along by the mules that were running away like mad. Hence the two boys ran after it in a great rush.

  17. #97
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    Default Book 9 Chapter 1

    Book 9 Chapter 1 Amorous Demon of Yin Gui
    Translated by Foxs

    Passing through the woods and crossing the creek, the mule cart continued on to the wilderness, going faster and faster. But the more they were chasing it, the more Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling felt alarmed.

    This was impossible.

    Even if the cart was pulled by highest quality colts, with first class driver driving it, because the path was not really a flat street, it had holes and bumps and would be difficult to pass, the two boys ought to be able to overtake it for quite some time.

    Yet it was as if the mules knew the way as they swerved left and swayed right through the woods, over the hills, thru the gaps between rocks, running as fast as speeding horse, totally beyond their natural ability.

    The two boys knew something was amiss. They took a chance to leap up the top of a tree, but as they looked down, their entire body suddenly turned cold.

    They saw a woman with long silvery hair, wearing golden colored oversized robe, was sitting on the driver seat of the mule cart. Her upper body leaned forward in some kind of weird and unnatural posture, both hands reached out with her palms on the mules buttock. Blood was seeping out of the two mules eyes, ears, mouth and nose as they desperately ran for their lives.

    The peerless beauty Wanwan was still lying peacefully on the cart, so serene that she did not seem to be affected by everything that was going on outside.

    This kind of tyrannical skill where one was able to spur and enhance an animals potential, not only the two boys had never heard of, they had never even thought that such skill existed.

    But obviously the mules would not be able to hold for long; this extremely cruel thing has almost come to its end.

    The two boys exchanged eye signals. A righteous indignation flared out in their heart for the opponents disgraceful act.

    At this moment the pair of mules racing wildly was running through a wooded area and snapped and broke more than a dozen small trees blocking their way. As they ran up the slope of a small hill, naturally their speed decreased considerably.

    Seeing that they could not afford to lose any more time, Xu Ziling called out, Ill help you! while deliberately fell back a bit.

    Kou Zhong has been working with him for so long that he intuitively understood what he had in mind. Immediately he raised his qi to leap up.

    Very lightly, as if he did not use any strength at all, Xu Ziling pressed his palms onto Kou Zhongs back.

    Kou Zhongs body immediately soared into the air, his speed was several times faster than his regular speed. Like a rainbow he swept the air in an arc toward the mule cart.

    When he was about to reach the mule cart, as if she had eyes on the back of her head, the silver-haired woman suddenly waved her left golden sleeve back; more than ten black dots shot toward Kou Zhong.

    Kou Zhong remained calm. The Moon in the Well left his back and swept a large circle in front of his body. Twelve cows hair needles met the saber and fell down.

    But Kou Zhong was also adversely affected; he slowed down, and the mule cart dashed over the top of the slope and rushed down the other side.

    Xu Ziling sped up to catch up and give Kou Zhong another push.

    Seizing this opportunity, Kou Zhong and his saber fused together and soared high into the air. He started later but arrived sooner. Flying over the top of the hill, he reached just above the silver-haired woman, and hacked his saber down.

    The silver-haired woman suddenly shook her square head [orig. small cicada with square head], her silver hair shot up like a whip, lashing toward Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well. The timing and the angle of attack were impeccable.

    Naturally Kou Zhong did not expect such weird move.

    The hair and the saber collided; both combatants were severely shaken.

    Kou Zhong was jolted by her seemingly continuous soft internal energy that he was thrown backward. The silver-haired woman was jerked by his strong qi that her tender body lurched forward.

    The two mules neighed miserably and fell down, dead.

    Receiving continuous blow, both the cart and the mules dead bodies continued rushing down the slope at great speed. The situation was extremely dire.

    Kou Zhong knew that after his powerful qi entered her body, it was transmitted into the poor mules bodies. Inwardly he was very regretful, but the die has already been cast, nothing he could do about it.

    Seeing the cart was about to stumble over the mules carcasses and flipped to its side, he hastily raised his qi to make a somersault. His left hand reached the whip around his waist and sent it out toward the cart to catch Wanwan.

    Who would have thought that since the cart was about to overturn and was lurching forward, plus the carts own momentum was rather strong, the tip of the whip missed Wanwan by a hairsbreadth. He failed within the sight of success.

    Meanwhile one side of the carts wheels had already off the ground, the cart was about to topple to the other side.

    Like a clump of golden cloud the silver-haired woman soared into the air, spinning her body around, she waved her sleeve. Immediately Wanwan was rolled up inside her golden sleeve, her graceful hair came loose, its beauty surpassed the immortals, lightly floating like fallen leaves.

    As Kou Zhong met the silver-haired woman face-to-face, immediately a chill crept into his heart.

    The womans profile was quite beautiful, but her face was deathly pale without the slightest bit of humans color. Her eyes flickered with bizarre, gloomy and fierce sharp gleam, just like an amorous ghost from the netherworld looking to devour humans life.

    The mule cart overturned; it continued rolling down the hill, dragging the mules dead bodies along the dirt path, creating a chaotic collision noise.

    Holding Wanwan in her arms, the silver-haired woman made a somersault and landed on the green grass at the bottom of the hill.

    Not far from there was a small river, the opposite bank was emerald green forest. Under the moonlight it looked even more serene, peaceful and beautiful.

    One after another Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling caught up with her, ready to confront her.

    With wooden face the silver-haired woman said, Indeed you carry some weight, no wonder even Ren Shaoming lost his life under your hands. Her voice hoarse and deep and low, making those who hear it feel very uncomfortable.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Yin Gui Pai female demon [see footnote on chapter title, Book 8 Chapter 10], report your name to me.

    Without any change in her countenance, the silver-haired woman said, When did I tell you that I am from Yin Gui Pai?

    Shaking the Moon in the Well in his hand, Kou Zhong thundered, Your internal energy is of the same character of Amorous Nuns; you still want to deceive us?

    The silver-haired womans countenance still did not change the slightest bit, she said coldly, Just consider you have a bit of eyesight. I am one of the four demons under Jiaozhu [Cult Leader], Yin Fa Mo Nu [Silver-haired Demoness] Dan Mei. I am going to take this natural born beauty back with me and report to my superior since she is most suitable to enter our Sect. If the two of you understand my intention, get lost immediately, the farther the better. Otherwise I might teach you a lesson that it would be too late for you to regret.

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, I dont believe you have the ability to teach us a lesson that it would be too late for us to regret. Why not let the woman down, and let me see if you really have some skills I can learn?

    Dan Meis eyes flashed sharply. Get lost! she hissed in low voice, Or Ill kill her first.

    Xu Ziling, who all along was watching with folded arms, suddenly sneered and said, Really funny! You have just said you are going to recruit Wanwan on your honorable Jiaozhus behalf, and now you said you are going to kill Wanwan; it can clearly be seen that you are just spouting nonsense. Less bullsh1tting. Zhong Shao, show your formidability and let her increase her knowledge.

    All right! Kou Zhong thundered.

    As soon as his roar subsided, Kou Zhong straightened up his backbone, his bearing suddenly became bold and powerful without rival; raising his saber, he strode forward.

    His pair of tiger-eyes was bright and clear like the cold star, emitting a deep, incomparably chilly sharp gleam, his imposing manner solid, full of power. The strangest thing was that he did not seem to be afraid at all that Dan Mei would use Wanwan as a shield.

    Even Xu Ziling standing on the side also felt that the Moon in the Well carried dense, austere saber qi, so what Dan Mei, who was standing right in front of him, felt need not be mentioned.

    For the first time Dan Meis pale countenance showed a stunned look. You really dont care about this womans life? she shouted sternly.

    Thats exactly right! Kou Zhong thundered.

    The Moon in the Well attacked swiftly, it turned into a rainbow, the target was unexpectedly Wanwan, which was carried horizontally in Dan Meis arms.

    Xu Ziling acted as if he has had foreknowledge of what was happening; standing in relaxed position with folded arms, he looked like someone who was enjoying a good show.

    Finally Dan Meis countenance changed slightly; she quickly floated backward.

    But Kou Zhong was unwilling to let her off, like a shadow he followed her closely, like a meteor catching up with the moon he chased after her. The Moon in the Well chopped down from top to bottom, his movements were faster than lightning flashes, while at the same time the wind generated by his saber was as strong as the mountain, swift and fierce without equal.

    Dan Mei was so furious that her eyes shot ominous glint; she soared high, like a turning wheel the pair of delicate feet under her golden-colored embroidered skirt launched chain-kicks to block Kou Zhongs saber momentum, which was storming up toward her like violent waves.

    The sound of clashing qi lingered on faintly.

    Seeing her kicking skill was this formidable, Kou Zhongs fighting spirit was aroused. With a somersault he leaped above Dan Meis head, the Moon in the Well turned into cold rays filling the air, coming down like a net above her head.

    The most formidable aspect of this move was that it would be difficult for Dan Mei to use her legs to block the saber.

    Dan Mei snorted coldly; unexpectedly she tossed the peerless beauty Wanwan in her hands upwards to meet Kou Zhongs blade, while at the same time she dropped rapidly to the ground and spun sideways to evade.

    Although Kou Zhongs saber strike seemed so ruthless, he actually left a lot of leeway; seeing his scheme prevailed, he promptly held the saber back, while his left palm brushed on Wanwans body and then he leaped back to get out of the way.

    Xu Ziling finally made his move.

    Faster than a spark from a flint he flashed toward Dan Mei and launched an attack with all his might, without giving any leeway at all.

    In an instant the two of them already exchanged more than a dozen punches and kicks.

    Not only Dan Mei lost her acute spirit, when dealing with Kou Zhongs hacks earlier, her blood and qi were churning, so that this moment she was unable to cope with the two boys tag-team tactics. As soon as she revealed a gap in her defense, Xu Ziling sent out a palm strike toward her left shoulder. Instantly her mouth spurted blood, she staggered and stumbled down sideways.

    But she was also an outstanding character. With a loud roar she ran away toward the wilderness, crossing the brook, and disappeared into the depth of the forest on the opposite bank.

    As if she was being carried by invisible hands, Wanwan dropped slowly on the soft grass, unscathed.

    Kou Zhong came over to Xu Zilings side. They both gazed on this otherworldly fairy-like peerless beauty.

    Reaching out and putting his hand on Xu Zilings shoulder, Kou Zhong whispered, Whats our chance of success?

    For an outsider, Kou Zhong seemed to blabber incoherently. But naturally Xu Ziling did not have that problem. At least 80%, he replied indifferently, Whether it was Chang Shumou or Dan Mei, both wanted to lure us away, so that this most formidable direct disciple since the beginning of the history of Yin Gui Pai can carry out some kind of plot against us. And it may be assumed that this plot must involve some physical contact.

    His countenance changed, Kou Zhong rubbed his hands and said, My hands seem to be okay!

    Knowing that Kou Zhong was simply dressing up as God, playing the devil, Xu Ziling was unable to help laughing, Go to your Niang! he said, If just by touching she can inflict damage, even Ning Daoqi, Bi Xuan and Fu Cailin, add to that the Zhaizhu [monastery master] of Ci Hang Jing Zhai, are no match for her. Ay! Too bad theres still 20% uncertainty; otherwise, Zhong Shao, right now you could get your saber and see if you could chop her alive.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, I definitely wont have a heart to do that. If she really is a Big Sister of Yin Gui, you cant but admire her. Just look at how touching she is. Looking down or looking across, she does not look like a goblin that kills or harms people. Yet the fact is that any man who came across her would, to some extent, suffer some pain because of her.

    Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, And the two of us are remarkably alike one of her victims.

    Leaning close to him, Kou Zhong spoke in the tiniest voice possible, How about sending her back to Fang Zetao and tell him to take care and bid him farewell? That way, wont we escape from the abyss of suffering?

    Like waterfall Wanwans beautiful hair cascaded down in all directions, lining her jade face vermillion lips, which, under the illumination of the moon, looked beautiful and alluring beyond human comprehension, that even a senior monk who has had painstaking cultivation for many years would be moved by her that he would be reluctant to leave this world.

    Xu Ziling sneered and said, Funny that you and he are still calling each other Xiong and Di [older and younger brother, respectively]. Supposing she is genuine goods at fair prices Yin Gui siren, it would be strange indeed if Fang Zetao would not suffer his city broken and the people perish. If a moment ago we did not lure Chang Shumou away, perhaps Fang Zetao would have been killed by him.

    Kou Zhong blew out a mouthful of cold air and said, Are you saying that we ought to bring this hot potato along on our journey, and ascertain first whether she is a dragon or a snake before making decision whether we should hand her over to the infatuated Fang Zhuangzhu?

    Xu Zilings eyes were gleaming with cold flashes as he stared hard at the beautiful Wanwan, who was lying on the ground, who, in her tight gauze clothing, revealed her incomparably graceful lines. His lips curled into a smile as he said, This is a battle on an uncharted territory. As long as we are able to force her to show her true identity, we win the first battle.

    And then he broke into laughter and said, Come on! Let us build another bed to carry this beauty along; lets see how long can she sleep?

    ※ ※ ※

    From the broken down mule cart the two boys tore off an eight-chi long and three-chi wide board, and then with utmost care they placed Wanwan on the board. Without even trying to secure her on the plank, they carried her just like that, one at the front the other at the rear, and went on their way promptly.

    Although the path was rugged and uneven, and from time to time they had to jump high and crouch low, yet under their ingenious cooperation, the plank stayed level throughout, which gave them quite an enjoyment that they did not feel it was a burden at all.

    Originally, after what Fang Zetao told them about Wanwans background, their suspicion toward this sleeping beauty has been greatly reduced, but after Chang Shumou and Dan Mei appeared one after another, they suddenly felt that the opponent was trying to hide something, which made it more conspicuous. Plus for no apparent reason Xu Ziling had always had premonition, which was hard to dispel. Therefore, renewed suspicion started to grow in their hearts.

    Not only Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling possessed superior ability and wisdom, they were also adept in marketplace and Jianghus scamming and swindling tactics; coupled with imagination richer than average persons, they were able to come up with ideas that others would find it hard to achieve even in their dreams.

    This moment the two boys were afraid to come across Fang Zetao and his men instead, and that was the reason why they were speeding along on the opposite direction. Only after rushing for more than ten li did they finally begin to slow down.

    This moment the stars have disappeared from the night sky and the moon dimmed; it was the darkest hour just before dawn. They have come to the top of a small hill. Looking around as far as they could see, they saw there was a small village in the northwest but the grass and the trees have overgrown it. Apparently it has been abandoned by its inhabitants quite some time ago. Beyond the village was a range of hills.

    Casting a glance toward the peerless beauty sleeping on the plank, Kou Zhong sighed and said, The inhabitants of the village must have fled to Jingling to take refuge. There seemed to be a path behind the village cutting through the mountains, perhaps its a shortcut to Jingling.

    Xu Ziling looked up to the sky; he saw dark clouds gathered on the northeaster horizon. Nodding his head, he said, Looks like heavy rain is coming this way. We do not have any problem, but I am not sure if this Miss Wanwan will have some problems. Let us seek shelter from the rain first, and then think about what we are going to do next.

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, No matter how much we think, we wont find anything. The most formidable thing about her is she is unfathomable. Just to guard against her suddenly making her move to injure others, we have to take the trouble and spend a lot of energy. Resting seemed to be a very good idea.

    Once they made up their mind, the two boys lifted Wanwan up and rushed toward the small village.

    Noticing that the surrounding area has been left to return to unchecked growth, Kou Zhong recalled the abandoned village where they encountered Zhai Rang and Li Mi. He said to Xu Ziling, who was carrying the plank backhandedly at the front, Do you remember the village where Li Mi plotted against Zhai Rang? That time we plainly saw someone setting fire in the village, but when we got there, not even half a ghost was to be seen. Later on whoever that was, he never showed up. Who on earth was he?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Xu Ziling replied, Only ghosts know! Why did you suddenly bring up the past? I nearly forget!

    Kou Zhong shook his head, I am not sure, he replied, Perhaps because seeing this creepy-looking village has brought back old memories? Ay! War truly inflicts a lot of suffering. Just imagine how peaceful, tranquil and leisurely this small village was, everybody lived in peace and worked happily, chicken clucking and dogs barking, but look at how dilapidated this place is now.

    Xu Ziling sighed with him; momentarily nobody spoke a word. In that moment the picture in their mind was transformed into the scenery of the Garden of the Peaches of Immortality.

    Soon the first streak of dawn appeared on the eastern horizon, but because the dark clouds were still covering the sky, it was even darker than before.

    Suddenly a lightning flashed, followed by the rumble of a thunder, and then bean-sized raindrops started to fall, sparse at first, but soon became thick, and in the blink of an eye became a downpour. They had just passed through the decorated archway at the mouth of the village, hastily they bolted toward the closest house.

    The building was dilapidated, the paint peeled off, the door opened as soon as they push it.

    This house was separated into three parts, the front, the middle and the rear, with two courtyards connecting them. The house was fully furnished; although everything was simple and unadorned, it was by no means broken, its just that everything was covered in cobweb; a totally bleak sight to behold.

    After setting the plank, with the beauty Wanwan still on it, on the floor, Kou Zhong took it on himself to close the door, while Xu Ziling went to open the window a little bit, to let fresh air in and stale air out.

    Ah!

    The two boys turned around at once.

    The mysterious beauty Wanwan still looked like she was in eternal slumber, but her face already had a little bit of color, making her looked even more tender and beautiful and alluring.

    Seeing Xu Ziling was walking toward her, Kou Zhong jumped and pulled him back; he said in a low voice, Dont touch her!

    Xu Ziling knitted his brows and said, Whatever happens, we still have to try! Whether someone sealed her acupoints, or she is playing ghost on her own, it is still a difficult problem and a challenge in the study of martial art. If we can unravel it, we will certainly be able to learn something that we previously did not know.

    Sucking in a mouthful of cold air, Kou Zhong said, If by thousand ways, a hundred plans she did that precisely to entice us to do just that, wouldnt that mean we fall right into her hands?

    Pulling Kou Zhong aside, Xu Ziling said in a low voice, Just treat this as another battle! If not, how are we going to settle this matter?

    Kou Zhong finally agreed. I have a great idea, he said, You alone will touch her body, I will transmit my internal qi into your body, while taking the responsibility of simultaneously monitoring your and her condition. This way, if there is something wrong, we wont suffer an all-army being routed situation.

    Very well! Xu Ziling replied.

    The two boys came over to her side and exchanged glances.

    Xu Ziling propped her up. He felt her hands were soft, tender but supple, and could not help his heart from being swept away. Frightened, he hastily put this thought away, and calmed his mind down.

    Sitting cross-legged behind her, he put one palm at the middle of her back, and used the other hand to support the back of her small head with her face looking up.

    Kou Zhong also sat cross-legged behind him; his eyes looked down on his nose, his nose looking down on his heart, both palms pressed onto Xu Zilings tiger-back.

    After discharging all distracting thoughts from his heart, Xu Ziling asked softly, Are you ready?

    Do it now! Kou Zhong replied heavily.

    Focusing his mind and spirit, Xu Ziling slowly injected a stream of warm Yang true qi into the channel on her spine.

    Right this moment, the sound of hoof beats was heard from a far, but it was getting near.

    Unexpectedly, in this extremely critical moment, Wanwans tender body started to shake.

  18. #98
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    Default Book 9 Chapter 2

    Book 9 Chapter 2 Fortuitous Meeting at an Abandoned Village

    The two boys groaned inwardly at the same time.

    What happened was that when Xu Ziling was sending his true qi into Wanwans body, immediately he felt as if he lost control over his meridians and eight extraordinary channels.

    In his great shock, Xu Ziling hastily sent out his internal energy trying to recover the true qi that was scattering like a runaway horse on an open plain, but he was still a step too late.

    His true qi had turned into hundreds and thousands of streams of swirling force surging through and circling along Wanwans eight extraordinary channels [see footnote, Book 1 Chapter 7], just like when a martial art master of internal school suffer fire deviation during true qi cultivation.

    This kind of fire deviation could be catastrophic to the practitioner; minor incident would result in the loss of ones entire internal strength, major incident would result in paralysis or even sudden death.

    The two boys were completely unprepared for this kind of situation, they did not know how to deal with it, and hence momentarily they panicked.

    Kou Zhong cried out in low voice, Female demon is formidable; Laozi cannot deal with her anymore!

    Xu Ziling hastily signaled him not to be reckless.

    Thunder crashed, heavy rain pummeled the roof of the house, the eaves, canopies, screen windows, the courtyards and the streets, creating a variety of noises, as well as varying intensities of the sound. Cool and crisp air burst into the room and assaulted their bodies.

    Mixed with this loud ensemble of the pitter patter of the rain was a cacophony of horses hoof. A dozen or so riders were entering the village.

    Xu Ziling did not have time to be bothered by anything other than Wanwan; receiving Kou Zhongs true qi, which was yin and soft in nature, he continuously blended it with his own yang and hard true qi, and said softly, The biggest problem in true qi is that singular yang would not last. Same nature qi will repel each other, because it will surge against each other, scattering the qi of the arteries and veins all over the body. Therefore, as long as we can lead the true qi back into one, we can solve the problem.

    And then, putting his mouth behind Wanwans jade-like sparkling and translucent small ear, he said, Isnt this precisely what you planned all along? Right now I have a 90% confidence that you are that Dajie [big sister] from Yin Gui Pai, Xiaodi really admit defeat.

    Another flash of lightning streaked through the sky west of the village, painting the heaven and the earth deathly white, followed by deafening clap of thunder.

    Those dozen or so riders stopped their horses, but nobody dismounted. It appeared that they were waiting for someone else.

    Kou Zhong acted as if he was unaware of this bunch of peoples arrival; leaning forward, he said, Do you want to make a his-mothers bet? I bet you she is Yin Hou [Empress Yin (soft/negative/feminine)] Zhu Yuyans disciple, or perhaps she is her.

    Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling asked, Whats your confidence level?

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Only 80%, ten per-cents less than yours. Based on the heretical nature of Yin Gui Pai people, how could they be willing to put themselves in such a dangerous situation? But if she had some other kind of heretical skill, which would make her impervious of fire deviation, this would be a different matter altogether. Ay! Just let me make my move; someone has to do it anyway.

    Xu Ziling shook his head resolutely, We have no right to gamble with somebody elses life, he said, In fact, this is a fair decisive battle, she is using her real skill to deal with us.

    Frowning, Kou Zhong said, But if she really is a female demon from Yin Gui Pai, and we are helping her treating her injury, wouldnt she be able to see through [orig. mountain has a connecting pulse throughout like a dragon (idiom from fengshui)] our unique qigong? What other secret can we talk about then? Supposing because of this her internal strength enjoyed tremendous progress and she defeated Shi Feixuan, we would have committed a grave offense.

    More hoof beats were heard from the other end of the village. Surprisingly it was a single rider, riding his horse slowly under the heavy rain toward the dozen or so riders that have arrived earlier.

    There was a series of ringing noise as sabers and swords left their sheaths.

    It was obvious that the newcomer was not a friend of the dozen or so riders.

    Xu Ziling did not pay any attention of what was happening outside, he constantly gathered the true qi sent by Kou Zhong into the qi reservoir in his dantian [pubic region, about 2 inches below the navel where ones qi resides], consciously and without exercising any restrain letting the qi automatically became a vortex of true qi, so that the qi would not be wasted.

    With a faint smile full of confidence he said, Even if she really is a female demon, despicably exploiting our chivalrous intention, we still have to deal with her righteously to the end.

    And then he called out in low voice, Are you ready?

    Kou Zhong thought Xu Ziling was talking about regulating the meandering qi that created havoc inside Wanwans meridians. Looking at the continuously shuddering Wanwan, without much choice he replied, As ready as I can be!

    By the time Xu Ziling, beyond Kou Zhongs expectation, raised the vortex of qi from his dantian and flowed it upstream along his channels and burst into the hollow of Kou Zhongs right palm, somebody was shouting outside, Passionate Prince, you are indeed gutsy and wise; knowing perfectly well that you are delivering your life yet still dare to come to keep our appointment. We, Qing Jiang Pai [Clear River (in Hubei) Sect] are full of admiration.

    It was only then did Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong realize that the newcomer was the Passionate Prince Hou Xibai, whose fame was rising recently, but this moment was a critical juncture where they were transmitting their internal strength and applying their power; the slightest carelessness would result in catastrophic fire deviation. Therefore, they did not dare to split their concentration to care what was going on outside.

    Kou Zhong let the vortex of qi to enter the Yin Shu Channel at the center of his right palm, and then circled up toward the Yang Shu Channel on his middle finger, along the right elbow toward the Jiang Gong, over the Zhong Lou, passing through these channels and burst into his dantian. And then it flowed toward the Yang Jiao Channel on the outside of his right leg, over his toes and finally stopped at the Yong Quan acupoint in the center of his foot.

    He felt his whole body was warm and cozy, and unspeakably comfortable.

    This time he understood Xu Zilings intention and strategy.

    Actually, although there were thousands of schools and tens of thousands of systems in the world, each with its own unique physical characteristic, inevitably there would be the universal law of many superficial changes but no departure from the original stand.

    Qigong method was no exception. There will always be natural phenomenon of the strong overcomes the weak, opposite polarities attract.

    In playing this game, Xu Zilings strategy was to let the two persons yin and yang, two different true qi characteristics to combine naturally first, resulting in an automatically swirling entity. Due to the common and unusual origin of the two boys true qi, after the integration, practically the result was self-sufficient, capable of repelling any true qi from the outside which characteristic was different from theirs, while also able to absorb any true qi similar to their own.

    Therefore, as long as they were able to inject their vortex of qi into Wanwans qi channels, they could immediately absorb back the scattering, wandering, disarrayed true qi like sea sponges absorbing water, while also link up Wanwans meridians by relying on the same favorable method.

    Supposing Wanwan was really a female demon, or perhaps Zhu Yuyan herself, due to the different internal energy cultivation method, not only it would be hard for her to restrain or gather this swirling qi, she would not have the ability to decipher the source of the qi either.

    The reason Xu Ziling was sending the vortex of qi back into Kou Zhongs body first was that, on one hand, he wanted to increase the swirling power, on the other hand, more important reason was he suddenly thought that this technique would bring great benefits to both of them, to cause their qi channels to flow all around, to link up the energy channels in their entire body, to harmonize their qi.

    Furthermore, yin and yang complemented each other, it could reach the Taoist schools top theory fire flares out of the water, flower blooms in the snow, the so-called Leisurely coming and going the Temple of Heavens Moon Cave, its spring time in all thirty six palaces realms.

    Although any ordinary martial art master of internal school would be able to steer the qi through the channels, a brilliant master would be able to process yin and yang in parallel, but never in the form of vortex of qi.

    Only by learning it from the Secret to Long Life, and by training it separately, would the two boys be able to produce such phenomenon. However, were it not for the special case because they wanted to help this woman treating her injury, where the true qi was rapidly draining away, the two boys would not have this kind of opportunity.

    According to physical law, vortices carry stronger and more condense forces compared to straight flow.

    After understanding Xu Zilings intention, Kou Zhong immediately grasped this one in a thousand golden opportunity. Letting the vortex of qi circled around his body, he absorbed the true qi filling up his channels while continuously strengthening it.

    Outside, the hoofbeats grew quiet; apparently Hou Xibai reined his horse to stop.

    Thunderstorm continued, the flashing of lightning and the rumbling of thunder intermingled with the sound of horses neighing.

    Every time the lightning lit up the murky dark house, Wanwans cloud-like beautiful hair seemed to shine; it was mysterious and surreal.

    When the vortex of qi was flowing from the Yin Qiao channel inside the right leg back to Jiang Gong, and then down the Yong Quan acupoint in the middle of the left foot, a clear and melodious male voice outside spoke indifferently, Cut the crap! Where is Chen Buyun?

    A mans voice replied, Your Shaoye is here. Hou Xibai, you killed two of my sworn brothers, today a debt of blood must be paid in blood.

    Hou Xibai threw his head back and roared in laughter, which even the thunder and the rain calling each other were not able to drown it.

    The laughter suddenly ceased.

    Calmly, Hou Xibai said, You want others to pay your blood debt, but others innocent and honorable daughter, who will return it to them? Killing your two depraved thief brothers was just fulfilling the way of the heaven. And now it is your turn. Whoever dares to stop me, that person will die.

    The hoof beats rumbled, indicating both sides were charging toward each other.

    By this time the vortex of qi has just passed the Tian Ling acupoint at the top of the head, and down the twelve layers of Tian Chi acupoint above the jaw, down the Ren Channel, up the Du Channel, again to the left Yang Shu Channel toward the hollow of the left palm, and circled back into Xu Zilings body.

    Xu Ziling felt Kou Zhongs meridians were empty and fluttering, a condition resembling when he sent his true qi into Wanwans system. His heart was moved; he had a faint feeling that Wanwan was really a female demon who was using this secret method, but this moment he did not have time to ponder this matter over, he could only proceed following the rule, sending the enhanced dont know how many times - vortex of qi toward the Tian Ling acupoint first, and then sent it down to Yong Quan acupoint; precisely the opposite of the sequence Kou Zhong used in transporting the qi.

    It was indeed an opportunity that was difficult to encounter throughout all ages.

    First of all, finding two persons with internal qi of common origin yet dissimilar was harder than ascending the heaven. Moreover, even if two such persons could be found, for a variety of complex factors, such as the preconceived idea of cultivation method, or the problem of trust, they would never lay down everything in such a creative joint-research to develop such a strange but marvelous way of energy cultivation method.

    Although previously the two boys have exploited the characteristic of these two different internal qi of common origin to enhance their own or even heal each others injuries, they had never tested this technique thoroughly, and had never converted their entire true qi into a natural vortex of qi, without leaving the least bit of true qi in their individual system, i.e. without harboring any unfathomable motive toward the other. Plus there was no way to speculate the origin of their cultivation method back to the Secret of Long Life from the way their qi flow through the arteries and veins.

    From the outside, the sound of the clashing weapons fell incessantly on their ears, the sound of miserable scream and cry of pain also unceasing.

    Obviously the injured party could not be Hou Xibai, otherwise, he would have beaten the gong to recall the troops early on.

    The scattering uncontrollably true qi inside Wanwans body was growing wilder, at any time her meridians could break and her life would be gone.

    Barely inaudible sound of feet touching the roof overhead was suddenly heard. The two boys jumped in fright that they nearly suffered fire deviation.

    Xu Ziling struggled hard to put his shaken mind under control, because if anyone sneaked into the house at this time, taking their little lives would be as easy as turning his hand over.

    The vortex of qi penetrated the hollow of the palm, it went against Wanwans Du channel.

    The two boys simultaneously broke off their breathing from the mouth and nose, and controlled their inner qi to breathe instead. With only the Ling Tai, one spot remained clear and bright, they silently controlled the flow of the vortex of qi inside Wanwans body.

    As expected, the vortex of qi flowed unimpeded, completely absorbing the wildly scattered true qi creating havoc, so that everything was back to the right track.

    Outside, the sound of violent battle suddenly fell silent.

    Hou Xibais voice was heard, Which sides expert is gracing us with your presence? Why not show up?

    A tender laughter came from the roof tile right above the three peoples heads, followed by silver-bell-like alluring female voice, Hou Xibai is indeed not an ordinary man. The crooked Qingjiang Pai, who consider themselves to be big Sect in Jiangnan, unexpectedly not a single one of them is able to withstand the power of Hou Xiongs one folding fan. It is really ridiculous.

    Hou Xibai laughed and said, Just by listening Miss voice, I know that you are a woman with natural beauty. I was just wondering, Miss did not spare the effort to follow Zaixias trail for a thousand li, what is your purpose?

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong had just circulated the vortex of qi through the channels in Wanwans entire body. This peerless beauty was also calming down. If they withdrew the vortex of qi immediately, Wanwans condition might return to its previous state.

    Fortunately the two boys were extremely daring, they were unwilling to let go just like this, thereupon they continued to transmit the vortex of qi into the most important, the life and death orifice in Wanwans body, which was still closed firmly.

    When Fu Junchuo was explaining the Great Method of Nine Mysteries to them the other day, she told them about the most important secret in training it. Therefore, when they practiced the Secret to Long Life, involuntarily they combined the training method of the Great Method of Nine Mysteries with the Secret to Long Life, so that the originally pure secret spiritual cultivation method has been merged together with martial art.

    According to Fu Junchuos explanation, although the channels and the acupoints are one integral entity, the usage was different. Channels are like the road between acupoint to acupoint, while the acupoint positions are like the place to lodge for the night. Every point where the channels confluence is called the gateway, which was the important building block that link up the channels. If the gateway is blocked, it will be like the road closure, the person will then fall sick.

    Ordinary folks have regular qi channels where blood and qi flow. But true qi requires painstaking cultivation for it to develop. If the practitioner cannot get the qi to start, then his cultivation effort will be in vain.

    The qi development point becomes the orifice. Therefore, as long as a martial art master of internal school is able to examine the opposite sides channels and acupoints, he would know the depth of the opponents maturity. Whether it was ordinary acupoint or qi orifice, it could not be concealed from the knowledgeable.

    Previously, Wanwans internal system was empty and fluttering. Forget about any qi development or closed orifice, even ordinary peoples qi channels were deficient. Hence the reason they had no idea where to start, and the case became inscrutable.

    From the numerous orifices, there was one which was the most important, the life and death orifice. Supposing Wanwan wanted to find a place to collect the true qi, it would have to be in this mysterious, abstruse place.

    Within the human body, there are two crucial progenitor orifices, connecting the internal brain and womb, which shaped the humans real nature. If this place were injured, serious case would result in death, less severe case would result in mental capacity suffering some damage. But they are still not the place where once could store or collect true qi. Rash action would lead to headaches. Progenitor orifices are the Ren and Du channels most important junctures; if concentrated qi manage to enter the progenitor orifices, two channels Ren and Du would circle endlessly.

    But the place where one could really condense the true qi is dantian at the lower abdomen; it is like the supply station of the true qi for the entire body.

    Ordinary peoples qi meridian is like food that they consume, the stomach wall will ingest and turn it into nutrients.

    But internal energy cultivation would turn power-reproducing qi essence into refined, as well as true, qi, which, at the end, would turn into power. This was called perfecting essence transforming qi, perfecting qi transforming spirit.

    As for the biggest difference between nature and nurture, the innate [nature] can absorb the heaven and earths energy, but the nurtured will have to stop at the qi essence in itself; therefore, there is distinct difference between the two, which is beyond logical calculation.

    As the sea of qi, dantian is subdivided into four layers of heavens.

    The topmost layer is Huang Ting [lit. yellow main hall], followed by Jin Lu [lit. golden stove/furnace], Jin Xue [lit. advance/increase acupoint], and the bottommost layer leads directly to Guan Yuan [primary pass] of testicles or uterus.

    The one life and death orifice pointing to was precisely the Jin Xue. Among those that the qi moves, one becomes life and death orifice, or just plain Jin Xue.

    If the progenitor orifice is the Heaven, then life and death orifice is the Earth. The top concerns character, the bottom concerns life. Character and Life must both be cultivated. Just like rudder and oar, one cannot work without the other.

    The so-called under the heaven above the ground progenitor orifice is safe and secure, the sun on the west the moon on the east amassing Jin Xue is talking about their relation, which is as close as lips and teeth.

    The most formidable aspect of what Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were doing was assembling the vortex of qi from two boys entire strength, and injecting it into Wanwans Jin Xue.

    Supposing Wanwan practiced fraud, the true qi she received by unfathomably secret means would gather in the depths of her Jin Xue; in which case the invading vortex of qi would definitely stimulate her own true qi to react. If that happened, she would then expose the foxs tail [idiom, meaning revealing ones evil nature].

    If she were really innocent, the vortex of qi would trigger her meridian qi, and thus stimulate her to regain her consciousness.

    By lucky coincidence, the two boys were finally able to find the best method to test whether she was real or fraud.

    Just like Xu Ziling had said, in this battle they were breaking a new path.

    While they were at the most intense juncture, Hou Xibai on the outside was leisurely calm; completely unaffected by the thunderstorm, he continued, Miss qinggong is superior, something that Zaixia barely see in all my life. Therefore, each time Zaixia want to see Miss, I always ended up unfortunate and never see your face. However, tonight in this abandoned village, under particular circumstances, if Zaixia want to see Miss beautiful face, I am afraid I wont have the opportunity.

    By this time, the vortex of qi had entered Wanwans dantian, and arrived at the first layer Huang Ting; they have not found anything unusual.

    Although Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling could not split their attention, they still could not help to be baffled.

    If this womans qinggong was as superior as Hou Xibai said, why were they able to detect the tiny bit of noise she made as her feet were touching the roof tiles?

    The woman responded, Magnificent real man ought not force others, right? Just now I deliberately made some noise, precisely to let you know that I have arrived. I was seriously considering whether I should show myself to you, but turns out you are this overbearing.

    Kou Zhong, two people shivered in fear; they could not help having a whole new level of respect for Hou Xibai. Just now they could barely hear the sound of footsteps from inside the house, but Hou Xibai was fighting a life and death bloody battle with the enemy, not to mention thunderstorm occurred at the same time, the distance was several folds farther than where they were, yet it did not escape his ears. Just from this fact, it could be inferred that Hou Xibai was superior to them.

    The vortex of qi was flowing down slowly, entering the second layer, Jin Lu.

    Hou Xibai spoke indifferently, If Miss really have the intention to see Zaixia, Zaixia will be extremely delighted. Is it possible for you to grant me to know your fragrant name first? That way I will be able to address you a little bit more intimately.

    This man spoke elegantly, his intonation gentle and soft, his manner cool and easygoing; no wonder he was able to make beautiful women all over the world admiring him whole-heartedly.

    Apparently the woman was delighted to be coaxed by him; she said cheerfully, I will only say it once; you ought not be negligent and forget it.

    With an incomparably sincere and touching tone Hou Xibai said, Hou Xibai is listening with respectful attention. In the future I will not dare to forget, Miss please set your heart at ease.

    Hearing this, Kou Zhong sighed ruefully in his heart.

    Upon self-introspection, he knew that he lacked Hou Xibais suave and convincing manner of speech. No wonder even Shi Feixuan regarded him highly, and let him accompany her touring the Three Gorges.

    On the other hand, Xu Ziling was thinking: if this persons natural disposition was really like that, then nobody could say anything; otherwise, he was just a despicable, evil person.

    The womans fragrant heart seemed to be impressed; she said, My name is Dugu Feng [phoenix]. Huh? How come your countenance look so strange? You must be familiar with my background.

    Hou Xibai sighed and said, Miss Dugu indeed has well-deserved reputation; just by looking at the change in my eyes you are able to deduce what I feel inside. You are worthy to be called the direct descendant of two families of the pinnacle of knowledge.

    Dugu Fengs tone suddenly became very calm, as if she suddenly changed into a different person. This is rather strange, she said slowly, I wonder where did Hou Xiong obtain the inside information about me?

    Hou Xibai replied apologetically, Please forgive Zaixia for not being able to disclose it. Ol Hou also knew that not only Miss Dugu had surpassed Dugu Twin Heroes, Dugu Sheng and Dugu Ba, two Seniors, early on, even your honorable uncle Dugu Shang has also stepped down gracefully. Your competence is approaching You Chuhong; no wonder Zaixia wanted to escape Miss tracking but it was so difficult to accomplish.

    And then his tone turned cold as he went on, Previously the Ol Hou was thinking that Miss was a crafty and unruly woman who came because you admire Zaixias passionate reputation, but now of course I know this way of thinking is gravely mistaken. May I ask Miss Dugu, what noble errand brings you here that unexpectedly you determined to pay such attention to me, Hou Xibai?

    Please forgive me for not able to disclose it, Dugu Feng responded, All right! I have to go!

    This moment the vortex of qi finally flowed from Jin Lu into the crucial point life and death Jin Xue; suddenly an unexpected development occurred.

    The vortex of qi did not stop, it continued slipping down and flooded the sea of qi, dantians lowest layer Guan Yuan, with a potential of leaking and scattering outside the body.

    The two boys were immediately spooked out of their minds.

    If this really happened, it would be like their many years of painstaking work in cultivating the inner power automatically melt away completely; to return to their original level would require untold time and effort.

    No longer listening to the two peoples dialog outside, they focused their mind and spirit in determination to pull the vortex of qi back.

    Responding to their determination, the vortex of qi rushed back in the form of rapidly swirling column of qi, in reverse of Wanwans Du channel direction; like a sharp arrow it pierced the Yin Shu channel on the hollow of Xu Zilings palm.

    Split second later, the pillar of qi grew until it spread onto the meridians in two boys entire body.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhongs brains were severely shaken with a loud bang; they were both thrown backward and crashed onto the wall, and then slowly slipped down along the wall and crumpled on the ground, with blood seeping out of their eyes, ears, mouth and nose, and their breathing cut off.

    Losing Xu Zilings support, Wanwan, who was still fast asleep, did not fall down.

    Like a specter she slowly floated in the air and stood up gracefully in the middle of the room.

    Her eyelids opened slowly, revealing a pair of absolutely worthy of her beautiful face, jet-black and shiny, capable of evoking the most beautiful dream ever, eyeballs.

    Wanwan slowly turned her tender body around, her gaze was fixed on Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong, who were crumpled on the floor and unable to rise, and sighed softly.

    When it appeared that she was about to move toward the two boys, the main door opened, someone burst in, carrying with him the wind and the rain.

  19. #99
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 9 Chapter 3

    Book 9 Chapter 3 Profiting from a Disaster

    Hou Xibai was handsome and tall, his physique perfectly straight and well proportioned. He wore a bamboo rain hat on top his head, but his clothes was Confucian scholar attire, which emphasized his literary talent and style, as well as his intelligence and bravery.

    This moment he waved the fan in his hand, making him appeared indescribably elegant above the crowd, so free and easy. His most attractive feature was not only his pair of gentle and soft eyes, yet sharp enough to melt womens hearts, but also the thick black and elegant moustache above his lips, which seemed to eternally frozen with a hint of proud smile, brimming with masculine charms.

    He seemed to be very easy to approach, yet there seemed to be an insurmountable distance that kept others at bay.

    All these features combined to form his outstanding and out of the ordinarily touching personality traits.

    Just now Dugu Feng said she was leaving and she immediately left. Originally he intended to run after her to see what she looked like. But suddenly he heard something unusual and knew that there were people inside the house; hence he came in to look.

    This moment his eyes revealed a shocked look. Without blinking he stared at Wanwan, whose elegance and invulnerable figure was comparable to Shi Feixuans, as if he was completely oblivious of Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings existence.

    Wanwan halted her attempt at coming closer to the two boys. With a faint and gentle sigh she said, I did not have any enmity against you, but the two of you are too formidable, and I promised someone that I would personally take your lives, hence I was forced to make my move. If you still have any grudges in the Nine Springs [underworld/Hades], you may direct your hatred to me!

    Standing behind her, Hou Xibai said in trembling voice, Just by listening to Miss heavenly music voice, ah

    Very casually, yet with immortal-like beauty, Wanwan gracefully turned around to meet Hou Xibai face-to-face.

    Hou Xibais entire body shook; unexpectedly he was rendered speechless. His eyes shot a disbelief, excited look. But any spectator would be able to read from his eyes, Unexpectedly there is such peerless beauty like this in the world.

    Wanwan cast him a serene glance as she moved toward the door.

    Immediately Hou Xibai was overcome with a feeling that he did not dare to be disrespectful toward her, and stepped aside to get out of her way.

    Wanwan stopped in front of Hou Xibai, turning he gaze toward the wind and the rain outside, she said in a low voice, Would you bury them for me?

    This moment Hou Xibai was staring blankly at her out-of-the-worldly refined side silhouette, smelling the natural fragrance emitted by her long, beautiful hair.

    Because Wanwan was about a cun shorted than him, he could almost whisper in her sparkling and translucent, finer than jade, small ear, Miss! They

    Wanwan let out another gentle sigh to interrupt him, and then she spoke softly, Dont be negligent and forget it, I will remember you!

    That was the words Dugu Feng said to him just now.

    While Hou Xibai was at a loss of how to respond, a shadow flashed, Wanwan floated out the door and into the wind and the rain outside.

    Hou Xibai was shocked. He darted to the door but was still one step too late; a flash of lightning struck the mountaintop nearby, the entire village was rocked by the sudden clap of thunder that ensued. Wanwan had already disappeared without any trace.

    Hou Xibai slumped to his knees in the storm, he did not care that his feet were covered in rain-soaked mud. Looking up to the sky, he let the arrow-like raindrops shot onto his face as he said with a sigh, Feixuan, oh, Feixuan! Do you know that someone with appearance and martial art skill well matched to yours really exists in the world? Your worthy match has finally appeared.

    As if suddenly remembering something, he hurried back into the house, totally disregarding Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling crumpled against the wall, he took out his painting tools and drew something right in the middle of his folding fan.

    This fans other side already had over twenty full body portraits of beautiful women, but this side was completely blank. If Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were not incapable of talking, they would have asked him why there was no portrait of Shi Feixuan on it.

    Soon afterwards Wanwan came alive on the fan. Not only it had physical and spiritual resemblance to the real thing, even her ethereal characteristics were captured entirely, not a single one was missing. The lines were concise and strong, sharp like a blade.

    Unable to take his eyes off the fan, Hou Xibai played with it for a while. Finally he folded the fan back and absentmindedly stepped out of the door.

    The wind and the rain suddenly made him remember Wanwans request just now. Going back swiftly, Bang! he crashed his back against the wall next to the door.

    With his extremely overbearing power, the wall collapsed.

    Hou Xibai charged inside the house, consecutively sent out four palm strikes, hitting the four main pillars supporting the building.

    By the time the pillars started to crumble, Hou Xibai soared into the air and forcibly knocked against the main beam, and carried the broken beam to break the roof tiles down, while he himself continued to shoot out into the stormy sky above. The house caved in with a loud bank, burying Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling deep under the roof tiles, bricks and wood fragments.

    Without looking back, Hou Xibai let out a long whistle and flew far away.

    If he were willing to look closely, he would have found out that Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong, two peoples bodies, one was burning hot, the other was cold like ice and snow; totally unlike two corpses without any life in it.

    Even Wanwan would not have imagined this change.

    ※ ※ ※

    The storm continued all day long. Only by dusk the following day the sky returned to normal.

    The bright moon behind the eastern mountain revealed its immortal countenance.

    Under the rubble, Kou Zhongs big head was resting on the pit of Xu Zilings stomach, while his back was pressing against the beam. There were countless crushed bricks and shattered roof tiles around; fortunately the beam protected the two boys from the collapsed wall, so that the two boys head and face did not suffer any damage, while still had a bit of breathing space.

    Kou Zhong shuddered and spit the sand and mud out of his mouth. He grumbled, Female demon is formidable, but she also gave us a bit of advantage.

    As he stretched out his limbs, the sand and stones above rained down on him. His grannys Niang, he cursed softly, My whole body feels like I have shed my mortal body and exchanged my bones. Before, the true qi inside my body was just like countless threads forming a beam of qi force; but now these threads are swirling like vortices traveling along my meridians and acupoints. Not only the speed increasing, it also feels like I suddenly gain several years of cultivated power. It is immensely enjoyable.

    As a matter of fact, the two boys had always been awake the whole time; they merely stopped their breathing from the mouth and nose.

    When the vortex of qi turned into spiraling-whirlpool-like beam piercing their meridians, they really thought that this time their lives would be gone, especially with that kind of feeling, where their meridians were about to burst, which was more than they could bear.

    But they did not die, simply because the vortex of qi that circulated around more than a hundred times back and forth between the two of them was gradually reverted back into their Jin Xue.

    The strangest thing was that each time the spiraling beam entered Kou Zhongs body, it immediately became incomparably cold, but when it went back to Xu Zilings body, this extreme cold turned into extreme heat.

    In this way, one cold and one hot cycled back and forth, even the meridians which previously were not linked up or they even aware of, were broken through and became wide open, just like the barren hill in the wilderness was reclaimed as fertile farming field.

    The situation was like sending out old qi to welcome the new qi. Not only Wanwan has never thought about it, even if all the Zen and Taoist masters, plus the martial art grandmasters, of the world were gathered together, they would remain puzzled after pondering this never-happened-in-Wulin-world matter a hundred times.

    Xu Ziling blew a mouthful of air and said, When these brick debris and wood fragments were pressing down on us, it felt very comfortable, just like several dozens of people came to give us massage.

    And then, after a short pause he smiled wryly and said, In the end, did we win against that female demon, or did we lose?

    Kou Zhong breathed the evening breeze blowing through the cracks amidst the broken down bricks; he muttered, On the surface it does seem like a crushing defeat; at least the siren thought so. But she is very crafty; unexpectedly she knew the capturing interest first tactic. First she misled us into thinking that the vortex of qi was going to escape out of the body, and then we were trying to pull back the vortex of qi in panic, she pushed the boat with the current and slammed the vortex of qi into our bodies, hence as easy as blowing off dust she reversed our vortex of qi and used it against us.

    Xu Ziling shuddered in fear, That was an extremely dangerous moment. Were it not for that idiot Hou Xibai barging in, she would have come to check on us, and then she would know and give us each a palm strike. If that happened, we would have gone to the netherworld to accompany Niang!

    Kou Zhong acted as if he was listening intently. Dont move! he hissed, Looks like someones coming.

    Xu Ziling listened carefully; aghast, he said, Why does our sense of hearing become this formidable? The hoof beats are at least ten li away, yet we can perceive it. Before, we could hear only at most five or six li, and it had to be under favorable wind direction.

    Kou Zhong was tongue-tied as well. And dont forget that right now we are buried under the rubble, he said, Hey! The sound must be coming from the underground; I can even feel the vibration.

    Xu Ziling chuckled softly, You, this kid, love to exaggerate the most, he said, Huh? They seem to be in great rush. Eleven, twelve, oh! Seventeen riders, and they are heading this way.

    Kou Zhong squealed excitedly, Lets play dead again! Who knows, maybe well gain another unexpected benefit.

    As soon as the riders entered the village, most of them immediately dismounted from their horses to stick torches everywhere, and then started searching from house to house, in a tyrannical, overbearing manner.

    Hidden under the rubble, when Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong heard the way they were forcing the doors open, breaking down walls, and basically forcing their way into the houses everywhere, they knew that this bunch of people was not ordinary Jianghu characters; rather, they could be considered martial art masters of the Wulin.

    Under normal circumstances, it would not be easy to meet even one of this kind of people, yet now suddenly more than a dozen appeared here and with impressive show of force searched the entire village; naturally the two boys were greatly curious.

    Two of the riders did not dismount, evidently their rank was the highest. Urging their horses, they slowly came near the rubble where the two boys were buried.

    One of these two was fat, the other thin, but both had unusual look. The fat ones body type was big and loose, yet surprisingly it still gave other people the impression that he was sturdy, healthy and beautiful. His age was around thirty, his skin was abnormally bright.

    He was gifted with a broad face and bulging chin; his eyes were as sharp as a pair of will-o'-the-wisp, with a bit of sinister and terrifying aggressiveness. Fortunately from time to time his thin lips pursed into a thread of smiling expression, and thus greatly diluted the burning murderous aura from his eyes.

    The skinny one was a few years younger than the fat one. His build was well proportionately slender, his face was rather handsome, but his bearing looked conceited.

    After looking around for quite some time, he finally opened his mouth, This clay house must have collapsed not too long ago, thats why the interior has not been eroded by the blowing sand, the furniture still considerably intact, plus the two rear buildings are still standing straight. The collapsing front part is indeed very intriguing.

    His voice was deep and low, and was pleasant to hear, plus he spoke with confidence, giving the impression that he was someone who seldom suffered setbacks.

    The fat and sturdy guy laughed aloud and said, Ling Feng Xiongs observation is a valid one. Just by looking at the dead bodies scattered all around the village, we know that something happened here not long ago. Also, looking at the way this house collapsed, it is obvious that someone deliberately smashed the beams and pillars, and pushed the four walls down.

    Listening from under the rubble, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were moved by these two mens power of observation.

    The one called Ling Feng smiled and said, Jin Bo Xiong is well-known for your intelligence; indeed it is not a baseless information. This is very strange; who would spend so much effort to knock the entire building down? Plus this person must be very powerful; I daresay he can be classified as one of the top-ranking experts of the martial art world.

    The fat guy Jin Bo responded indifferently, As long as we excavate the debris, we will obtain the answer. Is Ling Xiong interested?

    This moment a short, thin old man came to the two mens presence and said in heavy voice, There are a total of fourteen dead bodies in the village. Most died from having their vital acupoint sealed with some kind of internal schools technique. Only three of them died from having their throat cut, but the wound does not look like it was caused by sharp object, such as a saber or a sword.

    Who are these people? Ling Feng asked, Can Old Chen see?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling felt strange. Listening to the appellation these people used to address each other, it was obvious that they did not belong to the same School or Sect; there was no superior-subordinate relationship between them, yet it was clear from their attitude that they were in this together. What was their objective?

    The old man surnamed Chen replied, All their weapons have the identical markings. If my, Chen Guangs memory serves me right, they must be Jiangnans Qingjiang Pais people, whose power is increasing tremendously these recent days.

    Phew! Jin Bo said with a sigh, This is getting more and more interesting! Qingjiang Pais Zhangmen [Sect Leader] Variable Wind [wu ding feng no fixed wind] Xiang Qingliu loves to shield his people who break the law and commit crimes, and now unexpectedly someone is daring enough to stroke the tigers whisker. I, the Fat Demon Jin Bo dare to guarantee that a good drama is about to unfold. It must be lively and good to watch. Ha!

    Listening to his mouthful taking joy in calamity and delight in disaster tone, Xu and Kou, two people could not help feeling contempt toward him.

    Puzzled, Ling Feng asked, But this bunch of people did not work under those two kids; who could have done it to them?

    The two boys listening under the rubble were moved. They had a faint feeling that these men were coming for them.

    Meanwhile another man came to report that there was no one else in the village.

    Jin Bo sighed and said, Right now we dont have time to mind other peoples business. The intelligence from Baling was that those two kids are heading north to dig up the Duke Yang Treasure. This information has spread everywhere, creating quite a sensation. Even the Four Big Bandits are sending their martial art masters to intercept along the way. Even more reason for us not to dilly-dally.

    Chen Guang said, There has never been anybody in Jianghu with higher price than theirs. Undoubtedly, obtaining the hidden treasure is not insignificant; we can immediately recruit soldiers and buy provision to contend for hegemony over the world, or at least we can become the richest man in the world. Let alone we can bring their heads to see Duke Mi. It will definitely bring honor to our ancestors.

    Immediately Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings countenance changed.

    Their northern expedition was a top secret. Only a limited number of Baling Bang and Jukun Bang people were in the know. But now they had just left Baling, and already someone has leaked the news. Not only that, but their route to the north was clearly indicated. Otherwise, how could these people look for them here?

    Ling Fengs voice was heard, We must leave immediately and hasten on our journey; otherwise the quick-footed will climb up first!

    Jin Bo and the others were too preoccupied to care about what buried under the rubble; in the blink of an eye they already left far away.

    ※ ※ ※

    Bang!

    Gravels shot up midway into the sky. The two boys soared high and landed on a vacant lot in the middle of the village.

    Brushing off the sand, pebbles and dust from his clothes, Kou Zhong frowned and said, Dust and debris are getting into my clothes; its really uncomfortable. It would be best if we can find a creek to take a bath before continuing on our journey.

    Xu Ziling nodded, Well look for one along the way. The most important thing right now is going to Jingling to rendezvous with Yucheng, Zhifu, and the others, and then think of a way to deal with this situation.

    Patting the Moon in the Well on his back, Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, It had not occurred to me that our prestige from getting rid of Ren Shaoming is still not enough to intimidate and deter those greedy people. We might as well have a free hand to go all out; let those people know the meaning of the word regret.

    Xu Ziling smiled faintly and led away.

    By this time the bright moon had climbed up to its zenith, bathing the whole earth with its golden light.

  20. #100
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 9 Chapter 4

    Book 9 Chapter 4 Flying Horse Ranch

    One after another the two boys emerged from the water of a small lake. Their clothes that have been washed clean were hanging on a small tree by the lake.

    Looking at the bright moon in the sky above, Kou Zhong sighed and said, We have not bathed in a creek like this for a long time! If Niang were still here watching us, how wonderful that is?

    Xu Ziling pushed the water with both hands; his eyes revealed a sad look. He did not respond.

    Stark naked, Kou Zhong climbed onto a flat and smooth big rock by the lake; he said, Could it be that Xiao Xian is secretly betraying us? Only by Xiang Yushans intelligence network will he be able to spread the information this fast.

    That is a very high possibility, Xu Ziling agreed, If it were other people, they might be afraid of spreading the news, because someone else might beat them to it [again, the original was the quick-footed climb up first].

    Kou Zhong stood up on the big rock; assuming a perfect diving posture, he leaned his head aside in deep thought, But what benefit could Xiao Xian reap? Supposing the Duke Yang Treasure fell into someone elses hands, he would only suffer harm without any advantage whatsoever.

    Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, For an old fox like Xiao Xian, it is very difficult to guess what kind of crafty scheme he is running. Perhaps he wanted us to sound out the difficulties and retreat to avoid defeat, and obediently come back to rely on his help. Naturally we would offer the secret of Duke Yang Treasure in return!

    Kou Zhongs heart was moved, This guess is quite reasonable, he said. Rising up high, he dove into the water.

    Seeing how much fun Kou Zhong was having by diving into the water, Xu Ziling imitated him by climbing onto the rock, and then deliberately made a cannonball dive into the lake, splashing water high into the air.

    Swimming toward him, Kou Zhong laughed and said, Ling Shao seems to be in a very good mood.

    Xu Ziling cheerfully replied, Why should I be unhappy? The female demons identity is discovered, our strength is increasing considerably, we have confidence to deal with any powerful enemy; tell me, why should we be worry?

    Kou Zhong had a brainwave, Do you want to test the extent of our formidability now? he asked.

    Xu Ziling looked as if he was returning to the playful mood of his childhood; he said, Zhong Shao, do you have any good suggestion?

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, Those seventeen idiots just now seemed to be people of real skill. If we go over the hill to pursue them, we might still be able to intercept them; while we are at it, seizing two horses from them seems to be a good idea. Ling Shao, do you have a better suggestion?

    Xu Ziling laughed aloud and said, How could I dare to offer any suggestion? Now, let us have a race on putting on our clothes first, and then well compete on our legs strength; what do you say?

    Kou Zhong squealed. Laughing and giggling, the two boys raced each other to climb up the soft green lake bank, without showing any sign that they were two martial art masters.

    ※ ※ ※

    The first light of dawn.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling sat side-by-side by the roadside, with their backs against a huge old polar tree, which trunk was so big that it would require several people to wrap their arms around it. Glowing with health and vigor they nibbled on fresh fruits they picked on the mountain along the way. In short, they looked very relaxed and comfortable.

    A faint sound of hoof beats was coming from the other end of the road.

    Spitting the pit of the fruit, Kou Zhong proudly said, The fools delivering horses are here. We must interrogate them where they heard the news about us from.

    Xu Ziling mused, They must have rested along the way; otherwise, there is no reason for them to fall behind us this long.

    Kou Zhong sneered and said, Why do we care about his mothers business? This kind of reckless fellow is only good for me to test my saber.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, Since when did you become so blood-thirsty? Unless we absolutely have to, it would be best if we dont kill anybody. This is called amassing secret virtue. Understand?

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Xu Yes admonishment is right, how could this kid dare to disobey? Hey! Since our debut, may I ask when did I ever willfully slaughter the innocent?

    Xu Ziling replied crossly, Who are the innocents? Wasnt it you, Kou Daye who decided based on your own idea?

    Kou Zhong was speechless for half a day. Finally he had a sudden understanding and said, Your comment is very interesting. When all is said and done, all the strife in the world can be regarded as some kind of ideological struggle. And then after a short pause he said, Everybody has his own set of ideas, wishing other people would accept it, and thus the struggle starts. Take that Li kid for example: he has Li kids way of thinking. I, Kou Zhong, also have a set of my own. Whoever prevails, it does not matter if the other side submits willingly or not, they still have to accept the victors way of thinking, or else they will have to be eliminated. Of course, I am referring to the kind of situation that can only occur where everybody has the same goal but different standpoints. Otherwise, just like you and me, river water will never offend the well water.

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, Arent you just babbling nonsense? Such a simple idea and you make it so complicated. Direct and plainspoken is still the best. There is only one Emperors throne, and only one person can sit on it. Isnt this clearly understood?

    Kou Zhong responded with serious expression, Actually, I was thinking about another issue, that is, if we want to vie for the world, we must have a perfect set of ideas first, so that others will be comfortable in following it. This set of ideas includes a complete plan, an ideal, even futures distribution of power, and the style to rule the country. This is called having a clear-cut stand. Otherwise, it would be just like the Four Bandits; from top to bottom, nobody knows what he is doing.

    And then, bumping Xu Ziling with his elbow, he smiled mysteriously and said, Like Li Mi previously published Ten Charges of Yang Guang. He was announcing to the whole world that if he, Li Mi, became the Emperor, he would never repeat these chronic illnesses of Yang Guang. Therefore, his reputation soared immediately, his influence expanded greatly, all without even need to spend a great deal of effort or waste a soldier or half a troop. What a deal.

    Xu Ziling was emotionally moved; he said, You, this kid, indeed have some ideas.

    The hoof beats were getting closer.

    Kou Zhong sprang up and stood in the middle of the road, in full anticipation of the enemy soon to appear from the road bend ahead.

    Xu Ziling was still sitting peacefully, eating the last wild peach.

    Kou Zhong pricked up his ear and listened carefully, he detected at least thirty horses; perhaps the enemy rendezvous with their reinforcement somewhere that their number increased by one fold. The only thing puzzling him was that the hoof beats varied; some were heavy and some were light.

    Even though the enemys strength increased tremendously, Kou Zhong found it to be more interesting.

    Like meteors catching up with the moon, the true qi within him spiraled back and forth between his tianling, yongquan and various acupoints, so that his entire body, from head to toe, was brimming with explosive, as well as incomparably cold, power. His mind became even more still and cold, without a single thread of disturbing emotions.

    So much so that he did not even feel his self existence, just like the clear water in a deep well, which could only reflect the world objectively.

    This kind of perception preserved several breaths of circumstances; he was awakened and returned to the previous state of mind. It was just like from the Heaven returning to the Earth, back to his true character.

    While Kou Zhong was about to discuss this feeling with Xu Ziling, the enemies two front-most riders have already appeared from the bend.

    Furthermore, as soon as Kou Zhong entered this fantastic realm, Xu Zilings mind also produced immediate reaction.

    Within these several breaths of time period, Kou Zhong was plainly standing in the middle of the road, but Xu Ziling had a mysterious, strange perception that Kou Zhong has turned into a formless entity. He even could no longer feel the cold air emitted from Kou Zhongs body, a clear sign of his existence.

    And then a moment later everything was back to normal. Kou Zhong was looking at him, agape and tongue-tied, with astonishment on his face.

    The riders continuously entered the road.

    The galloping riders were men in grey warrior-style uniform; the top of their lapels was embroidered with a flying horse with a pair of wings on its back. There were a total of twelve men, plus more than a dozen wild horses without saddles, strung together with a rope.

    Seeing Kou Zhong still standing in the middle of the road with blank bird-brained expression, Xu Ziling cried out, Wrong persons! Come back here!

    By now the troop of galloping riders that drove the wild horses was only about two zhang away from Kou Zhong. The leading rider was a middle-aged robust man with only one eye. His countenance looked old and dull, but his single eye was still flickering lively. Seeing someone barring their way, he shouted his order telling the men behind him to rein their horses and slow down.

    As if he had just been awakened from a dream, Kou Zhong bowed respectfully with clasped hands toward that man to express his apology, before awkwardly returning to Xu Zilings side, while still waving his hand telling the other side to go on with their journey.

    The robust middle-aged man already reined his horse abruptly, so that it reared on its hind legs and stopped.

    Seeing this, the other men also reined their horses and stopped about a zhang away on the road in front of the two boys.

    Twelve men, twenty-three eyes, like twenty-three arrows landed on the two boys. Even the horses puffing white steam from their nostrils were casting their eyes warily on the two boys.

    Kou Zhong knew he was in the wrong; laughing apologetically he said, We mistook you for someone else, would gentlemen be magnanimous and forgive us?

    A short and thin old man by the one-eyed man took out a tobacco pipe from the saddlebag hanging on the horses belly. Chuckling sinisterly, he said, Good kid, looking at your dignified manner and handsome faces, you have the appearance of amazing people, yet instead of learning something good, you learned to be low-class thieves who waylay and rob people on their journey. Now that youve seen that we are not to be trifled with, you retreat hastily. Dont you have any shame?

    Other than the one-eyed man, the rest of the men roared in laughter, ridiculing and mocking them to their hearts content.

    Kou Zhong was indeed a strange person; although the opposite side was laughing and hurling insults at them, realizing that it was just a misunderstanding, surprisingly he did not take any offence. Smiling, he said, This Senior is mistaken. What we, two brothers, disdain the most is the conduct of bandits who rob traveling folks. It was just a misunderstanding.

    Another man taunted, Whether you want to be a bandit or not, its just a question of eligibility. But just by looking at the saber on your back, which will easily tempt you to be one, I know that you are indeed a low-class thief Ha

    Everybody roared in laughter again. Several of them even drew their weapons, ready to fight.

    Someone even went as far as shouting toward Xu Ziling, who was still sitting undauntedly on the ground, You, that kid, you still have not come over here to kneel, begging for forgiveness?

    Xu Ziling rose up slowly. Patting the dust from his clothes, without even looking at the opposite party he said to Kou Zhong, Lets go!

    While puffing smoke from his pipe, the little old man laughed coldly and said, You think its that easy to leave? North of the River, who dares to block our, Flying Horse Ranchs way?

    The other men shouted and cursed at once, while quickly spreading out to surround the two boys, in a way that could be described as operation storm.

    Kou Zhong turned to Xu Ziling and said with a wry smile, Nothing we can do about it!

    Someone with peculiar voice interrupted, You got that right! Perhaps we, two low-class thieves, better kneel down to beg for forgiveness! Maybe big masters of Flying Horse Ranch would show us some clemency?

    He was imitating Xu Zilings accent in responding Kou Zhongs remark, and he was dead on, which, quite naturally, drawing another round of laughter and mockery.

    Xu Ziling casually turned his gaze toward the speaker. Turned out he was a young man about 17 or 18 years old, the youngest among the riders, dark-skinned from being under the sun a lot, but his teeth were snow white and neat, so that his cannot-be-considered-good-looking countenance was a lot nicer to look at. This moment he was sticking out his chin and narrowing his eyes in a mocking expression.

    Suddenly someone thundered, Dont be reckless!

    Everybody, including Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, were stunned.

    The speaker was precisely the one-eyed man. This moment he was staring hard and Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, sizing them up. He said toward the little old man, who was swallowing clouds and blowing out fog from his tobacco pipe, with a heavy voice, Has Xu Gong [term of respect to address an elderly man] seen any low-class thief, who, under heavy siege, still have calm demeanor, and is still able to talk cool-headedly like them?

    The old man surnamed Xu looked startled, and then he turned his gaze toward the two boys, examining them closely. His eyes showed that he was deep in thought.

    The other men did not dare to make any noise. Obviously the one-eyed man was their boss.

    The one-eyed man seemed to appreciate the two boys very much; he smiled and said, I am Flying Horse Ranchs Er Zhishi [second manager; zhishi basically means doing/carrying out matters] Liu Zongdao. This time due to our Dangjia [chief] entrusted heavy responsibility, we take special care along the way.

    After a short pause, he went on, Although two gentlemens clothing is ragged, it still cannot hide your dignified bearing; I wonder what are gentlemens honored surnames and great given names? Where are you from? What business do you have here?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling could not help having favorable impression toward this man, its just that naturally they could not reveal their real identity to him. They only wished to perfunctorily pass this encounter and go their separate ways.

    Accustomed to inventing crazy nonsense, without even thinking Kou Zhong replied, Someone who understands reason like Er Zhishi is hard to come by. We, two brothers are from the same village, the Fu family village in Yuhang. His name is Fu Jing, and I am Fu Ning. [Translators note: Characters Fu from Fu Junchuo, Jing from Shan Wanjing, and Ning from Li Xiuning.]

    Liu Zongdao was emotionally moved; he said, You made light of traveling a thousand li, what is your purpose?

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, What else but to find support for our lives by joining a militia, wishing that in the future we can stand out among our peers, and bring honor to our ancestors, so that our parents [Translators note: the words here indicate that they were paternal cousins] can pass their days in peace and happiness.

    This time, even the old man surnamed Xu believed him. Nodding his head, he said, Younger generation kids should have high aspiration. Listening to your refined style of conversation, I am sure you have had several books to read?

    Kou Zhong blurted out without thinking, Old Xu is indeed formidable; just by listening to a couple of words from us you are already very clear about our foundation. In our neighboring village, there was this Kou Laoyezi [polite appellation for an elderly male] who has read intensively the Book of Songs and the Book of History. He is a kind old man, as long as on holidays we delivered two catties of dried meat to him, he was willing to teach us to read, to study all those Four Common Characters of Classical Chinese, Isnt That a Joy? [quote from Confucius], and so on.

    Being flattered like that, the old man Xu was immediately elated, Now heres a little boy who is worth teaching! Ha ha!

    The youngest, the smart aleck guy said, The ones you were waiting for must be that militia you are talking about!

    It was, Kou Zhong replied with a forced laugh, We heard Li Mis army might be passing by here; who would have thought that it was all of you, Daye.

    Amused, Liu Zongdao smiled and said, Li Mi is way too busy right now, how could he have time to mind the South? So what did you do for a living?

    Reaching out and grabbing Xu Zilings shoulders, Kou Zhong said, We, two brothers, are expert in providing meals for the important generals. All those dumpling oil rice, dumpling oil cake [see Book 1 Chapter 9], ours is the most famous. Ha!

    Liu Zongdao appeared to be slightly moved; after exchanging a glance with the old man Xu, he said, Seeing that the two of you have spirit and a face of righteousness, I wonder if you are interested to become chefs for our troops and earn money. Our Changzhu [ranch master] loves to eat dumpling oil cake. As long as you can satisfy her taste, I guarantee that several years later you can go back to your hometown in silken robes; wont it surpass earning a living by fighting life and death battle? However, if Changzhu is not satisfied with your craftsmanship, the two gentlemen will have to pack up and go home immediately.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were stunned; both thought that their joke seemed to backfire. While they were about to decline, the old man Xu said with a laugh, Its very rare that Er Zhishi would make an exception and give you recommendation; your family must have amassed virtue as high as the mountain. Our Flying Horse Ranchs name shakes the area north of the River, even Li Mi came to us to buy war horses and equipment; if you dont believe me, feel free to ask around.

    Kou Zhongs eyes immediately lit up; staring at the old man Xu with his big eyes, he murmured, War horse?

    One of the riders sneered and said, Kid, you really have eyes without eyeballs. This time we travel to the frontier, is precisely to get these more than a dozen barbarian horse pedigrees to breed. You get it?

    Sucking a deep breath of air Kou Zhong said, Liu Zhishi has shown such a high regard to us, two brothers, a benevolence and kindness that is hard to forget even after our teeth fall out; but is it possible for us to discuss this matter in private first?

    Liu Zongdao did not think of anything out of ordinary, Of course I understand, he said, Two Xiao Xiongdi, take your time!

    Kou Zhong hastily pulled Xu Ziling a bit farther up and said, Since we are not doing anything right now, why not go to their ranch to look around?

    Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, Arent you forgetting something? Yucheng and the others are waiting for us in Jingling.

    Just give me ten days, Kou Zhong asked earnestly, Consider it we accidentally lose our way!

    Left without any choice, Xu Ziling helplessly agreed.

    Kou Zhongs spirit rose up immediately; striding toward Liu Zongdao, he cupped his fist and said, Thank you very much for Liu Zhishis guidance!

    The old man Xu gladly replied on his behalf, No need to mention sentimental words, get on the horse!

    The young man cried out enthusiastically, Xiao Ning, you can ride with me!

    Xu Ziling was grateful inwardly that these people were not loathsome; otherwise the next ten days would be very difficult to endure.

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