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

  1. #121
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 11 Chapter 1

    Book 11 Chapter 1 Troubles Inside and Outside
    Translated by Foxs

    Shang Xiuxun and Kou Zhong walked over to Xu Ziling, who was standing at the bridge, manning the rudder. Xu Ziling laughed calmly and said, Shang Changzhu, there are still five more li before we reach Jingling, this is the golden opportunity to gather intelligence about the enemy. Look! There are several dozens of army camp on that hill over there.

    The two turned their eyes toward the hill Xu Ziling pointed to. Indeed they saw the small hill several li away from the left back was covered with army camp, at least seventy, eighty tents.

    Kou Zhong pretended to be shocked; he grabbed Xu Zilings shoulders and said in a trembling voice, You should have realized that your skill in steering the boat is still in apprentice level. You are glancing to the left and right instead of focusing your heart and mind in doing your job, in case the boat crashed into something and capsized, wont our Yangzhous Two Dragons illustrious name go down the drain?

    Shang Xiuxun laughed involuntarily, Everybody is nervous as hell, but you are still in the mood to joke around, she said, Be careful or else some bad things might happen!

    Suddenly they heard hoof beats from the right bank. Seven or eight Jianghuai Cavalry were chasing them along the coast, pointing their halberds at them while cursing and swearing, so that the already tensed atmosphere was growing even more tensed.

    Xu Zilings gaze moved from Liang Zhi, Xu Yang, and the others, who were standing in formation on the deck, toward the riverbanks. He saw abandoned farmlands, rubble and remains of destroyed hamlets, scorched forests; a desolate sight to behold. He could not stop a strong sense of sadness from welling up in his heart.

    This moment the cargo boat turned around a sharp bend, the enemy riders were obstructed by a forest, and were falling behind.

    By the time the boat reached a straight river course again, the city Jingling appeared ahead. Their target in sight, even the high and mighty Kou Zhong also held his breath.

    At the upper reaches of the river outside the city moored more than thirty warships, each one was approximately one and a half time bigger than their cargo ship. The flags above the ship were fluttering in the wind, spears and lances flickered brilliantly; it was quite an intimidating sight.

    Ashore army camp was everywhere, sealing the southeast side of Jingling so tight that not one drop could trickle through. The troop arrangement was breathtaking that those who saw it were overwhelmed.

    Shang Xiuxun shouted tenderly, Cast the anchor!

    Xu Ziling shook his head and said, If we cast the anchor here, we will get caught in hard battle and would be annihilated for sure. Our only chance is to take risks by breaking through the enemys ship formation, going straight toward the pier outside the city. Only then will we have a chance to live.

    Kou Zhong ran his eyes over the enemys warship formation. He nodded and said, This is called to do the least expected. It seems dangerous, but it is in fact the most viable solution.

    A gust of wind happened to blow, like a speeding horse the boat slid across the water, rushing toward the enemys ship formation.

    Shang Xiuxun thundered tenderly, Prepare the fire arrows!

    Kou Zhong saw that on the enemys ships, everybody was also pulling their bow, aiming their arrows at this boat, and thus they were like a fat sheep entering the tigers den. Suddenly he had a brainwave and could not stop himself from shouting, Set the boat on fire!

    While everybody was stunned from hearing this strange order, he already pounced toward the bridge and kicked the kerosene container.

    Luo Fang was the first to regain his composure; hurriedly he lifted another container and threw it to the bow. The container broke, the kerosene splashed on the deck.

    Bang!

    Flames immediately rose up; the entire bow became a fire curtain, while spitting out a big cloud of thick smoke. Aided by the wind, the smoke was blown toward the enemys ships.

    It was only now did Liang Zhi and the others understood. Hurriedly they fed the fire with bits and pieces that the blaze grew in intensity. Even Shang Peng and Shang He, two old men, also joined the operation to burn their own boat.

    In the midst of the war drums, the sky was filled with arrows raining down toward them.

    Kou Zhong raised his arms and called out, Brothers, shield formation!

    Bang! Bang! Bang!

    The cargo boat leaned to the left and back to the right, wood fragments splattered everywhere, nobody knew how many hits they suffered from the catapulted rocks from the enemy ships.

    Quickly everybody took shelter behind the shield formation blocking the enemys arrows.

    Crack! The main mast broke, the sail happened to fall forward, toward the blazing fire at the bow of the boat.

    The flame rose up to fill the sky, very soon the sail and the mast were engulfed in flames, increasing the intensity of the fire and thickening the smoke rolling up toward the enemy ships. The situation was extremely chaotic.

    Boom!

    Amidst the thick smoke and raging flames, nobody knew which enemy ship they hit, but the speeding cargo boat suddenly spun like crazy. The stern hit another enemy ship first before the cargo boat finally entered the enemy ships formation.

    Three Ranch warriors were shaken by the collision and were thrown onto the deck. Two others had their chest pierced by the enemys arrows and were thrown into the river.

    The surface of the river was covered in heavy smoke, while the flames were raging. The boat was rocking wildly, the people were tumbling down; it was hard to distinguish one thing from another.

    Yet Xu Ziling was as calm as ever. Even though he was unable to see, relying on the last thing he saw, he steered the boat, which front half was completely engulfed in flames, continuing downstream.

    Brandishing the Moon in the Well, Kou Zhong parried a steel spear thrown from behind the smoke threatening Shang Xiuxuns back. And then he cried out, Burn the stern as well!

    Shang Xiuxun looked back toward the stern, and sure enough, she saw two sets of flame soaring into the sky, while the shouts and the screams shook the heavens.

    Boom!

    The entire vessel leaned sideways so deep that it appeared that it was going to sink into the bottom of the river. By the time it eventually leveled up, they were through the enemys ship formation and reached the expansive waterfront outside the city of Jingling.

    Xu Ziling steered the still speeding boat toward the shore while thundering, Prepare to abandon the ship!

    Bang!

    The aft was hit by another catapulted rock; wood splinters flew. The already-fraught-with-damages cargo ship could not endure anymore; finally it gave up and leaned sideways to capsize.

    Shang Xiuxun shouted tenderly, and led her people jumping toward the shore. The others did not dare to tarry, immediately they followed her out of the cargo ship.

    Arrows still rained down on them like a storm. Because as they were leaping into the air they could not help exposing themselves, even though Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, Shang Xiuxun and the others had outstanding skill, they could only protect themselves. Immediately five Ranch warriors were hit by the arrows and fell into the river. The tragic scene was nearly unbearable to behold.

    In this kind of situation, Shang Peng and Shang He, two veteran martial art masters from the Ranch, really showed their true skills. Together with the First Manager Liang Zhi, they formed a triangular formation [orig. pin-character (品) formation] in the air with Shang Xiuxun in the middle, protecting her from the shooting arrows, until they landed safely on the shore.

    With the previous lost of lives, the remaining warriors numbered only eleven people. As soon as they had their feet firmly on the ground, they flew away toward the Jinglings city gate.

    The war drums continued, two units of Jianghuai Army, about three hundred men each, rode out of the army camps by the river outside the city, charging toward them from two sides.

    The sound of hoof beats shook the heavens, the murderous aura soared high into the sky.

    Before the enemys cavalry arrived, their arrows already reached them.

    If Kou and Xu, two boys, used their vortex of energy to launch the Bird-Crossing Technique, although it might not necessarily be better than Shang Xiuxuns lightness skill, to escape from this critical situation was not a difficult matter. But the two of them were outstanding heroes. They already jumped out of the group to meet the enemy coming from two directions, so that their route would not be blocked by the enemy and they fell into bitter siege.

    Between the dock and the Jingling city gate was an open space of several hundred zhang wide. Du Fuwei was setting up his camp on both sides of the river; they erected two sturdy wooden forts surrounded by wooden fence with traps and trenches, as well as platforms to shoot arrows from as their defense facilities, practically cutting off water and land routes to the city of Jingling.

    The sergeants of the city defense witnessed how they managed to break through the enemys ship formation with worn-out and broken-down cargo boat, and how they successfully landed on the shore. They immediately burst into earth-shattering cheers, so that those who heard it had their blood boiling.

    However, although every one of them had bow and arrow in their hands, due to the fact that these people were far out of range, they could only cheer to boost their morale, while at the same time lighted the fire beacon to notify their commander, Fang Zetao, to rush over and take charge of the situation.

    Seeing Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exerted themselves to fight the enemy, Shang Xiuxun wanted to turn around to join them, but Liang Zhi and the others desperately stopped her. Shang Peng, who never liked to speak, thundered, If Changzhu turns back, none of us would be able to climb over the city wall alive.

    Shang He also joined in, It is because of Kou and Xu, two heroes, defending our back that we have a sliver of chance to live.

    Shang Xiuxun realized that they were speaking the truth; without any better option she fought her tears and continued fleeing toward the city gate.

    This moment Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling braved the arrow rain while cutting off the enemys vanguard troops.

    Kou Zhong soared into the air. The Moon in the Well turned into a streak of yellow lightning, chopping down on the four, five spears thrust toward him. The treasured blade reflected the brilliant sun shining down overhead, adding an irresistible momentum to his strike.

    The seven or eight foremost Jianghuai Army sergeants were dauntless tiger or leopard-like warriors, but when the Moon in the Well chopped down on them, not only their eyes were blinded by severe light of the Moon in the Well, their eardrums were also pierced by the whistling noise of the Moon in the Well splitting the air, so that they were unable to ascertain the enemys position.

    By the time they felt that their hands had lightened up, they saw that their spears had been cut in two. While they were still in shock and wanted to withdraw, one after another their blood splashed and they fell down, dead. Even in their death they did not know which part of their body was hit by the enemys saber.

    Suffering such a crushing defeat, the originally unstoppable-lion like troops were thrown into confusion. The riders charging from behind collided with the frightened horses in the front that were jumping and rearing wildly; as a result, a lot of horses tumbled down and fell, throwing their masters off of their backs.

    Like a torrential flood Kou Zhong simply stormed at them before quickly backing off.

    On the other side, Xu Ziling was even more brilliant. He rushed toward the enemy until the distance between them was only about a zhang or so, and then throwing himself on the ground, from a squatting position he propelled himself forward, shooting toward the enemy formation like an arrow, while in the blink on an eye his palms struck a dozen times. Each palm strike landed on the horses body.

    The palm power passed through the horses straight toward the riders on their backs, so that wherever he went, the riders spurted blood and fell off the horseback. In this way the enemys vanguard was completely routed.

    As the dozen or so riders fell down to the ground, Xu Ziling had used up his stored up true qi. Feeling that there was no point in continuing, he quickly turned around to leave the enemy ranks and flew toward Shang Xiuxun, who by this time had reached the city gate.

    The officer in charge of city defense was Fang Zetaos subordinate, a high-ranking military officer Qian Yun. This moment he already ordered his men to lower the drawbridge to let Shang Xiuxun and the others to cross the moat and enter the city.

    When the soldiers on the city wall saw how extraordinarily heroic and brave Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were, their morale was greatly boosted. They cheered loudly, their voices shook the city of Jingling, inside and outside, that those who heard it had their blood boiling.

    Shang Xiuxun was the first to climb the city wall, she happened to see how the two boys separately stopped the enemys attack, and dealt a severe blow that the opponent suffered a crushing defeat. Although unfazed by the cheering, an unprecedented deeply-concerned feeling started to well up in her fragrant heart.

    Meanwhile Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had regrouped about a hundred zhang outside the city wall. Since they had just exerted a lot of power, their hearts were beating fast while their strength was exhausted. Hurriedly they ran toward the city gate.

    By this time the enemy cavalry had also regrouped after the confusion and were pursuing wildly behind them. The sound of the galloping horses plus the riders battle cry mixed with the cheering of the people on Jinglings city wall really shook the heaven and the earth.

    The two boys bumped each others shoulder. Immediately their true qi strengthened each other, so that with renewed energy the gap between them and the enemy widened from ten zhang or so to more than twenty zhang.

    The Jianghuai Army soldiers on their tail produced their bows and arrows. Immediately about a dozen powerful arrows shot at their back like lightning.

    By the time Shang Xiuxun and the others on the city wall cried out in shock, Be Careful! as if they had eyes behind their backs, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling separated to the left and right, so that the arrows fell into an empty space.

    The enemy was still pursuing them, but the soldiers on the city wall shot arrows and threw rocks at them so that they were thrown into confusion and were forced to retreat.

    It was in this instant that the two boys flew over the remaining several dozen of zhang distance, climbed over the drawbridge, and rushed into the city gate, drawing more earth-shattering scream and cheers.

    They finally arrived at Jingling.

    ※ ※ ※

    It was only after everybody standing on the city wall watched the Jianghuai Army returning to their fort that they breathed a sigh of relief.

    The river was still covered in flames and black smoke, but the intensity was far less than it was just a moment ago. Two overturned battleships had their bottom visible above the water, while the third one was slowly leaning to the side to sink.

    Qian Yun did not know the identity of the two boys; he thought they were valiant generals under Shang Xiuxuns command. He said respectfully, I really did not expect Changzhu to honor us with your phoenix self. The other day we learned that the Four Big Bandits joined forces attacked the Ranch, our humble Zhuangzhu wanted to send troops to help, but because the Jianghuai Army besieging us, we were forced to abandon the idea.

    Listening to this, Shang Xiuxun and the others looked at each other. Obviously Duba Village sent envoy asking for help; why did he say such thing?

    Frowning, Liang Zhi asked, Didnt General Qian know that your honorable Zhuangzhu sent someone named Jia Liang to our place requesting reinforcement? He even brought an official letter in your honorable Zhuangzhus own handwriting bearing his personal stamp.

    Qian Yuns countenance changed. How could there be such thing? he said, This General has never heard Zhuangzhu ever mentioning it, plus I am not aware of anybody by the name of Jia Liang. Besides, we always communicate with each other using pigeon post; why would we need to send people asking for help?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged glances. They knew in their heart that this must be the plot hatched by Wanwan.

    Shang Xiuxun asked emotionlessly, Where is Fang Zhuangzhu?

    Qian Yun replied, This general has dispatched someone to notify our humble Zhuangzhu; he should be here any moment.

    Kou Zhong joined in, We need to immediately pay a visit to Fang Zhuangzhu. Would Qian Xiong send someone to lead the way?

    A bit embarrassed, Qian Yun cupped his fist and said, I have not asked for two gentlemens great name.

    Lowering her voice, Shang Xiuxun replied, He is Kou Zhong, the other gentleman is Xu Ziling. Both are Zhuangzhus friends.

    Qian Yuns countenance changed abruptly; he quickly took two steps back, pulled the saber hanging on his waist, and shouted, So it is you! Zhuangzhu has ordered us to kill you without mercy!

    Shang Xiuxun and the others were stunned.

    From about a dozen high-ranking military officers behind Qian Yun, half drew out their weapons, but the other half were hesitating.

    Ring! Shang Xiuxun also drew her sword. Whoever dares to make his move, I will kill him! she scolded angrily.

    Shang Peng and Shang He immediately stood on either side, ready to protect Shang Xiuxun. Liang Zhi, Xu Yang, and the others also drew their weapons out and positioned themselves around Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling to protect them.

    The other soldiers defending the city were confused by this change of events; they were at a loss of what to do.

    An ear-splitting long laugh suddenly came out of Kou Zhongs mouth, which immediately drew everybodys attention to him. While roaring in laughter, Kou Zhong put his hand on Xu Zilings broad shoulder and said in a loud voice, Xiao Ling! This is really killing me! I wonder if Fang Zhuangzhu has another nickname called a blockhead? Unexpectedly he is bound hands and feet by that Yin Gui Pai female demon Wanwan; first he forfeited his own brothers life, killing the top rank fierce general under his command in the process, and then he let her steal his personal stamp and forge a letter in his name and send an impostor to set a trap. And now treating friends as enemies, he firmly set on killing us, two good people. Tell me, do you think it is ridiculous or what?

    Qian Yuns already unsightly countenance alternated between red and white; his eyes flickered with sharp rays as he suddenly roared, You dare to offend Madame Wanwan I

    Shang Xiuxun had her sword pointed at his chest as she cut him off with a tender scolding, Shut up! Right now Du Fuweis troops are waiting outside the city, while inside there is a female demon holding the power. You, this blockhead, not only did not show your loyalty by admonishing your master, you still want to massacre one another with us, your ally. Humph! If we brush our sleeve and leave, I want to see how youll end up.

    Meanwhile, Kou Zhong was hiding behind Shang Xiuxuns delicate back; sticking his head from behind her shoulder he laughed and said, I wonder if General Qian is also bewitched by that Yin Gui Pai female demon!

    While Qian Yun was left speechless, from among the men standing behind him an old general that appeared to be in his sixties stepped out and asked respectfully, Kou Ye kept on saying that Madame Wanwan is Yin Gui Pai female demon. I wonder if you have evidence?

    Xu Ziling calmly replied, If youd just let us confront Wanwan, everything will become clear. Is this something that General Qian unable to do?

    Ling Zhi let out a cold laugh and said, If you are rushing indiscriminately into using your weapon, pain and enmity will come quickly. General Qian ought to think thrice about whether this is something that a wise man would do.

    Most of the men to Qian Yuns left and right nodded their heads indicating that they agreed.

    From a distance outside the city, the sound of bugle horn was still rising and falling in succession, increasing the sense of crisis.

    Qian Yun dejectedly lowered his sword and said with a sigh, Since Changzhu is willing to vouch for them, Xiao Jiang [little/lowly general, referring to self] cannot do anything. Lets just wait for Zhuangzhu to make his decision.

    He was about to send another messenger to urge Fang Zetao to hasten, when Shang Xiuxun crossly said, Qian Yun, when did you become so timid? Just open your eyes and look outside the city. Jinglings fall is just around the corner, you still unable to make prompt decision. Get out of my way, I want to personally kill that female demon.

    Raising his arms, Kou Zhong loudly said, Were it not for that female demon, how could Jingling fall into such a perilous situation? Jinglings survival depends on all of you uniting your minds.

    The old general boldly took a step forward and bowed, Gentlemen, please come with Laofu [old man]!

    Qian Yun was furious, Feng Ge, you you are rebelling

    Before Qian Yun had a chance to finish, one saber and two swords immediately pressed on his back, practically cutting him off.

    Shang Peng flashed forward from the side, with his finger he jabbed the vital acupoint on Qian Yuns neck, sending Qian Yun slumping down to the ground.

    Ignoring Qian Yun, Shang Xiuxun took the lead to walk down the stone steps. Everybody followed her in a great rush.

  2. #122
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 11 Chapter 2

    Book 11 Chapter 2 Siren Flaunting Her Power

    Over twenty riders under Feng Ge leadership galloped along the main street toward the Duba Manor House at the heart of the city.

    The street was bleak; most of the shops have ceased to do business. If there were any pedestrians, they were all walking hurriedly. The fall of the city was imminent; the hearts of the people were suffocated with the doomsday approaching.

    Kou Zhong spurred his horse at full speed. He rode alongside Feng Ge and complimented him, Feng Lao is indeed exceptional; you are able to make prompt decision. Otherwise we would have massacred each other. Its totally not worth it!

    Feng Ge was not pleased at all; still with heavy expression he said, Since the first day Laofu saw Madame Wanwan, I already had a feeling that she is a root of trouble. I racked my brain trying to think of any acupoint sealing technique that can make someone stop breathing and appear to be in an eternal sleep. And then this time she was brought back by Zhuangzhu as if nothing has ever happened to her, and she accused Kou Ye and Xu Ye of having bad intention toward her. I was getting more suspicious. Pity that loyal advice has fallen in deaf ears, nobody believed Laofu.

    Kou Zhong nodded, This is called everybody is drunk, only Feng Lao is sober, he said, I have one thing I want to ask: what happened to my four companions?

    Feng Ge replied, I heard that since Zhuangzhu believed that demon, he flew into rage, and immediately sent Kou Yes four brothers to Huaqing border under escort. Afterwards I did not hear anything about them anymore.

    After thanking him, Kou Zhong slowed down a bit and told Xu Ziling everything he knew.

    Shang Xiuxun, who was riding on the other side, said, How do you plan on dealing with that female demon? If she denied everything, what should we do to her?

    Smiling slightly, Xu Ziling said, If we cant deal with her nicely, well just use force. Do you think shell let us get rid of her that easy?

    Shang Xiuxun was delighted; she said, Yin Gui Pais conduct and deeds angered everybody. If we can put an end to this female demon this time, we are doing good things to the world without doing any harm. Therefore, as soon as we make our moves, we must not show any mercy.

    Liang Zhi and the others acknowledged in loud voice.

    Feng Ge took the lead into the main gate. The guards recognized him, hence they did not dare to stop them, so everybody was able to enter swiftly. This allied force of Flying Horse Ranch elite troops, Jinglings high-ranking military officers plus Kou and Xu, two boys, galloped toward the stone steps in front of the Masters Mansion, leaped off their mounts, and grandiosely swarmed up the steps and straight into the mansion door.

    Over a dozen guards walked out of the Mansion and stopped at the top of the stone steps to meet them. The young general, who was apparently their leader, suddenly thundered, Without Zhuangzhus permission, breaking into the Mansions gate is punishable by death. You still havent stepped down?

    Feng Ge thundered in response, Suffering untold hardship Flying Horse Ranchs Shang Changzhu led the brothers here to help, even if Zhuangzhus passion is inside he ought to immediately welcome her personally and jointly discuss the important matter at hand. And now not only even after repeated urging he did not respond, he is closing the door and refusing to receive the guests. Is this Zhuangzhus idea, or you, Ma Qun, acting on your own initiative?

    Ma Qun angrily said, Feng Ge, dont you rely on your seniority to bully me, Zhuangzhu assigned the responsibility of guarding the Mansion to me, Ma Qun. I am simply executing Zhuangzhus strict order. If you want to see Zhuangzhu, stay here nicely for me, let me report to Zhuangzhu first to see how he decides. Otherwise, dont blame me for disregarding the sentiment between colleagues.

    Kou Zhong, who was standing behind Feng Ge, could not help asking another Jinglings high-ranking military officer by his side, Who is this guy?

    In disdain, the high-ranking military officer replied, He is a nobody. Were it not for Madame Wanwan favoring him, he would never hold any position in the Mansion.

    When the two were still talking, Shang Xiuxun stepped out of the crowd and scolded tenderly, Even when Fang Zhuangzhu sees me, he would be respectful toward me. How could you, a dog slave, dare to speak arrogantly in my presence? Get lost!

    Seeing more than a dozen of his subordinates appeared behind him, Ma Quns courage was boosted. On the contrary, the warriors guarding the gate stood afar off, watching with folded arms. Evidently the fact that Fang Zetao was losing himself to Wanwan had already caused disgust among quite a number of his men, not to mention everybody in the city of Jingling was aware of their good relationship with the Flying Horse Ranch. This time, witnessing Ma Quns arrogance and overbearing attitude, it would be strange indeed if they did not feel ill will toward him.

    Ma Qun stood with his saber held across his chest; he shouted, I, Ma Qun, received Zhuangzhus order to guard the door; who dared to tell me to get lost?

    With hands behind her back, Shang Xiuxun slyly said, Guards! Arrest him! Well take him to Fang Zhuangzhus presence and have him punished.

    Before Ma Qun had any chance to speak, as fast as lightning Shang Peng and Shang He, two senior martial art masters of the Ranch flashed by, two pairs of withered palms fantastically turned into palm shadows with myriads of changes, enveloping Ma Qun inside the shadows.

    A tornado-like wind rose up, as if Ma Qun was standing right in the eye of the storm, totally oblivious of the terrifying power of the incoming storm, while his subordinates have been wiped out left and right by the force of the palms that they staggered and stumbled backwards.

    If even Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were emotionally moved, there is no need to mention the effect of this display of power to the others who did not know the real identity of these two old men. Nobody has ever imagined that these two, who, no matter how you look at them, would look like a pair of old muddle-heads, would have such a formidable martial art skill.

    Not only that, it was obvious that these two men mastered some kind of fantastic technique of fighting together, so that their combine power was doubled. Actually, based on their individual power, they were not inferior to Li Zitong, Yuwen Zhiji, and martial art experts their caliber.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged glances, they both thought that they were lucky; if they really had a falling out with Shang Xiuxun the other day, even if they managed to get away, perhaps the price they had to pay would be exorbitant. But now naturally their spirit had received tremendous boost, because they had more confidence that they would be able to deal with Wanwan.

    Bang! Bang!

    While Ma Qun was hacking down left and right although he did not know what he was hacking at, he had already been hit by two palm strikes and fell down to the ground.

    Watching this, naturally Feng Ge and the other Jingling generals were grieved, because Ma Qun had caused them to lose face.

    Meanwhile the two old men no longer paid any attention to Ma Qun, they charged toward the guards standing in front of the door, much like a tiger charging toward a flock of sheep, so that the guards weapons were thrown away, and they were either falling face down or flat on their backs.

    With Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling escorting her from left and right, Shang Xiuxun, with her hands behind her back, proudly but leisurely strode into the Mansion.

    Not a soul in sight at the spacious main hall.

    Come with me! Feng Ge called out, and preceded them storming through the back door, into the winding corridor leading toward the rear courtyard.

    Straight ahead there were two servant girls; when they saw these people, they were so scared that their flowery countenance turned pale as they cowered to one side, with their bodies trembling.

    Feng Ge pointed to one of the maids and asked, You! Where is Zhuangzhu?

    The maids pretty face turned deathly white; her knees gave up as she dropped to the floor and replied in trembling voice, In in Yi Qing [harmonious passion] Courtyard.

    Another high-ranking officer asked, What about Madame Wanwan?

    Also in there, the maid replied.

    In high spirit they all flocked inside.

    After passing through several buildings and a dozen or so warriors on guard duty at the Mansion, they reached a big, secluded garden.

    The faint sound of zheng [long zither with 13 to 16 strings] came from behind a bamboo forest, the melody was haunting and poignant, making those who hear it had their soul melted and their mind went weak; automatically everybodys murderous intent was lessened somewhat.

    Kou Zhong whispered in Shang Xiuxuns ear, I want Shang Changzhu to deal with Fang Zetao, while me and Xiao Ling deal with that female demon. Have other people stand guard in all directions to prevent her from escaping.

    Raising her eyebrows, Shang Xiuxun spoke in heavy voice, How could we make such arrangement? Lets just act according to circumstances!

    While talking, they all flitted across the bamboo forest along a small pathway. Past the bamboo forest, they came to a wide clearing, another big garden that was also serene, elegant and quiet.

    There was neither maid, servant, nor mansion guard in the garden, only a couple people, one man and one woman, who were sitting in the small pavilion in the middle of the garden.

    The man was Fang Zetao. He was closing his eyes, as he was totally immersed in the world of the zheng, so that he was totally blind and deaf toward all things outside this world.

    The woman had her back toward them; her hands were dancing on the zither, but merely the sight of her beautiful figure was enough to move anybodys heartstrings. Even if she turned into ashes, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling would recognize her as Wanwan.

    The sound of her zheng had a different flavor from the sound of Shi Qingxuans xiao [vertical flute]. The latter carried some kind of near, yet far; making one felt that he had left the world and was alone in the universe. Yet Wanwans zheng carried a lingering attachment, making one felt unable to divert oneself from the sadness of loneliness. The more one listen, the more difficult it was to free oneself from this entanglement, as if their heart and mind were pressed down under a thousand-jin rock, so that only by looking up to heaven and cried out would they be able to vent out this burden.

    Ring!

    Kou Zhong pulled his Moon in the Well. It left its scabbard with clear ringing noise, so that Fang Zetao was awakened from his stupor.

    By the time Fang Zetao suddenly opened his eyes, other than Shang Xiuxun, Feng Ge, Shang Peng, Shang He and Kou and Xu, six people, the other men had already spread out to form a net around the small pavilion.

    Zheng! Zheng! Zheng!

    After letting out a series of notes full of murderous intent, the zither stopped suddenly.

    Whoosh! Fang Zetao stood up abruptly; his eyes swept everyone, his face showed an angry look.

    With a cold laugh Shang Xiuxun said, Outside, your warriors throw their head, spill their blood, but Zhuangzhu is peacefully enjoying tenderness in here, so happy that you forgot to return. Dont you have any shame?

    Everybody could not refrain from showing disdain look on their faces.

    Fang Zetaos thick face reddened; he said crossly, Jinglings matter is my business; there is no need for Changzhu to lecture me.

    Wanwan was sitting calmly in the pavilion, as still as water, as if she neither saw nor hear them, making everybody felt that she was unfathomable.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, We should have asked how could Zhuangzhu still have a face to see us. Merely based on this Yin Gui Pais female demon Wanwans one sided story, you cut off your friendship with us, two brothers. Worse, disregarding the wind and the rain outside, you only know how to listen to the zheng and make merry with the female demon Wanwan, copying the conduct of Yang Guang, the muddleheaded ruler. And yet you still have the audacity to say that you dont need anybody to lecture you?

    Fang Zetao sternly said, Wanwan is gentle and sweet, plus she does not know martial art, how could you say that she is Yin Gui Pais female demon. You two have done misdeeds, yet still want to vomit blood toward others?

    Feng Ge said in a heavy voice, If Madame Wanwan is indeed an ordinary woman, how could she, in this kind of sabers drawn, swords raised moment, still act so calm as if nothing is happening? Zhuangzhu is an astute man, how could you be so muddleheaded right now?

    Fang Zetaos eyes flashed murderous intent; his hand moved to his swords hilt, he said with ashen face, Feng Ge, are you rebelling?

    Another high-ranking military officer said, We just dont want to die together with you and end up as muddleheaded ghosts; thats all!

    Shang Xiuxun scolded tenderly, Fang Zetao, if you are still bewitched and refuse to wake up, dont blame my, Shang Xiuxuns sword, for not showing any mercy.

    Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, Why dont Fang Zhuangzhu ask your esteemed Madame, and see how she is going to answer you?

    Fang Zetao was stunned. He stared blankly for a moment, before turning his gaze to Wanwan. His eyes became extremely gentle as he asked softly, They accused you wrongly, right?

    Seeing this, everybody sighed inwardly.

    Wanwan lightly shook her head and said in soft voice, No! They did not accuse me wrongly. Zhuangzhu is indeed a muddlehead!

    Fang Zetaos powerful body shook severely; he was dumbstruck, as if he could not believe such words could come out of her mouth. With strange expression on his face he rose up.

    Zheng!

    One of the zithers strings suddenly snapped; and then, like a viper it shot up. A flash of lightning pierced through Fang Zetaos chest, and came out of his back.

    Fang Zetao let out an earth-shattering wild roar and leaped back. Bang! he crashed onto the pavilions railing, and was thrown face up onto the grassy lawn outside the pavilion. The blood was drained from his face, but it splashed behind him following the shooting string, splattering the railings, as well as the lawn. It was such a horrible scene.

    Seeing this, everybodys scalp felt numb. This was the very first time that they saw such a formidable demonic skill that nobody could guard against. Momentarily nobody dared to charge ahead to fight with her.

    Among the crowd, Shang Xiuxun, Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, Shang Peng, Shang He and Liang Zhi, six people had the strongest martial art skill, yet upon self-inspection, they realized that they would not be able to snap the zither string and shoot it out as their heart wishes like that and injured, even killed, someone.

    Fang Zetao, with one hand on his chest, and the other hand pointed to Wanwan, who was still sitting calmly in the pavilion, spoke in shock, You you how?

    Wanwan said gently, I have never forced you to like me; furthermore, I have never forced you to kill anybody. It has always been you who were delighted to do everything. Who can you blame?

    In rage, Fang Zetao spurted a mouthful of blood. His eyes were overflowing with remorseful expression as his head fell backward and he died a violent death on the spot.

    Wanwan slowly stood up; her left hand grabbing her lustrous and black beautiful hair, while somehow a comb appeared in her right hand, with which she combed her hair with unbounded gentleness. She appeared unspeakably tender and feeble, alone and dejected [lit. looking at ones shadow and feeling sorry for oneself].

    Everybody was in full alert, they even stopped breathing.

    Kou Zhong took a step forward in front of Shang Xiuxun. The Moon in the Well pointed at Wanwan, immediately a stream of vortex of qi rose up and burst toward this thousand-tender a hundred-charm demoness.

    It was precisely this moment that Wanwan seemed to evolve from her naturally delicate body and turned around to face this group of people led by Shang Xiuxun. Moreover, she exuded a hard-to-describe fantastic cyclone that momentarily seemed to suck Kou Zhongs vortex of qi dry.

    It was also the first time that Kou Zhong had ever encountered such a bizarre martial art; it was so unbearable that he nearly vomited fresh blood. Most of all, he felt as if his true qi had nowhere to go, so that his acute spirit disappeared completely. Overwhelmed with shock, he took a step back.

    None of the other people did not have their countenance changed.

    Wanwans gaze fell on Shang Xiuxun. Her eyes lit up immediately.

    Xu Ziling knew that Kou Zhong had suffered defeat. He suddenly took a step forward and sent out a punch over the empty air toward Wanwan.

    Immediately the air around was burning hot, thick with murderous aura.

    Wanwan put down her beautiful hair and lightly shook her head, her beautiful hair rose up immediately.

    The people surrounding her had a terrifying feeling that they were about to tumble forward. They were overcome with a dreadful feeling as if Wanwan has suddenly turned into a bottomless pit, and that if they fell into it, they could forget about ever climbing out of it alive.

    Such a formidable demonic skill, nobody has ever thought about it even in their dreams.

    Xu Ziling, who was right in front of her, felt that the qi power he sent seemed like a stone thrown into the sea and sank without a trace. He could not pull it back, but it could not affect the enemy the slightest bit either. In his shock, just like Kou Zhong, he also took a step back.

    Wanwan was astonished as well; looking at him, she frowned and said, I have never thought that the two of you unexpectedly profited from disaster, your power increased tremendously; otherwise, this time you would have suffered a serious internal injury!

    When they all came here, they have already decided that as soon as they saw Wanwan, they would attack her without any mercy. But now as they saw Wanwan standing right in front of them, even the usually proud and arrogant Shang Xiuxun also did not dare to act blindly without thinking.

    Taking a deep breath, Kou Zhong smiled and said, Female Demon Wan, since you are unable to inflict injury to us, doesnt that mean that you are strung through and filled with evil, and thus you deserve to die?

    A thin smile appeared on Wanwans beautiful face, the face that would make everybody holding their breath. But this smile was quickly replaced by a sad, melancholy expression. She sighed gloomily and said, The two of you were able to escape great catastrophe, the wisest thing to do would be to find a place to hide, and not letting me to find you forever. But now you insist on seeing me; even though I have the thought of cherishing talents, I have made a promise to someone, so without any better option I will have to take your two lives.

    Shang Xiuxun could not hold her temper any longer. Attack! she shouted tenderly.

    The sword became hundreds and thousands dots of cold light, moving forward as fast as lightning, filling the air with the sword qi, rolling toward Wanwan.

    The rest moved at the same time. Sabers flashed and swords flickered from all direction, converging toward Wanwan in a violent attack.

    Wanwans eyes glazed over, as if she was completely oblivious that she was the target of this danger, plus everybody spread out and she was immediately in between two Jingling generals, yet she did not show any sign that she was going to intercept their weapons.

    Martial art masters such as Shang Xiuxun, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were able to see clearly that using some kind of unique shenfa, she was floating and weaving through the gap between weapons like a ghost. They knew the situation was bad and groaned inwardly.

    Ah!

    The two Jingling generals were thrown sideways to the left and right with half a comb embedded on each face.

    Nobody could even see clearly how she killed these two generals.

    Watching this, righteous indignation filled Xu Zilings breast; he soared out of the pavilion over Wanwans head with both palms pressed down.

    Wu Yans saber, Liang Zhis sword, and another Flying Horse Ranch warriors spear simultaneously attacked her back, chest and flank.

    When it looked as if she could not avoid the catastrophe, she suddenly whirled around, her sleeves fluttered, her delicate finer jabbed upward. Saber, sword and spear suddenly slipped sideways by her magic skill, and hacked and pierced empty space.

    Xu Ziling turned his palm strike into finger attack, and met Wanwans fingertips. Spiraling hot energy burst out violently.

    From head to foot Wanwan was shaken; she raised her head to look at Xu Ziling, her expression melancholy, yet so enchanting. Her purple-red mouth slightly opened, she blew a stream of qi.

    Xu Zilings astonishing vortex of energy had just penetrated the jianjing acupoint on Wanwans shoulder; immediately it went up in smoke, and was completely useless to inflict any damage to her channels.

    The worst part was that the opponents fingertips shot two streams of seemingly no magic, nothing particular about it, yet as it penetrated his own channels, the strange energy burst everywhere, so that his channels felt like splitting. The pain was so unbearable that his arms immediately went numb. Forget about launching a counterstrike, he was even at a loss as to how to dissolve this encroaching energy.

    His plight did not stop there. When the stream of qi blown from Wanwans mouth was about a chi away from his face, the impossible thing happened: it divided itself into two streams, left and right, piercing toward his eyes. If he was hit, it would be strange indeed if he did not turn blind.

    In this dire and desperate situation, Xu Zilings mind was still as calm as the moon in the well. A free and easy cold smile, not forced, yet incomparably proud and aloof, escaped from the corner of his mouth. A stream of blazing hot energy came out completely naturally from the yongquan acupoint on his right foot, which spread out to his entire body at the speed of lightning or spark from the flint. In the blink of an eye it developed new energy. Not only it neutralized the numbness of his arms and eradicated the pain, it also gave him the strength to fly backward and thus he barely escaped the blindness of his eyes and only spurted less than half a mouthful of blood.

    Although Wanwan gained the upper hand, the shock in her heart was no less than Xu Zilings.

    Her Tian Mo Gong [see Book 10 Chapter 6] has reached the level where she could send out and pull back at will, it could be hard, it could be soft, in countless permutation. Other than her benevolent master Yin Hou [Empress Yin] Zhu Yuyan, although Yin Gui Pai has never lacked capable persons, nobody else has been able to reach this level in such a young age as she was.

    Moreover, from their previous contact she had more or less grasped that Kou Zhong, Xu Zilings fantastic true qi originated from the Secret to Long Life, not only it has spurred her to strive in unleashing her power, it also gave her the confidence that she would be able to kill Xu Ziling in one fell swoop.

    Who would have thought that as the Tian Mo true qi stabbed Xu Zilings arms, it was locked down rigidly by his spiraling energy, so that it could not go pass the jianjing acupoint on his shoulders, and thus her grand plan of attacking straight into his heart and arteries and veins has become an empty dream?

    Moreover, just now without sparing any energy, she unscrupulously blew out her true qi to pierce Xu Zilings eyes; who would have thought that he was able to evade? Therefore, how could she not be shocked?

    Meanwhile Wu Yan, three men, had already withdrew. Yellow glow flashed, Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well hacked down on her head, carrying with it a powerful vortex of qi, brushing against her clothes that it created rustling noise.

    Based on Wanwans ability, although she was confident that she would be able to fend off Kou Zhongs saber strike, she did not have any confidence that she would be able to deal with Shang Xiuxun, Shang Peng, Shang He and Liang Zhi, four peoples joint attack.

    Right now the image of Xu Zilings cold laugh just a moment ago was still reeling in her heart. Abruptly raising up her Tian Mo Gong, she retreated backward toward Wu Yan.

    Her sleeves raised up.

    Bang!

    Kou Zhongs eyes shot a strange light; his saber came down on Wanwans intersecting sleeves blocking his strike, but Wanwans sleeves felt solid, yet empty at the same time, so that not only he was unable to exert his strength to push further, he also felt a strange stream of sucking energy, making him feel that if he continued pushing forward, he would fall into an immeasurable danger.

    Although Kou Zhongs guts surpassed others, he did not dare to advance prematurely, and thus in his shock he pulled his saber back and withdrew in such a sorry state.

    In the meantime, Shang Xiuxun, four people, attacked from all directions.

    Shang Peng and Shang He, two veteran martial art masters worked together to attack Wanwans left flank. Four hands hacked down using the edge of their palm like sabers coming together as if it was one person with four arms, flowing swiftly like quicksilver in an incomparably powerful offensive toward her.

    Shang Xiuxun charged forward from behind retreating Kou Zhong, her sword weaved a network of blade shadows closing in straight toward Wanwans face. Her sword qi created sharp whistling noise, not at all inferior to Kou Zhongs saber strike a moment ago.

    Liang Zhis sword came from the other side, heavy and precise, it looked clumsy, but actually brilliant, inside the deep and powerful strike there hidden light and easy move. With a seemingly irregular pattern he practically sealed Wanwans escape route on this side.

    By this time Wanwans delicate back was only about half a zhang away from retreating Wu Yan, but she suddenly moved faster.

    Wu Yan thought that it was a good opportunity that he must not miss; instead of retreating farther, he advanced quickly, and with all his might he hacked his saber onto the back of her head. As he saw that his strike was about to hit its target, Wanwan suddenly swayed away slightly with a superhuman speed so that his saber struck down on her shoulder.

    Wu Yan was cheering inwardly, but then to his shock he felt as if his saber did not hit a solid object, instead, it slipped over her shoulder and continued moving down. His soul flew and scattered away, his nose suddenly sniffed an overflowing fragrance. This demoness with peerless beauty had already crashed herself into his bosom.

    By the time Shang Xiuxun and the others cried out inwardly, the sound of shattering bones and splitting flesh continuously filled the air. Blood oozed out of Wuyans eyes, nose, ears and mouth, as he died a violent death on the spot.

    Wanwan spun around to evade the three-pronged attack. She whirled behind Wu Yans dead body, and then with her back against the not-yet-fallen-to-the-ground Wu Yan, her two sleeves swiftly fluttered forward.

    A Ranch warrior and another Jingling general were immediately hit by the sleeves and were thrown backward. Their weapons flew away from their hands, their blood gushed out, their lives have been taken away.

    Wanwan pushed Wu Yans dead body with her head swiftly backward toward Shang Xiuxun, four people, who, by this time, had their spirit discouraged. And then using her qi, she shook the corpse that it flew toward Shang Xiuxun, along with her two sleeves attacking from the left and right.

    At this point of the battle, although it had been only a few blinks of an eye, she had already killed five people; evidently her formidability was utterly shocking.

    Although Shang Xiuxun hated her to the bone, she was aware that Wu Yans dead body was imbued with Wanwans Tian Mo power, plus she was unwilling to damage her subordinates body, thereupon she helplessly pulled her sword back and sidestepped.

    Bang! Bang!

    Powerful qi collided.

    Liang Zhi was brushed by her that he spun around and tumbled sideways. He crashed onto Feng Ges old chest, who was about to charge forward.

    Feng Ge let out a painful grunt and fell down to the ground, unexpectedly he was unable to crawl back up.

    Wanwans seemingly simple sleeve-brush actually contained the marvelous power of Tian Mo. First, she sucked the power from Liang Zhis saber that not a drop remained. And then using her own qi, she turned it back against Liang Zhi, while hiding within it a spiraling energy. If Liang Zhi did not crash onto Feng Ge, he would suffer internal injury to some degree; but now, that energy was passed on to Feng Ge.

    Naturally Feng Ge had never imagined that Wanwan would have this kind of amazing move; immediately he received internal injury and fell down to the ground.

    From the original twenty-four people besieging Wanwan, the number was suddenly down to eighteen; five dead, one injured, yet no one has been able to harm half a strand of Wanwans hair.

    Wanwan brushed away Shang Peng and Shang Hes sleeves. It was such an impressive move that people were gasping in amazement. Before she even touched the opponents two pairs of hands, suddenly her sleeves turned into a blur; what is true and what is false was difficult to tell.

    The two old mens storm was like casting stone into the ocean; it could only cause a small ripple. Afterwards the four hands tightened together; unexpectedly the hands were wrapped solid by the sleeve, which was then pulled by Wanwan that the two old men crashed against each other.

    Xu Ziling, who by this time was still soaring in the air, was able to see everything clearly. He saw Wanwans sleeve suddenly grew about half a zhang longer. Turned out a white ribbon was flying out of her sleeve. First it passed through the two old mens four hands, and then when it returned, it wound around the two pairs of hands and tied them together.

    Xu Ziling instinctively knew the situation was far from good. Still high up in the air he accelerated his fall.

    Wanwan looked up. Her out-of-the-world beautiful face appeared to be angry, yet it also appeared to be amused, as she cast Xu Ziling a sidelong glance, before moving sideways to dodge him, dragging the two old men along that they stumbled and fell, without the slightest bit power to strike back.

    Shang Xiuxun cried out tenderly, raising her sword in a rescue attempt, when suddenly she realized that using the ribbon, Wanwan was controlling the two old men to crash against her. In her shock she quickly leaped back.

    Bang! Bang!

    Luo Fang and another Ranch warrior had their weapons struck by Wanwans sleeves. They spurted blood and fell down, no longer had any power to continue fighting.

    Kou Zhong also knew that the situation was deteriorating. Like a swimming fish he swayed and flashed behind Wanwans back and to the side, and then brandishing his saber he chopped on her waist.

    Stream by stream Tian Mo true qi attacked the two old men via the ribbon. With each attack the two old men spurted mouthful by mouthful of blood. They were completely under Wanwans control just like puppets; whether moving sideways and crashing forward, it was entirely Wanwans decision. Such a tragic scene, making people could not bear to witness.

    Crash!

    A Ranch warrior failed to evade, he was knocked by the two old men that he flew about a zhang away and died on the spot.

    This moment Xu Yang attacked Wanwan from the side; with great difficulty he used his tobacco pipe to block her fragrant sleeve. But Wanwans leg flew up and kicked him on the lower abdomen, sending him flying away.

    Fortunately Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well happened to arrive at this precise moment, forcing Wanwan to divide her strength to deal with it first; otherwise, this kick would definitely take Xu Yangs old life.

    Like a living serpent, the ribbon shook the two old men off; it then rolled back and shot out to brush away Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well.

    Pow!

    The Moon in the Well was swept away.

    Shang Peng and Shang He, two veteran martial art masters, spurted their last mouthful of blood, as they followed the ribbon flying out in separate directions, knocking against a Jingling general and a Ranch warrior, who were about to attack, sending them to the ground with heavy injury.

    The ribbon made a circle in the air before it flew to wrap itself on Kou Zhongs neck.

    Since his debut, Kou Zhong has gone through several hundreds battle, big and small. But he has never encounter any adversary whose martial art skill has reached perfection like Wanwan, who was able to change unpredictably.

    No wonder the other day Lu Miaozi said that if right now they came across Zhu Yuyan, they would only deliver their lives.

    As a matter of fact, Tian Mo Gongs most formidable feature was its ability to follow the practitioners hearts desires, and thus was able to injure the opponent under any circumstances, something that no one cannot guard against. Besides, if the opponent was completely blind as to the changes in her move, how could he decide whether to attack or to retreat and defend?

    Shang Peng and Shang He were adept at fighting together, individually they were also rare martial art masters, yet as soon as they met her, they could not figure out her technique. One wrong move and they had to pay the full price of having their four hands bound by her exquisite beyond compare technique that they were unable to unleash their power at all, and were beaten to death.

    Once this thought entered his mind, Kou Zhong let out a wild roar and spun around to dodge the ribbon winding around his neck. As he called out out, Xiao Ling! he chopped three times in succession, but each chop actually struck empty air.

    It was a gamble. He was betting that Xu Ziling would arrive in time, so that while he cut Wanwans movement space Xu Ziling would give her a fatal blow.

    Shang Xiuxun saw the tragic death of the two elders, but being an outstanding person herself, she raised a mouthful of true qi to totally put her rage and surging wave of emotion under control, and then fast as lightning she flashed forward.

    Right this moment Kou Zhong was executing his third precise, hair-splitting saber chop, so that Wanwan, who changed indefinitely like a ghost, so that others could not grasp her position, suddenly had her path cut-off.

    Naturally Shang Xiuxun immediately exploited this opportunity. Her treasured sword disguised ingenuity as clumsiness, it rose up like a poisonous dragon rearing its head, it appeared to cut the ribbon brushing toward Kou Zhong.

    This moment Xu Ziling was just flying over Wanwans head. Without Kou Zhong calling out to remind him, he knew that this was a one in a thousand golden opportunity; he struck down with both palms, while sending out his vortex of energy.

    Until now, Wanwan has been able to control the overall situation, by exploiting the strength variation of the opponents, and skillfully strike them one by one. But after Kou Zhong executed the three saber strikes based on his own understanding of the Yi Jian Dashi Fu Cailins Yi Jian Technique, for the first time Wanwan realized that she could no longer obtain wind when she wanted wind, obtain rain when she wanted rain, like before.

    By this time, the battlefield by the small pavilion was filled with the dead and the injured, or with those who practically were unable to get close to Wanwan. Only three people remained, Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling and Shang Xiuxun, whose martial art skill was the strongest, and who were still able to strike back.

    Wanwan was a smart and cunning person, otherwise, how could she become the beloved disciple who received direct instruction from Zhu Yuyan? Intentionally she used her most ruthless technique to kill Fang Zetao, and then with blitzkrieg method she struck the others one by one, so Jingling and Flying Horse Ranch could be subdued hands down.

    But Kou Zhongs three saber strikes were completely beyond her expectation, it gave her for the first time the disadvantage feeling of falling into a besiege.

    Kou Zhongs first saber strike fell behind her, in the shape of a stream of spiraling strong force, cutting off her retreat route. The second and third separately chopped down in front and at her right side, practically sealing off her escape route from these two directions.

    If she fought Kou Zhong one-on-one, if this moment she used the absorbing technique from Tian Mo Gong, she could have absorbed the three streams of spiraling energy and took it as her own. Taking advantage of the moment Kou Zhong raised his qi, killing him would be as easy as turning her palm down.

    If she wanted to withdraw, she could have moved to the left, or perhaps soared up to the air. But now those two directions were sealed by Shang Xiuxun and Xu Ziling, respectively; leaving her the only option of facing the attack head-on, relying on her real skill.

    From this it could be seen how brilliant Kou Zhongs eyesight and strategy was.

    Wanwans elegant eyes shot an unusual gleam that has never been seen before. Two short blades suddenly slipped out of her sleeves down to the hollow of her palms; flashing two streaks of fantastic light the blades separately met Shang Xiuxun and Xu Ziling.

    Finally, she was forced to use the skill that was buried deep at the bottom of the chest.

    This pair of a chi-long short blades was known as Tian Mo Shuang Zhan [Celestial Devil Twin Slayers], one of the tree treasures of Yin Gui Pai, specializing in breaking the true qi of opponent from internal school. It enhanced Tian Mo Gongs ability that it would be like a tiger that has grown wings, its power was hard to withstand.

    This moment the recovery speed of Kou Zhongs true qi was a hairbreadth faster that Wanwans guess. As soon as the yellow glow flashed, the saber was already chopping down.

    With pressure from three sides, if it were someone else, her head would have been separated from her body. Too bad it was Wanwan, who was proficient in the heretical schools supreme skill, Tian Mo Gong.

    In that split second, Tian Mo Gong formed a boundary: with Wanwan in the center, the area about a zhang radius has suddenly sunken to become like a bottomless pit.

    On the surface, this change was not apparent; it was purely in the form of qi energy. The yin [negative/feminine or yin and yang] and cold qi locked the three people inside.

    Bing!

    Subsequently a series of clear ringing of sword and blade clashing against each other was heard; in term of speed and frequency, it was comparable to the pitter-patter sound of rain of banana leaves.

    Shang Xiuxun was the first to cross weapons with Wanwan.

    She was using the most formidable sword technique handed down from generation to generation, the unique skill of the Shang family. Each sting of the sword turned into sword pattern, moving swiftly indeterminately. But each move was an all-out attack that was more than Wanwan was able to deal with, with the aim of giving Kou and Xu, two boys, the opportunity to deal fatal blow on Wanwan.

    If they let Wanwan lived, it would be difficult for them to sleep peacefully in the future.

    All along Wanwan has been trying to avoid direct contact with Shang Xiuxun, precisely because she knew how swift and fierce her swordsmanship was, and how good she was in entangling the opponent in a prolonged battle. But since she was unable to avoid it, she could only launch the Sou Xin Jianfa [soul-searching sword technique] created by Zhu Yuyan herself. Fast beyond human understanding she stabbed the blade a dozen times, each strike stabbed at the dead-center of Shang Xiuxuns sword pattern.

    Sword qi collided with each other.

    Shang Xiuxun felt that each sword strike of the opponent carried a stream of cold and poisonous true qi, which flowed from the sword and penetrated her channels, which was quite strenuous for her to deal with it.

    The most shocking thing was that no matter how she changed her style, Wanwan seemed to clearly understand the key point, which enabled her to anticipate Shang Xiuxuns next move and meet the attack head-on.

    By the twelfth sword strike, Wanwan managed to break through the true qi protecting Shang Xiuxuns body, the precise moment when Xu Zilings pair of palms arrived.

    Ding, ding! Ding, ding!

    Like fresh flower Xu Zilings palms bloomed. The five fingers of his right hand moved in an obscure and incomparably strange style, like plucking a string instrument or in sweeping motion, with the total energy focused on fending off Wanwans Tian Mo blade swiftly stabbing on him.

    Meanwhile, his left hand turned into a fist, punching at Wanwans left arm, which was attacking Shang Xiuxun.

    Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well was flawlessly in-sync with Xu Zilings attack, as it sliced across Wanwans waist.

    In this critical moment, Wanwans beautiful eyes, the eyes that could hook the soul and break the spirit, suddenly lit up with clear dark blue bizarre light, as she swiftly pulled back the Tian Mos demonic energy that was attacking Shang Xiuxun.

    Actually, Shang Xiuxun was thinking that serious injury was inevitable. Seeing the opponent suddenly beat the gong to recall the troops, she quickly raised the true qi inside her to force the remaining Tian Mos demonic energy out of her meridians, while at the same time raising her sword that like a gale it rolled toward Wanwan.

    Three great martial art masters, while gaining the upper hand they fought with all their might.

    Even if it were Ning Daoqi himself came, perhaps it would entail extremely strenuous effort for him to deal with them, as well as a great chance that he would suffer defeat or even die.

    Just with these three saber strikes, Kou Zhong managed to reverse the battle situation. Others could only helplessly watched the development of the situation, and were in no position to interfere.

    Right this moment, where people were watching with baited breath, Wanwans entire body seemed to shrink, before bursting open again.

    Wanwan folded her limbs first; she curled herself up into a ball to delay the moment the opponents attack reaching her body slightly. And then, as if filled by her qi, her snow white robe ballooned out to take the three opponents swift and fierce attack, leaving her only wearing white undergarment, leaving her jade arms and powder-white legs complete exposed to everybodys eyes. Her graceful line and her beauty stopped everybodys breath.

    Bang! Bang! Bang!

    Shang Xiuxuns treasured sword, Xu Zilings fist and palm, and Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well, could only strike on her cicada sheds its carapace-like white robe.

    Bang!

    Under the three pincer attacks of the qi energy, the ballooning white robe exploded into pieces.

    The three people were severely shaken by the enormous Tian Mo Gong energy contained inside the white robe that they were thrown outside and tumbled down.

    Wah!

    Wanwan spurted a mouthful of blood, her face turned green. Like a clump of cloud she kicked the ground and flew, in the blink of an eye she was already perched on top of the wall.

    The bright moon was high up in the sky.

    Her flawless half-naked tender body stood beautifully on the wall, she turned her head around and said with a smile, Seven days later, after qies [a humble way to say I for a woman] body recovers, that will be the day Kou Xiong and Xu Xiong lose your lives.

    And then she suddenly disappeared.

    Everybody looked at each other, speechless.

    This moment a warrior rushed into the garden. Seeing the horrifying scene where the dead and the injured were scattered everywhere, his legs went soft and he dropped down on his knees on the ground.

    Feng Ge struggled hard to sit up. What is it? he called out hoarsely.

    Raising the letter in his hand high, the warrior replied in a trembling voice, Flying pigeon letter from the Ranch, the Four Big Bandits launch the second round of attack to the Ranch, in coordination with Jianghuai Armys attack to Jingling.

    Everybody turned pale.

    Liang Zhi scrambled forward to take the letter and handed it over to Shang Xiuxun.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked into each others eyes, thinking that if the Ranch did not come to Jinglings aid, with Jinglings generals dead and injured, how could they fight this battle?

    Finished reading the letter, Shang Xiuxun handed it over to Liang Zhi and said resolutely, We will return immediately. Whats your position? Naturally the last question was directed to Kou and Xu, two boys.

    Kou Zhongs gaze fell upon Shang Peng and Shang Hes dead bodies; he sighed and said, I really dont know. Xiao Ling, what do you think?

    Grieved, Feng Ge said, You must not go, Jinglings survival depends entirely on you!

  3. #123
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    Default Book 11 Chapter 3

    Book 11 Chapter 3 No Generals in Shu

    The battle drums shook the heavens.

    By the time the first rays of morning sun illuminated the top of Jinglings city wall, Jianghuai Army had already launched wave after wave of attack from all sides, amidst the earth-shattering battle cry. Not only they have cut off the source of the water of the moat, they also used sand and stones to flatten a large section of the moat right in front of the main city gate.

    By the time Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, and the injured Feng Ge climbed onto the city gate tower, they saw the enemys main force was slowly pouring into the plain between the city wall and the Han River. A large banner with a Du character was flapping freely in the wind in the middle of the army. A magnificent army with awe-inspiring prestige.

    After their first wave of attack was crushed by the slings and arrows raining down on them, the Jianghuai Army retreated and regrouped.

    When the swelled-headed Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at the huge array of troops made up of thirty-thousand soldiers outside the city, they were at a loss. Although their intelligence surpassed others, in front of this kind of magnificent army with thousands of men and horses, in this kind of situation where they came face to face with the enemy across the battleground, they actually did not know how to deal with it.

    Feng Ge simply sat down dejectedly between the two boys.

    Were it not for the two boys helping him treating his injury, perhaps he would have had to lie down in bed. But right now his qi was still deficient and his strength lacking. It was with great difficulty that he managed to stand up in order to hand over the command into the hands of the two boys in emergency deliberation with the other high-ranking military officers.

    Seven generals defending the city came to the three peoples presence; all their faces showed misgivings.

    These generals were Duba Villages second-tier leaders. In terms of experience and strength, they were inferior to the generals who died and injured in the battle against Wanwan just now. But now that there were no great general in Shu, Liao Hua would have to be picked to make up the number[1]. Similarly, now it became Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings turn to act as the Guardian Commanders to defend Jingling.

    To avoid leaking the secret information, the people gathered around them were Feng Ges trusted aides and trusted soldiers.

    Feng Ge addressed the seven generals in heavy voice, Listen to what I have to say, but dont be alarm, and do not cry out to avoid disturbing the troops morale. Understand?

    The generals nodded their understanding.

    Feng Ge himself was originally a Sui Dynasty general, a person of good moral standing and reputation, so that he was respected and quite popular. It was due to him that the situation was under control until this time.

    Feng Ge forced himself to straighten his back up and spoke in a nonchalant manner, Zhuangzhu has been killed by Yin Gui Pai female demon Wanwan.

    Immediately the generals countenance changed.

    After giving them a brief account of what had happened, Feng Ge opened his palm to reveal the military seal he took from Fang Zetaos dead body. Zhuangzhu sacrificed his life in crisis, he said in earnestness, He left Laofu in charge of the Village. But since presently the two armies are facing each other, the news of Zhuangzhus death must not be leaked out, otherwise the morale of the troops will be shaken.

    The generals heart was overwhelmed with grief and indignation, but there was nothing they could do.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling mused that Fang Zetaos death has already shaken the morale of these seven generals.

    Feng Ge forced himself to sound energetic when he said, Because I also suffer minor injury, it would be difficult for me to personally preside over this battle related to Jinglings survival, so I am obliged to plot it from the side. Everything pertaining to the defense and offense, Kou Xiongdi and Xu Xiongdi will be in charge. Their command will be like Laofus command, disobedience is punishable by beheading. Understand?

    The generals thought was in a whirl, they were out of their wits; however, knowing that the two boys possessed outstanding intelligence and strategic thinking ability, also knowing that they had matchless bravery, they all nodded their compliance.

    One of the generals asked, How do we deal with General Qian?

    Qian Yun was actually Feng Ges immediate superior; however, in terms of talent, ability, morality and insight, he was inferior to Feng Ge.

    A murderous intention flashed through Feng Ges eyes; he said indifferently, Let me worry about this matter. Go back to your post immediately, wait for further instruction!

    The generals withdrew.

    Feng Ges countenance turned from green to black, he was coughing severely that the two boys hastily transmitted their qi to help. A moment later he recovered somewhat, but he looked even weaker than before.

    Morning breeze was blowing, Feng Ge shuddered, scaring the two boys that they hastily took him into the tower.

    Feng Ge had a general by the name of Feng Han summoned into the tower. This man was Feng Ges nephew, someone they could trust.

    After dismissing the other men with a wave of his hand, he had Feng Han close the door, and then he sighed and said to Kou and Xu, two boys, If the news of Zhuangzhus death is spread, the entire Jingling will be thrown into chaos, everybody will fall over each other in their eagerness to flee, Jingling will collapse. Do Gentlemen have any good idea?

    Kou Zhong asked in heavy voice, How many soldiers are actually available in Jingling?

    Feng Han replied on his uncles behalf, The Village itself is thirty-thousand men strong. If we add the able-bodied men who can be mobilized temporarily, that number will reach fifty-thousand.

    Wont that mean we have twenty-thousand more men compared to Jianghuai Army outside the city? Xu Ziling asked in bewilderment.

    Feng Ge swallowed hard and said, What you just saw was only Jianghuai Armys main force. They still have several other units that are attacking other city gates. All their forces combined, the number reaches seventy, eighty-thousand, maybe more. Moreover, in terms of training, weaponry and experience, they are superior to us.

    Feng Han joined in, Our Village force consist of seven army units. The one under Zhuangzhus personal command has the highest number of troops, eight thousand in total. The other units have four thousand troops each. Dashu [first uncle] and I lead one unit each, the other generals leading the army were killed by that female demon. Their replacement must be appointed.

    Listening to that, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had a terrible headache. The adversary they were facing was the Du Fuwei, who was able to move unhindered among the heroes contending for hegemony of the world, while on their side, the people were anxious, their morale was low. In this battle, they were already lost without even need to fight.

    Feng Han sighed and said, If Dashu was not injured, he could still maintain stability, and we could still fight a few hard battle against the enemy. But now? Ay

    Feng Ge was about to speak, but suddenly he coughed violently that he even spurted a bit of blood, shocking everybody else.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling hurriedly transmitted their qi to regulate the blood flow; who would have thought that Feng Ges eyes turned white as he collapsed into the chair?

    The three of them looked at each other in panic.

    It was quite a while later that Kou Zhong made up his mind and said, Feng Xiong, take this seal of authority and immediately appoint new leaders from among the generals, and then come back here to discuss how to deal with this situation. Leave Old Feng to us, we will take care of him.

    Feng Han started to open his mouth to talk, but in the end he swallowed it back. Obeying the order, he left.

    ※ ※ ※

    After checking Feng Ges pulse, who was reclining on the chair, Kou Zhong let his hand down and said with a sigh of relief, He is already able to regulate his own qi. Seems like his fainting is slightly better compared to when he is awake. Ay! That female demon is really formidable, I am afraid even Ning Daoqi wont be able to kill her.

    Leaning sideways, Xu Ziling said, They died a very tragic death.

    Kou Zhong was silent for half a day. Cocking his head, he listened to the neighing of horses and the beating of the drums outside the tower. I wonder if Flying Horse Ranch people manage to leave safely, he said in a low voice.

    Xu Ziling walked over to the long and narrow peek hole on the wall. Looking outside, he spoke with his back toward Kou Zhong, There shouldnt be any problem, because Ol Die Du deliberately leaves an opening, to give Jingling people a way out that direction to flee for their lives, and thus hes actually making things easier for them. Humph! Unless Ol Die fought personally, with Shang Changzhu and Liang Zhis martial art skill, they ought to be able to escort Luo Fang and Xu Yang to safety. Ay!

    Kou Zhong walked over to his side. He looked out from another window for shooting arrows, and saw that the Jianghuai Army was still sending wave after wave of attack. Suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness, he smiled wryly and said, I wonder if previously we were too conceited, thats why today we receive grand, inevitable retribution. Now I feel so depressed that I feel like killing myself, yet I even hate my own incompetence.

    Xu Ziling was silent for half a day. Suddenly he laughed aloud and said, Do you want to know why?

    Kou Zhong was stunned, What are you talking about? he asked.

    Xu Ziling calmly replied, I am talking about you losing your confidence. All because you have never thought that there exist in this world an opponent as vicious, powerful and cunning as Wanwan, you helplessly watched her killing our comrade-in-arms, and could do nothing to stop, thereupon you hated yourself, and blamed your own incompetence. If you cannot restore your fighting spirit, we can forget about leaving this place alive.

    Forcing a smile, Kou Zhong said, Do you have fighting spirit?

    Xu Zilings tiger eyes flashed sharply. Nodding, he said, Of course! The worst thing that can happen is we die. Do you remember what Bai Laofuzi (see Book 1 Chapter 1) taught us, Those who aspire to be great men must first labor their muscles and bones, must hungry their stomachs, must bring suffering to their will, must deplete their bodies, must brush away the confusion from their minds?

    Kou Zhong immediately stuck out his chest, solemnly listening to him.

    Xu Zilings eyes flashed spiritedly as he fixed his gaze on Kou Zhong and continued, Presently we are at the turning point of our life. Only if you, Zhong Shao, use your brain to think will we be able to contend with that number one female demon in the world with real swords, real spears in one hard battle

    And then, pointing to the Jianghuai Army covering the mountains and the plains outside the peek hole, he said, Outside is the Ol Die, who has a chance to unify the world. We have the opportunity to stand off against this martial art master who look disdainfully at the world out of the corner of his eye, no longer the marketplace riffraff of the past, or perhaps low-level martial art players of Jianghu.

    Kou Zhongs eyes light up at once. Ha! he said in high spirit, I got it now. Just by the fact that not only Wanwan failed to kill us, she ended up wounded and ran for her life, we are actually quite amazing. Its just that we achieved victory by superior number, so theres not much glory in it.

    Shaking his head, Xu Ziling said, Vying over the world, how can you equate it with the fighting in Jianghu? There is no such thing as fairness! We have to create unfair situation with thousand ways, a hundred plans. Wanwan was trained at an early age, plus she received brilliant masters instruction, while we are only halfway out of our home, plus we have to grope about blindly. This is so unfair. Presently what we are fighting for is time. Before Wanwan kill us, we must kill her first. Do you understand?

    Understand, Kou Zhong replied; but then turning a little discouraged, he said, It doesnt matter how much confidence we have, the fact is that our situation right now is the enemy strong, while we are weak. As soon as the news of Fang Zetaos death leaks out, Jingling will fall apart without the enemy attacking it. Ay! Tell me, what should I do?

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, You must drop this bad habit of easily get excited and easily get discouraged. Only then you will have the hope of accomplishing great things. For a man living in troubled time, worst come to worst, he will die in battle, among the carcasses of the horses. What are you afraid of?

    Kou Zhong was silent, but his pair of tiger eyes gradually lit up.

    Xu Ziling reached out to grab his shoulder. He said, On the battlefield, although thousands and tens of thousands people charging and breaking through the enemy lines, each one is actually alone. In death, he is even more incomparably alone! Think about the feeling loneliness while exerting yourself, fighting at close quarters in the middle of tens of thousands people, you wont be confused by the scene of magnificent army with thousands of men and horses outside. Zhong Shao, you still want to contend for hegemony over the world, right? What you see outside the city is actually the litmus test for you. I fight for the sake of the innocent people of Jingling, but you fight to pave a path of hegemony.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud. You are indeed my good brother, he said, Each sentence is like the evening drum and morning bell [Buddhist monastic practice] going straight into the bottom of my heart. But my compassion toward Jingling people is not different from yours.

    This moment, Feng Han stormed in like a whirlwind and cried out, Not good! Qian Yun was rescued by his men. The news of Zhuangzhus death can leak at any time.

    Kou Zhong has fully returned to his old decisive and brimming-with-confidence self; he said coldly, Have you accomplished your mission of appointing new leaders?

    Infected by his calm demeanor, Feng Han calmed down. Theres no problem in that regard, he replied.

    Throwing his head back, Kou Zhong let out a long laughter and said, Very well! Let me give Ol Die a good fight, lets see whose fist is harder.

    Whos Ol Die? Feng Han asked in bewilderment.

    Its Du Fuwei, Xu Ziling replied, Feng Han, have your men escort your Dashu to the Ranch immediately, also dispatch your troops to evacuate women and children to a safe place out of town. If the city is broken, tell them to take refuge at the Flying Horse Ranch. Shang Xiuxun is definitely not someone who see people dying and not offer any help.

    And then he turned his eyes to Kou Zhong.

    Looking up to heaven, Kou Zhong let out another long laugh, revealing his steely determination, fighting spirit and confidence, before taking the lead to leave the tower toward the city wall.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stood side-by-side on top of the city wall. Outside the city the battle was at its peak. Under the sea of fluttering banners was the Jianghuai Army, their number has increased to forty-thousand men.

    Du Fuweis main force stationed themselves on a small hill; it was dominated by cavalry, with heavily armored infantry as secondary.

    The vanguard regiment was equipped with shields, arrows, hatchets, and accompanied by the construction battalion to build fortifications, outfitted with wooden logs, cloud-ladders, towering vehicles, and other tools necessary to besiege a city.

    The left and right flanks had fifty-thousand men each, purely cavalry.

    Behind the main force there were two groups of army, both to defend their escape route and to act as reinforcement.

    This moment the sun was already at its zenith. Its bright light illuminated the earth, the naked blades reflecting its light flickered dazzlingly, intensifying the already thick murderous aura in the atmosphere.

    Battle drums sounded.

    More than 70 armored vehicles with tower to shoot arrows began to move in the direction of Jingling. Each vehicle concealed more than a dozen archers. As soon as they reached the shooting distance, they would be able to shoot arrows from behind the iron panel elevated about two zhang above the carriage toward the top of the city wall, and thus providing cover to their comrades attack.

    Thinking about Jianghuai Army, which managed to conquer such a strong fortified city like Liyang, it was obvious that this seemingly aesthetically unpleasing, the tombstone-shaped armored vehicles, were definitely not just toys.

    When the armored carts started to move, it looked like a tall, towering building, was moving toward the city.

    Due to their elevated position, the soldiers on the carts were standing eye-to-eye with the soldiers standing on top of the city wall; therefore, not only they were able to cover the entire city wall within their arrow range, when the carts were positioned right next to the wall, the attackers would then be able to directly step over the wall and force their entrance into the city.

    Bugle horns blasted.

    Under the ministration of the several hundreds construction battalion soldiers, the catapult vehicles sent out several hundreds rocks. The rocks were shot later, but arrived sooner; they flew over the tower carts, overtaking the armored vehicles to block the arrows.

    At the same time, forty thousand Jianghuai Army troops shouted and the warhorses neighed wildly, changing the atmosphere outside the city of Jingling.

    After exchanging glances with Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong raised his voice to shout, Kou Zhong is here! Du Fuwei, do you dare to have a one-on-one duel against me?

    His voice traveled far into the distance, the voices of several tens of thousands troops were still unable to drown it.

    The civilians and military personnel inside the city of Jingling were cowered by the systematic and organized, tight large-scale attack of the enemy. Hearing the shout, their morale was greatly boosted; they all shouted in unison, their voices shook the heaven and the earth.

    Even Xu Ziling, who only wished to live a simple life, also felt his heart was burning and his blood boiling.

    Slapping the buttocks of his horse, Du Fuwei rode alone down the hill. He shouted coldly, If Fang Zhuangzhu can guarantee that if you, Zhonger, lose, the city of Jingling will be handed over to me, then this Ol Du is prepared to answer your challenge. Ignorant children, unexpectedly you regard the tens of thousands troops facing each other in battlefield as childrens playground. Ridiculous! Ridiculous, indeed!

    His voice was high, but not overbearing; it spread widely over the hills and the plains, outside and inside the city. The lingering sound rose up in spirals, thus it was clear that his power cultivation was exquisite; in fact, it was above Kou Zhongs.

    The most formidable thing was that he seized this opportunity to use psychological tactics by emphasizing his old ginger characteristics, in contrast to Kou Zhongs shallow experience, painting him as an improbable opponent to him.

    The Jianghuai Army immediately followed their Commander-in-Chiefs bold, visionary words, by raising their voices, so that the shouts of Jingling people were pressed down.

    His heart moved, Xu Ziling commented, Female demon Wanwans injury must be very heavy, hence she had to find a place nearby to recuperate that she did not even have time to notify Du Fuwei. If we can find her before she recovered, we might be able to eliminate her.

    Kou Zhong had his eyes on the distant Du Fuwei; as if he did not hear Xu Ziling, he said in a low voice, This time we are in trouble. Xiao Ling, quickly think of something.

    Xu Ziling was stunned and was speechless for a moment. And then he understood.

    The sound of footsteps was approaching; Feng Han with about a dozen of his personal guards came from behind. Evacuation plan is accomplished, Feng Han reported.

    Sure enough, Du Fuweis voice rang out, Fang Zetao, are you dumb?

    Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong and Feng Hans countenance changed immediately.


    [1] From the novel Sao Mi Zhou (掃迷帚; lit. The broom which sweeps away superstitions), a novel written by a certain Zhuangzhe (壯者; lit. strong man) during the Qing dynasty, contained a saying about Liao Hua: If there are no great generals left in Shu, Liao Hua will be the vanguard. (蜀中無大將,廖化作先鋒). It can be interpreted as: Shu was so lacking in talents and new blood in its twilight years that an elderly Liao Hua had to lead the vanguard of the Shu army in battle. The proverb is also used to describe a situation in which a person who is seemingly unfit for a job is forced into doing it, but is willing to face what seems to be insurmountable odds against him/her (Wikipedia). Liao Hua was a real historical character during the Three Kingdom era, and was also a character in the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

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    Default Book 11 Chapter 4

    Book 11 Chapter 4 Defending the City to the Death Alone

    Kou Zhong shouted toward Du Fuwei, who was on the hill, When you, Ol Die, are captured and be brought into Zhuangzhus presence, Zhuangzhuand you may have a heart-to-heart talk. Ha!

    With a long laugh he stop Du Fuwei from continuing.

    The construction battalion pushing the cloud ladder and the armored troops were starting to move, followed by the ramming vehicle to break the city wall and city gate.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong exchanged glances; they both thought that it would be strange indeed if a man as astute as Du Fuwei would not suspect Fang Zetaos death.

    Feng Han spoke in a low voice, The moat is filled up, the enemy can directly batter the city wall. If we can make it through the night, it could be considered not bad.

    Kou Zhong asked, How long will it take to evacuate everybody to the Ranch? I only need the most elite troops of the Village to stay with me.

    Feng Han replied, Du Fuweis target is to take Jingling, so that he will have strongholds to launch both water and land attack toward the cities along Han Rivers coastal area, as a shortcut to march toward Luoyang later. Now that he has leveled up the moat on this side, the other units will come here soon to ensure day and night siege; therefore, the common people can leave the city via the other gates safe and sound. If we have three days, then all personnel that have nothing to do with city defense can be removed far to a safe area.

    In that case, Kou Zhong decided, We must hold on for three days, lets see how formidable the Jianghuai Army really is.

    Feng Hans face revealed a pained look, Im afraid the morale of the troops is quite low, he said, Qian Yun has always been at odds with Dashu [first uncle], he will definitely use this opportunity to seize power over the military. Worse yet, the news of Zhuangzhus death may leak any time. If that happens, no one will have the heart to continue fighting zealously, and then holding on for even one sichen will be a problem.

    Kou Zhong spoke resolutely, People look toward the high place, water flows toward low elevation. Right now the only hope the Jinglings citizens have is to flee toward the Flying Horse Ranch, and we are the only one who can guarantee that that will happen, not a lowly scum like Qian Yun. Let us give the Old Du a fierce fighting first to strengthen the confidence of the officers and soldiers before discussing about the pros and cons. I dont believe everybody will be so dumb as being unwilling to fight bravely for their own, as well as their relatives lives. Hey! How can I issue an order?

    Feng Han called out loudly, Where is Feng Qing?

    A young man scrambled forward and kneeled in front of the three people, Feng Qings here! he replied.

    Feng Han said, This is my younger brother Feng Qing. Any instruction Kou Shuai [Commander-in-Chief] have, you may tell him and have him do it.

    It was the first time that anybody has ever called him Commander Kou. While he was feeling highly complacent, a warrior rushed in panic up the city wall and reported, Not good! Leading several hundred of his personal troops, General Qian Yun is heading this way.

    Xu Ziling laughed aloud and said, Ill leave the heavy responsibility to defend the city to Commander Kou, let me deal with Qian Yun. Finished speaking, he pulled Feng Han along and left.

    Kou Zhongs gaze returned to outside the city. The armored shooting arrow vehicle gradually entered the city defense catapult range.

    Kou Shuai, Feng Qing reminded him, We can release the rocks and arrows soon!

    Coldly and calmly Kou Zhong replied, Let them get a bit closer, then the rocks and arrows will have more power.

    Feng Qing hastily sounded the bugle horn, signaling the city defense warriors not to act rashly.

    Come with me! Kou Zhong shouted loudly, and strode along the city wall. Feng Qing and a group of his personal guards scrambled to follow him.

    Along the way, Kou Zhong comforted the troops defending the city and boosted their morale.

    Everybody knew his matchless divine bravery; although they were not clear why he suddenly replaced Fang Zetao, but looking at his flashing eyes, his magnificent trim build, his dragon stride and tiger step as he walked, his voice that exuded strong fighting spirit and confidence, his imposing style of considering himself unexcelled in the world, everywhere he went he aroused burst of salutes and shouts of cheers; the morale was greatly boosted.

    After walking along nearly half a li of the city wall, Kou Zhong turned around and walked back while shouting, You listen: Jingling Army will prevail, Jianghuai Army will fail.

    Following his lead, all the officers and soldiers shouted together, their voices filled the night, so that the enemys shouts and battle cry were completely drowned.

    Filled with admiration, Feng Qing said, Zhuangzhu has never encouraged us the way Kou Shuai do. Oh! We can release the rocks and arrows now.

    Kou Zhong calmly turned his eyes toward the Jianghuai Army. Sure enough, their vanguard battalion has already entered the hundred-zhang range. Smiling, he said, We can wait just a bit longer.

    Feng Qing wanted to persuade further, Kou Zhong suddenly stopped next to a catapult. He stood still in full concentration.

    The enemy continued to advance.

    ※ ※ ※

    Qian Yun, leading three hundred troops, his supporters, furiously rushed along the main street toward the main gate.

    Presently Jinlings main force was concentrated here. As long as he could kill Feng Ge, the control over the military would fall into his hands. At that time, dealing with Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling would not be too late.

    While he was having that thought and was feeling over the moon, a pressing force suddenly came overhead. His warhorse was the first to buckle, throwing Qian Yun forward.

    By the time Qian Yun landed on the ground and looked up, he saw Xu Ziling pouncing on him from the top of a two-story building nearby. When he was about to pull his sword, he felt sharp pain on the pit of his stomach. With a miserable shriek he died on the spot.

    Xu Ziling landed among the soldiers, and immediately soared back into the air. From all around hundreds of archers appeared, surrounding Qian Yuns soldiers.

    With the seal of authority held high above his head, Feng Han appeared in the middle of the street and shouted, Abandon your weapons, those who rebel will die.

    Xu Ziling stood by his side, looking as formidable as an immortal.

    Witnessing how Qian Yun died without even any chance to fight back, the soldiers knew that the momentum was lost. One after another they surrendered and realigned their allegiance.

    And thus a civil war was averted.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong inspected a large block of rock that appeared to be around a hundred catty; he shouted, Du Fuwei, lets see what will happen to your armored vehicle.

    With a loud shout he kicked hard, hurling the rock flying toward the armored vehicle, which was about seventy zhang away from the city wall.

    First the large rock rose about a zhang high, and then it spun swiftly as it flew toward the wooden structure of the armored vehicle.

    People inside and outside the city were staring with their eyes wide open. Nobody believed that a piece of rock like this would be able to destroy an armored vehicle.

    Yet Kou Zhong displayed his astonishing divine power and judgment.

    Boom!

    The large rock hit the wooden structure squarely, smashing it into smithereens.

    Beyond all expectation, the armored vehicle did not move back, instead, it leaned sideways and toppled. Bang! it fell on its side, injuring a dozen or more people in the process.

    Everybody could only stare blankly.

    The officers and soldiers defending the city burst into an earth shattering cheers.

    Knowing the time was right, Kou Zhong roared, Release the rocks and arrows!

    Amidst the battle cry, along the city wall extended over a li, about a hundred catapults shot out large rocks, along with countless arrows raining down toward the nearly ten thousand enemies attacking the city. Immediately the vehicles rolled over and people collapsed in an extremely tragic scene.

    The battle has unfolded a new leaf.

    Kou Zhong spoke to Feng Qing in a low voice, That will do! Now even if they knew that your Zhuangzhu is dead, there shouldnt be any problem.

    Feng Qings eyes were brimming with unbounded respect.

    ※ ※ ※

    By the time Xu Ziling returned to the city wall, Jingling Army has crushed the enemys first wave of attack, leaving hundreds of dead bodies, more than a dozen armored vehicles, siege towers, and countless broken bows and arrows, as well as other weapons.

    The city wall was full of military personnel and able-bodied civilians going back and forth to replenish the supply of arrows, rocks, boiling oils, and so on, which were being continuously used up in the city fortification.

    The high-ranking military officers executed every order that Kou Zhong issued without the slightest hesitation.

    Jianghuai Armys battle drums resounded. The destroyed unit withdrew, while another unit, about five thousand strong, started to advance toward the city gate to be engaged in what appeared to be more than what they could attend to.

    Xu Ziling came to Kou Zhongs side. Looking at the enemy outside the city, he said, Qian Yun has been taken care of!

    Kou Zhong acted as if he did not hear it; pointing at the hundred or so trebuchets moving toward the city wall, he said, Those stupid things are so formidable; just now they managed to knock several sections of our wall, and crush several hundred of our men to their death. If this situation continues, I am afraid we wont last until tomorrow. Do you have any ideas?

    Xu Ziling thought for a moment before replying, Id better take men to rush out and kill the enemy for a moment. What do you think?

    Frowning, Kou Zhong said, What good will that do? If the enemy cut your escape route, I am afraid you will be the only one who could come back alive. Besides, those stupid things cannot be easily destroyed.

    Xu Ziling said, As long as we have a good grasp of the timing; one group is responsible for killing and breaking up the enemys rank, the other group is in charge of pouring kerosene to those siege towers, armored vehicles, trebuchets and what have you, and then the men on the city wall will be in charge of shooting fiery-arrows. I guarantee that the Ol Die can only stare in envy.

    Kou Zhong slapped the wall and cried out, Wonderful! Immediately he had a general selected five thousand elite troops and put them under Xu Zilings command, while he himself went to the city gate to make preparation.

    Boom!

    Fragments of stone splashed, a piece of big rock landed on the city wall by Kou Zhongs side.

    Release the arrows! Kou Zhong thundered.

    Several thousand arrows were shot out of the battlements on the city wall toward the enemy flocking toward the gate.

    Two siege towers rushed in. Before the vehicle arrived, more than a dozen men already leaped out and soared toward the city wall.

    Kou Zhong knew the opponents martial art masters have arrived; luckily he did not see the Ol Die Du Fuwei among them. With a loud shout he also leaped up, the Moon in the Well turned into a streak of sharp light, rolling toward the incoming enemies.

    Two men responded by flying away to evade the blade. Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well hacked down left and right, two other enemies, who had just had their feet landed on the wall, immediately had their blood splashed and they were thrown down the city wall.

    But there were still seven enemies who succeeded in landing on the city wall, who attacked left and right on the ordinary soldiers defending the city that they suffered a crushing defeat.

    Like a swimming fish Kou Zhong flashed toward an enemy, who was fighting hand to hand with Feng Qing. Lightning fast his Moon in the Well swept across the enemys waist, a short and stout man who was striking down on Feng Qing with his pair of axes.

    A vortex of energy rose up.

    Dang!

    The Moon in the Well entered the space between the two axes, and suddenly retracted.

    The short mans double-axe fell down. By the time a trace of blood appeared on his forehead, Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well has already slashed another enemy.

    Ding!

    The mans broadsword was cut off by the Moon in the Well as if it was just a dried twig. In his horror he stepped back, only to be kicked by Kou Zhong and was thrown outside the city.

    Kou Zhong immediately pounced onto the other three enemies. Meanwhile the short mans dead body has just fallen to the ground. It is thus clear that his movement was very fast.

    The spirit of the officers and soldiers defending the city was greatly aroused; swords and spears moved out immediately, pushing the remaining five enemies into a corner.

    Kou Zhongs murderous intention arose, every saber strike of his seemed to be the death penalty of the enemy; as soon as he saw an enemy, he would immediately kill. In the mid of splashing blood, the remaining two men saw how greatly disadvantageous their situation was, they simply jumped off the wall, and ran away for their lives.

    Kou Zhong leaped to the top of the wall; lifting the saber high above his head, he cried out wildly, Jingling Army will prevail! Jianghuai Army will fail!

    All the soldiers responded in unison; momentarily the heaven and the earth shook.

    Open the gate! Kou Zhong thundered.

    ※ ※ ※

    The suspension bridge was lowered. Leading three thousand soldiers, Xu Ziling rode out, killing the enemy left and right as he rushed out of the city.

    The besieging enemy troops have never expected Jingling would dare to open their gate; immediately they were thrown into confusion and scrambled away in all directions.

    The other two thousand soldiers came out carrying earthen jars filled with kerosene, which they poured over the enemys besieging carts. And then they immediately set the vehicles on fire, and thus increasing their momentum.

    Kou Zhong saw flames rose up everywhere under the city wall, but his heart was as cold as ice and frost; his face did not betray his emotion as he looked at the enemy situation.

    The battle drums were beaten again.

    The two cavalries, which were Jianghuai Armys wings, came out from left and right to attack and provide reinforcement. Momentarily the sound of hoof beats shook the sky.

    Kou Zhong stood on top of the city wall; he looked like a deity as he raised his saber and called out, Withdraw the troops!

    Feng Qing hurriedly beat the gongs and blew the bugle horn.

    Xu Ziling dashed out through the scattering enemy of nearly a thousand men wielding shields marching behind the carts, while escorting his own troops retreating back into the city.

    From the top of the wall tens of thousands arrows were shot toward the enemys cavalry that row after row fell down to the ground and thus it was difficult for them to advance even for a cun.

    Bang!

    The drawbridge closed.

    Without waiting for Kou Zhongs order, the soldiers and civilians on the city wall broke into loud shout, Jingling Army will prevail! Jianghuai Army will fail!

    Cries of joy thundered on.

    Kou Zhong saw that at least half the enemys besieging towers, armored vehicles and trebuchets were trapped in the sea of fire. Breathing a sigh of relief, he issued an order, We will take turn to rest; no matter what we will hold on for three days.

    By this time Feng Qing and the others have already been convinced and were ready to submit to him; they chorused their compliance.

    ※ ※ ※

    Boom!

    Like a furious dragon the wooden ram struck against the city gate, emitting an ear-splitting rumble.

    The enemy suddenly launched another wave of offensive.

    In a corner of the city wall, the very tired and sleep-deprived Xu Ziling woke up. He saw that the city wall, which was intact when he went to sleep, started to show a crack, while outside the city blazing torches were covering the mountains and the plains. His ears were inundated with the sound of battle cry, the sound of catapults sending out rocks, the sharp squeaky noise of the wheels, and the explosive noise of the rocks crashing against the wall or falling on the ground.

    Crash!

    Without even looking Xu Ziling knew that that was the sound of hot oil being dumped down the city wall.

    Rising to his full height, Xu Ziling waved his left hand to catch an arrow, which came from God knows where, as he walked along the wall toward the citys main gate.

    Soldiers and civilians alike were busy running up and down the city wall to resist the enemy. Everybodys eyes were bloodshot. There seemed to be just one simple goal in everybodys mind, i.e. to do whatever they can to block and kill the invading enemies.

    Dead bodies were everywhere along the city wall, dark red blood was turning into burnt, blackened bloodstain, but nobody had time to pay attention. Heavy clouds were hanging low in the sky, the moon and the stars lost their luster. Blazing torches flickering in the night sky, dying everything blood red. As far as the eyes could see, it was like hell on earth.

    If he was not mistaken, today was the eighth day since the Jianghuai Army launched their large-scale attack to besiege the city. The enemy continuously increased their forces, as well as feigning attack to the other gates, and thus dispersing their strength.

    Without stopping to sleep or take a rest, he and Kou Zhong have been conducting this bitter battle to defend the city, until he really could not take it anymore. He was just thinking of lying down for half a moment, but fell asleep at once.

    Battle drums suddenly sounded; he was a bit disoriented as to where it came from.

    Boom!

    This time it was the sound of ram slamming against the city wall; he felt the ground under his feet seemed to be shaking a little.

    Bang!

    A siege tower just in front of the wall was smashed so that it toppled and fell down, that even the Jianghuai soldiers on it were falling to the ground outside the city, and crushing nobody knew how many more troops on the ground.

    Finally he saw Kou Zhong.

    This good brother of his was standing proud and erect on top of the wall, overlooking the situation outside the city, far and near, while incessantly summoning soldiers to transmit all kinds of orders. The way he conducted the operation was precisely the bearing of a Commander-in-Chief.

    Kou Zhongs entire body was stained with blood; perhaps even Kou Zhong himself did not know whether the blood was his own, or it came from the enemy.

    Arrows filled the air like rain.

    Xu Ziling came over to Kou Zhongs side. Kou Zhong looked at him. His eyes were bloodshot. Pulling Xu Ziling aside, he said, This time it is really bad. I am afraid we cant last the night.

    Pointing to a distant place, he said, Over there the wall is struck that it cracked, we used sand and stones to block, sacrificing a lot of brothers lives in the process. Ill say the Ol Die is going to personally make his move soon.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, Arent the women and children out of the city? Why havent we withdrawn?

    Kou Zhong replied with a bitter laugh, There are still a lot of people inside the city. Do you think as soon as we wanted to leave we can just leave? Dont you see that right now everybody is dashing on bravely with no thought of personal safety? As soon as the order to retreat is issued, I guarantee that they will fall over each other in their eagerness to flee, and everything will be a mess. Moreover, we have already tied unsolvable blood feuds with Jianghuai Army. If they decide to pursue the retreating enemy, our share will only be complete wipeout. Right now we can only compete in strength, to see which side will not be able to endure anymore. Ay! It looks to me that most probably it would be us who cannot hold on!

    Xu Ziling swept his gaze around. Under the around-the-clock fierce offensive from the enemy, the soldiers and civilians of the city of Jingling have turned into injured and weary troops. Once the gap on the wall was breached and the enemy entered the city, due to the deep enmity between the two sides, the enemy would definitely kill everybody in sight. Under this kind of circumstances, based on his and Kou Zhongs character, how could they disregard and abandon these people and run away for their lives? In the end, they would fight on bravely and be buried with the city. This was what Kou Zhong was saying.

    Leaning over, Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, Is this fate? The first time being a commander-in-chief, and end up being extremely unlucky. Ha oh and then he coughed incessantly.

    Helping him rubbing his back, Xu Ziling asked, Did you suffer internal injury?

    Gnashing his teeth, Kou Zhong replied, Just now a few martial art masters came, I was unexpectedly punched by one of them, but I managed to cut off his stinky head.

    This moment a soldier came and reported frantically: Du Fuweis main force has started to move.

    The two boys groaned inwardly. Bracing themselves, they climbed the watchtower. Feng Han, Feng Qing, and the others were there. Everybodys countenance was heavy, as if they have seen that the end was near.

    The troops besieging the city retreated to give way to the new force launching a new wave of powerful offensive.

    Outside the city wall dead bodies were everywhere, as a reminder of this eight-day and eight-night desperate battle in sieging the city.

    The vast open space in the city was full of dots of fire as far as the eyes could see. The battle drums and bugle horns, the hoof beats and the squeaky wheels filled the heaven and the earth.

    Realizing that everybodys eyes were fixed on him, inwardly Kou Zhong was smiling bitterly. Today he had learned that being a Commander-in-Chief was definitely not easy.

    Xu Ziling accompanied him to an empty corner of the external wall. Feng Han said in a heavy voice, Du Fuwei has concentrated all of his forces here, by rough estimation his force numbers eighty-thousand men. Presently our own forces added up together only numbers in the vicinity of ten thousand men. The enemy is attacking us with eight times our strength. Looking at immediate situation, it will be very difficult for us to survive the night.

    A gust of wind suddenly blew over the watchtower that everybodys clothes were fluttering.

    Kou Zhong looked up to heaven and saw the scurrying black clouds; he spoke slowly, If the Lord of Heaven shows mercy and pour down on us heavy rain, I wonder which side will reap the advantage.

    Everybody was greatly shaken; they all copied him looking up into the night sky.

    We would be saved! Feng Han said.

    Before he even finished speaking, a streak of lightning flashed across the sky, blinding everybodys eyes. And the rumble of thunder that followed immediately drowned all noises on the battlefield.

    Bean-sized drops of rain started to hit their heads. Sparse at first, but quickly became thick, and soon became pouring rain. Millions of torches were extinguished one by one.

    Throwing his head back, Kou Zhong let out a long laugh and said, Thank you Laotianye, because you, Senior, have not destroyed me, Kou Zhong. As long as I can avoid Du Fuwei personally hunting me down, there will come a day Jingling will return to my, Kou Zhongs hands!

    And then he thundered, This battle has been lost. Immediately withdraw in batches. Xu Ye and I will guard the rear; we will fight to the death to ensure that all of you will leave safely.

    Seeing the two boys righteousness reached the clouds and the sky, none of the generals was not moved.

    Xu Ziling shouted coldly, Still have not left promptly? Anybody has confidence of taking Du Fuweis Xiu Li Qiankun [universe in his sleeve]?

    All the generals dropped down on their knees; they kowtowed three times first before they accepted the order and left.

    Under the thunderstorm, Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings clothes were soaked wet, but they still looked at each other and let a long laugh. There was an indescribable passion and heroic air around them.

  5. #125
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 11 Chapter 5

    Book 11 Chapter 5 The First Defeat

    Under the thunderstorm, the city of Jingling looked like a ghost domain. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, the two boys, followed batch after batch Jingling officers hurriedly leaving the city from the north gate with their eyes.

    The last group of soldiers to retreat had Feng Han and Feng Qing in it, they all seemed to be reluctant to part.

    Hardening his heart, Kou Zhong shouted, Just go! If you tarry, it might be too late!

    Feng Han was unclear whether the water on his face was raindrops or his own tears. Let us leave together! he called out sadly.

    Xu Ziling firmly shook his head, Only the two of us can lure Du Fuwei to pursue us. You, go quickly!

    Feng Han called out loudly, In the future, as soon as we hear the news that two Masters are raising righteousness, as long as I, Feng Han, am still breathing, I will definitely come to throw my lot with two gentlemen.

    Finished speaking, he urged his horse to run after the tail of the procession, and in the blink of an eye vanished in the vast darkness of the rain interspersed with thunders.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling rode side by side slowly, letting the wind and the rain fell on both their bodies and their horses.

    Every now and then the lightning flashed, making the shops and building on both sides of the long street looked transparent; it was such an indescribably strange atmosphere.

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, It had never occurred to me that the first time I was in a real battle and I already suffered a big defeat, and thus lost the entire city of Jingling. Ha! Really funny! Right now my entire body feels numb. Have you seen so many people died in front of you?

    Xu Ziling looked up to let the heavy rain pour down on his face, as if he wanted to have the rainwater wash away his bloodstained clothes and the more than a dozen, big and small, bloody wounds from the battle. Blowing out a mouthful of air from his lungs, he said, Success or failure, how could you let it bother you so much? You and I have tried our utmost, we have done our part the best we can! If today you seized total victory, you would think that success would come easy, perhaps it would cause you even greater defeat in the future. Ha! Therefore, this time we suffered a good defeat.

    Kou Zhong roared in laughter, which affected the wound all over his body that his laughter turned into a miserable groan. Gasping for breath, he said, Toward success or failure, I cant ever be like you, Ling Shao, who look at it so free and at ease. Perhaps because by nature I am a layperson! His mother! Huh?

    The two boys suddenly reined their horses.

    On the long street ahead, which was shrouded in the heavy curtain of the wind and the rain, and under occasional lightning splitting the sky overhead, which washed the heaven and the earth a deathly white, suddenly appeared a tall and slender figure.

    Even if this person has turned into ashes, the two boys would recognize Du Fuwei from his tall hat.

    He has finally come!

    ※ ※ ※

    Du Fuwei let out an ear splitting wild laughter, brimming with murderous intention. Suddenly he stopped laughing and said with a cold snort, They say that even cruel tiger would not eat its own cub, but tonight I, Du Fuwei, in this stormy night, must personally put away the two of you, unworthy children. As fate has it, nothing can surpass this.

    After paying his respect, Ring! Kou Zhong pulled his Moon in the Well, lifted it high above his head, and laughed heartily, In order to vie over the world, father and son destroy each other, brothers and martial brothers against each other, is a common thing. Why would you, Ol Die mind it too much?

    A faint gust of wind came from behind.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged glances; they both knew that martial art masters from Du Fuweis side have arrived.

    Merely Du Fuwei, one person, would be difficult for them to deal with; if they fell into Jianghuai Army martial art masters siege, how could they escape alive?

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Ol Die, please forgive your child for being rude!

    Suddenly he pressed his horses belly to charge toward Du Fuwei.

    Kou Zhong also urged his horse to charge forward. The Moon in the Well turned into sharp rays splitting the wind and the rain, hacking down on Du Fuwei.

    Spiraling energy rose up, the wind and the rain was intensified by the saber power as well that it turned into a tornado that attacked first even before the saber arrived; the momentum was extremely astonishing.

    Xu Ziling was faster than Kou Zhong by half a horses length. By the time he was only about a zhang away from Du Fuwei, he sent out a punch with all his might, raising another wave of rain water surging toward this hegemon who ran amuck around the Jianghuai region.

    Du Fuwei has never imagined that the two boys had made tremendous progress, plus it was the first time that he encountered a spiraling energy. However, he was a veteran of a hundred battles. With a spin of his body he neutralized the strange power of the surging rain raised by Xu Ziling bombarding his body, while at the same time he soared to the air and brandished both sleeves.

    The sleeves carried the power he amassed throughout his life, hence it was not a small matter at all.

    Crash! Boom!

    A streak of lightning struck not too far away. Along with the rumbling of the thunder, the street was as bright as day.

    Xu Ziling abruptly pulled his rein; the horse reared, it kicked Du Fuwei.

    Du Fuwei was slightly stunned.

    Xu Ziling already slipped down on the side of the horse belly, the tip of his toes kicked on Du Fuweis left sleeve. At the same time Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well struck his right sleeve.

    In launching this move, Xu Ziling has followed the most esoteric principle.

    It should be noted that Du Fuweis original thought was to strike Xu Ziling first, and then turned his attention to Kou Zhong. Therefore, his left sleeve was heavy, his right sleeve was light. He wanted to brush Xu Ziling away from the horseback before dealing with Kou Zhong.

    When martial art masters fight each other, a good grasp of timing and the moves indeed plays a decisive role. Who would have thought Xu Ziling exploited his warhorse? Not only he was forcing Du Fuwei to alter his angle of attack at the last moment, Du Fuwei had to reduce his speed a hairbreadth as well. Without any choice he had to quickly transfer part of the power from his left sleeve toward his right sleeve to deal with Kou Zhongs ten-thousand-catty thunderbolt saber strike. Hence he had lost his original seamless heavenly clothes [i.e. flawless] meticulously planned tactics.

    There were two whooshing noise, followed by a clear ding!

    Xu Ziling was jolted as if he was struck by lightning, his entire body, along with his miserably neighing horse, was thrown back and fell to the ground; it was extremely shocking.

    Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well hacked down on the arm protector inside Du Fuweis universe in the sleeve. Immediately he was shaken that the wounds on his body split open and bled, while he horse under his crotch was struck by the two mens impact force that it was knocked down sideways. Kou Zhong quickly soared to the air, the Moon in the Well turned into countless spiraling saber shadows, rolling Du Fuwei, who was taking a step back, inside.

    Even with his ability, Du Fuwei had no choice but to let Xu Ziling off; sending his strength to both sleeves, he concentrated all his power to deal with the incomparably brave Kou Zhong who risked his life in this one strike.

    Bearing the brunt of nearly all of Du Fuweis inner power, just before he and the horse touched the ground, Xu Ziling spewed out a mouthful of blood while circulating his power throughout his body, and thus his strength was restored.

    Meanwhile Du Fuweis reinforcement was only about thirty zhang away, and was fast approaching.

    Knowing that this was the most critical moment, Xu Ziling quickly raised a mouthful of qi while lightly pressing down on the side of the neighing miserably horses belly, and then borrowing the reaction force he rolled away swiftly, straight toward Du and Kou, two men in fierce battle.

    Sending out his power to his ten fingers, ten streams of qi shot out like arrows toward Du Fuweis feet.

    Du Fuweis second error was that he did not anticipate that Xu Ziling would be this quick to launch a counterattack. Although he was eager to kill Kou Zhong, this moment he had no choice but to protect his old life first. With a sudden shout he leaped up to evade.

    How could Kou Zhong, whose momentum was like a rainbow, miss this one-in-a-thousand opportunity? The Moon in the Well sliced across, while letting his face and his entire body exposed, in an apparent all-out, staking-his-life move.

    Du Fuwei raised his qi while flipping his body, so that his head was down, his feet up, while his right hand opened up into a claw to grab the tianling acupoint on top of Kou Zhongs head. His other hand formed a halberd to pierce Xu Zilings back.

    All these moves happened in a flash, all three combatants were displaying their ingenuity, every one of them executing their amazing tactic, which was quite astonishing to see.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Die has fallen into a trap!

    Suddenly he moved sideways toward Du Fuweis lower part; holding the Moon in the Well with both hands, he swiftly chopped upward. His target was Du Fuweis throat.

    Xu Ziling pushed the ground with both hands; borrowing the reaction force, he slid sideways. Both fists punched together, he created an incomparably strong and violent spiraling qi, interspersing with the wind and the rain, striking toward Du Fuwei, who was attacking the top of Kou Zhongs head. It was bold and powerful without equal.

    This moment the nearest man among Du Fuweis subordinates was still about ten zhang away. If Du Fuwei managed to hold on for a bit longer, Kou and Xu, two boys could forget about getting away with their lives.

    Even with his shrewdness and brilliance, Du Fuwei could not help feeling remorse. As soon as he received the news that Jingling Army had abandoned the city and ran away, in his eagerness to kill the two boys, he only brought a small number of martial art masters to rush over at full speed, leaving the rest of his men behind. He had never thought that the two boys martial art skill has made tremendous improvement; this was his first mistake.

    His second mistake was leaping to the air to evade, so that he was unable to use timely force to deal with the two boys incomparably strange spiraling energy. Even if he used his entire strength, it would still be difficult to take the two boys combined power at the same time, especially since they both went all-out.

    Boom!

    Lightning flashed, followed by a thunder. Du Fuwei was forced to use the skill he stored at the bottom of the chest; his left sleeve swept Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well, while his right sleeve met Xu Zilings double punch.

    Qi energy clashed.

    Du Fuwei spewed a mouthful of blood and was thrown far away.

    Xu Ziling fell down to the ground, while also spurting a mouthful of blood.

    Kou Zhong pulled Xu Ziling up; both of them flew to the roof of a multi-story building nearby.

    Two Jianghuai Army martial art masters arrived; they rushed to pursue, but Kou Zhong swiped his saber backhandedly and viciously forced them to fall back to the ground.

    Du Fuwei landed on the other side of the long street and stood still.

    By this time Xu Ziling had received the true qi transmitted by Kou Zhong, so that his strength was recovered somewhat. Sending out a punch, he forced another martial art master down to the ground.

    Bang! that man landed on the mud.

    Boom!

    Heaven and earth was awashed in bright light.

    By the time it was dark again, the two boys had already disappeared without any trace.

    Dont chase! Du Fuwei shouted loudly.

    Taking a deep breath, Du Fuwei shook his head and said with a sigh, They are worthy to be my good children. Even if you catch up with them, it would be useless.

    ※ ※ ※

    The two boys rolled down the slope, and fell into a deep pool of muddy swamp, unable to crawl back up.

    The heavy rain was still pouring on their heads and spilling down their faces, but the thunder and lightning gradually became sparse.

    After leaving Jingling, they had been running in northerly direction for more than thirty li. By now they were like lantern which oil had dried up, they could not even raise their true qi. The big and small wounds on their body unbearably ached.

    The two boys lay side-by-side, continuously gasping for breath.

    Kou Zhong painfully said, You still had a chance to rest for a moment, but I have not laid down with everything steady and stable like this for eight consecutive days and nights. Ha! In the end we did not die, even Ol Die failed to do anything to us!

    Xu Ziling groaned, Cant you not boast and praise yourself too soon? Presently, if we came across a small thief, he could easily take our lives.

    Still gasping for breath, Kou Zhong laughed and said, Laotianye cant be that unreasonable. Um, if that female demon Wanwan is also recuperating nearby, it would be really interesting!

    Xu Ziling no longer talked; he simply circulated his qi and regulated his breathing.

    As soon as Kou Zhong closed his eyes, he was no longer able to open it; he immediately fell into deep sleep, where the heaven and the man intersected.

    ※ ※ ※

    Heavy rain finally stopped at daybreak. The black clouds gave way to clear sky. The late spring morning sun shone on the two boys.

    When the sun reached its zenith, Kou Zhong was the first to wake up. When he opened his eyes, he found out that they were lying down by a stream. Next to the stream, the trees of the forest were dancing. It was such a beautiful scenery.

    On the other side of the creek was a small hill, its slope was covered in verdant grass, while its peak was covered in dense forest, with fruits hung heavy on the bough.

    Straightening up his waist, Kou Zhong sat up. The pain of last night has already disappeared without a trace; the wounds on his body have healed, leaving only scars. Laughing aloud, he sprang up and stretched his four limbs.

    Xu Ziling was aroused from slumber by him. Seeing Kou Zhongs tattered clothes and face covered in bloodstain and mud, yet looked very happy, he sat up; hugging his knees, he asked in astonishment, Zhong Shao, why are you so happy?

    Kou Zhong sat cross-legged in front of him; he sighed and said, I have never felt like I do this moment: that life is precious. When you see so many people died in front of you, you will know that being alive is truly a great miracle. I am not happy, I am just enjoying the pleasure of living. Hey! Do you know what I mean?

    Xu Ziling nodded, Well said, he said, At least we still have a few days to enjoy life.

    Kou Zhongs tiger-eyes flashed a cold ray; he said, Although female demon Wanwan is more formidable than the Ol Die, killing us is still not going to be easy. What I am most afraid of is that shed summon Yin Gui Pais martial art masters, or even Empress Yin, Zhu Yuyan. If that happened, our good luck is going to be finished. Do you have any good idea?

    Sneering, Xu Ziling said, Looking at your demeanor, you already have a card up your sleeve. Youd better tell me quick!

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, My plan can be divided into two parts. First, we must hide so that that female demon Wanwan cannot find us.

    Xu Ziling had a brainwave, You mean we are going to wear Mr. Lus mask and become different persons? he asked, But if we are together, based on female demon Wanwans intelligence, she might still recognize our disguise.

    Kou Zhong replied, There are so many wealthy people on the road running away from the war, we can find and join any group of people to travel together, so we wont stick out like a sore thumb. Moreover, we can try to find Yucheng and the others at the same time. I hope they have not lost our salt!

    And what is the second part? Xu Ziling asked.

    The murderous intention in Kou Zhongs eyes flared up; he spoke hatefully, If she did not die, then I perished. I will use whatever method to kill everybody from Yin Gui Pai, from top to bottom; or else I will write my name Kou Zhong, two characters, upside down. Do you have any objection?

    Recalling Shang Peng, Shang He and the others tragic death, Xu Ziling nodded and said, Totally agree!

    Kou Zhong leaned forward a bit and lowered his voice, That female demon Wanwan must have guessed that we are going north to Luoyang, and will try to rendezvous with Yucheng and the others. Therefore ha! You ought to know ha!

    Xu Ziling was surprised, You are not thinking of using Yucheng and the others as a bait to lure Yin Gui Pai people out, are you? By doing that, wont it mean that you are playing with Yucheng, four peoples lives?

    Shaking his head, Kou Zhong said, This is called putting out all kinds of death to gain life later. Starting from today, we ought to study the Yijian Technique will all our heart and soul; otherwise, when we meet that female demon Wanwan later, we would only be throwing our lives in vain, and thus provoking her ridicule.

    Xu Ziling laughed aloud. He stood up and said, How about taking a bath first before starting on our journey?

    ※ ※ ※

    A drizzle came down from the sky, the road became mud everywhere; wet and slippery and difficult to walk.

    The two boys bought two sets of coarse hemp garment from a farmer in a small village about fifty li north of Jingling. After putting on their masks, they changed their shape in a single shake, becoming two gathering herbal medicine peasants, one old and one young, who were on their way back to Xiangyang along the Han River.

    Xu Ziling became a fifty-something man with a goatee on his chin, the corners of his eyes, as well as his forehead, were full of wrinkles; an old man with embittered face. When he started to hunch his back, even Kou Zhong found it difficult to recognize him; he felt it odd, yet amusing.

    Kou Zhong turned into a thirty-something man with a rough and ugly face, someone who looked like he knew martial art. He wrapped the Moon in the Well in oilcloth so that it would not reveal his background.

    They galloped at full speed on the mountain and fields for two days before reaching the intersection of the official road leading to Xiangyang about three li away from the city, where they mingled with the travelers heading toward Xiangyang.

    Suddenly they heard a rumble of hooves beat, more than a dozen men were galloping past, scaring the travelers that they scrambled to make way. It was only after the riders sped away that everybody was cursing and swearing.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling returned to the road to continue with their journey. The former said, Looking at their clothing, that bunch of men must be Qian Duguans subordinates. From the way they are hurrying, perhaps they had just obtained the news of Jingling falling into Ol Dies hands, and are rushing off to notify Qian Duguan. I am afraid that guy Old Qian wont have any good sleep anymore!

    Xu Ziling said, Isnt Changshu Mou in collusion with Qian Duguan? Plus Changshu Mou is the Ol Dies secret ally. By stretching this fact a little bit, perhaps Qian Duguan wont have to be afraid of Ol Die?

    Kou Zhong looked up to the heavens to enjoy the comfortable feeling of the drizzle sprinkling down on his face. He said, I think Qian Duguan simply does not wish to offend Tiele people, hence he gave free rein to Changshu Mou and his barbarians! Otherwise, that time he ought to join hands with Changshu Mou to deal with us. Although right now Ol Die has seized Jingling into his hands, but he suffered disastrous casualties, his strength took heavy beating; for the time being he is powerless to go up north. Qian Duguan will still have a few days he could pass merrily.

    Meanwhile the two boys were climbing over a small hill, the city of Xiangyang appeared far away beyond the hazy drizzle; there was some kind of unspeakable dreariness and lonely feeling surrounding it. Especially when they were thinking of the fall of Jingling, they felt that similarly for Xiangyang, a good thing would not last forever.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, What should be the first thing we do upon entering the city?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Xu Ziling replied, With the waterway heading south cut off, there must be a lot of people being stuck in Xiangyang; trying to find a place to stay will be extremely difficult. Lets see if Yucheng and the others left any marks in the city; if they did not, well leave the city immediately, so that we wont waste valuable time.

    Patting the Moon in the Well on his back, Kou Zhong stretched his waist and said, I suddenly feel my hands are itchy; I want to cause havoc a little bit.

    What? Xu Ziling blurted out.

    Kou Zhong smiled, Nothing, he said, Lets enter the city first, well talk later.

  6. #126
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    Default Book 11 Chapter 6

    Book 11 Chapter 6 Joining Hands in Expelling the Poison

    Arriving at the gate, they saw there were already a lot of people in front of it, some were even leaving in disappointment. Turned out Qian Duguan issued an order that starting that afternoon, no outsiders were allowed to enter the city.

    Naturally the two boys did not mind it too much. Relying on their current-level of Bird Crossing Technique and with the help of a rope, they would be able to easily climb the more-than-ten-zhang high city wall.

    While they were looking for a good location to climb into the city, a man, around forty years of age, wearing servant attire, intercepted them and with eyes brimming with expectation he asked them, I wonder if the two gentlemen know how to treat illness?

    Making his voice hoarse, Xu Ziling replied, What is it? We do have a little bit of medical expertise.

    The man happily said, My name is Sha Fu. If Lao Xiansheng [old mister] knows how to treat illness, please come with me, we will definitely not treat Mister meagerly.

    Seeing his polite demeanor, after exchanging a glance, Kou Zhong said in rough voice and rough manner, Lead on then!

    Sha Fu led them toward the pier; while walking, he grumbled, We thought that as soon as we enter Xiangyang we would find a doctor, who would have thought that we are not allowed to enter the city? Fortunately I saw two gentlemen carrying mountain herbal medicine basket on your back, so I took my chances and asked, and sure enough I was lucky. May I ask gentlemens honorable surname and great given names?

    Stroking his beard, Xu Ziling spoke in an old-man manner, I am Mo Wei; he is my nephew cum apprentice, Mo Yixin. We are specializing in massaging [tui na] acupoints to treat illnesses, including treating various strange and complicated diseases; hands arrive, illness gone.

    Hearing that, Kou Zhong nearly burst out laughing; fortunately he was able to hold back in time.

    Delighted, Sha Fu said, Thats great! For some reason our Xiao Gongzi [little young master] suddenly having cold and fever, and is delirious. Ay! Shao Furen [young madam] is such a kind person, yet she has to suffer this torment.

    The two boys jumped in fright.

    They originally though the sick was a grownup. As long as they could transfer their qi to open his channels, whatever his illness was, his condition ought to improve somewhat, which means they were doing a good thing. But since it was a child, they did not have too much confidence.

    The pier was crowded, quite a lot of them were refugees from Jingling. Sha Fu took them toward a skiff anchored on the shore. The servant on board the skiff immediately loosened the rope and rowed the boat toward a medium sized sailing boat anchored on the opposite bank.

    The fine rain continued drizzling endlessly, the sky was gradually darkened. Unceasing flow of boats were moving along the river course, taking advantage of still available light to leave Xiangyang before dark.

    In time where warlords were setting up independent regimes, where everybody was competing fiercely against each other, owning a ship in peace and quiet was not an easy matter at all.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling pretended to curiously looking at the ship. They saw several men standing on the deck, staring condescendingly at them with wooden expression.

    Very soon the skiff attached itself to ships port side. Sha Fu was the first to climb to the deck. Doctor is here! he called out.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged glances; they could see how anxious the other side was. If they failed to treat their little young masters illness, their young madam would be very disappointed. But things have come to this, they had no choice but to step onto the deck.

    Those five men, who looked like courtyard [i.e. pleasure house] bodyguards, came to meet them. The leader was a tall, lanky middle-aged man, only about a cun shorter than Kou Zhong, but half a head taller than Sha Fu. His face was long and thin, his eyes narrow, his nose crooked; in short, his outward appearance would not incite any compliment from anybody. Moreover, his manner was haughty; he looked at the boys with his slanting eyes, without any hint of friendliness at all.

    After introducing the two boys, Sha Fu said, This is Ma Xuran Laoshi [teacher]

    Ma Xuran was sizing Kou Zhong up; he coldly cut Sha Fu off, This Xiongtai [brother] must leave his saber first before he is allowed to enter the cabin to diagnose and treat Gongzi.

    Stunned, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other, wondering why he would deliberately make things difficult for them.

    One majestic sounding voice came from the cabin door, Rules are dead. Two friends, please come in, Shao Furen has been waiting anxiously!

    Ma Xurans countenance changed slightly; he stared furiously at the man talking at the door, but did not say anything. Obviously he was rather afraid of him.

    Sha Fu hastily led the two boys to the door.

    The man stepped out of the door. Turned out he was a fat man with fair skin, a bit like a big businessman; but his eyes were sharp, plus although he was fat, he gave the impression that he was a solid and nimble person.

    Cupping his fist toward the two boys, he said, Zaixia Chen Laiman. I wonder how I should address Laozhang [sir] and this renxiong [dear friend/brother]. [Translators note: I know that I might irritate a lot of you, but I wanted to show just how complicated Chinese appellation is. From the way they address each other, you can deduce their relation. In this case, Chen Laiman was being very polite without lowering himself.]

    Xu Ziling replied in hoarse voice, Laofu [old man] Mo Wei. This is Laofus apprentice and nephew Mo Yixin. Helping people is like fighting fire, is it possible for you to take Laofu to see Xiao Gongzi? [Interesting fact: surname Mo can also mean do not/there is none who. Wei means to be/to do. So Mo Wei can mean nobody. Yixin means one heart/wholehearted, so Mo Yixin can mean without aspiration.]

    Chen Laiman gave Ma Xuran a hard stare first before saluting and said, Gentlemen, please come with Ol Chen!

    The two boys and Sha Fu followed him into the cabin. Without saying a word Ma Xuran followed behind them. The atmosphere was very strange.

    Knock! Knock!

    Creak! the cabin door opened immediately, revealing a delicate face.

    Chen Laiman said, Xiao Feng, tell Shao Furen, the doctor is here!

    Xiao Feng opened the door wide, she said delightedly, Doctor, please come in, Shao Furen has been waiting anxiously.

    Chen Laiman signaled Sha Fu with his eyes; the latter immediately said, Let me wait outside with Ma Laoshi! Doctor Mo, please come in!

    Until now Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling was still unclear of Ma Xurans status, but one thing they know was that this fellows relationship with the young madam was definitely a problematic one, but Chen Laiman and Sha Fu were on the young madams side.

    However, their main concern right now was whether they would be able to treat the little young masters illness; therefore, without any choice they followed Chen Laimans fat body stepping into the cabin.

    The cabin was quite spacious; it was furnished with interesting and antique-looking bits and pieces, revealing both the scholarly and the richness of the host. Near the door was a set of rosewood furniture, against the window was a large mahogany bed, with gauze curtain hanging above it.

    A magnificently dressed woman, who was sitting on the bed, stood up to greet them. Other than Xiao Feng the maid, there was another pretty maid in the room, which was thick with the aroma of herbal medicine.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling took a closer look, and their eyes lit up. The woman looked around twenty, with a delicate, pretty and pleasant face, and rather petite. Although not nearly as beautiful as Wanwans deceptively out-of-the-world beauty, and could not compare with Shang Xiuxuns proud and aloof elegance, yet she possessed some kind of charm that they felt in their bones, mixed with lovely, yet pitiful, and fascinating good looks, so that others could not help but would be moved by her.

    Chen Laiman obviously had deep respect toward this young madam; scrambling one step forward, he spoke gently, Shao Furen! The doctor has been invited. This is Doctor Mo, and the other gentleman is Doctor Mos disciple.

    The young madams pretty eyes lit up with hopeful expression. She bowed and said, Sorry for troubling gentlemen, my child ay

    Her voice was soft, gentle and clear, matching her graceful bearing perfectly like seamless heavenly clothes. Especially now that her heart was grieving, she could not even speak without choking, that anybody who heard her could not help feeling pity.

    Yet Xu Ziling was thinking about Sister-in-law Zhen, the steamed bun sellers in Yangzhou in the past [see Book 1 Chapter 1]. She often revealed an expression similar to this young madam, an expression showing that she bore life inequities and injustice quietly, and could only complain silently. His heart softened as he asked, May I ask how did Xiao Gongzi get sick?

    With glistening tears hidden in her beautiful eyes, the young madam hung her small cicada head and said, This morning, when Xiao Zhu came to wait upon the child, the child was already like this!

    The maid by her side, Xiao Zhu, immediately had her tears flowing down like rain, yet she was sobbing quietly. Her excitement was a bit over the top.

    Chen Laiman signaled Xiao Feng to take Xiao Zhu out of the room. He said, Doctor Mo, please come over. No need to stand on ceremony.

    Kou Zhong secretly gave Xu Ziling a push. The latter had no choice but to suppress his feeling, brace himself and walked over to the bedside.

    A three, four years old boy was lying quietly with his eyes closed; his face was so pale that it was scary, his breathing was short but quick, making those who looked at him could not help having tender affection for him.

    Xu Ziling sat down on the bed and reached into the cotton quilt to find his little hand.

    In an instant he already had his true qi circulated around the boys Eight Extraordinary Channels. A hard to describe intuition, so strange that he found it difficult to explain, burst forth in his mind. His heart was greatly shaken as he blurted out, Xiao Gongzi is poisoned!

    Kou Zhong included, the three other people by the bed was shocked.

    Kou Zhongs shock was different from the young madam and Chen Laimans, because only he knew perfectly well that Xu Ziling did not have the skill of diagnosing illness by checking the sick persons pulse.

    The young madams face was completely drained of blood; she nearly passed out. The terrified Chen Laiman and Kou Zhong were in predicament; it was improper for them to help her, yet not helping her was even more out of question.

    Madam, please be careful! Chen Laiman anxiously called out.

    Fortunately the young madam quickly recovered; but hot tears flowed down her face as she spoke in distress, How can it be so? Does Doctor Mo have a way to save him?

    Kou Zhong hastily consoled her; without thinking he blurted out, Shao Furen please dont worry. My uncle has wandered the Jianghu, he is a divine doctor with miracle hands who has tasted all kinds of herbs; he certainly can hey

    Chen Laiman took a step forward to Xu Zilings side; with deep frown he said, How much confidence does Doctor Mo have? I have examined Xiao Gongzis channels; his channels are indeed in a mess, hurried and brief, yet weak. But looking at his appearance, he does not show the slightest sign of poisoning.

    Xu Zilings hand moved down. Sticking his palm to the bottom of the young masters right foot, he closed his eyes and spoke as if he was in a dream, This is some kind of strange hot poison, hidden deep inside the inner organs, destroying Xiao Gongzis vitality. Laofu is 100% confident that this is so.

    In the end the young madam was no longer able to stand; only by holding on to Xu Zilings shoulder with her delicate hands that she barely managed to stand. Sobbing quietly, she asked, Can Doctor heal him?

    Xu Zilings eyes suddenly opened; a divine light flashed, but it died just as quick. Fortunately he had his back against the capable fellow Chen Laiman; otherwise his true nature would have been revealed. Yixin! he called in heavy voice, Press Xiao Gongzis tianling acupoint for me.

    Kou Zhong secretly mused, There is no such method of treating illness, but naturally he knew that it was the only way they could expel the poison. Moving to the head of the bed, he placed his left palm on the young masters skull.

    Chen Laiman was the first to feel that something was not right. Does Doctor Ma understand how to circulate qi to expel poison? he asked doubtfully.

    It should be noted that only martial art masters with expertise in internal power who have full control of their own true qi are qualified to transfer the true qi into somebody elses channels without any possibility that something would go awry.

    Using true qi to treat other persons injury was substantially more difficult; only those with clear understanding of channels and acupoints would be able to do it. Moreover, using true qi to get rid of poison that was hidden in the five viscera and six bowels and that has become an integral whole with the blood vessels, only first class masters would be able to accomplish.

    Chen Laiman knew he did not have such ability; hence he raised the question.

    What he did not know was that Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings innate true qi came from the Secret to Long Life. Not only their mastery entirely came from groping around, in itself it was effective to heal their own body and repel poison. Hence the reason Shen Luoyan failed to poison them in the past. Naturally Chen Laiman did not know this fact.

    Kou Zhong sent his true qi from the top going down. By the time his true qi converged with Xu Zilings at the ocean of qi at young masters dantian, Xu Ziling has regained his composure from the young madams ice-cold little hands on his shoulder. He spoke indifferently, This is the great method to expel poison handed down from my ancestors, it can eradicate any strange poison. Chen Laoshi please be patient for a moment, you will see the result.

    In order to divert their attention so that they would no longer investigate their origin, Kou Zhong interjected, Who do you think put the poison?

    The young madam straightened up her tender body and moved away her delicate hands pressing on Xu Zilings shoulders. She looked at Chen Laiman.

    When their eyes met, a look of horror appeared on the two peoples faces. It looked like they were about to talk, but stopped short of speaking out what they were thinking in their mind.

    Kou Zhong was astute; he did not pursue.

    Meanwhile the two boys cold and hot, two streams of vortex of true qi already took shape. In the blink of an eye it rapidly swept past the young masters entire body.

    The young masters entire body, from head to toe, was severely shaken. Ah! he suddenly cried out and sat up, opening his big, beautiful eyes.

    Kou and Xu, two boys, were also surprised that their poison expelling divine skill was this effective; they looked at each other in astonishment.

    The young madam cried out in delight. She threw herself in total abandon to embrace her precious son, who was staring blankly, not knowing what had happened, demonstrating the true love between mother and son.

    Xu Ziling felt as if his palm was pricked by millions silver needles, it was numb and painful, so he knew that the poison has been entire absorbed by his palm. Formidable! he silently cried. After thinking for a moment, he circulated his power to neutralize it.

    The two boys stood up to their full height to pull Chen Laiman, who was moved to tears and was prostrating himself in admiration, to the corner by the door.

    Kou Zhong said, Who actually did this evil scheme? Will you need us to help?

    Chen Laiman seemed to have a problem that he could not mention; after hesitating for half a day, he said, Perhaps he was stung by some kind of poisonous mosquito or poisonous bug. Two gentlemens great kindness and great benevolence, I, Chen Laiman and Shao Furen, will never forget

    This moment the young madam carried the young master to the two boys presence and have him kowtow to express their gratitude for the great kindness, and thus interrupting their conversation.

    Hearing the commotion, Sha Fu, Ma Xuran, Xiao Feng and Xiao Zhu burst into the room. Ma Xuran and Xiao Zhus countenance looked a bit unnatural. When Kou and Xu, two boys noticed this, they started to understand that it was a struggle within the family.

    When the young master saw Xiao Zhu, he revealed a frightened look. Hiding his face in his mothers bosom, he pointed at her and cried out, Niang! Xiao Zhu Jie pricked child with a needle.

    All eyes immediately shot toward Xiao Zhu.

    Xiao Zhus face turned white, an ominous glint flashed through her eyes.

    Knowing something was amiss, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong, as if unintentionally, shifted their position so that they were standing between Xiao Zhu and the young madam, mother and son.

    Letting out a cold snort, Chen Laiman was about to make his move, but Ma Xuran was one step ahead of him; he rushed to pounce on Xiao Zhu, and thus by lucky coincidence blocked Chen Laimans path.

    This moment Xiao Zhu was standing side-by-side with Xiao Feng at the door; seeing Ma Xurans stretched out hand to grab her, without showing any fear, she calmly, but as fast as lightning, shot out of the door, in full display of her brilliant skill.

    One after another Ma Xuran and Chen Laiman chased her out; the sound of wind was getting farther and farther away.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong looked at each other. With Xiao Zhus skill, unexpectedly she was willing to lower herself to be a maid, and even poison the young master; it could be deduced that the family of the young madams husband was not an ordinary rich family or nobility, but it involved something that provoked other people to covet it.

    Having just recovered from the shock, Xiao Feng and Sha Fu waited upon the young madam and her child and helped them sitting down on the side. Meanwhile Chen Laiman and Ma Xuran came back empty-handed; evidently Xiao Zhu had successfully fled.

    With anger and ashamed expression Chen Laiman came to report, Laiman is incompetence, I am awaiting Shao Furens punishment.

    The young madam shook her head and said, Nobody can anticipate such thing would happen, the blame is not on Chen Laoshi, what punishment are you talking about?

    Seeing Ma Xuran did not show the least bit of shame, Kou Zhong could not help laughing coldly and said, Just now Ma Laoshi helped Xiao Zhu escaping, what punishment does he deserve?

    As soon as he said that, everybodys countenance changed; the ugliest naturally belonged to Ma Xuran. Murderous intent flashing through his eyes, he glowered at Kou Zhong and said, What do you mean by saying that?

    Kou Zhong spoke with disdain, Upright people dont do sneaky things, only despicable people doing that kind of thing while pretending to be upright; you secretly let that wicked scoundrel escaped. Ma Laoshi ought to know Jianghu rules. Since you have the guts to do it, you ought to have the guts to admit it.

    Raising both hands, Ma Xuran gathered his power and said with a cold laugh, My rule says those who speak out to harm others must die, those who babble nonsense will only provoke disaster. Let me see how much weigh do you, these two Jianghu charlatans, carry?

    Frightened, Sha Fu and Xiao Feng quickly hid on the young madam and the young masters either side. Chen Laimans heart was moved; without saying anything he stepped in front of the young madam and the others, ready to protect them.

    The atmosphere turned tense.

    As if he was oblivious that Ma Xuran was about to make his move, Xu Ziling moved his hunch-backed body to block the door, practically cutting off Ma Xurans escape route in this direction.

    At the same time Kou Zhong strode two steps sideways to seal off Ma Xurans escape route through the cabin window; hence, together with Xu Ziling, he sandwiched Ma Xuran in the middle. He said with a cold laugh, My rule says that if you can take my three saber strikes, and are willing to kneel down and admit your guilt, then Ill let you go.

    The young madam buried the young master into her bosom, to prevent him from watching the impending battle.

    Ma Xuran turned his eyes around in panic, while groaning inwardly. Just by watching how Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling move, their shenfa and footwork had given him a singular feeling that there was no gap at all that he could exploit. Momentarily he was at a loss of what to do. In that blink of an eye he suddenly felt that he had fallen into an inferior position with the enemy in front and behind him. Not to mention there was this Chen Laiman, whose skill was not inferior to his, standing on the side, staring at him like a tiger watching its prey; so how could he fight this battle?

    His mind churning wildly, he suddenly lowered his hands and facing the young madam, he said, Xuran is innocent, would Shao Furen please decide for Xuran?

    Everyone was stunned by his cowardice; they looked at each other in astonishment.

    The young madam heaved a deep sigh and said, How could humble woman make decision on this kind of matter?

    While Ma Xurans countenance was undergoing huge change, Kou Zhong flashed behind him and jabbed a finger on his back. Ma Xuran was hit and slumped down.

    Laughing aloud, Kou Zhong said, Quickly tie Ma Laoshi down, and then have him tortured well. I guarantee we will find out who is behind this. Humph! Really stupid and cowardly.

    Still hugging her beloved child tightly, the young madams gaze fell onto Ma Xuran, who was crumpling on the floor. She was about to speak when from the direction of Xiangyang came bursts of shouts.

    Everybody was stunned.

  7. #127
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    Default Book 11 Chapter 7

    Book 11 Chapter 7 Witnessing Injustice Along the Way

    There was a chaos on the city of Xiangyangs side river bank, there were even three, four boats moored on the pier on fire, sending a lot of smoke and fire debris into the originally clear, cloudless night sky. The dozen or so bamboo and wood sheds on the dock did not escape the fire; they were ablaze, sending out crackling noises.

    Bitter cries and shouts shook the heavens. Under the light of the blazing fire, several thousands of refugees and traveling merchants outside the city gate were running like wolves, rushing like rats; nobody could see clearly which ones were the perpetrators and which ones were the victims.

    Rushing to the deck, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong could only stare blankly at the scene unfolding before their eyes; they both thought that perhaps even ten Ning Daoqis would not be able to control the present chaos.

    His countenance changed, Chen Laiman said, Must be horse thieves coming to loot money and goods; we must weigh anchor and set sail immediately.

    His men acknowledged the order and moved out.

    Kou Zhong turned to Xu Ziling and said, Shushu [uncle]! We still need to come into the city to visit our family!

    Xu Ziling actually forgot his identity; suddenly hearing someone calling him uncle, he nearly burst out laughing. Fighting hard to control himself, he nodded and said, Yixin is right. Mr. Chen, please inform Madam, we are leaving!

    Sha Fu, who was standing on the other side, anxiously said, We have not given gentlemen your due rewards!

    Kou Zhong reached out to pat his shoulder; giggling, he said, Luckily Sha Guanjia [Housekeeper] reminded us. To tell you the truth, we have always been known for our chivalry, oftentimes we forgot to ask for the rewards due us. Ha! Guanjia really understands people!

    Regaining his composure, Chen Laiman said, Gentlemen, please wait here for a moment. Immediately he disappeared into the cabin.

    Looking at the shadow of people running around on the opposite bank, Xu Ziling was overwhelmed with a powerless and helpless feeling.

    No matter how superior he trained his martial art skill, under the chaos before his eyes, he knew that there was nothing he could do. Only when the world [tianxia] was unified would government decree be able to be implemented accurately, and then everything could be kept in track.

    Should he help Kou Zhong reaching his goal?

    He was sure that Kou Zhong would be a good emperor who loves the common people as his own children; he could not possibly turn into another Yang Guang.

    Meanwhile, accompanied by Chen Laiman, the young madam came on deck and walked gracefully over toward the two boys. Bowing down, she said, Since two Gentlemen have important matter to attend to, Bisu understood that it is difficult to urge you to stay. If in the future you have a chance to come to Luoyang, please come to the Sha Mansion at Shihu [stone lake] Street in the south side of the city. Bisu will definitely receive you wholeheartedly.

    Xu Zilings eyes met with her limpid eyes; some kind of hard-to-describe feeling flitted across his heart. It was not a feeling between a man and a woman. Because the young madams eyes were pure and faultless, only it revealed a heartfelt childish admiration and gratitude, so much so that there was an eagerness to get his protection and thirst for an older generation doting on her.

    After suppressing the surge of bizarre feeling in his heart, Xu Ziling spoke casually, Shao Furen is too polite. Supposing we go to Luoyang, we will definitely come to your precious abode to pay our respect to Shao Furen.

    When the young madams eyes met his, her fragrant heart was shaken as well. She had never seen an old man with a pair of eyes like Xu Zilings. Not that the opposite partys eyes were bright and sharp, neither were they deep and unfathomable, rather, there was a profound, attractive intelligence and affection in them, making her heart yearning to be dependent on him as her elder generation with a subtle child-like admiration.

    Shocked, she immediately hang down her small cicada head; offering the heavy-looking purse in her hand, she said, Such a meager compensation is inadequate to express Bisus gratitude, would Mister please accept it?

    Kou Zhongs eyes lit up; he nudged Xu Ziling.

    Xu Ziling cursed in his heart; reaching out, he took the purse. When his fingertips touched the young madams delicate hand, although he already exercised strict control over his own emotion, he could not stop his heart from being shaken.

    When the young madam had her hands touched by his fingertips, she felt a burst of fiery feeling spread out all over her tender body. It was a feeling she had never even imagined before. Her entire body trembled, she nearly cried out.

    Kou Zhong pulled Xu Ziling away abruptly. The two of them expressed their thanks, and soared away immediately. They first landed on a boat in the middle of the river, before sweeping away toward the opposite bank, and disappeared into the dancing shadows beyond the blazing fire.

    A strange feeling like she had just lost something welled up in the young madams heart; it was the first time that she encountered such strange people as they were.

    These two mens, one old the other young, appearance left nothing to be desired, yet in the young madams eyes, they were the great benefactor who saved her beloved childs life. Moreover, the longer she came in contact with them, the more she felt their good and honest, frank and sincere character, that they were real chivalrous heroes who were hidden deep without showing off.

    When could she see them again?

    ※ ※ ※

    When Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings feet landed on the ground by the river bank, all around them were people running away without their clothes and belongings, while dead bodies were scattered everywhere; it was an unbearable scene to witness.

    Those who were able to escape had already fled; the boats and ships moored at the dock were bogged down by raging flames and thick smoke.

    The City of Xiangyang was brightly lit, a clear indication that Qian Duguan was closely monitoring the situation outside the city.

    From the wooded area southeast of the city came the sound of battle. After exchanging a glance, the two boys let their feet had free reins as they ran at full speed toward the sound.

    Until now, they were still unclear of what had just happened.

    A moment later, after they had run for nearly three li, with the torch light of the City of Xiangyang behind them, they heard the sound of battle was getting nearer.

    Raising their qi, the two boys ran at full speed and very soon they were through the woods and reached the wilderness outside the forest. Sword qi and flickering saber immediately came into view. It appeared that more than a dozen people were engaged in a fierce battle.

    Upon a closer look, they were dumbstruck. Turned out this crowd of about a dozen men was part of a larger group of nearly three hundred Wulin people; they were besieging one person, and that man happened to be Ba Fenghan.

    Pulling Xu Ziling back into the forest, Kou Zhong looked outside, blew out a mouthful of cold air and said, This time Fengshi Han will be toast; why dont I see his confidante, Yu Yi?

    Xu Ziling was bewildered as well; he was even more confused as what the event in front of his eyes had to do with the murder, looting and arson that were happening outside the city just now.

    Under the torches that were lifted high, he noticed that the dozen or so men in the wilderness seemed to be from different gangs, societies, schools and sects, who stood in neat rows in all direction, surrounding Ba Fenghan in the middle. They were employing tag-team tactic, by taking turn so that someone would always be in the arena to fight.

    Ba Fenghan already had two or three bloodstain on his body; although he looked somewhat tired, his movement was still like a whirlwind, as he freely advanced and retreated among the seven or eight people besieging him. Reflecting the torches light, the sword in his hand flickered endlessly. Wherever the sword flashed, someone would suffer the consequence.

    On the ground there were already more than a dozen dead bodies, which naturally was his handiwork. But the enemy had inexhaustible reinforcement; if he could not break the siege and escape, he would definitely die of exhaustion.

    Dang! Dang! Dang!

    Ba Fenghans sword suddenly brightened; brandishing his sword to attack, his momentum increased sharply. He flew around like a tornado; two opponents in grey clothes were thrown high in the air, and the number of terrifying looking dead bodies on the ground was increased by two.

    A sweet-sounding female voice said, Yichun Pai [Yichun is a prefecture level city in Jiangxi] Er Dangjia [second chief], please send out your men!

    Four men immediately jumped out from a group of people: two wielded spears, two wielded axes, in a tight yet meticulous and flexible formation to join the fray, so that Ban Fenghan, who was about to escape, was pushed back into his original spot.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong cast their gaze in the direction of the voice, and saw that the person who bossed everybody around was a woman in white with beautiful shoulder length hair, her figure was well proportioned and graceful. Under the blazing torch, her slender eyebrows extended into her temples, her skin as fair as jade, her beautiful countenance as picturesque as a painting; she was extremely good-looking.

    Standing next to her were all female warriors, eight young women with awe-inspiring heroic spirit, wearing yellow warrior outfit and swords on their back, protecting her in the middle.

    Evidently she was the commander who directed this besiege against Ba Fenghan. Just by looking at the way she maneuvered the troops in timely manner to intercept Ba Fenghan, it was clear that she was a very formidable character.

    The woman issued her command again, Qingjiang Pai, Cangwu Pai, retreat! Jiangnan Hui, Mingyang Bang[1], take their places.

    Most of the people besieging Ba Fenghan withdrew quickly, leaving only those four Yichun Pai martial art masters engaging Ba Fenghan in hard fight, while the other two groups of people entered the arena, attacking Ba Fenghan so that he did not even have any chance to take a breather.

    In order to kill the two enemies just now, obviously Ba Fenghan had spent considerable energy; unexpectedly he was unable to break the siege to escape, and thus he was caught in the bitter struggle once again.

    Aiya!

    Ba Fenghans sword flashed past, sharp ray suddenly disappeared, the Yichun Pai martial art master wielding a spear lost his life.

    But the victory was like the night blooming cactus appears only once [i.e. short-lived]; the new batch of people with sabers and swords moved together, everyone went all-out in disregard of their lives, so that the circle tightened, the space in which Ba Fenghan could move freely was getting smaller. The danger was escalated substantially.

    The woman called out, Badong Pais [Badong county, Hubei] Chen Dangjia please personally make your move!

    As soon as her voice fell, a man wielding a staff soared up and leaped toward Ba Fenghan, with the staff striking down on his head; his timing was impeccable.

    While Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were left speechless with the woman in whites brilliant insight, Ba Fenghan let out a cold snort; like magic his sword created layer upon layer of sword waves, forcing the men besieging him to back off, before he himself leaped up to parry.

    Qiang!

    Badong Pais Chief Chen, along with his staff, was thrown far away and spurted a mouthful of blood.

    But Ba Fenghans favorable situation did not last long; the men besieging him took the opportunity to close in. After a series of clashing blades, two men were hit by the sword and fell down, dead. But Ba Fenghan also staggered because his shoulder was hit by a flexible truncheon.

    Three sabers and one sword from four different angles hacked together toward Ba Fenghan, who was losing his strength; each one carried a full power, each strike was swift and fierce.

    While it seemed like Ba Fenghan was about to lose his life, this guy suddenly straightened up his body and drew a rainbow to protect his body. The enemys weapons could only strike the sword light, which sent them stumbling back immediately.

    Six other men immediately entered the arena, without giving him any chance to rest.

    The woman in white signaled the others to retreat, while calling out four more names; they were either of sect leader, a longtou [dragon head/boss] or dangjia [chief] rank. They attacked Ba Fenghan so that he did not have any strength left to shout angrily.

    Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, In any case, we could be considered friends. Last time in Xiangyang this kid was not bad toward us. Do you want to rescue him?

    Xu Ziling asked in surprise, Zhong Shao, you have never had favorable impression toward him, havent you?

    A bit awkwardly Kou Zhong said, Just consider it we are doing Yu Yi a favor!

    Xu Ziling smiled slightly and nodded, You are just afraid that without Ba Fenghan, Wulin world will lose its color quite a bit! Ha! Lets go! Taking advantage of superior number to bully inferior number, what kind of heroes are they?

    Outside, Ba Fenghan already changed his previously hard, disregarding-everything, all-out attack, to a subtle, mysterious, extremely tight defense, watching-for-every-crack-and-exploit-it, kind of sword technique. Very soon two more people splashed their blood and fell to the ground. But those with good insight would know that he had no spare capacity to break the siege, and that was the real reason why he adopted defensive position, hoping to delay him getting knocked down.

    Lowering his voice, Kou Zhong said, Wed better take off our masks first, otherwise everybody would find out that we understand the art of disguise, and that would be truly disadvantageous for us in the future.

    The two boys immediately took off their masks and after putting it away properly, they looked at each other and laughed, before they swiftly ran out of their hiding.

    With a loud shout Kou Zhong pulled his Moon in the Well and charged forward.

    The people besieging Ba Fenghan seemed to know that someone would come to help him. Under the woman in whites command, the two groups of people nearest the forest separately sent out four men to meet him.

    Flicking his wrist, Kou Zhong turned his Moon in the Well into saber light and yellow rays filling the air, rolling in toward the enemy like a raging tide, its imposing manner like a rainbow.

    Xu Ziling let out a shout, Xiao Dis [little brother] coming! and soared forward toward the siege.

    Hearing that, Ba Fenghans spirit was greatly aroused; his sword ray flared out, forcing the enemy all around to drop and withdraw in a flurry. With a hack of his sword, one enemy was stuck and fell, and died a violent death.

    The eight men meeting Kou Zhong had to face the Moon in the Well, and every single one of them felt that they were completely shrouded by the opponents saber power, so that in terror, they were unable to attack.

    The most shocking thing was that the opponents saber qi carried a stream of spiraling energy; it was both hard to fathom and difficult to resist. Terrified, they withdrew in profusion.

    Kou Zhongs leg flew. After kicking an enemy, he entered the enemy ranks. The enemy could no longer maintain their previously calm attitude; their formation turned chaotic, they lost their systematic offense as they attacked Kou Zhong in confusion.

    By this time Xu Ziling already entered the perimeter of the siege surrounding Ba Fenghan. His fists sending out two punches, Bang! Bang! two enemies were thrown sideways by this exploding spiraling qi.

    With his feet firmly on the ground, Xu Ziling kicked an iron staff sweeping at him, while as if he did not use any strength at all his left palm lightly tapped on a shield, but the shield wielder immediately spurted out a mouthful of blood and fell back.

    Naturally Ba Fenghan would not stay idle; as soon as the pressure lessened, he swiftly backed off, like a thunderstorm his sword burst forth, first it knocked off a large axe and sent it flying, and then it cut through another mans saber ray, followed by using the back of his sword to sweep a middle-aged man wearing black, sending him rolling away for a zhang or so. Letting out a long laugh, he said, Two gentlemen are indeed Ba Fenghans friends.

    The siege surrounding him immediately melted like ice and broke like tiles.

    Blocking the sabers, spears, swords and halberds from the four sides and eight directions, Xu Ziling called out loudly, Lets not stay too long, well find a place to drink tea together.

    Ba Fenghan voiced his agreement; attacking all around, the enemy suffered a crushing defeat. In an instant he already joined Xu Ziling, and together they charged toward Kou Zhong.

    The battlefield turned chaotic; from the previously orderly and well-coordinated attack, it turned into every man for himself. Even when the woman in white shouting and scolding in her tender voice, nobody had any time to listen to her order.

    With Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan fought side-by-side, the people trying to block them were already swept by the wind, much less right now they were heart and soul trying to escape, who could stop them? Instantly they were able to join Kou Zhong, which increased their momentum by leaps and bounds, hence they were able to break the siege and easily ran away.

    ※ ※ ※

    In a valley about fifteen li west of the City of Xiangyang, Ba Fenghan, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong jumped down from a slit on the hills wall toward a small pool below, where they drank some water and took a rest.

    Ba Fenghan was dead tired; slowly taking off his upper garment, he revealed chiseled muscles and three cuts. Suddenly he shook his head and said with a sigh, Wow, that b1tch [poniang] is really formidable; she drained my spirit that I nearly fell headlong under her hands.

    Kou Zhong was kneeling by the pond, scooping the water to wash his face, enjoying the cold water splashing into his collar and down his neck. Hearing Ba Fenghans comment, he said, Is Ba Xiong talking about that b1tch [see above] in white? She is quite beautiful. Who exactly is she? How could she make so many people from different gangs and sects to listen to her command?

    This moment Ba Fenghan has stripped to his underwear; his majestic-as-mountain body entered the pool, and he waded toward the waterfalls. Casually, he replied, That b1tch is called Zheng Shuming, the widow of the late Dajiang [Great River] Alliances Mengzhu [alliance master], the Jiang Ba [River Overlord]. Have you heard about the Great River Alliance? They are the union of the dozen or so schools and sects, big and small, around the Great River. After I killed the River Overlord, Zheng Shuming temporarily took over the River Overlords position. In fact, from the beginning this b1tch has been the mastermind behind the Great River Alliances policy.

    Standing by the pond, Xu Ziling was watching the waterfall falling down on Ba Fenghans head; frowning, he asked, Why did Ba Xiong kill the River Overlord?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Ba Fanghan replied, I really dont have any logical explanation; he started it by taking his men to give me trouble. Problem is, his skill was not as good as mine so that in the end he lost his life. Thats all.

    Kou Zhong lay down and closed his tiger eyes; sighing comfortably, he commented, I am afraid the number of enmity Ba Xiong has is higher than ours!

    Smiling slightly, Ba Fenghan said, Kou Zhong, youd better do as Xu Xiong is doing, stand up for a moment. After each fight, it is best not to lie down. Lying down is not good, even harmful for your cultivation. I am also dead tired right now, but I am forcing myself to hang on, and not letting my exhaustion to conquer me. Ha! The battle just now was very exciting.

    Kou Zhong jumped in fright, Is that right? he asked.

    Ba Fenghan burst out laughing, You are very obedient! he said. And then, pointing to a three-cun saber cut on his left arm, he sighed and said, This cut was from Mingyang Bangs Fu Bangzhu [Deputy Sect Leader] Xie Hou. His saber technique was very good in exploiting cracks and gaps; it was very effective in tangled battle like that. If it were not for my over eagerness to kill, my sword momentum would not be that exhausted and Xie Hou would never had a chance to injure me, but then I would not have counterstruck and killed him. Thus life and death was decided in just one moment.

    Xu Ziling looked up to the heavens, the stars seemed to be disappearing from the night sky above the valley, it would soon be dawn. He said indifferently, This time Ba Xiong went to the Central Plains, was it for the purpose of stirring up trouble, presumptuously flaunting your aggressiveness, and going on a killing spree?

    Ba Fenghan moved away from the waterfall; standing in the middle of the pool, he displayed his overbearing might as he laughed aloud and said, Kou Zhong would not ask such a question. It is thus clear that underneath Xu Xiongs strong heroism is the weak heart of a woman. You might make womenfolk happy, but its definitely not what manly men harbor in their hearts.

    After a short pause, with his eyes flickering with cold rays, he looked at Xu Ziling, who was staring at him, and boldly said, In the life of the real men, the most important thing is to have a free hand, to stride toward the goal he himself had established. Whoever stands in his way, whether he is the most revered in Wulin or the old man Emperor himself, must be cleaved open by the sword. How could I, Ba Fenghan, have the leisure time to stir up trouble? I even disdain to have dealings with ordinary men. The way of the sword can only be brought to maturity by tempering oneself. I came to the Central Plains with the spirit of making friends in the martial art world, but those who were subdued under my sword have always refused to submit, and thus it has become hopelessly muddled, and by hook or by crook, trying to seek revenge. But why should I, Ba Fenghan, be afraid of them?

    Splash!

    The stark-naked Kou Zhong jumped into the part of the pool where the water was chest deep, splashing water toward Xu Ziling, who was standing by the pool, until his clothes was soaking wet. Only then did he emerge from the water right next to Ba Fenghan. Gasping for breath, he laughed and said, Ba kid, that was a very beautiful speech. What do you mean by Ba Fenghan is not afraid of them? Dont forget that just now you were nearly chopped down into minced meat sauce by those people, yet you still put an air of considering yourself unexcelled in the world? Ridiculous!

    Ba Fenghan did not know whether he should laugh or he should cry. You are getting more and more blunt toward me! he finally said, But I think this is very refreshing, because there has never been anybody who talk to me bluntly as a good friend like this before.

    And then, after letting out a cold snort, he continued, There is no harm in telling you, I have an especially potent xinfa [mental cultivation] skill with which I could send out my power at once; if I had used it, I would definitely be able to break the heavy siege. However, afterwards I would have to regulate my breathing for six months to recover. Therefore, I am still very grateful that you came out to help me. Even though you mock and ridicule me, I dont mind too much.

    Xu Ziling squatted down by the pond; wiping the water droplets from his face he said, Where did you learn your martial art skill from? How did you offend Bi Xuan?

    Xiao Ling, Kou Zhong asked in surprised, Others insulted you and spoke unbearably bad things about you, yet you are not angry at all and did not refute?

    Xu Ziling shrugged his shoulders elegantly and said, Everybody is entitled to his own opinion; womens heart represents goodness, honesty, and tenderness; there is nothing wrong with it. Am I right?

    A faint smile appeared on Ba Fenghans mouth; he said, Xu Ziling is indeed Xu Ziling; no wonder Wanjing was very reluctant to part with you.

    And then he immersed his entire body in the water. When he re-emerged, his pair of tiger-eyes revealed a far-away look as if he was remembering something fondly. He spoke slowly, Everything I understand in life came from my growing up in the middle of a group of horse thieves. All I know was that whoever has sharp blade wont have to suffer under other peoples rage. Ay! Its been a very long time since I recalled all these things.

    Kou Zhong, who was right next to him, rose up to his full height. He was only about a cun shorter, but his build, as well as his imposing attitude, was not inferior in any respect. In that case, you dont need to talk about it. Right! Werent you traveling together with Yu Yi? How come you are alone now?

    Smiling wryly, Ba Fenghan replied, She and I got separated!

    What? the two boys blurted out.


    [1] Qingjiang river in Hubei, Cangwu county, Wuzhou, Guangxi, Jiangnan is general area south of Yangtze River, Mingyang means bright sun. Pai Sect, Hui society, Bang gang.

  8. #128
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 11 Chapter 8

    Book 11 Chapter 8 Ten Days in the Mountain

    The three men sat by the pond. Ba Fenghan started his story, When Junyu and I left Xiangyang that day, we took the land route going north to Luoyang. After hastening on our way for three days, we arrived at Nanyang Prefecture.

    Who is in charge of the Nanyang Prefecture? Kou Zhong asked.

    Ba Fenghan was wiping the sword on his lap with his sleeve; he replied, Nanyang is guarded by Wang Shichong and the great general under his command, the Wuliang Jian [Immeasurable Sword] Xiang Siren. This guy really knows a thing or two, and I believe he has some kinship with Wang Shichong.

    Emotionally touched, Xu Ziling said, You seem to know our Central Plains situation quite well. Who is the enemy of whom, and who is the relative of whom, our knowledge is quite a mess!

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, I simply paid more careful attention! Besides, in a lot of things, it was Junyu who told me. Once I heard it, I will not forget.

    And then what happened? Kou Zhong interrupted.

    It started as small thing, Ba Fenghan said, A bunch of enemy from the cold outside [of Great Wall] caught up with us, and we had a hard battle. After killing and injuring several people from the other side, we left Nanyang that very same night, continuing our journey to the north; who would have thought that we fell into an ambush along the way? He played down the story, but the two boys could imagine the intensity of the battle; otherwise, Ba Fenghan and Fu Junyu would not have to flee.

    The other party surprisingly had this kind of power.

    His heart was moved, Kou Zhong said, Did you come across Bi Xuans eccentric disciple Tuoba Yu and his licentious, wild and romantic, pretty Shimei?

    Ba Fenghan was stunned. How did you know them? he asked.

    Its a complicated story that cant be expressed succinctly, Kou Zhong replied, Was it really them?

    Kou Zhong, whats with you tonight? Ba Fenghan asked in surprise, You seem to be very impatient.

    Kou Zhong stared blankly for half a day. Finally he admitted, I do feel a bit unusual tonight; it is very easy for me to lose my patience. I wonder why?

    Xu Ziling said, Must be because you feel something is about to happen, but you cannot explain it. Am I right? Because I also feel a little ominous.

    Ba Fenghan laughed and said, Lets not doubt the gods and suspect the ghosts! Anyway, with the three of us together, even if Bi Xuan wants to stir up trouble, he would have to pick some other day. You have nothing to worry about.

    Kou Zhong slapped his thigh, Well said! he said, Old Ba, didnt you say that its difficult for you to get along with people? I asked you something, you always hum and haw; not giving the straight answer, you skirt around the question. How actually did you get separated with Yu Yi? I am concerned over our Niangs Shimeis safety!

    Ba Fenghan laughed teasingly, It was you who changed the subject! Are you interested in Tuoba Yus pretty Shimei Chunyu Wei?

    This time it was Xu Ziling who got impatient, Ba Xiong, just answer the question! he said.

    The smile suddenly disappeared from Ba Fenghans face; his eyes turned cold. With a terrifying and chilling smile he said heavily, We were intercepted by Yin Gui Pais second best person, Bian Bufu inside an ancient temple; without saying anything he simply attacked us. I strived to fight him alone, giving Junyu the opportunity to slip away first. But after I managed to get away and went to the place where we were supposed to meet, I did not see her. I am afraid she has fallen into the hands of Yin Gui Pai people. I searched everywhere within the ten-li radius from that location, before finally, following the spiders thread and horse track, I went back to Xiangyang to look for her. Who would have thought that I came across that s1ut Zheng Shuming?

    Listening to him, the two boys looked at each other.

    Grabbing his head, Kou Zhong said, Where did this guy Bian Bufu come from? How come I have never heard anybody mentioning his name?

    Ba Fenghan said, Bian Bufu is Zhu Yuyans Shidi. This mans martial art skill is very high; indeed something that I rarely see in all my life. Any move that he made, my sword had to change several times before I could barely block him; it was such a strenuous fight. But he was half a notch inferior to me in terms of knowledge and strategy; otherwise right now I would not sit with you waiting for the dawn together.

    The two boys looked up to the sky; the first streak of dawn finally appeared on the eastern horizon.

    Ba Fenghan casually made a remark, He is Wanjings biological father.

    What? the two boys blurted out.

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, If Wanjing did not look like him, how could I recognize him in one glance? Bian Bufu is a Devil Cults hermit; his nickname is Mo Yin [devil hidden/secret]. Are you unhappy because I strayed too far from the subject?

    Kou Zhong sneered and said, I dont care if he is the Mo Yin or Pi Yin [pi fart/nonsense], but I can guarantee that at most he is only ranks third in Yin Gui Pai. If you came across the real second best person, female demon Wanwan, chances are you wont have any chance to see the sunlight.

    His expression turned serious, Ba Fenghan said, So Yin Gui Pais direct descendant finally set foot in Jianghu? Can you tell me the details?

    Thereupon, with you spoke one sentence, I tell one word, the two boys narrated their complicated and confusing encounter with Wanwan.

    Ba Fenghan spoke heavily, I have never imagined that Yin Gui Pais direct disciple this generation could be that formidable, Ol Ba must give it a go. Supposing I can take her, then I would be able to make a business deal with Yin Gui Pai. Your plan is too passive. You wanted to find your four brothers first, but all these things are unknown factors.

    Xu Ziling said indifferently, What makes Ba Xiong think that Yin Gui Pai would be willing to spend any effort in dealing with you?

    A faint smile appeared on Ba Fenghans face; sweeping the two boys with his gaze, he said, You ought to be very clear about that. Since female demon Wanwan already joined hands with Changshu Mou and Du Fuwei to capture Jingling, naturally that means that Zhu Yuyan and Qu Ao have an agreement with the Old Du to lend their hands in his effort to conquer the world. Moreover, Junyu and I have inadvertently spoiled their operation in dealing with you and the Flying Horse Ranch. The way the Devil Cult do business is blood for blood; enmity must be avenged. Just based on this little fact, Yin Gui Pai will not spare any effort to kill me.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings countenance changed immediately.

    Ba Fenghan understood the cause of their anxiety; he said with a cold snort, Gentlemen need not be anxious too much; your Yu Yi is the direct disciple of Yijian Dashi Fu Cailin. Even if Zhu Yuyan does not have any regard for anybody in the world, she would not be that stupid by provoking a big enemy that can easily capsize Yin Gui Pai. The one they want to deal with is just this Ol Ba. If we can capture female demon Wanwan, we can negotiate with Zhu Yuyan to exchange life for life.

    Blowing out a mouthful of cold air, Kou Zhong said, It has been many days, that female demon Wanwan might have completely recovered, if she has the help of that Bian Bufu and several Yin Gui Pais bandits, whether we can escape alive or not would become a big question, much less capturing her. Ba Xiong must be joking.

    Ba Fenghan let out a slight smile; he said full of confidence, If our martial art skill can advance by leaps and bounds in a short period of time, but we keep low profile, and then suddenly attack, picking the enemys important character and plot against that person by hook or by crook, what do you think will happen?

    Listening to that, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other, and then they promptly asked for guidance.

    Ba Fenghans sharp eyes flickered with chilling murderous intent as he slowly said, The reason I went around everywhere looking for martial art masters and challenging them was because I have not met any opponent with enough weight. If two Ren Xiong [brothers, generic term] are willing to delve into martial art study with me, sharpening our strength and repairing our weaknesses, if we have eight to ten days of time, we can surpass other peoples eight to ten years of effort. This is something that other people would never expect. Our advantage is that we are still young; however, in our continuous progress, we lack new challenges.

    Kou Zhong slapped his thigh in praise; he said, Good for you to think about that. But there is one thing I dont understand: your relationship with us has never been a good one, why are you willing to sincerely collaborate with us, two brothers? Besides, Yin Gui Pais real target is us, not Ba Xiong at all, so by doing this Ba Xiong will tie an unresolvable deep enmity with Yin Gui Pai and Qu Ao.

    Ba Fenghan looked up to the sky to greet the first ray of the sun into the valley; he smiled and said, I am used to coming and going alone, collaboration with you is just a plan of convenience, just something that will bring enormous benefit to everybody, also the incomparably significant step in our journey to reach the peak of martial art study. There is a chance that we might cross sword someday, but right now, for a short period of time, our only way of survival is to throw away all gratitude and grudges of the past, and work together to fight a big enemy. Humph! Whoever wants my, Ba Fenghans life wont have any good days to pass.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, Ba Xiong has formidable eloquence; listening to you, my heart is deeply moved. But we cant possibly fight all day long, we must also find time to scout the enemys movement.

    Xu Ziling disagreed, This is not inaction, he said, Last night we already revealed our track, that female demon Wanwan would cross the ocean to kill us. Since the Devil Sects enmity must be avenged, they will definitely fulfill their oath. As soon as they mobilize their people to find us, chances are they would. Our only concern right now is Yucheng and the others safety. If we can find them, we can put the load on our mind, at least in this aspect, down!

    Ba Fenghan nodded; he said, Xu Xiong is right. Within these ten days, we must abandon everything and focus our aspiration on the martial art study; a race against time. Everything else will have to wait until after ten days. Otherwise, even if we go out, we will simply go out in vain, we will only invite disgrace, and later on we can only hide to the east and escape to the west, always anxious without being able to carry on even for a single day. Whats the meaning of our lives, then?

    Extending his right hand, Kou Zhong spoke seriously, Well said! We will hide for ten his mothers days, after that we will strike with ten-thousand-catty-force thunder, to let Zhu Yuyan know that the world is not for them to go on the rampage.

    Ba Fenghan also extended his right hand to hold Kou Zhongs hand; he solemnly said, If my guess is right, when the enemy fail to find us, they would set up an inescapable net at Luoyang, waiting for us to fall into it. That will be the best moment for us to strike back.

    Xu Ziling put his hand on the back of Ba Fenghans hand and said, Therefore, the most important thing right now is how to find a secret place to hide. If we hide here, just by the sound of clashing blades and the wind from our palms will be enough to attract the enemy.

    Ba Fenghan had already planned in advance; he said, Southeast of Xiangyang, there is a mountain called Dahong; it stretches for hundreds of li. We can randomly pick a remote valley deep in the mountains, I guarantee we will be able to avoid the peoples eyes and ears. Gentlemen, what do you think?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling readily agreed.

    And thus the die was cast. With this sudden decision, not only they avoided the distress of being killed, the three of them would also take another crucial step in their journey through the martial art study.

    ※ ※ ※

    Under the moonlight, River Han meandered in the distance, flowing swiftly outside the mountains; the reflection of the moon on the waves created quite an impressive sight.

    Xu Ziling was sitting cross-legged on top of a high cliff; he slowly opened his tiger-eyes.

    After nearly four sichen of quite meditation and internal cultivation, the scene in front of his eyes became even more brilliant, filling him with a fresh, touching feeling.

    Sweeping his eyes around, he saw the mountain peaks to his left and right were like a giant roc spreading its wings. The cliff walls extended for thousands of li felt like a barrier that even birds would find it difficult to cross. In fact, even with their ability, they still had to spend a considerable effort to climb up.

    The lower-elevation mountain range on the opposite side was covered in lush, thick forest, with rarely seen vegetation too many too count. From among the rocks and crevices a stream of spring appeared. It flowed toward the wall and flew down as a waterfall, adding charm to the already fascinating secluded valley this deep in the mountains.

    With a gust of wind Kou Zhong landed by his side, and sat down on the edge of the cliff, with his feet dangling above the ravine, looking unspeakably free and relaxed.

    Where is Ol Ba? Xu Ziling asked.

    I dont know where that guy went to train, Kou Zhong replied, Ay! Frankly speaking, although our training this time is for mutual benefit, but because in terms of martial art foundation and knowledge and experience that Fengshi Han is stronger than we are, plus his natural talent is also not inferior to ours, perhaps he is merely nurturing a tiger to invite calamity upon himself.

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Zhong Shao rarely praised other peoples spirit and extinguished your own prestige; why suddenly have such a feeling?

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, The more you get along with Fengshi Han, the more youll feel that he is a callous and fickle man. Although right now everybody considers everybody else as brother, in the future nothing good will come out of it.

    Xu Ziling asked in bewilderment, Listening to the tone of your voice, you seem to have misgivings toward him.

    Kou Zhong replied in heavy voice, These past few days I continuously either sparing hand to hand or study meticulously; I came in contact with him a lot, and could only describe this man as deep and immeasurable. In crucial points he is somewhat reserved, hence he derives greater benefit compared to us.

    I still think that both sides are even, Xu Ziling said, It doesnt matter if he keeps a skill for himself, we still learn many things that we have never thought before, not to mention we also heard a lot of exotic conditions and customs of people outside the country. Right! Didnt you tell me that these days you are reading the book on history and military strategy and tactics that Mr. Lu left behind? What have you learned?

    Radiant with delight, Kou Zhong said, The benefit is naturally not shallow. Military strategy is thousand-time, hundred-time more complicated than two people fighting one-on-one; there are millions of changes, there is no way we can talk about everything. But in my opinion Mr. Lus imagination is not rich enough; sometimes his arguments are too conservative.

    Xu Ziling admonished him, You need to be modest enough to understand others experience and learning!

    I respect him, the Senior, more than you do, Kou Zhong said, Mr. Lu paid the most attention to the changes in troops disposition, such as triangular formation, plum blossom formation; the usage of strange and straightforward, what is true and what is false, and so on. Everything can be used like our predecessors have never used before. He taught me military strategy and tactics, his intention must be for me to use the things he researched in the actual battlefield. I definitely wont let him down.

    And then, lowering his voice he said, Do you think that Fengshi Han is really interested in Yu Yi?

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, This is really hard to say. This Ba kid is very shrewd, he never revealed his innermost feeling. In my opinion, he still loves himself a little bit more.

    A shrill whistle came from the mountain peak; it was time to practice.

    ※ ※ ※

    The round and bright moon cast its light across the mountain ridge.

    Ba Fenghans sword fiercely slashed down three times, creating ear-piercing noise as the sword split the air; vicious, violent, and ruthless, with the prowess that could chill the heart and split the gall.

    Ring!

    The sword returned to its sheath. Calm and composed, Ba Fenghan said, Xu Xiong, Kou Xiong, what do you think of these three sword strikes? Please give me some advice.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, The most formidable part of these three strikes was that whether it was the strength or the speed, either one can be adjusted to uniformity. The most hard to come by was that each strike is more powerful than the other, so that anybody facing these three sword strikes of Ba Xiongs will have to wait until the third strike before he can counterattack.

    Ba Fenghan nodded; without offering any comment he asked for Xu Zilings suggestion.

    As if he was still thinking about it, Xu Ziling answered, There is something strange with Ba Xiongs three sword strikes; they appear to be executed in one fell swoop, but the fact is that is not the case. There seems to be a gap that can be exploited. If the opponent is a martial art master, he would be able to exploit this small gap to counterattack.

    Sighing in admiration, Ba Fenghan said, That is an excellent opinion. If I wanted the three sword strikes to have equal power and speed, I would have to send out my power to the sword three times; thereupon the situation is exactly like Xu Xiong mentioned. During the decisive battle against Dugu Feng that day, she did find out this gap, and with her sword she broke my strike. This womans beauty is astonishing, but her hand is even more terrifyingly strong.

    Hearing that, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other. They both asked themselves: even though they had this insight, whether they would be able to exploit this gap to break Ba Fenghans sword strike was a totally different matter. Moreover, their opinion was based on the spectators can always see more clearly than the players, where they had a comparatively serene state of mind. If they were the recipient of these three sword strikes, they would thank the Heaven and thank the Earth if they could block the attack. From this, it was clear what kind of martial art master Dugu Feng was.

    Blowing a mouthful of cold air, Kou Zhong asked, Did you lose to her?

    Ba Fenghan proudly replied, She won in the exquisiteness of her swordsmanship, but I won in real combat experience. I intentionally let my saber broke and thus deceived her by half a move, so that she left in anger. But next time we meet, I wont be able to get away that easily. This b1tch [poniang] is more belligerent than I am.

    Xu Ziling suddenly understood, No wonder Ba Xiong suggested that we entered the mountain to train; this must be one of the reasons!

    With a cold snort Ba Fenghan said, If it was only to deal with that b1tch, one person, its enough for me to train alone. But my target is Ning Daoqi, Zhu Yuyan and the like. When I return in the future, the first I want to challenge is that fellow Bi Xuan, so that he will know who the real number one martial art master in Tujue is.

    Kou Zhong could not help asking, Have you actually fought Bi Xuan?

    Smiling wryly, Ba Fenghan replied, If I have actually fought him, how could I still be alive and studying martial art together with you today? But it was actually as if I have fought with him, because I have slaughtered his first disciple Yan Huifeng. Do you know what I mean?

    The two boys mused inwardly that no wonder Bi Xuan wanted to kill you.

    Ba Fenghan returned to his cold and detached manner as he said, Xu Xiong, Kou Xiong, please be prepared.

    Kou Zhong was taken aback, Are you going to deal with the two of us together? he asked.

    Ba Fenghan smiled and replied, Why not?

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, After spending four sichen in quiet meditation, Ba Xiong must have gained some understanding, so he wants us to broaden our horizons!

    Ba Fenghan slowly drew his treasured-sword; as he stood facing the breeze blowing across the mountain ridge, his clothes were fluttering. Since behind him was the cliff edge, it looked as if his entire being was embedded in the star-studded night sky; looking straight at him was like looking at a deity, but there was also an insufferably arrogant and overbearing spirit surrounding him. Stroking his sword, he muttered softly, This sword is made of steel I mined from the deep sea, and took me seven days and seven night of exhausting forging to finish. The hardness contains softness, the rigidity contains flexibility; it far surpassed my other saber, which was broken. In the past I could not find a suitable name for it, but tonight I suddenly have an idea. I hereby name this sword Zhan Xuan [beheading mystery]. Gentlemen, please be my witness.

    The one the Beheading Mystery wanted to behead was Bi Xuan [lit. whole/complete mystery]. This was the target of Ba Fenghans pursuit.

    Straightening up his back, Kou Zhong drew his Moon in the Well, and said with a laugh, The name Moon in the Well came from a profound mysterys idea; lets see if Ba Xiongs Beheading Mystery sword can really behead mystery.

    Ba Fenghans eyes shot cold rays while his gaze was fixed on the Moon in the Well, which, imbued by Kou Zhongs internal energy, was flickering with yellow glow; with deep contemplation he said, Kou Zhong, your sabers murderous aura is very heavy; just remember that the man can control the saber, the saber can also control the man.

    Stunned, Kou Zhong ran his finger along the saber; he spoke doubtfully, Is there such thing?

    Letting out a long whistle, Ba Fenghan turned his gaze toward Xu Ziling. The bright moon happened to shine on the high place behind his handsome face. Under the golden moonlight, the more he got the impression that Xu Ziling appeared to be standing above the common crowd, with his confident and at ease, proud and touching temperament. Ba Fenghan could not help thinking about Shan Wanjing. Sighing inwardly, he said in heavy voice, I am going to put forth my sword!

    Xu Zilings pair of tiger-eyes brightened; he spoke indifferently, Why is Ba Xiong suddenly exuding murderous aura, unlike before, where you exercised restrain and hid it deep within you?

    Ba Fenghans heart shivered in fear, knowing that any explanation would be superfluous. Smiling, he said, Hence gentlemen this time must be especially careful. Who knows? Maybe on a whim Xiaodi [little brother] will kill you! En garde!

    Cold energy suddenly arose.

    Beheading Mystery Sword swiftly attacked Kou Zhong. His left hand, constantly changing from a fist to a palm and vice versa, shot out toward Xu Ziling; powerful and dauntless without equal.

    Clashing noise lingered on faintly. Without yielding a single step, Kou Zhong successively took Ba Fenghans three sword strikes. The opponents sword potential suddenly changed; sometimes it opened wide, another time it closed tight. The sword style changed delicately: rolling, sweeping, slashing, cutting; the technique was mysterious and unusual, so that Kou Zhong was completely shrouded inside the swords power.

    The other hand alternated between stable as the bridge and nimble as the horse, striking from a distant and attacking from near, so that Xu Ziling was unable to coordinate his attack with Kou Zhongs to besiege him.

    The most formidable thing was that he was able to divide his mind into two different xinfa, so that he appeared to be two different persons, who were able to use different strategy to deal with the two boys.

    For a while, on this approximately three, four zhang diameter mountain peak, the sword qi rose high into the air, murderous aura filled the atmosphere.

    Seeing how heroic and brave Ba Fenghan was, Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings spirit was greatly aroused. They were abut to counterattack with all their might when Ba Fenghan suddenly spun around so that with his left hand he now dealt with Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well, and with the Beheading Mystery in his right hand he attacked Xu Ziling wildly; immediately the two boys offensive was put under pressure.

    By the time they steadied their footing, Ba Fenghan let out a thunderous shout, his left palm and his right sword moved together, becoming a fantastical mix of sword ray and palm shadow, like howling wind and torrential rain the left and right hands moved alternately, attacking the two boys that they were trapped in the disadvantageous position and could only react passively.

    Kou Zhong raised a mouthful of qi, he flashed across while his saber hacked ferociously.

    At first the saber seemed to be splitting an empty air, but by the time the Moon in the Well dropped, it was as if Ba Fenghans Beheading Mystery Sword was delivered right into the saber path that the sword had to meet the saber head on.

    Vortex of qi like a torrential flood burst forth, shaking Ba Fenghan that he was forced to take half a step sideways.

    Ba Fenghan roared in laughter and said, Now that was an interesting saber strike.

    Bang!

    Xu Ziling seized the opportunity to punch; Ba Fenghan lost his momentum, he was forced to meet hard with hard.

    Even with Ba Fenghans ability, he was forced to open wide his defense that he was unable to maintain his dominance with powerful attack like before.

    Kou Zhong won over Ba Fenghans right position. When Ba Fenghan retreated swiftly with the intention of regrouping and coming back stronger [orig. return in a swirl of dust], the Moon in the Well changed into a streak of yellow light, swift as a thunder, fast as a lightning it shot toward Ba Fenghans right flank. The saber had not arrived, the vortex of qi already blasted him.

    First, Ba Fenghans left palm chopped down an empty space, forcing Xu Ziling to back off; and then he swung the sword backhandedly while twisting his body to evade Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well. Just like before, he exerted a hundred percent of his power, yet he did not seem to be as dauntless as before.

    Suddenly Ba Fenghan retreated backward before advancing forward again; the sword following the person, he took the opportunity just before Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well arrived in front of him, the Beheading Mystery Sword turned into a rainbow, shooting toward Xu Ziling, who was about a zhang away from the edge of the cliff. Swift and fierce without equal, surpassing his previous attack, indicating that his retreat just now was not a sign of weakness, but a decoy.

    The most dangerous thing was that the sword was covering quite a large area; Xu Ziling could not retreat, his only choice was to meet the attack head-on.

    Pow!

    It was as if Xu Ziling already anticipated that Ba Fenghan would launch this move; he lowered his body into a horse stance, one palm struck the body of the Beheading Mystery Sword.

    If this were a flat ground, the attack was brilliant, the block was wonderful; it could be said that the beauty was divided evenly between the two parties.

    However, under current circumstances, when the two streams of energy collided, Ba Fenghan could move backward, while Xu Ziling absolutely must not back off.

    Seeing Xu Ziling was nearly knocked off the cliff by Ba Fenghans internal energy, Kou Zhong turned pale. But Ba Fenghan shouted, Grab the sword!

    Xu Ziling grabbed the body of the sword, and Ba Fenghan pulled him back, away from the cliff edge.

    Releasing the Beheading Mystery, Xu Ziling wiped the cold sweat from his forehead and said, How dangerous! I thought Ba Xiong really wanted to kill me.

    Ba Fenghan laughed aloud. He put the sword back into its sheath and said, How can I be that despicable? If I wanted to kill Xu Xiong, I have to do it in an upright and frank way. I was just testing Xu Xiongs real ability, and sure enough, you were really able to take what I thought to be a surefire [orig. not one failure in ten thousand] sword strike.

    And then he mused, Your so-called Yijian Technique, which you mastered by self-study, is actually similar in shape and appearance, as well as in spirit, with Fu Cailins Yijian Technique. Just like Xu Xiong blocking technique a moment ago, it has some kind of proactive overtone that is hard to understand. But with Yijian techniques xinfa of Using the man to play the sword, using the sword to play the enemy is quite different.

    What is Using the man to play the sword, using the sword to play the enemy? Kou Zhong asked.

    Ba Fenghan replied, Generally speaking, it means using the sword like a chess piece [Reminder: yi of yijian means (a game of) chess], which can be put in all kinds of situation. As soon as the enemy entered the game board, it can be arranged at ones discretion; it looks as if one can anticipate the variation in the opponents style. But gentlemens Yijian Method is not like that at all. For example, can Xu Xiong tell me why just now you were able to be one step ahead by sealing off the attack path of my Beheading Mystery Sword, so that I was unable to unleash the subtlety and force path of my swordsmanship as much as I liked?

    Xu Zilings eyes lit up; he nodded and said, Ba Xiongs analysis is unusually thorough; it was purely driven by instinct, giving me the feeling that Ba Xiong would brandish your sword and attack like so.

    Ba Fenghan sighed and said, That is precisely the beauty of the Secret to Long Life. This Taoist Schools treasure book indeed contains the mystery of life. Not only did it change your physique, it also, cell by cell, hair by hair, releases your spiritual potential. One might well ask, in the history of Wulin, who has been capable of progressing at a lightning speed like you? Being able to drive spiraling qi is even more unheard of. But I also gained considerable benefit. If I can be successful in the future, this experience of being together for ten days with two gentlemen will definitely occupy a key position.

    Kou Zhong roared in laughter and said, Listening to you, my hands itch! Wed better fight for several rounds.

    Qiang!

    The Moon in the Well left its scabbard and swiftly attacked Ba Fenghan.

  9. #129
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    Default Book 11 Chapter 9

    Book 11 Chapter 9 The Bloody Battle of Xiangyang

    Ten days passed in the blink of an eye.

    When the three of them left the Dahong Mountain, they all had a feeling that they had become a completely new person. Although Ba Fenghan was extremely daring, he had become cautious and timid as he used all kinds of trick to look carefully at the enemys track, so that they would not fall into an ambush.

    After hastening toward Xiangyang for one day, they looked for a hilltop to stay for the night, and filled their stomachs with Huangjing [King Solomons Seal (genus polygonatum)] berries.

    Under the starry sky, Ba Fenghan suggested, Even with female demon Wans outstanding intelligence, she could not have guessed our temperament that we were willing to hide for ten days. She must have guessed that we are already heading north to Luoyang; hence we should not be in any apparent danger along the way.

    Kou Zhong, who was sitting against a rock, nodded lazily and said, Let us take the quickest route to Luoyang. I am afraid Yucheng and the others are unbearably anxious waiting for us. Ay! Perhaps they had fallen into female demon Wans hands.

    Dont worry! Ba Fenghan said, Those four brothers of yours have been with you for a long time, and they knew the danger they are facing, so they should have hidden their track. To tell you the truth, the reason I have such a high regard on you was when Junyu and I started to pursue you and failed, which was practically an impossibility. At that time our qinggong surpassed yours, yet after pursuing you for a long time we still could not catch up with you. I still dont understand why.

    Xu Ziling replied nonchalantly, Supposing that time you caught up with us, would Ba Xiong really get rid of us?

    Ba Fenghan freely and carelessly smiled and said, Mortal beings will die eventually; whether they die sooner or later, it is still the same death. If you have lived the life I was living at the great desert, among the horse thieves, you would also have an apathetic view of life and death; do you understand what I mean? On this earth only the strong can rule the world, others are just a fake.

    Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, If strength is really a virtue, wouldnt that be better than using force to subdue people?

    Sneering, Ba Fenghan said, Strength is strength, everything else is nothing more than a means to achieve a certain goal and strategy. Just look at the emperors and hegemons who succeeded throughout history, which one was not a vicious and merciless person? Compared to Bi Xuan who kills people like scything flax, the Ol Ba is still far inferior!

    Xu Ziling cast Kou Zhong a glance, but seeing him looking up at the sky without saying anything, he could not help feeling bitterly disappointed.

    Ba Fenghan said calmly, Everybody has his own conviction and style of doing things. Dont think that because I am dauntless and combative I would not distinguish between red-green or black-white, and kill people indiscriminately. All right! Go back to the topic at hand. After reaching Xiangyang, I dont care whether we will have to buy, to rob openly or steal sneakily, we must obtain a boat and go up north along the River Wei; this will save us a lot of leg muscles. What do you think?

    Kou Zhong cast him a sidelong glance, Doesnt Ba Xiongs purse have enough gold in it? Robbing and stealing are not a heros conduct.

    Ba Fenghan laughed in spite of himself, If you have misgivings about this, just let me take care of it, he said, Ol Ba cant possibly treat anybody who is willing to sell his boat to me with meager hospitality.

    A cool night breeze blew; the three of them felt comfortably safe and free.

    Kou Zhong said, Listening to Ba Xiong, seems like you packed a plenty, it wont be exhausted in this lifetime; you made Xiaodi extremely envious. I wonder if I could ask Ba Xiong for some way to make money?

    Ba Fenghan laughed aloud and said, We will still be together for a few days; just watch carefully!

    And then a sinister smile appeared on the corner of his mouth as he said in a heavy voice, As long as I can capture a Yin Gui Pai people, I have a way of forcing him to reveal where Yin Gui Pai lair is. At that time, we can flip the situation: they will be in the light while we are going to be in the dark. We will use the assassination method of seeing-one-killing-one, so that Zhu Yuyan will know the consequences of offending me, Ba Fenghan.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged some glances; they both shivered in fear inwardly.

    Ba Fenghan might not be a bad person, but if he was offended and the offense turned into enmity, he would definitely become a dreadful enemy.

    ※ ※ ※

    At noon the following day, the three men arrived at Xiangyang.

    Xiangyangs city gate has been reopened, business was back to normal. They paid the tax and entered the city, and looked for an inn to stay the night.

    After freshening up, the confident Ba Fenghan went out to take care of the boat for them to go up north. Since the two boys had nothing to do, they went to a nearby store to buy two or three sets of new clothes, and afterwards they looked for a restaurant to sit down. Each one of them ordered a bowl of meat soup noodle, and gobbled it up heartily.

    Because it was already past lunch hour, the restaurant was quite empty. Other than the two of them, only two other tables were occupied.

    Kou Zhong spoke in a low voice, I have never had any thought like the present that contending for hegemony over the world is such an out-of-reach goal. But more than ten days ago, when I stood on Jinglings city wall, I felt like the world was acknowledging allegiance under my feet, and that I would never be struck down. Ay!

    Xu Ziling said, Thats because you are the kind of person who is unwilling to be left out. These more than ten days, you withdrew to a secluded place and lived a life of cultivation; you must be depressed.

    Kou Zhong mused, I dont think that is the case. These more than ten days, I was as absorbed as you were; I enjoyed the excitement of the clashing of the blades, and I reveled in the tranquility of quiet meditation even more. Sometimes I even forgot about Li Xiuning, Song Yushi, and the others completely, I was as relaxed as the swimming fish and the flying bird, so carefree and without worries. Sometimes my inner energy even felt like it could control the speed of spiraling qi. It made me felt I am rather like Ning Daoqi, that I have become the number one martial art master in the world.

    Xu Ziling slapped the table and said with a sigh, Supposing we can control the speed of the vortex; slow first and then accelerating, for instance, or fast first and then slowing down, perhaps the Ol Ba would not be able to hold on too long. But to reach that level, I am afraid we still have a long way to go.

    Kou Zhong was surprised, Turns out you are also thinking about this wonderful possibility; I thought it was just my imagination?

    Xu Ziling happily said, This time we spent many days and nights with the Ol Ba, whether it was our fortune or our bad luck, I cannot say. All I can say is that there is a great benefit in front of us. At least it let you experienced the happiness and relaxed state of mind where there was no burden at all, which somewhat lowered your ambition of hegemony over the world; otherwise, how did you come out with the idea that contending for hegemony over the world is such an out-of-reach goal?

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, Brother, you are making fun of me again. But it has also led to another heaven-sent wonderful idea in my mind. If I could succeed in contending for hegemony over the world, while at the same time maintain the forgetting worry, no-anxiety, considering life and death, honor and disgrace, outside my sphere of consideration state of mind, who could be my adversary then? His mothers! I can use the Yijian Technique in the battlefield; it will become Kouzis Art of War [play on words: Sunzis (Sun Tzus) Art of War]. At that time the world will become mine.

    While speaking the last sentence, his pair of eyes shone with spirited light; it was really intimidating.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, Its easy for you to say, but the fact is, its difficult to put into practice. For example, when we were standing on Jinglings city wall that day, facing Jianghuai Armys thousands troops tens of thousands horses besieging the city, can you really relax?

    I couldnt, Kou Zhong admitted, Because I was overwhelmed with the scene of death and destruction all around me; my mind was in great turmoil. But if I consider the whole battlefield as a big chessboard, all the soldiers and generals are chess pieces, and I am relaxed and comfortably playing the game, wont that be superb?

    And then he smiled and said, The first stratagem of the Kou Tzus Art of War: the first and foremost xinfa is deploying troops with chatting and laughing.


    Xu Ziling sighed and said, The only thing lacking right now is that you dont have any troops to deploy. Otherwise I would be really worried for your enemies.

    Kou Zhong was about to respond when a long laughter came from the entrance, followed by weird-sounding male voice speaking, Xu Xiong, Kou Xiong, how are you? Tuoba Yu is here to pay his respect.

    The two boys jumped in fright. Turning their heads toward the door, they indeed saw Tuoba Yu, the disciple sent by Bi Xuan to settle their score with Ba Fenghan; immediately they groaned inwardly.

    Tuoba Yu was still carrying his calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos attitude, he was still dressed like a prince or a pampered son of a wealthy family: in brocade clothes and magnificent adornment. On his waist hung his unique weapon, the eagle claw flying hammer. The most amazing thing was that both ends of his eagle claw were made in such a way that they fit perfectly into each other, to form an unusual belt.

    With face full of smile, he walked over to their table and exclaimed, Huh? Why does two Xiongtais countenance look so strange? Could it be that you are embarrassed because you missed the appointment we made six months ago to meet at Luoyang?

    Listening to his mocking tone, the two boys knew something was amiss. Tuoba Yu himself was a first class martial art master. The last time they met, he faced the two boys, plus Liu Heita and Zhuge Dewei [see Book 5 Chapter 9], alone, and he was still able to gain the upper hand. Although his martial art skill might not necessarily match Ba Fenghans, but the difference was not much, to say nothing of his martial sister Chunyu Wei, whose skill was not below his, and the Eighteen White-horse Riders of the Northern Desert, who were personally trained by Bi Xuan in group fight. If a fight broke, although the two boys had made tremendous progress lately, they still did not dare to be too optimistic.

    Kou Zhong smiled apologetically and said, Tuoba Xiong, please calm down. This past year, what Xiongdi went through is really hard to explain in a few words. Would Tuoba Xiong please sit down first? Have a bowl of broth noodles or something to cool down your temper first, and then we all can slowly discuss everything!

    Tuoba Yu laughed aloud again before sitting down. He said slyly, The waiter is gone, how could we order something to eat?

    The two boys were startled; they looked around and saw that not only the two waiters have disappeared to who knows where, even the diners at the two other tables have slipped away quietly as well. Such a big restaurant, but only the three of them remained.

    Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, We are ready to go up north to Luoyang to see Tuoba Xiong. Tuoba Xiong must not misunderstand.

    Tuoba Yu laughed and said, Two gentlemen must not have any guilty conscience. This time Xiaodi come here because there is an important matter I need to discuss. The Secret to Long Life can be temporarily set aside. When this matter is resolved, we can talk about it again. What do gentlemen think?

    Displeased, Kou Zhong said, You think we have guilty conscience in this matter?

    Tuoba Yu revealed a faint dubious smile on his face. Nothing could be better than that, he said, Xiaodi has a question that I hope two Xiongtai would be able to provide the answer.

    Tuoba Xiong, please speak up! Xu Ziling said.

    Remaining tranquil and calm, Tuoba Yu said, This time we came to Xiangyang with the main purpose of hunting down that traitor Ba Fenghan; coming across two gentlemen was purely coincidental, we did not even think that you were traveling together with that Ba thief. Frankly speaking, Xiaodi and my humble Shimei have favorable impression toward Kou Xiong and Xu Xiong, because you are willing to lend the Secret to Long Life on good faith. Therefore, I came with a specific purpose in mind to ask two gentlemen to not get involved, please do not get drawn into our fight with that Ba thief. I want to have your word on this.

    The two boys exchanged glances; now they really felt awkward.

    Presently they were about to take the same boat and travel through the wind and the rain together with Ba Fenghan, on their way to launch a fight against Yin Gui Pai. If this matter had not yet begun, they could watch Ba Fenghan facing calamity with folded arms and forget everything they have discussed, let alone talking about collaborating with each other.

    Kou Zhong said with a wry smile, Its not that we want to put ourselves in opposition to Tuoba Xiong, because we also treasure the friendship between us. However, Tuoba Xiongs request is putting us in a rather awkward position. If Tuoba Xiong and Ba Xiong are having a fair duel, then we wont interfere.

    Tuoba Yu was silent for a moment. After his sharp eyes swept the two boys faces back and forth a few times, he sighed and said, I wonder if Kou and Xu, two brothers knew why everybody in this restaurant suddenly slipped away?

    The two boys shivered in their hearts; focusing their power in their ears, they were immediately aware that there was something unusual going on outside the restaurant.

    Tuoba Yu spoke softly, Ever since Li Mi issued the Duke of Pushan Decree against you, countless number of Jianghu people want to take that credit. Among them are the Gold and Silver Spear Ling Feng, and Fat Demon Jin Bo, who formed the Supporting Li Alliance, whose momentum is the strongest. They assembled more than a hundred Wulin characters, among which there is no lack of martial art masters, and are going all-out to hunt and kill two gentlemen. So your situation is extremely dangerous. Just consider me, Tuoba Yu, giving you warning based on our friendship!

    Kou Zhong calmly asked, And right now they are already outside?

    Tuoba Yu replied, They are merely a bunch of people from their group. Kou Xiong, Xu Xiong, please be careful!

    Finished speaking, he rose up to his full height, and then strolled out languidly.

    Kou Zhong looked at Xu Ziling. The latter nodded. The two boys immediately sprang up from their chairs, leaped up to the air and broke through the roof; in the midst of broken roof tiles filling the sky, they landed on the back of the restaurants roof.

    As soon as they swept their gaze around, they were dumbstruck.

    The roofs of the buildings far and near were full with people. At first glance, there were at least over a hundred people.

    The Fat Demon Jin Bo and Gold and Silver Spear Ling Feng were standing on the roof of the store across the street, putting an air of catching a turtle in the earthen jar.

    A long laughter came from the roof of a neighboring building to their left.

    The two boys turned their gaze toward the laughter and saw a middle-aged man with lanky stature and outstandingly handsome face, and a free and easy manner, but his countenance was suffused with a harsh and sinister expression, so that his smile looked callous and cruel. He held a broadsword in each hand; his look was quite intimidating.

    Next to him were about a dozen people; tall, short, in all kinds of size and shape, but each one had high and protruded taiyang acupoint, they looked quite impressive, hence it was clear that these were not people that would be easy to deal with.

    The man stopped laughing and spoke in deep voice, I am Qian Duguan, the Chengzhu [city master] of the City of Xiangyang. I have come specifically to pay a visit to Xu Xiong and Kou Xiong, to inquire the gentlemens current situation.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged glances. For the first time that day they felt the seriousness of the situation.

    If it were only Ling Feng, Jin Bo, that kind of Wulin characters, if they were unable to defeat them, they could always run away. But if Qian Duguan was personally involved, it was as if they were fighting against the entire city. Whether they would be able to escape was a big question mark.

    Jin Bo let out a cold snort to attract the two boys attention, and then with a sinister smile he said, If gentlemen are willing to lay down your weapon, have your hands tied and waiting to be captured, I, Jin Bo, guarantee that before delivering you to Duke Mi, gentlemen will be treated well.

    Shaking his head, Kou Zhong laughed involuntarily; turning toward Qian Duguan, he said, Old Qian, since when did you become Li Mis claws and teeth? Doesnt the rumor in Jianghu say that Qian Duguan has always maintained his neutrality and nobody has been able to buy your allegiance?

    Following his lead, Xu Ziling said, Zhong Shao, you are somewhat ignorant; this is called the time has changed. Right now Old Du has taken Jingling, within the next few days he is going to go north, Old Qian is naturally looking for a master to take care of him! I am surprised that you can still ask such a stupid question.

    Listening to the two boys banter, which was full of taunting tone, murderous intent immediately appeared on the faces of Qian Duguans subordinates standing by his side, everybody was eager to move. On the contrary, Qian Duguan himself remained unmoved. Shaking the double sabers in his hands, he calmly said, If two gentlemen agree to tell me the real secret of the Duke Yang Treasure, I, Qian Duguan, will immediately withdraw from this dispute. Gentlemen, what do you say?

    Kou Zhong burst out laughing and said, How can it be that easy? If Qian Xiong can guarantee that we will be able to leave safely, telling you where the treasure is buried is not a problem. Qian Xiong, please make your decision first.

    The men on Ling Fengs side immediately showed tensed expression on their faces, they all wanted to know Qian Duguans answer.

    Qian Duguan smiled and said, If Kou Xiong is thinking of driving a wedge in our friendship with Jin Bo Xiong, you are wasting your time. Enough idle chat; either the two gentlemen will have your hands tied and wait to be captured, or be killed on the spot. There is no room for compromise. Are you clear?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling laughed aloud. And then they disappeared through the hole on the roof, back into the restaurant below.

    ※ ※ ※

    Boom!

    Before the enemy split up to enter the restaurant from the front and the rear, Kou Zhong was one step ahead by crashing through the wall and escaped to the shop next door.

    It was a grocery store. The people inside had already heard the commotion outside and closed his door. The proprietor and his two workers were huddling behind a slightly open small window by the bolted door, peeking at the movements in the street outside. Suddenly disaster arrived; the fully stocked shelves, along with the sand and the stones, splashed down, so that the store looked like the disaster area after an earthquake.

    While the three people were stunned, fast as lightning Kou Zhong flashed toward the boss and stuffed an ingot of gold into the inside of his lapel. Not forgetting to smile, he said, This is for everything that fell on the floor! And then he suddenly disappeared toward the back door, to rendezvous with Xu Ziling who had already out, and then in a blink of an eye they both vanished.

    Bang!

    Xu Ziling kicked the wooden door leading to the alley behind the grocery store; like an arrow he shot toward the end of the alley. With the Moon in the Well in his hand, Kou Zhong followed closely behind him.

    Ever since these two boys were little, not a single moment they did not pass either fighting or escaping. Naturally they were very much at home in this regard.

    A gust of wind arrived.

    Xu Ziling shouted at Kou Zhong and changed direction. Leaping over the alley wall, they saw the four sides eight directions were pursuing enemies. Hastily they dropped back into the rear garden at a residential home.

    With wild barks, three vicious-looking dogs were pouncing at the two boys.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were both animal lovers. Leaping up, they landed on the horizontal branch of a big oak tree, and then borrowing the rebounding force they soared again across two buildings and landed on the roof of yet another building.

    Swish! Swish! It was not clear who released the arrows, but the two boys were forced to jump down from the roof and back to the main street below.

    With unceasing shouts the enemies also scattered down from the roof and spread out to surround and intercept the two boys.

    Since it was afternoon, the streets were bustling with passer-byes; carts and horses were lining the street like a dragon. With this sudden change, the street turned chaotic, everybody scrambled and fell over each other to run for their lives, the carts and the horses were crashing against each other as the drivers and passengers were racing out of the carts in panic.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling took advantage of the situation; they mingled among the scattering crowd, flashing to the left and darting to the right and into a fresh fruit store. While crying out Im sorry! in their hearts, they knocked down two baskets of watermelon, scattering the fruits all over the floor.

    Two enemies had just rushed into the store. Stepping onto the watermelon, they slipped and rolled on the floor like a pair of gourds, while the two boys already disappeared via the back door.

    Running away at full speed, the two boys entered another big street, where they ran along the city wall closest to the southern gate. By this time they had escaped the siege, the enemy seemed to be falling behind.

    The two groups of men and horses in hot pursuit of the two boys provoked panic and confusion everywhere; the sound of shouting and screaming shook the heavens.

    Half a day later the two boys entered the main street connecting the south and the north gate, with the south gate appeared at the left side of the street.

    Originally the two boys decided to break out of the city via the south gate, but upon a quick glance, they saw that the south gate was closed, plus upon a closer look, they also noticed that a segment of the street, about two-hundred zhang long, leading to the south gate was completely empty without any trace of humans. Immediately warning bells went off in their mind.

    Making a prompt decision, Kou Zhong called out, North gate!

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong had a telepathic connection; even before Kou Zhong called out, Xu Ziling had already turned right to dash toward the north gate.

    From the direction of the south gate Qian Duguan and a group of his men immediately appeared and ran after them in a wild chase, carrying with it an overbearing momentum.

    After Kou and Xu, two boys were more than a hundred zhang away, constant stream of the enemies leaped down from the roof on both sides of the street; they all missed the two boys just by a little bit.

    The crowded street with people and horses scurrying along made the perfect cover and obstacles for the two boys. In just a dozen or so breaths later, they already crossed the middle section of the long street. Suddenly the crowd ahead separated. Like a tidal wave more than thirty fully armed men, led by Ling Feng and Jin Bo, surged toward the two boys.

    On both sides of the street, more than a hundred Qian Duguans men appeared from behind the roof, practically sealing off their escape route.

    Kou Zhong roared. Raising a mouthful of true qi, the Moon in the Well in his hand turned into a streak of yellow light shooting toward the leaders, Ling Feng and Jin Bo.

    Spiraling energy flared out, a burst of cold air rolled wildly.

    Xu Ziling chopped down with his palms left and right, a dozen or so gusts of wind, which were sharper than blade, struck with high accuracy, in terms of speed and timing, so that he hit a dozen or so enemies jumping down to the street as soon as they landed on the ground, but before they managed to steady their footings.

    The enemies immediately suffered a crushing defeat. Those with rather weak skill were instantly thrown down to the ground, and rolled away toward the shops or the wall lining up the street. Those with comparatively stronger skill staggered back and vomited a mouthful of blood as they suffered internal injury.

    Dang! Dang! Dang!

    The Moon in the Well subsequently clashed against Ling Fengs gold and silver spears, and Jin Bos iron staff.

    Vortex of qi burst out, the two men were instantly shaken back by Kou Zhong.

    But Kou Zhong also did not expect that these two were quite tough; although he was successful in beating them back, but it was quite straining, hence he did not feel the least bit of delight. Worse yet, he knew that if he did not kill ruthlessly to break the enemys siege, he could forget about leaving this city alive today.

    With a loud shout he pounced forward, not giving Jin Bo and Ling Feng any chance to breathe.

    Jin Bo and Ling Feng were cunning and quite smart; realizing that Kou Zhong was dauntless and unstoppable, they immediately retreated to let their men attacking from the sides, and thus giving them a chance to catch their breath.

    This moment Qian Duguan and his men were also catching up; they were only about a hundred zhang behind them. If these two groups were allowed to pinch them in the middle, the situation would be unimaginable.

    Having his little life threatened like that, Kou Zhong no longer had any scruple. The Moon in the Well swept to the left and hacked to the right, he killed indiscriminately.

    After ten days training in the mountain, his saber power became even more swift and fierce without equal. The vortex of qi went in and out as he wished. As soon as his saber went down, the person blocking it would be thrown back instantly, the men and their weapons were flying left and right, momentarily no one was able to stop him.

    Xu Ziling was following closely behind him, but his back was against Kou Zhongs back, so that the two boys were like two persons with one body. His punch and palm strikes created strong gusts of wind, so that the attacking enemies were tossed to the left and tumbled to the right. Hence Kou Zhong had no fears of trouble in the rear.

    Its just that none of the attacking enemies were not skillful, valiant or ferocious, especially Qian Duguans men, who had undergone rigorous training under powerful master, so that although they were unceasingly knocked down, but as soon as one fell, the other followed. It was indeed more than the two boys could attend to.

    Along that long street, other than abandoned carriages, all passer byes had already fled into the alleys or into the shops, hence the situation was greatly disadvantageous for the two boys.

    While still retreating, Jin Bo and Ling Feng continued calling their men to join the fray. Qian Duguan was also only about twenty zhang away.

    Kou Zhongs murderous intent was aroused. Recalling Ba Fenghans three sword strikes, the Moon in the Well hacked more than a dozen times in succession, immediately there were seventeen, eighteen men fell to the ground.

    Dang!

    Jin Bo knew it was time; he turned retreat into advance. Carrying fierce gust of wind, his iron staff blocked, seizing the moment where Kou Zhongs momentum was somewhat exhausted, followed by a sweep across Kou Zhongs lower part.

    Even with his ability, Kou Zhong still felt that his advancing momentum was obstructed; halting his steps, he waved his saber to block, jolting the iron staff sideways.

    Ling Feng shook the gold spear in his left hand and the silver spear in his right incessantly like a pair of poisonous vipers as he took the position Jin Bo had just vacated, and trust the spears toward Kou Zhongs chest.

    While Kou Zhong was groaning over his bad luck inwardly, Xu Zilings back crashed heavily onto his back, transferring a stream of true qi. Naturally Kou Zhong understood Xu Zilings intention; seizing the opportunity, he dashed diagonally and hacked his Moon in the Well toward Ling Fengs head.

    Ling Feng had never expected Kou Zhong to be able to jump and attack him like that; scared out of his wits, he rolled away on the ground, his gold and silver spears blocked upwards.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud, the Moon in the Well drew a circle of yellow light, cutting off the weapons of several enemies in the vicinity, and only then did it chop down in between Ling Fengs two spears.

    Ling Feng was worthy to be called spear expert; his pair of spears formed an X as he parry the chop.

    Wham!

    Although Ling Feng managed to block the saber, he was unable to withstand Kou Zhongs spiraling energy; spurting out a mouthful of blood, he rolled away to evade, and along the way he successively knocked down seven, eight men from his side.

    Qian Duguan and his men were closing in; they were only about fifty zhang behind. The situation was critical.

    Xu Ziling spun around and took his position below Kou Zhong; while with a punch he struck Jin Bo, his left and right legs flew out in rapid succession to kicked two enemies that were charging from the side.

    After this round of fight, the more than thirty men on Jin Bos side had gathered around to cut off their escape route.

    Bang!

    Jin Bo shot out his left palm to meet Xu Zilings over-the-empty-air punch head on. While he was staggering from the jolt, he heard sudden whooshing of the saber above him. The Moon in the Well was coming right into his face. The other men were scattered around from the saber wind.

    Jin Bo suddenly found himself alone against Xu Ziling and Kou Zhongs pincher attack, one from below, the other from above. In his shock he threw himself to the ground and rolled away; he looked exactly like a big ball.

    With this powerful enemy out of the way, the pressure against the two boys was lessening. Immediately they charged toward the thirty or so enemies, attacking them left and right that they were completely routed.

    In an instant the two boys broke through the blockade in front of them.

    In this crucial moment, suddenly they heard tender laugh coming from ahead.

    As the two boys looked up in terror, they saw Zheng Shuming, the beautiful widow of Jiangba, the alliance master of the Great River Alliance, who had been defeated by Ba Fenghan earlier. She was smiling sweetly as she barred their way about twenty zhang ahead. On both sides of her various martial art masters from various schools and sects under the Alliance appeared continuously.

    The two boys mind travelled at the speed of light; they immediately shot up toward the roof of the building to their left.

    Amidst the tender laughter, the Amorous Nun Chang Zhen, whom they have not seen for a long time, appeared from behind the roof. Her sleeves, like a pair of ribbons, flew out to brush them away.

    The more than a dozen men also launched their secret projectiles toward the two boys.

    The two boys cried out inwardly, calling for their Niang, as their good luck seemed to be deteriorating very fast.

    From the other side of the roof, the gigantic figure of the Evil Monk, Fa Nan, appeared. Holding his staff across his chest, he roared in wild laughter and said, Why dont you, two kids, try to break through this side, guarded by pinseng [impoverished monk, referring to self]?

    Just this short delay was enough for Qian Duguan and his men to catch up, hence the two boys were immediately falling into a trap where all four sides were guarded by the enemies.

    The crowd backed off to free up a large tract of open space; everybody glowered angrily at the two boys.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stood back to back; although on the surface they did not show the least bit of fear, deep in their heart they regretted endlessly.

    The reason they were caught in such plight was simply because they never expected that the four different powers would join hands to deal with them.

    It must be because the enemies could not find any trace of the three of them along the road heading north toward Luoyang, they concluded that the three must be still in the vicinity of Xiangyang, and thus they set up an inescapable net, waiting for them to show up and enter the trap willingly. Also, their mind was occupied with dealing with Yin Gui Pai, so that they were momentarily being negligence about everything else. Moreover, they had never anticipated that Qian Duguan would become their enemy, and thus they committed this blunder.

    The Evil Monk Fa Nan was the most aggressive, plus he had an irreconcilable enmity with the two boys. Leaping down onto the street, he held his staff toward the two boys, exuding a deep cold momentum. If it were someone else, he might be either trembling in fear, or abandoning his weapon and fled.

    However, knowing that hard fighting was inevitable, Kou Zhong gathered his thought, focusing his heart and mind and raised his Moon in the Well toward Fa Nan.

    Fa Nans pair of huge eyes shot a deep, cold and cruel light; they were fixed on Kou Zhong as he shouted, I want to take care of you, this kid, with my own hands; nobody is allowed to come up to help.

    Instantly Fa Nan rushed forward, his staff swept across ferociously.

    Xu Ziling calmly walked away; he stood proudly, a clear show that he would not interfere.

    Kou Zhongs strong wrist flicked, the Moon in the Well swiftly chopped out, unexpectedly he dared to meet Fa Nans more than a hundred catties steel staff head on.

    Dang!

    The saber and the staff collided; the noise shook everybodys eardrum.

    Against all expectation, not only Kou Zhongs saber did not fly away and the person perished by Fa Nans overbearing arms strength, Fa Nan, with a face full of shocked expression, even had to take half a step back.

    In the split second when the staff was jarred away, fast as lightning the Moon in the Wall in Kou Zhongs hand swept its second attack. Its speed was indeed hard to believe.

    The yellow light split the air and entered in, so fast that no one was able to see clearly.

    If it were more than ten days ago, Kou Zhong would not be able to launch such a torrential, overbearingly swift and fierce saber strike. But after ten days of arduously tempering himself against such a powerful opponent like Ba Fenghan, Kou Zhong was able to utilize his spiraling energy to diffuse the unprepared Fa Nans staff power, and was still able to swiftly launch a counterattack.

    While the crowd cried out in shock, the tail of Fa Nans staff swung back and barely managed to block Kou Zhongs earth-shattering saber strike.

    Letting out a stifled grunt, Fa Nan was forced to retreat about a zhang backward by the chop. Returning to the crowd besieging the two boys, his old face turned green from anger; his prestige took a severe beating.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, With such a tree-legged cats martial art you dared to show off your disgrace? Come on up together!

    Immediately more than a dozen men rushed forward. But Qian Duguan stepped out from among the crowd and shouted, Back off!

    Apparently his words still carried a lot of weight in everybodys eyes; the rushing men promptly halted their steps and withdrew.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stepped toward each other again, while groaning in their heart. Their present hope was that the situation would turn as chaotic as possible, because only in such confusion would they be able to find an opportunity to escape. Otherwise, if the opponents were using the tag-team tactic they used to deal with Ba Fenghan, they would be dragged into exhaustion and die.

    The enemies backed off some more, making the circle even bigger. On both sides of the street the people crowded the pedestrian paths, with the two boys standing in the middle of the street like a fish in the net.

    Zheng Shuming came out from among the crowd some distance away opposite of Qian Duguans group. On her left and right were Ling Feng and Jin Bo.

    Laughing tenderly, Zheng Shuming said, Two kids who do not know the immensity of heaven and earth, unexpectedly you dare to oppose our Great River Alliance. This time, even if you grow wings it will still be difficult for you to escape.

    Letting out a cold laugh, Kou Zhong said, Talk is cheap; send your men with real skill out, lets see who will be the first to have a round of all-out battle with the Ol Kou!

    Suddenly the crowd roared in anger; their voices reverberated along the entire street.

  10. #130
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    Default Book 11 Chapter 10

    Book 11 Chapter 10 Enlightenment By The Deep Pool In The Wilderness

    Qian Duguan shouted his order. Immediately more than twenty men in warrior outfit rushed forward. Sabers, spears, swords and halberds entangled the two boys in endless hard fighting. It was clearly a sea of people tactic to exhaust the two boys strength.

    Zheng Shuming shouted tenderly, from among the martial art masters of the Great River Alliance, a dozen of men came out to join the battle.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stood back-to-back, gnashing their teeth and met the wave after wave of violent attack that came like tidal torrent.

    Xu Ziling sent out a punch and a palm strike at the same time, while fast as lightning his two legs flew in chain kicks; three men instantly hit and were thrown away, and died on the spot.

    Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well waved to the left and dance to the right. The saber did not miss at all; everywhere the yellow light arrived, someone was hit and fell to the ground. It was an extremely bitter battle.

    Xu Ziling had just hacked down his palm over an empty air and seized a spear; in a fluid motion he swept a man, along with his sword, and knocked him down that he was unable to crawl back up. And then he called out, Zhong Shao, a move without any movement.

    Letting out a wild roar, Kou Zhong sidestepped; not only to evade a chopping down ax, he cut off two spears as well, and kicked another enemy and sent him flying.

    Xu Ziling followed him moving sideways, his left palm hacked down on empty air, sending out a burst of vortex of qi. The man he hit was whirled and thrown some distance away. With another strike of the spear he swept a thousand-army [i.e. total annihilation]; his move was unpredictable. Three enemies that did not have time to evade were hit on their chest and abdomen; blood splashed, the enemies fell down to the ground.

    Because of this move, the entire siege was thrown into confusion, unlike previously where they were organized in tight formation.

    Feeling the pressure was greatly diminished, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling did not hesitate; immediately they exploited the gap and let their hands and feet had free reins.

    Kou Zhongs saber moved like the wind; it was faster than flashing lightning as it danced and leaped unhindered among the crowd. Wherever the Moon in the Well flashed, an enemy would scream miserably and was thrown away, leaving a mess of dead bodies scattered everywhere.

    Xu Zilings vortex of energy shot out from the spear in his hand, penetrating an enemys wooden shield and through the pit of his stomach, while like a fantasy both of his hands turned into myriad of palm shadows, attacking the enemies that they fell face up, and their hearts and guts turned cold.

    Qian Duguan and the others actually already held a high regard on these two boys, yet they never expected they could be this overbearing; momentarily they were reluctant to personally join the fight. They only ordered their men to continuously enter the arena to exhaust the two boys strength.

    In a moment like this, where they had their lives at stake, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were having the result of their ten-plus days of hard training in full display. In terms of internal energy and external strength, hands, eyes, ears, and footwork, everything worked seamlessly together.

    The most shocking thing to the enemies watching around the arena was that oftentimes their moves seemed to fall into empty space, but it was plain as day that the enemies seemed to be drawn into that very spot and had their attacks directed to this empty move, without having the power to counter at all.

    Those with superior insight naturally could see that the boys were one step ahead of the enemys attack path. Yet they had to ask themselves whether in the midst of such an intense battle they would be able to see through the opponents move, and even if they could, it would still be difficult to do as the boys did, that in such time and position they were able to grasp the enemys movement so accurately, so that even though realizing they were about to throw away their life, there was not enough time to change their move.

    In the blink of an eye, there were approximately thirty dead and wounded scattered on the ground. Clearly the battle was very intense.

    The Evil Monk Fa Nan and Amorous Nun Chang Zhens demonic character was aroused by the scene unfolding before their eyes; they rushed forward to enter the arena, and thus increasing the intensity of the attack.

    By this time it was inevitable that the two boys body was covered in wounds, its just that in this critical juncture, they relied heavily on their subtle movements and the qi protecting their bodies that they avoided serious injury, and minimized the lethality of the enemys weapon reaching their body.

    After fending off a round of violent attack from Fa Nan, two more wounds appeared on Kou Zhongs body. Spinning around, he swept five, six enemies. But then he was hit by Chang Zhens ravishing colored clothes, who attacked him sneakily, and was thrown toward Xu Ziling behind him.

    Both boys body was blood-soaked from head to toe, but for the most part it was the enemys blood that was splashing on them.

    Peng!

    Xu Zilings fist met Chang Zhens colored sleeves, who was flying overhead, shaking her so bad that she was thrown outside the arena. Realizing that they could not hold on much longer, he bellowed, Follow me! And soared away in the direction of where Chang Zhen was falling.

    Kou Zhong drew a circle of yellow light, sweeping the enemies all around that they scurried away like wolves and scampered like rats, that even Fa Nan was forced to back off. And then with a somersault he followed behind Xu Ziling.

    High up in the sky, Xu Ziling shot two stands of finger wind toward Chang Zhens beautiful eyes, who was pulling her clothes as she floated back, hoping to force a gap from her as she dealt with the attack. But a sword wind shot from the side.

    Xu Ziling sighed inwardly; his left hand cut down.

    Bang!

    The attacker let out a tender grunt and floated away. Turned out it was the beautiful widow Zheng Shuming, who so far has not made her move.

    Her sword was extremely swift and fierce, plus Xu Ziling did not use his full strength, hence he was knocked down to the side, and his grand plan of escaping to the back of the roof was shattered. From this, it could clearly be seen how astute this woman was.

    Getting a chance to catch her breath, Chang Zhen turned her colorful clothes into a clump of flying clouds, shooting toward Kou Zhong, who was still somersaulting in the air.

    Kou Zhong had just blocked two spears that were thrown toward him, he did not have any strength left to deal with Chang Zhens full of true qis colored clothes. Realizing the critical moment, he dropped down back to the ground, and once again entered the seemingly never-ending battle.

    A powerful qi approached from the left, Jin Bo and Ling Feng reentered the besieging crowd, spurring a new round of attack.

    By this time both ends of the main street were full of people rallying to boost the enemys morale. Were it not for the two boys unswerving determination, their spirit would have been deflated early on and their will to fight would have been gone.

    But the prospect was clearly not beneficial to their side.

    As soon as Xu Ziling landed on the ground, Qian Duguans double-edged blade attacked him head on. As the city master of Xiangyang, naturally his skill was extremely strong, plus Xu Ziling was exhausted after fighting with all his might, and he had to deal with the attack of the other martial art masters besieging him. Thereupon he was instantly forced to adopt the defensive position, and could only defend an extremely narrow territory as he passively reacted to violent attack from the enemies on four sides and eight directions.

    Bang!

    Xu Zilings palm cut in an empty space. Even with his ability, Qian Duguan was unable to change his move, one after another his double blades seemed to deliver themselves right to the point where his palm was chopping down.

    It was the optimum situation Xu Ziling could hope for after exhausting his thought, exhausting his knowledge; borrowing the reaction force of the impact, he flipped over backward, and swooped toward Kou Zhong. Suddenly he felt searing pain on his calf, yet it was unclear who cut him.

    This moment Kou Zhong was besieged by Chang Zhen, Fa Nan, Ling Feng, Jin Bo, Zheng Shuming, and the other martial art masters. He should have returned to the western paradise early on, fortunately each strike of his saber carried a burst of spiraling true energy, plus he was quick-witted and very resourceful, and had mastered the Yijian Technique, so that the enemy was completely at a loss on how to deal with his heavenly steed soaring across the skies saber strikes, so that he was able to hold on to this moment.

    As soon as Xu Ziling arrived, he forced Chang Zhen to back off with a punch first, and then shouted, Lets go!

    Kou Zhong roared. The person and his strength fused into one, he shot straight toward Ling Feng.

    Although Ling Feng had his pair of spears in front of him, but the internal injury he suffered earlier had significantly affect his strength to go all out. Shocked, he hastily sidestepped.

    Kou Zhong cried inwardly, Thank heavens and thank the Earth! while gathering the little strength he had left to charge through the dozen or so Qian Duguans men swarming toward him.

    Amidst a series of clashing noises, the men staggered and fell backward and sideways, so that a gap appeared within the enemys line of defense.

    Qian Duguan, who was soaring in the air to pursue, shouted, Up!

    From among the crowd lining the street, about a dozen men responded. Spears and sabers rose up to block Kou Zhongs escape route.

    Xu Ziling took a palm strike from Zheng Shuming, but he managed to kick Jin Bo, sending him flying to the side, before flashing behind Kou Zhong. Stretching out both palms, he gave Kou Zhongs back a push.

    Kou Zhong was accustomed to work together with him; reaching back, he grabbed Xu Zilings forearm, together the two boys immediately soared at an angle, over the enemies, toward the roof ahead.

    Swish! Swish!

    The enemies on the roof immediately shot their arrows toward the two boys.

    Kou Zhong mustered the little true qi remaining in his body and transferred it into Xu Zilings, while using the last ounce of his strength to throw Xu Ziling away.

    Xu Ziling knew it was the critical moment between life and death, he quickly gathered the two persons true qi together and transported it into Kou Zhongs body, so that this one throw was full of explosive strength.

    Xu Ziling flew with his back first so that he was facing backward, while pulling Kou Zhong along that the two of them were flying far away together.

    The arrows flitted across the two boys, missing their body just by a hairsbreadth.

    Qian Duguan and the others pursuing behind them had never imagined that the two boys were able to exchange qi mid-air, and that they were able to use such a strange move of changing a fall into a rise up in the air. They rushed at thin air in profusion.

    Hand in hand, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong already left the enemy on the roof far behind, and soon they disappeared without any trace.

    Although Qian Duguan and the others still pursued with all their might, inwardly they knew that the chance of catching up with the two boys was next to nothing.

    ※ ※ ※

    By the time Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling entered the little valley where they escaped from the enemy with Ba Fenghan, they were very close to collapsing; their footsteps already faltered.

    There were two reasons why they came here.

    First of all, it was because they had no strength left to run farther.

    Secondly, if Ba Fenghan succeeded in evading the pursuing troops, he would come here to rendezvous with them. Even without prior agreement, he should have known this.

    One after another the two boys staggered toward the small pool under the waterfall, and dropped down on their butts dejectedly.

    Raising his right hand, Kou Zhong said, Ol Ba said that when our strength is exhausted our qi is gone, we must not lie down to sleep; instead, we must use supreme willpower to restore power, forcing ourselves to hold on. This is the key to skill refinement.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, If we lost too much blood, must we also doggedly endure that?

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, Fengshi Han did not teach us that one trick. Ay! I wonder if that kid has been slaughtered? I thought he would be here sooner than we are.

    Suddenly Xu Ziling stood up shakily. First he took the secret books he got from Lu Miaozi and hid them between the crevice of the rock, and then he leaped into the middle of the pond and said, When we escaped from Xiangyang a moment ago, we even forgot the moon in the well; it felt like every strand of our nerves was as taut as the bowstring. Wed better take advantage of this moment to copy Fengshi Han by training secret power under the waterfall to become amazing. If it really works, every time we did not die, well train his Niang like this.

    Kou Zhong laughed so hard that he coughed a mouthful of blood. Crawling up, he took out several books given by Lu Miaozi from his bosom, and said with a laugh, We must not soak these treasures. And then, like Xu Ziling, he hid the books in the crevices among the rocks.

    Splash!

    Kou Zhong, along with his saber, plunged into the small pond. Instantly the water turned red.

    Xu Ziling roared in laughter, and then he coughed, before finally waded toward the waterfall.

    Like two little kids, the boys you crowd in me, I push on you under the waterfall, resisting the pain all over their body, withstanding the dizziness that wanted to drag them to lie down, letting the waterfall pounding on their heads.

    The bright moon appeared along the top of the eastern ridge of the peak, casting its light into the valley at an angle, creating shadows of the trees on the bottom of the valley. The droplets of water splashing on the two boys body looked like specks of golden light; it was such an impressive spectacle.

    Having been through mortal danger and escaped alive, the two boys were suddenly able to see this wonderful sight, especially the subtle little things that they normally missed, so that momentarily they were dumbstruck, and subconsciously their entire body relaxed, and their mind felt carefree and without worries, their spirit also felt so peaceful. Their back became even more perfectly straight, their spirit bright and clear; other than the physical objects visible in their eyes, there was nothing else.

    It was a feeling that they had never experienced before. It was not like the selflessness state they reached when they were sitting in meditation before, but more like the spaces on the outside and the inside were suddenly linked, so that they could percept the unfathomable mystery of the universe, and could grasp some kind of inexpressible power.

    True qi converged. The essence of the Heaven and the Earth separately entered Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings meridians via the tianling [on top of the head], and the yongquan [at the sole of the feet], two acupoints.

    The two boys did not dare to speak; with all their might they tried to maintain this too-wonderful-for-words state of mind.

    Nobody knows how much time has passed, when the sound of footsteps suddenly woke the two boys up.

    Opening their eyes at the same time, they saw a tall shadow from the entrance of the valley swaying and staggering straight toward the pond, before it knelt down dejectedly, and while gasping for breath, casting its eyes toward the two boys under the waterfall. To their astonishment, it was Ba Fenghan, who was covered in blood from head to toe.

    While the two boys were looking at each other, Ba Fenghan spat out a mouthful of blood, pointed his finger at them, and said with a laugh, If I had not turned back to look for you, I would not have encountered that b1tch [poniang, woman] Zheng Shuming, and would not have suffered such a serious injury.

    Before finished speaking, he already rolled down into the pond, and stretched out his limbs in like a 大 [da, big] character as he floated on the surface of the water.

    Kou Zhong called out to remind him, Dont sleep!

    Xu Ziling added, Youd better come here and endure the water for a while!

    Ba Fenghan sighed and said, Just let me take a couple of breaths first, only a living person can have the advantage of enjoying fresh air! Tuoba Yu, Chunyu Wei, plus those eighteen muddled eggs trained by Bi Xuan, beat me so bad that even my eggs were nearly popped out. Were it not for the ten days of hard training, how could I, after taking down five [email protected], still be able to break my way out of the siege? Ha!

    Kou Zhong roared in laughter. And then, signaling Xu Ziling, the two of them got out from under the waterfall, waded to where Ba Fenghan was floating, grabbed his hands and feet, and dragged him away. Ignoring his protest, they pulled him toward the waterfall, and forced him to stand up straight underneath the falling water.

    The two boys had never touched and played with Ba Fenghan without any scruple like this before; the feeling was fresh and interesting.

    Ba Fenghan was exhausted and amused at the same time; struggling hard to keep his imposing physique erect, he closed his eyes and circulated his internal energy to treat his injury.

    Seeing this display of staunch willpower, the two boys could not help feeling admiration. They also continued circulating their qi to train.

    The moon slowly climbed up to its zenith, before slowly descending toward the western wall of the valley.

    From time to time they heard faint whinnying horses in the distance, but in this place there was only serenity and peace, like the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss that stood aloof from worldly affairs.

    In the darkest hour before the dawn, a human shadow, so ghostlike because whether it was real or simply an illusion was difficult to tell, floated into the valley.

    The three men instinctively reacted; they opened their eyes.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling blurted out almost at the same time, Wanwan!

    Ba Fenghans heart shivered in fear as well, because with their current condition, this was the worst possible time to come across Wanwan.

  11. #131
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 11 Chapter 11

    Book 11 Chapter 11 Chance Encounter with Li Mi

    Lowering his voice, Ba Fenghan whispered in the two boys ears, Retreat inside, we wont have to worry about being seen.

    The two boys followed him inside, leaning against the smooth mountain wall, the waterfall was like a curtain hiding them. Unless one was to pass through the waterfall, there is no chance anybody could find them.

    Wanwan stepped over the mouth of the valley, she examined the ground for any traces.

    Lightly shaken, Kou Zhong said, She was following the bloodstain to this place; we are too careless.

    Ba Fenghan coldly and calmly said, Bloodstain has no direction, we might came here or perhaps already left. Who could have thought that after being hurt so badly we could still stay underneath the waterfall drenching ourselves?

    The rumbling of the waterfall served as insulation for their voices, plus they were whispering in each others ear, hence they did not need to worry that Wanwan outside would hear them.

    Meanwhile Wanwan already floated to the edge of the pond. After sweeping the area around with her eyes, she fixed her gaze on the deep water.

    The three men immediately closed their eyes, and looked at her through the slit between their eyelids, afraid that their eyes would show any reaction when they looked face to face with her, while at the same time they used their internal energy to suppress the heat and the essence of qi emitted by their bodies, so that it would not catch her attention.

    Ba Fenghan has never seen Wanwan before, immediately he was overcome with breathtaking feeling.

    Her beauty was definitely unique; a beauty that would make people holding their breath, like a fairy that come and go in the night.

    Her countenance carried some kind of pure, flawless beauty and charisma; even after looking at her left and right, he could not imagine her as a female demon who inflict suffering to other people.

    The most fascinating thing about her was her pair of vast and hazy-like-a-fog eyes, eyes that seemed to contain endless sweet dreams, eyes that seemed to be expecting and waiting for you to explore.

    Any subtle change of her expression was so gripping, making people find it difficult to contain himself.

    Her graceful figure, her charming good looks, everything about her emphasis her beauty without the least bit of blemish.

    Wanwan suddenly fixed her gaze on the waterfall.

    If they were ordinary martial art masters, inevitably they would be startled and their heartbeat would speed up, which would definitely alert Wanwan. But these three were top quality martial art masters who were exquisite inside and out. Their bodily function did not reveal any reaction at all.

    Light gust of wind was heard.

    Suddenly a tall, thin middle-aged man dressed in scholarly attire appeared by Wanwans side.

    This mans face was white, clean-shaven, confident and at ease, handsome, brimming with mature masculine charm. His eyes opened and closed like lightning flashes. He stood proudly with hands behind his back, with some kind of distinguished and accomplished confidence, proud and aloof above the crowd.

    Without Ba Fenghan needed to point it out, the two boys immediately recognized the man to be Mo Yin, Bian Bufu [see Book 11 Chapter 8], because his facial feature was unusually similar to Shan Wanjings.

    Wanwan saluted and said, Bian Shishu [martial (younger) uncle], how are you? We are one step too late!

    Her deep and low voice was sweet-tempered and touching. Even though the three men knew very well that she was the most terrifying female demon in Jianghu, they still wished to hear her say a few more words.

    Bian Bufus eyes flickered with spirited light as he swept his gaze around, and then said with a cold humph, They are heavily injured, where could they go?

    Wanwans soft voice replied, There are still traces of blood by the pond, evidently they have been here washing their wounds. What does Bian Shishu think we should do next?

    Bian Bufu spoke heavily, We must use everything we have and spare nothing in killing these three boys, otherwise, how could we live with this resentment?

    And then he continued coldly, Chang Zhen and Fa Nan are really useless. If those idiots had waited for our arrival before making their move, those three kids would have gone to the nether world early on.

    Wanwan lightly said, These past twenty years, Wanwan has never seen Shishu losing your temper like this. Shishu rest assured! Leave this matter to Wanwan, I guarantee they wont have too many days to live.

    Bian Bufu laughed aloud and said, With you, Wanwan, personally in charge, Shishu is extremely relieved. These three are rare talents of the Wulin world; in terms of wisdom and martial art skill, they are extremely remarkable. Wanwan, you may consider the hunt for them as a step in your training. Shishu will be entirely at yur disposal. Ha! Wanwan, how are you going to thank me?

    Listening to this, the three men behind the waterfall were astonished; how could a martial uncle use this kind of teasing tone when speaking with his martial niece? But thinking about demon cult people did not follow conventional reasons in their conducts, and did not regard proper morality in human relationships; they did not feel it strange.

    Wanwan revealed a sweet, tender and soft smile, with a bit of coquettish and moving manner, as she replied, Shishu is doing it again! Dont forget that before my decisive battle with Shi Feixuan, Wanwan must maintain my pure yin character!

    Bian Bufu replied softly, Of course not! I am just reminding you! Rather than giving the advantage to an outsider, you might as well give your red pill to Shishu.

    Wanwan threw her gaze toward the pond water again. Her eyes shot a chilling and wistful look, as if her mind was in another space and time.

    Bian Bufu affectionately patted her fragrant shoulder and said, Almost dawn; lets go!

    ※ ※ ※

    Looking at the two of them disappeared outside the Valley, the three men breathed a sigh of relief.

    Tongue-tied, Kou Zhong murmured, If they examined the area a bit more, they could have found the treasure books Xiao Ling and I hid in the rock crevices.

    Is it the Secret to Long Life? Ba Fenghan asked.

    Of course not, Xu Ziling replied, A certain old mister gave us some books on landscape design, architecture, military strategy and tactics, and the like. If Ba Xiong is interested, please feel free to borrow it.

    Obviously Ba Fenghan was not interested. He said, Right now, the safest place to hide is precisely inside this waterfall. You guys better get out and hide those books first, and then come back here. We are going to recuperate here, and tonight well think of a way to strike back. Humph! We must take out the old thief Bian and female demon Wan first, and then take care of the rest one by one. I, Ba Fenghan, am not that easy to be trifled with.

    The horizon gradually turned pale. Even before noon, there were several Wulin characters came to the small valley, but nobody could find them.

    After the sun set, the three of them got out of the waterfall with bright qi and clear spirit; they felt that their physical strength has been completely restored. The only fly in the ointment was that they were soaked wet from head to toe, and that their clothes were tattered.

    Sitting down on a rock by the pond, Kou Zhong sighed in regret, If we did not leave the clothes at the restaurant, we would have changed into new clothes by now.

    Ba Fenghan stared at him for a moment, and then while stroking the Beheading Mysterious resting on his knees, he asked, Hows your injury?

    Wiping the water dripping down from his hair, Xu Ziling replied, Should be seventy, eighty-percent recovered. Two or three days more, and we should be a hundred percent recovered.

    Ba Fenghan was silent for half a day. Finally he sighed and said, The Secret to Long Life is indeed amazing. Merely its ability to heal injury, none of the other so-called divine skill can match.

    Kou Zhong could not help asking, Hows yours?

    Ba Fenghan cheerfully replied, Fortunately you, two guys, pulled me by force to the waterfall to circulate my qi and move my energy, which not only avoided a fatal disaster, it sped up the healing process as well. Now I am more than fifty-percent recovered. As long as I momentarily avoid martial art expert like female demon Wan or Bian Bufu, the others are not even worth Ol Bas consideration.

    Troubled, Xu Ziling said, I hope Yu Yi did not fall into their hands.

    Kou Zhong replied, Listening to their tone, they had not captured Yu Yi yet; otherwise, it would be enough to use Yu Yi to lure us out.

    And then, turning to Ba Fenghan he asked, Are you sure Princess Dongming is Bian Bufus daughter?

    Wanjing did not tell me right out, Ba Fenghan admitted, There must be some embarrassing scandal in it. But looking at Wanjings expression when mentioning Bian Bufu, it was clear that she had deep hatred and loathness toward this father. She even said that she wanted to kill him with her own hands.

    Listening to that, the two boys were staring blankly.

    Ba Fenghan suddenly laughed in a very relaxed manner, We might as well return to Xiangyang; other than to find two sets of new clothes, we can also teach that idiot Qian Duguan a lesson. While we are at it, we can also try to seize a fast boat per our original plan to take us north to Luoyang, and establish our power under the heavens; wouldnt it be delightful?

    Kou Zhong roared in laughter and said, Those are precisely what I have in mind. Dodging to the left and hiding to the right, that is the true quality of a real man. Who is daring enough may release his horse and come out!

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, If we keep in the light while the enemy is hiding in the dark, wont we be at the disadvantage position and could only wait passively to be beaten?

    Thats the reason why I wanted to take a boat to go north, Ba Fenghan replied, By the time they find out, it will take a lot of time for them to catch up with us; it wont be as easy as gathering a mob on land to besiege us. If necessary, we can lure them to pursue us on land, and then we can think of a way to defeat them. The initiative is completely in our hands.

    Slapping his chest, Kou Zhong guaranteed, I am master helmsman. As long as the boat has a good performance, I can break away from any enemys vessel.

    Hearing that, Xu Ziling could only shake his head.

    Ba Fenghan stood up and said, All right! We return to the city now, then well still have a bit of time to sleep. Qian Duguan is filthy rich; other than his main residence inside the city, he also has other courtyards everywhere, plus golden houses to keep his mistresses. We are going to go to his most beloved concubine Bai Jingers residence, the Hidden Clarity Pavilion, to make some trouble for an evening. If Qian Duguan came to visit the Bai beauty, that will be the moment his bad luck arrive.

    How do you know Old Qians business so clearly? Kou Zhong asked in amazement.

    Ba Fenghan replied nonchalantly, Because I have received five hundred taels of gold to take the head above his neck. Its just that I have not had a chance to kill him!

    Hearing that, the two boys looked at each other in astonishment; they started to understand a little bit how Ba Fenghan sought his livelihood.

    ※ ※ ※

    The three of them jumped over the wall, and saw unbroken line of houses, with faint noise of dogs barking in the distance.

    In the dead of the night, the only light they saw came from one towering building and its main hall.

    Ba Fenghan said, This residence is divided into two courtyards, inner and outer. The outer courtyard has vicious dogs guarding it, but because Bai Qinger is afraid of dogs, her people did not let the dogs enter the inner courtyard. Lets go!

    The three men soared into the air, crossing several buildings, over the inner wall, and reached the big garden inside the inner courtyard. They saw pavilions and gazebos, and a small bridge over running water. Under the moonlight, the quiet and secluded garden was like a picture of serenity; a beautiful and touching scenery.

    The three held their breath and listened carefully. After making sure that there was no one in the wing room on the building to their left, they crossed the garden, and entered in through the window.

    Turned out this room was a big study room; the large desk had the Four Treasures of the Study [i.e. brush, ink, paper and ink stone], as well as a stack of fine writing paper and other stuff.

    All four walls were full of calligraphy and painting; the entire room was brimming with scholarly atmosphere.

    Smiling, Ba Fenghan said, I forgot to tell you that the Old Qians Bai beauty is an expert in painting and calligraphy. You two wait here for a moment, I am going to steal three sets of clothes and will be back soon.

    After Ba Fenghan left from the window, the two boys walked over to two couches on the corner and lay down comfortably. Recalling the fierce battle just the previous day, compared to the leisurely and carefree moment of right now, the difference was like the heaven and the earth.

    Kou Zhong heaved a deep sigh and said, Nothing is too bizarre in this world; can you imagine that we would share trials and tribulation, would join hands and advance and retreat together with Fengshi Han like this?

    Xu Ziling muttered, I still think that the Ol Ba is the kind of man who could turn his face against anybody and show no mercy at any time, a man with callous character. Walking with him, whether it is a blessing or a curse, it is still difficult to predict.

    Letting out a cold humph, Kou Zhong said, Our partnership is based merely on common immediate interest. As long as we are careful, what can he do to us? At the Dahong Mountain the other day, I really think that he genuinely wanted to kill you, only I do not know why he suddenly changed his mind.

    Xu Ziling said, This man is hovering between upright and evil, his conduct is difficult to fathom, we definitely must guard against him.

    Kou Zhong nodded in agreement.

    This moment Ba Fenghan returned. Tossing two sets of clothes to them, he said, Quickly change, I think the Old Du will be here tonight, because two of Bai beautys personal maids are preparing swallows nest soup, but the amount is enough to feed ten people.

    The two boys spirit was greatly aroused; they got up and changed clothes.

    After putting on their fresh warrior outfit, all three men found out that the clothes were a bit too small.

    Ba Fenghan smiled wryly and said, These are the largest clothes I could find. Does that mean our build is just bigger than average men? It does have its advantages and drawbacks!

    The two boys also found it amusing and laughed.

    Kou Zhong was about to speak, when suddenly they heard voices from the direction of the front courtyard.

    The three focused their attention to listen; they recognized one of those voices belonged to Qian Duguan.

    A deep, cold murderous intention flashed in Ba Fenghans eyes; with his right hand he made a chopping gesture.

    Kou Zhong moved toward the window to peek outside. He saw more than a dozen people walking along the promenade toward the building they were in. Leading the procession were Qian Duguan and a big and tall man with a peculiar look; his long hair was draped over his shoulders.

    Overwhelmed with shock, Kou Zhong stepped back. Li Mis here! he blurted out.

    Even with the kind of guts that Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling had, they could not stop their countenance from changing.


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  12. #132
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 12 Chapter 1

    Book 12 Chapter 1 Free Talk Between Major Powers
    Translated by Foxs

    The three had never expected they would encounter Li Mi in this place; immediately their carefully laid out plan went out the window.

    Li Mi was among the world-renowned martial art masters; his fame for fighting prowess was even above Du Fuweis, the number of capable people under his command was countless. Even though the three of them had high self-confidence, the only thing in their mind right now was how to slip away quietly, and not how to settle their score with Qian Duguan.

    According to reason, if Qian Duguan wanted to entertain such an esteemed guest, he ought to have his household maids and servants lining up in formation. Yet presently he did not even send anybody to clean up, plus the preparation was severely lacking. No doubt Li Mis visit this time was strictly confidential. Unfortunately the three men accidentally found out about it.

    What could be so important that they had to discuss it?

    Li Mi was a man skilled in military tactics and trickery, his scheme to have Zhai Rang murdered was just one spot on the leopard. Yet despite his busy schedule he still made time to see Qian Duguan. Whatever it was, it must be something extremely important.

    Ba Fenghan called out in low voice, Lets go! They are coming here.

    Kou Zhong swept his gaze. Finally his eyes stopped at a large wardrobe standing at the corner of the study room. He said, You go find a place to hide outside, I want to listen to whatever they have to say.

    Fast as lightning he moved to the wardrobe, which reached up to eight chi in height, opened the door, and saw that the inside of the wardrobe was stuffed full of rolls of paper; there was no way Kou Zhong could fit himself there.

    Kou Zhong did not dare to be negligent. He picked up one large roll of paper and stuffed it in Xu Zilings bosom, who had just come to his side.

    Ba Fenghan understood immediately; he also rushed over and picked up another large roll of paper, and then the two of them, carrying rolls of paper that weighed approximately a hundred catties, left from another window on the side.

    Kou Zhong barely had time to find a place where he could fit in and closed the door when Qian Duguan pushed the door and came in. It was indeed a hairbreadth escape. Were it not for the fact that the three men were superior martial art masters, it would be strange indeed if Li Mi did not detect their presence.

    Inside the wardrobe, he took a deep breath and restrained the qi within his body, entering the breathing system of the Secret to Long Life, so that his bodily function slowed down considerably to avoid Li Mis perception.

    Qian Duguans voice was heard on the outside, Mi Gong [Duke Mi], please sit down! Followed by the sound of everybody sitting down.

    Kou Zhong pricked up his ear and listened carefully. Judging from the sound of the breathing, there were only five people inside the study room. Needless to say, the other three must be extraordinary characters.

    He could not help feeling very proud of himself, thinking that although Li Mis perception was higher than the heavens, he still did not imagine that there was someone else a step ahead of them hiding inside the study room. His only hope right now was that Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan also evaded their detection.

    Li Mis breathing was strong, fine and long, and relaxed. The other twos breathing seemed to be there, yet seemed to be nonexistent as well; a clear sign that these twos martial art skill was not too far below Li Mis. Simply this one discovery was enough to shock Kou Zhong.

    Li Mis firm, yet deep and low voice was heard outside the wardrobe, This Hidden Clarity courtyard is elegant and secluded, he said with a laugh, It is like the outer-worldly Peace Blossom Spring in the midst of bustling marketplace. Qian Xiong really knows how to enjoy life.

    Qian Duguan laughed aloud and said, Mi Gong indeed has singular insight; in just one glance you already see through Xiaodi. Since childhood I am the kind of person who lacks ambitions, my only hope was to live in a gentle and soft village, simply going through life in happiness. Gentlemen please do not laugh at me.

    Kou Zhong cursed in his heart, because if Qian Duguan was really that kind of person, he would not have become the City Master of Xiangyang. And the previous day he would not have besieged Xu Ziling and him.

    What he said was to declare his position; on one hand, he told Li Mi that he would not contend for the world against Li Mi, on the other hand, he wanted to put himself in a more favorable situation in the upcoming negotiation. Killing two birds with one stone; a rather effective strategy.

    A young sounding male voice laughed and said, Qian Chengzhu [city master] really knows how to be modest. I hear that Chengzhu has ten-thousand matters to attend to on a daily basis, that one time you have worked nonstop without sleeping for seven days and nights, without leaving your office for even half a step. Your energetic vigor is truly admirable.

    Surprisingly, it was Xu Shijis voice.

    On the surface it sounded as if he was flattering Qian Duguan, but he actually hinted that they knew Qian Duguans situation like the back of their hands, and thus suggesting Qian Duguan not to play games with them.

    Clearing his throat, Qian Duguan said in amazement, That was when the Ol Qian has just taken over Xiangyang; I am surprised that Xu Junshi [military counselor/advisor] has such a fast and abundant news network.

    Li Mi spoke indifferently, That is because we have extremely high expectation of Qian Chengzhu, hence we pay close attention to Chengzhus affair.

    Qian Duguan laughed aloud and said, To be able to catch Mi Gongs attention, Ol Qian is deeply honored. My only hope is that the Ol Qian will not disappoint Mi Gong.

    And then, heaving a deep sigh, he went on, Ol Qian was hoping that meeting Mi Gong this time I can offer you two great gifts; its a pity that the enterprise is ruined for the sake of one basketful, unexpectedly those two kids slipped away.

    Two cold snorts were heard simultaneously; one was sharp, the other deep and low, but both were brimming with disdain. Evidently these were the other two people who had not spoken yet.

    Even inside the wardrobe, Kou Zhongs ears were buzzing from the snort; clearly these two were martial art masters of internal energy, and their skill level was quite superior.

    Obviously Qian Duguan was a bit unhappy; his voice turned cold as he said, Fortunately now the Changbai Pai [Changbai is a mountain range northeast of China] two teachers Fu Zhen and Fu Yan whose names shook the northern desert [or Outer Mongolia] have personally arrived; in my humble opinion, these two despicable fellows days are numbered.

    While Kou Zhong was speculating who in the world were Fu Zhen and Fu Yan, Li Mi changed the topic by saying, I hear Ba Fenghan is hanging around with them. This Tujue man is the Western Regions most outstanding and brimming-with-talent martial art master after Bi Xuan. Also he is very ruthless; killing people as easy as breathing, so relaxed, free and easy. Hence we must tread carefully.

    This man spoke in a way that was neither servile nor overbearing; not only it demonstrated his vision, it also showed modesty in his prudence. He truly deserved his reputation as the most charismatic and respected leader of the present age.

    The man with the sharp voice spoke coldly, Mi Gong, please set your heart at ease. In dealing with anybody, we, two brothers, have never been negligent of our heavy responsibility.

    Kou Zhong shivered in fear; inwardly he wanted that man to look down on him, which would make dealing with them later a lot easier.

    Li Mi said cheerfully, With Fu Zhen Laoshi [teacher] giving us his words, those three boys are dead for sure! Qian Chengzhu, do you have any valuable advice you could offer the two teachers?

    With these words, not only he flattered both Qian Duguan and the Fu brothers, he also reduced the distance between the two, Qian and Fu, parties, and built a bridge connecting the three men. Indeed Li Mi was an outstanding leader.

    Qian Duguan sighed and said, Not that I want to exaggerate the two kids power and prestige, but the most formidable thing about them is that their style is highly unconventional with constant permutation; strange technique and ultimate skill emerged one after another. Their powerful spiraling true qi is even more difficult to deal with.

    Xu Shiji ruthlessly said, Killing them demands immediate action. Because there has never been anybody who trained the Secret to Long Life could produce martial art like they do, and they are improving every day. If we do not seize this opportunity to kill them, and they divulge the secret of Duke Yang Treasure to Li Shimin, it will cause no end of trouble for us.

    A big question mark suddenly appeared in Kou Zhongs heart: why would Xu Shiji think that he might divulge the secret of Duke Yang Treasure to Li Shimin?

    Fu Yan spoke in his deep and low voice, My Dage is an expert in tracking skill, even that treacherous banding Wang Bo has to step down gracefully. As long as we can follow their trail, I guarantee Mi Gong will have nothing to worry about.

    Li Mi spoke heavily, In that case I will have to request two teachers to do just that. But it would be best if we could catch up with them before they reach Luoyang. Otherwise, once they entered Wang Shichongs sphere of influence, it would be difficult for us to gather manpower to hunt and kill them openly.

    Fu Zhen and Fu Yan loudly gave their promise.

    Li Mi let out a powerful but sweet-sounding laughter. And then he sighed and said, To be able to unload my mind freely with Qian Chengzhu is a pleasure in Li Mis life. Come! Let Li Mi toast Qian Chengzhu a cup first.

    Kou Zhong knew Li Mi was going to pour out an even bigger scheme; his spirit was greatly aroused. Hastily he focused his mind to listen carefully.

    ※ ※ ※

    Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan were hiding inside the dense foliage of an old locust tree. From their vantage point, they were able to see the tightly guarded study room far below. They put the two rolls of paper inside underbrush under the tree.

    It was the first time that Xu Ziling was alone and in close proximity with this Tujue martial art master; a strange and complicated feeling grew in his heart.

    The relationship between them was quite subtle. They were close, yet it also felt so far away; it was the case of people of talent appreciating one another, but there was also a feeling that they were in competition with each other, so much so that there was a sense that they were enemies. Perhaps nobody could explain clearly the real situation between them.

    Ba Fenghan whispered in Xu Zilings ear, Dont you feel strange? The main hall, the side hall, or any other halls of the building in the inner courtyard are so much better suited to receive the guests, yet he came to the beloved concubines study room to have a high level talk. This does not make any sense at all.

    Xu Ziling replied indifferently, This is called catching other people by surprise. It can be clearly seen that Qian Duguan is afraid his meeting with Li Mi would be leaked out; hence even the maids and the servants are told to make themselves scarce. It is even clearer that what they are talking about tonight may have serious implication to the situation in all other places. This must be bad. Perhaps Qian Duguan is about to get his entire city razed down and its people exterminated.

    Ba Fenghan laughed involuntarily and said, He will be dead all right! Because your brother will not show him the least bit of pity, and will definitely not lend a hand to rescue him.

    Right this moment, almost at the same time the two boys were startled, and turned their heads to the building to their left. What happened was that there was originally lantern light at the small upstairs room in the middle, but now the light suddenly went off.

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, That must be Bai beautys room. If I guess correctly, this Bai beauty is definitely not a simpleton, I even dare to say that she may be a spy sent by Yin Gui Pai to penetrate Xiangyang.

    Xu Ziling could not help thinking about Yuaner, the spy Li Tianfan sent to the Flying Horse Ranch; both had exactly the same motives and used exactly the same means. Evidently beauty was still considered the most powerful weapon, and not many men could pass this obstacle.

    Has Ba Xiong seen her? he asked.

    Ba Fenghan nodded. Ive seen her once, he replied, But it was only after seeing Wanwan that I had this strange idea. Because Bai Qinger has some kind of peculiar characteristic; she very much resembles female demon Wan.

    Xu Ziling shivered inwardly, because he knew that Ba Fenghans perception was terrifyingly sharp.

    Ba Fenghan sighed and said, Although her beauty cannot match Wanwans, there is a troubling, bone penetrating charm in her, which is bewitching the spirit and itching the heart. Thats why even a Jianghu veteran like Qian Duguan who is accustomed to see beautiful women also fell under her control.

    Xu Ziling turned his gaze back to the study room. Suddenly he noticed that the Fat Demon Jin Bo and Gold and Silver Spear Ling Feng have appeared among the guards; however, as if nothing happened, he commented, Perhaps we need to tell Qian Duguan about Fang Zetaos tragic fate, maybe he would be awakened.

    Ba Fenghan bitterly said, I still dont understand how did the Jianghuai Army, the Tiele people and Yin Gui Pai, three different factions, forge an alliance to join hands in this power struggle.

    His eyes also fell to the same place, but naturally he did not recognize Jin Bo and Ling Feng. Slightly startled, he said, The number of martial art masters within Li Mis men is certainly as numerous as a cloud; assassinating Li Mi is definitely not an easy matter. They say that Wang Shichong offered ten thousand taels of gold for successful assassination of Li Mi!

    Xu Ziling suddenly had a premonition; turning his gaze back to the small upstairs room, he was finally able to see the Bai beauty. Immediately he understood the stunning peculiar feeling Ba Fenghan said he experienced the first time he saw Bai Qinger.

    ※ ※ ※

    Li Mi slyly said, Du Fuwei has taken Jingling, within the next few days he will go up north along the river, but Xiangyang has become the only thing in his way. What will Qian Chengzhu do in this situation?

    Inside the wardrobe, Kou Zhong cried in his heart, Formidable! Li Mi went straight to the point. In just a few words, he has hit Qian Duguans vital point, making it difficult for him to sidestep or have the strength to withstand.

    Sure enough, even an old fox like Qian Duguan was stumped that he stared blankly for half a day before finally smiling bitterly and said, Relying on the power available to Ol Qian in the city, naturally our prospect is not too good. However, there is one thing that Ol Qian does not understand; I wish to ask for Mi Gongs enlightenment.

    Astounded, Li Mi asked, Qian Chengzhu, please speak forthrightly.

    Qian Duguan spoke in heavy voice, The reason Jingling fell was simply because the Flying Horse Ranch was facing the Four Big Bandits attack at the same time, and thus was powerless to render any help. Moreover, from the intelligence the Ol Qian gathered, the Four Big Bandits have inseparably close relationship with Mi Gong. If this matter turns out to be true, why did Mi Gong let the Four Big Bandits do a big favor to Du Fuwei?

    As a matter of fact, Kou Zhong, who was hiding in a secret place, has already thought about this question. Plus he knew for a fact that in the Four Big Bandits attack to the Flying Horse Ranch, Li Mis heir apparent, Li Tianfan and the pretty Junshi the Serpent and Scorpion Beauty Shen Luoyan were involved in the case.

    At first, just like Qian Duguan, he was unable to penetrate this mystery either, but now that Li Mi has personally arrived in Xiangyang, just like being awakened from a dream, it suddenly dawned on him the subtlety of this matter.

    Li Mi was a master strategist whose prestige shook the heavens; his ultimate goal was, quite naturally, the world [tianxia]. But the most pressing problem in his face right now is how to overcome Luoyangs Wang Shichong, and then consolidating both powers, he wanted to attack the Li Clans father and son of Guanzhong. In this way his claim of the rivers and mountains would be decided.

    Nowadays, although Li Mi had occupied Xingyang, his route to advance to the west, either by land or along the Yellow River, was cut off by Wang Shichong, so that Li Mi was unable to move a single step. Moreover, with Wangs army impeding him, Li Mi was powerless to attack the other militias.

    In the north, Liu Wuzhou and Dou Jiandes powers were dominant. The former even had the support of Tujues main forces, while the latters prestige was not inferior to Li Mis. If without careful consideration he started a war with them, he would only benefit Wang Shichong, by letting Wang Shichong to take advantage of the lapse in the power balance.

    Therefore, the most important thing for Li Mi right now was how to defeat Wang Shichong, how to take the Eastern Capital Luoyang; other matters would be secondary.

    Trouble is, Luoyang was well known throughout the world as having solid city walls, and the route toward it, both by water and land, was dangerous. On top of that, Wang Shichongs martial art was outstanding, and he was an expert in the art of war, plus the Dugu Clan was behind him. The officers and soldiers serving under him were, for the most part, came from the former Sui army; they were very well-trained. Therefore, although Li Mi was highly capable, up until now, he was unable to do anything to Wang Shichong.

    Under these circumstances, if Li Mi wanted to take Luoyang, he must do so in a totally new situation; namely, he had to isolate Wang Shichong, turning Luoyang into a lone city, and then Wagang Army would have hope in succeeding.

    Li Mi was worthy to be called a brilliant military strategist; he took a risk by secretly directing the Four Big Bandits to coordinate their operation with Du Fuwei, to break the relationship between the Flying Horse Ranch and Jingling, which was as close as lips and teeth, and as stable as iron bucket, and thus Jingling had fallen.

    At first Li Mi was counting his chickens before they were hatched; with his support, he let the Four Big Bandits occupy the Flying Horse Ranch and the several big cities in its vicinity, and thus controlling Du Fuweis Jianghuai Army; however, there was a change beyond his control: Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling spoiled his grand plan. With just this one thing, the entire north-south situation suddenly changed.

    Du Fuwei had acquired strong and solid foothold on the north; advanced he could attack, retreated he could defend. Even more, he could pose a direct threat to Xiangyang and Wang Shichongs territory as well.

    Previously, Qian Duguan was able to maintain Xiangyangs independence and autonomy, simply because all the major powers were at a stalemate, so that he was able to survive exploiting the gap while all sides were too busy with the power struggle. But now the situation was changing, fast. Qian Duguan was forced to take refuge to one of the major powers, to throw his lot to one who could offer him protection, and thus he no longer able to strike water right and left [i.e. reaping benefit from both sides].

    This was precisely the situation Li Mi wanted to create; he wanted to force Qian Duguan to pick a side, by luring him with huge profits, so that Li Mi, without shedding blood on the mens swords, would be able to obtain Xiangyang, which would become a significant military base just south of Luoyang.

    In attacking Jingling, Du Fuweis loss was quite disastrous; for the time being he would not be able to advance north. But he would not give up nibbling on the other territories around. Therefore, as soon as Li Mi acquired Xiangyang, Wang Shichong would feel the enemys pressure on both sides, while at the same time he would have to deal with the battlefronts at the southeast. This would give Li Mi great benefit.

    This scheme of Li Mis was definitely ruthless, but absolutely necessary.

    Hence the reason Li Mi had to personally come here.

    Pretending to be surprised, Xu Shiji said, Surely Qian Chengzhu does not believe the rumor that we are helping Du Fuwei?

    Letting out a cold snort, Qian Duguan said, The wind from an empty cave must have its cause. Thats why the Ol Qian wish for Mi Gong to personally clarify this matter.

    Wagang Army and the Four Big Bandits have no direct relationship, Li Mi explained, However, we were already aware of the Four Big Bandits plan of attacking the Flying Horse Ranch for a long time, and we even know who the provocateur was. Trying to exploit this opportunity, we wanted to carry out certain operation; unfortunately it was spoiled by those two despicable kids, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling.

    Listening to this, Kou Zhong could not help giving himself a kick in the butt inwardly. Now he was unsure if Li Mi did have any relationship with the Four Big Bandits or not, much less Qian Duguan?

    Very faint footsteps suddenly appeared in the hall.

    Qian Duguan delightedly said, Shiru has finally arrived. Come and see Mi Gong!

    In his heart, Kou Zhong was greatly alarmed. This newcomers footsteps were very light, a clear sign that in qinggong department, he must be rather superior; he could even be considered a top ranking martial art expert.

    Li Mi laughed aloud and said, Ive heard about the Henan [province] Mad Scholar for a long time; today I finally see it.

    After a strong, long laughter, Zheng Shiru slyly said, Mi Gong praised too much, Zaixia is ashamed and dare not accept the honor. And then there were some polite exchanges as they met each other for the first time.

    Kou Zhong wondered in his heart; listening to this Zheng Shiru, not only there was not the least bit of madness, he was rather modest and quite polite. Then why did he obtain the nickname Henan Mad Scholar? It seemed like the nickname was inconsistent with his character.

    He also blamed himself for not having enough knowledge and experience that he had never heard about this persons name. Moreover, he was unclear what relation this person had with Qian Duguan.

    After everybody in the hall was seated and after a round of toast, Qian Duguan briefly recounted his recent discussion with Li Mi. Zheng Shiru calmly said, Despite your busy schedule, this time Mi Gong personally came here; I wonder if your desire is in Luoyang, your aspiration is in Guanzhong?

    Delightedly Li Mi said, Zheng Xiong is certainly fast-thinking, fast-talking, but its no more than obtaining Gansu while desiring Sichuan [Translators note: I am not too sure about this, but I believe it means insatiable greed]. Li Mi has always followed the prescribed order; I will definitely not be reckless.

    Zheng Shiru spoke indifferently, There is one thing Zaixia does not understand. In the past Mi Gong inflicted heavy losses on Luoyang Army, your advance route to the west was unimpeded with nothing in the way; why didnt you direct your army straight into Guanzhong, like Qin Shihuang establishing his stronghold at Guanzhong Mountains three rivers, and gained his supremacy as the Emperor? Wasnt it a waste of a good opportunity?

    Only now did Kou Zhong start to understand the origin of the nickname Mad Scholar; he also guessed that Zheng Shiru must be Qian Duguans think-tank. Unless Li Mi could convince him that Li Mi was the sole material for the hegemony over the world, Qian Duguan would maintain his wait-and-see attitude.

    However, his question was really not easy to answer.

    Li Mi laughed aloud and said, Mr. Zheng asked a really good question. The answer is not that I did not have the desire, rather, its because I did not have the ability. The matter of entering Guanzhong, I have considered it for a long time. But at that time the muddle-headed ruler was still alive; engaging the troops is like involving the people. Most of Wagang troops are from Shandong; since Luoyang has not yet fallen, who would be willing to go the far away west to enter Guanzhong? If I presumptuously entered Guanzhong, I am afraid I might lose Henan and Shandong. If that happened, although I gained Guanzhong, but what do I have to contend over the world?

    If this remark was heard by someone who did not know the inside story, he would definitely be at a loss, and was not able to make head or tail of it. However, Kou Zhong understood thoroughly.

    At that time, Li Mis biggest obstacle was Zhai Rang. Even if Li Mi wanted to enter Guanzhong, Zhai Rang would want to remain in Henan as his garrison. When that happened, how could Zhai Rang let Li Mi go? As soon as he attacked Luoyang, the Sui Army at Luoyang would cut Li Mis return route. And then not only Li Mi could not occupy Guanzhong, he would be trapped in Guanzhong instead.

    Xu Zhiji joined in, Another reason was that the muddleheaded ruler and his main force was already in Jiangdu. At that time Guanzhong would lose its role as the core site. The one we ought to attack should be Jiangdu and not Changan.

    Zheng Shiru was indifferent, The situation at that time was exactly like Mi Gong and Xu Junshi said. But lets take an overall look on the major powers nowadays: speaking about prestige, nobody can match Mi Gong. But speaking about situation, the Li Clans father and son still dominate, since they occupy the position where they can just sit on the mountain and watch the tigers fight.

    Li Mi snorted coldly and said, Li Yuan is just a dirty old man. Only Li Shimin has a bit of prospect. When Li Yuan raised his troops at Taiyuan that day, he wanted to hunt deer in the Central Plains [i.e. attempt on the throne ], and he only had two routes to take: one was to the west into Guanzhong, the other was going south to Henan. But even if he had gargantuan guts, he would not dare to invade my territory. So his only way was to enter Guanzhong. Its just that this fellow has always been a bit lucky; having already obtained Tujues support, it was also the time when Guanzhongs troops were out of their nest to the east to attack me, that he was able to exploit the weak spot and entered in. Otherwise, how could he even have the opportunity to content for supremacy against me?

    These words revealed a strong confidence, he was really worthy of his status and authority as an overlord, so that not only he aroused other peoples admiration, he also showed his charm in intimidating their hearts.

    Xu Zhiji added, Presently our Wagang Army has just defeated Yuwen Huaji, our reputation enjoyed great boost. If we can take Luoyang, what can the Li kids of Guanzhong do about it? This time Mi Gong came to Xiangyang, is precisely to talk with Qian Chengzhu. As soon as Chengzhu give us a nod, I guarantee that after Mi Gong obtains the world, he wont treat gentlemen meagerly.

    Kou Zhong thought that finally they came to the point. Only how would Qian Duguans response be, he wondered.

  13. #133
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    Default Book 12 Chapter 2

    Book 12 Chapter 2 Following The Boat Going Up North

    It was when he was looking at Bai Qinger that Xu Ziling had a real understanding of what Ba Fenghan was talking about.

    Standing leaning against the window, Bai Qingers gaze was fixed at the direction of the study room. In Xu Zilings sharp night vision, the one feature that attracted his attention the most from this beautiful exotic woman was her long, black and shiny hair. Lining her beautiful face with skin as fair as snow, it seemed to exude some kind of devious sexual attraction that would make the mens heart palpitating; just like Wanwan.

    Whatever clothes she was wearing were all elegant and graceful, and also gave up the impression of dignity and aloofness. However, her pair of full-of-tender-feelings, bright and beautiful, elegant eyes matched very well with her seemingly innate, somewhat shy, but touching mannerism, which not many men would be able to resist.

    Although her countenance lacked Wanwans shaking-to-the-core beauty, but there was some kind of amiable and approachable, friendly feeling instead.

    This moment, Ba Fenghan whispered in his ear, Yin Gui Pai women are best in concealing their demonic nature, but I am proficient in reading people; therefore, she can forget about deceiving me.

    After a short pause, he went on, Apart from her thirst of blood, if you pay close attention to the color and luster of her hair, youll know that her physique is nothing like her soft, weak outer appearance; there is an exquisite qigong foundation in it. Her tender and lovely skin is not natural at all; rather, it appears to be the result of long-term training in some kind of demonic skill, her fair skin seems to be aglow, just like Wanwan.

    After taking a closer look, Xu Ziling had to agree with him; he asked, What else did Ba Xiong see?

    Before Ba Fenghan could answer, Bai Qinger already disappeared; she withdrew inside the room, outside their line of sight.

    ※ ※ ※

    Wild Scholar of Henan Zheng Shiru spoke in heavy voice, Xu Junshi, please hold that thought for a moment. Zaixia still have one more thing Id like to ask Mi Gongs guidance.

    Inside the wardrobe, Kou Zhong cheered inwardly; he praised this Wild Scholar of Henan as someone who had his own ideas and was not easily impressed by others.

    The Two Malevolent of Changbai Fu Zhen and Fu Yan separately let out two cold snorts. Obviously they were a bit impatient of one question after another from Zheng Shiru. However, Li Mi laughed and said, Mr. Zheng, please speak freely without any reservation.

    Zheng Shiru remained indifferent, After Yuwen Huaji killed the muddleheaded ruler, he led his troops back to the north, targeting Luoyang. With Mi Gongs ability and wisdom, why didnt you pretend to form a unified front with Yuwen Huaji, assign Yuwen Huaji to attack the Eastern Capital, and then reaping the fishermans benefit while sitting down? Now the opposite happens; you are gratuitously doing Wang Shichong a big favor, enabling him to conserve his strength. Just look at how Wang Shichong is moving his troops east. As soon as his army reaches Yanshi [county level city, Henan], I knew that he is waiting for Mi Gong to lose most of your strength first before he would take the opportunity to strike! I wonder if Mi Gong has any regret about this?

    Li Mi roared in ear-splitting laughter and said, Mr. Zheng is worthy to be called Henans sage; you knew the current situation like the back of your hand. But Li Mi also have a question Id like to ask Misters guidance: supposing you have established your base, if Mister were in Li Mis place, and you are confronting Yuwen Huajis a hundred-thousand strong elite troops from the south, how would you deal with it? If Yuwen Huaji captured Luoyang, and he made the fortified city his base, and he had adequate provision, then Yuwen Huajis main forces would not have come from afar and would not be weary. If I, Li Mi, had to contend with this situation, would it worth doing?

    Zheng Shiru was silent for a long while before he finally spoke, Mi Gongs remark is rational, but current situation is clearly disadvantageous to Mi Gong; what would Mi Gongs countermeasure be?

    Brimming with confidence, Li Mi laughed and said, Wang Shichong is just a general who suffered defeat in my hands; hes not worth mentioning. Nowadays from the number of the troops he brought in, Luoyang must be empty. As long as I, Li Mi, take part of my troops to guard the eastern passage where he is coming from, he would find it difficult to advance a single cun. The other several tens of thousands elite troops will advance west along the river pressing toward the Eastern Capital. At that time Shichong will be forced to return. And then we will simply retreat and defend the south, bidding our time. If Shichong came out again, I will push him back. In this way I will have enough power to spare, he will have to go back and forth in vain, and he will break down in the end.

    Kou Zhong suddenly came to realization about the importance of Xiangyang to Li Mi. Because under such circumstances, Xiangyang would become Li Mis logistic base to support Wagang Armys military operation to take over Luoyang.

    Therefore, Li Mi simply must acquire Xiangyang.

    Xu Shiji joined in, If Wang Shichong is moving east to attack us, he wont have enough provision, and thus will hope for a quick battle. As long as we dig deep ditch and build high rampart as defend mechanism, in just two, three months time, Wang Shichong will be out of supplies and must withdraw. At that time we will clip his tail in pursue and attack; if Wang Shichong could return to Luoyang alive, his must have been blessed by his ancestral mountains!

    Bang!

    Zheng Shiru slapped the table and said with a sigh, Simply by listening to Mi Gong and Xu Junshi, I know that Wagang Armys victory is assured; Wang Shichong will be in trouble. Chengzhu, do you still have any doubt?

    Kou Zhongs brain was severely shaken, while in his heart he groaned endlessly. If Li Mi indeed do as he said he would do, it would be strange indeed if Wang Shichong would not suffer crushing defeat. Moreover, if the Eastern Capital really fell under Li Mis control, it would be difficult for the Li Clan of Guanzhong to maintain their immediate dominance. And then Song Yuzhi would be married away to Li Tianfan, and Li Mis prestige would enjoy dramatic increase due to the Song Clans support.

    If that happened, Li Mi would then apply pressure to the Li Clan that they would be forced to defend Guanzhong. Afterwards Li Mi would easily put Du Fuwei and the others in order. Wouldnt the world then become an object in his bag?

    ※ ※ ※

    Bai Qinger reappeared on the window, but she was now wearing black night-walker outfit, while she silently watched Qian Duguan escorting Li Mi and his entourage out of the study room toward the main gate of the mansion.

    This time Li Mi is in trouble, Ba Fenghan whispered, Just now she must have notified her Sects people by some secret way, to mobilize their people to kill Li Mi. And now she is ready to track Li Mi to get exact location of his position.

    Xu Ziling was puzzled, Do you think Li Mi is the kind of person who would easily fall into ambush and be killed? he asked.

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, What if Zhu Yuyan personally came?

    A shadow flashed; like a wisp of smoke Bai Qinger leaped out of the window into the garden below; in just a few ups and downs she disappeared into the distance.

    Xu Ziling said, Bai Qinger left just like that, isnt she afraid Qian Duguan might come back to look for her?

    Ba Fenghan said, Naturally she knows Qian Duguans habit and style of conduct better than we do. Hey! I have an idea: how about putting those two rolls of heavy drawing paper in female demon Bais personal chamber, and then lets catch up with Li Mi, see if we can reap a bit of benefit.

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, In that case, after you!

    The two jumped down the big tree and met with Kou Zhong.

    ※ ※ ※

    The three silently and quietly dove into the cold river, and swam toward one of the three ships Li Mi brought with him.

    In the meantime, Li Mi was still at the dock, bidding Qian Duguan a warm-hearted goodbye.

    While everybodys attention was still focused on the dock, relying on their ghost-like dexterity, the three men stealthily [orig. gods did not know, ghosts did not perceive] climbed onto the ship from the left, aft side.

    Craning their necks to look over the side railings, immediately their brows were knitted, because the deck was full of armed men. There was no chance for them to slip into the ship hold undetected.

    Noticing the four skiffs, about a zhang or two in length, hanging from the side of the ship, and that the skiffs were covered with tarp, Kou Zhong suggested, Wed better hide inside one of those skiffs. Unless they suddenly want to use the boat, this should be the safest place.

    Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling nodded their agreement.

    Creeping along the edge of the railings, they quickly moved toward one of the hanging skiffs. After some effort they managed to untie the tarp, and then they all slipped inside. As soon as they finished closing the cover, the hull shook as the ship weighed its anchor and started to sail north along the river.

    Ba Fenghan lay down at the aft, while Kou and Xu, two boys lay down side-by-side on the bow side. But in order to talk, they had their big heads in close proximity to each other, giving the three of them a strange, yet intimate feeling.

    Kou Zhong narrated in details Li Mis determination to kill the three of them, but about Li Mi persuading Qian Duguan, he only mentioned it briefly, simply because he was still deeply wary of Ba Fenghan.

    Finished with his story, he laughed and said, If those Two Idiots of Changbai stayed behind to look for us, its going to be a big joke!

    Ba Fenghan laughed coldly and said, Do you know what kind of people they are?

    Turning his gaze to the top of the tarp covering, Xu Ziling said, Judging from the tone of Ba Xiongs voice, I can tell that these two fellows must have a bit of skill.

    Ba Fenghan said, These two are Wang Bos Shidi [younger martial brother]; but they have had fall out with Shixiong [martial brother, in general, although it could mean older brother as well] for a long time. Who would have thought that now they are throwing their lot with Li Mi? Although these two are egotistical arrogant, but they do have some real skill; otherwise they would have been killed by Wang Bo early on, especially the older brother Fu Zhen, who is a well-known tracking expert. He is even more famous and more prestigious than Li Mis former subordinate, the late Flying Feather Zheng Zong; his martial art skill is even heaven-and-earth, cloud-and-earth different to Zheng Zongs. Fortunately we are hiding in here; otherwise we will be in big trouble.

    Seeing that even with his conceited nature Ba Fenghan was still speaking so highly about these two men, the two boys shivered inwardly.

    Ba Fenghan said, Lets take advantage of this opportunity to cultivate our vitality, so that when the time comes for us to kill, we will be a bit refreshed.

    The three of them closed their eyes in meditation. Soon afterwards they entered the subconscious realm of deep meditation.

    ※ ※ ※

    The hull shook as the ship slowed down.

    The three of them awoke at the same time.

    Ba Fenghan reached out while sending out his internal energy to his finger to poke a hole in the tarp. The three waited for the opportunity to peek outside. When they did, they saw people came and went on the desk; it was very busy.

    The first light of dawn had appeared on the horizon. Evidently Li Mis fleet has been sailing straight for at least three sichen [i.e. 6 hours].

    Stunned, Kou Zhong said, They are not going to cast anchor!

    Ba Fenghan turned to the other side and took a peek from the slit of the tarp. There are people on the shore! he called out in a low voice.

    The two boys turned around, and saw the left bank of the river was densely populated with army barracks. They even constructed a temporary dock, where comparatively smaller warships and about a dozen skiffs were moored.

    Li Mis fleet slowly moved toward the dock.

    Xu Ziling had a sudden inspiration, Turns out Li Mi is hiding his troops in here, he said, If the negotiation with Qian Duguan fell apart, he would launch a surprise attack against the unprepared Xiangyang. He is really ruthless.

    Ba Fenghan nodded in agreement, Everybody knows that Li Mi is not a lay practitioner of Buddhism. Xu Xiongs conjecture matches well with Li Mis style. All right, even if Zhu Yuyan has guts that reach the heavens, I am afraid she would not dare to provoke Li Mi now. What are we going to do?

    Kou Zhong said resolutely, We steal a speedboat and go up north to Luoyang.

    Frowning, Ba Fenghan said, Stealing boats now, its no longer stealing secretly, but robbing openly. Lets not talk about Li Mis superior martial art skill, he does not lack martial art masters under his command either. We may not necessarily succeed.

    Why is Zhong Shao so anxious to go to Luoyang? Xu Ziling wondered aloud.

    Kou Zhong whispered, Ill explain to you later. If we cant steal, then lets rob! Look! Li Mi is going ashore.

    The other two also saw Li Mi and Xu Shiji, two men, under heavy escort of a crowd of high-ranking military officers, left the ship to go ashore.

    Another crowd of people had already been waiting on the dock. The leader was a tall, dignified-looking young general.

    Ba Fenghan said, Thats Li Mis general Pei Renji. This man and Wang Bodang are equally famous; they are called Wagang Army Two Valiant Generals. Their martial art skill outstanding, their intelligence is also above average.

    Hearing Wang Bodangs name, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong recalled Susu, who was disgraced by him, and their hearts immediately felt uncomfortable.

    This moment Li Mi and his entourage was about to enter the camp.

    Ba Fenghan laughed and said, If we want to rob a boat, now is the time!

    ※ ※ ※

    The three had their heads emerged from the water surface, and pulled themselves up into a speedboat moored on the bank of the river. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling calmly untied and hoisted the sail up, while Ba Fenghan pulled his Beheading Mystery Sword, raised it up and chopped it down, to cut the mooring rope.

    Hey, what are you three doing? someone on the shore shouted.

    Ba Fenghan laughed heartily and said, Sorry to bother you, but could you tell Mi Gong that Ba Fenghan, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling borrow a boat?

    Finished speaking, he thrust both palms forward, a strong gust of wind splashed the water everywhere, drenching the head and face of the dozen or so Wagang troops coming to attack them, while at the same time the wind also propelled the speedboat, sending it swiftly toward the middle of the river.

    A river breeze happened to blow at the same time; Kou Zhong busily performed the master helmsman style as he operated the sail to take advantage of the tail wind. The boat sailed north along the river, and in the blink of an eye already left the shore far behind.

    After being cooped up under the tarp-covered boat for several days, they reached the part of the river where rows of peaks of mountain range, as well as serene greeneries, crowded both sides. Their mind felt clear, their mood brightened, their spirit rose.

    Ba Fenghan, who was sculling the oar leisurely at the starboard side of the boat, threw his head back and let out a long laugh. This time we really shaved Li Mis eyebrows, forcing him to send his men to hunt and kill us. Turbulent water at the northern extremity, close to three hundred li from Luoyangs south side, will be the most excellent place.

    Xu Ziling, who was rowing on the port side, was puzzled, Based on our galloping-horse sailing speed, how could Li Mis men overtake us?

    Ba Fenghan patiently explained, If Li Mi were an ordinary thief, naturally there is no way he could chase us. But nowadays Wagang Army has become a highly organized military unit; plus because they want to seize the Eastern Capital, they must have set up military intelligence network that is able to transmit information at top speed. As soon as something is happening, they would dispatch fast horse with relay stations along the way, or perhaps flying pigeons, to notify the remote division to carry out whatever mission is required. Therefore, we absolutely must not slack off.

    Kou Zhong said, We are going north to Luoyang this time, working smart is the way to go, recklessly charging ahead is not suitable. As long as we can arrive at Luoyang at the earliest possible time, we can be considered winning already.

    Both Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan looked at him in surprise, because that kind of remark really should not have come from his mouth. According to Kou Zhongs usual style, he ought to propose that they created havoc first.

    A bit awkward, Kou Zhong changed the subject, Two Idiots of Changbai were left at Xiangyang, while it would be difficult for Li Mi, Xu Shiji and Pen Renji to divert their attention; perhaps the pretty Junshi Shen Luoyan will come to deal with us?

    Murderous aura flashed through Xu Zilings eyes; he said emotionlessly, It would be best if Wang Bodang is coming, then we can collect an old debt from him.

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, I seldom see Xu Xiong hates someone to the bone like this. But Wang Bodangs skill in double-point flexible spears is very remarkable; he ranks among the top practitioners of amazing and unusual skill. Even if he came alone, killing him wont be easy.

    Xu Ziling did not say anything.

    The three gave everything they had to sail the boat against the stream; by dusk that day, they have crossed the city of Nanyang, which was guarded by a valiant general under Wang Shichongs command, the Immeasurable Sword Xiang Siren.

    Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling relaxed their effort somewhat, letting the wind to carry the boat forward; the speed was reduced considerably.

    Ba Fenghan said with a laugh, Have you guys heard the fragrant name of Dong Shuni?

    Kou Zhong shook his head, I have never heard of it, he said, But the name sounds unusual.

    Ba Fenghan cast his gaze toward the western horizon where the sky was aglow with the sunset; he took a deep breath of the headwind blowing his direction. His thought seemed to be wandering far away as he said, Dong Shuni is the only daughter of Wang Shichongs younger sister, Wang Xin. She has lost both parents since she were little. This year she turns eighteen; she was born with countenance of a flower, face like the moon, indeed a national grace, divine fragrance, the color of Luoyang. [Translators note: or, I can just say, she is very beautiful, period.]

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Is Ba Xiong interested in chasing the skirt?

    Ba Fenghan replied indifferently, To me, man-woman relationship is merely flowers in a mirror and the moon reflected in the lake [i.e. unrealistic rosy view]. The fleeting youth neither lasting nor have eternal value. Furthermore, this woman is Wang Shichongs greatest political asset. I hear the Li Clan has some interest in this woman, they want to use this to forge an alliance with Wang Shichong, so that together they could face Li Mi.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, If she marries Li Shimin, they will be talented man and beautiful woman, a match made in heaven.

    Ba Fenghan smiled wryly and said, Kou Xiong is simply taking it for granted! Because from what I heard, the one interested in Dong Shuni is Li Yuan himself!

    Hearing that, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other in dismay; they were speechless and could only muse silently that Li Yuan was ridiculed as a lecher.

    Remembering something, Kou Zhong said, That day when we were at Dongping County listening to Shi Qingxuan playing the Xiao, I remember that after Shi Qingxuan left, Ba Xiong ran after her. What happened afterwards?

    Ba Fenghans countenance slightly darkened; he sighed and said, I was only able to see her back, but it has left a profound and lasting impression on me. But that is probably for the best; if she and I see each other morning and night, perhaps one day I would be tired of her.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, Isnt Ba Xiong contradictory? On one hand you said you dont care about man-woman relationship, on the other hand you thirst for a beauty and longing to pursue her, plus you have her engraved in your memory.

    After pondering silently for half a day, a faint bitter smile escaped from the corner of his lips; he said, No wonder Xu Xiong has this misunderstanding, because you often saw me hanging around with different beauty, but then now you heard me saying that I dont care about man-woman relationship. The fact is, these two are not necessarily in contradiction to each other.

    Kou Zhong found it greatly fascinating; he asked, I wonder if I could listen to Ba Xiongs enlightening remarks?

    Ba Fenghan blew out a mouthful of air, as if he wanted to blow away the burden pressing in his heart. He seemed to be falling into a deep abyss of the ocean of his memory; his eyes were gleaming as he spoke slowly, Since I started to understand the ways of the world, I feel like life is a series of constantly repeating affairs; every day is more or less the same thing that has happened before, only the circumstances surrounding it are constantly changing, we constantly face new challenge. Only by letting ourselves constantly falling into different circumstances will we experience the fresh and moving aspect of life.

    And then, spreading his hands he said, Like whats happening now: there is not the least bit of repeat or depressing feeling. Spread before our eyes right now is a vast, unfathomable future, which appears to be in your hands, yet it is not under your control. Joining hands with you is exciting and fascinating, but who could tell whether very soon we are going to encounter Zhu Yuyan or not? This is one of the reasons I do not want man-woman relationship to burden my mind.

    Kou Zhong blurted out laughing; he said, In that case, by nature Ba Xiong is a fickle and a traitor to your own love.

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, Kou Zhong, dont you laugh at me; you and I both are ambitious men. Its just that my aspiration is in the way of the martial art, and yours is in your dream to rule the world as the emperor. Although our paths differ, but if we want to reach our goal, we both must abandon a lot of things.

    Kou Zhongs old face smiled as he said, When did I ever tell you that I am dreaming of becoming the emperor?

    Staring at Kou Zhongs eyes, which were full of ambiguity, Ba Fenghan laughed hoarsely and said, Men are known by their deeds. You, Kou Zhong, turned the South upside down, the landscape underwent huge changes because of you. Plus you have the desire to go north to fetch the Duke Yangs Treasure, and have laid the best description for your plan. Last night inside the study room at the Hidden Clarity Pavilion you clearly heard an extremely important secret, yet you decided to keep it in your heart; otherwise, why would you be so anxious to go to Luoyang?

    Under the fiery gaze of the other two, Kou Zhong shamelessly laughed aloud and then replied calmly, Old Ba, you really have a skill, concealing anything from you is as difficult as ascending to the heavens. But I am going to Luoyang this time, just to do a buying and selling; other people are buying, I am selling. They pay me money, I give them information. It has nothing to do with dreaming of becoming the emperor or what have you.

    Ba Fenghan simply laughed without responding. Turning to Xu Ziling, he said, Xu Xiong, do you believe him?

    Xu Ziling raised his hands in mock surrender; he said, I dont want to lie to Ba Xiong, but I dont want to offend Zhong Shao either. I dont have any choice but to shut my mouth and not answering.

    The three of them looked at each other. Suddenly all three of them burst out laughing.

    Right this moment, a dot of light appeared some distance away on the river just ahead of them, coming slowly closer toward them.

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    Default Book 12 Chapter 3

    Book 12 Chapter 3 Tiele Eagle

    Astonished, the three men stood up. As soon as they were able to see what it was, they were all stunned.

    Under the moonlight high above their heads, they saw that it was a small boat with pointy bow and stern. There was a bamboo pole stuck in the middle of the boat, and there was an octagonal palace-style lantern hanging from the pole. But other than these, the boat was totally empty; not even half a shadow of ghost was seen.

    The strangest thing was that the boat seemed to be driven by somebody swimming underwater, because even sailing through the winding river, around the most dangerous sharp bend, it was sailing smoothly, and was still moving toward them; it was extremely creepy.

    Blowing out a mouthful of cold air, Kou Zhong said, This is called the non-spirit dont do along with ugly spirit. The outcome of this is definitely not something we can hold in our hands.

    Staring at the empty boat, which was still around three hundred chi away, Xu Ziling spoke in heavy voice, There must be someone steering the boat underwater, why havent you thought of a way to evade?

    Reaching out to grab the oar, Ba Fenghan said with a cold laugh, I dont care who he is, I, Ba Fenghan, dont believe in ghost. I want to see what kind of trick he is going to play.

    This moment Kou Zhong steered their boat toward the left bank; who would have thought that as if it had eyes, the empty boat immediately changed its course as well, still sailing swiftly straight toward them.

    Sweeping the bank with his gaze, Kou Zhong said, There must be an ambush on the shore. If we get separated, well meet again at Luoyang.

    The strange boat was only about sixty chi away, and still rapidly approaching.

    Ba Fenghan shouted, he threw the oar in his hand with all his might.

    The two boys fixed their gaze at the flying oar. Like a streak of lightning the oar flew across the twenty chi distance, very close to the water surface. The water split, cutting about a chi deep groove on the water, like a big white water dragon shooting toward the small boat. It was an amazing use of strength, which made people gasp in amazement.

    Xu Ziling grabbed the other oar and moved back to the stern, where he plunged the oar into the water. Their boat immediately sped up; if the opponent hid on one side of the boat, they would seize the opportunity to crash onto it.

    Under the three mens six eyes gaze, the empty boat sped faster than the oar Ba Fenghan threw, chi by chi, cun by cun, the distance was diminishing constantly. The empty boat did not show any sign that it was going to evade the collision.

    Bang!

    The oar and the bow of the boat collided and exploded into splinters of wood filling the whole sky; evidently the energy Ba Fenghan was using was the hard, rigid type.

    The water splashed into the boat.

    The three immediately felt something was not right.

    It was too easy.

    Right this moment, the three felt strange sensation on their feet.

    Enemy below the boat! Kou Zhong roared.

    Ba Fenghan laughed aloud. He gathered his entire strength and concentrated it at the soles of his feet. The boat suddenly slid about a zhang sideways.

    Bang!

    A column of water rose up more than twenty zhang into the air from the original position of the boat, and then the water rained down again.

    Having a clear grasp of the enemys position underwater, Xu Ziling threw the oar with a spiraling energy into the water.

    With both palms Kou Zhong struck the surface of the water behind the boat, splashing the water everywhere. Propelled by the reaction force, the boat flew swiftly upstream like a runaway horse on the plain, and in an instant it passed the empty boat, which, by this time, was sinking down, leaving the smashed up palace-lantern above the water, scattering the flames floating on the surface of the water; it was such an extremely strange scene.

    All three mens eyes were focused on the spot where the enemy was supposed to be hiding, yet they did not hear any noise of the oar hitting the enemy, while the boat continued sliding rapidly away.

    They felt strange sensation on their feet again.

    Kou Zhong roared wildly. The Moon in the Well left its scabbard hanging on his back. Leaping off the stern, his saber hacked down into the water; he went so deep that even his arm entered the river.

    Underwater, the Moon in The Well went sideways and collided with the oar, creating a dull thud as the two streams of energy clashed.

    It was the most vulnerable point, where the saber had just collided with the head of the oar.

    Bang!

    As if he was struck by lightning, Kou Zhongs entire body was jolted backward. Hastily he seized the chance to somersault twice, returning to the boat. Even after his feet touched a solid surface, he still staggered two steps backward. After taking a deep breath to suppress his churning qi and blood, with changed countenance he said, Who is it?

    Underwater, the oar made a few turns before disappearing down into the river.

    Ba Fenghan drew his Beheading Mystery sword. Returning to his calm demeanor in facing the enemy, he smiled and said, Well find out soon!

    Before he even finished speaking, a streak of dark shadow shot out from the water about ten zhang away, carrying water with it that water droplets filled the whole sky, like a shooting star it flew toward their boat along the surface of the river. Such speed seemed to be beyond physical limitation.

    Although the three men knew the enemy would pursue them, they were still unprepared mentally to see this kind of speed with this kind of astonishing power.

    Before they even had any chance to see clearly the enemys appearance, a powerful, unequalled force pressed down violently. Tens of millions dots of energy, as sharp as knives, following the strong wind, attacked the three men; chopping, piercing, cutting and slashing silvery droplets stormed in that they were powerless to guard against it.

    It the first time that the three encountered this kind of internal energy,

    Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong shouted at the same time. One sword and one saber filled the air with a net of sharp lights, just like opening up an umbrella, to meet the attack from above.

    Xu Ziling lowered his torso in a horse stance and sent his punch upward; a burst of vortex of qi shot out from the only hole in the center of the virtual net created by the sword and the saber, straight toward the enemy.

    The man had his back to the moon, so that his back was suffused with the golden light from above, while the front part of his body was kept in the dark, giving the impression that he was in an indescribable state between the good and the evil.

    Boom!

    Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong staggered back and fell, the protecting net dissipated.

    While blocking the opponents monstrous-without-equal storm, although the two managed to jolt his powerful qi back, like a needle concealed in silk floss, the enemys droplets of qi flowed via the sword and the saber to penetrate the two mens body. In shock they hastily circulate their internal energy to neutralize it.

    Such a strange internal energy, they had never encountered it before.

    The man was about to launch the second round of attack when Xu Zilings vortex of energy arrived.

    Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhongs combined assault, which managed to jolt him back, was definitely not a small matter. Although the enemy was formidable, it was quite strenuous for him to cope. And now that a vortex of energy arrived, he did not dare to be careless, and thus was forced to change his offense into defense. His palm met Xu Zilings blade-sharp vortex of qi.

    Boom!

    The vortex of qi dispersed.

    The man let out a stifled grunt and flew toward the shore.

    Thump!

    Xu Ziling fell sitting down on the deck, while spurting out a mouthful of fresh blood.

    Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong had just diffused the droplets of energy invading their body; promptly four palms moved together to strike the water surface behind the boat. While the water splashed, the bow of the boat rose up to the air, the keel cut the waves as the boat flew against the current.

    As if by prior agreement, all three of them cast their gaze toward the terrifying, overpowering enemy.

    The man landed on a large rock by the river. Turning around, with his hands behind his back, he threw his head back and laughed loudly, The hero of youth, no wonder you can make Laofu [old man] suffer the pain of losing my son. Qu Ao wont accompany you much longer!

    With eyes opened wide and mouth agape, the three watched Qu Aos shadow gradually became smaller and smaller, until finally it disappeared behind a bend in the river.

    ※ ※ ※

    With one hand on the rudder Kou Zhong wiped the cold sweat from his forehead and said, Turns out its him; no wonder people say that his martial art skill approaches Bi Xuans!

    Wiping the bloodstain from the corner of his mouth, Xu Ziling stood up and said with a smile, Since Qu Ao already made his move, Zhu Yuyan cant be too far behind. Gentlemen, do you have any suggestion?

    Ba Fenghan slowly returned his sword into its scabbard. This is inevitable. Other that the troops arrive we fight, the water arrive we build earthen embankment, what else can we do? he said proudly.

    But Kou Zhong sat down and shook his head, If we only flaunt reckless courage, I have no doubt that we will die tonight. We have multitude enemies, few friends [an idiom from Mencius], plus among the enemies, there are at least three, four people who could defeat us easily. This is called know yourself, know your enemy [idiom from Suntzu].

    Ba Fenghan was dumbstruck and unable to reply. He pondered silently that in terms of resourcefulness and the ability to act differently under different situations, he was no match to these two boys.

    Standing erect at the bow of the boat, Xu Ziling stared fixedly ahead, while circulating his qi and regulating his breathing. The river breeze blew that his clothes were fluttering in the wind. There was a calm, magnificent, proud-and-aloof-above-the-crowd, moving charisma surrounding him. Remaining tranquil and calm, he said, The reason Qu Ao was able to intercept us a moment ago must be that as soon as he received the information about us, because of his eagerness to avenge the death of his son, he immediately rushed over to act alone, leaving the rest behind.

    Letting out a cold snort, Ba Fenghan said, I am sure that when we appeared to snatch the boat, the female demon Bai saw that from her hiding place; therefore, she immediately dispatched flying pigeon or similar method to send information to Qu Ao and the others.

    Kou Zhong joined in, Therefore, if we abandon the boat and go ashore right now, the enemy will momentarily lose our track. Plus we are turning the table, from being in the light, we are now in the dark, so that we will be able to seize the initiative.

    Obtaining tacit understanding, the three looked at each other, and then sent out their strength to their feet at the same time.

    The boat immediately disintegrated and slowly sank into the river.

    The tree soared into the air and flew toward the dark forest at the right bank of the river. An instant later they disappeared without any trace.

    The river returned to its tranquil condition. The surface of the water flickered with the reflection of the bright moonlight.

    Not long afterwards a big ship sailed swiftly along the river, its hull pushed the waves over the place where the boat sank, as the ship continued its voyage downstream.

    ※ ※ ※

    After passing through the sparse forest reaching to about fifty li beyond the shore, they saw ahead of them a range of hill extended as far as their eyes could see, practically blocking their way.

    Naturally the three men were not scared of high mountain at all, on the contrary, they felt that the hills could screen their path; therefore, they ran even faster.

    Running next to Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong asked in concern, Did Qu Aos palm injure you? Do you want to take a rest? Well have a good his mothers night rest.

    Shaking his head, Xu Ziling replied, That palm is nothing; it only injured my inner organs and blood vessels. After throwing out blood, I felt better already. Once I be able to circulate my internal energy to heal the wound, I will recover about 70, 80%. Its a trivial thing.

    Ba Fenghan, who was running ahead of them, was touched; he said, The brotherly love between the two of you is indeed something that nobody can match. In my opinion, only Xu Xiong could make Kou Zhong delay his plan of rushing toward Luoyang at top speed; am I right?

    Kou Zhong shook his head, Wong! he said, I, Kou Zhong, value yiqi above everything else. If you, Old Ba, were the one who is injured, I would do the same to you, because now we are comrade-in-arms who will go life and death battle together.

    Ba Fenghan did not slow down; after a moment of silence, he suggested, How about we call each other by name? It sure beats calling Xiong this and Di that [older and younger brother, respectively] like addressing outsiders.

    Xu Ziling gladly replied, In that case, just call me Ziling, well call you Fenghan. That would be a lot more amiable!

    Kou Zhong frowned deeply; he said, My name only has one character, Old Ba cant simply call me Zhong; that would be so unpleasant to the ears!

    Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling could not help feeling amused; the former laughed and said, In that case Ill call you Zhong Shao, you can still call me Old Ba, because I am several years older that you are anyway.

    Kou Zhong was greatly delighted. The three were chatting and laughing. The prairie under their feet appeared to be flowing backward like a tide. Very soon they arrived at the foot of the hills. They stopped and looked up to admire the mountain.

    It was not a particularly high mountain, but it rose steeply like a wall, extending straight up for hundreds of zhang. Even qinggong expert like them had to groan at the prospect of climbing such a mountain.

    While they were about to walk along the foot of the mountain to find a good spot from which they could climb, Xu Ziling found the entrance to a gorge. Shouting to attract the others attention, he rushed ahead toward it.

    Upon reaching the entrance, he saw that someone had carved three big characters on the left wall some distance away from the ground, Tian Cheng Xia [Heavenly City Walls Gorge]; the strokes had the grandeur of a dragon or a snake.

    Xu Ziling led the way into the gorge. They noticed on both sides the cliff wall was steep and smooth, as if it was cut with a knife. The path extended about half a li. The farther north they went, the narrower the path became, until at the northernmost end the path was so narrow that only one person could pass through; it was indeed an inaccessible stronghold.

    After they were out of the gorge, Kou Zhong sighed and said, If we could lure the enemy to enter this gorge, our one hundred hidden troops would be able to wipe out the opponents tens of thousands of powerful army division. It can clearly be seen that failing to understand the geography, the war will be lost for sure.

    Meanwhile the first light of dawn appeared on the horizon. Ahead were endless rolling hills, bathed in the pale morning mist, brimming with an indescribable natural beauty, filling their heart with unspeakable yearning.

    Pointing to a big mountain spanning several dozen li over the plains on their left, Ba Fenghan said, That mountain is called Yintan Mountain [lit. hidden pool]. Beyond that mountain is Xiangcheng [county, Henan]. Luoyang is about a hundred li north of that city, I have been there once before, the scenery is quite beautiful.

    Xu Ziling said, We should have been thrown the enemies off by now; if I were they, nowadays I would have no choice but to set up a road block south of Luoyang to intercept us. Therefore, while we are forging on, we might want to travel in a large circle to enter Luoyang from the other three directions. Its just that by doing this, we will have to spend several more days.

    Kou Zhong spoke resolutely, We will go to Yintan Mountai first, take a rest for a while, and when the night falls we will go straight to Luoyang; lets see what they can do to us.

    By nature, Ba Fenghan was an aggressive man; he laughed cheerfully and said, Now thats a real mans conduct. Come on! Without waiting for the others he took the lead by dashing out first.

    ※ ※ ※

    A sichen later, the three penetrated deeply into the mountains.

    Only now did Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling understand why this mountain was called Hidden Pool. Turns out in the depths of the peaks vying to be the most beautiful against each other, due to the topography of the mountain, the springs formed more than a dozen pools, big and small, becoming a chain of clear, pure water streams numbering in hundreds or even thousands.

    The highest pool was located at a flat peak, where the gathering water formed a lake. Around the lake pine and cypress grew in abundance, painting a quiet and secluded scenery.

    More amazing was the cliff between pools was like a standing screen, with caves and ravines everywhere, collecting water full to their brims, and flowed out swiftly that they became flying springs, adding unlimited liveliness to the serenity of the Yintan Mountain.

    In such a good place where the birds congregated and the beasts took their shelter, the three felt their spirit was greatly roused, and their exhaustion seemed to be washed away.

    Following their original plan, they climbed to the highest pond and waited quietly for nightfall.

    Without the slightest hesitation all three of them bathed in the pool. After picking up wild fruits to eat, Xu Ziling found a secluded place to heal his internal injuries, which were not completely recovered yet.

    Kou and Ba, two people, climbed to a peak in the north to scout their surroundings. They looked as far as their eyes could see to the north, and were overwhelmed with the vastness of the heaven and the earth, and felt their heart and mind were as vast as the wide open space.

    Looking down from this angle, range upon range of emerald mountains and tens of thousands peaks as far as their eyes could see. Outside the mountains fields and farms scattered around, about a dozen villages were nestled among the forests.

    Pointing to a big city, which was built next to a long river that flowed across the big earth, in the distance, Ba Fenghan said, That is Xiangcheng, the river is Ru Shui. Left of Xiangcheng is a mountain called Mount Ji, a very majestic-looking mountain.

    Kou Zhong blew out the heroic emotion and the pride bubbling out in his heart, like a halberd his finger pointed to the north and said, And north of that is the Eastern Capital Luoyang. Whether I, Kou Zhong, am a dragon or a snake, I will have to go there to see how I will conduct myself.

    Ba Fenghan laughed aloud and said, This world belongs to people with lofty aspirations. Me and you, Zhong Shao, are people unwilling to accept the ordinary. Only this way life will have more variations and be more colorful. In Wulin history, Luoyang has never been like its present day situation, where dragons and snakes mingle, becoming the hub where those who have their eyes on the world gather. Whoever can capture Luoyang will be able to have the convenience of advancing in any directions. However, this moment Zhong Shao has neither troops nor generals under your command, how can you compete against those warlords vying for supremacy?

    Having a card up his sleeve, Kou Zhong smiled and said, My biggest advantage right now is precisely that my strength is completely invisible, but has been secretly manipulating the development of the situation of the world. As for the details, for the time being it is really hard to explain.

    Ba Fenghan was well aware that Kou Zhong would never confide his secret to him. Smiling, he said, Just by listening to Zhong Shao expressing your confidence, I know that you already have a plan in your heart. Ha! Come to think about it, this is quite interesting. If anyone could see us standing right here right now, who would think that one is an unbeaten-throughout-history fighter to the throne of the emperor, the other is clambering toward the pinnacle of the martial art way.

    Kou Zhong suddenly asked, Legend has it that whoever obtain the Jade Annulus of He Clan will obtain the world. I wonder if you, Old Ba, have any comment on this matter.

    Scoffing, Ba Fenghan said, Only stupid men and foolish women would believe such thing. But theres always the other side of the story. Precisely because there are a lot of stupid men and foolish women who believe this rumor firmly without any doubt, plus the Jade Annulus of He Clan was indeed the seal of the past dynasties emperor, and its origin is mysterious beyond understanding; therefore, whoever can obtain it must have multitude power to rally supporters, and enormous strength and capital to contend for the world. This fact must not be ignored.

    Kou Zhong sighed in admiration, Talking with you, Old Ba, is indeed a pleasure. That was precisely the reason I wanted to obtain the Jade Annulus of He Clan.

    Ba Fenghan said, I usually do not have any interest of such treasure, only this Jade Annulus of He Clan can affect my mind, like it can broaden my horizons. But if this jade annulus is in Ning Daoqis hands, our chance of ever coming across this Jade Annulus of He Clan is next to nothing.

    The speculation circulating in Wulin is that Ning Daoqi may come to Luoyang to personally hand over this Jade Annulus of He Clan to Ci Hang Jing Zhai [see Book 1 Chapter 7] representative Shi Feixuan [see Book 8 Chapter 5]; do you think this might be just some busybodys plain fabricated rumor? Kou Zhong asked.

    Hearing the name Shi Feixuan, Ba Fenghans spirited eyes brightened; he spoke in heavy voice, In my opinion, this is absolutely true, and it was originated by Ning Daoqi and Ci Hang Jing Zhai themselves to drum up the interest of the future true master.

    What? Kou Zhong blurted out.

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, Zhong Shao cant think of this thing, all because you dont understand Ci Hang Jing Zhais relationship with the political atmosphere of the world. Since the Earthly Nun founded Ci Hang Jing Zhai, the peaceful monastery [jing zhai] has become the supreme representative of the righteous [orig. white way] of the Wulin world, both the religious and seculars [orig. out/withdraw from and enter the world]. From the religious side, there rarely has any disciple treading the Jianghu, so they wont be drawn into any dispute, and thus maintaining their aloof attitude.

    After a short pause, he continued, From the secular side, they tried to maintain control over the strongest among the devil cults Yin Gui Pai from the distant, not to let them come out to cause any wind and rain, and bring harm to mankind. However, in case they encountered the whole country in rebellion, the peaceful monastery would make an attempt to assist the rightful emperor ordained by heaven that will benefit tens of thousands of people, and thus turning the world from chaos to order.

    Kou Zhong was greatly astonished, Old Ba, how did you know about such a secret like the back of your palm? he asked in amazement.

    Ba Fenghan replied indifferently, I headed off to the east to the Central Plains this time, other than its a necessary step in my cultivation, it was also because of my admiration to your distinguished countrys civilization that goes back to the dim and distant past; therefore, I pay particular attention to this kind of time-honored sacred place like Ci Hang Jing Zhai, so I know a little more than average person.

    I rarely hear you speak with such modesty, Kou Zhong said in surprise.

    Ba Fenghan laughed involuntarily and said, You and I are merely people who grope in the dark to find our ideals, if we are not a bit modest, how can we make any progress? Hey! How about me going out to hunt some wild animals for our dinner? That way when we rush into Luoyang, we will do so with enough vitality.

    Kou Zhong roared in laughter and said, Conversing with a gentleman, the benefit I, Kou Zhong, reap is indeed not shallow, so I should be the one who goes to hunt for our dinner.

    Ba Fenghan burst out laughing and said, I was just thinking of getting away on my own to think in peace and quiet! Ill see you later.

    Finished speaking, he flashed away and disappeared from the peak.

  15. #135
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    Default Book 12 Chapter 4

    Book 12 Chapter 4 Eastern and Western Tujue

    Xu Ziling sat cross-legged on a large flat and smooth rock by the pond. His gaze was fixed on the crystal clear water reflecting the blue sky and white clouds above; his mind was clear and bright.

    To him, on this earth, other than Kou Zhong, Susu was the only person who could worry him, other people were like a far away, fuzzy impression.

    Both Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan had their separate goal in their lives, but Xu Ziling only wanted to live an unconstrained, free and easy life, where he could be at home wherever he was.

    It did not mean that he was a man without any desire to make progress; it just meant that he did not set for himself a certain goal he had to achieve. In terms of martial art way of pursuit of knowledge, he already derived pleasure in the process; it was a significant part of who he was.

    This moment Kou Zhong came over and sat by his side. He spoke seriously, Its not that I want to conceal anything from you, but I do not wish Old Ba to know too many secrets. All along I always feel that he is not too reliable; he could turn his face against us and show no mercy anytime.

    Without showing the slightest bit of care, Xu Ziling said, You dont have to tell me either, I will never blame you.

    Kou Zhong was upset, Can you not talk to me like that? he said, One lifetime two brothers. You are the only one I can completely trust, plus I do need your help very much.

    Where is Old Ba? Xu Ziling grudgingly asked.

    After answering his question, Kou Zhong spoke heavily, If I am not here, Wang Shichong would definitely lose this battle, because he practically is not Li Mis match. If Li Mi captured Luoyang, those Li Yuan, Li Shimin, Dou Jiande, Ol Die Du, or what have you, would all have to return to their hometown to till the fields; but even then they would have to rely on their family mountains blessing. Otherwise, they would be lucky if they could remain alive.

    Xu Ziling was emotionally moved, What exactly the information that you heard? he asked.

    After briefly recounting what he knew, Kou Zhong gave him his analysis, Li Mis biggest strength is actually self restrain. He obviously hurt Zhai Rang that day, but since he was unclear of the degree of his injuries, he restrained himself until Zhai Rang exposed the cards in his hand before launching the offensive and taking over Zhai Rangs Da Longtou [big boss] throne.

    Xu Ziling nodded in agreement.

    If Li Mi rose in rebellion too early, even if he managed to seize total victory, but because Zhai Rang still had his prestige, plus he still had solid relationship with the leaders of Wagang Army, he might make the Wagang Army to split up and disintegrate. Such a tragic victory would not be worth mentioning.

    Lowering his voice, Kou Zhong said, After obtaining the authority over the military, he actually had the opportunity to launch a direct attack to Guanzhong and thus occupying the Western Capital. If that happened, wouldnt he have the Eastern Capital inside his bag as well? But he was afraid that after entering the Pass, Zhai Rangs former loyal subordinate would claim independence and declare himself king, and refuse to obey his command. Thereupon he strongly defended his position in Henan, and replaced the Wagang Army leaderships with the generals loyal to himself. In terms of strategy, it was a wise one.

    After a short pause, he went on, Time and again Li Mi opened the storehouse to provide relief to the people, so that he won the popular sentiment, and his prestige enjoyed a great boost, plus all the heroes of various region came to pledge their allegiance to him. If he were a reckless man, he would denounce the canal construction early on, and deployed his troops south to attack Jiangdu. But Li Mi restrained himself by not doing it; he waited for Yuwen Huagu to rise in rebellion and killed Emperor Yang like a chicken in a basket, and then when he led his troops north to return to his base, Li Mi raised his troops to meet the enemy. Yuwen Huagu is not a lay practitioner of Buddhism at all, plus he still had the most elite imperial guards under his command, yet he still lost to Li Mis self-restrain. Do you still want to listen more?

    Hearing Yuwen Huagus name, Xu Zilings tiger-eyes flashed a chilling murderous intent. Of course, he said simply.

    Kou Zhong sighed in admiration, Even self-restrain needs to be particular about tactics, be particular about deceit. And Li Mi is a master in these. In order to escape Wang Shichong and Yuwen Huagus left and right pincer attack, unexpectedly Li Mi shamelessly expressed goodwill toward the puppet emperor at the Eastern Capital supported by Wang Shichong. He even expressed to Yuwen Huagu his willingness to atone for his crime, so that he would not have to worry of trouble in the rear.

    Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, But by doing that, wouldnt his reputation take serious hit?

    Kou Zhong continued, In time where rumors are flying everywhere, who would care if that kind of information is true, or whether this kind of information is false? However, Wang Shichong is afraid Li Mi would join hands with Yuwen Huagu to attack the Eastern Capital, so for the time being he simply hold back his troops without moving, just contend to sit on the mountain and watch the tigers fight. It would be best if Li Mi and Yuwen Huagu fight until both sides suffer, or perhaps they would be locked in perpetual hostility against each other. Nothing could be more ideal than that for him.

    How did you know everything so clearly? Xu Ziling asked in amazement.

    Half by listening to others, half by guessing! Kou Zhong replied, Ha! You ought to know that my cognitive ability is quite strong!

    And then, slapping his thigh he said, Yuwen Huagu set his military supply wagon on a slippery stage when he led his troops to attack Liyang. Li Mi exercised self-restrain against him by ordering Xu Shiji, who was guarding Liyang, to avoid direct confrontation, but to guard the storehouse city to the west. Needless to say, not the least bit army provision would be left for Yuwen Huagu!

    Listening to him, Xu Zilings interest was piqued; he asked further, Cant Yuwen Huaji seize the opportunity to pursue and attack? How could the storehouse city defend themselves against the pressure of a large army at their border?

    On this, Kou Zhong said, You have to hand it to Li Mi. He personally led twenty-thousand cavalry marching to Qingqi. Coordinating with Xu Shiji, they excavated deep trenches and built high wall, but refuse to have direct confrontation with Yuwen Huagu. If Yuwen Huagu attacked the storehouse, he would pull his rear leg to form non-confrontational deadlock. Problem was Yuwen Huagu lacked provisions; that old fox still deceive him by negotiating peace, making that idiot Yuwen Huagu think that they were in cease-fire, and no longer limit the soldiers ration. Li Mi picked this time to pick war with him at Tong Shan [Mt. Tong], Yuwen Huagus grain was depleted, he ran away in defeat to Wei Jun [Wei County], his power took a serious beating. The reason Li Mi achieved victory was not because Yuwen Huagus knowledge is inferior to him, or because his military power and strategy and tactics could not match the opponents. Rather, he lost to Li Mis self-restrain.

    And then his eyes shone as he went on, Therefore, as long as I can break Li Mis resolves in exercising self-restrain, I would be able to make the invincible Li Mi to suffer the first major defeat in his entire life, a defeat so bad that he would not be able to recover from. The opportunity is here. I only need to see Wang Shichong, and then I will have a way to make him listen to me. Otherwise, the world will belong to Li Mi.

    Xu Zilings heart was severely shaken.

    Kou Zhong was correct. And he did understand Li Mis strengths and advantages. As long this strength could be used against him, Li Mis advantage would become his weakness. And Kou Zhong did have enough ability and wisdom to lay a trap and lure Li Mi to enter it.

    Even with Li Mis wisdom as deep as the sea, he would never have expected that a terrifying adversary such as Kou Zhong was watching in the dark, had a good grasp of his strategy, and waiting for an opportunity to deal him a heavy blow.

    Question is: how would Kou Zhong make Wang Shichong to listen to him?

    In the present case, it was out of the question.

    This moment Ba Fenghan returned, carrying a small roebuck, cutting the two boys discussion.

    ※ ※ ※

    By dusk that day, the tree left the mountain area. By the time they reach a jungle by the south bank of River Ru, the night already fell.

    The moon had yet to appear in the night sky, the specks of stars filled the firmament, so magnificent and moving.

    Ba Fenghan drew his sword to cut a tree trunk. Paring its branches and leafs, he said, I am going to toss this tree trunk into the middle of the river, well use it as a stepping stone to reach the opposite bank. Whos first?

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Xiao Ling should be first! Actually, whos first whos last shouldnt make any difference.

    Xu Ziling suddenly lowered his voice, Something is not quite right. I dont know what it is, but ever since we left the mountain area, I have a heart alarmed, body leaping feeling, a bit like that time when we were outside the city of Baling.

    Ba Fenghan was aghast, Actually, I am also good at tracking and anti-tracking technique, he said, Just now, I have used all kinds of methods to test whether anybody was tracking us. If Zilings feeling is unmistaken, then the enemy lying in the dark must be at least Qu Aos level.

    Sucking in a mouthful of cold air, Kou Zhong said, Why hasnt he made his move then? Perhaps he does not have enough confidence to deal with us all at the same time, hence he is waiting for reinforcement. But then again, it is very likely that he is Qu Ao himself; perhaps he is planning on launching a sudden attack when we are crossing the river, to kill one of us first, and then leisurely clean up the other two.

    Ba Fenghan said, I dont care who he is; even if he is Qu Ao himself, so what? We will find a way to lure him out, and then with ten-thousand catty thunderbolt strike we kill him, and get rid of the root of trouble.

    Xu Ziling shook his head and said, This is not the time to show off your bravado; since our whereabouts is already detected by the enemy, our route will be full of thistles and thorns all the way to Luoyang. If we simply fight our way through, we would eventually fall into bitter battle and die of exhaustion. Its really not worth it.

    Frowning, Kou Zhong asked, Do you have any suggestion?

    Whose territory is Xiangcheng anyway? Xu Ziling asked back.

    Wang Shichongs, of course, Ba Fenghan replied, Otherwise the Eastern Capital would be done for long ago.

    Lowering his voice, Kou Zhong said, If anybody is watching us right now, they would think that we were going to cross the river. If we suddenly run along the River toward Xiangcheng, other than tucking their tail in wild pursuit, the opponents practically dont have any other choice.

    Ba Fenghan was delighted, The wilderness outside the city of Xiangcheng is a wide open space; it does not give anybody any shelter. If anybody is following us, we will know who it is!

    After further discussion about the details, as well as deciding any contingency measures, the three of them walked over to the river.

    Ba Fenghan transferred his strength to his arm and flung the tree trunk to the middle of the river.

    Splash!

    Water burst everywhere.

    With a loud shout the three men dashed along the river toward Xiangcheng.

    ※ ※ ※

    Xiangcheng was located on the north bank of River Ru, connecting the vast area of mountains with the upstream and downstream river traffic. Due to its geographic location, it was a very strong and inaccessible fortress. Whoever had any control of it would have a significant role in determining the Eastern Capital Luoyangs safety and danger.

    The Xiangyang city walls were surrounded by chain, the wall was solid and grand, the gate and the city watchtower was spectacular, arrow tower stood tall; in short, it was an austere scene to behold.

    About a li away from the city, they crossed the River Ru and reached the section where the river was diverted to make up the moat surrounding the city, and crouched low among the tall grass.

    Looking back, the vast wilderness was completely empty, not even half a ghost was to be seen.

    The tall and lofty, reaching up to fifteen zhang high, city wall was brightly lit, so that the moat was as bright as daytime. Even a fly would not be able to escape the city guards eyes.

    Other than charging in from the outside, there was no other way to enter the city.

    Ba Fenghan sighed and said, If someones really trailing us, this person must be so brilliant that he will make our hearts tremble.

    Kou Zhong spoke heavily, Zi Lings intuition is well-tested; he cant be wrong.

    Xu Zilings gaze fell on a small hill in the distance; he spoke with complete confidence, The enemy is on top of that hill.

    With a deep frown on his forehead, Ba Fenghan asked, Shall we make a detour to go to Luoyang immediately? It would be better than staying here, where we can neither advance nor retreat. If the enemy set up an inescapable net, we would be in big trouble. Hey! I heard hoof beats!

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong immediately focused their power on their ears and sure enough, they heard from about three li on the north there was a large number of cavalry rushing toward Xiangcheng.

    Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, This is called the Heaven is in our side! We have the opportunity to sneak into the city.

    ※ ※ ※

    Ding!

    Three cups clinked against each other. Ba Fenghan laughed and said, Tonight the bright moon is high up in the sky, if there is any major enemy coming here, let me, the Old Ba, be the host. Zhong Shao, Ziling, you must promise to give me the honor.

    Kou Zhong raised the wine cup in his right hand, and like an arrow the wine shot into his throat. The most amazing thing was that he took it all, not a single drop of wine was spilled. Laughing to his hearts content, he said, This is the first time you call yourself Old Ba, and with unprecedented politeness too! I wonder whats the reason?

    Ba Fenghan also drained the wine in his cup in one gulp. His lightning-like eyes swept the other patrons of the restaurant first, scaring some people who were staring at them because of the three mens unrestrained words and actions, so that they quickly lowered their heads to avoid his gaze. Only then did he smile and said, The purpose of my, Ba Fenghans visit to the Central Earth is to meet as many as possible martial art masters of this place. Now that someone voluntarily drops in, naturally my mood is getting better, my attitude automatically becomes different. Will Zhong Shao be satisfied with this explanation?

    Xu Ziling only sipped his wine before setting down the wine cup. Laughing involuntarily, he said, I am afraid the enemy wont be able to enter the city until tomorrow morning. Old Ba, I think you are rejoicing too soon!

    With a faraway look on his face, Kou Zhong said, Tomorrow will be a very interesting day. The best thing is that we practically do not know who is going to come looking for us.

    This moment their dishes arrived. Kou Zhong refilled the three mens cups and then said, Old Ba, you are a Tujue, I was wondering if I could ask you some Tujue-related matters?

    Speak up! Ba Fenghan replied.

    Kou Zhong thought for a moment, and then lowering his voice he said, Which side are you guys really supporting? The other day Tujues Shibi Khan dispatched the Double-Spear General Yan Lihui and Dauntless Lion Mu Tiexiong to collude with Li Mi, with the aim of killing Zhai Rang. But

    Ba Fenghan cut him off, First of all, you need to know that Tujue is divided into eastern and western parts. Shibi is Eastern Tujues Khan. For the last decade or so, there are wars on all sides; on the east from Khitan, Shi Wei, on the west from Tuyuhun, Gao Chang, both were officials in the Eastern Tujues feudal court. As for the Western Tujue, their base of operations is at the river basin of Ili River; all the land west of Altai Mountain Range is their domain, a vast territory that in no way is inferior to the Eastern Tujue.

    Ba Fenghan continued, Whether it is the Eastern Tujue or Western Tujue, the structure of the line of command is different from the dynastic imperial court system of the Central Earth; they are more tribal-centered. For instance, Eastern Tujues Shibi is just a tribal chief, but he has the strongest power, hence he was elected as the supreme leader. In such place where the strongest became king, no one can guarantee that tomorrow he can keep his power and status.

    So what about Bi Xuan? Xu Ziling asked out of curiosity, Is he from the Eastern Tujue or Western Tujue?

    Hearing Bi Xuans name, Ba Fenghan let out a cold snort first before replying, Our Tujue people attach most importance to courage and strength. Bi Xuan is the number one martial art master of the Eastern Tujue, hence among the locals he holds a god-like status. If Shibi Khan did not have his support, he could forget about having a stable position as the Khan. Therefore, when I offended Bi Xuan, it was tantamount to offending the entire Eastern Tujue. Ha! But why should I, Ba Fenghan, be afraid? Arent still alive like a lively dragon and animated tiger?

    From Ba Fenghan, the two boys could clearly feel the valiant style of the Tujue people.

    At the corner of the restaurant, there was a table on which sat several people, men and women. They all wore warrior outfit, and everybody was armed; they seemed to be the disciples of the same school or sect. The two women among them were young, charming, and quite pretty.

    These two women noticed the outstanding build and appearance of the three men, and seemed to be unable to restrain their emotions; they could not keep their eyes from drifting toward them.

    The fact was that the three were indeed extraordinary characters, which might not be found one in ten thousand, and were brimming with masculine charms. Forget about the young girls at their first-awakening-of-love stage, even the rest of the party, which were men just like the three, could not help staring at them with respect.

    This moment the two women happened to look their direction, and Ba Fenghan met their gaze, and gave them a very gracious smile. His neat rows of snow white teeth were dazzling, and were extremely captivating. The two young women were surprised and delighted at the same time; hastily they hung their head low to avoid his eyes; even their ears turned red.

    Upon seeing this, their three male table companions revealed an unpleasant look of jealousy and anger.

    Ba Fenghan ignored them and remarked, At our place, a womans worth is measured by the number of horses, cattle and sheep; they are considered as mens property.

    Kou Zhong had no interest in this aspect; he said, You have not answered my question.

    For some unknown reason, Ba Fenghans mood was very good this evening, Lets talk while we eat, he said.

    The three men raised their wine cups and their chopsticks; the atmosphere was exceptionally lively.

    After staring quietly at Xu Ziling for a moment, Ba Fenghan asked in surprised, Does Ziling have a load in his mind?

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, I suddenly remembered Yu Yi; I wonder what happened to her?

    Ba Fenghan sighed and said, To be honest with you, I am worried about her as well. Hence I really want to catch one of Yin Gui Pai people to interrogate him; its just that I did not say it out loud!

    Upon hearing this, the two boys good impression on him rose up several notches; at least he was not as cold and heartless as he appeared to be.

    Tonight they gained further understanding of Ba Fenghan, but they still had a profound, unfathomable feeling toward him, because they were well aware that Ba Fenghan kept his innermost feeling deep within, and also because his way of thinking and his working style were different from ordinary peoples, making it hard for other people to pin down.

    Like he was expressing his true feeling right now; to him it was a rare occurrence.

    Kou Zhong said, Yu Yis qinggong is very superior; if she could not take it, she could have just gotten away.

    Ba Fenghan nodded and said, Junyu once told me that her Shifu taught her the Ni Tian Dun Shu, which enable her to get away far and wide under any circumstances. Huh? How come your countenances become so unsightly? [Translators note: I have difficulty finding a concise, yet accurate translation for this: nitian defiance of the natural order, dun escape/flee, shu method/technique. So the long version would be escape method in defiance of the natural order, or supernatural escape technique, but I thought supernatural is not accurate.]

    Smiling bitterly, Kou Zhong said, Speaking of which, our Niang actually had a chance to escape alive, but because she wanted to protect us, she was forced to stake it all against Yuwen Huagu that in the end both sides suffered. Ay!

    Ba Fenghan was stunned, Whos Yuwen Huagu? he asked, Oh! I understand.

    Xu Ziling spoke heavily, I will definitely kill him.

    Ba Fenghan understood their grief; he deliberately changed the subject, Nearing the end of the Sui Dynasty, the Central Earth was a big mess. Worse yet, due to Emperor Yangs three military expeditions to Gaoli [Korea], in the north the people had no way to make a living. Due to many reasons, for example unbearably harsh taxation, or perhaps to evade military conscription, or to escape from corrupt government officials, many people, military personnel and civilians alike, crossed over the Great Wall to take refuge in the Eastern Tujue. Not only this had given great boost to Shibi Khans power, it has also enabled him to have a clear grasp of your distinguished countrys situation. Have you ever heard the name Zhao Deyan?

    Kou Zhong shook his head, Never heard of him, he replied, Sounds like a Han name.

    Be Fenghan said, In terms of martial art skill, intelligence and strategy, this man is superior. But his origin is mysterious. His martial art style and mental cultivation [xin fa] seem to come from his own development, so different from the others. If you want to know the extent of his brilliance, its very easy, owing to the fact that when Bi Xuan saw him, his interest was aroused that he wanted to have a competition with him, until in the end he was forced to use the Hua Yang Da Fa [Great Method of Transforming the Sun], a skill he kept at the bottom of his chest, before finally able to defeat him. From this you can tell how formidable he really is.

    The two boys could not help being tongue-tied.

    Ba Fenghan went on, This battle has propelled Zhao Deyans fame within the Wulin circle outside the Wall, and has earned him the position as Shibis most trusted aide. The year before last Shibi fell ill and died, and Chuluo Khan took his place. Strange thing was that without any illness Chuluo Khan suddenly passed away, and Xieli Khan replaced him. But Xieli Khan has a very good relationship with Zhao Deyan. If anybody said that Chuluo Khans death had nothing to do with Zhao Deyan, I will be the first to disbelieve it, because all along Chuluos relationship with Xieli and Zhao Deyan was like fire and water.

    Amazed, Kou Zhong asked, So the power nowadays is in Xielis hands; what kind of man is he?

    With a cold laugh, Ba Fenghan replied, Just by looking at how he is using Zhao Deyan, we know that he is a very ambitious person. To him, the more chaotic the Central Earth is the better, it would be best if it all split up and in pieces, and always in perpetual conflict; this way he would have an opportunity he could exploit. According to Zhao Deyans grand plan, anybody whos coming to ask for help, they would help indiscriminately, while as much as possible preventing any single party to grow. Therefore, they both supported Liu Wuzhou and Liang Shidu attacking the Li Clan, and also supporting the Li Clan to rebel against the Sui Dynasty by attacking Guanzhong; themselves constantly invade the border and looting, while using war to incite war, waiting for fortunate timing.

    Xu Ziling spoke heavily, At most this Zhao Deyan has to be killed; why would they have to swap the spearheads against their own people?

    Ba Fenghan replied, His style is a bit like Yin Gui Pai, full of hatred against the world, and will only be satisfied if the whole country is in rebellion. Eastern Tujue has another person we need to watch, the Cyclone Tu Li. This man is Xielies [paternal] nephew. Not only his martial art skill outstanding, he is able to move the troops like a deity. The other day the one Xieli sent out to help Li Yuan capturing Guanzhong was precisely this person. It is said that he had an excellent relationship with Li Yuans second son; they called each other Xiong and Di [older and younger brother, respectively].

    Li Yuans second son was none other than Li Shimin.

    Kou Zhong was listening with keen interest; laughing, he said, Old Ba, you really enlightened me today; in the future, would you like me to bestow you the title of some Fenghan Khan?

    Ba Fenghan smiled in amusement; he said, I almost said go to your Niang. If I, Ba Fenghan, want to strive for high official position in Tujue, the effort I need to spend is like the exertion of lifting my hand. But I must say the same thing to you: if you want to ascend to the most venerable throne in the world, you must make this position comparatively more pleasing to the eye than if other people are sitting on it, because after all, we have been through trials and tribulations together!

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, That is the most fitting remark bare none!

    While the three were bursting out in laughter, the men and women on the other table paid their bill and left. The two women were still reluctant to part; they had their eyes on the three before finally leaving in disappointment.

    Meanwhile the food on the table had been thoroughly wiped clean. Ba Fenghan said, Western Tujues people are powerful their horses strong, not inferior to the Eastern Tujue by any means. If both countries unite, great catastrophe will befall the Central Earth. Fortunately Xieli and Western Tujues Khan Tong Xiehu have never been in good terms with each other that they are incapable to form an alliance powerful enough to invade to the east.

    Xu Ziling said in wonder, Fenghan Xiong is very considerate to us, Han people.

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, Countries and peoples are just a source of confusion. As far as Im concerned, border between countries are nothing more than man-made game, it cant exist in perpetuity. The only thing really worth our consideration is the culture we inherited from the previous generations.

    Deep contemplation look came to Xu Ziling; if they did not chat with Ba Fenghan, they would never know that he had such thought that transcend worldliness.

    But Kou Zhong did not give it further thought; he asked, Eastern Tujue has Bi Xuan and Zhao Deyan. Does Western Tujues Tong Xiehu have any capable person under his command?

    Ba Fenghan replied, Western Tujues Guoshi [teacher of the state] is a Persian martial art master Yun Shuai [lit. Commander Cloud; not sure if it was his name or his title]. This man uses a crescent-shaped saber, and his mastery has reached perfection, no one in Western Tujue can match him. More than that, he is a master in deceit and scheming, in strategy and tactics. Were it not for him, Western Tujue would have been wiped out by other tribes early on.

    After a short pause, he went on, Yun Shuai has a daughter named Lian Rou. I heard that not only she is highly intelligent, her cunning and martial art skill were handed-down directly from her father. Moreover, her beauty is the kind that is capable of causing the downfall of a nation. Tong Xiehu regards her as his own daughter; he loves and dotes on her in every possible way.

    Kou Zhong was about to speak when suddenly the alarm went off in his heart. Together with Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling they turned their heads to look at the entrance.

    In fact, this moment all the diners over a dozen or so tables inside the restaurant had their eyes on a woman in white standing in front of the door. Just as if they had their acupoints sealed, they all stared with big, shiny eyes, dumbstruck, and in daze.

    If anybody were able to read what was in their mind, they all had the same thing, Unexpectedly there is such a beautiful woman like her in the world.

    Like an apparition Wanwan, in clothes as white as the snow, stood at the door. Her beautiful but hazy eyes, as if she was dreaming, were fixed on the three men, but her beautiful face was as tranquil as a still water. Her bare feet were sticking out under her skirt. Even the pickiest person would not be able to say that he found any flaw in her.

  16. #136
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 12 Chapter 5

    Book 12 Chapter 5 Battle Over The Table

    Wanwan, like a fairy, who did not feed on human world smoke and fire, descending from the heavens, elegant and supple, walked over to the three mens table, which was leaning against the corner of the restaurant, and sat down in an easy and relaxed manner on the empty chair between Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan.

    Her beautiful eyes, which aroused wild and fanciful thoughts more than in a dream, swept the three mens faces, until it finally stopped at Ba Fenghans. A faint smile, which was more gentle and natural than a ripple, escaped from the corner of her mouth as she spoke in her sexy contralto voice, Ba Fenghan, how are you? [Reminder: in Chinese, how are you is are you well/good (ni hao).]

    Ba Fenghans tiger-eyes flashed with cold light as he swept his eyes around at the staring, bewitched eyes of the other diners, before he suddenly exploded, What are you looking at?

    The other diners felt stabbing pain as if their eardrums were pricked with needles; they work up with a start and hastily lowered their eyes.

    The waiter, who was about to greet Wanwan, was scared and withdrew.

    It was only then did Ba Fenghan turn his eyes to Wanwan, laughed aloud and said, Theres a beauty honoring me with her presence, how could I, Ba Fenghan, be not good? [see my note above]. Only I dont know whether Miss Wanwan has just arrived in town, or whether your lotus self has been around for a while in here?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling maintained their calm-and-unruffled-in-the-midst-of-chaos bearing; they did not appear to be troubled by Wanwan suddenly paying them a visit. While actually, they focused their attention to hear what Wanwan was going to say in response to the question.

    It should be noted that presently the City of Xiangcheng, or any other cities for that matter, was in a tight-security, very high alert situation. Unless one knew some invisibility technique or was relying on brute force to charge into the city, one could forget about sneakily slip into the city without anybody noticing it.

    Therefore, if Wanwan replied that she had just entered the city, there was a very high possibility that she was colluding with Xiangchengs city master, plus it was very possible that she was the enemy stalking them in secret outside the city just now.

    However, her other answer would be more troubling: how could she, without being a clairvoyant, have predicted that they would come here and thus was waiting for them here?

    Wanwans lucid and elegant like a fairys jade countenance was as calm as still water; her gaze slowly swept Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling before her cherry lips spat out the answer, Ba Xiongs question is very odd; under current circumstances, what difference does it make if I arrived here earlier or later? Plus the real problem you are facing right now is actually only one: unless the three gentlemen can fly to the sky to escape, you wont be able to fly off the palm of nujias [lit. woman, humble self-reference by young female] hand. The question you should ask is: why does nujia has time to casually chatting with you?

    Giggling, Kou Zhong said, Why you have time to chat, we do not have time to ask. Ha! I almost forget to tell you: we are never afraid of empty-word threat; if you have the ability, bring it on and let me see!

    Pfft! Wanwan stifled her tender laugh; her manner looked extremely enchanting as she cast Kou Zhong a sideways thousand-tender, hundred-charm glance and said, You dont seem to have heard the saying, those who come bore ill-will, those who are benevolent dont come

    Suddenly Ba Fenghans palm struck the table, jarring the bowls and the plates while cutting her off at the same time. His eyes shot an unprecedented terrifying light as he thundered, Everybody else get lost! I am going to kill!

    The diners, waiters and the proprietor were scared sh1tless; they scrambled out in confusion that in the blink of an eye the spacious restaurant was empty except for the four people.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were well aware that Ba Fenghan deliberately created a scene so that the people in the restaurant would notify Xiangcheng authority, so that Wanwans people could not attack them unscrupulously.

    Wanwan clearly did not expect Ba Fenghan would use this move; her phoenix-eyes turned cold, obviously her fragrant heart was in fury.

    Without looking at her at all, Ba Fenghan said, Cut the crap; let me see how much weigh Zhu Yuyans conceited disciple really weigh.

    Throwing his head back, Kou Zhong chuckled loudly and said, If I, Kou Zhong, am not mistaken, just now outside the city it was you, female demon Wan, who followed us around like a hanging-boot ghost. And now you are afraid we might suddenly slip away from the city, hence you came here executing a stalling tactic, all because your helpers have yet to arrive. Am I right?

    Wanwan recovered her no-wind, no-wave calm demeanor. Her sparkling-and-translucent-like-superior-jade skin appeared to glow with a hard-to-describe luster; she sighed gloomily and said, You are courting death!

    The three immediately knew she was about to attack. While they were about to launch a preemptive attack, the entire table suddenly slid sideways to crush Ba Fenghan.

    At the same time Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong sensed that under the table, Wanwans bare feet were flying toward them.

    In the split second, as quick as a flints spark, before the edge of the table crashed onto the pit of Ba Fenghans stomach, Ba Fenghans right palm, with unbelievable speed, chopped down on the tables edge.

    The solid wood table broke; the two halves of tabletop caved in, but the side closest to Wanwan was sent by Ba Fenghans skillfully applied force that it flew at an angle, aiming toward Wanwans throat.

    Bang! Bang!

    The two boys separately blocked Wanwans kicks.

    They were already wary of Wanwans Tian Mo Gong with its unpredictable changes; therefore, they retained some strength to guard against unexpected follow-up attacks.

    Wanwan laughed tenderly; her tender body, along with the chair she was sitting on, flew backward, so that the half the tabletop flew only a hairsbreadth away from the tip of her nose, and failed to inflict the least bit of damage on her.

    The plates, bowls and wine cups, which were originally on the table, fell down to the floor.

    Crack! Crack! Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong simultaneously applied their inner power to shatter their chairs and flew backward to dodge two streams of powerful, swift and fierce, wind coming out from Wanwans fingers.

    Xu Ziling was still sitting steadily on his chair. While sending out a punch over the empty space, he took advantage while the table was falling to the floor, the tip of his toes caught one of the saucers on their way down and then sending out his spiraling energy, the saucer spun out at an oblique angle with astonishing speed toward Wanwans knee.

    If she were hit, it could almost be guaranteed that none of Wanwans kneecap would stay intact.

    This close range battle across the table was a hundred times more dangerous than any battle the four of them had ever encountered in all their lives. It was swift beyond comprehension, and was both a battle of strength and a battle of wits, where myriads of changes happened in such a short period of time.

    The Beheading Mystery Sword and the Moon in the Well Saber left their scabbards.

    Wanwan soared to the air. With the tip of her toes she kicked the saucer shot by Xu Ziling. The saucer immediately changed it direction, with an even faster speed it spun to cut Ba Fenghans face.

    With a long laugh Xu Ziling sprang off the chair, made a somersault in the air, and fast as lightning he flew up feet first toward Wanwan, who was about to escape by crashing through the roof.

    Kou Zhong also leaped up at an angle, the Moon in the Well turned into a streak of yellow light, shooting straight toward Wanwan.

    Ba Fenghan turned his head sideways to evade the splitting-the-air flying saucer, but because of this he was delayed a fraction of a second and thus missed the distinguished meeting of dragon and phoenix in the air.

    Wanwan let out a cold snort. As if she was catching butterflies, her palms fluttered in the air, creating thousands of palm shadows, in full display of her formidable Tian Mo Gong.

    Almost simultaneously Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong felt as if the space, approximately a zhang in diameter, with Wanwan as the center, suddenly collapsed that they had nowhere to apply their forces.

    If it were during the days before they spent ten days in hard training on the mountain, this moment the two boys would be undeniably at a loss, and just like in the battle at Jinglings Duba Mansions garden, they could only withdraw to save their own lives.

    However, after ten days of vigorous sparring with Ba Fenghan, the two boys have made tremendous progress, both in terms of knowledge and experience, as well as in skill and power. They knew that if they withdrew right now, Wanwans concentrated Tian Mo Gong would attack Ba Fenghan in full power.

    Xu Ziling quickly withdrew his kicking right foot; in a calm and measured manner he drew a small circle, his movement was so perfect as if it was carved by the Heaven, without the jaggedness of a hatchet or a chisel, so that Wanwan, who was in a life and death combat against him, could also feel the mystery of mysteries he exuded.

    Like a tornado the spiraling energy rolled out, but it was spinning in the opposite direction, so that the seemingly collapsing space suddenly solidified again, which was then punctured by Xu Zilings scorching vortex of qi, which then continued on toward Wanwans flat, without-an-ounce-of-extra-fat, belly.

    Xu Ziling suddenly attained a flash of inspiration; he understood that by using the most innovative move he had ever thought of in all his life, he had penetrated Tian Mo Shen Gongs secret.

    Space cant possibly collapse.

    Because Tian Mo Gongs special characteristic was that it had some kind of ability to absorb the opponents power and use it for its own purpose, whenever any true qi met with Wanwans devilish skill, its power was greatly reduced as if it was wilting away, leading up to the illusion of the collapsing space.

    But when Xu Ziling suddenly pulled back his full-powered right kick and changed the direction of its rotation, Wanwan was caught off guard and was unable to absorb his energy. Furthermore, he was able to break the Tian Mo shield of qi, which Wanwan had trained to the highest, i.e. forty-ninth, level, and continued the attack toward her.

    Witnessing what had just happened, Ba Fenghan screamed wildly, Good! Like a furious dragon the Beheading Mystery Sword shot up to attack Wanwan.

    Just before the force from Xu Zilings foot made contact with Wanwan, Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well also made a changed as well, from stabbing it turned into sweeping chop, hacking Wanwans extremely small waist.

    Along its trajectory, the Moon in the Well constantly altered its angle and direction, as well as its speed and strength, as it chopped wildly, as if an invisible enemy was wrestling it in the air.

    This saber strike was also the pinnacle of Kou Zhongs lifelong effort.

    The purpose of each change was to make Wanwan unable to grasp, and therefore unable to weaken its spiraling energy.

    Yet Wanwan remained calm without the slightest bit of fear. The thousands of palm shadows converged back into two, with the right palm blocked Xu Zilings foot power, and the left hand withdrawn inside her sleeve, and the sleeve brushed against Kou Zhongs chopping Moon in the Well.

    Bang!

    When the force from the foot collided with Wanwans jade palm, which was so delicate that it appeared as if he used a bit more strength he would be able to shatter it if he crush it in his grip, unexpectedly his power dissipated, and its direction altered, so that with an even higher speed it swiftly shot toward Ba Fenghan, who was dashing upward.

    In shock Xu Ziling withdrew his power. Wanwan seized this opportunity to increase the momentum [orig. push the wave and add to the billows], by adding her powerful heart-destroying, lungs-splitting Tian Mo qi, as if ten sharp needles were mixed into Xu Zilings withdrawn spiraling energy, without he be able to do anything about it.

    Wham!

    Like a steel whip the soft sleeve rammed onto the blade of the Moon in the Well.

    Immediately Kou Zhong felt his arm was about to split. Not only his own force was deflected sideways, Wanwan also added a generous amount of her power that, like a snake, coiled and wrapped around his qi, and pulled him toward the combined forces line of action.

    At the same time Wanwans snow-white bare foot flew out from underneath her skirt, if Wanwan succeeded in pulling Kou Zhong to this position, her foot would hit him right on his groin, and thus destroying the out of the ordinary martial art skill he obtained from the Secret to Long Life.

    No one understood the fantastic skill resulted from the Secret to Long Life better than she did. Because no one had a more intimate contact with the two boys than she did.

    Also, only she understood how terrifying these two boys actually were.

    Over time, these two boys would become out-of-the-world martial art masters of Ning Daoqi, Bi Xuans caliber. Killing them one day earlier was definitely better than killing them a day late.

    Bang!

    Ba Fenghan was the first to meet the flowing-smoothly-and-swiftly column of spiraling qi that Wanwan borrowed from Xu Ziling to kill him. With a muffled grunt he was thrown sideways.

    Xu Ziling pushed with the tip of his right foot, while originally he wanted to withdraw his power, and changed it into a forward push, while also changing the direction of the spiral.

    It was a totally brilliant move.

    Wanwans mistake was that she neglected Xu Zilings true qi directed against her, which was like a part of his body and thus capable to respond to changing circumstances. As soon as it detected Wanwans sinister method, it immediately held on [orig. reining in the horse at the edge of the precipice] and changed from pull to push.

    The dozen or so streams of Tian Mo needle-like energy returned intact into this beautiful demoness body.

    Kou Zhong also altered his saber strike; exploded into a ball of saber light, each strike carried a short, pulsing spiraling energy, to meet Wanwans Tian Mo power and dissipate it. In both defense and offense move, like snowflakes the saber light floated toward Wanwans left flank.

    Meanwhile Ba Fenghan was thrown toward the wall farthest away from the battle. Using his toes to make contact with the wall, he ricocheted back like a bullet. The Beheading Mystery Sword in his hand moved in a large arch, it slashed toward Wanwans delicate back.

    Wanwan immediately fell into the perilous situation where she was facing three-pronged attack at the same time.

    As the sword qi arrived at her back, Wanwan spun around, pulled her sleeves back and rolled them to her elbows, exposing her pair of whiter-than-snow, superior-to-frost, jade arms, which fantastically flashing indeterminately into countless arm shadows, making she looked exactly like thousand-arm Guanyin [Goddess of Mercy] in a marvelous demonic [Tian Mo] dance.

    Her originally sparkling-and-translucent-like-jade slender jade arms were glowing with eerie color and luster, so that the onlookers were even more dazzled and stunned.

    A continuous sound of clashing qi rang.

    In that instant, Wanwan successively blocked a kick, a saber and a sword.

    Ba Fenghans sword came last.

    First, one after another Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were shaken by Wanwans Tian Mo Gong that they were thrown backward. Right this moment, the blade of Ba Fenghans no-stronghold-he-could-not-overcome sword was pared down by Wanwan.

    Like a shattering mountain rock the powerful qi splashed out at the impact of the palm and the sword.

    Using the jade finger of her left hand Wanwan burst Kou Zhongs sphere of saber, while with her right palm she parried Xu Zilings powerful kick. In all honesty, she was forced to use up her entire strength. Plus Ba Fenghan was shrewd and ruthless.

    In terms of skill and strength, he was slightly above Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling. This one sword strike was sent not only with the condensed essence, qi and spirit that had been trained to perfection, it also carried the dauntless, overpowering, and matchless confidence.

    It was only this moment that Wanwan understand why Ba Fenghan was acclaimed as Tujues most outstanding martial art master after Bi Xuan.

    The instant her tender and delicate palm hacked down on the blade of the sword, Ba Fenghan felt his entire body was swaying; he felt lightness as if his meridians were completely ruptured. Knowing the seriousness of the situation, he withdrew half of his power to protect his body, while at the same time borrowing the reaction force from the impact to fly away.

    At first Wanwan tasted the sweetness in her throat, but then she vomited a mouthful of fresh blood from her cherry lips, while feeling the residue of the impact force was still trying to spin her around. Quickly she jumped upward, broke the roof, and disappeared beyond the gaping hole on the ceiling.

    Bang!

    Kou Zhong crashed onto a chair, which immediately disintegrated, so that he landed on his butt on the floor.

    Xu Ziling was not so lucky; he was thrown straight toward the window, shattering the frame, and landed on the alley behind the restaurant.

    Compared to the two, Ba Fenghans escape was the least awkward; he managed to land safely on his feet, and immediately cried out, Lets go! Other trouble is coming!

    Crawling back up, Kou Zhong also heard the sound of hoof beats outside, coming toward the restaurant. He knew that if they did not leave now, they would be caught in another bloody battle in the city.

    ※ ※ ※

    The three men crashed through the city walls, slipped out of the city, and ran to the north. After speeding along for more than ten li, Ba Fenghan told them to stop in a forest. He said, Now even I have to admire in complete prostration to Zilings extraordinary instinct. I wonder if Ziling currently still have the feeling that someone is following us like before?

    Xu Ziling seldom received such a heartfelt commendation from Ba Fenghan; his handsome face blushed slightly, he shook his head.

    Ba Fenghan was delighted, That means we have temporarily broken away from this female demon Wan; this womans martial art skill is so high, it surpasses Bian Bufus.

    Acting as if he was still under much trepidation, Kou Zhong said, Just now the difference between victory and defeat was really a hairsbreadth; fortunately she was alone, otherwise I am afraid we would suffer a calamity!

    Ba Fenghan sat down, leaning on a tree, Lets sit down and rest for a moment, he said, We still have a long way to go.

    After Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling sat down on his left and right, he went on, Demonic school people very seldom working in team, simply because of lack of trust between each other, plus the process of their training can be considered individual top secret; therefore, they are used to leave home to make their way in the world alone. This should not be surprising to us.

    Fortunately so, Kou Zhong remarked, Luckier still, we had the ten-day training up the mountain, so that we developed tacit understanding among us; otherwise we could forget about injuring her.

    Xu Ziling said, I wonder if this would provoke Zhu Yuyan to come out?

    Ba Fenghan said, By that time we will be in Luoyang already. The problem at hand will be dealing with the Tiele Eagle Qu Ao. Just like me, this man was born among the horse thieves, so he is adept in the art of tracking and pursuing. If we do not alter our conduct slightly, sooner or later he would definitely catch up with us.

    What would be a feasible solution? Kou Zhong asked.

    Ba Fenghan replied, The art of tracking is nothing more than examining traces, sniffing smells, looking far, and listening to the wind, four major methods. Examining traces involves looking for vestiges our target may leave behind; for example footprint, snapped branches and leaves, stepped over flowers and plants, and so on. Expert trackers such as Qu Ao or even me, Ba Fenghan, whether day or night, in just one glance will be able to see minute details like that, therefore, no trace can actually be hidden.

    Hearing that, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other in dismay; they both mused inwardly that no wonder that time Ba Fenghan and Fu Junyu were able to continuously follow behind them.

    Ba Fenghan went on, Next one is sniffing smells. Human bodies have open pores that constantly send out odors, which will linger long before dissipating. Unless you are in running water, the scent will be attached to the flowers, plants and trees you are passing through. Those with superior tracking skill have a sense of smell which is more sensitive than a dogs, so with just one sniff we would know.

    Kou Zhong was puzzled, Why didnt you tell us earlier? he asked, We could apply our power to shrink our pores, so that our qi would not leak out, hence we would not need to expose our whereabouts, at least in this aspect.

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, Frankly, because it was unnecessary. I did not wish to tell you about this either, because there is no guarantee that one day we wont be standing in opposite sides. When that day came and I had to track you, it would be very, very difficult.

    Kou Zhong was stunned. You are frank enough, he said, But why did you change your mind now?

    The reason is very simple, Ba Fenghan replied, Because there are currently too many enemies looking for us. Yin Gui Pai and Qu Ao in one group, Li Mi and the Great River Alliance in another group. And then there are the disciples and subordinates that Bi Xuan sent out. Any one of these groups has enough strength to annihilate us, enough power to make us at our wits end. Therefore, we absolutely must not reveal our track. Under these circumstances, how could I remain selfish?

    Xu Ziling asked, Is looking far referring to climbing to a higher plane and looking far and near from high vantage point?

    Exactly, Ba Fenghan replied, It sounds simple, but each time it was surprisingly effective. If we have sufficient number of people, we could send each one to different peak to keep watch, it would be difficult for the enemy to evade the trackers eyes and ears. Therefore, if we want to reach Luoyang alive, we must make a plan to counter these three points, absolutely must not hasten up recklessly toward Luoyang.

    And then he added, As for listening to the wind, its only useful when we are near the target, plus the target must be somewhat inferior to the tracker. Those with superior martial art skill will be able to hear the rustling of the clothes from several li away; thereby they will be able to pinpoint the exact location of the target. All horse thieves, regardless of their martial art skill, are expert in listening to the wind. Just by identifying the changes of the wind, they will know where the enemies are. But this technique is more suited to plains or deserts; its not suitable for terrain like we have now.

    Kou Zhong said, You are the expert in this, what should we do?

    Ba Fenghan smiled and replied, In current situation, we may have successfully broken away from the Twin Malevolent of Changbais people; at least we have left them far behind, hence we can put them aside for now. Tuoba Yu, Shixiong and Shimei, ought to be in similar situation. Therefore, the most worrisome right now are Qu Ao and Yin Gui Pais people. If my guess is correct, they must be on their way to come here at full speed.

    Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, I dont know how many branches and twigs we broke, how many flowers and plants we treaded along the way here, wouldnt that mean if the enemy was following our track, they could be here anytime? What are we doing tarrying in this place?

    Ba Fenghan laughed and said, If they are able to come so quickly, just now that female demon Wan would not have employed delaying tactic by trying to hold us there.

    Kou Zhong was anxious to get to Luoyang as soon as possible; he urged, You seem to have answer for everything, why dont you quickly tell us your countermeasure?

    Ba Fenghan replied, First, let us set two different routes, leaving clues [orig. spiders thread and horse track] along the way just like we did, so that the enemy can follow our track, but they will have to split their forces to pursue along two different trails. And then after reaching certain point, we will make our pores vanish, to prevent our bodies qi from leaking out, plus we will be careful in treading the path; step on the rocks, the tip of the trees, or perhaps along a creek to escape. And then well meet again somewhere else. By that time the enemys forces would have been scattered everywhere while they suddenly lose our whereabouts. I guarantee that they will be at a loss to know what to do.

    Slapping his thigh, Kou Zhong said, That is certainly a brilliant scheme. But the enemies definitely know we are heading to Luoyang. As long as they set up sentries on high places, wont that mean we still cannot cover our tracks?

    Ba Fenghan laughed and said, Looking far technique is only effective during daytime; during the night its efficacy is lost big time. Besides, this method requires a lot of manpower, and they dont really have too many martial art masters who could see in the dark as well as under the bright sunlight. Qu Ao, Changshu Mou, and other masters their caliber will never be sentinels on the mountain top waiting like a dumb bird! Therefore, we can hide by day and come out at night; we can even take the opportunity during daytime to train, to preserve and nurture our spirit, so that we can move again at night. I guarantee the enemy wont even grope our shadows.

    After laughing aloud, he went on, Enough chatting, let us now look at two possible escape route! Remember that you can only leave traces of one person; this way it will confuse them even more as to which of us take which route!

    Listening to this, the two boys slapped their thigh and exclaimed in praise.

  17. #137
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 12 Chapter 6

    Book 12 Chapter 6 Hard Battle on the Mountain Top

    It was just before daybreak.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong lay down in a sparse forest on the slope of a hill at the foot of the Shaoshi Mountain southeast of Luoyang. On a distance down below was the Ying River tributary, which was flowing at great speed.

    This was the place where they agreed to rendezvous with Ba Fenghan; about a li away, they had four short bamboo sticks arranged in certain position, which only the three of them understood, pointing to the exact location where the two boys were hiding.

    But Ba Fenghan has not showed up.

    Looking up to the vast sky full of stars, Kou Zhong sighed and said, Under different circumstances, the entire heaven and earth is different. Normally we did not have time to wholeheartedly look up to the sky. The more I look, the more I realized that the way I looked at the sky previously was so careless.

    Xu Ziling pointed to a cluster of brilliant rays on the horizon and said, That is the Pleiades, a constellation made up of seven bright stars; it is also known as the Seven Sisters.

    Amazed, Kou Zhong asked, How do you know such a profound name?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Xu Ziling said, Everything is from Mr. Lus books. Dont you think that recognizing a couple more stars would be very interesting?

    Is it possible for you to teach me a thing or two? Kou Zhong asked, Next time we are looking at the sky, I can show off a bit in front of other people!

    One life time two brothers, Xu Ziling replied, What do I have that I cannot teach you?

    Kou Zhong was delighted, I was always the one who said that; this is the first time that it came out from your mouth.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, Whether I say it out or not, whats the difference? The fact is we are closer than brothers. Back to the topic, if you want to recognize the stars, you must understand the dividing line between distinct realms of three walls and twenty-eight constellations. Three walls are Zi Wei, Tai Wei and Tian Fu [sorry, I have no idea what these are: zi purple, tai grand, wei micro or abstruse, tian sky, fu kneepad]; the twenty-eight constellations are the seven constellations on each direction: east, south, west and north, added together to make the twenty-eight constellations!

    Kou Zhong gave a hollow laugh, Hey! he said, I have enough for now. Next lesson Ill learn the position and name of the twenty-eight constellation.

    Changing the subject, he said, When we fought female demon Wan the other day, the victory and defeat only differed by a hairsbreadth. Slight miscalculation and the one who was injured and escaped would be us and not female demon Wan. It was really dangerous.

    Xu Ziling said, If skills can be measured by scaled, female demon Wan cant possibly surpass the three of us put together. Yet obviously she was able to exploit all kinds of situations. On top of that, more and more demonic skill emerged, that she was able to toy with us in the palm of her hand. Were it not for her underestimating me, Ol Bas sword may not necessarily be able to injure her.

    Kou Zhong nodded in agreement. But Ol Bas sword was definitely our of the ordinary, he commented, Even when it was plain as day that female demon Wan was able to block, she still suffer injury. Ay! Its going to be dawn soon, why hasnt Ol Ba arrived?

    Finished speaking, he sat up.

    Xu Ziling still had his mind on the sky; he seemed to be extremely fascinated.

    Kou Zhong looked around. Suddenly his whole body shook as he pointed in the direction of the upper reaches of the Ying River.

    Xu Ziling was awakened from his dream. By the time he sat up, Kou Zhong already sprang up and soared like a shooting star toward the Ying River.

    When Xu Ziling arrived at the shore, Kou Zhong, with Ba Fenghan, whose right hand was still gripping the Beheading Mystery Sword, whose face was as pale as a dead person, in his bosom, was leaping up from the water.

    When Xu Ziling took the sword from his hand, Ba Fenghan groaned, Quickly go! Qu Ao is coming!

    The two boys were shocked. Carrying Ba Fenghan, they ran to the wilderness.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling took turn carrying Ba Fenghan on their back as they covered more than thirty li distance. They ran in and out of the depth of the jungle. On one hand it was to evade the peoples eyes and ears, on the other hand it was because there were many streams in the jungle, in which they could wade along, so that it would be difficult for the enemy to follow their track.

    By that afternoon, they really could not move a single more step, hence they looked for a cave to rest and to transfer their qi to help Ba Fenghan treating his injury.

    The innate true qi from the Secret to Long Life was indeed extraordinary; not even half a sichen later, blood was coming back to Ba Fenghans face. After throwing up two mouthful of clotted blood, his breathing was starting to flow freely. He sighed and said, This time I was really lucky; if you guys did not pull me out of the river in time, I am afraid I would have drowned.

    How are you feeling right now? Xu Ziling asked in concern.

    Ba Fenghan let out a cold snort and said, Although Qu Aos Ning Zhen Jiu Bian [lit. condensed true nine changes] is formidable, it still failed to take my life. I only need three more sichen, plus with your help, I will be able to recover fully.

    And then he added in distress, I still dont understand how he could keep up with me; but it was obvious that in his rush, he had consumed a large amount of true energy, otherwise I wouldnt be able to use the cliff to add more distance between us, and also to use the water to escape.

    Lets talk about it later! Kou Zhong said, Right now we can only ask the deities and pray to Buddha that within these three sichen Qu Ao wont be able to find us here; otherwise we will be in big trouble!

    ※ ※ ※

    Minute by minute time passed.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling took turns in transmitting their qi into Ba Fenghan to heal his injury and to stand guard outside the cave.

    Into the evening, it was Xu Zilings turn to keep watch outside. He selected a craggy boulder nearby to sit, from which he could monitor the entire mountain area below, but was rather hidden from sight.

    In the beautiful scenery under the setting sun, he enjoyed the steep cliffs and towering peaks, and the Ying River flowing between the two mountains, the lush water plants on the river, and the dark reflection of the dense green vegetation on the surface of the Ying River, in stark contrast to the red mountain and crystal-clear water.

    Three sailboats had just entered the periphery of his vision; the flowing water, rapid current, dark-green and bluish-green forest, in this instant the time seemed to stop.

    It was an unprecedented feeling.

    The ones moving were not the sailboats, but Xu Ziling and the entire perilous peaks spread out over the mountain and fields, while the water seemed to move at different speed.

    In his heart, Xu Ziling had no worry no delight; it was just a plain of quietness.

    His entire sphere of thought was wide open. The true qi inside his body spiraling and surging. The exhaustion from the rushing journey and from treating Ba Fenghans injury was swept away.

    No one knows how much time had passed, the sun already disappeared beneath the western hills, a burst of night breeze blew his way, carrying with it the sound of the sleeve brushing against the wind.

    Without the slightest trepidation in his heart, Xu Ziling slowly closed his eyes.

    The approaching person was getting closer and closer. Just by listening to his speed, Xu Ziling knew that if it was not Qu Ao, then he must be a martial art master of the pinnacle of perfection like Wanwan or her caliber.

    With a long, clear whistle Xu Ziling soared into the air and landed among the weeds within the cluster of miscellaneous trees growing on the slope of the hill below, to the shock of the number one martial art master of Tiele, the Flying Eagle Qu Ao, who had just stepped his feet on the slope that he stopped suddenly.

    Qu Ao was tall and thin, but giving the impression that he was straight as a ramrod and robust. His skin was dark from long exposure to the sun, his face long like a goats, but it was well-defined, clear and powerful, like a statue carved with knife, which fit very well with his pair of sharp eagle or falcon-eyes. His overall impression was vigorous, powerful and intimidating.

    Only from the flickering expression shown in Qu Aos eyes Xu Ziling already knew that he was a vain and selfish, sinister and deceitful person. This kind of person would consider himself as the center of the universe, someone who seems to think that he has received the Heavens privilege to wantonly go on the rampage.

    Now the two people were separated by a full three-zhang distance, but without any visible posture, a surge of deep and cold murderous aura already assaulted like a tidal wave toward Xu Ziling.

    Upright and unafraid Xu Ziling stood calmly, while quietly gathered his energy to contend against the opponents irresistible qi power. Your son, it was me who killed it, he spoke emotionlessly, If you want revenge, go ahead!

    Qu Aos eyes exploded with sharp light; he said in astonishment, Kid, you do have the unyielding attitude of viewing death as a return home. How many moves do you think you can stand from me?

    Originally Qu Ao was planning on coming up with ten-thousand-catty thunderbolt to knocked one of the three down and capture him alive, and then leisurely taking care of the other two, and then he would gain total control of all tree, making them hover between life and death, so that he could vent the hatred of his beloved sons murder.

    Who would have thought that Xu Ziling blocked his path before he reached the top with the spirit of a champion and unassailable masculinity?

    If they fought under this kind of situation, even with Qu Aos ability, he would have no choice but to go all out. If that happened, they would have a life and death battle, where killing might be easy, but he could forget about capturing the opponent alive.

    Qu Ao was a great martial art master of the present age. Finally he decided to crumble the loftiness in Xu Zilings heart. As long as the opponent was thinking of how many moves he could survive Qu Aos attack, naturally a feeling of unable to withstand the enemy would grow in his heart, and then the loftiness would diminish.

    Smiling slightly, Xu Ziling said, Old Qu, you are getting on in years, yet still so nave. Right now I have preserved and nurtured my spirit, plus I have helping hands nearby. While you, Old Qu, have been rushing around for two days, and have risked your life in a strenuous battle. You have become a weary army who cannot afford to make the slightest miscalculation, or else you will implicate the illustrious name you painstakingly established all your life and let it down the drain.

    Qu Ao shivered in fear, because for the first time he saw how formidable Xu Ziling was.

    The most puzzling thing was that the opponent seemed to be filled with vitality and ample spirit, without showing the least bit of lack of true qi and the exhaustion of the hard battle earlier and the tiring journey of running away for their lives. It was simply impossible.

    Although he wounded Ba Fenghan earlier, his victory was really not easy; plus under Ba Fenghans counterattack, he suffered minor internal injury. And then in order to pursue the enemy, he did not have time to recover his energy, and thus like Xu Ziling said, he had become a tired army.

    The most formidable aspect from Xu Zilings remark was the implication about his age being young and his reputation being far below his, so that losing would not be a great deal to him, while on the other hand, Qu Ao simply could not afford to lose.

    Suddenly Qu Ao sensed that Xu Ziling appeared to be unfathomable.

    Previously, every time he faced an enemy, he was always able to see through the opponent, but this time was an exception.

    Even if Bi Xuan, Ning Daoqi, or the like were in his place, they might also be similarly overcome with anxiety and doubt. Even Xu Ziling himself did not understand it; he seemed to understand the situation he was currently facing, yet he did not seem to recognize it for what it actually was.

    All because the Secret to Long Life was not a secret that was passed on from generation to generation, it agreed implicitly with the concept of Man and Heaven, that everything was beyond the natural world, from Laozis [Lao-tze] own word, the Law of Heaven: Road to road, extraordinary road, mystery within a mystery, arriving at its wonderful gate. [From the Book of Changes. Sorry, its beyond me.]

    Just now Xu Ziling skillfully obtained the image of the Heavenly Law penetrating the unspeakable, the nonexistent moment, something that ordinary people would not be able to see or could not understand clearly, where the essence and qi of the human body mixed with the essence and qi of the heaven and earth to become one entity, like a moment of enlightenment all of a sudden recovered the consumed true qi to nearing completion, and still have enough strength to forge ahead vigorously. Such a mysterious principle, who could understand? [Definitely not me, I just translated it as is. Sorry ]

    An unspeakable feeling also grew in Qu Aos heart. But he has made his name for several decades, his will was as steadfast as a rock, hence he would never let discouragement overwhelm him. With a cold snort, fast as lightning he charged up the sloping hill toward Xu Ziling.

    But contrary to Qu Aos expectation, Xu Ziling also leaped up to meet Qu Ao in the air.

    Qu Ao was thinking that Xu Ziling would stay at the top of the slope to defend his position to the death and not letting Qu Ao to cross the line even half a step, to prevent him from going after Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong, who were in hiding.

    But now Xu Ziling was staking everything up by leaving the passage wide open, without any apprehension he attacked with all his might; how could Qu Ao not be surprised?

    Its just that at this moment Qu Ao did not have the luxury to analyze the situation. His ten fingers spread open, he pushed the ground with his toes, and leaped up to meet the attack. His ten fingers generated powerful qi energy, sealing both Xu Zilings incoming momentum and his escape route tightly, so that the only way out for Xu Ziling was to fight in total disregard of everything else.

    Seeing Qu Aos claw was abstruse and unfathomable, extending and retracting indeterminately that it was hard to pin down, and it sealed the opponents movement with incomparable tightness, but suddenly changed course midway from offense to defense, Xu Ziling could not help letting out a long laugh, unexpectedly made a somersault in the air to rise half a zhang up, so that he was in a higher position looking down, and sent out a double punches in full strength to invade the shadow of Qu Aos claw.

    The sound of colliding qi rang out continuously.

    In the blink of an eye the two combatants have exchanged more than a dozen moves.

    Amidst the dull grunt, Xu Ziling floated back to the top of the slope; he had to stagger one step back before he was able to gain a firm foothold. His left pants leg shattered into small pieces, two visible blood traces appeared, with fresh blood still oozing from them. Trace of blood also appeared on the corner of his mouth.

    Qu Ao was standing straight at the middle of the slope, his countenance ashen, his eyes flashing with ominous glint.

    Just now he already gave it everything he had; who would have thought that Xu Ziling sent out amazing moves one after another, each move neutralized his killer move? How could he not lose face and his pair of eyes lost its light?

    Xu Ziling laughed aloud and said, I told you Old Qu, you are tired! Yet you insist on showing off. En garde!

    This time even Qu Ao had to respect his heroism and boldness. Just now it could be said that Xu Ziling had gone through mortal danger and escaped alive. Were it not for his quick thinking of evading the attack on the vital part below his groin by blocking Qu Aos exquisite claw using his leg, this moment he would have been lying on the ground.

    Right now the blood has not stopped flowing, yet he returned in a swirl of dust. Qu Ao could not help viewing him in a new light, but at the same time he also fanned out the murderous intent in Qu Aos heart.

    Again, without any visible posture, Qu Ao charged toward Xu Ziling. Lets try another move! he said with a laugh.

    Xu Ziling saw Qu Aos palm hacking down at an angle, his stance and footwork contained limitless changes, all of a sudden a continuous flow of powerful qi completely enveloped him like the undulating wave; he knew that in his anger Qu Ao went all out to attack him. Naturally Xu Ziling did not dare to meet the attack head on. Abruptly he took three steps back, and then subsequently sent out three punches over the distance.

    Even with his deep cultivation, Qu Ao was still taken aback.

    In an outsiders eye, this punch was completely senseless, yet it had completely blocked Qu Ao from making any changes to his move.

    Supposing Qu Ao kept to his original plan of continuing his palm attack following the original path, before he was able to make any changes, undoubtedly it would meet the opponents razor-sharp punch head on.

    Such an amazing move, it was the first time in his life that he had ever seen.

    Under normal circumstances where his condition was at its peak, even if he did not have enough time to regenerate his power, he had full confidence that he would be able to shake the opponent and to make him spurting blood and falling back. However, right now his body was weary his strength exhausted, he was only able to use sixty, seventy-percent of his normal power; if he forced himself to meet the attack head-on, he could not guarantee the outcome.

    Shouting angrily, Qu Ao sidestepped and kicked Xu Zilings open right flank.

    Seeing his ploy worked, Xu Zilings spirit rose up greatly, his confidence boosted, his hands turned into thousands of fantastical palm shadows, raining down on Qu Ao in wild attack.

    Seeing this junior, this younger generation actually seized this opportunity to take the initiative in offensive moves, Qu Ao nearly went mad from anger. Promptly he focused his mind to unleash the Thirteen-Style Eagle Transformation, which was heavily imbued with his true divine energy.

    This Thirteen-Style Eagle Transformation was actually the essence of the martial arts that Qu Ao created. It transformed complicated martial arts into simplicity, merging the incomparably complex palm, finger, claw, and many other styles into these thirteen styles, combining it with soaring, leaping, flashing, shifting and many other shenfa [reminder: motion in martial arts]. The changes were undefined, so that it was difficult to estimate, like flying eagle in the sky swooping down on its prey with profound accuracy.

    Xu Ziling has just had a feel of the change before his eyes, Qu Ao already flew upward, while unleashing mercury-like, which flowed swiftly, no-hole-not-penetrated, violent and ferocious attack.

    The initiative was back into the opponents hands.

    Xu Ziling knew that in terms of experience, martial art skill and insight, he was a level below the opponent. Without any better option he clenched his teeth and relied mainly on dodging and evading, with blocking and parrying as secondary mechanism, while using the amazing moves from Yijian Technique to strenuously withstand the opponents powerful-like-the-Great-River, pouring-down-in-torrents violent offensive.

    Qu Ao sprang up and dropped down again, looking exactly like an eagle sending out wave after wave of attack toward Xu Ziling.

    Wah!

    Xu Ziling spurted out blood and fell to the ground; with his right foot raised, he met Qu Aos piercing fingertips. He was in extremely grave danger.

    Qu Ao rose about a zhang up in the air, while shouting loudly, This date next year will be the anniversary of your death.

    Both palms struck down in full power.

    Xu Ziling hurriedly rolled down the slope. The ground where he was immediately sank, two palm prints appeared.

    Having used up his true qi, Qu Ao landed on the slope.

    Suddenly the sound of saber and sword splitting the air came from behind.

    Bang!

    Xu Ziling, who had just struggled to stand up, fell down again. This time he could not crawl back up.

    In a flash, as quick as a flint spark, Qu Ao already employed his internal energy to examine his own condition, and knew that in his eagerness to kill Xu Ziling, he was presumptuously using the Thirteen-Style Eagle Transformation, which was not suitable to be used when his true qi was suffering from the wear and tear of his body.

    And now while he had no strength left, he had to deal with Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhongs combined assault.

    Making a prompt decision, Qu Ao sidestepped the attack, and disappeared into the darkness of the mountain and fields.

    Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong made their awe-inspiring presence known on the top of the sloping hill; they stood majestically as they watched Qu Ao disappeared without any trace, before looking down at Xu Ziling, who was trying to climb back up. And then, looking at each other, they smiled wryly and dropped down on their knees together. Other than panting heavily, they were unable to say anything.

  18. #138
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    Default Book 12 Chapter 7

    Book 12 Chapter 7 Chance Encounter with Stunning Beauty

    Three shadows leaped down from a giant boulder about three zhang tall, none of them was lucky enough to escape falling into knee-deep grass, gasping for breath, and unable to get up.

    Xu Ziling was exhausted from the bitter fight plus he suffered injuries; after running away for close to two sichen, he was approaching the dried-out-oil-lamp condition.

    Ba Fenghan was seriously injured to begin with; after spending quite a bit of true qi, he was weary and unable to stand.

    Kou Zhongs condition was not any better. Earlier he was transmitting his internal energy to heal Ba Fenghan; when he heard Qu Aos laughter, in his anxiety he tried to increase his effort by rushing the flow of qi to open up Ba Fenghans blocked meridians. And then with excessive loss of energy he had to run for such a long distance; so now he was simply too tired.

    Kou Zhong forced himself to roll so that he was facing the sky; scanning the area around, he saw under the moon light that they were surrounded by endless ups and downs silhouette of mountain tops and wild ridges. With a bitter laugh he said, Are we lost? How come we still cant see the shadow of the city of Luoyang?

    Gasping for breath, Ba Fenghan said, I looked at the stars in the sky to navigate our way, I am sure we are not lost; we ought to at least reach the south bank of the Great River.

    Xu Ziling shouted in low voice, Get up and train!

    What? Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan blurted together.

    Setting up an example, Xu Ziling struggled as hard as he could to sit up; although he was swaying and staggering, his voice was full of determination, Ol Ba was the one who said this: if what we are training is first-class martial art, the thing we must avoid at all cost is that when we are weary we abandon everything as if we are paralyzed. Therefore, we must grasp this rare opportunity to withstand the exhaustion with iron will. Do you understand?

    Smiling ruefully, Ba Fenghan said, Xu Shifus admonition is correct. Copying Xu Ziling, he struggled to sit up.

    Kou Zhong also struggled to get up, but raised his tiger-body even more; standing upright and unafraid, he said, To me, standing up is a bit more natural.

    The other two did not have enough strength to pay him any attention; closing their eyes, they went into meditation.

    They all understood that this was the only way to survive. If they could restore their spirit and physical strength, either fighting or escaping would be a lot more convenient.

    In fact, it was a race of power and stamina.

    Originally it was only people of Wanwan and Qu Aos caliber who could keep up with them, the others were left far behind. But they already wasted a lot of time by repeatedly stopping either to rest or to treat injuries, so the situation may have changed.

    ※ ※ ※

    Just before dawn, Kou Zhong suddenly shouted loudly. When Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan opened their eyes with a start, Kou Zhong was leaping in the air, the Moon in the Well struck down a strange bird flying overhead.

    The two had just waked up from the deepest breathing exercise, so they did not know why Kou Zhong did what he did.

    Squack! the strange bird cried out and flew sideways to evade toward the top of the sparse wood on the left.

    Kou Zhong sent out a burst of finger wind from his left hand to strike the strange bird.

    As if it had eyes on its back, the bird flapped its wing to fly diagonally up, but the tip of its left wing was still swept by Kou Zhongs finger wind. Uttering a sad cry, like a drunk it fell into the forest.

    As if he was fighting an archenemy, Kou Zhong pursued into the forest.

    Meeting Ba Fenghans questioning look, Xu Ziling said, I remember now. That must be the feathered beast raised by Shen Luoyan especially for finding the enemy; it was extremely mystical.

    Ba Fenghans countenance changed, That means Li Mi has more or less grasp our location, hence he released the strange bird in this area to look for us.

    Xu Ziling silently examined his condition, and found out that he has recovered about sixty, seventy-percent of his strength; the weariness has gone completely. Hows your condition? he asked.

    Sneering, Ba Fenghan said, Outside the Great Wall, I dont know how many times I have been injured; at least it was ten times more serious than this. Its nothing!

    This moment Kou Zhong came back, disgruntled and upset. It slipped away, he said hatefully, But it wont fly too far; that feathered beast relies on two wings to obtain balance, but since one side is wounded, it will be like us turning crippled. Ha!

    The two smiled without saying anything.

    By dawn, the three felt their spirit rose, as if they had just regained their lives and felt wonderful.

    Returning the saber to its scabbard, Kou Zhong said with a laugh, Which way?

    Ba Fenghans eyes flashed with cold rays; turning his gaze to the north, he said, Well go down to the Great River first, and then well find a way to get a boat to save our leg muscles!

    ※ ※ ※

    The three men gave it all as they unleashed their qinggong, while using the hiding-their-track technique, to cover several dozen of li of distance to the north. The sun has not reached its zenith yet when they slowed down to preserve their physical strength and true qi, while looking around to examine their surroundings.

    Pointing to the northwest, Ba Fenghan said, Luoyang and Yanshi should be that direction, but if we ran along a straight line, it would be strange indeed if we did not enter into the enemys inescapable net.

    Kou Zhong was visibly moved; he said, In that case, lets go to Yanshi first!

    Naturally Xu Ziling knew that he wanted to go to Yanshi in search of Wang Shichong, in order to offer him advice on how to deal with Li Mi.

    Ba Fenghan, on the other hand, was slightly surprised, Didnt you want to go to Luoyang in a hurry?

    A bit awkward, Kou Zhong replied, One of the reasons I want to go to Luoyang is to look for Wang Shichong, but I heard Li Mi said that he was leading his troops to Yanshi city. Since we are on our way over there, I want to talk to him a little bit!

    Ba Fenghan laughed involuntarily, Dont invent crazy nonsense! he said, Do you think I dont know that you, Zhong Shao, want to kill using borrowed knife? Just like Ziling, I dont give a [email protected] about this vying-over-the-world business; but since we know each other, and I have nothing important to attend to, coming with you to join the fun is not a big deal.

    Kou Zhong was happy, I didnt know you are such a true friend.

    By this time the three of them were staring to climb on a hill; they saw a small village down below with several dozens of homes, but there was no liveliness, apparently it was an abandoned village.

    In this age of chaos, abandon villages like this one could be seen anywhere, so nothing surprising here.

    But Ba Fenghan suddenly halted his steps and spoke in low voice, Somebodys in the village!

    Following him, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling also stopped; concentrating their attention, they noticed that all doors and windows were shut tight, the buildings were dilapidated with the paint peeled off. There was really not much different to the abandoned villages they had seen previously.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, I am having similar feeling, like something is not right. Ol Ba, what did you find?

    Ba Fenghan replied heavily, I just saw a flicker from the crack of one of the windows; must be an eye reflecting the light. I am so sure about it.

    Grabbing his head, Kou Zhong said, Who could it be?

    Perhaps somebody who has nothing to do with us, Xu Ziling tried to analyze, If it were Shen Luoyan or Yin Gui Pai people, why so sneaky?

    Xiao Ling is right, Kou Zhong said, So what are we going to do? Shall we make a detour?

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, Since he is contending for the hegemony over the world, Zhong Shaos guts have become smaller. But being careful has its own pros and cons; if we take a detour and bump into the enemy instead, it is not worth it.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Enough thinking and bullsh1tting, lets go!

    Taking the lead, he ran down the slope.

    ※ ※ ※

    Adopting a relaxed attitude, the three strolled over the villages entrance.

    To their left and right, rows of houses extended into the distance, but everything was as quiet as a ghost domain.

    Suddenly the sound of hoof beats was heard from the other side of the village, and was coming very fast.

    Cocking his ear, Ba Fenghan frowned and said, If we continued walking like this, we will meet with the incoming riders just outside the village. Do you want to find a building to hide and see what is going on?

    Out of curiosity, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling nodded in agreement. Thereupon the trio quickened their pace into the village, and after peeking into a house and made sure there was no one inside, they twisted and broke the door lock, pushed the door and went in.

    Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan separately picked two windows facing the street, and pushed the windows a crack to peek outside.

    This moment the sound of hoof beats was getting louder and clearer; it sounded like in the time required to drink a cup of hot tea, the riders would arrive here.

    Frowning, Ba Fenghan said, It sounds like there are forty to fifty riders, all are expert equestrians, the hoof beats are orderly and even. Only those who are well-trained through long-time cooperation will have this kind of momentum.

    Kou Zhong said, The strangest thing is that the hooves started suddenly, like they had waited some place and then suddenly moved together, straight toward this direction. I wonder, are they coming for us?

    Meanwhile Xu Ziling was walking toward the back door. Pushing the door open, he saw a big courtyard, and beyond that were the bedrooms. Hearing Kou Zhongs remark, his heart was moved; he said, Could it be that ahead is the place where the Great River flows through, and these men had just disembarked from a boat?

    Both Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong felt that that was a reasonable explanation. The former spoke in heavy voice, If that is so, then in case we get separated during escape later, lets make a secret mark on the south back of the River to indicate where to meet, and then well go to Yanshi together to see the Old Wang.

    The two boys nodded their agreement.

    Right this moment, Xu Ziling heard a barely detectable sound of breathing from the last room on the back. His curiosity was piqued, he said, I am going to the back to take a look!

    Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhongs attention was fixed on the situation at the front of the house; they simply nodded slightly. Xu Ziling crossed over the threshold and stepped into the courtyard.

    Relying on what he heard just now, Xu Ziling tried pushing the door to the side room on the left. The wooden door opened easily. Xu Ziling looked inside and was startled.

    He saw a healthy and beautiful young woman clad in black warrior outfit, sprawling on the bed under gauzed bed screen; her eyes were closed, and she lay still.

    Through the gauze curtain, he could see that the womans jade skin was unusually white like snow. Black outfit, white skin, the contrast was eye-catching. Her black eyebrows curved up into her temples, her jet-black hair was tied on the top into a beautiful bun, with a tuft of bangs gently cascaded on her forehead. The corners of her eyes curved upward. The one feature giving the deepest impression on others was her straight nose, which matched impeccably with her slightly high cheekbones, giving her the haughty air without compromising her charm and elegance.

    Her rosy lips curled into a touching expression of like a smile, but not quite a smile, as if she was in the middle of a sweet dream.

    Xu Zilings first thought was Wanwan; but then he decided that this pretty girl before his eyes did not appear to be a female demon from Yin Gui Pai, because this woman carried some kind of cheerful personality, which was vastly different from Wanwan, Dan Mei, or Bai Qinger, with their seducing but chilling beauty.

    After staring blankly for half a day, Xu Ziling finally stepped into the room, walked over to the bed, and opened the gauzed curtain.

    Even with his strong mental power against womens charms, he could not help sighing in admiration in his heart.

    In tight outfit, her slim figure with all the exquisite curves were in full display, so that he was lost in reverie.

    With no curtain separating them, her facial lines looked even more distinct that he was shaken to the core. Her beautiful eyes were deep under her handsome eyebrows. Her two fragrant lips, brimming with an air of aristocracy were tightly closed, her breathing was as light and gentle as the brushing wind after sunrise during an early spring day.

    Even though she was fast asleep, Xu Zilings gut feeling was telling him that she was a playful, lively and charming girl.

    Her beauty was not inferior to the sleeping Wanwan.

    In that moment, Xu Ziling has completely forgotten about the thundering hooves about to enter the north entrance to the village.

    The beautys eyelashes fluttered for a moment, and then her eyes opened. Looking at him, she broke into a sweet smile, revealing a row of neat, white and beautiful teeth.

    ※ ※ ※

    Outside, Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong sensed that Xu Ziling must have had encountered something unusual, but since they did not hear any sound of fighting, plus the riders have already entered the village, their attention was still focused on the street outside the window.

    Amid the thunderous hooves, more than 40 riders galloped into the village; each and every one of them wore tight warrior outfit, and each one carried some sort of weapon.

    The leader was big fierce-looking man, with a double-saber hanging across his back, his pair of eyes was flickering with spirit; evidently he was a martial art master adept in inside and outside skills.

    None of the others did not look tough. They all moved in a precise, almost uniform, way; apparently they were used to working together.

    As the leader reined his horse to a stop, the others quickly scattered to the four winds to guard all paths within the village.

    Ba Fenghan moved to Kou Zhongs side and while looking outside, he said in a low voice, This man is called Double Sabers Du Ganmu. Ive met him once in Luoyang. I think he is a great general under King Dong of Yues chancellor Yuan Wendu, the most prominent martial art master of present day Luliang Pai. His mastery of the double sabers is indeed not bad.

    Kou Zhong thought that if even the proud and arrogant Ba Fenghan could say that this man was not bad, then he must really knew a thing or two. He also felt that this name Luliang Pai sounded familiar. After thinking about it for a moment, he remembered the sweetheart Qin Shubao secretly in love with, which was the daughter of Luliang Pais Master [see Book 3 Chapter 3], and thought what a coincidence.

    King Dong of Yue was the self-proclaimed emperor of Luoyang, and Wang Shichong was merely his minister.

    Du Ganmu made a signal, the riders dismounted and began to search the entire village.

    ※ ※ ※

    As Xu Zilings eyes met the pair of beautiful and bright eyes that was brimming with challenge, his heart was slightly shaken. The woman suddenly stretched out her spotless and delicate lily-white hand, and said with a smile, How about helping me up?

    Xu Ziling hesitated for half a day before grabbing her dainty, slender jade palm; immediately a warm, soft and tender feeling penetrated the bottom of his heart; his mind was swept away.

    Helped by him, the woman pulled her tender body up. Lowering her head, she giggled tenderly and said, Thank you, and then she scooted to the edge of the bed, patted the empty space next to her and said, Can you sit down? Lets talk!

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, Arent those people outside looking for you? And you still have time to chat?

    The beauty cocked her head to listen, her demeanor was enchanting; looking startled, she said, Those wicked people are coming to capture nujia! You must help me; other than qinggong, my martial art skills are sloppy and very ordinary.

    Her eyes were like a pair of stars rippling in a vast and deep autumn pool; extremely appealing. Especially when she spoke, her eyes and facial expression were changing continuously, just like a series of ripples, so that those who look at her could not help having his heart shaken and his spirit moved.

    Xu Ziling could not refrain from asking, Miss, who are you? Who are those wicked people outside?

    The beauty rose up to her full height. Turned out she was only about two cun shorter than the tall, straight as a ramrod Xu Ziling; her figure was graceful, slender and tall.

    Without any trace of politeness she sat at the chair at the corner of the room; leaning her small cicada head against the back of the air, she closed her eyes and blew out a mouthful of fragrant breath. I am dead tired! she said.

    And then she opened her beautiful eyes again and cheerfully said, I saw you when you entered the village; you appeared to be heroes with lofty quality, so I knew you must be chivalrous heroes and would never harm this weak and helpless woman, am I right? Oh! I almost forget to tell you, my name is Dong Shuni. Wang Shichong is my [older maternal] uncle.

    Hearing that, Xu Ziling was dumbfounded; turned out the woman before his eyes was the Luoyang beauty that Ba Fenghan mentioned earlier, Dong Shuni.

  19. #139
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 12 Chapter 8

    Book 12 Chapter 8 Rushing to Yanshi

    Soon the people outside were going to break the door open and enter in. Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan already prepared some countermeasure. But suddenly the sound of hoof beats came from the south side toward the entrance to the village. The men under Du Ganmus leadership immediately stopped their search operation and stood guard in full alert.

    Frowning, Kou Zhong said, Xiao Ling seems to be talking with a woman back there; whats going on?

    Ba Fenghan turned his head around and glanced toward the open door and the wide-open space of the courtyard; staying calm and unruffled, he said, As long as its not female demon Wan or Zhu Yuyan, we dont need to worry about him!

    The sound of hoof beats from the south side was getting louder; the horses must have just come through the top of the hill like them. Without any mountain range to separate them, the sound was a lot clearer. The incoming riders numbered around fifty or sixty people.

    Kou Zhong said, Perhaps these new comers are the enemies looking for us; it would be best if they dont agree with Du Ganmu and break into a fight, and then we will reap the fishermans benefit.

    From his angle of view, Ba Fenghan was able to see the incoming riders ahead of Kou Zhong; smiling, he said, Looks like your wish can come true! Because the incoming people are Wagang troops.

    This moment the incoming riders entered Kou Zhongs line of sight. The graceful, pretty and elegant Shen Luoyan caught his eyes.

    ※ ※ ※

    Dong Shuni coquettishly cast Xu Ziling a sideways glance; a bit bashful, she said, Do you know who I am? How come you have not introduced yourself to me?

    This moment Xu Ziling also heard the hoof beats coming from the southern end of the village. Seeing her maintaining her nave and spoilt childs demeanor, as if she could not care less of everything that was happening outside, he could not help feeling somewhat at a loss; he replied, I am Xu Ziling

    Dong Shunis beautiful eyes lit up, I have heard a lot of people mentioning your name, she said excitedly, They say you and Kou Zhong are two of the most promising men of the younger generation. In that case, the one outside must be Kou Zhong. Hee ! I am lucky I am hiding in here; you must take up the responsibility of protecting me!

    Xu Ziling did not know whether he should laugh or cry; but even if she was not Wang Shichongs niece, he still could not refuse to lend a hand. Thereupon he asked, If you want us to protect you, you must answer a few questions first: who is going to hurt you? And why did you flee to this place alone?

    In distressed, Dong Shuni knitted her black eyebrows; she sighed and said, They are King of Yues men. The King of Yue wanted to kill my uncle, and I found out about it. The King then sent his men after me to kill me, hence Shuni took a boat to escape; who would have thought that the troops overtook me. Hee ! Luckily nujias qinggong is not bad, thereupon I escaped to this place, and luckily I came across you guys.

    Xu Ziling was astonished, Why did King of Yue want to kill your uncle? Isnt he only a lad of about ten years old?

    Dong Shuni shrugged her shoulders and said, Great meritorious service shakes the master and provokes traitors; it has been like this since time immemorial. Nujia is heading to Yanshi to see Uncle; will you go with nujia? And whos that good-looking man who does not look like a Han?

    ※ ※ ※

    Shen Luoyan and another man flew off their horses. Just by looking at the double-point spear in that mans hand, Kou Zhong knew that he was Wang Bodang, the other valiant general who shared the same fame and prestige with Pei Renji.

    Recalling Susus humiliation, Kou Zhongs right hand reached out to his back to grab the hilt of his saber.

    Ba Fenghan reached out and pressed his shoulder lightly, telling him not to act rashly; he whispered, Something is amiss here, lets listen to what they have to say first.

    Du Ganmu stepped forward to meet the two and said, We have followed Shen Junshis direction: from the Great River we searched to this place, yet we have not found any trace of her.

    Kou Zhong carefully sized up Wang Bodang.

    He casually hung the double-point spear over his shoulder; whether it was the way he flew off his horse, or the way he moved about, it was clear that he was a bold and powerful man who did not have any regard to anybody else.

    As soon as Kou Zhongs gaze fell upon him, he appeared to be reacting by turning his gaze toward them; luckily the two had already anticipated this and were one step ahead of him by dodging behind the window.

    Outside, Shen Luoyans tender voice spoke up, General Du, please be assured that we have laid out inescapable nets within fifty li radius of this place. Even if her qinggong is brilliant, or even if she grew wings, she cannot fly away. But be aware that she might have martial art masters protecting her, otherwise my bird would not have its left wing wounded.

    Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan looked at each other and smiled; both thought that luckily that strange bird could not talk, otherwise it would have revealed their secret.

    Somewhat displeased, Wang Bodang said, Such a classified information, how could it leak to Dong Shuni who only knows how to seduce men?

    As if they agreed by chance, both Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong cast their glances in the direction of the rear courtyard, while thinking how could there be such a coincidence?

    The distressed Du Ganmu replied, Precisely because theres someone in the imperial court who was obsessed with her beauty that he used this to curry her favor and leak the secret to her; fortunately we found out in a timely manner. Now as long as we can catch her back, it is not too late to mend the pen after the sheep are lost.

    Listening to this point, since Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong were holders of the pearl of wisdom, they were able to guess the gist of this matter.

    Due to Yuwen Huaji leading his troops returning to the north, King Dong of Yue formed an alliance with Li Mi to fight their common enemies. And Li Mi also received the title of Wei Guo Gong [Duke of State of Wei] bestowed by the King Dong of Yue.

    After Li Mis costly victory against Yuwen Huaji, Wang Shichong saw an opportunity they could exploit, so he led his elite troops to Yanshi, thinking that he could seize this opportunity to attack Li Mi.

    Who would have thought that people from the King Dong of Yues camp feared Wang Shichong far more than they were afraid of Li Mi? As a result, they colluded with Li Mi to conspire against Wang Shichong.

    But the confidential affair became not a secret anymore and Dong Shuni found out about it; hence she wanted to go to Yanshi to notify Wang Shichong. Unfortunately her entourage fell into the pursuing troops ambush and was repeatedly hunted down until she was the only one remained and relying on her superior qinggong she was able to escape to this place.

    Kou Zhong no longer interested to listen further; after discussing his plan with Ba Fenghan, he slipped out from the rear door.

    ※ ※ ※

    Creak!

    The double-door opened. Ba Fenghan strode out, stretched his limbs, and swept his gaze around at Shen Luoyan, Wang Bodang, Du Ganmu, and the hundred or so men from both parties, who were stunned to see him. Laughing aloud, he said, Such a confidential matter, yet gentlemen are talking about it on the street in broad daylight as if it was a trivial matter. Very funny, very amusing!

    Du Ganmus countenance changed, Ba Fenghan! he exclaimed.

    Throwing his head back, Wang Bodang laughed aloud and said, Theres a path to paradise you didnt want to take, theres no door to hell yet you insist on breaking in. We happen to receive an order to catch you. Where are the other two kids?

    Shen Luoyan, on the other hand, looked doubtful. Signaling with her hand, she commanded about a dozen or so of his men to fan out to surround Ba Fenghan, who was still standing in front of the house.

    Ba Fenghan chuckled calmly and said, Since I dare to come out and stand here, naturally I have confidence in dealing with you.

    A big man with an especially fierce and tough appearance on Shen Luoyans left suddenly charged forward, his broadsword hacked down on Ba Fenghans head.

    Ba Fenghan laughed proudly; without anybody seeing how he moved, the Beheading Mystery Sword suddenly appeared in his left hand. Without even moving his head, by only relying on his hearing to listen to the wind to determine position, he swung the sword to meet the enemys saber. The man was shaken and his arm turned numb. By the time he hastily withdrew in shock, the light from Ba Fenghans sword suddenly flared out.

    The fierce and tough man was jolted as if he was struck by lightning; blood splashed from the pit of his stomach, he was thrown back and fell to the ground.

    Everybodys countenance, including Wang Bodangs, changed.

    Actually, even Ba Fenghan himself did not expect his sword qi to be this formidable.

    The man had already withdrawn a zhang away, yet the sword qi still split his chest that he died; something that previously was difficult for him to accomplish.

    After the hard training on the mountain for ten days plus repeated bloody battles, unwittingly he had made a breakthrough, which he had never even dreamed of, in martial art cultivation.

    In that instant, flashing through his mind were series of events where he was with Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, and they were treating one another with absolute sincerity; a warm, happy feeling burst out in his heart. To him, who was usually very cold and detached toward interpersonal relationship, this was a highly unusual feeling.

    Qiang!

    Returning the sword to its sheathe, Ba Fenghan coldly said, I, Ba Fenghan, have been through thousands of battles, big and small, but nobody has been able to take my life. I want to see if you can be the exception.

    Wang Bodangs expression became even more incomparably heavy. His double-point spear shot out and twirled in the air, before returning to his chest, which he pointed toward Ba Fenghan.

    The other men leaped onto the roof, some broke through the windows into the house behind Ba Fenghan, forming layer upon layer of heavy siege around him.

    Shen Luoyan took a step forward and shouted tenderly, Where did Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling go?

    Ba Fenghan laughed involuntarily and said, I am in charge of the killing, they are in charge of creating disturbance; is Shen Junshi clear now?

    Not good! Shen Luoyan blurted out.

    Ba Fenghan laughed aloud and said, Its too late!

    Pulling the sword out, he launched the sweeping a thousand-army style. Who did not fear his ability to kill from a distance of a zhang away? They only felt the invisible [lit. no-shadow no-shape] sword qi storming in; nobody did not stumble and stagger back in fear.

    At this point, the forest behind the village caught fire; heavy smoke soared to the sky.

    Ba Fenghan and his sword fused into one entity, he soared to evade Wang Bodangs double-point spear, as well as Du Ganmus pair of sabers, and on to the roof. And then to avoid the men blocking his way, he soared once again toward the heavy smoke behind the village, and in the blink of an eye disappeared into the forest.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong was squatting. Heavens! he groaned good-naturedly, Were finally here. Niang! This is the Great River!

    The rolling water of Yellow River flowed swiftly under a low cliff.

    This section of the River was quite narrow, but it was still about ten zhang wide. The water dashed against the rocks on both sides of the river, the billows rolled and the waves splashed, creating myriad changes in an instant; raging waves crashing onto the shore, surging up violently, creating a spectacular sight. On the opposite back was an endless stretch of virgin forest, interspersed with towering, strange-looking rocks.

    Xu Zilings mind was also raging; moving closer to the shore, he stared at the water crashing against the rocks, which then flowed back swiftly, arousing smaller eddies, which roared wildly and disappeared just as quickly.

    Ba Fenghan came over to Xu Ziling and exclaimed in admiration, The first time I see the Great River was the section that runs through Longxi. The power of its surging waves was as if it tumbled down for the sky. It simply took my breath away.

    Dong Shuni has always been the center of attention of everybody around her, no matter where she was, whether around royal family and descendants of feudal aristocrats, or the sons of the high-ranking officials of the imperial court. Everybody was always trying to flatter her in every possible way.

    Only these three men, who had saved her from danger, did not appear to have any regards toward her.

    Like right now, for example; their amazement at the River far surpassed their pleasant surprise at seeing her for the first time.

    A fresh, exotic feeling started to appear in her heart, mixed with resentment and jealousy. Visibly annoyed, she said, The pursuing troops are coming! You are still chitchatting about the wind and the moon!

    With a solemn expression Kou Zhong puckered his lips to kiss the land by the riverbank. Ba Fenghan looked back and smiled, Miss, dont worry, he said, After the sun set behind the western hills, well set out toward Yanshi. We just take this opportunity to rest a bit, while enjoying the spectacular view of the setting sun on the Great River.

    Dong Shuni felt that whether in his speaking voice, his tone, and his manner, there was some kind of intimidating charm that made people willing to submit; unexpectedly she did not dare to argue. Grumpily she walked to the side and picked a rock to sit down, but her eyes were fixed on Xu Ziling.

    She had quite a good impression on this casual yet elegant, and standing-above-the-crowd, young man.

    Yet Xu Ziling did not show the least bit of attention to her; he was preoccupied with an interesting discussion about the River with Ba Fenghan.

    Finally Kou Zhong rose up and walked over to a rock next to her and sat down. Revealing a bright smile, he spoke softly, Are you hungry?

    At last someone cares about Shuni! Dong Shuni happily said, I am not only hungry, I am starving as hell. Do you have something to eat?

    Seeing her brightening mood, Kou Zhong felt that she had some kind of innocent and unaffected, touching look, but every frown and every smile also carried some kind of seductive-to-the-bone charm. He spoke cheerfully, Ol Ba still has a few slices of air-dried meat; I personally dressed it, its very tasty. Would you like to try some?

    Dong Shuni shook her head straightaway.

    Kou Zhong was surprised, Arent you starving? he asked.

    Dong Shuni leaned over and whispered in his ear, I dont want to eat his food, he is so mean to me!

    Hearing that, even Kou Zhongs ear was melting. Unable to help laughing, he called out, Ol Ba! When did you offend Big Miss Dong, so that even though she is starving, she refused to eat your food?

    Ba Fenghan laughed aloud. Walking over, he offered a piece of dried meat, while solemnly laughed and said, Miss Dong, a person of great moral stature does not remember the offenses committed by one of low moral stature. Please be my guest!

    It was obvious that Dong Shuni enjoyed this treatment very much; pursing her lips, she giggled softly, while her pretty face blushed slightly. Her demeanor was extremely attractive.

    Swiftly she took the slice of dried meat offered to her, tore a piece and ate it. Thats more like it, she said.

    Ba Fenghan shook his head and smiled despite of himself; patting Kou Zhongs shoulder, he stuffed the rest of the meat into his hands, and then returned to Xu Zilings side without saying anything.

    Kou Zhong was pleasantly surprised that Ba Fenghan was giving him so much face, and he knew that Ba Fenghan was thinking of Dong Shunis importance to him; he could not help feeling warm in his heart, and Ba Fenghans standing in his heart rose up.

    Ba Fenghans original character was not like this at all.

    Dong Shuni was eating very fast; taking the second piece of dried meat, she laughed and said, Your handiwork is indeed not too shabby.

    This moment Ba Fenghan came over again. Signaling Kou Zhong with his eyes, he said, Ziling and I are going up to a high place to look around. Zhong Shao, you stay here to accompany Big Miss taking a rest for a while, as soon as Ziling and I come back well be on our way.

    Kou Zhong agreed. After the two left, he changed the subject, Actually, who wanted to harm your Da Jiujiu? Is it King of Yue and Yuan Wendu?

    After finishing the second piece of meat, which she ate with gusto, she knitted her beautiful eyebrows and said, What do they have that they dare to conspire against Da Jiujiu? Naturally there is another big power in the background supporting them!

    Kou Zhong was stunned, You are not talking about Li Mi, are you? he asked.

    Dong Shuni wrinkled her cute little nose, You are wrong! she said, However, who it is, I can only tell Da Jiujiu. Da Jiujiu has taught me to make it clear which matter I can tell others, which matter I must keep from others. Hey! The sun is set.

    Kou Zhong was upset; he thought that if merely you, a baby girl, can confound me, how could I vie for the world against the outstanding heroes?

    After racking his brains, an inspiration suddenly flashed in his mind. He laughed and said, Even if you dont want to tell me, I know who it is. Must be the Dugu Clan, am I right? Ha!

    Dong Shuni stared at him in disbelief with her big beautiful eyes. Just by looking at her expression Kou Zhong knew he was right.

    A bit unwilling to concede, she said angrily, You indeed have a bit of skill, no wonder Da Jiujiu pays attention your affairs. I do not like a single person from the Dugu Clan.

    After a short pause she went on, Especially that Dugu Feng. Every time he sees me, he always looks at me from head to toes, as if he wanted to strip me off with his eyes; I loathe him very much.

    That kind of talk coming out from such a stunning, enchantingly beautiful pair of lips, Kou Zhong could not stop his heart from being swept away. But recalling the business at hand, he promptly pushed his wild fantasy far away. Hows the current situation at Luoyang? he asked, Has it fallen into the Dugu Clans hands?

    In their dram! Dong Shuni spoke in disdain, The city guardians, Lang Feng Shushu [uncle] and Song Mengqiu Shushu are Da Jiujius trusted aides; only the Imperial Bodyguards of the Palace are under the Dugu Clans control. Their strength is merely five thousands; if they do not use dirty trick, they are not Da Jiujius match.

    Kou Zhong thought, So thats how it is. He thought that if he were the King Dong of Yue, he would want to make a plan to kill Wang Shichong as well.

    Dong Shuni suddenly said, Its very interesting talking with you! You are smart, and you are good-looking as well!

    Kou Zhong did not know whether to laugh or to cry, You are the true stunning beauty, he said, Your beauty is capable of causing the downfall of a country. Have your Da Jiujiu betrothed you yet?

    I am only seventeen! Dong Shuni said, I dont want to get married that soon! Hee ! Do you want to marry me?

    Kou Zhong was stunned, You are not only pretty, but you are very special as well. This is the first time that a pretty girl asks me that question.

    Dong Shuni was slightly annoyed, Cant we talk about it? she pouted, We are not talking for real anyway. You, Han people, are really overly cautious.

    Kou Zhong was dumbstruck. Grabbing his head, he said, Are you saying you are not a Han?

    Dong Shuni was snappy, Who told you I am a Han? Everybody knows Da Jiujiu is not a Han, only you dont.

    Kou Zhong examined her flowery jade countenance closely, What are you, then? he tried to pry her.

    Very pleased with herself, Dong Shuni said, You are so smart; why dont you guess?

    While Kou Zhong was left speechless, Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan stormed in, Lets Go! they shouted.

  20. #140
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 12 Chapter 9

    Book 12 Chapter 9 Brilliant Scheme to Escape

    The four people hid behind a mountaintop. In the distance, from all directions came long queue of torches, moving slowly like a fiery dragon. It appeared that they had fallen into another heavy siege.

    Kou Zhong pointed to a place about five li to their left, where several lanterns of three different colors, red, white and yellow, were hung on bamboo poles, each one reached several zhang high. Xiao Ling, he said, his voice was filled with hatred, Your Shen sweetheart is no good; were it not for her directing her people using those lanterns, how could we fall into the situation we are in now?

    Dong Shuni, who was behind Xu Ziling, pushed him and said sourly, Shen Luoyan is your old flame?

    Xu Ziling crossly said, You need to stop listening to Zhong Shaos nonsense; she and I dont have the least bit of involvement.

    Thats really good then! Dong Shuni excitedly said.

    Seeing that while being surrounded by the enemies, isolated and without help, yet she still maintained her blunt demeanor and expressed her jealousy openly, the three men could only shake their heads and smile ruefully.

    Letting out a cold snort, Ba Fenghan said, If I am guessing correctly, Li Mi and the Two-Malevolent of Changbai are all here. Otherwise their morale would not be this high.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were shocked. Speaking about martial art skill, Li Mi might rank in the top three among the warlords vying for supremacy over the world, while the Two-Malevolent of Changbai were second only to Wang Bo. Merely these three, they would have to struggle to cope with, not to mention the rest of the people, plus they had to protect this pampered girl.

    Ba Fenghan went on, Were it not for tracking experts like Fu Zhen presiding over the general situation, we would not be stuck in this predicament.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, We already used all kinds of techniques, and still cannot get rid of them, and now their hidden troops are pressing from all sides that we cant advance or retreat. By this time they ought to know our position in general, and are gradually tightening the net around us. This is an extremely brilliant scheme.

    Pointing to the southeast, Xu Ziling asked, Isnt Yanshi in that direction?

    Exactly, Ba Fenghan replied, Less than thirty li.

    This moment Dong Shuni also realized the gravity of their situation; she spoke in low voice, Can we forcibly break our way through?

    That would be our contingency plan, Kou Zhong replied, The enemy is already clear about our strength. If they do not have any confidence, they would not foolishly come here to provoke us. Just by counting the torches light, I can estimate that the opponent has at least two, three-thousand men; how many can we kill?

    Subconsciously Dong Shuni squeezed herself between Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, What can we do then? she asked, Think of something!

    Ba Fenghan coldly said, Arent we thinking of something? Panicking now will only be a bad thing.

    Ba Fenghans eyes flashed sharp gaze at her, Dong Shuni shut up immediately.

    Xu Ziling said, Is there any way to alert Yanshi? Have them send help here. According to reason, Wang Shichong ought to station men on the hills outside the city to monitor the situation around.

    Hearing that, Dong Shunis sprit was greatly aroused; she whispered excitedly, Shuni has two special signal flares on my back, if my Da Jiujius men saw it, they would know one of our people is in danger. Can we do it?

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, Question is: can we hold on until the reinforcement arrives?

    Dong Shuni dejectedly shut up.

    If they released the signal rocket, it would be tantamount to revealing their position. Li Mis side would definitely go into an all-out attack at once. On the other hand, from the moment the sentinel saw the flare and transmitted the news to Yanshi via fire beacon and so on, supposing Wang Shichong was able to make prompt decisions and immediately moved his army and sent his generals, it would take at least one or two sichen for the help to arrive. By that time they would have been done for.

    While they were talking, Xu Ziling and the others, four people, were paying attention to the situation. This moment they noticed that a line of torches was moving straight to their hideout; they promptly ran away again.

    Ba Fenghan led them groping in the dark downhill, toward a sparse wooded area at the bottom of the hill. Finding a stream, they quickly continued their escape by wading in the water. After covering approximately two li, the terrain was sloping up, turned out the source of the stream was a small waterfall from up the mountain, with water flew out from hundreds of small cracks, pouring down into a small clear deep pool.

    By this time the moon was high overhead, so that the reflection of the moon made the water glistened. The scenery was exceptionally beautiful, too bad the four people were not in any mood to enjoy it.

    Dong Shuni heaved a deep sigh and said, We are getting farther and farther away from Yanshi. Dispiritedly she sat down by the pool, with a mentally and physically exhausted, as well as pitiful, expression on her face.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, This is exactly the enemys tactic: forcing us to be constantly on the run to the south, so that in the end they can take care of us without much trouble.

    Ba Fenghan suddenly came close to Dong Shuni and asked, Miss Dong, what kind of perfume are you wearing?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were shaken; their burning gaze was fixed on Dong Shuni.

    Dong Shuni was crossed, What kind of question is that? she asked.

    Kou Zhong understood suddenly; he said, That was the precisely the reason why Du Ganmu was able to track you to the village. It was simply because he was accustomed to the perfume Big Miss is wearing, and that was also the reason why presently we cant throw off our pursuers.

    Xu Ziling said, I dont know if we are already accustomed to her scent, but I dont smell anything.

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, Clear pool under the bright moon, why dont Miss Dong be the beauty who takes a bath here? We will act as lookouts for you, and I guarantee no one will be able to watch.

    Dong Shuni revealed a sweet, sweet smile; reaching up, she started to unbutton her gown, and cheerfully said, So what if someone is watching? As long as they dont do anything, I am not afraid. Ay! Perhaps I will have to wash my clothes as well; everything I wear is already soaked in my fragrance.

    Even under this extremely tense situation [orig. wind sighing and crane calling, i.e. panic at the slightest move], and Ba Fenghan, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were not lechers, yet such alluring, captivating words coming from cherry-red lips of a stunning beauty, the three could not help palpitating with excitement.

    Xu Ziling suddenly reached out and pressed his hand against Dong Shunis lily-white hand, stopping her from taking off her clothes. I have a better way, he said.

    Puzzled, Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong looked at Xu Ziling.

    Xu Ziling muttered softly, Zhong Shao! Do you remember outside the city of Xiangyang we cured that young master from poisoning? I absorbed the poison into my palms.

    Staring blankly, Kou Zhong said, But scent is not the same as poison; scent has no essence.

    Dong Shuni also stared at him with her big, beautiful eyes. Xu Zilings palm pressed against her hand felt hot and soft, making her exhausted body felt so comfortable that the feeling went deep to the bottom of her heart. Her face burning hot, she said, If your palm can really absorb my scent, do you have to touch every single cun of my body with your palm?

    The three mens heart was pounding. Even when speaking such alluring words, this beauty still looked nave and unsuspecting, yet she was definitely more seductive than any kinky s1ut deliberately uttering tantalizing words.

    Xu Ziling subconsciously pulled his hand holding her right lily-white hand. He said, Under normal circumstances, I do not have the ability to absorb fragrance, but now if Shuni immerse your entire body into the water, while your body is still soaked wet, Zhong Shao will help Shuni to evaporate the water, wont the fragrance also evaporate along with the moisture? I am confident that I will be able to absorb the scented water vapor, and then I will spread the fragrance around to lure the enemy to pursue the wrong course.

    Ba Fenghan slapped his thigh and exclaimed in praise, Thats an amazing plan, truly heaven sent; I guarantee the enemy will fall into the trap.

    Dong Shuni leaned over to kiss Xu Zilings cheek; giddy with excitement, she said, You are indeed very smart, I love being called Shuni by you! After this, how about all of you just call me Shuni?

    By now Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong were already accustomed to the brazen way she talked, they did not give it further thought. It was Xu Ziling who was greatly embarrassed; his handsome face blushed deep red.

    Dong Shuni laughed tenderly and said, Ling Shao is more bashful than a little girl. Shuni is going into the water!

    With that, Splash! Like a mermaid she disappeared into the water, and reemerged on the other side of the pool.

    As soon as the three men looked at her, they groaned inwardly.

    Under the slanting moonlight, Dong Shunis semitransparent wet clothes stuck close to her body, even her short undergarment were visible with astonishing clarity, so that nothing of her graceful curves was left to the imagination.

    Smiling ruefully, Ba Fenghan said, You two go ahead and do you thing, but please dont embezzle the goods. I will do the lookout thing!

    ※ ※ ※

    The four left the pool and climbed onto the top of a hill. The nearest fiery dragon was only about a li away.

    Ba Fenghan said, After Ziling and I left, you must hide inside the water, this way you will definitely evade the enemys eyes and ears. Its foolproof!

    Dong Shuni was stunned, But I dont know how to breathe under water! she said.

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, You have me to teach you.

    Then turning to the two, he said with serious expression, You must be careful, I want to see you again, alive!

    Ba Fenghan sneered and said, Dont worry! How could we be killed that easy?

    Taking the two sticks of signal rocket from Dong Shuni, he and Xu Ziling left together.

    Kou Zhong hurriedly took Dong Shuni back to the clear deep pool.

    ※ ※ ※

    Bang!

    The signal rocket flew more than twenty zhang into the air, and burst into a dozen or so blood red rays of light; it was a dazzling sight.

    Kou Zhong and Dong Shuni entered the water along the shallow end of the pool; they looked up together at the man-made marvel in the sky not too far away.

    Leaning close to him, Dong Shuni asked, Why are you guys willing to risk your life to help nujia?

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, Because we all love and dote on you!

    Shaking her head, Dong Shuni said, No! Ill say its because all of you are real heroes. I have seen many men! When they see me, every single one of them, were looking at me lecherously. Some men pretend to be righteous, but deep down they still have that revolting behavior. Hee ! I love to play tricks on them. But you are different, unlike some people who pretend to be heroes, brave warriors, but as soon as they encounter trouble, they turn into cowards.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, You are so touchy-feely, maybe I will turn into a lecher as well. Ha!

    Dong Shuni leaned over to kiss his cheek; she laughed softly and said, Shuni is not afraid of you, not at all, because nujia likes you.

    Kou Zhong met her eyes, which looked like they were spouting passionate flame, and spoke in astonishment, Little girl, you are just starting to feel the stirrings of love! Tell me! Whom you really like? Just now you said the same thing to Xiao Ling.

    Dong Shuni cocked her head sideways as she pondered deeply; she said, I dont know either, but right now I just feel that you are handsome and strong, plus you have enough power to protect me. As for other things, I prefer not to think about those.

    In his heart, Kou Zhong said, Girl, you are just too passionate. Right this moment, the sound of sleeves brushing against the wind was heard from halfway up the hill.

    Kou Zhong shivered in fear, knowing that the incoming people were martial art masters; otherwise, they would not have been this close before he detected their presence. Hastily he pulled Dong Shuni to hide at the bottom of the pool, while at the same time sealed her tantalizing fragrant lips with his own. Dong Shuni already knew what was going to happen, so she quickly opened her mouth to receive the inner qi Kou Zhong was transferring to her; immediately her entire body, from head to toe, felt very comfortable.

    Kou Zhong pulled her behind the waterfall, into the crack of the rock at the bottom of the pool wall. Even if someone was to dive into the pool, unless he came close to the wall, it would be difficult to find them.

    As soon as they were hidden, like an octopus Dong Shunis four limbs wrapped themselves around Kou Zhong, while her well developed and touching tender body did not stop twisting and turning. Even under the ice-cold water, Kou Zhong could feel her fiery passion.

    On one hand, Kou Zhongs own passion was greatly aroused, but on the other hand, he was shocked.

    Although they were covered by the waterfall, but if they continued twisting and turning under water, the enemies might see unusual ripples on the surface and sense something unusual under water. When that happened, they would ruin the enterprise for the sake of one basketful.

    Thinking fast, he reached out and wrote a character No on her back as a warning.

    Sure enough, Dong Shuni obediently stopped, but she embraced him more tightly.

    Kou Zhong was relieved; focusing his power to his ears, he listened to any sound of activity above.

    Not too long afterwards, sound of footsteps came, followed by voices.

    Fu Zhens familiar voice was heard, Mi Gong! I am sure they tarried here for quite a while, thats why the scent around here is especially thick.

    Shen Luoyans voice came next, They released signal flare at the top of the hill, evidently they are already at the end of their rope, hence relying on transmitting signal from a high place they are hoping that the rescuing troops would come. We should pursue at top speed.

    Li Mi said, Those three little thieves are cunning and intelligent; as soon as they knew their track has been compromised, they knew they could not take Dong beauty along to break the siege easily. Perhaps they looked for a place to hide nearby, most probably in a steam somewhere, so that her scent would be extinguished. Therefore, we must search carefully.

    Inside the rock crevice at the bottom of the pool, Kou Zhong had a strange feeling of dj vu.

    In the past, at Zhai Rangs Longtou mansion [dragon head/big boss], he and Xu Ziling and Susu, three people, were also hiding like this, eavesdropping Li Mi talking to his subordinates.

    Fu Zhen and Fu Yan accepted the order and left with their men.

    Wang Bodang said, This time, with Shen Junshis carefully laid out plan and Fu Laoshi in charge of tracking and laying out of inescapable net, they can forget about escaping from the hollow of our palms.

    Li Mi spoke heavily, This time involves a matter of grave importance; if Wang Shichong got wind of this, our great endeavor of taking control of the Eastern Capital with no blood on the mens swords might come to an empty dream. Therefore, we must make sure that that little beauty will never reach Yanshi.

    Letting out an evil laugh, Wang Bodang said, This girl is the Luoyang Beauty, those who see her will take pity on her. After capturing her, subordinate will present her to Mi Gong!

    Li Mi sighed with regret, I have promised this girl to that lecher Dugu Feng; for the time being I cannot get my finger on her.

    Under the water, when Kou Zhong heard this, his anger flared. The touching beauty locking lips with him and had her hands around his neck also showed some reaction; her breathing became urgent.

    Scared out of his wits, he quickly wrote another No to warn her. Once her breathing became chaotic or she was unable to remain calm, she would put both of them in great danger.

    This moment Fu Zhen returned to report, We have found clues the enemy left behind, they should be fleeing to the south.

    Bang!

    Without even looking, Kou Zhong knew that Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan had just released the second signal rocket from another hilltop.

    In the blink of an eye, the people above the water left until nobody remained.

    When Kou Zhong was breathing a sigh of relief, he suddenly felt that Li Mis little beauty had her fragrant tongue out, pressing against his, while her tender body twisted and turned. His mind exploded, he lost his bearing in the incomparably moving world.

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