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Legend of the Tang Dynasty Two Dragons [大唐双龙传] - Unabridged
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    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Legend of the Tang Dynasty Two Dragons [大唐双龙传] - Unabridged

    Legend of Great Tangs Two Dragons
    大唐双龙传 [Da Tang Shuang Long Zhuan]

    Written by Huang Yi
    Translated by Foxs

    Please DO NOT post anything in this thread. Thanks.

    Book 1 Book 2 Book 3 Book 4
    Book 5 Book 6 Book 7 Book 8
    Book 9 Book 10 Book 11 Book 12
    Book 13 Book 14 Book 15 Book 16
    Book 17 Book 18 Book 19 Book 20
    Book 21 Book 22 Book 23 Book 24
    Book 25 Book 26 Book 27 Book 28
    Book 29 Book 30 Book 31 Book 32
    Book 33 Book 34 Book 35 Book 36
    Book 37 Book 38 Book 39 Book 40
    Book 41 Book 42 Book 43 Book 44
    Book 45 Book 46 Book 47 Book 48
    Book 49 Book 50 Book 51 Book 52
    Book 53 Book 54 Book 55 Book 56
    Book 57 Book 58 Book 59 Book 60
    Book 61 Book 62 Book 63

    Last Update: November 28, 2017 - Book 22
    Last edited by foxs; 01-20-18 at 01:05 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member 徐中銳's Avatar
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    New Zealand


    I did log the characters being introduced as foxs translated, stopping when researching Chinese spellings of namesI found the completed presentation at https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/大唐雙龍傳角色列表

    Simply, my leisure time with this story, I've been inspired into studying its original text, what each word

    Everything will be better upon completion.

    Last edited by 徐中銳; 07-23-17 at 09:47 PM.
    I know more than I can express in words, and the little I can express would not have been expressed, had I not known more. 弗拉基米爾弗拉基米羅維奇納博科夫

  3. #3
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 1 - Chapter 1

    Book 1 Chapter 1 Depending on each other for survival

    Yuwen Huaji stood straight up on the command deck of a warship, his eyes scanned both sides of the canal. It was not dawn yet. The lantern light of these five huge warship overshadowed the moon and the stars in the sky. Just like under the rising of his Yuwen Clan, the landlords[1] of the South had also lost the glory of their former days.

    Yuwen Huaji was in his thirties; tall, thin, with long arms and legs, but his face looked old with repressed emotion, looked cold and detached. His pair of eyes was immeasurably deep, giving others the impression that he was a very cold and ruthless man, while striking fear in their hearts with his domineering air.

    These five warships were built under the personal supervision of late Chancellor Yang Su during the founding of the Sui Dynasty; they were called the Five-Fang Battleships. Each ship had five decks, with total height reached twelve zhang [unit of length, 1 zhang approx. 3m or 10ft]. Each ship could accommodate eight hundred soldiers.

    The five main sails were fully open, the ships glided on the water as fast as runaway horses, heading toward Jiangdu [county level city in Yangzhou, Jiangsu] further downstream of the canal.

    Yuwen Huajis eyes caught sight of the top of the palace towering beyond the treetops lining the bank; it was one of more than forty palaces built by Yang Guang, the Emperor Yang of Sui [569-618, reigned 604-618], along the river to be his imperial residences.

    When Emperor Yang of Sui ascended the throne, to link the North and the South, he commissioned the people to dig the canal. Whether it was for military or economic purposes, there was indeed a practical need in linking the North and the South. However, carrying out large-scale construction, building imperial residences, and planting willow trees along the river, were a major waste of manpower and resources.

    Zhang Shihe, his trusted aide, who was standing behind him, leaned forward and respectfully said, We will arrive at Jiangdu before daybreak. If in this trip Zongguan [lit. chief manager] manage to obtain The Secret to Long Life and present it to His Majesty, it would indeed be a great merit.

    A mysterious smile escaped from the corner of Yuwen Huajis mouth; he said indifferently, His Holiness is fascinated with immortality technique concocted by the Daoist School[2]; it is indeed ludicrous. If there really is this pill of immortality, there ought to be immortals long ago, but looking at former sages of the Daoist School, which one did not avoid death? If it were not that this book is woven out of black [or mysterious] gold thread, impervious of water and fire, we can randomly find someone to make a fake one and muddle our way through.

    Zhang Shihe said with a laugh, After more than ten years of open enquiries and secret search His Holiness has discovered that this book has fallen into the hand of Mountain-Pushing Hand Shi Long, who is regarded as the number one expert of Yangzhou. Funny thing is, that Shi Long obtained the book with an extravagant hope that he wouldnt die, yet he will definitely die. It is indeed extremely ironic.

    Yuwen Huaji let out a cold snort and muttered Shi Longs name under his breath. Immediately the blood in his body was boiling.

    Over the years, due to his high position, he rarely fought hand to hand with anybody. Now the opportunity has finally come.

    Great General Jiao Xie, under the Sky King [orig. fill the sky king] Wang Xuba, leading a dozen highly-skilled martial art experts under his command, was speeding along the Yangtze River, destroying the tranquility of the river banks. Wang Xuba was one of the militia leaders who wished to topple Sui Emperor from his rule over the land under the heaves [i.e. the whole China]; he had considerable fame and power.

    Since Yang Guang assumed the title Emperor, because he always strived to achieve extraordinary things, he repeatedly conducted military expeditions abroad. Furthermore, he indulged in a life of luxury, building numerous palaces and gardens, and went on inspection tour everywhere; hence he indiscriminately levied heavy taxes and made the people endured unspeakable hardship. As a result, robbers sprang up everywhere, those with power rose up to declare themselves kings. Sui Dynasty could no longer return to the grandiose of its founding days.

    In that darkest hour just before dawn, outside the city of Yangzhou, which was established as the capital of Jiangdu County by the Sui Dynasty, lots of ships and boats, big and small, were moored on the dock upstream of the Great River. Specks of lantern lights filled the air, carrying with it some kind of unspeakable desolation in the midst of bustling atmosphere!

    Yet Jiao Xies mind was loaded with the antique jade piece in his bosom, a jade piece carved with two characters wan sui [lit. ten-thousand years, long live!]

    It was the well-known treasured jade belonging to the Great General Shi Wansui of the founding of the Sui Dynasty. In those days, because he listened to slanderous report, the first Sui emperor Yang Jian [541-604, reigned 581-604] deposed Yang Yong as the Crown Prince and set up Yang Guang in his stead. Shi Wansui was implicated and died of injustice. The minister who searched and confiscated his house was Yang Su.

    This Yang Su was perhaps the most influential minister at that time. He went to war left and right, and triumphed in every battle; his merit was even more earth shattering than his Lord, hence he was at the receiving end of considerable suspicion and jealousy of the Emperor Wen Di [regnal name of Yang Jian].

    Actually, Yang Su himself was unlike his contemporaries; he did not take part in conspiracy of rebellion, in amassing weapons, army provisions, wealth and riches; therefore, when not long afterwards Yang Su fell ill and died, and Emperor Wen Di wiped out his clansmen in one night, the Emperor failed to find Yang Su's treasure-trove.

    Henceforth there was a rumor that whoever could find the Duke Yangs Hidden Treasure would be able to unify the world [again, i.e. China].

    And now the treasured jade has appeared, it has become an important trail in tracking down the treasure trove.

    Seven days ago, somebody found this piece of jade in a pawnshop in Danyang [county, Zhenjiang, Jiangsu]. As soon as Wang Xuba received the news, he sent out his men everywhere to track it down for hundreds of li [1 li is approx. 1/2km or 1/3 of a mile] before he was able to zero in on his target.

    Whats hard to understand was that if the pawnshop did indeed obtain the treasure, where were the other articles? Why was it that only this lightweight and well-known piece of jade managed to get out and thus revealed the secret of the treasure?

    Right this moment, Jiao Xies wandering mind abruptly came back to reality, for just beyond the place where the Great River met the canal, he saw the dark shadow of the sail, as well as the lantern lights of the five large Five-Fang Battleships.

    Jiao Xies heart was shaken; immediately he waved his hand, signaling his men to leave the riverbank and entered the forest next to the shore.

    Just east of Yangzhou city wall, there was a manor abandoned to thickets and undergrowth. For the most part the structure had already been worn down by years of disrepair. Eroded by the wind and the rain, invaded by termites, it was practically ready to collapse. Only one small brick room on the corner, under roof tiles full of holes, covered by wooden board, could barely be used for shelter.

    From inside the dark room came the noise of someone moaning in pain, followed by the sound of a body rolling against the floor.

    A voice that sounded like it belonged to a child called out softly, Xiao Ling! Xiao Ling! [Little Ling] Is it still painful?

    After more groaning, another young voice replied, That damn Yan Laoda [boss, leader of a (usually criminal) gang], its really awful. Ay! Next time we have the goods, we must not go to that dead grass to do business. Not only he is mean and depressed prices, he still have to tell that dog-thief Yan Laoda. I just wanted to keep half a word hidden from him, and had to suffer extreme beating.

    The speakers were two street urchins who lived at that broken-down house. Their parents and family were fleeing the war and were killed by robbers, hence they became orphans. Two young boys met by chance and hit if off immediately, henceforth they depended on each other for survival, their relationship was closer than real siblings.

    The slightly older one, Kou Zhong, turned seventeen that year, the younger one was called Xu Ziling, he was barely sixteen.

    Kou Zhong crawled over on the woven mat on the floor in the dark toward Xu Ziling, trying to comfort him, Its alright as long as you are not beaten till your hands and feet are maimed. Even if he, Yan Laoda is as crafty as a ghost, he will suffer our wrath. Hey, once he drank the water to wash our, two Yangzhou dragons, feet, as soon as we can grab hold of two more piece of silver, we will have enough travel expenses to renounce the dark and seek the light; we can join the militia.

    Disappointed, Xu Ziling lay down on the floor, while stroking his still burning jaw. Actually, how much more do we need? he asked, I really dont want to see that Yan Laodas crafty face anymore.

    A bit awkward, Kou Zhong replied, Hey, we still need two taels [unit weight, approx. 50g (modern) or 1/16 of a catty (old)] and a half, a total of twenty-five qian [unit weight, 1/10 of a tael] to go.

    Xu Ziling sat up in shock, his voice breaking, Didnt you say a tael and a half? How come now it is two taels and a half?

    With a deep sigh Kou Zhong said, Actually, how much more money we still need is not a big deal, the most disappointing thing is that Peng Xiaocai who failed to live up to expectations; only two, three times, and he is already fixed by the authority.

    And then he got excited as he grabbed Xu Zilings shoulders and said, But dont worry, when I went to Chun Feng Lou [Spring Breeze Inn, lou refers to two-story building] to steal something to eat last night, I heard people say that nowadays the most powerful one is Li Zitong. The valiant generals under him are as numerous as the cloud, such as Bai Xin and Qin Chaowen, who are top experts of the Wulin [martial art] world. Recently they subdued another militia army led by Zuo Xiaoyou; their fame and power are flourishing even more.

    Doubtful, Xu Ziling asked, Didnt you say earlier that the most formidable is Peng Xiaocai? And after him it was Yang Gongqing, who once defeated Yang Guangs army in a surprise attack? How come now it is suddenly Li Zitong? Other than he, you also mentioned some Li Hongzhi, Hu Liumiao, Wang Deren, and so on; what roles are they playing?

    Obviously Kou Zhong was unable to answer his question. He hummed and hawed, and then with a sheepish smile he said, In this whole wide world we only have each other, brothers; if you dont believe me, whom would you believe? How can I point out a black road for you to take? Based on my insight, I am sure we will be able to pick the most promising militia army. When we gain the whole world, based on our, two boys, vision and competence, I, Kou Zhong, will become, at least, the Prime Minister, and you will definitely be a great general.

    With a bitter smile Xu Ziling said, Merely Yan Laoda is able to beat us that we cannot crawl up; how can I have the competence to be a great general?

    Puffing his chest, Kou Zhong said, Thats why I force you to eavesdrop Bai Lao Fuzis [old master/teacher] lecture every day; also go to peek and steal martial art skill from under the large tree by Shi Longs training field. Vision and competence must be fostered; we will definitely be a pinnacle of virtue and ability. At least we can go back to become a state official in Yangzhou. When that time comes, Yan Laoda will be in big trouble.

    With a deep frowned Xu Ziling said, Right now I am hurting really bad, Bai Lao Fuzi is as boring as watching bird hatching eggs. How about early in the morning tomorrow?

    After thinking about it for a while, Kou Zhong yielded, Ill let you go tomorrow, but you must take care of the early morning meal first. I want to eat the veggie steamed bun from Zhen Saos [sister-in-law] graceful hands.

    Xu Ziling groaned and lay back down on the mat.

    Because the whole world was in chaos, thieves and robbers sprang up everywhere, everybody felt insecure; the first to prosper was naturally the dozen or so martial art schools and Taoist monasteries in the city. [Translators note: in this book, the term tian xia - land under heavens or the whole world refers to China.]

    Speaking about prestige, the one regarded as the foremost was Shi Long Martial Arena [actually literal translation would be field], which was personally founded by Yangzhous number one martial expert, the Mountain-Pushing Hand Shi Long. For the last ten years or so Shi Long rarely managed the affair of the training field, everything was taken care of by his disciples. But since the martial school still bore his name, people were still coming in unending stream from far and near, attracted by the schools reputation.

    Both in internal and external skills, Shi Long had already reached first-class master level; otherwise, how could his famous reputation not see decline for the last several decades? This man had a good character, did not marry, and lived alone in a small village courtyard at the outskirt of the city. Without having to set a foot outside, his disciples regularly delivered daily necessities. All day long he spent his time racking his brain to decipher the Taoists book of treasured wisdom, The Secret to Long Life.

    According to the ancient legend passed on orally from one generation to the next, this book originated from Huangdis [Yellow Emperor, mythological emperor of China, c. 2697-2597BC] master, Guang Chengzi; it was written in oracle bone script, very deep and difficult to understand. Among former sages who have reviewed the book, although there was no lack of talents who understood the heavens, yet no one has ever able to master the subject or decipher the secret.

    There were a total of 7,400 characters in the book, but only about 3,000 or so characters could be considered understandable. The book was densely packed with annotations made by the people who have reviewed it, but more often than not, these notes were even more confusing than the original text.

    Fortunately, there were seven diagrams of human figure, all with different postures, and all were annotated with symbols, for example, red dots, arrows, et cetera. These symbols seemed to be telling some kind of Taoist cultivation method; but without understanding it, one must not practice it. If one hastened to circulate his inner qi [chi, vital energy] according to some of these symbols, immediately his qi and blood would boil, followed by fire deviation. It was extremely dangerous.

    Shi Long has been sitting in front of this book day and night for three full years, but he gained nothing still; just like having a treasure chest in front of him, but there was no key to open the door.

    This particular day he was meditating, when suddenly warning signal was flaring out in his mind. No matter what he could not focus his attention to the book. While he was deep in thought, a dry cough was heard from the main hall outside his room.

    Shi Long hurriedly put the treasured book in his bosom, while myriads of thought flashed through his mind. He sighed and then said, Noble guest honors me with your presence, please come in and drink a cup of hot tea!

    But the other party did not respond until he arrived just outside the door. It was only then did Shi Long realize that the visitor was also a first class martial art master.

    By this time Jiao Xie has arrived at a forest just due north of the city; accompanied by his men, they jumped down their mounts and unleashing their martial art skills they entered the forest. Going over a small hill, they saw a broken-down temple down below.

    Two of his men appeared, one of them came near and whispered in Jiao Xies ear, The target tarried in the temple the whole night, he did not even step out of the temple gate; apparently he is waiting for someone else.

    Jiao Xie thought for a moment, and then he gave his orders. His men spread out to surround the temple. Only then did Jiao Xie fly down. Reaching the gate, he said in a loud voice, Life-Snatching Saber Jiao Xie, serving under the Sky Kings banner, received the Sky Kings order to ask Miss for guidance.

    Bang! The already dilapidated temple gate suddenly shattered into pieces that flew everywhere, while at the same time a womans figure appeared at the door.

    Jiao Xie did not expect the opposite partys response was both swift and fierce; his heart was shaken. His hand immediately reached the hilt of his life-snatching saber, which has helped him kill the enemy and gain victory over and over again.

    The woman was wearing snow-white warrior outfit. With her outstanding good looks she stood with a sword in her hand. There was a bamboo rain hat on her head, tied under her chin with a strip of cotton cloth, covering her charming face above her fragrant lips, yet from the exposed part of her lower jaw, people could tell that she was indeed a rare beauty.

    This woman was rather tall, with some a-crane-among-a-flock-of-chicken kind of proud and arrogant attitude. The exquisiteness and well-proportioned features, and the beauty of her physique were almost indescribable.

    Especially impressive was a small mole, like a speck of paint, on the corner of her mouth, making her beauty even more mysterious.

    Jiao Xie was dumbstruck for half a day before regaining his composure. He was about to speak when a voice more beautiful than the immortals lai [musical pipe with three reeds] came out of that womans cherry lips, You are finally here.

    Jiao Xie jumped in fright; for a moment he forgot about Duke Yangs treasure. Miss is waiting for us? he asked in astonishment.

    An incomparably touching smile floated out of the corner of the woman in whites mouth. In a gentle voice she said, I am waiting for anybody to come to try my sword!

    Ring! The womans blade left its sheathe. A thick cold sword aura engulfed Jiao Xie.

    Jiao Xie has roamed the Jianghu for more than half of his life, he was extremely experienced; just by looking at how the woman pulled the sword, he knew right away that he had met the most fearful swordsman in his life. Not daring to be negligence, he let out a wild roar while stepping back and pulling his saber, while shouting his order for his men to show themselves.

    There was neither hatred nor enmity between them, but as soon as they met they already used fierce and ruthless method to deal with each other. It was the first time he encountered such situation.

    The womans sleeve fluttered, the tip of her sword rose up suddenly and sharply. Biting cold killing aura immediately permeated the air.

    Jiao Xie knew he must never let the opponent gain the upper hand. With another wild roar both his body and his saber rushed forward together to become a blur of saber shadow, surging toward the opponent like a tide.

    By this time his men had rushed over to cheer him up.

    The woman in white let out a tender shout while rushing diagonally and leaped above Jiao Xies head. Like a lightning the sword struck down.

    Dang! Sword and saber collided.

    An irresistibly huge force swept pass through the saber, Jiao Xie felt as if a thunder has stricken the pit of his stomach. Unexpectedly he was unable to hold his stance and was forced to tumble back.

    Just a brief encounter like that and he had already suffered a big loss, it was also the first time Jiao Xie had ever experienced it. But he could also see that the strength behind the woman in whites sword was indeed overbearing.

    The woman in white did a somersault in the air and landed between two men standing at the edge of the battlefield. Her body spun, her sword flew, those two men were thrown out and were no longer able to get up.

    These men were used to have blades on their heads and lick blood from their bodies, they were brave and fierce in battle; this situation has roused their vicious spirit instead, hence with no thought of personal safety they charged forward bravely.

    The woman in white let out a cold snort, the sword in her hand turned into hundreds and thousands sword shadows, like a ghost or a demon it easily penetrated the mens ferocious attack. Wherever the blade reached, a man would fall down and die. No matter which part of the body was hit by the sword, the victim always dropped dead. As soon as the five viscera [i.e. heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys] were shocked by the sword aura and shattered, the person died.

    By the time Jiao Xie managed to regulate his qi back, only four of his men remained, strenuously fighting to defend themselves; he could not refrain his blood from boiling as he threw himself to join the fray.

    Finally the last man fell. The tip of the sword rose up again to meet Jiao Xies Life-Snatching Saber head on.

    Jiao Xie gave everything he had. By the time he took the sixth sword strike, unexpectedly the refined steel of his Life-Snatching Saber was cut into two by the opponents sword.

    Jiao Xie was shocked. He threw the remaining saber in his hand toward the opponent as if it was a secret projectile, while at the same time raised his qi to push himself backward.

    With a tender laughter the woman spin her body around. Not only she evaded the shooting broken saber, she also threw her sword away.

    Jiao Xie could see very clearly the sword was flying toward him, and he still had time to think about different ways he could evade the sword, but by the time the sword passed through his body, he was still unable to come up with any response that might save his life.

    The woman in white casually pulled her sword from Jiao Xies body, as if what had just happened was nothing, and then she simply floated away.

    Those who attain can also aid the country, those who are poor can only support himself; Shi Xiong [brother, generic term] really aims to idealism. This kind of advancing opens the possibility of offense, retreating opens the possibility of defense thinking will enable one to conduct oneself with clear conscience. I, Yuwen Huaji, am full of admiration.

    Shi Long knew that the opposite party was reading his own inscription hanging on the main halls wall, and used it to mock him. However, his self-cultivation was profound; hence he did not take any offense. Still sitting calmly in his chair, he said flatly, Turns out it is the preeminent martial art expert from Yuwen Clan, one of the four powerful clans of the current age. Isnt Yuwen Xiong busy serving His Holiness? How could you have time to leisurely visit an outsider, a rural commoner like me?

    With his hands behind his back Yuwen Huaji strolled into the hall. He swept his gaze around the room first before finally he fixed his eyes on Shi Longs face, who was sitting as steady as a mountain. He sighed and said, I have Shi Xiong to blame, the trouble you are giving me is not trivial. You obtained the treasured wisdom that can prolong life, which is the envy of every scholar who practice Taoism, yet you did not even offer it to His Holiness, causing his dragon heart to be displeased. I receive official salary as a small pawn to run errands; I came here to see if Shi Xiong is a discreet person who understands the situation.

    Shi Long groaned in his heart that the situation was indeed serious.

    It was the first time that he ever dealt with someone from the Yuwen Clan. The master of the Yuwen family was Yuwen Shang, whose reputation was most resounding. Under him were precisely the four martial art masters; one of them was precisely this Yuwen Huaji, who was serving as the Imperial Bodyguard Zongguan of Emperor Yang of Sui, who was also the most well acquainted with Jianghu people. Rumor has it that after Yuwen Shang, he was the first person who mastered the secret family skill, Black [or Mysterious] Ice Energy. Its just that Shi Long has never expected that he looked this young, he seemed to be no more than thirty.

    Since Wei, Jin and North-South dynasties[3], one distinguishing feature of influential families was what these families develop from generation to generation. The so-called high house or powerful house was entirely different [orig. as rivers Jing and Wei separate clearly] from the common populace. There was a saying, there is no poor and humble family in the upper class, there is no influential family in the lower class. Whether it was in economics or politics, the land-owning class always enjoyed enormous privileges.

    By the time the founding emperor of Sui Dynasty unified the world, they started to use imperial examination to select government officials; it was only then did the dominance of powerful houses become somewhat broken. But powerful houses had not disappeared.

    The four powerful clans whose name shook the Jianghu were Yuwen Clan, Li Clan, Dugu Clan, and Song Clan. They had tremendous influence in economics, politics, as well as in Wulin. Among these four clans, only Song Clan belonged to the southern part of the country, having blood relationship with Han people, dealing with orthodox schools. The other three clans were in the north, their ties with non-Han people were rather close.

    Yuwen Clan itself was a non-Han family, but they already embraced the Central Plains culture, hence they were not considered foreigners anymore.

    Although Shi Longs mind was racing at the speed of lightning, on the surface he was still unruffled; he slyly said, This Ol Shi has always been wild and uncouth; he has never understood how to fawn. Moreover, he is a man that is amenable to coaxing but not coercion [lit. eats soft food but refuses hard food]. I cant say for sure, but perhaps when hard-pressed he might disregard everything and burn both jade and common stone, and destroy the book altogether. Wouldnt Yuwen Xiong be at a loss on how to report to your master then?

    The two of them started fighting a battle of words, no more politeness, the atmosphere became very tense.

    After staring at Shi Long for quite some time, he said in astonishment, If Shi Xiong could destroy the treasured book, then that book must not be Guang Chengzis Secret to Long Life. Besides, destroying it is not a big deal, only with that kind of attitude, Shi Xiong would do more harm than good toward all scholars of the Taoist way. Perhaps disaster might even reach their parents and children. Arent two schools Taoism and Buddhism both emphasizing accumulation of merit and being merciful? Shi Xiong is apparently going against these decrees!

    Shi Long could hear the threatening tone, clearly it was not an empty threat. Finally his countenance changed slightly. Right this split second when his attention was divided, Yuwen Huaji made his move; his punch split the air.

    The day before yesterday was the beginning of the Great Heat[4], the weather was blistering hot. But as soon as Yuwen Huaji made his move, the air in the hall immediately became incomparably strange cold. If not for the fact that Shi Longs internal energy was refined and pure, perhaps his teeth would have been chattering.

    But it was not easy for him either.

    To counter a punch by this kind of master, one must distinguish clearly the gust of wind created by the fist and then break the enemys strike. But Yuwen Huajis cold strike seemed to be there yet it was not quite there. It seemed like the air all around was stirred up by him, it pressed on Shi Long from top, bottom, left, right, front and back. This kind of attack, where the target was not obvious, brought up the most annoying feeling: that he was helpless to counterattack.

    Yet Shi Long was still calmly sitting in his chair; his clothes, from top to bottom, began to swell.


    Two streams of qi collided, forming a vortex surging everywhere and all directions with Shi Long at its center. Table, chairs and other furniture were swept away like dead leaves, flipped over and broke down, and rolled away in all directions. Finally only Shi Long was left in the middle of the hall, still sitting in his chair.

    Astonishment appeared on Yuwen Huajis face as he held back his fist.

    Color like a wisp of red clouds appeared on Shi Longs old face, a sign that he was restraining himself.

    Yuwen Huaji roared in laughter as he said, You deserve the title Yangzhous number one. Unexpectedly you are able to resist my fist relying on your pure qi to protect your body. Just based on this point, let me, Yuwen Huaji, advise you nicely. If Shi Xiong hand over the treasured book in good faith and from now on you go into hiding and live incognito, I would do my part according to Jianghus principle, to let Shi Xiong have a horse and leave. I am saying this with good intention, without any malice whatsoever. Whether you will live in honor or die in disgrace, Shi Xiong may decide in just one word.

    Shi Long felt this was extremely ridiculous. After obtaining the Taoists Secret to Long Life, he thought about it so hard that his brain almost burst, yet he did not gain anything. In fact, his mind was more free and peaceful before he got the book. Now because of this book he has offended the current emperor, so much so that the Emperor seized this opportunity have his disciples killed. As if that was not enough, he also had all local martial art schools disbanded, to have this regions armed force annihilated. Wasnt this precisely the disaster of cherishing treasure?

    Of course he was not stupid enough to believe that just because he handed over The Secret to Long Life, Yuwen Huaji would simply let him go on a horse. Based on Yang Guangs ruthlessness, how could he ever let him go free?

    Just now he had exchange one move with Yuwen Huaji. He could see very clearly that the opponents Mysterious Ice Energy was indeed some kind of fantastic, matchless swirling, cyclone-like force. Compared to common straight [orig. there and back without delay] force, it was a lot more difficult to fathom, a lot more difficult to defend. But even though he knew that he knew, he still could not think of a way to break it.

    Shi Long was a well-known character in Jianghu. In this instant he suddenly hardened his heart, determined that even if he had to lose his life, he would not let this treasured book fall into Yang Guangs hand. Otherwise, due to the horde of talents under Yang Guangs command, he might really be able to decipher the oracle bone script in the book and grasp the secret to long life, and then he would become an immortal tyrant. If that really happened, even ten thousand deaths would not absolve Shi Long from the blame.

    Shi Long threw his head back and laughed aloud. After laughing twice, he shook his head and said with a sigh, This book is not brought together by karma, obtaining it only bring bad luck and harm. If Yuwen Xiong has the ability, you may take the book back to that muddled ruler and let him read. If he died from reading it, dont blame me, Shi Long, for not giving you a fair warning.

    While speaking, he circulated and gathered all the strength in his body. Immediately his ears could hear all faint noises within ten zhang circumference around him, even the sound of ants walking could not escape his hearing. Right away he could also hear the long, slow breathing of a dozen of people. Evidently the martial art experts surrounding him had deep cultivation both internally and externally.

    Yuwen Huaji looked up at the main beam in the middle of the hall; he sighed grimly and said, Not only Shi Xiong is not a discreet person who understands the situation, you are pigheaded as well. Only, remembering that it was not easy for Shi Xiong to make your name, I, Yuwen Huaji, am willing to let you gather your power, so that you can strike with all your strength, Shi Xiong may die with your eyes closed.

    Shi Long suddenly flew up from his seat; without his feet even touching the ground, he flitted across about a zhang of empty space, and in a blink of an eye he was already in front of Yuwen Huaji. Both palms pushed forward, like a typhoon his qi shot forward, immediately a tidal wave force surged toward the opponent.

    At the same instant, the chair he was sitting in a moment ago suddenly disintegrated and crumbled to the floor, a proof that when the two of them exchanged blows just now, Shi Long had already suffered defeat; he was unable to block Yuwen Huajis Mysterious Ice Energy so that the chair bore the consequences instead.

    Yuwen Huajis eyes shot lightning, but at the same time he was greatly stunned. Shi Long knew perfectly well that the strength of his own qi could not match the opponents Mysterious Ice Energy; why did he strike with such a direct force without leaving any leeway for himself?

    But right now he had no time to ponder about this question. When martial art experts exchange blows, victory and defeat were only a hairs breadth apart. Although he had confidence in himself that he could beat Shi Long easily, but if he lose this decisive opportunity, turning the table around would still be extremely difficult; on the contrary, he would face the danger of losing or even dying.

    Not daring to hesitate, he floated back three steps first, and then pushed forward again. His two fists separately shot toward the hollow of Shi Longs palms.

    Bang! Two streams of qi collided again; this time the resultant force shot upward, sending the tiles flying away, opening up a large hole on the roof.

    With Yuwen Huajis ability, he was still forced to floated backward and thus neutralized the incredible pressure from Shi Longs Mountain-Pushing Palm with which he criss-crossed the Jianghu unhindered.

    Shi Longs situation was even worse; he was jolted backward.

    Without his feet touching the ground, Yuwen Huaji spun around in a small circle, abruptly and swiftly, he suddenly arrived in front of the wall where Shi Longs back was crashing onto; like a bolt of lightning clapped in an empty space a burst of energy wrapped around Shi Longs body, aiming toward his back. It came from a very clever angle that one could not help but gasped in amazement.

    Shi Long opened his mouth and a stream of blood shot out like an arrow toward the pit of Yuwen Huajis stomach; while at the same time he arched his back to receive Yuwen Huajis Mysterious Ice Energy strike directly.

    Yuwen Huaji was surprised that Shi Long would resort to such a strange tactic of destroying himself to launch an attack; hurriedly he stopped his body and bent his waist backward, dangerously missed the blood arrow by a hairs width.

    Shi Long groaned inwardly for the missed attack, but his whole body was jolted severely, the qi protecting his body was shattered, dozens of extremely cold Mysterious Ice Energy entered his back and invaded his inner core.

    Shi Long knew that it was the decisive moment whether he would be able to protect The Secret to Long Life or not; giving everything he had, he roared wildly while resolutely resist the powerful qi that was pulling him forward, and then rapidly he withdrew toward the wall behind him.

    As soon as Yuwen Huaji saw this, he knew something was amiss; quickly he straightened up his body. Gathering up all his strength, he sent out a punch through the air.

    But he was still one step too late.

    As soon as Shi Longs back bumped against the wall, a revolving trapdoor opened, carrying him into the other side.

    Crash! The trapdoor disintegrated, revealing another small room behind it, but there was no trace of Shi Long.

    Yuwen Huaji stayed calm; throwing himself to the floor, he pressed his ear against the ground. The sound of Shi Longs wild escape in the underground tunnel, which was also quickly fading away, entered his ear.

    [1] From the dictionary: land-owning class, esp. during Wei, Jin and North-South dynasties.

    [2] From the dictionary: Daoist School of the Warring States Period (475-221BC), based on the teachings of Laozi (c. 500BC) and Zhuangzi (369-286BC).

    [3] Between Han and Sui, c. 220-589.

    [4] The 12th of the 24 solar terms, 23rd of July to 6th of August. Check out Wikipedia if you want to know more, keyword solar term.

  4. #4
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 1 - Chapter 2

    Book 1 Chapter 2 Facing imminent catastrophe

    The City of Yangzhou gradually woke up.

    As soon as the city gate was opened at the mao hour [between 5-7am], traveling merchants, peasants, all kinds of people fell over each other to enter the city. The boats and ships that arrived the previous day already unloaded their cargo on the docks; they also took this time to deliver their goods into the city. All at the same time carriages and horses were moving together; hence it was so noisy.

    From Yangzhou going east down the Yangtze River, one could sail to Japan [lit. dwarf country], Ryukyu Islands, and Southeast Asia, making Yangzhou one of the nations most important transit centers to foreign lands; hence it was more bustling compared to any other city.

    But today the atmosphere was a bit strange; there were a large number of officers and soldiers inside and outside the city. The crossing checkpoints were also a lot more stringent than usual, resulting in long queues. However, although everybody was burning with anxiety, nobody dared to open his mouth to grumble. Because anybody who was used to roam the Jianghu could see that mixed with local officials, there were not a few big men wearing the uniform of the Imperial Bodyguards. Unless one did not value his life anymore, who would dare to offend these tyrant Imperial Bodyguards from the Capital?

    There were a total of five markets in the city. The most flourishing one was the South Gate Market, which faced the Yangtze River. There were at least a few dozens stalls offering all kinds of food or food products, big and small. It was indeed an ideal place for the would-be travellers, who were ready to embark their boats, to get their breakfast.

    Other than being an important hub, since ancient times Yangzhou has been well-known across the country for its prostitutes [烟花 can either be prostitutes or fireworks]. Whether it was young master of rich merchant with ten thousand strings of cash in his belt, or self-proclaimed literary talent, romantic scholar, or licentious swordsman, if they have not been here at least once, they could not be considered a romantic hero. [Translators note: I dont think these people came to Yangzhou to enjoy fireworks.] Therefore, it was obvious why Yangzhou was flourishing.

    Among the food stalls in the South Gate Market, Ol Fengs vegetable and meat steamed bun [baozi] was the most famous. On top of that, the sales lady was Ol Fengs young mistress, Zhen Sao [lit. Sister-in-law Zhen], who had countenance of a flower, face like the moon. She became the living advertising board to drum up business. By the time the Ol Feng brought out a tray full of steaming hot vegetable and meat steamed buns from the kitchen, the impatient customers who have been waiting outside immediately scrambled forward to hand over the money in their hands.

    While Sister-in-law Zhen was busy and dripping wet with fragrant sweats, suddenly a big head belonging to a teenager stuck out from the crowd; with big smile on his face [orig. brows raised in delight and eyes laughing] he said, Eight vegetable and meat steamed buns, please. Zhen Sao, how are you?

    It was Xu Ziling. Because he was afraid Ol Feng might see him, he deliberately hunched over that he was half as tall as the other people; his posture looked quite comical, actually. Fortunately his features were unusually charming; his eyes were long and lively, his nose straight and the bridge of his nose was quite high, his forehead wide, the corners of his mouth curled up in smile as bright as the sunshine. If not for his face was greasy and dirty, his clothes were shabby, plus he was beaten up by Yan Laoda that his face was blue and his lips swollen; so his appearance right now was quite unsightly, hence people did not have any reason to compliment him.

    When Sister-in-law Zhen saw him, the first thing she did was casting a worried look over at the Ol Feng and the evil first wife in the kitchen; seeing that they did not notice the situation over here, she was relieved. While serving the other customers, she pretended to protest coquettishly, No money yet you want to imitate other people buying steamed buns?

    With a forced laugh Xu Ziling said, Just a bit of delay, none will be lacking, tomorrow I will definitely pay you back.

    With the quickest movement Sister-in-law Zhen grasped four steamed buns; after a slight hesitation she picked two more, and then wrapped everything nicely in paper, and stuffed it into his hands, while scolding him in low voice, This is the last time. Ay! Look how bad you have been beaten.

    Xu Ziling squealed in joy and withdrew from the crowd. Straightening up his back, his appearance looked a lot better instantly.

    Although he was very young, he had grown to be as big and tall as fully-grown men. His shoulders were wide, his waist narrow; its just that due to undernourishment he was relatively thin.

    Squeezing through a row of fruit and vegetable stalls, he bumped into Kou Zhong. Reaching into the bundle he grabbed a steamed bun and stuffed it into his mouth, while mumbling with his mouth full, Is it really the last time?

    Kou Zhong was a year older, but he was half a cun [a thumb, approx. an inch] shorter. His shoulders were wide, his upper arm bulging. He looked rather thick and solid. Although he lacked Xu Zilings elegance, he had a broad face and big ears. All in all, he carried a strong masculine aura, with a free and happy-go-lucky attitude, which was unusually attractive; his eyes were deep but looked quick-witted. In short, he was in no way inferior to Xu Ziling, making people believed that in the future this kid would definitely not be a nobody [orig. an object in the pond]. However, his clothes were patched on the east and stitched in the west, it was even more filthy than Xu Zilings; in fact, it was just as bad as a little beggar.

    Xu Ziling was eating his third steamed buns. Suddenly he frowned and said, Dont you say that Zhen Sao is basically a good person? Nowadays, how many people in Yangzhou are as kind-hearted as she is? Too bad her parents owed money, plus her old dad considered money as important as life, so that he sold her to the Ol Feng as a mistress. Laotianye [God, Heaven, lit. old master of the sky] must be blind.

    By this time the two of them already left the market and reached the main street, mingled among the stream of people heading out of the city via the South Gate.

    With his tummy full, Kou Zhong wrapped his arm around Xu Zilings shoulder; glancing to the left and right, he said, Fat sheep are especially many today, it is best to find a bit older, with gorgeous clothes, walking alone, looks like he had a lot of loads in his mind, and wont even know if he loses his wallet. That kind of old idiot.

    With a bitter laugh Xu Ziling said, That time it was you, this muddled egg, who wanted to find an old man as a target. And then when you saw him scrambling on the ground and crying out to heaven, you pretended to pick it up and give it back to him, in the end I was beaten up by Yan Laoda.

    Kou Zhong was unabashed, Dont forget that I only wanted to return half of that old mans money; it was you who wanted make that man happy and insisted that I should stick to the original plan and return the whole thing to him, and now you are blaming me? Hey! But as thieves, we also have principles, so we can be considered good men. Ha! Look!

    Xu Ziling followed his gaze, and just happen to catch sight of a fifty-something old scholar, walking in the direction of the city gate. He was well dressed, but had an anxious look on his face, as he walked hurriedly with his head down. He fit Kou Zhongs description perfectly. How could there be such a coincidence?

    The two of them stared blankly at the old man, and then they noticed that the back of his clothes was bulging, apparently he carried his purse hidden on his lower back.

    Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, Whether well meet with the lady luck or not, we only need to see whether this fellow looks impressive but is worthless or not.

    Xu Ziling anxiously said, I really need to pay Zhen Sao back.

    As the two of them hurried run after the old man, suddenly they saw a platoon of soldiers coming from the opposite direction. They were greatly shocked and quickly turned around and entered a small alley, and from there they run across toward another alley, which lead to another street big enough for sedan chair, which ran parallel to the southern wall of the city.

    The two of them plopped down to sit by the wall. After sighing for their bad luck, Kou Zhong came up with another idea, Maybe wed better try entering the imperial examination. Although the material we know coming from eavesdropping Bai Lao Fuzis [see Chapter 1] lecture, at least its better than those good-for-nothing people in class who pay a lot of money to listen to stories. If our names make the list, not only we wont need travel expenses anymore, we dont need to take the risk of a long and difficult trek; well be high-ranking officials.

    With eyes blazing with fire Xu Ziling said, Joining the militia is your idea, and now you want to enter imperial examination. You think it is as easy as taking a peek at those young ladies from the Spring Breeze Courtyard [i.e. brothel]? After all

    Kou Zhong suddenly elbowed his ribs and winked. Xu Ziling looked up toward the street, and saw the old scholar was actually also running away in panic just like them. Even when he looked toward them, he did not seem to see them but just hurrying along toward the big street. The two of them were ecstatic at this unexpected turn of events, they sprang up and ran after him.

    Time for the operation.

    The old scholar was such in a hurry that he did not even notice the clothes on his back was cut. Just now he wanted to leave the city via the South Gate, but was scared by the tight border security that he drew back. He knew it was not suitable for him to go out, yet he was afraid to return home; calling on a friend, he was even more afraid he would implicate other people. While he was hesitating, a shadow flashed, someone was barring his way.

    While the old scholar was shaking in shock, more men appeared from left and right and seized him that he was not unable to move a single step.

    The one blocking his way was Yuwen Huaji and one of his men. With a smile on his face this martial art expert from the Yuwen Clan walked over toward the old scholar. After seizing him up from top to bottom several times, he said in a bored tone, Isnt this gentleman Jiangdus rising poetry and literature scholar Tian Wen Laoshi [teacher]? I heard Laoshi is a good friend of Shi Long Shifu [simply a respectful form of address for older men]. Just now we took the liberty of paying an official call on Tian Laoshis respected residence. Unexpectedly, without suspecting anything, we managed to dredge up Shi Shifus body from the bottom of the well. And now Tian Laoshi seems to be in a hurry to leave; I wonder what was the reason?

    Tianwens countenance was changed greatly; he could not find anything to say. By this time the people passing through the street knew that something was not right, but seeing that among the men surrounding Tian Wen was their own captain of the local garrison, who would dare to be implicated by interfering?

    Meanwhile, the two men grabbing Tian Wen from both sides did not stay idle either; their hands were busy searching Tian Wen's whole body, but they were unable to find the book that was supposedly in his possession. Zhang Shihe personally did the search. Before long he discovered that the back of Tian Wen's clothes had been cut with a sharp weapon.

    "Not good!" his countenance changed, "The book is gone!"

    Yuwen Huaji's eyes flashed with cold rays as he called out in deep voice, "Chen Shoubei!" [Translator's note: Shoubei practically means 'on garrison duty'. I am not sure his actual military rank, although earlier I said 'captain'.]

    Chen Shoubei, who normally tyranize people, quickly stepped forward. As his eyes met Yuwen Huaji's, his knees buckled and he dropped down kneeling on the ground, "Lowly officer's here!"

    Yuwen Huaji coldly said, "Seal the city gates immediately. While you are at it, catch all thieves and local ruffians in the city for me. If we can't find the thing that His Holiness wants, they can forget about keeping their lives."

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were sitting side-by-side in a secluded alley by the East Gate, staring blankly at the book in front of them. Deeply disappointed, Xu Ziling said, "Next time we want to steal, we must never target those that look like a school teacher. This weird book with undecipherable handwriting is more difficult to understand than the Heavenly Book [mythical book of heavens]. Aren't you the Zhong Shaoye [young master] who often brags about your great erudition and scholarship? Tell me, what is this written on the top?"

    Kou Zhong proudly said, "How can I be like you, a mere kid without learning or skills? This book must be a secret martial art manual from the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors era [the earliest system of Chinese historiography]. We can train it, we will be unequalled under the heavens that even Shi Shifu will have to step down gracefully. Just look at these diagrams of human body, this is the secret to circulate qi along the channels. Ha! This time we come across a treasure. Look! Did you notice the marvelous quality of the paper?"

    Xu Ziling could not stop laughing. "Don't blow your horn too loud. Just read a couple of characters let me hear it. I want to see how good your education is."

    Kou Zhong has always been proud of his age and experience; his eyes were gleaming as he said, "If somebody could write it, then there must be somebody else who could understand it. Let us find an old scholar with the most learning, we'll ask him to interpret these strange characters for us. Besides, we, the two dragons of Yangzhou, have specific responsibility to train martial art. This is called dividing up the work in collaboration, each on in his proper place. Do you understand?"

    With disappointment in his voice Xu Ziling said, "Do you think you are the Zongguan [see chapter 1] of Yangzhou? Who would listen to us and do our bidding? Right now we, the two snakes of Yangzhou, have a more pressing problem at hand: food. Looks like we will have to take the money we save for traveling expense and exchange it for a couple of steamed buns to feed our tummy. I'll say it is a bit more practical."

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud. He stood up, hid the book in his clothes again, stretched, and said, Let me, Zhong Shaoye, take care of lunch. Come! Lets go home first to get some money, and then we go to the docks outside the city to do some damn business that requires no capital. Afterwards we run away as far as we can; otherwise, if that stinky Laoda discovered that we have some treasured book in our bosom, we will be in very big trouble.

    Recalling the fierce beating he received the previous day, Xu Ziling broke out in sweats. He sprang up and sneakily followed Kou Zhong back to the abandoned courtyard, their home.

    Yuwen Huaji was sitting in the main hall of the Zongguan Mansion, drinking tea; serving him was Yangzhou Zongguan, Yuchi Sheng. Not only these two men were well-acquainted with each other, the relationship between them was more than casual. Before Yang Jian established the Great Sui Dynasty, he was a high-ranking minister of the Northern Zhou Dynasty [557-581]. Later on, after Emperor Xuan of Zhou [? not sure about this one], Yuwen Yun, died of illness, Yang Jian colluded with Internal Historian Physician Zheng Yi and Imperial Justice Physician Liu Fang. Arguing that the successor of the throne, Yuwen Shan, was still underage, they acted in the pretense of following imperial order by calling Yang Jian back to the imperial court to take over the government.

    One year later, Yang Jian forced Emperor Jing to abdicate, and proclaimed himself as the new Emperor. Henceforth, the Yuwen Clans Northern Zhou world now belonged to the Yang Clan. Yet because Yuwen Clans influence was deep-rooted, although becoming the Emperor, Yang Jian was unable to completely uproot the Yuwen Clan. By the time his son Yang Guang became the Emperor, Yuwen Clan rose up in power again. Strictly speaking, although on the surface the Yuwen Clan was loyal toward the Sui Dynasty, there was a hatred buried deep in the deepest of their hearts.

    After Yang Jian usurped the throne, there were three separate attempts by different high-ranking officials who supported the Yuwen Clans Northern Zhou to rise up in rebellion, namely Xiangzhous Zongguan Yuchi Zhou, Zhengzhous Zongguan Sima Xiaonan, and Yizhous Zongguan Wang Qian. These people did not have any family relationship with the Yuwen Clan, they were simply loyal to the royal family of the Northern Zhou. One of them, Yuchi Sheng, was precisely Yuchi Shengs paternal uncle; hence the reason these two people had close relationship. Therefore, even when talking about secret matters, they did not have the slightest bit of worry.

    Yuwen Huaji sighed and said, This book is really very important. I have prepared some experts. As soon as we obtain the treasured book, we will pretend that we manage to break the secret, and let that incapable ruler train it. I guarantee that within three months, he will die of the training. Who would have thought that there are many twists and turns in getting that thing that ought to be in our hands right now? We cant even make a fake copy.

    With a cold snort Yuchi Sheng said, Even if the treasured book did not exist, I am afraid it would be difficult for the Yang Clan to protect their throne. The Heaven blesses the Great Zhou. Ever since that incapable ruler usurped the throne, internally he screws taxes out of the people by force, he carries out large scale constructions; externally he engage in wars of aggression at will, engaging the Korean Goryeo in the military expedition to the east. Three battles and three defeats. And now rebel armies are everywhere. As long as we can seize this opportunity, we can restore the Great Zhous glory of the past.

    Yuwen Huajis eyes were gleaming with cold rays; he said in deep voice, Yang Guangs days are numbered. What I worry about is the other three powerful clans, especially the Li Clan that must not be taken lightly. Their Clan Leader Li Yuan[1] is the nephew of Empress Dowager Dugus maternal aunt; thats why they enjoy the Yang Clans trust much more than our Yuwen Clan. The longer we fail to wipe out the three powerful clans, our Great Zhous restoration will undoubtedly come across considerable resistance.

    After a short pause, he continued, In regards to foreign power, Turkic ethnic group[2] is the biggest threat. Right now the rebel armies are allying themselves with Turkic people to borrow their influence, and thus increasing the Turkics power. Moreover, Turkics four masters martial art skill has reached perfection. Thinking about it indeed makes one anxious.

    Yuchi Sheng said, I am under the impression that you dont have to worry about the Li Clan. Although Li Yuan is Yang Guangs maternal cousin, just based on the fact that this man is giving favor to a lot of people far and wide, and thus he made friends with heroes everywhere, Yang Guang is very jealous of him. Right now Li Yuan is too busy to defend himself. As long as we can plan our move, deepening Yang Guangs suspicions toward Li Yuan, we might be able to kill him with borrowed knife; hence we will reap the fishermans benefit.

    A smile appeared in Yuwen Huajis eyes. As he was nodding his praise, Zhang Shihe came in to report, We have a bit of progess! Yuwen Huaji and Yuchi Sheng were greatly delighted.

    Zhang Shihe said, According to Tian Wens confession, before he was arrested, he came across two ruffians, about fifteen, sixteen years old. It seems like these two boys were the ones who stole the book.

    Yuwen Huaji happily said, And Shihe must have had investigated these two ruffians clearly; thats why you came to report.

    Zhang Shihe laughed, That is correct. These two boys, one is called Kou Zhong, the other Xu Ziling. They are Yangzhous most famous pickpockets. Their boss is called Yan Kuan, right now he is in our custody to help us finding those two fellows.

    Yuchi Sheng laughed aloud and said, Thats an easy thing to do. Unless they can grow wings, as long as they are still in the city, they wont escape our grasp.

    Yuwen Huaji breathed a sigh of relief and sat back down in his chair, as if the treasured book has already been in his hands.

    The two boys had not had any chance to get the dozen or so five-zhu [1/24th of a tael] coins stringed together, when Xu Ziling, who was on the lookout, saw the dejected Yan Laoda being dragged by a dozen or so big men toward the abandoned garden. Xu Ziling was very sharp; although he was greatly shocked, he knew he had to hasten quietly to the rendezvous point with Kou Zhong, and then together they slipped into another broken down room that only have three remaining rotten walls. They hid inside a hole in the ground, which they made especially whenever they wanted to avoid Yan Laoda. It was covered with a fake floor, made of wooden planks, strewn with fallen leaves, sand and stones, leaving only a small crack for ventilation purpose.

    Crash, bang, thud, crack! Noise of overturned wooden chest and falling object unceasingly entered their small nest. Soon after they heard Yan Laodas bawling, apparently he was being severely beaten up by those men.

    Although they really wished someone would beat Yan Laoda to death, but listening to his situation right now, they still could not bear it.

    They were greatly puzzled as well. What had happened? After all, in Yangzhou Yan Laoda had a bit of reputation and power, he had more than twenty brothers as his underlings. More recently, he took the Hall Master of the Bamboo Flower Clan, Chang Ci, as his father-in-law. But in front of these men, he seemed to be even lowlier than a pig or a dog.

    A grim and sad-sounding voice was heard from further down the path, Go search!

    Hearing this, the two dragons of Yangzhou immediately turned into two coiling snakes as they tried to curl up as small as possible, did not even dare to take half a breath.

    Yan Laodas trembling voice was heard, Gentlemen [orig. daye big master], please give me a bit more time, we will definitely get the book back, I can guarantee with my head aaahhh! Evidently if he was not punched, then he must have been kicked.

    Footsteps were heard very close to the hole, followed by someone calling out, Still cant find them?

    Yan Laodas voice was hoarse with pain as he was begging for mercy, Please give me another chance, these two wretched kids must have gone to Shi Longs martial art training field to peek at people training martial art there. Aahhh!

    The grim and sad-sounding voice spoke, We closed Shi Longs martial art training field this morning; there is not much to look at over there.

    A short pause, and then, I want four of you to stay here, wait for their return. And you, this scum, take us to all the places those kids might stroll to one by one. Quick, drag him up!

    The footsteps died away.

    Inside the hole, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other; they both see the others face was as white as a ghost. Almost at the same time both of them recalled the dark culvert heading out of the city by the East Gate.

    Right now that was their only hope.

    [1] Personal name of first Tang emperor, Gaozu, 566-635, reigned 618-626.

    [2] Turkic people are collection of ethnic group that live in northern, eastern, central, and western Asia, northwestern China, and parts of eastern Europe, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkic_peoples

  5. #5
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 1 - Chapter 3

    Book 1 Chapter 3 Far and away from Yangzhou

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stripped stark naked. First, they washed their clothes clean by the creek, then they spread out the clothes on the thickets next to the bank to let it dry in the afternoon sun. They put The Secret to Long Life on a rock. Finally they shouted gleefully as they dive into the stream to wash away the grimes and the stink from crawling inside the dark culvert.

    They were still kids, after all. After running for their lives to this forest on a hill, about seven or eight li [1 li is approx. 1/2km or 1/3 of a mile] from Yangzhou city wall, they were so exhausted that they did not feel like moving anymore. Also, thinking that they were already far away from danger, their moods turned a lot better.

    While they were playing and singing happily in the water, suddenly they hear tender snort coming from the creeks bank. At first they were startled and scared, and quickly looked at the direction of the noise. But then they saw a woman wearing snow-white clothes, with a bamboo rain hat on her head, was standing gracefully on the shore. With her pair of cold eyes that was hidden behind a white gauze veil, she looked at them, sizing them up, without any care whatsoever that they were stark naked.

    The two boys squealed in terror and quickly ducked inside the water, instinctively their hands went down to cover their lower parts. With a squeaky voice Xu Ziling cried out, Its improper to look, Dajie [big sister] please avert your noble eyes; spare us!

    Kou Zhong also cried out, Looking once you have to pay one wen [1/10 of a tael, approx. 0.5gram (of silver)]. Miss already looked at least a hundred times; even with fifty or perhaps sixty percent rate, you need to pay us about a hundred copper coins and then you may go.

    An ice-cold smile appeared on the corner of the woman-in-whites mouth. Little demon is asking for it, she said lightly.

    Stretching out her lily-white hand, which was as slender as a spring scallion, she casually flicked her two fingers. Pop, pop! The two boys screamed in pain and fell down to the water.

    It was quite a while before they finally emerged from the water, still in a lot of pain.

    The woman-in-white spoke matter-of-factly, When Miss asks you a question, you answer with an honest answer; otherwise, you, these two little demons, will suffer more pain.

    By this time Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling have already withdrawn to the other side of the creek. But since they were still naked, they did not dare to crawl out of the water. Unable to neither advance nor retreat, they were completely at a loss.

    Kou Zhong has always been able to see the wind and set his sails; therefore, he forced a laugh and said, Lowly ones know that we cannot not speak, and speak cannot not be honest. [I know it sounds awkward in English, but Chinese loves to use double negative.] Miss, please go ahead and ask.

    Seeing he was trying to talk bookish talk, yet his appearance was nondescript, the woman-in-white let out a cold snort and said, I ask you, what kind of guts you, the little demon, have?

    Xu Ziling was shocked. All along we, two brothers, have never known how to tell stories. Miss, you may ask us anything.

    The woman-in-white still maintained her wooden expression. With a voice as calm as the water she asked, Do you live near here?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other. And then one nodded, the other shook his head. Another flick of her fingers, their knees went weak and they tumbled into the water again. As before, it was quite a while before they were able to struggle up, battered and exhausted.

    As if nothing had happened, the woman-in-white calmly said, If I hear one more lie, dont even think that you will be able to crawl up again.

    The two boys were very scared of the woman-in-whites ruthlessness, but they have already developed resilience from receiving Laoda, Yan Kuans bullying. With a forced laugh Kou Zhong said, Dashi [lit. great scholar/bachelor/member of senior ministerial class; I dont know how to translate this properly], you misunderstood. I nodded because I certainly live in my in-laws village nearby. And he shook his head, because he lives in the city. Today this brother of mine especially went out of the city to have fun with me. So now Dashi can see that we are indeed innocent.

    Hearing the smooth talk and the laughter, Xu Ziling hastily covered his mouth, afraid that he might provoke this evil Luocha [demon in Buddhism, as in Yu Luocha, White Haired Demoness].

    But the woman-in-white remained unmoved. If I hear more flippant answer, Ill gouge your tongue out of your mouth. Why do you call me Dashi?

    Xu Ziling was afraid Kou Zhong might ramble, he busily said, Just because you are wearing long white robe like Guanyin Dashi [Goddess of Mercy], he is honoring Big Sister as Dashi. It is just a show of respect, there is no other meaning.

    At this point, this scene was really weird. An enigmatic woman as cold as ice and frost, coldly dealing with two stark naked boys, embarrassed and were in a difficult situation, hiding in the water. If an outsider was to witness this scene, even if he rack his brain until burst, he would not be able to guess the relationship between them.

    The woman-in-whites eyes fell onto The Secret to Long Life lying on the rock by the shore. What is that? she asked.

    Not missing a single beat, Kou Zhong reverently and respectfully replied, That is the book of the sages that Bai Lao Fuzis [see Chapter 1] wanted us to study. Would Dashi like to read it?

    Evidently the woman-in-white did not know that it was a very important book, because the fact was that from the outside, this book was not much different from any other book. Therefore, she only took a couple of glances, and then her eyes were back to the two boys. Do you know this man Shi Long? she asked in a heavy voice.

    Seeing she no longer care about their secret manual, the two boys inwardly wiped the sweats from their foreheads, while scrambling to answer at the same time, Of course we do!

    Tell me then, the woman-in-white said, Why are his house and institution teeming with soldiers and officers? And Yangzhou city gates are all closed?

    Kou Zhong pretended to be surprised, Is there such thing? he said, We have been here since early in the morning catching fish. Ah! Xiao Ling, how are you going to go back to the city?

    Although Xu Ziling knew he was lying, looking at his serious manner[1], he almost believed it was true. Assuming a pained expression on his face, he exclaimed in shock, Mother is going to kill me.

    Suddenly he felt Kou Zhong nudged him; realizing his intention, he said, That wont do! I must return to the city immediately. Hey! Dashi, would you turn your back momentarily, so that we can go up and put our clothes on?

    The woman-in-white did not have any intention of turning her back to them. With a cold snort, without seeing how she moved, she was already deep inside the forest.

    The two boys slumped down into the water, and then they floated back up. Kou Zhong sighed and said, This stinking b1tch is really formidable. Someday after we master unrivalled martial art skill, I must strip her naked and look at her mothers body until I am satisfied.

    Xu Ziling was really afraid she might come back, giving Kou Zhong a little push, they crawled up to the shore. She might be very ugly, he said with a wry smile, Anyway, you have seen her enough.

    After they were fully dressed, Kou Zhong hid the treasured book well, and then with a deep frown said, What crime did Shi Long commit anyway? Not only his martial art arena is closed, even his house is being raided.

    Xu Ziling said with a sigh, It seems like training martial art is useless. Lets roll! Every time I remember that bunch beating Yan Laoda, my heart alarmed, my body leaps in fright.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, How can martial art skill be useless? Just look at my stepping on dry land technique. Ow! He only took two steps when he tripped on a stone and fumbled down that he had to crawl on all four.

    Xu Ziling doubled up in laughter, and momentarily was not able to stand up.

    The two boys crouched inside a thicket on a knoll overlooking the lower reaches of Yangtze River. They were dumbstruck to see three big warships and hundreds of speedboats close to the city, inspecting all departing boats.

    Kou Zhong sucked in a breath of cold air, My grandpa! he gasped, That book of ours must be a Heavenly Book [see Chapter 2].

    Xu Ziling whispered in Kou Zhongs ear, Would Zhong Shaoye lower your voice a bit so we wont alarm them? Perhaps there are militia army mingle among them, otherwise, their number would not be that big.

    Kou Zhong rubbed his empty tummy. Suddenly he was hit by realization, If the river route is like that, I am afraid the land route is being closed as well; wed better find a place to hide. Oh, my God! Isnt that the sound of dog barking?

    The two of them listened carefully, and their countenance changed drastically. It was obvious that the dog bark came from the direction of the creek. Now they could also hear the sound of hoof beats. They thought that if the dogs sensitive nose had already picked up their scent from their old hole in the ground, would that mean they were in a very big trouble?

    They both shuddered. And then with a scream they ran for their lives into the depth of the forest in the mountain.

    They ran over a small hill, but as they were rushing downhill, Xu Ziling tripped. He groaned and rolled downhill. Kou Zhong ran over and pulled him up, Hurry up!

    Xu Ziling said sadly, I cant walk anymore. Take the secret manual and go quickly! In the future when you have mastered matchless divine skill, come back and avenge me. No matter how fast we run, we cant outrun dogs legs and horses legs anyway. Right now I can try to divert the enemy; its your only hope to escape with your life.

    Kou Zhong did not even want to think about it. He lugged Xu Ziling toward the sparse wooded area ahead as he cried out, If we die, we die together; otherwise, how can we be considered brothers?

    Suddenly he had a brainwave. Changing direction, he ran toward the Big River [i.e. Yangtze]. By this time they could clearly hear the sound of barking dogs and the hoof beats.

    Xu Ziling cried out in horror, Are we going to throw ourselves into the river?

    Gasping for breath, Kou Zhong replied, This is the only way. As soon as we are in the water, you have to hold on tight to me no matter what. Otherwise, if the river rushes you back to Yangzhou, it would be like sending the lamb to the tigers mouth.

    Xu Ziling recalled the evil bunch who beat up Yan Laoda, he thought that drowning in the river sure beats being beaten to death. Without saying anything, he summoned every ounce of his strength, which was not much, and ran after Kou Zhong toward the cliff by the riverbank.

    Kou Zhong roared wildly. With both hands he grasped Xu Zilings hands and shouted, Dont look; just stake everything you have and jump. Lets get it over with.

    The rumbling river down below sounded very loud from up above the cliff, making them utterly terrified.

    Aaahhhh ! With a roar the two of them jumped from the cliff down to Yangtze River, more than ten zhang [1 zhang is approx. 10ft or 3m] below.

    The wind whooshed in their ears.

    Splash! Splash! One after another they both fell successfully into the raging river and immediately sank into the water.

    In the strong current, they had to struggle hard to float to the surface. Xu Ziling started to see stars, while desperately trying to hold on to Kou Zhongs shoulders. Kou Zhong himself was not any better, sinking and rising, he drank a lot of river water, as the current brought them more than ten zhang downstream. Lets not talk about crossing the river, trying to keep their heads above the water proved to be almost impossible.

    While they were thinking that this time their little lives would be gone, a fishing boat crossed the current toward them. A long rope flew out of the boat, accurately coiled itself around Kou Zhongs neck.

    Actually, with Xi Zilings arms holding tight to him, Kou Zhong had already found it difficult to breathe; plus the river water unceasingly pouring into his nose and mouth. Now with the rope wrapped around his neck, he thought that the soldiers had finally got him.

    While he was crying inwardly, saying goodbye to the world, his ears heard the pleasant voice of the woman-in-white, Idiot! Why havent you held on to the rope?

    Kou Zhong was ecstatic. Freeing one hand, he desperately hung on to the rope. He felt a strong force transmitted via the rope. Miraculously the two of them were being pulled out of the water, and flew sideways toward the small boat.

    The two boys rolled along the deck like a pair of gourds, with only half of their lives remained.

    With one pull the woman-in-white raised the sail, and then she sat on the bow, staring at the two boys without looking happy at all.

    Kou Zhong rolled up first, and then, seeing Xu Ziling also survived, he groaned, and then begged the woman, My Guanyin Dashi, lady Bodhisattva, please be merciful to us, quickly set sail, evil people are after us.

    The woman-in-white already heard the sound of hoof beats and barking dogs. She said with a cold laugh, What qualifications you have that you dare to offend Sui peoples dog soldiers? They are actually after your Miss.

    Kou Zhong remembered something. Heavens! he screamed, Our secret manual! He reached out to grope around his back.

    The woman-in-white only knew that he was anxious that the holy book was damaged by the water; she did not pay any attention to these two words, secret manual. Grapping the sail, she steered the boat upstream.

    After throwing up two mouthfuls of water, Xu Ziling crawled up. The book? he asked in horror.

    He saw Kou Zhong groping around his back several times, with a very strange expression on his face. He made all kinds of signals to Xu Ziling as he sat up. With his back toward the woman-in-white, he winked and said, Completely soaked. This time Bai Lao Fuzi will definitely slap my hands black and blue.

    The woman-in-white said with a snort, You still want to lie to me? Lets see if I dont throw you, these two little demons, back into the river.

    Kou Zhong was shocked; he thought she already saw through the secret of the book. Turning around, he said, I did not lie to you. Honest. The book is finished.

    With displeased expression the woman-in-white said, I am not talking about your book, I am talking about what kind of game are you, two little demons, playing? Didnt you say you must return to the city? Why do you want to go farther away now?

    While the two boys were at a loss of what to say, there were shouts coming from the riverbank. They raised their heads and saw a dozen or so riders galloping along the river. Stop the boat! they shouted.

    The woman-in-white did not move; she turned a deaf ear. She did not even look at them, as if it was beneath her to do so.

    Suddenly there was a long whistle from a distant, but coming closer at an astonishing speed.

    The woman-in-white was amazed, I did not expect there is such a martial art expert in the Central Plains.

    The two boys were stupefied. Could it be that this woman-in-white was of different tribe from foreign country?

    The woman-in-white suddenly stood up, her hand grabbed the hilt of her sword, she said in heavy voice, Two little demons, operate the sail for me.

    The two boys were taken aback. We dont

    The woman-in-white impatiently said, Even if you dont know you have to do it. Come!

    Horrified, the two boys looked up, only to see a figure coming down on them. At first the figure looked small, but it grew big quickly, like a big bird coming down on the fishing boat. The power was extremely astonishing.

    The two boys instinctively threw themselves at the rudder. The man was flying about a zhang away from the small boat, a very strong and violent qi was pressing down on them.

    The surrounding air suddenly turned cold, as if it was condensing to be ice. Cold air permeated everywhere. Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings teeth were chattering, as they swayed from side to side.

    Heavy gauze covered the woman-in-whites face, so that nobody could see her expression. But just like when she was dealing with Jiao Xie and his men, she maintained her carefree attitude, the clothes on her body fluttered everywhere, but she still did not look at Yuwen Huaji, who came down to them like descending devil or immortal.

    The out-of-control sail, the attack of the river water, plus the stronger vortex due to Yuwen Huajis fantastic Mysterious Ice Energy, made the boat tilt and spin, ready to capsize anytime.

    Ring! the woman-in-whites sword left its sheathe, as she leaped upward.

    The sword turned into millions strong tips, meeting Yuwen Huajis attack head on. Right away the cold air was cut more than half. By the time Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling recovered from their earlier stupor, the battle between the two martial art experts had already begun.

    Yuwen Huaji knew that if with one strike he could not hit his target, the boat would sail farther away; therefore, he put everything he had in this one strike to generate maximum impact.

    He was the most accomplished expert under Yuwen Shang, the Yuwen Clan Leader of one of the four most powerful clans. Even Shi Long, whose fame shook Yangzhou, lost his life under his hands. Therefore, his best shot was not a small matter at all.

    Boom! Palm and swords energy collided.

    Like flash of lightning or sparks of fire the woman-in-whites sword stabbed twelve times. He also countered with twelve palm strikes.

    The two combatants were sometimes engaged in close battle, another time they suddenly separated. Yuwen Huaji let out a fierce hiss. Borrowing the momentum he flitted across and flew toward a mud pier on the riverbank. The woman-in-white fell back onto the boat, she held her sword with the tip pointing at Yuwen Huaji.

    When these two people fought, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling felt that the small fishing boat was sinking down, only when they stopped that the boat floated again. From this one could see clearly how powerful Yuwen Huajis palm was.

    By this time one after another the other soldiers have arrived at the shore. It was only then did Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling realized that their small fishing boat has been brought by the current to the shore downstream. Crying out in panic, they scrambled toward the rudder and desperately tried to control the boat.

    The woman-in-white acted as if she was completely oblivious of everything else, her attention was focused solely on Yuwen Huaji, who, by this time, had landed on a large rock on the riverbank.

    The fishing boat suddenly regained its balance. Coupled with favorable strong wind, the boat traversed diagonally toward the shore of the opposite bank. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling cheered in their shrill voice.

    While they were feeling very proud of themselves, Yuwen Huajis voice came across the water, Such swordsmanship is rarely seen indeed. Miss, what relationship do you have with Gaolis[2] Yi Jian Dashi [great master of peaceful sword] Fu Cailin?

    With Kou Zhong on the helm and the full wind behind, the boat sailed upstream like an arrow.

    The woman-in-white did not utter a single word in response to Yuwen Huajis question, giving the impression that she was unfathomable.

    Yuwen Huajis voice was heard again, Miss is protecting these two kids, it is really unwise. Yuwen Huaji will definitely ask to have the benefit of your expertise again.

    The fishing boat was moving faster and faster away that over time they have left the enemy far behind. The woman-in-white was still standing on the bow, her clothes were fluttering in the wind. She did indeed look like a goddess from the world of the immortals.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had already regarded her as an immortal; they felt like they wanted to prostrate themselves in front of her and worship her.

    Right this moment, the woman-in-whites bamboo rain hat suddenly shattered, the pieces rained down on the deck, revealing the woman-in-whites matchless elegance, but also the unrivalled paleness of her jade countenance. She let out a tender moan, threw up a mouthful of blood, and sat down dejectedly on the deck.

    Shocked, the two boys rushed toward her. Kou Zhong barked, You steer the boat! Let me help her!

    Bang! The woman-in-white suddenly sat up cross-legged; with one palm she pushed Kou Zhong back to the rudder.

    Dont you dare touching me! she hissed hoarsely. And then she closed her eyes.

    The two boys stared blankly at the woman-in-white; they realized that although she managed to force Yuwen Huaji back, she had suffered a heavy injury.

    Momentarily they were at a loss of what to do. The fishing boat sailed farther and farther away from Yangzhou city walls.

    [1] Serious manner, orig. seven emotional states: joy, anger, anxiety, thought, grief, fear, fright.

    [2] Specifically, Gaoli refers to Korean Goryeo dynasty [918-1392], but generally, it refers to Korea, especially in context of art and culture.

  6. #6
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 1 - Chapter 4

    Book 1 Chapter 4 Impossible to unravel

    Kou Zhong put his mouth next to Xu Zilings ear and said in a very low voice, This woman [orig. poniang, usually used derogatorily] is prettier than Auntie Hong of Spring Breeze Courtyard.

    Xu Ziling was staring blankly at the woman-in-whites stately and elegant jade-countenance; hearing Kou Zhong, he nodded in approval. The woman-in-white, who was still sitting in meditation, suddenly opened her eyes and glowered at them.

    The two boys were startled; they withdrew and huddled together, trying to get as far away from her as possible. The woman-in-whites delicate body suddenly shook violently, which forced her to close her eyes again.

    It was quite some time later that she opened her eyes again. Casting an angry look at them, she asked in one breath, Where are we?

    The two boys perfunctorily looked around both banks of Yangtze River, and then shook their heads together.

    The woman-in-white looked up to the sky trying to determine the time of day. Seeing the sun was about to set behind the mountain, and the banks of the Great River was bathed in the glow of the setting sun, she knew that she has been meditating four close to two sichen [1 sichen is equal to two hours]. After pondering for a moment, she asked in soft voice, Why is Yuwen Huaji after you?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged glances, and then both of them shook their heads vigorously, Dont know!

    The woman-in-whites eyes flashed with cold rays. After staring fiercely at the two boys, she suddenly burst into tender laughter and said, I want you, two little demons, to jump into the river right now!

    The two boys were so hungry that their limbs did not have any strength; hearing her, their countenance turned pale with fright since they did not know what to do.

    The woman-in-white suddenly sighed; she said unenthusiastically, I want to sleep for three sichen, the two of you little demons must steer the boat nicely. If the boat capsize, I will want your lives as compensation.

    Stars filled the whole sky, the moon was low on the horizon. In the dim moonlight, these two good friends, who depended on each other for survival, huddled together to keep themselves against the attack of hunger and of the river breeze, while their palm was pressed on the rudder.

    The woman-in-white had her back toward them, as she sat facing the bow in meditation to heal her injury. She did look like a beautiful goddess idol carved from jade and stone. Her beautiful hair has been loosened by the wind, it fluttered freely in the breeze like a cloud.

    Kou Zhong whispered as softly as he could in Xu Zilings ear, Do you think she can hear us?

    Xu Ziling was watching her as if he was in a trance, hence he did not hear him. What did you say? he blurted out.

    Kou Zhong pinched his leg hard. He sighed and said, I wonder what kind of fellow is that Yuwen Huaji, compared to this wo hey, this evil woman, he seems to be more formidable.

    Horrified, Xu Ziling looked at the woman-in-whites back. It was quite a moment later that he finally breathed a sigh of relief. Kou Zhong elbowed his arm and said in ecstasy, She really cant hear.

    Xu Ziling asked the question he has been dying to ask, So the secret manual is really not damaged by the water?

    Kou Zhong reached out to fetch The Secret to Long Life and flipped a few pages before handing it to Xu Ziling. Why dont you look at it yourself! he said, Ive already told you that this is genuine goods at fair prices, a special treasure. Otherwise, why is that Yuwen Huagu so anxious to get it? Ha! Thats funny, the name Huagu [transforming bone] is a bit more-fitting than Huaji. [hua change into/transform, ji and/to reach/up to/in time for. I dont think it means anything.]

    Xu Ziling turned the book back and forth a few times. If it is waterproof, he mused, Chances are it might also be fireproof Ah!

    With lightning speed Kou Zhong snatched the book back, he deftly hid the valuable and heavy treasure well, while muttering, Dont even think of testing it. Ha! We are finally leaving that stuffy, confining egg Yangzhou city. And now everything is fine. Except for our precious belly.

    Now that he mentioned it, suddenly Xu Zilings tummy reacted with an unhappy rumbling. Do you think this beautiful evil woman would be willing to lend us some traveling expenses for us to treat our ailing belly? After all, her eyes have taken advantage of our best.

    Kou Zhongs eyes lit up because he spotted the small bundle lying by her side. He made some eye signals to Xu Ziling, and then started to crawl quietly toward the bundle. Naturally Xu Ziling knew that he was going to imitate the dog and steal chicken, to be a thief and to do some shady business. Quickly he grabbed Kou Zhongs ankle while shaking his head vigorously with a firm expression on his face.

    Kou Zhong struggled twice, yet he was unable to break free. Dejected, he sat back down by Xu Zilings side and said sadly, If Zhong Shaoye turns into a hungry ghost, I will definitely come to you, the other hungry ghost, to settle the account.

    Xu Ziling said, Dont forget that we are heroes. Right now we are rushing together on a meteoric rise [orig. divine steed flashes past] on a highway to the abundant enterprise of Duke, Marquis, General and Prime Minister. Making such a move against a weak and unsuspecting woman like this will really bring harm to our good reputation as Yangzhous two dragons; not to mention she did after all save our lives.

    Kou Zhong surrendered. This evil womans skill cant be considered bad, he said, But she is a weak and unsuspecting woman. Oh! Why does it have to rain now?

    They both looked up to the sky, and saw black clouds rolling in fast. Very quickly the moon and the stars disappeared, followed by heavy rain pouring down. In no time at all the tranquil river turned into a wildly turbulent one. The Great River was pitched black, they could not even see the fingers in front of their nose, let alone the woman-in-white. Therefore, they could forget about steering the boat in such a difficult situation.

    The fishing boat was tossed around endlessly by the river; they were surrounded by vast darkness. The rain shot down like arrows. Their clothes were completely drenched, making them cold and miserable.

    In their frantic struggle, Boom! the fishing boat suddenly hit something, immediately it leaned sideways and capsized. They both cried out in alarm and threw themselves in the direction of the woman-in-white.

    With its earth-shattering power [orig. hiding the sky and covering the earth], the river water swoop down on them. The three people held on to each other and sank down together into the river.

    In this situation, where the violent storm blew the rain horizontally, where the waves surged rapidly, where the turbulent water prevented them from seeing their own fingers, where Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were starving and freezing, where they were attacked relentlessly by the water, every time they struggled hard to surface, they would immediately be pulled down into the water again.

    The two boys original intention was to rescue the woman-in-white, but in the end Xu Ziling was holding on to her neck, while Kou Zhong was pulling her legs. The woman-in-white was still in deep sleep, but her body was perfectly straight; no matter how hard the wind and the rain attacked her, she stayed floating face up on the river. In a way, she has become the two little demons life-saving raft.

    They were struggling between being living persons versus being water ghosts for nobody knows how long. The power of the rain finally lessened. The moon also showed its face a little. It was only then did they realize that the water has washed them out closer to the shore. In their great delight they exerted the strength that they did not know they still had, to pull the woman-in-white along to the shore.

    As soon as they reached the muddy shore, the two boys were not able to hold on anymore; they lay down on the sand on either side of the woman-in-white.

    The river still sent its waves to the shore, but no longer with the violent force of a moment ago. The two boys could not stop panting, in contrast to the woman-in-white soft and slow breathing, as if she was sleeping soundly.

    The moon was obscure by drifting clouds once again. Before the three people were shrouded by the darkness, light suddenly came from the direction of the lower reached of the river. The two boys forced themselves to look up, and were shocked to see six big, brightly lit five-mast warships, with all their sails down, sailing at full speed toward them.

    They were so scared that their scalps felt numb. Quickly they crouched as low as possible behind a sandbar. In time like this they really wish the river tide would be a bit more violent.

    Time seemed to stop to a standstill.

    While in their hearts Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling beseeched all gods and Buddhas, known or unknown to them, the huge warships finally sailed far away. Fortunately the ships were so tall that their lights barely reached the darkness where the three of them were lying down, plus at that time the sky was still filled with drizzle, so the visibility was low, plus lantern lights could not reach far; hence the three of them escaped great calamity.

    With the woman-in-white between their hands and feet, the two boys huffed and puffed to get her onto the grassy area farther up the shore, and then both of them dropped down, totally exhausted.

    Xu Ziling was the first to suffer a dizzy spell, he could not hold on, his vision blackened and he blacked out. Kou Zhong called him twice. And then after feeling his back to make sure the secret manual was safe, he felt relieved and closed his eyes to sleep.

    After sleeping for nobody knows how long, Kou Zhong was the first to wake up. He saw the sun was shining on the open space around him, his body felt comfortably warm, the heat seemed to penetrate his body and soul. Moaning in comfort, for a moment he felt as if he was still in his little nest in Yangzhou. It was not until he heard the rumbling noise of the river beneath his feet did he finally remembered what had happened the previous day. He woke up with a jolt, opened his eyes wide, and sat up.

    The place where they were was surrounded by range of hills, the sun had already at the top of the hills, the Great River was flowing from the south, flowing right next to them.

    After looking more clearly, he could not help sucking a breath of cold air. Turned out in this section of the river the rapid water merged with rugged shoal, reefs stood up everywhere; no wonder that although he tried to steer it, their boat suddenly crashed and sank.

    But it was a good accident; if not for their boat capsized, perhaps Yuwen Huagus ships would have caught up with them early on.

    Xu Ziling was still sleeping like a dead person.

    Heavens! Where is that woman-in-white?

    Kou Zhong was at a loss, but he was also being paranoid; he was afraid she might slip back into the river. Quickly he crawled toward Xu Ziling and slapped his face in his usual technique. Xiao Ling! Xiao Ling! Wake up! That evil woman is gone.

    Xu Ziling struggled hard to open his eyes, but unable to withstand the harsh sunlight, he closed his eyes immediately. Ay, he moaned, I was just dreaming of Zhen Saos delicious meat and vegetable steamed buns! What? That evil woman slipped away? Suddenly he sat up and glanced to the left and looked to the right with a look of disappointment on his face.

    Kou Zhong burst into laughter, Xiao Ling! he said, You fell in love with that woman, didnt you? Be careful, I think she might want to take your little life. Hey! Ha ha! Ow! Ay! You are not supposed to laugh on an empty stomach.

    Xu Ziling shot him an angry glare, I am just afraid she slipped away for personal gain, taking along our secret manual with her!

    Startled, Kou Zhong felt his back. Suddenly he sprang up, his countenance changed. Stinky woman, mother thief, she really stole our secret manual!

    Xu Ziling still thought he was joking; reaching out to feel Kou Zhongs back and lower waist, he let out a miserable scream and threw himself to the ground. Spreading out his hands and feet, he sobbed, Its finished! The person is gone, the money is gone, the secret manual is gone, and we have become fugitives. O God! Everything is finished.

    Gnashing his teeth, Kou Zhong stood up, made a fist toward the heavens and shouted madly, No! I will do whatever it takes to get the secret manual back! Ah ! Something flew across and hit his face. Kou Zhong screamed miserably and tumbled down to the ground.

    Xu Ziling sat up, aghast. He saw standing on a rock about a zhang away, was the woman-in-white. Her beautiful face looked as if it was covered in a layer of cold frost; with her apricot eyes opened wide, she glowered at them.

    When Kou Zhong was struggling to crawl up, he discovered that the secret projectile that attacked him was precisely the darling of their hearts, their life treasure. With a strange cry he returned the book inside his clothes on his back. His manner of regarding the book as important as his life was ridiculously funny.

    With a cold snort the woman-in-white said, What martial art secret manual? Dont make people laugh until they die. Just by looking at those seven diagrams, I know that its a plaything about training to reach immortality that the Taoists use to cheat people. Those talisman scribbling are to make it deliberately mystifying. Only Yuwen Huaji and you, the two ignorant children, consider it a treasure.

    Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, It is best that Dashi is thinking that way. Hee hee ! Last night we finally managed to save Dashis life. Although theres a saying, confer a favor do not expect recompense, slight reward is always ones duty under the circumstances. Is it possible for Dashi to give us a couple of coin strings? And then everybody may peacefully take different roads and urge the horses on. Good beginning and good end.

    Pow! Once again Kou Zhong tumbled down to the ground. Five clear finger marks appeared on his face. Of course it was the woman-in-white who sent him a slap through the air.

    The woman-in-white ignored Kou Zhongs cry of pain; she turned her eyes on Xu Ziling. Xu Ziling raised his hands to show his innocence.

    I didnt say anything, he said, Could you not stare at Zaixia [lit. under, a humble way to call oneself. I think only Jianghu people used this, Ive never seen usage among ordinary/common citizens.] like that?

    You didnt say anything? the woman-in-white indifferently said, Then who said just now that I slipped away taking your rotten book along?

    Xu Ziling scooted several cun [1 cun is approx. an inch/a thumb] backward, while putting up a big smile on his face, It was just a misunderstanding! And now the misunderstanding has been dispelled, let the bygone be bygone.

    By this time Kou Zhong has crawled back up; while stroking his burning cheek, he nodded incessantly and said, Right! Right! Theres no more misunderstanding, we all are still good friends.

    The woman-in-white cast him a sidelong glance; she said in disdain, You little demon, who do you think you are that you are fit to bargain with your Miss? I only wanted to look at your stinking book with weird scribbling, thats why I took it. Alright, I want each of you to give yourself ten heavy slaps on your mouth; lets see if after this you still dare to call me woman, woman? [See the beginning of this chapter.]

    The two boys looked at each other. Xu Ziling suddenly stood up straight with indignant look on his face. A warrior can be killed, must not be humiliated, he said firmly, You can kill me!

    Kou Zhong got a shock. Xiao Ling! he said, We can discuss everything slowly. Turning toward the woman-in-white, he said, My Dashi Miss, after we slap ourselves, will we go our own ways, from now on all gratitude and grudges, kindness and enmity, will be severed, both parties wont have anything to do with each other anymore?

    The woman-in-whites cold eyes flashed with thick killing aura; she said coldly, I changed my mind. One of you must take my sword. The two of you may decide for yourself, which one will die.

    The two boys looked at each other, and then they exclaimed together, Me!

    Ring! The woman-in-white unsheathed her treasured sword.

    The two boys exchanged glances again, and then they screamed together, turned around and ran toward the river. But before they could even take two steps, the clothes on their back tightened, because the woman-in-white picked them up like a couple of chicken. The wind swished by the two boys ears. They left the riverbank, but not toward the plain or the forest lining up both sides of the rivers for hundreds of li.

    Bang! Bang! The two were dropped down one after another from about a zhang away, along a hard surface on inclined slope. Because of their own momentum, they rolled down the slope seven, eight times, before finally landed on the bottom, totally confused, and with all four limbs facing the sky.

    They had been hungry for a day and a night, their limbs had been devoid of strength early on, it was with great difficulty that they were finally able to crawl up. Looking around, they found out that they were actually at the entrance of a small town. People were walking around, the place was buzzing with activity, it was a lively town, but the woman-in-white was nowhere to be seen.

    Kpu Zhong was greatly delighted, That wo ha! Dashi has left.

    Licking his lips, Xu Ziling said, How can we find something to eat?

    Kou Zhong slapped his chest, assuming an upright and unafraid stance. Walking away from the wilderness, he took the ancient road leading to the entrance of the town, and went straight into the marketplace.

    Xu Ziling ran after him. He saw the signboard above the city gate had three big characters Bei Po Xian [lit. north slope county] written on it. I wonder if they have militia army in here, he said hopefully.

    Kou Zhong snapped, When our tummy is rumbling, even Emperor or Laozi[1] will have to step aside.

    By this time the two boys have reached the main street, which was lined on both sides with houses, shops, and inns and restaurants. When the people saw their shabby clothes and unkempt hair, they raised their eyebrows and cast a despising look on them. They were accustomed to this kind of look; therefore, they did not think differently.

    Walking about a dozen zhang, a sweet smelling of food assaulted their nostrils. The two boys could not stop their feet from stepping toward the direction of the smell. There was a small lane crossing the main street, turning to the left, they saw spiraling smoke from kitchen chimneys rose to the air; they were wondering which house was producing such a fragrant smell.

    They had just decided to go in and take a chance when a shout coming from behind them; evidently someone was calling out to them, Stop!

    The two of them turned around in shock, only to see two official looking men, with devils and monsters appearance, were coming toward them. From their expression, it was clear that their intention was not good.

    Seeing they were not Yuwen Huaji or his men, Kou Zhong was relieved. Taking the initiative, he stepped forward, raised his cupped fist and said, Finally seeing Uncle Officers, this is very good indeed.

    The two officers were taken aback. The one that looked a bit older asked in surprise, Why is seeing us good?

    Kou Zhongs eyes turned red, as he narrated his sad story, We, two brothers, are Daxing [district, in Beijing] people, My name is Yuwen Zhong, his is Yuwen Ling. We embarked a ship to Yangzhou, who would have thought that en route we were attacked by rebels? The boat capsized, the people perished, more than a thousand entourage were buried at the bottom of the river, only us, two brothers escaped with our lives, but we lost our way. The purpose of our trip to Yangzhou this time is to visit our uncle, the Zongguan of Yangzhou, Uncle Yuchi. Ay!

    Listening to him, the two officers looked at each other. One of them asked suspiciously, Where exactly did the mishap happen? How did you arrive here?

    Xu Ziling caught on, The accident happened at the Grand Canal[2]. To evade the thieves, we were in panic and did not see where we were going; it was after walking for many days that we are finally here. I wonder what are Uncles honored surname and great given name? If you could send us off to Yangzhou, Uncle Yuchi will definitely reward you handsomely.

    The older officer replied, My name is Zhou Ping, and he is Chen Wang.

    Noticing that the two officers were eyeing their shabby clothes that made them look more like beggars than young masters of prominent family, Kou Zhong promptly offered a remedy, During our journey over the mountains and across the forests, our clothes were ripped and damaged beyond repair, fortunately we came across a small village, where we exchanged our jade ornaments for two sets of clothing, but we were given random direction that we ended up in here. May I ask Uncles, how much farther is it from here to Yangzhou?

    Chen Wang and Zhou Ping exchanged glances; their eyes lit up simultaneously. Zhou Ping let out a dry cough; his mannerism suddenly became a lot more respectful. In a low voice and less air he asked, May we ask which one is your esteemed father?

    With a straight face Kou Zhong replied, My father is Yuwen Huagu, my fathers younger brother is Yuwen Huaji. Ay! Father has never been good in martial art matters, he made us, two brothers, to work hard on the teaching of Confucius and Mencius. Every day we have to read some first concern is affairs of state, enjoying the pleasure comes later[3]. Otherwise, if we only learned one-tenth of our Uncles martial art skill, we wont be in such a sorry state today.

    Zhou Ping and Chen Wang were two straw bags. Hearing him quoting some literature, although they did not understand, plus they were intimidated by Yuwen Huajis prestige, their suspicion vanished. Hurriedly they fell on their knees and loudly expressed their respect.

    Kou Zhong was delighted. He said with a laugh, Two great uncles need not be overly-courteous. I wonder which restaurant nearby has quite decent dishes?

    Zhou Ping respectfully said, Two Gongzi [young master], please follow lowly ones! Our towns Gao Peng Xuan [gao peng high/respected friend, xuan pavilion with a view], although it is local, its appetizer is exceptionally well-known.

    Chen Wang turned around and said, I must report to County Deputy Chen immediately that Yuwen Darens [lit. big/great man, a term of respect toward superiors, usually government officials] nephews have arrived.

    The two boys jumped in fright, but their stomachs were rumbling violently, so they did not care too much about other things.

    [1] Lao-tze (c. 500 BC), Chinese philosopher, the founder of Taoism.

    [2] Da Yunhe, the Grand Canal, 1800km from Beijing to Hangzhou, built starting from 486BC.

    [3] Quotation from essay On Yueyang Tower, by Song Dynasty writer Fan Zhongyan; ergo, it was in the future since this story supposedly happened before Tang Dynasty.

  7. #7
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 1 - Chapter 5

    Book 1 Chapter 5 Thunder in a clear blue sky

    When Kou Zhong woke up the next morning, the sky had not yet brightened. Recalling that the previous day using silver tongue and flowery words they were able to swindle food and a place to stay, even the County Lord was regarding them as honored guest, he was feeling extremely proud of himself.

    As he opened his eyes, he found out that Xu Ziling, who was sleeping next to him, had already had his eyes open; half sitting and half reclining, supporting his head with both hands on the pillow, staring at the top of the mosquito net above them, looking like he was lost in thought.

    Worried that he had nobody to share his glory, Kou Zhong sat up in excitement and said, Xiao Ling, did you see it? In Yangzhou we were beggars and ruffians, but as soon as we left Yangzhou city walls, we became big shot young masters. In all our life, this is the first time we ever slept on such a comfortable bed, hugging delicious quilt and having sweet dreams. Taking off and putting on clothes we have young beauties waiting upon us. Ah! Having that sister Xiao Juans small hands rubbing my body, I already feel like becoming the Prime Minister.

    Unconcerned, Xu Ziling said, If you cant think of a way to escape, we will be sent back to Yangzhou. That would be awesome indeed.

    Kou Zhong laughed quietly and said, Set your twelve thousand hearts at ease. After we have our stomach full, well come back here to pick up some good souvenirs, and then find any excuse, for example, we want to go sightseeing around town or something like that. Once we are out of town, wont it be easy to escape?

    Xu Ziling knew Kou Zhong was full of craft and cunning, so he was not really worried. He only sighed without saying anything.

    You did not sleep well last night? Kou Zhong wondered, Why are you up so early?

    Xu Ziling was not in good mood, We went to bed right after dinner last night, didnt we have enough sleep already?

    What is it then? Kou Zhong pressed on, Hey! You are not thinking about that evil woman, are you?

    Evidently he had revealed the load in Xu Zilings mind, since he stayed silent. Kou Zhong scooted over and held his shoulders as he said, One world two brother. Xiao Ling, are you in love with her?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Xu Ziling said, Just go to your mother. Based on her age, she is at least half my mother. Besides, just like she said, we dont have qualifications to have any discussion with her. I was just wondering, you, this muddle-headed fellow, have always loved to look at pretty women. This woman is more beautiful than any women we have ever seen so far. Why did you always try to push her away? On the surface she appears fierce, but her treatment to us is really not bad. Otherwise she would not have sent us to the city gate.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, I am merely thinking about our future outlook. Precisely because this womans beauty is difficult to deal with, plus we have had intimate contact with her, thats why we must especially guard against her. Men of character attach most importance to their exploits, especially since we have not achieve it yet, we must abstain from infatuation of beauty, to such an extent as to dampen our magnificent aspiration Hey! Why are you laughing ? Ha

    While they were talking and joking, the sky had brightened. They heard a muffled noise of the maids and servants sweeping and moving about outside.

    Kou Zhong rubbed his still unbearably sore legs. Let me swindle horses from County Deputy Chen later, Ill say that we want stroll around on horseback. That way when we slip away later we can do it a bit faster, plus we could have substitute for the curse on our, Prime Minister and Great Generals legs.

    With a bitter laugh Xu Ziling asked, Do you know how to ride a horse?

    Whats so hard about it? Kou Zhong proudly replied, Just climb onto the saddle, turn the horses head to the right direction, and strike his mothers butt twice, wont that be enough?

    Xu Ziling was about to reply when, bang, bang, bang! there was a knock on the door. Kou Zhong thought it was that good looking sister Xiao Juan; he coughed once, and said, Come in!

    As soon as the gate opened, like a tornado the short and fat County Deputy Chen burst in. Reaching the two boys bed, he saluted in a flurry and said, Its good that two Da Shaoye [big young masters] are awake. Last night subordinate officer received news that your respected uncle Yuwen Daren [see Chapter 4] has dispatched people everywhere to find out the two Da Shaoyes whereabouts. That very night I sent fast courier to get in contact with Yuwen Daren. He might arrive any moment. When two Da Shaoye see your respected uncle, please do not forget to say a few good words on subordinate officers behalf.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling felt as if they had just been thrown down from the world of the immortals to the eighteenth layer of hell. Immediately their hands and feet turned icy-cold, their souls had just left their bodies.

    County Deputy Chen thought that they were dumbstruck from extreme joy; he bowed respectfully with clasped hands and said, I have instructed the servants to serve the two Gongzi [young master] taking a bath and changing clothes. Subordinate officer will wait in the main hall for two Gongzi to have breakfast together. Please excuse subordinate officer for now.

    He had just left the room, four young servants, including Xiao Juan, came in. They served them with great care, much more ceremonious and attentive compared to the previous night.

    Most annoying was Zhou Ping and Chen Wang also came; eagerly attentive, they waited on the side, telling them that the breakfast was ready. Therefore, they did not have any opportunity to slip out.

    During breakfast with County Deputy Chen, the situation was even more desperately serious; more than a dozen yamen [government office in old China] officers stood on both sides to serve them. The two boys ate with anxiety [orig. heart alarmed, guts tremble] and were unbearably uncomfortable.

    It was not until Xu Ziling kicked his leg under the table that Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, I wonder if there are any historical sites and scenic spots around this town. While my Uncle is not here yet, we want to take this opportunity to enjoy sightseeing and having fun, so that we wont come here in vain.

    County Deputy Chen wrinkled his face [orig. five sense organs: nose, eyes, lips, tongue, ears], showing an extremely unsightly countenance. Smiling apologetically he said, For the past few years robbers spring up everywhere, it is not appropriate for the two Da Shaoye to go out of town; else something bad happened, then how would our county take the responsibility?

    Kou Zhong wished he could pinch him dead, but of course his face showed that he gladly accepted the suggestion. Xian Daren [lit. county officer] is indeed very thoughtful, he said, Hey! Xian Darens kindness to us, we, two brothers, will definitely report to Uncle as things really are, so that he could evaluate the merit and bestow reward accordingly. Its just that what we, two brothers, fear the most is staying idle inside. How about this: is there any fine courtyard or first class brothel where we can seek pleasure? Ay, ever since leaving Dadu [old name of Beijing, lit. great capital], we have not Hey! Xian Daren should know what we are talking about. Originally we thought that as soon as we reach Yangzhou, we could have a bit of fun. Now that we have slept well, we are full of energy and in high spirit; no matter what, we must go Ha this kind of trivial matter, naturally we must not bother Xian Daren.

    From behind, Zhou Ping said, But I am afraid the ladies in the courtyard are not even out of bed yet.

    County Deputy Chen barked, Then you tell them to get out of bed! But when he turned to face Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, his face was all smile, as he knowingly said, This is a trivial matter, subordinate officer will arrange everything.

    Turning to Zhou Ping again he barked, Why havent you left to make necessary arrangement?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged glances; both speculated that if they could not seize the opportunity while they were at the pleasure house to escape, most probably they could just kiss their prospect and their precious little lives goodbye.

    The two boys sat inside the carriage, accompanied personally by County Deputy Chen, on their way to the countys most upscale pleasure house.

    Beipo County could be considered the biggest county around Yangzhou. In term of liveliness, it was not too far inferior to Yangzhou. Because the county fell under Jiangdus jurisdiction, plus it had direct export channel, the handicraft industry was particularly flourishing.

    Too bad that the two boys heart was loaded with concern over their little lives, so that although County Deputy Chen talked until his spittle flew everywhere, promoting his own countys benevolent government and giving running commentary on everything they saw along the road, none of these even registered in their minds. They simply agreed thoughtlessly.

    Especially when they saw the dozen or so officers urging their horses to protect in front and behind them, they felt that they were not much different to the prisoners being escorted to the execution ground.

    Actually, Kou Zhong, who has always been quick-witted, has already had a plan. He thought that if they could hide inside the room with the pleasure house lady, then they would have a chance to evade these peoples eyes. But whether they would be successful in escaping, it was still unknown; hence the reason they were still secretly worried.

    The biggest threat would be Yuwen Huaji, who could arrive anytime, and reveal their true color, and then not only they would be humiliated, they could lose their lives as well. This kind of helpless feeling really did not need to be mentioned.

    Every time County Deputy Chen looked out the window, the two boys immediately signaled each other, using their usual method to discuss escape plan.

    The carriage made a grand entrance into the courtyard. The two fake young masters followed County Deputy Chen stepping down from the carriage, and were greeted by a few bleary eyed and averaged-looking prostitutes, under the leadership of the brothel proprietress. As the two boys looked at each other with wry smile on their faces, suddenly the sound of hoof beats was hear from afar, but coming toward them, fast.

    The Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling pair, which was hard to differentiate which one was the older and which one was the younger, knew that their situation was going from bad to worse. While they were thinking of how to stake everything they had and flee for their lives, a strong gust of wind arrived, pressing down from above.

    County Deputy Chen and his bailiffs still did not know what was going on, one after another they were thrown out in all directions. In the confusion they seemed to see a white shadow descending from the sky. But by the time they were able to crawl up, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had already disappeared without a trace, leaving only swirling dust that was still hanging in the air.

    The woman-in-white grabbed the two boys by their wide belts as they flew over houses and climbed over the ridges of the roof. In a flash they had left Beipo County but kept speeding over the mountain and fields, as effortless as blowing dust.

    The two boys felt as if they had just come back from deaths door, they almost could not refrain from cheering, but were afraid they might provoke the woman-in-white; hence they had to keep silent.

    Shortly afterwards they arrived at the riverbank. They saw mooring on the piers were numerous boats, and on both sides of the river several fishermen were busy mending their nets.

    Without even thinking the woman-in-white got into one of the boats and tossed the two boys on the deck. With her sword she cut the mooring rope, and then she grabbed the oar and vigorously started to row, splashing water everywhere. The boat glided on the water like an arrow, leaving the angry shouts of pursuing fishermen far behind.

    Tossed by the woman-in-white, the two boys were aching all over; whining and groaning they sat up. You look at me I look at you, they saw the frosty face of the woman-in-white; how could they dare to speak? The atmosphere was extremely terrifying.

    After traveling for at least twenty, thirty li, the woman-in-white let out a cold snort and reduced the speed of the boat. Gathering up his courage, Kou Zhong tried to sound her out, Dashi, you must have followed us all this time; otherwise, how could you arrive at the nick of time?

    The woman-in-white did not even look at them; she said angrily, Who have time to follow you, two little demons who only know how to steal and swindle? Its just that noticing Yuwen Huaji is sending people to search nearby towns and villages, I came back for you.

    Xu Ziling respectfully said, Thank you very much for Dashis kindness in saving our lives. If we have the opportunity, we, two brothers, will definitely repay Dashi.

    The woman-in-white condescendingly said, I did not do it out of the kindness of my heart. Its just that if I can make Yuwen Huaji not happy, Ill do it in a heartbeat. So there is no need to thank me. When we arrive at Danyang, we will go our separate ways, and henceforth I forbid you to even mention me. Or else I will come and chop your little doggies head.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Go our separate ways then we go our separate ways. If in the future we master an unrivalled martial art skill, I want to see if you still dare to call us little doggy this, little doggy that.

    The woman-in-whites eyes flashed in anger, but then she softened. When she spoke up, there was no trace of anger in her voice. Even if you do obeisance and enter Turkic peoples Wu Zun [Revered Martial Art] Bi Xuan [lit. complete mystery] school, dont even think that you would achieve any considerable skill. Therefore, it would be best if you forget this dream of yours. Go learn a good craftsmanship, make your living, take a wife, have children, and enjoy your life to the fullest. That will be the most decent thing to do.

    Hearing this, the two boys were deeply hurt. After staring blankly at her for a while, Xu Ziling could not help asking, Are you saying that our innate ability is too lacking?

    The woman-in-white sighed. She looked down at the two boys tenderly, and then with an unusually gentle voice she said, You must have realized that you are not even qualified to have me lying to you. Your natural endowment is actually better than most people Ive ever seen. Take last night for example, after being tossed around like that you did not get sick, it is indeed hard to come by. But you do lack the good fortune.

    Receiving her compliment, the two boys self-esteem and confidence was somewhat restored. What good fortune? they asked at the same time.

    While still rowing, the woman-in-white replied, Its the good fortune of training. All who wish to excel above the masses and become martial art expert must start their training since childhood. According to my Shifu, anybody who wants to learn anything until achieving the what the heart wishes, the hand accomplishes level, the most important period is the ten years between the age of five until fifteen. Just like learning language; if one starts to learn after this period, no matter what the pronunciation will not be just right. [Translators note: the term here refers to the pronunciation of Chinese characters.] Martial art is also the same. Supposing you start today, no matter how hard you work, you will spend twice the effort to get half the result. If you only learn enough skill to run errands, sooner or later you will be killed. In that case, it will be better if you did not learn at all. Do you understand?

    The two boys stared blankly at her. They felt their hands and feet icy-cold; their world seemed to lose its life force and meaning. Kou Zhong has always had unyielding nature; he patted the treasured book behind his back and loudly said, Maybe we are an exception? Furthermore, we still have the secret manual. Dont you think our case is a bit different?

    For the first time the woman-in-whites eyes showed pity. Shaking her head, she said, The truth is always hard to accept. The book you have, Ive already looked. It is called The Secret to Long Life. It is indeed a treasury of the Taoists, but it has nothing to do with martial art. Youd better find a place where you can throw it away. Otherwise, you may face disaster because of it. Ay, in my opinion, that book is just a lie; how could human beings can achieve immortality?

    The two boys countenance was immediately devoid of any color; they were unable to speak. The boat was filled with awkward silence.

    Danyang was the biggest town in the upper reaches of Yangzhou; it was the route that has to be taken if one was to go from the inland out to sea via Yangzhou. In importance, it was second only to Yangzhou. The only thing it lacked was, of course, the Grand Canal that linked the north and the south.

    The scenery inside the city was unique; the river weaved through it, adorned with hundreds of stone arch bridges over the river course. People built their lives around the water; high and low, row upon row of houses strewn at random. Where there was water there was street, where there was water there was market, where there was water there was road. Water, road, bridge, building, mixed into one entity, into one tranquil, pristine water scenery; tender and soft was water.

    By early morning the next day, when the city gate opened, the woman-in-white, along with Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, mingled into the throng of peasants and villagers to sneak into the city. Because their dream of the future was shattered, their enthusiasm was dampened, they just followed the woman-in-white like a pair of walking corpses wandering around the city.

    Obviously it was the first time the woman-in-white came here, her clear eyes looked around, seemingly interested in everything.

    Upon entering the gate, they followed the main street going deep into the city; both sides of the street were lined with shops that people used as a place of business at the front, and as residence at the rear. The shop fronts were open, bright with the light from sunroof, and filled with all kinds of goods and arts and crafts products; it was extremely flourishing. The number of visitors was not a few either; it could even be said that the customers crowded these shops like a cloud.

    Everywhere the woman-in-white went, due to her beauty, both men and women gave her admiring look, but she did not seem to care, as if all of these were to be expected, as if she turned a blind eye to it.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling have not eaten for half a day and one full night. Although they were not in a good mood, they still had to fight the feeling of the empty stomach; while the woman-in-white did not even seem to notice they were passing many restaurants already, she simply walked straight ahead. Kou Zhong could not help coming over to her, coughed lightly, and said, Shouldnt we pay a visit to the temple of five viscera first? [Translators note: I guess its a slang to refer to eating. Five viscera: heart, liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys.]

    The woman-in-white halted her steps in front of a big building with white-washed wall and black roof tiles. Do you have money? she coldly asked.

    From the other side Xu Ziling forced a laugh and said, Naturally we dont have any money. But Dashi, if you have some, wont that be the same?

    With a cold laugh the woman-in-white said, So if I have money than it would be the same as you have money? Have you looked into the mirror recently? Besides, my money, along with my bundle, has long ago fallen into the bottom of the river when you, two little demons, crashed the boat and capsized it. Yesterday you had people serving you two meals, you had ample food and clothing, while I havent had even half mantou [steamed roll] to eat. And now you are still blaming me for not taking you for a big feast?

    Kou Zhong was indignant. Are you angry with us? he said, If our boat did not capsize, Yuwen Huagu would have catch up with us early on. At best we would be turned into bones by him [Translators note: play of words, gu hua, gu bone, hua transform]; but Dashi has countenance of flower, face like the moon. I guarantee that you will be taken as a concubine by that strange Yuwen fellow.

    The woman-in-white stopped abruptly. The two boys thought she was going to make things difficult for them; they were ready to run to two different directions. The woman-in-white was taken aback; looking at the two boys scared expression, she could not stop an amused look from appearing on her face for the first time.

    And then when she saw the boys stunned expression, she really smiled and said, You two little demons, wait here for a moment, let me get some silver, and then Ill take you to a nice meal. Afterwards all kindness and benevolence will cease, well have nothing to do with each other. When she spoke the last two sentences, she was imitating Kou Zhongs style; she broke into laughter and walked toward a shop on the left.

    Kou Zhong looked up and found out that it was actually a pawnshop. He quickly blocked her and said solemnly, Pawning stuff? Nobody is more adept than me.

    The woman-in-white was unhappy, How do I know you wont stuff your pocket first?

    Havinfg his real intention revealed by her, Kou Zhong could only sigh and dejectedly stepped back by Xu Zilings side.

    Following the woman-in-white entering the pawnshop with his gaze, Xu Ziling blurted out, Since our dream of becoming the number one martial artist in the world is finished, looks like we dont have any choice but to focus on studying for the imperial examination. And then you can become the Right Premier, and I can become Left Premier.

    With a wry smile Kou Zhong said, While the world is in chaos, the one without prospect the most is precisely a rotten ghost scholar. But I still dont believe her mothers opinion that The Secret to Long Life is completely unrelated to martial art. Although there is no Taoist priest who achieves immortality, we can see highly skilled Taoist priests on the street. From this we can clearly see that even though we cannot train to be immortal, we can still train to have exceptional martial art skill.

    Xu Ziling stood up excitedly, but then he sighed and said, But didnt that woman say that we missed the precious childhood to start training?

    Kou Zhong said, I think she could see that our bones are much better than hers; afraid that in the future we can surpass her head, she intentionally spoke some discouraging words so that we will lose heart. Ay Evidently he also felt that by what he said he was just deceiving himself; hence he did not continue.

    In the meantime, the woman-in-white walked out in high spirits. The two boys hurriedly came over to her. The woman-in-white said in a low voice, Listen up, you two little demons, if I hear you call me behind my back this woman or that woman, I will cut off both of you, little doggies. [Reminder: the word woman (po niang) is usually used derogatorily.]

    The two boys were deeply embarrassed; they could only nodded and said yes repeatedly.

    The three people climbed onto the second floor of a restaurant, sat on a table facing the window, and ordered some vegetable and meat dishes.

    There were more than a dozen tables, half were filled with diners. On one table, there was a respectable-looking young man wearing luxurious clothing; one look and others could see that he was the son of a prominent family. He repeatedly cast a glance toward the woman-in-white; apparently he was mesmerized by her beauty.

    Xu Ziling let out a dry cough, May we venture to ask Dashis honorable surname and great given name, so that we can address you properly?

    The woman-in-white propped her chin with one hand; she asked in surprise, The two of you little demons are no more than Yangzhous little ruffians, little gangsters; why is it that when you talk you always talk like you are old and full of experience, pretending like you are a pair of impoverished bookish students?

    Kou Zhong proudly replied, This is called the person is poor, the ambition is not lacking. There will come a day we will become a pinnacle of virtue and ability; I want to see if you still dare to call us good-for-nothing.

    The woman-in-white was in an unusually good temper; she thought for a moment, and then said, After I leave, what are you going to do? Cheating for your food and drink has never been an option.

    It was the first time that Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling felt that the woman-in-white really cared about them, but at this moment the vegetables and meat dishes arrived, the two boys did not have time to think further. They leaned forward on the table and gorged themselves without any care of the world. It was actually very unsightly.

    The woman-in-white only ate two mantou, and already stopped eating. She seemed to have something in her mind; she looked out the window without saying anything.

    When the two boys could not eat anymore, the dishes on the table have been swept clean, nothing remained. The two boys rubbed their belly and could not help but looking at the woman-in-white.

    The woman-in-white sighed. She took out more than ten taels of fine silver and put it on the table in front of the two boys. She said softly, Thinking about the trials and tribulations ahead, I am giving this money to you. Although right now there is confusion of war [orig. fire beacons in all four directions] everywhere, the South is still comparably peaceful. However, this peace wont last long, it will be dangerous later. Its not advisable for you to stay long. You two must behave.

    Ignoring the two boys lit up eyes, she stared hard at the money on the table, and then she beckoned the waiter to settle the check.

    The waiter respectfully said, Miss account has already been settled by the Gongzi that was sitting on the table over there. They have just left.

    Slam! The woman-in-white took out a string of five zhu coins [1 zhu is 1/24 of a tael] and tossed it on the table. She said indignantly, I dont want anybody else pay my bills, take it!

    She rose up and went down the stairs without saying anything.

    The two boys saw how she decidedly left without looking back; since they already felt inferior and at a loss, after exchanging a glance, Kou Zhong sighed, picked up the silver and put it in his bosom, and dejectedly said, Lets also go!

    Xu Ziling had also wanted to leave this heart-breaking place as soon as possible; hence he scampered behind Kou Zhong going down the stairs.

    When they reached the street, they saw the sun was shining bright, people came and people went, but there was not a shred or warmth in these two boys heart. When they were in Yangzhou, although life was hard, and often times they had to receive beatings and scolding from others, but they always had full hopes of the future.

    Although now they were free, plus there was a small fortune in their pocket, they felt emptiness in their hearts instead. It was as though the world was so big, but there was nowhere for them to go.

    They were thinking of looking for the woman-in-white again, but after looking for a while, they still could not see or even smell her fragrance. It was as if the woman had already become a distant and indistinct memory, adding to their sense of loss.

    Deeply disappointed, the two boys walked shoulder to shoulder in the direction of the city gate.

    Suddenly they felt something was different. A whiff of fragrance breeze blew, the woman-in-white came from behind and joined them; they walked together side by side. The boys were inwardly very happy, but they did not dare to express it; they did not dare to ask her even more.

    When the gate was in sight, the woman-in-white coldly said, Dont you two have any ideas. I am just afraid that Yuwen Huaji would catch up with you and take your Secret to Long Life and present it to the tyrant and get the credit for it, before he finally send you away to a distant land. I am doing this to deal with Yuwen Huagu [sic], not that I have any particular good impression toward you, the two little demons.

    Xu Ziling could not stand it anymore. He halted his steps and angrily said, That being the case, no need to bother Dashi anymore. We have hands and feet, and we know how to run away. We dont need your money either. Kou Zhong, give the money back to her!

    Kou Zhong wanted to speak up, but in the end he just sighed, took the money from his pocket, and handed it over to her.

    Pfft! the woman-in-white stifled her laugher, reached out to grab the two boys arms, and pulled them to walk with her quickly. The instant they left the city gate, while heading toward the river, she released them and said, Why such a temper? In all my life I have never learned how to curry favor like those girls trafficked into a brothel to work as prostitute; I have always lived a solitary life. Just consider I have offended you.

    It was the first time she was willing to lower her guard and plead with them. Xu Ziling, who actually had magnanimous nature, felt very bad instead. With a slight blush on his tender face, he said, Its not that Ive never been looked down upon by others, its just that when Dashi looked down on me, I feel exceptionally angry and feel it was extremely unfair.

    Kou Zhong came closer and whispered in the woman-in-whites ear, This fellow falls in love with you.

    The woman-in-white elbowed Kou Zhongs flank that he doubled-over in pain. She pointed her finger at him and angrily said, If you dare to say such again to your Miss, I will I will slap your mouth. She had wanted to say that she would kill Kou Zhong, but knowing that she would not have the heart to do so, she corrected herself just in time and said a much lighter punishment instead.

    Xu Ziling was baffled, What did he say? he asked.

    The woman-in-white glowered at him, but did not say anything. Momentarily the three of them did not know what to say.

    The woman-in-white turned her gaze toward big and small boats moored along the pier outside the city. How come there are so many boats sailing back from the west, but no boat sails to the west? she muttered to herself.

    The two boys composed themselves and took a look; indeed it was strange.

    The pier was full of people waiting to board their boats, busily talking to each other. Suddenly a gentle and pleasant voice was heard right next to them, May I ask if Miss and these two Xiao Xiongdi [little brother] are waiting for your boat?

    Still clutching the painful spot, Kou Zhong stood up. He and Xu Ziling looked at the speaker up and down. Turned out it was the young master at the restaurant a while ago, the one who could not keep his eyes from the woman-in-white, and the one who later on settled their bill.

    This man indeed looked naturally handsome, his demeanor was elegant, and he was still half a head taller than Xu Ziling, but did not look like a weak scholar. His back was straight, his shoulders broad. Although he was dressed like a scholar, he gave the impression of someone who was well-versed in martial art.

    Without even turning her head, the woman-in-white said, Its our business; it does not concern you!

    The young master was not offended at all; raising his cupped fist, he said, Let me, Song Shidao, offer my apology first for offending a beauty. Zaixia [I, humble, see Chapter 4] did not dare to be presumptuous; its just that noticing that Miss seemed to be puzzled by the boats turning back on the river, I ventured to inquire. There is no other intention.

    Like a whirlwind the woman-in-white turned around. After sizing him up and down for a moment, she coldly said, Speak up!

    Song Shidao was overwhelmed by the beautys favor; he said in great delight, The reason is Li Zitongs militia army from East China Sea; they had just crossed the Huai River, and formed an alliance with Du Fuwei, dealing a heavy blow to the Sui (Dynasty) army. Furthermore, they are sending an army going south. They are fast approaching Liyang. If Liyang is under attack, Yangtze Rivers waterway will be cutoff. Therefore, right now everybody simply adopts wait-and-see approach. Nobody dares to venture to the west without being able to see the situation clearly.

    The two boys noticed how the woman-in-white was listening attentively. They also noticed that this Song Shidao seemed to be a lot stronger than they were; they could not help feeling deeply upset, yet they could do absolutely nothing.

    While the woman-in-white was still deep in thought without saying anything, Song Shidao spoke up again, Miss, if you dont mind, you can take Zaixias boat. I guarantee that even if we come across thief army, you wont be disturbed.

    The woman-in-white coldly stared at Song Shidao; she said indifferently, You talk big; apparently you have a bit of background.

    With a straight face Song Shidao said, How could Zaixia dare to swing an axe before a carpenter in Miss presence? Its just that my humble family can be considered as having a bit of reputation. As long as we fly our banner on the boat, friends on the road will give us a bit of face.

    At this point, even Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had no choice but to praise how this fellow has struck the right note; neither haughty nor humble, it was just right.

    The woman-in-white swept the two boys with her gaze while she pondered in silence. Evidently she was a bit tempted. Traveling with the two kids by land, not only it was time consuming, they were bound to meet some mishaps as well. But if they travel by water and managed to cross Liyang, they would not have to be afraid Yuwen Huaji would catch up with them.

    Kou Zhong could not resist, I prefer to travel by land, he said.

    Before the woman-in-white could answer, Song Shidao already pressed her, Excuse me Miss, these two Xiao Xiongdi are

    The woman-in-white impatiently cut him off, Nothing, no relation whatsoever. Dont ask anymore. Where is your boat?

    While Song Shidao was giving direction with great delight, Xu Ziling pulled Kou Zhong aside and said, The time to go our separate ways has arrived. Let her ride her boat, well travel our road.

    Kou Zhong aptly showed his lofty spirit; with a loud laughter he held Xu Zilings shoulders, Good kid! he praised. And then he pushed Xu Ziling to start walking to the west.

    The woman-in-white angrily shouted, Stop right there!

    Kou Zhong looked back and waved his hand, Good bye!

    The woman-in-white stomped her foot angrily and said to Song Shidao, Song Xiong, please board the boat first, we will come later.

    In a flash she was already behind the two boys. Capturing them, she brought them back like carrying chicken.

    Song Shidao was puzzled, but recalling that the beauty has agreed to come onboard, there was no need for him to worry that he would not have the opportunity to win her favor later. So why would he have to worry about other things? Therefore, he happily ran after her.

  8. #8
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 1 - Chapter 6

    Book 1 Chapter 6 Great Method of Nine Mysteries

    Four big ships [the original refers to ancient leather-clad warships] raised their anchor and set sail upstream to the west. Song Shidao talked big, naturally his background was not simple at all.

    The fact was that at that time in Jianghu, in term of outstanding reputation, nothing can surpass the four powerful clans. But speaking about popularity, out of four surnames, only the Song family fit the bill. The Songs held the most power in the south. The Clan Leader, Heavenly Saber Song Que held the title Number One Saber Under the Heavens.

    When Yang Jian unified the world and established the Great Sui, because he was apprehensive of the Song Clans power, he adopted a policy to appease them by granting Song Que the title of Zhen Nan Gong [duke who subdue/suppress the South]. Aware that the power of the Southern Dynasties [c. 420-589AD] was gone, Song Que pretended to bow before him to protect his clan. [Translators note: as I mentioned before, the world here always refers to China. I know its simpler just to say China, but I want the reader to know the different words to describe China. Tian Xia (lit. under the sky) being one of those. Interestingly, the word China itself does not exist in Chinese text.]

    Among the four Clans, the other three had some blood relationship with non-Han people; but not this one of the few greats extant. To maintain the prestige of the southern clan, they persevered with tradition, strictly prohibited their clansmen from intermarrying with anybody outside the Han ethnic group; hence they were known in Jianghu as a Han orthodox clan.

    During the reign of Emperor Wen, i.e. Yang Jian, although Song Ques influence was widespread, he still did not dare to act blindly without thinking. He concealed his own strength and bid his time, concentrated fully in building his power in secret to avoid inviting calamity. When Yang Guang ascended the throne, there were internal strife and external threat everywhere, imperial court was corrupt, armed rebellion rose up from all around. The Song Clan increased its level of activity once more.

    Song Ques younger brother, Earthly Sword Song Zhi, who was considered one of the top swordsmen, as well as top strategist in Jianghu, knew that Sui Dynastys power was still considerably great; if they prematurely move their troops, they would immediately become the first target of Sui force. Hence he advised his older brother to postpone their rebellion against the Sui, but use their resources to accumulate wealth in all kinds of lucrative trading.

    One of the most profitable businesses was transporting illegal salt from coastal regions inland via the Yangtze River. They obtained great profit this way. Song Shidaos four ships were precisely smuggling sea salt from the coast.

    While the imperial court was corrupt, the Song family relied on their influence in the south to easily gain access thru all key places, and openly transport salt.

    If there was any government official dared to investigate and arrest, they will be dealt with all kinds of method of intimidation. They even went as far as secret assassination to achieve their goal.

    Even though there were rebel armies everywhere, as long as they see the Song family banner, nobody dared to offend them, for fear of making enemies of this powerful clan. Therefore, for the last few years, Song familys power grew in secret. So much so that they even finance several militia groups to weaken the Sui forces.

    Song Que had four sons and two daughters. Song Shidao was the youngest of his sons, with specific duty to run the salt smuggling operation. His father doted on him very much.

    His two daughters were Yuhua and Yuzhi; both had bashful flower obstructing the moon countenance. They were his fourth and sixth child, respectively. Three years ago Song Yuhua was given in marriage to Xie Wenlong, the son of Chengdu-based great hero Xie Hui of Sichuan.

    Xie Huis title was Wulin Panguan [the Magistrate of Wulin; Pan Guan was the mythological judge of the underworld], a top martial art experts whose fame was on par with Song Que and Song Zhi; the founder of Du Zun Bao [Bastion of Supremacy], one of the emerging new powerful surnames outside the original four powerful clans.

    The Song-Xie marriage arrangement reeked with political as well as business deal smell; with these two great forces forming an alliance, Yang Guang would be more afraid to act rashly against them.

    In this trip, the destination of these four ships was precisely Sichuan, delivering their cargo to Du Zun Bao, which, in turn, would be distributed to the local salt merchants.

    This moment, in a spacious room on the second deck of one of the huge ships, Kou Zhong, who was wearing a pair of boots presented by County Deputy Chen as a gift, was lying on the bed, holding the Secret to Long Life in his hands. He was deeply engrossed in studying one of the human diagrams in the book. Although there were chairs, Xu Ziling did not sit on one, he sat on the floor instead, hugging his knees, with his back against the cabin wall. He was in turmoil.

    Why was it that when he saw the woman-in-white and Song Shidao talking, he grew so jealous? Although concerning man-woman relationship he was a bit curious, he had never had any excessive expectation or even delusion. There was an extremely big gap in all aspect between he and the woman-in-white. In term of age, she was at least seven, eight years older than he was. Could it be that Kou Zhong was right, that he really had a crush on her?

    But thinking about it, it did not seem to be the case.

    When he looked at the girls from Spring Breeze Courtyard, he did have impulses to embrace them, but toward the woman-in-white, he did not have that kind of idea. Even when he had a close contact with her, his heart were brimming with respect, there was only warm love, with no lust or desire between men and women.

    He could not bear not to ask, Zhong Shaoye! Do you think I really fall in love with with that woman? [Here the word is nu ren, not po niang like before.]

    Dont disturb me! Kou Zhong was impatient, I am studying the worlds most formidable martial art that is not martial art!

    The cabin was silent once again.

    After half a day, Kou Zhong put down the Secret to Long Life, propped his head up, and then he got up from the bed and came over to Xu Ziling. Copying him, he sat on the floor. Holding Xu Zilings shoulders, he said, I am sorry, I was in such a bad mood. I am afraid that even if Guigu Zi[1] is reborn, he wouldnt be able to make sense of this ghost book [play on words here: the gui of Guigu Zi literally means ghost]. Hey! What did you just say?

    Seeing Xu Ziling was angry and did not want to talk, he hurriedly said, I know, I remember now. Ha, a real man wont worry about not finding a wife. That wo oh, that woman [he was going to say po niang then changed it to nu ren] does not deserve us, two brothers. That Song Pidao [pi means fart] can easily beat us with his hand tied and using just half of his skill. Wed better retain our mind and strength to take a look at this secret manual, to eat, poop and sleep. Ha

    Xu Ziling was still in distress, But did I really fall in love with her?

    Kou Zhong racked his brain for a moment, and then calmly said, The fact is, I was jealous as hell, same as you. But I dont think that I fall in love with her. Hey! My feeling toward her is a bit like my feeling toward Zhen Sao [see Chapter 2]; she really does not deserve to be that stinky Ol Fengs concubine, but I can do nothing about it. Ah, right! I understand now. Xiao Ling, I think you regarded her as your Niang [mother, mommy]. Who would want his own Niang to remarry? Especially marrying that we-behind-the-ears whose talk is bigger than the sky, who only fit to be our servant, Chou Pidao [chou pi smelly fart/arrogant]. Ha! This name Chou Pidao is more apt than Yuwen Huagu [see Chapter 5].

    Xu Ziling kept a stout face, but in the next instant he burst into a wild laughter; so wild that tears were streaming out his eyes.

    Suddenly the door was pushed open.

    The two boys looked up in shock, and saw the woman-in-white came in with icy-cold countenance like a layer of frost. She closed the door, and then stared fiercely at the two boys.

    Quite a while later, she walked over to the two boys, knocked the cabin wall they were leaning on, and said, Dont forget who stays next door. Unless this wall is made of steel plate, each sentence of stinky words you speak will be transmitted into my ears.

    Kou Zhong struggled up and said, We did not call you po niang, why did you come to us to vent your anger?

    The woman-in-white dropped down on one knee and ferociously said, What this woman or that woman [nu ren]? You two are dead little demons, stinky little demons!

    While speaking the last sentence, a fleeting smile escaped from the corners of her mouth. How could the two boys fail to see that she was not really angry? Xu Ziling was the first to speak up, But we really dont know your name!

    The woman-in-white lowered her voice, And did you tell me your names?

    Kou Zhong showed an oh, so thats what it is look on his face. He made the introduction, Xiaodis [little brother, referring to self] name is Kou on the top and Zhong on the bottom, and he is Xu Ziling. We are the Two Dragons of Yangzhou. May I ask Dashis honorable surname and great given name? And what is your nickname? Which holy place did you come from? Are you married?

    Pfft! the woman-in-white stifled a laughter muttered under her breath, Dead little demon. With that kind of unspeakably mesmerizing appearance, the two boys eyeballs almost popped out.

    Just as quickly the woman-in-whites frosty countenance returned as she frostily said, Married or not married, its none of your business. If you talk about me behind my back, I will I will

    Showing concern, Kou Zhong asked, What punishment this time? It would be best if you dont slap my mouth or scrape my eyelid; it wont look too good on me. Little demons should maintain their little demons face!

    The woman-in-white knew she could not do anything against him; she angrily said, I will make you regret it. During dinner, you must not babble nonsense. Understand?

    Giggling, Kou Zhong said, Wed better call Dashi our Niang in the future, then whenever we are using your money, we wont have to feel embarrassed.

    A slight blush crept onto the woman-in-whites face like red clouds, making her beautiful face even more lovely and alluring, particularly her spirited but tender eyes that can hook any mans soul.

    Kou Zhong signaled Xu Ziling with his eyes, the two of them called together, Niang!

    Finally the woman-in-white could not take it anymore; she laughed and sat down. Gasping for breath, she said, If I really have you, these two absolutely disgraceful, unfilial sons, I guarantee I will suffer headache and bowel disorders.

    Seeing she did not flatly refuse, but laughed so hard that her body shook instead, that she looked so charmingly happy, which he had never seen before, Kou Zhong became bolder and decided to strike while the iron was still hot, My Niang, oh, my Niang, your child thinks that your martial art skill can be considered pretty good, after being injured by Yuwen Huagu, you took only several sichen to recover. Youd better teach us a couple of martial art techniques, let us master some unique family skills with which we can brightened our familys social status and thus will not cause you to lose any face.

    His laughter was infectious. Once she started laughing, even though she knew that Kou Zhong was teasing her and trying to make her laugh, she still could not stop laughing that she needed to cover her mouth with her hand.

    Gasping for breath, she scolded him, Get your big ghost head lost. Little demon Xu is a lot more honest than you. Indeed a dogs mouth cannot grow ivory.

    Kou Zhong pretended to be deeply hurt by this injustice; he said in tiny voice, Xiao Ling is honest? My heavens! He is craftier than I am. Its just that he fell in love with her Niang that he turns into a fool.

    Xu Ziling indignantly said, How can I be crafty? All those crafty ideas came from you, but I, the fool, have always been the one who has to do it; and now you still come up with fabricated accusation and dump it on my head?

    The woman-in-white struggled hard not to laugh. Looking out the window at the glow of the setting sun, she sighed and said, I must have committed some sins in my previous life that in this life I have two kids like you to annoy me. Alright, although fully aware that nothing good will come out of it, Ill still teach you some kind of training method. If you really can master this skill, then Ill consider teaching you swordsmanship. But you two are not my children; even more, you are not my disciples.

    The two boys spirit was greatly shaken, they asked in chorus, What are you to us then?

    The woman-in-white was stunned. After staying silent for half a day, she said with wry smile, Dont ask me! But there was a warm feeling rising up in her heart.

    Even she herself could not understand why she felt it was hard to part with these two boys; so much so that when they called her Niang, she could not bring herself to reprimand them.

    Herself was an orphan born in the chaos of war, which was adopted by a Gaoli martial art master Fu Cailin. Ever since she was a mere child, she was trained to be an assassin, in addition to learning Han peoples language and culture. The reason she came to the south this time was precisely to be a part of a mission.

    Happy and giggling, Kou Zhong said, Being our Niang is most fitting. Lets strike while the iron is still hot. Oh my Niang, quickly teach your consummate skill to your child.

    The woman-in-white gave him an angry stare, and then in a low voice she said, My name is Fu Junchuo. If you like, you can call me Chuo Jie [older sister]. I really have never imagined that in this trip I would be involved with you, two little frivolous and naughty boys.

    Kou Zhong noticed that her manner and her words differed greatly; he winked and said, I still prefer to call you Niang, dont you? Xiao Ling?

    Fu Junchuo spoke tenderly, The mouth is on your face, you can call me anything you want.

    Xu Ziling was overwhelmed with emotion that he felt like crying, his eyes turned red. Hanging down his head, he called, Niang!

    Fu Junchuo was also overwhelmed with emotions, it was quite a while later that she was able to suppress this emotion that very rarely surfaced. She coldly said, You may call whatever you like, but no way I am willing to admit that you are my sons, and dont expect even more that I will take you by my side. Alright, now I am going to teach you the fundamentals of sitting in meditation to cultivate your qi. This is the unique skill passed on by my master, without my explicit permission, you must not pass it on to anybody else, or else, even if I cannot bear to do it, I must follow my schools law and kill you, two little demons.

    The two boys nodded their heads repeatedly signifying their promise.

    Fu Junchuo solemnly said, My master Fu Cailin achieved great success in combining martial arts from the Central Plains, Xiyu[2], and Gaoli, developing his own unique style. Therefore, together with Western Regions powerful hegemon Wu Zun [wulins most venerable] Bi Xuan, Central Plains number one Taoist martial art expert San Zhenren[3] Ning Daoqi, became known as the three great masters of the present age. He once said that it is sufficient to know from oneself every change of divine power. He was saying that everyone has a treasure trove hidden deep within himself, the potential is boundless, but is blinded by all kinds of worldly attachments.

    No wonder Niang said that one must start training since childhood, simply because children have the least worldly attachments, hence it is very likely that they will be able to break free and become enlightened.

    Fu Junchuo stared blankly for a moment and then said, I have never thought it that way. Oh! You, this little kid, seem to have a bit of comprehension ability.

    Kou Zhong proudly said, This child Xiao Ling is constantly inspired, its only natural that he is not much inferior.

    Fu Junchuo glowered at him and said, This guy loves to show off his intelligence the most. Dont be conceited, intelligent people often have the most distractions, and distracting thought is precisely the biggest barrier to training basic skills. Only by guarding your heart and total focus can you get rid of the ego, and become alert to the mystery of heavens. Everything will come one by one, and then going through the meridians [or channels] according to the training method, harmonizing the qi and the blood, regulating the adverse and the favorable going in and out in balance. Therefore, although the method is ever-changing, the basic idea is still this One word.

    Scratching his head, Kou Zhong said, In that case, isnt the person with the highest martial art skill ought to be the most stupid person? Is Niangs Shifu stupid and slow-witted?

    Fu Junchuo was angry, but was also stumped; knowing that it was not the fact, but did not know how to refute his argument. If it were before, she might just give him a beating; but now, toward this child who kept calling her Niang, she was a bit fond of him.

    While she was vexed, Xu Ziling spoke up on her behalf, Certainly not. Someone who can master martial art skill and establish a sect must be able to create, only then would he be able to surpass the ordinary ability and accomplishments of previous generations. Therefore, the one Niang is referring to ought to be someone who is sharp but petty-minded, not someone with great wisdom and great intelligence, the one so-called highly skillful but appears clumsy. Niangs Shifu must be this sort of great intelligence may appear to be stupidity person.

    Kou Zhong and Fu Junchuo stared at Xu Ziling as if it was the first time that they noticed that this person existed. They were both deeply moved. Fu Junchuo nodded and said, Little demon Ling indeed has a little comprehension.

    Kou Zhong happily said, This little brother of mine indeed has a little comprehension. Ill say he usually looks clumsy and stupid, turns out he has great wisdom that appears to be stupidity, hidden deep without revealing anything, making laozi [I, your father; used jocularly] has to show-off my highly skillful but appears clumsy ability, which, in the end, making me the sharp but petty-minded person.

    Fu Junchuo could not help knocking his head with her knuckles, while angrily said, If you keep jesting [orig. impromptu comic material in opera performance], I wont teach you the training method.

    Kou Zhong rubbed his head and protested, Oh my Niang, next time would you just spank my bottom? Otherwise, if you badly knocked my head, how could I learn Niangs top quality training method?

    Fu Junchuo was not in the mood to bicker groundlessly with him; she simply said, What I am about to teach you is called Great Method of Nine Mysteries. It starts with one and end with nine. Other than Shifu, nobody has ever mastered the ninth Great Method. Even Niang oh! Even I only trained until the sixth.

    Fu Junchuo blurted without thinking, calling herself Niang. Embarrassed, her beautiful face turned red, making her looked even more irresistibly sweet and charming. Seeing the two boys trying to hide their laughter, she was greatly annoyed, Dont laugh! You are the one who wears me out. Do you want to learn or not?

    The two boys hurriedly nodded their head promising they wanted to learn.

    It took Fu Junchuo quite a while before she was able to compose herself. She said, Underneath its defending the form, above its defending the spirit. Spirit controls the spirit, mind controls the movement. Mind is movement, getting away from it means emptiness. This emptiness is an unusual emptiness, thus not empty is in fact emptiness. Peace and quiet is profound, its existence cannot happen by chance, where it goes cannot be pursued. Thus welcome it accordingly, because unintentional is actually intention. At the beginning the mysterious way become the first level. [Translators note: my apology, these passages are way above my head, I simply translated it as close as I thought it literally means.]

    After a short pause, she continued, Dont covet this first level. A lot of people spent their entire life and still unable to connect qi and mind, obtain the form but miss the spirit, until they finally quit midway, having achieving nothing.

    Seeing the two boys shook their heads and swayed their minds, looking as if they gained a lot, she was astounded. Do you understand what I am saying?

    Kou Zhong asked in surprise, Such a simple words, whats so difficult to understand?

    Fu Junchuo recalled her Shifus high praise that she was an amazing talent to train martial art, yet until today it was only after reaching the sixth level that she was truly able to grasp the essence of the method. How could these two boys understand just by hearing it once?

    Pointing to Kou Zhong, she said, You, explain it back to me.

    The light from outside the window gradually dimmed; inside, the room was warm with faint fading light, carrying with it the desolate feeling of lapsing time.

    Kou Zhong was stunned as he said, You have said it very well, its hard to find other words with which to explain it. If I have to explain it, Ill say that from a with-form method we need to enter the formless method, hoping to move the spirit. When the opportunity arrives, then we can have enough self-realization to access the formless treasure-trove within ourselves that Niang was referring to. Spirit and mind unleashed, then using unintentional thought resist and harness it, so that we can produce his mothers oh, I mean, produce the true qi. Heavens, can I start training now?

    Listening to this, Fu Junchuo was dumbstruck. This explanation was clearer than her own Shifu, Fu Cailin. This boys innate talent was really high, it was just that he had been through horrifying situation that he could not progress further.

    Xu Ziling said, If Zhong Shaoye is that eager to train, it might be harmful to you instead. Speaking about unintentional is actually intention, it is referring to the kind of mental state where we intentionally forgoing the intention, where emptiness is not empty, where peace and quiet is profound, its existence cannot happen by chance, where it goes cannot be pursued.

    When Fu Junchuo heard this, her scalp felt numb. These two boys were like fine jade that has not been carved and polished; even she herself was somewhat inspired by this radiant light that penetrates ten thousand zhang of darkness.

    Kou Zhong said in embarrassment, I was just saying! But please, Niang, quickly teach us the with-form method, so that when the opportunity comes, I can keep on training, even when I eat or defecate.

    Fu Junchuo angrily scolded him, Dont speak foul language. Now I will teach you first how to sit cross-legged and the method to circulate the qi. I will say it just once and wont repeat it.

    While the two boys mind was greatly excited, there was a knock on the door. Actually, it came from Fu Junchuos adjacent room.

    Fu Junchuo sighed and said, Well continue after dinner!

    Looking at the two boys disappointed expression, she almost decided to turn down Song Shidaos invitation.

    All of a sudden a warm feeling toward these two witty sons grew in her heart.

    [1] Guigu Zi (literally 'The Sage of Ghost Valley'), or Mr. Guigu, is thought to be the writer/compiler of the 6,000-7,000 Chinese-character book discussing techniques of political lobbying based in Daoist thinking; between the late Warring States period and the end of the Han Dynasty (source: Wikipedia).

    [2] Western Regions, a Han Dynasty term for regions beyond Yumen Pass; as in Journey to the West.

    [3] Zhenren literally means true man, a term of respect for Taoist master.

  9. #9
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 1 - Chapter 7

    Book 1 Chapter 7 Jade Annulus of the He Clan

    Song Shidao prepared a banquet in the dining cabin, simple yet impressive. There was another couple in attendance. The man was around forty, but the hair on his entire head was white; he also wore a long silvery color beautiful beard, but oddly he did not look old at all. His bearing was elegant, bold and heroic, like an important character of a sect or a prominent family, yet his manner was very modest and polite.

    The woman looked to be around twenty-five or twenty-six, rather flirtatious. Her attitude toward the man was very intimate, plus both her countenance and her physique were extremely titillating, giving other people a rather uneasy feeling. She reminded Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling of the ladies of the Spring Breeze Courtyard, but naturally her beauty was far superior to some Auntie Hong of the Courtyard.

    According to Song Shidaos introduction, turned out the man was a well-known martial art expert of the Song Clan, the Silver Beard Song Lu, whose creation, the set of Silver Dragon Cane Techniques was famous throughout Jiangnan [area south of Yangtze River]. He was Song Shidaos [younger] uncle, one of the core-leaders of the Song Clan.

    The woman was called Liu Jing, the new mistress of Song Lu, but nothing was mentioned about her background.

    By the time Song Shidao wanted to introduce the three people, he suddenly realized that he did not even know these threes surnames and given names. While he was stuck in embarrassing situation, Fu Junchuo indifferently introduced themselves, without concealing anything.

    Song Lu laughed and said, The person who imparted Miss internal skill obviously has first-class martial art skill; your sword style is brimming with exoticism. I wonder which superior master instructed such a brilliant character like Miss?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were secretly speechless; this mans fame was definitely no fluke. Although they had never heard Song Lus name before, they knew that he must be a prominent figure; hence his eyesight was very sharp, his manner of speaking was very fitting. They could not help but admiring him, and it showed. Their gaze was actually more effective than any flattery, so that Song Lu immediately had a favorable impression toward them.

    Fu Junchuo calmly replied, Mr. Song, please forgive me. Junchuo received a strict order not to disclose my background.

    Liu Jing cast a sidelong glance toward the two boys with her as-clear-as-shallow-autumn-creek eyes; she smiled and said, Two Xiao Xiongdi look imposingly big and tall, why havent you practice Miss Fus martial art skill? I wonder what is your relation to Miss Fu?

    Kou Zhong stuck his chest out and clearing his throat he said, We two brothers are ready to train our Niangs first-class martial art skill. Thank you very much for Mrs. Songs compliment.

    Hearing him saying our Niang, Song Shidaos eyes fell on Fu Junchuos infinitely beautiful and tender body; with a changed countenance he asked, Your Niang?

    Fu Junchuos charming eyes blushed slightly; after shooting an angry stare at Kou Zhong, she said in embarrassment, Dont listen to these two little demons crazy nonsense; they adamantly wanted to call me Niang.

    Xu Ziling rubbed his stomach theatrically and blurted, Niang! Child is hungry.

    Liu Jing could not help laughing so hard that her body shook continuously. But Song Shidao and Song Lu, uncle and nephew, were baffled. They could not figure out the real relationship between this stunning beauty and the two little demons.

    Noticing the two boys were staring at Liu Jing like a lecher, Fu Junchuo felt a strange jealousy creeping into her heart. With a cold snort she said, If you dare to babble nonsense again, lets see if I if I

    Casting his doubt aside, Song Shidao said, Miss Fu and Xiao Xiongdi, please come into our dining room, we can continue our chat while we eat.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were youngsters after all; seeing Song Shidao treated them with respect, their jealousy diminished considerably. Plus they saw on the table was a sumptuous spread of food delicacies [orig. rarities from the mountain and the sea], hurriedly they entered the dining room and sat down in total ignorance of Jianghu etiquette.

    By this time Song Shidao was already able to more or less see the two boys real background; hence he did not mind them too much. He politely invited Fu Junchuo to take a seat, and then Song Shidao and Song Lu took their seat as the host on either side of her. Liu Jing sat next to Song Lu, followed by Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling.

    Two attendants immediately rushed forward to fill everybodys cup with wine. Fu Junchuo said, I have never moisten my lips with wine, and these two are underage, they ought not to drink wine as well. So gentlemen and lady, please enjoy yourselves.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were dying to have a taste of fine wine; hearing her, naturally they were quite disappointed, and it showed clearly on their faces.

    Fu Junchuo was inwardly very pleased; she was finally able to put these two lecherous little demons back in check.

    Song Lu laughed, In that case, lets everybody not drink wine. Xiao Jing [little Jing], do you have any problem?

    Liu Jing also laughed tenderly, How can qie [I, your servant; deprecatory self-reference for women] have any problem? I am afraid the ones with the problem are these two Xiao Xiongdi.

    Kou Zhong stuck his chest out, A leader can submit or can stand tall as required. We can drink, we can not drink. How can there be any problem?

    The three Song family people were accustomed to spend their time at the docks; they have seen all kinds of situation, big and small. Looking at the two boys, they knew that they were trying to make do in spite of adversity, yet they did not wish to expose them. Thereupon they changed the subject.

    Apparently Song Lu was a food connoisseur; he casually introduced each dish on the table, and talked about the art of cooking. Listening to him, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, whose tummy always alternated between full and hungry, were stupefied. Their hands, however, did not stay idle; they attacked the vegetable and meat dishes systematically in a sweep-clean operation.

    Fu Junchuo was not interested in the food, she only ate two strips of Chinese cabbage, and already put her chopsticks down. Her jade countenance was still as calm as the water, her beauty really looked like Guanyin Bodhisattva descending to earth.

    The more Song Shidao looked at her, the more he fell in love. But because Song Lu indicated that she may have come from outside the Central Earth, he felt like his heart was pierced by a sharp thorn, because their Song Clan had a strict rule against intermarriage with different tribe. If this stunning beauty was really of a different tribe, unless he was willing to abandon his family, the two of them would never be brought together by fate.

    Liu Jing did not dare to either compliment or criticize Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, two boys table manner, but she found them to be extremely amusing. With a smile on her face she watched them sweeping the dishes clean like the wind sweeping the clouds. From time to time she even picked the dish for them and served them attentively.

    After the attendants took away the bowls and the dishes, Song Lu personally served everybody tea.

    Noticing that Fu Junchuo was not interested in talking about food, Song Lu changed the subject, Miss Fu, I wonder if you have deep understanding of our Central Earths matters?

    Song Shidao immediately looked nervous; he knew that Song Lu was able to see his infatuation toward Fu Junchuo, hence he tried to test her to verify whether she was indeed of a different tribe, while at the same time telling Song Shidao to kill his heart.

    Fu Junchuo responded emotionlessly, How can Mr. Song judge from my sword style that Junchuo is of foreign origin?

    Song Shidaos handsome eyes immediately lit up.

    Song Lu apologetically said, Please forgive the Ol Song for being rude and impetuous. I was just wondering if Miss has ever heard about the matter concerning the He Clans jade annulus? In the end he was still an old fox; in a roundabout way he was still testing where Fu Junchuo came from.

    Like a school children, Kou Zhong raised his hand and said, I heard about it. King Zhaoxiang of Qin exchanged fifteen cities for King Huiwen of Zhaos subduing the nation treasure, the He Clans jade annulus. The Zhao King sent Lin Xiangru [c. 3rd century BC, a famous statesman of Zhao] to escort the He Clans jade annulus to see the Qin King. The Ol Lin handled the jade annulus belonging to other people in a stupid way. Fortunately the Qin King was more stupid than he was, he let him bring the He Clans jade annulus back to Zhao. This is called some his mothers returning the jade annulus to Zhao. [Chinese idiom, meaning to return something intact to its rightful owner.]

    Everybody was laughing. Liu Jing laughed the hardest. Pointing to Kou Zhong, she asked, So what happened to the He Clans jade annulus afterwards?

    Fu Junchuo was grateful in her heart; she knew that Kou Zhong was afraid she could not answer the question, hence he rushed in to answer it for her, while at the same time she was startled by this sons quick wit.

    It was only because he had heard Bai Lao Fuzi [See Chapter 1] telling the story of returning the jade annulus to Zhao that he had something to say. As for how it returned to Zhao and what happened afterwards, he had no idea. I am afraid only Laotianye [God/Heaven] knows, he said in embarrassment.

    Liu Jing laughed even harder that her body shook all over as she leaned toward Song Lu; her seductive appearance grew without restraint.

    Seeing the kid was able to make his beloved concubine roaring in laughter and looked so carefree, Song Lu was happy. Momentarily he forgot to continue his probing on Fu Junchuos background. He patiently explained, Later on this He Clans jade annulus ended in Qin Shihuangs[1] hand. He ordered Li Si[2] to compose a couplet shou ming yu tian, ji shou yong chang [lit. to become Emperor by the grace of Heaven, (enjoy) both long life and eternal well-being. Wikipedia translation: Having received the Mandate from Heaven, may (the emperor) lead a long and prosperous life], eight characters in seal script that look like birds and bugs, and have jade and stone craftsmen to engrave the jade annulus. Thereupon the He Clans jade annulus has become the Emperors seal.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling showed an oh, so thats how it is look on their faces.

    Song Shidao was afraid Song Lu might continue interrogating Fu Junchuo, he continued, After Han founder Liu Bang[3] overthrew the Great Qin Dynasty [221-207BC], Qin King, Ziying offered the He Clans jade annulus to Liu Bang. Liu Bang called it the Imperial Seal [orig. chuan guo xi, seal of state that was passed on]. Henceforth the He Clans jade annulus became a symbol of rise and fall of the nation. Later on Wang Mang[4] intended to seize the throne, he sent his younger brother Wang Shun to Changle Palace to demand the jade annulus from Empress Dowager Xiaoyuan, making Empress Dowager Xiaoyuan angry and threw it to the floor; as a result the corner broke. Wang Mang ordered a goldsmith to fill the broken corner with gold. Henceforth He Clans jade annulus also had another elegant name, jade body gold corner.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, This story must be fake; if He Clans jade annulus was thrown really hard like that, how could it not shatter?

    Song Lu emotionally replied, Kou Xiao Xiong [little brother] certainly has clear understanding like deities, but this story is absolutely true. It was because the jade was not an ordinary jade. In those years, a Chu[5] man named Bian He went to Mount Jingshan [Hubei] to chop firewood. He saw a beautiful phoenix perched on a piece of bluestone. Recalling that phoenix dont perch on anything that is not a treasure he concluded that this bluestone must be a treasure; thereupon he presented the stone to King Li of Chu. Who would have thought that all precious stone craftsmen of the Chu court pointed out that the stone Bian He presented was an ordinary stone? In his anger King of Chu chopped his left foot and expelled him from his presence. In his heart Bian He felt he was wronged. When King Wu ascended the throne, again he presented the treasure, this time his right foot was cut-off. When King Wus son, King Wen ascended the throne, he heard about this matter, and had the bluestone brought back to the Palace. He ordered the artisans to carve and polish with utmost care, and cut open the stone. From inside they obtain a piece of glossy, flawless, sparkling and translucent, bright and clean, wonderful treasure that was out-of-this-world. In honor of Bian He, henceforth it was called He Shi Bi [jade disc of He].

    [Translators note: Wikipedia has a full entry on He Shi Bi in English, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/He_Shi_Bi]

    Song Shidao said, If it were ordinary jade, its impossible for the Chu courts precious stone craftsmen not to know it. Their mistake was to think it was an ordinary stone. Moreover, precious stones have never been found on Mount Jingshan. Evidently He Clans jade annulus was totally different from other jade or precious stones. Also, it was the first time that such amazing treasure was discovered; therefore, nobody recognized it. Being thrown down to the ground and broke only one corner clearly demonstrated He Clans jade annulus extraordinary property.

    This time, even Fu Junchuo showed interest. She asked, What actually is the He Clans jade annulus?

    It was the very first time that this beautiful woman ever asked him anything. Song Shidao was secretly very happy; he gladly explained, According to our Song Family legend from the ancient times, this piece of jade is a magical stone that came from the world of the immortals; it contains a world-shattering secret, only nobody knows what the secret is.

    Xu Ziling was curious, So in whose hand is the He Clans jade annulus now? he asked.

    Liu Jing laughed and said, Legend has it that by the time of Emperor Shao[6] of the end of Han Dynasty, He Clans jade annulus was lost. By the time of the Three Kingdoms [220-280AD], the governor of Changhe [lit. long river, not sure if it is a province name; cant find it in the list of provinces of modern China] Sun Jian[7] was patrolling inside Luoyang[8] city walls, suddenly he saw rays of light radiated all around from a water well. He ordered his men to investigate, and they dredged up the corpse of an imperial concubine. There was a red box hanging from her neck, when they opened it, it was precisely the He Clans jade annulus. When Sun Jian went to war and died, the He Clans jade annulus fell into Cao Caos[9] hand, which he then passed on to his later generations. Until the Sui [dynasty] exterminated the Southern Chen [557-589], Yang Jian searched everywhere in the Chen Palace, but he failed to find the He Clans jade annulus that was supposedly among the treasures hidden by the Chen Lord. This has been a matter for regret for Yang Jian in all his life.

    Fu Junchuo could not resist asking, Gentlemen, why did you suddenly bring up this He Clans jade annulus matter?

    Song Shidaos countenance changed, Apparently although Miss is in Jianghu, you did not quite know what major event is happening in Jianghu.

    Stroking his beard, Song Lu said, He Clans jade annulus, Yang Gongs [Duke Yang, see Chapter 1] treasure-trove, the two are actually one, they can pacify the world [again tian xia, i.e. China]. Right now fire beacons are everywhere, everybody wants to be the worlds emperor. So the people under the heavens are vying to obtain these two things. Recently there is a rumor in Jianghu that He Clans jade annulus has appeared in Luoyang, hence people who think that they have some ability are rushing to Luoyang to try their luck. In this trip, after delivering the goods to Sichuan, we may make a trip to Luoyang to see what will the Song Familys destiny be.

    This Song Lus demeanor was extremely elegant, no matter how big he talked, he always made the listeners feel comfortable.

    Kou Zhongs eye lit up; he said, Whoever obtain the He Clans jade annulus may obtain the world. Ha! Xiao Ling and I will also go to try our luck.

    Fu Junchuos eyes flashed with cold light; staring hard at Kou Zhong, she said, Do you think you, these two little demons fit to do that? I definitely wont allow you to go to Luoyang. If you keep indulging yourselves in wild fantasy, later on I will not I will not pay any more attention you.

    She was going to say I will no teach you the secret method, but at the last moment she corrected herself. Naturally the power of her threat was greatly diminished.

    Song Lu was still unclear of the relationship among these three people, but although Fu Junchuo was using harsh words, it was clear that she showed concern toward these two free-spirited boys.

    Song Shidao warmly said, Miss Fu is right. It would be wise not to take advantage of this excitement, especially because the He Clans jade annulus involves the most mysterious sect in Wulin. This sect sends out their people every so often to enter the world to practice their religion; they are becoming more unpredictably mysterious.

    What sect is that? Fu Junchuo asked in amazement.

    Miss Fu is asking the right people, Song Lu replied, If you asked other people, there is a good chance that they have not even heard about it.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings interest was greatly piqued; they were listening attentively.

    Song Shidao said, This sect is called Ci Hang Jing Zhai [ci compassionate/merciful, hang boat/ship/to sail/to fly, jing calm/quiet, zhai abstain from meat, wine/give alms, hence it is some kind of religious organization; I checked xlandhenrys translation and he/she uses monastery]. For the last several hundred years, it has an unsurpassed status among the black/mysterious organizations; but those who know the Jing Zhai location are unwilling to reveal anything pertaining to this Sect. Therefore, although because of He Clans jade annulus we conducted open enquiries and secret searches on this Jing Zhai, what we know is not too much. We only know that the practitioners of this heavenly law are women. It was said that one time the number one martial art expert of the Taoist sect, Shan Zhenren [see Chapter 6] Ning Daoqi went up the Jing Zhai to look for the presiding master to discuss martial art. Surprisingly, the presiding master of the Jing Zhai let him look at their treasured book, Ci Hang Sword Canon. Before Ning Daoqi finished reading, he already vomited blood and was injured; in the end he retreated from this awkward situation. Not many people know about this, hence it is not spread in Jianghu.

    Kou Zhong slapped Xu Zilings shoulder and said with a sigh, Now that is the real secret manual!

    Among those people, naturally only Xu Ziling and Fu Junchuo knew what he was talking about.

    Song Lu sighed and said, There are people beyond people, there are skies above the sky. The more we learn, the more we realize how minuscule our knowledge is; then we wont dare to rely on force to go on the rampage anymore.

    Delighted, Xu Ziling said sincerely, Song Daye [big master, as in master-servant relationship] is indeed a great man. In Yangzhou, he was used to call other people Daye, hence he automatically used that appellation.

    Song Lu laughed and said, Two Xiao Xiongdis basis and bones are extremely good. If I came across you a few years earlier, the Ol Song will definitely let you get away.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings countenances changed, their hearts sank. Their Niang has told them that, and now Song Lu said the same thing; apparently they could forget being martial art experts in this lifetime.

    Fu Junchuos heart went with them. She decided right then and there to try her best to see if there was any way she could reverse the hopeless situation [orig. reverse the rotation of the sky], to train them well. Her heart grew warm as she said, Its late, I want to go to bed a bit early tonight.

    Although Song Shidao a hundred times, a thousand times unwilling, he had no choice but to do as she wished, i.e. to end the dinner banquet.

    Kou Zhong actually wanted to ask what the relationship between the He Clans jade annulus and the Ci Hang Jing Zhai, but first, he was afraid Fu Junchuo would not be happy, second, he was dying to start learning the Great Method of Nine Mysteries. Thereupon he kept his mouth shut and, along with Xu Ziling, simply followed Fu Junchuo back to their room.

    Inside Fu Junchuos cabin, the three of them sat cross-legged facing each other in a triangle. Moonlight penetrated the room, shedding its ray on Fu Junchuos body, making her look more like Guanyin Dashi descending to the mortal world.

    With solemn expression Fu Junchuo spoke softly, Do you know why I left and then came back to rescue you from the hands of that county magistrate, and then at Danyang we separated, but again I could not help returning to you?

    Looking at her serious expression, Kou Zhong did not dare to crack a joke, he seriously replied, Is it because Niang cherishes us?

    Fu Junchuo sighed and said, You can say that. Among Yuwen Huajis personal attendants, there is one sent by our Gaoli King, thats why after I sent you to Beipo County, I made a secret contact with him, inquiring about the condition of Yuwen Huajis injury.

    Xu Ziling happily said, So Yuwen Huaji was also injured?

    Of course, Fu Junchuo proudly said, How could my Jiu Xuan Shengong [divine power of nine mysteries] stay idle and not inflict any damage? How could he not be injured? But he can be considered rare, he only needed to meditate for a couple of sichen [i.e. 4 hours] and already his strength was completely restored. Just from this fact I can deduce that he is still one layer above me. At the same time, I can also deduce that in order to get the Secret to Long Life, he wont spare any effort to hunt and capture you. Thats why I came back to rescue you, these two little demons. How can I let that tyrant of ten thousand evils live long?

    Kou Zhong forced himself to say, Niang can always take our Secret to Long Life away and then find any place to bury it; clean hands clean feet, its much better than being burdened by the two of us!

    Fu Junchuo cut him off, I simply dont like doing unethical things like that.

    Xu Zilings heart was touched. He asked, Then why did Niang want to leave us at Danyang?

    Fu Junchuo heaved a deep sigh. She said grimly, Didnt we get together in the end? I dont know why I treated you, these two irritating little demons, well. I was thinking of leaving you at Danyang, giving you enough traveling expense so that you could go your own way, and just forget about it. But after thinking deeper, Yuwen Huaji is able to utilize the power of the worlds government officials, in the end you wont escape his evil claw; hence I couldnt help but coming back to you. Do you think I fancy that Song Shidao? Not a chance! I had made up my mind long ago to die for my country; how could I be interested in man-woman relationship? I just want to borrow their ship to get you two far away from danger. Once the ship docks at the pier, we will leave the ship to go ashore, flee to the rebel territory, then that Yuwen Huaji will be helpless to catch you.

    Kou Zhong resolutely said, We might as well destroy the Secret to Long Life first, so that even if that Yuwen Huagu manages to catch up with us, he still wont get the treasured book.

    Fu Junchuo and Xu Ziling were greatly surprised; they had never expected that this kid, who was usually greedy for wealth and greedy for benefit, would be willing to make this kind of sacrifice.

    Fu Junchuo nodded. Hearing Xiao Zhong [little Zhong] said so, I am really happy, she said, But for the time being, we are not that desperate yet. Let me teach you the meditation skill first. But you must promise me on an oath that before the day you reached the first level of qi and mind connection, you are not allowed to mingle out in Jianghu. Just quietly find a small town, hide from the chaos of war, and peacefully and happily live the rest of your lives.

    Xu Zilings eyes turned red as he said, Niang! You are really good to us.

    Kou Zhong was also deeply moved, Even if our own Niang came back to life, they wouldnt be as good as you.

    The two boys immediately made an oath.

    Fu Junchuo taught them to put their palms together in front of their chest, and then she said, Prior to training your skill, you must train your character first. Remove all distracting thoughts, and then sit cross-legged with left leg facing out, right leg facing in, use yang [positive/male principle in Taoism] to embrace yin [negative/female principle]; left hand thumb pinches the middle finger, right hand thumb enters the left hand and make a circle. Right hand on the outside, using yin to surround yang. This is called Nine Mysteries Meridian Chain Secret. The four limbs also join together as a chain. Four gates tightly closed to guard the median.

    Xu Ziling was puzzled, Niang, didnt you say that Great Method of Nine Mysteries is heavy on spirit and light on form? Why do we have to pay particular attention to form like this?

    Fu Junchuo was speechless for half a day. Finally she sighed and said, If you really can succeed in mastering this divine skill, you must establish a sect, with your innovative idea you could be a peerless great master. I have never questioned the method like you do. But I can only teach you based on a proven method. If you can figure out other ways, you can always try it. But your heart and the method must be in agreement with each other; otherwise an unexpected disaster might occur.

    Kou Zhong sighed in admiration, Niang is indeed open-minded, the Shifus teaching their disciples in the martial art court have never taken this kind of approach.

    Thereupon Fu Junchuo explained in details the position and capacity of the Eight Extraordinary Channels[10] and all major acupuncture points, while repeatedly pointing to these acupoints on their bodies.

    By the time the two boys memorized everything, it was already the third watch of the night [between 11pm 1am].

    This moment the big ship suddenly slowed down. From the shore they could hear a faint howling.

    All three peoples countenance changed.

    [1] Qin Shihuang, first emperor of China, 259-210BC.

    [2] Li Si, (c. 280-208 BC), Legalist philosopher, calligrapher and Prime minister of Qin kingdom and Qin dynasty from 246 to 208 BC.

    [3] Han Gaozu Liu Bang (256 or 247-195 BC), bandit leader who became the first Han emperor, reigned 207-195 BC.

    [4] Wang Mang (45 BC-23 AD), usurped power and reigned 9-23 between the former and later Han.

    [5] Chu, a kingdom during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods (722-221 BC).

    [6] Emperor Shao of Han (176190) (other name King of Hongnong), was briefly an emperor of China during the Han dynasty; his name literally means young emperor (of Han), a name which he shares with several other emperors with brief reigns. He came to power in 189 and was deposed and then poisoned by Dong Zhuo in 190.

    [7] Sun Jian (155-191), famous general at end of Han dynasty, forerunner of the southern kingdom of Wu of the Three Kingdoms.

    [8] Luoyang, a prefecture level city in Henan, old capital from pre-Han times.

    [9] Cao Cao (155-220), famous statesman and general at the end of Han, noted poet and calligrapher, later warlord, founder and first king of Cao Wei, father of Emperor Cao Pi; he was also the main villain of novel the Romance of Three Kingdoms.

    [10] Eight Extraordinary Channels (Qi Jing Ba Mai) - These consist of the channels of Ren, Du, Chong, Dai, Yinwei, Yangwei, Yinjiao and Yangjiao. They differ from the Twelve Regular Channels in that they neither pertain to any organ, nor do they share an exterior-interior relationship between each other. Their main function is to regulate the circulation of energy (qi4) and blood in the Twelve Regular Channels. When the regular channels are satiated, excess qi and blood flow into the Eight Extraordinary Channels to be stored for later use. (Huang Yushi, wuxiapedia.com)

  10. #10
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 1 - Chapter 8

    Book 1 Chapter 8 In so much pain, wishing for death

    Yuwen Huajis forceful voice came from the right shore, I wonder which honorable person from the Song Clan presides over this fleet of ships, please pull toward the shore and halt the ships, let Yuwen Huaji get on board to send my regards.

    Inside the cabin, Fu Junchuo and the two boys looked at each other. They did not expect Yuwen Huaji would catch up with them this quickly.

    This moment the four large ships were heading toward the left shore instead; obviously they were afraid Yuwen Huaji would fly toward their ship, or perhaps he would use arrows to attack from the distance.

    From the bow Song Lus laughter soared to the sky, Yuwen Daren, I trust you have been well since we last met. Song Lu pays his respect.

    While spurring his horse to pursue the ship, Yuwen Huaji laughed and replied, Turns out its the Silver Beard with a Silver Dragon Cane, Song Xiong, now everything will be alright. Would Song Xiong please have your fleet pull toward the shore first, so that Xiongdi [brother, referring to self] can tell you the details?

    Song Lu laughed and said, Yuwen Xiong flattered Xiaodi [little brother, referring to self] too much. If Yuwen Daren were in Xiaodis shoes, suddenly saw martial art masters from the Capital flocked in in the middle of the night, telling us to stop along the river, while Xiaodis ships are loaded with valuable goods, for the sake of safety, how could I not inquire clearly first the purpose of Yuwen Darens visit?

    Yuwen Huaji was extremely shrewd, he did not get angry at all; he said cheerfully, Thats easy. This time this officer [referring to self] received the Sages [referring to the Emperor] order to capture three offenders to the throne. Reportedly the Fourth Gongzi has paid the bills of these offenders at a restaurant in Danyang, and later on he even invited them to come aboard his ship. I wonder if there is indeed such thing?

    Without even thinking Song Lu replied, Someone must be trying to frame us up. Would Yuwen Daren please return and report to the Holy Sage that if I, Song Lu, see these offenders, I will personally capture them to bring them to justice, I will send them under escort to the Capital. Its late! The Ol Song is going back to his cabin to sleep.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling did not expect Song Lu to hold yi qi [spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice, code of brotherhood] like this. Without the slightest hesitation he simply refused to hand them over to him; they did not even hear him asking whether the offender was male or female, he simply asked Yuwen Huaji to return to the Capital. Hence they knew that he would not betray them. Such character indeed deserved to be called a hero and a warrior.

    Yuwen Huaji threw his head back and laughed aloud, Song Xiong is quick to act and quick to speak. In this case Xiaodi wont hide anything from you. Although for the time being Song Xiong can enjoy your peace, you will only invite endless trouble in the future. Furthermore, this officer can push the blame to your Song Clan. When the Sages dragon heart is angry, I am afraid Song Xiong and your family wont feel better either.

    Song Lu said, Yuwen Daren always loves to exaggerate, but you forget that mouth also grows on other peoples faces. Hearing Daren inflicts misfortune to my humble family, there will be another story in the Jianghu. It seems to me Yuwen Xiongs consideration is less than thorough.

    Yuwen Huaji seemed to be listening with great delight; he laughed until he was out of breath and said, In that case, this officer will not rush back to the Capital just yet. I will quietly wait Song Xiongs honorable self at the Weeping Ghost Gorge ahead, where the river is comparatively narrower, so that we can talk a bit more conveniently, no need for us, brothers, to shout until our voices hoarse.

    Again Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings countenance changed. Fu Junchuo suddenly stood up and said, I, Fu Junchuo, have received enough kindness from Han people, I will not implicate other people anymore. Come, lets go.

    The two boys havent even had the chance to hear Song Lus response when Fu Junchuo grabbed their belts and broke out through the window. Like a big bird they flitted across the surface of the river over four zhang or so distance toward the left riverbank.

    Song Lus surprised cry and Yuwen Huajis angry roar could be heard almost simultaneously before the three people entered the forest.

    The wind cut through Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings ear as Fu Junchuo took them soaring like a cloud or like riding on the mist, entering deep into the forest. In just a short moment they have covered over ten li. They felt that they were climbing higher and higher, the terrain was gradually getting steeper and more rugged. It was not until Fu Junchuo set them down that they realized that they were up on a high mountain. The mountain breeze blew, the two boys were so cold that their teeth chattered.

    Rounding around the mountaintop, Fu Junchuo brought the two boys to a shallow cave where on both sides the mountain rocks, the trees and the grass were tall, so that they could hide inside and were temporarily sheltered from the cold wind.

    Kou Zhong let out a relieved sigh and said, So dangerous! Fortunately we are on the other side of Yangtze River, Yuwen Huagu cannot chase after us.

    Fu Junchuo sighed and said, Maybe its impossible for other people, but Yuwen Huagu only needs a piece of dry stick, and he could easily cross the Great River. You, this kid, really dont understand anything.

    Shocked, Xu Ziling said, Why dont we quickly run away then?

    Fu Junchuo sat cross-legged. With a bitter smile she said, If I have trained to the ninth level, I would surely be able to continue carrying you away, but with my ability, I can only bring you here.

    Kou Zhong probed further, If Yuwen Huagu crossed the River and pursued to this place, where should we flee to?

    Fu Junchuo flatly replied, Someone with strong martial art skill like Yuwen Huaji has a lot stronger sense compared to ordinary person. We only need to leave some scent and traces along the way, and we could forget about evading his eyes and nose. Alright, stop talking, I want to meditate to build up my qi, hopefully by the time he arrive, my strength will be restored, and then I can fight him to the death.

    Finished speaking, she closed her eyes and went into meditation.

    The two boys dejectedly sat close to each other; they did not even dare to discuss their situation, for fear that they might agitate their Niang.

    As time passed, the two boys anxiety slipped away bit by bit.

    Suddenly Fu Junchuo stood up and whispered, Hes here! He is alone.

    The two boys followed her standing up. Kou Zhong said in trembling voice, Just give the book to him and be done with it.

    Fu Junchuo turned around and spoke sternly, Are you still considered human being? How can you say such thing?

    Xu Ziling said softly, He is only concerned over Niang.

    The bright moon high up in the sky shone its light down below. Fu Junchuo sighed. And then Pfft! she laughed and said, Xiao Zhong must not blame Niang, I am so used to scolding you!

    Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings whole body trembled. Under different circumstances, with Fu Junchuo willing to call herself their Niang, they would be utterly delighted; this time, however, they felt ill omened.

    Fu Junchuo said in a low voice, No matter what happens, you must not get out of here. Niang will definitely take you leave this place.

    Yuwen Huajis laughter was heard outside the cave, For those two boys sake Miss has revealed your hiding place. It was really unwise. These past few years, Miss has twice disguised yourself as a palace maid and penetrated the Palace to assassinate the Holy Sage, yet we could not even touch the tail of your gown. I had never expected that this time, for the sake of a ghost book, Miss felt compelled to show off your trace. If not for Miss granting these two kids a favor, even I, Yuwen Huaji, have to eat dust, I would never overcome Miss lightness skill.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other. Turned out their Niang has entered the Palace to assassinate Yang Guang; even more, for their sake she has made such a big sacrifice, otherwise, with her lightness skill, which even Yuwen Huaji was ashamed of being inferior, how could Yuwen Huaji catch up with her?

    Fu Junchuos hand was already on the hilt of her sword. Under the hazy moonlight, she appeared majestic and stately. Yuwen Huaji, she said coldly, You came here alone, arent you afraid that you may not be the sword in my hands match?

    Yuwen Huaji laughed and said, Although the sword in Miss hand is formidable, but how much weight it carries, I think you and I are already well aware of. If you want to slaughter me, Yuwen Huaji, youd better make your move right away. Otherwise, if my men catch up with us, Miss will lose this golden opportunity.

    Fu Junchuo said indifferently, Since you, Yuwen Huaji, are so eager to die, let me help you fulfill your wish!

    Her silhouette flashed, Fu Junchuo had already flown out; followed by the continuous sound of qi clashing against each other.

    Both sides carries the almost the same thought in their hearts; both were disregarding his and her life, and both were going all out. Under the moonlight shining on the mountain ridge, Yuwen Huaji was seen standing on top of a giant boulder, while Fu Junchuo looked like a ghostly smoke, attacking him from four sides, eight directions. The blade in her hand turned into myriad of sword tips, like tidal wave of mercury crashing against the opponent; it was a totally hard fight where both sides were staking everything they got.

    The expression on Yuwen Huajis long face was solemn and respectful, his hands turned into fist or claw or open palm, interspersed with kicks here and there, as if he turned into an exorcist dealing with Fu Junchuos wild, out-of-this-world attacks.

    The two boys vowed that they would never forget his appearance for as long as they live. Although they were separated by a good seven, eight zhang away from him, the wind generated by the fierce battle still assaulted them that they felt the burning pain was about to crack their skin open, and it was difficult for them to keep their eyes open.

    When they could not take it anymore, they shrunk back into the rock crevices. By the time when they looked out again, the situation has changed. Fu Junchuo flew over Yuwen Huaji, her sword moved even faster, more vicious, and extremely ruthless; she was going on an all-out offensive without any defensive move at all. But the fact was that Yuwen Huaji could only defend without being able to counter. Apparently he was falling into disadvantageous position.

    This time the two boys endurance was even worse; they could only blink several times, and were already forced to withdraw with eyes so painful that tears streaming down their face.

    Right this moment, they heard Yuwen Huajis angry shout and Fu Junchuos muffled grunt outside. Forgetting the pain in their eyes, the two boys could not resist stretching out their heads to look. In a daze, they seemed to see white shadow floating over. By the time they realized what had happened, their belts tightened, as Fu Junchuo carried them up. Once again they felt like soaring above the clouds or riding into the mist as they flew down the mountain.

    In their hearts the two of them were wild with joy, because once again Yuwen Huaji had been beaten back by their incomparably formidable Niang.

    This time Fu Junchuo did not hold back at all, she carried them in wild rush toward the most desolate wilderness, without uttering a single word. By dawn they had reached a valley, where finally she set them down.

    The two boys crawled up with weary waist and aching back, only to see Fu Junchuo dropped down and sat on the ground, her pretty face was deathly pale, without the slightest sign of life.

    The two boys were so scared that their soul flew out and scattered away; they scrambled to her side and wailed, Niang, you are hurt.

    Fu Junchuo revealed a trace of tender smile as she reached out to grab the two boys shoulders, and disregarding any taboo between men and women, she pulled them down into her bosom, letting their heads resting on her breasts. With a voice full of tenderness she said, My, Fu Junchuo, two good children, listen to me carefully. Yuwen Huaji has received serious injury, he must immediately seek treatment, before a year or a half, dont even think to recover. Therefore, in the end Niang has saved you!

    The two boys cried out together, Niang, why dont you heal first?

    Fu Junchuo sadly shook her head and said, Niang also wish very much to spend more time to train you to become men who are worthy of respect, to see you get married and have children. I never thought that although I have always hated Han people, but when I saw you I have completely forgotten my countrys animosity and my familys hatred, and was most willing to have you as my children. Niang has just stabbed Yuwen Huaji with a deadly strike, but I also received his full-strength punch. His Mysterious Ice Energy is indeed a well-deserved reputation, plus Yuwen Huaji himself is the most outstanding martial art expert in his Clan under Yuwen Shang. With Niangs hopeless condition, even if Shifu personally took care of me, he could not save me. After Niang is dead, you may bury me here. Niang has always enjoyed solitude, later on you dont need to visit me. [Translators note: the last sentence refers to religious rites people pay respects to their dead ancestors.]

    How could the two boys endure it? They burst into loud wailing while embracing Fu Junchuo with all their strength, until the front part of her gown was drenched with their tears.

    Fu Junchuo maintained a serene expression; she said in tender voice, Niang came all the way from Gaoli this time with bad intentions, my mission was to assassinate Yang Guang so that he cant send troops to Gaoli in the future; who would have thought that the martial art masters in the Palace are as numerous as the clouds. It was only relying on my qinggong [lightness skill] that both times I was able to escape. Consequently, I changed plan. Using the treasure I found from Duke Yangs treasure trove, I made appearance in Jianghu, inciting your Han people to massacre one another. But by chance I came across you.

    Right this moment the two boys were only concerned over Fu Junchuos life and death, they were not the slightest bit interested in any Duke Yangs treasure-trove.

    Fu Junchuo tenderly stroke their hair as she continued, I went to Yangzhou to look for Shi Long, precisely because our informer within Yuwen Huajis men reported that Yang Guang sent him to find Shi Long, hence I came to investigate. As a result I met my two well-behaved darlings. Alright, Niang cannot hold on much longer. I still have a lot to say, but recalling how the Heaven often mess with people, saying it is as good as not saying it. I dont know if it is because at the death door people become especially astute, but Niang suddenly have a feeling that in the future my two sons will not become mere ordinary men. You two must not let Niang down!

    The two boys looked up mournfully and cried in grief, Niang! How could you leave us like this?

    Fu Junchuo suddenly called out, Oh! That treasure-trove is in Yuema Bridge [lit. galloping horse] in the Capital Her voice suddenly ceased. Fu Junchuo, like a fallen jade or vanishing fragrance, in her youthful radiance, closed her eyes and passed away.

    The two boys embraced the only family they had on earth, they wept until they lost consciousness.

    Using the sword Fu Junchuo left behind, the two boys pared some trees to make planks, they managed to make an extremely simple and crude coffin. And then they buried Fu Junchuo in a clearing among the trees, with only her sword to accompany her.

    They missed Fu Junchuo very much, while knowing that this deep enmity could not be avenged no matter what. In their inconsolable grief, their actions were a complete opposite of their normal state, they stayed all day next to the grave, and no longer interested in any rank, fame or fortune of the outside world. Even most talkative Kou Zhong suddenly became silent, he no longer talk.

    Making primitive bow and arrow and spear, they caught fish in the river and hunted birds and beasts in the forest to allay their hunger. They even shed their clothes and together with their silver, bury it well. Just wearing shorts they lived a primitive life, devouring raw meat and fowl. Fortunately it was already the transition from spring to summer that in the south the weather was blisteringly hot, plus the two boys had healthy bodies so that they did not suffer any illness due to wind chill.

    When night came they simply slept by the grave. They had the book Secret to Long Life hidden underneath the rock they used as the tombstone; neither one was interested in even touching it.

    That night when Fu Junchuo taught them the essence of Nine Mysteries Skill, she has not taught them how to do it when Yuwen Huaji came. Hence presently they only knew the essence, the locations of the acupoints, and the posture that they should assume in meditation; as for how to start practicing, they did not have the slightest idea. On top of that, in their hearts they wished they were dead; how could they have any mood to train? So every day they passed their days in daze, scorched by the sun and drenched by the rain, as if they did not know and did not even feel it.

    One particular night, there was a heavy rain. It was cold outside, the two of them huddled together, their hearts were filled with endless misery; recalling Fu Junchuo who was buried right next to them, they wept silently.

    When the cold was getting really unbearable, Kou Zhong pushed Xu Ziling to sit up; with his teeth chattering he said, If we continue like this, sooner or later we will get sick, how could we fulfill Niangs expectation then?

    In the past ten days or so, it was the first time that they talked.

    Xu Ziling finally could not endure the cold; he clenched his teeth and asked, What crafty idea do you have in mind?

    With a bitter smile Kou Zhong said, If we did not bury Niangs sword, we could at least build a tree house.

    Xu Ziling replied, Even if I have to freeze to death, I wont disturb Niangs peace.

    Kou Zhong nodded his agreement. Thats only natural, he said, But wed better try practicing the meditation technique Niang taught us. Martial art master wont be affected by heat and cold.

    How do we start? Xu Ziling dejectedly said.

    Kou Zhong was speechless. He reached out to hold Xu Ziling, and that was how they endured the cold together until daybreak.

    When the sun came out, the two boys slowly recovered. However, misfortune does not come singly; they have caught almost all the big fish in the creek that barely any was left. Birds and beasts also seemed to realize that they were dangerous, so none left in the valley. With no alternative, the two eventually decided to hunt for food outside the valley.

    Taking their bow and arrow, they stepped out of the valley, only to see clusters of wild flowers, luxuriant fragrant grass, hills and plains, and the quiet open sky above. As far as their eyes could see, they did not see a single sign of other human beings. In all directions they were surrounded by bluish-green, dense mountain range; they could not stop their spirit from being roused, the grief loading their mind was considerably lightened.

    Following the foot of the mountain the two boys searched for traces of their prey. Soon they had the luck of hitting a wild rabbit. In high spirits they returned to the valley.

    Because it was a blisteringly hot day, Xu Ziling went to have a dip in the creek. When he returned to the grave, he saw Kou Zhong unexpectedly took the book Secret to Long Life that was hidden underneath the tombstone out, and was reading it with rapt attention; he could not refrain from glaring at him. After all, if not for this Secret to Long Life, Fu Junchuo would not have died under Yuwen Huajis hands.

    Kou Zhong beckoned him to come over. Dont get angry at me, he said, I am simply following Niangs order, we must keep on living. Although these human figures are not any divine skill training method, at the very least it is a training instruction to prolong life. Although we cant figure out these ghost hunting-like characters on the drawings, we can at least follow the dotted lines on the diagrams to circulate our qi, according to the theory Niang taught us, and the positions of the channels and acupoints. If we can reap a bit of benefit, then we wont have to freeze to death.

    When Xu Ziling was about to argue, Kou Zhong suddenly threw the book to his face as if it was an ordinary, worthless book. Naturally Xu Ziling caught it. The opened page happened to show a picture of a human lying down. When he looked at the drawing in the past, because he did not know the Eight Extraordinary Channels, it was as if he was looking at a meaningless drawing. But as he looked at it now, he suddenly understood it much better. Unexpectedly his eyes were glued to the diagram, and he was deeply attracted to it.

    Kou Zhong shouted, The sixth diagram is the most useful. It is best if you dont look at other pictures first.

    Xu Ziling turned the pages, and found out that the picture he was looking at was the last diagram. Looking at the sixth picture, it did not seem to be any easier than the seventh diagram, so he simply ignored Kou Zhong and sat down to study the last diagram.

    From that day onwards, other than hunting and sleeping, the two boys sat in meditation to practice following the diagram that they picked, living carefree without any worries in nature, thoroughly lived a primitive life.

    Perhaps due to their single-mindedness in studying, the sorrow in their hearts was also vanishing with each passing day. Without even thinking about it, they have entered the ten-thousand thoughts reduction realm that was the requirement in the Nine Mysteries training.

  11. #11
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 1 - Chapter 9

    Book 1 Chapter 9 Another Long Journey

    In the following eight days, the two boys practiced separately. Sometimes they did not even go hunting, they simply picked some wild fruits to fill their stomach.

    The diagram Kou Zhong trained was the one depicting a walking man, where the channels and acupoints were marked in red dots and dotted lines. It was not much different from the one Xu Ziling practiced, but the pattern the qi traveled was completely opposite. It seemed to originate with a bold black arrow pointing to the Tian Ling [lit. heavens spirit] acupoint at the top of the head. And from this the arrow split into red, orange, yellow, green, blackish green, blue and purple, seven colors. Each color seemed to indicate a completely different method. Not only the route was different, the acupoints it pointed to were also substantially different. Practically there were a lot of channels and acupoints that Fu Junchuo had not even mentioned, or perhaps she did mention it, but it was totally unrelated to the method of training she taught.

    The diagram Xu Ziling picked was the lying man. The bold black arrow was pointing to the Yong Quan [gushing spring] acupoint on the right foot. The seven-color arrows finally merged into the Yong Quan acupoint on the left foot, unlike Kou Zhongs diagram in which the lines returned to the Tian Ling acupoint. But the complexity of the two diagrams was more or less similar.

    In their hearts the two boys did not expect anything, they had nothing else to do anyway, so they simply followed the theory their Niang taught them. With single-mindedness, their thought involuntarily followed the channels and acupoints that they already memorized well, and thus in the end, whether intentionally or not, they were actually going deep into the Nine Mysteries Great Method training.

    Sometimes they practice following the red arrow, sometimes they followed different color. Although there was no immediate effect, the two of them did not mind too much.

    Later on, Kou Zhong would suddenly get up from his sleep and, with his eyes still closed, walked around the valley according to the posture shown on the picture. And Xu Ziling would only feel comfortable if he lay down according to the posture shown on his picture. One moving and the other still, each with his own interest.

    On the evening of the ninth day, there was a sudden thunderstorm; the two boys were unable to sleep, they were compelled to practice. As usual, Kou Zhong wandered around the valley, Xu Ziling went to soak in the creek, with only his head above the water. Both were training their respective skill.

    Not long afterwards, they both entered the peculiar state of no-self, where they seemed to be asleep, but were not actually asleep, and seemed to be awake, but not quite awake. In their mind suddenly there was the picture that they knew so well from the Secret to Long Life. Furthermore, they no longer care about following any particular arrow, they simply entered the state of emptiness where their spirit was fixed on certain hard-to-describe phase.

    Amazing things happened.

    First it was Xu Ziling who suddenly felt his heart was burning, the hot burning feeling like he was on fire. And then the heat reached its peak, linked in countless ways it spilled onto all channels and acupoints, big and small. This kind of feeling was so unbearable that he nearly wanted to kill himself to end the pain. It was fortunate that the ice-cold creek water and the rainwater slightly alleviate his pain.

    It was fortunate that Xu Ziling was smart that he knew that it was the moment his spirit and mind aroused, so he no longer paid attention to the pain in his body, he also ignored the arbitrary rushing and random surge of the real qi within him. He was deep in meditation, focusing his mind on only one thing.

    It was also fortunate that Fu Junchuo did not have time to tell him the condition concerning the unleashing of qi.

    If the movement of qi was due to regular Nine Mysteries Great Method training, the heat may start at the lower extremity of the backbone, and then following the arteries and veins, it would flow upward, breaking through Yu Zhen Guan [jade pillow pass], via Ni Jiu [mud/clay nine], and then returned to Ren channels [see Eight Extraordinary Channels, Chapter 7] at the front. This cycle continued ceaselessly for thirty-six days and became the basic method.

    For average martial art practitioners, this is the state where they yearn for even in their dreams, because from this state they would embark on the path to become masters in internal strength.

    Xu Zilings situation was actually unprecedented. Average people would think that they were having fire deviation; if the fire deviation was mild, they would be paralyzed, if it were heavy their pulse and channels would rupture and they would perish. Hence when Shi Long tried to follow the diagram the other day, because he already had a preconceived idea, as soon as he felt something was not right, he stopped immediately and did not dare to continue.

    Xu Ziling, on the other hand, had no idea what was going on, and thought that it ought to happen this way; under no apprehensions, the dead horse has become a living horse, and he obtained the real essence of the diagram instead.

    Kou Zhong was under different situation. A burst of incomparably strange cold qi penetrated the top of his head and flowed into all channels and acupoints, big and small. The cold was so intense that he nearly froze to death; automatically he started to run to keep the qi and blood flowing freely.

    And thus the two of them overcame their respective adversity this way for two sichen [i.e. 4 hours] until daybreak. Kou Zhong eventually could not endure anymore and collapsed on the ground. In this terrible moment, the channels in his entire body seemed to burst open at once and he lost consciousness.

    Xu Ziling felt that the tidal wave of heat that nearly burned him to death was rapidly subsiding; momentarily he felt like he was falling into nothingness and lost his consciousness as well.

    By midday, the rain stopped and the sky was clear, the sun broke through the clouds and was shining brightly. Kou Zhong was the first to wake up; he felt his entire body was immerse in coolness and did not feel bothered by the burning sun at all. It was extremely comfortable.

    Kou Zhong was still unsure of what was going on. Recalling last nights experience, he still had a lingering fear, and sat up in daze.

    One look around and he was amazed.

    The whole heaven and earth seemed to be a lot clearer. Not only the colors were a lot richer, a lot of minute details that he usually overlooked have also become clear. Even the subtle change in the way the wind blows that he usually missed failed to escape his acute hearing.

    The strangest thing was that both the heaven and the earth, the stone, a single blade of grass, seemed to be connected to him as if they were alive, while he himself has become part of them; the two no longer became separate entities.

    Kou Zhong was greatly surprised; he quietly pondered that after the qi was aroused, the world unexpectedly looked completely new. Right this moment, a surge of great delight rushed forth in his heart, making him sprang up immediately.

    First of all, Kou Zhong remembered Xu Ziling. Shouting gleefully, he called out, Xiao Ling, I finished the first level. Look! My body is a lot lighter, I can do somersault. After somersaulting twice, he ran up to find his good brother.

    The fact is that even if we asked martial art master of this age, great martial art scholar with extensive knowledge and experience, they may not know what kind of skill these two boys have trained. Even the author of the Secret to Long Life may only return a blank stare looking at the two boys present condition.

    But the change in the two boys physique was real. Only, speaking about real fight, unless their opponent was an ordinary disciple of ordinary school, it would not be hard to make them kneel and beg for mercy. However, if this trend continued, nobody could predict what kind of level these two boys would be able to reach.

    Hearing his shout, Xu Ziling slowly woke up. Still floating on the water, he felt his body was comfortably warm, without the slightest bit of cold. Hurriedly he crawled up the bank, and was so shaken that he dropped on his knees in disbelief. Because he saw the world was twice as beautiful than before.

    From that day onward, the two of them believed that they had reached the first level of the Nine Mysteries Great Method. But remembering the deep pain they experience that night, temporarily they did not dare to continue their training.

    But then they could not stand having too much energy. As soon as they woke up in the morning, they went out to hunt, and did not go back to the valley until the sun set over the western hills. However, no matter how tired they were, they only need to sleep and when they woke up, the fatigue immediately went away.

    When they woke up that day, Kou Zhong pulled Xu Ziling toward Fu Junchuos grave. If we continue like this, he said, Niang would not be happy. Much less she still wanted us to get married and have children, to do great things and not simply become ordinary men.

    Xu Ziling was silent for half a day. Finally he nodded and said, I am also thinking of going out there. Its just that although we have trained a bit of our schools skill, compared with real martial art master, the difference is still more than a li away. If we only become foot soldier, my conscience will not allow it. Niang was so formidable, no matter what we must not make her lose face.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, Absolutely. Just like Niang said, Yuwen Huaji is determined to have the Secret to Long Life, he will never let us off. Perhaps he already has people make pictures of us and spread it around the country offering a reward for our capture. Hence we still need to lie low until the fuss dies down. It is actually best to stay here, but if we continue like this, we will definitely turn into savages.

    So whats your plan? Xu Ziling asked.

    Acting as if he had already planned ahead Kou Zhong said, First we must find a good place to bury the Secret to Long Life, and then we head south, try to find a city, countryside, county or town to stay and see if we can make a living there. After we know the situation better, we can proceed with our original big plan of joining a militia.

    For some reason Xu Ziling also wanted to go out very much. Thereupon they immediately paid their respect in front of Fu Junchuos grave, buried the Secret to Long Life, retrieved their clothes and put them on, bundled their silver well, and left this beautiful little secluded valley, which had made their hearts ached and their souls broken, which they would never forget forever.

    By this time it was already autumn, the air was fresh and cool. The two boys were still young, they slowly recovered from the blow of Fu Junchuos tragic death; they were starting to talk and laugh more often. Furthermore, due to the early glimpse of martial art prowess they managed to acquire, their self-confidence enjoyed considerable boost.

    After walking to the south for seven days, they came across a small village. There were only a dozen or so houses in this village, with only two or three had lantern lights, indicating that this village had suffered under the chaos of war, and that life was difficult, hence they had to save as much resources as possible. There was a tinge of regret in the two boys hearts for returning to civilization.

    As they were walking toward the village, suddenly they heard a dog barking in the distance. Immediately several dogs responded, several large dogs were jostling with each other while slowly moving toward their direction. The two boys were inwardly scared so they were on guard. Fortunately a villager came out and shouted to disperse the dogs. He greeted them warmly and offered them lodging for the night.

    The next morning they left some coins for the lodging. And after asking for clear direction to the nearest largest county-level town, they continued on their journey.

    After walking another ten or so days, they reached a big town called Cui Shan [lit. bluish-green/green-jade mountain] at the western extremity of Zhejiang River, south of Xinan County. It was a town of approximately two thousands households, located east of Poyang Lake [Jiangxi]. The residents looked rather prosperous, there were stone bridges and row upon row of houses with tiled roof; it was a typical thriving Jiangnan town. Although in term of size it was only about a quarter of Danyang, and it did not have high city walls, when the two boys saw the town, they both had a feeling that they wanted to live here.

    They were most interested in how exquisite was the clothes the women in this town were wearing. Both the tailoring and the embroidery showed off these out-of-the-water countryside girls skill and the way they paid particular attention to details.

    What made the boys even happier was that these girls were wearing embroidered scarf draped over their upper arms, embroidered shoes on their feet, and thickly pleated skirt around their waists, making them appeared more graceful and vibrant, as they paraded ostentatiously around town in groups. Looking at the girls, the two boys heart began to itch. Especially now that they had a few pennies in their pocket, unlike before, where they were just poor drifters; their mood was completely different, they walked with puffed chest.

    The two boys found a small hotel that did not look too expensive, booked a small room, and then with much trepidation went to the town hall to scout around; if they saw their portraits in a wanted poster, they would immediately escape without a trace.

    Most shops in town had their businesses at the front, and an alley at the back, with residences upstairs. Workshops and warehouses were built next to the water, to make full use of river transportation.

    When they reached the town hall, they saw conscription announcement plastered on the wall, but there wasnt any wanted poster. The two boys were ecstatic; shouting for joy they strolled along the street like a pair of big bosses.

    A group of young girls were walking straight toward them, laughing and giggling. When they saw the two boys amazing appearance, imposing physique and lofty expression, their eyebrows rose and their eyes showed admiration. The two boys halted their steps while their heart was bursting with joy.

    Ever since they were born, this was the first time the two boys received admiring look from the opposite sex; hence their confidence was highly boosted.

    Actually, during their stay in the valley for the whole summer, due to constant movement and first-class martial art training they underwent, plus it was the time when their bodies underwent growth spurt, not only they now looked tall and sturdy, the most noticeable change was their countenance; they both now exuded some kind of hard-to-explain youthful charm.

    Very quickly the two boys were drawn into the familiarity of water-front town people; they thought that if they had to stay here, get married and have children, probably it was not a bad thing.

    When they were in Yangzhou, the reason they developed fantasy and lofty aspiration all day long was because they were dissatisfied with their current situation, and because they were bullied and humiliated often. Now that they had found this Garden-of-the-Peaches-of-Immortality like place, where the people seemed simple and honest, they felt something new and fresh; thereupon they changed their mind and no longer had the intention to join the militia.

    Kou Zhong caught a glimpse of a large signboard, Liu Chun Courtyard [lit. preserving spring]; he pulled Xu Zilings broad shoulder and winked, Xiao Ling, he said, You are more or less sixteen, and soon I will be seventeen. Other men get married when they are fourteen years old, but until today we are still virgin

    Xu Ziling impatiently cut him off, I understand what you mean. We have money, and you, this fellow, itch all over your body; isnt that it? I am not opposed taking some money and waste it on some eye-opening activity at all, but at least we should wait until we find a job, find a place to stay, and then we can explore this life of pleasure seeking. Besides, isnt the money left by Niang as our capital? It is enough for us to build a rather decent, simple house, plus to run a small shop; it must not be spent rashly on some extravagant thing.

    Seeing he did not really oppose the idea, Kou Zhong happily said, Naturally, let us have a big feast first, and then well go around to see what kind of work needs manpower.

    By this time they happened to stand in front of a restaurant. They were just about to enter when a big man, as sturdy as an ox, suddenly stormed out like a tornado, carrying a bundle in his hand. He turned to the left and gone. A short, skinny old man ran after him, shouting that mans name. But the man did not even look back, he simply left without saying anything. The short, skinny man sat down dejectedly, leaning against the door to the restaurant, while cursing ferociously.

    The two boys were baffled. They were just about to step in, the old man shrieked, We are closed today, we will be closed tomorrow and thereafter.

    They began to realize that this man was the owner of this restaurant; looking at him covered all over with grease, they also realized that he was the chef as well. Kou Zhong was most curious; he asked, Why wont you open hereafter?

    The old man looked at the two boys from top to bottom once, and then with a bored grunt he said, That prodigal son has left, my woman also passed away last month, how can I run this big shop alone? Hanging his head down, he sighed and said, Speaking about culinary skill, if I, Ol Zhang, am considered number two, who would dare to say that he is number one? Any dumpling oil rice, cool-breeze rice, jade-well rice [I have no idea what these are: 团油饭、清风饭、玉井饭], which one I, the Ol Zhang, am not an expert at? But that prodigal son did not understand and did not want to inherit my consummate skill, all day long he is nagging about joining the army and setting up merit. Just you see, when the day comes that he become a beggar and return home, I wont support him! Humph, I might as well return to my village so that even if he wanted to find me he couldnt.

    The two boys exchanged a glance and both squatted down. Kou Zhong said, Thats too bad, such a big restaurant is closing its door. Youd better hire us as your helpers, and at the same time, your apprentice, so that your, Master Zhang, consummate skill will not extinct. At most we only want you to pay us two hundred five zhu coins [see Chapter 50] each month.

    The Ol Zhang was stunned; he looked at them again, from top to bottom, and then after a while he curiously asked, Who are you?

    After Kou Zhong told him some made-up story, the Ol Zhang said, So its twenty strings of coins altogether?

    Each string is ten coins, twenty strings are precisely two hundred coins. Even for one person, it could be considered an unusually meager pay; now that two persons only received two hundred coins, it was excessively too harsh. No wonder even Ol Zhangs son wanted to leave.

    Kou Zhong wanted to learn his rice cooking skill, so that in the future he could make a living. But he was also proficient in scheming; therefore, without giving it a second thought he said, In that case you must also guarantee our food and lodging.

    Narrowing his eyes, Ol Zhang spoke in a strange voice, Guaranteeing your food and lodging is not a problem, but all cleaning and menial jobs will also be your responsibility.

    Kou Zhong laughed, Its a deal! he said, Right now we are extremely hungry, naturally this meal will be on Boss Zhangs account.

    And so the two boys moved in to the room upstairs that was vacant due to Ol Zhangs sons leaving. Every day before dawn they woke up and started to work. Every afternoon when the Ol Zhang closed the shop to take a nap, the two boys were responsible to purchase supplies and receive deliveries. After they closed for the night, Ol Zhang took a bath and went to bed, they washed the dishes and cleaned up.

    With such an extremely busy life, not only they did not have time to visit pleasure house for some eye-opening activity, they did not even have enough time to sleep.

    But Ol Zhang did indeed have true culinary skill; not only he was famous locally, even traveling merchants who passed by the town took pleasure in visiting the restaurant.

    The menu only consisted of three types of rice, the ones that Ol Zhang mentioned earlier, i.e. dumpling oil rice, cool-breeze rice, and jade-well rice. But Ol Zhangs skill was not limited to only these. After having Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling to help him, from time to time he also received some catering order, people who showed up at their door to have a gathering.

    Since the two boys intentionally wanted to steal his skill, plus the Ol Zhang was old and weak and thus in day-to-day operation he relied heavily on them, bit by bit he passed on his culinary skill to them.

    Three months later, they were brimming with confidence; they believed that they could spread their wings on their own. While on the other hand they grew tired of this business.

    The reason they hesitated over what move to make, and did not make up their mind to leave, was because they did not want to abandon Ol Zhang, for fear that he could not stand it.

    That night, after the shop closed, while Ol Zhang already went upstairs, the two boys had serious discussion.

    Have we made decision not to join the militia, or perhaps to become Wulin masters? Kou Zhong asked.

    Xu Ziling sprawled himself on the chair; he sighed and said, Being busy like this every day until the sky turned dark and the earth black, so that we dont have time to enjoy life, does not seem to be quite interesting.

    Kou Zhong said, How about we endure it some more? Lets stay here three more months, after the end of the year and the spring equinox [4th of the solar terms, March 21 April 4], when the weather is warm, well get out of here.

    Xu Ziling was distressed, But I am a bit reluctant to leave, he said.

    With a wry smile Kou Zhong said, Me too. But I have an idea, it is called a real man aspires to travel far and make his mark in the world. Why dont we take refuge in the Song Family of Hunan? That Song Lu did not treat us too shabbily, if we could do obeisance and take him as our master, perhaps we can really accomplish our dreams.

    And then, gnashing his teeth he said, If I can master martial art skill, the first thing I do is to kill that traitor Yuwen Huaji.

    Upset, Xu Ziling said, Last night I dreamt about Niang again, she blamed me for not having a backbone, for not having guts to avenge her.

    Kou Zhong blew a long breath, We are indeed too timid, he resolutely said, We cant be considered real men. The worst that can happen is we die. Yet these days we are afraid the hard work of training martial art, we are also afraid of fire-deviation, hence we do not dare to continue. How is it not letting Niang down? I decided that starting tomorrow, I am turning over a new leaf, I will start training again, and in the future, I will not give up before I kill Yuwen Huaji.

    Xu Zilings eyes suddenly flashed with unprecedented sharpness as he stretched out his hand to grab Kou Zhongs and said, Its good that you have made up your mind, I support it with my entire being. Back in Yangzhou our ambition was higher than the heavens; how did we become people who refuse to face reality [orig. shrink the head like a turtle]? Wed better leave tomorrow.

    Kou Zhong was amazed, How did your eyes suddenly lit up just now? Just like Niangs eyes just before she died.

    Xu Ziling was dumbstruck for half a day; he mused, Truth be told, although I did not intentionally practice, every night when I lie down, that diagram showing how to circulate the qi appeared clearly in my mind, and thus I followed it automatically.

    Kou Zhong regretfully said, If I had known earlier, I would have followed your example, diligently and relentlessly trained well. After this I definitely cannot stay idle. Alright! We will be on our way tomorrow.

    Xu Ziling muttered to himself, Who will tell Ol Zhang?

    With a wry smile Kou Zhong replied, Lets do it together. This miserly crafty old man ought to receive a bit of lesson as well.

  12. #12
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 1 - Chapter 10

    Book 1 Chapter 10 Dashing on bravely with no thought of personal safety

    When the sky was still dark early the next morning, the two boys slung their bundles over their shoulders and set off on another journey.

    It was precisely this sudden decision that would change their destiny. Not only theirs, but the Wulins as well as the worlds [tian xia] destiny.

    Their destination was the Great Sui Dynastys eastern capital, Luoyang.

    That day Song Lu said that after their business in Sichuan was done, they would go to Luoyang to look for the legendary Jade Annulus of the He Clan. Since it was not something that could be accomplished in ten days or half a moth, although it was already half a year ago, they were still thinking of going to Luoyang to try their luck, to see if they could still come across Song Lu.

    The closer they got to Yangtze River, the more they felt the oppression and chaos of war. Along the way, from time to time they met groups of refugees. When asked, nobody could give them clear answer as to whom they were fleeing from; these people could not even tell the difference between Sui army and the rebels army.

    One day they arrived at a small county town, and found a small hotel that was not busy. They slept until midnight when suddenly the street was like a boiling cauldron of voices, a total chaos. Realizing that something was amiss, the two boys hurriedly packed their bundles and rushed downstairs. Pulling aside another guest that was just about to run outside, they inquired of what was going on.

    The man replied, Du Fuwei crushed Sui army at Dongleng occupied Liyang. Its just that nobody expected to see his army coming this soon. Finished speaking, he ran away in fear.

    The two boys were surprised that Liyang would fall this soon, which means their plan of going up north by boat to Liyang was disrupted.

    When they got to the street, they saw people and carriages were fighting over the road, everybody was scrambling to escape to the south; people were screaming and calling out their child and their mothers, the cries of grief shook the heavens. Although the two boys courage was above average, at the end of the day, they were still big kids. Infected by this kind of terrible dooms-day-is-coming atmosphere, immediately their minds were on chaos, so they blindly followed the stream of people leaving the city.

    The road was littered with clothes, furniture, household utensils, shoes, everything, that people simply abandoned; evidently the situation was extremely dire. The two boys were holding on to each other with dear life, afraid that they might get separated by this tidal wave of people.

    Once they were outside the city, they saw covering the mountains and the plains were lanterns and torches of the people fleeing the war. They could not believe that such a small county town, which streets ordinarily were sparsely travelled, all of a sudden could produce these many people.

    Kou Zhong pulled Xu Ziling aside to go to different direction, following another road away from the crowd. He said in subdued voice, We still want to go north, worst case scenario it wont be via Liyang.

    Xu Ziling nodded, We should, he agreed, Well just have to be a bit more careful.

    The two boys turned; winding around the town, they proceeded to the north.

    After leaving Cui Shan, this was the first time the traveled at night. To their surprise, they found out that under the faint starlight, they could still see the road clearly.

    After walking for several hours, they saw blazing fire filling the whole sky ahead, and they heard shouting and killing noise. Panicked, the two boys ran without looking where they were going. They took a long detour, and because of this, they completely lost their sense of direction.

    By daybreak they reached a small village. While they were thinking of asking for directions, suddenly they heard the sound of hoof beats. A group of riders were charging toward their direction from the hillside. The two boys were shocked, and quickly hid inside nearby bushes.

    There were about sixty riders. But looking at their all mixed up and chaotic warrior outfits, it was clear that they were rebels army. Everyone had a green cloth tied on their arms. As soon as they entered the village, they shot dead several dogs that ran out toward them; and then they went from house to house to search, dragging several hundred villagers, men, women, young and old, out of their homes. In that instant chicken flew out and dogs ran away, parents called for their children and children cried out for their mother. The sound of wailing shook the heavens, making the two boys could not bear to watch much longer.

    If they had matchless martial art skill, by this time they would have gone out to uphold justice. But they also remembered that even a tyrannical man with superb martial art skill, who ran amuck in the world such as Chus Overlord Xiang Yu[1], still required coordination and all kinds of favorable factors before he ended up cutting his own throat at Wu Jiang [lit. Black River]. In this turbulent time, the power of a single person was negligible.

    The green cloth army divided the men and women into two separate rows, which were surrounded all around, to prevent anybody from escaping.

    It was only then that the two boys understood why upon hearing the rebel army approaching, the entire city immediately fled clean. Tragic was the fate of these villagers who heard the news but waited here, who, until the troops entered their village they still did not know what was going on.

    The two boys had never seen such troops movement; seeing how those saber-wielding, halberd-holding militia troops look fierce and ruthless as if they are ready to kill without blinking an eye, they did not even dare to breath too loud. Especially the closest militia troop was only about fifty steps away from their hiding place; it was indeed extremely dangerous.

    One of the riders, who seemed to be the rebel leader, flanked by four escorts, urged his mount toward the row of village men. He picked several healthy, robust men, and drove them to the side, where some other riders immediately tied them with ropes. They appeared extremely harsh, brutal and inhuman. Anybody dared to resist, instantly horsewhip lashed down, beating him until he was half dead.

    Watching the scene, the two boys faces turned green and their lips white, but their hearts were boiling with anger.

    As those mothers and wives saw their sons and husbands being dragged away to be forced labor, they wailed and cried out miserably that those who hear it could not bear it anymore. But those so-called righteous army maintained their fierce expression, without showing the least bit of compassion.

    [Translators note: the word volunteer army or militia consist of two characters 义军 yi jun, the first character literally means righteous.]

    Finished selecting the men, the leader went through the womenfolk and the children. Suddenly he pulled the reins. Pointing toward the crowd with his horsewhip, he barked, You, come out!

    It immediately provoked uproar among the villagers, which the rebels army quickly quenched, naturally not without several people fell down in injuries.

    Watching this, Kou Zhong, two boys eyes were bloodshot with fury, but they knew that if they stepped forward bravely right now, they would suffer the same fate. It was this moment that they knew that their idea of joining the militia was a very ignorant and nave.

    The village woman was dragged out, sure enough, she looked rather pretty, with a well-developed figure; no wonder the rebel leaders heart was moved.

    While the rebel leader was laughing lecherously, from the side a young militia soldier coldly said, Qi Laoda [boss, see Chapter 1], Du Zongguan [chief manager, also Chapter 1] has an order, we must not rape women. Qi Laoda right now is at the edge of a cliff, reining your horse; theres still time.

    This man was brimming with righteousness, and he dared to confront his superior. The two boys were surprised that there was such man in the rebel army; in their hearts they cheered for him.

    With a cold snort Qi Laoda said, Li Jing[2], you mind your own business. Am I raping any woman now? I want to bring this pretty woman back home and marry her legally, making her my official wife. Ha! Do you think Du Ye [master Du] will also manage my marriage? [reminder: guan of Zongguan above means manage]

    Li Jing was about to reply, the village woman suddenly bit the back of the green-cloth soldiers hand. The green-cloth soldier was startled and let go his grip. With the strength that nobody knew where it came from, the woman dashed out wildly from the encirclement, and ran toward the direction where Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were hiding.

    Immediately four green-cloth soldiers laughed and cursed while urging their horses to give chase.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling saw the fear in the village womans pretty eyes, their hearts swelled with righteous indignation. Forgetting about their own safety, they picked stones from the ground, jumped out of their hiding place, and threw the stones at the green-cloth soldiers pursuing the village woman.

    When they were still at Yangzhou, their most formidable martial art skill was throwing rocks. It is called with a lot of work, the art is perfected, their throw has become accurate. This time they made their move without hesitation, also it was a sudden attack that was not anticipated, two of the green-cloth soldiers were hit at the pit of their stomach and fell down from their horses.

    By this time the village womans strength was finally exhausted, she tumbled down on the ground.

    Kou Zhong suddenly felt his entire body was full of energy, the true qi inside him was surging, he felt as if he could beat two tigers to death, the strength with which he threw the rock was also doubled. With great excitement he called out, Xiao Ling, snatch the horse and save her.

    The stones were thrown in rapid succession. Two other green-cloth soldiers were about to shoot with their arrows when suddenly their cheeks were hit. With a miserable cry they fell to the ground.

    Hoof beats thundered as the rest of the green-cloth soldiers swarmed down to them.

    In the meantime Xu Ziling has already pulled the village woman up. While he was worrying about how to ride a horse, he saw the crowd of soldiers was closing in. In his panic, he forgot that he did not know martial art; hastily he rushed forward toward a war-horse, while still dragging the village woman, who seemed to be as light as nothing, he leaped onto the horseback. To his surprise, he easily landed steadily on the saddle.

    This moment Kou Zhong already jumped onto another horse. He clamped his legs on the horses belly, but the horse reared on its hind legs and threw him down on the ground.

    Xu Zilings horse was also going around in circles, he was unable to make the horse run or even move forward. The green-cloth soldiers were only about twenty steps away. The several soldiers at the front have already prepared their bows and arrows, but they were afraid of hurting the horse, hence they did not shoot.

    Zhong Shao(ye), Xu Ziling called out, Come quickly.

    Kou Zhong was at his wits end; hearing the call, he dashed madly and unexpectedly leaped high in the air and landed on Xu Zilings horseback. Wrapping his arms around Xu Zilings waist, he shouted, Lets go!

    In this urgent moment, which can make ones black hair turns white, the village woman suddenly took over the reins, and then with a shout her tiny feet kicked on the horses belly. The horse neighed wildly and dashed forward like an arrow, carrying the three people on its back.

    They saw that very soon they were about to enter a wooded area; who would have thought that there was a dirt path inside the woods? Turning to the left and winding to the right, in a flash they saw the thief soldiers were left far behind on this unfamiliar road.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling cheered in their rather strange voice. The latter suddenly remembered that he was still embracing a strangers, the unfamiliar womans fragrant and soft body.

    The good-looking, capable woman not only had consummate equestrian skill, she was also familiar with the local terrain like the back of her hand. Going into the woods, passing through the open fields, climbing mounds, going down the hills, wading the creeks, ascending the mountains, the pursuing enemys voice gradually quieted down.

    When the three people were happy, the warhorse suddenly stumbled, throwing them into the underbrush in an unsightly heap. While they were crawling to get up, the village woman suddenly cried out in alarm and covered up her chest in panic. Turned out her clothes caught on something and was ripped, exposing a large part of her snow-white breasts. The two boys were frightened and busily turning their body around.

    Noticing that she was about three, four cun [an inch, a thumb] shorter than they were, Kou Zhong tossed his bundle to her and said, All clothes are clean, pick one and put it on, we wont peek.

    Rustling noise ensued. Soon after the village womans bashful voice was heard, Im done!

    The two boys turned around and were momentarily stunned; both thought that unexpectedly she was so pretty.

    The village woman was about twenty, her eyes were deep black, her skin was unusually fair. Wearing mens clothing, she exuded some kind of spirited charm.

    The village woman beckoned to them and said in low voice, Follow me.

    The two boys looked at the foamy-mouth, about-to-die war-horse; they sighed inwardly, and dejectedly followed the village woman. After walking for about half a sichen, the village woman led them into a secluded cave on the mountain.

    As the two boys sat down, the village woman said with her head hung low, Thank you two heroes [the word here is hao han strong and courageous man] for offering help from a sense of justice. Xiao Nuzi [little/lowly woman] is extremely grateful.

    Addressed by her as heroes, the two boys were elated that they felt they were high in the clouds; while at the same time they were surprised, because not only this woman did not look like a village woman, from the way she talked, it did not appear like she grew up in some remote and desolate place.

    The pretty village woman saw the two boys were staring at her with their big eyes, with a doubtful expression on their faces, and then she realized that although these two look tall and sturdy, they were in fact still big boys who were younger than she was, whose faces still looked nave and childish. Involuntarily the bashfulness and fear in her heart subsided considerably.

    Nu jia [lit. servant/slave; yet another word for lowly woman, referring to self] is called Susu, she said softly, Really isnt a Pujia Village resident, its just that I got separated from my master that I fled to this place and received Pujia Village peoples kindness in offering shelter to me!

    Relieved, Kou Zhong said, Susu Jiejie [older sister, term of endearment] is so pretty, it doesnt matter whether it was kindness or ill-intention, I am sure a lot of people will scramble to offer you shelter.

    Susus pretty face blushed as she protested, Its not like that!

    Seeing Kou Zhong was starting to flirt, Xu Ziling gave him a rebuking stare as he asked, How long have Jiejie lived there? How did you become so familiar with this area?

    Kou Zhong added with a laugh, Jiejies equestrian skill is so formidable.

    The two boys were used to be despised and scorned by others, so if anybody was a bit kind to them, they were easily touched. And now suddenly there was this pretty older sister who regarded them as hero [now the word is ying xiong hero], it was obvious that they felt a novel excitement. Yet for some unknown reason, Susus pretty face blushed even deeper.

    I only lived in Pujia Village for a month, she whispered, But I have come with the villagers to go hunting in this area. As for equestrian skill, why, it was my masters Miss who taught me. Dont the two of you know how to ride?

    The two boys were greatly embarrassed. Inwardly they thought how could there be any heroes [this time its the combination of two: ying xiong hao han, which in English usually is being translated simply as heroes] who didnt know how to ride?

    Kou Zhong cleared his throat, and then, not even dare to look at her he asked, Jiejies Miss, where does she live?

    Being called Jiejie this and Jiejie that by these two boys, Susu was also sighing in happiness in her heart. With a tender voice she said, My Miss is Zhai Rang Laoyes [old master] only daughter, Zhai Wuxia [FYI, her name means without flaw]. That day our troops were under surprise attack, in the confusion we got separated from each other. But my Miss has an outstanding martial art skill, so she should be alright. Now I ought to return to Rongyang.

    The two boys were moved immediately. These past three months when they worked at the restaurant, everyday they heard all kinds of news and rumor from the traveling merchants. One of the often-mentioned information was precisely about Zhai Rang and his top general Li Mi. Zhai Rang was known as Great Dragon Head [i.e. big boss], the leader of the Wa Gang army. Six years ago, along with his subordinate, another valiant general Xu Shiji, rose up in rebellion at Fort Wa Gang, seizing that territory and proclaimed himself king. Time and again they defeated the Sui army, but was then subdued by Sui general Zhang Xutuo, and since then he was unable to expand his influence anymore.

    Last year, Li Mi threw his lot with Zhai Rang, thus doubling Zhai Rangs strength. Li Mi attacked and crushed Sui army at Dahai Temple [lit. big ocean] in Rongyang, in which battle Zhang Xutuo was killed. Since then Wa Gang armys prowess was greatly flourishing, and implicitly became the chief of the worlds militias, and thus by men and horses of various paths he was honored as the big boss. Indeed he was not a nobody. It had not occurred to the two boys that the beautiful Jiejie was Zhai Rangs daughters maid.

    The astonished Kou Zhong asked, Isnt Rongyang lies about a hundred li east of the eastern capital Luoyang? Its really far away from here. How did Jiejie end up here?

    Susu replied, Miss wanted to go to Liyang to listen to the worlds number one talented lady Shang Xiufangs singing; who would have thought that our itinerary was leaked out, and before reaching Liyang something bad happened. If not for Jiejies horse was fast, I would not have the fortune to come across you here.

    Unwittingly she also considered herself to be their Jiejie.

    Just then, there was a light cough from the cave mouth.

    The three people were greatly startled; they all looked to the cave mouth, and saw a tall, majestic looking, sturdy man of about twenty-three or twenty-four, was coming into the cave.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling sprang up, and both stood in front of Susu to shield her. Kou Zhong took a closer look, and his countenance fell, Arent you the one they called Li Jing?

    The newcomer was indeed Li Jing who reprimanded the green-cloth army leader just now. He did not look handsome at all, but his countenance looked forthright, the bridge of his nose was high, his forehead wide, his eyes were sparkling with spirit, giving other people the impression of poise and resourcefulness.

    Li Jing smiled, revealing two rows of white teeth, a strong contrast with his dark, rough complexion. He nodded in astonishment and said, I am indeed Li Jing. This Xiao Xiongdis vision is really formidable. At that time you and I were separated by at least a distance of 150 steps, unexpectedly you are able to recognize Ol Lis appearance, so that in just one look you can call out my name correctly. But looking at your skill, you dont look like someone who had trained martial art. This is very strange.

    The two boys trembled with fear inwardly. Just based on one sentence from Kou Zhong, he was able to deduce so many things. It was clear that he had vast knowledge, experience and wisdom.

    From behind, Susus trembling voice spoke up, At most Ill come with hero [hao han] back, but you must not harm them.

    Li Jing laughed aloud and said, Just based on Miss compassionate and righteous sentence, even if I, Li Jing, have to risk my life, I will definitely protect you. The three of you may set your heart at ease. I came here alone. That Qi Laoda has been shot to death by me, the Ol Li. If that rapist, evil man were allowed to live in this world, he might harm several more people.

    Looking at his posture and bearing, Kou Zhong knew that even he and Xu Ziling fought together, they were still not the opponents match; much less he was armed with long saber and bow and arrow. But he did say that he shot Qi Laoda to death, and he did say that he was going to protect them, so he had no reason to deceive them. Thereupon he relaxed his guard and said, Li Dage [big brother], please sit down.

    Li Jing took off the bow and arrows on his back, and put down the saber on his waist before coming over and sat down in front of the three. After everybody was seated, he smiled and said, I ought to arrive earlier, but because I had to erase your tracks first, I spent quite a bit of time.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other, they said with regret, We did not think about that.

    Li Jing happily patted his shoulder, while raising the thumb of his other hand. To see what is right and act courageously, to defy the strong, is the conduct of a real man, he said, Rarer still, you two are not fully grown men, yet you have this kind of guts, wisdom and skill. In the future, you will definitely be outstanding men. And then turning to Susu he said, Miss horsemanship is superb.

    Being praised by him, the three people were blushing, but they also grew favorable impression toward him.

    Susu asked, Could those green-cloth troops take their anger out on Pujia village people?

    Li Jing nonchalantly said, Thats the second reason I was late. I had to set those innocent villagers free. Killing Qi Laoda and those sidekicks and hunting dogs of his only took the time needed to drink several sip of hot tea.

    Although Susu was glad, she was also aghast that he considered killing all those men as not a big deal.

    Li Jing indifferently said, Only by killing them I could seize their horses. But I only brought two horses, because I did not anticipate that Miss is not Pujia Village native. But now that I see Miss, I know that we are still one horse short.

    Listening to him, Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings hearts swelled with respect. This Li Jing was definitely a person of wisdom and valor; but they also could not help feeling a bit afraid of him.

    After seizing the two boys up and down several times, Li Jing said in earnestness, This is the period when the whole country is in rebellion. When armed troops are against each other, its either you are dead or I perish. Those who are not vicious and merciless enough will be wiped out. As long as we can see our goal clearly and fix our own principle, distinguishing thoroughly between right and wrong, black and white, friends or foe in righteousness, we will be able to face the heaven and the earth with clear conscience.

    The two boys nodded, indicating they accepted the instruction.

    Susu asked, Those you did not kill, could they still be looking for us?

    Li Jing smiled and said, The most important thing for them is looking for me to settle the account. Although Du Fuweis fame for fighting prowess is great, he is not a good material for vying over the world [tian xia]. Not only he condones his men, he is greedy of short-term small benefit; he enlists people into his army by force, and thus provoking the heavens anger and the mens blame, causing villages and towns to be abandoned. Its really like drinking poison to quench thirst. I originally considered him as an important character, but now I can see everything clearly.

    Kou Zhong loved to talk about militia matters, too bad Xu Ziling was not too interested, so he did not have anybody to talk about it with. Right now he met Li Jing, someone with inside information, so he happily asked, Li Dage, in your opinion, which rebel army is the most promising?

    Xu Zilings thought was more thorough; recalling that Susu could be considered as Zhai Rangs people, he reminded him, Zhong Shao, dont talk nonsense.

    Li Jing noticed how Xu Ziling seemed to be incessantly making eye signals to Kou Zhong while referring to Susu; he was astonished and asked, Which party does Miss belong to?

    Susu hurriedly told him about her past, and then said, Xiao Bi [lowly maid servant/slave girl] has never been familiar with the matter of the worlds great powers; you must not have any misgivings on account of me.

    Apparently Li Jing had high respect toward Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling; he seriously said, Looking at todays situation, although rebels army are everywhere, but those who can be considered excellent characters are not many. Right now the prime example of one with most fame and power is Great Dragon Head Zhai Rang; however, Zhai Yes [master] subordinate Great General Li Mis fame and power is actually above his, plus he is extremely well-versed in military strategy and tactics. Hence the relationship between master and subordinate is not clear. This will bring trouble in the future.

    Susus countenance changed, What should we do then? she asked.

    Li Jing grimly said, If Miss will trust the Ol Li, from now on you need to distance yourself from the Zhai family, to avoid the boat capsize the people perish disaster in the future.

    Susu said in sad voice, Since childhood Xiao Bi has been sold to the Zhai Family. At that time Laoye [old master] was still a court of law officer at Shujun [lit. Shu county(?)]. Later on because he killed the son of an influential official, he was condemned to death; hence he rose in rebellion and declared his independence. Not only that, Miss has always been treating me like a sister; how could I abandon her at this point?

    Kou Zhong was tongue-tied. He then said, Turns out Zhai Rang is still considered the most formidable. But is Li Mi the most promising?

    Li Jing could not stop himself from laughing. The way you use most promising [zui you qian tu], these four characters are very interesting. I can see that in the future Xiao Xiongdi will become an eloquent orator. What you said is correct; not only Li Mi nowadays has several Wulin martial art masters under his command, he is skilled in the art of war and is able to move the troops like a deity, he is also a charismatic leader. In short, he is a figure with grand ambitions to win the world [orig. to inquire of the tripods]. Problem is, his rivals are simply too many. First and foremost are the Four Powerful Clans, who have a large number of talents within their ranks. They would not sit still watching the Suis world [tian xia] fall into someone of common family name. Such powerful clans opinion is deep-rooted; nobody can change it. Moreover, the biggest advantage of the Four Powerful Clans is that time and again the members of their Clan have held high positions in the imperial court, they are skillful in governing the country. This is something that ordinary citizens of mountain and fields who rise in rebellion cannot match. Du Fuwei is the best example. Even if his martial art skill is outstanding, its difficult for him to accomplish big things.

    The two boys remembered Yuwen Huaji immediately, their faces revealed deep hatred. Li Jing noticed this and asked in bewilderment, Ol Li has not inquired two Xiao Xiongdis names.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling knew that he has seen through the load in their mind, hence they thought that from their names, he could speculate their background. Xu Ziling then told him their names, and calmly added, Yuwen Huaji killed our Niang, therefore, we want to look for him for revenge.

    Naturally Li Jing could not figure out the twists and turns of this matter, he thought Yuwen Huaji really killed their Niang just like Yang Guang implicated a lot of common people, making family bankrupt and the people dead; that kind of tragedy.

    And then Xu Ziling narrated to him thoroughly, and so he understood the details. He could not refrain from speaking solemnly, Obviously the two Xiao Xiongdi have not entered the world too deeply. There are rules that must be known before you started. Jianghu has a saying, Meeting people by chance, speak only three-tenth. There are too many people who on the surface look reliable, but in certain situation may become an enemy. Every word you said could potentially become the cause of your demise.

    The two boys nodded their head indicating they accepted the advice.

    Susu was touched. Li Dage is really good to them, she said.

    Li Jing replied seriously, Very few people can hit it off with the Ol Li as soon as we meet; those who have dead hearts are unbearably many. There are a lot of things in the world that seem to be impossible, but can be done single-handedly by ambitious people. Commoners can be bestowed the title marquis or revered as prime minister, so much so that they can reach the top to the emperors throne. People who have nothing at all also can become rich merchant wealthy tycoons. This kind of matter is not without any precedence, so you can greatly encourage yourselves with this.

    Listening to this, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were radiant with delight. This conversation with Li Jing has been like encountering bright beacon light in the dark night at the angry sea; making them see hope and giving them goals to achieve, and reignited the ambition that was hit hard by Fu Junchuos death.

    Li Jing continued, Other than Zhai Rang and Li Mi, those with most fame and power are Wang Bo, Dou Jiande and Du Fuwei. These three top powers are the most, hey, the most promising.

    Seeing a person with a lot of insight and vast experience like Li Jing was also willing to adopt his phrase, Kou Zhong was very proud of himself.

    Du Fuwei, you have already commented, he said, Wang Bo and Dou Jiande, whats so formidable about these guys?

    Pfft! Susu broke into laughter as she spoke up, How can you casually call people guys?

    Smiling, Li Jing said, Kou Xiao Xiong still has naivet! Wang Bo is the number one master of the Chang Bai Sect, he is known in Wulin world as the Whip King, but he calls himself Zhi Shi Lang [its hard to translate succinctly, it basically means the minister/official/youth who understood the world/lifetime/era]. He composed the song Dont Go Toward Liaodong [peninsula, between Bohai and Yellow Sea] and Wasted in Death, which penetrated deeply into the peoples heart. He also knows how to grasp the popular sentiment; hence he receives great support from Shandong [province, northeast China] populace, far surpasses Du Fuwei.

    After a short pause he continued, If internal strife arose between Zhai Rang and Li Mi, I have no doubt that the one reaping the benefit must be Qinghe [county, Hebei] man Dou Jiande. This man is the overlord of the dark road [criminal/underworld] in Hebei. He has been absent for a long time. Later on, because his family and relatives were wiped out by men who were sent by Yang Guang, in his anger he joined Gao Shidas militia. When Gao Shida died in battle, the leadership of the militia then fell into his hands. This mans martial art skill already reached the state of perfection, his men numbered in hundred thousand. They occupied Gao Jibo and made it the base of their operations, their influence reached the Yellow River. This man cannot be ignored.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Listening to Li Dages analysis sure beats listening to his mothers at the restaurant for three months. Those Yang Xuangan, Song Zixian, Wang Xuba, Wei Daoer, Li Zitong, Lu Mingyue, Liu Wuzhuo, and what have you. Listening about that bunch of names my head was swollen. Turns out the most formidable ones are only these few.

    Li Jing took out dry rations for everyone to share. He said, We must stay here until late into the night before we can leave. By that time the pursuing troops would have been weary and their horses tired from the earlier commotion. Even if we come across them, we wont have anything to worry.

    The two boys already regarded Li Jing, they simply nodded their heads vigorously.

    Susu asked, Now that Li Dage has left Du Fuwei, whats your plan for the future?

    Li Jing did not answer. He asked them instead, What about the three of you? Whats your plan?

    Hanging down her head, Susu said, I am thinking of returning to Rongyang to look for Miss, asking her to warn Laoye to guard against Li Mi.

    Kou Zhong replied, We want to go to Luoyang to find a friend.

    Li Jing nodded. I am thinking of going to the Capital to see what will be the destiny of the Sui people, he said, Since we all are going to the north anyway, let me see the three of you off for a while! Along the way I can teach two Xiao Xiongdi some horseback riding and archery, as well as some basic martial art skills.

    Shifu! the two boys called out in great delight.

    Li Jing laughed in spite of himself, By all means you must not call me Shifu, he said, We are of the same generation who happen to make friends and exchange pointers. Besides, the basic internal training your Niang has laid down for you is indeed deep and immeasurable, plus the two of you have extremely fine bones, and are quick-witted and adaptable. In the future you will definitely become people of great power and influence or at least martial art experts of this age. Perhaps right now you dont even believe in yourselves, but future facts will definitely confirm the truth that I did not make any error in judgment.

    While the two boys you look at me, I look at you, Li Jing already straightened up and rose up. Let me teach you how to ride first, he said, Later on I will teach you saber technique. Back and forth my saber technique only consists of about a dozen styles. It will be most beneficial to be used to charge into thousand troops ten thousand horses, but to contend for supremacy in Jianghu, I am afraid it will be inadequate. Only in rushing headlong in the battlefield will it shows its infinite power, you wont have to fear the enemys many men and great force. As for the Ol Lis archery skill, it originated from Hu peoples [generic name for non-Han people] equestrian archery technique, hence I rather have confidence in myself.

    The two boys have never imagined that they would have this fortuitous meeting; hence they promptly prostrated themselves to express their gratitude.

    Li Jing roared in laughter and led them out of the cave.

    [1] Xiang Yu the Conqueror (232-202 BC), warlord defeated by the first Han emperor.

    [2] There was a real historical character Li Jing (570-649AD), Tang Dynasty general and purported author of Duke Li of Wei Answering Emperor Taizong of Tang, one of the Seven Military Classics of ancient China; not sure if this Li Jing was the same one. I guess well have to wait to find out.

  13. #13
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 1 - Chapter 11

    Book 1 Chapter 11 Pursuing Troops Sudden Arrival

    When darkness fell that day, because the two boys riding skill was not perfected yet, the four people rode on two horses, leaving one horse as spare, in case they had to make their escape by taking advantage of the dark. Li Jing and Xu Ziling rode together, while Kou Zhong and Susu rode the other horse.

    Kou Zhong wrapped his arms around Susus waist, leaning close to her fragrant back, smelling the sweet fragrance of her body and her hair; he was wishing that they could continue like this forever.

    On one hand, Susu was still fearful and nervous, secondly, she already regarded Kou Zhong as her little brother; although she did feel the close contact between them, the feeling was not intense. It had never occurred to her that this kid Kou Zhong was immersing himself in this pleasure.

    Li Jing was definitely not an ordinary character; from time to time he would dismount and put his ear on the ground to listen whether there was hidden troops on the road ahead. He also knew how to make use of the terrain to mask their route; he was not impatient or reckless at all.

    By daybreak, the four of them finally left the danger zone and entered the suburb on the outskirt of Danyang County area.

    Jiangdu of Yangzhou was the last big city on the tributary of Yangtze River before it flows into the ocean. From here to the west were precisely Danyang and Liyang, two big strategic cities along the river. If Liyang fell into the hands of Du Fuwei, the river route along Yangtze was immediately cut off, while at the same time threw Danyang into a state of emergency.

    But Li Jing pointed out that it would not be easy for Du Fuwei to capture Liyang, he only had enough power to invade the neighboring villages and towns nearby, which were powerless to resist. Even stabilizing Liyang would require him to ask for the Heavens blessing, so invading Danyang would be out of question.

    Second reason was that Yang Guang remained in control of the Capital, Daxing, the eastern capital Luoyang, and the coastal Jiangdu, three of the countrys most important strategic cities.

    After the three big canals, Guangtong, Tongji and Yongji, were connected to each other, the north and south were also connected into one stretch, and the water transportation had the three strategic cities closely linked with each other, enabling the Sui countrys army, whose power was growing, to be deployed rapidly to the south to suppress the rebellion.

    Supposing that Luoyang was Emperor Yangs eastern capital, then Yangzhous Jiangdu was his southern capital. Both were areas that must be fought over, and both were areas that Emperor Yang must defend. Therefore, the Sui army spared no expense in defending Danyang, so that no disaster would reach Jiangdu.

    From this, it can be seen that Du Fuwei occupying Liyang was the turning point in the struggle between the rebels army and the Sui army.

    The closer they were to Danyang, the more they felt the tension of the situation. They saw continuous flow of warships going toward Jiangdu, as well as warships bound for Danyang. The Sui army set up checkpoint everywhere, prohibiting members of Wulin from entering Danyang, causing people who did not live in Danyang to turn back and spread rumors that Danyang was already closed.

    Fortunately they had no intention of entering Danyang to begin with, so they simply entered the neighboring rural county and sold the three war-horses and made a small fortune.

    Li Jing divided the silver into four parts and urged the others to keep to money and hide it well; he said, At the time of turmoil and chaos of war, anything might happen. Right now the three biggest power among the rebels, Dou Jiande occupied Hebei, Du Fuwei took over Huai River, while Zhai Rang held control over the Central Plains[1]; the situation will gradually become clear. It also put the Sui army fragmentation in the open. However, taking the opportunity of the uprising, four black hegemons started to loot, the black road [again, black here refers to criminal/underworld] powers intending to get their share of the action are measured in cartloads and gallons. If anyone meets some mishaps along the way, we will try to rendezvous at Gaoyou [county level city in Yangzhou], and well find a ship from there to go up north by the canal, trying to make it to Luoyang.

    After giving Susu a couple of glances, he noticed that due to her thin clothing, she was shivering from the cold. He said, Tonight well find a hotel here to get some rest. You two and Susu go buy some warm winter clothes to avoid getting sick due to the exposure to cold weather and snow. When you are done, well meet again here.

    Li Dage, where are you going? Kou Zhong wondered.

    Li Jing squinted his eyes under the bright afternoon sun to scan the shops lining both sides of the street; he seemed to be looking for something. I want to look for a weapon store, to see if I can find two similar long saber for you to defend yourselves. I hope the price is not too high! In time like this, selling sabers and swords is the best business.

    Kou Zhong was greatly delighted. In that case, he said, Lets go our separate way to do our business!

    Upon splitting up, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling walked on the right and left of Susu, following the crowd of pedestrians along the long street trying to find clothing store. This town was near Danyang; it was extremely thriving. Due to refugees who fled from Liyang, it was even more lively. However, there was a faint impenetrable fear and nervousness in the air. Most of the shops have already closed their door.

    Xu Ziling said, Maybe wed better go to the marketplace to see if there is any mobile vendor stall over there? Thereupon the three of them changed direction toward the marketplace.

    Because of the crowd, Susu reached out to hold on to the two boys arms so that they would not get separated, but also to get a bit of warmth from them. This had made the two boys pleased and a bit bewitched by her.

    Kou Zhong whispered in Susus ear, Jiejied better buy mens clothing; if you wear hat, it will cover Jiejies beautiful hair, others wont be able to see that Jiejie is actually a very beautiful woman.

    Being praised like that, Susu nodded her head cheerfully.

    In the meantime the three of them have entered the marketplace. Sure enough, there were a large number of street stalls with their merchandise laid out on the ground, hawking all kinds of goods, especially winter clothing.

    Xu Ziling also whispered in Susus ear, Wed better trim your long hair a little bit, and have your hair in a male bun like ours. It will be even more foolproof [orig. in ten thousand, not one fail].

    Susu happily said, Will you do that for me?

    The two boys bragged, Naturally that would be best!

    Susu pulled the two boys to stop at one of the street vendors, and enthusiastically selected a set of winter clothing and a pair of winter boots with exceptionally high heels. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were highly amused, while their hearts were filled with warm feeling.

    Suddenly, almost at the same time the two of them noticed several rogue, local-ruffian like, strong and muscular men nearby were staring lecherously at Susu, who were squatting on the ground, while whispering to each other. The two boys felt very uneasy, while cursing in their hearts.

    Kou Zhong hurriedly stooped down to help Susu picking suitable set of clothing. And then, without haggling over the price, he painfully paid at more than twice the price, and quickly turned around and left.

    As soon as they were out of the marketplace, the two boys breathed a sigh of relief.

    Bang! They were just entering the main street, someone crossed the street and fiercely bumped his shoulder against Xu Zilings shoulder.

    Xu Ziling was caught off-guard, naturally his shoulder recoiled a little before he sent out his strength to react; at the same time the sole of his feet felt hot, as if there was a stream of heat flowing toward his shoulder.

    Ah! the man cried out in pain and fell back, nearly sitting on the ground.

    When the three of them halted their steps in shock, six other men came out to block their path and shouted, You hit people!

    The two boys took a closer look; sure enough, four out of six were the hoodlums who stared at Susu a moment ago, immediately they knew what was going on.

    Other passerby got out of their way in a flurry, afraid a disaster would come to the fish in the moat[2].

    Susus flower-like countenance paled, Xu Ziling pulled her back two steps, while Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Everywhere under the sun [orig. five lakes four oceans] are brothers, a long and difficult road [orig. ten thousand rivers a thousand mountains] is a family. Yangzhous Zhu Hua Bang [Bamboo Flower Gang] Second Halls Hall Master is our Ah Gong [could be grandpa, or simply elder]; I wonder how should I address these Dage [big brother]. He also performed the secret hand signal of the Bamboo Flower Gang.

    The seven hoodlums exchanged glances with each other, while also made a bit panicky signals with their hands and feet.

    Bamboo Flower Gang had a rather considerable power in Yangzhou region, otherwise Kou Zhong would not invent crazy nonsense about him being Bamboo Flower Gang member.

    One of the men, a bulky man who was clearly the leader, took a step forward and said, I dont care who you are, the fact is that you hit one of our brothers. How are you going to compensate for that?

    Since he was a kid Kou Zhong grew up in the marketplace, how could he not know that the situation before his eyes would be difficult to defuse? Seeing how these mens eyes fell on Susus ample breasts, although he was a bit apprehensive, he knew that they could not run away. Therefore, hardening his heart, he laughed aloud again and said, Money, we dont have any; but lives, we do have a couple. If you have enough ability, come and get it.

    With a gust of wind the thug on his left sent out a sweeping kick.

    Kou Zhong was greatly surprised; how could this guys leg move so slowly? It just did not make any sense.

    Another man charged from the right, sending a fist toward his face.

    When these two boys were still in Yangzhou, it could be said that they grew up with fighting and receiving a beating, hence their experience was incomparably rich. They were used to fight together, so as soon as the opponents made their move, Xu Ziling pulled Susu two steps back. But as he was about to join the fray, Kou Zhong, as if he had eyes behind his back, called out, You watch for Jiejie.

    Kou Zhong leaned sideways to evade the attack, and then sent a kick to the left, while simultaneously ducked down and struck with his arm, punching the lower abdomen of the thug who attacked his face. His movement was so nimble that even Xu Ziling was awestruck.

    More fantastic things happened: right when Kou Zhong was brandishing his arm, he felt his whole body was immersed in unspeakable coolness, while from the top of his head a stream of cold feeling flowed down, linking up the channels on his arm, and burst forth from his fist.

    Bang! The sound of his fist striking its target was mixed with a miserable scream of his victim, whose entire body flew out and crashed onto another thug; the two men were thrown to the ground, rolling around as one entity like a gourd, totally battered and exhausted.

    While Kou Zhong was looking at his own fist in disbelief, his ears caught Susu and Xuzilings cry of alarm; he knew something was wrong. Right this moment another man kneed him on his back. Kou Zhong tumbled forward in pain.

    Seeing his sneak attack succeeded, the hoodlum wanted to follow-up with another attack, but suddenly he felt a burst of cold stream rushed forth wildly into his body from his knee, making him feel as if he had been thrown into an icehouse, while his brain was jolted with severe pain. Before he knew what was going on, he suddenly found out that he was laying face up on the ground, unable to crawl back up.

    Kou Zhong dropped down and rolled away to evade the incoming two kicks; amazingly, the pain on his back suddenly went away without any medicine.

    As he sprang up, he found out that Xu Ziling was dashing on bravely with no thought of his safety. Bang, bang, pow, pow! He sent punches and kicks toward the remaining five overbearing thugs without reservation.

    The first thug who was hit by Kou Zhongs punch and the one who kneed him from behind were still lying on the ground, unable to get up.

    Xu Ziling fought like he was mad or was possessed; he was completely ignoring the incoming punches and kicks, yet was able to lightly evade the attacks, while ferociously counterattacked. The ones hit by him immediately sprayed blood from their mouth and fell down to the ground.

    Kou Zhong still did not understand what was going on.

    By this time there were hundreds of people all around them, cheering and clapping for them. At the same time he caught a glimpse of several government officers, while shouting and yelling, squeezing their way through the crowd.

    Kou Zhong immediately called out, Xiao Ling, the legs [sic] are coming, pull back!

    Xu Ziling jumped in fright. He launched a flying kick toward the last opponent, and then turned around, and together with Kou Zhong and Susu, slipped away as fast as they could.

    The three people ran for a while until the found a secluded place where they could change into their winter clothes. By the time they emerged from an alley and turned into the main street, at first glance people would merely see three ordinary young men.

    Susu was still very much afraid, but her expression was happy, knowing that the two boys were fighting for her.

    On the way toward the agreed place where they were going to rendezvous with Li Jing, the two boys turned their faces toward Susus flowery pretty face while excitedly narrated what has just happened.

    Very proud of himself, Kou Zhong said, When that out-of-luck guy hit me on my back, it was so painful that I was about to vomit blood, but in the blink of an eye there was a comfortable cool qi bubbling forth in my entire body, so comfortable that I wanted to call Niang, and all the pain was gone. And that guy was shaken back by laozis [I, your father] inner strength protecting my body that he nearly lost his eggs.

    Hearing him speaking all those vulgar words, Susu felt an unspeakable intimacy and delight instead; she pulled the two boys arms closer.

    Xu Ziling laughed aloud and said, You are cool I am hot. I have never had such an immensely enjoyable fight. Real tooth real jaw, one man one punch, he hit me I am alright, I hit him he spurted blood. If the first level of Nine Mysteries Power is already this formidable, just think what would happen if we train to the ninth level, wont we blow off Yuwen Huagus eggs altogether?

    Kou Zhong stretched out his head to get a good sniff at Susus hair; swaying his head he said with a sigh, Our good Jiejie smells really good, no wonder she attracted that many wild bees and wandering butterflies.

    Susu was ticklish and shrunk down her neck. Xiao Zhong, she said angrily, If you keep making mischief, I am going to tell Li Dage.

    Xu Ziling also brought his nose closer and sucked in a deep breath, while saying with a laugh, One sniff per person, its only fair.

    Susu laughed so hard that her beautiful body shook, while she tried to dodge left and right. The three of them zigzagging on the street, catching the attention of other passerby.

    Susu suddenly pulled the boys to stop, while calling out, We are here!

    The three of them still refused to let their hands go; they huddled together and yakety-yak they chatted incessantly. Yet there was not the slightest degree of improper thought or evil desire between men and women at all, there was only a pure, innocent love between sister and brother who have gone through trials and tribulations together.

    After waiting for a while and Li Jing has not returned, the three of them retreated toward a nearby small alley perpendicular to the main street, where they continued their chatting and joking.

    Kou Zhong jokingly said, Jiejie must not go back to where your Miss of the Zhai family resides. Servant girls have always had to suffer maltreatment, much less when your Laoye failed to overcome Li Mi, Jiejies life will be miserable. Those so-called righteous army people [see my earlier note, Chapter 10 on righteous army] are mostly worse than beast. I wonder how many are like Li Dage.

    With a bitter laugh Susu said, Jiejie has no family no relatives; if I dont go back to Zhai family, where would I go?

    Xu Ziling excitedly said, You can come with Li Dage and us roaming the other end of the world! This world is so big, wherever we go, we can stay there making money and taking care of Jiejie. Only that kind of life wont bore us to death!

    Susu caught on the excitement. Thats right! she said, I can wash your clothes, I can attend to your daily life. Ay! I am sure Li Dage wont be willing join us in that kind of life. He is a broad-minded and open man, a man who aims high. Just look how he is always in deep contemplation and youll see what I mean.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, In that case you can be with us, two brothers then. We will be together forever, we promise to be obedient and show filial piety to Jiejie.

    Susu was overjoyed, We will be very happy then, she said. Oh! There is just one thing wrong: some day you will get married and bear children, wont my pitiful situation become very awkward?

    Striking his chest, Xu Ziling promised, For Jiejie, we will never get married.

    Susu shook her head, How can that be? she asked, Carryon on your ancestral line is every mans duty. It would be better if Jiejie is married to the two of you.

    What? the two boys were shocked.

    Susu matter-of-factly and innocently said, In Pujia Village, there are a lot of two brothers marrying one wife. At night they all sleep together.

    Kou Zhongs eyes lit up, Thats a lot of fun too!

    Xu Ziling shook his head, That wont do, he said, It would be better if we draw lots to decide who get to marry Jiejie, the loser will have to find a way to find his own wife.

    In complete bliss, Susu said, No, no, the right thing is: the loser will have to marry me. In the future both of you will become great heroes, the wife youll find will definitely be much better than having Jiejie as your wife.

    The three people looked at each other, then they doubled-up in laughter at the same time. Pulling one another in a group hug, their hearts were brimming with a genuine, pure feeling that they would not part forever.

    Gasping for breath, Kou Zhong said, Jiejie really knows how to play with us, how to coax us to be this happy, while actually she only wants to marry Li Dage!

    Susus pretty face immediately blushed deep red. Dont talk nonsense! she angrily said.

    Xu Ziling struggled hard to suppress his laughter until tears streaming down his face. Suddenly he saw a group of men, about a dozen men were walking across the street. Each one looked around with his eyes wide open. Two of those men had black head and swollen face; they were precisely the thugs who received lessons from them earlier.

    Hurriedly he pulled the other two aside to hide behind a big tree in an alley across the street. By this time Kou Zhong and Susu have also seen the men. They all held their breath in fear.

    Why havent Li Dage returned? Susu said, With him here, we have nothing to fear.

    The two boys were also wondering, Li Jing only wanted to buy some blades, there was no reason he would take such a long time.

    Overwhelmed with horror, Xu Ziling said, Within this bunch of hooligans, there are two or three that look like they belong to the same gang, plus they carry weapons. I am afraid they dont have any good intention.

    Kou Zhong said in a low voice, If we have sabers, we need not fear them, but we must never take their blades. Although our martial art skill is high, I am afraid the first level of Nine Mysteries Power is not enough to withstand weapons, especially necks are so frail.

    Dont say that! Susu shrieked, Ay! Where is Li Dage?

    Right this moment, from the other end of the alley someone staggered along in their direction, it was precisely Li Jing.

    The three people were scared out of their wits and rushed over. As soon as Li Jing saw them, his legs gave up and he collapsed to the ground.

    Like an arrow Kou and Xu, two boys darted forward and propped him up from left and right.

    Susu nearly threw herself into Li Jings bosom, but when her hands touched his clothes, she was aghast to find that her hands were soaked with blood.

    Li Jings face was completely devoid of any blood; strenuously, he said in low voice, Five men from Du Fuweis team of martial art masters Law Enforcement Regiment have come. I killed four of them, but one escaped. You dont have to worry about me, just run away immediately, otherwise it will be too late.

    Susu waved her hands and feet frantically, Where is the blood-clotting powder? We must stop Dages bleeding first.

    Kou Zhong knew the situation was critical, he pointed to one of the backdoors nearby. Together with Xu Ziling they helped Li Jing toward the door, pushed the door open by force, and took refuge in someones rear courtyard. Susu quickly pushed the wooden door closed again.

    The courtyard was overgrown with weed, apparently the residents of this house have left earlier.

    By this time Li Jing has already fallen into a semi-conscious state. The three people did not have time to observe propriety. They broke into the house, lay Li Jing on a long table, and took off his clothes. To their surprise they found out that he had at least seven wound, the deep ones reached his bones, the shallow ones cut into his flesh. Fortunately, except for the most critical saber cut on is torso, the other cuts were either on his back, arms or thigh. Apparently the battle was very dangerous and very intense.

    In this critical situation Kou Zhong was not flustered, Xiao Ling, go find blood-clotting medicine, I will try to get a horse cart. Either by stealing, robbing or swindling, dont care about it too much. Well leave as soon as it is dark.

    Susu was busy examining and cleaning up the wound with tears streaming down her face. The three people looked at each other, they all determined to save Li Jings life. Then the two boys left separately.

    With great difficulty Xu Ziling managed to find a drugstore and bought some blood-clotting powder. When he was rushing back, he came face to face with the group of thugs they saw earlier. Xu Ziling noticed that every single one of them carried either a sword or a saber; they looked fierce and menacing. Busily he raised his collar and continued walking briskly with head hung low.

    As they past each other, he was recognized by one of the men who received a beating from him. Its him! the man shouted.

    Qiang! Qiang! the sound of the evil thugs sword leaving its sheathe lingered in the air, the other pedestrians were so scared that they scattered like flying chicken or running dogs.

    Xu Ziling did not have even a cun of weapon in his possession; even if he did, he would not dare to fight so many people. He yelled and ran like mad along the street.

    The evil thugs ran after him in hot pursuit.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong could be considered experts in running away. When they were in Yangzhou, every time they were defeated, they had to rely on their two feet to save their lives. This time, turning to the left and winding to the right, fully utilizing the other pedestrians as barrier between him and the pursuing troops, he ran faster and faster away.

    He felt the warm stream inside his body was circulating endlessly. The sole of his left foot was steaming hot, while the sole of his right foot was icy-cold. The more he ran, the more he felt comfortable. His mind was as calm as the still water; he even nearly forgot the enemy.

    By the time he rounded a bent and entered a small alley, he had left the bunch of thugs far behind that he could not even see them.

    Xu Ziling made another circle before returning to their safe house. When he arrived, Susu was waiting for him while her heart was burning with anxiety.

    The two of them scrambled with their hands and feet to apply the blood-clotting powder onto Li Jings wounds and wrapped the wounds well. By the time they finished dressing the wounds, it was already dusk. They also put clean clothes on him.

    Although Li Jing was still unconscious, his breathing was slow and even, so that they were a bit relieved.

    Susu said, Fortunately Li Dages wounds have the capability to automatically shrink to stop the bleeding, otherwise it would be even worse. Ay! Why havent Xiao Zhong come back yet?

    Xu Ziling did not say anything. He took out the treasured saber that Li Jing carried. Walking to the middle of the room, he practiced the saber technique Li Jing taught him on his own initiative, the one Li Jing named Bloody Battle Ten Styles.

    When Li Jing first taught them the saber technique, he did not have too deep of comprehension and perception. But now that Li Jing was seriously hurt and powerful enemy loomed outside, his heart was boiling with grief, indignation, and desperation. He only felt that each step each chop was a move with which he fought for his life. Temporarily he was in a no-self, no-consciousness state.

    From the first move, Two Armies Encamped Face-to-face, followed by Exposing the Tip of the Fire Beacon, Light Cavalry Charging Ahead, Feeling the Pocket and Taking Something Out, One Battle and Success is Achieved, Acting on Overbearing, Stirring Emptiness, Troops without Regular Power, Life or Death, Exist or Perish, Unyielding and Escaping, until the tenth style, Ruler Overlooking the World; he felt that every move was going smoothly and easily.

    From the tenth style he was going to start over from the first one when suddenly Susu yelled at him, Xiao Ling, stop it!

    Xu Ziling was stunned and stopped abruptly. He saw Susu was standing in front of Li Jing, shielding him; her face was blue her lips white. Your saber seemed to emit hot wind; its extremely frightening.

    Xu Ziling stared blankly in amazement; why didnt he feel it, he wondered. It seemed that his Nine Mysteries Great Method could be considered progressing a bit more. Only if he really met an enemy, would he be able to put it to good use?

    Bang! Kou Zhong slammed the door open and came in. Mule cart is here, lets go! he cried out.

    The two people were greatly delighted. Without even asking how he managed to get a mule cart, they lifted Li Jing up using belts wrapped around his body, and loaded him onto the mule cart waiting in the courtyard, on top of piles of straw. Susu embraced him in her arms.

    Kou Zhong drove the mule cart, from the back door they followed the alley and turned into the street, just as more than a dozen other mule carts and horse carts, carrying men, women, young and old, were heading toward the county town gate. Kou Zhong was greatly delighted, he steered the cart into the middle of the pack, hoping to pass off fish eyes for pearls, and slip out of the county town.

    Xu Ziling had Li Jings treasured saber inside its scabbard lying on his knees. He said in a low voice, Just now I practiced Li Dages Bloody Battle Ten Styles; it was really fun. Jiejie even said that my saber emitted hot wind!

    Looks like the Nine Mysteries Skill Niang taught combined with those ghost diagrams from the Secret to Long Life can become formidable martial art, Kou Zhong commented, Ay! Too bad we only have one saber. Otherwise with a pair of sabers working together in harmony we could be matchless under the heavens.

    Xu Ziling laughed, Go to your Niang! he swore, Oh, no! Wont that be go to my Niang as well? You, this kid, always love to boast and to praise yourself. Compared to Niang and Yuwen Huaji, our skills differ too far. Handling a few bullies is still alright, but if

    Kou Zhong laughed bitterly and said, Precisely like you said. Look! The bullies are coming. Shall we go or not?

    Following his gaze, Xu Ziling saw close to twenty local ruffians were mingling among the county officers by the county town gate, inspecting the carts and pedestrians going out of town, but they had not seen them.

    The two boys countenance became very ugly.

    Gnashing his teeth, Xu Ziling said, Ill draw them away!

    Kou Zhong was shocked, If you die, what am I going to do? he asked.

    Xu Zilings eyes flickered with cold rays. I wont die, he confidently assured him, You go about half a li outside the city and wait for me.

    Kou Zhong knew it was the only way. I wont leave without you, he said grimly, If I dont see you, I will go back and stake my life with them.

    By this time Susu also knew something was not right; terrified, she said, No, wed better find a place to hide!

    Xu Ziling shook his head resolutely, If we tolerate these thugs, we lose a good opportunity to deal with them. If that bunch of Du Fuweis law enforcement murderers came, we will lose our lives. So this is our only chance.

    Be careful! Kou Zhong said.

    Xu Ziling took out the treasured saber, left the scabbard behind, and jumped off the cart.

    Kou Zhong and Susu watched as Xu Ziling courageously dashed toward the enemy; the two peoples heart almost got caught in their throat.

    The evil thugs also caught sight of Xu Ziling. Shouting and yelling, they drew their weapons and swarmed forward.

    Carrying Li Jings treasured saber, Xu Ziling turned toward the big street by the city wall.

    The convoy of carts and carriages immediately increased their speed to get out of the county town as quickly as possible. Kou Zhong and Susu felt as if their heart was twisted and was set on fire as they had to endure quietly and urged their mule to get out of town.

    As they watched those nearly twenty evil thugs chasing Xu Ziling, eventually Kou Zhong and Susu could not hold back their tears.

    The instant they passed the city gate, they saw Xu Ziling turned around and charged wildly toward the pursuing enemy.

    Susu screamed. The mule cart was out of town.

    [1] Strictly speaking, Central Plains consists of middle and lower region of the Yellow River, including Henan, western Shandong, southern Shanxi and Hebei; but Central Plains is also interchangeable with China.

    [2] A saying attributed to Du Bi from Qi of the Northern Dynasties (550 -557): When the gates of the city are on fire, the fish in the moat will suffer. (Courtesy of Lu DongBin)

  14. #14
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 2 - Chapter 1

    Book 2 Chapter 1 The Wily Old Fox

    In an instant Xu Zilings mind, body and spirit entered into an unprecedented state.

    He felt his mental and physical have fused into one entity, which was then transformed into some kind of transcending-the-ordinary surge of energy.

    His eyes brightened, as he charged fearlessly into a clump of ten or so thugs head on. He even felt that he could react a tad faster than they were able to move. Plus he could indistinctly feel the angle and the timing of each weapon as it came, as well as the opening in each attack. He felt that could even tell which enemy was strong and which one was weak.

    Too bad he did not know how to exploit this fantastic newly-found ability.

    The heat stream had started to flow from the sole of his left foot, going up.

    The first to arrive was obviously the strongest evil thug, who brandished a big hatchet in his hand from right to left, hacking at Xu Zilings face. Before the hatchet arrived, the gust of wind from the hatchet and the whistling noise as the hatchet split the air have already piercing his skin and his ears; with his new-found sensitivity, everything felt as if it was amplified several times.

    The Bloody Battle Ten Styles that Li Jing taught flashed through his mind like a lightning or a flint spark. Without thinking he launched the move Exposing the Tip of the Fire Beacon, the treasured saber swept

    Ding! The hatchet and the saber collided.

    Xu Ziling did not expect he really could chop the enemys hatchet. While he was overjoyed, the man twisted his hatchet with great force, the treasured saber flew off Xu Zilings hand.

    Xu Ziling was so scared that he felt his soul flew out of his body; he did not foresee that although he knew exactly the opponents follow-up move, but he had no idea how to deal with it. Unexpectedly just one exchange, and he already lost his weapon.

    The big hatchet arrived again. Two other enemies also came from his left and right, one using a saber, the other using an iron chain, both were aimed mercilessly toward his body; they did not hold their hands at all just because Xu Ziling was a young kid.

    In this critical moment, Xu Ziling saw a gap. Instead of retreating, he lunged forward and rolled on the ground. To his shock, however, he rolled past these two men just to enter the enemys encirclement.

    As the first three enemies attack missed its target, their own momentum carried them two more steps forward before they managed to stop and turn around.

    The other men immediately swarmed in. Xu Ziling sprang up, only to see from left, right and center, three directions, sabers flickered and swords flashed. He had no choice but to step backward.

    Bang! His back crashed onto the city wall. Not able to retreat anymore, he dropped down along the wall and fell sitting on the ground.

    First of all Xu Ziling remembered Kou Zhong; and then he remembered his Niang, followed by Susu and Li Jing.

    While in his heart he was crying out his goodbye, something flashed in front of his eyes.

    Someone wearing tall hat, around fifty years of age, with countenance that looked old and clumsy, a bit like a dead person, suddenly dropped from the sky, exactly in between the evil thugs, who were charging wildly, and he. The man even had time to squat down, and showed a warm smile to Xu Ziling, a smile that did not match his weird countenance at all.

    Right this moment two sabers, one sword and one chain, because the wielders were not able to hold back, were striking the mans back. But four men screamed miserably with blood spurting out of their mouth as they were thrown backward, while their weapons were stuck onto this strange mans back.

    The other evil thugs have never seen such a brilliant martial art skill; overwhelmed with shock, they scattered away; but they still managed to maintain their encirclement.

    The man patted Xu Zilings forehead and helped him to stand up. He even dusted Xu Zilings clothes with absolute tenderness and attention.

    The four men that were shaken by him were still lying motionless on the ground. It seemed like their condition was not promising at all.

    The man showed another glimmer of smile as he spoke in tender voice, You are Xu Ziling, arent you?

    Xu Zilings mind went blank; he simply nodded with a blank expression on his face.

    One of the evil thugs behind him called out, Friend, from which way are you?

    A hint of grim smile appeared on the corner of the mans mouth. Because he had his back against those men, only Xu Ziling was able to see this. He suddenly had a nagging feeling in his heart that this man, who seemed to be making his move from a sense of justice, was not a good person at all.

    The man reached back and swiped, the weapons stuck on his back were wrapped in his palm, which was wider than average persons, without any fear of the sharp edges of the sabers and swords. As if nothing had happened, he said, I am Du Fuwei. When you, gentlemen, see Yan Huang [King Yama, King of Hell], you must not forget it.

    It was as if a thunderbolt echoed in Xu Zilings mind, wasnt Du Fuwei the top leader of Huai River militia, Li Jings former master? He had just led his army to take over Liyang, causing everybody to flee for their lives; how did he suddenly appear here, alone? Not only he saved Xu Zilings life, he even knew Xu Zilings name?

    While these thoughts were running wild in his mind, Du Fuwei flew backward in lightning speed, slamming himself onto a man who was standing about a zhang away behind him.

    The man immediately spurted blood as he was thrown back violently; his entire body exploded with the sound of bones breaking and flesh splitting.

    At this moment the rest of the evil thugs deeply regretted that their mom and dad did not give birth to them with more than two legs as they scattered in all directions for their lives.

    Du Fuwei waved his left hand, the four weapons in his hand flew out to the left and separately embedded themselves into four mans back. His method was frighteningly cruel, but his accuracy really rendered other people speechless.

    Xu Ziling thought that if he did not take this opportunity to flee, what was he waiting for? Thereupon he lifted his feet and ran toward the city gate.

    Incessant miserable screams followed him from behind.

    Du Fuweis cruelty in killing his victims broke Xu Zilings courage that he did not have the guts to even look back. Very soon he ran into the mass of refugees scrambling against each other to get out of the city. Ducking to the left and squeezed himself to the right, very soon he reached the official road leading out of town.

    Right now his only hope was to find Kou Zhong, and then together they would run far, far away, never again to see that Prince of the Devils.

    Suddenly Du Fuweis frightening voice echoed right next to his ears, Xiao Xiongdi, your feet are really fast!

    Xu Ziling turned his head around, but after glancing to the left and right, he still did not see Du Fuwei. Suddenly he noticed that all around him people were looking above him with terror-stricken expression on their faces. Xu Ziling came to realize something so scary that his soul flew away and scattered.

    Du Fuwei landed behind him and grabbed his back. Five streams of qi entered his body via his back.

    At first Xu Ziling lost all his strength, but then the sole of his left foot starting to heat up, followed by the sole of his right foot cooling down; unexpectedly he recovered enough strength to struggle.

    Huh? Du Fuwei was surprised, and then he sent more true qi into Xu Zilings body.

    Kou Zhong steered the mule cart into a wooded area by the road. He jumped down the cart.

    Susu asked in horror, Where are you going?

    Kou Zhong came over to Susu. First he looked down to see Li Jing, who was still unconscious and lying in Susus bosom, and then he looked up and said seriously, I believe Xiao Lings situation is more dire than good. Right now I am going to go back to avenge him. Jiejie should drive the cart deep into the woods. Wait for Li Dage to wake up, then you can think of a way to escape.

    On an impulse he took all the silver out of his pocket and placed it in the cart before turning around and left, ignoring Susus tender call.

    He ran back to the main road, and rushed toward the city gate against the flow of people going out of town. Tears constantly poured down his face. His steps were getting faster and faster.

    Although all around him people and carts were fighting against each other over their share of the roadway, but to him all of these were not his concern. It was as if he and those people lived in two totally different universes.

    Nobody could understand heartfelt and genuine brotherly love between Xu Ziling and him.

    He was just avoiding a cart and was forced to move closer to the side of the road when a hand suddenly appeared from the wooded area, grabbed him, and pulled him inside.

    Then his entire body was clasped under someones arm; immediately he felt weak all over.

    He tried to turn his head around, but was still unable to see what kind of person had captured him. Instead, he saw Xu Zilings big head protruding underneath the persons other arm just like a turtle, repeatedly making eye signals to him, warning him that they were in danger.

    Bang, bang! The two boys were tossed on a grassy ground at the edge of the woods; their heads dizzy from falling down headfirst. Humming and hawing they tried to crawl up.

    The two boys looked around, but Du Fuwei was nowhere to be seen. With a shout they fled for their lives.

    Suddenly thud! Kou Zhong fell down to the ground. Xu Ziling was already more than ten zhang ahead, but he turned around and ran back. It was not until he wanted to lift Kou Zhong up that he realized that Kou Zhong had fainted.

    Dejected, Xu Ziling sat on the ground. Du Fuweis legs suddenly appeared before his eyes.

    Gasping for breath, Xu Ziling asked, What do you want?

    Du Fuwei said indifferently, You may leave now!

    Shaken, Xu Ziling looked up. He saw Du Fuweis icy-cold expression. Did you just say I can go now? he asked in disbelief.

    Du Fuwei nodded, Thats right! he said, You may leave now. But only you, alone.

    Xu Ziling was crestfallen. I would never sell a friend to seek my own glory, he said.

    Du Fuwei squatted and smiled, Your Jianghu experience is too shallow, he said, Just with one test I can tell the relationship between you and Kou Zhong. Great! Now I am going to ask you a question, and you reply with one answer. You must not hesitate at all; otherwise I will crush your good friends hands and feet, so that he will be maimed for the rest of his life.

    Xu Ziling was aghast. What do I am giving you wrong answers have anything to do with him? Dont you think you are being too unfair?

    With a wooden face Du Fuwei said, There is no such thing as fairness in the world. Otherwise, there wont be emperors, there wont be beggars begging for food. Dont even think of giving me any random answer. I am going wake Kou Zhong up later, and if your answers do not agree with each other, I will know whether you are babbling nonsense or not. One lie, I am going to dig Kou Zhongs eyeball out; two lies, it will be your good friends hands and feets turn.

    Listening to him, Xu Zilings entire body went numb. In term of cruelty and heartlessness, the so-called gangsters and villains he met in Yangzhou became kind and benevolent men.

    Du Fuwei speculated inwardly, I want to see now if you, this kid, will be disobedient.

    Actually, he felt it was beneath his dignity to kill those evil thugs who pursued Xu Ziling and wanted to kill him; it was only because Du Fuwei wanted Xu Ziling to believe that he was a cruel man that he hardened his heart and bore the pain to kill them.

    The fact that Yuwen Huaji hunted down these two kids, and they were rescued by Gaoli demoness [orig. female Luocha (demon in Buddhism)] Fu Junchuo, has caused sensation in Jianghu; especially since this matter involved the treasure trove of Duke Yang, Du Fuwei was very interested. Therefore, when his subordinate spoke about the boys appearance, he rushed over personally, just as Xu Ziling and the others, including unconscious Li Jiang, were about to leave town.

    Now that he saw Xu Ziling has succumbed under pressure, he was very excited; but outwardly he showed indifference as he asked, Why did Yuwen Huaji want to catch you?

    After giving Kou Zhong a glance, Xu Ziling dejectedly said, That must be because of that ghost book!

    Du Fuwei showed off his acting skill; to show that he was not completely ignorant, he carelessly said, So its the Secret to Long Life that the tyrant wanted to obtain. Not only that tyrant is bloody and cruel, he is totally ignorant as well! Immortality! What a devious idea!

    In a roundabout way he asked, So who taught you true qi cultivation?

    Judging from his questions, it was obvious that Du Fuwei was not a simple man at all. His question did not follow any particular sequence; rather, he adopted a surprise-attack technique so that the opponent did not have time to prepare the answer in advance.

    Sure enough, Xu Ziling was dumbstruck. Seeing Du Fuweis eyes flashed with cold rays, he hurriedly shook his hand and said, Dont! Ill speak! Niang taught me.

    It was Du Fuweis turn to be shocked, Your Niang?

    Xu Ziling knew he could not hide anything from this Prince of the Devils; therefore, he sighed and narrated the course of events concerning their encounter with Fu Junchuo. When he reached the part where Fu Junchuo died, his eyes turned red, he nearly cried. He forgot completely that Du Fuwei was not someone with whom he could bare his soul to.

    Who would have thought that Du Fuwei stretched out his hand toward Kou Zhongs eyes, shook his head and said, You are lying!

    Xu Ziling was shocked. Calling out to Heaven for the injustice he said, If I say one empty word, may I die a horrible death.

    Du Fuwei really did not disbelief him, its just that he was toying with him to get the most important piece of information. His tone turned gentle as he said, The true qi within you does not seem to have the least connection with Gaolis Yi Jian Dashi [see Book 1 Chapter 3] Fu Cailins Nine Mysteries Qi; how could the Luocha woman teach you?

    Xu Ziling breathed a sigh of relief; assuming the oh, so thats what it is attitude, he sighed and said, Niang only taught us the theory of training, but she did not have time to teach us how to train. Without any clue, we had no choice but looking at the Secret to Long Life and train according to the lines indicated by the diagrams. This is the truth; if you dont believe me, there is nothing I can do.

    Du Fuweis eyes lit up, but pretending to be discouraged he said, This is a really fantastic story, turns out the Secret to Long Life is indeed a martial art manual. But even if I obtain it right now, its useless. Unless I am willing to disperse my inner power completely. Humph, did the Luocha woman mention anything about the Duke Yangs treasure-trove? Never mind; even if she did not, its not a big deal, I can always dig her body out. I am sure I will find some spiders thread and horse track.

    Horrified, Xu Ziling cried out, How could you do such thing?

    Right this moment, he saw Kou Zhongs hand twitched a little; apparently he was about to wake up.

    Du Fuwei had his back facing Kou Zhong, hence he did not see it. He calmly said, Why dont you tell me then? Ay! Buried and at rest, naturally it would be best if we dont disturb your Niang.

    Xu Ziling hung his head down as he said with a sigh, I surrender! But you have to let us go. Duke Yangs treasure-trove is inside the Emperor Guan Temple located at the northern part of Yangzhou. If you move the idol away, you will see the tunnel leading to the hidden treasure. Niang was about to take the treasure out when she came across us. If you dont believe me, you can wake Kou Zhong up to see if our story matches. You knocked him out for so long, could there be any problem?

    Du Fuwei stared blankly and said, Yangzhou city? This is certainly unimaginable to present day people. Ha! Stretching out his finger, he sent out a strong gust of wind, Xu Ziling immediately passed out.

    After nobody knows how long, Xu Ziling finally regained his consciousness. He saw Kou Zhong was sitting dejectedly by his side, while Du Fuwei was looking up to the sky, God knows what he was thinking about.

    Kou Zhong sighed. Xiao Ling! Forgive me, he said, For your little lifes sake, I had to reveal the secret of the Temple of Emperor Guan.

    Shut up! Du Fuwei suddenly snapped, If I hear three more words from you, Ill kill you. And then he straightened up and stood up. Get up! he said.

    The two boys heart was thumping madly in nervousness, since they were unsure if he was going to kill them to shut their mouth.

    Du Fuweis eyes glittered like frost and snow as he coldly looked at them up and down several times. Only after seeing that the hair on their body stood up did he say gently, I want you, two little demons, to take me to the Secret to Long Life first before I can give you your freedom.

    Didnt you say Secret to Long Life is useless to you? Xu Ziling shouted.

    Du Fuwei smiled, There is no harm in looking, is there? he said, From now on, I want you two to call me Die [pronounced dee-eh, Dad, the counterpart of Niang]. Whatever I say, youll do it. Understood? Come! Let me hear you call me Die!

    The two boys looked at each other; they both thought that a wise man submits to circumstances [orig. only an outstanding talent can recognize current trends], helplessly they lowered their level and called him Dad, while having a feeling of acknowledging a bandit as their father [idiom, meaning complete betrayal or selling oneself to the enemy].

    But Du Fuwei was greatly pleased; he roared in laughter and said, Good kids, let your Die take you to a wine shop and have you eat your fill before leaving. Look! The day is breaking soon; before sunrise, we ought to be able to cover a hundred li or so."

  15. #15
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 2 - Chapter 2

    Book 2 Chapter 2 Mutual Deception[1]

    Carried under Du Fuweis arms, the two boys really covered about a hundred li that day. Before daybreak they have arrived at Xinan County [Luoyang, Henan].

    This county is one of the two thriving big cities along the Yangtze River. Because the fire of war has not reached this place, compounded with a large numbers of refugees fled here to seek shelter, the city was bustling with noise and excitement.

    With hands behind his back and a face that did not show any expression, Du Fuwei led the way. It was not clear whether he felt embarrassed that everybody was avoiding him due to his demonic appearance, or whether he was proud of it.

    Kou Zhong made an eye signal to Xu Ziling before he hastened his steps toward Du Fuwei. Die! he called, Arent you supposed to go back to Liyang to become big king over there? Perhaps there are people who took advantage of your absence to rise in rebellion!

    Du Fuwei said indifferently, Good boy, youd better speak a couple of words less. Otherwise, if other people hear it, I would have to kill them to shut their mouth.

    Kou Zhong stuck out his tongue. Pretending to be scared he returned to Xu Zilings side and said in a low voice, Li Dage was right. Die is not a good material for somebody who would conquer the world [tian xia]; he is too eager to kill, and dont know how to buy the hearts of the people.

    Du Fuwei turned his head around to glower at him; his sharp eyes shot a chilling murderous intention. The scared Kou Zhong did not dare to continue.

    Du Fuwei was about two cun taller than the two boys, plus he was wearing a tall hat; walking among the crowd, he really looked like a crane in a flock of chicken, very conspicuous.

    The three of them climbed the stairs in the largest restaurant in town. The restaurant was jam-packed with people, trying to find an empty table was definitely harder than ascending the heavens. Du Fuwei pulled a water aside and stuffed two strings of zhu coins [1 zhu = 1/24 of a tael] into his hand. God knows how the waiter conjured up his magic trick, right away the waiter led them to an empty table next to a window, and respectfully asked them, three father and sons to sit down.

    After ordering tea and some appetizers, Du Fuwei only took a sip of tea, and then he stopped and looked at the two boys devouring their food. With an indifferent tone he asked, Who said I dont know how to buy the peoples heart?

    Kou Zhong replied in low voice, If Die knew how to buy the peoples heart, you would not go around forcing people into service, to enlist your troops by force; as a result those who saw it are terrified.

    Du Fuwei was incredulous, What does a kid like you know? Theres a common saying, wealth define character. Right now Die can barely scrape a meager living by living like a pauper. If I am not careful, even my family property can be lost. Where can I find the capital to buy the peoples heart?

    Kou Zhong shook his head and swayed his noggin, If Die knew how to buy the peoples heart, you would dress your children to look like great heroes, so that when you toot your horn about coming to the aid of the people and saving the world, we, two brothers, will follow good ol Die delightfully, and even help you conquering the world. It would be much better than relying on fear to control us, and thus harming the congeniality between us, father and sons.

    Xu Ziling could not endure it, he nearly spurt the delicious pastries out of his mouth; but seeing Du Fuweis unsightly countenance, he hurried covered his mouth and hung his head low.

    Kou Zhong totally ignored the ominous glint in Du Fuweis eyes; he still giggled and said, Die, you, Senior, should not be angry; sincere advice is always unpleasant to hear. The reason the muddle-headed ruler is called muddle-headed ruler is precisely because he is unwilling to listen to sincere advice. Die, if you only want to be a gangster leader, naturally there wont be any problem, but if you want to be the worlds leader, no matter how unwilling you are to listen to criticism, you have to put up an attitude of respecting the wise, encouraging free airings of different views. Only then would people not call you just another muddle-headed ruler.

    Du Fuwei was listening to him with a blank expression on his face.

    He started his career by making a life-and-death [orig. kissing neck] friendship with Fu Gongyou, mustering wanderers and riffraff [orig. grass and weeds/uncultivated land] and became the regions overlord of the underworld. Later on he led his troops to seek shelter under Wang Bo of Changbai Mountain. And then he broke away from Wang Bo to become an independent general crisscrossing the Huai River, never suffered any defeat. Right now even Liyang had fallen into his hands, his reputation shook the world. But he had never had anybody dared to reprimand him on his face, especially not a bookish advice coming from a kids mouth, whose smell of his mothers milk has not dried yet. However, while listening to him, he felt something fresh; in particular the way Kou Zhong kept calling him Dad. If he got angry because of this, he really lacked grace; therefore, momentarily he did not know how to refute.

    Kou Zhong had not finished; he ate and talked at the same time, Die, your martial art skill is so formidable. It seems to me that even Yuwen Huagu is not your match.

    Casting a glance at Du Fuweis expression, he let out a huh? and then continued, Could it be that your son kissed the wrong butt? Why does Dies expression become so unsightly? Ay! After obtaining the Secret to Long Life, you are going to kill your children to shut our mouths anyway, so just bear with us a bit longer! Or perhaps you could seal our mute acupoint, so that we cannot make any noise. Hee hee! Actually, is mute acupoint real?

    Du Fuweis strong eyes swept around, he noticed that Kou Zhong constantly increased the volume of his voice. He shook his head with a wry smile and said, If you, this kid, are thinking about drawing other peoples attention to save you, its just a wishful thinking. All you are doing is just adding a few more lives to take.

    Suddenly he reached down under the table to pinch Xu Zilings thigh. As soon as he exerted strength to his five fingers, Xu Ziling was in so much pain that he had to spit the culinary delicacy in his mouth.

    Kou Zhong raised his hands in mock surrender and said, Die is still more ruthless than your child. This strategy besieging Wei to rescue Zhao [to relieve besieged ally by attacking the home base of the besiegers] and make declaration for the east but strike to the west, I really cannot ward off. Die, please be magnanimous! Child understood that in everything power trumps logic. Dies lesson is very good.

    Du Fuwei was still a bit at a loss. His biggest problem was that right now was not the time to kill people to shut their mouth yet. Withdrawing his big hand, he said drily, From now on you are not allowed to speak.

    Kou Zhong giggled and coughed, trying to stifle his laugh, but in the end he tossed his head back and roared in laughter. Only then did he lower his head and munched busily.

    Du Fuwei was so furious he nearly blew his lungs. But since he did not say that they must not laugh, he felt embarrassed to punish them.

    The two little demons exchanged a glance and both smiled knowingly in triumph.

    Leaving the restaurant, with bamboo toothpicks in their mouth, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling strolled leisurely behind Du Fuwei. From time to time they bumped their shoulders against each other; their mind seemed to be free from the immediate trouble.

    Without saying a single word, Du Fuwei headed for the marketplace and bought two horses; he had the two boys rode together in one horse with a strict warning, If you are still daydreaming about relying on the horses legs to escape, I will dig one eyeball from each of you. Are we clear?

    The two boys nodded their head deferentially; their appearance made others laugh.

    Du Fuwei was in no mood to argue with them, he told them to ride in the front, leading the way, while he followed behind them.

    As soon as they left the city, the horses galloped along the official road. Xu Ziling let the horse speed along without trying to rein it at all.

    Seeing that Du Fuwei was lagging behind at least five zhang away, Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, This is bad, if we let this evil man takes the treasure underneath the Emperor Guan Temple in Yangzhou, Niang will definitely blame us. But with his other hand he wrote on Xu Zilings back, Just now at the restaurant I tried to attract other peoples attention. If someone is blocking our way, we can seize the opportunity to escape.

    Xu Ziling understood his intention, so he said with a sigh, He is so formidable, we had no choice but to obey. In my opinion, although he is cruel and overbearing, he is actually a good person. At least until now he has not beaten us yet. Wed better give the Secret to Long Life to him first, and then well see whether he would really take us as his sons. When he becomes the emperor in the future, wont we become crown prince? Yifu [foster father/godfather] ought not to kill yizi! [foster child; yi here means righteousness, same as righteous army I mentioned earlier, also same character in yiqi]

    Based on previous experience with Fu Junchuo, the boys knew that even though they were separated by a few zhang, it would be hard to conceal anything from Du Fuweis ears.

    Kou Zhong knitted his eyebrows and said, Ay! Just before her death Niang told us about the secret of opening the treasure-trove, something like three left six right, seven forward eight backward, three turns two spins; did you hear her clearly? Seems like there were two more sentences. Niangs death was so tragic, I cried so hard that my ears turned deaf; how could I hear clearly? Didnt Niang said that if we fail to know the secret of how to open the door, even if we get into the Temple we wont find the entrance to the treasure-trove?

    Inwardly Xu Ziling praised Kou Zhongs ingenuity. Of course I remember, he played along, But unless he is willing to take us as his sons, otherwise he would kill us to shut our mouths anyway, we might as well not tell him anything. Fortunately Niang taught us the technique to break our main artery; worst case scenario we immediately commit suicide to end our miserable life.

    Kou Zhong pretended to be horrified, You must not do that, he said, Ill say the old ghost Du can be considered a rare talent, as long as he does not have any son yet, he must find two genius and outstanding talents like us to be his heirs; at least he could use us to admonish his ministers. If he throws us away for nothing, he is a really big fool [orig. muddled egg].

    After a short pause he sighed and added, Ay! But you were right too, if he deal with us ruthlessly, if he gives us even half a slap on the face, we will immediately kill ourselves, to teach that evil tyrant Dad a lesson, instead of obtaining the treasure, he will be crushed to death when the while Emperor Guan Temple collapse on him.

    Hearing the more he bragged, the farther off-track he was, Xu Ziling was afraid Du Fuwei might see through their charades. Stop talking, he busily said, He might catch up with us!

    Kou Zhong pretended to look back, he saw Du Fuwei lowering his head, so he knew their brilliant scheme was successful; thus he promptly shut his mouth, while in his heart he was so pleased with himself that it was hard to describe his feeling right now.

    By dusk that day, the three of them reached a big town called Nanzhi. Du Fuwei found a small inn, but he only booked one room. And then he took the two boys to a small restaurant nearby to have dinner. His manner was a lot more benevolent than before.

    From the dozen or so tables, only half were occupied. The patrons appeared to be local the haves.

    The three chose a quiet table on the corner. After ordering food and drink, slowly and casually said, Since the two of you are obedient, you are now allowed to talk.

    Kou Zhong lightly kicked Xu Zilings leg under the table. He heaved a sigh and said, Whatever Die, the Senior, is unwilling to hear, you might as well tell us plainly, so that your sons will not offend you by breaking your taboo, but will seal our lips instead.

    Although Du Fuwei was an ambitious and ruthless character of the dark road who could kill people without blinking an eye, he was helpless against Kou Zhong. To show that he was magnanimous, he forced a laugh and said, As long as you dont deliberately stir up trouble, why would I be afraid of your talk? The amount of salt I took is more than the grains of rice you have eaten, the number of bridges I crossed is more than the road you have travelled.

    Kou Zhong showed a I beg to differ expression, but he did not contradict.

    Xu Ziling said in a low voice, We, two brothers, accept our misfortunes as decreed by fate. Du Zongguan [see Chapter 1], after obtaining the Secret to Long Life, would you grant us a quick and easy death, and not subject us to prolonged suffering? Ay! Since Niang died, we have always thought about following her to the Yellow Spring [underworld in Chinese Mythology, equivalent to Hades or Hell]. Its just that we dont have the courage to kill ourselves!

    Kou Zhong interrupted, Die, after we die, it would be best if whenever you have spare time, you have your subordinates, the generals, to order those foot soldiers to burn some gold and silver paper[2] for us, so that in the Yellow Spring, Niang and us can live comfortably and in style.

    With these two boys messing around with him, Du Fuwei really did not know whether he should laugh or he should cry. Who said anything about killing you? he said with a wry smile.

    With a straight face Kou Zhong said, A rulers words is no joking matter; in that case you cant even harm us.

    Du Fuwei was indeed a wily old fox; he smiled and said, If you dont hide anything from me, I, Du Fuwei, will keep my promises [orig. one word worth nine sacred tripods[3]]. In the future I definitely wont mistreat you.

    The two boys knew he had fallen into their trap. After exchanging a glance, Kou Zhong said with a sigh, Dies promise is good enough. Xiao Ling, you may tell him!

    Xu Ziling said, The entrance to the treasure-trove must be opened in specific way. If Die is willing to swear a heavy oath, guaranteeing that you will not harm even half a hair on our bodies by any method, that you will truly consider us as your sons, then son will tell you the secret.

    Du Fuwei saw a group of men and women just walked in to the restaurant, one of them was an elderly man with an out-of-the-ordinary manner; obviously he was a martial art expert. Du Fuwei nodded and said, Well talk about it later. Lets eat!

    Following his gaze, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong also looked toward the door. Four eyes lit up simultaneously.

    The new comers were five in total, one old man and four young people. Each one of them carried either a sword or a saber. The one causing the two boys eyes to light up was a sixteen or seventeen-year old, budding young girl in the prime of youth, with an exceptionally good-looking countenance.

    The old man was short and stout, his bearing looked bold and powerful; as soon as he walked in, his eyes landed squarely on Du Fuwei.

    The other three were young men around twenty-year old, their physiques looked heroic and strong, one of them was exceptionally handsome, and taller than the other two. This young man walked side-by-side with the beautiful girl in an intimate manner.

    The young girl noticed the two boys, Kou and Xus marketplace rascals eyes were sizing her up without blinking, and angry look flitted across her pretty face; she turned her head away in disdain, and pressed closer to the tall and handsome young mans back as they entered the restaurant.

    Knowing that they had caught the young girls attention, the two boys were very excited; they looked at each other and laughed.

    Du Fuwei saw everything clearly, but a warm, familiar feeling welled up in his heart.

    He was born into a poor family, and since childhood he wasted his time stealing and robbing at the marketplace. He could not even remember how many times he was beaten up because he took liberties with beautiful women.

    Later on, after mastering martial art skill, it was his turn to bully other people. But after nearly twenty years of cultivating superior martial art skill and exercising restraint of his sexual desire, he no longer forced himself into a woman. Looking at these two boys mannerism has evoked his memory.

    Do you want Die to get her as your wife for a few nights? he asked in low voice.

    The two boys jumped in fright. They both shook their hands to refuse. Xu Ziling seriously said, There is no fun in those who come by coercion; our eyes see but our hands do not move.

    Du Fuwei suddenly started to like these two boys, raising his thumb he said, Good child!

    The two boys inwardly thought that you curry our favor just to obtain the non-existent secret method to open the treasure-trove! Naturally they did not feel grateful at all. But they still put a happy expression on their face.

    Because he saw that the girl was already taken [orig. the flower has a master/owner], plus he was afraid that the girl would provoke disaster from Du Fuwei because of them, Kou Zhong renounced his urge to enjoy the beauty and simply stuffed himself.

    Hows Dies martial art skill compared to Yuwen Huagus? he asked curiously, Which one is higher, which one is lower?

    This was the second time Du Fuwei heard him arbitrarily changed Yuwen Huajis name to Yuwen Huagu; he was greatly amused. Being together with you, two kids, I laughed a lot more than I did for the last ten years added together, he said, Later on you must not ask this kind of nave question. I have never met him nor exchange palms with him, how do I know whos superior and whos inferior?

    For the sake of the treasure-trove, he gave this half true and half false answer to entertain them.

    Xu Ziling said, There must be some criteria. For instance, that guy Wu Zun Bi Xuan [see Book 1 Chapter 5], or San Zhenren Ning Daoqi [see Book 1 Chapter 6]; how many people have actually exchange palms with them? Yet isnt their rank set up on high?

    With a cold laugh Du Fuwei said, They are undoubtedly most outstanding martial art masters of this age; but every generation in the rivers and mountains [i.e. country] produces talents. Who could guarantee that they will occupy that position forever?

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, Dies opinion is very insightful. I wonder how many martial art masters in Jianghu are in the same level as you are?

    Seeing he was putting up a grownup manner in deadly earnest, Du Fuwei was not amused. Quickly eat! he snapped.

    The two boys were highly interested in the discussion, naturally they were quite put off; without any choice they simply go back to eating with heads down.

    Du Fuwei has always been highly authoritative in front of his subordinates. It could be said that no one did not respect him or was afraid of him. Who would have thought that these two boys acted like he was their real Dad? In actuality he did not know how to handle these two boys. His heart softened and he said, If we are talking about the origin of Wulins diverse schools and sects, it can roughly divided into north and south, two major systems. It is called southerners put emphasis on simplicity and obtain the essence; northerners delve deeper and exhaust their branch and leaves. The so-called north and south refers to the north and south of the Great River. South side Wulin always leans toward the esteemed doctrine of metaphysical study [Wei and Jin philosophical school amalgamating Taoist and Confucian ideals], continuing the so-called Central Plains orthodoxy since the Wei [220-265] and Jin [265-420] dynasties. The north side on the other hand, receives heavy influence of extra-territorial Wulin world; the martial art skills branch into thousand schools ten thousand varieties in innumerable succession. It could be said to be very dynamic and fascinating. But at the highest level, each one has its own distinguishing feature, its hard to say which one is superior, which one is inferior.

    Speaking to this point, he saw, sitting three tables away, the old mans ears were twitching; evidently he was listening to their conversation. In his heart he was a bit wary, since he had already used his inner energy to focus his voice so that it would not spread out. If the opposite side could still hear it, it means this person could be considered a top quality martial art master of the Jianghu.

    At other times, Du Fuwei might made his move to try him out, but right now he had an important matter at hand, he was not interested in meddling with any other matters. Therefore, he immediately stopped talking and urged the two boys to eat their fill, and then paid the bill and left.

    Patted their belly, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong followed him out.

    As they walked past the girls table, she suddenly stretched out her foot and with matchless precision placed it right between Xu Zilings feet, who was the last in line. She exerted her strength and twisted.

    Xu Ziling screamed and stumbled onto Kou Zhong back. The two of them fell down and rolled on the ground like a gourd.

    This incident caught both sides by surprise. The elderly man yelled, Wushuang!

    In all his life, Du Fuwei was used to tyrannize other people. He did not come to provoke you, just consider your family and your mountain as blessed. And now someone dared to disgrace the people under his protection in front of his face. Immediately he turned around, his eyes gleaming with murderous aura.

    Being stared by him, the girl called Wushuang was a bit afraid, but apparently she was accustomed to being arrogant and willful, hence she still spoke defiantly, Who told them to stare at people with shifty gaze?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling crawled up awkwardly. Horrified, they both pulled Du Fuweis right and left arm toward the door. Who would have thought that Du Fuwei did not budge at all? He simply stared coldly at the girl.

    Kou Zhong knew Du Fuwei was about to make his move. Die! he pleaded, Lets go! Your sons were wrong.

    The elderly man also stood up and cupped his fist, In this matter my humble niece is wrong, we beg for two Xiao Xiongdis forgiveness. If you are injured from the fall, we are willing to compensate for the medical bill.

    Du Fuwei coldly said, State your school and background, lets see if I will provoke you or not.

    The three young men immediately stood up with their hands on their weapons hilt, scaring the other patrons that they all left their table in a flurry and huddled in the corner.

    The tall and handsome young man proudly said, My humble father is Liang Shidu of Shuofang, Junior [orig. Wanbei younger generation, referring to self] is Liang Shunming. Whether you want to provoke us or not, Sire may decide it for yourself.

    The other two young men and the girl also showed a proud, mixed with condescending expression; apparently they were quite proud of Liang Shidus name.

    Du Fuweis countenance did not change at all; as if nothing had happened, he said, Turns out Yingyang [soaring hawk] Lang Jiangs [lit. youth general] beloved son. Yingyang Pai [soaring hawk sect] has always been willing to be the imperial courts running dogs [i.e. lackeys]; only recently they saw the wind and set the helm and thus allied themselves with the Tujue [Turkic ethnic group, see Book 1 Chapter 2]. Two female soaring hawks Liang Shifu and Liu Wuzhou have become Tujues two dogs. Why cant I afford to provoke you?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling have also heard the name Yingyang Pai, they knew it was a well-known big northern sect with impressive reputation. They believed this Liang Shunming must have a real skill; perhaps they could take this opportunity to escape. Hence they no longer said anything but quietly scooted over toward the door.

    The elderly man stepped in front of Liang Shunming and the other two young men who had already pulled their weapons out; he said in heavy voice, Friend, you are experienced and knowledgeable, obviously you are not an ordinary person. May I ask your honorable surname and great given name? And how should I address you?

    Du Fuwei replied indifferently, Since this kid is Liang Shidus son, Sire must be related to Liang Shidus sworn brother, Shen Tianqun of Luling. Based on your age, you ought to be Shen Tianquns elder brother Shen Naitang, unless my eyes have failed me.

    The elderly man suddenly stood up straight, his beard spread out, his appearance became bold and powerful without equal. Laughing loudly, he replied, Looks like Friend understood Jianghu matters like the back of your hand, you must not be a nameless character. Why not announce your name? Perhaps we have a little bit of relation.

    Having a bit of relation was a Jianghu terminology, including relation such as enmity.

    Du Fuwei threw his head back and let out a long laughter. Yet as soon as he stopped laughing, the cold murderous look returned to his eyes, as he coldly said, I hope he is not Liang Shidus only son; otherwise, his family line will be cutoff.

    Shen Naitangs countenance changed immediately; it seemed like this person was not intimidated by Liang Shidu and Shen Tianqun, two powerful masters whose names shook Wulin; he must have a very strong background.

    Taking a step back, he pulled his broadsword and sternly said, Very well! Let me, Shen Naitang, increase my knowledge by experiencing Friends real skill.

    Relying on his family skill, Liang Shunming has always been thinking too highly of himself, plus he had his lover standing right next to him, naturally he could not stand it anymore. Moving along with Shen Naitang, he launched the Yingyang Pais famous Soaring Hawk Sword Technique, thrusting his sword toward Du Fuweis chest with half-real, half-fake stance. It was definitely not an ordinary move.

    Shen Naitang also had confidence in him, he moved aside and stood ready to give him assistance.

    Unexpectedly Du Fuwei still had time to look back toward Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling and said with a laugh, Yingyang Pai is located in the north; therefore, they are heavily influenced by Tujue martial techniques. They rely mainly on ruthless attack, strong offense but not strong defense; therefore, if in one attack they fail to down the opponent, they could only take the beating.

    In the meantime, Liang Shunmings sword was already less than three cun from his chest; suddenly it changed form, the fake became real, and went straight up toward Du Fuweis throat. It was indeed a ruthless attack.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stared with eyes wide open. On one hand they wanted Liang Shunmings sword to kill Du Fuwei, on the other hand they did not wish to see him fallen from power like this. It was a very conflicting thought.

    It was only this time that Du Fuwei finally reacted; tossing his head backward, his sleeve flicked forward.

    Ding! Surprisingly, it was the clear ringing of metal clashing against metal.

    While everybody was still puzzled, Liang Shunmings body was severely shaken. As his sword was struck by an unknown object and was swept away, his defense was widely open. Du Fuwei bent his body on the waist, and fast as lightning his leg flew toward Liang Shunmings crotch. Apparently his objective was to cut his family line.

    Seeing this, Shen Naitangs countenance underwent huge changes. It was only then did he realize the opponent was the dark road overlord Du Fuwei, whose nickname was universe in his sleeve [orig. qiankun, also means heaven and earth/yin and yang].

    Du Fuwei had a pair of arm guards about a chi [Chinese foot, approx. 1ft or 1/3m] long hidden inside his sleeve, with which he could injure his opponent by using it in a surprise attack. The reason he was using it in the very first move was because he had determined to kill these people to shut their mouth.

    Since Shen Naitang knew it was him, how could he dare to be confident? With a roar he brandished his broadsword while charging forward, his target was the left side of Du Fuweis neck.

    Du Fuwei let out a cold snort, the other arm guard in his left sleeve flashed, it collided with Shen Naitangs blade, but his kick was not affected at all.

    Liang Shunming knew the situation was far from good, unleashing everything he had, his left palm pressed downward, while taking a step back simultaneously.

    Bang! Liang Shunming let out a muffled grunt. Although he managed to block Du Fuweis kick, he was unable to block the shocking qi surging into his body from Du Fuweis foot. His mouth spurted fresh blood, while his body was thrown backward.

    After exchanging one strike with him, Shen Naitang was also forced to take half a step back. Get Liang Gongzi [young master] out of here! he bellowed.

    Who would have thought that as Wushuang and her martial brothers Meng Chang and Meng Ran, three people saw Liang Shunming was falling toward them, they automatically reached out to hold him, but felt as if Liang Shunming weighed a thousand catties [approx. 1/2kg or 1lb]? Although they were able to receive him head on, they were unable to withstand the impulse; four people fell back together, crashing onto the tables and chairs behind them that everything was shattered in pieces, the people and the cups, plates, and the food and drink inside them fell into a mess. It was a really sorry sight.

    Du Fuwei let out a cold laugh. His sleeves shot out, with either the sleeve or the arm guard, he attacked Shen Naitang relentlessly that the latter was powerless to retaliate.

    Fortunately, Shen Naitangs foundation was quite solid; his martial art skill was also quite strong that for the time being he was still able to hold his ground.

    By this time Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had already reached the door. After giving each other eye signals, they dashed out madly from the restaurant.

    Du Fuwei had never expected that these two obedient sons, who kept calling him Dad left and right, would seize the opportunity to slip away. Anger and anxiety attacked his mind, his offensive suddenly lost quite a bit of momentum, so that Shen Naitang was able to reclaim a little bit of advantage.

    Seeing Shen Naitang was able to prolong the channeling of his qi, Du Fuwei knew that he would not be able to kill the opponent within ten moves. After considering the pros and cons, he decided hed better capture the two boys first and come back later to kill these people to shut their mouth.

    With a loud roar he forced Shen Naitang to withdraw two steps back, while he himself floated out of the door.

    Meanwhile Shen Wushuang and the others were helping Liang Shunming, who had received internal injury, to stand up. They thought that once again Shen Naitang had displayed his divine power to repel the enemy. To their shock, however, as soon as Shen Naitang was able to stabilize himself, he was forced to withdraw three more steps while wah! he spurted a mouthful of fresh blood.

    Shen Wushuang abandoned Liang Shunming, leaving him with her two martial brothers, while she herself rushed toward Shen Naitang and grabbed his arms. Dabo! [paternal uncle, older than ones father] What happened?

    Shen Naitang took a deep breath, while wiping the blood on the corner of his mouth with his sleeve. This man is universe in his sleeve Du Fuwei, he said in heavy tone, Even if your Die came here personally, I am afraid he is still not his match. We must leave immediately.

    [1] Title chapter original: you hoodwink me, I cheat on you.

    [2] Hell money or Joss paper, considered currency in the underworld, offered as burnt offerings to the deceased in Chinese culture. (Wikipedia, keyword hell money or joss paper)

    [3] Side note: for more on tripods, please read Jin Yongs Deer and Cauldron, Chapter 1, translated by yours truly.

  16. #16
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 2 - Chapter 3

    Book 2 Chapter 3 Acting Without Thinking

    When Du Fuwei pursued outside the restaurant, he saw all the lanterns along this shady street were still shining brightly. It was only then did he realize that this was the red-light district; most of the brothels in this town were concentrated here, the sound of people and carriages still lingered in the air.

    Without thinking he dashed into a side alley, jumped onto the roof, focused his eyes and ears, and tried to listen with all his might, while at the same time unleashed his lightness skill to fly over houses and jumped over the roof. In just a short period of time he had already been around several streets in a big circle. But he still did not see the two little demons, neither did he hear hurried footsteps of people running away.

    With Du Fuweis ability, he still suffered a big headache.

    He had already made a prompt decision of leaving the enemy and running out to pursue, yet he was still too late to intercept these two boys. He knew the boys were exceedingly smart, they must have hidden someplace nearby. Unless he could search every place within a hundred zhang radius, he could forget about ever finding them.

    While running around, he could not stop cursing his own stupidity; if from the beginning he controlled them by sealing their acupoints, without any care whether he would hurt them or not, all these maddening things would not have happened.

    Could it be that he had lost his mind that he made such a gross miscalculation? It was really unlike his usual style of always make thorough planning on everything.

    He sighed, and then jumped back to the ground to carry out his search operation.

    Meanwhile, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, two boys had just stepped into a low-grade brothel more than ten buildings away.

    Naturally it was Kou Zhongs crafty idea. Because common sense dictates that they would run as far away as possible. But if they do that, Du Fuwei only had to grab any passerby and asked, and he would immediately know the direction these two boys were running madly. Besides, Fu Junchuo once told them that martial art masters are also experts in following a trail. Therefore, they deliberately did the opposite. They looked for the most crowded place nearby, and mingled among the crowd. Naturally it led them into this Piao Xiang [floating fragrance] Courtyard.

    But their clothes and down-and-out appearance gave the people no reason to compliment them. Upon entering the gate, they were immediately intercepted by four bouncers who looked like they were also the bodyguards of somebody important. We are full! one of them shouted, Please go someplace else.

    Kou Zhong giggled and put his hand into his pocket. It was only then did he recall that in his anxiety to rescue Xu Ziling and thought that he would not return alive, he had generously donated all his silver to Susu. Thereupon he hurriedly slapped Xu Zilings arm.

    Having known each other so well, naturally Xu Ziling understood what the slap means. He took out a few pieces of silver and stuffed it into one the mens hand, while saying with a laugh, Our father and all our five uncles are government officials in Yangzhou. This time we came with our [paternal] uncle to do some shopping here. Serve us well, and you will be heavily rewarded.

    Looking at the silver in his hand, the man smiled and said, Shaoye [young master[1]] please follow Xiaoren [little/lowly one, referring to self].

    Greatly delighted, the two boys stepped into the hall. The procuress, who dressed like an old demon, stepped out to meet them. As soon as the two boys saw her, they sucked in a mouthful of air; thinking that just by looking at this old procuress, they knew that compared to the Zui Feng Lou [drunken wind balcony; actually, lou means multi-story building], this brothel was several levels below. But this time escaping with their lives was a more pressing matter, so they could not be bothered by it.

    When the procuress saw them, she immediately frowned as well. Not because the smell of their mothers milk had not dried yet, because she had seen a lot of patrons even younger than they were, but because it was the very first time that she saw customers that looked like they have not taken a bath in a year, with their unkempt hair and filthy face.

    The procuress stared mercilessly at the bouncer and without any trace of politeness said, Ah Yuan, whats going on here?

    Grinning, Xu Ziling offered her some silver. Who would have thought that the procuress did not even cast him a glance? Rules are rules, she said in disdain, Didnt you see the sign at the main entrance, No proper attire, no service? If you want our Piao Xiang Courtyard girls to entertain you, go home, take a bath and change your clothes; then you can come back!

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling thought: wasnt her request the same as asking for their life? Giggling, Kou Zhong said, The reason we came here other than to spend money is exactly to find a place to take a bath and change our clothes.

    Puzzled, the procuress asked, You dont have even half a bundle, where will the change of clothes come from?

    Kou Zhong calmly turned to Xu Ziling and said, Xiongdi, please give this Dage a lot of money so that he can buy two sets of clothes for us.

    Xu Ziling reluctantly took out a quarter of all the silver in his possession and handed it to the man. The man and the procuress immediately broke into smiles.

    After the man left, still with a big smile on her face, the procuress accepted Xu Zilings tip and said respectfully, Shaoye please follow Nujia [female slave, referring to self].

    When the two boys heard her, whose face was covered in heavy rouge, whose bloody mouth wide open like a sacrificial bowl, saying the two words nujia, the hair on their entire body stood on its end; they looked at each other and smiled bitterly.

    Just as they were about to step forward, a chirpy oriole-like voice came from behind, Chen Daniang [aunt, fathers older brothers wife]! Which auntie are these two Gongzi looking for?

    All three of them turned around in surprise. They saw a beautiful, lively girl stood behind them. Behind the girl stood a quiet maid and two bodyguards. The girl stared coyly and smiled flirtatiously at the two boys; her posture was extremely provocative in a loose way.

    The girl had a fair skin, youthful and tender, her figure shapely, her face elegant, dazzling and beautiful. Even in Yangzhou, which was well-known for its prostitutes, this kind of youthful glow, which was without broken flower, withered willow feel at all, was extremely rare.

    The two boys stared blankly at her, while that Auntie Chen immediately stepped forward to greet her, beaming with joy. Turns out its Qingqing, my obedient daughter, she cooed, Lu Daye has been waiting for you the whole night.

    Qingqing looked at Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling up and down several times. Pfft! she giggled and said, The sky has just turned dark, how could they wait for me the whole night? But if they still want to continue waiting, they will wait the whole night. She spoke while walking over toward the two boys, and circled around them in great interest.

    Is this the first time you two boys come to this place? she asked, Just now Nujia saw you outside, but I was inside the carriage, so you did not see me.

    Auntie Chen put on her best smiling face; she came over with a forced laugh, The two Gongzi are here to visit the bathhouse. Why dont my Qingqing be a good girl and greet Lu Daye, huh?

    Qingqing let out a tender snort and said, Tonight your Miss only want to accompany these two Gongzi. Reaching out to grab the two boys arms, she said, Come! Follow me!

    She turned to her maid and ordered her to get some bath supplies, leaving the procuress stood in the hall while staring blankly at her.

    The two boys exchanged glances, they were both very excited with their luck that has just flown in; they thought that if their virginity was destroyed by this kind of woman, it was certainly worth it.

    However, they had just left the hall, the smiling expression on Qingqings face immediately vanished without a trace. Pushing the two boys through a long corridor, they arrived at the bathhouse; turns out it was a hot spring bath.

    Qingqing pushed the two boys in and coldly said, Go take a bath!

    The two boys were still stunned when the maid arrived with bath towel and other bathing supplies. Qingqing took one set and pushed it into Xu Zilings hands. With a wooden expression she said, Take your time! No need to hurry! And then she turned around and left. She even closed the door.

    While the two boys were still staring blankly at the closed door, they heard Qingqings nervous voice outside, Has Huang Gongzi arrived? And then they heard the sound of footsteps going farther and farther away.

    They suddenly realized that they were being used by this girl. Kou Zhong angrily threw the towel and everything else on the floor.

    The two boys looked at each other, and then almost simultaneously they doubled up in laughter; they laughed so hard that they were nearly out of breath, with tears flowing down their face.

    Half a day later the two boys happily immersed themselves in the tepid water, washing away the dirt, getting rid of the disgrace. Kou Zhong said with a laugh, We must have violated Peach Blossom Fiend[2] tonight; first we were tripped by that unruly girl that we tumbled down, then this unruly woman is using us as a bridge. With all these bad luck, the only consolation is that we recover our freedom and preserve our little lives.

    Xu Ziling shook his head as he said with a laugh, Judging from the Ol Dus foot strength, right now he must be a hundred li away. And when he still cannot find us, he would think that our qinggong [lightness skill] is more formidable than his. Ah! Not right!

    The two boys countenance changed. They both realized that if Du Fuwei could not catch up with them, he would come back to search for them here.

    Knock! Knock! Suddenly there was a knock on the door.

    The two boys immediately slid down underwater.

    Gongzi! The clothes are here!

    Greatly delighted, the two boys jumped out of the pool, opened the door, took the clothes, hurriedly put them on, and then slipped out the door and walked back toward the rear courtyard.

    From all around the courtyard their ears were assaulted by the sound of music and singing, the clamor of people laughing and talking, plus the hooting of people playing finger-guessing game and betting on drinks; it was certainly very noisy and lively. Unfortunately the two boys felt as if they lived in a big cold earth where there was no prospect of life; they were not the least bit affected by the gaiety of the world around them.

    Yet they were still unaware that Du Fuwei has just stepped into the main gate of this pleasure house.

    The two boys dodged to the left and slipped to the right, finally they reached the rear courtyard. But as soon as they looked around, their hearts sank, because the entire backyard was surrounded by solid, impenetrable tall wall [orig. not one drop can trickle through], more than two zhang high. The only way out was via an iron gate; to them, it was tantamount to a big prison where the heavens was the only way out.

    Kou Zhong threw himself toward the iron gate. But when he felt the lock with his hand, he was shaken, My mother! he exclaimed, Who sawed the padlock?

    Xu Ziling was greatly delighted. Who cares? he said, Lets go!

    Kou Zhong carelessly tossed the broken padlock and then he forced the door open. Two boys slipped out and reclosed the gate.

    While they were still thinking which direction to take, they heard hoof beats. A horse-drawn carriage came out from the shadow across the street. The man driving the carriage called out, Qingqing! Get in the carriage!

    The two boys were stunned. And then it suddenly dawned on them that Qingqing was going to elope with her sweetheart.

    In the meantime the man driving the carriage had seen clearly that they were not Qingqing and her maid; surprised, he halted the carriage.

    Kou Zhong waved at him and laughed. Then he and Xu Ziling slipped away into a small lane on the opposite side. But they were only taking two steps when he suddenly stopped, pulled Xu Ziling along, and whispered, I have a great idea!

    Under the carriage! Xu Ziling excitedly replied.

    The two boys slapped their hands together and then turned around and hurry back.

    The iron gate was opening again, Qingqing and her maid, who by this time have worn mens clothing, darted out the door and into the carriage.

    That Huang Gongzi lightly tapped the horsewhip onto the horses buttocks, the carriage started moving, and very soon it started accelerating.

    Right this moment Du Fuwei had just flown over the wall overlooking the rear courtyard; he saw the carriage moving away. Immediately he exerted his true qi, and jumped into the air. Like a shooting star he flew toward the carriage, and landed about ten zhang behind it. Right away he ran after the carriage.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling saw Du Fuweis frightening long legs were getting nearer and nearer; they were so scared that they did not dare to breathe.

    Du Fuwei increased his speed and flew toward the window. Focusing his eyes, he looked through the carriage screen and into the dark cabin. As soon as he saw that they were not Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, he somersaulted and jumped onto the roof of a nearby building to scan the surrounding for fear that the two boys have run far away.

    By the time the two boys were breathing a sigh of relief, the carriage had just passed the big board above the city gate, and galloped onward on the official road.

    The carriage stopped. Qingqing got out of the carriage door, and sat on the driver seat next to that Huang Gongzi. Next, the two boys heard kissing sound.

    Under the carriage, the two boys were greatly envious.

    After half a day, Huang Gongzi said, Do you have it?

    Immensely proud of herself, Qingqing replied, Of course. I earned these pearls, jewels and money, naturally I am taking everything away.

    Under the carriage, Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, Turns out he is just a dirty old man who swindles money and sex; shall we take a bit of advantage [orig. lead away a goat in passing]?

    Xu Ziling shook his head resolutely. I dont want this kind of butchering-meat money, he said, Dont forget Niangs expectation on us.

    A bit nervous, Qingqing said, Cant we move a bit faster? Those underlings of Xie Laoda have fast horses.

    The carriage suddenly turned from the official road and continued galloping on the open plain.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were holding on tight with their hands and feet on the axles. As the carriage traveled along a bumpy field, they were shaken and tossed around so hard that they could not hold on anymore.

    Qingqing suddenly asked in horror, Where are you going?

    Huang Gongzi replied, I dont know why the carriage is particularly slow today. Let us hide in the forest ahead for a while, and then after the pursuing party passed by, we can continue our journey.

    Qingqing did not understand. Didnt we prepare a boat ahead? Arent we going to board the boat and sail to Poyang? How can we change our plan so easily?

    By this time the carriage had pulled into the forest. That Huang Gongzi had Qingqing lighted two wind lanterns. After galloping along a short stretch of road, he stopped the carriage.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling could not hold on anymore, they let go and fell onto the grassy ground underneath the carriage.

    Huang Gongzis hey hey wanton laughter was heard from above. Come! he said lecherously, We nothing to do anyway; lets get intimate inside the carriage.

    Qingqing angrily responded, Presently others are frightened and nervous, how can I have the mood? Besides, Xier is inside.

    What are you afraid of? Huang Gongzi replied, Sooner or later Xier will be mine too!

    From the front, the two people entered the carriage.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were crawling to stand up. They were about to leave when suddenly from inside the carriage they heard the rustling noise of people struggling, followed by Xiers shrieking, Let go of my Miss!

    The two boys were startled; they did not expect that not only this Huang Gongzi wanted to swindle money and sex, he also wanted to commit murder. Quickly they sprang up and open the carriage door by force, and just in time to see Huang Gongzi was strangling Qingqings throat, while Xier has been pushed down by him into the corner.

    Kou Zhong rushed inside and punched Huang Gongzis back. Huang Gongzi howled in pain and thus his hand loosened.

    Xu Ziling grabbed the bun of his hair, with some supernatural power that he did not know he had, he pulled Huang Gongzis entire body and threw him outside the carriage without too much trouble.

    This man obviously did not know martial art, being punched and kicked by the two boys, he was unable to crawl back up for half a day. Hero, please spare my life! he said in quivering voice.

    Qingqing stroked her throat while coughing incessantly. With a choked voice she called out, Stop hitting him!

    The two boys were taken aback. Dont you know he wanted to take your money as well as your life? Kou Zhong asked.

    Qingqing nodded. She hastily walked over to give Huang Gongzis handsome face several fierce kicks. Finally she sat slumped on the ground dejectedly and angrily shouted, Get lost!

    Blood had already filled Huang Gongzis face; hearing her, it was as if he had just received the Emperors pardon. Rolling and crawling he entered the forest, away from the reach of the lantern lights.

    By this time the pretty maid Xier was helping Qingqing up. Four people, eight eyes met, nobody knew what to say.

    Qingqings erect breasts rose and fell continuously. Staring at the two boys, her countenance turned ugly as she said, Its you!

    Stunned, Kou Zhong said, Is that how you treat your benefactors who have just saved your life?

    Qingqing stomped her foot, Even if I am killed, its none of your, two little demons business.

    Xier could not put up with it any longer, she shook Qingqings arm and said, Miss! They are good people!

    Qingqings eyes were brimming with tears, yet she was still throwing tantrums, I dont care! she said, Get lost!

    The two boys felt really awkward. Xu Ziling still gave her earnest and well-meaning advice, If you know how to ride a horse, just untie the horse pulling the carriage, then you can go a bit faster.

    Throwing his arm around Kou Zhongs shoulder, with the other arm he waved, and then walked away.

    Qingqing threw herself on the ground, crying, I dont want those two little demons despise me! I am so angry I want to die!

    Xier was still looking at the direction the two boys went. The dark and dense forest seemed to extend far away endlessly. In her heart she mused that after taking a bath, those two boys actually looked better looking than that Huang Gongzi; no wonder her Miss, who has always been strong-willed and eager to win at everything, did not wish for them to see her falling into misfortune like this.

    [1] I feel that I need to explain this young master term more. Shao means younger or lesser, while Ye means master, as in master-servant or superior-subordinate relationship (Laoye, old master, Daye, big master, Shaoye, young master]. The other term is Gongzi, which is a polite term to refer to young men in general. I figure it is similar to Master in old English literature, like Charles Dickens Christmas Carol, where Scrooge addressed Bob Cratchits son as Master. Example would be last chapter, where Shen Naitang addressed Liang Shunming as Gongzi.

    [2] Peach Blossom Fiend: I am not too clear about this; it has something to do with astrology, used to describe bad love entanglement.
    Last edited by foxs; 07-23-15 at 09:46 PM.

  17. #17
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 2 - Chapter 4

    Book 2 Chapter 4 Great Scheme of Acquiring Wealth

    After walking for more than twenty days in the southeastern direction, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, the pair that was hard to differentiate which one was older and which one was younger, arrived at Yuhang [district, Hangzhou, Zhejiang], a big county town by the sea.

    After having their stomach full, Kou Zhong said, Now that everybody is after our treasure-trove, which make famous, if we roam the Jianghu without training exceptional divine skill first, we might have a miserable or even tragic ending. But if we look for a place to hide and shrink our heads like a turtle, not only we wont achieve what Niang was hoping for us, we will never be able to kill Yuwen Huagu either. What do you think we should do?

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, I really wish to see Li Dage and Susu Jiejie; but Gaoyou is so close to Yangzhou. That old muddled-egg Du Fuwei must be in Yangzhou doing some treasure hunt; there is a pretty good chance we will come across him!

    He sighed again before continuing, Now we have only a little silver left, and I am tired of picking other peoples pocket. We dont even have a place to stay, what do you want me to do?

    Kou Zhongs eyes lit up. Li Dage must have thought that we are dead; how could he wait for us at Gaoyou? he said, You are right, right now we have to get some money; otherwise, how can we have enough travel expense to go to Luoyang to look for He Clans Jade Annulus?

    Do you have good idea on how to make a fortune? Xu Ziling asked happily.

    Kou Zhong already had the answer, All great schemes to acquire wealth are inevitably linked to set your hand on it when the price is low, and let it go when the price is high. This is a salt-producing area. As long as we buy his grannys cart of salt and smuggle his birds [must be swear word like his granny] into inland area where there is shortage of salt, we can exchange salt to money just like gold. At that time when we practice Li Dages Bloody Battle Ten-Style, we wont need to use ridiculous tree branches.

    Do you know a place where salt is scarce? Xu Ziling wondered.

    Kou Zhongs eyes flitted toward a table on the left side of the wine shop; he said in low voice, Look, that girl is so cute!

    Xu Ziling was more worried over their livelihood [orig. firewood and grain of rice]; he was not interested even to look. Come on! he urged.

    Kou Zhong put on an air of importance; pointing to his own noggin he said, The most useful thing in the world is a smart mind. Right now the Ol Du has cut off the river route along the Great River. Unless people with power and influence like Song Clan, nobody has the ability to transport salt to the region west of Liyang. Therefore, if we can ship his birds one cart of salt over there, even if we have to set up a stall on the ground [fig. to start up a new business], we will earn a bowl full, a basin full of profit. Come! If you want to get rich, come with me!

    After paying the bill, the two left the wine shop. They asked around where the salt wholesale place was, and immediately set out on their mission.

    Xu Ziling wavered. We have financial resources to buy salt, he said, But where would we find the money to buy a mule cart?

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, You did not seem to have heard of a reliable means of transportation called the wheelbarrow[1]. Come on!

    The two boys walked for half a sichen [reminder: 1 sichen = 2 hours] before reaching the dock outside the town. They saw boundless ocean extending indefinitely in front of them. This was the first time they saw ocean that they were dumbstruck.

    Kou Zhong breathed out a mouthful of cold air as he said, It would be better if we could steal a boat and then go to the other side of the ocean to take a look. Based on our skill, maybe we can be the emperor of another country; at that time, it wont be a problem for us to take a dozen concubines.

    As far as his eyes could see, Xu Ziling saw countless ships and boats, the masts were like a forest, and there were hundreds, if not thousands, of porters loading and unloading the boats, with merchants and travelers coming and going in unending stream; it was really bustling with noise and excitement.

    Pushing along Kou Zhong, who was still having a longing look on his eyes, he said, Getting rich is more important, lets go!

    The two boys joined the throng. They saw not only all kinds of Jianghu personalities, they also saw a lot of government officers mingling among the crowd.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were unsure whether there were wanted notices on them in this place; seeing the officers, they tried to avoid them as far as possible.

    Soon afterwards they reached the street where the most famous salt distribution center was located. There were more than a dozen large, spacious stores with open areas where row after row of salt were on display. These stores were built against the sea, behind these stores were the piers, where big cargo ships and small boats were moored.

    There were over a dozen shops, but each and every one of those shops was jam-packed with people. The salt piled up like a mountain, it was so cheap that it looked like one could just take a sack or half sack without paying anything.

    Encountering this kind of situation, the two boys merely stood timidly. After some argument, Xu Ziling was elected as the designated negotiator. They decided on an elderly gentleman standing behind the counter, doing some calculation with an abacus.

    With great difficulty Xu Ziling squeezed himself through the crowd, and then clearing his throat, he said, Laoban [boss]! We want to buy your goods.

    Without even looking up, the elderly gentleman replied coldly, For the next three months all the goods here have been pre-ordered. Which store are you from?

    While Xu Ziling was at a loss and did not know how to answer, Kou Zhong pushed him from behind and said, Lets go to different store!

    The elderly gentleman acted as if he was not even aware of their existence; he continued concentrating on his abacus.

    A man leaning against the counter stared at them coldly; he said, Two Xiao Xiongdi looked unfamiliar; are you from out of town?

    Xu Ziling nodded, We are from out of town, he replied.

    The elderly gentleman mumbled, Ol Liu, if you want to gossip, get out of the shop, dont obstruct people picking up their order here.

    Ol Liu winked at the two boys, and led them out of the shop and onto the street, where he sized them up and down, and then with a condescending manner said, Looks to me you came here to buy goods, thinking that you can transport it inland to make a fortune. Its just that I rarely see someone as young as you are doing it. How much money do you have?

    Since childhood Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling grew up in the marketplace, how could they not know that they have met a swindler? Shaking their head, they turned around to leave.

    Ol Lius countenance suddenly changed. He blocked their path and said menacingly, You think you can go that easily?

    Bang! Kou Zhongs fist landed on his lower abdomen.

    Immediately Ol Liu doubled up in pain like a shrimp, and then he dropped on his knew with his hands on his stomach, followed by his entire body slumped on the ground; he did not even have any strength to groan.

    One after another the people nearby scattered to avoid them.

    Xu Ziling looked at Kou Zhongs fist; he gasped, When did your fist become that formidable?

    Following his gaze, Kou Zhong also looked at his own fist; stunned, he said, Could it be because I have mastered the first level of Nine Mysteries Great Method that I am one sixth as formidable as Niang?

    Noticing that hundreds of eyes were looking at them, while this Ol Lius life and death was still unclear as he was still lying on the ground and became an eye-sore, Xu Ziling pulled Kou Zhong away into the crowd, which automatically made way for them.

    They were just about to enter another salt store to try their luck when from behind someone called out, Two Xiao Xiongdi, please hold your steps!

    The two boys knew that trouble has arrived; they stopped and turned around.

    They saw three men wearing dark green clothes walking toward them in triangular formation. The man taking the lead was about thirty, with straightforward appearance. His manner and movement indicated that he was a man who was used to run amuck.

    However, this time his face carried a smiling expression as he cupped his fist and said, I am Tan Yong, the Fu Duozhu [vice helmsman] of the Hai Sha Bang [sea sand gang] Yuhang division. Seeing two Xiao Xiongdis skill and toughness, my heart itches to make friends with you. What do you say we find a place where laoge [old brother] can play a host to you?

    The two boys felt he was giving them a lot of face, but at the same time they realized that they had offended an underworld gang member, so nothing good would come out of this.

    Xu Ziling shook his head and said, We still need to hurry to buy some goods to do business.

    Tan Yong quickly came over, If two Xiao Xiongdi want to buy salt, you need not bother to waste your time. Lets not talk about all the goods here have already been divided up among a dozen big firms, even if someone is willing to sell some to you, not only the gangs [orig. bang hui, clan/gang and society] will want their share, the officers will want their share, the authorities will want their share, and lastly you have to pay salt tax. In short, for a hundred hard work, the profit is not enough to spend three days in a low-grade brothel, and I mean the cheapest rural town low-grade brothel.

    Hearing this, the boys two hearts sank to the bottom. Wouldnt their great scheme of acquiring wealth result in nothing?

    Tan Yong laughed and said, Come!

    The two boys exchanged glances, and then they followed him to a small restaurant nearby to sit down. Tan Yong introduced his subordinates first, the other two men, to them, one was called Xie Feng, the other Chen Gui, before casually asked the two boys background.

    Kou Zhong answered all his questions, but naturally he gave him fabricated answers. He wanted to be a Wulins martial art master, but he has not climbed up that high yet. However, speaking about lying, even Du Fuwei was duped by him, much less Tan Yong, who was practically a nobody; of course they believed everything he said without any doubt.

    He believed the two boys were Fu Zhong and Fu Ling, that their martial art skill was handed down in their family from generation to generation, and that currently they were looking for an opportunity to make money by becoming daring small-caliber gangsters.

    Tan Yong seemed to be satisfied. Other than using your palm and fist, what kind of weapon can you use? he asked.

    Xu Ziling patted his chest, We use sabers, he replied, A dozen or so men cannot do anything to us.

    Tan Yong was a bit skeptical, Is it possible for me to test Xiao Xiongdis saber skill? he asked.

    Kou Zhong arrogantly replied, Real gold is not afraid of red fire. But it would be better if Tan Ye [master] tell us your business first. Mans life on earth is nothing more than to seek riches. I am sure Tan Ye also understands this logic Ha!

    Tan Yong laughed aloud. He said, As soon as I saw two Xiao Xiongdi, I feel like Ive known you for a long time. Wealth is just material thing, Xiongdi wants money, you will get money, Xiongdi wants women, you will get women. Let us go back and meet our Duozhu [helmsman][2]; after we become real sworn brothers later, anything you dont like, you can just let me know.

    Kou Zhong was very familiar with the way the dark road gang people worked just like his own ten toes. With a giggle he leaned over and whispered in Tan Yongs ear, Tan Ye noticed that we are from out of town, also we are just two kids who are still wet behind the ears; therefore, you want us to join your Haisha Gang to kill people from other gang. Afterwards, you push the blame away, neat and clean. Hey! This is called black pot can crush people dead.

    Tan Yong was immediately as dumb as a wooden chicken. Even Jianghu veteran like Tan Yong was caught unprepared and was unable to respond, because more or less what Kou Zhong said was exactly why he wanted to win the two boys over. It was as if Kou Zhong was the worm in his belly. Naturally there was considerable difference in the ins and outs of this matter.

    Kou Zhong patted Xu Zilings shoulder. Xiongdi! he said, Lets go!

    Tan Yong turned around and called out, Hold on!

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling thought that from ashamed, he was going to fly into a rage; hence they stood close together, ready to fight.

    Xie Feng and Chen Guis eyes were also gleaming with ominous glint; they were ready to make their move.

    But Tan Yong sighed and said with a wry smile, Fu Xiaodi is really formidable. It would be better if I speak openly

    Kou Zhong cut him off, You must not say it. If you do, according to Jianghu rule, we cant forget of getting away.

    Xu Ziling also laughed aloud and said, We two brothers entering the Jianghu and making our names relying only on our skill; we have never considered relying on any patron.

    Hearing this, Tan Yong, three people were dumbstruck. These two boys possessed absolute sophistication that did not match their age; they were really impressed.

    Kou Zhong pulled Xu Ziling away. After cupping their fist in salute, they no longer care about the three people, they simply turned around and left.

    Reaching the street, the two boys were a little apprehensive, without thinking their feet took them back to the piers.

    This time suddenly they saw a big ship far away coming near, and was met by two government boats. It appeared that these two boats have been waiting for the big ship.

    For some reason the big ship attracted the two boys attention, mainly because both the external shape and the flag exuded exoticism.

    As the big boat docked, immediately they saw people appearing on the deck, but since the boat was far away, they could not see clearly. It was not until a government official, escorted by four officers, climbed up the ship on a rope ladder that the two boys regained their vision.

    Kou Zhong wrapped his arm around Xu Zilings shoulder; he sighed and said, Doing normal business is really not easy. Turns out people who can strike it rich are unscrupulous businessmen who completely lack righteousness and justice. Ha! I have another great idea. Tonight we come back here and steal his birds boat of salt, and then we slip away quietly. This way we could even save those few coins.

    Xu Zilings heart was moved, They have so much salt, he said, We stealing a dozen sacks will not make them bankrupt! Lets steal from that shop just now! Thinking about that shopkeeper makes me angry.

    Seeing he agreed, Kou Zhong was delighted. Now thats my good brother indeed, he said, But being a thief we must have thiefs equipment; for example, steel wire to pick locks, weapons to protect ourselves, bunch of ropes, and so on. Our future rice and porridge will depend on this endeavor.

    You are the one who came up with the thief idea, naturally you must be the one who has to take care of all these things, Xu Ziling said.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, Joined together we are strong, divided we are weak. In this world we two brothers only have each other, certainly you dont want me to rush about alone, tiring me so much that tonight I cant even move my legs, and then Ling Di [younger brother], you will have to be the thief alone.

    Xu Ziling was already accustomed to his schemes; he was just joking with him. Kou Zhong has always cherished his little brother so much, but from time to time he could not help taking a bit of advantage of him.

    While Xu Ziling was about to speak, he suddenly realized that Kou Zhong had his eyes fixed to their left, while his countenance underwent a great change.

    Xu Ziling promptly turned his head and saw a group of perhaps forty, fifty people that looked like ruffians and thugs, dressed in porter attire; in their hands they had sharp hooks, pointy sticks, shoulder poles, and the like. These people were heading their direction, and the one leading them was, not surprisingly, that Ol' Liu. The two boys' escape route was completely blocked.

    The people on the docks immediately scattered away like flying chicken or running dogs; several government officers included. Apparently the situation was beyond the reach of the law.

    Kou Zhong sucked in a mouthful of cold air. "Xiao Ling!" he said, "Did Niang ever teach us how to fight barehanded against naked blades?"

    Xu Ziling had never seen such a big mob; he shook his head.

    And then, with a loud shout the two of them turned around and ran for their lives along the pier toward the ocean.

    The thugs' battle cry shook the heavens as they also ran after them in wild chase. The situation was extremely chaotic.

    Evidently the two boys were able to run faster than the bunch of thugs; they swung to the left and swayed to the right among the piles of salt, passing over the people running away in all direction, and in a blink of an eye reached the seaside.

    Kou Zhong pulled Xu Ziling toward the big ship that has just arrived and was anchored to the dock. If the ship belonged to some foreign envoys, naturally there would be some important people [orig. have face] on board; chances are these thugs would not dare to pursue them up.

    In a flash these two boys covered a distance of close to a hundred zhang before they finally reached the rope ladder. Not having enough time to hesitate, they desperately climbed onto the ship.

    The ladder was approximately five zhang high; very soon they reached the top. Suddenly four swords blocked their way, while someone shouted angrily, "Get lost!"

    The two boys turned their heads to look down, and saw a lot of the thugs have already caught up with them at the bottom of the ladder. It was indeed a case of 'no way out ahead, pursuing troops behind'. The only way was to jump into the sea.

    While they were groaning inwardly, they faintly heard a tender, melodious female voice coming from above, "Let those two come aboard!"

    Someone replied, "Yes! Madame!"

    The swords moved away.

    The two boys felt as if they had just been granted the Emperor's pardon, and quickly climbed the rest of the way up.

    They had just reached the deck when the hands behind them started to move. The four men wearing white warrior outfit hacked, chopped and sliced the pursuing thugs as if they were chopping melon or cutting vegetables so that they fell from the rope ladder, and had to jump to the sea.

    The rest of the thugs were so scared that they turned around and ran back toward the pier, nobody dared to climb up the ship anymore.

    There was no one on the deck other than the four warriors; they did not even see the Madame that has just let them got on board.

    The two boys breathed a sigh of relief, inwardly happy that they were able to snatch their little life back. They did not forget to look down at the Ol Liu and the others who were shouting and making a racket at the dock, and waved their hands at them.

    Suddenly they heard the female voice again from their back, the voice seemed to come from a distance. Two Xiao Gongzi, please come with me!

    The boys jumped in fright. But when they turned around, their eyes lit up. Turned out it was a young and pretty maid, who was sizing them up while hiding a smile on her face.

    Since they have saved the two boys life, it was only proper for them to obey their command.

    Assuming the air of a refined gentleman, Kou Zhong bowed and said, Jiejie, please lead the way!

    Pfft! the maid burst in laughter. She turned around gracefully and led them in.

    The two boys scrambled over each other to walk behind her, to enjoy watching her beautiful back. They both felt that not only the Heaven did not bar their way, God treated them with exceptional generosity as well.

    Stepping over the door, they saw a hallway stretching out in front of them, with three cabin doors on either side, but they did not see anybody, giving them the impression that the overall atmosphere was rather mysterious.

    The pretty maid led them toward the last door on the left; beyond that they saw the stairs leading up and down to other levels of the deck.

    The two boys were glancing to the left and right in curiosity when the pretty maid pushed the cabin door open and spoke softly, Two Gongzi, please come in.

    As soon as they stepped in, they were stunned. Because this room was actually very spacious, only there was a hanging bamboo curtain right in the middle, dividing the room into two sections. On the door side, there were lighted oil lamps on all four corners; there was also a bench and a small table for people to sit. Several scrolls of painting were hanging on the wall. Apparently the designer of this room put a lot of thought on the layout.

    Due to the light in this side of the bamboo wall was a lot brighter than the other side, unless they lifted up the bamboo curtain, they could never see the mystery that was on the other side. But if there were anybody on the other side looking this way, he or she would be able to see everything clearly, including the fine hair on their body.

    The maid politely said, Two Gongzi, please sit down.

    After the two sat down, the maid withdrew and closed the door behind her.

    The two boys sat facing the bamboo wall; they smell faint fragrance coming from the other side of the bamboo curtain, a fragrance that was very captivating.

    While Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were feeling lost, a very delicate womans voice was heard from the other side of the bamboo curtain. Two Xiao Gongzi, why did those dock ruffians chase you?

    Kou Zhong recognized the voice. Turns out it was Madame! he said respectfully, Let us, two brothers, express our gratitude for saving our lives first.

    Xu Ziling was afraid Kou Zhong might spout some nonsense, he interjected, We had a fight with one of them, hence he called on those people to deal with us.

    The Madame said dryly, Two Xiao Gongzi speak in refined manner, moreover, you have strong skill, but you dont seem to know martial art; why is that?

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, All our skill was taught by our Niang; how to read and recognize character, also she who took care of everything. After Niang passed away, we roam around everywhere, trying to see if there is any business we can do to make a fortune

    A tender snort came from behind the curtain, interrupting him, but clearly it was not Madames voice.

    The two boys were stunned; they have just realized that other than the Madame, there was another woman in there, whose status couldnt be lower than the Madame herself.

    But why did she express displeasure at what Kou Zhong just said?

    The Madames voice was heard again, And the other Xiao Gongzi, what is your intention?

    Xu Ziling knew she was asking him; shrugging his shoulder, he said, Advance or retreat, we are together. He wants to make a fortune, naturally I also want to make a fortune.

    The Madame sighed and said, Other than money, what else do you want to accomplish?

    Madame, Kou Zhong replied, That is a very good question. After riches, naturally we want status. It would be best if we could be government official; that will certainly bring honor to our ancestors, spreading out our might to the eight directions.

    From gentle, the tone of Madames voice turned icy-cold as she calmly said, There are so many people suffering from the chaos of war and from the tyranny of the rulers out there; havent you thought about striving for the common people, to bring light refreshments to the people under the heavens?

    Xu Ziling replied in consternation, We are lowly and weak people, we cant even guarantee that we will eat three meals a day; we have never thought about that kind of things.

    Remembering Li Jing, Kou Zhong said with a bitter smile, That kind of great undertaking, only big hero can take it upon himself.

    Madame said flatly, Everybody has his own ambition. Gentlemen, please disembark now!

    Horrified, the two boys cried out, How could you do this?

    The door was pushed open, the maid walked in without any expression on her face. Her pretty face looked serious as she said bluntly, Gentlemen, please!

    It was as if the two boys had seen two completely different people. Knowing that pleading would only bring them ridicule and cursing, the two boys had no choice but to puff out their chest and follow her back to the deck.

    As they reached the hanging ladder, they saw the four warriors were still standing there with their hands on the hilt of their swords, adopting an expelling-the-guest pose.

    On the dock below, Ol Liu and his gang of thugs were still waiting for their appearance, but they did not dare to make a ruckus. Evidently the warriors on the ship managed to strike fear in their heart.

    It appears that this place was more lawless than Yangzhou.

    Kou Zhong lightly pulled the corner of Xu Zilings clothes and said in low voice, Jump ship!

    Xu Ziling understood. Without saying anything, they ran at full speed toward the side of the ship farthest away from the dock, flew over the railings, and jumped into the ocean.

    Seeing they disappeared into the sea, a hint of smile appeared on the corner of the maids mouth, as if she already knew their response, but she did not stop them at all.

    [1] I found an interesting article on Chinese wheelbarrow, which is different from modern wheelbarrows, here: http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2011/...eelbarrow.html

    [2] Helmsman: this is another thing that I have difficulty translating. Some of you followed my Deer and Cauldron, in the end I decided to keep it as is.
    Last edited by foxs; 07-23-15 at 09:48 PM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 2 - Chapter 5

    Book 2 Chapter 5 Madame Dong Ming

    Splash! Splash! One after another the two boys fell into the water.

    The moment just before they entered the water, they saw three fast boats speeding toward them. There were several thugs on each boat, each one had a long punting pole equipped with sharp hook in his hand, they were shouting curses and swearing cuss words at the two boys as they came.

    In the water, Kou Zhong knew that Xu Zilings water skill was not as good as his, so he desperately pulled him to dive toward the bottom of the big ship. Only by using the big ship as shield would they be able to evade the enemys punting poles. As for how to take a breath, at this time he still did not bother about it.

    By the time the two boys reached the depth where the bottom of the ship was, the oxygen in their lungs had been depleted. They wanted to float up, but were hitting the keel. Being unprepared, they nearly died of suffocation; while they were at a loss, suddenly a stream of qi erupted. The two were pleased beyond their imagination; together they swam toward the stern.

    By the time this new qi was also depleted, another stream of qi was automatically generated from within their body. This time the two boys noticed that this strange qi was not dropped from the sky at all, but rather, it was generated by their bodys true qi. It grew and multiplied unendingly that the two boys enjoyed its tremendous benefits. At this moment, they had already forgotten about how to deal with the enemy on the surface.

    Xu Ziling felt strange heat appeared from the sole of his right foot, while cold stream steeped in from the sole of his left foot. The true qi surged and continuously circulated within his body, causing him to automatically channel his true qi according to the diagram in the Secret to Long Life. At the same time his vision brightened considerably that he could see the dark shadow of the hulls above him, big and small, different from each other, as if it was a pattern.

    Kou Zhongs experience was virtually the same; its just that the true qi originated from the Tian Ling acupoint on the top of his head.

    The two of them moved about slowly in the deep water, approximately four zhang below the sea surface. Each time they stretched out their limbs, the true qi in their body circulated one time in perfect harmony [orig. seamless heavenly clothes].

    The true qi was self-generating perpetually, without giving them the feeling of suffocation.

    After swimming for nobody knows how long, they crawled up onto the beach far away from the docks.

    The sun was about to set, the two boys lying side-by-side on the sandy beach, laughing heartily.

    Gasping for breath, Kou Zhong said, I didnt know our internal strength is that formidable, without taking a breath we could swim that far, perhaps we could even swim to the other side of the ocean, without even have to pay for the ship fare.

    Xu Ziling was enjoying the glow of the setting sun; stretching lazily, he said, Right now I feel my body in full of energy. This is a good time to steal.

    Kou Zhong sat up excitedly and looked around. He saw the dock in the distance, about four, five li away, hidden behind the towering sail masts, while where they were was a wild, mountainous country, with no man in sight for as far as they could see. He laughed and said, Tonight we will swim back toward the dock behind the salt warehouse and think of a way to get in to steal some salt. And then we will transport it by boat. If anybody catches up with us, splash! we will jump into the water, and play hide-and-seek with them underwater.

    Zu Xiling also sat up, stretched out his arms and legs, and said, If there are tigers right now, I feel like I can kill a few. That Madame is so strange; we were talking nicely, suddenly she drove us out. Humph! Does she think we are ugly? Why is it that other than Susu Jiejie, other women always think that our appearance is not pleasing to the eye?

    Kou Zhong wrapped his arm around his shoulder and said with a laugh, The reason is very simple: because they are afraid they cant help falling in love with us, to such an extent as they wont be able to extricate themselves. Ha!

    By the time they finished laughing hard to console themselves for a while, the sun has not disappeared behind the western hills yet. But during that time the two boys clothes have dried out.

    Upon looking at each other, they both realized that their hair was disheveled, their clothes in disarray, and they looked exactly like a couple of beggars. Suddenly both realized that they did not wish to go back to the water.

    Kou Zhong quickly found an excuse, Tomorrow well figure out which water route to take before stealing the salt. Right now while the city gate is not closed yet, lets return to the city to find a decent hotel and then have a good dinner, and then we can slowly think about our first big endeavor to make a fortune.

    Xu Ziling did not want to go back to the water any time soon either, he nodded in agreement.

    The two boys walked back toward the city gate. They felt their body was lighter than usual, at least by half; their speed was also increasing, also by half. Their eyes and ears were a lot more keen than usual, they did not feel that the darkness was too much different than daytime.

    Naturally they did not know that when they were underwater just now, they had accidentally entered the realm of endless qi circulation of Taoist internal energy cultivation, and had had an early glimpse of first-class qigong [system of deep breathing exercises] mystery.

    Although the number of people practicing Taoism is too many too count, those that are able to achieve fine internal breathing state are actually not too many.

    It was called external qi not exhausted, internal breathing not generated.

    If they were not in such a special situation like being underwater, without the guidance of a good master, the two boys might not be able to make such a break through this period of difficulty even if they tried hard their entire life. But by lucky coincidence, they had taken the most important step in martial art study. From uncultured stone into fine jade, far surpassing the limitation of their age.

    The two boys took a cold bath in the hotel. When they got back to the street, they realized for the first time that nightlife in this town was more lively than that of Yangzhou. There was endless stream of horse and carriages, a sign of thriving city.

    The women on the street were even more gorgeously dressed [orig. lovely scene of blossoming flowers swaying in the breeze], they did not appear to be afraid of mens gaze. The two boys feasted their eyes endlessly with unspeakable delight.

    After having their stomach filled, the two boys excitement grew, they went out to join the crowd.

    Kou Zhong was craning his neck to look into the inside of one of the pleasure houses when Xu Ziling suddenly pulled him toward a nearby alley. He pointed to the street and said, Its the Ol Liu! Ah! Isnt that the Fu Duozhu of the Haisha Gang Tan Yong by his side?

    Stunned, Kou Zhong looked at the direction he indicated. Sure enough, he saw a group of men gathered inside a store across the street, each one carried a weapon, and two of the men were precisely Tan Yong and the Ol Liu, who were standing next to each other, the former was giving instruction to the latter, while Ol Liu nodded his head continuously. The ones called Xie Feng and Chen Gui were standing behind these two.

    Upon looking more clearly, they found out that the store was actually an external-injury clinic; it appeared that this place must be one of their hideouts.

    What are they talking about? Xu Ziling wondered aloud.

    The two boys could not resist straining their ears trying to listen. Suddenly Tan Yongs voice ringing faintly in their ears, Boss [orig. long tou, dragon head] will arrive on the third watch [midnight, between 11pm-1am] tonight. Strange thing is, why couldnt we find the bodies of those two little demons?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling jumped in shock; they did not expect to really be able to hear Tan Yong. The two sides were separated by more than three zhang distance, plus the street was clamoring with all kinds of noises jumbled together; yet they were clearly able to hear Tan Yongs voice.

    The two boys were very excited. But when they wanted to listen further, they could not hear anything.

    Kou Zhong happily said, It seems that our skill is improving tremendously. But I wonder: Ol Liu and Tan Yong have been in collusion from the start to frame us. Apparently Ol Liu pretended to be the bad guy, and then Tan Yong posed as the good guy who helps us out of trouble. But later on Tan Yong incited Ol Liu to kill us.

    Xu Zilings thought process was more meticulous. At that time they still did not know what we are Wulins martial art masters who are able to hit Ol Liu until he could not crawl back up; so why did they pay particular attention to us? he wondered.

    Even with Kou Zhongs quick-thinking, he was still at a loss. It doesnt matter what they are going to do, the point is that they want to harm us, he said in a low voice, Jianghu people live by the rule, enmity must be avenged. Tan Yong might be difficult to deal with, but Ol Liu is very easy to beat. We simply need to stalk him, as soon as we find he is alone, we can strike both to teach him a lesson and to rob his mothers purse; as well as to help us buy a couple of sharp sabers. Henceforth we need not be afraid to meet and fight those guys.

    Not only Xu Ziling was not afraid, he found it very amusing instead.

    While he was about to reply, Ol Liu came out of the shop, followed by two men. They were heading to the left.

    The two boys eyes fell on the broadsword hanging on the two mens waists. The temptation of obtaining these sabers far surpassed their guts in dealing with the three men. Clenching their teeth, they decided to follow these three men.

    Ol Liu, three men, strutted down the street; passers-by simply avoided them by walking on the other side; clearly they were the people-see, people-afraid type of characters. When they came across five or six government officers, they even stopped and stood in the middle of the street, whispering to each other for a while, before they finally turned into a dark, secluded alley perpendicular to the main street.

    The two boys exchanged a come-on, be brave look at each other, and then they pursued on.

    Upon entering the alley, they found out that the three people have vanished.

    Kou Zhong pulled Xu Ziling toward a wooden door of someones rear courtyard; he whispered, They must have come into this backyard, otherwise, how could they disappear just like that? Shall we come in to have a look?

    Xu Ziling was aghast, What if there are other Haisha Bang people inside? he asked.

    Kou Zhong sighed. Just consider Ol Liu is lucky tonight!

    Xu Ziling said, If we go back to the hotel, we are only going to sleep anyway; how about waiting here for a moment?

    Kou Zhong sat down on the ground at the corner of the alley; he laughed and said, I feel like we are back in Yangzhou, when we were bored, we simply sat down and chatted for half a day. Ha! We finally enter the Jianghu and roam the world.

    Xu Ziling sat down next to him and said in a low voice, Haisha Bang seems to have a lot of power around here; even the porters at the dock have to obey their orders. Isnt sea sand [hai sha] referring to sea salt [hai yan]? To be able to gain control over salt trading in here, they must be very powerful and extremely rich; what could they possibly want from a couple of poor kids like us?

    Kou Zhong had a new level of respect for him; he said, I havent thought about it as thoroughly as you did; fortunately we have decided to steal the salt, otherwise, I am afraid we cant afford to buy even a grain of salt.

    And then he continued excitedly, The most important thing right now is getting rich. If we have money, we can go looking for Susu Jiejie; if she has not married Li Dage yet, she can marry us. Jiejie is pretty, and she is kind-hearted too; to have her as our wife, we would be very happy indeed.

    Xu Ziling laughed and scolded him, Chatting and laughing cannot be too much; how can Jiejie marry two persons at the same time? Are you saying we should sleep together in one bed at night? I dont want it.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, The most important thing in life is to find comfort for oneself. We have not even touched womens breasts yet, how can there be men as useless as we are? Hee! If we can seize those two sidekicks of Ol Liu, why cant we go to the pleasure house and be merry?

    Xu Ziling snapped, And at that time, if we do not immediately leave the city, Haisha Bang will chop us to pieces; how can we be merry then?

    Kou Zhong was jolted, Someones coming!

    Xu Ziling pricked up his ear and listened carefully; sure enough, he heard footsteps behind the wooden door. The two boys sprang up and stood on either side of the wooden door, while their hearts were pounding wildly.

    Ol Lius voice was heard from behind the door, Xiao Hua really knows how to make men lose their soul and rock their spirit; no wonder although Er Ye [second master] is so busy that he is spouting smoke through his seven orifices, he still have us deliver the swallows nest to coax her.

    The other man said, I was also itching all over to see her; if not for Dong Ming Pai [eastern sea sect] people came, I would immediately go to a low-grade brothel and have a woman taming the fire in me.

    Ol Liu laughed lecherously, I heard Madame Dong Ming, Shan Mei [sole beauty] Xianren [immortal/celestial being/fairy or goddess] is just like her name, she is as beautiful as an immortal [usually female]. I hope her skill in bed is not inferior to her martial art skill.

    The other man, who had not spoken so far, suddenly said, I dont care how good her skill in bed is, would she even give us the time of the day? After the Boss, there is Second Boss; everybodys lining up, I doubt that you, Ol Liu, will get your turn.

    Three men laughed lewdly.

    Squeak! The wooden door was pushed open. Totally unsuspecting, Ol Liu walked out.

    Bang! Bang! The two men behind him received a couple of punches from behind the door; with a miserable Oomph they fell backward.

    As Ol Liu turned around in surprise, the pit of his stomach also received a couple of punches, sending him rolling around on the ground in terrible pain.

    The two boys did not expect it would be this easy to deal with these three men.

    Kou Zhong stretched out his neck to look inside, but all he could see was a quiet little garden with no one in sight. Not far from the garden, there was a small two-story building; the door was closed, but there was lantern light penetrating through the cracks. Signaling Xu Ziling, together they dragged the three men inside.

    Other than Ol Liu, the other two men were unconscious, with blood all over their faces. Skillfully the two boys loosened up the three mens belt and tied them securely.

    After taking away their broadswords and purses, they grabbed Ol Liu. Do you remember us? Kou Zhong asked with a laugh.

    Ol Liu was still so much in pain that his face was twisted, his muscle trembled. Daye [big master] please spare my life! he groaned.

    Kou Zhong pulled out a broadsword and pressed it across his neck; with an ugly face he shot a string of foul language, and then he asked, I will ask you a question, and you will honestly give me an answer; or else Ill cut your throat. But it will be a little cut, just enough to bleed you to death.

    By this time Ol Liu already had a good view of them; he was aghast. Didnt you drown? he asked.

    Pow! Xu Ziling rewarded him with a slap on the face, instilling fear on him.

    You are allowed only to reply, not to ask question, he said, Haisha Bangs salt warehouse, where are they? Dont beat around the bush. Ill interrogate your brothers later, and then Ill know if you told me a lie.

    Kou Zhong praised him inwardly; this was the technique Du Fuwei used against them. Busily he increased the pressure of the saber against Ol Lius neck and hissed, Answer quickly!

    Ol Liu could only mumbled uh, uh, ah, ah, but no words came out of his mouth.

    Xu Ziling said irritably, You saber presses onto his throat, how is he going to speak?

    Sheepishly Kou Zhong pulled his saber back a little.

    Betting on their young age, Ol Liu tried to be brave, If you kill me, I guarantee you wont leave this place alive, he said.

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, Arent you going to deal with Dong Ming Pai tonight? How can your gang people have time to pay us any attention right now? By the time they discover your three dead bodies, we will already be far away from here.

    Kou Zhong exposed his bragging, Dont blow your own horn; didnt we offend you today? Why are we still alive and well? Alright! Let me cut one of your fingers first, I want to see if you, this tough guy, are going to cry or not.

    No! Xu Ziling shook his head, Blinding his eye will be more fun. Question is: which eye? Left? Or right?

    Immediately from a tough guy Ol Liu turned into wimpy guy. Xiaoren [little/lowly one] admits defeat, he begged for mercy, We have eight salt warehouses in total, which one Shaoye[1] wants to know?

    Tell us about all eight of them in one stretch, Kou Zhong replied, If you hesitate one bit, you lose one eye. I am a skilled person in gouging someones eye.

    Terrified, Ol Liu talked in one breath. Kou Zhong had him repeating it several times until he was satisfied that Ol Liu did not lie; Which warehouse is the closest one? he then asked.

    Helpless, Ol Liu told him everything.

    Xu Ziling said, What kind of sect is Dong Ming Pai, actually? Why did your Boss have to be here for them?

    Ol Liu hastily said, If I tell you, would two Shaoye let me go?

    Kou Zhong said, If you are honest, well let you sleep in here for one night. But Ill have to cut your two friends head to show the way we, the two dragons of Yangzhou, work.

    Of course he would not actually kill anybody; it was just the technique frequently employed by the people of the dark road to let people know that they were not easy to deal with.

    As expected, Ol Liu was so scared that his face turned blue and his lips purple. Shaoye please spare my life, he begged, Ill talk. But you must keep your promise, dont hurt me.

    Quickly talk! Xu Ziling barked.

    Ol Liu dejectedly said, I only know what I heard from Er Ye. Dong Ming Pai came from an island on the other side of the ocean called Liuqiu [Ryukyu]. The Sect is predominantly female. Hey! The ship you escaped to today was precisely their ship; did you see them? [Translators note: they and them here are feminine.]

    Kou Zhong cursed, Are you asking me, or am I asking you? Besides, we did not escape aboard, we boarded the ship. Do you think having ten fingers is too much and you think caressing women with nine fingers would be more satisfying?

    Immediately Ol Liu pleaded for mercy again. He then continued, Every year around Chunfen time [Spring Equinox, 4th of the 24 solar terms, March 21 April 4] they come to coastal regions to select young men to be brought back to Ryukyu. I dont know why Boss wants to deal with them this year. Oh! I really dont know the details of this matter.

    The two boys suddenly saw the light; they understood now the reason Tan Yong was interested in them, and they felt very proud of themselves. But then they recalled that in the end Madame Ryukyu Shan Mei Xian did not select them, so they felt inferior mixed with self-pity.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged a glance, they both lost interest in continuing the interrogation; so they tore the three mens clothes to stuff their big mouths, and then using their schools unique skill they made the men bend over and tied them tightly with special rope braided from the mens clothes so that it would not be easy for them to exert their strength. Only then did they leave unhurriedly.

    Concerning the matter between Haisha Bang and Dong Ming Pai, they had neither the interest nor the power to interfere.

    The only thing in their mind right now was how to stealthily loot Haisha Bangs salt and make a fortune out of it. When that time comes, wouldnt they be able to soar over the wide ocean and the empty sky?

    [1] Continuing my note on Shaoye earlier, here he put himself in subordinate/servant position.

  19. #19
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 2 - Chapter 6

    Book 2 Chapter 6 Benefiting Self, Benefiting Others

    When they got to the city gate, they found out that not only the city gate has closed, there was also a large assembly of people. For some unknown reason, the yamen [government office in feudal China] officers who guard the gate were also replaced by big men.

    Being new thieves, the two boys still lacked confidence; they retreated to a dark alley not far from the city gate and sat down on the ground.

    Kou Zhong took out the purse he snatched from his victims earlier. Under the dim golden and orange light shining from the torches at the city gate, he counted his booty.

    Xu Ziling took out the saber and lovingly played with it in his hand.

    After counting it twice, Kou Zhong exclaimed in delight, This time we hit the jackpot; there are altogether about twenty taels of silver. Not only it is enough to cover our travel expenses to Luoyang, we can also have a feast, and stroll into a low-grade brothel for three days.

    With the saber rested on his knees, Xu Ziling stretched out his neck in disbelief, and then happily said, In that case, we need not steal salt, transport salt and sell salt; such a hard work.

    So lack of ambition, Kou Zhong scolded, Twenty taels is just to satisfy the most annoying needs, we will still steal Haishas salt as planned. We stay here one night, when the city gate opens tomorrow, we immediately pick up the goods and leave. Ay! I hope nobody will find Ol Liu.

    Xu Ziling said in dismay, I wish we know qinggong [lightness skill], so we could climb over the wall and leave. Ah!

    The two boys countenance changed greatly. They heard hoof beats in the distance coming rapidly over. As their scalp went numb, a large group of riders galloped along the main street outside the alley; there were at least a hundred riders, and all were speeding toward the city gate.

    Soon they heard someone yelled in subdued voice, Sea sand [haisha] raises its power!

    The other side replied, Eastern sea [dong ming] in trouble!

    When the two boys stretched out their neck to look, they saw the small door by the city gate was opened, the crowd of Haisha Bang riders urged their horses to file out of the city.

    The two boys looked at each other. But soon afterwards several more people went out of the city; all with the same secret password. Some of the gang members even went out on foot.

    Xu Ziling said, Seems to me Haisha Bang is going to attack Dong Ming Pais big ship tonight. Should we notify them? Haisha Bang definitely does not have even half a decent person!

    Kou Zhongs eyes lit up as he said in low voice, Do you want to go to Ryukyu? Just by marrying that little maid, our luck cannot be considered shallow. Come!

    Xu Ziling followed him standing up. With terrified expression he said, What if they recognize us?

    Puffing up his chest, Kou Zhong replied, Without going into the tiger den, how can we get a tiger cub? Oh! I get it. Its the tigers daughter, and the tiger is female. For the sake of those beautiful Dong Ming Pais beautiful tigresses, we have to fight his mothers battle. Look! The city gate is still open, we have sabers; if we get recognized, well kill our way out. As long as we could reach the seaside, splash! we can plunge into the water. With our Nine Mysteries breath-holding Great Method, who could possibly catch us? Come on! Coward!

    Finished speaking he strode forward.

    Xu Ziling had no choice but to follow him out.

    They had just stepped into the main street, there was the sound of hoof beats again. Four riders came over, fast.

    Kou Zhong cast his gaze toward the city gate, but did not see the big men earlier; there were only about a dozen yamen officers, who were staring hard at them. He could not go back even if he wanted to. Turning around to face the four riders he called out, Has Er Ye left of the city?

    The four riders brushed past; one of them replied, Da Ye [big/first master] and Er Ye are in the back! Then they went like a whirlwind.

    Terrified, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling hastily increased their speed. Still far away from the yamen officers, they called out, Sea sand raises its power!

    One of the officers, presumably the leader, laughed and said, You, two kids whose smell of your mothers milk has not yet dried, also want to follow those men doing their work; dont you like to have a long life?

    The officers burst into laughter.

    One of the troops said, Who are you? How come Ive never seen you before?

    Kou Zhong patted his saber; assuming a forthright manner he said, Er Ye is our elder [orig. agong grandfather], Xie Feng is our adoptive senior [orig. adie dad/old man]. It was only last month that they included us in.

    Seeing he spoke reasonably and with confidence, the troops did not stop them; they let the two boys got out of the city.

    The two boys were wild with delight; they rushed out of the city.

    But as soon as they stepped out of the city gate, both groaned inwardly. Because the area just outside the gate was densely packed with a large group of men and horses, at least the number was close to a thousand. However, because no one lighted a torch and that everybody was silent, the two boys did not find out until they were outside the gate; therefore, they were now stuck.

    Someone shouted, Sea sand raises its power!

    The two boys responded in unison, Eastern sea in trouble!

    A man came over to meet them, Which hall? he asked in low voice.

    Bracing himself, Kou Zhong replied, Yuhang division!

    The man did not suspect anything; he pointed to a group of men and said, Tie the red band and stand over there. Boss will be here soon!

    Seeing him handing out two pieces of red band, Xu Ziling hastily stepped forward to receive it.

    When they got to the Yuhang division group, the two boys pretended to be busy tying the red band, and then with head hung low they stood at the last of the line; surprisingly, nobody said anything.

    Several men at the front turned their heads around to look at them, but since it was dark, they could not see clearly. The men were just about to question the two boys when sound of hoof beats was heard; a group of riders went out the city gate. Hence nobody paid them any attention anymore.

    When they looked up, they saw a big man like an iron tower. Because the two men standing on his left and right were holding their torch high, everybody was able to see him clearly.

    This man looked intimidatingly impressive; on his back he carried a pair of hatchets, his eyes were like copper bells. When he swept his gaze around, everybody, including Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, felt that he was looking straight at him.

    The other people with him were different from each other. One of them was a rather good-looking Buddhist nun; her oversized Buddhist robe was blown by the sea breeze that it stuck to her body, revealing her beautiful and captivating curves.

    That Tan Yong was also one of them, its just that he was at the last of the line; apparently the other people ranked higher than him.

    The troops opened up a path in the middle. The big man urged his horse to gallop in a small circle before he finally stopped. One after another the Haisha Bang people pulled their weapons and paid their respect.

    While raising his saber, Kou Zhong took the opportunity to whisper in Xu Zilings ear, Looks like this Boss is much more superior than us, two martial art masters. As soon as we have the opportunity, we must slip away; dont care about anything else.

    Seeing this kind of display of power, Xu Ziling was also extremely nervous; he nodded incessantly.

    The Haisha Bang Boss reined his horse and shouted, This time, we, Haisha Bang are working for Yuwen Huaji Daren; generous reward is not difficult to attain, plus there are other benefits as well. The key to victory this time is to attack when they are not prepared, leaving no one alive. You must make an all-out effort to follow your Boss in handling this matter; anyone who shrinks back on approaching the battlefield will be dealt with according to our house rules. When we achieve success, everybody will be heavily rewarded. Got it?

    The crowd responded in unison.

    This place was still quite far from the dock, separated by a gulf. Even if they shouted loudly, Dong Ming Pai people on the dock would not hear it.

    Kou Zhong was just about to pull Xu Ziling to slip away from the back when he suddenly realized that there were people shouting their response from a small hill behind them as well; therefore, he abandoned his plan.

    In the meantime, Tan Yong and a short man rode toward the Yuhang division people; he talked in a low voice for a moment, and then he gave the order to move. Those with horses galloped on horseback, those on foot ran behind them. The annoying thing was that Tan Yong fell behind, he rode at the rear of the formation, so that the two boys were unable to go AWOL. Without any choice they ran in the middle of the group.

    After traveling for little less than half a sichen, they arrived at the seaside, where three double-mast boats were already waiting. They were about three, four li away from the shore where the big Dong Ming Pai ship was anchored.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling braced themselves to climb onboard one of the ships under Tan Yongs supervision. As soon as they were on board, everybody started working. Some were preparing the stone catapult; some took care of the fire arrows, and some others manned the sail and untie the mooring rope. Only the two boys did not know what to do, so that they were sticking up like a sore thumb.

    While they were terrified and extremely nervous, Tan Yong suddenly decided to board their ship. Fortunately the ship was in total blackout; otherwise, they would be discovered early on as fake articles.

    The two were at a loss; they were just thinking of leaning against the ships railing and jumping into the sea when a man stopped them and shouted, Why havent you go down to the bilge and get me the water armor and breaking-hill bore?

    The two boys jumped in fright; they went down to the bilge with heads hung down.

    More than a dozen men were already busy carrying some wooden chests up. One of the men said, Only one chest left, you two can take care of it.

    Their mind went blank, the two boys groped their way down the bilge. They saw under the dusky light of a wind lantern, piles of junks, but there was no one else; and then they saw the chest.

    Kou Zhong was overjoyed; he pounced onto the chest and opened up its lid. Inside there was a huge, sharp helix auger, weighed at least fifty, sixty catties.

    The ship shuddered slightly; apparently it cast off and set sail.

    Xu Ziling helped him taking the auger out of the chest; without prior discussion they put the sharp tip against the bottom of the hold and turned the handle.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, If we can sink this ship, all our enmities are avenged in full.

    This matter is related to Yuwen Huaji, Xu Ziling said, We cannot just sit and watch and remain indifferent. After the water enters the ship, we will run to the deck and making a ruckus, to spoil Haisha Bangs plan on attacking the unprepared enemy. And then we jump into the sea flee for our lives, and immediately steal some salt. Ha!

    The more they talked, the more excited they got; they turned the handle faster and faster like a windmill. Less than half a day later, pop! a hole appeared on the bottom of the ship; hastily they pulled the auger out.

    By the time they were ready to take the chest to the deck, the seawater had already reached their ankles.

    Like a crouching monster the giant Dong Ming Pai ship sat still by the dock, the area surrounding it was dark without any lantern at all, only its bow and its stern had four small wind lanterns shining their cheerless, lonely and cold lights, which flickered incessantly in the sea breeze.

    There were hundreds or even thousands of other ships and boats around the harbor; some were moored close to the shore, but most dropped their anchor in the bay.

    The three Haisha Bang ships sailed quietly through this array of boats, until they were about ten zhang away from the giant ship before stopping.

    The boat that had its bottom drilled has been sinking for about two chi, only about a chi or so more, and the water will reach the deck. But because everybodys attention was on the enemys ship, no one took any notice yet.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were hiding in the darkest area near the bow; they each had a bow and an arrow, which tip was wrapped in a piece of cloth that had been soaked in oil. Their hearts were pounding wildly in anticipation.

    Tan Yong gave his command, To the water!

    Silently eight of his men, wearing wetsuit and carrying the breaking-hill auger dived into the water.

    Suddenly someone let out a muffled shout, Why is the water level so high?

    Kou Zhong knew it was time. Nudging Xu Ziling, he lighted the arrow, and then, in everybodys amazement they shot the fiery arrows toward the big ship, drawing two beautiful fiery arcs in the dark sky.

    Are you crazy? Tan Yong roared in shock.

    The two boys shouted together, Sea sand raises its power, eastern sea in trouble! Haisha Bang attacks the unprepared!

    Tan Yong stormed across the boat. You, two little demons again! he thundered.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling threw their bows by swinging their arms like throwing secret projectiles toward Tan Yong. And then they turned around and jumped into the water together.

    On the other side, closer to the dock, the battle cry shook the heavens. The big ship slowly left the shore heading north to escape. It passed behind Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, who had just climbed out of the water right behind Haisha Bangs warehouse by the dock.

    The two boys laughed and ran toward the warehouse.

    When they reached the entrance, Kou Zhong grabbed the iron lock with one hand and exclaimed, Look at my internal strength!

    Umph! the padlock did not budge.

    Kou Zhong was at a loss.

    Grabbing the iron chain, he yelled, Get your saber and chop this thing!

    Xu Ziling shook his head, What if it breaks my saber?

    Kou Zhong angrily said, You break your saber, you can buy a new one. But if we cannot make a fortune, we will be paupers for the rest of our lives. Its not every day that Haisha Bang would deploy their entire troops to fight a battle like this!

    Xu Ziling giggled happily and pulled Kou Zhongs saber. Exerting his entire strength he chopped down.

    Tchak! The iron chain met the saber and broke instantly.

    The two boys were taken aback. But they were too busy to think too much.

    Pointing to the biggest sailboat moored on the dock behind them, Kou Zhong said, Quickly row that boat here, Ill get the goods.

    They have lived for more or less eighteen and seventeen years, respectively, but have never seen a better scenery than they saw right now.

    Kou Zhong was lying on the sacks of salt piling high on the boat, enjoying the early morning sunshine, while humming Yangzhous most popular folk song. He was so comfortable that he looked like he was about to die of laziness.

    Xu Ziling was looking at the road stretching along the river on the left bank, his eyes darted quickly to the water level that was very close to the deck. I told you not to steal this much salt, he said with a frown, Now even the place to sleep is crammed with goods, and the boat will sink very soon. Wed better cast off a dozen sacks or so!

    Kou Zhong jumped in fright; he turned around to hug the salt sack tightly and cried out, These are shining white silver; if you want me to throw away money into the sea, you might as well tell me to throw my life away into the sea.

    Seeing Xu Ziling stayed silent, he sat down again and giggled, Xiao Ling, please dont get angry. Alright, how about this: when we come ashore to buy clothes and provision later, let me see if there are people willing to offer good price for several sacks!

    This is coastal salt-producing area, Xu Ziling angrily said, You want to sell salt here, those who are willing to offer good price must be either a lunatic or an idiot just like you. The difference is one spends money recklessly, the other considers wealth as important as his life.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and came over to the stern. He wrapped his arm around Xu Zilings shoulder and said, One world, two brothers; theres no need to be mad. Ha! I am a bit greedy, but its all for our future. If we could earn a few coins, we will be a bit more comfortable and happy in the future. Perhaps we can even organize a militia, strike the capital and be a happy emperor. At that time, wont we be able to push Yuwen Huagu out of Meridian Gate and behead him to avenge Niang?

    With a forced laugh he added, Look! This boat is so sturdy, we are making good progress with tail wind and following the current.

    Xu Ziling fetched his saber and shrugged his embrace; he stood up and stepped over nobody knew how many sacks of salt, toward the middle of the boat under the sail mast, where he stopped with his saber in hand. Do you, Zhong Shao, know how to operate the sail? he said with a wry smile, Right now the sky is clear the weather is fair, the breeze is still the waves are quiet; naturally we wont have any problem. But if we come across the wind and waves, in a moment or two when we are sinking down, dont you fight over the heavens and cry over the earth to me.

    Kou Zhong stroked his own big head and pointed to the shore to their left; he laughed and said, This head of mine, which you think does not have any plan inside, has already thought about all those problems. When the sky turns somewhat ominous, we immediately sail toward the shore. Ha! I thought you are worried about some serious things, turns out merely this trivial matter.

    Xu Ziling pointed his saber to Kou Zhong and said coldly, If this boat suddenly pull toward the shore, if we do not crash and have our body torn and our bones crushed, I wont open my mouth again, ever; and then you can laugh at me that I am worried in vain.

    Apparently Kou Zhong has exhausted his argument, How many sacks do you want to throw away? he asked painfully.

    Xu Ziling dejectedly kneeled down on the sacks of salt; he sighed and said, Thats not our biggest problem, but if we travel along this route, sooner or later we will enter inland via the Great River, thus Yangzhou is the only route we must follow. At that time you should know who we are going to encounter.

    Kou Zhong acted as if he had just seen the light; laughing aloud he said, How could my outstanding brains not think about that matter? When we get there, we crash our way through Yangzhou in the night. Not only we will avoid the government boats, we also conveniently avoid coming across our old Die. When we arrive at Liyang, we will disembark a bit early to sell half of our goods, and transport the rest by mule cart to his mothers far away places, hence completed our great scheme to make a fortune. Look! This plan is so perfect.

    Xu Ziling knew he could not argue with him, he stood up and started practicing his saber play.

    Kou Zhong watched with rapt attention for a moment. Finally he drew his saber and said, Looking at you waving your hand and kicking your leg alone like a madman, let me, Zhong Shao accompany you playing for a couple of stances!

    Xu Ziling flatly said, I am afraid my hand will slip and injure you.

    You? Injure me? Kou Zhong screamed, En garde!

    The saber in his hand emitted a sharp cold wind that even he himself could not believe as it swept across toward Xu Ziling.

    Xu Ziling had never expected that he would be this formidable. Unleashing the stance Unyielding and Escaping of the Bloody Battle Ten Styles taught by Li Jing, he swiftly moved sideways before hacking down his saber once again.

    The two boys were so worked up that soon they even forgot the styles and simply moved their sabers any way they pleased.

    They also forgot to look at the sun, which was covered by dark clouds, and the sea breeze, which was getting stronger; they thought it was the wind generated by their sabers.

    Finally what Xu Ziling was worried about has arrived.

  20. #20
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 2 - Chapter 7

    Book 2 Chapter 7 Fish in the Net


    Scowling miserably, Kou Zhong helped Xu Ziling tossing the twentieth sack of salt into the ocean. Only then did the seawater no longer attack the deck. Fortunately it was just a small storm; otherwise the boat would have been capsized.

    Completely exhausted, the two boys sat on sacks of salt; they did not even have any strength left to laugh or to cry.

    By the time the sun showed itself again, Kou Zhong suddenly burst out laughing like crazy. Naturally Xu Ziling also laughed with him until tears flowing out of his eyes.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, We have lost at least enough money to stroll into low-grade brothel twenty times; Laotianye [God/Heaven] is really cruel.

    Xu Ziling sneered, Didnt Bai Lao Fuzi often say we should feel contented with our fate? My Zhong Shaoye, one drink, one peck [the context is animal], everything is pre-destined. The Heaven has decided that we lost these twenty sacks of salt, chances are most of sacks wont be left for us either.

    Kou Zhonge entire body, from head to toe, suddenly shook violently; pointing behind them, he groaned, You are right, looks like the Heaven really destined us to be poor wretches; even the remaining fifty, sixty sacks will be taken away.

    Xu Ziling looked back in shock; he saw five three-mast big ships have just turned from the sea into the river. Not only that, the enemys pursuing technique was clearly extraordinarily brilliant, because the two boys did not even realize their presence until they were only two li away from them. Judging by the pursuers speed, at most it would only take the time needed to burn an incense stick before they could catch up with them.

    The two boys looked up at their boats flag first, it was embroidered with the fish pattern of the Haisha Bang flag. When they looked at the five pursuing ships, they groaned together, because they saw similar pattern on the mast of all of them.

    Kou Zhong threw himself down on the sacks of salt and wailed, Finished! All my sea sands are finished! [reminder: haisha means sea sand.]

    Xu Ziling pulled him up and called out, Lets go! Before its too late.

    Suddenly there was a tender laughter, and then they saw a small fast boat coming over; the one sitting on the bow was precisely the Buddhist nun they saw the other night. There were ten men rowing the boat, ten well-trained men, so that the boat glided on the ocean surface like an arrow.

    The pretty nun called out, You just think about escaping right now, its really too late!

    The two boys noticed that she was wearing wetsuit, and it looks like she was ready to jump into the water to catch them. Their soul flew away and scattered, how could they still care about the sacks of salt? Immediately they turned around and jumped into the sea; they did not even have time to admire her clearly visible curves under the skin-tight suit, the body that could make the men who look at her pop their eyes and choke their throats.

    The pretty nun laughed until her beautiful body shook uncontrollably. Gasping for breath, she said, If I, the Mermaid You Qiufeng, ever let you, these two kids ever escape the net, I will never go down into the water again.

    Only after saying that did she jump into the water in an incomparably graceful posture. Compared to Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings awkward jumped earlier, the difference was like night and day.

    Under water, the sun rays looked like tens of thousands strands of silver thread, turning the clear, deep-blue seabed world into an array of infinite stereoscopic mirrors.

    The nun, You Qiufeng, focused her eyes and immediately saw Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling about a hundred zhang ahead, desperately trying to swim toward the shore. The bottom of the sailboat looked like a strange clump of black cloud hovering overhead in the clear and brilliant ocean surface.

    You Qiufeng twisted her waist, and like a wisp of smoke she darted forward with speed at least more than 50% faster than the ones she was pursuing.

    Within Haisha Bang, whose domain was the sea, there was not a second person whose water skill was even close to hers; from this, it was clear how formidable she really was.

    She did not understand at all how the two little demons were able to hold their breath underwater. Without first-class internal energy, it was simply impossible to do.

    But this moment she was simply too busy to think. Their Bangzhu [clan/gang leader], the Dragon King Han Gaitian, had already issued a strict order to spare no expense in capturing them alive.

    By this time Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling have already seen the pretty nun pursuing them from behind, but they had no way of escaping.

    At first Kou Zhong was about two zhang ahead of Xu Ziling, but seeing the enemy rapidly approaching, he knew that very soon she would catch up with Xu Ziling, whose water skill was not as good as his. Therefore, clenching his teeth, he waved his hand to have Xu Ziling swim ahead, and then, with the saber in his hand, he turned around to face the enemy.

    However, how could Xu Ziling be willing to let Kou Zhong face the enemy alone? Hence he also held his saber across as he turned around to fight the fast-approaching enemy.

    Two sides rapidly approaching each other. Soon they would be engaged in close combat. Suddenly a quirly smile appeared on You Qiufengs face as she reached toward her back. Waving her hand, a large net shot out like an arrow to meet the two boys head-on.

    The boys saw the large net like a layer of black cloud coming fast at them. By the time they realized the situation was bad, they have already been captured inside the net; persons and sabers became the fish in the net.

    The boat they stole along with the salt suffered the same fate; it has become Haisha Bangs prisoner. It was towed behind Haisha Bangs flagship using a very thick rope, with its sail folded down.

    Haisha Bangs big boss, the Dragon King Han Gaitian pompously sat on a special dragon chair. Behind his chair stood seven of his subordinates with law-protector level, who have been fighting from all four quarters with him. Their position was even higher than the eighteen helmsmen who were in charge of the eighteen coastal salt-producing divisions.

    His dragon chair was set up leaning against the door of the cabin at the stern. He was waiting calmly for the two young offenders to be brought over.

    Haisha Bang was one of three major gangs along the southeast coast; it share the same fame as the Shuilong Bang [water dragon gang] and Jukun Bang [gigantic leviathan gang].

    The three major gangs were suspicious and envious of each other. Previously they were still able to delimit their respective territory and sphere of influence, hence they were able to maintain peace in general.

    But since Sui Dynasty government became corrupt, the heroes all over the world [tian xia] arose, the three major gangs also began to stir, each conspired to expand their influence, and thus the power struggle gradually turned intense.

    Shuilong Bang has always attached themselves to the powerful Song Clan of the south. But for their survival, Haisha Bang cast their lot to the Yuwen Clan and became one powerful claw and teeth of the Yuwen family.

    Jukun Bang on the other hand, stayed independent. Nevertheless, in terms of fame and power they were not the least bit inferior. The hottest topic in Jianghu recently was after the former Clan Leader Yun Guangling was murdered and his daughter Yun Yuzhen took office, Jukun Bangs prestige has become even more dazzling.

    This beautiful woman with the nickname Clan Leader of the Fairer Sex [orig. hong fen bang zhu clan leader of rouge and powder] had a consummate martial art skill, even more outstanding than her father; she was considered as number one heroine of the southeastern Wulin world.

    Meanwhile, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, with their hands tied behind their back, were dragged toward Han Gaitian, and were pushed down to kneel by the four strong men who were in charge of them; the two boys hung their head dispiritedly.

    The subordinate reported, Both they and their boat have been searched, only twenty taels of silver found, there is no other things.

    Han Gaitians eyes shot a cold ray. Report your name! he barked.

    Kou Zhong called out, I am Fu Zhong, he is Fu Ling

    Pow! Pow! Two long whips lashed out from behind, breaking the back of two boys clothes, and tore into their flesh; their faces muscles twisted in severe pain.

    Han Gaitian laughed aloud and said, Still dare to lie to me? You are Kou Zhong, and the other Xu Ziling; both are criminals whose capture Yuwen Zongguan put in the wanted notice nationwide. Whoever can bring you back to Yangzhou and hand you over to Yuchi Zongguan will receive a thousand taels of gold as a reward.

    Standing on his right was the chief law protector, the Fat Assassin. This man was so fat that he looked like a ball, his eyes small and treacherous. Hearing the last sentence, he laughed eerily and said, Human beings will die for riches just as birds will for food; if not for these two kids were greedy, stealing a boat load of sea sand, it would not be easy for us to get these thousand taels of gold.

    Feeling the pain on his back, Kou Zhong was apologetic toward Xu Ziling and could only look at him with bitter smile. The latter however, acted if nothing had happened; he said in low voice, Turns out we are worth that much. If we had sold ourselves, wouldnt we be very rich by now?

    Silence! Han Gaitian roared.

    While the two boys were frightened that they were trembling inside, the pretty nun You Qiufengs tender laughter was heard, coming from inside the cabin. She had changed into a dry robe; surprisingly she also wore a wig with the hair rolled up in a bun, which was held together carelessly with seven or eight silver hairpins; she looked quite odd.

    With hundred charms and thousand daintiness she came over to Han Gaitian, and then plopped her buttocks on his thigh, and wrapped her arms around Han Gaitians neck, which was as thick and solid as a tree trunk. With a flatteringly sweet voice she said, To lose at sunrise but gain at sunset; although this time Dong Ming Pai escaped great catastrophe, in the end we obtain these two valuable kids. Now Bangzhu [Clan Leader] have enough face to see Yuwen Daren.

    Han Gaitian reached out to caress the pretty nuns bottom; he patted it twice and then talked to Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling in grim voice, Tell me! How come you, two kids whose smell of mothers milk has not yet dried, can be that valuable?

    The two boys deeply regretted the fact that they did not know Haisha Bang was related to Yuwen Huagu; moreover, they did not expect Yuwen Huagu would give secret order to the clans and societies working for him to hunt and capture them. If they knew this fact, they would not risk being captured.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, If Bangzhu agree not to hand us over to Yuwen Huaji, we will tell you this secret.

    Han Gaitian tossed his head backward and roared in heroic laughter; gasping for breath, he said, Did you see that? This kid has the audacity to bargain with us.

    Immediately the law-protectors under his command accompanied him in laughter. Another law-protector, the Double Spears Charging Generals [the original rhymes: shuang qiang chuang jiang] Ling Zhigao said, I heard You Meizi [younger sister You] said that these two kids know the technique to take a breath underwater; while obviously their martial art skill is lacking. This is extremely strange, there must be a reason.

    The pretty nun laughed tenderly and said, Men! Give them three lashes; I want to see how profound their internal energy is!

    Amidst the roar of everybodys laughter, immediately the whip rained down on the two boys. They were whipped at least a dozen times; not only the clothes on their back shattered into small pieces, their flesh was badly mangled as well, as they stumbled face down on the deck.

    But the two boys did not even let out half a groan.

    When they were pulled up, Han Gaitian was emotional as he said, The two of you indeed have strong backbones. These whips were infused with poison; if it were ordinary people, two, three lashes are all they can take. Considering this fact, if you are willing to tell me the truth, perhaps I, the Clan Leader, will deal with you differently.

    Gnashing his teeth, Kou Zhongs voice was raspy as he spoke through his cracked lips, Naturally there is a reason why we are so valuable. It is because we know the secret of Duke Yangs treasure-trove.

    Suddenly the deck became very quiet, but everybodys eyes lit up.

    Han Gaitian signaled his subordinates not to say anything, he pushed the pretty nun aside and stood up, Let them stand up, untie them! he called out.

    The two boys were helped up, the ropes binding them were cut. Their clothes had been ripped by the poisonous whips, and there were bloody stripes on their arms. When the two boys saw their own condition, they were horrified; however, the strange thing was that other than the searing pain at the beginning, they felt as if it was not a big deal at all.

    Han Gaitians iron-tower like stature was still two or three cun taller than the two boys. With hands behind his back, he walked over to the two boys and spoke in softer tone, You really know Duke Yangs treasure-trove location?

    Our Niang told us, Xu Ziling answered.

    Han Gaitian nodded, We also know about that, he said, It was the female Luocha who rescued you. Why didnt she come with you?

    Niang was killed by Yuwen Huaji, Kou Zhong sadly replied, Therefore, we cant possibly tell him the location of the treasure.

    Swaying her bottom, the pretty nun walked over to the two boys; she reached out to pinch Xu Zilings cheek as she spoke with coquettish glances, Bangzhu! Looks like these two handsome Xiao Xiongdi really arent babbling nonsense. Man Tian Wang [fill-the-sky king, see Book 1 Chapter 1] has wholeheartedly follow Gaolis Luocha females trail. Rumor has it that she pawned a piece of ancient jade. At that time we were still in the dark, but now we ought to know that this piece of jade must be part of Duke Yangs treasure trove.

    The Fat Assassin You Gui said, Now that two Xiao Xiongdi are here, this is a proof that the Heaven has chosen Bangzhu to fulfill your destiny.

    Han Gaitian spoke in deep voice, Where is the treasure trove?

    Kou Zhong stayed calm, but before answering, he exchanged flirting glances with the pretty nun, provoking an enchanting giggle from her, The treasure trove is somewhere around the Emperor Guan Temple in Yangzhou, but it has to be opened using special technique; otherwise, you will never find the treasure.

    The pretty nun threw her tender body forward, pressing her erect breasts against Kou Zhongs chest; she spoke in intimate manner, Then why havent you tell us, Bangzhu will definitely not treat you shabbily.

    Kou Zhong obviously enjoyed this flirtation very much; he closed his eyes and moaned, If Bangzhu is willing to give us ten taels of gold, we will help Bangzhu find the hidden treasure.

    Ten taels of gold is a small matter, Han Gaitian said, Quickly speak up!

    The pretty nun stretched out her arm to pull Kou Zhongs neck, and planted a fragrant kiss on his face. Her smile was as pretty as the flower, Listen to Jiejie, quickly speak up.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, We are all Jianghu people. As long as Bangzhu take us back to Yangzhou, and swear a heavy oath not to kill us, and give us the gold, we will open the treasure-trove for you. Otherwise, wed rather die than speak out.

    Xu Ziling added, The treasure is covered densely with mechanism, it is hidden over twenty zhang deep underground. Unless Bangzhu can obtain Yangzhou Zongguan approval to tear apart the citizens dwelling within five li radius, and turn the ground upside down, dont ever think of getting into the treasure-trove.

    Kou Zhong interrupted, If we leave out even half a sentence, Bangzhu will never know. Why dont we become friends and strike a fair dealing by mutual agreement?

    Being barraged with I speak one word, you speak a sentence from the two boys, Han Gaitian smiled wryly, shook his head, and said with a sigh, It is really a waste that you, two little demons, did not go into business. Alright! Ill take you back to Yangzhou, but you must not lie to me, or else you wont have a good end.

    And then he barked his order, Men! Have them locked up in the iron cage in punishment chamber.

    When Kou Zhong heard the two words iron cage, he immediately lowered his head to kiss the pretty nuns lips, while groping her hair at the same time. When his mouth was busy clicking his tongue in admiration, his hand deftly pulled a silver hairpin and hid it in his palm.

    The pretty nun angrily said, Kid with lecherous mouth! and pushed him away.

    In the meantime, her subordinates stepped out to grab the two boys arms. Han Gaitian did not feel at ease, he personally escorted the two boys into the cabin, down the stairs into the lower deck, and into the punishment chamber filled with all kinds of torture instruments. He watched as his men pushed the two boys into a large iron cage on the corner, checked the lock to make sure it was engaged properly, and only then did he leave.

    While Xu Ziling was staring blankly at the iron bars, which were as thick as a childs arm, Kou Zhong stretched out his hand to show him the thin silver wire in his palm, and said, I think Han Bangzhu is a good man; it would be best if we could work for him!

    Xu Ziling understood his intention; he caught on, I just hope that when we get to Yangzhou we wont be caught by Yuwen Huagu. Ay! We know exactly where the treasure is, but we dont have the guts to pick it up.

    Both boys were intelligent, seeing Han Gaitian and all his men withdrew completely without a single man remained, which was too unnatural, they knew these men would eavesdrop somewhere nearby; which was precisely the case.

    Kou Zhong said, Can you really remember the key to opening the storehouse that Niang taught us? Its too complicated for me, luckily your memory is always better than mine.

    Xu Ziling replied, I only remember the second half. Ay! At that time Niang was about to die, I cried so hard that everything was a blur to me.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Leave the first half to me. Its something like three left seven right; I guarantee I wont make mistake. People are paying us high price, we have to hand over the goods.

    Xu Ziling lay down on his side, stretched out, and said, Go sleep!

    Kou Zhong lay down by his side; unexpectedly both of them really fell into deep slumber.

    The big ship sailed at full speed in northerly direction toward the mouth of Yangtze River.

    From sailing full speed, the ship suddenly slowed down. This change of speed caused the two boys to wake up.

    They did not know since when did the wind lanterns on the four corners of the room go out; in this closed room, they could not even see the fingers in front of their nose. But they felt that the walls seemed to radiate some kind of dim light, so that they could faintly see the silhouette of the objects around them.

    They felt very strange.

    According to reason, Han Gaitian ought to want to arrive at Yangzhou as soon as he could; why did the ship slow down?

    They sat up. Kou Zhong reached out to feel his back, and then he touched Xu Zilings back; he could not help feeling very proud, We have definitely become internal energy expert. Earlier we were beaten until our skin cracked our flesh lacerated, but now our skin is clear and our flesh smooth.

    Xu Ziling spoke in low voice, Could there be people out there listening to us still?

    Kou Zhong whispered in his ear, Supposed someone can make you the emperor, you dont have to suffer any hardship, would you or would you not send people to keep an eye on him?

    Xu Ziling was alarmed, If we really get to Yangzhou without being able to escape, wont that Han Choutian [gai tian covering the sky, chou tian stinky sky] tear our skin and crush our bones?

    Kou Zhong took out the silver hairpin and said in low voice, Lets see if we can open the lock or not. You see that this punishment chamber is full of sharp tools. With our superb internal energy, drilling a hole on the bottom of the ship should not be too difficult.

    Xu Ziling sighed. I know that, he said, But how can we do it without making any noise?

    Kou Zhong came over to the iron cage door, he bent one end of the silver hairpin into a small hook, and then very carefully inserted it into the keyhole of the padlock. In no time at all there was a soft click.

    Xu Ziling was not surprised; he skillfully opened the lock and put it on the corner. Gently pulling the iron grille, the two boys crawled out like a dog.

    By this time the ship was slowing down even more, they heard rapid footsteps going back and forth on the upper deck.

    The two boys were greatly delighted; immediately they looked for a tool they could use. Xu Ziling beckoned Kou Zhong to come over, he pointed to a stove on the corner with branding iron in it and said, If we light the stove and heat the branding iron until red, perhaps we could burn a small hole on the ships bottom noiselessly. And then when the seawater pours in, we could use the saw to open a big hole from which we could escape.

    Kou Zhong patted his shoulder in praise. While Xu Ziling took a charcoal tinder next to the stove to light the fire, he took off his tattered outer clothes and stuffed it underneath the door to prevent the seawater to seep out prematurely.

    In the meantime the ship was going faster again, while apparently also made a sharp turn, as if it was trying to avoid something. Above, the footsteps stopped, but there were footsteps in the corridor outside.

    By this time Xu Ziling already dumped more than a dozen branding irons into the stove. Hearing the footsteps outside, he was startled and turned his eyes toward the door. Kou Zhong quickly positioned himself behind the door while signaling Xu Ziling not to show mercy by making a chopping gesture.

    Outside, a mans voice was heard, Any activity?

    And then two other male voices replied, Nothing!

    The first man said, The incoming ship belongs to Jukun Bang, perhaps that pretty Bangzhu has eaten some leopard gall that they dare to intercept us. Bangzhu ordered us to keep a close eye on these kids, or else we will be punished according to the gang rules.

    The two guards on duty promptly responded.

    Noise of footsteps went away.

    Kou Zhong promptly removed the tattered clothes he stuffed under the door.

    They heard the sound of lock being opened, the thick wooden door was pulled open, dim lantern light shone in, but it was not bright enough to reach the iron cage on the corner.

    The two unsuspecting guards came in; one of them even said, Light the lantern first!

    But the other man saw the burning stove. While he was wondering about it, Xu Zilings fist struck his head like a lightning; immediately he slumped down, but Xu Ziling caught him before he reached the floor.

    Kou Zhong made his move at the same time; he also knocked the other man down. He still had time to crane his neck outside to look, and saw three men standing at the corridor leading to the stairs. The men were looking at him.

    Luckily Kou Zhong was quick-witted; he raised his hand in greeting, and then quickly closed the door again. Luckily the corridor was dimly lit, plus his movement was very quick, so that the men could not see his face clearly. But he was so scared that his heart nearly jumped out of his throat.

    The two boys took off the mens clothes and used it to tie them and stuffed their mouths. Only then did they feel a bit better.

    The two mens money bags had already entered Kou Zhongs pocket, while Xu Ziling untied the mens short halberd and sword. Although they were not as accustomed in using these weapons as a saber, but it was definitely better than without a cun of iron in their hands and thus making them feel lost.

    Xu Ziling picked the smoldering branding iron and placed it on the cabin wall. A chi, chi sound ensued, followed by smoke rising up from a charred wood. When he removed the branding iron, as expected, a glowing red indentation appeared on the wooden plank.

    Kou Zhong plugged the bottom of the door again.

    This time Xu Ziling pressed three branding irons to the indentation, creating more smoke, and burning the plank red.

    The ship made another sharp turn; it seemed like the Jukun Bang people were getting really close. There were faint shouting from above, coupled with the sound of urgent footsteps. The situation was getting more and more intense.

    Pop! The branding iron finally penetrated the wood plank; seawater immediately came gushing in.

    The two boys cheered. Using the saw that they prepared in advance, they desperately sawed the wood to make the hole bigger. The seawater continued to pour in; very soon it reached their ankles. Soaked by the cold water, their two prisoners woke up.

    Crack! Kou Zhong sawed the plank until only a small section left, which he then pulled and twisted as hard as he could to break it. Immediately a large triangular hole appeared.

    The two boys did not have time to hesitate. They cut the knot binding their two captives first to let them untie the rest of their bind, and then they slipped into the sea underneath the ship.

    Haisha Bang flagship was moving rapidly forward, the bottom of the boat they stole along with the salt appeared above them. The ocean surface was bright with the yellow glow of the moon; hence the boys knew it was already evening.

    Kou Zhong did not care whether Xu Ziling wanted it or not, he simply dragged him up toward the surface.

    Who would have thought that the ship was sailing too fast? By the time the two boys reached the surface, the salt boat has just slipped right through them.

    As soon as they had their heads above water, they were dumbstruck. Because Haisha Bangs five ships were besieged by more than a dozen smaller sailboats.

    Both sides were shooting fire arrows and throwing rocks at each other, the raging battle has reached the state where neither side could extricate themselves. The rockets lit the night sky.

    Kou Zhong had his eyes fixed on the stolen boat, which was getting farther and farther away. While he felt like crying, but did not want to shed any tears, as he looked at their fortune turning into water, suddenly the stolen-salt boat separated from Haisha Bang flagship and slowed down. Apparently someone thought that the stolen-salt boat was too cumbersome and had the mooring rope cut off.

    The two boys were overjoyed at the turn of events; hastily they swam with everything they had toward their happy future.

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