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

  1. #141
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 12 Chapter 10

    Book 12 Chapter 10 Devising Battle Plan in a Tent

    One after another Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling leaped onto a big tree among a towering forest. Sweeping their gaze around, they saw all around them were long lines of torches; their escape route was completely sealed.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, If not for the spring nights fog that makes the air wet, we could light a fire to create some chaos; perhaps we could then seize an opportunity to slip away.

    With a cold snort Ba Fenghan said, Even if we have to fight with all our might and die, but as long as Kou Zhong and Shuni could leave safely, I have no regret.

    Severely shaken, Xu Ziling said, If I did not hear it from Fenghan Xiong with my own ears just now, I really did not dare to believe that Fenghan Xiong is this kind of no-surrender, not-afraid-of death hero. [Orig. honor does not allow one to glance back, viewing death as a return home.]

    Smiling wryly, Ba Fenghan said, Honor does not allow one to glance back, is just inflated praise, viewing death as a return home also still fall short. I simply never regretted the decision that I made. As long as things can go according to my wishes, I am happy. You, two kids, are so loyal and true to me, but I am not a despicable fellow with the heart of wolf and lungs of dog either. My wish right now is that in the future Zhong Shao will be able to kill Li Mi with his own hands to avenge us.

    Xu Ziling shook his head, No! he said, I definitely wont allow Li Mi to kill you. Hey! If we can change our shape in a single shake and become two of Li Mis men, do you think it will increase our chance of survival?

    Knitting his brows, Ba Fenghan said, Are you thinking of grabbing two men and change into their clothes? But Wagang Army is famous for being highly organized. Under the army theres regiment. Under regiment theres battalion. Under battalion there are a number of smaller platoons. Each one has distinct line of command. Plus we may change clothes but we cant replace faces. We will only provoke jeers!

    From his bosom Xu Ziling pulled out a mask. Handing it over to Ba Fenghan, he said, This is the handicraft, a legacy of, the number one master craftsman in the world, Mister Lu Miaozi. We change our faces first, then well find a way to change clothes.

    Finished speaking, he put on another mask first, and immediately turned into the scar-face hero who once battled the Four Big Bandits.

    Watching that, Ba Fenghan clicked his tongue in amazement. And then with Xu Zilings help, he also put on the mask. Changing shape in a single shake, he incarnated into a young warrior with sunken eyes, thin lips and protruding jaw.

    His spirit greatly aroused, Ba Fenghan said, Now this is different! Come! Well cut some branches for secret projectiles first. Follow me!

    ※ ※ ※

    Carrying Dong Shuni on his back, Kou Zhong ran wildly and leaped swiftly along the mountain and fields. After rushing through a forest, as he ran up to the top of a hill, he saw the Luo River flowing across in the valley ahead, and on the opposite bank were the glittering lantern lights of a big city.

    Laughing aloud, Kou Zhong said, We are here, at last! and he halted his steps.

    Reluctantly Dong Shuni left his thick and broad and warm tiger back. She looked at Kou Zhongs imposingly standing like a mountain, his eyes were gleaming as he gazed at the Yanshi City, standing tall and upright about five li across the plain. There was some kind of intimidating insufferably arrogant charisma around him. Her heart was trembling with enchantment, like a little bird relying on people she leaned into his arms and said in a low voice, You must never tell anybody about us! If Da Jiujiu found out, he will definitely kill you.

    Kou Zhong looked down at this charming beauty, he could not help replaying what had just happened in his mind, while thinking that it would be perfect. Otherwise, if after having a physical relationship with him Dong Shuni forced him to ask her hand in marriage from Wang Shichong, what would happen would be greatly unpredictable.

    Slightly angry, Dong Shuni said, Why dont you say something? Is it because you dont like me?

    Kou Zhong felt big headache was coming; wrapping his arm around her delicate, soft, and small waist, he pulled her into his bosom, planted a deep kiss on her tender mouth and smiled and said, What about later? Can we do what we just did later?

    Smiling enchantingly, Dong Shuni said, It will be up to me. If I have time, I might come looking for you.

    Kou Zhong was positive that he was not her first man, because while they were doing the deed, Dong Shuni was more adept than he.

    Although there was no denying that she beat Yun Yuzhen in every aspect, but just like with Yun Yuzhen, he maintained a chance-encounter mentality, and would never recklessly consider this affair as true love.

    Besides, there were so many urgent and more important matters waiting for him.

    As he ran all the way to this place, his mind was, for the most part, occupied by thought about Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghans safety, while the rest was dedicated to thinking about how to exploit Wang Shichong to deal with Li Mi. Not once he thought about the moving, tender body on his back, let alone thinking about whether he would have a future with her together.

    Dong Shuni yanked his hand and said, Lets go!

    The two rushed down the hill toward Luo River.

    ※ ※ ※

    Li Mi was standing on top of a sloping hill. His brows were in deep frown as he looked at his subordinates setting up a vast net around their target, a two-li jungle, so tight that not even one drop could trickle through, also at the several dozen martial art masters under Fu Zhen and Fu Yan, two brothers leadership combing the area. Yet more than half a sichen has passed, and there was still no movement.

    Wang Bodang, standing to his left, ferociously said, This is impossible. How could that baby girls scent suddenly disappear?

    There were about a dozen high-ranking generals standing behind Li Mi; no one could answer this question.

    Standing to Li Mis right, the distressed Shen Luoyan spoke softly, I have a feeling that something is amiss. Logically speaking, they cant fly even if they grew wings.

    Li Mi sighed and said, There is no such thing as logically or illogically speaking. Kou and Xu, those two little thieves should have been dead dozens of times, but they are always able to run away from critical circumstances; its really mind-boggling.

    Wang Bodang spoke heavily, Supposing they really succeeded in bringing Dong Shuni into Yanshi, what should we do?

    Li Mis eyes lit up with cold rays; he spoke slowly, word-by-word, The best way is to attack Yanshi immediately, take Wang Shichong under control, make it difficult for him to return to Luoyang to oppose Dugu Clan and the King of Yue. But it will wreck our entire plan, plus during the battle with Yuwen Huaji we had suffered heavy casualties, our strength has not recovered. Therefore, it would be more appropriate for us to focus on defense and not on offense, hence we have to find another way.

    And then, turning to Shen Luoyan he said, Luoyan has any suggestion?

    Shen Luoyan said, Another countermeasure would be secretly sending martial art masters to infiltrate Luoyang, to instigate Dugu Feng to sweep away Wang Shichongs influence in Luoyang, so that Wang Shichong will be isolated, his support will be cut off. At that time, to take the head on Wang Shichongs neck will be as easy as feeling it in our pocket and take it out.

    Frowning, Wang Bodang said, Wang Shichongs influence in Luoyang is deep-rooted; I am afraid it would not be easy to uproot it completely. There must be a proper arrangement.

    Li Mi said resolutely, Whether this scheme will succeed or fail, it will only bring benefit to us without any disadvantages. The more chaotic Luoyang is, the better it will be for us. It would be best if Dugu Clan and the King fight each other until both sides suffer. That would be ideal.

    Turning to Shen Luoyan, he said, We are racing against time. If we let Wang Shichong make the first move, his losses would be minimal. Does Luoyan understand the serious consequences?

    Shen Luoyan nodded and said, Mi Gong may set your heart at ease. Leave this matter to Luoyan! I will not fail Mi Gongs trust.

    Li Mi issued his order, I give Luoyan full authority in this matter, with Bodang as your deputy. I would also like to ask Nanhai Xian Weng [immortal elderly man of the South Sea] holy self to strengthen our force. The rest of you will be assigned accordingly, do as you see fit!

    As everybody heard the name Nanhai Xian Weng, they all revealed both respect and fear expression.

    Turned out Nanhai Xian Weng Huang Gongcuo was a martial art master of Ning Daoqi caliber, an important figure of great-scholar-respected-for-learning-and-integrity level. The present day Sect Leader of the Nanhai Pai of Zhuya County [historic name for Hainan (south sea) Island] Mei Xun could only be considered his disciple or descendant.

    It was rumored that one time Ning Daoqi and Huang Gongcuo was having a decisive battle at Leizhou Peninsula, and only after a hundred moves that Huang Gongcuo was defeated under Ning Daoqis bottom-of-the-chest consummate skill, the San Shou Ba Pu [scattered hand eight attacks]. It could be said that although he was defeated, it was a glorious defeat. From this, it could be seen that Nanhai Xian Weng Huang Gongcuo had a sterling reputation.

    Due to Li Mis father, Li Kuan has done a big favor to Nanhai Pai, after Li Mi rose up in rebellion, time and again he sent envoys to ask Huang Gongcuo to leave the mountain [i.e. to take a leading position], but only after Emperor Yang was assassinated by Yuwen Huaji did Huang Gongcuo agree to give him a nod. He even promised that Nanhai Pai would support Li Mi to obtain the world with all their strength. Naturally it included the harsh situation they were currently in.

    Wang Bodang and Shen Luoyan accepted the order in unison.

    At that point, the torches guarding the south side of the forest were extinguished one by one, followed by continuous shouts of surprise.

    Instead of getting angry, Li Mi was delighted. Leading his subordinates, he rushed down the hill toward the commotion.

    ※ ※ ※

    Under the escort of officers and soldiers guarding the city, Kou Zhong and Dong Shuni galloped toward Wang Shichongs Zheng Guo Gong [Duke of State Zheng] Mansion inside the city of Yanshi.

    It was as if Dong Shuni had turned into a completely different person; she was collected and was smiling, her demeanor became solemn, like an inviolable pure and holy leader of a Sect.

    They had just entered the Mansions gate, Wangshichong, who already received news, was walking out the gate, under the escort of a dozen personal guards, to welcome them.

    Dong Shuni flew off of the horseback, and threw herself into Wang Shichongs bosom, crying.

    Wang Shichongs vigor was still like before, but the hair on his temples started to mottle with a few more gray hairs.

    He lovingly held Dong Shuni in his embrace, while repeatedly cooing, Xiao Ni, dont cry! Da Jiujiu is here. What happened?

    While doing that, he also cast a glance toward Kou Zhong, and his eyes immediately became incomparably penetrating.

    Kou Zhong dismounted, saluted, and said with a smile, Whether we will succeed or fail, it will all depend on what Shangshu Daren [basically it means government minister] will do.

    Wang Shichong was stunned, If you are thinking of using frightening words to scare people, dont blame me he started to speak in obvious displeasure.

    Da Jiujiu! Dong Shuni cut him off with a slight edge on her voice, He is a good man; without him, Xiao Ni would have met disaster too horrible to contemplate.

    Extremely deferential, Kou Zhong spoke, Is it possible for Wang Shangshu to grant me audience to have a word with you? We have to make prompt decision in this matter, otherwise, even if Suntzu was still alive, Wu Hou is reincarnated, they would not be able to reverse the losing battle this city will experience.

    Kou Zhong! Wang Shichong sternly called.

    Kou Zhong bowed and responded, Kou Zhongs here!

    After glowering at him for quite a while, Wang Shichong said with a cold snort, Come with me! But dont even think of playing tricks on me.

    ※ ※ ※

    Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling ran for more than fifty li at a stretch, until they reached the Great River downstream from Luoyang. The two could not take it anymore; one after another they crouched by the shore, just ahead of the billowing waves of the Yellow River.

    In the distance, they could see the lantern lights from the city of Luoyang brightened the horizon.

    After going through much exhausting effort, they finally broke away from the danger zone. Ba Fenghan laughed heartily and said, Good kid! You are really quite something! Wang Bodang was face-to-face with us, and he did not know who we are. He even shouted an order for us to quit. Fortunately I was able to hold my laughter; I was choking hard and was quite in pain.

    Xu Ziling shook his head and said with a sigh, Li Mi deployed such a large force, but he could not even touch the tail of our garments. If this goes out, I guarantee he would be the laughingstock of the whole world.

    Ba Fenghan managed to get up; he said, While we still have time before daybreak, it would be best if we could preserve and nurture our spirit, before swaggering into the city with our fake faces to drink some hot tea. I have several old acquaintances in Luoyang, I guarantee they will take a good care of us.

    Xu Ziling had to struggle hard to sit up straight, I wonder if Kou Zhong was able to move Wang Shichongs heart? he mused.

    Ba Fenghan took a deep breath to restore his composure; smiling, he said, Wang Shichong is a tiger dressed as a man, while Kou Zhong is a man dressed as a tiger. Victory or defeat is already abundantly clear, Ziling why worry?

    ※ ※ ※

    Inside the secret chamber.

    Dong Shuni revealed everything in one breath, concealing nothing. But Wang Shichongs countenance changed at least a dozen times.

    After pondering for half a day, Wang Shichong said heavily, Shuni go take a rest for a while, Da Jiujiu needs to make decision.

    Dong Shuni was thinking of acting like a spoiled brat and refusing to leave, but looking at Wang Shichongs solemn expression, where his face seemed to be covered in thick cloud, she did not dare to create a scene. Therefore, after casting a quick glance toward Kou Zhong, who was sitting opposite of Wang Shichong, she obediently left.

    The door was closed.

    Such a spacious private room, there were only Wang Shichong and Kou Zhong, two men.

    Kou Zhong was unusually silent.

    Since entering the room, he has not said a single word.

    Wang Shichong was deep in thought for half a day. Finally he spoke in low voice, You guys were willing to brave death to save Xiao Ni, I, Wang Shichong, is eternally grateful. Say your request now!

    Kou Zhong knew Wang Shichong did not trust him; he laughed indifferently and said, My request is the demise of Li Mi.

    Wang Shichong was stunned. He stared at Kou Zhong for half a day before frowning and said, Right now I have internal trouble and external aggression, I am facing enemies in front and behind me. I am afraid I cannot help you accomplishing this wish.

    With a card up his sleeve, Kou Zhong said, Wang Shangshu is wrong. The fact is that there has never been a better time like right now, where your side have the opportunity to crush Wagang Army.

    Displeased, Wang Shichong said, In all my life, the kind of people I hated the most are those who use favor to threaten. What have I, Wang Shichong, never seen? How could I listen to anybody who wanted to manipulate me?

    Kou Zhong calmly said, This time Wang Shangshu sent your troops to Yanshi, I wonder what is your intention?

    Wang Shichongs eyes flickered with sharp lights; he said coldly, Now is now, then is then. Right now my top priority is returning to Luoyang to clean up a clique of traitors.

    Kou Zhong smiled and asked, And then what?

    Wang Shichong proudly replied, Once the inside is pacified, naturally going out to fight foreign aggression. Li Mi and I cannot exist together.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, This time Wang Shangshu sent your troops, is to observe and confirm that after defeating Yuwen Huaji, Li Mis strength took a big blow; therefore, you wanted to seize the opportunity to thoroughly and swiftly cut him down. But now you want to pacify the inside first and let the opportunity slip away for nothing, giving Li Mi the opportunity to recover. Wont it be a grave miscalculation?

    In daze, Wang Shichong stared at him for a long time, as if he had never seen Kou Zhong before. And then he said seriously, So Kou Xiao Xiong believes that I ought to put Li Mi in order first, and then return to base to deal with Yang Dong and Dugu Feng?

    Kou Zhong shook his head, Not quite, he said, Even if there was no problem in the Eastern Capital, if this time Shangshu rashly attack Li Mi, I have no doubt you will still be defeated.

    At first Wang Shichong wanted to probe whether Kou Zhong had an ulterior motive, i.e. wanted to exploit Wang Shichong to deal with his archenemy Li Mi. But now, after hearing him said so, he was taken aback, and asked modestly instead, Id like to hear the details.

    Thereupon Kou Zhong told Wang Shichong how Li Mi was going to deal with him, but naturally he said it as if it was his own speculation.

    Wang Shichongs countenance changed slightly; for quite a long while he did not say anything, evidently Kou Zhong had hit the target.

    Half a day later, Wang Shichong sighed and said, I am originally from the Western Region. Because of my admiration of the Celestial Empires [tributary title conferred on imperial China] civilization, I followed my father to the Sui Dynasty. Since childhood I love to read history books, I love to study the art of war. Finally I arose to become the assistant minister of the Ministry of War, and quite obtained Yang Guang, that muddleheaded rulers high regard. After the battle against Meng Rang, my name shook the land under heaven. I thought that nobody in the world surpassed me, Wang Shichong, in the art of war. Who could have thought that I came across that Li thief, to whom I am inferior in every aspect? Were it not for Kou Xiao Xiong warning me, this battle will only result in defeat with no chance of victory. So you think I ought to immediately return to the Eastern Capital?

    Kou Zhong knew that Wang Shichongs mind was in turmoil; he smiled and said, Like I said just now, to destroy the Wagang Army, this is a chance one in a thousand years. There are two reasons: one, currently Li Mis strength is greatly wounded, his troops weary his generals tired. Two, Li Mi is still in euphoria after defeating Yuwen Huaji recently; inevitably he will have condescending thought toward you and will be underestimating you.

    After a short pause, he continued seriously, Forgive my bluntness, but speaking about military strength, your side is not Li Mis match, plus your repeated defeat has made Li Mis despises you even more. Therefore, if Wang Shangshu is showing your weak front, and we fabricate ingenious circumstances, luring Li Mis entire nest to come out, with our meticulous planning and setting up traps, I guarantee that Li Mi will fall headlong and take serious tumble that henceforth he will be powerless to press toward the Eastern Capital.

    Hearing that, Wang Shichongs heart was pounding with eagerness, his doubt toward Kou Zhong diminished significantly, while his trust soared. How can we show a weak front? he asked.

    Kou Zhong asked in return, May I know how many men Wang Shangshu has in your disposal right now?

    Wang Shichong hesitated for a moment before making up his mind; he replied, This time I only brought twenty thousand men, but not a single one is not a trained elite troop.

    Kou Zhong slapped the table and said, That will do. Sun Tzu said: troops are valued by their quality, not quantity. Because we have fewer soldiers, Li Mi would look down on us even more. Now if he also mistakenly thinks that we do not have enough provision, I dont believe the recently-victorious Li Mi could bear not to lead his army to indulge in another war.

    Shaking his head, Wang Shichong said, He can always wait until we are really short on provision before attacking. This ruse may deceive others, but definitely not Li Mi, who has rigorous schemes and deep foresight.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Thats why I said we need to fabricate ingenious circumstances to force Li Mi so that he wont have any choice but to fight.

    Wang Shichong was astonished, What circumstances? he asked.

    Kou Zhong said, This operation can be carried out in two phases. First, we create a fake situation of supply shortage; for example, send your men everywhere to rake in army provisions, also broadcast a rumor that you are returning to the Eastern Capital soon. It would be strange indeed if Li Mi does not come to intercept.

    And then he leaned forward and lowered his voice, For the next phase, we mend fences with northern forces whose power is not under Li Mis: Dou Jiande; ask him to send troops to attack Li Mi. Naturally we leak this information to Li Mi. I wont have to worry that he wont take the initiative to attack first.

    Although Wang Shichong was a conceited and talented field commander, he could not help slapping the table and exclaimed in praise, That is indeed a brilliant plan! But there are a lot of details that still need to be considered.

    Soon after his eyes shot sharp rays; fixing his gaze on Kou Zhong, he said, Everybody knows that Kou Zhong is ambitious; you managed to turn the south upside down. And now you help me like this, whats in it for you?

    Kou Zhong calmly met his eyes, Because, he slowly said, If I dont kill Li Mi, he would kill me. I dont care who will become the Emperor, as long as its not Li Mi. Is Wang Shangshu satisfied with my answer?

    Wang Shichong spoke in heavy voice, You are indeed a rare talent. If you are willing to throw your lot with me, I, Wang Shichong, definitely wont treat you meagerly.

    Kou Zhong cheerfully replied, Thank you for Wang Shangshus guidance. But in everything I still want to wait until Wagang Army is destroyed before making any decision. Although dealing against Li Mi is important, but the Eastern Capital must be grasped firmly in our hands. As long as we can hold out against Li Mis forces, we can attack the King of Yues imperial palace, pulling all who oppose you by the root. At that time Wang Shangshu may think that the King of Yues throne will be more desirable. Besides, you have at least half of the people in the world already in your pocket!

    This speech went straight to the bottom of Wang Shichongs heart, making him forget that Kou Zhong did not immediately declare his allegiance to him. Greatly delighted, he said, Dugu Fengs forces in Luoyang cannot be ignored. If I am not in Luoyang, I am afraid it would be difficult to have control over the general situation.

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, That is precisely one crucial point in the show-your-weakness phase. Wang Shangshu may want to select several elite troops to ride with you back to Luoyang to settle the situation in Luoyang, and then play it by ear. As soon as Li Mi makes unusual move, Shangshu immediately slip back here to take charge of the general situation. Wont that work?

    Wang Shichong was staring blankly for half a day. Finally he heaved a deep sigh, shook his head, and said with a smile, Other than that, do I have a better choice?

  2. #142
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 12 Chapter 11

    Book 12 Chapter 11 Ancient Capital of Thousand Years

    Luoyang was located prominently at the southern bank of the Yellow River. On the north, Mount Mang acted as a screen, to the south it was connected to Luo River. To the east was Hu Lao [tiger prison], west was Han Valley. It was surrounded by range of hills all around, with the Luoyang plains in the middle, and four streams: Yi, Luo, Chan, and Jian, passing through it. It was both strategically situated and easy to defend, and had beautiful scenery. The soil was fertile and the climate moderate, while water transport was convenient.

    Since ancient times, eight different dynasties established their capital here: Xia, Shang, Eastern Zhou, Eastern Han, Cao Wei, Western Jin, Northern Wei, and Sui.

    The so-called River Yang [positive/male/opposite of Yin] ground to set up the sacred tripods [not sure, I simply translated as is] between the Central Plains and the four sides of the wind, Luoyang was a major crossroad linking the land under the heavens, and a military stronghold.

    After Yang Guang ascended the throne, from Luoyang he selected another location for his capital and established a new one.

    The new imperial city was located between the Zhouwang [king of Zhou?] City and Han Wei old city, across the Chanshui River on the east, spanning toward the Luo River on the south, facing the Jian River on the west, and leaning against the Mount Mang on the north. The citys circumference was more than fifty li; indeed a grand and magnificent sight.

    Again, with Luoyang as the center, Yang Guang cut a canal reaching Hangzhou in the south, Zhuo County on the north, cutting through the Grand Canal spanning from north to south, and connecting the Hai River, Yellow River, Huai River, Yangtze River, and Qiantang River, five major waterways, so that Luoyang became the major hub of the worlds [remember: tianxia, meaning China] center of commerce.

    This particular day, the sky has not brightened, the city gates have just been opened, a large number of traveling merchants, intermingling with farmers heading toward the morning market, were already lining up, waiting to enter the city.

    Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling, still wearing their masks, mingled among the crowds, were strutting leisurely into the city via the south gate.

    Luoyangs scale naturally could not be compared to average size cities. The south gate itself actually consisted of three gates: the middle one was called Jian Guo Gate [founder of the country], the left one was called Bai Hu Gate [white tiger], and the right one was called Chang Xia Gate [eternal summer]; all three were broad.

    This moment the two men no longer wore Wagang Army uniform, but ordinary old peasant clothes just like two farmers coming into the city to do business. Each man carried large bundles of fresh-cut vegetables on shoulder pole. They reported randomly selected names to the city guard, and the soldiers let them in without any trouble.

    They had just entered the city, when Xu Ziling, who had never been to a city like this, suddenly had his eyes wide open.

    He saw the Heavenly Street, the main street connecting the north and the south gates, which spanned about two hundred steps, opened up before his eyes in a perfectly straight line, perhaps its length reached around seven or eight li.

    On the sidewalk were planted cherry, pomegranate, elm, willow, and all kinds of other trees. The middle of the street was the imperial road, where the Emperor would go on inspection tours. At this time of the year, between the spring and the summer, the flower-pink and the willow-green met together to create picturesque scenery, more beautiful than anybody could imagine.

    The main street was lined with unending row of shops, each one opened up to the street or the dozens of smaller streets and alleys linking up all the city gates; everything was clear and in good order.

    Ba Fenghan said with a laugh, Louyang has two major characteristics that everybody should know.

    Highly interested, Xu Ziling asked for guidance.

    Ba Fenghan said, First is this north-south axis, which permits the Luo River to cut across the whole city, dividing Luoyang into two regions: north and south, which are connected by four big bridges, which also connecting the Luo River with the other three streams, Yi, Chan and Jian, inside the city, so that the river course encircle the city, bringing the water from the mountain into the city, making the city and its landscape seem to be made by Heaven and arranged by Earth.

    This moment, suddenly a marvel appeared ahead; a sailboat, previously concealed beneath the buildings, sped over. From their angle of view, only the top of the sail appeared to move, as if the boat was gliding over the dry land.

    Xu Ziling delightedly said, I am accustomed to the patchwork of waterways in Jiangnan, which draw water from the rivers and the lakes into the cities, so this is no surprise. But seldom did I see something like this, the Luo River is wide, deep and perfectly straight, giving Luoyang its unique orderly and harmonious atmosphere. And the size of the city is certainly not comparable to the cities along the patchwork of waterways. So whats the other characteristic?

    By this time the sky has brightened considerably, there were more people and vehicles on the street. From time to time a team of soldiers or guards in their glittering armor sped by along the imperial road on their way to their morning drill, adding an imposing air to this beautiful imperial city.

    Ba Fenghan went on, The other characteristic is the Wai Guo Cheng [outer city wall] outside the western city wall. Due to its natural setting of the Western Park, to the west it reaches Xinan, to the north Mount Mang, to the south Yi Que and various hills, the area two hundred li surrounding it is comparable to the Shanglin Yuan [upper forest park] during the time of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty in the past. Wai Guo Cheng and the Western Park joined together, it increases the scale of Luoyang.

    The two traveled along the street until they reached the southern bank of the Luo River.

    Pointing to the big bridge across the Luo River, connecting the north and the south banks, Ba Fenghan said, That one is called Xin Zhong [new middle] Bridge. Just by looking at the size of this bridge, we can thus estimate how Yang Guang wasted manpower and resources in the past. Rumor has it that in order to make Luoyang the capital city, that muddleheaded ruler mobilized several tens of thousands wealthy tycoons from every part of the country, also three thousand plus master artisans from Henan and settled them at the twelve-lane area by the Luo Rivers south bank at the southeast corner of Wai Guo Cheng. Hence the reason we have such ambience nowadays.

    And then, lowering his voice he said, This is called good result came out of bad intention. Whoever obtains the world in the future is going to enjoy the result of Yang Guangs construction effort. As long as he manages the government properly, he will enjoy period of prosperity.

    Xu Ziling was listening with deep veneration. Athough Ba Fenghans aspiration was in the martial art way, he was very insightful toward current political climate; he was definitely standing out from the masses. While the present time was clearly not the time anybody would want to put themselves in Yang Guangs side, he was able to point out that Yang Guangs construction establishment would bring great benefit to the future generations.

    Ba Fenghan laughed and said, We ought to find a place to cure our stomach.

    Xu Ziling readily agreed.

    ※ ※ ※

    The City of Yanshi was located at the north bank of Luo River, south of the Yellow River, and north of the lofty Mount Song, Shaoshi Peak and other mountains, upstream from Luoyang, about a hundred li downstream was Hulao, and was an auxiliary strategic stronghold protecting Luoyang, also the front line military base to resist Li Mis attack from the east.

    The fell of Yanshi would have directly shaken Luoyangs stability.

    Yanshis role on Luoyang was like Hulaos to Xingyang.

    This time Wang Shichongs leading his army to Yanshi, he immediately posed direct threat on Hulaos existence, because Li Mi was forced to respond, either to defend or to attack, but he simply could not play safe by waiting and not doing anything.

    Under the escort of a dozen or so loyal and reliable high-ranking military officers and renowned martial art masters, Kou Zhong, Wang Shichong and Dong Shuni, who had put on informal military officers attire, went onboard a battleship that was moored on the dock outside the city. Accompanying them were close to two thousand guards, filling a fleet of battleships.

    After stepping on deck, Kou Zhong had a sudden inspiration and pulled Wang Shichong toward the aft. Pointing to the Luo River, he said, We must create some fake appearance to convince Li Mi that we determine to send troops to Hulao.

    Frowning, Wang Shichong said, I stationed massive military force in Yanshi, isnt that enough?

    Kou Zhong said, That could be regarded as strengthening the defense, plus not giving the enemy any opportunity to set fire on the provision. I have just studied the geographic and terrain map Shangshu gave me, Hulao and Xingyang are located south of Luo River and Yellow River. It would be better if Shangshu sends some people in this city to build some pontoon bridges, connecting both sides of the Luo River; establishing two or three cannot be considered too many. And then establish storehouse and army camp on the south side. This kind of maneuver will show off more force than transferring troops around, while also avoid Li Mi making such a big fuss over besieging the city. Ha! What do you think of this strategy?

    After staring in daze at him for a moment, Wang Shichong sighed and said, Such an excellent plan, how could I refuse?

    ※ ※ ※

    Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan crowded into a noisy restaurant, with great difficulty managed to find an empty table near the corner, ordered some pastries and light refreshments, and ate at their hearts content.

    Xu Ziling casually asked, Fenghan Xiong seems to have special admiration toward Luoyang, am I right?

    Ba Fenghan nodded and said, Among the cities and towns of the Central Earth, Luoyang and Changan give me special impression, simply because these two cities have royal air, which no ordinary city can imitate.

    How about Jiangdu? Xu Ziling asked.

    I have not been to Jiangdu, Ba Fenghan replied, That is your, Zilings birthplace, naturally you have a profound affection toward that place, just like me with my steppe and desert.

    And then, smiling, he said, However, by comparison, I still prefer northern cities and landscape. That kind of arduous, imposing and wonderful mountains and rivers has a completely different flavor to the enchanting, bright and beautiful South; it is more suited to my taste.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, Ba Xiong is like the Great River and lofty mountain range of the North, be able to withstand the test of the wind and the frost over the years, unafraid to face the difficult and nasty environment. Zhong Shao and I are, after all, southern people, very easy to develop love of ease and comfort and hate work. Even though we trained martial art, we do not have any stringent rule to follow. Hee !

    Ba Fenghan laughed and said, Ill say Kou Zhong is more akin to me, and you are not one who love ease and comfort and hate work. Its just your natural instinct is you dont like confrontation. But if someone really provokes you to fury, I will be very worried about that person!

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Am I that terrible?

    Ba Fenghan turned serious as he said, I rarely admire anybody, but you are an exception. In normal times you look suave, as if you dont care about anything. But each time we are facing the critical juncture between life and death, you always show unswerving determination, no-nonsense willpower, plus the ingenuity of coming up with brilliant scheme to escape from the enemy, otherwise this morning we would not have been here, eating light refreshments in Luoyang.

    Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, I have never thought about that side of me. Right! Should we think of a way to make contact with Zhong Shao?

    Ba Fenghan muttered to himself, I wonder hows Zhong Shao and Wang Shichongs business deal? It should have been settled conclusively by now, but its inappropriate for us to meddle. It would be best if Kou Zhong is coming to look for us. We only need to leave some signs like originally agreed, so that he knows where we are.

    Xu Ziling nodded in agreement, but then he frowned and said, So what are we going to do in the meantime?

    Ba Fenghan laughed involuntarily and said, Ziling, you are too accustomed to have your days with Kou Zhong. Tell me, when you were together with Kou Zhong, have you ever had to think about what to do or what not to do?

    Embarrased, Xu Ziling said, I seem to be too accustomed to that, but theres always the first time for everything. Ay! Later we hey!

    Ba Fenghan doubled up in laughter; he laughed so loud that other patrons on several tables nearby raised their eyebrows.

    Finished laughing, Ba Fenghan spoke indifferently, We are going to see a beauty whom we both know first, to see if she has some information about your Yu Yi, while making inquiries on the latest news about the Jade Annulus of the He Clan. Ziling, what do you think?

    A beauty that we both know? Xu Ziling asked incredulously.

    Ba Fenghan revealed a strange expression first, before smiling and said, Dongming Princess Shan Wanjing ought to be considered one of those, right?

    What? Xu Ziling blurted out.

    ※ ※ ※

    Wang Shichong and Kou Zhong were standing on the bridge of the battleship [orig. viewing platform], with their gaze fixed on the direction of Luoyang.

    Kou Zhong said, Does Shangshu know that Li Mi had been to Xiangyang to pay a personal visit to Qian Duguan, to persuade him to supply him with manpower and provision when he attack Luoyang from the south?

    Shocked, Wang Shichong said, Qian Duguan is not afraid of death? Unexpectedly he is this brazen!

    Kou Zhong said, Li Mi has always been known for his cunning, he deliberately conspired with the Four Big Bandits and Jianghuai Army to take over Jingling, while pressing against the various cities on the north. It was indeed a brilliant killing two birds with one stone stratagem. He made Du Fuwei too busy to mind the South, while at the same time making various cities south of Luoyang afraid of the Jianghuai Army and thus they threw their lots with him. Therefore, if Shangshu is too late in attacking the Wagang Army, sooner or later you will fall completely under siege. By that time it would be too late to be sorry.

    Wang Shichong was greatly astonished, How did Kou Xiao Xiong know the North-South situation so clearly? he asked.

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, Naturally in order to deal with Li Mi. That old thief issued the Duke of Pushan Decree, making us, two brothers, fell into danger time and again, several times we nearly died and escaped only by the skin of our teeth; how could we not try to quench this manhunt?

    After thinking in silence for half a day, Wang Shichong suddenly said, Supposing this time I cannot defeat Li Mi, should I go west to ally myself to Li Yuan?

    Kou Zhong wanted to say, This battle will be won, but then he had another idea and answered the question with a question, Between Li Yuan and Li Mi, which one Shangshu thinks is a bit more terrifying?

    Smiling ruefully, Wang Shichong replied, I previously have never had any regard toward Li Yuan. Even when he rose in rebellion in Taiyuan, crossing Longmen [dragon gate] into Guanzhong, successively defeating venerable Old Song and Qu Tutong, I still thought it was just a fluke. But when Li Yuans second son Shimin routed Xue Ju and Xue Renguo father and sons Xiqin Army [western Qin] at Fufeng [county in Baoji, Shaanxi], and then pursuing the retreating enemy he pressed on to Longcheng, I have no choice but to change my view. Because Guanzhong no longer has any threat from the west, they can concentrate on the east, to take over the Central Plains, becoming the biggest threat to Luoyang after Li Mi.

    Kou Zhong said, Shangshu seems to be very clear about Li Clans situation, you probably know that Li Shimin is a person who has the high aims of pacifying the Central Plains in his heart. Therefore, unless Shangshu is willing to bow before him, if you let Li Shimin acquire more strongholds and strengthening his position in Guanzhong, sooner or later Luoyang will fall into his hands.

    Wang Shichong sighed and said, Luoyang is the hub of water transport of the world, but for that same reason it is also caught in the middle of the enemies on all sides battling each other. Even if Li Mi is gone, it still has to deal with attacks coming from four sides eight directions, unlike Li Clans situation, where they could attack or retreat as needed.

    Kou Zhong said, Therefore, after getting rid of Li Mis threat, Shangshu must move your troops to Guanzhong. Whether you like it or not, you must control the Li Clan so that they cannot leave Tongguan even for half a step, and then Shangshu could press on you victory by taking advantage of the canal Li Mi leave behind, to progressively nibble away the cities and towns in the vicinity, to increase your strength, so that others outside will have no other way.

    Smiling wryly, Wang Shichong said, Im a bit tired! I want to go into my cabin to rest.

    But Kou Zhong was sighing inwardly.

    All along Wang Shichong was not a material for the contention over the world; he was absolutely nothing like Du Fuwei, he fell short compared to Xiao Xian, so naturally it was even more difficult to compare him with powerful talents with great aspiration like Li Shimin or Li Mi.

    ※ ※ ※


    [Translators note: my apology that this is beyond my ability to translate. According to my research, this poem is supposedly written by Bai Juyi (772-846), a Tang Dynasty poet, and the title is Tianjin Bridge. I would appreciate it of any of you could help me find a good translation.]

    As the two men stepped on the Tianjin Bridge spanning across the Luo River, Ba Fenghan slyly said, Tianjins Xiao Yue [dawn moon] is the chief among Luoyangs Eight Sceneries. The most fascinating is in the still of the night, when the bright moon is hanging in the sky, capturing the beauty touring it arm-in-arm. The atmosphere is certainly no word can explain.

    Xu Ziling halted and said, I suddenly remember something, I am afraid I cant accompany Fenghan Xiong seeing the Princess.

    Ba Fenghan laughed and said, I wonder what urgent matter Ziling Xiong needs to attend to?

    Xu Ziling forced a smile and said, Fenghan Xiong, please do not think that I am looking for a pretext to avoid seeing the Princess, but my heart is concerned over our missing brothers that got separated from us. So I want to try to find them.

    Are you talking about Duan Yucheng and the others, four men? Ba Fenghan asked.

    Precisely them, Xu Ziling replied.

    In that case I wont stop Ziling! Ba Fenghan calmly replied.

    After agreeing on where and when to meet again, they went their separate ways around the city center.

  3. #143
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 12 Chapter 12

    Book 12 Chapter 12 Meeting an Old Friend on The Road

    Stepping down from the Tianjin Bridge, Xu Ziling arrived at the southern part of the city; he felt relaxed and was in a good mood.

    He really did not want to see Shan Wanjing.

    This moment the City of Luoyang looked like it has just awakened from sleep. Streams of carts and sedan chairs flowed without stopping. The city was bustling with noise and excitement. Among the pedestrians, many were wearing barbarian attires; obviously they were traveling merchants from the Western Regions.

    Just by looking at the prosperity before their eyes, anybody could not imagine that there were endless wars outside the city, and that people were in a terrible situation.

    Even more difficult to imagine was that Luoyang was caught in the midst of internal and external problems; that it was in the center of conflict among major powers.

    Leaving the Heavenly Street bubbling up with a tide of people, he walked to the west along the Luo River. On a more than ten zhang wide waterfront, a huge ship standing right by the dock, with smaller boats moored on the aft of ship. The size of the iron chain itself was a marvel.

    Looking back at the Tianjin Bridge, Ba Fenghan had already disappeared.

    The four multistory building opposite each other on the north and south of the Tianjin Bridge added to the grandeur of the bridge itself; it was such a magnificent sight.

    Leaving the shopping area south of the Bridge, he noticed that the pedestrians were a lot more sparse. Xu Ziling strolled along the Luo dike. The dike was lined with miscellaneous plants, Chinese scholar trees and willows. The green trees provided shade. It was a charming scenery.

    Collecting his thoughts, Xu Ziling could not help thinking about the relationship between Ba Fenghan and Shan Wanjing.

    That day Ba Fenghan and Shan Wanjing agreed to meet at Jiujiang. Perhaps it was not such a simple matter of man-woman relationship.

    It should be noted that Shan Wanjing was the new generation leader of Dongming Pai. Internally, that Shang Ming fellow had been chosen to be her future husband. Therefore, although she fell in love with Li Shimin, they were not fated to be together.

    Judging from Shan Wanjings strong character and the way she conducted herself, since she was able to restrain her feeling for Li Shimin that nothing went wrong, according to reason, she also should be able to refrain from making a tryst with Ba Fenghan.

    Therefore, between she and Ba Fenghan, there must be some cooperation of mutual benefit.

    Xu Ziling originally did not consider this aspect of the matter, but because Ba Fenghan had intimate knowledge that Shan Wanjing was in Luoyang, and he knew where she was staying, this was definitely not a simple matter at all.

    If between the two people there was only a simple matter between a man and a woman, with Ba Fenghans attitude in which he did not attach most importance to family love, and the fact that Shan Wanjing did not have the heart to kill Xu Ziling the other day, it was enough for Ba Fenghan to never turn his back against Shan Wanjing.

    Xu Ziling shook his head with rueful smile.

    Could a wind blowing a ripple on a spring [season] pond interfere with the matters between a man and a woman?

    Right this moment, someone was hurrying over. Xu Ziling looked up to see, and instantly he was dumbstruck, and nearly could not believe his own eyes.

    ※ ※ ※

    Leaning on the window, Kou Zhong looked out, while myriads of thoughts flashed through his mind.

    The road to hegemony over the world was definitely not a broad and open road. Not only was it unpredictable and hard to fathom, it was rugged and hard to pass, with the risk of having his body torn and his bones crushed lurking at every turn. The one brought him the most headaches was that there were so many forks on the road. One slip and he would lose the opportunity to reach his goal.

    And opportunity was of a really crucial importance.

    Li Shimin was a person who understood how to grasp opportunity the most. He watched for opportunity, pushed his old man to rebel, and raised an army at Taiyuan, taking advantage while Guanzhongs elite troops were pressing west to deal with Li Mi, he crossed the river to enter the pass, and seized the Western Capital ChangAn, a staunch and solid point, all along only had to face danger from Xue Ju, father and son, on the west side, and was able to take control of Guanzhong, in the midst of great heroes pursuing the deer in the Central Plains [fig. many vie for supremacy], and seized the advantage of sandpiper and clam war together, and the fisherman catches both without even lifting a finger.

    And right now he had just started.

    Admittedly, while toppling Li Mi would break the Song Clan and Wagang Army alliance like killing a fetus inside the belly, the one reaping the most benefit would be Li Shimin, and not him, Kou Zhong.

    Therefore, now it was not the time to kill Li Mi. Even though Li Mi was craning his neck waiting to be chopped, he could not kill Li Mi.

    Ay! I wish Xiao Ling were here! Then at least Ill have someone to unload my mind.

    If Xu Ziling was killed, he would recklessly abandon everything to avenge him. All those aspirations to obtain the world or what have you, would have to be set aside.

    Knock! Knock!

    Kou Zhong was stunned. Come in! he said.

    A young maid pushed the door and bowed respectfully while saying, Miss is inviting Kou Gongzi to her cabin for a meeting.

    ※ ※ ※

    Xu Ziling hesitated for a moment, before running to block the person who had just brushed past, and called in heavy voice, Li Dage!

    Unexpectedly it was Li Jing, whom he had not seen in a very long time.

    The reason of his hesitation was because all along he could not accept what happened to Susu. If Li Jing was not a fickle man, Susu would not receive disgrace from Wang Bodang, and furthermore, she would not have married Xiang Yushan.

    Li Jing was dressed in everyday clothes, but he still looked heroic and frank; his eyes had become even sharper, evidently in these past few years his martial art skill had progressed tremendously.

    Stunned, he halted his step. With confused expression he knitted his brows and asked, Could this Xiongtai be mistaken?

    It was only then did Xu Ziling realize that presently he was the Scarface Hero. Thereupon, lowering his voice he said, Its me, Xu Ziling. I am wearing a mask.

    First, Li Jings tiger body shook, and then, showing a pleasantly surprised expression, he pulled Xu Ziling over the row of locust trees by the pathway and toward the edge of the sloping dike. I also heard the rumor that you guys are heading to Luoyang, he said in great delight, But I would never have expected that we would come across each other by chance like this. Wheres Xiao Zhong?

    Xu Ziling pulled his mask off and stuffed it into his bosom.

    Li Jing sighed and said, You are taller than me now. Time flies really fast, unexpectedly it has been many years. Those two urchins of the old days have become world-shaking figures. Nowadays, at the mention of your name, people are either gnashing their teeth in anger, or praising you to high heaven!

    And then he quickly added, Xiao Zhong is all right, isnt he?

    Listening to his sincere concern, while also recalling Susu, Xu Ziling was so torn that he hated himself for it. He said, Xiao Zhong is all right, we are just temporarily splitting up, each one handling different matter; thats all!

    Li Jing breathed a sigh of relief and said, Come! Lets find a place to sit down and talk!

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong was led by the young maid to the inner cabin.

    Dong Shuni had changed into fancy dress, and had put on meticulous makeup. Sitting nicely in a chair, her beauty was even more dazzling. Her smoky eyes also increased her charm and grace, and made her look a bit more mature.

    Kou Zhong was seated on a chair on her left. The young maid retreated, and even closed the door behind her.

    Kou Zhong looked unsure, Arent you afraid your Da Jiujiu might blame you? he asked.

    Imitating Wang Shichongs tone, she spoke in an old, gruff voice, Now is now, then is then. How can they be the same? But then she could not refrain from laughing tenderly, like a sprig of flower trembling uncontrollably, unleashing her seductive appearance at its full power that she looked extremely captivating.

    Kou Zhong suddenly understood: Dong Shuni was Wang Shichongs secret weapon. By exploiting her beauty, he coaxed and took advantage of talents, and perhaps to gather intelligence as well. Otherwise, perhaps even to his death Wang Shichong was not aware that he had fallen within Li Mis range of bows and arrows.

    In order to subdue Kou Zhong, right now Wang Shichong was playing this Dong Shuni trump card.

    Smiling sweetly, Dong Shuni said, You are indeed a very capable person; I have never seen Da Jiujiu has such a high regard of anybody. But right now I dont like you!

    What? Kou Zhong blurted out.

    ※ ※ ※

    The buildings along the Luo River banks stretched out to the left and right. Not too far ahead there was a tall campanile, magnificently towering high over the Luo River dividing the city into two sections.

    Li Jing sighed and said, I had never thought that when we parted that day, its only now that we can meet again. Su Mei is really something; were it not for her, I, Li Jing, could forget about sitting here with you, reminiscing over the old times. Therefore, when I heard Li Mi rose up in rebellion, I knew something bad was about to happen, I rushed to Xingyang immediately, and found out that you guys have rescued her out.

    Xu Ziling felt a lump in his throat; he nearly burst into tears. Struggling hard to control himself, he said in heavy voice, Why did Li Dage let her return to Xingyang that day? Didnt you know that Xingyangs Longtou Mansion was a very dangerous place to be?

    Li Jing smiled wryly and said, Su Meis kindness to me was as heavy as the mountain, how could I, Li Jing, be that kind of ungrateful [email protected]? Its a pity that she had had her mind made up. Knowing that I would stop her, unexpectedly she left a letter and quietly left me. At that time my internal injury had not been healed, if I ran after her, we would come across more wind and rain. Upon recovering from my heavy injury, I went to Xingyang to look for her, but Su Mei refused to see me. I had no choice but to go to Luoyang first, and then continuing into Guanzhong. And now I am working for the King of Qin.

    Listening to this, Xu Ziling was dumbstruck.

    Turned out that was what happened!

    ※ ※ ※

    Dong Shunis countenance turned cold, Anybody that Da Jiujiu like, I dont! she spoke indifferently.

    Seeing Kou Zhong was staring at her with his big eyes, she stomped her feet and snarled, Whats so strange about that? Cant I pick someone I like? Da Jiujiu has never liked my Die, but Niang was happier than any woman out there. Niang used to say previously they were free to select any partner from among the wildfire.

    Kou Zhong breathed a sigh of relief instead. Smiling, he asked, In that case, can I get lost now?

    This time it was Dong Shuni who stared at him with her big eyes. Did you hear what I said? she said, I said I dont like you anymore; dont you feel sad and broken hearted?

    Kou Zhong stood up, stretched his limbs, and started to walk toward the cabin door. Without stopping, he said, Of course I am deeply grieved. I just want to go back to my room and cry my eyes out. Ha

    Kou Zhong turned around to catch the precious porcelain vase Dong Shuni was throwing at his back. Giggling, he said, I have a really bad habit: I dont like to be manipulated by others. I prefer to eat soft food, but refuse to have hard food [i.e. amenable to coaxing but not coercion]. Ha! With a wave of his hand, he whisked the porcelain vase back toward Dong Shuni.

    While Dong Shuni was frantically catching the vase, he pushed the door and swaggered out.


    The vase was thrown once again; it crashed against the door and disintegrated into pieces.

    ※ ※ ※

    Hows Su Mei doing? Li Jing asked in concern.

    Xu Ziling heard his own voice responding, She is in Baling, and she is married now.

    Li Jing sounded cheerful, I am really happy for her. Which family is so lucky to have her?

    Xu Ziling was visibly shaken; he looked at Li Jing in disbelief.

    Li Jing was puzzled, Why did your, Xiao Lings countenance, look so strange? Is there something wrong with Su Meis husband?

    Xu Ziling asked in surprise, Su Jie married another man, Li Dage did not feel disappointed?

    Frowning, Li Jing said, If Su Mei has a place to call home, I cant be more happy than that. Is there any problem with this man?

    After staring at Li Jing for half a day, Xu Ziling shook his head and said, I do not dare to be positive about it.

    Li Jing laughed and said, You nearly scared me to death. Who is this man anyway? Isnt Baling Xiao Xians territory?

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, This man is precisely Xiao Xians man, his name is Xiang Yushan.

    Li Jings countenance changed, What? he blurted out.

    Xu Ziling was shocked, Is there really a problem with him?

    Li Jing showed a pained expression. It was quite a while before he sighed and said, Whether in himself this man has a problem, I am not sure at all; but I do know ay! Xiao Ling, please forgive me for having a hidden trouble too hard to mention, hence I cannot fluently tell you all I wanted. Heavens! How could there be such a coincidence?

    Xu Zilings brain traveled at the speed of light; he spoke heavily, Just now Li Dage said that you are working under the King of Qin. Isnt the King of Qin Li Yuans second son, Li Shimin?

    Li Jing nodded, Thats him all right, he replied, He also has high regards toward you. Arent you looking to make a breakthrough in doing great undertaking? He is going to be a good emperor.

    Xu Ziling laughed coldly and said, Can he ascend to the throne? He is merely the King of Qin, but the heir apparent is actually Li Jiancheng. Just by listening to Li Dage, I know the rift between the two brothers. Li Clan is facing a disaster, big chaos will arise. Li Dage still want to mingle in this muddy water?

    Li Jing solemnly said, Xiao Ling, you have grown up, your knowledge and experience are greatly different from the past, but I, Li Jing, am not the kind of person who sees trouble and shrinks back.

    After a pause, his eyes glittered like frost and snow as he gazed on the Luo River below, which water flowed in perpetuity, and then he said slowly, The trials and tribulations of a nation today are the same as in time past, unless it obtained enlightened sage as its lord, it cannot be governed peacefully. And the problem facing the nation is not for the squeamish. Nowadays, who did not know that the Li Clans territory was won over by the King of Qin? Also, only he has the talent and morality and conduct, which will benefit thousands of people. Xiao Ling, do you understand what I am saying?

    Xu Zilings heart was vexed, as if there was a heavy stone weighing the pit of his stomach; after taking a long, slow breath, he felt slightly comfortable. He said, Li Dage is not in Guanzhong, but came to such a dangerous place like this, what is this all about?

    Lowering his voice, Li Jing replied, I came to Luoyang this time is indeed for a very important matter, but right now I cannot tell you yet.

    And then he pulled Xu Ziling up and said, Come with me, your Sister-in-law must be worried sick waiting for us!

    Sister-in-law? Xu Ziling blurted.

  4. #144
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 12 Chapter 13

    Book 12 Chapter 13 Past Events Like Fleeting Smoke

    Wang Shichong, in full military attire, stood on the bow.

    Kou Zhong and a group of high-ranking military officers stood behind him.

    Luoyangs outer city wall was already in sight, the atmosphere was solemn and respectful.

    Four navy ships joined the procession, making the fleet look even more spectacular.

    Wang Shichong was in great spirit, apparently he was in a very good mood. Beckoning Kou Zhong to come over, he asked, Has Kou Xiao Xiong been to Luoyang?

    This will be my first visit, Kou Zhong respectfully replied.

    Wang Shichong laughed aloud; he proudly said, The Luo River underneath us divides the Capital City into two sections, the north and the south. The Imperial Palace and the Imperial City are located on the northwest part of the City. The streets, squares, and marketplaces are scattered around the southern and eastern parts of the City.

    Can our fleet sail directly into the City? Kou Zhong asked.

    Immensely proud of himself, Wang Shichong replied, Not only we can sail directly into the City, we can go anywhere we like. In terms of convenience in water and land transport inside and outside, no place under the heavens can match the Eastern Capital. Other than the Luo River running through it, there are Chan River on the east, Gu River on the west, Jin River Canal on the north, and to the south, it goes through Jin Canal, through Ji Canal, Yi River, Cao Canal, Dao Canal, back to Jin Canal, Danshui Canal, and great streets and small alleys criss-crossing the entire city. Carts and boats interlink that nothing is more convenient than this.

    The water gate has already risen, the fleet pushed deep into the City along the Luo River.

    The view suddenly changed into a bustling scene of the city; Kou Zhong forgot to breathe, his tiger-eyes were wide open.

    Wang Shichong whispered in Kou Zhongs ear, If you help me destroying Li Mi on the east, and subduing Changan to the west, I will make you King of Luoyang. This city then will become your territory, plus Xiao Ni will be your queen!

    Recovering his composure, Kou Zhong took a deep breath and said, Thank you very much Sheng Shang [Your Holiness, a term used by a subject to address the Emperor] for your dragon kindness! As soon as he finished speaking, he was amused inwardly.

    However, he also knew that he must not pretend in giving out flattery, because Wang Shichong might change his view toward Kou Zhong at any time.

    Hearing the two-character appellation Sheng Shang, Wang Shichong laughed aloud. And then lowering his voice, he said, Rumor has it that you two know the secret of the Duke Yangs Treasure; is it true?

    Kou Zhong cursed in his heart, but on the surface he maintained a deferential expression. Also lowering his voice, he said, We only have a bit of clues, but whether we can really find it or not, it remains to be seen.

    Is the treasure in Luoyang? Wang Shichong probed further.

    Kou Zhong pretended to be stunned. Shangshu is really formidable! he exclaimed.

    Letting out a cold snort, Wang Shichong said, When the new capital was being built a few years ago, Yang Su was actively involved in it; hiding the treasure here is the most logical thing.

    Kou Zhong was delighted inwardly, thinking that it would be best if you think that way.

    Suddenly he saw the fleet was sailing toward the Big Bridge spanning across the River. Aghast, he shouted, We are going to hit the bridge!

    Although Wang Shichong and his generals tried hard not to laugh, but it was very hard.

    While Kou Zhong was still at a loss, the middle of the big bridge opened up, both sides rose upwards, revealing enough space that the fleet was able to sail through in single file unhindered.

    Wang Shichong turned toward Kou Zhong, who was still dumbstruck, unable to conceal his amazement, and said, This is our Central Earths first drawbridge, designed by the worlds renowned master craftsman, Lu Miaozi. I am not surprised that Kou Xiao Xiong has never seen anything like this.

    Pointing to the right bank ahead, he said, That is the Imperial Palace. Well go directly to see Yang Dong, I want to know what kind of trick he is going to play.

    ※ ※ ※

    Stunned, Xu Ziling asked, Li Dage is married?

    Li Jings old face blushed; he said, Its been a while! When Su Mei and I fled to the north that time, I was fortunate to come across her and obtained her benevolence by having my severed tendon fixed; otherwise your Li Dage would become a cripple.

    In that moment Xu Ziling understood the whole thing.

    Because of Li Jings change of affection, shift of love, in her grief Susu was forced to leave Li Jing, and was no longer willing to mention him.

    Li Jing was puzzled, How come Zilings countenance became so unsightly?

    Xu Zilings countenance turned cold; he spoke word-by-word, From this day onward, we are no longer brothers. Li Jing, please leave!

    Li Jing was severely shaken, What exactly is going on? he asked.

    Xu Ziling coldly said, You should be well aware of whats going on. In vain Su Jie loved you with all her heart. You fell in love with someone else and abandoned her. I have nothing else to say to you. Finished speaking he turned around and walked away.

    Xiao Ling! Li Jing shouted.

    Unleashing his qinggong, in an instant Xu Ziling left the river bank area and disappeared into the stream of people on a side street.

    ※ ※ ※

    The grand, imposing eastern imperial palace was located at the extremity of the Luo River inside the city, northwest of Waiguocheng.

    The imperial palace was divided into two sections: the Huangcheng [imperial city], and the Gongcheng [palace city]. The Imperial City was protected from all sides by Palace City on the east, south, and west, three sides, shaped like a letter U [orig. character凹 - ao], while its north side was separated from the Palace City by the city wall.

    Imperial City city wall was a double-wall. The north side was triple-wall, and thus increasing its defense capabilities.

    East and west inside of Imperial City were four side streets, which intersected the three streets going north and south, with the main street in the middle being the axis, where the government buildings, city hall, military headquarters, and so on were located along the side streets on either side of the main street, like the stars cupping themselves around the moon [idiom from Analects], on the left and right, not far from, the imperial palace.

    Palace City was Yang Dong, the child emperors residence and the reception hall where he received the ministers.

    North of Palace City were two walled cities Yaoyi [lit. glorious rites] and Yuanbi [lit. round rampart], so that Palace City was heavily surrounded and so the defense was much tighter than Jiangdu.

    The fleet was slowly docking on the pier outside Imperial City. Wang Shichong laughed and said, Since Li Mi did not know that you and Shuni have gotten away, the news should not have reached Luoyang yet; so now Yang Dong is going to be caught off-guard. Perhaps until now he does not even know that I, Wang Shichong, am back.

    This is called defeating the slow by speed, Kou Zhong said, As long as we can control Yang Dong, the Dugu Clan will lose their strongest backing. At that time, whether we want to kill or cut [referring to cutting off the flesh as punishment], it will not be up to them to decide.

    Wang Shichong said, Although Dugu Fengs martial art skill is very high, he is still unworthy to make me lose sleep. But that old granny You Chuhong is indeed no small matter. Although the number of martial art masters under my banner is as numerous as a cloud, I am afraid none will be able to stop her. If she managed to escape the net and fled, the catastrophe will be great indeed.

    Astonished, Kou Zhong asked, Why didnt Shangshu mention Dugu Feng? [Translators note: I know this could be confusing. The first Dugu Feng was peak/summit; he was Dugu Clans leader (see Book 2 Chapter 12 for first mention of this man). The second Dugu Feng was phoenix, the girl who came across Hou Xibai in Book 9 Chapter 2.]

    Wang Shichong was taken aback, Why would I want to mention her?

    Kou Zhong knew situation was worse than he originally thought; he spoke heavily, My friend Ba Fenghan has had confrontation with Dugu Feng [phoenix], he was nearly unable to escape alive. Reportedly her martial art skill has surpassed Dugu Fengs [peak]; it is second only to You Chuhong. How could Shangshu not know anything about this?

    Wang Shichong has personally witnessed Ba Fenghans extremely strong skill at Pengcheng; hearing Kou Zhong, his countenance changed. If this is really the case, he said, Perhaps Dugu Clan still has other strengths hidden for an opportunity to plot against me.

    Kou Zhong nodded. That must be the case, he said, We must be careful, otherwise, one slip and the loss will be heavy.

    The ship was anchored; Wang Shichong led his entourage stepping down the plank.

    ※ ※ ※

    With head down, Xu Ziling scurried along the street; halfway down, his mood calmed down somewhat. Especially with the street was lined on both sides with trees, providing him with ample shaded; the sky was blue, the cloud white, it was a love spring sunshine. Thereupon he strived to set aside the matter of regret that could not be undone between Li Jing and Susu, and put his mind on the buildings in the City of Luoyang.

    Since leaving the Flying Horse Ranch, he was using his spare time to fetch Lu Miaozis book he left behind and browsed it to study. Having a considerable interest in building construction, this moment he was able to look around with expert eyes at this carefully planned city layout, which conformed to the terrain of the land, creating a capital that was famous throughout the world.

    Xu Zilings mood turned to be more cheerful as he wandered the side streets and alleys. No matter where he went, the streets and alleys intersect each other in checked pattern like a chessboard, with the houses evenly distributed in perfect order.

    A group of children was playing in a vacant lot, innocent laughter filled the air, making him reminiscing his childhood he spent with Kou Zhong in the City of Yangzhou. It seemed like the two of them had never played like this, every day was filled with the struggle to have enough food and warm clothes, as well as dealing with bullies.

    While he was lost in his thought, he heard the sound of wind behind him.

    Quickly turning around, he saw that it was Dou Jiandes top general, Liu Heita.

    ※ ※ ※

    As Wang Shichong was stepping on the dock, a middle-aged general met him up. After saluting, he said, Everything is in order, Shangshu, please set your heart at ease.

    This man was quite tall; he was probably a cun or so shorter than Kou Zhong. His face was long like a horses, and he wore a goatee, but his eyes were shining; evidently he was a martial art master in internal and external skills.

    Wang Shichong introduced Kou Zhong to him, This is General Lang Feng. In my absence, Luoyangs affair is in his and General Song Mengqius hands.

    Kou Zhong suddenly understood that this man was Wang Shichongs trusted aide.

    At the same time he shivered inwardly.

    Just by looking at the calm situation before his eyes, he knew that Wang Shichong has already transmitted his order via a special channel of communication, instructing Lang Feng and Song Mengqiu to secretly mobilize their troops to gain control over Imperial City.

    Therefore, although when he first heard the news Wang Shichong appeared to be helpless, the fact was that an old fox would remain an old fox. After calming down, he exposed his true color: shrewd, ruthless, and formidable.

    Lang Feng said, Shangshu Daren, please!

    Wang Shichong smiled calmly, and took the lead to stroll toward the gate leading into Imperial City.

    END OF BOOK 12

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  5. #145
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 13 Chapter 1

    Book 13 Chapter 1 Who Is The Wise Ruler?

    Liu Heita tapped Xu Zilings shoulder, and went into a nearby shop selling silk cloth.

    The two aging shop attendants did not even step out to greet them, as if they did not see them at all, as the two men proceeded deep into the shop, pulling the bead hanging curtain separating the front and rear sections, passing through the small warehouse filled with bolts of cloth, and stepping out into a courtyard. Turned out there were two other layers of building at the back.

    Four men and one woman were congregating at the courtyard, talking. Seeing Liu Heita, they all showed respect as they greeted, Liu Dage!

    Liu Heita nodded. He led Xu Ziling into the building at the left side of the courtyard.

    It was a simple, unadorned, small hall; other than a table, few chairs, and some essentials, there was no other furnishing, not even a cabinet, much less any decorative furnishings.

    When the two was seated, Liu Heita laughed aloud and said, Very good! Unexpectedly I came across you. I dont know how many times I heard evil tidings about you, who would have thought that you are still like a lively dragon and animated tiger. Where did Kou Zhong go?

    I lost touch with him, Xu Ziling replied, But we agreed to meet here. Finished speaking, he sighed inwardly. Although Liu Heita was a good man, all along he was Dou Jiandes man, so he should not disclose too much to him.

    Knitting his brows, Liu Heita said, I hear Li Mi sent his men to intercept you. Shall I send out my men to look for Kou Zhong?

    Xu Ziling could feel his sincere concern, which gave birth to unbearable guilty conscience in his heart; shaking his head, he said, He should not have any problem defending himself; in fact, we separated on purpose, with me luring away the pursuing troops, while he is in charge of something else.

    Liu Heita understood.

    This moment, the girl that was just chatting with the four men outside came in to serve fragrant tea.

    It was only now that Xu Ziling noticed that this girls profile was rather beautiful, and she exuded a delicate and pretty personality.

    Liu Heita laughed and said, She is Tongtong; her flying blade skill is indeed not bad! But he did not introduced Xu Ziling to Tongtong.

    Tongtong smiled as she shot a couple of curious glances toward Xu Ziling before withdrawing from the room.

    Liu Heita was deep in thought for half a day before he finally sighed and said, Assassinating Ren Shaoming not only propelled your names to the sky, it has also changed the entire situation of the South. Lao Ge [old elder brother] is really proud of you.

    Xu Ziling was afraid Liu Heita would repeat his invitation for them to join his organization, he busily changed the subject, This time Liu Dage came to Luoyang, I wonder if there is something big going on here?

    After gazing deeply into Xu Zilings eyes, Liu Heita spoke heavily, This matter can be big or small. The fact is this is actually a trivial matter, only it is possible that this matter relates to the question of who can really unify the land under the heavens.

    Xu Ziling was confused, What matter can have that kind of impact? he wondered.

    Liu Heita did not answer; he asked back instead, This time you came to Luoyang, is it in preparation to go west to enter Guanzhong?

    Xu Ziling understood that Liu Heita was a man with a very good moral standing, but he was definitely not a fool. On the contrary, he was astute and formidable, so it was absolutely not easy to deceive him.

    By asking that question, it was tantamount to indirectly asking if he was going to dig out the Duke Yangs Treasure. If Xu Ziling responded evasively, it would be difficult to get Liu Heita to bare his soul to him later.

    During the time where the warlords were setting up independent regimes, even between father and son, brothers and friends, there must be matters that have to be kept secret to some degree for the sake of their respective master.

    Just like Li Jing a moment ago, who wanted to tell him something but hesitated; obviously he also had to have some reservations.

    Smiling ruefully, Xu Ziling said, The fact is that we only know that the treasure is somewhere near Guannei [lit. inside the pass; I think this is a places name, but it could point to the general area inside the Great Wall]; other than that, we know nothing at all. Therefore, this time we are simply going to take our chances.

    Liu Heitas honest and considerate, guileless dark-skinned face revealed a trace of sincere smile; he nodded and said, What Ziling told me, how could I not believe it? Its just that rumor has it that within the Duke Yang Treasure, other than rare treasure that Yang Su had plundered for many years, there are also tens of thousands of weapons and other items. To haul away these things out of the Li Clans territory, one must have considerable manpower and physical resources. If you think that I, Liu Heita, am trustworthy, I can give you full support, on the condition that each takes what he needs; you can go your way to become rich and powerful, and I go my way to vie for the world. We get the best of both worlds to everyones delight and satisfaction.

    After a short pause, he went on, According to the information I have, the Duke Yang Treasure has seven layers altogether. Other than the first layer, which has no mechanism or booby-traps, every layer is more dangerous than the previous one. If you know that the man who designed the room to store this treasure was the Number One Master Craftsman in the world, Lu Miaozi, youd know that to acquire the treasure is not an easy matter at all. As far as I know, that Luocha woman only entered the first layer and promptly sounded out the difficulties and retreated to avoid defeat. Huh? Why do you look so weird?

    Hearing the name Lu Miaozi, naturally Xu Ziling was severely shaken. He began to understand a little bit why when he showed the secret book on mechanism, it strongly reminded him that he would have to rely on this to enter the Duke Yang Treasure-trove.

    But why did Lu Miaozi not teach them directly how to enter the Duke Yang Treasure, which he personally designed?

    This is really puzzling.

    Liu Heita continued, Yang Su and Lu Miaozi were close friends; the drawbridge Xing Jin Fu Qiao [xing star, jin river crossing (abbreviation for Tianjin), fu qiao floating/pontoon bridge] was his design. This mans talent in this area is extremely high; I dont think there is any second person to him at the present age.

    Noticing Xu Ziling was frowning hard, he reached out to give him a friendly pat on the shoulder and said, You dont have to answer me quickly; you may talk to Kou Zhong first. Even if you decided not to cooperate, I, Liu Heita, cant possibly blame you. By the way, Zhuge Dewei is quite knowledgeable at mechanism and building constructions; certainly that would be very helpful in entering the treasure trove.

    Xu Ziling had no choice but to nod in agreement.

    Liu Heita stretched out and spoke in a relaxed manner, To be honest, I really did not want to say those things, because it made me look like those greedy people who covet the treasure. But taking the present conditions into account, I did not have any choice.

    I understand, Xu Ziling said, Liu Dage need not be concerned about it.

    Liu Heita gladly said, I have mentioned the two gentlemen to King of Xia, King of Xia is also highly appreciative toward the two of you, and he sincerely hopes to see you face to face.

    The King of Xia was Dou Jiande.

    Xu Ziling calmly replied, If there is any opportunity, we would also love to pay our respect. But still, just now Liu Dage mentioned that you have a business here that can be big but can be small as well; what is that all about?

    Liu Heita replied in heavy voice, It has something to do with the Jade Annulus of the He Clan, which is equally famous with the Duke Yang Treasure!

    ※ ※ ※

    They had barely entered Imperial City, the more than a dozen men gathered inside the door went out to meet them. Other than three men wearing high-ranking military uniform complete with armors, the rest wore casual Confucian scholar attire. One of them, which Kou Zhong was surprised to see, was Ouyang Xiyi.

    Ouyang Xiyi was a martial art master who had made his name for several decades; in Jianghu, his seniority was extremely high. Together with great scholar Wang Tong, they forged a very deep friendship, but for the last several years he had already disregarded the affairs of the life. Unexpectedly he could be here to help Wang Shichong in vying over the world. [See Book 4 Chapter 3]

    At Pengcheng a few years back, using Chen Sha Jian [Sinking Sand Sword], he waged war against Ba Fenghan. Although at that time victory and defeat had not been decided, he had left an indelible impression in Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings hearts.

    Apart from Ouyang Xiyi, there were two men and one woman that especially caught Kou Zhongs attention.

    The woman was like a red dot amidst a cluster of then thousand greens; extremely noticeable.

    She was a very pretty young woman, petite and nimble, carrying a sword on her back, but her expression was unusually somber, a no-nonsense attitude, yet there was also a cool and elegant, mature sex appeal. She exuded a proud and aloof aura that made people felt that she was cold and must not be offended, but also made people secretly felt that if they could break open that layer of protective screen, it would be a mans greatest accomplishment.

    But the reason Kou Zhong paid particular attention to her was not her good looks at all, rather, it was her pair of radiant and glittering azure eyes, which made him realize that not only she was a Wulin master, but that she was not of Central Earth origin.

    The others who caught his attention were two men: one old, one young. The old one was short and stocky, wearing Taoist robe, holding a whisk in his hand. His eyes, ears, nose and mouth were squeezed together at the middle of his fat face. A look at him was supposed to provoke laughter, but his half-closed narrow eyes were gleaming with sharp and luminous flicker, which faintly conveyed some kind of fierce and ruthless feeling, without the least bit of comical taste.

    The young one was a sturdy looking man of twenty-seven or twenty-eight, with imposing built. Although he could not be compared to outstandingly handsome men like Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, Ba Fenghan, or the like, his face was simple and adorned, his dark complexion looked solid, giving out a tyrannical, dauntless, overbearing impression. His weapon was a pair of pecks hanging on his back.

    It seemed like other than Ouyang Xiyi, from among the crowd, these three had the highest martial art skill; they could be listed among the front ranking martial art masters.

    Ouyang Xiyis gaze fell on Kou Zhong first; an astonished look flitted across his sharp eyes, but he did not say anything.

    This moment Wang Shichong had already run up to meet them and said with a chuckle, With ladies and gentlemen rushing over like this, I, Wang Shichong, have nothing else to fear.

    Kou Zhong slightly shivered in his heart, realizing only then that without making either motion or noise Wang Shichong has already mobilized people with most power under his command to deal with the immediate crisis.

    Ouyang Xiyi and the others returned the propriety by declining modestly.

    One of the generals said, Mengqiu has made all the arrangements according to Shangshus instructions.

    It was only this moment that Kou Zhong realized this man was the great general Song Mengqiu, the other trusted aide of Wang Shichong, Lang Fengs counterpart. Hastily he gave him a quick look.

    This man was ugly, but his face radiated with bravery, mixed with excessively exaggerated loyalty, giving people the impression that he was wearing a mask. In just a glance Kou Zhong already developed a dislike toward him.

    By this time Wang Shichong had already introduced Kou Zhong and the crowds to each other. Surprisingly, the womans name sounded like the person; she was called Linglong Jiao [together, it means exquisite and delicate].

    The fat Taoist was Ke Feng Daozhang [Taoist priest]. The sturdy-looking man was Chen Zhanglin; the rest were martial art masters from various famous schools and sects.

    Apparently Ouyang Xiyi occupied highest position among the group; he smiled and said, The Secret to Long Life is worthy to be one of the Four Great Amazing Books, otherwise it cannot bring up a talent like Kou Xiongdi.

    Kou Zhong promptly declined modestly.

    After another round of polite greeting with everybody, Wang Shichong curbed his smile and said, This matter should not be delayed, we must immediately enter the Palace to see that little muddleheaded ruler; lets see what kind of trick Dugu Feng [summit] is playing.

    ※ ※ ※

    Noticing that even after hearing the word Jade Annulus of He Clan Xu Ziling was able to maintain his indifferent demeanor, Liu Heita smiled and said, If Ziling knew more about the Jade Annulus of He Clan, perhaps you would be a bit more interested.

    Xu Ziling was thinking about Kou Zhong; sighing inwardly, he forced himself to rouse his spirit and asked, The Jade Annulus of He Clan is, of course, not only the seal of state, it was also the Emperors personal symbol of authority. But other than that, what else does it worth?

    Liu Heita replied, Frankly speaking, I am not too clear about this matter as well. But just from the fact that Ning Daoqi made an agreement with Ci Hang Jingzhai that he would loan the jade annulus for three years, evidently the Jade Annulus of He Clan is not simply a piece of precious gem. Otherwise, how could it move the heart of such an out-of-the-world, free-from-vulgarity, outstanding holy man like Ning Daoqi?

    Xu Ziling was stunned, In that case, he said, Are you saying that the Jade Annulus of He Clan has been hidden in Ci Hang Jingzhai all along? But how did Liu Dage know?

    Liu Heita smiled mysteriously. Lowering his voice, he said, On this, please forgive me, your Liu Dage, for keeping the climax from you; simply because I have made my promise not to divulge it to anybody else. Suffice it to say that you must know that this information is absolutely true.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, If that is really the case, the rumor widely spread all over Jianghu that Ning Daoqi may come to Luoyang to hand the Jade Annulus of He Clan back to Shi Feixuan is not a fabrication relying on nothing at all. Ning Daoqi and Shi Feixuan are making an ostentatious display like this, did they think that the world is not chaotic enough as it is now?

    Liu Heitas dark face revealed a hint of smile as he spoke indifferently, As it turns out, the opposite is true. This is the condition that Ci Hang Jingzhai imposed on Ning Daoqi before they agreed to loan the jade annulus to him: he must help set things right in the world to the benefit of thousands of people.

    His heart moved, Xu Ziling said, In that case, Ning Daoqi is helping Ci Hang Jingzhai to promote the future ruler.

    Liu Heita was surprised. Listening to your conjecture, it seems to me that even if you did not know the truth, yet you are not too far from it. According to Duke Dou and my own speculation, the purpose of Shi Feixuans extraordinary visit to this mortal life this time is not only to deal with Yin Gui Pai, but its also for an even more important mission, which is to find the true master for the sake of all the people. Just think: under todays circumstances, whoever can win Shi Feixuans favor and is given the Jade Annulus of He Clan, what can that person be in the future?

    Xu Ziling immediately felt a big headache.

    It dawned on him that the problem lay with Kou Zhong.

    Under current circumstances, no matter how Shi Feixuan would make her choice, she would never pick Kou Zhong.

    Just like Liu Heita said, the Jade Annulus of He Clan itself is only a trivial matter, but Shi Feixuan selecting the Emperor was the big matter involving the land under the heavens.

    Shi Feixuan being the representative of Ci Hang Jingzhai, combined with Ning Daoqis power and prestige, as soon as they announced to the world that they have given the Jade Annulus of He Clan to certain person, how would the outstanding heroes all over the world react?

    Therefore, Kou Zhong must not allow this matter to happen.

    Previously Kou Zhong used to say that he wanted to snatch the Jade Annulus of He Clan away for himself. Perhaps half of it was spoken in jest.

    But now it was a totally different story.

    If Kou Zhong entered the fight over the Jade Annulus of He Clan, could he, Xu Ziling, stay out of it?

    If not, wouldnt it evolve into enmity between them and Shi Feixuan and Ning Daoqi?

    ※ ※ ※

    Wang Shichong, in company with Kou Zhong, the high-ranking military officers, and the various martial art masters moved quickly to mount their horses, and then under the escort of nearly a thousand personal guards, they galloped through Imperial City to the north toward Palace City.

    Along the sides of the road they saw soldiers in full armor, obviously the control over Imperial City has completely fallen into Wang Shichongs army.

    The surrounding city wall was about nine li long, with palace gates all four sides. The Heavenly Gate was in the middle of the south wall. To the south it faced the Duan Gate, to the north it faced Xuanwu Gate, and the palace halls in between had their main gates all connected by a central axis.

    Under the thundering hoof beats, the entire Imperial City seemed to be shaking.

    Kou Zhong was riding on Wang Shichongs left side, while Ouyang Xiyi was riding on the other side. Ahead of them Lang Feng, leading thirty riders, was clearing the way. It was such a vast and mighty momentum.

    Very soon the Heavenly Gate was in sight. It was actually a double-gate, the depth was twenty-something steps, with imperial city watchtower to its left and right, which were connected by an eighteen-step wide city wall. There was a twelve-zhang open area outside the city gate. This moment the atmosphere was solemn, which was quite intimidating to the onlookers.

    The middle gate of the Heavenly Gate was wide open, yet not even half a shadow of guard was to be seen. A baffling situation that was clearly contrary to common sense.

    Wang Shichong looked calm. As they were speeding along, he turned to Kou Zhong and said, Inside the Heavenly Gate, there is Yongtai Gate, and after that is precisely the lords palace, Qianyang Hall, where general assembly and ceremony are being held, which double as the hall to receive foreign envoys. That fellow Yang Dong usually never goes there.

    How come I dont see a single palace guard at the Palace City? Kou Zhong wondered.

    Someone behind him replied, Looks like we scared them off. But no one considered this as a joke.

    Wang Shichong said in heavy voice, The Imperial Bodyguards under Dugu Fengs control are divided into Yi [assist], Ji [cavalry], Wu [martial/military], Tun [stationed troops], Yu [chariot driver], Hou [nobility/high official], and so on, twelve guard units. Each unit is approximately five hundred men, so that the entire military strength is more than five thousand men; a number that cannot be scorned at. With the solid city walls that they defend, and in line with Dugu Fengs character, they cant possibly retreat without any fight, so we must be a bit more careful.

    Everyone acknowledged with loud noise, their voices shook the Imperial City.

    In the blink of an eye, the vanguard had reached the Heavenly Gate. But as they were about to charge inside, a man, with his hands behind his back, stepped out the gate, laughed aloud, and spoke slyly, Shangshu Daren is bringing your troops pressing on toward the Imperial City like this, I wonder what business do you have?

    ※ ※ ※

    Liu Heita heaved a deep sigh. He said, The world is already in chaos; if Shi Feixuan was more involved, the situation would be even more complicated.

    And that was the exact reason why Xu Ziling had headache.

    Both Shi Feixuan and Wanwan were the representatives of two major sects, upright and heretical; and both were outstanding martial art masters, which were hard to come by. And now that Wanwan had become their archenemy, if Shi Feixuan was involved, it would not be something fun for the two boys.

    Xu Ziling could not help asking, Where is Shi Feixuan now?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Liu Heita replied, I heard ten days ago she made an appearance in the vicinity of Luoyang, but afterwards she disappeared without any trace; no matter what, nobody could find the slightest bit of clue on her whereabouts. Just from this fact, we can tell the degree of her brilliance.

    Remembering Wanwan, Xu Ziling could already infer how formidable Shi Feixuan must be. And then thinking that she might become enemy with he and Kou Zhong, momentarily he did not know what to say.

    Even if he did not promise Kou Zhong that they would part ways after obtaining the Duke Yangs Treasure, he could not possibly leave Kou Zhong under current circumstances.

    Liu Heita went on, This is precisely the reason I came to Luoyang this time. If we could acquire the Jade Annulus of the He Clan from Shi Feixuans hands, it would be the same as half of the world already belonged to King of Xia. Therefore, whats happening in Luoyang this moment can be called a magnificent and unprecedented event. To obtain the world, who would not want to take a chance?

    Xu Ziling also remembered Li Jing. Perhaps he came to Luoyang this time was for the exact same reason, i.e. he was trying to win over the Jade Annulus of He Clan for Li Shimin. In Liu Dages opinion, who would have the chance to win over the Jade Annulus of the He Clan? he asked.

    Liu Heita laughed involuntarily, Zilings use of these words win over may not be too appropriate, he said, Lets not talk about Ning Daoqi watching on the side, merely Shi Feixuan herself, whose swordsmanship has reach the great heights, is enough to prevent anybody from having a wild fantasy. Therefore, using the word beseech instead of win over might be more appropriate.

    Xu Ziling was amused inwardly, because he was thinking on behalf of Kou Zhong, hence unexpectedly he unconsciously used the word win over. A bit embarrassed, he asked, Whos most likely to beseech and receive the treasured jade annulus?

    Smiling wryly, Liu Heita replied, I would love to tell you that it ought to be Duke Dou. But the fact is that is not necessarily true. There are at least three men who have equal chance with us, who are also the three most qualified men to unify the world.

    He paused, and then went on, If I were Shi Feixuan, I would evaluate each person in terms of military accomplishment, administration, reputation and so on to consider whether he is fit to be the future Son of Heaven receiving the heavens command. Therefore, the first person to have the best chance will be, no doubt, Li Mi. Coincidentally he had just scored a victory over Yuwen Huaji, he also opened the storehouses to provide relief for the people several times in the past, his reputation is stellar; who could match him?

    Xu Zilings heart sank even deeper. If Li Mi obtained the Jade Annulus of the He Clan, how could Kou Zhong and he still have any chance of contending against him?

    Liu Heita continued in heavy voice, The second candidate would be Wang Shichong. Just look at the stability of Luoyang. It is a clear proof that he is able to govern well. Plus his base of operation is at the heart of the Central Plains, his prestige is acknowledged at the four winds, so its hard for others to lightly overlook him.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, These two are definitely men who can contend against the King of Xia. Is the last one Li Yuan?

    Li Yuan can indeed be considered one, Liu Heita replied, Its just that he himself is a lecher, plus he attached himself to the Tujue. Although he has power, his chance of being selected by Shi Feixuan does not seem to be too great.

    Recalling his Ol Dad, Xu Ziling said, Do you think Du Fuwei has no chance of being chosen?

    Liu Heita replied, Du Fuweis reputation has never been good, plus recently he has been colluding with the Tiele people. If he wants to obtain the Jade Annulus of the He Clan, I am afraid the only way would be to rob it from someone else!

    Xu Ziling shivered slightly in his heart, because he was fully aware that Yin Gui Pai would also be involved. Besides, Zhu Yuyan, Wanwan, Qu Ao and Du Fuwei were all eligible candidates to challenge Shi Feixuan. Therefore, even though the latter had Ning Daoqis support, but because the opponent was simply too strong, her situation was not without any danger.

    The situation was indeed too complicated.

    Liu Heitas excitement was aroused; he laughed aloud and said, Although the world is falling apart, those who can gain acceptance, those who are qualified to be the king are but a few. Right now south of the Great River we have nothing more than Xiao Xian, Lin Shihong, Shen Faxing, and the Song Clan, four major powers. After you killed Ren Shaoming, currently Xiao Xian is the most powerful, too bad Baling Bang still has the tainted reputation of human traffickers, so that it would be difficult for them to win Shi Feixuans favor.

    After a short pause, he continued, Among the various powers north of the Yellow River, other than the three I just mentioned, the rest, Xue Ju father and son, for example, had just been defeated by Li Shimin, so that whether they are able to defend themselves remains to be seen, hence they are not worth mentioning. As for Liang Shidou, Liu Wuzhou, two men, they only rely on barbarians support to have a bit of fame and power, so there is no glory in that; I doubt that Shi Feixuan would even give them a glance. And then there are Gao Kaidao, Li Zitong, Xu Yuanlang and the like, separately they have been pushed into the corner by us, Li Mi and Du Fuwei; it would be hard for them to advance even for a cun, and would be difficult for them to gain acceptance. If we push this matter further, there is still Li Gui of Wuwei [prefecture, Gansu]. Too bad he is leaning toward the western frontier, in everything he depends on the barbarians; how could he have any bargaining chip to win the peoples favor?

    Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, Listening to Liu Dages tone, are you saying that who will become the Emperor will be entirely within Shi Feixuans power to decide?

    Liu Heita smiled and said, Whether that is the case or not, it still depends on future developments before it can be decided. But judging from the various powers sending their people to see Shi Feixuan, it is obvious that they attach most importance to this issue; otherwise, how could I have free time to sit here and talk to you?

    And then, averting Xu Zilings burning gaze, a bit shy, he asked, Is your virtuous sister well?

    Xu Ziling felt a stab of pain in his heart. Su Jie is married! he dejectedly replied.

    Liu Heitas imposing figure shook. After staring blankly for a long time, he coughed dryly and said, Hey! I was going to ay

    Xu Ziling suddenly did not feel like facing Liu Heita anymore; he only wished to go away the farther the better, and would never have to talk about Susu, ever.

    If Xiang Yushan was indeed just a despicable human trafficker, what should he do?

    Seeing Xu Ziling suddenly stood up, Liu Heita was stunned, Ziling is leaving? he asked.

    Grieved, Xu Ziling replied, I just want to drink a cup or two alone. Ill come back to find Liu Dage a bit later!

  6. #146
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 13 Chapter 2

    Book 13 Chapter 2 The Path of the Ruler

    Kou Zhong focused his attention to look; he could not help thinking that like a father like a child.

    This man was at least seventy-percent similar to Dugu Ce, only he appeared to be a few years older, but still outstandingly handsome, plus he had the magnificent bearing that Dugu Ce lacked. Therefore, anybody would be able to guess that he was the leader of the Dugu Clan, Dugu Feng.

    He was the kind of person that as soon as one took a glance on him, one would know that he was a very ambitious person, someone who would not have any scruple in killing others.

    Although he was wearing a smile on his face, there was a murderous air around him. He was of medium height, but there was an obvious lofty quality of extraordinary capability. Not only that, he also carried a straightforward and powerful manner, which displayed his strong confidence in himself.

    This moment his pair of eyes, his eagle-beak nose and the firm and persistent corner of his mouth exuded a distinct and contrasting sharp expression, as his gaze moved from Wang Shichong to Kou Zhong. Kou Zong felt his face was burning, so that he knew that Dugu Feng was worthy to be the leader of the Dugu Clan. His power was not inferior to Du Fuwei, Li Mi and those martial art masters of the same caliber.

    Everybody halted their horses. The vanguard at the front understood their role; they separated to both sides of the road, so that their master could have a dialogue with the opposite party without any barrier.

    Wang Shichong laughed aloud and said, Dugu Zongguans [reminder: chief manager] words are too heavy. In the past few days there has been sighing wind and calling crane; I heard that not a few people wanted to take the head above my, Wang Shichongs neck. I, Wang Shichong, have always been greedy for life, afraid of death; therefore, going in and out the Capital I must have men protecting me, hence the reason I brought a few more men; how could I date to commit the crime of the troops pressing on toward the Palace City? I earnestly hope Feng Xiong would not block the Palace gate, and let me in to have an audience with Huang Taizhu [grand master the emperor] to make a report on military situation; otherwise, the Ol Wang would suspect that Feng Xiong already instigated mutiny and is holding Huang Taizhu under duress, and thus forcing me to direct the troops to besiege the City. If that happened, no one would have any benefit!

    It was only that Kou Zhong realized how formidable Wang Shichong really was. Those words of his did not have any hole at all, so that nobody would be able to ward it off.

    But Dugu Feng was not a lay practitioner of Buddhism either. Just by the fact that he was guarding the Palace gate alone was a clear display of his unfathomable scheme, which was equivalent to seeing one spot on the leopard.

    Sure enough, Dugu Feng calmly took a step forward, smiled in a relaxed and easy manner, and said, Shichong Xiongs desire to lay on guilt is really formidable, how could Dugu Feng take it upon myself? The most ridiculous thing is that I, Dugu Feng, am earnest and sincere, yet I saw Shangshu Daren withdrew your troops and returned to the imperial court, so I came out specifically to welcome you; who would have thought that I was misunderstood by Zhengguo Gong [Duke of Zheng State]?

    In just one sentence he had used three different appellations, from Shichong Xiong to Shangshu Daren to Zhengguo Gong; naturally it was without the slightest bit of sincerity, but with some kind of attitude that was difficult to guess, mixed with frigid irony and scorching satire, without any implication that he had any regard toward Wang Shichong.

    Laughing involuntarily, Kou Zhong said, Since you have come to welcome us, why did previously Dugu Zongguan did not say that Shangshu Daren withdrew his troops to return to the imperial court, but said that we brought the troops pressing on toward the imperial city? Are you correcting yourself now?

    Casting a contemptuous glance toward Kou Zhong, he laughed grimly without moving a single muscle on his face and said, This young boy is very brazen; I wonder since when did he become Shangshu Darens spokeperson?

    But Wang Shichong was no less formidable; remaining tranquil and calm, he said, I have not introduced this gentleman, Mr. Kou Zhong, whom I hired back with a lot of gold and gift. In my, Wang Shichongs absence, he is in charge of Luoyangs affairs. Later on it will be more appropriate if you get to know each other better!

    This time, even Lang Feng and the other people from Wang Shichongs side were shaken; they did not expect Wang Shichong to show such a high regard toward Kou Zhong.

    Dugu Feng was stunned for half a day, before finally saying, Although Shangshu Daren has the right to pick any worthy person to assume responsibility, but such an important position, you must

    Wang Shichong cut him off, This is precisely one of the reasons this officer wants to have audience with Huang Taizhu. Will Dugu Zongguan insist on blocking the Palace gate?

    Dugu Feng laughed aloud and said, How can I? How can I? Shangshu Daren, please!

    Unexpectedly he really withdrew to the side of the gate, and then with an exaggerated gesture he invited them to enter the gate.

    Wang Shichong and Kou Zhong looked at each other in consternation; momentarily they did not know how to react.

    The deep gate looked as if it would devour anybody who dared to enter into a bottomless hole.

    ※ ※ ※

    After taking his leave from Liu Heita, Xu Ziling looked for a wine shop nearby, and ordered a pot of wine. After pouring himself a drink or two, tipsy feeling started to assault him, making him feeling like he wanted to have a good cry.

    He has never been good with wine; although he was accustomed to be affected by Kou Zhongs keen interest, but he really was an amateur in this regard.

    But now he wanted to drink until he passed out, so that he could forget the cruelty of the real situation, which he could not change anyway.

    Liu Heitas pointing out that Xiao Xian was human trafficker has bored into his heart.

    And now the matter between Susu and Xiang Yushan was like the rice that has already been cooked, plus a child was on his way; even if he killed Xiang Yushan, he would not help Susu the least bit.


    Xu Ziling poured another cup of wine down his throat before cradling his head on his arms on the table; he wanted to cry, but there were no tears.

    This moment, only two of the tables in the restaurant were occupied, plus he deliberately chose a table near the corner, because he did not wish to attract undue attention from anybody else.

    Come to think about if, all these misfortunes befell on Susu were brought by Li Jings heartless and lack of friendship.

    Which part of Su Jie was not good? Yet he insisted on changing his affection, shifting his love.

    Sound of footsteps approached.

    Hearing the footsteps, immediately Xu Ziling remembered Li Shimins dragon gait and tiger steps; startled, he quickly looked up.

    He saw a man wearing bamboo hat with a veil hanging down to shield the wearer from the sun. The man wore nondescript grey clothes. He was walking straight toward Xu Ziling. His steps were nimble yet powerful, carrying with him a wave of suffocating momentum, extremely intimidating.

    Composing himself, Xu Ziling spoke in heavy voice, Qin Wang [king of Qin], please sit down.

    The man was slightly taken aback; he stared blankly first before taking the seat across the table. Taking off his bamboo hat, he revealed a heroic and grand face. Greatly astonished, he said, Xu Xiong was able to see my face behind the veil?

    Raising his hand, he called the waiter, Bring more wine!

    Xu Ziling met his sharp gaze, the gaze that could penetrate the deepest secret in anybodys heart. He spoke indifferently, I merely recognized Shimin Xiongs footsteps!

    Wine cup and wine pot arrived. Li Shimin poured some for Xu Ziling first before filling up his cup to the brim. He sighed and said, Not only Xu Xiong has a pair of sharp ears, your memory is also astonishing.

    And then, toasting Xu Ziling, he said with a laugh, This cup is for meeting Xu Xiong again after a long period of separation.

    Xu Zilings eyes were fixed on the clear wine inside the cup; reaching out, his finger lightly flicked on the rim of the cup, creating a crisp ringing noise. Did Li Jing ask Shimin Xiong to come to me? he said slowly.

    Li Shimin smiled. Putting down his cup, he said gently, Xu Xiong misunderstood your Li Dage!

    Xu Ziling spoke apathetically, If Shimin Xiong is here to talk on behalf of Li Jing, then let us stop at this point.

    Li Shimin was slightly startled; and then he laughed aloud and raised his wine cup and drained it in one gulp. After wiping the corner of his mouth with his sleeve, he spoke with an air of authority, Then well do it as Xu Xiong wishes! Besides, this kind of man-woman affair, how could we, as outsiders, care about it?

    Forcing a smile, Xu Ziling said, This remark of yours is more formidable than talking straight; Li Shimin is worthy to be Li Shimin.

    Li Shimins eyes gleamed brightly; he carefully looked at Xu Ziling for a while and then said with a sigh, Ziling Xiong has really changed a lot. In terms of outward appearance, poise, and imposing attitude, you are exuding confidence.

    Xu Ziling replied indifferently, Shimin Xiong needs not praise me too much. Xu Ziling is nothing more than uncouth man of the mountain and fields, unlike Shimin Xiong, who is a dragon among men, who seized the rugged Guanzhong in order to raise your influence, slowly looking at the wind and the rain outside the Pass, staking everything against each other, and thus stabilizing your position as the overlord.

    This time it was Li Shimins turn to smile wryly; shaking his head, he said, Ziling Xiong, please do not mock me. At best, I, Li Shimin, am merely a high-ranking military officer of the vanguard regiment in my father and brothers effort to take over the world; what overlord position are you talking about?

    Xu Zilings pair of tiger-eyes shot a sharp, terrifying gleam, as he spoke in heavy voice, A pearl has always been a pearl; even if momentarily it is covered by grass, one day it will reveal its brilliance. How could Shimin Xiong be willing to accept an inferior status compared to others?

    Li Shimin was silent for half a day, his eyes gradually brightened, followed by a grieved expression of dissatisfaction. He said in low voice, When I helped my humble father raising an army at Taiyuan that day, he promised us, brothers, that whoever could take down Guanzhong would be appointed his heir apparent. At that time he privately told me, This matter depends entirely on you standing with all your strength. If we succeed, naturally the merit will belong to you, and I certainly will establish you as the heir apparent. And then his eyes gleamed with cold rays as he continued, At that time I replied to him, The Emperor Yang is tyrannical, people are in a terrible situation, outstanding heroes are rising together, Child only wish to assist Die to overthrow the tyrant, to free the common people from the pain of being hanged upside down [i.e. extremely critical situation]. As for other things, Child does not dare to have any delusion.

    Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, Since Shimin Xiong already has this way of thinking, why did just now you show a dissatisfied look?

    Li Shimin dejectedly replied, Because I was afraid Dage would be just another Emperor Yang, then I would have been guilty of terrible crimes. Otherwise, even if my humble father is burdened by the promise he made to his wife, but since ancient times there is always this ancestral way of establishing the son of first wife as chief, and thus I have nothing to say.

    Xu Ziling had a deep veneration toward Li Shimin in his heart. Because on the basis of his keen perception, when Li Shimin was telling him about all these things, he was expressing the truth, he was baring his bemoaning-the-state-of-the-universe-and-pity-the-fate-of-mankind heart.

    Li Shimin suddenly stretched out his arm to grab Xu Zilings shoulder. His tiger-eyes penetrating deep into Xu Zilings soul, he said, I have always hidden this deep within my heart, and have never poured it out in front of anybody else. But seeing Xu Xiong today, I was unable to restrain my emotions and thus spoke it out. It even surprised myself. Or perhaps in my heart I have always regard you and Kou Zhong as my best friends!

    Xu Zilings heart warmed up, but it also turned cold.

    Warmed up because of Li Shimins friendly feeling, cold because of the thought that one day Kou Zhong and Li Shimin would face each other in the battlefield.

    Well said! suddenly someone called out in low voice.

    Startled, the two men looked up, only to see the only remaining guest in the wine shop, who was sitting on the opposite corner farthest away from where they were. He was having his back against them, as he poured wine and drank alone.

    Li Shimin and Xu Ziling exchanged some glances; they were unable to hide the astonishment in their hearts.

    This man obviously had just come in, but the two did not have any idea when. Plus when the two were talking, they used their internal energy to suppress their voices as much as possible and focused the sound so that it would not scatter outside. Furthermore, the opposite party was at least five, six zhang away from them. If he was really able to hear their exchange, it would mean that he must be a first-rate martial art master.

    From the back, this person looked slim and elegant, exuding a confidence and suave aura. His long, shiny black hair was tied into a bun on top of his head. In short, he was very attractive.

    Raising his voice, Li Shimin said, Was Xiongtais remark just now directed to Zaixia?

    Without even turning his head, the man spoke indifferently, Theres only the three of us here, even the waiters have been dismissed by this Ol Qin. To whom did Li Xiong think my remark was addressed to?

    Hearing that, Li Shimin and Xu Ziling looked at each other. A profound and unfathomable feeling appeared on their faces.

    But his voice was deep; he spoke slowly, but it was extremely sweet sounding. It did not appear to be malicious.

    It should be noted that Li Shimin was the most important figure of the Li Clan. About ninety-percent of Li Yuans rivers and mountains were won over by him. If his whereabouts was leaked out, who among the hostile major powers did not wish to get him?

    Were it not for his trust toward Xu Ziling, he would never show himself. Just from this little fact, it was obvious that Li Shimin really regarded Xu Ziling as a good friend.

    Focusing his power to listen, Xu Ziling found no unusual activity outside the wine shop. Feeling relieved, he spoke indifferently, Qin Xiong, why dont you come over to have a cup of wine?

    The man calmly replied, Xu Xiong is too polite, but the Ol Qin has always been a recluse. Talking this way is actually more comfortable for me.

    Li Shimin laughed aloud and said, There are many unconventional scholars in the world. May I ask how should we address Qin Xiong?

    The man spoke slowly, Names and surnames are just artificial marks; two gentlemen can call me Qin Chuan!

    More and more the two men felt that this man was not simple.

    Xu Ziling said in astonishment, Please forgive me for talking too much, but Qin Xiong must be a follower of Buddha, or perhaps you are related [by karma] with the Buddhist way. I wonder if I have guessed wrong?

    Stunned, Li Shimin looked at Xu Ziling; he was completely unable to make any sense of the matter, how could Xu Ziling make such an unexpected speculation just by looking at the persons back and hearing him said a few words?

    However, without giving it the slightest bit of thought, Qin Chuan replied, Xu Xiongs perception is indeed extraordinarily brilliant. Just now, were it not for the Ol Qin entered in when Xu Xiong was crouching on the table, I am afraid I would not have escaped Xu Xiongs detection.

    Li Shimin was shocked, Qin Xiong was trailing me? he asked.

    Remaining tranquil and calm, Qin Chuan replied, Exactly so. At that time Li Xiong had your attention focused entirely on Xu Xiong, naturally you would not take any notice of me, an ordinary bystander!

    Li Shimin and Xu Ziling looked at each other in shock.

    Lets not mention that this person intentionally followed Li Shimin to this place. Just by Li Shimins brilliant cultivation yet still failed to realize that someone was trailing him, it was clear that this persons skill must be out of the ordinary.

    Without waiting for the two men to respond, Qin Chuan went on, Back to the topic at hand, just now Li Xiong was speaking about your esteemed brother. I wonder what are you going to do about it?

    Smiling ruefully, Li Shimin said, That was not supposed to enter Qin Xiongs ears; must we discuss it openly now?

    Qin Chuan shrugged his shoulders and said, Li Xiong has a large number of martial art masters accompanying you here. After unburdening yourself off this matter, you could always send your men to have the Ol Qin killed. This way you wont have to worry that any third party would find out about it.

    Li Shimin and Xu Ziling looked at each other again. Here was someone who suggested others to have himself killed to close his mouth. But the way he was shrugging his shoulders was very pleasant to watch, so that it would be difficult for others to have the heart to kill him.


    Li Shimin slapped the table, and then said with a sigh, How could I, Li Shimin, be a despicable person who only has interest in his own benefit, and presumptuously harming other peoples lives? Qin Xiong must be joking!

    Qin Chuan coldly said, You dont kill people, people will come to kill you. Your esteemed brother is more than ten years older than Shimin Xiong. During the rebellion in Taiyuan, he was still at Hedong Mansion, and had never participated in the grand scheme. A year later, he was firmly established as the crown prince. Under normal circumstances, this is not a big deal. However, in time where outstanding heroes all over the world are contending against each other, Shimin Xiong is outside as a soldier, charging and breaking through the enemy lines, beheading the Pass, seizing the narrow path, killing the enemy, taking the cities, while he remained in the western capital, reaping where he had not sown. Even if Shimin Xiong did not have different thought, your esteemed brother is merely where he is by virtue of seniority. How could he convince the heart of the people under the heavens? Could it be that he is not afraid repeating the disastrous history of Li Mi assassinating Zhai Rang?

    Li Shimins countenance fell; he spoke slowly, Who is Qin Xiong actually? How did you know my Li familys matters this clearly?

    Listening to him, Xu Ziling was amazed as well, but his interest differed from Li Shimins. Besides, this persons spoke powerfully, his reasoning was penetrating and exquisite, plus it had substance [orig. if thrown on the floor, it will make a sound], so that others would find it hard to refute.

    Qin Chuan slyly said, If Shimin Xiong does not wish to chat about this, how about if we change the subject?

    Once again Li Shimin and Xu Ziling looked at each other in shock.

    ※ ※ ※

    Ouyang Xiyi chuckled; he patted his horses butt and stepped out, Then lets Laofu be your foot soldier to open the path for you!

    Kou Zhong hurriedly whispered in Wang Shichongs ear, Lets just employ the charging forward resolutely tactic!

    Wang Shichong was indecisive, but as he heard Kou Zhong, he laughed heartily to stall for time. When everybodys attention shifted from Ouyang Xiyi back to him, he pretended to be calm and composed as he said, Apparently this is still too early in the morning, Huang Taizhu probably has not left his dragon bed, this officer can always return to have an audience later!

    Drawing out his whip, he turned around and left, without even casting a single glance toward Dugu Feng.

    Kou Zhong and the others hastily followed him.

    ※ ※ ※

    Qin Xiong has something else to say? Li Shimin asked in wonder.

    Qin Chuan spoke slowly, I wish to ask for Shimin Xiongs guidance concerning the path of the ruler.

    Xu Ziling and Li Shimin were baffled being played around by him like this.

    First of all, Li Shimin was nowhere near the monarch position, let along now was the period of fighting over the world. Even if Li Shimin had the thought of taking over Li Jianchengs position, Li Shimin ought to be asking for guidance to others, not the other way around.

    A vague feeling started to well up in Xu Zilings heart, he vaguely felt that he ought to know this persons identity, yet he was unable to penetrate the fog to come up with any definitive guess.

    Staring at the persons back, Li Shimin frowned and said, If Qin Xiong is able to explain the reason you are asking this question, then there is no harm in me, Li Shimin, offering up an answer.

    Qin Chuan calmly said, The way I conduct myself has always been I do whatever I think I should do; very seldom did I question God as to what I ought to do. Just now I recalled that Shimin Xiong has the heaven policy in government, particularly having the country in the palm of your hand to go on a punitive expedition, with a long history of ministry of war one person, handling two-person civil officers, two-person military-advisory committe, four-person secretarial department, two-person clerks, two-person office of records and military affairs, and then two-person construction, warehouse, soldiers, horses, weaponry and noncommissioned officers, six department of the military, and six-person military advisory board; altogether there are thirty-four people, in tight coordination like a mini imperial court. It is clear to me that Shimin Xiongs aspiration is not limited to insignificant military campaign; hence I was compelled to ask the question.

    Listening to him explaining the organization of heaven policy in government in details as if he was enumerating his own familys valuables, Li Shimin and Xu Ziling were dumbstruck and did not know how to respond.

    Was that a good enough reason? Qin Chuan asked nonchalantly.

    With a wry smile Li Shimin replied, I concede! If Qin Xiong is willing to work for me, I would definitely ask Qin Xiong to be in charge of reconnaissance and intelligence. As for the path of the ruler, of chief importance is understanding how to select worthy person to be employed. Otherwise, even if there is the best national policy in place, without obtaining the right person, the implementation will not follow the law, then everything will be in vain.

    In his heart Xu Ziling was full of praise. If it were either Li Mi or Du Fuwei, seeing this person understood him like the back of his hand, it would be strange indeed if a desire to kill him did not arise in their hearts.

    But Li Shimin was sincerely true to his word, he really provided answer. Moreover, his answer was beautiful, and was delivered in such a free and easy manner. Merely this aspiration was not something that others could emulate.

    Qin Chuan spoke heavily, After the big chaos, how to achieve big government control?

    Li Shimin smiled slightly at Xu Ziling first before answering, After chaos, it will be easy to teach the people, just like hungry people are easy to feed. If as the ruler one is willing set an example, countering the detrimental government of the previous dynasty, practicing diligently, while getting rid of the extravagant and wasteful way, seeking to govern in peace and quiet, promoting reform and rising interest in culture, spreading virtue and giving charity, light on mandating compulsory service and belittle the self, working together from top to bottom with one heart, the people will respond like an echo, sooner or later the Central Earth will be pacified, estranged people will submit.

    Qin Chuan listened silently. It was quite a while before he finally said, Xu Xiong, what do you think of Shimin Xiongs view?

    Xu Ziling did not expect Qin Chuan would suddenly ask him, a bystander, for an opinion. Laughing involuntarily, he said, In terms of politic and government, Xiaodi is just a layman, I am not qualified to comment on Shimin Xiongs view. But Shimin Xiongs true statement, seeking to govern in peace and quiet four characters [jing Zhong qiu zhi], fits very well with my personality. After the big chaos, only by getting rid of extravagance and wasteful government will we recover the people. Only by doing farm work in the right season will we produce harvest, so that the people will have clothes and food in abundance.

    Qin Chuan was still sitting facing the blank wall. He spoke in heavy voice, In olden days, when Emperor Wen, Yang Jian, ascended the throne, there was nothing but strictly benevolent government. Who would have thought that two generations perished, Shimin Xiong has such opinion on this matter.

    Li Shimin sighed and said, Qin Xiong asked the most crucial question. Just from this it is evident how brilliant Qin Xiongs knowledge and experience is, definitely you are not an idle person. I wonder if the two of us may move to Qin Xiongs table so that we can continue talking face to face?

    Qin Chuan laughed and said, I had heard that Heir Apparent loves to make friends with eccentric people and unusual scholars all over the world, naturally you also have the aspiration to tolerate all kinds of eccentric deeds and unusual conducts. How could a trivial man, who has always been coming and going alone, discuss the most fitting trivial intention? If Shimin Xiong insists on another form of formality, the trivial person just had to take his leave!

    Li Shimin made a gesture, as if he was shrugging his shoulders, toward Xu Ziling, expressing his resignation. Smiling, he said, I just wanted to have a glimpse of Qin Xiongs expression. But since it is not the case, let us proceed according to what Qin Xiongs decided!

    Qin Chuan spoke indifferently, I knew Shimin Xiong would never force anybody to do something against his will. In that case, how about Shimin Xiong give an answer to my question?

    Li Shimin asked in consternation, It seems like Qin Xiong is testing my skill if I were to be the Emperor?

    As soon as he said those words, Xu Zilings heart was greatly shaken; he had guessed Qin Chuans true identity.

    The fact is, Qin Chuans identity has always been very obvious. Other than Shi Feixuan, who would be interested in asking Li Shimin questions about governing the country?

    She was making determination on who should be the recipient of the Jade Annulus of He Clan.

    Qin Chuan spoke slyly, A fine bird chooses a tree to nest in. Will this answer satisfy Shimin Xiong?

    Li Shimin cast his gaze toward Xu Ziling. Evidently he had detected the change in Xu Zlings heart from the change on his countenance, hence he was casting an asking-for-opinion glance toward Xu Ziling.

    Thinking about Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling sighed inwardly. But he nodded toward Li Shimin, indicating that he ought to give an honest answer.

    After contemplating silently for a moment, Li Shimin spoke seriously, The root of peace rests solely on obtaining people. The Sui Family flourished since the founding Emperor, simply because Emperor Wen was diligent in considering the government; each dawn there was imperial court hearing, day and night he worked, forgetting tiredness. The suffering of the people, not one he did not attend to personally. Moreover, he conducted the business frugally, rewards and penalties strict and impartial. Its a pity that he lacked one move; otherwise the Sui Dynasty would continue for a thousand years, hundreds of generations.

    Withot waiting for Qin Chuan to reply, Xu Ziling rose up to his full height and said, Gentlemen, please continue your discussion, Zaixia takes my leave!

    Li Shimin was greatly astonished.

    But Qin Chuan did not show any movement.

    Xu Ziling nodded his head slightly before floating away.

  7. #147
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 13 Chapter 3

    Book 13 Chapter 3 Leisure Situation at the Eastern Capital

    While urging his horse to gallop back to his official mansion, Wang Shichong asked Kou Zhong with knitted eyebrows, If what he was playing was the empty city strategy, and we retreated without any fight, wont we be the laughingstock of people all over the world?

    Ouyang Xiyi on the other side of him, as well as Lang Feng and Song Mengqiu, who were behind him, all showed an expression that showed that they agreed.

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, If we mobilized the whole army to attack the Palace City, there would be only two possibilities: one, we broke the city wall and entered in; two, we would suffer heavy casualties and would not be able to continue. However, either one of those two possibilities would do us more harm than good. Because we have our ambition someplace else. As long as we can rout Li Mi, we dont have to be afraid Yang Dong and Dugu Feng would not surrender nicely. Just now, by looking at Dugu Fengs secure-in-the-knowledge-that-he-has-backing attitude, I knew he has Li Mis support behind his back; therefore, he basically is not afraid we would attack.

    Ouyang Xiyi was puzzled, If we could control the Palace City, and got rid of Dugu party once and for all, what harm might come to us? he asked.

    Kou Zhong answered respectfully, Qianbei [senior/older generation] is asking great question. Lets not talk about the difficulty of breaking the city yet. Supposing Luoyang returned to stability, how could Li Mi be willing to move his army to the west? He would definitely be adopting a wait-and-see attitude; once the other favorable situation arises, then he would come to attack. By that time, victory or defeat will be hard to fathom; how could that be more favorable than our current situation?

    Hearing that, the people all around, including Wang Shichong, were greatly convinced.

    It should be noted that in the past, when Wang Shichong battled Li Mi, he had never won even half a battle. The reason Wang Shichong was still able to stand firm was because he was relying on Luoyang, which was surrounded on all four sides by twelve gates. Each gate was a gateway to the layer upon layer of defenses inside, while on the outside it was protected by the long moat all around. And then there was the solid city wall acting as natural protective screen.

    Therefore, once Li Mi found out that something was happening in Luoyang, he would not be willing to miss the golden opportunity and would exploit their weakness.

    Wang Shichong was still having his doubt; he asked, Dugu Fengs power is strong and solid, and he is not a lay practitioner of Buddhism. Plus by doing this, wouldnt we hand over the initiative into his hands?

    With a card up his sleeve, Kou Zhong said, Of course it wont happen that way. Currently, as long as we lay out massive military force outside the gate, Dugu Feng wont be able to move a single step. By the time Li Mi came to attack, we will seal all gateways to the Palace City, but not besieging the city; we merely cut the flow of provisions from inside and outside the city. At that time, we can force Yang Dong to hand over the man; there is no need for a blood-soaked siege.

    Ouyang Xiyi laughed cheerfully, No wonder Xiao Xiongdi managed to disturb the south and turned the sky and the earth upside down; you really are a man of courage and strength. But we must be watchful of the enemys martial art masters launching a sneak attack. Particularly if that granny personally made her move, I am afraid she wont be easy to deal with.

    Wang Shichong laughed coldly and said, If I, Wang Shichong, am that easy to kill, perhaps I have been dead more than a dozen times.

    Kou Zhong giggled. Thats for sure, he said, Hey! I am going to look for some people to help us with our punching power!

    ※ ※ ※

    Xu Ziling went to Xinzhong Bridge [not sure if it is the name of the bridge, xin new, Zhong middle], where Ba Fenghan had been waiting for a long time. He cheerfully welcomed Xu Ziling and said with a laugh, I was counting the number of boats mooring at the Qiaodong dock [lit. east of the bridge, but there is an actual place called Qiaodong in Hebei], and I was at the boat number three-hundred eighty-three when you showed up. The waterways and the roads in here are densely connected with each other. It seems like all the boats and carriages in the world are coming here to fill up the river course and the streets. Plus all kinds of merchants from both the Central Plains and out of the Pass are coming here to sell their perfumes, jewelries and trinkets, brocades, satin and silk, or perhaps foodstuff, tea leaves and other goods, making Luoyang the distribution center between Central Plains and out of the Pass, something that none of the other cities and towns can match.

    Xu Ziling swept his gaze around. The bridge was definitely so crowded that not one drop can trickle through [i.e. impenetrable crowd]; tens of thousands people crowded together on the streets, inns, restaurants, and shops, making the towns north and south of Luo River became one big area bustling with noise and excitement. Smiling, Xu Ziling said, I thought I would be here earlier than Fenghan Xiong!

    Following the tide of people, Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling stepped down from the Xinzhong Bridge. They walked pass the marketplace, but did not enter. Walking along the street, Ba Fenghan said, Wanjing would like to see you; I wonder what do you, Ziling, think?

    Xu Ziling jumped in fright; frowning, he asked, Why does she want to see me?

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, She wanted me to pass on a message to you, so this is definitely not about love affair between a man and a woman; Ziling need not be worried. When the time comes, she will certainly tell you.

    Xu Ziling wanted to say something, but hesitated.

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, Are you wondering about what kind of relation do I and she have? How do I make you understand? How about if I tell you this: at one point in time, we really have an opportunity for our relationship to develop into lovers, but we both let this opportunity slip, because my heart already belong to vigorously patting the Beheading Mystery Sword on his back, he continued, This.

    Xu Ziling laughed freely and said, Maybe one day the two of you would look back and would have profound regret!

    Shaking his head, Ba Fenghan said, I will never have any regret for such thing. I dont care if you call me heartless or anything. I always say that things between men and women lack an eternal value. For me, men and women can also be in close relationship as friends.

    This moment a group of armed, valiant-looking men were walking directly toward them; they stared hard at the two men, but with one sweep of Ba Fenghans sharp eyes, they cowered and averted their gaze.

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Both Fenghan Xiong and the Princess seem to be aware that your relationship is more than just a simple friendship, right?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Ba Fenghan said, Some things that are inconvenient for Dong Ming Pai to do, I do it for them. Take accounting for example, or finding people to settle the account. Otherwise, how can I make a living? Is Ling Shao satisfied?

    Xu Ziling laughed involuntarily, I seldom see you this easy-going and witty, he said, It is obvious that after meeting beautiful woman, Fenghan Xiongs mood is much better!

    Thats strange! Ba Fenghan said in astonishment, They say that people of noble character match each other. In this world, beautiful women like Princess are extremely rare; even I have my heart moved whenever I see her. Only you, Xu Ziling, do not have the slightest care toward her. Whats going on here?

    Xu Ziling followed Ba Fenghan turning to the major street leading to the East Gate. That was the place they agreed that Kou Zhong should leave his marking at.

    Because of their distinct appearance, as they were walking side-by-side, they attracted a lot of attention from the other passersby; especially girls who threw flirtatious glances at them.

    However, Xu Ziling turned a blind eye to other peoples attention and the beautiful womens favor. Remaining tranquil and calm, he said, Since ancient times, how many men and women threw everything away recklessly in the name of love? Can Fenghan Xiong tell me what kind of feeling is that?

    Reaching out, Ba Fenghan pressed his hands on Xu Zilings shoulders. Smiling wryly, he said, I am afraid, me, you, and even Kou Zhong, are not qualified to talk about this issue. Whether intentionally or not, any living person in the world might pursue certain things; for example, scholarly honor [in imperial exams], riches, lovely wife and beautiful concubine. Only by pursuing these goals will life be meaningful.

    Remembering Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling nodded and said, Well said! The most interesting thing is the course of events during the pursuit, and the moment the goal is achieved. After that, another pursuit will begin.

    Ba Fenghan was emotionally moved; sighing, he said, Therefore, unrequited love will be the most perfect instead. This argument seems to be very pessimistic and grim, nevertheless it is an immutable truth throughout all ages. Ay! Any woman who fall in love with us is destined to fail; I am depressed just by thinking about it.

    And then he went on, You havent answered me whether you are willing to see Wanjing or not.

    Smiling ruefully, Xu Ziling said, Give me a break, will you? Dont forget that she had stabbed me with her sword once. At that time I already made up my mind not to have any involvement with her.

    Ba Fenghan was silent for half a day. After walking for more than ten paces, he nodded and said, Thats probably a wise decision! Later on I wont mention Wanjing in your presence anymore!

    Casting Xu Ziling a quick glance, Ba Fenghan continued, Do you realize that by strutting down the street like this, it is as if we are declaring war on and issuing challenge to all of our enemies?

    Xu Ziling laughed, I havent thought about that, he said, But now men and horses are converging here in Luoyang, everybody is exercising self-control, and thus it has made our life easier instead. I dont believe anybody would be foolish enough to form an unscrupulous mob to besiege us.

    A hint of deep, cold smile escaped from the corner of Ba Fenghans lips. As if nothing happened, he said, Therefore, this is a good opportunity for us to strike back. Tonight we are going to settle a rotten account; lets see if the other party would be willing to pay an overdue debt.

    Listening to the tone of his voice, Xu Ziling knew instantly that Ba Fenghan had received some intelligence from Shan Wanjing. Thereupon, he smiled and said, So who owes us this debt?

    Ba Fenghan replied indifferently, This person is an important figure of the Elder level from Yin Gui Pai. As long as we are able to capture him, we wont have to worry about your Yu Yis situation.

    Stunned, Xu Ziling said, Yin Gui Pai people are famous for their sneaky, hidden way, yet you made it sound like it would be easy for us to find him!

    On the surface, this man assumes some other identity, Ba Fenghan explained, Nobody knew he is an important figure in Yin Gui Pai. Furthermore, he is actually the chief intelligence officer of Yin Gui Pai in the north. You ought to know who told me this important news! Because I promised you that I wont mention her name in front of you!

    Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, Dont mess with me! If you want to say, just say it! I also want to find someone who might have some information about Yucheng and the others whereabouts. I just dont have any idea whom to ask!

    When they were still a few hundred paces from the East Gate, Ba Fenghan halted his step. Pointing to a noodle house across the street, he said, Thats the place Kou Zhong and us agreed on where we would leave our markings. The shops specialty is Sichuan noodle. If you are like me, i.e. you think that the spicier the better, then you ought to gorge yourself here.

    In that case, lets try their Dandan Noodles [Sichuan noodles with spicy and numbing sauce]! Xu Ziling cheerfully replied, This time its my treat.

    The two were about to cross the street when suddenly a carriage stopped right in front of them, practically blocking their way.

    Startled, they halted their steps, composed themselves, and looked.

    The curtain on the carriage window was hanging down, so that it looked mysterious.

    The driver of the carriage was unfamiliar-looking man. This moment the driver grinned, revealing two neat rows of snow white teeth. He said in heavy voice, Wherever two Yeer [masters] want to go, let Xiaoren give gentlemen a ride! Your enemies are numerous, I am afraid strolling everywhere like this will not be too appropriate!

    As soon as he spoke, the two immediately recognized him as Kou Zhong. Laughing and swearing, they gladly boarded the carriage, separately sitting on Kou Zhongs left and right.

    Shouting dramatically, Kou Zhong urged the two steeds pulling the carriage to head south, round a corner, and into a big street parallel to the city wall.

    Pulling his mask, he stuffed it into his pocket and said with a big laugh, We are finally in Luoyang! Our enemies are in trouble!

    ※ ※ ※

    This time, sitting on the driver seat of the carriage, Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan enjoyed their higher position as they looked at the wide open and endlessly long street. It was a busy street, with carriages going back and forth, and restless pedestrians crowding the walkways on both sides of the street. It was a different feeling.

    Kou Zhongs mood was particularly good. Between the rising and falling of the horses hoofs, he narrated his encounter with Wang Shichong and Dugu Feng. Obviously his trust toward Ba Fenghan had increased significantly.

    Finished listening, Ba Fenghan said with a smile, Looks like now well need to arouse twelve of our spirits, especially since even though the granny might feel it beneath her dignity to personally deal with us, but Dugu Feng certainly wont let us off. Female assassin might be more unscrupulous than men.

    Full of confidence, Kou Zhong said, How could our ten-day training on the mountain be in vain? Moreover, weve learned through experience that along the way all three of us continue to make breakthroughs. Its just that I dont know where to find some real martial art masters to test my saber. They are willing come, I cant ask for more. Hey! But its best if from now on we do not separate.

    When the two heard how in his last sentence Kou Zhong was revealing his tail, they nearly burst out laughing.

    Greatly embarrassed, Kou Zhong busily changed the topic, What are you two guys up to?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Ba Fenghan said, I came across Shan Wanjing, and obtained some news concerning Yin Gui Pai. Nothing much.

    What? Kou Zhong blurted out, The two of you went to see Dongming Princess?

    A burst of bizarre feeling welled up in Xu Zilings heart.

    Before meeting Ba Fenghan, he always thought that Ba Fenghan was a cold-hearted man, yet he found out that he actually had an emotional side as well.

    Ba Fenghan laughed and said, Brothers are like hands and feet, wives are like clothes. Not to mention Wanjings fate has been fixed, whats wrong with going to see her? But actually Ling Shao shrank back as the time for battle approaches, so I had to go alone.

    Turning to Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong asked, Have you had a chance to look for Yucheng and the others?

    Xu Ziling shook his head indicating that he has not. And then, sketching in light shades he said, I only met four people: Li Jing, Liu Heita, Li Shimin, and Shi Feixuan, in that order.

    What? the other two blurted out; so loud that other people on the street turned their attention to the slow-moving carriage.

    ※ ※ ※

    With the bluish green Tianjins imperial willow in the distance, the riders and the pavilion were getting closer to each other.

    Kou Zhong urged his horses to turn into the Heavenly Street connecting the southern end gate of the Imperial City with the Dingding Gate [lit. set up the sacred tripods, fig. the founding of the dynasty]. Beyond the shade of the Chinese scholar trees and the willow trees lining both side of the street, tens of thousands buildings stood in great numbers. Looming in the distant bell towers and drum towers looked at each other, over the inns, leather shops, bamboo pole business, woolen business, grocery stores, paper shops, cotton goods, fresh fruit stalls, and other businesses competing against each other, creating an atmosphere of thriving economy.

    Pedestrians crowding the street like a school of fish, mixed with unending stream of carriages and sedan chairs, the perfect picture of flourishing metropolis bustling with noise and excitement.

    This moment Xu Ziling had just finished recounting his encounters this morning. The other two agreed that it was highly likely that Qin Chuan was indeed Shi Feixuan.

    The carriage glided toward the Tianjin Bridge. But due to the crowded street, their speed was quite low.

    Under the shadow of the four multi-story buildings facing each other, Tianjin Bridge exuded its myriad ambience.

    South of the Bridge was precisely the Dongjia Restaurant where Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan enjoyed a cup of fragrant tea this morning.

    Knitting his brows, Ba Fenghan said, Theres something that I feel its really strange. Just now Ziling said that he caught some kind of mystery-within-a-mystery tranquil sensation from Qin Chuan, who might be Shi Feixuan; hence he asked whether Qin Chuan was a follower of Buddha. Is that right?

    Xu Ziling nodded, Whats so strange about that? he asked.

    Kou Zhongs eyes glittered like frost and snow, but he did not make any sound.

    Was it a very strong sensation? Ba Fenghan asked.

    After pondering quietly for half a day, Xu Ziling replied, I cant say it was very strong, but it was definitely very clear.

    Slapping his thigh, Ba Fenghan said with a sigh, Thats what I am talking about. If Qin Chuan is indeed Shi Feixuan, based on her brilliance, there is no way she would leak out anything that would give out her identity. Therefore, the Jade Annulus of the He Clan must be in her possession, and the sensation Ling Shao caught must be the Jade Annulus of the He Clan on her body. Besides, legend has it that the Jade Annulus of the He Clan has a miraculous effect of calming the spirit.

    The two boys felt it was a very reasonable argument; furthermore, they had always greatly admired Ba Fenghans intelligence.

    Blowing out a long breath, Kou Zhong said, This Qin Chuan must be Shi Feixuan then.

    Ba Fenghan spoke in heavy voice, He could also be Ning Daoqi himself.

    Xu Ziling jumped in fright, My Niang! he exclaimed.

    Kou Zhong urged the horses to pass four sturdy-looking servants carrying a gorgeous sedan chair; smiling ruefully, he said, I dont care whether Qin Chuan is Shi poniang [b1tch] or Ning laotou [lit. old head, derogatory term to address older man], I am going to get the Jade Annulus of the He Clan into my hands, by stealing openly or robbing stealthily. Otherwise, if that Li kid obtain it, I am going back to my village to till the fields!

    The two men drew a mouthful of cold air; they both were stunned speechless.

  8. #148
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 13 Chapter 4

    Book 13 Chapter 4 Stealing Openly Robbing Stealthily

    Because it was noon, the lower level of Dongjia Restaurant was packed; it was so crowded that it was impossible to even squeeze a needle through it.

    Kou Zhong was back to the same old stuff; he whispered Lang Fengs name in the waiters ear. The waiter immediately became reverent and respectful, as he led them to a comfortable lounge on the wing of the third floor of the restaurant.

    Kou Zhong sat down by the window. Looking at the boats coming and going along the Luo River below, he sighed and said, This is the benefit of having power; just by touching the edge a little bit, we can be a cut above others.

    Ba Fenghan laughed and said, No matter how noble and virtuous you are calling yourself, you cannot deny that those so-called noble and virtuous must have powerful support behind their back; otherwise, how could they be noble and virtuous?

    Seeing Xu Ziling was staring at him in displeasure, Kou Zhong quickly surrendered. I was just taking advantage of the little convenience power can bring, he said, I will never bully other people, or make an attempt to take away the justice that power brings. Ha!

    Ba Fenghan laughed and said, Comparatively speaking, Zhong Shao and I are somewhat boorish, unlike Ziling who is suave and aloof.

    Xu Ziling smiled wryly without saying anything.

    Kou Zhongs spirit greatly aroused, he said, Now the struggle between Wang Shichong and Yang Dong has reached stalemate, we can set it aside for the time being. Hey! As for the Jade Annulus of He Clan, ha! Ziling, youve got to help me.

    Why did you ask Ziling only? Ba Fenghan wondered, Why not me?

    Stunned, Kou Zhong replied, Ol Ba, you have nothing to do with this matter, why would you gamble your life away with me? It is precisely because I consider you my brother that I do not wish to implicate you. Arent your own trouble still too much?

    Xu Ziling also looked at Ba Fenghan in consternation.

    Whether it was Ning Daoqi or Shi Feixuan, both were formidable opponent that no one would dare to provoke. If Kou Zhong were not in such a critical juncture between success and failure, he would not have even dreamed of offending them.

    But now he simply had no choice.

    Ba Fenghan was speechless for half a day. After sweeping the two boys with his gaze, his sharp eyes gleamed with some kind unusual emotion, as he spoke slowly, Its because I love to hang out with you, two kids. Moreover, the more I hang out with you, the more I feel the excitement, satisfying my interest; all because we share similar background and childhood years. The ones I hated the most are those people from respectable schools and big clans. I loathe those Jianghu school and sect people who think of themselves as supreme beings even more. Therefore, I helped you dealing with Changshu Mou the other day. I just cant stand that kind of people, who believe themselves infallible, with their condescending, overbearing attitude.

    A short pause, and then he continued, The ones I admired the most are true hero who, not having anything at all, bring about epoch achievement. Supposing Li Shimin and you two were in each others shoes, would he be able to obtain your achievements? I just cannot stand by idly and watch this kind of thing. Ha! Challenging Ning Daoqi or perhaps Shi Feixuan would be the thing I want to do. How could I, Ba Fenghan, miss this kind of golden opportunity?

    Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, With Ba Xiongs assistance, we, two brothers, are like a tiger that has grown wings.

    With a wry smile Xu Ziling said, I always have a nagging feeling that something isnt right. When all is said and done, Shi Feixuan is simply striving for the benefit of the people under the heavens

    Ba Fenghan coldly interrupted him, Ziling is too obstinate. Only by asking those few questions, how could she decide whether certain person would make a good emperor? Furthermore, I always feel that only someone with poverty-stricken background would be qualified to be a good emperor. Those who understand the peoples pain and difficulties very well would have the zeal to get rid of the peoples pain and difficulties.

    Kou Zhong slapped the table and shouted with praised, Han Shao said it well. Emperor Qin and Emperor Gaozu of Han are a good example. The former was born of aristocracy, the latter was born of common people [lit. plain cotton clothing]. Which one was the good emperor, is an indisputable historical fact. Ha!

    Staring at him in displeasure, Xu Ziling said, So you are sure you will be a good emperor?

    What do you think? Kou Zhong asked in return.

    Xu Ziling was left speechless.

    His eyes shone, Kou Zhong said, I have come to the point that even if I know perfectly well that I am going to throw away my life, I simply cannot turn around. To vie over the world, one must be completely unscrupulous. Just like Han Shao said, even if Tianhuang Laozi [the old emperor of heaven], Taishang Laojun [title of respect for Lao-tze, the founder of Taoism], Rulai Fozu [Tathagata Buddha] are standing on the road, I must kick them out of my way. The Jade Annulus of the He Clan, we simply must obtain. Otherwise, if it fell into Li kids hand, it would be tantamount to forcing him to rebel against his old Die and his older brother.

    It would be best if Shi Feixuan already gave the Jade Annulus of the He Clan to Li Shimin, Ba Fenghan said, Snatching it away would be a bit easier.

    His gaze fixed on Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong said, Are you or are you not willing to help me? Dont forget. Hee! One lifetime two brothers!

    Other than smiling ruefully, what else could Xu Ziling do?

    Ba Fenghan said, Now we must investigate clearly whether the Jade Annulus of the He Clan is in Li Shimins hand or not before making our move.

    That is extremely simple, Kou Zhong said, If Li Shimin obtained the Jade Annulus of the He Clan, he would immediately depart Luoyang in secret. Therefore, as long as we closely watch his movements, we would obtain our clues.

    Ba Fenghans eyes shone with cold rays. He said, I heard that Li Shimin has obtained the teachings handed-down by Li Yuan himself, so he really know a thing or two, plus the capable people working under him are numerous. If we cut him off along the way, we would lose our advantage. Therefore, stealing will be the better strategy, robbing openly would not be an effective strategy.

    Heaving a sigh of relief, Xu Ziling added, If we do not need to rob the jade annulus from Shi Feixuans hand, we still have the hope to succeed.

    Kou Zhong wrapped his arm around Xu Zilings shoulder and pulled him closer as he spoke in great delight, Ling Shao, what you said has given me much comfort. In my opinion, there is 90% chance that Shi Feixuan would favor Li Shimin. This guys outward appearance easily beat the long-haired-like-a-ghost Li Mi, or perhaps the wily-old-fox Wang Shichong. Too bad I have not stuck out my head, so that that Li kid is under no threat of competition at all.

    Bursting out laughing, Ba Fenghan said, Speaking of tooting his own horn, nobody in the world can come close to you. All right! Enough chitchat. Leave the duty of watching Li Shimin closely to me. He has some connection with Dong Ming Pai, well meet again tonight between the you [10th earthly branch, 5-7pm] and xu [11th earthly branch, 7-9pm] hours, and then well decide what to do next.

    This moment the waiter arrived with food and drink. Ba Fenghan took a steamed bun and left without saying anything.

    While gobbling up the food, Kou Zhong laughed and said, Who could have thought that that Ba kid is such a true friend; it is really unexpected.

    Heaving a deep sigh, Xu Ziling said, We have not found Yucheng and the others; arent you worried?

    Kou Zhong put down his bowl, empty with no single rice remained, and said with a wry smile, In this kind of thing, worrying is not worth a fart. Fortunately the four of them have received our hand-down teachings, so the Heaven helps the worthy. Who knows, perhaps as soon as we go down the stairs, well see them eating. Let us go to the agreed meeting place and then the outcome will become apparent.

    Xu Ziling said, Do you remember that man called Xu Xingzhi? Didnt you agree to meet him in Luoyang?

    Kou Zhong nodded, Of course I do, he replied, This man is a natural talent in commanding the army. I already left some markings at the appointed place. When he sees it tomorrow morning, he will be waiting for me at the specified place. Let me, Zhong Shao, do the work, and you, Ling Shao, set your heart at ease.

    And then he added, I have neither likes nor dislikes toward that Li kid, so fighting him face to face is not a big deal. But we have been brothers with Li Jing; this is what gives me headache.

    Xu Ziling was silent for half a day. He quietly thought that whatever resentment he had against Li Jing, in the end it would be difficult for him to have any malicious intention toward him. Thereupon he said dejectedly, As long as you promise me one thing, I will help you get the Jade Annulus of the He Clan wholeheartedly.

    As long as it is reasonable and fair, how could I not promise you? Kou Zhong guardedly replied, You just have to help me in this. If Li kid cant even defend the Jade Annulus of He Clan, it would greatly change Shi Feixuan and Ning Daoqis impression on him.

    You must never underestimate the enemy, Xu Ziling crossly said, Li kid is well versed in both literature and martial art [or civil and military]. No matter how you look at it, he is superior to us, not inferior. Its just that he falls short of you in the craftiness department. Once we are not careful, the boat will capsize in the ditch.

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, He is as cunning as I am, but it is possible that he is not as flexible and pragmatic as us. We need to be intentionally unintentional. Especially since this is Wang Shichongs territory. Currently Wang Shichong and me are like honey to the bee. I only need to move a finger, Li kid may forget of leaving Luoyang alive.

    And then his eyes flashed a deep, cold murderous intent, as he spoke in heavy voice, Li Clan without Li Shimin is just like a tiger without sharp claw, sharp teeth; any viciousness is gone. Do you understand?

    Forcing a smile, Xu Ziling said, That is precisely my condition. Li kid exposed his whereabouts because of me, so you must not use this opportunity to kill him. If you want to kill him, you must wait for the next opportunity.

    Kou Zhong was stunned for half a day. Finally he sighed and said, One lifetime two brothers; what can I say? Very well! I will face him on the battlefield in the future; whoever lose will have nobody to blame.

    And then he took out a roll of silk map from his bosom, removed the bowls, chopsticks and other things away from the table, and spread out the map, saying, Ill let you take a look at this treasure. If after reaching Guanzhong, Zhanliang, Fengyi and the others are able to give me a sheet of similar thingy, nothing could be better than that.

    Ban Zhanliang, Niu Fengyi, and Zha Jie, three men were the three Inner Hall Masters of the Shuanglong Bang [twin-dragon gang, Book 6 Chapter 12, only it was Gao Zhandao, not Ban Zhanliang] that they established. According to plan, they ought to precede the two boys going to Changan in secret, to do the preparatory work in digging out the Duke Yangs Treasure later.

    Taking a closer look, Xu Ziling saw that it was the map of Luoyang City, complete with the streets, squares, rivers and bridges, city gate towers, and everything else depicted in detail.

    Astounded, he said, Wang Shichong really trusts you.

    Smiling, Kou Zhong said, Its not that he trusts me, but he is showing trust in order to buy me, and I pretend to love Dong Shuni deeply. Actually, on the surface this man Wang Shichong looks nave and honest, but he is a wily old fox. What he shows on the surface, quite another is in his heart. He is capable of not making neither movement nor noise, and then only after everything is arranged will he let you know whats going on.

    Xu Ziling examined the relationship between the Palace City and the Imperial City with rapt attention. His heart moved, he said, Li Shimin came to Luoyang this time, could he have other reason than for the Jade Annulus of the He Clan affair? Do you remember that Ol Ba once said that Li kids old man Li Yuan wanted to get Dong Shuni as his imperial concubine? If this matter succeeded, it would be like Li Yuan and Wang Shichong are forming an alliance. Your counting ones chicken before they are hatched plan of using Wang Shichong to deal with Li Shimin will misfire!

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Dont worry! For this chick, Dong Shuni, rebelling has become second nature. Every time Wang Shichong arranged any man for her, she always refuses to accept. If I can exploit her mentality, maybe I can destroy the relationship between Li Yuan and Wang Shichong.

    And then, thinking out loud he muttered, How can we steal the Jade Annulus of the He Clan without anybody knowing that we do it? Ha! I got it! I almost forget that you are the Scarface Hero, and I am your sidekick, the Pockmarked Face Bandit.

    Knock! Knock!

    Startled, the two boys looked at the door. They were greatly alarmed; just from the fact that even though this person was just behind the door, yet he still managed to hide from the two boys ears, they knew that this person was by no means ordinary.

    Please come in! Kou Zhong shouted.

    There was no reaction from the outside at all.

    Kou Zhong sprang up, darted toward the door and pulled the door open.

    Immediately the sound of people drinking, laughing and playing finger-guessing game flooded into their ears like a rushing tide, but they did not see anybody, not even a waiter, either outside the door or along the corridor.

    Koo Zhong withdrew, stuck his big head out and looked left and right, and closed the door. His countenance changed, he said, This is bad!

    Xu Ziling was frightened as well; he spoke in heavy voice, Could it be Ning Daoqi or Shi Feixuan was standing outside the door, eavesdropping our conversation?

    Returning to his side and sitting down, Kou Zhong blew out a mouthful of cold air and said, I think we can relax. Ay! I am only talking about he is eavesdropping outside the door. Because there are people coming and going along the corridor all the time, only a moment ago there was no one, so he took the opportunity to warn us. Obviously he has been watching us for a while.

    Xu Ziling could not help his scalp from tingling; he said in low voice, This person, at least in term of qinggong, is superior to us. Problem is if the opposite party is either Shi Feixuan or Ning Daoqi, your grand plan to steal the treasure is destined to fail.

    Shaking his head, Kou Zhong said, I can guarantee that this person could not hear us. Because with you, Ling Shao, in here, nobody can evade your keen intuition. Secondly, the doors of this restaurant are of very high quality, it has high degree of sound-proofing property, plus we deliberately talked in low voice

    Knock! Knock!

    The door was knocked again. Just like before, there was no other sound, not even footsteps.

    Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, Only by using the win by a surprise move tactic will we be able to regain the initiative and cant be led by the nose by others. Hey! How about pretending to be cowards?

    Xu Zilings mind was interlinked with Kou Zhongs. After exchanging glances, they put down some silver and folded back the silk map. Laughing aloud, like a wisp of smoke the two boys disappeared via the window. First, they leaped up onto the roof, and then traversed the more-than-ten-zhang of empty space, and landed in an alley by the bridge, which was crowded with residential buildings. With several leaps, up and down, they were already far away from the restaurant.

    This moment, a thousand-beauty, hundred-charm, petite and nimble, young girl appeared on the roof. Staring hatefully at the direction the two boys disappeared, she stomped her feet, gnashed her teeth and said, I want to see where can you flee? The moment the Jade Annulus of He Clan falls into your hands is the moment you are going to die.

    Kou Zhong took Xu Ziling to a multi-story building on which door was carved Luoyang Square, three characters [luo yang fang]. Behind the building was precisely the Luo River, which cut across the City of Luoyang from west to east.

    Very proud of himself, Kou Zhong said, This time I am confident that the opponent would not be able to follow us. In my opinion, the person knocking the door was definitely not Shi Feixuan or Ning Daoqi, because they are followers of Dhyana [Zen] Way, who are particular about touching something and leave it there; how could they do such a lowly deed like knocking on our door twice?

    Xu Ziling nodded in agreement, But still, he commented, This person is definitely not an easy opponent. The most difficult to deal with is that we do not even know whether this person is a man or a woman. He is hidden in the dark while we are completely exposed, hence we are absolutely at his mercy.

    Reaching out, Kou Zhong put his hand on Xu Zilings shoulder and said with a giggle, We were using the technique Ol Ba taught us, dodging to the left and fleeing to the right in downtown area for more than half a sichen, if we still cannot throw him off, we, two brothers, could only accept misfortunes as decreed by fate!

    The two boys entered the long and narrow alley. Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, Where are you taking me?

    Home, of course! Kou Zhong replied cheerfully.

    Xu Ziling was stunned, Home? he asked.

    While walking along, Kou Zhong focused his attention to listen to any movement in the houses on both sides of the alley. Giggling, he said, The two of us are the Bangzhu [gang leader] of the Shuanglong Bang; how could we not have even one secret lair? Ha! Right! In here! Come in, please!

    Xu Zilings eyes followed Kou Zhong, who was jumping over the wall and entered in, absentmindedly before it dawned on him.

    Before the two boys and Gao Zhanliang [sic] and the others separately went up north, Kou Zhong and their subordinates had a discussion for a number of days, naturally one of the topic was setting up this hideout inside the city of Luoyang. And Kou Zhong must have seen secret markings left by Gao Zhanliang and the others, which indicated the direction and location of this address, hence he was able to find this place.

    Thinking to this point, Xu Ziling could not help admiring Kou Zhongs meticulous planning and attention to details. The biggest advantage of this secret hideout was to let the gang people know where to meet when they went to Luoyang.

    Kou Zhong sat comfortably in a high-backed chair; raising his arms and sticking out his legs, he had a big stretch and said with a sigh, This house is not bad!

    Sitting down across Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling looked out the window, at the small courtyard under the bright sunlight. How come I cant see even a speck of dust in this house? he asked in astonishment, Everything is clean and tidy, even the flowers and plants in the yard are neatly trimmed. Whos taking care of it?

    Acting as if everything was as it should be, Kou Zhong said, Dont think that Zhanliang is just a boor; the fact is, he is extremely attentive. Only by doing this others wont suspect anything. My guess is hes hired people to clean it up on a regular basis; perhaps every three days, once every six days.

    Shaking his head, Xu Ziling said, I still feel that something is not right.

    Right this moment, an alarm went off in the two boys hearts at the same time.

    Wanwans soft and deep voice rang out from outside the door, Ziling guessed correctly! Since I had nothing to do while waiting for you, I became edgy and cleaned up the house to pass the time!

    The two boys countenance changed immediately.

    [Translators note: Huang Yi messed up names quite often. This time the original was guan-guan; however, since she was an important character, I decided to keep the name Wanwan.]

  9. #149
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 13 Chapter 5

    Book 13 Chapter 5 Psychological Warfare

    When the two boys heard Wanwans voice, their anxiety was not over their own safety at all, but they were worried over Duan Yucheng and the others, four men.

    The reason Wanwan was able to wait for them here must be because she managed to extract information by torturing Duan Yucheng, four men, about their secret markings. Thereby for Duan Yucheng and the others, everything boded ill, with no positive signs.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged glances; both discovered astonishment in the others countenance.

    Unlike before, this time the enemy was waiting with stored up energy; she even laid out meticulous arrangement to deal with the two boys. Based on Wanwans talent and strength, she definitely would not give them any chance to escape.

    Wanwans tender and sweet voice sounded again from the outside, but it had changed position. This time it came from the west window, as she spoke softly, Ziling Xiong and Zhong Shaoye must be so shocked that your legs must be weakened! Why havent you run like two dogs into the wilderness like before?

    Although her voice was incomparably gentle and soft, but the substance of her remark was filled with detest, a gnashing of teeth toward the two boys.

    Kou Zhong signaled Xu Ziling with his eyes, and then he spoke in mock surprise, Whenever the enemy is happy, I, Zhong Shao, want to fight with all my strength instead. Besides, everybody is entitled to remain in his own warm home to enjoy the precious life! Ah! Please forgive Xiaodi for not having any interest in running away!

    Xu Ziling was of the same mind; he knew that they were going to fight to the death inside this house, and that albeit slim, they still had an opportunity to live. So he rose up to his full height and stood in the middle of the hall. Focusing all his power on his ears, he listened to the sound of activity in four sides eight directions.

    In that instant, he forgot about life or death, his mind and spirit concentrated on the fantastic world of his sense of hearing.

    And then he sensed that other than Wanwan, there was another person nearby.

    It was an inexplicable feeling.

    As a matter of fact, the opposite party did not make the least bit of sound, yet Xu Ziling knew clearly that he was in the rear courtyard.

    Plus he was certain that if this person was not Qu Ao himself, then he must be a top martial art master of Qu Aos level.

    This moment Kou Zhong had just finished speaking, Pfft! Wanwan burst out giggling and said, It was me who actually rent this house! Wanwan has never been married to you, yet you came to reap where you have not sown [orig. the magpie made a nest, the turtledove dwells in it]; wheres the logic in that?

    This time her voice came from the east window, creating a weird, indescribable feeling as if she was able to transform herself into an omnipresent being that existed in different places at the same time, heavily surrounded the house, and that several different incarnations of her were speaking to the two boys from different locations.

    The amazing demonic technique of Tianmo [demonic/devil] Secret was indeed out of the ordinary.

    Kou Zhongs heart was shivering in fear, but when he looked at Xu Ziling, he saw that Xu Zilings expression was tranquil, as calm as the surface of the lake without any ripple on it. Xu Ziling was signaling Kou Zhong with his hand, telling him that there was another person at the rear courtyard.

    Kou Zhong spoke in heavy voice, If any unexpected misfortune befell my four subordinates, I dont care if you are a demoness from the Demon Cult, or you are the old man Emperor of Heaven himself, I will require your blood to atone for their blood.

    Like a gentle breeze Wanwans tender laughter entered their ears, After a man gets out of his mothers womb, he strives and works hard, until finally enters rest in death. Since sooner or later he has to die, wont dying earlier save him a lot of suffering? Your four subordinates are a lot luckier than you are! They are able to be one step ahead of you in lying down to rest. I have been kind enough to let them rest in peace by building four new graves in the backyard. While you still have breath, why not go out to pay them your respect?

    Kou Zhong took a deep breath, forcing out the anger and hatred filling his heart.

    It could be said that this time they had the best chance to die since their debut. Their only way to survive was to rely on their real skill; therefore, now he simply had to use up his real skill, to enter the empty-spirit, the ethereal realm of the moon in the well.

    The person at the rear courtyard was definitely not Qu Ao, because with the great hatred he had against the two boys for the death of his son, he would never be this patient.

    His heart moved, Kou Zhong relaxed his body and slumped back into the chair; he said, Bian Bufu, since youve come here, why be sneaky like a turtle who withdraw its head?

    Wanwans voice came from the roof, You, this kid, indeed have a bit of skill; but Bian Shishu does not like to talk to stranger. Whatever you say, he is not interested in giving you any answer.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, You are going back and forth outside, other than absurd, you are tiring your legs. Why not come in here and drink some tea?

    There was neither wind nor rain, but the front and rear doors of the hall suddenly opened at the same time, and the entire room was suddenly permeated by some eerie ghostly aura.

    Xu Ziling stared fixedly at Kou Zhong, his face revealed a hint of smile, while his eyes exuded profound feeling. He signaled Kou Zhong with his hand, telling him to run away.

    Kou Zhongs tiger-body shook severely.

    Xu Ziling had decided to sacrifice himself so that he could escape, not only to continue his beautiful dream of vying over the world, but also to avenge him.


    The Moon in the Well left its scabbard on Kou Zhongs back.

    At the same time he rose up to his full height, threw his head back and let out a long laugh. Today we, two brothers, will leave this place hand-in-hand, or fight together to our death. There is no other possibility.

    With the sound of fluttering sleeves, the beauty that was not possible to exist in ordinary human, the plain white clothes, the bare feet Wanwan appeared at the main gate; smiling gracefully, she said, The thing that Wanwan appreciate the most is your, two kids heroic spirit, hence killing you will be extraordinarily satisfying. If it were common mortals, even if they craned their necks, nujia wont be interested in chopping it down!

    Laughing involuntarily, Xu Ziling said, I am afraid Female demon Wan is simply showing strength while you are actually weak inside! Which encounter with us did not cause you a minor injury or some degree of suffering? Furthermore, we are getting more formidable with each encounter. This time you are willingly coming to help us train our skill, this is what we seek but fail to get.

    Without even casting a single glance toward Wanwan, Kou Zhong had his gaze fixed on the Moon in the Well in his hand; he sighed and said, Xiao Ling! This is the first time ever that I have the feeling that you are really angry; your murderous aura is really strong!

    Wanwan slightly shrugged her shoulders; with her tender and graceful demeanor that would shake any mans heart, she walked pass the two boys toward a small table standing by the rear door. Acting like a wife who had deep love toward her husband, she calmly said, Forgot to tell two gentlemen! I have prepared a pot of Bieli Tea especially for you; while it is still hot, why dont you drink it?

    The two boys looked at each other in astonishment; the same question appeared on both mens heart: did Wanwan deliberately open up an escape route for them?

    But then they immediately realized what was going on.

    Right now Wanwan was using some kind of psychological tactics. As soon as they harbored any intention to escape, their viewing death as returning home momentum and their formidable confidence will immediately fall apart.

    And the moment that happened would be the moment Wanwan would make her move.

    This woman was indeed worthy to be called Devil Cults successor who could rival Zhu Yuyan. Aware that the state of mind was the most important realm of the amazing skill of the Secret to Long Life, she intentionally entered from this aspect to break their ultimate art.

    The saber blade reflected the sunshine from the outside, golden rays flickered gloriously.

    In that instant, Kou Zhong has entered the moon in the well realm.

    This has been forced out. But it has also proven that as long as they were able to maintain the Secret to Long Life realm, even Wanwan would have some degree of apprehension; hence the reason she has not made her move until now.

    Whether she told them that she had killed Duan Yucheng and the others, four men, or, like now, she was deliberately opening up an escape route, her true intention was to break their ultimate art.

    Right this moment, just like Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong suddenly sensed Bian Bufus position.

    He has jumped onto the roof.

    An odd, indescribable feeling welled up in Kou Zhongs heart, because right this instant he really understood the profound logic behind Yijian Technique.

    Previously, his Yijian Technique was only aimed at the chess pieces offensive and defensive, while neglecting the overall situation.

    The chessboard was precisely the directly tangible or perhaps the indirectly perceived empty space before his eyes. The chess pieces were precisely himself, Xu Ziling, Bian Bufu and Wanwan, two groups of hostile opponents.

    No matter which chess piece moved, it would directly affect the overall situation.

    Since he was one of the pieces, if he moved, the opponents chess piece would also have to react.

    For example, if he moved to the main gate, pretending to run away, how would the enemy react?

    If he was able to anticipate the enemys reaction, wouldnt it be consistent with the spirit of using the man to play the sword, using the sword to play the enemy? [Reminder: yi is the ancient name for Chinese chess.]

    Thinking to this point, Kou Zhong had a flash of understanding on the relationship of Yijian Technique. A formidable-beyond-understanding confidence and fighting spirit bubbled forth in his heart. After signaling Xu Ziling with his eyes, he giggled and said, Unless your cup of tea is joyous harmony tea [合欢茶[1]], I would have to ask Miss Wan to enjoy it yourself! Ah! I forgot to buy something, I must go out. Would Xiao Ling be enough to wait upon you?

    He walked toward the main gate in large strides.

    Xu Ziling knew the time to make their move was at hand; smiling slightly, he stored up his power and waited quietly.

    He has already obtained deep understanding of the Tianmo Gong, which was the constant permutation that was beyond human beings ability to comprehend.

    Wanwan was pouring hot tea into four empty cups. With her back against the two boys, she said indifferently, How about we just have a nice discussion? As long as you agree to tell Wanwan the whereabouts of the Duke Yangs Treasure, the gratitude and grudges between us will be hereby written off at one stroke. Later on everybody will not interfere with one another [orig. river water does not mix with well water]. Gentlemen, what do you say?

    Well-composed, Xu Ziling spoke calmly, I wonder if Miss Wan will be willing to realize that you have missed both the time and the opportunity to kill us; therefore, no matter what you say right now, or what crafty scheme you use, it will work to no avail.

    Although with this remark Xu Ziling has exposed her ruse, Wanwan remained unmoved. Holding up the tray with four cups of green tea in her hands, with such a wonderful and hard-to-described manner, she turned around to face the standing-still-like-a-mountain Xu Ziling and the just-about-to-step-out-of-the-front-door Kou Zhongs back. Her pretty brows slightly knitted, she said, I spoke out of the sincerity of my heart, yet that is how you look upon me, you have just broken nujias heart.

    Her voice was filled with strong sincerity and moving emotion that provoked sympathy, so that even Kou Zhong nearly stopped his steps and turned around.

    Unmoved, Xu Ziling looked at her and said indifferently, Miss Wan needs not waste your time. The Secret to Long Life and Demonic Secret [tianmo mi], one upright the other heretical, the natures are in opposition to each other. You are speaking around and around like this, how can it be effective?

    At this point Bian Bufus voice came from outside the door, Waner! The Chinese peony you bought has bloomed five stems of flowers!

    Kou Zhong had just stepped over the threshold of the door. He saw on the sun-drenched open space in front of the door stood the tall and suave Bian Bufu, wearing scholarly attire, with his hands behind his back, examining the flower bed by the main gate of the courtyard.

    An amazing feeling welled up in Kou Zhongs heart, which came from the realization that he had completely grasped the essence of the Yijian Technique.

    If he had not anticipated that Bian Bufu would intercept him outside the courtyard gate, this moment he would have stopped and then decide whether he should advance and attack, or he should retreat and defend.

    But now, of course, was another matter altogether.

    Carrying the Moon in the Well across his shoulders, he kept going, while said with a giggle, Ol Bian, turns out other than being old without the respect that comes with age, you are a man with voracious desire for flowers. No wonder you wanted to pluck the fresh flower, your Wan Shizhinu [martial niece]!

    Bian Bufu and Wanwans hearts were shaken at the same time.

    It should be noted that this matter was a shady secret between Bian Bufu and Wanwan that must not be exposed in the light, yet Kou Zhong just blurted it out. Naturally the two peoples mind was disturbed as they were caught off guard.

    For Bian Bufu, obtaining Wanwans body was the deepest longing of his heart, yet until today he has not been able to get it; therefore, Kou Zhongs remark has brought the load on his mind up to the surface.

    Wanwan was pondering how could Kou Zhong know this secret? She immediately remembered her dialog with Bian Bufu that night by the deep water in the small valley. No doubt Kou Zhong and the others were hiding nearby, yet she failed to detect their presence, and in that crazy way she missed the golden opportunity to kill the enemy.

    On the other hand, by lucky coincidence Kou Zhongs seemingly fleeting remark has shaken the two peoples spirit, exposing the gap in their thought that must not be revealed.

    Two hostile forces facing each other, from the beginning they have been using all kinds of psychological tactics to disturb the opponents no-gap-can-be-found mental state. The end result was Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings side gained the upper hand.

    Such an opportunity, how could the two boys be willing to let it slip by?

    With a loud shout Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well shot out from his shoulder, creating a streak of yellow rays, chopping down on Bian Bufu.

    Xu Ziling flashed toward Wanwans left flank.

    Bian Bufu and Kou Zhong clashed first.

    Seeing the swift and fierce momentum of the Moon in the Well, Bian Bufu remained calm without any sign of fear; focusing his attention, his right hand deftly swept across to meet the attack.

    The long sleeve of his broad robe slipped off, exposing the flickering, silvery circular iron hoop, about a chi and a half in diameter, which moved to completely sealed off the Moon in the Wells attack path.

    Kou Zhongs saber strike was imbued with the power he has already stored up for quite a while. Seeing Bian Bufu fell into defensive position, he was unwilling to miss this golden opportunity.


    Saber and ring collided.

    Both combatants staggered two steps back.

    Although on the surface it appeared that they were even, Kou Zhong was well aware that even after sending out his stored-up energy, plus he was on the offensive, he still failed to gain much advantage. He knew instantly that in term of power, this devil head was at least two, three notches above him.

    Precisely like Ba Fenghan said, he could only outsmart this man, but he must not try to overpower him.

    In this move the Moon in the Well had not achieved anything.

    Inside the house, Xu Ziling and Wanwan were also engaged in a dangerous battle of life and death.

    While Xu Ziling was moving toward Wanwan, his mind traveled at the speed of light, he suddenly understood something.

    During his several encounters with Wanwan in the past, this woman did not seem to mention anything about the Duke Yangs Treasure, yet this time she plainly bring it up. Obviously she had forced out a confession from Duan Yucheng and the others that they were going to Guanzhong for the secret of the Duke Yangs Treasure, hence a feeling of covetousness started to appear in her heart.

    This information was extremely useful; it also explained why Wanwan was using all kinds of psychological warfare to break up their fighting spirit and confidence, because her goal was to capture them alive, and then using the Devil Cults secret method she wanted to extract the location of the treasure from them.

    Having this thought, Xu Ziling twisted around and sent out a punch toward Wanwan.

    Maintaining her charm, Wanwan revealed a moving expression with hidden bitterness, secret grudge. Swinging the tea tray, the edge happened to meet Xu Zilings fist.

    A sudden burst of violent vortex of energy blew her clothes up, her beautiful hair fluttered.

    It was as if Xu Ziling already anticipated that she was going to resort to this move. With a cold laugh he said, You have fallen into a trap!

    His fist suddenly appeared floating and powerless, as it gently brushed against the edge of the tea tray.

    Even with Wanwans brilliance, she was shocked.

    She has already sent out the Tianmo Gong at full power; using the tray as the medium, she wanted to completely suck the vortex of energy from Xu Zilings fist, and then seized the opportunity to regain the initiative, in order to kill Xu Ziling in ten, or perhaps eight, moves, and then helped Bian Bufu to capture Kou Zhong alive.

    This time they were planning on dealing with Kou and Xu, two boys, without informing Qu Ao. They thought that their combined power was more than enough to defeat the two boys, but more importantly, they were hoping to obtain the secret to Duke Yang Treasure without having to share it with him.

    However, what she and Bian Bufu did not anticipate was: after being separated for only a few days, in terms of wisdom, scheming and martial art skill, the two boys were progressing substantially.

    Only when the tray hit the fist did Wanwan suddenly realize that Xu Zilings attack was not directed to her, but to the teacups on the tray; but by this time she already lost the decisive opportunity.

    Xu Zilings spirit and mind were clear and bright, his entire vigor and willpower were focused on the power of the fist he sent into the tea tray.

    In that instant, he felt that his spirit and inner qi had merged into one entity, there was no longer separation between the two.

    In the past, he could only send out fist power. The best he could do was to control the magnitude of the force

    But this time it was completely different.

    First of all, he could feel the condition of the unleashing and the flow of the true qi in the meridians all over his entire body in details, as well as the accumulation of qi in every single one of the vital acupoints. Just like the Commander-in-Chief of the army defending a city has a clear understanding of the strength of every storehouse, every unit of soldiers and every city gate tower.

    It was an amazing, indescribable feeling.

    He let his true qi to grow and multiply without end from the yongquan acupoint on his right foot entered and circulated through his whole body, and coalesced at the ocean of qi on his dantian. Afterwards, via the two meridians, ren and du, it supplied the true qi necessary for fighting.

    The magnitude and speed were completely under his control.

    It was the reason he was able to change at the last moment by sending out a move that Wanwan had never anticipated.

    Only this moment did he gain a deep understanding on why in his effort to fight the world, Ba Fenghan had to temper his willpower and skill.

    Were it not for several times after sustaining heavy injuries they willed themselves to fight exhaustion, their willpower would never reach such a level that even these two top characters from the Devil Cult were unable to sway the least bit.

    Were it not for Wanwan and Bian Bufu exerting so much pressure on them that they threw everything else and only had the raw determination of fighting to the death, there could never be a breakthrough in the martial art cultivation that they would never even dream of achieving.

    The spiraling energy changed from fast to slow as it entered the four teacups.

    Xu Ziling made a somersault and leaped over Wanwan.

    The teacups tilted over first, the fragrant tea inside the cups turned into four streams of water arrow, shooting toward Wanwans out-of-the-world beautiful face.


    Bian Bufus Devil Heart Chain, a consummate skill that he has always been proud of, met Kou Zhongs saber head-on, as if it was delivered to the door and let him hacked down on it.

    The demonic skills basic principle has always been harming others for ones personal benefit; Bian Bufu was no exception.

    His Devil Heart Chain was second only to Zhu Yuyan and Wanwans Tian Mo Dafa [great method of the devil]; it was capable to borrow the opponents energy and sending it continuously, an extremely vicious and formidable skill.

    Like just now, after blocking Kou Zhongs saber strike, the silvery ring in his hand swung around, both to neutralize Kou Zhongs spiraling energy, and to borrow the strength to counterattack as well. Taking advantage of the opponent exhausting his strength, before he managed to refresh his force, Bian Bufu would swiftly counterattack and grab the initiative back.

    Afterwards, using a chain of attacks, which flowed out swiftly like mercury, no-hole-did-not-get-penetrated continuous attack, he would subdue the enemy.

    Who would have thought that Kou Zhong, as if he knew the enemy like a deity, sent out a saber strike to crush his wishful thinking?

    Like a rushing current the silvery saber flew away.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, Ol Bian, arent you going to see your daughter?

    Moving one step sideway, he gathered his power into his left palm and chopped down, with the edge of the palm, on the never-ending ring in Bian Bufus left hand.


    Even with Bian Bufus ability, he lost the momentum and was forced to take a step back.

    Kou Zhong understood that whether the two brothers were dead or alive today, rested entirely in his hands.

    He knew that no matter how much Xu Ziling has progressed, he was definitely not Wanwans match; hence all Xu Ziling could do was to buy them some more time.

    Therefore, the only way to survive now was to fight life-for-life, trying to injure Bian Bufu, and then turned around to help Xu Ziling dealing with Wanwan. At that time, they would have a much better chance either to continue fighting or to run away.

    As he was having this thought, the three energies of Chinese medicine [精气神i.e. essence, pneuma (breath, energy, vital force), spirit] in Kou Zhongs entire body rose up to an unprecedented level, like flashing lightning his gaze enshrouded the opponent.

    He felt as if he was able to penetrate deep into Bian Bufus being, inside out. He was even aware that when he mentioned Dong Ming Princess, Bian Bufus mind fluctuated slightly.

    For a top-notch martial art master like Bian Bufu, he had to guard his heart and mind tightly, and must never reveal the slightest flaw or negligence.

    In fights between combatants of comparable skill, often time this kind of slight difference was enough to influence the outcome of the battle.

    Seeing this slight opportunity he could exploit, Kou Zhong did not hesitate at all; after taking half a step back, he strode forward forcefully, carrying with him a dense, chilling-to-the-bones, powerful momentum. Recovering the knocked away saber, he seized the opportunity to attack, straight and earth-shattering that no one can withstand, with the awe-inspiring authority of the ruler of the world.

    This time Bian Bufu was really shocked, realizing that just now he underestimated the enemy too much, which made him repeatedly missed key moments.

    With an angry shout he brandished the pair of silver rings in his hands, creating silvery shadows dancing in the air, which the rushed forward to meet the enemy head on to prevent Kou Zhong from gathering enough power in his saber.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and changed his style. Now his saber hacked down and swept across in straightforward manner, no more feign attacks.

    His target was, surprisingly, the center of the dancing rings, where the momentum was the strongest.

    The tea tray was thrown upward, fast as lightning Wanwan traversed sideway, while also sending out ten streams of finger wind to attack Xu Ziling, who was still leaping in the air, while at the same time evading the four streams of water arrow.

    In this critical situation Xu Ziling remained calm; with a cold sneer he even said, You fell into a trap again!

    His toes kicked on the tray, Bang! it flew through the roof and fell to the yard outside.

    Wanwan has always been extremely shrewd; neither delight nor anger ever appeared on her face. But this time she was so angry that it showed.

    Speaking about real skill, she was highly confident that within ten to twenty moves she would be able to take care of Xu Ziling. However, after fighting to this point, she was always at a disadvantage, all because Kou Zhongs tiresome remark has divided her mind.

    Moreover, Xu Zilings amazing moves have been growing without restraint, making her unable to regain the initiative, so that in the end she was forced to free herself and ran away.

    But when she was rushing toward the front yard to take care of Kou Zhong first, hundreds and thousands pieces of roof tile rained down on her, making it difficult for her to evade.


    The ring shadow dissipated.

    A bold and powerful beyond imagination spiraling energy hacked down on Bian Bufu, forcing him to withdraw two chi back.

    Finally, when he was facing a life and death situation, Kou Zhong understood the Escaping One concept that Lu Miaozi taught him.

    Such a martial art master of Bian Bufu caliber, whether it was the movement of the hands or the feet, there was no gap that could be exploited.

    But regardless of the style, any move would have a point where the potential for attack was the strongest. If this point was broken, all the subsequent forces and changes could be broken as well, and thus the potential was lost.

    Kou Zhong was able to grasp this strongest point. By concentrating his entire power, with one saber strike he was able to break Bian Bufus ring shadow filling the air, which was actually difficult to differentiate between the real ring and the mere shadow. However, if his saber did not carry the extremely strange vortex of energy, it would not be that easy for him to force Bian Bufu to retreat.

    Naturally Kou Zhong would not hesitate at all. Taking a stride forward, with a powerful momentum that could easily chop down three armies, he brandished his Moon in the Well again.

    This moment Xu Zilings long laughter came from high in the air, I slaughtered Wanwan! he said with a loud laugh.

    An incredulous look appeared on Bian Bufus eyes, yet he could not deny the fact that Xu Ziling, with no sign of damage at all, jumped down from the roof above. His spirit was greatly shaken, the Moon in the Well have arrived in front of his chest.

    Having failed to guard his heart and mind, Bian Bufu did not dare to block head-on. Urgently he backed off; crashing against the wooden door that it exploded into pieces, he disappeared from the two boys sight.

    Xu Ziling landed by Kou Zhongs side. Shaking his head, he said with a sigh, Only demonic schools people could be that selfish.

    The two boys turned their head around to look at the house.

    [1] Joyous harmony tea: also known as 神仙馊茶 = herbal tea made with acacia, it is known as an aphrodisiac, some sort of ancient viagra. 合欢 is one of the polite ways of saying sex. So, there is also 合欢酒,合欢药 etc. (Courtesy of Chowbeng)

  10. #150
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 13 Chapter 6

    Book 13 Chapter 6 Helping People Like Fighting Fire

    Like a specter Wanwan was standing beautifully at the door, her pretty eyes were gleaming with unusual radiance that was hard to explain, as she fixed her gaze at the two boys.

    Kou Zhong took a step forward; pointing the Moon in the Well at Wanwan, he said, Your Bian Shishu has abandoned you and left. Today we are going to settle the old debt and new animosity between us once and for all.

    Wanwan knitted her jet-black eyebrows, her expression was very cute and moving, in perfect harmony with her beautiful and elegant physique, something that nobody could match, the bewitching beauty that came only from a certain school. Even though Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were standing in opposition to her on the battlefield, they could not but admit that she was extremely moving.

    Against his will, Kou Zhongs murderous intent decreased by thirty-percent.

    Wanwan sighed lightly, as if she felt sorry for their ignorance. She said slyly, How could Bian Shishu be easily deceived like that? Its just that he saw your extremely flourishing acute spirit, and decided to temporarily avoid you! It was nujia who told him not to show his face, so that nujia can chat with you for a moment!

    Then she burst out into a giggle and said with a tender laughter, I did not know you wanted to vie over the world like other people!

    Frowning, Kou Zhong said, Unless you release Yucheng and the others immediately, there will be no talk. We will decide life and death on fists and kicks, saber and sword.

    Wanwan slowly moved forward until she was about half a zhang away from the two boys. With a gentle, captivating laughter she said, If we can cooperate honestly, releasing those four kids is not a big deal.

    Recalling the Flying Horse Ranch people like Shang Peng, Shang He, and the others, who lost their lives in her hands, Xu Ziling shook his head resolutely and said, You dont seem to realize that there is this inextricable deep enmity between us. The only way to settle this is if one side was completely wiped out. Just call your Bian Shishu back! Otherwise, dont blame us for dealing with you two against one.

    As if nothing had happened, Wanwan simply turned her attention to Kou Zhong, and spoke indifferently, What do you say?

    Astonished, Kou Zhong replied, My Xiongdis word is the same as my own. Did Miss Wan find out about it only today?

    Wanwan nodded and said, I understand. There will come a day I will make you regret what you said today. Nujia takes my leave now!

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling pounced on her together.

    Wanwan let out a burst of tender laughter. Producing a ribbon from the sleeve of her right arm, she separately brushed away Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well and Xu Zilings incoming palm strike.

    Borrowing the reaction force, like a burst of wind Wanwan flew to the top of the roof.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Didnt you brag a few days ago that you were going to get rid of us within the next seven days? Its nearly seventy days now! How come your words remained to be unfulfilled?

    The two boys knew that even they fought together, killing Wanwan was still more difficult than ascending to the heavens. If she wanted to leave, there was no way they could stop her. But for the sake of Duan Yucheng, four people, how could they let her slip away?

    Xu Ziling added, Dont forget that next time you want to kill us, it will be even more difficult than this time.

    With a thousand tenderness and a hundred charms Wanwan laughed sweetly, her beautiful eyes looking deep into their eyes, she said, Shizun [master] told me that if this time we still cannot get rid of you, she would personally undertake this task. Based on Shizuns usual practice, chances are at that time you will reach the state of seeking life yet wont get it, seeking death yet cant obtain. Cant you be a bit more patient?

    Both Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling shivered in their heart.

    Wanwan was this formidable, wouldnt Zhu Yuyan be even more desperately serious?

    Suddenly Wanwan sighed grimly and said, Kou Zhong! If you are willing to work together with nujias school, wont the world be in your bag already? Why do you haggle over every ounce with several human lives? Real men conducting themselves in life, why bother over trivial matter? Besides, when two parties battle each other, there bound to be people injured or even killed!

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Obviously you only have regards on my treasure, yet you said you have regards on me. Female demon Wan, why dont you go back to sleep with your Bian Shishu?

    A murderous aura flashed through Wanwans beautiful eyes, which was quickly replaced by a more complicated emotion. Revealing a bitter smile on her face, she suddenly floated away and disappeared behind the roof.

    The two boys exchanged glances; they both saw the heaviness in the others heart.

    The enemy was really too difficult to deal with.

    Kou Zhong took a sharp intake of breath. Did you smell something? he asked in a low voice.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, Some kind of a very strange fragrance. Female demon Wan is, after all, a woman.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, Whether Yucheng and the others are able to escape this calamity depends on whether the great tracking skill taught by Ol Ba is really effective.

    The two boys became the Scarface Hero and the Pockmarked Face Big Bandit, respectively, and changed into warrior outfit commonly wore by Wulin people. They were sitting in a teahouse, sipping tea and carefully watch a magnificent mansion house diagonally across the street at the mouth of the Xinzhong Bridge.

    Pointing at the said building, Kou Zhong asked the waiter, Whose house is that? Looks a bit imposing.

    After casting him a sidelong glance, the waiter replied, You must be new in Luoyang that you dont even know the mansion house of the Da Longtou [big boss] of Luoyang Bang [gang].

    When the waiter left to attend to the guest at another table, Kou Zhong leaned over and whispered to Xu Ziling, Tonight, after meeting the Old Ba, well come here on a rescue mission. You dont have any problem with that, do you?

    Xu Ziling pondered for half a day; finally he replied in low voice, I am afraid in her rage female demon Wan might execute Yucheng and the others right away. Do you think its likely?

    Kou Zhong said, This is called anxiety to the level of confusion. Did you notice that? The waiter that talked to us just now is slipping out. Perhaps he is going to tell Luoyang Bang people that we are stepping on their plate.

    Isnt Luoyang Bang a big organization within the eight-gang ten-society? Xu Ziling said, If we can confirm which side Shangguan Long is leaning to, we might be able to exploit the delicate situation currently going on in Luoyang to deal with him.

    I can always go back to Wang Shichong to find out the answer to that question, Kou Zhong said, Plus I can also take a look whether there is any development concerning Dugu Feng. Well meet again at the appointed place well rendezvous with Ol Ba! Ay! I wish I dont have to leave you alone.

    Xu Ziling burst out laughing, Screw you! he cursed, Since when did I become your girl? Get lost!

    After Kou Zhong left, Xu Ziling pondered over a lot of things.

    Ba Fenghan once mentioned that Yin Gui Pai had a man in Luoyang, someone who, on the surface, is an important figure [orig. have head, have face], while secretly he was a Yin Gui Pais undercover agent working in the Wulin of the north, with specific responsibility of intelligence-gathering.

    This perhaps explained why Duan Yucheng, four men, could not escape Wanwans evil clutch.

    Thinking to this point, he heard footsteps approaching. Five big men, wearing blue warrior outfit, were stepping into the teahouse. Their eyes quickly found him, and then they went straight toward him.

    Without even casting a glance from the corner of his eyes, Xu Ziling continued drinking his tea.

    Upon seeing this, one after another the other patrons of the teahouse paid their bill and left in a hurry. Even the waiters were gone.

    Arriving in front of Xu Ziling, two of the men stood behind him, while two others stopped right in front of him, pulled the chairs, and sat down on the table to his left and right. In short, he was surrounded.

    The last one, a man who looked like he was in his forties, wearing two slanting moustache above his lips, without any trace of politeness sat down across the table from Xu Ziling. With ominous glint in his eyes, he said, Xiaodi Chen Lang, the Xiangzhu [fragrant master] of the Xuanwu Hall [Black Tortoise, one of the seven mansions of the north sky (in Daoism)] of Luoyang Bang. I hear that the friend here is inquiring about us. May I ask what is friends affiliation?

    Xu Ziling leisurely sniffed the fragrant steam rising up from his cup of tea, glanced nonchalantly at the man, and then said with a smile, I wonder if Chen Xiong is merely making a big fuss over a minor issue. I was just noticing the particular look of your honorable Bangzhus mansion house, and thus I was asking out of curiosity. Is there any crime committed? Are we going to fight just because of this?

    Seeing his calm demeanor, Chen Lang was taken aback. Frowning, he said, This is not about asking too much, surely friend knows it, right? Currently Luoyang is in an unusual time, if friend does not harbor any evil intention, just report your school or sect, your name and surname. If this is just a misunderstanding, we certainly wont make things difficult for you.

    This kind of talk came from a Luoyang Bang man, who was used to go on the rampage around Luoyang region, it could be considered very polite. It was simply because Chen Lang noticed that Xu Ziling was carrying himself in the manner of a martial art master of major sect that he spoke those words, to make it easier for both sides to step down.

    If Xu Ziling was indeed what he appeared to be, he would definitely take this opportunity to beat the gong to recall the troop, so as not to arouse his suspicions and thus beat the grass to scare the snake. But now, of course, was another matter.

    Xu Zilings gaze fell onto the long saber hanging on Chen Langs back. Smiling unhurriedly, he said, My mood today is not too good, I was wondering if Chen Xiong would be willing to lend me your saber, so that I can borrow it to break my vow against killing.

    While Chen Lang and his four mens countenance changed abruptly, Xu Ziling had already stretched out his hand slowly toward Chen Langs throat.

    The two big men on his left and right pounced on him angrily. Who would have thought that the table suddenly snapped, and split into two halves, separately knocking against them.

    The two men from behind drew their sabers and ferociously hacked down on the back of Xu Zilings head. Xu Ziling only smiled. Suddenly the chair he was sitting on shot back like a bullet and crashed against the two mens legs; knocking them down in a crushing defeat.

    Now there was no barrier between Xu Ziling and Chen Lang. The teapot and teacups have been falling to the floor. Using the tip of his toes fast as lightning Xu Ziling kicked, sending the pot and cups safely onto the adjacent table, as if the waiter had carefully set them down on the table in front of the guest. The way he control his power was very ingenious that others could only gasp in amazement.

    By this time Chen Lang was miserable.

    On the surface there was nothing special in the way Xu Ziling was reaching out to grab him, but the fact was that the opponents finger technique was exquisite, carrying with it five strands of swift and severe finger winds, completely sealing off Chen Langs escape path.

    The most formidable thing was that the opponents body emitted a stream of impossible-to-withstand deep, cold murderous aura, making it difficult for him to breathe, increasing his heartbeat, and making the blood in his entire body seemed to freeze, so that his body was unable to move the slightest bit.

    In that instant, Xu Ziling suddenly understood that after going through perilous situations for the last several months, he had made an all-around breakthrough in the martial way.

    Even Wanwan, while she momentarily lost her spirit and was caught off guard, he had, step-by-step, managed to gain the upper hand.

    And his progress could be divided into two aspects.

    The first aspect was mental/spiritual.

    After undergoing unceasing danger and fierce battle, he had cultivated iron will and steel confidence, and could face anything without any fear.

    But more importantly, he had developed the fantastic skill of having foresight.

    Every time he was battling the enemy, oftentimes he was able to be one step ahead by grasping the changes of the moves the enemy was using to advance and attack or retreat and defend.

    It was an inexplicable thing; he could only give credit to the magical effect of the Secret to Long Life.

    The other aspect was the martial way.

    Because Kou Zhongs and his martial art moves basically did not follow any method, they also did not suffer the limitation of a particular set of method.

    Each time they were facing the enemy for the first time, their martial skill would progress one layer up. Until now, each move and every style was uniquely directed at the situation at hand, as the moves came out freely, following their hearts desire. Even a martial art master of Wanwans caliber would find it hard to fathom, causing them to struggle to cope with the two boys.

    But the biggest breakthrough was that he was able to control both the speed and the intensity of the spiraling energy.

    This has given him the confidence in the ingenious use of this fantastic qi power, so that others were unable to make any sense of logic behind the changes of his spiraling power.

    This has been highly beneficial to him whenever he wanted to hide his identity.

    Rescuing people are like fighting fire. He did not have the patience to wait until tonight.


    Chen Lang let out a miserable grunt as his throat was grabbed by Xu Ziling, and his entire body was lifted up that his feet were dangling about half a chi above the floor.

    Xu Ziling laughed aloud, and then, still carrying Chen Lang by the throat, he went out the back door.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong removed his disguise, back to his original self as he returned to the gate at the end of the Imperial City. He noticed the tight security on the gate, with layers of guards, with the intensity of the atmosphere before the storm clouds approached.

    Inside the Imperial City, even more teams of soldiers were pushing logs [to be rolled down in defense of the city], cloud ladders, armored vehicles to block arrows, and other battle equipment, forging ahead toward the Palace City.

    Lang Feng was extremely busy. Seeing Kou Zhong returning, he only said that Wang Shichong was waiting for him in the Shangshu Mansion, hence Kou Zhong went to the Mansion alone.

    Under the escort of more than a dozen city guards, Kou Zhong went to see the radiant looking Wang Shichong inside the heavily guarded private room inside the Shangshu Mansion.

    After he was seated, Wang Shichong said with a cold laugh, I have already sealed off all the gateways into the Imperial City, to force Yang Dong to hand over Yuan Wendu and Lu Da, two men. Currently the Palace City is completely dependent on Dugu Familys support. As long as I can eliminate Dugu Feng, the Palace City will crumble without any attack, I am not worried that Yang Dong will not surrender.

    Kou Zhong spoke heavily, If we could sever Palace Citys supply line, how many days are they going to survive?

    Wang Shichong replied, The Palace City has always had large quantities of army provisions in store, plus Dugu Feng has already had an intention to confront me. I am afraid two, three months would not be a problem for them.

    Does Li Mis side show any activity? Kou Zhong asked.

    Wang Shichong replied, Although on the surface Li Mi seems to hold back his troops without moving, but secretly they are mobilizing the troops and horses, as well as amassing provisions. Looks like your scheme to lure the enemy has shown some results.

    Delighted, Kou Zhong said, The day Li Mi succeeded in burning down our fake granary will be the day he will deploy his troops. At that time we must launch a surprise attack. Therefore, our top priority right now is to send people to investigate the situation around Yanshi, to gather intelligence on his marching route.

    Wang Shichong spoke without restraint, Li Mis surprise attack and his scheme to entice the enemy are well-known throughout the world. This time, if we could use his trademark method back against him, it will be extremely delightful.

    And then, changing the subject he said, These past ten days a lot of Jianghu figures have arrived in Luoyang. Because our focus was in dealing with the Dugu Clan, we have not been paying attention. Do you have any information or perhaps an opinion?

    While cursing Old Fox in his heart, Kou Zhongs mouth was saying, I have just found my Xiongdi, Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan, and together we went all over the place, stepping on plates and scouting information. Right now the most important thing is your safety. As long as Shangshu Daren is safe and sound, victory will be ours.

    Wang Shichong laughed and said, You dont have to worry about me, but there is one thing that Id like to ask you to do.

    Stunned, Kou Zhong asked, What is it?

    ※ ※ ※


    Chen Langs back knocked against the courtyards wall, he slipped down along the wall to the ground, fainted.

    Xu Ziling looked up to the heaven; his heart was filled with grief and indignation.

    Using thunderous method of reversing the blood and qi, Xu Ziling has forced Chen Langs confession on Duan Yucheng, four mens tragedy.

    Turned out they arrived in Luoyang six days ago, and that very night were besieged by the martial art masters under Shangguan Longs leadership.

    The four men showed great progress in their martial art skill, they managed to engaged Shangguan Long and his men in fierce battle.

    The end result was Shi Jie and Ma Gui died in the battlefield, Bao Zhifu was seriously injured and was captured. Only Duan Yucheng managed to escape albeit heavy injury.

    Comparatively speaking, Bao Zhifus fate was more tragic than Shi Jie and Ma Gui, who heroically sacrificed their lives in the battlefield; he was cruelly tortured by Shangguan Long, and after giving out everything, Shangguan Long personally pinched and shattered his throat that he died.

    After sharing delights and common hardships for a period of time, Xu Ziling grew fondness toward Duan Yucheng and the others. Today was the first time that he learned about their tragic fate, how could his heart not filled with fury? At the end of the day, didnt Bao Zhifu, three men, lose their lives because of them?

    Taking a deep breath, Xu Ziling suppressed his anger completely before leaving the alley, and walked over to Shangguan Longs mansion in large strides.

  11. #151
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 13 Chapter 7

    Book 13 Chapter 7 Buried Treasure in Dhyana Temple

    After muttering to himself irresolutely for half a day, Wang Shichong said, I want the three of you to steal the Jade Annulus of He Clan for me.

    Kou Zhong was stunned, Do you know where the Jade Annulus of He Clan is?

    With a cold snort Wang Shichong replied, Of course I do. Luoyang is my territory, nothing can be hidden from me.

    And then after giving him a quick look, he said, If you do this for me, Shuni will be yours.

    Kou Zhong busily replied, To be able to work for Shangshu Daren, how could I ask for any reward? But there is something I dont understand, I want to ask Shangshu Darens guidance.

    Frowning, Wang Shichong said, You have something to say, just say it! Why suddenly become so bookish?

    With a giggle Kou Zhong said, According to Shangshu Darens knowledge, isnt the Jade Annulus of He Clan in Shi Feixuans hands?

    Smiling wryly, Wang Shichong replied, Of course not in her hands, otherwise, asking you to steal it would become a vain endeavor. My understanding is that Shi Feixuans martial art skill has reached the divine level of Ning Daoqi, that kind of out-of-the-ordinary, becoming-an-arhat master. Stealing something from her is as impossible as ascending to the heaven to pick the moon and bring it down to earth.

    This time Kou Zhong was astonished for real. Stupefied, he said, Such an important object, she did not carry it with her?

    As if he feared someone might hear him, Wang Shichong leaned over and lowered his voice, This is a great secret in Jianghu. Only because I know a close friend of Ning Daoqi that I am privy of this information. You have also seen that person, its Wang Tong Laoshi [teacher].

    Of course Kou Zhong remembered the great scholar Wang Tong.

    It was during the banquet where he saw Wang Shichong, Ba Fenghan and Fu Junyu for the first time, also listened to Shi Qingxuans unparalleled-under-the-heavens Xiao [flute] skill.

    Wang Shichong continued, The Jade Annulus of He Clan is a secret treasure of an unfathomable mystery in the human world. It looks like jade, but not exactly a jade. The most extraordinary thing about it is that it could foster spiritual cultivation of Buddha followers to achieve Zen. It is also of immeasurable benefit to people with innate true qi in their cultivation.

    Kou Zhong was puzzled, That being the case, Shi Feixuan out to hold it in her arms even when she is going to bed. Why on the contrary she does not bring it with her?

    Laughing involuntarily, Wang Shichong said, This is because you only know part of it [orig. knowing the first but not the second]. Turns out the Jade Annulus of He Clan also has a fantastic characteristic, which is its ability to follow the changes in time, whether cold or hot, light or dark. Its extremely difficult to master. When it is used in training, slight carelessness would result in mysterious breakout, which would easily make people suffer fire deviation.

    Sneering, Kou Zhong said, Just put it inside an iron box, wont that do?

    No insulation can cut off its influence, Wang Shichong said, Unless you are a martial art master who is training first-class innate true qi, as soon as you entered its sphere of influence, you would basically gamble with destiny. Depending on its condition at the moment, it might change irregularly and might arrive at some kind of freakish stage.

    Exhaling a mouthful of cold air, Kou Zhong said, Then why do you want me to steal such a dreadful object? Dont you know that at what I train is a first-class innate mental cultivation [xin fa] of the mysterious school?

    Wang Shichong laughed cheerfully and said, I am only asking you to steal or rob, not asking you to hold it while meditating or training your power; what are you afraid of? As soon as you obtain the treasured jade annulus, hand it over to my men; youd have completed the task.

    Kou Zhong was puzzled, If it will only produce adverse effect during training, why didnt Shi Feixuan carry it with her? Is Shangshu Daren trying to harm me?

    Wang Shichong smiled and said, I Like straightforward person like you the most. The Jade Annulus of He Clan will only adversely affect its master under two conditions: one, when he is sitting in meditation and deep in thought, two, when he is transmitting his inner power during fight. Therefore, either Ning Daoqi or Shi Feixuan, they cant possibly carry the Jade Annulus of He Clan everywhere with them.

    Kou Zhong thought this explanation made sense.

    If while carrying the Jade Annulus of He Clan Shi Feixuan came across Wanwan, wouldnt it be bad for her?

    Thereupon he nodded and said, This explanation is a bit reasonable. But if I were either Shi Feixuan or Ning Daoqi, I would have hidden the Jade Annulus of He Clan in a secret place that no one else knew, so that nobody would have any access to it.

    Wang Shichong calmly said, You have a very reasonable thought, but that is just common sense; it cant be applied to an unusual treasure like the Jade Annulus of He Clan. From a historical point of view, whenever the Jade Annulus of He Clan is lost, there must always be ways to find it back. Perhaps it would emit some kind of strange light, or even silently summoning one who is fated to find it, or things like that. Therefore, if Shi Feixuan wanted to keep the Jade Annulus of He Clan safe, she must have handed it over to a trusted person for safekeeping. Do you understand?

    Frowning, Kou Zhong said, Barely understand only a little bit.

    Wang Shichong seemed to be in a great mood. Which part you still dont understand? he asked cheerfully.

    What I dont understand is, Kou Zhong said, You, Wanggong [lit. king and duke] have a very high chance of being selected by Shi Feixuan to be the true master of the Jade Annulus of He Clan. At that time all the outstanding heroes under the heavens will bow to you. Plus you will receive Ning Daoqis and the entire Ci Hang Jing Zhais nuns, both with and without hair, support. Wouldnt it be much better than doing imitating-the-dog-and-steal-chicken, not-fit-to-be-seen deed like the one you want to do right now?

    Wang Shichong sighed; he said dejectedly, If you were Shi Feixuan, and you had to choose between Li Mi and me, just based on the fact that I am a barbarian, you could not possibly choose me.

    And then after a short pause he went on, Hence the reason I am begging you to steal the treasure for me, because who would believe that you, Kou Zhong, would do an errant for someone else? This way I will not be implicated. You really must help me. Otherwise, if Li Mi obtained the treasured jade annulus, you and I can forget about having an easy day ahead of us.

    Smiling ruefully, Kou Zhong said, Wanggong really counts your chicken before they are hatched. But arent you afraid that after obtaining the treasure I might embezzle it for myself?

    Smiling, Wang Shichong replied, Even if you have the Jade Annulus of He Clan in your hand, what are you going to do with it? There is an ancient saying: treasuring a jade annulus becomes a crime [idiom: to get into trouble on account of a cherished item]. The jade annulus being referred is precisely the Jade Annulus of He Clan. Even if you are stupid enough to embezzle it, you will only make it easier for the jade annulus to fall into the hands of Li Mi, Dou Jiande, Li Yuan, or the others.

    Inwardly Kou Zhong thought that it is best if you think that way, but on the surface he pretended to be worried, Very well! he finally said, So wheres exactly this Jade Annulus of He Clan?

    Wang Shichong lightly replied, I dont know!

    What? Kou Zhong blurted out in shock.

    ※ ※ ※

    Xu Ziling was just about to step out of the alley when he heard a dry cough from behind. Shivering inwardly, he quickly looked back, and saw Ba Fenghan, who was wearing his mask, was coming fast toward him. Pulling Xu Ziling toward the main street, he said, I closed that mans mouth forever on your behalf! But what happened? Looking at you, it seems to me that you are heading to Shangguan Longs place for a killing spree. But doing so just show reckless courage; no different to delivering your own life in vain.

    Xu Ziling came to himself; turning around, he cast a glance at Shangguan Longs magnificent residence, across the street, toward the right and rear from where he stood. The The Yin Gui Pai Elder you were talking about, is he Shangguan Long?

    Ba Fenghan nodded.

    After Xu Ziling finished narrating they key points of what had happened, overwhelmed with shock, Ba Fenghan said, You are really unafraid of death, knowing full well that female demon Wan and Bian Bufu are most likely hiding in Shangguan Longs mansion, you still want to charge in to avenge your men. Fortunately I am here to step on your plate; otherwise I would not be able to intercept you.

    And then, dragging Xu Ziling into another alley, he said, Come! Ill take you somewhere else.

    ※ ※ ※

    Wang Shichong smiled, pulled a roll of silk map from his bosom, spread it out on his desk and said, This is a sketch of the Jing Nian Chan Yuan [lit. clean thought Buddhist Hall] located on the open area just south of Luoyang. Jing Nian Chan Zong [zong means school/sect] has always had close relationship with Ci Hang Jing Zhai, and just like the Jing Zhai, it has never been involved in the dispute of the Jianghu. Although not famous in the Wulin world, it occupies a majestic status. Therefore, as long as Shi Feixuan has not handed over the Jade Annulus of He Clan to somebody else, she must have handed it over to Jing Nian Chan Yuans Chanzhu [Dhyana/Zen master/chief] Liao Kong Dashi [great master, a term of respect to address Buddhist monk] for safekeeping. It would be best if due to the strange property of Jade Annulus of He Clan, nobody dares to come close, so that the Jade Annulus of He Clan must be hidden somewhere in the temple, separate from where the people are.

    Kou Zhong examined the map of the Temple. Seeing layer upon layer of temple halls, his scalp went numb as he said, Just to go around such a big place would require at least half a day; how could we find the Jade Annulus of He Clan?

    Smiling bitterly, Wang Shichong said, If it were easy, I would have sent someone else to do it. The fact is that although the capable people under my command are numerous, none can surpass you in terms of ability and wisdom. Plus you have two good helpers, so logically speaking you have more chance than other people.

    Sinking back into his chair, Kou Zhong heaved a deep sigh and asked, Hows Liao Kongs martial art skill?

    Wang Shichong replied nonchalantly, I dont know!

    Kou Zhong nearly sprang out of his chair. What? he blurted out, Dont tell me nobody has ever seen him?

    Wang Shichong replied helplessly, Of course some people have seen him, I have even met him twice, but he is practicing silent meditation, so he had never talked to others.

    Astounded, Kou Zhong said, Based on Wanggongs eyesight, you still could not see through him?

    With frustration in his voice, Wang Shichong replied, Naturally Buddhist monks who can train silent meditation are unfathomable people! I dont even know whether he understood martial art or not. All I know is that the four Vajra Great Protectors of the Temple under him are all deep and immeasurable martial art masters; otherwise, I would not have to bother Kou Gongzis honorable self.

    Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, You are even better than Shi Feixuan in selecting people. The most annoying thing is that you, Wanggong, are just guessing out of thin air. If I risk my life fighting everywhere all over the Temple and still cannot find the Jade Annulus of He Clan, that would be injustice indeed.

    Wang Shichongs eyes lit up, As long as there is a chance, we must not let it slip by, otherwise, if Li Mi obtained the Jade Annulus of He Clan, you and I can only abandon honor and glory, so much so that we will pass our days getting trampled on by others.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, That being the case, whatever you, Shengshang [a courtiers form of address for the current emperor] say, I will do it!

    ※ ※ ※

    Pointing to a courtyard among layer upon layer of houses across the street, Ba Fenghan said, That is Man Qing Yuan [House of Fine Clarity], Luoyangs most famous pleasure house. The three most popular courtesans are Qing Ju, Qing Lian and Qing Ping [lit. chrysanthemum, lotus and duckweed, respectively], who are known as Man Qings three flowers. The owner is precisely Shangguan Long, whom you, Ziling, really wish to tear into ten thousand pieces.

    The street was crowded with pedestrians, the atmosphere was extremely lively, they had to step back in order not to block the traffic.

    This moment the sun was nearly set behind the western hills, some shops even had already lighted their lanterns.

    Xu Ziling coldly said, Could Shangguan Long be coming over here tonight?

    He has a private room here, Ba Fenghan replied, On the surface it is to be used to entertain friends, but actually it is used to gather intelligence from all over the place.

    Astonished, Xu Ziling asked, How come Dong Ming Pai is able to know so many secret things?

    That, I am not clear either, Ba Fenghan replied with a frown, I asked Wanjing twice, but she did not give me a straightforward answer, I had no choice but to be discreet and did not ask her anymore. But since Wanjing has Bian Bufu as her father, and supposing Madame Dong Ming is Wanjings birth mother, that means Dong Ming Pai and Yin Gui Pai must have a relationship with each other, so naturally they would know more things related to Yin Gui Pai compared to other people.

    This moment a group of barbarian merchants were entering the shops behind the two men to look at the goods, so they tactfully stepped aside. Ba Fenghan then took this opportunity to pull Xu Ziling to continue walking. Wanjing has a deep hatred toward her father, Bian Bufu, he went on, But she knew that she is not heartless enough to personally kill him; furthermore, this is not an easy thing at all, thats why she pleaded with me to handle this. The fact is that Bian Bufu is extremely powerful. Even if the three of us fought together, without favorable environment, we could forget about overpowering him.

    While still walking side-by-side, Xu Ziling leaned closer and spoke in a low voice, She wanted to deal with Yin Gui Pai, isnt she afraid of Yin Gui Pais retaliation?

    Ba Fenghan replied, That is precisely the other reason why Wanjing wanted to deal with Bian Bufu through me. Because merely Nan Hai Pai [South Sea Sect], Wanjing is already struggling to cope. If they openly provoke Yin Gui Pai, a powerful opponent, which nothing can be more powerful, perhaps Dong Ming Pai would face the disaster of having their Sect wiped out.

    Astonished, Xu Ziling asked, What thing is Nan Hai Pai? How come Ive never heard of it?

    Ba Fenghan laughed involuntarily, Nan Hai Pai is not a thing, he said, It is the biggest Sect on a big island of the southern sea, which name shook the southern part of the country, its prestige second only to the Song Clan. Seven years ago, its Zhangmen [sect leader] Mei Xun, merely twenty at the time, ascended the Zhang Men position. His expertise in using spears is very famous.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, The Central Plains is really too big, amazing people and extraordinary warriors are too many to count; even if I want to hear their names, I will never hear all.

    The two stepped over Xinzhong Bridge, and continued east along the Luo River, heading toward the place they were going to join Kou Zhong.

    Ba Fenghan said with a smile, But the most frightening person of the Nan Hai Pai is not Mei Xun. Rather, it is his grand martial Shifu [师公 Shifus Shifu (Courtesy of CFT and Akolaw)], Nan Hai Xian Weng Huang Gongcuo [see Book 12 Chapter 10]. In terms of resources, seniority, or perhaps with regard to martial art skill, he could be included in the top ten martial art masters of the Central Plains. Compared to Ning Daoqi, he is perhaps only a tad below. Fortunately he has been retired for many years, or else Wanjing would have even more headache.

    Gaining a bit more understanding, Xu Ziling commented, No wonder you knew about the Central Plains affairs like the back of your hand, at least there is this Dong Ming Princess who is willing to provide information to you without reservation.

    Indifferent, Ba Fenghan replied, As early as I was with the Tujue, I already know a lot of things pertaining to the Central Plains. Come! Lets sit by the dike, waiting for Zhong Da Shao!

    After they were seated, Xu Ziling gazed at a speeding sailboat on the Luo River under the setting sun, his mind filled with myriads of thoughts, he said, You see how free and easy that boat is, sailing along a busy downtown, as if all the struggle in the world has nothing to do with it. Contrary to you and I, who are deeply involved in the never-ending circle of the squabble of the mundane world, which is difficult to get out.

    Sneering, Ba Fenghan said, Ziling is definitely an unwilling participant in the world of the living, but since you are talking about the boat, the fact is that this boat is just like us, rolling about in the sea of people. When we finish chatting, wed better think of a way to capture Shangguan Long alive and force a confession from him on your Yu Yis whereabouts.

    This moment Kou Zhong arrived. Full of joy and expectations, he kneeled down behind the two and giggling mysteriously, he said, How about we steal the Jade Annulus of He Clan tonight?

    The two looked at each other in disbelief.

  12. #152
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 13 Chapter 8

    Book 13 Chapter 8 Wang Bo of Changbai

    The three donned on their masks and changed into nondescript Jianghu attire. They sat on a table by the street in a restaurant across the street from Man Qing Lou [see last chapter, lou here means a building with more than one story], enjoying some dessert after satisfying dinner.

    By this time Kou Zhong had already finished narrating everything Wang Shichong said, without leaving anything.

    Ba Fenghan was the first to speak, Turns out the Jade Annulus of He Clan is that strange. But if Ci Hang Jing Zhai and Ning Daoqi could not penetrate its ever-changing secret, I am afraid nobody in the world would be able to.

    Giggling, Kou Zhong said, I dont care what strange usefulness or miraculous benefit of the jade annulus, the most urgent thing is to destroy the good relationship between Shi Feixuan and that kid Li Shimin. When I raise my thing in the future, I am going to use it as a handsome seal. Thinking about it, it will be grand and immensely enjoyable! So, are the two of you going to help me or not?

    Ba Fenghan said in straight face, Helping you is not a problem, but after obtaining the treasure, you must give me eight, ten days to study it.

    Laughing aloud, Kou Zhong said, Of course there is no problem. We are all brothers, well enjoy blessings and endure misfortune together.

    Ba Fenghan said with a wry smile, You know how to beat the snake following the rod. Huh? Why does Ziling have a deep frown?

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, Even with Fenghan Xiongs extensive experience, he does not seem to have heard of Jing Nian Chan Yuans name. From this, it is obvious that the martial art masters of the Buddhist Hall are genuinely out of the world, who dont pay attention to the affairs of life. Yet we are going to disturb their peace. How could Xiaodi be happy?

    Letting out a cold snort, Ba Fenghan said, If they really dont pay attention to the affairs of life, they shouldnt have touched the Jade Annulus of He Clan. If they have touched the Jade Annulus of He Clan, then they cant blame us for stealing the treasure.

    After a short pause, he patted Xu Zilings shoulder and said with a smile, Ziling, relax! We will find a way to determine whether the Jade Annulus of He Clan is really inside the Temple first, before we make our move either to steal or to rob, so you dont need to feel uneasy!

    Kou Zhong said in astonishment, I did not expect Ol Ba to empathize with Ling Shao like this.

    Sneering, Ba Fenghan replied, I, Ba Fenghan, rarely made friends with others, but for some reason I hit it off with you guys. Since we are friends, we should be more sympathetic to each other. Giving thought to others is the way of friendship.

    Frowning, Kou Zhong said, Its not that I didnt give thought to Xiao Ling, but the idea you proposed just now is easy to grasp, but difficult to put into practice. Just think! Such a big Buddhist Hall, unless we disturb one of the monks peace, grabbing him to be questioned via torture, how are we going to know whether the Jade Annulus of He Clan is in the Temple?

    Ba Fenghan was ready with the answer, To untie the bell, one first needs the person who tied the bell [correction courtesy of CFT]. Listen to my reasoning first!

    Astounded, the two boys asked, What reasoning?

    Ba Fenghan slyly said, Supposing that guy called Qin Chuan was really Shi Feixuan in disguise, most likely she had just received the Jade Annulus of He Clan from Ning Daoqis hands, before going to test whether Li Shimin has the qualifications to be the future Son of Heaven. Thereupon Ziling was sensing the treasure in her bosom

    Kou Zhong was shaken, I got it! he said, Therefore, as long as Ziling went to Jing Nian Chan Si to stroll all the way around, he would know where the Jade Annulus of He Clan is hidden, or perhaps it is practically not in the Temple at all! That is indeed a good idea.

    Ba Fenghans eyes flickered with cold rays; he spoke in heavy voice, However, our wishful thinking might completely misfire.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, Since Shi Feixuan felt completely at ease handing the Jade Annulus of He Clan to Liao Kong Chanzhu for safekeeping, she must have full confidence that he has the ability to protect the treasure. Just from the fact that what he is training is called silent meditation or something, and that even Wang Shichong is unable to gauge his depth, we know that his accomplishment must not be a small matter.

    Kou Zhong said, If the treasure can be stolen easily, Wang Shichong has already made his move early on. Hey! Something is not right here.

    The other two cast him a questioning look.

    Kou Zhong appeared to be in deep thought. He said, When I asked why Wang Shichong himself did not send people to steal the treasure, he revealed a bitter expression, as if he was having a pent-up unspoken grievances. Perhaps he has indeed sent martial art masters to probe the actual situation, but failed miserably; hence he pleaded with us to do it.

    Listening to this, Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling frowned deeply, because if someone has already beaten the grass to scare the snake, even if Shi Feixuan did not hesitate in leaving the treasure in the Temple, Jing Nian Chan Yuan would definitely be on alert, so that the difficulty in stealing the treasure would increase tremendously.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, Your conjecture makes a lot of sense. I dont believe Wang Shichong would be willing to trust you like this in such a short time. Besides, anybody could see that you are a highly ambitious person, so it is unlikely that you would be willing to bend under other peoples wild ambition. Therefore, it is possible that this is no more than killing people with borrowed knife stratagem. The Jade Annulus of He Clan basically is not in the Temple. This is called before the crafty rabbit is dead, the hunting dog is being cooked first.

    Smiling ruefully, Kou Zhong said, Xiongdi is making fun of me again!

    Ba Fenghan burst out laughing and said, I really dont get you two. But Zilings speculation is very reasonable. This whole thing might be no more than Wang Shichongs scheme to frame you up, and it looks to me that is the case. Hey! Shangguan Longs carriage is here!

    Ba Fenghan stepped into the street in large strides. He was about to cross the busy street with endless stream of horse and carriages when Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong pulled him back from left and right. Why are you pulling me back? he was puzzled.

    Embarrassed, Kou Zhong said, I forgot to tell you that the two of us lack pleasure house luck; whenever we went to pleasure house, not once we had good result.

    Laughing involuntarily, Ba Fenghan said, Turns out there is such a thing. So should we just go home and sleep now? Or should I attack Shangguan Long and take him to the street, and then you two finish him off?

    With determination in his voice, Xu Ziling said, Tonight we are going to fight. But at least you should tell us your battle plan!

    Calmly Ba Fenghan said, Just dealing with a big bandit from Yin Gui Pai, why must we use any plan? Just use the style of horse thief killing people. We come like a thunderbolt, before it reaches their ears, we charge inside, and after catching one, well find a place and let me do the interrogation. I guarantee that he would even spill everything, including his ancient ancestors, out, along with the tray.

    Sneering, Kou Zhong said, Isnt that a plan? In the Thirty-Six Stratagems, this one is called using speed to defeat the slow, to catch an enemy off guard with a surprise attack [idiom, from Sunzi's The Art of War]. But you have to tell us in which courtyard and which wing Shangguan Longs private chamber is, lest we grope the wrong door.

    Smiling wryly, Ba Fenghan said, Forgive me for being unable to comply to your request, because I dont know either. Therefore, be prepared to do a room-to-room search, to disturb him and turn his world upside down, while we are having a good stretch at the same time.

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

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, Ill do the work, two Laodi [lit. old younger brother] please set your heart at ease. I was just joking with you! Come! Pleasure house is the kind of place where as long as you have gold in your purse you may come in. Well find four or five nice girls first to chat while taking the time in making our decision!

    Kou Zhong was puzzled, There are only three of us, why do you want to get four or five, that many girls to accompany us?

    Fixing his gaze at Man Qing Yuans main gate across the street, Ba Fenghan slyly said, This is outside the Thirty-Six Stratagems; the thirty-seventh stratagem is called with many monks there is not enough gruel [fig. demand exceeds supply]. Among a group of women fighting over our attention, it is easier to feed the natural appetite and lust of the gentleman. People like you, who are making your debut, must learn this stratagem.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were amused, while thinking that they had so much to learn.

    The more they came in contact with Ba Fenghan, the more they felt that he was so unlike his cold-hearted exterior, but was a lot more witty than an average person.

    At this time, several people were coming toward Man Qing Yuan, stopped outside, then confidently walked in. One of them was elegant and charming. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exclaimed together in low voice, Song Shidao!

    Unexpectedly it was the martial art master from the Song Clan, Song Yuzhis second elder brother Song Shidao, whom they have not seen in a very long time.

    In the past, it was because Song Shidao had admiration toward Fu Junchuo that he invited them to board his ship sailing to the west. These scenes were still fresh in their mind, as if it happened only yesterday. They could not help feeling overwhelmed with emotion.

    By the time the three of them were crossing the street, there were two, three more Wulin figures entered the brothel, as if they already had an appointment.

    Something is fishy, Ba Fenghan spoke in low voice, Definitely something is going on at Man Qing Yuan.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong nodded their head in agreement.

    But because by this time they had reached the Courtyards front door, it was inconvenient to talk, therefore they remained silent as they stepped into the door.

    Several big men guarding the door immediately stretched out their arms to block the three. They said, Tonight Man Qing Yuan is reserved by Changbai Wangye [king/prince]; if you do not have invitation forgive us for not being able to entertain you. Three gentlemen please go to another House!

    Kou Zhong was stunned. Luoyang has a Huangye [emperor], that is not strange, what kind of ye [master, lord] does Changbai have?

    Noticing the threes imposing appearance: a scar-faced man, a pockmark-faced man, and a black-faced man, which, obviously were not lay practitioners of Buddhism, the doorkeepers could only swallow their anger and grumpily explained, Wangye is Zhi Shi Lang [lit. the guy (or minister) who understands the era] Wang Bo Daye, not Huangye.

    Hearing that, the three were shocked in their hearts.

    Wang Bo was the number one martial art master of Changbai [Changbai is the mountain range on the border between China and North Korea]. In term of martial art skill, his reputation was resounding over the northern area, above Li Mi, Du Fuwei and the likes. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling even had a fight with his heir apparent, Wang Kuijie, who, in term of martial art skill, could also be numbered among top ranking martial art masters. From this, they could infer Wang Bos superiority.

    Curiously, Wang Bo has always been dominating the Changbai region; why would he suddenly come to Luoyang? Moreover, he seemed to be flaunting his prestige by reserving Man Qing Yuan and holding a big banquet inviting Jianghu friends. Wouldnt it mean he regarded Wang Shichong as nothing? However, thinking deeper, they knew that right now Wang Shichong was too busy to deal with Wang Bo.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud; sailing with the wind, he said, Of course we know who Wanggong is! I was just kidding! We came tonight precisely because we have an appointment. Its just that because we were taking our time that we are half a step late. A moment ago Song Shidao Xiong has just walked in, we are in his party. Our invitation card happened to be in his possession. Dont believe me? Would Laoxiong do me a favor by taking us to meet him, and you can ask him out!

    None of those guards was not Jianghu veteran; naturally it would not be easy for him to mislead them. One of them laughed and said, Turns out Song Taiyes [big master] friends. May I ask three gentlemens honorable surname and great given name? Let Xiaoren ask Song Ye first, and then well show gentlemen the way.

    Naturally Kou Zhong had already anticipated this; he gladly said, Please tell Song Ye that Fu Renzhong is here!

    The man left in a hurry.

    The three tactfully stood aside, so that they would not block other guests from entering.

    The guests were streaming in endlessly. Looking at their imposing manner, it appeared that they were all important figures of the Jianghu [orig. have head have face].

    Kou Zhong took this opportunity to fish for information. First he made an indirect approach toward one of the doorkeepers, How many girls does your Man Qing Yuan have? Whats this Dages honorable surname?

    The one he asked was a rather old man. Oftentimes people with more experience would be reluctant to offend others over trivial matters.

    Sure enough, that man replied, Xiaoren is Li Xiong. You must be new in Luoyang. Our Man Qing Yuan have three hundred girls in total, all are carefully chosen, one in a thousand.

    Xu Ziling, however, had no interest in listening to their exchange; pulling Ba Fenghan three, four steps aside, he spoke in low voice, This time Wang Bo is having a banquet here, it should be known to everyone; how come Princess did not tell you?

    Frowning, Ba Fenghan replied, She had no idea I am going to deal with Shangguan Long. But even if she knew but did not tell me, there must be a little problem.

    Meanwhile a group of about a dozen people, with invitation card in their hand, entered the Courtyard gate. Taking a glimpse out of the corner of his eye, Xu Ziling was surprised to see Li Jing among those people. Knowing that Li Jing would recognize his scar face disguise, he hurriedly turned around and hunched his back a little bit.

    Kou Zhong, who was fishing for information, was also scared that he immediately closed his mouth, afraid that Li Jing would recognize his voice.

    But Li Jing and his party thought that the three were just doorkeepers, so without paying any attention they simply walked in.

    Ba Fenghan whispered in Xu Zilings ear, And what a coincidence; you just asked, and here comes the answer.

    Xu Ziling was stunned, What answer? he asked.

    Smiling wryly, Ba Fenghan said, Just now that was Wanjing in mens clothes, with her were, I dont need to tell you, that kid Li Shimins men. Do you understand?

    Kou Zhong came over to the two and said in low voice, Turns out two major events might be happening simultaneously here tonight: one cultural, the other martial art. Dont you agree that this is brilliant?

    Ba Fenghans expression was back to normal; he laughed and said, Tell me.

    Kou Zhong said, The cultural event is that the world-famous talented woman Shang Xiufang may come here to have a performance of singing and dancing. The martial event is that with Wang Bo presiding, there are two great martial artists from outside the country who will have a duel to the death.

    And then, giggling mysteriously, he added, One of them is our old friend!

    Surprised, the other two asked, Who is it?

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Its Qu Ao, that old kid.

    Listening to him, Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan looked at each other.

    Qu Le Eagle [I think it was Tiele Eagle previously] Qu Ao was one of the finest martial art masters whose reputation trailed Bi Xuans closely. He did not come to give you trouble, you may give thanks to God and consider yourself lucky. But now somebody actually dared to challenge him in a duel. This was really unexpected.

    Whos the other one? Ba Fenghan asked in heavy voice.

    Kou Zhong replied, The other is a Tuyuhun, but I do not have his name yet.

    Shaken, Ba Fenghan said, Must be Tuyuhun king Fu Yuns son, Fu Qian. When I was north of Xinjiang, I already heard about this man; he is an expert in using spears, on the battlefields his divine bravely unrivalled. Only he has the guts, as well as qualifications, to challenge Qu Ao.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling immediately recalled Liu Heita has also mentioned this man. He also said that Tuyuhun and Tiele were mortal enemies. No wonder even after they were in the Central Plains, they were still unwilling to let go of each other.

    Kou Zhong mumbled to himself, Turns out that kid who already grew beard when he was still a baby. Ha!

    Song Shidaos voice came from the distance, Renzhong! Turns out it is you!

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling turned around to meet Song Shidao, who was walking over toward them, face-to-face.

    Song Shidao obviously did not recognize their disguise; he stopped in shock.

    Kou Zhong walked over and called in low voice, Its me! We are wearing mask. Ay! Our Niang is dead.

    Because of Fu Junchuos affair, previously the two boys were having childish jealousy toward Song Shidao. But now that Fu Junchuo was dead, seeing Song Shidao, whose hair was originally jet-black, now the hair on his temples seemed to have sprinkles of white powder, his eyes exuded a grim and melancholy look, which was hard to understand, their hearts were moved, as if they were meeting a long-lost relative; they were filled with an indescribable feeling.

    Song Shidaos body slightly shook; looking up to heaven, there was a hint of glistening teardrops in his eyes. He heaved a deep sigh before hanging down his head and spoke in heavy voice, Was it Yuwen Huaji, that traitors hand?

    Kou Zhong nodded dolefully.

    With hatred in his voice Song Shidao said, Good! Good!

    And then, looking up to heaven again he laughed aloud, but his laughter was filled with indescribable grief and indignation. Lets go in and talk! he said in a clear, bright voice.

    Turning around, he led the way. His steps staggered; obviously his was emotionally shaken and had difficulty controlling himself.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had never expected that an elegant, suave, confident and always at ease, man like Song Shidao could have such a deep feeling toward Fu Junchuo. They felt sorry for him, but also unbearably sad.

    As they were starting to move, there were light footsteps from behind. As they were turning around to look, the beautiful and flowery Shen Luoyan already threw her tender body in between the two boys, while hooking her pair of jade arms into the crook of the two boys arms. Smiling enchantingly, she said, Its so difficult to find you! Zhong Shaoye, are you wearing a mask? Is it a premium product from Lu Miaozis amazing hands?

    Ba Fenghan took his position behind the three, so that with Song Shidao in front, Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling and Shen Luoyan in the middle, and Ba Fenghan at the rear, each one with his or her own thought, they walked together toward Man Qing Yuans main hall.

  13. #153
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 13 Chapter 9

    Book 13 Chapter 9 Life Without Regret

    Feeling Shen Luoyans soft, yet firm, silky breast pressing against his left arm, Kou Zhongs heart was slightly swept away. Looking back, he exchanged a glance with Ba Fenghan, but did not see Shen Luoyan bringing any attendant. Surprised, he asked, Why did Shen Junshi come alone? Your boyfriend Shiji did not have time to accompany you?

    At first Shen Luoyan looked at him with solemn and respectful expression, as if she was completely aloof toward the intimacy shown to her. After a quick glance toward Xu Ziling, who had his gaze fixed that the back of Song Shidao, who was walking in front of him, she smiled like a blooming flower, overflowing with seductive appearance, and said, Just like you, I was one step late! Why dont you go to Er Shaoyes [second young master] wing? Jiejie will come later to have a heart-to-heart chat with you. Ay! Just get rid of these three masks! Are you going to do something shady?

    Releasing her lily-white hands, she stopped just before Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stepped into the main hall.

    Ba Fenghan continued walking until he was side-by-side with her; laughing indifferently, he said, If you want to kill us, you must not miss tonights opportunity; otherwise you might not find another convenient time.

    A murderous intent flashed through Shen Luoyans eyes, but it vanished as quickly, although she did not say anything.

    Man Qing Yuan was worthy to be called Luoyangs most upscale pleasure house; the design was indeed unique and distinguished.

    Wang Bos banquet was held in Tingliu Pavilion [lit. listening to the remains], located behind the main hall.

    On the east, west, north and south there were four three-story buildings forming a square, encircling a vast, about fifty-zhang wide, garden area in the middle.

    Each floor on each building contained more than a dozen rooms, with the window of each room opened toward the garden, and in front of each window there was an individual balcony, so that the people in each room had full visibility of the garden below.

    Compared to the buildings in the south, Man Qing Yuan was definitely more grand, more luxurious, and more beautiful. Especially compared to Jiangnans architecture, which emphasis was in simplicity and elegance, so much so that it tended to be plain, this complexs exquisite architecture both in building and landscape was vastly different.

    Tingliu Pavilion embodied the combined functionality of partition and see through. It utilized some kind of enormous closed screen to cleverly bring about a feeling of it was there, but not really there. Although it relied mainly on the building itself to define its space, yet virtually it had the spirit of a garden, combining the interior and exterior as one entity in perfect harmony, with an artistic concept of creating an unlimited space out of the confinement of the limited space.

    The side of the multi-story buildings facing the garden were interlinked with semi-corridor; not only it enforced the impression of the empty space of the garden, it also enforced the idea that in essence the four buildings were actually one.

    Right in the middle of the garden there was a large fishpond. This even-more-open space strengthened the admiration of the guests.

    The ground all around the fishpond was verdant with green grass and artificial brook; there was also a gravel path wound around the pond. From higher elevation the winding path and the verdant grass formed a beautiful pattern that warmed the heart and delighted the eye.

    When the path met the brook, it became the arch of a small bridge, so that the entire garden never fell into monotonous and dull scenery.

    Whether it was a performance or a duel, the people on the surrounding rooms would be able to watch simultaneously. It was obvious that Wang Bo knew how to choose a good place for his banquet.

    The three followed Song Shidao climbing the stairs to a room on the top floor of the building on the north side. They already felt that tonight would be interesting, but they were also groaning inwardly, because under such circumstances, how could they make their move against Shangguan Long?

    This moment all rooms on all three floors of the four buildings around the garden were brightly lit, plus there were palace lanterns hanging every few steps along the semi-corridor around the garden, making the entire garden as bright as day. With the noise of people talking and laughing, the atmosphere was boiling hot.

    Song Shidao stopped in front of a certain door; looking up, he took a deep breath to calm himself down.

    Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan, three people also stopped behind him, waiting for him to speak.

    Along the corridor richly attired beautiful courtesans and good-looking maid servants were going back and forth in and out of the rooms, like a lovely scene of blossoming plants swaying in the breeze, dazzling those who watched them. Seeing the four men, the women repeatedly sent coquettish glances, but clearly they were most interested in the handsome Song Shidao, because after putting on their masks, the other three were concealing their extraordinary good looks.

    Nevertheless, Song Shidao was turning a blind eye to them. With a soft sigh he said, I have never accepted the fact that Junchuo had died. How could the Heaven be so heartless, the spring flower has fallen before it wilted? I will definitely put that traitor Yuwen Huajin under my blade.

    The three did not expect Song Shidao to be so deep in love that momentarily they did not know what to say.

    Song Shidao sighed and said, San Mei [third (younger) sister did not wish to see Xiao Zhong, I have arranged another room nearby for her. Come!

    Stunned, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged glances. It was only then did they know Song Yuzhi was coming as well.

    Song Shidao downed a cup of strong wine in one gulp. Kou Zhong narrated in details the events leading to Fu Junchuos death.

    In the other rooms, near and far, the sound of people talking and laughing, finger-guessing game and drinking contest, mixed with the sound of woodwind and string ensemble, so that Man Qing Yuan appeared to be burning with the fire of life.

    Only in this room everybodys expression was solemn. The good-looking maids and beautiful courtesans did not dare to come in and disturb them.

    Ba Fenghan was the most awkward, because until now Song Shidao did not even ask his name.

    Song Shidao only stared blankly at Kou Zhong refilling his cup on the table for the fifth time; he remained silent as if he was a stone carving without any life in it.

    Kou Zhong reached out to peel his mask off, breathed a sigh of relief and said, Wearing this ghost thingy is really uncomfortable.

    Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan also felt that wearing a mask to conceal their face was of no use anymore, thereupon they also took their mask off.

    As if he was completely oblivious of what they were doing, Song Shidao asked in heavy voice, Did Junchuo ever mention me?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other; they were unable to respond.

    Song Shidao smiled sadly, picked up the wine cup from the table, and rose up. Facing the garden under the platform, which looked like a roll of big painting, he shook his head and said with a sigh, I dont care how she treated me, but my love for her is just like a life without regret. Where is that small valley? After I kill Yuwen Huaji, I am going to build a cottage and live there, so she wont be lonely.

    Xu Ziling felt as if the pit of his stomach was pressed down by a thousand-catty rock; with labored breathing he said dejectedly, When we have time later, well take Er Gongzi [second young master] there to visit Niang!

    Song Shidao shook his head, No! he said, I want to go there alone. As long as you tell me the approximate location, I am sure I can find it.

    Clearing his throat, Kou Zhong said, Telling Er Gongzi is not a problem. Hey! But can we talk about the condition first?

    Song Shidao was greatly surprised, There is a condition on this? he said, No wonder San Mei did not like you.

    Kou Zhong was greatly embarrassed; he said, I only wish that Er Gongzi would leave the matter of killing Yuwen Huaji to us, her two sons!

    Xu Ziling added with determination in his voice, Just before her death, Niang urged us to train martial art well, so that we can take revenge for her.

    Song Shidao was silent for half a day. Finally he said dejectedly, Very well! Based on your skill, with which you were able to kill Ren Shaoming, dealing with Yuwen Huaji shouldnt be any problem.

    And then his eyes lit up with strange gleam. Quickly tell me where your Niangs grave is! he urged.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged glances. And then, making up their mind, they stood up and whispered the location of the little valley in Song Shidaos ear.

    Finished listening, Song Shidao poured the wine in his cup into his mouth, laughed aloud, and cheerfully returned to his seat.

    Dumbstruck, the three could only look at him in consternation.

    Song Shidao acted as if Fu Junchuo basically had not died; moreover, she had married him and become his wife. He spoke lightly, After our business here is done tonight, I am going there to accompany Junchuo.

    And then, turning to Ba Fenghan, he laughed pleasantly and said, And could this gentleman be Ba Xiong? Based on what the Tujue people told me, you look like their description: strange and grand, imposing and heroic.

    Ba Fenghan was focusing his attention on the situation outside, people were going back and forth; hearing the question, he composed himself and replied indifferently, Ol Ba also often feels that the Heaven did not treat me meagerly, because of my oath life without surrender I am always able to pay back.


    Song Shidao had returned to his usual poise; he slapped the table and praised, Life without surrender, well said! Xiao Zhong, pour the wine, let me offer Ba Xiongdi a toast.

    Kou Zhong quickly assumed his modest, honest and loyal demeanor, and poured wine for the two men. He tried hard to dilute the sad and difficult-to-comfort atmosphere a moment ago.

    After staring silently at Song Shidao for half a day, Ba Fenghan laughed aloud and said, I, Ba Fenghan, have always look down on respectable school and big clans people, believing firmly that all rich and powerful families are wastrels. But seeing Er Gongzi can have a passion as deep as the ocean for a woman that you only met once, and will never change as long as you live, thinking about my own painstaking pursuit of the way of the martial art, I can only have one word to describe my feeling toward Er Gongzi: admiration. This toast, I will make an exception, I am going to drink.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stared blankly at Ba Fenghan; it has been a long time since they saw his overbearing and flaunting-his-ability demeanor like this. A strange feeling rose up in their hearts.

    Song Shidao was slightly startled, but then he laughed involuntarily and said, Since the Heaven has not treated you meagerly, why should Ba Xiongdi be hostile at others who enjoy the same luck? This is actually the problem of the heart. Take me for example, as soon as I know where Junchuo is, I immediately feel that she is alive again in my heart; there is no more regret in my life. Come! Bottoms up!


    The wine cups clinked against each other. Both men drained the cup in one gulp.

    A trace of blush flitted across Ba Fenghans snow-white-like-jade perfect face, which quickly vanished. His pair of tiger-eyes flashed brightly. After wiping the corner of his mouth with his sleeve, he coldly said, Just consider this cup is to toast me on my challenge to Qu Ao.

    What? Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling blurted together.

    Ba Fenghans pair of eyes flashed even brighter, filled with strong fighting spirit and confidence. Throwing his head back, he laughed aloud and said, That day Qu Ao failed to kill me, it was the greatest mistake of his life. Because I have already figured out the cards in his hand; therefore, how could I miss this kind of golden opportunity?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were shocked; both thought that this was desperately serious.

    Although Ba Fenghan was a rare genius of martial art, but with his limited experience, maturity, and power, he was still a distance away from Qu Ao, whose fame has spread outside the country for several decades.

    After being kicked by Kou Zhong under the table, Xu Ziling hastily made a suggestion, If Ba Xiong made your move, whether you win or you lose, tonight we can forget about getting Shangguan Long, that kid!

    Taken aback, Song Shidao said, What gratitude and grudges does Luoyang Bangs Shangguan Long have against you?

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong replied, Is it not because of Niangs meizi [younger sister] Yu Yi? Only by capturing Shangguan Long and beating him up will we be able to save her.

    Greatly shaken, Song Shidao said, Junchuo has a meizi?

    Kou Zhongs heart was moved; leaning closer, while radiant with delight, he said, She looks a lot like Niang! Not in form, but in spirit. When Er Gongzi sees her, you will know what I mean.

    Frowning, Song Shidao said, Why do you keep calling me Er Gongzi this and Er Gongzi that?

    Kou Zhongs smile turned even more bitter; awkward, but honestly, he replied, Are you saying that I ought to call you Song Shushu [uncle]? Then how am I supposed to call your San Mei?

    In that instant, the room fell silent, as if the time froze over. And then these several men roared in laughter at the same time, laughing so hard that tears fell from their eyes and they had to hold their belly with both hands.

    Getting hold of himself, Kou Zhong reached out to pat Ba Fenghans wide shoulder and leaned closer to say, Ol Ba, you have to be good and help us saving Yu Yi.

    Ba Fenghan sighed and said, Whenever I make up my mind, I have never looked back. Under tonights circumstances, it is still possible to kill Shangguan Long, but there is no way we can capture him alive.

    Smiling, Song Shidao said, If you have my help, the situation will be completely different; am I right?

    The three were dumbstruck, but then they nodded their head simultaneously.

    Based on the Song Clans reputation and prestige, dealing with Shangguan Long was not out of the question.

    If they could outsmart him by using strategy, naturally it would be much better than by using brute force.

    Knock! Knock! Knock! Someone was knocking on their door.

    A sweet-sounding male voice rang out, Zaixia Qin Chuan; I wonder if Song Shidao Xiong is here?

    Xu Ziling, Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong looked at each other in shock.

    Wasnt Qin Chuan Shi Feixuan?

    No wonder she was right outside the door but nobody detected her presence.

    Surprised and unsure of what to do, Song Shidao replied, The door is not bolted, Qin Xiong, please come in!

    Outside the door, Qin Chuan replied, Xiaodi has a few questions; speaking over the door like this would be more convenient.

    Frowning, Song Shidao said, Is it possible for Qin Xiong to introduce yourself? Otherwise please forgive Ol Song for refusing to answer questions over the door.

    Remaining tranquil and calm, Qin Chuan said, People say that from the Song Clan, Song Shidao is the most outstanding hero with great aspirations. If you adhere rigidly to your status and refuse to talk over the door, Ol Qin has no choice but to admit failure and walk away to avoid any problem.

    Song Shidao laughed aloud and said, Well said! Your argument against the refusing to talk over the door certainly is reasonable. Speak up then!

    Xu Ziling, three persons, understood immediately. Shi Feixuan was playing her trick in selecting the future emperor.

    Qin Chuan calmly said, I just want to ask Song Xiong, what is the meaning of life?

    Song Shidao was stunned for half a day. Finally a pained smile appeared on the corner of his mouth; with forlorn expression he replied, Before tonight, the meaning of life lay in whether one could spread out his aspiration to the greatest extend, to accomplish something that is profitable to mankind. But now I feel like life is but a dream, death is also a dream; in fact the whole life is just a big dream. All of us are living as if being drunk, and dying as if in a dream, drifting along in the sea of bitterness [Buddhist term], hard to extricate ourselves.

    Listening to this, Xu Ziling and the others could only shake their heads; they all thought that it would be strange indeed if Shi Feixuan would select Song Shidao.

    Outside the door, Qin Chuan was silent for half a day, before letting out a light sigh and said, Song Xiongs words are indeed thought-provoking. But human came to this mortal life, if not for doing something on his own, then he must be doing something because he is required to. Which one is Song Xiong and why?

    Even Ba Fenghan showed admiration on his face.

    Qin Chuans pointed question was incomparably remarkable.

    Smiling ruefully, Song Shidao said, Right now I just want to drink two cups of wine. How about Qin Xiong come in and have a toast with me?

    Qin Chuan replied indifferently, I understand. Xiaodis taking my leave!

    With a leap Kou Zhong rushed toward the door and pulled it open. Sticking his head out, Qin Chuans shadow has already vanished. Quickly grabbing a pretty maid who happened to pass by and asked, The man who had just stood outside the door, what did he look like?

    The pretty maid laughed tenderly and replied, What man are you talking about? Taking a glance at the other three men inside, her beautiful eyes immediately lit up. Trying to ingratiate herself, she said, Would four Daye like to have maids serving you?

    Kou Zhong was not in the mood to flirt around with her; he smiled and said, We are in the middle of secret meeting, no need!

    Ignoring her disappointed look, he simply closed the door. At a loss, he said, How could it happen again?

    Frowning, Ba Fenghan said, This might be some kind of brilliant transmitting-sound technique, using martial art skill to control the voice, bringing about the someone-outside-the-door effect. But she must be somewhere nearby too.

    Looking at Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong asked, Ling Shao, did you feel anything?

    Thinking deeply, Xu Ziling said, I did not have the slightest feeling.

    Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong were shaken, In that case they blurted out almost simultaneously, but also shut up immediately.

    Puzzled, Song Shidao asked, In that case what?

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, Nothing! In that case it goes to show how formidable that Qin Chuan is, hence Xiao Ling did not feel anything.

    Xu Ziling naturally understood that Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong were thinking that the Jade Annulus of the He Clan must not be on Shi Feixuan; otherwise he would have felt its presence. This fact was extremely important; it also indirectly confirmed that Wang Shichong had not lied.

    Such an important treasure, yet she did not carry it with her; there must be a very unusual reason.

    Qin Chuan has evoked the load in Song Shidaos mind; after drinking two more cups of wine, he stood up and said, Wang Bo wont be here until xu hour [between 7-9 pm], we still have more than half a sichen before the banquet is officially begun. Do you guys want to call a few gorgeous hostesses to accompany you to while the time away?

    Kou Zhong and the others knew he was leaving, so they also stood up to send him off.

    Xu Ziling said, We just want to quietly drink our wine.

    Walking toward the door, Song Shidao nodded and said, That would be good too. I am going next door to chat a little bit, and then Ill come back to discuss with you our rescue plan.

    Ba Fenghan said, Ol Ba has something Id like to ask for guidance. Wang Bo is far away at Changbai, why did he suddenly come to Luoyang to hold a banquet here, and made arrangement for a duel between Fu Qian and Qu Ao, and even invited the tremendously popular Shang Xiufang to perform here?

    Frowning, Song Shidao said, I am afraid nobody is too clear on this. Only after declaring his intention to give up striving for the world about half a year ago Wang Bos prestige in Jianghu rose rather than fell. Therefore, this time he issued hero invitation for the friends to come to Luoyang to watch the duel, to coincide with the Jade Annulus of He Clans matter. Hence no one wanted to miss this opportunity.

    And then he smiled and said, I will drop in to say hello to Shangguan Long and snoop out the enemy. I will be back to report to three gentlemen.

    Turning to Kou Zhong, he said, Just now it was San Mei who guessed correctly that the name Renzhong was the Zhong character; otherwise, in such a short period of time I would not have guessed that it was you. [Translators note: the character Zhong仲 from Kou Zhongs name is actually the character zhong中 (middle/center) with ren 人 radical.]

    After Song Shidao left, the three sat down again.

    Frowning, Ba Fenghan said, This is very strange. Could it be that tonight is Yin Gui Pais plot? Because Qu Ao has always been in collusion with Yin Gui Pai, and moreover, this Man Qing Yuan belongs to Shangguan Long.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, If they could kill everybody who came to this banquet in one fell swoop, it would give Yin Gui Pai a lot of convenience. But this is very not likely, because even Wang Shichong in his own territory would not dare to do such folly.

    Xu Ziling guessed, Maybe Yin Gui Pai has developed some kind of extremely formidable poison that even the top martial art masters would be taken in, and afterwards they would put all the blame on Wang Bo.

    Kou Zhong shook his head, There is no such poison in the world, he said, In my opinion, Qu Ao came to the Central Plains this time with his grand ambition to use this as a pretext to establish his prestige, while eliminating Fu Qian, this thorn in his side. One move, two gains; what can you have against it?

    Ba Fenghan said, In terms of name and talent, Qu Ao and Fu Qian, these two are almost the same! But I am not surprised that Zhong Shao made that mistake, because you did not know Fu Qians formidability. Wang Bo renouncing his plan to vie over the world, quite possibly it has something to do with him.

    Kou Zhong was taken aback. You mean Fu Qian has a better chance than Qu Ao? he asked.

    This is really hard to say, Ba Fenghan replied, But we have had confrontation with Qu Ao before; dont you think that Qu Ao is not as formidable as we imagined him to be? While I was at the Western Regions, I heard that in recent years Qu Ao has been indulging himself in wine and women. You ought to remember that martial art is like rowing the boat upstream; if you stop moving forward, you fall back. Apparently this saying is not false.

    Exhaling a mouthful of cold air, Xu Ziling said, He is doing less well than before, yet he is still that formidable. If he was not crazy about wine and women, wouldnt we be finished early on?

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, After coming out of our mothers womb, everybody must compete against others. Those who want to stand out among their peers must pay the price. But although its difficult to begin an undertaking, it is more difficult to preserve the accomplishments of previous generations. Country is like that, martial art is also like that.

    It was as if Kou Zhong did not even hear the exchange between the two; he suddenly spoke up, If, under the impossibility of tonights circumstances, we managed to capture Shangguan Long, wouldnt it be grand?

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, There is nothing impossible in the world. The problem is that other than being an important figure in Yin Gui Pai, Shangguan Longs men must be very strong as well. If we want to catch him alive, once we failed, next time dont even think we will be able to repeat it. Therefore, without seventy, eighty-percent confidence, we should not act blindly without thinking.

    Kou Zhong said, As long as he is alone, we have a chance; he cant be as strong as Bian Bufu!

    Shaking his head, Ba Fenghan said, Shangguan Long is a wily old fox, for sure. Otherwise he cant possibly occupy such an important position in Yin Gui Pai. Even if Song Er Gongzi is willing to help us, we cant expect to find him alone before we could make our move.

    Kou Zhong appeared as if he was thinking of something funny. He said gleefully, When he is going to the latrine, he cant possibly have a whole bunch of people heralding from the front and thronging from the rear, can he?

    The two men had to smile.

    Laughing and scolding, Xu Ziling said, First of all, you have to know when and where he is going. But this valuable intelligence is not easy to get. It could only work if we know his entire schedule. Hey!

    Knowing his superior ability and wisdom, the other two looked expectantly at him, wanting to hear what he thought.

    With a bitter smile Xu Ziling and said, Dont look at me like that, I only grasped something vaguely, but not sure whether it would work.

    Ba Fenghan said, Since we are unable to find any solution anyway, why dont you tell us what you think?

    Xu Ziling said, The reason we are targeting Shangguan Long is simply because of his relatively high position within the Yin Gui Pai, and thus he is privy of a lot of Yin Gui Pais classified information, so if necessary, we can trade him for Yu Yi. But if the problem is only to find out Yu Yis whereabouts, by catching Shangguan Longs left and right hands man or someone like that, we might also obtain the same information, only it would be much easier.

    Recalling the tragic death of Bao Zhifu, three men, Kou Zhongs eyes shone with strong murderous aura. He said, As long as we are sure that Yu Yi did not fall into Yin Gui Pais hands, tonight I will challenge Shangguan Long and take his dog life.

    Ba Fenghan said, Just hand over Qu Ao to me, will you?

    Knitting his brow, Xu Ziling said, Making this matter a big deal will actually do us more harm than good. If either female demon Wan or Bian Bufu is disguising themselves as Shangguan Longs subordinate and take up the challenge for him, would Zhong Shao still have such confidence?

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, With Shi Feixuan, this archenemy spying upon nearby, how could female demon Wan lightly show herself up? As for dealing with Bian Bufu, I, Kou Zhong, am not necessarily without any hope of victory.

    Ba Fenghan nodded and said, This plan is indeed feasible. Bian Bufu has always been secretive, under this kind of circumstances he would certainly not show up his face.

    Severely shaken, Kou Zhong said, I have an idea!

    He had just finished speaking, Song Yuzhis voice rang outside the door, Kou Zhong, get the hell out of there!

  14. #154
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 13 Chapter 10

    Book 13 Chapter 10 Verbal Sparring at the Pleasure House

    Following the taut-faced Song Yuzhi, Kou Zhong went to the corridor on the third floor on the side opposite to the garden in the middle. The Song Clan beauty was standing leaning against the railing, as she spoke coldly, You knew perfectly well that I was in the next room, yet you did not come to see me?

    Kou Zhong waited for a group of constantly-sizing-the-two-of-them-up Jianghu figures to pass by before sighing and said, I was afraid to provoke you to anger, so I wanted to see the way the wind blows and the intensity of the fire first! Hey! Yu hey! Miss Song, please calm down.

    Song Yuzhi cast her gaze far beyond Man Qing Yuan, toward Luoyang nightscape, which was ablaze with lights. Her beautiful hair fluttered in the night breeze; she looked as beautiful as the statue of a revered goddess. Moreover, from her perfectly straight and luxuriant hair, down to the bridge of her nose, people could feel her firm, strong and unyielding character, which also intensified her delicate and pretty, and haughty temperament.

    With his flank leaning against the railing, Kou Zhong enjoyed the silhouette of her face from the side. Suddenly he remembered Li Xiuning, and his heart was burning with a feeling of guilt.

    Song Yuzhi spoke indifferently, These days my mood is not too good. But it has nothing to do with you, Kou Zhong. Ay! Why is it that bad people live longer than good people? At least you, Kou Zhong, are not dead yet!

    At first Kou Zhong was stunned, and then he laughed involuntarily and said, With so many people wanting me dead, why isnt Miss Song afraid people would push you over, and still come here to beat up the excitement? If Song San Xiaojie [third young lady] really loathes me, it is enough if you tell me so. Although my face cannot be considered thin, but it still has a certain thickness.

    A hint of smile escaped from Song Yuzhis small mouth; turning her pretty face around, she stared at him ferociously and said, I do not loathe you; I hate you! I hate you for without any reason you came to disturb my heart. Now that it is clear that sooner or later Luoyang will fall into Li Mis hands, and according to the agreement I am going to marry into the Li family, was it for this reason that you did not dare to come see me?

    Kou Zhong scooted over closer to her until he nearly bumped into Song Yuzhis tender body before he came to a halt. Giggling, he said, One day Luoyang has not fallen into Luoyangs hands, this matter has not been decided yet. What worries me is your honorable father, the Heavenly Saber Song Que, the Senior. Due to my humble origins, even if I found the treasure, he might refuse to accept me as his son-in-law.

    Song Yuzhi shifted her gaze back to where it was before; she said with a faint sigh, After the battle of Jingling, who did not have a whole new level of respect for you and Xu Ziling? Even with Du Fuweis ability, plus his superior number of troops, the disabled troops under your command were still able to hold him off outside the broken city wall for more than ten days. The problem is not on my Die, rather, I basically do not want to marry you.

    Kou Zhong was stunned, From your remark earlier, it was obvious that you had great affection for me. Could it be that it was fake?

    Song Yuzhi turned her pretty face toward him, her beautiful eyes stared deeply into his as she spoke with a cold sneer, You are just a typical man; you dont seem to get a straight understanding of a woman, or just always negligent, or presumptuous. If I did not care about you, I would have no wish to speak to you even half a word more. Do you know why I called you out?

    Grabbing his head, Kou Zhong said, Right! What is it?

    Stretching out her jade hand, Song Yuzhi poked his cheek lightly with the tip of her finger, and then said with a gentle smile, Because I want to see whether you are more mature than before. But more importantly I do not wish for you to mess with Li Mi. It would be best if you hide far away. Because according to our secret information, the senior figure, martial art master from Nan Hai Pai, Huang Gongcuo is responding to Li Mis invitation, and is on his way to Luoyang. At that time, the first to suffer calamity will be you, two brothers. Li Mi has already guaranteed to my Die that he would not let you two leave Luoyang alive.

    Puzzled, Kou Zhong asked, What kind of guy or thing is Huang Gongcuo?

    Unhappy, Song Yuzhi replied, If you pick ten people from the Central Plains with the most overbearing martial art skill, Huang Gongcuo will definitely be one; I daresay that he is probably in the top five. Do you know now?

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, The world cant possibly be always the same. Dynasties will change, much less the ranking of martial art masters? In the past, you can randomly pick anybody and he would be able to beat us, one falling down on our face, the other falling flat on our back. But those days are gone. Dont you see that we are still alive and well? This old man Huang cant possibly be more formidable than Yin Gui Pai, can he?

    Her countenance changed, Song Yuzhi asked, You have messed with Yin Gui Pai?

    Kou Zhong laughed calmly and said, Not messing up with them, just fighting to the bitter end [orig. you die, I live] with them. Otherwise, I cant possibly see you tonight. Hee ! Can you say some good things for me? Then even when I die, I could bring some beautiful and happy memory to the netherworld to become a ghost there.

    Song Yuzhi reached out with her fingers and vigorously jabbed his chest twice. With a slight anger in her voice she said, Your Miss here will never say anything untrue to my convictions. My warning, you did not want to listen. So be it! I am leaving!

    Kou Zhong deftly grabbed her jade arm and pulled her to his side.

    Song Yuzhi struggled slightly and spoke crossly, Dont pull my hand or my leg, turn around and leave, Die might send someone to kill you.

    Kou Zhong whispered in her ear, Believe it or not, you are going to marry me!

    Song Yuzhi protested coquettishly, You are boasting shamelessly and acting recklessly!

    Kou Zhong smiled and left.

    He was still perhaps four doors away from his own door when the door of the room just ahead was suddenly flung open, and two shadows flashed out of the room, blocking Kou Zhongs path.

    These two men looked alike, only their heights were different, their ages were about forty, and both had the same ugly nose. Some kind of weird ashen color emanated from their skin, giving the impression that the martial art they trained must be of some strange, demonic school.

    Even when they were still about a zhang away, Kou Zhong already felt their murderous spirit pressing down on him.

    Slightly shivering inwardly, Kou Zhong halted his steps.

    The tall ones eyes shot a deep, cold murderous intent, while putting up a ridiculous self-importance air on his face. Casting a sidelong glance at Kou Zhong, he said, This is called there is a path to paradise you didnt take, there is no door to the netherworld you insist on breaking through. Kid, you did not look for a rat hole to hide, but swaggered over like this; you must be tired of living.

    As soon as he opened his mouth, Kou Zhong recognized the voice as the laoda [first, oldest] of the Two Malevolent of Changbai, Fu Zhen.

    The other man, the short one, must be Fu Yan.

    Although Kou Zhong knew that these two mens power was close to Li Mi, he remained calm and was not afraid at all. Pretending to be surprised, he said, Dont you know Wang Bo is here tonight? If you dont tuck your tail and flee to the wilderness as soon as you can, I am afraid even Li Mi will find it hard to protect you!

    Fu Zhen did not show the slightest bit of anger; he was surprised and said, Good kid! Unexpectedly you know who we are. Since that being the case, you ought to also know that we fear nobody, why still speak such nonsense?

    Seeing he could not get them to lose their temper, Kou Zhong pressed one step forward, laughed aloud and said, Since you fear nobody, then there is no need to run away all the way from Changbai to here. Let Ol Kou see whether the skill of your hands is as strong as your glib tongue!

    Together Fu Zhen, Fu Yan let out a hey hey cold laugh, while their eyes shot ominous glint.

    By having a face off at the corridor like this, they had practically blocked the traffic; on either side behind them immediately piled up maids and the incoming guests who could neither advance nor retreat. The situation was rather chaotic.

    This moment a man stepped out from Fu Zhen, Fu Yans room. Glowering at Kou Zhong, he thundered, Just now, what did you and the Ol Lis fiance [orig. wife who has not pass through the door] talk about?

    Surprisingly, it was Li Mis son, Li Tianfan.

    Kou Zhong swept him with his gaze; laughing heartily, he said, All the Jiejie and Meimei in this place are my, Kou Zhongs fiance [see above]. I wonder which one was Li Xiong talking about?

    Everybody, no exception, was stunned and rose into an uproar.

    Rubbish! a female voice protested coquettishly, Whos your wife? Whod want to marry a man like you?

    Kou Zhong took a closer look; his eyes lit up at once.

    The speaker was a young woman wearing a very elegant tight black warrior outfit, with black belt and black trimming, but with red silk overalls on the outside. While speaking, she revealed a neat row of snow-white teeth. Her stature petite and nimble, her jade countenance carried some kind of as-cold-as-ice-and-frost beautiful lines, yet although she was calm, her face appeared vivid and lively; her overall demeanor was very charming. Something that when one saw her for the first time, the impression was youthful beauty, but the longer he looked the more he saw her strange and fascinating character.

    Kou Zhong immediately recognized her voice; roaring in laughter, he said, Miss Dugu Feng said it well. If those who have not passed through the door can be considered wife, wouldnt the land under the heavens be thrown into big confusion?

    When the crowd, including Li Tianfan and the Two Malevolent of Changbai, suddenly heard the name Dugu Feng [reminder: this is the phoenix Feng], they all craned their neck to look at Dugu Feng, who was standing behind the crowd of people.

    Dugu Feng actually came to give the three some problem, but unexpectedly in just a few words Kou Zhong already recognized her and announced her name to the world. Moreover, she realized that under these kinds of circumstances it would be hard to make her move. Thereupon she only smiled, turned around, and left.

    A majestic voice rang out from behind Kou Zhong, Li Gongzi and two Fu Laoshi [teacher], please give us, Man Qing Yuan, a bit of face. If you have anything, please go outside the Courtyard to deal with it!

    Obviously this man had been observing them for a while, hence he knew that it was Li Tianfan and the others who created the disturbance first, and thus spoke up to advise them.

    Li Tianfan also knew that this was not a good time to fight. Throwing his head back in loud laughter, he led Fu Zhen and Fu Yan back to their room.

    When Kou Zhong was back in his room, Ba Fenghan was sitting in silence, while Xu Ziling was standing in front of the balconys railing, looking up to the heavens. With the sleeve of his robe fluttered in the wind, there was an indescribably proud, above-the-crowd aura surrounding him.

    Seeing him coming back, Ba Fenghan laughed and said, Let me see your face, I want to know if there is an additional palm print from Song San Xiaojie.

    Kou Zhong sat down across the table from Ba Fenghan; as if he was a tired and weary soldier he stared at Ba Fenghan first, and then turned his gaze at Xu Zilings back before whining, Just now I was in trouble outside that even Man Qing Yuan nearly collapsed, yet the two of you did not come out to lend a hand; so much for one lifetime two brothers. Ay! This is called human feeling changes daily like the weather, the hypocrisy of the world.

    Ba Fenghan cackled and said, Zhong Shao, did you really fight with your hands? If it was only duel of words, why must you need anybody elses help?

    With his back still facing Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling spoke coldly, We were hoping they would make their move, so we deliberately did not go out, so that they would have no apprehension.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, I was just kidding. Uh! Where were we? Beauties are really no good, its so easy for them to make us forget things.

    Dont play dumb, Ba Fenghan said, Have you thought about the brilliant scheme to deal with Shangguan Long yet?

    Slapping his forehead, Kou Zhong put on an act, Ah! Now I remembered!

    Suddenly sitting up straight, he thundered, Shangguan Long, where are you? Zhu Yuyan chose you to be Yin Gui Pais undercover agent in Luoyang, you ought to know a thing or two. If you dare, come out to fight to the death immediately!

    These words were pushed out by his spiraling energy, and immediately spread out to every nook and corner of the four three-story buildings of the Tingliu Pavilion.

    Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling also acted strange; it was as if they did not hear Kou Zhongs beyond-all-expectations words at all, they both maintained their original posture and facial expression.

    Around the Tingliu Pavilion, all noises gradually died down. By the time Kou Zhong finished speaking the third sentence, it was the crow and peacock made no sound, they could hear the pin drop kind of quietness.

    Hundreds and thousands of eyes from all the rooms on the left and right, as well as the building across the garden, were looking at the direction of their room.

    After a keyed-up and suffocating silence, a dignified, but with matchless gentleness and reservation, male voice came up from the floor beneath them, Just for your super-annoying remark that made me want to throw up blood, I, Shangguan Long, will never let you off.

    Xu Ziling coldly spoke up, There are three of us here, you can pick any one you wish. But this preferential treatment is only given to Yin Gui Pai demon, because each and every one of you is guilty and worthy of death.

    His voice spread far and wide without being overbearing, it was resounding but not sharp, and was clearly heard by each meeting participants ear.

    Kou Zhongs plan was indeed very brilliant; he exposed Shangguan Longs identity on the spot, so that nobody dared to interfere.

    In this riding a tiger and unable to get off situation, Shangguan Long could only straighten his back and get out to fight.

    Furthermore, Xu Zilings words were as sharp as a sword. If he could not control himself and flare out in anger, it would be tantamount to indirect admission that everybody was Yin Gui Pai demon who was guilty and worthy of death.

    Qu Aos voice rang out from the same place. It was an ear-splitting laughter first, followed by a shout, This is called traveling far and wide looking for you, only to find it easily here. Kou kid and Xu kid, come down together! It will save me from making my move twice, plus I could use some warming up before the actual battle.

    Qu Ao was worthy to be an old fox; just with a few words he managed to suppress the momentum they created earlier completely down.

    Ba Fenghan cackled and said, Qu Ao, you are mine, Ba Fenghans. But dont you wish for preferential treatment like Shangguan Bangzhu, you wont get it!

    This remark was extremely harsh; a roar of laughter rose up from the four multi-storied buildings all around, greatly diluting the tense atmosphere [orig. with swords drawn and bows bent].

    Even with his level of cultivation, Qu Ao still unable to curb his temper; he shouted angrily, Ba Fenghan, if you leave Man Qing Yuan alive tonight, I, Qu Ao, will start writing my name backward.

    Again the crowd fell silent.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, This is really strange. Last time you, Old Qu, fighting one-on-one, did not have enough power to fix Fenghan Xiong, why now you suddenly have the power? Is it because writing your name backward will give you a fresh feeling? But now is still not your, laoxiongs turn to fight, because just now in a finger-guessing game I beat Ba Fenghan. Therefore, Shangguan Bangzhu ought to draw the straw first.

    Qu Ao was speechless, which made other people aware that the rumor that Qu Ao has indeed never won against Ba Fenghan was confirmed to be true. Therefore, without anybody needed to mention it, the shock in his heart was conceivable.

    It should be noted that although Qu Aos prestige was still below that of Wu Zun [Revered Martial Art] Bi Xuan, whose name dominated the area outside the country, but the difference was very little.

    On the other hand, although Ba Fenghan was an outstanding figure whose name soared like a comet within the Wulin world inside and outside the Central Plains in recent years, he was, after all, only an up-and coming youngster.

    It would be difficult to compare him with Qu Ao, a figure of great-scholar-respected-for-learning-and-integrity level, who had made his name for several decades.

    Therefore, when Kou Zhong said that while fighting one-on-one he was going all-out yet still failed to put Ba Fenghan in order, the sensation he created would set the world on fire.

    This moment Qu Ao was compelled to suffer in silence; if he denied it, he would be speaking big, but if he did not deny it, he did not know where to hang his face.

    Fu Zhens grating voice came from the neighboring room on the same third floor, Qu Laoshi pities you being young and inexperienced; therefore, he let the three of you off, yet you dont know how to be grateful. It is extremely ridiculous.

    Astounded, Kou Zhong replied, Fu Laoshi, your invisibility skill must be ten thousand times more superior than your tracking-of-missing-people skill; otherwise, how come with Old Qu and Old Ba, two mens level of cultivation, they still did not know that you were spying upon them nearby? Even such a subtle situation like being young and inexperience, you were able to see clearly to the finest detail [orig. seeing clearly the downy feather of autumn, an idiom from Mencius]. Whoever dares not to submit to you?

    The sound circled around the vast empty space surrounding the four multi-storied buildings and the empty air above the fishpond garden area, which immediately triggered another wave of roaring laughter.

    Naturally there were also people who worried for Kou Zhong, three people, who were offending many different powers all at once, which was definitely not a fun thing to do.

    Bu Fu Zhen was immediately silenced.

    He could not say that he was really spying on them, could he? But if he said no, he had no qualification whatsoever to make the remark he had just said.

    A burst on intense applause came from the room on the opposite end of the building, and then Liu Heitas voice was heard, Well said. I, Liu Heita, have a question, however, which is why did Kou Xiong believe that Shangguan Bangzhus other secret identity was to be Yin Gui Pai demon?

    The Tingliu Pavilion fell silent again.

    Before Kou Zhong had the chance to answer, Shangguan Long interjected, Clear is clear; if hereby someone came to slander me, dont blame me, Shangguan Long, for not showing mercy.

    From a room on the third floor of the building to the left came a cold snort, followed by someone said with a sneer, Since clear is clear, why afraid someone will say it?

    Kou Zhong clapped his hands and said with a laugh, Now that is indeed well said. May I ask this friends honorable surname and great given name? I want to see if Shangguan Bangzhu will dare to look for you to give you a hard time.

    The man laughed aloud and said, I am Xing Yifei, Fu Qian Wangzis [prince/son of a king] Captain of the Vanguard Regimen. I have arrived one step ahead of him. Shangguan Bangzhu, please do not forget.

    The crowd immediately booed.

    A buzzing noise arose, just like tidal waves going up and down.

    Just by looking at the heroic spirit of Fu Qians subordinate, his own power and prestige could be clearly seen.

    While Shangguan Long was put on the spot, Kou Zhong issued another challenge, Before Miss Shangs performing troupe beat the gong to open their show, would Shangguan Bangzhu be interested in playing one round with Xiaodi, to relieve the noble guests on the four sides boredom?

    A tender and sweet female voice cheerfully said, That was very pleasant to listen to. Kou Zhong, you are the best at stirring up my delight!

    The crowd rose up in another uproar.

    In this era, although the barbarians wind was blowing to the east and the general mood was much more open, but a girl blatantly reveal her affection under public event where several hundred people gathered, was still universally shocking.

    Stranger still, when this girl was flaunting her skill, her voice, carried by her internal energy, moved indeterminately to the east and to the west, floating without any fixed pattern, so that it was difficult to determine her position.

    Ba Fenghan rolled his eyes; muttering under his breath, he said, Here we go again!

    Naturally Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling knew what he meant, because that voice belonged to Chunyu Wei.

    No need to mention, Tuoba Yu must have arrived as well.

    Just like a hanging-boots ghost, they were always following Ba Fenghan.

    From the lower level of the building to their right, an old-sounding voice said, I am Qi Bazhou of the Luoyang Eight Scholars, this time knowing that Shi Lang [Minister Shi, not sure who that is] is holding a hero feast at Tingliu Pavilion, it was laofu who is in charge of making arrangement in everything. Since Wanggong has not arrived, laofu ought to be entitled to say a few words.

    This man spoke with pride of his old age and experience, and relying only on his age. Listening to him, the crowd felt that it was a time-wasting nuisance.

    Kou Zhong sprang up and shouted, Theres not much time. Shangguan Long, do you still want to be the turtle who shrinks its head?

    Sweeping over to Xu Zilings side, he leaped up and made three somersaults in succession, over the more than ten zhang empty space, and landed on the pool wall on the other edge of the pond in the middle.

    There was a thunderous applause and cheer.

    Kou Zhong stood proudly, lifting his head high, and raising his cupped fist to salute, which immediately provoked another wave of cheers.

    Xu Ziling swept his gaze around; he saw the several hundred people in all the rooms stood up one after another and moved toward the railings of their respective balcony to have a better look at Kou Zhongs elegant manner. Turning toward Ba Fenghan, he said with a laugh, This kid is so impressive. Unexpectedly he snatched away Fenghan Xiongs leading style.

    Ba Fenghans eyes shone with spirited flashes; he looked at Kou Zhong in the middle of the garden, shook his head and said with a sigh, If I were Shangguan Long, I wont meet the enemy head-on, no matter what.

    Xu Ziling nodded in agreement.

    This moment, a sudden shout like a thunder scorching flat ground rang out, followed by a shadow flashing. Shangguan Long finally showed himself on the arena, landed on the gravel path about three zhang away from the fishpond. He stood opposite Kou Zhong, separated by the pond, with a steel staff with dragonhead in his hand, in such an imposing manner.

    This Luoyang Gang Leader appeared to be around fifty years of age, he had a pair of protruding ears, his stature was not tall, yet he exuded an overbearing and tough impression. He was gorgeously attired, but his face looked pale, with puffy eyes, so that those with discerning eye could easily see that he had been indulging himself in wine and women for a long time.

    This moment his eyes shot vicious look as he spoke with a cold snort, You say I am Yin Gui Pai man, what evidence do you have?

    Voices gradually subsided.

    Everybody was holding their breath, waiting to hear Kou Zhongs answer.

    Although there were a thousand Sects [pai] and ten thousand schools [men] in Jianghu, in term of evil reputation, nobody surpassed Yin Gui Pai.

    Not only because their members were sinister and were used to savage method, but also because the way they trained was heretical, which was very different from the internal energy cultivation method and the xinfa of orthodox schools. Therefore, Jianghu people disdained them, its just that they were incapable to deal with them!

    If Kou Zhong was able to confirm Shangguan Longs true identity, he could forget to have his subordinates support as the Gang Leader.


    Kou Zhong drew the Moon in the Well, and laughed aloud, You want evidence? That is easy. If within ten moves I am unable to force Shangguan Bangzhu to reveal the cloven foot [i.e. unmask ones true nature], the Ol Kou will pour a cup of tea to admit my mistake to Bangzhu.

    Shangguan Long immediately breathed a sigh of relief.

    He thought that even though Kou Zhongs move was extremely brilliant, it definitely would not work on him.

    In order to conceal his devilish skill, these past ten years or so he had painstakingly trained new martial art, creating Ying Feng Zhang Fa [Facing-The-Wind Staff Technique], which had 102 styles. If Kou Zhong thought that within ten moves he could force him to expose his tail, it was no more than lunatic ravings.

    From Bian Bufu and Wanwans lips he already had a clear idea of the depth of Kou Zhongs skill. Upon self-inspection, he was confident he would be able to withstand about a hundred of Kou Zhongs moves, and even had a chance of victory.

    Shangguan Long stomped his dragonhead staff to the ground, creating a shockwave like a muffled thunder, so that the entire garden seemed to be shaking a little bit.

    Nobody ever expected that his power was this profound; they could not help feeling worry for Kou Zhong.

    In the room upstairs, Ba Fenghan spoke in astonishment, Zhong Shao seems to be too full of himself.

    Xu Ziling shook his head and said, Our skill will be forced out, Zhong Shao must have his way.

    Shangguan Longs laugh filled the sky above the garden; after repeatedly saying Good! he said, Kou Zhong, dont you renege on your own words. Do it!

    Finally verbal sparring has turned into decisive battle.

  15. #155
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 13 Chapter 11

    Book 13 Chapter 11 Original Identity Fully Revealed

    Although the spectators were numerous, the entire Tingliu Pavilion was quiet.

    Kou Zhong also quieted down.

    The moment Shangguan Long stomped his staff on the ground just now, he knew that he had made a grave mistake in underestimating the enemy.

    His original inference was based on Shangguan Long leading his men surrounding Duan Yucheng, four men, the other day, where they were able to capture only one man alive, and Duan Yucheng managed to break the siege and escape. So his martial art skill could not be too superior.

    But by doing the demonstration just now, Shangguan Long has shown that his martial art skill was actually closer to Bian Bufus level.

    And this moment, as the four eyes met, Kou Zhong found out that Shangguan Longs eyes were gleaming with unusual flashes. Obviously the strange internal energy cultivation he practiced from the Devil Cult was absolutely not a mediocre skill.

    But Kou Zhong was like riding a tiger, easy to get on, but hard to get off; he must forced Shangguan Long to reveal his demonic skill within ten moves. Otherwise, the fame for his fighting prowess that he had built up painstakingly would be lost tonight.

    A peal of stimulating feeling circulated all over his body; he sensed that under this kind of dreadful pressure, his essence, qi and spirit rose up simultaneously to their peak condition.

    Shangguan Longs spine and shoulders suddenly straightened up, while holding the staff horizontally across his chest. Kid, bring it on! [orig. release your horse and come over] he shouted coldly, Let me see, you who speak conceited nonsense, what kind of ability you really have.

    Kou Zhongs expression was like an old monk in deep meditation, he did not seem to see Shangguan Longs awe-inspiring prowess.

    Nobody knew that at this instant his mind was entirely on the more than a hundred goldfish of every kind, which were swimming freely in the pond, as if they did not have any care of other peoples business in the world.

    By the time he pushed all distracting thoughts from his mind, he entered the defense realm, where everything in his surrounding did not escape his attention, not even the slightest bit.

    When he was fighting Bian Bufu earlier that day, he had already experienced this kind of grasping-the-overall-situation fantastic feeling, where he was able to look at, and had total awareness of, the entire battlefield like looking at a chessboard.

    But this moment, the feeling was even clearer.

    The thing that captured his attention the most was the fish, carefree and without worries, in the pond.

    Each movement of the fishtail, whether the fish were frolicking with each other, or was simply cruising alone, or was hiding in the crevices of the fake mountain rock, was captured in his mind.

    It was an unusually strange feeling.

    Human and fish occupied two entirely different worlds, which coexist but did not interfere with each other.

    But passing through Kou Zhongs heart, these two different worlds connected.

    In the pavilion the crow and peacock made no sound, even the breathing noise has stopped.

    Not only the silent standoff between Kou Zhong and Shangguan Long has taken their breath away, each spectator had a strange feeling in their heart.

    Kou Zhong appeared to blend in with the environment, becoming an integral whole, as if he was part of the nature itself. On the contrary, Shangguan Long seemed to be a hard addition to the garden, destroying the harmony of the entire pond and garden-scape.

    It was some kind of indescribable subjective impression.

    Shangguan Long shifted his right foot forward, creating a heavy footstep.

    Nobody expected that he would grab the initiative to attack first; they all gasped in surprise.

    Shangguan Long had his own predicament.

    Because of the ten-move agreement, Shangguan Long was thinking of using defense-as-a-means-to-attack frame of mind.

    Who would have thought that as they were facing each other, Kou Zhong did not appear to have any intention to make his move? Yet he was continuously amassing his momentum, so that it was expanding continuously at a wild rate.

    The most terrifying thing was that Shangguan Long felt that the whole site was constantly increasing the momentum of the coalescing of Kou Zhong with the heaven and earth, so that he had no flaw that Shangguan Long could exploit.

    Moreover, Shangguan Long was keenly aware that if this situation continued on, his own momentum would soon be overshadowed by Kou Zhongs; if that happened, he had no confidence that he would not use the demonic skill before the ten moves were over.

    Therefore, although he had decided to focus on the offensive, he was still adopting a passive stance.

    In the room upstairs, Xu Ziling breathed a sigh of relief, and go back to his chair opposite Ba Fenghans. This kid is indeed all right, he praised.

    Ba Fenghan also showed an amazed expression; he said, This kid could really make people exclaim in admiration.

    By this time Shangguan Long had approached the fishpond, only about three zhang away from Kou Zhong.

    He stepped onto the small bridge spanning across the creek nearest the pond. The water under the bridge was trickling slowly.

    Kou Zhong held the Moon in the Well lightly in his right hand, the blade was following the approaching Shangguan Long from the distance.

    His senses followed the water flowing out of the pond into the creek, passing underneath the small bridge Shangguan Long was standing on.

    In no time at all he grasped the environment surrounding him, the subtle relationship between one object and the other, and between one empty space to another.

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

    Shangguan Longs biggest weakness was that he did not dare to use his demonic skill; as long as Kou Zhong could make him feel that victory or defeat would be decided within two, three moves, and that if he did not make an all-out effort he would lose on the spot, then Kou Zhong would have succeeded.

    Shangguan Long stepped down the small bridge onto the embankment on the other side of the fishpond, where he stood straight like a mountain, with his face as cold as ice.

    Those with rather superior insight inwardly felt bad for Kou Zhong.

    Because this kind of situation was more harmful than good to him.

    Whether advancing to attack, or retreating to defend, there was a fishpond between them.

    If Shangguan Long was able to exploit the pond, even if his skill was a bit inferior, holding up for more than ten moves should not be a problem.

    Under the illumination of the flame, the saber and the staff were facing each other across the pond, each one amassing its power.

    Murderous aura permeated the garden.

    One side was hastening the release of his true qi, the other side was watching for the enemy to reveal a crack.

    The two combatants stared at each other with eyes open wide, as if one blink of an eye would reveal the flaw that the enemy would immediately exploit.

    The tension was so thick.

    Splash! Splash!

    Suddenly the water splashed.

    Two fish, which were frolicking with each other, jumped out of the water one after another.

    Shangguan Longs robe suddenly fluttered lightly, the dragonhead staff in his hand slowly swayed, immediately generating a burst of even stronger momentum, countering the murderous aura emanating from the blade of Kou Zhongs saber.

    The superior martial art masters all knew that in this duel of momentum, Shangguan Long has already lost, hence he had to use this movement to make up for it.

    Still, nobody dared to put their money on Kou Zhong yet.

    If this time were about life and death combat that went as far as one side would not stop until the other side lose his life, then the great majority of the spectators would bet that Kou Zhong would be the final victor.

    But in todays ten-move agreement, Kou Zhongs chance of pouring tea to admit mistake appeared to be ten out of ten.

    Kou Zhong was still standing erect holding the saber, as steady as the lofty mountain, his eyes flickered with strange rays.

    Finally Shangguan Long was unable to hold back; with a violent roar he leaped up, crossing the fishpond, and the dragonhead staff came crashing down on Kou Zhongs head.

    A strong gust of wind incited the water of the pond, the water surface sank, billows whirled around, the fish were startled and leaped out of the water, and thus the hallow tranquility of the underwater world of the pond was disturbed.

    A faint smile, brimming with confidence, escaped from the corner of Kou Zhongs mouth. The entire power in his body was concentrated on the Moon in the Well. A flash of lightning shot out.


    The saber and the staff collided. Sparks flew in all directions, followed by an ear-splitting explosion.

    Kou Zhongs body swayed, but Shangguan Longs entire body was jolted that it flew to the other side of the fishpond.

    Although it was just one sharp and clear contact, everybody appeared to be dazzled by the fiery clash.

    Nobody knew who did it, but someone shouted loudly, The first move! It was a female voice.

    Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling upstairs frowned, because they recognized Dugu Fengs voice.

    Obviously she wanted to see Kou Zhong lose his prestige, hence she spoke to increase the psychological pressure on him.

    Shangguan Long landed back on the edge of the pond; immediately he spin his staff into a slab of staff shadow to guard against Kou Zhong seizing this opportunity to strike back.

    The staff shadow suddenly vanished.

    Once again Shangguan Long adopted a stance with the staff held across his chest, because he simply could not move the more than a hundred catty dragonhead staff like that indefinitely, otherwise eventually he would be dead of exhaustion.

    In the pond, the water calmed down, but the fish still leaped out of the water continuously.

    The instant Shangguan Long held the staff still, Kou Zhong finally made his move.

    Against all expectation, he did not move like Shangguan Long earlier, where he leaped at an angle across the pond and then strike down from the air; rather, with his sole on the surface of the water, he slid across the pond, as if he was sliding on a flat land. The Moon in the Well suddenly gleamed with yellow light as it struck the enemy.

    The crowd roared in shock.

    According to physical law, only by leaping vertically into the air will one be able to attack while advancing, defend while retreating.

    By doing what Kou Zhong did, dashing horizontally and attacking from the front, as long as Shangguan Long was able to hold his ground steadily at the edge of the pond, he might be able to force Kou Zhong to fall into the pond.

    Shangguan Long knew that Kou Zhong was deceitful in many ways. Although was fully aware that it was a bit unconventional, in this tense moment, he did not have time to think too much. Focusing his power on his arms, he roared and brandished his staff to sweep at Kou Zhong.

    The strangest thing happened.

    When Kou Zhong was at the middle of the pond, suddenly he sprang up to the air, not only to evade Shangguan Longs staff sweep, he also leaped above Shangguan Longs head to send a full blow downward.

    Upstairs, Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan stared in awe; they both guessed that Kou Zhong had used the fish as a stepping-stone, borrowing the reaction force to bring about this totally unexpected change.

    Immediately cheers and applause thundered throughout Tingliu Pavilion, increasing Kou Zhongs prowess.

    As soon Shangguan Longs staff swept across an empty space, he knew the turn of events was far from good.

    With the saber blade pressing down overhead, in order to save his own life, he had to unleash the skill stored deep at the bottom of his chest to deal with the attack.

    With a wild roar he raised the staff with both hands to block the full power that Kou Zhong had been amassing for quite a while; the saber strike that could break the gold and shatter the rock.


    The saber and the staff collided again. But unlike the previous time, the sound of clashing was a low, distant and stifled rumble.

    Spiraling energy rolled the dragonhead staff in, and continued to invade Shangguan Longs meridians via his two arms.

    Of course Shangguan Long did not dare to be negligence; opening up his mouth wide, he spurted a mouthful of blackish violet rain of blood, while from the sleeves of his garment, the arms, which were raising the dragonhead staff high above his head, immediately turned blackish purple as well. It was extremely scary.

    From all around the crowd cried and gasped in shock.

    Although not many people have ever seen this kind of demonic martial art, but nobody doubted that what they were witnessing was a martial art technique that was definitely not from an orthodox school.

    Borrowing the reaction force from the impact, Kou Zhong somersaulted toward Shangguan Longs back. Before his feet touched the ground, he already sent out a backhanded saber strike toward Shangguan Long, whose eyes were gleaming with purple light, and was brandishing his staff into tens of thousands staff shadow in a furious attack.

    Now, even if the ten-move limitation was no longer in effect, but as soon as there was the slightest chance to escape, Shangguan Long would definitely take the opportunity to flee.

    Success or failure, it depended on whether the saber strike would be able to control Shangguan Long, who was rushing his demonic skill to show its full potential.

    This saber strike was carrying the full power he had amassed a moment ago; it was swift and fierce without equal. Its area of coverage was quite vast, as he did not wish to let Shangguan Long to find a gap that he could exploit to run away.

    The saber light passed through.


    Shangguan Long was hit that he nearly stumbled into the pond, in an extremely sorry situation.

    Letting out a long laugh, Kou Zhong moved like a shadow-following-shadow, to pursue and attack.

    Shangguan Longs old face from purple turned black; clearly he was extremely frightened. Doing everything he could, he retreated by winding around the pond.

    The sound of the saber clashing against the staff became more and more frequent, like the continuous ringing of bell or chime stones [ancient percussion instrument mad of stone or jade pieces hung in a row and struck as a xylophone], or the urgent beating of battle drum. The atmosphere was very intense.

    Both sides were fighting speed with speed, like a rabbit zigzagging away from the falcons hunt, unfolding into an incomparably intense hand-to-hand combat.

    All around the crowd was watching with bated breath.

    Those with rather inferior martial art skill were dazzled.

    Anybody with a rather keen insight ought to know that when a long-weapon wielder like Shangguan Long was forced to deal with an opponent like Kou Zhong in a close-range combat, he would fall into an absolutely disadvantageous situation.

    Suddenly, amid a loud ringing, the shadows separated.


    The Moon in the Well returned to its scabbard.

    Kou Zhong stood at the edge of the pond, staring ferociously at the dumb-as-a-wooden-chicken opponent.

    Not even half a sound was heard throughout the whole audience.

    Victory and defeat has been decided.


    The dragonhead staff slipped off from Shangguan Longs hands and fell into the pool.

    The purplish black color from Shangguan Longs skin subsided; it was replaced with a morbid pale color.

    After a bout of shaking, Shangguan Long dropped down on his knees, while continuously gasping for breath.

    Several human figures, coming from several different places, separately darted over toward the two.

  16. #156
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 13 Chapter 12

    Book 13 Chapter 12 Matchless Demonic Skill

    The first to arrived were Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan, two men. Having achieved their purpose, they did not have any interest in watching Shang Xiufangs singing skill or even Qu Ao and Fu Qians duel.

    Yin Gui Pai has always conducted their business in secrecy. Even if some people had the intention to deal with Yin Gui Pai, they had no way of finding any Yin Gui Pai bandit to know where to start. Unexpectedly now someone managed to force and defeat an important figure, who was in charge of the intelligence gathering of the entire northern area of the country. In such an impossible situation, quite naturally snatching him away alive would be their highest priority.

    If they could extract from Shangguan Long information about all aspects of Yin Gui Pai operation, they, along with everybody else who were the enemy of Yin Gui Pai, would be able to use this intelligence to strike back, not remaining passive like right now.

    The third to rush toward the garden was Song Shidao. His intention was identical to Kou Zhong, three people. They all knew that if there were other Yin Gui Pai people present, they would definitely prevent them from taking Shangguan Long alive.

    However, as he was following Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan closely, Qu Ao overtook him. From a room in the lower level he darted over, and although he started later, he managed to get in front of Song Shidao, and caught up with Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan. Noiselessly he raised both palms to strike the two mens backs.

    From the roof of the multi-story building on the other side, Bian Bufu swept down, with a ten-thousand-catty thunderbolt power he pounced on Kou Zhong.

    Bian Bufu and Qu Ao were both top-tiered martial art masters. The two of them attacking together, the momentum was shocking to the extreme.

    Song Shidaos sword already left its sheathe, he shot toward Qu Ao, who had just flitted past under him.

    Seeing it would be too late to stop him, Ba Fenghan fell back a little, his left palm pressed on Xu Zilings back, his right hand drew the Beheading Mystery Sword, turning it into millions of sword rays, and each ray reflecting the light from the lanterns all around him, just like a big ball of fire that was constantly flashing brightly, exploding from his hand, curbing and shrouding Qu Aos offensive power completely in it.

    Such sword skill has reached a universally shocking stage.

    The most amazing thing was that Ba Fenghan seemed to already anticipated Qu Aos sneak attack from behind, and thus was at the ready to strike back. This has certainly come as a surprise to everybody.

    This moment Kou Zhong had just sent out a stream of finger wind, hitting with a piercing blow the space between Shangguan Longs eyebrows, who was still kneeling and panting for breath. Bian Bufus astonishing qi power was already pressing on top of his head, blowing on him that his clothes fluttered up, and his breathing became impeded.

    Kou Zhong cursed inwardly, while realizing the difficulty he was facing.

    Based on Bian Bufus brilliant insight, he should have known that Shangguan Long did not have any chance of victory, only defeat. Yet obviously he waited until this moment to make his move. Naturally his objective was to wait until Kou Zhong exhausted his true energy, the moment his acute spirit was drained, and then eliminate him in one fell swoop.

    And this devil head knew that Kou Zhong would not be willing to withdraw, so by letting Kou Zhongs plan on capturing Shangguan Long to go smoothly, and then taking advantage of this moment to make his move, naturally his chance to kill Kou Zhong would be increased tremendously.

    Fiercely clenching his teeth, Kou Zhong summoned the rest of his energy, the Moon in the Well met Bian Bufus pair of silver hoops head-on.

    While Kou Zhong was facing the critical juncture between life and death, Xu Ziling, borrowing the power imbued by Ba Fenghans palm, shot like an artillery shell, and just before Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well clashed against Bian Bufus pair of silver hoops, he cut off Bian Bufus path of attack.

    All these high-speed actions were accomplished in a few blinks of an eye; even if anybody else had the intention, they simply did not have time to intervene.

    Ba Fenghan and Qu Ao were the first to be locked in a fierce hand-to-hand combat. Palm and sword came and went, force and qi clashed against each other, the sound lingered on.

    Afterwards Qu Ao withdrew; he quickly retreated to evade Song Shidaos sword coming down on him from high in the air.

    Ba Fenghan stood straight like a mountain, pointing the Beheading Mystery Sword to Qu Ao, he laughed aloud and said, Qu Ao, your acute spirit has already dwindled, your confidence has gone. Later on, dont let Fu Qian seize the opportunity to slaughter you.

    By the time Song Shidao landed by his side, Xu Ziling has already hacked his palm down on Bian Bufus silver hoops for eighteen times in a row, while both of them were still in the air.

    Twice has Bian Bufu suffered losses, and both times it was because he made an error in judging the enemy, resulting in the lost of decisive opportunity.

    The first mistake was that he thought that before Xu Ziling arrived, he would be one step ahead of him in taking care of Kou Zhong, so that at least he would have saved Shangguan Long.

    Who would have thought that Ba Fenghans palm has enhanced Xu Ziling approaching speed several folds, so that he was forced to change his move to deal with him first.

    The second mistake was that he did not anticipate that Xu Ziling was able to control the speed of his spiraling energy; sometimes fast, but quickly became slow, or from fast, it suddenly turned slow, so that he was caught off guard and did not know how to deal with it. The risk elevated to a dangerous level, and it entailed an extremely strenuous effort from him.

    When martial art masters were facing each other, one mistake was enough to be fatal, let alone two in successions.

    Were it not for his demonic power, which, although it has not reached Zhu Yuyan or Wanwans heaven boundary level, it has already reached the earth boundary level, he was able to send out and retrieve at will, Xu Ziling would have taken his life early on.

    Upon self-introspection, Bian Bufu realized that with his power alone, it would be difficult for him to deal with the two boys at once. Thereupon he made prompt decision: as soon as his feet touched the ground, he soared back up into the air toward the roof of one of the multi-storied buildings, and disappeared without any trace.

    This moment Ba Fenghan has already retreated toward Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling. Letting out a loud roar, the three caught Shangguan Long in the middle, and then, under Qu Aos hateful eyes, they carried him off, turned and left abruptly.

    Qu Aos gaze turned toward Song Shidao, whose sword qi was aimed at him from a distance. Astonished, he said, This Xiongtais swordsmanship is indeed not bad; I wonder what is honorable surname and great given name?

    Song Shidao knew that Qu Ao would definitely vent all his anger and resentment to him, yet he remained calm without any sign of fear; laughing leisurely, he said, Its better for Qu Laoshi [teacher/old master] not to know, so that in making your move you wont have any misgivings.

    Nodding his head, Qu Ao said, Very well!

    Mad laughter suddenly rang out.

    Qu Ao was about to go all-out when this majestic-sounding, resonant laughter shook the heavens; even the entire Tingliu Pavilion seemed to be shaken.

    No one was not emotionally moved.

    This persons laughter carried strong qi, obviously his qigong has reached the pinnacle.

    Qu Aos countenance was slightly changed as well. Whos there? he shouted.

    The laughter stopped abruptly.

    The persons voice seemed to come from an exceedingly remote place. I am Fu Qian, he said, Qu Laoshi is indeed like Fenghan Xiong said, your acute spirit has already dwindled; Fu Qian will fight a one-sided battle. Why dont you pick another day for the duel? Tonight while the romance is in the air [orig. wind, flower, snow and moon; trite poetry subject], well enjoy Miss Shangs ultimate art in peace and quiet. Qu Laoshi, what do you think?

    The crowd roared in laughter.

    Turned out Fu Qian has been here earlier.

    ※ ※ ※

    Triumphant over kidnapping Shangguan Long, the three men dashed out of Man Qing Yuan from the back, and ran along the ridges of the roof, heading toward the south of the city.

    Their destination was the Jingnian Dhyana Hall located at the southern suburb.

    Their plan was that as soon as they obtained necessary information from Shangguan Long, they would immediately head toward the Dhyana Hall to look for the Jade Annulus of He Clan.

    They were all in the highest state of alert.

    Since Bian Bufu had made his move, naturally Wanwan could be lurking somewhere nearby, so of course they had to be vigilant.

    Yin Gui Pai has always been a despot, there was no way they would easily let others capture their man like this.

    Kou Zhong was leading, Ba Fenghan carried Shangguan Long, and Xu Ziling brought up the rear.

    They randomly jumped down side lanes, or entered some residential buildings and got out the other way, altering their escape route indeterminately, so that others would not find them easily.

    After traveling for three li, the tall southern wall of the city was in sight, so far no one was trying to stop them.

    The three were happy, but were baffled as well.

    With Wanwan and Bian Bufus ability, how could they watch helplessly as the three walked away?

    The only explanation was that Wanwan was not in Luoyang, and Bian Bufu realized that alone, he did not have enough power to deal with the three.

    Kou Zhong was leaping toward the roof of a magnificent looking residential building, but suddenly he jumped back down to the ground and led the other two slipping away from the other direction.

    Behind him, Ba Fenghan knew something was not right, Whats the matter? he called out.

    While his feet did not stop running, Kou Zhong replied, Theres a woman ahead.

    Is it female demon Wan? Xu Ziling asked.

    Kou Zhong hesitated, It didnt look like her, he said, Wanwan has never worn a veil.

    In the blink of an eye the side lane ended.

    The three of them simultaneously heard a tender and soft humph of a female voice resounding in their eardrums.

    Even with their guts, they could not stop chilliness from creeping into their heart.

    It should be noted that they were rushing at full speed, yet the opponent was still able to send her voice into their ears. Merely this skill has already reached the universally shocking level.

    Kou Zhong made a somersault sideways over the top of the wall of the building to their left, and then he darted across some unknown familys rear garden, and leaped onto the closest roof of the building inside the courtyard.

    Like his shadow the other two followed closed behind him and onto the back of the roof.

    The three stopped suddenly.

    They looked toward the roof of another building ahead.

    Under the slanting moonlight, they saw a woman, wearing plain and simple, yet elegant and beautiful, clothes and ornaments, her face was hidden inside thick veil, was standing against the wind, facing them.

    A strange, indescribable feeling appeared in the three mens heart. They knew that with the opponents qinggong, there was absolutely no chance for them to escape.

    Her slender figure was graceful; her hair was tied in a bun on top of her head. Although they could not see her flowery countenance, they could feel her elegance and charm that drew people to come to her.

    Merely her standing posture had some kind of feeling that would cause people not want to turn their eyes from her; it was also full of extremely subtle tempting insinuation.

    In this way, without the need to expose her jade countenance, this woman was still able to exude such a powerful charm, which, even in their dream, the three had never thought about.

    Ba Fenghans tiger-eyes shone with sharp flashes; setting down Shangguan Long slowly, he spoke in heavy voice, Has Empress Yin Zhu Yuyan come in person?

    Although Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong had already guessed that it was her, yet this moment hearing Ba Fenghan spoke out her name, they could not help feeling numbness on their scalp.

    Another tender shout rang in the threes eardrums. Even with their skill, they felt sharp pain as if their eardrum was pricked with a needle.

    Zhu Yuyan suddenly vanished, while at the same time the three felt violent whooshing in their ears, like the sound of the howling wind of the storm.

    The howling wind seemed to be growing in intensity like tidal waves; suddenly the whole world seemed to be full of the dreadful sound of the gales angry roar.

    Yet all around, they saw the world was as peaceful as before. Hence they knew that Zhu Yuyan was playing her trick on them.

    By the time the sound of the howling wind turned into the sound of thunderstorm, the three were overcome with terrifying feeling as if they were right in the eye of the storm, with howling wind and torrential rain all around them; their bodies felt clammy, their footsteps faltered. It took supreme willpower just to keep their balance.

    Such a devilish skill, certainly it was unheard of.

    The raging waves crashed onto the shore, the storm surged up violently.

    The three were completely at a loss as how Zhu Yuyan could make them feel such an illusion.

    They really felt huge waves, taller than the city wall, were crashing down on them with astonishing power.

    Xu Ziling was the first to react.

    This time it was not an illusion, but Zhu Yuyan, taking advantage while their mind was under her control, was launching a surprised attack.

    In this critical junction between life and death, Xu Ziling calmed down. Although his eardrums were still confused by the demonic noise, his perception was as calm as the moon in the well, he did not miss everything that was going on around him the least bit.

    With a cold shout, his spiraling energy shot out, in the shape of a fist that moved toward the nucleus of the toppling-the-mountain-and-overturning-the-seas gigantic wave that was crashing down on them.

    The gigantic wave suddenly turned into a deep and immeasurable vortex, trying to suck Xu Ziling into it.

    But the demonic noise wreaking havoc in his eardrums suddenly vanished, indicating that this acclaimed-to-be the number one martial art master of the demonic school must exert all her strength to be able to fully use this demonic noise; if it werent like this, probably even Ning Daoqi would be defeated under her hands.

    This moment the three already lost the key moment.

    Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan regained their senses at the same time. They both drew their saber and sword, and separately attacked Zhu Yuyan, who appeared from the end of the roof slope, from left and right.

    A lily-white hand, which surpassed snow and outshined frost, which beauty could be regarded as extraordinary, stretched out from inside the oversized robe sleeve; delicate, slender, which grace was superior to jade, fingers delivered abstruse, difficult to understand, complex movements in the night sky.

    This moment Xu Ziling could not hold himself; he was being pulled by her Tian Mo Gong that his body was swiftly flying toward her, while in horror he realized suddenly that the movements of Zhu Yuyans delicate fingers unexpectedly faintly controlled his quite-possible attack route, and it was as if he was delivering himself to her to be slaughtered.

    If Wanwan was a deep and immeasurable pond, then Zhu Yuyan was a vast and boundless ocean.

    Wanwans demonic skill already has myriad changes, so that it was impossible to defend effectively.

    But Zhu Yuyans Tian Mo Da Fa [great method of the devil] has reached the following-ones-hearts-desire, the omnipotent, the acme-of-perfection level.

    Xu Ziling was quick-witted by nature; he already sent out his spiraling energy in the opposite direction. Immediately his body lightened, and he broke away from Zhu Yuyans concentrated Tian Mo Gongs gravitational field.

    A gentle, beautiful, and sweet-sounding sigh rang in Xu Zilings ear. By the time Xu Ziling realized something was not right, a burst of demonic energy, which seemed to be there but not exactly there, was already encroaching the meridian on his right hand right when his spiraling energy was coming to an end.

    Xu Ziling had superior ability and wisdom, he had already guessed that she might do this trick, thereupon he spat out a burst of his own spiraling energy.

    The two streams of true energy met at the Jianjing acupoint [on the shoulder].

    Zhu Yuyans demonic energy was immediately burst more than half, but there is still one stream of sharp-needle-like swimming energy, which managed to enter his body.

    Xu Ziling grunt in pain and staggered back, while spitting out a mouthful of fresh blood. Bonk! he fell sitting down below Shangguan Long, who was lying on the roof ridge.

    Huh? Zhu Yuyan exclaimed in surprise, obviously she was extremely shocked that after receiving her full blast of energy, he still did not lose his life.

    Meanwhile Ba Fenghans Beheading Mystery Sword and Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well arrived at the same time.

    Letting out a tender sigh, Zhu Yuyan withdrew her lily-white hand into her sleeve, and then like moving clouds and flowing water she met the twos attack. Left and right, her sleeves swiftly brushed away, heavily whipped the blade of their weapons.

    Actually, Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan have already given their all, within less than ten paces of distance they already changed their moves many times, with the purpose of preventing Zhu Yuyan from grasping their momentum path.

    Who would have thought that Zhu Yuyan floated to the left and shifted to the right, so that they practically could not grasp her position, and were thus from taking the initiative, they fell into the passive side.

    What appeared to be light brushing of the pair of water-and-cloud sleeves, in their eyes were irresolute like gliding bird or leaping fish, with no track to be traced. In just a short period of time they were being whipped by her head on.

    This moment Xu Ziling took a deep breath and sprang up; sending out his power via his legs, he shot up to the air, his pair of hands turned into layer upon layer of palm shadows shooting toward Zhu Yuyan.

    Bang! Bang!

    After two explosive noise of qi clashing against each other, Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan were jolted from head to foot, and fell down to the left and right.

    Were it not for the fact that Zhu Yuyan had to divide her power to strike the two at the same time, perhaps just like Xu Ziling earlier, they would have sustained injuries and spurted blood.

    Originally Zhu Yuyan was determined to kill one of them, but she did not anticipate that the injured Xu Ziling would attack again. Her fragrant heart could not help feeling greatly surprised.

    Meanwhile Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan regrouped and attacked again from both sides.

    Zhu Yuyan let out a tender laughter, both hands turned into myriad sleeve shadows, completely shrouded all three.

    For a period of time the sound of clashing qi rang out continuously.

    And then the tree men simultaneously hit empty air. Zhu Yuyan already broke away from the threes toppling-the-mountains-and-overturning-the-seas offensive. Floating away toward the roof ridge, she grabbed Shangguan Longs belt and lifted him up as if he had no weight at all.

    The three stood side-by-side on the roof spine, all with disheveled hair, and were in such a sorry state.

    From behind the veil Zhu Yuyan swept the three with her gaze once; and then she sighed and said, Ill let you three live two, three days longer! Right now I need to preserve my strength to heal my man. You may go!

    Ba Fenghan smiled slightly and said, Such a beautiful speech. But just now you, Zhu Hou [Empress Zhu], has tried with all your might but failed to defeat us. That is an indisputable fact.

    Zhu Yuyan spoke softly, I dont care if it is a fact of not a fact, Ill leave it up to you to decide! Goodbye!

    With a slight sway, she was already far away, carrying Shangguan Long with her, and disappeared into the depths of the splendid light of the City of Luoyang.

    With a mortal-danger-escape-alive feeling the three did not dare to tarry too long; they quickly slipped away.

  17. #157
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 13 Chapter 13

    Book 13 Chapter 13 Dhyana Hall Jing Nian

    The three sat on a grassy hillside, looking south at a grand monastery located on the hill in the distance.

    Heaving deep sigh, Kou Zhong said, After suffering untold hardships we managed to catch Shangguan Long, but without even half a thank you that witch Zhu Yuyan took him away. Thinking about it makes me upset.

    Shaking his head, Ba Fenghan said, Everything can be looked at from different perspectives. First of all, we still exist in the world of the living like lively dragon and animated tiger; second, we finally fought the top figure in the martial world, and gained understanding of who they are. As long as we are not dead, that was the best training we can get.

    With quite a lingering fear Xu Ziling said, Just now if we were one person less, the other two would definitely lose their lives. Tian Mo Da Fas most formidable feature was that you wont be able to fathom her method; any foresight, Yi Jian Da Fa or what have you, are going to be useless, so that any power we have will be difficult to utilize.

    Ba Fenghan said, It was because our mind was disturbed by her demonic noise first. Fortunately you were able to be one step ahead in grasping the direction of her attack; otherwise we would have been finished early on.

    Aghast, Kou Zhong said, Tian Mo Yin [demonic noise] is practically not martial art at all; it is black magic. How do we deal with it?

    With full confidence Ba Fenghan replied, You must consider Zhu Yuyan neither a deity nor a demon; in my opinion, Tian Mo Yin is also some kind of martial art. Its just that its target of attack is our sense of hearing. Were it not for our staunch will, I am afraid the illusion that time would grow out of control.

    Thinking hard, Xu Ziling said, But how are we going to deal with it?

    Kou Zhong said, If we send out our true qi to fill the ears, hey! I got it! Tian Mo Yin might be some kind of method affecting the eardrum acupoint. If we can hold fast to our eardrum acupoint, we are not afraid of anything.

    But then he continued dejectedly, However, how can we hold fast to the eardrum acupoint? This is unlike saber-comes-and-sword-arrives sort of thing; sound is without shadow without shape.

    There must be a way, Ba Fenghan said.

    Frustrated, Kou Zhong said, Our man was snatched away, what are we going to do with Yu Yi?

    Ba Fenghans gaze fell onto the Dhyana Hall on the distance. Our hope is in there, he said heavily.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were stunned.

    Ba Fenghan went on, If Wang Shichong did not lie to us, other than being the Emperors symbol of authority, the Jade Annulus of He Clan ought to be also an unusual treasure in martial art training; otherwise those Ci Hang Jing Zhai nuns could not possibly keep it in their monastery, Ning Daoqi would not have the leisure of borrowing the treasure for three years.

    Kou Zhongs spirit was greatly roused, Makes sense! he said.

    Turning to Xu Ziling, he said, When you sensed the Jade Annulus of He Clans presence on Qin Chuans body, how did it feel?

    With a wry smile Xu Ziling replied, Dont be happy too easily! First of all, I am not even sure if the reaction was from the Jade Annulus of He Clan. Secondly, the feeling was not intense at all; I only felt unusual spiritual harmony in my heart. By the time I left the wine shop, all feeling was gone.

    Shaken, Ba Fenghan said, If the feeling can be obtained only at close range, while in front of our eyes is such a big Buddhist Hall, how can we find it?

    Kou Zhong said, Dont forget that the Jade Annulus of He Clan can change continually, sometimes strong sometimes weak. Or perhaps when Ziling saw Qin Chuans back, the Jade Annulus of He Clan happen to be in a weak state.

    Ba Fenghan stood up in determination and said, Thinking too much is useless. While it is still three sichen before daybreak, let us try our luck. Otherwise, if Shi Feixuan came back to fetch the treasure to be given to somebody else, our beautiful dream will come to nothing.

    ※ ※ ※


    The melodious bell chime came from the monastery at the top of the hill.

    The three were hiding on a big tree by the temples main gate; they all groaned inwardly.

    Who could have imagined that the monastery was this big?

    When they looked at it from the opposite hill, because the monastery was hidden deep in the woods, they thought it only had several buildings. Now that they were right outside the door, they realized that added together, there were more than a hundred buildings. It did look like a small city, only the residents were all Buddhist monks.

    Smiling wryly, Ba Fenghan said, Just in the middle there are seven big halls. Those must be the Wenshu Dian [Manjushri Hall], Daxiong Baodian [Hall of Great Strength, the main hall of the temple containing the main image of veneration], Wuliang Dian [immeasurable hall], and so on. How are we going to search?

    Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, Any feeling?

    Xu Ziling crossly said, You are carried away by your wishful thinking.

    And then his eyes lit as he pointed to a building at the back, which, under the flickering lantern lights, looked a lot smaller and less exquisite compared to the other Halls, and said, That small hall looks very strange, but it appears more important than the other halls, which are ten times bigger.

    Ba Fenghans spirit was greatly aroused, That is a copper hall [not sure if it was called copper hall because it was made of copper, or the name of the building was Copper Hall] that can last forever.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were speechless. For the first time they felt that Jing Nian Chanyuan, which they never heard of before, was not simple at all.

    Not only this kind of three zhang deep and three zhang wide, and a zhang and a half tall copper hall would require a lot of copper, but it also require a genuine master craftsman to build.

    Even the rich Yangzhou did not seem to have this kind of cast-bronze temple.

    Ba Fenghan sighed and said, This time we are in luck. If the Jade Annulus of He Clan is inside the temple, it must be kept inside this copper hall. Only copper can separate the bizarre power of the Jade Annulus of He Clan with the other bald heads.

    Kou Zhongs eyes lit up; he said, So what are we waiting for?

    Displeased, Xu Ziling said, Just a bit more careful, will you? Right now the monks in the temple are starting their evening meditation, at least we must wait until they go to bed before making our move!

    Pointing to a building, which looked prominent among the other halls due to its multicolored ceramic glaze roof tiles, with a large bell tower positioned between two pagodas, Ba Fenghan said, Since the night bell has already sounded, there should be nobody upstairs. We should go and hide in there first, while carefully examine the situation of the entire monastery. In case when stealing the treasure we are found out, slipping away from there should be a bit more convenient.

    The two boys cheered for this brilliant plan.

    Ba Fenghan was the first to leap down to the ground. The two boys promptly followed behind. In the blink of an eye they already leaped over the high wall, and darted in the direction of the bell tower.

    Please do NOT post in this thread.
    Last edited by foxs; 08-31-16 at 11:19 PM.

  18. #158
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 14 Chapter 1

    Book 14 Chapter 1 Martial Art Master from The Other Side
    Translated by Foxs

    Bursts of long and drawn out, rising and falling, chanting voices that seemed to be coming from an unknown distant places, spread throughout the temple.

    The three felt as if they were entering an uninhabited place, as they climbed the stairs of the tower where the huge bell, which weighed around a thousand catty, was hung, from where they looked down far and near to examine the situation.

    The buildings inside Jing Nian Chanyuan were arranged neatly along the central axis, which ran directly from the Temples main gate, with the Copper Hall as the center of the monastery. The buildings were sized uniformly.

    Other than the Copper Hall, all buildings had tri-colored glazed roof tiles. The color and luster looked new; perhaps some monks in the Temple were diligent enough to clean up, so that the tiles looked like this. Among the three colors, the peacock blue was the most dazzling. It could be imagined that the buildings would be resplendent under the bright sunshine.

    From the bell tower where the three were located to the Copper Hall, there was only other building in between, but the distances were quite different; the former was far and the latter was near.

    In front of the Copper Hall there was a vast open area, approximately a hundred zhang wide, covered in slabs of white stone, encircled by a fence made of carved white stone, forming a flat plaza.

    In the middle of the white stone plaza was a shrine with a bronze statue of Manjushri Bodhisattva, riding on the back of a golden-mane lion. The statues height was approximately two zhang. Next to the shrine were the painted clay figures with gold ornaments of Medicine Buddha[1], Sakyamuni Buddha, and Amitabha, the three-world Buddhas. The figures looked imposing, but there was a bit of out-of-place feeling with the general situation of the monastery.

    On all four sides of the white stone plaza, other than four gateways with white stone steps, there were 500 luohan [arhats] scattered around; all were made of cast bronze, each ones expression and posture was different from each other. However, whether it opened its eyes wide and had protruding forehead, or with its eyes drooping down in self defense, every single one was vivid and lifelike, no different from any living being.

    The other buildings formed a whole entity with the main hall as at the axis; they were spread out in a clear and good order to the eight points of the compass, separated by wooded path, creating a divine atmosphere that was solemn and serene.

    There was a large incense burner in front of the Manjushri Bodhisattva in the white stone plaza, burning sandalwood incense that the aroma permeated the air, so that the three could not help their mood from calming down, almost to the point of feeling as if they had withdrawn from worldly affairs.

    Looking into the distance, at the stone steps outside the main gate extending down toward the foot of the mountain, Xu Ziling spoke in low voice, There ought to be eight hundred and eight steps; what a coincidence.

    However, Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan were unable to take their eyes off the Copper Hall, which main door was tightly closed, while thinking about their plan of action.

    The chanting noise came precisely from the main hall, which was only about ten zhang behind the Copper Hall, while elsewhere in the monastery there was not even half a shadow to be seen. There was some kind of profound mystery that made people did not dare to act blindly without thinking.

    The strangest thing was that other than the lanterns illuminating the white stone plaza and the statues in it, there was no other light. Even the main hall, where the chanting was coming from, was in total darkness, giving out the impression that as soon as one would step into the white stone plaza, one would immediately become the most obvious target.

    Its just that tonight the bright moon was high in the sky, illuminating the glazed roof tiles, bringing out their extraordinary splendor, and making the trees along the pathways, inside and outside of the Temple casting their shadows onto the streets, adding an unfathomable mystery onto the Temples already mysterious atmosphere.

    Craning his neck to look down, Kou Zhong spoke in low voice, What exactly is wrong? How come theres an uneasiness in my heart?

    Xu Ziling, standing on his other side, sneered and said, This is called lacking in confidence in being a thief; you know that?

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, I am definitely a thief, but I do not lack confidence. Just think, the Jade Annulus of He Clan is an unusual treasure handed down from generation to generation for thousands of years, basically it does not belong to anybody, and only virtuous persons can obtain it. Of course! Nobody can decide whether someone else was virtuous or not. Therefore, now we can only see whose luck is a bit better, whose fist is a bit harder.

    Flashing with divine light, Ba Fenghans tiger-eyes stared at the cast-copper buildings door; frowning, he said, This copper hall does not have even half a window. There are only four venting holes as big as human fist on the top. Supposing Liao Kong Dashi is personally sitting inside to protect the treasure, and he did not forget to bolt the copper door, it would be strange indeed we are not going to have a headache just thinking about it.

    Kou Zhong scooted over to him; acting as an old friend, he put his hand on Ba Fenghans shoulder and then with brows raised in delight and eyes laughing, he proudly said, I guarantee that wont happen, unless he wanted to taste how fire-deviation would feel like. This kind of old baldhead spends his time all year long in hard cultivation. Sitting in meditation is like lustful over women, he cant miss even one day.

    Smiling ruefully, Ba Fenghan said, Havent you heard Buddhist saying, If I dont go into hell, who would? Your guarantee does not amount to half a chance of success.

    Astonished, Kou Zhong said, I was only hoping that Liao Kong is not that great of a monk. How about this: let me go down and give it a try?

    After pondering silently for half a day, while staring at Xu Zilings back Ba Fenghan said, Ling Shao, do you have any idea?

    Certainly Kou Zhong was not surprised that Ba Fenghan would want to seek Xu Zilings advice first. Because, just like Ba Fenghan, he had great respect toward Xu Zilings perception.

    Xu Ziling shifted his gaze to the night sky. With yearning look in his eyes he said, Have you noticed the way they are chanting? They are reciting the scripture in one breath; so chanting is like in-and-out breathing. Plus they are divided into two groups: one group finishes reciting, the other group continues on without the slightest bit of interruption, just like the unceasing flow of water. Not only it is pleasant to hear, it is also one kind of superb training method.

    Hearing that, Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong looked at each other.

    The fact is that as soon as they entered the monastery complex, these two had their mind only on the Jade Annulus of He Clan. They only listened to a few words of some unknown scripture and promptly regarded the chanting of the sutras as the wind past their ears.

    Emotionally moved, Ba Fenghan said, If the length of the chanting is to be used as the criteria to measure the in-and-out breathing, all the Buddhist monks here have very strong base in internal energy, plus each group ought to consist of about a hundred men.

    His countenance changed, Kou Zhong said, More than two hundred monks with superior martial art skill, plus the Four Great Vajra protectors of the Temple, and one Liao Kong Chanzhu [dhyana master/leader] who practices silent meditation. Oh my Niang!

    Xu Ziling spoke in heavy voice, Therefore, we must absolutely not act blindly without thinking. If they are alarmed, all three of us might have to stay here forever as Buddhist monks. For me, I dont have any problem, but I am afraid the two of you might unable to endure it.

    Breathing out a mouthful of cold air, Kou Zhong said, Are you saying that we should go back empty-handed?

    Xu Ziling said, Seeing difficulty and turning back is not a real mans conduct. This is called a thief will have a thiefs way. However, there is not a single thing in this Buddhist Hall that is rational. Since Shi Feixuan has the confidence to entrust the Jade Annulus of He Clan, which relates to the fate of the world, to them, she must be confident that they have the power to guard the treasure, and wont let you easily crash into the Copper Hall to snatch and take it away just like that.

    Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong cast their gaze back toward the Copper Hall; they both felt big headache was coming.

    The entire monastery was suffused with enigmatic chill.

    Taking a deep breath, Kou Zhong said, Is it possible that as soon as the copper door is opened the alarm bell will ring? Although it is just a widget, but very effective, and there is no way to break it.

    Ba Fenghan nodded and said, That is indeed a very intelligent method to guard against theft. If they hang bells inside the door, as soon as we open those two copper doors that weigh a thousand catty, it would be strange indeed if we do not fall into a trap.

    Ding! Ding! Ding!

    Three sharp and clear chime-stone rings came from the main hall where the evening prayer session was being held. The sound of chanting stopped suddenly.

    The entire monastery fell into dead silence. The sound of insects chirping gradually filled up the air over the Temple and the mountaintop.

    Xu Ziling moved over. Along with Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong, he craned his neck to look.

    They are out! Ba Fenghan hissed.

    One by one the monks, with their palms clasped together, came out in single file from the main hall behind the Copper Hall.

    Kou Zhong said with a laugh, After reciting sutras for that long, they must be going to the toilet together before going to bed. Ha! If more than two hundred monks crowd into the latrine, Im sure some of them wont be able to hold his mothers while waiting for their turn. Ha!

    Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling did not know whether to laugh or to cry.

    And then their countenance changed.

    They saw that not only the monks walking out in single-file [orig. long snake formation] did not scatter, they were, under the leadership of one monk whose build was intimidating, wearing blue robe instead of the grey robes of the other monks, heading straight toward the white stone plaza.

    Other than the blue-robed monk, who was carrying a hundred-catty Buddhist Staff, all the monks had Buddhist beads in their hands. Their eyes looked down toward their nose, their nose looked down toward their heart, they walked solemnly. Yet given their field of view, which could not be narrower than that, they did not stumble and fall.

    The latrine cant be this way, can it? Kou Zhong muttered under his breath.

    Ba Fenghan speculated, Perhaps it is the Temples custom: after their evening session all those baldheads are coming here for training before dispersing their separate ways.

    Seeing the dozen or so monks at the front were already entering the plaza, Xu Ziling could not help shrinking two cun shorter, leaving only his eyes peeping down from the railing of the bell tower. His scalp felt numb as he said, I hope that is the case!

    The three watched helplessly as the two hundred thirty-two monks, young and old, arranged themselves in a dozen or so neat formations on the open space between the Manjushri Bodhisattva and the bell tower, facing the Bodhisattva shrine. Although they were numerous, not a single sound was heard; not even their breathing.

    In addition to the big and tall monk wearing blue robe leading the procession, there were three other monks also wore blue robe just like his. Their shapes and sizes were all different. All four of them took their position on the four corners of the plaza. Hence it was very easy to guess that these four must be the Four Great Protector Vajra of the Jing Nian Chanyuan.

    From their vantage point looking down, the three were having a lot of trepidation in their hearts. They secretly thought that if these monks formed an army, they would definitely be bashing sideways and colliding straight on the battlefield, as if there was no one else there.

    Fortunately currently they all had their back to the three, so that they feel a bit more comfortable.

    Kou Zhong muttered to himself, They must be waiting for that old fellow Liao Kong to come out and give his lecture. Turns out his silent meditation is just used to cheat some sesame oil.

    Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling struggled hard not to laugh.


    While the three were dumbstruck, the copper double-door, which reached a zhang in height, opened on its own without any wind blowing, exposing the pitch-black interior. They could not help rejoicing inwardly that a moment ago they did not rush in. Turned out there really was someone inside.

    Unless the copper door had wood core or perhaps hollow, the three realized that they did not have enough power to push the door that easily.

    And the one pushing the door open must be the powerful fellow inside who stood guard of the door. Only this kind of power has reached universally-shocking level.

    Although they were aware that Liao Kong was a martial art master, they had never thought that he was an expert of Ning Daoqi caliber.

    The crowd of monks called out the names of Buddha together, startling the three that they jumped in fright, while a feeling that they were being overly fearful [orig. to see a bow reflected in a cup and thought it was a snake] appeared in their heart.

    A tall and elegant looking monk, leisurely walked out of the Copper Hall and stood on the top of the white stone steps leading down to the plaza.

    Under the leadership of the Four Great Vajra, the crowd of monks put their palms together in salute.

    The three had never imagined that the Chanzhu, Liao Kong Dashi, who practiced silent meditation, was not an old monk who looked miserable, he was actually still this young and elegant. Looking at him from left and right, their estimate was that he was no more than about forty years of age.

    He was of slender build, confident and at ease, his nose straight, and looked like he had great personality. His upper lip curved like an arc, his lower lip was slightly upturned. When he raised his cupped hands to return the salute, there was some kind of indescribable charm around him, making his slim face looked extraordinarily handsome, carrying a laid-back attitude. His neck thick and broad, his elegant and bright face carried some kind of beyond-worldly deep and righteous divine shine. His posture looked neither scholarly and feeble, nor aloof and remotely overbearing; rather, it was one that made people looking at him felt comfortable and natural.

    The most unforgettable was his pair of deep, unfathomable eyes, which could create a feeling of immeasurable mystery to those who came in contact with him, but which also made people did not dare to despise him.

    This Liao Kong was wearing yellow inner gown, with brown monk-style outer coat; his external appearance expressed his crane-in-a-flock-of-chicken transcendental stance.

    At this time, one of Protector Vajra shouted a chant. Just like the arm moves the finger, the rest of the monks, as if they were one body, turned around to face the bell tower, which rose about ten zhang high, and put their palms together in salute.

    The three were so scared that they immediately slipped down to sit on the floor, and looked at each other.

    Someone, unclear who, called out from below, Buddhism is a quiet ground, those who pass over are brought together by fate!

    These words had just ended, the crowd of monks raised their voices in chanting, wooden fish and bells resounded. There was a certain pattern, a cadence that rose and fell similar to the sound of chanting sutras. The night sky seemed to be infected with its serene atmosphere, which searched far into the profound and unfathomable outer space.

    Breathed out a mouthful of cold air, Kou Zhong whispered, Have they found us out?

    This is very hard to say, Ba Fenghan replied, Or perhaps after chanting for a while they are going to disperse and go to bed?

    Nearest to the railings, Xu Ziling shook his head and said, I do not have an extravagant hope in this. Right now there are only two paths we can take: one, we immediately slipped out and forget about this Jade Annulus of He Clan; two, we stay here for a while, until a monk come up here to ring the bell.

    Kou Zhong resolutely said, They have no reason to find us up here. That little white face [pretty boy] monk Liao Kong with the highest martial art skill was originally inside the Copper Hall hell. It should be just by coincidence that he is like that right now. No matter what we are definitely going to stay his mothers a while.

    Ba Fenghan shook his head and said, First-class martial art masters pay particular attention to advance when it is time to advance, and retreat when they ought to retreat. Although I cannot say that I am familiar with your Central Plains temple rules and regulations, but I have never heard of chanting sutras toward Buddha and Bodhisattva and then turn toward the bell tower. It is clear that before the fight they are performing religious ceremony [to help the soul find peace] to the three of us, who, in their opinion, are people with serious crime. Merely one Liao Kong all of us added together may not necessarily be able to defeat. If you dont go, please forgive Xiaodi for not keeping you company!

    With a bitter laugh Kou Zhong said, You want to go then go! Why make it so hard, as if you did not like that I did not receive enough disappointment tonight?

    Right this moment, the alarm went off in their hearts at the same time, so they turned their eyes toward the huge bell in the middle of the tower.


    Just before the bell rang, all three had already covered their ears.

    One Buddhist bead knocked the bell to ring it, and then it bounced off in front of the tree.

    Immediately their countenance changed.

    Turned out it was a copper ball, yet it could strike the giant bell that even the entire bell tower was shaken by the loud noise; what kind of Dhyana skill was this?

    The sound of fluttering sleeve rose up.

    Naturally the three could not refrain from sticking their head out to look.

    All the monks downstairs, including Great Master Liao Kong, turned around to face the Copper Hall.

    Of course the three realized they had just been given the opportunity. Hastily they jumped down the bell tower and ran away into the wilderness.

    Back to the mountaintop they previously stopped by, still with a lot of lingering fears the three looked up at the Jing Nian Chanyuan on the distant hill, where they had just lived through nightmare.

    Ba Fenghan sighed and said, No wonder Shi Feixuan hid the Jade Annulus of He Clan in there. Unexpectedly there is such a powerful monk in this world!

    Dejected, Kou Zhong said, Wang Shichong really knows how to exploit people; he went so far as to tell me to scheme breaking into the Temple. When I get back, I will definitely settle the score with him, I will at least spank his butt three times. Ha!

    Ba Fenghan roared in laughter, Its lucky that you are still interested in cracking jokes, he said, Never in my life I felt so useless like I did just now. I really wanted to burn his birds monastery to the ground.

    Noticing a hint of smile at the corner of Xu Zilings mouth, Kou Zhong praised, Ling Shaos cultivation is really good. Even after fumbling down such a huge setback, he is still as happy as a strong, dry small pump.

    Laughing involuntarily, Ba Fenghan said, You yourself have your belly full of grievances, and you are looking elsewhere to vent your anger? How could you call yourself a Xiongdi?

    Kou Zhong was laughing so hard that he gasped for breath; pointing at Xu Ziling, he said, He looks like he is not only very happy, but he is ecstatic. Ol Ba, dont you feel that is strange?

    Xu Ziling burst out laughing and said, Cant laozi [I, your father] be happy? Isnt it not your, Kou Zhongs damn business?

    This time Ba Fenghan was astonished. Why does Ziling look really happy then? he asked.

    Xu Ziling replied indifferently, Because this stealing treasure game has just begun, so I feel very good. Do you understand?

    That last remark drew blank expression on Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhongs face; they could only stare at him with eyes open wide but could not find anything to say.

    Unless he was crazy, nobody would dare to come back to steal the treasure.

    Xu Ziling went on, But you two must promise me one thing: you must not kill or injure any monk in the Temple.

    Stupefied, Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan looked at each other.

    Those monks did not come to kill or injure them, they ought to offer thanks to Buddha for their good fortune; how could they dare to hope otherwise?

    Xu Ziling proudly stood up. Looking at the flickering light of Jing Nian Chanyuan in the distance, he slyly said, The Jade Annulus of He Clan is in the Copper Hall. I can feel it.

    Kou Zhong was extremely baffled. So what if it is in there? he asked, Even if you are willing to let us go on a killing spree [orig. refrain from the oath of abstaining from killing], we do not have the slightest chance of success.

    Ba Fenghan nodded in agreement.

    The difference in power between the two sides was simply too great.

    Xu Ziling smiled slightly and said, As long as we do one thing, the Jade Annulus of He Clan will be ours tonight.

    What thing? the other two asked together.

    Calmly, Xu Ziling replied, As long as we can go back to hide in the bell tower, success is guaranteed.

    Scratching his head, Kou Zhong said, Would Xu Shifu please speak a bit more clearly?

    Under the eager eyes of the two, Xu Ziling slyly said, A moment ago, just before the copper door was opened, I was able to feel the Jade Annulus of He Clan inside the Hall for the first time.

    Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan were stunned.

    If Xu Ziling had said, When the copper door started to open he could feel the Jade Annulus of He Clan inside the Hall, that would have been logical, the two would not be surprised. Because the meaning would be like opening the door to see things.

    Xu Ziling continued enthusiastically, It was approximately the ten-breathing period of time just before Liao Kong pushed the copper door open with his true power. If Xiaodis guessing correctly, until that moment Liao Kong was still using the Jade Annulus of He Clan to advance his training in some kind of Dhyana set of skill. Therefore, up to that moment I still did not feel the existence of the Jade Annulus of He Clan. It was only after the moment he withdrew his power that I was able to sense the Jade Annulus of He Clan.

    Knitting his brows, Kou Zhong said, Does it have anything to do with our chance of success of stealing the treasure?

    Ba Fenghan spoke delightfully, Of course it does. Did Ziling feel any peculiar characteristic of the Jade Annulus of He Clan?

    Xu Ziling nodded. Precisely so, he replied, So much so that even Liao Kong is unable to curb it. Therefore, if we want to open the door and get out of the pass, we must leave now. Wang Shichong was not lying, the Jade Annulus of He Clan is constantly changing, but only martial art master of Dhyana way who has reached his innate boundary would be able to sense the peculiar power hidden inside the Jade Annulus of He Clan. You ought to be able to sense it too. Its just that at that time your mind was divided, plus the distance was far, so you could not detect its presence.

    Kou Zhongs confidence grew. He said, Quickly tell me your grand plan to steal the treasure.

    Xu Ziling said, First, we have to assume that Wang Shichongs remark about the Jade Annulus of He Clan may follow the heavenly stars and changing constantly is not just a brag. If this is true, then the Jade Annulus of He Clans changes also follow the stars, i.e. it follows a cycle.

    Ba Fenghan was shaken, Is Ziling referring to the Jade Annulus of He Clan gradually generates harmful changes to those who follow Dhyana way, and hence the monks must keep some distance away from the Copper Hall, and so they could only post guards at the periphery? he asked.

    Thinking hard, Kou Zhong said, In the entire monastery, only the white stone plaza in front of the Copper Hall is brightly lit. As long as they stationed several monks with comparatively good eyesight to keep watch, I am afraid even a housefly flying past would not escape their eyes. How are we going to enter the Hall?

    Its all a gamble, Xu Ziling admitted, My bet is that because Liao Kong is experiencing some setback in using the Jade Annulus of He Clan in his Dhyana training, he must find a quiet place to train. This could be to our advantage.

    Ba Fenghan was puzzled, Just the Four Great Protectors Vajra plus more than two hundred monks with superior martial art skill we already cannot deal with. Looking at how well they are training, perhaps they even know some kind of Luohan Formation, Vajra Formation, or something like that.

    Slapping his thigh, Kou Zhong said with a sigh, I get it. As long as we can lure them to fight in front of the Copper Hall, they would have to guard against the Jade Annulus of He Clans influence more than we do. Perhaps after fighting once or twice we can cover our heads and slip away. Ha! This is really interesting. But afterwards, how are we going to escape?

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, This is called in your eagerness you become confused. As long as we manage to snatch the Jade Annulus of He Clan away, it would be the same as obtaining the evil incantation to deal with the crowd of monks. But we must wait until the moment the Jade Annulus of He Clan is most harmful to them before we can lay hands on the treasure and snatch it away. If we miss this opportunity, we will have to wait until the next cycle. But then the other side would guard against it even more!

    Ba Fenghan said, Ziling seems to be certain that we wont be like those monks who suffer the Jade Annulus of He Clans harmful effect and have our power greatly reduced. What exactly is the reason for this?

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, It is purely my intuition. Because the Jade Annulus of He Clan only created in me the feeling that made me want to get close to it. But because it is beyond my capability to estimate what kind of state it would change into, we must go into hiding somewhere closest to the treasured jade annulus first, we must observe its change, and wait until the most fortunate timing before we make our move. Do you understand?

    Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghans spirit soared, it completely washed away the frustrated and useless mood they felt just a moment ago.

    Xu Zilings tiger-eyes were flashing with spirited light. Just go! he spoke nonchalantly.

    Leading the way, he shot out in the direction of Jing Nian Chanyuan.

    [1] Bhaiṣajyaguru, formally Bhaiṣajya-guru-vaiḍūrya-prabhā-rāja ("King of Medicine Master and Lapis Lazuli Light"), is the Buddha of healing and medicine in Mahāyāna Buddhism. Commonly referred to as the "Medicine Buddha", he is described as a doctor who cures dukkha (suffering) using the medicine of his teachings. (, courtesy of Lu DongBin)

  19. #159
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 14 Chapter 2

    Book 14 Chapter 2 Extraordinary Treasure of Thousand Years

    The three took a different route this time, they went up the mountain from the direction of the monasterys rear wall. Naturally there would not be 808 steps leading up to the top here, instead, there was steep hill and dangerous cliffs.

    While crossing a brook winding through the foot of the cliff, Xu Ziling made a suggestion, If the three of us rob that thing together, later on when those monks describe the heist, I guarantee that anybody would know that it was the three of us who did it. Presently we have enemies everywhere, if added to that number a bunch of monks and nuns with superior martial art skill, so much so that we provoked Ning Daoqi, our days would definitely be not easy.

    Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong nodded in agreement.

    Due to the fact that not too long ago the three of them made public appearance at the Man Qing Yuan, plus their body build was different than ordinary people, if in the latter half of the night there were some people stealing something as a group, only the worlds greatest idiot [orig. stupid egg] would not be able to guess that it was them.

    Frowning, Kou Zhong said, But some things are going to be difficult to conceal. For example, our spiraling energy has become a wonder skill that is well-known throughout the world; we cant simply disappear after all these are done.

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, On that, you dont have to worry. My spiraling energy has reached the level where I could send and withdraw at will, with the speed that is according to my wishes. To deliberately deceive people, I guarantee that there wont be any flaw.

    The other two were emotionally moved.

    With envy in his voice, Kou Zhong said, When will I be able to achieve a level like that?

    Ba Fenghan said, There is no need for you, Zhong Shao, to imitate Ziling. Everybodys talent is different, and everybody utilizes unique method in his growth, so it is best if you let everything runs its natural course.

    When Kou Zhong nodded acknowledging the instruction, Ba Fenghan said to Xu Ziling, Wed better lie low someplace, and then when you succeed in snatching the treasure, well cover you to retreat.

    Xu Ziling shook his head and said, In any case, you must not show yourselves and fight, or it will reveal our true identity.

    After a short pause, he sighed and said, This time we must not use force, we can only rely on the Jade Annulus of He Clans unusual capability, to wait for an opportunity and make our move. If a fight broke with all those monks, there wont be any difference whether I am alone or the three of us fight together. Therefore, we can only have me, alone, to do the job, alone to try our luck. You two wait for me here. When I jump down the cliff, then you promptly cover for me. This kind of support will be most effective.

    Kou Zhong was greatly amazed, Xiao Ling, you have always been uninterested in the Jade Annulus of He Clan and my desire to vie over the world; why this time you are so proactive?

    Xu Ziling was nonchalant, The most fundamental reason is that at the bottom of my heart I agree with the Jade Annulus of He Clan, this kind of unusual treasure: virtue is the only thing worth talking about. Next, I am also curious; the Jade Annulus of He Clan might represent our three persons three different dreams.

    Ba Fenghan nodded, In my opinion, he said, The Jade Annulus of He Clan represents a stepping stone, which would make me take a step to the highest peak of martial art way. In Zhong Shaos opinion, it is the crucial point in his strive for the world; he would rather toss the treasured jade annulus into the sea than to let it fall into Li Shimins hands.

    And then, staring at Xu Ziling, he asked, But Ziling, what vision do you have with the Jade Annulus of He Clan?

    Xu Ziling took a deep breath and said, When I sensed the presence of the Jade Annulus of He Clan, there was a mysterious tranquility welling up in my heart, as if hidden deep within the jade annulus was some kind of secret truth of the universe that cannot be measured; therefore, the desire to seek it grew in my heart.

    From the bundle on his back Ba Fenghan took out a set of tight nightwalker outfit, which he handed to Xu Ziling and said, Theres not much time, you need to make your move right now. Perhaps tomorrow Liao Kong will have the Jade Annulus of He Clan moved out someplace else.

    Kou Zhong said, Youd better make yourself look a bit older. After you leave, we will chant sutras for you, while thinking about how to handle the aftermath of the stolen treasure at the same time. The most important thing is that the three of us are unanimous: we will categorically deny everything. Just be careful! My good Xiongdi.

    Xu Ziling crouched down on the glazed roof tile at the top of a temple building. The Copper Hall was already in sight, while the main gate and the brightly illuminated White Stone Plaza were on the other side. He did not see even half a shadow of another human being.

    At the same time, he clearly sensed the Jade Annulus of He Clan inside the Copper Hall.

    It was a very strange feeling.

    It appeared that this rare and precious piece of jade, which name has been passed down throughout the ages, was emitting some kind of energy that was beyond anything that anybody could understand.

    In just a short period of a dozen breaths, the emission of this strange energy seemed to be doubled.

    Even with his level of self-cultivation, Xu Ziling was affected that a sense of restlessness appeared in his heart, so that he nearly wanted to turn around and leave.

    It was only now did he truly understand why all the monks in the monastery must keep away from the jade annulus.

    This moment he put on the mask, transforming himself into an old man. As long as he hunched his back a bit, he could guarantee that even an acquaintance would find it difficult to identify him. Moreover, with the hood covering his jet-black hair, there was no flaw at all. On his back was a solid wooden sword that Kou Zhong carved for him, to confuse others ears and eyes even further.

    Xu Ziling took a deep breath. The true qi rose up from the yongquan acupoint on the sole of his right foot, and in an instant it roamed around his entire body.

    The jittery feeling disappeared.

    He could not help wondering inwardly and clicking his tongue in amazement, but was also greatly puzzled.

    If the Jade Annulus of He Clans influence could be dissolved this easily, why did the monks in the monastery dread it like a tiger?

    But this moment he did not have time to worry about it. Raising a mouthful of true qi, he flew down the Hall and wound his way around the Copper Hall toward the main door facing the White Stone Plaza.

    The names of Buddha sprang up everywhere.

    The sound of fluttering clothes came from four sides, eight directions.

    Dang! Dang! Dang!

    The Dhyana Halls bell tolled.

    Xu Ziling already anticipated all of these; without paying the slightest attention he dashed toward the door, grabbed the two large brass rings and, exerting his energy, yanked them out.

    The Halls door began to open.

    A burst of cold stream assaulted his face; so cold that his blood nearly froze, the true qi in his body was dispersing randomly, making it hard for him to breath.

    Xu Ziling made a split-second decision; hastily he scattered the wandering energy and raised his inner power. The cold air immediately disappeared, everything was back to normal.

    Not daring to tarry, he immediately rushed inside the Hall.

    He felt as if he had just entered a copper shield, or perhaps wandered inside a bronze bell.

    The walls on all four sides were densely packed with tens of thousands small Buddha images made of cast copper, none was not exquisitely carved, lining the Halls wall between the cast copper column with no beam, bringing out the richness of the texture, resulting in splendorous and majestic, glistening with golden light, hallowed ambience.

    The light from the outside shone in from behind, casting his long shadow on the wall of the middle of the Hall, as well as to the door on the opposite side, making him suddenly overcome with a peculiar feeling of a thief-lacking-in-confidence.

    And his shadow also fell onto the small copper table in the middle of the Hall, as well as several round meditation mats sitting behind the small copper table.

    A pure white, flawless, glittering-jewel like jade seal [orig. rulers seal, symbol of authority], was sitting nicely on the copper table, aloof from worldly affair.

    The seal was engraved with five intertwined dragons, the craftsmanship was superb as if it was made in Heaven, but other than lacking a horn, the splendor was inferior to gold.

    Xu Zilings spirit was shaken.

    Outside the door, there was continuous sound of fluttering sleeves, but no one rushed into the Hall.

    This was the rare, priceless and unique treasure, the Jade Annulus of He Clan, which the warlords of the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods were falling over each other in their eagerness to obtain, the land under the heavens one and only priceless treasure from the tale Returning the Jade Annulus to Zhao, which was on everyones lips for all eternity, the one Qin Shihuang use to obtain the world and unify China.

    At this moment, suddenly Xu Ziling felt that his connection with his own countrys thousand-year history could not be broken.

    A gentle and reserved voice calling out the name of Buddha came from the door, followed by, Pinseng [lit. impoverished monk, a humble term use by monk of himself] Bu Chen [his name literally means not to be angry or no hatred] is the chief of our Temples Four Great Protector Vajra, with specific responsibility of guarding the treasure. If Shizhu [benevolent master (term used by a monk to address a layperson)] is willing to get back on the right path, Bu Chen promises to let Shizhu leave.

    Xu Ziling took a step forward and stretched out his hand to grab the treasured jade annulus.

    A burst of difficult-to-describe ice-cold air penetrated the palm of his hand and entered in.

    Deliberately changing his voice, Xu Ziling let out a harsh laughter and said with voice full of furious rage, Since Laofu dares to come to take the treasure, I have enough confidence that I am going to be able to leave. I just dont know whether Bu Chen believe it or not.

    A cold humph came from the outside, followed by a strong, overbearing voice shouting, Ignorant fanatic, you dare to come to Buddhists peaceful place and display shockingly bad behavior. If you dont lay down the treasured jade immediately and leave the holy temple, dont blame my, Bu Chis [lit. not stupid/foolish] demon staff for not showing mercy.

    Xu Ziling quietly raised his true qi, while very carefully he sucked the cold air from the jade annulus into the palm of his left hand, passing through the yangyu meridian on the outside of his elbow, to the jianjing acupoint on his shoulder, and down toward dai meridian, and as the final stretch of the journey it went to du meridian on his back.

    Right now his biggest problem was that his qi has been dispersed, plus he received the Jade Annulus of He Clans influence; if he could not change the situation, his only option was to obediently accept Bu Chens kind intention by abandoning the treasure and covering his head and sneaking away like a rat.

    Hence his most critical priority was to see whether he could rely on the Secret to Long Lifes fantastic inner qi to tame this treasure.

    Cold qi was everywhere. Xu Ziling felt as if his meridians were about ready to burst, the jittery feeling in his heart seemed to be ready to explode at any time, the hair on his body stood on its roots, and his eyes, ears, mouth and nose seemed to close up that the pain was unbearable.

    Only the zuqiao acupoint inside the yintang [not sure what it is, 印堂] on the space between his eyebrows still had clarity, so that he did not turn crazy.

    While clenching his teeth to bear the pain, struggling hard to fight the threat of fire deviation, he roared in laughter and said, Anybody dares to enter the Hall door even for half a step, I will apply my inner power to crush this trinket, so that nobody will get it.

    Another deep and low voice outside the door said, Pinseng Bu Tan [not greedy]. Shizhu is mistaken; for such thing as sacred treasure, it is the deepest mystery of God and Buddha who will determine its fate, absolutely not for a mortal to decide. If Shizhu can destroy this treasure, it is simply the Will of Heaven!

    This moment, Xu Zilings mind was fully focused on the Jade Annulus of He Clan, also concentrated the cold qi inside the meridians in his entire body; he was already at the stage where he could not bear anymore.

    The most frightening was that his whole body was unable to move a single step; even if he wanted to put the Jade Annulus of He Clan down, he did not have the strength to do so.

    Suddenly his energy and qi rose up violently.

    He clearly felt a huge Buddhist monk was coming down on his back, and yet he had absolutely no way of dodging or dealing with it.

    At the beginning he was still able to control the speed of the cold air going through his meridians, hoping to add to, and fuse with, the burning hot yang power within his body, to take full advantage of it.

    Who would have thought that as he absorbed the cold qi, the mysterious force from the Jade Annulus of He Clan suddenly grew exponentially? Like a surging tide and rolling waves it rushed into his system, turning itself into a vast and mighty, violent cold stream, so that his own true qi was smashed and crumbled into pieces.

    When any meridian was unable to withstand the incoming pressure and burst, that would be the stage when fire-deviation was irreversible.

    While crying in his heart, my life is finished, the heavy Buddhist staff struck his back.

    With a loud bang Xu Zilings mind was severely shaken, his tiger-body violently shook, but to his own surprise he did not hear the sound of his flesh snapped and his bones shattered.

    Instead, he heard a stifled grunt from behind.

    Poof! Poof! Poof!

    Along with the sound of heavy breathing, he also heard footsteps going away, so he knew that the attacker was jolted by the reaction force and was staggering back out of the door.

    The instant he was hit by the staff, Xu Ziling felt his body relaxed.

    It was as if the cold qi that was nearly causing him to suffer fire-deviation suddenly found a venting point, so just like a bursting dam, the flood of water was using the Buddhist staff as the channel to discharge out of his body.

    Furthermore, his body suddenly felt empty and floating; the feeling was so unbearable that his knees nearly gave up to bring him down to the floor,

    Xu Ziling did not dare to be negligence; he promptly aroused his inner qi.

    A wonderful thing happened.

    The snatching the heaven and the earth essence of the burning hot true qi from the yongquan acupoint of his left foot mixed with the Jade Annulus of He Clans cold energy still from its source invading his body from the palm of his left hand.

    Realizing what happened, the quick-thinking Xu Ziling, this time learning from experience, regulated his true qi to synchronize its speed with the incoming cold qi from the Jade Annulus of He Clan, so that the two converged at the ocean of qi below his dantian, the most important acupoint shengsi qiao [life and death opening/orifice].


    He heard the sound of heavy object falling to the ground and repeated shouts from behind him.

    Xu Ziling did not have the leisure to wait. He knew that if he did not immediately bring the Jade Annulus of He Clans fantastic cold stream invading his body under control, this time he could forget about leaving this place alive.

    With an abrupt intake of a mouthful of qi, he dispelled the jittery feeling and restlessness, which came from the Jade Annulus of He Clans influence, completely out of his mind and flung it far away into the ocean, while tightly guarding a bit of sobriety and calmness in his zuqiao acupoint, and putting his mind completely on the ocean of qi.

    This was the basic skill concentrating the mind to enter the acupoint taught by Fu Junchuo. Its just that when Fu Junchuo taught him, she had never dreamed that he would use it under this special case that nobody has ever heard about.

    One hot, one cold, two qi power coming from two different sources, like arrows entering the qi ocean.

    Xu Ziling knew that this was the moment between life and death, success and failure. His spirit was as clear and quiet as the moon in the well, with the mind controlling the strength, transforming the true qi within his body into a vortex of strange energy, like a winding stick or a long snake, coiling itself around the cold qi from the Jade Annulus of He Clan entering his acupoints.

    If he had not had rich experience mutually linking his qi with Kou Zhongs yin and cold true qi, this moment his natural reaction would be trying to expel the terrifying cold qi invading his body with all his strength, and would not attempt to use it for his own.

    After training the converging yin and yang with Kou Zhong, within his true qi, there was yin hidden in the midst of yang, removing the danger of lone yang growing uncontrollably, but the true qi was still yang and hot; the yang was still dominant, with yin as the supplement.

    Only the cold qi from the Jade Annulus of He Clan was greatly different from Kou Zhongs; it grew and multiplied without end, brimming with vitality. Xu Ziling was unable to specifically define the cold qi from the Jade Annulus of He Clan. It was very different from any qi energy generated within the human body; it carried an irresistible force, enormous without equal.

    The small sized Jade Annulus of He Clan, only three cun square, stored some kind of seemingly endless, inexhaustible terrifying energy.

    The two streams of qi finally converged at the ocean of qi.

    Xu Ziling raised a mouthful of true qi again, he spun his own true qi to wind around the cold qi.


    He was completely at a loss of what happened; only all his meridians felt expanding, and then immediately shrinking. Swelling and shrinking, he felt his nerve was being pounded by a big iron hammer.

    Countless bizarre scenes, constantly flashing in his brain between the swellings and the shrinkings.

    The sky full of stars, the vast emptiness, the fantastic realm that cannot be described with words.

    The space and time expanded without boundary.


    Xu Ziling vomited a mouthful of fresh blood. After his meridians were swelling and shrinking nobody knows how many times, he finally regained his clear-headedness.

    The cold qi in his body has disappeared completely, replaced by an extremely strange sensation; the meridians in his whole body seemed to be basking in the warmth of the sun. It was unspeakably comfortable.

    The cold qi from the Jade Annulus of He Clan seemed to stop pouring in into his body.

    Xu Ziling was still unclear of what was going on; only his mind and spirit felt clear and bright, and there was an indescribable ecstasy welling up in his heart.

    Turning around abruptly, he went out.

    The space outside the door was packed full of monks.

    Just outside the door, a bent Buddhist staff was lying on the ground. Seeing this, even Xu Ziling himself shivered inwardly. That was the representation of two violent, ferocious genuine forces clashing against each other.

    On the stone steps outside the door, three Great Protector Vajra were supporting the big and tall monk with terrifying build. The latters body was still trembling, with blood trickling down from the corner of his mouth, and a disbelief expression on his face.

    Xu Ziling knew the monk was injured by the jolt; inwardly saying Im sorry, he wiped the blood on his lips, with the extraordinary treasure of thousand ages, the Jade Annulus of He Clan, in his left hand, he walked over to the landing at the top of the stone steps.

    Stars dotted the sky like chess pieces on the board, the night breeze was blowing gently.

    The Jade Annulus of He Clan radiated an indescribably glorious rays, the glittering of the treasure was overflowing.

    Everybody, including the Four Great Protector Vajra, backed off.

    Astonished, Xu Ziling looked at the treasured jade annulus resting in the palm of his hand, secretly wondering why he was now completely immune to the effect of the Jade Annulus of He Clans peculiar power?

    Suddenly he remembered that he was in disguise as a hunchback old man, but now it was too late to remedy it.

    One of the Protector Vajra, an old monk around sixty years old with grizzled eyebrows, put his palms together and said, Shizhu can withstand Bu Chis full-power staff strike with your back, clearly your power is unrivalled; I wonder how should we address you?

    From his voice, Xu Ziling recognized him as the chief of the Four Great Protector Vajra, Monk Bu Chen. In his heart he was ashamed of the praise, but this moment he had no other choice. Altering his voice, he let out a howl of laughter while throwing his head back and said, Where is Liao Kong? I was about to look for him to settle a debt.

    Bu Chi struggled to free himself from his companions support; taking a step forward, he shouted, What a scoundrel! Even if you handed over the treasure right now, dont ever think of leaving.

    Xu Ziling was playing the role of an arrogant and conceited old man, who considered everyone else beneath him. Naturally he had to continue to be believable; laughing aloud, he handed over the Jade Annulus of He Clan and said with a cold humph, If you have the ability, come and get it!

    Bu Chi immediately frowned, while taking two steps back in succession.

    Another tall and thin Protector Vajra put his palms together and said, I wonder what gratitude and grudges does Shizhu have against our humble Temples Chanzhu, that you came here to settle a debt with him?

    Xu Ziling had a sudden realization: he knew that they were afraid of the Jade Annulus of He Clans terrifying energy radiation; thats why they were stalling for time, hoping that Liao Kong, who was meditating in his private chamber, would come promptly to handle this situation himself. Thinking that if he did not leave now, what was he waiting for?

    With a big laugh he said, That debt can be settled later! Right now I am terribly itching; whos going to play with me?

    His right hand grabbed the pomegranate wooden sword, his left hand held the Jade Annulus of He Clan, he dashed down the stone steps.

    An enormous force, like an impenetrable wall, pressed down on Bu Chen, four men.

    Bu Chen, who bore the brunt of the attack, brandished his staff, sweeping across him. Obviously he did not want Xu Ziling to get close to them. What he was afraid of naturally was not Xu Ziling, but the Jade Annulus of He Clan in his left hand.

    Xu Ziling noticed that although the sweep looked simple and ordinary, within the sweep there were countless changes and follow-up moves, coupled with fantastic and mysterious footwork. It was indeed not easy to ward off.

    The most formidable thing was that the sweep of the staff started slowly, but turning fast, with a powerful qi shrouding him so that he could not get away.

    At the same time, he also felt the Jade Annulus of He Clans extraordinary power was diminishing. If he ever got himself entangled by these monks terrifying formation, the final outcome would be he had to fight with all his might and perish here.

    Other than Bu Chi, who kept out of the way due to his injury, the short and stout Bu Ju [no fear] and the tall and thin Bu Tan brandished their staffs simultaneously.

    Xu Ziling was well aware that if he did not take the advantage to escape while he was not under siege yet, he might never get a chance to flee.

    A wild roar.

    The pomegranate wooden sword sliced through; it heavily attacked Bu Chens sweeping Buddhist staff. His left hand, carrying the Jade Annulus of He Clan, made a circle in the air.

    The three monks attack suddenly halted.


    Qi forces collided.

    Xu Ziling cried inwardly, I am lucky! Borrowing the reaction force, he flew up.

    A few somersault later, he was already above the Copper Halls roof, and to his surprise he found out that the entire Copper Hall was surrounded by staff-wielding monks, while the dozen or so monks hiding on the top of the Hall called out the name of Buddha in unison, waiting for the moment Xu Ziling landed on top of the Hall.

    Shocked, Xu Ziling immediately raised a mouthful of qi.

    A fantastic thing happened.

    Previously, he had never tried to take a breath while flying in the air, but only used the residue of power within his body to continue, which naturally could not compare with the new power he generated when he started to soar.

    But this moment was completely different.

    The true qi within his body was like the breaking out mountain flash flood; it surpassed the previous one, as if the meridian itself was full of infinite power. This kind of feeling was like his entire body was able to circle in the air.


    Xu Ziling made another somersault over the Copper Halls roof, while at the same time he evaded Bu Ju and Bu Tans, who were also flying in the air in hot pursuit, attacks.

    By the time Bu Ju and Bu Tan landed on top of the Copper Hall, Xu Ziling was already approximately ten zhang away from the top of the Hall.

    More than a dozen monks immediately raised their qi, as well as their voices, as they threw the Buddhist staffs in their hands toward him.

    Certainly none of the Jing Nian Chanyuans monks did not have superior martial art skill. These dozen or so Buddhist staffs were very accurate. But Xu Ziling was not the target; rather, the staffs were surrounding him, closing up any escape path he might take, so that the staffs became an inescapable net closing in on him.

    The sound of qi splitting the air filled the space above the Copper Hall.

    Yet Xu Ziling remained calm without the slightest hint of fear. He suddenly sank down.

    This moment two Buddhist staffs shot out at the speed of lightning.

    The toes on Xu Zilings two feet pointed out, separately touching the head of the staffs.

    Pow! Pow! His direction changed. Like a lightning coming out of a clump of black cloud he flew horizontally over another big Hall. Under the helpless look of the monks surrounding the Copper Hall, he crossed over, and flew in the direction of the rear courtyard.

  20. #160
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 14 Chapter 3

    Book 14 Chapter 3 Altering the Acupoint, Exchanging Meridians

    Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan were eagerly looking up and around. On the starry sky under the moonlight, Xu Zilings familiar shadow appeared; small at first, but quickly growing bigger. Hastily they raised their power, ready to provide support.

    Amidst the light flutter of the sleeve, Xu Ziling came to within three zhang above their heads. Suddenly he flipped over, and miraculously slowed down. And then light and easy like a falling leaf he floated for about a zhang, before finally landed on the ground. Afterwards he staggered a little bit and nearly falling on his butt on the ground.

    Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan were stupefied.

    Although this cliff could not be considered high, but it was at least thirty zhang tall. Upon introspection, they realized that if they jumped down, although they would not die, but at least they would receive light injury from the shock; they could not do like Xu Ziling just did.

    By the time they rushed over, Xu Ziling was already one step ahead by darting toward the woods on the opposite cliff. Of course the other two knew what was going on; without wasting any time they followed his lead.

    After running for more than twenty li at a stretch, the three stopped in a dense forest at the foot of a mountain.

    Opening up his left hand, Xu Ziling smiled and said, Look! It was because of this treasure that Lin Xiangrus [3rd century BC famous statesman of Zhao] name spread throughout all ages.

    The two were unable to take their eyes off the treasure in Xu Zilings hand.

    Kou Zhong reached out to take it, Ow! he cried and said, My heavens! Why is it so scalding hot?

    Xu Ziling was dumbstruck, Thats impossible, he said, It is clearly as cold as an ice cube.

    Kou Zhong handed it over to Ba Fenghan and said, You be the judge; is it cold, or is it hot?

    Very carefully Ba Fenghan took it. The first to capture his attention was the engraving, Ordinary Han characters I know, but these eight undecipherable writing, do you know what they say?

    Kou Zhong leaned over to look; shaking his head, he said, This is bird-shaped seal character, we need Wang Tong here to read it. Ol Ba! I wanted you to feel this ghost thingy, whether it is cold or hot, not to research what characters are engraved on it.

    Ba Fenghan smiled and said, Right now my heart is calm; I feel so relaxed and comfortable. Evidently the legend that the Jade Annulus of He Clan can calm and subdue the mind is not fabricated.

    Xu Ziling reached out to gently stroke the characters engraved on the seal. With his fingertips he traced two simplest characters and said, Although I do not recognize these two characters, I can guess what it is; it must me Yu Tian [from heaven] two characters. It is really strange that a moment ago this ghost thingy was able to make people feel agitated and wish to die, but now its giving people light, relaxed feeling.

    Kou Zhong also reached out to stroke the characters; he said, The first two characters should be Shou Ming [ordained/appointed], and the last two characters are Yong Chang [forever/eternally prosperous]. Ha! Shou Ming, Yu Tian, something something, Yong Chang, only two characters are not recognizable. The three of us combined ought to be equal to six out of eight Wang Tong.

    All along Ba Fenghans attention was focused on the treasured seal he held on his open palm. His eyes shining with strange light, he said, And now do you guys feel this is cold, or hot?

    Of course it is hot! Kou Zhong exclaimed.

    Amazed, Xu Ziling said, What seems to be the problem? How could there be hot jade and stone?

    The two boys turned to Ba Fenghan, waiting for his answer.

    Ba Fenghans whole face lit up; he said, I have never seen jade and stone with this kind of texture, with cold inside the heat, and heat inside the cold. Even more, there seems to be endless energy hidden inside. If we could use it for ourselves and carefully research it, I am sure there will be some previously unimagined gain.

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, Problem is even the nuns and the monks of Ci Hang Jing Zhai and Jing Nian Chanyuan are unable to do anything about it; what can we possibly do?

    Tranquil and calm, Xu Ziling said, I have a way. While there is still another sichen before daybreak, we immediately research it, hoping for some result. If our inner power cannot advance greatly in a short period of time, tomorrow will be our unbearable day!

    The three went into hiding at the top of a mountain about fifty li east of Jing Nian Chanyuan, where they sat cross-legged around a large piece of flat rock, with the rare treasure placed in the middle of the flat rock. In the pitch-black night before dawn, under the starlight above, it emitted an extraordinary splendor, so that they were overwhelmed with an out-of-the-ordinary, free-from-vulgarity, immeasurable-mystery, fantastic feeling.

    When Xu Ziling had finished narrating what he went through and what he felt during the stealing of the treasure in the Copper Hall, Ba Fenghan spoke in delight, Ziling, on this kind of situation, former sage has already said it well; it is known as shedding ones mortal body and exchange ones bones, or perhaps washing the marrow and exchanging the tendon; while actually it is only strengthening the meridians and intensify the ability, increasing the capacity of the true qi, or perhaps increasing the speed of the qi power flow. It looks like Ziling is suitable to have the good fortune, as well as foundation, of becoming top-tier martial art master. Usually this kind of process will take long years of struggling arduously, but you have obtained it in mere several breaths. It is indeed unprecedented in the Wulin history.

    Kou Zhong happily said, Does that mean Zilings skill has advanced tremendously?

    Shaking his head, Ba Fenghan said, Skill, perhaps increased a little, but he still has to undergo a period of training. However, what he has is not small matter either. You should know that human power is sometimes exhausted, just like a bucket; it could only contain a fixed amount of water. After the transformation driven by the Jade Annulus of He Clan, Ziling has been transformed from merely a bucket to become nobody-knows-how-deep a pool. Afterwards, it will depend on Ziling on how much water he can absorb.

    Xu Ziling wholeheartedly accepted the enlightenment; he said, That was what I feel. Fenghan Xiongs analysis is very accurate.

    Sucking a deep breath, Kou Zhong said, And now how are we going to deal with this treasure?

    Ba Fenghan also frowned. Do I have to wait for this treasured jade annulus to turn berserk and raging fiercely before I can absorb its energy? he asked.

    Having foreknowledge, Xu Ziling replied, That is unnecessary, plus it will be too dangerous. Could it be that I have to beat you as hard as I can with a staff?

    Kou Zhong nodded. I understand, he said, Xiao Ling, why dont you tell Ol Ba the details of what you were going through? I am going to check around, perchance someone was hiding nearby and we didnt know it.

    After Kou Zhong left, Xu Ziling said, This move of mine was stolen from Wanwan; i.e. I gathered all my true qi in the shengsi qiao acupoint at the ocean of qi, so that the meridians do not have the least bit of true qi, so that we can repeat what happened within my body caused by the Jade Annulus of He Clan, and can acquire its energy.

    After pondering silently for half a day, Ba Fenghan sighed and said, Now I know what true brotherhood is. If it were other people, it would be strange indeed if he did not do anything in his power to monopolize the treasure. But you guys merely treated it just like eating a meal or drinking wine, without giving it the slightest thought. Just from this fact alone, I, Ba Fenghan, submit to you wholeheartedly.

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, This is called blessing will be enjoyed together!

    And then he carefully explained how to circulate the power.

    This moment Kou Zhong returned. The three of them sat in formation. Xu Ziling sat in front, Kou Zhong at the rear, and Ba Fenghan in the middle. The two men on the back had their palm pressed onto the middle of the back of the person in front of him, while Xu Ziling was holding the Jade Annulus of He Clan in his hand.

    After taking a deep breath, Xu Ziling said, Begin!

    Suddenly applying his power, his right foot was burning hot, the true qi from his entire body entered the Jade Annulus of He Clan.

    The treasured jade annulus immediately lit up with dazzlingly bright color.

    All three of them were severely shaken at the same time, as if they were electrocuted.

    It was an intense feeling that was hard to describe.

    It was as if the Jade Annulus of He Clan came alive and radiated an incomparably lively extraordinary power that was trying to invade their brain and body. Strange and unfamiliar scenes flitted through their mind, making them jittery and nearly driving them mad and making them wanted to scream, as if they had fallen into a nightmare from which they could not extricate themselves.

    Xu Zilings true qi, which originated from the Secret to Long Life, hastened the violent aspect of the treasured jade annulus.

    But this time they were like riding a tiger, from which they could not get off; they could not stop even if they wanted to. The three could only disperse the qi power within their body, while maintaining a little bit of clarity in the taizu qiao acupoint, and keep pressing on.

    Xu Ziling, who bore the brunt of the Jade Annulus of He Clan, felt that the extraordinary energy within it was many times more violent than the last time; it unceasingly surged up like an escaping wild horse, entering the palm of his hand, then bursting through each and every one of his meridians, big and small, in his entire body.

    Xu Ziling has never imagined this situation would happen. The instant he felt that he gained control over the true qi in his meridians strengthening his body, the qi and blood in his entire body seemed to freeze up, while the coldness of the Jade Annulus of He Clan was increasing steadily without any sign that it would stop soon.

    Ba Fenghan immediately detected that something went wrong; he knew that Xu Ziling already lost control over the Jade Annulus of He Clan. Suddenly he was faced with the most painful decision he had to make in his entire life.

    If he removed his palm from Xu Zilings back, which had turned as cold as ice and snow, he would be able to escape unscathed. But Xu Ziling definitely would be done for.

    If he continued doing what Xu Ziling taught him to, the outcome might very well be the same as the Buddhist staff Bu Chi used to strike Xu Ziling, i.e. he had to sacrifice himself to withstand the blow.

    Ferociously clenching his teeth, Ba Fenghan applied his power for a sudden intake of a breath.

    A cold stream like torrential flood after the storm surged violently into Ba Fenghans system.

    Wah! Ba Fenghan spurted mouthful after mouthful of fresh blood, spraying on and turning Xu Zilings head, neck and back, dark red; it was shocking the eye, astonishing the heart.

    It was as if the palm of his hand has become the bridge connecting the two peoples meridians.

    The strangest thing happened.

    When the unusual qi penetrated his palm, it was still bone-chilling cold, but suddenly the heat and the cold rolled up together as a stream, like a million naughty and repulsive rats were scurrying around wildly all over his body, with no meridian was spared.

    The strangest thing was that clearly the cold stream was a lot stronger than the heat stream.

    Even with Ba Fenghans firm, steadfast willpower, he nearly could not help screaming.

    The qi and blood in his entire body swelled. His meridians felt as if it was ready to explode. This kind of pain was clearly beyond the limit of pain that anybody was able to endure.

    When the strange qi from the Jade Annulus of He Clan going through Xu Zilings body, during the exit it automatically rushed out in the spiraling manner, and thus the emissive destructive power was multiplied.

    Kou Zhong at the back already saw Ba Fenghan spurting out blood, followed by the two were shaking violently, while Ba Fenghans back alternated between cold and hot; so he knew something was terribly wrong.

    But he did not know that Ba Fenghan was in the battle between Man and Heaven. Without even thinking, immediately he used all his strength to absorb the strange qi from Ba Fenghans body.

    Wah! Just like Ba Fenghan, Kou Zhong also spurted blood. It was scorching hot that he felt his meridians were about to dissolve from the heat and turned into violent flow, which immediately piercing through his whole body.

    In that instant, Kou Zhong knew that the fate of all three of them was entirely in his hand.

    If he let the strange qi conquer him, the three of them would end with their meridians burst open.

    He had to send the strange qi back into Ba Fenghans system, and in turn would have to be transferred back to Xu Ziling, until finally Xu Ziling had to send it back into the dreadful-like-the-gods-or-the-demons Jade Annulus of He Clan, bringing about a complete circle.

    At this time the threes meridians were still linked without any barrier.

    Kou Zhong had just had this thought, the spiraling cold qi he stored in his ocean of qi rushed forth in full-strength, meeting the heat energy that was entering his meridians, as swift as the lightning, head-on.


    The nerves on the entire body of all three persons were split like they were struck by violent lightning; all three of them could not help spurting out more blood.

    Ba Fenghan felt the cold/hot intertwined spiraling qi were circling back and forth; but this time it was not too cold. Rather, the balance between cold and hot was just right, so that he felt unspeakably comfortable and at ease. Evidently its destructive nature has been greatly reduced.

    Originally he had made up his mind to face death, but now that things took turn for the better, his spirit aroused, he took advantage of the incoming momentum by first drawing the qi power toward his dantian, and then let his meridian carried it through into Xu Zilings body.

    Xu Ziling also felt his originally icy-cold meridians turned pleasantly warm somewhat; immediately he also pacified this slight difference to recover his vitality. Quickly he used his thought to control the flow of qi, from the scorching hot yongquan acupoint on his right foot pierced through his body, while returning the cold stream to its rightful owner, back to the Jade Annulus of He Clan, which tightly gripped in his two hands.

    Kou Zhong at the back constantly generating cold qi from his tianling acupoint, striving his hardest to reconcile it with the hot stream entering his body.

    Strange things happened.

    The Jade Annulus of He Clans brightness was constantly increasing at an alarming rate, until it was as bright as the moon in the sky, its brilliance sparkled brightly; it was strange to the extreme.

    The strange thing was that the stream of qi was constantly circulating inside the three mens meridians, from the icy-cold it split apart into the intertwining cold and heat, and it was only upon reaching Kou Zhongs system that it turned into heat energy. Furthermore, it was flowing faster and faster, until finally it went out of the three mens control, as it continued to cycle without any sign that it would stop any time soon.

    The yongquan acupoint on Xu Zilings left foot grew increasingly hot, while Kou Zhongs tianling acupoint grew increasingly cold.

    Under normal circumstances, the two boys would not be able to endure these abrupt changes from hot to cold and vice versa. But this moment they felt that the colder the better, the hotter the more wonderful it was.

    All kinds of illusions flitted across their brains; this one rose up the other one disappeared, in an endless string of strange scenes.

    Several cycles later, the cold and hot stream in Ba Fenghan system was approaching its equilibrium; the strong and weak locked in a stalemate.

    Even with his vast experience and knowledge, after traveling ten thousand li, Ba Fenghan did not understand exactly what happened at the moment.

    In a word, from the time Xu Ziling released the cold qi and it entered his body to cause the cold/hot flow, which deviate from cold, and the time Kou Zhong returning the flow, it turned into cold/hot combined flow, which deviate from hot.

    What he really wanted to do, and the only thing that he could use, was trying to bring the true qi inside his body to a balance cold/hot flow.

    Because the strength or weakness of these cold and hot flow was changing constantly, Ba Fenghan was like a tight-rope walker over a high cliff, unleashing everything he had just to maintain the equilibrium; otherwise he would lose his footing and fall into the cliff to end up having his body torn and his bones crushed.

    By this time Xu Ziling was already able to move his own true qi, although he was still unable to cutoff the incoming huge qi from the Jade Annulus of He Clan, which surging up violently.

    Fortunately the meridians are divided into yin and yang. The cold qi from the Jade Annulus of He Clan was coming from the yang meridian, entering via the palm of Ba Fenghans hand. Coming back from Ba Fenghan, the intertwined cold/hot true energy returning inside the jade annulus was coming from the yin meridians.

    Each cycle of the flow of qi had made the three mens meridians to be swelling a little.

    After the flow was getting faster and faster, suddenly it slowed down. In this way the fast flow became slow, and the slow flow became fast. It kept cycling like this for no one knows how many times and how much time passed. Suddenly all three of them felt sharp pain like the heaven fell and the earth rent, the meridians inside their body seemed to be bursting open, their bodies sprang up at the same time.

    Xu Ziling fell forward, while Kou Zhong fell back.

    Ba Fenghans entire body was thrown up halfway into the air, before it fell heavily on the grassy ground.

    Lying down on the ground, the three could only pant, and momentarily they were unable to crawl back up.

    But they all knew that some extremely fantastic thing had happened inside their bodies.

    Ba Fenghan groaned, and was the first to get up. He found out that his entire body, from head to foot, was drenched in sweat; moreover, the sweat beads were blackish and smelled fishy, but his body felt relaxed and extremely comfortable.

    Opening his eyes to look around, the whole world looked different.

    The forest of the mountain tops near and far appeared to be a different world. Not only the color gradation and richness appeared to be enhanced many times over, the most emotionally moving was that in just a glance, he seemed to be able to distinguish the difference poses and different expressions of each leafs movement under the morning light and the gentle breeze.

    Ba Fenghan was so moved that his body was shaking violently as he kneeled down, with hot tears welled up uncontrollably in his eye sockets.

    As he closed his eyes, the heaven and earth inside and outside immediately water and milk blended into one entity.

    The warm sunshine radiated from the east, casting its light on his body. From not having a moment of his own, it was as if presently he felt he has received his existence, the meaning of his life.

    Ba Fenghan unleashed the method to look deep into himself, and was immediately gob smacked. There was also a burst ecstasy and a feeling that he no longer needed to search for something to satisfy his need.

    As he said earlier, his meridians were thus reinforced many times over. Although it could not be said that his skill had been increased tremendously, but as long as he consistently made intensive effort to cultivate his skill, he certainly could achieve twice the effect with half the work.

    It should be noted that humans strength was sometimes limited. For a martial art master of Ba Fenghans caliber, even a cun advancement could be more difficult than ascending the heaven. But after undergoing such a singular transformation like the course of events just now, he would be like a clear puddle that turned into bottomless deep natural pond. Every single acupoint, every channel, would be like shedding ones mortal body and exchanging ones bones by turning into unlimited storehouse of growth potential. Naturally it had made him so happy that he nearly went mad.

    Suddenly Kou Zhongs voice entered his ears, My Niang! Why am I so smelly?

    Ba Fenghan opened his tiger-eyes.

    Xu Ziing and Kou Zhong sat up; with a blank expression they turned their eyes toward the rising sun in the east, and then they vigorously sniffed the sweats on their palms.

    In a very comical way Kou Zhong crawled on his hands and feet toward Ba Fenghan and said, Ol Ba, how come you suddenly become more handsome? Your whole face is shining. It looks like the Jade Annulus of He Clans best feature is to be used as skin moistener.

    Using the sleeve of his clothes, Ba Fenghan wiped the dirt accumulated on his face from indistinguishable sweats and tears; laughing involuntarily, he said, Although you are not dead yet, but I think you have turned crazy. You dont have any manners at all.

    The two looked face to face for a moment, and then they roared in laughter together.

    However, as why they were laughing, what was so amusing that they laughed, nobody knew for sure.

    Xu Ziling was still staring blankly at the sun.

    Exhaling a mouthful of air, Xu Ziling said, I am staring directly at the sun, how come I do not feel the glare?

    The two quickly turned their gaze toward the sun; the usually glaring sunlight felt so warm and comfortable. It was definitely different than usual.

    With a dreamy sigh Kou Zhong said, My Niang! Turns out the sun is a big ball of fire; how come usually I could not see it?

    His heart moved, Ba Fenghan asked, Where is the Jade Annulus of He Clan?

    Smiling ruefully, Xu Ziling opened up both palms, which were covered in fine-powder like substance, interspersed with bits of irregular-shaped pieces of gold, which also looked like their shapes have been changed by some kind of powerful compression.

    The two stared at the remnants on his palms. They blurted in disbelief, Is that the Jade Annulus of He Clan?

    The extraordinary treasure, which fame spread out throughout the ages, has become a pile of dust?

    Xu Ziling nodded, This thing has just burst into dust in my hands. Finished! The Jade Annulus of He Clan is finished!

    Clicking his tongue, Kou Zhong said, We carefully scrape the dust from Xiao Lings hands, later on well find a way to repair it. Maybe there are people who can work wonders.

    Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling laughed and swore at him.

    Kou Zhong also laughed aloud, sprang up, assuming a grand-ruler-facing-the-world attitude, he shouted, Who dares to say that I, Kou Zhong, did not receive the Heavens command to be the Son of Heaven? Even the Jade Annulus of He Clan has become one with me. I am the treasured seal of the Emperor by the grace of Heaven. The treasured ruler seal is me. Anything I sign using either my fingers or my toes will be the imperial seal. Ha!

    Ba Fenghan returned to his calm and composed demeanor. Rising up to his full height, he said, Do not get carried away. The trouble that we face because we stole the jade annulus is just the beginning. Now we need to look for a stream to wash clean the dirt and bloodstain from our bodies, and then we need to fabricate a decent story to explain where we were last night. We will deny categorically that it was us who stole the Jade Annulus of He Clan; otherwise, before we even become genuine martial art masters, the nuns and monks of Ci Hang Jing Zhai and Jing Nian Chanyuan will brandish their sticks randomly to beat us to the death.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, No wonder they say that those with riches and honor are beyond the fear of death, unlike the rotten life of the poor. Come! The earlier we return to the city, the more we wont attract other peoples suspicion. I still need to make a private appointment to meet and deal with Wang Shichong, that old fox!

    Amidst their laughter, the three left the jungle.

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