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

  1. #241
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 20 Chapter 11

    Book 20 Chapter 11 Traveling with a Beauty

    Shi Qingxuan pushed open the wooden door of a stone house; turning her pretty face around, she smiled and said, Xu Xiong, please come in!

    Xu Ziling stared blankly for half a day before stepping over the threshold into the house. The room inside was separated into front and rear sections by a bamboo wall. Although the house itself was small, it contained a gamut of furniture, various bits and bobs; everything necessary in a household, with clear window and clean table, quiet and secluded, and pleasant.

    Shi Qingxuan spoke indifferently, This is Qingxuans humble abode [orig. snails home].

    Surprised, Xu Ziling asked, Dont Miss Shi live in Bashu?

    Shi Qingxuan invited him to sit on the chair by the window, while she herself stepped into the inner section behind the bamboo wall, and said, This cottage was not built by Qingxuan at all. The original owner passed away five years ago, thereupon Qingxuan borrow it to stay for a time. I like it since it is only half a sichen away by foot from the Demonic Emperor Temple.

    Looking through the bamboo wall, Xu Ziling could vaguely see this unique beauty sat down in front of a small table by the bed inside the inner section, with her back toward him, facing a round copper mirror hanging on the wall. Under the hazy illumination in the room, everything was purified by the bamboo wall, emphasizing her graceful figure and posture even more.

    Xu Ziling sighed in admiration, This is indeed a good place to shun the world. If Miss did not take Zaixia here, I am afraid I would never find it even if I searched for it ten thousand years.

    This small stone house was built inside a small canyon located about ten li southeast of the bat cave maze, with its back to a tall waterfall pouring down into a small lake. In front of the house fruit trees were swaying, the scenery was extremely beautiful.

    Shi Qingxuan picked up the comb and started to brush her jet-black, shiny and long beautiful hair gently. Her movement and posture were extremely attractive.

    Why dont you ask who the original owner was? she spoke indifferently, Arent you curious?

    A warm and comfortable feeling welled up in Xu Zilings heart, as if he was in a small nest together with his lovely wife, chatting about domestic trivia over a bamboo wall. It was an extremely novel sensation.

    Smiling, he said, Perhaps my character makes it so! I rarely have the urge to absolutely want to know certain things. But since Miss particularly raised this issue, it is obvious that the original owner of this house must be a person of great history. Now Zaixia is highly curious.

    Laughing softly, Shi Qingxuan said, I was wondering, may Qingxuan ask Xu Xiong a rather rude question?

    While listening to the sound of the boisterous tweets of the birds chasing each other and playing outside passing through the window, he casually replied, Miss, please enlighten!

    Shi Qingxuan said, May I venture to ask Xu Xiong, in the past few years you are roaming to the south wandering to the north, have you hurt the heart of many girls who poured out their feeling, who are fondly attached to you?

    Xu Ziling was stunned, I have never thought about that, he said, But I dont think there is such thing?

    Shi Qingxuan cheerfully said, Finally you, this guy, are not being honest. But for the time being, I am not going to settle this account with you. Let Qingxuan put this question on the other side: how many famous beauties have Xu Xiong seen in Jianghu? Which one can make you admire her wholeheartedly?

    Xu Ziling smiled ruefully and said, Miss question is more difficult to parry, to ward off than any strange-skill, ultimate-art. Can Xiaodi simply surrender and be done with it?

    Shi Qingxuan put down the comb, Pfft! she giggled tenderly and said, A useless fellow! Real man should dare to love, dare to hate. Turns out the Xu Ziling, whose name shook the world, is so useless in this regard.

    Full of confidence, Xu Ziling calmly shrugged his shoulders and said, Xiaodi have an extremely light and indifferent view toward the feeling between men and women, neither do I have any particular expectation or hope. In everything, I am at home wherever I am. If you ask me, my wish is to lead a life of free and easy, to roam the world and enjoy immortal scenery, without any burden of this life.

    Shi Qingxuan was silent for half a day, before slowly said, Your way of thinking is extremely similar to Qingxuans; the difference is one is moving, the other still. In Qingxuans heart, the ideal way of life is to live in secluded mountain or forest, studying meticulously the art and knowledge that I like, and use it to amuse myself, passing through this life in peace and quiet. Therefore, I am a little anxious to pass on this responsibility to Xu Xiong.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, Xiaodi finally understand Miss intention. Say it then! As long as it is within my power, I will definitely accomplish Miss cherished desire.

    Shi Qingxuan sighed and said, Ay! You are such a good person, you make Qingxuan feel ashamed and guilty to inconvenience you. Xu Xiong, could you temporarily close your eyes, I want to change clothes!

    Xu Ziling jumped in fright, and hastily shut his eyes.

    The rustling noise of clothes being changed continuously came from behind the bamboo wall. Shi Qingxuans unhurried, calm voice said, Dao Xin Zhong Mo Da Fa is definitely the demonic schools supreme skill; it is a level higher than Yin Gui Pais Tian Mo Da Fa. The strangest thing is that in the process of training, the practitioners character and temperament will change, from demonic to enter the Way. According to Lu Dashi, although in training this skill Xie Di Xiang Yutian ruined the enterprise for the sake of one basketful, he did not complete the whole skill, and ended up suffering fire deviation and the disaster of having his body burned, but before his tragic death, he suddenly came to see the truth of his evil deeds in the past in devastating all living things, hence he tried hard to remedy it.

    Xu Ziling almost opened his eyes. Astounded, he said, Turns out there is such skill in the world, it is really surprising.

    Although the Secret to Long Life was able to change his and Kou Zhongs temperament, it still followed their own natural character and natural development, absolutely unlike the Dao Xin Zhong Mo Da Fa that could completely change someones deep-rooted character.

    Shi Qingxuan seemed to finish changing her clothes; she opened the bamboo wall and walked over to the outer hall, but she did not tell Xu Ziling to open his eyes. She spoke gently, At that time, the only concern he had was You Niaojuan, those four evil disciples. No one understood their evil nature more than he did, thereupon he wanted to exploit their weak point of desiring to be the next generation Xie Di, using the Demonic Emperor Relic as a bait, forcing them to make an oath under the demonic schools supreme and binding blood curse, that only after obtaining the Demonic Emperor Relic that they could inherit the Xie Di position, and only then would they be allowed to establish the Sect. On the other hand, he secretly informed Zhu Yuyan that the Demonic Emperor Relic has already been passed on to these four inferior disciples, so that they would carry the blame.

    Xu Ziling still had his eyes shut tight, so he could not see her expression while she was speaking. It was like he was in the middle of the fog; completely at a loss. Why is Demonic Emperor Relic so important? he asked.

    Shi Qingxuans sweet-sounding voice replied, That is the mystery within a mystery in the Xie Ji Zong [lit. extremely demonic school], the strange technique and secret method that has been handed down from generation to generation since the establishment of the Xie Ji Zong, and has become the symbol of authority of the Zongzhu [head of a clan, school master]. It also represents some kind of terrifying skill. In itself, the Demonic Emperor Relic is a finely polished rare yellow crystal stone. Since the first generation Xie Di, when the successive Xie Di knew that he was coming to his allocated lifespan, using a secret method, he condensed the power he accumulated his entire life to become a qi essence, and injected it into the crystal stone, hoping that the person inheriting the demonic stone would be able to use the primary essence, so that from generation to generation, the Xie Ji Zong would grow stronger and stronger, unrivalled in Wulin. Oh! You may open your eyes now!

    Xu Ziling suddenly opened his tiger-eyes. Shi Qingxuan had her beautiful hair rolled up in a bun, capped with a hat, while wearing complete menswear; the attire one would wear on a long journey.

    Her ugly nose disappeared without a trace, but her skin became rough and swarthy. Even so, her beauty still made people hold their breath.

    It was unclear whether because he paid particular attention and the difference in their relationship now, but he felt that her straight backbone made her tender nose looked perfect, so that she appeared more noble and elegant beyond comprehension, flawless.

    Her beauty was cold and detached, and mysterious. Perhaps this was due to her innate purity and pride, so that others did not dare to get close to her, yet they would thirst for her favor. Adding his previous impression of her to that, Xu Ziling dared to affirm her distinct style, her bold beauty was in no way inferior to Shi Feixuan, Wanwan, or other peerless beauty of their caliber.

    Shi Qingxuan smiled and said, Why are you staring at me, unable to take your eyes off me? Do you think Qingxuan has changed too much?

    Laughing involuntarily, Xu Ziling said, Miss really knows how to read my heart. Hey! If what you have said is true, that Xie Ji Zong ought to far surpass Yin Gui Pai by now, but why is the fact not so?

    Shi Qingxuan sighed and said, The real situation is complicated. Tell me first, where are you heading?

    After Xu Ziling explained everything to her, Shi Qingxuan gladly said, We will be able to travel together for two, three days. After reaching the Great River, you go down to Jiangnan, while Ill take the boat to the west. Well talk it over during the journey, all right?

    Xu Ziling has never imagined that he would gain a female companion. But every moment he spent with this beauty would be a beautiful experience that he would never forget as long as he lived. Thereupon he nodded and smiled, If Miss dont mind, we ought to hasten on with our journey.

    ※ ※ ※

    Luoma Lake was located southeast of the biggest lake in Shandong, the Weishan Lake, the two are connected by River Si.

    Luoma Lakes water under the wide open sky extended as far as the eye can see, the bluish green waves rippled, the water was rich with fish: carp, Crucian carp, black carp, shrimp and crabs; as for the flora, there was water caltrop, fresh lotus root, cattail, mouth grass, and so on.

    Every time the weather was favorable, fishing boats roamed about the mist covered water, the oars braved the waves, heron glided and gulls soared; the scenery was enchanting.

    Luoma Bangs base, the City of Xiapi, was located about ten li northwest of Luoma Lake. It was a fortress at the confluence of three major river courses, Si River, Yi River, and Bian River. From here, in just a little more than half a day of voyage, one could reach Pengcheng, located at the upper reaches of Bian River.

    The convenience of transportation has made Xiapi the transit center between Luoma Lake and Weishan Lake, with a tight grip on the waterways in the entire region. As a result, Xiapi brought a lot of commercial trade, which, in turn, gave Luoma Bang full belly and fat intestines, their fame and power grew.

    The alliance with Khitans group of horse-mounted bandits offered Luoma Bang the opportunity to expand their influence and fuel their wild ambition.

    Kou Zhong, Luo Qifei, and ten of their men disguised themselves as traveling merchants, who came to this village, rich in fish and rice, in the Luoma Lake region, to buy provisions, and safely entered Xiapi.

    Assisting them in gaining access and establishing contact was the local huge grain and oil merchant, Shen Renfu. He has always had close relationship with Pengliang Bang. Although on the surface he also maintained friendly relations with Luoma Bang, inwardly he was extremely resentful toward Du Rens excessive, not-knowing-his-limit taxation, his surly and unreasoning way of doing business.

    Luo Qifeis information was coming from him.

    Shen Renfu was a proficient and calculating businessman; originally he was unwilling to be drawn into the dispute. But Du Ren and Ku Ges alliance was more than he could bear, simply because his younger brothers family, men, women, young and old, all lost their lives in Ku Ges hands, hence his hatred was deeper than the sea.

    But the most important thing was his admiration and confidence in Kou Zhong, thereupon once the agreement was made, he was determined to help Kou Zhong to deal with Du Ren and Ku Ge.

    As soon as Kou Zhong and Luo Qifei reached the Shen Mansion, the three immediately held a meeting inside the secret chamber.

    Shen Renfu was a tall, sturdy and rugged looking man, his hair was iron grey, he appeared to be confident and easy-going. On his bright and broad face was a pair of shiny eyes, he wore a long and thick beard, his age around forty, the impression he was giving out was that of an astute, decisive, and stop-at-nothing man.

    After some polite exchange, Shen Renfu presented the situation, After obtaining Ku Ges support, Du Rens major task is recruiting soldiers and buying horse, in preparation to display his fist and feet, putting all towns and villages in the vicinity in danger, afraid that he and Ku Ge would join forces and go to all directions, killing and burning, besieging cities and robbing lands.

    Frowning, Kou Zhong said, Ku Ges group only consists of an insignificant number of several hundred horse-mounted bandits, why does Du Ren seem to acquire big backers?

    Shen Renfu sighed and said, In Zhong Yes eyes, its only natural that Ku Ge is a totally insignificant nobody; but in the surrounding area, who did not hear the name Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits and their countenance change? If we add the thieves Ku Ge left at the coastal area, the number may reaches more than a thousand. Every one of these Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits has outstanding martial art skill, very aggressive and ruthless. Their horsemanship is a level above everybody else, plus they come and go like the wind. Except for the big defeat under your, Zhong Yes hands, they have always been undefeated. And now that they acquired Du Rens intelligence and base of operations, they are indeed like a tiger that has grown wings, putting all of us in danger. We are hoping that Zhong Ye can come out to preside over justice, and take revenge and wipe out the grudges of the people massacred by them.

    Kou Zhong calmly said, Shen Laoban [boss], please set your heart at ease. Merely for your esteemed younger brothers family being harmed by them, I already am unable to sit still. I must make this bunch of evil thieves unable to return to their hometown forever. I wonder where Ku Ge is staying now. Du Ren will never dare to lead the wolf into the house, to sleep under the same roof with Ku Ge!

    Seeing how much Kou Zhong was giving him face, Shen Renfu was so grateful that he was almost in tears. After kneeling down to express his gratitude, he said, Ku Ge and his men are hiding on the prairie at the foot of Mount Ze, about a dozen li west of Xiapi, ready to respond and rendezvous with the other group of horse-mounted bandits. As for the details of his conspiracy with Du Ren, Xiaoren [the lowly one, referring to self] has not explored that information yet.

    Stretching his limbs, Kou Zhong said, I wonder if Shen Laoban knows: within the Luoma Bang itself, who opposed this alliance most intensely?

    Without even thinking, Shen Renfu replied, Of course its the Er Dangjia [second chief] Xiao Lu Bu [little Lu Bu (-198), a general and warlord] Jiao Hongjin. This man is an exceptional hero, he received the love and respect of ten thousand of his men, but also received Du Rens jealousy the most. This alliance, at least half of Du Rens reason was directed at him. Since his fight against the alliance failed, every night Jiao Hongjin lingers at the pleasure house, drowning his sorrow in wine. In my opinion, he is at the initial stage of dying, otherwise Du Ren might have him killed.

    Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, Lu Bu did not love the rivers and mountains, but loved beauties instead. Hopefully Little Lu Bu is a bit better. We will start with him. Who knows, perhaps without spending a single man, a single troop, the entire Luoma Bang will join us. At that time, I can guarantee that the Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits will die without a burial place, plus we will gain a batch of well-trained warhorses. Dont you think this is a very sound scheme?

    Shen Renfu happily said, Xiaoren has quite a bit of friendship with Jiao Hongjin; let Xiaoren make the arrangement.

    Shaking his head, Kou Zhong said, Its not advisable for Shen Laoban to appear personally. It is hard to fathom a persons mind; nobody knows how Jiao Hongjin would react. Qifei, do you have any suggestion?"

    Luo Qifei, who has been listening on the side without saying anything, agreed; he said, It would be best indeed if Shen Laoban does not appear personally, but how are we going to make contact with Jiao Hongjin secretly?

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, Then I will have to act according to circumstances. What is his favorite place? I am going to meet him there. If he is unwilling to help me, I might as well kill him with a blade, and then it will be Du Rens turn.

    Although he talked big, Shen Renfu and Luo Qifei merely thought that it was proper and to be expected as a matter of course.

    Compared to Ren Shaoming and Li Mi, Du Ren could be considered nothing.

    After thinking for a moment, Kou Zhong said to the two, Since nobody knows what Du Ren and Ku Ge are going to do next, we might as well do them a big favor: spread a bit of rumor, so that the people of neighboring towns will panic. Once we get rid of Du Ren, everybody will be doubly grateful, so in a few words we can buy the hearts of the people back. Ha! Is there anything more cost-effective than this?

    The two nodded their heads in praise. Both inwardly thought that indeed there is no empty scholar under famous reputation; he was able to think about such tactic.

    Muttering to himself irresolutely, Kou Zhong said, The rumor must be reasonable and fair, otherwise its not worth spreading. Ah! Shen Laoban, you are more familiar about this: what are the people nearby most afraid of?

    Shen Renfu respectfully replied, Du Ren has always intended to capture Liu County and Pei County by the Weishan Lake, so that he can obtain a foothold at Weishan Lake, from which he can then attack bigger towns around Weishan Lake. Can the rumor be something about this matter? To the north, Weishan Lake is connected to Zhaoyang, Dushan, and Nanyang, three lakes, which are joined head to tail, as if they are one single lake. If it fell into Du Rens hands, the entire Shandongs economic lifeline would fall under Du Rens control.

    Luo Qifei said, To capture Weishan Lake, they must first seize Pengcheng. Therefore, as long as we falsely spread the news that Du Ren is about to attack Pengcheng, others will imagine and speculate about his wild ambition and his large scale plan.

    Roaring in laughter, Kou Zhong said, The more we talk about this matter, the more it becomes the truth, even I believe it a little! We might as well add some salt and put on some vinegar, saying that Ku Ge is going to take the lead, to wash the disgrace of defeat under my hands; therefore, they would kill anybody they see. Hows that?

    The two cheered together.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Ol Du and Ol Ku, two big brothers! Lets see how many more days you are going to enjoy the wind and the sunshine.

    With excited expression, Shen Renfu said, Working for Zhong Ye is such a delight, Xiaoren will immediately do it according to plan.

    Hold on! Kou Zhong said, It would be best if the rumor starts outside and spreads inside, then even if Du Ren wanted to investigate it, he cant. You can dispatch men to nearby cities and towns immediately Ah! Wed better change it to using the traveling merchants who come and go along the waterways; that way the news will travel faster and spread wider.

    Shen Renfu accepted the order and left.

    Kou Zhong stretched again, and then said to Luo Qifei, Go and investigate which pleasure house our Little Lu Bu might go tonight, I am going to take a nap, and when I wake up, Ill go find him to feel the bottom of the wine cup and discuss this business with him.

    Yawning again, he exclaimed, I am exhausted!

  2. #242
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 20 Chapter 12

    Book 20 Chapter 12 Lucky Chance


    Xu Ziling, disguised as Yue Shan, and Shi Qingxuan, traveled as father and son, arrived in Hefei, another big city northwest of Liyang. Yangtze River was still two days away, that is, assuming the two would travel as fast as their feet could carry them.

    This city was inside Jianghuai Armys territory, but the flag flying overhead was Fu Gongyous banner, and not Du Fuweis.

    Outside Hefei, the countryside was unbroken fields stretching into the distant; seedlings were everywhere, fresh yellow and light and dark green as far as the eyes could see, making their mind felt fresh and cool.

    After paying the tax to enter the city, the fascinating scenery of the patchwork of waterways of the Yangtze River basin warmed their hearts and delighted their eyes.

    The streets were paved with either bluestone or built by laying bricks, giving the impression of abundant antiquity. The buildings were compact and elegant, with whitewashed wall and black roof tiles, wooden doors and stone steps, simple, nothing fancy. In this continuous fire of war, the time where ruins lay for a thousand li, outsiders looking at it would feel peace and harmony in their heart.

    Passing through a narrow but long alley, both sides densely packed with the rear walls of peoples houses, Shi Qingxuan, who along the way has never uttered even half a word, suddenly laughed and said, I was thinking of leaving the city immediately after late night supper, so that tomorrow well be able to reach the Great River, but somehow after entering the city, I suddenly feel tired and lazy, and now I only want to rest. Before nightfall I want to go out to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city. Xu Xiong, what do you think?

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Even if we are in a hurry, one night or half evening will not matter much. Besides, we really must have a good night sleep. Therefore, I have no objection.

    Thereupon the two found a clean, simple yet elegant inn in the vicinity, ordered two adjacent rooms, and separately went to the bathroom to freshen up, before meeting again and together went to the city center to enjoy the liveliness. Sitting down at the corner of a restaurant, Shi Qingxuan ordered two vegetarian dishes, and then the topic of their conversation went back to Xie Ji Zong.

    Shi Qingxuan did not wish for the guests at the adjacent table to listen to their conversation, hence she sat by Xu Zilings side, with her back against other people, and affectionately leaned close to Xu Zilings ear, and said, The problem is that so far, no one has ever reaped any benefit from the Relic, but it has become a tradition of the Xie Ji Zong from generation to generation that when the Zongzhu is approaching his end, he would transmit his qi essence into the Relic. Other than Xiang Yutian, who was not able to fulfill this obligation due to the unexpected death, there are altogether eleven Zongzhu who sacrifice their primal essence into this Relic.

    A chill crept up in Xu Zilings heart, thinking that the conduct of demonic sects people was indeed strange and unfathomable.

    Shi Qingxuan went on, It was only during Xiang Yutians time that they took a turn for the better. Xiang Yutian was the first person to understand how to use the Relic to train the demonic skill, so that he ranked above Zhu Yuyan among the demonic sects grand masters. Its a pity that he never completed the Dao Xin Zhong Mo Da Fa. Just before his death, he separately taught the secret on how to use the Relic to train the demonic skill to four inferior disciples, who harbored the intention to murder their master, and to Yin Gui Pais Zhu Yuyan. In addition, he instructed Lu Dashi to hide the Demonic Emperor Relic in some secret place. The best part was that he deliberately mystifying this matter, so that You Niaojuan and the others mistakenly thought that the Demonic Emperor Relic has been handed over to Zhu Yuyan, while Zhu Yuyan is convinced that it has fallen into the four peoples hands. The consequences can be easily imagined.

    Naturally they battled each other as irreconcilable adversaries [orig. you die, I live], which ended up You Niaojuan and the others suffered a crushing defeat, and no longer dared to show their face. This ruse was certainly evil and extremely vicious, a clear sign that even though Xiang Yutians character underwent huge changes, he did not have the heart of Bodhisattva at all, while implying punishment to his evil disciples at the same time.

    Shi Qingxuan continued, In the end, paper can never contain fire. By the time both sides realized that the Demonic Emperor Relic was in Lu Dashis hands, both parties have already tied deep enmity with each other.

    Xu Ziling was puzzled, How did this matter implicate Miss? he asked.

    Shi Qingxuan sighed; she replied, Can I hold on to the climax for the time being by temporarily not tell you this?

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Since Miss has a hidden trouble that is hard to mention, its all right not to tell me that. But we are going our separate way tomorrow; is there any other instruction Miss would like to tell me?

    Shi Qingxuan shook her head and said, We are not going to part tomorrow. We are going to part tonight.

    Xu Ziling was stunned.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong slept until late afternoon; alone, he went to the busiest street in Xiapi, to look around with great interest.

    In order to fool people, he did not carry the Moon in the Well, which normally has never left him, he also dressed as a distinguished and accomplished young master of a wealthy family, with silk clothes and everything else.

    Along the street, he saw group after group of men wearing blue tight warrior outfit, walking in domineering manner; they must be Luoma Bang men, but they did not create any trouble at all.

    In this time of war, common people were the source of manpower. Du Ren must have restrained his men to follow a strict code of conduct; otherwise, if the people ran away, the city would become ruins.

    The lanterns were started to illuminate the street. Pedestrians and vehicles fought against each other for the right of way. Except for its scale, which was comparably smaller, the liveliness was not inferior to the Heavenly Street in Luoyang.

    After sleeping for more than three sichen, Kou Zhongs physical strength, as well as his spirit and mind, were completely recovered. He felt full of energy, and really wished he could find some bad people to beat up. Inwardly he also wished for Xu Ziling to be here, so that they could chat and joke, and spoke some vulgar language. Certainly the evening would be even more enjoyable.

    After walking for two blocks, he stopped in front of a pleasure house, which signage said Xiao Chun Guang [lit. little scenes of springtime]. After taking a deep breath, he swaggered through the pedestrian entrance leading into the courtyard.

    Seeing the arrival of a fat sheep, the bouncer at the gate busily took him to the reception lobby, and called the laobao [female brothel keeper] for him.

    Kou Zhong showed off that he brought enough money, so that the other party would think that he was a big customer from outside the country who came to do business here. He gave generous tip, before casually mentioning the most popular girl by name, Miss Qiu Yue [lit. autumn moon].

    The laobao, who insisted to be called Auntie Qing, showed off an awkward expression while saying, Daye [big master] is really unfortunate this time! Tonight Qiu Yue is already booked by another Daye. How about I have Qiu Rong [lit. autumn lotus] to accompany Daye? In terms of voice, beauty and artistry, she cant be inferior to Qiu Yue.

    Kou Zhong tossed half an ingot of gold to her, telling Auntie Qing to have Qiu Rong come and accompany him, but no matter what, he still wanted Qiu Yue to come and have a cup of wine with him, while putting the other half of the gold ingot on the table. [This paragraph has a lot of missing characters, as well as gibberish, so I interpreted it as best as I can from whats left.]

    Such a generous and forthright honored guest was rarely seen in the world, hence Auntie Qings greedy eyes lit up immediately, but she was still hesitant and could not make decision.

    Kou Zhong leaned over and whispered in her ear, I have an idea; how about this! You arrange for me to have a room next to the room she is entertaining her guest. As long as I hear her singing voice over the wall, you can consider me getting my cherished desire, and that half gold ingot is yours!

    Auntie Qing mused that unexpectedly there was such an idiot in the world who willingly spend money like this. She gladly took him upstairs.

    ※ ※ ※

    A smile broke out of Shi Qingxuans dark jade countenance, like a sliver of sun bursting out of the black clouds; she spoke gently, Dont be overly sensitive. I only change my mind, I want to go back to Shichuan via land route.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, Very well! Well part after dinner. It would be perfect if I can reach Baling sooner.

    After staring at him quietly for half a day, Shi Qingxuan spoke softly, Your build certainly bears striking resemblance to Old Yue, but you lack his aggressiveness and overbearing saber. Do you want to appear a bit more like him?

    Xu Ziling replied indifferently, It doesnt matter how much I look like him on the outside, once I fight, there is no way I can cover my traces; therefore, there is no need to do more than is required.

    Pursing her lips, Shi Qingxuan laughed and said, I said to appear a bit more like him, naturally that includes his saber technique and his overbearing saber. Do you forget that when he died I was at his bedside?

    Thinking about it, Xu Ziling felt more headache, No matter how hard I tried, its difficult for me to imagine that you and Yue Shan could hang out together.

    From this angle, he could see Shi Qingxuans profile from the side, as clear and distinct as if it was carved by a knife, the lines were as beautiful as if it came from the ghosts hatchet with divine skill, astonishing to see, especially since the make up to disguise her original appearance covered up her icy flesh and bone, so that Xu Ziling was able to focus his attention on her refined lines.

    Shi Qingxuans beautiful eyes showed a far-away, recalling-fond-memories, look, her jade lips spoke gently, Forty years ago, Old Yue suffered a crushing defeat under the hands of Heavenly Saber Song Que. Heavily injured, he traveled a thousand li to see my Niang, his original intention was that just before dying, he could see Niang for one last time. But Niang disregarded the wear and tear of her own true power, and saved his life using her acupuncture skill to stimulate his acupoints, so that he was able to live thirty more years, but he was unable to save his martial art skill.

    And then, casting a glance at Xu Ziling, she spoke indifferently, Why are you staring at me?

    Xu Ziling hastily averted his gaze and said in embarrassment, Listening to you, I was enthralled, and involuntarily staring at you. If you dont like it, I wont look at you.

    Shi Qingxuan showed a cute, nave expression like a little girl, pursed her lips and said with a laugh, I was teasing you. You are different from other men; no matter how ugly my disguise is, you are always able to find something touching about me. And now Qingxuans skin is dark and rough, what do you say?

    Xu Ziling nearly grabbed his head and cried out for the pain; distressed, he said, You seem to be afraid others might admire your appearance, but that is a fact that cannot be changed.

    Shi Qingxuan smiled and said, That is because I have my Niang as an example. Ever since I was old enough to understand, I have never seen Niang smiling. Dont change the subject, where were we?

    Xu Ziling thought that it was you who changed the subject, yet you made laozi [me] the criminal ringleader, the main offender. But naturally he would not argue with her over this; he replied, You were telling me that Yue Shan managed to keep his life, but not his martial art skill

    Shi Qingxuan slapped her pretty forehead, and exclaimed softly, Right! The details are not important, but as far as I understand, afterwards Old Yue built his house outside the secluded forest of the small valley where we lived. From time to time I visited him there, listening to him telling the stories of Jianghu, hence I was very clear about his affairs. In his spare time, he wrote his saber technique, which he called seventy two seasons [orig. hou a period of five days] into a book. If I pass on this book to you, you could even pretend that you know his martial art!

    Xu Zilings heart was moved; he asked, Do you know that Yue Shan and Zhu Yuyan have a daughter together?

    Shi Qingxuan replied, That was the biggest regret Old Yue had in all his life. At first he thought that Zhu Yuyan was viewing him in a new light, that his feeling was reciprocated; who would have thought that Zhu Yuyan ay! I dont want to talk about it.

    Is this your habit? Xu Ziling protested, You always stir up other peoples curiosity, but then you dont want to continue.

    Shi Qingxuan smiled teasingly; she said, Finally you are willing to speak honestly. What I hate the most about you is your repulsive attitude of dont-care-about-everything, nothing-is-urgent. Ill let you off this time!

    After a short pause, she continued, Often time Demonic Cult peoples conduct violates social relationships and heavens law. For instance: bearing and raising children, which are proper human relationships and follow heavenly law, they would see it as impediment. The reason Zhu Yuyan chose Yue Shan to be husband and wife for one night was simply because she loathed Yue Shan. Therefore, although they had man-woman relationship, she did not have to worry about falling in love with him, and would have difficulty extricate herself from it. Tell me, dont you think that was a perversion of heavens law?

    Listening to that, Xu Ziling was stupefied, and was unable to answer.

    Shi Qingxuan was silent for a moment, and then she spoke softly, You kill You Niaojuan and Zhou Laotan for me, and Ill invite you to my little valley, and will play a tune for you wholeheartedly, with my true appearance. Dont you think this condition is satisfactory?

    ※ ※ ※

    Indeed Qiu Rong, who came to accompany Kou Zhong drinking, did not look bad at all; she was glowing with youthfulness, not in the least looked like a broken flower, withered willow [fig. fallen woman].

    Seeing Kou Zhongs back of a tiger and waist of a bear [fig. tough and sturdy build], her smart countenance immediately rippled with amorous feeling; she clung to him like honey, doing everything she could to curry his favor.

    Although on the surface Kou Zhong appeared to be engrossed in her ministration, his ears were focused on the next-door room, where the Little Lu Bu Jiao Hongjin and Qiu Yue were having conversation.

    This moment Qiu Yue won the finger-guessing game, so Jiao Hongjin had to drink as a punishment. Kou Zhong was thinking that this might be the best time. But as he was about to pay Jiao Hongjin a visit, suddenly he heard rapid footsteps coming near, with awe-inspiring momentum.

    More than a dozen footsteps walked pass his door, and stopped in front of the next-door room.


    Someone kicked the door open, followed by Jiao Hongjins surprised voice called out, Da Dangjia [first chief]!

    Kou Zhongs heart was shaken, knowing that Du Ren was coming, only he did not know what made him so angry that he did not give Jiao Hongjin any face at all.

    A deep and low, hoarse and heavy guttural male voice shouted, Other people get lost!

    Jiao Hongjin remained silent. Qiu Yues footsteps left the room. The sound of her footsteps alternating between heavy and light; obviously she was terrified that her footsteps were unsteady.

    The door closed.


    Du Ren slapped the table and shouted, Tell me, who leaked out our plan to attack Pengcheng?

    Listening to that, Kou Zhong was dumbfounded; he thought how could there be such a coincidence? At the same time he praised Shen Renfu inwardly, for the high efficiency with which he spread the rumors.

    Displeased, Jiao Hongjin replied, I dont understand what Da Dangjia is talking about.

    Du Ren cursed furiously and said, If you dont understand, then who does? The attack to Pengcheng, you know it, I know it, Ku Ge knows it, but no one else. But now rumors are springing everywhere outside, even our coalition forces strategy, which one will attack Pengcheng first, which one later, are plainly in the open. If your mouth did not speak it out, do you think it was either me or Ku Ge? Tell me!

    Jiao Hongjin spoke in heavy voice, I, Jiao Hongjin, have been with Da Dangjia for many years, when did I ever speak half a word of lie? I said I did not, that means I did not. Da Dangjia dont believe me, there is nothing that I can do.

    After an unbearable silence, Du Ren suddenly stood up, and after saying Good! three times in succession, he left just like he came: like the wind.

    Several times Kou Zhong was thinking of making his move, but in the end he decided not to do it, because if he assassinated Du Ren just like that, it would be difficult to admit Luoma Bang people peacefully later.

    He stood up suddenly.

    Qiu Rong, who had just recovered from the shock, jumped in fright. Pulling his sleeve, she said, Honored guest, where are you going?

    Kou Zhong caressed her face [and some gibberish], and said, Listen, I want you to wait nicely here, dont go stealing other man.

    ※ ※ ※

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, I can only promise you that Ill do my best. Just think! That night, in the bat cave labyrinth, under such favorable situation, they still managed to escape; clearly these two are so formidable. Later on, Miss must also be more careful.

    Shi Qingxuans eyes were rippling with unusual luster. After looking at him for quite a while, she smiled, exposing two rows of snow white teeth, and said, You are not able to accomplish something today does not mean that you are not going to accomplish it tomorrow. As long as you are willing to promise, that is enough.

    This moment the vegetarian dishes arrived.

    Raising up her chopsticks, Shi Qingxuan picked up some vegetarian dishes and put it in Xu Zilings bowl; she said, Consider this meal as a farewell dinner for you, its Xiaomeis [little sister] treat. Oh! I am very happy. Ever since Niang became an immortal [fig. die], Qingxuan has never had such a good laugh.

    Xu Ziling had no choice but to force a smile to reciprocate.

    As if she had just remembered something, Shi Qingxuan said, I almost forget to tell you how to find me in the middle of Sichuan, otherwise youll look for ten thousand years and still wont find me. Hee ! I dont know why, but I find myself love to tease you, to see your embarrassed and awkward expression.

    Xu Ziling did not know what to say.

    The two you pick a chopsticks, I pick a chopsticks, very soon the vegetarian dishes on the table were wiped clean.

    Looking at the empty dishes and bowls, they both were amused.

    After Shi Qingxuan scrambled to pay the bill, they went out to the street, she said, Do you have anything you left at the inn?

    Xu Zilng shook his head to say negative.

    Shi Qingxuan said, Its late, the city gate should be closed by now, our only way out is to climb over the wall. Do you really want to send me off a while?

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, That is affirmative!

    Shi Qingxuan blissfully said, In that case, follow me!

    Turning around, she headed toward the western part of the city.

    Xu Ziling ran after her, and said, You have said a lot of things in half; shouldnt you finish everything clearly before we part company?

    Shi Qingxuan shook her head and said, Those are all troublesome matters, once I start, I wont be able to finish it. How about later on when you come to see me? You are the first guest I have ever invited.

    Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, I am afraid it will be a long time before I can spare some time to go!

    Unconcerned, Shi Qingxuan slightly shrugged her fragrant shoulders and said, Naturally youll come when you have time.

    Xu Ziling was about to talk, suddenly he heard a horse neighing wildly, on the street, a carriage stopped abruptly.


    The carriage roof broke open, a flash of shadow shot out of the carriage, and landed behind the two; his momentum was astonishing to the extreme point.

    Xu Ziling and Shi Qingxuan exchanged a glance; neither one knew what was going on.

    Ba Dao [overbearing saber] Yue Shan, it is you!

    Hearing that, Xu Zilings scalp went numb, while inwardly he cried injustice.

    Shi Qingxuans voice came into his ear, Dont be afraid, its your old friend Zuo Youxian. I speak a sentence, you speak a sentence; understand? Finished speaking, she quickly walked aside.

    Xu Ziling slowly turned around; following Shi Qingxuans instruction, he spoke indifferently, Since we parted at Changbai, in the blink of an eye more than forty years have passed. Youxian Xiong is as svelte as before; it is indeed worthy of celebration.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong pushed the door open and entered.

    Jiao Hongjins fierce gaze looked at him like lightning flashes, but his voice was extraordinarily tranquil. Who are you? he spoke indifferently.

    This man was worthy to be called Little Lu Bu; his appearance was heroic, grand, and handsome, big and tall, well proportioned. Every movement exuded his full self-confidence.

    Kou Zhong smiled indifferently, and sat down across the table from him. He said, Xiaodi Kou Zhong. Jiao Xiong, how are you?

    Jiao Hongjins tiger-body shook severely; his hand quickly reached out to grab the hilt of the broadsword still in its scabbard on the table.

    Hold on! Kou Zhong shouted in low voice.

    Jiao Hongjins hand held the hilt tightly, but he did not pull it out. Are you here just to accompany me drinking and playing finger-guessing game? he spoke in low voice.

    Kou Zhong spread out his hands, indicating that he did not have any intention to attack. Sneering, he said, If I wanted to kill, your Da Dangjia just now would not leave this place alive. Am I right?

    Jiao Hongjin calmed down. Carefully sizing up the opposite party, he nodded and and said, Why didnt you make your move?

    Kou Zhong replied, Because I wanted to give Jiao Xiong some face.

    While Jiao Hongjin was stumped for words, footsteps suddenly rose up from afar, but quickly came near. At least there were several dozen men, coming from either side of the corridor outside the room.

    Kou Zhong unhurriedly said, Du Ren wants to kill you!

    Last edited by foxs; 07-15-17 at 07:48 AM.

  3. #243
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 21 Chapter 1

    Book 21 Chapter 1 Swords Flowing Out of The Big Dipper Handle

    Jiao Hongjin turned around and pulled his broadsword; he sprang out of his chair, and shot toward the wooden tripod cauldron window looking out toward the rear courtyard from the side room. Before gaining steady footings, however, he roared in anger, and bent his body backward.

    Chi! Chi! Chi! repeated swishing sound of seven, eight powerful arrows flitted across only a few cun above his face like lightning flashes, and stuck themselves onto the walls and beams of the side room.

    The tail of the arrows were still swaying, the footsteps outside the door cam to a sudden stop.


    The door was heavily kicked open, big men with weapons in their hands, like wolves and tigers, rushed into the room without saying anything.

    Kou Zhong let out a long laugh. Copying Jiao Hongjin, he sprang out of his chair, but his hands grabbed the back of the chair tightly, lightning fast both of his legs flew backward, and hit two men, who were chopping down their weapons, on the pit of their stomach.

    The sound of sternums breaking was shaking to the core. Both men spurted blood from their seven orifices [i.e. 2 eyes, 2 ears, 2 nostrils, 1 mouth], the weapons dropped from their hands, their body flew backward like a kite with cut string, knocking the other men, who were rushing behind them, that they fell in a pitiful state, suffering from broken bones or split flesh. Six or seven men went down, not even half was able to crawl back up.

    Screams were heard from adjacent rooms.

    Kou Zhongs feet landed on the floor, he said to the angry Jiao Hongjin, Let us lure the enemy outside, so that they wont accidentally hurt the innocents. He soared up, broke the ceiling, and flew out of roof.

    Hearing him, Jiao Hongjin stared blankly for a moment, and then followed his example breaking out of the hole on the roof.

    By this time Kou Zhong already attacked several archers lying on ambush on the roof that they run like wolves, scurried like rats, and rolled down from the eaves on both sides of the roof.

    The entire second story, as well as the space between the building and the courtyard wall, was full of torches. The sound of people shouting and attacking filled the heavens, but no one could directly threaten them.

    Jiao Hongjin moved to Kou Zhongs left side, and he spoke resolutely, From now on Jiao Hongjins life belongs to Kou Ye.

    Kou Zhong pulled him down to evade more than a dozen powerful arrows shot from the ground upward toward them. While scanning the surrounding area, he said with a laugh, Why suddenly misplace your kindness to me like this?

    Jiao Hongjin willingly said, Under this kind of circumstances, you can still taking the innocents into consideration, if Hongjin do not follow Kou Ye, whom should I follow?

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud. Reaching out, he grabbed Jiao Hongjins shoulders tightly for a moment, and then letting go his arms, he said, Good Xiongdi! Come!

    Like an arrow, he shot low along the back of the roof, down the eaves, and slipped down like a swimming fish toward the lower floor. He moved in such a high speed that was indiscernible by naked eyes, plus this happened so suddenly that the enemys arrows all hit empty space. He was like a tiger entering the flock of sheep; first he moved at lightning speed to seize a lance, and then poking to the left and stabbing to the right, he attacked anybody on his way, so that the more than thirty enemies guarding that position were utterly defeated, and scattered in all direction.

    As soon as Jiao Hongjin landed on the ground, Kou Zhong bellowed, Come! Well kill Du Ren on our way.

    Enemys reinforcement forces came from both sides, their battle cry mixed with the screams of the girls upstairs; the situation was extremely chaotic.

    Kou Zhong and Jiao Hongjin, one in front of the other, attacked their way toward the front gate, where vehicles and horses were parked at the plaza. Due to the space restrictions of the establishment, it was very difficult for the enemy to form heavy siege, hence it was very advantageous to the side with fewer number.

    With Kou Zhong taking the lead, they charged their way along the corridors. The lance in Kou Zhongs hand turned into millions rays of light like flashing lightning. None of those who blocked their way narrowly escaped; if not being swept and thrown out of railings along the corridor, they were poked and thrown back by the lance, crashing against the men of their own side. Indeed it was awe-inspiring on all eight sides, those who tried to block them were swept by the wind.

    Jiao Hongjins martial art skill was equivalently brilliant; his broadsword went up and down, turned over and flew, he cut down many pursuing enemies.


    Like a streak of lightning Kou Zhongs lance swept at a shield, jolting both the shield and its bearer, sending him tumbling down backwards. Kou Zhong repeatedly swept the lance across, sending two stabbing spears aside, but in his heart he did not have the slightest delight, yet cried out for the turn of events was not too encouraging.

    This moment, he was only about a dozen steps away before he could turn into the small square at the main gate; who would have thought that from the corner suddenly appeared countless men wielding saber and shield, and spear and shield, blocking their way out so tight that there was no gap between them, while the mob, who was originally blocking their way, fanned out toward the railings, to let the fresh troops to deal with the two.

    Every single one of this group of spear and shield wielders had good martial art skill. The most formidable thing was that these men were highly trained, with first-rate capability both to attack and defend effectively. Kou Zhongs previously splitting-bamboo like momentum immediately went up in smoke, and turned into cun by cun, fen by fen hard struggle. [1 cun is approximately an inch, 1 fen is approximately 1/3 cm or 1/8 inch.]

    Jiao Hongjin behind him immediately felt the increased pressure; the more they fought, the deeper they sank into the heavy siege, the blood-soaked and hard-fought struggle.

    Jiao Hongjin spoke harshly, Du Ren wants to kill me with his heart and soul. This is this personal guards, the Spear and Shield Regiment. Their number reaches five hundred men. Kou Ye, quickly leave! Dont mind me, if you delayed, it will be too late.

    Kou Zhong suddenly backed off, dodging three spears swiftly slashing down on him, and pressed his back against Jiao Hongjins, while calling out, If we die, we die together.

    His keen eyes scanned the surroundings, and saw that other than the shield wielders and spear wielders swarming in from outside the railings of the corridor, there was a group of more than a dozen archers with crossbow in their hands. While crying inwardly, Not good! he shouted loudly, Follow me!


    Kou Zhong simply crashed into the wall, and rolled into the pleasure houses reception lobby.

    ※ ※ ※

    Zuo Youxians build was tall and slender, his head was almost bald, but two tufts of long hair still remained on his temples, like a childs hair, reaching down to his wide shoulders, the shape was exceptionally good.

    He looked at least sixty years old, but his skin was as fair as a babys. His eyes were like a goats eyes, his sparse beard was long and drooping down, his nose bent and pointy, giving the impression that he was an extreme demonic and ruthless man.

    The clothes he was wearing was plain grey Taoist robe. His hands behind his back, he stood as steady as a mountain, the hilt of a sword was visible over his left shoulder, his imposing manner was suffocating.

    His eyes emitted deep and sharp gaze, as he sized the disguised-as-Yue-Shan Xu Ziling from top to bottom, and spoke coldly, Of course not as good as Yue Xiong, who was able to hide and live in ease and comfort. Yue Xiong has become very formidable, even the saber, which was usually inseparable from you, is nowhere to be seen. Your voice has also changed, as well as your eyes. Although Xiaodi sympathize with you, old debt cannot be forgotten. If you are willing to break your own right hand, Xiaodi will let you go.

    To more than a dozen Jianghuai Army troops, who were escorting the carriage, leaped off their horses and spread out to circle them, he shouted, Get away to give me some space. Better yet, get lost far away!

    As a matter of fact, the pedestrians on the street have already scattered away to avoid trouble; they went to hide in the stores and into the alleys.

    Xu Ziling did not know where Shi Qingxuan went, but her instruction was still ringing in his ears. Hastily he let out a hoarse laughter, while his eyes shot sharp rays like lightning flashes as he stared at Zuo Youxian, who was standing more than two zhang away, and spoke indifferently, Zuo Xiong has Fu Gongyou supporting you, no wonder you put on a lot more air in the way you speak. If I had not completed the Huan Ri Da Fa, based on this sentence alone, I would make your blood splash within ten paces. Zuo Xiong, do you believe me?

    Zuo Youzians countenance changed slightly, a half-believing, half-doubting look flitted across his eyes; he spoke heavily, Xiaodi has just trained the Zi Wu Gang [lit. zi compass point 0 (north), wu compass point 180 (south), gang stars of the Big Dippers handle] to the eighteenth level, and just suffered from no-rivals. This time meeting Yue Xiong on the road by chance, clearly my Taoist ancestors are showing favor, by giving Xiaodi this golden opportunity to test my skill.

    Although behind the Yue Shans mask the muscle on Xu Zilings face was showing a strange smile, he was actually trying to stall for time. He spoke indifferently, Zi Wu Gang is one of the two amazing supreme skills handed-down techniques of your honored sect, the Dao Zhu [lit. Taoist ancestors] Sect. It stands side by side with the Ren Bing Jianfa [lit. ren compass point 345, bing compass point 165, jianfa - sword technique], as the subduing sects secret skills. But since your honored ancestor Chang Mei Lao Dao [lit. old Taoist with long eyebrows] founded the Sect, nobody has been able to execute Zi Wu Gang to perfection and harmonize it to be a sword technique that can really be used. Zuo Xiong must be careful not to paint a tiger as a dog. If I am able to see any one small flaw in your coordination, Zuo Xiongs trial will become martyrdom. Please dont blame Ol Yue for not giving you a forewarning.

    Obviously Zuo Youxian had no doubt in seeing him as the real Yue Shan. Laughing coldly, he said, I did not expect Yue Xiong has deep knowledge of my humble handed-down little skill. As for whether Xiaodis Jian Gang Tong Liu [Swords Flowing Out of The Big Dipper Handle, chapter title] still has any flaw, I was about to ask for Yue Xiongs guidance.


    Zuo Youxians treasured sword left its sheath. Immediately a burst of no-stronghold-one-cannot-overcome biting cold gang [see above] qi emitted out of the blade of the sword, pointing at Xu Ziling from a distance. It was fierce and overbearing, as well as demonic, strange, and eerie.

    Xu Ziling groaned inwardly. From Shi Qingxuans instruction, which sounded like a thin string of noise piercing his eardrums, he learned that Zuo Youxian was one of the eight martial art masters of the demonic sects. In the past, he ranked above You Niaojuan. If he fought a hand-to-hand combat against him, Xu Ziling would have to give it all he had to stay alive. At that time, it would be strange indeed if the whole truth was not revealed.

    Fortunately, Shi Qingxuans concentrated voice came just in time. Finished listening, he quickly gathered his strength to meet the intense Jian Gang of this senior figure, a martial art master of the demonic school, with equal harshness. Looking up to the sky, he calmly said, Right now the you [compass point 270] and shu [no idea, perhaps a typo?] are intersecting[1]. Zuo Xiongs Zi Wu Gang must be intersecting the qi from your heart and your kidney. Watch for the finger!

    When he spoke about intersecting the qi from the heart and the kidney, Zuo Youxians countenance immediately changed slightly; the Gang qi weakened by thirty-percent.


    The two men shook at the same time.

    [1] Both Zi Wu and Ren Bing are Chinese Taoist symbols for number, zi wu is 1 and 7, they can refer to time of a day large hour or shi, zi wu is midnight (11 pm to 1am) and noon (11am to 1 pm). Ren Bing belongs to another set of symbols of number, and is 3 and 9. The two symbols put together made up the Chinese year circle system for example Bing Zi is year of mouse. You shi and shu shi intersecting means 7 pm. (Courtesy of Akolaw)

  4. #244
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 21 Chapter 2

    Book 21 Chapter 2 Reversed Fortune

    Xu Ziling and Shi Qingxuan stood on top of a small hill. Far behind them was the faint flicker of Hefei city lights.

    Shi Qingxuan smiled and said, I already guessed that that yao dao [demon Taoist] would not dare to fight, because he only trained to the separating spirit level, and not the fusion and flow of the spirit level; hence there was no chance that he could beat your false bravado of Huan Ri Da Fa. Whats more, unexpectedly you were able to tell where his spirit was stored, and where would his qi return to. How did you know that?

    Xu Ziling calmly shrugged his shoulders and said, That was purely some kind of reaction after the qi contacted the mind, when I explored his mental and physical efforts concentrated at his heart and kidney, his gang qi surged endlessly at his Du meridians, waiting for action after having accumulated power; it was exceptionally mysterious. If not for my body generated the perception, I would not believe that there exists such an amazing skill. Its just that it still slightly lacks the maturity to reach the highest state.

    Shi Qingxuans face showed a reminiscing expression, as if she was recalling some fond memories of the past, her beautiful eyes looked deep onto the edge of the night sky covering the whole earth. Her thoughts wandering far away, she said, Fortunately Qing Xuan could never forget Niangs words, otherwise I would not be able to help you cross this crisis. Zuo yaodao ranked number seven among the Eight Great Masters of the Demonic Sects; his martial art skill surpasses You Niaojuan, who is at the bottom of the list. Although your martial art skill is superior, if you fight him fair and square, to whom the deer falls [fig. the one to emerge victor (usually in context of seizing the throne)] is yet to be seen.

    Emotionally moved, Xu Ziling said, Turns out it was your Niang who told you that. She must not be an ordinary person.

    Revealing an intensely proud expression, Shi Qingxuan said softly, Of course Niang is out of the ordinary, otherwise, You Niaojuan and the others would not wait until they heard the news of Niang passing before they dared to seize the Demonic Emperor Relic.

    Xu Ziling really wished he could ask about her father, but because it pertained the others personal affairs, he had no choice but to suppress his curiosity and change the subject by asking, Are you saying that Zhu Yuyan also did not dare to provoke your Niang?

    Of course, Shi Qingxuan proudly replied, Niang is one of the people that Zhu Yuyan has deep apprehension, otherwise, Lu Dashi would not have handed the Demonic Emperor Relic to her!

    Emotionally moved, Xu Ziling said, In this world, other than people from Ci Hang Jing Zhai and Ning Daoqi, unexpectedly there is still someone who can make Zhu Yuyan afraid. It is indeed previously unimaginable. No wonder when I heard you breaking Jin Huanzhens demonic sound with your flute, I had a faint feeling that it would be one way to restrain Zhu Yuyans Tianmo Yin [demonic/devil sound].

    Shi Qingxuan cast an amazed glance at him, nodding her head she said, Lu Dashis words were certainly spot on; Xu Xiongs perception is above average, it is really amazing.

    And then she smiled slightly and said, Niang is not quietly someone outside Jing Zhai and Ning Daoqi, rather, she came from the Jing Zhai; she was actually the incumbent Zhaizhus [master of the monastery] Shijie [martial (older) sister].

    Hearing that, Xu Ziling was stunned; he could only stare at her.

    Shi Qingxuan made a rarely-seen-naughty-little-girls-cute-and-charming face at him, and as usual, she stopped at a cliffhanger, Ive told you too much. Oh! Its time for us to part company! Before we break up, let Qingxuan tell you how to find the secluded forest in the small valley. Dont forget it!

    ※ ※ ※

    When Jiao Hongjin thought that Kou Zhong was about to repeat the same trick, he shook the round table and broke the wooden legs, then he flung the tabletop to injure the enemy. Kou Zhong then grabbed one of the legs, and using one hand he lifted the marble tabletop, which weighed about three, four hundred catty, at an angle in the air.

    Due to the angle at which he lifted the marble tabletop happened to place the center of gravity directly above him, he was able to balance it without too much strength, so that the heavy tabletop appeared to be light.

    At the same time he shouted loudly, Da Dangjia please listen to Xiaodi; the fact is that I was just speaking nonsense. Du Bangzhu is indeed wise and has divine martial power.

    While speaking, he was heading toward the corner, which could not be seen from the main entrance. Jiao Hongjin had no choice but to follow closely behind him.

    Du Rens impatient voice came through, I dont have time to bicker with you!

    Kou Zhong suddenly roared, Too late!

    This shout was imbued with his internal power, like a different version of the Tianmo Yin. Although it could not produce hallucination in the enemys mind like Zhu Yuyan, it could shock and hurt the enemies eardrums. The effect was first, to intimidate the enemies, and second, to drown Du Rens order to release the fire arrows.

    While the several hundred Luoma Bang men, who had been waiting outside the door, poised for attack, heard the roar and were thrown into panic, Kou Zhong hurled the marble tabletop out of the main entrance while he himself dashed over the threshold behind it. Jiao Hongjin ferociously clenched his teeth, and risking his life, he maintained the accompanying-the-gentleman frame of mind, he pursued behind Kou Zhong.

    Hundreds of fiery arrows were shot from the snipers on top of the courtyard wall and the archers fanning out at the square.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud. The tabletop landed on the ground, and he used it as a shield in front that not a single drop of water could enter. And then, releasing both hands, he shouted to Jiao Hongjin, You go left, I go right!

    Chi! Chi! Pop! Pop!

    The sound lingered on faintly. More than 90% of the fiery arrows either hit the empty space, or hit the tabletop. The rest were struck down by the two men shooting out from both sides, either by the saber or bare hand, and fell down to the ground.

    After blocking the first round of arrows, Kou Zhong did not dare to be negligence, he lifted up the marble tabletop and whirled it in the air to charge toward the enemy ranks.

    The enemies did not have time to reload their bows, and already they were caught in chaotic warfare.

    Du Ren, with more than a dozen of martial art masters, his personal guards, stood outside the courtyard gate to conduct the overall situation. Upon seeing this, his countenance changed, he roared, Kill them without mercy!

    The dozen or so martial art masters standing to his left and right immediately rushed out to join the siege to intercept the two.

    The more he brandished the tabletop, the more Kou Zhong was able to move it with what the heart wishes, the hand accomplishes ease.

    At the beginning, he thought that he could only hold on for the time needed to burn half of incense stick, before he would be out of strength and had to abandon the tabletop. But when he really applied his strength, he discovered that as long as he could take advantage of the tabletops own weight and hold it in equilibrium, he could use it to attack the enemy, with the effect of four tael to push a thousand catty.

    And after every attack, he could take advantage while the tabletop was reaching the next point of equilibrium to take a breather and restore his qi.

    The tabletop turned everywhere; it was extremely fun.

    The shields split, the spears broke, sabers and swords left the hands and dropped to the ground. The enemies hit by the edge of the tabletop only stained it with their blood; none did not suffer broken bones and split flesh as they were thrown and tumbled away to the ground, absolutely no one was able to stand.

    Jiao Hongjins confidence rose up, his broadsword moved with the might of a tiger, acting as a shield to protect Kou Zhongs rear.

    This moment the enemys martial art masters arrived; one man soared high and pounced down, another man took advantage while Jiao Hongjin was blocking two spears attacking Kou Zhongs right flank to enter from Kou Zhongs left, and brandished the pair of hatchets in his hands to chop on the side of Kou Zhongs back, while yet another man hacked down on the back of Kou Zhongs neck.

    Kou Zhongs killer instinct was on the rise; he stayed calm without showing any fear.

    First, the tabletop spun like a windmill smashing the enemies. The fist of the man pouncing from above sneakily attacked his face. The punch had not arrived, a gust of wind arrived first. Aghast, the man wanted to withdraw, but Kou Zhongs leg flew from underneath, the toes of his boot hit the mans lower abdomen.

    The two martial art masters, one above the other below, screamed at the same time.

    The one striking from the top was swept by the tabletop, his bones broken his flesh split he fell some ways away. The one wielding a pair of hatchets spurted blood and fell face up, knocking down three enemies behind him.

    The tabletop swept again, forcing more than a dozen saber-shield wielders swarming toward him to scatter. But Kou Zhongs true qi has also bottomed out; he only had one more chance to stake everything on one throw.

    Twisting his waist, Kou Zhong pulled the tabletop toward the right rear, and then with a wild roar he rolled the tabletop with all his might toward the exit.

    By this time the two men have killed their way less than twenty paces from the main gate of the courtyard. The tabletop rolled everywhere. Overwhelmed with shock, the enemies scattered in all directions to evade. Those who were slower were smashed and fell face up in such a sorry state.

    Kou Zhong and Jiao Hongjin knew this was their only chance to escape. Fast as lightning the two ran after the swiftly rolling tabletop, rushing toward the gate of the outer courtyard.

    Seeing the unfavorable turn of events, Du Ren and the others rushed over to intercept, but their own men avoiding the disaster swarmed at them like a tidal wave, forcing them to move aside, and thus wasted this good opportunity.


    The tabletop slammed onto the closed outer courtyard main gate. Both the tabletop and the gate shattered.

    Although Kou Zhongs true qi, which came from the Secret to Long Life, was able to cycle endlessly, to grow and multiply continuously, but due to excessive loss, each he exerted his strength he was going all out, he did not have time to recover. This moment he was like a lantern which oil has dried out. He could only raise the last mouthful of true qi to rush out the door.

    Jiao Hongjin threw himself behind him. Seeing his footsteps were without strength, he was shocked. Hastily he rushed over to Kou Zhongs side and reached out to support him.

    Right in this desperate situation, where life and death was only separated by a line, countless archers appeared on the roof of the building across the street.

    While both men cried inwardly my life ends right here, continuous chi, chi noise rang out across the deserted street, arrows were flying above, and to the left and right of them. But the target was the pursuing troops swarming out of the courtyard gate and the enemy archers squatting high on the wall.

    About a dozen men wielding shields pounced onto the street to surround the two men, protecting them. One of them called out, Er Dangjia, we are here!

    Jiao Hongjin heaved a sigh of relief. He turned to Kou Zhong and said, They are my men.

    ※ ※ ※

    The most annoying thing for Du Ren was not the alliance with Ku Ge, or his desire to put Jiao Hongjin to death, but because of Kou Zhongs intervention, he missed the opportunity to kill Jiao Hongjin.

    Within the Luoma Bang, Jiao Hongjin was a figure receiving more love and respect form their people than Du Ren. Du Rens alliance with Ku Ge further drove him from the heart of his people. In fact, Luoma Bang was on the verge of splitting up; hence the reason Du Ren decided to gain the initiative by striking first.

    Kou Zhong spreading the true rumors was like igniting fire to dry, withered leaves and firewood sticks. Luoma Bang was one of the secret societies that rose abruptly due to the situation surrounding the collapse of the old dynasty. Most of its members came from the lower strata of local people, hence it had a very strong local flavor. They would never allow themselves to connive with outsiders to harm their fellow citizens of their hometown.

    Du Ren wanted to form an alliance with Ku Ge, he had his own difficulties.

    No matter how conceited and foolish [Orig. Yelang thinks too highly of himself[1]] Du Ren was, he was well aware that he was not Kou Zhongs match. The only way was to take advantage while Kou Zhong has not had steady footings, to exploit Ku Ges desire for revenge, to expand his power without restraint by capturing Liangdu, so that Kou Zhongs up-and-coming power would be pulled up by the roots.

    In the end, it was just a wishful thinking, because he had never imagined that Kou Zhong would come to shake his foundation.

    The first person to find out that Du Ren was going to take care Jiao Hongjin was the Ghost Shadow Luo Qifei, who received Kou Zhongs order to spy on the side. This man was quite intelligent and insightful; he immediately notified Shen Renfu, who then contacted other Luoma Bang leaderships who had close relationship with Jiao Hongjin, which immediately incited surging emotion among the Luoma Bang crowd, driving them to rush over toward the pleasure house and surround it, so that Du Ren and his troop of personal guards were trapped inside.

    This moment the situation was reversed; Kou Zhong and Jiao Hongjin, escorted by their men, went across the street, under the deafening cheers of their supporters, calling out Jiao Hongjins name.

    Jiao Hongjin did not know what to do, so Kou Zhong whispered in his ear, Enumerate the charges against him first!

    Grabbing his head, Jiao Hongjin said, What charges?

    This moment Du Ren appeared at the main entrance, about to rush out to the street.

    Kou Zhong hastily shouted, Release the arrows!

    Their men were eager to make their move, only they lacked the leadership to give them the command, plus they were still a bit afraid of Du Rens influence. But as soon as they heard the order, immediately a thousand arrows were shot, sending Du Ren and his cronies to cover their heads and sneak away like a rat, back into the courtyard.

    Another burst of cheers shook the heavens as they vented their dissatisfaction toward Du Ren.

    Du Rens frightened voice came out from inside, Jiao Hongjin commits treason against our Gang, you

    Shut up! Kou Zhong shouted, Little kid Du Ren, you clearly knew you have committed three major crimes, you are no longer worthy to be our Gangs Bangzhu.

    Who the hell are you? Du Ren angrily shouted, You dare to infiltrate our Gang to stir up trouble [orig. fan and light up the fire].

    Kou Zhong secretly kicked Jiao Hongjin, who was standing by his side; the latter busily shouted, Du Ren, dont try to change the subject. Your first major crime is colluding with Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits, harming our compatriots.

    More than a thousand Luoma Bang men present immediately shouted and cursed; Du Ren could not even refute the accusation.

    The mood of the crowd was extremely intense; Jiao Hongjin could not think of anything else to say, Kou Zhong hurriedly prompted him.

    Jiao Hongjins spirit was greatly aroused; his imposing manner rose up like a rainbow, he shouted, The second major crime is your inability to discern black and white, you conspired to murder our Gangs Xiongdi.

    The crowd broke into another shaking-the-heavens shout, completely drowning Du Rens feeble shout.

    Jiao Hongjin whispered in Kou Zhongs ear, What is the third major crime?

    This time it was Kou Zhongs turn to grab his head; he was simply blurting out about the three major crimes, just because the number three sounded appropriate, but he had not thought about which three.

    All around them, it was as if the Gang member took the urgency of the two men upon themselves, as if it had happened to themselves, but the more the level of anxiety grew, the more Kou Zhong was unable to think. Until the shouting gradually subsided, suddenly Shen Renfus head appeared from among the crowd, and said, The third major crime is damaging the reputation of our Gang! How about that?

    While Jiao Hongjin was thinking that this did not sound to be a serious crime, an idea flashed in Kou Zhongs mind; he thundered, The third major crime is carrying out a scheme for personal gain, unexpectedly he wanted to set fire to Xiao Chuan Guang and burn the ladies and the guests to death. This is irrefutable evidence; would the victims please raise your voices, otherwise, we are Hey! Never mind!

    He was going to say, Otherwise, we are not going to save you; fortunately he reined in the horse at the edge of the precipice, and did not turn into a vile creature who saw death but refuse to help.

    The victims on Xiao Chun Guang main building immediately shouted their accusations on Du Ren.

    Seeing the time was ripe, Kou Zhoung shouted loudly, Brothers! From today onwards, Jiao Hongjin is our Bangzhu. Long live [orig. ten thousand years] Jiao Bangzhu!

    Immediately the cry Long live Jiao Bangzhu! resonated the skies.

    Kou Zhong shouted again, Men in the courtyard, listen! If you abandon your weapons and surrender, Jiao Bangzhu is not going to investigate, we are all still good brothers!

    As soon as he stopped, the courtyard and the street immediately quieted down, leaving only the crackling noise of the torches and the sound of the breathing.

    No one knew who started throwing their weapons, but then there was unending noise of Ding! Ding! Dang! Dang!, so everybody knew Du Rens influence was gone, his position would be difficult to protect.

    Letting out a long laughter, Kou Zhong said, Du Ren kid! Get out here and receive your death!

    Du Ren roared wildly and rushed out with a spear in his hands, straight toward where Jiao Hongjin was standing.

    Unending Chi! Chi! noise was heard, as hundreds of arrows rained down on him.

    No one knew how many arrows hit Du Ren. He slumped down in the middle of the street, and died on the spot.

    [1] According to the story the king of Yelang (c. 120 BC), convinced that his kingdom was the greatest in all the world, inquired rhetorically of the Han emperor's envoy, Which is greater, Yelang or Han? This gave rise to the Chinese idiom, Yelang thinks too highly of itself (夜郎自大). Other sources suggest that Yelang's king was simply copying an earlier statement by a ruler of the adjacent Kingdom of Dian. (Source: Wikipedia.)

  5. #245
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 21 Chapter 3

    Book 21 Chapter 3 Right Place, Right Time

    After hastening on his journey for two days and nights, Xu Ziling finally reached the Great River.

    On the vast surface of the river, surprisingly there was not even half a sail of boat, but the water was surging, from west to east, the torrent flowed endlessly. Although the Yangtze River was like this, it did not pose any problem to Xu Ziling at all. Its just that he was in no hurry to cross the river; therefore, he simply followed the river upstream, hoping to find a narrower section of the river, so that he could save a bit of energy.

    When the sun set over the western hills, the twilight glow made the river resplendent with bright, multicolored light, bringing about some kind of melancholy, yet colorful and beautiful feeling.

    After turning a bend, four, five li upstream, surprisingly he saw a crossing, and nine medium-sized boats moored along the coast. The banner fluttering in the air indicated that they belonged to the Chang Jiang Lian [Yangtze River Alliance].

    Xu Zilings curiosity was piqued, thinking that wasnt Yangtze River Alliance under the leadership of Zheng Shuming? It consisted of Qingjiang, Cangwu, and Tiandong, three Pai [Sects], plus Jiangnan Hui, Mingyang Bang, and the others as the backbone of the Alliance. Why were they gathered here today?

    His mind churned at the speed of light, he ran two more li, through a sparse forest and an open prairie dotted with trees, climbed to the top of a small hill, and down below he had a panoramic view of the Yangtze River Alliance around the dock and on the surface of the river.

    The earth gradually sank into darkness. The nine sailboats did not have any light, so that they appeared ghostly and mysterious.

    Suddenly a big ship appeared from the bend upstream, coming down at full speed.

    Xu Ziling focused his attention to look, suddenly his heart jumped, because this ship was not unfamiliar to him at all, he and Kou Zhong even spent some time aboard this ship: the Jukun Bangs flagship, where the Bangzhu herself, Yun Yuzhen rode on.

    In his heart he felt that something was really out of place.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong sat straight on the horseback. From his high vantage point, he cast his gaze onto the barren plains and woodlands, undulating hills, under the night sky studded with stars and the moon.

    Xuan Yong and Jiao Hongjin were standing on his left and right, respectively. Behind them were a dozen high-ranking military officers under their command, more than half were Luoma Bang men.

    As soon as the news about the Xiao Chun Guang incident and Du Rens death reached Ku Ge, he promptly ran away in the direction of the ocean, hoping that relying on their fast horse, he would be able to reach the sea before Kou Zhong could catch up with him.

    Who would have thought that Kou Zhong already planned in advance? He assigned Luo Qifei, an expert in spying and reconnaissance, to keep watch along the way, and accurately ascertain the route of his withdrawal, letting him to escape for two days and two night, and then concentrating the military power, poised to wait at the road where the lone troops must follow.

    Amidst the sound of hoof beats, Luo Qifei urged his horse passing through the sparse forest at the foot of the hill, came to Kou Zhongs presence, and reported, The enemy finally cant endure anymore, they stopped to take a rest at the small hill about ten li from here, to let their warhorses to rest and to have water and grass.

    Kou Zhongs eyes shone with cold, sharp lightning flashes, he spoke in heavy voice, In Qifeis estimate, does this bunch of Khitan dog thieves still have any strength left for battle?

    Luo Qifei replied, Although the Khitan dog thieves have become a bird that was startled by mere twang of a bow, they have always been able to subdue pain and resist hardship. Even if they are fleeing in fright and panic, they are scattering but not in confusion, their battle array is still intact, plus they selected the wilderness of the plains as their escape route, so that in case they are intercepted, they can still rely on their horses to break away from the siege.

    Kou Zhong nodded his head in praise, Qifei is absolutely right. Although this time we are more familiar with the terrain, we are holding advantage both in terms of morale and the number of people, and thus victory is within our grasp, we must figure out how to maximize the outcome of the war while minimizing our casualties.

    Using his horsewhip, Jiao Hongjin pointed at the continuous high mountain about ten li behind them, saying, Flying Eagle Gorge lies within the route they have to take if they are heading toward the ocean. If we setup an ambush over there, Ku Ges complete wipeout is guaranteed.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Although Ku Ge cannot be considered intelligent, but he is definitely not stupid either, plus he is experienced in marching the troops, naturally he knew where the dangers are.

    Luo Qifei nodded and said, As Shao Shuai noted it clearly, Ku Ge and his troops have more than enough strength to travel more than ten li, yet they decided to stop in the middle to rest; clearly they wanted to explore the terrain before deciding whether they ought to enter the gorge, or take a detour via different route.

    Frowning, Xuan Yong said, If they take a detour, due to their fast horses, they can easily leave us far behind. If that happened, the towns and villages around the coastal region would suffer a calamity.

    Kou Zhong shook his head and said, They wont take the detour, because if they could travel faster, they cant possibly waste time. We are going to take a two-pronged approach [orig. to paint holding two brushes]; we are not going to place a single man, a single troop at the Flying Eagle Gorge, but we will bluff from the rear, creating the illusion that we are pursuing to kill them, so that they wont have enough time for a full rest, and will have to escape in poor condition.

    Stunned, Jiao Hongjin asked, Where are we going to intercept them then?

    Kou Zhong replied resolutely, Outside the mouth of the gorge. At that time, Ku Ge would start to feel relaxed, his men and horses are also full of energy, we are going to deliver a frontal assault, as well as left and right pincer attack. If we manage to drive them into the gorge, that will be considered a total victory.

    And then he smiled and said, If I cannot capture Ku Ge alive, how could I display my, Kou Zhongs, ability?

    ※ ※ ※

    The Jukun flagship extinguished their lanterns as they slowly approached the coast.

    When Yun Yuzhens ship pressed close to one of the Yangtze River Alliances warships, and the distance between the two ships was only about three zhang, more than a dozen men soared from the warship and landed on Yun Yuzhens ship.

    By this time, Xu Ziling had just had his head out of the water; he reached out to grab the hull, his five fingers firmly embedded into the solid wooden wall, and thus he attached himself there.

    The Jukun Flagship moved away from the riverbank and turned around, one after another the other warships followed.

    The deck was heavily guarded. Even with Xu Zilings skill, he had no confidence that he would be able to sneak into the ships hold without their eyes and ears detecting it, so he did not want to take the risk.

    Pasting his ear to the ships wall, he focused his power into the ear, and his sense of hearing immediately multiplied several times over; he was able to hear footsteps and voices inside the ship, even the rough and heavy breathing of the people inside, amidst the different noise of the ship breaking the waves, like the sound of a battle. Not a trace of noise escaped his ear.

    Xu Ziling closed his eyes; in this world that was purely composed of sounds, his heart and mind searched for the target. When he heard Zheng Shuming and Yun Yuzhens familiar voices, automatically all other noises were filtered out. Just like when the eyes are focused on certain objects, other things will automatically become indistinct.

    They must be inside the cabin. Due to Xu Zilings familiarity with the layout of the ship, he had no difficulty in visualizing in his mind that in the cabin, the two were sitting as the host and the guest, and Yun Yuzhens trusted aide, the pretty maid Yun Zhi, was serving the guest a cup of fragrant tea. In his mind he saw everything so clearly, as if he was witnessing it with his own eyes.

    After some pleasantries, Yun Yuzhen went straight into business, This time your honorable Alliance and our Great Liang become allies, joining hands to work together, the time that Zhu Can and Zhu Mei, father and daughter, meet their ends will not be far.

    Xu Ziling suddenly understood. Relying on their power, Zhu Can, who was calling himself the Garuda King, and his daughter, the Venomous Spider Zhu Mei, have always run amuck, without shrinking from any crime. Inevitably they posed a threat to the existence of the Yangtze River Alliance; therefore, they had no choice but to rely on help and attach themselves to Xiao Xian, whose influence gradually expanding from the south of Yangtze River to the north of the river, to resist Zhu Can, father and daughters Garuda Nation. And Yun Yuzhen was the go-between person. Perhaps they even started talking in Luoyang.

    Xu Ziling thought that listening to this matter would not do him any good, but as he was thinking of leaving, Zheng Shuming suddenly said, Yun Bangzhu said that you wanted to borrow our humble alliances power to clear away the traitor within your Gang. Naturally this matter is very serious. I was wondering if you could give us clear instruction, to enable us to efficiently dispatch our dogs and horses to deal with this matter.

    Inwardly Xu Ziling was severely shaken. Immediately he understood that in his struggle against Yun Yuzhen, Bu Tianzhi had fallen into disadvantageous position and was in a very dangerous place.

    ※ ※ ※

    The sound of hoof beats rumbled over the canyon, growing louder and louder by the minute, making the already tense atmosphere even graver.

    However, Kou Zhong, hiding in the forest along the hillside, was unusually calm, because the entire battlefield was in his grasp. Everything would proceed and happen just like he planned; no exception.

    Although he has had discussion with Xu Ziling about battlefield as a game with assurance and composure, it was not until tonight he experienced exactly the fantastic perception of that kind of game.

    From the appointment of the Commander-in-Chief, to the conscripting of a troop to be in a squad of five soldiers, to the selection and structuring the squads, the training, the banner and drum assignment, reconnaissance, communications, equipment, battle array, marching, setting up camp, defending a city, besieging a city, tactics and implementation, everything has given him the real feeling of game against others.

    The goal was to be the ultimate victor.

    Standing on his side, Luo Qifei called out in low voice, They are here!

    Kou Zhong gazed coldly as the Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits appeared at the mouth of the gorge, fast as lightning galloping toward the ancient road outside the mouth of the gorge.

    Just like Kou Zhong expected, after rushing through the nearly ten li distance anxiously like stray dogs, and then passing through the strategically situated and easily defended canyon, the enemy was already like an arrow at the end of its flight; their acute spirit wasted away, their speed obviously slowed down.

    Ku Ges tactics have always been the four-character mantra, lai qu ru feng [come and go like the wind]. If he was unable to defeat the enemy, he would leave, so that others could not touch his tail. Furthermore, his ability to crisscross Shandong unhindered could be attributed to his important relationship with the Wolf King Mi Fang, who was familiar with the local geography, natural conditions and social customs.

    Entering this completely unfamiliar territory, Ku Ge and the others were like the blinds, and Mi Fang was like the bamboo stick guiding the blind.

    Mi Fangs death has forced Ku Ge to only follow the old, familiar road to retreat; without any other way, he simply entered Kou Zhongs inescapable net.

    By this moment, most of the horse-mounted bandits were already out of the canyon. Suddenly one after another a dozen or so riders in front lost their hooves, and tumbled down to the ground.

    The Luoma Bang men, who had just recently joined the Shao Shuai Army, ambushing on both sides shouted together, and then, amidst the sound of the drums shaking the heavens, from the forest on the left and right the archers shot their arrows at the same time, to take down the men, but not the horses. One after another the Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits fell down in a great mess.

    Next, the spear and lance wielders, rushed out in neat formation from either side and attacked systematically in groups. Each group consisted of five hundred men, all at once dashed against the enemies that they were scattered and smashed, broken down into several pieces, the head and the tail could not help each other.

    The archers ambushing by the mouth of the gorge also rained down their arrows to the mouth of the gorge, so that a small part of the enemy troops who had not yet exited the gorge were forced to flee back into the gorge.

    Knowing the time has come, Kou Zhoung shouted, leading two hundred elite cavalry charging out of the forest, and immediately launched frontal attack against the enemies.

    It didnt matter how valiant the Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits were, how brilliant their horsemanship was, having suffered defeat two days in a row, their morale had reached the lowest point. Under attack from all sides like this, they finally lost their ability to fight back, hence they scattered in all directions in utter defeat.

    ※ ※ ※

    Xu Ziling pricked up his ear and listened carefully. Yun Yuzhen let out a cold snort and said, To become a Gang and establish a Sect, one must uphold benevolence, righteousness, and sincerity. Right now Bu Tianzhi is having secret ties with outside enemies, conspiring to betray the Gang, disregarding trust and justice, adamantly holding on to his crime without any regret. In vain did I take extremely good care of him these many years, promoting him to be the deputy only one position below me; I could even say that he gets whatever he wants. But he let me down like this, it could be said that all those things are not enough for him.

    A deep and low male voice said, Yun Bangzhu, there is no need to grieve over this kind of crafty villain. Bu Tianzhis death is near at hand, we are going to follow Yun Bangzhus direction, using a large business as a bait, luring him to come to Caizi Lake to make the deal. At that time we are going to use warships and speedboats to put him under heavy siege. I guarantee that he will want to sink to the bottom of the river as conveniently as the fish in the water.

    Zheng Shuming spoke in low voice, Does Bu Tianzhi know that Yun Bangzhu is suspicious toward him?

    Yun Yuzhen replied indifferently, Of course I wont let him find out. I am going to entrust him a heavy responsibility on purpose, so that he still think that I trust him as before. This time I intentionally did not involve the trusted aides under my command, and hand over the task to deal with him to your honorable Alliance, so that he wont suspect anything. After the critical step is accomplished perfectly, with no mouth left alive, I will take advantage while Bu Tianzhis cronies is still in the dark, to get rid of them one by one, and thus eliminate endless trouble in the future.

    Zheng Shuming said, Yun Bangzhu, set your heart at ease, this is a trivial matter not even worth mentioning. As long as we can swindle him into getting on board, Bu Tianzhi and his men can forget about even half a chance to escape our net.

    Listening to this, Xu Ziling secretly broke into cold sweats, while also cried out lucky! If not for him coming across this matter at the right place at the right time, Bu Tianzhis little life would be gone without he knowing it.

    The fleet suddenly slowed down, and turned to a tributary on the right, and then continued upstream to the north.

    Naturally the destination was Caizi Lake, where Yun Yuzhen wanted Bu Tianzhi to meet his death.

    ※ ※ ※

    Under escort of Xuan Yong, Jiao Hongjin, Luo Qifei, and other high-ranking military officers, Kou Zhong inspected the after-the-battle situation of those who had just acknowledged allegiance to his military power.

    This Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits, who had wreaked havoc for many years, was finally destroyed. Among the spoils of war, other than nearly eight hundred pedigree Khitan warhorses, there were countless bows and arrows, and other weapons, plus close to three thousand taels of gold. Merely these riches were enough to rebuild half of Pengcheng.

    Kou Zhong was pleasantly surprised of this unexpected gain.

    Although it was not the first time that he witness the scene of dead bodies lying around everywhere on the prairie, this time he single-handedly took charge of the entire battle.

    His reaction right now was purely some kind of direct reaction upon seeing a scene that recalled past memories, the emotionally stirring scene of seeing dead bodies all round him.

    Kou Zhong reined in his horse to stop, his gaze was captivated by the extremely unnatural postures of the Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits ice-cold and stiff body, twisted this way and that on the ground, and not too far there was also a horse.

    One of those bodies apparently hit by the arrow on his back, and was thrown down from the horseback. His head was immersed in a pool of blood, which had coagulated into a dark-colored bloodstain. Under the morning light, the originally full of live skin appeared to be nauseating indigo color.

    Seeing him staring blankly at the bodies on the ground, Xuan Yong and the others had no choice but to wait patiently nearby.

    Kou Zhong smiled bitterly and said, Dont you think its strange? Just now I had never thought or perhaps never regarded them as people. But now, looking at them lying face down in the wilderness, I suddenly recall that they were people just like me; they had their family, their relatives, that perhaps day and night are looking forward to them coming back to Khitan, people who care about their wives, sons and daughters.

    Xuan Yong spoke heavily, Very soon Shao Shuai will get used to all this. On the battlefield, it is either you die or I perish, you cant be softhearted even for a bit!

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, I am not softhearted at all. Even if we had to go through this all over again, I would still be ruthlessly kill these extremely vicious, utterly evil disciples that not even half would remain. Its just that people are not grass or trees, we are bound to have feelings. Thats all.

    This moment, a subordinate came to report that they could not find Ku Ges body.

    Kou Zhong snorted coldly and said, Just consider him lucky! After tidying up, we will immediately return to Xiapi. The next target ought to be Li Zitongs old nest, the Dong Hai Army!

    The generals chorused their acknowledgement.

    Kou Zhong urged his horse to move. Suddenly, he just wanted to leave this bodies-lying-around-everywhere battlefield as far as possible!

    ※ ※ ※

    Caizi Lake was far inferior to the Chaohu Lake area not far in the east, and its shape was very irregular, but the scenery was beautiful, which was not what Xu Ziling was expecting.

    By this time he had moved from Yun Yuzhens Jukun flagship to Zheng Shumings ship, and was hiding underneath one of the skiffs hanging from the hull, enjoying the lake scenery of clear water and white foamy waves, reflecting the bluish green surface of the lake.

    Jukun Flagship and Yangtze River Alliance warships separately sailed toward the appointed point where the ships would be hidden before they would hem in to intercept the target. Only Zheng Shumings command ship, which was full of martial art masters in hiding, was going to meet their appointment with Bu Tianzhi.

    The sails shadow danced lightly on the lake, as if it was gliding on the mirror.

    On the shore, the shiny, green jade mountains seemed to blend with the limpid lake water, so that it was unclear whether the lake was dyed green by the mountain, or the mountain appeared to be green due to the water of the lake. On top of that, the undulating surface of the lake was hazy with light mist, so that it was even more difficult to tell which was real and which was fantasy, as if by mistake they had burst into the world of the immortals where normally there would be no way they could enter.

    Half a sichen later, the speed of the ship was gradually reduced.

    Xu Ziling took a deep breath. His internal energy traveled via the body of the skiff, and into the sling.

    The sling disintegrated into cun-size fragments.

    By the time the skiff was falling onto the lake, Xu Ziling already flipped over into the skiff.


    The skiff landed onto the lake; it sank a chi or so, and then with Xu Zilings skillful kick, he restored its balance.

    The enemies aboard the ship shouted and yelled, but it was too late.

    The oar was raised and hit the water, like an arrow the skiff darted pass the mother ship and continued forward.

    About a li ahead, Bu Tianzhis warship was coming slowly.

    Xu Ziling stood upright facing the wind. While steering the boat, he looked around as far as his eyes could see.

    The tranquil lake was undisturbed, the mountain and the lake reflected each other, the bluish green water covered in mist, the cool breeze gently blew, making him feel his heart and breast open wide, his ears and eyes fresh and clean, his mind and spirit free and invigorated.

    Zheng Shumings alarmed cry came from the deck of the warship, which he had left about twenty zhang behind; she shouted tenderly, Xu Ziling!

    Without looking back, Xu Ziling responded, Zheng Dangjia, just leave! Is the killing in Jianghu not enough? Tying an unresolvable hatred, being drawn into other peoples Gangs internal struggle, what benefit would it bring to Yangtze River Alliance?

    No longer paying attention to her, he sped up to meet Bu Tianzhis sailboat.

    He was fully confident that in the end Zheng Shuming would beat the return drum. Even if the Yangtze River Alliance had the ability to kill him, Xu Ziling, they would have to pay a very heavy price. Plus, to tie an enmity against Kou Zhong, the enemy that almost no one dared to provoke, was not something that the insignificant Yangtze River Alliance could afford.

    Besides, Xu Zilings sudden appearance might giver her a reason to justify her decision; it was not that she abruptly go back on the deal.

    After losing Yangtze River Alliances support, other than fleeing away to the wilderness, Yun Yuzhen had no way to deal with him.

    And thus a crisis was averted, albeit a bit reluctantly.

    But the struggle against Xiao Xian and Xiang Yushan has just begun.

  6. #246
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 21 Chapter 4

    Book 21 Chapter 4 Fortune Makes The Man

    Upon returning to Xiapi, before even sitting comfortably, Kou Zhong already began receiving important figures [orig. people with head and face] of the neighboring towns and counties who came to attach themselves to him. Among them, there was no lack of generals of Li Zitongs inner circle.

    One of them was a man called Li Xingyuan, aged about thirty, tall and mighty, but he did not come from Li Zitongs hometown, but another big city Muyang, located between Xiapi and Donghai. He was willing to surrender Muyang, which was tantamount to half of Donghai County has fallen into Kou Zhongs bag.

    Kou Zhong was greatly surprised and asked the reason, Li Xingyuan snorted coldly and said, Li Zitong is harsh and merciless, he employs only close and distant relatives, and not based on talent or ability, his insight narrow and shallow, absolutely not a man with high aspiration. Frankly speaking, originally Xingyuan hesitated and could not make decision, but the various generals under my command, as well as business and agricultural leaders, from the most senior to the youngest, all unanimously agree to seek shelter under Shao Shuai. Only then did Xingyuan understand the meaning of ten thousand people convert their allegiance.

    Kou Zhong could not help laughing; he said, Xingyuan is honest enough, I like this kind of straightforward man. I wonder hows Donghai situation currently?

    Li Xingyuan replied, Donghai County is currently under the leadership of Li Zitongs younger brother Li Ziyun, so they will never surrender to Shao Shuai. Moreover, they have adequate rations and fodder; a year or a half shouldnt be any problem.

    Frowning, Kou Zhong asked, What kind of person is Li Ziyun?

    Li Xingyuan replied in disdain, Other than bullying and humiliating the small and weak, taking the fat and wealth of the people, what else does he know? Precisely because Li Zitong knew that he is bold but not very astute that he appointed rotten ghost scholar Tong Shuwen to be his Junshi [military counselor]. This man is extremely shrewd, unlike Li Ziyun, whos just a straw bag [i.e. idiot].

    Highly interested, Kou Zhong pursued further, Why did Xingyuan call him rotten ghost scholar?

    Gnashing his teeth in anger, Li Xingyuan replied, Tong Shuwen loves to call himself a noble and virtuous man the most, always claims that he is well-read in the book of the Sages, that his learning was the Way of the Emperor, benevolence and righteousness hang onto his mouth all day long; yet beneath the surface he is greedy of flowers, he has ruined the reputation and integrity of I dont know how many women. Even his subordinates wives, concubines, and daughters did not escape his clutch. Were it not for his superior martial art skill, plus he is under Li Zitong, two brothers protection, someone would have cut him into ten thousand pieces.

    Kou Zhong deduced that this must be Li Xingyuans most important reason; he could not help being grateful that he was not a womanizer at all. Nodding, he said, To capture Donghai, this man is the key. If we can remove him, no matter how vicious Li Ziyun is, he will only be a toothless tiger. Does Xingyuan have any good proposal?

    Li Xingyuan showed a difficult expression; he said, In Donghai, there is no one more afraid of assassin than Tong Shuwen; therefore, not only he is very careful, his action is secretive, even going to bed at night, he never sleeps in the same room two nights in a row. To assassinate Li Ziyun is a bit easier.

    Kou Zhong mused, Xingyuan came to see me, did Li Ziyun know?

    Li Xingyuan replied, Although Tong Shuwen has his spies among my men, he cant conceal it from me. This time I am especially careful; they shouldnt be aware.

    Kou Zhong happily said, In that case it will work! Xingyuan should return to Muyang immediately, keep it under the lid, wait for me to draft a comprehensive plan, and then I will coordinate with you for further action.

    Li Xingyuan nodded his acknowledgement. His eyes revealed a fervent expectation, he said, Xingyuan has a presumptuous request, I really hope Shao Shuai would grant it.

    Kou Zhong cheerfully said, We are now brothers, whatever load you have in your mind, please speak out boldly!

    Li Xingyuan spoke in low voice, I wish for Shao Shuai to start off leniently, dont let disaster befall the common people of Donghai County.

    Taken aback, Kou Zhong laughed and said, That is not presumptuous request! That is compassion, plus it is in accordance with the Heavens law. Xingyuan, set your heart at ease. If the only way to capture Donghai is by murdering the entire city, I, Kou Zhong, will definitely refuse to do it. If I break this oath, may I, Kou Zhong, die a horrible death.

    Severely shaken, Li Xingyuan prostrated himself; he was so moved that he could not say anything.

    Kou Zhong hastily helped him up. After discussing the method on how they would contact each other, Li Xingyuan hurriedly left.

    His hind leg had just left, Chen Changlins front leg already stepped over the Mansions gate. Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong went out to meet him.

    Right now, what he craved the most was talent.

    ※ ※ ※

    Under the setting sun, a fishing boat was slowly docking on the pier outside the city of Baling.

    Bu Tianzhi, disguised as a fisherman, leaned over on Xu Ziling, who was gazing at the city gate, and whispered in his ear, Ziling must be very careful. In recent years Xiao Xians prestige is flourishing greatly, plus he has ample financial resources, and has attracted countless martial art masters from both the south and the north of the river. Xiang Yushan is his favored minister, plus he has been Yang Xuyans target of assassination; therefore, he always have martial art masters around to protect him.

    Wearing the Scarface Hero mask, Xu Ziling was dejected, but his blazing eyes did not change the least bit; remaining tranquil and calm, he said, Based on what Zhi Shu [uncle] knows, is there any formidable character that I have to pay special attention to?

    Bu Tianzhi replied, There are five who can be considered first class martial art masters. First, there is Da Li Shen [lit. deity with great strength, Hercules, Titan] Bao Rang. This mans Heng Lian Gang[1] is extremely well-known in the Great River Basin area; he trains hard skill from lower quality external school like to Tie Bu Shan [lit. iron cloth garment], but his current mastery is no different than Bi Xijings first-class internal true qi, that he has become a wonder whom the southern Wulin people discuss enthusiastically. This man is ruthless; he has enemies everywhere. This time he is willing to take refuge in Xiao Xian, the main reason must be to avoid misfortune.

    Xu Ziling quietly memorized the name Bao Rang, but he did not say anything.

    Bu Tianzhi continued, The second one is E quan [Vicious Dog] Qu Wuju [his given name means no fear]. This man originally belonged to a group of horse-mounted bandits that wreaked havoc in Ao Dong, but since he provoked a martial art master of Song Clan, who hunted him for a thousand li, he ran away alone. Somehow he ended up as Xiao Xians dog. His vicious name is a close runner-up to the Da Li Shen Bao Rang. His expertise is in a pair of big iron hammers called the Mysterious Thunder; extremely difficult to deal with. Ay! If you can avoid him, better not fight against him.

    Xu Ziling coldly said, Anybody who tries to stop me from taking back Su Jie and her child will die! The tone of his voice carried his no-return determination.

    Bu Tianzhi knew that persuasion would not do any good, thereupon he simply went on, As for the other three, although they cannot surpass these two, but their names are quite well known in the south. They are Wang Ming Tu [lit. exiled disciple] Su Chao, a saw tooth saber user; Su Yi Rusheng [lit. plain-clothed Confucian scholar] Xie Fengge, an expert in 38-move Yan Yue Jianfa lit. covering-the-moon sword technique], known as the best swordsman among the younger generation of the south, and finally Niu Lang [lit. cowherd] Zhu Zhong. His weapon is qimei [lit. eyebrow] truncheons; he is the creator of Niulangs 108 truncheons, variation is countless, definitely must not be taken lightly.

    The fishing boat touched the dock.

    Without saying anything, Xu Ziling went ashore and entered the city.

    ※ ※ ※

    Chen Changlin strode inside; reaching out to grab Kou Zhongs shoulders, his eyes shone with warm expression as he happily said, When I heard the news that Kou Xiong and Xu Xiong were nearly killed by Wang Shichong, that old thief who forget favors and violate justice that day, I immediately rushed back to the Eastern Capital to question that old thief, how can he bite the hand that feeds him? I had big quarrel with him, which, of course, did not do any good. Without any better option, I left in fury. Fortunately, soon after I heard that you gained small victory at Liangdu, relying on ragtag troops to inflict defeat on Yuwen Huajis elite and powerful troops. Thereupon I traveled at double speed to come over; as luck has it, Kou Xiong has just left the city, and only today do I have the chance to see Kou Xiong. Where is Ziling?

    Kou Zhong was tongue-tied; he said, Turns out you were also looking for me. I went all over the place, beating the gongs to find you. Changlin Xiong is so bold; you have the guts to contradict that old ghost Shichong.

    It was only now did he start to understand that Chen Changlin was a good man who was cold at the outside but warm in the inside. Usually he was honest and unaffected but not talkative, but as soon as he saw something that he could not put up with any longer, he absolutely would pursue justice with no second thoughts. Even more unexpected, he considered Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling as good friends.

    Chen Changlin let go of his hands and said with a cold snort, Wang Shichong still does not dare to kill me, because it was Old Yi who recommended me. One more day he has not really become the emperor, he does not have the guts to offend the entire white way Wulin. Where is Ziling Xiong?

    Wrapping his arm around Chen Changlins shoulder, Kou Zhong pulled him toward the main hall. Along the way, he said, Xiao Ling went to Baling for a small errand. Changlin Xiong has come at the right time. We are going to spend some energy for the common people of the world [orig. (area where) vegetation grows], while Changlin Xiong will also be able to get rid of Shen Lun, to avenge that animal for destroying your family.

    Chen Changlins eyes lit up immediately.

    ※ ※ ※

    Xu Ziling walked along the street, neither fast nor slow, toward Xiang Yushans big house. Baling looked just like he remembered it, except there were more people around.

    His mind was exceptionally calm. Ever since he walked into the city gate, he already cast all worries about Susu, as well as his eagerness to see her again, aside, because he had now arrived at the destination. The only thing left to think about was how to accomplish his goal, as clearly and as infallible as possible. He did not have to waste his thought on other things.

    To get Susu, mother and son, out of Baling was not difficult at all. The problem was how to convince Susu, for which he would need to expose the cruel truth to her.

    The ancient long street; the buildings everywhere. Inside the city, along the main street connecting the northern and southern parts of Baling, Xu Ziling walked pass layer upon layer of memorial arches and two-story buildings spanning the street. Along the way he recalled the old affair of Yang Xuyans failed assassination attempt on Xiang Yushan, until he finally arrived outside Xiang Mansions main gate.

    ※ ※ ※

    Inside the study room, after Kou Zhong finished telling Chen Changlin his story, Chen Changlin put the cup of tea he has been holding in his hands on the small table by the chair, nodding his head, and said, Maritime business is not difficult at all. As long as it is profitable, merchants will come like ants. The difficult thing is that we must guarantee that the sea and the river course are safe. That means we will have to have superior navy, and put the waterways in our territory under control.

    Kou Zhong agreed, I have thought about that as well, he said, Bu Tianzhi of Jukun Bang already agreed to pledge the fleet of ships under his command to Xiaodi. According to what he said, they have five huge warships, which is five too many; all came from the old Sui dynasty, which they seized as the spoils of war. Other comparatively smaller warships, they have over twenty. As for cargo ships, they have hundreds.

    Chen Changlins spirit greatly aroused, he said, Its entirely different story! The most difficult thing to obtain is to raise a large number of experienced and careful mariners who are not afraid of the wind and the waves. As long as we can train for sea battle, refurbish old warship, build new warship to adapt to the local waterways, there will come a day where we will dominate the seas and the rivers, to unify the word.

    Staring blankly, Kou Zhong said, You seem to have more confidence than Xiaodi.

    Chen Changlin smiled and said, Thats because I have confidence in Kou Xiong! Our top priority this moment is to recruit a batch of fine shipbuilders; first, to work on the refurbishing of the old ships. And then, when the preparation is completed, we can seal off Donghai Countys sea traffic, breaking the sea link between Donghai County and Jiangdu. At that time, Donghai can only receive its fate of being beaten, with absolutely no strength to fight back.

    Knitting his brows, Kou Zhong asked, Where can we find such a group of shipbuilders?

    Patting his chest, Chen Changlin said, Naturally in Xiaodis hometown, Nanhai County. [Reminder: Donghai east sea, Nanhai south sea.] Our Chen family is the biggest clan in Nanhai County. Our clansmen are either sailors on the old dynastys navy, or accustomed to maritime trade. Furthermore, most of them cannot coexist with Shen Faxing, father and son. If I can sneak back over there, I will definitely be able to bring back a large number of talents in this regard, to establish an unequalled-under-the-heavens navy for Kou Xiong. At that time, Shen Faxing, father and sons days can be counted on ones fingers.

    Kou Zhong slapped the table and sighed, Obtaining Changlin Xiongs words, half of the world has already fallen into Xiaodis bag!

    ※ ※ ※

    Xu Ziling walked pass the door, but he did not enter. Circling toward the back of the house, he had a very bad feeling in his heart.

    Relying on his near-psychic sense of hearing, he had a clear grasp of the situation inside and outside the Xiang Mansion.

    On the buildings around the Xiang Mansion, he detected sentries secretly monitoring any movement in the Mansion, but inside the Mansion itself was lifeless, as if everybody inside has already moved elsewhere. There were only a few lanterns.

    Xu Ziling could not help but was puzzled, because the setup before his eyes was clearly a trap, and it seemed to be directed at him. Logically, the relationship between he and Xiang Yushan has not reached the nasty stage, so that even if he had received Yun Yuzhens letter via pigeon post, he would not have prepared this trap as if he was expecting a big enemy.

    Suddeny a heard a series of violent cough from behind the wall.

    Xu Zilings tiger-body shook severely. This moment he had found a way to evade the sentries eyes and ears; creeping close to the wall, he entered a small alley, and arrived at the bottom of the Xiang Mansions rear courtyard wall, and then he climbed the wall and was soon inside the Mansion.

    Sure enough, he heard Susus weak voice from the second floor of a small building nearby, Carry Lingzhong out! Hurry up!

    How could Xu Ziling be able to restrain himself? Immediately he tore off his mask and soared toward the building, and entered through the window.

    Susu was sitting on the bed, stooping forward, and was having a coughing fit [orig. coughing until the sky dark and the earth black]. With each cough, a shocking-the-eye, astonishing-the-heart drop of blood appeared on the towel in her hands.

    Her wan and sallow sickly countenance did not have any trace of blood, her originally black and shiny eyes had lost their former shine and splendor.

    Xu Ziling pounced toward the bed, pressed his palm onto his back, and transmitted his true qi into Susus body. Eyes brimming with tears, choking with sobs, he said, Su Jie!

    Susus tender body shook. Miraculously she stopped coughing, for an instant her eyes recovered their shine and splendor, as she looked at him in disbelief and cried out, Xiao Ling! This is not real, is it?

    Xu Ziling struggled hard to keep his tears from falling; shaking his head, he said, All of these should not be real. We shouldnt have let Su Jie leave our side.

    Strange rays shot out from Susus eyes; she reached out to lovingly stroke his handsome-without-equal face. As if she suddenly fully recovered, she spoke calmly and gently, I have always hoped that youd come back! Where is Xiao Zhong? Even if he did not come, Su Jie is perfectly satisfied that you are here.

    Xu Zilings heart sank into the bleak, bottomless abyss of despair. It was over. From transmitting his true qi into Susus body, he detected Susus lifeforce was gone; the moment he took his hand away from her back, that would be the moment her jade perished, her fragrance disappeared. All fervent longing and anticipation were completely shattered by the cruel and unacceptable fate in front of his eyes, everything was turning into mere illusion.

    Susu turned her tender body around. With infinite tenderness she wiped the tears from his eyes, and said, Good Didi [younger brother], dont cry. Jiejie has been waiting for you to come, and now you are here! Do you know the obedient darlings name?

    Xu Ziling noticed the smiling expression, brimming with maternal radiance, floating out of the corner of her mouth, but he felt as if his heart was stabbed violently by ruthlessly sharp awl, again and again. Struggling hard to compose himself, he softly said, Is it Lingzhong?

    Susu happily said, That is a great change, isnt it? Every time I call him, I will remember you, a pair of well-behaved Didi. In the future he will surely be as well-behaved as you two.

    Xu Ziling almost wanted to look up to the sky and cry out his grief; hot tears flowed down uncontrollably from the corners of his eyes. How did this happen? he said mournfully, Where is Xiang Yushan?

    Susus jade countenance sank; gently hanging her small cicada head down, she spoke in low, but determined voice, Jiejie actually could not take it anymore, but in order to wait for you, I tried to hold on until this moment. Let bygones be bygones. After Jiejie is gone, Xiao Ling, I want you to take Lingzhong away, nurture him that he will grow up to be outstanding hero like you. Jiejies surname is Fang, so his name will be Fang Lingzhong!

    Xu Zilings eyes flashed with frightening, extremely intense murderous intention, as he asked in heavy voice, What did Xiang Yushan do to you?

    Susu stare was fixed on the towel in her hand; she spoke indifferently, Dont blame him. If you want to blame someone, blame Jiejie for not believing your opinion on him, for not understanding people.

    Xu Ziling took a deep breath; he did his utmost to maintain the most cool-headed demeanor and calm tone as he said, Where is he?

    Susu looked at him, shook her head, and said with a sigh, He wanted Jiejie to write you a letter. When Jiejie refused, his attitude toward Jiejie turned cold. Ay! Its best if we dont talk about it.

    Burying her face in his bosom, Susu spoke softly, Even if I tell you, what good will it bring? Jiejie was able to meet you, I already feel that my life is not in vain. In the end we will all die, sooner or later, it does not make much difference. Now Jiejie is very happy, even if I die, I dont have any regret. Xiao Ling! Can you ring that copper bell for me?

    It was only then did Xu Ziling notice that there was a copper bell on the small table by the bed, and next to the bell was a small copper stick to beat the bell.

    Xu Ziling produced a stream of finger wind.


    A clear noise of metal-to-metal striking against each other reverberated over the Mansion.

    Help me to sit up! Susu spoke weakly.

    Xu Ziling knew that she has reached the lantern-that-its-oil-has-been-dried-up stage, the moment of -final-radiance-of-the-setting-sun. Fighting the irresistible grief in his heart, he helped her up, while not daring to lift his palm from her fragrant back even for a moment.

    He heard footsteps walking slowly up a flight of steps.

    Turning toward the door, Susu strived to speak, Xiao Zhi, no need to panic, my good Didi is here to visit me!

    After crying out in alarm, with much fear and trepidation the young maid, carrying Fang Lingzhong in her arms, appeared at the door, and looked at Xu Ziling with horror.

    Xu Ziling held out his hand and said, Hand Lingzhong to me, and then go back downstairs, but dont leave the building. Understand?

    Being at the receiving end of his fierce gaze, immediately the young maid trembled from head to toes, naturally she did not dare to refuse. Hastily handing over the baby to Xu Ziling, she walked out with unsteady steps.

    Xu Ziling put the sleeping-soundly chubby little Lingzhong in Susus bosom, his heart was filled with myriads of unnamable deep emotions, as if he did not know that this mother was about to leave him, and that the baby and his flesh and blood have already been linked.

    Susus beautiful eyes were fixed at the child in her bosom, a pure and holy radiance emerged on her pretty face, showing boundless tenderness, she said, You have two Die [father], one is called Kou Zhong, the other is Xu Ziling. Niang had thought to marry them, in all the world, only they deserve to be your Die.

    Xu Ziling suddenly remembered the congratulatory gift Liu Heita was asking him to give to her; he quickly took it out and helped her to put it on her wrist. With a sour and pained heart, he spoke in low voice, Liu Dage entrusted this to me to give to Jiejie. Ay!

    Susus beautiful eyes lit up. Hugging little Lingzhong, she happily said, Ah! So its a gift from Li Dage?

    Xu Ziling knew she misheard Liu as Li, he wanted to correct her, but nothing came out.

    Susus breathing became rapid. Gasping for breath, she said, Tell Li Dage, Susu has never blamed him.

    Finished speaking, her tender body went limp, she breathed her last with a smile on her face.

    Surprisingly, Xu Ziling did not show any emotion. Gently he lay Susus body on the bed, held up the little Lingzhong, who was deep in his dream, completely oblivious of the tragedy of the humankind that his flesh and blood has just been separated from him in his arm, tore the cloth to make a sling, and put him in his bosom.

    He was very deliberate in his action, giving all his attention to every movement, making every effort not to think about Susus death.

    Outside, the building was very quiet; Susus passing away was so serene and imperceptible.

    Outside the window, the vast expanse of the sky was embedded with stars, as if this human world was totally separate from the dark, satin-like of night sky. He had received devastating blow and his heart was shattered. Outside Susus orphan and her demise, there was no other thing.

    Picking up the quilt, he wrapped Susus body in it. Originally he wanted to send out an earth-shattering cry of grief, to wash away the despair, painful, mournful mind completely onto the night sky. However, afraid that he might startle and wake little Lingzhong from his beautiful dream, he could only sigh mournfully in silence, and scamper out of the window.

    The moment he put Susu and little Lingzhong safely at Bu Tianzhis place would be the moment hed come back.

    Xiang Yushan must pay this debt with his death.

    Startling firework signal burst out high in the sky behind him, but it was no more than a missed opportunity. The ought-to-be seamless-heavenly-clothes trap has failed simply because they failed to see through Xu Zilings true identity, and because with intelligence and quick-wit Xu Ziling was able to sneak into the house unknown to the gods and undetected by the ghosts, so that Xiang Yuzhans despicable scheme ended up one step behind.

    Otherwise, if Xu Ziling were burdened by Susu, mother and child when he fell into the heavy siege of numerous martial art masters, it would be very difficult indeed for him to escape.

    [1] Heng Lian Gang: heng horizontal/across, lian refined (as in refining metal), gang handle of the Big Dipper (constellation). Additional note courtesy of Akolaw:

    Qi/meditation term, breathing at calm level is called si, at high power level is called fang/wind. 罡风 道家称天空极高处的风 gang wind, wind in upper space called by Taoism.

    Similarly in qi practitioner's believe, when qi practice come to a very high level, their qi will help their body in-destructive gang' refer to qi or neigong at that very high level. Qi at this level can project outside one's body and become destructive when attacking and in-destructive when in defense.

    Heng Lian is not uncommon in wuxia, usually refer to lower level/mundane martial artist that drill so hard (refine) that even though do not advance up level (heng/horizontal, refer to the grass ceiling since the lack of advance technic) perfect at this level. Usually describe hard qigong (such as demonstration of breaking brick with head, etc.) HY here given iron rob as the practice.

    Heng Lian Gang here refer to using a lower level of qigong technic but come to a very high level of accomplishment.

    When 罡gang add to weapon means the weapon project a light that dance on tip of jian or dao (see description of jian god in demi god semi devils). Kou's yellow light is another form of dao gang, but here his dao match with him and do the magic and not his personal accomplishment. While for the Mou Mon guy, his practice of neigong and jianfa should combine and accomplish jian gang but he have not perfected it yet.

  7. #247
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 21 Chapter 5

    Book 21 Chapter 5 Easy As A Pie

    Kou Zhong was suddenly gripped with fear and trepidation. After sending off Chen Changlin on his way, feeling restless, he returned to the big residence that he named Shao Shuai Mansion. Summoning Luo Qifei, he asked, Do you have any news about Xu Ye?

    Noticing his unusual expression, Luo Qifei shook his head and said, Where exactly did Xu Ye go? Subordinate can send our people to make inquiry.

    Kou Zhong stood up and paced back and forth inside the study room. It was quite some time later that he stopped, sighed and said, He went to Baling. Do you know Xiao Xian, that kids situation?

    Luo Qifei replied, Presently, in the Great River area, in term of strength, other than Du Fuwei and Fu Gongyou, he is one to be reckoned. After proclaiming himself the emperor, Xiao Xian successively seized Yulin, Cangwu, Panyu, and other area, plus he unceasingly recruit soldiers and buy horses. His military power increases to about more than four hundred thousand strong; his might expanded so much that in the south, the two lakes [i.e. Hunan and Hubei] area, nobody dared to move their blade against him.

    Seeing Kou Zhong frowning without saying anything, he could not help feeling concerned; he asked, Is Shao Shuai worried about Xu Ye?

    His heart distracted, his thoughts in turmoil, Kou Zhong said, I dont know what Im worried about; maybe Xu Ye, maybe something else. Ay! What new movement is there in the north?

    As if enumerating his family valuables [fig. very familiar with the matter], Luo Qifei replied, Currently the most notable is of course the war between Dou Jiande and Xu Yuanlang. I just received the news that Xu Yuanlangs main army is no match for Liu Heita, the casualties among his troops and generals are innumerable. Apparently his days are numbered. If Dou Jiande seized Xu Yuanlangs territory, and Du Fuwei and Shen Faxings allied forces took Jiangdu, we will be trapped into unfavorable situation with enemies on both sides.

    Closing his tiger-eyes, Kou Zhong composed his mind. A good while later, sketching in light shades [fig. downplay] he said, Call Xuan Yong and Jiao Hongjin for me, I want to attack Donghai within ten days; otherwise, our Shao Shuai Army will have to be disbanded.

    ※ ※ ※

    It was as if Xu Zilings entire body has gone numb; his face expressionless, he asked Chen Laomou, Is there a way to preserve Su Jies body, so that it will not rot before arriving at Liangdu?

    Bu Tianzhi took the little Lingzhong, who was just awake, from Xu Ziling, and handed it over to the wet nurse and the young maid, who were originally meant to serve Susu, mother and child, along the way. He wanted to speak, but nothing came out.

    Chen Laomou reached out to grab Xu Zilings shoulders, and spoke with grief, Xiao Ling, you must restrain your grief, accept your fate. Leave this matter to me, even for a year or a half, it shouldnt be a problem. I will immediately have someone buy copious amount of required medicine and spices. We will only leave after I am done.

    Xu Ziling personally lay Susus body on the carriage, and then taking Bu Tianzhi and Chen Laomou aside, he said, When you finish taking care of Su Jie in here, dont wait for me, you may immediately set off to Liangdu as planned. If I dont die, I will catch up with you.

    Chen Laomou and Bu Tianzhi were seasoned Jianghu figures, just by listening to the tone of Xu Zilings voice, they knew that any advice would be useless; therefore, they had no choice but nodding their head in agreement.

    Xu Ziling resisted his desire to look at little Lingzhong again. Returning to the fishing boat, he sailed away.

    ※ ※ ※

    Jiao Hongjin said, Presently, various cities in Donghai vicinity, Huairen, Langya, Liangcheng, Lanling, Muyang, have all surrendered to us. Donghais land route is completely severed. If it were other city, they would have abandoned their weapons and surrendered to us as well. But Donghai County has always been relying mainly on maritime transportation, hence essentially the effect is quite low.

    Kou Zhong turned to Xuan Yong, who has been frowning the whole time, and said, How many troops can we use?

    With grave expression, Xuan Yong replied, Supposing we are really launching blitzkrieg strategy, we can mobilize up to 8,000 men, of which 2,000 is cavalry. Its just that although our morale is sky-high, in terms of training and support, we are still less than perfect. So hey!

    Jiao Hongjin interjected, Li Ziyun is brave, Tong Shuwen is crafty, plus Donghai is Li Zitongs base of operations. In the last several years he continuously reinforces the city defense. With our current strength, we wont be able to capture Donghai in a short period of time. But long-term battle is not something that we can afford either. Our top priority ought to be consolidating the result of war, and concentrating our resources to recruit and train the new troops.

    Kou Zhong said, The best training is the training on the battlefield; my skill was precisely trained during fighting and killing. You can rest assured that I wont be so stupid as to siege the city. Our biggest shortcoming right now is our weak troops, our foundation is not stable yet, our expansion is too fast. But these are our strong points as well. Li Ziyun is an egotistical man who rejoices in grandiose deeds, and Tong Shuwen is a conceited man who is too proud of his wisdom. These two men added together, they are exactly our ideal enemy. If we handle it wisely, victory is a great possibility.

    Xuan Yong sighed and said, Shao Shuai always capable of accomplishing the impossible. Listening to Shao Shuais analysis, although the outcome is still unknown, you already raised our confidence.

    Kou Zhong laughed calmly and said, The key lies in Li Xingyuan of Muyang. If I guess correctly, he must be a spy sent by Tong Shuwen. Because logically speaking, he really ought to adopt a wait-and-see attitude first, to see whether we really have any prospect before coming here to surrender. Remember that Muyang and Donghai are interdependent. If Li Zitong cannot trust him, how could he let him hold control over Muyang? At least Li Xingyuans close family ought to be in Donghai, so that if he defected, Li Ziyun could kill his entire family without leaving half a soul. Therefore, this must be a deceit.

    Astonished, Jiao Hongjin said, I thought Shao Shuai trusted Li Xingyuan completely; turns out Shao Shuai already has plan in your heart, yet on the surface it did not show the least bit.

    Kou Zhong spoke indifferently, His biggest flaw is that he came to see me in person. From Muyang to here, back and forth ought to require at least three days? In time like this, where war could happen at any moment, how could he walk away as he wishes? How is he going to explain to Li Ziyun? Ha! How dare he treat me, Kou Zhong, as a fool?

    Greatly delighted, Luo Qifei said, Since thats the case, how are we going to handle this?

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, Of course by beating them at their own game: we lure the tiger out of its lair.

    Inwardly, he could not restrain Susus pure and beautiful, good and honest jade countenance from emerging in his heart.

    ※ ※ ※

    Xu Ziling was crouching in the darkness on the back of the roof, his eyes were fixed on the cavalcade just entering the city.

    Yun Yuzhens flagship has just returned, and now it was very likely that she was going to see Xiang Yushan, hence by following her Xu Ziling could find that despicable disciple who forgot favor and violated justice.

    It was the third watch of the night, the street was deserted with no one in sight, there was only the sound on the wheels grinding against the pavement, mixing with the clip-cloping sound of the hooves, breaking the quietness of the late night in this big city along the Great River.

    Xu Ziling closed his eyes, while focusing all his attention to the sound of the wheels of two carriages on the street. Very soon he was able to distinguish that the one in the rear had passengers on it, while the other was empty. Although the difference of the sound was very subtle, it could not escape his, top quality martial art masters ears.

    The reason he was suspicious was because he knew and understood very well how Xiang Yushan conducted himself, his obtaining Susus fragrant heart was entirely for his grand plan. But if he could find Xiang Yushan easily by following these trails, it would not make much sense.

    Bu Tianzhis defection should make Xiang Yushan and Yun Yuzhen know that their crafty scheme has fallen through and stood exposed. Now that he and Kou Zhong was not like General Lu Meng of Wu[1] of the former days, anybody who tied deep enmity with them would find it difficult to sleep peacefully at night; how could Xiang Yushan be an exception?

    But Xiang Yushan could be considered formidable as well. Knowing that Xu and Kou, two boys would disregard everything in trying to find him and get Susu back from him, he setup an inescapable net, and deliberately left Susu, mother and child, inside the net as bait, so that all of a sudden he went fishing for Xu Ziling. Its just that in this game, he was one step behind, because he never imagined that Xu Ziling knew disguising skill, moreover, he already knew his despicable trick.

    One trick failed, another trick was setup.

    The new bait was Yun Yuzhen.

    Xu Ziling knew for sure that the one sitting in the carriage was Yun Yuzhens pretty maid Yun Zhi, and Yun Yuzhen herself never board the carriage.

    Escorted by dozens of Baling Army troops, the convoy gradually went far.

    Xu Ziling took a deep breath, but stayed crouching, motionless.

    By the time the sound of hoof beats and the wheels almost disappeared completely, suddenly there were gusts of wind from both sides of the street. Xu Zilings heart shivered, he focused his attention to look. Two people appeared in the middle of the street, their shenfa was so swift that they looked like ghosts.

    The tall one carried a long sword at his back; his waist and back were as straight as a ramrod, approximately thirty years old, with delicate features, dressed in Confucian scholars attire, grew a moustache, his countenance ice-cold. Even without introduction Xu Ziling knew this must be the new martial art master Xiao Xian invited to join his ranks, the Plain-clothed Confucian Scholar Xie Fengge, an expert in Covering the Moon sword technique, whose might shook the southern part of the country.

    The short one held long truncheon; this must be the Cowherd Zhu Zhong. His body type was complete opposite of Xie Fengge; he was a person of short stature, broad forehead and big ears, garlic-shaped nose, dense eyebrows and swarthy complexion, and narrow eyes, giving the impression of a farmer. But upon further inspection, his gaze was sharp and fierce, exuding aggressiveness from head to toes, definitely not someone to be provoked.

    In that instant, from the opposite sides subtle movements, Xu Ziling has already had accurate grasp the two mens weight [fig. importance/capacity].

    This moment, the Cowherd Zhu Zhong let out a cold snort and said, This time Yushan Yes calculation seems to be wrong; I told you that that fellow will not dare to come here to display shockingly bad behavior.

    Xie Fengge smiled and said, As soon as he heard that our Zhu Dage is here, wouldnt he run with his tail between his legs as far away as possible?

    Zhu Zhong burst out laughing and said, Licking my bottom wont do you any good; you might want to save a bit of energy to wait upon that consider-himself-unexcelled-in-the-world Bao Rang!

    Xie Fengge disdainfully said, Does he deserve it? Lets go back!

    Zhu Zhong nodded and said, If we dont go back, do you want to stay here and continue drinking the northwest wind? That kid really makes us miserable; these couple of nights I did not have a good night sleep, and now I must find a beautiful girl to warm my bed.

    With waves of laughter, the two men unleashed their footwork and swiftly went far away.

    ※ ※ ※

    After Xuan Yong and Luo Qifei left, Jiao Hongjin stayed alone. He came with Kou Zhong to the garden. While this Shao Shuai was looking up to gaze at the brilliantly star-studded night sky, Jiao Hongjian could not help asking, Turns out from the beginning Shao Shuai has already seen through Li Xingyuans deceit. But at that time we really did not have the slightest idea; we thought Shao Shuai gave your bare heart into his keeping, you just wanted to see if he could be completely trusted.

    With wooden expression, Kou Zhong said, If I could not deceive you, how could I deceive him? Ay! I am just tooting my horn; at that time I believed him at least 90%. This Li Xingyuan must be a first-class liar; his words sincere, voice and features were well prepared. His mothers!

    Only then did Jiao Hongjin realize that he had overestimated him; stunned, he asked, Then what makes Shao Shuai suddenly think that he has a problem?

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, Tonight, for some reason I had ominous feeling with my heart alarmed, my body leaping; I was sure there was a problem somewhere. Thereupon he thought over everything that had happened these past couple of days, and only then did I realize the problem lies in this guy. If we fell into his evil plan, we would not be spared.

    Full of admiration, Jiao Hongjin said, Shao Shuai is indeed not an ordinary person, hence you have this extraordinary ability.

    Changing the topic, Kou Zhong asked, Are you still seeing that beauty, Qiu Yue? She has a pretty good voice.

    Jiao Hongjin said with disdain, Why would I want to see a woman who cannot go through trials and tribulations together with me?

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, Well said! A man who clings to womens charm cannot found a nation and establish great endeavor. Its late! Go back to sleep! Tomorrow will be a very busy day. After Donghai is fallen, Li Zitongs stronghold in the north will fall into our hands. At that time, whatever we say, he will have no choice but to listen obediently.

    ※ ※ ※

    Without making any noise, Xu Ziling leaped down at an angle from the eaves, and then like an arrow he shot toward the big house Xie Fengge and Zhu Zhong were about to enter.

    Because a number of big men guarding the door to the residence were looking at Xu Zilings direction, they were the first to detect his presence. But Xu Zilings speed was really too fast; while their faces were showing astonishment and they were about to open their mouth to cry out, before any sound came out, Xu Ziling was already about a zhang behind Xie and Zhu, two men, and had started to attack.

    Xie Fengge and Zhu Zhongs reaction was completely within Xu Zilings anticipation. As soon as they felt the pressure of the wind on their bodies, they fled to the left and right to strive for the space and time to strike back.

    It was only natural that the men guarding the door were martial art masters of the Baling Bang; one after another they drew their weapon and scrambled to intercept.

    With a cold snort Xu Ziling flashed away to evade the sword slashing toward his chest to stab at his heart.


    Flicking his finger, he knocked another saber. As if he was electrocuted, the man wielding the saber was jolted back.

    Like a tiger entering a flock of sheep Xu Ziling stormed into the enemy ranks. Just before another sword slashed down at his shoulder, his leg flew and hit the sword wielders lower abdomen, shaking the man and thrown him far away.

    In an instant, relying on his fast and erratic footwork, he flashed to the left and swept to the right. Among all seven men guarding the door, none narrowly escaped; they either received a punch of met with a flying kick, and fell down to the ground in serious injury.

    Although he was spurred by hatred, his attacks were still carefully measured; his opponents were only injured, and none of them died.

    The inner courtyard was dim, the entire plaza was illuminated only by a huge lantern hanging over the main gate above the flight of steps in front of the main building. Were it not for Xie Fengge and Zhu Zhong leading the way, just by looking at the surface, he would never have thought that Xiang Yushan would hide in such an ordinary house consisting of only three medium-sized buildings.

    From the buildings to the right and left of this residence, a dozen or so men rushed out to charge toward him.

    This could be considered the optimum chance to kill Xiang Yushan, because the most formidable figures of Baling Bang were either guarding the trap where Yun Yuzhen was used as the bait, or they were guarding the more important figure, Xiao Xian. If Xu Ziling were able to dispose Xie and Zhu, two men, who were chasing into the gate from behind, then he would have the chance to deal with Xiang Yushan.

    Xu Ziling let out a cry of grief; not advancing, he retreated instead. In an instant, he was in the space between Xie Fengge and Zhu Zhong.

    Immediately Xie and Zhu, two men, had their soul flown away and scattered.

    As soon as they regained their footings and chased into the gate, they already thought several possibilities on how to face the enemy, but they had never thought that he would change from advancing to retreating. It was not that they were stupid that they did not think about this, but because they were too confident about their own eyesight and judgment.

    Anybody who was rushing with that kind of speed wanted to reverse direction must go through a three-stage process: take a breath, reduce speed, and stop first. Even a first-class martial art master, who would be able to go through these steps in the blink of an eye, would still reveal signs that others would be able to see, in which case Xie and Zhu would be able to adapt to changes.

    But they did not know that Xu Zilings true qi, which originated from the Secret to Long Life and the Jade Annulus of He Clan, totally did not follow conventional reasoning; it could go along, or go against, according to his wishes. As soon as he wanted to reverse direction, he would be able to do so.

    The two mens reaction was also first class. The Covering-the-Moon Sword and the Eyebrows Truncheon attacked together, hoping that by working together, Xu Ziling would be forced out of the sword-truncheon circle, and then the two would have the opportunity to regroup and launch their attack.

    Xu Zilings back seemed to grow eyes. With just a hairsbreadth difference, his body swayed to dodge Zhu Zhongs Eyebrows Truncheon, and then when the truncheon was at its end of travel, his back bumped into the body of the truncheon, sending spiraling energy along the truncheon, jolting Zhu Zhong that he let out a miserable groan, and tumbled two steps away, opening up enough space that Xu Ziling was able to flash away from the Covering-the-Moon Sword, and occupy the blind side between the two.

    It seemed to be such a simple and easy action, but it embodied brilliant strategy, intelligence, calculation, and profound ultimate skill, which also decided the fate of Xie Fengge and Zhu Zhong, two men.



    Before Xie Fengge flashed away in horror, Xu Ziling bent his body slightly, his left elbow heavily struck Xie Fengges flank.

    Xie Fengges Covering-the-Moon Sword left his hand and flew away, his ribcage fractured, like a kite with cut string he flew sideways, and fell to the ground, heavily injured.

    Fast as lightning, Xu Zilings other hand reached out to grab Zhu Zhongs truncheon. In his attempt to lessen the pressure on Xie Fengge, Zhu Zhong hurriedly swept his truncheon, which resulted in not enough power in his truncheon. Xu Ziling twisted his body and his leg flew, while Zhu Zhong was pulled and losing his balance, Xu Zilings left foot hit his lower abdomen.

    When Xu Ziling, using ingenious beyond compare technique, grabbed the body of his truncheon, Zhu Zhong already knew his situation was not good. While he was about to abandon his truncheon and flee, Xu Zilings spiraling energy, like a demonic hand along the truncheon, sucked his hand tightly. In his shock, he felt like his soul already left him. The very same instant his lower abdomen felt like it was hit by ten-thousand-catty hammer. The meridians in his entire body felt like splitting. His blood was spurting out from his mouth, light as a feather his feet left the ground, he flew out of the courtyard gate, and landed on the ground without being able to climb back up.

    Inwardly, Xu Ziling cried Lucky! because he had been using his full strength, but the two were only injured and did not die. From this, he knew the depth of their foundation. The reason for his remarkable success was simply because he already had in-depth observation on those two, plus he was willing to trade life for life. Otherwise, if the tangled battle continued, victory or defeat would still be unknown.

    With a long whistle, Xu Ziling once again charged forward, attacking the more than twenty men, sending them falling face down to the left and tumbling down to the right, unexpectedly not a single one was able to resist.

    Although he was enraged, when he was fighting, Xu Zilings mind and spirit automatically entered the moon in the well stage. He floated, flashed, advanced and retreated among the saber rays and sword shadows, the enemys weapon always missed him by a hairsbreadth, without being able to touch him the least bit, so that it was like he was entering a no mans land.

    Bang! Bang!

    Two enemies received his punches and flew out, and landed on the steps.

    By this time he already killed his way toward the steps. Four men wearing tight warrior outfit, who were originally guarding the steps outside the door, charged toward him. Saber, sword, hatchet and spear, four different weapons with torrential momentum attacked over.


    The night sky over the residence and the courtyard exploded with fireworks and fiery arrows; obviously Xiang Yushan knew the situation was desperate, hence he sent signal to ask for help.

    These four mens martial art skill was quite superior, far above the other guards, plus they were proficient in techniques of fighting as a group. If they managed to hold him outside the gate, then not only he would not be able to kill Xiang Yushan, even escaping alive would probably be a problem.

    Dealing with group warfare, Xu Ziling had ample experience. With a wild roar, unexpectedly he soared to the sky.

    The four mens weapons hit empty air. Before they even ascertained Xu Zilings position above them, Pop! the lantern hanging above the main gate, the only light source at that courtyard, suddenly went out. In that instant where darkness fell, it was as if the four men suddenly went blind, while Xu Ziling landed behind them.

    Repeated screams were heard, as one after another the four men collapsed on the steps.


    The main gate shattered, lantern light burst through.

    Guarding behind the door were eight of Xiang Yushans personal guards with the strongest martial art skill. They were about to charge out, when, using a heavy technique, Xu Ziling lifted one of the unconscious guard and hurled him inside, immediately they were hit and rolled into a heap, utterly defeated.

    Like a whirlwind Xu Ziling stormed into the main hall. After striking two men and sent them flying, he shouted, Where is Xiang Yushan?

    Bang! Bang!

    Two intrepid, unafraid of death, big men burst in from the door to pursue Xu Ziling, and were met with swift and severe, unmatched punch across empty air. They were jolted and were sent spinning and flying out, and landed on the steps outside the door.

    By this time, everywhere inside and outside the door were the dead and the injured. Xu Ziling stood tall like a mountain, with a real consider-oneself-unexcelled-in-the-world lofty quality.

    Xiang Yushan, with countenance as pale as a dead person, retreated toward the door to the rear courtyard, shielded by more than a dozen of his men standing in front of him. Everybodys countenance showed fear. No one dared to charge forward to fight.

    Xu Zilings eyes shone with dense murderous intent, as he fixed his gaze at Xiang Yushan at a distance behind the human wall, who was trying to get away step by step.


    Without even looking, Xu Zilings leg flew backward to hit the tip of a spear that was thrown toward him. Like a streak of lightning the spear flew back and pierced the heart, the fatal point of the man mounting the sneak attack. Violent and ferocious momentum brought that man flew face up backward, knocking over another enemy, who was rushing inside, sending both man rolling down the steps. The situation was desperate to the extreme point.

    Xiang Yushan could not restrain the fear in his heart anymore; screaming in terror, he turned around and ran away.


    Xu Ziling soared vertically up, broke through the roof tiles, made a somersault in the air, and fast as lightning landed on the courtyard between the two sections of the building.

    Bang! Bang!

    Xu Ziling launched a series of palm strikes over empty air, knocking down the bodyguards left and right of Xiang Yushan. And then he landed by Xiang Yushans side and let out a long laugh, Xiang Yushan, have you ever thought that this day would come? he said.

    [1] General Lu Meng of the southern state of Wu was the model of self-improvement by diligent study.

  8. #248
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 21 Chapter 6

    Book 21 Chapter 6 Revenge of a Sword

    Extremely shocked, Xiang Yushan moved aside, the dagger in his hand stabbed as fast as lightning, ruthlessly and maliciously.

    Xu Ziling spun around abruptly, his sleeve flew out, generating a bust of powerful vortex of qi, to force the other people to stagger and tumble down. Only then did he calmly stretch out his finger to meet the blade of the dagger.

    All his anger and resentment were vented in this one finger attack.

    Xiang Yushans dagger was jolted off his hand, while he himself was thrown away, his back slammed onto the courtyards west wall, blood seeped out of his eyes, ears, mouth and nose.

    Like a shadow attached to Xiang Yushan, Xu Zilings hand moved at lightning speed to grab the clothes at the pit of his stomach, and lifted him up so that Xiang Yushan was floating a few cun above the ground, while his back was pressed against the wall. Seeing their master was under the enemys control, his men did not dare to attack.

    Ziling, dont!

    Yun Yuzhens scream came from behind.

    Xu Ziling looked like a deity; the might in his eyes radiated all around, but he fixed his gaze into Xiang Yushans eyes. Without looking back, he shouted, Shut up!

    The meridians in Xiang Yushans entire body was under Xu Zilings control, luckily he was still able to talk. Hastily he said, Xu Dage, please listen to Xiaodi, this is simply

    Xu Zilings internal energy penetrated his body, Xiang Yushan immediately lost the strength to talk, his face turned deathly grey.

    Xu Zilings pair of tiger-eyes shone with deep hatred. He spoke slowly, word by word, In vain we regarded you as a brother, turns out you harbor evil intentions from the start. If you want to deal with us, give me all you got! Why did you use despicable trick to harm the innocent, kindhearted Su Jie?

    Standing about a zhang behind him, Yun Yuzhen spoke with trembling voice, Susu contracted a foul disease on her own, it has nothing to do with Yushan.

    Xu Ziling let out a laughter brimming with sorrow, and then he said coldly, How did Su Jie contract the disease? Dont worry! I am going to take only half a revenge today; Ill take half of his life, and leave the remaining half for Kou Zhong. Yun Bangzhud better hide far away, because Kou Zhong is not going to let anybody who harmed Su Jie away.

    Finished speaking, he soared to the sky.

    Xiang Yushans body, from head to toes, shook violently and slid down along the wall, and slumped on the ground.

    Shouts sprang up everywhere; the martial art masters of Baling Army, including Xiao Xian, who had just heard the news, rushed over and tried to pursue him, but they were one step too late. Xu Ziling took a breath in the air and flew sideways toward an empty spot, and disappeared in the darkness.

    Yun Yuzhen rushed toward Xiang Yushan, who was still trembling incessantly. How do you feel? she asked anxiously.

    Distressed, Xiang Yushan replied, He is very ruthless! I was beaten back to my original condition, the vile injury I suffered before the two of them healed me.

    Yun Yuzhen immediately felt her scalp turned numb. This was the first time she realized Xu Zilings true power. This technique was many times more difficult than when the two boys treated and healed Xiang Yushans injury in the past.

    ※ ※ ※

    After three days of discussing the plan to attack Donghai, the Shao Shuai Army already gathered at Xiapi secretly prepared the gongs and tightened their drums, in preparation for going into war.

    This morning, Kou Zhong, accompanied by Xuan Yong and Jiao Hongjin, inspected their weak navy, which only consisted of five comparatively big warships. Climbing aboard one of the ships, Kou Zhong pointed to the sail and said, Naval battle rely mainly on fire, but fiery arrows are too powerful; when shot against the sail, they would pass through the fabric completely, oftentimes they failed to burn it. But if on the arrows body we add a cross-shaped stick, the arrows can then stay attached on the sail, and will burn it without leaving anything.

    Everybody agreed that was a good idea.

    Jiao Hongjin submitted cheerfully; he said, Such a simple method, yet we never thought about it. Shao Shuais brains indeed surpass ordinary men.

    Kou Zhong inwardly replied that it was Lu Miaozis brain that surpassed ordinary men! But naturally he would not reveal it; laughing cheerfully, he said, There are more formidable gadgets, more formidable that fiery arrows; its some kind of secret projectile to light a fire, but it relies on the strength of the hand throwing it. Its called Fire Flyer and Catcher!

    Being a layman in naval warfare, Xuan Yong asked in astonishment, What is that?

    Kou Zhong said, Its like a big wooden firecracker, shaped like a wooden club [used to beat clothes in washing], using a knife, make a hole from the top, and fill it with firecracker, fireworks gunpowder, carve seven or eight holes all around so the fire can go out, and then add some nails so that it will stick onto any hard surface; wrap the outside with oilpaper to make it waterproof. When facing the enemy, ignite the fuse, throw it by hand, either high onto the sail, or low onto the deck; guaranteed the enemy will be burn that they will only know how to shout for help.

    Xuan Yong and Jiao Hongjin were emotionally moved.

    This moment the three climbed up the steps onto the lookout station. Kou Zhong cast his gaze to the east, took a deep breath, and said, Donghai County is a big county on the waterfront, the defenders must be adept in naval warfare, and their size must be more than we can handle. Therefore, if we appear to be stupid enough to launch an all-out naval invasion, Li Ziyun and Tong Shuwen would have their whole nest come out to fight us. At that time, these tricks of ours can be out to good use!

    Xuan Yong and Jiao Hongjin suddenly saw the light; now they understood why Kou Zhong wanted to inspect their deficient naval fleet.

    Smiling ruefully, Kou Zhong said, Our navy ships are going to be used as sacrifice. Ha! It ought to be the time to look for that fellow Li Xingyuan.

    ※ ※ ※

    After catching up with Bu Tianzhi, Chen Laomou, and the others, Xu Ziling did not speak even half a word, all day long he sat in the hearse to accompany Susu, who was soaked in chemical to preserve her body, only occasionally he looked at the other carriage where little Lingzhong was being taken care of by a maid and a wet nurse.

    Every time he saw the child, who has lost his mother, his heart was bleeding.

    Susus tragic ending, he and Kou Zhong must take full responsibility. Feeling of sadness, despair, guilt, and remorse, like surging tides violently eroded away the reef of the cliff of his heart, making him extremely miserable.

    Extreme loss and anguish made him really want to drown his sorrows in wine, but he knew that he must pull himself together to deal with any danger in the future.

    The dead cannot be brought back to life; it didnt matter how grieved and indignant he was, he would never be able to change the ironclad reality.

    It was not until they reached the Huai River and boarded the three Jukun Bang warships waiting for them there that his heart started to calm down.

    After setting sail, it was only the following evening that he leave the cabin where Susus remains was kept, for the first time, and headed toward the aft, where he stood against the wind to think silently.

    Thick and dark clouds were hanging low in the sky, several hanya birds [Eurasian jackdaw] were circling above the forest by the riverbank, emitting their mournful cry, adding to his sorrow.

    Bu Tianzhi emboldened himself to come behind him. Deeply concerned, he said, Nobody can escape death! The most crucial thing for Ziling to do is to restrain your grief, and accept fate; dont be excessively sad that it will harm your body. The bad influence will be difficult to fix.

    Forcing himself, Xu Ziling spoke hoarsely, I really wish I could leave this place far, far away, where nobody knows me, where I dont need to think about anything, and can forget everything that has happened.

    Bu Tianzhi sorrowfully said, I understand Zilings mood, but running away is not the solution. Nobody exempts from grim, painful experience. Perhaps after a long time it will be forgotten, but to some extent, there will always be some traces that cannot be obliterated completely. Life is always like this!

    Xu Ziling recalled Shi Feixuans story about the alchemist who concocted pills of immortality. Smiling ruefully, he said, I am not running away, I just want to pursue my dream. Once, Ba Fenghan told me: in the western region, there is an endless grassland and great desert, with extreme hot and cold weather, mountains and creeks that are frozen all the year around, boundless sparkling sea of sand, so that when you set foot on those strangest places in the world, alone, you will feel that there is nothing outside of you. The nature will make you forget everything, including yourself.

    After a short pause, he continued with a sigh, Mans heaviest burden is himself, that one thing, me!

    A chilling wet wind blew from the direction of the bow, brushing the two mens clothes, creating fluttering noise. Naturally Bu Tianzhi had no idea that Xu Ziling was recalling the story of the servant of the man concocting pills of immortality. His way of thinking was far below Xu Zilings deep and penetrating mind. Momentarily he did not know what to say.

    Fortunately, Xu Ziling changed the subject by asking, Is Fu Bangzhu [deputy gang leader] ready to formally break your relation with Yun Yuzhen?

    Letting out a cold humph, Bu Tianzhi said, A person who disregards benevolence and righteousness like that is not qualified to be our Bangzhu. Hereafter we are going to follow Kou Ye to conquer the world, to do some big thing.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, All along I feel that Yun Yuzhens innate character is not as unbearable as this. Hence, although I clearly had the opportunity to kill her that day, in the end I could not be that ruthless. However, I can see that Kou Zhong is not going to spare her.

    Bu Tianzhi sighed and said, These past couple of years, she suddenly became very difficult to endure; otherwise we would not have any intention of leaving.

    Puzzled, Xu Ziling said, Could it be that she is influenced by Xiang Yushan?

    Bu Tianzhis eyes shone with strange expression; instead of answering, he asked, Ziling, what do you think of this Passionate Prince Hou Xibai?

    Taken aback, Xu Ziling asked back, Do you think the problem lies in him?

    Bu Tianzhi sighed and said, This is just my suspicion, I cannot prove it. Its just that after a chance encounter with him, Yun Yuzhen seems to be beside herself, her temperament underwent huge changes. In Jianghu, people who roll about in the thicket of flower and moon, who idle about like Hou Xibai can be found everywhere. But someone who keeps himself pure like him, who consider himself emissary to protect the flowers, whose martial art skill has reached that kind of brilliant stage, whose origin and history remains a mystery, he is the only one. Do you think I shouldnt doubt him?

    Xu Ziling shivered inwardly.

    He was well aware that his greatest weakness was that in everything, he was always thinking about the benefit; unlike Hou Xibai.

    Bu Tianzhi mused, To be able to train first-class martial art skill to that stage, one must have aspiration and unswerving determination, to keep on fighting in spite of all setbacks, and ideally is one with ambition. Hou Xibai is able to have todays achievement, the conduct and character he currently displays is not something that can be pursued. Outside appearance and inner reality differ, he is extremely secretive and dangerous.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, Zhi Shus insight is very original, I will remember it. Ba Fenghan has also had his suspicion; he asked him about the material used to make his Fan of Beauty. Its just that at that time I did not think about it too much. But now, thinking back, I do feel there is a problem somewhere.

    Bu Tianzhi said, One time Chen Gong [honorable gentleman] guessed that the one he wanted to deal with is Shi Feixuan, but upon further consideration, it does not seem so. Because he is showing his passion everywhere, any woman would think that this kind of man is difficult to grow old together with.

    The Chen Gong he was talking about was Chen Laomou.

    Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, When Zhi Shu said dealing with, are you referring to capturing Shi Feixuans fragrant heart? Is that unlikely?

    Bu Tianzhi spoke heavily, This man is extremely heretical, we must in no way recklessly ignore him. Besides, until today, Hou Xibai is the only young man obtaining the honor of roaming the world together with Shi Feixuan. Supposing Hou Xibai indeed turns out to be what we fear, he must have come from a demonic school, an outstanding martial art master of the new generation of the demonic school.

    Distressed, Xu Ziling said, I really dont understand why there are people in the world who specialize in doing bad things. Even those extremely vicious and utterly evil big bandits must have various reasons to justify their conducts; they cant possibly do bad things because they are bad.

    Bu Tianzhi said, I think people from demonic school did not think that what they are doing is offending Heaven and reason. Most likely it has to do with how they cultivate their skill, or perhaps it is related to their belief and creed, so that differences like Ci Hang Jing Zhai and Yin Gui Pai exist.

    Xu Zilings eyes flickered brightly; he nodded and said, Whether Hou Xibai is righteous or evil, I still have to warn Shi Feixuan to be careful.

    A gust of strong wind blew, followed by raindrops. Huai River turned into boundless haze.

    After heaving a sigh, Xu Ziling spoke in low voice, Why dont Zhi Shu go back and have some rest? I still want to stay here a bit longer.

    ※ ※ ※

    Seven warships departed from Xiapi, sailing along the Mu River toward Muyang.

    Kou Zhong was standing on the bridge of the command ship. He exuded the aura of the king of the world. Although the Little Lu Bu Jiao Hongjin standing by his side was also tall and mighty, with valiant build, in side-by-side comparison, he could only assume the tree peonys green leaf role [i.e. supporting actor].

    It was not solely due to Kou Zhongs particular body build and personality traits, but because he was standing as stable as the mountain, deep-pavilion, highest-peak posture and the lightning-like and perpetuity of his penetrating gaze, as well as the strong confidence he conveyed.

    In the eyes of the generals and soldiers under his command, he was not only the Commander-in-Chief who triumph in every battle, but also an invincible, matchless-under-the-heavens saber expert. These two views added together, this Shao Shuai became like a deity who received respect and adoration from his men.

    At a glance, the ships seemed to be full of troops. The fact was that every ship only carried about a hundred men, for a total of less than a thousand. Since Luo Qifei made contact with Li Xingyuan three days ago to inform him about the plan to advance toward Donghai, the Shao Shuai troops stationed at Xiapi were subjected to fake mobilization to deceive the eyes and ears of the enemy. The real combat force was actually the one thousand strong light cavalry under Xuan Yongs command, plus Luo Qifeis squad of intelligence gatherers. The rest of the force, Kou Zhong included, was only putting on an act of attacking on this unable-to-withstand-a-single-blow navy fleet.

    The morning sun ahead was slowly rising, the earth was brimming with vigor and vitality. On both sides of the river, there were cultivated fields everywhere, and rippling green open space as far as the eye can see.

    Kou Zhongs mind seemed to be flying over the scene in front of his eyes, to an unknown distant place. Suddenly he asked, Do you think Tong Shuwen is going to fall into the trap?

    Jiao Hongjin thought for a moment before replying, In term of military power, Donghai County has a navy fleet of thirty big battleships, their total strength is several thousand more men than ours, plus we are out of our base, in a military expedition, hence we do not have the advantage of familiarity with local terrain. It all depends on Li Xingyuan, this unreliable bamboo guide for the blind. If I were Tong Shuwen, even if I knew that this is a feign attack, I would be happy to deliver a frontal assault.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, Well said! Therefore, our chance of victory this time is entirely in seeking victory in the midst of danger. Other than perfect coordination between our ambushing troops and the scouting troops, the most important aspect is the selection of the ambushing position, and when the time comes, the usage of secret weapons to face the enemy. As long as we can break the Donghai Countys navy fleet, we will be able to paralyze the agility of the Li Army of Donghai County. Not only they would not be able to provide assistance to Muyang speedily via the waterway, their coastal defense will also crumble, which will enable us to seal off Donghai city from both the water and the land routes. Ha! At that time, Li Ziyun and Tong Shuwen can only kneel to beg for mercy.

    Jiao Hongjin secretly heaved a sigh of relief, glad that he was not Kou Zhongs enemy.

    Any superior commander, even Li Mi, Li Shimin, Du Fuwei, Dou Jiandes caliber, would have battle style that was always traceable. For example: Li Mi loved to use deceit and decoy; Li Shimin used both carrot and stick, and was an expert in grasping the situation, in using defense for offense. Du Fuweis Jianghuais Army come and go like the wind, using battle to support battle.

    But Kou Zhongs battle style was completely without any set method; irresolute like a heavenly steed soaring across the skies [fig. unconstrained in style (calligraphy)], leaving the enemy completely without any way to assess, conventional and subtle, and extremely daring, so that others could only be amazed and admit his ingenuity.

    Such an opponent, who did not feel intimidated?

    Kou Zhong shook his head and said with a laugh, If my guess is correct, the enemy ought to wait for us around the river section after Muyang, but before we go out to sea. At that time Li Xingyuan would break our troops retreat route, and then we would end in total annihilation. However, I also think that it would be best if Li and Dongs entire nest come out and setup massive military force on both sides of the river, then not only we can easily detect the correct position of their interception, we could also destroy the enemys main force at a stroke. That would be ideal!

    Jiao Hongjin nodded his head in agreement.

    On the surface, their plan was to advance toward Donghai from both the land and the sea, with Muyang as the support. After the navy went out to sea, they would coordinate with the Shao Shuai Army traveling on land, plus Li Xingyuans Muyang Army, to put Donghai under heavy siege.

    But beneath the surface, it was a different matter altogether.

    Revealing a smile brimming with confidence, Kou Zhong reached out to grab Jiao Hongjins shoulder. He sighed and said, Perhaps by the evening of the day after tomorrow, we can drink victory wine inside Donghai City!

  9. #249
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 21 Chapter 7

    Book 21 Chapter 7 Fierce Battle in River and Lake[1]

    Little Lingzhong was playing on the velvety cotton-padded mattress setup in the living area of his cabin, under the care of the young maid and the wet nurse, continuously squealing in delight. Sitting in the corner, Xu Ziling watched with a smile on his face, but his heart was actually wringing in pain, his breathing was ragged.

    Fortunately, Bu Tianzhi arrived this moment. The two men climbed the spiral staircase toward the bridge.

    Bu Tianzhi said, We received the latest intelligence: Zhong Ye has assumed a title for himself Shao Shuai, the generals and soldiers under his command is called Shao Shuai Army, more than ten days ago they captured Xiapi, and also destroyed Ku Ges Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits. The cities and villages formerly attached to Xu Yuanlang or Li Zitong have pledged allegiance to him. Now in Shandong, other than Donghai, everything else has become Shao Shuai Armys territory. Zhong Ye indeed did not disappoint our expectation.

    Xu Ziling inwardly thought that Kou Zhong has finally spread out his might. It seemed like in the world, other than Li Shimin, Du Fuwei, Dou Jiande, Liu Wuzhou, and Xiao Xian, these several particularly outstanding military leaders and hegemons, the rest would find it difficult to be his opponent. Is he still in Xiapi now? he asked.

    That is a big possibility, Bu Tianzhi replied, Therefore, we are thinking of changing course, to follow the Huai River going east, after passing Hongze Lake [in Jiangsu] and Chengzi Lake, we turn north to Si River, and then after Huaiyang we can reach Luoma Lake. Xiapi is located northwest of Luoma Lake. If he has returned to Liangdu, we can make sharp turn to the west.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, This way our journey will be two days farther, plus we have to break through that section, Zhongli City. Are you sure?

    Bu Tianzhi smiled and said, Li Zitongs navy has always been weak, time and again they are thwarted by Du Fuwei, so we need not be afraid. Plus we have always had business deal with him, he ought to give us a bit of face.

    Hows Xiao Xians relationship with him? Xu Ziling asked.

    Bu Tianzhi replied, Xiao Xian has been secretly supporting Li Zitong, his objective is to drag Du Fuweis hind legs. But Ziling need not worry that Li Zitong would become Xiao Xians hunting dog, because at most Li Zitong is only a dog who does not have time to take care of himself, and not a very competent one. Although our strength is a trivial three warships, our performance exceeds his, plus we have our martial art masters at the helm. Zhonglis navy may roar like a tiger, enough to scare merchant ships or fishing boats, but they cannot stop us.

    Under normal circumstances, Xu Ziling did not need to consider his own safety, but for the sake of little Lingzhongs safety, also to avoid Susus remains to be disturbed, he had no choice but to be cautious.

    After asking Bu Tianzhi further about all kinds of contingency plans, he finally set his heart at ease and nodded his agreement.

    By dusk that day, the ships arrived at Zhongli. Contrary to Xu Zilings expectation, Zhonglis navy did not give them any trouble at all; they simply let them swagger away.

    Trouble came when they reached Hongze Lake.

    ※ ※ ※

    The fleet of ships slowly turned a bend and enter a straight section, where the river suddenly narrowed, and the stream became rapid.

    Kou Zhongs command ship was at the front; he and Jiao Hongjin were standing on the bridge, fixing their eyes on the river ahead.

    Following the setting sun, the earth gradually grew dim.

    Half a sichen ago, they sailed pass Muyang, and entered what Kou Zhong thought to be the most dangerous section of the river. Three more sichen, and then they would reach the ocean. Sailing to the north along the coastal area for another sichen or so, they would arrive at Donghai City.

    At Muyang, the fleet made a short stop, where Li Xingyuan came aboard the ship to discuss the grand plan to attack Donghai City. After a bit of mutual deception, the fleet continued their journey at double speed.

    Jiao Hongjin spoke in low voice, This river is unreasonably quiet, not even a single fishing boat is in sight. This is the time when the fishermen are rushing home from their day catching fish on the sea.

    On their left they saw lantern light blinking at certain pattern, a certain sign that the enemys navy in some kind of deployment, but they did not come forward to issue any challenge like originally expected.

    Jiao Hongjin and Kou Zhong looked at each other. They both felt that something was not right.

    Kou Zhong swept his gaze around; he asked, What kind of place is ahead?

    Jiao Hongjin replied in heavy voice, About four li ahead is Du Long Xia [poisonous dragon gorge]; both side of the gorge are steep mountains, the cliff along the river is full of reefs, the river becomes a rapid. But General Luo has already dispatched his men to lie in wait over there. If the enemy has any arrangement, they cant possibly deceive our eyes and ears.

    Shaking his head, Kou Zhong said, The situation is very bad; we must have underestimated that fellow, Tong Shuwen.

    Frowning, Jiao Hongjin said, Since they are not going to ambush us ahead, and their navy did come out to challenge us into battle, how are they going to deal with us?

    With a grave expression Kou Zhong said, It is precisely because we cannot see through their arrangement that we feel something is very wrong.

    He issued an order, the ship cast its anchor.

    Jiao Hongjin spoke in low voice, Could it be that we wronged Li Xingyuan? Perhaps he really wanted to take refuge in us.

    Kou Zhong resolutely said, I definitely did not misjudge this person. Hey!

    Following his example, Jiao Hongjin turned his head around to look; in the dim twilight, the other six navy ships were slowing down, following the command ship, ready to cast their anchor. The river looked calm and peaceful.

    Kou Zhong suddenly laughed and said, Oh my God! This time our navy ships are done for!

    ※ ※ ※

    Battleships covered the Hongze Lake like the cloud; tense atmosphere permeated the air.

    Under cover of the starry sky, this fourth largest freshwater lake in the Central Plains appeared to be extending forever into the distance. More than a dozen hostile warships appeared on the surface of the lake in fan-shaped formation, so they have the potential to close in and surround them.

    The biggest distinguishing feature of Hongze Lake was that there were reeds everywhere, practically covering the entire lake, so lush and flourishing that it was difficult for boats to sail on it. Furthermore, the bottom of the lake was shallow and flat, with muds sloping up and down. The maximum depth was no more than two zhang, average depth was only within 10 chi; therefore, even if one dived into the water to flee for his life, it would still be difficult evade the enemys powerful arrows.

    The enemys move was obviously a deliberate, well-planned operation.

    It was at this point they finally understood why the Zhongli Citys Li Army easily let them pass, because once they reached this place, they could only be involved in a chaotic warfare on the vast, boundless flat lake. Furthermore, with multitude enemies, few friends, if they could not hold their ground, they would not be able to leave the water, go to the shore and escape on land. This was a carefully laid trap targeting Xu Ziling, a top quality martial art master.

    Shaken, Bu Tianzhi said, Unexpectedly they are Da Jiang Hui [great river society] ships [See Book 7 Chapter 1].

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, Are they under the Da Jiang Huis Dragon Lord Pei Yue and the Tiger Lord Pei Yans leadership, and not under Zheng Shuming-led Changjiang Lians [Yangtze River Alliance]?

    In the past, he and Kou Zhong left Shuang Long Bangs [twin-dragon gang] thief nest hauling salt into the Yangtze River, when Pei Yan, in company with Wang Bos son, the Thunder Saber Wang Kuijie, clipped their tail and pursued them. It was entirely by relying on thick, black smoke that they were able to get away. Unexpectedly they met again today.

    This moment Chen Laomou came to Xu Zilings other side and answered his question, They are precisely the Snake and Dog Two Lords who wont shrink from any crime; I never thought they would be foolish enough to take shelter under Li Zitong, who is on his way downhill. It is really hard to believe.

    Bu Tianzhi shook his head and said, These two lowly men are snobbish; the one they are relying on is Xiao Xian. Humph! Lets give them a tough battle.

    Xu Ziling asked, Can we release black smoke to confuse the enemy and then wait for the opportunity to escape?

    Chen Laomou shook is head and said, The wind is too strong, plus on the lake, releasing smoke screen is just a waste of energy and manpower.

    And then, waving his hand, he shouted loudly, Brothers! Prepare for battle!

    Immediately battle drums shook the heavens, the sound reverberated far and wide.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong whispered in Jiao Hongjins ear, Look at the hull of our ship where it contacts the water.

    And then he shouted loudly, Continue to sail, the slower the better!

    Jiao Hongjin focused his attention to look; severely shaken, he said, Oh my god! Someone play a trick on our ship.

    He saw that the hull immersed in the water was daubed with kerosene; without even asking, he knew that it must have happened near Muyang somewhere, some people dumped kerosene on the river, so that when the ships passed through, they would be stained with kerosene.

    Jiao Hongjin said, If this is Sichuans kerosene, it will burn even after entering the water, and it cannot be extinguished by pouring water on it. This is indeed a very formidable trick.

    Kou Zhongs entire body relaxed; he laughed and said, The most formidable aspect is that after we fell into the trap, we still foolishly unaware, let alone a fleet of Donghai navy must be hiding in a tributary near Muyang, ready to pursue and catch our tail. Our plan must go different direction. Ha! Prepare to abandon the ship!

    ※ ※ ※

    All three Jukun Bang warships extinguished their lights, but their speed was continuously rising, as they sailed speedily toward the west side of the lake in triangular formation.

    Bu Tianzhis wrinkled, slender face was calm as usual; he spoke indifferently, The water flowing into Hongze Lake is concentrated from the western part of the lake; the main source is from Huai River, where we came from, the others are Sui River, Bian River, and An River. The water is coming out of the lake via three different waterways, the main river course is separately discharging into the Yangtze River and the ocean. The enemy is blocking our way to the east, so we are going to play cat and mouse with them; well see who is more familiar with Hongze Lake, see whose night navigation skill is more superior.

    Chen Laomou added, The entire Hongze Lake is shaped like a swan spreading its wings with its head high. According to ancient books, the origin of the lake was a low-lying ground where the water could not flow freely. After it became a lake later on, due to the shallow water with a lot of mud, it is one of the bodies of water where water battle is to be avoided at all cost.

    Xu Ziling looked back at the pursuing enemy ship from the rear; he asked, And those ships are going to avoid water battle at all cost?

    As if enumerating his family valuables, Bu Tianzhi said, Big is better than small, solid subdues fragile, tail wind surpasses headwind, going with the flow beats going against the stream, watch for shallow water, guard against fire, protect from the wind, guard against chisel, guard against iron lock; these are nine cardinals of water battle. If you violate just one of them, you would end up in ship-capsize, people-perish disaster.

    Xu Ziling had a sudden understanding, No wonder Zhi Shu wanted to go against the stream first toward the west, rushing to into the waterway west of the lake, and then turn around to enter the lake to meet the enemy head-on. This way it will become going with the flow beats going against the stream.

    Chen Laomou smiled and said, Ziling is indeed a child that can be taught. The so-called acting in accordance with upstream to placate the power of the water, making it difficult to battle facing the stream, just like land battles living high and looking down [i.e. occupying the high ground], clearly taking up the superior position. However, we have never tried facing the Da Jiang Huis Pei Clans brother in hand-to-hand combat; they are not easy to deal with, Tianzhi must be careful.

    He had not finished speaking, from the west of the lake appeared seven dots of ships. Shockingly, they were the Yangtze River Alliances warships.

    Suddenly the situation was reversed; the enemy ahead occupied the upstream position, while there was no escape route behind them, so that they had fallen into the enemies-in-front-and-behind, the-enemy-strong-we-are-weak inferior position.

    ※ ※ ※

    More than thirty warships quickly appeared like galloping horses from behind, sailing downstream toward Kou Zhongs Shao Shuai Navy fleet. Looking at their speed, it appeared that they would be able to overtake Kou Zhong right about Du Long Gorge. Because the hull of Shao Shuai Navys ships were already contaminated with kerosene, if the enemy attacked using fiery arrows, it could be guaranteed that the Shao Shuai Navy, which was weary after a long voyage, would be completely wiped out. The calculation was accurate, the method was ruthless.

    Even if the long-range attack failed, because the enemy was sailing with the current and had the advantage of tail wind, plus Donghais navy ships were big and sturdy, they would easily overcome the smaller and more fragile navy vessels of Kou Zhongs side. By riding the wind plus the momentum of going with the current, it would be like a cart crushing a praying mantis, a battle between the ships and not between the soldiers; grasp it, and victory is assured.

    It was clear that Donghai Navy was waiting for the Shao Shuai Navy to pass Muyang before they took advantage of the current to chase after them; indeed it was a display of deep comprehension of naval battle strategy, the crucial point where victory was within grasp.

    This moment, Li Ziyun, Tong Shuwen and Li Xingyuan were standing on the bridge of the command ship, looking at the seven enemy ships that were forced to close in. All seven ships were in total blackout, leaving only one wind lantern on the bow to illuminate the river in front of them. The banners on the ships were as dense as a forest, so that the enemy was not able to clearly see the situation on the ships.

    Li Ziyun looked to be around thirty years of age, big, tall, and mighty. Pointing his finger ahead, he laughed and said, People say Kou Zhong is so formidable, but I say he is just a fool, not someone who knows how to operate the boat, but wholeheartedly making things easier for us to annihilate them by crowding together like that. Brothers, be ready!

    Battle drums were beaten. The men on the foremost three warships lighted their arrows and bent their bows, ready to shoot.

    But Li Xingyuan leaned over and whispered in Tong Shuwens ear, It seems like something is wrong!

    Tong Shuwen, who at first glance appeared to be dignified, elegant like an immortal, but upon closer look was spoiled by triangular shaped eyes, laughed coldly and said, So what if something is wrong? Even if they setup an ambush on the shore, our ships are equipped with cowhide and iron panels, enough to deal with their arrows. Much less both sides of Du Long Gorge are steep cliffs; setting up an ambush is just a wishful thinking. Therefore, this time we are definitely occupying the invincible position. The question is whether we will be able to kill Kou Zhong, and thus eradicate this threat once for all!

    After careful thought, Li Xingyuan also felt that he was overly suspicious; therefore, he had no choice but to obediently shut his mouth up.

    By this time, Kou Zhongs Shao Shuai Navy was sailing fast toward the mouth of the gorge, the current turned nasty, both sides ships, one side pursuing the other, were moving with a thousand-li momentum.

    The moment victory was in sight, the most impossible thing to happen suddenly happened.

    The seven Shao Shuai Navy ships suddenly stopped in the middle of the swiftly flowing river and positioned themselves in a row, so that the entire surface of the Mu River was like blocked by the ships. Not only ship and ship was locked together, they even had chains locking the ships to the big trees on both sides of the river, sealing the entire mouth of the gorge.

    While Li Ziyun, Tong Shuwen, and the others were looking at this scene, flabbergasted, the seven enemy ships suddenly caught fire at the same time; the blazing flame soared to the sky.

    Although fully aware that they were entering the sea of fire, the seven or eight ships at the front were unable to hold their own momentum; as their cry of alarm reached the heavens, their ships simply rammed against the burning ships.

    The rest of the Donghai Navy ships at the back hastily steered their boats toward both banks. But while they were thinking that they had just avoided the danger zone, suddenly from both banks battle cry shook the heavens, followed by the number one great master/artisan of the present age, Lu Miaozis creation, the Fire Flyer and Catcher and the Cross-shaped Fiery Arrows, raining down from the cliff on both sides toward the enemy ships dropping by their door. Sparks and flames flew everywhere, brightening the night sky on the river; the continuous rumbling noise adding to the liveliness, creating magnificent sight. However, for the Donghai and Muyang coalition forces, it was the spell of doom.

    Li Ziyun finally realized who the real fool was.

    ※ ※ ※

    The three Jukun Bang warships changed course toward the north, in their attempt to escape through the gap before the enemys ships closing in to form the siege.

    Greatly astonished, Xu Ziling asked, Isnt tail wind surpasses headwind? Why do we turn north toward the wind and not to the south to obtain tail wind?

    While carefully observing the enemy warship closing in from both sides, Bu Tianzhi calmly said, Since previously the enemy was already able to guess that we were going to seize the advantageous upstream position, they would also be able to guess that we might flee with the tail wind. Therefore, we are going against the norm so that their carefully layout plan would not be effective anymore.

    Chen Laomou shouted loudly, Raise the panel and lower the sail!

    The drums were sounded, the order was transmitted.

    While Xu Ziling was slightly startled, hundreds of iron plates to shield against the arrows were erected on the cabin walls on both sides, top and bottom decks, greatly enhancing their defense against darts, rocks, and fiery arrows.

    By the time the sail was down, windows appeared on the gigantic hull of the ship; eighteen long oars came out from each side, which were swiftly dropped down to the water and started to paddle in strong rhythm. The strength and dynamic was really pleasant to the eyes.

    Without the drag from the sail, the three warships easily glided against the wind; they advanced swiftly and in a short time were able to escape from the enemys siege via the gap.

    It was only this point that Xu Ziling understood that naval battle actually involved deep knowledge, so much so that even unfavorable situation could be turned into a favorable one; it was definitely not as simple as it appeared on the surface. Now that the sail, which was the most obvious target of the enemys fire, was hidden, they no longer had to fear the enemy releasing fiery arrows.

    The enemy sounded the drums. They released more than fifty fast boats onto the water to pursue relentlessly. The oars rose and fell, their speed was several times faster than the huge ships, plus they had the advantage of agility, so that they were not afraid that Jukun Bangs warships might try to ram into them. It was an ingenious strategy.

    Bu Tianzhi issued an order; the three ships changed formation from triangular into a line, as if they did not have any plan on dealing with this contingency. Chen Laomou suddenly shouted, Scatter the ashes! Throw the stone! Release the arrows!

    Battle drums echoed throughout the lake under cover of the starry night.

    First, the three warships released big lumps of lime from their stern, which was the darkest part of the ship, which, due to the breeze above the water, quickly became a wall of dust rolling toward the enemys boats.

    At the same time, the arrows and rocks were released, violently attacking the pursuing enemies within ten zhang distance.

    Continuous screams and groans of pain ensued; caught off guard, more than half the enemies had the dust of lime assaulted their eyes, while the rest turned their heads around while covering their eyes. Right this moment the rocks and arrows arrived like rain. The fleet of fast boats, which originally pursued with torrential momentum, was beaten until everything was broken and in disorder, and was routed completely.

    While the sailors were cheering, the three warships finally escaped the siege, and ran away to the north.

    Raise the sail! Bu Tianzhi shouted.

    This moment Xu Ziling really prostrated himself in admiration to Bu Tianzhi and Chen Laomous skill in naval battle, while inwardly thinking that no wonder Jukun Bang was able to become a prominent member of the Eight Gangs, Ten Societies. And now, are we going to change course to sail downwind? he asked respectfully.

    Bu Tianzhi nodded and said, If we dont sail downwind to the south, how can we go to Xiapi? But if we dont play a little trick, the enemy might overtake us.

    Finished speaking, he issued a string of orders.

    The three warships, which had easily broken out of siege, sailed eastward around the bend, and went straight toward the east shore, where the concentration of the reeds was the highest.

    Under Chen Laomous direction, all three warships produced a pair of floating boards, which looked like wings, from both sides of the hull, and thus greatly increased their buoyancy, so that the huge hulls were able to cope with the shallow bottom of the lake.

    Heaving a sigh of relief, Bu Tianzhi said, That will do!

    The sails were suddenly opened to their full width to catch the tail wind, and they glided speedily along the coast in the southeasterly direction. Everywhere the bow divided the water, the reeds broke in pieces; it looked like the three ships were gliding on green ripples of the water. Very soon they already left the enemies far behind, and entered the junction out of the lake, where the ripples appeared to be glittering under the starlight.

    [1] The term Jianghu (river and lake) has always been used to describe martial art world; more specifically the wanderers, itinerant entertainers, swindlers, etc. But in this case the battle did happen on a river and a lake, hence I opted to translate it the way it is.

  10. #250
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 21 Chapter 8

    Book 21 Chapter 8 Inconsolable Grief

    In the battle of Du Long Gorge, the Donghai and Muyang allied forces were completely routed, Li Ziyun, Li Xingyuan and Tong Shuwen all died on the spot. Shao Shuai Armys momentum grew like a rainbow. They marched into Muyang, where the citizens opened their doors to welcome them. Donghai Countys defeated forces also knew that their momentum had gone, they took the ships and fled to Jiangdu, so that this strategic town in foreign trade simply cupped their hands in obeisance to submit to Kou Zhong.

    It was only this point that Kou Zhong truly established the foundation of his kingdom. To the east, his territory reached the ocean; to the west, it reached Liangdu; to the south it reached Xiapi, and to the north, he gained control over fertile farmland area in the vicinity of Wei Mountain, Luoma Lake and various smaller lakes.

    After handing over the Donghai and Muyang to be administered under Jiao Hongjins jurisdiction, Kou Zhong, along with Xuan Yong and Luo Qifei, immediately rushed back to Liangdu, ready to cope with Li Zitongs wrath.

    It was only when the ship docked at Liangdu that he found out that Xu Xingzhi has responded to the call and came. Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong immediately pulled him into the study room of the Zongguan mansion for some discussion.

    Finished listening to Kou Zhong detailing the development in the past few days, Xu Xingzhi had a big frown on his face. Shao Shuais expansion is too fast too hurried; very likely it will be problematic, he said.

    Kou Zhong was shocked, What should I do then? he asked.

    Xu Xingzhi said, Fortunately Shao Shuai did not attack and seize Zhongli. Otherwise youd definitely incite Jiang Huai Army to attack. The only thing you can do right now is to establish friendly relations with Li Zitong, help him repel Du Fuwei and Shen Faxings coalition army, and then use him to defend our south side. At that time, even if Wang Shichong or Dou Jiande deploy their troops to attack, we wont have to face the enemy from both sides. Ay! Presently, although our Shao Shuai Armys awe-inspiring authority spread to eight directions, the fact is that we are still unable to withstand a single blow; practically we do not have enough power either to defend or to attack.

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, I have just killed Li Ziyun; how could Li Zitong be willing to establish friendly relations with me?

    Xu Xingzhi smiled and said, Even if you were his personal enemy who killed his father, under the circumstances, he has no choice but to establish friendly relations and discuss plans together.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, The number of soldiers we can use is around fifteen thousand, but they cant be considered elite troops, we still need some time to train. In Xingzhis opinion, should we stop expanding our territory and try to consolidate our lands defense first?

    Xu Xingzhi shook his head and said, Currently we are like rowing a boat upstream; if we stop moving, well fall back. Since we cannot grow either to the north or south, we must expand our influence sideways. The obvious target is Jingling; while secretly, the one we are planning to capture is Xiangyang. We are going to use former Jingling elite troops who retreated to the Flying Horse Ranch. Then we wont have to be afraid to go out to defend the weak while leaving an empty nest.

    Kou Zhong slapped the table and exclaimed, Wonderful!

    Hows the situation at the Flying Horse Ranch and Shang Changzhu over there? he casually asked.

    Xu Xingzhi replied, The situation over there is unusually complex. To put things simply, its the Three Big Bandits and Zhu Can and the Flying Horse Ranch in power struggle, plus Xiao Xian watching from the side like crouching tiger, and the pressure of Du Fuwei might come to attack any moment. But for us, this situation only bring benefit without any harm, perhaps we even have the opportunity to pull the Flying Horse Ranch, which has always been neutral so far, into our camp. That will create another situation altogether. Hey! The people of Flying Horse Ranch, from top to bottom, have very good impression toward Shao Shuai and Xu Ye, they all think that you are the real heroes.

    This time Kou Zhong had a big frown on his face, I am bit confused now, he said, Can Xingzhi advise what are we going to do? Please give me detailed description and the sequence in which we must do it.

    Xu Xingzhi pondered quietly for half a day; finally he spoke with determination, I am thinking that these two aspects, solidify the internal and resist outside aggression must be carried out at the same time. Solidify the internal means establishing improved governance and defensive system in both the new and old territories, with the ultimate goal to have common people living in peace and working happily, to have the government decree flows down seamlessly. Resist outside aggression means to avoid the strong and acquire the weak, do everything we can to avert direct confrontation against Li Zitong, Du Fuwei, Dou Jiande, or perhaps Wang Shichong, and the others, while solely train our eyes on Xiangyang with the best of our ability. If we can establish stronghold south of the Eastern Capital, we will have the opportunity to contend for hegemony to the north, no need to retreat and defend to a corner.

    Kou Zhong was about to speak when there was a knock on the door.

    Xuan Yongs slightly trembling voice came through the door, Xu Ye is back.

    Like a leopard Kou Zhong sprang out from the imperial tutor chair to open the door; seeing Xuan Yongs pale countenance, his own face changed, as he asked, What happened? Is Ziling injured?

    Tearfully Xuan Yong shook his head and choked with emotion he said, Not him, its Susu.

    Kou Zhong suddenly reached out to grab his shoulder; shaken, he said, Its Su Jie? Ah! And then the bolted through Xuan Yong toward the main hall.

    Behind him, while weeping with grief, Xuan Yong said, Susu has become an immortal!

    It was as if Kou Zhong was struck by lightning; with disbelief in his eyes, his knees went weak, he dropped down to the floor right there at the corridor.

    ※ ※ ※

    After Susu was cremated, early morning the next day, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong, with no emotion showing on their faces, sat in the main hall.

    Zhai Jiao, with icy-cold expression, sat opposite the two. After deep contemplation for half a day, she sighed bitterly and said, I never thought that after I, Zhai Jiao, harbor the hatred of losing my father, I still have to endure the pain of losing my younger sister. The Heaven really treats me with injustice!

    Immediately Kou Zhongs eyes were brimming with tears; hanging his head, he spoke in hoarse voice, One day I will muster my troops to cross the river and wash Baling with blood, as a payback of Su Jies debt of blood.

    Zhai Jiao coldly said, Revenge is revenge, but you must not let your emotion clouds your judgment. For the time being, let me take care of Susus ashes. As for Little Lingzhong, I can take him back to the north, and treat him as my own. You may set your heart at ease.

    Xu Ziling looked at her. He wanted to speak, but nothing came out.

    Rising to her full height, Zhai Jiao said, Xuan Yong already laid out for me the route back to the north, to avoid peoples eyes and ears. You need not send me off. After I find a place for Little Lingzhong, I will send someone to notify you.

    The two boys rose up hurriedly.

    Zhai Jiao finally lost it. Tears streaming down her face as she threw herself to hug the two boys tightly, and then, still in incontrollable tears, she hurriedly left.

    Dejectedly the two boys slumped back into their chair.

    Nobody knew how long, but finally Kou Zhong let out a bitter smile and said, Humans feeling of life and death is really strange. Originally it feels like it would never happen, but all of a sudden it turned into an irreversible fact, something that is difficult to alter even for a hairsbreadth. Although I cannot expect that all the good things in the world will be dumped into our laps, but why did Laotian take Niang first, and now he took away Su Jie? A piece of yellow sandy soil has buried all our expectation and hope.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, I already thought until my brains did not feel like it belongs to me anymore. Therefore, I will also advise you to restrain your grief, accept your fate. Presently your attempt to the throne and the business of hegemony has just been set in motion; many things are waiting to be done. The most crucial thing is to pull yourself together, dont be overcome with deject and misery.

    Kou Zhong suddenly stood up, pulled Xu Ziling outside, and walked swiftly while saying, Well said! Lets find a place we can drink a cup of comfort wine; lets drink until the sky faints and the earth darkens, forget the affairs of life. Afterwards we are going to pull ourselves together, take the Duke Yang Treasure out, and storm straight into Baling.

    ※ ※ ※


    The wine cup fell to the ground and shattered into pieces.

    Aghast, Xu Ziling stared at Kou Zhong, only to see his face had no trace of blood. This time its really bad! he cried out involuntarily.

    By this time of the day, the restaurant they have frequented has yet to open their door for business, so it was perfect for the two to have their private business here.

    Putting down his cup, Xu Ziling frowned and asked, Whats the fuss?

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Even the wisest can have a momentary lapse in judgment, and that certainly applies to you too. Try to think about it: Lu Miaozi, the Demonic Emperor Relic, Zhu Yuyan, and Duke Yangs Treasure. Synthesized these four aspects together, then youll come to only one conclusion. We have certainly fallen into the yaonus [female demon] evil scheme. All these great troubles are to provide dowry for the crafty scoundrel.

    This time it was Xu Zilings turn to have his countenance changed, You are right, he said, Must be because of Su Jies matter that my brain was clouded. The fact is, no one has ever been able to find the Demonic Emperor Relic, simply because Mr. Lu put it inside the Duke Yang Treasure. But how did Zhu Yuyan know? I am afraid its just a blind guess!

    Kou Zhong took another cup of wine. After pouring some and drinking it, he muttered to himself irresolutely, It doesnt matter if she guessed it right or she guessed it wrong, supposing his mothers Demonic Emperor Relic is indeed in the treasure-trove, will we have to fulfill our promise?

    Xu Ziling raised his cup and drown it in one gulp; he calmly said, What do you think?


    Kou Zhong threw another cup to the floor; letting out a long laughter, he said, What kind of men are we, brothers? Once we give our promise, of course we wont go back. I dont care if after obtaining the Demonic Emperor Relic that yaonu can escape to the earth or fly to the sky, I am not afraid.

    Raising his thumb, Xu Ziling said, Now thats my good brother.

    Kou Zhong picked up another cup and held it against his lips, letting the wine dripped and wet the lapel of his clothes. Distressed, he said, Too bad Su Jie is gone. Otherwise, if she were here to accompany us drinking, it would have been ultimate delight!

    Xu Ziling dejectedly said, Eventually one day you and I will step on her trailing dust [fig. somebodys footsteps]. If death is the end of everything, then it will also end all our troubles. However, if there is something after death, wont we still have time to meet again?

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, The problem is that destiny is not repeatable. For instance, if there really is reincarnation, when we die, Su Jie has already reborn, and is already experiencing another life. This is precisely the real meaning of an accident arising from many causes.

    And then he spoke softly, To be honest with you, I really am grateful to you for leaving half of Xiang Yushans life for my pleasure to wipe out the enmity of a loved one, so that my grief wont be without any place to wash it out.

    Xu Ziling shook his head and said, Until now I am still unclear as how Su Jie could contract such a foul illness. We must investigate this matter.

    With tears in his eyes, Kou Zhong said, Ever since we said goodbye to Su Jie in Xingyang, she had never had one day where she was really happy, and then she met that completely-lacking-any-feeling-or-sense-of-justice man.

    Pouring another cup of wine for Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling said, Now is the time to drink comfort wine, wailing for the dead was yesterdays matter.

    Kou Zhong wiped the tears with one hand, while with the other hand he drank his wine.

    Xu Ziling said, There is some questionable things about that man, Hou Xibai. And then he narrated his and Bu Tianzhis suspicions.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, Since the beginning I did not like him too much. At first I thought that I was narrow-minded and was jealous of him, but now I know that I actually had foresight. Shi Qingxuan mentioned those Eight Great Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Way; besides Zhu Yuyan, You Niaojuan, Zuo Youxian, who are the others?

    Xu Ziling replied in distress, I dont know whether she was deliberately messing up with me, but she only told me half of everything. One of those things was the confirmation that Rong Fengxiang is the personification of Pi Chen. As for the other four, I am afraid you must find Shi Feixuan and ask her yourself!

    Kou Zhong downed another cup; he asked in surprise, Why is the more I drink, the more spirited I am, and not the least bit his mothers drunk? Hows Shi Qingxuan compared to Shi Feixuan? [Reminder: Shi Qingxuan (石青璇) vs. Shi Feixuan (师妃暄), different Shi, different Xuan] Was her Niang really Shi Feixuans Shibo [martial (older) uncle]?

    Xu Ziling replied helplessly, Even her true appearance, she only let me look at half of it. She is fairly discernible, hard to fathom [fig. elusive]. But my days with her was not unbearable.

    If it were before, Kou Zhong would have immediately teased him as falling in love with her, but right now he did not have that kind of mood. After being quiet for half a day, he said, Now, our Shao Shuai Armys only way out is to attack Jingling and Xiangyang, two strategic towns. Along the way, we could look for Zhu Can and the Three Big Bandits to take their heads off. But to accomplish such a difficult goal, we must have Duke Yang Treasure to succeed. What do you think I should do?

    Just say it frankly! Xu Ziling said, The promise I made to you, I wont ever renege.

    Kou Zhong rose up to his full height and said, I am just waiting for Gui Xiliang and Xing Rong, those two kids news. After Shao Lingzhou is taken care of, that will be the time Li Zitong and I talk about the conditions.

    ※ ※ ※

    That very same evening, sure enough, Zhuhua Bangs [bamboo flower gang] representative arrived. But it was neither Gui Xiliang nor Xing Rong, but it was the Deputy Hall Master who rose up to become the Hall Master, Luo Feng.

    Kou Zhong busily received him at the main hall. After sitting down, Luo Feng, with a face full of dust, spoke with grave expression, Jiangdu is in critical condition, it might fall any moment. Du Fuwei and Shen Lun join hands to attack Jiangdu; they take turn to besiege the city. It looks like Li Zitong wont be able to hold on for long.

    Kou Zhong shivered in fear and said, Hows Old Du and Little Shens military strength?

    Luo Feng replied, Du Fuwei stations his troops at Qingliu, his strength reaches seventy thousand men. Shen Lun has his garrison at Yangzi, his strength is about fifty thousand men. Li Zitong mobilized troops and horses from all sides, and his strength numbers around forty thousand. Were it not for Jiangdus city wall tall and the rampart solid, it would have been fallen early on.

    Kou Zhong pondered quietly on how he was going to fight this battle; even if he poured out all his strength to help, he would only suffer loss for nothing. Du Fuwei was an old fox, veteran of a hundred battles, definitely not someone easy to deal with.

    But if Li Zitong was done for, his Shuai Shao Army would be next.

    Raising his thick eyebrows, Luo Feng said, This time Lao Ge [old older brother, referring to self] received Shao Junshis secret order to negotiate with Shao Shuai, to see whether we can draw support from Shao Shuais forces to solve the crisis in Jiangdu.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, We are on the same side, there is no need to stand on ceremony. I just want to know if Li Zitong has anything to do with this.

    That is only natural, Luo Feng replied, Otherwise, I would not have become the mediator.

    Recalling Xu Xingzhis remark, Kou Zhong laughed hoarsely and said, For the sake of his own survival, Li Zitong indeed disregarded his siblings enmity. However, in this matter, he still harbors ill intention; he wanted to borrow Du and Shens coalition forces to weaken my strength. Luo Dage, what do you think?

    Luo Feng nodded and said, Lao Ge has had discussion with Ol Shen and Xiliang; we all knew that this is lending a knife to kill, but once Jiangdu fall, Im afraid Shao Shuai will also find it difficult to preserve your hard earned rivers and mountains. This is indeed a big headache. [See Book 7 Chapter 3 for more on these characters.]

    Kou Zhong mused, I really have to protect Jiangdu, otherwise my territory will be gobbled up by Old Du, then innocent civilians will suffer the disaster of being trampled by the soldiers.

    Emotionally moved, Luo Feng said, Shao Shuai is indeed a real hero, a brave knight, who disregard gain and losses, and personal benefit for the sake of common people.

    Susus departed soul came to mind, Kou Zhong sighed and said, Success and failure, gains and losses, are as fleeting as life itself, it will pass in a snap of the fingers. As long as I can do things that will give my heart peace, then I will have no regrets.

    Luo Feng hesitated for half a day. Finally he spoke in fierce determination, Actually, both Ol Shen and I opposed to Shao Junshi and Li Zitong having too close of a relation. Li Zitong is a fickle person, not someone you want to work with for a long time, but he simply refused to listen or even to see us!

    Kou Zhong seized that opportunity to ask, What does Luo Dage think of Mai Yunfei? Does he have the qualifications to be a Tangzhu [Hall Master]?

    Smiling wryly, Luo Feng said, Without me telling you, Shao Shuai ought to know what kind of material Mai Yunfei is. At least Xiliang has a better relationship with other people, plus he is the direct disciple of our former Bangzhu, and has the full support of Madame Yuling. Mai Yunfei only rely on Shao Junshi, one persons support. For this reason, Ol Shen has had intense dispute with Shao Junshi.

    Kou Zhong mused inwardly that turned out Gui Xiliang also had a little bit of reputation and status; he spoke indifferently, Knowing Ol Shen and Luo Dages intention is enough! Presently our Gangs Bangzhu position is still vacant, and Xiaodi is not suitable to sit on this position. I wonder if Luo Dage has a good proposal?

    Luo Feng said, Presently, the person most qualified to sit on the Bangzhu position is not Shao Junshi, but Ol Shen. As for Xiliang, in terms of talent, ability, virtue, and prospect, it will still be difficult for him to convince the masses. It is only due to the Song Clans inclination that the Bangzhu position is still hanging in the air. But it led to Shao Junshi leaning on Li Zitong, which led our Gang to be in the brink of splitting up. This whole thing is extremely complicated and very difficult to handle.

    Kou Zhong said, If Shen Beichang, the Senior, sits on the Bangzhu position, and Xiliang takes up a post as the Fu Bangzhu [deputy], would Luo Dage think it will work?

    Stunned, Luo Feng said, How could Shao Lingzhou agree to that arrangement?

    Kou Zhongs eyes gleamed with cold and sharp flashes; he said, In the matter of life and death, how could he not agree? What Xiliang lacks right now is illustrious merit. If I let him break Du and Shens siege, his fame for fighting prowess will thus greatly rise, hence it will be proper and to be expected as a matter of course that he will take the Fu Bangzhu position; whod dare to object?

    Luo Feng cast him a hard-to-believe look; he was speechless.

    Naturally Kou Zhong knew that Luo Feng thought he was simply blowing his spiral conch. Smiling, he said, Can Luo Dage answer a question from me?

    Luo Feng nodded.

    Kou Zhong spoke indifferently, Supposing Jiangdu is captured, will it be Du Fuweis Jiang Huai Army following up the victory by going up north, or will it be Shen Faxings Jiangnan Army advancing to the north?

    Luo Feng was dumbstruck and unable to reply.

    The reason Du Fuwei and Shen Faxing were willing to join hands in dealing with Li Zitong was simply because Li Zitong occupied Jiangsu, the most important strategic city on the intersection between the north and the south. Both sides were hoping to get rid of this big stumbling stone and a thorn in their side. Once they succeeded in capturing Jiangdu, it would be both sides turn to have face-to-face confrontation due to their common interest.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, That is the key to our victory. May I bother Luo Dage to go back and tell Li Zitong and Shao Lingzhou frankly about this proposal? As soon as they give us a nod, send Xiliang here immediately to discuss our big plan. If we say that only Xiliang can resolve the Jiangdu situation, just like Luo Dage, they wont believe, thats why they will definitely agree. Ha! This way, the impossible will become possible. Its going to be fun!

    Luo Feng could only return a blank stare.

  11. #251
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 21 Chapter 9

    Book 21 Chapter 9 Timely Execution of a Brilliant Scheme

    After sending off Luo Feng, Kou Zhong returned to the Zongguan Mansion; turned out Chen Changlin had just come back, and was having a chat about the old times with Xu Ziling at the main hall. Changlin Xiong came back just in time, he said in great delight, This time your revenge seems promising.

    Chen Changlins spirit greatly aroused, he promptly asked for more details.

    After Kou Zhong finished explaining the situation, Chen Changlin dejectedly said, Right now Li Zitong is powerless to defend himself, while our strength is not enough to deal with either Du Fuwei or Shen Lun, how could I take revenge?

    Kou Zhong called a guard to summon Xu Xingzhi, while in passing he asked about Chen Changlins effort to recruit his clansmen back home.

    Noticing his having a card up his sleeve, also knowing that Kou Zhong was full of stratagems, plus he had schemes that ghosts and deities cannot measure, Chen Changlins confidence was back; he excitedly replied, My trip was very good, much better than what I thought, especially after getting the wind that Shao Shuai captured Donghai, one after another my clansmen embarked on the journey north. My estimate is at least two thousand strong, young men are going to join Shao Shuais army. In addition, no less than five hundred skilled mariners and skilled shipbuilders from my clan are also going to place themselves into your hands. I am just one step ahead of them to report the news to Shao Shuai. Very soon I will have to travel through the night to Donghai to provide support for them.

    Kou Zhong happily asked, Have those two thousand young men served in the military?

    Chen Changlin replied, Most of them have joined the army of the old dynasty; those who currently serve in the Shen Army are not the minority either.

    That will do! Kou Zhong delightedly said, Changlin Xiong ought have them come to Liangdu, the sooner the better.

    This moment Xu Xingzhi arrived. Finished listening, he stroked his beard and said with a smile, Shao Shuais plan is wonderful; use Jiangnan men to beat Du Fuwei, and when Du Fuwei mistakenly believes that Shen Lun is stabbing him in the back and retaliate, well seize the opportunity to attack Shen Lun. Jiangdu siege will automatically break. Am I right?

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Mr. Xu is indeed Zhuge Wuhou [i.e. Marquis of Wu, Zhuge Liang] reborn. Just a quick glance, you already see through Xiaodis heart.

    Xu Ziling also nodded to express his admiration.

    Chen Changlins eyes lit up; standing up suddenly, he said, I am hastening to Donghai right now. When we attack Shen Lun, Changlin wishes to become the vanguard.

    Kou Zhong pulled his sleeve and said, Hold on! Changlin Xiong needs to give directions to our tailor first on how to make Shen Army uniforms.

    Xu Xingzhi laughed and said, If Shen Lun really wanted to attack Du Fuwei sneakily, how could he let his soldiers and sergeants openly wear Shen Armys uniform and insignia? As long as they are Jiangnan people, that is enough. Du Fuwei will believe it even more. [Translators note: In general, Jiangnan is the area south of Yangtze River.]

    Slapping his forehead, Kou Zhong said, I am muddleheaded, ha! This time even the cost of clothing can be saved back.

    Chen Changlin left with excited look on his face.

    ※ ※ ※

    The third day after Chen Changlin left, Gui Xiliang and Xing Rong, covered in dust, rushed over. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling arranged a banquet to wash the dust from their feet. Joining them were Xu Xingzhi, Chen Jiafeng, Xie Jue, and Ren Meimei, who had just returned from Pengcheng to give report of the situation.

    After three rounds of wine, Kou Zhong said, Around the banquet table are all our own people, you may speak without any misgivings.

    Gui Xiliangs countenance immediately sank, as he said, In that case, I wont stand on ceremony either. You doggedly want to put me on the stage, saying that I would be able to resolve Jiangdu siege or what have you, implicating me so that all day long I suffered frigid irony and scorching satire from Shao Lingzhous men; my days are unbearable to the extreme. Okay, now Shao Lingzhou has formally announced that if I manage to pull this practically impossible task, then I, Gui Xiliang, will not only rise to the Fu Bangzhu position, I would even reach the top by occupying the Bangzhu position. My granny! Tell me, how the hell am I supposed to step down the stage this time?

    Xing Rong also expressed his displeasure, Shao Lingzhous move this time is clearly aimed at humiliating Dage; although he did not say that it cant be done, but everybody knows that if Jiangdu fell, resignation would be Gui Ges only way out.

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, This practically impossible task, did Shao Lingzhou put it in writing in his formal announcement, or did you, Xiliang Lao Ge make it up yourself?

    Gui Xiliang crossly said, I made it up. Whats wrong with that?

    Ren Meimei and the others smiled in amusement; they all knew that these two knew each other since they were little, hence they were able to have candid dialog.

    Remaining calm in the midst of chaos, Kou Zhong said, Supposing in the past I told you that I could get rid of Ren Shaoming, inflict heavy damage to Li Mi, and drive away Yuwen Huagu, wouldnt you also use the same words to describe it?

    Gui Xiliangs face turned beet red; with blue veins protruding on his forehead, he angrily said, How can you discuss that matter with this current situation together? Ay! We are brothers, why dont you tell me how am I going to solve Jiangdus siege situation?

    Looking at Xu Ziling, who was trying hard not to laugh, Kou Zhong laughed and said, Why dont I let Xiao Ling tell you? You trusted him a lot more than you trust me!

    Assuming a dont-drag-me-into-this-mess attitude, Xu Ziling shrugged his shoulders and said, It wasnt me who put Liang Ge on the stage. The one who untied the bell must be the one to tie it back. Shao Shuai, please!

    Finally Ren Meimei could not hold it any longer. Pfft! she burst into a tender giggle; her seductive appearance was very attractive. Gui Xiliang, who saw her voluptuousness for the first time, was somewhat better than Xing Rong, who stared blankly at her for half a day.

    Ren Meimei was a veteran in seducing men; immediately she cast another coquettish glance, which, although he wanted to refuse, yet he could not help welcoming it.

    Kou Zhong laughed and cursed Xu Ziling a bit, Kid, you are messing with me! Afterwards, he leaned over and whispered in Gui Xiliangs ear for a quarter of an hour. It was not until Gui Xiliangs countenance relaxed and he repeatedly nodded his head that Kou Zhong straightened up, picked up a cup of wine with his left hand, and heavily slapped Gui Xiliangs shoulder with his right hand, laughed aloud, and said, Gentlemen, governors and generals, heroes of Jianghu, fellow countrymen and elders, brothers and sisters, let us drink his mothers toast for the future Zhuhua Bangs Gui Bangzhu.

    Everybody promptly raised their cups and clamored noisily to congratulate him.

    Xu Ziling also raised his cup, but he did not say anything. He inwardly mused that whether it was the sorrow of their Niang passing, or the pain of Su Jies death, Kou Zhong was always able to recover from the blow better than he was. This was perhaps one of the must-have prerequisites of becoming an overlord of the world.

    ※ ※ ※

    The next day Gui Xiliang and Xing Rong took a boat to return to Jiangdu in high spirits, a night-and-day difference from when they arrived, where they were hanging their heads in dispirit.

    Accompanying them was Xu Ziling, disguised as the Scarface Hero, and Luo Qifei. One would be acting as guardian of this future Bamboo Flower Gangs Gang Leader twelve sichen a day, the other one was tasked to organize reconnaissance team, consisted of Zhuhua Bangs men, who were familiar with local situation, and who would become the backbone of the team, reinforced by more than a dozen reconnaissance experts from Shao Shuai Army, with the main task to gather intelligence on Du and Shens two armies.

    Later that day, Xu Ziling slipped out to the stern, alone, to watch the beautiful scenery of the canal under the starry night. Thinking about Susus misfortune, grief welled up in his heart, he sighed deeply.

    Susus death was a deeper and heavier blow to him than Fu Junchuos. The latters death was moving and tragic, as well as explosive and intense; it happened so suddenly that before he understood clearly, it already passed. But toward Susu, he was always brimming with hope and expectation, but suddenly all strives and wishes went up in smoke. It was that kind of loss that made him feel so helpless and full of regret, it felt like a viper is boring into his inner organs and gnaw and bite his spirit.

    He did not know when he would recover like Kou Zhong. People say time can heal everything. But he also knew that Susu would always leave indelible scars in his heart.

    Every time he remembered her voice and features when she spoke to him before her death, his heart would go into a spasm! It would exhaust the strength in his entire body before he could fight the tremendous, incomparable pain and depression. He was already too numb to hate anyone, including Li Jing and Xiang Yushan. But would not stop Kou Zhong from extracting the harshest revenge from Xiang Yushan.

    And he knew that absolutely no one in the world could stop Kou Zhong from demanding repayment on behalf of Susu.

    Most probably the cause of Susus illness was from prolonged exposure to pent-up frustration, which give rise to physical illness; indirectly it was from Li Jing, but the immediate cause was definitely from Xiang Yushan. It was something that he and Kou Zhong were already aware of, but Susu did not raise this matter; even more, she was not willing to talk about it.

    In the past few days, they did not dare to mention Susu at all. It was too saddening!

    This moment Gui Xiliang came to his side, cleared his throat and said, Hey! I have something Id like to discuss with you.

    With great difficulty Xu Ziling composed himself; nodding, he said, We are brothers! Go ahead!

    Gui Xiliang looked a bit embarrassed; after muttering to himself irresolutely for a moment, he said, Why do you think Xiao Zhong want me to support me to become Bangzhu? To be honest, I am very aware of my own capacity. Becoming a Hall Master is already quite remarkable; but Bangzhu? Ay!

    Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, In your heart, do you want to become Bangzhu?

    Smiling wryly, Gui Xiliang replied, People always look to high places, water will flow to lower places; if you ask whether I want to or not, of course I do! But if name and reality dont match, it would be the same as doing arduous and thankless job.

    Xu Ziling said, If you want it, then you can do it. What you lack right now is confidence. With Kou Zhong supporting you wholeheartedly, what are you afraid of? He cant possibly harm you. You ought to know how he conducts himself. When we were little and fought with others, he never tried to sneak away first, he always stayed to the very end.

    Distressed, Gui Xiliang said, I become Bangzhu, what benefit will it be to him? Even if I become Bangzhu, there is no way I would be able to order old men like Shao Lingzhou and Shen Beichang around. Mai Yunfei will definitely set himself against me. Something that has a name but no reality like this, why would I want to become Bangzhu?

    Xu Ziling replied indifferently, Then why didnt you tell Xiao Zhong frankly like you told me just now? If you did, you wouldnt have to be distressed over this matter!

    Gui Xiliang sighed and said, Xiao Zhong thinks so highly of me like this, how could I disappoint him? Not to mention Shao Lingzhou already cut off my way back; I dont have any choice but to continue in spite of adversity. Ay! Am I contradicting myself?

    Xu Ziling spoke softly, Achieving and preserving power and position has never been an easy thing. Xiao Zhong now is no longer Xiao Zhong of the past. He has a way to help you become Zhuhua Bangs Bangzhu whose name and reality match, so much so that he can put several capable people inside the Gang to help you; in turn, you support him in his great undertaking to contend for supremacy over the world. Just think! Arent even old fox like Li Zitong and Shao Lingzhou like toys that he plays with in the palm of his hand? You may listen to Xiao Rongs opinion more; his cool-headedness and wisdom is enough to make up for your deficiency.

    And then he pulled his shoulders in an embrace and said, Its late! Take an early rest, after reaching Jiangdu tomorrow, we might encounter a lot of unexpectedly things, which will require a lot of effort on our part to deal with it.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong hurriedly came to the main gate to welcome Liu Heita; he laughed and said, I did not know how I was going to get in touch with Liu Dage, unexpectedly honored guest already graced us by your presence.

    Liu Heita laughed aloud, he pulled Kou Zhongs arm as they stepped into the main hall, and amiably said, Its not that you are looking for me, but I am looking for you. Currently, who in the world did not hear Kou Zhongs name and be filled with admiration?

    After being sat properly and had everybody else leave the hall, Liu Heita said, Xia Wang [King of Xia] originally wanted to send someone else as an envoy to you, but I insisted on personally take this trip to avoid becoming estranged with my good brother. If we meet in the battlefield later on, it will be bad thing indeed!

    Kou Zhong shook his head and said, Liu Dage need not worry, brother is brother, how could we exchange good wine and good food with soldiers and sabers to treat each other? Come! Lets drink a cup first, to wish our brotherly love to endure forever.

    After the toast, Kou Zhong asked, Hows the war situation in the north? Has Li Mi surrendered to Li Shimin?

    His countenance changed, Liu Heita asked, Is there such matter?

    After Kou Zhong gave his analysis, Liu Heitas countenance turned grave; he mused, Li Shimin is indeed a man with far-reaching foresight. Under Li Mis command, battle-hardened generals are like the cloud, strategic experts as thick as rain. Just this group of talents is enough to give current Li Clans power a dramatic increase, so that they will be even more difficult to deal with.

    Kou Zhong said, Perhaps Li Mi would rather die than surrender. Ay! But Li Mi did indeed have rendered exceptional merit, perhaps he really could not bear it anymore and surrender to Li Shimin, to avoid being destroyed altogether. This possibility is not small.

    Liu Heita remained silent.

    Kou Zhong went on, I hear Xu Yuanlang was beaten by you, Liu Dage, that everything was broken and in disorder. I wonder when are you going to penetrate his lair in Rencheng?

    How could it be that simple? Liu Heita calmly said, Xu Yuanlang is fighting hard to recover his lost territory. The most hateful thing is that he asks for help from Gao Kaidao and Yuwen Huaji. Yuwen Huaji was defeated by Li Mi and then you, one after another; presently he is powerless to defend himself, so he might ignore this request. But Gao Kaidao has the Tujue people backing him up; himself was incomparably brave, his great general Zhang Jinshu is an expert in using cavalry, they are not to be underestimated.

    Kou Zhong repeatedly recited the names Gao Kaidao and Zhang Jinshu, in his heart, to commit them into his memory. Suddenly he asked, There is one thing I really dont understand: why did you guys pick this time to cross sword with Xu Yuanlang?

    Liu Heita shrugged his shoulders and said, The reason is very simple: because Xu Yuanlang has always been attaching himself to Li Mi. Now that his supporter is down, we do not have misgivings anymore. I almost forget to thank you for this. Come! Let Liu Dage toast you a cup.


    Wine cups clinked against each other, the fine wine was drowned into their belly.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Now I understand the meaning of pulling one hair and the whole body moves. Much less Li Mi is certainly more than just a strand of hair.

    Liu Heita said, This Xu Yuanlang is the most spineless man. On one hand, he is asking for help from Gao Kaidao and Yuwen Huaji, on the other hand he is surreptitiously exchanging flirting glances with Wang Shichong; hence the situation is not entirely beneficial to us.

    Is there something that Xiaodi can do to help? Kou Zhong muttered irresolutely.

    Liu Heita cheerfully said, As long as you are willing to do business, then it will be all right. As for the other matters, without me telling you, you might make an attempt to have a firm grasp on Wang Shichong or Du Fuwei. This will bring us great benefit.

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, Liu Dage is very straightforward. In the end, you and your Xia Wang basically do not need to fear that my Shao Shuai Army, which, alone, does not have much power, would play any trick on you.

    Liu Heita calmly said, Although currently you are one of the few people that I think highly of, but under present circumstances, it is still difficult for you to accomplish anything. Right now I do not have any doubt that it will be very difficult for me to persuade you to realign your allegiance to Dou Ye, but you must never be a hardheaded hero. Once the city of Jiangdu fell, or perhaps Wang Shichong is coming to the east, in your most critical moment, you must never forget that I, Liu Heita, am your brother, who have been through trials and tribulations, life and death situation together with you. You only need to send me a letter, I will definitely help you with all my strength. At that time we will crisscross the world side by side; wont that be delightful?

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Thinking about it is indeed delightful. Liu Dage is certainly a political adviser with extraordinary charm. But I do not know whether I ought to look forward to the coming of that kind of days. Anyway, back to the topic, what business brought Liu Dage here to see me?

    Liu Heita did not mince his word, We give you warhorses and weapons, you supply us with produce and rice grain; benefiting both sides without bringing any harm.

    Kou Zhong laughed involuntarily and said, After all, your Dou Daye wishes that I can hold on for a few more days, right? Such a good offer, how can I, Kou Zhong, refuse?

    Liu Heita stretched out his big hand to shake Kou Zhongs. He said in low voice, Be careful! Remember the saying: as long as the green mountain remains, no need to worry there wont be any firewood. I am off! I will send someone to contact you later.

    Kou Zhong was stunned, You are not going to spend the night to chat with me? he asked.

    Liu Heita helplessly replied, I am actually in the situation where I could not spare myself to meet this appointment. How come I did not see Xiao Ling?

    Kou Zhong walked with him to the main gate, he said, He went south. Come! Let me send you off outside the city.

    Liu Heitas countenance went dark; he said, Did he go to Baling to look for your virtuous sister?

    Kou Zhong felt as if his heart was pierced by an awl or steel needle; after hesitating for half a day, he nodded and simply replied, Yes!

  12. #252
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 21 Chapter 10

    Book 21 Chapter 10 Back in Yangzhou

    The ship arrived at Yangzhou.

    From his vantage point at the port side of the ship, Xu Ziling surveyed the big commercial port overlooking the sea in the mist of the dawn; his heart was filled with myriads of emotion. It was as if a prodigal son who left his village, after going through ten thousand crags and torrents, and disaster after disaster, finally returned to his starting point.

    The strange thing was that when the last time he was in Yangzhou to see the muddleheaded ruler, Emperor Yang, he did not have the same feeling.

    It was the wounding-the-spirit, breaking-the-soul feeling of sea voyage, when they let Susu made the choice that would affect the rest of her life.

    Xu Ziling felt a stab of pain in his heart.

    Standing beside him, Xing Rong sighed and said, Sowing one, reaping two. Speaking about commercial trade of the whole nation, our Yangzhou has always been at the top of the list, otherwise our Zhuhua Bang would not be the other big gang besides Baling Bang. Therefore, after moving around everywhere, our zongduo [lit. helms, i.e. the headquarter] has always moved back here. Shao Lingzhou put himself under debt from Li Zitong, this will have its own cause and effects.

    The world sowing [yang] referred to Yangzhou, the word reaping [or benefitting, yi] referred to Yizhou, namely, the Shu County in Sichuan.

    Yangzhou, Jiangdu, and the likes were like the Luoyang of the Central Plains, which was the hub of the water and land transport connecting all parts of the country, especially the waterway aspect, since it was at the intersection of the Canal and the Yangtze River, as well as at the coast of Yangtze River leading to the sea, hence its geographical superiority could be inferred.

    As for the land route, from Yangzhou to the east was Shandong, to the west Sichuan, to the south extended to Huguangs [i.e. Hubei and Hunan provinces] relay stations along the major route.

    All these factors combined, Yangzhou became the strategic hub of sea, land, and river transports, the center of distribution connecting the water and land routes of the north and the south. Since the Sui Dynasty, large number of rice, salt, cloth and silk passed by this area on their way north to supply the Central Plains, as well as Ji Shan regions [Hebei and Shaanxi]. Yangzhou was also reckoned to be first or second best metropolitan in the nation. The principal commodity were precious stones, salt distribution, wood, brocade, copperware, and so on.

    When Emperor Yang was murdered by the rebel army headed by Yuwen Huaji, Du Fuweis Jiang Huai Army was one step too late, so he could only watch when Li Zitong took this most important big city in the south. It was like one move difference in the game of chess.

    Such a large river like Yangtze River, which was the convergence of the waterways in the world, no one had the capability to completely seal it off for a long period of time. To heavily besiege Yangzhou was definitely not an easy matter. The reason Du Fuwei was willing to cooperate with Shen Faxing was simply because he wanted to draw support from Shen Faxings navy fleet with its rich naval battle experience, plus the backbone of Shen Faxings navy was Hai Sha Bangs huge fleet of warships.

    Hai Sha Bangs Gang Leader was originally the Dragon King Han Gaitian. But when they mounted a sneak attack to the newly established Shuang Long Bangs base camp in Changshu, he was heavily injured by Xu Ziling, and his internal injury could not recover completely, until finally he had to give way to the Beautiful Mermaid You Qiuyan, with the Fat Assassin You Gui and the Roaming General Ling Zhigao as the Left and Right Deputy Gang Leader, respectively. They reorganized the Gang, and recovered the Gangs power somewhat.

    Jiangdu Yangzhou was governmental city, with two layers of city walls forming the entire city, linked up by undulating hills.

    Governmental city was the seat of the imperial palace, also the seat of the Zongguan Mansion and other governmental offices, concentrated in one location, much like the Imperial City of Luoyang, which was located on elevated ground; easily guarded, hard to attack. In those days, were it not for Yuwen Huaji revolted from within the nest, he might not necessarily be able to murder Emperor Yang, who was under the full protection of the Dugu Clan.

    Under the governmental city, the commercial and residential area extended outside the second wall built around the main city wall. This rectangular city was inhabited by close to two hundred thousand people, with most residents live in the southern crown of the city.

    The main street was lined with willow trees every a thousand paces, the red clouds were reflected on the two layers of city wall. The inner city spanned eleven li from north to south, and seven li from east to west, the perimeter was about forty li.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhongs struggling and challenging, but precious childhood years were spent in the approximately 80-li perimeter outer city. Reminiscing about the past, all kinds of memory flooded back into his mind; how could he not be overcome by emotions?

    Noticing that Xu Zilings eyes were gleaming with odd expression, Gui Xiliang, standing on his other side, thought that Xu Ziling felt strange because he did not see the troops and horses besieging the city; thereupon he explained, This past year or so the war has been stop-and-go; three sides of Jiangdu face river and ocean, the harbor is deep and wide, besieging the city is easier said than done. Plus in the other big city Zhongli, Li Zitong has massive military force, which from time to time raided the besieging enemy via the waterway. Therefore, each time Du Fuwei and Shen Lun finished their turn in besieging the city, they must retreat and regroup to restore their strength; otherwise, how could Li Zitong hold on until today?

    Inwardly Xu Ziling admired Kou Zhong: the reason Du and Shen, two armies were unwilling to siege the city together was because they were suspicious of each other, and Kou Zhong was able to grasp this critical conflict between the two, thereupon he would be able to calmly set up a driving-a-wedge-between-them stratagem. But Xu Ziling did not know that it was Xu Xingzhi who first thought about this crucial point, and not Kou Zhong at all.

    Although the pier outside the city could not be compared to its former glory where thousands of ships were docking side by side, their sails and masts covering the sky, but there were at least a hundred ships, big and small, moored along the coast. It appeared that they were taking advantage of this brief period of peace to do business.

    Their ship slowly docked. The welcoming committee consisted of Luo Feng and about a dozen Gang members, as well as a small group of troops and sergeants of Li Zitongs army.

    Just by looking at this kind of welcome, it was thus clear that Li Zitong and Shao Lingzhou hardly attached any importance to Gui Xiliang.

    Xu Ziling stepped back so that he would not be too conspicuous.

    Luo Qifei moved over to his side and said, Looks like we have a little bit of trouble.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, We have to change according to the situation.

    The ship finally cast its anchor, Luo Feng was the first to come aboard, with a slightly helpless intonation he said to Gui Xiliang, Da Wangs [The King] order, all ships arriving at Jiangdu must be inspected, both the passengers and the goods. After everything is verified properly, you may enter the city.

    Gui Xiliangs countenance changed, he said, Even we, Zhuhua Bang men are not exempt? On this trip I was on mission for Da Wang himself!

    Luo Feng reached out to grab his shoulder and said, Be patient a bit! We all know what is going on inside.

    His gaze fell on Xu Ziling, disguised as the Scarface Hero, and the others, seventeen people in all; he asked, Are these honored guests brothers from Shao Shuai Army?

    Xu Ziling cupped his fist and replied in hoarse voice, Xiaodi is the Feng Dao [wind saber] Ling Feng of Shandong. I came here to see Luo Tangzhu [hall master/leader], indeed under Shao Shuais order to wait on Gui Tangzhu.

    Naturally Luo Feng has never heard that in the Wulin world of Shandong there existed such figure; inwardly he was apprehensive, but on the surface he put on a your-name-has-been-known-to-me-for-a-long-time appearance, and said, The inspection process should ne reasonable and fair, it is not to deliberately make things difficult for you, I hope Ling Xiong will show understanding, otherwise how could we cooperate with Shao Shuai?

    Turning his head around, he signaled the Li Army troops waiting on the shore to come aboard to inspect the ship.

    Xu Ziling sighed inwardly, knowing that the trouble has just begun.

    ※ ※ ※

    Returning to Yangzhou was like returning to a far away, yet forever unforgettable dream. Whether it was inside or outside the city, everywhere he looked, there were traces of the shocking-the-eye, astonishing-the-heart fire of war, collapsed and damaged city walls, charred and abandoned siege equipment in all kinds of shape and sizes, sunken warships, and bloodstain on the streets, which had turned black, the ruins of houses after the fire, crumbling walls and scattered roof tiles everywhere.

    But the people were accustomed to this kind of sight; except for the migrant workers who were working on mending the walls, for others, life went on as usual.

    Due to lack of warhorses, everybody entering the city must rely on their legs; they walked slowly while carefully observing the desolation of the trauma of war.

    The Zhuhua Bangs headquarters was back on its former site, at the foot of a hillock right next to the inner city wall, but the building was of new construction, the scale was more magnificent than the previous one, the complex was composed of seven compounds, each has its own separate wall, connected to each other by gateways and passageways; four of those buildings housed the Wind, Clear, Rain, and Dew, four Halls.

    Before reaching the headquarters, Luo Feng and Gui Xiliang moved to the front of the line, while constantly conversing with each other in low voices. Xu Ziling and Xing Rong brought up the rear. When they were passing the most famous red-light district in Yangzhou, the Willow Lane, Xing Rong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, Madame Yuling reopened the House of Heavenly Fragrance, and nowadays it has become Yangzhous most famous pleasure house, and the Two Principals of Heavenly Fragrance are the most famous talented ladies of the south; it wont be easy for anybody to see them, so let me take you out tonight.

    West of the Willow Lane was the Jiucheng [lit. old city] River that cut across the road going north and south of the city, spanning across the river were two big bridges, Ruyi [as one wishes] and Xiao Hong [little rainbow]; the scenery on both banks was charming and gentle, with long dike and willow branches drooping down, lined with luxuriant fragrant grass.

    Further away was the other large river, the Wen River, balancing the Jiucheng River. Along the Wen River going east was the Great South Gate Street, the busiest and most prosperous street in Yangzhou; most shops were concentrated here.

    This moment Xu Ziling was overwhelmed with memories, how could he have any interest in visiting a pleasure house? But he was also having a peculiar feeling, recalling that in the past, he could only steal a peek to admire the ladies of the House of Heavenly Fragrance, but now he would be able to enter from the main room, into the inner chamber, as a rich big master. Obviously the past and the present were completely different; they had grown up to become adults.

    For the young Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, the city of Yangzhou was a very good place to play hide-and-seek, or perhaps a good place where they could go everywhere to flee for their lives.

    Before Emperor Yang developed Yangzhou to become Jiangdu, in the city district, most of the houses were self-developed, which resulted in irregular shapes and layout, with oblique street corners and cluttered intersections; except for several main streets, the rest were mostly nine-crooked, thirteen-bent, streets and alleys crisscrossing each other haphazardly, which also became the special characteristic of Yangzhou.

    In the past, the two boys favorite place to hang out was the Great South Gate Street, and also the Satin Silk Street, which intersected the Great South Gate Street. This street got its name not only from the brocade, satin, juan [thin, tough silk fabric], and chou [light silk] shops lining the street, but also the shops offering jewelry and arts and crafts, hence many wealthy spenders [orig. with ten thousand strings of cash in money belt] spent their time here. For the young Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling at that time, this was the place where the fat sheep congregated.

    Noticing Xu Ziling did not say anything, Xing Rong thought he agreed to stroll into the pleasure house tonight; thereupon he turned to another topic, Luo Tangzhu can be considered the best in his treatment toward us! He is the only one willing to speak up on our behalf.

    Stunned, Xu Ziling asked, How about Shen Beichang?

    Lowering his voice, Xing Rong said, Shen Laotou [old man, usually in disrespectful way] is very grouchy, nobody knows what he really thinks. Ill say Shao Lingzhou has deep misgivings toward him.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, Does Madame Yuling have any influence on our Zhuhua Bang?

    Of course she has! Xing Rong replied, She is very supportive of us, but she never intervenes in the Gangs affair; she does not have any real power within our Gang, therefore, her influence is only from our Gang brothers who show her respects, but in major things, it is difficult to rely on her support.

    This moment the group of more than fifty people have just entered the courtyard gate. Shao Lingzhou and Shen Beichang went out to meet them, to intercept Luo Feng and Gui Xiliang.

    The four men stood around to talk, but actually Gui Xiliang could only stood respectfully and answer whenever someone else asked him question, the real dialogue was between Shao Lingzhou and Luo Feng.

    Responding to Luo Fengs beckoning him, Xu Ziling stepped forward from the rear of the line. He was introduced to Shao Lingzhou and Shen Beichang first, and then Shao Lingzhou, with a slight condescending look in his eye, sized him up and down, before asking, Does Ling Xiong have the authority to represent Shao Shuai?

    Xu Ziling replied indifferently, Naturally I do! Otherwise Shao Shuai could not possibly send me to come with Gui Tangzhu.

    Revealing a skeptical look, Shao Lingzhou was silent for half a day before finally nodding his head and said, Very well! In that case, would Ling Xiong immediately follow Ol Shao to the Zongguan Mansion to see Da Wang? He wants to talk with someone who can represent Kou Shao Shuai.

    And then, turning to Gui Xiliang and Luo Feng, he said, Two gentlemen Tangzhu need not join us, only Laofu [old man, referring to self] and Old Shen will do!

    ※ ※ ※

    Accompanied by Xu Xingzhi, this old friend, Chen Changlin entered the study room to see Kou Zhong. This Shao Shuai was diligently studying Lu Miaozis treasured book of Mechanical Equipment; he looked so enraptured by the book. He was greatly surprised to see Chen Changlin, Unexpectedly Changlin Xiong is back so soon? he said.

    After the two sat down, Chen Changlin said, Taking light boat going downstream, it took less than half a day to reach Donghai. On the return trip, we got tail wind, so it took us only one night plus a few sichen. Fortunately Changlin did not fail my assignment; fifteen hundred children and disciples of Jiangnan Army will reach Liangdu tonight, and they are using their own weapons.

    Xu Xingzhi added, And all of them were forged by Jiangnans iron and steel industry; often imitated, never duplicated.

    Kou Zhong put down the treasured book and cheerfully said, Thats even better. This time we only want to drive a wedge between the enemy, not to really attack Old Dus Jianghuai Army. What can we do that we wont damage our own people, but can raise Old Dus suspicion and his anger?

    Xu Xingzhi spoke leisurely, As for the details, we must wait for Luo Qifeis intelligence before making definite plan, but it would be best if we could take advantage of a particular situation to assassinate an important trusted lieutenant under Du Fuweis banner; whether successful or not, we wont have to worry, they will definitely be suspicious and then will become hostile with each other.

    What particular situation? puzzled, Chen Changlin asked.

    Xu Xingzhi explained, Presently the Du and Shen, two armies, are taking turns to attack Jiangdu Yangzhou. It can be easily imagined that whoever is doing the siege will make an all-out effort in doing so, hoping to enter the city first to drink that oral soup, the agreement that the two sides made. According to the information we received from Jiangdu, last time happened to be Shen Armys turn to besiege the city. Both the besieging and the defending armies suffered considerable damage. By the time Jiang Huai Army besieging the city again, their chance of breaking the city will be very high. What we want is precisely this kind of situation.

    Slapping the table and shouting with praise, Kou Zhong said, This scheme is absolutely wonderful. It is enough to provide the motive for Shen Lun to wreck the collaboration, which is he is afraid that Jiang Huai Army would enter the city first and grab the benefit of the victory.

    And then he called one the guards to summon Bu Tianzhi.

    Xu Xingzhi said, Now the only problem we need to resolve is how to avoid Du and Shen, two armies, so much so Li Zitongs eyes and ears, because this kind of grandiose military operation involving a thousand men will be difficult to keep a secret.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, The originally mission impossible has now become highly possible. Ha! Our savior is here!

    Bu Tianzhi hurriedly came, and after understanding their mission clearly, he patted his chest and said, Leave this thing to me, I have more or less friendly relationship with the longtou dage [big brother big boss] of various wharfs across the nation. As long as Changlins men disguise themselves as my men, I can transport them in batches to our secret lair in Jiangdus vicinity, where they can wait for the opportunity to go into action.

    Xu Xingzhi said in delight, In that case all things are ready; we only lack intelligence from the east wind.

    Kou Zhong said, Wed batter change the assassination target to Old Du himself; wouldnt it be one needle pricking the flesh? In any case, basically we are not looking for success; as long as we could spread a bit of empty prowess, leave behind some Jiangnan trademarked arrows, darts and weaponry, shout with some Jiangnan accent, the mission can be considered successfully accomplished.

    The other three nodded; they all agreed that it was a good plan.

    Chen Changlin was concerned about another problem; he asked, Supposing Du Fuwei really fell into the trap and strike back at Shen Lun, how would we exploit this situation?

    Xu Xingzhi said, Du Fuweis strength far surpasses Shen Luns; he will be able to deal heavy blow on Shen Luns soldiers and sergeants. At that time Shen Lun could only retreat back to Piling along the Jiangnan canal. We can intercept Shen Lun on the canal, catching him off guard, attacking him without he knowing how to deal with it.

    Kou Zhong looked at Bu Tianzhi; he asked, Is this feasible?

    Bu Tianzhi cheerfully said, We know diverse Jiangnan waterways like the back of our hand, so I can guarantee that when our warships suddenly appear in the canal, Jiangnan army will be as if they had just awakened from a dream. As long as we can seize Shen Luns command ship, Changlin Xiong will be able to personally put Shen Lun under his blade.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, This matter should not be delayed. We will immediately prepare the mission. When the time comes, I will personally accompany Changlin Xiong to get on board to pay an official visit to that kid Shen Lun, to see if Laotianye is willing to preside over justice.

    Severely shaken, Chen Changlin said, From this day onward, my life belongs to Shao Shuai!

  13. #253
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 21 Chapter 11

    Book 21 Chapter 11 Sinister Design Hidden In The Heart

    Arriving at the reception lobby of the Zongguan Mansion, the captain of the guards on duty asked the three to wait, saying, Da Wang is seeing another guest; would three gentlemen please wait a moment.

    After sitting down, with nothing to do, Xu Ziling focused his energy into his ears to listen to the voices in the main hall on the other side of the door. He happened to catch a familiar sounding mans voice with foreign accent, The warhorses can be transported to Jiangdu within ten days time, so that Da Wang will have time to restructure the cavalry. All I want is the head above Kou Zhongs neck.

    Although the voice was faint and barely audible, Xu Ziling was able to hear without missing a word. And he jumped in fright, because he recognized the voice as belonging to Ku Ge.

    Li Zitong let out a couple of hollow laugh, before speaking complacently, Khitan warhorses are world-renowned. Wangzi [prince, son of a king] may set your heart at ease, these five hundred good horses of excellent quality, I will definitely not receive them in vain. As long as Kou Zhong agrees to lead his troops coming south, when the situation is appropriate, Guaren [I, a first person pronoun used by royalty or nobility] will ask Wangzi to personally lead your ambushing troops, combined with our elite squad, we will ruthlessly give this little thief a heavy blow, so that he will never be reincarnated forever.

    Another harsh-sounding, like-a-broken-gong, voice said, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling have shown their awe-inspiring authority way too long! They managed to tie enmity everywhere; just yesterday Liang Wang [king of Liang] notify us, brothers, he already dispatch the Da Li Shen [Titan] Bao Rang, E Quan [Vicious Dog] Qu Wuju, and Wang Ming Tu [Exiled Disciple] Su Chao [see Book 21 Chapter 4], his three main martial art masters to provide assistance in handling these two men. At that time, working together with numerous martial art masters serving under Wu Wangs banner, even if those two have three heads and six arms, it will still be difficult for them to escape this ambush.

    Li Zitong laughed and said, As long as I have the Da Jiang Hui lending a hand to uphold justice, I wont worry this important matter will not succeed.

    It was only now did Xu Ziling realize the harsh-sounding voice belonged to none other than the Dragon Lord Pei Yue, the older brother of the Tiger Lord Pei Yan. He could not help feeling amused, because if Li Zitong knew that Xu Ziling had efficacious ears to eavesdrop, he would definitely have deep regret.

    Li Zitong continued, Now the man sent by Kou Zhong is waiting outside the door. Let me ascertain Kou Zhongs foundation first, and then Ill discuss it with gentlemen. That little thief rejoices in grandiose deeds, always thinks that he is omnipotent, and has no regard to anybody else. I will exploit this point of his, let him taste a little sweetness, and lure him to bite the bait.

    And then there was the noise of Ku Ge and the others leaving the hall from the back.

    Xu Ziling thought the moment has come for him to perform on the stage.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong pulled Chen Changlin to take a stroll at the Zongguan Mansions garden; he spoke sincerely, Changlin Xiongs life is your own, you dont have to give it to me; not to anybody else even more. We all walk together, the most important thing is to have identical ideal and interest, then I will die for you, and you can perish for me, but separately we are still doing it for ourselves. In case there is disagreement, we can go our separate way. Ha! Wont that be ideal?

    Smiling bitterly, Chen Changlin said, Shao Shuai and Wang Shichong are absolutely two different kinds of people; what he wants is blind loyalty. Individual interest is completely set aside, only his interest must take precedence.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, That is what the emperors throughout history required of his courtiers; how could I be the same? To Xiaodi, the superior/subordinate relation is simply a difference of convenience; it would be best if everybody can forge ahead for a certain lofty goal as brothers with common interest, doing good deeds for the suffering people, challenging all kinds of evil forces oppressing the people.

    Chen Changlin said, Shao Shuais way of thinking is extraordinarily grand and unusual; it is emotionally touching.

    Kou Zhong suddenly halted his steps; with his hands behind his back, he carefully observed a vegetation bush by the small alley. After muttering to himself irresolutely for a moment, he said, Currently our Shao Shuai Army is already taking shape, the squad training is conducted by Xuan Yong and Jiao Hongjin, the governmental operation is under Xu Xingzhis supervision, in reconnaissance and intelligence we have Luo Qifei, financial affairs and army provisions are under Ren Meimei, naval warfare we have Bu Tianzhi. If I can also have Changlin Xiong in charge of the river and ocean commercial trade and in building fine warships and cargo ships, our Shao Shuai Army will be like a tiger that has grown wings.

    Submitting cheerfully, Chen Changlin said, Shao Shuai is indeed a standing-tall-and-seeing-far person, unlike Shen Faxing or the like, who, after gaining authority, was solely preoccupied with consolidating his power, fleecing the blood and sweat of the people, plundering wealth and army provisions; those ignorant who are lacking foresight. Shao Shuai may rest your heart at ease, Changlin will not fail to live up to your expectations.

    Kou Zhong said, With Changlin Xiong, naturally I have nothing to worry about! But our biggest problem is that we dont have much time. Once Li kid pacified Guanxis other militias, he will immediately send troops to the east; therefore, we must seize the opportunity before that day came, to establish a huge supporting fleet of navy, while using cavalry as the main force. Only by doing this will we have hope in the decisive battle against the Guanzhong Army. About constructing the ships, I wonder if Changlin Xiong has any good proposal.

    Chen Changlin nodded and said, The most important equipment in naval warfare is precisely the ship itself. It is like the combination of an open city, an army camp, and vehicles and horses. A good warship is dauntless in battle, and solid in defense, fast in pursuit, and powerful in charging forward. Only by attaining dauntlessness, solidity, speed and power, will a warship be called a good warship. But in naval battle, a warship is extremely easy to break and damage; therefore, not only the quantity must be high, also a variety of equipment installed on it must ready to function, to cope with the ever-changing battle.

    Kou Zhong turned around, and said in delight, Changlin Xiong indeed has deep understanding of naval warfare. I have never thought of those problems before. When I was young, I heard storytellers narrated the tale about Azure Dragons remaining hundreds of ships, Yellow Dragon enumerating thousands of ships, I thought they were exaggerating.

    Chen Changlin laughed and said, Talking with Shao Shuai is both relaxing and fun; perhaps chatting and joking about military is just like this. But thousands of ships in naval warfare is true; for example during the Eastern Han dynasty Ma Yuan dispatched an expedition against Jiaozhi[1] [modern day northern Vietnam], he used two thousand multi-decked ships. When the Liang Dynasty [502-557AD] fought Northern Qi [550-557], in the battle of Hefei they put three thousands of Qis ships on fire.

    Shaken, Kou Zhong said, Isnt that Liang Dynasty the ancestor of Xiao Xians Liang Dynasty?

    Chen Changlin nodded his head confirming Kou Zhongs guess.

    Obtaining sudden understanding, Kou Zhong said, No wonder Xiao Xian made such a big deal out of Bu Tianzhis betrayal, because in everything he imitate his ancestors, and has a deeper understanding of the importance of the navy. Humph! Therefore, in order to defeat Baling Bang, other than closing Xiang kids brothels to break the source of their intelligence network, we must also break their navy. These two aspects are indispensable.

    Cheng Changlin had no choice but to listen respectfully; he felt deeply that Kou Zhongs insight was like a heavenly steed, soaring across the skies; it was hard to measure.

    Kou Zhong pondered a moment and asked, Based on our current manpower and resources, how long will it take to build a navy fleet of five hundred ships?

    Chen Changlin readily replied, If everything starts from scratch, it will take at least fifteen years.

    Stunned, Kou Zhong said, How can it be?

    Having a card up his sleeve, Chen Changlin said, Shao Shuai, dont worry, the fact is that there is not much difference in the hull structure of most warships and cargo ships for civilian use; whether the oar, the paddle, the pole [for punting boats], the scull, the sail, the seat, the rope, or the sinking stone, they are the same thing. Any cargo ship for civilian use can be rigged with defensive equipment and weaponry, and they can be used for military application. Fit them with high-ranking military officers and soldiers skillful in naval battle, they will be able to fulfill the requirement of navy fleet. In less than a year I will be able to provide Shao Shuai with a navy fleet of sufficient scale.

    Pleased beyond his expectation, Kou Zhong said, I am glad there is such convenience. Can Changlin Xiong make them so that in normal times people cannot see them as warships, and then at the time of battle they will reveal their true color? That will make them more like ambushing troops on water.

    I can think of ways, Chen Changlin replied.

    Kou Zhong hugged his shoulders and pulled him in the direction of the main hall; lowering his voice, he said, In this matter we must weigh our abilities and act accordingly, we must not disturb common people. After obtaining the Duke Yang Treasure, we will have large amount of gold and silver to acquire civilian ships. For now, there is no harm in putting up a bit with retrofitting Pengliang Hui and Luoma Bangs old ships, then we will truly have a hundred more or even two hundred ships. With the Jukun Bangs defecting several dozen of ships, big and small, it will be a sight to behold!

    ※ ※ ※

    Li Zitong sat high on the dragon seat. Squinting, he looked askance at Xu Ziling stepping into the main hall, accompanied by Shao Lingzhou and Shen Beichang, as if he wanted to see him through.

    In the main hall, there were altogether eighteen imperial tutor chairs arranged in a row left and right in front of the throne. This moment, the three main seats on the left were occupied by Li Zitongs trusted aides. Behind the chairs stood two rows of imperial bodyguards wielding halberds in their hands, wearing shiny armors; they were quite awe-inspiring.

    This kind of imposing manner would be appropriate in the Imperial Palace, but in Zongguan Mansions main hall, it gave the impression of false bravado. However, Li Zitong was under pressure and had no choice; by abandoning the Imperial Palace, which was devastated by the raging fire, and took the Zongguan Mansion instead, he wanted to show that he was different than the muddleheaded ruler. He did not even dare to stay at the other temporary imperial residences that the previous emperor built to enjoy life.

    After the herald at the door announcing their arrival, Shao Lingzhou and Shen Beichang followed Jianghu protocol in asking to have an audience with respected figure. Xu Ziling followed their example to save a lot of trouble.

    After granting them their seats, Li Zitong coldly asked, I wonder which position Mr. Ling holds in Shao Shuai Army, whether you have any symbol of authority with which you can represent Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling in this talk?

    The three high-ranking generals sitting below him all stared fixedly at Xu Ziling with cold eyes to see how he would respond.

    Li Zitongs appearance was obviously more haggard than the last time they met, the hair on his temples was graying; it was clear that that was the price he had to pay in contending over the world.

    Xu Ziling responded indifferently, Since our Army was hastily established, we have had continuous military campaigns; a lot of things we still do not have time to take into consideration, symbol of authority and documentation, none has been prepared, I am asking Wu Wangs forgiveness.

    A big frown appeared on his face, Li Zitong said, Then how is Mr. Ling going to prove that you can speak on those two mens behalf?

    Shao Lingzhou interjected, Da Wang, please understand, our humble Gangs Gui Xiliang has personally confirmed to Laofu that General Ling is indeed Kou Shao Shuais ambassador.

    Oh, Li Zitong mumbled, and pointed to the imperial tutor chairs, he leisurely introduced the three high-ranking generals to Xu Ziling; they were, successively, Zuo Xiaoyou, Bai Xin, and Qin Wenchao.

    A bizarre feeling welled up in Xu Zilings heart; as early as when he was a still a little rascal roaming Yangzhous street, he and Kou Zhong had already heard these threes names, and already admired them.

    Especially Zuo Xiaoyou, who was the leader of one of the militias. In the great undertaking ten or so years ago at the uprising of the Dun Gou Shan [squatting dog hill], his might rose up for many days. It was some time later that he surrendered to Li Zitong, who rose abruptly one year later than he did. Among the three, he was also the oldest; in his forties, he was tall, thin, with clear eyes that glanced fearfully, his face was full of wind and frost [fig. hardships].

    Bai Xin and Qin Wenchao were youthful, bold and powerful, with typical build of Shandong men, taller than average. Their attitude toward Xu Ziling implied hostility; they simply nodded slightly as a form of greeting, cold and rude.


    Li Zitong slapped the armrest and shouted, Since you can speak on their behalf, General Ling ought to be able to tell me: why did you attack Donghai and kill my younger brother, and rattle my, Ol Lis foundation?

    Unyielding, Xu Ziling met his harsh and fierce gaze, and replied indifferently, Wu Wang ought to understand people. In time where men are contending for hegemony over the world, there is neither friend nor foe. Plus our humble army had used peaceful measured before using force; we did send Pengliang Huis Ren Er Dangjia to Jiangdu to pay a visit to Da Wang, to discuss our alliance, but Da Wang refused. Hence from friend we became foe; how could the blame be on our side? Moreover, it has come to our attention that Muyangs Li Xingyuan came to us in feigned surrender; left with no choice, we have to beat you at your game, to gain the initiative by striking first.

    He has not finished, Li Zitong suddenly stood up, pointed his finger at Xu Ziling and shouted sternly, Outrageous! Guards! Get him out and chop his head!

    The imperial bodyguards jumped from Li Zitongs left and right.

    Xu Ziling pressed his hand on the hilt of his saber.

    But while Shao Lingzhou and Shen Beichang were at a loss to know what to do, Zuo Xiaoyou sprang up and shouted, Hold on!

    The imperial guards swiftly halted their steps.

    Zuo Xiaoyou turned to Li Zitong and said, Working together both sides benefit, separated both sides perish. Da Wang please calm down.

    Panting with rage, Li Zitong stared hatefully at Xu Ziling for a good while before sitting back down in the dragon throne at the top of the steps.

    The imperial guards returned to his left and right.

    Zuo Xiaoyou sat down and spoke to Xu Ziling, This time Shao Shuai sent General Ling here, what good proposal do you bring?

    Because Xu Ziling had overheard Li Zitongs secret talk with Ku Ge earlier, he was well aware the opposite party was using both hard and soft techniques to create pressure, so that in the ensuing negotiation, they would be able to reap greater advantage. Feeling amused inwardly, Xu Ziling maintained that calm-and-unruffled-in-the-midst-of-chaos attitude; he said, General Zuo is right, working together both sides benefit, separated both sides perish. Du Fuwei could form an alliance with Shen Faxing, our Shao Shuai Army naturally can also form an alliance with your honorable side. If Da Wang thinks that this suggestion is satisfactory, we can continue our discussion, otherwise I have no choice but to leave immediately to report to my supervisor.

    Li Zitong laughed coldly and said, Kou Zhong bragged that he can break our Jiangdus siege; did he really make that remark?

    Everybodys eyes were fixed on Xu Ziling.

    Xu Ziling smiled calmly and said, Indeed he made that remark!

    Letting out long laughter, Qin Wenchao said, When Du Fuwei proclaimed himself hegemon in Jianghuai, and our humble master was preeminent at Shandong, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were just little rascals in Yangzhou. Within Zhuhua Bang, they lacked the qualification to have even one leaf. And now, although they won a little bit of power, what made him think that he would be able to repel the allied forces of Jianghuai and Jiangnan?

    Xu Ziling laughed involuntarily and said, Compared to Li Mi, who was able to move unhindered in the Central Plains, can Du Fuwei be considered superior? Problem is whether Da Wang can be like Wang Shichong, who was at least able to defeat Li Mi. Even if we worked together earnestly, can Da Wang do it?

    Li Zitongs countenance changed greatly; because Xu Ziling was implying that since Kou Zhong was able to defeat Li Mi, naturally he did not have any regards on Du Fuwei and Li Zitong. Moreover, since the cooperation with Li Zitong was limited to the breaking of the Jiangdu siege, afterwards both sides will meet face to face to decide victory or defeat.

    Bai Xin was afraid Li Zitong could not restrain his anger, he interrupted, But how do we know that your superior is going to cooperate in good faith?

    Xu Ziling laughed aloud and said, My humble superior Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling are known to be one-word-worth-nine-sacred-tripods men [fig. words of enormous weight]; have you ever heard they broke faith and abandoned right [i.e. commit treachery]?

    There was a tight silence in the hall.

    Li Zitong tapped the armrest with his fingers; he spoke in heavy voice, Empty promises, what good will they bring? What kind of brilliant scheme does Kou Zhong have that he can solve the crisis in Jiangdu?

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, As long as Da Wang agrees to lift the blockade at the canal, send army provisions from Zhongli for our use, and provide accurate intelligence about the enemy to us, we will immediately dispatch our troops to mount sneak attack to the enemys rear stronghold and army camps, so that their head and tail cannot attend to each other, while facing the enemy from the front and back. In the past, Li Mi was using precisely this tactic, so that Yuwen Huajis hundred thousand elite troops were tired of constantly running for their lives, much less Du Fuweis insignificant several tens of thousands Jianghuai Army?

    Zuo Xiaoyou said, At that time Li Mis fighting generals were like clouds, his armed forces strong and solid. Now Shao Shuai Army has just taken shape, how could you match them?

    Xu Ziling replied, This is just as Jianghuai Army cannot be compared to Yuwen Huajis elite troops in the past. Besides, we heard that Du Fuwei and Fu Gongyou do not bite the strings [idiom: did not act in concert with one another (courtesy of Akolaw)]. Is that true, or false?

    This moment the crowd was beginning to be enraptured by the eloquence of this lobbyist; momentarily nobody was able to say anything.

    Skirting the issue, Li Zitong said, How many men and horses can Kou Zhong spare to help me?

    Xu Ziling confidently replied, How about twenty thousand cavalry?

    Li Zitong immediately said, Tell Guaren first; how do you intend to dispose of our Li clansmen from Donghai?

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Da Wang indeed understands people; you ought to know that if we do not have any problem in working together, Da Wangs clansmen should not have any problem if they wish to leave.

    Li Zitong laughed aloud and said, Very well! It is decided then.

    Xu Ziling already knew that this was going to be the final outcome. By giving Li Zitong a hundred-benefits-without-a-single-harm proposal like this, how could the other party refuse?

    [1] For more information on Ma Yuan, see

  14. #254
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 21 Chapter 12

    Book 21 Chapter 12 Flywheel Battleship

    Xu Ziling returned to the Dew Bamboo Hall; Xing Rong came out to meet him and said, Luo Tangzhu and Xiliang Ge are talking inside, you

    Xu Ziling patted his shoulder and spoke in low voice, I want to talk to Qifei first, Ill talk to them later.

    Xing Rong promptly led the way.

    Only after talking to Luo Qifei did Xu Ziling go to the inner hall to see Luo Feng and Gui Xiliang. Before he was even seated, Luo Feng cheerfully said, Turns out its you, Ziling. I am relieved now.

    Xu Ziling was stunned, but he was embarrassed as well; he did not understand why Gui Xiliang trusted Luo Feng this much. Gui Xiliang explained, Feng Shu [uncle] has always taking a good care of me and Xiao Rong; we can keep secret from anybody, but we cant keep secret from him.

    Luo Feng asked, What did Li Zitong say?

    Composing himself, Xu Ziling smiled and said, Naturally he said pompous and moving words: both sides agree to form an alliance, together repelling big enemy. But we are prepared to work together with him, so we are together from the first beat.

    Frowning, Luo Feng said, Li Zitong is not someone who speak and keep his promise; Ziling, you have to be more careful.

    Xing Rong said, That is like scheming with the tiger to get the fur.

    Xu Ziling did not dare to reveal too much; he spoke in low voice, We are also prepared for this. Dont worry about it.

    Frowning deeply, Luo Feng said, Ziling, tell me, why did Kou Zhong brag that Xiliang can break Du and Shens allied armies? Now Shao Lingzhou is making a big fuss about it. How could Xiliang step down?

    Xu Ziling was slightly relieved, knowing that Gui Xiliang did not reveal the overall scheme. Nodding his head, he said, Hence the reason I came to find out the situation; perhaps I will need big help from Feng Shu.

    Luo Feng stared blankly for half a day. Finally he sighed and said, Now the dispute within our Gang has turned into a struggle whether we are going to rely help from Li Zitong or from Kou Zhong. This time Shao Lingzhou made big blunder.

    Puzzled, Xu Ziling asked, Does he want to be the Bangzhu?

    With a cold snort Xing Rong replied, There is no question about it. The problem is that Xiao Zhong and you have established quite a lofty prestige within our Gang, plus there is the Song Clan supporting you, hence he does not dare to act blindly without thinking, afraid that you and the Song Clan would strike back. But now, with Li Zitong, this big backing behind him, he started to show off his prestige.

    Xu Ziling asked, How about Shen Tangzhu? Which side does he stand for?

    Luo Feng revealed a strange expression; he said slowly, Without him giving me a nod, how could I sit here listening to you, and worried about you?

    Hearing that, the three were stunned; they looked at each other.

    Luo Feng sighed and said, The fact is: this is the struggle between the young and vigorous group with new ideas versus the senior figure factions; originally the young faction was no match, but because of Kou Zhong and your, Zilings support, the whole situation is reversed. Except for Shao Lingzhous direct disciples, the rest of the younger generation are completely behind Xiliang and Xiao Rong, because you guys represent some kind of newly-developing, forging-ahead power, as well as the far-reaching objective. Old Shen and I have been able to see this, plus we are afraid that Zhuhua Bang would all split up and in pieces; thereupon we act separately, trying hard to quiet down this internal conflict. Ay! Who would have thought that Shao Lingzhou would throw his lot onto Li Zitong, making things worsening to the point of hard to redeem? What are we going to do next? I am afraid nobody know the answer.

    After a short pause, he went on, Shao Lingzhous biggest mistake was promoting the arrogant, egotistical Mai Yunfei as a Tangzhu, making Old Shen and me feel that not only he practices nepotism, but also shortsighted, and did not understand the heart of the people.

    Spreading out his hands, he said, Do you understand now?

    Gui Xiliangs breathing turned heavy; he said, So thats how it is.

    Xu Ziling nodded, Things have indeed deteriorated until it is hard to redeem, he said, Presently Shao Lingzhou is completely standing on Li Zitongs side, all we can do is just continue to deal with each other until the other side collapse.

    Luo Feng said, I should not linger here too long. If there is any new development, you must notify me immediately.

    After Luo Feng left, the three you look at me, I gaze at you; nobody knew for which problem they ought to sigh with sorrow.

    Finally Xing Rong rose up to his full height and said, The more I think about it, the more I feel upset. How about reliving our childhood dream and go outside to stroll the night arm-in-arm, and wont go home until we are drunk?

    ※ ※ ※

    Nightfall, the decorated lanterns were starting to lit up, the Great South Gate Street was bright and colorful with the lanterns reflecting each other. The day market was closed, the night market was starting, giving the impression that the market opened 24 hours continuously. Moreover, the famous Satin Silk Street and the other lanes and alleys crisscrossing the street, restaurants and pleasure quarters densely populated the area. It was indeed worthy to be called world-famous fireworks scenic spot [i.e. prostitution]; the unbroken string of war did not seem to have the least bit of influence.

    Along the well-lit long street, people were flowing like a tide, rubbing shoulders and following in each others footsteps, the shops displayed their specialties, curios and other commodities, the list was exhaustive, so that there was no way the people could take it all.

    The three felt as if they were back as little hooligans roaming the streets of Yangzhou; you pushed me, I shoved at you, they were striving to be the first and fearing to be last along the stream of people, going all over the place.

    Greatly astonished, Xu Ziling said, It seems to be more prosperous than before!

    Xing Rong laughed and said, The muddleheaded ruler died, naturally this place is thriving.

    Gui Xiliang squeezed himself between the two, wrapped his arms around their shoulders, and spoke in great delight, This is called while we have time. Each time Jianghuai troops or Jiangnan troops retreated, traveling merchants from all parts of the country are flocking to Jiangdu like a tidal wave, to do their business. Every day there are hundreds of ships coming from all over the place, otherwise, it wont be this lively.

    Along the street, not only shops stood in great numbers, there were also tightly packed vendors stalls, buying and selling all kinds of merchandise; everything that should be there was there, from daily necessities, ornamentation, down to fortune tellers, divinatory diagram, writing brush and ink stone, calligraphy and painting, as well as hawkers buying and selling second-hand articles. Some were using peddlers carts, some others were using shoulder poles, some were even using trays that they carried on their head. Everybody was giving it their all, loudly shouting their wares, trying to attract the customers. They all offered refreshments, toys, papercutting [a form of Chinese folk art], multi-colored string flower; in short, all kinds of snacks and knick-knacks.

    This kind of bustling atmosphere was buzzing to the ears and dazzling to the eyes.

    The market where Sister-in-law Zhen used to sell steamed buns was another scene altogether. To the east were vendor stalls, while to the west people were setting up arenas for storytelling, people dressing up as god, playing the devil [fig. to mystify, scam], puppet show, even martial art demonstration, attracting thousands of strolling, roaming audience. The atmosphere was blazing, brimming with fantasy [orig. as if drunk or entranced], a happy feeling of enjoying-the-present-in-the-midst-of-war.

    The three men jesting and joking with each other; while talking and laughing, they reached the Willow Alley, which liveliness was not inferior to the Great South Gate Street.

    Although it was called an alley, the width was only somewhat narrower than the Great South Gate Street. It was also filled with endless stream of horse and carriages, and unending stream of fragrant-seeking guests like a swarm of bees.

    The Willow Alleys biggest distinguishing feature was the string of red cotton yarn lanterns spread out along both sides of the alley; the natural sign in front of the pleasure houses front door, luring all kinds of men to enter through the door, from which the sound of music and song from the string and bamboo musical instruments leaked out and resonated in the night sky, mixed with the boisterous clamor of people talking and laughing, filling the long street.

    Even more, there were the female brothel keepers, twittering away with charming eyes and cheerful talk in front of the door to solicit customers, in this intensely competitive, yet thriving and prosperous business, adding unbounded colors of spring to this red-light district.

    Although Xu Ziling did not like to visit a brothel, but because he was revisiting old haunts, he was greatly excited as well.

    While pointing this way and that, without realizing it they had reached the front door of the House of Heavenly Fragrance. As the doorkeepers saw the three, they respectfully said, Gui Daye and Xing Daye, please!

    Wait! Xu Ziling shouted loudly, and pulled the two men two steps back. Smiling wryly, he said, We can have a drink anywhere, there is no need to go inside!

    Xing Rong and Gui Xiliang were very happy to play with him; sandwiching him from left and right, they pulled him along straight into the courtyard.

    Someone immediately led them up the stairs, and took the three to the wooden cauldron window overlooking the night scenery of the Old City River and both of its banks; it was a luxurious side room where the view was extremely good.

    A pretty maid set the table with bowls and chopsticks, and served refreshments to accompany the wine. And then at Gui Xiliangs request she withdrew out of the room.

    Laughing, Xing Rong poured wine for the other two; he sighed and said, To think that in the past we could only gaze at the ocean and lament our inadequacy [fig. feel powerless and incompetent] looking at the House of Heavenly Fragrances front door, envying anybody who had qualification to step over the threshold, but now we are able to sit inside the most magnificent room in the building, drinking our fill. Heaven really did not treat us too meagerly.

    Gui Xiliang raised his cup and urged the others to do the same; laughing heartily, he said, Floating life is just like a dream, how much is ones time on earth? Acting recklessly, knowing the nature of the wine, one time of drunkenness solves a thousand worries. Tonight we, three brothers, must drink to our hearts content.

    His floating life is just like a dream, how much is ones time on earth? evoked the grief of losing Susu in Xu Zilings heart; in his sorrow, he drained the cup in one gulp.

    Gui Xiliang and Xing Rong overturned the table, clapped their hands and shriek in glee.

    Xu Ziling shook his head and said, You, two boys, must be hanging around here every night!

    Pretending to be mysterious, Xing Rong leaned over and whispered in his ear, The two ladies Jing Man and You Xing are known as the Double Tops of the Heavenly Fragrance; their beauty shrouding Jiangdu, one cannot be considered visiting Yangzhou before listening to their strumming a qin and singing a song. Luckily you, two brothers, can be considered having a bit of face, especially if Madame Yuling arranged for them to take the time to sing a couple of his mothers folk song; I guarantee your eyes and ears will be equally blessed.

    Gui Xiliang on the other side also lowered his voice, The worst part is that you must disguise yourself as the Scarface Hero; otherwise, with our Xu Gongzis original little white handsome face [i.e. pretty boy], you might be able to move some young ladies fragrant heart, and then together with Xu Gongzi climb the Mount Wu, together passing through the spring night! Ha!

    While the two roared in wild laughter, the ring knocker sounded.

    Gui Xiliang and Xing Rongs spirit was aroused, they called out in chorus, Come in!

    ※ ※ ※

    After patrolling the waterway along the entire length of the canal, Kou Zhong and Chen Changlin rushed back to the city, and went to a restaurant to have their dinner.

    After a few small talks, the topic returned to naval warfare.

    Kou Zhong asked, Is there any way to seal off the waterway?

    Frowning, Chen Changlin replied, We can always set up all kinds of obstruction in the water, to block ships from passing through; for example, build wooden fence at the bottom of the river, using sharpened logs or metal things to block the river. But things like this can be effective only for a short period of time; it is a passive defense, once the opponents scout find out about it, they can design countermeasure to break it. Hence the reason nobody has ever really been able to seal off the river.

    Kou Zhong recalled when he was traveling to Jingling in the past, Jianghuai Army put up iron chain across the river, which he chopped off using his saber; he said cheerfully, Thats good enough. What I fear the most is that Li Zitong would seal off our retreat route, so that our navy could not go back to the north.

    Chen Changlin said, But locking up the river like that, if the coordination is proper, it will be amazingly effective; we must not lightly ignore it.

    Kou Zhong could not help commenting, I never thought that other than maritime commercial trade, Changlin Xiong is also an expert in naval warfare.

    Chen Changlin smiled and said, To do commercial trade, we must first guard against pirates, even against the old Sui dynastys navy, which was not much different from pirates. If we were not knowledgeable over such matter, how could we succeed? Traveling over the ocean, merchant ships are also warships. Strictly speaking, water battle on the river course is not my specialty at all, I am more adept in sea battle.

    Thinking about sea battle, Kou Zhong still had lingering fear; he said, Sea battle is indeed very different from river battle.

    Chen Changlin nodded and said, Battle on the sea is completely reliant on the wind power. With adverse wind momentum, a distance of several dozen li is the same as several thousand li; it cannot be reached in a short period of time.

    Kou Zhong muttered to himself irresolutely, If we could control the coast, not only we can transfer the troops rapidly, we can also intercept the enemys navy.

    Chen Changlin shook his head and said, That is not possible! Finding the enemy on the ocean is literally tantamount to finding a needle in a haystack. Moreover, if the fleet is out to sea all day long, in case a storm came, they will be completely wiped out. Therefore, naval battle emphasizes weather conditions; dont fight if there is no wind, dont fight if there is strong wind. When hurricane is about to arrive, when the sandy road is unfamiliar, when the thieves are many we are a few, when there is no anchoring land ahead, in all cases: dont fight. And if we do fight, courage and strength have no place; instead, rely completely on arrows and rocks to attack from a distance. Ay! Rocking the hull around to strike the enemys ship would be a hundred times more difficult than on the river. Moreover, we pursue on the tail wind, the thieves also run away on the tail wind. Since there is no ambush can be setup, no danger can be guard against. Being able to break one or two ships can already be considered ten thousand good fortune. To dominate the vast ocean is easier said than done.

    Kou Zhongs eyes lit up with spirited sharp light; he said, Changlin Xiong indeed have deep understanding of naval battle, hey! If we are landing from the sea to attack the enemy, wont they have any way to intercept us?

    Full of confidence, Chen Changlin said, If following the route that I design, I guarantee that the enemy wont even be able to touch our shadow. If when we disembark we can also accurately grasp the wind momentum and the rise and retreat of the tide, we can imitate the effectiveness of ambushing troops.

    Chuckling softly, Kou Zhong said, That will work! All along I was worried on how to transport Changlin Xiongs more than a thousand younger generation troops secretly to Jiangdu. Although Zhi Shu looked to be very confident, I know Old Dus formidability very well; one thing goes wrong, the entire brilliant scheme will fall apart. But now there is Changlin Xiongs move of ambushing troops from the sea, it will solve all the problems.

    Chen Changlin stood up suddenly and said, And now I need to immediately discuss this matter with Zhi Shu; tonight well rush to intercept the fleet coming to Liangdu. This plan is certainly foolproof.

    Kou Zhong pulled his back and said, On our return trip, is it possible to snatch Shen Faxings batch of merchant ships and warships in passing? You are so familiar with his navy; as soon as the ship goes out to the sea, there is nothing that the opponent could do, it might save us a lot of energy.

    Chen Changlin said, If we can catch them off guard, it could be done. But at most we will only be able to steal seven, eight ships, albeit at an extremely high risk. It seems like its not worth the effort.

    Kou Zhong said, In that case, I dont have any choice but to abandon this greed, the idea of getting some readily available things conveniently. Changlin Xiong, please sit down first, let Xiaodi show you something.

    Chen Changlin sat down again. He took the treasured book on mechanism that Kou Zhong handed over to him.

    Please turn to page 101, Kou Zhong said in low voice.

    Following the direction, Chen Changlin turned to page 101, and was astonished, What ship is this? he asked.

    Pointing to the drawing in the treasured book, Kou Zhong proudly said, This is called the Flywheel Battleship. It utilizes the reaction force of the water as the ship is being propelled forward; it is more effective and uses less energy than using oars. Even if there is no wind, it can travel a hundred li in a day. Basically it is a ship with some kind of wheel installed on it, on the left and right below the chord to paddle the water. It glides over the wind and the swelling wave, swift like using sails. Easy to manufacture, and it is quite durable.

    And then, pointing to the text below the drawing, he said, Just read these words, Flywheel Battleship depends on these four wheels, each wheel has eight paddles, and required four men to operate it, and can travel a thousand li in a day. A thousand li is definitely an exaggeration, so I discounted it some. Able to travel a hundred li in a day should be pretty good.

    Emotionally moved, Chen Changlin said, Who thought about this?

    Kou Zhong read further down, With the wheel paddling the water, put people in front and behind, step on the car to move forward or back, top, middle and bottom, three flows, rotate as in flying, the enemy can only be startled in astonishment. [Sorry, I cant make any sense of this paragraph. To those of you who are interested, there is an article about Dragon-bone Water Lift, utilizing wheels perhaps similar to what was depicted here: (Courtesy of Akolaw) And on paddle wheel ships: (Courtesy of Lu DongBin)]

    Kou Zhong softly said, It was Lu Miaozi, Lu Dashi [great master]. Have you heard about him?

    Chen Changlin heaved a deep sigh and said, Of course I have. Xiaozi [little kid, referring to self] submits. I will immediately have my men retrofit the ships per the drawing, and hide it in the belly of the ship. With such wheel-operated warships, wont the waterways in the world become a place where we can go on the rampage?

    The two looked at each other, and both broke in long laughter, together.

    Last edited by foxs; 09-11-17 at 06:11 AM.

  15. #255
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 22 Chapter 1

    Book 22 Chapter 1 Shock at Every Step

    Xu Ziling barely stepped out of his room when he immediately wanted to step back inside. It was not because he suddenly changed his mind, or perhaps he suddenly curbed his murderous intention, but because he suddenly sensed that he was facing an extreme danger.

    In that split second, he knew that his secret identity has been penetrated, and that the enemy was laying out flawless ultimate troop disposition, to let him fall into the trap by himself.

    The seven, eight zhang-long corridor was empty. By the time the door behind him was closing, all around him was closed doors, leaving only the decorated window on the east end of the corridor on his left, and the stairs leading down to the lower level at the west end of the corridor on his right.

    The evening breeze was blowing gently into the corridor from the east window, so that the three palace lanterns hanging along the corridor were swaying. The sound of string and woodwind instruments, the laughter and voices of people chatting and clamoring faintly penetrated the doors of the other five rooms on their wing. Even from the room at the western end of their wing, where the enemy was, came the extremely graceful sound of Zheng [guzheng, long zither, with 13 to 16 strings].

    On the surface, everything was so happy and moving, charming, gentle and romantic. But the Secret to Long Life has triggered spirit of consciousness in Xu Ziling, enabling him to accurately grasp the layer upon layer of murderous intent set up with him as the target.

    He put his saber on his back and slowed his movement down, while his mind was churning at lightning speed.

    The biggest problem in front of him was that he must not avoid the problem by walking away from it. Apart from protecting Gui Xiliang and Xing Rong, he also had to protect Madame Yuling, who did not know martial art.

    The first thing that came to his mind was how did his identity get exposed.

    Lu Miaozis mask could be said to be completely flawless, it could be absolutely passed off as genuine; otherwise, how could he deceive Zhu Yuyan?

    Slowly he reached the middle of the corridor. Taking a deep breath, his gaze fell on the last room at the western end of the corridor.

    Even if Li Zitong, Shao Lingzhou, and the others got suspicious because of his surreptitious conducts, they could not be 100% sure that he was Xu Ziling in disguise. Even if they had a sliver of suspicion, they would not dare to take risks by killing him in such an unusual time. Because supposing they killed the wrong person, they would suffer Kou Zhong and the real Xu Zilings revenge.

    Upon further contemplation, as far as Li Zitong was concerned, protecting Jiangdu was his top priority. Even if he knew for sure that he was Xu Ziling, he would not lightly and presumptuously use force, to avoid saving a little only to lose a lot, and to invert root and branch [i.e. to put the cart before the horse].

    Ruling out Li Zitong, only Xiao Xians side remained. Immediately Yun Yuzhens lovely countenance appeared in his mind.

    Many things, which were previously vague, immediately became clear.

    When he stepped out of the door just now, he sensed five enemies were waiting in the dark, ready to deliver him a fatal blow.

    Two men were lying in ambush behind the door on either side of the western wing room. The other two were separately hiding behind the door of two empty rooms.

    But the most threatening enemy was hiding outside the decorative window on the eastern end of the corridor. This persons martial art skill was high; it should not be inferior in any aspects to Xu Zilings. He was certain that this person was the Passionate Prince Hou Xibai.

    This was really not because he made associative connection with Yun Yuzhens arrival, but it was purely his feeling; some kind of hard-to-explain feeling, a feeling he started to sense that Hou Xibai was lurking like a glaring tiger watching its prey somewhere outside the east window, just like outside Luoyang, when he closed his eyes, he could see in his mind that Hou Xibai and Ba Fenghan were facing off against each other.

    As for the other four enemies, it was due to the fact that their bodies emitted invisible, yet real, true qi, which aroused his alertness.

    He could even detect the strength and weakness of each individual enemy; he was even able completely grasp the subtle changes in their intention.

    As all these thoughts and perceptions were flashing through his mind at the speed of lightning, Xu Ziling had already taken steps toward the west wing.

    The enemys killing momentum immediately elevated and condensed one step further. Except for one person, they were all highly controlled and filled with subtle calculation, waiting for him to step into the deathly gate of the siege, at which point their power would just reach the peak, so that they would be able to deliver the most severe attack, and put him in the land of perdition.

    The exception was, quite naturally, Mai Yunfei. Not only his skill had heaven-and-earth, cloud-and-mud difference with Hou Xibai, he was also far inferior to the Da Li Shen [Titan] Bao Rang, the Vicious Dog Qu Wuju and the Exiled Disciple Su Chuo, three men. He practically put his internal strength to its limit immediately, and was unable to remain in that state, so that he was revealing the fluctuation in his energy level.

    Up to this point, Xu Ziling had not even seen the enemys shadow, yet he was able to completely grasp the actual layout of the enemies, so much so that he could deduce that by the time he advanced five or six steps forward, the enemies would go all-out in attacking him.

    And he was even more clear, knowing beyond the shadow of doubt, that he had no ability to deal with five enemies, where Hou Xibai was one of them.

    Even if it were a face-to-face confrontation with Bao Rang, Qu Wuju and Su Chuo, he was completely without any odds of success either.

    The only sliver of hope was to exploit Hou Xibais must not be exposed secret identity.

    Unless Hou Xibai was 100% confident that he could kill people to shut his mouth, he would never show himself to Xu Ziling as an enemy.

    Of course this was only is estimate. If he guessed wrong, Xu Ziling would have put his life to an end.

    Chi! Chi! Chi!

    Xu Ziling took three steps in succession, passing the first enemy hidden in the side room on the left.

    From the emitted overbearing, well-trained true qi, he was positive that behind the door was the overbearing, well-trained Da Li Shen Bao Rang.

    Although the other party deliberately restrained his qi to hide, there was no way he would be able to evade Xu Zilings close-to-magical induction and efficacious senses.

    It should be noted that when martial art masters were having a face off, other than the substance of the physical exchange, the greater key was the invisible battle between the essence, qi and spirit, three aspects. To martial art master like Xu Ziling, whose senses were unusually supernatural, there was practically no such thing as sneak attack. As soon as the murderous intent arose in the opponents heart, it would immediately generate reaction. Even Yang Xuyan, an expert in concealing his presence, was unable to hide from him. Much less Bao Rang and the others, who were not really experts, but temporary assassins?

    This moment Xu Ziling was taking his fifth step, and was coming to the door where an enemy was hiding behind the door to his right.

    The enemys qi momentum immediately sped up and thickened, hence he knew exactly that based on his current speed, within two more steps he would reach the death point, where the enemy would attack in full force.

    Xu Ziling sensed that behind this door ought to be the Exiled Disciple Su Chuo, because his saw-tooth sabers blade was exuding a cold qi. Quickly he focused his attention, and entered the no person no self state, the realm where his spirit reached the extremely quiet boundary, before taking the next step forward.

    Life or death, victory or defeat, would be decided within these two steps.

    The sailboat turned around to return to Liangdu at full speed. Kou Zhong and Luo Fang were standing on the bow, discussing important matters. [Translators note: the original did not have separator here.]

    Luo Fang said, Xiao Xian appointed top rank great general under his command, Dong Jingzhen, as the Commander-in-Chief. He deployed nearly thirty thousand elite troops to enter Yiling. Also using civilian ships, they might cross the river to the north any moment.

    Frowning, Kou Zhong said, Then how come he has not crossed the river yet? Is it because he is afraid he might convenience Li Zitong?

    Evidently Luo Fang was unable to reply to his question. Shaking his head, he said, I am not too clear about that. But other than having misgivings toward Du Fuwei, Xiao Xian still have to deal with Dong Tings Lin Shihong. The longer he cant pacify the south, the longer he cant go up north with all his strength.

    Pondering deeply, Kou Zhong said, What exactly is the relationship between Xiao Xian, Zhu Can and the Three Bandits? Could it be that Zhu Can and Cao Yinglong did not know that if they let Xiao Xian gains stronghold north of the River, later on they need not come down to the arena?

    Luo Fang was much more familiar with this aspect; like an unceasing torrent he replied, Currently the situation south and north of the River is unprecedentedly complex. After Du Fuwei taken over Jingling, he holds back his troops without moving. In turn, he joined Shen Faxing to attack Jiangdu violently. Those with discerning eyes can see that he wants to divide east and west, two routes of going north. Therefore, in case Jiangdu fell, by using Jingling as his base of operations, he ought to move his troops toward our Ranch and Zhu Can, Cao Yinglong, and the others, to stop Xiao Xian from crossing the River. Under this kind of circumstances, if Zhu Can and Cao Yinglong are willing to cooperate with Xiao Xian, it would not be surprising at all.

    Kou Zhong said, But everybody knows that the Ranch does not have any ambition to fight over the world. Those you have ambition to have the Ranch should be because they wanted to obtain your warhorses; therefore, if they really attacked the Ranch, who will reap the benefit?

    Scratching his head, Luo Fang said, This is not too clear; they must have some agreement.

    Kou Zhong shook his head, There cant be any agreement, he said, After obtaining tens of thousands warhorses, who would be willing to hand it over? Therefore, I still say that Xiao Xian, Cao Yinglong, and Zhu Can still harbor ulterior motive, each one carries out all kind of strategies, and this is precisely the crucial point; it is also the key for us to gain victory. We may be able to deal with Shen Faxings same old stuff, and shift our attention to deal with Zhu Can and Cao Yinglong, to ensure they all have grey hair on top of their head.

    His spirit greatly aroused, Luo Fang asked, How?

    Kou Zhong reached out and put his hand on his shoulder; smiling, he said, Lets talk some more when we get back to Liangdu! If we can make the arrangement tonight, tomorrow we will go to the Ranch at full speed. At that time we can carefully investigate this matter!

    Shang Xiuxuns absolute beauty jade countenance suddenly emerged in his mind, while a strange fleeing floated in his heart.

    While Xu Ziling appeared to be taking a step forward, with his right hand tightly gripped the saber behind his back, he twisted his wrist outward, so that he held the saber backhandedly across his back, the blade facing the door behind which the enemy was hiding.

    His stored up true qi, which had reached its peak level, erupted from the palm of his hand, enormous, without-equal force shot from his wrist out, the saber turned into a streak of lightning, striking and the door and burst in.

    At the same time, without the slightest hesitation Xu Ziling changed direction from moving forward slowly to flying backward, like a ghost, with the speed that was indiscernible by naked eyes, returning to the door where the Da Li Shen Bao Rang was hiding. Twisting his body around, he sent out a full-force punch at the enemy, separated by the door.

    All these consecutive and complex movements were done in the blink of an eye, and everything was completed before the enemy even began to be alerted.

    The first to react was Hou Xibai, who was hiding outside the window at the eastern end of the corridor. His murderous aura immediately rose up to its peak, his true qi shot out, but he was still one step too late.


    As if going through a thin sheet of paper, the steel saber effortlessly penetrated the door and went all the way in, up to the handle.

    Almost at the same instant, Xu Zilings seemingly powerless, light-as-a-feather fist, struck the wooden door right at the face of the standing Da Li Shen Bao Rang.


    A crack in the shape of the core of a spider web appeared on the wooden door where the fist hit, followed by cun-size fragments raining down on Bao Rangs iron-like thick and solid stature, as well as his horrified beyond-belief face.


    Miserable hiss came from behind the door where the saber was breaking into, followed by the sharp crack of another door being shattered; the scream quickly went away.


    Xu Zilings punch exploded on Bao Rangs arms, which he crossed in panic to block the strike. Gentle and soft spiraling energy was condensing into a beam of straight power, which turned from slow to fast, like a hammer shattering the well-trained qigong shielding his body, with which Bao Rang went on the rampage around the south, and straight into his meridians.

    Bao Rang let out a muffled groan as he met the fist and staggered back. Suddenly he spurted a mouthful of blood, his back crashed heavily against the window some distance away opposite the door, and fell down to the lower level.

    All across the second floor, the voices of people and the sound of music suddenly stopped.


    Only this moment did Mai Yunfei and the Vicious Dog Qu Wuju charge through the door.

    Xu Ziling moved to the middle of the corridor. Although he was facing Mai Yunfei and Qu Wuju, who had a big hammer in each hand, Xu Zilings mind was focused on Hou Xibai behind him.

    Compared to before, Mai Yunfeis martial art has progressed tremendously. His footwork and sword technique matched seamlessly. Although the slashing sword did not look magnificent, it carried a kind of advancing-courageously momentum.

    Qu Wuju was much more cunning. This man was tall and thin, with long horse face that made people less than impressed. His two eyes were so narrow that they looked like slits. His nose and mouth were separated quite far on his long face, so that if one would suddenly catch sight of him, he would think that he just came across the Diaosigui [ghost of a person who died by hanging] who had just escape stealthily from the netherworld. He deliberately fell behind a little; obviously he wanted to let Mai Yunfei become the vanguard to bear the full brunt of Xu Zilings attack, while he would reap the benefit from the side.

    Inwardly Xu Ziling cried thanking the heaven and thanking the earth.

    If the two men worked as one in fighting desperately against him, forcing him to focus all his attention to deal with them, then Hou Xibai, who was watching from behind, would have the opportunity he could exploit. But with Qu Wuju being a smart aleck like this, Hou Xibai lost this rare opportunity.

    Xu Ziling suddenly flashed away; not only he evaded Mai Yunfeis sword stabbing at his chest, he even flashed into the gap between the two opponents.

    While Mai Yunfei and Qu Wuju were startled, Xu Ziling already moved his palms, so that the palm shadows filled the air, separately slapping the sword and a pair of iron hammers coming at him with different moves.

    The two enemies staggered and fell back.

    Mai Yunfeis skill was far inferior; he spun around and fell into the room where Bao Rang was hiding. The palm of his hand cracked from the shock, the sword fell from his hand.

    Qu Wuju was worthy to be called a martial art master; although his two hammers were hit as if they were struck by lightning, he was still able to hold on to them, albeit with difficulty. While retreating toward the stairs at the western end of the corridor, he simultaneously created layers of hammer shadow to guard against Xu Ziling pursuing to follow up the victory.

    Actually, even if Xu Ziling did his best to fight, Qu Wuju would have been able to hold his ground for ten moves, eight styles. The problem was that he had seen Su Chuo and Bao Rang, whose martial art skill was more outstanding and superior to his, were wounded and had to flee far away, so in his heart he already grew timid. And then with magical shenfa Xu Ziling flashed near him, he was unable to unfold and unleash the formidable power of his iron hammer. His courage fell, he then decided to run away.

    Xu Ziling did not pursue at all, he simply stood still in the middle of the corridor, while at the same time he knew for sure that Hou Xibai has already left

    Hence the battle of the House of Heavenly Fragrance ended without clear conclusion.

    Evening of the next day, Luo Qifei, who had been out to scout the enemy situation, returned to report to Xu Ziling, Just received Shao Shuais secret order; there is a change of plan.

    Xu Ziling jumped in fright, and quickly asked for details.

    After explaining the current situation, Luo Qifei said, Shao Shuai is asking whether you, Xu Ye is able to get away and come with him to the Flying Horse Ranch. The situation over there is unusually critical. Zhu Can and Cao Yinglong separately attacked Yuanan and Dangyang, two cities, making it difficult for the Flying Horse Ranch to deal with both at the same time. If their entire force came out at once, we are afraid the enemy might enter by exploiting a weak spot.

    Recalling Shang Xiuxun, Fu Dajie, Xiao Juan, Luo Fang, Liu Zongdao, Xu Laotou [old man Xu] and other good friends, a strong emotion welled up in Xu Zilings heart. Ever since Susu passed away, he especially treasured the friendship that came along his life on earth, because it was so heartbreakingly fragile!

    Luo Xiong, what do you think? he asked indifferently.

    Luo Qifei said, In here, we have the battle of wits, not the battle of strength; you can leave everything to me. In the Ranch over there, it is a hard and continual battle that extremely in need of Xu Yes assistance. The only problem is to find a good excuse to tell Li Zitong, to avoid unnecessary complication.

    Inwardly Xu Ziling was happy for Kou Zhong, because by seeing that Luo Qifei dared to shoulder such a heavy responsibility, he knew that Luo Qifei had guts. This kind of talent was indeed something that can be encountered, but cannot be sought.

    Currently, there were not a few capable people serving under Kou Zhong; Xu Xingzhi, Xuan Yong, Jiao Hongjin, Luo Qifei, Bu Tianzhi, Chen Laomou, Chen Changlin, Ren Meimei, were among the prominent ones, each with his or her own strength. These were originally recalcitrant people, yet they were all willing to throw their lives in for Kou Zhong. Naturally it was because of Kou Zhongs outstanding charisma and his communicate-with-the-heavens ability. But more importantly, it was because Kou Zhong sincerely treated them well, absolutely unlike Wang Shichong, who exploited people in everything-for-self-and-selfish-profit way.

    After pondering for a moment, Xu Ziling nodded and said, Thats easy. I came here merely to pass on the letter and to get in touch with Li Zitong. Now that the mission is accomplished, naturally I can leave.

    After a short pause, he asked, Do you have any problem in cooperating with the Zhuhua Bang people?

    Smiling wryly, Luo Qifei said, I certainly trust Gui Ye and Xing Ye, but I dare not guarantee that other people are not the spy that Shao Lingzhou planted. Therefore, I intend to, together with the other brothers, leave together with Xu Ye, and then secretly heading toward the rendezvous point with Bu Fu Bangzhu. Otherwise, if their spy keep a close watch over us at every step, the whole set of great ideas will go down the drain.

    Xu Ziling nodded his agreement, thinking that he ought to find time to talk with Gui Xiliang and Xing Rong, two kids.

  16. #256
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 22 Chapter 2

    Book 22 Chapter 2 The Truth In The Rain

    Under the hazy moonlight, Xu Ziling unleashed his footwork, hurrying along the southern bank of the Huai River, heading west, toward the place he and Kou Zhong were going to rendezvous.

    After taking his leave from Gui Xiliang and Xing Rong, he officially notified Li Zitong, before going on board the ship, together with Luo Qifei and the others, and left. Naturally in the end only an empty ship returned to Liangdu, since one after another Xu Ziling, Luo Qifei, and the others left the ship along the way, everybody hastening onto his separate destination.

    Xu Ziling left the ship at the intersection between the Hang Gully and River Huai, and travelled at full speed for nearly six sichen, through the night and day before finally reaching the jungle region at the foot of Jia Mountain at the southeast of Zhongli County.

    He lit a fire and made a signal.

    Immediately there was a response from the mountaintop half a li away. First it was a spark of light, followed by two other flashes of light, indicating Kou Zhongs hiding place.

    Warmth flowed through Xu Zilings heart; Susus misfortune, Ba Fenghans leaving far away, had strengthened his feeling that he and Kou Zhong were mutually dependent for survival. At the same time, he was not without an emotional stirring; in a mere few months, Kou Zhong had successfully established his own power. The people gathered by his side were not a random group of mob, but a group of organized and highly efficient powerful masters.

    It was not only obvious from the accurate signal transmission just now, but also in his ability to deploy his troops across the river in such a short period of time, in one breath hastening over nearly a hundred li to come to this place. Merely the speed of the marching army was enough to make people clicking their tongue.

    In the blink of an eye he rushed into the sparse forest area at the edge of the jungle, where the Shaoshuai Army was resting against the tree, under cover of the dark, dense jungle. Everybody was holding their breath and calming their qi, while the horses were eating the grass quietly.

    Led by a squad leader, Xu Ziling ran up a small hill, where Kou Zhong, awe-inspiringly, stood under the bright moon, with Xuan Yong and more than a dozen generals by his side.

    Looking at Kou Zhongs profound, standing-tall-high-mountain-peak majestic silhouette, a peculiar feeling appeared in Xu Zilings heart.

    Kou Zhong now was not the Kou Zhong of the past, naturally he was not the Kou Zhong who stood on top of Jingling city wall facing the Jianghuai Forces magnificent army with thousands of men and horses, whose heart continuously wanted to beat the retreating drum. Kou Zhong has now become the commander-in-chief, who viewed war as a game of chess, who moved his troops while laughing and joking, who, in the future, would become more than a formidable opponent to the warlords contending for hegemony over the world.

    Kou Zhong suddenly looked back, flashed his snow white teeth to Xu Ziling, and laughed heartily, With Ling Shao by my side, he said, We have enough power to resist their ten thousand strong powerful army. This time, if we dont chop the Three Big Bandits head, I swear I wont take my troops back!

    The group of generals thundered their response; their voices resonated over the mountaintop, making Xu Ziling felt Kou Zhongs innate charisma and charm, which surpassed others, in his blood vessels.

    Coming to Kou Zhongs side, Xu Ziling halted unhurriedly and with tranquil and calm voice he asked, How many people in total?

    Accompanying Xu Ziling overlooking the mountain forest and the plain below under the moonlight, Kou Zhongs eyes were flashing brightly as he spoke in heavy voice, Altogether we have 1500 men, distinctly one-style cavalry, most of the warhorses are Khitans top quality fine colts, with light adornment and simple equipment. Humph! Li kid has his mothers Black-armored Elite Cavalry, I, Kou Zhong, have Shaoshuai Wonder Troops. Inevitably there will be a day we will have a competition to see which one is more formidable.

    Xu Ziling asked, How do you organize it into squads?

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, I am using the Plum Blossom Formation taught by Lu Dashi, dividing the one thousand five hundred men into ten units. The main force of the Shaoshuai Army consists of six hundred men. From the rest, every hundred-man team is under the command of a Pianjiang [deputy general]. Ling Shao, do you have any suggestion?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Xu Ziling said, Speaking about troop formation, you ought to be more adept than me. Where is Luo Fang?

    Kou Zhong replied, He must rush back to the Ranch first, to notify beautiful Changzhu to cooperate with us, to put on a joint performance at the border. The stage will be the two big cities by the River Er, Dangyang and YuanAn.

    And then, heaving a long sigh of relief, he said, Laotianyes plan is really ingenious; while everybody is thinking that I must be looking after immediate gains and losses, by fully supporting Li Zitong dealing with Ol Die, I secretly travel a thousand li to the west, to attack the enemy in an ambush. This will be such a moving heroic undertaking.

    Realizing he had no choice but to throw himself into Kou Zhongs state of mind, Xu Ziling changed the subject by asking, Has the route been fixed?

    Kou Zhong said, We are going to pass through plains between Zhongli and Qingliu. Although along the way we cant possibly greet Ol Dies troops stationed at Qingliu; child will have to ask forgiveness for being unfilial. Ha! After that well successively cross the Fei and Jue, two rivers, before trekking the most arduous part of the journey by passing through Dabie Mountain Range, and then circumvent the Dahong Mountain, and finally cross the Han River between Xiangyang and Jingling. From there, three sichen on fast horse we will be able to raise our wine cup and reminisce in happiness with our beautiful Shang Xiuxun at the Ranch!

    Standing on the other side, Xuan Yong joined in, If all goes well, we can reach our destination within ten days.

    Xu Ziling said, Why havent we hastened on your journey then? Arent we supposed to rest during the day and travel at night to maintain secrecy?

    I very seldom see Ling Shao to be this anxious, Kou Zhong commented, Must be because you want to hurry to be the knight in shining armor. Hee! Ling Shao please dont be angry. Because we need to pass through Qingliu, we must send scouts to investigate the right course of action, so that we can execute the secretly crossing the Wei River at Chencang [fig. to feign one thing while doing another] tactic. We, two brothers, have not seen each other for so many days, I want to take the opportunity to talk about everything since we parted.

    And then he issued an order; the group of generals mounted their horses and dispersed, back to the unit under their command, leaving only Xuan Yong, one person.

    Mountain breeze was blowing gently. The magnificent starry sky made everybody felt even more tiny, while also seemed to be even more grand, some kind of an intoxicating feeling that they were part of the joining of heaven and earth as they ran their course.

    Xu Ziling took a deep breath and said, Hou Xibai nearly made his move on me.

    Shaken, Kou Zhong said, My God! Finally he is showing his original treacherous face. Under what kind of situation did you meet him?

    By this moment Xuan Yong has left to inspect the troops as well.

    Xu Ziling narrated what happened. When he was done, Kou Zhong breathed out a mouthful of cold air, and said, Luckily you were able to remain calm. If it were me, I would definitely stake out everything to force Hou Xibai, that kid to come out. That would have been bad!

    But immediately his sword-eyebrows furrowed as he said, Not right! My guess is that even Bao Rang and the others were not aware that Hou Xibai was waiting outside the window ready to help; so much so that Yun Yuzhen herself did not know that he was secretly lying in wait on the side. Somehow this fellow must have learned about this matter from Yun Yuzhen, so that he wanted to reap the benefit quietly.

    Puzzled, Xu Ziling asked, Arent you just making baseless conjecture?

    Kou Zhong shook his head; his face showed a faraway look, as he spoke slowly, Do you remember at the deserted village that day, we were harmed by Wan yaonu that we nearly lose our lives, and then that kid Hou Xibai came charging in and inadvertently saved us? That kid still put on an act moving his brush to paint, and was quite convincing in doing so; clearly even Wan yaonu did not know his identity. Hou Xibai is able to maintain his secrecy so well, even when there was nobody around he still did such a good job; how could Yun Yuzhen be able to see any flaw in him? I am pretty sure Yun Yuzhen is still thinking that that Hou kid is a good person.

    Xu Zilings eyes were flashing with murderous intent. But one negligence in a hundred secrets, he finally exposed the foxs tail, he spoke heavily.

    Kou Zhong looked deep into his eyes, Are you thinking of Shi Feixuan? he asked.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, Thats right! It is clear that Hou Xibai was groomed in a certain demonic sect and was sent out especially to deal with Shi Feixuan, supposedly the most outstanding martial art master, scheming by using the most despicable means to influence Shi Feixuan, so that Wan yaonu would come out the winner.

    Smiling, Kou Zhong said, Do you think we should send someone to that bald Liao Kongs place, asking him to forward our message to Shi Feixuan?

    Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, That will look a bit like something that a lowly person would do. Are you saying that I ought to tell Shi Feixuan that Hou Xibai was hiding outside the window waiting for an opportunity to launch a sneak attack on me?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Kou Zhong said, So whats the problem? Shi Feixuan is not an ordinary gal at all, she has appropriate attitude toward black and white, plus we are doing this for our own peace of mine, why do we care what her Niang is thinking? Even if in the future Shi Feixuan is going to help Li kid, I still do not want to see her being harmed by crafty scoundrels.

    Xu Ziling burst out laughing and said, Your words sound so dignified, yet beneath the surface you are only afraid I might lose the opportunity to cultivate friendly relationship with Shi Feixuan. I guarantee that if Hou Xibai wanted to unleash his masculine charm on Shi feixuan, he will definitely bump his nose and retreat in discouragement without any meritorious deed. Wed better think about our own problem first!

    Kou Zhong grudgingly said, Whats not good about Shi Feixuan? You, this kid, seem not to care at all.

    Xu Ziling cut him off, While rushing here, I have had a chance to think about this matter all the way through, my conclusion is vastly different to your previous statement; would Shao Shuai care to listen?

    Remaining tranquil and calm, Kou Zhong laughed and said, Ling Shao has something to say, this Commander naturally has to wash his ears and listen respectfully.

    Contemplating, Xu Ziling said, I think Xiao Xian is using the painting by holding two brushes evil scheme; while sending people to get rid of me in Jiangdu, he is also attempting to lure you toward the Flying Horse Ranch, planning on setting up an ambush to kill you. Yun Yuzhen knows our character like the back of her hand, she clearly knew that we would definitely respond to the Flying Horse Ranchs call for help.

    Knitting his brows, Kou Zhong said, I have also thought about that; therefore, I used fast to control the slow, with the hope that the enemy would not be able to estimate our speed, while we secretly march the army a thousand li, before Xiao Xian cross the river from Yiling, strike and defeat the Three Big Bandits and Zhu Can in one move, and then you and I quietly go to Guanzhong to try our luck.

    Is it possible to do it the other way around? Xu Ziling said, We strike and defeat Xiao Xians main army crossing the River, and then turn our operation toward Zhu Can and Cao Yinglong.

    Kou Zhong stared blankly for a moment, and then broke into a big grin and said, Man, oh man, why didnt I think about that before? All right! While even in his dream Xiao Xian would never think that we dare to make our move against him first, we take him down to play the music. Just consider it repayment for Su Jies blood debt.

    At the mention of Susus name, the eyes of the two boys were blazing with fire of hatred.

    The light in the distance suddenly flickered.

    Lead the horse! Kou Zhong barked, Its time to leave!

    Early morning the next day, Shaoshuai Army was passing through the plains north of Qingliu City without any trouble, and reached the north bank of River Chu, and take a rest in the forest by the river.

    Too bad the weather did not cooperate; heavy rain poured down suddenly. Other than those in guard duty, the rest had no choice but to hide inside their tents. Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong went to a pile of rocks by the river, letting the heavy rain soak their bodies.

    Kou Zhong plopped his butts on one of the big rock and said with a laugh, Its really fun! Only in the rain will human beings feel a little bit of relationship with Laotianye, and only when our clothes are completely soaked like this will we feel closely related to Him.

    Xu Ziling remained standing with his hands behind his back, looking at the long river, where three fishing boats were braving the wind and the rain, sailing toward the west. He spoke indifferently, The moment we felt really close relationship was the days after Niang had just died, when we trained the Secret to Long Life in that small valley. At that time I really felt that my entire being seemed to be one entity with the heaven and the earth; no separation, no self.

    Kou Zhong stared blankly for half a day; finally he nodded and said, Those were indeed unforgettable times. We really must find time to go back there to see; but Niang once said that we must not observe religious rites for her.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, Your current situation is just like you are racing against time. Li Mi has collapsed; no one can stop Li Shimin out of the mountain pass. Therefore, you, Shao Shuai, must establish enough strength to contend against him before the Li Family sweeps the world; otherwise, regret will come too late. How could you find enough time to sneak away?

    Kou Zhong pondered for a moment, and then spoke heavily, Although it would be difficult for Wang Shichong to reach competence, but theres still Dou Jiande, Liu Heita in the northeast, Liu Wuzhou, Song Jingang in the north, Xue Ju, father and son, in the west, who have not collapsed yet. The Li Family has their internal worries, if Li kid wants to be well-regarded, I am afraid he will still have to wait for a period of time.

    Xu Ziling felt the rain hitting his face was cold; he spoke softly, Supposing Wang Shichong really forced Li Mi that he has nowhere to go except for surrendering to Li Shimin, then what happen?

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, Do you think that would be a good thing or a bad thing for Li kid?

    Xu Ziling looked down and fixed his gaze on Kou Zhong for quite half a day, and then he spoke heavily, If it were somebody else, it would be like showing the wolf into the house. But the Li Clan has a very deep foundation, and Li Shimin is a natural talent with all around expertise in martial art study and military strategy and tactics, so formidable that even Li Jing and the others pledge their allegiance to him, Shi Feixuan also thinks very highly of him, so he could put an air of the Son of Heaven ordained by the Heaven itself. Li Mi naturally is unwilling to resign himself under someone else, but would others think differently than Li Mi?

    Emotionally moved, Kou Zhong said, You are right; even I, at one time, wanted to run errands for him, and that time he has not become like this yet. If Li kid, for no reason, is able to make a group of strategic experts and powerful generals like Wei Hui, Xu Shiji, Shen Luoyan, and their peers vowed loyalty and devotion wholeheartedly to him, to surpass him would be difficult above difficult. Ay! Tell me, what should I do?

    Xu Ziling remained silent.

    Kou Zhong rose up to his full height, came over to Xu Ziling, reached out to grasp his broad shoulders firmly, hung his head, and said, Say it! One lifetime two brothers; why do you keep it stuffed inside your heart?

    Xu Ziling replied slowly, Could it be that Su Jies death still cannot make your heart dead to war and vendetta killing?

    Kou Zhong contemplated for a moment, and then spoke in low voice, Are you willing to let Xiang Yushan and Yuwen Huaji off?

    Xu Ziling said, Naturally we cant let Yuwen Huaji get away. But Xiang Yushan is, after all, little Lingzhongs birth father, and now he has already suffer the retribution, plus Xiao Xian is really not Li kids match; how about if we let them off?

    Kou Zhong continued, Yin Gui Pai murdered Bao Zhifu, Shi Jie, Ma Gui, three men; how are we going to settle this debt?

    Smiling ruefully, Xu Ziling said, This matter and what I am advising you to do are two unrelated matters, how could you confuse one thing with another? This world is chaotic enough, and now you add more confusion by creating the Shaoshuai Army. Ay!

    Kou Zhong accompanied him in smiling ruefully; he said, Are you telling me to tell my men that I dont want to do it anymore?

    Of course you cannot be that irresponsible, Xu Ziling said, But your problem right now is just a matter of face; if you are willing to turn around and throw your support to Li kid, I guarantee he would be able to unify the world in a short period of time, and then the common people will be able to enjoy a bit more peace and happiness.

    Kou Zhong said with a wry smile, Are you telling me to work together under one master with Li Jing, who are responsible, at least half, for Su Jies death?

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, I did not advise you to become Li Shimins subordinate, you only need to hand over the power in your hands as a present to Li kid, and then you and I can go to take Yuwen Huajis head, and return to the small valley to offer sacrifice to Niang. Afterwards the heaven and the earth can be ours to roam freely, we can strike Yin Gui Pai in delight until they are in a sorry state, to rid the earth of calamity. And when Little Lingzhong is a bit older, we can take him out of the Pass to look for Ol Ba; wont we be carefree?

    Kou Zhong took his hands away from Xu Zilings shoulders; stepping toward the shore, he looked at the rain splattering on the river, creating small splashed on the surface of the water. He spoke heavily, You have not talked with me about this matter for a very long time; why pouring out whats on your mind today?

    Xu Ziling walked over to his side, and put his hands on Kou Zhongs shoulders. With grief in his voice, he said, Su Jie is gone, I dont want to lose you, this good brother of mine.

    Severely shaken, Kou Zhong said, You really believe that I am going to lose?

    Xu Ziling replied dejectedly, Our problem is that we are too exposed; even more, we are involved in the Duke Yang Treasure secret. Before, we can play hide-and-seek game with the enemy, but now the target is too obvious; we have become the target of multitude arrows. It does not matter if Xiao Xian succeeded in crossing the river, or who win who lose between Ol Die and Li Zitong, or perhaps whether Li kids army is moving out of Guanzhong, or Dou Jiande, Liu Wuzhou deployed their armies to the south, the first thing they all want to do is to pull you, this Shao Shuai, down.

    Kou Zhong could feel the heartfelt concern Xu Ziling had for him; nodding, he said, Its not that I have not thought about that problem, otherwise I would not be afraid to proclaim myself king or take the title Shuai [Commander], but to modestly and honestly calling myself his mothers Shao Shuai [reminder: junior commander] instead; it sounds awe-inspiring, while the fact is it is worthless. Of course, the most ideal is that after digging the Duke Yangs treasure, I will see whether I want to be a rich merchant supplying world-class jewels and arms, or to be the emperor? But you also ought to know how this Shao Shuai came to be. It could be said that the situation is forced, but can also be described as if you ride a tiger, its hard to get off. Xiao Ling! Man only lives for several decades, it will be over in a snap of the fingers. You mind what you love to do, no need to care about my life or death. Right now in my situation I have no way to retreat. Ha! A real man is to be buried in a horses hide [idiom: to give ones life on the battlefield], it is also a joy! Someday I will die in battle, you dont need to avenge me. Su Jies death has made me unable to enjoy the pleasures of life. Do you understand my mind?

    Xu Ziling grabbed Kou Zhongs shoulders forcefully, and said with a wry smile, Of course I do. What you are doing is called beat the snake following the stick [see Book 3 Chapter 3], using retreat to advance. Ay! As your brother, I have already exhausted all mental and physical efforts. Originally I was thinking that only after the Duke Yang Treasures whereabouts is decided, I will really consider whether I ought to go out and contend for supremacy over the world. Who would have thought that the ghosts open the way the gods pushing forward, you have become his mothers Shao Shuai? Things happened too fast! It was not until Su Jie died that I was awakened from the dream, and thinking about these things. Your current glory is just short-lived [orig. the night blooming cactus shows only once], it is difficult to maintain for a long time. In less than a year your Shaoshuai Army is expanding and consolidating, yet it is still difficult to become a fierce army division. In short, your current situation still needs the arrival of luck; otherwise, dont even think that you will surpass Li kid. The question is: do you have time to wait?

    Kou Zhong said, I am afraid Lu Miaozi had the same way of thinking as you, otherwise he would have told me directly where the Duke Yang Treasure is. I have a feeling that you are also certain that I will not be able to find the Duke Yang Treasure, hence the reason you are willing to accompany me playing this treasure hunt game. How about this: give me three months. If the treasure has not appeared yet, I will do as you said: I will hand over the troops and generals under my command to pass on as a present to your sweetheart, let her decide to whom she should give it to. But if Laotianye shows me favor and let me find the treasure for real, I will have to fight him, no matter what; I wont regret it even if I died. But I have one condition.

    Stunned, Xu Ziling asked, What condition?

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, Even though Ling Shao will help me in the treasure hunt with your heart and soul, you must not deceive me.

    Am I that kind of person? Xu Ziling spoke in heavy voice.

    The sound of footsteps approaching, braving the rain, Xuan Yong rushed over and spoke in low voice, We caught a spy!

    The two boys were stunned.

  17. #257
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 22 Chapter 3

    Book 22 Chapter 3 The Dragon Roams Everywhere

    Several zhang outside the depth of the forest, the spy had his hands tied around a thick tree trunk on his back, his clothes were dyed with blood, his countenance pale, his age was about twenty, his facial features were ordinary.

    Xuan Yong whispered, We did according to what Shao Shuai ordered: setting up sentries all around the camp. This man came sneaking in, and I captured him with my own hands. This kids martial art skill is quite solid, his technique is from Jiangnan school.

    What did he say? Kou Zhong asked.

    Xuan Yong replied firmly, Naturally he claimed that he was just passing by. Humph! This place is the wilderness of a desolate mountain, even if he went hunting, he should have a reason to come here. From his accent, he sounds like a Zhejiang native, how did he come here alone?

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, Even if he is a spy, he should have some accomplice; did you find any other men?

    Xuan Yong shook his head and said, I already send my men to search everywhere in the mountain and forest nearby, yet we have not found anybody else.

    Looks like we must resort to torture, Kou Zhong said, Are you an expert?

    Leave it to me, Xuan Yong replied.

    He was about to step forward, Xu Ziling pulled him aside. He could not bear to torture the prisoner. Before we ascertain his identity, using torture does not seem to be too good, he said.

    Stunned, Xuan Yong said, Since he is unwilling to speak out, how could we ascertain his identity without torture?

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, The invisible pressure to the mind is the highest technique of torture. This is called using torture to cut down a scheme. Come!

    The three walked over to the young, robust man. Waving to the guard to dismiss him, Kou Zhong noticed that the man was closing his eyes. He laughed and said, He is unwilling to open his eyes, naturally he is unwilling to answer questions; we have no choice but to use torture to force confession. Take your time in torturing him, let this hero have the opportunity to consider his own situation, and then choose to make a smart choice.


    The man flung open his eyes and spat out a thick saliva with traces of blood in it, shooting toward Kou Zhong.

    Kou Zhong effortlessly turned his head sideways and thus the spittle hit an empty space.

    The man revealed a surprised look; evidently he had never expected that Kou Zhong was capable of evading his attack. But then he quickly closed his eyes again.

    Angered, Xuan Yong pulled his dagger and shouted, Let me cut his flesh slice by slice.

    Seeing the disdain look on the mans face, Kou Zhong praised him inwardly; turning to Xuan Yong, he laughed and said, How can a dagger be better than a pair of pliers? Guard! Get me a pair of pliers!

    Immediately someone acknowledging the order from a distance.

    Xuan Yong and Xu Ziling looked at Kou Zhong in bewilderment.

    But Kou Zhong walked around to the back of the tree, to look at the mans tied hands. He laughed and said, This Lao Ges fingers are long, delicate and smooth. Ha! Walking to the front again, he called out, Guard! Take off his boots.

    The man opened his eyes and spoke angrily, You want to kill, you want to cut my flesh, go ahead and do it, why do you want to take off my boots?

    Kou Zhong raised his hand to stop his man who was about to take off his boots; he smiled and said, Because I want to pull out your toe nails one by one, and I am going to do it slowly. People say that the pain on ten fingers goes through to the heart; I wonder where would the pain on the toes go to? I have no choice but to test it on Lao Xiong. Dont underestimate toenails. Without those, it is tantamount to crippling your martial art skill, and dont even think you can use your legs to report your findings here; we dont even need to kill you.

    The mans face changed several times; finally he spoke in distress, I practically do not know who you guys are, I took a shortcut this way because I wanted to hurry on toward Hefei [capital of Anhui Province] to participate in professional societies general assembly called together by Rong Fengxiang.

    Hearing that, the three were emotionally moved.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged eye signals, they both recalled that since Zuo Youxian also showed up at Hefei, presumably those two were ranked among the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Sects, perhaps they even had a friendly relationship between them, and now it was quite possible that the professional societies general assembly was arranged by Zuo Youxian.

    Kou Zhong chuckled and roared into a laughter, Turns out its a misunderstanding, he said, Guards! Release this Renxiong. The rain is getting heavier! Let us take shelter in the tent and change into dry clothes, and drink his mothers two cups of wine.

    This time Xuan Yong and that man looked at each other in confusion; they did not understand why with just one sentence the man was rewarded with being released on the spot.

    While Xu Ziling was untying the rope, Xuan Yong whispered in Kou Zhongs ear, Shao Shuai has forgotten that you issued the strict order not to drink in this mission; we basically did not bring any wine.

    Kou Zhong cleared his throat and said, Then well drink a cup of water!

    The man shook his hands, which were numbed from being bound with ox-tendon rope. You are really willing to let me go? he asked in suspicion.

    Kou Zhong shrugged his shoulders and said, We are not utterly-vicious-extremely-evil people; since knowing that this is just a misunderstanding, other than offering an apology, what else can we do?

    The mans spirit greatly aroused, he asked, Friends honorable surname and great given name?

    Smiling, Kou Zhong pointed to Xuan Yong and said, He is called Xuan Yong.

    Before he had any chance to introduce Xu Ziling, the man said in shock, In that case you must be Shao Shuai Kou Zhong, and the other gentleman must be Xu Ziling!

    Xuan Yong nodded and said, Your guess is spot on. Whats friends honorable name and surname?

    The man was a lot friendlier; he replied readily, I am the son of Longyou Bangs [lit. roaming dragon (the title of this chapter) gang] Bangzhu Ze Tianwen, Ze Yue.

    Hearing that, Kou Zhong, three men looked at each other, simply because they had never heard the name Longyou Bang; they could not even utter conventional greeting such as Ive long looked forward to meeting you or something like that.

    Trying to smooth things over, Kou Zhong said, Lets get out of this rain and talk further in the tent. Fortunately Ze Xiong only suffers minor injuries, otherwise we will feel even more guilty.

    Ze Yue laughed aloud and said, Being able to make three Xiongtais acquaintance, a little bit of injury is not worth mentioning.

    Turned out the reason Longyou Bang was not known in Jianghu was simply because it was a business oriented organization, with Longyou County in Dongyang Region [in Zhejiang Province] as the center of professional society. The organization was quite tight, they had buying-low, selling-high operations in all parts of the country, therefore, they enjoyed the good reputation as The Dragon Roams Everywhere.

    After introducing the Longyou Bang, Ze Yue cheerfully said, The region bordering our hometown has more mountains but less farmlands. The flow of most needed commodity to sustain live for the mountain people is only by carrying it on shoulder pole. Sailing boats and driving carts, engaging in buying and selling have become a way to seek livelihood. My Die started his business by trading wood, and now, using our Gangs good reputation, we have at least ten thousand people doing business for us in all parts of the country. But the number of men who are really under our Longyou Bangs banner is only a few hundred. They are the real backbone of our Gang.

    And then he took out a bronze medal [i.e. bronze plaque bearing a business name or logo, etc.]. One side was cast in dragon pattern, the other side had four characters Long You Bian Di [The Dragon Roams Everywhere].

    Outside the rain was getting heavier, crisp and clear breeze was rolling in from the tents opening.

    Greatly interested, Kou Zhong asked, What is your main business?

    Ze Yue replied, It is called not familiar, not doing. We mainly trade local specialty of the mountain area for local necessities. Bamboo, wood, paper, tea, bamboo shoot, oil, herbal medicine; the seven main industries. And we buy things that the mountain area is lacking; for instance, rice grain, cooking salt, silk cloth, cotton sloth, et cetera, forming a circulation network. All the professional societies in various regions, big and small, always give us a bit of face.

    And then he happily said, To be able to know two gentlemen is indeed the blessing of three lifetimes. That day when you routed Li Mi, I was hurrying from Guanzhong toward Luoyang. Among a number of heroes today, who can surpass Shao Shuai and Xu Ye?

    A little bit embarrassed, Xu Ziling changed the subject, Right now fire beacon is everywhere [i.e. alarm signal over long distance], does it have any adverse effect to your business?

    Ze Yue laughed and said, Peacetime has peacetime way of doing things, wartime also has a set of ways of doing things. Like just now, I was treated as a spy, definitely it was not uncommon. But usually as long as I flash the Longyou Bangs token of authority, everybody would give me a bit of face.

    Kou Zhong awkwardly said, Ze Xiong is accustomed to do business, your eloquence is indeed outstanding. Oh, right! Didnt you say that Rong Fengxiang is holding some his mothers professional societies general assembly at Hefei? What exactly is that?

    Ze Yues countenance sank; he sighed and said, That is actually a very troubling thing. Recently Rong Fengxiang ascended the Luoyang Bangs Longtou [big boss] throne, it already has great impact. And now he also assumes the position of Elder of the most-powerful-in-the-north Bai Ye She [Hundred Professional Societies], he is like a tiger that has grown wings. This time he came to Hefei, his objective is precisely to call on the professional societies and trade organizations north of the River to join Bai Ye She. On the surface he is calling all business communities to unite, but in my opinion, he must have another ambition.

    Knitting his brows, Kou Zhong asked, What exactly is Bai Ye She?

    Ze Yue explained, It is just an alliance of business and professional communities from various parts of the country north of the River. Elders have no governing authority over the professional societies under their jurisdiction, but they can represent each business community and trade power from various regions during the Hundred Industries General Assembly, to determine a variety of prices, and to mediate business disputes. Their influence could be big, could be small, depending on who the Elder is.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong exchanged glances; both felt that this could not be a good thing. Rong Fengxiang was the personification of the demonic sects martial art master Pi Chen; if he was to become the big boss, the chief of professional societies and trade organizations of the world, what good would that do?

    Isnt that a good thing? Xu Ziling tried to probe, Why is Ze Xiong troubled?

    Smiling bitterly, Ze Yue said, How could I not be troubled? In doing business, the most important thing is flexibility and freedom, that we do not have any constrain; but now Rong Fengxiang is putting on an air of the big taking an unfair advantage of the small, by using the power and influence of the northern Bai Ye She, he is coercing us to join his Bai Ye She

    If you dont join the association, Kou Zhong cut him off, What will the consequence be?

    Muttering to himself irresolutely, Ze Yue said, For the time being, it is still unclear. It depends on how well he can control the professional societies in the north; but since we want to do business in the north, naturally it will have some impact.

    Is your honorable gang ready to join, or already decided not to do so? Xu Ziling asked.

    Ze Yue replied, The reason I wanted to go to Hefei a bit earlier this time is to consult with the experts from various regions to get a good understanding of what they are thinking. If everybody is eager to join, our situation will be very difficult, we might have to follow the crowd and give in.

    Surprised, Kou Zhong said, How could Ze Xiong be that kind of person?

    Smiling wryly, Ze Yue replied, When all is said and done, I am just a businessman; whether I stay or I move, I have to consider the pros and cons first. Oh! I have not yet consulted two gentlemen, you take the trouble to move the troops in such a military expedition, who are you dealing with?

    Kou Zhong replied, Who else but Cao Yinglong and Zhu Can, those two big bastards?

    Feeling deep veneration, Ze Yue said, Turns out those two who kill people like scything flax, the demons who dont speak the rules of Jianghu. If there is anything that requires Ze Yues help, as long as it is within my power, I will certainly do it at all costs.

    Kou Zhong said, Youd better keep your mind on your business first! But about Rong Fengxiang, we, two brothers, cannot ignore it, because he is another big bastard; he is even more terrifying than Cao Yinglong and Zhu Can. Therefore, we must take the time to go on a trip with Ze Xiong to Hefei; luckily it is on our way.

    What? Ze Yue cried out involuntarily.

    Kou Zhong put on the mask he wore while battling Li Tianfan and Shen Luoyan at the Flying Horse Ranch, transforming him back into the middle-aged, wild man with eagle beak nose and a face full of beard. Naturally Xu Ziling did not dare to disguise himself as either Yue Shan or the Scarface Hero; hence he took out a mask that he had not worn yet. Changing shape in a single shake, he became a yellow-faced man with a rather tacky appearance, older than Kou Zhongs disguise. The two boys you look at me, I look at you, both were amused.

    Braving the rain, the three hastened on with their journey. In only two sichen traveling on foot, they arrived at Hefei in the afternoon. Sure enough, people of professional societies and trade organizations from all over came to attend the assembly. People and carriages came and went in an incessant stream.

    As soon as the three entered the city, they were met by Longyou Bangs people, who already arrived one step ahead. Obviously, Ze Yue, the son of the Gang Leader, had a very high position, although he did not introduce his two companions, his subordinates did not dare to ask.

    In Hefei, Longyou Bang opened a teashop at the main street connecting the north and the south gates of the city. The three were going to stay at the rear courtyard of this shop. While Ze Yue was listening to his mens report, since the two boys felt tired, after changing into dry clothes, they retired to their room to rest.

    Kou Zhong kicked off his boots, and sprawled his limbs on the bed [orig. in 大 (big) character shape]. He spoke to Xu Ziling, who was slumping on the chair, staring out the window, watching the rain, I really dont understand Lu Miaozi, why is it that every mask he made does not look flattering? Couldnt he make something a bit more attractive and pleasing to the eye?

    Xu Ziling muttered, Tell me, what do you think of Mr. Lus appearance?

    Kou Zhong replied, When he was young, he must be very handsome. Didnt you see he was still a good-looking fellow when he was already old? But what does it have to do with the mask?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Xu Ziling said, I dont know; there must be a little bit of relationship! When people are born, they are already destined to be handsome, ugly, horrid, or pretty. Under normal circumstances, this will not change, so we can only accept the reality. If I were Mr. Lu and I had the power to change the weather, naturally I would want to change into an entirely different face, to experience another, distinct identity, a different perception.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, If you put it that way, it does have a bit of truth in it. All right! Back to the topic: should we join hands to slaughter Rong Fengxiang?

    The rain stops! Xu Ziling said.

    Kou Zhong sat up from the bed; looking out the window, he said, This matter must be decided, we only have two days and one night to destroy Rong Fengxiangs scheme. Ay! I really dont understand why Wang Shichong did not deal with this demon. Yang Gongqing should have told him that Rong Fengxiang is Bi Chen, and Bi Chen is Pi Chen.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, Too much self-confidence is not a good thing. Even if Pi Chen is stupid enough to accidentally be alone to give us the opportunity to make our move, we may not necessarily be able to kill him. Much less he has Zuo Youxian watching his back, plus this is Fu Gongyous territory; there is no place for us to show off.

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, Its not that I have too much self-confidence at all; its just that we dont have much time.

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, If we cannot overcome the enemy by force, we must outsmart them. Isnt your belly full of crafty schemes? How about selecting one and telling me, so that I can increase my knowledge?

    Kou Zhong happily said, Listening to the tone of your voice, it seems that you already have a card up your sleeve. Tell me quickly.

    Laughing involuntarily, Xu Ziling said, We must first understand the situation! Tearing down a house is always easier than building a house.

    Emotionally moved, Kou Zhong said, That makes sense. By randomly swinging our hand, we can smash the cup, but to manufacture a cup, we must go through multi-layered process, such as kneading the clay to form the cup, and then put it into the kiln to burn. It can be said that Rong Fengxiang could reach the top position in Bai Ye She as an Elder also falls under this category. First he had to become big businessman with the help of his money and power [orig. long sleeves help one dance beautifully], then became the president of a business society, but still, it was because he gained the advantage of becoming the big boss of the biggest gang in the north that he seized the position as the Elder of Bai Ye She. Now he even wants to expand his influence north of the River, later on his evil clutches will reach the south; the process is really not easy. But as long as we can expose his identity, we can shatter his beautiful dream just like casting a cup to the ground.

    Xu Ziling said, Rong Fengxiang can take Shangguan Longs place as the Luoyang Bangs Laoda [number one, chief], its definitely not as simple as it appears on the surface. I dare say that there must be remnants of Yin Gui Paipeople within the Gang who could speak up on his behalf, plus Rong Fengxiang himself is in collusion with Yin Gui Pai in the dark

    Shaken, Kou Zhong said, You are right. It is quite possible that in order to gain big advantage in their struggle to conquer the world, most of those his mothers Demonic Sects Eight Big Martial Art Masters are willing to stand on the same front, to get hold of the wind, to get hold of the rain, all over the place to gain benefit at others expense. Without Zuo Youxian giving him a nod, how could he hold Bai Ye She general assembly in Hefei?

    And then he added, Youd better disguise yourself as Yue Shan, call on your old friend Youxian Yaodao to fish for some information.

    Xu Ziling laughed and cursed, I guarantee that before we finish drinking a cup of hot Xu Ziling tea, I would have revealed the cloven foot [idiom: to unmask ones true nature]. You, this kid, clearly want to harm me.

    This moment Ze Yue entered the room with grave expression; he said, I am going to see someone; if he is willing to support the refusal to join Bai Ye She, there will be a lot of people responding.

    Sitting at the edge of the bed, Kou Zhong asked, Who is this person?

    Ze Yue walked over to the chair next to Xu Ziling to sit down, he said, His name is An Long. This man is known as the Sichuan Fat Merchant, the biggest wine dealer in the southwest, but he also runs other businesses. He is the chief of multiple business associations.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, In this world, everybody drinks, and he is the biggest wine seller in the southwest, certainly he has a bit of influence. Does he know martial art?

    His martial art skill is mediocre, Ze Yue replied, But his sworn brother is Sichuans powerful hegemon, the Wulin Panguan [Wulin (Martial Art World) Magistrate], Xie Hui. Xie Huis son Xie Wenlong married Song Ques daughter Song Yuhua. With such a strong backing, whod dare to provoke him?

    Emotionally moved, Kou Zhong said, I heard that Xie Huis dominance and his standing is the most prominent outside the Four Major Family Clans, and Xie Huis martial art is comparable to the Heavenly Saber Song Que. Oh! I must see this man.

    Hows the Bai Ye Shes the situation? Xu Ziling asked.

    Ze Yue replied, Rong Fengxiang and his beautiful daughter have arrived in Hefei three days ago. They are now moving about all over the place, lobbying business leaders who are coming here from all over the place. Bai Ye She general assembly will be held in the Zongguan Mansion tomorrow morning. We dont have much time.

    Kou Zhong sprang up and said, Theres no time to lose. Lets go see An Long first, and well talk later.

    Steam was rising in the public bath.

    In the VIP bathroom at the west hall, the two-zhang square bath was monopolized by An Long alone. More than a dozen bodyguards and personal attendants were spread out around the bath and all entrance and exits, each one had bulging taiyang acupoints [temples], evidently they were not ordinary martial art practitioners; it was a clear sign of An Longs wealth and influence.

    An Long was a big, fat man. It was unclear whether it was because he had too much excess fat that his hands, which appeared particularly short, seemed to grow directly from his big belly. His flat-top, melon-shaped head, seemed to be coming out straight from his fat shoulders; plus with his two thick fat lips, it was evident at a glance that he was a man who paid particular attention to eating, drinking and being merry. The water in the bath was overflowing to the rocky slabs of the edge of the pool, making people wondered whether the water level was like this because of him.

    This moment he was perched in the corner of the pool, while a subordinate squatting by the pool was preparing some shredded tobacco in water pipes to produce the smoke. He held the pipe next to An Longs lips, so that with glug, glug noise he swallowed clouds and blew out fog, giving the impression comfort and decadent, twisted feeling.

    When Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong and Ze Yue, three men arrived inside the bathroom, before they even had a chance to speak, An Long already laughed aloud and said, Tianwen Xiong cannot come, virtuous nephew can; its the same. Come quickly, accompany me enjoying this pleasure.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhongs heart skipped a beat. If they revealed the age and skin behind the masks, their youthful bodies would come out, then they would reveal the cloven foot immediately.

    Ze Yue, however, showed his talent in facing a stressful situation; he laughed and said, How could little nephew dare to disobey An Laobans [boss] order?

    And then he quickly took off his clothes and shoved it into the twos hands, and said, You two wait for me outside the door.

    With only this kind of affectation and order, he established the two boys status as his attendants in front of An Long and his men, but of course they were still able to head the conversation inside the public bath from outside the door.

    Outside was a small hall where the attendants of the VIP guests could take a rest. It only had two sets of table and chairs; An Longs men occupied one of them. After exchanging propriety and greetings, the two sat on the other table and chairs, enjoying the fragrant tea and pastries that the bathhouse servants were serving.

    This moment An Long was inquiring from Ze Yue the wellbeing of his father, the Gang Leader of Longyou Bang, so they had not talked about the main issue. Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, What do you feel about this fatty?

    Xu Ziling responded softly, He must be a hidden-deep martial art master; his outward appearance is just a scam.

    Kou Zhongs expression turned grave; he nodded and said, I also feel that deeply; as soon as I entered the bathroom, I sensed some kind of hard-to-describe demonic qi, my heart was trembling, just like when I confronted Wanwan.

    Shaken, Xu Ziling said, That is really bad! This dead fatty is the sage presents as an ordinary person like this, he must be Rong Fengxiangs caliber; even worse, he might be one of the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Way, so this time, no matter what Ze Yue say, he would only waste his lips and tongue.

    Kou Zhongs expression was only very difficult to describe; he said, Lets hear what he has to say before making our judgment.

    Ze Yues voice came over, This time I am going out, Die warned a thousand times, instructed ten thousand times, that in everything little nephew must consult An Shishu [noble uncle, younger than ones father], so I wont make any mistake.

    Outside, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling cried, Its finished! inwardly. If Ze Yue really listened to An Longs instruction, wouldnt he immediately change his standing and join Bai Ye She?

    An Long let out a burst of laughter, which sounded like a pigs cry, and said, Your Old Die think so highly of me, An Long; Ol An will immediately send him a jar of Hei Zhen Tian [lit. black treasure sweet] wine. Its the best among the wines; the color is sparkling and translucent, clear and penetrating, shiny and dazzling, mellow and rich, sweet and beautiful, the taste is sweet and sour. After drinking it, the saliva and spirit will be in harmony, the stomach warm, the kidney restored, nourishing and strengthening the body. All those empty perspiration, night sweats, grieved spirit, shady exhaustion, and illness will disappear with the wines arrival. If I had not gotten a batch of black pearl rice from Tianzhu [modern day India], I would have not been able to brew this kind of wine, hence it can only be gifted, but not sold. And of course the recipient of the gift is limited to old friends with whom I have fate for friendship like Tianwen Xiong.

    Listening to this, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were flabbergasted.

    Merely speaking about eloquence, this man had definitely reached the pinnacle; his mouth like a torrent, nothing was difficult. Moreover, each word was powerful and resonating [orig. if thrown on the floor, it will make a sound], there was a very high degree of persuasiveness. Upon self-inspection, after listening to him, the two really wished to find one such jar to have a taste, to see if he was exaggerating.

    Letting out a hollow laugh, Ze Yue said, My Die thanks An Shishus profound affection. Hey! This time Rong Laoban calls for our associates north of the River to join the Bai Ye Association, I wonder what Shishus view is.

    An Long pondered for a moment before responding in low voice, This is really an important matter. Although we have always been doing things each in his own way, but we get along harmoniously, just like xiang xue [fragrant snow] wine mixed with jia fan [lit. added to food] wine; the existing strong fragrance of xiang xue and the sweetness of jia fan will display thick, pure aroma, which gives lingering aftertaste. Rong Fengxiang is coming north flaunting his power, clearly because he wanted to expand Bai Ye Shes influence. This matter must be carefully weighed.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling put down the load that has been weighing their heart for half a day, thinking that they have been overly suspicious, and have misjudged An Long, or perhaps even though An Long was of demonic sect, he was standing in opposition to Rong Fengxiang, hence he secretly pulled his hind legs.

    Delighted, Ze Yue said, In that case, Shishu is saying that we are to join together and refuse to join Bai Ye Association.

    Lowering his voice, An Long said, If we do that, we are big idiots.

    Hearing that, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong looked at each other; they were completely lost.

    Inside the bathroom, evidently Ze Yues comprehension was not much better than theirs. He spoke haltingly, Shishus meaning is


    It was unclear whether An Long forcefully slapped Ze Yue, or he slapped his own fatty meat to liven things up, but all they heard was An Long laughing and saying, Yue Shizhi [noble nephew] has always been a bit soft. If it were your Ol Die who came over, he and I would have the same way of thinking. Business is business; the most important thing is to make money. Joining Bai Ye She would only bring benefit to business, without any harm; what do you have against it?

    Ze Yue asked the question Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong most dying to ask, But Shishu just said, hey! There is something wrong with Rong Fengxiang.

    An Long replied, Whether there is something wrong with Rong Fengxiang is not important at all, the most important thing is that after we join Bai Ye She, we ought to decide who would become the Elders, who would have the right to speak.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong suddenly realized, they finally understood that they had not completely misjudged An Long; their only mistake was thinking that he was Rong Fengxiangs ally.

    Clearly he coveted the Bai Ye She Elder position, and wanted to snatch it away.

    Ze Yue was too stunned to say anything.

    An Long continued with assurance and composure, Although Rong Fengxiang is the big boss of Luoyang Bang, I have the support of Sichuans dominant power and the Song Family of south of the five ranges. If your honorable Gang also issues a call for action, then he will be well taken-care of. When the general assembly starts tomorrow, we will simply coerce him to elect new Elder. Ha! I want him to steal the chicken but cannot nibble away at the rice.

    Listening to this, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had a big headache; who would have thought that the situation was this complicated? Momentarily their mind was in chaos.

  18. #258
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 22 Chapter 4

    Book 22 Chapter 4 Starting Rumors and Creating Trouble

    In the restaurant, Ze Yue spoke in low voice, helplessly, Tell me what should I say? Should I say that I do not support him?

    Curious, Kou Zhong asked, Did your Ol Die really tell you to listen to his instruction?

    Smiling bitterly, Ze Yue replied, He only told me to look for An Long and consult him, simply because Die thought that he would not willingly succumb under Rong Fengxiang. This time I am spinning a cocoon around myself [idiom: enmeshed in a trap of ones own devising]. If I told him that earlier I was just being polite, wont it be a big joke?

    Xu Ziling said, This man An Long is really not simple; why did you say that his martial art skill is ordinary?

    Stunned, Ze Yue replied, But everybody says so.

    Xu Ziling said, With regards to identifying martial art masters, our school have a unique way, purely based on qi induction; it is very difficult to come up with any evidence.

    Ze Yues countenance changed, he said, If it is true, than that is indeed a possibility. Do you think he is a Yin Gui Pai man?

    His heart moved, Xu Ziling said, Within the demonic schools, apart from Yin Gui Pai, there are still a lot tributaries; for example, Zuo Youxian is from a sect called Dao Zu Zhenchuan [lit. Dao/Tao ancestors handed-down teachings]. However, if they are lumped together as Yin Gui Pai, perhaps it wont be totally wrong either.

    Kou Zhongs pair of tiger-eyes lit up; he laughed softly and said, Kid, you are messing up with those wicked people again!

    Naturally Ze Yue did not have interlinked-mind like they did; staring blankly at them, he asked, What are you guys talking about?

    Remaining tranquil and calm, Xu Ziling said, Ze Xiong need not mind what we are talking about. Tonight you must go to bed early, so that your spirit will be refreshed to deal with the Bai Ye general assembly tomorrow.

    Kou Zhong interrupted, But there is one very important thing: is Ze Xiong really unwilling to join the Bai Ye She?

    Smiling bitterly, Ze Yue said, All along I am just a businessman, everything depends on whats at stake. If even An Long join the association, there will be no lack of people responding to his move, then we might be isolated. That would be very bad.

    Full of confidence, Kou Zhong said, Ze Xiong is so forthcoming, you have enabled us to grasp the current situation so clearly. While we are at it, what is Ze Xiongs impression on Yin Gui Pai?

    Ze Yue pondered for a moment before answering, We are legitimate businessmen; what we are most afraid of is naturally swindlers and those who extort others. All Yin Gui Pai people seem to be full of hatred and have deep enmity toward everybody else, completely lacking comradeship, ready to harm others at the slightest pretext; nobody wants to provoke them.

    Kou Zhong relaxed; he said cheerfully, As long as most people participating in the Bai Ye general assembly tomorrow are of the same opinion as Ze Xiong, it will work!

    Lightly trembling, Ze Yue said, Two gentlemen are not going to expose Rong Fengxiang and An Longs identity on the spot, are you? Thats not funny, especially ay!

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Ze Xiong, dont worry, we cant possibly put your honorable Bang in difficult situation.

    Ze Yue was skeptical, What good plan do the gentlemen have? he asked.

    Kou Zhong patted Ze Yues shoulder, and said with a laugh, The less Ze Xiong know, the better. Dont go around lobbying those of the same opinion either, to avoid Rong Fengxiang and An Long find out that you are not willing to join the association.

    Turning toward Xu Ziling, he said, Xu Junshi, please point out the next step.

    In the small alley, the two boys sat side-by-side on a street corner, just like during their little-hoodlums day back in Yangzhou.

    Puzzled, Kou Zhong said, The sun has already gone down! What exactly are we going to do?

    Xu Ziling said, First of all, I want to see if An Long has seen through us.

    Knitting his brows, Kou Zhong asked, Do you have a feeling that we are being followed?

    Xu Ziling replied, When we just left the bathhouse, I had that feeling, but it disappeared very quickly.

    Emotionally moved, Kou Zhong said, Your unique ability has never been wrong; who might have the skill of following us without you discovering his track?

    Xu Ziling said, Definitely martial art masters of Wanwans caliber or near that level; cant say for sure, but it might be Wanwan herself.

    Kou Zhong let out a heavy sigh and said, That possibility is too great! We can hide from anybody else, but we can never hide from this yaonu.

    Xu Ziling said, Even if Wan yaonu could see it through, before the general assembly tomorrow morning, she wont make any move against Longyou Bang, we can take advantage of tonight to stir up Rong Fengxiang and An Longs nests.

    Slapping his thigh, Kou Zhong laughed and said, These words fit with what I have in mind. How are we going to proceed? Would Ling Shao give direction?

    Xu Ziling said, The first move is called starting a rumor.

    Staring blankly, Kou Zhong said, We have only one night; are you saying that we ought to go everywhere and all directions to tell people?

    Xu Ziling laughed in spite of himself, At the restaurant just now, didnt you put an act like you completely understood? Turns out it was indeed just an act.

    Embarrassed, Kou Zhong said, I thought you were going to assert that Rong Fengxiang was Yin Gui Pai man!

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, You did not guess wrong. Right now lets see if we could get a dozen or so jars of paint.

    Stunned, Kou Zhong said, All the general stores are already closed; where could we buy some paint?

    Remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, Xu Ziling replied, I said get, not buy. If we buy, people will be able to trace it back to us, but if we get it, the paint might just disappear with no reason.

    Kou Zhongs eyes lit up, Good boy, he exclaimed, You are surely an expert in starting a rumor.

    Xu Ziling elbowed Kou Zhongs flank, sprang up, and said, Lets go!

    The two boys, carrying a pail of red paint in their left hand, a big paintbrush in their right hand, stopped in front of the outside wall facing the street of a house at the southern part of the city.

    It was already past the third watch [between 11pm 1 am], they saw no other pedestrian on the street; there was only the sound of dogs barking inside the houses.

    Due to the bad weather, the dark clouds were hanging low; after nightfall, the city of Hefei fell into desolate darkness.

    Putting down the pail of paint, Kou Zhong gesticulated in front of the wall, which was about a zhang and a half tall, and said, With characters about a chi high, it should be enough to write Rong Fengxiang is Pi Chen, yaodao [demon Taoist] of Yin Gui Pai in disguise, fourteen characters [trust me, the original Chinese has 14 characters].

    Xu Ziling nearly laughed until his belly hurt, but he knew that he must not laugh aloud because he might disturb people from their clear dream, so he struggled hard to refrain from laughing. Chuckling softly, he said, Why be superfluous? Rong Fengxiang is Yin Gui Pai yaodao is enough. Who cares about his original name? No need to draw legs on a snake even more by adding in disguise at the end, two redundant words.

    Fortunately, Kou Zhong was wearing his mask, so that his blushing face was not visible. Embarrassed, he cleared his throat and recited, Rong Fengxiang is Yin Gui Pai yaodao, ha! Uh, it is a bit inappropriate. Yin Gui Pai is well-known as a Sect that produces yaonu [female demon], and not yaodao. Since this is a rumor anyway, why not give him a position? For example, Rong Fengxiang is Yin Gui Pais secret Protector of the Law, or something like that.

    Xu Ziling laughed so hard that he had to put his hand on Kou Zhongs shoulder for support. Gasping for breath, he said, Since there is secret law protector, there should also be secret sect leader. So whats the difference between these secret law protector and secret sect leader with the ordinary law protector or ordinary Bangzhu?

    Distressed, Kou Zhong said, Turns out starting a rumor is a special skill. You say it then! What his mothers thing should we write on this snow-white virgin wall?

    Biting his lower lip, Xu Ziling pondered, We must consider the words carefully; Bai Laofuzi [see Book 1 Chapter 1] only knew how to teach four common characters of classical Chinese, he never taught us how to start a rumor.

    A tender, gentle and sweet-sounding female voice suddenly rang out from behind the two boys, Whatever you write is not a problem, as long as at the end you add there is a Taichi [the Absolute or Supreme Ultimate, the source of all things according to some interpretations of Chinese mythology, the same Taichi of Zhang Sanfeng (Wudang)] mark on his chest as a sign, that will do.

    The two boys soul nearly flew away and scattered. It should be noted that with the two boys acute senses, even though because they were laughing and joking their mind was distracted, they should not have let someone coming behind them quietly without they knowing it.

    Turning around in shock, they saw the light-and-pure-as-a-fairy, wearing-mens-clothing Shi Feixuan, standing gracefully behind them, with the indescribably touching beautiful appearance, in her simplicity and elegance, as well as distinguished and accomplished posture.

    The two boys stared at her with blank expression on their faces, too stunned for words.

    Shi Feixuans jade countenance was as tranquil as the surface of the water without any ripple. With a light movement and jade steps, she leisurely walked over to Kou Zhongs other side. With a hidden smile on her face, she said, Its lucky that two gentlemen came up with a brilliant scheme of fighting poison with poison. Although Feixuan painstakingly thought about it, I still cant do anything to him.

    Sniffing the sweet scent coming out of her body, Kou Zhong spoke in low voice, Turns out Xianzi [goddess/fairy] already knew he is Pi Chen yaodao; therefore, you have been trying not to let him prevail. Am I right?

    Shi Feixuan calmly replied, Although I felt that this man Rong Fengxiang is not simple at all, I did not know that he is Pi Chen in disguise, until I heard your discussion just now. And now I am starting to understand.

    Hearing her immortal-music like voice, Xu Ziling calmed down. Everywhere he looked, the dark and lone long street was immediately transformed into a wonderful place thick with immortal aura; everything ordinary, commonplace, unremarkable, has become not ordinary. Even the wall in front of his eyes became brimming with some kind of hard to describe significance, as if it contained endless possibilities.

    While Xu Ziling was experiencing the change of mood, Kou Zhong elbowed his flank, and said proudly, Did you hear that? Just now, if I did not say clearly in disguise, two words, how could Shi Xianzi know that Rong Fengxiang is Pi Chen in disguise?

    Anybody would know that Kou Zhong was cracking a joke. Shi Feixuan smiled and said, All right, you get all the credit. But there is one thing I want to clarify: I am not a Xianzi, you may call me Shi Xiaojie [Miss], Shi Guniang [also Miss], but please stop calling me Shi Xianzi!

    Beating the snake following the stick Kou Zhong said, In that case, can we call you Feixuan? Now, at least for the time being, we all can be considered partners, naturally we must not consider the other too much of a stranger.

    Shi Feixuan declined to comment; changing the subject, she said, Arent you going to write on the walls all over the city? Why havent you started?

    Embarrassed, Kou Zhong said, My calligraphy skill is too shameful, it would be better for you, Feixuan, to hold the brush, your persuasiveness will improve the sentence a thousand times, ten-thousand times.

    Shi Feixuan smiled and said, I can only be a little accomplice, to be on the lookout for the two gentlemen. Floating backward, in the blink of an eye she disappeared into the darkness of the small alley.

    The two boys looked at each other. Their spirit was greatly aroused, with the new information there is a Taichi mark on his chest as a sign, the only thing Rong Fengxiang would be able to argue was whether he belonged to the good way or the demonic way. Moreover, this kind of demonic sects symbol must have a very special purpose that it was imprinted on him. Naturally people with knowledge and experience would grow suspicious; even if he argue, it would not have too much of an impact.

    Leaning toward Xu Zilings ear, Kou Zhong said, You are too happy that you acted like a fool; meeting your sweetheart you did not say anything.

    Xu Ziling was at a loss dealing with him. Picking up the red paint, which had been set aside, he straightforwardly and neatly painted on the wall: Rong Fengxiang is Yin Gui Pai yaoren [demon/sorcerer], if you dont believe, just look at the Taichi demon mark on his chest, in two lines, twenty-one words, in blood-red large characters, which were shocking the eye, astonishing the heart.

    By the time Xu Ziling returned to Kou Zhongs side, Kou Zhong was looking at the writing on the wall with rapt attention, How long has it been since you wrote the last time? he asked in astonishment.

    Xu Ziling replied, After leaving Yangzhou, I deal with saber, spear, sword and staff a lot, but never touched the shaft of a writing brush.

    Pointing to the two lines of characters on the wall, Kou Zhong said, The first few characters are barely recognizable as your handwriting, which was previously nothing to be ashamed of, but the calligraphic style is continuously changing. By the last few characters, they look like someone elses calligraphic style. No! I should say that it looks more like you now: graceful, proud and aloof. It really has a coming-out-of-the-dust feeling.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, This is indeed very strange. When I moved the brush to write, unconsciously I was putting my martial art principle into it. I felt that the brush sweeping under my hands control received and transmit my hearts intention; whatever style I wanted, that was the style being projected. It was extremely delightful.

    Kou Zhong lifted up the paint bucket. Eager to try, he said, Xiongdi! The next one is my turn!

    The two boys stood in front of another wall and looked at another set of two lines of characters, critically examining their handiwork.

    How about that? Kou Zhong asked in low voice.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, Indeed, the more you write, the more it looks different; brimming with swords-drawn-and-bows-bent, showing-off-your-full-ability feeling. Evidently, when you said you cannot find the treasure trove and curbing your spiritual cultivation, giving up and not doing it, everything was just to deceive people.

    Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, You are teasing me again! As a brother, cant you not do that?

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, We dont have much time, might as well practice our calligraphy skill. The last one will be the Zongguan Mansion perimeter wall. By daybreak, even if Jianghuai Army found out about it, they would not be able to scrub that many walls.

    Happy and excited, the two boys went around.

    Whenever they heard Shi Feixuans warning them in their ears, they quickly hid into an alley, held their breath and waited.

    This moment it was only a bit more than half a sichen before dawn, they had put their calligraphic masterpiece on approximately a hundred walls along the big streets everywhere; it was such a glorious accomplishment.

    Firelight from afar came near, a squad of twelve city guards was patrolling this area, the lantern faintly illuminated the red characters on the wall, but the soldiers did not seem to see anything unusual, they simply walked pass the wall.

    Like two little children, the two boys squealed in low voice, showing they were very pleased with themselves. After joking around for half a day, Kou Zhong said, Should be enough! It would be ideal if we could write on both sides of the Zongguan Mansions main gate like a pair of antithetical couplets, so that our two brothers calligraphy work will reflect each other.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, Arent we getting too greedy? We now have enough rumors to damage Rong Fengxiangs reputation. Although the Zongguan Mansions gate is closed, there would be troops keeping watch over it both covert and undercover; if they discovered it was our handiwork, they might rush before daybreak to cover several most prominent walls, our hard work so far would be wasted.

    Kou Zhongs heart was still unbearably itchy; he said, If we dont deface the Zongguan Mansion, I would feel that we have not fully expressed ourselves. How about if we wait until just a moment before daybreak before making our move? By the time the enemy found out, it would be too late to blot out our beautiful calligraphy.

    Xu Zilings childish nature was aroused; he accompanied Kou Zhong jumping onto the roof of a nearby building, and then jumped from roof to roof toward the house across the street from the Zongguan Mansion.

    They were both extremely daring men to begin with, and now that they had Shi Feixuan watching their back, they had no fear even more.

    A short moment later they reached a magnificent residential building. Crouching behind the roof ridge craning their neck, they were able to see the Zongguan Mansion towering ahead, dark, without any sign of light, and they did not detect any movement either.

    Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, This meal seems to be very easy to eat.

    Shi Feixuan noiselessly came over and landed on Kou Zhongs other side. So whats your plan? she spoke softly.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, We are just waiting for daybreak; as soon as the Zongguan Mansions wall has become the media on which we spread the rumor, then we can stop satisfactorily.

    Shi Feixuan said, I still have an important matter to attend to, I cant accompany you till daybreak.

    Disappointed, Kou Zhong said, We have some things wed like to consult you, but you are in such a hurry to leave.

    Helpless, Shi Feixuan said, I was also hoping to speak in details with two gentlemen, but I have to deal with important matters first; a bit later Feixuan will come to see you, all right?

    Her gaze flitted over Kou Zhong, and floated to Xu Ziling, Ill see you later! she spoke gently.

    Xu Ziling turned his head; with a bit of dejected gaze, he cast a deep glance at Shi Feixuan, and then hurriedly said, The Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Way, other than Zhu Yuyan, Pi Chen, You Wujuan and Zuo Youxian, who are the others?

    Slightly startled, Shi Feixuan said, This matter is complicated and not easy to express succinctly, well talk when we meet again!

    Just like that, she floated away.

  19. #259
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 22 Chapter 5

    Book 22 Chapter 5 The Lotus Ring at The Center of The Sky

    Kou Zhong leaned over to Xu Zilings ear and whispered, Shi Feixuan falls in love with you. Because she fell in love with you, both times she avoided you by coming to Xiaodis side.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, On the contrary, that was the way she hinted that there is a formless, yet impassable chasm between the two of us. When she took her leave, she made a point of saying goodbye to me, hence her feeling is even more self-evident.

    Kou Zhong was dumbstruck. After being left speechless for half a day, suddenly wrapped his arm around Xu Zilings shoulder and hugged him fiercely, while speaking in distress, We, two brothers, both have broken heart within our bosom! If not separation in life, then it is parted by death. But one more day we did not die, we can still find something to do. My choice is the ever onward, no return; the path of the contending for hegemony over the world. These past couple of days I have thought about a lot of things, finally I realized that only by facing difficulties and challenges one by one, and setting my eyes on the great undertaking of unifying the world will my spirit have somewhat of a hope. Xiongdi, whether we can find the Duke Yang Treasure or not, I will let you leave, and I will be glad that you leave. If one day I die in battle, you will take a good care of Little Lingzhong for me.

    Xu Ziling suddenly felt like crying; all kinds of emotion bubbled up in his heart.

    They were both orphans; they were mutually dependent for their survival since they were little. Growing up in the you-hoodwink-me-and-I-cheat-you, power-is-everything kind of environment, other than complete trust toward each other, they had always had skeptical attitude toward other people. Fu Junchuo was the first person who won their genuine affection, next to her was Susu. But both of them died one after another, so the cruel blow toward the two boys was hard to accept.

    On the road of love, the two boys experienced layer upon layer of twists and turns.

    Kou Zhong suffered heartache from Li Xiuning and Song Yuzhi in succession, which made him focusing all his energy on the great undertaking of contending over the world. If this goal were to be taken away from him, he would have nothing at all. At least, at this stage, this was the situation he was facing.

    Due to heartless hint from Shi Feixuan just now, Xu Ziling was emotionally hurt as well. In that instant, he suddenly understand completely Kou Zhongs complicated frame of mind.

    If he said that he did not have the slightest admiration toward Shi Feixuan, this fresh and elegant, exquisite peerless beauty, he would only deceive others and deceive himself.

    He remembered Shi Feixuans tale of the boy who watches the concoction of pills of immortality, thinking that by telling this story, not only Shi Feixuan was straightening him out, the fact was that she was appearing to be praising others while actually praising herself, expressing that she would never let herself falling into any kind of emotion in this world, which was only illusory.

    Kou Zhong suddenly pulled his mask and stuffed it into his bosom, but his mouth said, Ay! I forgot to mention to Shi Feixuan that that Hou Xibai might be a big muddled egg [i.e. a jerk/scoundrel].

    Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling asked, Why must you reveal your face?

    Kou Zhong pulled his hand from around Xu Zilings shoulder; exposing his white, shiny teeth, he laughed and said, Because my heart is suddenly very painful, hence I want to go all out, to find several people to test my saber; it would be best if we can find Rong Fengxiang himself.

    Puzzled, Xu Ziling asked, You are not afraid of revealing our trace, and let the enemy knows?

    Kou Zhongs eyes were flashing with murderous intent; he spoke in heavy voice, If others really find out about it, perhaps there will be strange effect instead. In the case of Du Fuwei, if he learned that I am here, he would not suspect that Chen Changlin and his men might catch him off guard and mount a sneak attack against him. If the Three Big Bandits and Zhu Can knew that I came here, they might setup a trap, tighten their troop formation to wait for me. Who would ever have thought that I am actually going to deal with Xiao Xian?

    Xu Ziling remained silent.

    Kou Zhong pushed him away, and looked intently at him; he said, I have spoken so reasonably, why havent you taken off your mask?

    Xu Ziling gazed at him, he met Kou Zhongs stare, his eyes carried a deep, strong feeling, as he spoke gently, Is it because I am encountering and feeling pain in my heart?

    Kou Zhongs entire body, from head to toe, shook. Burying his face on the roof tile, he spoke in distress, Quite possibly Shi Feixuan is the only woman in the world who can move your heart, yet unexpectedly she treated you like this. The heaven above is really unfair. Whenever I think that I am going to go through fire and water in the battlefield, and you will travel alone along the lonely journey, I just want to cry, to vent the resentment in my heart. Ay! It is actually better that Su Jie died.

    Xu Ziling slowly took off his mask, and spoke heavily, Go! You might as well kill Rong Fengxiang, once the main problem is solved, all troubles are solved [or, death ends all ones troubles]. Dont forget to bring the paint and the brush.

    The two boys leaped over the high wall. Very soon they reached the flower garden of the rear courtyard. The security at Hefeis Zongguan Mansion was very sloppy; as soon as they passed the sentry guarding the multi-story buildings on the outer ring, it was as if they were entering a no-mans land.

    Of course, they would not treat it lightly. Out of the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic School, at least two were here, and the two boys were fully aware how formidable Rong Fengxiang was. Merely Rong Fengxiangs craftiness would not be easy to deal with. But now all they needed to do was to make commotion and expose their whereabouts.

    Giggling, Kou Zhong was looking for a wall facing the garden, and painted red characters Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were here. Whispering in Xu Zilings ear, he said, What do you think of these two lines?

    Really strange, Xu Ziling answered, That kind of power is a lot more understated, but I feel more tension instead. I like these few characters.

    Kou Zhong was so happy that he felt like roaring in laughter; he said, This is called progress. People are constantly changing; calligraphy must also constantly be changing. If calligraphy never change, then it stands for stagnation.

    After a short pause, he said, All right, that should do it. Now, where are we going to find Pi Chen, that yaodao?

    Xu Ziling was about to answer, suddenly an alarm went off in his heart. Quickly he pulled Kou Zhong to hide under a small bridge across the small stream from the garden rockery.

    A man, as fat as a wine barrel, jumped down from the eaves, lithe like a cat; the tip of his toes slightly tapped the grass, in the blink of an eye he already flew into the pavilion, which was connected to the small bridge, only separated by approximately a ten-step long gravel path.

    The garden covered an area with perimeter of more than twenty zhang, the trees, flowers and plants were tastefully chosen. But since Kou Zhongs calligraphic masterpiece was on the wall behind a row of bamboo grove, it was not visible from the pavilion.

    Kou Zhong pulled his craning neck back, and said with astonishment, Its An Long. We really did not make any error of judgment.

    Xu Ziling signaled him not to make any noise.

    There was a sound of fluttering sleeve, followed by a majestic voice said, What is it? What is so urgent that it cannot wait till tomorrow?

    Kou Zhong thought it was Zuo Youxian, but then he noticed Xu Zilings bewildered expression, hence he knew Xu Ziling did not recognize the voice.

    And then the man shouted, Its none of your business in here, get lost far away for me. Without my order, dont come into the garden.

    Seven, eight men acknowledged the order and withdrew out of the garden.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged glances; they had a vague guess as who the speaker was.

    An Long sat down on the stone bench inside the pavilion; he sighed and said, You and I are, after all, martial brothers; how could you not cherish old affection the slightest bit?

    The man sneered coldly and said, The one who did not remember old affection is you, not me, Fu Gongyou. Fifteen years ago I broke away from Tian Lian Zong [lit. heavenly lotus school/sect], that moment I was already not your Shidi, let alone now; you and I have nothing to do with each other. I do whatever I want to do, its none of your business to interfere.

    As expected, he was Du Fuweis sworn brother, the Jiang Huai Armys second in command, Fu Gongyou. What was unexpected was that he came from a demonic school, and was An Longs younger martial brother.


    The stone table was smashed and crumpled to the ground.

    How dare you! An Long angrily said, After entering our Tian Lian Men, how could as soon as you say you want to withdraw and you withdraw just like that? In the past, I put up with you just because I remembered the old affection between martial brothers, plus I saw that your accomplishment did not come easy. And now you are colluding with Laojun Temple and their direct disciples to deal with me, openly treating me as your enemy. You must be tired of living!

    Inwardly Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling cried how lucky they were.

    An Longs palm strike was yin and soft in nature; merely by listening to the sound, they knew that it seemed to be light, floating, without any strength; yet it was able to crush a solid stone table into powder. Just this kind of skill, not many in Jianghu would be able to accomplish. If they had not arrived at the garden one step earlier, or they had not hidden in time, there was no way they would be able to hide from this demonic school martial art master.

    Fu Gongyou was a preeminent hegemon over certain territory, just from the fact that he shouted his men to withdraw, and came without any attendants, it was clear that he was not afraid of An Long, so this time he was not intimidated by him at all.

    They heard him laughing coldly and said, In all my life I have had bad temper, I am never willing to owe anybody any debt, but if anybody ever owes me anything, it must be repaid. For the last fifteen years, I have not chased after you to ask for Shizuns [revered master] debt of blood, but now the time has come.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had a sudden understanding; they just realized that Fu Gongyou was using this Bai Ye General Assembly to force An Long out of his hiding.

    An Long did not get angry, he laughed instead. Gasping for breath, he said, Such a good joke. Shizuns death was due to him practicing the Tian Xin Lian Huan [Lotus Ring in the Center of the Sky] and suffered fire deviation, so much so that the blood passage in his entire body burst and he died. Just because his bones did not survive, what does it have to do with me, An Long? And now that I sit on the Lian Zhu [lit. lotus master/lord] position, you are harboring hard feelings, sucking in blood and spewing people? Humph! I, An Long, in my capacity as the Tian Lian Zongs Lianzhu, am going to clean up the school on behalf of the Heavens way.

    A gloomy, mournful voice came from the other end of the small bridge, Now that is really a joke. Even if you mastered the Tian Xin Huan, this time dont even think of leaving this place alive, much less raving about cleaning up your school.

    Xu Ziling did not have Shi Qingxuans skill of focusing voice into a thread and sending it into Kou Zhongs ear, therefore, he had to resort to manually writing the character Zuo on Kou Zhongs back, so that the latter immediately knew that it was Zuo Youxian.

    Surprisingly, An Long did not get angry, he acted surprised instead, and said, If I am not mistaken, the two of you are passionate rivals, like fire and water; one time you even fought until the heaven falls and the earth rends; how come today you two seem to be venting your anger from the same nostril? What happened? Did the world really reverse its rotation?

    Fu Gongyou coldly said, Other than fabricating crafty plots and machinations, offending Heaven and reason, you only know how to fart. Get lost! Killing you like this, it will be too convenient for you. I want to see you slowly wither and rot.

    Just by listening to the hatred in his voice, it was clear that even the entire water of the Great River would not be enough to wash away the enmity between he and An Long.

    An Long let out a burst of ear-splitting long laughter, which sounded a little like a pig being slaughtered; extremely uncomfortable to hear, as if his laughter was creating waves and rising a storm that went straight into the listeners bones and marrows.

    When the laughter stopped, An Long spoke indifferently, Do you think by sticking yourself to Du Fuwei you would be able to call the wind and summon the rain? Jiang Huai Armys good situation is just an illusion; it has reached the-sunset, the-end-of-the-road moment. If you dont believe me, lets just wait and see.

    With disdain in his voice, Zuo Youxian said, Do you think we dont know that you are secretly wooing Xiao Xian, Zhu Can and Cao Yinglong to deal with us?

    It was clear that An Long was stunned; momentarily he was dumbstruck.

    Fu Gongyou let out a long laugh and said, You have enjoyed good days for more than ten years, now you ought to have different taste. If you are not leaving, then you dont need to leave.

    An Long resolutely spoke the word Good! three times, and then his sleeves fluttered, he quickly went far away.

    Immediately Rong Fengxiangs voice rang out, Such a good opportunity, why let him go?

    It was only then did the two boys realize that Rong Fengxiang has been snooping on the side all long; they groaned inwardly. By this time, dawn was not too far away; if their presence was detected, and the three major martial art masters of the demonic school intercepted and besieged them, escaping would not be easy at all.

    Fu Gongyou spoke heavily, He has mastered the Tian Xin Lian Huan. If we forced him to break our siege with hard fighting, it will bring us more harm than good. After Bai Ye General Assembly, even if he wanted to slip away, it will be very difficult.

    Zuo Youxian nodded and said, If we kill him at this critical moment, the overall situation will be adversely affected.

    Rong Jiaojiaos voice was heard, Jiaojiao has a brazen thought: this time An Long came here to attend the meeting, he must have adequate preparation, so practically he is not afraid of us.

    Fu Gongyou said, What you said is very reasonable; lets go inside and talk about it.

    Inwardly Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling thanked the Heaven and thanked the Earth; after making sure that the four have left, they hurriedly left.

    The sky has just turned pale; the two boys swaggered along the street. They looked to the east and gazed to the west; seeing the shocking, eye-catching large red letters written on the walls, a very strange feeling crept up in their hearts.

    Clamoring noise started to come from a distance; turned out one of the restaurants has started to cater to the busy morning market. Kou Zhong laughed and said, How about drinking a bowl of soy milk and stuffing our tummy with a couple of steam buns first?

    Xu Ziling nodded his agreement.

    The restaurant actually has not started serving food yet, the two boys sat down in the corner, enjoying the hot soymilk.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, I had never imagined that this his mothers Bai Ye General Assembly actually involves struggle, gratitude and grudges of various demonic schools.

    Xu Ziling was frowning. There was something that he did not understand, There are so many people doing business, the competition among themselves is intense, you profit much means I profit less, those in the same line of business are like enemy countries, I dont understand why Rong Fengxiang wants to fight over the Bai Ye She Elder position. After obtaining it, what can he do? Would the business organizations, all the way down to traveling merchants and peddlers listen to his order like they were his subordinates?

    Kou Zhong raised his large bowl, drank a mouthful, shook his head and said, Thats impossible. In my opinion, there are two most important things: setting the price and controlling the supply of goods. As long as an elder gains the majority support, he can then setup the so-called business policy. For example, anybody who wants to buy wood from Longyou Bang, there will be different price for Bai Ye She members and outsiders, so much so that they would be allowed only to sell to Bai Ye She members. And then that Bai Ye She becomes a big conglomeration that enjoys market dominance of all trades ad businesses. Of course right now it is impossible, but in time, and add to it martial art force, what kind of situation it will become in the future, it is still very difficult to say.

    After a short pause, he continued, But in the short term, the Elder position of Bai Ye She becomes the target that big forces want to rope in; the position rises rapidly, there will be endless benefit to be gained. Its just that we are not businessmen at all, hence we do not understand it!

    Xu Ziling still did not understand, but just as he was about to speak, his heart was moved, he turned his gaze toward the entrance; unexpectedly it was Wanwan coming trippingly. Sitting in the chair opposite the two boys, she smiled and said, You guys forgot to wear that knickknack on your face!

    While rearranging the bowl and chopsticks, Koi Zhong laughed and said, When did Miss Wan arrive in Hefei? Why didnt you look for us earlier, so that we could have a good and leisurely talk about what happened after we parted, and comfort the pain of the yearning heart?

    There was a hint of mocking smile on Wanwans tender and beautiful, flowery jade countenance, as she spoke indifferently, Why would I want to look for you for no reason at all?

    Kou Zhong swept a fierce glance over at several restaurant attendants, who stopped what they were doing, intimidated by Wanwans radiant countenance, and were only staring at Wanwan. Immediately they came to their senses as if a bucket of cold water was poured down on their head; embarrassed, they continued their work.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, Why are you looking for us now?

    Wanwan cast a sidelong glance at him and said, Naturally its to deliver punishment to you. It is said that honest people do not do secretive things; you wanted to start a rumor or not, I dont have time to mind you. But why did you drag our Yin Gui Pai along?

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, This is called the implication of famous reputation, when gossip cease, it wont be mentioned anymore. Since Miss Wan has graced us with your presence, I wonder if youd allow me to ask a couple of questions.

    Even with Wanwans level of cultivation, dealing with him, she did not know whether she should laugh or cry. Slightly angry, she said, If what I am saying is gossip, then what you are saying is complete rubbish. If you dont give me a good confession, dont even think that I would answer you even for half a word.

    Knowing how to read appearance, distinguish countenance, the two boys knew that Wanwan was not really angry; so pushing the matter further, they knew that Wanwan was not on Rong Fengxiangs side.

    It was rather strange, because so far, Yin Gui Pai and Jiang Huai Army had a cooperative relationship. The only explanation was that Du Fuwei and Fu Gongyou, this pair of sworn brothers, were not as united as the outsiders thought.

    By this time, the number of pedestrians outside was growing; from time to time there were people spreading the news. Apparently the rumor walls have produced expected result: creating uproar in the city.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Shangguan Long was your Yin Gui Pais man; everybody in the world knows that. What is it to your honorable Sect if you have one person more or one person less? Sometimes you do me a favor, another time I do you a favor; this is a very common thing. At most I owe you an apology, Miss Wan, please calm down.

    Pfft! Wanwan broke into a giggle and said, Thats not too bad!

    The two boys looked at each other; they both could see the helplessness in the opposite partys heart.

    Toward Wanwan, they really had deep enmity and big hatred. In order to control the current situation, they had no choice but to feign civility; otherwise, they might wreck the big plan of rescuing the Flying Horse Ranch, then they would save a little only to lose a lot.

    Kou Zhong leaned back into his chair, to leisurely enjoy the scene on the street. He said, Your Demonic Schools Eight Major Martial Art Masters, besides You Niaojuan, Pi Chen yaodao, Zuo Youxian, An Long and your honorable Master, who are the other three?

    Wanwans expression slightly moved, she said, You are well-informed. What makes you think that I would tell you?

    Spreading his hands, Kou Zhong said, This cant be considered any extraordinary secret, someone bound to find out sooner or later, why not sell us a favor?

    Wanwans eyes turned to Xu Zilings face, and then she sighed faintly, dropped her gaze down, and said, You two are always able to soften my heart. Very well! I might as well tell you in details. Have you heard about Oh!

    Suddenly she left her seat and disappeared from the rear door.

    The two boys turned their heads toward where Wanwan was looking just now, and saw Ze Yue sticking his head inside and making a ruckus, Finally I found two gentlemen! Right now everybody is frightened, they are all scrambling away out of the city. Bai Ye General Assembly is finished!

  20. #260
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 22 Chapter 6

    Book 22 Chapter 6 Coincidental Karma

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling put on their mask. Mingling among the Longyou Bang people, they safely left the city. The streets were crowded to bursting point with people who came to participate in the Bai Ye General Assembly, but were now rushing out to flee.

    Just by looking at the scene of panic, they knew how powerful the rumor was.

    Ze Yue laughed and said in low voice, Two gentlemen are really formidable; without spending a soldier or a pawn, you broke Rong Fengxiangs wishful thinking.

    With a bit of unbelief, Kou Zhong said, This is really unexpected.

    Ze Yue said, The issue here is that all the veterans of various regions north of the River feel that Bai Ye She is coercing the north, taking advantage of the south. Two gentlemens fabricated rumor is not entirely unfounded; to say the least, Luoyang Bangs former Bangzhu Shangguan Long was a thousand-true, ten-thousand-certain, Yin Gui Pai demon. As business people, nobody dares to have any dealings with that kind of people from evil cult, peculiar sect, who disregard reasons and kill people indiscriminately; thereupon we seize the opportunity to disperse in confusion. Nobody could blame anybody.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had a weird sensation, feeling that all these were absurd and laughable.

    At this time the crowd was hurrying up the hill.

    Ze Yue cheerfully said, To be able to make friends with two gentlemen is really a rare karma. Now I want to immediately return to Longyou Bang to report to Die; when I have time another day, I will definitely call on two gentlemen.

    The two parties bade farewell in delight.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling spurred their horses to rush toward the place where they were going to rendezvous with Xuan Yong; in one breath they covered more than a dozen li, when heavy rain suddenly poured down, covering the heaven and earth in a vast expanse of whiteness.

    The two boys took shelter on the edge of the forest, while giving their horses a bit of rest.

    Kou Zhong leaped down from the horse, and squatted down on the ground, just like when they were little, while staring blankly at the heavy rain outside the forest. Light rain still penetrated down through the thick leaves above, sprinkling droplets of water on their bodies.

    The heavy rain stopped most travelers. Only those who, for a variety of reasons, were anxious to leave Hefei as far away as possible did not avoid the hardship by braving the rain to hasten on with their journey.

    Naturally Xu Ziling squatted by his side, and casually asked, What are you thinking?

    Kou Zhong replied, Yin Gui Pais demonic power is boundless, only by the mention of their name people are scared and running away like there was a demon-personifying pestilence.

    Xu Ziling wiped the rainwater accumulated on his eyes, but did not say anything.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, But what I was just thinking was not this matter; I was just feeling that something was not right.

    The last sentence attracted Xu Zilings attention; astounded, he asked about it.

    Kou Zhong spoke in heavy voice, It was a feeling of uneasiness. Do you remember Fu Gongyou said that Xiao Xian, Zhu Can and Cao Yinglong are working together with An Long threading the needle [fig. acting as a go-between]? But An Longs sworn brother Xie Hui is the Song Familys Miss Yuhuas father-in-law. Wouldnt it mean that the Song Family is, more or less, also implicated?

    Xu Ziling said, It is also possible that they completely have nothing to do with it. As I see it, An Longs identity is very much a secret, at least to the outsiders he presents himself as a man with mediocre martial art skill. The only thing that worries me is the cooperation between Xiao, Zhu and Cao, three men, which is not as simple as what we thought. We might have fallen into their scheme, and that would be absolutely terrible.

    Shaken, Kou Zhong said, You are right. Meeting this drenching rain head-on is like being awakened from a big dream. Just like we are leading more than a thousand troops going to the west, but the enemy is waiting for us with heart and soul. One thing went wrong, they would discover our track; the two of us might be able to escape, but the others would certainly meet their end. That would be greatly terrible.

    On the road outside the forest, a caravan of more than thirty carts slowly passed by. The road has been turning into mud, men and horses were unbearably weary.

    Xu Ziling said, I have an idea, which is moving our troops along the route that the enemy would never expect, but we must have someone who is familiar with the route leading us, otherwise, if we get lost, the result will be even worse.

    Kou Zhong shook his head, No! he said, We must get there in the quickest possible way. Ay! It seems like the only way is to hide during the day and travel during the night as was originally planned, and take his mothers a gamble.

    Suddenly the sound of hoof beats arose.

    The two boys jumped in fright. Just by listening to the hoof beats, they knew that there was a large group of riders coming this direction, braving the rain.

    They waited in silence. Not too long afterwards, hundreds Jiang Huai troops swept past, galloping to a certain destination in full speed.

    Stunned, Kou Zhong said, Did you see it?

    Nodding, Xu Ziling replied, Of course I did. I even recognized Rong Fengxiang, Zuo Youxian, among them. This time An Long is facing imminent catastrophe!

    Kou Zhongs spirit greatly aroused, he sprang up and said, Since we are heading that direction anyway, how could we miss this excitement?

    The sound of blades clashing against each other was getting closer and closer, by the time the two boys rushed over a small hill, the grassland shrouded by the heavy rain below was already covered in dead bodies. Under the leadership of Fu Gongyou, the Jiang Huai Army, which was reinforced by Rong Fengxiang and Zuo Youxian, two martial art masters, already gained overwhelming superiority. They were pursuing and attacking the enemy scattering in all directions.

    Exhaling a mouthful of cold air, Kou Zhong said, Unexpectedly there are so many people.

    Raising his hand to his forehead to shelter his eyes from the rain, Xu Ziling nodded and said, Jiang Huai Army numbers at least two thousands, the enemy is between seven, eight hundred men. Looks like Fu Gongyou already setup an ambush here, and then launched a pincer attack from the front and rear, in one move they crushed the enemys resistance. Looking at the way they are deploying the troops, surely it was a carefully thought strategy. No wonder Jiang Huai Army is able to move unhindered without suffering any defeat.

    The two boys galloped down to the plain to examine the dead and wounded, one of which had not breathed his last. Kou Zhong jumped down his horse and propped him up, What happened? he asked, Who are you? Who wanted to kill you?

    The man coughed up blood, looked like he would not make it. Kou Zhong transmitted his internal qi, the mans spirit was suddenly shaken, Its Fu Gongyou, he said in panic, We have fallen into their trap.

    Isnt your master An Long? Kou Zhong hastily asked.

    Shaking his head, the man replied, No! We are under General Bais leadership Ah

    Which side are you on? Kou Zhong called out, then he slowly put the man down on the ground, wiped his eyes, and then he stood up and raised his arms in a helpless gesture, and said, Which general is surnamed Bai?

    Xu Ziling knew he was not really asking for an answer. Casting his gaze around to inspect the situation on this side, he said, These men are dressed as traveling merchants. Obviously they wanted to conceal their original identity, so they were in some kind of conspiracy. If you chase them up to take a look, wont it be clear?

    Kou Zhong flew up to mount his horse and rode away.

    Xu Ziling caught up with him. Riding side by side, he said, Currently, to Fu Gongyou, nothing is more important than killing An Long. Therefore, although these men were not An Longs subordinates, they must have a little bit of relationship with An Long. We still have important matter at hand, do you really want to meddle in other peoples business?

    You are right! Kou Zhong agreed, Lets go.

    Reining in their horses, they turned around, bypassing the plain where the battle was still going on, passing through the forest and climbing over the slope, and then rushing along a ten-li stretch of road running parallel to a stream, before the two boys stopped.

    Even with their power, after enduring constant activities without sleeping day and night for several days, the two boys were finally unable to bear it anymore; they stopped on a hillside to rest. The horses ate the grass, the boys ate their dry rations.

    After the rain, the air on the open country was particularly fresh and clean. In this verdant and moist world, the mountain forest competed to be the most green-jade, the wild flowers strived for the most colorful.

    Sunlight penetrated the black cloud, sprinkling a piece of its light on the east, and a column of ray on the west. Looking at the marvel of an enormous, irregular shadow cast by a clump of clouds rapidly traversing the plains, Kou Zhong was overwhelmed with emotion. He said, Wind and cloud! The wind blows the clouds move! Perhaps the wind and the cloud mean precisely what we see before our eyes; no matter how awe-inspiring, in the blink of an eye it will pass, without leaving the least bit of trace.

    Xu Ziling took a deep breath and said, But the embodiment of wind, cloud, man, and object [feng yun ren wu, together mean man/woman of the moment (an influential figure)] actually has a deeper layer of meaning, which is no matter how harsh you rebuke the Heaven and the Earth [orig. rebuke angrily the wind and the cloud], one day you will return to the yellow sandy soil. To be born, and to die! What is the purpose of this?

    Astonished, Kou Zhong said, Buddhist has Buddhist saying, Taoist also has Taoist saying. It is best to ask this question to Shi Feixuan. I am sure Wanwan also have different set of sayings. As for whos right whos wrong, I am afraid we can only toss the dice to decide. Ha! Finally I found a way to settle the dispute.

    Blurted out laughing, Xu Ziling said, You call that a way to settle the dispute?

    Immensely pleased with himself, Kou Zhong said, This is called a way in the midst of no way.

    Xu Ziling suddenly appeared as if he was listening attentively. Did you hear that? he whispered.

    Kou Zhong hastily bent his head and pricked his ears; nodding, he said, It sounds like hoof beats; should be only one horse.

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, Thats right! And a wounded man crouching on it.

    Speechless, Kou Zhong said, How could your ears be so formidable? Unexpectedly you can listen to such a small detail, as if you are witnessing it yourself.

    Displeased, Xu Ziling said, I practically use my eyes to see.

    Kou Zhong suddenly looked up, and saw far away on the prairie, a horse, carrying a man on its back, was running toward them.

    Xu Ziling sprang up and said, Lets see if we can help.

    Kou Zhong intercepted the horse, Xu Ziling took the man down and helped him sit on the ground.

    The man has sank into a half comatose condition; his face was full of blood, many places on his body had stab wounds, the most deadly was a punch on his back, leaving a patch of scarlet fist print.

    The two transmitted their internal qi, and beginning to feel the mans deep foundation; he entirely depended on a mouthful of true qi to protect his heart and meridians, while fleeing to this place.


    The man suddenly vomited a mouthful of clotted blood, and regained his consciousness. Realizing these two must be helping him healing his injury, he hastily circulating his own internal power according to his own cultivating method. After thirty-six cycles, the mans injury immediately saw a big improvement, not only his wound, big and small, stopped bleeding, he was also able to apply his own qi to heal his internal injury.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling was tired on top of their original weariness; standing up and walking some distance away, Kou Zhong spoke in low voice, Do you feel that this kid has a fairly good face? I feel like Ive seen him somewhere before.

    Xu Ziling said, I also feel like I have seen him before. If we wash his face, well know who he is!

    Kou Zhong patted his shoulder and said, Ill go fetch our horses, you look at him, dont let him and his horse run away.

    Xu Ziling mumbled his agreement. After Kou Zhong left, he returned to the man and helped him circulating his blood, transferring his qi.

    The man took long, withdrawn breathing, and spoke hoarsely, Big kindness unspeakable gratitude! Two Engong [benefactor] honorable surname and great given name?

    Xu Ziling did not answer, but asked a question instead, Sires power is quite good, how did you get into such plight?

    The man replied heavily, I was harmed by a poisonous woman. I can only blame myself for having eyes without the eyeball, and was unwilling to listen to other peoples advice. Ay!

    Xu Ziling was stunned; he originally guessed that this man was a general of the defeated army being ambushed by the Jianghuai Army, who would have thought that his condition was related to some poisonous woman?

    This moment Kou Zhong came leading their horses. Seeing the man was awake, he happily said, Your complexion looks good; friend, how should we address you?

    The man replied, Zaixia Bai Wenyuan of Jingjian Zong [lit. clean sword school].

    Kou Zhong stopped abruptly; he and Xu Ziling looked at each other. No wonder the face was quite familiar. A few years ago outside the city of Baling, Bai Wenyuan came with Zhu Cans daughter, the Poisonous Spider Zhu Mei, to plot against them, but they managed to beat him that he dropped into the river and ran away. Because it has been too long, their memory of this matter was very vague; were it not for meeting Bai Wenyuan again, they nearly forgot about it. [See Book 8 Chapter 8]

    The two boys were still wearing their mask, naturally Bai Wenyuan did not recognize them. Seeing the two boys weird expression, he asked in astonishment, Have two gentlemen heard Zaixias name?

    Xu Ziling stood up, and spoke indifferently, Just now Bai Xiong mentioned being harmed by poisonous woman; were you referring to Poisonous Spider Zhu Mei?

    Severely shaken, Bai Wenyuan asked, How could Engong know?

    Kou Zhong tore off his mask and said, Bai Xiong, how are you? Do you remember me, Kou Zhong?

    Immediately Bai Wenyuans countenance changed. After staring blankly for half a day, he smiled wryly and said, No wonder you can heal my injury that quickly. In any case, two gentlemen snatched my life back for me; you want to kill, you want to cut my flesh, you may do as you wish.

    Xu Ziling also took off his mask, walked over toward Kou Zhong, and said with a sneer, We are not like Zhu Can, who kills whoever he wishes. Bai Xiong, youd better leave this dangerous place quickly; if you are late, I am afraid disaster might befall you.

    The two flew up their horses, and were about to leave, Bai Wenyuan struggled hard to stand up and called out, Wait! Its a trap, by all means, do not go to the Flying Horse Ranch.

    The two boys could not stop the chill from flitting across their hearts.

    After speeding along for more than twenty li, the three men dismounted to get some rest. It was only then did they have the opportunity to listen to Bai Wenyuans story.

    Bai Wenyuan was still very weak; along the way, the two boys helped him healing his blood circulation.

    He sighed in distress and said, Nobody did not say that after Zhu Mei, the poisonous woman, became fed up with a man, she would devour him and put him to death, lest other women would take possession of him. But in my overconfidence, I felt that I am handsome, my martial art is not inferior to hers, plus I was infatuated by her physique and her flirtatious expressions, unexpectedly I was foolish enough to take a chance, believing that I would be the only exception. In the end I suffered retribution; it serves me right.

    Seeing his heroic aura was cut short, he was full of remorse and was in wretched state, the two boys felt sorry for him. But on the other hand, they also felt that he only had himself to blame, simply because both boys were not the kind of men who would give up everything for a beauty.

    The fact was that they still could not figure out how did Bai Wenyuan get seriously injured?

    Bai Wenyuan continued, This time Zhu Mei and I led a thousand men, originally to provide support to An Long; who would have thought that Zhu Mei betrayed us, and managed to deal us total defeat? I really let down my brothers, who had followed me through fire and water for the past many years.

    Stunned, Kou Zhong said, Turns out the side who was attacked by Fu Gongyou was your men. Where did Zhu Mei go? By doing this, what would be the benefit for her father?

    A strong resentment flashed through Bai Wenyuans eyes; he said hatefully, The poisonous woman already left one step ahead, claiming that after providing support to An Long, she would come back to me, and had me going a certain hill to regroup. By the time I found out that she slipped away with An Long along another trail, we already fell into Jianghuai Armys pincer attack from front and rear.

    Puzzled, Xu Ziling said, Arent your men Zhu Can, father and daughters Garuda Army? By wasting away their team of elite troops, it would bring more harm than good to Zhu Mei.

    Bai Wenyuan spoke heavily, This time the men were entirely my personal troops; the majority of them were my clansmen and brothers from the same school. Over the years, I have established countless heroic contribution [orig. riding a laboring horse to great deeds] for them, father and daughter. Within the Garuda Army, I was dubbed the Fuma Jiangjun [emperors son-in-law general]; my power and influence grew more flourishing by the day, I was more popular than they, father and daughter, so they had already grown jealous of me early on, and now they finally found the opportunity to kill me. Ay! I was really stupid and muddleheaded.

    But how can you be sure that it was Zhu Mei who harmed you? Kou Zhong asked.

    Bai Wenyuans eyes were spouting flame of hatred; he said, First, she grew a lot colder toward me; how could this kind of feeling between a man and a women deceive me? Moreover, I knew that she had been in contact with An Long [Translators note: the text indicates more personal contact].

    The two boys could only return a blank stare.

    It cant be! Kou Zhong doubtfully said, An Long is fatter than a pig, while Zhu Mei is the type of woman who has voracious desire of good looks hey! How could Zhu Mei look him in the eye?

    Full of disdain, Bai Wenyuan said, This poisonous woman, nobody can measure her using common sense; any fresh stimulation will do. I heard that on the bed, An Long has another set of powerful skill, able to make women infatuated with him. This kind of situation, that pair of dog man and woman [a couple engaged in an illicit love affair] ought to know.

    Xu Ziling asked, Just now you advised us not to go to the Flying Horse Ranch; what exactly happened?

    Bai Wenyuan replied, I ought to start with An Long. He has always been in close relationship with Cao Yinglong, and has always been enemies with us, no friendly relationship at all. But after Li Mi was defeated by you, the situation on the north changed very fast. Li Yuan might go out the Pass any moment, Liu Wuzhou and Dou Jiande also began to get restless. On the other hand, Wang Shichongs power greatly flourished. In case he obtained Li Mis territory, there is great possibility he might expand to the south. In such an urgent situation like this, An Long took the opportunity to represent Cao Yinglong to establish friendly relations with us, to form an alliance, to prepare to take Sichuan first, and then to attack the Flying Horse Ranch. Later on it will be Jingling and Xiangyang.

    Stunned, Kou Zhong asked, Isnt An Long the sworn brother of Sichuans Duzun Bao [lit. fort/stronghold holding supremacy; not sure if it is a name] Xie Hui?

    Bai Wenyuan snorted coldly and said, Early in the year An Long has already broken his relationship with Xie Hui over some unknown matters; potentially they are like fire and water now. I really dont understand whats going on in An Longs head; such a strong backer, yet he broke the relationship.

    Xu Ziling said, Did Bai Xiong know that An Long is a martial art master with quite a ranking among the demonic schools?

    Bai Wenyuans mouth was agape, Xu Xiong is not joking? he asked in astonishment.

    Kou Zhong gave him a simple explanation; pressing on, he asked, How did you hook up with Xiao Xian?

    Bai Wenyuan replied, How did Xiao Xian hook up with us is more correct. Now the situation is clear; one more day Zhu Can, father and daughter, refuses to give him the nod, one more day Xiao Xian cannot cross north of the river.

    Xu Ziling said, Since thats the case, how are you going to cooperate in the future?

    Bai Wenyuan replied, The issue here is that Zhu Can and Cao Yinglong knew their own weight. Several times they attacked Jingling, they were beaten back by Fu Gongyou that they had to retreat. And then theres lack of food supplies; rather than being decimated by Fong Gongyou, they chose to expand to Sichuan. Other than obtaining large quantities of rations and fodder from Xiao Xian, they could also let Xiao Xian and Fu Gongyou, Du Fuwei, to kill each other. So Xiao Xian put forward the conditions of the cooperation; the first one being eliminating two gentlemen, whom Cao Yinglong and Zhu Can, father and daughter, hate to the bones. Hence the reason they were together from the first beat [idiom: to hit it off, to click together]. Flying Horse Ranch is just the bait.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Cao Yinglong, that fellow, finally realized that it was us who spoiled his good deeds that night!

    With grave expression Bai Wenyuan said, Now all three parties have selected their elite troops, forming a ten-thousand men powerful army division, with Xiao Xians Great General Dong Jingzhen as the Commander-in-Chief. They assembled in a hidden, secluded place near the Flying Horse Ranch, ready to deliver a frontal assault to your weary expeditionary force. No matter which route you are going to take to the Flying Horse Ranch, its impossible to evade their eyes and ears. This army division also consists of another squad of more than fifty Wulins martial art masters, with specific task to deal with the two gentlemen.

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, If we did not meet Bai Xiong, wed surely be in disastrous position [orig. everything bodes ill, no positive signs]; but now since we know ourselves and know our enemies, the situation is diametrically different. Let me ask you first, does Bai Xiong wish to kill that poisonous woman?

    Bai Wenyuan showed a thirst and longing expression; he nodded his head with determination.

    Kou Zhong patted his shoulder vigorously, and bared his white teeth thoroughly. Letting out a long laugh, he said, In that case, we must catch up with An Long first, kill his mother until he is in a sorry state, so that Bai Xiong can vent your goddam anger.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, Wouldnt it be beating the grass to scare the snake?

    Kou Zhong replied indifferently, We certainly will take our time in making the decision; but if we can capture An Long and Zhu Mei, then it wont be beating the grass to scare the snake.

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