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

  1. #21
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 2 - Chapter 8

    Book 2 Chapter 8 Clan Leader of the Fairer Sex[1]

    While the two boys were running around in circle trying to unfurl the sail, the battle was moving away from them. Now the moonlight shining on tranquil sea became dozens of small dots.

    A sea breeze blew. The boat sailed toward the shore at high speed.

    Kou Zhong crouched on the sacks of salt that was lost but now was won back. He mumbled at himself, and was so happy that nearly went crazy.

    Xu Ziling was at the helm; he suddenly called out, Well reach the shore very soon!

    Kou Zhong sprang up and saw the pitch-black land ahead was getting larger and larger at an alarming rate. Aghast, he called, Can we slow down?

    We cant! Xu Ziling called back.

    That night happened to be high tide, plus the wind was strong, the boat sailed like an unbridled horse running away on an open field; it was totally out of control.

    Kou Zhong pointed to a spot that looked like a sandy shore, Steer toward that place! he called out.

    Xu Ziling turned the rudder, the sailboat changed course on a slightly oblique angle, speeding toward the sandbar.

    Kou Zhong was about to cheer, suddenly his countenance changed. Not good! he cried.

    Xu Ziling was also shocked. Turns out under the moonlight they could see that all around them there were reefs sprouting from the seabed. That they had not had shipwreck by now was indeed a miracle.

    Screech! Screech! The hull emitted such a harsh grinding noise. The boat was pushed to the right, the two boys lost their balance and fell into the water.

    Crash! The boat ran into an especially huge rock and disintegrated immediately. All the salt went down to the bottom of the ocean.

    The boys managed to swim across the shallow water; the lower half of their body was still immersed in continuously rushing tide.

    Their body weary, their strength exhausted, the two boys lay face down on the sand, while continuously gasping for breath. Their mouth and nose were bloody from the collision with the reef, while their body was bruised all over. It was not even clear when did their weapons fall off.

    However, the physical pain they suffered was far less than the emotional pain they suffer from losing the salt.

    The effort they spent on stealing this batch of salt has become their highest standard of struggle, it had an incomparably deep meaning for them, and it has thrown them into an endless rollercoaster of emotion.

    Yet in the end the salt was gone. Just like that.

    When salt meets water, wont it vanish without trace?

    Xu Ziling spat out a mouthful of saltwater mixed with his own blood. He groaned, Those who have never been underwater will never know that the seawater is so bitter.

    Kou Zhong wanted to laugh, but he choked and coughed hard, Who told you to drink it? Ha! Fortunately I still have a couple of money purses. Ah!

    Xu Ziling groaned. Dont tell me: you lost your purse as well!

    Kou Zhong smiled bitterly. Thats exactly what happened, he said, Dont blame me! Next time youll take care of it.

    Xu Ziling made a show of turning his head around; after giving him a quick look, he sighed and said, Zhong Shao, is your tummy hungry? It seems to me that we make another progress in martial art; for two days and one night we did not eat a single grain of rice, but I am not that hungry.

    Dont mention the word hungry, Kou Zhong sadly replied, Ay! I am so tired that I feel like dying. Finished speaking he buried his face into the sand.

    Xu Ziling also felt senses faded; finally he succumbed to his weary body and fell asleep right there.

    The next thing he knew, someone was slapping his face, hard. Kou Zhongs excited voice penetrated his ears, Heavens! Get up! This time gods and fairies are helping us.

    Xu Ziling opened his eyes; the sky was very bright. He sat up with blank expression, but as he turned his eyes, he was dumbstruck.

    The tide has receded a hundred zhang or so, exposing the spacious seabed, littered with jet-black reefs. Those dozens of sack of salt, along with the debris of the boat and everything else left after the shipwreck, were strewn over the rocks; it was indeed a breath-taking, magnificent sight.

    Kou Zhong ran toward the nearest sack of salt. Xu Ziling was overwhelmed with fiery emotion. He sprang up, and only then did he realize that most of the wounds and bruises on his body were completely healed. Other than his growling empty stomach, he felt that his entire body was full of energy. Hastily he ran after Kou Zhong.

    Kou Zhong was shouting and yelling in excitement, My Niang! All these salt have become hard lumps; nothing dissolves in water. This time Laotianye really appeared.

    Xu Ziling saw something among the rock crevices flickered under the sunlight; in great delight he threw himself in that direction. As expected, he found the sword. And then, not too long afterwards, he found Kou Zhongs short halberd. After losing everything and gaining it back, the happiness in their hearts was something that no pen and ink can describe.

    Kou Zhong still wanted to find the two money purses, but after suffering untold hardships, he could only find one; no matter how hard he searched the other one simply eluded him. Upon opening it, unexpectedly he found five silver ingots and some change; in his heart he was extremely grateful to Laotianye.

    The two boys were afraid the tide would come back; busily they moved the sacks of salt ashore. After working hard until nightfall, they counted forty-eight sacks of salt; two sacks went missing; most probably when the boat disintegrated the sacks burst.

    By this time the two boys were so hungry that they no longer feel it. Hastily they went to the forest by the shore to pick some wild fruits to allay their hunger.

    Returning to the shore, they saw the tide was rising again; the waves were crashing onto the reefs, spraying seawater everywhere. They felt like they had just been granted a new lease of life.

    The two boys stood facing the ocean. They still had the feeling that the enemy might come anytime, hence they went to the nearby forest to find a safe place to hide, and once they found it, they moved all the salt there, and covered everything with leaves. Only then did they snuggle up to sleep.

    In their semi-conscious state, they felt like they were back at that little valley where they buried Fu Junchuo, training internal energy to withstand the cold night.

    About midnight, they heard noises coming from the shore. The two boys were shocked; taking their weapons, they crawled behind a large rock where they had a clear view of the beach and took a peep.

    They saw two small boats anchored at the beach, more than a dozen men with torches in their hands were carefully inspecting the debris of their boat that was washed to the shore.

    Farther away into the ocean, they saw eight medium sized two-mast ships, but they did not look like Haisha Bang battleship.

    Kou Zhong whispered, Loot at that girl, she is prettier than our Niang!

    Xu Ziling turned his attention to the woman. She was wearing lake-water-green [i.e. teal] colored warrior outfit, covered by long white cape on the outside. Her beauty was something that those who saw her would forget about taking a breath. It was the first time that he saw such a classy woman.

    Kou Zhongs throat suddenly created a glug noise; he was swallowing his own saliva, If I can spend the night with her, I am willing to have my life cut by three days.

    Xu Ziling let out a ha; he nearly guffawed, but quickly covered his mouth. Who would have thought that the woman was a martial art master indeed? They were about twenty zhang apart, yet his laughter could not escape her ears; she immediately turned her head in their direction, scaring the two boys that they instantly shrunk back behind the huge rock.

    After quite a while, the beach became quiet, they breathed a sigh of relief. How could they still dare to have devious thought?

    Kou Zhong said in low voice, Even in term of martial art this beautiful woman [orig. poniang, see Book 1 Chapter 4] could be superior to our Niang, but she is still outwitted by us, Two Dragons of Yangzhou.

    Suddenly a sweet-sounding, alto voice calmly descended from above, asking, Was she really outwitted by you?

    The two boys were so scared that their soul flew away and scattered; they rolled toward the sloping grassy knoll first before springing up, holding a halberd and grasping a sword, putting on a false bravado, but in their hearts they were seriously lacking confidence.

    The Bloody Battle Ten Styles they learned from Li Jing, only Xu Ziling had the opportunity to test it in armed combat with the enemy, but that one time he was useless to the extreme that he even lost Li Jings treasured saber.

    Therefore, the thing that these two boys lacked the most was real combat experience; so if they were not scared in the face of battle, that would be strange indeed.

    That stunningly beautiful woman sat leisurely on the rock, she even had a wind lantern sitting next to her, shining its light on half of her so that it looked like her beautiful figure was glowing, adding some mysterious, yet pure and holy aura to her already out-of-this-world beauty.

    The white cape against the lake-water-green warrior outfit, made her look exceptionally charming, very pleasing to the eye.

    The woman looked at them with her cold gaze, and said emotionlessly, I really dont understand how could these two virtue-less, incompetent street urchins stole the Secret to Long Life from under Yuwen Huajis nose, and then swindled Du Fuwei until his head and face were filthy with grime, and now you even messed with Haisha Bang that their head spins. Tell me! Do you always have your good luck charm with you?

    Hearing this, the two boys looked at each other with eyes open wide but their tongue tied. How could this woman know them like the back of her hand?

    Ashamed, Kou Zhong put his halberd down and used it to prop himself against the grassy ground. In deadly earnest he said, May I ask Miss honored surname and great given name? Who are you? How come toward Zaixia [lit. under, referring to self] two brothers matter you seem to be very familiar [orig. as if enumerating ones family valuables]?

    The pretty woman let out a cold snort and said, Am I not called a woman [poniang]? How come now I become a Miss? Such an inconsistency, evidently you are a despicable man.

    Kou Zhongs countenance fell, You call that despicable? he said, Even if in your heart you are dying to kill the opponent, but on the surface dont you still need to be polite? In this world who has never had his mouth in disagreement with his mouth? You, this hey! You, this Miss, how much more noble do you think you are compared to me?

    It was very rare that Xu Ziling saw Kou Zhong lost his temper like that; he was completely blown away.

    The pretty woman stared at Kou Zhong for half a day. Suddenly Pfft! she burst out laughing. You little demon, you have quite a stinky temperament. But dont blame your Miss for not warning you: as far as Im concerned, I kill people like splitting gourd or chopping vegetables; no hesitation whatsoever.

    Xu Ziling finally came to his senses, he could not help exposing her bluff, You want to make your move then make your move! Why bring up that much superfluous words?

    Kou Zhong stuck out his chest and said, Those with enough guts dont need to call others for help. You alone against the two of us.

    The pretty woman did not stop laughing; she laughed so hard that her body trembled like fluttering twigs. Looking at your appearance: clothes not covering your body, scars and bruises all over, yet you have devious thought of the two of you can beat me, one person. Ay! Dead little demon! You made me laugh so hard that it hurt.

    Xu Ziling angrily said, Do you want to fight or not? If not, well go back to sleep.

    Naturally the pretty woman was able to see his hard shell but empty inside, showing strength while weak inside. She reached to her back and pulled a clear, golden-colored copper xiao [Chinese flute[2]], about four chi long, placed it horizontally on her lips, and blew a clear note, like a cool breeze entering their ears. And then she placed the flute on her jade legs, looked down on the flickering flame inside the wind lantern, and said softly, Can you not view people with hostility? The reason I did not hesitate to declare a war with Haisha Bang was precisely because I wanted to see if we have any possibility of cooperation.

    The two boys looked at each other in confusion, but there was also a little bit of overwhelmed by favor from superior feeling.

    Kou Zhong reaction was comparably quicker; with a giggle he also sat down on another big rock, nodded his head, and said, Miss [or Young Lady; here he used guniang, whereas previously he used xiaojie] please state your attractive conditions first, so that we can see if we can reach any agreement.

    The pretty woman did not even cast him a glance; she still acted as if she was talking to herself, Shall I give them a hard beating first, so that these two little demons will behave a bit more?

    Kou Zhong jumped in fright; he adopted the first stance of the Bloody Battle Ten Styles, the Two Armies Encamped Face-to-face.

    Being treated with sudden hard and sudden soft by her like that, the two boys felt a headache.

    The pretty woman suddenly turned her pretty face toward them, her phoenix eyes flashed a cold ray as she focused her attention to size the two boys up, while they were still adopting a pretentious stance. She spoke coldly, If you must know, the reason I spoke so many words with you is because this Bangzhu thinks very highly of you, hence I am thinking of inviting you to enter our Jukun Bang and become this Bangzhus first and last disciples [orig. open the gate and close the gate, respectively].

    The two boys were stunned; with different mouths, same voice, they cried out, My Niang!

    It was certainly beyond their wildest dream. How could this pretty woman, who was at most only three, four years older than they were, unexpectedly want to take them as her disciples?

    The Clan Leader of the Fairer Sex Yun Yuzhen was not in the least apologetic, Whats so surprising about it? she asked, Learning has never known early or late; those who attain it become the master, whos to blame if your skill is so lacking? You dont even know the technique of holding a weapon.

    Xu Ziling was disappointed, Even holding a weapon also has technique? he asked.

    Of course! Yun Yuzhen snapped, Just by looking at how you grip the sword hilt with so much strength like you want to crush it I know that you dont know the key to holding weapon. Light and floating is actually tight. Too far is as bad as not enough [an idiom from the Analects]. Without instruction from a bright master, how would you, this little kid, know?

    Kou Zhong was afraid Xu Ziling might lose face, he changed the subject, Didnt you say earlier that we are virtue-less and incompetent? Why the sudden change of attitude, condescending first and became very respectful later? Is it because of the Duke Yangs treasure-trove and the Secret to Long Life? After receiving us as your disciple, you will tell us that we must not disobey masters order, so in order to make you, Senior, happy, in the end we will obediently present the treasure to you.

    Yun Yuzhen stared at him blankly for half a day with an amused look in her pretty eyes. Finally she said in a gentle and soft voice, If I, Yun Yuzhen, am conspiring to get those two things, let me, Yun Yuzhen not die a good death.

    And then, pursing her lips she laughed and said, Perhaps you did not know, after Du Fuwei failed to find you, he returned to Liyang. One day he suddenly laughed. Naturally others asked him why did he laugh? He mentioned you, the two kids, saying that the two of you were born as amazing martial art materials. Although he has inspected innumerable people, he has never seen anybody with better natural endowments than you, hence his heart was moved with loving talent thought. Its just that he hated it that you got away, so now he only wants to get rid of you.

    The two boys felt as if their faces were burning.

    What she just said seemed to be words of compliment, but coming from her mouth it sounded a lot more ambiguous.

    Xu Ziling awkwardly asked, How could you even know what Du Fuwei said?

    Its none of your business, Yun Yuzhen nonchalantly replied, In todays world, other than Dou Jiande and Li Mi, two people with original insight, I am afraid nobody can surpass Du Fuwei. Therefore, this Bangzhu has the intention to take disciples. How about this, I dont care if you do obeisance to me as your Shifu, but if Haisha Bang catch up with you, dont blame anybody for not coming to your rescue. Her eyes shot another cold ray as she said, The Secret to Long Life is just a trick the Taoist school uses to scam people. As for the Duke Yangs treasure trove, it is only attractive to people who dream of becoming the emperor. I have to spare time to join that muddy water and come after you, these two big-head ghosts.

    Kou Zhong was not happy at all, You want to be our, Yangzhou Two Dragons Shifu, at least you need to show your ability. Otherwise, if you cant even withstand our sword-halberd combination, how do you know that youll have enough capital to be our Shifu?

    Yun Yuzhen agreed, You spoke so much words, only these last several words actually made some sense.

    Knowing that she was about to make her move, the two boys were in full alert.

    Since they grew up in the marketplace, they had a deep understanding of the old-age immutable law anything that is easy to get is not worth coveting. Such a thousand-lovely, hundred-charm beauty with respectable status wanted to take them as her disciples, there must be evil intention or hidden plot somewhere; its just that they could not penetrate her thought yet!

    Yun Yuzhen grabbed the lantern with her left hand, and pulled the flute with her right hand, she slowly left the big rock she was sitting on. Her cape fluttered endlessly behind her back, just like a firefly transforming into a beautiful woman, as she flew across over the two boys head.

    First, they never expected that she could possess such a move; second, they were a bit afraid to hack and injure her beautiful jade legs. Therefore, they scattered to the left and right in a flurry. Who would have thought that she used their heads as stepping-stones instead?

    Yun Yuzhen landed behind the two boys; she laughed tenderly, My disciples, do you submit to me now?

    The two boys faces turned beet-red. Exchanging a glance, they launched a converging attack from left and right. By this time they already knew that her martial art skill was extremely strong, hence they no longer show leniency, and attacked her with everything they had.

    Xu Ziling originally used the third stance of Bloody Battle Ten Styles, the Light Cavalry Charging Ahead. If he were using saber, he would have moved the saber from the waist out in a feign attack toward the enemys pit of the stomach. If the enemy withdrew, the would change into saber hack sideways; but because he was using sword, he lost the flavor of the attack; hence he might as well halted his step and aimed for her shoulder. Fast as lightning the sword moved upward.

    Kou Zhongs situation was even worse; he had no idea how to use the short halberd, which differed considerably from a saber. He was going to launch the second stance, Exposing the Tip of the Fire Beacon, but he had to make slight modification. Borrowing the momentum of his revolving body, he swept across Yun Yuzhens flank.

    Yun Yuzhen let out a tender laughter, the lantern in her left hand rose up, illuminating the fine hair on Xu Zilings head, who was on her left, while the copper flute in her right hand very lightly, as if she did not use any force at all, tapped the tip of Xu Zilings sword. At the same time, the cape on her back fluttered forward to meet Kou Zhongs short halberd.

    Bing! Bang!

    The two boys felt a soft, yet hard to resist, internal energy burst in via their weapons, and spread into their body via the channels on the hollow of their palm and through their arm, just like an electric shock, so that they nearly dropped their weapon. They both backed off in a very awkward position.

    Yun Yuzhen was even more shocked than they were.

    Actually, she was trying to force her true energy into the opponents vital acupoints; who would have thought that as her energy reached the opponents shoulder, the stream of energy toward Xu Ziling felt like clay ox entering a sea of people; it disappeared without any trace, it dispersed into nothingness. The one going into Kou Zhong was pushed back by a rather overwhelming force.

    The three people separated; they all looked at each other with astonishment.

    Frowning, Yun Yuzhen said, If Luocha female taught you guys internal energy training, you ought to have similarity with the origin; but why is yours distinctly different? Tell me honestly, quick!

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, You saw how profound is our internal strength, didnt you? Beautiful Shifu.

    Xu Ziling laughed aloud and said, We are amazing martial art materials, naturally we developed different characteristics.

    Knowing her superb martial art skill, yet she was still unable to injure them, the two boys found it exceedingly interesting, hence their hearts and hands were itching. Besides, looking at her beautiful appearance and lovely attitude was enough to give them pleasure.

    Realizing that the master has not captured the disciples reverence, Yun Yuzhens pretty eyes shot a cold ray as she swiftly flitted to Kou Zhongs left, while her copper flute pointed to his face.

    Kou Zhong clearly saw her movement, and he knew exactly what to do to block it, yet his body moved a bit slow; by the time his short halberd swept across, not only the tip of his nose was already hit, a sweeping kick had also landed on the side of his thigh. Immediately he fell to the ground with miserable groan, completely dejected and depressed.

    Xu Ziling rushed forward to the rescue, brandishing his sword that it made whooshing noise to protect his own face. Who would have thought that Yun Yuzhen simply pointed her flute, and it penetrated his airtight sword net, and hit the middle of his forehead?

    Xu Ziling felt as if he was struck by a lightning bolt; he was thrown backward and landed flat on his back.

    Looking down at the two boys, who were momentarily unable to crawl back up, Yun Yuzhen said tenderly, I dont know where you learned those moves, which mainly rely on offensive, but you dont know that all these moves are disregarding life, seizing life, staking-it-all kind of fierce moves. If there is no determination to die together with the enemy, you wont be able to unleash the full power of the moves.

    Groaning and moaning, the two boys stood up; their body felt numb from the shock of her qi, they no longer had any strength left to fight. Hearing her explanation, admiration grew in their hearts, because Li Jing had said the same thing. Evidently this womans insight was extremely superior.

    Yun Yuzhen had increased her internal strength significantly, yet these two boys were able to stand back up this quickly; in her heart she was greatly amazed as well.

    Apparently she did not have the real intention of taking these two boys as her disciples, she only wanted to use them to do something that was extremely important to her. But they had to be delighted and completely willing to do this thing, so that they would use various means to achieve the objective.

    However, right now her heart was moved with the real intention to take them as her disciples. If they succeeded in this mission, in time these two boys would turn into her capable assistants.

    Kou Zhong sighed, We always hold womenfolk in the highest regard, therefore, how could we have the heart to harm you

    Shut up! Yun Yuzhen angrily said, You have the guts to speak that kind of frivolous words to me, are you asking for a beating?

    Xu Ziling hastily said, Whatever it is, lets talk about it slowly. You want to accept disciples to impart your skills, the other party must be delighted and sincerely willng for it to happen. Right now we do not have the mind to do obeisance to you as our master yet. Is it possible for us to finish our business dealing first, and then we all come back to discuss the feasibility of this matter later?

    At first Yun Yuzhens jade face turned frosty, but then it revealed a smiling expression. Totally beyond the two boys expectation, she said nonchalantly, Very well! You two may think it over carefully.

    With a sway of her body, she was back on top of the big rock. With a tender voice she said, Haisha Bang wont spare anything trying to capture you back. You take care!

    With another charming laughter she disappeared behind the big rock.

    The two boys looked at each other; they felt disappointed to see her leave instead.

    Suddenly Yun Yuzhen came back. But when the two boys were secretly delighted, she instructed them just like a master lecturing her disciples, It would be best if you completely erase any trace of you on the ground. Also, make it to appear that you have left far away from here. In the meantime, hide up here quietly for a month or two; otherwise, you wont be able to escape Haisha Bangs inescapable net.

    [1] Original title: Rouge and Powder Clan Leader.

    [2] Xiao usually refers to vertically blown flute (as opposed to Dizi, traverse flute), yet the next sentence says horizontally or across. I dont know, perhaps I misunderstood the sentence.

  2. #22
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 2 - Chapter 9

    Book 2 Chapter 9 Early Glimpse into The Mystery

    By the time Yun Yuzhen and the troops under her command left, it was almost dawn when the two boys finished dragging the sacks of salt into square-shaped piles that was empty in the middle. With their body weary and their strength exhausted, they entered the square and immediately fell into a deep slumber.

    By that afternoon, voices from the shore have woken them up. The two boys crawled up and saw more than a dozen fast boats anchored on the shore. What attracted their attention the most were Han Gaitian and the pretty nun. Terrified, the two boys shrunk back and returned to the forest.

    Fortunately Yun Yuzhen had given them direction earlier; otherwise, this time it would be like their wings have been plucked and not able to fly.

    The two boys did not even have the courage to go outside to pick wild fruits. Even when the voices have gone, they still hid inside their cozy nest.

    That evening suddenly a rain came. Luckily they had built roof from tree branches and sogon grass mixed with mud, which was able to deter most of the rainwater, so that the trickling water inside their nest was still bearable.

    Kou Zhong happily said, This rain is so timely, it will wash away the traces on the ground; that Han Pudi must have thought that we are already far away from here. [Translators Note: play on words: gai tian covering the sky, pu di falling face down on the earth/ground.]

    Xu Ziling could not help laughing, Gai Tian Pu Di, these names are as brilliant as that Yuwen Huagu.

    Kou Zhong reached out to stroke the almost-a-cun-long beard on Xu Zilings face. He laughed and said, Xiao Ling, you look a bit more macho now, its just that your beard is a bit shorter than mine. Do you want me to pull them clean by my miraculous hands, so that youll become little white face [i.e. pretty boy]?

    Xu Ziling pushed his hand away and said, When our beard grew until we cant even recognize ourselves, then we can go sell our salt for profit. Do you understand?

    Kou Zhong slapped his thigh in praise; but then he said in distress, Is our martial art skill that lacking? Why did we clearly feel in our heart that we would be able to block our beautiful Shifus jade move, but our hands and feet did not want to obey us?

    Xu Ziling mused, I never thought about that. In my opinion, we learned an exceptionally amazing power from the Secret to Long Life, but we still cannot apply it to the moves. Moreover, each type of weapon has its own unique characteristic, which we have not grasped yet. Naturally we cannot use it as our hearts wish.

    Kou Zhong raised his thumb to praise him, This kid is amazing, he actually came up with the same idea I did. This proves that your natural endowments are as good as mine!

    They chatted and joked until darkness fell, and then the two boys slipped out. After they saw that the Haisha Bang people have left and not a single one remained, they left to find wild fruits to allay their hunger under the cover of darkness.

    After that, the two boys tore each other apart on that beach and sparred against each other in high spirit. They thought that they might as well take off their clothes and just wore shorts, playing in the sea waves joyfully. It was not until Xu Ziling accidentally made a minor scratch Kou Zhongs arm did they stop their sparring.

    Lying on the beach, the two boys found their interest waned, because no matter how diligent they trained, the true qi within their body and the styles of their movement could not be fused into one. Other than obtaining more understanding on how to use their weapons, it could be said that they did not gain anything.

    Not too long afterwards, the two boys fell asleep.

    When Xu Ziling awoke, bird songs entered his ears. He opened his eyes and looked up, and happened to see a seagull circling over the sea, its bearing natural and graceful, it looked so carefree and happy. The seagull suddenly dove down at an angle into the water. When it reappeared, there was a wriggling, struggling small fish in its claw.

    Watching this, Xu Zilings mind was severely shaken. He grabbed Kou Zhong at his side and said in hoarse voice, I understand it!

    To his surprise, he was grabbing an empty space. Looking all around, he did not see any trace of Kou Zhong. Xu Ziling jumped in fright and shouted, Kou Zhong!

    Suddenly something emerged from the sea; it was Kou Zhong. He saw on one hand Kou Zhong was holding his sword, on the other hand he had a big fish. Immensely proud of himself he called out, Today we wont have to nibble those birds tasteless wild fruits.

    Xu Ziling did not say anything. He fetched the short halberd lying beside him and rushed toward Kou Zhong, who was walking from the sea to the beach. Kid, take this! he shouted.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud while brandishing his sword to meet the attack, Little thief, you are asking for death!

    At this time Xu Zilings mind was filled with the image of the trajectory of the seagull swooping down into the sea, his heart and mind in harmony, his intention and his hand working together, he completely grasped Kou Zhongs sword movement and his footwork, as well as his speed. He let out a long whistle, while imitating the seagulls trajectory, the short halberd drew an arc in the air.

    The most amazing thing happened.

    The sole of his left foot heated up, but the sole of his right foot turned incomparably cold; exactly the opposite of what usually happened during his training, where the sole of his right foot would heat up first.

    The amazing thing was not limited to this at all. Previously, the heat would appear first and then the cold. This time however, the heat and the cold occurred together. Followed by two separate streams of qi, one hot and one cold, rushed upward from the Yong Quan [gushing spring] acupoints on the soles of his left and right feet, passing through the Yin Qiao channel on the inside of his legs, and reached the Sheng Si orifices on his crotch, passing through the Chong channels on his left and right chest, and returned to the Jiang Guan position below his heart, the cold and hot qi converged to become one stream, going down the Dai channel, extending toward the small of his back left and right, and going up along the Du channel toward his shoulders, and rushed down via Yang Shu channel on the outside of his elbow. The true qi flowed naturally, without human interference at all. [Sorry, I am sure my translation is off since I know nothing of Chinese medicine.]

    Dang! Amid the miserable groan, the palm of Kou Zhongs hand was jolted open, his sword was thrown backward.

    The two boys stopped instantly and just stared at each other blankly.

    Meanwhile, the strange qi within Xu Zilings body kept flowing along the Yin Shu channel on the inside of his elbow, and returned to Jiang Gong, down to Sheng Si orifice, following the Yin Qiao channel inside his leg. It flowed back to the Yong Quan acupoint before vanishing.

    Kou Zhong tossed away the fish he caught and used that hand to hold his other hand, which was very painful, while he squatted in the shallow water. What birds thing was that? he cried out. [Translators note: I just realized that Kou Zhong used the word bird a lot ]

    Xu Ziling plopped himself down in the water and said in ecstasy, I got it now! Niang, Du Fuwei, our beautiful Shifu Bangzu, were right. Secret to Long Life does not have anything to do with martial art, however, it is the key to unlock the mystery of the universe. We have heard it before that human body is a small universe, while the world outside our bodies is another universe. Therefore, as long as we can grasp the natural essence of these two universes, inner and outer universes will merge together, and will be fused into one entity. Just like the move I have just launched.

    This remark, perhaps only if Guang Chengzi [see Book 1, Chapter 1] came back to life would he be able to infer it clearly. However, even if top-notch expert listened to this, he might still be confused. As a matter of fact, it was precisely the martial arts highest, most ideal principle of oneness of heaven and humanity.

    By lucky coincidence Xu Ziling arrived at this conclusion and simply blurted it out, but he did not know that his remark would be the starting point of their journey to become the peerless martial art expert of this age in the future.

    Throughout history, no one has ever obtained this comprehension. Of course, one of the many reasons was that no one has ever imagined that they would blindly and randomly train the internal energy cultivation according to the Secret to Long Life either.

    Xu Ziling explained what he saw about the seagull. Kou Zhong was greatly delighted; he picked up the sword and roared, Try it again. Remember that you can only strike this martial art experts sword.

    Xu Ziling acknowledged the order. Grasping the short halberd, he repeated his strike just now.

    Ding! Kou Zhong blocked it with all his strength.

    Xu Ziling was disappointed, How come this time it didnt work?

    Go back to the beach, Kou Zhong instructed, Rush forward just like you did last time. The problem could be that you have not generated enough heat in your body.

    Xu Ziling thought it made sense; he did as Kou Zhong instructed. Who would have thought that it was still completely useless? The brilliance was gone.

    Afterwards, no matter how they trained, they could not reproduce the formidable power of that one strike. Finally the two boys lay down dejectedly on the beach, extremely frustrated.

    Kou Zhong turned around to lie face down on the fine sand, with his fist he hammered the ground, What is the problem? he asked.

    Xu Ziling had a brainwave, That day when Li Dage was seriously injured and lost consciousness, you went out to find a mule cart, I was bored and practiced Li Dages Bloody Battle Ten Styles. That time Jiejie was scared and told me to stop, because my saber emitted hot wind and saber aura. But afterwards, when I fought the enemy for real, I could not generate either hot wind or saber aura. Worse yet, as soon as I met the enemy face-to-face, my saber was twisted and thrown away. If we could figure out why it was so, maybe we could solve the problem.

    Kou Zhongs spirit was greatly aroused; he sat up and asked, When you practiced your saber play that time, what did you think?

    Recalling the situation that time, Xu Ziling said slowly, Nothing. I just wanted to practice my saber play so that I could protect Li Dage and Jiejie, and not let them to come to any harm.

    Greatly shaken, Kou Zhong said, I got it. Its what Niang told us about forgetting everything, inside and out; no-man no-self, the borderline between with and without intention. Just now you when you attacked me, basically you did not expect that it could be that formidable, hence you were able to reach the realm where inside and outside universes converged completely and became one entity, exactly like Niang said, forgetting everything, inside and out. Afterwards, you had the intention, hence you could not achieve the same realm.

    That was what they said, but for the following ten days or so, the two boys practiced from morning till evening, yet all along they failed to achieve the effect they wanted, that strike that was as if a divine being was behind it.

    However, they were, after all, young boys. They were accustomed to live a lazy life back in Yangzhou; unexpectedly, they stopped training altogether, and just spending their days hunting for fish in the ocean, feeling totally free and at leisure, and very cheerful.

    One day, when they returned from the sea to the beach, Kou Zhong said, Did you notice how the fish escape our catch? At first they concentrated their attention completely, and then with a flick of their tail, they slipped away at an unimaginable angle, and it also made full use of the stream characteristics. If we could copy some of successful skill, even if our beautiful Shifu returned, perhaps it wouldnt be so easy for her to beat us askew to the left and collapse to the right.

    Xu Zilings spirit was greatly aroused, I have not thought about that. Come! Let us find some fish and learn from them.

    And that was how they spent their days. The two boys integrated frolicking and training martial art, while rising and lying down, working and resting. Gradually they returned to the lifestyle of when they lived in that small valley; they talked less and less.

    When Kou Zhong trained internal strength, he would walk back and forth on the beach, while Xu Ziling would lie down unmoving.

    One moving, the other still; each one had his own interest.

    One day more than two months later, the two boys were chasing a big black carp when Kou Zhong slashed with his sword. The slash plainly missed, but to his surprise, the black carp was jolted, turned belly up, and died. There was no scar on the outside, but when they cut it open, unexpectedly its internal organs were ruptured.

    At first the two boys were startled, and then their shock turned into great delight; henceforth they trained more diligently.

    Its just that Xu Ziling preferred to emulate the birds; he loved to watch eagles hunting the seagulls, and learned from their flying posture. Kou Zhong, on the other hand, observed and learned from all kinds of fish; he also watched how the crabs moved sideways to dodge, and their tactics in attack and defense. It could be said that the two boys were addicted to what they were doing.

    Even while eating, they exchanged what they had learned, as well as sparred against each other. They also modified Li Jings Bloody Battle Ten Styles to fit their own style better. However, all along they still failed to attain the thunderous strike Xu Ziling previously produced. Nevertheless, the two boys were very happy, since they were much closer to achieve the what the heart wishes, the hand accomplishes level.

    One day they woke up and walked to the beach, to their amazement they found two baskets sitting side by side on the sand. Inside they found two sets of clothes, and a couple of warm, thick, winter clothing.

    They found written on the sand: When the moon rise tonight, well meet here. Dont forget to put on clothes. Shifu.

    It was only then did the two boys realize that their clothes were tattered beyond repair. They looked at each other with a mixed feeling of delight and worry.

    What did she want?

    That night Yun Yuzhen indeed came. She wore a snow white warrior suite with yellow golden trim, her hair was rolled up in a bun on top of her head like a man, tied with yellow warrior band. All in all, her appearance cried out heroic, straightforward, melancholy, but there was also a beauty in it that dazzled and stunned others. Just like last time, she also carried an exquisite wind lantern in her hand, and the long copper flute on her back.

    She had the two boys to sit cross-legged first, and placed the wind lantern between them. After scrutinizing them, she said in great astonishment, We have not seen each other for only two months, how come not only you look taller, you also grew a bit of dignified, masculine look? The strangest thing is that your bearing is totally different. Just by looking at your eyes, I can tell that you have made great progress in your internal energy cultivation.

    Kou Zhong stroked his thick beard and said with a laugh, Just by relying on this guy, I look a lot more bold and powerful naturally.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong saw each other every day, naturally they did not pay particular attention to the changes in the others appearance; but in Yun Yuzhens eyes, the changes indeed cause her to have a whole new level of respect for them.

    Moreover, the two boys temperament and demeanor were distinctly different.

    Xu Ziling appeared to be more aloof and outstandingly talented, he had the refined, scholarly yet unrestrained temperament that Kou Zhong lacked. But he did not have the brutish, wild and lazy impression, which made Kou Zhong looked boorish, but heroic and relaxed.

    Speaking about their statures, although Kou Zhong was about a cun shorter than Xu Ziling, his shoulders were broader and his back thicker, giving him an imposing physique, and made him look more heroic and ferocious.

    Another reason was that Xu Ziling had delicate features; he looked a bit more like an elegant scholar. On the other hand, Kou Zhong had thick eyebrows, square face and big ears, which stood in stark contrast against Xu Zilings comparatively slimmer and handsome face, giving people the impression that he was the more rough and wild one.

    Two boys, each with his distinct features, each with his own attractiveness.

    Yun Yuzhen was wondering in her heart, why was it that last time she saw them, she did not pay attention to their outward appearance, but this time she could not help noticing their physical characteristics?

    Thinking about this, her pretty face could not help turning warm; busily she tried to cover up her embarrassment by saying, I sent people to monitor you a few times, each time they report back to me to you were enjoying yourself either on the beach or in the water. How did your internal energy improve then?

    Xu Ziling shrugged his shoulders and said, We are playing, but never forget to study hard. But after playing for two whole months, we got bored playing, and are thinking of going out there. Beautiful Shifu, do you have any good advice?

    Yun Yuzhen did not know whether she should laugh or cry; but in her heart she was happy, Finally you are willing to recognize me as your Shifu, she said.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Yun Bangzhu, please dont misunderstand. A Shifu is a Shifu. But by calling you Beautiful Shifu, we, two brothers are simply giving you a nickname, just like Yuwen Huagu and Han Pudi; it is a unique name we are giving you.

    Yun Yuzhen did not know whether she should be angry or she should feel amused; she wanted to put on a cold expression and scare them a bit with a couple of harsh words [orig. tigers roar], but in the end, Pfft! she could not help giggling and said coquettishly, You two big-headed ghosts, do you think I really want to take you, two little demons as my disciples? Its just that I see some benefit in you, hence I took a good care of you.

    The two boys looked at each other with an I knew it smile on their face.

    Yun Yuzhen was irritated; she angrily said, Believe it or not, I could put your martial art skill to waste, so that the two of you would return to your original shape; its much better than seeing you annoying like this.

    Kou Zhong leaned forward and laughed, Beautiful Shifu mustnt be that cruel, hee! Remembering that your treatment to us is actually not bad, why dont you tell us your difficulties and needs! As long as there is enough reward, and it is a small thing that is easy to do, perhaps we will be willing to help you!

    Yun Yuzhen did not stop smiling; she cast a malicious sidelong glance at him and said with a sigh, You, two little demons, dont even know that your death is at hand. Right now you have become the target of hunt-and-capture competition of several powerhouses. If even one of them managed to catch you, based on lesson learned from their previous mistakes, you may forget about escaping. If you knew whats best for you, youd better curry favor from this Bangzhu right away!

    And then she quickly added, If I want to harm you, it will be as easy as turning my hand over. I only need to let out the news, I guarantee you wont find a place where you can fit in.

    Xu Ziling was puzzled, Your martial art skill far surpasses ours, and you have countless subordinates; why do you have to entangle us and insist that well have to do it?

    Yun Yuzhen indifferently said, Have you heard about Dong Ming Pai?

    The two boys stared blankly for half a day, and then they nodded together.

    Yun Yuzhen laughed and said, I merely test you out, to see if you are really honest. The fact is, you have come in contact with them, and you jumped from their ship to the sea, and that night you spoiled Haisha Bangs plot to attack them sneakily. Is my information wrong?

    The two boys listened with their eyes open wide and their tongue tied.

    Kou Zhong let out a mouthful of cold air and said, Turns out you also have spies inside Haisha Bang.

    Yun Yuzhen said tenderly, The truth is, every single clan and society in Jianghu needs huge expenditure. Take Haisha Bang and Shuilong Bang for example, their principal income is from smuggling salt; hence they, along with our Jukun Bang, can be numbered among the eight Clans and ten Societies. Among the eight Clans, the most despicable, no-good at all, is Baling Bang, whose base of operations is Dongting Lake [northeast Hunan province]. They specialized in trafficking women, supplying the brothels across the world [tian xia], their profit is also the biggest.

    Xu Zilings voice cracked, Isnt there anybody in Wulin? Why would they let this kind of gang exist?

    Yun Yuzhen was unhappy, Right now the world is in chaos, every gang has to have strong backing, otherwise they will be consumed by others. Behind Haisha Bang there is Yuwen Clan, Shuilong Bang has become Song Clans guard dog, Baling Bangs backstage boss has even greater power, because he is the present old man the Emperor.

    The two boys were speechless. Its no wonder that everyone wanted to crusade against the old man Emperor.

    Kou Zhong sucked in a mouthful of air and said, In that case, Beautiful Shifu, which strong hand is your backing?

    A hint of proud smile escaped from the corner of Yun Yuzhens mouth; she casually said, I am just I am, there is no need to rely on anybody else to survive. Besides, everything I sell is first-hand intelligence. Dont think that I only recognize money and dont recognize people; unless its people whom I, Yun Yuzhen, cant look at them with my eyes. I dont care how much money they offer, dont even think that this Bangzhu would sell them half a word of information.

    Xu Ziling said in hoarse voice, Intelligence can be sold for money like other commodities?

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, No wonder you know everything about us in great details. Turn out this is what you do for a living [orig. the rice you eat].

    Know yourself, know the enemy, then you will come unscathed through a hundred battles [from Sunzis The Art of War], Yun Yuzhen said impatiently, Right now the world is in chaos to the level that is unprecedented throughout history; those who can control the enemy troops deployment, their strength and weaknesses, and the actual condition of the soldiers, will have the chance to dominate the world. My business actually emerged to meet a historic destiny. Were it not for this, I am afraid wed have been taken over by others long ago.

    In that case Beautiful Shifu, Xu Ziling wondered, You ought to want to know about the Secret to Long Life and Duke Yangs treasure trove.

    Yun Yuzhen calmly replied, Those are different matters altogether. Secret to Long Life is the treasure of the Taoists; even in their dreams those who practice Taoism yearn to obtain this heavenly book. But it has nothing to do whatsoever with the struggle to dominate the world. As for Duke Yangs treasure trove, basically that female Luocha did not tell you anything; otherwise, you, two little demons who are dying to get rich, would not have gone to Yuhang to steal salt. Ha! Duke Yangs treasure trove in Yangzhou? Only idiots like that Han Pudi would believe it.

    Kou Zhong was astounded, Beautiful Shifu, you are so formidable, it would be better if you marry the two of us Ah!

    Yun Yuzhen moved her jade hand to reward him with a slap on the face; she coldly said, Even if I dont have any sweetheart, I wont even consider you, two kids whose smell of your mothers milk has not yet dried.

    Stroking his cheek, Kou Zhong giggled, In that case, Beautiful Shifu already has a sweetheart.

    What business of yours is that? Yun Yuzhen bluntly said.

    Xu Ziling suddenly said, This is called relying on force to maltreat the weak. When we master the martial art in the future, you will know how it feels.

    Yun Yuzhen smiled and said, I am looking forward to that day! Alright! Lets talk business: the two of you accomplish something for me, this Bangzhu will let you off. Otherwise, no matter where you go, I only need to broadcast the information, and when you come across Yuwen Huagu, Han Pudi, Du Fuwei, or what have you, what will the consequences be?

    Its a threat, Kou Zhong said with a wry smile.

    Yun Yuzhen said softly, Other than coercion, there are incentives as well, to guarantee that you wont refuse. I will pass on to you some kind of lightness skill first, so that when you flee to the end of the world in the future, you have some asset to run away. Ay! It must be that I, Yun Yuzhen, owed you something in the past life that I am most willing to pass on my most outstanding skill to you, yet I dont even have a real status as your Shifu.

    The two boys were greatly touched; if they could really fly on and off the roof, they would be willing to give up three years of their lives.

    Kou Zhong quickly smiled apologetically and said, Albeit a bit reluctantly, we are willing to admit that you are our Beautiful Shifu; hows that?

    Xu Ziling was a bit more principled than he; he probed further, We simply wont do anything to offend Heaven and reason; much less murder and arson.

    Yun Yuzhen was peeved, You think you have that ability? she said, Little thief is just little thief; if I dont want you to steal something, what do you think I want?

    The two boys were greatly baffled; speaking about stealing, wouldnt she be more competent and well-suited?

    Yun Yuzhen looked at the sky to determine the time; she said, Dont ask too much, of course there is a reason behind it. After you steal that thing, I will also give each of you ten taels of gold. If you are afraid of death, that should be enough for you to live incognito and live the rest of your life in peace. Right now I am going to pass on the key theory of the lightness skill to you, one month later I am coming back to catch you, a pair of dead little demons. At that time I am going to tell you what object to steal.

    Subjected to such a formidable coercion and bribery, naturally Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling readily agreed.

    Yun Yuzhens lucid and elegant beautiful face revealed a sweet smile; she gave the two boys several glances first, and then, after they were intoxicated by her charms, she turned serious as she said, My lightness skill was created as the convergence of different schools chief skills; it is called Wu Du Shu [crossing/passing-through crow technique]. In Wulin it is revered as amazing skill pinnacle art; it is extremely famous. So dont think that I simply pick some random low-grade martial art skill to cajole you.

    Xu Ziling was puzzled, What is amazing skill pinnacle art? he wondered aloud.

    Yun Yuzhen said, I dont have time to explain to you, but Du Fuweis Xiu Li Qiankun [universe in his sleeve] and Yuwen Huajis Bing Xuan Jin [mysterious ice energy] are two of those.

    After a short pause, she continued, The so-called lightness skill is just like fish swimming freely in the water; its just that you replace the water with the air and wind filling the space above the earth. The most crucial point is, first and foremost, how to reduce body weight and how to breathe in the air. My Bird[1] Crossing Technique put emphasis on the trajectory of gliding through the air. Because your internal energy already has good foundation, with only one month training according to my technique, you will see small progress.

    The two boys did not dare to interrupt; they listened attentively, while the excitement in their heart felt like blazing fire.

    Yun Yuzhen asked them how they circulate their energy. Finished listening, she pondered for half a day and then said with disappointment in her voice, Practically I have never seen internal energy like yours; I am afraid I dont understand and cannot give you any directions.

    The two boys were greatly anxious. Xu Ziling said, Why dont you tell us your secret technique first, and then well find a way to train it.

    Yun Yuzhen sighed and said, You dont seem to know there is something called fire deviation.

    Kou Zhong sneered and said, Our internal energy cultivation is called capable person is not capable of achieving. Beautiful Shifu, please tell us quickly! At most when your sweetheart does not want you anymore in the future, you will have us as the replacement.

    Yun Yuzhen stared angrily at him. When the scared Kou Zhong rolled away to evade, she said in a grim voice, If anything bad happened to you, dont blame me for not giving you forewarning.

    The first step of Crow Crossing Technique is to understand what favorable and adverse qi is. The so-called favorable qi is when an object is thrown upward, it must fall down as soon as the momentum is exhausted. The adverse qi is when the momentum is exhausted, this is the qi being generated so that the upward momentum can continue. Only those with true qi inside their body can accomplish this.

    Subsequently she spoke a string of secret keys, telling the two boys to memorize everything, as well as giving the boys some instructions on how to jump and the technique to take a breath. Finally she sighed and said, If during training you feel something is not right, you must not force yourself to continue. Ay! I have to go!

    Lifting up the wind lantern, she infused the lantern with her internal energy; the wind lantern immediately flickered randomly. Soon afterwards from a distant place on the surface of the sea came the responding flashing of lantern light. It was only then did the two boys find out that the lantern was actually a communication device.

    The two boys were rather reluctant to part.

    Yun Yuzhen looked at them, and then with a slight sigh she said, I hope when I come again next time, you will still be alive and kicking [orig. lively dragon and animated tiger]!

    [1] FYI, previously, the text says crow 烏; here, it changes to bird 鳥. My guess is the OCR, but since I dont have the book, I cant tell which one is the correct one.

  3. #23
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 2 - Chapter 10

    Book 2 Chapter 10 Classified Account Book

    Kou Zhong jumped down from a giant rock about three zhang high. Whump! he landed hard on the beach; dizzy, and could not tell one object from another.

    On the side, Xu Ziling squatted and looked down; with a bitter laugh he said, Our Beautiful Shifu was right. Her Bird Crossing Technique is basically unleashing the way of circulating qi and taking a breath; with our so-called peerless divine skill it is a totally different thing, as if the two will never be mixed together. Looks like our qinggong is just a sweet dream, from now on we can just knock it off and lay it down to rest.

    Kou Zhong turned over to look up to him and said, Can you not concede that quickly? Remember our great theory! We can unleash the true qi within our body, and the only way to unite the inner and outer into one entity is by forgetting ourselves.

    Distressed, Xu Ziling said, The problem is that were just common folks, we cant to reach the state where we are able to jump high or leap low every time. Hey! I have a very stupid idea.

    Kou Zhong suddenly sat up and said, Since you can think of an idea for such a difficult problem like this, it must not be a stupid idea.

    Do you remember that strange encounter when we jumped from Dong Ming Pai ship into the sea? Xu Ziling asked.

    I cant forget it even in my dreams! Kou Zhong replied, We were nearly drowned to death.

    With a serious face Xu Ziling said, But not only we did not die, we also acquired the ability to breathe under water. It is clear that when we are in some kind of desperate situation, we can naturally, like Niang said, bring out the innate quality that is buried deep within us. This hidden treasure has been opened by the fantastic skill of the Secret to Long Life, but only in life and death crisis this hidden treasure can be forced to come out.

    Kou Zhong looked up to the boulder from which he had just jumped down; his countenance changed as he said, You are not suggesting that we jump down together from a hundred zhang cliff, are you?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Xu Ziling said, What are we afraid of? If underneath is the ocean, we wont fall to our death.

    Kou Zhong shook his head, No, cant do, he said, Only if there is a risk of our body torn and our bones crushed will our true qi be forced to come out.

    This time Xu Zilings countenance changed. Are you serious? he asked.

    With solemn expression Kou Zhong said, A hundred zhang cliff is just an exaggeration. I am afraid even our Beautiful Shifu will fall until her jade body perishes and her fragrance vanishes; ten or so zhang should be enough. Ay! Xiao Ling! Let Laoge [old brother, referring to self] try it first! If I really fall to my death, just cremate me, and then bring my ashes back to that small valley where Niang is buried. If your heart to become Wulins martial art expert is dead, you can be a good chef quietly; and if you have a son in the future, just change his name to Xu Zhong, to commemorate your great brother!

    Xu Zilings voice cracked, Tell me you are joking!

    Kou Zhong shook his head, After seeing Yuwen Huagu, Du Fuwei, that kind of people, you will no longer be willing to live a dull life. After coming across beautiful women like Niang or our Beautiful Shifu, it will be very difficult to take an ordinary woman as my wife. I really want to fight this challenge; if I win, its very possible that I will master an exceptional qinggong, but if I lose, I will go down the Yellow Springs[1] to find Niang and show a bit of filial piety. Do you understand? My good brother.

    Xu Ziling sat down dejectedly; but suddenly he burst in laughter, You are always greatly persuasive; if you want to die, lets die together.

    The two boys stood at the edge of a high cliff. Looking down at the underbrush and scattered rocks dozen or so zhang below, they hesitated.

    Seems to be a bit high, Kou Zhong said in a low voice, We are really stupid; we forgot to ask Beautiful Shifu how many zhang a beginner martial art master can jump.

    Xu Ziling looked up toward the magnificent starry sky. Shall we go back to sleep? he asked with a wry smile.

    Kou Zhong took a deep breath, closed his eyes and said, Well count to three, and then we jump together. Just remember to ay, dont try to think about anything, let the nature take its course.

    One! Xu Ziling shouted.

    Two! Kou Zhong caught on.

    And then the two of them screamed together, Three!

    Four legs kicked the ground, like a bullet the two boys left the edge of the cliff to enter the empty air outside the cliff.

    In that split second, all kinds of profound, unforgettable memories, such as: they were playing and swimming in the stream and met Fu Junchuo, her death, they were being carried by Du Fuwei as he rushed across the open field, strolling along the street with Susu, being treated in a cold manner by Qingqing at the brothel, the stunning beauty of Yun Yuzhen when they first met her; were flitting through their mind like flashes of lightning, or like the flying sparks of a flint, followed by a blank. And then they started to sense that they were falling, fast.

    In the instant they were hovering between life and death, suddenly they were completely without any access to external qi, however, their internal breathing was like a torch. Bang! It lit up with an explosion.

    Just like a dream.

    All of a sudden, they understood the secret to speed up the movement of true qi within their body. They must first sever the outer physical breathing before unleashing the true qi inside the body. This is precisely what the Taoist School said about innate breathing.

    The two boys body was like ant marching, the true qi went back and forth endlessly. Xu Zilings started from Yong Quan going up, Kou Zhongs from Tian Ling passing down.

    At the same time they remembered Beautiful Shifus Bird Crossing Technique, quickly they raised a mouthful of true qi, their palms pushed down, and applied the adverse power. Immediately there was an opposing force in vertical direction; unexpectedly their descending speed experienced substantial reduction, and there was still enough force left over to push them back about half a chi up. Turning a somersault in the air, wham they landed on a pile of thick underbrush so hard that all they saw in their eyes were stars.

    Kou Zhong was the first to crawl up. Niang! he shouted loudly, We succeed!

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling finally made an incomparable step in their martial art journey, a crucial breakthrough. Although there was still a considerable distance from the level of true martial art experts, but it was an important step in the right direction.

    One day Xu Ziling suddenly had a weird idea; he pulled Kou Zhong along to train martial art at the bottom of the sea. Trouble is, they could not get a stable footing. Thereupon they each tied a big rock on their leg, and this seemed to improve their situation.

    Gradually they discovered that they could channel their qi and focused it in their legs, so much so that they were able to withstand the attack of the undercurrent, hence they did not need to rely on the rocks anymore.

    With this discovery, they began to experiment rising up and sinking down in the water, which made their training more delightful.

    Back to the dry ground, after the underwater experience, they were able to train the Bird Crossing Technique until the what the heart wishes, the hand accomplishes level. They could easily leap over ordinary a zhang, or perhaps two zhang tall trees, and on the way down, they could even show off a variety of poses and fancy postures.

    When they sparred against each other with weapons, they followed the same steps to gradually able to channel their qi onto the weapons.

    Tonight was the big night, the appointed day for them to meet Yun Yuzhen. The two boys dressed neatly and waited at the beach.

    After sitting down, Kou Zhong thought for a moment and said, We must guard against the peoples heart. I forgot who said that; was it Niang, or Du Fuwei?

    I think it was Niang, Xu Ziling replied, You dont seem to trust our Beautiful Shifu.

    Kou Zhong said, Wulins martial art masters are always enigmatic, we cant let people see through how much weight we carry [i.e. importance]; therefore, it would be best if we hide our true power, dont let Beautiful Shifu find out we have mastered her Bird Crossing Technique. Supposing she really wants to harm us, we still have a bit of asset to flee.

    Xu Ziling nodded his agreement; he turned his eyes toward the ocean and said, Look! Look!

    A dot of light appeared on the surface of the ocean; the dot rapidly growing bigger. A fast boat passed to the left and swerved to the right among the reefs and came to the shallow water.

    The two boys focused their eyes. Very soon they could see the boat clearly. Four men were rowing the boat, on the bow stood a young woman wearing white warrior outfit, but she was not Yun Yuzhen.

    The girl soared to the air; in just two leaps she already arrived in front the two boys, and spoke respectfully, Xiao Bi [little maid servant] Yun Zhi, on Bangzhu Miss Yun Yuzhens order to invite two Gongzi to get on the boat.

    They did not anticipate this move from Yun Yuzhen. After exchanging glances, they followed Yun Zhi to board the small boat.

    Aboard the three-mast ship, Yun Zhi led the two boys into the main cabin to see Yun Yuzhen, who was sitting in a plush chair. The two boys sat up straight in the chairs to her left and right, and Yun Zhi withdrew, leaving only the three people in the cabin.

    Yun Yuzhen smiled, Hows your training? she asked.

    Assuming an ashamed look, Kou Zhong shook his head. Catching on, Xu Ziling flawlessly sighed and said, As soon as we started, the qi and blood in our body surged; how could we dare to continue?

    Yun Yuzhen found it hard to conceal her disappointment; bowing her head, she was lost in thought for a long time before finally managed to say, Since you cant train it, we have to make another plan.

    The two boys immediately understood, although Yun Yuzhen said all those good things, the fact was that teaching them qinggong was part of her plan so that they could use it to accomplish their mission. They could not help rejoicing inwardly for not telling her the truth.

    Yun Yuzhen sighed again before asking, Do you know why Dong Ming Pai let them come aboard their ship that day?

    Kou Zhong replied, Every year they come to the Central Earth to select some young men with natural endowments to be brought back with them; needless to say, those men are to be the womens husbands, is that right?

    Yun Yuzhen said, Tell me everything that happened after you came onboard, dont omit anything.

    Kou Zhong only needed several sentences to explain everything; because the chain of events that day only happened in the time needed to drink half a cup of hot tea.

    Listening to him, Yun Yuzhens pretty eyebrows were knitted; it was quite some time later that she finally said, This is strange, why did Madame Dong Ming ask you those strange questions?

    Xu Ziling replied, Do we need to tell you that? Since they are selecting son-in-law, naturally they are looking for some guys with aspiration and ambition. Realizing that we are just two boys who are crazy about riches, they chased us out of the ship in anger.

    You are not asking us to steal their stuff, are you? Kou Zhong wondered, If thats the case, wont it be better for you to make the move yourself? They only need to remove the rope ladder, and we wont be able to climb up.

    Yun Yuzhen was impatient, If I have a choice, why would I want to rely on you, these two little demons? she said, Right now, only you can stroll and swagger into their Floating Fragrance Flagship.

    The two boys were stunned. Beautiful Shifu must be mistaken, Kou Zhong said, I am afraid you and we are not on Madame Dong Mings welcomed guest list.

    Yun Yuzhen said, This time and that time are two different things. Right now you have rendered great merit to Dong Ming Pai, Madame Dong Ming even dispatched her subordinate, the four law protector fairies to go everywhere to look for you; its just that they have not found you!

    The two boys spirit was immediately aroused; remembering that pretty young maid, their hearts warmed up instantly.

    Yun Yuzhen smiled, You understand it now? she asked, I could arrange that they coincidentally find you, and thus you will have a good chance of going into the Floating Fragrance Flagship.

    Xu Ziling said, Actually, you have not even told us what is it that you want us to steal!

    Yun Yuzhen nonchalantly said, Do you remember I told you that every clan and sect has their own way of earning a fortune? Dong Ming Pais expertise is in manufacturing high-quality weapons; this fact is extremely well known in Jianghu. Out of ten divine arms and sharp weapons, at least three were forged in their Ryukyu factory.

    Xu Ziling suddenly came to a realization, So you want us to steal weapons.

    Yun Yuzhen was irritated, Other than divine arms and sharp weapons like Gan Jiang and Mo Xie[2], there is nothing good to be stolen. What I want you to steal an account book of a great importance.

    The two boys looked at each other in incredulity.

    Yun Yuzhens pretty eyes flickered. This account book records all Dong Ming Pais weapon transaction in the last few years; both the seller and the buyer must sign and affix their seals, and it also lists the quantity as well as the type of weapons being sold. Yuwen Huaji ordered Haisha Bang to attack the Floating Fragrance Flagship, it was precisely for the sake of this account book.

    Listening to this, the two boys were totally confused and were at a loss.

    Yun Yuzhen continued, It also involves the power struggle within the imperial court. For instance, certain high-ranking minister secretly purchased a large quantity of weapons from Dong Ming Pai, this account book becomes irrefutable evidence that will allow Yuwen Huaji to submit a memorial to the Emperor and thus drag his opponent down. Do you understand it now?

    Kou Zhong said, But Beautiful Shifu is not Yuwen Huaji; why do you want to obtain this account book?

    You dont need to mind my business, Yun Yuzhen replied, In short, just get me the book, in turn I will set you free and give you the promised gold. If you are willing to try, while there are still ten days or so time, I will have my people teaching you first-class technique in stealing. Are you clear?

    There was a knock on the door, Yun Zhi came to report, There is a small boat coming to us from behind; its probably Li Gongzi.

    Yun Yuzhens powdered face turned slightly red from annoyance; she said, That shameful, annoying @$$hole keeps entangling me; let him come aboard.

    After a short pause, she added, Take these two little demons go see Grandpa Chen.

    Seeing how happy she was at the prospect of seeing that Li Gongzi, the two boys were already upset. Now that she wanted to get rid of them, the two little demons, their ego took a hard beating. With anger and resentment they followed Yun Zhi out.

    Following Yun Yuzhens order, Yun Zhi took them along the hallway of the upper deck and came to a door. Knocking the door, she said, Grandpa Chen! Two Gongzi are here.

    An old-sounding voice came from inside, Have them come in!

    Yun Zhi pushed the door open and tell them to come in on their own.

    The two boys stepped into the room, and discovered that the room was surprisingly very big. Spread all over the room were all kinds of padlocks, scaled building models, and some tools of unknown purpose. The walls were covered with a lot of architectural drawings. Unexpectedly they were inside the ships main workshop.

    A decrepit, hunchback, old man with long beard was taking apart a padlock and examining it carefully by the window. Without even casting a glance to the boys, he said with his hoarse voice, Shut the door!

    Xu Ziling pushed the door closed.

    The old man put down the lock and went over to them. Because he was shorter by more than half a head than the two boys, he had to look up to them. After seeing clearly the two boys faces, he let out a hollow laugh and said, I heard that you two have been stealing and swindling since childhood. Ha! Put out your hands first, let me take a look.

    The old man reached out to the two boys four hands, grabbing and pinching left and right for a while, he expressed his astonishment, I have never seen hands better than yours. Apparently very soon we will have two better pairs. Ha! I, the Ol Chen will have my successors.

    With hands behind his back, he walked away and only stopped at the window. Staring out the window, he said, Trying to steal things, apart from a pair of dexterous hands, one must be quick witted and able to change according to the situation, plus having excellent understanding of the building, its construction, mechanism, and so on.

    And then he strolled back and beckoned the two boys to come over to a building model on the table. This building complex is made of ten courtyard houses of different sizes. If I want you to steal a piece of precious jade, how would you find where the jade is?

    Noticing the two boys only return blank stares, he seemed to be immensely proud of himself as he moved to another model and said, Do you recognize this one?

    Kou Zhongs voice was hoarse, Isnt this Yangzhou Zongguans mansion?

    Precisely Yuchi Shengs doghouse, Ol Chen replied, Actually, stealing is not too difficult. If I want you to steal a classified dossier, after reading all that stuff you must memorize everything written inside in your brains, and then return the dossier to its original place, the owner will not know that the files have been seen by others, now that would require not only outstanding skill, you must also have photographic memory. Oh! Do you know how to read?

    Kou Zhong was already suspicious of Yun Yuzhen, naturally he would not tell him the truth. Pretending to be ashamed, he said, How could we have the opportunity to go to school?

    I wont blame you, Ol Chen spoke sympathetically, Luckily this time the mission does not require you to read.

    Taking the two boys to a drawing hanging on the wall to their left, he said, This is the Floating Fragrance Flagship, which you have been to. The blackened parts are places where we are not yet clear.

    The diagram showed Floating Fragrance Flagship in stereoscopic perspective, but the main cabin section below the deck had been blackened.

    Like an unceasing torrent the Ol Chen explained everything, but the two boys found it fascinating, hence they listened attentively, while asking questions from time to time.

    By daybreak, Yun Zhi came to take them to the room at the end of a long hallway toward to bow to rest. The two boys put down their heads and slept peacefully and did not wake up until evening.

    Two pretty maids came to wait on them as they took a bath, changed their clothes, shaved their beards and combed their hair into a bun. When Yun Zhi returned to take them into the main cabin, her elegant eyes lit up as soon as she saw them; she said in astonishment, Turns out two Gongzi are so handsome; indeed I failed to admire that.

    Seeing she was so pretty and pleasant, Kou Zhong leaned over and said, How old is Jiejie this year? You seem to be almost at the same age as we are?

    Yun Zhi crossly said, Definitely your senior. Come! She turned around and walked away.

    The two boys realized she was looking down on them; after exchanging frustrated expression and eye contact with each other, they followed her.

    Arriving at the main cabin, they saw a dinner table was already prepared with food and wine, but there were only three seats, and one of them was already occupied by a big man in embroidered robe. His face looked ugly, with an approximately two cun long saber scar on his left cheek, giving out the impression that he was a cruel man; but his pair of eyes was flickering lively, so with one look people could tell that this was a martial art master with exquisite inner power.

    The man was actually very polite. He stood up to welcome them and said, Jukun Bang Fu Bangzhu [Deputy Clan Leader] Bu Tianzhi at your service. Yun Bangzhu has a business to attend to and has left for the shore, assigning the Ol Bu to take up the responsibility to greet the two Xiao Xiongdi.

    Seeing their Beautiful Shifu was not present, and thought that she must be with that Li Gongzi, the two boys felt extremely disappointed; its just that they could not resist the temptation of food, so they replied perfunctorily with some polite remarks, and then sat down to gorge themselves, pushing all unpleasant thoughts to the back of their minds.

    Bu Tianzhi was not talkative either; he spoke one minute and was quiet the next. He only asked the two boys past experience. Kou Zhong gave him some made up stories, yet he seemed to be very satisfied.

    At the end of dinner Bu Tianzhi beckoned his subordinate to fetch an embroidered case, opened the lid, and took out an exquisite looking book. The cover was embossed with Dong Ming Pai insignia, which was of the same pattern as the embroidered flag of the Floating Fragrance Flagship.

    The two boys looked at Bu Tianzhi in astonishment.

    Bu Tianzhi did not say anything; he simply opened the first page. They saw the page was densely packed with small characters, written in black, ink stick, and vermillion, ground cinnabar ink. On one side was the type of weapon and its quantity, written in black, on the other side was the amount of money paid, written in vermillion; to their surprise, the unit of currency was gold, the highest amount reached three thousand taels of gold, which was more than enough for an ordinary person to eat for more than ten lifetimes. There was also a note on the date and place of delivery.

    The most shocking was that written at the top was Li Clan the First of Longxi, six characters [long xi li fa di yi], but there was neither signature nor seal.

    Kou Zhong pretended to be confused. The letters recognize me, but I dont recognize them, he said, What does it say here? he pointed to the top.

    Bu Tianzhi turned to the second page, but it was blank.

    Bu Tianzhi turned back to the first page and said, What we are asking two Xiao Xiongdi to steal is precisely this account book. When you open the book, the first page will look exactly like this. You must remember it carefully, dont make any mistake.

    Xu Ziling probed further; pointing to the character yi [one/first, which is basically a dash (-)] of the Li Clan the First, he said, I know this is character yi, but I dont know the rest. What does it say, actually?

    You dont need to worry about anything, Bu Tianzhi said, This yi character simply indicates the first page. By the time you leave the ship, I will show it to you again.

    The two boys were getting even more suspicious. But since they still need to learn Ol Chens great stealing skill, they did not have time to think about it too much; whenever they had spare time, they would practice secretly inside their bedroom.

    Five days later after passing through the mouth of Yangtze River, they dropped anchor and tarried over for four days, but the two boys were not allowed to come ashore.

    After that they continued northwards. That evening during dinner they found out that Yun Yuzhen has returned, but they did not see Bu Tianzhi.

    Yun Yuzhen was in high spirits, it was as if her beauty had spread all over her body and made her glowing. But since Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling already knew that she did not trust them completely [orig. baring her heart into their keeping], they did not see her with the same longing as when they first saw her. Because she was definitely not another Fu Junchuo or even Susu.

    Where are we going, actually? Kou Zhong asked.

    We are now heading north toward Huai River, Yun Yuzhen replied, After that we will head west to Zhongyang. At that time we will plan your mission.

    After sizing them up for half a day, she laughed and said, I am sure that after two years you will be dignified, handsome and imposing men. Right now after you have your beard shaved, your hair tidied up, you are already a lot more impressive than before. How old are you this year?

    I just turned eighteen, Kou Zhong replied, And he is a year younger.

    Yun Yuzhen cheerfully said, I heard from Grandpa Chen that you guys managed to master any trick as soon as you learned it; you did not fail to live up to my expectations at all.

    Xu Ziling asked, If we are successful in stealing the account book, how are we going to leave the ship?

    You dont have to worry about that, Yun Yuzhen replied, I will have my people teach you how to use the light signals to communicate with us. At that time I might personally come to the ship to pick you up. I guarantee it will be foolproof.

    Kou Zhong asked, Dong Ming Pai came to the Central Plains, why would they stay this long?

    Yun Yuzhen replied, Every three years they would come to the Central Plains for a period of time, to accept new orders and collect payments. As for the delivery of goods, they have other vessels transporting the weapons. This, you dont need to mind.

    Xu Ziling asked, Are there any new developments on the outside world?

    Yun Yuzhen unenthusiastically replied, Du Fuwei still occupies Liyang unchallenged, several times has he repelled the Sui army. Four months ago Dou Jiande proclaimed himself as the King of Changle, his prestige is actually above Du Fuweis. Recently several new people emerged; among them is Xu Yuanlang, another one is Lu Mingyue. These two are Wulin characters who hold the balance of power. But in term of sensation, no one surpasses Yingyang Pais Liang Shidou and Liu Wuzhou who together raised an army against the Sui. Both of them were originally Sui generals; therefore, their rebellion has significantly weakened the Sui forces.

    She suddenly sighed before continuing, These two men have close relationship with the Tujue. Liang Shidou recently did obeisance to become a disciple of Tujues Wu Zun Bi Xuan [see Book 1 Chapter 5] school. With Tujue peoples involvement, I dont know how this mess is going to be cleaned up.

    The two boys recalled Liang Shidous son, Liang Shunming and Shen Tianquns beautiful daughter Shen Wushuang; momentarily they were lost in thought.

    Xu Ziling was concerned over Susu, he asked about her master, Zhai Rang.

    Yun Yuzhen was indeed well informed of the current situation; she calmly replied, Zhai Rang and Li Mi are concentrating their forces in preparation to attack Xingluo Warehouse. If they succeed, Sui Clan will be in danger. Speaking about character and prospect, among the militia the Great Dragon Head [or simply Big Boss] Zhai Rang has the biggest fame and power, but he achieved his fame and power relying on Li Mi. Sooner or later there will be a problem.

    And then she curiously asked, You seem to also know a little about this aspect?

    Du Fuwei told us all of these, Kou Zhong said.

    The two boys were worried about Susu, they hurriedly finished their dinner, and went to the Ol Chen to continue their training. By the time they returned to their room, it was already the third watch of the night [between 11pm 1am].

    The two boys pretended to lie down on the couch to sleep, but they were talking it over under the bed curtain.

    Kou Zhong said, Our Beautiful Shifu is beautiful on the outside, but the scheming in her heart is not too good. She clearly wants to exploit us to steal something to harm others.

    Xu Ziling said, She must want to blackmail the Li Clan people just like she blackmail us. We simply must not become her accomplice; we might as well slip away and be done with it.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Do you think I did not want to leave? Problem is, if Beautiful Shifu really wants to treat us cruelly, she would broadcast our whereabouts to the world, so much so that she might make our portraits, and then we certainly wont be able to move a single step. Therefore, we must come up with a proper escape plan.

    Xu Ziling said, When we really see Madame Dong Ming, we can tell her everything, and then beseech her to take us to Ryukyu. Its just that by doing this, we wont be able to avenge Niang.

    And we wont see Li Dage and Susu Jie either, Kou Zhong added.

    After being silent for half a day, Kou Zhong said, Have you noticed that the situation on the ship these days is a bit peculiar?

    Xu Ziling nodded and replied, Ever since Beautiful Shifu is back, the ship suddenly become very tense, from time to time it changes course as if they are guarding against the enemy.

    I got it! Kou Zhong slapped his thigh, Those people might come for us. For example, Haisha Bang, or perhaps our Ol Die Du Fuwei. You can plant spies in other peoples organization, why cant others use the same trick to deal with you?

    Xu Ziling smiled wryly, What kind of bird trick is that? he said, Captured by the Ol Die or Han Pudi, Id rather stay here. At least we get polite hospitality.

    The know-it-all Kou Zhong said, Mountain people have brilliant scheme, well launch the move escaping by death; we will appear to be killed, but actually well escape without a trace.

    Its easier said than done, Xu Ziling dejectedly said, But how do you do it?

    Kou Zhong said, If we are elsewhere, or our skill is as useless as before, naturally it is impossible. But now, as long as we pretend to fall into their trap and fall into the sea, and spurt some blood, and then walk secretly at the bottom of the sea, everybody will think that we are swallowed up by the sea. Wont we be able to regain our freedom then?

    Where can we get the blood from? Xu Ziling asked.

    Kou Zhong made a gesture as if he was grabbing something. And then he laughed and said, Every day we have a large chunk of chicken meat entering our belly, evidently they keep quite a few chicken in the kitchen; you got that?

    Xu Ziling was dismayed, Problem is we dont know exactly when the enemy will strike; if we take the blood prematurely, it will coagulate into a hard lump. Supposing that when we fall into the sea and then lumps of chicken blood emerge, wont the enemy laugh until their big teeth fall off?

    We can knock the chicken out, Kou Zhong said, We are the experts in that kind of trick in stealing chicken. After stealing it, we keep it under our bed. If the enemy has not come yet, well replace the chicken with two others. This will work.

    While Xu Ziling was still hesitating, Kou Zhong sat up and said, Its time to test our lightness skill and Ol Chens stealing technique.

    [1] Yellow Springs, underworld in Chinese mythology, equivalent to Hades in Greek mythology.

    [2] Gan Jiang and Mo Xie: the following is from Faerie Queenes work, Legend of the White Haired Maiden (Liang Yusheng). I thought I repeat it here for reference:

    This pair of swords was said to be created by a pair of husband and wife sword smiths who lived during the end of the Spring and Autumn era (722BC-481BC) and were said to be apprentices coming out from the same school as the master sword-maker Ou YeZi who crafted the Dragon Springs Sword. Having crafted two of the finest swords of their career, they named these two swords after themselves Gan Jiang (literal translation: Competent General), Mo Xie (literal translation: Do not be/commit evil). There appears to be various stories and legends surrounding these two sword-makers. It was said that though they worked for the Lord of the state of Wu (He Lu), yet Gan Jiang was also unjustly executed by the Lord of Wu because he did not want Gan Jiang crafting equally superb swords for the other states. Another story posits that it was Gan Jiang who crafted the pair of swords and named them after his wife and himself. He worked for the Lord of Chu and having anticipated that his lord would kill him immediately upon receiving this sword, he voiced these fears to his pregnant wife and left behind one sword buried under a large tree so that his unborn child may one day take revenge for him. Indeed, upon presenting the Gan Jiang sword to the Lord of Chu, Gan Jiang was executed. When their son Chi Bi (literal translation: Scarlet Nose) grew up, he dug up the sword and swore revenge for his father. But unable to approach the Lord of Chu, he narrated his story to a noble warrior from the Chu state, who having been touched by his story promised to seek revenge for him. According to legend, it was this warrior who by presenting the Lord of Chu with the Mo Xie sword as a decoy, beheaded the Lord of Chu with this very sword and knowing that being surrounded by numerous soldiers he would be unable to escape, this warrior beheaded himself with the very same sword. There was yet another legend which posits that Gan Jiang collected together the essence of the highest grades of gold and metals belonging to the five mountains (probably: SongShan, TaiShan, HuaShan, Northern HengShan, Southern HengShan) and combined them together within a forge. But the heat of the forge was not enough to melt the metals and since the metals were unable to merge together, his sword was unable to be completed. Gan Jiang knew that his failure to finish the sword according to his deadline would lead to his execution by the Lord of Wu and as a result was filled with despair. Suddenly, during one night, his wife smiled at him, causing Gan Jiang to be greatly worried as he pleaded for her to not commit what he feared she would do. But she only smiled and by the time Gan Jiang woke up, he found that she had already disappeared. He ran to the place where they crafted the swords and saw his wife standing by the forge smiling at him. But before he could reach her, she had already thrown herself into the fire. Her last words to him were that of reassuring her husband that she has not died yet and that they would eventually reunite. The metals finally melted and combined together to finally complete the pair of Gan Jiang, Mo Xie swords. Gan Jiang only presented the Gan Jiang sword to the Lord of Wu and secretly kept the Mo Xie sword by his side. But the Lord of Wu eventually discovered this news and had his men surround Gan Jiang. At that time, Gan Jiang opened up the box, which contained the Mo Xie sword and asked the Mo Xie sword how he could ever be reunited with his wife. But the sword instantaneously transformed into a great white dragon, which suddenly disappeared along with Gan Jiang himself. Similarly, the Gan Jiang sword, which was by the Lord of Wus side all this time mysteriously disappeared as well. Meanwhile, in a district called the Pin (destitute/impoverish) Cheng (City) located a thousand miles away appeared a young white dragon that suddenly emerged in their YanPingJin lake. This majestic dragon was not only beautiful, but also kind-hearted and by calling upon the power of rainfall and the force of wind, it enabled the destitute city to benefit from the weather and prosper in its agriculture. As a result, the city was also renamed as Feng (Prosperity) Cheng. But the inhabitants found that the white dragon seemed always to be very unhappy as it looked towards the shores as if forever waiting for or pining away for someone with eyes filled with tears. After six hundred years, a young man named Lei Huan suddenly discovered a box buried within the ground. Upon opening the box, he discovered that it concealed the legendary Gan Jiang sword. Pleased with his finding, he hung the sword by his side and one day, when he past by the YanPingJin lake, the sword that hung by his waist suddenly leaped up into the air and dived into the lake. There was a great commotion in the waters when suddenly two dragons leaped out, one white dragon and one black dragon. These two dragons danced together in joyful happiness before returning to the bottom of the lake, only to disappear forever. The next day, a husband and wife moved into the town. They were merely an ordinary couple and although the husband was a very skilled blacksmith, yet he only crafted the ordinary tools used in everyday agricultural life while his wife stood by his side, fanning him with a little fan and wiping away his sweat.

  4. #24
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 2 - Chapter 11

    Book 2 Chapter 11 As Poisonous as Vipers and Scorpions

    Kou Zhong pressed his ear against the wooden door, applied his energy to listen, and after making sure that there was no one in the hallway, he pushed the door and stuck out his head to look, and then darted out.

    Xu Ziling followed closely behind. If he said he was not nervous, then he was lying.

    The kitchen was located at the aft; hence they had to go through the hallway, going up the stairs, and across a zhang or so of deck, before they could reach the entrance to the galley.

    There were two wind lanterns hanging on either end of the hallway, one toward the bow, the other toward the stern; in between these two lanterns, the hallway was dimly lit. At this time of the day, other than the crew on duty, most people were sound asleep.

    The two boys channeled their qi to lighten their body; like a ghost they flitted toward the stern. To their shock, as they reached the stairs leading to the deck, they heard voices coming from upstairs. More shocking, it was Yun Yuzhens tender laughter.

    The two boys were so frightened that their soul flew away and scattered; because the distance would not give them enough time to sneak back to their room. In their panic, they did not care which way to take, they pushed the door to the big room where the Ol Chen imparted his skills, and slipped inside.

    Only here they could hide temporarily.

    Familiar with the layout of the room, they hid themselves under a cabinet on the corner of the room leaning against the outboard wall, closest to the sea, while praying in their heart that Yun Yuzhen was not out to look for them.

    Squeak! the workshop door was pushed open. The two boys were happy and scared at the same time.

    Happy because obviously Yun Yuzhen came to this level not to look for them, scared because Yun Yuzhen might find them. So the two boys shut their qi while circulating their energy, to move their inner breathing.

    If it were other people, even if their inner power were deeper and purer than the two boys, it would still be difficult to hide from a martial art master of Yun Yuzhens caliber.

    But since the Secret to Long Life was the Taoist schools highest cultivation technique, its focus was on maintaining good health in the deepest and most mysterious way. During the energy circulation, the body functioned like animal in hibernation, the breathing became as if it was nonexistent, the essence of qi vanished. Plus Yun Yuzhen was not intentionally trying to find them, hence her senses did not detect the two boys presence.

    At first they only heard Yun Yuzhens barely audible footsteps, but the two boys sensed that there were two people entering the room, because Yun Yuzhen was already inside the room when they heard the door being closed.

    Yun Yuzhens alluring laughter was heard, Ce Ge [big brother Ce]! Come in quick! This is Floating Fragrance Flagship model; we lost three martial art experts to obtain this information. How are you going to reward us? Surprisingly, her voice was extraordinarily foxy, charming, tender, and coy.

    And then they heard Yun Yuzhens soft groan, followed by her panting and the rustling of clothes rubbing against each other.

    The two boys felt very embarrassed; they had never expected that Yun Yuzhen, who ordinarily treated them in cold and inviolable manners, was now sounded like a sex-kitten.

    On the other hand, they were greatly terrified, because this mans footsteps did not create any noise at all; apparently his martial art skill was above Yun Yuzhens.

    Then a chipper young voice said, Yuzhen, you look fuller now. Look! Such a firm and round body.

    Gasping for breath, Yun Yuzhen said, How about you come back after our business is done? Are you afraid I might fly away tonight?

    Hearing this, the two boys heart was burning with hatred; this Beautiful Shifus standing in their heart has just taken a thousand zhang drop.

    Obviously the man released Yun Yuzhen, since the latter said, Why havent you lighted the lantern?

    The lantern was lit. Yun Yuzhen said, Shan Mei Xianren Madame Dong Mings [see Book 2 Chapter 5] power has reached perfection; fortunately I knew that in the next seven days she is at Pengcheng [lit. Peng City] to meet Li Yuan. Her return trip will take at least ten days. That will be our only chance to steal the account book.

    The man said, Are those two little demons any good? They still have Dong Ming Pais little princess and the law-protector fairies on the ship; all are first-class martial art masters.

    Yun Yuzhen laughed and said, Those two kids are as smart as ghosts; the only problem is that they did not master Yuzhens Crow Crossing Technique; otherwise, with intention can be considered without intention. This matter will be ninety percent sure. At that time, I might pretend to attack the Floating Fragrance Flagship, to lure their martial art experts out, so that they can make their escape. There shouldnt be any problem.

    The man laughed and said, Each time you, this coquettish fox, mention those two kids, you always have your brows raised in delight and your eyes laughing. Are you thinking of tasting their virginity?

    Yun Yuzhen laughed and swore, With you, this big-headed ghost, would I look at those two little ruffians whose smell of mothers milk has not dried yet? Its just that they can still be considered rising star [the original was darker: delight of a girl trafficked into a brothel to work as prostitute]. Because the matter this time is of grave importance, we had to ask you, the new generation martial art expert of the Dugu Clan, to come and personally receive the goods. At that time we can easily kill them to shut their mouth. Others are making an all-out effort for your sake, but unexpectedly you said such thing about others. Ah oh

    The two people were making out again.

    But to Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, it was as if they heard thunder from a clear blue sky, their heart was completely broken; turned out the truth was this cruel. All those sweet speech and honeyed words from Yun Yuzhen were nothing but lies.

    At the same time they suddenly saw the light.

    Jukun Bangs backing was actually one of the four powerful clans, the Dugu Clan. Plus this matter was actually Dugu Clans plot against the Li Clan or perhaps the Yuwen Clan.

    Then they heard Yun Yuzhens voice; moaning and gasping for breath she said, Do you want me to go back to my room? Do you really want to tease me to death? These two nights should be peaceful and safe, but as soon as we enter Huai River, I cant guarantee anything. I dont know how Du Fuwei got wind that the two little demons are on my ship. At that time, I will have to rely on your, Dugu Ces Bi Luo Jianfa [sky-blue fall sword] to deal with his Xiu Li Qiankun [universe in his sleeve].

    Dont worry! Dugu Ce arrogantly said, Er Ge [second (older) brother] has personally prepared martial art masters to provide support to us; we can easily slaughter Du Fuwei. At that time only Fu Gongyou left with Huai River army; not enough for us to fear.

    Yun Yuzhen said, When your Dugu Clan obtain the world [tian xia] in the future, dont forget me, Yun Yuzhen!

    Dugu Ce lowered his voice, Are you sure that those two kids really dont know the secret of Duke Yangs treasure trove?

    I am sure, Yun Yuzhen replied, Once I intentionally mocked them that they did not the treasures location, while I paid close attention to their reaction and facial expression. I knew that Fu Junchuo did not tell them. The fact is, Fu Junchuo has always been Gaoli people, how could she possibly spill the secret to Han people? Come!

    The door closed. The sound of footsteps moved farther and farther away. The two boys breathed a sigh of relief, but still felt extremely lost.

    Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, There will come a day we will vent our anger to her.

    Xu Ziling said wryly, Looks like it wont be too late for us to steal chicken when we get to Huai River.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Lets go back to bed!

    That night they did not sleep well. When dawn came, they woke up and went to the deck to enjoy the ocean view, and their mood improved a little bit.

    A flock of seagulls hovered behind the ship; the two boys watched with rapt attention how the seagulls flew in arcs; a comprehension grew in their mind, momentarily they had their eyes only on the seagulls and forgot about everything else.

    Suddenly Yun Yuzhens voice came from behind, Why woke up so early today? she asked.

    The two boys intentionally did not turn their head around, Kou Zhong only mumbled incoherently in reply.

    Yun Yuzhen stood next to Xu Ziling. Havent you seen seagulls before? she asked in astonishment, Why are you so enthralled?

    Xu Ziling gave her an indifferent look; recalling that last night she said it with her own mouth that she wanted Dugu Ce to kill them to shut their mouth, and that he has finally seen her salacious nature, a sense of loathing bubbled up in his heart. Turning his gaze back to the seagulls, he said in heavy tone, Naturally seagulls are a lot more enthralling; at least live a carefree live, without any fear of being harmed by their own kind.

    Kou Zhong was afraid Yun Yuzhen might grow suspicious, he laughed and said, Xiao Ling has always been a helpless romantic. Beautiful Shifu must not blame him.

    How could Yun Yuzhen know that the two boys have discovered her secret? With a charming smile she said, Young people always have their minds filled with fantasy. Just enjoy the view for a moment longer, and then come down to have breakfast with me! I will tell you more on the details of your mission. Finished speaking, she gracefully left.

    Three days later, the ship finally reached the water where Huai River met the ocean, where they turn west to travel along Huai River.

    The people on the ship grew tense again. Yun Yuzhen even issued a strict order for the two boys to stay inside their room at all times.

    That evening, while other people were focusing their attention to the enemy outside, Kou Zhong sneaked into the galley to steal three chickens and brought them back into their room, where they waited patiently.

    The two boys were fully dressed, with their weapons tied behind their back; and then they separately stationed themselves by the window and by the door to listen to the activity outside.

    By the third watch of the night [between 11pm 1am] there was sound of footsteps in the hallway, coming straight toward their room. Horrified, the two boys jumped onto the bed, pretending to be asleep.

    There was a knock on the door, followed by the door being pushed open. Yun Zhis voice was heard, Get dressed quickly, Ill come back to take you out later.

    Without waiting for any response, she closed the door.

    The two boys jumped out of the bed in fear. They hastily slaughtered the chicken and collected their blood, which they put into four empty stolen wine bottles, and divided the bottles into two halves. When they were just hiding the bottles into their pockets, Yun Zhi returned. She beckoned them to follow her.

    Right that moment the hull suddenly shook violently, the ship was making a hard turn, and sailed in high speed back to where they were coming from.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling concluded that not only the enemy has come, they were coming in full force and posed a real threat to Jukun Bang, putting them in a rather difficult situation. Only the two boys did not know what went wrong.

    The hallway was full of people going back and forth, there were a lot of people that they had never seen before but now making their appearance. They all seemed to be very tense, just like the tension before a giant storm.

    Kou Zhong quickened his steps to ask Yun Zhi, Whos coming?

    Yun Zhi lost her usual composure; rudely and impatiently she said, Dont talk!

    Kou Zhong fell back to Xu Ziling and said in a low voice, Little ruffian will always be little ruffian.

    Naturally Xu Ziling understood what he meant. If it were not they accidentally came across the Secret to Long Life and the Duke Yangs treasure-trove, Jianghu people would definitely look down on them and dismiss them as nobodies.

    With her grand prestige as the trusted maid of the clan leader, naturally Yun Zhi would never regard them as anybody important; simply because she received Yun Yuzhens order that she treated the two boys with fake respect and addressed them as Gongzi this and Gongzi that. Now that they encountered emergency situation like this, her patience was gone.

    Yun Zhi led them to the main deck. The two boys took the opportunity to look around. They saw five big ships about two li upstream, coming toward them at an amazingly high speed.

    The deck was full of Jukun Bang warriors; everybody looked tensed and alert, ready to fight the enemy.

    Yun Zhi kept walking toward the bow, where about twenty people gathered, including Yun Yuzhen and the deputy clan leader Bu Tianzhi, whom they have not seen for a long time.

    The other people looked different from each other; about seven or eight were women, each one was as beautiful as a flower. When they saw the two boys, their beautiful eyes were shining with curiosity.

    Although the deck was in total blackout, the two boys were not in the least bit bothered by it.

    Standing next to Yun Yuzhen was a man who looked to be at the same height as Kou Zhong, approximately twenty-five or twenty-six years old. His face handsome, his bearings serious, his clothes was a tight-fitting warrior suit. He and Yun Yuzhen looked to be a perfect match. Its just that his face was even more gaunt than Xu Ziling, plus there was a hint of paleness from excessive drinking and womanizing, so that he could not be compared to Xu Ziling in terms of natural elegance; however, he did have the maturity that Xu Ziling lacked.

    If this man was indeed Dugu Ce, then in terms of status and martial art skill, this man far surpassed the two boys.

    Yun Yuzhen stepped forward to meet them and said, The enemy is too strong, we must immediately escape to the shore.

    Bu Tianzhi and that man, whom they suspected was Dugu Ce, also came to either side of Yun Yuzhen. The latter was staring at the two boys, sizing them up.

    Kou Zhong pretended to be surprised as he stared back at Dugu Ce curiously.

    Yun Yuzhen cleared her throat and made the introduction, This is our Gangs martial art master protector of the law. He and Bu Fu Bangzhu will personally protect you.

    Dugu Ce laughed and said, Two Xiao Xiongdi need not be scared; leaving the ship is just a tactical matter, not that we are afraid of the enemy.

    As soon as he spoke, the two boys recognized his voice; he was indeed Dugu Ce.

    Whos the enemy? Xu Ziling asked.

    Yun Yuzhen replied, Du Fuwei has just taken the two large towns along the river ahead; he blocks the route to Zhongyang, hence we must change our route and go different way.

    Kou Zhong smiled politely to Yun Zhi, who was standing to the side, Look! he said, Bangzhu treated us with a lot more courtesy than you did.

    Yun Zhi glowered at him for a moment, but then she hung her head and did not dare to say anything.

    Yun Yuzhen also glowered at Yun Zhi, but right that moment someone came to report, Bangzhu! We will reach Leigong [lit. god of thunder] Gorge soon.

    The two boys looked ahead, and saw the river narrowed, both banks were high and steep cliffs; the terrain looks extremely dangerous.

    Prepare to abandon ship! Yun Yuzhen ordered.

    The twenty-something people moved toward the port side of the bow. Bu Tianzhi and Dugu Ce separately came to Xu Ziling and Kou Zhongs sides, and pulled their shoulders toward the edge of the ship.

    Meanwhile, the enemy ships were closing in behind them that they were now only about a li away.

    Jukun Bangs warship was steered toward the left bank. When they were only about three zhang away from the cliff, the twenty odd people soared to the sky across the Huai River, flying toward a dangerous cliff nearby.

    Bu Tianzhi and Dugu Ce wrapped their arms around the two boys waists, and then took them soaring into the air, and landed at the bank.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling did a self-check: if they had to exert their strength and jump across three zhang distance, it would still be beyond their reach. But now everybody, including Yun Zhi, was able to easily do it. Based on this fact alone they knew that these people, at least in term of qinggong, was much better than they.

    Holding them in their arms, Bu Tianzhi and Dugu Ce were still able to handle the butchers cleaver with ease; it was obvious that the two boys could only see the other riders dust and have no hope of catching up. [Translators note: I could very well translate this paragraph as: Holding them in their arms, Bu Tianzhi and Dugu Ce were still able to do it skillfully and easily; it was obvious that the two boys were far inferior. But to me, personally, Chinese idioms are fascinating, and Id like to share it with you.]

    Therefore, under normal circumstances, they basically had no hope of escaping.

    After landing, Yun Yuzhen did not just stay there; they quickly ran into the depths of the mountain and fields.

    After running for a time needed to burn an incense stick, Dugu Ce suddenly shouted, Halt!

    Everybody halted in shock.

    A moment later, they heard the sound of bird cry and the flapping of wings ahead; obviously the enemy is coming their way, startling the sleeping birds away.

    Aghast, Yun Yuzhen said, This way! Taking the lead, she dashed to the right.

    After rushing down a hill, they saw ahead was a big mountain. Unleashing their lightness skill, everybody ran up the mountain at full speed.

    By this time the sky was gradually getting brighter; all around them was desolate forest and mountainous open space that has never seen human footprint.

    Passing through a thick forest, suddenly they were greeted by vast open space with wide panorama; turned out they had come to the edge of a high cliff. Directly across the canyon, peaks of a mountain range still loomed at the distance that they were all horrified.

    Still holding Kou Zhong under his arm, Dugu Ce walked over to the edge of the cliff and looked down. This is a dead end! he exclaimed.

    Kou Zhong craned his neck, he saw the cliff was around a hundred zhang tall, but clusters of old trees sprouted along the wall of the cliff, easing the feeling of danger. Down below was an endless stretch of jungle that extended toward the sloping hill on the opposite side.

    Yun Yuzhen was trying to find a way down when suddenly there was a long laugh coming from behind them. Hongfen Bangzhu [orig. rouge and powder, see Book 2 Chapter 8], please hold! Du Fuwei of Huai River pays his respect to Bangzhu.

    Everybody knew hard battle was inevitable; they halted their steps and drew their weapons.

    Bu Tianzhi and Dugu Ce put the two boys down and stood in front of them to shield them.

    In order to deal with the powerful enemy, Yun Yuzhen and the rest stood in a semi-circle battle formation to protect them as well. Behind them was precisely the high cliff that could have their body torn and their bones crushed.

    Kou Zhong reached out to grab Xu Zilings hand; taking advantage while Yun Yuzhen and the others had their attention fixed on the enemy and did not pay any attention to the two boys, he whispered into Xu Zilings ear, Well wait for an appropriate time to jump down the cliff. The cliff wall is full of trees and bushes, which will reduce the momentum of our falling. The bottom of the cliff is a forest, I guarantee we wont die from falling.

    Xu Ziling clenched his teeth and nodded his head.

    Meanwhile Du Fuweis tall and lanky figure has appeared ahead, and stopped about a zhang away in front of Yun Yuzhen and the others. Farther down, at the edge of the hill, there were thirty, forty people came out and immediately surround them.

    Du Fuwei still wore a tall hat on his head, his vigor was still as before, his gaze fell to the two boys, unexpectedly, a smiling expression, which was very difficult to describe, appeared on his dead-man-like face. He said in tender voice, Children, now that you see your father, why havent you come over to pay your respect and admit your wrong?

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, Die, how are you, Senior? Your children have betrayed our family clan, henceforth father and sons relationship is cut asunder. Die, youd better go home to enjoy life of ease and comfort, dont go around tiring yourself for the sake of your children.

    Seeing Kou Zhong was not the least bit afraid of the notoriously cruel and merciless Du Fuwei, Yun Yuzhen could not help feeling greatly amazed. If it were they, due to Du Fuweis reputation, they would not dare to speak thoughtlessly and thus offending him.

    What she did not know was that Du Fuwei was accustomed to listening to Kou Zhong, hence he still had a familiar feeling in his heart; smiling, he said, It was caused by lack of communication between us, father and sons. Let your Ol Die get rid of these brazen, mad fellows who kidnap people first, and then we, father and sons can sit down and have a nice heart-to-heart chat!

    Dugu Ce and Yun Yuzhen let out a cold snort at the same time.

    Du Fuwei acted as if he did not even see them. His gaze swept across the several women in the group; he laughed and said, I often heard Jukun Bang is accustomed to using women to confuse people. Sure enough it is true. This time I, Du Fuwei, come prepared. If fighting breaks, I am afraid not many people will escape alive. The men will unavoidably die on the spot; the women will be difficult to escape humiliation. Does Yun Bangzhu still want to insist?

    With a cold humph Dugu Ce said, People said that Du Fuwei is so arrogant that no one else matters. Sure enough it is true. Whos strong and whos weak, well find out as soon as we fight; why talk too much?

    Du Fuweis gaze fell on Dugu Ces face; his eyes emitted a very cold and sharp ray. May I know this young friends respected surname and great given name? he asked in icy-cold tone, Your tone is bigger than Yun Bangzhus!

    With a charming laugh Yun Yuzhen said, Have Du Zongguan heard Yuzhen speaks? How do you know who has the bigger tone?

    Du Fuwei shook his head; he said, I only know that in these circumstances he can still talk out of turn, I know he is not your subordinate; why would Yun Bangzhu still want to cover him up?

    Yun Yuzhen was dumbstruck and unable to reply.

    Du Fuwei nonchalantly said, Jukun Bang and I have always been without grievance without enmity. I am just trying to get back two naughty children whose inferior character is hard to change. Fighting always damages a good relationship, but if we dont fight, it will be difficult to convince you. How about this! I have a proposal, I wonder if ladies and gentlemen are willing to listen.

    Yun Yuzhen coldly replied, This Bangzhu will listen with respectful attention.

    At this time, even Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling knew that Du Fuwei has completely seized the initiative, while Yun Yuzhens side could only play along.

    Although earlier Dugu Ce did not consider Du Fuweis prestige to be worthy in his eyes, but when he actually met Du Fuwei, it was like the hero suddenly turned into a coward [play on words here: hero yingxiong, coward gouxiong (lit. black bear)]; his nastiness disappeared to who knows where.

    Du Fuwei pointed to Dugu Ce and said, Let this mysterious friend have an all-out battle with the Ol Du for ten moves. Supposing I cannot achieve victory, I will immediately turn on my heels and will no longer consider these two inferior kids even exist. But supposing by fluke the Ol Du wins, Yun Bangzhu will immediately hand them over to me so that I could bring them home and give them a good discipline. Yun Bangzhu, whats your opinion?

    And then he added in an icy-cold tone, If Yun Bangzhu does not agree, my party will go all-out against yours. When that happens, please dont blame Ol Du of being vicious and merciless, and totally disregarding Jianghus principle of giving you a face.

    Yun Yuzhens heart shivered in fear; she realized Du Fuweis vision was indeed brilliant. He had seen through that in her side, Dugu Ce possessed the most superior martial art skill, yet he still dared to challenge him for ten moves; thus it was clear how high the opponents confidence in achieving victory.

    All of a sudden, she came to a realization that she had fallen into absolute disadvantage, and that she had no other choice.

  5. #25
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 2 - Chapter 12

    Book 2 Chapter 12 Faking Death to Escape

    Although Dugu Ce was conceited, yet he admired Du Fuweis prestige.

    If he could not even take ten moves from Du Fuwei, it could be said that his side would definitely lose. Therefore, this proposal was definitely beneficial to them.

    However, he was also aware that Du Fuwei was afraid they would destroy indiscriminately [orig. burn both jade and ordinary stone] and kill the two boys first. If that happened, even if Du Fuwei killed them all, he would still fail to achieve his goal.

    After exchanging several glances with Yun Yuzhen, he stepped out of the formation, cupped his fist and said, Du Zongguan, please.

    Because nowadays Du Fuwei considered himself the Zongguan [chief manager, see Book 1 Chapter 1] of Liyang, everybody called him Du Zongguan.

    Du Fuwei still had his hands behind his back; he smiled and said, The number of people in Jianghu who wield sword is beyond counting, but those who really know how to use sword can be counted with my fingers; the most notable being the Dugu and Song, two powerful clans. Right now Song Clan is too busy dealing with the muddle-headed ruler. If I am not mistaken, concealed within Xiongtais [brother, polite appellation for someone of similar age] footsteps is lightness skill from superb school, which originated from Dugu Clans top ranking consummate skill, Bi Luo Hongzhen [sky-blue falling word of mortals]. Is Ol Du mistaken?

    Everybody from Yun Yuzhens side was shaken; nobody expected that Du Fuweis vision was this brilliant.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were cheering in their heart; they really wish their Ol Dad would give this vile Dugu Ce a hard lesson, while dealing a heavy setback to Yun Yuzhen as well.

    Dugu Ce calmly replied, Seniors eyesight is indeed brilliant, Junior is precisely Dugu Ce, who rely on several moves based on my father Dugu Fengs direction. Would Senior please enlighten me?

    Du Fuwei laughed aloud and said, Turns out it is indeed an old friends descendant. I wonder if Laotaitais [elderly lady] asthma is getting better?

    An angry look flashed across Dugu Ces handsome face; he responded, Laonainai [(paternal) great-grandmother, but in this case I think it is simply old (paternal) grandmother] is well. Thank you very much for Du Zongguans concern.

    Actually, although the leader of Dugu Clan was Dugu Ces father, Dugu Feng, speaking about martial art skill, it was Dugu Fengs mother, You Chuhong, who held the first place [orig. sitting steadily on number one chair].

    You Chuhong was nearly a hundred years old. At the age of sixty she abandoned the sword and used a staff instead. During the creation of the Pifeng Zhang Fa [Cloak/cape Staff Technique], she nearly suffered fire deviation. Although luckily she was able to save herself in time, the after effect remained; from time to time it flared up in asthma-like symptoms. That was the reason of Du Fuweis question.

    Du Fuweis intention was to infuriate Dugu Ce; having achieved his purpose, he roared, I want to see if there is anything new in Dugu Familys Bi Luo Hongzhen.

    Both sides were holding their breath in silence, waiting for Dugu Ce to make his move.

    Ring! the sword left its scabbard.

    Dugu Ce held the sword horizontally across his chest, He stood motionless, yet his imposing aura was suffocating. It was indeed the demeanor of a famous house.

    Kou Zhong, who was standing at the edge of the cliff, whispered in Xu Zilings ear, The opportunity to learn has come!

    Xu Ziling nodded excitedly.

    The one thing they lacked the most was real combat experience. If they could watch martial art experts poised for battle, it would definitely bring great benefits to them.

    Dugu Ce coldly shouted, Pardon my offense! as he swiftly stepped forward and moved his sword to attack. A dense cold air immediately filled the air.

    They saw layer upon layer of sword shadows rushing forth in front of his chest, the moves were tricky, strange and tight, it appeared to attack, but seemed to defend, so that the opponent was completely unable to estimate.

    Du Fuwei showed a grim expression. With a feign sway, he suddenly moved to Dugu Ces left side. Dugu Ces body followed the movement of his sword. He let out a muffled shout, thousands of sword tips rushed forth like raging tide or gigantic wave toward Du Fuwei. Unexpectedly it was an offense without any regard of self-defense.

    Du Fuwei laughed aloud, his right hand sleeve flew out. Bang! it swept around the perimeter of the shadow of swords. Qi and sword force collided, emitting another muffled-thunder-like noise, making those to hear it to feel as if they were assaulted by a shockwave.

    Dugu Ce was jolted back half a step as if he was struck by a lightning bolt. Both of Du Fuweis sleeves flew together, seizing the opportunity to pursue and attack, while his body flashed toward the other side to launch another attack; he was as fast as a ghost.

    Now everybody knew that Dugu Ces internal energy was inferior to Du Fuwei; but nobody could tell whether he would or he would not be able to take ten moves. Besides, the universe inside Du Fuweis sleeves have yet played their part.

    Dugu Ces treasured sword swiftly slashed up from the lower part of his side toward Du Fuweis face, totally ignoring the opponents two sleeves. It was another both-side-suffer move.

    Watching the fight, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling gained tacit understanding; they completely grasped the concept of Dugu Ces sword technique and strategy.

    It must be noted that with his status as the Senior [qian bei, older generation], if he was injured by a younger generation, even if he was able to kill the opponent, it would be hard for him to claim shameless victory. But under the opponents relentless offense without any regard of defense like this, to gain victory without being hurt under ten moves was certainly easier said than done.

    Seeing how Dugu Ce had full control of his swords position and was able to change according to the situation, and how he was able to distribute his power evenly, and thus showing his profound mastery, Du Fuwei exclaimed, Good!

    His sleeves suddenly folded up to clamp the sword blade on both sides; in an instant he has grasped the initiative, rendering the opponent unable to continue his strike. Dugu Ces incomparably fast and fierce sword was suddenly unable to advance even a cun.

    Dugu Ce knew the situation was bad. Just as he was thinking of pulling his sword in abrupt retreat, Du Fuweis right hand, which was still hidden inside his sleeve, suddenly flicked the tip of his sword. Dugu Ce felt as if the pit of his stomach was struck by lightning, he nearly vomited blood. Fortunately he had trained first-class internal energy cultivation since childhood, his foundation was very strong; swiftly he channeled his true qi to disperse the opponents force with difficulty. But in the process he was jolted two steps back; one step and a half farther than the previous setback.

    Yun Yuzhen and the others were all shocked; their countenance paled.

    The arm guards inside Du Fuweis sleeves have not been used, Dugu Ce already fell into a disadvantageous position; how could the battle continue?

    To their surprise, however, Du Fuwei did not continue with pursue and attack; he put his hands behind his back again and said with a cold laugh, If Dugu Feng himself were here, he might have a chance in an all-out battle with me, but you, noble nephew, fall far too short. There are still eight moves left. If noble nephew is trying to be brave and continue fighting, Ol Du can guarantee that you will find it difficult to guarantee your life. Noble nephew better think it over three times.

    Dugu Ces chest was heaving up and down incessantly, the color on his handsome face alternated between red and white. Now he knew that there is no famous reputation with empty skill. Du Fuwei has been moving across the land under the heavens unhindered for the last several decades; he was on par with top martial art masters of the four powerful clans, as well as other experts such as Zhai Rang, Li Mi, Dou Jiande, Wang Bo, and the like. He had real skill and definitely did not enjoy false reputation. However, if Dugu Ce had to concede at this point, he simply could not accept it, no matter what.

    Yun Yuzhens face was devoid of any color; she hurried forward and saluted, Junior accepts your advice. Du Zongguan may take the two boys away, On behalf of Jukun Bang, Yuzhen assures you that we wont interfere in this matter anymore.

    Du Fuwei remained impassive; turning his gaze toward Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, two people, he said in soft voice, Children! Lets go home!

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling burst into loud laughter together; their laughter carried a heroic feeling.

    Xu Ziling loudly cried out, Heroes can be killed but never humiliated. How could we, the Two Dragons of Yangzhou, be traded back and forth like merchandise?

    With an air of righteousness, Kou Zhong also said, Die! Please forgive your sons for not being filial.

    Dont! Yun Yuzhen and Du Fuwei shouted together.

    The two boys did not hesitate at all. Just as Yun Yuzhen and Du Fuwei rushed forward, they jumped over the cliff.

    Yun Yuzhen and Du Fuwei reached out trying to catch them, but both grabbed empty air. They saw the two boys figure rapidly getting smaller and smaller. Judging from the speed and the momentum with which the two boys were falling, they knew that these boys did not know qinggong. In fact, the posture as the boys fell was poles apart from conventional qinggong that Yun Yuzhen and Du Fuwei knew; naturally they could not grasp the truth of the matter.

    Splash! Holding each others hand, the two boys fell through and broke the branch of an old tree extended from the cliff wall. Branches and leaves split up and closed down after them, and they disappeared from Du and Yun, two peoples line of sight.

    Du Fuwei looked up to heaven and let out a sorrowful roar, revealing regret and grief so deep that other people found it hard to express or explain!

    Yun Yuzhen was as dumb as a wooden chicken; she stared blankly toward the bottom of the cliff, while grieving silently. She thought that if she did not try to exploit them, right now the two boys would still live and play happily at that quiet beach. It was only then did she realize that she actually had some feelings toward them.

    Du Fuwei suddenly turned his body around, as if he could not bear to look down anymore. All of you must accompany them in death! he coldly hissed.

    Yun Yuzhen came to her senses; she quickly stepped back into her troop formation.

    The men on Du Fuweis side swarmed in, forcing them toward the edge of the clff.

    Suddenly from the bottom of the cliff came the sound of howling wolves. Du Fuweis countenance changed as he said, Forget it! Get lost!

    Finished speaking, he jumped onto the edge of the cliff to look down.

    At this moment Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had successfully landed in the jungle; without fighting, the four bottles of chicken blood broke, splashing chicken blood everywhere, some brushed onto the branches and leaves, some fell into the bushes.

    The two boys cried out for their Niang in pain, but they knew it was a critical moment. Crawling and rolling, they randomly picked a direction to take and madly rushed toward that direction, creating a strip of bloody path. Even when their weapons, money purse, and everything else fell from their pockets, they did not have time to pick it up.

    Since they fell down but did not die, naturally other people could also go down and see if they were dead or alive.

    Suddenly there was a loud howl of a wolf; the two boys lost their soul and dropped their spirit. They scuttled away and used the Bird Crossing Technique to jump onto a tree.

    Several hungry and very fierce wolves appeared, ferociously sniffing the chicken blood on the ground. Kou Zhong cried out and jumped onto another tree. Xu Ziling followed behind. Shortly afterward they have gone quite far.

    In the meantime, Du Fuwei has arrived at the bottom of the cliff. Seeing several dozens wolves chasing and beating around the bloodstained bushes, his anger flared. He pounced forward and grabbed some hapless hungry wolves.

    This could also be considered the two boys good luck. If not for this flock of ravenous wolves fighting with each other over the bloodstain attracting Du Fuweis attention, the noise the two boys made as they were running away would surely fail to escape the ears of this top martial art master of the Wulin world.

    By nightfall, the two boys have covered over fifty li, and were extremely exhausted. When they found a clear creek nearby, they washed their chicken-blood stained clothes.

    As the moon rose, the two boys immersed themselves in the creek, and could not help thinking about the good old days when they met Fu Junchuo for the first time; it was so surreal that they thought it was a dream.

    What is this place? Xu Ziling asked.

    Kou Zhong thought for a moment before replying, We were traveling west along Huai River, and then turned around and disembarked on the northern bank. Right now we ought to be between Pengcheng and Donghai, two counties. Ha! Did you remember that Yun woman [poniang (derogatory)] said that these days Shan Mei Xian Madame Dong Ming might come to Pengcheng to see Li Yuan, the Clan Leader of the Li Clan? If you want to marry beautiful Dong Ming little princess, we should go to Pengcheng.

    Because this kid had his heart filled with lofty aspirations, he made a serious effort in studying Central Plains geography.

    Xu Ziling dove into the bottom of the creek. It was quite a while before his head emerged above the water. You havent had enough? he said, Right now everybody thinks we are dead, wouldnt it be better to go to Old Zhais residence first to find Su Jie, and see if Li Dage condition is better?

    Kou Zhong sneered and said, You, this kid, really dont have aspiration; arent we going to avenge Niang? If we go find Yuwen Huagu openly right now, we will only incur laughter from his foul mouth. But mountain people have wonderful idea to kill Yuwen Huagu. [This is the second time he called himself mountain people. Must be a slang of some sort.]

    What wonderful idea? Xu Ziling wondered.

    The all-knowing Kou Zhong replied, Naturally that account book. Perhaps Yuwen Clan also placed an order for weapons from Dong Ming Pai, with intention to rebel. Otherwise, he would not order Haisha Bang to attack Floating Fragrance Flagship. Isnt it clear that he wanted to destroy the evidence that he is going to revolt?

    Xu Zilings eyes immediately lit up.

    Kou Zhong lowered his voice, Come! Lets have a competition.

    Xu Ziling was stunned, Competing in what? he asked.

    Kou Zhong replied, Competing who get to wear our wet clothes first, and then competing whose qinggong is a bit better, by deciding whos going to step into Pengcheng first.

    The two boys looked at each other, and then with a scream they scrambled toward their wet clothes by the creek.

    With many twists and turns, these good friends who were closer than brothers, finally gain their freedom back. Once again they set their foot in another stage of lifes journey.

  6. #26
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 3 - Chapter 1

    Book 3 Chapter 1 People in Terrible Situation

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling put on their tattered and wet clothes, and ran over the mountain and fields, giggling and laughing, heading toward the direction of what they guessed to be Pengcheng.

    Right now they did not have a single wen, even their weapons were gone, nevertheless, in their heart they were exceedingly cheerful; there was a joyful feeling that the whole sea and sky were wide open for me to crisscross.

    The more they ran, the more the joy in their heart grew.

    Although they often felt that the breathing from their mouth and nose could not keep up, their inner breathing was circulating endlessly.

    Kou Zhong jumped onto a boulder. From its top he soared high into the air and made a flip as he descended onto the slop below. Unfortunately his footing was unstable, he fumbled three, four zhang down the slope into a clump of underbrush at the bottom of the hill. This time even his left sleeve was caught by the twigs and tore, exposing his thick and solid arm.

    In his playful spirit Xu Ziling wanted to suffer the same fate, so he also rolled down and crashed onto Kou Zhong. Holding their head in their hands, the two boys laughed heartily. In their delight they forgot their appearance.

    Ah! Kou Zhong suddenly exclaimed; pointing to the far away sky he said, What is that?

    Xu Ziling raised his head and looked; seeing bright and flashing red light, he said in horror, Fire!

    Kou Zhong sprang up and said, Lets go and see!

    It was a burned down small town. All the houses have burned through the roof. Inside and outside the town was full of human and animal bodies scattered around. Some have turned into barely recognizable charred remains.

    The houses were still burning, creating crackling noise and emitting unceasing stream of thick black smoke. Apart from that, this supposedly lively and prosperous market town had become a deathly still ghost town. The survivors must have fled far away.

    Some of the corpses still had dried bloodstains. Unexpectedly the murders did not distinguish men, women, young and old; everybody was massacred cruelly.

    Looking at all these, the two boys eyes were brimming with hot tears, but their hearts were as cold as ice.

    Could it be that Du Fuweis men committed such atrocity? Why did they commit this kind of worse-than-a-beast action?

    From the west of town they heard faint noise of carriages, horses and men. But the noise was moving away. The two boys clenched their teeth and madly chased away.

    Passing through a thick wooded area, the two boys were stunned. They saw along the official road heading north a large number of Sui troops. Their body armor and helmet were in disarray, their banner askew; evidently these were retreating defeated troops.

    Falling behind at the end of the line were countless mule carts. Due to the load they carried, they lagged some distance away from the troops main body, just like an old man struggling and trudging along this section of the road.

    The two boys were bewildered and were just wondering if it was this group of defeated soldiers who committed the heinous crime when suddenly from a mule cart near the end of the line they heard a mans malicious laughter, followed by a naked woman, whose body was covered in blood, was thrown out of the cart. Bang! the woman landed on the muddy road, motionless. Obviously she was dead.

    The Sui troop driving the cart laughed heartily and said, Lao Zhang [ole Zhang], you are all right. That was the third.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were burning with anger. They could not hold it anymore and ran madly after the cart.

    The thief soldier, who had just raped and murdered an innocent woman, lifted himself up from the cart; suddenly seeing the two boys, he drew his saber and with a loud laugh said, [email protected] survivor [orig. dead leftover], was it your Niang that I just f*ck?

    Righteous indignation filled the two boys heart; without even remembering that they had no weapons, they flew toward the Sui soldier.

    Seeing the two boys know martial art, the Sui soldier jumped in fright; he cried out to the driver to turn around and help him, while at the same time he swept his saber horizontally to prevent the two boys from landing on the cart.

    Kou Zhong was about to take him head-on, but then he suddenly realized that he had no weapon in his hand. Without even thinking he sent out a mouthful of true qi, unexpectedly, for the first time ever, while he was still midair, his body rose and the enemys saber missed by a hairbreadth. With great difficulty he somersaulted over the enemys head.

    In front, the Sui soldier driving the cart raised his lance and thrust it toward Kou Zhongs chest. It happened right when Kou Zhong, who was still midair, suddenly realized that he had made a breakthrough; his heart was shaken, he abruptly sucked a mouthful of physical qi, hence his true qi became disturbed, he landed heavily on the sacks of grain, the cargo of the mule cart, and thus escaped the enemys lance.

    In the meantime, Xu Zilings right foot had just landed on the railing of the mule cart. Seeing the saber swept, using this foot as the axis he hastily revolved his body around and fast as lightning his left foot kicked the enemys left ear.

    Both his qi and strength were transmitted via the foot, the result was so brutal that the Sui soldier did not even have time to cry out when his neck bone was broken while his body was thrown behind the cart and he died on the spot.

    It was the very first time that Xu Ziling ever killed anybody. Horrified, his true qi was disturbed and he also fell on the pile of grains.

    Kou Zhong had just raised his hand to grab the incoming lance; clutching the enemys lance, he sent out his strength to pull hard. Unable to hold his footing steady, the Sui soldier, the driver of the cart, slipped between the driver seat and the cart. Immediately a shrill, blood-curling screech was heard.

    By this time the Sui soldiers at the front of the line already knew something was happening. A dozen or so riders turned around to charge.

    Lets go! Kou Zhong shouted. The two boys hastily jumped off the cart; like a wisp of smoke they darted into the dense forest and disappeared without a trace.

    The two boys ran for more than ten li at a stretch, before they finally sat down to rest. Xu Ziling sighed and said, I just killed a man! How would I know that with one kick I sent him to his death?

    Kou Zhong wrapped his arm around Xu Zilings shoulder and said, Death of those people who murdered, burned and raped innocent people need not be begrudged; dont let your heart be troubled.

    After a short pause, he continued, Those dog soldiers in Yangzhou, if they dont go on the rampage with total disregard of the law, then they bully innocent citizens; I just did not expect that murder and arson are also their masterpiece. No wonder so many people rise in rebellion. Compared to last time, our Ol Dies men can be considered not too bad. Hey! Did you hear that?

    Xu Ziling focused his attention to listen carefully; sure enough there was a faint sound of battle carried by the wind. The sound seemed to come from a very wide area, as if two very large troops were fighting each other in life and death battle.

    Remembering the town people who were massacred by the Sui army, their heart was burning with anger as they sprang up at once.

    Kou Zhong said in deep regret, If I had known earlier, I would have seized that lance, so that we could stake our lives against those dog soldiers.

    A murderous aura bubbled up in Xu Zilings heart; expressing his agreement he said, We can go to look at the situation first, wont seizing two sabers be easy then? After all, what we lack the most is battle experience. Let those thief soldiers, who are worse than a beast, have a taste of our saber.

    The two boys have just had a small test of their skill with remarkable result, so now their confidence was at its peak.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, It seems that we now have some real skill, its just that we dont have a chance for more practice. Xiongdi, come! Today is our first day of crisscrossing the Jianghu unhindered.

    Screaming with joy, they rushed toward the sound of battle.

    After swimming across a stream, they unleashed their lightness skill. Going over a small hill, they went straight up the slope. Upon reaching the top, a wide clearing suddenly appeared before their eyes.

    They saw on the plains below two armies were engaged in fierce battle. One side wore the uniform of Sui army, approximately ten thousand men strong; the other side wore one-color dark green plain clothes. Their number was only about one-fourth of the Sui army, but every single ones martial art skill was not weak, their formation was still intact. As they charged toward the Sui army, the latter was smashed and scattered, and could not exploit the advantage of their superior number.

    On the other side of the plains, there was a small hill, which was where the command center of the warriors in green was located. There were several horses, with their riders on their back, standing on top of the hill. They were using red, blue, and yellow, three colors signal light to control the advance and retreat movements of the warriors in green.

    It was the first time that the two boys witnessed the desperate situation on the battlefield; momentarily they were stunned and forgot the purpose of their coming here.

    After a good while, Kou Zhong came to his senses. Pointing to a cluster of sparse lights farther down, he said, That must be another village or town. Perhaps the warriors in green are trying to stop the Sui army from going over there to kill and burn. What has actually happened?

    Xu Ziling sucked in a mouthful of cold air and said, If they are people from Ol Dies side and we interfere, wont it be the same as delivering ourselves to the mouth of the tiger?

    Kou Zhong thought for a moment, and then said, How can Ol Dies men have such a neat uniform? They must be from another militia. Hey, Xiao Ling! Are you afraid?

    Xu Ziling laughed aloud. Reaching out toward a tree nearby, he exerted his strength and broke two thick branches, about the same diameter as a childs arm, and around a zhang long. Tossing one branch to Kou Zhong, he said with a laugh, To uphold chivalry, to be promoted and gain wealth, we are relying completely on these guys.

    After removing the foliage, Kou Zhong shouldered the tree branch and theatrically said, Xu Zhuangshi [hero/warrior/fighter], please be my guest!

    Xu Ziling waved his branch several times in the air, and then holding it solemnly with both hands, he started to sing, Whoosh, whoosh, cries the wind; River Yi is cold; brave men [zhuangshi, see above] once gone, will definitely return[1]. Ha! Laozi [I, your daddy, used arrogantly or jocularly] is going!

    Amidst their laughter, the two boys, one in front the other followed behind, rushed down the hill.

    But as they were about to charge to the plains, there was the swish, swish sound of arrows. From the bushes about ten zhang ahead, a row of arrows were shot toward them.

    The two boys have never had any experience dealing with arrows before, plus they had never anticipated there would be an ambush here. Terrified, they rolled down on the ground in such a sorry state. But the arrows flew overhead; they had just escaped a very dangerous situation.

    The two boys courage vanished immediately. Crawling and rolling, they hid behind a cluster of rocks and trees that extended over ten zhang wide, and no longer dared to move.

    Like a tidal wave the sound of stampeding feet flooding over their hiding place. Suddenly there were Sui soldiers to their left and right, each one with a lance in his hand, charging toward them. It was not even clear how many soldiers were there.

    It was only then did the two boys realize that while the warriors in green were heavily surrounded, the Sui troops who intercepted them right now were actually to prevent reinforcement from warriors in greens side from coming to their aid.

    If the two boys had a choice, they would prefer to escape without any trace and not trying to be heroes. However, at this moment it was impossible to get away. Thereupon they jumped up and brandished their tree trunk, while exerting the entire strength in their body, wildly sweeping and striking the enemy.

    Four lances were struck by the tree trunk and flew away, two of the lance wielders were even hit by the trunk that they dropped to the ground with head bleeding and broken.

    Meanwhile, the enemy was in front and behind them, surrounding them with torches lifted high, bathing the area around them bright red.

    A squad of saber and hatchet wielders burst into the encirclement, their chop and hack were directed toward the boys tree trunk. Battle cry shook the heavens. While the two boys managed to repel another round of attack, the tree trunk in their hands were only less than half their original size, but half of the enemy were not hurt yet.

    Realizing their dire situation, Kou Zhong called out, Climb up the rock!

    Xu Ziling somersaulted and followed him to fall back behind the pile of rocks. The enemy shouted, over ten lances were thrown toward them.

    In this critical moment, the two boys became calm instead, as if they did not hear any sound, as well as no sound could penetrate their keen ears. The true qi within their body circulated at a rate several times faster than normal; in contrast, the pursuing troops and the thrown lances seemed to be slowing down considerably. They were able to see clearly the angle, as well as the speed and the order of arrival of each lance being thrown. It was a kind of feeling that even in their dream it was hard to achieve.

    They stood back to back and brandished their tree trunk, which were only about four chi left. Poking to the left and sweeping to the right, blocking the front and resisting the rear, their movements flowed naturally, their defense was so tight that not one drop of water could trickle through.

    When the enemy saw their lance lost its effectiveness, five, six saber and hatchet wielders pounced onto the pile of rocks, they wanted to engage the boys in close combat, but the consequences was fatal.

    Kou Zhong ducked down to dodge a broadsword, his tree trunk swept the saber wielders ankle. The man immediately fell to the ground. Kou Zhong easily snatched the opponents long saber and swiftly swept it across the lower abdomen of another Sui troop wielding an axe.

    Meanwhile Xu Ziling also snatched another long saber; immediately his spirit rose. He threw the tree trunk and it hit a soldier, sending him tumbling down into the crevices between the rocks.

    Xu Ziling immediately jumped toward Kou Zhong and said, We break out! Letting out a shout, they left the rock and charged into the enemy formation.

    Xu Ziling unleashed the Bloody Battle Ten Styles taught by Li Jing, which would show its full potential in the battlefield anyway. He strode across, his long saber moved like lightning flashes. The saber did not seem to have anything special or amazing about it, but the enemy being attacked found it difficult to evade, and the lance in their hands seemed to lose its usefulness to block. Xu Ziling easily entered the gap, slashed the fatal point on their chest, and they fell back, their blood splashed, and their life gone.

    Kou Zhong played with his wrist more. First he deflected two thrusting lances, and then he swept his saber across, a Sui soldier immediately had his throat slashed, and fell backward with miserable shriek.

    The two boys had never imagined that the Bloody Battle Ten Styles was this formidable; their courage doubled. They felt that although the enemy was numerous, they were able to see clearly the strength and weakness of each enemy attack, and all the subtle changes surrounding the attack, so much so that from the pressure of the enemys attack, they could even feel the power distribution on the peripheral; such feeling was certainly indescribable.

    In that instant they forgot about life and death. In this noisy, chaotic battle, they displayed their survival instinct. In the face of hundreds of enemy with their flashing saber, spear, sword and lance, they remained fearless.

    Quite naturally they worked together, and the coordination between them was like seamless heavenly clothes, they moved rapidly among the enemy ranks; you attack I defend, I block you deflect.

    If they had to create this kind of combined attack technique, in normal times they would not be able to come up with anything even if they thought until their brains burst. But this instant it simply came out like tidal waves, as if it was bestowed by the Heaven, without any trace of rough work-in-progress [orig. hatchet and chisel marks].

    Xu Ziling brandished his saber and chopped ferociously, the true qi in his body was like the Great River surging out following the saber. The enemy did not even have time to raise their weapon to block, they could only watch helplessly as his saber, fast as lightning, entered their defense line and they fell to the ground in terror.

    Kou Zhongs saber was ever-changing; the seemingly endless supply of strength from deep within his body followed the saber. Although the opponent exerted all his strength to block the saber, they could not deflect Kou Zhongs chop even half a fen; worse yet, the person was carried by the sabers momentum that he flipped and fell dead.

    After Fu Junchuo taught them the Nine Mysteries Great Technique, in this extremely dangerous situation the two boys combined the Nine Mysteries Great Technique with the totally-unrelated-to-martial-art Secret to Long Life, plus Li Jings Bloody Battle Ten Styles and the Beautiful Shifus Bird Crossing Technique to create their own one-of-a-kind fighting technique.

    This moment inside the forest of lance, they felt that they could see gaps everywhere, hence they easily brushed the enemys lance away and advanced into the enemys line of defense; then the enemy would be helpless to do anything and had to resign to their fate of being slaughtered. With each enemy downed, the power of their saber increased, until the enemy suffered a crushing defeat.

    Originally the enemy saw that since there were only two of them, they only dispatched a company of approximately a hundred Sui soldiers to intercept. Now that they saw how the two boys charged into the formation left and right, and how formidable the boys saber was, the Sui soldiers on the outer layer of the encirclement who cherished their lives scattered in all directions.

    Actually, by this time the two boys have already felt that their qi was depleted; therefore, seeing the opening, they hastily pressed on with all their strength, in a flash they sprinted out and broke through the heavy siege, and successfully escaped.

    After running about a hundred zhang or so, they reached the dense forest. The two boys threw themselves on the ground, while panting heavily.

    Still wheezing, Kou Zhong laughed and said, Ha! It worked! Such a big battle failed to kill us; have you ever thought about that?

    Xu Ziling stuck his saber into the mud; holding the hilt, he said while still gasping for breath, In fight like that, we wasted too much energy. We should have preserved our strength so that we wont have soft hands and weak legs like now.

    Are you injured? Kou Zhong asked, My back was cut twice; luckily I could dodge quite fast.

    Xu Ziling shook his head, Only my left thigh got a scrape from the lance, tearing my pants; not a big deal.

    After catching his breath, Kou Zhong said, Shall we fight again or not? That militia does not seem to be well-off.

    Xu Ziling sat up and said, Of course we fight! If we let those inhuman Sui soldiers enter that village or perhaps a market town, that dreadful situation we just saw might happen again.

    Kou Zhong crawled up in great delight. Now thats my good Xiongdi, he said, This time we must be a bit smarter; dont let them cut us off midway.

    The two boys leaped to the top of a tree to be able to see the situation clearly, and then looping around a large circle they ran to the battlefield.

    In this instant, they felt that they have grown up and not just two marketplace ruffians.

    [1] From River Yi Song [yi shui ge], another name Song of Crossing River Yi. The song is part of the Chu Ci, the Songs of Chu, ancient book of poems collected during Han, but especially from State of Chu. Allegedly it was composed by Jing Ke from the Warring States period [475-221 BC], who was commissioned by Prince Dan of Yan to go to Qin State to assassinate King of Qin, at the farewell dinner he gave by the River Yi. ( The original song, as translated by Yuri Pines, is as follows: Xiao xiao cries the wind, Yi waters are cold; Brave men, once gone, Never come back! Here, Xu Ziling changed the last line to will definitely return. (

  7. #27
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 3 - Chapter 2

    Book 3 Chapter 2 Crafty Plots and Intrigues

    The two boys stealthily [orig. walk like a snake, crouch like a mouse], very carefully walked toward the battlefield. After crossing a sparse forest, they reached the southeast corner of the battlefield. But they were finally discovered by the enemy. From the bushes on the left side, six, seven Sui soldiers emerged with swords in their hands, shouting harshly at them, pouncing at them like mad tigers.

    On the other side, soldiers were already in formation for battle. Within this tight formation, when a squad of about fifty cavalry heard the commotion, they also charged toward the two boys, brandishing their lances.

    The boys did not fear the enemy as much as they used to; without a word they turned to meet the Sui soldiers on foot and swiftly moved their sabers to chop and hack.

    Recalling the tragic situation in that town, where the buildings were burned to the ground and the people, as well as the animals were slaughtered by these soldiers, the two boys heart was burning with murderous intention. The persons followed the sabers, their imposing manner was way above the enemys. The sabers split the air, the Sui soldiers fell face up, their swords flew away, not a single one was lucky enough to escape.

    In the meantime, the cavalry arrived. Unleashing their qinggong the two boys dodged into the bushes where the horses could not chase them. But as soon as the horses left, they rushed out to the plains, and sneaked behind a company of archers and saber and hatchet wielders, who had never anticipated that the enemy would sneak in silently from behind. As a result, even after the two boys slaughtered quite a number of them like people chopping melons or slicing vegetables, they still thought that a large number of enemy reinforcement has arrived; hence they were thrown into chaos.

    Several torches fell onto the bushes and set the grass on fire, which rapidly spread everywhere. But the two boys did not know that this fire would later on save their lives.

    Actually, the number of Sui forces in this area reached three thousand. Quite a few experts with outstanding martial art skill included among these. Under normal circumstances, once they entered into the heavy siege, even people with strong martial art of Du Fuweis caliber would have no choice but to fight with all their might and perish; much less two boys whose battle experience was severely lacking.

    This way! Kou Zhong shouted. Five Sui soldiers stepped out to meet them.

    Xu Ziling started later but he arrived first. He pounced forward, shaking out his long saber, launching the Life or Death, Exist or Perish from the Bloody Battle Ten Styles. His saber moved like a giant wave rolling wildly onto the shore, his power overwhelming, one soldier immediately lost his life, another soldier was swept over and was thrown to the side. The other three cried out in fear and ran away.

    The two boys have never tested their skill with such an impressive result. They whooped in delight, and continued their killing spree into the heart of the battle.

    Dang! Suddenly someone blocked in front of Kou Zhong. Armed with a pair of awls he forcibly held Kou Zhong back that he was unable to advance a single step.

    When Xu Ziling tried to pounce, he was also pushed back by the opponent.

    Up to this point of the battle, the two boys have never encountered such a strong opponent.

    Countless Sui soldiers thronged behind this man to attack the two boys. The person who blocked the two boys was actually a high-ranking military officer of the Sui army. His countenance was ablaze with rage as he roared, Tear these two boys apart into ten thousand pieces for me!

    In the meantime, on a high ground on a hill about half a li from the plains, close to two hundred warriors in green were standing in battle array, with strong bows and powerful arrows, tightly guarding right in the center of the formation a beautiful woman in white clothes, with her long hair draped over her shoulder.

    Each time the beautiful woman gave out her order, the three men under her command in charge of signal light immediately waved the lanterns in three different colors strapped to the top of long poles, directing their warriors on the battlefield to advance, retreat, attack or defend.

    Behind the beautiful woman stood four people in a row. Just by looking at their expression and manner, it was obvious that they were all martial art masters. The first one was a stout man with thick beard, the next one was an iron-tower like huge man, the third one was a man wearing scholarly attire, and the last one was a big middle0aged woman with an ugly face.

    The longhaired beautiful woman said in soft voice, Thats strange! How come the southeast corner of the enemy formation seemed to be in confusion? Who could be helping us?

    The four people behind her focused their attention to look, but they did not see anything different.

    With deep contemplation in her beautiful eyes, the longhaired beautiful woman said, We cant see it on the surface; but I have an inkling from the way the opponent waves their command flag. If the confusion spread, we must exploit it well. Not only we might break through the heavy siege, we might have the chance the win the battle.

    The eyes of the man wearing scholar attire revealed an admiring look; he said respectfully, Miss knowledge surpasses heaven and men, your proficiency in the art of war even shines like a torch, you are indeed a capable person.

    The ugly woman said, In my opinion, if there is indeed reinforcement arriving, we ought to break out of the siege before planning any counterattack. Miss thousand-jin gold body must not be put in danger.

    As she spoke, the others immediately frowned because her screeching-owl like voice was grating their ears. But her remark gained support from the stout man with the thick beard. When Duke Li sent us to protect Miss, he ordered us to place Miss safety above everything else, he said in agreement.

    A flash of displeased expression appeared on the longhaired beautiful womans unparalleled beautiful countenance; however, the tone of her voice was still as gentle and as tender as ever. She said nonchalantly, As the commander-in-chief, how can I care only on myself in the face of death and let my troops suffer defeat like a landslide? If I cannot resist Qin Shubaos elite Sui troops and let him take over Fuchun, getting it back will be as hard as ascending to Heaven.

    She had just finished speaking, the southeast corner suddenly burst into flames. The longhaired beautiful woman immediately saw from the subtle change in the enemy ranks that the opponent indeed appeared to be in confusion.

    It must be noted that the southeast corner was the opponents command center from which the enemy direct the troops on the battlefield; a slight change there would affect everything else*, unlike if the sudden change happened elsewhere, it would be inconsequential. [*literal translation: pull one hair and the whole body moves. Funny, suddenly Disney-Pixars Ratatouille came into my mind ]

    Maintaining her elegant, carefree, charming demeanor, the longhaired beautiful woman issued the order to launch all-around counter-offensive on the southeast corner as their primary target. The four people behind her drew their weapons as they gathered around the longhaired beautiful woman as she mounted her war-horse.

    The more than two hundred riders galloped down the hill to join their two divisions of a thousand warriors each on the battlefield, unfolding a full-scale battle with the enemy.

    Right this moment Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, two people, were caught in hard fighting and were unable to either advance or retreat. Suddenly the Sui army pulled back in all direction, because a group of warriors in green charged in on horseback, scattering the Sui troops all around them.

    The two boys were delighted to obtain a chance to escape the siege. By this time their spirit weary, their strength exhausted, they could not exert any strength to continue, hence they turned around and fled under cover of the raging fire burning the grassland. Holding their breath, they rounded to the left and circled to the right to get far away from the battlefield.

    Finally they dropped down on a hilltop, with no strength left to run. Like ocean tide bursts of battle cry were still heard from the distance.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, In the future we must not do such a foolish thing anymore. Even heroes are unable to withstand numerous enemies. Although we are not a hundred-percent hero, but the opponent have many men. You got it?

    I wonder who that Sui general was, Xu Ziling said, He is very formidable. Fortunately we are fast, otherwise his awls would take away our lives.

    Kou Zhong let out a cold snort and said, What kind of thing is he? We only need two more rounds of battle experience, I guarantee we will be able to beat him. Ow!

    Noticing that just as he was, Kou Zhong was covered in blood all over, Xu Ziling asked in concern, Any injury on vital point?

    Kou Zhong sneered and said, If there is any injury on my vital point, would I be able to run to here? What a contradictory question you are asking me. Ah right! Id better look at your wounds first.

    Whats so good to look? Xu Ziling replied, After you look, then what? Fortunately we have miraculous skill of self healing; wed better take a [email protected] good sleep, tomorrow well talk again!

    Kou Zhong dejectedly lay on the ground. Very soon the two boys circulated their inner breathing, and entered the state of emptiness.

    Xu Ziling felt he was asleep, but when he opened his eyes, Kou Zhong was still sleeping soundly like he was dead on the grassy land. When he stretched his four limbs, he felt that the seven, eight wounds on his body were burning with pain.

    The sun had just risen in the sky, all around were birdsong and fragrant flowers, the mountain was eerily quiet. The war last night seemed to be a distant and unreal nightmare. If not for the acute pain all over his body, he would think that such bloody battle has never happened.

    A flock of birds flew unhurriedly over the seemingly still blue sky. In this instant, Xu Ziling seemed to capture a great mystery of the nature that has existed since time immemorial, but he was unable to describe it in concrete words.

    Xu Ziling felt his heart was calm, his mind was bright and clear. After going through last nights battle, where he was continuously on the brink of death, he felt that he had entered a brand new stage in life. All the dangers and suffering were merely course of events that he must go through and experience as part of his spiritual journey.

    Kou Zhong nudged him with his elbow, with a low chuckle he said, You are staring blankly at the empty space, what are you thinking about?

    Xu Ziling sat up. Frowning, he looked at his tattered clothes and torn trousers, which was covered in bloodstains and filled with black soot. He said with a wry smile, I am thinking of a clean set of clothes and a big dish of meat and vegetables. Other things can wait for a bit.

    Kou Zhong struggled up; glancing to the left and right, he said in self-effacing way, Xiaodi [little brother, referring to self] seems to lose my bearings. I cant tell whether Pengcheng is to our east or west; what do you think? Shall we pick a direction at random and leave it to fate?

    Xu Ziling said, How could Zhong Shao suddenly lose his head? A big city like Pengcheng must be connected by official roads. If we go back to the major road last night, we can humbly ask whomever we come across, I am sure we will find the right way.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Very true! Lets go!

    The two boys looked for wild vine to casually fasten the saber on their back. Relying on their memory, they headed toward the ruins of the small town they saw last night.

    After dashing madly for a while, covering at least seven or eight li, they slowed down their steps to look around to find their bearings. Kou Zhong laughed bitterly and said, Looks like we are lost again. Otherwise we should have seen that towns ruins. From here, we dont see any people ahead, we dont see any village behind; we cant even find anybody we can ask direction from. Hey! Whats that?

    Xu Ziling had already noticed fire and smoke rising up from the foot of a hill ahead; he happily said, I dont care what that is. Once we go there, we will find out what it is.

    The two boys ran down the hill. Who would have thought that although the place did not seem too far, it was already dusk when they reached it? Turned out it was a small village.

    The smoke was spiraling upward from a kitchen chimney of the roof of one of the buildings, evidently some people were lighting the fire to cook dinner.

    But Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were worried for their safety instead. This area was not far from the battlefield; if those worse-than-beast Sui soldiers came here, great catastrophe would befall the people of this village.

    In the blink of an eye they reached the entrance to the village. They saw there were only about thirty houses in there, but the houses were spaced quite far apart from each other. Nevertheless, the village was quiet; there was not even any sound of chicken crowing or dog barking that was normally found in such village.

    The two boys felt something was really, really not right. Kou Zhong said, In this village, every door is tightly closed; it appears that the villagers had already run away elsewhere because of the war. That house with smoke rising from it, probably it was someone passing through and used it to cook their food. Shall we go and try our luck? Worse case scenario, we can always run away. Relying on our qinggong, we shouldnt have any problem!

    Xi Ziling patted the saber on his back and laughed aloud, We are not afraid of magnificent army with thousands of men and horses, why would we fear his mothers passerby? If it is traveling merchant, well ask him for a bowl of rice to eat, we may even offer our services as his temporary escort so that we can earn a bit of profit as traveling expense to look for Susu Jiejie.

    Kou Zhong stuck out his chest and said, I nearly forget that we are top-ranking martial art experts. Ha! Come on then! And he took the lead striding into the village.

    They saw the house with the smoke rising from its kitchen chimney was actually the largest house in the village. It was separated into front and rear sections, with a courtyard separating it, but the gates were tightly closed, giving them a mysterious feeling, especially because they did not hear a single noise.

    Anybodys home? Kou Zhong called out.

    He repeatedly called several times, but still no response.

    Xu Ziling was rather nervous; he nudged Kou Zhong and said, Lets just go and forget about it.

    Kou Zhong sneered and said, Are you forgetting our status as martial art masters? Well go in to take a look, perhaps the person has already gone, but he left a couple bowls of rice for us.

    Stepping toward the door, he used his leg to push, the door succumbed and opened. The two boys stepped over the threshold and entered the main hall. They saw that all the furniture and household utensils were still there, but everything was covered with dust; there were even cobwebs on the corners, evidently this house has been abandoned for quite some time. They could not help feeling odd.

    Walking across the courtyard, they entered the residential section at the back, and found that not a soul was inside the house. Who lighted the fire in the kitchen and created the spiraling smoke from the chimney earlier? But by this time the fire was very weak, it nearly died out.

    While Xu Ziling was looking for any traces on the floor, Kou Zhongs voice was heard from the rear hall, Xiao Ling, come here. I found half of your dreams.

    Xu Ziling did not have time to decipher what he meant by that; he rushed over toward one of the rooms on the rear wing. As soon as stepped over the door, something assaulted his face like a black cloud. Stretching out his hand to catch it, he found it to be a piece of clean linen clothes.

    He saw a large chest dragged out from under the bed, its lid was opened, and Kou Zhong was pulling pile after pile of clothing and other personal items, and scattered everything on the bed; it was like he was in a treasure hunt, picking to the left and digging to the right.

    The two boys were in high spirit. After changing into new clothes, they felt like a new person; only their stomach was rumbling with hunger; it was indeed a big fly in the ointment.

    Meanwhile the sky was getting dark, the two boys searched everywhere, but could not find even half a grain of rice or wheat.

    Kou Zhong said, Every village must have some kind of grove of fruit trees; you stay here to prepare the bed, Ill go pick some good fruits to allay our hunger. They have all kinds of beds here, we will spend the night here and continue on our journey tomorrow.

    Xu Ziling nodded his agreement, and they went their separate ways.

    Half a day later, Kou Zhong returned with a big rooster in his hand; he said, Turns out there are still some domestic animals left. Hey! There is a very big burial site at the back, mostly new graves. Looks like not all of the villagers have left, perhaps they died of some kind of epidemic.

    Xu Ziling gasped; he said, In that case, the clothes we are wearing

    Kou Zhong went to the courtyard to take care of the rooster; he called out, Theres at least one person who did not die; otherwise, who buried all those dead people? Maybe it was the person who lighted the fire?

    Hearing that, Xu Ziling was absolutely horrified; he went to the courtyard, pulled Kou Zhong up, and said, Wouldnt it be better to go to the next house? Ill get the fiint!

    Although on the surface Kou Zhong always put on an extremely daring appearance, he was actually very nervous inside as well; immediately he gave his full support to Xu Zilings proposal, and they both moved to a comparatively smaller house on the other side of the village.

    After having their stomach filled, the weather suddenly turned windy. The two boys did not dare to touch the beds or the couches; they closed all the doors and windows, and huddled in the corner to rest. Although they were nervous and jittery, eventually they succumbed to their weary body and fell into deep slumber.

    In the middle of the night the two boys woke up with a start. As they sat up in bewilderment, they heard the sound of hoof beats filling the air outside the house.

    They crawled up toward the window and looked out, and saw a band of riders swarming into the village, their horses looked big and tall, their clothes and adornment looked bold and powerful, with quivers of arrows on their backs, and their appearance looked rough and wild, unlike people of the Central Earth.

    This group had approximately thirty men, one of them appeared particularly majestic, carrying roughly eight chi long rectangular box on his back, yet he did not seem to be burdened by it and appeared to be carrying it effortlessly.

    Arriving in the middle of the village, the man carrying the box jumped down the horse with ease, and put the box in the middle of the road, while the other men also dismounted their horses.

    One of them, a tall and slim man who appeared to be the leader, was still sitting high on his horse; he signaled his men to search. With the exception of the huge man with the box, the rest of his men spread out, kicking on doors and entering the houses.

    Each and every single man was skillful, vigorous and nimble, and they all moved in such a fast and efficient way; which clearly showed that these were men with consummate and overwhelming martial art skill. Watching this, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling no longer remembered that they themselves were martial art experts. They jumped up onto the beam, and hid themselves in the space between the beam and the roof, which they considered a comparatively hidden and safe place.

    Underneath, sound of footsteps came and then left, but then it came again, followed by the sound of something heavy hitting the floor. The two boys could not refrain from peeking down. Turned out the men brought the box into this house and placed it right under the two boys. It was only then did the boys realize that the box had a dozen or so small holes on it.

    Four men stood guard in front of and behind the door; they all looked tense.

    And then someone walked into the house. The two boys hastily shrunk their heads back and stopped breathing from their mouth and nose, and just used their inner breathing, because they did not dare to make any noise.

    The people down below talked rapidly in some language that they had never heard before, which confirmed their suspicion earlier that these men were from outside the Central Earth. The boys were at a loss even more.

    The men down below suddenly stopped talking.

    It was quite some times later that Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling heard hoof beats from outside the village. They grew increasingly nervous and were afraid to make the slightest bit of noise, because clearly these foreign mens sense of hearing was several levels above theirs.

    The men spoke a few more sentences before stepping out of the house together.

    Kou Zhong reached out to write on Xu Zilings back: There must be a person inside the box, otherwise why made ventilation holes? Xu Ziling nodded in agreement.

    Meanwhile another group of riders pulled into the village. From the sound of the hooves, this group had comparable number of men with the first one.

    The hoof beats suddenly stopped. A mans voice rang out, Zu Junyan under Pushan Gongs [Duke of Pushan (Mount Pu)] command sincerely wishes your distinguished countrys Shibi Khans dragon body good health.

    Shibi Khan was the Turkic peoples great Khan.

    A long laughter outside the house responded, Turns out its Mr. Zu Junyan, a warrior under Duke Mi, who is well versed in letters and military matters. I wonder if Mister brought the thing that our Khan requested.

    Zu Junyan calmly replied, Excuse me, General, how should Zaixia [myself (humble)] address you?

    Another majestic voice from the Turkic side spoke up, People say that Zu Junyan has wide learning and retentive memory, and is known as the most experienced and knowledgeable figure of Duke Mis subordinate outside of the Handsome Military Counselor Shen Luoyan; how come you did not even recognize our General Yan?

    Zu Junyan laughed and said, Turns out its General Yan Lihui, who made his name as the Twin Spears General. In that case, this friend must be the Dauntless Lion Tie Xiong. Zaixia has eyes but fail to see.

    Letting out a cold snort, Yan Lihui said, Lets cut all this crap, shall we? Where is it?

    Unfazed, Zu Junyan replied, Zaixia wishes to see Miss first before showing the treasure. This is Duke Mis order. General please forgive me.

    Listening to all these, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, who were sitting the beam, were shaken. The Miss that Zu Junyan mentioned, could she be Susus master? They recalled Susu once said that it was because they were being attacked that she wandered about destitute in rural areas of Jiangnan.

    At the same time the two boys were thinking about the box below. Was Big Boss Zhai Rangs [see Book 1 Chapter 10] beloved daughter [orig. pearl in the palm] inside the box?

    Kou Zhong wrote on Xu Zilings back again: Wait for an opportunity to save her!

    Outside, Yan Lihuis cold laugh was heard, The treasure in hand, we will release the person. The words of our Khan have never been spoken in vain. If Mister does not show the treasure, what the Big Boss get could very well be only the body of his beloved woman. All blame will be put on Misters head.

    Zu Junyan let out a long laugh and said, The Jade Annulus of the He Clan is precisely inside the bundle on my back. You hand over the person, we hand over the goods; this has been our agreement. If there are any changes in the meantime, the responsibility ought to fall into Generals hands.

    It was as if a thunderbolt had just crashed inside Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings mind; it was only then did they know that the treasure these men were talking about was, unexpectedly, the Jade Annulus of the He Clan, which fame has spread throughout all ages.

    Right this moment, a sudden change occurred down below.

    The back door suddenly shattered like flying sand, the two martial art experts Turkic guards did not even have time to react, they were sent out flying off the ground and died a violent death. By the time the other two men realized what had happened, a dark shadow flew over the two mens head, and powerfully grabbed and shattered the Tian Ling acupoint on the top of their head. The most frightening thing was that breaking the door, sending the dead bodies off the ground, and killing people with bare hands; everything was done in silence. It was as if everything was a routine activity that had nothing to do with this person.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling knew that this persons martial art skill has already reached the near-perfect state, plus its nature was extremely soft, his movement was as fast as a ghost. Before the shattered door even reached the floor, he had already killed four Turkic martial art masters guarding the wooden chest.

    The two boys mind went blank; they did not dare to look down anymore, even their internal breathing was slowing down considerably.

    If it were not because of their mysterious skill came from the one and only Secret to Long Life, that when they circulate their breathing it would not arouse a martial art experts alertness, that their qi and pulse, their heartbeat and vital signs slowed down nearly to the level of dead people, they would have been discovered by this person early on.

    This mans martial art skill was extremely high, it was definitely not below Du Fuweis.

    Creak! the lid of the chest suddenly opened up.

    The man cried out in surprise, followed by the loud sound of qi and force collided, and then there were repeated noise that sounded like muffled thunder.

    Boom! In the midst of an ear-splitting explosion, the brick wall to the left shattered. Unexpectedly it was actually the man who broke it; he then flew out of the opening, and ran far away, while letting out an earth-shattering fierce cry. His power was extremely astounding that the whole house was shaking.

    Brick and mortar shot everywhere, including onto Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings body. Although they had their true qi protecting their body, they still felt unbearable pain; another evidence that this mans internal energy was really strong.

    The two boys could not bear it anymore, they looked down again.

    They saw the chest had turned into wood splinters, the furniture inside the room had also turned into a sea of wood fragments. A man, as majestic as a mountain, wearing an oversized black gown, was standing in the middle of the room, facing the hole on the wall, regulating his breathing in full concentration.

    From the two boys angle of view, although they could not see his face, it was clear that this man was wearing a sinister, hideous mask on his face.

    They heard gusts of wind; several people flew into the room from the hole on the wall, as well as from the front and back doors, scaring the two boys that they hastily shrank back into hiding.

    Zu Junyans voice was the first to be heard, He is injured!

    A strange, unbelievable, hard-to-describe feeling rose up in the two boys heart.

    According to reason, the man who came to rescue his Big Boss daughter ought to be on Zu Junyans side, and the mysterious man who was hiding inside the chest ought to be his enemy. However, from the tone of his voice, Zu Junyan seemed to be on the mysterious mans side?

    More unimaginable things followed; they heard the Turkic martial art master Yan Lihuis voice speaking up, Zhai Rang made it this far, this is the first time that he ever sustained any injury. This will make his sacrifice and achievements in the past proved to be fruitless.

    Tie Xiong spoke with a cold snort, It shows that he is a man without understanding of the times.

    The two boys realized now that Zu Junyan had betrayed Zhai Rang and Li Mi, and had allied himself with the Turkic people and put on a play. No wonder the Turkic people knew Susus Miss whereabouts and kidnapped her away.

    A deep and low, yet soft voice spoke up, Even though we failed to kill him, we have achieved the desired result. This place is not suitable for us to stay too long, we should proceed with our plan.

    Both Zu Junyan and Yan Lihui, along with their separate troops, responded in unison.

    Soon the people down below left until none remained. But the two boys were so scared that it broke their guts. It was just before dawn that they finally found their courage to slip down and left quietly.

  8. #28
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 3 - Chapter 3

    Book 3 Chapter 3 Betting Against Beautiful Woman

    After traveling for more than ten li in one stretch, they reached a secluded forest. Only then did the two boys dare to stop and pick up some wild fruits to eat.

    Kou Zhong heaved a deep sigh and said, The man who attacked Zhai Rang sneakily is definitely not a Turkic, otherwise he would have the same accent as Yan Lihui and the other Turkic people; who could he be?

    Xu Ziling was sitting by his side; still having lingering fear in his heart, he said, That Zu Junyan is really despicable, conspiring with outsiders against his own Boss; we must expose him.

    Who would believe us? Kou Zhong replied with a wry smile, We have no control over this kind of matter. The most important thing right now is to pick up Susu Jiejie, and immediately get her out of the danger zone, lest disaster will find her like the fish in the moat [see Book 1 Chapter 11]. Would you like me to be the matchmaker to arrange your marriage to Susu Jiejie?

    Xu Ziling angrily said, You still have time to joke around in time like this? Youd better find the way to Pengcheng first, and then wed do a couple of business transaction without any capital, get a couple of fast horses to take us to Rongyang. That is most important.

    Kou Zhong sprang up, patted his chest and said, Leave it to me. Just now when we were on top of the hill, I saw a temple in the distance. We can go to that temple to ask for directions. Lets hit the road!

    The two boys continued their journey. But when the temple was in sight, they were greatly disappointed.

    The way leading to the temple was full of weeds; apparently it has been a long time since any human ever set foot on this path. Clearly this temple was an abandoned broken-down temple.

    In time when war was raging continuously, even an entire town could turn into ghost town; much less just a temple.

    When they reached the external wall of the temple, it was indeed dilapidated and lifeless.

    Kou Zhong said with a wry smile, At least we will have roof over our head; tonight well sleep here!

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, I really miss last nights roast chicken. You possess great magical power, why dont you conjure another one up for me to see?

    Kou Zhong pulled him toward the main gate. Just as they stepped over the threshold, they got a big shock. Two coffins were placed side to side in the temples main hall; both were covered in dust and cobwebs, and looked extremely creepy.

    The two boys were numb as they stood there as in a trance.

    After a long time Kou Zhong finally said, Do you dare to sleep in here?

    Xu Ziling shook his head emphatically; he said, Theres nothing good in here; Id rather sleep outside with the sky as our roof and the earth as our bed.

    Kou Zhong couldnt agree more, Lets go! he said.

    They were just about to leave when suddenly, bang! one of the coffin lid shot out and flew toward the two boys.

    The two boys were scared out of their wits and screamed together, Ghost! as they urged their feet to run like crazy out of the temple.

    Suddenly they heard a loud shout from behind, someone was shouting angrily, Kids, where do you think you are going?

    The two boys got their senses back; turning around, they saw the Sui general who wielded a pair of awls last night at the battlefield, was running toward them. He had shed off his armor and helmet, and was only wearing a regular warrior suit.

    As long as it was human and not ghost, it would be a lot easier to deal with. Kou Zhong pulled the long saber on his back, stood in the middle of the courtyard, and laughed aloud. Turns out its an old friend! he said.

    Like a lightning the Sui general was already in front of him; raising his pair of awls, he took Kou Zhongs saber head-on.

    Seeing the fierceness of the opponents move, Kou Zhong did not dare to meet hard with hard. Unleashing the Crossing Bird Technique, he swiftly darted a zhang away.

    But Xu Ziling refused to back down, he charged forward with his saber to meet the awls.

    Dang! Dang! Xu Ziling was shaken and had to take two steps back.

    Meanwhile Kou Zhong attacked from the side, his saber surged on like tidal waves, rolling around toward the opponent.

    The man stayed calm and unhurried, the awls in his left and right hands moved in continuous attack, separately blocking the two boys long sabers, alternating between wide open and tightly close, but the variation within the moves was endless. Momentarily Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were helpless to deal with him.

    But this mans formidable martial art skill only aroused the two boys fighting spirit. They were using him as their sparring partner in practicing their saber play. The more they fought, the braver they were; the longer they fought, the more proficient they got, until finally they managed to force him falling back repeatedly.

    The man launched a fake attack, and then floated backward.

    The two boys halted. Why stop fighting? they asked in chorus.

    Cannot beat you, why continue fighting? the man retorted.

    Seeing he was this forthcoming, a good impression grew in the two boys heart.

    Where are your troops? Xu Ziling asked.

    The man returned his awls to his back, his eyes gleaming with cold ray as he said, If not for you, two people, disturbing my, Qin Shubaos troop formation, how could I be defeated by that stinky woman [poniang] Shen Luoyan? Although I cannot kill you today, I will never forget this big enmity.

    Kou Zhong sneered and said, So you consider that a big enmity? You Sui army are worse than beasts; burning the whole town is not enough, even people and livestock are not spared, yet you still rape and murder the women; how are we going to settle this blood debt? I really wish that Shen poniang would get rid of you.

    Qin Shubao was shocked, Is there such thing? he asked.

    Thereupon Xu Ziling narrated the tragedy they personally witnessed the other night. Hearing this, Qin Shubao shook his head and sighed; he dejectedly said, Just put that blood debts on my, the Ol Qins account. In any case, when the Ol Qin go back this time, it will be hard to avoid losing my head; so I dont care about anything anymore.

    Kou Zhong was puzzled, Since you know you are going to lose your head, why go back? he asked,

    You are just a little kid, what do you know? Qin Shubao replied impatiently, Just get lost from laozis presence; if you provoke my anger, I will drag you down to the grave with me.

    Kou Zhong had an idea; he laughed and said, To a dead person, money is useless. Since you are going to go back and deliver your life, it would be best if you use your money to accumulate merit and do good works; why dont you give all your money to us, brothers? To requite evil with good, wont this benevolence worth doing?

    Qin Shubao intently looked at the two boys, sizing them up; a moment or two later, he burst into laughter and said, You, these two little kids, your martial art skill is not bad, plus you are getting more and more formidable; who could have thought that you are actually just two poor wretches. So be it! All the money I have is barely enough for us to eat a good meal. Before I die, let me, Qin Shubao, be your host, and give you your mothers big meal, and then well go our separate ways!

    Xu Ziling was skeptical, You are not going to look for an opportunity to harm us, are you?

    Pei! Qin Shubao spat; he said angrily, Who do you think you are? By the time I, Qin Shubao, started to fight in the south and attack to the north, you were still hiding behind your mothers breast, peeing in terror and crying for your Niang. Since you cant tell the good from the bad, the deal is off; dont even think that I will give you half a penny.

    Kou Zhong struck while the iron is still hot[1], saying, You really are sincere. Let us go to the best wine shop in Pengcheng; if we dont have enough money to settle the bill, we will ask you, Laoge [old big brother], to take the full responsibility.

    Qin Shubao laughed aloud and took the lead.

    Chatting and joking, the three of them walked for a while, and then they saw the glittering light of a river ahead, reflecting the starlight in the sky above. Qin Shubao pointed to a high mountain in a distant to their left, saying, That is Mount Luliang [in Shanxi], Pengcheng County lies about thirty li northwest of the mountain. The road ahead is Sishui [lit. river Si, county in Jining, Shandong]. We will stop for the night here, come daybreak tomorrow, well find a boat to go to Pengcheng, and save our leg muscles a little bit.

    If you use your money to hire a boat, will we have enough money to eat and drink? Xu Ziling wondered aloud.

    Qin Shubao patted the pair of awls on his back and said, Do we need money to ride a boat? Who would dare to inconvenient me, the Ol Qin?

    Kou Zhong was flabbergasted, All soldiers are evil people, he said.

    Recalling his own impending fate, Qin Shubao dejectedly said, Stop deriding me. Taking off his pair of awls, he lay down on the grassy land by the river, using his awls as the pillow.

    The two boys also took their long saber off their back, and copying him, they lay down on the grass. Watching the disappearing stars above, they realized soon it would be daybreak.

    Qin Shubao said, I still dont know your, two little kids names.

    After telling him their names, Kou Zhong said, We consider you, laoge as a true friend, plus we know you are going to lose your head, hence we told you our real names. But you must never tell anybody else, otherwise, we wont live much longer than you do.

    Are you wanted criminals? Qin Shubao asked in surprise, In time like this, who has time to pay attention to you?

    Its really hard to explain in a few words, Xu Ziling said, But its the truth.

    Qin Shubao cheerfully said, You consider the Ol Qin as your friend, naturally I wont betray you, and I dont want to know your background either. But honestly, your saber technique can be considered quite advance, ordinary folks will find it difficult to be your match. More importantly, you are still young, in the future you will definitely become great men. The most formidable thing is that you continuously create new moves that change according to the situation. The second time we fought, I had to strain a lot harder to deal with you. It was almost a miracle.

    Being praised by him, the two boys felt they were floating in the air like immortals. But Qin Shubao suddenly sat up and turned his gaze toward Mount Luliang, and heaved a sigh.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were greatly puzzled, they also sat up to accompany him. Whats so special about that mountain? Kou Zhong asked.

    Qin Shubao sadly said, Theres nothing special about that mountain, but there is a very special woman on the mountain. I rarely thought of here all these years, but now that my days are numbered, I cant help thinking about her.

    Sympathizing with him, Xu Ziling said, Qin Laoge should go see her first before making other plans. Perhaps after seeing her you wont be so foolish as to go back to have your head chopped by other people.

    You can easily lose your life in battlefield anyway, Kou Zhong added, Henceforth you can conceal your identity and live a peaceful life.

    Smiling wryly, Qin Shubao said, How can you understand me? I would rather die than being an ordinary citizen. Right now the imperial court is looking for talents, perhaps I can render merits to redeem my crime. If I really dont have any other choice but to die, do you think I would go back?

    Relieved, Xu Ziling said, I see. In that case, you ought to go see your sweetheart even more.

    Qin Shubao laughed aloud and said, Its just a wishful thinking on my part; she is the thousand-jin (catty) gold [i.e. daughter (honorific)] of the Sect Leader of Luliang Pai, while I am only a poor soldier. I only have the qualifications to look at her from the distance several times, but after I met her, every time I had intimate relationship with women [Translators note: the original word is the vulgar version], I always pictured them as she. Ay! This year she ought to be twenty, I am afraid she is already married and bore children. The last sentence was spoken with a sob.

    The two boys scrutinized his appearance; they saw that although his built looked strong and powerful, his face looked like cast-iron, adorned with wind and frost [i.e. hardship]. His cheekbones were a bit too high, so that in comparison, his sparkling, lively eyes looked a tad low; in short, he could not be considered handsome. Definitely not the type of men whom women would likely pour out their affection to.

    Noticing the sky was turning bright, Qin Shubao stood up and said, I dont know why I told you, two kids, the load on my mind. Look! A boats coming.

    The two boys followed him running to the shore.

    A small sailboat was sailing upstream. Since the three people had sharp eyes, they could see that there was only one person on the boat, wearing a long robe and a bamboo rain hat, standing at the stern to steer the boat. A fishing net was spread across the deck, and several bamboo baskets were strewn on the bow.

    Qin Shubao waved and called out, Laoxiong [old chap], can you give us a ride?

    The man did not pay them any attention, he steered the boat toward the distant shore on the opposite side instead, as if he intentionally wanted to avoid them.

    Qin Shubao signaled the two boys, and soared into the air, crossing about four zhang of water surface, toward the sailboat.

    Prior to this, the longest distance the two boys were able to jump was only three zhang. But since they had no choice, they simply braced themselves and jumped with all their strength.

    One after another the three people landed on the fishing net between the sail mast and the stern. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling cheered together, they were very pleased with their own progress.

    Aiyo! the fisherman cried out with shrill voice, You broke my net!

    The three people looked at each other; turned out he was a she, a young woman with sweet, pleasant-to-the-ear voice.

    Right that moment, the woman raised her right hand to pull something from the thin air, the net where the three people were standing on was suddenly closing up, trapping the three people like fish in the net, hanging from the mast in a very pathetic condition.

    It was only then did they realize that the net was tied on its four corners with long, thin, transparent natural silk strings that were connected to an iron axle high up on the mast. Under the bright sunlight, it was almost invisible, so that they were being negligence and fell into the trap. The strange thing was that the transparent and thin silk strings were able to withstand the three peoples weight, which was more than 200 catties. [Translators note: I dont think 200 catties is correct, because that means on average one person weighed only about 30kg; but I translated it as is.]

    Three people struggled hard, the net was swaying continuously, but with each sway, the net tightened a bit, until the three of them were squeezed into a ball, that they nearly could not even move their fingers.

    The woman laughed aloud; she lifted up the bamboo hat, and her thick, beautiful fair instantly cascaded down like a waterfall.

    Qin Shubaos voice cracked, Shen Luoyan! As soon as he finished speaking, following the swaying of the net, his face turned to the other side.

    The beautiful woman shed her long robe, exposing plain yellow, skintight warrior suit underneath, her waist was wrapped in wide blue belt. She smiled coyly as she looked at the three people she caught in the net.

    Kou Zhong cried out, I am about to die, I am going to die soon! Why havent you let us out? Aiya! Dont struggle!

    Shen Luoyan was exactly like her name suggested: female beauty captivating even the birds and beasts [chen yu luo yan, lit. fish sink, goose alights; an idiom from Zhuangzi]. Her pair of eyes was just like limpid lake waters in the fall [again, an idiom describing a womans beautiful eyes], perfectly matched her pretty eyebrows extending onto her slender temples. Her skin was snowy white like jade, coupled with her elegant and graceful demeanor, she was indeed a rare beauty that was not inferior to Yun Yuzhen in any way.

    Rarer still, she exuded some kind of noble air that could shake other peoples heart, that could make any man who look at her to adore her, while feeling ashamed of his own inferiority.

    Running her fingers on her hair, she brushed it aside to reveal her face, which could bewitch mens heart. Keep calm and dont get excited, she said nonchalantly, Let Xiao Nuzi [little/lowly woman] speaks a few words, and then I will put you down.

    After another tender laughter, she said in soft voice, Qin Shubao! Do you surrender? This net is the Capturing Immortals Net, the handiwork of number one craftsman in the world, Lu Miaozi; even immortals fall for it.

    At this moment her thick hair and lower garment were blown by the river breeze, sticking to her body at the front, and fluttering lightly behind her, highlighting her sweet, fair and graceful figure and her exceptional charm, making people believed even more than she was a fairy descending to the mortal world.

    The two boys were staring dumbly at her, but Qin Shubao angrily said, If that night these two kids did not mess around and spoil my troop disposition, the one being the prisoner would be you, this stinky woman. You just won by luck!

    Xu Ziling also angrily said, Didnt you hear that? We are your benefactors, how could you treat the benefactors who save you life like this?

    Shen Luoyan laughed heartily, Of course not! she said.

    With a wave of her left hand, the fishnet fell heavily on the deck, and immediately opened up.

    The three people were burning with anger, this humiliation was difficult to endure. Shouting in unison, they pulled out their weapons to kill her.

    Shen Luoyan pulled her sword from the stern and drew three sword-flowers, her sleeves floated in the air, she successively blocked the three peoples attack.

    Ding! Ding! Dang! Dang! As each weapon made contact with her sword, they all felt that her sword contained infinite consecutive changes, which not only neutralize their current attack, they felt that if they pressed on with another round of attack, it would also be defused. Overwhelmed with shock, the three people successively retreated to the bow, away from the fishnet.

    The trio exchanged glances; a feeling of dread of her exquisite swordplay started to grow in their hearts.

    Still calm and unruffled in the midst of fighting, Shen Luoyan sat on a small stool on the stern. Placing her sword horizontally across her knees, she smiled and said, Do you, three big men, have the guts to listen to me say a few words?

    Qin Shubao coldly said, Ol Qin is the general of a defeated army, if you want to take my head, please do so with my respect, but if you want me to betray the imperial court to enter the Wagang Army, let Ol Qin advise you to forget this delusion.

    Shen Luoyan let the river breeze blew her fair freely, her soul-hooking beautiful eyes swept the three people. Finally her gaze stopped at Qin Shubaos face; with a delicate laughter she said, I am surprised that such a grand general does not dare to listen to a lowly womans words. Very well! You may go. But two Xiao Xiongdi, please stay, let Luoyan expresses my gratitude properly.

    Kou Zhong was delighted. Staying, that wont be necessary, he said, Right now what we, two brothers lack the most is money. Beautiful Junzhi [military advisor], whatever money you have on you, please just give it to us!

    Pfft! Shn Luoyan burst into laughter; covering up her mouth in mock anger she said, Who would have imagined that you are this greedy? You want money? Then follow me home.

    It does not matter whether she was lifting a hand or moving a leg, her movements were overflowing with charm. Altough Qin Shubao turned a blind eye to her, but the two boys were unable to take their eyes off her.

    Shen Luoyan turned her gaze back to Qin Shubao; pretending to be surprised, she said, Great General, why are you reluctant to leave?

    Qin Shubao angrily said, These two kids have nothing to do with Ol Qin. Truth be told, I even have animosity toward them for causing me to lose the battle. Shen Luoyan, if you think that you can use them to threaten me, you are gravely mistaken.

    Xu Ziling replied in surprise, Even if she wanted to detain us, I am afraid she does not have the ability; how could she use us to threaten you, laoge?

    Qin Shubao shook his head and said, You must never underestimate this woman [just remember that in all these, the term woman was derogatory]. Other than being famous as the Pretty Junshi, she also has another nickname, Serpent and Scorpion Beauty [interestingly, the dictionary gave Femme Fatale as alternate definition]. From Wagang Armys world [tian xia], at least one quarter can be attributed to her. Even our Grand Marshal, the Henan Roads Twelve Counties Recovery Ambassador Zhang Xutuo was lured into her ambush and perished in the battlefield.

    Shen Luoyan was displeased, Toward the two Xiao Xiongdi, I only have good intention; you, Qin Shubao, can be considered an important person, dont start a rumor to slander me, a lowly woman, will you? Besides, Shen Luoyan really cannot live up to what General Qin said. When all is said and done, Luoyan is only a pawn under Pushan Gong [Duke of Mount Pu(?)]. If we are talking about devising battle plan in a tent, determining victory a thousand li away, who under the heavens in the present day can surpass Mi Gong? [Duke Mi]

    After a short pause, she continued, Before the battle of Dahai Temple [lit. big ocean], Mi Gong already said, Xutuo is brave, but foolhardy. When his troops enjoy sudden victory, he was very arrogant, hence he could be captured in one battle. But the three generals under his command, Qin Shubao, Luo Shixin and Cheng Yaojin, are rare talents. If we cannot use them, they must be killed! It is due to Mi Gongs injunction that Luoyan exhausted my lips and tongue to advise you, General, to renounce the dark and seek the light. Bright generals must have brilliant master. Right now destiny has already been determined, the demise of Sui Clan is at hand, all the people in the world long for brilliant master. If General Qin still wants to help tyrannical ruler, please feel free to leave. But these two Xiao Xiongdi must follow Luoyan home.

    Turning to the two boys, she smiled sweetly and said, If I dont go home, I wont have any money to give you!

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other. Their scalps turned numb; apparently Qin Shubaos conjecture was not incorrect, this woman was more formidable than their Beautiful Shifu.

    Qin Shubao looked around, he still could not see what other trick she was preparing to deal with him. With a deep voice he said, Ol Qin has never cowered under others threat.

    Shen Luoyan laughed coquettishly, Isnt General going to commit suicide at Sishui? Why dont you make a bet with us? Right now Luoyan will let General and two Xiao Xiongdi go freely, within the next six sichen, you may go anywhere. After that, within three days I will capture you three times, but I guarantee that I wont harm even half a strand of hair on your body. If you lose, you must obediently join us, the Pushan Gongs force, and must not show any disloyalty.

    Xu Ziling protested, We are your benefactors, why do you include us, two people?

    Shen Luoyan frowned and said, I was only thinking for your good! When Mi Gong obtain the world in the future, you wont have to ask for money everywhere like little beggars.

    Qin Shubao threw his head backward and roared in laughter, Very well! Its a deal. Just consider what happened just now as the first one. If you have the ability to capture Ol Qin two more times, Ol Qin will have no choice but to surrender.

    Shen Luoyan also laughed and said, Qin Shubao is indeed a hero and a real man.

    Turning toward Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, two boys, she said, It would be nice if you have half of Qin Xiongs heroic spirit.

    Qin Shubao shouted, How can you, Shen Luoyan, judge these two Xiongdi? Let us go!

    The trio let out a loud yell and leaped off the sailboat toward the shore, and disappeared in the blink of an eye.

    Shen Luoyan looked at the direction the three of them disappearing, an enigmatic smile appeared on the corner of her mouth.

    [1] Orig. beat the snake following the stick. From the full idiom is wooden stick beats the snake, the snake follows the stick; meaning: one can look at an opportunity and seize the opportunity to increase the benefit/advantage.

  9. #29
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 3 - Chapter 4

    Book 3 Chapter 4 Fallen Into The Trap and Captured.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, along with Qin Shubao ran to the top of a small hill, behind them was a link of mountain ridges, while ahead of them was a great plain, extending as far as their eyes could see. About five li to their left River Si was flowing into the wilderness; no human footprint was to be seen.

    Qin Shubao sat down and said, Lets take a rest for a while to compose ourselves.

    The two boys followed his lead and sat down on the grassy meadow. Who is that Lu Miaozi guy? Kou Zhong asked, He can make such a formidable net to capture people.

    Qin Shubao shook his head, I am not too clear myself, he said, Ay! How can you still have time to mind other peoples business?

    After lost in thought for half a day, he turned to the two boys and said, Since you two have helped her dealing with out Great Sui Army, it was such a good opportunity, why didnt you join their Wagang Army?

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other; recalling Zu Junyan colluding with foreign power against the Big Boss, Zhai Rang, there was lingering fear in their heart. The latter replied, We recently saw a little affair concerning Wagang Army, hence we lost interest in joining them.

    Qin Shubao did not question closely, he thought aloud, Shen Luoyan is the number one tactician under Li Mis command, her scheming skill excels above others; since she said she is going to capture us alive, it must not be an empty word. Let us play along with her, we will go our separate way, so that she cannot attend to us simultaneously, hence we are disrupting her troops disposition.

    Kou Zhong shook his head and said, Xiao Ling and I are inseparable to the death, we have been like that since we were little.

    Qin Shubao nodded and said, Lets make two groups then! Pointing to the plains below, he said, If she wants to capture us alive, she will have to find our track first. I will run toward the plains first, you two stay here from this high point to observe, see what method that stinky woman will use to follow my trail. If we know her method, we can run away from her.

    Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling asked, But you will be far away by then, how are we going to notify you?

    Qin Shubao took out a small copper mirror from his pocket; handing it over to the two boys, he said, This is how we communicate by reflecting sunlight, same as using signal lantern during the night. And then he taught the two boys how to use it. Three days later, he continued, Well meet again at Pengchengs eastern gate. If we really can beat that woman, we, three brothers, will have a big his grannys feast, and wont go home before we get drunk.

    Amidst his loud laughter, he ran down the hill.

    The two boys concentrated their attention to watch Qin Shubao as he ran farther and farther away, while also looked around to see if there was any sign of the enemy.

    Who would have thought that until Qin Shubao has turned into a small dot at the edge of the plains, they still did not even see half a shadow of other human beings?

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Turns out that beautiful woman was only letting out an empty tiger roar!

    Xu Ziling also felt relieved, Dont you need to relay the good news? he reminded him.

    With an air of complacency Kou Zhong aimed the mirror toward the sun and made some signals.

    On the other side, Qin Shubao tarried for half a day before continuing his escape, disappearing out of their sight.

    There ought to be three more sichen before dark, Kou Zhong said, Wed better to back to the river to find a way to Pengcheng. This move should be outside that Shen womans expectation.

    In my opinion, Xu Ziling said, We should go to the highest mountain and hide there for his mothers three days and three nights. If we see somebodys coming, we can make out getaway; that will be a better idea.

    Kou Zhong shook his head, Dont forget that our peerless qinggong has not been trained to perfection, he said, I dont think we can outrun that woman. Therefore, we must to go a place like Pengcheng, if that woman came, well cry out along the street, Wagang Army attacks! And then when the officers and men are dealing with her, we could easily get away.

    Xu Ziling thought that what he said was very reasonable; hence he stayed silent and simply followed Kou Zhong running to River Si.

    The two boys ran high and crouched low; they picked the less traveled wild, mountainous path, making a wide detour upstream of River Si, about thirty li away from the section of the river where they met Shen Luoyan.

    Perhaps it was because of the chaos of war, but a very long time has passed before they saw boats sailing on the river. However, no matter how these two boys threatened and bribed, nobody was willing to stop their boat for them. They were not accustomed to climbing onto boats relying on force; hence they could only watch the river and sigh quietly.

    After walking along the river for another sichen or so, ahead they saw a crossing pier, where a small fishing boat was moored, but they did not see anybody. In great delight the two boys rushed toward the boat.

    Coming closer to the boat, they heard the sound of snoring coming from inside the boats canopy. The two boys looked inside and saw an old fisherman was sprawling on the deck, sleeping soundly.

    Kou Zhong said, If this is a trap, we can be considered losing with the most willing heart.

    Xu Ziling drew his long saber and chuckled evilly, I wont believe that easily. This must be her man. And then he signaled Kou Zhong with his eyes.

    Kou Zhong caught on; he also drew his saber and said with a cold laugh, This is called Id rather defeat people than have people defeat me. He jumped and charged into the shed, thrusting his saber toward the old fishermans back.

    But the saber stopped as soon as it touched the mans back.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and pulled his saber back; and then he signaled Xu Ziling that all is good.

    Right this moment the snoring stopped, the old fisherman woke up with a start; with sleepy eyes he sat up. Before Kou Zhong could say anything to greet him, the old fisherman screamed in terror and scrambled out to the bow from the other end of the shed. Help! Robbers! he shouted. And then with trembling hands and shaking legs he crawled to ashore, and ran for his life.

    Like a couple of stupid birds the two boys watched him disappearing into the forest by the shore. Kou Zhong said apologetically, The Senior must have been visited by robbers before, no wonder his reaction was so intense.

    Shrugging his shoulders, Xu Ziling said, Most probably this fishing boat is his only possession, if he lose it to us, how would he make his living?

    Reluctantly Kou Zhong cast a couple of glances toward the fishing boat, and then he jumped ashore and said with a wry smile, Then we must rely on our qinggong, which prowess shook the Wulin world.

    Halfheartedly the two boys left and continued their journey along the river. But they had been walking for only ten zhang or so, the old fisherman tiptoed out of the woods, trying to sneak back into the boat.

    The two boys were overjoyed at this turn of events. Laozhang [Sir, polite]! Kou Zhong called out, We are not robbers!

    The old fisherman jumped in fright; he dove straight toward the fishing boat, taking the last three steps in only two. Desperately he tried to untie the mooring rope.

    By the time the two boys arrived, the old fisherman was still trying to untie the knot with lost soul, dropped spirit; but the more he pulled, the tighter the knot.

    Kou Zhong squatted down at the pier; while helping him untie the knot, he said, Laozhang! Look closely, do you think we look like robbers?

    Apparently the old fisherman was not as scared as before; still panting, he replied with his hoarse voice, Daye [big master, see my note on ye earlier], why are you looking for me?

    Xu Ziling politely said, Laozhang, where are you heading? If you are going upstream, would it be possible for you to give us a ride?

    The old fishermans courage was boosted some more; he said, You want a ride, then you must pay.

    Kou Zhong said awkwardly, We dont even have half a penny in our pockets. Laozhang, would it be possible for you to give us a favor?

    The old fisherman frowned. Where are you going anyway? he asked.

    Xu Ziling probed, It would be best if we can go to Pengcheng. But it depends on whether it is convenient for Laozhang to do so.

    That wont do! the old fisherman said, To go to Pengcheng, we need at least one day. How could I have time to fish then? If there is no money involved, I wont do it.

    And then, squinting his eyes, he sized them up for a while before he said with a laugh, How about this: those two sabers you have may be sold for a few taels. Just those to Laohan [old man, referring to self] as boat fare!

    Kou Zhong was cross, What do you mean a few taels? Our sabers are highest quality goods

    The old fisherman impatiently cut him off, You dont agree then forget about it. Laohan needs to set sail now.

    Xu Ziling pulled Kou Zhong aside and spoke in low voice, There is something wrong here. This old man [laotou, slang] could be really Shen Luoyans man; otherwise, how come he is not afraid that from feeling awkward, we may get angry, and thus resort to violence against him? Also, why would he want to get our weapons?

    Kou Zhong nodded, We need to test him, he said, If there is no problem, we can give the sabers to him; we can always snatch two more in the future, its not a big deal.

    Finished speaking, he turned toward the old fisherman and waved his hand, We dont need ride from you. Laozhang, please!

    The old fisherman grumbled a couple sentences, and then, ignoring the two boys, he steered the boat away from the pier.

    The two boys suspicion was gone. Leaping over the water surface, they landed on the fishing boat. The old fisherman was so scared that his face and lips turned pale, and he was unable to even cry.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Laozhang, did not misunderstand at all, its just that we suddenly want to make a deal with you. When we get to Pengcheng, these two sabers will be yours.

    The old fisherman breathed a sigh of relief, I dont want your sabers anymore, he said, When we get to Qinglong Tan [azure dragon beach], you help me throwing the net to catch fish, and then we go to Pengcheng to deliver the goods. Just consider that as your boat ride fare.

    The boat slowed down. The old fisherman ordered Xu Ziling to row at the stern, and told Kou Zhong to grab the pole; he said nervously, After the bend ahead is the Guishi Xia [ghost rock gorge], the stream is rapid, each time Laohan blast through, I am always very scared and on edge. Thats why although I know Qinglong Beach has the most fish, I would not dare to go there without any reason.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling turned their gaze forward; they saw from here on, the cliffs on both sides of river gradually grew taller and the river narrower, the terrain was indeed very dangerous. At the same time they were thinking that if there were an ambush here, it would be really bad. Hastily they focused their attention to steer the boat, as well as paying close attention to any sound of activity on both shores.

    The fishing boat advanced bravely against the current. After turning a sharp bend, they saw the cliff suddenly narrowed, the river flowed faster; close to the shore there were hundreds and thousands of rocks, in all shapes and sizes, protruding above the water, making the water flowed even more like an unbridled horse running freely on the plains: harsh, powerful, rapid, and nasty; dashing against the boat, sending it swaying to the left and rolling to the right. The water surface was white with bubbles, frightening them to the core.

    The three people worked together with all their heart. At the stern, Xu Ziling rowed and steered the boat, Kou Zhong used the long pole to push the boat away from the rocks, while the old fisherman controlled the sail to maintain the proper course.

    The fishing boat forged ahead with great difficulty.

    As they turned another bend, the fishing boat suddenly leaned toward a boulder near the left bank. Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Look at me! Leaping to the bow, he pushed the long pole forward forcefully on the rock.

    It was not clear whether it was because they were somehow caught in the current, or because Kou Zhong had used too much force, the bow of the boat swayed to the right, so that the boat was horizontally across the river, and then the hull continued to lean sideways to the right.

    Water immediately gushed into the cabin, the boat suddenly capsized to the right.

    By the time the three people cried out in fear, they were already in the water. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were not afraid of the ocean, naturally they did not fear this trivial River Si. When they had their heads out of the water, they saw the old fisherman, who seemed to be fainted, bobbing up and down on the surface, carried away by the current heading downstream.

    In great shock the two boys swam desperately toward the old fisherman. Exerting their entire strength, soon they were able to catch up with the old fisherman, and grabbed him from left and right and pulled him up from the water.

    While they were just breathing a sigh of relief, the old fisherman suddenly opened his eyes wide. The eyes shone with a frighteningly sharp ray. Just when the two boys realized something was wrong and cried out in shock, their bodies went numb, because the old fisherman sealed the acupoints on their flanks.

    The old fisherman roared in laughter. Dragging the two boys along as his captives, he swam toward the left bank.

    After tossing the two boys to the bushes by the shore, the old fishermans crooked, hunched back suddenly straightened up as he proudly said, I am Old Man of the Plains Mo Cheng, under Miss order to capture the two Gongzi. Please! This time you only have three sichen to escape.

    Finished speaking, he left with big laugh.

    After recovering their strength, the two boys sat up and looked at each other with wry smile.

    It just does not make sense, Kou Zhong spoke painfully, How could they track our whereabouts so clearly?

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, That old fellows disguise was really perfect.

    Thinking hard, Kou Zhong said, If we cannot decode their method of tracking us, sooner or later we will get captured again. If that happens, how can we live with our heads lifted high in the future?

    Xu Ziling looked around; he said in a low voice, I wonder if Qin Shubao is as useless as we are?

    Kou Zhong retorted, Shen Luoyans main target is Qin Shubao, naturally she will handle him personally; it would be more difficult for him to escape. Ay! Rack your brains, quick! Look! Its getting dark really soon.

    Xu Ziling stared at the sinking sun on the horizon; he knitted his brow and said, She must have put some trick on our bodies, so that she can easily catch up with us.

    The two boys were severely shaken; you looked at me, I looked at you, Kou Zhong slapped his thigh and said, It must be that Lu Miaozis fishing net.

    And he examined his hand and feet and clothes, and sure enough, they discovered a lot of fine particles like dust all around their bodies. If they did not intentionally look for it, they would not detect it. By now the river has washed away most of the fine particles from their clothes, but a large amount of the particles still remained.

    Stop looking over it! Xu Ziling warned him, Maybe someone is still spying on us!

    What kind of cheap trick is this? Kou Zhong asked in terror, I cannot brush it off! It is colorless and odorless. That beautiful woman is really formidable, she has clearly planned ahead to bet that she would capture us, that way she would win us over completely.

    Xu Ziling whispered in his ear, Our clothes have been infected, we can take it off; but we cant chop our head and limbs. What do we do this time? The enemy might come here soon.

    Kou Zhong used his nose to sniff around for quite a while, and then he said in low voice, It does not matter whether this kind of powder has any scent or not, otherwise, even if the opponent can follow our trail based on scent, they can only follow our track from behind, unlike earlier, where they already laid up a trap ahead waiting for us.

    We were really too careless, Xu Ziling said in distress, We were blind not to know that others put some kind of trick on our bodies. However, even if they sent people to keep watch on all vantage points around the two hundred li radius, they have to have a special way of seeing this fine powder on us both day and night. But if they want to prepare a trap one step ahead of us, they must have an unusually rapid and effective communication method. At night they can use flashing light, but how did they conceal it from us?

    Kou Zhong dejectedly lying down on the grass, looking up at the red sunset clouds in the sky; he muttered to himself, There must be a hiccup in our conjecture somewhere. Remember when Qin Shubao left, we lived high and looked down on him all the time, but did not see the fine powder on his body. Supposing this fine powder can glow in the dark, you and I would be able to see it on each others body. Not only that, keeping watch on all high points around is both not easy and not practical. If we went into hiding deep in the mountains, this method does not have the least bit of usefulness. If as you just said, we fled to the highest peak, they dont have the skill to monitor us. Therefore, that Pretty Junshi [see last chapter, Book 3 Chapter 3] must have some other ingenious way, otherwise it wont fit her fame in knowledge and scheming.

    Under pressure from Shen Luoyan, the two boys were forced to bring out their innate ability and wisdom as they vowed to fight to the end.

    In fact, ever since they found the Secret to Long Life, their life has been turned upside down, as they constantly dealing with all kinds of challenges. Just like rough jade that is continuously carved and polished, it will gradually reveal its beautiful nature.

    Xu Ziling lay next to Kou Zhong; he just saw a small blue bird hovering above, after circling twice, it flew to a nearby forest. He had a brainwave, Perhaps this fine powder is not meant to be seen by human, but to be recognized by a trained bird, just like falcons can help the hunter hunt their prey. So even if we cover ourselves with cloth, or hiding in a cave, we still cannot hide from the birds eyes, because it has already identified us clearly.

    Kou Zhong was jolted awake; he sat up, looked around, and said, You are right, that is the most reasonable explanation. Just now there was a single, strange bird flying back and forth above us. His mother, let me hit it down and eat it to accompany wine.

    Xu Ziling let out a hollow laugh, I am afraid even if you hit it down now, it would be useless. Based on Shen Luoyans ability and wisdom, she would guess that we have defeated her trick. Dont forget that that old fellow also touched us; perhaps he did another trick on us. If we, like a fool, exhausted our strength dealing with that double-flat feathered animal, it will only make that beautiful woman broke down in laughter.

    Kou Zhong sized Xu Ziling up with rapt attention, and then scratching his head he said, Normally, in terms of crafty ideas, even if you, this kid, pat your horses bottom, you wont be able to catch up with laozi. Who could have thought that under present circumstances, your thought is more meticulous than me, Zhong Shao. Xu Junshi Daren [see Book 1 Chapter 4 on daren], what are we supposed to do now?

    Xu Ziling also sat up and whispered in his ear, This time we must not lose against that woman. Speaking about tracking, they must use people or animal, two routes. But no matter how formidable that stinky woman is, or that her subordinates qinggong is a hundred times better than ours, they still do not know that we can come and go freely underwater without taking a breath.

    Kou Zhong nodded. If we hide underwater, he said, Unless that bird can fly underwater too, we can completely disappear without a trace. Ay! But from here to Pengcheng, there is still about thirty li of waterway; if we have to swim to Pengcheng, we will die of exhaustion.

    Xu Ziling let out a low chuckle and said, How did you, Zhong Shao, become so stupid? When we hide underwater, as long as there is a boat passing by, we can attach ourselves to the bottom of the boat. This way we can have a boat ride without expending a great deal of effort.

    Kou Zhong slapped his thigh and let out a muffled cheer.

    By this time the sky has turned dark, the two boys screamed gleefully as they sprang up, dashed madly along the shore first, and then when they reached a thick wooded area, they dove into the river; and then following the current, they swam quickly downstream, even farther away from Pengcheng.

    As expected, the strange bird suddenly appeared from who knows where. After making several circles in the air above the river, it let out a chirp, and soared into the air; soon it disappeared from sight.

    At this point three big, five-mast ships appeared from the lower reaches of the river. The two boys were greatly delighted. They swam up and attached themselves to the hull of one of the ships.

    Soon after the boys left, three men, including that Old Man of the Plains Mo Cheng, darted out of the woods. When they got to the place where the two boys disappeared into the water, they scanned the river course with their shining eyes. Naturally they did not know that the two boys could get away in this unimaginable way.

    It must be noted that even Wulin experts with superb water skill, although they knew some kind of breathing underwater skill, they could not stay underwater for this long. As for Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, who had innate ability to hold their breath and were able to stay underwater for a long time, they could be compared to first-rate characters of Du Fuwei, Yuwen Huaji, Zhai Rang and the other prominent figures caliber.

    This was the unique trait of Secret to Long Life; when practiced, one would nearly suffer fire deviation, however, if the practitioner succeeded, it would unleash the most-advanced breathing regimen, which belonged to first-class mysterious skill category, merely using different routes to the same destination.

    Therefore, although in terms of martial art and lightness skill their standing was only a tad above average Wulin experts, their mental cultivation[1] was at the grandmaster level; which became a substantial and solid foundation for their growth.

    This time Shen Luoyan miscalculated; it really had nothing to do with her ability and wisdom, but because the situation was simply too surreal.

    Mo Cheng and the others were searching along the river when they saw the three huge ships sailing upstream; they abruptly halted their steps to watch.

    When the ships had passed far away, Mo Chengs expression turned extremely grave as he spoke to the other two in low voice, Those three ships bear the flag of the Li Clan. If the Clan Leader, Li Yuan is aboard the ship, something really big is going to happen at Pengcheng. We must return immediately and report this to Miss.

    Finished speaking, the three men disappeared into the darkness of the riverbank.

    [1] Orig. xin fa, lit. heart/mind method/way. I have difficulty finding a good translation; any ideas?

  10. #30
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 3 - Chapter 5

    Book 3 Chapter 5 One Business Deal

    One after another Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling appeared out of the water, breathing the late night fresh and clean air of River Si.

    Without even exerting any strength, the hollow of their palms automatically produced suction force, attaching their bodies onto the wall of the ship; they did not even understand how it worked.

    Immensely proud of himself, Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, This time we dealt a big blow to that Shen woman [reminder, the term woman here is derogatory] that she fell flat on his grannys face. Ha! Its actually Shen womans granny. [Translators note: his granny was a cuss word, equivalent to [email protected] it.]

    Dont be complacent too soon, Xu Ziling said, Theres still half a day before we can be considered winning this bet. Excessive complacency may cause hundreds of foolish negligence, dont ruin the enterprise for the sake of one basketful.

    Kou Zhong nodded, Well act properly. Ay! We are so stupid, when we made the bet, she only spoke about what wed do if she won, but not if we won. Otherwise, stroking her body a couple times wont be too bad.

    Xu Ziling chuckled softly and said, Less wishful thinking! This woman is full of thorns from top to bottom; she must not be touched. Ay! I am worried that Qin Laoge cannot deal with her!

    That would be better, Kou Zhong replied, Otherwise, I am afraid he would be beheaded by that muddle-headed ruler. Hey! These three ships seem to be prominent; will you be interested in borrowing a couple of clothes and perhaps some food and money? It is better than looking like beggars wearing worn-out clothes with nothing in our hands.

    Be careful! Xu Ziling said in low voice, The people who can use such three big ships must be either large and influential family of high standing, or high ranking official and nobility, or perhaps big shots gangster boss. If we are not careful, we would just offer our little lives to the Heaven.

    Kou Zhong frowned, So are we going or not? he asked.

    Xu Ziling chuckled softly, If we are not afraid of the Ol Die, why should we fear anybody? Follow me, the future Wulin expert! Finished speaking, he crawled up along the wall.

    By this time the two boys already had considerable experience in hiding and concealing their track, in breathing with their mouth and nose shut, in exercising restraint to their bodily functions, so that when being cautious, they were completely noiseless and undetectable.

    There were wind lanterns on the deck, as well as hanging from the masts of the big ship, but on the side facing them, from twenty-something cabin windows on three levels, only about half were illuminated.

    Xu Ziling selected a dark window on the second level from which he wanted to crawl into the ship. But as they passed an illuminated window, they heard a female voice coming from the inside. The two boys succumbed to their curiosity and stopped to listen.

    The female voice suddenly sounded very close to the boys ears, Er Ge [second (older) brother], it would be best if you stop persuading Die; he has always been loyal and devoted to the imperial court. Duan Shu [paternal (younger) uncle] has advised him for a long time, but did he even listen to half a word he said?

    The two boys jumped in fright; they had just realized that the dainty woman was moving to the window, hence they did not dare to make the slightest move.

    A distressed-sounding young male voice responded, What Die reluctant to part the most is our relationship with the Dugu Clan; but he did not know that Dugu Feng is a wily old fox, who regards us as the thorn in his eyes. Right now the world is in chaos, tens of thousands people are angry, while the Tujue [Turkic] people are glaring at us like a tiger watching his prey, and Sui imperial court is no longer viable. And we get hold of Taiyuan, our troops are sufficient, our provisions abundant, enough to last us ten or eight years. Right now Yingyang Pais Liu Wuzhuo and Liang Shidu are aligning themselves with the Tujue, raising their troops to fight the Sui, taking over Loulan and Dingxiang, one after another. If they break through Yan Men [lit. wild goose gate], our Taiyuan will bear the brunt. If Die keeps wavering, ultimately we will be implicated by that muddle-headed ruler; the boat capsize, the people perish.

    Listening to this, the two boys outside the window sucked in a mouthful of cold air; who exactly were these man and woman inside? Whose children were they? Unexpectedly they were directly related to the Dugu Clan and Emperor Yang of Sui. Terrified, they did not dare to budge even more.

    The mans voice was full of authority and power; needless to say, he must be a top quality martial art expert.

    The woman spoke in soft voice, Have you talked it over with Dage [big/first (older) brother]?

    I dont know how many times, the man replied, He cant think of any idea either. Xiuning should know how horrible Dies stubbornness is.

    That Xiuning said, Wed better confide with Madame Dong Ming; father always listen to everything she said. Ay! If only Niang came back to life; Die would definitely listen to her.

    The two boys outside were so terrified that their hands slipped and they almost fell into the river. Finally they were able to guess that the ship they were climbing actually belonged to the Li Clan; how could they dare to continue eavesdropping? Hastily and quietly they continued pulling themselves up.

    Right this moment the conversation inside the cabin suddenly stopped. But the two boys did not pay attention anymore.

    They opened the window, and after ascertaining there was nobody inside, they crawled in, and only then did they dare to breathe a sigh of relief.

    The two boys swept the room with their gaze, and noticed that it was a fairly large room, the furnishing was gorgeous. Other than bed, chairs and other furniture, there was also a large wooden chest; inside there should be clothes and that sort of thing.

    Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, We ought to steal with principle; each person should only get a set of clothes, and if we find money, we should also take only enough to cover our meals for several days and one visit to the pleasure house.

    At this point a mans head appeared on the window, but when he heard Kou Zhong, the head suddenly disappeared again.

    Xu Ziling spoke in a low voice, I have never imagined that we would steal Li Yuans belongings. Didnt that Dugu fellow want to harm Li Yuan? Wed better harm him instead. Lets leave a brief note warning the Li Clan people, just consider it payment for the stuff we steal. [Reminder: Li Yuan was the personal name of first Tang emperor Gauzu (566-635), reigned 618-626.]

    Kou Zhong chuckled quietly and said, Since when did you become this conscientious? Ha! Perhaps in all the world, we are the only one who have the ability to cause Li Yuan to revolt. But I dont know whether this guy is a good guy or a bad guy

    Dont talk nonsense, Xu Ziling scolded him, If somebodys coming we will be in trouble. Quickly steal!

    The two boys walked over to the chest and were about to lift the lid, suddenly there was a shush! from the window, as if it was warning the two boys not to make any noise.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were scared out of their wits. They froze and turned their heads toward the window.

    A dark shadow noiselessly came in through the window and stood in front of the two boys.

    The two boys calmed their nerves and looked closely. Turned out it was a tall young man that looked only a few years older than they were, with a rectangular face and big ears, with formidable physique and eyes that shone like glossy lacquer, and elegant bearing. Right now he was standing proudly yet self-composed, a demeanor that could stop deep pool and overcome high mountain peak; that could turn other peoples heart upside down.

    While Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were as dumb as a wooden chicken, the young man spoke in low voice, Zaixia [I, humble] Shimin, the third son of Li Yuan, the caretaker of Taiyuan. Two Xiongtai [brother, of the same age] look just, honest and amazing, I wonder what are your respected surname and great given names?

    The two boys exchanged a glance; their heart has calmed down, but at the same time they felt at a loss. This man has caught the two little thieves red-handed, yet he was still this refined and courteous, as if the two of them were noble guests whose appearance was simply unexpected.

    The two boys stood up. Kou Zhong cupped his fist to show his respect, and said with a giggle, This name Shimin is very good. Ha! Saving the world, coming to the relief of the people [jiu shi ji min, same shi and min characters]; perhaps in the future you will become the emperor.

    Li Shimin smiled indifferently and said, Xiongtai needs not praise Zaixia; but this name indeed has a little bit of background. Why dont you two gentlemen have a seat so that we can talk? [Another reminder (because I think I already had the footnote somewhere): Li Shimin, personal name of second Tang emperor Taizong (599-649), reigned 626-649.]

    This moment Li Xiunings voice came from below, Er Ge! What happened?

    Li Shimin leaned over the window and called out, Ill tell you later!

    Turning around, he asked the two boys to have a seat; his manner was sincere and courteous. Deep in their heart the two boys knew his intention, but they also knew that they could not charge through him toward the window. Therefore, bracing themselves, they sat down in two armchairs leaning against the wall. Because their body was still dripping wet, it was quite uncomfortable.

    Li Shimin calmly smiled and sat down on a chair next to the window; he said, When Ziaxia was four, a man who was good in physiognomy came to our home; by reading my facial features, he predicted that by age twenty, you will relieve the world [shi] and pacify the people [min]. That time Niang doted on me very much, hence she changed my name to Shimin. While speaking, he casually picked up the flint to light up the oil lamp on a small table by his side.

    Xu Ziling noticed that when he mentioned his mother, his eyes revealed a fondness of a childs deep admiration toward his mother; he could not help thinking about Fu Junchuo. Sighing, he said, You must miss your Niang very much.

    Li Shimin nodded slightly; turning his attention to the water droplets on the floor dripping from the two boys body, he said with a deep voice, What is the relationship between the two gentlemen and Shan Mei Xianzi Madame Dong Ming of Ryukyu? Why did when you heard her name your hearts jump a few times? Otherwise, Zaixia would still be in the dark as to the two gentlemen have sneaked into our ship.

    It was only then did the two boys realize what went wrong. They were also astonished at Li Shimins thorough thought process; that just from this point he was able to deduce that the two of them were somehow related to Madame Dong Ming.

    Kou Zhong giggled and replied, Naturally we are related! But wed better make a business deal; supposing we can make your respected Ol Die to raise arms and rebel, you will give us, two brothers, two sets of clothes and hey! And two, no! Thirty taels of silver. Ha! What do you say?

    This time it was Li Shimin who was dumbstruck. Thirty taels of silver? he asked in incredulity.

    Xu Zilings heart skipped a beat, he hastily tried to remedy the situation by saying, If thirty taels of silver is too much, twenty-five is alright.

    Li Shimin looked at the two boys in disbelief; he reached into his pocket, took out a money purse and without even looking at it he tossed it to Kou Zhong. Just look how much money is in there, he said.

    Kou Zhong caught the purse, and opened it without hesitation. As soon as he looked inside, he gasped, My grandma, old dad, and all my ancestors! he exclaimed, Its his mothers gold ingots!

    Hastily Xu Ziling craned his neck to look. He was speechless. It worth at least several hundred taels of silver, he said.

    Kou Zhongs eyes lit up; he stuffed the purse into his pocket. Taking a deep breath he said, Taking peoples money, well avoid calamities on their behalf; the two of us brothers will take full responsibility of this matter.

    Xu Ziling had a bit more conscience. Zhong Shao, he said apologetically, You must return the money first, we have to wait until the business is done before we can receive the payment.

    Li Shimin shrugged him off, Take it! Whether success or failure, we can all be friends. That money should be enough for you to stroll into low-grade brothel a hundred times over.

    The two boys were touched. Kou Zhong raised his thumb in praise, We accept your friendship.

    Not too loud, Li Shimin said in low voice, I dont want others to know that you are here.

    Kou Zhongs thick face blushed; he lowered his voice to the lowest volume and said, Let me tell you an astonishingly big secret! Madame Dong Ming kept an account book in her residence listing the purchase of weapons your Old Die made in secret to her, on it there is his signature and stamp too. Just imagine if this treasure is stolen, what would happen then?

    Li Shimin was shaken. Naturally he knew that these two boys did not invent some crazy talk. Because the reason that he took his troops to Pengcheng this time was to place another order to Madame Dong Ming for another batch of weapons.

    Since two years ago his father, Li Yuan, was transferred to Hong Hua to be its caretaker, while at the same time he was assigned to be the Junshi [military advisor] of Guan Yous thirteen counties. To deal with Yang Xuangans main forces, Li Yuan finally accepted his advice to buy a large quantity of weapons from Madame Dong Ming. This matter was outside Emperor Yang of Suis knowledge; if it leaked, and there was credible evidence, the paranoid Emperor Yang of Sui would certainly suspect him of planning a rebellion. If not, it would be a fantastic story indeed.

    After staring blankly for half a day, Li Shimin frowned and said, Madame Dong Ming has several martial art masters under her command, each one of the four law protector fairies has ultimate skill. Other than Shan Ren Ning Daoqi [see Book 1 Chapter 6] personally made the move, who would be able to come aboard their ship to steal such an important thing?

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, Seeing that you are such a true friend, we can tell you a secret; but you must not harm us like other people, or perhaps when this business is done use some trick against us.

    Li Shimin seriously said, If I, Li Shimin, commit any despicable act, let me not die a good death. Humph! You dare to look at me that way.

    As if nothing had happened, Kou Zhong said, It is called once bitten by a snake. It is also called being careful sailing on ten-thousand-year ship. We must establish trust with each other first, only then will any large-scale plan be effective.

    It was obvious that Li Shimin thought that between the two, Kou Zhong was comparatively the dishonest one. He turned to Xu Ziling and said, You will tell me!

    Right that moment someone was passing through outside. After the sound of footsteps was gone, Xu Ziling asked, Whose room is this?

    Li Shimin laughed. Its mine, he replied, The deck below is used by the womenfolk. If you want to steal clothes, you have come to the right place. Our builds are similar.

    The two boys were amused.

    Thereupon Xu Ziling narrated the story around Haisha Bangs desire to attack Dong Ming Pais flagship. When Li Shimin heard that Yuwen Huaji and Dugu Ce were involved, his eyes flickered with cold ray, his imposing aura radiated all around.

    Therefore, Kou Zhong summed up, Right now only the two of us can mingle aboard the ship. Besides, they thought that our martial art skill is low, hence they do not guard against us so much. Of course, we will be very secretive, so that we wont let Laoxiongs [old chap] money down.

    Li Shimin was already accustomed to the way he tooted his horn, he did not even bother whether they would be secretive or not. After thinking hard, he said, What can we do to lure Madame Dong Ming someplace else? This is something that I have to think about.

    Finished speaking he stood up, opened the chest and took out two sets of clothes, and handed them over to the two boys, Change into dry clothes first, and after a good night sleep, I will wake you up when we arrive at Pengcheng by daybreak. I need to go to the lower level and have some talk with my sister.

    We can sleep on the floor, Kou Zhong offered.

    Li Shimin laughed and said, Such a big bed, enough for three people to sleep, why sleep on the floor? Are we not only business partners, but brothers and friends as well? Ha! Your encounter is so bizarre that it is hard to believe.

    Finished speaking he went out through the window again.

    When the two boys stepped into Pengcheng, they were rather hesitant, but were full of good feeling. What they were wearing was clean and tidy warrior outfit, on their waist hung highest quality steel saber and a full money pouch given by Li Shimin. Ever since they came out of their mothers womb, they had never looked so grand like this.

    Xu Ziling was tall and straight, scholarly and elegant. On the other hand, Kou Zhong looked bold and powerful, with a heroic and imposing aura around him.

    The two boys walked side by side. From time to time people shot them admiring and envious look.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and pulled Xu Zilings elbow, What we need right now is a pair of steeds and a dozen or so footmen, otherwise we can go to a low-grade brothel first and acting like young tycoons.

    Xu Ziling cheerfully said, Visiting low-grade brothel is an essential program for tonight, but right now we need to find a wine shop. Bug bowl of wine, big piece of meat, well have a his-grannys good time, while casually discuss how we are going to proceed in this business deal. We have received other peoples money, naturally we must do something for him.

    Kou Zhong took a surreptitious look around, examining the faade of the restaurants lining up both sides of the main street. I did not expect Pengcheng to be this thriving and lively, he said, The strangest thing is, there does not seem to be any refugee around. Look! Those of elder sisters are so pretty. Ha!

    Xu Ziling looked around and saw Kou Zhong was staring at a group of young women walking directly toward them, with what he thought was the most attractive smile he could muster. Amazingly, the group of young women did not try to avoid the two boys stare; they smiled back at them with even more attractive smile.

    It was the first time ever that the two boys received such courtesy. After the group of young women walked passed, they squealed in delight and entered a restaurant on their right that looked like a rather upscale restaurant.

    With their appearance, weaponry and attire, as soon as the two boys set foot on the second floor, the waiters greeted them attentively, and called them Gongzi this and Gongzi that as they led them to a table by the window facing the street. At this time from about a dozen tables on the second floor, more than half had guests sitting on them.

    Kou Zhong generously tipped the waiter while ordering food and drink. He said excitedly, Those sweet girls just now have a rather high nose, their eyes are big and blue; they must be Hu women [non-Han people, esp. from central Asia]. I heard that they are licentious by nature, very easy to get our hands on them. Ha! Perhaps this time we dont need to visit a low-grade brothel.

    Xu Ziling was worried, Why did you order that much wine? Two catties? Can you drink wine? I can only drink a little bit.

    Kou Zhong reached out to grab Xu Zilings shoulder. Life is short, make merry while you can! he said, From two marketplace ruffians in Yangzhou, we now become big shots in Wulin world. With this kind of encounter, we have nothing to complain to Laotianye; how can you not enjoy it with cheerful heart?

    With his other hand he beckoned Xu Ziling to look out the window at the endless stream of horses and carriages on the street below; he sighed and said, Look! This is such a beautiful world. Meeting this kind of fine time, beautiful scenery, we ought to welcome it with a bit of wine and celebrate. You drink one catty, I drink one catty. Whoever does not get drunk will be considered a hero.

    Following his gaze, Xu Ziling also stared blankly at the street. He remembered Fu Junchuo, he remembered Li Jing and Susu, his heart was overwhelmed with an indescribable feeling. Alright, he nodded and said, One catty it is.

    Kou Zhong suddenly lowered his voice, On the table to the left, there is a handsome guy who keeps looking at you; I think he prefers male to female.

    Startled, Xu Ziling turned to look. Sure enough, on a large table by the stairs, about three, four tables away, sat three men. One of them wore a dark green scholar robe, and was exceptionally handsome; he was sizing the two boys up. When he noticed that Xu Ziling was staring at him, he nodded and smiled.

    Remembering what Kou Zhong had just said, Xu Ziling was startled; hastily he averted his gaze and said in low voice, He seems to recognize us. Maybe its another trap of Shen Luoyan. Dont forget that the deadline for that womans three-day bet is still tonight!

    Kou Zhong nodded. I almost forget, he said, Did you see his throat?

    Xu Ziling was taken aback, Is it any good? he asked.

    Kou Zhong stroked his own adams apple and said with a low chuckle, That guy cannot be more handsome than that, plus he does not have this thing that we have; what do you say he is?

    Horrified, Xu Ziling gasped, Not Shen Luoyan in disguise!

    It doesnt seem like it, Kou Zhong replied, Oh no! She came over.

    Shocked, Xu Ziling turned around. The woman who disguised herself as a scholar was already standing by their table. Her feature that was particularly impressive, other than her handsome face, which was adorned with a pair of big, bright and lively eyes, was her pair of long legs, so that disguised as a man, she gave other people some kind of tall and straight impression.

    While the two boys were staring at her in surprise, she revealed a faint nonchalant smile as she cupped her fist and spoke in deeper voice, Across five lakes and four oceans are brothers, two Xiongtai carried an extraordinary look; I wonder what are your honorable surname and great given names, so that I, Li Zhi, can make friends with you.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, I am Zhang San, he is Li Si[1]. If across five lakes and four oceans are really brothers, there wont be people everywhere running away for their lives. Handsome Xiongtai, please return to your seat!

    Since he suspected that the other party was Shen Luoyans second trap, he flatly turned her down.

    Xu Ziling took this opportunity to look at Li Zhis two companions; he saw that they were genuine goods at fair prices: real, tough looking men. Their eyes gleaming with vigor and they had swords hanging on their waist; all in all, they smelled like bodyguards.

    Obviously Li Zhi was quite shocked that Kou Zhong was treating her like that; her pretty face alternated between red and white, her phoenix eyes turned cold. She looked like she wanted to turn around and leave, but could not let it go.

    After giving Kou Zhong a hateful glare, she turned to Xu Ziling and said, You are Li Si? I

    Xu Ziling simply cut her off, I am definitely Li Si. Miss is flirting openly in such a public place, dont you have any shame?

    Li Zhi was visibly shaken, her beautiful eyes shot a thick murderous aura, yet her jade countenance stayed surprisingly calm. The two boys thought, Here it comes, their hands immediately grabbed the hilt of their saber. They were even more convinced that she was Shen Luoyans people.

    Suddenly Li Zhi seemed to be able to regain her self-control, her eyes calmed down as she said in low voice, Youd better remember what you said to me.

    Finished speaking, she brushed her sleeve and walked down the stairs. In a flurry the two middle-aged men paid the bill and ran after her.

    By the time the three people left, their food and drink were delivered; the two boys forgot everything about Li Zhi, they simply bent over the table and chewing busily.

    Cups came and cups went, very soon the two boys started to feel tipsy, and then they entered the world of the drunkards.

    Holding a cup of wine with both hands Kou Zhong giggled drunkenly and said, The first cup tasted pungent and difficult to drink, but the second cup turned into exquisite elixir; ha! I did not know wine is such a good drink.

    Xu Ziling looked at the more than half a cup strong wine still remained, he surrendered, A little tipsy feeling is enough; perhaps as soon as we step out of this wine shop Shen Luoyan will prepare a trap for us. Ay! Right now I only want to sleep. Last night that Li Shimin guy had his leg pressed on my side that I could not sleep well.

    Kou Zhong pressed his hand against Xu Zilings forehead, he drunkenly whispered in his ear, It would be better to go straight into the biggest pleasure house, find two most popular aunties to accompany us sleeping. This is called today has wine, today get drunk [i.e. live in the moment, carpe diem]. Come! Call the waiter, have him tell us all the detailed information about this pleasure house.

    Xu Ziling nodded happily. He was about to call the waiter, when suddenly one of the two men sitting on the next table raised his voice a little bit, Zhang Xiong, you came to visit our Pengcheng, but if have never visited Yihong Courtyard, and have never seen that places most popular aunties, Baiyun [white cloud] and Qiuyan [autumn swallow], how can you be considered ever visiting Pengcheng? [Translators note: at first I thought Kou and Xu mentioned auntie (lit. paternal aunt) because the women were older than they were, but this man also said auntie, so perhaps the word refers to prostitute?]

    The two boys thought what a great coincidence; hurriedly they focused their attention to eavesdrop.

    The other man replied, Is Chen Xiong referring to the Yihong Courtyard that is at the corner of the street as you turned left from this street? How could I never come there? Its just that now it is still daytime, the misses are still asleep; lets talk about it again tonight! Ha! Those girls are so pretty that I am drooling already.

    The one surnamed Chen laughed and said, Right now its still wu hour [noon, 11am-1pm], Yihong Courtyard is not open to receive guests. Let us drink two more cups and then take a stroll around!

    Hearing this, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were delighted; they kicked each others leg under the table, and decided right then and there that today would be the day they have a taste of women.

    For young men their age, what could be more interesting than the mystery of the opposite sex? What could move their heart even more?

    [1] Zhang the third and Li the fourth are equivalent to Tom, Dick and Harry in western world. The third name is Wang Wu (Wang the fifth).

  11. #31
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 3 - Chapter 6

    Book 3 Chapter 6 Escape from Dangerous Spot

    As the two boys stepped out of the restaurant, autumn breeze blew, increasing their tipsiness by two degrees. Kou Zhong pulled Xu Ziling in the Yihong Yuan direction.

    After walking for about a dozen steps, he said in low voice, Something does not seem right, those two mens conversation seemed to be too timely, as if they were afraid we would not know how to get to Yihong Yuan and thus have to spell out everything clearly. In my opinion, those two men must be Shen Luoyans people. As she saw one trap failed, she came up with another trap.

    Xu Ziling was just staring at the hustle and bustle of horses and carriages struggling for the right of way on the street with his drunken eyes; hearing Kou Zhong, he was startled and said, You are right. Since Li Zhi could be Shen Luoyans people, those two men might be her people as well. Ay! Where should we go then? It would be best if we can find a place we can hide.

    With unbearable itch in his heart Kou Zhong said, If we dont go to Yihong, we should go to Yilu [yi hong relying/riding on red, yi lu relying on green. Yuan means Courtyard].

    Suddenly they came face to face with another passerby; Kou Zhong respectfully asked, Excuse me Uncle, around here, other than Yihong Yuan, is there any other most upscale pleasure house with the biggest number of pretty girls?

    The person he stopped happened to be a middle-aged scholar; hearing the question, a look of disdain appeared on his face. Pei! he spat, and walked away.

    Xu Ziling roared in laughter, Are you asking where to go to take imperial examination? he jested, Asking for a pleasure house, you must ask twenty-something man, someone that with one look we can tell that he indulges excessively in wine and women. Watch me!

    Looking around, he happened to see a splendid-looking carriage stopping behind them, from which a young man with expensive-looking clothes alighted, followed by two attendants. The young man looked to be around twenty-three, twenty-four; attractive and intelligent, but his face looked rather unhealthy, as if he was too weak to stand up to the wind. He fit the exact criteria of the person Xu Ziling wanted to ask for direction.

    Kou Zhong gave Xu Ziling a sharp push that he stumbled two steps forward toward the rich-looking young man. The two attendants immediately had their hands pressed against the sword hilt with alert look on their eyes.

    Bracing himself, Xu Ziling cupped his fist and said respectfully, Respected Gongzi, Zaixia has something Id like to inquire of you, would Gongzi please do not blame Zaixia for being rude.

    The young man looked at him up and down with interest; then he smiled and said, Renxiong [dear friend], please speak.

    Embarrassed, Xu Ziling took a step forward. Afraid that other people might hear him, he spoke in the lowest voice possible, We, two brothers, want to know: around here, other than Yihong Yuan, which pleasure house is the best?

    The young man was greatly surprised. Immediately a smile broke on his face from finding a kindred spirit; he sighed and said, You have come to the right person. My Ol Die opens a brothel, its at the next street, Hong Yuan Street, Cuibi Lou [both cui and bi mean green jade, lou is multi-story building]. In terms of scale and girls, Yihong Yuan cannot catch up even if they spur their horse. Its just that right now its still too early, you can stroll around somewhere else, and come there after you hour [5-7pm]. Just tell them that you are my, Xiang Yushans friends, I guarantee that nobody will dare to serve you not satisfactorily. Renxiong, please. I still have important matter I have to attend to.

    After Xiang Yushan left, the two boys felt as if they have obtained imperial edict. Bursting with joy, they walked along the street with arm around each others shoulder; surprisingly neither was singing at the top of his lungs.

    All kinds of stores lined up both sides of the street, there were butcher shop, cake shop, dry goods store, clothing store, cosmetic store, fish shop, et cetera.

    Due to the alcohol in their belly, the two boys felt as if the entire world had become unreal, but looking at the autumn sun high in the sky shining down its light to the flagstone street, the sparkling reflection seemed like fantastic rays of light. The street, the buildings, the passer-by, the horses and carriages, seemed to synthesize into one perfect harmony, with no dividing line between distinct realms.

    Kou Zhong involuntarily laughed; half of his body was leaning ln Xu Zilings shoulder. With a sigh of contentment he said, Right now I dont want to join any militia army or government army. After killing Yuwen Huagu, we will focus on earning money, buying and selling goods, and when we have free time we just go to pleasure houses, getting drunk and passing through this life happy, and thats about it.

    Xu Ziling did not drink as much as Kou Zhong did, so his brain was a bit clearer. Didnt you often say that you want to accomplish big thing in life? he wondered, Why all of a sudden you are thinking of being an unscrupulous businessman who make profit by speculation [the term used here is hoarding goods for speculation]?

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, Even becoming unscrupulous businessman, I, Zhong Shao, will become the best unscrupulous businessman. When I see other people suffer hardship, suffer calamity, will we forget chivalry by throwing stones at those who fell down a well? Its just that honestly speaking, Beautiful Shifu was right: based on virtue and ability right now, how can we take care of other peoples business? Hey! When our martial art skill has reached perfection, when we finish training the Nine Mysteries Great Technique to the 108th level, then if we see anybody who is not pleasing to the eye, we can slaughter him with a slash of a saber. That will be called removing harm for the sake of the people.

    With a bitter laughter Xu Ziling said, How can there be such a simple thing in the world? But no matter what, we must slaughter Yuwen Huaji, that treacherous bandit first.

    Suddenly a shadow flashed in front of them, a fragrant breeze wafted by. The two boys took a closer look, turned out it was a rather good-looking middle-aged woman blocking their way. With a blossoming eyebrows and smiling eyes she said, Are two Gongzi lost? The Yihong Courtyard main gate is over there. We are just open for business. If two Gongzi become our first guest, our popular girls will definitely serve you will full attention.

    Following her pointing finger, they saw the big signboard of Yihong Courtyard was precisely behind them, to their left. They suddenly realized that in their muddled state, they had just walked pass Yihong Courtyards main gate. This procuress that was ordered to wait for them got panicked and blocked their way to solicit business.

    Since he was still a bit drunk, Kou Zhong leaned over to mercilessly leer over her towering breasts. And then he winked and laughed, Pretty woman, tell that devious woman Shen Luoyan that we fell into her trap once, we wont fall the second time. If she has guts, have her come and grab us. But dont forget that shes a felon wanted by the imperial court!

    While the procuress was stunned, the two boys walked away staggeringly, swaying left and right.

    Kou Zhong shook Xu Ziling, who was asleep on the bed, to wake him up. In his excitement his voice was hoarse, as he nervously said, Its going to be you hour soon, we must be Cuibi Lous first guest; perhaps well get a 50% discount!

    Xu Zilings head was still heavy; he crawled out of bed and whined, Drinking wine has this kind of after effect; if you are sent by that Shen woman, I would have been finished.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, I am the most responsible person on earth; otherwise, whos going to keep watch for you? Just now there was a waiter coming asking a lot of questions, I would not open the door for him. Ha! Just several more sichen and that Shen woman will lose to us. I wonder what is Qin Laoges fate?

    Xu Ziling took his saber, which he hid behind his pillow. Lets go to the Eastern Gate to see if he left any secret mark there.

    And then he added, Also, we must not forget that thing that we promised that guy Li Shimin.

    Kou Zhong impatiently said, How could I forget? Didnt that rich guy say that Dong Ming flagship wouldnt be back from Luoyang until tomorrow? Lets take advantage of the fine time, beautiful scenery tonight; lets start without delay!

    Xu Zilings heart warmed up, Its funny that when we were in Yangzhou, when we looked inside from outside a brothels door, people always drive us out like beggars. But now even the brothel owners son recognizes us as shining treasure. But let me be clear first, on my first night [figuratively, first sexual encounter] I dont want to pick randomly, at least it has to be as pretty as Qingqing, who bite the hands that feeds her, from Piao Xiang [floating fragrance] Courtyard.

    Kou Zhong patted his money purse and said with a laugh, With money naturally come face and prestige, coupled with Xiang Yushans support, whatever you, Ling Shao [young master Ling] wants, you will get it. If the lord is not satisfied, cant we stick up our butts out of bed?

    Xu Ziling raised his qi to lighten his body; he just wanted to show off some nimble moves. Who would have thought that as soon as he rose up, he made a somersault and landed noiselessly on the floor?

    The two boys were severely shocked; they looked at each other with an I-cant-believe-that-just-happened look on their faces.

    Heavens! Kou Zhong was stunned, How did you do that? he asked, Can you do it again? How could you fly out from sitting position like that?

    Xu Ziling scratched his head, I am afraid I cannot repeat it, he said, Why dont you try it yourself?

    Previously, each time they raised their qi, they had to channel their strength to leap first, and borrowed the momentum to fly up. But to raise their qi from a still position like this, it had never happened before.

    Kou Zhong stood still, his expression looked odd.

    Dont you want to hurry up to the brothel? Xu Ziling urged him, Why havent you tried?

    Kou Zhongs face turned beet red; he said in embarrassment, I have tried it more than a dozen times, but my toes did not even move.

    Xu Ziling was silent for half a day; finally he said dejectedly, This time I did not get enlightenment as well. Ay! Perhaps we should really do obeisance to a great shifu, so that when we have a problem like this we could get a brilliant masters direction.

    Kou Zhong shook his head, Doing obeisance to a shifu is a farting useless, he said, What we learn is the strange skill from the Secret to Long Life, nobody in the world is proficient in it, we can only rely on ourselves to grope around. Perhaps our problem is due to our virgin male bodies, because solitary yang cannot develop. Only after we break it will our martial art immediately achieve great success. Ha! It must be the case.

    Xu Ziling laughed and scolded him, Less bullsh1t, will you? Arent you going to leave?

    Kou Zhong doubled up in laughter, I am leaving! I am leaving! he said.

    Staggering along, they walked toward the door. But as they opened the door, a sharp cold wind assaulted their foreheads. Without even thinking Kou Zhong raised his qi to lighten his body just like Xu Ziling did; his body flew backward.

    The person who launched the sneak attack apparently did not expect that the attack should fail. Huh? he exclaimed, and fast as lightning he slipped into the room.

    Just like Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling did not have time to think, he halted his step, pulled his saber, and swiftly hacked down on the attackers head; all in one fluid motion, without the slightest bit of hesitation or sluggishness. It was perhaps the most outstanding saber strike he had ever launched in all his life until today.

    Bing! The attacker used the long golden hairpin in his hand to block Xu Zilings unmatched fierce saber strike head on.

    For an instant both sides had to stop and were unable to launch any consecutive move.

    Bang! Kou Zhong fell heavily on the bed, but he immediately shot out like a bullet and shouted, Niang! I did it!

    The attacker pulled the hairpin back and withdrew from the room, the sleeve of his clothes floated away, as beautiful as a fairy; who else but Li Mis Pretty Junshi Shen Luoyan?

    Xu Ziling was shaken by her power and had to take two steps back. Seeing the door was no longer blocked, Shen Luoyan abruptly turned around and entered the room again, with the intention of pursuing and attacking Xu Ziling. But Kou Zhong already arrived; the flicker of his saber was like billowing waves, coupled with the surging gust of wind from the blade, as he violently attacked her.

    Shen Luoyan cried out with her shrill voice as she rushed into the shadows of the saber, utilizing a close-combat technique. Successively she blocked a dozen or so moves from Kou Zhong. Each move was incomparable vicious; but she failed to push Kou Zhong back.

    In the meantime, Xu Ziling pulled himself together [orig. reorganize flags and drums] and joined the melee. Without any choice Shen Luoyan was pushed back out of the room once again.

    The two boys stood on guard inside the door, but their hearts were like great waves rolling into the sky, with bitter thought raging endlessly. They had never expected that such abrupt turn of events, they would be able to display the essence of Bloody Battle Ten Styles vividly and thoroughly, so much so that they did not know which move they were using. They only felt that their hands followed their hearts, their strength followed the saber technique, and everything was flowing without any restrain.

    Shen Luoyan, on the other hand, was greatly shaken. Her Soul-snatching Hairpin was the ultimate skill of her family, which has been passed down from generation to generation, and ranked quite high in the Jianghus Amazing Skill Ultimate Art List. In usual circumstances she very seldom used it; this time she was hoping to capture the two boys in one fell swoop. Who would have thought that these two boys were like shedding their mortal bodies and exchanged their bones, that twice she attacked, twice she was repelled back? If this matter spread in Jianghu, it would be sufficient to propel the two boys name to the top.

    With a saber in his hand, Kou Zhong struck a pose and laughed aloud, Beautiful Junshi, come in quickly to have a taste of my saber.

    Xu Ziling also imposingly said, Just remember that you must not harm half a strand of our hair; otherwise you will definitely lose.

    Shen Luoyan nearly went mad from anger; with a furious laughter she said, The courtyard outside is a bit bigger; come out and lets try again.

    Are you thinking of having your men to surround us? Kou Zhong exposed her scheme, Ha! You should know that I can do lions roar; with a loud shout, I guarantee all the government officials of Pengcheng will hear everything clearly.

    Shen Luoyans pretty face turned cold, but instantly a moving smile reappeared as she said in tender voice, How about this? If I can crash through your barrier and enter the room, I will be considered the winner, then the two of you must surrender nicely to me.

    Calmly, Xu Ziling said, That means you no longer have the confidence to capture us alive; ergo, you already lose!

    Kou Zhongs fighting spirit was aroused, his confidence soared; immensely proud of himself he said, What are we afraid of, but we have to set time limit. I will count to ten, and if you cant pass, you lose.

    Shen Luoyan stuck the golden hairpin back to her hair; she laughed and said, So be it. Start counting! Finished speaking she walked toward the door in large strides.

    While the two boys were stunned and were at a loss, she walked between them straight into the room without any obstruction at all. When she reached the bed, she turned around and leisurely sat down, looking at the two boys with a smile on her face.

    The two boys still had their sabers lifted high, but how could they hack on her just like that? Even until she turned around, they were still dumbfounded.

    Looking at the two boys weird expression, Shen Luoyan broke into giggle and clapped her hands, Alright! I win!

    Dejectedly Xu Ziling put the saber back into its sheathe as he sighed and said, I cant accept losing this way, because just like last time, you are exploiting our kind-heartedness.

    Shen Luoyan pretended to be surprised, Other than hacking people with your saber, dont you know any other way to subdue others?

    Kou Zhong put his saber down, he giggled and said, We did not lose, because although you entered the room, you did not crash through our barrier. The word crash through implied some fighting is involved!

    Shen Luoyan glanced at him with the corner of her eye; still with a smile on her face she said, How about we sit down and talk? Wow! Now the two of you look pretty nice.

    The two boys sat on the chairs leaning against the wall on her left side. Looking straight at her alluring eyes that look just like limpid autumn lake, Kou Zhong said, You want to talk, lets talk. We still want to visit the brothel!

    Shen Luoyan stared at him angrily, she said irately, Do you not know that those girls in the brothel are really pitiful? Just with some money in your pocket you feel that you are entitled to toy with them; dont you have any shame?

    Taken aback, Xu Ziling said, I have never thought about it that way. But if no one visits them, and they dont earn enough money to redeem themselves, wont they continue to live in desolation?

    Kou Zhong stated matter-of-factly, Isnt that Yihong Courtyard opened by your Wagang Army? Why are you criticizing us?

    And then with a cold humph he added, Everything is born because there is a demand for it; otherwise, who would want to go to the battlefield to kill or be killed?

    Shen Luoyan knitted her brows. What are you talking about? she said, Yihong Courtyard has always been Du Fuweis eyes in this area. To us, Wagang Army, its a [email protected] business.

    The two boys countenance changed.

    Shen Luoyan smiled and said, You love to fool around at the pleasure houses, thats enough. Now that Qin Shubao has surrendered to our army, what do you, two little kids, have in mind?

    Kou Zhong sprang up and went to the open door; craning his neck, he looked outside wondered aloud, The sound of our fighting shook the house, but how come there is no one come over to check it out?

    Shen Luoyan said indifferently, Are you forgetting that we want to capture you alive? There is an inescapable net outside, even if you, two little demons, grew wings, it would still be difficult for you to fly away.

    With a wry smile Xu Ziling said, Do you not know that this is called biting the hand that feeds you?

    Shen Luoyan slyly replied, I only have your well-being in mind. Right now the whole country is in rebellion. To bring order out of chaos, only Duke Mi one person is able to do it. If not for the fact that you have given me a big favor, I would not have time to invite you to join our army.

    And then, a bit impatiently she added, Quickly make your decision! I dont have time to waste on you.

    Listening to her tone, the two boys pride was hurt. With a cold snort Xu Ziling said, If you dont have time then excuse yourself! We, two brothers, love to roam the wide sea and sky, to live free and easy life.

    A thick, cold murderous aura flashed through Shen Luoyans eyes; she suddenly rose up and in a flash was already by the door. With her back toward the two boys, she coldly said, Since I cannot use you, I must kill you. Dont even think of leaving this place alive today. In another flash she vanished outside the door.

    The two boys looked at each other in dismay. It only then did they understand why this Pretty Junshi, whose beauty matched the immortals, was also known as Serpent and Scorpion Beauty [see Book 3 Chapter 4].

    The two boys stared blankly for half a day. Even then, there was still no movement outside. Kou Zhong took a very deep breath and said, What do you think? Shall we kill our way out?

    Xu Ziling maintained his composure. He shook his head and said, Rushing out just like that is tantamount to deliver our lives in vain. Perhaps as soon as we step out the door, there would be a big net coming down to catch us, two fools. I say she still wants to capture us alive.

    And then he added in low voice, Just now when we heard Ol Dies name our countenance changed. With her keen eyesight plus her skill and knowledge, how could she not hear even half a word about us? Obviously she already knew our background; therefore, she spent so much effort, mentally and physically, to win us over, so that we will willingly offer Duke Yang treasure trove to her.

    Kou Zhong was astonished, Xiao Ling, you are really something. Unexpectedly you are able to infer so many things just from her reaction. Ha! I have an idea. Remember what Ol Chen of Jukun Bang taught us about architecture? This hotel is made up of eight courtyard houses. We are located at the west wing of the east courtyard, the door is facing the flower garden in the center of the courtyard, outside the wall opposite the door is the main garden surrounding the eight courtyards, with towering trees all around. Therefore, if we can get there, our chance of escaping will be a lot higher.

    Xu Ziling looked at the wall opposite the door, where the bed was located; he smiled wryly and said, We are not Zhai Rang, how could we break through the wall and flee?

    And then he looked up to the ceiling and said with a sigh, If my guess is correct, there are definitely enemies up there.

    As usual, Kou Zhong always had a plan. First, he closed the door, and then he told Xu Ziling, Keep watch for me, I am going to loosen a few bricks. Finished speaking, he pulled his long saber and jumped onto the bed.

    Xu Ziling moved to the window by the door. When he looked outside, he saw more than a dozen big men jump down from the roof of the building across the courtyard, and immediately fanned out along the corridor, heading toward their direction.

    He was just about to warn Kou Zhong when there was a loud boom! from above, the roof tiles rained down, followed by an iron-tower like man with a pair of hammers in his hands, falling down.

    In that instant Xu Ziling threw away his conjecture that Shen Luoyan wanted to capture them alive; he was well aware that this Serpent and Scorpion Beauty has indeed chosen the evil scheme to kill them.

    At this moment, he was reliving the situation where a mob of gangsters was about to kill him.

    Everything became incomparably clear.

    He knew clearly when this big man was going to land, as well as his falling speed; so much so that he also knew what the man was about to do next.

    The difference was that now he knew how to deal with this situation.

    He clearly knew that if he let the opponent unleash the power of his pair of huge hammers, which weighed over a hundred catties each, not only he could easily force Xu Ziling put the door, it would also be extremely difficult for Kou Zhong, who was standing by the wall, to escape with his life.

    In this moment where life and death was hanging by a thread, his mind and spirit became crystal clear; he completely forgot about life and death. Focusing his willpower and all the strength he could muster, he readied himself for the exact moment when the opponent would touch the ground. Stepping forward in large strides, his entire being moved as fast as lightning, even his saber chopped down swiftly.

    Indeed as Xu Ziling expected, the big man had already made up his mind that as soon as his feet touched the ground, he would borrow the momentum to shoot forward to increase the power of his hammers to thundering tens of thousand catties. Once he sent Xu Ziling out the door, his companions would chop him into thousand pieces, and then he could focus his entire attention to deal with Kou Zhong.

    To his surprise, however, as he was exerting his strength, the saber aura already enveloped his body. He felt that no matter where he wanted move to evade, or perhaps to block the attack and launch a counterstrike, he simply was not able to.

    When he broke the roof tile, he was really underestimating the enemy; he thought that they were just two kids, it would not be hard to catch them. How could he know that in terms of timing and the angle of attack, Xu Zilings chop has reached a top quality martial art expert level?

    This moment he already had no time to think whether the opponent was indeed very formidable, or he just happened to use a move sent by the gods in heaven. In his extreme panic, he threw his pair of hammers, one to Kou Zhong, the other to Xu Ziling; while at the same time he pushed his palms forward to generate reaction force with strong gust of wind. With no other choice, he clumsily had to jump out from the place where he came in.

    In the meantime, Kou Zhong, who was standing on the bed, was about to turn around to help. Suddenly he saw a big iron hammer was flying toward him. Good throw! he shouted.

    In a flash there was a loud Boom!, followed by bricks and mortar flew everywhere as the iron hammer broke through the wall.

    Xu Ziling also easily evaded the other flying hammer. He let the hammer hit the wooden door, sending splinters of wood everywhere. Finally the hammer itself landed on the courtyard outside. Meanwhile Xu Ziling let out a wild cry, concentrated his power on his brows, and charged toward the broken wall.

    How could Kou Zhong not understand Xu Zilings intention? He also exerted his strength and charged toward the broken wall.

    Boom! The two boys, along with fragments of brick and stone, leaped into the neighboring room. Outside the door was precisely the big garden surrounding the eight courtyard houses.

    They shot forward, burst open the door, and ran outside.

    This move was obviously outside the enemys anticipation, unexpectedly they did not see anybody blocking their way; however, they heard the rustling of the wind from the tiled roof behind them.

    The two boys did not dare to tarry, they immediately unleashed the full potential of the Bird Crossing Technique taught by Yun Yuzhen; like an arrow they shot into the park. With several twists and turns, they went deep into the forest.

  12. #32
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 3 - Chapter 7

    Book 3 Chapter 7 Brothel and Casino in One

    The two boys ran to a side alley. From here looking out, they happened to see the wall and the main gate of Cuibi Lou that was owned by Xiang Yushans old dad. There were layers of courtyard on the inside, in term of scale, it was definitely above Yihong Courtyard.

    Following the setting sun in the west, the sky was gradually turning dark. The lanterns of Cuibi Lou were lighted, giving the two boys some kind of romantic, yet mournful feeling, reflecting the two boys uneasy mood.

    Out of habit, the two of them sat on the ground with their backs against the wall. After staring blankly for a long time, Kou Zhong gnashed his teeth and said, That woman [again, used derogatorily; also in subsequent references to woman below] is very ruthless, unexpectedly she really wanted to take our lives, completely ignoring the fact that we are her benefactor.

    She did not want us to fall into Ol Dies hand, Xu Ziling said, So what do we do now? We promised that kid Li Shimin that we are going to wait for Madame Dong Mings arrival. But now Ol Dies people already knew where we are. If we dont leave now, what are we waiting for?

    Our little life is important, Kou Zhong said, Let that Li kid blame us, but we must immediately leave town, and go the farther the better. And then well look for Susu Jie at Xingyang. Her Miss has already been captured anyway, so we can take her back to the south, where she can join our Shuanglong Bang [two-dragon clan] in trading salt in peace and quiet.

    Xu Ziling forced a smile and said, If we just leave the town in big style like this, if that stinky woman did not catch us, we would be just like a sheep offering itself into Ol Dies tiger mouth. The best course of action right now is to find a place to hide, and then at midnight we will try to climb the city wall to escape. Relying on our current skill, if we have things like rope and hook, we should be able to make it.

    More and more I found out that you, this kid, have a brain like mine, Kou Zhong praised, Come! There is plenty of money in our purse, while the sky is not completely dark yet, we quickly find a hardware store to buy hooks. As for rope, to steal some is not a difficult matter.

    After making up their mind, their spirit was aroused; they came out to the street at the other end of the alley and stealthily walked along the main street, but soon discovered that other than wine shop and pleasure houses, other stores had already closed.

    Kou Zhong suddenly had a bright idea, Wed better look for that Xiang Yushan for help, that kid seems to have a little yiqi [spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice, code of brotherhood]. Right now there are friends meeting with misfortune, he should not be shirked without dishonor.

    Xu Ziling was doubtful, Is he that kind of person? he asked.

    Kou Zhong wrapped his arm around his shoulder as they turned into another side street and walked toward the direction of Cuibi Lou. He said bitterly, This is called we are at the end of our rope, without any choice we have to ignore what kind of saint he is, and simply consider him as a good saint. Worst yet, we are also wanted criminals; reporting to the authority is tantamount to committing suicide. Besides, who knows if those government officials are not in cahoots with the stinky woman or Ol Die? Right now I dont dare to trust anybody.

    Xu Ziling spoke in distress, After hearing that stinky woman speaking about the girls in pleasure houses, I really do not wish to go to brothel anymore. Is there any other way?

    The other way is digging a tunnel, Kou Zhong replied, But please forgive laozi for not accompanying you. Dont be so easy to be influenced by other people, will you? Dont forget that at Yangzhou, all those ladies that we know voluntarily sell their bodies to earn money. Dont those so-called government officers also prostitute themselves to be the Emperors lackeys? At least being a lady you wont easily have your head chopped. Ha! We are here!

    The two boys crossed the busy street clamoring with horses and carriages racing against each other. The decorative lanterns were hung high, shining their light on the people coming and going on the street; it was indeed very lively. However, because the two boys have witnessed the brutal scene of war, they had a feeling that all these liveliness was but a fleeting moment.

    Upon reaching the main gate, they waited for a gorgeous looking carriage galloping inside, and then trailed behind it. Six, seven doorkeepers stepped forward to meet them. Seeing the two boys bright and neat clothing, and spirited expression, they did not dare to be negligence. One of them spoke respectfully, Welcome Gongzi, your presence honors us; I wonder

    Kou Zhong knew what to expect; he casually stuffed a string of coins into his hand. Assuming a young tycoon air he spoke arrogantly, We are your honorable Xiang Yushan Gongzis old friends. Have Yushan arrived?

    The men felt even deeper veneration for them; the man who spoke earlier hastily said, Xiaoren [little/lowly one] He Biao, two Gongzi, please follow Xiaoren.

    Kou Zhong puffed up his chest and said, Lead the way!

    He Biao bowed respectfully with cupped fist and turned around to lead the way.

    The two boys followed him passing through a spacious square where at least a row of ten carriages could park, toward the main building. As the reached the bottom of the steps leading to the door, a rather good-looking middle-aged woman with gorgeous dress [orig. lovely scene of blossoming plants swaying in the breeze] met them. He Biao hurriedly stepped forward and whispered a few words in her ear. And then after saluting them, he walked away.

    All smiles [orig. brows raised in delight, eyes laughing], the beautiful lady stepped between the two boys, and then with each hand grabbing the boys elbows, she coyly said, Turns out Xiang Shaoyes good friends. I wonder what are two Gongzis honorable surnames and great given names? Ay! Almost forgot, you can just call me Feng Niang [lit. phoenix lady].

    Kou Zhong enjoyed her generous gift of luck with women very much; while following her inside, he said, My name is Zhang Shi, and he is Li Min. Ha! Feng Niang, you are so pretty, you attract us to our death.

    Feng Niang laughed so hard that she was shaking, Although Zhang Gongzi is young, you are an old hand in the midst of flowers. Dont flatter people casually! Otherwise if Nujia [lit. slave] wants to entangle you the whole night, you will regret it.

    Casting a coquettish glance toward Xu Ziling, he said, Li Gongzi is more honest than you are.

    By this time Kou Zhong had completely forgotten about the stinky woman and the old dad; bursting with joy he said, This kid is only pretending to be an old hand; if Feng Niang dont believe me, you can give him a try.

    Greatly embarrassed, Xu Ziling said, Dont listen to him, I hey! I

    In the meantime Feng Niang already pulled them into the main hall, where more than ten clusters of chair were arranged, and she had them sit down in a cluster of chair leaning against the corner. She laughed and said, No need to say anything, how can I, Feng Niang, make an error of judgment?

    Two young maids, about sixteen, seventeen years old, came out to greet them, to pour tea and offer towel; their service was very attentive.

    The two boys swept the room with their gaze, and noticed that there were already more than ten groups of guests in the hall; the atmosphere was very lively.

    After instructing the maid to notify Xiang Yushan, Feng Niangs fawning manner grew without restraint, Based on two Gongzis personality, which girl would not fight over the right to accompany you?

    Xu Ziling also relaxed. He was about to speak when Feng Niang asked to be excused; she stood up and rushed to meet another group of visitors that look like rich merchants.

    Kou Zhong told the two maids, Jiejie, no need to wait on us, we, brothers have a private matters wed like to discuss. The two young maids took their leave.

    Kou Zhong excitedly said, Have you ever be well-regarded like this? Wed better stay here tonight to celebrate a wonderful evening; whod think that we would hide in here? Besides, this grand occasion is bestowed by that Li guy, we might as well wait until tomorrow night to sneak into Dong Ming flagship and do the best for him.

    Hey! Xu Ziling stammered, I dont know why, but my heart is flustered and panic; I dont know what to do.

    Kou Zhong sighed. To be honest, he said, I am a bit nervous as well. But there is always first time for everything. Otherwise, how can we be considered real men? Later, we will ask yiqi Shan to pick two most beautiful girls and make it clear that they must take up the responsibility to give us guidance. Hey! But if we just say it like that, wont we have no face left?

    While the two boys were having tumultuous thought, Xiang Yushan arrived. For some reason, in his habitat, this fellow was exceptionally confident, not at all like the good-for-nothing appearance he displayed when they met in the street earlier that day. Especially since there were four big men escorting him, he looked completely imposing.

    From a zhang away Xiang Yushan had already laughed aloud and said, What Zhang Gongzi, Li Gongzi, turns out its two renxiong. Forgive me for failing to salute you!

    The two boys noticed his attitude was still sincere, he really lived up to the nickname they have given him, the yiqi Shan; hence they were relieved and immediately stood up to pay their respect.

    After the three of them were seated, Xiang Yushan inquired, This time two renxiong came to Pengcheng, is there any business you need to attend, or are you just sightseeing, enjoying some scenic spots around here?

    Knowing that he was trying to get a feel of who these two boys were, Kou Zhong laughed and said, Theres a saying that traveling for ten thousand li is better than patronize ten thousand scrolls of book. We, two brothers, roam to the other end of the world, is precisely to widen our horizon.

    Leaning forward, he continued in low voice, Frankly speaking, our visit to the pleasure house is also part of our effort to enrich our knowledge. Because this is the first time we visit the pleasure house, our hope is that Xiang Xiong would give direction and take care of us. Hee, hee ! Xiang Xiong is sensible, most probably I wont have to explain more?

    In his heart Xu Ziling was full of praise; Kou Zhong indeed have a knack of turning such an embarrassing and reputation-losing matter into something that sounded so natural.

    Xiang Yushan suddenly understood; he laughed and nodded his head, That should be no problem, he said, Just leave it to me.

    After pondering for half a day, he said seriously, Zhang Xiong and Li Xiong please forgive Xiaodi [little brother, referring to self] for bringing up deep subject to a comparative stranger, after all, what we, men, seek after in the world is nothing more than wealth and women. I see that two renxiong [dear friends] are men of character, and what you carry is top-quality blade; you are definitely not a nobody. I wonder if two renxiong have any plan for the future?

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, We are living in the moment [as before, the original was have wine now, get drunk now]. Right now we only have plan for tonight. As for what will happen tomorrow, we will think about it when we get out of bed. Ha

    Xiang Yushan laughed a perfunctory laughter and then said, Turns out you have bottomless money purse, hence you have no worry about tomorrow. Xiaodi is really envious.

    Xu Ziling matter-of-factly replied, Xiang Xiong is definitely much richer than we are; we just recently made a business deal, so the cash in hand is rather abundant. After the money is gone, we must start earning money again!

    Xiang Yushan revealed a mysterious smile. I wonder which line of business the two gentleman do? he asked.

    The two boys were dumbstruck. And then Kou Zhong lowered his voice as he said proudly, I really dont want to conceal anything from you, our business is salt. Hey! The kind that does not need to pay taxes.

    I see, Xiang Yushan happily said, No wonder as soon as we met I got a feeling that we are kindred spirits. Perhaps there are more possibilities of cooperation between us later on?

    Is Xiang Xiong also in transporting salt business? Xu Ziling asked in astonishment.

    Compared to salt business, it is more small capital, huge profit, easy-to-get-rich kind of business, Xiang Yushan calmly said, But please forgive Xiaodi for temporarily keeping the climax of the story to myself. Ill wait until two gentlemen enjoy all kinds of pleasure my Cuibi Lou has to offer, I will examine the grand plan to get rich with Zhang Xiong and Li Xiong.

    So there is a business that is more lucrative than sea sand? Kou Zhong happily asked, We will definitely listen with respectful attention.

    Xiang Yushan nonchalantly replied, Xiaodi still has something Id like to inquire, and then Xiaodi will take gentlemen to broaden your horizon.

    The two boys were greatly delighted; they nodded their heads ready to answer his question.

    This Xiang Yushan was at most only two, three years older than the two boys, but his demeanor was just like a lot older man who had deep experience of the ways of the world, in just a few words he had played down the information the two boys wanted to know more.

    Xiang Yushan said with a smile, Right now the world is in chaos, heroes and warriors arose, and gentlemen are definitely Wulin characters who understands the compass and set square of Wulin world. Right now Xiaodi is dying to make friends with gentlemen, I do wish you would inform Xiaodi about your martial school or sect origin, so that we can deal with each other candidly.

    Kou Zhong exchanged an eye signal with Xu Ziling first before answering, Our martial art skill is actually handed down in a family. Xiao Mins [little Min] and my dad were escort masters with an office in Yangzhou, but they served far away places, and they were also sworn brothers. Hey! But in one expedition they encountered thieves and thus lost their lives. Hence we went out to roam the world.

    How could Xiang Yushan know that Kou Zhong was simply spouting nonsense? He laughed aloud and stood up, Gentlemen, please follow Xiaodi! he said.

    Recalling that they were about to receive the most important lesson in their lives, the two boys followed him delightedly.

    Both nervous and happy, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling followed Xiang Yushan stepping out of the main building, and only then did they know that the beyond the rear courtyard there were other buildings that look like residence buildings. A gravel path, lined with well-maintained flower gardens on both sides, led them from the main buildings rear door to another big door. This moment there were a lot of people walking back and forth on the path connecting the two doors; it was a very busy path indeed.

    Kou Zhong could hear noises coming from the inside, it sounded that there were hundreds of people inside the building. What kind of place is that? he wondered aloud.

    Immensely proud, Xiang Yushan replied, This is the biggest casino in Pengcheng.

    Xu Ziling jumped in fright, But we dont want to gamble! he said.

    Xiang Yushan laughed and said, Naturally Xiaodi understood, but throughout the ages brothel and casino are always inseparable. Any place without brothel and casino will not thrive. The reason our Cuibi Lou can dominate Pengcheng is precisely because of the combination of these two businesses, and thus the whole Pengcheng is flourishing. Dont you want to broaden your horizon? Just relax and follow Xiaodi to increase your knowledge.

    The two boys looked at each other. They began to feel that this yiqi Shan was not as simple as he was on the surface. Just like in Yangzhou, the biggest casino was owned by Zhuhua Bang [bamboo flower clan/gang]. Without a strong background, who would dare to touch this kind of big, lucrative business?

    As soon as the three of them entered the casinos main gate, Xiang Yushan loudly said, These two gentlemen are my friends, you must take care of them well.

    The several big men guarding the door immediately voiced their compliance respectfully.

    As they stepped into the casino, a fat man, whose entire body was covered in copper stench, and looked unbearably vulgar, came out to meet them. Would you like Xiaoren to prepare guest rooms for three Shaoye?

    Xiang Yushan waved his hand and said, We are just looking around, you go take care of other guests.

    The fat man complied and withdrew.

    But Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were just staring agape. It was the first time that they were inside a casino. They saw the gambling tables, the gambling equipment, down to the furniture and furnishing, none was not gorgeous or exquisite. Moreover, the place was very large. Not only it was divided into three sections, front, middle and rear, each section had halls on the left and right, joined together. Therefore, although there were about four, five hundred people there, these gambling halls did not feel crowded at all.

    Most striking was that all dealers, down to the women pouring tea and offering tobacco in each hall were all young, alluring girls with jade countenance. And their clothes were sexy; they wore only moxiong [old feminine garment, covering chest and abdomen, similar to modern day tube top] and dudou [lit. belly cover; apron-like undergarment, also only covering chest and abdomen] like red upper garment, and skin-tight green short skirt, so that their jade, lotus root like upper arms and their fair, slender jade legs were completely exposed. When they walked back and forth among the gambling tables, their breasts and buttocks swayed like rippling water, graceful and beautiful, so that the two boys who watched them had their soul shaken and their mind swept away, they were completely stunned.

    Funny thing was that Xiang Yushan and the other gamblers seemed to turn a blind eye to these women.

    Right this moment two waitresses, whose smile was as beautiful as a flower, came over, offering fragrant tea and some pastries, while also helping Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling to remove their outer clothing.

    Not only they were very attentive, their alluring flesh constantly touching and bumping onto the two boys body.

    Seeing the two boys powerfully built body, their fitting leather vest, their broad shoulders and narrow waist, their out of the ordinary might, Xiang Yushans eyes lit up. He sighed and said, Gentlemens figure is indeed shapely, certainly it is rarely seen.

    The two waitresses were also staring blankly at the two boys; they looked even more fiery with passion. One of them even embraced Xu Ziling from behind before laughing tenderly and then picked their outer garments and left with the other waitress.

    It was the first time that the two boys received such a generous treatment; momentarily their soul melted and their mind turned soft; as for their body, who knows where they went?

    Xiang Yushan reached out to stroke Kou Zhongs leather vest; he said in astonishment, This is the finest quality bear hide, is only produced in the land of the north, and is pricier than gold. Xiaodi had to suffer untold hardships before obtaining one; I wonder where did Zhang Xiong buy it?

    How could Kou Zhong tell him that it was a gift from Li Shimin? Cooking up some nonsense he said, Xiang Xiong certainly knows good product. We exchanged salt for these two leather vests with a traveling merchant; indeed they cost more than gold.

    By this time the two waitresses returned, each one pulled the boys arms to press them bodies against their prominent and silky breasts with a very enthusiastic attitude.

    Xiang Yushan introduced these two women to them, one was called Cui Xiang, the other Cui Yu; and then he said, Zhang Gongzi and Li Gongzi do not need your service for the time being, they will call you when they need anything!

    Clearly disappointed, the two women went back to work.

    Kou Zhong delightedly said, Now I understand why brothel and casino are inseparable, Xiang Xiongs Ol Die is really business-savvy.

    Xiang Yushan laughed proudly.

    Xu Ziling asked, Do these beauties have Cui as their surname? I wonder what is the history of the Cuibi, two characters, in the name Cuibi Lou?

    Xiang Yushans eyes revealed an adoring look as he spoke tenderly, That was the fragrant name of a thousand-tender, hundred-charm beauty; but she is already taken [orig. famous flower has its master/owner], she is our Clans dragon head [i.e. boss] Laodas most favored concubine.

    Kou Zhong asked in surprise, Turns out Xiang Xiong is a member of a Clan; I wonder whats your precious Clans great name

    Xiang Yushan cut him off, Well talk about it later. Come! Why dont you play a game or two? If you win you can keep it, if you lose Ill settle the account. Gentlemen, this way please.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were greatly dismayed by Xiang Yushans yiqi; for the first time they started to get suspicious.

    Although the two boys dreamed about making a fortune all day long, it was due to the necessities of life, not because they were greedy for money or addicted to stuffs. They had been drifting along in the marketplace since childhood; they had deep understanding of the principle no one has voracious desire of inexpensive thing. Not to mention that they recently learned a valuable lesson from their mistake in dealing with their Beautiful Shifu. How could they easily trust this new acquaintance with evasive speech?

    Xu Ziling cleared his throat and said, We are not too interested in gambling; how about calling those two beauties just now to hey! To whatever! Is it alright?

    Not showing any concern, Xiang Yushan said, Speaking about beauty, those two servant girls[1] have not made the cut yet; the most popular in our place are Cui Ning and Cui Zhi, two girls. But you can only see them in the noble guest room [i.e. VIP lounge]. Let us stroll around in here first, later Ill take you to have a drink and be merry with them! I guarantee gentlemens trip would not be made in vain.

    Seeing that he did not pressure them to gamble, the two boys were somewhat relieved. Gladly they followed him passing through the left and squeezing through the right among the jam-packed gambling tables, toward the largest hall in the middle.

    By way of introduction Xiang Yushan said, Our gambling hall was meticulously designed by an expert in five-element principle. One big and eight small, nine gambling halls are positioned based on Nine-Palace formation. The biggest gambling hall in the middle joined together suppressing the eight points of the compass, as a result the color scheme rely mainly on bright yellow, because dark yellow is too heavy and sluggish. There are twenty-five tables, because five is the earth element, and twenty-five is the square of five, the meaning is that the profit will be doubled.

    It was only then did the two boys find out that opening a casino also involved certain knowledge; it was an eye-opener.

    By nature the boys were inquisitive. Listening to this interesting topic, inevitably they asked left and right, and completely forgot about those beautiful waitresses who look at them with raised eyebrows and amused eyes.

    Xiang Yushan led them toward a table where twenty, thirty people were crowding around it. They watched as the beautiful and alluring female dealer threw the giant dice made of bone into a square bowl, and after covering the bowl she raised it above her head and shook it vigorously. And then she put it down on the table and shouted tenderly, Honorable guests, please place your bet!

    One after another the gamblers put their bets on the betting board.

    Xiang Yushan said, This is called betting treasure; if the bet matches the number of dots on the dice, the payment is three times the stake.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, The odd in winning is one in six, but to you, the casino, it is five of six. No wonder opening a casino can make a fortune.

    Xiang Yushan laughed and said, You can also bet on the dice color; the odd is one to one, very even.

    Xu Ziling focused his attention to watch, most people bet on the number of dots, obviously they were all hoping to win triple their wager. Thats why betting on the color of the dice was provided no more as lip service!

    Dont you want to play a hand or two? Xiang Yushan prompted.

    The two boys just shook their head.

    Xiang Yushan simply brushed it aside and led them into the middle hall. Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings eyes immediately brightened. They saw leaning against a gambling table to the left, a beautiful woman, like a red dot in the sea of obscurity, was gambling enthusiastically.

    Not only she had picturesque facial feature, the most noticeable thing about her was that the opening of the flap of her gown was extremely low, exposing almost half of her jade breasts and her deep cleavage, so that she looked exceptionally tarty.

    The two boys often heard that a lot of people from the northern part of the country have blood relationship with non-Han people, so that in general they were unrestrained by convention. Still it was the first time that they saw a woman openly dressed in such a low-cut dress in public place with numerous people; they could not help staring with mouth agape.

    Xiang Yushan smiled wryly and said, That woman must never be touched. Despite her coquettish charm, she is actually one of the Peng Liang Huis [society] three masters, known as Sao Niang [coquettish lady], Ren Meimei. Her martial skill outstanding, she is adept at toying with men, from head to toe she is covered in thorns, and woe is men who run into her. Even I do not dare to mess with her.

    Kou Zhong swallowed a mouthful of saliva; he said in low voice, What is Peng Liang Society?

    Xiang Yushan was surprised, You have not even heard of Peng Liang Society? he asked, Peng is Pengcheng, Liang refers to Liang Jun [Liang county], sixty li northwest of Pengcheng. Peng Liang Society is one of Eight Clans [bang] Ten Societies [hui]. Wherever they go, Jianghu people will have to give them some face.

    Finished speaking, he was just about to pull the two boys away, who would have thought that Ren Meimeis eyes happened to leave the gambling table and look at their direction? Seeing Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, two people, her beautiful eyes lit up, with coquettish laugh she called, Yushan, what are you doing staring blankly like a fool over there? Why havent you come over and hang out with nujia [again, slave, a polite way a woman refers to herself]?

    While waving his hand in response, Xiang Yushan whispered, No matter what she wants you to do, remember to push all the blame to me. Finished speaking he promptly walked over to her.

    As the two boys heard that she was another Bang Hui [clan and society] people, immediately they felt headache. Without any choice they braced themselves and followed Xiang Yushan toward Ren Meimei.

    [1] Servant girl, orig. yatou - girl, can be used both deprecatingly and as a term of endearment.

  13. #33
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 3 - Chapter 8

    Book 3 Chapter 8 Trouble in the Casino

    Ren Meimei left the gambling table to meet them. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling found out that her clothes was tightly wrapped around her body, emphasizing her full body and exquisite curves; immediately their hearts were beating faster.

    This charming beauty moved her full-of-youthfulness-and-vitality body to three peoples presence. After sizing up Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling again, she turned to Xiang Yushan and said with a laugh, These two Gongzi seem to be strangers; are they your friends?

    With a bitter laugh Xiang Yushan replied, Mei Gu [charming aunt], youd better not provoke them.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling did not expect Xiang Yushan to be that forthcoming toward her; they got a shock.

    Ren Meimei did not take offense at all; she walked around to the two boys back and laughed coquettishly, Xiang San Shao [third young master] must have spoken a lot of malicious words behind my, Ren Meimeis back, but two gentlemen must by all means not believe him. If he is a good man, then I am the Guanyin Dashi [Goddess of Mercy] who saves common people.

    Xiang Yushan cleared his throat and said, Mei Gu, you must not damage our friendship. Dont forget that Peng Liang Hui and our Baling Bang have always been living together in harmony

    Ren Meimei circled around to face the two boys again; covering her mouth, she laughed tenderly, Did you see that? Xiang San Shaoye frequently uses Baling Bang to bully me, a weak woman; what kind of hero is that? Wow! Two little brothers[1] are really handsome, no wonder San Shaoye took a fancy to you. What are your names?

    The two boys had a feeling that Baling Bang sounded familiar, but momentarily they did not remember who mentioned this name to them.

    Xiang Yushan was showing his displeasure openly, Mei Gu, did you lose some money? Let me compensate you then, but dont babble nonsense in here.

    Evidently Ren Meimei was not afraid of him, she cast Xiang Yushan a flirtatious glance and said, Am I, Ren Meimei, someone who doesnt have any gambling nature? You are the one who babbled nonsense.

    Suddenly her hand shot forward to grab Xiang Yushan.

    Xiang Yushan let out a cold snort and raised his right hand to brush away her artery.

    Ren Meimei laughed and said, I dont want to fight! Yet although her mouth said so, her jade palm flipped over and swept down to block Xiang Yushans attacking right hand, while her crooked finger counterattacked by flicking Xiang Yushans artery.

    Xiang Yushan pulled his hand back and turned it into a chop, with his curved palm swatted her flicking finger.

    These several moves happened within an area about one chi wide; it was both swift and displaying deep offensive and defensive techniques. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling watched the exchange wide-eyed; they were very interested in this kind of intricate fighting technique.

    Ren Meimei laughed tenderly, I havent seen you for several months, turns out you were hiding to train your martial art skill; no wonder your arrogance is soaring to the sky. While she was speaking, her jade hand made subtle swing a few times, as if she was going to attack, but not exactly attacking, as if she was blocking, but not exactly blocking.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling intuitively understood what she was doing, they were able to fully grasp her move and strategy. While obviously Xiang Yushan failed to understand Ren Meimeis bizarre technique; unexpectedly he took a step backward. The two boys knew the worst was yet to come, Ren Meimei already laughed tenderly, while fast as lightning she thrust her finger onto the back of Xiang Yushans palm.

    While Xiang Yushan was jolted by this attack, Ren Meimei already grabbed his sleeve and pulled it hard, so that he was carried away and stumbled to the side. All the while she did not forget to flash her enchanting smile toward the two boys and unhurriedly said, Ill have a few words with Yushan, and then Ill come back to accompany you.

    They saw the two people went toward the corner of the hall and mumbled several secret whispers with each other. Xu Zilings countenance suddenly changed. I remember now, he said in hoarse voice, Didnt Beautiful Shifu mention that Baling Bang is the Emperors young sons running dog? They are specializing in trafficking human beings!

    Kou Zhong sucked in a mouthful of cold air, So what good can we say that he took a fancy on us? Quick! We must slip away immediately.

    Hold on! Xu Ziling pulled him back, They are back. We are going to change according to the situation. Ay! I really did not see this mountain trader [play on words on Yushan, jade mountain] is also a martial art expert. On that street we randomly picked someone to ask, why did we pick a martial art expert and a bad egg [i.e. [email protected]] in one?

    Meanwhile Ren Meimei and Xiang Yushan walked back hand-in-hand toward them. Looking at their friendly spirit, the two boys knew that the two people had reached a private agreement.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling felt their scalp turned numb, knowing that once again the two of them had become a commodity.

    From a distance Ren Meimei already let out her unrestraint laughter, Turns out the two little brothers [see footnote 1] came here this time is to have a taste of womens gentle and soft feeling. Let me, Jiejie [older sister] take care of this matter.

    This time Xiang Yushans tone of speech was greatly changed, Its rare that Mei Gu shows such respect for you. I will have a VIP suite opened up for you, everybody can drink, have a chat and laugh, and enjoy the romance together.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, Why worry about it? I suddenly have an urge to play a hand or two, I am good at Paijiu [paigow, dominoes] the most.

    Xiang Yushan laughed, So be it, he said, You ought to go to the VIP suite right away. Mei Gu also loves Paijiu the most. You guys want to accompany her playing, nothing could be better than that.

    This time Kou Zhong was at a loss for words.

    Still maintaining his elegant and unconventional demeanor, Xu Ziling shrugged his shoulders and said to Kou Zhong, If you want to gamble, you should seek my approval first. I dont know anything about Paijiu, but I do want to stroll around the casino to broaden my horizon.

    Ren Meimei moved her tender body to the front. Pulling the crook of two boys arms she gave Xiang Yushan a meaningful glance and said with a smile, Let me take care of them.

    Xiang Yushan laughed to give his approval and immediately turned around and left.

    Ren Meimei intimately pulled the two boys along toward the inner lobby. She said with an enchanting smile, You must not listen to that fellow Xiang Yushan talking any idle gossip about other people.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were about to speak, but when they looked at her, they saw that when she was walking, the twin peaks on her chest were continuously bobbing up and down following her gait; it was extremely captivating, so that they could not restrain their hearts from thumping wildly and jumping madly, and they forgot what they were about to say.

    All of a sudden they did not think that she was so scary anymore; especially her figure and her expression, none did not carry a special charm that was capable of moving other peoples heart, that unconsciously gave birth to a feeling that even if they had to die for her, they would gladly do it.

    The fact was that Ren Meimei was extremely proud in her heart.

    She had read countless men, and in just one glance she could tell that these two boys were still virgin. To a person who was adept at collect and mend technique like her, the two boys were no more than exquisite serum or sweet nectar that would bring great benefits to her vitality; hence the reason she wanted to wrestle them, by hook or by crook, from Xiang Yushans hands.

    This moment she was exploiting her body, unleashing her superior charm, to evoke the two boys primal sensual desire.

    Xu Zilings mental power was slightly better than Kou Zhongs; only after a slight daze, his mind cleared up considerably. Seeing Kou Zhong involuntarily panting and licking his lips, and was showing a leering look on his face, while intentionally used his shoulder to bump her silky breasts, he knew something was not right; his brains moved fast, and he blurted out, Ol Die is here!

    Kou Zhong was startled and came to his senses. Where is he? he asked in panic.

    Ren Meimei was puzzled, Didnt his old dad pass away already? she asked.

    Inwardly, Xu Ziling breathed a sigh of relief; he cooked up some nonsense, Its just a joke we invented; it means a ghost is coming, which means nobody is!

    Kou Zhong summoned all the willpower he could muster, he no longer dared to look at this womans chest.

    Ren Meimei was angry; she twisted her appealing body, immediately the two boys were aware of her well-developed body, burning desire touched their heart and strayed their mind.

    But since they were already wary of her, they firmly suppressed their surging lust, while groaning inwardly, wondering how they could get out of this predicament.

    If her flesh-temptation continued, and they were unable to resist, who knows what kind of dire consequences would ensue. Xiang Yushans earlier warning was still ringing in their ears.

    Kou Zhong happened to see the gambling table on their left only had five guests around it, which left seven or eight seats vacant. A sudden inspiration struck his mind, Lets play a game or two! he said. Wriggling himself free from Ren Meimeis clutch, he sat on an empty seat.

    Ren Meimei did not seem to mind at all, still smiling coyly, she sat on his left, while Xu Ziling took the empty seat on Kou Zhongs other side.

    As soon as this beautiful woman sat down, the eyes of the other five guests were immediately drawn to her chest. When Ren Meimei swept her pretty eyes around, the five men were immediately overcome with lust; so much so that one of them was drooling.

    The dealer was a woman around twenty years old, quite pretty; but compared to Ren Meimei, she immediately lost her splendor, and no longer enjoyed the limelight.

    This table happened to be a Paijiu table. Although Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had never really gambled before, growing up in the marketplace they had seen enough people gambling, naturally they were also well-versed in the way of doing it.

    Ren Meimeis interest suddenly arose; she said to the dealer, Let me be the banker!

    The dealer naturally knew who she was; after repeatedly agreeing, she withdrew to the side.

    Ren Meimei took the banker position and laughed coquettishly, Why havent you put down your bet?

    Everybody immediately put down their bet; they were all very excited.

    But Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were groaning in their heart. To have their hard-earned money put down in gambling was naturally painful and heart-breaking.

    Ren Meimeis gaze fell on them. Dont you want to play a hand or two? she urged, Quickly put down your bet!

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, We need to sit tight first and observe how you, the new dealer, play your trick before we lay our bet; alright?

    Ren Meimei only smiled tenderly without saying anything. With skillful finesse she shuffled the tiles, and only after she piled it up stack by stack did she throw the dice and deal the tiles.

    It was not clear whether she employed some kind of trick, but she lost three rounds in a row. The gamblers cheers and applause immediately attracted the attention of the other gamblers on several tables nearby that they flocked over and took all the seats.

    Ren Meimei smiled and said to Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, Jiejie suffers an adverse wind; if you want to win, quickly lay your bet.

    From the back, someone yelled, If you dont bet, give up your seat!

    Ren Meimei gave the man a hard stare; she shouted, Who dares to tell them to step aside, Ill wring his hands.

    The man obviously knew that she was formidable, immediately he kept his mouth shut out of fear.

    Kou Zhong had no choice; he fished a tael of silver and tossed it out as his bet.

    Ren Meimei burst into a tender laugh and cast a sidelong glance toward the two boys. She was about to deal the tiles under the burning gaze of more than a dozen pairs of eyes, when suddenly a soft and tender voice came from behind Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings back, Hold on! And then an incomparably delicate and beautiful jade hand reached out from between the two boys, and put a piece of gold ingot, weighed at least ten taels, next to Kou Zhongs pitiful one tael of silver.

    This action sent the gamblers into an uproar, because this ingot of gold worth at least several hundred taels of silver, so it was indeed rare that someone would place that much wager in one bet.

    Ren Meimeis eyes shot a cold flash as she looked at the beautiful woman that squeezed through several men that they were pushed to the east and opened to the west.

    When Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked up in astonishment, a pair of delicate hands already pressed on their shoulders. As they looked closer, they could not help crying out to their Niang, because the woman was none other than the Serpent and Scorpion Beauty Shen Luoyan.

    Shen Luoyan was looking down at the two boys, her face showed a sweet smile as she said, I told you, two little kids, not to play around randomly. Look! People nearly cheated you your wealth and trick you into having sex.

    A deep, cold killing aura flitted across Ren Meimeis beautiful eyes. Whos coming? she asked coldly.

    Shen Luoyan simply met her stare for half a day before smiling and said, Whos the banker? Since Third Master[2] wants to be the banker, you ought to follow bankers rule. If you cannot meet the stake, you ought to just admit defeat and leave the field.

    Realizing that the opponent already know who she was, yet still struck a hard stance, Ren Meimei trembled inwardly, yet on her face she still maintained that foxy attitude brimming with the thoughts of romance. Such a tiny gold ingot, our Peng Liang Hui can still deal with it, she said with a smile.

    Among the guests crowding around them, there were more than a dozen who, when they heard the name Peng Liang Society, were afraid of getting involved. These people immediately slipped out quietly, not even daring to fetch the money they put down as a wager back.

    The crowd around the gambling table was thinning out; two seats immediately became vacant.

    By this time Kou Zhong already calmed down; he patted Shen Luoyans jade hand that was pressed threateningly on his shoulder. Hi Beautiful! he said, There is an empty seat beside me, why do you tire yourself by standing up?

    Shen Luoyan smiled slightly; she stooped down to give each of the two boys a peck on the cheek. Unexpectedly she really sat down on the chair next to Kou Zhong.

    Noticing her confidence, as if she was certain she would get them, plus her affectionate kiss with her fragrant, delicate, soft and tender cherry lips, which melted their souls, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling really did not know whether they should be happy or scared.

    Ren Meimei still maintained her silence as she dealt the tiles.

    Suddenly several people appeared by the gambling table; they were all casino people, and Xiang Yushan was one of them. Next to him was a fat man wearing embroidered gown; he had broad face but small eyes, yet the pupil of his eyes flickered brightly, so that people know that he was not a character they would want to mess with. Both he and Xiang Yushan were sizing Shen Luoyan up and down with their gleaming eyes.

    Shen Luoyan acted as if she did not even notice people were staring at her; she whispered in Kou Zhongs ear, This time I am saving you once. Whatever big kindness, big enmity between us, well call it quits.

    Finished dealing the tiles, Ren Meimei cast a coquettish glance toward the fat man and said, Xiang Ye [master] has come in person! Do you want to play a round?

    The man she called Master Xiang laughed aloud before plopping himself on an empty seat like a meaty pillar on an upside down golden mountain. He sighed and said, Its rare that San Dangjia [see footnote] is willing to be the banker, Wagang Forts Pretty Junshi Miss Shen is willing to play; how could I, Xiang Gui, refuse to play along?

    Ren Meimeis beautiful body trembled; she looked at Shen Luoyan and coldly said, Turns out it is the Pretty Junshi Shen Luoyan; no wonder you talk big. But winning or losing, I, Ren Meimei, will accompany you play.

    Shen Luoyan laughed gracefully, her beautiful eyes darted back and forth between Xiang Gui and Ren Meimei. She said nonchalantly, The two of you spoke too highly of me. I, Shen Luoyan, only run errands for Duke Mi; how could I talk big or talk small? This time I came here on Duke Mis behalf only to recover two wandering prodigal children. I am asking a lot of forgiveness from the two of you, so that when Duke Mi attacks Pengcheng in the future and we meet again, nobody will talk a bad talk against each other.

    As the remaining dozen or so guests heard the name Wagang Army, they did not dare to tarry; they all left that not even one remained. Even the hundreds of guests in the other halls also left as soon as they heard what was going on.

    But there was one person remained. This man wore a tall hat on his head, his countenance stiff like a dead person. He looked straight into Ren Meimeis eyes and spoke in cold manner, Why havent you throw the dice?

    The strangest thing was that his man was taller than average person, plus he was standing proudly with his hands behind his back, yet nobody even noticed that he was standing there until all gamblers scattered away and he opened his mouth to talk.

    By this time, only three groups of people remained around the gambling table: Ren Meimei who was acting as the banker; Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling and Shen Luoyan; and Xiang Gui plus his son Xiang Yushan and two of their most competent men, who were standing behind him. All three groups immediately turned around with changed countenance.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were the first who were spooked out of their mind; they shouted with cracked voice, Ol Die is here!

    The newcomer was indeed Du Fuwei. Besides, only he had the ability to appear out of empty air like shadowless rain.

    He showed a surprisingly warm smile as he said tenderly, These two sons of mine are really capable, even your Ol Die was nearly deceived by you. But now that I see you are not inside the hungry wolfs belly, I am so happy that I am willing to forget your naughtiness.

    Shen Luoyan always did her homework in researching the other militia leaders; she was the first to recognize who he was. Du Fuwei of River Huai! she gasped.

    Ren Meimei, Xiang Gui and the others were shaken; they were even more confused as to the relation between this old dad Du Fuwei and the two boys.

    Du Fuwei still had his eyes fixed on Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling; without even casting any glance toward Shen Luoyan, he asked, Zhai Rang has not been harmed by Li Mi yet?

    Shen Luoyans beautiful body trembled slightly. Du Zongguan is joking, she replied in low voice.

    Pompously Du Fuwei sat down; his gaze moved to Ren Meimeis face as he spoke indifferently, Ol Du has not seen Demon Claw Nie Jing for several years, is he still not happy if he does not have any woman every night?

    After knowing that the opponent was Du Fuwei, Ren Meimei immediately turned from fierce tiger to tame kitten. She replied awkwardly, Da Dangjia [first master] is still like that.

    Seeing that as soon as Du Fuwei made his appearance all the men and horses of the opposite party immediately became docile, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were both happy and groaning inwardly, yet they were helpless to do anything. Whether in terms of martial art or battle of wits, they were far inferior to this old fox. Previously, it was only because of various circumstances, coupled with Du Fuwei grossly underestimated them and thus he was careless, that they had their chance. Right now the situation differed greatly; it would not be that easy for Du Fuwei to be fooled again.

    Du Fuwei changed direction to Xiang Gui, I heard you are one of the four martial art masters under the smoking pipe Lu Kangshou, with specific responsibility to find handsome men and beautiful women for Lu Kangshou; did you fancy my two inferior sons?

    Xiang Gui jumped in fright; he hastily replied, Du Zongguan misunderstood; your esteemed sons are merely our casinos honored guests. We have nothing to do with each other.

    Du Fuwei nodded. That would be best! he said.

    Everybody knew how vicious and merciless he was, how easy it was to kill; who would dare to speak up?

    That day, when Yun Yuzhen, in her capacity as the leader of a Clan, plus she had Dugu Ces backing behind her, confronted Du Fuwei, in the end she had to submit to him [orig. hang her hands down and called herself your servant]. Now, unless Li Mi personally came, nobody even had the qualifications to stand on equal footing with him.

    Du Fuweis eyes returned to Ren Meimeis pretty face. Why havent you thrown the dice? he prompted gently.

    How could Ren Meimei dare to refuse? She threw the three dice in her hand onto the table.

    At first the three dice were spinning rapidly, but when they were starting to slow down, they stopped abruptly, as if being controlled by some kind of invisible power. All dice had one dot facing up.

    Everybody noted that Du Fuwei had his left hand pressed against the table. Needless to say, it was he who sent his internal strength via the table to control the number of dots on the dice. Merely this feat, everybody present asked themselves if they had the ability to imitate. Even Shen Luoyan who was hesitating whether she should make her move also immediately dispelled that thought.

    She came this time, not only she brought about a dozen martial art expert under her command to come along, she also included Zu Junyan, who was of the same position as herself, so it was not because she did not have the strength to do an all-out battle.

    Du Fuwei laughed and said, So Ol Du ought to pick the first tile. He had just finished speaking, a stack of tiles slid across the table as if pulled by invisible hand and stopped in front of him, while at the same time flipped open. To everybodys surprise, one pair was Heaven [all sixes], the other was Supreme [one and two, and two and four], a winning combination.

    Everybody watching felt their scalp turned numb, not only because of his internal energy that has reached perfection, but even more shocking was because he was able to see through the trick that Ren Meimei did.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Too bad Ol Die did not place a bet. If you had put down a dozen his mothers ingots of gold, and share your winning with child, we would have struck it rich.

    Du Fuwei laughed and said, I have already put down my bet. My wager is the two of you, unworthy sons. Come! Well talk when we get home.

    Xu Ziling laughed aloud and said, Please forgive your children for being unfilial. Since we have stepped out of the house, we will never come back. At most we will use the snapping heart and artery that Niang taught us. Once we are dead, then we will go home to have you, Ol Die beat and scold us.

    As Shen Luoyan listened to their dad and mom, she was even more confused; yet she knew perfectly well that they were not Du Fuweis sons. Nonetheless, she admired their guts in standing up against Du Fuweis valor.

    Who would have thought that Du Fuwei did not think that they were being disobedient at all? He simply sighed and said, Lets not talk about Die will never let you break your heart and artery, I will never believe your nonsense even more. But since the day you left, Die has been really concerned about you. Not only I cannot bear to scold you, I will even recognize you as my own sons, to bear my Du family name.

    How could the two boys believe him? But since he had seen through their ruse, they could not fight him, and they could not slip away either; momentarily they did not know what they ought to do, they were at their wits end.

    Right this moment, a peal of tender laughter came from the direction of the main lobby. Du Zongguan, since your naughty sons are not obedient, why dont you hand them over to be disciplined by us?

    Everybody was greatly astounded; who in their right mind, after knowing that they were dealing with Du Fuwei, still dare to pick lice on the tigers head?

    Without even turning his head, Du Fuwei said, Whos coming? State your identity and origin, lets see if you have enough qualifications to manage Ol Dus inferior sons.

    Two women, one tall one short, appeared about three zhang away from Du Fuweis back. One of them said, Protector of the law Shan Xiu and Shan Yudie of Dong Ming Pai of Ryukyu are here to see Du Zongguan.

    Du Fuwei was greatly astonished, Dong Ming Pai has always been specializing in weapons sale, and has never directly intervened the dispute internal to the Central Plains. I wonder what is the reason you came to care about my two children.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling also you looked at me, I looked at you. They were both delighted and anxious at the same time. Delighted because they were finally found by the Law Protector Fairy [orig. xianzi immortals] of Dong Ming Sect; anxious because they were afraid the women would not be a match for this old dad, who ought to be considered the most terrifying man in the world.

    Whether in terms of facial feature, skin and physique, these two women were totally unlike the image of fairies in average peoples imagination; however, although they were not standing by the foot of a beautiful hill like how the fairies are usually depicted, these women were definitely anything but ordinary.

    Shan Xiu was lanky; so skinny that she looked like a layer of skin wrapped around bones, yet her height was comparable to Du Fuwei. Her hair was tied into a bun on top of her head, her eyes looked spirited, yet they also looked dull, her robe looked too big for her body. It would be strange indeed if people came across her in the middle of the night at a desolate area outside a town and did not think that she was a wandering ghost.

    But she gave people the impression that she was clean and tidy, so clean and dry that she was immune to any plague that might harm her.

    Shan Yudie, on the other hand, was a plump butterfly [yu die means jade butterfly]. She was a full head shorter than Shan Xiu, and in term of age, she appeared more than ten years younger than Shan Xiu; her face round like a full moon, giving people the impression that she was warm and affable. It was hard to imagine that she was a leader-level martial art expert of Dong Ming Sect.

    But the most noticeable was the flexible steel rope, made of steel pieces linked together, that were hanging loosely on their waists. It was a singular weapon that was very hard to make well. Dong Ming Sects fame in weapon manufacturing shook the heavens. These two unique flexible steel ropes were naturally not commonplace items.

    It was the very first time for everybody in the hall to see the two martial art masters protector of the law, so they all showed the weird expression oh, so this is what they look like on their faces.

    The tall and withered Shan Xiu spoke dryly, These two boys have shown kindness to our humble Sect by giving us warning, so that our humble Sect escaped the disaster of Yuwen Huajis sneak attack. If Du Zongguan is willing to be magnanimous, our humble Sect will definitely pay you back.

    This speech was very polite; she was giving Du Fuwei enough face.

    Yet without even thinking Du Fuwei sighed and said, Please forgive the Ol Du for not complying to your request. Two fairies, please go back!

    Ren Meimei, Xiang Gui, and the others were greatly confounded. It should be noted that Dong Ming Sect wielded tremendous power as the world leading weapon supplier. With their support, Du Fuweis contention for hegemony over the world would enjoy tremendous boost. However, for the sake of two nameless boys [orig. their names not encountered in the classics] he flatly refused Dong Ming Law-protector Fairys proposal. This has puzzled them greatly even after they pondered over it hundreds of time in their mind.

    At the same time, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling seemed to hear Madame Dong Mings familiar voice in their ears, giving directions.

    Shan Xiu also grimly heaved a sigh and said, We dont have any choice but to make our move to see your real skill.

    Right this moment, Du Fuwei already made his move. His target was Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling.

    After his experience last time, how could he be careless again?

    While the solid wood gambling table shattered into small pieces like sand and stones, he darted toward the two boys.

    Suddenly thousands of sword tips shot out from Shen Luoyans hand, she was attacking Du Fuwei.

    Among the people present, she was the only one who had clear understanding of Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings real background.

    When she failed to subdue the two boys before, she was determined to eliminate them. Simply because she wanted to get rid of the contingency factor, namely the Duke Yang Treasure Trove.

    Speaking about the current situation, among the various militias, Wagang Army held the biggest power. But they let if any other party succeeded in obtaining the Duke Yang Treasure Trove, perhaps the current balance of power would experience huge changes. Therefore, she would rather have the two boys killed and the secret would be like a stone thrown into the sea and sank without leaving any trace.

    This moment, other than Dong Ming Sects strong backing, she also relied on Zu Junyan and other martial experts under her command; how could she let Du Fuwei get hold of the two boys?

    In the meantime, Ren Meimei and others were retreating outside the hall.

    Du Fuwei already anticipated that Shen Luoyan would try to stop him. His left sleeve rose up; he swept the perimeter of Shen Luoyans sword tips.

    Shen Luoyans sword tips shadow disappeared, leaving just one sword. Fast as lightning the sword floated outward, which was blocked and pushed back by Du Fuweis Qiankun [universe] Sleeve.

    Meanwhile Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, together with their chairs, tipped backward and fell onto the floor, and the two of them quickly rolled toward the door on the other side of the room; their movement was so fast than even Du Fuwei was taken aback.

    Shan Xiu and Shan Yudie, two great Law-Protector Fairies of Dong Ming Sect, had already flown over. Their hands reached out to their waists, with a flick of their wrist the two flexible steel whips, which were made of eighteen sections of steel pieces as thick as a finger linked together, with total reaching distance about a zhang, shot toward the back of Du Fuweis head and his back.

    As if he had eyes behind his head, Du Fuwei flicked his two sleeves backward, sweeping the tip of the whips.

    Ding! Ding! Shaken by the amazing strength of his sleeves, Shan Xiu and Shan Yudie were jolted backward.

    Seemingly without any effort Du Fuwei has consecutively forced three martial art masters to retreat. Accelerating his body, in an instant he flew toward the two boys who were still rolling on the floor.

    While he was thinking that very soon Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling would fall into his evil clutch, suddenly, Boom! There was a loud explosion, followed by a big hole appeared on the wall. As if the sand and stones had eyes, they were shooting toward Du Fuwei.

    For the first time that evening Du Fuwei showed some concerns on his face. Failed to grab the two boys, his arms swirled around, creating myriad of sleeve shadows, blocking the sand and stones and sending them shooting back toward the hole.

    At the same time he pursed his lips to send out a sharp whistle to summon his escorts, the ten martial art experts who were surrounding that place to render their assistance.

    Boom! Unexpectedly another explosion on the tiled roof opened up another big hole. A flicker of the sword tip appeared. Like a rainbow the sword shot from above toward the tianling [heaven spirit] acupoint on the top of Du Fuweis head.

    A biting cold sword aura completely enveloped Du Fuwei, blocking his entire advance and retreat paths, the power was extremely overbearing. Even with Du Fuweis ability, his only way out was to abandon his intention to jump through the hole where Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling escaped, and focusing all his strength to deal with this terrifying sword.

    Boom! Sleeves and sword collided, emitting a muffled-thunder like explosion as the qi and the sword force struck each other.

    Like a puff of white cloud something swept across the air about a zhang away, before slowly descending into the hall below. It was a stunningly beautiful woman, with the sword in her hand pointing to Du Fuweis direction.

    With jade face and vermillion lips, her tender and beautiful body seemed to radiate youthful vigor. Her shiny, jet-black beautiful hair was in stark contrast to her snow-white skin, so that her jade bone and ice-sculpture muscle became even more prominent; in short, she was extremely alluring.

    Its just that her hair was tied into a bun on top of her head like a man, wrapped in a white warrior band; but her countenance, disposition and complexion shamed even Shen Luoyan.

    Du Fuwei actually thought that the one attacking him must be Madame Dong Ming, so when he looked closer, he was taken aback. Attacking Miss, who are you? he asked in astonishment.

    The sound of fighting also came from the middle hall. Evidently his men were also being intercepted by the enemy. Plus Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling has already gone out of the hole and disappeared without any trace. And Shen Luoyan and the two Law-Protector Fairies were standing about three zhang away watching him.

    The beautiful woman cast an indifferent look toward Du Fuwei. Soon afterwards her beautiful eyebrows frown slightly; quite naturally her face showed a displeased expression that would make other people not dare to offend her. She replied in gentle voice, Wanbei [junior/younger generation] Shan Wanjing; much obliged to experience Du Zongguans ultimate skill.

    A deep, cold murderous aura flashed through Du Fuweis eyes as he nodded and said, Turns out its the Dong Ming Princess; its not surprising that you have such a skill.

    And then he turned his gaze toward the hole from where Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling escaped. I have long heard that the fame of Madame Dong Mings Shui Yun Xiu Fa [water and cloud sleeve technique] is resounding far and wide all over the world, he spoke in deep voice, Since you have arrived, why not come down to the battle field to let the Ol Du experiencing it once. Otherwise the Ol Du will go all-out and offend your thousand-catty gold [i.e. daughter].

    Just by these few sentences, Shan Wanjing was extremely proud. Among the present day Jianghu characters, how many have enough qualifications to make Du Fuwei goes all-out?

    Madame Dong Mings gentle and beautiful, deep and magnetic voice was heard from the hole, Du Zongguan is angry, but why? My Dong Ming Pai has always been attaching most importance to gratitude and grudges. Gratitude must be repaid, grudges must be avenged. For you to cultivate enmity with us, it will simply bring more harm than good toward Du Zongguans great undertaking. Besides, Zongguan has made quite a bit of unwise moves tonight, your acute spirit has been broken; wont it be better to transform a thousand spears into jade silk, and we all could end this matter amiably?

    Du Fuwei shivered inwardly; in all honesty, he did feel stupid and was greatly discouraged. Not to mention he had revealed his whereabouts, whatever happened he must not stay too long in this place, where the imperial forces still held much power; yet he must not reveal this predicament. After pondering for half a day, he threw his head backward and laughed heartily, Very well! I, Du Fuwei, am also a man who is capable to distinguish gratitude and grudges. This matter will be repaid. Madame, please!

    His shadow flashed, he was already in the middle hall, where a series of blood-curling screech was heard, but died down very soon afterwards.

    While Shen Luoyans countenance was changing, the three Dong Ming Sect women leaped up through the roof, and Zu Junyan rushed in. He said with a sigh, He killed five of our men before running away.

    Shen Luoyan has already predicted this result; her expression stayed the same as she said in low voice, Notify Duke Mi immediately, if we can intercept and kill him before he reaches River Huai, we will gain at least a quarter of the world [reminder: tian xia China].

    Her beautiful eyes turned toward the hole on the wall, to the rear courtyard outside, where the moon and the stars shone their light. Her mind wandered to the two boys, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, who evoked a faint feeling of compassion and regret like a mist shrouding her thought.

    Although she had made up her mind to kill the two boys, it was only for the sake of the present situation; the fact was that a favorable impression had started to grow in her heart. Subtle, but it was there.

    These two boys were indeed very special and wonderful people.

    [1] Little brothers: here she did not use the term Xiao Xiongdi, which is rather polite, but Xiao Geer, basically means the boys.

    [2] Third Master - here, the word master is dang jia, someone who is in charge/who call the shots. I was tempted to use the word skipper or captain, but it sounds so western.

  14. #34
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 3 - Chapter 9

    Book 3 Chapter 9 Dong Ming Princess

    The fast boat left the shore and sped up toward the Dong Ming flagship anchored in the middle of the river. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were sitting in the bow, the one rowing the boat was another Dong Ming Sects Law-protector Fairy, Shan Qing, who was sizing the two boys up with a smile on her face, but did not say anything.

    After passing spreads of cattails near the shore and weaving through dense mooring ships and boats, the lanterns of Dong Ming flagship illuminated the boat.

    Under the lantern light, they could see that although Shan Qing, whose sleeves were floating in the wind, was only thirty-percent beautiful, this kind of atmosphere kind of accentuate her mysterious side.

    Trying to flatter her, Kou Zhong blurted out, Xianzi Jiejie [fairy sister], you look so pretty!

    Naturally Shan Qing knew that he was kissing her @ss; she smiled and said, Dont be loquacious, Madame really hates kids who spout nonsense endlessly. If you provoke her, you wont feel good at all.

    Displeased, Xu Ziling said, Dont think that since you saves us, you can treat us anyway you want ow! Kou Zhong elbowed his arm. Immediately he remembered their heavy responsibility toward Li Shimin, and shut his mouth at once.

    Naturally Shan Qing did not know the twists and turns in this matter, she moored the boat onto the Dong Ming flagship. After leading the two boys to the ship, immediately she ordered her subordinates to get ready to set sail.

    Greatly astounded, Kou Zhong asked, Its late, where are we going?

    At this time a young, handsome man in white, leading two middle age men, appeared in front of the three people to welcome the two boys.

    Shan Qing said, Our Dong Ming Pai is divided into two departments, men and women. The women take Shan as our surnames, the men are surnamed Shang. If you join our Sect in the future, you would also change your surname to Shang.

    The young man in white spoke indifferently, Zaixia Shang Ming. And then he introduced the two middle age men with majestic appearance, one was Shang Bang, the other Shang Kuitai.

    Shan Qing calmly said, Our women department have four great Law-Protector Fairies, the men also have four Sect-Protector Generals. The other two are Shang Ren and Shang Wannian, who presently are not here.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling really wanted to ask Shang Mings capacity, but looking at Shang Mings cold and indifferent attitude, they quickly swallowed their question back.

    Shan Qing ordered the two boys, Youd better stay in your cabin. Yuwen Clans martial art masters have already caught wind of your whereabouts, the situation is extremely dangerous.

    Remembering their big enmity with Yuwen Huaji, the two boys jumped in fright, and obediently followed another man in white into their cabin.

    The two boys followed the man toward the passenger deck. The familiar hallway appeared before their eyes. They were hoping the man would take them to the lower deck, but the man continued on to the room at the end of the hallway, pushed the door open and invited them to come in.

    Are two Gongzi hungry? he asked.

    Reminded by him, the two boys tummy immediately rumbled thunderously; they nodded their head vigorously.

    The man laughed and said, Two Gongzi please take a rest a bit, I will be back with two baskets of steamed stuffed buns.

    Xu Ziling gratefully asked, How may we address Dashu [big uncle]?

    Why dont you just call me Uncle Liu? the man replied.

    After the man left, the two boys closed the door and went to the window. They could not even describe their feeling.

    Xu Ziling said in low voice, This Dong Ming Pai is so strange, the men all take the same surname, all the women are also surnamed Shan; apparently their organization is very tight. It also seems like they are trying to pull us to become a member; this is really hard to understand.

    With a soft chuckle Kou Zhong said, Why do you care his mothers that much? As long as we can steal the account book and jump into the river, we will all go our separate ways. But we must remember not to soak the account book and damage it, then perhaps we could use it to bring harm to Yuwen Huagu. One move, two gains; what can you have against it?

    Xu Ziling replied with a wry smile, Its easy for you to say. Anybody in here could beat us senseless at will.

    Sneering, Kou Zhong said, I am telling you to steal, not to rob or fight. What are you afraid of?

    At this time a young maid came bringing some delicacies; she was not the beautiful maid who took them to see Madame Dong Ming the other day, in term of beauty, she was two notches below.

    After the main left, the two boys bent over the table, munching busily. By the time they finished eating and the food still left a rich aftertaste, the huge ship shuddered and started to sail.

    Kou Zhong looked out the window and saw that the ship was heading toward the northern channel. Hey! Why go north instead of west? he exclaimed, Going this way we will reach the Weishan Lake soon.

    Xu Ziling pulled him back, Dont shout and yell, alright? he said, That Madame Dong Ming is so formidable; even Ol Die cannot stand against her.

    Kou Zhong sat down on the seat by the window. He drank a cup of hot tea and voiced his agreement, Since we set sail, naturally she, the Senior, has safely returned.

    Seeing Xu Ziling was still frowning hard, he asked in surprise, What are you thinking?

    Xu Ziling dejectedly said, Although we can brandish sabers and play with swords like an expert, our mental cultivation is actually very low. Remember when we were at the casino, only after that Shen woman pressed her hands on our shoulders, we, two fools, knew that she had arrived. How could genuine martial art masters be that useless?

    Kou Zhong agreed. He nodded and said, We indeed dont have enough mental cultivation, and dont have enough Jianghu hey! Not Jianghu, just dont have enough martial art masters experience. Our, two brothers days as martial art masters are just too short, most of the days we dont even remember that we are martial art masters.

    While Xu Ziling was roaring in laughter, there was a knock on the door. The two boys were greatly embarrassed, because even when they were talking about it, they did not detect someone was already at the door.

    Kou Zhong cleared his throat and said, Come in!

    The door opened; a pretty face as beautiful as a flower appeared first to greet, Gongzi, how are you? before her beautiful body followed into the room. It was the beautiful maid who took them to see Madame Dong Ming the other day.

    The two boys immediately stood up to greet her.

    The beautiful maids elegant eyes brightened as she cheerfully said, You have grown tall. Compared to the last time, your expressions are a lot better.

    A friendly feeling welled up in Kou Zhongs heart; grinning, he said, Is it because we are wearing rather decent clothes that we appear taller? Plus we now have a couple pennies in our possession, hence we are a bit prouder.

    The pretty maid covered her mouth as she said with a laugh, Kou Gongzi loves to joke a lot, Xu Gongzi is a lot more proper than you are.

    Kou Zhong broke into laughter, That is because he has yet to show you his true face!

    Xu Ziling asked in surprise, Jiejie even know our names and surnames?

    The pretty maid acted as if she suddenly realized that she had talked too much; holding back her smile, she said softly, Right now all levels of society have been turned upside-down by you. Only the deaf have not heard about your feat and your background. Alright! I am going to take you to see Madame.

    Suddenly she broke into giggle and said, This time dont reveal your greedy and corrupt true nature anymore.

    Kou Zhong came over and leaned his face brazenly close to her pretty face and asked, What is Jiejies beautiful name?

    Surprised by this show of intimacy, the pretty maids face revealed an angry, but not quite angry, captivating expression. She spoke in low voice, Its not a big deal for you to talk flirtatiously like that, but when talking to Madame, you must never make an unreasonable scene. Ay! The one I am most worried about is Miss; her impression on you is down to the dirt.

    Xu Ziling knitted his sword-like eyebrows and said, We are not going to ask any favor from them, why must we conduct ourselves according to their likes and dislikes?

    The pretty maid sighed and said, Because I know you are people with true feeling and true nature, thats why I told you this. In a lot of other things I am bound by our Sects rules and cannot tell you. As long as you are a bit more careful, you ought to be able to go through everything safely.

    What exactly is the danger? Kou Zhong wondered, Hey! This time Madame rescued us and brought us back, is it because she want to select a husband for her daughter?

    The pretty maid was shocked, How could you think that far? she asked, The candidate for Princess husband has been chosen long ago.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, In that case, it must be because she wanted to choose a husband for you, Jiejie.

    The pretty maid blushed beet red; she said angrily, You keep blabbering nonsense; just see if I am going to ignore you or not.

    Xu Ziling also felt that Kou Zhong was a bit excessive; he frowned and said, Kou Zhong, cant you talk with a bit more propriety?

    Kou Zhong shrugged his shoulders and said, This is called curiosity. Jiejie is so pretty, and I am not yet married; cant I ask the question?

    Even the pretty maids small ears were blushing through and through as she cast an angry glare toward Kou Zhong. But then she bowed her head and said, I do not really blame him, but I already have a betrothed, its just that he has not passed through the doorway [i.e. marry into a family]!

    The two boys were shocked, He has not passed through the doorway?

    The pretty maid clearly did not wish to continue this conversation. Come! she said in low voice, Follow me to see Madame! And she preceded them toward the door.

    The two boys ran after her. When they got to the door, just before she pushed the door open, the pretty maid halted her steps and said softly, Remember, my name is Shan Ruyin.

    The two boys went to the same big cabin where they met Madame Dong Ming the other day. The pretty maid Ruyin withdrew after she had them sit down on the chairs facing the bamboo curtain.

    The two boys looked at each other while waiting painfully for half a day before Madame Dong Mings gentle voice came from the dark area behind the curtain, We see each other again.

    The two boys respectfully replied, Madame, how are you?

    Madame Dong Ming was quiet for a moment before speaking, I was mistaken that day; turns out your skill is not bad at all.

    Kou Zhong modestly replied, Madame praises us too much. Our skill is not even enough to defend ourselves; it cant be considered anything.

    Madame Dong Ming spoke indifferently, Toward such a martial art expert like Du Fuwei, how many people actually dare to speak up to defend themselves? It was only by exploiting all kinds of circumstances, and by deliberately forgetting my intention that I was lucky enough to snatch you from his hands. But time and again you were able to escape from his grip. Just by this fact alone is enough to have your name shook the Jianghu.

    Although hearing such praise, the two boys did not feel anything spectacular, because both times they escaped for their lives, they were relying on crafty tricks and their luck; it had nothing to do with actual skill.

    Madame Dong Ming suddenly sighed gloomily and said, I have a question, and I want you to answer me truthfully.

    The two boys nodded.

    When people were going to attack us sneakily that night, why did you take the risk by sending us warning? Madame Dong Ming asked.

    We couldnt just standing by idly and watch, Xu Ziling nonchalantly replied, We need to teach those bad eggs a lesson! If we had known Madame is this skillful, we should have let Haisha Bang people fall head over heels.

    Madame Dong Ming spoke indifferently, By what qualifications did Haisha Bang people dare to provoke us? But their backing is people with great background. The situation that night was actually very disadvantageous to us. Yuwen Clans third in command Yuwen Shi personally led their martial art masters to mingle among Haisha Bang people. If they managed to sink our ship, I really dont know what the consequences would be. Thats why I am really grateful to you.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were shocked to learn that there were martial art masters from the Yuwen Clan among those people that night.

    Madame Dong Ming calmly said, One question I wasnt clear previously was since the two of you made looking for fame and looking for profit as your life objective, why would you want to so something as dangerous as to offend Yuwen Clan? But just now Ziling has given me the most sincere answer, which is that you couldnt just standing by idly and watch. Hearing that my heart is very happy.

    Kou Zhongs thick skin turned red as he said, Madame praises us too much. There is actually another reason: we heard that guy Han Pudi said that they were under Yuwen Huagus order. And Yuwen Huagu happens to be our biggest enemy. Therefore, while we have the opportunity, why not try to inflict some harm on him?

    For the first time ever Madame Dong Ming lost her calm and broke into laughter, Han Pudi, Yuwen Huagu, what an interesting name you could come up with. Incidentally, I want to warn you: after Yuwen Huagu was injured by Luocha woman, he went into hiding for a year to recuperate. My understanding is that his martial art skill has advanced by leaps and bounds instead; right now he is on par with the Clan leader Yuwen Shang. Therefore, if you are not sure, you must never provoke him.

    The two boys declined to comment, but they did not take her advice to heart either, simply because they knew that even if Yuwen Huagus martial art skill remained unchanged, they were still too far inferior from him.

    Madame Dong Ming continued, I am so glad that in claiming the credit for yourselves you are not arrogant and are very forthcoming. When you were being chased by the mob at the pier by the city of Yuhang that day, I have already seen that your foundation is exceptional, indeed it is rarely seen in this age. Other than one person from the Li Clan, nobody else of your generation can compare to you. As a result I was moved by the love of talent and let you came aboard to meet in person.

    Kou Zhong replied with a bitter laugh, But in the end we were driven out by Madame.

    Madame Dong Ming said, It was not me who wanted you to leave, it was my daughter Wanjing. The people she hates the most are worldly disciples who are only after wealth and fame. Nowadays my duties within the Sect are gradually being taken over by her, I just assume the responsibility to give guidance; hence everything is decided by her.

    The two boys suddenly understood why Ruyin said that Dong Ming Princess impression on them was very bad.

    Madame Dong Ming sighed and said, This daughter of mine is stubborn; once she had a preconception about anything, it is very difficult to change her mind. But surprisingly this time it was she who found you; furthermore, she gave the order to give you assistance.

    She did not understand, naturally the two boys did not understand even more; they merely listened attentively.

    Madame Dong Ming changed the subject, Whether its Du Fuwei, Li Mi, and perhaps Yuwen Huaji, or even all gangs and societies who know your whereabouts, nobody is willing to give up on you. Do you have any plan for the future?

    The two boys shook their heads with blank expression on their face, indicating that they had no idea.

    Madame Dong Mings voice was a bit emotional as she spoke tenderly, Before we learned about your involvement in the conflict concerning Secret to Long Life and Duke Yangs Treasure Trove, we did have the intention of absorbing you into our Sect to strengthen our men department, but now I changed my mind. But please dont think that it is because we are afraid to be implicated in this matter, rather, we are afraid to waste the kind of talent that you have. I dont know whether its the Heavens will, but your suffering is actually a great opportunity for you to learn by experience. In just over a year, you have shed your mortal body and exchange your bones and become new persons. The most amazing thing is you are able to make your expression [or shen qi - divine qi] understated, which is the realm where only genuine martial art masters are able to attain. Obviously your internal energy level is not high, but you can definitely accomplish it. Give it a little more time, your achievement will be beyond measure.

    The two boys jumped in fright; they thought that if they could not stay, wouldnt they lose the opportunity to carry out their trick to imitate the dog and steal the chicken?

    But Madame Dong Ming continued, By midday tomorrow, we will arrive at Weishan Lake. After taking care of some businesses, we can go up north along the canal. After Juye Wetlands, the water should be covered by mist for hundreds of li, we can easily shake off enemys pursuit; there we can arrange for you to slip away onto the shore. After that you will have to rely on your good luck.

    The two boys were relieved; within these next eight to ten days, they should be able to complete the heavy responsibility Li Shimin entrusted to them.

    From a very deep slumber, Xu Ziling slowly, fen by fen [1 fen ~ 1/3cm, 1/8-in], cun by cun [1 cun ~ 1-in] regained his consciousness.

    The feeling was like from the bottom of a deep, dark and quiet pool, gradually floating to the surface, and the instant he made contact with the water surface was the same instant he regained the perception of the outside world.

    Every night when he slept peacefully was the good time he practiced the Secret to Long Life.

    Thump! Kou Zhong, who was sleeping next to him, kicked the side of his thigh.

    Xu Ziling was already accustomed to this. Whenever Kou Zhong kicked him, a burst of true qi immediately entered his channels, while at the same time he also returned a stream of true qi back to Kou Zhong.

    This kind of feeling was really unspeakably comfortable.

    When sleeping, Kou Zhong always kept moving, while Xu Ziling always stayed calm like a deep sea.

    The sun outside penetrated the window, bathing the small empty space in front of the window with its light; everything seemed so peaceful, serene and beautiful.

    Xu Zilings mind was a piece of peacefulness, just like a calm deep pool, mirroring everything before his eyes. He looked up at the rectangular-shaped mosquito net above the bed. The net was made of silk yarn weaved together into a mesh; abundant with some kind of principle that was hard to describe with words, rich with many patterns. What seemed to be identical square holes were actually myriads of different holes. Each small hole, each small square actually had subtle differences with each other. Light and darkness, big and small, they were all different. Yet all these different holes formed a whole entity that could not be broken; each hole was independent, yet they also affecting each other.

    He had never thought that a mosquito net could be so engaging and interesting.

    Buzz! Buzz! A buzzing noise came from the top of the net. A mosquito wanted to break into the net, but was thwarted by the mesh and was kept outside.

    After trying several times, the mosquito flew toward a corner. Immediately it attracted the attention of a house lizard that was crouching on the patterned ceiling above. The lizard rapidly traversed several cun across, and lay prostrate again, motionless.

    The lizards movement was both steady and nimble, there was dynamic within the static, and there was static within the dynamic.

    Xu Zilings heart was filled with indescribable feeling; somehow he indistinctly captured the true meaning of the blend between static and dynamic.

    Suddenly this incomparably rich and moving moment was broken by light footsteps from a distance coming near. The footsteps stopped in front of the door, and then the door was pushed open.

    Kou Zhong instantly reacted; he opened his eyes and sat up.

    The two boys focused their attention, and saw that it as a big and tall maid. She looked quite ugly, but the saddest thing about her was the thousand-li distant expression on her face, icy-cold and wooden, as if everybody in the world owed her money and has not paid her back.

    As soon as she came in, her gaze swept the boys behind the net, and then she looked away as if she lost interest already. She brought along a basin of water, a towel, a comb, and other things, which she then placed on a small table by the window. And then, without any trace of politeness she barked with her hoarse voice, Quickly get up! Commander Ming [orig. shuai commander-in-chief] is waiting for you for breakfast.

    The two boys exchanged glances; they wondered which divine being this Commander Ming was.

    Kou Zhong crawled out of the net and went over to the ugly maid. Cupping his fist in respect he inquired, How may I address this Jiejie?

    The ugly maid spoke with disdain, I am not your Jiejie, and you dont need to pay attention to my name.

    Meanwhile Xu Ziling pushed the net aside and sat on the bedside; he was stooping down to look for his boots. Hearing what was said, he said, If we made any mistakes, Jiejie is welcome to scold us or curse us, so that we can make it right.

    The ugly maid did not expect the two boys would still be modest and polite even after her mean treatment to them. She stared blankly for a moment before finally walking toward the door. Ill wait for you outside, she said. Her tone was a little gentler.

    The two boys hurriedly wore their clothes and washed their faces.

    By the time they walked out the door, the ugly maid impatiently said, Hurry up and follow me!

    Kou Zhong giggled and ran after her. In the most respectful manner he said, May I ask Jiejie, who is Commander Ming?

    The ugly maid led them to the end of the hallway where the stairs leading to the upper deck was located. She appeared to be ignoring Kou Zhong, but then she suddenly said in cold manner, Didnt you see him yesterday?

    Kou Zhong, and Xu Ziling who was running behind him, suddenly came to realization that the Commander Ming she was talking about was Shang Ming. Since they had generals, it was only natural that they also had Commander-in-chief. It seemed that this young, handsome Shang Mings status in Dong Ming Sect was, by no means, low.

    Climbing to the upper deck, they found out that it was actually a spacious cabin, almost like a hall. Shang Ming, accompanied by Shang Bang and Shang Kuitai, two men, sat around a round table, where an assortment of light breakfast food was served, talking in low voice.

    Seeing the two boys arrival, Shang Ming did not stand up or show any sign of welcoming gesture at all; he simply smiled unenthusiastically and said, Two Xiao Xiongdi, please have a seat.

    After the two boys took their seats, the ugly maid left the hall.

    The cabin was decorated with over a dozen big windows on both sides, adorned with hanging curtains, but did not affect their view at all. They could still enjoy the panoramic view of the green mountains and verdant pastures scenery on both banks of the river.

    Did the two gentlemen sleep well last night? Shang Bang asked.

    The two boys had already stuffed their mouth full with food, so they could only nod their head.

    Shang Kuitai said, There are two sichen more [i.e. 4 hours] before we reach Weishan Lake. Once we get there, we have no fear of being tracked.

    Shang Ming said, The weapons that you use, where did you buy them? The material and craftsmanship are quite good.

    Of course Kou Zhong could not tell him the truth, he randomly replied, Its Shen Luoyan, that woman [derogatory] who gave them to us.

    How could Shang Ming be able to distinguish whether he was telling the truth or a lie? He could not help laughing, There are not many people in Jianghu who dare to call her woman. The two of you can be considered having enough skill that there are a lot of Jianghu characters, that many people would be scared at the mere mention of their names [orig. turn pale at the mention of a tiger], are hunting you down, yet time and again you were able to escape with your lives. Being fugitives for thousand li, it can also be considered anecdote passed on with approbation in Jianghu.

    Xu Ziling was curious, What kind of place is Ryukyu? he asked.

    Shang Ming proudly replied, Its the worlds most beautiful and mysterious place. Its a big island suspended over emptiness of the vast body of water. The climate is pleasant, large part of it remains uncultivated fertile land, wonderful birds and different animals can be seen everywhere.

    The two boys listened with their minds wandering far away.

    Shan Kuitai asked, Was your martial art skill taught by the Luocha female?

    Kou Zhong nodded, That is correct!

    If that is the case, Shang Bang seriously commented, It can clearly be seen that Gaolis Yi Jian Dashi [see Book 1 Chapter 3] Fu Cailin really possesses inscrutable, supernatural skill.

    Shang Ming said, People have name, trees have shadow. Since Fu Cailin was able to make his name alongside Wu Zun Bi Xuan and Shan Ren Ning Daoqi [all these names were mentioned back in Book 1 Chapter 6], and still enduring for the last few decades, they must have earth-shatteringly ultimate skill. Just look at how he sent one of his disciples over, and she had the Central Plains Wulin world in complete confusion [orig. sky and earth turning upside down]; even Yuwen Huaji was injured and forced to return. Clearly he has real talent and is a solid material.

    Remembering Fu Junchuo, the two boys throat choked and they did not feel like eating anymore.

    This moment the ugly maid returned. Shang Ming and the others, all three people revealed a disgusted look on their faces.

    The ugly maid saluted, and then hoarsely and crudely said, Princess wants to see Xu Ziling.

    Kou Zhong was baffled, What about me? he asked.

    The ugly maid shook her head coldly, but did not say anything.

    Shang Ming and the others also showed a surprised look; especially Shang Ming, his expression looked quite unnatural.

    Why havent you followed me? the ugly maid urged.

    Having no other choice, Xu Ziling shrugged his shoulders.

    Finally Xu Ziling set his foot on the cabin deck below the main deck. On the surface there did not seem to be any differences; there was also a long corridor, with more than a dozen doors lining both sides of the hallway, but the decoration was a lot more exquisite. From the ceiling of the hallway hung down more than a dozen delicate chandeliers, shining their lights on decorative pattern carved subtly along the wall of the hallways. Underneath his feet was plain green carpet embroidered with geometric patterns like moss on grass, like uninhabited, calm and quiet meadows.

    The ugly maid led the way silently, until they arrived at the door at the end of the hallway, where she turned around and said, You wait here. When Princess is ready to see you, she will call you.

    Finished speaking, she left.

    Xu Ziling thought in his heart that this Dong Ming Princess really had a big ego; if she did not have time to talk, she could always summon him a bit later.

    Up to this moment he still did not understand why Dong Ming Princess wanted to see him alone. But just as quick his mind turned to the account book.

    If this account book really did exist, would it be kept in this room?

    The door and the walls of this cabin were extremely solid; breaking in would not be easy at all.

    While he was indulging himself in flights of fancy, a sweet, tender, but icy-cold voice sounded in his ears, Come in!

    With curious mind Xu Ziling pushed the door and walked in. His eyes lit up instantly, for this room was unusually spacious, with adequate illumination, and all four walls were lined up with bookshelves and bookcases. There was also a large desk by the window.

    A young woman, in the prime of her youth, wearing purple-red clothes, was sitting on the desk with her back facing him, leaning over the desk as if she was hard at work. Her long, shiny, jet-black hair hung down to her back, giving him a soft, delicate and charming feeling.

    Xu Ziling bowed to salute and said, Xu Ziling pays his respect to Princess!

    Turning her head slightly, the woman only gave him a quick, cold glance, before turning her attention back to the desk and continued writing fine and dense characters on the file in front of her.

    Xu Ziling, on the other hand, was shaken to his core. Not only because her beauty was extremely startling, but also because she invoked a familiar feeling, as if he had seen her not too long ago.

    The glance she was giving him just a moment ago exuding some kind of loathing look, which made Xu Ziling felt even more that something was not quite right.

    This moment he was standing behind her back, staring blankly; he felt that speaking was inappropriate, leaving was even more not appropriate; he was in a very awkward situation.

    Dong Ming Princess voice was heard, Why switch from arrogance to deference? Just based on this fact alone, it is clear to me that you are a despicable man.

    Xu Ziling was startled, Have I really met Princess? he asked.

    Dong Ming Princess Shan Wanjing suddenly stood up and turned around. Her beautiful and elegant eyes were shooting deep hatred as she stared mercilessly at him, Arent you Zhang San or Li Si? How come you have forgotten this easily?

    Xu Ziling was shaken. My Niang, so it is you! he exclaimed.

    Yesterday the two boys had just arrived at Pengcheng, they went to a restaurant to have a meal, and came across a woman who disguised herself as a man. They thought she was an enemy sent by Shen Luoyan to swindle them, hence they treated her without any trace of politeness at all. How could they know that unexpectedly she was the Dong Ming Princess in his presence right now?

    Involuntarily Xu Zilings eyes wandered toward her pair of long legs, which evoked his memory.

    What are you looking at? Shan Wanjing angrily said.

    Agape and tongue-tied, Xu Ziling stammered, I hey! The other day we thought

    Shan Wanjing regained her calm instead; she said indifferently, No need to explain; even if you do, I wont listen to you. I called you to come here this time, is because I want to tell you in person that even though you have given our Sect a huge favor, but we have also saved you, the two little kids, from Du Fuweis hands. Tit for tat, lets consider we are even.

    Seeing that she treated him as the enemy, and was unwilling to listen to explanation, Xu Ziling was rather put off by her capricious muleheadedness. Yet looking at her poetry-like, sunshine-like, graceful and alluring jade countenance, he simply could not get angry with her. He could only waved his hand in a not-a-big-deal way and said, It is best that we consider it even, then we all go our separate ways; hereafter clear gratitude and absolute justice have nothing to do with each other. Ha!

    The last ha! exclamation was because he recalled that the last sentence was Kou Zhongs pet phrase.

    But Shan Wanjings jade countenance turned cold; she spoke furiously, Gratitude is considered done, now is the time we ought to consider the grudges.

    Xu Ziling was shocked, What grudges to consider? he asked.

    Shan Wanjing took a deep breath and said, I really dont understand why Niang thinks so highly of you, two kids who are covered all over with vulgarity. The first time I saw you, I already loathe you.

    Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, If elegance and vulgarity became the criteria, we certainly dont have any qualifications to be measured by Princess elegant eyes. But if Princess uses elegance and vulgarity to determine gratitude and grudges, I am afraid Princess would have grudges against most people walking down the street.

    Actually, even Shan Wanjing herself did not understand why she had so much hatred toward the dignified young man in front of her. Dont blather! she angrily said, I am referring to the insulting remark you hurled at me the other day. Others greeted you politely with good intention, yet you unexpectedly could be that rude.

    Xu Ziling breathed a sigh of relief, This will be easier to deal with, he said, That day was just a misunderstanding. We thought His gaze landed on the desktop, immediately he was shaken and shut his mouth.

    Heavens! Isnt that the account book we are supposed to steal?

    But Dong Ming Princess thought that he was unable to put forward any convincing arguments, so it was hard for him to continue. Her face turned as cold as water as she said, You have nothing to say then dont say it! Now I am going to strike you with one palm, the target will be the pit of your stomach. If you cannot evade it, youll pay for it with your life.

    Xu Ziling came to his senses. Terrified, he said, We did not have past enmity, we do not have current hatred, Princess must not use violence.

    Shan Wanjing calmed down. She said indifferently, I am about to strike.

    Xu Ziling was so scared he took two steps back; waving his hand he said, Any problem we can talk it over slowly. Ah!

    Shan Wanjings body suddenly shot forward with raised right palm; lightly it floated indeterminately toward the pit of his stomach.

    Xu Ziling did not have time to think; focusing his attention to the palm, he saw that this jade palm, which appeared, soft and powerless, without raising any gust of wind at all, as if she only wanted to touch him, was actually following certain subtle striking trajectory toward him, yet it continuously changed, so that it was very difficult to pin down.

    The strange thing was that he seemed to be able to clearly grasp her changes, so much so that he could grasp her next move.

    But he also knew that if he let her hit the pit of his stomach, he might really die, finished, met his worst fate.

    Right in this moment between life and death, he did not dare to be careless. His broadsword left its scabbard and lightning fast it chopped toward her jade palm.

    Shan Wanjing let out a cold sneer and darted faster forward, while raising her left hand high, the back of her hand swept across the blade of the saber; it was indeed a very ruthless move in close-combat.

    Who would have thought that Xu Zilings saber suddenly changed direction? He abruptly pulled out the back of the saber to slice the opening on the wrist of her right palm, which has not changed its attacking direction.

    Shan Wanjing did not expect him to be able to use the saber with such agility. If she wanted to evade, it would be as easy as a hands turn; but she already said that she would only send one palm strike, how could she fail to hold on to her words? Clenching her silver teeth, her left hand changed, now she wanted to grab and snatch the blade of the saber, while at the same time she leaned sideways to butt herself against Xu Zilings chest. Her right hand magically changed into millions of palm shadows; she was unleashing her real skill to the fullest.

    Although earlier she said that she had malicious intention, the reality was that she only wanted to beat him up that he would fall with all four limbs facing the sky; hence she could vent the resentment in her heart. But now that she was forced to go all-out, it was hard to attack and defend as she wished.

    Xu Ziling recalled the house lizard he saw as he woke up this morning, instinctively he evaded by sliding sideways. Not only Shan Wanjings left hand grabbed an empty air, his saber actually sliced the millions of her right palm shadows, which filled the air.

    Shan Wanjing had never expected that his response was so brilliant and quick; it was even harder for her to hold back. Exerting her most refined, outstanding technique, first, her palm slapped the blade of Xu Zilings saber and attached itself on it, like a shadow the palm followed wherever Xu Ziling moved his saber; while the back of her other palm struck Xu Ziling on the pit of his stomach.

    Xu Ziling let out a miserable scream as he was thrown backward and crashed through the door, until finally he landed on the hallway outside. While he was still on the air he already spurted a mouthful of fresh blood, all the way until he fell heavily on the carpet outside the door.

    Shan Wanjing was shocked.

    As she was about to run out to see the outcome, Madame Dong Mings voice already arrived, What happened?

    Shan Wanjing halted her steps and coldly said, This man had offended daughter; even hes dead he deserves it.

    Madame Dong Ming appeared on the door; she wore a lake-green colored beautiful gown, her beautiful, thick hair was rolled up in a bun high on her head, her overall appearance was graceful and elegant, but her face was covered with a layer of thin gauze, like a dense fog concealing her countenance.

    From the other side of the hallway came more voices; apparently the sound of fighting had alerted the others.

    After staring at Shan Wanjing for quite a while, Madame Dong Ming looked down to examine Xu Ziling.

    After his qi was blocked, Xu Ziling slowly regained his consciousness. When he was struck by her palm a moment ago, he felt as if all the channels in his entire body were about to burst open, the pain was like one Buddha came into being, two Buddha ascending the heaven[1], but after sprouting a mouthful of blood, the qi at the sole of his feet was unimpeded, the pain lessened considerably.

    Hurriedly he crawled up and while massaging the pit of his stomach, he said with a bitter smile, I am alright, Princess is indeed formidable. Ha!

    Unexpectedly he laughed and staggered away. The only thing in his mind was that tempting account book lying around on her desk.

    At first he did not feel comfortable in this stealing-the-account-book matter, but now the mental barrier was no longer there.

    [1] 一佛出世、二佛登天: suggests the pain of undergoing an epic struggle between life and death, of having died and being reborn again. The idiom was used in the novel, Outlaws of the Marsh, and a few others. 登天: a Buddhist term meaning entering Nirvana. (Courtesy of Lu DongBin)

  15. #35
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 3 - Chapter 10

    Book 3 Chapter 10 The Fire of War on Lake Wei

    While helping Xu Ziling massaging the pit of his stomach, Kou Zhong anxiously asked, Are you really alright? That female [usually refers to female animal] is really ruthless; just because we were not interested in hanging around with her! Unexpectedly she considered it big grudges and animosity.

    Can you lower your voice a little bit? Xu Ziling said in low voice, If she hears it we will be in trouble. Hey! Let me tell you something amazing. When the true qi in my body started to move, just a short while and I feel better already. If I transferred my qi a bit earlier, perhaps I could easily take her palm strike.

    Kou Zhong said, In that case this palm strike can be considered something of a value, as long as you dont die. And then he remembered something and giggled, Dont just look at her as being mean, the fact is that she unconsciously fell in love with you. But because she is already betrothed, and you treated her as a worthless nobody, in her anger she wanted to attack you, hence she made her move and injured you.

    Xu Ziling was not amused, Go to your Niang! Fall in love with me? This kind of love is not worth mentioning.

    The more Kou Zhong thought, the more he was convinced. He analyzed, Even if one time you cursed her as a loose woman and had no feeling of shame, hence your offense is more serious than mine, but my treatment to her was not much better. Yet she only looked for you to vent her anger; this kind of girls mind is the most difficult to fathom. When you went to see her, that guy Shang Ming could not sit or stand still, his expression turned really weird.

    Xu Ziling seized this opportunity to change the subject, In that case, that Shang Ming ought to be that evil woman Princess husband, who has not yet passed through a doorway [marry into a family, see Book 3 Chapter 9]. Ay! Even if the entire Dong Ming Pai people kneeled in front of me, I cant possibly join their Sect. Men married into the womens family, why would I want to do that?

    Kou Zhong laughed and giggled, The biggest reason is that the women would take care of us.

    And then his expression turned serious as he said, After we get to Weishan Lake tonight, Madame Dong Ming and that evil woman Princess will go see Li Shimins old dad. That will be the time we make our move to steal that thing. From here we climbed down the window, it will be as easy as lifting our hand.

    Meanwhile the scenery outside the window has changed, no longer steep banks and cliffs, but clear and crystalline river water, clumps of white cloud, the far-side bank continued on to open land as far as the eye can see. They have arrived at Weishan Lake.

    The door was pushed open. The ugly maid walked in silently, sized Xu Ziling up a moment, and then with her hoarse voice and crude manner she asked, Are you still in pain?

    Xu Ziling was touched by her concern; he was about to reply that it was not a big deal when Kou Zhong pinched him. Hastily he said, I think after two days rest I should be alright. Thank you Jiejie for your concern.

    Who cares about you? the ugly maid coldly said, Its just that tonight Madame wants to eat dinner with you, so she sent me over to check on you! Since you are alright, then thats it. Finished speaking she turned around and left.

    While the two boys were looking at each other in astonishment, there was a knock on the door, the beautiful maid Ruyin came from outside the door, May I come in?

    Kou Zhong sprang up and pulled the door open. Good Jiejie, please come in! he greeted.

    Pfft! Ruyin broke into tender laughter; she cast a sidelong glance toward Kou Zhong and gracefully walked in. Seeing Xu Ziling was sitting in a chair by the window, without any visible change in her countenance she said in amazement, Madame is right, although on the surface you look badly injured, actually it is not serious at all.

    Xu Ziling could not bear lying to her; he nodded and said, Just a bit painful!

    Ruyin came over and stretched out her gentle and soft hand to feel the temperature on his forehead. Pulling her jade hand back, she said, Your internal energy is so unusual; void and fluttering, so that its hard for others to gauge the depth of it.

    Kou Zhong walked over to her, he took that opportunity to lean closer, his nose vigorously sucked in the fragrance of her hair first, before speaking right next to her ear, This is called unfathomable.

    Ruyin was displeased, Can you be more proper? To be honest, my impression on you is not much better than the Princess. Unexpectedly you hang around with those devoid-of-consciousness Baling Bang people; are you thinking of copying them in doing business in human trafficking?

    Kou Zhong awkwardly said, We did not know Xiang Yushan was Baling Bang people!

    The more Ruyin spoke, the angrier she was; with arms akimbo she angrily said, Then why did you go to their casino? Dont you dare to say that you did not know it was not a casino!

    Seeing her almond eyes grew big in anger, Kou Zhong replied in panic, We did not know it was a casino, we thought it was a brothel.

    What? Ruyins voice broke.

    It was too late for Kou Zhong to correct himself, he knew he was in trouble. Heaving a deep sigh, he said, Ay! Jiejie, how could you know our plight that time? We were in a tight spot, and had no choice but to find a place to hide.

    Ruyins pretty face was flushed with anger, Its just an excuse; the truth was that you wanted to fool around in a place where you wanted to ingratiate yourselves like that. Looking at your fine countenance fine appearance, I could not imagine that you are so corrupt in the inside. Just see if I will pay you any more attention in the future. Stomping her foot, she turned around and walked away.

    Kou Zhong reached out trying to get hold of her. Ruyin dodged; her eyes bulging like fish bowl, she screamed, You dare to touch me with your stinky hand? Princess is right, not many men on earth are good people.

    The two boys had never imagined that such a gentle and considerate girl could become this emotional; they stared blankly at her in silence and in fear.

    Ruyins silky breasts heaved up and down rapidly for a moment before calming down. Seeing the two boys who looked like a great catastrophe had just befallen them, her expression softened a little as she said grimly, I rarely get angry like this; its all your fault! Alright, if you are willing to promise me that from now on you wont go to that kind of place, I will forgive you!

    Xu Ziling was ready to promise, but Kou Zhong beat him by saying, In that case wont we have to change our training to Tongzi Gong [virgin boy skill]?

    Ruyin was taken aback, and then her pretty face blushed as she stared hatefully at Kou Zhong before storming out in anger.

    Bang! as soon as he heard the door slammed, Kou Zhong breathed a sigh of relief. He said, Fortunately I did not let you give your promise in a rush. Otherwise how could we enjoy life and be merry later?

    Xu Ziling let out a bitter laugh and said, Thats one more person we offended. Right now on this ship, other than Madame Dong Ming, it could be said that we look up and see no one familiar.

    Kou Zhong sneered and said, This ship is full of eccentric people, fortunately we are going to leave very soon. Otherwise, sooner or later we will turn into one of them. Its not a big deal if we dont go to Ryukyu, I am sure they dont have half a place where we can have fun.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, What do you mean having fun? Every time we wanted to go to a brothel we always came across something shady. Apparently the two of us lack pleasure-house luck.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, I dont believe in demonic influence. Come! Let us practice our exceptional divine skill, as long as our ears can hear the eight directions, we can carry out our grand plan. Finished speaking, he started to walk back and forth in the room.

    In the hazy dusk of twilight, the Dong Ming flagship sailed at full speed over the mist covered water of Weishan Lake, heading toward a certain destination.

    On the ship, a vegetarian feast has been prepared inside the hall of the main cabin. Madame Dong Ming still had her face covered in veil, her entire being was still shrouded in unfathomable mystery.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were sitting on her left and right, respectively.

    All three Law-Protector Fairies were present. Shan Yan and Shan Yudie, who dealt with Du Fuwei the other day, were expressionless [I could have sworn that it was Shan Xiu, not Shan Yan]. Only Shan Qing showed a bit of warmth. But obviously everybody strongly disapproved Madame Dong Ming showing such grand hospitality toward two boys whose names not encountered in the classics.

    The other attendees included Shang Ming and a senile-looking old man. This old man, Madame Dong Ming called him Shang Gong [gong means grandpa, father-in-law, or simply a term of respect to address (much) older man]. His stature was originally big and tall, but his back was crooked. However, the eyes under heavily wrinkled eyelids constantly flickered with strange purple light. He appeared spirited, yet appeared dull at the same time; in short, he was extremely intimidating.

    The other Dong Ming Sect people were very respectful toward him. Other than the first time when he was introduced to the two boys, he did not even look at them. The rest of the time he was simply holding on to the only wine pot on the table, silently pouring himself a drink. Toward the fine vegetarian dishes on the table, he was not even interested in giving it a single glance.

    Very soon the two boys even forgot that he was there.

    Apparently Shan Wanjing was still angry, so she did not attend.

    However, whether it was related to Shan Wanjing or not, Shang Ming seemed to be brimming with hostility; he was even more unfriendly than before.

    Ruyin must be Madame Dong Mings personal maid; she waited on everyone. But she was still fuming with anger; apparently her resentment toward Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had not subsided.

    All in all, this meal was not a pleasant one.

    At the start of dinner, Madame Dong Ming spoke a few apologetic words on behalf of her daughter, but afterwards she chatted with Shang Ming and the others, leaving the two boys out on the side.

    The two boys were already used to this kind of treatment, so they did not give it a [email protected], but going all-out in wiping out the dishes on the table. However, they were used to eating meat, hence no matter how many dishes were delivered into their belly, it did not give them a sense of satisfaction.

    Seeing their table manners, other than Madame Dong Ming and Shang Gong, the rest of the people showed contemptuous look on their faces.

    Shang Ming was discussing the changes in the militia situation, The most worrisome is the Tujue [Turkic] peoples tendency. Right now Ying Yang Pais Liang Shidou and Liu Wuzhou already cast their lots with them, and are bestowed the titles Magnanimous Pijia Khan and Dingyang Khan, respectively. These two renegades have received Tujue Khans order to attack Taiyuan. If Li Yuan cannot defend Taiyuan, Tujue will definitely seize the chance to advance; at that time the Central Plains will be in grave danger.

    Everybody was paying attention.

    Shan Yan said, Right now the Li Clan is hard-pressed from front and rear, Dugu Clan and Yuwen Clan are dying to have them completely wiped-out. But in this matter nobody could offer any help to them, they could only look at the Li Clans good luck.

    Shan Yudie said, Fortunately Li Yuan has several good sons, plus Taiyuan is located upstream of River Fen, between Taihang Mountains [on the border between Hebei and Shanxi] and Yellow River, cradled by the mountain and supported by the river, they are squatting on the worlds shoulder, with the Hedong as the foundation. They have elite soldiers and ample provisions. On top of that, Li Yuan, father and sons, bestow benevolence far and wide, making friends with heroes everywhere, their influence continuously expanding; they are not a force of only one battle.

    Shang Ming objected, But Li Yuan is an indecisive leader, all along he considers himself as the incapable rulers aunts cousin. There will come a day where that incapable ruler will weary him to his death. If I were Li Yuan, I would take advantage while the incapable ruler is redeploying his border guards to deal with Du Fuwei in Jiangdu region, and Wagang Army is occupying the Suis main force at Luoyang, to advance to the capital and take it, to raise his army in rebellion.

    Listening to this, Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings hearts were burning; they both thought, oh, so the current situation is like that, no wonder Li Shimin wanted it so much for his old dad to rebel.

    Shan Qing said, Too bad we are limited by our ancestors rule that we must not get involved in the Central Plains affair. Otherwise when we see Shimin, we can lay out the advantages and disadvantages thoroughly to him.

    Madame Dong Ming said indifferently, If we can see the situation clearly, do you think other people cant? This matter needs not be discussed anymore.

    How could anybody dare to continue the discussion?

    After an unbearably awkward silence, Shang Gong suddenly looked at Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, two boys. While the two boys grew nervous under his gaze that they could not swallow their food, Shang Gong spoke with his hoarse and hard-to-hear-clearly voice, Who taught you martial art?

    Kou Zhong braced himself and replied, It was our Niang!

    Whos your Niang? Madame Dong Ming asked in astonishment.

    Xu Ziling explained, His Niang is the same as my Niang, other people called her Luocha female.

    Madame Dong Ming said, Luocha female Fu Junchuo was famous for being vicious and merciless; I did not expect not only she took you as her adopted sons, she even sacrificed herself for you. It can be considered incredible.

    The two boys appeared deeply grieved.

    Shang Gong shook his head and said, Thats not right! How long have you been training martial art?

    Kou Zhong counted his fingers and gave him an honest answer, A bit over a year.

    Shan Qing and the others revealed a shocked look on their faces. Although their fighting skill did not count for anything, but in just over a year of training, they already had this kind of accomplishment that they were able to take Shan Wanjings palm strike head-on; it was indeed shocking.

    Shang Gong was deep in thought for half a day, and then he sighed and said, If you can avoid experiencing fire deviation, in the future you ought to have superb accomplishment.

    Madame Dong Ming said, Meixian[1] has inspected their qi circulation method, it is actually very vast without any clear boundary. I dont know where it starts, hence I dispelled the thought of accepting them into our Sect and passing on our skill to them. If Shang Gong has an idea, why not giving them a direction or two?

    Shang Gong only shook his head; he no longer spoke.

    Back to their cabin, the two boys felt relieved as if they had just escaped from a trap.

    Kou Zhong said in a low voice, There are too many people who bite the hand that feed them on earth; just look at Shang Ming, a dog who relies on its masters power, he looked at us with disdain while he is acting as if he is sitting high on a pedestal. Ha! Fortunately this Young Master is broad-minded, cant possibly bicker with him.

    Xu Ziling sneered and said, If you really dont care about him, you ought not mention it.

    Kou Zhong slapped his forehead and said, You are right! From now on, we wont talk about this guy.

    Xu Ziling said in distress, How would we know when Madame and the others leave the ship to see that Li guy?

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Isnt that simple? Whenever the ship stops, thats when they leave the ship.

    Xu Ziling said, Supposing Madame invited Li guy to meet on the ship, wont our dream become an empty dream?

    Kou Zhong was speechless for half a day. Finally he said in low voice, Lets not worry too much, as long as they congregate in the hall above, we will immediately make our move to steal that stuff. Li guy and his old dads fate is on our hands.

    Xu Ziling craned his neck to look out the window. After looking around for quite some time, he pulled his head back and said, Didnt they say Yuwen Clan people want to mount a sneak attack on Dong Ming flagship? How come theres not even a trace of them?

    You asked me? Kou Zhong said, Then whom should I ask? Huh?

    The sound of the ship suddenly changed; it slowed down. The two boys tensed up; they had to wait patiently.

    That night the sky was clear the weather was nice, the crescent moon was hanging low on the horizon, the night view was enchanting.

    Under the moonlight and starlight, the Dong Ming flagship slowly docked onto a small lone island in the middle of the lake, where another big ship had already anchored.

    The two boys stuck out their heads out the window to look, and recognized that it was Li Shimins battleship; they grew even more nervous and their hearts were beating rapidly.

    When the Dong Ming flagship has come to a complete stop, the two boys crouched down and pressed their ears on the cabin floor, while channeling their energy to listen carefully.

    Unexpectedly the cabin below was silent, as if it was a deserted ghost town.

    Right this moment, a sigh rang inside the two boys eardrum.

    The two boys sat up in fright, and they both saw that the others face was devoid of any color.

    Thats Shang Gongs voice, Kou Zhong said in horror, Even if he turned into dust I will still recognize it,

    How could that old fellows sigh be that loud? Xu Ziling asked, It sounded like he was sighing next to our ears.

    Kou Zhong took a deep breath and said, Lets not worry about it too much. In half the time needed to burn a stick of incense, we will climb down the window to steal, and then use the water to escape.

    The two boys sat back in the chair; waiting with heart alarmed, guts palpitated.

    Suddenly they heard footsteps in the hallway outside, the two boys groaned inwardly. Fortunately nobody came in; very soon the footsteps were getting farther and farther away.

    Kou Zhong sprang up and said, Its time!

    In this frightening moment, someone knocked on their door. While the two boys were groaning incessantly, the ugly maids voice was heard outside the door, Come out quickly! Princess wants to see you.

    With bitter face the two boys followed the ugly maid down to lower deck and on to the Princess study rooms door. Without showing any expression the ugly maid pushed the door open and coldly said, Come in!

    Without any other choice Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling braced themselves and stepped into the room.

    Dong Ming Princess Shan Wanjing was back into wearing mens clothes, ready and waiting, sitting in a large chair by the desk, looking calmly straight toward the two boys faces.

    Under her suffocating gaze, the two boys felt as if they were half a head shorter, and were overwhelmed with a feeling of inferiority.

    As they stole a glance around, the account book was nowhere to be seen. There was really no word that can describe the two boys disappointment.

    Shan Wanjing said dryly, The other day I was not in a very good mood, and my hands slipped and injured Xu Gongzi. Right now just consider me apologizing.

    Although her manner was very polite, plus she was apologizing in person, the two boys were able to clearly see that she did not really care about them; she did not even have the courtesy to have them sit down and talk. As if they were only fit to be her underlings who had to stand up deferentially while listening to her bossing people around.

    Shan Wanjing coldly sized them up and down several times, before continuing, Why arent you speaking?

    Full of anger, Kou Zhong said, We have nothing to say; if you want to say something, just be our guest and say whatever you want!

    A faint smile escaped from the corner of Shan Wanjings mouth. Her beautiful eyes penetrated Xu Ziling deeply as she spoke gently, I cant be considered good to you, but you brought it upon yourselves. Fortunately all these will be over soon; I have arranged a place for you to stay.

    What?!? Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong exclaimed hoarsely.

    Dont make much fuss about nothing, Shan Wanjing said indifferently, Currently the number of people in Jianghu who have the ability to protect you is indeed not many; Li Clan is one of them. Based on our relationship with the Li Clan, we only need to open our mouth, they will definitely take care of you.

    The two boys called for their mother inwardly; if following her advice they went to the Li guys ship, would they still have a face to see the Li guy?

    Kou Zhong hurriedly said, Thank you Princess for taking a lot of trouble for us. We are the kind of people who are most afraid of lodging under another persons roof while watching other peoples countenance as we conduct ourselves. If Princess thinks that we are not pleasing to your eyes, we will immediately jump into the lake. In this way we are slipping away to everyones delight and satisfaction, both parties are happy.

    Shan Wanjings pretty eyes flashed with cold rays as she crossly said, What are you talking about?

    Xu Ziling was also indignant. Zhong Shao was so articulate and clear, unexpectedly Princess was not able to hear it clearly? he asked in astonishment, We definitely will not live relying on other peoples charity; we wont need your so-called benevolence either. We are going back to our room right now to pack, and then will leave immediately. Please!

    Actually, the two boys did not have anything to pack, they just wanted to stall for time. After Madame Dong Ming and the evil woman in front of them left, they would return to look for the account book before leaving.

    Halt! Shan Wanjing angrily barked.

    The two boys jumped in fright; they stared at her hatefully.

    Shan Wanjings silky breasts moved up and down rapidly. The fact was that even she herself did not understand why it was very easy for her to get angry at Xu Ziling; it was so not like her usual calm and cold nature.

    After half-a-day of awkward silence, Shan Wanjing calmed down. She heaved a deep sigh and her voice became gentle, How about this? Well ask Li Clan people to give you a ride. After you reach a safe place, you may go as you wish. Perhaps you still dont know it, but that incapable ruler has issued a strict order to obtain the Secret to Long Life in your possession at all cost.

    For the first time ever there was a genuine concern over their safety in her voice. However, since they already had prejudice against her, naturally the two boys did not feel it; besides, they would not accept it anyway.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, If thats the case, we cant climb onto Li Clans big ship even more. After all, Li Clan is one of the Emperors sons hunting dog; how would we know they wont see profit and forget morality, and sell us, the two brothers?

    Toward Kou Zhong, this beautiful Princess obviously had much higher tolerance. She smiled and said, Dont underestimate other people. When you see Li Shimin, you will see such a real hero that makes other people willing to commit themselves to him cheerfully. Not to worry, I can guarantee in the name of Dong Ming Pai that such thing will never happen.

    While she was speaking about Li Shimin, her bright, lively beautiful eyes were constantly looking at Xu Ziling; her eyes were saying that compared to Li Shimin, you, Xu Ziling, are far too inferior.

    But Xu Ziling did not have the slightest idea; in his usual natural and unrestrained manner he shrugged his shoulders and said, Whether he is a real hero or a fake hero, we are accustomed to carefree life, and have no interest in clinging onto the hero Princess thinks so highly of.

    Kou Zhong remembered that Madame Dong Ming once told them that they ought to learn through experience in Jianghu; he had a brainwave, Princess idea, I am afraid you have not received Madames approval, have you?

    Swjs countenance turned cold again; brushing her sleeve away she said, Get lost! By the time I am back, dont let me see your face again. You want to deliver your life, just go to hell!

    The two boys felt as if they had just received the Emperors pardon; they withdrew from the room in great delight.

    Having much experience climbing down the wall, the two boys scaled down the wall without any mishaps toward the study rooms window.

    The study room light has been extinguished; it was completely quiet. Not daring to hesitate, they craned their neck first to make sure nobody was inside before slipping in through the window; soon they were inside the study room.

    Following the technique taught by Ol Chen, the two of them split up and methodically combed the study room until nothing was overlooked.

    After being busy for half a sichen [i.e. an hour], they have scoured every cun of the room, yet they still could not find the account book.

    The two boys sat slumping on the floor, so disappointed that they almost cried.

    If they could obtain the account book, not only they would do that Li guy a big favor, they would probably be able to implicate Yuwen Huagu and had him, along with his entire family, executed unto the third generation.

    But now everything was lost.

    The account book was simply not in the study room.

    Kou Zhong painfully said, That woman [derogatory] must have brought that thing to settle the account with that Li guy. Its over. The hardest thing for me is that we must leave immediately, otherwise, that evil woman would toss us out to the water like throwing garbage.

    Xu Ziling dejectedly said, If we want to go, the sooner the better!

    Shang Gongs voice, which was as easy to recognize as if it was the exclusive signboard above his head, rang again in the two boys eardrums.

    How could the two boys not realize that disaster was imminent? They sprang up and were about to jump into the lake through the window when Shang Gong, as nimble as a wild cat, leaped inside from outside the window. The senile old man was completely gone.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings only way out was blocked by him; they could neither advance nor retreat, and were in an extremely difficult situation.

    Shang Gong raised his left hand and laughed softly as he said, Are you looking for this account book? Come and get it if you have the ability!

    The two boys were dumbstruck; they could only stare with mouth agape at the precious account book in his left hand. Naturally they did not dare to make their move to snatch it away.

    Shang Gong said nonchalantly, Madame entrusted this responsibility to me, the old man. Naturally Laofu [old man, referring to self] must not disappoint her. These days Laofu has been watching you. Listening to your conversation, I even gave you a warning, but your thief character is hard to change, making Laofu very disappointed.

    With a bitter laugh Kou Zhong said, We received a request from a friend

    Shang Gong coldly cut him off, Laofu dont give your reason a [email protected], I only know that this account book concerns our Dong Ming Pais reputation. Its just that were it not for the two of you making such a big fuss over it, we would not know that such an account book could become the root of great turmoil. When Madame is back, Laofu will ask Madame to destroy it, so that nobody will be able to exploit it as a fighting instrument.

    This moment, the two boys interest was not so much on the account book but on their own destiny.

    Speaking to this point, Shang Gong was still using a low voice, as if he was afraid others might hear him, which gave them hope.

    Shang Gong casually tossed the account book onto the desk, while showing the first ever smile they saw since he came in, Your innate character cannot be considered bad, you have not lost your innocence. Sometimes when I was listening to you, I could not help laughing.

    Beating the snake following the stick [see Book 3 Chapter 3] Kou Zhong said in low voice, Shang Gong, is it possible for you to let us, two brothers, off this time?

    Shang Gong shook his head and said, Public is public, personal is personal [fyi, the gong of Shang Gong also means public or common]. Our Dong Ming Pais most serious statutes, in all my life, since I was young, I have never deviate even half a step from it; how can I, at the last segment of my life, falter from it for the sake of you, two little kids? But when Madame returns, I can speak a couple of good words on your behalf. Now kneel down in front of Laofu.

    The two boys simultaneously thought about Dong Ming Princess; they both thought that warriors can be killed but never humiliated, so their hands instantly moved toward the hilt of their sabers.

    Shang Gong shook his head and sighed, If it were ten years in the future, Laofu really cannot guarantee whether this weary old body would be able to withstand your two boys joint attack, but right now your weight simply falls too short. Come!

    The two boys exchanged glances; they knew that they had reached a situation where there was no more leeway. So they drew their sabers and attacked.

    Shang Gongs face revealed a shocked look; but still calm and unhurried he raised both sleeves to generate two streams of powerful qi, meeting the two lightning fast saber hacking down on him.

    Based on his status, naturally his victory had to be neat and tidy. If he had to alert the others before they could subdue these two boys, his face would suffer a huge setback.

    Bang! Bang! with two muffled explosions Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling felt the palm of their hands exploded, their sabers were flung away, while their entire body was jolted, sending them tumbling backwards, and it felt like their internal organs were about to burst.

    While the two boys were groaning inwardly for their terrible situation, Shang Gong suddenly let out a painful grunt and staggered sideways.

    The two boys were at a loss; suddenly a human figure clad in black leaped in through the window and while he was still in the air, the shadow attacked Shang Gong left and right with a pair of daggers about a chi long in each hand, each move was never far away from Shang Gongs vital points; extremely accurate, vicious and ruthless.

    In the blink of an eye Shang Gong, who was already injured by the sneak attack, has already exchanged more than ten moves against the enemy.

    Meanwhile the two boys recovered from their panic and dropped themselves down on the floor to get away from the scuffle. They saw that in the spacious study room, the man in black moved like a ghost, they only saw his shadow like wisps of smoke floating above and all around Shang Gong, unfolding astonishing attacks like the tidal waves of Yangtze River or Yellow River toward Shang Gong, who, very soon, was falling into disadvantageous position, without giving Shang Gong the least bit of opportunity to catch his breath.

    By this time the two boys vision was much better than before, they could tell that this mans skill was not inferior in any respect to Du Fuweis.

    While they were contemplating whether they should call for reinforcement, Shang Gong let out an earth-shattering roar as he forcibly extricated himself from the enemys sword net. Bang! he crashed onto the cabin wall and into the adjacent room.

    Obviously that man was not interested in Shang Gong. Lightning fast he flew toward the desk, grabbed the account book, and without even casting a glance toward the two boys he leaped out of the window.

    This moment sound of footsteps and people shouting and yelling were getting closer. The two boys yelled and sprang up, and then with all their strength they jumped out the window into the lake below.

    Splosh! the two boys dove deep into the icy-cold water. They were trying desperately to distance themselves from Dong Ming flagship, when suddenly they felt something was not right, and their backs were grabbed from behind, while at the same time a stream of true qi penetrated their back, consecutively sealing a dozen or so major acupoints on their bodies.

    The man apparently thought that he has immobilized them; he grabbed their arms instead, and dragged them along under water at an astonishing speed. It was only after covering more than ten zhang distance that they surfaced.

    Shouts were still occasionally heard from the Dong Ming flagship, which was thrown into total chaos. The man let out a cold laugh, and then grabbing the two boys collar, he moved his two legs to swim really fast like a fish.

    Meanwhile the fantastic true qi inside the two boys body spontaneously surged on and opened the sealed acupoints. While they were contemplating whether they should make their move, the man cursed under his breath, Reckless bunch!

    The two boys opened their eyes a little to peek, and saw a dozen or so fast boats were speeding up like artillery shells in their direction. When the man dragged the two boys back into the water, they knew their chance has come. Kou Zhong lightly nudged Xu Ziling, and then together they exerted everything they had into their elbows, striking the mans flank and his belly, respectively.

    The man doubled up in pain, automatically his grabs on the two boys loosened, while he spurted a mouthful of fresh blood.

    Kou Zhong already knew that the man had the account book wrapped in a waterproof oil cloth bundle and tied it on his waist; he seized this opportunity to reach out and snatch the bundle away.

    Xu Ziling sent a follow-up punch toward the mans face, but the man was indeed highly skilled; unexpectedly he was able to endure the pain and evaded the punch.

    The two boys did not dare to pursue; desperately they dove down to the bottom of the lake first before swimming away with all their strength toward the isolated island.

    This was the brilliance of their plan; evading the martial art experts pursuit was by no means, not an easy task, but no matter how powerful the expert was, he would not dare to return to where Li Clan and Dong Ming Sect people were. The most ingenious thing was that Dong Ming Sect people would search the nearby body of water, but they would never suspect that the two boys would return to the island instead.

    This moment the two boys looked exactly like fish in the water, in no time at all they already reached the bottom of Li Shimins big ship.

    Floating up to the surface, they saw Dong Ming flagship was brightly lit, but Li Shimins ship was in total blackout, quiet, with no visible movement. Kou Zhong whispered, I hope Li guys people dont mistake us for thieves.

    Go up! Xu Ziling said, I was so shaken by that old fellow that I feel like my tender bones are falling apart!

    After suffering untold hardships, finally the mission was accomplished. Now they could take Li guys money with clear conscience. The excitement in their heart was certainly hard to describe.

    Moreover, they bravely snatched this account book away from that mysterious martial art expert, hence it lessened the guilty feeling of being little thief, and considerably cleared their conscience.

    Once again they put their climbing-wall experience to work. When they passed Li Shimins sisters cabin, recalling that gentle and pleasant-to-the-ear voice, Kou Zhong could not refrain himself from looking in.

    Completely caught off-guard, a dagger suddenly shot out, as fast as lightning, toward his throat. Kou Zhong was so scared that he nearly fell down. Not daring to move a finger, he froze on the spot, while still hanging outside the window.

    A half-delighted, half-angry, extremely beautiful pair of eyes appeared about a chi away from Kou Zhongs nose, coldly scrutinizing him.

    By this time Xu Ziling already climbed onto his side and gave him a little push, indicating that he should not stop here; Xu Ziling was completely oblivious that Kou Zhong might lose his life at any time.

    This lovely young woman, whose beauty was comparable to Dong Ming Princess, said in low voice, Who are you?

    With strained breathing, Kou Zhong replied, I am Kou Zhong, Li

    The beauty withdrew her dagger and cried out softly, Why havent you come in? If somebody saw you, we will be in big trouble.

    Kou Zhong was greatly delighted, he called Xu Ziling and still dripping wet, together they crawled into the girls room.

    The first thing Kou Zhong did was taking out the bundle and opened the oilcloth. The account book was staring back at them.

    The two boys cheered in chorus.

    The beauty clearly knew about their deal with Li Shimin. Picking up the account book, she flipped the pages for a moment, and then delightedly said, This is it. The two of you wait here for a moment, let me see if Er Ge has returned or not.

    After smiling sweetly, she went out the door.

    The two boys went over to the rear cabin wall and sat down on the floor, feeling once again like decent human beings.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, This girl is so beautiful. If I had known, I would have asked for her and not for money.

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, This time Ill let you have her; next time we encounter this kind of sweet girl, it will be my turn.

    Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, Yours, mine, have you thought about what kind of things are we? She is a thousand-catty gold [i.e. precious daughter], born into respected family, a large and influential clan; when will we have our turn?

    Xu Ziling dispiritedly said, Zhong Shao, since when did you become so modest? Didnt you often say that we will be Wulin masters in the future? You also said that we will be bestowed the title marquis and promoted to be generals? Why so discouraged all of a sudden?

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, We can say what we want, but compared to that unlucky martial art master just now, our martial art skill is far too inferior. He was caught completely off guard when we attacked, yet he merely threw up a birds mouthful of blood and thats it. And then that old fellow surnamed Shang also said that before ten years, eight years, our martial art skills not worth showing. Thats right, we must remember to ask that Li guy for two more sabers; without sabers, we cant even fight.

    Not at all, Xu Ziling said, Otherwise, we can forget learning and understanding punching and kicking skill. No saber, just use our hands. We can still execute the Bloody Battle Ten-style taught by Li Dage.

    After waiting painfully for the time needed to burn an incense stick, Li Shimins beautiful sister returned. It was only then did the two boys notice that she was wearing beautiful pastel-colored dress, her figure sweet, fair and graceful, her manner dignified and elegant, making other people unable to criticize.

    Seeing the two boys were sitting on the floor like beggars, the beauty was greatly displeased, Why are you sitting on the floor? Still wont stand up?

    Feeling extremely foolish, the two boys stood up.

    The door opened, Li Shimin rushed in. Ignoring their drenched bodies, he hugged them tightly. Success! his voice trembled with emotion, Just now Madame Dong Ming personally wrote a letter, telling me to immediately go to Taiyuan and hand it over to Die. If our Li family obtain the world [tian xia] in the future, we certainly wont treat two gentlemen meagerly.

    [1] Meixian, lit. beautiful immortal. At first I thought Shan Mei Xian was her nickname, but from this passage, apparently Meixian was her given name, surnamed Shan.

  16. #36
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 4 - Chapter 1

    Book 4 Chapter 1 Aspiration Higher Than The Sky

    When Xu Ziling woke up, the sky was barely brightened; he saw for the first time ever Kou Zhong was already out of bed before he did. He was standing by the cabin window, staring blankly at the darkness outside.

    They were in a cabin, which the Li guy arranged for them. In the next room over was precisely the Li Clans beauty Li Xiuning, the Li guys captivating younger sister.

    Xu Ziling walked over to where Kou Zhong was standing. Kou Zhong sighed and said, Xiao Ling! I found a sweetheart!

    What? Xu Zilings voice broke.

    Dont you think Li guys little sister is very beautiful? Kou Zhong whispered, She is easy-mannered and gentle, those eyes are pretty and charming, her breasts are exquisite floating protrusions, her legs, ay! They could lead men to their death. Her cheeks rosy, I am sure those are the cutest cheeks on earth. Her skin soft and smooth like satin brocade, white and pink. Heavens! If I can embrace her naked body every night to bed, I wont think of anything else; because what on earth could be more satisfying than that? When she speaks, her voice and her facial expression make me drunk, and when she occasionally smiles sweetly, and casting your Niang a sidelong glance, Xiao Ling! I am going to die of love.

    Xu Ziling grabbed his shoulder and laughed until he was out of breath. Do you call that love? he asked, You, this muddled-egg, are just lusting over her. And then he wondered aloud, Didnt you say that the more women we have the better? Why is it this time only she one person is enough?

    Kou Zhong said in distress, Can you not dig up my old scores? When I said those things, I did not even have half a girlfriend, hence I said all those heroic things to console myself. But now I have her, naturally I have to concentrate only on one aspiration. Do you understand?

    Xu Ziling changed into wrapping his arm around Kou Zhongs broad shoulders and said in amazement, Looks like you are serious.

    Of course I am serious, Kou Zhong indignantly said, Right now Li guy is rushing to Taiyuan to force his old man to revolt. Based on Li Clans prestige, with Taiyuan as their base of operation, plus with elite soldiers and ample provisions, there is a good chance that he will become the emperor. Since we are going to join a militia anyway, why not rely on that Li guy? Since we have rendered great merit to him, the official position that Li guy is going to bestow us must not be too low.

    Xu Ziling stared blankly for half a day, and then he said in low voice, Is your heart not dead toward his mothers militia? It would be better for us to concentrate on salt-trafficking business and make money while the world is in chaos. If we have money we can help the people; wouldnt it be better than fighting for life and death for other people?

    Kou Zhong smiled apologetically and said, Times have changed too. Hey! Just look at that Li guys righteous manners; how can you compare him to Du Fuwei, Li Mi, those half man half ghost fellows?

    With a bitter laugh Xu Ziling said, Lets not talk about this right now. At the end of the day, you only want to get close to Li Xiuning. Dont blame me for pouring iced water on your keen interest. Although on the surface this noble familys girl treats us politely, I always feel that she kind of turn us down from a thousand li away. A girl who was born from this kind of respected family like her will always look down on little marketplace ruffians like the two of us.

    This time Kou Zhong wrapped his arm around Xu Zilings shoulders and said with a giggle, The first time people meet, of course they are strangers to each other; are you saying that she needs to keep you within a chi of her? There is nothing impossible in this world. To pursue a girl we only need a bit of creativity and smoothness. Later, when that Li guy invites us, two very useful fellows, to join his campaign, remember to leave everything to me.

    Xu Ziling frowned and asked, So whos going to save Susu Jiejie?

    Evidently Kou Zhong has not thought about this point; he was stunned speechless.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, You go pursue Miss Xiuning whom you yearn for even in your dreams! Let me take care of Susu Jiejie. But I definitely dont want to join anybodys campaign. Only I need to take that account book back, so that I can avenge Niang.

    While Kou Zhong was as dumb as a wooden chicken, there was a knock on their door.

    The two boys followed a maid toward the hall on the upper deck; Li Shimin had arranged a banquet to entertain them. Accompanying them were a handsome young man and a forty-something scholar, tall, thin, natural and unrestrained.

    Li Shimin stood up to welcome them, Kou Xiong, Xu Xiong, please sit down. We are all family.

    The two men also stood up politely and cupped their fists, making the two boys quite flattered.

    Li Shimin introduced the middle-aged scholar first, This is Mr. Pei Ji, his skill wang xing shan [forgetting-shape fan] can exhaust the worlds heroes. He is the deputy supervisor of Jinyang Palace, and my fathers chess [qi] mate.

    Pei Ji looked at the two boys indifferently, and said modestly, Nephew Shimin praises me too much; its just a lame-hand duck-feet skill, how can it be something worth considering? Not to mention exhausting the worlds heroes.

    And then he turned toward the handsome young man and said with a laugh, Speaking about martial art skill, we must move aside for nephew Chai Shaos brilliance and prestige.

    The one called Chai Shao promptly declined modestly.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling noticed Chai Shaos splendid sword and beautiful clothes, his imposing manner and elegance, which was only slightly inferior to Li Shimins bold poise and some kind of hard-to-describe great generals air. But since they already had favorable impression toward him, the two boys hurriedly expressed some courteous words.

    However, all along Chai Shao carried a bit of haughtiness toward the two boys, unlike the Li guy who treated them warmly.

    Pei Ji was treating them only as younger generation juniors who happened to render a great merit. After they sat down, he only chatted with Li and Chai, two people, and no longer paid any attention to the two boys.

    The two boys were accustomed to be looked down like that, so they did not care much, but focusing their attention to dealing with the delicacies and gourmet foods on the table.

    In Li Shimins mind, naturally Pei Ji and Chai Shao were more important than Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, but he did not neglect hospitality; he personally picked two pieces of deep-fried dough cake and gave it to the two boys, while saying with a laugh, This is called Steamed Hu Cake [hu is generic term for non-Han people], it has lamb and scallion stuffing, salted fermented beans sauce and sesame seed, simmered in salt; very delicious.

    The two boys had never tasted any Hu cake, which was popular in the north; they ate with relish.

    This moment Chai Shao said, This time Uncle has no choice but to raise arms. And if he does, he will have to take Guanzhong first. My only concern is the two elite troops of Qu Tutong at Puguan and Song Laoshengs guarding Huoyi. It seems that Uncle is not without apprehension.

    Pei Ji said, Qu Tutong and Song Laosheng are indeed worrisome, but the one I am worried about is Tujue people; their power is stronger day by day. On the east Khitan, Shiwei, on the west Tuyuhun, Gaochang, and other countries are submitting themselves to them. Moreover, those who raise army in the north like Liu Wuzhou, Guo Zihe, Liang Shidou and the others, none does not rely on the Tujue for their existence. When we march toward Guanzhong, what we fear the most is sustaining the Tujue, Liu Wuzhou and the others mounting a sneak attack from behind.

    Li Shimin was already prepared a plan, That is not a problem, he said, If we dont have enough power, we can use strategy. The one thing I am most worried right now is that Die will still be indecisive; I am afraid we will just sit and waste a good opportunity.

    Pei Ji patted his chest to vow, Leave this matter to me, Pei Ji. As long as Wenjing and I persuade him a little more, and seeing the critical situation in front of our eyes, how can your Die have any other choice?

    Li Shimin nodded his head delightedly. Turning toward Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling he said, This time it is all due to the two gentlemen. Were it not for the account book got stolen, I am afraid it will still be difficult to create this kind of situation. The most wonderful thing is that that incapable ruler happens to go to Jiangdu to deal with Du Fuwei. This is a one in a million chance.

    The two boys looked at each other; it was only then did they know that the emperor guy finally visited their native place of Jiangdu, Yangzhou.

    Right this moment there was the tinkling of girdle ornaments; without turning their heads, the two boys already captured Li Xiunings beautiful image in their minds, momentarily they could only stare blankly.

    She was wearing a Hu hat [see my note above on hu] that was as round as a bowl, with silkscreen hanging down all around its edge, the top of the hat was garnished with pearl and green jade. It was a unique style; not only it was gorgeous, it was also brimming with faintly discernible mysterious beauty.

    The clothes she wore was totally different from the Central Plains and the southern style with its broad overlap and big sleeves, hers had big turndown collar and narrow sleeves, which was similar to the clothes those Hu women, which they saw at Pengcheng, wore; only the material was finer.

    This kind of clothes not only highlighted womens exquisite curves, it was also much more convenient in term of mobility.

    The first to stand up was Chai Shao. This guys eyes lit up; with fiery enthusiasm he cheerfully said, Finally Ning Mei is here, Yuxiong [me, older brother] has been waiting till my heart nearly burned into coal.

    It was as if Li Xiuning did not see other people; she smiled sweetly at Chai Shao, and moved her tender body to Chai Shaos side, allowing him to lightly support her fragrant shoulder and help her to sit. Only then did she greet her older brother and Pei Ji. Lastly she acknowledged Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling.

    Kou Zhong felt like he had just struck by lightning, as he watched the intimacy between Chai Shao and Li Xiuning in shock; his face turned ash grey.

    Although Xu Ziling felt sorry for him, there was nothing he could do.

    Li Shimin noticed Kou Zhongs abnormal expression, he leaned over and whispered, Kou Xiong, are you not feeling well?

    Li Xiuning laughed tenderly and said, Must be from last night when he was soaked in the lake so now he catches cold. And then she turned to Chai Shao to explain, When Xiuning saw them last night, I thought it was a couple of little water demons crawling up from the lake to harm people.

    Seeing her casting amorous glances at Chai Shao while revealing loving smile at the corner of her mouth, and then looking at her jade countenance inside the silkscreen was full of tender feelings as she looked at Chai Shao, Xu Zilings heart, which was saddened on Kou Zhongs behalf, sank even lower.

    Suddenly he came to realization that Li Xiuning only regarded them as lowly errand boys who worked for her second brother; so evidently her view of the two boys was identical to that of Pei and Chai, two people.

    Kou Zhong hung down his head and said in a hoarse voice, I am fine. Its just that other than a water demon, I am also a hungry ghost, so I ate too much and now I am too full.

    Li Xiuning was exceptionally intelligent, hearing the displeasure in his voice, she apologized, I was just making an analogy, Kou Xiong please dont take offense.

    By saying that, now everybody else thought that Kou Zhong was narrow-minded. Pei Ji and Chai Shao immediately showed disdain on their faces.

    Li Shimin, on the other hand, was extremely grateful to Kou and Xu, two boys, and also because he was deeply impressed by these two boys vast intelligence and wisdom, to be able to think of such a divine-inspired scheme to steal the account book. In order to diffuse the tensed atmosphere, he smiled and said, Kou Xiong is joking! Hey! The one went to Dong Ming flagship and seized the account book, what kind of divine being is he actually?

    Chai Shao wanted to show off in front of a beautiful [orig. jade] person, he let out a cold snort and said, Must not be a formidable person; otherwise how could Kou Xiong and Xu Xiong have any chance to take advantage of him?

    As soon as he said that, Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings countenance turned unnatural, because he was saying that the two boys could not be considered anything.

    Li Xiunings thought process was definitely a lot more thorough than Chai Shaos; her jet-black painted eyebrows were knitted as she said, That person has enough guts to single-handedly charge into Dong Ming flagship, which has martial art experts as numerous as the cloud, to steal something; no matter how you say it, he must have a bit of weight.

    Chai Shao smiled and said, Didnt he take advantage of when Madame Dong Ming and Princess left the ship to come to our ship before he dared to make his move?

    Li Xiuning stole a glance toward Li Shimin first before giving him an ambiguous answer, If Wanjing Jie was not eager to see Er Ge, and remained on the ship, that thiefs sneak attack would not have been successful, and Shang Gong would not have been injured!

    A look of regret flitted across Li Shimins eyes, Xiuning must not forget that I am married, he rebuked her, But on the other hand, were it not for Shang Gong is injured by that man, we could forget about getting this crucial letter from Madame.

    Pei Ji said in deep voice, Shao Xianzhi [virtuous nephew] must not belittle this man, just the fact that he was able to beat Shang Gong without he was able to resist, it is clear that although the account book was snatched away by two Xiao Xiongdi, it may be assumed that he was just overly underestimating them!

    Li Shimin nodded and said, This man must be from Yuwen Clan. Speaking about water skill, within the Yuwen Clan, Yuwen Chengdu ranks the first. But I think it wasnt he who personally came, otherwise it would be difficult for Kou Xiong and Xu Xiong to unseal their acupoints.

    Realizing that these people, including Li Shimin, did not think too highly of their skill, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling was terribly upset.

    This moment Kou Zhong signaled Xu Ziling with his eyes. Xu Zilings mind was interlinked with Kou Zhongs; he understood his intention, hence he nodded slightly and spoke seriously, We, brothers, wish that we could get the account book back so that we could do something very important.

    Li Shimin and the others were greatly shocked.

    Relying on his seniority, Pei Ji imposed, This account book records every aspect of Dong Ming Pais arms transaction; it is more appropriate to have it stay in our hands.

    Li Xiuning had a rather favorable impression toward the two boys, she urged, If other people knew that the account book is in your hands, Dong Ming Pai will never let you off.

    Chai Shao showed an impatient look on his face.

    Xu Ziling remained calm, he boldly said, This is our, two brothers problem. Li Xiong, what do you think?

    Li Shimin knitted his brows and said, As soon as we met, I knew that we are kindred spirits; if two gentlemen do not have any place you have to go, why not cooperate with me, Li Shimin, to fight for a common cause? When our Li family succeed in the future, two gentlemen will also enjoy riches and honor.

    Kou Zhong resolutely said, Li Xiongs good intention is highly appreciated. Due to we have another important matter we need to attend to, I wish for Li Xiong to return the account book to us, and then you send us off at any nearby shore.

    Chai Shao showed his displeasure, How can this But Li Shimin raised his hand to stop him from continuing.

    After looking at the two boys for quite a while, he sighed and said, If I say no, that means I dont have enough friendship and yiqi. Lets do it according to what two gentlemen said. But please dont forget that when you change your mind in the future, you may come to look for me, Li Shimin.

    Jugong Pond extended before the two boys eyes as far as they could see. The fog covering the lake changed according to where the wind blew.

    Kou Zhong watched as the huge Li Clan ship disappearing into the fog, his eyes looked vast and obscure, and he was unusually quiet.

    Xu Ziling accompanied him standing on the west bank of the big lake; momentarily he was also at a loss of what to say.

    It was after a long time that he sounded Kou Zhong out, Zhong Shao, are you alright?

    Kou Zhong dryly replied, How can I not be alright?

    Hearing the tone of his voice, Xu Ziling knew that he had not let it go yet. Without any better option, he consoled him, Why would a real man worry about not having a wife? Let alone Zhong Shao, this time you did not lose the battle, its just that Chai guy enjoys the benefit of the quick-footed who climb up first!

    A complex expression flitted across Kou Zhongs tiger eyes; it was quite a while later that he finally said in deep voice, I would rather she hates me!

    What? Xu Ziling blurted out.

    Kou Zhong turned around like a whirlwind, made a fist and cried out, I want her to hate me just like Dong Ming Princess hates you. At the very least I would still have a place in her heart. But now when she saw me leaving, she did not show the slightest bit of sign that she cared. Practically we are just two little minions who rush about, exerting ourselves for her Li Clan; we are not even qualified to make her unhappy.

    Noticing how when he spoke, his eyes turned red, he gnashed his teeth in anger, Xu Ziling could not help thinking about Dong Ming Princess Shan Wanjing. He said dejectedly, How much better do you think I am from you? Didnt you hear that crafty and unruly Princess only has eyes for people with dignity and status like that Li guy?

    Kou Zhong stared blankly for half a day. And then he turned around and saw that the autumn mist has gradually dissipated. Suddenly he laughed.

    Xu Ziling was baffled. Whats so funny? he asked.

    Kou Zhong roared in laughter; he laughed so hard that he had to squat while holding his belly with both hands. Gasping for breath, he said, I just realized something; thats why I laughed so hard.

    Xu Ziling followed his example; he also squatted down and happily asked, Quick, tell me.

    Kou Zhong looked up and stared at Xu Ziling for quite a while before saying, Speaking about talent and appearance, I dont believe that we are much worse than Li guy or perhaps that Chai guy. So what made them treat us as nobody? Because we lack accomplishment. It doesnt matter whether we are in Jianghu or within a clan or society, those without accomplishment will most likely be ignored.

    Xu Ziling knitted his brows and said, But if we strive for fame, profit, and position only for other people, wont that be the same as letting others lead us by the nose?

    Kou Zhong sneered and said, At the end of the day, we are doing it for ourselves. To be respected deeply by others is just the natural consequences. A real man living his life in this world, if he cannot accomplish an outstanding work, but let his precious life slips away in vain, wont that be a pity?

    Xu Ziling sneered, What crafty [orig. ghostly] idea do you have in mind this time? he asked, You dont want to do salt business anymore?

    Kou Zhong shook his head. I want to be the Emperor! he said.

    What? Xu Ziling was shocked.

    Kou Zhong suddenly stood up, clenched his fist and shout loudly, I, Kou Zhong, want to fight for the world [tian xia], to establish a glorious deed that will last for ten thousand generations.

    Xu Ziling sprang up and reached out to feel his forehead.

    Kou Zhong angrily brushed his hand away and grabbed Xu Zilings shoulders instead. With eyes shining brightly he said, Aspiration must be far-reaching. If we cannot accomplish it, even a little deficiency still carries a lot a weight. Today is not the same as the past, speaking about ability and wisdom, we are not inferior to anybody; speaking about martial art skill, what we lack is only experience and maturity. Right now we go to Xingyang first to find Susu Jie; if we can find Li Dage, that will be even better. One world, two brothers. Will you help me or not?

    Xu Zilings scalp felt numb. But under the circumstances, how could he refuse? Without any better option, he nodded his approval.

    Kou Zhong cheered, turned around and made a somersault, and landed on a big rock more than a zhang away. He laughed aloud and said, Come! Let us compete in leg power first, and then we must practice our punching and kicking skill. In any case, we do not have even half a knife to cut meat; without any other choice, we must put up with it a bit.

    Xu Zilings aspiration started to rise; he and Kou Zhong ran chasing one another.

  17. #37
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 4 - Chapter 2

    Book 4 Chapter 2 Enlightenment By The Well

    More than ten li from where Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling disembarked, in the second story of a restaurant at the downtown area of Dongping County, the two boys ordered food and drink, and went eating and drinking as much as they liked.

    On parting, Li Shimin presented them a substantial amount of money. Naturally Kou Zhong was not shy to accept it; therefore, they instantly became high-spirited and set to work to spend it.

    Xu Ziling pressed his hand down on the wine pot and persuaded Kou Zhong, Enough drinking, you are about to pass out.

    Kou Zhong brushed his hand away and poured his own drink, Just let me be drunk this his mothers time! I guarantee I wont drink anymore after this.

    Xu Ziling was displeased, Didnt you say you have come to realization? And now you want to drown your sorrow in wine; what kind of hero is that?

    Kou Zhong squinted and cast a sidelong glance to Xu Ziling; brushing his hand aside, he squeaked and said, This is called wine of celebration! Celebrating my, Zhong Shaos first time learning to love and fell in love with a big-headed Buddha. Ha! I am going to get drunk for her grannys sake only once, in the future I will make her regret that she did not marry me. What kind of thing that Chai guy anyway to have the cheek to look down on me? Come! Bottoms up!

    Xu Ziling was at a loss. Seeing that there were only a handful of people in the restaurant and they were all looking at them, he had no choice but to clink his cup to Kou Zhongs, but he stayed silent.

    Kou Zhong was already drunk; he crouched on the table and mumbled, Alright, now its enough. Let us now go to the pleasure house next door, well pick a girl who is a hundred times, a thousand times prettier than she; lets see if I cannot live without her.

    Xu Ziling seized the opportunity to settle the bill, and forcefully pulled him up and helped him down the stairs, while going along with him, Go! Well visit a low-grade brothel.

    Half of Kou Zhong immediately perked up; he said, Dont lie to me, one world two brothers, you must take me to the pleasure house, and must pick the cutest girl for me.

    When the two boys stepped out onto the street, it was early evening when the lanterns were first lit; the main street ought to be bustling with activities, yet it was as quiet as the ghost area. Under the autumn breeze, only one or two people were outside, walking briskly; it was indeed a desolate scene.

    Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, Looks like you are still clear-headed!

    Kou Zhongs countenance changed, Turns out you do not have any intention to take me to the pleasure house; can you still be considered my brother?

    Xu Ziling forced himself to respond, Did I promise you that?

    Kou Zhong suddenly flung Xu Zilings arm away; staggering to the sidewalk he squatted and stooped down, wah! he vomited the content of his stomach.

    Xu Ziling rushed forward, squatted alongside him, grabbed his shoulder, and with his other hand he rubbed Kou Zhongs back. His heart was aching that he felt like crying.

    He had never seen Kou Zhong this unhappy.

    After vomiting all the yucky, gooey yellowish sour liquid from his stomach, Kou Zhong hung his head and while gasping for breath he said, Xiao Ling! I am so miserable!

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, Your love life has only just begun, yet you are so miserable like this. If after Li Xiuning and you pledge undying love to each other, and then she changes her affection, shifts her love; wont you kill yourself then?

    Kou Zhong shook his head, You dont understand, he said, Last night when you and Li guy were studying the account book, she and I had a very congenial conversation; she was showing a lot of concerns over me. And then he became distressed, But now that I think about it, she was just probing our background on Li guys behalf. From the beginning to the very end, she had never had me, Kou Zhong, in her heart.

    Xu Ziling dejectedly said, You should have known that those people from upper class, influential family would never show respect for us, lowly, nameless errand boys! Didnt you bring trouble on yourself this time?

    Clearly Kou Zhong was a lot more sober now, his tiger eyes flickered as he spoke in deep voice, Good brother, dont worry! After I recover, I wont be that easy to fall in love with any women.

    Xu Ziling probed him further, You still want to go to a brothel?

    Kou Zhong shook his head sadly. Letting Xu Ziling helped him up, he said, Lets find an inn to spend the night. Tomorrow morning we will immediately go to Xingyang. After finding Susu Jie, well ha!

    Xu Ziling was helping him walking along the street. Whats so funny? he asked in bewilderment.

    Kou Zhong held on to his shoulders. The more he thought, the more he was amused. All in all, Laotianye did not treat us too shabbily. At the very least we have had a glimpse into superior martial art realm, we even completed the first level Niang was talking about. Our money purse has enough silver, and at least we know that Duke Yang Treasure is somewhere near Yuema Bridge in the Capital. Moreover, we obtained the account book that will really make Yuwen Huagu to transform his bones [reminder: huagu means transforming bones]; yet I am still weeping endlessly for a woman. I really did not make any progress.

    Xu Ziling was delighted. Now that is my good brother, he said, But do you still want to be the emperor?

    Kou Zhong was silent for half a day. Finally he said seriously, We are starting to think sensibly, hence well have to look at other peoples countenance to conduct ourselves, this way we will enjoy our lives. Whether I still want to be the emperor, I dare not say, but in short, I do not want to accept our inferior status. What do other people have that we dont have?

    Xu Ziling agreed, We are not inferior to anybody, he said.

    Kou Zhong chuckled, So lets do some great undertaking, so that Niangs spirit in heaven will be gratified. In the future, no one will dare to consider us as not a thing.

    Hearing this, Xu Zilings heroic spirit soared. He broke into singing, a song that was popular at that time, I am an honorable young master [gongzi], in all my life I always love talent.

    Kou Zhong continued the next line, When thinking about dedicating myself to the service of my country, I pull out my sword and raise a heroic cry.

    The two boys marched bravely forward following the rhythm, while singing in chorus, Galloping fast westward to Dingling Pass, going up north to Chanyu Plateau. Climbing the mountain looking ahead for a thousand li, recalling the past, the heart is happy and carefree. Who has not forgotten the disaster will be erased into dust.

    The singing echoed along the deserted street. At last Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings life of hiding to the east and escaping to the west was over, they were now free to be themselves and do the matters that they liked.

    The two boys came across a well; they sat down by the wells fence.

    Kou Zhong craned his neck to look into the well; seeing the water at the bottom of the well reflecting the bright moon hanging high up in the sky, he laughed and said, Now this is called the universe [qiankun] inside the well. It is deeper and more unmeasurable than Ol Dies xiu li qiankun [universe inside the sleeve].

    Following his lead, Xu Ziling also looked into the well. He laughed bitterly and said, I dont know what happened in this Dongping County; all inns are fully booked, but the streets are clear and empty. Hey!

    Kou Zhong was puzzled, You are looking at the bright moon inside the well; why make so much fuss about nothing?

    Xu Ziling appeared to be deep in thought, his tiger eyes lit up, I seemed to have just grabbed an important point, but its so hard to explain.

    Kou Zhong stared blankly for half a day, and then he looked into the reflection inside the well again. As it turns out, a cloud was passing by, so that the moon appeared to be suddenly hidden. Suddenly he also felt something indescribable at the bottom of his heart.

    Xu Ziling spoke as if he was in a dream, Didnt Niang say that her Shifu often said that everyone has sufficient resources within himself? This well is self-sufficient. The water inside the well is just like the treasure-trove within human body; it can be used and can be changed into anything. Like this moment for example, it creates the bright moon in the well. Are you saying that is not the real moon? The fact is, real or fake, its hard to distinguish. Whatever you think it is, it will appear exactly like that.

    Kou Zhongs pair of big eyes brightened; he slapped the wells fence and said, Well said! Watch this! He randomly picked a pebble and tossed it into the well.

    Splash! The bright moon turned into rippling, wavy lights, and it was quite a while later that the water returned to its previous state.

    I understand now! Xu Ziling shouted gleefully, This is indeed some kind of formidable mental cultivation. When I was facing the enemy in the past, at the beginning I could still be calm, just like the clear water inside the well reflecting everything in the surrounding area. But once the fighting started, I was fuming with rage and everything was immediately forgotten.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, You have not been thorough enough. Just like when we saw Ol Die, we immediately turned into a mouse seeing a cat. Same thing happened last time we were facing Shang Gong. If we could overcome our panic and maintain the same calmness we can usually achieve during practice, we could become like the clear water in the well, able to reflect everything in the surrounding area. This is completely different from our condition before.

    Xu Ziling leaned over and pressed his cheek against the ice-cold edge of the well; he sighed and said, I am awfully happy! If I can excel in this kind of no-victory no-defeat, no-demand no-desire, and forever-will-not-be-tempted realm just like the bright moon in the well, I would be willing to have my life shortened by ten years.

    Kou Zhong wanted to say something, but sound of footsteps roused the two boys up. Turning their heads toward the direction of the footsteps they saw two men wearing swords on their waists were coming toward the well. One of them, a man wearing grey clothes, shouted, Kids, dont block the well, Laozi wants to drink some water.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, Let the kids serve Daye [big master]!

    The two boys worked hands and feet to lower the bucket and get the clear water up. Without any trace of politeness the two big men received the bucket and drank.

    The other man said, Kids are well-behaved. Its late, what are you doing here?

    Xu Ziling replied, We have nothing to do, so we are just chatting idly here. May I ask where are two Dashu [big uncles] going?

    The man in grey stared coldly at him, and then said with a cold laugh, So what if I tell you? Do you have enough qualifications to go? Finished speaking he and his companion simply left.

    The two boys looked at each other; they had no idea what he was talking about [orig. 丈八金刚 (zhang ba jin gang) - unable to figure out the whole story and its contents], and were completely at a loss.

    Kou Zhong said, Since we dont have anything to do, why not tail them and see why they are so pretentious? Finding a place to spend the night will also be good.

    Xu Ziling readily agreed.

    The two boys childish character was aroused; unleashing their qinggong, they flew to the eaves and jumped over the walls just like walking on level ground. They were indeed able to do what their heart wished.

    Suddenly they entered a place between the heaven and the earth, where previously they could only dream of, a place where although there was only a fine line separating it from ordinary peoples world, yet it was vastly different; it was the pinnacle of qinggong, which could only be classified as a place where only martial art experts with ultimate skill could ever achieved. This has filled them with mysterious and marvelous feeling.

    Their heart and mind have become like the clear water in the well; nothing to think, no obstruction, but objectively reflecting the great mysteries of the universe.

    When they stuck out their heads from behind the eaves of a house, the two men had just turned from the alley into the main street ahead.

    They saw a huge residential building situated at the southern city wall where there was an endless stream of horses and carriages outside of its door; it was very lively. Inside and outside the gate the lanterns were fully lit, people coming and going, sound of people talking and laughing could be heard everywhere.

    Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear, Turns out everybody is coming here. There must be a birthday or wedding, a happy occasion. What do you say we also join the festivities?

    Xu Ziling said, No wonder those two muddled-eggs laughed at us for not having enough qualifications to come. Just look at the flair, the one having this happy occasion must not be a nobody. Without invitation, how are we going to mingle in?

    Kou Zhong seemed to have been completely recovered from the blow caused by Li Xiuning earlier; brimming with excitement, he said, If the front gate is impenetrable, we will go through his mothers back door. Right now our clothes are brand-spanking new; as long as we are in, nobody will suspect that we are not genuine articles!

    Without waiting for Xu Zilings response, Kou Zhong jumped down onto the alley and turned into the main street. Xu Ziling had no choice but to run after him.

    Side-by-side the two boys walked toward the big building at the corner of the street. It was only then did they discover that from their angle of view just now they could not see the entire situation of the front gate. It was actually jam-packed with crowd of people who were unable to get it; at least the number would be close to several hundreds.

    A group of more than thirty men wearing dark green warrior outfits was trying to maintain order; they did not let any onlookers from blocking the street, to let real guests on carriages and horses to enter the mansion.

    Kou Zhong was greatly surprised, My Niang! What happens here? Even if this family is holding a banquet, it definitely wont attract these many onlookers!

    Seeing the crowd ahead of them was blocked by those several men in warrior outfits, Xu Ziling turned around and hastily stopped one of the crowds and asked, What happen in there?

    The man glowered at him; he vented his frustration on these two boys, You dont even know that the world-famous Shi Qingxuan is here? Get lost! Go back to your nest to suck on your old Niangs breasts! he angrily said and walked away.

    Hearing that, the two boys were dumbstruck.

    It should be noted that Shi Qingxuans name has shaken the whole country as an amazing woman, due to her flute [xiao, see my note earlier, Book 2 Chapter 8] skill that was shocking the present age. They had heard her name as early as when they were still in Yangzhou, its just that they did not know which person had this much face that he was able to invite her to perform here. Rumor has it that she had lived a reclusive life, not many people were able to enjoy her flute music, but those who had heard her had all prostrated themselves in admiration.

    Kou Zhong elbowed Xu Zilings flank and said with a giggle, We wont have to worry about being lonely tonight; there are both a show to enjoy and wine to drink.

    Xu Zilings heart warmed up; he laughed and said, If you drink again, I wont accompany you.

    I wont drink! Kou Zhong hastily said, Come!

    Seeing the path ahead was blocked, he led Xu Ziling going around in big circle and arrived at the rear wall of this grand residence, which occupied a land close to a hundred mu [1 mu is approximately 1/5 of a hectare, or about an acre].

    They lightly leaped over the high wall, and landed on a deserted rear courtyard. Walking toward the front of the building, they saw the big garden behind the main building was as bright as day with colored lanterns hanging everywhere, and it was packed with maids and guests.

    The two boys brushed the dust from their clothes and then swaggered to join the crowd, feeling very excited in their hearts.

    With golden eyes blazing gaze Kou Zhong sized up the meticulously dressed female guests who looked like lovely scene of blossoming flowers swaying in the breeze, while from occasionally pointing out and making idle remarks about those womens appearance; it appeared that he has indeed gotten over Li Xiuning.

    When they squeezed themselves into the inside hall of the main building, they saw that the atmosphere was even more lively. Everybody was excitedly discussing Shi Qingxuans flute skill, as if they all were experts who have had extensive research about her.

    Inside the hall, leaning against the wall were a dozen of tables full with hors doeuvres and all kinds of delicacies for everybody to enjoy.

    Kou Zhong pulled Xu Ziling along as he squeezed himself left and right toward the tables. He sighed and said, If I had known this good place, we could have come here to have dinner!

    Xu Ziling suddenly let out a muffled cry and pulled Kou Zhong to hide behind a stone pillar, as if he wanted to hide from certain people.

    Kou Zhong was baffled. Whats the matter? he asked in confusion.

    Xu Ziling pointed his finger, Look! he said.

    Kou Zhong stuck out his head to look. He saw among a crowd of men and women guests, six or seven respectable looking young masters [gongzi] in, were chatting around two beautiful young women; it was quite noticeable. His spirit aroused, he said, Those two girls are very pretty.

    I dont mean them! Xu Ziling angrily said, Cant you look a bit farther than that? You said you wont be so easy to be tempted by women.

    Kou Zhong reluctantly looked away from the girls, and saw toward the edge of the hall there was a cluster of rosewood chairs, where three men were sat. Other people could only stand on the side, emphasizing the status of these three men even more.

    One of the men had snow-white hair and beard, his bearing bold and powerful, but his clothes were tattered. Although he was sitting down, he still gave the impression of his magnificent build that was as majestic as the mountain.

    Another man was wearing long gown, the hair on his temples was peppered with white spots, so that people knew that he was definitely not a young man; but his appearance looked like a middle-aged man, carrying a distinguished and scholarly air of a Sects leader, his manners elegant, giving the impression that he was an out of the ordinary, free from vulgarity, man.

    These days Kou Zhongs experience has advanced greatly, yet he still felt that these two were outstanding characters.

    Accompanied these two was a middle-aged man dressed in a high-ranking government official attire; very lordly, and gave the impression that he was an astute and formidable man.

    Kou Zhong was wondering in his heart; although it appeared that these three were special personage, Xu Ziling should not make so much fuss about it.

    This moment Xu Zilings voice was heard next to his ear, Isnt that Shen Naitang who we encountered the other day?

    Kou Zhong jumped in fright; hastily he swept his gaze over the dozen or so people who stood around these three men, and he quickly found Shen Naitang.

    That day the two boys were detained by Du Fuwei in relation to the Secret to Long Life, along the way they encountered Shen Naitang and Liang Shidous son, Liang Shunming, and the others. A conflict broke out, which gave the two boys the opportunity to escape in the midst of the confusion. These days he did not remember them anymore, but now that he saw Shen Naitang, immediately he recalled Shen Naitangs beautiful niece Shen Wushuang.

    Xu Ziling said in a low voice, Hurry up, lets leave!

    Why would we want to leave? Kou Zhong argued, Without listening to Shi Qingxuans flute, we cannot leave. Besides, old fellow Shen has not seen us yet. And then he added, That official looking guy must be the host. I wonder who those two are?

    Temporarily Xu Ziling cast Shen Naitang out of his mind; answering Kou Zhong, he said, Just look at how respectful the other men are, we know that they are not ordinary people. Hey! Ultimate martial art experts must have this kind imposing style!

    Right this moment, it was as if that bold and powerful old man and the scholar in long gown have sensed the two boys staring at them; as if having prior agreement, they both shot a glance toward the two boys.

    The two boys jumped in fright, they hastily withdrew to hide behind the pillar.

    Kou Zhong exclaimed in low voice, My Niang! Experts are indeed experts; they are definitely not a play thing.

    Flustered and panicked, Xu Ziling felt that someone was approaching him from behind. At first he thought it was just a guest walking by, but he clearly sensed that the persons hand was about to tap his shoulder.

    It was a subtle feeling that was hard to describe with words, he did not see the other persons movement at all, but he clearly just knew.

    In this instant, his mind entered the realm of clear water, not rippled, that can reflect the bright moon in the sky; he just knew that the other person did not mean him any harm.

    The hand patted his shoulder; it was gentle and soft.

    Kou Zhong also felt something was wrong, both he and Xu Ziling turned around at the same time.

    As soon as they saw who it was, their soul flew away and scattered.

    Because that person was the Dong Ming Princess who dressed as a handsome scholar. The one person in the world that they did not wish to see the most.

  18. #38
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 4 - Chapter 3

    Book 4 Chapter 3 Shooting Star from the North

    All of a sudden, the two boys were surrounded.

    Dong Ming Sects young Commander-in-chief Shang Ming and two generals Shang Bang and Shang Kuiyi [sic. Last chapter it was Kuitai] appeared from the crowd at the same time. Along with Shan Wanjing they enveloped the two boys in front of the wooden pillar. All escape routes were sealed.

    Kou Zhong forced a laugh and said, Everybody, how are you? Are you here to enjoy the show?

    Shang Ming let out a cold snort and said with disdain, Despicable man!

    Shan Wanjings jade countenance was icy-cold as she stared hatefully at Xu Ziling, I thought you were captured and taken away, she coldly said, But now that I see you are as lively as a dragon and as animated as a tiger, I know that you are wallowing in the mire with Yuwen Chengdu and came with the intention to strike us. This time it is called heavens net has wide meshes, but nothing escapes it [idiom from Laozi, c. 73AD].

    Xu Ziling shook his hand and said, Princess, please do not misunderstand; not only we do not know Yuwen Chengdu, we have big enmity with his Yuwen Clan.

    Shang Bang angrily said, Its very rare that Madame thought highly of you, yet you insist on breaking her heart. I dont care whether you know Yuwen Chengdu or not, whether you are related to him or not, but you stole something, and that is an undeniable fact.

    Shang Kuiyis eyes exuded murderous intention as he asked, Who actually sent you?

    Kou Zhong smiled apologetically and said, Whatever it is, we can talk it over; how could there be anybody sending us?

    Because both sides were talking in low voices, in the other guests eyes, they were just like old friends who happened to meet and were having idle chat. Nobody knew that they were in a sword-drawn-and-bow-bent kind of dangerous situation; that the situation could easily escalate into a fatal one.

    Shan Wanjings hatred and anger stare toward them subsided; she spoke indifferently, If nobody giving you direction, how did you know such account book existed?

    Shang Ming continued on, Speaking with these low lives is just a waste of time; lets take them away.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling saw a gleam of hope. They knew that these people were giving face to the host, hence they did not dare to hastily break into fighting, and thus destroying the harmonious atmosphere in this place.

    Kou Zhong smiled mischievously, If you fight, this martial art expert will immediately shout for help; therefore, before you fight, please think it over three times.

    Before he even finished talking, Shan Wanjing and Shang Ming already made their move.

    Shan Wanjings jade hand slide out of her sleeve at an unimaginable speed toward the acupoint on Xu Zilings lower waist, creating a swish noise of her qi splitting the air.

    Shang Mings five fingers were open into a claw, grabbing toward Kou Zhongs arm.

    Both of them had the same intention, i.e. they wanted to subdue the two boys before they could shout asking for help. However, although Shan and Shang, two peoples movement was swift and fierce, their shoulders were absolutely still. Coupled with Shang Bang and Shang Kuiyi blocking other peoples view, although there was no lack of Wulin masters in the hall, there was still no one noticed the changes.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling knew that it was a critical moment; if Dong Ming Sect people found out that the account book was in their possession, even if they jumped into the Yellow River, it would still be difficult to wash away the suspicion.

    In that instant, the two boys entered the still-water-in-the-well realm. All movements seemed to be slowing down considerably.

    Xu Ziling did not misjudge the speed, as well as the angle and strength, of Shan Wanjings finger jab, at all. He even had a very clear understanding that if he competed with her in speed, he would definitely be defeated. Moreover, the only way he could withstand the attack was taking advantage of the opponents underestimation of him.

    With all these thoughts flashed in his mind in lightning speed, he already drew a countermeasure strategy.

    Before the finger even touched his body, Shan Wanjings true qi had already penetrated his skin, attacking the acupoint on the right side of his lower flank. The true qi flowed along his arteries to strike the major acupoint on his backbone.

    And then Shan Wanjings delicate finger touched his lower waist.

    Xu Zilings mind became very clear. He used his thought to control his qi to meet the true qi entering his artery and acupoint. And then the muscle of his waist contracted to prevent the opponents jab from hitting him head-on.

    Shan Wanjing was delighted that her strike was going smoothly, suddenly she felt that not only did her fingertip hit something soft without any resistance at all, her opponent also sent out a surge of energy that her finger slipped to the side.

    While she was still in shock, Xu Ziling reached out to touch her cheek.

    Meanwhile, Kou Zhong was gnashing his teeth and giving everything he had to deal with Shang Mings attack. His palm sliced across Shang Mings right hand that changed from claw into a fist.

    Bang! There was a dull thud as Shang Mings body was jolted and he was forced to take half a step back. On the other hand, Kou Zhong was shaken and crashed onto the stone pillar behind him. It was so painful that he let out a muffled groan.

    Shan Wanjing and Shang Ming had never imagined that the two boys would have this kind of resisting power. The former let out a tender scream and dodged Xu Zilings frivolous hand. Before she could launch a follow-up attack, Xu Ziling already hid on the other side of the stone pillar behind Kou Zhongs back.

    If they fought for real, based on Shan Wanjings prowess, with which she was able to take Du Fuweis attack, perhaps the two boys fighting together would not even last ten stances against her. However, one, she did not really wish to harm or even kill them, she merely wanted to subdue Xu Ziling; two, because she did not wish to disturb other people, hence she only used thirty, forty percent of her strength. It was only because she had misjudged Xu Zilings skill that now she could only stare blankly and let the two boys slipped away.

    As Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling circled to the other side of the pillar, they happened to come face to face with the awe-inspiring old man and the refined, lofty-looking scholar. The two mens eyes met the two boys, immediately an astonished look flashed through their eyes.

    Worst yet, Shen Naitang also saw them and was greatly surprised.

    This moment Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling did not have time to worry about other people. They rushed several steps forward into the crowd of several dozen clamoring men and women, straight toward the front door.

    While they were still several steps away from the door, shadows flashed, two men and one woman blocked their way. The woman stood akimbo and shouted, Little dogs, you want to run away?

    The two boys promptly halted their steps. When they looked up, they found out that it was the almond-eyed Shen Wushuang, while on her left and right were this crafty and unruly womans two martial brothers, Meng Chang and Meng Ran. Meeting their enemies, their eyes turned red in fury.

    Meanwhile Shan Wanjing and the others, four people already caught up behind the two boys, but since they were unclear about the two boys relationship with Shen Wushuang, three people, they also halted their steps and just calmly observing from the side.

    Obviously Shen Wushuang did not know Shan Wanjing; her countenance immediately changed, Turns out you have your comrades here, no wonder you put on so much air.

    Kou Zhong was an expert in teasing techniques; he giggled and said, Wushuang Mei [younger sister, term of endearment] misunderstood. They just asked us to go outside so that they could study our punching and kicking skill.

    Shen Wushuang shrieked, Whos your Wushuang Mei?

    Xu Ziling interjected, We are all of the same side, lets not quarrel, shall we? We just come here as guests, not to fight with other people.

    From behind, Shan Wanjing impatiently said, Quickly make way!

    Shen Wushuang was so angry at Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling that she was spouting smoke through her seven orifices; hearing Shan Wanjing, her anger turned toward her. You are the one who should get lost, she said furiously, Let me punish these two little dogs first, and then Ill settle the account with you.

    Seeing she was humiliating his Princess, Shang Ming laughed coldly and said, Stinky girl, what makes you think that you are qualified to settle the account with us?

    This time it was Meng Chang and Meng Ran who fought for their martial sister. How dare you? they shouted angrily in unison.

    The more they talked the more both sides lost their temper, prompting the guests around them to raise their eyebrows.

    Seeing the commotion, Shen Naitang came over. What are you doing? he scolded them, Do you know what kind of place this is?

    He was relying on old affecting the old; as soon as he said that, from all three sides people were rebuking them.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stole a glance around, and saw like tidal wave the guests separated onto two sides, so that the sitting peoples line of sight was open and they were able to see the situation near the door.

    Just by this spontaneous action of the guests one could see the three peoples status must be out of the ordinary. Everybody was looking at them reverently, so that in that moment they had become the target of a multitude arrows.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud; bowing with cupped fist he said, It has nothing to do with us, two brothers; they are just quarreling among themselves.

    Shen Wushuang was so angry that her pretty face turned ashen; she was about to retort, but Shen Naitang stopped her.

    Now all gazes naturally fell onto Shan Wanjing, four people.

    This time Shan Wanjing came because of Shi Qingxuans fame; she was using the invitation card presented by Li Shimi, and did not have any desire to publicize their status, yet she did not wish to offend the master of this mansion even more. Although she was fuming with anger and wanted to kill the two boys very much, she did not have any choice but to smile slightly and spoke to the scholar, Forgive us for alarming Seniors. Ha! We dont have any problem.

    Leading the others, she mingled into a crowd of guests on the side.

    And thus a disturbance has been settled.

    However, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were groaning inwardly, because they could not stay, but they could not leave even more.

    The man wearing government official attire suddenly spoke up, Two Xiao Xiongdi, could you come over to meet with us?

    The hundreds of guests in the hall were about to continue inquiring about what had just happened; hearing him, they all showed astonishment on their faces. Why would he be interested in these two kids?

    Actually, unlike Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had guessed, this official looking gentleman was not the master of this mansion; he was also one of the guests. Moreover, he was a Sui minister who held the balance of power in the imperial court, plus he was also one of several martial art masters within the imperial court.

    This mans name was Wang Shichong[1]. He was under the order of Emperor Yang of Sui to lead the troops to deal with Zhai Rang and Li Mis Wagang Army. Amidst his busy schedule, he sneaked in to this place to see Shi Qingxuans graceful bearing.

    And he had heard about Yuwen Huaji hunting down Kou and Xu, two boys. This time his heart was moved with suspicion.

    As for the majestic looking old man in tattered clothes and the old scholar who looked like a middle-aged man, their background was also not a small matter.

    The former was known as Mount Huangs Hermit, Ouyang Xiyi, who had made his name for at least forty years as an ultimate martial art master. In Wulin, he shared the same seniority with Xuan Men [black/mysterious school (I think Book 1 has Bi Xuan)] number one master Shan Ren Ning Daoqi, but he has gone into retirement for many years. This time he came to visit the master of this mansion, and happened to be there for this grand event.

    As for the old scholar, he was the master of the mansion, Wang Tong, a great scholar of the present age. In terms of learning theory, there was no one to his right (side) under the heavens. In terms of martial art, he was implicitly in the same league as first class martial art experts like Zhai Rang, Dou Jiande, Du Fuwei, Ouyang Xiyi, as well as the master of the four clans.

    Wang Tongs character was peculiar. After he reached fame at the age of 30, he never fought anymore. He had forsaken the wu [martial art, military] and embraced the wen [literature, civil]; not teaching martial art, but amassing disciples to give lectures, and was prolific in producing literary works.

    The most interesting work he did was his imitation of Spring and Autumn Annals [722-481 BC], called Yuan Jing [primary/first classic/scripture], and imitation of Analects of Confucius called Zhong Shuo [middle/center speech/theory], in which he said, There is no place under the heavens where I havent gone to, havent been from, only the way I have never been through. [Sorry, this passage is beyond me.]

    Also, only because he was so talented that he was like a lone flower admiring itself [i.e. self-love, narcissist] that he had never betrayed his friendship with Shi Qingxuan.

    Because Shan Wanjing felt responsible, she also did not dare offend this nobody-dared-to-provoke aloof figure for the sake of the two boys.

    The guests who came to the event this time were people with position or status in town and surrounding counties; if not the head of a sect or school, then they must be a tycoon, high official or people of nobility. But even the most arrogant people would not dare to display shocking bad behavior in this kind of situation.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged glances, they both groaned inwardly. While they were stuck without any room either to advance or to retreat, there was a series of screams from the main entrance. Followed by two men flew in the air and fell face up. Bang! Bang! they both landed on the floor flat on their back.

    Like a tide the guests separated to the left and right, opening up a large empty space near the door.

    Looking at the two men who guarded the gate, who this moment could only groan and were unable to crawl up, everybodys countenance was changed; nobody could imagine who would be this extremely daring and rush to this place to deliver his life?

    While everybody was looking at each other in shock, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling seized this opportunity to squeeze themselves into the crowd.

    The inner hall was already crowded, now that a large vacant area appeared, everybody was tightly squeezed against each other, so that even Dong Ming Princess and the others, who considered them as their prey, momentarily were unable to get close to them.

    Immediately several men appeared to help the two guards up on their feet. And then amidst the clamor a man in blue clothes rushed over and grabbed the two men and thundered, Who dare to come here and commit this atrocity?

    A cold snort was heard from outside the door. Two people, one man and one woman, calmly appeared at the door.

    The man was tall, rather heroic looking and big. Although his face was long and narrow, but it was chiseled, and perfect like a marble statue. His skin was even more fair, soft and smooth than a girls, yet there was nothing effeminate about him. On the contrary, because of his sharp eyes, he exuded a thick manly, almost overbearing, type of charm.

    A strip of red cloth was tied across his forehead. Inside his blue-green robe, he wore a skintight yellow warrior outfit, plus a leather vest, making him appeared to have broader shoulders and narrower waist. Hanging on his waist left and right were a sword and a saber. His age was approximately between twenty-four, twenty-five; his form was extremely formidable.

    Most of the guests present were accustomed to people of all aspects of society. Seeing this man strolled in with his hands behind his back, completely calm and composed, they knew this person was not simple at all. Moreover, from his high nose and deep eyes, they knew that it he was not a hu man [non-Han], then he must have had some hu blood in him. Nobody did not feel surprised.

    The womans appearance did not look like women of Central Earth [Zhong Tu] either, but she was clearly not of the same race as the man. However, whether it was her face, her figure, her general facial appearance or her skin, she was a picture of beauty that no one was not enchanted. Only her expression was as cold as ice and frost, yet her implicit charm and good looks was not the least bit inferior to Shan Wanjing, Li Xiuning, those kind of ultimate beauties.

    She also acted strangely; as soon as she stepped over the threshold, she deliberately held herself back about half a zhang behind the man, as if she wanted to keep a distance between her and the man.

    A long laughter echoed from the mouth of Ouyang Xiyi, followed by this Wulin senior master who had made his name for several decades boomed, Alright! Young hero, what is your relationship with Tujues Bi Xuan?

    The clamoring noise of people making comments immediately died down, even the big man in blue who was ready to fight was also shaken and did not dare to take any action. From this, it could be clearly seen how flourishing Bi Xuans prestige was inside and outside of the Wulin world of the Central Plains.

    A look of surprise appeared on the young martial art experts face, his eyes flashed with sharp ray. After carefully sizing up Ouyang Xiyi, he said nonchalantly, Turns out it is Mount Huangs Hermit, Ouyang Xiyi; no wonder your vision is this brilliant. However, Zaixia not only have nothing to do with Bi Xuan, it is he who desires to be related to me.

    When the people heard this, most of them were so astonished that their mouths were agape. He was able to recognize Ouyang Xiyi, it was not surprising, because an imposing, bold and powerful old man like Ouyang Xiyi was rarely seen in Jianghu; coupled with tattered clothes he wore, it was like he was displaying his trademark for all the world to see.

    What was astonishing was that this kid knew perfectly well that the opponent was Ouyang Xiyi, yet he still dared to call him by name like that. Plus he did not seem to consider Bi Xuan, who was hailed as one of the three best martial art masters under the heavens, as someone worthy in his eyes. This was the shocking part.

    Kou Zhong leaned close to Xu Zilings ear and whispered, That beauty looks a bit like Niang.

    Xu Ziling nodded in agreement. Not that he thought that the face of the woman in white who came uninvited resembled Fu Junchuos, but her clothes and her demeanor appeared to be unusually similar, only she appeared to be seven or eight years younger than Fu Junchuo. [Actually, the text says Fu Junchan, but since IMHO she was a very important character, I decided to change it to Fu Junchuo.]

    Kou Zhong continued, That guy seems to be very formidable; otherwise his eyes would not be as bright as lightning flashes.

    Before Xu Ziling had time to respond, Ouyang Xiyi suddenly stood up; instantly there was an overwhelming ten-thousand-men-unable-to-withstand like aura emanating from him, giving everybody on the scene some kind of suffocating feeling.

    A gentle and soft voice suddenly rang out, Young man, what qualification do you have that even Bi Xuan wanted to associate himself with your little life?

    Without even looking at the person who talked among the crowd, the young man smiled and said, I dont think in this matter any explanation is necessary!

    Wang Tong was sitting motionless with rapt attention; fixing his gaze on the man, he said indifferently, Sire has just stepped over the door and you already injured people. Although Ol Wang is no good in brandishing saber or playing with stick, I am compelled to do something. State your name!

    At this point everybody knew that Wang Tong was really angry.

    Wang Shichong was also sizing up the heroic looking young man with a grim expression on his face. He spoke in deep voice, With Old Wang and Old Ouyang making the decision, Chen Dangjia [the one in charge, see Ren Meimei, Book 3 Chapter 7] may go back home!

    As soon as he said those words, the hall filled with several hundred people became deadly quiet [orig. Crow and peacock make no sound].

    Although his remark was polite, it was tantamount to Wang Shichong telling the person he called Master Chen not to provoke this man.

    Wang Shichong was publicly known as one of the few top martial art experts in Jianghu, naturally his vision was extremely keen. If he said so, then that heroic looking young mans martial art must have had reached a universally shocking level.

    It should also be noted that Master Chen was the first Master [Dangjia] of Dongping Countys biggest Sect, the Qingshuang Pai [dark-green frost sect], Chen Yuanzhi. Her Qingshuang Sword was renown near and far, enough to rank her among the Wulin masters.

    Chen Yuanzhis countenance changed slightly. After hesitating for half a day she stepped aside.

    A hint of cold laugh appeared on the corner of the heroic looking young mans mouth; calmly he said, Zaixia Ba Fenghan. This time I came together with this young lady as my companion, she is

    The beautiful woman in white coldly said, You are you, I am me, whos your companion? Humph, are you scared?

    While everybody was stunned, Ba Fenghan showed an awkward expression, as if he did not know whether to laugh or to cry. Yet surprisingly he still looked unusually natural and unrestrained, so that both men and women in the hall could not help but were attracted to him. Even Shan Wanjing, who was usually very proud and arrogant, felt her heart palpitating.

    Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Zilings ear again, This guys outward appearance is very unique. Hey! Lets slip away!

    With a bitter smile Xu Ziling replied, How do you slip away?

    Kou Zhong swept his gaze around, dejectedly he had to dispel the idea, because by this time even people who were originally in the garden had thronged inside to see the excitement. The hall was even more jam-packed than before that it was difficult to move for even a cun. Besides, Shan Wanjing and the others, who were standing across the room, were staring at them hatefully, so that there would not be much different between leaving right now and delivering their lives.

    Ouyang Xiyis hand slowly moved toward the hilt of his sword. In an instant the close to seven hundred people in the main hall all felt that the air temperature of the hall seemed to be dropping rapidly; the hall felt thick with murderous aura, which permeated into the entire room.

    Everybody knew that this senior martial art master, who had not exchanged swords for several decades, would make his move really soon; they could not refrain from withdrawing backward as much as possible to make room.

    Ba Fenghans tiger eyes flickered like flashes of lightning, his outer robe started to move although there was no wind; it fluttered and produced rustling noise. Unexpectedly his valor was not the least bit inferior from his opponent; just like he was very confident that he was unequalled under the heavens, insufferably arrogant.

    Both Wang Tong and Wang Shichong looked extremely somber.

    People with discerning eyes all knew that the moment Ouyang Xiyi raised his body, these two men, old and young, would unleash their grandeur to decide who was superior and who was inferior.

    What was amazing was that in terms of momentum, this foreigner Ba Fenghan was able to match Ouyang Xiyi as his equal. If this matter was spread all over Jianghu, it would be enough to elevate the nameless Ba Fenghan to earth-shattering fame.

    The woman in white stood motionless, but her eyes scanned the crowd, as if she was oblivious of the imminent battle in front of her, while everybody else was waiting with bated breath for the moment the two combatants would cross swords.

    [1] Wang Shichong (-621) was a real historical figure, a general of late Sui and opponent of early Tang.

  19. #39
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 4 - Chapter 4

    Book 4 Chapter 4 The Amazing Woman Qingxuan

    Ouyang Xiyi took three steps forward, shortening the distance between he and Ba Fenghan by two zhang.

    His imposing manner as he stepped, combined with his majestic-as-the-mountain build and his sharp eyes, naturally highlighted his irresistible presence.

    A faint smile was still hanging out of the corner of Ba Fenghans mouth; he flung his hands, which were originally behind his back, out of the robe, separately grasping the saber handle and the sword hilt, so that nobody knew whether he was going to use saber or sword, or perhaps the combination of saber and sword.

    As soon as Ouyang Xiyi stopped, he threw his head backwards and let out a long laugh. Immediately it was as if the entire huge hall was rustling with shudder.

    Qiang! Ba Fenghan pulled the saber in his right hand out a little, instantly it produced a whiff of unparalleled fierce saber qi, opposing Ouyang Xiyis overwhelming aura.

    Right this instant, Ba Fenghans saber left its scabbard, almost like a rainbow as he took the initiative to attack.

    At the same instant, Ouyang Xiyi also pulled his sword to attack.

    Two streams of formless, noiseless sword qi and saber qi, just before the sword and saber made contact, the two weapons wound around each other before they finally collided. It was only then did a genuinely good and hard ringing noise reverberated across the hall.

    Ba Fenghan suddenly floated backward, and stood holding his saber across in front of his body.

    He still looked calm and at ease as before, there was even a smile on his face, giving the impression that he was not inferior in any respect to this bold and powerful senior martial art masters tiger-like body as he stood steadily. Hence other people could not possibly think that he was being pushed back by the opponent.

    Ouyang Xiyi was standing motionless, still as imposing as before, but the upper part of his body swayed occasionally, while there was a disbelief look on his eyes.

    None of the guests was not emotionally shaken. Nobody would ever imagined that this twenty something Ba Fenghan was able to take Ouyang Xiyis overwhelming strength head-on.

    Under the stare of the guests, Ba Fenghan threw his head backwards and let out a long laugh, Good sword! I never expected that I, Ba Fenghan, have just stepped into the Central Plains, and already met a martial art expert. Thank you for the advice!

    As soon as his voice fell, unexpectedly he took the initiative again to attack.

    Wang Shichong and Wang Tong exchanged glances; not only they could see the astonishment in each others heart, they could also see the murderous intention growing in each others mind.

    If they did not get rid of this kid, he might grow into another Bi Xuan.

    Ouyang Xiyi also had the same thought as they did. He was even clearer that Ba Fenghan would be Tujues most powerful figure after Bi Xuan. At this age he had already reached such an unfathomable level or martial art skill. Plus from the way he treated the guards, he knew that this kids character was ruthless. If this kind of man committed evil, the disaster he created would be greater.

    Once he made up his mind, his hand moved. Ouyang Xiyi let out a cold snort; his sword met the opponents saber hack sweeping toward his left flank.

    This sword movement seemed average, nothing special about it, but it was actually the essence of Ouyang Xiyis whole-life training; it had reached the something-rotten-turns-into-something-magical level, a great-skill-looks-clumsy state. Even if Wu Zun Bi Xuan himself came, he would not dare to underestimate this move.

    Ouyang Xiyis chen sha jianfa [sinking sand sword technique] focused on overwhelming power, with a set of rigid movements; victory and defeat would be decided in just a few strokes. This moment he fought with killing intention, his movement differed from when he was just testing the water earlier.

    Ba Fenghans eyes gleamed with flashing rays, his steps followed some kind of fantastic footwork, only he kept a distance of about a zhang from his opponent, making the spectators felt that he was not going to go for a direct attack, but constantly changing the angle and direction of this attack, yet it also felt as if he was going to advance in a straight line.

    If this kind of hard-to-describe feeling has caused headache to spectators, its effect on the opponent who was directly in front of him would not be difficult to imagine.

    For the first time the beauty in white who came with Ba Fenghan showed signs that she was paying attention; her entire being seemed to be absorbed in the fight between the two martial art masters.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were watching with great delight; they gained full understanding of the fight. They came to realization that footwork actually had this kind of wonderful usage.

    Ouyang Xiyi let out a sudden roar, fast as lightning he moved across, unexpectedly he moved toward Ba Fenghans long saber that was protecting his chest. Neither meeting the saber nor evading backward, he positioned himself about a zhang to the left of his opponent.

    Nobody understood why he, who had always been meeting the enemys attack head-on, would suddenly employ this kind of strategy. Only martial art masters like Wang Tong, Wang Shichong, Shan Wanjing and the others realized that Ouyang Xiyi was unable to see through the opponents footwork, hence he did not dare to advance prematurely, such that needless to say, the spectators were horrified and depressed.

    However, his avoidance was actually very logical; because he was occupying the position where the opponents saber potential was the weakest. Therefore, he actually did not fall into disadvantageous position at all.

    Good! Ba Fenghan shouted. Unexpectedly he also withdrew abruptly.

    Qi and mind working together, the single sword in Ouyang Xiyis hand suddenly turned into sword shadows like stormy sea, as he entered the pursue and attack mode like the great river pouring down in torrents.

    However, Ba Fenghan seemed to be already anticipating this move. He remained calm like a deep pool with no wind, no waves; his handsome face remain as still as water as he swiftly withdrew about a zhang backwards, and once again charged forward with the saber blocking horizontally.

    His retreat and advance was like natural tidal wave; in fact, his entire body resembled nature itself, giving others an indescribable strange feeling.

    Wang Tong and the others could no longer conceal the horrified expression on their face.

    Ever since Ba Fenghan stepped into the hall, they had already sensed that this kid was not an ordinary person; however, even in their dream they would never imagine that he was this formidable.

    Dang! Dang! Dang! In lightning-fast, flashing-sparks speed, the two combatants exchanged three strikes.

    Saber ray radiated all around, sword qi filled the air. Sword sharpness and saber power shrouded an area around three zhang in diameter. Those who stood on the perimeter subconsciously were trying to move back as far away as possible from hair-raising battlefield.

    Ba Fenghan suddenly narrowed his line of defense, he only tightly guard a narrow space in front of him. Under Ouyang Xiyis stormy-sea, high-waves like attack, wide-open and tightly-closed sword shadows, he moved around like ghost relying on his bizarre footwork.

    At a glance he seemed to be falling into a disadvantageous situation, but Wang Tong and the others knew that it was the most ingenious tactic to deal with Ouyang Xiyi.

    It should be noted that in order to stay on top of the game by launching continuous attack required a considerable true qi. Supposing Ba Fenghan was able to prolong the current situation, the time when Ouyang Xiyi exhausting his strength would be the moment Ba Fenghan launch a counterattack.

    Of course, Ouyang Xiyi had amassed his power for over seventy years, his qi and arteries and veins were long lasting; it was possible that even before Ba Fenghan reached that moment, he would breathe his last first. However, looking at the way he was advancing and retreating right now, nobody would dare to say that Ouyang Xiyi would be able to slaughter him in the next two or three styles.

    Wang Tong and Wang Shichong rose up from their seats, but they had to restrain themselves from intervening.

    This moment Ouyang Xiyi had other thought. Shua! Shua! Shua! successively his sword slashed three times; each slash came from different angle, the power behind the sword varied, sometimes it was light, sometimes it was heavy, so that it would be difficult for the recipient of these attack to get a feel of where the sword edge would be. Yet Ba Fenghans long saber obviously moved swiftly, one after another he neutralized the attack. Plus the saber momentum broadened abruptly; now he took a little bit of initiative in offense, while maintaining the level of his power.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling took a furtive look at Shan Wanjing across the hall; they noticed that her beautiful eyes were open wide without blinking as she was looking dreamily at Ba Fenghan, whose prowess was god-like, and seemed to completely forget about the two boys. Shang Ming and the others, with astonished look on their face, had their attention fixed at the hard fighting in the arena.

    If they did not leave now, what were they waiting for?

    Despite somewhat reluctant to leave the battle, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling thought their little lives were more important; they squeezed themselves step by step toward the gate.

    The people that they squeezed into did not seem to feel anything; they simply automatically moved aside a little bit to let them pass, while their eyes were still fixed on the battle.

    As with great difficulty they finally reached the overcrowded gate, the sound of flute [xiao] suddenly arose.

    The two boys curiosity was greatly aroused; in this kind of situation who had the mood to leisurely play the flute? They could not help but focusing their attention to listen.

    The flute sounded extremely wonderful, the transitions between phrases varied, but it always fell in between the clashing sound of saber and sword; it appeared present, it appeared hidden, yet it lingered on with every note undefined as if it was casually weaved into the tune as an improvisation. What was more unbelievable was that the tune seemed to blend perfectly with the humming sound of clashing of saber and sword. Note by note breathed question, twists and turns interspersed between phrases, water and milk blended within the flute sound. Even if there were disconnections, the listeners had the feeling that it would continue endlessly, until-death-put-an-end kind of lingering feeling. The flute technique was refined-by-fire quality, with transformation that was pounded-with-a-pestle-until-it-reaches-beacon-fire perfection.

    The flute sound sometimes carried a lofty fervor, sometimes a gloomy hidden bitterness. So high that it reached the endless sky, so low that it reached bottomless pit. Momentarily the listeners were stunned in silence.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were entranced as if their souls were hooked by the flute; for the first time in their life they felt that music could have the charm that was more touching than spoken words, unexpectedly they forgot to escape.

    The murderous aura of the two combatants in the arena diminished greatly. After a feint move, the two men moved back, and just stood respectfully to listen to the music.

    For the first time the woman in whites frosty jade countenance revealed a subtle sign that her mind was shaken, as if she was somewhat affected by the music.

    The flute sound seemed to be intermittent, yet continue to change, and linger endlessly. But it turned soft and quiet; although it continue to dominate every cun of hall, where no sound of breathing was heard, yet it also sounded hard to fathom as if it came from a far away place. The musical composition that could intoxicate peoples heart continued to murmur quietly like a succession of the sounds of nature in some mysterious lonely place between the heaven and the earth, evoking pain and pleasure hidden deep within everybodys heart, which welling up and unbearably turning back to hurt their emotion, like a song, but also like a sigh.

    The flute sound changed again. This time it carried some kind of restrained passion that bloomed through bright, shining notes, as if gently and tenderly telling the story inside everybodys heart.

    And then it stopped abruptly.

    Nobody in the hall was able to utter any word.

    Wang Tong had already forgotten all about Ba Fenghan, the murderous intention in his heart has completely vanished. Facing upward, he sighed sadly, and then in desolate voice said, Its finished! Its finished! After listening to Miss Shis tune, I am afraid henceforth it would be difficult to hear an even finer sound. Miss flute skill not only reaches the full potential of what your Niang taught you, it also surpasses the source [orig, blue surpasses the green]. Wang Tong hereby salutes you.

    It was only now that everybody knew that there was a profound relationship between Wang Tong and Shi Qingxuan. Also, seeing how when he mentioned Shi Qingxuans mother his eyes were glistening with tears, they conjectured that there was a case of unrequited love here.

    Ouyang Xiyis eyes, which radiated sharp power, also grew softer and gentler as he raised his voice, Since Qingxuans immortal self is already here, why not come in to let Bobo [paternal uncle, older than ones father] see how much you have grown to resemble Xiuxin.

    Everybody was astounded; only then did they realize that the reason they did not see this well-known but mysterious beauty was because it was only a moment ago that she honored them with her presence, right in time to dissolve a fierce fighting with her peerless flute skill.

    In loud and clear voice Ba Fenghan said, If I can see Miss beautiful face, I, Ba Fenghan, will die without any regret.

    By this time his reputation has increased many times over, nobody dared to blame him for speaking conceited nonsense.

    There was a gentle sigh coming from the eaves, and then a sweet, clear and soft female voice that no one can describe entered the hall, Meeting in person is as if not meeting at all. Qingxuan received Niangs last wish to come with a specific purpose in mind to play a tune for two noble Uncles [bo older than ones father]. Since this matter is accomplished, Qingxuan is leaving.

    The people in the hall immediately broke into an uproar, they all urged her to stay.

    Shadows flashed to the door, Ba Fenghan and the woman in white disappeared together.

    The hall remained extremely chaotic.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling came to their senses; hastily they lifted their feet and slipped out of the door and disappeared into the deserted street.

    It could be said that Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had become experts in escaping; taking advantage of the commotion, they swiftly left the mansion, but did not go far at all. They simply went hiding in firewood shed at the backyard of another big house nearby, congratulating each other on their luck.

    The two boys lay comfortably on a pile of straw, both felt that their trip to the mansion this time was not in vain.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Although the evil Princess found out that we are still in the world of the living, but we were able to watch the martial art match between that Fengshi Han[1] and old fellow Ouyang. We also got to hear the flute skill of Jianghus amazing woman. It was really worth it.

    Xu Ziling spoke with envy, That Fengshi Han is only several years older than we are, but his skill is really strong; I wonder when will we be like him?

    Kou Zhong let out a cold snort and said, That fellow cant be considered a good man, and he seemed to be very good at seducing women. Those women whom he cast a glance to, they seemed to lose their soul and drop their spirit. I think even your Princess has her soul hooked by him too!

    Xu Ziling sneered and said, What your Princess my Princess? Only ghost would like that kind of woman who considers everyone else is beneath her. I dont care if she is a stinky fart princess.

    Kou Zhong sat up and raised his thumb. You got guts! he praised, Ha! Even I seem to have forgotten my Xiuning Meimei too!

    Xu Ziling swayed his head, Turns out to poise for battle we must put emphasis on imposing manner. My Niang! How do we build up imposing manner? We cant do that by simply being vicious or flaring out our hatred. If we can face the enemy while chatting and laughing, now that will be the first-class principle.

    Kou Zhong pondered for half a day, and then seriously said, That must be the effect of spirit and internal energy merging together in harmony. Indeed stronger and weaker can be seen right away; this is something that cannot be forced.

    After a short pause, he continued, Do you think that Fengshi Han can catch up with Shi Qingxuan? If she is seduced by him, we wont have any chance.

    Xu Ziling frowned and said, Can you save what little spirit you have not to indulge in wishful thinking? Is Li Xiuning lesson not hard enough for you?

    Embarrassed, Kou Zhong lay back down on the straw. Closing his eyes, he heaved a deep sigh and then dejectedly said, Very well! First thing tomorrow morning well set out to Xingyang to find Susu Jiejie; I will no longer think about anything else.

    Xu Ziling suddenly said, What do you say, based on our qinggong, will we be able to jump over the city wall?

    Kou Zhong was jolted awake, Are you afraid that government official already recognized us? he asked.

    Outstanding people like us? Xu Ziling said, Ha! We are actually very easy to recognize. If you were him, what would you do?

    Kou Zhongs countenance changed, Naturally he would inform Yuwen Huagu.

    Xu Ziling said, If we travel far just like this, my main concern is that he would catch us himself. Just by looking at his eyesight and listening to him commanding that low hand Chen Dangjia to back off, I know that compared to us, he knows more than a thing or two. Therefore, the one I am afraid of right now is him, not the smelly fart Princess.

    What should we do then? Kou Zhong asked.

    Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, I was just thinking of asking you the same question, yet you still have the face to ask me?

    Kou Zhong racked his brains, and then he slapped his forehead and said, We only need to hide in here and do not go out of this woodshed for three days, only go out to steal food and drink in the deep of the night, and then after everybody thinks that we have gone far away, we can set out on our journey. Dont you think this brilliant idea is not brilliant enough?

    Xu Ziling forced himself to exclaim, Good! Just let us hide in here, training our skill for three his mothers days. Based on what we experienced these past few days, well master the subject by comprehensive study of what we saw and heard. If we succeed, then we wont have to desperately run around every time anybody came to kill us.

    Kou Zhong said, But even after resolving this problem, we still have another problem. That is, after helping Susu Jiejie settling down, will we go to Yangzhou to submit our accusation on Yuwen Huagu to the old Emperor, or are we going to the Eastern Capital and try our luck on the Jade Annulus of He Clan, or go to the Capital to retrieve the Duke Yang Hidden Treasure?

    What do you think? Xu Ziling asked in return.

    Do you think I am asking you simply out of respect toward you? Kou Zhong said.

    Xu Ziling crossly said, If you ask me, then Ill say that avenging Niang is the most important thing.

    Kou Zhong was upset, Didnt I say the same thing? he said, Lets just go to Jiangdu first, alright?

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, I actually made you lose your temper. Alright! Just consider it I misunderstood you.

    In the dark, Kou Zhong was silent for half a day. Finally he said, You are my good brother, the only family I have in this world. No matter what you say to me, I will not lose my temper to you.

    Kou Zhong sat up again. Holding his head in his hands he pondered for a short moment, and then he nodded and said, You are always more adaptable than me, it is easier for you to feel content, while I always want more. Ay! Living our live, if we dont achieve anything, how dull will that live be?

    I absolutely agree with what you said, Xu Ziling replied, Honestly, its just in terms of girls that I do not have as much interest as you do; only in the case that I met someone who can make me unable to restrain my emotions, otherwise my heart wont be moved so easily. But if I really like her, I will not change forever; I definitely will not have three hearts two intentions [i.e. indecisiveness].

    Hugging his knees, Kou Zhong buried his head between his legs. He mumbled, Do you think it is so easy for me to fall in love with different girl? Like Li Xiuning, evil Princess, even our beautiful Shifu, and that b1tch Shen Luoyan, I always thought that they are not bad at all. But I know that I wont fall in love with any of those women. When all is said and done, am I more passionate than you, or am I more heartless than you? [Translators note: although I am a bit hesitant to translate poniang as b1itch, I can see that this is a recurring term, hence I decided to just use b1tch for lack of better term.]

    It was quite a while later than Xu Ziling finally responded unenthusiastically, I think because girls are not your ultimate goal at all, at least I feel that you, Zhong Shao, are a natural born leader, what you like the most is to stick out your head to be in charge, plus I also like it that way very much. Ay! Its late! I want to practice.

    Listening to the sound of Xu Ziling breathing evenly, Kou Zhong could not help replaying each stance each style of the fierce fighting between Ba Fenghan and Ouyang Xiyi. For a short while his mind was entranced, and completely oblivious to the loss of time.

    By the time Xu Ziling woke up, the sky was already bright.

    [1] Fengshi Han From Ba Fenghan, feng means point/tip/edge of a tool/weapon, han means cold, Fengshi (different feng character) means rheumatism, same han character.

  20. #40
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 4 - Chapter 5

    Book 4 Chapter 5 Yuwen Wudi

    Three days passed in the blink of an eye. The two boys were a bit reluctant to leave.

    In these three days, they felt like they had returned to the place where Fu Junchuo was buried, back to their previous hazy, blurry state of mind, where day and night they buried themselves in training. Only when they heard voices did they withdraw back to their hiding place.

    To be able to watch Ba Fenghan and Ouyang Xiyis shaking-to-the-core battle, the benefit they reaped was indeed no small matter.

    Previously they lacked guidance in their training, just like a blind man riding a blind horse, or like in the absence of a target an archer shot the arrow randomly.

    But this time they had clear direction and objective; they understood that spirit, true qi, and strategy, three factors must merge together before they could be true martial art experts.

    Even they themselves did not know that the qi cultivation principle they learned from the Secret to Long Life in itself already emphasizing essence, qi, and spirit, the supreme marvelous method.

    This moment they acted without thinking, incidentally they grasped the essence of it, hence although it was a mere three-day period, they have received the lifelong benefit of breakthrough in the martial art way.

    After further discussion, they decided to stay seven more days.

    It was precisely this decision that made them avoid a disaster.

    After Wang Shichong grew suspicious of them that night, he talked with Shen Naitang, and found out that the two boys had been with Du Fuwei, hence he knew that two treasures has just slipped away in front of his face. Hastily he dispatched his men to hunt the fugitives everywhere, while at the same time notified Yuwen Shi, another important figure within the Yuwen Clan who happened to be in the vicinity, to personally come and take charge of this matter. Nearly all of Dongping County was turned upside down before they finally declared that the two boys had escaped far away.

    If this hunt and arrest operation was presided over by Du Fuwei, he would have known that the two boys were still remaining within the city walls. But how could Yuwen Shi have thought that the two boys could be that calm and not run away. After five days, the search network spread over to the neighboring counties, and no longer focused on Dongping County.

    By early morning the sixth day, the two boys remembered Susu, plus they felt a bit bored from training.

    Didnt Niang say that the best way of training martial art is to advance intentionally without any intention? Kou Zhong said, These past two days we placed great care in training, but we feel a bit unsettled and impatient instead.

    Xu Ziling agreed, I was just thinking about the same thing. Niang said that in cultivating internal energy we must have a strict control over body heat; cold and heat must be in moderation. We were immersing ourselves in hard training, apparently we went too far; wed better slow down for the time being.

    Kou Zhong said, In that case, wed better immediately leave for Xingyang, I am afraid Susu Jie already met a mishap.

    We cant just walked out of the city walls like this, Xu Ziling said, Cant say for sure, but that government official might have issued an order to arrest us. Dont forget that Shen Naitang knew who we are.

    Humph! Kou Zhong snorted coldly, In the eyes of the imperial court, isnt the old Shen in cahoots with the rebel thief Liang Shidou? Its just that other people didnt know!

    After a short pause he continued, Right now the weather is getting colder, we ought to buy some warm clothing, and while we are at it, we may also buy ropes, hooks, that kind of things. And then when the night comes we can climb the wall and get out of the city. Its a foolproof plan.

    The plan was decided, the two boys felt a little reluctant to leave this woodshed to kick-start their next move.

    That night, without any alarm without any danger they leaped over the city wall to get out, just like a little bird leaving its cage. After ascertaining the direction to Xingyang, they ran all night in the wilderness. By daybreak, their body weary their strength exhausted.

    When they were seated, Kou Zhong laughed and said, We are really stupid. We actually forgot that we have ample riches. Later on lets buy two horses to ride instead of walk, wont we avoid the hardship of journeying on foot?

    Xu Ziling also laughed and said, Riding horses is not as good as taking a boat. We might as well buy a small fishing boat, you and I can take turn steering the boat and sleeping and practicing martial art; wont that be fun?

    Kou Zhong shook his head and said, You think we are on a scenic tour? Our destination is the nest of Wagang Army; if you were an officer, would you let people coming and going at will? Land route is a bit more dependable. Ha, since you reminded me, let us by a carriage, so we can still take turn driving and resting. Ha, we save time, we save energy. Ha, when you are coming with me, nothing can go wrong!

    Laughing and swearing, the two boys ran fast to the largest town nearby, bought a simple and crude carriage and two healthy horses to pull it along, and continued their journey.

    It was the first time that the two boys owned such an expensive and very useful means of transportation; they doted on the two horses very much. The white horse they called it Baier [simply dear white], the grey one they called it Huier [ash/grey].

    Four days later, they arrived at Wagang City, where Zhai Rang raised his army in rebellion. Only this moment the city already fell into the imperial armys hands.

    The two boys barely entered the city, they already felt the tensed atmosphere. Not only the city defense was reinforced, on the street they came across groups after groups of troops going God knows where.

    After finding an inn, Kou Zhong tipped the inn assistant with specific thing in mind, he repeatedly told him, a thousand times, ten thousand times, to take a good care of their horses, while in passing, he inquired about the current situation.

    While having a meal at the restaurant attached to the inn, he said in low voice, Turns out Li Mi originally wanted to attack the Eastern Capital Luoyang. For some reason, the secret leaked out, and now the plan changed to attacking Xingluo Cang [barn/warehouse]. But the defender of Eastern Capital Wang Yangdong has dispatched Liu Changgong to intercept him. Furthermore, the defender of Xingyangs Western Tiger Prison Pei Renji is prepared to trail Li Mis rear leg. It seems that Li Mis circumstances really isnt so optimistic.

    Xu Ziling was puzzled, Isnt Wagang Armys big boss Susu Jies master Zhai Rang? Why is it that you open your mouth, you close your mouth, it is Li Mi this and Li Mi that?

    Kou Zhong shrugged his shoulders and said, It was exactly what that inn assistant told me. Its very possible that because Zhai Rang was wounded by that strange man, he needs to live in seclusion to recuperate. But then again, ay! I really hope he is not killed by Li Mi.

    Speaking to this point, the two boys heart was burning with anxiety; they really wished they could grow wings to fly to Xingyang.

    With a wry smile Kou Zhong said, I just asked the inn assistant for direction to Xingyang, the assistant strongly urged me not to go there, and he said Yang Wu has become a mess, and that we can meet danger at any time. Ha, he said that coming across Wagang Army is not a problem, the most scary thing is coming across deserting government troops or perhaps defeated troops. That would be more disastrous than coming across a tiger or wolves.

    Recalling those killing and burning defeated army they had met, Xu Ziling sighed.

    Kou Zhong suddenly grew excited; he whispered, Now the world [tian xia] is becoming more and more chaotic. I heard a man who was originally a defender officer of Jincheng county magistrate called Xue Ju, has raised an army to revolt, and has proclaimed himself Xi Qin Bawang [hegemonic prince of western Qin (]. He wanted to imitate Qin Shihuang [the first emperor of China] in unifying the world. Right now he has taken Tianshui [prefecture, Gansu], and wanted to establish it as his capital. Ill say there is nothing exceptional about this Xue Ju. If it were me, I wouldnt be so foolish to impatiently declare myself an emperor. It clearly shows that he looks down upon the other militias, and hence has become the target of multitude of arrows.

    Where is Tianshui? Xu Ziling asked.

    Immensely proud of himself, Kou Zhong replied, Tianshui is outside Qinling [mountain range, Shaanxi, between Guanzhong plain and Han River], west of the Capital; no wonder you did not know.

    Assuming the air of an analyst, he said, If not for Wagang Army holding up the main forces at the Capital and the Eastern Capital, perhaps Xue Ju would not dare to revolt. Other than him, there is also a fellow called Li Gui who also raises an army at Wuwei [also in Gansu], and bestowed himself the title of Da Liang Wang [king of the great Liang]. In just several short months there are two more militias; it seems to me the Sui dynastys days are numbered.

    He added, In my opinion, like Li Dage said, other than Dou Jiande, Li Mi, Wang Bo and our ol Die, I am afraid other people would not amount to much.

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, Are you forgetting Li guy?

    Kou Zhongs thick face turned red; he said, Honestly, I do not want to remember that Li guy.

    At that moment, flustered and exasperated, the inn-worker in charge of the stable ran toward the two boys table; he said in panic, Two Shaoye, not good! Some people are going to steal your horse.

    Immediately Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings countenance changed.

    By the time the two boys rushed toward the stable at the inn courtyard, Baier, Huier, and about a dozen other horses were led out of the stable by about a dozen soldiers; they were about to leave.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling pounced forward to block the exit and shouted at them to stop. Obviously the soldiers have never expected that someone would be so brazen like this, they all shouted back at the two boys, two of the soldiers even drew the saber hanging on their waists.

    Kou Zhong whispered to Xu Ziling, Grab the horse, Ill deal with the people. Just watch Laozis imposing manner!

    There was a saber flash, one soldiers broadsword chopped down on Kou Zhongs neck; the soldier did not have any care in the world whether he would kill an innocent civilian or not.

    Kou Zhongs eyes gleamed with sharp rays, his countenance turned incomparably cold, just like Ba Fenghan, as he watched the incoming momentum. Fast as lightning his right hand shot out, unexpectedly he grabbed the sabers hilt, while down below his leg also flew out as fast as lightning.

    The soldier screamed as he met Kou Zhongs foot and was thrown about a zhang away, and crashed against another soldier. The two soldiers rolled around together in a jumble, and looked extremely miserable.

    The other soldiers could only stare blankly; they started to realize that they have met martial art experts.

    But Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling actually looked at each other; they both did not expect Kou Zhongs kick would be that formidable.

    Kou Zhong tossed the saber in his hand into the air, and when it fell down, he caught it by the handle. Imitating Ba Fenghan, he held it horizontally across his chest. With a disdain look on his face he assumed a heroic air and coldly said, You are officers and soldiers, yet you openly rob commoners horses; are you tired of living?

    The soldiers were overwhelmed by his imposing manner; unexpectedly no one dared to make a move.

    A big man that looked like their leader took a step forward and angrily shouted, We are under the Generals order to collect horses. Kid, you dare to disobey the imperial decree, you are the one who is tired of living. Still have not gotten lost?

    Kou Zhong himself was wanted by the Emperor, how could he give any thought to this kind of emperors order that oppressed common people? Just now he made a move and was immediately triumphant, his excitement soared. He took two steps forward until the distance between he and the leader was only about a zhang. The entire power of his body was concentrated on the blade of the saber, while at the same time he quickly sent out the true qi in his body.

    A stream of biting cold saber qi immediately appeared from the saber blade. The most extraordinary thing was that the entire saber seemed to lit up.

    More than a dozen soldiers countenances changed at the same time. The soldiers leader bore the brunt. He was pushed by the surge of saber qi two steps back.

    Kou Zhong did not expect he could really have this kind of power. Immediately he reverted back to his old self, the saber qi vanished.

    The leader still thought that just now it was his own illusion. Also, thinking that the two boys were merely young people, he cried his order, a dozen or so soldiers shouted and raised their weapons high as they charged toward the two boys.

    Kou Zhong was afraid that because Xu Ziling had no weapon, he would suffer losses. Therefore, with a shout he charged first and drew a semi-circle with his saber. The enemys sabers that were caught in the circle, four out of six left the hands and were flung aside, the other two were twisted on the wrist, and felt a shocking pain on the palm of their hands that they backed off.

    By this time Xu Ziling rushed toward Baier and Huier, and beat the two soldiers leading the horses until they fell on the ground like a pair of gourds; while also snatched a saber from them.

    Like lightning Kou Zhongs saber hacked and chopped, instantly one soldier got hit and fell to the ground. With a big laugh he said, Next year today will be the anniversary of your, these thief soldiers death. Just consider meeting us as your bad luck.

    Hearing that he was going to kill them, the soldiers who had not been injured immediately scattered like birds and beasts; those who had been injured had no choice but to crawl and roll to get away.

    Stroking the sabers blade Kou Zhong sighed and said, Soldiers as small as a mouse, only know how to bully common people around. No wonder that so many people are forced to rebel.

    Xu Ziling came over, leading the horses along. He laughed bitterly and said, If we dont slip away right now, when the enemys troops are coming back, next year today will be the anniversary of our death.

    Waving the long saber in their hands, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling urged their horses to charge directly toward the city gate.

    Apparently the soldiers guarding the gate have not received the news. Caught unprepared, five or six soldiers were knocked down. By the time they wanted to pursue, the two boys have already disappeared behind the cloud of dust.

    The two boys were in high spirit. Although they felt a little distressed because they had to abandon their carriage along with their personal belongings, but momentarily the feeling of venting their anger and the pride in their heart trumped it all.

    After galloping for twenty, thirty li, it was already evening, the two boys spent the night in the open by the roadside.

    Kou Zhong hunted a pheasant and came back. Xu Ziling already gathered enough dry branches and sticks to make fire to roast the pheasant. Sniffing the aroma, the two boys felt perfectly content.

    With concern in his eyes, Kou Zhong shot a glance toward the horses, which were grazing on the hillside nearby. He sighed and said, Its hard to imagine that two poor wretched boys like us would finally own two good horses. But I always say that that day will eventually come.

    Xu Ziling said, You, this guy, have imposing manner at the beginning, but no power at the end. At the start you radiated the air of a martial art master, just by saber qi you forced that soldiers captain to recoil in panic, but then your power did not continue on. A martial art master like you really shame our school.

    Kou Zhong smiled sheepishly and said, Next time I wont be like that, I know that mental cultivation is the most important. During combat we must be absolutely calm, just like the moon in the well. Any mood swings will make a master [orig. gao shou high hand] turns into a low hand.

    That is easy to say, difficult to achieve, Xu Ziling said, For example, if you see me injured by the enemy, would you still be able to maintain essence, qi and spirit in that kind of moon in the well state?

    Kou Zhong asked himself, but in the end he admitted that it was impossible. Distressed, he said, But that fellow Ba Fenghan seems to have innate ability to be that kind of person. We are actually passionate persons. I wonder if there is any way toughen up and become people with iron-and-stone aspiration?

    Xu Ziling knitted his brows, deep in thought for a moment, before speaking in heavy tone, Looks like only during a life and death, decisive battle that we are able to pursue understanding. One day we do not achieve this state, one day we cannot boast ourselves as martial art masters.

    Kou Zhong excitedly said, But we already know what it is all about. After training hard in the woodshed for those few days, the true qi in my body is a lot more decent than before, only huh?

    Alarm went off in the two boys head at the same time. They looked at the horses, and as soon as they did that, they felt the corners of their eyes were about to split; they pulled out their sabers and sprang up.

    They saw a very big man, as magnificent as a mountain, his loose hair draped over his shoulders, and he wore yellow clothes. As if without any strength at all his hands separately patted lightly on Huier and Baiers heads. Immediately a terrible sound of breaking bones was heard from the pathetic two boys beloved mounts; without uttering any noise the horses collapsed to the ground, dead, and the bodies slipped down toward the foot of the hill.

    Kou Zhong let out an earth-shattering sorrowful cry. He was about to charge when Xu Ziling suddenly thundered, Moon in the water!

    Kou Zhongs tiger body shook violently; suddenly he halted.

    With feet not touching the ground, the man floated down hill, to about a zhang away from the two boys, before stopping and standing loftily.

    This mans face looked like bronze, he had thick eyebrows and big eyes, and had a big wart right in the middle of his forehead, just like a one-horn monster; a totally terrifying freak.

    His hands and feet were thicker than average person, giving the impression that he had infinite power.

    This moment his pair of huge eyes was flickering with internal energy as he fiercely sizing up the two boys. At last his eyes fell on the two boys sabers that were pointing at him.

    You think you are fit to fight with me, Yuwen Wudi? he said with a cold snort. [Wudi means peerless.]

    Reminded by Xu Ziling earlier, Kou Zhong understood that this was the critical moment; gradually he calmed down and said in low voice, Fit or unfit, only after fighting will we be able to see clearly.

    With a calmness that even surprised Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling spoke nonchalantly, I wonder how shameless your Die and Niang were to give you such a boastful name?

    A furious look flitted across Yuwen Wudis eyes. His hand reached behind his back to fetch a lance; immediately a surge of cold, harsh murderous aura shot out from him.

    Right this moment, the two boys spirit entered the moon-in-the-water realm; at the same time they also emitted saber qi. By joining their power, they were able to resist this dreadful opponent.

    An astounded expression swept past Yuwen Wudis face. His hand brandished the lance, his feet powerfully surged forward three steps. Unleashing the full power of his lance, it turned into thousands lance shadows, attacking the two boys like the tidal waves of the Great River or Yellow River.

    The circulation of true qi in Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings body was at its peak, their senses were amplified may times over; they were able to sense clearly that the opponents lance shadows were entirely empty, only one lance targeting Xu Zilings throat was real.

    Kou Zhong let out a wild roar, but his countenance was as clear as water as he abruptly charged forward and moved his saber in a chopping motion, aiming Yuwen Wudis left shoulder. The true qi was transferred by the saber, producing a sharp whistle as it split the air; the momentum was extremely astonishing.

    Xu Zilings mind was also very sharp, it was even clearer than when he usually practiced; he was able to see clearly the incoming lances power, speed and angle. Without the slightest hesitation he bent his knees in a horse stance, while his saber also made a hacking motion.

    Fast as a lightning the opponent slid horizontally aside. Not only to evade Kou Zhongs saber, he also altered the lances speed and angle, so that it now threatened Xu Zilings right flank.

    Xu Ziling kept his original style unchanged, except he modified the angle slightly. Qiang! the saber clashed with the tip of the lance.

    Force and qi collided with each other.

    Xu Ziling let out a muffled grunt; he was jolted by the opponents thousand-lightning-strike like force that his entire body was thrown backward.

    Yuwen Wudi also felt discomfort. He felt that this kids true qi that was transmitted via the sabers blade was incomparably strange. It felt like it was not there, but it also felt burning hot. When it collided with his own true qi, it changed into gossamer-like thin threads, like an arrow or a dart shooting straight into his meridians, forcing its way deep into his body. He could not stop his body from recoiling half a step back.

    He was numbered among the few martial art experts within the Yuwen Clan. Excluding their Clan Master Yuwen Shang, in terms of martial art skill, he was preceded only by Yuwen Huaji, Yuwen Chengdu, and Yuwen Shi, three men. Who would have thought that even after going all-out, not only he failed to kill Xu Ziling, he was pushed back half a step instead. If this matter leaked out, his fame for fighting prowess would suffer great damage; automatically his murderous intention was greatly aroused.

    After receiving report from his men that Kou and Xu, two boys, were seen inside Wagang City, highly confident of his own martial art prowess, he went alone on a hunting mission. He already made up his mind to kill one of the two boys first, and then force the other one to hand over the account book.

    Actually, the one climbing up the ship and stealing the account book that night was precisely Yuwen Chengdu. Suffering a major setback, upon returning he did not dare to tell the truth. He only said that the two boys were one step ahead of him and have stolen the account book first; hence it gave birth to contempt toward the two boys in Yuwen Wudis heart. Only this moment did he realize that these two boys were really not simple.

    Kou Zhong instinctively knew that Xu Ziling would not die; however, if he failed to occupy Yuwen Wudi, Xu Zilings death would be guaranteed. Therefore, not daring to hesitate, he unleashed the full power of the Ruler Overlooking the World, the most aggressive style of the Bloody Battle Ten Styles. The saber and the person blended together into one, as he charged into another circle of lance shadows drawn by Yuwen Wudi.

    The very moment Xu Ziling was flying in the air and falling down, he knew that it was crucial for him to keep the burning hot true qi circulating within his body. As soon as he touched the ground, like a spring he bounced back, and saw that about two zhang away, Kou Zhong was surrounded by Yuwen Wudis lance shadows, producing a continuous ringing of saber and lance clashing against each other. Hastily Xu Ziling charged toward the two men.

    Actually, Yuwen Wudi was groaning inwardly, because he had secretly suffered a loss.

    What happened was that he had used the wrong energy. When receiving Kou Zhongs first saber attack, he thought Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling trained using the same method, thereupon he decided to meet the attack head-on by sending out a hundred percent Yang energy, to deal with what he thought was a burning hot Yang energy.

    Who would have thought that as the saber and lance collided, a stream of incomparably strange and cold Yin energy surged into his body via Kou Zhongs blade?

    By nature, Yin and Yang energy overcome each other. Caught off guard, Yuwen Wudi did not have enough time to protect himself, and thus several meridians in his body were injured. Although at the last moment he managed to turn the situation around, his strength has been greatly reduced, plus Kou Zhong continuously sending out attack after attack with his saber, momentarily he was unable to extricate himself.

    It was at this moment that Xu Ziling, totally unharmed, came to join the fray.

    Yuwen Wudi lost his confidence, because originally he was confident that if Xu Ziling did not die, he would be, at the very least, heavily injured. Who would have thought that Xu Ziling appeared to come out unscathed? How could he not be aghast and desperate?

    However, he was, after all, a first-class martial art master, his mind remained unflustered. With a wild roar he broadened the momentum of his lance to surround Xu Ziling as well. This time he held nothing back; his main intention was to kill these two boys as quickly as possible. Whether he could obtain the account book or not, it has become secondary.

    Every time saber and lance collided, it produced a nice and crisp ring, multiplying the viciousness of this battle several folds.

    The longer they fought, the more Yuwen Wudi felt the battle grew increasingly strenuous. He felt that he was at his wits end to deal with the opponents cold and hot, yin and yang attack. Not only that, he also felt that the two boys true qi was broad and deep, mysterious and inscrutable; plus they seemed to have inexhaustible capacity that enabled them to go on forever.

    In reality, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had also reached the mountain and river exhausted condition. The opponents lance appeared to continue its violent offensive indefinitely, making them felt as if they were under thousand-catty pressure, little by little sapping down their willpower.

    For the two boys, this battle was the biggest challenge and the heaviest physical exercise they ever had since their debut. Supposing they were able to survive this hurdle without dying, it would instantly propel them into the rank of first-class martial art master list. In this case, Yuwen Wudi actually acted as their mentor, who intimidated them with death for a total work-out.

    Just as the two boys were about to fall apart, the lances momentum suddenly slowed down.

    Yuwen Wudis spirit was greatly shaken. He knew that he was burdened with wounded meridians, so eventually he started to show some gaps in his offense. While he was groaning at the unfavorable turn of events, Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings momentum immediately soared.

    Although unwilling, Yuwen Wudi knew that if he did not leave now, he could forget about escaping alive. Thereupon he abruptly increased his true qi while both hands moved toward the middle of the lances pole. Exercising his amazing footwork, the lances head and the end of the pole accurately struck the blades of the two boys sabers simultaneously, and then he flew backward to retreat.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling drew their qi, the blades in their hands turned into a long rainbow, striking toward Yuwen Wudi.

    This martial art master from the Yuwen Clan groaned in pain; carrying two streams of blood splashing into the air, in the blink of an eye he vanished into the dark mountain forest.

    Immediately Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling dropped down on their knees, using their sabers to prop themselves up.

    This victory was indeed obtained through extreme danger; but in the end they managed to snatch their two little lives back.

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