Book 27 Chapter 1 – Deep Love Between Father And Son
Stunned, everybody looked, and saw a man, with tall hat on his head, long robe draped over his body, extremely tall, with ancient, awkward, wooden expression on his face – was walking leisurely from the courtyard gate into the plaza.
Inwardly the ‘Gambling Ghost’ Zha Hai cried, ‘Demonical!’ because earlier he ordered his men to lock the main gate, temporarily prohibiting anybody from entering in, and not opening it until this matter was resolved.
But this man silently came, leisurely, without any noise of any attempt of anybody to stop him. Clearly this strange man was not simple.
The man regarded all those casino martial art masters as nothing; he came straight toward Kou Zhong, carrying with him irresistibly imposing qi momentum.
Because earlier with just one saber strike Kou Zhong had stricken the two men of their side until their weapon broke, their body collapsed in front of the carriage, the men were already scared out their wits and their will to fight was seized away. Unexpectedly they involuntarily stepped aside to allow this strange man passed through as if he was entering a place with nobody in it.
Lei Jiuzhi and Lin Lang were greatly puzzled; they could not figure out what kind of relationship could Kou Zhong possibly have with this strange man.
Kou Zhong’s scalp went numb. Looking at the strange man walking to his side, Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, “Fuqin [father] Daren, how’s the current situation?”
The strange man cast him a deep glance, revealing a wooden, emotionless smile, as if he had no relation with Kou Zhong whatsoever, and spoke indifferently, “I did not die of anger because of you, I thanked God for his kindness; there is nothing good or bad to tell you.”
Zha Hai seized this opportunity to disentangle himself; cupping his fist, he said, “Gentleman, Senior, may I ask your honorable surname and great given name?”
He had been mingling in Jianghu for many years, his eyesight was brilliant, hence he was well aware that he did not have the power to withstand the opponent, so he could only resort to kind words.
The strange man cast him a quick glance, shook his head, and said, “If it was Xiao Xian personally opening his mouth to ask me, he is still good enough; but you fall far too short!”
Zha Hai flew into a rage. But he suddenly remembered someone. Immediately a chill crept into his heart, and he no longer dared to say anything.
The strange man extended his arm toward Kou Zhong, and spoke in soft voice, “We, father and son, have not seen each other for a long time; why don’t we find a place where we could drink wine and chat first?”
Without the slightest hesitation Kou Zhong let the strange man grabbed his hand tightly. He said to Lei Jiuzhi and Lin Lang, “Two LaoGe may go back first, I’ll catch up with you later.” At the same time, he signaled them with his eyes, telling them to follow behind him.
The strange man pulled Kou Zhong away, Lei Jiuzhi and Lin Lang followed closely behind; under Zha Hai and his men’s blank stare, they swaggered off.
In an instant Xu Ziling has had complete grasp of the situation, while at the same time he knew that if he did not go all-out but still concealing his real skill left and right, it would be akin to borrow the enemy’s hands to kill himself.
In other words, he could only choose between revealing his real identity or being killed. Without anybody telling him, he ought to know what to do.
Out of the three martial art masters, elders of Yin Gui Pai, two were attacking from the front, left and right. The weapons they used were one long and one short. The long one was a piece of rope with an iron ring at the end. The short one was a pair of hooks, which could be concealed inside her sleeves.
The long and short weapons worked together like seamless heavenly clothes. Even if Xu Ziling soared into the air, he could not escape the swift and severe attack of the flying ring.
The one behind him attacking with an unusually narrow and long sharp sword. All three kinds of weapons were completely of different characteristic, their attack paths were all ruthless, dangerous, and strange, filled with ample power. Momentarily, yin in nature, cold qi, flared out, with strong wind slashing the bones. Even with Xu Ziling’s overbearing skill, caught in this situation, he found it hard to breathe, difficult to maintain his movements, and the pressure was growing heavier and heavier.
Xu Ziling quietly performed the Unmoving JinGang Chakra Image; immediately his heart was like still water, pure, limpid and exquisite. He pondered inwardly that even if Ning Daoqi himself was caught in this situation, perhaps he would not dare to meet the three persons’ joint attack head-on either. His mind churning at the speed of light, he dodged to the left.
Hidden inside this dodging were countless mysterious principles, which was not easy to obtain.
The enemy’s most formidable aspect was that what is true and what is false was hard to fathom. Although Xu Ziling had rich real battle experience and his eyesight was brilliant, but because the enemies were all top-ranking martial art masters of the demonic school, who, if fighting one-on-one with him would not be inferior much, hence, although they seemed to attack at the same time, the reality was that they might change any moment, so that Xu Ziling would misjudge the attack path, and if that happened, the enemies would be able to kill him within a few strokes.
He absolutely must not make any mistakes; the cost of losing the initiative would be instant death on the spot.
This dodging was precisely the crucial point in his strive for seizing the initiative.
Purely relying on his intuition, he sensed that the first attack to arrive was not the flying ring, which was best to be used in long-range attack, neither would it be the pair of hooks crisscrossing each other, creating a fantastical image of countless net-like lights coming down on his head, but it was the pointy sword blade slashing from behind. The attack from both sides in front of him was just a diversion to confuse his eyes and ears and mind, to assist Wen Caiting’s pointy sword blade attack.
Just as the sharp-tipped sword blade was silently moving upward to stab his back, his body feigned a backward sway, pretending to withstand the enormous pressure from the combined attack of the ring and the hooks from the front.
As expected, Wen Caiting fell into the trap. The sword blade immediately whistled violently, as it moved faster and stronger in an all-out attack, so that it was rushing ahead of the flying ring and the double hooks.
Xu Ziling precisely wanted to create this kind of situation. Just as the thousand-pounds-hang-by-a-thread moment as the tip of the blade reached his back, he flashed sideways.
As if by prior agreement, all three women let out a ‘huh!’ cry of surprise, as an expression of amazement at his brilliant judgment; however, their hands did not hesitate at all, their movements adapted themselves to changes.
‘Whoosh!’ The flying ring, still hovering overhead, spiraled down at an angle, like a shadow following a shadow, it swiftly cut Xu Ziling’s, who was going to change position – path. If he continued flashing to the left, it would be tantamount to letting himself being cut by the flying ring, while the other elder, both the hooks and the person, was crashing against him. If she managed to wind him around, he would fall completely under their control.
From behind, Wen Caiting changed her offense to defense, her sword created fantastic sword net filling the air, completely sealing his retreat path.
This was the first time that Xu Ziling encountered such a formidable joint-attack tactics. Not only ‘empty’ could turn into ‘real’, ‘attack’ could change into ‘defend’, the worst thing was that their internal power was of the same origin and flowed in the same direction, coming together and converging into a seemingly ‘heavenly mesh earthly net’ [idiom: inescapable net] force field. It felt as if his body was entering an icehouse, and the cold energy was increasingly getting stronger, so that surrounded by it, his power decreased greatly. Worse yet, the intensity of the force fluctuated countless times, so that it was really difficult to fathom.
But instead of being afraid, Xu Ziling let out a long laugh, and suddenly flashed to the right, while spinning around at the same time. His long robe flared and flew, sweeping toward the sword net and hook shadow, his left hand slapped toward the flying ring, while simultaneously his right hand secretly performed Lion Image, and shouted heavily, “Duo!”
Seeing how he rose vigorously to fight them, the three women were inwardly very happy. They thought that under the momentum of the three of them joining hands, surely he would be seriously injured. Who would have thought that when the victory seemed to be imminent, Xu Ziling’s incantation pierced their ears? Immediately the bitter and dense murderous aura pervading the battleground subsided.
This sound seemed like Buddhist chant and the ring of the bell from a Buddhist hall in the middle of the night. It seemed to be coming from afar, from the ends of the earth, yet it also seemed to be close by their ears. The feeling was mysterious and peculiar beyond human comprehension; it could shake the heart and move the spirit, fantastic to the extreme point.
The three women were from demonic school, their innate tendency in subjected to this kind of Buddhist chant was to be subdued, plus it caught them off guard and was too late to guard against; hence their heart and mind were severely shaken. Not only their hands slowed down a hairsbreadth, as a result, their power was also drastically cut.
With repeated ‘Whoosh! Whoosh!’, Xu Ziling’s rising robe separately swept the sword and the hooks, his left hand struck the flying ring.
The three women were immediately jolted backward, and were no longer able to maintain their advantage of forming encirclement around the enemy.
Xu Ziling cried out, “You let me win!” His right palm feigned a push down to the ground, he flew at an angle, and while still in the air, he unleashed his unique school’s amazing ability to rapidly take a breath and changed direction to flee the three women’s pursue and attack. Landing on a distant house, he swiftly disappeared without any trace.
Looking at his speed, the three women knew it would be difficult to run after him. Discouraged, they stared blankly on the spot.
Bai Qing’er appeared from the direction Xu Ziling was fleeing; leaping down into the battleground, she spoke in amazement, “Who is this person?”
Pulling the gauzed veil covering her face, Wen Caiting’s beautiful eyes gazed at the direction where Xu Ziling was disappearing, and spoke heavily, “Were it not for this man has the ability to perform Buddhist’s marvelous skill of Lion Roar, I might guess that he is either Kou Zhong or Xu Ziling in disguise. But the fact is obviously not so.”
The other woman said, “I don’t care how superior this man called Gong Chenchun is, as soon as he appears again, it will be difficult for him to escape the disaster of losing his life. Back to our urgent business; Du Fuwei is our target this time. Let’s go!”
Finished speaking, the four women swiftly floated away.
In a tranquil corner of the wine shop, Du Fuwei, with grave expression, appeared to be deep in thought, as he stared at the good wine inside the cup, without speaking at all. Kou Zhong was waiting respectfully for him to talk, without showing the least bit of impatience.
Along the way, until just now, after they finished three large cups of wine, Du Fuwei did not utter more than half a sentence.
Finally Du Fuwei let out a hint of smile brimming with mocking-himself overtone. Laughing involuntarily, he shook his head and said, “If it were yesterday, I would have moved an army and sent a general, and disregarding everything to kill you, this pestering and unfilial son, to vent the resentment filling my heart. But now there’s only the feeling of tender love, the affection between father and son. Tell me, isn’t life strange?”
Severely shaken, Kou Zhong said, “Lao Die [old dad], you are finally moved by Shi Feixuan!”
This time it was Du Fuwei’s turn to have powerful and violent shock. His eyes shone with peculiar light, he looked at Kou Zhong. With disbelief in his voice, he said, “No wonder you, this little kid, are able to run amuck around the world. Unexpectedly you are able, from the sigh of sorrow evolving from the depth of my heart, to speculate the fact beyond the spoken words. This is simply impossible.”
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, “It’s absolutely not because Child’s ability and wisdom is high, rather, on one hand, I know Shi Feixuan is lobbying the warlords vying for supremacy all over the world, on the other hand, I know that your old partner Fu Gongyou is a demonic school man. I am even clearer that you, Lao Die, happen to have optimist mentality; hence I was guessing that you, the Senior, had just secretly met with Shi Feixuan today. Ay! Li Shimin has just gained one more piece of the rivers and mountains [i.e. country].”
Du Fuwei raised his cup and said with a laugh, “This toast is for me, Lao Die, feeling relieved from a burden, my entire body feels light, relaxed, and peaceful. Cheers!”
Kou Zhong happily clinked his cup to his and they both drained the cups in one gulp.
In astonishment, Du Fuwei sized him up with unusual expression on his face, trying to judge whether Kou Zhong’s pleasure was genuine. He asked in surprise, “You seem to be genuinely happy for me. It doesn’t make sense; you ought to be frustrated by Li Shimin’s power increasing by the day.”
Putting down his wine cup, Kou Zhong swept his gaze to look around at the other guests of the wine shop first before calmly said, “I am an open-minded person. Even if there is anything I should be worried about, it can wait until I finish drinking wine with Die to be bothered by it. Right now I just want to accompany Die drinking to your heart’s content; I won’t even ask about the particulars of Die’s cooperation with Li kid, because I do not wish Die to feel distressed, angry, or awkward.”
Du Fuwei slapped the table and said with a sigh, “You are worthy to be the person I, Du Fuwei, think highly of. Only by this you can obtain my compliment as an outstanding hero. Lao Die also has a few words from the bottom of my heart, I wish Xiao Zhong would want to calmly think it over.”
Kou Zhong dejectedly slumped back into his chair, and said with a wry smile, “If Die wants to persuade Child to follow Die’s example, Die may save your breath and use it to drink wine.”
Du Fuwei smiled and said, “Du Fuwei may surrender, but how could Kou Zhong do the same? This is called nobody understands one’s son better than his father; I just want to remind you, I hope you’ll cancel your treasure-hunt trip to Guanzhong. Because, I don’t know who broadcast the news, but nowadays nobody under the heavens does not know that you and Ziling are planning to go up north to Guanzhong. If you insist on going, it would be no different from walking right into the trap.”
Gnashing his teeth in anger, Kou Zhong said, “Who else would be so meddlesome but Xiang Yushan and Yun Yuzhen? This must be their plot of borrowing someone else’s knife to kill us. But whom should Ziling and I be afraid of?”
Du Fuwei sighed and said, “So what if you have Duke Yang’s Treasure? Since ancient time, there has never been anybody who strived for the world by relying on buried treasure. If you still want to doggedly charge into Guanzhong just to flaunt the bravery of ignorant men, it would be just like a moth flying into the fire, following the path to your own doom!”
Kou Zhong calmed down; his countenance became grim without revealing the least bit of emotion. He spoke slowly, “My choice right now is either to kneel and beg forgiveness to Li kid, or to fight bravely to the end. And Die ought to know which option I will pick.”
And then he was back to his mischievous look, and spoke with a smile, “My Niang! Child is already at the end of my rope. The only magic weapon is to see whether there is any treasure within the hidden treasure with which I can rise from the dead, for me to try my luck. Ha! The more difficult it is, the more Child is interested.”
Frowning, Du Fuwei said, “It’s not about whether it is difficult or not; it is practically impossible. Li Shimin’s Tian Ce Fu [Heavenly Policy Mansion] surely has martial art masters as numerous as the cloud. There are numerous capable people serving under the Li Clan. If you still think that that is not enough, there are the two schools, Buddhist and Taoist, and the entire Wulin’s ‘white way’ [i.e. orthodox, righteous] who are affiliated with Buddhist and Taoist schools; how can the two of you stand?”
Taken aback, Kou Zhong said, “Is Die hinting that Shi Feixuan might personally deal with us? Her relationship with Ziling is really not bad!”
Du Fuwei spoke heavily, “You just don’t understand the style of Shi Feixuan’s conduct; she made clear distinction between public and personal interest. Plus in the past, it was mostly out of pity that she was very tolerant toward the two of you, hence she did not stop persuading you with kind words; it could be said that she already done above and beyond the ways of the world, what extravagant demands can you ask of her?”
Speechless, Kou Zhong just looked at him.
Du Fuwei spoke indifferently, “Can you guess how I knew that you are in Jiujiang?”
Instantly Kou Zhong’s scalp went numb. After staring blankly for quite a moment he said, “Are you saying that she told you?”
Smiling wryly, Du Fuwei said, “One guess and you got it. She wanted me to give you the final word of advice: do not go to Guanzhong.”
Kou Zhong did not understand, “How did she know Die and child’s relationship?” he asked.
Du Fuwei’s eyes emitted a rarely seen emotion brimming with affection; he spoke tenderly, “Because I told her one of the conditions of my surrender to Li Shimin is that no matter under what circumstances, he must not fight directly with you or Ziling. This is probably what is called no matter how malicious a tiger is, it will never eat its own child!”
Shaken, Kou Zhong cried out, “Die!”
Du Fuwei laughed aloud and said, “Only this call ‘Die’ is coming from your heart. Laofu is greatly comforted.”
And then his expression turned serious as he said, “Your, two boys’ martial art skill has reached the great expert level. Even with Shi Feixuan’s ability, she does not have confidence that she will be able to deal with the two of you alone, plus she frankly admitted that she does not have the heart to deal ruthlessly with you, but she simply must stop you from entering Guanzhong to seek for the treasure. Can you guess what means she is going to use?”
Exhaling a mouthful of cold air, Kou Zhong said, “Is she going to invite Ning Daoqi to make his move?”
Du Fuwei shook his head and said, “Ning Daoqi is the number one figure of the Taoist School, his rank and status is no small matter. Shi Feixuan, being from the Buddhist School, unless she does not have any other choice, would not easily disturb him, the Senior. My understanding is that due to your martial art coming from the Taoist treasury ‘the Secret to Long Life’, there are a lot of similarity with Ning Daoqi’s; therefore, he had personally requested Ci Hang Jing Zhai to capture you alive and imprison you. After the Li Family pacify the world, then you will be released. From this, it is clear that he does not wish to personally deal with you.”
Kou Zhong’s countenance changed, he said, “My Niang! I would rather be killed than taken prisoner.”
Du Fuwei could not help laughing, “This is the second time you are calling for Niang,” he said, “I really don’t know why.”
Dejected, Kou Zhong said, “The only thing I want to do now is to advise Xiao Ling to quit this treasure-hunting game. He loves to be free the most; this is my own crime, I shouldn’t put anybody at fault.”
And then he asked, “Who is Jing Zhai’s Zhaizhu [monastery master]? Is she going to lead a large number of Shigu Heshang [martial aunt (Buddhist) monk] to catch us?”
Du Fuwei shook his head and said, “Jingzhai’s current Zhuchi’s [manager/president] identity is mysterious. But within the Buddhist Schools, her position is equal to Ning Daoqi in the Taoist School; she would not easily go down the mountain to do the battle herself. From what I heard, Shi Feixuan hinted that she might invite the Four Great Holy Monks, so your calling your Niang is actually very appropriate.”
If it were before, perhaps Kou Zhong would not even knit his brows, simply because he did not even know who the Four Great Holy Monks were. But just recently he heard from Xu Ziling that even Shi Zhixuan was beaten by the Four Great Holy Monks that he fled to the wilderness, and now he suddenly heard that the ones to capture Xu Ziling and him were precisely these four, it would be strange indeed if he was not shocked.
The Four Great Holy Monks were Tiantai School’s Zhihui [lit. wisdom] Dashi [great master], Sanlun School’s Jiaxiang Dashi, Huayan School’s Dixin Zunzhe [honorable monk], and Chanzong Si Zu’s [lit. Zen Buddhism Four Ancestors] Daoxin Dashi. These four plus Shi Feixuan or even Liao Kong, how could the two boys even have any chance to hit back?
Standing up suddenly, he said with a wry smile, “Child has an urgent matter that I need to discuss with Xiao Ling; Die, please take care of yourself! I almost forget to tell Die that Yin Gui Pai is sending a large number of troops to Jiujiang. Die must be extra careful.”
Without saying a word Du Fuwei left some drinking money and accompanied him walking out of the wine shop. It was a relatively quiet night, foot traffic was light, increasing the somber feeling in the two men’s heart.
The night breeze was blowing, Du Fuwei said, “As your Die, I feel so useless; after talking so many words I am still unable to take away Zhong’er’s intention of going north. Shi Feixuan chose this time have Die warning you, it was actually a painstaking effort, because I do not wish the two of you going to Guanzhong, and then have a direct confrontation with the Li Family, resulting in an unresolvable deep enmity.”
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “If I got so scared that I piss in my pants in terror, withdrawing my head and refuse to go out, how would I pass the days of the rest of my life?”
Shaking his head, Du Fuwei said, “You can’t say that. In the past, Han Xin [(-196 BC), famous general of first Han emperor Liu Bang] was also forced to crawl between somebody’s legs. This is called a leader can submit or can stand tall as required. As long as you get away, back to your headquarters in Pengliang, what can Shi Feixuan do to you? But if you do what you are doing now, sneaking into Guanzhong, you are only going to strike a stone with egg, or using praying mantis arms to stop a chariot. It is an action of overestimating your own capabilities!”
Strange light burst forth from Kou Zhong’s eyes; he said, “If I can’t overcome the enemy by force, then I’ll have to outsmart them. There will always be a way.”
While continued walking, Du Fuwei sneered and said, “Just by looking at how Shi Feixuan knows your whereabouts like the back of her hand, I knew that you have absolutely fallen into the disadvantageous position; all you can do is waiting to be captured.”
Kou Zhong calmly laughed and said, “Die ought to understand better than anybody else. Since our debut, we have always taken a beating, and until today, the situation has not improved, while the people dealing against us and getting more and more formidable! As long as I can reach Guanzhong safely, I am afraid even Ning Daoqi would regard me as having enough qualifications to be his opponent.”
Du Fuwei halted his steps. Throwing his head back in loud laughter, he said, “When all is said and done, Kou Zhong is still Kou Zhong. Let me give you one final advice: I am hoping that you can avoid the disgrace of being captured. Hereby we part.”
Kou Zhong saluted respectfully, and left with determination. But he had just walked a few strides, Du Fuwei’s voice came from behind, “There’s one more thing that I forgot to tell my child, which is Li Mi formally acknowledge his allegiance to the Li Family, and had led his troops into the Pass [Guan]. This matter shook the world, and has increased the Li Family’s prestige.”
Shaken, Kou Zhong halted his steps. Smiling wryly, he said, “What other information is there?”
Du Fuwei’s heroic spirit suddenly arose. He clapped his hands and sang, “Singing to accompany wine [fig. life is short, make merry while you can]; life is not much, just like morning dew, with passing days there are many miseries. Sighing with generous emotion, anxiety difficult to forget. Why worry? There is only Du Kang.”
Du Kang was the deity the inventor of wine; it is thus clear that Du Fuwei had no intention of vying and pursuing Jianghu, he was only thinking of retiring and going into seclusion.
The singing voice disappeared into the distance.
Kou Zhong did not look back. He could feel the desolation in Du Fuwei’s song, his heart was filled with myriad emotions.
Only an outstanding talent can recognize current trends. In this respect, he, Kou Zhong clearly fell short of his Old Dad Du Fuwei. But this was precisely life’s most interesting aspect. From the impossibility striving to find subtle possibility.
Right now, the person he wanted to see the most was Xu Ziling.