Book 27 Chapter 13 – The Beauty and the Psychic Hawk
More than a dozen columns of thick smoke were rising straight up to the sky, covering an area more than ten li wide, obstructing the starlight and the moonlight, while also covering the trail the hawk was following.
The three men looked up to the sky. Kou Zhong said, “This move is indeed extremely wonderful. Birds are most afraid of smoke and fire; if we carried out this move last night, we did not need to have our eggs nearly beaten by those people.”
Tuli said, “It’s not that Ziling did not think about this, but last night it was drizzling continuously, there was no way we could light anything. But today everything was exposed to the scorching sun all day, hence we are able to make this fire.”
Xu Ziling said, “What are we going to do now? Are we going to fight or escape?”
Revealing a weird-looking smile, Kou Zhong asked, “What do you think?”
Xu Ziling said, “If we go either to Xiangyang or to the north, sooner or later there will be a repeat of last night; we will be intercepted by Li Yuanji and Kang Qiaoli’s allied armies pursuing us ruthlessly. Those Tujue men are all great experts in following the trail. I can see their movement clearly from here.”
“Do you see the hawk?” Kou Zhong asked.
Xu Ziling replied, “The hawk is resting on Kang Qiaoli’s shoulder, its head is covered in a hood, it looks weird.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Probably the fire and smoke hurt the hawk’s eyes, ha! It’s indeed too wonderful for words.”
“How’s Khan’s injury?” Xu Ziling asked.
Kou Zhong replied, “His internal injury and external wounds are rather serious. Luckily my power has been restored completely, so that I can help him with all my strength to circulate his qi to treat his injury. This moment is the critical juncture in his qi circulation. If he could get another night, tomorrow morning he ought to return to his lively dragon and animated tiger condition.”
Heaving a deep sigh, Xu Ziling said, “Who would have thought that we would go through trials and tribulations with Fenghan Xiong’s personal enemy? This time it could be said that our troop deployment was quite unfavorable; we had just left Jingling, someone already followed our track, and all three of us are injured.”
Kou Zhong responded indifferently, “As long as we are not dead, I still say it is a success. Now, more and more I am unable to endure other people bullying and humiliating us. Li Yuanji joined hands with the Tujue, relying on their strength to deal with us, I can never let this resentment drop. I am not joking. I don’t care if he has many men and great force, as long as we can stay in the dark while the enemy is in the open, I will teach him a good lesson.”
Xu Ziling said, “Currently, what you want is to get your hands on the hidden treasure, not to have a grudge against other people. This time, were it not for the Tujue side lacked Mo Shi [Demonic Master], Zhao Deyan, and the Li Family side’s Li Shentong did not come, I am afraid we would have been finished early on. Actually, you ought to be grateful to Li Yuanji. If he did not take Li Shimin’s place, you would have suffered more.”
Kou Zhong said, “How could Zhao Deyan not come? To him, killing Tuli is his top priority. Otherwise, if he lets Tuli go back, perhaps the Eastern Tujue would split up into, hey! It ought to be East Eastern Tujue or perhaps East Western Tujue! It’s just so confusing to say it.”
Remembering something, Xu Ziling said, “Last night, although the momentum of the enemy’s approach was fierce, but because they lacked genuine top-ranking martial art masters, except for the barely-counted Li Yuanji and Kang Qiaoli, two men, although they had many men, great force, with our newly-found qinggong and our familiarity with the terrain, we succeeded in slipping away. However, after this battle, Li Yuanji and Kang Qiaoli will surely realize their own deficiency. The next time we meet on the battleground, they would not be this easy to deal with.”
“I know that,” Kou Zhong cheerfully said, “Sometimes I am exaggerating a bit, but I will never be stupid enough to despise the enemy. Furthermore, looking at Li Yuanji’s entire operation last night, from blocking the river to delivering a frontal assault, to the battle in the jungle, everything was clear and logical, every time he nearly put us in order. Too bad there is only a fine line between success and failure. Ay! I nearly forget about Yun Shuai. Where in the world has this Persian guy disappeared to?”
Xu Ziling said, “The higher one’s qinggong is, the more skillful he will be in tracking and following. If Yun Shuai knew that Xieli wanted to kill Tuli, perhaps he might try to protect Tuli’s life instead. When the internal power struggle within the East Tujue grows, it will be orchestrated not by Yun Shuai, but by his beloved daughter, Lian Rou, which will be greatly surprising.” [Translator’s note: this part does not make sense to me. I have a feeling that some text are missing, but I searched several different sources, and they all are the same.]
Before he had any chance to speak, Kou Zhong already said flirtatiously, “Turns out it’s Lian Rou Gongzhu herself honoring us with your presence. Gongzhu is indeed outstanding; unexpectedly you have a way to find us here.”
Knitting her brows, Lian Rou sized Kou Zhong up and down for half a day, before saying with a slightly annoyed tone, “What do you think you are doing? I won’t answer you if you speak like a savage. If it were Ziling who asked me, I might answer him.”
Xu Ziling felt a big headache coming. As early as when they were inside the dungeon of Qing Yang Si in Chengdu, he already experienced her seemingly naïve, but actually as sly as a fox – temperament and tricks. And now, listening to the tone of her voice, he knew she was playing some stunt.
On the contrary, Kou Zhong was relieved, because obviously Lian Rou has not found out about Tuli yet, or else she would not waste her time by coming up the cliff. Thereupon he signaled Xu Ziling with his hand, telling him to talk to Lian Rou.
Although Xu Ziling felt he was put on the spot, but because he had to refrain from shooting the rat for fear of breaking the vases, he had no choice but to humble himself and ask for Lian Rou’s guidance.
Lian Rou showed a pleased-with-herself expression. Suddenly she pursed her lips to let out a shrill whistle. Immediately the sound of flapping wings came down from the sky.
The two boys suddenly realized and inwardly blamed themselves for being careless. They only paid attention to Kang Qiaoli’s sparrow hawk, but forgot that the Cloud Commander was a Western Tujue man, hence he was also accustomed to use sparrow hawk as intelligence gatherer.
Swooping down from the sky, carrying with it a gust of wind, the sparrow hawk suddenly appeared out of nowhere and perched itself on Lian Rou’s fragrant shoulder. A pair of abstruse and acute hawk eyes flickered brightly as it looked at the two boys up and down.
Kou Zhong said in amazement, “This hawk is a bit smaller than Kang Qiaoli’s, the color is also a bit deeper; is it of different species?”
He intentionally mentioned Kang Qiaoli to test Lian Rou’s reaction.
Lian Rou reached out to stroke the hawk with tender expression in her eyes.
The beauty and the psychic hawk, stood on the high cliff beneath the starry night sky, the sleeves of her clothes fluttered lightly in the breeze; it was such an unspeakably moving scene.
But Xu Ziling felt extremely uneasy. To them, Lian Rou was neither a friend nor a foe; there was no reason for her to summon the hawk down, and thus giving them the golden opportunity to kill the hawk.
This woman’s intelligence and craftiness was rather high, it was not too much inferior from Wanwan’s. There must be a profound reason behind why she did what she did. Only momentarily Xu Ziling was unable to figure it out.
Lian Rou appeared to be stalling for time. It was quite a while later before she replied, “This is a falcon that is unique to the Western Tujue, naturally it is different from the hawks that the Eastern Tujue people raise.”
Xu Ziling’s heart was moved, he spoke heavily, “May I venture to ask Lian Rou Gongzhu, is your esteemed father going to be here soon?”
Stunned, Lian Rou said, “Esteemed father? What do you mean ‘esteemed father’? My Han language is not too bright! Ziling, you must have a tender, protective feelings for the fairer sex [idiom], you ought to accommodate me as much as possible.”
Kou Zhong suddenly realized what was happening. ‘Qiang!’ Pulling the Moon in the Well, he laughed aloud and said, “Good girl, unexpectedly you are fooling us; by summoning the falcon like this, clearly you are telling your Ol’ Die our position. Since this is not going to be the first time that you are being captured, there is no harm in you getting captured one more time!”
Like a surging tide a powerful saber qi burst toward Lian Rou.
Lian Rou showed a disdainful look. While letting the falcon fly off to the sky, her hand reached into her waist to pull the flexible sword wrapped around her waist. With a shake of her hand, the sword turned perfectly straight. She pointed it out toward Kou Zhong to contend against his terrifying saber qi.
Xu Ziling followed the soaring falcon with his eyes. Not only it circled swiftly in the air, it was also screeching constantly.
Kou Zhong was greatly amused at Lian Rou’s flexible sword; he said with a laugh, “That thing can be used to fight?”
While speaking, ‘Whoosh!’ his saber hacked, faster than lightning, and hit Lian Rou’s sword squarely.
Contrary to Kou Zhong’s expectation, the flexible sword, which was so flexible that it could be wrapped around the waist, met his Moon in the Well head-on, without any fancy move at all. When the saber and sword collided, sparks flew everywhere.
Lian Rou floated backward and disappeared behind the cliff.
When the two boys rushed over to look, they saw Lian Rou standing charmingly on a huge rock at the top of the cliff. She laughed tenderly and said, “Other martial art I may not be able to match you, but my qinggong is definitely not inferior to two gentlemen’s. Do you want to try it by playing hide-and-seek with me?”
By now the two boys were certain that Lian Rou came here alone, and that she has not discovered Tuli’s hiding place.
But this good situation would not last long. By the time Yun Shuai and Zhu Can’s men arrived, it would mean that their doomsday was coming closer.
Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Ziling’s ear, “No matter how hard, we must capture her before Yun Shuai rushes over here. This will be our only way out.”
Before Xu Ziling had time to answer, a cold humph was heard from the waist of the mountain.
When the two boys cried inwardly, ‘Bad!’, another cold humph rang out again. The newcomer quickly reached the cliff. Obviously his shenfa was astonishingly fast.