Book 27 Chapter 2 – False Alarm
By the time Xu Ziling, following Lin Lang’s direction, reached the safehouse, Lei Jiuzhi, Lin Lang, and Gongliang Ji were already waiting anxiously for him and Kou Zhong. As soon as he finished listening to their story, Xu Ziling guessed that the strange man was Du Fuwei. He laughed and said, “I am sure that man is his yifu [adoptive father]; gentlemen, please don’t worry.”
At the same time, he was greatly puzzled; Du Fuwei was the big boss, the supreme leader of Jianghuai Army, why did he come alone into Xiao Xian’s territory? Not only that, he seemed to be completely without malice toward Kou Zhong.
While he was still pondering over this matter, Lin Lang asked in low voice, “Was that strange man Jianghuai Army’s ‘Xiu Li Qiankun’ [universe in the sleeves] Du Fuwei?” After the fact, due to Du Fuwei’s unique build, Lin Lang was able to guess that it was him.
Xu Ziling met Lin Lang and Gongliang Ji’s two pairs of full-of-curiosity shining eyes, smiled and said, “Because I regard you as my own Xiongdi, I’ll tell you the truth. Correct, that man was precisely Du Fuwei, who run amuck north and south of the River, so it won’t be difficult for two gentlemen to guess who we really are.”
Lin Lang was shaken, “Gong Ye’s face is fake!” he blurted out.
Xu Ziling took off his mask to reveal his elegant-without-equal face; he spoke indifferently, “Zaixia Xu Ziling, paying my respect to Lin Xiong and Gongliang Xiong.” The two men were dumbstruck.
It was quite a while later that Lin Lang was starting to breathe again and said, “In that case the other one must be Shao Shuai Kou Zhong, whose name shook the world. I really can’t believe it. Hey!”
Gongliang Ji broke into tears; extremely moved, he sobbed, “It’s rare that Xu Ye would be this warmhearted, letting Xiaoren recover my lost familial property. Even if Xiaoren try to repay for the rest of my life, it won’t be enough to repay one of Daye’s ten thousand favors.”
Lei Jiuzhi reached out to grab Gongliang Ji’s shoulder and pulled him into his embrace; laughing aloud, he said, “Why weeping endlessly? Strangers coming together by chance can also become Xiongdi! Between Xiongdi, why do we need to thank this and thank that?”
Feeling embarrassed, Xu Ziling said, “Gongliang Xiong’s remark was too heavy. Just as Lei Xiong said, we all are brothers, why do we need to bicker? There’s no need to call Ye [master] this and Ye that like we are strangers.”
Emotionally moved, Lin Lang said, “Very well! Xu Xiong said so, henceforth we are all brothers. Let Xiaodi fix some food and drink to celebrate the success of destroying the ‘Dian Shi Cheng Jin’ Lai Chaogui.”
Wiping his tears, happy and excited, Gongliang Ji said, “I am the best in making hotpot. Lin Xiong, do you have good ingredients?”
Standing up, Lin Lang said, “I already thought about the possibility of us lying low in here momentarily, hence I have made adequate preparation. If you want to know what we have, just come with Xiaodi to the kitchen and take a look yourself!”
After Gongliang Ji happily following Lin Lang, Lei Jiuzhi frowned and said, “There is a saying ‘meeting someone by chance, speak only three words’. Why did you give your bare heart into their keeping [idiom: trust completely]? Aren’t you afraid that something might go wrong?”
Xu Ziling replied indifferently, “I am the kind of person who act based on my feeling. After interacting with them for many days, I knew that Lin Lang and Gongliang Ji are men who are worthy to have contact with. I really consider them as friends.”
Lei Jiuzhi praised him, “Ziling indeed has no arrogance in dealing with others. I’ve seen many so-called Jianghu celebrities who, if they do not repel others a thousand li away, then they conduct themselves with dignity, paying particular attention to their reputation and the status of their school or family, so that they are quite unpleasant to the eye.”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “You can’t apply that to anybody in any situation! Take Li Shimin or Shi Feixuan for example, why would they want to put on airs to show their position and status? And I did not flaunt my qualifications either, I was just lucky to mingle with a bit famous crowd. In fact, I have nothing at all except for an undeserved reputation.”
Lei Jiuzhi was about to speak, Kou Zhong, with tranquil expression, walked in. After exchanging some pleasantries, he pulled Xu Ziling to the small pavilion at the rear courtyard to talk. He asked about why Xu Ziling took off his mask first before passing on Du Fuwei’s warning.
Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling pondered for a moment before saying, “Shi Feixuan must have learned about I am taking Wu Jiang Bang’s ship to Jiujiang from Hou Xibai. Following the same trail, she found out that you were taking Song Family’s boat to come here. Hou Xibai practically has never thought that there would be so many consequences; otherwise, he would have kept the secret for me.”
Kou Zhong said, “How she found out is not important. But now I only have one request, which is you, Ziling, and I must immediately separate, in order to avoid you being implicated by me. After all, it was me who dragged you into this deep pool.”
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “One lifetime, two brothers. How could I abandon you at this critical moment? Let those Four Great Holy Monks be his mother’s Four Great Holy Monks! Shi Zhixuan fled to the wilderness, the two of us are experts in fleeing for our lives, why are we afraid of his bird? Just like Ol’ Ba said, only under pressure and challenges will we be able to make the breakthrough that we yearn for even in our dreams! You want to deprive Xiaodi of this golden opportunity to temper myself? Don’t even think about it.”
Kou Zhong understood very well Xu Ziling’s character, that he did not like to fight, especially since their opponents were the embodiment of justice like Shi Feixuan and the Four Great Holy Monks. His heart grew warm, he said, “If I say more, I won’t be worthy to be your Xiongdi anymore. But no matter how conceited we are, it is still difficult for us to be mentioned on equal terms with Shi Zhixuan. Not to mention since we are going to be in Guanzhong, we will leave trails that the enemy could find, unlike Shi Zhixuan in the past, where he could flee up to the sky or go down into the earth. Our situation will be even more unfavorable. Do you have any clever ideas?”
Smiling ruefully, Xu Ziling replied, “The fact is that we do not know much about Shi Feixuan’s method and conduct; we only know that she has the support of the entire ‘white way’ Wulin behind her back, plus she knows the two of us like the back of her hand, including our skill of transforming our head, exchanging our face. Looks like we cannot avoid a few hard battles.”
Feeling a big headache, Kou Zhong pondered, “Everybody has a weak point; Shi Feixuan’s weak point is perhaps her affection toward you.”
Xu Ziling crossly said, “You still speak such words?”
Lowering his voice, Kou Zhong spoke humbly, “I was just discussing this matter based on the facts. If, instead of Shi Feixuan it was Wan Yaonu, we could seize the initiative by striking first, taking advantage before the four great baldheads came to attack his mother until she is in a sorry state. But this moment it is hard to ruthlessly destroy the flower. Much less Shi Feixuan indicated clearly that she wants to capture us alive. With such affection and righteousness, we won’t have the heart to make our move against her.”
And then his eyes flashed with strange light; he said, “I wonder if we could seek help so that we could enter the Pass whether by hook or by crook?”
Xu Ziling shook his head and said, “Are you thinking about exploiting Yin Gui Pai’s power to counter Shi Feixuan’s? If we do it this way, even if we could enter Guanzhong safely, there is no glory in that. Just now I nearly lost my life under Yin Gui Pai’s three elder-level martial art masters joint-attack. Being able to escape can be considered grasping my glory back.”
Kou Zhong was shocked. “Three elder-level martial art masters?” he asked.
Xu Ziling told him what happened.
Kou Zhong’s countenance changed, he said, “Not good! They can’t possibly trouble their masters for the sake of an insignificant Gong Chenchun. We must notify Lao Die immediately. What should we do?”
Xu Ziling’s countenance changed as well. His mind moved at the speed of lightning, he said, “Right now we get Lao Die to leave town immediately. Because Shi Feixuan is in town, Yin Gui Pai people might ambush him outside the city. We must hurry, otherwise I am afraid it will be too late.”
Without waiting for him to finish, Kou Zhong already sprang up and shot out.
He had just flown over a building with tile roof when he suddenly crouched down. Following his lead, Xu Ziling craned his neck to look. He caught a glimpse of a woman’s graceful back, blending inside the shadow of the trees next to a cluster of buildings.
The woman was wearing tight night walker attire. In terms of lightness skill, she could be considered first-class master, plus she looked to be very familiar.
Frowning, Kou Zhong said, “Who is this woman? I’m sure I have seen her somewhere before.”
From here to the pier outside the city gate, ordinary people would only need about a quarter of an hour’s walk. Naturally assuming the city gate was wide open and one could walk freely. But going out of the city at this time would require a high level of skill.
The city wall of Jiujiang reached up to ten zhang. Even with Kou and Xu’s current skill level, they still had to use tool to scale the wall, or perhaps borrowing each other’s power before they could jump over the wall and leave town.
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “This woman must be someone that we both know, because I also have a feeling that she looks very familiar. I’ll say this building must be some kind of hotel or a tavern, because there are several rooms with the lantern still on. I wonder if it has something to do with Lao Die?”
Lowering his voice, Kou Zhong said, “I was thinking the same thing. A woman with superior martial art skill appearing in Jiujiang at this time, most probably she is a Yin Gui Pai female demon. But I am sure she is not Bai Qing’er. Her height is about similar to Wanwan’s, but she lacks the gods-appear-and-devils-vanish of Wanwan’s specter-like appearance. Ay! Who is this female demon?”
Shaken, Xu Ziling said, “I know who she is! No wonder I nearly could not remember her.”
“Who is she?” Kou Zhong asked.
Xu Ziling whispered in his ear, “It’s Rong Yaonu.”
Kou Zhong happily said, “Indeed she has her charming figure. If that’s the case, they must have lost Lao Die’s tracks; otherwise, they wouldn’t go back and forth like stray dogs.”
He had not finished speaking, Rong Jiaojiao flashed out of the tree’s shadow in the direction of the city wall.
Tearing off the mask from his face, Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Before being captured alive, how about we capture this female demon alive to play?”
Xu Ziling replied, “I was thinking the same thing.”
He was pulled down by Kou Zhong. He saw Rong Jiaojiao was standing on the roof of a building about thirty zhang away from them, and someone else was rushing toward her from the roof of another house in the distance. Surprisingly it was one of the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Way, the ‘Ziwu Sword’ Zuo Youxian.
Seeing this, cold sweats started to appear on the two boys’ body. If they also had Rong Fengxiang and Fu Gongyou, plus Yin Gui Pai’s three elder-level martial art masters and Bai Qing’er, even with the two boys’ help, there was no way Du Fuwei would be able to deal with them.
It was clear that this time they were determined to deal with Du Fuwei.
Du Fuwei came here alone to see Shi Feixuan, naturally it was to evade his partner, Fu Gongyou’s eyes and ears, yet unexpectedly the news leaked out. From this, it could be inferred that there was a spy among the men close to him. If they succeeded in killing Du Fuwei, then the second-in-command Fu Gongyou would be able to legitimately ascend the Jianghuai Army Zongguan throne. And then they would link with Lin Shihong in the south, perhaps they would then have the hope of contending for hegemony over the world.
Therefore, the success or failure of this operation was certainly no small matter; but obviously there was a problem now.
Rong Jiaojiao’s voice was heard, “How come we cannot find him anywhere?”
Although she deliberately lowered her voice, plus distance was quite far, but because the two boys’ power has advanced greatly, they were still able to hear without missing a single word.
Zuo Youxian came to Rong Jiaojiao’s side. His eyes flashing, he swept his gaze around, before speaking heavily, “This is impossible. On one side people saw him exiting the city, while the men on the other side’s eyes saw him turning back into the city, and just like that we lose track of him, while the men on both sides thought that the other side was trailing him.”
Leaning close to Xu Ziling’s ear, Kou Zhong said, “He’s worthy to be called our Lao Die; this ability, we must humbly learn from him. Luckily I warned him that Yin Gui Pai people are coming.”
Xu Ziling nodded his agreement. Needless to say, Du Fuwei must have utilized the city gate tower’s passageway to leave. This method was very simple, but directly effective. Were it not for his skill, it would be difficult to subdue the city guards and slipped away without making any noise. The two boys felt relieved as if they had just put down a big stone from their mind.
Distressed, Rong Jiaojiao said, “This time we missed out on a golden opportunity. By the time he returns to Liyang, killing him will not be easy.”
Muttering to himself irresolutely, Zuo Youxian was silent for half a day, and then said, “Let’s go!”
The two boys crouched in the jungle by the Yangtze River, looking into the distance at Bai Qing’er official boat, where Zuo Youxian and Rong Jiaojiao had just disappeared into the dimly lit cabin.
“Do you have any good idea?” Kou Zhong asked.
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “I know your hands are itchy! But if we make our move, set the boat on fire for instance, we might reveal our track, and that will only add to our worries.”
Kou Zhong said, “Do you remember that day in Luo River we managed to sink Dugu Clan’s ship without making any noise? We could follow the same script [orig. a wooden word-by-word reading] to vent the resentment in our hearts, while eavesdropping their secret discussion in passing.”
Xu Ziling’s heart was greatly moved. He was about to start, Kou Zhong pulled him back and said, “Don’t think that we could stay underwater forever closing our breathing. This is an extremely true-power consuming activity.” And then he told Xu Ziling about his dreadful experience of mortal-danger, escape-alive in the ocean.
He also said, “But after the true power is depleted, after it is recovered, it will grow fantastically. If this kind of situation continues forever without stopping, there will come a day where we become immortal who can fly.”
Shaken, Xu Ziling said, “That is actually the key, the most important secret to the Huan Ri Da Fa; broken and then stand, defeated and then succeed. But the first-time growth is the most formidable, after that, the efficacy is rapidly declining. It can be said that you have accidentally mastered the Great Method of Exchanging The Sun.”
Disappointed, Kou Zhong said, “I thought that we could find a place where I can try your marvelous skill of Nine-character Incantation; we both fight until our body weary, our strength exhausted, and then we won’t even have to be afraid of the Four Great Baldheads.”
Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, “How could there be such an easy thing? Do you still want to bore and sink Bai Yaonu’s boat? They are waiting for us to eat hotpot.”
Kou Zhong said, “Venting our anger is just momentary and quick. Speaking about our Shi Xianzi [fairy/immortal] and the Four Great Baldheads, I have a great idea.”
Stunned, Xu Ziling asked, “What do you think?”
Pointing to the solitary Bai Qing’er’s official boat, he proudly said, “If we could find out the exact time Bai Qing’er’s official boat is going to set sail to return to Xiangyang, maybe we could even save on the boat fare, while also guaranteeing that our Xianzi will suddenly lose our traces, plus getting rid of those yaofu and yaonu who are looking for you, Gong Daye, to give you bad luck.”
Xu Ziling agreed, “That is an absolutely wonderful idea! Come then!”
While Lei Jiuzhi, three men, were waiting anxiously like ants on a hot rock, the two boys, completely drenched from head to toe, but with expression that looked like they had just scored big victory, with their spirit rising to the sky – appeared.
Those who needed to change clothes changed clothes, those who had to prepare the hotpot prepared the hotpot; shortly afterwards the five men were sitting around the glowing hotpot, loudly toasting each other. The atmosphere was very warm. Both Lin Lang and Gongliang Ji felt that being able to sit on the same table, eating and drinking with Xu and Kou, two men, was indeed a great pleasure and an incomparable honor.
But parting was imminent. Tomorrow morning Gongliang Ji would come with Lin Lang back to Sichuan, hence they cherished this gathering very much.
After several rounds of wine went down their belly, the five no longer felt any distance between them, all chopsticks were raised, they ate and drank as much as they liked.
Under the red-hot light of the stove, Kou Zhong’s face revealed a brilliant smile, as he asked Lei Jiuzhi, “I just heard the news that Luoyang’s Rong Fengxiang might participate in the Tian Jiu Big Meet tomorrow night. Have you ever heard about him?”
Stumped for words, Lei Jiuzhi put down his chopsticks and said, “Of course I have. This man’s gambling technique is very famous in Luoyang. I may not necessarily be able to beat him. Where did you hear this news from?”
Xu Ziling said, “We had just eavesdropped it. Lei Xiong, is it possible to cancel our competition tomorrow?”
Kou Zhong added, “It’s because we want to go one step ahead. After Guanzhong, we will meet with you, LaoGe, again.”
Lei Jiuzhi revealed a disappointed look, but then he laughed and said, “Let’s talk about this tomorrow. Tonight, we simply play finger-guessing game and drink. Come! Let’s have a cup!”
After another round, Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Ziling’s ear, “Xiongdi! How about we go to the rear court to play a hand or two? I guarantee that my saber technique will be able to beat the crap out of you.”
Xu Ziling laughed aloud, rose up to his full height, and said, “No need to be too full of yourself; do you think I am afraid of you?”