Book 27 Chapter 3 – Eight Methods of the Well
Kou Zhong drew the Moon in the Well; holding the scabbard in his left hand and the saber in his right hand, he felt that he had 90% of the ‘Heavenly Saber’ Song Que’s bearing.
Immensely proud of himself, he laughed and said, “Don’t blame me for not giving you a warning in advance; currently Xiaodi’s saber technique is so formidable that even I cannot control it myself. You really have to fight seriously.”
Lei Jiuzhi, one of the three men holding the wine cups with both hands inside the small pavilion watching the scene from across the courtyard, was a bit tipsy; pointed his finger out and shrieked in laughter he said, “If you cannot control it, how could you be considered a martial art master?”
Kou Zhong felt as if he returned to Yangzhou, as the rascal who loved to make a scene. Sticking out his tongue he made a bow and said, “Naturally I usually can control it with ease. But right now I am going to perform the ‘Drunken Saber’, the other ‘Heavenly Saber’; therefore, the more I cannot control it, the more formidable it will be. Ha! Such a profound saber logic, how could ordinary low hand like you understand? So, do Laozi [I, your father] a favor: just shut up.”
Immediately Lin Lang and Gongliang Ji booed. They had seen Xu Ziling’s skill with their own eyes, so even if they were beaten to death, they would not believe that Kou Zhong could be more formidable than he was.
Listening to Kou Zhong blubbering nonsense under the influence of alcohol, Xu Ziling, who was standing in the middle of the small flat area in the spacious courtyard, laughed in displeasure and said, “So much nonsense; perhaps in just three punches or three kicks I will be able to take care of you thoroughly, and then you will look really unsightly.”
Kou Zhong tossed his scabbard haphazardly. His gaze swept around, he found out that the courtyard was surrounded by trees all around. The house was located in the secluded area on the east side of the city. Even if they created ‘ping, dong, dong’ noise, they did not have to worry about disturbing other people’s good dream. Greatly satisfied, he said, “Come! Come! Let us see the real skill of our hands; I want to see if your pair of tender and lovely hands, which look like women’s hands, is as stiff as your mouth!”
Lei Jiuzhi and the others clapped and cheered again with wild excitement as if they were afraid the world was not chaotic enough, greatly increasing the warm atmosphere of the two boys sparring against each other.
Xu Ziling was very excited as well. He inwardly carried out the ‘bu jin gen ben yin’ [lit. no strength fundamental image]. The tipsy feeling immediately disappeared without trace. His eyes shone with divine light, a burst of incomparably powerful, concentrated qi momentum flared from his core out to all directions.
Kou Zhong’s body reacted adversely, which greatly shocked him.
He saw under the illumination of the moon, Xu Ziling’s countenance did not show the slightest bit of emotion fluctuation, as if he was entering the holy monk meditative state, his treasured appearance looked dignified, but there was some kind of unspeakably outstanding confidence and at ease feeling. Combined with the charm of his unusual form, the result was an extremely intimidating bearing, leading to a strange feeling as if he knew Xu Ziling for the very first time.
‘My Niang!’ Kou Zhong cried inwardly. Hastily he calmed down his mind, straightened his spine and squared his shoulders, before slightly leaning forward, meeting Xu Ziling’s seemingly able to penetrate the bottom of his heart’s gaze, with the Moon in the Well pointing at the opponent from a distance.
This time it was Xu Ziling’s turn to be emotionally moved. Greatly astonished, he said, “Indeed you stole away from Song Que a bit of his way to do things, minus the previously outward aggressiveness, but in its place is an enigmatic bearing like high mountain and deep sea. I am afraid Xiaodi will have to spend several moves before I can take care of Zhong Ye.”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “If only now you find out about Shao Shuai’s formidability, it is already too late! What I am afraid of is you are unwilling to make your move to stop my itching. You’d better do your best so that after your defeat and becoming muddled and collapsing completely, you won’t refuse to admit defeat.”
While talking, the two boys unceasingly built up their momentum, so that immediately the courtyard was filled with the bitterly surging reaction to the icy-cold and burning-hot qi power clashing against each other. Although there was no breeze, their clothes were fluttering; the scene was extremely strange.
Lei Jiuzhi, three men subconsciously withdrew to the farthest corner of the pavilion; nobody made any noise anymore. In the eyes of these three, Xu Ziling was like a tall and straight, reaching high to the sky deep green pine or an ancient cypress tree, hidden within the delicate and threatening spirit was an arrogant, above-the-crowd free and at ease charisma. Kou Zhong was like towering into the clouds, immeasurably lofty mountain, extreme mountain ridge. Both made their guts trembled and their heart shook; even more, they felt that the two were evenly matched.
Laughing involuntarily, Xu Ziling said, “Seeing you still have a bit of trained skill, I’ll let you make your saber strike first.”
Sneering, Kou Zhong replied, “What a joke! Making saber strike first or making saber strike later has nothing to do with yielding to each other. But, seeing that in this face off nobody gains any advantage over the other in term of qi momentum, Xiaodi is willing to show my good intentions by breaking this stalemate situation. Watch the saber!”
Suddenly his left foot stepped forward, one saber strike swooped up toward Xu Ziling.
Watching this, Lei Jiuzhi, three men were stunned. The two boys were clearly standing two to three zhang apart from each other, but Kou Zhong only took a step forward, which ought to carry him three, maybe four chi forward, yet the blade of his saber, genuine goods at fair prices, was reaching Xu Ziling’s chest. It was so mystical that it looked like he was performing a magic trick.
In Xu Ziling’s eyes, however, Kou Zhong seemed to be exploiting the pace of the stepping forward, propelling his entire body so that it appeared that he was only taking one step, but was actually flashing forward more than two zhang, creating the illusion of the distance was shrinking into a cun.
It was the first time that Xu Ziling saw such footwork.
Kou Zhong’s saber technique was even more swift and fierce. Although the saber blade seemed to be attacking a certain point of Xu Ziling’s body, the saber qi was actually able to envelop his whole body, giving him the feeling of no matter where he moved or dodged, under the sucking qi, Kou Zhong’s Moon in the Well would be able to devour him like a hungry wolf sniffing the reeking of blood, hounding him up with unflagging efforts. It was subtle to the extreme point.
Naturally Xu Ziling would not admit defeat. Laughing aloud, he said, “Indeed you have a bit of Song Que’s way of doing things.”
Abruptly he twisted his tiger-body, his right hand half-closing into wisdom fist image, it moved upward to block, and hit the blade right in the middle.
Originally Lei Jiuzhi, three men, were going to cry out in alarm, but immediately their cry turned into praise!
What happened was that at the beginning, they clearly saw Xu Ziling’s right hand was still about half a chi away to be able to block Kou Zhong’s Moon in the Well; who would have thought that precisely because of this difference that he was able to hit the sharp blade of the Moon in the Well? Certainly it was marvelous to the extreme point.
Kou Zhong’s entire body was shaken; he pulled the saber back and withdrew. Standing still, he glibly sighed and said, “Finally I am able to test your, this kid’s depth; even your inner power and xinfa have changed! The entire person has become one entity; no inner, no outer. What image are your hands making?”
Xu Ziling’s eyes narrowed to become two lines, but the refined light was flickering bright, while still hiding his inner spirit. Shaking his head, he said, “Image or style is not important, the most important is the true power produced. Just now I was able to disperse your saber qi, making it difficult for you to seize the opportunity to pursue and attack. Do you want to surrender?”
Kou Zhong passionately snorted in disdainful manner and said, “Ling Shao, are you being naïve or just being childish? Unexpectedly you could utter such a ridiculous remark. If you could disperse my saber power completely to the side, I would have made a fool of myself on the spot like a hungry dog scrambling to eat sh1t; but now I can still stand here spitting mocking remark at you, evidently Xiaodi still has enough power to roam with my saber.”
Nodding his head, Xu Ziling said, “This Shao still does not have enough skill to push you to the left when I want you to the left, to move you to the right when I want you to the right. But definitely you don’t have enough power to roam with your saber. Since you love to bicker so much, just answer my question.”
Kou Zhong slowly raised his saber to the top of his head. A burst of spiraling energy immediately rolled up with him at the center. The grass and leaves on the ground fluttered around him violently as if they were blown by a twister. He coldly shouted, “Spit it out [orig. have fart, let it out]!”
Listening and watching all these, Lei Jiuzhi and the others were greatly delighted. The more there is no trace of politeness between the two boys, the more people felt that there was a steadfast sincerity on both sides, there was brotherly feeling, completely without any misgivings.
Changing the subject, Xu Ziling laughed and said, “It feels like we are back to the past in Yangzhou, where after learning martial art by stealing we fought each other. Ay! After all these years, speaking about vulgar language, you, this kid, still have the same tone; you did not make the least bit of progress.”
Kou Zhong howled with loud laughter; the saber raised high in the air became a crutch he used to prop himself against the ground. The leaves flying around him also fell back down to the ground layer by layer. Nodding his head, he said with a sneer, “Can you make a progress in vulgar language? Why don’t Ling Shao speak several sentences of progressing vulgar language to open my ears?”
Lin Lang and the others also roared in laughter.
Xu Ziling laughed hoarsely and said, “Just consider I had misspoken. My question to you is: why was I able to block your Moon in the Well head-on using the Yijian Technique? If you can’t answer this question, you lose this debate.”
Kou Zhong sat down on the grass, putting his saber across his knees. He mused, “You have grasped my saber intention, haven’t you?”
“I’ll consider you pass this question,” Xu Ziling said, “Why can’t you move from the lower-quality intentional to the upper-quality unintentional realm? And then it would entail a lot more strenuous effort on my part to deal with it, unlike now, where it was as easy as drinking wine and eating hotpot.”
Kou Zhong was emotionally moved, “That is indeed an enlightening remark,” he said, “However, according to my humble father-in-law Old Song, whether it is intentional or unintentional, both have its own deviation and failure. The highest understanding is between intentional and unintentional. However, this matter is easy to grasp but difficult to put into practice. How can we advance into the intentional and unintentional level?”
Lei Jiuzhi shouted loudly, “LaoGe can give you an example I learned from the gambling table that two LaoDi [old younger brother] can use as a reference. The biggest taboo in gambling is the eagerness to win, since then losing will be even more unavoidable. Only those who are not seeking victory will not be afraid of defeat. Those who look at victory and wealth as nothing will, on the contrary, be able to make a big kill on three sides, able to gamble for a long time without losing. This, of course, needs to be backed by superior gambling skill.”
Xu Ziling applauded and cheered, “Well said! Shao Shuai, do you understand?”
Kou Zhong stared blankly for half a moment, and then he said with a sneer, “Is it very difficult to understand? Come! Take a look at another saber strike.”
Xu Ziling shook his head and said, “How could there be such a convenient thing? To be fair, it will be your turn to receive my move. Watch out!”
Ignoring the fact that Kou Zhong was still sitting on the ground, he soared into the air and pounced down on Kou Zhong from an angle. His hands turned from Inner Lion Image to Outer Lion Image, and then changed again to palm shadows filling the whole sky, coming down on Kou Zhong like a net hiding the sky and covering the earth.
Without even looking, Kou Zhong brandished his saber to chop swiftly.
The palm shadows filling the sky immediately dispersed.
The palm and the saber collided. Xu Ziling was jolted by the impact that he made two somersaults in the air and returned to his original spot.
The three men watching from the side had an indescribable feeling. They felt that Xu Ziling’s attack was solidly marvelous without any boundary, making it very difficult to resist. But Kou Zhong’s counterstrike was marvelous as if it was made by heaven, without any trace of hatchet or chisel [i.e. natural, not man-made].
Kou Zhong withdrew the saber level with his eyes. Stroking the blade with the other hand, he sighed and said, “Oh my good xiongdi! Tonight’s battle will bring great benefit for us, beyond our wildest imagination. En garde!”
Suddenly he sprang up, the saber turned into a streak of yellow arc, striking toward Xu Ziling.
In an instant the two were engaged in fierce battle. Were it not for Lei Jiuzhi and the others knew what was actually going on, they might have thought that there was deep enmity, big hatred between the two, so that they both determined to put the other to death.
The heated and dazzling, incomparably intense battle continued for a period of time. The palm came, the saber went, the foot kicked, the fist punched. Sometimes they stood opposite to each other some distance away, in a battle of qi momentum. Some other times they exchanged moves in close combat. The moves were exquisite. Occasionally they launched long-distance strikes; opened wide and closed in.
In any case, the spectators were watching with bated breath.
The two suddenly separated; they stood about a zhang apart, but were still calm and composed, as if they have not fought at all.
Xu Ziling’s hands performed the Sun Chakra Image. Greatly astonished, he said, “Due to repeated fortuitous meetings recently, I am able to use the Nine-Character Incantation Hand Image to grow and multiply my external power and internal qi without end, coming and going like natural law’s endless cycle, substantially extending the endurance of the true qi. Therefore, just now I deliberately wanted to exhaust your true power before enlightening you, this kid. Who would have thought that unexpectedly you, this kid, look like you are able to breathe and recycle your qi between saber strikes? What kind of martial art is that?”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “Turns out you really use crafty plots and machinations in dealing with me. I learned this kind of secret technique from Old Song. Each saber strike must be released and withdrew with ease; it resists external force and reconciled inner power. Otherwise, I would have been beaten by you early on that my head and face filthy with grime. Hey! Didn’t you use Yijian Technique just now?”
Nodding his head, Xu Ziling said, “Your several dozens of saber strikes just now were brimming with creativity like a heavenly steed soaring across the skies. Although similar to the style of your previous saber technique, yet there is an additional hard-to-describe powerful principle, almost to the point of countless changes contained in a concealed form within the simple and the clumsy, only lacking in skill-maturity, otherwise, I would have been knocked down by you. But now you are just waiting to be slaughtered by me.”
Hearing the last sentence, Kou Zhong blurted out laughing and said, “While admittedly your Nine-Character Incantation Hand Image is the bright ultimate skill since the dawn of time, but your tooting-your-horn skill is even more unparalleled under the heavens. Come! Let this Shao Shuai see how you are going to slaughter me.”
Xu Ziling only smiled. Suddenly he sent out a punch.
All four men, including Kou Zhong, were stunned; they did not understand why he did so.
What happened was that this punch gave the impression that it was as light as cotton ball. In fact, it did not generate the least bit of fist wind, nor did it carry the least bit of force.
While everybody was thinking so, suddenly ‘Bang!’ a swift-and-severe-without-equal qi power violently rushed out from the seemingly still fist, striking straight toward Kou Zhong.
Lei Jiuzhi and the others had not had any time to cry out in surprise, Kou Zhong’s saber already chopped.
Both Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling staggered half a step backward. Everything was back to the original state.
Emotionally moved, Kou Zhong asked, “What kind of martial art was that?”
Xu Ziling was emotionally moved as well; he said, “Your saber strike unexpectedly can hack my highly concentrated fist power into halves and disperse it in timely manner; it was certainly brilliant. I am afraid there are not many people in the world who can do that.”
The two boys looked at each other; suddenly they burst into laughter together. Their spirit unspeakably relaxed, their mind free. Meeting together after long separation, both of them have made remarkable progress in martial art cultivation. The most gratifying thing was that from different characters and different likes and dislikes, they have developed martial art xinfa that fit their individual personality best.
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Fighting with you is almost more delightful than exchanging saber strikes back and forth against Song Que. On the boat from Lingnan to here, every day I diligently thought about saber method. With the aid of Lu Dashi’s scroll on the key tricks from the military strategy and tactics from successive generations, I developed eight-style saber moves. Xiao Ling, do you want to try it?”
Xu Ziling gladly said, “With your current experience, these eight-style saber moves are definitely extremely interesting; how could I miss it?”
Kou Zhong said, “These eight moves are a bit wonderful like the heaven opens, it still requires your help to think about it over and over before it is perfected. This moment we are surrounded by powerful enemies; I must perfect these eight moves tonight. Tomorrow we can surprise the enemies.”
Lei Jiuzhi called out, “What do you call these eight moves?”
Kou Zhong solemnly replied, “The first move is called ‘No Attack’. It is called not to rely on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable. Hence the name ‘No Attack’.” [Courtesy of Akolaw].
When speaking the last sentence, the long saber suddenly trembled, his foot took a strange step, immediately a biting cold saber qi shot out, enveloping Xu Ziling from a distance. It appeared to be attacking, yet not exactly attacking; appeared to be defending, yet not exactly defending.
Xu Ziling’s spirit was moved, he said, “Really formidable. As soon as you carry out the No Attack move, I immediately feel that if I don’t take the initiative to attack, I would be caught in disadvantageous position of taking a beating passively. You are able to use the spiraling saber power to such degree, it could be considered reaching perfection already.”
Kou Zhong slowly circled Xu Ziling, he said, “However, this move is only suitable to be used in a one-on-one combat. If I want to gain the initiative by striking first, I must use the ‘Striking Strange’. It is called virtuous extraordinary moves are as boundless as the heaven and earth, as inexhaustible as the river [orig. Jiang He, could be interpreted as Yangtze (Chang Jiang) and Yellow River (Huang He)], the army camp and away from it, combined to form the strike. En garde!”
Suddenly the saber light and qi power filling the battlefield vanished. Kou Zhong’s body following his saber, the saber power turned into long rainbow, it shot straight toward Xu Ziling.
Even though everybody knew that he was about to launch a saber strike, nobody expected that it would be this ferocious, swift and severe.
Xu Ziling’s left palm chopped down, it hit the Moon in the Well right in the middle. The two suddenly closed in, but just as sudden they separated again, resuming their original position standing opposite to each other.
Lei Jiuzhi and the others were intimidated by his sudden saber strike, which momentum was like mountain flash flood breaking out suddenly; unexpectedly they forgot to cheer.
Xu Ziling took a deep breath to suppress his surging qi and blood; tongue-tied, he said, “You nearly took my little life. The most formidable aspect of this saber strike is its xinfa; you have been most successful in concentrating your entire power into one saber strike, it could immediately determine victory or defeat against the opponent. The disadvantage is that if the opponents are more than one, you might not have time to recover your qi and thus give the enemy the opportunity to strike back.”
Slightly gasping for breath, Kou Zhong appeared to have a bit difficulty as he nodded his head and said, “So the next style is called ‘Using Scheme’. In the art of war, using scheme as the root is to clear away troop disposition, one must seek favorable location first; using scheme to defeat the enemy, one must seek self-assurance first. Too bad you cannot seize the opportunity to attack; otherwise I might let you try this move.”
Greatly interested, Xu Ziling asked, “So what’s the fourth move called?”
Kou Zhong replied, “The fourth move is ‘Feigning Troops Movement’. In name this is one move, but in fact it contains eight empty-but-actually-real, and real-but-actually-empty moves; the there-can-never-be-too-much-deception-in-war move. There’s no saber technique that was not used before and that was not highly effective, and it has undergone improvement. However, it is very difficult to use against you, simply because I do not have the mind to deceive you.”
Sneering, Xu Ziling said, “It’s not that you cannot deceive me. Don’t be pretentious and put on an attitude!”
Kou Zhong’s old face turned slightly red, he protested, “How’s that the same?”
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “Just consider me too harsh on you. Don’t be so ill-mannered; quickly launch the fifth style for me to see!”
Kou Zhong suddenly shouted. His saber hacked down. But it was not chopping Xu Ziling at all, rather, it chopped the empty space. Although the qi power rolled up the sky, but it did not seem to pose any direct thread toward Xu Ziling. However, this was only in the eyes of Lei Jiuzhi and the others. To Xu Ziling, who was in close proximity to it, it was a different story altogether.
Kou Zhong has indeed reached the great-expert, founder-of-a-sect level. This one saber strike completely stirred the surrounding atmosphere, similar to Tianmo Dafa, transforming the air into a qi-power force field. The most formidable aspect was that because it did not attack directly, the opponent would not know how to deal with it, either attacking or defending would make the previously planned countermeasure to miss its mark; worse yet, it was difficult to anticipate what would come next.
Emotionally moved, Xu Ziling said, “This is the Yijian Technique being sustained in advance.”
The instant the Moon in the Well reached its momentum limit, he flashed to the left and right.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud, the long saber slashed across.
The two men’s saber and palm clashed in head-on collision before they quickly separated.
As an afterthought, Kou Zhong said, “This move is called ‘Chess Abundant’ [qi yi, the same yi character in Yijian]. Xiaodi simply dropped it to see how you would react; therefore, there was no fixed style; however, to be used on you, this kid who knew Yijian Technique, naturally it is not too brilliant.”
And then he added, “The sixth method of my Jing Zhong Ba Fa [Eight Methods of The Well] is called ‘Battle Decision’. The name comes from the saying ‘not absolutely sure to get means it is not outstanding, not absolutely sure of total victory means do not clash with the troops, the predestined affinity is ten-thousand times acting, ten-thousand times blocking; one battle decide it all’. Come!”
The following was a continuous, more than a hundred, saber strikes, which stunned Lei Jiuzhi and the others. Each saber strike attacked Xu Ziling from different angle, each saber strike was marvelous to the very top; it appeared to be intentional yet not exactly intentional, the form was overflowing with excitement, but was dangerous to the extreme point.
Even with Xu Ziling’s ability, it was extremely strenuous for him to block the attacks!
Kou Zhong pulled the saber back and withdrew. Gasping for breath, he said, “Good kid, you are just amazing. I have no strength left to continue with the three last moves! How about if I tell you the names first?”
Xu Ziling was quite exhausted as well. “Go ahead!” he said.
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, “I lied to you; I have not thought about these three moves well, hence the name lacks the respect they deserve. I will tell you in two days!”