Book 28 Chapter 10 – Killing Their Way Out of Nanyang
For the last dozen years or so, Zhu Yuyan had never undergone a moment like this; a moment full of amassed murderous intent. Just now it could be said that she had given it her all, yet she could only inflict light internal injury, which was not enough to impede Xu Ziling’s steps. And the most frightening thing for her was that the opponent practically was unafraid of her ‘Tian Mo Huan Xiang’ [demonic fantastical appearance], so that the formidable power of her Tian Mo Da Fa was greatly reduced.
By this time she had already abandoned her original intention of capturing him alive; she was determined to kill the enemy at all cost, to eliminate the possibility that in the future Xu Ziling would become another Ning Daoqi.
If Xu Ziling could read Zhu Yuyan’s thought, he would be extremely proud. But this moment, the only thing moving in his mind was how to flee with his life, so that someday he could collect this debt of blood that has filled him with grief and indignation.
Confronting Zhu Yuyan’s earth-shattering, matchless-in-power all-out strike, he must not shrink back at all. Otherwise he would fall into troops-in-defeat-like-a-landslide situation, until he was killed.
The ‘force field’ created by Zhu Yuyan’s Tian Mo Da Fa was superior to female demon Wan’s by several decades of a thousand-tempered, a hundred-refined, the stove-fire-has-turned-bright-green maturity, reaching-the-acme-of-excellence, both in terms of the level of demonic power and experience.
Under normal circumstances, even with Xu Ziling’s current breakthrough and skill level, he would still be unable to either borrow or deflect Zhu Yuyan’s palm power. Fortunately, because he has had the experience of Wanwan sending her Tian Mo power into his body to deal with You Niaojuan, compared to Kou Zhong, he had deeper understanding about the subtlety, the what-is-true-and-what-is-false – of Tian Mo Da Fa. In this critical time where life and death were hanging on a thread, he had no choice but to stake everything to try.
Tilting his head back to look up, the divine light in his eyes flared out, his hands performed the No Fear Image, immediately the nearly condensing blood due to the cold energy invasion began to flow again, while at the same time his blood vessels narrowed, so that the blood was flowing faster, all the true qi in his entire body cycled along his breathing. The feeling of fatigue just now was gone; the qi power within his body surged, and then changed into two streams of positive and negative energy. Moving three chi to the left, he sent out a punch.
By this moment, Zhu Yuyan’s murderous intent flared out even more.
This young opponent, who was originally under pressure of her Tian Mo power that his fighting spirit has completely gone, suddenly had the clothes and sleeves on his whole body brushing up, and turned into another person who stood as steady as Mount Tai. Even she could not figure out why the opponent’s striking punch unexpectedly did not carry the slightest force, yet plainly there was some kind of abstruse, unfathomable feeling within it.
Suddenly the opponent moved sideways to evade, her own no-stronghold-it-cannot-overcome Tian Mo power seemed to suddenly lose its center of gravity and its target, giving her a swaying, sweeping-away feeling that even though it was she who released the power, she felt extremely uncomfortable instead. However, changing move this moment was already too late; her palms could only move according to the original style, only the direction was changed downward.
Even with her vast experience and superior eyesight, Zhu Yuyan still had to admit that she could not see through Xu Ziling; she simply failed to understand him.
With arm stretched out to the limit, until it was only five chi away from Zhu Yuyan’s jade palm striking down from the sky – the two streams of true qi within Xu Ziling’s body moving in opposite directions turned into a twisted, moving-in-the-opposite-direction pillar of spiraling qi; like a flood breaking out of the dam it left his fist to meet Zhu Yuyan’s full-strength blow.
Qi energy clashed.
Letting out a muffled grunt Zhu Yuyan was jolted away.
Xu Ziling spurted out another mouthful of blood while staggering and spinning, until he finally fell off the roof slope. But just before reaching the ground, he stretched out his feet to push the ground, which sent him shooting like an arrow to a distant place.
Pushing the roof ridge with the tip of her toes, Zhu Yuyan also flew to pursue him.
Xu Ziling looked at the raging inferno about twenty zhang ahead, and then he flew toward a cluster of buildings that emitted a great amount of thick smoke.
Whether he would be able to escape Zhu Yuyan’s pursuit within the remaining short distance between them would be the difference between life and death. After a hard battle, both Zhu Yuyan and Xu Ziling no longer had large margin of movement; both have sustained injury. The difference was only in the degree of severity.
Xu Ziling took great comfort in the fact that he was able to inflict injury to this grand master of the demonic school. Just a moment ago he used the No Fear Image first to concentrate the true qi protecting his body, and then applied the positive-negative power to deflect the Tian Mo power enveloping him that he was unable to move a single step, lastly he sent out the punch by utilizing the power-application method from the newly-acquired Baoping [Aquarius/Treasured Vase] Image Style, so that Zhu Yuyan could not grasp his technique. Not only he was able to block her full-strength strike, he was also able to successfully borrow a little of her true qi, and then relying on this injection of power, he generated his own true qi, so that before landing on the ground, he substantially eased the injury on his meridians. As a result, he still had enough power to run away.
Five more zhang, and he would enter the blazing fire covered in thick smoke, while Zhu Yuyan was still about ten zhang away.
In this favorable situation, suddenly a shadow flashed. A delicate and handsome, elegant, middle-aged scholar with confident and at ease movements, unexpectedly blocked his way ahead. Holding a copper flute [orig. xiao, reed mouth organ, similar to pan pipes] across his chest, he laughed aloud and said, “Xu Xiongdi, how are you? Pi Shouxuan has been waiting respectfully for a long time.”
Xu Ziling noticed that the opponent’s movement was fast and seemed to be effortless, his bearing was charming; he immediately knew that this man’s demonic power was high, outstanding above Bian Bufu. Since he knew that he would not be able to escape, he ferociously gnashed his teeth and, using the hardest, fiercest Great Vajra Chakra Image, he gathered whatever little true qi he had left, and used it to strike the opponent, without slowing down at all.
Pi Shouxuan shook his head and said with a sigh, “This is called a moth throwing itself into the flame; you are overestimating your capabilities.”
The copper flute swayed, it drew a streak of light in the air, reflecting the flame behind his back, producing loud screaming noise like weeping ghost or crying deity.
Right the moment Xu Ziling sent out his punch, he already lost confidence. While he was sighing inwardly that his little life would not be preserved, a strange noise suddenly came from within the thick smoke and blazing fire behind Pi Shouxuan, followed by a rolling spear shadow, like a tornado sweeping toward Pi Shouxuan.
Immediately the situation was completely reversed; now it was the ‘Yun Yu Shuang Xiu’ [see Book 25 Chapter 8] Pi Shouxuan’s turn to face enemies in front and behind him.
Even with Pi Shouxuan’s ability, he knew that it was difficult to resist two great young martial art masters’ pincer attack from front and back at the same time, especially the Subduing Eagle Spear attack from behind, which came so suddenly. Because he was so engrossed in the attack from the front, so much so that he revealed a big opening on his back, he was caught unprepared and could only try to save his own life first.
Although he knew perfectly well that if he could block just one move from Xu Ziling, Zhu Yuyan would be able to catch up in time, he still had to sigh inwardly while flashing sideways to evade. Not only that, he would have to evade far away.
In that instant, Xu Ziling and Tuli met together. Xu Ziling seized this opportunity to pull Tuli’s arm, and then together they leaped at an angle into the depth of the thick smoke.
By the time Zhu Yuyan arrived, she was already one step too late.
Kou Zhong spurred the horse to gallop like crazy toward the Tian Kui dojo, from which flames and thick smoke were soaring into the sky, painting the horizon south of the city red; his heart was full of murderous intent.
Presumably all the great streets and small alleys leading to the dojo were blocked by armed men related to Ji Yinong, to strictly prohibit anybody who might want to rush over to put out the fire.
At this time Kou Zhong’s Moon in the Well was stained with blood, because he charged through seven, eight such blockades before he could even reached this place.
Right this time, the battered-and-exhausted, from-head-to-foot-covered-in-sparks-and-debris Xu Ziling and Tuli were rushing out of the disaster area and leaped onto the top of the wall.
While he was standing on the wall, Xu Ziling saw Kou Zhong coming over, suddenly he staggered and nearly fell off the wall. Fortunately Tuli grabbed him and helped him up, before leaping down toward Kou Zhong.
Two shadows appeared together from about thirty zhang away from the wall, pursuing them as fast as a ghost. Recognizing one of them as the Yin Hou Zhu Yuyan, Kou Zhong cried inwardly, ‘What a disaster!’
Catching Xu Ziling and Tuli landing on the horseback, he immediately pulled the rein to turn the horse around, and galloped it into the long street. Everybody raised his qi to lighten his body, to substantially reduce the horse’s load. Three men on one horse, they fled for their lives in panic.
They had just run for twenty or so zhang, more than a dozen men, holding lances and brandishing spears, charged from both sides of the street. Moreover, arrows were raining down on them from the roof of the buildings on either side.
Tuli roared. The spear in his hands turned into shadows filling the whole sky, forming a net protecting them, blocking the arrows and knocking them onto the ground.
Xu Ziling struck with both hands, left and right, producing punch power and palm wind, jolting the pouncing enemies, sending them falling to the east and stumbling to the west, throwing them off and forcing them to retreat.
Kou Zhong shouted, “If I cannot avenge this enmity, I swear I am not a human.”
Like lightning, the Moon in the Well moved in front of the horse’s head; none of the men blocking their way was able to narrowly escape, their blood splashed, they fell down to the ground.
The horse never stopped running; it crashed through the barrier.
They had no time to check whether Zhu Yuyan and Pi Shouxuan were still chasing them from behind; they only knew that whoever blocked their way, he must be killed, no question asked. By the time they reached the intersection of two major streets, all three were already soaked with blood from head to toes. But they already broke through many barriers and killed nearly a hundred men from the enemy’s side.
The battle was so fierce that if one were not in the middle of it, it would be difficult to imagine.
“Turn left!” Tuli suddenly shouted.
Kou Zhong remembered that Li Yuanji, Kang Qiaoli, and their men were at the dock of the River Tuan outside the northern city gate, so if they turned left, they would go toward the western city gate; hastily he pulled the rein to turn left.
“Faster!” Tuli cried, “Yaofu is getting closer!”
Kou Zhong and Tuli turned their heads around; they saw Zhu Yuyan and Pi Shouxuan, one in front of the other, were closing in, so that they were now only about ten zhang away. Just a bit of delay, they would immediately catch up with them. Crying for their Niang inwardly, they wanted to spur the horse to run faster. Who would have thought that the horse, which was already foaming in its mouth, had already reached the limit of its legs, so that Zhu Yuyan quickly closed the distance to eight, nine zhang?
The buildings on both sides of the street were racing backward like a phantom. Ahead, there were thick shadows of you-chased-after-me, I-pursued-you, as several hundred people were fighting desperately at close quarters; battle cries shook the heavens, dead bodies were everywhere.
However, the most comforting thing for the three was that the western gate was wide open. Apparently when the Nanyang Bang men in charge of guarding the city gate were under attack, they knew that something was wrong, hence they opened the city gate to run for their lives. Otherwise, it would be difficult for the horse to jump over the wall, and if there were any slight delay, no doubt the enemy would catch up.
Kou Zhong spurred the horse to weave left and right in the gaps between the fighting. In the blink of an eye they entered the gate of the city watchtower, which depth reached about six zhang. The horse’s front legs suddenly lost its footing, dumping the three men rolling on the ground.
The three rolled out of the city gate, all the way to the edge of the drawbridge before they sprang up and ran across the suspension bridge, running away for their lives to the wilderness.
Zhu Yuyan and Pi Shouxuan pursued to the head of the bridge, but their strength had already been exhausted. They could only stood while staring blankly at them disappearing in the depth of the darkness outside the city.
The three sat dejectedly on a hilltop outside the city, looking down at Nanyang in the distance. They could still see the smoke and fire soaring into the sky.
Smiling bitterly, Kou Zhong said, “This time we really suffered a crushing defeat; being able to hold back on our little lives is indeed the Heaven’s blessing.”
Kneeling on both knees, Xu Ziling spoke heavily with wooden expression, “I wonder how they are doing?”
Gasping for breath, Tuli replied, “They should be able to escape! I was half urging, half forcing Ying Yu, Lu Wuxia, and the others to take Lu Zhong out and away from the secret chamber before coming out to look for you.”
Kou Zhong suddenly stood up. His pair of tiger-eyes stared fiercely at the flame above the city of Nanyang; he said, “There will come a day when we will settle all the old hatred and the new enmity with Zhu Yuyan.”
“What should we do next?” Tuli asked, “Are we going to Guanjun now?”
Kou Zhong wanted to ask for Xu Ziling’s opinion, “Ling Shao, what do you say?”
Xu Ziling looked up to the sky and said, “We’d better find a place to hide first. Otherwise, by the time we see a hawk flying back and forth overhead, it will already be too late for regrets. Furthermore, with our current condition, practically we do not have any capital to fight.”
When Tuli woke up, the sun was already shining its noble light onto the big earth, bathing the earth with its warm rays of light from the middle of the sky. Xu Ziling was still sitting cross-legged with eyes closed, but Kou Zhong was nowhere to be seen.
Their hiding place was in a canyon within a mountainous area about fifty li northwest of Nanyang, where the forest was dark and dense; it was indeed a good hiding place.
A stream wound its way along the bottom of the canyon. The gentle murmur of the water enhanced the feeling of peace and relaxing atmosphere of the mountain forest, especially after going through the foul wind and bloody rain of the previous night.
Tuli rose up quietly. From among the three, Xu Ziling’s injury was the heaviest, so he needed longer time to regulate his breathing.
When he reached the mouth of the valley, he saw Kou Zhong, hiding under the shade of a thick tree, looking up to the sky. When Tuli came behind him, Kou Zhong pointed to the sky and said, “Look!”
Following his finger, Tuli saw a black dot circling above the open country, about ten li away from the mountainous area, looking for a target.
“Whose hawk is that?” Kou Zhong asked.
After careful observation, Tuli said in low voice, “Ought to be Kang Qiaoli’s sparrow hawk. Finally they caught up with us here!”
The black dot flew farther away and disappeared behind a small hill.
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “In the end, Ling Shao’s heart is like clear water. If we did not escape last night, we would have been chased until we are unable to breathe by now.”
Tuli went down on one knee next to him and said, “We have to reconsider our escape route. Now that we have one more big enemy, Yin Gui Pai, our situation is getting worse.”
Kou Zhong said, “Your general knowledge of geography is actually better that ours, Han people. I am serious; I am not mocking you. It would be better if you plan the escape route.”
Smiling wryly, Tuli said, “I wonder if you are indeed mocking me, because Xiaodi put in time and energy to study the geography of your mountains and streams for one purpose. You ought to know what it is without me telling you.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “缸怨乓岳矗忝呛湍愕男倥嫦龋悴欢先肭趾菏浚烤* [I have no idea what it is] it’s because you are admiring our Central Earth’s culture, or you fancy our wealth and women?”
Remaining tranquil and calm, Tuli said, “To put it succinctly, it is to take advantage of somebody’s precarious position and maybe to expand our territory. This is the real reason of invasion. If I don’t attack you, you will come to invade me. There is no other argument.”
Kou Zhong pondered, “However, from historical perspective, it was always your side doing the invasion more, we are only fighting back to defend our country’s territory!”
Tuli analyzed, “This is just some kind of misunderstanding; because of tactical, geographical, and social differences, most of the time you could only be in the passive position. Frankly speaking, purely from military strength’s perspective, you, Han people are not our match. The one that we really admire is your Warring States period’s [475-221 BC] ‘Tieqi Fei Jiang’ [armored horses flying general] Li Mu. Even with Han Wudi’s [Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty (141-87 BC)] formidability, both sides only ended up neither side wins.”
Kou Zhong felt his face lost its splendor in a big way; he retorted, “Since that’s the case, how come your national boundary cannot expand pass the Great Wall of Yin Mountains [in inner Mongolia]? Clearly that although perhaps we are not expert in attacking, we are expert in defending.”
Tranquil and even-tempered, Tuli replied, “I hope this discussion will not undermine the friendship, which surpasses life itself, between us, brothers.”
Kou Zhong’s old face slightly blushed, he said, “Of course not. It’s just that the mood is getting a bit hot. Khan, please continue.”
Tuli sighed and said, “If we continue, it might get more unpleasant to hear, Shao Shuai still want to listen?”
Forcing a smile, Kou Zhong said, “Can’t you not say such an unpleasant thing to hear?”
Tuli reached out to put his hand on Kou Zhong’s shoulder and said, “It was because I sincerely regard you as my brother that I am speaking candidly to you. Speaking about relative superiority, we excel in courage and strength, but you are dominant in wisdom and scheme. All along, the most formidable weapon that you, Han people are using to deal with us is division and relation-by-marriage, two major policies. Martial art is only being use as the background support. As long as we appear to be divided and having internal strife, you can watch the fires burning across the river and enjoy the success in peace and safety. If we were to use military force, as early as when the Northern and Southern dynasties [420-589] split apart, we could have swept across the Outer Mongolia [lit. north of the (Gobi) Desert] and established formidable Khanate nation. But look at what’s going on here. Not only one fine Tujue Khanate split into eastern and western, two nations, Xieli also wanted to put me to death. If we can all work together, what do you think you can use to stop us from going down from the north?”
Listening to this, Kou Zhong was silent.
The breaking up of the Tujue was closely related to the alienation policy of the Sui Dynasty. This was the weak point of the crumbling apparent-but-not-real Tujue power.
Because under Tujue’s supreme leader, the Great Khan, there were a certain number of lesser Khans like Tuli, who, each one has his own territory, the fact was that no matter who held the power over administrative and military force, he was independent. This is called ‘although moving to different place is impermanence, each one has a place of his own’. Therefore, ‘living apart from the family with strangers on all sides, the heart is filled with suspicions and jealousy, but outwardly showing harmony and camaraderie; it is difficult to do, yet easy to be alienated’.
If one could be friendly with any of the Khans, one could create conflict between the Khans.
Although the Sui Dynasty failed to use military force to gain any territory from this kind of brave and expert in war, able to come and go like the wind, having a vast desert as their hiding place – powerful nomadic people, there were actually a few schemes that have been carried out successfully.
Tuli continued, “Your people rely mainly on agriculture, although the number of people is a hundred times, a thousand times more than us, but maneuvering troops is not an easy matter; more often than not, it would give rise to mass uprising. Moreover, your defensive line is long, hence it is difficult to centralize the defense. As for military expedition, we only need to cut your provision route, you will quickly become lone army lacking food supplies and weary; how could you withstand the surprise attack of our elite cavalry, who were born in the great desert? Merely the weather, which changes irregularly, and the desert’s torrid heat would guarantee your defeat and doom.”
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, “The fact is like a mountain, how could I defend against this accusation? Ay! But could you tell me, this deliberately dividing the Central Earth into pieces like what you are doing right now, executing brilliant scheme of using Han people to beat Han people, did Zhao Deyan have any part in engineering this?”
Tuli shook his head and said, “This policy was decided by ‘Wu Zun’ Bi Xuan’s younger brother Ao Yugu. Not only this man’s martial art skill is superior, his resourcefulness surpasses others. In our country, his status is second only to Bi Xuan; he is the man whom Xieli reveres and trusts.”
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “He is indeed formidable. This is called using a man’s way back on himself, leaving the strong to join the weak. If we are looking at it this way, perhaps this time Khan being framed is also due to this Gu somebody’s advice. They are hoping to regain all young Khan’s military power and establish a country with centralized power. By the time even the Western Tujue is united and pacified, the Central Earth will face great catastrophe.”
Tuli was shaken. “I have not thought that thoroughly,” he said, “But Bi Xuan … ay! What is actually at stake, it is very difficult to say.”
This moment Xu Ziling came over to the two men and said, “Look!”
The two men looked up at the clear sky without any clouds for ten thousand li; the hawk was flying back in their direction.
“Where should we go?” Kou Zhong asked.
Xu Ziling replied indifferently, “After dark, we are going back into Nanyang. Once we are there, we will act according to circumstances.”
The other two were stunned.