Book 28 Chapter 2 – Garuda King
Kou Zhong pulled the tender, soft, and limp Lian Rou leaning against his body and moved her toward the edge of the cliff. Yun Shuai could only stare blankly at him, his eyes revealed murderous intent; obviously he was really angry.
If not for Xu Ziling watching him on the side like a tiger ready to pounce on its prey, he might give it a try, by relying on his exceptional qinggong.
By the time Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling came together, from the more than a dozen newcomers, three persons rose up and landed by Yun Shuai’s side. Two of them were familiar: the ‘Sichuan Fat Merchant’ An Long and the ‘Venomous Spider’ Zhu Mei.
At first glance, the other person did not look exceptional; he was about average height, medium build, did not grow any beard. But Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong felt that this man was a highly dangerous character. Not only because his eyes emitted demonical light, but also because both his shenfa and his bearing were not inferior to An Long at all.
It should be noted that An Long was a figure who ranked in the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Way. Just from this assessment, it was clear that this person was not easy to deal with.
Yet Yun Shuai did not seem to pay any attention to these people at all. His flickering-brightly eyes were fixed on Kou Zhong, he shouted coldly, “Let her go! I will give you the chance to a fair stake-it-all fight; otherwise, you will bear all the consequences.”
It could be said that Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling grew up under other people’s threat and intimidation, how could they take his threatening words seriously? They looked at each other and laughed. The former laughed aloud and said, “You are a teacher of the country [Guoshi], how could such a ridiculous thing come out of your revered mouth? Since we, relying on our true skill, captured your darling girl alive, do you think we’d let her go that easily? Please show some real skill to Laozi [I, your father].”
An Long’s eyes looking at them were burning fiercely, obviously Kou Zhong’s remark invoked old hatred, deep animosity in his heart, but he did not say anything, clearly it was because he respected Yun Shuai’s decision.
Zhu Mei’s eyes also contain bitter resentment; she spoke ferociously, “The two of you could be considered men with head and face; seizing a woman [nuliu, a derogatory way to call a woman] like this, what kind of heroes are you?”
Kou Zhong’s true qi finally succeeded in overpowering the resisting qi power within Lian Rou’s body, so that she was unable to even open her eyes, let alone to move or speak; she was completely dependent on his grasp on her jade arm not to limply fall to the ground.
Hearing Zhu Mei, Kou Zhong remained calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos; he said, “Mei Gongzhu’s remark is really puzzling. First of all, Ling Shao and I are just little ruffians making our living in Jianghu, we have never been considered to be heroes or what have you. Secondly, there are so many types of nuliu. For example, if you could seize Zhu Yuyan, I am afraid everybody would praise you as outstandingly formidable. Have Mei Gongzhu thought about that?”
Immediately Zhu Mei was stumped. She still wanted to retort to argue strenuously, but the middle-age man next to her patted her lightly, Zhu Mei immediately obediently swallowed back the spittle already on the edge of her lips; she only stared angrily at Kou Zhong.
Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were greatly puzzled, which divine being was this man? Why did Zhu Mei obey him like that?
The rest of the martial art masters behind these four persons had already fanned out to the four directions, surrounding the cliff so that not one drop could trickle through. Unless the two boys jumped into the cliff to escape, they could forget about leaving.
Still, fortunately the opponents did not know that Tuli was in a secret place behind the cliff to heal his injury, otherwise the two boys would have big headache. This was precisely the reason why Kou Zhong prevented Lian Rou from speaking.
Yun Shuai suddenly turned toward the middle-age man. The man smiled and said, “Yun Guoshi may make your decision, Ol’ Zhu will abide by it.”
Inwardly, the two boys were severely shaken; they guessed that this man must be Zhu Mei’s father, who proclaimed himself to be the ‘Garuda King’ Zhu Can.
Just by looking at how while having heavy responsibilities with the affairs of his state, his troops were in unfavorable situation in a fierce war, he still took the time to deal with them, it could clearly be seen that he had deep hatred toward the two boys, so deep that even all the water in the streams and rivers in the world would still be difficult to wash it off.
Yun Shuai’s gaze returning to Kou Zhong, he spoke heavily, “Speak up your condition of her release. Don’t be too excessive. Don’t forget that you, Han people, have a saying, which is, you would rather be broken jade than a whole roof tile.”
Kou Zhong smiled and said, “That is indeed seeking truth from the facts. The condition is very simple, that is, before dusk tomorrow, the troops from your honorable side must not come to give us trouble; you must not send either men or sparrow hawk to spy on us. Ay! Originally I wanted to have you kill the hawk, but this request will be too cruel to the adorable hawk. I have no choice but to put up with it a bit more and forget about it.”
Everybody in Zhu Can’s side, Yun Shuai included, was greatly amazed; not because the condition was too harsh, on the contrary, because the condition was too good and too difficult to refuse.
Xu Ziling was the only one who understood Kou Zhong’s intention in playing this card on them. This was to get their ‘Using Battle to Support Battle’ and ‘Taking Advantage of Check and Balance of Power’ strategy underway.
But this strategy was not much different than playing with fire. One thing went wrong, it would only bring disaster on themselves.
Yun Shuai nodded and said, “If you agree to immediately release Rourou, as the Western Tujue Guoshi I can guarantee that we will do as you wish.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “What’s so difficult about that? One word and it’s settled.”
Wrapping his arm around Lian Rou’s waist, he gently tossed the Persian beauty toward Yun Shuai. Flying in the air, Lian Rou was rolling continuously, her touching body was full of infinite wonder. It was not until she safely fell into the crook of Yun Shuai’s arm that all the men present regained their heart and spirit.
An Long and Zhu Can still maintained their wooden expression; they did not reveal their inner feelings the slightest bit. Zhu Mei’s pair of beautiful eyes lit up; she repeatedly signaled An Long with her eyes, obviously she wanted to break the agreement and make her move to take care of these two boys in one go.
As soon as Yun Shuai examined his daughter, he knew that she only had her meridians under control; after circulating her qi and blood, she would recover. The sharp ray in his eyes flaring out, he looked at the two boys, nodded his head, and said, “Two gentlemen should cherish this available time from midnight tonight through the end of the day tomorrow. I will definitely wipe away this hatred.”
Finished speaking, he turned around and left, carrying his daughter in his arms. Like a gust of wind, he disappeared beyond the hillside.
Immediately the situation became extremely delicate; because Yun Shuai did not call the others to leave with him, it appeared that whether they ought to make their move to deal with the two boys was left in Zhu Can’s hand to decide. The atmosphere quickly tensed up.
Zhu Mei’s eyeballs rolled wildly; she was eager to give it a try. But as she was about to encourage her father to make their move, unexpectedly An Long pulled her back. This big fat man raised his thumb and praised, “Young heroes are born, two Xiao Xiongdi are indeed exceptional. Ol’ An admires you very much. Too bad it will be difficult for you to escape the disaster of dying an untimely death. I’m taking my leave here.”
Pulling the reluctant Zhu Mei, he turned around and left.
Zhu Can also retreated away. With a long laugh he said, “The matter between us can only be resolved with one side splashing blood and the corpse exposed to the sun. Gentlemen, please take a good care of yourselves!”
In the blink of an eye, the enemies left until no one remained, the cliff was back to its tranquil state under the starry sky.
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, “Did I make a mistake?”
Putting his hand on Kou Zhong’s shoulder, Xu Ziling pulled him away from the cliff edge, and said cheerfully, “You certainly did not make any mistake. As I see it, you already won Yun Shuai’s respect.”
Stunned, Kou Zhong halted his step and asked in bewilderment, “Respect? Are you teasing me? Didn’t you hear that when he left he kept saying that he will definitely wipe away this hatred?”
Xu Ziling explained, “Yun Shuai only dealt with us for Zhu Can, father and daughter, and An Long’s sake. His real target ought to be Tuli; with us, he did not have real unsolvable enmity. Just now you showed your frank and straightforward, as well as magnanimous character, which make Zhu Can and An Long’s conduct appears to be even more despicable and lowly, hence the reason he intentionally disregarded everything and left without leaving half a word, to see whether Zhu Can, An Long, and the others would honor his commitment or not.”
And then he continued his analysis, “Furthermore, we have never really dealt with his darling girl using ruthless hands. Old Yun is a chicken eating the worm in the open; he is well aware of what’s going on!”
Kou Zhong was convinced; he said, “After listening to Ling Shao’s analysis, I am having similar impression. But as I see it, this Persian guy, Old Yun is haughty, he will never accept setback and defeat. Therefore, he might still pursue and attack us with all his might, and this will cause no end of trouble. Ha! That Persian woman is certainly moving. I hate to give her back; when I had her in my bosom, you don’t know how nice it felt.”
Displeased, Xu Ziling said, “You’d better save your mind to think about how to deal with her father’s fast saber. Fighting one-on-one, we are still one notch below Old Yun.”
Kou Zhong’s eyes lit up, he nodded and said, “Fighting with Old Yun, we can learn a lot of things. Since we have time, let us study it and compare notes!”
Muttering to himself irresolutely, Xu Ziling said, “The first thing we have to consider is: why is he faster than us? If we could figure this out, we would not be without any chance to defeat him.”
Kou Zhong pulled him back to the edge of the cliff. The two boys sat on the edge, with their four feet dangling over the edge of the cliff. The wide expanse of the starry sky above and the vast stretch of the plain before them extended as far as their eyes could see, making their heart and spirit felt open and clear, giving them a brand-new feeling.
Kou Zhong was silent for a moment before starting glibly, “I fought hand to hand with him for quite a long time, the feeling was particularly profound. Now that I recall the situation at that time, I dare say that he is able to use such a fast, high-speed saber technique, was because of three reasons.”
Xu Ziling took a deep breath to fill his lungs with the strong mountain breeze blowing directly onto his face; highly interested, he said, “Tell me.”
Kou Zhong cheerfully said, “This time we meet again and going up north together, whenever we have free time, we never miss the opportunity to study martial arts. It is thus clear that only under pressure mankind can strive and roam the earth, and struggle untiringly.”
Xu Ziling agreed; he said, “This is called ‘striving unremittingly’. But if there was no stimulation like Yun Shuai, it would have been very difficult for us to make continuous breakthrough like these two days, to use battle to support battle, to make such pursuit. Ay! I seem to be changing the subject.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “All right! Let’s get back to the main point. The reason why Yun Shuai’s saber technique can both be that fast and full of power is because he can use circle as a straight line. This is also the characteristic of his strange saber. Unless we could be like him, when messing with such curved saber, we would only want to draw tigers, but end up drawing some kind of dogs instead.”
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “That is certainly one of the crucial points. The change in curved saber’s rotation speed is naturally a lot faster than a straight one, plus we could exploit its spinning and splitting-the-air characteristic. Combined with his unique technique, this is the point that we are unable to learn by stealing.”
Kou Zhong said, “But we are not completely without any means either. Your technique has always been relying mainly on straight line. If you add a little bit of curve, circle and angle, it might evolve into a more non-square movement. Ling Shao, you might want to consider it more.”
Emotionally moved, Xu Ziling said, “This suggestion is not bad at all.”
Kou Zhong said, “Next reason is his shenfa and footwork. In this aspect, we will always be one notch below him. Do you have any good idea on how to improve ours? Otherwise, when we meet him again, we will be in the situation where we could only watch him go.”
Xu Ziling appeared to be very deep in thought. Suddenly he was severely shaken; he said, “I got it!”
Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, “This kid is not bad at all, even this near-to-impossible matter, you are able to see through.”
Xu Ziling’s eyes were flickering with bright, peculiar light. Turning his gaze toward the pitch-black jungle at the bottom of the cliff, he spoke slowly, “Do you remember that time at the Learning Beach we succeeded in jumping down the cliff, when we were finally able to master the Bird-Crossing Method?”
A faraway, reminiscing look appeared on Kou Zhong’s face; he quizzically asked, “What does it have to do with what we are talking about now?”
Xu Ziling turned his head around to look at him; he said, “I am referring to the feeling when we jumped down from the top of the cliff, our whole body felt like it was empty and fluttering. Our problem now is that when we move from one point to another, we are afraid that we won’t have enough power, so we have the qi power in our entire body passing through the arteries and veins, which is costing us a great deal of effort and slowing down our speed. If we only need to use our strength at the beginning of the movement, it would be just like when we jumped down the cliff. Do you understand?”
Kou Zhong suddenly shot up, and then ‘Whoosh!’ he floated three zhang away, and blurted out, “Success!”
Inwardly Xu Ziling thought, ‘How could it be that easy?’ But Kou Zhong’s floating just now was definitely a bit faster than usual. Abruptly turning his true qi around, under the push of the positive and negative streams of energy within his body, he immediately soared into the air. He no longer continued circulating his energy like he used to do, he simply let the initial stream of energy to carry him toward Kou Zhong. His entire body felt empty and floating like a feather, as if he was completely weightless.
When he landed by Kou Zhong’s side, he excited another stream of true qi, tapped the ground with his toes, and flew at an angle, traversing the nearly-seven-zhang distance across an empty space, and landed on a thick horizontal branch extended out of an old pine tree behind the cliff. One heavy and one light, it fitted deeply with natural way of raising a breath.
Normally it was impossible to achieve; it was even farther away from the effortless way he was doing it now, as if he did not spend any effort at all, plus he did not even use half of the qi power he normally used.
With a long whistle Kou Zhong soared into the air. Both arms hugging his knees, he made a continuous more than a dozen somersaults, before landed by Xu Ziling’s side.
The two boys laughed together, their long laugh was brimming with feeling of delight and satisfaction.
The fact was, ever since they witnessed Yun Shuai’s exceptional qinggong, they had wanted to improve this aspect’s deficiency with a thousand ways, a hundred plans, and now that they figured out this xinfa, they felt that their achievement was complete.
If it were someone else, even if they could think of this principle, they would not be able to succeed. One might well ask, who could be like them, able to control the true qi within their body easily, sending it out and pulling it back at will?
Finished laughing, Kou Zhong said, “The third condition is the amazing key of circulation of the true qi within the body. But with what we had just learned today, we no longer need to take the trouble to think about it.”
Xu Ziling suddenly moved across toward the empty air outside the tree trunk, made a somersault, and kicked with his left and right continuously to attack the pit of Kou Zhong’s stomach. The latter remained calm and unhurried, he stepped back from the tree trunk, and raised both palms to block.
Borrowing the reaction force, he leaped over Xu Ziling’s head. The Moon in the Well left its scabbard on his back and swept in an arc to chop on Xu Ziling. “Old Yun’s most formidable skill is using force to deflect force, without force to borrow force, these eight-character incantation [you li xie li, wu li jie li]. Watch for Laozi’s skill!”
Xu Ziling rapidly took a breath, his right palm swept across. Although it hit the Moon in the Well, there was a difficult-to-bear feeling of he was unable to exert his force, simply because most of his power was deflected by Kou Zhong’s ingenious skill and qi power.
Roaring in laughter, Kou Zhong said, “Now this is the right one!”
The Moon in the Well slightly swung open half a chi or so, and then the saber hacked back in. The speed was a lot higher than the previous saber strike. Evidently he had grasped the method of deflecting forces, he also understood the amazing key of borrowing the force.
Xu Ziling fell straight down. His left palm rose up to block, his palm power met the Moon in the Well’s blade.
While Kou Zhong flew up like a stone bullet from the impact, Xu Ziling’s left punch struck out. The instant his feet touched the ground, the wind from the fist soared into the air, swiftly striking Kou Zhong.
Kou Zhong moved sideways to evade the fist power, and landed on a mountain rock three zhang away from him. Aghast, he said, “How could you, after receiving my saber strike, counterattack that fast?”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “This is another kind of borrowing forces method. After absorbing a bit of your force, I returned it to you. In all the world, I am afraid only our martial art, which came from the ‘Secret to Long Life’ and the Jade Annulus of He Clan, can do this.”
After a short pause, he continued, “That day, on the plank walkway on my way to Bashu, Wan Yaonu borrowed my body for a hard fight against You Niaojuan. At that time I recalled the moment when I was with you and Old Ba, absorbing the extraordinary ability of the Jade Annulus of He Clan, so I secretly hid part of Wan Yaonu’s power. Therefore, when you mentioned about the method to borrow forces just now, I had a sudden inspiration to creatively combine learning with usage, and thus I mastered this matchless-under-the-heavens big method of borrowing power. Even if Yun Shuai sees it, he will only sigh with regret that we, the green, have surpassed the blue.”
Emotionally moved, Kou Zhong said, “This is certainly the pinnacle of martial art study since the dawn of time. If we really can use it to perfection, even if the opponent is stronger than we are, as long as the relative superiority of the style differs only a little, we could occupy the invincible position. En garde!”
Swiftly pouncing forward, the Moon in the Well turned into a roll of yellow light shooting straight toward Xu Ziling.
Xu Ziling understood Kou Zhong’s intention. He stood still while pushing both palms out.
As soon as the edge of Kou Zhong’s saber hit his palm, he pulled the saber back and chopped down.
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “Success!” His palm swept across, he deflected the saber’s power.
Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong made a somersault in the air and cried out, “Let’s see what will happen if both of us borrow forces at the same time?”
The two boys let out a stifled groan at the same time. One staggered backward, the other was jolted by the impact and flew midair. Unexpectedly neither one was able to borrow the least bit of force, so that without any fancy trick, two full-strength moves clashed head-on.
While Kou Zhong was falling back to the ground, he found out that because he was using excessive force, the wound on his shoulder was torn and bleeding. He promptly called for a timeout. He also said, “It’s time to check on our little Khan!”
Tuli’s voice was suddenly heard from the jungle behind the cliff, “Thank you very much for Kou Xiong’s concern; Xiaodi already recovered. It’s just that watching two LaoGe are training so hard, I did not dare to disturb!”
The two boys were greatly delighted.
The recovered Tuli, holding the Subduing Eagle Spear in his hand, landed by the two boys’ side, and spoke in delight, “What happened just now, I heard everything clearly; it’s just that it was the critical juncture in my recovery that I did not dare to stop. Two Laoxiong’s great kindness, great virtue toward Xiaodi, Xiaodi could only blush with shame.”
Kou Zhong asked in astonishment, “Listening to Khan, it seems like you have done some shameful deed. Otherwise, why do you feel guilty?”
Raising his cupped fist, Tuli spoke calmly, “Just the fact that Tuli wanted to keep the method to train hawks secret was a big mistake. If this time Tuli is able to return to my humble country safely, I will definitely send my men to deliver a special kind of good hawk, so that Shao Shuai can use it in the battlefield to subdue the enemy and score a victory.”
This time it was Kou Zhong’s turn to be embarrassed; he said, “When I asked Khan to teach me how to train the hawk, I was just joking. Khan does not need to renounce your ancestors’ teaching because of that.”
Tuli smiled and said, “Shao Shuai is certainly broad-minded; you are neither greedy nor demanding. But Tuli already said it, I will definitely not renege. The other thing that Xiaodi feel ashamed is that I did not tell two gentlemen that Xiaodi basically do not have any intention of returning to Guanzhong.”
The two boys were greatly surprised.
Lowering his voice, Tuli said, “My destination is Luoyang, not Guanzhong at all, because at this moment our humble country is having a huge commercial trade delegation coming to Luoyang to make business deal with Wang Shichong. Only later on will we go to Guanzhong. The man in charge has a close relationship with me. As long as I can meet up with them, we can turn peril into safety.”
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, “In that case, we ought to congratulate Khan; there is no need for Khan to be concerned over this matter.”
Shaking his head, Tuli said, “Two gentlemen’s righteousness toward Xiaodi reaches the clouds and the heavens; you did all these things with no regard over advantages and disadvantages, gains and losses. You deeply moved Xiaodi. Therefore, I am changing my plan, as long as I can reach Luoyang in secret, I will do everything in my power to sneak two gentlemen into Chang’an. On the surface, this delegation is representing Xieli’s side, even Kang Qiaoli and Zhao Deyan will not suspect anything, the Li Family will not dare to investigate even more. This is really a foolproof plan to enter the Pass. As for the details of the operation, we need two gentlemen to rack your brains.”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “While it is not sunrise yet, we might as well hurry up for his mother’s a hundred li. We’ll talk about plan during breakfast! Ha!”