Book 29 Chapter 2 – Immortal Print Technique
In the dark gateway, Tuli unleashed his Subduing Eagle Spear to its fullest potential. Purely relying on his intuition he stormed the enemy with violent attacks. Who would have thought that although the opponent was clearly enveloped within the sphere of spear momentum, each one of the more than a dozen fierce spear attacks fell into an empty space?
While his heart was overwhelmed with shock, the tip of his spear suddenly felt as if it was struck by lightning, jolting him that he was sent tumbling backward, while both hands’ Yin * Meridian felt amazingly cold that it was about to burst, and Yang * Meridian actually unbearably hot. Basically he did not know how to neutralize it.
In his shock, he swiftly retreated.
Who might have such weird, overbearing and strange martial art skill like this?
As soon as Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling obtained steady footing, they split up; together with Tuli, after he retreated, attacked the mysterious big enemy from both sides. Momentarily the sound of fist wind and saber power lingered on continuously.
Tuli had to fall back more than ten steps before he was able to disperse the enemy’s power invading his body. At this time Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong also let out several muffled groans; obviously they also suffered major setback.
They were in a wretched situation where their power has not been recovered; it was not even half of their usual power. Even so, under the two boys joint attack the enemy – without making any noise, was still able to occupy the upper hand. His skill was truly shocking.
Regaining his foothold, Tuli held the spear and charged forward through the space between Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong, pressing down against the enemy.
Suddenly the sound of hoof beats was heard, a large number of riders galloped from the city toward the city gate. The man let out a cold snort and said, “Let’s consider you lucky!”
Finish speaking, his palm brushed across the tip of Tuli’s spear. By the time Tuli spurted out blood and fell back, the man already pulled back and escaped from the other end of the gateway.
Naturally the three did not dare to tarry either; hastily they slipped out of the city and ran away into the wilderness.
In a forest outside the city, one after another the three fell onto the ground, no longer able to climb back up.
Gasping for breath, Kou Zhong said, “Who could be that formidable?”
Xu Ziling turned around to lie on his back; struggling to open his eyes, he gazed on the night sky, which was still as clear as before, through the sparse branches with thick leaves above him. “I finally understand what Immortal Image Method really is,” he said.
Tuli suddenly raised his head and said in shock, “Xie Wang [demonic king] Shi Zhixuan?”
Spitting out half a mouthful of blood, Kou Zhong smiled ruefully and said, “It’s indeed him; I clearly hacked him down, who would have thought that unexpectedly the saber seemed unable to penetrate his skin and just slipped away? The saber power was absorbed by him, and he used it to attack Xiao Ling. The Immortal Image Method is the most brilliant borrowing-force-to-deflect-force and absorbing-power martial art technique. It originated from Tian Mo Da Fa, but it is more formidable than Tian Mo Da Fa. How did he do that?”
Xu Ziling said, “If within the past few days we did not start to uncover the secret of borrowing force to deflect force, we would definitely not be able to understand his alternate fantastic martial art technique. In my opinion, the key is in his ability to merge together two kinds of entirely different, totally opposite internal energy, plus the way he is utilizing it, which has reached perfection, only then did he accomplish this kind demonic skill, which will forever occupy the invincible position. No wonder Ci Hang Jing Zhai is so afraid of him.”
“He might catch up with us any moment,” Tuli said, “Shouldn’t we continue to flee?”
With a lot of difficulty Kou Zhong managed to sit cross-legged; shaking his head resolutely, he said, “No! If he wants to come, let him come! Only under this kind of situation will we be able to make breakthrough in our training.”
The setting sun on the western horizon emitted dimming multicolored light, painting the several clumps of about-lo-leave-but-difficult-to-part floating clouds, so that it looked like a fairyland in the world of mortals.
Kou Zhong came over and knelt on one knee next to Xu Ziling. He spoke in low voice, “That fellow Shi Zhixuan did not come, do you think it is our good luck, or his good luck?”
Xu Ziling slowly opened his slender, handsome eyes. A hint of wry smile appeared on the corner of his bloodstained lips, he spoke lightly, “What I was most afraid of has happened. The reason Shi Zhixuan let us away is because his target is Yun Shuai. I do hope the Heaven helps the worthy, by enabling him to escape Shi Zhixuan’s evil clutches.”
Severely shaken, Kou Zhong said, “I haven’t thought about this possibility. Why didn’t you say so earlier?”
Xu Ziling’s eyes flitted over toward Tuli, who was still circulating his inner power to heal his injury; he sighed and said, “It was only after you mentioned it that I suddenly came to realize it. But whether Shi Zhixuan can catch up with Yun Shuai or not, he will come back to look for us. How’s your condition?”
Kou Zhong’s eyes flashing with bright light, he spoke heavily, “Your using-battle-to-raise-battle style is indeed incomparable. It is a lot more efficacious than any closing-oneself-in-hard-cultivation method. Not only our power is greatly refined and advanced, the most hard to come by is that our battle experience redoubled; at least we gained an understanding of the highest quality borrowing-force-to-deflect-force martial art skill, which is being carried out in the acupoints and meridians inside our body. This is the key secret of the Immortal Image Method.”
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “Passionate Prince Hou Xibai once said that Immortal Image Method integrates life and death, two extremes, into one. When the enemy attacks, his qi is the dead qi to take life away, but Immortal Image Method is going to transform this dead qi into living qi. Therefore, death is life, and life is death. Compared to it, our borrowing-force method is like little wizard looking at grown wizard; the difference is a thousand li apart.”
Kou Zhong’s pair of eyes lit up, he said, “That is really not an impossibility. As long as our borrowing-force method can advance when we are being hit, or we can find a way that the attack would not harm us, it would be the same as we succeeded in mastering the Immortal Image Method.”
Xu Ziling shook his head and said, “We will never master it they way Shi Zhixuan did; unless we can copy his ability of utilizing two entirely different kinds of true qi, one death, one alive. But for us, that is an impossibility.”
Full of confidence, Kou Zhong said, “He has his own Immortal Image Method, we have our own ‘Jie Xie Da Fa’ [borrowing, dispersing big method]. As long as we know there is that kind of possibility, one day we will be able to achieve it.”
Xu Ziling said, “But watch out that while you wanted to paint a tiger, it would become some kind of dog instead. However, the battle against Shi Zhixuan has given us huge enlightenment, it made us suddenly see the truth. Only our top priority right now is how we can break his Immortal Image Method?”
Kou Zhong spoke heavily, “Thinking about that problem just now, I nearly split my head. Fortunately there are some gains. I think the only way is by the time the true qi attacks his body, we must prevent it from being cut off by him, such as by shaking or controlling the qi power, then we won’t be afraid that he would transform it for his own use. But the best method is still how to develop and promote our own ‘Jie Xie Da Fa’; otherwise we still won’t be able to withstand too many strokes of his.”
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “What you said makes a lot of sense. While Khan is still regulating his breathing, how about we play for a few strokes?”
Since it was exactly what he wanted, Kou Zhong gladly agreed.
Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong rose up to their full height, they looked at each other and smiled; both had a feeling of being born again.
Even they themselves did not know that they were continuously making breakthrough and progress on their way to the pinnacle of the martial art way, establishing both boys’ future of transcending above all living things, moving forward toward the incomparably great master of the realm of martial art study of this present age.
After undergoing twists and turns, in the end Nanyang still returned into Zhu Can’s hands. Although Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling lost Nanyang, they gained three major benefits.
First, they made Yin Gui Pai’s effort to expand their power north of the River failed within sight of success. Xiangyang was still a lone city. However, with the lapse of short-duration peaceful relationship with Yin Gui Pai, because of Nanyang, the hatred of both sides was deepened, so much so that now the two could not exist together.
Second, Yun Shuai has been converted from enemy into a friend; now they had one less formidable enemy who come and go like the wind. Both in terms of essence and spirit, they were much more relaxed. By their analysis, naturally Yun Shuai would no longer be willing to be exploited by An Long and Zhao Deyan.
Finally, because Zhu Can’s main forces’ sudden attack confounded Li Yuanji’s troops, he would no longer able to organize large scale hunt and kill operation like before; not only that, they would have to quickly evacuate this danger zone, to avoid being exploited by Zhu Can. Furthermore, their inability to obtain additional intelligence from An Long anymore would have significant impact on their mission to track the three men.
It was precisely under these circumstances that Kou Zhong, three men, took the opportunity to go up north. Naturally they did not dare to lower their guard. Although they no longer had to worry about Yun Shuai and Zhu Can’s troops, but they gained Yin Gui Pai and Shi Zhixuan, two big terrifying enemies, which would give them more headache.
After going into the city to buy clothes, provision, and other necessities, they started to avoid going into the city, but hastened on their journey via wild, mountainous country. Whenever they were taking a break, the three immersed themselves in studying martial arts.
More than ten days later they arrived at Yique, a big city south of Luoyang. Not only Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s cultivation enjoyed great progress, the benefit Tuli derived was not shallow either. Both in Subduing Eagle Spear Technique and internal true qi cultivation he also repeatedly made breakthroughs, deeply receiving the using-battle-to-raise-battle’s endless wonderful usefulness.
The three disguised themselves as itinerant peddler who were doing their trade in all parts of the country. They went into Yique to find a hotel to rest, and then separately went out to research what would be the absolutely safe method to enter Luoyang.
Luoyang was not like other places at all. It was a place where dragons and snakes mingled [idiom: a mix of good people and scumbags]. Moreover, it was Wang Shichong’s territory. If they were careless, the consequences would be very bad.
When Kou Zhong returned to the inn, Xu Ziling had just come back one step ahead of him. Kou Zhong dejectedly sat down on the chair, as if he was ready to give up everything – but did not say anything.
Xu Ziling sat down by his side and quizzically asked, “What happened? How come you look so pitiful as if you have just lost the entire Duke Yang’s Treasure?”
Kou Zhong shook his head and sighed lightly. “I saw Li Xiuning,” he spoke slowly.
Xu Ziling was stunned, “Did she come here?” he asked.
“She ought to be passing by here,” Kou Zhong replied, “She, ay! She and her boyfriend were strolling down the street, shopping. She looked so happy and merry, but I feel like being beaten half dead; how could I think about sneaking into Luoyang when I am depressed and at a loss?”
Li Xiuning’s boyfriend was Chai Shao.
Kou Zhong saw them whispering sweet nothings to one another; a scene that naturally evoked mixed feelings, which sent him into misery and self-pity. From this, it was clear that Kou Zhong still could not forget his feeling toward Li Xiuning.
Yique was an important city under Wang Shichong’s banner; it had tight control over Yi River, which lead directly to Luoyang. Li Xiuning was able to tour around here as she wished, clearly the Li Clan still had not have falling out with Wang Shichong.
Li Xiuning came from Jingling in the south to this place, without needing to guess one would know that her next stop must be the Eastern Capital Luoyang, and the purpose of her visit must be to have final negotiation with Wang Shichong. If Wang Shichong refused to surrender, the Li Clan’s Great Tang would then wage war with him to decide to whom the land under the heavens would belong to.
Xu Ziling said, “In this kind of matter, please forgive Xiaodi for having the mind to, but powerless and at a loss on how to offer you any help.”
Kou Zhong crossly said, “Can’t you at least say something to comfort me? For example, ‘you already have the Song Family’s lady, you must not have three hearts, two intentions’, or ‘it’s not that you can’t compare with Chao Shao, it’s just that this lesser being was several steps ahead of you, also it’s a case of a pavilion near the water [idiom: using one’s proximity to the powerful to obtain favor]’, or something like that?”
Smiling bitterly, Xu Ziling stretched out his hand to pat Kou Zhong’s broad shoulder; he said, “Speaking about the ability to comfort oneself, who might surpass you, Kou Shao Shuai? Whatever I say will only be bitter medicine for you; for instance, supposing your feeling toward Xiuning Gongzhu [princess] has not ended, in the future we have the opportunity to break into Guanzhong, how are you going to face her? Therefore, from now on, all your conduct must be with the thought that she is not going to hate you.”
Stunned, Kou Zhong said, “You are right. Since I cannot obtain her fragrant heart, making her hating me is also a way within the no way. But to stand out among my peers is the great aspiration I have since I was little, I did not go striving for the world because of her. But she is definitely one of the driving forces to make me push myself. Just think! On Li kid’s boat that day, with what kind of look did that guy Chai Shao receive us?”
What happened that day has already become fading memory in Xu Ziling’s mind, but he had never thought that it hurt Kou Zhong so deeply that he was dwelling on it.
While Xu Ziling was at a loss on what to say, Tuli came back; his left hand carried a pot of wine, his right hand held a big bag that looked like fresh, hot, spicy stewed meat and some steamed buns. Immediately the heavy-as-a-lead atmosphere weighing them down was driven away.
The three arranged some chairs, they ate and drank as much as they liked, the mood quickly turned around, their spirit ran high.
“Ling Shao,” Kou Zhong said, “Do you know who Yiguan’s [sic] Taishou [provincial governor] is?”
Xu Ziling indifferently replied, “If I don’t even know that fact, how could I be qualified as a scout? Human emotions change daily like the temperature, be careful or else others won’t sell your account.”
Kou Zhong confidently said, “Don’t be that pessimistic. Yang Gongqing is a good man, if I thoroughly explain the pros and cons, I guarantee that his heart will be moved.”
Tuli put down his wine cup. Watching Kou Zhong topping off his cup for him, “What pros and cons are you going to explain to him?” he wondered.
Grabbing his head, Kou Zhong said, “I have not thought this matter clearly yet, but as long as Wang Shichong is unwilling to surrender to the Li Family, I, Kou Zhong have a great value for him. If we directly make peace with Wang Shichong, it will be very difficult for us all to step down, with Yang Gongqing threading the needle, it will be a different thing altogether.”
Shaking his head, Tuli said, “This is called a new branch grows out of a knot [idiom: side issues keep arising]. One thing goes wrong, we would only expose our whereabouts in vain. It would be better to wait until you obtain the Duke Yang’s Treasure, until your frame and power are increased greatly; looking for Wang Shichong at that time will not be too late.”
Kou Zhong said, “Khan’s words are not without any reason. All right, I’ll drop this matter for the time being.”
Xu Ziling cast him a sidelong glance; snorting coldly, he said, “In the end you are still thinking about seeing Li Xiuning, aren’t you?”
Kou Zhong heavily slapped Xu Ziling’s shoulder, as if he wanted to vent off his anger; he sighed and said, “I really cannot hide anything from Ling Shao.”
With Li Xiuning’s status, naturally Yang Gongqing would have to receive her personally. If Kou Zhong went to see Yang Gongqing, at least in a sense he could get close to Li Xiuning. This was an extremely subtle way of thinking.
Tuli said, “I bought three cabins on an express ship to Luoyang, tonight we’d better stay in our room and have a good night sleep, tomorrow morning we’ll embark the ship going up north. As long as nobody knew we are going to Luoyang, there will be 90% chance I can get you sneak the gods-did-not-know-the-ghosts-did-not-perceive into Guanzhong.”
Kou Zhong said, “On the surface it sounds like it will be a cinch. But supposing your Mo He’er is standing on Xieli’s side, we are going to walk right into the trap. Not to mention that by doing this, Mo He’er will not only reverse his having a face in front of Xieli to having an enmity against him, he will also offend the Li Family. In the end, it will only bring him harm without any benefit at all.
Tuli replied in displeasure, “Mo He’er is not that kind of person.”
Xu Ziling calmly said, “Khan, please do not get angry. If this matter only involves Mo He’er’s personal honor and disgrace, I believe that in his gratefulness and seeking to repay the kindness, he would do anything for Khan. But the favor Khan is going to ask him to do is no small matter. Once it is leaked out, his, as well as his clansmen’s survival and prosperity and decline, will be at risk. Therefore, it is still better for us to be a bit more careful.”
Tuli’s countenance sank; he stroked the wine cup while muttering to himself irresolutely for a moment before saying in low voice, “Two gentlemen are having this thought, is it because we are going to Luoyang?”
Kou Zhong stretched out his hand and put it on his shoulder; he smiled and said, “It is for Khan’s sake that we are going here. Khan can go to the north from here, return to your country via Youzhou. We are all brothers, no need to say too much!”
Tuli’s tiger-body shook severely; suddenly he reached out to grab the two into his embrace. Deeply touched, he said, “I can become two gentlemen’s brother, it is my, Tuli’s honor; however, how could I, Tuli, abandon you at time like this? Let’s not mention this matter again.”
After he let the two go, Kou Zhong offered him a toast. The three of them drained the cup in single gulp.
Xu Ziling said, “Khan, please don’t blame me. No matter from which angle you are looking at it, it is inadvisable for Khan to come with us to Chang’an.”
Smiling wryly, Tuli said, “I have thought it over and over, more than you did. But if you want me to abandon you and leave, I am afraid it will be my, Tuli’s lifelong regret.”
Kou Zhong said, “Even if Khan could sneak into Chang’an with us, the fact that Khan has traveled extensively with us is not a secret. As soon as Khan is showing yourself, won’t everybody immediately know that we have come too? If Khan stays hidden and do not appear, it will still be a waste of time.”
Xu Ziling joined in, “Khan’s top priority right now is you must hasten back to your clansmen to confront Xieli, the sooner you put this matter in order the better. Therefore, you must race against time.”
Kou Zhong patted his shoulder and spoke sincerely, “Seeing Khan disregarding your own gains and losses to advance or retreat together with us, we are already extremely grateful. Upper-quality troops resort to scheming. In the immediate situation, the best strategy is we take different roads and urge the horses on [idiom” to part ways], each goes his own way in Luoyang; other things are secondary.”
Tuli was dumbstruck and unable to reply; his countenance was downcast and uncertain; it was a long time later that he sighed and said, “You have persuaded me!”
The sky has not yet brightened; the three came to the dock at River Yi outside the city, waiting to come aboard.
Size-wise, this ship was a large sailboat carrying passengers back and forth along the Yi River; it could carry more than a hundred passengers, hence the pier next to the ship was full of people, the atmosphere was quite lively, which was beneficial to conceal the three men’s real identity.
They did not dare to stand together; instead, they scattered among the crowd, and were intentionally wearing oversized gown and black sheepskin cap, as well as hunching their back a little, in order not to attract any attention.
This business of ferrying passengers back and forth between two places was extremely profitable, hence most of them were run by gangs and societies of the two places. If they were not careful, it was very easy to reveal their track, and thus their previous effort would be wasted.
What they were most afraid of now was not Li Yuanji, or even Zhu Yuyan, but Shi Feixuan and the Four Great Holy Monks, or even the gods-appear-and-devils-vanish [idiom: to appear and disappear unpredictably] Shi Zhixuan.
When everything seemed to be running smoothly, suddenly they heard hoof beats as a lone rider was coming near from the distance.
From their respective position the three focused their eyes to look; they were all scared and quickly hung down their head, because the new comer was Li Jing, whose face was covered in dust from the hard travel.
Li Jing flew off the horse and handed the horse to the boatman, while his eyes swept around the crowd waiting to board the ship.
Luckily the boarding time happened to arrive; amidst the sound of bell and the announcement, the three hastily turned around and took the queue to step on the gangplank to board the wooden boat.
Toward this big brother, with whom gratitude and grudges were hard to distinguish, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had hundreds of feeling growing as a thicket, but also had big headache. If it were someone else, they might just suck it up and ruthlessly get rid of him to prevent their secret from being divulged. But toward him, how could they bear to do it?
This passenger ships were divided into top and bottom, two decks, each deck could hold more than seventy berths. The three squeezed into the lower deck, which had comparatively poor scenery, and sat down at different places.
While they were praying to God and worshipping Buddha that Li Jing would not enter this lower deck, Li Jing appeared at the cabin’s door, upright and unafraid. His luminous eyes were scanning the passengers in the cabin.
Kou Zhong sighed and rose up to his full height. Laughing aloud, he said, “It’s a small world. Li Dage, please sit here.”
 Missing characters. According to Huang Yushi (wuxiapedia), there are Hand Taiyin Channel of the Lung, Hand Shaoyin Channel of the Heart, Hand Jueyin Channel of the Pericardium, Hand Taiyang Channel of the Small Intestine, Hand Shaoyang Channel of the Three Visceral Cavities, and Hand Yangming Channel of the Colon.