Book 29 Chapter 8 – One Move Behind in the Game
Xu Ziling secretly applied the positive and negative true qi within his body; fast as lightning he cut into the space between Tuli and Rong Fengxiang. With the latter he was only separated by a table full of goblets, bowls, meat dishes and plates. The Luo Shui Bang men, from the top, which were Tangzhu level, to the bottom, which were the guards, suddenly realized something was wrong; they all cried out in alarm and shouted angrily, while charging forward in confusion.
In the meantime, the hot soup on Xu Ziling’s hands already turned into two streams of scorching hot beam of liquid, shooting toward the two Laojun Guan martial art masters protecting Rong Fengxiang. Its momentum was powerful and covered a wide area. Unless the opponent’s inner power surpassed Xu Ziling’s, and they had the ability to block this kind of indeterminate shape, no-hole-not-penetrated ‘secret projectile of a strange school’, their only option was to either move sideways or jump upwards, or perhaps even dodge under the table.
Simultaneously Xu Ziling’s leg flew up, the tip of his foot tapped the edge of the table, sending the spiraling qi power into the table, so that it was as if the entire round table was coming alive. It brought everything on it spinning; slow at first, but increasing in speed very quickly, as it flew toward Rong Fengxiang, three men, like a flat wheel slicing toward them. Combined with the two streams of shooting jet of liquid, the opponents were caught unprepared and were put in passive, disadvantageous position.
This moment Tuli also drew the Subduing Eagle Spear. He spun around and flew at an angle, unleashing the ‘Tornado Spear Technique’ to the limit, producing millions of spear shadows flying over Xu Ziling’s head, pouncing toward Rong Fengxiang from the air.
Just as Tuli was flying overhead, Xu Ziling shouted an incantation, “Lin!” First, he used the Motionless Fundamental Image’s condensed power, which he joined and transformed into Great Vajra Chakra Image, and then sent it out in a pair of punches. Right away two streams of qi column violently rose up and rushed forth, and then when they were about three chi away from the pit of Rong Fengxiang’s stomach, they merged together, becoming like a solid iron pillar, with ten-thousand-catty momentum assaulting the enemy, catching the enemy off guard with a surprise attack.
In that instant, under Xu Ziling and Tuli’s seamless heavenly clothes assassination operation, although the main hall was full of Luo Shui Bang men, Rong Fengxiang and the two martial art master bodyguards were still caught in the situation where they had no help from anybody else.
Rong Fengxiang found out that the two men on his left and right had to evade sideways, and then the ‘incantation’ pierced his eardrums, shaking all his meridians. Instantly he was frightened, while feeling empty and floating, which made it difficult for him to jump in time, either to meet Tuli’s offensive or to evade Xu Ziling’s fierce and severe attack. Missing a good opportunity, Tuli’s Subduing Eagle Spear and Xu Ziling’s across-the-air punch already hid the sky and covered the earth, plus the big round table was coming to slice his belly.
All of a sudden Rong Fengxiang became a lonely army seeking survival all by himself; other than relying on himself, nobody could come to help him. Naturally Rong Fengxiang would not let himself get slaughtered; as long as he could buy a little time, his men could rush over and launch a counterattack.
Immediately letting out a loud roar, he flew backward. But because of the two jets of liquid shooting on his left and right, his escape route was severely limited. Therefore, although he was extremely unwilling, he had no choice but to flee in a straight line.
He crashed through the window and fell onto the half corridor connecting the north and south halls.
Outside, the Luo Shui Bang martial art masters guarding the corridor rushed over from the left and right to help, but they were blocked by the water jet so that they were still a tad too late to intercept Tuli and Xu Ziling, who came like a shadow attached to the form to pursue and kill.
Life and death were only separated by a thin line.
Rong Fengxiang’s two sleeves flew up to meet Xu Ziling’s fist wind head on; his body shook and swayed, but he borrowed the reaction force to increase his speed as he flew out, barely missing Tuli’s Subduing Eagle Spear.
The round table crashed through the wall and struck two Luo Shui Bang martial art masters that their bones broke and their flesh split; they fell to the ground with miserable scream.
Tuli landed on the tabletop, the spear light flared out, immediately two men were hit and were thrown down; the might was astonishing.
Xu Ziling also came out to the half corridor. Secretly performing the Treasured Vase Image, he sent out more than a dozen punches in succession, forcing the men trying to swarm out to help to stay inside the hall. It was a ‘one man guarding the pass, ten thousand enemies unable to break through’ situation. As a result, Rong Fengxiang was forced to run away toward the grassy area outside the corridor on the north garden. When he landed on the ground, he was staggering, his walk was unsteady.
Noticing that instead of seizing this opportunity to pursue him, the two enemies were simply blocking his reinforcement troops, he knew the situation was not good. This moment, suddenly a burst of qi power came down over his head. Aghast, he looked up, and saw Kou Zhong’s Moon in the Well, as fast as lightning, was chopping down on him. The enormous, irresistible saber qi completely enveloped him, producing a cannot-move-a-single-cun terrifying feeling.
Helpless, Rong Fengxiang urgently raised the power in his entire body; his two sleeves rose up to brush away the Moon in the Well.
Just in this life-and-death, exist-or-perish, critical moment, murderous aura burst forth from the left. A deadly fist wind, wild and violent like angry wave, shocking billow – came crashing down on him like collapsing wall.
Shocked, Rong Fengxiang turned to look, and saw another man wearing black cloth mask, like a soul-hooking emissary from the nothingness of Hades surfacing onto the real world, launching a sneak attack on him.
He knew that because his mind was completely terrified by Kou Zhong’s startling-the-heaven-shaking-the-earth saber strike that unexpectedly he neglected to guard against another big enemy. If just now instead of hesitating he put everything he had to escape, perhaps he could still escape this calamity; however, regret now was already too late.
Kou Zhong’s saber heavily collided with Rong Fengxiang’s double-sleeve; borrowing he impact energy, he flew back to help Xu Ziling and Tuli intercepting the pursuers.
Meeting the saber, Rong Fengxiang spurted out a mouthful of blood as he staggered back. Fu Qian flashed pass him. With a mournful cry, Rong Fengxiang’s entire body seemed to be out of his control. Suddenly losing his balance, he spun around like a top and tumbled down. Blood was seeping out of his eyes, ears, mouth and nose, as he rolled down to the ground.
Fu Qian let out a whistle, his three companions responded by flying back to meet up with him. Without looking back they rapidly withdrew along a predetermined route, and escaped successfully.
From the top of the bell tower looking down, they saw thick smoke and fire soaring to the sky. Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Even if the entire Eastern Capital burned down, Rong Laoyao will not come back to live. The only thing burning is the house that Wang Shichong gave to us to stay temporarily. Really strange though! How come Wang Shichong has not taken any intervention operation?”
Xu Ziling quietly stared at the black smoke gradually dispersing, blown by the cold wind; he did not answer.
Tuli laughed and said, “Lucky that you guys thought about hiding in the bell tower; it appears highly visible, but actually well-hidden, while we could also monitor the vast area around River Luo and Heavenly Street.”
A group of more than twenty Luo Shui Bang men hastily crossed over the Tianjin Bridge, as if they need to be somewhere in a hurry.
Kou Zhong spoke heavily, “What should we do next?”
Tuli replied, “We’d better wait for Fu Qian LaoGe scouting the situation clearly first; making decision then won’t be too late. Rong Laoyao is dead, it will rattle Zhu Yaofu’s troop disposition and put her at her wits’ end.”
Xu Ziling suddenly said, “Looking at those Luo Shui Bang riders just now, what did you feel?”
Stunned, Kou Zhong replied, “Now that you mentioned it, it did feel greatly suspicious; not only they did not show the slightest hanging-their-head-dispiritedly look, their formation was orderly, their morale was high. What’s going on here?”
“No need to guess!” Tuli cried in low voice, “Fu Qian is here.”
Fu Qian was still wearing the black cloth covering his head and the tight night-walker outfit. He appeared from a side alley and made a detour around the block before heading toward the bell tower, but as he reached the bell tower, he deliberately walked pass it. It was a good while later that he reappeared under the bell tower and rushed directly up.
The three knew that it was for fear of being followed that he took such a circuitous route; an ominous feeling welled up in their hearts.
Arriving at the bell tower, Fu Qian tore off his mask, and said with a wry smile, “Did three gentlemen feel that Rong Fengxiang was too useless?”
Shaken, Kou Zhong asked, “That wasn’t Rong Laoyao?”
Fu Qian sat down, leaning against the iron pillar supporting the copper bell. He shook his head, sighed, and said, “I don’t know whether there is a real Rong Fengxiang or not, the fact is, there’s another Rong Fengxiang appearing like a lively dragon and animated tiger, accompanied by his daughter – going to Wang Shichong to ask for punitive force. And the entire Luo Shui Bang nest comes out to look for us everywhere.”
Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, “The one we killed was Ke Feng disguised as Rong Fengxiang, and not Pi Chen disguised as Rong Fengxiang at all. At that time I already felt something was a bit unusual, but because those two’s demonic power was of a common origin, their eyes exuded similar light, plus at that time I had no time to examine carefully, we mistakenly hit the secondary vehicle and did not know about it.”
Kou Zhong was so angry that his teeth itched; but since they already made a mistake, it was hard to come back.
Tuli dejectedly slumped against the outer wall. Distressed, he said, “What do we do now? We might implicate Mohe’er and his delegation.”
Fu Qian said, “In this regard, Khan may set your heart at ease. Mohe’er is representing Xieli; even if Rong Laoyao had guts made in the Heaven, he would not dare to touch him. On the contrary, Khan must not show your face in Luoyang.”
Stunned, Tuli said, “Are you saying Shao Shuai and Ziling can show their face?”
Fu Qian replied, “Even if the other side knew perfectly well that they have a part in this matter, nobody really recognized them. On top of that Wang Shichong must protect them, so they should be able to get through this.”
Kou Zhong coldly said, “We’d better charge into the Rong Mansion to have another fiery desperate fight against Rong Laoyao, to see whose fist is harder.”
Xu Ziling said, “That is just ignorant person’s bravado. The highest form of generalship is to counterattack the enemy’s plan; right now we must not make any move, quietly watching the wind direction and the intensity of the fire first before deciding how we are going to get rid of Rong Laoyao.”
Fu Qian nodded his agreement, “Currently, what is true and what is false within the Rong Mansion is hard to fathom; we must not take this risk. Fortunately the enemy did not know that I have a part in this matter, plus they have deep misgivings toward me; therefore, Khan may come to my place to lie low for a while. Shao Shuai and Ziling may show your faces openly to test the enemy’s reaction. But later on the three of you must never be seen together.”
Seeing the other two did not object, Kou Zhong had to agree.
Fu Qian handed the mask covering his face to Tuli, and said with a laugh, “Xiaodi has not had any chance to study any future plan that will benefit everybody!”
Kou Zhong fished the hooknose, shallow-cheek mask from his pocket, and said indifferently, “Khan may also appear publicly, only you are wearing another face!”
After Fu Qian and Tuli left, Kou Zhong angrily said, “This time we are truly one move behind in the game, until now we are not making any progress. I am so angry I could die!”
Remaining tranquil and even-tempered, Xu Ziling said, “We win some, certainly we must lose some. At least we got rid of Ke Feng; it ought to be a serious blow to Laojun Guan’s strength. Pi Chen will be hard pressed to find anybody to impersonate him. Ay! It’s not that we do not accept this resentment, but those two, in terms of voice, appearance, or mannerism, everything looked amazingly similar.”
“Somebody’s coming!” Kou Zhong cried in low voice.
A dark shadow flashed out of the eaves and rapidly came near. Surprisingly it was the Crown Prince Wang Xuanying. It was only then did the two remember that they had captured him and brought him here; no wonder he was looking for them in the bell tower.
Kou Zhong’s countenance sank. Wang Xuanying flipped over into the bell tower. Half squatting on the floor, he said with delight, “Sure enough I can find two Dage here.”
Kou Zhong hatefully said, “You still have the face to see me?”
When did Wang Xuanying ever receive such criticism from anybody? His countenance changed, he said, “Shao Shuai, where do these words stem from?”
Laughing coldly, Kou Zhong replied, “Were it not for Taizi [crown prince] leaking the information on where we are staying in Luoyang to Rong Laoyao, how could he broadcast our whereabouts to our enemies that they are lining up on our door?”
Stunned, Wang Xuanying said, “Is that so? No wonder Shao Shuai misunderstood. But I could point to the Heaven and swear to God that the information did not leak from me. However stupid I, Wang Xuanying, am, I know that betraying you will only bring harm without any benefit to our Great Zheng.”
Surprised, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other. Although they did not have any good opinion toward Wang Xuanying; they sensed that he was not lying. How did the information leak then? Why would Rong Fengxiang broadcast it everywhere?
Smiling wryly, Wang Xuanying said, “But this time you have really caused trouble to us, even Fu Huang [father emperor] does not know how to answer the stamping-with-fury Rong Fengxiang. If you had really killed him, things would be easy to deal with.”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “We really did kill him, it’s just that this Rong Fengxiang was Ke Feng in disguise.”
Stunned, Wang Xuanying said, “Ke Feng?”
Kou Zhong angrily said, “I really don’t understand what are you, father and son, thinking? With good intention I notified you that Rong Fengxiang is Laojun Guan’s Pi Chen Yaodao [demon Taoist], but you turned a deaf ear, and let him continue going on the rampage. Tell me, where the hell is the logic in that?”
Wang Xuanying replied with a wry smile, “That’s easy to answer! After receiving Shao Shuai’s warning, we immediately deployed the army to put the Rong Mansion under heavy siege. Fu Huang and I personally led martial art masters into the Rong Mansion to give Rong Fengxiang a bad luck. Who would have thought that he did not resist at all; he let us examine his face, to confirm that he is not someone else in disguise. We thought we had fallen into Shao Shuai’s scheme of driving a wedge between us.”
Kou Zhong sucked in a mouthful of cold air and said, “In that case, there are three Rong Fengxiang; one real and two fakes. Pi Chen Laoyao is indeed very cunning.”
Xu Ziling asked, “From what Taizi heard, what happened at Man Qing Yuan?”
Wang Xuanying replied, “At that time, Lang Feng and Song Mengqiu were there. By the time they flew out of the South Hall, Rong Fengxiang has already been carried away by his men; we thought that if he is not dead, then his injury must be so heavy that he is close to death. Who would have thought that when we came face-to-face, it looked like he’s completely all right? Turns out the one heavily injured is another Rong Fengxiang.”
“Shengshang [His Holiness], the Senior, what did he say?” Kou Zhong asked.
Wang Xuanying replied, “Fu Huang thought that you should hide. Tomorrow night, after sending Khan off, you may reappear. Even if you want to deal with Rong Fengxiang, there will be plenty of opportunity in the future, there is no need to be anxious now.”
Knitting his brows, Kou Zhong said, “We can’t wait here being blown by the wind and drinking the dew until dusk tomorrow; where can we hide?”
Instead of answering, Wang Xuanying asked, “Is Khan going to see Mohe’er?”
Xu Ziling was afraid Kou Zhong might blurt out and reveal their relationship with Fu Qian, hence he answered for him, “He’s just leaving some secret mark nearby to communicate with Mohe’er. You may go back now!”
Wang Xuanying mentioned an address and said, “This place is only known by me and Die, two persons. As long as nobody’s following you, hiding for a day or two should not be a problem. I’m leaving now! Two gentlemen take care of yourselves, tomorrow night we’ll make arrangement to have someone pick Khan up.”
After Wang Xuanying left, Kou Zhong snorted coldly and said, “This kid is lying.”
Xu Ziling nodded in agreement; he said, “Wang Xuanying has never liked us, yet just now he put his temper in check to explain everything to us. He acted totally different from his usual character and temperament. But why would he want to harm us?”
Kou Zhong frowned and pondered deeply, and then severely shaken, he said, “His Niang! Wang Shichong has decided to form alliance with Yin Gui Pai. To this old fox, Xiangyang is more important than my Shao Shuai Army. Therefore, although he is fully aware that Rong Fengxiang is Pi Chen in disguise, he still indulges him like this.”
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “Your speculation is not without any reason. Supposing that is indeed the case, before Khan leave tomorrow evening, we ought to be safe.”
Kou Zhong hatefully said, “This is the only reason Wang Shichong puts up with Rong Laoyao. The more I think about it, the more I feel that my guess is eighty-, ninety-percent accurate. There are so many Rong Fengxiang, real and fake; with Wang Shichong’s astute, experienced eyes, how could he not know whether Rong Laoyao is a fish eye substituting a pearl? Therefore, I am sure that Wang Xuanying, this kid, must be swindling us. Ay!”
Xu Ziling shook his head and said with a sigh, “This is called if you want to get something, you probably would lose something. You want to help others defending Luoyang, not only others do not feel grateful, they also want to betray you. Things have come to this, what else can we say? Quickly think about how we are going to deal with it in the future.”
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, “If we are not planning on how to deal with Shi Zhixuan, our best choice right now is to leave Luoyang immediately, and go as far away as possible. Why don’t you tell me what you think our next step will be?”
Xu Ziling said, “This matter is of utmost importance. We ought to warn Khan and Wangzi, so that they are prepared inwardly. I believe Zhu Yaofu has not rushed over here yet. Whether we want to fight or we want to flee, we still have time.”
Kou Zhong resolutely said, “We’d better split up to handle this separately. You are in charge of notifying our two brothers, I am going to scout the enemy’s real situation. What do you think?”
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, “Are you thinking of going to the Rong Mansion, or to the Imperial Palace?”
“I haven’t decided yet,” Kou Zhong replied, “Don’t worry, I have full confidence that I will be able to deal with any contingency.”
After agreeing on the means of communicating with each other and places to meet afterwards under different circumstances, they went their separate ways.