Book 35 Chapter 12 – Disastrous Fall Into the Enemy’s Trap
Xu Ziling saw three entirely different faces of Shi Zhixuan: Shi Zhixuan’s natural color, the Demonic King, head of a Sect, ruthless and heartless; the Abbot of Wu Lou Si, Buddha’s light illuminating the people, looking at him vertically or horizontally, he was a haughty senior monk who had reached the Way; and finally, the lonely down and out scholar in front of his eyes, who, deep inside his heart, was hiding endless pain.
The heavy snow was like two curtains transforming the space under the bridge into another world, isolated from the world outside. The world outside has become fuzzy, losing all sense of substance.
Occasionally, another boat entered in, but in the blink of an eye immediately left, briefly connecting the two worlds together.
Shi Zhixuan’s downcast voice echoed in the empty space under the bridge; he heard him say, “Since her death, I have never felt this lonely. I asked myself over and over again, why I want to do this. I really don’t know; I really don’t know …”
His voice continued to be downcast, brimming with the deep pain of remorse and frustration.
Xu Ziling stared at him blankly. Everything in front of his eyes was not real. The ‘Demonic King’ Shi Zhixuan unexpectedly showed regret and remorse in front of him; if he told it to anybody, he could almost guarantee that nobody would believe him.
Suddenly, he realized that Shi Zhixuan’s flaw was that his love to Shi Qingxuan’s birth mother Bi Xiuxin was his true feeling. He did not abandon Shi Qingxuan; rather, he was afraid to face Shi Qingxuan.
In the heaviest xinfa of the superior innate internal energy cultivation, only because of the enigmatic knot that was hard to untie in his heart that his Immortal Image Method was showing a flaw, and thus he was defeated in Ning Daoqi’s hands. And most likely the Demonic Emperor Relics was the only way to remedy this flaw.
Xu Ziling could not help asking, “How did Qianbei [Senior] see through my true identity?”
Severely shaken, Shi Zhixuan slowly raised his head; the sorrowful emotion in his eyes disappeared completely, replaced by as-sharp-as-blade flickering demonical gleam, as he stared at Xu Ziling without blinking at all. Xu Ziling cried ‘Bad!’ inwardly. But how would he know that common, casual remark would recall Shi Zhixuan’s other, terrifying mood?
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Gazing out of the window, Ke Dazhi spoke slowly, “Heavy snow always reminds me of the windstorm outside the Great Wall. There are not many things in the world that can move my heart, but I could go down on my knees to a tornado, to have my blood racing by the clap of thunder and lightning flashes splitting the sky over the desert. Under the power of nature, men are so insignificant. This is the first time that I reveal the load on my mind to other people, because Gexia [Sire] is not only qualified to become my adversary, you are also a tough guy worthy of my respect.”
Kou Zhong smiled and said, “Turns out when Ke Xiong said we are going to drink wine and have a heart-to-heart chat, you were not joking. Let Xiaodi salute you with a cup.”
The two cheerfully raised their cups to clink each other, and drown it in one gulp until not a drop remained. And then looking at each other, they laughed together. On the surface the atmosphere seemed to be harmonious and very close, but both sides could see the intense murderous aura in the other side’s eyes.
Revealing a faraway, reminiscing look in his eyes, Kou Zhong slowly said, “I remember when I had just started to master my martial art skill, I was in a small valley, suddenly I felt the whole world was different from before; it was as if my senses had ascended to a different level, seeing and sensing things that I normally overlooked, the ordinary flowers and grass and trees, suddenly they seemed to be alive. The texture, the color, everything was so rich that it moved me to tears. But this feeling only lasted for a few days; very soon I was accustomed to everything. I still miss the feeling of that moment very much.”
Ke Dazhi slapped the table and said with a sigh, “This is precisely a common problem for all people. Once we are accustomed to something, then it becomes ordinary, there is no novelty anymore. The same is true of women; riches and honor, glory and splendor, are also nothing more than this.”
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, “If I did not know what kind of person you are, I would have thought that you are trying to persuade me to retreat from Jianghu. But the problem is that despite the loss of freshness, losing what one has just obtained is worse than returning to the original shape; it is indeed harder to accept than never obtaining it. Just imagine that if someone disabled Ke Xiong that you lose your martial art, how many days can you endure?”
Ke Dazhi raised his wine cup and poured another cup for him; he said with a laugh, “Well said! We really must not look back. Thinking that one day I can decide life and death with you, LaoGe, Ol’ Ke’s life is already brimming with thirst and expectation.”
Inwardly Kou Zhong mused that perhaps tonight would happen just as you wished. Raising his cup he said, “This cup is for our future toast.”
The two loudly toasted each other and drank their wine, their attitude heroic and imposing, not only provoking other people to raise their eyebrows, they even attracted Li Mi, Huang Gongcuo, and the others’ attention that they also looked at them.
For the time being, Kou Zhong only had eyes for Ke Dazhi, he did not take anybody else’s attention to heart at all.
Ke Dazhi leaned forward a bit and spoke in low voice, “I have gone down and looked, escaping alive from that river cave seemed to be nearly a miracle. Were it not for this understanding, would Shao Shuai think that Xiaodi still have the patience to sit here with you to drink wine and have a heart-to-heart talk?”
Kou Zhong smiled and said, “You are forthcoming enough, I will also make a long story short: I dare to guarantee with my personal integrity that the one I am going to bring is the a-thousand-real-ten-thousand-genuine Xiedi Sheli. How could this unusual treasure be like an ordinary object? Trying to pass of fish eyes for pearls is simply a joke.”
The refined light in Ke Dazhi’s eyes flared up brightly, he spoke in heavy voice, “How could you guarantee that Gexia is not going to miss the appointment?”
Kou Zhong proudly said, “I am Kou Zhong, these two characters are my guarantee; otherwise, I am worse than a dog or a pig. But you must not eat your words either; if you are unwilling to save people but want to seize the treasure, so much so that you want to get rid of us, then I will make you regret it so much.”
Intense murderous aura flashed through Ke Dazhi’s pair of eyes, he laughed coldly and said, “Sheli is in your hands, the initiative is in your grasp as well, what can we do to turn things over? Xiongdi, don’t worry!”
Kou Zhong pretended to casually cast his eyes to the Yue Ma Bridge below. In the drizzle of snow, a small section of the tail of the skiff was seen under the bridge.
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Without yielding the slightest bit, Xu Ziling met Shi Zhixuan’s gaze directly.
A hint of grim and cold smile grew from the corner of Shi Zhixuan’s mouth, as he spoke calmly, “The Sheng Sheli is still down there, isn’t it?”
The fact was certainly so, however, it was a little bit different than the situation that Shi Zhixuan imagined. Xu Ziling nodded calmly.
Like a blade, the pupil of Shi Zhixuan’s eyes were fixed on Xu Ziling, no longer showing any heartfelt emotion, but it was cold, hard, yet it carried some kind of mysterious calmness, more like it had no connection with a living human being’s flesh and blood. He spoke slowly, “Since you haven’t deceived me, I will leave you with a way to survive. Get lost far away this instant. Tonight, after the city gate is closed, if you are still inside the city, don’t blame me, Shi Zhixuan for not warning you.”
Xu Ziling calmly laughed and said, “Not because of looking at Qingxuan?”
Severely shaken, a sad expression flitted across Shi Zhixuan’s face but it quickly faded, replaced by the icy-cold, heartless expression, as he fixed his gaze on Xu Ziling and said, “Don’t let the little bit of favorable impression I have on you disappear too. As far as I’m concerned, killing people is a rare pleasure of life.”
Even Xu Ziling was wondering if the previous Shi Zhixuan was the same person with the gentleman in front of his eyes right now. Shaking his head, he cried, “I basically do not need Qianbei’s favorable impression at all; I do not wish to drift and live without purpose based on other people’s pity even more. If Qianbei wants to kill me, Xu Ziling, please make your move at your convenience.”
Shi Zhixuan laughed aloud; he said ‘Good!’ three times in succession, and only then did he say with a smile, “Killing people is also one type of art; killing just like this will indeed be a waste. Ziling, I am sure we will meet again some day.”
One moment he was still sitting peacefully on the boat, the next moment he already disappeared in the snowstorm outside the bridge. He sprang, drew back, flashed, and shifted in a series of complicated movements, which he accomplished in the blink of an eye. Watching this, a chill crept up Xu Ziling’s spine. Huan Mo Shenfa was indeed brilliant.
Xu Ziling’s scalp went numb; he sat blankly for half a day. Suddenly the alarm went off in his heart. Kou Zhong slipped under the bridge, and sat on the seat Shi Zhixuan had just vacated. Giggling happily, he said, “What kind of intimate words were you talking with your future father-in-law?”
Casually he grasped the oar and paddled the boat. The skiff left the bottom of the bridge to enter the world with the snow filling the sky.
Kou Zhong brought the skiff toward the shore.
Just like the night, the heavy snow provided the best cover for them; if right now they wanted to reenter the underground treasure house while the gods did not know the ghosts did not perceive, it was no longer an impossible matter.
Kou Zhong said, “Shi Zhixuan originally wanted to kill you, but because you suddenly evoked a load on his mind, in the end he let you off. He is fully aware of your character; therefore, in that last remark, he deliberately provoked you to infuriate him, then he would not have any scruples in killing you. Looking from this point of view, Shi Qingxuan still occupies a very important position in his evil heart.”
Giving him a cold shoulder, Xu Ziling said, “Don’t put a the-person-on-the-spot-is-baffled, the-onlooker-sees-clear act. Are you going to proceed tonight according to the original plan? I am afraid Yun Shuai is not so reliable.”
Ignoring his question, Kou Zhong continued his analysis one step further, “He has not seen your Mount Lushan true colors; if he really cares about his daughter, he should have asked you, this soon-to-be his son-in-law, to take your mask and have him take a look. Yet he did not make this request, because he harbors the intention to kill you, hence he did not want any other factor to intervene.”
Displeased, Xu Ziling said, “Let me tell you for the last time, Shi Qingxuan and me have nothing to do with each other whatsoever.”
Kou Zhong raised his hands in surrender, saying, “I am just trying to make you happy. Yun Shuai can do whatever he pleases. Tonight, the messier the better. I does not matter who obtains the Relics, there won’t be any good outcome. Ning Daoqi is the only exception, because only he has no fear on Shi Zhixuan. Any demonic school thingy, please forgive Xiaodi for being unable to enjoy it.”
Astonished, Xu Ziling said, “You seem to forget there is still Zhu Yuyan.”
Grabbing his head, Kou Zhong said, “I always thought that Shi Zhixuan is more formidable than Zhu Yuyan. All right! I am going back to the Sha Family; how about we meet underground in a little bit?”
Xu Ziling said, “I am afraid Wanwan might hurt you.”
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, “You are right. Now the situation is clear, once Wan Yaonu decided that the Relics is not in my hand, she won’t be lenient anymore and will kill me. The problem is that just like Zhao Deyan, it is not easy judge her. Therefore, I am deliberately going back to the Sha Mansion to let her find me, so that I can try to convince here that the Relics is indeed in my hands, and only then we will have the chance to fish in troubled water tonight and steal away.”
Xu Ziling said, “I am most afraid that they [feminine] would use the killing-using-borrowed-knife stratagem, by having Li Yuanji to come and deal with you.”
Finally Kou Zhong changed his mind; nodding his head, he said, “You, this kid, must be a first-class lobbyist. Very well! I’ll go back with you.”
Xu Ziling said, “Before we go back, we must plan clearly the details of tonight’s operation with Yun Shuai. We should never be seen walking together. Let Xiaodi go first, you run after me one step behind!”
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Using the heavy snow as a cover, Xu Ziling bored through the streets and passed through the alleys; suddenly walking and suddenly stopping, he gave it his all not to let anybody following his track.
Shi Zhixuan was able to intercept him head-on at the Yong An Canal, it was extremely shocking to him. If the other side found him just because he was looking for Yun Shuai, it would bring him regret for the rest of his life. Shi Zhixuan could not possibly be polite toward Yun Shuai.
Arriving at the wall of the rear courtyard of Yun Shuai’s secret hideout, Xu Ziling elevated his senses to the limit of sensitivity attainable by his current power. Forget about the situation inside the house, even the real situation within several neighboring houses would not be able to escape his eyes and ears.
Everything was still as usual.
He felt that Yun Shuai was waiting for him inside the house, alone.
Xu Ziling jumped over the wall to enter the courtyard, and went straight to the main hall.
A man, upright and unafraid, was standing overlooking the window. Although Xu Ziling’s footsteps did not make any noise, he could not escape being detected by him. The moment Xu Ziling stepped into the hall, like a whirlwind he spun around, laughed long and loud, and said, “Even though Zaixia and Ziling Xiong are mortal enemy, Ziling Xiong is still one of the people that Zaixia admires.”
This gentleman was around twenty-seven, twenty-eight years old; tall, straight, and dignified. His build was perfect without any flaw, every cun of muscle on his entire body, from head to toe, was brimming with power. Amidst the beauty and handsome look, there was a grandeur and elegant charisma. The only shortcoming was the bridge of his nose was too high and crooked, making his already sharp eyes looked even more unfathomably deep, as well as making people feel his innate arrogance and his disregard of other people, and his everything-for-self-and-selfish-profit innate character – even more.
His left hand held a long sword, which, even though it was still inside the sheath, it already emitted a biting-cold murderous aura.
On the surface Xu Ziling was calm and cool-headed, but inwardly a huge wave, which height reached the sky, was churning in his heart, while he was groaning incessantly. Nodding his head, he said, “Xuyan Xiong, how are you?”
Suddenly it dawned on him that the problem lay with Yun Shuai, and not with him, Xu Ziling.
Although Yun Shuai’s lightness skill was unrivalled, in the end he could not hide from Shi Zhixuan’s eyes and ears, hence Shi Zhixuan found his hideout.
The gloomy Shi Zhixuan did not immediately create trouble, knowing that he and Kou Zhong had some relationship with Yun Shuai; therefore, he was using a long line to catch a big fish [idiom: long-term plan for major returns]. This morning Xu Ziling was going to see Yun Shuai, thereupon Shi Zhixuan put his plan into action.
It could be imagined that Shi Zhixuan was shadowing Xu Ziling from a distance, hoping to find Kou Zhong’s whereabouts from him. Fortunately Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong split up, so that Shi Zhixuan erroneously thought that Kou Zhong was buried in the river cave, or at least has not returned to the city yet, hence they could meet at the river.
Shi Zhixuan obviously guessed that Xu Ziling would see Yun Shuai again, thereupon he executed the to-kill-with-a-borrowed-knife stratagem, by notifying Yang Xuyan to borrow Li Yuanji’s power to get rid of him.
It looked like everything bodes ill, no positive signs [idiom: everything points to disaster] for Yun Shuai.
Current situation clearly showed that the target was him. Even if he could pass this Yang Xuyan barrier, he would not be able to pass the layer upon layer of heavy siege outside.
His only chance of survival was precisely Kou Zhong, who was tailing behind him, hoping that he would be one step ahead in discovering the hidden troops from Li Yuanji’s side; otherwise it would be very difficult for them to escape great catastrophe.
Yang Xuyan’s Shadow Sword was still inside its sheath, the momentum already locked him tight, so that other than fighting, there was nothing else he could do.
Xu Ziling slowly removed his mask and put it inside his pocket.
Yang Xuyan pulled the sword out of it sheath, he laughed cheerfully and said, “Ziling Xiong’s progress is rapid, it is indeed frightening. Thinking about that year at Shen Luoyan’s fragrant residence in Rongyang, Zaixia pulled the Shadow Sword out, Ziling Xiong could only flee for your life, whether today Ziling Xiong could protect your life and escape, it will depend on your refined progress.”
Xu Ziling pulled both hands inside his sleeves, he tightly grabbed the arm protectors, which were made of fine-steel; he could not help thinking about his Old Die Du Fuwei’s ‘Xiu Li Qiankun’ [universe in the sleeve], and spoke indifferently, “Xuyan Xiong’s elegant demeanor fills Xiaodi’s heart with extreme admiration, unexpectedly you did not mention even one word about losing the half section of the Image Scroll.”
Hearing that, the murderous aura in Yang Xuyan’s eyes immediately flared greatly. He took a step diagonally to the left, and then said with a calm laughter, “As long as I could capture Ziling Xiong, why would I be afraid that Ziling Xiong would not obediently confess? How could Ziling Xiong’s way of thinking become this immature?”
Xu Ziling took a step to the right, laughing involuntarily, he said, “Even if Xuyan Xiong could capture Xiaodi alive, I am afraid that would still be a good dream that is hard to justify; would Xuyan Xiong like to know the reason?”
The two men walked step-by-step in a circle inside the limited space of the room, mutually looking for the other side’s flaw, while crossing verbal swords, striving to seize a good chance to take initiative to strike when the opponent’s resolution was showing a gap.
In the hall, murderous aura filled the air, qi power was already clashing against each other, momentarily neither one occupied the upper hand.
By the time Yang Xuyan became world-famous Shadow Assassin, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were still nameless boys, but now he was able to stand on equal footing with the opponent, determining life and death; thinking about it, it was enough reason to be proud of his achievement.
Hearing that, Yang Xuyan let out a cold humph and said, “Even if it was destroyed, so what? Not only Shi Shi [master] promised to pass on the Bu Si Yin Fa to me, he also decided to personally take care of that traitor. Therefore, hearing Ziling Xiong’s remark, I feel that is extremely ridiculous.”
It was not clear whether this statement was true or false, but as it entered Xu Ziling’s ears, he could not help but was shocked; but as soon as he realized it was bad, Yang Xuyan’s sword light flared out brightly. The air was full of layer upon layer of sword shadow. Even with Xu Ziling’s eyesight, he still could not tell which sword was real, which sword was empty.
Behind the fierce and severe ten-thousand-change sword shadow, Yang Xuyan disappeared into thin air.
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Kou Zhong was crouching on the rooftop of a multistory building some distance away, letting the endless snowflakes to cover him. The shock in his heart was very difficult to describe.
He originally intended to see whether Shi Zhixuan was following behind Xu Ziling, hence he intentionally delayed entering Yun Shuai’s courtyard house; who would have thought that in less than a quarter of hour, from all four ways, eight directions appeared the enemy’s track, the total number reaching about a hundred men, setting up an ambush on the roof of the neighboring houses, as well as in the streets and alleys, heavily surrounding Yun Shuai’s nest.
Some that he recognized, apart from Li Yuanyi, Mei Zun, Yuwen Bao, there were also Huang Gongcuo, Li Mi, Wang Bodang, and the Longxi Pai’s Sect Master Jin Dachun. Without taking into account the martial art masters under Li Yuanji’s command, merely relying on these men’s strength, in direct confrontation, even if Kou Zhong joined the battle, he would only increase the number of deaths by one.
It is thus clear that this time Li Yuanji went all-out so that Xu Ziling did not have any chance of escaping.
Yet he did not see even half a shadow of Chang Lin Army people.
The place where he was crouching happened to be behind Li Mi, Wang Bodang, and the others, more than a dozen men. Trying to charge into the house to meet up with Xu Ziling was already extremely difficult, let alone trying to open up an escape route for Xu Ziling.
But he did not lose his head out of fear simply because of the large disparity between the enemy and us at all; his heart was as calm as the moon in the well. Slowly he took off his robe, removed his mask, and slowly pulled out the treasured saber.
The snow was falling faster and denser.
The sky gradually darkened.
Kou Zhong did not have time to think about Yun Shuai’s life or death; he was only hoping that waiting inside the house to pin Xu Ziling down was not Shi Zhixuan. Otherwise, today next year would be the anniversary of their, two brothers’ death.