Book 36 Chapter 4 – Taking Refuge in Peach Spring
The two boys flew along the eaves and leaped over the walls, traversing the vast and obscure Vermillion Bird Boulevard under the big snow, in the direction of the Yong An Canal.
From head to foot they were blood-soaked, were wounded in multiple places, and were quite desperate. The enemy’s net was continuously tightening up with the two boys at the center, as could be seen clearly under the torch light coming from four sides, eight directions.
The City of Chang’an was the Chang Lin Army’s territory, they knew the situation within the city like the back of their hand, plus they had Ke Dazhi, Mei Xun, and so on, warriors with both ability and wisdom – conducting the operation from behind, so that they were displaying an amazingly high efficiency.
Shi Zhixuan seemed to be carelessly and casually flicked his hand, sending the fireworks into the sky to broadcast the information; it was indeed an extremely formidable killing-two-birds-with-one-stone killer move. This was precisely the method to send warning sign when they found Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling that Jiancheng and Yuanji agreed on in the evening. The blood red fireworks exploded in the snowy night sky, its light could be seen several li away, immediately it attracted the attention of the Chang Lin Army, which was already in high-alert state.
The gongs were urgently sounded all around the city, each and every family’s doors and windows were tightly closed, on top of the city wall everybody gathered their spirit, waiting in strict formation.
Shi Zhixuan’s move not only put Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling into the biggest crisis after entering Chang’an, it also gave Zhu Yuyan, Zhao Deyan, and the others, who were pursuing the two boys relentlessly and did not want to let them go – an unsolvable distress, and made it difficult for them to have unrestricted room to you-chase-me-I-run-after-you inside the city.
If Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were killed, Shi Zhixuan would be the sole beneficiary and become the winner of this strife.
Hearing the rumbling noise of horses’ hooves coming directly toward them, the two boys knew that the turn of events was not too encouraging. Making prompt decision, they immediately charged toward the city wall.
Outside of Luoyang and Yangzhou, Chang’an was a big city with the most solid city defense. The outer city wall was as high as thirty zhang; even for someone with brilliant qinggong like Yun Shuai, or perhaps like Kou and Xu, two boys, who had the ability to take a breath in the air, without using any tools, they could forget about jumping over the wall and going out. Even if no one was watching, leaving the city still involved quite a bit of effort, much less under the watchful eyes of the experienced city guards in tight formation.
This would be the second time the two boys were going to scramble up the city wall. To rely on hooks and ropes to break through the wall, they would have to return without any achievement, because the guards would meet them and force them back using strong bow, powerful arrow, hooks and lances, boiling oil, lime, and so on.
Moreover, they had suffered some minor injuries, so that if they exposed their tracks, the enemy would immediately grasp their position within the city.
The streets were blockaded; all high elevation points were manned to watch over any movements. It did not matter which direction the two boys were running away to, there were flashing light to indicate their whereabouts.
Several times they encountered the pursuing troops and had to fight a fierce battle; luckily so far they managed to avoid the opponent’s main force that was supported by martial art masters, hence they were able to break the siege. But they received more and more injuries. They felt like the fish in the net, where their path exhausted, the end of the road. The moment the enemy tightened the net would be the moment they were defeated and perish.
Having no other choice, they could only charge toward Yong An Canal, their only way to survive. However, even if they could successfully throw themselves into the Canal, and then enter the treasure-house, and leave the city via the secret passage, the secret of the treasure-house would be compromised, because anybody would be able to guess that there must be a secret passage inside the Canal from which they could flee for their lives.
Without any better option, they had to use the tactic to confuse the enemy; first, they charged forcefully toward the south gate, to lure the pursuing troops to flock toward them, and then they abruptly leaped down to the ground, braving the snow, especially choosing narrow alleys to turn to the left and round to the right, in the direction of the Yue Ma Bridge.
Were it not for the big snow tonight, which made the torch light could not reach far, and visibility was limited, even if they were so quick-witted, perhaps they would have fallen into the enemy’s heavy siege early on.
The two boys, one in front of the other, jumped onto the roof ridge, stretched their neck to look toward the Yong An Canal, and immediately sucked in a mouthful of cold air.
They saw both sides of the Yong An Canal were covered densely with city guards, torches illuminated both banks and the water of the canal that it was as bright as day. Li Jiancheng, wearing garrison attire, was standing on the Yue Ma Bridge, busily issuing orders. Standing nearby were Xue Wanche, Er Wenhuan, Qiao Gongshan, and other trusted aides and great generals.
Looking at this, the two boys’ scalp went numb, while they groaned inwardly. Forget about going into the water, which was not easy at all, even if they succeeded in diving into the Canal, they would not be able to avoid the enemy’s powerful arrows.
This situation was to be expected. They were able to escape via the Yong An Canal before, the enemy naturally would not allow it to happen again. Strategically speaking, if they could guard the largest canal that cut across Chang’an from north to south tightly, then they could substantially narrow the range of the two boys’ movement. Blocking this path would be tantamount to sentencing the two boys to supreme penalty.
A gust of wind was heard from the left. Aghast, they looked; in the midst of drizzling snow, more than a dozen shadows some distance away were leaping from house to house, coming straight toward them. Apparently the two boys’ track has been discovered.
Sucking in a mouthful of cold air, Kou Zhong said, “My Niang! Supposing we’ll find a house where we can hide, what will the consequences be?”
Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling replied, “Probably we can extend our little life by one or half a sichen.”
Kou Zhong’s heart was moved, he said, “Follow me!”
Xu Ziling could not figure out his brilliant scheme of escaping; without any better option he followed him somersaulting and landed on the roof time, before rounding a corner. From the other end of the alley came more than a dozen figures rushing toward them, and three torches were illuminating the way that they could not hide their track.
After tightening their net, the enemy further adopted a more effective strategy, by dispatching several dozens martial art masters to form several groups of search party, moving nimbly inside the siege net to search the two boys. As long as they could entangle or force the two boys to run in panic so that they did not look where they were heading, the two boys might fall into the siege, and then their time of death would come closer.
Taking the lead was, surprisingly, the Golden Spear Mei Xun, and the Two Malevolent of Changbai, Fu Zhen and Fu Yan, brothers. None of the others was not a master whose skill was out of the ordinary.
Originally Kou Zhong was thinking of charging forcefully to break the siege, to kill or injure some to vent his anger. However, seeing that the leader was Mei Xun, he changed his mind immediately; instead, he ran across and jumped over the roof. Looking at all four directions and eight sides were people rushing over, approximately five or six groups of men, he called for his Niang inwardly, and led Xu Ziling leaping down into a side alley from the other side of the courtyard house. Turning to the left and rounding to the right, he unleashed his confusing-the-enemy ability to charge toward the south gate again. Several times along the way they hid inside the courtyard of the people’s homes, letting the enemy to chase overhead.
Xu Ziling was at a loss, because what they were doing was no different to throwing away their lives.
Kou Zhong suddenly turned back in the direction of the Yue Ma Bridge, which was even more dangerous. Every step that they took was even more difficult, because the enemy’s siege net was moving in from the south, as well as narrowing down, so that their range of movement was getting smaller and smaller.
The two boys fled to the dark side of a roof; ahead was precisely the Yue Ma Bridge and the Yong An Canal. The snowflakes coming down from the sky were glittering brightly under the torchlight, dazzling and beautiful to behold, but to them, it was the worst omen.
Torchlight was constantly approaching from the four directions, eight sides. Although they had agile shenfa and out of the ordinary senses, and were able to play hide-and-seek with the enemy, but good times were difficult to repeat. If this situation continued, at most they could only hold for less than half a sichen.
Kou Zhong swept his gaze around; he saw the closest search party was still about fifty zhang away. “Success!” he cheerfully said, “We can find a place where we can sleep his mother’s a bit. Come!”
Flipping over onto the roof, he led the baffled Xu Ziling creeping away in a rush, and flipped over onto the Wu Lou Si’s courtyard wall. Xu Ziling began to have sudden realization, and cried ‘Wonderful!’ inwardly. The place where Kou Zhong wanted to sleep was naturally the Abbot’s room, which was the ideal place to hide and shun the world, the Peach Blossom Spring, which no one would be able to guess. Ordinarily this move would not be possible, but this moment Shi Zhixuan’s Dade Shengseng [lit. great virtue holy monk] definitely was not sitting in contemplation inside; in fact, for the next year, he could not possibly be inside practicing ‘Zen meditation’.
Based on Shi Zhixuan’s conduct, he would not trust even his own disciples; after obtaining the Relics, he would definitely go into hiding someplace else in the city and would not return to the original hiding place.
Dade Shengseng was a person of virtue and prestige in Chang’an, his habit of closing his door in Zen meditation was widely known, Jiancheng, Yuanji would never suspect that they came to this ‘holy ground’.
Half a day later, the two boys arrived outside the Abbot’s room. This house was specially designed; other than one main door, there was not even half a door or window, there was only a ventilation hole near the eaves the size of a fist.
The biggest headache was that the door ring was locked with iron copper chain. To cut the iron was not difficult, but if people discovered that the iron lock was broken, it would be strange indeed if they did not guess that the two boys were sneaking inside.
“There must be a secret passage to enter the room,” Kou Zhong said, “Otherwise, how could Old Shi come and go easily?”
Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, “The exit must be outside Wu Lou Si.”
He had searched the entire temple before and found no tunnel entrance, hence he concluded that the entrance must be somewhere outside the temple.
Time and circumstances did not allow them to go outside the temple to look for the secret passage. Kou Zhong picked up the copper lock and said, “This chain is fastened with standard lock, Chen Laomou has taught me how to unlock it, I’ll have to trouble Ling Shao to find a suitable twig for me.”
Xu Ziling accepted the order and left. A short moment later he came back with a tender branch and handed it over to Kou Zhong. Kou Zhong transmitted his qi power into the twig and inserted it into the keyhole. Tweaking it a few times, ‘Pop!’ the lock opened.
Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, “Do you think we can do it?”
Kou Zhong replied, “Without trying it, how would we know?”
The two boys took off their robe to sweep the footprints on the snow outside the door before entering the Abbot’s room.
It was very late at night, plus the weather was bitterly cold. Those who have left their home [to become monk/nun] pay no attention to the affairs of life; although the world outside was in so much chaos that the sky and earth were turning upside down, all the monks in the temple were hiding inside their soft and warm quilt, either sleeping or meditating.
The Abbot’s room was spacious but empty; there was only one putuan inside [praying mat, made of woven cattail]. If they did not know that Shi Zhixuan was the Dade Shengseng, they would believe that Dade’s [great virtue] name and reality indeed matched, and that he was a hundred percent Shengseng [holy monk].
Kou Zhong slowly closed the door and said in low voice, “Come on!”
Xu Ziling pressed both palms on his back and transmitted his internal energy into Kou Zhong’s body. But then the two shook all over, while exclaiming in surprise together. In the past, under similar circumstances, the flow of energy was only unidirectional, the true qi that Xu Ziling transmitted into Kou Zhong’s meridians linked with Kou Zhong’s own true qi, substantially increasing Kou Zhong’s power. And then Kou Zhong would transmit his true qi in return.
However, although this time they still did it the same way, it became bidirectional; after the true qi linked together, unexpectedly it circulated naturally and immediately cycled back into Xu Ziling’s body. This cycle continued incessantly; with every cycle the condensed true qi expanded its potential.
Kou Zhong had no time to think, but his confidence was boosted greatly. Closing his eyes, he pressed both palms on the big wooden door, his true qi penetrated the door and flowed along the iron chain outside the door.
The ability to transfer object across empty air, only talented person whose internal power had reached perfection would be able to accomplish. But transmitting power via an object, the difficulty was a notch higher; in this case, moving a heavy iron chain across the door, where there was no visibility, also buckling back the iron lock, restoring it to its previous condition – is certainly unheard of, and had never happened before.
Even if the two joined hands to work together, Xu Ziling was still unsure whether they could do it, hence previously he expressed his doubt to Kou Zhong.
Now, although the two boys were still unclear of the reason, their ability to combine power was not as simple as one plus one equal two; rather, the result was exponential, so that the nearly impossible became possible.
Kou Zhong felt that when he transmitted his true qi through the door, it was just like when he became the divine doctor, examining the meridians inside other people’s body; although he could not see, he could understand it completely. The two hanging-down iron chains rose up as if being moved by invisible hands, overlapping each other, one end even suspended a huge copper lock, weighed more than ten jin [catty], and remotely positioned the chain that it could be locked together.
Even with Xu Ziling’s support, Kou Zhong was still overwhelmed with emotion. Crying inwardly, “Heaven bless!” he pushed the last stream of internal power as hard as he could, ‘Clack!’ the copper lock, heaven was moved by human’s wish – was engaged.
The two boys immediately plopped back onto their butts, feeling weak all over, more tired than if they fought Shi Zhixuan or Zhu Yuyan for three hundred rounds.
It was quite half a day later that Kou Zhong was gasping in the dark, saying, “What is this?”
Xu Ziling said, “Maybe because our power made another breakthrough that such a strange thing happened. We are lucky it did; otherwise, we could forget about the troublesome giant lock on the other side of the door.”
Kou Zhong shook his head and said, “In my opinion, it must be related to the Relics. Earlier we ran this way and that in the city, playing hide-and-seek with the enemy, also fighting several fierce battles with them. If it were before, we would have had our strength exhausted our muscle weary; but this time we still feel like nothing happened. If it is not related to the Relics, I don’t know what it is.”
Xu Ziling was about to respond, the sound of footsteps was coming from outside the door.
The two you look at me I look at you, they tensed up. If people found out that they were hiding inside the room, they were really like a bird in the cage; even if they grew wings, it would still be difficult to fly. Immediately they shut their breathing.
Footsteps were coming near, an auspicious and peaceful voice said, “Emituo Fo, this is the Abbot’s room where our humble temple’s Zhuchi [manager] Dade Shengseng closes the door to meditate. All four walls are sealed, this locked door is the only access, outsiders absolutely cannot enter. Qi Wang, please understand.”
Ke Dazhi’s voice said, “Reporting to Qi Wang, we found the roof and the walls have no problem.”
Mei Xun’s voice said, “Really strange; we plainly saw them coming to this neighborhood yet they disappeared; we can’t find them.”
Then came the rattling noise of the copper lock and the chains; evidently someone was examining the door lock.
Xu Ziling suddenly remembered a big flaw; lightning fast he sat down on the putuan and let out a deep and long, fine breathing sound.
It was only then did Kou Zhong realize what happened. Wiping his cold sweat in the dark, he continued stopping his breathing, letting Xu Ziling to play Dade’s breathing.
Sure enough, there was a slight noise on the door, indicating that the enemy, just like they expected, put their ear on the wooden door to listen to the situation inside the room.
Li Yuanji’s voice finally said, “Dashi, please rest assured that naturally we do not dare to disturb Shengseng’s meditation. I will have to trouble Dashi to gather all the Shifu here in the main hall, to facilitate us searching other places.”
The voices finally faded away. Kou Zhong lay down on the ice-cold ground and muttered, “After sleeping, we’ll think of a way to find the entrance to the secret passage!”
Xu Ziling took out the Night Pearl, which immediately bathed the meditation room in its light. Smiling, he said, “No need to look, the entrance is right under this putuan.”
Kou Zhong sat up. “There’s secret room?” he said in astonishment, “But that makes sense. Old Shi at least needs a place to change clothes; otherwise how could he go out to see people?”
Xu Ziling shook his head and said, “I did not guess. Just like you closing the lock across the door, I also sent my true qi underground to probe the situation inside. Were it not for it’s difficult for the true qi to reach far, perhaps I could even tell where the secret passage is leading to.”
Kou Zhong excitedly came over and sat cross-legged by his side; he said, “You still dare to say that it has nothing to do with the Relics? Before, we weren’t this formidable. The strange thing is, I don’t feel I am making any progress in the true qi department.”
“Not strange at all,” Xu Ziling responded, “Our progress is undoubtedly in the original cultivation-primary aspect. If we say that the treasured Jade Annulus of He Clan is expanding our meridians’ capacity and throughput, the Relics is increasing the source of our energy. Later on, the efficacy may gradually appear with practice.”
Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, “Well said. In that case, is it possible that Shi Zhixuan only grabbed the Relics’ empty shell, while the real content inside has been drawn out by us?”
Xu Ziling dejectedly said, “In my opinion, we are merely scrambling to drink the ‘head soup’ [not sure]; it could be that because the Relics would make up for the deficiency in Shi Zhixuan’s Immortal Image Method, it does not matter how much progress we are making in the next year, because the difference in power is simply too far. When we encounter him again, we will still have to pack our bag before we finish eating. In true inner power, the xinfa style still has to match with the strategy. I would rather meet Zhu Yuyan’s Tianmo Dafa than battling his Bu Si Yin Fa.”
Letting out a cold snort, Kou Zhong said, “As long as it is something that comes out of human’s thinking, it is impossible to be perfect. There must be a flaw in the Immortal Image.”
Smiling bitterly, Xu Ziling said, “The first secret of Bu Si Yin is to probe the opponent, just like our ability to probe the situation on the other side of the wall being used in the battle against the enemy. When Shi Zhixuan was probing me, my body generated the reaction to probe him back; otherwise, I would have breathed my last early on inside An Long’s wine warehouse.”
Speechless, Kou Zhong said, “Turns out Shi Zhixuan has reached that kind of realm; fortunately we are not bad either. My Niang! Imagine that each time we meet the enemy we could detect the opponent’s movement and stillness one step ahead, wouldn’t we occupy the lead?”
Xu Ziling said, “This probing-the-enemy thing might actually be distracting; we can only use it once in a while, otherwise it will be harmful and without benefit. Moreover, against Zhu Yuyan, Wanwan, that kind of martial art masters, due to the qi protecting their body is really strong, how could it allow random probing? Instead, it might produce unexpected effect compared to when it is being used against Shi Zhixuan.”
Kou Zhong nodded, “You are right,” he said, “During the fight, the most important thing is the momentum of advancing courageously and the reaction of the intuition. If all day long we only think about peeking other people’s next style, whether it is a great roc spreading its wings, or an old tree coiling its roots, how can there be any mystery left to ponder?”
Xu Ziling blurted out laughing and said, “You, this kid, really know how to exaggerate. At most we can only sense the opponent’s internal energy distribution, whether it is slight or important, urgent or non-urgent; how could we conjecture what style other people are going to use?”
Kou Zhong stretched out lazily and said, “Talking with you, my sleepiness is entire gone; how about we go downstairs to take a look?”
Xu Ziling said, “The entrance is locked dead by Shi Zhixuan using door bolt [i.e. horizontal bar to hold a door closed (made of wood or metal)] from the inside; to get down, we must spend some considerable effort.”
Shrugging his shoulders, Kou Zhong said, “With our current power, we can shock and break even a door bolt made of iron.”
Xu Ziling crossly said, “Door bolt thicker than your arm, do you have the ability to shock and break it? In that case, let Xiaodi step down gracefully.”
Embarrassed, Kou Zhong said, “That thick?”
Holding the Night Pearl between his teeth, Xu Ziling removed the putuan. Kou Zhong reached down to run his fingers across the ground. He praised, “This entrance unexpectedly has no visible seam, I can’t even feel it.”
Xu Ziling suddenly said, “Did we do the right thing tonight? Or did we make a mistake?”
Kou Zhong stared fixedly at him for quite half a day. Smiling bitterly, he said, “It could be said that we succeeded for the most part; at least we made it difficult for the three major powers of the demonic school to continue working together. The downside is that we did not expect that Shi Zhixuan would obtain big convenience as easy as blowing off dust. If the Relics fell into Yin Gui Pai’s hand, Shi Zhixuan and Zhao Deyan would stake their lives to snatch it away; it would be another thing altogether. This is called man proposes but God disposes.”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “Quite possibly we also did Ke Dazhi and Xiang Yushan another big favor.”
Shaken, Kou Zhong said, “You might be right. Xiang Yushan and Ke Dazhi will definitely abort Yang WenGan’s rebellion plot, but make Li kid unable to take advantage of their destruction instead.”
Shi Feixuan’s remark just before they parted rang inside Xu Ziling’s ears; sighing inwardly, he said, “Are you ready?”
Kou Zhong put his palms on Xu Ziling’s back. Nodding his head, he said, “Let’s do it!”
 From桃花源 (Tao Hua Yuan) – the Peach Blossom Spring, a hidden land of peace and prosperity / utopia.