Book 39 Chapter 5 – Divine Bow Displaying Its Might
The without-horizon, without-boundary silent dusk descended upon the prairie. The sun, sinking fast into the flat plain, before it was swallowed by the great earth – spitted out its rose-tinted light, dyeing the western horizon red.
Tong Wan City towered ahead. Tents of all shapes and sizes were spread outside the city wall. The white-colored fortified city consisted of the East City, the West City, and the Outer Open City. Each of the four corners of the city had a prominent square-shaped watchtower platform towering over the city wall, which added not a few of grandeur to the city.
Simple and unadorned white houses, big and small, were sparsely distributed inside the city, forming big and small streets and alleys.
Most households already lit up the lanterns, while all over town white smoke spiraled out of the kitchen chimneys, a scenery that was brimming with the breath of life. To the three faraway travelers who had not seen kitchen smoke for a long time, it gave up some kind of indescribably close and dear feeling.
Kou Zhong spoke cheerfully, “I did not expect Tong Wan to be this lively. Apart from us, there are two other groups of men and horses rushing into the city before dark.”
Ba Fenghan said, “In this area, Tong Wan is the biggest commercial distribution center. In itself it is famous for its ironware industry. It is known as the Armory of Maowusu, and this treasure house is under the control of Heishui division’s big tribal chief Tiefuyou.”
“What is Maowusu?” Xu Ziling asked.
“Mauwusu is another name of the Little Gobi Desert,” Ba Fenghan replied, “I especially mentioned Tiefuyou, because this man is quite not simple. Not only he is ambitious, he is even using his ambitions to become imposing talent. It is rumored that in the Xieli-Tuli conflict, he is supporting Tuli in the dark. From this, we can clearly see this man’s insight and means.”
Kou Zhong nodded and said, “If he lets Xieli eliminates our good friend Tuli, he won’t have too many good days to pass.”
Ba Fenghan spoke indifferently, “Not only Tuli is not my good friend, he can’t be considered my friend at all.”
Changing the subject, Xu Ziling said, “Does Tong Wan allow outsiders to enter and exit freely?”
Sound of hoofbeats was coming from behind. Looking back, they saw three small dots from a distance growing bigger at an alarming rate; apparently the riders were coming extremely fast.
While focusing his eyes to examine the incoming riders, Ba Fenghan replied, “Tong Wan is a place where no one can boast that he has exclusive control over it, since that would provoke an attack from every ethnic group in the vicinity. Even Tiefuyou can only control about 70% of the ironware industry in the city. On top of that, the city has eight temples, which belong to eight different sects. Grassland tribes are coming into the city on pilgrimage to these temples. Let’s not talk about closing the city gate, even if the gates are broken, no one dares to repair it, for fear that others would accuse him of having different ambition.”
This moment the three riders have come near. The men on horseback wore Mo Ji tribe’s warrior outfit; they looked young, swift and fierce. Although their appearance was out of the ordinary, people could feel the evil air emitted out from beneath the surface.
According to Ba Fenghan’s instruction, Kou Zhong put his right hand in front of his chest in Mo Ji people’s style of greeting. Who would have thought that the three men looked at him with cold eyes without responding at all? When they were galloping past them, one of them spoke in not fully proficient Han language, “Han dogs coming here to court death!”
The other two roared in laughter in an extremely insulting way.
Kou Zhong was not angry at all, simply because he remembered Emperor Yang’s conduct and deeds toward them in the past; he only revealed a wry smile toward Xu Ziling.
The refined light in Ba Fenghan’s eyes flaring greatly, he fixed his gaze on their backs as they galloped away toward Tong Wan. Suddenly he shouted, “Tagulunalie!”
Hearing that, one of them looked back in shock.
Ba Fenghan roared in laughter and spoke in Tujue language, “What a coincidence! Later on I must get to know you, three brothers better.”
The other two looked back. The ominous light in the three pairs of eyes immediately flared greatly, but they did not stop. In the blink of an eye they already disappeared in the distance.
Astonished, Xu Ziling asked, “Do you know them?”
With spring breeze all over his face, Ba Fenghan replied, “This trip we won’t need to worry about being lonely. Just by tossing a tiny stone to test the waters, I found out that they are the Heshui San Sha [lit. Three Demons of the Black River; in Book 38 Chapter 12 it was Heishui Shuang Sha (twin demons)] whose bad name spread far and wide. Do you remember them?”
Kou Zhong happily said, “So they are the Heshui San Sha that Xu Kaishan mentioned. This time we can vent our bird anger!”
Pointing to a group of about a dozen tents erected on a high ground east of the city, Xu Ziling asked, “Those tents are colorful; which tribe do they belong to?”
Ba Fenghan replied, “That ought to be Yiwu people’s camp. Their tribe loves color; the pigments that they produce enjoy famous reputation in the prairie.”
Kou Zhong’s mind was still on Heshui San Sha; he said, “The famous Heshui San Sha are rushing over hurriedly, it can’t be a good thing. I wonder what’s going on?”
Ba Fenghan smiled and said, “I uncovered their identity, they are going to be forced to kill us to shut our mouth. Shaoshuai need not worry that they are going to hide away.”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “Old Ba really understands Xiaodi’s intention.”
Finished speaking he pressed his legs to urge his horse to speed up, to gallop toward the white city in the prairie, which was built using people and livestock’s blood.
When Helian Bobo built the city, obviously he received Central Earth’s influence. Other than different architectural style of the construction of the buildings, the basic layout of the city was following the traditional rules of Han ethnic group city planning. There were four gates on four sides, the cross-shaped main streets passed through the whole city, with the palace city located in the middle.
The scale of some of the buildings was quite grand. The most distinctive characteristic was there were stone carving everywhere. They just entered the south gate, and immediately saw the left and right of the gate were two rows of stone carving of mythological animal that were as tall as a human. Although they were badly damaged, it actually increased the highly simple and unadorned, inelegant flavor.
The three led their horses into the city. Every scene that entered their eyes induced a novel feeling in their heart. On the street, people and livestock went back and forth; there were herdsmen driving the sheep, there were ox carts and camels caravan, there were traveling merchants from far away land. The locals were mainly of Mo Jie tribe and nomadic tribes from all over the place making pilgrimage. Different social custom and local practice, as well as different clothes and ornaments – created the scenery of a metropolitan in the grassland, brimming with exotic flavors.
The tents that were erected on spacious and empty land appeared incongruous compared to the solid white clay buildings, a clear-cut contrast, as if the prairie was moving inside the city.
Leaning close to Xu Ziling’s ear, Kou Zhong asked, “Do you sense the Relics?”
Xu Ziling responded by shaking his head, while his eyes were on the buildings standing on both sides of the street. A lot of the buildings had door eaves as protection against the rain, as shield from the sun. Some even had chairs and tables under the eaves for the people to sit and rest. Only unlike shops in the Central Earth’s city and town, restaurants and inns were lacking. “Where could we rest tonight?” he asked Ba Fenghan.
Ba Fenghan replied, “You guys pay attention to the signs outside the door. The house that has a sheep’s horn hanging on it means that the host is willing to receive foreigners, or perhaps he has vacant room in the house. This is the nomadic tribes’ tradition of hospitality. Sometimes they give gifts to make friends, to everyone’s delight and satisfaction. But our situation is a bit different, because you are Han people who are the most unwelcome in here.”
Kou Zhong noticed the unfriendly gaze that the pedestrians on the street cast toward them; smiling wryly, he said, “Can we buy a tent and set it up outside the city to make a nest like Yiwu people?”
Ba Fenghan moved to the side; he temporarily tied the horse to a horse post, took off the saddle, and said with a smile, “Let’s sit down first and then we’ll talk. Leave everything to Xiaodi to take care.”
Following his example, the two took off the saddles and sat down at a table and chairs under the eaves by the big street. They put the saddles on the ground by their feet.
Facing the long street, they felt different mood. When darkness fell, the street was relying entirely on the lights coming from the houses on either side.
Suddenly there was a group of warriors coming from the other end of the long street; surprisingly, the Three Demons of the Black River were among them. The other dozen or so armed men, everybody had his hair draped over his shoulders, apparently they were the warriors from Shiwei tribe. Their eyes were on the three men, but they did not immediately come over to make trouble; instead, they simply sat down on the tables and chairs outside the house across the street. Clearly they intended to make life difficult for the three.
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Good show is coming!”
The residents of the surrounding houses, as well as the passersby on the street already sensed the peculiar mood of the confrontation between these two groups separated from each other by the street; those who must close the door closed their doors, those who must get away got away quickly, the long street immediately quieted down.
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, “Nobody’s in charge in this place?”
Ba Fenghan stretched out his legs, he pushed his chair back to lean against the wall. Stretching out his limbs, he said, “This is just like another Yan Yuan Ji, everybody acts according to Jianghu rules. Those with harder fists can speak and decide on any matter. These bunch of Shiwei men, nine out of ten are local bullies; otherwise, local residents would not be this afraid.”
Kou Zhong spoke calmly, “What about killing people?”
Ba Fenghan pulled out his Beheading Mystery Sword and lightly stroked it with his fingers. He spoke calmly, “It depends on who get killed. If it were us, three foreigners with no name, no surname, no one would utter even half a sentence. If it were they who are being slaughtered, the consequences will be difficult to guess. It depends on who’s behind them.”
The sound of hoofbeats was suddenly heard as more than a dozen riders were coming from the other end of the street. As if they were making a show, they pulled the reins in the middle of the street, so that their warhorses reared on their hindlegs and neighed, before the riders flew off their horses to join the group of men across the street.
Looking at their hair, ornaments and clothes, they must be Qidan people. Immediately the opposite side’s momentum grew tremendously.
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Really have no guts; they still need helpers.”
“They are thinking highly of us,” Ba Fenghan commented, “They are coming!”
One of the Shiwei men rose up to his full height and crossed the street to come to them.
Some crackling noise was heard as the enemy lit up four torches to illuminate this section of the street.
The number of the enemy reached thirty-nine; in terms of numbers, they clearly held the advantage.
The Shiwei man walking toward them, his face ferocious and rough, his hand clenched the saber hilt; he stopped about ten paces in front of the three, and then using Tujue language, he pointed his fingers like a halberd and roared, “Two Han dogs, get out and receive your death!”
Ba Fenghan threw his head back and laughed loudly; his voice shook the long street. And then he stood up suddenly. The murderous aura in his eyes flaring greatly, he glowered at the Shiwei man and spoke heavily, “I have never killed a nameless person. Report your name!”
Pretending to be surprised, Kou Zhong spoke in Tujue language, “Supposing he really is a nameless person, will you, LaoGe, spare his life?”
Laughing calmly, Ba Fenghan replied, “If he really is a nameless person, then I’ll cut off his dog’s head and call it good.”
The Shiwei man could not take it anymore; with a loud roar he pulled his saber and charged toward Ba Fenghan. Immediately seven, eight men from the enemy ranks sprang up to pounce at the same time.
Kou Zhong also sprang up from his seat. His hand reached inside his sheepskin robe to take the Moon in the Well out. With a somersault he landed in the middle of the street, accurately cutting off the enemy, and chopped his saber. All his movements were like moving clouds, flowing water, and were completed in one breath, wonderful as if made by the Heaven, while at the same time he shouted, “Let Xiaodi take care of the nameless person.”
This sentence was in Han language.
Left entirely without any choice, the only path that the Shiwei man could take was to brandish his saber to block.
The opposite side found it hard to believe, but the Shiwei man was hacked by Kou Zhong that both the man and his saber were spinning away with fresh blood spewing out of his mouth. When the men from the enemy’s side were rushing out to hold him up, the big man could not even stand firm relying on his own strength; his saber fell to the ground.
All the enemies, including the Three Demons of the Black River, none did not have his countenance changed; they were all rooted on the spot. Such a bold and powerful without equal saber technique, this was the first time that they had ever seen.
Standing with the saber across his chest, Kou Zhong shouted, “Tagulunalie, get out here!”
The Three Demons of the Black River stood up at the same time. They were about to shout curses when suddenly there was a flash of lightning; an arrow, with speed that was hard to see with naked eye, flew across the street and penetrated Tagulunalie’s broad chest. The force even carried him, ‘Bang!’ crashing against the outside wall of the building on his side, nailing him onto the wall. Without any chance to groan, he died on the spot.
The arrow’s strength and speed need not be mentioned, but the most amazing thing that made people gasping in surprise was that the timing and the angle were impeccable; the arrow hit precisely the instant he was standing up.
Momentarily, everybody, including Tagulunalie’s two brothers, were as dumb as a wooden chicken; no one dared to move.
Holding the Perished Moon Bow in his left hand and putting an arrow on the string with his right hand, Ba Fenghan said, “Anybody dares to move half a finger, for my next target, I, Ba Fenghan, will choose him.”
As soon as these words were out, not even half a person dared to move. The situation was strange to the extreme point.
The remaining Twin Demons exchanged a glance; suddenly they bolted away, one to the left, the other to the right. Even more despicable, they used the bodies of the men on their own side as a shield, as they ran away with all their might.
A grim smile floated from the corner of Ba Fenghan’s mouth, yet he held his bow still.
Kou Zhong, however, contrary to the enemies’ expectation, put the saber back into its scabbard, using a technique that was swift beyond human comprehension, he took out the Extinguished Bow, and then using Ba Fenghan’s invention, his unique school’s technique, he exerted his strength to open the bow, while shouting coldly, “Ling Shao! Arrow!”
An arrow flew from Xu Ziling’s hand. Without even looking, Kou Zhong reached out to catch it and put it on the string.
This moment the Two Demons already left the enemy ranks. One man soared toward the roof of a building nearby, the other, staying close to the wall, darted toward a small alley. It looked like very soon the two men would break away from the arrows’ threat. The two bows opened fully, powerful arrows left the string.
Under the enemies’ gaze as their scalp was going numb, the two arrows pierced the men’s back, producing two sprays of blood. One demon just had the tip of his toes touching the roof, he immediately fell face up and landed on his back in the street. The other demon, carried by his own momentum, still ran into the side alley before falling face down on the ground. None was narrowly and luckily escape.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud. Putting the Extinguished Sun Bow away, he shouted at the Shiwei man being helped by his companion, “Do you still want to fight?”
The crowd was still as dumb as a wooden chicken.
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “Kou Zhong, you ought to talk in Tujue! How could they understand?”
Slapping his forehead, Kou Zhong blurted out laughing while shaking his head. Turning around, he walked back to his chair. He sat down and said, “I’ll let you, Old Ba to deal with it.”
Ba Fenghan slowly put the bow away and said, “You insulted my, Ba Fenghan’s friends. Actually, it will be difficult for tonight to end well, but after killing three men, my anger has dissipated somewhat. Go get someone else to talk to me!”
The entire street was devoid of any passerby; it was as quiet as a ghost domain.
From the other side, another Shiwei man came out. His appearance was slightly more pleasing to the eye than the injured Shiwei man. Coming to the three men’s presence, he put his hands together and lifted them to his forehead; he bowed and said, “We did not know it was Ba Fenghan coming in person, hence we committed the offense. We ask for your forgiveness.”
Ba Fenghan stepped down from the stone platform and set foot on the street. Coming to the other side, he spoke in low voice, “Why did Heshui San Sha come to Tong Wan? Don’t lie to me. Otherwise, even if we have to chase you everywhere in the prairie, we will not let you get away.”
The man was completely intimidated by Ba Fenghan’s extended imposing manner; hanging his head low to avoid Ba Fenghan’s eyes, he said, “They wanted to snatch a precious stone from Yiwu people, only before we had any chance to discuss the details, they were killed by you. That’s all I know.”
“You mean the Yiwu people who are setting up camp outside the city?” Ba Fenghan asked.
The man nodded, “Precisely,” he replied.
Waving his hand, Ba Fenghan said, “Get lost! Don’t forget to take the corpses away.”
As if they had just received amnesty from the emperor, the crowd took the dead bodies and hurriedly left. In an instant they have gone and not a single one remained.
Ba Fenghan returned to his seat between the two boys; laughing, he said, “Delighted! Delighted! With this Perished Moon Divine Bow, even confronting magnificent army with thousands of men and horses, I have nothing to fear!”
Kou Zhong said, “We’d better replenish our arrow supply. If we shoot them all, even divine bows will not be of any use.”
Ba Fenghan said, “That’s easy. Tomorrow morning let me ask around, who’s the most famous arrow producers in here. We’ll buy however many you want.”
Stretching his limbs, Kou Zhong cheerfully said, “Sitting here, I feel a special distinctive flavor. We might as well put up with sitting here tonight. Tomorrow we’ll have Ling Shao use his nose to sniff around everywhere, to see if he could sniff Shi Zhixuan’s stinky smell.”
Laughing involuntarily, Xu Ziling said, “Are you jealous of my ability to sense the Relics?”
Laughing bitterly, Kou Zhong said, “There seems to be some limitation to your senses; otherwise, how could you find out about it just now?”
Patting Kou Zhong’s shoulder, Ba Fenghan smiled and said, “A lot of things are inherent, they cannot be forced.”
The door by their side opened. An old man with long black and unkempt beard stuck his face out and spoke in Han language, “Three heroes, if you don’t dislike my simple and crude humble abode, you are welcome to come in.”
Astonished, Kou Zhong said, “Laozhang [sir (respectful form of address for an old man)], who are you? How come your Han language is very good?”
The old man replied, “Laofu is called Cheng Zhen, I am actually of the Xi tribe, migrated here to engage in ironware business, without realizing it, it has been more than twenty years. Due to Niang was a Han, I understand Han language. Heishui San Sha’s evil name is widely known, tonight three gentlemen got rid of evil for the sake of the world, Tong Wan people will be very grateful.”
Ba Fenghan said, “I wonder if the current Ahuishi of the Xi tribe is Suzhi?”
Chengzhen nodded and said, “Ba Ye is experienced and knowledgeable. Our Ahuishi is precisely Da [great] Sijin, Suzhi.”
“What is Ahuishi?” Kou Zhong asked.
Cheng Zhen explained, “Our Xi people altogether have Rugewang, Mohefu, Qige, Mukun, and Shide, five divisions. The tribal chief of each division is called Sijin, and Ahuishi is the chief of the group. Ay! Originally the Qidan and us are called the Donghu [eastern barbarian] together, but now we are like water and fire. Three gentlemen must not have dinner yet; why don’t you bring the horses in, let me, Cheng Zhen, one family, act as the host a little bit.”
The three cheerfully accepted the invitation. The mountain road twists around each new peak [idiom: an opportunity has come unexpectedly], suddenly their problem of lodging and food and drink became like bamboo splitting when it meets the knife’s edge [idiom: easily solved]. To people who wandered the barren wilderness, having a roof over their head was extremely precious.