Chapter 3 – Shooting Star from the North
Book 4 Chapter 3 – Shooting Star from the North
All of a sudden, the two boys were surrounded.
Dong Ming Sect’s young Commander-in-chief Shang Ming and two generals Shang Bang and Shang Kuiyi [sic. Last chapter it was Kuitai] appeared from the crowd at the same time. Along with Shan Wanjing they enveloped the two boys in front of the wooden pillar. All escape routes were sealed.
Kou Zhong forced a laugh and said, “Everybody, how are you? Are you here to enjoy the show?”
Shang Ming let out a cold snort and said with disdain, “Despicable man!”
Shan Wanjing’s jade countenance was icy-cold as she stared hatefully at Xu Ziling, “I thought you were captured and taken away,” she coldly said, “But now that I see you are as lively as a dragon and as animated as a tiger, I know that you are wallowing in the mire with Yuwen Chengdu and came with the intention to strike us. This time it is called ‘heaven’s net has wide meshes, but nothing escapes it’ [idiom from Laozi, c. 73AD].”
Xu Ziling shook his hand and said, “Princess, please do not misunderstand; not only we do not know Yuwen Chengdu, we have big enmity with his Yuwen Clan.”
Shang Bang angrily said, “It’s very rare that Madame thought highly of you, yet you insist on breaking her heart. I don’t care whether you know Yuwen Chengdu or not, whether you are related to him or not, but you stole something, and that is an undeniable fact.”
Shang Kuiyi’s eyes exuded murderous intention as he asked, “Who actually sent you?”
Kou Zhong smiled apologetically and said, “Whatever it is, we can talk it over; how could there be anybody sending us?”
Because both sides were talking in low voices, in the other guests’ eyes, they were just like old friends who happened to meet and were having idle chat. Nobody knew that they were in a ‘sword-drawn-and-bow-bent’ kind of dangerous situation; that the situation could easily escalate into a fatal one.
Shan Wanjing’s hatred and anger stare toward them subsided; she spoke indifferently, “If nobody giving you direction, how did you know such account book existed?”
Shang Ming continued on, “Speaking with these low lives is just a waste of time; let’s take them away.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling saw a gleam of hope. They knew that these people were giving face to the host, hence they did not dare to hastily break into fighting, and thus destroying the harmonious atmosphere in this place.
Kou Zhong smiled mischievously, “If you fight, this martial art expert will immediately shout for help; therefore, before you fight, please think it over three times.”
Before he even finished talking, Shan Wanjing and Shang Ming already made their move.
Shan Wanjing’s jade hand slide out of her sleeve at an unimaginable speed toward the acupoint on Xu Ziling’s lower waist, creating a ‘swish’ noise of her qi splitting the air.
Shang Ming’s five fingers were open into a claw, grabbing toward Kou Zhong’s arm.
Both of them had the same intention, i.e. they wanted to subdue the two boys before they could shout asking for help. However, although Shan and Shang, two people’s movement was swift and fierce, their shoulders were absolutely still. Coupled with Shang Bang and Shang Kuiyi blocking other people’s view, although there was no lack of Wulin masters in the hall, there was still no one noticed the changes.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling knew that it was a critical moment; if Dong Ming Sect people found out that the account book was in their possession, even if they jumped into the Yellow River, it would still be difficult to wash away the suspicion.
In that instant, the two boys entered the ‘still-water-in-the-well’ realm. All movements seemed to be slowing down considerably.
Xu Ziling did not misjudge the speed, as well as the angle and strength, of Shan Wanjing’s finger jab, at all. He even had a very clear understanding that if he competed with her in speed, he would definitely be defeated. Moreover, the only way he could withstand the attack was taking advantage of the opponent’s underestimation of him.
With all these thoughts flashed in his mind in lightning speed, he already drew a countermeasure strategy.
Before the finger even touched his body, Shan Wanjing’s true qi had already penetrated his skin, attacking the acupoint on the right side of his lower flank. The true qi flowed along his arteries to strike the major acupoint on his backbone.
And then Shan Wanjing’s delicate finger touched his lower waist.
Xu Ziling’s mind became very clear. He used his thought to control his qi to meet the true qi entering his artery and acupoint. And then the muscle of his waist contracted to prevent the opponent’s jab from hitting him head-on.
Shan Wanjing was delighted that her strike was going smoothly, suddenly she felt that not only did her fingertip hit something soft without any resistance at all, her opponent also sent out a surge of energy that her finger slipped to the side.
While she was still in shock, Xu Ziling reached out to touch her cheek.
Meanwhile, Kou Zhong was gnashing his teeth and giving everything he had to deal with Shang Ming’s attack. His palm sliced across Shang Ming’s right hand that changed from claw into a fist.
‘Bang!’ There was a dull thud as Shang Ming’s body was jolted and he was forced to take half a step back. On the other hand, Kou Zhong was shaken and crashed onto the stone pillar behind him. It was so painful that he let out a muffled groan.
Shan Wanjing and Shang Ming had never imagined that the two boys would have this kind of resisting power. The former let out a tender scream and dodged Xu Ziling’s frivolous hand. Before she could launch a follow-up attack, Xu Ziling already hid on the other side of the stone pillar behind Kou Zhong’s back.
If they fought for real, based on Shan Wanjing’s prowess, with which she was able to take Du Fuwei’s attack, perhaps the two boys fighting together would not even last ten stances against her. However, one, she did not really wish to harm or even kill them, she merely wanted to subdue Xu Ziling; two, because she did not wish to disturb other people, hence she only used thirty, forty percent of her strength. It was only because she had misjudged Xu Ziling’s skill that now she could only stare blankly and let the two boys slipped away.
As Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling circled to the other side of the pillar, they happened to come face to face with the awe-inspiring old man and the refined, lofty-looking scholar. The two men’s eyes met the two boys’, immediately an astonished look flashed through their eyes.
Worst yet, Shen Naitang also saw them and was greatly surprised.
This moment Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling did not have time to worry about other people. They rushed several steps forward into the crowd of several dozen clamoring men and women, straight toward the front door.
While they were still several steps away from the door, shadows flashed, two men and one woman blocked their way. The woman stood akimbo and shouted, “Little dogs, you want to run away?”
The two boys promptly halted their steps. When they looked up, they found out that it was the almond-eyed Shen Wushuang, while on her left and right were this crafty and unruly woman’s two martial brothers, Meng Chang and Meng Ran. Meeting their enemies, their eyes turned red in fury.
Meanwhile Shan Wanjing and the others, four people already caught up behind the two boys, but since they were unclear about the two boys’ relationship with Shen Wushuang, three people, they also halted their steps and just calmly observing from the side.
Obviously Shen Wushuang did not know Shan Wanjing; her countenance immediately changed, “Turns out you have your comrades here, no wonder you put on so much air.”
Kou Zhong was an expert in teasing techniques; he giggled and said, “Wushuang Mei [younger sister, term of endearment] misunderstood. They just asked us to go outside so that they could study our punching and kicking skill.”
Shen Wushuang shrieked, “Who’s your Wushuang Mei?”
Xu Ziling interjected, “We are all of the same side, let’s not quarrel, shall we? We just come here as guests, not to fight with other people.”
From behind, Shan Wanjing impatiently said, “Quickly make way!”
Shen Wushuang was so angry at Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling that she was spouting smoke through her seven orifices; hearing Shan Wanjing, her anger turned toward her. “You are the one who should get lost,” she said furiously, “Let me punish these two little dogs first, and then I’ll settle the account with you.”
Seeing she was humiliating his Princess, Shang Ming laughed coldly and said, “Stinky girl, what makes you think that you are qualified to settle the account with us?”
This time it was Meng Chang and Meng Ran who fought for their martial sister. “How dare you?” they shouted angrily in unison.
The more they talked the more both sides lost their temper, prompting the guests around them to raise their eyebrows.
Seeing the commotion, Shen Naitang came over. “What are you doing?” he scolded them, “Do you know what kind of place this is?”
He was relying on ‘old affecting the old’; as soon as he said that, from all three sides people were rebuking them.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stole a glance around, and saw like tidal wave the guests separated onto two sides, so that the sitting people’s line of sight was open and they were able to see the situation near the door.
Just by this spontaneous action of the guests one could see the three people’s status must be out of the ordinary. Everybody was looking at them reverently, so that in that moment they had become the ‘target of a multitude arrows’.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud; bowing with cupped fist he said, “It has nothing to do with us, two brothers; they are just quarreling among themselves.”
Shen Wushuang was so angry that her pretty face turned ashen; she was about to retort, but Shen Naitang stopped her.
Now all gazes naturally fell onto Shan Wanjing, four people.
This time Shan Wanjing came because of Shi Qingxuan’s fame; she was using the invitation card presented by Li Shimi, and did not have any desire to publicize their status, yet she did not wish to offend the master of this mansion even more. Although she was fuming with anger and wanted to kill the two boys very much, she did not have any choice but to smile slightly and spoke to the scholar, “Forgive us for alarming Seniors. Ha! We don’t have any problem.”
Leading the others, she mingled into a crowd of guests on the side.
And thus a disturbance has been settled.
However, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were groaning inwardly, because they could not stay, but they could not leave even more.
The man wearing government official attire suddenly spoke up, “Two Xiao Xiongdi, could you come over to meet with us?”
Chapter 3, Part 2
Chik, Critical, HPC, Gerald, Anh, Weed, you are welcome. Drak, I said 'at least'. Lawwoo, I am trying to ... but cannot promise anything. K2Grey, Ahoxan, George, Lost, thanks for responding. Now the tally is 6x #1, 9.5 #2, and 2.5 #3. Seems to me that most of you are already familiar with the story (at least you know what kind of story this is). DongBin, you keep track, huh? Has it been that long? Jaya, you are right. I lost track too. Sky, Ahoxan, that was one of the reason why I thought she might stay for a while. But we'll see ... Here is the end of Chapter 3. As I said a while back, I am busy with moving back into our home, but I will try to update regularly.
The hundreds of guests in the hall were about to continue inquiring about what had just happened; hearing him, they all showed astonishment on their faces. Why would he be interested in these two kids?
Actually, unlike Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had guessed, this official looking gentleman was not the master of this mansion; he was also one of the guests. Moreover, he was a Sui minister who held the balance of power in the imperial court, plus he was also one of several martial art masters within the imperial court.
This man’s name was Wang Shichong. He was under the order of Emperor Yang of Sui to lead the troops to deal with Zhai Rang and Li Mi’s Wagang Army. Amidst his busy schedule, he sneaked in to this place to see Shi Qingxuan’s graceful bearing.
And he had heard about Yuwen Huaji hunting down Kou and Xu, two boys. This time his heart was moved with suspicion.
As for the majestic looking old man in tattered clothes and the old scholar who looked like a middle-aged man, their background was also not a small matter.
The former was known as ‘Mount Huang’s Hermit’, Ouyang Xiyi, who had made his name for at least forty years as an ultimate martial art master. In Wulin, he shared the same seniority with Xuan Men [black/mysterious school (I think Book 1 has ‘Bi Xuan’)] number one master ‘Shan Ren’ Ning Daoqi, but he has gone into retirement for many years. This time he came to visit the master of this mansion, and happened to be there for this grand event.
As for the old scholar, he was the master of the mansion, Wang Tong, a great scholar of the present age. In terms of learning theory, there was ‘no one to his right (side) under the heavens’. In terms of martial art, he was implicitly in the same league as first class martial art experts like Zhai Rang, Dou Jiande, Du Fuwei, Ouyang Xiyi, as well as the master of the four clans.
Wang Tong’s character was peculiar. After he reached fame at the age of 30, he never fought anymore. He had forsaken the ‘wu’ [martial art, military] and embraced the ‘wen’ [literature, civil]; not teaching martial art, but amassing disciples to give lectures, and was prolific in producing literary works.
The most interesting work he did was his imitation of ‘Spring and Autumn Annals’ [722-481 BC], called ‘Yuan Jing’ [primary/first classic/scripture], and imitation of ‘Analects of Confucius’ called ‘Zhong Shuo’ [middle/center speech/theory], in which he said, “There is no place under the heavens where I haven’t gone to, haven’t been from, only the way I have never been through.” [Sorry, this passage is beyond me.]
Also, only because he was so talented that he was like a lone flower admiring itself [i.e. self-love, narcissist] that he had never betrayed his friendship with Shi Qingxuan.
Because Shan Wanjing felt responsible, she also did not dare offend this nobody-dared-to-provoke aloof figure for the sake of the two boys.
The guests who came to the event this time were people with position or status in town and surrounding counties; if not the head of a sect or school, then they must be a tycoon, high official or people of nobility. But even the most arrogant people would not dare to display shocking bad behavior in this kind of situation.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged glances, they both groaned inwardly. While they were stuck without any room either to advance or to retreat, there was a series of screams from the main entrance. Followed by two men flew in the air and fell face up. ‘Bang! Bang!’ they both landed on the floor flat on their back.
Like a tide the guests separated to the left and right, opening up a large empty space near the door.
Looking at the two men who guarded the gate, who this moment could only groan and were unable to crawl up, everybody’s countenance was changed; nobody could imagine who would be this extremely daring and rush to this place to deliver his life?
While everybody was looking at each other in shock, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling seized this opportunity to squeeze themselves into the crowd.
The inner hall was already crowded, now that a large vacant area appeared, everybody was tightly squeezed against each other, so that even Dong Ming Princess and the others, who considered them as their prey, momentarily were unable to get close to them.
Immediately several men appeared to help the two guards up on their feet. And then amidst the clamor a man in blue clothes rushed over and grabbed the two men and thundered, “Who dare to come here and commit this atrocity?”
A cold snort was heard from outside the door. Two people, one man and one woman, calmly appeared at the door.
The man was tall, rather heroic looking and big. Although his face was long and narrow, but it was chiseled, and perfect like a marble statue. His skin was even more fair, soft and smooth than a girl’s, yet there was nothing effeminate about him. On the contrary, because of his sharp eyes, he exuded a thick manly, almost overbearing, type of charm.
A strip of red cloth was tied across his forehead. Inside his blue-green robe, he wore a skintight yellow warrior outfit, plus a leather vest, making him appeared to have broader shoulders and narrower waist. Hanging on his waist left and right were a sword and a saber. His age was approximately between twenty-four, twenty-five; his form was extremely formidable.
Most of the guests present were accustomed to people of all aspects of society. Seeing this man strolled in with his hands behind his back, completely calm and composed, they knew this person was not simple at all. Moreover, from his high nose and deep eyes, they knew that it he was not a hu man [non-Han], then he must have had some hu blood in him. Nobody did not feel surprised.
The woman’s appearance did not look like women of Central Earth [Zhong Tu] either, but she was clearly not of the same race as the man. However, whether it was her face, her figure, her general facial appearance or her skin, she was a picture of beauty that no one was not enchanted. Only her expression was as cold as ice and frost, yet her implicit charm and good looks was not the least bit inferior to Shan Wanjing, Li Xiuning, those kind of ultimate beauties.
She also acted strangely; as soon as she stepped over the threshold, she deliberately held herself back about half a zhang behind the man, as if she wanted to keep a distance between her and the man.
A long laughter echoed from the mouth of Ouyang Xiyi, followed by this Wulin senior master who had made his name for several decades boomed, “Alright! Young hero, what is your relationship with Tujue’s Bi Xuan?”
The clamoring noise of people making comments immediately died down, even the big man in blue who was ready to fight was also shaken and did not dare to take any action. From this, it could be clearly seen how flourishing Bi Xuan’s prestige was inside and outside of the Wulin world of the Central Plains.
A look of surprise appeared on the young martial art expert’s face, his eyes flashed with sharp ray. After carefully sizing up Ouyang Xiyi, he said nonchalantly, “Turns out it is ‘Mount Huang’s Hermit’, Ouyang Xiyi; no wonder your vision is this brilliant. However, Zaixia not only have nothing to do with Bi Xuan, it is he who desires to be related to me.”
When the people heard this, most of them were so astonished that their mouths were agape. He was able to recognize Ouyang Xiyi, it was not surprising, because an imposing, bold and powerful old man like Ouyang Xiyi was rarely seen in Jianghu; coupled with tattered clothes he wore, it was like he was displaying his trademark for all the world to see.
What was astonishing was that this kid knew perfectly well that the opponent was Ouyang Xiyi, yet he still dared to call him by name like that. Plus he did not seem to consider Bi Xuan, who was hailed as one of the three best martial art masters under the heavens, as someone worthy in his eyes. This was the shocking part.
Kou Zhong leaned close to Xu Ziling’s ear and whispered, “That beauty looks a bit like Niang.”
Xu Ziling nodded in agreement. Not that he thought that the face of the woman in white who came uninvited resembled Fu Junchuo’s, but her clothes and her demeanor appeared to be unusually similar, only she appeared to be seven or eight years younger than Fu Junchuo. [Actually, the text says ‘Fu Junchan’, but since IMHO she was a very important character, I decided to change it to ‘Fu Junchuo’.]
Kou Zhong continued, “That guy seems to be very formidable; otherwise his eyes would not be as bright as lightning flashes.”
Before Xu Ziling had time to respond, Ouyang Xiyi suddenly stood up; instantly there was an overwhelming ‘ten-thousand-men-unable-to-withstand’ like aura emanating from him, giving everybody on the scene some kind of suffocating feeling.
A gentle and soft voice suddenly rang out, “Young man, what qualification do you have that even Bi Xuan wanted to associate himself with your little life?”
Without even looking at the person who talked among the crowd, the young man smiled and said, “I don’t think in this matter any explanation is necessary!”
Wang Tong was sitting motionless with rapt attention; fixing his gaze on the man, he said indifferently, “Sire has just stepped over the door and you already injured people. Although Ol’ Wang is no good in brandishing saber or playing with stick, I am compelled to do something. State your name!”
At this point everybody knew that Wang Tong was really angry.
Wang Shichong was also sizing up the heroic looking young man with a grim expression on his face. He spoke in deep voice, “With Old Wang and Old Ouyang making the decision, Chen Dangjia [the one in charge, see Ren Meimei, Book 3 Chapter 7] may go back home!”
As soon as he said those words, the hall filled with several hundred people became deadly quiet [orig. Crow and peacock make no sound].
Although his remark was polite, it was tantamount to Wang Shichong telling the person he called Master Chen not to provoke this man.
Wang Shichong was publicly known as one of the few top martial art experts in Jianghu, naturally his vision was extremely keen. If he said so, then that heroic looking young man’s martial art must have had reached a universally shocking level.
It should also be noted that Master Chen was the first Master [Dangjia] of Dongping County’s biggest Sect, the Qingshuang Pai [dark-green frost sect], Chen Yuanzhi. Her Qingshuang Sword was renown near and far, enough to rank her among the Wulin masters.
Chen Yuanzhi’s countenance changed slightly. After hesitating for half a day she stepped aside.
A hint of cold laugh appeared on the corner of the heroic looking young man’s mouth; calmly he said, “Zaixia Ba Fenghan. This time I came together with this young lady as my companion, she is …”
The beautiful woman in white coldly said, “You are you, I am me, who’s your companion? Humph, are you scared?”
While everybody was stunned, Ba Fenghan showed an awkward expression, as if he did not know whether to laugh or to cry. Yet surprisingly he still looked unusually natural and unrestrained, so that both men and women in the hall could not help but were attracted to him. Even Shan Wanjing, who was usually very proud and arrogant, felt her heart palpitating.
Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Ziling’s ear again, “This guy’s outward appearance is very unique. Hey! Let’s slip away!”
With a bitter smile Xu Ziling replied, “How do you slip away?”
Kou Zhong swept his gaze around, dejectedly he had to dispel the idea, because by this time even people who were originally in the garden had thronged inside to see the excitement. The hall was even more jam-packed than before that it was difficult to move for even a cun. Besides, Shan Wanjing and the others, who were standing across the room, were staring at them hatefully, so that there would not be much different between leaving right now and delivering their lives.
Ouyang Xiyi’s hand slowly moved toward the hilt of his sword. In an instant the close to seven hundred people in the main hall all felt that the air temperature of the hall seemed to be dropping rapidly; the hall felt thick with murderous aura, which permeated into the entire room.
Everybody knew that this senior martial art master, who had not exchanged swords for several decades, would make his move really soon; they could not refrain from withdrawing backward as much as possible to make room.
Ba Fenghan’s tiger eyes flickered like flashes of lightning, his outer robe started to move although there was no wind; it fluttered and produced rustling noise. Unexpectedly his valor was not the least bit inferior from his opponent; just like he was very confident that he was unequalled under the heavens, insufferably arrogant.
Both Wang Tong and Wang Shichong looked extremely somber.
People with discerning eyes all knew that the moment Ouyang Xiyi raised his body, these two men, old and young, would unleash their grandeur to decide who was superior and who was inferior.
What was amazing was that in terms of momentum, this foreigner Ba Fenghan was able to match Ouyang Xiyi as his equal. If this matter was spread all over Jianghu, it would be enough to elevate the nameless Ba Fenghan to earth-shattering fame.
The woman in white stood motionless, but her eyes scanned the crowd, as if she was oblivious of the imminent battle in front of her, while everybody else was waiting with bated breath for the moment the two combatants would cross swords.
 Wang Shichong (-621) was a real historical figure, a general of late Sui and opponent of early Tang.