Chapter 1 – Escape By The Skin Of Their Teeth
Book 5 Chapter 1 – Escape By The Skin Of Their Teeth
Translated by Foxs
Most of Zhai Rang’s Big Boss Mansion had caught fire, and the fire was continuously spreading, the flame illuminated the sky, reflected by the dark cloud above that it felt like a big rock pressing on their hearts. Although the fire intensity was increasing, nobody was fighting it. The shouting from the killing shook the heavens; dead bodies were everywhere. Li Mi’s men had their faces covered in black cloth like nightwalkers, making it difficult to recognize them.
Kou Zhong raised his saber to open up a path, Xu Ziling, with Susu on his back, followed behind him. They had just leaped up onto the tiled roof when four men in black pounced on them like mad tigers. When they saw that Kou and Xu, two people were not wearing black, they immediately raised their swords to slash at them.
Kou Zhong met the attack head-on. In this critical moment, automatically the true qi within his body surged on; an extremely cold qi, hidden inside a warm stream, flowed from his hand onto his long saber, emitting a whistling noise as it slice the air, cutting across the enemy.
The man had never imagined that the saber’s momentum could be this swift and fierce. The most frightening thing was that the opponent’s blade carried a blast of incomparably frigid cold saber qi, so that when the enemy met it, he would immediately feel the chill in his heart, that even his qi and blood could not flow unimpeded.
By the time the man allocated at least half of his strength to resist Kou Zhong’s saber qi, Kou Zhong’s long saber had already hacked onto the man’s sword so that from attacking, the sword turned into blocking the saber instead.
‘Dang!’ A clear ringing noise was heard, the man let out a miserable scream; unexpectedly the sword, along with the man, were hacked by Kou Zhong’s saber that he fell off the roof tile.
Kou Zhong was also shaken by the man’s reacting force that his wrist felt numb. But a sudden qi arose from within his body; the numbness and pain immediately subsided.
At this moment his eyes, ears, nose and the other senses have become incomparably sharp; so much so that his skin was able to clearly sense the variation in the air surrounding him due to the opponents’ movements. Although by this time, due to lack of experience he was unable to reach the state ‘all-seeing’, but the day would come when even if his two eyes were blindfolded, he would be able to ‘see’ the opponent’s attacking move.
After the enemy taking the lead to attack had fallen, the other three men were obviously so shocked that their actions suffered a split-second delay, exposing a gap in their offense. Without even thinking Kou Zhong swiftly charged from the slanted roof tile surface going upwards, entering the gap in the middle of the enemy’s attacking formation. His long saber swept in a large circle, slashing the three enemy’s swords in succession.
This time, the people following Li Mi in the raid on the Big Boss Mansion were all handpicked from among Li Mi’s troops, every one was skilled, valiant, and ferocious; but encountering Kou Zhong, who was even braver and more unstoppable than they were, their acute spirit was dampened. The first two men had their swords hacked by Kou Zhong; they let a stifled grunt, and were forced to retreat.
After dispelling the threat from these two swords, Kou Zhong’s murderous spirit arose. With a loud shout his broadsword increased in speed, with all his strength he hacked down on the last man’s sword.
The man brandished his sword to block, but he felt the opponent’s saber strength was as heavy as a mountain; his entire body felt like he has just entered an icehouse. With a miserable scream he was hacked down by Kou Zhong that he rolled down to the ground.
While Kou Zhong was still pondering why he became very formidable, Xu Ziling swept past to his side, while hurling another man in black in Kou Zhong’s direction. The man was jolted back by Kou Zhong that his qi and blood surged, and the icy cold saber qi penetrated his meridian; the feeling was unbearable. Suddenly hot tears welled up like lightning in his eyes. He was just about to raise his sword to block, the pit of his stomach felt as if he was struck by lightning. Without even having time to scream, he was thrown backward, fell face up on the ground and died a violent death.
The other man was so scared that he turned around and ran toward the other side of the roof, while pursing his lips to send out a whistle, calling for help. The two boys exchanged glances; they did not dare to remain on the roof, hence they jumped down to the ground and relying on their memory, they killed their way to the left, toward the three buildings in the eastern courtyard. As long as they could cross the eastern courtyard, they would be able to climb over the high wall, and out of the Big Boss Mansion.
However, Li Mi’s force was very organized; in groups of three or five, they combed the area looking for the enemy. Whenever they saw people not wearing black clothes, they showed no mercy and simply killed them.
On the other hand, the mansion guards on Zhai Rang’s side was like a sheet of loose sand; every body was trying desperately to break out of the siege, no longer had any heart to continue fighting. Which one was the strong, which one was the weak, it could be clearly and easily seen.
Kou and Xu, two boys had just taken about ten paces or so, they already met a group of enemy numbering about a dozen, some of them even burst out of the window of a nearby building, charging madly toward the two boys.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were scared out of their wits; they accelerated forward so that in the twinkling of an eye the distance between two sides increased considerably.
Kou Zhong was afraid the opponent would harm Susu with secret projectiles, hence they turned around behind the main hall, and like arrows the three of them flew toward the eastern courtyard.
Ahead they saw a group of men in black were surrounding about a dozen or so Zhai Mansion’s guards, engaging them in fierce battle. Xu Ziling was thinking about leaping onto the roof, but he suddenly felt splatter of blood coming from someone who was falling off the roof. Clenching his teeth, he rushed even faster forward, sweeping toward two men who had their back towards him.
The two men suddenly felt a blast of qi entering their body; abandoning the enemy in front of them, they turned their swords around to block. Xu Ziling let out a wild roar, his short halberd swept the sword of the one on the right first, jolting the man so that he was thrown aside. Immediately afterwards he changed his move, the short halberd pulled and pushed, so that the other man was blocking an empty space, and then Xu Ziling watched for a gap he could exploit, the tip of his halberd entered the man’s chest.
By the time the man fell dead, Xu Ziling, with Susu on his back, already entered the center of the hard battle. Like a shadow Kou Zhong followed closely behind him; flipping his broadsword up, he deflected an incoming lance, and then with another flip he hacked another man’s flank.
As the Zhai Mansion guards felt the hard pressure suddenly decreased, they all scattered in all directions. The situation was extremely chaotic.
Kou Zhong turned his head around and saw the dozen or so enemies they left behind were closing in fast. Aghast, he yelled, “Go!”
Xu Ziling was also aware that the situation was extremely critical, if the enemy managed to cut their path, they would lose their lives right then and there. Additionally, he felt Susu’s body on his back was trembling violently. His heroic spirit rose up; using only the toes on his feet as a support, his short halberd turned into hundreds of flashing blades, forcing the four enemies right in front of him to scatter away, and thus he managed to split the encirclement, and was finally able to dash toward the eastern courtyard.
But the situation on the area surrounding the Zhai Mansion was even more dangerous. Apparently Li Mi has deployed a massive military force to prevent anybody from the Zhai Mansion from escaping. They saw human shadows everywhere; ‘you chase after me, I pursue you’, the killing was so intense that the moon and the stars lost their light.
The three people dashed to the left and darted to the right; each time they were forcing their way toward the eastern courtyard, they were always repelled by the enemy. Not too long afterwards, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling already suffered countless minor injuries; even Susu’s milky white back also suffered a long blade cut. Fortunately, in their attempt to escape, the several dozen Zhai Mansion guards were also rushing the same way, so that they impeded the enemy’s movement. Otherwise, their lives would definitely be hard to protect. Moreover, the two boys had already cut down at least a dozen men from the enemy’s side.
After cutting down five more enemies, under the light from the raging fire the two boys saw that the enemy had seized complete control over the situation; they were surrounding and killing the remaining thirty or so Zhai Mansion guards and slowly pushing them into a corner, unlike the previous ‘you chase after me, I pursue you’ situation, where everybody was running randomly in all directions.
By this time the three people had arrived at coppice woodland outside the reach of the firelight; it seemed that the enemy has temporarily forgotten about them. Looking to the west, most of the buildings in the Zhai Mansion complex had already engulfed in flame, while burst of shouting, yelling and screaming of the battle still came intermittently.
Susu wept. “Laoye must be dead,” she cried.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged a glance; they both felt their qi was depleted their strength gone, they no longer felt as brave as before.
Kou Zhong asked, “Is there any hiding place around here?”
Susu was still shaking in fear by a miserable scream from the direction of the battle; hearing the question, she stared blankly for a moment before pointing toward a rockery in the middle of the pond situated north of the eastern courtyard. “Let’s go that way!” she said.
Without even thinking Xu Ziling carried her on his back flying toward the big pond about a dozen zhang away.
Kou Zhong caught up next to Susu and asked, “Is there any place in the pond we can hide?”
Susu anxiously replied, “Inside the rockery there is a little pond that was used as fish hatchery; after the water was drained, it became a dry well. It is completely hidden.”
The two boys were greatly delighted; increasing their vigilance, they listened to eight directions. After evading two groups of the enemy, they proceeded cautiously; making sure nobody noticed their movements. Taking advantage of the immensely golden opportunity while the enemy’s attention was focused on stopping the Zhai Mansion guards from escaping, they flitted across the side of the pond, and landed on the fake rock, which diameter was close to two zhang.
Following Susu’s direction, the three of them squeezed into the small well, about five chi deep and four chi across [1 chi is approx. 1/3m or 1ft]. Unless someone deliberately broke into the crack in the rock and reached the side of the well, nobody would be able to find the three people.
‘Thump, thump, thump …’ They heard each other’s heart beating wildly. It was quite a while before, like the killing noise outside, their hearts gradually calmed down.
Kou Zhong said in a low voice, “Is Zhai Rang finished?”
Xu Ziling was about to reply when suddenly he felt his collar was dripping wet; turned out Susu was crying silently. Although the well was dark and he was unable to see Susu’s expression, he knew that she was choked with the bleakest emotions; his heart ached as he said, “Don’t cry! Your Laoye has led uprising in the past; he would have known that a day like this may come. The situation right now is if you don’t kill me, then I’ll kill you.”
Pressing himself against Susu’s back, Kou Zhong also whispered comforting words in her ear, “In the future it will be the two of us who take care of Jiejie!”
Chapter 1, Part 2
HPC, Ysabel, Joaquim, Komeng, Jaya, Bocah, you are welcome. Oh, Joaquim, welcome to the forum. Laoren, that is affirmative, even SLY says so. Sky, I was referring 'only' to their 'servant mentality'. Please spare my life ... Drax, speaking about urban warfare, 'Blackhawk Down' came to my mind. Subudai, I did not realize you guys loathe Susu that much. I only feel sorry for her.
The noise outside suddenly died down, even the crackling noise of the fire seemed to disappear; only occasional rustling noise of the sleeve against the breeze was still heard. Apparently Li Mi’s men were conducting thorough search to ensure no one slipped through their net.
The three people knew it was a critical moment, they were so scared that they did not even dare to let even half a mouthful of heavy breathing escaped from their nostrils. Additionally, from time to time there were people raising their torches high to look at the rockery; fortunately no one could ever imagine that there was a dry well inside it.
After nobody knew how long, a gentle and pleasant to hear voice was heard from the edge of the pond, “Still can’t find those two kids?”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling recognized Li Mi’s voice; immediately in their hearts they did not stop crying out for their Niang.
Luckily the other party was separated by a distance of four, five zhang, plus the three of them were hidden in the well under the fake rock; otherwise, it would be impossible to conceal their presence from this martial art master whose name shook the world.
Zu Junyan’s voice was heard, “They were last seen around this courtyard; that Xu kid was even carrying that precious little maid Susu on his back. And then in the confusion nobody knows where they sneaked out to.”
A loud and clear male voice was heard, “Logically speaking, they must be hiding inside the Mansion; but now all rooms have been burned down, the underground tunnel has also been blocked. Where could they go?”
Shen Luoyan’s tender voice was heard next; she let out a snort and said, “Even if they were able to escape from the Mansion, they can forget about leaving the city.”
While inside the well Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were busy raining down curses on her, Li Mi spoke indifferently, “In any case, don’t let these two boys escape. If we can’t use them, finish them off with a blade, to avoid a new branch grows out of a knot. Understand?”
Zu Junyan and the other chorused their compliance. The sound of footsteps was getting farther and farther away.
The three people have just breathed a sigh of relief, Shen Luoyan’s sigh was heard, “Shiji, my heart is a bit uneasy.”
It was only then did the three people realize that the man with a loud and clear voice was Li Mi’s other general, Xu Shiji, who also happened to be Shen Luoyan’s boyfriend.
Xu Shiji said, “Luoyan, your wisdom and intelligence have always surpassed others’, you always plan in advance; why are you suddenly sounded so bleak, as if you have lost all hopes?”
Shen Luoyan let out a gloomy sigh again, and gently said, “These two boys’ skill is getting better every day, each encounter is more formidable than the last; even Bai Laoliu [ol’ six], Xie Hei, those kind of martial art masters were sent to the western paradise just in a few encounters with them. Moreover, the cause of their death was because their heart and artery were shattered by their powerful qi. If this time we are unable to hold them down, in the future they will become a disaster for us.”
Listening to his, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s heroic spirit swelled uncontrollably; they had just found out that turned out they carried enough weight in the minds of the enemy.
Xu Shiji let out a cold snort and said, “If it weren’t for the fact that our attention was focused on that dead devil Zhai, how could they have the chance to show off? Leave the search to me! Even if they flew to the end of the sky, I will bring their body back for you to see.”
The noises outside died down.
The three people were unable to resist their exhaustion; they fell asleep in each other’s embrace. Finally they were able to accomplish the magnificent feat of sleeping together.
One after another the three of them were awakened by the cold falling snowflakes.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling have mastered the divine skill of ‘Secret to Long Life’, it was only natural that they were able to withstand the cold. Susu was wearing fur coat, plus she had practiced a little bit of martial art, and on top of that, she put on a cloak, which rendered her cold proof. The unbearable thing was that Kou Zhong, who pressed himself against her back, was emitting a stream on strangely cold qi that made her feel extremely uncomfortable; while on the other side Xu Ziling was emitting an incomparably hot qi. It was as if her body was subjected to a severe winter on one side, and intense summer on the other; half cold half hot. She did not know whether she ought to feel painful or happy.
Xu Ziling was the first to realize this situation; he knew during sleeping Kou Zhong would spontaneously circulate his qi. “Zhong Shao,” he called out softly, “Still haven’t restrained your inner qi?”
Kou Zhong obeyed him and woke up. Susu immediately felt a bit better.
By this time the heavy snow had nearly filled the space above the three people to the brim. Naturally Kou and Xu, two boys had no problem. Automatically the true qi within their body reacted; the breathing from their mouth and nose was severed, they entered the inner-breathing state like a fetus. However, Susu did not have this kind of ability; she felt drowsy very quickly. “I am stuffy!” she moaned.
Xu Ziling was about to push the snow out to let Susu breathe a bit of fresh air. A multitude of footsteps was coming near, someone spoke, “Drain the pond water, I heard they are proficient in breathing-under-water skill, perhaps they are still hiding at the bottom of the pond. Humph! Let me search this pond carefully one more time.”
Recognizing the voice as belonging to Xu Shiji, how could the three people dare to move? Listening to Susu’s breathing that was increasingly short and hurried, the two boys were greatly anxious. If this condition continued, just the sound of her breathing would be enough to alert the enemy; not to mention she might be suffocated to death.
They heard the sound of rushing wind; obviously someone was crossing the pond, flying toward the fake rock.
Xu Ziling was facing Susu. Although he could not see Susu’s expression due to the thick snow above them, from the heaving of her breasts he knew that she was on the verge of taking her last breath, yet for the sake of the two boys, she fought hard to restrain herself. Critical situation gave birth to quick-wittedness; pressing his lips against her fragrant lips, he transferred his true qi to her.
Susu’s tender body trembled a little before calming down. Her icy-cold lips gradually warmed up, as she silently receiving the true qi that made her entire body relaxed.
The three of them felt people were walking back and forth above; hence they were forced to beseech the gods and pray to Buddha that the people above would not step onto the snow covering the hole above their heads; otherwise, they would definitely be able to tell that there was something different with the snow.
‘Crash!’ Someone opened the sluice, with a loud crash the water flowed out of the pond.
Shen Luoyan’s voice was heard from the outside, “I think they have already escaped. With a glance you can already see the bottom of the pond, there is no way anybody could hide in here.”
Xu Shiji clearly shared similar impression; he coldly said, “They must be still in the city, we’ll mobilize our troops immediately to search for them house-to-house, I want to see where can they go?”
A long time after Shen Luoyan and the others left, Kou Zhong was the first to stick his big head out of the snow and happily said, “They are all gone!” Only then did Xu Ziling leave Susu’s fragrant lips and help her to stand up.
Turned out it was already dawn. Heavy snow was still swirling in the air; the Zhai Mansion had turned into broken-roof crumbling-wall ruins after the fire.
Susu has been sitting with bent knees all night long, her legs went numb. Were it not for Xu Ziling holding her arm, she would not be able to stand.
Noticing the slight blush on Susu’s pretty face, plus her bashful demeanor as if she did not dare to look straight at him, Xu Ziling could not help recalling the interlocking of the two sets of lips just now, and some kind of peculiar feeling grew in his originally pure heart.
How could Kou Zhong be willing to let him get away with it just like that? Leaning closer to Susu, he whispered in her ear, “Jiejie was kissed by Xiao Ling, how about letting him marry you?”
“Don’t talk nonsense,” Susu snapped at him, “Xiao Ling was doing that to save my life! How can you say that?”
Kou Zhong slapped his forehead and remorsefully said, “I deserve the scolding! I nearly forget that when sister-in-law is drowning, we must lend a helping hand. [Translator’s note: I believe he was referring to Confucianism restriction in man-woman relationship.] Therefore, in this situation Xiao Ling was also helping Jiejie … hey! There is nothing strange about it.”
Susu turned around planted a very light kiss [orig. the dragonfly touches the water lightly] on Kou Zhong’s lips; she spoke tenderly, “This way I treat you fairly. Don’t laugh at Xiao Ling again.”
While Kou Zhong was ‘as dumb as a wooden chicken’, Xu Ziling said, “Don’t be ridiculous; right now running away for our lives is more important. What should we do?”
At this time the three of them still had the lower part of their bodies hidden inside the snow-covered well, only their upper bodies were exposed outside. While helping Susu brushing off the snowflakes from her beautiful hair, Kou Zhong mused, “Now our hope is on the one called Peipei from the Daiqing Lou [sic. It was ‘yuan’ in previous chapters.] But if we go there to look for her just like this, chances are we are going to reveal ourselves. Besides, at the moment we are not able to move a single step within the city of Xingyang. It would be best if we could find a place where we could hide for his mother’s several days, waiting for the smoke to clear, and then when Shen Poniang [b1tch] and the rest think that we have gone far away, we’ll go to Peipei, asking her to find a way. This way it will be absolutely safe.”
With a bitter laugh Xu Ziling said, “Who dares to offer shelter to us now?”
Susu’s voice was trembling, “They said they are going to conduct house-to-house search, it would be better for us to just stay here.”
Kou Zhong giggled and said, “In this kind of weather, if we stay here, we will either die of the cold, or die of starvation. Ha! Does Jiejie know where that Shen Luoyan’s thieves’ lair is?”
Susu was shocked. “You are not thinking of hiding in her home, are you?” she asked.
Kou Zhong laughed. “Where can we find a hiding place more secure than her place?” he said, “Right now this b1tch is under Li Mi’s order to search for us, she shouldn’t have time to go home to sleep, we will enter by exploiting this weak spot and put up with her place just for a few days. By the time she goes home, it will mean that the search is over, and then we can go to find Peipei.”
Xu Ziling was greatly moved; he nodded and said, “According to reason, Shen Poniang wouldn’t be so bad that she won’t even spare her own thieves’ lair. This plan is certainly feasible.”
Susu still did not feel at ease. “But there other people in her home!” she said in fear.
“Nothing more than several maids, servants and low-grade workers,” Kou Zhong proudly replied, “Do you think she will station a massive military force over there, to guard the lady’s chamber like the battlefield? Ha! Xu Shiji coming is another story altogether.”
Finally Susu was persuaded; she told them where Shen Luoyan’s official residence was located.
The three of them waited until dark. This time Kou Zhong carried Susu on his back. Unleashing their Bird Crossing Technique, they leaped onto roofs and vaulted over walls toward Shen Luoyan’s residence to hide.