Chapter 6 – Vying for the book
Book 5 Chapter 6 – Vying for the book
Snowy evening. Like a bolt of lightning Kou Zhong flitted passed several buildings, and in short time he already ascertained that Shen Luoyan was not at home.
Although just like other people, with all her power and influence Shen Luoyan also wanted to hunt and arrest them, Kou Zhong had always felt that this pretty Junshi [military counselor] had some kind of subtle connection with them, that she was one with whom he could talk to.
To Shen Luoyan, this book represented the entire strength distribution and intelligence network of the Wagang Army, its importance was indeed incomparable. Moreover, the book was lost while in her possession, naturally she would be held responsible. Therefore, in this business deal, he had no worries that she would not yield.
Question is: how to contact her?
Shen Luoyan’s private chamber was pitch-black, the inner courtyard of her mansion was also devoid of any guard reinforcements.
Although Kou Zhong felt as if he was entering a no-man’s land, his heart was actually full of disappointment and sense of loss.
After waiting painstakingly for a long time, he still did not see Shen Luoyan came back. Without any other choice, he was thinking of returning to Xu Ziling to discuss this matter further.
As he leaped over a high wall and landed on the roof of another house nearby, an alarm suddenly went off in his heart.
Kou Zhong was very astute; quickly he changed direction and traversed sideways. Who would have thought that his left ankle suddenly tightened? Something like a rope wound itself tightly around his ankle.
Kou Zhong was shocked. He wanted to use the fastest and quickest way to pull the broadsword from his back, but then suddenly remembered that he had thrown his broadsword away in his effort to save Xu Ziling. While his hand was grabbing an empty air, he was pulled back that he rolled over the roof tile and fell. A thin stream of finger wind attacked him, threatening the vital acupoint on his back.
In this critical situation, Kou Zhong remained calm; exerting his true qi, he sent out both palms backward to strike the enemy.
The opponent did not expect Kou Zhong to be this outstanding; he swiftly retreated to the end of the narrow alley to evade the wind from Kou Zhong’s palms.
‘Bang!’ Kou Zhong’s back landed on the ground. He was going to spring back up when a stream of strange energy flowed out from the rope binding his foot and penetrated his body, and in an instant permeated the meridians in his entire body.
Kou Zhong’s sturdy body was severely shaken, immediately his hands and feet went numb, and he fell back to the ground.
A shadow flitted over; the shadow’s right foot gingerly stepped on the right side of the small of Kou Zhong’s back.
Kou Zhong immediately felt severe pain that his waist felt like it was about to burst; but the true qi in his body quickly reacted, from his tianling [at the top of one’s head] acupoint it burst forth downward; not only it neutralized the numbness of his limbs, it also blocked the stream of energy from the tip of the opponent’s foot entering his lower back.
Kou Zhong was about to strike back when that person bent down and reached out to brush the pit of Kou Zhong’s stomach.
It was only then did Kou Zhong see that the opponent was wearing night-walker outfit, complete with head covering, revealing only his eyes and mouth and nose.
Kou Zhong inwardly called, ‘Come closer!’ Unleashing the ‘Meridian Severing Technique’ taught by Tu Shufang, his fingertips brushed over the opponent’s wrist first, and then using the qinna technique he grabbed him.
That person obviously did not expect Kou Zhong still had the ability to fight back; his body went weak and he fell into Kou Zhong’s embrace.
Kou Zhong did not dare to hesitate; taking advantage while that person was still unable to defuse the stream of qi from Kou Zhong’s fingertips that was blocking his channels, he rolled over and pressed the opponent against the ground.
Unexpectedly that person let out a tender grunt as his four limbs were entangled by Kou Zhong that he was unable to move a single step.
Kou Zhong was very proud of himself, thinking that this ‘he’ was unexpectedly a ‘she’, as he groped around and discovered that she was very well developed. After retracting his right hand that locked the vital acupoint on her backbone, he peeled off her head covering.
‘Ah!’ immediately both people cried out at the same time.
Like a cloud her beautiful black hair cascaded down on the snow-covered ground of the small alley. Under the dim light reflected by the snow, her eyes twinkled in the dark like a pair of precious stones. To his surprise, she was none other than Song Yuzhi, whose beauty was brimming with masculine air.
Kou Zhong was stunned. “So it’s you!” he said.
Not only Song Yuzhi was not shy at all, she spoke in cold manner, “Let us make a business deal!”
Kou Zhong was tempted to take a little bit of advantage on her; for instance, kissing her fragrant lips or something like that, to see whether she would remain this aloof. However, he was intimidated by her cool-headedness, and in turn did not dare to offend her. Giggling, he said, “If you want to use your body to make a deal, you can spare the haggling, because I, Kou Ye [master], will not be coerced by female charm trick. Ha! Turns out the thing wrapping around your Shaoye’s big foot was the beauty’s flexible whip. Very formidable. Do you usually keep it wrapped around your tiny waist?”
Recalling that she was the Clan Leader of the Song Clan ‘Heavenly Saber’ Song Que’s daughter, whose status and honor incomparable, yet he had given her body an ‘all-around’ groping, he could not restrain a burst of excitement from rising up.
Song Yuzhi’s black eyebrows frowned slightly; she sighed and said, “Don’t be too complacent! Your skill is still not enough to defeat me, it’s just that I underestimated the enemy, and was unable to gauge your foundation, hence I committed a blunder, that’s all! If you speak frivolously again, or do more improper things to me, unless you kill me afterwards, I will make sure that you will face endless disaster.”
Kou Zhong asked in surprise, “You are encouraging me to continue pressing your alluring body? To a lady of a large, influential family with high status like you, the fact that a guy from a poor and humble family that is not even worth mentioning has taken advantage of you, should give you enough reason to commit suicide!”
Song Yuzhi nonchalantly replied, “Since you already pressed me down, so what if you want to press me down half a day longer? All right! Are you ready to talk business?”
Kou Zhong reached out to press her Jianjing [lit. shoulder well] acupoint; he smiled and said, “Beauty really know how to put an act. Turns out very soon you’ll unseal the locked acupoints, therefore, you deliberately talked to me like that to swindle me. Hee ... hee … I am off!”
Song Yuzhi’s eyes gleamed; she softly said, “Don’t go. If you go, who’ll shelter me from the rain and the snow?”
For the first time Kou Zhong felt that this beauty with unique charm was unfathomable. Although he appeared to gain the upper hand, the initiative actually lay in the opponent’s hands.
Song Yuzhi continued, “You ought to know that I did not mean to hurt you. Based on this fact, can we make a deal now? Aren’t you looking for Shen Luoyan to make a deal?”
Kou Zhong forced a smile and said, “You have seen through me; just consider me afraid you! Is Song Shidao your esteemed older brother? You must be aware that he and I have friendship relation, hence the reason I did not really dare to touch you.”
Song Yuzhi indifferently replied, “You are people whom ‘the streets know the alleys heard about’, no one is unaware of your matter. Were it not for as early as three months ago I learned about your ability from my Dage [eldest brother], but underestimated your progress, tonight I would not have underestimated the enemy and suffered your frivolous treatment. But my intuition was correct, you are not a despicable man. Ao! How could you …”
Kou Zhong rolled away and sat up; he awkwardly said, “It was a natural reaction of a normal man. Miss Song, please forgive me.”
Song Yuzhi immediately burst her acupoints open. Raising her tender body, she said with slight anger, “Seeing you were unintentional, I let you off this time! But you must forget this matter; if I find out that you ever mention this to anybody, I will definitely take your little life.” Finished speaking, she bent down to untie the whip rope on his ankle.
Looking at her loose beautiful hair, Kou Zhong felt a bit unsure about their relationship; he sounded her out by asking, “Just now you were attacking me viciously, why suddenly become this considerate and kind to me?”
Song Yuzhi wrapped the entire five zhang of flexible whip around her waist; she said coldly, “Who’s considerate and kind to you? I never said that I wouldn’t fight with you. It’s just that seeing your natural character is simple and good, I am a bit more polite to you. That’s all!”
After staring blankly for half a day, Kou Zhong scratched his head and said, “I really don’t understand you.”
Song Yuzhi moved her tender body slightly farther away from him; with her beautiful eyes, which pupils looked very black against the white eyeballs, she stared at him and said calmly, “Who needs to be understood by you? Just listen carefully: under the current situation, sooner or later you will be caught by Wagang Army. Don’t think that I simply said frightening words to scare you, Shen Luoyan already sent express report to Li Mi, asking him to dispatch Zheng Zong back to participate in this hunt and arrest operation. This man’s nickname is ‘Flying Feather’, an expert in tracking and pursuing people; he raises birds with the sole purpose of tracking people. As soon as he is here, you won’t have a place to hide.”
Kou Zhong was greatly surprised; while at the same time realized the reason Shen Luoyan dared to make a bet that she would be able to catch them three times at the mouth of the river was because this man was working for her in secret.
He giggled and said, “Don’t stare at me like that! Look, we met in such a strange situation. This is a narrow alley, and it is snowing heavily, plus it is hard to say whether we are friend or foe, yet you want to make a deal? Ha! Very funny!”
Song Yuzhi showed a thoughtful look, but then she looked annoyed as she said, “Are you saying that I am lying to you to scare you?”
Kou Zhong leaned forward slightly; his tiger-eyes shot a scary gleam as he looked deep into her eyes and said, “Until now you are still looking down on me. Humph! We two brothers have never needed anybody to pity us. You want Shen Luoyan’s roster? If you have the ability, come to steal or to rob it from us! I, Kou Zhong, have no interest in making any deal with anybody.”
Finished speaking, he straightened up and stood tall, brushed away the snow from his body, smiled slightly, and turned away to leave.
Song Yuzhi also suddenly stood up and said coldly, “Don’t go!”
Kou Zhong looked at the especially long whip around her waist, he humphed and said, “I know your magic weapon already, if you want to try it again, it won’t be effective!”
Song Yuzhi loftily said, “You think what kind of people are our Song Family? Since I failed to capture you, would I shamelessly try for the second time? If you don’t want to leave this city, then get lost as far as you can, and don’t let me come across you again, because by that time, it would be to late to regret.”
Kou Zhong was not the least bit angry; still giggling, he said, “Beauty, please calm down. Since you already have this kind of good intention, as long as you do not cover my book, or that Duke Yang Treasure that your Shaoye does not even know where, everything else can be discussed nicely.”
Song Yuzhi crossly said, “What do you think you are? Do you think for no reason I am going to offend Wagang Army just to help you? Besides, very soon you can’t even guarantee your little lives, yet you are still holding on to the book that has no usefulness to you whatsoever.”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and floated away.
Song Yuzhi stomped her feet in anger, but she was totally at a loss on how to deal with him.
In Xu Shiji’s study room, Susu and Xu Ziling listened to Kou Zhong narrated his encounter with Song Yuzhi. The former anxiously said, “How are we going to deal with it? Speaking about tracking and pursuing skill, within the Wagang Army the ‘Flying Feather’ Zheng Zong undoubtedly occupies the first spot. Even if we manage to escape from the city, sooner or later he will overtake us.”
Xu Ziling shrugged his shoulders and said, “We have already encountered him. His most formidable weapon is that magic bird. We are not afraid of him.”
“Don’t be complacent like that, all right?” Susu reproached him.
Kou Zhong was deep in thought for half a day. Suddenly he laughed and said, “It would be best if we swagger out, then look at Shen Luoyan’s face!”
Xu Ziling shook his head, “That will diminish Shen Luoyan’s standing too much. Furthermore, her worst fear is that the content would leak out; she would rather destroy it.”
With head hanging down, Susu said, “If you don’t have Jiejie as your burden, right now you won’t have such a headache.”
The two boys promptly spoke comforting words to her.
Xu Ziling scratched his head and said, “With a thousand ways, a hundred plans we are trying to find a way, but most are unrealistic. Why don’t we try just charging our way out of the city? As long as one of us can get out, we can haggle over the price with Shen Luoyan.”
Hearing this, Kou Zhong’s heart was greatly moved. “How’s your lower abdomen injury?” he asked.
Xu Ziling lowered his voice, “If I tell you, you won’t believe it, but I feel even better than before.”
Chapter 6, Part 2
HPC, Jaya, Ysabel, Laoren, Anh, Drak, you are welcome. DongBin, good catch, thanks. I meant 'covet'. Sky, reading the text, I did not get the same impression (spoiled brat). Care to elaborate? George, they are finally out of the city! Akolaw, I hope you are not giving us spoiler. If it was your own analysis, I am impressed. Good job! Xu Xiong, I am rooting for Shan Wanjing too! Bocah, I am glad Xingyang episode is over, it was just too long for my taste ... To be honest, I nearly lost interest.
Kou Zhong was greatly excited, “Now that’s different,” he said, “We might as well go all out, turn the city of Xingyang upside down. Do you still remember those dozen or so jars of kerosene in Shen Luoyan’s house?”
Xu Ziling’s eyes immediately lit up.
The stable in Xu Shiji’s official residence was the first to catch fire. More than forty horses stampeded out of the opened-wide back door and bolted wildly off into the street.
Next several spots of fire appeared in the main building. The melting ice and snow actually intensified the fire.
Most of manpower in the mansion had been deployed to join the search operation for the three people; in the confusion that ensued the maids and servants fled for their lives. The fire spread out rapidly, fortunately because of the high walls all around the premise, plus due toe the heavy snow, it did not spread to neighboring buildings.
By the time the people involved in hunt and arrest operation rushed over in panic, on the other side of town Shen Luoyan’s manor burst into flames, making the Wagang Army tired of constantly running for their lives.
This moment Shen Luoyan’s beautiful body was standing on the roof of a building. Standing next to her, other than the ‘Old Man of the Field’ Mo Cheng, there was also a team of handpicked martial art experts from the Wagang Army.
Like the heavy snow falling into the earth, intelligence reports unceasingly brought up by the troops to her, but Shen Luoyan simply fixed her cold gaze on the two fires rising in the distance, but the fire was apparently under control.
Mo Cheng took a step forward behind Shen Luoyan, he respectfully said, “It appears that this is all those two guys’ doing. I really don’t understand why after being stabbed by Yang Xuyan, not only Xu Ziling did not die, he is even able to raise such a big wind and a big rain?”
A faint bitter smile escaped from the corner of Shen Luoyan’s mouth; she said nonchalantly, “I did not underestimate them at all, but I still miscalculated. Now that I calmly think about it, I ought to know that since they are continuously making progress, not only their martial art skill are getting stronger with each passing day, their ability and wisdom should also grow along with their experience, so that they become very difficult to deal with.”
Mo Cheng snorted and said, “It doesn’t matter what they have become, tonight they are going to lose their lives. Zheng Zong has just arrived here, now he is with Xu Ye [master Xu] setting up the net to intercept them; guaranteed that they won’t be able to escape for too long.”
Shen Luoyan coldly snapped, “Uncle Cheng! You are angry.”
Mo Cheng was stunned.
Shen Luoyan calmly said, “The number of people who want to seek the Duke Yang Treasure Trove from them is too many to be counted. But the fact is that until today, nobody is able to do anything to deal with them. If we still underestimate the enemy like before, we might fail and might be wiped over the floor. The missing roster is of grave importance, if they really take it with them, I would have no choice but to atone for my crime with death.”
This moment someone was coming to report that they have stopped the herd of horses running away from the Xu Mansion, but they failed to see the three people’s vestige.
Mo Cheng sighed and said, “Xingyang City is so big, they only need to find a place to hide, we will have to waste so much effort to find them.”
Shen Luoyan shook her head, “No!” she said, “I understand their character very well, especially that guy Kou Zhong; he is not that patient. Tonight they will go all-out in creating disturbance to take advantage of the situation to escape.”
After a short pause, she continued, “What surprised me most is why did they seem to know about our hunt and arrest operation so that they come and go freely in the city? It is as if they personally listen to Xu Shiji and me planning it.”
Right this moment, Xu Ziling’s voice was heard from behind them, “Shen Luoyan! Do you have time to chat with us?”
Shen Luoyan and her men’s countenance changed immediately; they turned around to look.
Under the heavy snow swirling in the air, Xu Ziling stood upright and unafraid on the roof ridge of a nearby house, he was speaking calmly, composed, elegant and stylish.
An indescribable feeling welled up in Shen Luoyan’s heart. She felt it deep in her heart that Xu Ziling had grown up, not at all like the naughty, big kid, who still loved to play, impression she previously had. And she was not referring to his tall and straight figure, the most significant change was that the repeated crises and hardships have nurtured in him his current bearing and gallantry, which made up the distinctive style of Xu Ziling’s intimidating charm.
Without waiting for her to respond, her men had already flown over and surrounded Xu Ziling, in a ‘swords-drawn, bows-bent’ like situation.
Shen Luoyan gathered her thought and flew over; in the blink of an eye she already stood face to face with Xu Ziling on the rood ridge.
The two people’s eyes were locked toward each other; both were having a hundred and one thoughts swirling in their minds.
Xu Ziling nodded slightly, he calmly said, “From laughing, giggling and playing together, we have turned into archenemies who are fighting life and death battle against each other. Each time I am thinking about this I really feel downhearted.”
The affection in Shen Luoyan’s heart was even harder to describe.
Right now Xu Ziling’s face still showed paleness due to the loss of blood, but it did not compromise his scholarly, refined appearance; on the contrary, it added some kind of profound depth and a sense of maturity to his demeanor that only sufferings could bring.
In all her life, a few men did indeed move her heart, but because helping Li Mi to gain the world has become her objective, love and family affairs have to be shoved to the side. So much so that she tried to make herself cold-hearted, that she would consider anything from the point of view whether this matter would be useful to their cause or not.
After encountering Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, every time she had to deal with these two boys, she had to go through a struggle in her heart. But at that time she only thought her heart was torn because she was fond of their talents.
However, she was acutely aware that she was actually happy to see them, that butting heads with them actually left a rich aftertaste in her mouth. Still, she never thought that there was any love between man and woman in her heart toward them.
When she found out that Xu Ziling was injured by Yang Xuyan, at the time where his life or death was still unknown, it suddenly dawned on her that ‘Xu Ziling’s death’ may actually deal an unbearable blow to her.
It was as if she was losing the most precious thing in the world.
Now that she was standing face-to-face as enemies with this young martial art master, who was three or four years younger than she, the complicated contradiction in her heart was not hard to understand.
After taking a very deep breath, in the most calm voice she could muster Shen Luoyan said, “Are you at the end of your rope?”
Xu Ziling’s eyes flashed with spirited rays; calmly he swept the enemies all around him with his gaze. As if nothing happened, he said, “Order them to stand back a little first, otherwise I will attack immediately.”
With a cold laugh Shen Luoyan said, “Don’t overly overestimate yourself, I can order them to withdraw, but it’s not because I am afraid of your threat.”
Xu Ziling said indifferently, “My threat includes a book, which you will never get back. But in case you don’t believe me, this time I intentionally came to return the book to you, so that you won’t bear the criminal charges. However, you are accustomed to repay kindness with evil; therefore, no matter what you think, I will not think it strange.”
Shen Luoyan was silent for half a day; finally she waved her hand to order her men to retreat, and then she sighed and said, “At a time where everybody, by hook or by crook, fighting over the world [tian xia], any gratitude and grudges is just a waste of time. How’s this: if you hand over the book, I will guarantee your safe passage out of the city.”
Xu Ziling shook his head, “How can that be enough?” he said, “I also want your personal guarantee that no matter what happen in the future, as long as it’s not us who stir it up, you must not come looking for us to give us trouble.”
Shen Luoyan dismissed him by saying, “The decision maker in the Wagang Army is Duke Mi and not me, Shen Luoyan. Even if I guarantee it, it will be useless.”
Xu Ziling helplessly shrugged his shoulders and said with a bitter laugh, “Do you want me to wait for Duke Mi’s return? Right here, right now, you are the decision maker, hence the reason we have no choice but to look for you. If later on Duke Mi overthrow your commitment, I certainly can’t blame you.”
Shen Luoyan’s tender heart shook; she suddenly came to realization why between Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, her favorable impression lay with Xu Ziling. It was simply because he always projected some kind of upright and true personality, unlike Kou Zhong who was frivolous and full of slick-cynicism.
She herself was a cunning, smart person who was used to handling any matter unscrupulously, yet she was obviously moved by Xu Ziling, someone with special quality that she lacked, someone that was totally different from her.
Xu Ziling was constantly on alert of any movement around him. Right now he caught a glimpse of the arrival of Xu Shiji and a group of competent-looking subordinate, who then stationed themselves on the roof ridge of a big residential building about a dozen zhang away to his left. But of course he was unclear whether the ‘Flying Feather’ Zheng Zong was among these men.
Shen Luoyan signaled Xu Shiji that everything was under control. She affectionately fixed her gaze on Xu Ziling for half a day before speaking softly, “Very well! I agree to this condition. Where is the book?”
Xu Ziling suppressed the ecstasy in his heart; lowering his voice, he said, “Withdraw your men from the eastern city gate immediately, open the east city gate, let Kou Zhong leave first, and then you alone accompany me going out of the city, I will return the book to you then.”
Shen Luoyan sighed and said, “Xiao Ling, you still don’t have enough experience. By saying that, it is obvious that the book is in your hands, because Kou Zhong must get Susu to a safe location as soon as possible …”
“You are thinking of going back on your words?” Xu Ziling cut her off.
Shen Luoyan knew that Xu Ziling had seen through her attempt to sound him out; she smiled and said, “Of course not! Please take a good care of yourself, my little sweetheart.”
While Xu Ziling was baffled because she had called him her ‘little sweetheart’ for no reason, Shen Luoyan already flew away and landed by Xu Shiji’s side, and then they were whispering into each other’s ear.
It was only then did Xu Ziling discover that his entire body was drenched in cold sweats.
After going through numerous twists and turns, they were finally able to leave the city.