Chapter 2 – Old Cat Burning its Whiskers
Book 6 Chapter 2 – Old Cat Burning its Whiskers
Everyone, excluding Susu and Xu Ziling, had never imagine that even toward such a powerful hegemon like Li Zitong, Kou Zhong would still be this brave. They wanted to stop him, but it was already too late.
Li Zitong smirked inwardly. It should be noted that although nobody knew who started it, but the fact that Kou and Xu, two boys, joining hands in defeating Yuwen Wudi has been spread all over the world. Although upon self-reflection Li Zitong knew his martial art skill was above Yuwen Wudi’s, how could he not have some misgivings? However, seeing Kou Zhong attacked alone, he reckoned that as long as he could put this kid under control, the other kid would be captured obediently.
Right this moment, a skin-piercing, bone-penetrating saber qi blasted directly toward his face.
Kou Zhong completely ignored Li Zitong’s long sleeves, which were brushing toward the eardrum acupoints on both sides of his head. Focusing solely on the opponent’s face, like a lightning bolt his saber struck down. It was a simple, straightforward, but also swift and fierce without equal.
Watching Kou Zhong’s saber strike, unexpectedly a feeling of dread and astonishment grew in the hearts of the crowd of people on the ship standing silently in circle to watch.
Li Zitong’s reputation was built not just in name only, but also in reality; in all his life, among the hundreds and thousands battles, there was no swift and fierce saber strike he had not seen, yet this single saber strike from Kou Zhong seemed to be able to tightly lock his state of mind, giving him a feeling like he could not unleash his ferociousness.
He was a great master of martial art; as soon as that feeling came, he immediately understood the reason. At the same time his heart shivered in fear, because he knew that unexpectedly Kou Zhong was able to merge the mind, qi and spirit [three energies of Chinese medicine] into one entity, blending it into his saber technique. Only someone who has reached excellent innate saber qi realm would be able to produce this kind of astonishing power.
Immediately he let out a cold snort and no longer dared to be careless, withdrew his sleeves, swiftly raised a mouthful of true qi, and threw his head backward as his body spun rapidly.
Plainly Kou Zhong’s saber was about to hit, but Li Zitong suddenly circled around to his left side, while stretching out his right hand to knock Kou Zhong’s wrist. The style was exquisite beyond compare.
Seeing Kou Zhong was able to force Li Zitong to change his move in meeting the enemy, everybody could not help cheering in unison.
Susu pushed Xu Ziling forward and said in a trembling voice, “Why haven’t you helped Xiao Zhong?”
A thread of smiling expression escaped from the corners of Xu Ziling’s mouth; he took three steps forward and stood guard at the perimeter of the fight.
Kou Zhong stayed calm without any trace of fear, his left hand launched the ‘Meridian-severing technique’ taught by Tu Shufang, using his fingers as a saber to sweep aside Li Zitong’s eagle claw.
Without anything fancy, without any trick, the two exchanged a move.
Kou Zhong let out a stifled grunt and staggered to the side as if he nearly fell.
Li Zitong also floated to the opposite direction. It was not until he reached the ship railing that he finally stopped; borrowing the bouncing momentum he soared high, like an eagle snatching a chick he aimed to grab Kou Zhong’s head, who, by this time was nearly falling into the river. His two hands protruded from inside his sleeves, all ten fingers opened wide toward the tian ling acupoint on the top of Kou Zhong’s head.
Xiang Yushan and the others were about to rush forward to help, but Xu Ziling stood in front of them and spread his arms wide to stop. Calm and composed, he said, “No need to be afraid!”
He was the only one who could see clearly that Kou Zhong was borrowing his own yang true qi within the yin true qi to completely neutralize Li Zitong’s forceful internal energy.
Li Zitong’s internal energy was of hard, yang-character, by lucky coincidence, it was curbed by Kou Zhong’s soft, yin-character energy. Therefore, although his power was deeper than Kou Zhong’s, he still was not able to harm Kou Zhong’s meridians.
Xu Ziling took three more steps forward, maintaining the same distance to the two combatants, but still did not make any move. However, whenever Li Zitong was in the vicinity, he would feel Xu Ziling’s powerful threat, so that he had to reserve some of his power and thus did not dare to go all-out in dealing with Kou Zhong.
It was a very strange feeling.
It was as if each and every move he made could not escape this observer, who glared like a tiger watching his prey. As soon as he had slight lax concentration, the opponent would hit his weak point or flaw with tens of thousands catties strong thunderbolt.
Naturally he could not protest Xu Ziling standing too close, because early on he had already said that he was not afraid of the two boys joining hands to take up the challenge.
His claw was about to hit Kou Zhong; who would have thought that it was as if there was oil on this kid’s feet? With matchless agility he slid three chi away, just like a swimming fish. Not only Kou Zhong evaded his strike, he also sprang up high in the air and made somersault, which was about a chi higher than Li Zitong, who was on his way down. His saber drew an arc in the air, sweeping Li Zitong’s flank.
Xu Ziling was pleased inwardly, knowing that Kou Zhong derived this skill based on the swimming fish, and was able to integrate it into the battle.
Seeing not only Kou Zhong was able to evade Li Zitong’s strike and even able to launch counterstrike, and that not only his saber technique did not follow any established rules but as if it came naturally without extra trouble, his shenfa [reminder: body pose or motion in martial art] was weird beyond comprehension, Xiang Yushan and the others were stupefied; they could hardly believe their own eyes.
Li Zitong was also sighing inwardly; he had no choice but to take out his three chi, two cun ‘nine-section copper whip’. Applying his power to shake it, the nine-section whip pulled back and lashed out. ‘Qiang!’ immediately Kou Zhong and his saber were thrown away and spun very fast like a windmill. But Li Zitong himself was also jolted by the reaction force that just like Kou Zhong a moment ago, he staggered toward the ship railings and nearly fell into the river; luckily his foot caught a piece of the railing and he swung himself up to pounce on Kou Zhong again.
Xu Ziling let out a loud shout and soared into the air; one fist flew toward Li Zitong’s lower abdomen, a gust of burning hot wind accompanied the punch, the power was intimidating.
Seeing Xu Ziling dared to deal with this nine-section whip – with which he ran amuck in Jianghu for many years – barehanded, Li Zitong sneered inwardly. Focusing his inner power to protect his lower abdomen, he rose up and sent his whip toward the back of Xu Ziling’s head.
After Xu Ziling’s punch hit Li Zitong’s lower abdomen, like a hawk circling in the air, unexpectedly he spun around and was able to evade the whip. His left hand swept across the tip of the whip, knocking the whip section off using his fantastic power and consummate skill.
Meanwhile Kou Zhong had just landed back on the deck, immediately he brandished his saber and charged forward.
Li Zitong let out a stifled grunt. He came to sudden realization that he could only neutralize half of Xu Ziling’s burning hot fantastic force; there were at least forty-percent of that power penetrated his body. In shock he hastily transferred his own internal energy to resist, but he had already suffered minor injury.
This moment Kou Zhong arrived, pouncing down on him from the air, enveloping him with an arc of saber ray.
Even in his dream Li Zitong could not imagine that Kou Zhong’s counterattack would arrive this quickly.
Just now, in order to save his face, he went all-out with the hope of inflicting damage to Kou Zhong that he would at least vomited a couple mouthful of blood, and then he would seize the opportunity to deal with Xu Ziling, meeting hard punch with hard punch, so that Xu Ziling would suffer some damage. But now as if he did not suffer anything, like a lively dragon and animated tiger Kou Zhong was charging ferociously; Li Zitong could not stop fear from creeping up in his heart.
For the first time he no longer dared to belittle the opponent. He secretly thought that over time, these two boys might grow to be more formidable than Ning Daoqi. At least from what he knew, before turning twenty, Ning Daoqi was not as formidable as these two boys.
The most amazing thing was that these two boys did not follow any specific method. He had neither seen nor heard anybody ever encountered combat tactic like these two’s joint forces.
Li Zitong himself was crazy about martial art; he loved to discuss anything about real battle situation and military strategy, yet he had never heard anybody ever mentioned that they encountered similar situation.
Li Zitong carried out his ‘pressing the bottom of the chest/trunk’ skill, his whip lashed out toward the tip of Kou Zhong’s swiftly chopping down saber blade. In this split second, he continuously sent out nine different streams of qi, fully aware of the urgency of the situation.
The two combatants interlocked; they both used their elbows to strike each other.
By the time Kou Zhong’s feet touched the deck, his entire body shook, his legs bent down and he rolled away, straight toward the stern of the ship, splattering fresh blood everywhere, shocking the eyes and astonished the hearts of those who watched the battle.
Susu screamed and disregarding everything she rushed toward Kou Zhong; anybody would think that Kou Zhong was seriously injured.
Li Zitong spun around on the tip of his toes, turning his back against Kou Zhong to face the rushing Susu, but did not do anything to stop her.
He was, after all, an overlord of a region, so naturally he had to have some dignity.
Xu Ziling suddenly appeared as if he had just dropped from the sky, his face showed neither anxiety nor delight, as calm as still water, both palms struck together toward Li Zitong’s back. Li Zitong had just swallowed back the fresh blood bubbling up from his chest toward his throat, in order to avoid losing face on the spot; at the same time he started to regret his rash decision to brave the danger alone.
Chapter 2, Part 2
If he had had his men coming with him, he would not have stuck in this bad situation. Just now for the second time he had gone all-out in his attack, hoping to inflict serious damage to Kou Zhong using his school’s unique qi cultivation technique, the ‘nine-section shake’; but once again he was giving Xu Ziling the opportunity to attack.
By this time he had more or less have a feel on the two boys’ totally different techniques, yet there was some kind of subtle method within it that enable the two boys to blend their internal energy seamlessly. He was fully aware that just now he was barely able to neutralize Kou Zhong’s yin energy with his yang power; this moment he could not immediately use his yin power to deal with Xu Ziling’s apparent yang energy.
While he was thinking of dodging the attack, he suddenly discovered that a fantastic sucking force was hidden within the gust of wind generated by Xu Ziling’s palms. If he dodged, the opponent could easily pull the qi back; not only the momentum would increase, it would also continue on endlessly, until it drained the opponent’s strength completely.
His shock truly need not be mentioned. Immediately he roared, “How dare you!” Flicking his wrist, the whip lashed out to the hollow of Xu Ziling’s palms.
Xu Ziling screamed and spurted out a mouthful of fresh blood. Like a kite with its string cut he flew over Susu, straight toward Kou Zhong.
Li Zitong struggled hard just to take half a step forward; lifting his sleeve to cover his face, he prevented Xiang Yushan and the others, who were standing about a dozen steps away, from seeing that finally he was unable to suppress his boiling blood and he spurted a little bit of fresh blood.
Up to this point, the three combatants have not even fought for ten moves yet, but everybody had already overwhelmed with the intensity of the close combat that they felt as if the sun and the moon has lost their light.
Kou Zhong was still rolling away that very soon he would hit the Baling Bang people watching on the sideline; unexpectedly he bounced back, caught Xu Ziling, and the two of them fell sitting down on the deck together.
In this short contact, as short as a flash of lightning or a spark of the flint, the two boys’ true qi blended together like water and milk, flowing from each other and thus their internal injury was immediately seventy or eighty-percent healed.
Li Zitong lowered his sleeves. Still in daze, he fought hard to stand steadily.
Susu threw herself toward the two boys, bawling loudly.
Xiang Yushan, Big Sister Xiao and Yun Yuzhen unblinkingly kept their gaze on Li Zitong, ready to deal with him. Everybody could see clearly that for Li Zitong to knock down the two boys, he had to pay a bitter price.
Li Zitong was still hesitating whether he should just disregard his face and call for his men to come over to provide reinforcement when Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, helped by Susu, proudly stood up.
Kou Zhong shook the broadsword in his hand and shouted, “Li Zitong indeed has a bit of skill; let us fight again for a hundred rounds.”
Hearing the ample qi in Kou Zhong’s voice, Li Zitong was inwardly shocked at how formidable the internal energy cultivation from the ‘Secret to Long Life’ was; suddenly he moved toward the port side of the ship. His sharp gaze swept across everybody’s face, he laughed aloud and said, “No wonder Old Du held such a high regard on you, you are indeed a great material that Ol’ Li could not help feeling fond of your talent. Let’s drop this matter here and now; I wish you all safe journey with favorable wind and favorable current.”
He had been rolling about in the black way [criminal world] for many years, he knew how to raise something up and when to put it down. Realizing that it was difficult to capture the two boys alive, plus the fact that Li Mi has issued a decree against them, he thought how much longer would you survive? This moment he’d better win their favor, in case they’d meet again in the future. Besides, this way he would avoid inciting enmity with tremendously powerful Baling Bang.
In addition, he had another thought: if they did not die, after several years, they would consider themselves to be top-notch martial art masters. This kind of enemy, one was already too many, let alone two. Therefore, he dispelled the idea of summoning his subordinates and thus creating more enemies.
Xiang Yushan and the others were stunned; this did not seem like Li Zitong’s usual style.
Li Zitong cupped his fist, soared into the air, and returned safely to his ship.
Watching the two ships sailed away, they were finally convinced.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling embraced Susu, they cheerfully shouted, “We won! We won!”
By the time Yun Yuzhen and Big Sister Xiao entered their room to see them, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were lying on the bed, Susu was sitting on a chair by the bed, the three of them were chatting amiably. The room was filled with infinite warmth.
The two women sat on the chairs on the other side. Big Sister Xiao laughed tenderly and said, “Turns out you are really that formidable, even Li Zitong was beaten and ran away.”
Kou Zhong put on a modest act and said, “He simply sounded out the difficulties and retreated to avoid defeat!”
Xu Ziling was puzzled, “How did Li Zitong know that we are on board?”
Yun Yuzhen replied, “Yushan is investigating this matter right now, trying to find the possible mole.”
Big Sister Xiao said, “This matter cannot be easily resolved; based on Li Zitong’s character, even though on the surface he spoke good words, he might secretly inform Li Mi, and thus borrow someone else’s knife to kill you.”
Susu still had lingering fears, “I was scared to death! Xiao Zhong spurted that much blood!”
Staring at Kou Zhong’s pale face from the loss of blood, she went on, “Are you sure you are all right?”
Kou Zhong sat back and said with a laugh, “I am really all right. It’s just that it will be difficult to treat Shan Xiaoge’s injury tonight.”
“Let’s wait until you are fully recovered before talking about it!” Susu said.
Big Sister Xiao said, “Tomorrow morning we will arrive at Jiangdu, I hope there won’t be any mishaps tonight.”
Giggling, Kou Zhong turned his attention to Yun Yuzhen and said, “I want to go back to my room to sleep.”
Yun Yuzhen’s pretty face blushed slightly; she angrily said, “You want to sleep, what does it have to do with me?” In her heart, however, she recalled the powerful, elegant and brilliant tactics with which he dealt with the valiant, insufferably arrogant Li Zitong. Compared to the useless Dugu Ce in dealing with Du Fuwei, she could not help making the decision who was superior and who was inferior.
Kou Zhong sprang out of bed and said to Susu, “Let Didi walk Su Jie back to your room to rest.”
Big Sister Xiao cast Kou Zhong a suggestive glance full of foxy charms; she said in a straightforward manner, “I have just got here, and you are going to sleep?”
Inwardly Kou Zhong was very happy, knowing that due to his performance just now, this coquettish woman has had a whole new level of respect for him; even her manner was different now. He said with a giggle, “After I take care of Su Jie, why don’t Dajie come to my room to have a heart-to-heart chat?”
Yun Yuzhen was jealous, but just now she was being too harsh; it would be hard to turn around and withdraw her previous remark.
Big Sister Xiao laughed jovially that she looked like a flower trembling at the tip of a branch; she said, “This Miss must train you, this reckless kid, that internal injury necessitates that you must avoid wine and sex. I still want you to go deal with Yuwen Huaji, I don’t want to harm you.”
Susu’s pretty face immediately blushed deep red; she glowered at Kou Zhong.
Kou Zhong was greatly embarrassed; he said with a bitter smile, “Dajie is truly forthcoming!”
Susu pulled Kou Zhong away and out of the room.
With only Xu Ziling, Big Sister Xiao and Yun Yuzhen left, the room temporarily quieted down.
Big Sister Xiao looked at Xu Ziling’s handsome, magnificent appearance; she suddenly had a strange thought: she was quietly pondering that if this young martial art master was maturing a little bit more, with his aloof and cool temperament, his trim and straight posture, he would be an outstanding character who will make any woman fall in love with him. It’s just that his interest toward women was unlike Kou Zhong, who was always full of zest; however, this same exact quality was what attracted other people the most.
She could not help teasing him, “Xu Gongzi’s and Zhong Shao’s personalities are so different, how could you get along so well?”
Xu Ziling was still lying on the bed practicing his internal energy, he really wished the two women would leave him alone; therefore, he snappily replied, “Perhaps because we have been together since childhood! We are already accustomed to yield to each other.”
Yun Yuzhen was curious, “So you never had any disagreement?” she asked.
Xu Ziling was growing even more impatient; he replied randomly, “Of course we have disagreements, but when the anger subsides, we don’t have any problem anymore.”
Hearing the tone of his voice, the two women knew it was time for them to excuse themselves.
Xu Ziling breathed a sigh of relief. Thinking about the last few days, he realized that in terms of ideas and actions, the differences between him and Kou Zhong were growing bigger and bigger; he sighed.
Supposing Kou Zhong really wanted to recruit soldiers and buy horses, to fight over the world and become the emperor, would he or would he not help him?
No one knew better than him about Kou Zhong’s amazing strength. Not only his intellect surpassed others, his resourcefulness outstanding, his manner of speaking also exceptional, his method slick and sly. No matter how Xu Ziling mocked and ridiculed him, reproached him and blamed him, this kid did not get angry at all. His eloquence was like torrential tide, he knew how to see the wind and set the helm, so that it would be difficult for anybody to get really angry at him.
Kou Zhong was naturally born with charisma and magnanimity of a leader; given enough time, perhaps even Li Mi, Du Fuwei and the like would even be put to shame by him.
On the other hand, after practicing the ‘Secret to Long Life’, Xu Ziling’s desire for fame and profit, his admiration for women, were quickly pushed back that he became more and more indifferent.
All he wanted to do right now was to find a less-travelled scenic spot, where he could wholeheartedly lock himself up for an in-depth study of martial arts, to see what kind of level he could climb to in the end.
There was a knock on the door, followed by Yun Yuzhen’s voice, “Can we chat for a moment?”
Albeit unwilling, Xu Ziling simply could not be rude to anybody; helplessly he replied in affirmative.
After shutting the door, Yun Yuzhen sat on the bed. Looking down, she examined his more and more manly countenance. “Do you really dislike me, your Beautiful Shifu?” she asked softly.
Xu Ziling and Yun Yuzhen stared at each other for half a day; finally he let out a wry smile and said, “If you have ever been cheated, how do you feel? That night, when Yun Bangzhu and Dugu Ce were chatting and fooling around, the two of us were hiding in the corner, before we decided to flee.”
“Ah!” Yun Yuzhen exclaimed. She was blushing so bad that even the tip of her ears turned red. At a loss to know what to do, she said, “So that’s how it is, no wonder Kou Zhong was being disrespectful to me earlier, and you look down on me. But I want you to know that I have my own difficulties; such a big gang, without a strong backer, it would be very easy for us to be taken over by others.”
And then, with a hopeful look on her face, she said, “After our business in Jiangdu is over, I can arrange a hiding place for you, I guarantee it will be safe.”
Xu Ziling sensed that she had the intention to recruit the two of them to strengthen her Jukun Bang. His heart was moved; he speculated that the reason Kou Zhong disregarded former enmity and teased Yun Yuzhen was most likely because he wanted to get the Jukun Bang under his banner, to become what he called ‘our troops’. Otherwise, when he was talking about Yun Yuzhen earlier, he would not have mentioned the ‘by hook or by crook’ aspect.
Kou Zhong has grown to become more and more formidable.
Yun Yuzhen stretched out her lily-white hand to caress his cheek; she said softly, “Just give it a serious thought!”
Xu Ziling waited until her hand touched the door latch before he suddenly asked, “How was Kou Zhong being disrespectful to you?”
Yun Yuzhen’s pretty face blushed; still thinking that Xu Ziling was jealous, she irately said, “He is so bad; do I need to say more?” And then she hurriedly went out.
Xu Ziling closed his eyes; suddenly his heart felt uncomfortable.
Kou Zhong was lying.
He said he was only touching Yun Yuzhen’s hand; it appeared that he was only testing Xu Ziling’s reaction to this matter.
If his reckoning was correct, Kou Zhong was going to do anything necessary to have Yun Yuzhen acknowledging her allegiance to him.
The one Kou Zhong loved was Li Xiuning, definitely not Yun Yuzhen.
This was what he called dealing with the enemy by hook or by crook.
Suddenly Xu Ziling felt that the gap between him and Kou Zhong was growing.