Chapter 6 – Killing Their Way Out of Imperial City
Book 6 Chapter 6 – Killing Their Way Out of Imperial City
Before Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s feet even landed on the ground, rain of arrows already shot at them. Evidently other than the Emperor’s Personal Chamber Palace, the rest of the Imperial City has noiselessly fallen under the control of Yuwen Huaji and the renegades under his command.
Apparently these hundreds of powerful arrows have been prepared as well; the arrows were hard and accurate, perhaps even Ning Daoqi himself would have to entail strenuous effort to block them.
Greatly shocked, while their bodies were still falling, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling raised their true qi with four palms faced the ground, unexpectedly before they touched the ground their bodies rose high into the air again. Not only they evaded the rain of arrows, they also managed to throw themselves into the cluster of trees in the imperial garden next to the palace hall.
With a loud shout countless renegade soldiers, wearing white band on their heads, charged out of the woods to intercept the two boys.
In an instant the two boys were falling into the enemy ranks and were separated by the crowd.
Outside the woods there were torches everywhere; the battle cry shook the heavens.
After brandishing his fists to knock out two men, Xu Ziling managed to snatch a long saber. Using the strength of his wrist, he brandished the long saber, a burst of powerful saber qi passed through the edge of his blade, three men fell face up instantly and died on the spot.
Seizing this opportunity, Xu Ziling fled up a tree. He saw everywhere outside the woods were people running and chasing and killing each other, several palace halls already caught fire, thick smoke rose up to the sky, blocking the light from the sun and the moon.
Under the light of the blaze, the Imperial City has become the killing hell.
Two martial art masters from the renegade troops pursued him up the tree, Xu Ziling executed chain-saber technique, blood splashed and the two men dropped dead to the ground.
Under the powerful sound of the arrows, Xu Ziling was unable to divert his attention to look for Kou Zhong. Soaring high to the sky, he unexpectedly broke his own record by crossing a distance of seven, eight zhang, and landed on the edge of the imperial forest.
About a dozen renegade soldiers pounced on him, fast as lightning Xu Ziling darted forward. He tried to avoid being caught in hard fighting. The long saber in his hand flickered like lightning flashes, with unbelievable speed he hacked on three sabers, immediately three more enemies fall face up, they met a violent death. Even he himself was so surprised that his hand could be that formidable.
Two spears attacked from behind, without looking back Xu Ziling swayed left and right, relying on his senses, and dodged the spear attack by a hair’s breath.
And then he ducked forward and broke out of the siege.
A harsh shout coming from about thirty zhang on his left. Recognizing Kou Zhong’s voice, Xu Ziling knew that Kou Zhong was in danger. His heart was shaken, he could no longer maintain the ‘clear water in the well’ realm, immediately the spear of a renegade soldier, who had been hiding in the dark, was about to pierce the vital point on his flank.
The instant the tip of the spear penetrated his clothes, Xu Ziling came back to his senses; his tiger body twisted abruptly, his internal energy reacted, the fatal spear thrust slipped away, it only ripped his clothes and scratched a long cut that reached his back.
Flicking his saber, Xu Ziling hacked the renegade soldier’s face. With a ferocious roar he swept past a dozen or so enemies. His toes kicked the ground, he charged toward the direction of Kou Zhong’s voice.
Under the flickering blaze, a group of about thirty renegade soldiers were engaging Kou Zhong in close fight, one of them was surprisingly Yuwen Shiji. Xu Ziling noticed that for each sword attack from him, Kou Zhong had to strenuously move his spear to deal with it, giving the other soldiers the opportunity to attack.
Xu Ziling also noticed that Kou Zhong’s entire body was covered with blood, and that his footwork was unsteady, so he knew that Kou Zhong would not be able to hold on much longer.
Letting out a wild roar, Xu Ziling’s saber and body merged into one entity; forgetting any saber technique, he simply brandished his saber in a large saber sweep, like a furious billowing waves of the stormy sea it shot toward Yuwen Shiji.
Yuwen Shiji was just thinking that in two or three more sword moves he was going to take Kou Zhong’s life, and then he would turn his attention to find Xu Ziling. Seeing Xu Ziling was coming to deliver his own life, he was delighted; leaving Kou Zhong behind, he turned around to meet Xu Ziling.
Xu Ziling had already thrown the matter of life and death to the back of his mind; his heart and mind were free from surprise and fear.
‘Dang! Dang! Dang!’ the two men crossed each other in the air and exchanged three moves.
When his sword made contact with Xu Ziling’s saber, Yuwen Shiji knew something was not right; he felt that the opponent’s scorching hot true qi was bursting out of the saber and an instant later it attacked his meridians; his own ‘Mysterious Ice Energy’ [see Book 1 Chapter 1] seemed to be subdued by the opponent’s incomparably subtle innate true qi, so that he found it hard to block.
Although his power was far inferior to Yuwen Huaji’s, but compared to Xu Ziling’s, it was still deeper. Just by taking a mouthful of true qi, he neutralized at least half of the strength of the opponent’s qi invading his body. The sword in his right hand executed an exquisite, beyond compare technique, to deflect the long saber sideways, and continued seamlessly to hack on Xu Ziling’s neck; only the power was not as severe as before.
Xu Ziling stayed calm without any hint of fear, his left palm stretched out flat, with incredible precision it moved from bottom to top, without even missing a hairsbreadth it landed on the sword’s blade and pushed it up.
A whiff of chilliness crept up in Yuwen Shiji’s heart; now he understood why Yuwen Chengdu and Yuwen Wudi suffered defeat in these two boys’ hands, and why his elder brother Yuwen Huaji repeatedly ordered him not to allow these two boys escape alive from this place.
A sudden gust of wind assaulted his back.
Since the two men exchanged moves in the air, by now Xu Ziling has landed behind him. Yuwen Shiji has never imagined that Xu Ziling’s saber would be that fast; unexpectedly without the slightest delay Xu Ziling already launched a counterstrike, swiftly hacking toward his back.
Yuwen Shiji ignored the still surging qi in his body. Clenching his teeth, he swiveled around and promptly blocked Xu Ziling’s saber.
Yuwen Shiji let out a miserable groan, his mouth spurted fresh blood, as his sword, along with his body, was struck by Xu Ziling’s saber that he flew backward until his back crashed against the trunk of a large tree. Injury on top of injury, he slumped down to the ground.
Xu Ziling did not get it easy either, Yuwen Shiji’s reaction force jolted his body that his meridians nearly burst and his five viscera nearly ruptured; fortunately he had sustained many injuries in the past that he already knew what to do. The instant before he fell to the ground, he incited the fantastic beyond compare, which can bring people back from the dead, innate true qi from the ‘Secret to Long Life’, to neutralize Yuwen Shiji’s overpowering ‘Mysterious Ice Energy’.
Xu Ziling fell heavily by Kou Zhong’s feet.
A hard fight where both sides went full strength like this, victory or defeat was decided very quickly.
Having experienced how formidable Yuwen Shiji was, Kou Zhong thought Xu Ziling was dead. In his fury, with a divine strength, which nobody knew where it came from, his spear thrust to the left and pierced to the right, killing the enemy that they scattered to the east and fell down to the west.
Someone wanted to attack him from behind; Kou Zhong swiftly turned around and thrust his spear. The enemy spurted blood as his body was thrown about a zhang back. The other enemies were intimidated by his power, plus Yuwen Shiji was out of commission, hence they scattered away in panic.
Kou Zhong felt the sky was spinning, the earth went around; he knew that it was because he had lost too much blood and had exerted too much strength. His condition was very close to a lantern which oil was nearly dried up. Letting out a deep sigh, he believed that the two brothers would lose their lives in this place. But suddenly Xu Ziling sprang up and shouted, “Get on my back!”
Kou Zhong was delighted, “Good kid!” he shouted. Casting off the spear, he threw himself onto Xu Ziling’s back, and held on to him tightly.
Xu Ziling circulated his qi to force a mouthful of fresh blood out of his system, afterwards the pit of his stomach felt better as his qi was able to flow freely. And then he leaped diagonally up onto a tree branch protruding horizontally overhead first before borrowing the bouncing force of the branch he flew ten more zhang toward the back of the roof of a two-storied building nearby.
His movement was as fluid as moving clouds and flowing water. By the time the renegade troops wanted to pursue, he, with Kou Zhong on his back, was already at the roof ridge on the other side of the building.
There was a long laughter from afar but quickly coming near. Yuwen Huaji flew over and shouted, “Where do you think you are going?”
Hearing Yuwen Huaji’s voice, Xu Ziling knew that if he caught up with them, they would not escape alive. Hastily he jumped down, and landed in the courtyard of the palace complex where the palace maids and the eunuchs slept. Without thinking he ran inside the building.
Chapter 6, Part 2
Yuwen Huaji did not expect Xu Ziling would dare to hide inside the building, he was still flying on the roof, looking for the two boys everywhere.
Inside the building cries of grief shook the heavens, about a dozen renegade soldiers were pressing down several palace maids on the floor, doing their beastly deeds.
Xu Ziling forgot their own safety, he brandished his saber with all his might, killing the renegade soldiers, but those palace maids were already at their last gasp.
Another group of renegade soldiers rushed in. Xu Ziling quietly raised another mouthful of qi to break out through the window, carrying Kou Zhong on his back.
Kou Zhong whispered in his ear, “Pagoda!”
Xu Ziling understood; he dashed toward the hiding place.
By this time most of the buildings in the palace complex have already engulfed in the sea of flame, the only people going back and forth were the renegade soldiers searching for survivors.
Xu Ziling unleashed his consummate escaping skill, fleeing high and ducking low, toward the pagoda on the southeast corner of the complex. The renegade soldiers did see them, but in a flash they already vanished, hence they did not know where to pursue.
Meanwhile Kou Zhong’s breathing has become short and weak, his hands and feet lost their strength. Xu Ziling thought fast; taking advantage while the two people’s chest and back were pressing against each other, he sent his true qi to enter Kou Zhong’s body.
The pagoda was in sight.
Suddenly there was a cold snort coming from behind.
The two boys recognized Yuwen Huaji’s voice, their soul flew away and scattered.
Kou Zhong wanted to let his hands and feet go, with the intention of letting Xu Ziling escape alive, but Xu Ziling held on to him tight, while suddenly made a sharp turn sideways to evade Yuwen Huaji’s ‘splitting the air’ palm strike, and then promptly entered a palace building that was still burning.
Yuwen Huaji had just scored a great victory – he killed his mortal enemy, Dugu Sheng, with one palm strike, naturally he was unwilling to follow the two boys taking risk, so he leaped onto the roof of the building, thinking that the moment the two boys going out of the building would be the moment they would lose their lives. To his surprise, however, all he saw was a ball of fire rushing upwards.
Yuwen Huaji stared hard; turned out it was Kou Zhong brandishing a piece or burning beam with all his might. At first glance he thought it was just a ball of fire, so with a long whistle he swooped down.
After receiving Xu Ziling’s true qi, which complemented his own perfectly, Kou Zhong was able to recover some his strength. Upon seeing that, he looked back and laughed, “Yuwen Huagu, nice move!”
Waving his right hand, he transmitted his qi into the blazing beam to created millions of burning fragments raining down on Yuwen Huaji.
If it were only sparks of fire, Yuwen Huaji was definitely more than able to deal with it, but in the midst of the sparks was Kou Zhong’s true qi, which was a different story altogether. If because of this he suffered damage on his face, the gain of killing the two boys would not make up for his losses. Therefore, he could only sigh inwardly and moved away to the side.
Just this short delay was enough for the two boys to flee into the bamboo forest under the pagoda.
Wherever the two boys went, fire sprang up everywhere.
Yuwen Huaji was so angry that he spouted smoke through his seven orifices; he knew Kou Zhong set everything in his path on fire, to block him from chasing or intercepting them. Hurriedly he gathered his mysterious power and taking advantage before the fire grew, he rushed into the woods. To his surprise, however, these past several days the weather was dry and the wind was strong, plus Kou Zhong intentionally waved the burning wood around, so that sparks flew everywhere, the fire followed the wind, the wind intensified the fire, in a blink of the eye most of the bamboo forest caught fire. Crackling noise of the fire was everywhere, forcing Yuwen Huaji to make a detour and had to enter the forest in a roundabout way.
The most annoying thing for him was that the burning bamboo created thick smoke, making it difficult for him to estimate the two boys’ position.
Suddenly a loud laughter coming from above, Kou Zhong was quacking like a duck as he said, “Yuwen Huagu, we’ll let you keep your stinky head for the time being, but just be careful! Don’t let anybody else take it before we fight you.”
A whooshing noise suddenly filled the air; by the time Yuwen Huaji cried out inwardly, there was a ‘splosh!’ of the water from the moat just outside the imperial city wall. By the time Yuwen Huaji reached the top of the wall, he saw under the illumination of the blaze that the water in the moat was as flat and smooth as a mirror; the two boys have disappeared without any trace.
Looking back, he saw the entire imperial city was like a sea of fire, thick smoke hid the starry sky above.
“Muddleheaded ruler is dead!”
The entire Jiangdu was boiling.
The big fire of the imperial city painted half of the sky above this great city bloody red.
From time to time renegade soldiers on horseback galloped by and cried out, “Muddleheaded ruler is dead!”
Some people went into hiding in fear; but some others set off firecrackers in joyous celebration. The young and the strong swarmed toward the imperial city to look for Yang Guang’s dead body, they wanted to burn and peel it to vent their anger, or perhaps they were hoping to get a bit of share of the treasure the muddleheaded ruler left behind from the hands of the renegade soldiers.
The official storehouse was broken and looted bare.
Some renegade soldiers even took advantage of the situation to break and enter common people’s houses to rape and plunder, so that a clash ensued. The entire city of Yangzhou was in chaos, Yuwen Huaji and his party were helpless to exercise control over it.
Dripping wet and cold, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had to do their utmost just to crawl out of the moat, and groped their way toward the aqueduct outside the city.
On the streets, mobs of people allied themselves with each other, carrying clubs, staffs, swords and spears; as soon as they saw a Sui soldier alone, they would swarm toward him and beat him up, without the slightest care whether the soldier was actually the hero who had helped killing the fatuous ruler. It was a clear display of their bitter hatred toward Sui army and the government officials.
Xu Ziling was straining to carry Kou Zhong on his back walking along the street, pushing his way through crowds of spectators bustling with noise and excitement.
A burst of applause and cheers shook the heavens, turned out a squad of about twenty Sui soldiers were being dragged down from their horses by the masses and were beaten half dead.
Kou Zhong groaned, “That section of river course was really hard, and I have no true qi at all; my body feels light and fluttering, and I seem to lose all my strength. Huh? You, this kid, are not injured at all, why does your footstep also seem floaty?”
With a bitter smile Xu Ziling replied, “You have the nerve to say that? You, this kid, is so heavy. You don’t know how hard it is to carry you on my back.”
Kou Zhong knew that Xu Ziling has exerted too much strength; struggling hard to separate laughter from his coughing, he said, “You, this kid, really know how to crack a joke. Ay! This time we failed to harm Yuwen Huagu, and nearly lost our little lives instead; we are definitely out of luck thoroughly.”
Xu Ziling glanced around at the chaotic situation; he noticed that some houses at the west side of the city had just started to catch fire. He said with a heavy voice, “Yuwen Huagu will not benefit too much advantage from this, to control this terrible mess is not easy at all; and don’t forget that Ol’ Die and Li Zitong are waiting around here, glaring like a tiger watching its prey!”
Kou Zhong’s legs gave up, he nearly fell to the ground, his whole body was exhausted as he was holding on to Xu Ziling for dear life. The two boys strained hard just to walk several steps forward; finally they could not take it anymore. Entering a small alley, they sat down on the ground with their backs against the wall.
After catching up their breath, Kou Zhong said, “We might not be able to rely on that water route, can’t say for sure, but Yuwen Huaji might be waiting for us there to walk right into the trap.”
This moment about a hundred or so renegade soldiers arrived; as soon as they saw the armed mob, they immediately attacked. The battle cry shook the heavens, everybody fell over each other whether to evade or to run away. It did not seem like an organized attack, rather, it looked like these renegade soldiers’ spontaneous act of retaliation.
Watching people desperately running to the other end of the alley right in front of his eyes, Kou Zhong’s spirit was aroused. “I dare say that all the city gates are wide open,” he said, “I don’t believe no Sui soldiers will take this opportunity to flee.”
Xu Ziling was trying hard to gather his true qi, but he could not succeed. He mused that if they met even an ordinary Sui troop, they would suffer calamity. Sighing, he said, “So what if the gates are open, do we have strength to walk out? How’s your injury?”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “After we get out of the city, let me, Zhong Shao, strip naked and have you count how many cuts are there on my body, I guarantee it will scare you. Fortunately Laozi [I, your father] have deep power, the cuts can automatically fuse together to stop the bleeding, otherwise I would have died from hemorrhaging alone. The most formidable thing was that b@stard Yuwen Shiji’s sword; he could pierce the true qi protecting my body. But at least this young master returned the compliment by giving him a kick; otherwise, how could you knock him down? Quickly thank me.”
Xu Ziling roared in laughter. “You, this fellow, will never concede,” he said, “Were it not for me, you, this kid, would have become minced meat sauce.”
Kou Zhong joined him in laughter. Wiping the tears from the corner of his eye, he said, “Why is it that even after we failed and were wiped over the floor, and now whether we will live or die is still hard to forecast, we could still be this happy?”
Xu Ziling craned his neck to look at the street where there was no lantern and no burning fire. The chaotic street just a moment ago has become as quiet as the ghost place, except for unceasing shouting and screaming from the distance. Breathing a sigh of relief, he said, “The reason is very simple: because we are still young. As long as we still have days ahead of us, and we don’t die, even if we are a bit late, we can always find Yuwen Huagu to settle the old account clearly.”
Kou Zhong acted as if he was deep in thought concerning this matter; and then, propping himself against the wall he stood up shakily, and spoke with determination, “Even if we have to crawl, we have to crawl out of town. If we don’t leave now, there is a good chance we will never leave.”