Chapter 9 – Full Display of Their Capabilities
Book 6 Chapter 9 – Full Display of Their Capabilities
Those Haisha Bang members were used to bullying, upon seeing this, those dozen or so men stormed out of the shop, carrying sabers and hatchets, to meet the two boys.
Like a tiger entering a flock of sheep Xu Ziling charged into the enemy ranks, punching and kicking. Very soon those bull-like sturdy men were constantly flying off or falling to the ground, so after a moment no one could even crawl up.
The passers-by on the street fell over each other to run away, the situation was chaotic.
Kou Zhong whined, “Can’t you at least leave two for me to play with?” while he hacked and grabbed one of the men, and dragged him inside the shop. Soon afterwards he walked out and took Xu Ziling toward the dock. He said, “Their division headquarter is really at that salt street, adjacent to the warehouse where we stole the salt from. From there it should be a bit more convenient to steal a boat.”
“Did the guy you grab cooperate?” Xu Ziling asked.
Kou Zhong let out a cold humph, “Can he not?” he said.
Xu Ziling laughed aloud, and walked ahead of him out of the city.
About midway, several hundred riders galloped out of the city gate like a whirlwind. Without even looking they knew that these riders must be from Shen Faxing’s army.
Kou Zhong jumped in fright, “Looks like they have more people than we can handle!” he said.
Recalling the hard battle in Jiangdu’s imperial city, Xu Ziling was rather timid as well; hastily he followed Kou Zhong running into the wilderness.
Xu Ziling lay down on top of a big horizontal branch protruding from a big tree in the jungle by the seaside, enjoying the spectacular scenery of the setting sun in the ocean, feeling that his heart and mind were as broad and infinite as the scenery in front of him, that all the ‘you fight, I snatch’ of the secular world has turned into a trivial matter that had no place in the grand scheme of eternity.
Ever since he put on brand new clothes and shaved his beard that day, Kou Zhong also seemed to change into a different man, brimming with fighting spirit. While he was in deep contemplation, occasionally his eyes would shine with unusual gleam, although it was not clear whether he was thinking about the struggle over the world.
Xu Ziling himself was more and more intoxicated with exploring the way of the martial arts; other things no longer had any place in his heart and mind. The only thing that he was unable to put down was Susu. As for Kou Zhong, naturally he did not need to worry.
He also remembered Shen Luoyan and Princess Dong Ming. But they were merely like floating light or fleeting shadow, not something that could move him emotionally.
For him, the most unbearable thing in life was feeling. Every time he thought about Fu Junchuo, he was always overwhelmed with heartbreak and depressing feeling, so that his hatred toward Yuwen Huaji grew deeper.
After killing Yuwen Huaji, he would roam the world, even go beyond the Great Wall, to experience the many colors life has to offer.
As for the great undertaking of unifying the world, it was not something that he dreamed of doing; those were things that people like Kou Zhong or Li Shimin should undertake.
His only goal in life was to explore the wonder this world had to offer, to attain the highest level of the martial art world he could achieve, to see through the mystery of life. But he had never forced himself; he always let everything fell into its place at its own time. Just like when Kou Zhong wanted him to eavesdrop the old teacher’s lecture, wanted him to stealthily learn martial art, he simply went to listen, to learn. Until he comprehended the immeasurable mystery of the ‘Secret to Long Life’, he finally grasped the meaning of life in his hand, to have his own way of life and his own goals.
Suddenly alarm went off in his heart.
Xu Ziling closed his eyes. Getting rid of ten thousand thoughts in his mind, he instantly sensed someone creeping toward him from the southwest direction. This person could be considered the best among the martial art masters whom he encountered ever since he left Danyang, but it was definitely not Kou Zhong.
If it were Kou Zhong who sneaked in to play trick on him, he would have to enter the ten-zhang range around him before Xu Ziling could detect his presence.
But this person was still thirty zhang away when Xu Ziling started to sense his presence.
Right this moment, he also detected the enemy’s presence from other directions; all were about twenty zhang away from him, thus it was clear that these several enemies were a notch above the first one.
In that instant he made up his mind to fight to the end; otherwise, he would lose contact with Kou Zhong, who went out to scout the enemy positions.
Like a ghost Xu Ziling swiftly slid down to the foot of the tree. Because he had a more accurate picture of the enemies’ position and their approaching route, with only one or two shenfa [motion in martial arts] he managed to slip through the enemy eyes and through the gaps in their blind side into lush underbrush.
The sky was getting dark, the sunrays gradually disappeared on the horizon on the other side of the ocean, the woods grew so dark that it was getting more and more difficult to see anything.
Suddenly there was the sound of rustling sleeves against the wind, followed by someone exclaimed, “Huh?” Apparently he was startled for not able to find Xu Ziling.
Xu Ziling understood; the opponents must have seen him earlier from a distant height when he was lying down on the tree branch, but by the time they went into hiding in the nearby forest, Xu Ziling was already gone.
Xu Ziling crouched low in the grass, narrowed his eyes, held his breath and calmed his qi as he looked out. Unless the opposite party searched to this place, based on his fantastic true qi, they would never find him. In the past, when his cultivation was still shallow, even martial art masters like Li Mi and Zhai Rang were not able to detect his presence as he was hiding on the beam; let alone there were not too many people of Li Mi and Zhai Rang’s calibers in the world, therefore, he was not worried the least bit that his presence would be detected.
Two men in black appeared under the big tree where he lay down in contemplation earlier, one tall, the other short. But because their backs were facing him, he could not see their faces. It’s just that by looking at the ‘deep-pool, towering-peak’ way they were standing, the imposing manner and strength they exuded, he knew that these men were not mediocre masters.
Another rustling of the wind, another person appeared under the tree, and Xu Ziling heard, “I have searched everywhere, there’s not even half a shadow of ghost around.”
This moment Xu Ziling suddenly sniffed an exotic delicate fragrance, followed by a subtle, almost inaudible noise of something splitting the air. Xu Ziling groaned inwardly, knowing that someone was coming from behind, and it was a woman, whose body’s fragrance had already been delivered by the sea breeze into his extremely acute nose.
Xu Ziling hastily crouched down to the ground.
A sword swept past the grass above him, followed by four more; each strike was fast and fierce. If he had been squatting just like a moment ago, he would have been hit by the sword.
The delicate fragrance moved away, obviously the woman had moved someplace else to continue her search.
Xu Ziling snickered inwardly. He sat cross-legged, thinking that Kou Zhong should be back any time soon.
A moment later the three enemies gathered together, two men and one woman; they talked in low voices. Most probably the other person was still searching in the vicinity.
The first to be heard was a man with strong voice, “This is perhaps the best chance to intercept them. Looking at the current situation, it looks like they are going to run away overseas to escape Li Mi’s decree to hunt and kill them.”
“Where did that kid go?” another man with coarse voice asked.
The first man replied, “Da Zongguan [big/first manager] and Han Bangzhu [gang leader] have already guessed from their route that they were heading this way. This matter is very important to Da Zongguan, otherwise, why would he toil our Xia Xianzi [goddess/fairy/female immortal] to personally come here?” The speaker was a young man, apparently he was trying to flatter that woman.
A burst of silver-bell like laughter was heard, and then that woman, who was known as Fairy Xie said, “In my opinion, he is trying to slip away. We will lay a trap here. Supposing by lucky coincidence that kid Kou Zhong managed to escape Han Bangzhu’s inescapable net, we will take care of him here. As long as we can capture one of them alive, the ‘Duke Yang Treasure Trove’ will be in our, Jiangnan Army’s bag.”
Xu Ziling was shaken; now he knew why Kou Zhong had not come back yet. Not in the mood to listen further, he quietly backed away.
He had just stepped out of the forest when a shadow flashed in front of him, and he realized he had fallen into a heavy siege. Someone behind him laughed aloud and said, “Kid, you are so naïve, we swindled you a little bit and you fell right into it.”
Another man said, “It was not a complete lie either, the other kid might have been captured already.”
Xu Ziling maintained his composure and did not show the slightest sign of fear at all, under the dim moonlight he coldly sized them up. Other than four people who appeared first, there were two more people. Every single one of them looked highly capable, obviously these were not ordinary warriors.
The one blocking his way was a scholar with a rather confident and casual demeanor, with a long sword in his hand, which he pointed at him from a distance.
On his left was a bald man, thick and solid like a bull, both his left and right hands carried big hatchets, so that even without any explanation anybody could infer that he was an expert in external skill, the brave-general-who-charge-and-break-through-enemy-lines type of person.
On the far right was a white-haired, dreary-looking, big and tall old man. His sword was still hanging on his back, his manner grave. If Xu Ziling’s guessed correctly, of the three men, this man’s martial art skill must be the highest.
Suddenly he heard the wind behind him, it was the two men and one woman who had just swindled him, flying over from the forest, blocking all of his escape routes.
One of them laughed and said, “Kid, you missed your last chance! If just now you turned around toward the dense jungle, you might be able to slip away.”
These people were saying all these things to attack Xu Ziling’s mind; they wanted Xu Ziling to feel foolish and thus disturbed his concentration.
The white-haired old man cupped his fist to salute and said, “Laofu [old man, referring to self] Shen Fazheng, the older brother of Jiangnan Dao Da Zongguan [see last chapter, Book 6 Chapter 8]. If Xu Xiongdi is willing to come back with us, the Ol’ Shen guarantees that Xu Xiongdi will be received as our honored guest and will be treated with utmost hospitality.”
Xu Ziling stood up straight in the middle of the siege, there was a deep and immeasurable, unusual gleam his tiger-eyes, but his countenance was still and calm like the surface of water without any ripples, his upright body was like lofty mountain that gave others the impression that he would be hard to shake.
The scholar-looking man held the sword with both hands as he saluted and said, “Zaixia Li Changheng from Poyang Pai [Poyang (county in Shangrao, Jiangxi, Sect]. We are very fond of Xu Xiong; if we could exchange weapons of war for gifts of jade and silk, nothing can be better that that.”
And then he introduced the bald man, “Tu Li Xiong is Huangshan Pai’s [Mount Huang (in Anhui) Sect] martial art master; he is Da Zongguan’s Left Vanguard, while Zaixia is his Right Vanguard General.”
A tender laughter was heard from behind, the beauty, who was called Fairy Xie, said, “Nujia [your (female) servant] is Xie Yujing, you must not forget it!”
The one called Shen Fazheng smiled and said, “The remaining two gentlemen are the Lian Clan’s brothers from Qishan Pai’s [Mount Qi (in Gansu)] Sect], Fan Xiong and Chu Xiong; both are martial art experts famous in Jianghu for their whip. In Laofu’s opinion, before long their ‘Drifting Cloud Whip’ will be numbered among the ‘Amazing Skill Ultimate Art’.”
“Are you done?” Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, “If you are, just make your move!”
The six people were greatly surprised.
It should be noted that none of the six of them was not martial art master with resounding name in Jianghu. Any one of them came out, very few people would dare not to give them any face. This time, under Shen Faxing’s bidding, all six of them came out of their respective Sect to deal with these two boys; at that time all of them felt that Shen Faxing was making a big fuss over a minor issue. Who would have thought that Xu Ziling had the impertinence to speak such a boastful remark?
Actually, in Xu Ziling’s heart, because he was so accustomed to meet martial art masters, other than Du Fuwei, Madame Dongming, Dongming Princess, Ba Fenghan, and several other martial art masters of their rank, he did not have any regard to other people.
Tu Li roared violently, “This fellow is unable to differentiate good from bad!” Before he finished speaking, his shoulders and arms turned around. Two huge hatchets, which were originally held flat on his chest, hacked diagonally down. These two axes swept down one after another like a swiftly turning wheel. Just this one move has demonstrated that he did not simply rely on brute strength, but that he was a martial art expert who was beautiful inside and out.
At the exact same time, a cold qi was piercing toward Xu Ziling’s vertebrae from behind.
Seeing the opponents were this formidable, Xu Ziling’s spirit was greatly aroused. He knew that these two hatchets were simply to divide his mind, the real threat was the finger wind attacking him from behind.
The opponents spent this much effort, in the end they merely wanted to capture him alive.
Xu Ziling suddenly moved sideways toward Tu Li’s right side. Not only he evaded the sneak attack on his back, by a simple shift like that he was also forcing Tu Li to change his move in panic.
Everybody was shaken.
It was called ‘just with one move the expert will know which one was there which one was not’.
Tu Li was about to twist his waist in a horse stance to continue his attack, Shen Fazheng called out loudly, “Hold it there!”
Xu Ziling halted instantly; he did not even dodge or block the huge hatchet hacking down on him, showing no sign of nerves at all.
Tu Li took his hatchet back in horror, remembering Shen Faxing’s order to capture the two boys alive.
Watching this, the rest of the people wiped the cold sweats from their foreheads, thinking that there was actually someone who had a full confidence on the enemy like that in the world.
Shen Fazheng spoke politely, “There is one thing Laofu would like to inquire.”
Xu Ziling shrugged his shoulders noncommittally. Whether it was his movement or his expression, everything displayed confidence, poise and elegance.
Everybody was emotionally moved; they all sensed the unique gracefulness of this young, new rising star of Wulin who recently shook the entire Jianghu.
Seeing Xu Ziling did not speak, Shen Fazheng had no choice but to go on, “Xu Xiongdi, don’t you want to know what happened to that other Xiongdi?”
Shen Fazheng’s nickname was ‘the blade that attack the heart’. As the name implies, this man was an expert in psychological warfare. Before they even came here, they had already decided that killing Xu Ziling was not a difficult task, but capturing him alive was not an easy thing at all. Therefore, Shen Fazheng designed a variety of psychological attacks to be used as appropriate. Previously, Lian Fan, Lian Chu and Xie Yujing, three people’s attempt to lure him out was his crafty scheme. Shen Faxing was able to rise to his present position, his older brother’s contribution was extremely significant.
However, against everybody’s expectation, Xu Ziling did not show the slightest bit of surprise, the corner of his mouth even revealed an extremely touching smile. With that kind of touching, natural expression, nobody would dare to doubt his sincerity.
The three people, who were facing him and watching his demeanor, were suddenly overwhelmed by a very strange feeling, as if they were enraptured by this young martial art master’s graceful, elegant and outstanding innate beauty.
Chapter 9, Part 2
Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, “Thank you for your trouble and your concern; unless I see that brother of mine’s dead body lying on the ground, I will not believe that anybody would have the ability to …”
Lian Chu had a fiery temper, plus he did not see that extremely touching smile, so how could he bear it? Flicking his strong wrist, the long whip in his hand struck like a viper toward the vital acupoint behind Xu Ziling’s ear. If Xu Ziling were really hit, even if he had the divine skill protecting his body, the whip would have made him lose consciousness for sure.
The reason Qishan Pai’s whip technique could dominate the Jianghu was precisely this unique skill ‘whip acupoint’. It should be noted that this amazing whip movement could be launched at any angle to attack the opponent, so that it was very difficult to guard against.
Lian Fan and his brother Lian Chu had telepathic connection between them, seeing his younger brother made his move, his whip also moved. His whip suddenly bent in half, making it half as long as the original, but it still had the eight-chi long whip handle that shot forward from his left rear side toward the middle of Xu Ziling’s back.
Shen Faxing’s Right Vanguard General Li Changheng also made his move; the sword in his hand created a dozen or so sword patterns, blurring the vision of the opponent, and then one pattern suddenly shot out toward Xu Ziling’s throat, with incomparable viciousness and ruthlessness, without the slightest bit of reservation.
The Left Vanguard General Tu Li let out a low ‘whoo hoo’ roar from deep within his throat, while his pair of huge hatchets was moving up and down. Although he did not make any move, he created a great threat that at least Xu Ziling would not dare to evade on his direction.
Although Shen Fazheng also did not make any move, he exuded an unfathomable-mystery feeling in other people’s heart.
And then there was also the threat from Xie Yujing who was standing behind him. Nobody could predict whether she would make her move or not. And if she did, when would it be?
It was the first time for Xu Ziling to face so many opponents of martial art masters with similar skill level; however, amidst the opponents’ fierce offensive and seamless coordination, there was one big weakness: they wanted to capture him alive. Therefore, the real threat to him was Lian Chu’s whip striking the acupoint behind his ear; the rest of the attacks were only to distract his attention.
If not for the enemies were having this intention, they would have enough power to kill him; however, they would also have to pay a very heavy price.
Xu Ziling’s mind entered the ‘still water in the well’ realms; it clearly reflected the surrounding environment without the least bit distortion, accurately grasped the opponents’ movements, the technique and timing of each attack.
The sensing ability of his eyes, ears, and nose was elevated to its limit, even the skin underneath his clothes could generate the response he needed to attain the martial art master’s ‘knowing the enemy’ phase.
With a low groan, with nobody able to see what style he was executing, Xu Ziling’s legs suddenly pushed hard, like an arrow he flew vertically straight into the air.
This move was really outside everybody’s expectation.
It should be noted that when one was flying into the air, as soon as one’s true qi was depleted, one would immediately fall back down. Moreover, when one was in the air, one’s ability to change a move, as well as one’s flexibility to defend oneself from the enemy suffered a huge setback, so that one would become the most obvious attack target. Under heavy besiege, even less people would dare to try this stunt. Therefore, Shen Fazheng and the others were all taken by surprise.
As if Lian Chu’s whip had an eye of its own, it also rose up to chase Xu Ziling. It was due to Lian Chu was still under the effect of his forward momentum, so that momentarily it was difficult for him to pull back, so he might as well continued his whip to chase after the sole of Xu Ziling’s feet, relying on his a zhang and a half long whip, trying to attack this young adversary.
Both Li Changheng’s sword and Lian Fan’s ‘whip stick’ struck empty air.
From behind, the ‘Flying Fairy’ Xie Yujing let out a peal of tender laughter, while like a wisp of smoke she also flew diagonally up into the air, chasing after Xu Ziling, whose speed kept increasing. The pair of daggers in her hand swiped toward Xu Ziling’s neck and waist; it was vicious and merciless to the extreme.
Just now, when Xu Ziling threw a glance to look at the enemy’s situation, he only saw five people; she was the only one missing. Therefore, it could be clearly seen how superior her lightness skill was. Afterwards, he also sniffed her bodily scent carried away by the breeze, so he knew that she was closing in on him fast. Clearly she obtained her ‘Flying Fairy’ nickname not by a fluke at all.
It looked like Lian Chu’s long whip was about to hit the yongquan [lit. gushing spring] acupoint at the sole of Xu Ziling’s foot, so he was ready to send his energy via the whip. Who would have imagined that using a very simple footwork, Xu Ziling used the tip of his toes to meet the tip of the whip?
‘Whap!’ Two streams of energy slammed into each other.
Lian Fan [sic] felt a burst of extremely hot true qi flowed along the whip and penetrated his hand. The true qi turned into a strand of such a powerful force that his own true qi protecting his body did not seem to have the least bit of effectiveness. With a stifled grunt he was shaken so severely that he nearly fell to the ground.
On the other hand, Xu Ziling borrowed the reaction force from the tip of the whip to give him the opportunity to draw another mouthful of true qi while his body was still flying midair, which enabling him to traverse sideways and fly outside the siege. Xie Yujing’s famous ‘Flying Fairy’s Short Blade’ completely failed.
Lian Fan had deep emotional ties with his brother; forgetting Xu Ziling, he rushed over to hold Lian Chu up and asked, “How are you feeling?”
Lian Chu’s entire face was flushed with abnormal redness; with acute shortness of breath, he gasped, “Quickly help me circulating my energy!”
Seeing that in just one move Lian Chu had suffered great loss, everybody was overwhelmed with shock; however, they did not have time to think too much. Shen Fazheng, Tu Li, and Li Changheng, three men immediately gave chase.
Again, Xu Ziling changed direction midair. But by the time he landed on the slope of a small hill, Xie Yujing was soaring right behind him.
Xu Ziling let out a smile brimming with masculine charm; stretching both hands out, suddenly the hands turned into hundreds and thousands finger shadows, palm shadows, to meet her ‘Flying Fairy’s Short Blade’ head-on.
For the first time the two combatants had the opportunity to meet face-to-face. Xu Ziling noticed than Xie Yujing was about twenty years old, her hair was rolled up in a bun on top of her head, the clothes she was wearing were of palace style colored painted-on design, her overall dress style resembled Yang Guang’s imperial concubines. Her jade countenance was as pretty as a flower, her figure was graceful, brimming with extreme female charms. In terms of beauty, she was not inferior to Yun Yuzhen.
Xie Yujing also noticed Xu Ziling’s good looks; her pretty eyes brightened, but her hands were not slacking at all. Borrowing the momentum of her falling down from above, the two blades protecting each other, suddenly advanced suddenly retreated, the blades changed several times in the blink of an eye, in a chain attack toward Xu Ziling.
‘Ding! Ding! Dang! Dang!’
Like a divine treasure Xu Ziling’s hands jabbed, swept and plucked, blocking Xie Yujing’s fierce offensive moves completely. The most formidable thing was that each finger, each palm also sent out incomparably scorching innate qi, forcing this beauty to constantly bounce back, so that she was unable to fall to the ground, and had to continuously engage him in hard fighting in the air.
By this time Shen Fazheng’s sword attack arrived first. Letting out a long whistle Xu Ziling unleashed the ‘Meridian Severing Technique’ Tu Shufang taught him, taking advantage while Xie Yujing’s blood and qi were churning after being shaken by him, he scratched the vein on her left wrist, while the middle finger of his right hand poked the tip of the other short blade.
Xie Yujing screamed involuntarily, both hands went numb, the short blade in her left hand suddenly moved to Xu Ziling’s hand, followed by a burst of hot qi penetrated her right hand blade and entered her body. Naturally she could show off by meeting the attack head-on, but it would not be much different than she was trying to kill herself. Therefore, she had no choice but to raise her qi and somersaulted backward, to fly away as far as she could, to neutralize the opponent’s fierce true power.
For that reason, when Shen Fazheng’s attack arrived, Tu Li and Li Changheng were still seven, eight zhang away, the situation became one-on-one confrontation between Shen Fazheng and Xu Ziling.
Xu Ziling’s eyes shone with cold rays. With a cold humph he charged directly into the core of Shen Fazheng’s sword net, unexpectedly applying the dangerous tactics of burying himself in close combat.
When Tu Li and Li Changheng arrived, they did not know where to start.
All they saw was two figures chasing each other on the slope of the hill, entangling each other into a ball, while the sound of clashing blades was ringing continuously.
It was only now that Shen Fazheng came to understanding as why Xu Ziling was able to drive Yuwen Wudi away in defeat, anger Li Zitong that he retreated, and escape the imperial city under the besiege of Yuwen Huaji’s rebel troops. It was because this young martial art master’s most formidable moves were all without predetermined pattern, the moves were entirely instant creation like a heavenly steed soaring across the skies.
The figures suddenly separated.
Shen Fazheng staggered and fell back.
In their shock, Tu Li and Li Changheng attacked together from left and right.
Xu Ziling waved his right hand, the ‘Flying Fairy’s Short Blade’ flew to meet Li Changheng’s face, while he himself flew toward Tu Li.
No matter how Tu Li changed the angle, Xu Ziling seemed to already anticipate the changes of his two hatchets, using the edge of his palm he ferociously cut onto the hatchet’s body.
Tu Li let out a miserable grunt; the tremendous hacking force pushed him back. Momentarily forgetting that he was on a sloping hill, he nearly rolled down in an extremely awkward condition.
Li Changheng evaded the short blade thrown at him. He was about to charge upward when Shen Fazheng, with his hand pressing against his right flank, where blood was gushing out from an open wound, shouted, “Changheng, back off!”
Li CHangheng stopped grudgingly; he cast an angry look toward Xu Ziling, who was standing at the top of the hill.
The others have also come over, but not in surrounding formation like before.
Xu Ziling looked at the enemy with his cold eyes and aloof demeanor, as if he considered himself unexcelled in the world.
Shen Fazheng said, “Let’s drop this matter today, I am sure we will meet again someday.”
Just as they appeared suddenly, they disappearance was even more sudden.
Naturally Xu Ziling knew that this was just the beginning. Collecting his terrified mind, he darted down toward the dock.