Book 7 Chapter 2 – Alarming Change On The Salt Boat
Not long after the salt boat entered the Yangtze River, the weather turned bad, a drizzle fell continuously.
Because Duan Yucheng and the others, four men were on duty, Xu Ziling went to the kitchen to prepare a meal. He and Kou Zhong have worked as cooks before, so it was a very easy task for him.
Kou Zhong went up the deck to patrol a few times; for some unknown reason, he had a strange feeling that someone was watching them in secret, although there was no other boat in sight, the banks were also devoid of any trace of human presence.
After telling Ma Gui and the others to raise their vigilance, he went to the kitchen at the aft to find Xu Ziling.
The dishes were nearing completion. Seeing Kou Zhong came to see him, Xu Ziling knitted his brows and said, “I also have a very ominous feeling; from time to time my heart alarmed, my body leaping, and I can’t calm down.”
After focusing his spirit to listen all around, he spoke in Xu Ziling’s ear, “I suspect the enemy is already hiding on the boat; perhaps it’s even that fellow Yang Xuyan. Remember we had a strange feeling this morning, but did not see anybody?”
Xu Ziling nodded in agreement. Yang Xuyan was called the ‘Shadow Assassin’ because he was skilled in hiding, was able to come and go without any trace, and only he had that kind of ability.
Kou Zhong went on, “Fighting one-on-one, neither one of us is his match, but if we join hands, we have a chance to stake our lives against his; therefore, from now on we must not separate.”
Xu Ziling’s eyes revealed a determined look; he shook his head and said, “If we are like that, we will never be martial art masters who are able to assume personal responsibility.”
Kou Zhong stared blankly. “You are right,” he said, “Since that the case, it will be better if we gain the initiative by striking first, we’ll try to force him to come out and decide life and death. Ay! I wonder which side has this kid thrown himself into; the muddleheaded ruler is dead, why didn’t he simply retire?”
Xu Ziling was dissatisfied, he said, “Just by listening to your last three sentences, I know you have trepidation in your heart. Didn’t Niang teach us to place ourselves on a field of death and fight to live? [an idiom from Sunzi’s Art of War] Only by forgetting life or death will we be able to bring out our skill to the finest detail. Someone like you, who is timid even before fighting, will be defeated for sure.”
Kou Zhong painfully said, “Don’t forget that Yang Xuyan that kid even dared to assassinate Ol’ Die. If we train our martial art skill for several more years, we might be comparable to Ol’ Die, but right now we are not.”
Xu Ziling heaved a sigh. “Honestly,” he said, “I am deadly afraid as well. But this is precisely the purpose of our trip in transporting the salt, to place ourselves on the field of death, to seek survival with all our strength, to advance in the martial art cultivation by the most rigorous practice. Do you understand?”
Kou Zhong took a deep breath. Patted his chest, he said, “All right! I’ll listen and obey. Let’s just be a bit more careful!”
Finished speaking he turned around and left.
After finishing up the last dish of rice with vegetables marinated in soy paste, and as he was about to bring the dishes out, he seemed to hear a faint sigh that sounded like a woman’s coming from the doorway.
Xu Ziling was shocked.
Based on his current mental cultivation, who could possibly come this close to him and was still able to fool his acute psychic senses?
As he turned around abruptly, the lights suddenly went out.
At the exact same time, a chilling malicious spirit’s howling pierced his ears, as if from the land of the living he was suddenly whisked away to the nether world.
Xu Ziling stayed motionless while collecting his spirit; focusing his power to his eyes, gradually the surrounding became brighter, and he was able to see everything with double clarity.
Immediately his tiger body was shaken severely.
Because he saw a woman with long hair and white clothing was standing at the door. Although because her head was hanging down he was unable to see her face, but her bearing, her build, and most of all the strong deja vu vibe that she exuded, bore extremely strong resemblance to Fu Junchuo.
Momentarily forgetting that Fu Junchuo had died early on, Xu Ziling blurted out, “Niang!”
The woman trembled slightly, but then she suddenly disappeared.
Xu Ziling bolted out of the door.
The corridor was pitch-black; there was no trace of the woman.
With a gust of wind Kou Zhong flitted over; with calm and composed expression he simply said, “All four of them have disappeared. Huh? What happened to you?”
Xu Ziling was about to answer when suddenly, ‘Splosh! Splash! Splosh! Splash!’ one after another the sound of something hitting the water came from both sides of the boat.
The two boys cried out, knowing something bad happened, and rushed out of the corridor. But just as they crossed the door and stepped into the deck, they halted their steps in extreme shock with their eyes fixed toward the bow.
Under the drizzling rain, a lovely woman wearing white, a long sword hanging on her back, her beautiful hair like a cloud, was sitting calmly hugging her knees, as if she was the only one left in the world, at the tip of the bow.
From their angle of view, her silhouette looked at least 90% like Fu Junchuo, especially her long hair and her posture; plus there was this overwhelming déjà vu feeling in their hearts.
Having seen her before, Xu Ziling was a bit better, but Kou Zhong simply lost himself as he cried out, “Niang!”
The woman slowly turned her face around.
It was a dignified and gentle face, with graceful and delicate, straight nose right in the middle between her pair of sweet and charming bright eyes, so bright that she seemed to be able to look deep into their soul.
To their surprise, it was the same mysterious, beautiful woman who had come together with Ba Fenghan the other day. At that time the boys had already had a feeling that she looked a lot like Fu Junchuo. But tonight she deliberately imitated Fu Junchuo’s dress style, so that one after another Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were fooled and called her ‘mother’.
The salt boat was without anybody steering it, but it kept sailing upstream due to the tailwind. For the time being, since the river course was straight, it was not a problem, but as soon as they encountered any twist or turn, the boat would crash into a cliff for sure.
Kou Zhong came to his senses; he saluted and asked, “May I ask Miss, what did you do to our four brothers?”
“Throw them away!” the woman replied indifferently.
Hearing that, the two boys looked at each other in dismay. If Duan Yucheng and the others had their acupoint sealed and were thrown into the river, wouldn’t their death be guaranteed?
The woman let out a cold snort and said, “You, these two kids, are more crafty than I thought. Harming my Shijie [martial (older) sister] is not enough, you called her ‘Niang’ in front and behind her back, and have confused eyes and ears.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were greatly surprised; the opponent was unexpectedly Fu Junchuo’s Shimei [martial (younger) sister], so they also groaned inwardly, because now they could not avenge Duan Yucheng and the others.
Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, “Turns out it’s Shi … hey! What should we call you? How about Shiyi [martial aunt (mother’s sister)]?”
The woman’s jade countenance sank. “Shut up!” she bellowed, “You may deceive others, but don’t ever dream of deceiving me, Fu Junyu. Shijie hated Han people the most, plus she was a virgin, how could she admit you as her sons? Not to mention telling you, Han dogs, the secret of ‘Duke Yang Treasure-trove’.”
Xu Ziling hastily said, “Shiyi must not misunderstand, before her death Niang confirmed us as her sons, and has passed on our precious school’s basic skill. If you don’t believe me, you can test us a bit.”
Fu Junyu coldly said, “Very well! Tell me, what is Yi Jian technique?” [yi – ancient name for ‘go’ (Chinese chest), jian – sword, see also Book 1 Chapter 3, Yi Jian Dashi.]
The two boys were dumbstruck; they were speechless.
Kou Zhong said, “Niang only taught us the internal cultivation of the first level of Jiu Xuan Da Fa [Great Method of Nine Mysteries] before she was heavily injured and passed away; she did not tell us anything about Yijian technique.”
Fu Junyu looked up at the rainy night, she said indifferently, “Using sword is just like playing chess. Each sword move is just like moving a chess piece, and the battlefield is just like a live chessboard, ever-changing. If one fails to grasp the overall situation, cannot estimate the enemy’s next move, then he cannot grasp the chance of victory. This is a very important principle, Shijie did not tell you?”
This moment the boat was swerving out of the middle of the river and was slowly leaning toward the left bank.
Xu Ziling said, “Niang only told us about the ‘every change of divine power’ and that ‘the treasure trove hidden deep within oneself is self-sufficient’.”
Fu Junyu’s charming body trembled slightly; she hung her head low in deep thought.
The salt boat was only less than four zhang away from the shore; fortunately a wind blew, sending the boat back toward the middle of the river; it was exceptionally thrilling.
The Korean beauty’s cherry lips suddenly blurted out, “I will kill you!”
“You still don’t believe us?” the two boys cried out involuntarily.
Fu Junyu’s jade countenance turned extremely cold, but surprisingly the tone of her voice was extremely gentle, “It’s because I believe you that I must kill you. Ay! Shijie, how could you pass on our divine skill to Han dogs? Now Junyu will have to clean up our school for you and keep this matter from reaching Shifu’s ears.”
The last two sentences were spoken with her face toward the heavens.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling felt their scalp went numb.
Chapter 2 - Part 2
It was not because they were afraid of Fu Junyu at all, but due to her relationship with their Niang, they must not harm her or use heavy hands against her, and since that the case, they could only accept defeat without any chance of victory at all.
Kou Zhong hastily said, “Yu Yi [Aunt Yu], please set your heart at ease; from now on we will never mention that Niang had taught us the Great Method of Nine Mysteries, is that all right?”
Fu Junyu scolded tenderly, “Who’s your, two Han dogs, Yu Yi?”
Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong knew she would make her move any time, so they were instantly in full alert.
Who would have thought that Fu Junyu appeared to be in deep thought again? It was quite a while later that she finally spoke nonchalantly, “All right! Looking at Shijie’s face, I am willing to spare you two from death; but there are two conditions.”
Seeing things have turned to the better, the two boys promptly inquired.
Fu Junyu coldly looked at the two boys up and down several times before speaking calmly, “First of all you must swear an oath never to reveal the secret of ‘Duke Yang Treasure’ to anybody, but you must tell me the treasure’s location.”
Xu Ziling had no problem, but Kou Zhong was stunned on the spot; that treasure concerned his grand plan for vying over the world, how could he tell others?
Fu Junyu continued, “The second condition is that I must take your martial art skill back, our Yijian Pai’s core technique must not be disseminated to Han people.”
Kou Zhong breathed a sigh of relief instead.
He was originally afraid that Xu Ziling would force him to accept the first condition. But now Fu Junyu wanted to cripple them by taking their martial art skill, naturally they could not accept that. Thereupon, with a cold snort he said, “If you are really Niang’s martial sister, how could you not know the secret of ‘Duke Yang Treasure’? I almost fell into your ruse.”
Xu Ziling sighed inwardly; he knew that because of his desire to vie over the world, Kou Zhong completely disregarded the fact that Fu Junyu was their Niang’s martial sister.
Fu Junyu was exceptionally calm; as if she was talking to herself, she sighed softly and said, “I knew Han dogs are like this; Shijie, how could you be so muddleheaded?”
Fu Junyu’s sword already moved into her hand, while at the same time she flew up and over the two boys’ head and landed in front of the cabin door before turning around to face them. She looked at the two boys with disdain and said, “Let me see how much martial art skill Shijie imparted to you!”
Her movement was swift beyond belief, like moving clouds and flowing water, her posture beautiful; her skill appeared to be superior to Fu Junchuo, who was adept at lightness-skill.
Kou Zhong drew the ‘Moon the the Well’ saber, and adopted a defense stance; he shouted loudly, “Niang! We are cornered and have no choice, please do not blame child.”
Xu Ziling knew that Kou Zhong was speaking those words for his sake.
While looking up, he was aghast to see that far ahead upstream, a sharp bend appeared on the river course. However, he was helpless because Fu Junyu was blocking the path toward the rudder.
Fu Junyu’s pretty face was still as calm as still water, but her pair of beautiful eyes shone with deep, determined murderous aura. The sword in front of her was vibrating lightly, exuding wave after wave of sword qi, forcing the two boys to circulate their internal energy to withstand it.
Kou Zhong took a step forward and raised his saber horizontally in front of his chest in ready-to-strike posture. He spoke coldly, “Saber and sword are heartless, it would be better for Shiyi to think thrice.”
Fu Junyu mocked him, “Didn’t you say I was an impostor? Why do you keep on calling me Shiyi?”
Kou Zhong replied while maintaining his heroic spirit; he laughed aloud and said, “Why don’t Shiyi think about it yourself? The fact was that Niang did not have time to tell us the treasure’s location before she died, so now you can only take our martial art skill back, but we certainly won’t wait helplessly for death. Since things have come to this, let us look at Shiyi’s real skill!”
Before he even finished talking, Fu Junyu was already about five chi away on his left, swinging her sword swiftly toward Kou Zhong’s left shoulder; her speed was indeed like a ghost or demon.
Kou Zhong has never seen anybody with shenfa faster than Fu Junyu’s. Yet he remained calm and unhurried as he raised his saber to block. He did not rely on naked eye, but on the almost psychic sense he developed from the Secret to Long Life.
Xu Ziling was also startled by her speed.
When Fu Junyu was floating, it was as if she turned into light smoke, as if she was without any substance.
The saber and the sword collided.
Kou Zhong’s tiger body was severely shaken; he had to stagger two steps sideways before he could stabilize his footing.
Fu Junyu floated onto the edge of the boat, but she suddenly flashed toward Kou Zhong’s right side, and in an instant she slashed her sword down five times.
Each slash of the sword did not have Kou Zhong as its target, yet Kou Zhong was flustered trying to parry each strike, puzzling Xu Ziling, who was watching the fight.
Fu Junyu’s leg suddenly flew out, the tip of her boot was going to sting Kou Zhong’s calf, while Kou Zhong was straining left and right to parry her attack, demonstrating her forte in executing extremely cunning and strange changes.
Kou Zhong roared sharply; like a swimming fish he moved toward Fu Junyu’s right side from an angle that was totally beyond the opponent’s expectation. Not only he evaded her absolutely brilliant kick, but at the same time he backhandedly swept his saber toward Fu Junyu’s right flank.
Evidently Fu Junyu was taken by surprise. She dodged the incoming saber, swiveled her body around, and moved toward Kou Zhong’s back.
From her flank, Kou Zhong’s ‘Moon in the Well’ saber went down, forcing Fu Junyu to float away again.
Suddenly Fu Junyu flashed toward Xu Ziling, waving her hand around, so that the fingers turned into several dozen cold points shooting toward him.
Xu Ziling sighed, realizing that after testing Kou Zhong’s power, she was afraid the two boys would join hands against her, plus she noticed that Xu Ziling was without any weapon, so she wanted to deal with him first before turning back to deal with Kou Zhong.
Kou Zhong roared, “This Poniang is ruthless and formidable, Xiao Ling, you must not hold your hands!”
Like a big eagle Xu Ziling had already surged diagonally forward, using the edge of his palm like a saber, he hacked down on the flat of the opponent’s sword.
Two qi collided.
While Fu Junyu was overwhelmed with amazement that Xu Ziling dared to meet the attack empty-handedly, also that he was able to pinpoint the exact location of her sword amidst the sword shadows and the blade rays, and was able to brilliantly neutralize her attack, Xu Ziling had already moved behind her back and bumped her with his shoulder.
She had never heard about this kind of fighting.
However, she had already tested these two boys’ internal strength; although it was incredibly strange, it was still two notches below her seventh level of the Great Method of Nine Mysteries. Thereupon, while saying inwardly that you are just courting death, she also pushed her back to meet Xu Ziling’s attack.
Xu Ziling spurted a mouthful of fresh blood; like a kite with cut string he flew away to the other side.
Kou Zhong was at the ready; he was one step ahead to be at the place where Xu Ziling was about to fall, and raised his hands to catch him up.
Fu Junyu was also jolted by Xu Ziling’s reaction force that she staggered three steps forward, with streams of true qi invading her body, creating unbearable discomfort that she almost threw up blood like Xu Ziling.
But she was actually delighted instead of alarmed; suppressing her injury, she turned around and shot her long sword like a lightning toward Xu Ziling’s back, hoping that she would skewer the two boys’ together in one move, and dispose of them ruthlessly.
What she did not know was that Kou Zhong had already transmitted his true qi into Xu Ziling’s body, dissolving his injury. This moment the two boys suddenly separated, Kou Zhong let out a violent roar, the ‘Moon in the Well’ hacked down on the enemy.
Xu Ziling sent out a punch, the target was her right shoulder.
Caught off guard, Fu Junyu screamed; the sword in her right hand parried Kou Zhong’s long saber, her left palm clenched into a fist, she simultaneously took the two boys’ ‘toppling the mountains and overturning the seas’ attack head-on.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were jarred to the left and right, but Fu Junyu also spewed a little bit of blood. She soared into the air, landed on the viewing platform first, and then with a somersault she flew toward the left bank. Her tender voice came through, “Some day I will take your lives, but now I will let you live a bit longer!”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had just steadied their footing.
The salt boat crashed onto the reef standing in great numbers along the beach, jolting the two boys that they rolled around on the floor, battered and completely exhausted.
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