Chapter 3 – Turning Defeat Into Victory
Book 8 Chapter 3 – Turning Defeat Into Victory
It did not matter how many people were standing by Ren Shaoming’s side, he would be easily recognized at a glance.
This was not only because of the baring-its-fangs-and-brandishing-its-claws green dragon about half a hand palm size tattoo on his forehead, but because of his very particular shape and sharp and harsh expression.
Ren Shaoming’s skin was shiny like burnished bronze, his entire body looked as if it was made of cast metal. His height exceeded Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong. Wearing black tight warrior outfit with white cloak, the contrast was quite intense, giving out the impression that he was extraordinarily powerful.
His wide face was covered with pockmarks, his eye sockets were deep, his eyebrows were prominent on the ridge of his skull above his eyes, dark and thick like two strokes of dense ink. His long and narrow eyes were flashing with sharp cruelty that incited fear and hatred in the hearts of other people as he coldly stared at Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong.
His bigger-than-average hands were hanging loosely on either side, each hand was carrying a meteor hammer forged of hardened steel, about as big as a human skull.
Standing on his left was the ‘Amorous Nun’ Chang Zhen, whose gaudiness radiated all around; on his right was a tall and slim scholar; with his tapered face and the moustache above his lips, he looked a bit like a goat. But his eyes were bright and cool.
By the time the Evil Monk came to Chang Zhen’s side, the tall and slim scholar spoke up with a laugh, “Zaixia Cui Jixiu. It’s nice to see Xu Xiong, Kou Xiong.”
Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong exchanged glances, both felt fear in their hearts.
This Cui Jixiu was the number one strategic adviser under Lin Shihong’s command, he was bestowed the title Guoshi [teacher/master of the state] by Lin Shihong, the new Emperor of Chu. He was widely known as a top strategist of the present age. It was very likely that the trap tonight was planned by his brilliant mind.
Sure enough, Cui Jixiu laughed and said, “It is said that new-born calf has no fear of the tiger; therefore, while everybody else thought that two gentlemen had sounded out the difficulties and retreated to avoid defeat, Zaixia was quite sure that the two gentlemen would move the troops into danger. By lucky coincidence Zaixia’s guess is correct.”
The ‘Amorous Nun’ Chang Zhen let out a silvery bell tender laughter, her beautiful eyes were rippling with bright light as she swept her gaze over the two boys several times before saying, “Two brothers’ skill is out of the ordinary; if you are willing to switch your allegiance to Huizhu [society master/leader, similar to Bangzhu for gang leader], Huizhu can’t possibly treat two gentlemen with meager hospitality.”
Ren Shaoming let out a cold snort before speaking unhurriedly, “If you want to switch your allegiance, you must do so in good faith. You don’t need me to teach you how to do it!”
Kou Zhong said, “Is it possible for us, two brothers, to discuss it first?”
Ren Shaoming nodded, “As you wish!” he said.
Wrapping his arm around Xu Ziling’s shoulder, Kou Zhong put his lips next to Xu Ziling’s ear and said softly, “If we don’t surrender this time, we’ll lose our lives for sure.”
While his mouth said so, his hand lightly squeezed Xu Ziling’s shoulder, indicating that he was lying.
Noticing Ren Shaoming was watching them with rapt attention, Xu Ziling caught on. At the same time, he felt Kou Zhong was writing ‘fight’ and ‘fishing line’, three characters on his shoulder. He whispered hurriedly, “Unless he can personally defeat us, how can we surrender without any fight?”
Kou Zhong nodded. Stepping away from Xu Ziling, he laughed aloud and said, “If Huizhu wants us to surrender to you, you must defeat us first, and then we, two brothers, will immediately present the ‘Duke Yang Treasure’ as our meeting gift.”
Unexpectedly the several hundred people in there grew quiet, only the crackling noise of the torches was heard.
A faint smile of disdain appeared on the corners to Ren Shaoming’s mouth. He looked like he was about to respond when Cui Jixiu spoke up, “What if Huizhu defeats you separately? Will that count?”
Kou Zhong really wished he could punch this man’s face a couple times. Pretending to be proud but astounded he said, “We, the two kids, are only lowly juniors of younger generation, plus right now we are already injured and are weary. If we are fighting one-on-one against Huizhu, won’t we show too much disrespect to him, the Senior?”
The ‘Evil Monk’ Fa Nan raised the gigantic a zhang and a half long staff in his hand a little bit, and then he stomped heavily it against the floor. Not only it created a loud dull thud, it also seemed to make the earth shook. He laughed wildly and said, “Just let Pinseng [impoverished monk, a humble term used by Buddhist monk of himself] serve two brothers then! Why must we inconvenience Huizhu?”
Xu Ziling said indifferently, “If Dashi [great master, a term of respect to address a Buddhist monk] loses, will that be the same as if Huizhu himself loses?”
Fa Nan was taken aback. The ominous glint in his eyes reappeared.
Ren Shaoming let out a cold snort again and said, “If I don’t fight personally, it will be difficult to make the two of you submit wholeheartedly. Come!” Finished speaking he took a large stride forward.
As soon as he took the first step, immediately suffocating killing aura filled the air. With his second step, a burst of unmatched powerful aura assaulted Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling. If they were ordinary fighters, they would have been shivering in fear early on, abandoning everything and run for their lives.
It was only this moment that Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had firsthand experience of the prowess of this overlord of the black way [i.e. criminal world] whose name has been shaking the southern sky.
Involuntarily the Tieqi Hui men who were surrounding Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling took a few steps back, opening up an even larger ring for this decisive battle.
Kou and Xu, two boys fully realized that this man’s character was fierce and fiery, hence by the time he took the third step, he would immediately launch a violent offensive. Therefore, pretending that they were intimidated by his powerful aura, they retreated backward. One saber and one spear flashed as they struck a pose, ready to fight.
Naturally the people behind them did not know that the two boys were only about seven zhang away from the fishing line traversing the air above them; afraid that they would bring disaster to the fish in the pond [must be an idiom, but I think the meaning is clear], they backed off even more, opening up three more zhang of space behind the two boys.
Just by moving four more zhang, they would be right below the fishing line.
Right now the two boys were only thinking of slipping away unharmed.
As time passed, Ren Shaoming’s imposing manner suddenly soared. With a flick of his wrists, two meteor hammers suddenly turned into millions flickering red dots as they reflected the torches flames, just like swarming bees and dancing butterflies, stunning everyone present.
It was only after looking at Ren Shaoming’s skill did Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling finally understand why Song Yuzhi said that they did not know the immensity of heaven and earth. They had never imagined that someone would be able to handle the heavy meteor hammers and made them dance in perfection.
The astonishing pressure did not come only from the direction of Ren Shaoming in front of them, rather, it appeared to come from four sides, eight directions.
The more shocking thing was that Ren Shaoming was able to utilize the reflection of the flame so that he appeared to be vanishing, hiding somewhere in the flickering lights.
The two boys were unable to either advance or retreat; forget about any essence of the Yijian Technique of transcending the chess game board. Furthermore, after the hard battle they had just gone through, they could not even use half of their normal strength.
Suddenly a ball of flashing shadow, carrying with it a strong, severe gust of wind, smashed toward Kou Zhong’s left shoulder.
Kou Zhong realized the incoming attack just in time. With a loud shout he raised his saber to block.
A loud ‘dang!’ resounded. Kou Zhong staggered sideways toward Xu Ziling.
The flashing shadow scattered, like a ghost Ren Shaoming suddenly appeared. Like flashing thunder the two meteor hammers in his left and right hands pursued Kou Zhong, who by this time was unable to retreat farther.
A violent stream of qi exploded, forcing the several-zhang away spectators to back off even farther away. The miserable plight of Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling who bore the full brunt of this explosion need not be mentioned.
Ren Shaoming did not spare any strength, relying on his powerful true qi, he relentlessly pressured the two boys that they were unable to move a single step; employing a blitzkrieg strategy, he wanted to finish these two boys in the shortest time possible, and thus showing off his prowess in front of his subordinates. To his shock however, even after fighting with everything they had, the two boys were still able to fight tenaciously.
And now that he saw Kou Zhong was losing steam, how could he miss this opportunity? Immediately, with the power of a ten-thousand-jun thunder, he was ready to subdue the two boys in one fell swoop.
At first glance, it appeared that his double-hammer chain attack was going to strike the two boys dead. But actually he had hidden softness in the middle of hard, so that he could seal the opponent’s acupoints.
Kou Zhong slammed hard onto Xu Ziling. Contrary to everybody’s expectation, Ren Shaoming’s included, the latter’s tiger body suddenly went stiff, so that Kou Zhong’s body recoiled and shot toward Ren Shaoming’s double hammers.
While Ren Shaoming was greatly stunned, Kou Zhong, taking advantage of Xu Ziling’s true qi replenishing his own, so that not only his qi and blood recovered and was able to flow unimpeded, also taking advantage of Ren Shaoming’s slight gap due to his shock, brandished his saber and hacked down on the gap, so fast that nobody was able to see clearly.
Ren Shaoming quickly retreated half a step back. Letting out a muffled grunt, his left and right meteor hammers recoiled, and with unbelievable precision clamped down on the blade of Kou Zhong’s saber. His reaction was shockingly fast that everybody gasped in amazement.
The long saber snapped into two. Holding the broken saber in his hand, Kou Zhong fell back in shock.
The meteor hammers turned into flashes of shadow filling the air, hiding the sky and covering the earth, they continued to enshroud him.
While Kou Zhong was crying out for his Niang in his heart, Xu Ziling’s spear suddenly slipped through his flank and shot straight toward the center of the flashing shadows.
The flashing shadows dispersed.
Even with Ren Shaoming’s ability, he was still forced to take two steps back by this strange move, which broke his toppling-the-mountains-and-overturning-the-seas attack.
The right hand meteor hammer clashed with the spearhead and was jolted sideways, while the spearhead was also jolted away by the impact.
Chapter 3, Part 2
While Xu Ziling’s hands were going numb from the shock, Kou Zhong tossed his broken saber away, snatched the spear, and then with a loud shout he turned the spear into millions of light and shadow enveloping Ren Shaoming, using the ‘sweeping a thousand-army’ stance.
Even if this Society Leader of Tieqi Hui thought until he cracked his brains, he would never understand why after receiving such a heavy blow, contrary to his expectation, Kou Zhong was able to counterattack dauntlessly with such power that was even stronger than before.
Inevitably Ren Shaoming’s imposing manner was somewhat impeded; without any other choice he was forced to spin around. Unexpectedly he entered into Kou Zhong’s spear shadows, his meteor hammers moved fast toward Kou Zhong’s spearhead.
As a result Kou Zhong was unable to unleash the full potential of his spear technique. Holding the spear right in the middle, he used both the spearhead and the butt of the spear to parry the swift and fierce meteor hammers left and right.
The two combatants moved very fast. A midst the raging meteor hammers shadow, the spear shadows, two human shadows were weaving in and out like rabbit escaping from the falcon. It could easily be seen that they were both fighting with everything they had in a life and death battle.
Xu Ziling soared high toward the top of Ren Shaoming’s head. He could clearly see that Kou Zhong was already like an arrow at the end of its flight. Not daring to hesitate, he tossed away the thought of escaping from within his brain. With a cold shout both of his hands clawed down on the top of Ren Zhaoming’s skull.
By this time the several hundred people watching felt as if they were suffocating, hence nobody even thought about shouting and cheering. The arena was so quiet that it felt unreal.
The spear in Kou Zhong’s hands snapped into two pieces, while blood spurted wildly from his mouth; fortunately just before the meteor hammers touched his body, he managed to slip away like a fish, so that Ren Shaoming, who was absolutely sure that his hammer would hit Kou Zhong, had to see the hammer hit empty air instead.
Only then did Ren Shaoming lower his body in a horse stance, while raising his two hammers to meet Xu Ziling’s palms overhead.
Xu Ziling’s entire body was jolted by the collision and he was thrown up toward the empty air bathed in bright moonlight.
Kou Zhong was thrown away for more than three zhang, so that the spectators were forced to back off some more.
Before his footstep was even steadied, he already leaped up to the sky with outstretched arms, while exerting his entire strength to catch Xu Ziling’s body, which was thrown into the air. “Xiao Ling, run!” he shouted.
Ren Shaoming let out a long laugh. He also shot half way up before suddenly turned direction midair toward the two boys.
Xu Ziling reached backhandedly to grab Kou Zhong’s collar, pulling him along as they ascended two more zhang upwards before tossing Kou Zhong outward.
Everybody thought that knowing their defeat was decided, the two boys wanted to escape. They all jeered and shouted insult to the two boys as well as cheering for their leader.
The surrounding net expanded outwards, taking the shape of a kitten playing with a mouse. They wanted to see how Ren Shaoming was going to toy with the two boys.
Ren Shaoming started later, but he arrived sooner. When he was about a zhang away from the boys, he casually put his pair of meteor hammers behind his back first before reaching out to grab the two boys’ back.
The most unexpected thing happened.
Suddenly, right in the middle of an empty air, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling separated, and paused for a split second.
Ren Shaoming could not help but was greatly amazed, because he knew that it would be very difficult for him to stop midair and exert any strength, yet the opponents seemed to be able to hold their body still midair and borrow the reaction force to bounce back. While he was shocked out of his wits by this strange happening unfolding before his very eyes, like powerful arrows the two boys shot back toward him.
Everybody on the ground was also shouting in shock, yet nobody was able to stop whatever it was from happening.
At this point Ren Shaoming’s true qi had been depleted; he was no longer able to change his move to resist the enemy. On the other hand, the opponent was still able to go all-out; therefore, compared to before, the situation this time was vastly different.
Ren Shaoming took Kou Zhong’s punch and Xu Ziling’s palm strike, respectively. While he was going to borrow the reaction force to withdraw, suddenly his neck was wrapped by a flexible whip, which coiled forward from behind him, cutting off his escape route.
And then there was a sharp pain at the top of his head, because Xu Ziling’s finger jabbed his tianling acupoint, a vital acupoint at the top of the head.
Sucking in another mouthful of qi, Kou Zhong spun around; just before casting his whip away, he kicked the pit of Ren Shaoming’s stomach. Ren Shaoming’s breastbones shattered, blood spurted out wildly from his mouth.
By the time Fa Nan, Chang Zhen, Cui Jixiu and the others recovered from their shock and rushed over, the two boys already borrowed the impact force against Ren Shaoming to soar upward again. Their toes bounced on the fishing line, like big birds they soared toward another fishing line about eight zhang away.
Ren Shaoming’s lifeless body crashed heavily on the ground.
By the time Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling crawled up the bank of the Great River, they had already left Jiujiang about ten li behind.
This moment the sky has not brightened yet, but the two of them were extremely exhausted. They could only crouch on a mud mound on the shore, unable to move a single step.
Gasping for breath, Kou Zhong groaned, “Finally we got rid of that Ren guy. Ay! He was really formidable, I am afraid Fengshi Han would not be able to kill him; yet … Ouch!”
With difficulty Xu Ziling raised his head to give him a glance before burying his face in the mud again. Straining hard, he said, “You don’t know how ridiculous your battered and exhausted look right now. Is it painful?”
Still gasping for breath, Kou Zhong said, “As long as I am not laughing, it is still bearable. I just did not expect that under the circumstances, we were able to stab that dragon to death. Ha! Aiyo!”
After resting for half a day, Kou Zhong went on, “Since we are heading to Luoyang anyway, we might as well slaughter Yuwen Huagu along the way to avenge Niang.”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “You must never feel so pleased as to lose your sense of measure. This time we could kill Ren Shaoming, we relied on a little bit of good luck as well. It could be that because he had done so much injustice that he was finally strung through and filled with evil. Besides, although Yuwen Huagu’s fate is not so good that he suffered setback, he still has the Yuwen Clan’s support behind him. Plus Yuwen Shang is a grandmaster whose martial art cultivation enjoys equal fame with the ‘Heavenly Saber’ Song Que. Zhong Shao, you’d better concentrate on your effort to strive for the world!”
After a short silence Kou Zhong said in a heavy voice, “But how could I see you braving the danger alone?”
Xu Ziling said, “Let’s wait until we find the ‘Duke Yang Treasure’ before doing anything! Huh? A ship is coming our way!”
A medium sized sailboat appeared from the bend downstream, coming fast at their direction.
Kou Zhong strained his neck to look, “Did you see that?” he said happily, “The ship is flying the Song Clan banner; must be Song Yuzhi coming to find us.”
Xu Ziling responded heavily, “Before recovering our strength, it’s not a good idea to meet with anyone.”
Kou Zhong nodded his agreement. Together with Xu Ziling he crawled into a pile of rocks, resolutely suppressing his inclination and waited quietly while the ship came and went.
By daybreak, relying on their fantastic skill of complementary true qi, they managed to restore about eighty, ninety-percent of strength. After bathing in the river, although their clothes were still worn-out, it did not adversely affect their natural poise and shapely appearance.
After picking up some wild fruits to allay their hunger, they unleashed their shenfa to rush toward the river bent where Xiang Yushan was waiting per their earlier agreement.
As they run over the top of a hill, a beautiful scenery all around appeared before their eyes, so that they stopped to enjoy it.
White clouds floating slowly in the sky, the rushing water of Yangtze River was seen down below to their left, the water looked so clear and sparkling, the unbroken chain of peaks on the opposite bank reflecting the sunlight, while to their right was a wide-open space. A small village adorned the scenery, with thousands of pathways crisscrossed the plain, lined by thick, bluish-green mountains. In this quiet world, the only sound was the surging water and roaring torrents of the River.
A heroic feeling welled up in Kou Zhong’s heart, like the incessantly surging water of the Great River. Suddenly he shouted at the top of his lungs, “Kou Zhong is here!”
His voice echoed on both sides of the riverbank, it sounded like a low rumble of distant thunder.
Xu Ziling also felt his chest broadened. Since the muddleheaded ruler was killed and they escaped from Jiangdu, this was the first time that he felt this kind of ‘wide sea and open sky, which will enable me to soar high’ feeling.
Kou Zhong slowly breathed out the heavy feeling pressing his breast, letting his blood boiled with heroic emotion and powerful passion. He said word-by-word, “Starting from today, there will be no one under the heavens dare to despise us, two brothers. Whoever dares to do so will ultimately pay a painful price.”
Xu Ziling’s mood was also unusually good; he laughed and said, “It is still too early to say. We were relying on our joint power plus meticulous planning in advance before we were able to get rid of Ren Shaoming. Next time someone is going to deal with us, they would definitely be wary of us [orig. ‘he who comes is surely ill-intentioned, those well-meaning will not come’ (idiom)], so that it will be more difficult for us to deal with them.”
Kou Zhong stretched out and said, “What I fear the most right now is that no one will come as a sacrificial offering for us to temper ourselves. Hey! What are you looking at?”
Xu Ziling turned his head to look at the direction of Jiujiang city. “Didn’t you see the rising dust?” he asked, “It could be the pursuing troops.”
Kou Zhong shrieked and took the lead to dash down the hill.