Hou Xibai took Li Jing into the small reception hall. After sitting properly, Xu Ziling spoke in low voice, “Wanwan is inside the room, we need to be a bit more careful.”
Li Jing was stunned. Translated by foxs
Xu Ziling explained briefly, while also calmly told him that Shi Zhixuan has returned to Chang’an, as well as the purpose of his trip to Chang’an this time.
Knitting his brows, Li Jing said, “We thought that after Jingzhao Lian was disbanded, the situation in Chang’an would be simple and clear. After listening to Ziling’s analysis, it seems like it is a completely different matter.”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “I have not told you, Yin Zuwen was the person who used the Seven Needles to Control the Mind to Lei Dage.”
“What?” Li Jing and Hou Xibai blurted out together.
Subconsciously Xu Ziling turned his head to glance in the direction of the room where Wanwan was sleeping. Focusing his voice into a thread, he said, “Yin Zuwen must be in collusion with Yuanji and Chi Shengchun in the dark, to secretly expand their power. On the surface Yuanji is supporting Jiancheng, but actually he is harboring other intentions, hoping to borrow the demonic school’s power to help him to ultimately ascending the true Son of Heaven, ordain by heaven – the emperor’s throne.”
Li Jing looked at Hou Xibai and said, “As a demonic school person, what is Hou Gongzi’s view on this?” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Xu Ziling knew that due to Hou Xibai’s background, Li Jing did not trust him. If he did not dispel Li Jing’s doubt, their cooperation would be a problem; he said, “Xibai Xiong is a different kind of demonic school person, Li Dage cannot understand why the disciple trained by Shi Zhixuan unexpectedly could be a trustworthy person, but it is actually very logical. Ay! The reason within it is indeed beyond ordinary imagination, it’s very mysterious.”
This time, even Hou Xibai’s interest was piqued; he cheerfully said, “Ziling’s remark has a point. Ha! The fact is that I don’t understand it myself; what is it?”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “This is called the person on the spot is baffled, the onlooker sees clear. The issue stems from the split personality disorder that Shi Zhixuan suffered for the last dozen of years. One side is a cold-hearted, murdering-without-blinking-an-eye demonic lord; the other side is deeply-regretful, guilt-ridden passionate person. Therefore, when he imparted the Hua Jian Pai’s martial art to Xibai Xiong, probably due to the influence of Hua Jian Pai’s xinfa, he was more inclined to become that passionate person. But then when he trained Yang Xuyan, he was also influenced by Bu Tian Pai’s xinfa, so that Yang Xuyan, Yang Yong’s orphan, became cold-hearted assassin. The result is that Xibai Xiong and Yang Xuyan become two extremely different persons.”
Slapping the table, Hou Xibai said, “Brilliantly explained! So Yang Xuyan and I standing opposite to each other, unexpectedly it was facilitated by Shi Shi, one person, representing the struggle between good and evil in Shi Shi’s innermost being. If I defeat Yang Xuyan, what would Shi Shi think?”
Li Jing spoke heavily, “Yang Xuyan is an important chess piece in Shi Zhixuan’s hands, he can bring out hard-to-predict consequences. Among the old Sui’s civil ministers and great generals, those who supported Yang Guang are few, those who supported Yang Yong are many. Once the person ascending to the Son of Heaven position is lacking the virtue and the hope to suppress and subdue the world, Yang Xuyan could raise Yang Yong’s orphan military banner to call their former subordinates. Do you understand what I mean?” Translated by foxs
The two nodded to express their understanding, knowing that he was referring to Li Shimin being defeated and rejected, or perhaps being killed, and if the people could not accept that, perhaps calamity and chaos and division might continue, and then the people might remember the Sui dynasty when Yang Jian held the political power in his hands. Yang Xuyan could bring about this expectation and delusion.
Smiling wryly, Hou Xibai said, “In that case, Shi Shi killing me is absolutely necessary [orig. circumstances that require action], because I am representing his good and honest side, the product of his split personality, hence he will not allow me, this different kind of demonic person, to live in front of his eyes.”
Feeling a headache, Li Jing asked, “Where exactly is Shi Zhixuan hiding place in Chang’an? If we could grasp his whereabouts, we could focus our strength to make arrangement to have him killed, to break his Bu Si Yin Fa, to rid the world of evil.”
Finished speaking, he looked at Hou Xibai to see his reaction. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
But Xu Ziling was overcome with emotional stirring; with Kou Zhong, he never needed to conceal anything, everything could be revealed and discussed in the open. But facing Li Jing and Hou Xibai, which could be considered ‘brothers’, due to everybody was burdened with different background and standpoint, he did not dare to casually reveal something like Holy Monk Dade was Shi Zhixuan’s other personification, for fear that he might stir up unexpected consequences. Similarly, because of Hou Xibai’s position as ‘Shi Zhixuan’s direct disciple’, from the beginning Li Jing has always been suspicious toward him.
Hou Xibai’s handsome countenance revealed a blank expression; shaking his head, he said with a sigh, “I don’t know. Ay! He is the person who singlehandedly trained me; although I can’t possibly take the initiative to deal with him, but if he wanted to kill me, I would do everything possible to save my life. This is our humble school’s rule.”
Hearing that, Li Jing was relieved instead. Nodding his head, he said, “I understand Hou Gongzi’s position!”
Turning to Xu Ziling, he said, “I wonder if Ziling has any thought about Shi Zhixuan?”
Hou Xibai stood up. Lacking vitality, he said, “I’ll go see Wan Jie’er [elder sister].” He left because he wanted to avoid arousing suspicion.
The two followed his figure as it disappeared into the rear section, both were feeling heavy.
Lowering his voice, Xu Ziling said, “What we are facing is probably the most formidable figure of the demonic way since the beginning of history; any method that we think will usually yield results will not work. In Chang’an, this kind of densely populated city, relying on his Bu Si Yin Fa, it’s definitely easy for him to kill anybody and then calmly get away. Even more, this man’s intelligence is outstanding, his alertness is high, I wonder if Li Dage can momentarily hold back your troops without moving, to calmly watch for any changes?” Translated by foxs
Li Jing shot a glance toward the door behind which Hou Xibai was disappearing; frowning, he said, “Aren’t you worried for your good friend’s life?”
Xu Ziling replied, “My intuition says that one day I am still in Chang’an, Shi Zhixuan still won’t make his move to take care of his disciple.”
Stunned, Li Jing asked, “Why is that?”
Xu Ziling briefly explained his relationship with Shi Qingxuan and Shi Zhixuan, but he did not mention that ‘Shi Qingxuan was Shi Zhixuan’s only flaw’ aspect, because he felt that this was a personal matter between Shi Qingxuan and Shi Zhixuan; it was not appropriate for him to make it public.
Blowing a mouthful of cold air, Li Jing said, “Even if I wanted to deal with Shi Zhixuan, it is simply beyond my capability. All right! Qin Wang ordered me to give you full support, what exactly can I do for you?” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Xu Ziling stared fixedly at him for half a day. He spoke heavily, “This time I am coming to Chang’an, the main objective is to ruthlessly kill every member of the utterly heartless Xiang Family to the last one, to pull them up by the roots.”
He rarely spoke like this, but because of Susu and his personal encounter with the Xiang Family, father and son’s evil conduct, he finally hardened his heart and decided to carry out the ruthless extermination of the Xiang Family.
Li Jing’s tiger-body shook, his pair of eyes exploded in refined light, he coldly said, “Even without Qin Wang’s order, I, Li Jing will definitely help you with all my strength.”
After Li Jing left, Xu Ziling went to the bedroom to look for Hou Xibai, only to see Hou Xibai was sitting on the bedside with blank expression on his face, while Wanwan’s fragrant footprints had gone without a trace.
Xu Ziling sat down next to Hou Xibai; deeply concerned, he asked, “Xibai …”
Hou Xibai handed him a letter and said with a bitter smile, “When I came in, she already left, leaving this note, which ought to be for you.”
Xu Ziling took the note and read it. There was only one line of lucid and elegant, relaxed and leisurely characters written on it, saying, ‘Love you, hate you, a whole lifetime’, eight characters [ai ni hen ni, yi sheng yi shi]. The addressee was ‘Ziling’, and the signature on the bottom was unexpectedly a faint print of her lips.
Hou Xibai leaned over to look, he said, “A romantic note. It must be because of her Sheng Fa [holy method] has advanced greatly that her mood was particularly good, momentarily she revealed her true feeling. Otherwise, she might just write ‘Love you’, two characters. Translated by foxs
Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling asked, “Where did the letter paper come from?”
Hou Xibai replied, “She went to Xiaodi’s little study room on the opposite side and helped herself to some paper. Really strange though, I have been paying attention to her, but I did not hear anything.”
Xu Ziling drew out a mouthful of cold air, he nodded and said, “Your guess is not incorrect, I was paying attention to any movement from her, yet unexpectedly I did not sense her at all. Ay! Very crafty, unexpectedly she had taken advantage of me!”
Hou Xibai sighed and said, “In this matter, disaster and happiness are difficult to anticipate, at least, as far as I’m concerned, it is so, because one day Shi Shi is unable to put her in order, he may put off putting me in order.”
Xu Ziling looked at him for quite half a day, “Why is this morning Hou Xiong suddenly become this negative and passive toward your honorable master?”
Hou Xibai returned to his relaxed, natural self; he smiled and said, “Ziling must be referring to what I told Li Jing just now. Ha! Li Jing does not trust me, why should I, Hou Xibai tell him the truth?” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “So that’s what happened. How’s your progress in your Bu Si Yin Fa training?”
Hou Xibai shook his head and said, “The more I trained, the more confused I became, the more I am losing my confidence. Bu Si Yin Fa and Hua Jian Pai’s xinfa are entirely different; it speaks about harming others for one’s personal benefit; it does not fit very well with my character.”
Xu Ziling said, “Exhausted then change, changing then understanding. Based on my experience, the process in martial art training is by using the shape of the wave to carry on; sometimes you climb to the top of the wave, sometimes you sink to the bottom of the wave. When you are at the bottom of the valley, there is a high possibility that you are about to climb to another peak.”
Hou Xibai agreed. He said, “Your comment is very reasonable, perhaps it would be better if I recite the Bu Si Yin Fa mnemonic to you, maybe you can find a way to break the Bu Si Yin.”
Surprised, Xu Ziling said, “Isn’t it akin to you helping me to deal with your honorable master?”
Without any care Hou Xibai shrugged his shoulders and said, “So what’s the problem? He wants to kill me, could it be that I must sit quietly, waiting for death?”
The two men’s eyes met, they burst into laughter at the same time. The heavy atmosphere was completely gone.
Xu Ziling said with a laugh, “Let’s put studying Bu Si Yin Fa on hold; can we assume that because of Xiaodi’s matter, your honorable master temporarily will not come to deal with you?”
Hou Xibai nodded and said, “It should be. Last night I deliberately gave Shi Shi a chance, but he did not make the slightest move.” Translated by foxs
Muttering to himself irresolutely, Xu Ziling said, “But if he thought that I left Chang’an, won’t it be terrible?”
“Don’t worry,” Hou Xibai said, “Because Shi Shi had just arrived last night, he did not know my current situation. But if he saw Yang Xuyan, he would find out from him that I am creating the Hundred Beauty Picture for Li Yuan; killing me would be beating the grass to scare the snake, it would affect his grand plan of unifying the demonic school. Therefore, when I said that Wanwan is borrowing you to master the Sheng Fa, disaster and happiness are difficult to anticipate, this is what I am talking about. What’s your plan for today?”
Xu Ziling responded indifferently, “These days, I will be very busy; I have to go to the pawnshop to attend a class, not only I must learn the ins and outs of running a pawnshop, I also have to learn how to speak with Pingyao accent.”
Finished speaking, he stood up, put one hand on Hou Xibai’s shoulder, and said with a smile, “Get a good sleep! I’ll be back tonight to eat with you and study the Bu Si Yin Fa. If by the time you recite halfway I do not vomit blood and sustain injuries, I would thank the Heaven and thank the Earth.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Hou Xibai climbed into the bed, kicked off his boots, and said with a laugh, “This is the bed that the beauty has slept on, most probably Xiaodi will have a sweet and terrifying, love and hate intermingle – dream, ha!”
Xu Ziling left the Rong Da Da Ya of Beili [reminder: glorious attainment big pawn (shop) and northern neighborhood/district, respectively] just as the decorated lanterns were lit. Endless stream of horses and carriages was flowing along the main street of Beili, where the famous pleasure houses and casinos were located; the atmosphere was very lively.
He was now the yellow-faced Yong Qin plus fake beard; even Kou Zhong would have to take second look before he could recognize Xu Ziling, other people need not be mentioned.
Chen Fu of the Rong Da Da Ya shop himself was a trustworthy man, and then Li Jing personally paid him a visit, to let him know that this matter had obtained the Heavenly Policy Mansion’s full support, so he was willing to cooperate sincerely, and thus Xu Ziling’s burden was lessened somewhat.
Hu Xiaoxian gave him an inspiration so he came up with a wonderful, as if it was opened by the Heaven itself – way to disguise himself as Situ Furong, and made him Chi Shengchun’s rival in love, and thus he held the initiative in his hands, rather than passively waiting for Chi Shengchun to take the bait. The problem was how to have Situ Furong to become a threat to Chi Shengchun proposing marriage. If he came across the ‘Da Xian’ Hu Fo only one time and was immediately turned into dust, it would only be a joking matter. Moreover, this matter involved offending Li Yuanji and Yin Zuwen; how could Situ Furong, who only had money but lacking powerful backer, compete for Hu Xiaoxian’s hands in marriage without raising any suspicion? All these were the problems that must be addressed.
While thinking about it, he found himself standing in front of the Ming Tang Wo’s main gate. While he was hesitating whether he ought to come inside to pay a visit, but was also afraid he might come across Hu Xiaoxian, a group of men was coming straight in his direction and entered Ming Tang Wo.
One man in the middle was a cut above others, yet he was still wearing a tall hat, hence it was very conspicuous; to his surprise, it was his and Kou Zhong’s Ol’ Dad, ‘Du Fuwei’, walking under escort of five martial art masters, looking quite impressive. Translated by foxs
He looked at Du Fuwei, Old Du was also looking at him. The two men’s eyes met, Du Fuwei’s expression was still wooden, looking like a Diao Si Gui [ghost of someone who died of hanging], but Xu Ziling knew that Du Fuwei recognized this ‘son’ of his, because he did not conceal the expression showing in his eyes at all.
Du Fuwei suddenly stopped; the four personal attendants promptly stopped as well. Xu Ziling knew he was giving him a chance, hence he slowly walked by his side, to listen to his instructions.
Sure enough, Du Fuwei said, “The vegetarian shop across the street’s outward appearance does not look too bad, after we pay a visit to Da Xian, let’s go see if their vegetarian dishes are as outstanding as their shop front.”
Xu Ziling understood tacitly; a warm, familiar and trusting feeling of joy welled up in his heart, he kept moving forward. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Kou Zhong sat alone on top of a small hill, gazing into the distance at the lanterns inside the City of Hulao at the end of the plain in front of him.
The Thousand-Li Dream was quietly nibbling on the grass behind him, while the falcon Wuming was circling in the sky on reconnaissance duty, performing her eagle dance, indicating that someone was approaching.
The City of Hulao under the moonlight represented the strongest military stronghold in Wang Shichong’s eastern battlefront; if Hulao fell, then the neighboring Guancheng, Xingyang, and Zhengyang could not be protected either. If he could defend Hulao firmly, even though all lines around Luoyang fell, his Shao Shuai Army would still have the opportunity to have their provision and supplies delivered to Luoyang via Hulao, to help Wang Shichong resist the Li Clan’s main forces; therefore, it was of a great importance.
Thinking to this point, Kou Zhong suddenly relaxed, thinking that as long as he could defend Hulao and Yanshi, two cities, there would be a great chance that he could make Li Shimin suffer a big defeat, and reverse the momentum of the current Li Clan’s hegemony over the world.
The sound of hoof beats was getting nearer.
Kou Zhong sprang up and said with a laugh, “I was afraid you guys missed the appointed time and place, and would have me waiting here three days and three nights in vain; that would be terrible!”
The new comers were six of his eight Zhen Dajiang [garrison great general, see Book 37 Chapter 1]: Xuan Yong, Bai Wenyuan, Jiao Hongjin, Bu Tianzhi, Gao Zhandao, and Chen Changling, the Six-Ministry Supervisor Xu Xingzhi, and Chen Laomou.
Sitting on horseback, Chen Laomou laughed and said, “We received Da Xiaojie’s pigeon-post message, and were afraid we might arrive early! The ones waiting in vain would have been us.” Translated by foxs
Xuan Yong laughed as he dismounted from his horse and said, “Ren Dajie must remain in Pengliang, because she cannot stand the weather here.”
Bu Tianzhi was the first to pull Kou Zhong into a hug while laughing heartily and said, “Although Shaoshuai traveled far outside the Pass, but the news concerning your military success in spreading your might in the prairie were flying in like snowflakes. Furthermore, it was exaggerated and twisted so far that it was hard to believe.”
Coming to the two men’s side, Gao Zhandao cheerfully joined in, “For example, they said that each of the three of you fought ten thousand enemies, killing the Tujue until they were in a sorry state, as well as you pursued and attack the enemy for a thousand li, even Xieli’s command tent was pulled off the ground.”
Laughing involuntarily, Xu Xingzhi said, “However, it was a great help to rouse the Shao Shuai Army’s morale; towering figures of various ways came to throw their lot with us, so that we are growing rapidly.”
Letting Gao Zhandao go, Kou Zhong asked in great delight, “So how many combat-ready men do we currently have?” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Xu Xingzhi replied, “We now have a total strength of thirty thousand men, but those could be called well-trained elite troops are only about ten thousand men.”
Bai Wenyuan said, “Shaoshuai only needs to give your order, we could deploy these ten thousand men into the battlefield any moment, I guarantee they won’t bring disgrace to Shaoshuai’s prestige.”
Kou Zhong excitedly said, “You guys do all the work, naturally I have nothing to worry about. How’s our Shao Shuai Army base camp situation now?”
Jiao Hongjin replied, “Wang Shichong, Dou Jiande, Li Zitong, Shen Faxing, and the others are busy with their own problems, hence nobody has the time to come to provoke us. Therefore, after obtaining large quantities of wealth that have been brought back from the Duke Yang’s Treasure, not only we rebuilt Pengcheng, we also lower the taxation to stimulate workers, peasants and merchants, all kinds of businesses. Plus we have the full support of Da Xiaojie, Long You Bang and the Song Clan of the south, so Pengliang is becoming more and more prosperous, and is being established as the foundation of Shaoshuai striving for the world.”
Chen Changlin said, “Mo Lao and I, following the instruction from Lu Da Shuai’s [great commander] treasure trunks [for books] that Shaoshuai handed over to us, built a fleet of mobile and powerful-in-combat navy, the number of warship is increasing steadily. One more year, and then we won’t be afraid of the Li Clan’s enormous fleet of ships.”
Kou Zhong spoke in delight, “All good news; it seems that my good luck has finally come.”
Xu Xingzhi said, “Everything is inside the secret gong and tight [battle] drum, waiting only for Shaoshuai’s command.” Translated by foxs
Xuan Yong said, “According to our spies, Li Shimin assembling his army in Guanzhong and moving this troops to Luoyang is just like an arrow on the bow, this is the crucial point of success or failure. If we could help Wang Shichong beat back the Li Army, then it will be Dou Jiande and Wang Shichong’s turn to unfold the struggle over the various cities on both banks of the Yellow River. We could go down south to attack Li Zitong, if we acquire Jiangdu, we will greatly increase the bargaining chip to contend for hegemony.”
Kou Zhong waved and sent out a whistle to the sky. Under everybody’s astonished gaze, Wuming swoop down through the clouds, smoothly and steadily landed on his shoulder. Kou Zhong reached out to stroke Wuming’s feather, while explaining the origin of his darling. He said, “I will teach you some basic methods of training and raising falcon, I will also have to trouble you to bring it back to Pengliang and take a good care of her. My precious horse will also have to be taken away together.”
Stunned, Xu Xingzhi said, “Shaoshuai decided to go to Luoyang alone?”
Kou Zhong nodded and said with a sigh, “If I led you and more than the ten-thousand-man Shao Shuai Army to Luoyang, it would only provoke Wang Shichong’s jealousy, therefore, even the nice little Wuming, I do not dare to take along and display her ostentatiously. Ay! This man Wang Shichong came from mysterious background, he has complicated powerful backer, it is really hard to explain in a few words. The best policy right now is for me to go alone to Luoyang to see what we can do. You guys make full preparation to go to war and listen to my news.”
Again he cast his gaze toward Hulao, his heart was burning with hope, thinking inwardly that as long as Laozi could help Wang Shichong defend this battlefront on the east side of the Yellow River’s southern bank, Li Shimin would undoubtedly lose this battle. This was something that he could, as well as had the ability to accomplish.