Book 3 Chapter 1 – People in Terrible Situation
Translated by Foxs
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling put on their tattered and wet clothes, and ran over the mountain and fields, giggling and laughing, heading toward the direction of what they guessed to be Pengcheng.
Right now they did not have a single wen, even their weapons were gone, nevertheless, in their heart they were exceedingly cheerful; there was a joyful feeling that ‘the whole sea and sky were wide open for me to crisscross’.
The more they ran, the more the joy in their heart grew.
Although they often felt that the breathing from their mouth and nose could not keep up, their inner breathing was circulating endlessly.
Kou Zhong jumped onto a boulder. From its top he soared high into the air and made a flip as he descended onto the slop below. Unfortunately his footing was unstable, he fumbled three, four zhang down the slope into a clump of underbrush at the bottom of the hill. This time even his left sleeve was caught by the twigs and tore, exposing his thick and solid arm.
In his playful spirit Xu Ziling wanted to suffer the same fate, so he also rolled down and crashed onto Kou Zhong. Holding their head in their hands, the two boys laughed heartily. In their delight they forgot their appearance.
“Ah!” Kou Zhong suddenly exclaimed; pointing to the far away sky he said, “What is that?”
Xu Ziling raised his head and looked; seeing bright and flashing red light, he said in horror, “Fire!”
Kou Zhong sprang up and said, “Let’s go and see!”
It was a burned down small town. All the houses have burned through the roof. Inside and outside the town was full of human and animal bodies scattered around. Some have turned into barely recognizable charred remains.
The houses were still burning, creating crackling noise and emitting unceasing stream of thick black smoke. Apart from that, this supposedly lively and prosperous market town had become a deathly still ghost town. The survivors must have fled far away.
Some of the corpses still had dried bloodstains. Unexpectedly the murders did not distinguish men, women, young and old; everybody was massacred cruelly.
Looking at all these, the two boys’ eyes were brimming with hot tears, but their hearts were as cold as ice.
Could it be that Du Fuwei’s men committed such atrocity? Why did they commit this kind of worse-than-a-beast action?
From the west of town they heard faint noise of carriages, horses and men. But the noise was moving away. The two boys clenched their teeth and madly chased away.
Passing through a thick wooded area, the two boys were stunned. They saw along the official road heading north a large number of Sui troops. Their body armor and helmet were in disarray, their banner askew; evidently these were retreating defeated troops.
Falling behind at the end of the line were countless mule carts. Due to the load they carried, they lagged some distance away from the troops’ main body, just like an old man struggling and trudging along this section of the road.
The two boys were bewildered and were just wondering if it was this group of defeated soldiers who committed the heinous crime when suddenly from a mule cart near the end of the line they heard a man’s malicious laughter, followed by a naked woman, whose body was covered in blood, was thrown out of the cart. ‘Bang!’ the woman landed on the muddy road, motionless. Obviously she was dead.
The Sui troop driving the cart laughed heartily and said, “Lao Zhang [ole Zhang], you are all right. That was the third.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were burning with anger. They could not hold it anymore and ran madly after the cart.
The thief soldier, who had just raped and murdered an innocent woman, lifted himself up from the cart; suddenly seeing the two boys, he drew his saber and with a loud laugh said, “[email protected] survivor [orig. dead leftover], was it your Niang that I just f*ck?”
Righteous indignation filled the two boys’ heart; without even remembering that they had no weapons, they flew toward the Sui soldier.
Seeing the two boys know martial art, the Sui soldier jumped in fright; he cried out to the driver to turn around and help him, while at the same time he swept his saber horizontally to prevent the two boys from landing on the cart.
Kou Zhong was about to take him head-on, but then he suddenly realized that he had no weapon in his hand. Without even thinking he sent out a mouthful of true qi, unexpectedly, for the first time ever, while he was still midair, his body rose and the enemy’s saber missed by a hairbreadth. With great difficulty he somersaulted over the enemy’s head.
In front, the Sui soldier driving the cart raised his lance and thrust it toward Kou Zhong’s chest. It happened right when Kou Zhong, who was still midair, suddenly realized that he had made a breakthrough; his heart was shaken, he abruptly sucked a mouthful of ‘physical qi’, hence his true qi became disturbed, he landed heavily on the sacks of grain, the cargo of the mule cart, and thus escaped the enemy’s lance.
In the meantime, Xu Ziling’s right foot had just landed on the railing of the mule cart. Seeing the saber swept, using this foot as the axis he hastily revolved his body around and fast as lightning his left foot kicked the enemy’s left ear.
Both his qi and strength were transmitted via the foot, the result was so brutal that the Sui soldier did not even have time to cry out when his neck bone was broken while his body was thrown behind the cart and he died on the spot.
It was the very first time that Xu Ziling ever killed anybody. Horrified, his true qi was disturbed and he also fell on the pile of grains.
Kou Zhong had just raised his hand to grab the incoming lance; clutching the enemy’s lance, he sent out his strength to pull hard. Unable to hold his footing steady, the Sui soldier, the driver of the cart, slipped between the driver seat and the cart. Immediately a shrill, blood-curling screech was heard.
By this time the Sui soldiers at the front of the line already knew something was happening. A dozen or so riders turned around to charge.
“Let’s go!” Kou Zhong shouted. The two boys hastily jumped off the cart; like a wisp of smoke they darted into the dense forest and disappeared without a trace.
The two boys ran for more than ten li at a stretch, before they finally sat down to rest. Xu Ziling sighed and said, “I just killed a man! How would I know that with one kick I sent him to his death?”
Kou Zhong wrapped his arm around Xu Ziling’s shoulder and said, “Death of those people who murdered, burned and raped innocent people need not be begrudged; don’t let your heart be troubled.”
After a short pause, he continued, “Those dog soldiers in Yangzhou, if they don’t go on the rampage with total disregard of the law, then they bully innocent citizens; I just did not expect that murder and arson are also their masterpiece. No wonder so many people rise in rebellion. Compared to last time, our Ol’ Die’s men can be considered not too bad. Hey! Did you hear that?”
Xu Ziling focused his attention to listen carefully; sure enough there was a faint sound of battle carried by the wind. The sound seemed to come from a very wide area, as if two very large troops were fighting each other in life and death battle.
Remembering the town people who were massacred by the Sui army, their heart was burning with anger as they sprang up at once.
Kou Zhong said in deep regret, “If I had known earlier, I would have seized that lance, so that we could stake our lives against those dog soldiers.”
A murderous aura bubbled up in Xu Ziling’s heart; expressing his agreement he said, “We can go to look at the situation first, won’t seizing two sabers be easy then? After all, what we lack the most is battle experience. Let those thief soldiers, who are worse than a beast, have a taste of our saber.”
The two boys have just had a small test of their skill with remarkable result, so now their confidence was at its peak.
Kou Zhong nodded and said, “It seems that we now have some real skill, it’s just that we don’t have a chance for more practice. Xiongdi, come! Today is our first day of crisscrossing the Jianghu unhindered.”
Screaming with joy, they rushed toward the sound of battle.
After swimming across a stream, they unleashed their lightness skill. Going over a small hill, they went straight up the slope. Upon reaching the top, a wide clearing suddenly appeared before their eyes.
They saw on the plains below two armies were engaged in fierce battle. One side wore the uniform of Sui army, approximately ten thousand men strong; the other side wore one-color dark green plain clothes. Their number was only about one-fourth of the Sui army, but every single one’s martial art skill was not weak, their formation was still intact. As they charged toward the Sui army, the latter was smashed and scattered, and could not exploit the advantage of their superior number.
On the other side of the plains, there was a small hill, which was where the command center of the warriors in green was located. There were several horses, with their riders on their back, standing on top of the hill. They were using red, blue, and yellow, three colors signal light to control the advance and retreat movements of the warriors in green.
It was the first time that the two boys witnessed the desperate situation on the battlefield; momentarily they were stunned and forgot the purpose of their coming here.
After a good while, Kou Zhong came to his senses. Pointing to a cluster of sparse lights farther down, he said, “That must be another village or town. Perhaps the warriors in green are trying to stop the Sui army from going over there to kill and burn. What has actually happened?”
Xu Ziling sucked in a mouthful of cold air and said, “If they are people from Ol’ Die’s side and we interfere, won’t it be the same as delivering ourselves to the mouth of the tiger?”
Chapter 1, Part 2
HPC, Jaya, Ysabel, Anh, Zlack, you are welcome. CFT, thanks. I'll include the note in my source doc. Bocah, you are right, Patriots scored two touchdowns in the last quarter. I feel sorry for Sweetstrawberry, he must be very upset.
Kou Zhong thought for a moment, and then said, “How can Ol’ Die’s men have such a neat uniform? They must be from another militia. Hey, Xiao Ling! Are you afraid?”
Xu Ziling laughed aloud. Reaching out toward a tree nearby, he exerted his strength and broke two thick branches, about the same diameter as a child’s arm, and around a zhang long. Tossing one branch to Kou Zhong, he said with a laugh, “To uphold chivalry, to be promoted and gain wealth, we are relying completely on these guys.”
After removing the foliage, Kou Zhong shouldered the tree branch and theatrically said, “Xu Zhuangshi [hero/warrior/fighter], please be my guest!”
Xu Ziling waved his branch several times in the air, and then holding it solemnly with both hands, he started to sing, “Whoosh, whoosh, cries the wind; River Yi is cold; brave men [zhuangshi, see above] once gone, will definitely return. Ha! Laozi [‘I, your daddy’, used arrogantly or jocularly] is going!”
Amidst their laughter, the two boys, one in front the other followed behind, rushed down the hill.
But as they were about to charge to the plains, there was the ‘swish, swish’ sound of arrows. From the bushes about ten zhang ahead, a row of arrows were shot toward them.
The two boys have never had any experience dealing with arrows before, plus they had never anticipated there would be an ambush here. Terrified, they rolled down on the ground in such a sorry state. But the arrows flew overhead; they had just escaped a very dangerous situation.
The two boys’ courage vanished immediately. Crawling and rolling, they hid behind a cluster of rocks and trees that extended over ten zhang wide, and no longer dared to move.
Like a tidal wave the sound of stampeding feet flooding over their hiding place. Suddenly there were Sui soldiers to their left and right, each one with a lance in his hand, charging toward them. It was not even clear how many soldiers were there.
It was only then did the two boys realize that while the warriors in green were heavily surrounded, the Sui troops who intercepted them right now were actually to prevent reinforcement from warriors in green’s side from coming to their aid.
If the two boys had a choice, they would prefer to escape without any trace and not trying to be heroes. However, at this moment it was impossible to get away. Thereupon they jumped up and brandished their tree trunk, while exerting the entire strength in their body, wildly sweeping and striking the enemy.
Four lances were struck by the tree trunk and flew away, two of the lance wielders were even hit by the trunk that they dropped to the ground with head bleeding and broken.
Meanwhile, the enemy was in front and behind them, surrounding them with torches lifted high, bathing the area around them bright red.
A squad of saber and hatchet wielders burst into the encirclement, their chop and hack were directed toward the boys’ tree trunk. Battle cry shook the heavens. While the two boys managed to repel another round of attack, the tree trunk in their hands were only less than half their original size, but half of the enemy were not hurt yet.
Realizing their dire situation, Kou Zhong called out, “Climb up the rock!”
Xu Ziling somersaulted and followed him to fall back behind the pile of rocks. The enemy shouted, over ten lances were thrown toward them.
In this critical moment, the two boys became calm instead, as if they did not hear any sound, as well as no sound could penetrate their keen ears. The true qi within their body circulated at a rate several times faster than normal; in contrast, the pursuing troops and the thrown lances seemed to be slowing down considerably. They were able to see clearly the angle, as well as the speed and the order of arrival of each lance being thrown. It was a kind of feeling that even in their dream it was hard to achieve.
They stood back to back and brandished their tree trunk, which were only about four chi left. Poking to the left and sweeping to the right, blocking the front and resisting the rear, their movements flowed naturally, their defense was so tight that not one drop of water could trickle through.
When the enemy saw their lance lost its effectiveness, five, six saber and hatchet wielders pounced onto the pile of rocks, they wanted to engage the boys in close combat, but the consequences was fatal.
Kou Zhong ducked down to dodge a broadsword, his tree trunk swept the saber wielder’s ankle. The man immediately fell to the ground. Kou Zhong easily snatched the opponent’s long saber and swiftly swept it across the lower abdomen of another Sui troop wielding an axe.
Meanwhile Xu Ziling also snatched another long saber; immediately his spirit rose. He threw the tree trunk and it hit a soldier, sending him tumbling down into the crevices between the rocks.
Xu Ziling immediately jumped toward Kou Zhong and said, “We break out!” Letting out a shout, they left the rock and charged into the enemy formation.
Xu Ziling unleashed the Bloody Battle Ten Styles taught by Li Jing, which would show its full potential in the battlefield anyway. He strode across, his long saber moved like lightning flashes. The saber did not seem to have anything special or amazing about it, but the enemy being attacked found it difficult to evade, and the lance in their hands seemed to lose its usefulness to block. Xu Ziling easily entered the gap, slashed the fatal point on their chest, and they fell back, their blood splashed, and their life gone.
Kou Zhong played with his wrist more. First he deflected two thrusting lances, and then he swept his saber across, a Sui soldier immediately had his throat slashed, and fell backward with miserable shriek.
The two boys had never imagined that the Bloody Battle Ten Styles was this formidable; their courage doubled. They felt that although the enemy was numerous, they were able to see clearly the strength and weakness of each enemy attack, and all the subtle changes surrounding the attack, so much so that from the pressure of the enemy’s attack, they could even feel the power distribution on the peripheral; such feeling was certainly indescribable.
In that instant they forgot about life and death. In this noisy, chaotic battle, they displayed their survival instinct. In the face of hundreds of enemy with their flashing saber, spear, sword and lance, they remained fearless.
Quite naturally they worked together, and the coordination between them was like ‘seamless heavenly clothes’, they moved rapidly among the enemy ranks; you attack I defend, I block you deflect.
If they had to create this kind of combined attack technique, in normal times they would not be able to come up with anything even if they thought until their brains burst. But this instant it simply came out like tidal waves, as if it was bestowed by the Heaven, without any trace of rough work-in-progress [orig. hatchet and chisel marks].
Xu Ziling brandished his saber and chopped ferociously, the true qi in his body was like the Great River surging out following the saber. The enemy did not even have time to raise their weapon to block, they could only watch helplessly as his saber, fast as lightning, entered their defense line and they fell to the ground in terror.
Kou Zhong’s saber was ever-changing; the seemingly endless supply of strength from deep within his body followed the saber. Although the opponent exerted all his strength to block the saber, they could not deflect Kou Zhong’s chop even half a fen; worse yet, the person was carried by the saber’s momentum that he flipped and fell dead.
After Fu Junchuo taught them the ‘Nine Mysteries Great Technique’, in this extremely dangerous situation the two boys combined the ‘Nine Mysteries Great Technique’ with the totally-unrelated-to-martial-art ‘Secret to Long Life’, plus Li Jing’s ‘Bloody Battle Ten Styles’ and the Beautiful Shifu’s ‘Bird Crossing Technique’ to create their own one-of-a-kind fighting technique.
This moment inside the forest of lance, they felt that they could see gaps everywhere, hence they easily brushed the enemy’s lance away and advanced into the enemy’s line of defense; then the enemy would be helpless to do anything and had to resign to their fate of being slaughtered. With each enemy downed, the power of their saber increased, until the enemy suffered a crushing defeat.
Originally the enemy saw that since there were only two of them, they only dispatched a company of approximately a hundred Sui soldiers to intercept. Now that they saw how the two boys charged into the formation left and right, and how formidable the boys’ saber was, the Sui soldiers on the outer layer of the encirclement who cherished their lives scattered in all directions.
Actually, by this time the two boys have already felt that their qi was depleted; therefore, seeing the opening, they hastily pressed on with all their strength, in a flash they sprinted out and broke through the heavy siege, and successfully escaped.
After running about a hundred zhang or so, they reached the dense forest. The two boys threw themselves on the ground, while panting heavily.
Still wheezing, Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Ha! It worked! Such a big battle failed to kill us; have you ever thought about that?”
Xu Ziling stuck his saber into the mud; holding the hilt, he said while still gasping for breath, “In fight like that, we wasted too much energy. We should have preserved our strength so that we won’t have soft hands and weak legs like now.”
“Are you injured?” Kou Zhong asked, “My back was cut twice; luckily I could dodge quite fast.”
Xu Ziling shook his head, “Only my left thigh got a scrape from the lance, tearing my pants; not a big deal.”
After catching his breath, Kou Zhong said, “Shall we fight again or not? That militia does not seem to be well-off.”
Xu Ziling sat up and said, “Of course we fight! If we let those inhuman Sui soldiers enter that village or perhaps a market town, that dreadful situation we just saw might happen again.”
Kou Zhong crawled up in great delight. “Now that’s my good Xiongdi,” he said, “This time we must be a bit smarter; don’t let them cut us off midway.”
The two boys leaped to the top of a tree to be able to see the situation clearly, and then looping around a large circle they ran to the battlefield.
In this instant, they felt that they have grown up and not just two marketplace ruffians.
 From ‘River Yi Song’ [yi shui ge], another name ‘Song of Crossing River Yi’. The song is part of the Chu Ci, the Songs of Chu, ancient book of poems collected during Han, but especially from State of Chu. Allegedly it was composed by Jing Ke from the Warring States period [475-221 BC], who was commissioned by Prince Dan of Yan to go to Qin State to assassinate King of Qin, at the farewell dinner he gave by the River Yi. (baike.baidu.com) The original song, as translated by Yuri Pines, is as follows: ‘Xiao xiao cries the wind, Yi waters are cold; Brave men, once gone, Never come back!’ Here, Xu Ziling changed the last line to ‘will definitely return’.