Book 20 Chapter 10 – Demonic Emperor Shady Empress
Following close behind Shi Qingxuan, Xu Ziling’s heart was full of questions.
Earlier he clearly heard she said that by sealing the exits, they would be buried with the dead, which clearly implied that the mechanism to control the gate must be located inside the cave. Once it was set in movement, even she herself would not have time to escape out, hence she would end up accompanying them in death.
But now Shi Qingxuan seemed to say that the switch was outside the gate, that closing the gate would be effortless and easy, which she would conveniently do as they were leaving.
The two statements were contradictory.
This moment Shi Qingxuan was crossing the entrance to the big cave where there was no bat in it; suddenly she looked back and signaled him with her eyes.
Xu Ziling was extremely smart; he understood immediately. It was all a ruse to lure the enemy.
He could not help feeling admiration. By playing down the situation, she wanted to lure the enemies intending to escape from the other exit to come back. Whether they would succeed, however, remained to be seen. Because in the din of the cave, although You Niaojuan had keen eyes and ears, he might not necessarily hear her.
The idea has not passed from his mind, he heard a swift gust of wind from behind.
Without even thinking, Xu Ziling twisted his body around and sent out a punch.
By the time he felt something was not right, he discovered that his punch has hit You Niaojuan’s outer robe.
A flash of copper, You Niaojuan appeared on his left, the one-legged copper man swept toward him. It was extremely vicious, fierce, and overbearing.
Xu Ziling had nothing he could use, his only course of action was to sidestep, while crying ‘Not good!’ inwardly.
Shi Qingxuan floated like a breeze, her bamboo flute poked, struck, hacked and swept, her technique was exquisite, mysterious, obscure and amazing; she was able to hold You Niaojuan for a moment, so that Xu Ziling had the opportunity to strike back.
Knowing this was the critical moment, You Niaojuan unleashed the skill he had at the bottom of his chest; he threw the one-legged copper man toward Shi Qingxuan, while he took that opportunity to dash out of the cave.
When Shi Qingxuan dodged the steel man [Translator’s note: perhaps it was a typo, but sometime it was ‘copper’, another time it was ‘steel’], Xu Ziling already approached You Niaojuan’s back, and sent out a long-distance palm strike.
You Niaojuan suddenly sped up. Without even looking he sent out a backhanded palm strike to meet Xu Ziling’s palm, which was imbued with spiraling fierce energy.
You Niaojuan spurted another mouthful of blood. Injury on top of injury, yet he disappeared on the stone steps.
Only this moment did the one-legged copper man hit the wall, smashing the stone, creating a rain of crushed rocks. From this, it was clear the astonishing speed at which these fighting has been going on.
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Kou Zhong woke up; still lying in bed, he opened his eyes, but in his heart he missed Xu Ziling.
He was really not used to spend his days without that guy; he missed someone with whom he could talk vulgar language, or just pour out his heart’s troubles.
What on earth was he doing? Did he hasten on with his journey without stopping to sleep?
Because of his ambition in vying over the world, would in the end Xu Ziling distance himself from Kou Zhong, and travel far outside the country to pursue the way of life that he loved?
It does not matter whether one was the emperor, general, prime minister, a hero or a towering figure, life would always flash past like a snap of the fingers. Several years will pass just like a dream, fast and easy. Life is just the consequences of countless choices and experience. Kou Zhong just hated that he and his best Xiongdi had chosen different path, so that one day they would have to go their separate way.
There was a knock on the door.
Kou Zhong sighed inwardly and sprang up from the bed.
Xuan Yong voice came from outside the door, “Sorry to disturb Shao Shuai, Qifei is back, and he has an urgent matter to report.”
Kou Zhong immediately pushed everything out of his mind; he promptly shouted, “Come in quickly!”
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The morning sun rose to the top of a small hill on the eastern mountain.
Xu Ziling’s palm left Shi Qingxuan’s jade back. He rose up to his full height and walked out of the forest in which they were hiding, and came to a small creek at the edge of the forest.
The water of the creek was exceptionally clear, the sunlight came at an angle to the water surface, reflecting his appearance. It was only then did he realize that he was still wearing Yue Shan mask. Hastily he took it off and stuffed it inside his pocket, before squatting down the by creek to scoop the water and drank several mouthfuls, while washing the dust and dirt from his face. A cool, delightful feeling entered his heart, washing away the exhaustion of repeated hard battle of the previous night.
This moment he started to have the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery all around him.
This small forest spanned between two small hills, on a plain some distance away east of the strange mountain with the hidden cave full of bats. Surrounded by the clouds, the waist of the mountain appeared to be wearing a belt of cloud, or like a beautiful woman covering up half of her face. The small hills on both sides were full of flowers and fruit trees.
While he was contemplating whether he should pick a couple of fruits to eat his fill or wait for Shi Qingxuan to finish circulating her breathing before making his move, another reflection appeared on the water next to his own.
Xu Ziling smiled at the reflection on the water and said, “Miss Shi recovered so fast, it is hard to believe.”
Shi Qingxuan came to his side and carelessly kicked her shoes, revealing a pair of sparkling-and-translucent-like-jade delicate feet, and casually soaked the feet inside the ice-cold creek water, while putting her bamboo flute on the grass by her side. Gazing at the surface of the water, she spoke softly, “Last night, why did you say that I was beautiful? Can this be considered beautiful?”
Copying her, Xu Ziling gazed at his own reflection on the water; shrugging his shoulders, he spoke calmly, “I have never thought about what is considered beautiful, what is considered not beautiful, it’s just that at that moment I saw Miss’ face had a layer of divine radiance on it, a beauty that cannot be produced locally, thereupon I expressed what I felt, blurted out words that were offensive to you. Miss Shi, please don’t take offense.”
Shi Qingxuan was silent for half a day, before speaking gently, “Am I still that beautiful now?”
Nodding his head, Xu Ziling said, “The more I look, the more beautiful you are. This is a heartfelt word, not meant to fawn on you.”
With slight anger in her voice, Shi Qingxuan said, “Don’t lie; you just saw through that my nose is fixed, am I right?”
Xu Ziling smiled bitterly and said, “I found out about that later. Miss must no be overly sensitive, Zaixia do not have any improper thought toward Miss at all.”
Shi Qingxuan smiled slightly and said, “I was thinking of letting you look at my appearance after I take off my fake nose, but since you say so, I am going to dispel this idea!”
Xu Ziling was still smiling bitterly, but he no longer spoke.
Yet Shi Qingxuan was unwilling to let him off; turning her head around, she stared at him and said, “Why are you smiling so ambiguously?”
Xu Ziling calmly replied, “Because I have just missed the opportunity to see with my own eyes the remarkably beautiful woman of the human world. Miss has incited great curiosity in my heart. Forget about other things, merely Miss’ flute skill, which is unparalleled in the world, is enough for Xiaodi never to forget it for as long as I live, and made me feel that my life is not in vain.”
Shi Qingxuan spoke with delight, “Your highest skill in coaxing a girl is what makes me never suspect your sincerity. What’s more strange is that last night you encountered so many strange things, yet you did not open your mouth to ask Qingxuan even half a word of question. Ay! What kind of person are you?”
 Title chapter: shady, orig. ‘Yin’, as in Yin Gui Pai, Shady Empress (Yin Hou) being Zhu Yuyan’s title.
Xu Ziling smiled bitterly again and said, “It’s not that I don’t want to know, it’s just that with Miss’ nature that can see beyond the façade, your clear and cold temperament that can drive people a thousand li away, I was so afraid of meeting with a rebuff, so I might as well maintain a little bit of self-esteem, and hence took the not to hear, not to question attitude. Ha! Do I sound ridiculous?”
Stunned, Shi Qingxuan was unable to help laughing; her eyes turned back to the reflection on the water, she nodded and said, “That is indeed the best strategy to deal with me, to wear me out that I fall into the trap, and turn to you and ask you questions instead. How repulsive!”
Xu Ziling stretched his limbs and lay down on his back, looking at the white clouds in the blue sky and spoke glibly, “Miss’ fake nose, and last night’s dilapidated temple and the cave labyrinth, did all of those come from Mr. Lu’s design?”
Shi Qingxuan cast a glance full of interest at him and said, “Correct on all accounts. If not for that bat cave maze, I’m afraid you and I would not be relaxing in here, talking endlessly. Those four are Xie Di’s [demonic emperor] direct disciple. If not for falling under the curse and making an oath so that these past twenty years he did not dare to come out to do evil, I don’t know how many people in this world would die under their hands.”
Thinking about You Niaojuan, four people’s cruelty and viciousness, Xu Ziling shuddered from the lingering fear.
Supposing those four people were willing to work together, Xu Ziling would have been dead by now, and at best Shi Qingxuan would have accomplished her objective of perishing together with them.
“What kind of ‘thing’ is Xie Di anyway?”
Shi Qingxuan’s attitude toward him was greatly improved, ‘Pfft!’ she giggled and said, “Xie Di is not a ‘thing’ at all, but an outstanding figure of a demonic sect. Several decades ago he shared the same fame as Yin Hou Zhu Yuyan, on par with ‘San Ren’ Ning Daoqi; the only difference is righteous versus evil.”
Xu Ziling suddenly sat up and said in horror, “How come I have never heard anybody mentioning him?”
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After sitting properly inside the room, Luo Qifei respectfully said, “We have obtained definite information: Du Ren of Luoma Bang has formed alliance with Ku Ge, ready to launch counterattack against us.”
Frowning, Xuan Yong said, “This is quite a tricky problem. If we fight face to face, I am afraid we are not their match.”
Luo Qifei said, “We already dispatch people to infiltrate Xiapi, to spy on Luoma Bang’s activity.”
After hesitating for a moment, Kou Zhong asked, “In your opinion, would they be foolish enough to attack Liangdu openly?”
Shaking his head, Luo Qifei said, “Du Ren is not a fool; if even Yuwen Huaji was beaten and had to retreat under your hands, how could he act blindly without thinking? This time, the reason he is willing to ally himself with Ku Ge is more about protecting himself rather than other reasons.”
Kou Zhong heaved a sigh and said, “That is troublesome. Ay! Isn’t Ku Ge’s Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits detested by the gods and loathed by the ghosts? How could there be anybody willing to form an alliance with him?”
Luo Qifei said, “Inside Luoma Bang itself, there are many people opposing this move, but Du Ren obstinately clings to his course, others can’t do anything about it.”
Immediately Kou Zhong’s pair of tiger-eyes lit up; he laughed aloud and said, “We are saved then. Let Xiaodi become Yang Xuyan this one time!”
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Shi Qingxuan spoke indifferently, “Other than people from demonic sects, very few people knew about Xie Di. Those who have seen him are even more rare. The reason is very simple: thirty years ago he went into hiding to train the demonic school’s most secret, unfathomable skill, that nobody else dared to train. Since then he has not stepped outside the temple’s gate even for half a step.”
Astonished, Xu Ziling asked, “Is it that broken temple of last night?”
Shi Qingxuan nodded and said, “It was built by Lu Dashi’s [great master] skillful hands for him. The mysterious mechanism hidden inside, the bat cave, are part of it.”
Hearing that, Xu Ziling was confused even more. “How is it possible?” he muttered to himself.
Shi Qingxuan spoke softly, “If I did not consider your relationship with Lu Dashi, Qingxuan would never reveal the whole sequence of the events in this matter to you. Lu Dashi had a very high opinion of you and Kou Zhong; he believed in the future this world will become your, two men’s world. And now, since the ghosts shove and the gods push you into this matter, naturally Qingxuan will candidly tell you everything. It would be best if I can transfer this heavy burden that I cannot penetrate completely to your shoulders.”
For the third time Xu Ziling smiled bitterly and said sarcastically, “What a noble idea!”
Shi Qingxuan laughed to her heart’s content and said, “No wonder in his letter to Qingxuan, Lu Dashi indicated that the two of you are not like ordinary scholar who, on the surface, strictly hold righteousness, assume the common people in the whole world as his personal responsibility, and defend traditional values. At that time I did not understand it, but now naturally I am very clear about it!”
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “Kou Zhong and I are just two lucky little rascals. At first, our ambition was just how to stand out among our peers, to obtain part-time work as government officials, taking advantage while the world is in chaos to win scholarly honor, riches and glory. Afterwards we mastered the amazing skill of the ‘Secret to Long Life’, only then did our thinking begin to change. Although from time to time our mouth said that we want to be chivalrous, the fact is that we think about ourselves the most. Miss Shi must not misunderstand us as any hero or warrior.”
Staring at him, Shi Qingxuan said, “Since that’s the case, why did you disregard your own safety to help me last night? I am neither a relative nor a friend of yours, plus there was no loveliness that you can covet. At that time you shouldn’t be able to see that my nose is fake?”
Xu Ziling awkwardly replied, “I wasn’t thinking of any reason to do that? It was because those four crafty and evil people are unpleasant to the eye. Isn’t that still doing something for myself?”
With a smile on her face, Shi Qingxuan said, “In a fair duel, how much confidence do you have that you will be able to take care of You Niaojuan?”
“Not even ten percent,” Xu Ziling replied calmly, “Most likely I will suffer a defeat. That man is indeed too formidable.”
Shi Qingxuan said, “Fully aware that you are going to be defeated without any chance of victory, you are still willing to take the risk to be drawn into this matter, would you call that doing it for yourself? Unless you are determined to die?”
Xu Ziling was speechless.
Shi Qingxuan spoke softly, “Don’t push to the left and shove to the right! You are going to carry this burden.”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “Miss, please bestow your instruction!”
Shi Qingxuan was silent for a moment, and then she spoke heavily, “Not only this matter is exceptionally mysterious, it also involves tangled and complicated gratitude and grudges, passion and enmity of people of several generations. Right now Qingxuan can only give you brief, general explanation, as for the details, we’ll have to wait for a good opportunity to talk about it.”
Xu Ziling was eager to hasten to Baling, he nodded his head in agreement.
Shi Qingxuan took her pretty feet off the water, shifted her tender body around to sit facing him while hugging her knees; her posture was relaxed and carefree. Her beautiful eyes looked deep into his, she said, “Concerning Xie Di Xiang Yutian going back to his native place and live in seclusion to train the demonic school’s most secret skill called the ‘Dao Xin Zhong Mo Da Fa’ [lit. great demonic cultivation method of the heart of the way], it is a true story, but no one knows. They only knew that although since ancient times within the demonic school talented people come forth in large number, there has never been one person capable to master it, in the end they suffered fire deviation and the miserable fate of having their body burned.”
Aghast, Xu Ziling said, “Such a terrifying skill, who created it? If even the person creating this great method was unable to master it, yet other people still wanted to train, won’t it be extremely ridiculous?”
Knitting her brows, Shi Qingxuan said, “It’s a bit like your ‘Secret to Long Life’; nobody knows how it came to be, and nobody was able to master it, until you two. What’s so ridiculous about that?”
Xu Ziling’s handsome face slightly blushed, he said, “Absolutely nothing is ridiculous about that, it’s just that I am accustomed to talk like that with Kou Zhong. Miss, please forgive me.”
Shi Qingxuan’s eyes turned gentle; she spoke softly, “It’s Qingxuan who took it too seriously! Getting back to the main point, Xie Di Xiang Yutian had four disciples; they are You Niaojuan, Ding Jiuzhong, Zhou Laotan, and Jin Huanzhen.”
Xu Ziling was stunned, “It’s really hard to conceive,” he said, “Since they have the brotherhood of the same school, why so much disagreement like fire and water, as soon as there is opportunity they tried to harm each other?”
Shi Qingxuan sighed slightly and said, “Main reason has something to do with the past and future [or ‘innate’ versus ‘acquired’]; the dispute was aroused over one yellow crystal ball called the ‘Demonic Emperor Relic’. Ay! This matter is complicated and not easy to express succinctly.”
Curious, Xu Ziling asked, “Is this thing still in Miss’ hands?”
Shaking her head, Shi Qingxuan replied, “I’ve never seen that thing.”
“What?” Xu Ziling blurted out.
Shi Qingxuan went on, “After the ‘Demonic Emperor Relic’ fell into Lu Dashi’s hands, no one has ever seen it since. It was also because of this thing that Lu Dashi broke off relationship with Zhu Yuyan, and had to flee to the Flying Horse Ranch.”
Thinking deeply, Xu Ziling said, “In Mr. Lu’s residence at the Flying Horse Ranch, I did not see anything like that, perhaps it accompanied him buried deep at the bottom of the abyss.”
Shi Qingxuan shook her head and said, “Demonic Emperor Relic is not with him at all; as for where it is hidden, currently I am afraid only a genius would know. Come! Let me take you some place. It’s very close!”