Book 4 Chapter 10 – Revenge and Repaying Debts of Gratitude
Recalling that they would soon go to Jiangdu to seek revenge against Yuwen Huaji, the two boys were even more dedicated in training martial art.
The weather gradually turned colder, by the time the first Great Snow [21st of the 24 solar terms, December 7 – 21] arrived, report of victory also arrived. Sui generals Liu Changgong, leading twenty-five thousand strong cavalry, advanced from Luoyang to the east, to rendezvous with Pei Renji’s forces from Hulao [Tiger Cage], and proceed together in joint forces to the south, ready to annihilate Wagang troops in one fell swoop.
Who would have thought that Li Mi’s spy found out about this, and immediately opened the Storehouse door to feed the people, and thus he bought the people’s heart, so that he won the citizens of all counties in the vicinity before together with Zhai Rang led their forces to engage the enemy.
Li Mi divided his elite troops into ten teams. He himself led four teams to set an ambush from across the mountain range, while Zhai Rang’s six teams were arrayed in battle formation on the eastern bank of River Shizi, a tributary of River Luo, waiting for the enemy.
Liu Changgong’s main forces arrived first. Seeing Wagang Army’s small number, he thought that during the battle to attack Luokuo, the enemy suffered heavy casualties. Unexpectedly, without giving his own troops some time to rest and eat, he drove his forces across the river to attack, forgetting his agreement to join forces with Pei Renji.
Sure enough, Zhai Rang’s forces suffered defeat and retreated.
Having tasted the sweet victory, Liu Changgong tucked his tail and pursued. His troops immediately fell into Li Mi’s ambush. Liu Changgong’s weary and hungry troops were routed completely, countless casualties fell that day. Liu Changgong’s defeated remnants slipped back to Luoyang.
Learning about Liu forces’ defeat, Pei Renji did not dare to proceed alone. He withdrew to Baihua [lit. hundreds of flower] Valley and setup a fortress there, no longer dare to go out to war.
Thereupon Wagang Army’s prestige was greatly boosted.
Because the victory this time was due to Li Mi’s brilliant strategy, his popularity was like the sun in the middle of the sky.
Inside the city of Xingyang there was gaiety everywhere; incessant sound of firecrackers filled the air.
And then heavy snow fell for several days. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s childish heart was greatly aroused; they built snowmen in the garden for fun. Seeing they were having so much fun, several pretty maids were emboldened to join in. The two boys had never had girls playing with them; they were beside themselves with joy.
Kou Zhong and the bunch of pretty maids bumped into each other, sometimes he took advantage by intentionally bumping onto them; he was extremely delighted.
One of the pretty maids was quite cute, her face was especially pretty; in term of beauty, she was only a tad below Susu. But her figure was alluring, plus she was particularly provocative, teasing Kou Zhong relentlessly, so that his heart was unbearably itchy.
As soon as he had the chance, he came to Xu Ziling and said, “I can’t stand that girl’s teasing anymore. Since Zhai Jiao does not mind me hooking up with her maid, if I can have her for a night of passion, you won’t oppose me, will you?”
Xu Ziling knew his character very well; if he wanted something, he would not be content before obtaining it. Thereupon he whispered, “What if she gets pregnant?”
Kou Zhong was stunned. “Can’t be that easy!” he said, “Others have been married for many years, yet a lot of them still do not have any child.”
Xu Ziling said, “If you want it, you do it yourself! But remember that she is the daughter of a good family, you must not abandon her without any reason!”
‘Pow!’ a snowball was thrown right on target, making Kou Zhong’s face fully covered in snow.
Chuchu [lit. cute/lovely] and the other five pretty maids cried excitedly, “Bull’s eye! Bull’s eye!
Kou Zhong leaned over to Xu Ziling’s side and said, “Xiongdi is right, but I can always kiss and stroke their face!” Finished speaking he opened his arms wide and shouted, “Whoever got caught, the punishment is a kiss on the mouth!”
The pretty maids immediately scattered in all directions in fright. Kou Zhong identified Chuchu clearly, and then ran toward her.
Watching Kou Zhong and the girls laughing and playing and chasing each other on the snow, Xu Ziling’s heart was overwhelmed with emotions.
In the past, when they could not guarantee three square meals a day in Yangzhou, who could have imagined that today they were able to play and have fun with the pretty maids of Big Boss Zhai Rang’s mansion?
‘Pow!’ the back of Xu Ziling’s head was hit; the snow slipped into his collar that his neck was icy-cold.
Based on his current eyes and ears, it should be very easy to dodge, but somehow he lost interest. Recalling Kou Zhong’s remark about ‘kissing and stroking their face’, his heart grew warm. He turned around and gave another beautiful maid a chase.
The beautiful maid was straining herself that her jade cheek turned rosy like red clouds. Whether intentionally or otherwise, she ran toward the cluster of trees nearby; how could Xu Ziling not understand her intention? He was about to run after her and take some advantage like Kou Zhong, suddenly a shadow flashed; Tu Shufang blocked his path.
“Da Longtou is back,” he said solemnly, “He wants to see you immediately.”
Struggling to control themselves, the two boys went into the inner courtyard where Zhai Rang resided. They saw the people guarding the door were all unfamiliar faces; every one of them had their Taiyang [sun] acupoint [on the temples] bulging high. With just one look they knew that these people were all martial art masters.
It was the first time that the two boys set foot on this part of the mansion. Along the way a forty-something scholar came out to meet them, and politely said, “Zaixia Wang Ruxin, Minister of War. Two Xiao Xiongdi please follow the Ol’ Wang, Tu Zongguan may go back.”
Tu Shufang was slightly taken aback. Wang Ruxin already led the two boys toward Zhai Rang’s living room.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were not the little kids of the former days who lacked Jianghu experience; upon unleashing the power of their eyes and ears, they detected that the surrounding area was heavily guarded. There were warriors spread around the forest beyond the two-story building, the situation was as if they were about to face a powerful enemy. The two boys could not help but wonder.
Wang Ruxin led them to the door of the inner residence’s opened-wide front door, where he stopped and said, “Da Longtou is waiting for you, two gentlemen please come in on your own.”
The two boys thought that it would not be appropriate to discuss such a secret affair in front of other people, hence they did not suspect anything; stepping forward, they entered the hall.
The man guarding the door immediately closed the door behind them.
‘Bang!’ As they heard the sound of the double-door closing up behind them, the two boys saw a tall, slim, as straight as a ramrod, middle age man with beautiful beard, was pacing back and forth in the hall with hands behind his back. When he heard the door closing, he turned his head toward the two boys, his eyes flashing with energy; not at all looked like someone who was suffering an internal injury.
The man had a grand appearance, with a long hawk-like nose, making his expression gloomy and heavy, giving the impression that he was a man with heavy responsibility, but at the same time also gave the impression that he was a selfish and ruthless man.
The hair on his temples ash-grey, his forehead narrow and wrinkled, looking as if it was portraying the difficult times that has come and gone over the years.
After the two boys saluted respectfully, Zhai Rang said, “Have you seen me?”
Kou Zhong hurriedly replied, “At that time we were hiding on the beam, and did not dare to look. Considering Da Longtou come and go like the wind, we did not see Da Longtou.”
Zhai Rang’s eye turned toward the window, as he gazed at the snow-covered winter landscape, he said flatly, “Then how can you be sure that that person was me?”
Xu Ziling replied, “That was after the fact; we heard Zu Junyan and that strange man who hid inside the trunk mentioned it.”
Undisturbed, Zhai Rang said, “Did you see that strange man?”
“Only a glance,” Kou Zhong replied, “His figure imposing, compared to Zu Junyan he was at least half a head taller. However, because he was wearing mask, we could not see what he looked like.”
Zhai Rang was visibly shaken. “What did his voice sound like?” he asked coldly.
“Very gentle and pleasant to hear,” Kou Zhong promptly replied, “After he finished speaking, it seemed to me that his voice still lingered in the air.”
Zhai Rang’s chest sharply moved up and down several times. After a long time of silence he finally let out a stifled grunt and said, “What is exactly your school, your sect? How did your inner power become so strange that you were able to evade that strange man and my eyes and ears?”
Kou Zhong happily said, “Turns out the one we saw was indeed Da Longtou. Da Longtou is really formidable. That strange man said that he injured you! Turns out he was just tooting his horn.”
Zhai Rang coldly said, “You have not answered my question.”
Xu Ziling said, “Our martial art was taught by Niang, but Niang has died.”
“Good!” Zhai Rang said in heavy voice.
The two boys were greatly surprised. As he heard that their Niang has died, why did he applaud?
Right this moment, Zhai Rang made his move. In the blink of an eye he was already in front of the two boys; both of his sleeves rose up together.
The two boys had never imagined that someone with his status would suddenly mount a sneak attack. They saw his hands came out from inside his sleeves, with an astonishing power his palms struck onto their bodies. There was not enough time for them to block.
The two boys cried out in shock and flew backward.
‘Bang! Bang!’ Zhai Rang’s two palms separately landed on the pit of the two boys’ stomach.
A blast of strong, violent, and hard to resist qi power penetrated their body from the chest. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling immediately spurted out a mouthful of blood, as their bodies were lifted off the ground and flew down. ‘Thump! Thump!’ their backs crashed onto the wall on the left and right of the door, slipped down along the wall, and finally landed sitting down on the floor.
Chapter 10, Part 2
HPC, Ysabel, Komeng, Jaya, you are welcome. Drax, George, Kyss, Sky, the answer is here … Ari, I think you misunderstood; I was referring to your comment about Ji Yanran (BTW, I had recently finished reading it). While it’s true that both of them were strategists, IMHO, that’s where the similarity ends. DongBin, the same goes to you, I was speaking to those who knew the ending not to spoil it for us. For all I know, our guesses might be off, i.e. the two boys ended up with totally different women. About the Princess, I wouldn’t say ‘arrogant’, since Fu Junchuo was also like that in the beginning. She is aloof, yes, but it’s natural, given her status and martial art skill were much higher than the boys’. Speaking of ‘arrogance’, Zhai Jiao and that Wushuang girl came to mind. But again, I think it is very interesting that we all have our own favorite …
The pain was so severe that they felt their five viscera [i.e. heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys] were about to burst, their qi and blood surged over, they no longer had any strength left to fight.
Who would have thought that Zhai Rang was actually more shocked than the two boys? He originally thought that with one palm strike he would be able to send them back to the Western Paradise, but to his surprise, as his strike hit the opponents’ chests, he felt two jolts of reacting forces, one cold and one hot, coming out of the pit of their stomachs. Not only these forces neutralized most of his own power, the forces also entered his body, sapping his strength that he could not even apply his inner power.
Although Kou Zhong lost the strength in his entire body, he could still open his mouth to shout, “You … what are you doing?”
Zhai Rang’s eyes flashed with ominous glint. “Shut up!” he said, “You can only blame yourselves for knowing things that you are not supposed to know.” And he stepped toward the two boys.
Xu Ziling rolled over to embrace Kou Zhong, he said, “If we are to die, let’s die together!”
While casting a sidelong glance, Kou Zhong embraced Xu Ziling and whispered in his ear, “Circulate your energy! I’ll distract him.”
Meanwhile Zhai Rang has arrived in front of the two boys; suddenly he let out a dry cough, and with a hoarse cold laugh said, “Just let Ol’ Zhai fulfill your wish!”
The two boys were crying inwardly, saying goodbye to the world, while Zhai Rang’s palms landed on the tianling acupoint on the top of their heads.
A loud crash severely shook their brains, they vision turned black, but immediately they regained their consciousness.
While pondering whether they had arrived at the gate of hell, they found out that they were still sitting on the floor in the main hall. When their mind cleared up, they saw it was Zhai Rang who fell prostrate on top of their bodies; his face blue and his lips black, his entire body, from head to toe, trembled.
The two boys were keen; they immediately realized that Zhai Rang had indeed received serious internal injury, only he suppressed it down, acting as if nothing had happened. Presently, in order to kill the two boys, he rushed his true qi indiscriminately, so that his internal injury flared out, in turn it rendered him useless like this.
Kou Zhong pushed Zhai Rang’s body and rolled him over on the floor. Stroking his chest he moaned, “This guy’s palm power is really formidable. Xiao Ling, how are you feeling?”
Xu Ziling was still sitting on the floor. Massaging his chest, he said, “Is everybody in the world only know how to bite the hand that feed him? Both father and daughter are just like that.”
Kou Zhong said, “Right now escaping is more important, we must circulate our energy to treat our injury. Oh!” He shuddered.
With a bitter smile Xu Ziling said, “You are cold as hell, but I am unbearably hot. My five viscera and six bowels feel like on fire.”
Suddenly they both were shaken, as if they came to realization together, and looked at each other with great delight.
Kou Zhong pulled himself together, raised both his palms and said, “You send your true qi from your right palm into the hollow of my palm, and I will send my true qi from my right palm into your body. Ha! This is our original creation on how to heal our injury.”
Without slightest hesitation Xu Ziling quickly raised his palm according to Kou Zhong’s instruction, circulating his power and transferring his qi. At first it was still extremely painful and very difficult. From time to time they still vomited wisps of blood, but soon cold and hot streams were flowing together; round and round the streams cycled inside their bodies, continuously without any break.
They did not know that this kind of blending of cold and hot stream had actually saved these two boys’ little lives.
What happened was that although the two boys unwittingly achieved success in training the qi-circulating technique from one of the diagrams in the ‘Secret to Long Life’, their result actually tended to be too cold or too hot. During the initial phase, this matter did not pose any problem. However, as the qi inside their bodies started to build up, they were approaching the critical stage where ‘too much is as bad as not enough’. If this condition continued, inevitably they would suffer fire deviation. In the ‘too cold’ situation, their meridian would freeze and congeal, and they die. In the ‘too hot’ situation, their yueyong [lit. moon forever] channel would burst and they perish.
Therefore, in critical moment this time the two boys mutually transferring the true qi from his own body to treat the other’s injury, because the source of their true qi was identical, it was tantamount to the two boys separately cultivating their internal energy, hence the two streams of qi merged together; not only it has greatly accelerated the progress of their cultivation, it has also brought up the miraculous result of the ‘Secret to Long Life’, which most people had never even dreamed about.
If it were someone else, even if that person’s talent was better than these two boys’, by the time he reached the last two diagrams, he could forget about obtaining any result without spending eight or ten years.
Deviating from the norm, the two boys have always trained separately, plus they did not understand how to blend the cold and the hot; therefore, contrary to expectation, they achieved the very purest result instead. Now that they blended with one another, it was as if individually they gained two-year worth of maturity.
Up to this point, the two boys’ success was only a small part of the ‘Secret to Long Life’, but now they no longer deviate from the norm.
Nobody knew how much time has passed; the two boys’ pain was gone. Although they still felt weak due to the blood loss, their spirit was very much alive; their senses and their mind were much keener than before.
Zhai Rang was still lying on the floor, but he no longer shivered, his countenance looked much better than before.
Kou Zhong withdrew his palms and said in low voice, “Do you want to get rid of this ingratitude [lit. forget favors and violate justice] fellow first?”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “If we do that, Su Jie will never forgive us. Hey! Your cold true qi felt very comfortable to me. That’s strange! Why does my tianling acupoint feel like it opens wide, and a cold stream flowing continuously inside? The tip of my tongue also tastes sweet.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “And my yongquan acupoint is steaming hot. Come! Let’s go, we must find Su Jie.”
Xu Ziling followed his lead and stood up. After looking cautiously at Zhai Rang on the floor, he whispered, “There are so many people outside; what should we do?”
Kou Zhong said, “It seems like they do not know what happened here yet; we’ll change according to the situation.”
Steeling himself, Xu Ziling pushed the door open and walked out.
Wang Ruxin was waiting outside the door. Seeing the two boys came out, his countenance became very strange; his mouth agape and he was speechless.
Looking at his expression, the two boys knew that he was aware that Zhai Rang was going to kill them to shut their mouths. Hence when he saw the two boys strutting outside, alive and well, his face became ridiculously weird.
Kou Zhong beamed in smile; pointing to his own noggin, he said, “After listening to our story, Da Longtou knew there was some misunderstanding. But it has created new anxiety on him, so he told us to leave so that he could think quietly. He said nobody is allowed to come in and thus interrupt his train of thought.”
This was Kou Zhong’s brilliance; knowing that Wang Ruxin understood the inside information, he used it against him.
Xu Ziling gently closed the door, and while Wang Ruxin still did not know what to do, he ran after Kou Zhong, swaggering out of that place.
As soon as they were out of the inner courtyard, the two boys rushed toward Zhai Jiao’s personal quarter.
Kou Zhong said, “It would be best if we could sneak out with Su Jie and immediately go to Daiqing Yuan to find that Peipei that Yiqi Shan [see Book 3 Chapter 7] was talking about. Otherwise, if we are late by half a step, people might chop us to pieces.”
Xu Ziling was exceptionally cool-headed; he said in a low voice, “I feel that my power has doubled; maybe I can jump over the city wall. But if I have to carry Su Jie, I don’t have any confidence. To be honest, until now I am still not sure if Yiqi Shan really has yiqi [reminder: spirit of loyalty, code of brotherhood].”
Kou Zhong said, “Our matter is as urgent as a horse running on the field, we’ll borrow Yiqi Shan’s bridge first; whether after crossing the bridge we’d pull the plank out or not, we’ll think about it later.”
By this time the two boys have arrived at the main gate of Zhai Jiao’s courtyard. One of the four guards at the door shouted, “Did Miss summon you?”
With a pained expression Kou Zhong whispered, “Were it not for her order, would you be willing to come see her?”
The guards all smiled knowingly. The two boys swaggered inside. That beautiful maid Chuchu happened to pass by inside the residence. Tugging at her sleeve Kou Zhong said with an embarrassed smile, “Beautiful, how are you? Do you know where Su Jie is?”
Chuchu’s powdered face blushed slightly, casting a sidelong glance at him she snapped, “You are not looking for me, how should I know where she is?”
Flinging his hand, she took a few steps forward before turning her head back and with a sweet smile said, “Su Jie is serving Miss! Dummy!” Finished speaking, she covered her laughing mouth with her sleeve, and then gracefully walked away.
Noticing that at a moment like this Kou Zhong was still watching her in daze, he pulled him, hard. Kou Zhong came to his senses and followed Xu Ziling toward the door.
Before they saw the person, Zhai Jiao’s unpleasant voice was already heard, as she said angrily, “I don’t know what trick Die is playing, I only said a few words and he immediately wanted to see you, these two little demons. Didn’t I already tell him everything? He should have let me to be present to listen to you.”
Kou Zhong rolled his eyes. Stepping into the hall, he cupped his fist and respectfully said, “Da Longtou asked Miss to come see him. He also said he has a gift for Miss!”
Even Xu Ziling had to admire Kou Zhong’s quick wit.
Zhai Jiao was sitting in a chair inside, while Susu was standing by her side with a blank expression on her face. Hearing Kou Zhong, “Ah!” she exclaimed, and stood up and rushed out, stormed between the two boys, and darted out the door.
The two boys were overjoyed at this unexpected turn of events. They bolted forward to grab the shocked Susu from left and right.
“Don’t ask,” Kou Zhong urgently said, “If we don’t leave now, I am afraid we won’t have the chance forever.”
Susu’s countenance suddenly changed; her eyes were fixed at the door. The two boys hurriedly turned their head around, immediately their soul flew away and scattered, while in their heart they were continuously calling for their Niang.