Book 2 Chapter 11 – As Poisonous as Vipers and Scorpions
Kou Zhong pressed his ear against the wooden door, applied his energy to listen, and after making sure that there was no one in the hallway, he pushed the door and stuck out his head to look, and then darted out.
Xu Ziling followed closely behind. If he said he was not nervous, then he was lying.
The kitchen was located at the aft; hence they had to go through the hallway, going up the stairs, and across a zhang or so of deck, before they could reach the entrance to the galley.
There were two wind lanterns hanging on either end of the hallway, one toward the bow, the other toward the stern; in between these two lanterns, the hallway was dimly lit. At this time of the day, other than the crew on duty, most people were sound asleep.
The two boys channeled their qi to lighten their body; like a ghost they flitted toward the stern. To their shock, as they reached the stairs leading to the deck, they heard voices coming from upstairs. More shocking, it was Yun Yuzhen’s tender laughter.
The two boys were so frightened that their soul flew away and scattered; because the distance would not give them enough time to sneak back to their room. In their panic, they did not care which way to take, they pushed the door to the big room where the Ol’ Chen imparted his skills, and slipped inside.
Only here they could hide temporarily.
Familiar with the layout of the room, they hid themselves under a cabinet on the corner of the room leaning against the outboard wall, closest to the sea, while praying in their heart that Yun Yuzhen was not out to look for them.
‘Squeak!’ the workshop door was pushed open. The two boys were happy and scared at the same time.
Happy because obviously Yun Yuzhen came to this level not to look for them, scared because Yun Yuzhen might find them. So the two boys shut their qi while circulating their energy, to move their inner breathing.
If it were other people, even if their inner power were deeper and purer than the two boys’, it would still be difficult to hide from a martial art master of Yun Yuzhen’s caliber.
But since the ‘Secret to Long Life’ was the Taoist school’s highest cultivation technique, its focus was on maintaining good health in the deepest and most mysterious way. During the energy circulation, the body functioned like animal in hibernation, the breathing became as if it was nonexistent, the essence of qi vanished. Plus Yun Yuzhen was not intentionally trying to find them, hence her senses did not detect the two boys’ presence.
At first they only heard Yun Yuzhen’s barely audible footsteps, but the two boys sensed that there were two people entering the room, because Yun Yuzhen was already inside the room when they heard the door being closed.
Yun Yuzhen’s alluring laughter was heard, “Ce Ge [big brother Ce]! Come in quick! This is Floating Fragrance Flagship model; we lost three martial art experts to obtain this information. How are you going to reward us?” Surprisingly, her voice was extraordinarily foxy, charming, tender, and coy.
And then they heard Yun Yuzhen’s soft groan, followed by her panting and the rustling of clothes rubbing against each other.
The two boys felt very embarrassed; they had never expected that Yun Yuzhen, who ordinarily treated them in cold and inviolable manners, was now sounded like a sex-kitten.
On the other hand, they were greatly terrified, because this man’s footsteps did not create any noise at all; apparently his martial art skill was above Yun Yuzhen’s.
Then a chipper young voice said, “Yuzhen, you look fuller now. Look! Such a firm and round body.”
Gasping for breath, Yun Yuzhen said, “How about you come back after our business is done? Are you afraid I might fly away tonight?”
Hearing this, the two boys’ heart was burning with hatred; this Beautiful Shifu’s standing in their heart has just taken a thousand zhang drop.
Obviously the man released Yun Yuzhen, since the latter said, “Why haven’t you lighted the lantern?”
The lantern was lit. Yun Yuzhen said, “Shan Mei Xianren Madame Dong Ming’s [see Book 2 Chapter 5] power has reached perfection; fortunately I knew that in the next seven days she is at Pengcheng [lit. Peng City] to meet Li Yuan. Her return trip will take at least ten days. That will be our only chance to steal the account book.”
The man said, “Are those two little demons any good? They still have Dong Ming Pai’s little princess and the law-protector fairies on the ship; all are first-class martial art masters.”
Yun Yuzhen laughed and said, “Those two kids are as smart as ghosts; the only problem is that they did not master Yuzhen’s Crow Crossing Technique; otherwise, with intention can be considered without intention. This matter will be ninety percent sure. At that time, I might pretend to attack the Floating Fragrance Flagship, to lure their martial art experts out, so that they can make their escape. There shouldn’t be any problem.”
The man laughed and said, “Each time you, this coquettish fox, mention those two kids, you always have your brows raised in delight and your eyes laughing. Are you thinking of tasting their virginity?”
Yun Yuzhen laughed and swore, “With you, this big-headed ghost, would I look at those two little ruffians whose smell of mother’s milk has not dried yet? It’s just that they can still be considered rising star [the original was ‘darker’: delight of a girl trafficked into a brothel to work as prostitute]. Because the matter this time is of grave importance, we had to ask you, the new generation martial art expert of the Dugu Clan, to come and personally receive the goods. At that time we can easily kill them to shut their mouth. Others are making an all-out effort for your sake, but unexpectedly you said such thing about others. Ah … oh …”
The two people were making out again.
But to Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, it was as if they heard thunder from a clear blue sky, their heart was completely broken; turned out the truth was this cruel. All those sweet speech and honeyed words from Yun Yuzhen were nothing but lies.
At the same time they suddenly saw the light.
Jukun Bang’s backing was actually one of the four powerful clans, the Dugu Clan. Plus this matter was actually Dugu Clan’s plot against the Li Clan or perhaps the Yuwen Clan.
Then they heard Yun Yuzhen’s voice; moaning and gasping for breath she said, “Do you want me to go back to my room? Do you really want to tease me to death? These two nights should be peaceful and safe, but as soon as we enter Huai River, I can’t guarantee anything. I don’t know how Du Fuwei got wind that the two little demons are on my ship. At that time, I will have to rely on your, Dugu Ce’s ‘Bi Luo Jianfa’ [sky-blue fall sword] to deal with his ‘Xiu Li Qiankun’ [universe in his sleeve].”
“Don’t worry!” Dugu Ce arrogantly said, “Er Ge [second (older) brother] has personally prepared martial art masters to provide support to us; we can easily slaughter Du Fuwei. At that time only Fu Gongyou left with Huai River army; not enough for us to fear.”
Yun Yuzhen said, “When your Dugu Clan obtain the world [tian xia] in the future, don’t forget me, Yun Yuzhen!”
Dugu Ce lowered his voice, “Are you sure that those two kids really don’t know the secret of Duke Yang’s treasure trove?”
“I am sure,” Yun Yuzhen replied, “Once I intentionally mocked them that they did not the treasure’s location, while I paid close attention to their reaction and facial expression. I knew that Fu Junchuo did not tell them. The fact is, Fu Junchuo has always been Gaoli people, how could she possibly spill the secret to Han people? Come!”
The door closed. The sound of footsteps moved farther and farther away. The two boys breathed a sigh of relief, but still felt extremely lost.
Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Ziling’s ear, “There will come a day we will vent our anger to her.”
Xu Ziling said wryly, “Looks like it won’t be too late for us to steal chicken when we get to Huai River.”
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “Let’s go back to bed!”
That night they did not sleep well. When dawn came, they woke up and went to the deck to enjoy the ocean view, and their mood improved a little bit.
A flock of seagulls hovered behind the ship; the two boys watched with rapt attention how the seagulls flew in arcs; a comprehension grew in their mind, momentarily they had their eyes only on the seagulls and forgot about everything else.
Suddenly Yun Yuzhen’s voice came from behind, “Why woke up so early today?” she asked.
The two boys intentionally did not turn their head around, Kou Zhong only mumbled incoherently in reply.
Yun Yuzhen stood next to Xu Ziling. “Haven’t you seen seagulls before?” she asked in astonishment, “Why are you so enthralled?”
Xu Ziling gave her an indifferent look; recalling that last night she said it with her own mouth that she wanted Dugu Ce to kill them to shut their mouth, and that he has finally seen her salacious nature, a sense of loathing bubbled up in his heart. Turning his gaze back to the seagulls, he said in heavy tone, “Naturally seagulls are a lot more enthralling; at least live a carefree live, without any fear of being harmed by their own kind.”
Kou Zhong was afraid Yun Yuzhen might grow suspicious, he laughed and said, “Xiao Ling has always been a helpless romantic. Beautiful Shifu must not blame him.”
How could Yun Yuzhen know that the two boys have discovered her secret? With a charming smile she said, “Young people always have their minds filled with fantasy. Just enjoy the view for a moment longer, and then come down to have breakfast with me! I will tell you more on the details of your mission.” Finished speaking, she gracefully left.
Three days later, the ship finally reached the water where Huai River met the ocean, where they turn west to travel along Huai River.
The people on the ship grew tense again. Yun Yuzhen even issued a strict order for the two boys to stay inside their room at all times.
That evening, while other people were focusing their attention to the enemy outside, Kou Zhong sneaked into the galley to steal three chickens and brought them back into their room, where they waited patiently.
The two boys were fully dressed, with their weapons tied behind their back; and then they separately stationed themselves by the window and by the door to listen to the activity outside.
By the third watch of the night [between 11pm – 1am] there was sound of footsteps in the hallway, coming straight toward their room. Horrified, the two boys jumped onto the bed, pretending to be asleep.
There was a knock on the door, followed by the door being pushed open. Yun Zhi’s voice was heard, “Get dressed quickly, I’ll come back to take you out later.”
Without waiting for any response, she closed the door.
The two boys jumped out of the bed in fear. They hastily slaughtered the chicken and collected their blood, which they put into four empty stolen wine bottles, and divided the bottles into two halves. When they were just hiding the bottles into their pockets, Yun Zhi returned. She beckoned them to follow her.
Right that moment the hull suddenly shook violently, the ship was making a hard turn, and sailed in high speed back to where they were coming from.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling concluded that not only the enemy has come, they were coming in full force and posed a real threat to Jukun Bang, putting them in a rather difficult situation. Only the two boys did not know what went wrong.
The hallway was full of people going back and forth, there were a lot of people that they had never seen before but now making their appearance. They all seemed to be very tense, just like the tension before a giant storm.
Kou Zhong quickened his steps to ask Yun Zhi, “Who’s coming?”
Yun Zhi lost her usual composure; rudely and impatiently she said, “Don’t talk!”
Kou Zhong fell back to Xu Ziling and said in a low voice, “Little ruffian will always be little ruffian.”
Naturally Xu Ziling understood what he meant. If it were not they accidentally came across the ‘Secret to Long Life’ and the ‘Duke Yang’s treasure-trove’, Jianghu people would definitely look down on them and dismiss them as nobodies.
With her grand prestige as the trusted maid of the clan leader, naturally Yun Zhi would never regard them as anybody important; simply because she received Yun Yuzhen’s order that she treated the two boys with fake respect and addressed them as Gongzi this and Gongzi that. Now that they encountered emergency situation like this, her patience was gone.
Yun Zhi led them to the main deck. The two boys took the opportunity to look around. They saw five big ships about two li upstream, coming toward them at an amazingly high speed.
The deck was full of Jukun Bang warriors; everybody looked tensed and alert, ready to fight the enemy.
Yun Zhi kept walking toward the bow, where about twenty people gathered, including Yun Yuzhen and the deputy clan leader Bu Tianzhi, whom they have not seen for a long time.
The other people looked different from each other; about seven or eight were women, each one was as beautiful as a flower. When they saw the two boys, their beautiful eyes were shining with curiosity.
Although the deck was in total blackout, the two boys were not in the least bit bothered by it.
Standing next to Yun Yuzhen was a man who looked to be at the same height as Kou Zhong, approximately twenty-five or twenty-six years old. His face handsome, his bearings serious, his clothes was a tight-fitting warrior suit. He and Yun Yuzhen looked to be a perfect match. It’s just that his face was even more gaunt than Xu Ziling, plus there was a hint of paleness from excessive drinking and womanizing, so that he could not be compared to Xu Ziling in terms of natural elegance; however, he did have the maturity that Xu Ziling lacked.
Chapter 11, Part 2
Anh, HPC, you are welcome. Jaya, I am afraid you'll have to wait for a while for that part. Here's the end of Chapter 11. Chapter 12 is a bit shorter, I'll try to post it on Saturday (my time).
If this man was indeed Dugu Ce, then in terms of status and martial art skill, this man far surpassed the two boys.
Yun Yuzhen stepped forward to meet them and said, “The enemy is too strong, we must immediately escape to the shore.”
Bu Tianzhi and that man, whom they suspected was Dugu Ce, also came to either side of Yun Yuzhen. The latter was staring at the two boys, sizing them up.
Kou Zhong pretended to be surprised as he stared back at Dugu Ce curiously.
Yun Yuzhen cleared her throat and made the introduction, “This is our Gang’s martial art master protector of the law. He and Bu Fu Bangzhu will personally protect you.”
Dugu Ce laughed and said, “Two Xiao Xiongdi need not be scared; leaving the ship is just a tactical matter, not that we are afraid of the enemy.”
As soon as he spoke, the two boys recognized his voice; he was indeed Dugu Ce.
“Who’s the enemy?” Xu Ziling asked.
Yun Yuzhen replied, “Du Fuwei has just taken the two large towns along the river ahead; he blocks the route to Zhongyang, hence we must change our route and go different way.”
Kou Zhong smiled politely to Yun Zhi, who was standing to the side, “Look!” he said, “Bangzhu treated us with a lot more courtesy than you did.”
Yun Zhi glowered at him for a moment, but then she hung her head and did not dare to say anything.
Yun Yuzhen also glowered at Yun Zhi, but right that moment someone came to report, “Bangzhu! We will reach Leigong [lit. god of thunder] Gorge soon.”
The two boys looked ahead, and saw the river narrowed, both banks were high and steep cliffs; the terrain looks extremely dangerous.
“Prepare to abandon ship!” Yun Yuzhen ordered.
The twenty-something people moved toward the port side of the bow. Bu Tianzhi and Dugu Ce separately came to Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong’s sides, and pulled their shoulders toward the edge of the ship.
Meanwhile, the enemy ships were closing in behind them that they were now only about a li away.
Jukun Bang’s warship was steered toward the left bank. When they were only about three zhang away from the cliff, the twenty odd people soared to the sky across the Huai River, flying toward a dangerous cliff nearby.
Bu Tianzhi and Dugu Ce wrapped their arms around the two boys’ waist, and then took them soaring into the air, and landed at the bank.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling did a self-check: if they had to exert their strength and jump across three zhang distance, it would still be beyond their reach. But now everybody, including Yun Zhi, was able to easily do it. Based on this fact alone they knew that these people, at least in term of qinggong, was much better than they.
Holding them in their arms, Bu Tianzhi and Dugu Ce were still able to ‘handle the butcher’s cleaver with ease’; it was obvious that the two boys could only ‘see the other riders dust and have no hope of catching up’. [Translator’s note: I could very well translate this paragraph as: Holding them in their arms, Bu Tianzhi and Dugu Ce were still able to do it skillfully and easily; it was obvious that the two boys were far inferior. But to me, personally, Chinese idioms are fascinating, and I’d like to share it with you.]
Therefore, under normal circumstances, they basically had no hope of escaping.
After landing, Yun Yuzhen did not just stay there; they quickly ran into the depth of the mountain and fields.
After running for a time needed to burn an incense stick, Dugu Ce suddenly shouted, “Halt!”
Everybody halted in shock.
A moment later, they heard the sound of bird cry and the flapping of wings ahead; obviously the enemy is coming their way, startling the sleeping birds away.
Aghast, Yun Yuzhen said, “This way!” Taking the lead, she dashed to the right.
After rushing down a hill, they saw ahead was a big mountain. Unleashing their lightness skill, everybody ran up the mountain at full speed.
By this time the sky was gradually getting brighter; all around them was desolate forest and mountainous open space that has never seen human footprint.
Passing through a thick forest, suddenly they were greeted by vast open space with wide panorama; turned out they had come to the edge of a high cliff. Directly across the canyon, peaks of a mountain range still loomed at the distance that they were all horrified.
Still holding Kou Zhong under his arm, Dugu Ce walked over to the edge of the cliff and looked down. “This is a dead end!” he exclaimed.
Kou Zhong craned his neck, he saw the cliff was around a hundred zhang tall, but clusters of old trees sprouted along the wall of the cliff, easing the feeling of danger. Down below was an endless stretch of jungle that extended toward the sloping hill on the opposite side.
Yun Yuzhen was trying to fins a way down when suddenly there was a long laugh coming from behind them. “Hongfen Bangzhu [orig. rouge and powder, see Book 2 Chapter 8], please hold! Du Fuwei of Huai River pays his respect to Bangzhu.”
Everybody knew hard battle was inevitable; they halted their steps and drew their weapons.
Bu Tianzhi and Dugu Ce put the two boys down and stood in front of them to shield them.
In order to deal with the powerful enemy, Yun Yuzhen and the rest stood in a semi-circle battle formation to protect them as well. Behind them was precisely the high cliff that could have their body torn and their bones crushed.
Kou Zhong reached out to grab Xu Ziling’s hand; taking advantage while Yun Yuzhen and the others had their attention fixed on the enemy and did not pay any attention to the two boys, he whispered into Xu Ziling’s ear, “We’ll wait for an appropriate time to jump down the cliff. The cliff wall is full of trees and bushes, which will reduce the momentum of our falling. The bottom of the cliff is a forest, I guarantee we won’t die from falling.”
Xu Ziling clenched his teeth and nodded his head.
Meanwhile Du Fuwei’s tall and lanky figure has appeared ahead, and stopped about a zhang away in front of Yun Yuzhen and the others. Farther down, at the edge of the hill, there were thirty, forty people came out and immediately surround them.
Du Fuwei still wore tall hat on his head, his vigor was still as before, his gaze fell to the two boys, unexpectedly, a smiling expression, which was very difficult to describe, appeared on his dead-man-like face. He said in tender voice, “Children, now that you see your father, why haven’t you come over to pay your respect and admit your wrong?”
Kou Zhong giggled and said, “Die, how are you, Senior? Your children have betrayed our family clan, henceforth father and sons relationship is cut asunder. Die, you’d better go home to enjoy live of ease and comfort, don’t go around tiring yourself for the sake of your children.”
Seeing Kou Zhong was not the least bit afraid of the notoriously cruel and merciless Du Fuwei, Yun Yuzhen could not help feeling greatly amazed. If it were they, due to Du Fuwei’s reputation, they would not dare to speak thoughtlessly and thus offending him.
What she did not know was that Du Fuwei was accustomed to listening to Kou Zhong, hence he still had a familiar feeling in his heart; smiling, he said, “It was caused by lack of communication between us, father and sons. Let your Ol’ Die get rid of these brazen, mad fellows who kidnap people first, and then we, father and sons can sit down and have a nice heart-to-heart chat!”
Dugu Ce and Yun Yuzhen let out a cold snort at the same time.
Du Fuwei acted if he did not even see them. His gaze swept across the several women in the group; he laughed and said, “I often heard Jukun Bang is accustomed to use women to confuse people. Sure enough it is true. This time I, Du Fuwei, come prepared. If fighting breaks, I am afraid not many people will escape alive. The men will unavoidably die on the spot; the women will be difficult to escape humiliation. Does Yun Bangzhu still want to insist?”
With a cold humph Dugu Ce said, “People said that Du Fuwei is so arrogant that no one else matters. Sure enough it is true. Who’s strong and who’s weak, we’ll find out as soon as we fight; why talk too much?”
Du Fuwei’s gaze fell on Dugu Ce’s face; his eyes emitted a very cold and sharp ray. “May I know this young friend’s respected surname and great given name?” he asked in icy-cold tone, “Your tone is bigger than Yun Bangzhu’s!”
With a charming laugh Yun Yuzhen said, “Have Du Zongguan heard Yuzhen speaks? How do you know who has the bigger tone?”
Du Fuwei shook his head; he said, “I only know that in these circumstances he can still talk out of turn, I know he is not your subordinate; why would Yun Bangzhu still want to cover him up?”
Yun Yuzhen was dumbstruck and unable to reply.
Du Fuwei nonchalantly said, “Jukun Bang and I have always been without grievance without enmity. I am just trying to get back two naughty children whose inferior character is hard to change. Fighting always damages a good relationship, but if we don’t fight, it will be difficult to convince you. How about this! I have a proposal, I wonder if ladies and gentlemen are willing to listen.”
Yun Yuzhen coldly replied, “This Bangzhu will listen with respectful attention.”
At this time, even Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling knew that Du Fuwei has completely seized the initiative, while Yun Yuzhen’s side could only play along.
Although earlier Dugu Ce did not consider Du Fuwei’s prestige to be worthy in his eyes, but when he actually met Du Fuwei, it was like the hero suddenly turned into a coward [play on words here: hero – yingxiong, coward – gouxiong (lit. black bear)]; his nastiness disappeared who knows where.
Du Fuwei pointed to Dugu Ce and said, “Let this mysterious friend have an all-out battle with the Ol’ Du for ten moves. Supposing I cannot achieve victory, I will immediately turn on my heels and will no longer consider these two inferior kids even exist. But supposing by fluke the Ol’ Du wins, Yun Bangzhu will immediately hand them over to me so that I could bring them home and give them a good discipline. Yun Bangzhu, what’s your opinion?”
And then he added in an icy-cold tone, “If Yun Bangzhu does not agree, my party will go all-out against yours. When that happens, please don’t blame Ol’ Du of being vicious and merciless, and totally disregarding Jianghu’s principle of giving you a face.”
Yun Yuzhen’s heart shivered in fear; she realized Du Fuwei’s vision was indeed brilliant. He had seen through that in her side, Dugu Ce possessed the most superior martial art skill, yet he still dared to challenge him for ten moves; thus it was clear how high the opponent’s confidence in achieving victory.
All of a sudden, she came to a realization that she had fallen into absolute disadvantage, and that she had no other choice.