Book 19 Chapter 11 – Heroic Feeling Covering The Sky
Chen Jiafeng ordered his men to open a boarded up restaurant; bowing, he said, “Kou Ye, Xu Ye, please feel free to sit on any table you want, we will immediately light up the kitchen stove and prepare some authentic specialty dishes. I already had someone to take care of the wine, it will be delivered here promptly.”
The two boys found it all amusing. They picked a large round table in the middle and sat down. Because the shop owner left just a few days ago, the tables and chairs still had not collected dust.
Kou Zhong looked out the open wide main door at the quiet and cold main street under the illumination of the setting sun; sighing, he said, “A nice prosperous town, where the people lived in peace and worked happily, in the blink of an eye it suffered calamity. It’s too bad!”
Xu Ziling has not found out what had happened, “What calamity?” he asked.
This moment a Peng Liang Hui gang member, happy and excited, came in with an earthen jar of wine, and then busied himself trying to find bowls and cups for the two boys.
Kou Zhong watched as the wine was poured into cups; he spoke indifferently, “I heard Yuwen Huagu came here!”
Shaken, Xu Ziling shouted, “What?”
Kou Zhong hastily said, “I was exaggerating a little bit. I meant to say that Yuwen Huagu’s men might come here, but I don’t know whether Yuwen Huagu is willing to give us the convenience by dropping by to receive his death.”
The same gang member was lighting the lantern for them. Hearing Kou Zhong, with great admiration he said, “Kou Ye and Xu Ye are really amazing; practically you don’t regard that Yuwen Hua … Yuwen Huaji seriously.”
Kou Zhong laughed and cursed, “You have the cheek to eavesdrop our secret conversation; quickly get lost far away.”
The gang member readily accepted the order; he spoke deferentially, “Xiaoren is Xie Jue, I will immediately get lost far away!” He left in high spirit, as if receiving Kou Zhong’s scolding was an incomparable honor and glory.
The murderous intent in Xu Ziling’s eyes flared out brightly; he spoke in heavy voice, “As long as there is a chance, we have to endure it for a little while, and wait until he comes.”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud. Raising his wine cup, he said, “This toast is for Niang’s soul and spirit in Heaven.”
The two clinked their cups and drained it in one gulp.
Kou Zhong laughed hoarsely and said, “How come we don’t seem to care if female demon Wan came back.”
Xu Ziling leaned back comfortably in his chair, heaved a deep sigh, and said glibly, “Now that we know for sure that only Wan yaonu and Bian Bufu, two people came, we don’t give them a damn. Ay! I am tired of hiding to the east and fleeing to the west; if they have enough guts, let them release their horses and come!”
Kou Zhong struck the table and shouted, “Well said!”
The two smelled the aroma of the cooking from the kitchen at the back, while looking at the gradually dimming light of the dusk on the main street outside; they both enjoyed the comfortable and lazy atmosphere as if they were unwilling to lift even half a finger.
It seemed like this very moment, all the people they met, as well as everything that happened to them in the past, had nothing to do with them; all those things felt so far away as if they had never happened at all.
Kou Zhong untied the Moon in the Well, and put it on the table. He stretched, and even put his feet on the table, as he sighed comfortably and said, “Ling Shao! What’s your feeling on this entire town?”
Suddenly they heard rapid hoof beats coming from the city gate, which continued for quite a while before the sound stopped.
But the two boys acted as if even though they heard, they did not care; they both remained unmoved.
Looking pensive, Xu Ziling said, “You seem to forget Song Yuzhi; am I right?”
Kou Zhong stared blankly for half a day, before finally nodded and said, “Right! I haven’t thought about her for a long time. Apart from you, my expectation and demand toward other people are getting less and less. Song Yuzhi is a genuinely wise and virtuous woman, who was born and raised in an honorable family and great clan. Between she and the two of us, there is one fundamental difference: she always plays by the rules, while I, Kou Zhong, am merely a destroyer who rebels against orthodoxy. But only this one difference is enough to doom us not to be together. Tell me, everything I did, all my conduct and deeds, which one would be pleasing in her eye?”
Xu Ziling pondered for a moment, and then he slowly said, “But have you ever thought that this difference is precisely what attract her to you?”
Kou Zhong smiled ruefully and said, “To her, this is only some kind of uncultured character and indulgence that she detests bitterly, hence she is hurt, and I feel very tired. You and I are people who don’t understand etiquette and compass and set square; we speak vulgar language leisurely, without any scruple. But she is of different kind of people; therefore, in the end, we are all screwed. The reasoning she gave on the surface is just her excuse.”
Astonished, Xu Ziling said, “Although deep down I have a feeling that the actual situation may not necessarily be as you put it, but your analysis on her is no doubt very thorough. I have never thought that you would have that kind of profound notion.”
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “I have chosen the free and long road of no return; everything else will have to be thrown away, once and for all. Sometimes I really envy that kid Hou Xibai. If he were happy when he came across this beautiful girl or that lovely bubbling doll, he would leisurely moved his brush once or twice to paint his mother on his fan, while he could play as a solitary minstrel and wander around as a knight-errant, neither slowly nor rushing around roaming around the Jianghu unrestrained, watching the fires burning across the river [fig. to delay entering the fray until all others have been exhausted by fighting amongst themselves]. Ha!”
Xu Ziling smiled, “What’s so funny?” he asked.
Slapping his forehead, Kou Zhong said, “I just feel sorry for him. Were it not for you, Ling Shao, made your appearance, maybe Shi Feixuan would look upon him with favor!”
Displeased, Xu Ziling said, “You want to drag me into the water? You, this kid, harbor evil intentions.”
This moment, Chen Jiafeng came to the table and spoke with grave expression, “Just received a report, there is a group of approximately five or six hundred riders coming here from the direction of Pengcheng, looks like they might be able to reach this place in about two sichen.”
Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong exchanged a look of disappointment; the incoming riders could not possibly be Yuwen Huaji’s men.
Chen Jiafeng continued, “The incoming must be Khitan barbarians from the East Sea Alliance. Our Peng Liang Hui has a blood debt as deep as the ocean with them. If two Daye are willing to take the initiative, we wish to follow you.”
Kou Zhong was puzzled, “Aren’t you thinking of slipping away?” he asked, “Why suddenly you are eager to give it a try?”
Chen Jiafeng sat down and said, “Frankly speaking, although we can’t wait to eat their flesh and drink their blood, we are aware of how many catty we weigh.” [My text has some gibberish characters after this; or maybe that I am not good enough to understand what it is. Anybody has better source or can help?]
Kou Zhong poured a cup of wine for him and said with a laugh, “You must not have such a high hope on us. Charging and breaking through the enemy lines on the battlefield is entirely different from decisive battle in Jianghu. Against a five, six hundred-man strong enemy, even Ning Daoqi won’t be able to kill that many.”
Xu Ziling waited until he raised his cup and drank the wine before asking in heavy voice, “How many people do you have?”
Chen Jiafeng wiped the wine from the corner of his mouth and replied, “Only fifty-three men. We have talked it over, as long as Kou Ye and Xu Ye are willing to give us a nod, we will fight to the death against those Khitan thieves.”
“How many people are currently in the city?” Kou Zhong asked.
Chen Jiafeng replied, “Those who are able to leave have already left, those who remain are either old or unwary people; perhaps there are several hundred people.”
Turning to Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong asked, “What do you think?”
Under Chen Jiafeng’s hopeful look, Xu Ziling pondered quietly for half a day. Finally he smiled and said, “We have no chance of victory at all, but can only take them by ruse. Fighting them head on will only result in defeat.”
Kou Zhong let out a long laugh and said, “Very well! Let us kill those Khitan thieves until they are utterly defeated. Let Ku Ge know that our Central Plains is not without any hero or towering figure who can subdue him!”
And then, slapping the table, he said, “And now, let’s not worry about anything. We are going to eat this meal on the street. After we eat our fill and drink till we get drunk, perhaps Ku Ge will arrive to provide excitement for us!”
※ ※ ※
Liangdu’s city gate was wide open, the suspension bridge was down.
Starting from the city gate, torches were stuck at the interval of ten paces, like a pair of fiery dragons stretching along the main street, all the way to the round table set up in the middle of the street.
The table was full of food and wine. Both Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were sitting facing the city gate, eating and drinking and chatting merrily.
Apart from these two, not even half a shadow of other people was seen in the city. Although the street from the city gate to the place where the two boys were sitting was lit by the torches that it was as bright as daytime, elsewhere in the city was pitch-black, so that the contrast was strange and extraordinary.
Kou Zhong took a sip of the wine and said with a wry smile, “It’s all your fault; for no reason at all you mentioned Song Yuzhi, evoking the grief in my heart.”
Xu Ziling was apologetic, “I have no choice but to apologize to you,” he said, “What are you thinking now?”
Kou Zhong reached out to grab Xu Ziling’s shoulder, he said, “One lifetime, two brothers; no need to apologize. Just now I suddenly thought that even if I reached the stage of pledging undying love with the Song Family’s San Xiaojie, her happiness cannot start yet, because the chaos and the war all over the world is not over yet. Every day I am involved in life and death struggle against others, I don’t know how heavy the burden I have to carry on my back. Thinking about this, Yuzhi leaving me is actually a good thing.”
Xu Ziling was emotionally moved, “Up to this point, I did not really believe that your heart was moved by Song Yuzhi. Because this is the first time that you show consideration for Song Yuzhi, and not just consider her for your benefit.”
Kou Zhong’s throat was choked with flaming emotion that his breathing became rapid. It was quite a while later that he sighed and said, “If I did not have any consideration for her, how could I be willing to let her go? Much less I know how defensive she is toward me, just like how weak Liangdu currently is.”
Xu Ziling also felt that way; he said, “We and Song Yuzhi, an honorable woman who came from honorable family and great clan, differ so much. If you insist on living together, it would lead to many problems.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Are you thinking of Shi Feixuan? That kind of person who has left her home to live a life of cultivating the way, as far as I’m concerned, she is like living in a serious and fantasy world that is not real at all; with heavy stocks and chains, without the least bit of freedom, giving up all the beautiful things in the world for no reason whatsoever. Isn’t that also an addiction?”
Laughing involuntarily, Xu Ziling said, “Talking about Zen with a vulgar man like you is like playing the lute to a cow, or perhaps like talking to the deaf, or discussing color with the blind.”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “Therefore, Shi Feixuan never gives Xiaodi any consideration, while she thinks very highly of you. Because you and she are similar! Ha! Ling Dashi [great/grand master, usually used to address a Buddhist monk], please enjoy the vegetarian dish.” And then he picked a pile of green vegetables and crammed it onto Xu Ziling’s rice bowl.
Xu Ziling did not know whether to laugh or cry; he said, “What evil intention are you harboring? Why are you always trying to pull me and Shi Feixuan together?”
A gust of wind blew from the direction of the city gate, blowing the hundred or so torches that their flames were jumping high and low, seemingly reminding them that the Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits could arrive at any moment.
Xu Ziling changed the topic, “I almost forget to ask you, how’s Li kid’s achievement these days?”
Kou Zhong replied, “Under that kind of circumstances, we still cannot harm him, which mean that he can’t be too far below us.
After contemplating for a moment, Kou Zhong continued in a low voice, “I was wondering if we are doing a really stupid thing right now? We don’t have any idea of Khitan people’s real strength; all we know is that Peng Liang Hui has been decimated by them.”
Xu Ziling spoke resolutely, “People sometimes do really stupid things. Only by doing things that you think is so brilliant but later on proved to be folly will your heart be relieved.”
Kou Zhong laughed heartily. Raising his wine cup, he said, “Well said! Let Xiaodi toast Ling Shao a cup.”
Xu Ziling had just raised his cup, when an omen appeared in his heart. Together with Kou Zhong they turned to look toward the city gate, and immediately they both groaned inwardly.
The beautiful-as-a-fairy Wanwan, riding along with the wind, her feet did not touch the ground, was floating through the open city gate toward them.
In this battle, where they knew themselves, but did not know the enemy, victory or defeat was already difficult to guess. Now in this crucial moment, where the enemy might arrive at any moment, if Wanwan, this uncertain factor, was added to the equation, if she decided to pull them back, perhaps even if they wanted to flee to the wilderness, they would not be able to.
Wanwan, wearing plain clothes, barefooted, with a face carrying a hint of sparkling smile, in an incomparably graceful attitude, sat down in an empty chair across the table from the two boys.
As if agreeing by chance, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s eyes immediately lit up with sharp rays; murderous intent flared up.
If they could use a thunderbolt before-the-sound-of-thunder-reached-the-ear method to strike the female demon, who had come alone, in front of them either dead or injured, then it would be ideal.
This idea certainly has not gone through careful thought.
Despite saying that they would fight them head-on, they knew in their hearts that they did not have the ability to take care of her.
However, if the two boys, whose martial art skill advanced by leaps and bounds every day, could join hands in dealing with her, and Wanwan did not have the intention to flee, perhaps even Wanwan herself did not dare to ascertain that she had the ability to deal with them.
With her deep and low, pliable and tough like a cotton padding, seductive voice Wanwan said, “A gentleman uses his mouth and not his fist. If you are unwilling to be the gentlemen, the first to suffer will be those newfound friends of yours, the Peng Liang Hui brothers.”
The two boys looked at each other in astonishment.
In just a few simple words, Wanwan already revealed her grasp of the overall situation, including their fatal weak point.
The reason they agreed to undertake this task in upholding justice toward Chen Jiafeng and the others really was not to help a gang or a society to take revenge and wipe out a grudge against another gang’s powerful members, but because of three reasons.
The principal reason was that they did not wish to see such a beautiful and tranquil ancient city being destroyed in one day. The second reason was the righteous indignation flamed by anger against a common enemy, due to a different tribe ravaging the Central Plains. The last reason was hoping that the rabbit, Yuwen Huaji, would drop in at their gate. Trying to kill him in here was certainly a lot easier than trying to do it in his own territory.
But now that Wanwan came to look for trouble, how could they divide their heart to deal with her?
Kou Zhong busily pushed the smile back onto his face; giggling, he said, “Wan Da Xiaojie, please calm down. Ha! Drink a cup of wine before we talk. Are you hungry? I guarantee the vegetarian dish has no poison in it!”
Smiling gracefully, Wanwan watched as Kou Zhong politely poured a cup of wine for her. “Now this is nice!” she spoke softly, “Even enemies sometimes sit down together to drink wine and have a heart-to-heart chat!”
Ever since they officially set themselves against each other as enemies, Xu Ziling has never had the opportunity to examine this devil cult’s female demon in such a close distance and intimate and peaceful atmosphere like this. But no matter how he looked at her, it was difficult to see the least bit of demonic or unusual thing from her personality traits, yet he had witnessed with his own eyes her cruelty and ruthless methods.
Her peerless countenance could be considered on par, rather than inferior to, Shi Feixuan’s. The difference was that the latter gave the impression of spirited rain on an empty mountain, while Wanwan made people think about barren and deserted plains.
Before picking up her cup, Wanwan’s eyes floated toward Xu Ziling; her cherry lips opened lightly and said, “Can Ziling throw out old grievances right now so that we all can have peaceful discussion?”
Xu Ziling replied with astonishment, “You take advantage of our precarious position like this, and yet still talk about exchanging views?”
With a hint of sarcasm Wanwan replied, “And who’s taking advantage of other’s precarious position now? Who doesn’t want to take advantage of others’ precarious position? This is not the first day that Ziling entered the Jianghu, why would you still utter such comment?”
Knowing Xu Ziling’s temperament, Kou Zhong was afraid they would reach deadlock; he hastily said, “Let’s have a good discussion. Hey! Over the years, I have a question that lingers in my heart; now that we have a chance for a heart-to-heart talk, I was wondering if Wan Da Xiaojie would answer me?”
Wanwan knew that Kou Zhong wanted to change the subject, she was happy to oblige. She said cheerfully, “In half a sichen Ku Ge’s horse-mounted bandits will reach the city gate; if it doesn’t take too much time, Wanwan certainly happy to answer your question.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “This is just a simple little question: why is Yin Gui Pai willing to be drawn into the dispute of becoming the master of the world?”
Shrugging her shoulders, Wanwan replied, “Who doesn’t want to be the master of the world? Isn’t this question a bit superfluous?”
Kou Zhong spoke in bewilderment, “For Li Mi, Wang Shichong, Dou Jiande, Li Shimin, and the others, this is certainly a stupid question. Among life achievements, nothing can surpass establishing a dynasty setting up an era, toiling to become master of the universe that will last for thousands generations. But for your virtuous master Zhu Yuyan, or perhaps Wan Xiaojie yourself, the real pursuit is perhaps not the wealth or power of the secular world!”
Wanwan smiled and said, “I never expected that you had such an understanding about us. Perhaps it can be explained this way: the master of the world is like the extension and continuation of our struggle against Ci Hang Jing Zhai. Also because of this reason I am willing to sit down and have a peaceful talk with you. Otherwise, if we do all we can to deal with you, how long do you think you will last?”
Sneering, Kou Zhong said, “Don’t threaten us! Haven’t you tried to deal with us will all your strength before? But without success!”
Wanwan revealed a sad expression as if she took pity of his ignorance; she sighed and said, “At the Eastern Capital, we indeed had the intention to kill you; to be precise, we intended to kill one of you. But in the end we refrained from shooting at the rat for fear of breaking the vase. Even my humble master, due to all kinds of apprehensions, did not dare to carelessly make her move. As for the reasons behind it, you think about it yourselves!”
After a short pause, she let out a faint sigh and said, “The reason we wanted to deal with you, other than for the ‘Duke Yang’s Treasure’, we are afraid that you might stand on Ci Hang Jing Zhai’s side. But now that worry has, of course, become redundant.”
Xu Ziling let out a cold snort, “Nonsense!” he said, “Didn’t you want to kill me earlier?”
Without concealing anything Wanwan replied forthrightly, “I indeed wanted to eliminate you. But the reason is not what you think. Ziling, do you want to hear it?”
Afraid that Xu Ziling and Wanwan might quarrel and thus spoil their big endeavor, Kou Zhong answered on his behalf, “Of course we are dying to hear it!”
Xu Ziling had no choice but to shut up and refrain from expressing any opinion.
Wanwan’s eyes emitted an incomparably tender expression, brimming with emotion like the continuous wave slapping against the riverbank; she spoke gently, “First of all is because you, Ziling, has established a delicate relationship with Shi Feixuan, which, to us, creates a big problem. Secondly, Wanwan is a bit afraid I cannot restrain my emotions and fall in love with you.”
“What?” Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling blurted out together.
Looking at Xu Ziling’s handsome face blushing and his extremely awkward expression, “Pft!” Wanwan burst out in tender giggle and said, “That is the truth, believe it or not, it’s up to you.”
The sound of hoof beats was getting nearer and nearer.
Ku Ge has finally arrived.
But Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling no longer had the confidence and assurance they had before.
Wanwan’s smile was getting sweeter and even more beautiful.