Book 19 Chapter 2 – Blood-soaked Capital City
With his hands behind his back, Li Shimin leisurely walked out of the hole; he smiled and said, “As long as Ziling Xiong is able to remain here for one sichen, Li Shimin guarantees that Ziling Xiong will be able to leave unscathed.”
Xu Ziling cast a sidelong glance toward Yuchi Jingde, who was continuously applying his internal strength to pull the whip as hard as he could. Remaining tranquil and indifferent, he said, “Shimin Xiong must not lie to me. If not for you guaranteeing Wang Shichong that you are going to take care of Xiaodi, how could Wang Shichong dare to deal with Kou Zhong? Isn’t he afraid that in the future he would not be able to sleep peacefully?”
None among Zhangsun Wuji and the others did not show astonished expression, they all felt the necessity to reevaluate Xu Ziling’s ability and wisdom.
Xu Ziling’s conjecture demonstrated his deep understanding and cognition of human nature.
Presently everybody in the world knew that Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s life and death were connected to each other; if they got rid of one of them, it would be strange indeed if the other one would not seek revenge. And if they gained this kind of dreadful enemy, anybody would have a hard time finding a good night’s sleep afterwards.
In his heart, Yuchi Jingde was having another strange feeling.
The glance that Xu Ziling shot at him, as clear as a deity’s, seemed to penetrate him inside and out that nothing was left out, knowing what is true and what is false in him, making him feeling so uncomfortable that he nearly spurted out blood, and the strength of his hands immediately diminished to some degree.
With a wry smile Li Shimin said, “Ziling Xiong understands Wang Shichong too well! But I, Li Shimin, have other ways to deal with my business; I will never let anybody else influence me.”
Xu Ziling laughed calmly and said, “If Shimin Xiong is unwilling to answer my question just now, Xiaodi is going to charge to break the siege.”
Li Shimin’s eyes shot an emotional expression as he shook his head and said, “In addition to Xuyan Xiong, there’s also Xiaodi’s Er Shu [second uncle]. Ziling Xiong ought to know that Kou Zhong has no chance of returning alive. It would be better to stop at this point, I can then arrange to let you have Kou Xiong’s remains.”
Li Shimin’s second uncle was Li Shentong, an outstanding martial art master within the Li Clan.
Xu Ziling looked up to the sky, and fixed his attention to the half moon, which has just appeared on the eastern horizon; the tone of his voice was calm as if it did not contain the slightest bit of human world feeling, as he spoke heavily, “I am going to make my move!”
A burst of hot tears welled up in Li Shimin’s pair of tiger-eyes; he turned around and walked away, while calling out sadly, “Ziling Xiong, please forgive my offense!”
This sentence was the same as he was issuing an order to execute Xu Ziling. Immediately the atmosphere was filled with thick fire of war.
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Swift like a gale Kou Zhong slid close to the wall, both to evade the attack from the right side, also to make the archers at the top of the wall not have any access to take aim at him. The one thing that gave the interceptors the most headache was that when he encountered a powerful enemy, he would slid to the wall like a swimming fish, and avoided the enemy right on time. But when the enemy was weak, he would go all-out to make a kill. Over the short distance of about ten zhang, he had received more injuries, but the number of enemies slaughtered by him was also in the dozen. The battlefield was intense, but chaotic.
He had just hacked two enemies blocking his way, sending them flying away, when from his rear left came a sharp and swift attack. Kou Zhong did not have time to look, using his left foot as the axis, his spun his tiger-body around, lightning fast the Moon in the Well chopped, he parried the attacking lance.
As soon as he looked, he recognized the attacker as one of Wang Shichong’s personal guards, a Pianjiang [deputy general] who also led the troops; he had chatted with him several times, and had even fought side-by-side with him.
This moment the opponent showed a wry smile with a hint of helplessness as he drew the lance back. Kou Zhong originally wanted to follow-up with rapid succession of his treasure saber strikes, but he could not help forcing himself to pull back. While these thoughts were fleeting in his mind, three spears swiftly stabbed him.
Kou Zhong easily somersaulted to evade.
He saw that the Dong Taiyang Gate was no more than ten zhang away, but the gate was full of enemies, and all were wielding weapons that were beneficial to attack from a distance like lances, spears, halberds, and the others, which were most disadvantageous to him since he wanted to have a close range combat.
And to the left there was a group of approximately a hundred men with fresh power, which was coming over to besiege him, with shields on their left hands and swords on their right hands; their formation was orderly. If he was intercepted, it definitely would be a dead end for him.
Kou Zhong shivered inwardly.
The enemy has obviously recovered after the confusion, and reorganized their offensive. Plus they obviously knew that he wanted to break through the Dong Taiyang Gate; therefore, they concentrated their main force there, so that even if he grew wings, it would still be difficult for him to fly.
Four spears, like four streaks of lightning, were shooting at him.
With his right foot pushing the wall, Kou Zhong changed direction, and charged toward a group of enemies. Saber and man united, more and more enemies fell face up as he stormed out of the siege.
Although it has taken the enemy by surprise, but because there were enemy soldiers everywhere, he could only charge out of one siege into another, but the distance to the Dong Taiyang Gate was only six zhang now.
A man, with a shield on his left hand to protect his body, hacked down on him with the sword in his right hand; full of momentum, carrying a gust of wind assaulting Kou Zhong’s face.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “General Song, how are you?”
The attacker was indeed Song Mengqiu. The enemies all around matched Song Mengqiu’s offensive; like tidal wave they surged over.
Song Mengqiu thundered, “If you immediately throw your saber away and surrender, I guarantee that Kou Xiong will die with intact corpse.”
Laughing coldly, Kou Zhong said, “General Song is showing this much consideration to Xiaodi?”
Kou Zhong rapidly flashed away to evade the opponent’s sword momentum; with his shoulder he bumped an enemy to his left on the pit of his stomach. The man broke his bones and spurted blood, but by the time he fell down, Kou Zhong already flicked his wrist and the saber hacked down on Song Mengqiu’s refined steel shield, creating a loud crashing sound that shook the entire battlefield.
A spear tip pierced his shoulder blade from behind. Kou Zhong flashed, the spear was shaken that it slipped, only leaving a trace of blood.
But Song Mengqiu bore the brunt.
Kou Zhong’s saber strike carried his full strength, with spiraling energy contained within it; so sudden like a thunderbolt, with an extremely powerful force, so that even with Song Mengqiu’s skill, he was still hacked down by the saber momentum and was thrown nearly a zhang away, knocked his own men that they fell facedown to the left and tumbled down to the right, as if he was intentionally trying to open up a path for Kou Zhong.
Song Mengqiu’s entire left arm and half of his body went numb, but before he had time to hasten the circulation of his blood and qi, Kou Zhong, like his own shadow, followed closely. The murderous aura of the Moon in the Well, like a surging tide or angry wave, rolled in.
While Song Mengqiu cried out, ‘Not good!’, Kou Zhong’s saber, ingenious to the extreme, only gave him one option: he had to hastily raise his sword to block.
The spiraling energy like a huge wave surging into him; Song Mengqiu groaned in pain, and then like a puppet in Kou Zhong’s hand he staggered toward the Dong Taiyang Gate for a dozen steps or so, opening up a path for Kou Zhong again.
Although the hundred something sword and shield wielders behind Kou Zhong desperately ran after him, all along they were always a few steps behind.
Four, five spears stabbed from Song Mengqiu’s left and right, hoping to stop Kou Zhong from using Song Mengqiu as his main target of attack.
Kou Zhong knew that in this critical moment, if he could hack Song Mengqiu that he fell back a dozen steps or so, he could fight over toward the gateway, which was about eight zhang deep.
Throwing his head back, Kou Zhong let out a long whistle, and used his remaining strength to circulate his true qi to all his four limbs and hundreds of bones in his body, and continued on into his saber. The Moon in the Well immediately exuded a deep, cold, fierce and severe murderous aura. The men blocking his way felt a deep, cold saber qi assaulted their faces; they felt as if their body had entered an icehouse, and had difficulty breathing.
The saber wind screamed; powerful, severe and ear piercing.
Song Mengqiu seized this opportunity to scamper away.
After a number of heavy, dull crashes, none of the several spear-wielders blocking Kou Zhong’s way was lucky not to have his spear broken and stagger left and right, with one wound or another.
Because his true energy was at the point of exhaustion, Kou Zhong steeled his will to make a somersault to evade the massive military offensive coming from four sides, eight directions, toward the Dong Taiyang Gate. More than a dozen injuries on his body immediately sprayed blood; it was a scene shocking the eye, astonishing the heart.
Xu Ziling discharged Kou Zhong’s safety, as well as his own life or death, entirely out of his brain ocean and heart lake. His lingtai [at the top of the head] was empty, clear, still, and bright, without the slightest bit of distracting thoughts.
He did not reveal the slightest sign that he had clearly grasped the path, the angle and the order of the enemy’s attack.
These six Heavenly Policy Mansion martial art masters of upper-ranked generals’ level were indeed worthy to be called old Jianghu veterans with real combat experience. Without even moving they were already able to seal tight all escape routes. When they moved, it would surely become like a seamless heavenly clothes [idiom: flawless]. The most formidable was Luo Shixin’s saber, Shi Wanbao’s spear and Liu Dewei’s truncheon, which separately attack from three sides: front, rear and side, and the moment of their arrival did not differ. Even if he moved both hands at the same time, he could only block the opponents’ two weapons.
Worst yet, his left ankle was still wrapped tight by Yuchi Jingde’s long whip, so that he was unable to make significant shift or sidestep the attack.
More frightening was Zhangsun Wuji’s jade flute, which arrived a hair later than the three men’s attack, to make him know that even if he was able to parry or evade the three men’s all-out first wave of offensive, he would still have to deal with Zhangsun Wuji’s all-out strike.
Pang Yu, who was standing about two zhang behind him with naked blade in his hand, also presented enormous threat to him, making Xu Ziling feel deep apprehension, and forcing him to set aside spare energy to deal with his sneak attack.
Fighting one-on-one against any one of these six martial art masters would be enough to force Xu Ziling to go all-out; combined together, their killing power increased exponentially. Under normal circumstances, any one of them would be able to inflict heavy injury to him, without giving him the opportunity to strike back.
Where could he find the hole in the enemy’s joining hands, the ‘escaping one’? Such offensive was really difficult to dismantle; his situation was really dangerous.
Suddenly Xu Ziling roared; sending the strength in his whole body to his left ankle, he attacked Yuchi Jingde along the body of the whip.
Yuchi Jingde felt an enormous, matchless spiraling strange energy bursting into his hand; in his shock he quickly focused his entire strength to resist. Who would have thought that the opponent’s spiraling energy suddenly changed direction? From attacking force, it turned into a pulling force.
But Yuchi Jingde was outstanding as well; lowering his waist in a horse stance, he pulled the Gui Zang Whip.
This moment Luo Shixin’s saber, Shi Wanbao’s spear and Liu Weide’s truncheon struck at the same time.
Xu Ziling laughed aloud. Like a cotton wadding blown by a gale, with a speed that could not be discerned by naked eye, he broke away from the enemy’s siege. Swift like the wind and fire he ran into Yuchi Jingde. The enemy’s whip’s pulling force has become the helping hand for him to dodge the attack instead. Only Shi Wanbao’s spear drew a wound on his left shoulder so deep that it split his flesh.
Yuchi Jingde suddenly lost the pulling force, his own strength recoiled, even with his profound internal strength he could not help feeling unbearable discomfort that he nearly vomited blood. He staggered back, and his Gui Zang Whip, which followed an unceasingly growing in amplitude sine wave pattern, nearly fell to the ground.
Pang Yu and Zhangsun Wuji, who were waiting for an opportunity on the side, could see everything clearly; they were both horror stricken.
To accomplish such an impossible feat like Xu Ziling just did, one must be able to switch the direction of the true qi within one’s body many times in the blink of an eye. It was only this moment they realized the formidability of the internal power from the ‘Secret to Long Life’.
The two shouted at the same time, sword and flute moved together.
More astonishing thing happened.
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Kou Zhong’s saber hacked a long halberd stabbing toward him; borrowing the reaction force, he flew at an angle, straight toward the upper floor of the Dong Taiyang Gate.
The enemies had never expected that he would choose difficulty and abandon easy, and they were overwhelmed with caught-unprepared feeling.
More than a dozen long special spears, extending as long as three zhang, which were used specially to besiege a city, were swung toward him.
Kou Zhong made a decision in his heart. Most of the power he used to soar just now was borrowed from the reaction force, so he still had some energy remained. Quickly he exchanged his true qi to generate new power, and somersaulted midair to evade the attack, while crossing more than two zhang of the city wall, and then going at an angle toward the city gate tower at the edge of the city wall standing against the Imperial Palace.
From this angle looking northwest, he could see the inner city wall of the Imperial Palace, as well as the three gates, Yongtai, Taihe and Xingjiao, located at the southeast corner of the Palace City.
Indeed as he expected, the three gates did not seem to have any special guards reinforcement. Therefore, as long as he could manage a slightly faster speed, he would be able to enter the Imperial Palace before the enemies had time to intercept him, and then he would attempt to escape.
The top of the wall was in a great mess.
Kou Zhong threw his person and his saber together at the enemy ranks with their raised lances and standing spears, while thundering, “Death to those who block me!”
The Moon in the Well created a large circle of saber light overhead and pressing down, covering a large area. His power and qi was strong; indeed it was the strongest since his debut.
In this fight for his life, he displayed his skill to the greatest extend.
While the enemies were rushing to the east and turning over to the west, he set foot on the top of the wall.
At this time he was only about two zhang away from the edge of the wall facing west. Success in sight, his will to fight rose up. Not daring to be negligence, while the enemy’s formation was still in chaos, the Moon in the Well charged toward the wall’s edge like rolling wind, rushing thunder; immediately blood splashed everywhere. Two men blocking his way were immediately hit by the saber on their chest, straight into their heart, and they fell one after another.
Kou Zhong stepped on the enemies’ dead bodies, and then he moved around with slippery shenfa like a swimming fish, each strike of the saber resulted in one enemy fell down, and those who were hit by the saber died on the spot; there were only deaths, no injuries.
His internal qi circulated continuously; as the old power was diminishing, the new one was being generated.
Seeing he was this powerful, all around him the enemies’ heart and guts turned cold, and withdrew in profusion.
Kou Zhong gained a few more injuries, but his murderous intent grew. His Moon in the Well displayed its capability to extreme saturation, as he, with all his heart and soul, rushing and moving around unhindered, with an insufferably arrogant air.
Suddenly there was nobody in front of him but an empty air; turned out he had reached the edge of the city gate tower.
Kou Zhong turned around, the Moon in the Well swept in a circle, seven, eight spears and lances clashed with the saber and broke.
Everyone retreated in horror.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “Laozi [I, your father] is leaving!”
With a back flip he jumped.
Right this instant, two streams of qi power, thick and concentrated, strong and violent without equal, sharp like a blade, shot at him separately from underneath.
Inwardly Kou Zhong was greatly startled, knowing that finally he encountered martial art masters who could send him to his doom; not only one, but two.
Meanwhile, sound of weapons splitting the air was heard from behind, as six, seven spears were thrown at him from the top of the wall.
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Unexpectedly the Gui Zang Whip was pulled back taut.
A wave of violent, abrupt pulling force, despite Yuchi Jingde’s stable horse stance, has pulled him that he staggered two steps forward before he was able to steady his posture.
Pang Yu’s sword and Zhangsun Wuji’s flute also hit empty air.
It was impossible!
It was clear as day that Xu Ziling was rushing toward Yuchi Jingde, appearing to attack him with all his might; who would have thought that when he was about half a zhang away from the opponent, unexpectedly Xu Ziling halted, and retreated to the opposite direction, pulling the whip along with him?
This kind of sudden change in true qi could turn any martial art master’s Eight Extraordinary Channels into a great mess, and even drive him into fire deviation; yet Xu Ziling did it casually, as if nothing had happened.
The section of Gui Zang Whip wrapped around Xu Ziling’s ankle disintegrated into cun-size pieces. Laughing aloud, he said, “Heavenly Policy Mansion’s martial art masters are indeed out of the ordinary; I, Xu Ziling, have the honor to experience it!”
They only saw him soaring into the sky, rising above the wall, and disappeared in the distant darkness.
Everybody could only stare blankly on the spot, and looked at each other in disbelief.
No one had ever thought that the whip, which on the surface seemed to put him in extremely disadvantageous situation, had become the one thing that he relied on to escape. Such an amazing magic trick was indeed beyond everybody’s ability to play.
Although they had such a high regard on Xu Ziling’s ability, it was not before they were engaged in a real fight that they understood the level of his attainments.