Book 21 Chapter 2 – Reversed Fortune
Xu Ziling and Shi Qingxuan stood on top of a small hill. Far behind them was the faint flicker of Hefei city lights.
Shi Qingxuan smiled and said, “I already guessed that that yao dao [demon Taoist] would not dare to fight, because he only trained to the ‘separating spirit’ level, and not the ‘fusion and flow of the spirit’ level; hence there was no chance that he could beat your false bravado of ‘Huan Ri Da Fa’. What’s more, unexpectedly you were able to tell where his spirit was stored, and where would his qi return to. How did you know that?”
Xu Ziling calmly shrugged his shoulders and said, “That was purely some kind of reaction after the qi contacted the mind, when I explored his mental and physical efforts concentrated at his heart and kidney, his gang qi surged endlessly at his Du meridians, waiting for action after having accumulated power; it was exceptionally mysterious. If not for my body generated the perception, I would not believe that there exists such an amazing skill. It’s just that it still slightly lacks the maturity to reach the highest state.”
Shi Qingxuan’s face showed a reminiscing expression, as if she was recalling some fond memories of the past, her beautiful eyes looked deep onto the edge of the night sky covering the whole earth. Her thoughts wandering far away, she said, “Fortunately Qing Xuan could never forget Niang’s words, otherwise I would not be able to help you cross this crisis. Zuo yaodao ranked number seven among the Eight Great Masters of the Demonic Sects; his martial art skill surpasses You Niaojuan, who is at the bottom of the list. Although your martial art skill is superior, if you fight him fair and square, to whom the deer falls [fig. the one to emerge victor (usually in context of seizing the throne)] is yet to be seen.”
Emotionally moved, Xu Ziling said, “Turns out it was your Niang who told you that. She must not be an ordinary person.”
Revealing an intensely proud expression, Shi Qingxuan said softly, “Of course Niang is out of the ordinary, otherwise, You Niaojuan and the others would not wait until they heard the news of Niang passing before they dared to seize the ‘Demonic Emperor Relic’.”
Xu Ziling really wished he could ask about her father, but because it pertained the other’s personal affairs, he had no choice but to suppress his curiosity and change the subject by asking, “Are you saying that Zhu Yuyan also did not dare to provoke your Niang?”
“Of course,” Shi Qingxuan proudly replied, “Niang is one of the people that Zhu Yuyan has deep apprehension, otherwise, Lu Dashi would not have handed the ‘Demonic Emperor Relic’ to her!”
Emotionally moved, Xu Ziling said, “In this world, other than people from Ci Hang Jing Zhai and Ning Daoqi, unexpectedly there is still someone who can make Zhu Yuyan afraid. It is indeed previously unimaginable. No wonder when I heard you breaking Jin Huanzhen’s demonic sound with your flute, I had a faint feeling that it would be one way to restrain Zhu Yuyan’s ‘Tianmo Yin’ [demonic/devil sound].”
Shi Qingxuan cast an amazed glance at him, nodding her head she said, “Lu Dashi’s words were certainly spot on; Xu Xiong’s perception is above average, it is really amazing.”
And then she smiled slightly and said, “Niang is not quietly someone outside Jing Zhai and Ning Daoqi, rather, she came from the Jing Zhai; she was actually the incumbent Zhaizhu’s [master of the monastery] Shijie [martial (older) sister].”
Hearing that, Xu Ziling was stunned; he could only stare at her.
Shi Qingxuan made a rarely-seen-naughty-little-girl’s-cute-and-charming face at him, and as usual, she stopped at a cliffhanger, “I’ve told you too much. Oh! It’s time for us to part company! Before we break up, let Qingxuan tell you how to find the secluded forest in the small valley. Don’t forget it!”
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When Jiao Hongjin thought that Kou Zhong was about to repeat the same trick, he shook the round table and broke the wooden legs, then he flung the tabletop to injure the enemy. Kou Zhong then grabbed one of the legs, and using one hand he lifted the marble tabletop, which weighed about three, four hundred catty, at an angle in the air.
Due to the angle at which he lifted the marble tabletop happened to place the center of gravity directly above him, he was able to balance it without too much strength, so that the heavy tabletop appeared to be light.
At the same time he shouted loudly, “Da Dangjia please listen to Xiaodi; the fact is that I was just speaking nonsense. Du Bangzhu is indeed wise and has divine martial power.”
While speaking, he was heading toward the corner, which could not be seen from the main entrance. Jiao Hongjin had no choice but to follow closely behind him.
Du Ren’s impatient voice came through, “I don’t have time to bicker with you!”
Kou Zhong suddenly roared, “Too late!”
This shout was imbued with his internal power, like a different version of the ‘Tianmo Yin’. Although it could not produce hallucination in the enemy’s mind like Zhu Yuyan, it could shock and hurt the enemies’ eardrums. The effect was first, to intimidate the enemies, and second, to drown Du Ren’s order to release the fire arrows.
While the several hundred Luoma Bang men, who had been waiting outside the door, poised for attack, heard the roar and were thrown into panic, Kou Zhong hurled the marble tabletop out of the main entrance while he himself dashed over the threshold behind it. Jiao Hongjin ferociously clenched his teeth, and risking his life, he maintained the ‘accompanying-the-gentleman’ frame of mind, he pursued behind Kou Zhong.
Hundreds of fiery arrows were shot from the snipers on top of the courtyard wall and the archers fanning out at the square.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud. The tabletop landed on the ground, and he used it as a shield in front that not a single drop of water could enter. And then, releasing both hands, he shouted to Jiao Hongjin, “You go left, I go right!”
‘Chi! Chi! Pop! Pop!’
The sound lingered on faintly. More than 90% of the fiery arrows either hit the empty space, or hit the tabletop. The rest were struck down by the two men shooting out from both sides, either by the saber or bare hand, and fell down to the ground.
After blocking the first round of arrows, Kou Zhong did not dare to be negligence, he lifted up the marble tabletop and whirled it in the air to charge toward the enemy ranks.
The enemies did not have time to reload their bows, and already they were caught in chaotic warfare.
Du Ren, with more than a dozen of martial art masters, his personal guards, stood outside the courtyard gate to conduct the overall situation. Upon seeing this, his countenance changed, he roared, “Kill them without mercy!”
The dozen or so martial art masters standing to his left and right immediately rushed out to join the siege to intercept the two.
The more he brandished the tabletop, the more Kou Zhong was able to move it with ‘what the heart wishes, the hand accomplishes’ ease.
At the beginning, he thought that he could only hold on for the time needed to burn half of incense stick, before he would be out of strength and had to abandon the tabletop. But when he really applied his strength, he discovered that as long as he could take advantage of the tabletop’s own weight and hold it in equilibrium, he could use it to attack the enemy, with the effect of four tael to push a thousand catty.
And after every attack, he could take advantage while the tabletop was reaching the next point of equilibrium to take a breather and restore his qi.
The tabletop turned everywhere; it was extremely fun.
The shields split, the spears broke, sabers and swords left the hands and dropped to the ground. The enemies hit by the edge of the tabletop only stained it with their blood; none did not suffer broken bones and split flesh as they were thrown and tumbled away to the ground, absolutely no one was able to stand.
Jiao Hongjin’s confidence rose up, his broadsword moved with the might of a tiger, acting as a shield to protect Kou Zhong’s rear.
This moment the enemy’s martial art masters arrived; one man soared high and pounced down, another man took advantage while Jiao Hongjin was blocking two spears attacking Kou Zhong’s right flank to enter from Kou Zhong’s left, and brandished the pair of hatchets in his hands to chop on the side of Kou Zhong’s back, while yet another man hacked down on the back of Kou Zhong’s neck.
Kou Zhong’s killer instinct was on the rise; he stayed calm without showing any fear.
First, the tabletop spun like a windmill smashing the enemies. The fist of the man pouncing from above sneakily attacked his face. The punch had not arrived, a gust of wind arrived first. Aghast, the man wanted to withdraw, but Kou Zhong’s leg flew from underneath, the toes of his boot hit the man’s lower abdomen.
The two martial art masters, one above the other below, screamed at the same time.
The one striking from the top was swept by the tabletop, his bones broken his flesh split he fell some ways away. The one wielding a pair of hatchets spurted blood and fell face up, knocking down three enemies behind him.
The tabletop swept again, forcing more than a dozen saber-shield wielders swarming toward him to scatter. But Kou Zhong’s true qi has also bottomed out; he only had one more chance to stake everything on one throw.
Twisting his waist, Kou Zhong pulled the tabletop toward the right rear, and then with a wild roar he rolled the tabletop with all his might toward the exit.
By this time the two men have killed their way less than twenty paces from the main gate of the courtyard. The tabletop rolled everywhere. Overwhelmed with shock, the enemies scattered in all directions to evade. Those who were slower were smashed and fell face up in such a sorry state.
Kou Zhong and Jiao Hongjin knew this was their only chance to escape. Fast as lightning the two ran after the swiftly rolling tabletop, rushing toward the gate of the outer courtyard.
Seeing the unfavorable turn of events, Du Ren and the others rushed over to intercept, but their own men avoiding the disaster swarmed at them like a tidal wave, forcing them to move aside, and thus wasted this good opportunity.
The tabletop slammed onto the closed outer courtyard main gate. Both the tabletop and the gate shattered.
Although Kou Zhong’s true qi, which came from the ‘Secret to Long Life’, was able to cycle endlessly, to grow and multiply continuously, but due to excessive loss, each he exerted his strength he was going all out, he did not have time to recover. This moment he was like a lantern which oil has dried out. He could only raise the last mouthful of true qi to rush out the door.
Jiao Hongjin threw himself behind him. Seeing his footsteps were without strength, he was shocked. Hastily he rushed over to Kou Zhong’s side and reached out to support him.
Right in this desperate situation, where life and death was only separated by a line, countless archers appeared on the roof of the building across the street.
While both men cried inwardly ‘my life ends right here’, continuous ‘chi, chi’ noise rang out across the deserted street, arrows were flying above, and to the left and right of them. But the target was the pursuing troops swarming out of the courtyard gate and the enemy archers squatting high on the wall.
About a dozen men wielding shields pounced onto the street to surround the two men, protecting them. One of them called out, “Er Dangjia, we are here!”
Jiao Hongjin heaved a sigh of relief. He turned to Kou Zhong and said, “They are my men.”
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The most annoying thing for Du Ren was not the alliance with Ku Ge, or his desire to put Jiao Hongjin to death, but because of Kou Zhong’s intervention, he missed the opportunity to kill Jiao Hongjin.
Within the Luoma Bang, Jiao Hongjin was a figure receiving more love and respect form their people than Du Ren. Du Ren’s alliance with Ku Ge further drove him from the heart of his people. In fact, Luoma Bang was on the verge of splitting up; hence the reason Du Ren decided to gain the initiative by striking first.
Kou Zhong spreading the ‘true rumors’ was like igniting fire to dry, withered leaves and firewood sticks. Luoma Bang was one of the secret societies that rose abruptly due to the situation surrounding the collapse of the old dynasty. Most of its members came from the lower strata of local people, hence it had a very strong local flavor. They would never allow themselves to connive with outsiders to harm their fellow citizens of their hometown.
Du Ren wanted to form an alliance with Ku Ge, he had his own difficulties.
No matter how conceited and foolish [Orig. Yelang thinks too highly of himself] Du Ren was, he was well aware that he was not Kou Zhong’s match. The only way was to take advantage while Kou Zhong has not had steady footings, to exploit Ku Ge’s desire for revenge, to expand his power without restraint by capturing Liangdu, so that Kou Zhong’s up-and-coming power would be pulled up by the roots.
In the end, it was just a wishful thinking, because he had never imagined that Kou Zhong would come to shake his foundation.
The first person to find out that Du Ren was going to take care Jiao Hongjin was the ‘Ghost Shadow’ Luo Qifei, who received Kou Zhong’s order to spy on the side. This man was quite intelligent and insightful; he immediately notified Shen Renfu, who then contacted other Luoma Bang leaderships who had close relationship with Jiao Hongjin, which immediately incited surging emotion among the Luoma Bang crowd, driving them to rush over toward the pleasure house and surround it, so that Du Ren and his troop of personal guards were trapped inside.
This moment the situation was reversed; Kou Zhong and Jiao Hongjin, escorted by their men, went across the street, under the deafening cheers of their supporters, calling out Jiao Hongjin’s name.
Jiao Hongjin did not know what to do, so Kou Zhong whispered in his ear, “Enumerate the charges against him first!”
Grabbing his head, Jiao Hongjin said, “What charges?”
This moment Du Ren appeared at the main entrance, about to rush out to the street.
Kou Zhong hastily shouted, “Release the arrows!”
Their men were eager to make their move, only they lacked the leadership to give them the command, plus they were still a bit afraid of Du Ren’s influence. But as soon as they heard the order, immediately a thousand arrows were shot, sending Du Ren and his cronies to cover their heads and sneak away like a rat, back into the courtyard.
Another burst of cheers shook the heavens as they vented their dissatisfaction toward Du Ren.
Du Ren’s frightened voice came out from inside, “Jiao Hongjin commits treason against our Gang, you …”
“Shut up!” Kou Zhong shouted, “Little kid Du Ren, you clearly knew you have committed three major crimes, you are no longer worthy to be our Gang’s Bangzhu.”
“Who the hell are you?” Du Ren angrily shouted, “You dare to infiltrate our Gang to stir up trouble [orig. fan and light up the fire].”
Kou Zhong secretly kicked Jiao Hongjin, who was standing by his side; the latter busily shouted, “Du Ren, don’t try to change the subject. Your first major crime is colluding with Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits, harming our compatriots.”
More than a thousand Luoma Bang men present immediately shouted and cursed; Du Ren could not even refute the accusation.
The mood of the crowd was extremely intense; Jiao Hongjin could not think of anything else to say, Kou Zhong hurriedly prompted him.
Jiao Hongjin’s spirit was greatly aroused; his imposing manner rose up like a rainbow, he shouted, “The second major crime is your inability to discern black and white, you conspired to murder our Gang’s Xiongdi.”
The crowd broke into another shaking-the-heavens shout, completely drowning Du Ren’s feeble shout.
Jiao Hongjin whispered in Kou Zhong’s ear, “What is the third major crime?”
This time it was Kou Zhong’s turn to grab his head; he was simply blurting out about the three major crimes, just because the number three sounded appropriate, but he had not thought about which three.
All around them, it was as if the Gang member took the urgency of the two men upon themselves, as if it had happened to themselves, but the more the level of anxiety grew, the more Kou Zhong was unable to think. Until the shouting gradually subsided, suddenly Shen Renfu’s head appeared from among the crowd, and said, “The third major crime is damaging the reputation of our Gang! How about that?”
While Jiao Hongjin was thinking that this did not sound to be a serious crime, an idea flashed in Kou Zhong’s mind; he thundered, “The third major crime is carrying out a scheme for personal gain, unexpectedly he wanted to set fire to Xiao Chuan Guang and burn the ladies and the guests to death. This is irrefutable evidence; would the victims please raise your voices, otherwise, we are … Hey! Never mind!”
He was going to say, ‘Otherwise, we are not going to save you’; fortunately he reined in the horse at the edge of the precipice, and did not turn into a vile creature who saw death but refuse to help.
The ‘victims’ on Xiao Chun Guang main building immediately shouted their accusations on Du Ren.
Seeing the time was ripe, Kou Zhoung shouted loudly, “Brothers! From today onwards, Jiao Hongjin is our Bangzhu. Long live [orig. ten thousand years] Jiao Bangzhu!”
Immediately the cry ‘Long live Jiao Bangzhu!’ resonated the skies.
Kou Zhong shouted again, “Men in the courtyard, listen! If you abandon your weapons and surrender, Jiao Bangzhu is not going to investigate, we are all still good brothers!”
As soon as he stopped, the courtyard and the street immediately quieted down, leaving only the crackling noise of the torches and the sound of the breathing.
No one knew who started throwing their weapons, but then there was unending noise of ‘Ding! Ding! Dang! Dang!’, so everybody knew Du Ren’s influence was gone, his position would be difficult to protect.
Letting out a long laughter, Kou Zhong said, “Du Ren kid! Get out here and receive your death!”
Du Ren roared wildly and rushed out with a spear in his hands, straight toward where Jiao Hongjin was standing.
Unending ‘Chi! Chi!’ noise was heard, as hundreds of arrows rained down on him.
No one knew how many arrows hit Du Ren. He slumped down in the middle of the street, and died on the spot.
 According to the story the king of Yelang (c. 120 BC), convinced that his kingdom was the greatest in all the world, inquired rhetorically of the Han emperor's envoy, “Which is greater, Yelang or Han?” This gave rise to the Chinese idiom, “Yelang thinks too highly of itself” (夜郎自大). Other sources suggest that Yelang's king was simply copying an earlier statement by a ruler of the adjacent Kingdom of Dian. (Source: Wikipedia.)