Book 3 Chapter 4 – Fallen Into The Trap and Captured.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, along with Qin Shubao ran to the top of a small hill, behind them was a link of mountain ridges, while ahead of them was a great plain, extending as far as their eyes could see. About five li to their left River Si was flowing into the wilderness; no human footprint was to be seen.
Qin Shubao sat down and said, “Let’s take a rest for a while to compose ourselves.”
The two boys followed his lead and sat down on the grassy meadow. “Who is that Lu Miaozi guy?” Kou Zhong asked, “He can make such a formidable net to capture people.”
Qin Shubao shook his head, “I am not too clear myself,” he said, “Ay! How can you still have time to mind other people’s business?”
After lost in thought for half a day, he turned to the two boys and said, “Since you two have helped her dealing with out Great Sui Army, it was such a good opportunity, why didn’t you join their Wagang Army?”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other; recalling Zu Junyan colluding with foreign power against the Big Boss, Zhai Rang, there was lingering fear in their heart. The latter replied, “We recently saw a little affair concerning Wagang Army, hence we lost interest in joining them.”
Qin Shubao did not question closely, he thought aloud, “Shen Luoyan is the number one tactician under Li Mi’s command, her scheming skill excels above others; since she said she is going to capture alive, it must not be an empty word. Let us play along with her, we will go our separate way, so that she cannot attend to us simultaneously, hence we are disrupting her troops disposition.”
Kou Zhong shook his head and said, “Xiao Ling and I are inseparable to the death, we have been like that since we were little.”
Qin Shubao nodded and said, “Let’s make two groups then!” Pointing to the plains below, he said, “If she wants to capture us alive, she will have to find our track first. I will run toward the plains first, you two stay here from this high point to observe, see what method that stinky woman will use to follow my trail. If we know her method, we can run away from her.”
Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling asked, “But you will be far away by then, how are we going to notify you?”
Qin Shubao took out a small copper mirror from his pocket; handing it over to the two boys, he said, “This is how we communicate by reflecting sunlight, same as using signal lantern during the night.” And then he taught the two boys how to use it. “Three days later,” he continued, “We’ll meet again at Pengcheng’s eastern gate. If we really can beat that woman, we, three brothers, will have a big his granny’s feast, and won’t go home before we get drunk.”
Amidst his loud laughter, he ran down the hill.
The two boys concentrated their attention to watch Qin Shubao as he ran farther and farther away, while also looked around to see if there was any sign of the enemy.
Who would have thought that until Qin Shubao has turned into a small dot at the edge of the plains, they still did not even see half a shadow of other human beings?
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “Turns out that beautiful woman was only letting out an empty tiger roar!”
Xu Ziling also felt relieved, “Don’t you need to relay the good news?” he reminded him.
With an air of complacency Kou Zhong aimed the mirror toward the sun and made some signals.
On the other side, Qin Shubao tarried for half a day before continuing his escape, disappearing out of their sight.
“There ought to be three more sichen before dark,” Kou Zhong said, “We’d better to back to the river to find a way to Pengcheng. This move should be outside that Shen woman’s expectation.”
“In my opinion,” Xu Ziling said, “We should go to the highest mountain and hide there for his mother’s three days and three nights. If we see somebody’s coming, we can make out getaway; that will be a better idea.”
Kou Zhong shook his head, “Don’t forget that our peerless qinggong has not been trained to perfection,” he said, “I don’t think we can outrun that woman. Therefore, we must to go a place like Pengcheng, if that woman came, we’ll cry out along the street, ‘Wagang Army attacks!’ And then when the officers and men are dealing with her, we could easily get away.”
Xu Ziling thought that what he said was very reasonable; hence he stayed silent and simply followed Kou Zhong running to River Si.
The two boys ran high and crouched low; they picked the less traveled wild, mountainous path, making a wide detour upstream of River Si, about thirty li away from the section of the river where they met Shen Luoyan.
Perhaps it was because of the chaos of war, but a very long time has passed before they saw boats sailing on the river. However, no matter how these two boys ‘threatened and bribed’, nobody was willing to stop their boat for them. They were not accustomed to climbing onto boats relying on force; hence they could only watch the river and sigh quietly.
After walking along the river for another sichen or so, ahead they saw a crossing pier, where a small fishing boat was moored, but they did not see anybody. In great delight the two boys rushed toward the boat.
Coming closer to the boat, they heard the sound of snoring coming from inside the boat’s canopy. The two boys looked inside and saw an old fisherman was sprawling on the deck, sleeping soundly.
Kou Zhong said, “If this is a trap, we can be considered losing with the most willing heart.”
Xu Ziling drew his long saber and chuckled evilly, “I won’t believe that easily. This must be her man.” And then he signaled Kou Zhong with his eyes.
Kou Zhong caught on; he also drew his saber and said with a cold laugh, “This is called I’d rather defeat people than have people defeat me.” He jumped and charged into the shed, thrusting his saber toward the old fisherman’s back.
But the saber stopped as soon as it touched the man’s back.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and pulled his saber back; and then he signaled Xu Ziling that all is good.
Right this moment the snoring stopped, the old fisherman woke up with a start; with sleepy eyes he sat up. Before Kou Zhong could say anything to greet him, the old fisherman screamed in terror and scrambled out to the bow from the other end of the shed. “Help! Robbers!” he shouted. And then with trembling hands and shaking legs he crawled to ashore, and ran for his life.
Like a couple of stupid birds the two boys watched him disappearing into the forest by the shore. Kou Zhong said apologetically, “The Senior must have been visited by robbers before, no wonder his reaction was so intense.”
Shrugging his shoulders, Xu Ziling said, “Most probably this fishing boat is his only possession, if he lose it to us, how would he make his living?”
Reluctantly Kou Zhong cast a couple of glances toward the fishing boat, and then he jumped ashore and said with a wry smile, “Then we must rely on our qinggong, which prowess shook the Wulin world.”
Halfheartedly the two boys left and continued their journey along the river. But they had been walking for only ten zhang or so, the old fisherman tiptoed out of the woods, trying to sneak back into the boat.
The two boys were overjoyed at this turn of events. “Laozhang [Sir, polite]!” Kou Zhong called out, “We are not robbers!”
The old fisherman jumped in fright; he dove straight toward the fishing boat, taking the last three steps in only two. Desperately he tried to untie the mooring rope.
By the time the two boys arrived, the old fisherman was still trying to untie the knot with ‘lost soul, dropped spirit’; but the more he pulled, the tighter the knot.
Kou Zhong squatted down at the pier; while helping him untie the knot, he said, “Laozhang! Look closely, do you think we look like robbers?”
Apparently the old fisherman was not as scared as before; still panting, he replied with his hoarse voice, “Daye [big master, see my note on ‘ye’ earlier], why are you looking for me?”
Xu Ziling politely said, “Laozhang, where are you heading? If you are going upstream, would it be possible for you to give us a ride?”
The old fisherman’s courage was boosted some more; he said, “You want a ride, then you must pay.”
Kou Zhong said awkwardly, “We don’t even have half a penny in our pockets. Laozhang, would it be possible for you to give us a favor?”
The old fisherman frowned. “Where are you going anyway?” he asked.
Xu Ziling probed, “It would be best if we can go to Pengcheng. But it depends on whether it is convenient for Laozhang to do so.”
“That won’t do!” the old fisherman said, “To go to Pengcheng, we need at least one day. How could I have time to fish then? If there is no money involved, I won’t do it.”
And then, squinting his eyes, he sized them up for a while before he said with a laugh, “How about this: those two sabers you have may be sold for a few taels. Just those to Laohan [old man, referring to self] as boat fare!”
Kou Zhong was cross, “What do you mean a few taels? Our sabers are highest quality goods …”
The old fisherman impatiently cut him off, “You don’t agree then forget about it. Laohan needs to set sail now.”
Xu Ziling pulled Kou Zhong aside and spoke in low voice, “There is something wrong here. This old man [laotou, slang] could be really Shen Luoyan’s man; otherwise, how come he is not afraid that from feeling awkward, we may get angry, and thus resort to violence against him? Also, why would he want to get our weapons?”
Kou Zhong nodded, “We need to test him,” he said, “If there is no problem, we can give the sabers to him; we can always snatch two more in the future, it’s not a big deal.”
Finished speaking, he turned toward the old fisherman and waved his hand, “We don’t need ride from you. Laozhang, please!”
The old fisherman grumbled a couple sentences, and then, ignoring the two boys, he steered the boat away from the pier.
The two boys’ suspicion was gone. Leaping over the water surface, they landed on the fishing boat. The old fisherman was so scared that his face and lips turned pale, and he was unable to even cry.
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Laozhang, did not misunderstand at all, it’s just that we suddenly want to make a deal with you. When we get to Pengcheng, these two sabers will be yours.”
The old fisherman breathed a sigh of relief, “I don’t want your sabers anymore,” he said, “When we get to Qinglong Tan [azure dragon beach], you help me throwing the net to catch fish, and then we go to Pengcheng to deliver the goods. Just consider that as your boat ride fare.”
Chapter 4, Part 2
Aitch, de nada. Ysabel, Jaya, Laoren, you are welcome. DongBin, thanks. I fixed it in the source doc. Sky, if you put it that way, then yes, I agree ... Looks like there will be more 'fun' women in the coming chapters. Here's end of Chapter 4.
The boat slowed down. The old fisherman ordered Xu Ziling to row at the stern, and told Kou Zhong to grab the pole; he said nervously, “After the bend ahead is the ‘Guishi Xia’ [ghost rock gorge], the stream is rapid, each time Laohan blast through, I am always very scared and on edge. That’s why although I know Qinglong Beach has the most fish, I would not dare to go there without any reason.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling turned their gaze forward; they saw from here on, the cliffs on both sides of river gradually grew taller and the river narrower, the terrain was indeed very dangerous. At the same time they were thinking that if there were an ambush here, it would be really bad. Hastily they focused their attention to steer the boat, as well as paying close attention to any sound of activity on both shores.
The fishing boat advanced bravely against the current. After turning a sharp bend, they saw the cliff suddenly narrowed, the river flowed faster; close to the shore there were hundreds and thousands of rocks, in all shapes and sizes, protruding above the water, making the water flowed even more like an unbridled horse running freely on the plains: harsh, powerful, rapid, and nasty; dashing against the boat, sending it swaying to the left and rolling to the right. The water surface was white with bubbles, frightening them to the core.
The three people worked together with all their heart. At the stern, Xu Ziling rowed and steered the boat, Kou Zhong used the long pole to push the boat away from the rocks, while the old fisherman controlled the sail to maintain the proper course.
The fishing boat forged ahead with great difficulty.
As they turned another bend, the fishing boat suddenly leaned toward a boulder near the left bank. Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “Look at me!” Leaping to the bow, he pushed the long pole forward forcefully on the rock.
It was not clear whether it was because they were somehow caught in the current, or because Kou Zhong had used too much force, the bow of the boat swayed to the right, so that the boat was horizontally across the river, and then the hull continued to lean sideways to the right.
Water immediately gushed into the cabin, the boat suddenly capsized to the right.
By the time the three people cried out in fear, they were already in the water. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were not afraid of the ocean, naturally they did not fear this trivial River Si. When they had their heads out of the water, they saw the old fisherman, who seemed to be fainted, bobbing up and down on the surface, carried away by the current heading downstream.
In great shock the two boys swam desperately toward the old fisherman. Exerting their entire strength, soon they were able to catch up with the old fisherman, and grabbed him from left and right and pulled him up from the water.
While they were just breathing a sigh of relief, the old fisherman suddenly opened his eyes wide. The eyes shone with a frighteningly sharp ray. Just when the two boys realized something was wrong and cried out in shock, their bodies went numb, because the old fisherman sealed the acupoints on their flanks.
The old fisherman roared in laughter. Dragging the two boys along as his captives, he swam toward the left bank.
After tossing the two boys to the bushes by the shore, the old fisherman’s crooked, hunched back suddenly straightened up as he proudly said, “I am ‘Old Man of the Plains’ Mo Cheng, under Miss’ order to capture the two Gongzi. Please! This time you only have three sichen to escape.”
Finished speaking, he left with big laugh.
After recovering their strength, the two boys sat up and looked at each other with wry smile.
“It just does not make sense,” Kou Zhong spoke painfully, “How could they track our whereabouts so clearly?”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “That old fellow’s disguise was really perfect.”
Thinking hard, Kou Zhong said, “If we cannot decode their method of tracking us, sooner or later we will get captured again. If that happens, how can we live with our heads lifted high in the future?”
Xu Ziling looked around; he said in a low voice, “I wonder if Qin Shubao is as useless as we are?”
Kou Zhong retorted, “Shen Luoyan’s main target is Qin Shubao, naturally she will handle him personally; it would be more difficult for him to escape. Ay! Rack your brains, quick! Look! It’s getting dark really soon.”
Xu Ziling stared at the sinking sun on the horizon; he knitted his brow and said, “She must have put some trick on our bodies, so that she can easily catch up with us.”
The two boys were severely shaken; you looked at me, I looked at you, Kou Zhong slapped his thigh and said, “It must be that Lu Miaozi’s fishing net.”
And he examined his hand and feet and clothes, and sure enough, they discovered a lot of fine particles like dust all around their bodies. If they did not intentionally look for it, they would not detect it. By now the river has washed away most of the fine particles from their clothes, but a large amount of the particles still remained.
“Stop looking over it!” Xu Ziling warned him, “Maybe someone is still spying on us!”
“What kind of cheap trick is this?” Kou Zhong asked in terror, “I cannot brush it off! It is colorless and odorless. That beautiful woman is really formidable, she has clearly planned ahead to bet that she would capture us, that way she would win us over completely.”
Xu Ziling whispered in his ear, “Our clothes have been infected, we can take it off; but we can’t chop our head and limbs. What do we do this time? The enemy might come here soon.”
Kou Zhong used his nose to sniff around for quite a while, and then he said in low voice, “It does not matter whether this kind of powder has any scent or not, otherwise, even if the opponent can follow our trail based on scent, they can only follow our track from behind, unlike earlier, where they already laid up a trap ahead waiting for us.”
“We were really too careless,” Xu Ziling said in distress, “We were blind not to know that others put some kind of trick on our bodies. However, even if they sent people to keep watch on all vantage points around the two hundred li radius, they have to have a special way of seeing this fine powder on us both day and night. But if they want to prepare a trap one step ahead of us, they must have an unusually rapid and effective communication method. At night they can use flashing light, but how did they conceal it from us?”
Kou Zhong dejectedly lying down on the grass, looking up at the red sunset clouds in the sky; he muttered to himself, “There must be a hiccup in our conjecture somewhere. Remember when Qin Shubao left, we lived high and looked down on him all the time, but did not see the fine powder on his body. Supposing this fine powder can glow in the dark, you and I would be able to see it on each other’s body. Not only that, keeping watch on all high points around is both not easy and not practical. If we went into hiding deep in the mountains, this method does not have the least bit of usefulness. If as you just said, we fled to the highest peak, they don’t have the skill to monitor us. Therefore, that ‘Pretty Junshi’ [see last chapter, Book 3 Chapter 3] must have some other ingenious way, otherwise it won’t fit her fame in knowledge and scheming.”
Under pressure from Shen Luoyan, the two boys were forced to bring out their innate ability and wisdom as they vowed to fight to the end.
In fact, ever since they found the ‘Secret to Long Life’, their life has been turned upside down, as they constantly dealing with all kinds of challenges. Just like rough jade that is continuously carved and polished, it will gradually reveal its beautiful nature.
Xu Ziling lay next to Kou Zhong; he just saw a small blue bird hovering above, after circling twice, it flew to a nearby forest. He had a brainwave, “Perhaps this fine powder is not meant to be seen by human, but to be recognized by a trained bird, just like falcons can help the hunter hunt their prey. So even if we cover ourselves with cloth, or hiding in a cave, we still cannot hide from the bird’s eyes, because it has already identified us clearly.”
Kou Zhong was jolted awake; he sat up, looked around, and said, “You are right, that is the most reasonable explanation. Just now there was a single, strange bird flying back and forth above us. His mother, let me hit it down and eat it to accompany wine.”
Xu Ziling let out a hollow laugh, “I am afraid even if you hit it down now, it would be useless. Based on Shen Luoyan’s ability and wisdom, she would guess that we have defeated her trick. Don’t forget that that old fellow also touched us; perhaps he did another trick on us. If we, like a fool, exhausted our strength dealing with that double-flat feathered animal, it will only make that beautiful woman broke down in laughter.”
Kou Zhong sized Xu Ziling up with rapt attention, and then scratching his head he said, “Normally, in terms of crafty ideas, even if you, this kid, pat your horse’s bottom, you won’t be able to catch up with laozi. Who could have thought that under present circumstances, your thought is more meticulous than me, Zhong Shao. Xu Junshi Daren [see Book 1 Chapter 4 on ‘daren’], what are we supposed to do now?”
Xu Ziling also sat up and whispered in his ear, “This time we must not lose against that woman. Speaking about tracking, they must use people or animal, two routes. But no matter how formidable that stinky woman is, or that her subordinates’ qinggong is a hundred times better than ours, they still do not know that we can come and go freely underwater without taking a breath.”
Kou Zhong nodded. “If we hide underwater,” he said, “Unless that bird can fly underwater too, we can completely disappear without a trace. Ay! But from here to Pengcheng, there is still about thirty li of waterway; if we have to swim to Pengcheng, we will die of exhaustion.”
Xu Ziling let out a low chuckle and said, “How did you, Zhong Shao, become so stupid? When we hide underwater, as long as there is a boat passing by, we can attach ourselves to the bottom of the boat. This way we can have a boat ride without expending a great deal of effort.”
Kou Zhong slapped his thigh and let out a muffled cheer.
By this time the sky has turned dark, the two boys screamed gleefully as they sprang up, dashed madly along the shore first, and then when they reached a thick wooded area, they dove into the river; and then following the current, they swam quickly downstream, even farther away from Pengcheng.
As expected, the strange bird suddenly appeared from who knows where. After making several circles in the air above the river, it let out a chirp, and soared into the air; soon it disappeared from sight.
At this point three big, five-mast ships appeared from the lower reaches of the river. The two boys were greatly delighted. They swam up and attached themselves to the hull of one of the ships.
Soon after the boys left, three men, including that ‘Old Man of the Plains’ Mo Cheng, darted out of the woods. When they got to the place where the two boys disappeared into the water, they scanned the river course with their shining eyes. Naturally they did not know that the two boys could get away in this unimaginable way.
It must be noted that even Wulin experts with superb water skill, although they knew some kind of breathing underwater skill, they could not stay underwater for this long. As for Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, who had innate ability to hold their breath and were able to stay underwater for a long time, they could be compared to first-rate characters of Du Fuwei, Yuwen Huaji, Zhai Rang and the other prominent figures’ caliber.
This was the unique trait of ‘Secret to Long Life’; when practiced, one would nearly suffer fire deviation, however, if the practitioner succeeded, it would unleash the most-advanced breathing regimen, which belonged to first-class mysterious skill category, merely using different routes to the same destination.
Therefore, although in terms of martial art and lightness skill their standing was only a tad above average Wulin experts, their mental cultivation was at the grandmaster level; which became a substantial and solid foundation for their growth.
This time Shen Luoyan miscalculated; it really had nothing to do with her ability and wisdom, but because the situation was simply too surreal.
Mo Cheng and the others were searching along the river when they saw the three huge ships sailing upstream; they abruptly halted their steps to watch.
When the ships had passed far away, Mo Cheng’s expression turned extremely grave as he spoke to the other two in low voice, “Those three ships bear the flag of the Li Clan. If the Clan Leader, Li Yuan is aboard the ship, something really big is going to happen at Pengcheng. We must return immediately and report this to Miss.”
Finished speaking, the three men disappeared into the darkness of the river bank.
 Orig. xin fa, lit. heart/mind method/way. I have difficulty finding a good translation; any ideas?