Book 19 Chapter 4 – Gratitude and Grudges, Passion and Enmity
Xu Ziling intentionally wore bamboo hat with muslin veil to shade his face, revealing only the lower part of his face; his mouth and lower jaw. From head to foot he exuded a strange, indescribable charisma, as he boldly walked over toward Bai Qing’er’s ship still anchored at the dock.
The pier was busy with people coming and going, loading and unloading the goods; the river traffic was even busier, with endless stream of ships and boats going on either direction.
Xu Ziling was thinking on how to proceed when from Bai Qing’er’s ship several men came out and walked down the plank.
He took a look, and cheered inwardly, because one of them was precisely the ‘Henan Mad Warrior’ Zheng Shiru. From the other three, he recognized two as ‘old acquaintances’; the ‘Gold and Silver Spears’ Ling Feng and the ‘Fat Demon’ Jin Bo, both could be considered the enemy.
The other man was about twenty-three, twenty-four, wearing expensive-looking clothes, carrying the air of the son or disciple of a prominent family. He looked somewhat familiar, perhaps it was a guy with whom Xu Ziling had predestined affinity that he caught a glimpse of him during Rong Fengxiang’s birthday party.
With his hand pressed against the saber’s hilt, Xu Ziling quickly moved forward, blocking their path.
Four pair of fierce and sharp eyes immediately fell upon him. Both parties stopped with only about two zhang distance between them.
With his hand still on the hilt, Xu Ziling pressed forward.
Four men immediately felt his deep cold and grave powerful momentum; one after another they fanned out and drew their weapons.
Ling Feng was still wielding gold and silver short spears in his left and right hands. Jin Bo’s signature weapon was a long iron stick. The young man and Zheng Shiru had swords in their hands.
When the people around saw men baring sabers and drawing swords, they promptly scattered away in all direction.
Xu Ziling shouted sternly, “Zheng Shiru come here to meet your death. Others who have nothing to do with him get lost for Laofu, otherwise don’t blame Laofu’s blade for being merciless.”
Actually, even until this moment, he still did not know how bringing trouble to Zheng Shiru would benefit them; so it could be said that it was an idea within having no idea at all, because Zheng Shiru and Bai Qing’er have become their only clue to find Yin Gui Pai. If Zheng Shiru received Yin Gui Pai’s order to recruit him, then he would have an opportunity he could exploit.
Zheng Shiru was able to recognize his ‘hoarse voice’ immediately; he hastily said, “It’s a misunderstanding; can we talk? I wonder how did Wanbei [junior] offend Yue Qianbei [senior]?”
Hearing the three words ‘Yue Qianbei’, Ling Feng and the others, three men’s countenance changed immediately. Obviously they knew what’s going on.
Letting a cold snort, Xu Ziling said, “What misunderstanding? Were it not for you revealing Laofu’s whereabouts, who would know that Laofu is here? Merely this point, I cannot spare you for your mortal crime.”
It was apparent that Zheng Shiru was extremely wary toward this ‘Overbearing Saber’ Yue Shan; exercising self-restraint, he said, “Qianbei please calm down and listen to Wanbei’s explanation. There is a reason behind it, why don’t we put down our blades and sit down to talk?”
Laughing coldly, Xu Ziling said, “Laozi don’t have time for that kind of idle talk, killing one or two people is not a big deal. En garde!”
Without revealing ‘real skill’, how could one express his true worth?
Xu Ziling flashed his shoulders, like moving clouds and flowing water he suddenly slid two zhang forward, drawing out his saber and chopping down ferociously. Imposing and powerful saber momentum immediately rolled the four opponents into the battlefield.
Among various weapons, because Xu Ziling had learned Li Jing’s ‘Bloody Battle Ten-Style’, he was quite adept at using saber. Plus these days he had gained considerable experience to display his mastery of the saber. It was both shrewd and ruthless, yet ferocious, but still carrying the imposing manner of overbearing saber over the world.
One side was storing up energy and waiting, the other side was still in doubt; plus Xu Ziling’s movement was flowing smoothly, fast like lightning or spark of fire, and the saber wind was incomparably swift and fierce. Zheng Shiru, Ling Feng and Jin Bo, three men felt it was difficult to block using force, so they staggered out, opening wide the battlefront between the four people.
Only that young master was like a new-born calf that has no fear of the tiger, or perhaps he did not know what’s going on, unexpectedly he did not back down the least bit, but drew his blade to meet the saber head-on.
The young master, his person and his sword, was hacked by Xu Ziling that he was thrown sideways and nearly rolled over on the ground.
Greatly shocked, Zheng Shiru flashed forward and brandished his sword to counterattack. Ling Feng and Jin Bo hurriedly helped from the side, to stop Xu Ziling from continuing his killer move. The former’s sword move was bold and powerful, fast, experienced and careful; compared to the latter two, it was obvious that he was several notches superior. Each move was desperate move, brute force against brute force, creating an unending ear-splitting ringing noise of gold against iron.
Xu Ziling praised inwardly. This Henan Mad Warrior had brilliant eyesight; knowing that if all of them fought desperately with all their strength, they would be hardly spared, thereupon he held back his offensive and concentrated only on defensive, giving Ling Feng and Jin Bo, two men the opportunity to strike back. It was the correct strategy.
Xu Ziling let out a long laugh, the long saber conveniently sending out a stream of continuous counterattacks, hidden within the opening and closing his defense line were exquisite, profound mystery changes in his technique, sucking the three men inside the saber shadow and the ray of the blade.
Without revealing his strength, how could he get the other side’s attention?
From the ship came a chirping, singsong like voice, “Old Yue, is it possible for you to give regard to qie’s status and momentarily hold your hand?”
Xu Ziling’s saber momentum suddenly flared out; after forcing the three men to withdraw, he put the saber back into its scabbard, and immediately assumed a steady-as-a-profound-peak air, giving the impression that he could not be toppled down.
Looking up, he saw Bai Qing’er standing charmingly on the bow. Surprisingly, accompanying her on her left and right were the ‘Evil Monk’ Fa Nan and ‘Amorous Nun’ Chang Zhen, whom he had not seen for a long time. The two acted exceptionally deferential. From this it was clear that the ‘Overbearing Saber’ Yue Shan’s fame for his fighting prowess was quite resounding.
Xu Ziling suddenly soared over the three men’s heads and landed on the deck.
Bai Qing’er’s demeanor did not change, but Evil Monk and Amorous Nun looked alert.
Looking through the muslin veil, Xu Ziling fixed his gaze on Bai Qing’er as if nobody else present; he said, “If Laofu’s discerning eyes did not fail me, little girl must be an old acquaintance. On the street the other day, in just one glance Laofu already knew your status.”
This remark fitted very well with his status as an older senior generation, while at the same time explaining the reason he glared at her like a tiger watching its prey that day.
This moment Zheng Shiru leaped onto the ship, and spoke in low voice, “Naturally we do not dare to conceal from Old Yue. Since Old Yue already know the whole story, you ought to know there are many ears listening right now; why don’t we invite your honorable self to go into the cabin and discuss this matter in details?”
Xu Ziling looked back at the dock, and saw Ling Feng and Jin Bo were leaving with that young master. Immediately he understood that Ling Feng and Jin Bo were also Yin Gui Pai men.
In that case, if Qian Duguan did not belong to Yin Gui Pai, he must have a very close relationship with Yin Gui Pai.
This ‘Yue Shan’ identity was very effective; without much difficulty he was able to obtain a lot of valuable intelligence.
Letting out a cold snort, Xu Ziling took the lead entering the cabin.
Zheng Shiru rushed forward to show the way.
Before stepping foot into the cabin, Xu Ziling suddenly halted his step at the threshold. Not only he cried for his Niang inwardly, he was so shocked that cold sweats started to cover his whole body, and he nearly turned around and bolted away.
Because he saw Zhu Yuyan, with her face covered in thick muslin veil, was sitting quietly in an imperial chair near the south cabin wall, in a calm, leisurely manner of the leader of a sect.
It does not matter if he guessed a thousand times or thought ten thousand times, he would never imagine that he would come across the ‘Empress Yin’ Zhu Yuyan in here. This time, he was literally a lamb in a tiger’s den.
※ ※ ※
Kou Zhong, disguised as a porter, mingled among the crowd watching the show, saw everything.
In the blink of an eye the dock came back to its previous condition, as if nothing has been happening.
Naturally Kou Zhong did not have to worry about Xu Ziling. Even if Wanwan was onboard the ship, Xu Ziling had the ability to escape via the water. It was also their agreed method of dealing with emergency.
This moment there was a street peddler selling tea setting up his business at the next dock. Kou Zhong was about to take this opportunity to blend into the crowd when suddenly a horse-drawn carriage was coming near. The two big men sitting on the driver seat looked valiant, unlike ordinary carriage drivers.
When the carriage stopped, another young man pushed the door open and got off of the carriage.
Kou Zhong’s spirit rose up immediately. That man was unexpectedly one of the martial art masters of Li Shimin’s Heavenly Policy Mansion, Pang Yu.
Three other men opened the tailgate of the carriage and took out a rectangular box with several breathing holes on it, and carried it aboard a huge ship waiting on the dock.
This kind of loading/unloading activity was so common that it did not attract anybody else’s attention at all.
After hesitating for half a day, in the end Kou Zhong could not overcome his curiosity; he decided to sneak up the ship to see what was going on.
※ ※ ※
Xu Ziling strode into the cabin, casually threw his hat away, and making his voice strange, he let out a long laugh and said, “Yuyan, I trust you have been well since we last met!”
He had made up his mind that since he was certain of defeat, he would expose his identity himself, and then tried to break siege by force.
Lu Miaozi’s mask could deceive those who did not know Yue Shan personally, but to a grandmaster level martial art master like Zhu Yuyan, as long as she saw him once, she would not forget, not to mention it was more than likely that the two of them knew each other on personal level.
The reason he entered the cabin was that it from there, it was more convenient to jump into the river to escape, because the corridor behind him was blocked by Bai Qing’er, Chang Zhen and Fa Nan, three people.
If necessary, he could sneak-attack Zheng Shiru and use him as a shield.
As long as he could block or slow Zhu Yuyan for a short period of time, he would have the opportunity to escape through the window or by breaking through the wall.
Zhu Yuyan was as still as the water in the well with no ripple, coldly, through the veil in from of her face, fixed her deep gaze on him.
Although he could not see her eyes, he could directly feel her gaze.
Xu Ziling pressed his hand on the saber hilt; immediately cold aura permeated the cabin, filling it with severe, frosty murderous air.
For some unknown reason, Zhu Yuyan did not immediately expose him, this counterfeit; beyond everybody’s expectation, she let out a faint sigh and slowly said, “Everybody else get out!”
Xu Ziling said in his heart, ‘This is where she is going to take care of me personally’.
While he was still contemplating whether he should make his move immediately, he sensed that Zhu Yuyan did not have any intention to fight. While he was vacillating, Zheng Shiru and the others already withdrew from the cabin and closed the door.
Zhu Yuyan rose up to her full height, her posture was graceful.
Xu Ziling spoke in his heart, “Here we come!’ and he was on full alert.
Zhu Yuyan shook her head and said, “You have finally mastered the ‘Huan Ri Da Fa’ [Great Method of Exchanging/Substituting Days]; no wonder not only you dare to reappear in Jianghu, you also have the guts to challenge Yuyan. It’s been forty years; you still cannot water down your resentment toward me?”
Inwardly, Xu Ziling was severely shaken.
My Niang, could it be that she really did not know I am a fake goods? In a flash, hundreds and thousands of thought flitted in his head.
The only explanation was that this mask was created meticulously based on Yue Shan’s real face, and that his own build closely resembled Yue Shan’s.
Naturally his personality traits, voice, and poise differed vastly from Yue Shan’s, but because in her heart Zhu Yuyan was already convinced that Yue Shan was hiding to train some ‘Huan Ri Da Fa’, which, as the name implied, it was some kind of skill to shed one’s mortal body and exchange one’s bones, she thought that the changes in his appearance was because he has mastered said skill; unexpectedly she really mistook the Ma Liang galloping into the capital [I could not find reference on this idiom], and was duped to believe that Xu Ziling was really Yue Shan.
But if he spoke a few more words, he guaranteed that Zhu Yuyan would see through him.
But he could not stay silent. That day he and Kou Zhong, Ba Fenghan, three men joined hands fighting Zhu Yuyan, they still ended up barely get away with their lives. Although presently his skill has improved significantly, compared to Zhu Yuyan, there was still some distance. Of course, it would be best if he could wriggle out his way without having to fight at all.
Xu Ziling was silent for half a day, before letting out a cold humph and striding forward toward the cabin window on Zhu Yuyan’s right side. And then, making his voice deep and hoarse, he said, “You still cannot forget him for forty years, you still cannot forget him!”
Perhaps because what he said struck the load on Zhu Yuyan’s mind, unexpectedly she did not reply.
Xu Ziling’s remark definitely contained boundless wisdom.
Concerning the gratitude and grudges of the people of Zhu Yuyan’s generation, he only knew bits and pieces from what little things Lu Miaozi told him.
According to Lu Miaozi, because of his infatuation with Zhu Yuyan, he nearly lost his life, luckily he used a mask to escape.
And it was quite possible that the mask he was using was this exact mask that turned him into the ‘Overbearing Saber’ Yue Shan.
There were two reasons to support this theory.
First of all, Lu Miaozi’s build was tall and imposing like Xu Ziling. Naturally it was very close in size with Yue Shan’s build, otherwise now Xu Ziling could not deceive Zhu Yuyan.
The second reason was that with Zhu Yuyan’s eyesight, even if Lu Miaozi was wearing a mask, in just a glance Zhu Yuyan would be able to through him from his physique, his movement and his demeanor. In this case, he could only disguise himself as someone whom she knew, and had to look alike without any flaw if he wanted to have any hope of deceiving her.
Following this rationale, there must be a subtle and intimate relationship among the three, Yue Shan, Lu Miaozi and Zhu Yuyan.
What Xu Ziling was saying was actually very vague, and could be interpreted many other ways. In short, in human life in the human world, gratitude and grudges, passion and enmity are inevitable, no matter how much one tries not to go there.
At this time, although he could escape to the river any moment, he really did not wish to leave that quickly!
The cabin fell into an awkward silence, only the voices of the porters loading and unloading the goods on the dock and the sound of the river lapping against the hull of the ship came through the window.
The tone of Zhu Yuyan’s voice turned cold as she softly said, “Look!”
Xu Ziling turned around to look.
Zhu Yuyan raised her hands to lift the muslin toward either side, exposing her face, which had always been hidden deep behind the veil.
※ ※ ※
Kou Zhong observed for quite a while, still he had not found a good way to sneak into the enemy’s ship, not only because the opposite party had people standing guard on the deck, but also because they had their people on the dock watching for any suspicious people in the vicinity. In broad daylight, even someone with better qinggong would be unable to find a solution.
Li kid having a ship in here was naturally reasonable, but that box was definitely questionable. If he did not guess incorrectly, the content of the box must be a person; otherwise, it would not need any ventilation holes.
Who could it be? Kou Zhong pondered for half a day. Finally he made up his mind and walked toward the ship in large strides.
※ ※ ※
Xu Ziling took a look; immediately his stare turned blank.
Time did not leave any trace on her face; looking at her left to right, top to bottom, she was still radiant with youth, looked only a few years older than Wanwan.
With the veil still covering half of her face, he could only able to see most of it, but the exposed part was charming, brimming with intoxicating grace.
Her pair of pretty eyebrows slanted up toward her temples, her pair of black-as-a-dot-of-lacquer eyes was extremely full of spirit; her gaze was enough to bewitch any man falling upside-down. Combined with her tender and soft white skin, which looked like it was sculpted out of faultless white jade, no one would not be overwhelmed by breathtaking feeling.
In term of beauty, she was really not inferior to the peerless beauty Wanwan; moreover, in term of appearance, there was even a striking resemblance between the two, making him think that there must be a mother-daughter relationship between them.
In term of personality traits, she was delicate and pretty beyond comprehension, definitely would not make people associate her with the sinister, heretical Yin Gui Pai.
In that moment, Xu Ziling was so surprised that his mind went blank; he was unable to think.
It was beyond his expectation.
The veil went down again.
Zhu Yuyan spoke indifferently, “If in my heart Yuyan still cannot forget men, how could I master the ‘Tian Mo Da Fa’ [demonic great method]? The passion, joy, love and desire that bewilder that turn common people upside down are just the barrier on the road. Xiao Shan, if you still cannot break through this point, there is no way you can wipe away the disgrace of Song Que’s saber.”
Listening to her, Xu Ziling felt the chill creeping up in his heart.
Although the tone of her voice was flat, there was a hint of sincerity that grew from her heart, demonstrating her deep conviction of this matter, penetrating the as-it-should-be-by-rights, callous feeling.
It should be noted that human has seven emotional states [in traditional Chinese medical theory and therapy, namely: joy, anger, anxiety, thought, grief, fear, fright] and six desires. Even extremely vicious, exceedingly evil person would still have love in his heart. But Zhu Yuyan did not have this problem. According to her logic, there was fundamentally no virtue and evil, good and bad, hence she did not have any psychological barrier, everything she did thus became necessity, by fair means or foul.
Xu Ziling was afraid she might be able to see through his expression, hence he turned around to look out the window, and spoke in heavy voice, “How’s my old friend doing?”
Zhu Yuyan sat back into the chair; she spoke gently, “You still envy him?”
Immediately Xu Ziling felt his scalp went numb; it was only this moment that he knew the relationship between Zhu Yuyan and Song Que was really not simple.
Zhu Yuyan went on, “Were it not for your jealous heart that day, how could he exploited that feeling, breaking your saber and making you run away to the northern desert, the illustrious name of your entire life went down the drain?”
Xu Ziling calmly said, “Yuyan, you are skilled in the technique of observing the heart distinguishing the thought; could it be that you cannot sense that I already have sky-and-earth-turning-upside-down changes, yet you still say such an irritating remark?”
The fact was that he did not know what to say, so he might as well take a risk out of desperation, trying to probe her outlook on him, this counterfeit Yue Shan.
Zhu Yuyan spoke gloomily, “You have become so formidable, like you have changed into a different man. Did Song Que’s saber injure your qi passage so bad that your voice become so hoarse and unpleasant to hear?”
Xu Ziling thought that it would be best if you think so; thereupon he coldly said, “We have nothing more to say, I won’t mind your business anymore; I am leaving!”
He was about to go through the window, when Zhu Yuyan gently said, “Don’t you want to see your own daughter?”
Xu Ziling was severely shaken, “What?” he blurted out.
His shock was genuine, because he thought he had revealed the cloven foot.
Kou Zhong walked over toward the gangplank. Two men appeared on the deck and shouted, “Who’s friend?”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “Tell Pang Yu to roll out and see me!”
The two men’s countenance changed slightly; this man has come to cause trouble.
Kou Zhong raised his qi and unleashed his qinggong, with one leap he landed on the deck. “Where’s Pang Yu?” he shouted.
He thought that if he killed one of the fierce general of Li kid’s Heavenly Policy Mansion, he would weaken Li kid’s power by a notch too, hence it would be worthwhile.
More than a dozen enemies swarmed out of the cabin door and fanned out to besiege him, and only then did Pang Yu step out leisurely. Stopping about a zhang away in front of him, he spoke arrogantly, “You have the impertinence to mention me by name and create a disturbance, friend must not be a nameless man; report your name to me.”
Kou Zhong applied his internal power to change his voice; giggling, he said, “Pang Xiong just made a wrong guess. Xiaodi is indeed a nameless man. En garde!”
The Moon in the Well left its scabbard and swift like the wind and thunder it hacked down on Pang Yu’s face with a violent qi power, rolling toward the enemy.
Pang Yu had never imagined that this plain and ordinary-looking man would attack as soon as he said he would; hastily he pulled his sword and swept it across to block.
Sparks flew. Pang Yu felt that not only this saber was as heavy as the mountain, it also a strange force sucking his breath.
While he was overwhelmed with shock, Kou Zhong already flipped overhead and slipped into the cabin door.