Book 5 Chapter 4 – Stealth Dragon Turns Into Phoenix
After Xu Ziling left, Kou Zhong’s attention was focused on the front courtyard, with the idea of as soon as there was any unusual movement, he would immediately meow like a cat to alert Xu Ziling to flee.
Looking at Xu Ziling’s full confidence as he pushed the door and went in, Kou Zhong also thought that this matter would be easy and effortless. He was even thinking that when they left the town the next day, he wanted to ‘lead away a goat in passing’, and steal the roster a second time, to inflict damage to Shen Luoyan by giving something to be anxious about.
This kind of cold and ruthless woman [orig. completely lacking any feeling or sense of justice], even if she killed him, she would not let even half a sigh for him. Kou Zhong could not help thinking about Li Xiuning, and found out that her impression in his heart has been diluted considerably, unlike previously, where it was wind-around-his-dream and bound-his-soul kind of profound feeling.
Right this moment, from the second story of the small building in front of him suddenly came the noise of clashing qi and rousing battle. Kou Zhong was shocked. No longer cared whether people would see him or not, he raised his saber and rushed upstairs.
‘Bang!’ Following the sound of falling weapon, Xu Ziling’s back crashed onto the large window of Shen Luoyan’s private chamber, carrying with it a splash of blood, and continued dropping down.
In that split second Kou Zhong recalled Xu Ziling’s remark, ‘If Xu Ziling is injured, would he, Kou Zhong, still be able to maintain the ‘moon in the well’ mental state?’
Like a ghost dark shadow flashed out to pursue the falling Xu Ziling, with one palm hacked down, splitting the air. Obviously his intention was to kill.
Kou Zhong forced himself not to think about what fate befell Xu Ziling; he quickly focused his mind and threw the saber in his hand out toward the enemy, while he himself swiftly flew toward Xu Ziling’s body, and shouted, “Help! Thief!”
It was the full display of the superiority of Kou Zhong’s cunning and quick-wits. He knew that since the opponent was able to badly injure Xu Ziling in such a short period of time, he, Kou Zhong, was definitely not able to stop the enemy. The only way was to alert the people in Shen Luoyan’s residence, to give the enemy, whose movements were so stealthy, a little bit of concern.
Of course, there was always the possibility that this person was the hidden troop planted by Shen Luoyan herself; however, seeing how this person also wanted to keep his movement a secret, that possibility was not too great. In the twinkling of an eye Kou Zhong already drew up a strategy, which sole purpose was to save Xu Ziling’s little life.
That person apparently had never expected he would come across such a vicious opponent like Kou Zhong; because based on his astonishing sense of hearing, any movement in the flower garden should not be able to escape his detection. Yet the fact was that not until Kou Zhong shot his big saber did he realize his presence.
Actually, it was also one of the reasons the intention to kill Xu Ziling emerged in his heart. It was not until Xu Ziling pushed the door and entered the second floor did his senses detect his presence. Thereby he came to himself with a start that this kid was anything but.
He was actually not a narrow-minded or someone who was jealous of others more talented than he was, it’s just that he misunderstood Xu Ziling as Shen Luoyan’s man. Hence he tried with everything he had to kill Xu Ziling.
This person was precisely the world-famous ‘Shadow Assassin’ Yang Xuyan. In this mission he was hiding in Shen Luoyan’s private chamber, the main purpose was to assassinate Shen Luoyan, so that when the Sui Army deal a blow to the Wagang Army’s old nest later on, they would gain the upper hand. However, because he saw Xu Ziling’s profound expertise, his assassination target changed. So it was obvious that he thought highly of Xu Ziling.
Like a flash of lightning the long saber shot toward his flank just below his ribs. The saber’s blade emitted a dense, cold qi, which completely enveloped his body even before it reached him. With Yang Xuyan’s ability, he still had no choice but to postpone pursuing Xu Ziling and killing him, and had to use his entire strength to deal with this attack.
While midair, suddenly his body twisted, surprisingly he was able to catch the long saber. In the meantime, Kou Zhong already arrived at the spot where Xu Ziling was about to land, and was able to catch him.
Yang Xuyan let out a cold snort and threw the long saber he caught straight toward Kou Zhong’s back. Based on the force he exerted, he was confident this saber would skewer both men.
Without even thinking Kou Zhong pushed the ground with his toes, and still hugging Xu Ziling, who by this time was drenched in his own blood and has fell into a coma, he rolled toward a nearby underbrush, and thus missing the lightning fast shooting saber by a hairbreadth.
Yang Xuyan was about to continue pursuing the two boys when from all around he heard sound of flapping sleeves and rustling clothes against the wind. After a short contemplation, he realized that he would not be able to kill Kou Zhong in one or two short moves, thereupon he sighed; unleashing his qinggong he soared into the air.
Kou Zhong brought Xu Ziling rolling toward the other end of the underbrush. As he jumped up and about to flee, he suddenly came face to face with the most difficult decision he had to take in his whole life.
If he ran back to the woodshed where Susu was hiding, he was sure they could not escape everybody’s eyes and ears, plus Xu Ziling would not receive the medical treatment he so desperately needed and might die from his heavy wounds.
But if he ran away immediately, Susu would be isolated and without help, and it would be very easy for the enemy to find her.
What should he do?
Shen Luoyan’s tender voice was heard from above, “Who dares to cause trouble?” Followed by the sound of clashing weapons in succession, and a miserable grunt!
Kou Zhong felt pain so deep that he nearly cried. Clenching his teeth, he brought Xu Ziling toward the outer wall and leaped out. Sounds of shouting and yelling immediately followed him, but he was simply unable to deal with anything else.
Kou Zhong ripped open Xu Ziling’s outer garments, and what he saw was the pierced roster.
This place was the storeroom at the rear courtyard of a residential building nearby, which scale was comparable to Shen Luoyan’s. After evading the pursuing troops, Kou Zhong brought Xu Ziling to hide in here.
Kou Zhong cried out inwardly for their luck; were it not for the roster blocking the sharp and powerful sword qi, perhaps Xu Ziling had already breathed his last.
He laid Xu Ziling on the grass; his eyes closed, his face pale as death, but surprisingly his breathing was still unusually even and soft, not urgent and harsh. Kou Zhong set the roster aside, tore his own clothes, and upon careful examination, he found that Xu Ziling’s wound has already closed up and no more seeping blood.
Feeling relieved, Kou Zhong pressed his palms against Xu Ziling’s, and quietly transferred his true qi into Xu Ziling’s body, hoping to help him recover faster.
After nobody knows how long, Xu Ziling breathed out a mouthful of air, and regained his consciousness; his face was also back to its original color.
Kou Zhong was greatly delighted; he could not hold tears of joy from streaming down his face as he exclaimed sorrowfully, “Xiao Ling! Xiao Ling! You scared me to death!”
Xu Ziling opened his eyes. Aghast, he asked, “What is this place?”
Kou Zhong busily explained. Xu Ziling’s countenance changed, “How could you leave Su Jie alone in there?”
Kou Zhong mumbled, “I had no choice but to do it. Don’t worry! You stay here and rest, I will get Su Jie and bring her here.”
Xu Ziling was upset, “Then what are you waiting for? Su Jie’s guts is so small, she must be really frightened.”
Kou Zhong reached out to pat Xu Ziling’s cheeks. Out of habit he reached behind his back to fetch his long saber, but naturally he was only touching the empty scabbard, and immediately remembered that he did not have the treasure with which he could protect his body anymore.
He was just about to leave, Xu Ziling suddenly called him back. The blood drained from his face; he said, “No need to go!”
Kou Zhong was stunned.
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “Based on Shen Luoyan’s astuteness, from the short halberd I left behind upstairs, she would immediately know that it was our doing. But when she saw that only the two of us escaping, how could she not guess that Su Jie must be somewhere in the vicinity? Therefore, I guarantee 100% that by now Su Jie has already fallen into her hands.”
“What should we do then?” Kou Zhong dejectedly asked.
Xu Ziling struggled to sit up; he said, “Just help me circulating my qi, by daybreak we will go together to Shen Luoyan to get Su Jie back.”
‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’ The brass ring was banged against the main gate of Shen Luoyan’s mansion. And then Kou Zhong’s voice followed, “Lovely wife Luoyan, your husband Zhong Shaoye is back!”
Not too long afterwards, the main gate opened; surprisingly enough, only Shen Luoyan, one person, gracefully stood at the door, her jade countenance was as cold as the ice and snow outside, as she glowered at the giggling Kou Zhong.
Naturally Kou Zhong knew that the other people were preparing an inescapable net, so that even if he grew wings he still could not fly away.
Shen Luoyan coldly said, “Hand the roster over first, and then we can talk about other things.”
Only from this one sentence Kou Zhong knew that Susu had indeed fallen into Shen Luoyan’s hands; otherwise, how could she be that sure that the roster was in their hands?
Kou Zhong shook his head and said with a sigh, “Were it not for Xiao Ling blocking that guy from last night’s sword for you, you, beautiful woman, would have been dead. And now as soon as we met you already show no trace of politeness. Ay! A beauty like you looking down on a man like me, that is normal. But someone completely lacking any feeling or sense of justice like you, that is certainly unprecedented and never be duplicated!”
Shen Luoyan’s countenance returned to normal. “Chi!” a giggle escape her mouth as she said, “I am really at a loss on how to catch you, these two little demons; unexpectedly you had an idea of hiding in my place. All right! Hand the roster back to me, Nujia will return your Su Jie back to you, I will also give you free rein to leave town. As for what happen in the future, you’ll just have to rely on your good fortune.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Shen Beauty, you really know how to crack a joke; you knew that since Xiao Ling is injured, we can’t go very far. Ha! Let me tell you the truth: Xiao Ling is all right. Look! Isn’t that him standing behind you?”
Shen Luoyan sighed, “Please don’t put on an act,” she said, “Xiao Ling left a large pool of blood, you aren’t deceiving anybody. Based on the ‘Shadow Assassin’ Yang Xuyan’s skill, if hit by his piercing blow and did not die, he could be considered the first!”
Kou Zhong cheered inwardly; it was precisely the remark he was expecting.
Chapter 4, Part 2
Ysabel, Komeng, HPC, Jaya, you are welcome. DongBin, Sky, yes, SLY did have some feeling toward Xu Ziling, but we'll see how it developed. I still don't like her too much ... Xu Xiong, George, no, sorry ... but the title of the last chapter was 'shadow assassin', so that should give you a hint. Akolaw, I did not see Ask the mirror, the legend of an ordinary guy practice Xian, or Fan Ren Sou Xian Zhuan on the first two pages of this forum. Either they are listed under different title, or perhaps they are buried deep in subsequent pages, which means there is no new updates recently. (Honestly, I am quite overwhelmed, since every time I check the forum, which is at least once every couple of days, there are like tons of new translations.) Anh, Bocah, actually, I had the same thought, but as you pointed out, I am kind of hesitating to start, because from browsing through manga, I kind of have the feeling that it is mostly fantasy, with magic, supernatural forces and stuff. Anyway, thanks for your input. Here's the end of Chapter 4.
Assuming a grieving and indignant look, he glowered at her and said, “Turns out that guy is Yang Xuyan!”
Shen Luoyan’s delicate body shivered a little bit, her elegant eyes shot an incomparably complex expression, but immediately she collected herself as she said in heavy voice, “Don’t lie to me. Xu Ziling is dead, isn’t he?”
Kou Zhong indeed wanted to lead her to have this misconception, so that in her eyes, he was the only person who knew the secret of the Duke Yang Treasure.
Pretending to struggle hard in suppressing the pain and grief in his heart, he shook his head and said, “Don’t make a random guess; the roster is precisely in his hands. If Su Jie and I can go back safely, I guarantee that he will immediately give you the roster back; otherwise, after certain time limit, he will immediately run away and hand the roster over to Yang Guang. If that happens, your Wagang Army will have your spy network broken, and you will become deaf and blind.”
Shen Luoyang hung down her pretty face, but she still pursued on, “Is Xiao Ling dead?”
Finally Kou Zhong detected her unusual expression. ‘Could it be that she is in love with Xiao Ling?’ he mused. But then he convinced himself that that was not the case, because she had always treated them, the two boys, viciously and mercilessly. Even if he was letting his imagination running wild, he simply could not believe this aspect.
Displaying his perfect acting skill, Kou Zhong suddenly shouted, “Don’t ask! Are you or are you not going to hand her over?”
Shen Luoyan slowly lifted up her pretty face; her eyes shot a deep, dense cold ray that made others shudder. But the tone of her voice was incomparably tranquil, “No need to lie to me, Xiao Ling is dead. If I catch you, I guarantee I will find the roster in your possession.”
Kou Zhong threw his head backward and laughed sorrowfully. From his pocket he took out the roster, which was rolled up and was bound with a piece of bloodstained cloth. Holding it horizontally across his chest, he said, “Do your worst! If you could retrieve an intact roster, I will change my name.”
Shen Luoyan’s eyes fell on the bloody roster; her delicate body trembled again. “Where is his body?” she whispered.
Kou Zhong couldn’t help but wonder, “When he was alive I didn’t see you care about him, now that he is dead, you peppered me with questions. What is this all about?”
Shen Luoyan’s phoenix eyes turned cold. “This is none of your business,” she coldly said, “Just give me back my roster, I will let you and Susu leave. I guarantee nobody will run after you. As for how you are going to go through Shiji’s city defense, forgive Xiao Nuzi [little/lowly woman] for not being of any help.”
Kou Zhong said, “Where is she?”
Shen Luoyan recovered her usual calm; she said nonchalantly, “Hand the roster over first and then you can have her. Humph! Don’t you forget that even if the roster is destroyed by you, we can always spend a little bit of effort to recreate it.”
Kou Zhong slyly said, “Since you are not afraid of losing all accounts of previous transaction, and you are not afraid of losing the opportunity, I might as well destroy the roster first before staking everything in life and death fight against you. Xiao Ling is dead anyway, there is no point in me and Susu to keep on living!”
This was precisely the most crucial point in the plan that Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong cooked up. They wanted Shen Luoyan to believe that since Xu Ziling was dead, Kou Zhong was starting to have suicidal thought, and thus giving pressure to Shen Luoyan. It would also lead the enemy into mistakenly assessing their strength.
The only thing they did not anticipate was Shen Luoyan’s reaction upon hearing the news ‘Xu Ziling was dead’.
Shen Luoyan did have the intention of mistreating Susu to force Kou Zhong to surrender, but hearing Kou Zhong’s last remark, she swallowed back whatever it was she was going to say. She only sigh and said, “Ay! So be it! But there are some things I find it difficult to make decisions.”
And then with her delicate voice she called out, “Get Susu out!”
Not too long afterwards, the ‘Old Man of the Field’ Mo Cheng, who had once captured Kou and Xu, two boys, on the river using brilliant scheme, came out escorting Susu and brought her to Shen Luoyan’s side.
Susu’s tears were already flowing freely as she cried out sorrowfully, “Is Xiao Ling really dead?”
Kou Zhong had mouth, but found it difficult to talk; he did not dare to signal her with his eyes either.
With desolate expression Shen Luoyan said, “One hand deliver the book, the other hand deliver the person. I guarantee my subordinates won’t pursue and attack you. Only one word ‘No’ from you, Susu’s corpse will lie horizontally on the ground, and we will go all out to kill you.”
Kou Zhong pretended to surrender. He lay the book down on the ground, but stretched his feet to step on it. “Release her!” he said.
Shen Luoyan nodded slightly. Mo Cheng grabbed Susu and tossed her high in the air, so that if he wanted to catch her, he would have to step back.
Kou Zhong was really obedient; he leaped backward to catch Susu, and then like a burst of wind they went away.
Mo Cheng picked the roster. With great difficulty he opened up the bind, and take a look. His countenance changed. “Miss, not good,” he said, “That kid has the guts to swindle us.”
Shen Luoyan took the book and looked. Other than the last two pages, the rest of the book was Old Master Kong’s Analects of Confucius, which gods know where they stole it from. Her pretty face immediately turned deathly white from anger. Her eyes flashing with murderous intention, she said, “I want to see where can they run away?”
Immediately her jet-black eyebrows knitted as she softly said, “Could it be that he is not dead yet?”
Speaking to this point, she felt her pretty face was burning, she did not even know what she felt in her heart. Could it be that this little demon had somehow taken a place in her heart?
Xu Ziling hugged the laughing and crying Susu tight in his bosom; he said in great delight, “I did not expect Shen Poniang would really fall into our trick.”
Kou Zhong sat down with his back against the wall. “Your stratagem was indeed formidable,” he said, “First of all, you predicted that Shen Poniang was waiting for us to come back to rescue Su Jie. You even predicted that she would be willing to return Su Jie to us, to increase the difficulty of our escape effort. However, you still missed something.”
Xu Ziling was puzzled, “What thing?” he asked.
Susu whispered, “She seemed to be very fond of you!”
Xu Ziling scoffed. “I don’t care whether she is fond or not fond of me,” he said, “That kind of woman, even if she is given to me as a present, I won’t accept it.”
Turning to Susu, he asked, “Did Shen Poniang treat Jiejie badly?”
Susu shook her head and said, “She lied to me by saying that she has caught Xiao Zhong, and she pressured me into telling her what had happened in the last few days, so Jiejie had to tell her.”
Kou Zhong’s countenance changed. “Jiejie did not mention anything about Daiqing Lou, did you?” he asked.
Susu sat up straight. “Of course not!” she snapped, “How could Jiejie not know the severity of this matter?”
Kou Zhong scooted over and wrapped his arm around Xu Ziling’s shoulders. “You can be considered very lucky! Turns out that guy who injured you was the ‘Shadow Assassin’ Yang Xuyan, who even dared to assassinate our Ol’ Die.”
With hatred in his voice Xu Ziling said, “Were it not for I managed to promptly transfer my inner power to neutralize his inner power entering my body, an insignificant book would not save my life. Humph! If this time we can escape alive, I want to take a good look on him.”
Kou Zhong patted his chest, “Those who dare to offend us, the Two Dragons of Yangzhou, will not have a good end. Take Shen Poniang for example, I guarantee that these coming days she won’t be able to sleep peacefully.”
Xu Ziling helped Susu up and said with a wry smile, “I am afraid for the next few days I won’t be able to fight. Supposing Peipei cannot help us, we have no choice but to exchange the real roster with our freedom.”
Kou Zhong accompanied him in heaving a sigh.
Suddenly they heard faint barking of dogs in the distance.
The three of them exchanged glances. They knew that if they did not slip away now, they could forget about leaving forever.