Book 19 Chapter 5 – Acting Before Thinking
With a tranquil tone that would frighten people, Zhu Yuyan said, “Speaking about talent, knowledge and experience, you are inferior to Lu Miaozi. Speaking about breadth of mind and imposing attitude, you can’t be mentioned on equal terms with Song Que. But why was I willing to have a daughter with you?”
But quickly she sighed and said, “But there is no sense in bringing this matter up now. Actually, Yuyan already decided not to let you leave this ship alive, but thinking that even though you have mastered the ‘Huan Ri Da Fa’ it will still be difficult for you escape death from under Song Que’s saber, I am willing to let you go to fulfill that cherished desire!”
Xu Ziling has never seen such a frightening woman, whose emotion appeared to be as deep as the ocean, but in essence she was actually cold-hearted that she would not let even the biological father of her daughter off. Although he could not help feeling angry, he spoke indifferently, “If you don’t kill me, there will come a day you will regret it.”
Finished speaking such a heartfelt remark, Xu Ziling leaped out the window and landed on the dock.
※ ※ ※
Kou Zhong swept his saber backhandedly, hacking on a man who ran after him and sending him flying backward, while with his right foot he kicked open a cabin door on his left, and stuck his head inside to look for that wooden chest.
Seven, eight men raising sabers and holding axes charged with vengeance from the other end of the corridor, so that Kou Zhong was surrounded by the enemy from both sides.
This moment Pang Yu shouted in anger and rushed behind him, and stabbed his sword straight toward Kou Zhong’s back.
The sword wind screamed; powerful, harsh, and ear piercing. Obviously he attacked in extreme anger.
Knowing that Pang Yu was formidable, like a swimming fish Kou Zhong slid about a zhang away, his body swayed several times, not only to evade the attack of the swarming enemies from the other side, but also to kick one of the enemies toward Pang Yu, while he himself slipped into the enemy formation.
After several deep muffled thuds, unleashed his serious technique by deliberately meeting and shaking the enemy’s weapons, filling it with spiraling energy, breaking the enemy’s palm [orig. hukou, tiger’s den, i.e. the web between the thumb and forefinger], so that their weapons dropped.
Two more doors were kicked open.
The corridor was in a great mess. All along Pang Yu was always a step behind.
Kou Zhong forcibly crushed the wall on his right and entered into the cabin.
Pang Yu shouted, “Good saber technique!” and then he also broke the door and entered, while shaking his wrist to brandish his sword, swiftly chopping down on Kou Zhong.
His men on the corridor cheered for him.
Kou Zhong basically intentionally lured him in, so that he could go all out to kill.
As a result, his murderous intent flared out, but the lake of his heart was as still as the moon in the well, without the least bit negligence or contempt. After all, Pang Yu was also a first class strong hand among the martial art masters of the younger generation, absolutely not an easy target.
This moment he let out a cold humph while ignoring Pang Yu’s sword chopping the side of his neck. First, he whirled to the right, so that he now stood face-to-face with Pang Yu, and then fast as lightning he pulled back and moved forward, while at the same time the treasured saber in his hand rose up perfectly straight and chopped down on the opponent’s forehead; as violent as a thunderbolt, with full power.
Pang Yu has gone through disposition of troops in battle, but he had never encountered such a hard-to-defeat, formidable opponent.
Perhaps dauntless people like Kou Zhong were not a few, but not many people had the courage like him, viewing death as a return home, with the impertinence to meet an attack with an attack, forcing the opponent to compete in speed and guts. Even if dauntless people with this kind of guts did exist, they still lacked his brilliant judgment, insight and skill.
In this lightning-speed, flying-spark instant, Pang Yu must make a choice between life and death, whether he ought to keep his sword momentum unchanging, continuing chopping down, to see who would be hit first, or he ought to pull his sword to block.
Pang Yu thought hard, but in the end he pulled his sword to block.
One already stored up momentum and unleashed it, the other changed move in the face of death, the outcome really could not be gauged according to reason.
Letting out a miserable groan, Pang Yu, his person and his sword, was sent flying away by Kou Zhong’s violent saber power, and slamming against the cabin wall behind him, breaking it, and fell on the floor of the adjacent cabin.
But Kou Zhong was groaning inwardly instead, because Pang Yu only needed to jump back two, three steps, which was clearly what he was doing now, by entering the adjacent cabin to recover from this setback, and thus Kou Zhong missed a golden opportunity to kill him.
Five, six enemies surged in like a tide.
Kou Zhong cried ‘What a pity!’ inwardly, and crashed into the wall behind him toward the next cabin.
The rectangular box was lying on the floor.
Sending his power to his foot, he kicked and the chest split open, revealing a man inside.
※ ※ ※
Xu Ziling landed on the pier, and swept his gaze around, everything was as before; he did not see Kou Zhong, whom he expected to see.
This moment he just wanted to find Kou Zhong as quickly as possible, and then slip away with him as far as possible; the farther away from Zhu Yuyan the better.
Moving on their own, his feet brought him away from the waterfront, but he could not stop Zhu Yuyan’s ten thousand kinds of graceful countenance from reappearing again and again in his mind, and mused that no wonder she could make Lu Miaozi infatuated with her all his life, and only at the death’s door was he able to free himself from her charm, recognizing which woman really deserve to receive his love.
Suddenly sound of hoof beats came from behind, more than a dozen riders were coming fast from behind.
Letting out a cold humph, Xu Ziling leaped at an angle; like a big bird he soared and landed on the roof of a residential building on his left, and quickly disappeared.
※ ※ ※
“Fu Bangzhu! [vice gang leader]” Kou Zhong blurted out.
The man held prisoner inside the chest was surprisingly an old friend, Bu Tianzhi. This moment his eyes were closed; apparently his acupoint was sealed.
Brandishing his saber, Kou Zhong charged into the enemy, sending them flipping over to the east and falling down to the west, routing them completely. At the same time he used his foot to lift Bu Tianzhi up, and held him under his arm. Stooping down, he shot out, and ‘Bang!’ he broke through the ceiling, onto the observation deck above.
Saving people was more important. Kou Zhong abandoned his idea of killing Pang Yu, and left in a hurry. This moment many of his old wounds burst open, so it was inadvisable to be engaged in a prolonged battle.
※ ※ ※
By dusk, from the ‘Overbearing Saber’ Yue Shan, Xu Ziling changed into the ‘Scarface Hero’ identity, and sat inside a restaurant across the street from Rong Fengxiang’s magnificent residence. He ordered some food and drink while waiting quietly for Kou Zhong.
He had lost contact with Kou Zhong for no less than three sichen, and finally, without any better option, had to come here to wait.
A carriage entered the Rong Mansion, with more than a dozen warriors in plain clothes in front and behind it.
Xu Ziling was quite familiar with carriages and their drivers from Wang Shichong’s side. In just one glance he recognized that this group of warriors in plain clothes were actually martial art masters among Wang Shichong’s personal guards. Most likely inside the carriage was Dong Shuni, the kidnapping target Kou Zhong and he were eager to get.
Up until now he still could not figure out Rong Fengxiang actually belong to which group, and what was his position? What was the relationship between Rong Fengxiang and Yang Xuyan? The more he delved into this matter, the more it was impossible to unravel.
The main gate of the Rong Mansion suddenly opened wide, more than a dozen riders came out and entering the main street, they turned south. It seemed that they were Luoyang Bang men.
This moment Kou Zhong came and sat uninvited on the seat next to Xu Ziling; picking up the cup of fine wine that Xu Ziling had not had the chance to moisten his lips with, he drank it in one gulp, licked his lips and said, “Not bad! Ha! It’s so good to find you here!”
Xu Ziling beckoned the waiter to add another set of bowl and chopsticks, and then he asked, “Where in the hell were you?”
Picking up his chopsticks, Kou Zhong gorged himself; as if nothing had happened, he said, “I have just sent Bu Tianzhi off, naturally I must eat a little bit!”
Xu Ziling was stunned, “Bu Tianzhi?” he asked.
Immensely proud of himself, Kou Zhong narrated what had happened; and then he said, “This is very strange, Yun Yuzhen and the others had just left, Li kid’s men already seized him away, but not killing him. It looks like they were going to transport him someplace else. There must be crafty plots and machinations in here somewhere.”
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, “Is it possible that Yun Yuzhen, that poniang knew Bu Tianzhi is secretly in contact with us? I am afraid this is a killing two birds with one stone scheme; not only to take care of her own disloyal subordinate, but also to betray us, hoping that Li kid would be able to get rid the two of us too?”
Kou Zhong hatefully said, “This poniang is very fierce and malicious! Merely because of Su Jie’s affair, I will not spare her. Anyway, what did you find?”
Finished listening to Xu Ziling recounting what happened, Kou Zhong stared blankly at him. Grabbing his head, he said, “There is such thing? Logically, you wouldn’t be able to fool her, would you?”
Xu Ziling sneered and said, “No matter how formidable Zhu Yuyan is, she is still a woman. Just think, how could she ever think that Lu Miaozi would create a mask in the likeness of Yue Shan? Much less she believes that Yue Shan has mastered some his mother’s Huan Ri Da Fa.
Kou Zhong nodded and said, “You have to preserve this identity well; if you can fool Zhu Yuyan, who knows your real identity, then you can fool anybody. Perhaps you can even make female demon Wan to call you Die!”
Xu Ziling laughed and cursed him, “Screw you! It’s you who have relationship with the Zhu witch. Ay! I am really tired of Luoyang. Just now it looked like Dong Da Xiaojie [big miss], riding on a carriage, has arrived at Rong Mansion. Are we going to inside to capture her, or wait here for an opportunity to seize her on her way out?”
Kou Zhong spoke heavily, “This matter should not be delayed; of course we must go in and grope our way. Otherwise, if that loose young woman stay for the night, must we stay all night without sleeping? It would be best if while we are at it, we can kill that kid Yang Xuyan as well, to save us a lot of future trouble.”
Xu Ziling rose up to his full height and stepped out, saying, “In that case, let us spread our wings by doing something that will turn his mother’s sky and earth upside down!”
※ ※ ※
Under cover of darkness, the two boys climbed over the courtyard wall; but before they were able to see the situation clearly, they heard strange sound, something like a dog walking around. Quickly they apply their internal power to close up the pores on their entire body, so that no scent would leak out, while at the same time soar high and landed on the slope of the roof or the nearest building.
Sure enough, there were two huge vicious dogs rushing over. Although they did not find anything, they still sniffed to the east and sniffed to the west for quite a while before walking away.
The boys swept their gaze around, and discovered that inside the high wall, there were more than a hundred building, big and small, linked together by corridors and landscape gardens and courtyards. Other than three towering master buildings at the front courtyard, the rest of the buildings were like a maze that would make people dazzled and stunned, so that the boys had a feeling of not knowing where to start.
Frowning, Kou Zhong said, “How do we look for her?”
Xu Ziling replied, “If we can find Rong Jiaojiao’s fragrant chamber, then we can find our little dissolute girl. You ought to remember Chen Laomou’s teaching, right?”
Smiling bitterly, Kou Zhong said, “This place has at least several hundred courtyards and buildings, with courtyard within courtyard, building within building. Chen Laomou’s teaching is a simple thing; it is completely useless here.”
Shaking his head, Xu Ziling said, “Actually, although the Rong Mansion covers a vast area with many buildings, it is not difficult to distinguish the master-slave relationship. It is only because there is a lack of clear central axis that you are confused and disoriented!”
Kou Zhong nodded and said, “Now that you mentioned it, I can see this point. It could be that I was overwhelmed with the trees and lights in this residence that I felt there are dots of light everywhere. In your opinion, which courtyard might Rong Jiaojiao live?”
This moment the bright moon at the horizon revealed its immortal beauty, sprinkling its light onto the courtyards and pavilions of the Rong Mansion, creating some kind of indescribable yet extraordinarily gentle beautiful scenery.
Xu Ziling took the lead to climb onto the top of the roof ridge; he spoke in low voice, “This place is arranged according to the natural Bagua [trigrams] direction; therefore, if we can grasp this portal, it would be easy to find out the general direction of where Rong Jiaojiao’s fragrant chamber might be.”
Kou Zhong was amazed, “Since when did you understand Bagua?” he asked, “And how do you know this is natural (or innate) Bagua and not acquired Bagua?” [Translator’s note: this is difficult to carry over to English. Xiantian means inborn/innate/natural (lit. ‘before the day’. Houtian means day after tomorrow/post-natal/acquired, not innate (lit. ‘after the day’).]
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “This is called diligent accomplishment! If I was as lazy as you, tonight we wouldn’t be able to embrace the beauty and must return. Tell me, this residence is facing which direction?”
“It should be from south to north?” Kou Zhong replied.
Xu Ziling said, “Lu Fuzi [master/teacher] said, in natural Bagua, a building seated on the north facing south followed the Xun [symbolizing wood and wind, ancient Chinese compass point 135° (southeast)] position of the southeast gate. A building seated on the south facing north followed the Qian [symbolizing heaven, compass point 315° (northwest)] position of the northwest gate. And now the main gate is in qian position; therefore, the Rong Mansion is built according to the natural Bagua. Gua has its own Gua qi, nowadays what works is the Three Green Jade Application [not sure about this; 三碧运], even the most incompetent ground expert ought to know that the main residence ought to be located on the east!”
Kou Zhong happily said, “Xu Lao Fuzi indeed have a little bit of skill; why don’t you lead the way?”
※ ※ ※
The two boys soared from house to house, passing through corridors stepping across gardens, running fast toward the target area as if they were entering an uninhabited land.
They escalated their senses to the peak, so sensitive that the walking ants and moving bugs within several dozen zhang radius around them could not escape their eyes and ears.
Therefore, every single one of their movements, whether it was leaping high or crouching low, flashing to the left or darted t the right, would just avoid anybody in the Rong Mansion. Sometimes they evaded detection by just one step, but this one step was precisely the reason they did not leave any traces. Therefore, both covert and undercover guards keeping watch could not stop them.
A moment later, with no surprise, no danger, they reached the courtyard of their target building. After climbing over the separating wall, in just one glance the two boys knew that they have arrived at the right place.
Compared to other courtyards, whether in terms of foundation, construction, railings, doors and windows, wall and fence, landscape garden, rockery, stone structure, or pond, this residence was a lot more exquisite.
The entire courtyard consisted of five structures clustered together, interlinked with passageways, promenades, winding corridors, and open garden areas, establishing the connection among the five buildings, so that different reception halls, main halls, rooms, study rooms, offices, upper floors, balconies, pavilions, boudoirs, rotundas, all kinds of diverse structures, blended together into one entity.
Pointing to an especially grand in scale multi-level building located in the center, Kou Zhong said, “I seem to hear Rong Fengxiang is talking inside.”
Focusing his power into his ears, Xu Ziling indeed heard faint voices inside. Laughing and cursing, he said, “Your ears are better than mine, unexpectedly you know whose voice it is that you hear. So what’s he saying?”
For some reason, Kou Zhong was in a very good mood. Patting Xu Ziling’s shoulder, he said, “Kid, just follow your Master!”
Increasing their alertness, the two boys cautiously crept toward the building, which ought to be the building where the main hall was located.
When they got close, they found out that the building was surrounded by large open area. Under the bright illumination, anyone wanted to go to the inner hall would not have any covering. In term of building plan, it was similar to the Copper Hall of the Jing Nian Chanyuan.
The two boys crouched in the underbrush surrounding the building. After a group of maids and servants from the side corridor passed by, Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Ziling’s ear, “Rong Fengxiang must have used this building for secret meetings quite often; otherwise why would he design it with so much empty space like this? Perhaps Dong Shuni is also inside, I just heard women’s voices talking.”
Surveying the surroundings, Xu Ziling said, “The height of this building is a bit not proportional. I think there is another layer at the top, intended for people to watch all around without raising outsiders’ suspicion.”
“That must be it,” Kou Zhong spoke with conviction, “But what do we do now?”
Pointing to a two-story building on the left, Xu Ziling said, “That small building is only half a zhang shorter than this inner hall. If we can jump fifteen zhang from there, and then traversing the thirty-zhang distance, we could avoid watching eyes. Even if they hear the gust of wind, they would only think it is a big bird flying over. Do you want to give it his mother’s a try?”
Kou Zhong cried out involuntarily, “You are not kidding! If jumping up from the ground, at most I can cover ten zhang distance, not even half a chi farther.”
Xu Ziling said, “Alone, it won’t work, but working together, the two of us could do it!”
Kou Zhong was puzzled, “Even if we pull each other, halfway in the air exerting our strength to throw the other, at most we will only add a few zhang; aren’t you overestimating our skill a bit?”
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “That’s why people say the most critical thing is using your brains. Remember Dugu Feng attacking Wang Shichong using a large iron disc? That old fellow Huang Gongcuo flying over by riding on the disc like soaring over the cloud, riding on the fog? I am surprised that you can’t even think of such primitive method. Men are creatures who know how to utilize tools; do you understand?”
Kou Zhong grabbed his head and said, “Where is the tool? Xu Ye?”
Xu Ziling reached out and pulled Kou Zhong’s Moon in the Well; he spoke heavily, “Come on! Whether we eat porridge or rice, it will depend on this one.”