Book 4 Chapter 5 – Peerless Yuwen
Three days passed in the blink of an eye. The two boys were a bit reluctant to leave.
In these three days, they felt like they had returned to the place where Fu Junchuo was buried, back to their previous hazy, blurry state of mind, where day and night they buried themselves in training. Only when they heard voices did they withdraw back to their hiding place.
To be able to watch Ba Fenghan and Ouyang Xiyi’s shaking-to-the-core battle, the benefit they reaped was indeed no small matter.
Previously they lacked guidance in their training, just like a blind man riding a blind horse, or like in the absence of a target an archer shot the arrow randomly.
But this time they had clear direction and objective; they understood that spirit, true qi, and strategy, three factors must merge together before they could be true martial art experts.
Even they themselves did not know that the qi cultivation principle they learned from the ‘Secret to Long Life’ in itself already emphasizing essence, qi, and spirit, the supreme marvelous method.
This moment they acted without thinking, incidentally they grasped the essence of it, hence although it was a mere three-day period, they have received the lifelong benefit of breakthrough in the martial art way.
After further discussion, they decided to stay seven more days.
It was precisely this decision that made them avoid a disaster.
After Wang Shichong grew suspicious of them that night, he talked with Shen Naitang, and found out that the two boys had been with Du Fuwei, hence he knew that two treasures has just slipped away in front of his face. Hastily he dispatched his men to hunt the fugitives everywhere, while at the same time notified Yuwen Shi, another important figure within the Yuwen Clan who happened to be in the vicinity, to personally come and take charge of this matter. Nearly all of Dongping County was turned upside down before they finally declared that the two boys had escaped far away.
If this hunt and arrest operation was presided over by Du Fuwei, he would have known that the two boys were still remaining within the city walls. But how could Yuwen Shi have thought that the two boys could be that calm and not run away. After five days, the search network spread over to the neighboring counties, and no longer focused on Dongping County.
By early morning the sixth day, the two boys remembered Susu, plus they felt a bit bored from training.
“Didn’t Niang say that the best way of training martial art is to advance intentionally without any intention?” Kou Zhong said, “These past two days we placed great care in training, but we feel a bit unsettled and impatient instead.”
Xu Ziling agreed, “I was just thinking about the same thing. Niang said that in cultivating internal energy we must have a strict control over body heat; cold and heat must be in moderation. We were immersing ourselves in hard training, apparently we went too far; we’d better slow down for the time being.”
Kou Zhong said, “In that case, we’d better immediately leave for Xingyang, I am afraid Susu Jie already met a mishap.”
“We can’t just walked out of the city walls like this,” Xu Ziling said, “Can’t say for sure, but that government official might have issued an order to arrest us. Don’t forget that Shen Naitang knew who we are.”
“Humph!” Kou Zhong snorted coldly, “In the eyes of the imperial court, isn’t the old Shen in cahoots with the rebel thief Liang Shidou? It’s just that other people didn’t know!”
After a short pause he continued, “Right now the weather is getting colder, we ought to buy some warm clothing, and while we are at it, we may also buy ropes, hooks, that kind of things. And then when the night comes we can climb the wall and get out of the city. It’s a foolproof plan.”
The plan was decided, the two boys felt a little reluctant to leave this woodshed to kick-start their next move.
That night, without any alarm without any danger they leaped over the city wall to get out, just like a little bird leaving its cage. After ascertaining the direction to Xingyang, they ran all night in the wilderness. By daybreak, their body weary their strength exhausted.
When they were seated, Kou Zhong laughed and said, “We are really stupid. We actually forgot that we have ample riches. Later on let’s buy two horses to ride instead of walk, won’t we avoid the hardship of journeying on foot?”
Xu Ziling also laughed and said, “Riding horses is not as good as taking a boat. We might as well buy a small fishing boat, you and I can take turn steering the boat and sleeping and practicing martial art; won’t that be fun?”
Kou Zhong shook his head and said, “You think we are on a scenic tour? Our destination is the nest of Wagang Army; if you were an officer, would you let people coming and going at will? Land route is a bit more dependable. Ha, since you reminded me, let us by a carriage, so we can still take turn driving and resting. Ha, we save time, we save energy. Ha, when you are coming with me, nothing can go wrong!”
Laughing and swearing, the two boys ran fast to the largest town nearby, bought a simple and crude carriage and two healthy horses to pull it along, and continued their journey.
It was the first time that the two boys owned such an expensive and very useful means of transportation; they doted on the two horses very much. The white horse they called it Bai’er [simply ‘dear white’], the grey one they called it Hui’er [ash/grey].
Four days later, they arrived at Wagang City, where Zhai Rang raised his army in rebellion. Only this moment the city already fell into the imperial army’s hands.
The two boys barely entered the city, they already felt the tensed atmosphere. Not only the city defense was reinforced, on the street they came across groups after groups of troops going God knows where.
After finding an inn, Kou Zhong tipped the inn assistant with specific thing in mind, he repeatedly told him, a thousand times, ten thousand times, to take a good care of their horses, while in passing, he inquired about the current situation.
While having a meal at the restaurant attached to the inn, he said in low voice, “Turns out Li Mi originally wanted to attack the Eastern Capital Luoyang. For some reason, the secret leaked out, and now the plan changed to attacking Xingluo Cang [barn/warehouse]. But the defender of Eastern Capital Wang Yangdong has dispatched Liu Changgong to intercept him. Furthermore, the defender of Xingyang’s Western Tiger Prison Pei Renji is prepared to trail Li Mi’s rear leg. It seems that Li Mi’s circumstances really isn’t so optimistic.”
Xu Ziling was puzzled, “Isn’t Wagang Army’s big boss Susu Jie’s master Zhai Rang? Why is it that you open your mouth, you close your mouth, it is Li Mi this and Li Mi that?”
Kou Zhong shrugged his shoulders and said, “It was exactly what that inn assistant told me. It’s very possible that because Zhai Rang was wounded by that strange man, he needs to live in seclusion to recuperate. But then again, ay! I really hope he is not killed by Li Mi.”
Speaking to this point, the two boys’ heart was burning with anxiety; they really wished they could grow wings to fly to Xingyang.
With a wry smile Kou Zhong said, “I just asked the inn assistant for direction to Xingyang, the assistant strongly urged me not to go there, and he said Yang Wu has become a mess, and that we can meet danger at any time. Ha, he said that coming across Wagang Army is not a problem, the most scary thing is coming across deserting government troops or perhaps defeated troops. That would be more disastrous than coming across a tiger or wolves.”
Recalling those killing and burning defeated army they had met, Xu Ziling sighed.
Kou Zhong suddenly grew excited; he whispered, “Now the world [tian xia] is becoming more and more chaotic. I heard a man who was originally a defender officer of Jincheng county magistrate called Xue Ju, has raised an army to revolt, and has proclaimed himself Xi Qin Bawang [hegemonic prince of western Qin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xue_Ju)]. He wanted to imitate Qin Shihuang [the first emperor of China] in unifying the world. Right now he has taken Tianshui [prefecture, Gansu], and wanted to establish it as his capital. I’ll say there is nothing exceptional about this Xue Ju. If it were me, I wouldn’t be so foolish to impatiently declare myself an emperor. It clearly shows that he looks down upon the other militias, and hence has become the target of multitude of arrows.”
“Where is Tianshui?” Xu Ziling asked.
Immensely proud of himself, Kou Zhong replied, “Tianshui is outside Qinling [mountain range, Shaanxi, between Guanzhong plain and Han River], west of the Capital; no wonder you did not know.”
Assuming the air of an analyst, he said, “If not for Wagang Army holding up the main forces at the Capital and the Eastern Capital, perhaps Xue Ju would not dare to revolt. Other than him, there is also a fellow called Li Gui who also raises an army at Wuwei [also in Gansu], and bestowed himself the title of Da Liang Wang [king of the great Liang]. In just several short months there are two more militias; it seems to me the Sui dynasty’s days are numbered.”
He added, “In my opinion, like Li Dage said, other than Dou Jiande, Li Mi, Wang Bo and our ol’ Die, I am afraid other people would not amount to much.”
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “Are you forgetting Li guy?”
Kou Zhong’s thick face turned red; he said, “Honestly, I do not want to remember that Li guy.”
At that moment, flustered and exasperated, the inn-worker in charge of the stable ran toward the two boys’ table; he said in panic, “Two Shaoye, not good! Some people are going to steal your horse.”
Immediately Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s countenance changed.
By the time the two boys rushed toward the stable at the inn courtyard, Bai’er, Hui’er, and about a dozen other horses were led out of the stable by about a dozen soldiers; they were about to leave.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling pounced forward to block the exit and shouted at them to stop. Obviously the soldiers have never expected that someone would be so brazen like this, they all shouted back at the two boys, two of the soldiers even drew the saber hanging on their waists.
Kou Zhong whispered to Xu Ziling, “Grab the horse, I’ll deal with the people. Just watch Laozi’s imposing manner!”
There was a saber flash, one soldier’s broadsword chopped down on Kou Zhong’s neck; the soldier did not have any care in the world whether he would kill an innocent civilian or not.
Kou Zhong’s eyes gleamed with sharp rays, his countenance turned incomparably cold, just like Ba Fenghan, as he watched the incoming momentum. Fast as lightning his right hand shot out, unexpectedly he grabbed the saber’s hilt, while down below his leg also flew out as fast as lightning.
The soldier screamed as he met Kou Zhong’s foot and was thrown about a zhang away, and crashed against another soldier. The two soldiers rolled around together in a jumble, and looked extremely miserable.
The other soldiers could only stare blankly; they started to realize that they have met martial art experts.
Chapter 5, Part 2
But Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling actually looked at each other; they both did not expect Kou Zhong’s kick would be that formidable.
Kou Zhong tossed the saber in his hand into the air, and when it fell down, he caught it by the handle. Imitating Ba Fenghan, he held it horizontally across his chest. With a disdain look on his face he assumed a heroic air and coldly said, “You are officers and soldiers, yet you openly rob commoners’ horses; are you tired of living?”
The soldiers were overwhelmed by his imposing manner; unexpectedly no one dared to make a move.
A big man that looked like their leader took a step forward and angrily shouted, “We are under the General’s order to collect horses. Kid, you dare to disobey the imperial decree, you are the one who is tired of living. Still have not gotten lost?”
Kou Zhong himself was wanted by the Emperor, how could he give any thought to this kind of emperor’s order that oppressed common people? Just now he made a move and was immediately triumphant, his excitement soared. He took two steps forward until the distance between he and the leader was only about a zhang. The entire power of his body was concentrated on the blade of the saber, while at the same time he quickly sent out the true qi in his body.
A stream of biting cold saber qi immediately appeared from the saber blade. The most extraordinary thing was that the entire saber seemed to it up.
More than a dozen soldiers’ countenances changed at the same time. The soldiers’ leader bore the brunt. He was pushed by the surge of saber qi two steps back.
Kou Zhong did not expect he could really have this kind of power. Immediately he reverted back to his old self, the saber qi vanished.
The leader still thought that just now it was his own illusion. Also, thinking that the two boys were merely young people, he cried his order, a dozen or so soldiers shouted and raised their weapons high as they charged toward the two boys.
Kou Zhong was afraid that because Xu Ziling had no weapon, he would suffer losses. Therefore, with a shout he charged first and drew a semi-circle with his saber. The enemy’s sabers that were caught in the circle, four out of six left the hands and were flung aside, the other two were twisted on the wrist, and felt a shocking pain on the palm of their hands that they backed off.
By this time Xu Ziling rushed toward Bai’er and Hui’er, and beat the two soldiers leading the horses until they fell on the ground like a pair of gourds; while also snatched a saber from them.
Like lightning Kou Zhong’s saber hacked and chopped, instantly one soldier got hit and fell to the ground. With a big laugh he said, “Next year today will be the anniversary of your, these thief soldiers’ death. Just consider meeting us as your bad luck.”
Hearing that he was going to kill them, the soldiers who had not been injured immediately scattered like birds and beasts; those who had been injured had no choice but to crawl and roll to get away.
Stroking the saber’s blade Kou Zhong sighed and said, “Soldiers as small as a mouse, only know how to bully common people around. No wonder that so many people are forced to rebel.”
Xu Ziling came over, leading the horses along. He laughed bitterly and said, “If we don’t slip away right now, when the enemy’s troops are coming back, next year today will be the anniversary of our death.”
Waving the long saber in their hands, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling urged their horses to charge directly toward the city gate.
Apparently the soldiers guarding the gate have not received the news. Caught unprepared, five or six soldiers were knocked down. By the time they wanted to pursue, the two boys have already disappeared behind the cloud of dust.
The two boys were in high spirit. Although they felt a little distressed because they had to abandon their carriage along with their personal belongings, but momentarily the feeling of venting their anger and the pride in their heart trumped it all.
After galloping for twenty, thirty li, it was already evening, the two boys spent the night in the open by the roadside.
Kou Zhong hunted a pheasant and came back. Xu Ziling already gathered enough dry branches and sticks to make fire to roast the pheasant. Sniffing the aroma, the two boys felt perfectly content.
With concern in his eyes, Kou Zhong shot a glance toward the horses, which were grazing on the hillside nearby. He sighed and said, “It’s hard to imagine that two poor wretched boys like us would finally own two good horses. But I always say that that day will eventually come.”
Xu Ziling said, “You, this guy, have imposing manner at the beginning, but no power at the end. At the start you radiated the air of a martial art master, just by saber qi you forced that soldiers’ captain to recoil in panic, but then your power did not continue on. A martial art master like you really shame our school.”
Kou Zhong smiled sheepishly and said, “Next time I won’t be like that, I know that mental cultivation is the most important. During combat we must be absolutely calm, just like the moon in the well. Any mood swings will make a master [orig. gao shou – high hand] turns into a low hand.”
“That is easy to say, difficult to achieve,” Xu Ziling said, “For example, if you see me injured by the enemy, would you still be able to maintain essence, qi and spirit in that kind of ‘moon in the well’ state?”
Kou Zhong asked himself, but in the end he admitted that it was impossible. Distressed, he said, “But that fellow Ba Fenghan seems to have innate ability to be that kind of person. We are actually passionate persons. I wonder if there is any way toughen up and become people with iron-and-stone aspiration?”
Xu Ziling knitted his brows, deep in thought for a moment, before speaking in heavy tone, “Looks like only during a life and death, decisive battle that we are able to pursue understanding. One day we do not achieve this state, one day we cannot boast ourselves as martial art masters.”
Kou Zhong excitedly said, “But we already know what it is all about. After training hard in the woodshed for those few days, the true qi in my body is a lot more decent than before, only … huh?”
Alarm went off in the two boys’ head at the same time. They looked at the horses, and as soon as they did that, they felt the corners of their eyes were about to split; they pulled out their sabers and sprang up.
They saw a very big man, as magnificent as a mountain, his loose hair draped over his shoulders, and he wore yellow clothes. As if without any strength at all his hands separately patted lightly on Hui’er and Bai’er’s heads. Immediately a terrible sound of breaking bones was heard from the pathetic two boys’ beloved mounts; without uttering any noise the horses collapsed to the ground, dead, and the bodies slipped down toward the foot of the hill.
Kou Zhong let out an earth-shattering sorrowful cry. He was about to charge when Xu Ziling suddenly thundered, “Moon in the water!”
Kou Zhong’s tiger body shook violently; suddenly he halted.
With feet not touching the ground, the man floated down hill, to about a zhang away from the two boys, before stopping and standing loftily.
This man’s face looked like bronze, he had thick eyebrows and big eyes, and had a big wart right in the middle of his forehead, just like a one-horn monster; a totally terrifying freak.
His hands and feet were thicker than average person, giving the impression that he had infinite power.
This moment his pair of huge eyes was flickering with internal energy as he fiercely sizing up the two boys. At last his eyes fell on the two boys’ sabers that were pointing at him.
“You think you are fit to fight with me, Yuwen Wudi?” he said with a cold snort. [Wudi means peerless, the title of this chapter.]
Reminded by Xu Ziling earlier, Kou Zhong understood that this was the critical moment; gradually he calmed down and said in low voice, “Fit or unfit, only after fighting will we be able to see clearly.”
With a calmness that even surprised Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling spoke nonchalantly, “I wonder how shameless your Die and Niang were to give you such a boastful name?”
A furious look flitted across Yuwen Wudi’s eyes. His hand reached behind his back to fetch a lance; immediately a surge of cold, harsh murderous aura shot out from him.
Right this moment, the two boys’ spirit entered the moon-in-the-water realm; at the same time they also emitted saber qi. By joining their power, they were able to resist this dreadful opponent.
An astounded expression swept past Yuwen Wudi’s face. His hand brandished the lance, his feet powerfully surged forward three steps. Unleashing the full power of his lance, it turned into thousands lance shadows, attacking the two boys like the tidal waves of the Great River or Yellow River.
The circulation of true qi in Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s body was at its peak, their senses were amplified may times over; they were able to sense clearly that the opponent’s lance shadows were entirely empty, only one lance targeting Xu Ziling’s throat was real.
Kou Zhong let out a wild roar, but his countenance was as clear as water as he abruptly charged forward and moved his saber in a chopping motion, aiming Yuwen Wudi’s left shoulder. The true qi was transferred by the saber, producing a sharp whistle as it split the air; the momentum was extremely astonishing.
Xu Ziling’s mind was also very sharp, it was even clearer than when he usually practiced; he was able to see clearly the incoming lance’s power, speed and angle. Without the slightest hesitation he bent his knees in a horse stance, while his saber also made a hacking motion.
Fast as a lightning the opponent slid horizontally aside. Not only to evade Kou Zhong’s saber, he also altered the lance’s speed and angle, so that it now threatened Xu Ziling’s right flank.
Xu Ziling kept his original style unchanged, except he modified the angle slightly. ‘Qiang!’ the saber clashed with the tip of the lance.
Force and qi collided with each other.
Xu Ziling let out a muffled grunt; he was jolted by the opponent’s thousand-lightning-strike like force that his entire body was thrown backward.
Yuwen Wudi also felt discomfort. He felt that this kid’s true qi that was transmitted via the saber’s blade was incomparably strange. It felt like it was not there, but it also felt burning hot. When it collided with his own true qi, it changed into gossamer-like thin threads, like an arrow or a dart shooting straight into his meridians, forcing its way deep into his body. He could not stop his body from recoiling half a step back.
He was numbered among the few martial art experts within the Yuwen Clan. Excluding their Clan Master Yuwen Shang, in terms of martial art skill, he was preceded only by Yuwen Huaji, Yuwen Chengdu, and Yuwen Shi, three men. Who would have thought that even after going all-out, not only he failed to kill Xu Ziling, he was pushed back half a step instead. If this matter leaked out, his fame for fighting prowess would suffer great damage; automatically his murderous intention was greatly aroused.
After receiving report from his men that Kou and Xu, two boys, were seen inside Wagang City, highly confident of his own martial art prowess, he went alone on a hunting mission. He already made up his mind to kill one of the two boys first, and then force the other one to hand over the account book.
Actually, the one climbing up the ship and stealing the account book that night was precisely Yuwen Chengdu. Suffering a major setback, upon returning he did not dare to tell the truth. He only said that the two boys were one step ahead of him and have stolen the account book first; hence it gave birth to contempt toward the two boys in Yuwen Wudi’s heart. Only this moment did he realize that these two boys were really not simple.
Kou Zhong instinctively knew that Xu Ziling would not die; however, if he failed to occupy Yuwen Wudi, Xu Ziling’s death would be guaranteed. Therefore, not daring to hesitate, he unleashed the full power of the ‘Ruler Overlooking the World’, the most aggressive style of the ‘Bloody Battle Ten Styles’. The saber and the person blended together into one, as he charged into another circle of lance shadows drawn by Yuwen Wudi.
The very moment Xu Ziling was flying in the air and falling down, he knew that it was crucial for him to keep the burning hot true qi circulating within his body. As soon as he touched the ground, like a spring he bounced back, and saw that about two zhang away, Kou Zhong was surrounded by Yuwen Wudi’s lance shadows, producing a continuous ringing of saber and lance clashing against each other. Hastily Xu Ziling charged toward the two men.
Actually, Yuwen Wudi was groaning inwardly, because he had secretly suffered a loss.
What happened was that he had used the wrong energy. When receiving Kou Zhong’s first saber attack, he thought Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling trained using the same method, thereupon he decided to meet the attack head-on by sending out a hundred percent Yang energy, to deal with what he thought was a burning hot Yang energy.
Who would have thought that as the saber and lance collided, a stream of incomparably strange and cold Yin energy surged into his body via Kou Zhong’s blade?
By nature, Yin and Yang energy overcome each other. Caught off guard, Yuwen Wudi did not have enough time to protect himself, and thus several meridians in his body were injured. Although at the last moment he managed to turn the situation around, his strength has been greatly reduced, plus Kou Zhong continuously sending out attack after attack with his saber, momentarily he was unable to extricate himself.
It was at this moment that Xu Ziling, totally unharmed, came to join the fray.
Yuwen Wudi lost his confidence, because originally he was confident that if Xu Ziling did not die, he would be, at the very least, heavily injured. Who would have thought that Xu Ziling appeared to come out unscathed? How could he not be aghast and desperate?
However, he was, after all, a first-class martial art master, his mind remained unflustered. With a wild roar he broadened the momentum of his lance to surround Xu Ziling as well. This time he held nothing back; his main intention was to kill these two boys as quickly as possible. Whether he could obtain the account book or not, it has become secondary.
Every time saber and lance collided, it produced a nice and crisp ring, multiplying the viciousness of this battle several folds.
The longer they fought, the more Yuwen Wudi felt the battle grew increasingly strenuous. He felt that he was at his wits’ end to deal with the opponents’ cold and hot, yin and yang attack. Not only that, he also felt that the two boys’ true qi was broad and deep, mysterious and inscrutable; plus they seemed to have inexhaustible capacity that enabled them to go on forever.
In reality, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had also reached the ‘mountain and river exhausted’ condition. The opponent’s lance appeared to continue its violent offensive indefinitely, making them felt as if they were under thousand-catty pressure, little by little sapping down their willpower.
For the two boys, this battle was the biggest challenge and the heaviest physical exercise they ever had since their debut. Supposing they were able to survive this hurdle without dying, it would instantly propel them into the rank of first-class martial art master list. In this case, Yuwen Wudi actually acted as their mentor, who intimidated them with death for a total work-out.
Just as the two boys were about to fall apart, the lance’s momentum suddenly slowed down.
Yuwen Wudi’s spirit was greatly shaken. He knew that he was burdened with wounded meridians, so eventually he started to show some gaps in his offense. While he was groaning at the unfavorable turn of events, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s momentum immediately soared.
Although unwilling, Yuwen Wudi knew that if he did not leave now, he could forget about escaping alive. Thereupon he abruptly increased his true qi while both hands moved toward the middle of the lance’s pole. Exercising his amazing footwork, the lance’s head and the end of the pole accurately struck the blades of the two boys’ sabers simultaneously, and then he flew backward to retreat.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling drew their qi, the blades in their hands turned into a long rainbow, striking toward Yuwen Wudi.
This martial art master from the Yuwen Clan groaned in pain; carrying two streams of blood splashing into the air, in the blink of an eye he vanished into the dark mountain forest.
Immediately Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling dropped down on their knees, using their sabers to prop themselves up.
This victory was indeed obtained through extreme danger; but in the end they managed to snatch their two little lives back.