Book 3 Chapter 6 – Escape from Dangerous Spot
As the two boys stepped out of the restaurant, autumn breeze blew, increasing their tipsiness by two degrees. Kou Zhong pulled Xu Ziling in the Yihong Yuan direction.
After walking for about a dozen steps, he said in low voice, “Something does not seem right, those two men’s conversation seemed to be too timely, as if they were afraid we would not know how to get to Yihong Yuan and thus have to spell out everything clearly. In my opinion, those two men must be Shen Luoyan’s people. As she saw one trap failed, she came up with another trap.”
Xu Ziling was just staring at the hustle and bustle of horses and carriages struggling for the right of way on the street with his drunken eyes; hearing Kou Zhong, he was startled and said, “You are right. Since Li Zhi could be Shen Luoyan’s people, those two men might be her people as well. Ay! Where should we go then? It would be best if we can find a place we can hide.”
With unbearable itch in his heart Kou Zhong said, “If we don’t go to Yihong, we should go to Yilu [yi hong – relying/riding on red, yi lu – relying on green. Yuan means ‘Courtyard’].”
Suddenly they came face to face with another passerby; Kou Zhong respectfully asked, “Excuse me Uncle, around here, other than Yihong Yuan, is there any other most upscale pleasure house with the biggest number of pretty girls?”
The person he stopped happened to be a middle-aged scholar; hearing the question, a look of disdain appeared on his face. ‘Pei!’ he spat, and walked away.
Xu Ziling roared in laughter, “Are you asking where to go to take imperial examination?” he jested, “Asking for a pleasure house, you must ask twenty-something man, someone that with one look we can tell that he indulges excessively in wine and women. Watch me!”
Looking around, he happened to see a splendid-looking carriage stopping behind them, from which a young man with expensive-looking clothes alighted, followed by two attendants. The young man looked to be around twenty-three, twenty-four; attractive and intelligent, but his face looked rather unhealthy, as if he was too weak to stand up to the wind. He fit the exact criteria of the person Xu Ziling wanted to ‘ask’ for direction.
Kou Zhong gave Xu Ziling a sharp push that he stumbled two steps forward toward the rich-looking young man. The two attendants immediately had their hands pressed against the sword hilt with alert look on their eyes.
Bracing himself, Xu Ziling cupped his fist and said respectfully, “Respected Gongzi, Zaixia has something I’d like to inquire of you, would Gongzi please do not blame Zaixia for being rude.”
The young man looked at him up and down with interest; then he smiled and said, “Renxiong [dear friend], please speak.”
Embarrassed, Xu Ziling took a step forward. Afraid that other people might hear him, he spoke in the lowest voice possible, “We, two brothers, want to know: around here, other than Yihong Yuan, which pleasure house is the best?”
The young man was greatly surprised. Immediately a smile broke on his face from finding a ‘kindred spirit’; he sighed and said, “You have come to the right person. My Ol’ Die opens a brothel, it’s at the next street, Hong Yuan Street, Cuibi Lou [both ‘cui’ and ‘bi’ mean ‘green jade’, ‘lou’ is multi-story building]. In terms of scale and girls, Yihong Yuan cannot catch up even if they spur their horse. It’s just that right now it’s still too early, you can stroll around somewhere else, and come there after you hour [5-7pm]. Just tell them that you are my, Xiang Yushan’s friends, I guarantee that nobody will dare to serve you not satisfactorily. Renxiong, please. I still have important matter I have to attend to.”
After Xiang Yushan left, the two boys felt as if they have obtained imperial edict. Bursting with joy, they walked along the street with arm around each other’s shoulder; surprisingly neither was singing at the top of his lungs.
All kinds of stores lined up both sides of the street, there were butcher shop, cake shop, dry goods store, clothing store, cosmetic store, fish shop, et cetera.
Due to the alcohol in their belly, the two boys felt as if the entire world had become unreal, but looking at the autumn sun high in the sky shining down its light to the flagstone street, the sparkling reflection seemed like fantastic rays of light. The street, the buildings, the passer-by, the horses and carriages, seemed to synthesize into one perfect harmony, with no dividing line between distinct realms.
Kou Zhong involuntarily laughed; half of his body was leaning ln Xu Ziling’s shoulder. With a sigh of contentment he said, “Right now I don’t want to join any militia army or government army. After killing Yuwen Huagu, we will focus on earning money, buying and selling goods, and when we have free time we just go to pleasure houses, getting drunk and passing through this life happy, and that’s about it.”
Xu Ziling did not drink as much as Kou Zhong did, so his brain was a bit clearer. “Didn’t you often say that you want to accomplish big thing in life?” he wondered, “Why all of a sudden you are thinking of being an unscrupulous businessman who make profit by speculation [the term used here is hoarding goods for speculation]?”
Kou Zhong giggled and said, “Even becoming unscrupulous businessman, I, Zhong Shao, will become the best unscrupulous businessman. When I see other people suffer hardship, suffer calamity, will we forget chivalry by ‘throwing stones at those who fell down a well’? It’s just that honestly speaking, Beautiful Shifu was right: based on virtue and ability right now, how can we take care of other people’s business? Hey! When our martial art skill has reached perfection, when we finish training the Nine Mysteries Great Technique to the 108th level, then if we see anybody who is not pleasing to the eye, we can slaughter him with a slash of a saber. That will be called removing harm for the sake of the people.”
With a bitter laughter Xu Ziling said, “How can there be such a simple thing in the world? But no matter what, we must slaughter Yuwen Huaji, that treacherous bandit first.”
Suddenly a shadow flashed in front of them, a fragrant breeze wafted by. The two boys took a closer look, turned out it was a rather good-looking middle-aged woman blocking their way. With a ‘blossoming eyebrows and smiling eyes’ she said, “Are two Gongzi lost? The Yihong Courtyard main gate is over there. We are just open for business. If two Gongzi become our first guest, our popular girls will definitely serve you will full attention.”
Following her pointing finger, they saw the big signboard of Yihong Courtyard was precisely behind them, to their left. They suddenly realized that in their muddled state, they had just walked pass Yihong Courtyard’s main gate. This procuress that was ordered to wait for them got panicked and blocked their way to solicit business.
Since he was still a bit drunk, Kou Zhong leaned over to mercilessly leer over her towering breasts. And then he winked and laughed, “Pretty woman, tell that devious woman Shen Luoyan that we fell into her trap once, we won’t fall the second time. If she has guts, have her come and grab us. But don’t forget that she’s a felon wanted by the imperial court!”
While the procuress was stunned, the two boys walked away staggeringly, swaying left and right.
Kou Zhong shook Xu Ziling, who was asleep on the bed, to wake him up. In his excitement his voice was hoarse, as he nervously said, “It’s going to be you hour soon, we must be Cuibi Lou’s first guest; perhaps we’ll get a 50% discount!”
Xu Ziling’s head was still heavy; he crawled out of bed and whined, “Drinking wine has this kind of after effect; if you are sent by that Shen woman, I would have been finished.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “I am the most responsible person on earth; otherwise, who’s going to keep watch for you? Just now there was a waiter coming asking a lot of questions, I would not open the door for him. Ha! Just several more sichen and that Shen woman will lose to us. I wonder what is Qin Laoge’s fate?”
Xu Ziling took his saber, which he hid behind his pillow. “Let’s go to the Eastern Gate to see if he left any secret mark there.”
And then he added, “Also, we must not forget that thing that we promised that guy Li Shimin.”
Kou Zhong impatiently said, “How could I forget? Didn’t that rich guy say that Dong Ming flagship wouldn’t be back from Luoyang until tomorrow? Let’s take advantage of the fine time, beautiful scenery tonight; let’s start without delay!”
Xu Ziling’s heart warmed up, “It’s funny that when we were in Yangzhou, when we looked inside from outside a brothel’s door, people always drive us out like beggars. But now even the brothel owner’s son recognizes us as shining treasure. But let me be clear first, on my first night [figuratively, first sexual encounter] I don’t want to pick randomly, at least it has to be as pretty as Qingqing, who ‘bite the hands that feeds her’, from Piao Xiang [floating fragrance] Courtyard.”
Kou Zhong patted his money purse and said with a laugh, “With money naturally come face and prestige, coupled with Xiang Yushan’s support, whatever you, Ling Shao [young master Ling] wants, you will get it. If the lord is not satisfied, can’t we stick up our butts out of bed?”
Xu Ziling raised his qi to lighten his body; he just wanted to show off some nimble moves. Who would have thought that as soon as he rose up, he made a somersault and landed noiselessly on the floor?
The two boys were severely shocked; they looked at each other with an I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened look on their faces.
“Heavens!” Kou Zhong was stunned, “How did you do that?” he asked, “Can you do it again? How could you fly out from sitting position like that?”
Xu Ziling scratched his head, “I am afraid I cannot repeat it,” he said, “Why don’t you try it yourself?”
Previously, each time they raised their qi, they had to channel their strength to leap first, and borrowed the momentum to fly up. But to raise their qi from a still position like this, it had never happened before.
Kou Zhong stood still, his expression looked odd.
“Don’t you want to hurry up to the brothel?” Xu Ziling urged him, “Why haven’t you tried?”
Kou Zhong’s face turned beet red; he said in embarrassment, “I have tried it more than a dozen times, but my toes did not even move.”
Xu Ziling was silent for half a day; finally he said dejectedly, “This time I did not get enlightenment as well. Ay! Perhaps we should really do obeisance to a great shifu, so that when we have a problem like this we could get a brilliant master’s direction.”
Kou Zhong shook his head, “Doing obeisance to a shifu is a farting useless,” he said, “What we learn is the strange skill from the ‘Secret to Long Life’, nobody in the world is proficient in it, we can only rely on ourselves to grope around. Perhaps our problem is due to our virgin male bodies, because solitary yang cannot develop. Only after we break it will our martial art immediately achieve great success. Ha! It must be the case.”
Xu Ziling laughed and scolded him, “Less bullsh1t, will you? Aren’t you going to leave?”
Kou Zhong doubled up in laughter, “I am leaving! I am leaving!” he said.
Staggering along, they walked toward the door. But as they opened the door, a sharp cold wind assaulted their foreheads. Without even thinking Kou Zhong raised his qi to lighten his body just like Xu Ziling did; his body flew backward.
The person who launched the sneak attack apparently did not expect that the attack should fail. “Huh?” he exclaimed, and fast as lightning he slipped into the room.
Just like Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling did not have time to think, he halted his step, pulled his saber, and swiftly hacked down on the attacker’s head; all in one fluid motion, without the slightest bit of hesitation or sluggishness. It was perhaps the most outstanding saber strike he had ever launched in all his life until today.
‘Bing!’ The attacker used the long golden hairpin in his hand to block Xu Ziling’s unmatched fierce saber strike head on.
For an instant both sides had to stop and were unable to launch any consecutive move.
‘Bang!’ Kou Zhong fell heavily on the bed, but he immediately shot out like a bullet and shouted, “Niang! I did it!”
The attacker pulled the hairpin back and withdrew from the room, the sleeve of his clothes floated away, as beautiful as a fairy; who else but Li Mi’s ‘Pretty Junshi’ Shen Luoyan?
Xu Ziling was shaken by her power and had to take two steps back. Seeing the door was no longer blocked, Shen Luoyan abruptly turned around and entered the room again, with the intention of pursuing and attacking Xu Ziling. But Kou Zhong already arrived; the flicker of his saber was like billowing waves, coupled with the surging gust of wind from the blade, as he violently attacked her.
Shen Luoyan cried out with her shrill voice as she rushed into the shadows of the saber, utilizing a close-combat technique. Successively she blocked a dozen or so moves from Kou Zhong. Each move was incomparable vicious; but she failed to push Kou Zhong back.
In the meantime, Xu Ziling pulled himself together [orig. reorganize flags and drums] and joined the melee. Without any choice Shen Luoyan was pushed back out of the room once again.
The two boys stood on guard inside the door, but their hearts were like great waves rolling into the sky, with bitter thought raging endlessly. They had never expected that such abrupt turn of events, they would be able to display the essence of ‘Bloody Battle Ten Styles’ vividly and thoroughly, so much so that they did not know which move they were using. They only felt that their hands followed their hearts, their strength followed the saber technique, and everything was flowing without any restrain.
Shen Luoyan, on the other hand, was greatly shaken. Her ‘Soul-snatching Hairpin’ was the ultimate skill of her family, which has been passed down from generation to generation, and ranked quite high in the Jianghu’s ‘Amazing Skill Ultimate Art List’. In usual circumstances she very seldom used it; this time she was hoping to capture the two boys in one fell swoop. Who would have thought that these two boys were like ‘shedding their mortal bodies and exchanged their bones’, that twice she attacked, twice she was repelled back? If this matter spread in Jianghu, it would be sufficient to propel the two boys’ name to the top.
With a saber in his hand, Kou Zhong struck a pose and laughed aloud, “Beautiful Junshi, come in quickly to have a taste of my saber.”
Xu Ziling also imposingly said, “Just remember that you must not harm half a strand of our hair; otherwise you will definitely lose.”
Shen Luoyan nearly went mad from anger; with a furious laughter she said, “The courtyard outside is a bit bigger; come out and let’s try again.”
“Are you thinking of having your men to surround us?” Kou Zhong exposed her scheme, “Ha! You should know that I can do lion’s roar; with a loud shout, I guarantee all the government officials of Pengcheng will hear everything clearly.”
Shen Luoyan’s pretty face turned cold, but instantly a moving smile reappeared as she said in tender voice, “How about this? If I can crash through your barrier and enter the room, I will be considered the winner, then the two of you must surrender nicely to me.”
Calmly, Xu Ziling said, “That means you no longer have the confidence to capture us alive; ergo, you already lose!”
Kou Zhong’s fighting spirit was aroused, his confidence soared; immensely proud of himself he said, “What are we afraid of, but we have to set time limit. I will count to ten, and if you can’t pass, you lose.”
Shen Luoyan stuck the golden hairpin back to her hair; she laughed and said, “So be it. Start counting!” Finished speaking she walked toward the door in large strides.
While the two boys were stunned and were at a loss, she walked between them straight into the room without any obstruction at all. When she reached the bed, she turned around and leisurely sat down, looking at the two boys with a smile on her face.
The two boys still had their sabers lifted high, but how could they hack on her just like that? Even until she turned around, they were still dumbfounded.
Looking at the two boys’ weird expression, Shen Luoyan broke into giggle and clapped her hands, “Alright! I win!”
Chapter 6, Part 2
HPC, Jaya, Ysabel, you are welcome. DongBin, Are you from Taiwan? Nowadays I see more and more people are using simplified rather than traditional, except people from Taiwan. But it's just my observation, which may not necessarily true. Anh, how's grandkids? Any trip to Vietnam recently?
Dejectedly Xu Ziling put the saber back into its sheathe as he sighed and said, “I can’t accept losing this way, because just like last time, you are exploiting our kind-heartedness.”
Shen Luoyan pretended to be surprised, “Other than hacking people with your saber, don’t you know any other way to subdue others?
Kou Zhong put his saber down, he giggled and said, “We did not lose, because although you entered the room, you did not crash through our barrier. The word ‘crash through’ implied some fighting is involved!”
Shen Luoyan glanced at him with the corner of her eye; still with a smile on her face she said, “How about we sit down and talk? Wow! Now the two of you look pretty nice.”
The two boys sat on the chairs leaning against the wall on her left side. Looking straight at her alluring eyes that look just like limpid autumn lake, Kou Zhong said, “You want to talk, let’s talk. We still want to visit the brothel!”
Shen Luoyan stared at him angrily, she said irately, “Do you not know that those girls in the brothel are really pitiful? Just with some money in your pocket you feel that you are entitled to toy with them; don’t you have any shame?”
Taken aback, Xu Ziling said, “I have never thought about it that way. But if no one visits them, and they don’t earn enough money to redeem themselves, won’t they continue to live in desolation?”
Kou Zhong stated matter-of-factly, “Isn’t that Yihong Courtyard opened by your Wagang Army? Why are you criticizing us?”
And then with a cold humph he added, “Everything is born because there is a demand for it; otherwise, who would want to go to the battlefield to kill or be killed?”
Shen Luoyan knitted her brows. “What are you talking about?” she said, “Yihong Courtyard has always been Du Fuwei’s eyes in this area. To us, Wagang Army, it’s a [email protected] business.”
The two boys’ countenance changed.
Shen Luoyan smiled and said, “You love to fool around at the pleasure houses, that’s enough. Now that Qin Shubao has surrendered to our army, what do you, two little kids, have in mind?”
Kou Zhong sprang up and went to the open door; craning his neck, he looked outside wondered aloud, “The sound of our fighting shook the house, but how come there is no one come over to check it out?”
Shen Luoyan said indifferently, “Are you forgetting that we want to capture you alive? There is an inescapable net outside, even if you, two little demons, grew wings, it would still be difficult for you to fly away.”
With a wry smile Xu Ziling said, “Do you not know that this is called ‘biting the hand that feeds you’?”
Shen Luoyan slyly replied, “I only have your well-being in mind. Right now the whole country is in rebellion. To bring order out of chaos, only Duke Mi one person is able to do it. If not for the fact that you have given me a big favor, I would not have time to invite you to join our army.”
And then, a bit impatiently she added, “Quickly make your decision! I don’t have time to waste on you.”
Listening to her tone, the two boys’ pride was hurt. With a cold snort Xu Ziling said, “If you don’t have time then excuse yourself! We, two brothers, love to roam the wide sea and sky, to live free and easy life.”
A thick, cold murderous aura flashed through Shen Luoyan’s eyes; she suddenly rose up and in a flash was already by the door. With her back toward the two boys, she coldly said, “Since I cannot use you, I must kill you. Don’t even think of leaving this place alive today.” In another flash she vanished outside the door.
The two boys looked at each other in dismay. It only then did they understand why this ‘Pretty Junshi’, whose beauty matched the immortals, was also known as ‘Serpent and Scorpion Beauty’ [see Book 3 Chapter 4].
The two boys stared blankly for half a day. Even then, there was still no movement outside. Kou Zhong took a very deep breath and said, “What do you think? Shall we kill our way out?”
Xu Ziling maintained his composure. He shook his head and said, “Rushing out just like that is tantamount to deliver our lives in vain. Perhaps as soon as we step out the door, there would be a big net coming down to catch us, two fools. I say she still wants to capture us alive.”
And then he added in low voice, “Just now when we heard Ol’ Die’s name our countenance changed. With her keen eyesight plus her skill and knowledge, how could she not hear even half a word about us? Obviously she already knew our background; therefore, she spent so much effort, mentally and physically, to win us over, so that we will willingly offer ‘Duke Yang treasure trove’ to her.”
Kou Zhong was astonished, “Xiao Ling, you are really something. Unexpectedly you are able to infer so many things just from her reaction. Ha! I have an idea. Remember what Ol’ Chen of Jukun Bang taught us about architecture? This hotel is made up of eight courtyard houses. We are located at the west wing of the east courtyard, the door is facing the flower garden in the center of the courtyard, outside the wall opposite the door is the main garden surrounding the eight courtyards, with towering trees all around. Therefore, if we can get there, our chance of escaping will be a lot higher.”
Xu Ziling looked at the wall opposite the door, where the bed was located; he smiled wryly and said, “We are not Zhai Rang, how could we break through the wall and flee?”
And then he looked up to the ceiling and said with a sigh, “If my guess is correct, there are definitely enemies up there.”
As usual, Kou Zhong always had a plan. First, he closed the door, and then he told Xu Ziling, “Keep watch for me, I am going to loosen a few bricks.” Finished speaking, he pulled his long saber and jumped onto the bed.
Xu Ziling moved to the window by the door. When he looked outside, he saw more than a dozen big men jump down from the roof of the building across the courtyard, and immediately fanned out along the corridor, heading toward their direction.
He was just about to warn Kou Zhong when there was a loud ‘boom!’ from above, the roof tiles rained down, followed by an iron-tower like man with a pair of hammers in his hands, falling down.
In that instant Xu Ziling threw away his conjecture that Shen Luoyan wanted to capture them alive; he was well aware that this ‘Serpent and Scorpion Beauty’ has indeed chosen the evil scheme to kill them.
At this moment, he was reliving the situation where a mob of gangsters was about to kill him.
Everything became incomparably clear.
He knew clearly when this big man was going to land, as well as his falling speed; so much so that he also knew what the man was about to do next.
The difference was that now he knew how to deal with this situation.
He clearly knew that if he let the opponent unleash the power of his pair of huge hammers, which weighed over a hundred catties each, not only he could easily force Xu Ziling put the door, it would also be extremely difficult for Kou Zhong, who was standing by the wall, to escape with his life.
In this moment where life and death was hanging by a thread, his mind and spirit became crystal clear; he completely forgot about life and death. Focusing his willpower and all the strength he could muster, he readied himself for the exact moment when the opponent would touch the ground. Stepping forward in large strides, his entire being moved as fast as lightning, even his saber chopped down swiftly.
Indeed as Xu Ziling expected, the big man had already made up his mind that as soon as his feet touched the ground, he would borrow the momentum to shoot forward to increase the power of his hammers to thundering tens of thousand catties. Once he sent Xu Ziling out the door, his companions would chop him into thousand pieces, and then he could focus his entire attention to deal with Kou Zhong.
To his surprise, however, as he was exerting his strength, the saber aura already enveloped his body. He felt that no matter where he wanted move to evade, or perhaps to block the attack and launch a counterstrike, he simply was not able to.
When he broke the roof tile, he was really underestimating the enemy; he thought that they were just two kids, it would not be hard to catch them. How could he know that in terms of timing and the angle of attack, Xu Ziling’s chop has reached a top quality martial art expert level?
This moment he already had no time to think whether the opponent was indeed very formidable, or he just happened to use a move sent by the gods in heaven. In his extreme panic, he threw his pair of hammers, one to Kou Zhong, the other to Xu Ziling; while at the same time he pushed his palms forward to generate reaction force with strong gust of wind. With no other choice, he clumsily had to jump out from the place where he came in.
In the meantime, Kou Zhong, who was standing on the bed, was about to turn around to help. Suddenly he saw a big iron hammer was flying toward him. “Good throw!” he shouted.
In a flash there was a loud ‘Boom!’, followed by bricks and mortar flew everywhere as the iron hammer broke through the wall.
Xu Ziling also easily evaded the other flying hammer. He let the hammer hit the wooden door, sending splinters of wood everywhere. Finally the hammer itself landed on the courtyard outside. Meanwhile Xu Ziling let out a wild cry, concentrated his power on his brows, and charged toward the broken wall.
How could Kou Zhong not understand Xu Ziling’s intention? He also exerted his strength and charged toward the broken wall.
‘Boom!’ The two boys, along with fragments of brick and stone, leaped into the neighboring room. Outside the door was precisely the big garden surrounding the eight courtyard houses.
They shot forward, burst open the door, and ran outside.
This move was obviously outside the enemy’s anticipation, unexpectedly they did not see anybody blocking their way; however, they heard the rustling of the wind from the tiled roof behind them.
The two boys did not dare to tarry, they immediately unleashed the full potential of the ‘Bird Crossing Technique taught by Yun Yuzhen; like an arrow they shot into the park. With several twists and turns, they went deep into the forest.