Book 20 Chapter 7 – Mutual Deception
Xu Ziling, disguised as Yue Shan, swaggered up the mountain road leading toward the temple, with his hands behind his back.
The narrow road suddenly opened; under the glow of the setting sun, a winding creek, gurgling softly as it meandered into the tightly packed tall and straight, thick and solid forest of Chinese giant redwood. The most touching thing was that there were three wooden bridges, all different from each other in terms of shape and size, each one served as a lining to the other, each one started when the other ended, forming a triangular space in the middle of the combination of the small bridges, encompassing the only passage among the trees leading toward the temple.
By now Xu Ziling could be considered at least half an expert in architecture; his heart was full of praise, knowing that this design must have come from the hand of a master.
His mind had already forgotten that he was about to face danger very soon, replaced by a comfort and leisure feeling of seeking serenity exploring beautiful scenery, following the forest path and the small bridge, roaming among the trees.
The mountain road curved, and surprisingly there was another small pavilion ahead, built on the edge of a dangerous cliff, overlooking the vast, endless empty space and the beautiful scenery of the majestic setting sun beyond the mountain, bringing his vision from the serene and hidden in the depth of the forest to the expansive universe that seemed to be running in parallel without any hindrance.
This drastic change made Xu Ziling shook incessantly, so that he stood inside the pavilion, staring blankly at the distance, and it was quite a while later that he was finally able to regain his composure, and continued climbing the mountain.
The mountain path was sloping steeper as he went deeper into the mountain. After passing through another forest, he came to a nearly a hundred stone steps, which led straight toward the gate of the temple.
This no-name ancient temple was built on a plateau leaning against the mountain, the stone steps were in disrepair, full of weeds and wild vine; apparently it has been abandoned for quite a long time. Under the fading light of the dusk, it looked even gloomier.
Xu Ziling took a deep breath and started to climb step by step.
The appearance of those vicious people of the four extremely demonic schools has truly made him understand the real meaning of the saying ‘in the wider world, there are people more talented than himself’. But it has also given him a feeling of pleasant change.
Someday, if he could roam around the world to widen his experience, to meet warriors and scholars of extraordinary talent, that would definitely be very interesting, something that would make his life more colorful.
Were it not for his decision to choose this remote wilderness, this time he could not possibly enjoy such a peculiar encounter.
He was not too worried over Shi Qingxuan; since she had the courage to play her flute to provoke these four vicious people, naturally she would have at least a bit confidence that she would be able to deal with them. Otherwise, if she ever fell into the hands of any one of those four, it would be better if she died rather than alive.
The stone steps under his feet have ended, ahead was the pitch-black opening of the temple gate, emitting a stench of decay.
Without the slightest hesitation Xu Ziling stepped over the threshold and entered the temple.
There was a sudden flash of light.
Xu Ziling focused his eyes to look, and saw a woman, her long hair hanging to her waist, was sitting with her back facing him, in front of a single oil lamp on the sacrificial table in front of a Bodhisattva image.
The Bodhisattva was dilapidated, with its paint peeling off, covered in dust and cobwebs; a picture of bleak, cold and desolate atmosphere.
Xu Ziling’s eyes swept around; while he was feeling surprised to find not a single one of You Niaojuan and the others was to be seen, Shi Qingxuan’s clear and melodious, sweet voice rang softly in his ears, “Excuse me, may I ask which martial art master the Senior is?”
Seeing she was still sitting with her back toward him, Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, “If Miss turn around to look, won’t you immediately see who Laofu is?”
Shi Qingxuan’s soft voice said, “Although Qianbei [Senior] possesses superior martial art skill, you are not the person I am waiting for. If you are just passing by incidentally, hearing the flute and coming to see, then let Wanbei [junior] offer a bit of advice for Qianbei to leave immediately. Otherwise you might be drawn into a completely unnecessary Jianghu’s gratitude and grudges.”
Letting out a weird-sounding laughter, Xu Ziling said, “I don’t believe in demon, so I want to see it with my own eyes. Miss needs not worry about Laofu’s life or death.”
Finished speaking, he walked over toward the corner near the door, and sat down against the wall.
Shi Qingxuan was still sitting with her back facing the door, with her eyes fixed on the flickering flame of the lantern. Her silhouette seemed to be fused into the glow of the oil lamp. Not only it emphasized her cloud-like beautiful hair lightly and softly hanging on her back, it also accentuated her fragrant shoulders and her graceful, beautiful and wonderful outline, which looked as distinct as if she was carved with a knife.
Simply her slender and elegant figure seen from behind was enough to make people feel that she was an enigma; an outstandingly exotic beauty that seemed to appear out of the dust.
All along she did not turn around, she was only sighing faintly, as if she had no interest in Xu Ziling’s whereabouts.
The afterglow of the sunset finally disappeared beyond the distant horizon outside the temple. The oil lamp on the sacrificial table in front of the Bodhisattva became the only light in the dark world, reflecting Shi Qingxuan’s solitary high and outstanding, hard-to-measure personality.
Cicadas were started to sing, the insects were starting to buzz, filling the air outside the temple with rich and ethereal noises. In the cacophony of noise, there was some kind of hard-to-describe rhythm, making the deathly still wilderness suddenly brimming with life.
An unusual sound was suddenly heard outside the temple.
At first it sounded like the cry of a baby, but then it turned into the miserable wailing of a woman. Even with Xu Ziling’s self-cultivation, and his knowledge that someone was playing ghost, he could not stop his hair from standing up, and involuntarily recalled Zhu Yuyan’s demonic skill of confusing the enemy using sound.
Yet Shi Qingxuan seemed to turn a deaf ear to the noise; she maintained her elegant and serene attitude.
At first Xu Ziling did not understand why although he could not see her facial expression, yet he was able to clearly, unmistakably sense her state of mind. Upon further reflection and self-introspection, he began to realize that he was able to grasp her innermost feeling from the subtle movements of her back. Including the movements and reaction of her flesh and blood vessels under her clothes that ordinary people would find it hard to detect.
Regarding this kind of insight, Xu Ziling himself was shocked; this was indeed a progress that even in his dream he had never expected.
The demonic sound outside rose again and changed; from the front suddenly it moved to the back, from the left it rose, suddenly it fell on the right, continuously moving, indeterminately, becoming concentrated on the open area in front of the temple. It grew more and more hurried, loud and nasty; becoming ghost’s wailing and demon’s roar. If his inner strength was insufficient, it would be strange indeed if he did not cover his ears and tremble in fear.
It felt as if you were suddenly thrown into the Asura’s hell, where thousands and tens of thousands ghosts who died tragically all came to demand your life. Phantoms were flickering, the air was thick with gloomy murderous aura.
The mournful cries resonated in Xu Ziling’s eardrums.
Inwardly, Xu Ziling shivered in fear, thinking that wasn’t it Susu’s voice, calling for him? He was shocked; knowing that the demonic noise nearly entered his mind. Hastily he drove away ten thousand thoughts, and guard his heart.
Shi Qingxuan sighed faintly again. Like magic, a bamboo flute appeared in her hand, which she put on her lips, but she did not blow it. It did not make any sound.
While Xu Ziling was feeling something was strange, a single clear tone seemed to slowly appear from the distant plain, and slowly continued from that far, unreachable place, leaping and moving, brimming with vitality. No matter how the ghostly wail twisting terrifyingly, ear-piercing, harsh, covering the heaven, shrouding the earth, seemingly able to drown anybody in suffocating perilous situation, Shi Qingxuan’s note was like an unsinkable small boat. Although every now and then it seemed to be tossed around by gigantic waves, in the end it was always able to float safely.
Xi Ziling’s heart was also tossed around by a thousand layers of giant waves, because this was the first time that he personally experienced the extraordinary feat sound breaking sound. The huge benefit he gained was surely hard to describe.
He finally grasped the possibility to contend against Zhu Yuyan’s demonic sound. A possibility that would play a significant, as well as decisive, role in Kou Zhong and his struggle against Yin Gui Pai.
Once again he was completely intoxicated by Shi Qingxuan’s touching flute sound.
 Chapter title: you hoodwink me, I cheat you [same as Book 2 Chapter 2].
From her music, he clearly felt that Shi Qingxuan was a genuine wise and virtuous woman. It sounded like an ordinary music, but it was incomparably moving, without the slightest artificial tenderness of excavating and brushing away the suffering hidden deep in everybody’s innermost being. It was not subjected by the limit of space and time, as well as the human emotion.
Each note was like containing some kind of strange, touching power, which was difficult to resist, and it was even more difficult to be a casual observer over the wall.
Xi Ziling has completely forgotten her playing skill, until the note became a phrase, and until the powerful sound coming out of the bamboo pipe shook and burst like a clear bird’s cry.
It was an extraordinarily unprecedented feeling.
The flute sound was growing faster and faster, as if in one breath it was able to carry you a crazy 108,000 li; the timbre changed irregularly tens of thousands of times in picturesque disorder. The music continuously widening and growing in intensity, brimming with unnamed persistence, inner strength, tension, and inspiration. [I am sure you guys know how much I enjoy Huang Yi’s flowery language, so I am also sure that you enjoy these sentences, which, to me, don’t make any sense …]
The wailing ghost vanished gradually, until it came to complete silence. What remained was the gentle flute sound filling the heaven and earth, which made people unwilling to let go.
But the flute suddenly stopped.
Shi Qingxuan spoke indifferently, “Since honored guests have arrived, why not enter the temple to meet? Shi Zhixuan and Bi Xiuzin’s daughter Shi Qingxuan has been waiting respectfully for four Qianbei’s good selves’ appearance.”
Gusts of wind arrived swiftly.
Light suddenly went out.
In its place was the strange, sharp shrill and the continuous ringing of qi power clashing against each other, unending as if muffled thunder burst forth.
Just as sudden, the sound of combat also vanished completely.
The light was shining again.
Shi Qingxuan was still standing facing the Buddha, her beautiful eyes were fixed on the only dot of light in the entire spacious temple hall. Its hazy red light seemed to fuse with her being like inalienable entity.
On the other side, near the door, was the ‘Charming Lady’ Jin Huanzhen. Only this moment her hair disheveled, her face pale; evidently she suffered losses during the hand-to-hand combat just now.
Shi Qingxuan spoke in gentle voice, “Just now Jin Zongzhu [school master] was injured by my flute sound, yet you still showed off by making your move; you are overestimating your capabilities too much. Please leave now! I am afraid later will be much worse.”
Astonished and unsure, Jin Huanzhen shot a glance at Xu Ziling, who was sitting quietly on the corner. “Who is he?” she asked harshly.
“How would I know?” Shi Qingxuan replied indifferently.
You Niaojuan’s voice, which anybody who had heard it would never forget as long as they live, the grating voice like a knife scraping porcelain dish, which would make others uncomfortable from head to toe, spoke unhurriedly from outside the temple, “I thought you, this girl, has received Bi Xiuxin’s handed-down teachings, and was highly intelligent; turns out you are just a stupid girl. Unexpectedly you didn’t know the wise saying throughout all ages that one meritorious deed can become ten thousand dry bones. This s1ut was just vanguard troops being sent out to scout your real situation. Right now, how much weigh do you carry that you think any would have any regard to you?”
Hearing that, Xu Ziling was dumbfounded. He was not surprised that there was such person as You Niaojuan in the world, rather, did not understand why Jin Huanzhen was humiliated by him like this, yet she was still willing to bear it.
One was willing to fight, the other was willing to endure.
Other people had nothing to say.
Shi Qingxuan still maintained her graceful bearing; calmly she said, “I did not expect that ‘Dao Xing Ni Shi’ You Niaojuan, one of the eight major martial art masters of the demonic school, who made his name twenty years ago, is actually a coward and a superficial disciple; a disciple that is quick to show off and talk around, but has no guts to attain a higher level [orig. from the main room, enter the inner chamber]. I wonder if this person is a Qianbei who is passing through at random?”
Xu Ziling was unsure whether Shi Qingxuan was making an excuse for him, or was trying to draw him into the whirlpool.
Jin Huanzhen let out a silver-bell-like tender laughter and said, “You Laoda, don’t worry! This Lao Qianbei is definitely not the ‘Heavenly Saber’ Song Que. But don’t even think that I would feel him out for you.”
You Niaojuan’s voice arrived at the top of the temple; with stern hiss he said, “Why not?”
Jin Huanzhen shrugged her shoulders and said, “Laoniang is scared of him! If I provoked him and the two of them attacked me, alone, from both side, plus you are a man who sees death without helping, wouldn’t I be following the path to my own doom? Laoniang has just made a mistake, and I don’t want to do that for your sake.”
It was only then did Xu Ziling understand that the ‘Heavenly Saber’ Song Que was involved in this matter; no wonder that You Niaojuan, such a formidable and terrifying demonic power, was still so ‘afraid of the head, terrified of the tail’.
A large hole appeared on the roof of the temple, followed by wood fragments and debris of the roof tiles, and You Niaojuan dropped down from the sky, and landed in between Jin Huanzhen and Shi Qingxuan. His sharp-like-a-hawk’s eyes looked directly at Xu Ziling.
Xu Ziling thought, ‘Show time!’, and at the same instant as the opponent’s feet were touching the ground, he stood up and met You Niaojuan’s gaze with equal harshness. Laughing hoarsely, he said, “Finally little demon You is willing to come to make an exhibition of himself?”
Obviously You Niaojuan did not know Yue Shan. After looking at him with full attention for half a day, he knitted his brows and said, “Old man’s tone is really big; report your name to me, let’s see if you are qualified to call me little demon.”
Xu Ziling did not know whether he should laugh or cry. Surely he rarely saw a martial art expert of grand master level like You Niaojuan, but at the same time he also saw his despicable, shameless character. But if You Niaojuan was able to learn the truth, based on his overbearing power, he would definitely treat Xu Ziling with unprecedented viciousness and merciless method.
At the same, he was thinking about something that had nothing to do with the problem at hand.
Who was Zhu Yuyan and Yue Shan’s daughter?
Forty years ago, because he was defeated by Song Que, Yue Shan lost his prestige, and henceforth disappeared as he went into hiding. Therefore, You Niaojuan, who was of a comparably younger generation, did not recognize Yue Shan.
And so, if Zhu Yuyan bore Yue Shan’s daughter, it must be happening forty years ago. Based on this fact, Wanwan couldn’t possibly be Zhu and Yue, two people’s daughter, because her age was not in agreement with this timeline.
Therefore, the reason those two women looked so much alike was quite possibly because both of them cultivated the Tianmo Dafa, hence their personality traits were similar, and thus giving him a misconception.
Based on his intuition, Wanwan’s age must be around twenty.
So who was their daughter then?
While pondering over this matter, he casually replied, “When Laofu made my name, you were still drinking your Niang’s milk. Less bullshit, today Laofu feel like eating a feast; I am going to slaughter you to eat. Make your move!”
Quite possibly in this word no one has ever heard that anybody would dare to speak like this to You Niaojuan; momentarily he was stunned. Of course, were it not for his superior eyesight, he was able to sense Xu Ziling’s powerful confidence and so-strong-that-no-one-can-match imposing manner, which made him hesitate over what move to make, he would have carried out his killer move early on.
An eerie laugh came from some distant place outside the door, “It’s funny! Really funny! Little birdie You [Note; ‘niao’ in You Niaojuan’s name means ‘bird’] might as well change his nickname to ‘Jing Gong Zhi Niao’ [a bird startled by the mere twang of a bow], because your little guts has been broken by Song Que twenty years ago. Otherwise, how can you be this shameless, someone call out for a fight, call out for a kill, yet you still withdraw you head into your turtle shell?”
Surprisingly, it was Ding Jiuzhong’s full-of-derision voice.
Jin Huanzhen’s countenance changed, she said, “You Laoda, what is wrong with you today, an insignificant Ding Da Di, you are not able to take care?”
Without waiting for You Niaojuan to respond, Xu Ziling laughed coldly and said, “Xiaomei, [little sister], aren’t you also not making any progress at all?”
And then he shouted loudly, “Zhou Laotan! Get out for Laofu, let your Xiao Meizi see.”
Jin Huanzhen’s tender body shook severely; she and You Niaojuan looked at each other. The more they felt that Xu Ziling was a profound mystery.
“Ay! Who are you, this old man, actually? Now, even I, Zhou Laotan, really want to know.”
His voice started from a distant, but quickly came near. Zhou Laotan, with both hands hanging by his side, strode into the temple, straight toward Jin Huanzhen’s side. Without any scruple he reached out to grab her small waist as if You Niaojuan was not even there. Looking up through the hole on the temple’s roof, he cast his gaze onto the night sky, and slyly said, “Look! Tonight’s sky is like the starry sky of twenty years ago.”
Jin Huanzhen leaned into his bosom and spoke in a childish, coy way, “It is even more beautiful than that night!”
And now it has become Xu Ziling’s turn to fell as if he had fallen into dense fog; he was completely at a loss of what to do.
You Niaojuan suddenly roared in laughter and said, “What a loose woman! Unexpectedly you conspired to deceive me. Formidable! My utmost admiration!”
Xu Ziling suddenly came to realize, no wonder Jin Huanzhen failed to kill Zhou Laotan, because these two were practically putting on an act for You Niaojuan and Ding Jiuzhong. Their purpose was, quite naturally, for You Niaojuan and Ding Jiuzhong to fight until both sides suffered. These demonic people’s ‘you hoodwink me and I cheat you’ was certainly not something any ordinary people would be able to conceive.
Shi Qingxuan was still standing with her back toward these people, without showing the slightest movement, as if everything that was happening behind her had nothing to do with her at all.
Ding Jiuzhong, wearing an emperor’s crown on his head, appeared on the door. He stared at Xu Ziling without revealing any emotion at all, and spoke indifferently, “Outside enemy presents, shouldn’t we deal with this enemy first before settling the gratitude and grudges among our family?”
Shi Qingxuan shouted lightly. Immediately everybody’s attention was drawn toward her.
This mysterious beauty was finally turning around slowly to face everybody.
Will we see a beauty? Or a beast? Stay tuned ...