Book 2 Chapter 8 – Clan Leader of the Fairer Sex
While the two boys were running around in circle trying to unfurl the sail, the battle was moving away from them. Now the moonlight shining on tranquil sea became dozens of small dots.
A sea breeze blew. The boat sailed toward the shore at high speed.
Kou Zhong crouched on the sacks of salt that was lost but now was won back. He mumbled at himself, and was so happy that nearly went crazy.
Xu Ziling was at the helm; he suddenly called out, “We’ll reach the shore very soon!”
Kou Zhong sprang up and saw the pitch-black land ahead was getting larger and larger at an alarming rate. Aghast, he called, “Can we slow down?”
“We can’t!” Xu Ziling called back.
That night happened to be high tide, plus the wind was strong, the boat sailed like an unbridled horse running away on an open field; it was totally out of control.
Kou Zhong pointed to a spot that looked like a sandy shore, “Steer toward that place!” he called out.
Xu Ziling turned the rudder, the sailboat changed course on a slightly oblique angle, speeding toward the sandbar.
Kou Zhong was about to cheer, suddenly his countenance changed. “Not good!” he cried.
Xu Ziling was also shocked. Turns out under the moonlight they could see that all around them there were reefs sprouting from the seabed. That they had not had shipwreck by now was indeed a miracle.
‘Screech! Screech!’ The hull emitted such a harsh grinding noise. The boat was pushed to the right, the two boys lost their balance and fell into the water.
‘Crash!’ The boat ran into an especially huge rock and disintegrated immediately. All the salt went down to the bottom of the ocean.
The boys managed to swim across the shallow water; the lower half of their body was still immersed in continuously rushing tide.
Their body weary, their strength exhausted, the two boys lay face down on the sand, while continuously gasping for breath. Their mouth and nose were bloody from the collision with the reef, while their body was bruised all over. It was not even clear when did their weapons fall off.
However, the physical pain they suffered was far less than the emotional pain they suffer from losing the salt.
The effort they spent on stealing this batch of salt has become their highest standard of struggle, it had an incomparably deep meaning for them, and it has thrown them into an endless rollercoaster of emotion.
Yet in the end the salt was gone. Just like that.
When salt meets water, won’t it vanish without trace?
Xu Ziling spat out a mouthful of saltwater mixed with his own blood. He groaned, “Those who have never been underwater will never know that the seawater is so bitter.”
Kou Zhong wanted to laugh, but he choked and coughed hard, “Who told you to drink it? Ha! Fortunately I still have a couple of money purses. Ah!”
Xu Ziling groaned. “Don’t tell me: you lost your purse as well!”
Kou Zhong smiled bitterly. “That’s exactly what happened,” he said, “Don’t blame me! Next time you’ll take care of it.”
Xu Ziling made a show of turning his head around; after giving him a quick look, he sighed and said, “Zhong Shao, is your tummy hungry? It seems to me that we make another progress in martial art; for two days and one night we did not eat a single grain of rice, but I am not that hungry.”
“Don’t mention the word ‘hungry’,” Kou Zhong sadly replied, “Ay! I am so tired that I feel like dying.” Finished speaking he buried his face into the sand.
Xu Ziling also felt senses faded; finally he succumbed to his weary body and fell asleep right there.
The next thing he knew, someone was slapping his face, hard. Kou Zhong’s excited voice penetrated his ears, “Heavens! Get up! This time gods and fairies are helping us.”
Xu Ziling opened his eyes; the sky was very bright. He sat up with blank expression, but as he turned his eyes, he was dumbstruck.
The tide has receded a hundred zhang or so, exposing the spacious seabed, littered with jet-black reefs. Those dozens of sack of salt, along with the debris of the boat and everything else left after the shipwreck, were strewn over the rocks; it was indeed a breath-taking, magnificent sight.
Kou Zhong ran toward the nearest sack of salt. Xu Ziling was overwhelmed with fiery emotion. He sprang up, and only then did he realize that most of the wounds and bruises on his body were completely healed. Other than his growling empty stomach, he felt that his entire body was full of energy. Hastily he ran after Kou Zhong.
Kou Zhong was shouting and yelling in excitement, “My Niang! All these salt have become hard lumps; nothing dissolves in water. This time Laotianye really appeared.”
Xu Ziling saw something among the rock crevices flickered under the sunlight; in great delight he threw himself in that direction. As expected, he found the sword. And then, not too long afterwards, he found Kou Zhong’s short halberd. After losing everything and gaining it back, the happiness in their hearts was something that no pen and ink can describe.
Kou Zhong still wanted to find the two money purses, but after suffering untold hardships, he could only find one; no matter how hard he searched the other one simply eluded him. Upon opening it, unexpectedly he found five silver ingots and some change; in his heart he was extremely grateful to Laotianye.
The two boys were afraid the tide would come back; busily they moved the sacks of salt ashore. After working hard until nightfall, they counted forty-eight sacks of salt; two sacks went missing; most probably when the boat disintegrated the sacks burst.
By this time the two boys were so hungry that they no longer feel it. Hastily they went to the forest by the shore to pick some wild fruits to allay their hunger.
Returning to the shore, they saw the tide was rising again; the waves were crashing onto the reefs, spraying seawater everywhere. They felt like they had just been granted a new lease of life.
The two boys stood facing the ocean. They still had the feeling that the enemy might come anytime, hence they went to the nearby forest to find a safe place to hide, and once they found it, they moved all the salt there, and covered everything with leaves. Only then did they snuggle up to sleep.
In their semi-conscious state, they felt like they were back at that little valley where they buried Fu Junchuo, training internal energy to withstand the cold night.
About midnight, they heard noises coming from the shore. The two boys were shocked; taking their weapons, they crawled behind a large rock where they had a clear view of the beach and took a peep.
They saw two small boats anchored at the beach, more than a dozen men with torches in their hands were carefully inspecting the debris of their boat that was washed to the shore.
Farther away into the ocean, they saw eight medium sized two-mast ships, but they did not look like Haisha Bang battleship.
Kou Zhong whispered, “Loot at that girl, she is prettier than our Niang!”
Xu Ziling turned his attention to the woman. She was wearing lake-water-green [i.e. teal] colored warrior outfit, covered by long white cape on the outside. Her beauty was something that those who saw her would forget about taking a breath. It was the first time that he saw such a classy woman.
Kou Zhong’s throat suddenly created a ‘glug’ noise; he was swallowing his own saliva, “If I can spend the night with her, I am willing to have my life cut by three days.”
Xu Ziling let out a ‘ha’; he nearly guffawed, but quickly covered his mouth. Who would have thought that the woman was a martial art master indeed? They were about twenty zhang apart, yet his laughter could not escape her ears; she immediately turned her head in their direction, scaring the two boys that they instantly shrunk back behind the huge rock.
After quite a while, the beach became quiet, they breathed a sigh of relief. How could they still dare to have devious thought?
Kou Zhong said in low voice, “Even in term of martial art this beautiful woman [orig. poniang, see Book 1 Chapter 4] could be superior to our Niang, but she is still outwitted by us, Two Dragons of Yangzhou.”
Suddenly a sweet-sounding, alto voice calmly descended from above, asking, “Was she really outwitted by you?”
The two boys were so scared that their soul flew away and scattered; they rolled toward the sloping grassy knoll first before springing up, holding a halberd and grasping a sword, putting on a false bravado, but in their hearts they were seriously lacking confidence.
The Bloody Battle Ten Styles they learned from Li Jing, only Xu Ziling had the opportunity to test it in armed combat with the enemy, but that one time he was useless to the extreme that he even lost Li Jing’s treasured saber.
Therefore, the thing that these two boys lacked the most was real combat experience; so if they were not scared in the face of battle, that would be strange indeed.
That stunningly beautiful woman sat leisurely on the rock, she even had a wind lantern sitting next to her, shining its light on half of her so that it looked like her beautiful figure was glowing, adding some mysterious, yet pure and holy aura to her already out-of-this-world beauty.
The white cape against the lake-water-green warrior outfit, made her look exceptionally charming, very pleasing to the eye.
The woman looked at them with her cold gaze, and said emotionlessly, “I really don’t understand how could these two virtue-less, incompetent street urchins stole the ‘Secret to Long Life’ from under Yuwen Huaji’s nose, and then swindled Du Fuwei until his head and face were filthy with grime, and now you even messed with Haisha Bang that their head spins. Tell me! Do you always have your good luck charm with you?”
Hearing this, the two boys looked at each other with eyes open wide but their tongue tied. How could this woman know them like the back of her hand?
Ashamed, Kou Zhong put his halberd down and used it to prop himself against the grassy ground. In deadly earnest he said, “May I ask Miss’ honored surname and great given name? Who are you? How come toward Zaixia [lit. under, referring to self] two brothers’ matter you seem to be very familiar [orig. as if enumerating one’s family valuables]?”
The pretty woman let out a cold snort and said, “Am I not called a woman [poniang]? How come now I become a Miss? Such an inconsistency, evidently you are a despicable man.”
Kou Zhong’s countenance fell, “You call that despicable?” he said, “Even if in your heart you are dying to kill the opponent, but on the surface don’t you still need to be polite? In this world who has never had his mouth in disagreement with his mouth? You, this … hey! You, this Miss, how much more noble do you think you are compared to me?”
It was very rare that Xu Ziling saw Kou Zhong lost his temper like that; he was completely blown away.
The pretty woman stared at Kou Zhong for half a day. Suddenly ‘Pfft!’ she burst out laughing. “You little demon, you have quite a stinky temperament. But don’t blame your Miss for not warning you: as far as I’m concerned, I kill people like splitting gourd or chopping vegetables; no hesitation whatsoever.”
Xu Ziling finally came to his senses, he could not help exposing her bluff, “You want to make your move then make your move! Why bring up that much superfluous words?”
Kou Zhong stuck out his chest and said, “Those with enough guts don’t need to call others for help. You alone against the two of us.”
The pretty woman did not stop laughing; she laughed so hard that her body trembled like fluttering twigs. “Looking at your appearance: clothes not covering your body, scars and bruises all over, yet you have devious thought of the two of you can beat me, one person. Ay! Dead little demon! You made me laugh so hard that it hurt.”
Xu Ziling angrily said, “Do you want to fight or not? If not, we’ll go back to sleep.”
Naturally the pretty woman was able to see his hard shell but empty inside, showing strength while weak inside. She reached to her back and pulled a clear, golden-colored copper xiao [Chinese flute], about four chi long, placed it horizontally on her lips, and blew a clear note, like a cool breeze entering their ears. And then she placed the flute on her jade legs, looked down on the flickering flame inside the wind lantern, and said softly, “Can you not view people with hostility? The reason I did not hesitate to declare a war with Haisha Bang was precisely because I wanted to see if we have any possibility of cooperation.”
The two boys looked at each other in confusion, but there was also a little bit of ‘overwhelmed by favor from superior’ feeling.
Kou Zhong reaction was comparably quicker; with a giggle he also sat down on another big rock, nodded his head, and said, “Miss [or Young Lady; here he used ‘guniang’, whereas previously he used ‘xiaojie’] please state your attractive conditions first, so that we can see if we can reach any agreement.”
The pretty woman did not even cast him a glance; she still acted as if she was talking to herself, “Shall I give them a hard beating first, so that these two little demons will behave a bit more?”
Kou Zhong jumped in fright; he adopted the first stance of the ‘Bloody Battle Ten Styles’, the ‘Two Armies Encamped Face-to-face’.
Being treated with ‘sudden hard and sudden soft’ by her like that, the two boys felt a headache.
 Original title: Rouge and Powder Clan Leader.
 Xiao usually refers to vertically blown flute (as opposed to Dizi, traverse flute), yet the next sentence says ‘horizontally’ or ‘across’. I don’t know, perhaps I misunderstood the sentence.
Chapter 8, Part 2
Jaya, HPC, Anh, Weed, you are welcome. DongBin, I hope it wasn't me ... Sky, funny thing is, each time a beauty made appearance, she was more beautiful than the previous one. Grundle, did a woman break your heart?
The pretty woman suddenly turned her pretty face toward them, her phoenix eyes flashed a cold ray as she focused her attention to size the two boys up, while they were still adopting a pretentious stance. She spoke coldly, “If you must know, the reason I spoke so many words with you is because this Bangzhu thinks very highly of you, hence I am thinking of inviting you to enter our Jukun Bang and become this Bangzhu’s first and last disciples [orig. ‘open the gate’ and ‘close the gate’, respectively].”
The two boys were stunned; with different mouths, same voice, they cried out, “My Niang!”
It was certainly beyond their wildest dream. How could this pretty woman, who was at most only three, four years older than they were, unexpectedly want to take them as her disciples?
The ‘Clan Leader of the Fairer Sex’ Yun Yuzhen was not in the least apologetic, “What’s so surprising about it?” she asked, “Learning has never known early or late; those who attain it become the master, who’s to blame if your skill is so lacking? You don’t even know the technique of holding a weapon.”
Xu Ziling was disappointed, “Even holding a weapon also has technique?” he asked.
“Of course!” Yun Yuzhen snapped, “Just by looking at how you grip the sword hilt with so much strength like you want to crush it I know that you don’t know the key to holding weapon. ‘Light and floating is actually tight’. ‘Too far is as bad as not enough’ [an idiom from the Analects]. Without instruction from a bright master, how would you, this little kid, know?”
Kou Zhong was afraid Xu Ziling might lose face, he changed the subject, “Didn’t you say earlier that we are virtue-less and incompetent? Why the sudden change of attitude, condescending first and became very respectful later? Is it because of the ‘Duke Yang’s treasure-trove’ and the ‘Secret to Long Life’? After receiving us as your disciple, you will tell us that we must not disobey master’s order, so in order to make you, Senior, happy, in the end we will obediently present the treasure to you.”
Yun Yuzhen stared at him blankly for half a day with an amused look in her pretty eyes. Finally she said in a gentle and soft voice, “If I, Yun Yuzhen, am conspiring to get those two things, let me, Yun Yuzhen not die a good death.”
And then, pursing her lips she laughed and said, “Perhaps you did not know, after Du Fuwei failed to find you, he returned to Liyang. One day he suddenly laughed. Naturally others asked him why did he laugh? He mentioned you, the two kids, saying that the two of you were born as amazing martial art materials. Although he has inspected innumerable people, he has never seen anybody with better natural endowments than you, hence his heart was moved with ‘loving talent’ thought. It’s just that he hated it that you got away, so now he only wants to get rid of you.”
The two boys felt as if their faces were burning.
What she just said seemed to be words of compliment, but coming from her mouth it sounded a lot more ambiguous.
Xu Ziling awkwardly asked, “How could you even know what Du Fuwei said?”
“It’s none of your business,” Yun Yuzhen nonchalantly replied, “In today’s world, other than Dou Jiande and Li Mi, two people with original insight, I am afraid nobody can surpass Du Fuwei. Therefore, this Bangzhu has the intention to take disciples. How about this, I don’t care if you do obeisance to me as your Shifu, but if Haisha Bang catch up with you, don’t blame anybody for not coming to your rescue.” Her eyes shot another cold ray as she said, “The ‘Secret to Long Life’ is just a trick the Taoist school uses to scam people. As for the Duke Yang’s treasure trove, it is only attractive to people who dream of becoming the emperor. I have to spare time to join that muddy water and come after you, these two big-head ghosts.”
Kou Zhong was not happy at all, “You want to be our, Yangzhou Two Dragons’ Shifu, at least you need to show your ability. Otherwise, if you can’t even withstand our sword-halberd combination, how do you know that you’ll have enough capital to be our Shifu?”
Yun Yuzhen agreed, “You spoke so much words, only these last several words actually made some sense.”
Knowing that she was about to make her move, the two boys were in full alert.
Since they grew up in the marketplace, they had a deep understanding of the old-age immutable law ‘anything that is easy to get is not worth coveting’. Such a ‘thousand-lovely, hundred-charm’ beauty with respectable status wanted to take them as her disciples, there must be evil intention or hidden plot somewhere; it’s just that they could not penetrate her thought yet!
Yun Yuzhen grabbed the lantern with her left hand, and pulled the flute with her right hand, she slowly left the big rock she was sitting on. Her cape fluttered endlessly behind her back, just like a firefly transforming into a beautiful woman, as she flew across over the two boys’ head.
First, they never expected that she could possess such a move; second, they were a bit afraid to hack and injure her beautiful jade legs. Therefore, they scattered to the left and right in a flurry. Who would have thought that she used their heads as stepping-stones instead?
Yun Yuzhen landed behind the two boys; she laughed tenderly, “My disciples, do you submit to me now?”
The two boys’ faces turned beet-red. Exchanging a glance, they launched a converging attack from left and right. By this time they already knew that her martial art skill was extremely strong, hence they no longer show leniency, and attacked her with everything they had.
Xu Ziling originally used the third stance of ‘Bloody Battle Ten Styles’, the ‘Light Cavalry Charging Ahead’. If he were using saber, he would have moved the saber from the waist out in a feign attack toward the enemy’s pit of the stomach. If the enemy withdrew, the would change into saber hack sideways; but because he was using sword, he lost the ‘flavor’ of the attack; hence he might as well halted his step and aimed for her shoulder. Fast as lightning the sword moved upward.
Kou Zhong’s situation was even worse; he had no idea how to use the short halberd, which differed considerably from a saber. He was going to launch the second stance, ‘Exposing the Tip of the Fire Beacon’, but he had to make slight modification. Borrowing the momentum of his revolving body, he swept across Yun Yuzhen’s flank.
Yun Yuzhen let out a tender laughter, the lantern in her left hand rose up, illuminating the fine hair on Xu Ziling’s head, who was on her left, while the copper flute in her right hand very lightly, as if she did not use any force at all, tapped the tip of Xu Ziling’s sword. At the same time, the cape on her back fluttered forward to meet Kou Zhong’s short halberd.
The two boys felt a soft, yet hard to resist, internal energy burst in via their weapons, and spread into their body via the channels on the hollow of their palm and through their arm, just like an electric shock, so that they nearly dropped their weapon. They both backed off in a very awkward position.
Yun Yuzhen was even more shocked than they were.
Actually, she was trying to force her true energy into the opponent’s vital acupoints; who would have thought that as her energy reached the opponents’ shoulder, the stream of energy toward Xu Ziling felt like clay ox entering a sea of people; it disappeared without any trace, it dispersed into nothingness. The one going into Kou Zhong was pushed back by a rather overwhelming force.
The three people separated; they all looked at each other with astonishment.
Frowning, Yun Yuzhen said, “If Luocha female taught you guys internal energy training, you ought to have similarity with the origin; but why is yours distinctly different? Tell me honestly, quick!”
Kou Zhong giggled and said, “You saw how profound is our internal strength, didn’t you? Beautiful Shifu.”
Xu Ziling laughed aloud and said, “We are amazing martial art materials, naturally we developed different characteristics.”
Knowing her superb martial art skill, yet she was still unable to injure them, the two boys found it exceedingly interesting, hence their hearts and hands were itching. Besides, looking at her beautiful appearance and lovely attitude was enough to give them pleasure.
Realizing that ‘the master has not captured the disciples’ reverence’, Yun Yuzhen’s pretty eyes shot a cold ray as she swiftly flitted to Kou Zhong’s left, while her copper flute pointed to his face.
Kou Zhong clearly saw her movement, and he knew exactly what to do to block it, yet his body moved a bit slow; by the time his short halberd swept across, not only the tip of his nose was already hit, a sweeping kick had also landed on the side of his thigh. Immediately he fell to the ground with miserable groan, completely dejected and depressed.
Xu Ziling rushed forward to the rescue, brandishing his sword that it made whooshing noise to protect his own face. Who would have thought that Yun Yuzhen simply pointed her flute, and it penetrated his airtight sword net, and hit the middle of his forehead?
Xu Ziling felt as if he was struck by a lightning bolt; he was thrown backward and landed flat on his back.
Looking down at the two boys, who were momentarily unable to crawl back up, Yun Yuzhen said tenderly, “I don’t know where you learned those moves, which mainly rely on offensive, but you don’t know that all these moves are ‘disregarding life, seizing life’, staking-it-all kind of fierce moves. If there is no determination to die together with the enemy, you won’t be able to unleash the full power of the moves.”
Groaning and moaning, the two boys stood up; their body felt numb from the shock of her qi, they no longer had any strength left to fight. Hearing her explanation, admiration grew in their hearts, because Li Jing had said the same thing. Evidently this woman’s insight was extremely superior.
Yun Yuzhen had increased her internal strength significantly, yet these two boys were able to stand back up this quickly; in her heart she was greatly amazed as well.
Apparently she did not have the real intention of taking these two boys as her disciples, she only wanted to use them to do something that was extremely important to her. But they had to be delighted and completely willing to do this thing, so that they would use various means to achieve the objective.
However, right now her heart was moved with the real intention to take them as her disciples. If they succeeded in this mission, in time these two boys would turn into her capable assistants.
Kou Zhong sighed, “We always hold womenfolk in the highest regard, therefore, how could we have the heart to harm you …”
“Shut up!” Yun Yuzhen angrily said, “You have the guts to speak that kind of frivolous words to me, are you asking for a beating?”
Xu Ziling hastily said, “Whatever it is, let’s talk about it slowly. You want to accept disciples to impart your skills, the other party must be delighted and sincerely willng for it to happen. Right now we do not have the mind to do obeisance to you as our master yet. Is it possible for us to finish our business dealing first, and then we all come back to discuss the feasibility of this matter later?”
At first Yun Yuzhen’s jade face turned frosty, but then it revealed a smiling expression. Totally beyond the two boys expectation, she said nonchalantly, “Very well! You two may think it over carefully.”
With a sway of her body, she was back on top of the big rock. With a tender voice she said, “Haisha Bang won’t spare anything trying to capture you back. You take care!”
With another charming laughter she disappeared behind the big rock.
The two boys looked at each other; they felt disappointed to see her leave instead.
Suddenly Yun Yuzhen came back. But when the two boys were secretly delighted, she instructed them just like a master lecturing her disciples, “It would be best if you completely erase any trace of you on the ground. Also, make it to appear that you have left far away from here. In the meantime, hide up here quietly for a month or two; otherwise, you won’t be able to escape Haisha Bang’s inescapable net.”