Book 17 Chapter 9 – Overbearing Saber Yue Shan
The sky was overcast.
The city gate has just been opened. Xu Ziling wore his mask and changed into blue robes, immediately turned into the man who stole the Jade Annulus of He Clan. Using an official pass, he leisurely stepped into the city.
He did not intentionally stoop his back, but stood erect instead. With his slightly disheveled greying hair, combined with clear, commanding and awe-inspiring countenance, his image as an elderly man was quite eye-catching.
He had a long saber hanging on his waist, giving him an air of an old Jianghu veteran who had been through the vicissitudes of life.
The appointed time that he and Kou Zhong agreed upon before they parted was still two sichen away. He strolled leisurely in the city, and subconsciously his feet brought him to the familiar Tianjin Bridge.
As always, the Bridge was full of pedestrians and carriages. Recalling the scene where Shi Feixuan told him a story last night, a hard-to-describe emotion mixed with slight melancholy welled up in his heart.
Why did she suddenly leave the quiet cultivation of the Chanyuan [Buddhist Hall] and come looking for him here? Maybe she was on different errand and coincidentally run into him. Oftentimes the way she handled matters was beyond expectations anyway, bordering to mystery, so that nobody was able to predict.
His feet stepped on the Tianjian Bridge, his heart turned toward Ba Fenghan.
This outstanding Tujue swordsman, who has undergone life and death together with him, was really not as heartless as the image he projected outside; to say the least, there was remorse in his heart concerning Ba Dai’er, and was using thousand ways, a hundred plans to avoid seeing her.
Just then, he saw two acquaintances.
Dark clouds raced in the sky, rainstorm was coming.
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Raindrops were falling onto the roof and the windowsills. Sparse at first, but quickly became heavy. In the blink of an eye, the world outside the room was filled with the patter of rain, beautiful like nature’s hands were playing music with the most graceful movement.
Kou Zhong, lying down on dragon-head couch, hugging the fragrant and clean quilt, remembered Xu Ziling, who was sleeping in the wilderness, first. And then his mind wandered to Shang Xiufang’s moving singing voice, which worth listening a hundred times over, and finally recalled the enthralling feeling of leaning in Song Yuzhi’s tender bosom, which was able to melt him. His nostrils were still smelling the orchid scent coming out of her body.
Surprisingly, this beauty, who had a love-hate relationship with him, did not throw him to the ground when they were outside earlier. Unexpectedly she carried him and ‘tossed’ him to the bench, before ordering her men to take him to the guest room. Kou Zhong really felt overwhelmed by the favor shown by her.
If he said that he did not have good impression or feeling of love toward her, then he deceived himself. At least when she was near, he never felt lonely, time seemed to slip away a lot faster.
Ever since the defeat of Jingling, he had never experienced such a sweet and sound sleep.
The sound of rain outside was enhancing the safety and comfort inside the room even more.
Suddenly Li Xiuning’s image in his mind turned blurry, replaced by Song Yuzhi’s touching charm, which carried a mixture of delight and anger.
Sound of footsteps approached.
‘Bang!’ the door opened.
Followed by the sound of window being closed.
Without even looking Kou Zhong already smelled Song Yuzhi’s scent; inwardly he was astounded. A maid or a servant ought to come to wait on him rinsing his mouth and washing his face, why would she inconvenience the Third Miss’ pair of delicate lily-white hands?
This thought was still hovering in his mind when Song Yuzhi came over and stopped in front of the bed curtain. “Do you have enough sleep?” she shouted tenderly, “Why haven’t you gotten lost?”
Kou Zhong stretched and put his hand out of the curtain and said, “Could San Xiaojie help me up?”
Song Yuzhi ruthlessly bestowed a heavy slap on his outstretched palm and said angrily, “If you act willfully and make a scene again, I am going to throw you out of the door.”
Stroking his painful hand, Kou Zhong sat up and grumbled, “Can’t you hit a bit lighter?”
Song Yuzhi turned her tender body around in rage, “Scoundrel!” she angrily said.
Kou Zhong pushed both legs out of the curtain, got out of bed and just stood behind her silky back. Giggling, he said, “San Xiaojie’s great kindness and great virtue in upholding justice and offering shelter last night, I, Kou Zhong will almost never forget.”
Song Yuzhi stared blankly, “Why almost?” she asked.
Kou Zhong leaned over her fragrant shoulder toward her small ear and spoke tenderly, “If San Xiaojie was willing to receive me in your own fragrant room, then I would really never forget.”
Song Yuzhi took a step forward, turned around and slapped.
Five streaks of red blood finger lines immediately appeared on Kou Zhong’s face, but disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Song Yuzhi was stunned, “Why didn’t you evade?”
Wiping the saliva from his mouth Kou Zhong said with a smile, “I made San Xiaojie so angry, ought to be punished.”
A complicated emotion flashed through Song Yuzhi’s eyes; she sighed and said, “Kou Zhong, who are the real you?”
Kou Zhong sat down on the bed, Susu’s matter welled up in his heart; with a painful look on his eyes, he spoke in low voice, “Unless San Xiaojie is willing to marry me, I will never force you.”
Song Yuzhi’s jade countenance calmed down; she slowly walked over toward the window overlooking the garden, and softly said, “That being the case, it would be best if you never appear in front of Yuzhi anymore.”
Staring blankly, Kou Zhong said, “If that is San Xiaojie’s wish, I, Kou Zhong, will definitely obey. Ay! I had never thought that I would suffer an unrequited love. It’s really amusing!”
Like a whirlwind Song Yuzhi turned around and hatefully stared at him, saying, “You practically don’t have me in your heart, and you still said unrequited love. If you say it one more time, I am going to kill you.”
Kou Zhong was stunned, “How can I not have you in my heart?” he said, “Last night I dreamt about being with San Xiaojie in San Xiaojie’s fragrant room. Hey! It was a beautiful dream that Xiaodi will remember the rest of my life.”
Song Yuzhi’s pretty face blushed; she nearly wanted to pull the sword hanging on her waist. Losing her temper, she stomped her feet and said furiously, “Big scoundrel’s dog mouth will never grow ivory; is it not enough that you took advantage of me?”
In all earnestness Kou Zhong nodded and said, “Indeed last night I took quite an advantage of San Xiaojie, but that was the most fragrant and sweetest sleep in the world.”
Song Yuzhi was at loss; she angrily sat down on a chair next to the window. Momentarily she did not know what to say.
Barefooted, Kou Zhong came over to chair, got down on one knee, and held the arm of the chair with both hands. Looking up at this beauty with puffed up fragrant cheeks, he spoke tenderly, “I dare to swear by the Heaven, there is definitely Song Yuzhi in Kou Zhong’s heart.”
Song Yuzhi met his gaze and said with a sneer, “Of course you do! Because I am one of the stepping stones you use to conquer the world.”
Kou Zhong shook his head and said, “At the beginning I did have the idea of using you. But it was only last night that I became aware that it’s difficult for me not to think about you, Yuzhi.”
When he returned to the city last night, because of Ren En and the others’ tragic death and hearing Susu’s misfortune, his heartache was difficult to endure; for some reason he really wanted to see Song Yuzhi, hence the reason he came looking for her.
Song Yuzhi’s countenance was eerily as calm as the still water; she spoke slowly, “Kou Zhong, you must have remembered that a real man’s words are like mountain. Just now you promised that you won’t come bothering Yuzhi anymore, but now you want to go back on your words? I don’t care whether you are sincere or hypocritical, in short, my heart cannot tolerate you anymore. Our discussion is over, please leave!”
Kou Zhong felt as if his heart had just received a ten-thousand-catty big-iron-hammer’s blow; the pain nearly threw him back on the floor.
Suddenly he gained clear understanding that due to his bad attitude from the start, he had deeply angered Song Yuzhi, so that she was incapable of accepting him.
He was certain that she had deep love toward him, Kou Zhong, but the bitterness in her heart was just as deep.
And now the hatred has reached the point of no return.
Other than his face turned deathly pale, on the surface there was no sign of his inner feelings.
Rising to his full height, he gazed deeply into her eyes, and said dejectedly, “Yuzhi, please take good care of yourself!”
And then, still barefooted, he walked to the wind and the rain outdoors.
※ ※ ※
Opening the umbrella he just bought, Xu Ziling walked quietly behind Zheng Shuming and Bai Qing’er, two women.
Zheng Shuming was the female chief [‘dangjia’] of the Yangtze River Alliance. Because her husband died under Ba Fenghan’s hands, outside Jingling she led the Qingjiang Pai, Cangwu Pai, Jiangnan Hui, Mingyang Bang, Tiandong Pai, and others under the Alliance Banner to besiege Ba Fenghan, but luckily he and Kou Zhong happened to come by and disrupt their plan [see Book 11 Chapter 7]. Later on, harboring grudges, Zheng Shuming joined hands with Qian Duguan, Evil Monk, Amorous Nun, and the others, ambushed them inside the city. After the two boys escaped from the siege, they managed to cast away Zheng Shuming. Surprisingly she now came to Luoyang.
This new widow was as refined, beautiful and alluring as ever. She walked together with Bai Qing’er under one umbrella, quietly talking and laughing, loitering and coming in and out of the cosmetic and perfume shops along the Heavenly Street, seemingly forgetting the sorrow of her husband’s demise.
Since Xu Ziling had nothing to do anyway, plus he wanted to find a clue about Yin Gui Pai from Bai Qing’er, he followed them as they entered another street.
Under cover of the heavy rain, it was so easy to conceal his presence as he followed their tracks.
Just then, someone came closer and said in a low voice, “Laozhang [Sir (formal)], can I have a word with you?”
Xu Ziling was sure that he had never heard this man’s voice before; without even looking at him, he laughed coldly and spoke in hoarse voice, “Laofu [old man] is not interested in talking with anybody. Get out of here.”
The man snorted angrily and said, “This is called a toast you refuse to drink, forfeit wine you want to drink. Let Ol’ Zheng see how much skill you have.”
The sound of finger wind arrived.
Xu Ziling unleashed his shifting-shape, exchanging-position skill; just with a flash he was already at different position, separated from the attacker by two groups of people, seven or eight in total, who were standing under the eaves to take shelter from the rain.
“Huh?” the man exclaimed in surprise; evidently because Xu Ziling’s brilliance was far beyond his expectation.
Xu Ziling guessed that the other party must be the ‘Henan Mad Scholar’ Zheng Shiru, aware that his trailing the two women had been found out, so he closed his umbrella and quickly dashed into a small alley.
By this time rain water was amassed in puddles on ground, while raindrop did not stop falling, splashing on the roof and on the ground, each splash created amazing pattern, different from each other, painting this great city in a wonderful rain scenery.
Zheng Shiru ran after him from behind. “Stop!” he bellowed.
Xu Ziling stood still with his hand on the hilt of his saber; he spoke coldly, “Laofu has not moved my saber to kill for several decades, you’d better not force Laofu to violate my oath.”
Zheng Shiru spoke heavily, “Laozhang, may I ask your esteemed surname and great given name?”
Xu Ziling sneered in disdain and said, “You are well aware that Laofu will not tell you my name and surname, yet still open your mouth to ask; wouldn’t it be extremely superfluous?”
Wearing this mask with different hairstyle, Xu Ziling seemed to adopt different persona, turning into an extremely overbearing and grim old man.
Zheng Shiru laughed aloud and said, “Without you telling me, I, Zheng Shiru, can guess your identity, the Ba Dao [overbearing saber] Yue Shan, whose name shook Shanbei [northern Shaanxi province, including Yulin and Yan’an] forty years ago. Since when did you become this faceless [orig. to hide the head and show the tail]?”
Xu Ziling was secretly amused, while thinking that when he had time later, he would like to investigate what kind of man this Overbearing Saber Yue Shan was. Letting out a stifled grunt, he continued walking forward.
Unexpectedly Zheng Shiru did not dare to pursue; he only shouted, “Yue Laoshi [teacher] going down the mountain this time, you must have wanted to wash away the previous disgrace, but now the times are changing, with your own personal power, it’s hard to spread out your aspiration. Yue Laoshi please think three times, Shiru will pay you a visit later on.”
Without looking back Xu Ziling continued walking this segment of the street, and after making sure nobody was following him, he darted into a corner and put on the ‘Scarface Hero’ mask.
He thought that this Overbearing Saber Yue Shan must be a martial art master whose might shook a region at one time, and then because of some setback later, he returned to his native place and lived in seclusion for several decades. Just by looking at how martial art masters like Zheng Shiru was still harboring fear and respect toward him, and doing their utmost to recruit him, Xu Ziling knew that Yue Shan’s martial art skill must be not small matter.
But this moment he did not have time to think too much; he must hurry to go back to Kou Zhong.
※ ※ ※
When the dripping wet Kou Zhong stepped over the screen door to prevent water from coming in of the Fucheng Satin Emporium, and set his foot in the vast main hall of this most famous store in Louyang, the big boss of the emporium, Li Fucheng, was showing his goods to Zheng Shuming and Bai Qing’er. He said, “This is an authentic Lu [Shandong Province] brocade; unique in that it was dyed in advance before being weaved into fabric, so that the color and luster is so much brighter, with tens of thousands pattern variations. From the selection of the cotton, to the twisted core of the cloth, the spinning, the dyeing and the starching, the net threading, the warping [i.e. vertical thread in weaving], the bore through warp forming, the machine weaving, finishing, up to the final rigorous quality control, not one thread was loose [i.e. strictly according to the rules]. And what I have here is known as the Heartthrob [orig. bewildering ten thousand people], like … huh?”
It was only this moment that he discovered Bai Qing’er and Zheng Shuming’s two pairs of beautiful eyes were looking elsewhere.
In fact, inside the shop, all five shop-attendants and the other three customers had their eyes on Kou Zhong and the dripping water forming puddle of water on the floor.
Kou Zhong appeared to be completely oblivious that he had become the target of a multitude of arrows. Were it not for his heroic physique and the long saber hanging on his back, he would have been kicked out of the door early on.
While taking out the carefully wrapped in waterproof thin, tough silk fabric, bundle containing the treasured books, his purse and other things from his pocket, he called out, “I don’t want the Heartthrob that the women wear, just a set of ready-made men’s clothes, plus a pair of riding boots. If you don’t have it here, get it for me elsewhere, I will pay double the price. Ay! So unbearable!”
Zheng Shuming’s beautiful eyes shot a deep, cold murderous aura, her voice was like ice and snow as she spit it out from between her rows of jade teeth, “Kou Zhong, it’s you!”
As soon as the two characters ‘Kou Zhong’ came out, Li Fucheng and the shop attendants immediately showed reverence on their faces.
Li Fucheng readily cast the Lu brocade, which he praised as there-is-no-other-under-the-heavens, aside, and bowed and said, “Turns out it’s Kou Ye; forgive me for failing to salute. Shangshu Daren is an old friend of Fucheng, please come in to enjoy a cup of hot tea first, everything will be taken care of to Kou Ye’s satisfaction.”
Kou Zhong mused inwardly that not only Luoyang was the transportation hub and the melting pot of people from all over the world, it was also a metropolitan where news travelled really fast. Delighted, he said, “In that case I will definitely say a few words to the old friend on your behalf. Laoban [boss], do you need to measure me? Xiaodi prefers a slightly loose fitting clothes. Ha!”
Li Fucheng seemed to have forgotten the two ladies, he promptly took the measuring tape handed over by one of the shop attendants, and despite the dripping wet Kou Zhong, he started to get busy in front of him.
Kou Zhong winked at the standing-in-front-of-him-and-was-glowering-at-him Zheng Shuming, and said with a laugh, “Xiaodi is not Ba Fenghan at all, why are you staring at me like that? A wise and virtuous woman is of the same standing as a man of noble character; therefore, when the gentleman uses his mouth to speak, the lady must not use her hand to fight. A bit later I will book a banquet to apologize to Nu Dangjia [female chief], is that all right?”
‘Pfft!’ Bai Qing’er giggled tenderly, pulled Zheng Shuming’s elbow and said, “Jiejie don’t pay attention to him, let’s go elsewhere to have fun; what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over.”
How could Kou Zhong miss the opportunity to get to her? He smiled and said, “No better or worse than each other. Don’t forget to notify Female Demon Wan, sooner or later I will definitely settle old hatred and new enmity with her.”
Bai Qing’er pouted her bright red beautiful small mouth; as if nothing had happened she said, “I have no idea what you are talking about. Let’s go.”
But Zheng Shuming was puzzled, “What Female Demon Wan?” she asked.
Before she finished speaking, Bai Qing’er already pulled her out to the street.
Kou Zhong called out, “Other than Yin Gui Pai female demon, is there any other female demon? Ha! Ay!”
Remembering Song Yuzhi, his happy mood disappeared immediately.
※ ※ ※
The Scarface Hero Xu Ziling strolled slowly along the street under his umbrella.
Taking off his robe, he only wore tight warrior outfit, and shed the previously ‘Overbearing Saber’ Yue Shan’s image.
Even without his encounter with Zheng Shiru happening, he was already prepared to change his appearance, so the elderly man entering the city earlier disappeared completely, without leaving any traces for other people to follow.
The irrigation ditch between the pedestrian path and the vehicle and horses street have become two streams of small river, plus the continuous rain pouring down from the roofs on either side of the street became curtains of water, giving the impression of powerful armies unceasingly charging down onto the street, carrying with them strong rushing momentum. Fortunately Luoyang’s drainage system was doing its job; otherwise the city would become a flood plain.
There were splashes of water [orig. rain flower] everywhere, far and near the vision blurred, street traffic was sparse, Xu Ziling could not help feeling that between the heaven and the earth, there was only me, alone; it was such a strange feeling.
If Shi Feixuan was with him, walking together in the rain, and he was listening to her fascinating and moving stories, smelling the fragrance coming from her body, what kind of feeling would that be?
He recalled the side profile of this simple and elegant, immortal-like beauty, as she fixed her eyes on the Luo River down below from the bridge railing; her expression seemed so focused on that place, so that she was completely oblivious to his stare, that she was only immersed in some magical space of thinking, and she and he seemed to live in two different worlds.
The meeting with Shi Feixuan, which exceeded all expectations, not only stayed forever in his mind, it also made him to think it over endlessly.
He had never personally experienced the shock and the feeling Shi Feixuan was giving him, which was similar to a strand of nameless force pulling him into a place he had never set foot on, but until this moment he still found it hard to believe that it was dreamlike realm that actually happened.
This stunning beauty, what exactly was in the deepest part of her heart?
Supposing Xu Ziling strong-armed her and held her in his bosom, how would her pair of pure beauty, otherworldly [orig. not eating the food of common mortals], hidden-in-depth, pretty eyes, change?
A rueful smile seemed to float out of the corner of Xu Ziling’s mouth.
Ever since he mastered the ‘Secret to Long Life’, he grew increasingly indifferent toward the love between men and women. In the past, he had never had this kind of desire. Perhaps it was thin sudden heavy rain that caused a dim, depressing high-speed thought to appear in his mind.
After all, she was a person outside of this world, plus her cultivation was really deep, her pursuit was of sublime ideal, and not the desire between man and woman at all. In the end any wishful thinking toward her would turn to be simply an illusion [orig. flowers in the mirror and the moon reflected in the lake], leaving an empty and ruined resentment.
Xu Ziling took a deep breath; myriads of thought flashing through his mind, one thought turned into no thought at all.
All disturbing thoughts immediately became empty; tranquil and even-tempered, he walked toward his destination.