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Chapter 11 – Sea Sand Gang’s Leader
Although there were not many pedestrians in the city, and the Tian Kui dojo has completely turned into a pile of rubbles, but the situation in Nanyang was not much different to before the incident happened.
Moreover, just like Xu Ziling’s predicted, there was no checkpoint to inspect the stream of people coming and going, the city gates and the dock remained open.
Commercial trade was Nanyang’s lifeblood, and the basic condition for commercial trade was stability, hence Nanyang had to remain open, so that local businessmen and traveling merchants coming from all over the place could do business in peace.
Last night Ji Yinong, with the Yin Gui Pai’s entire nest came out to give him full support – has pulled two major powers, Nanyang Bang and Tian Kui Pai, up by the roots in one move, using the ten-thousand-jun thunderbolt momentum, precisely because he wanted to reduce the chaos to minimum. It could be easily imagined that this moment Ji Yinong must be extremely busy to a.s.sure the other gangs and sects’ leaders, as well as the big merchants’ interest, while also establishing his own governance, and taking over the businesses that were previously under Nanyang Bang and Tian Kui Pai.
By returning to the city at this time, not only they avoided Li Yuanji and the Cloud Commander, two sides’ troops’ pursuit, it would also be beyond Yin Gui Pai’s expectation. From being in the open, they were now hidden in the dark, they could either wait for an opportunity to strike back or to escape; at least they would be able to obtain some time to take a breather.
The three crossed over the moat, they climbed over the western wall to enter the city. Exposing their real face, they looked for a hotel to stay for a time. While Kou Zhong was scouting out for information from the waiter in the dining hall, Tuli and Xi Ziling waited for him in the room.
“Aren’t we being too exposed?” Tuli asked doubtfully.
Sitting cross-legged in the chair, Xu Ziling replied, “If Khan were Ji Yinong, would you send your men with great fanfare to look for us all over the city?”
Gaining sudden understanding, Tuli said, “Ziling’s brain is indeed more nimble than mine. Ji Yinong would surely try to cover up at all costs, just like Xianyang’s Qian Duguan’s situation. If he told his men or the other gangs and sects that the men he wanted to deal with are Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, whose names shook the heavens, everybody would question if he had something he rely on in order to accomplish that.”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “Yin Gui Pai would definitely lay down the flag and still the drums, for fear that others might find out about their existence. Therefore, we should be safe for the time being. Besides, who would have thought that we might slip back into the danger zone?”
Tuli sighed and said, “It’s a pity that the battle last night is to be kept a secret. Otherwise, Ziling’s ability to escape unscathed from head-on confrontation against Zhu Yuyan would be enough to catapult Ziling’s reputation a hundredfold.”
Xu Ziling remained tranquil and calm, he spoke indifferently, “False reputation will only bring empty benefit, why would I want to seek that? Now Yin Gui Pai’s power is expanding more and more, if we cannot take advantage of this important juncture to carryout counterattack toward Yin Gui Pai, by the time the rice has already been cooked [idiom: what is done cannot be undone], everything will be too late.”
Greatly astonished, Tuli asked, “Isn’t the rice already cooked now? With our three men’s strength, what could we possibly accomplish?”
Xu Ziling’s eyes were flashing with thick murderous aura; he spoke slowly, word-by-word, “If we could kill Ji Yinong, the entire situation will be reversed.”
This moment Kou Zhong came back. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he said, “On the surface Nanyang city seems to be calm, but the heart of the people is in turmoil. Some people say that Nanyang Bang’s Yang Zhen might counterattack within two days, some other say Zhu Can is going to seize this opportunity to come. Most of the city residents don’t have favorable impression toward Ji Yinong.”
Xu Ziling said, “Tian Kui dojo has been razed to the ground; what is the city residents’ reaction?”
Kou Zhong replied, “They all think that Ji Yinong is too much. It is said that not only the neutral Jingshan Pai and Zhen Yang Bang are greatly furious, even Chao Shui Bang, Hui Yi Bang, and Tuan Jiang Pai, who wallowed in the mire with Ji Yinong, thought that things should not get to such a point. But due to Ji Yinong’s prestige is greatly rising, they only dare to get angry, but do not dare to speak up. This time Ji Yinong’s move has evoked public anger. Ay! If we had not intervened, Zhu Yuyan would not have been forced to consider the gains and losses, and took such a drastic measure.”
“What should we do now?” Tuli asked.
Xu Ziling suddenly signaled, ‘Someone’s coming’. Kou Zhong’s eyes shot sharp rays as he fixed his gaze on the door. And then, ‘Knock! Knock!’ someone was knocking on the door.
The three exchanged some glances; they were puzzled and were unsure of what to do.
Their enemies were really too many. The one knocking on their door could be from any group. If their whereabouts could be found out this easily, naturally their situation was really bad.
A gentle and lovely voice came through the door, “Can I come in?”
Although Kou Zhong felt this voice sounded familiar, momentarily he was unable to remember which mistress had such a captivating voice. “Please come in!” he responded heavily.
The unbolted door was pushed open, revealing a graceful, many-postures, hot and charming beauty. A dazzling yellow silk cape was draped over her shoulders, she wore a veiled hat on her head, and red pomegranate skirt on the bottom. A lovely scene of blossoming flowers swaying in the breeze [idiom: gorgeously dressed woman], amorous light radiated all around.
“Ah!” Kou Zhong exclaimed and stood up. Cupping his fist to salute, he said, “Turns out it’s the newly-appointed Bangzhu of Haisha Bang [Sea Sand Gang, see Book 2 Chapter 4], the ‘Mermaid’ Miss You Qiuyan who has honored us with your fragrant self, stopping by to brighten up our drab room; Xiaodi feels so lucky. Xiao Ling, why haven’t you given up your seat?”
Xu Ziling hastily stood up and moved to the side. “Pfft!” You Qiuyan giggled and without any trace of politeness took the vacated chair.
Although Tuli was not clear the relationship between You Qiuyan and the two boys, but he had heard the name ‘Haisha Bang’. A bit confused, he poured her a cup of tea.
While closing the door, Xu Ziling took the opportunity to peek out. After making sure that they were not being heavily surrounded, he gave an ‘all safe’ signal to the two men from behind You Qiuyan’s back.
You Qiuyan’s beautiful like-clear-water-that-was-about-to-drop eyes cast a sidelong glance toward Kou Zhong; a bit surprised, she said, “Why are you unable to take your eyes off me and staring at me like that? Are you afraid I am going to mount a sneak attack at you? Qiuyan does not have that kind of big guts.”
Kou Zhong smiled and said, “First of all, Xiaodi has never seen You Bangzhu dress so beautifully; secondly, I recalled the three times I fought with You Bangzhu, I cannot help my spirit running fast and my mind in disorder, hence I was forgetting my manners.”
And then he turned to Xu Ziling and said, “Xiao Ling! Tell me, don’t you think You Bangzhu is even more charming now?”
The fact was that he really did not have the slightest idea why You Qiuyan, who only had enmity without any friendship with them, would suddenly appear here. Therefore, he started babbling nonsense to try to see why she came.
It was only now did Xu Ziling have the chance to look attentively at this woman, who used to be the Haisha Bang’s Gang Leader the ‘Dragon King’ Han Gaitian’s mistress/subordinate, who had used her s.e.x appeal to turn all living things upside down. He found out that indeed as Kou Zhong said, her appearance looked a lot more pleasing to the eye; perhaps it was because there was a bit more of dignified look on her brows and eyes, so that there was a change in her personality traits.
In the battle on the ship, Han Gaitian suffered serious injury from Xu Ziling’s sneak attack [see Book 6 Chapter 12]. Since then, he withdrew from Jianghu, and You Qiuyan arose to take his position. Changes in the facts of life really made people sigh unbearably.
It was unclear whether You Qiuyan was remembering the two times she fought with Kou Zhong, and both times Kou Zhong frivolously took small advantages off her, or perhaps because Kou Zhong’s outrageous praise that she was proud of herself and was being bashful, unexpectedly she appeared like a shy girl who did not know how to respond, a clump of red clouds appeared on both of her cheeks.
Glowering at Kou Zhong, she said, “It’s because for your own good that I took the risk to come here to see you, yet you spoke frivolous words endlessly; do you really want Qiuyan to leave in anger?”
Confused, Kou Zhong grabbed his head and said, “For our own good? How did You Dajie [big sister] know we are here?”
You Qiuyan raised the teacup to take a sip of the hot tea; her beautiful eyes cast Tuli a glance, and then she looked inquisitively at Kou Zhong. She did not need to speak up, her pair of big eyes could clearly convey what was in her mind.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were both stunned, because in the past, outside the city of Baling, You Qiuyan joined hands with Da Jiang Bang’s Fei Yan and the ‘Venomous Spider’ Zhu Mei, Bai Wenyuan, and the others to deal with them. The two boys beat them up until they fled for their lives. You Qiuyan was even captured by Kou Zhong, but in the end he let her go.
Therefore, it was not unreasonable for the two boys to think that You Qiuyan was acting on behalf of Zhu Can to look for them. But if she did not even know who Tuli was, naturally she had nothing to do with Zhu Can.
Kou Zhong pondered slightly; sensing that You Qiuyan did not have evil intention, he made up his mind and said, “This is the Eastern Tujue’s Tuli Khan.”
You Qiuyan’s tender body slightly shook; she looked at Tuli up and down a couple of times, while her face showed suspicious look.
Tuli’s eyes looked at her tender body up and down; he did not hide his interest in this woman at all.
You Qiuyan immediately straightened up her silky b.r.e.a.s.t.s; apparently she did not mind at all that Tuli was examining her like he was inspecting a wild horse. Throwing a coquettish glance toward Kou Zhong, she said, “Naturally my men recognized you and Xiao Ling. Without any fear at all you guys stopped at a hotel to stay for the night; aren’t you afraid Zhu Can and Li Yuanji, two sides’ men would discover it and come to give you bad luck?”
Xu Ziling asked, “What is the relationship between your honorable gang and Yin Gui Pai?”
You Qiuyan was slightly stunned. Knitting her brows, she said, “How could we have any relationship with Yin Gui Pai?”
Kou Zhong spoke nonchalantly, “Recently we saw your brothers sold a batch of firearms to Yin Gui Pai people.”
Startled, You Qiuyan said, “Are you referring to the Jiangnan-made firearms that were sold to Qian Duguan?”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged a glance. They started to believe that You Qiuyan really did not have any malice toward them; naturally they still could not figure out the purpose of You Qiuyan’s visit.
Xu Ziling explained, “Qian Duguan is Yin Gui Pai man.”
You Qiuyan appeared to obtain a sudden understanding. After muttering to herself irresolutely for half a day, she said, “Haisha Bang now is not like the Haisha Bang of the past! Before, in order to expand our influence, we had no choice but to attach ourselves to Yuwen Clan, Shen Faxing, and Zhu Can, one after another. As for the result, you two ought to know it better than anybody else. Now we already have change of string, and move out of a rut [idiom: dramatic change of direction]; we only do business now. However, the strange thing in Jianghu is that our prestige is increasing steadily instead. Do you understand what I mean?”
“Of course we do,” Kou Zhong cheerfully replied, “We even congratulate You Bangzhu for this sensible act. But since that’s the case, why did You Bangzhu come to see us, three men who are covered all over with trouble?”
You Qiuyan’s pretty face blushed again, she cast Kou Zhong a thousand-tender, a hundred-charm glance first, before hanging her head and spoke softly, “You are my friends! Seeing you in trouble, how could I watch with folded arms?”
Stunned, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong looked at each other; they had never expected to hear such words from You Qiuyan’s mouth.
Xu Ziling moved over to sit by Kou Zhong’s side. His sword-shaped eyebrows lightly knitted, he said, “If You Bangzhu thought that we are in trouble, how do you think we can get out of it?”
You Qiuyan smiled and said, “We all are old friends, there is no need for words of politeness.”
This time it was almost Xu Ziling’s turn to grab his head. All along, Haisha Bang and the two of them have always been in the-two-cannot-exist-together situation. The former Gang Leader Han Gaitian even had to step down because of them, there has never been the so-called old friendship to be talked about.
Tuli asked, “Does You Bangzhu know the situation in Nanyang now?”
You Qiuyan snorted coldly and said, “On the surface it appears that Ji Yinong’s side has control over the situation, but the fact is that their foundation is still unstable. Sooner or later they will have to let others taking care of the battle outcome.”
The three started to see some clues. Kou Zhong asked in astonishment, “It seems to me that You Bangzhu does not have harmonious relationship with Ji Yinong?”
You Qiuyan’s eyes flashed with murderous intent; she calmly replied, “No need to hide it from you; in Nanyang, we are only doing business with the ‘Lying-down Moon Saber’ Yang Zhen, one person. This time Ji Yinong disregarded Jianghu’s righteousness and justice; he borrowed outsiders’ power, using b.l.o.o.d.y means to oppress his own people. He has aroused public outrage, everybody wants to punish him.”
Kou Zhong finally understood. “What’s Zhu Can’s reaction over this matter?” he asked.
Lightly shrugging her shoulders, You Qiuyan replied, “Naturally he wanted to take advantage of this weakness to come over. I heard he is mobilizing his troops and marshaling his battleships; he might deploy ma.s.sive military force to the east at any time to recover lost territory. But doing this won’t bring any benefit for him. If Nanyang fell into his hands, it will only become a ghost town.”
“Where is Yang Zhen currently at?” Tuli asked.
You Qiuyan hesitated slightly before starting, “He already slipped back into Nanyang and is currently plotting a counterstrike. I hear that you were helping Tian Kui Pai to resist the enemy. I wonder which divine beings Ji Yinong actually drew to help him, how come with three gentlemen’s martial art skill you are still unable to withstand them?”
“They are Yin Gui Pai people,” Kou Zhong replied, “Ji Yinong’s other ident.i.ty is Yin Gui Pai disciple.”
“What?” You Qiuyan blurted out.
Kou Zhong smiled and said, “The situation is getting more and more interesting. If You Bangzhu is coming to help, perhaps we could turn defeat into victory, and have Ji Yinong slaughtered.”
You Qiuyan’s pair of pretty eyes lit up. “How do you want me to help?” she asked.
Kou Zhong replied, “I want all intelligence about Nanyang’s situation, especially Ji Yinong’s each and every move, and then I can focus on designing the entire a.s.sa.s.sination plan.”
Standing up, You Qiuyan spoke with full confidence, “You wait here for my good news!”
After this full-of-attractive-and-seductive-charm master of a gang left, Kou Zhong’s countenance suddenly turned incomparably calm. He asked, “Is this woman trustworthy?”
Muttering to himself irresolutely, Xu Ziling replied, “It’s hard to say. She is definitely not that kind of shy woman, yet twice she showed bashful-girl-like expression, a big different from her former style in dealing with relationship between men and women, so that it’s hard to understand. Moreover, she meticulously dressed herself to come and see us; I wonder if she is unable to restrain her emotions and is falling in love with you?”
“She came here to deceive us,” Tuli suddenly interjected.
The two boys were stunned. Although they already had doubts in their hearts, but they did not understand why Tuli was so sure.
Tuli rose up to his full height and looked out the window. He spoke slowly, “I have a special skill that two gentlemen are somewhat lacking, which is the skill to observe women.”
“What particular thing did Khan see?” Kou Zhong asked in astonishment.
Tuli replied heavily, “When this woman received the news that we showed up here, she must have been intimate with a man; hence the thoughts of love on the tip of her brow and the corners of her eyes had not completely disappeared. She was blushing not because of being bashful, but because she had not fully expressed herself. If I am guessing correctly, her man must be the ‘Yunyu Shuang Xiu’ Pi Shouxuan, because only he had this kind of time, and he might have good time with women, because his nickname that you told me about! Only by means of the gathering-the-cloud-and-the-rain repairing method will he be able to rapidly restore his power.” [Reminder: the ‘cloud and rain’ in his nickname (‘cloud and rain double cultivation’) also means ‘s.e.xual intercourse’.]
Kou Zhong said, “Khan’s a.n.a.lysis could not be possibly go wrong. Question is: if Yin Gui Pai already knew that we are here, why should they play tricks on us by going through twists and turns, rather than the whole nest simply came out to deal with us?”
Xu Ziling said, “It could be that Zhu Yuyan, Wanwan, and the group of elder-level martial art masters are going out of the city to hunt for us, or perhaps they are rushing somewhere else for another important matter. Old Pi must realized that he is unable to deal with us alone, hence he is carrying out another malicious scheme.”
Kou Zhong agreed, “It must be so,” he said, “Ay! Why didn’t Khan say so earlier? If we followed that woman closely, perhaps we could even slaughter Old Pi, then we’d get rid of one big resentment.”
Tuli turned around to face him and said with a wry smile, “This is not the first time Shao Shuai entered the Jianghu, is it? Just think, an old Jianghu veteran like Pi Shouxuan, who is more cunning than a fox, how could he not hide in a secret place to watch whether we are following that woman’s track?”
Kou Zhong’s two eyes lit up, he said, “If Zhu Yuyan and Wan Yaonu are really not in Nanyang, then this will be a different thing altogether.”
Tuli wondered aloud, “Why would You Yaofu [witch, lit. demon (older) woman] want us to wait for her here?”
Xu Ziling said, “There are two possibilities: one, Pi Shouxuan is ama.s.sing his own power, including notifying Zhu Yaofu and Wan Yaonu to hurry back; two, he is notifying our enemies. The most likely candidate is naturally Li Yuanji and Kang Qiaoli’s side.
Kou Zhong sprang up and said, “In that case, what are we doing here? Waiting for death?”
Xu Ziling calmly said, “Either one of those possibilities, they will need time. It’s safe to say that there must be Yin Gui Pai martial art master outside the inn monitoring us. If this moment we could sneak out with the G.o.ds did not know and the ghosts did not perceive, then we are halfway to success.”
Tuli said, “If we put our heart and mind in it, this matter is not difficult at all. But once we are out, should we immediately leave town, or go on another mission?”
Kou Zhong’s pair of tiger-eyes emitted deep hatred and murderous aura; he spoke coldly, “Tian Kui dojo’s blood debt is just one of the accounts we need to settle. Between Yin Gui Pai and us, there’s no more good things to talk about. If we can’t kill his mother’s to our heart’s delight, I won’t be able to sleep peacefully at night.”
Xu Ziling spoke resolutely, “In that case, we’ll sneak out and act according to circ.u.mstances. I am thinking of one crucial person, who is Khan’s informer in here, Huo Qiu. Perhaps we could grasp Li Yuanji and Ji Yinong’s movement and whereabouts from him.”
The other two praised the wonderful plan.
Xu Ziling rose up to his full height and said with a smile, “How about letting Xiaodi be the little p.a.w.n who will find a way for Khan and Shao Shuai?”
Amidst the big laughter, the three left side by side in very high spirit.
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