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Book 7 Chapter 8 – Excellent Escape Plan
One after another Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling fled for their lives on the mountain and fields. By this time the two boys had reached the ‘body weary, strength exhausted’ state; but because powerful enemies were after them, they could only run toward the precipitous mountain trying to escape.
Since three days ago when Ba Fenghan and Fu Junyu caught up with them, they had run for several hundred li from Jiangyin toward Dongji, pa.s.sing through Yixing and Yongshi, two big county towns.
Although the have given everything they had, with crafty scheme and brilliant plan, all along they were unable to shake off Ba Fenghan and Fu Junyu. It was only then did they realize that either one of Ba or Fu was an expert in tracking and following; they could not help whining on for days.
That evening Ba Fenghan, two people were getting closer and closer, the two boys sensed that they were only about a hundred or so zhang away. Fortunately they came across a rapids in a secluded canyon deep in the mountains, plus the rain was pouring heavily. The two boys followed the rapids downstream for more than ten li before they were able to delay the imminent disaster for a few moments.
By the time the two boys crawled up from the river, not only their strength was gone their muscles weary, their clothes were tattered and they were covered in scars due to the frictions with sharp rocks along the way; in short, they were completely battered and exhausted. Kou Zhong even lost his Moon in the Well.
Under the downpour the two boys climbed over an overhanging cliff, and since they were unable to take it any longer, both collapsed on the ground.
Gasping for breath, Kou Zhong said, “You think we lost Fengshi Han yet? The rain is so heavy, any scent or trace ought to be washed away!”
Xu Ziling turned his face up, to let the sharp raindrops shot like arrows onto his face. He sighed and said, “No matter how you look at it, it seems to me that this guy is determined to stake it all against us; whoever collapse first is the loser.”
Kou Zhong bitter said, “Supposing this time we can escape alive, it would mean that our qinggong has made tremendous progress. Ay! When we left that day, we were so proud and strong, who would have thought that this wicked Ah Yi [maternal aunt] who cannot tell good from evil, plus one Fengshi Han, can make us look like the dog of a mourning family?”
Xu Ziling dropped down with his entire body crouched down on the ground, his handsome face close to the muddy edge of the cliff, he groaned and said, “The Heaven decreed that to be a great man, one must first labor his muscles and bones, temper his will, and deplete his body. In my opinion, before we are out the critical circ.u.mstances, we ought to practice for three more days!”
Kou Zhong also craned his neck to look down into the ravine below, he saw a waterfall from the upper left cliff rushing down into a small lake, with dark jungle all around it, which extended continuously in the canyon below until n.o.body knew how deep or how far.
Leaning out farther away, he saw underneath the cliff about ten zhang away from him was an old pine tree with great number of branches and luxuriant leaves; it was exceptionally spectacular.
Having a brainwave, Kou Zhong called out, “Xiao Ling, come quick and look, like a miracle a big tree unexpectedly grew under the cliff; it must be a place of charm and beauty. We might as well go down to take a look, who knows if there is a cave down there where we can hide for several days, so that even their feet become crippled from walking, that wicked Ah Yi and Fengshi Han cannot find us.”
Xu Ziling made an effort to prop himself up and crawl toward the edge of the cliff; but before he had any chance to look down, his body suddenly shook, “Bad!” he said.
Kou Zhong was greatly startled; following Xu Ziling’s gaze, he looked toward the opposite side of the ravine, to a small hill that was perhaps about fifty zhang lower than their cliff. But he did not detect anything unusual. “What is it?” he hastily asked.
This moment the rain was getting heavier, plus the forest was dark, so that not only it was difficult to see into the distance, they also had to raise their voices just to be heard.
Xu Ziling put his lips next to Kou Zhong’s ears and said in a low voice, “They are coming! Just now a sudden gust of wind carried the sound of broken branches into my ears. Heavens! How did they do it?”
Kou Zhong was frightened as well. Under this kind of circ.u.mstances, how did the enemy manage to trail them and keep them at their arm’s length?
“Do you still have any strength left?” he asked in heavy voice.
Xu Ziling shook his head with wry smile. “Do you?” he asked back.
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “We, two brothers, are the same thing. If you are incapable, naturally I am too. But in my opinion, wicked Ah Yi and Fengshi Han are not much better compared to us. Otherwise they would not have broken a branch. Right now there is only one way out, which is going down to look for a cave. What do you think? Do you want to try?”
Xu Ziling said, “Based on our experience these past few days, no matter where we hide, they always managed to find us. But tonight apparently their hearing is also impeded by this heavy rain, so that for the first time they let us lie down here for nearly half a sichen. If we could exploit this favorable situation, we might be able to escape with our lives.”
Recalling the small lake at the bottom of the waterfall, Kou Zhong had a brainwave, “Right now, even though Ning Daoqi and Fu Cailin have eyes, it’s like they are blind. Supposing … ha … I got an idea.”
The two boys standing side by side at the edge of the cliff, each one holding a large rock that they wrapped in their tattered outer robe.
This moment they heard the sound of wind from behind coming nearer and nearer. Kou Zhong signaled Xu Ziling with his eyes, suddenly the two boys let out a shout and throw the large rocks down first before they followed by jumping down.
By the time the two boys have safely landed on the old pine tree below, the rocks were still falling rapidly down. The sound of their robes rustling against the wind continued on, getting farther and farther away; there was really no difference from if they were jumping down.
The two boys did not dare to breathe loudly, they crouched on the pine tree and did not dare to budge.
‘Splash! Splash!’ The sound of objects falling into the water was faintly heard from about a hundred zhang below.
Fu Junyu’s voice followed from above, “Good kid! Unexpectedly they escaped.”
Ba Fenghan sighed and said, “These two [email protected] kids endurance is indeed astonishing, their courage is even bigger that it wraps the heavens. Junyu still want to go after them?”
Fu Junyu resolutely said, “Even to the end of the earth I want to go after them.”
Listening from below Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other in dismay; they really wished to know why Fu Junyu was ‘fuming with rage between gritted teeth’ and hated them so much.
Ba Fenghan suddenly said, “The rain is getting heavier.”
After a moment of silence, Ba Fenghan’s voice was heard again from above, “Is it possible for me to take care of some business first before I can accompany Junyu looking for those two kids to settle the account?” he said tenderly.
Fu Junyu’s reply was cold, “Who wants you to accompany me? Get lost, go see that Dongming Pai girl!”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were greatly astonished. Could it be that Dongming Pai girl was Dongming Princess Shan Wanjing? Could it be that she already joined hands with Fengshi Han?
Forcing a laughter, Ba Fenghan said, “Junyu, haven’t we come into an agreement to become intimate friends? Why does the tone of your voice sound like you are a jealous lover?”
Fu Junyu said heavily, “Do you really think that we are good friends? This time you, Ba Fenghan, volunteered to deal with those two boys, in the end you only want to win that girl’s favor. Are you saying it was because you really want to be good friends with me?”
Ba Fenghan laughed aloud and said, “If Junyu wants to think like that, there is nothing that I can do. But in conduct and interaction in society, a real man ought to know when to let go and when to act, and not to be controlled by others; only then will he delight in what he say. I don’t care how Junyu views me, from beginning to end Junyu is the first [female] confidante I encountered after I entered the Central Earth.”
Fu Junyu replied indifferently, “You may say whatever you like! From beginning I, Fu Junyu, am already aware what kind of person you are. After killing those two boys, I will immediately return to Gaoli, and will never come back.”
Another gust of wind arose; apparently in her anger Fu Junyu abandoned Ba Fenghan.
Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Ziling’s ear, “This guy is alone now, will we seize this opportunity to launch a sudden attack?”
“Do you have any strength?” Xu Ziling asked back.
Kou Zhong shook his head dejectedly.
Above, Ba Fenghan heaved a deep sigh and then talking to himself, he laughed coldly and said, “Fu Junyu, who do you think you are? How could you understand me?”
Finished speaking, he left immediately.
But Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling who were listening from down below suddenly felt chilliness creeping into their hearts.
Chapter 8 – Part 2
The two boys did not find any cave down below. Without any choice they had to crawl back to the cliff above. They waited until the rain eased up, then very gently and cautiously they left the mountain area.
Rushing toward the northeast, they crossed over a green mountain ridge, and picked up some wild fruits in a dense forest in a small valley to allay their hunger. Only after resting for the night and restoring their strength did they continue their journey.
After going through these three days as fugitives, the two boys felt that they had renewed life after the calamity, and that they finally saw light again.
Two days later, they came into a village. Upon entering the village, they asked around and found out that Baling was actually only about fifty li south of this place, and were pleased beyond their expectations. After buying two sets of coa.r.s.e clothes from the villagers, they found a place to stay overnight, and the next day, even before the sky brightened they already hastened on their way toward Baling.
Aware that sooner or later they would meet either Ba Fenghan or Fu Junyu, those formidable opponents, they were more interested than ever in training their martial art skill, delving into the newly gained insight of the Yijian principle.
As they took a rest along the way, Kou Zhong said, “Do you remember those two disciples of Bi Xuan, one man and one woman? Looks like they cannot deal with Fengshi Han at all.”
Xu Ziling let out a bitter laugh and said, “Are you talking about Tuoba Fang [sic, it was Tuoba Yu in Book 5 Chapter 9] and his pretty Shimei? Of course I do. We still have the appointment to meet at Luoyang, but it looks like we are going to miss it.”
Kou Zhong said, “We are forced by circ.u.mstances, n.o.body can do anything about it. Ay! We are in such a mess because of that wicked Ah Yi and Fengshi Han, I am afraid even my business deal with Song Yuzhi will come to nothing.”
“What business deal?” Xu Ziling asked in surprise.
Kou Zhong dejectedly replied, “Her Song Family will support Xiliang to become Zhuhua Bang’s Bangzhu, I will kill Tieqi Hui’s Ren Shaoming for her Song Family.”
Xu Ziling was horrified, “Have you thought well what kind of person Ren Shaoming is? If he is someone without an oil lamp [this is literal translation, I don’t know what it means, but I think we can guess …], he would have been slaughtered by the Song Family early on; why would they need to inconvenience you, Zhong Shao?”
His spirit aroused, Kou Zhong said, “Do you remember what I said about our goal must be far-reaching? Supposing we can make a plan to a.s.sa.s.sinate Ren Shaoming, Tieqi Hui will received the most severe blow, Lin s.h.i.tong will also be like he is losing an arm. One eliminated the other diminished, Zhuhua Bang and Song Clan’s power will rise. It would be a lot more interesting than it is now.”
But then he turned dispirited and downcast, “But now I lose contact with Song Yuzhi, how could we achieve that?”
Xu Ziling said, “I am not averse to a.s.sa.s.sinate Ren Shaoming. This man has always been notorious, his bad deeds are too many, indeed death cannot wipe out his crimes.”
Kou Zhong’s eyes lit up, he said excitedly, “Obtaining Ling Shao’s approval, things are greatly different. Come! Let us go to Baling first to find Su Jie before discussing this matter further!”
By dusk that day, the city of Baling finally appeared ahead.
The two boys entered the main road and not long afterward they reached the city gate. They saw a flag fluttering from the top of the city wall with one character ‘Liang’ embroidered on it. The security was very tight, those who entered the city must show their pa.s.ses.
When their turn came, Kou Zhong braced himself to say, “We are here to pay a visit to our friend.”
The city guard eyed them up and down before saying, “Right now the situation is very tense, all unauthorized people are prohibited from entering the city. Quickly get lost!”
Kou Zhong giggled and said, “The friend we are looking for is a Baling Bang people, would officer please make things easy for us?” And then leaning closer, he whispered in the guard’s ear, “Would ten taels of silver be enough?”
The soldier coldly sized them up; seeing that the two boys were dressed in coa.r.s.e peasant clothes, he suddenly shouted, “Guards! Help me capture these two spies!”
More than a dozen city guards swarmed over to surround the two boys.
Kou Zhong waved his hands and said, “We are here to find Xiang Yushan; if you don’t believe me, just ask him and everything will be clear.”
The soldier asked them in disbelief, “Are you really General Xiang’s friends?”
This time it was the two boys who looked at each other in disbelief; how could that Xiang kid suddenly become General Xiang?
Xu Ziling hastily said, “That is certainly the case. We will have to trouble Officer to pa.s.s on the message, just tell him that Su Jie’s brothers are here looking for him!” He did not dare to report his name, for fear that it might bring unnecessary trouble.
The soldier stared blankly for a moment, and then said, “Turns out Madame Susu’s relatives. Guards, report to General Xiang immediately!”
“Madame Susu!” the two boys blurted out.
The soldier looked at them with an odd expression on his face, “Could it be that you don’t know your virtuous older sister has married General Xiang?”
The two boys’ scalp went numb; they could not utter even half a sentence.
Xiang Yushan, wearing full military regalia, jumped down the horse, walked over to the two boys, and said with great delight, “Thank Heaven and thank the Earth! I have been hoping two Dage’s arrival.”
Seeing how respectful Xiang Yushan was toward these two boys who professed to be relatives and were dressed in coa.r.s.e peasant garments, also hearing how Xiang Yushan addressed them as ‘Big Brothers’, the soldiers were so surprised that they could not keep their mouth shut.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, on the other hand, simply looked at each other with wry smile on their faces; they were not sure how to ‘deal’ with this Jiefu [older sister’s husband].
However, since ‘family scandal should not be told to outsiders’, Kou Zhong wrapped his arm around Xiang Yushan’s shoulders, and pulled him to enter the city. With a cold humph he said, “How could Su Jie be married to you? It must be that you, this kid, used some kind of shady trick to force her!”
Without saying anything Xu Ziling walked on Xiang Yushan’s other side, so that they formed a left-right guard against him.
Xiang Yushan hastily said, “How can I, Xiang Yushan, be that kind of person? It is possible that your virtuous sister discovered my infatuation toward her and thus she agreed to give herself wholly in marriage to me. Ay! You don’t know that each time Madame remembers you, she is so worried that she always cry. It is good that now you are here!”
Kou Zhong stretched out his arm out of his sleeve and said with a wry smile, “Did you see this? As soon as you said ‘infatuation’, Laozi’s hair immediately stood up.”
Xiang Yushan was greatly embarra.s.sed; smiling apologetically, he said, “If I, Xiang Yushan, tell you even a single word of lies, let the Heaven strike me with lightning.”
Kou Zhong stared ferociously at him and said, “If you dare to be capricious toward Su Jie, even if you became the Emperor, I will hunt you down and take your little life. Are we clear?”
Xiang Yushan hurtfully said, “How could it be? Two Dage, please don’t worry!”
The three of them walked briskly along the street, while behind them about a dozen of Xiang Yushan’s personal attendants followed on horsebacks, which prompted the pa.s.sers-by to look at them with raised eyebrows.
Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, “How did you become a general?”
Xiang Yushan was astounded, “Haven’t you heard?” he asked, “After the muddleheaded ruler was killed, Xiao Er Dangjia [second chief] proclaimed himself to be the Emperor in Baling, taking the t.i.tle of his dynasty ‘the Great Liang’.”
And then he lowered his voice and went on, “Er Dangjia is actually the descendant of the Southern Liang Dynasty’s Emperor Wudi, Xiao Yan, so now he simply reinstated the t.i.tle of the former days!”
Kou Zhong nodded and said, “And he always think highly of you; no wonder your face is glowing.”
Blushing, Xiang Yushan said, “That is by two Dage’s grace, together with Xiaodi’s own effort, so that now I recovered completely!”
Kou Zhong let go of his arm draped around Xiang Yushan’s shoulders; he sneered and said, “It’s good that you know your place and call yourself Xiaodi; don’t you ever have any delusion by expecting us to call you Jiefu. Is that right, Ling Shao?”
Xu Ziling spread his arms and smiled wryly, “What can I say?” he said.
Kou Zhong gave Xiang Yushan a hard push as if he was venting his anger. “Come!” he shouted, “Let me increase my knowledge by looking at General Xiang’s qinggong after you recovered from your injury. If we walked as slow as a snail like this, chances are even after daybreak we still can’t see Su Jie.”
Xiang Yushan staggered two steps sideways, but then he shot up and landed on a private citizen’s house, while the two boys hurriedly gave him a chase.
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