This time, I simply have more time. The project that I have been working for the last several months is nearing the end of its design phase; hence there are some gaps in my workload while waiting for other things. I am translating as much as I can, because I know this is simply the ‘calm before the storm'.
Jaya, Sky, Anh, you are welcome. Shirak, good deduction skill. DongBin, good advice. Xu Xiong, thanks for dropping by. Here's the end of Chapter 11. Chapter 12 is a short one. The Lord's willing, I am going to post it tomorrow, before my weekend ends ...
A young, sweet-sounding male voice rang outside the door, "The three of you, get out!” Although he spoke without any trace of politeness, the tone of his voice was gentle and pleasant to listen to, refined and calm, in total contrast to what he said.
A cold, deep murderous aura flitted through Ba Fenghan's eyes; he coldly said, "Who's there? Tonight I, Ba Fenghan, will not kill an unnamed nobody.”
The man was silent for half a day before he finally spoke in soft voice, "Ba Xiong, please forgive Zaixia for speaking harshly in the urgency of this situation. If Ba Xiong is willing to exchange weapons of war for gifts of jade and silk by handing over the Jade Annulus of He Clan so that Zaixia may return it Miss Feixuan, Zaixia wishes to apologize over a toast for provoking Ba Xiong just now.”
The voice penetrated the tightly closed door; it was loud enough to be heard, but not overbearing, each word was spoken clearly, but imbued with power, so that others would not date to take it lightly.
Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong's even breathing rose and fell continuously, causing a strange rhythm that seemed to reveal some kind of unspeakable truth.
Frowning, Ba Fenghan said, "The thing I loathe the most is people who strolled in and talk out of turn. Who exactly is Sire? Are you really representing Shi Feixuan?”
The man let out a long laughter and then said, "Listening to the tone of Ba Xiong's voice, the handing over of the Jade Annulus of He Clan has not been discussed yet! In that case, let's exchange some palm strikes first.”
Even after racking his brains, Ba Fenghan still could not think of the identity of the young martial art master on the street, hence he decided not to answer but closed his eyes and sat quietly instead.
The shop door shattered into wooden debris filling the air inside the wine shop.
Even with Ba Fenghan's unperturbed, the-Mount-Tai-collapsed-in-front-of-his-eyes-his-countenance-would-not-change cool-headedness, he could not help being emotionally moved.
It should be noted that the double-leaf door was hollow on the inside; it could not take impact force at all. But the opposite party was unexpectedly able to send a punch over empty air and shatter the two doors at once; merely this kind of skill has reached a universally shocking level.
An unspeakably outstanding and elegant, refined in manner, like the jade tree facing the wind, young and handsome man, appeared from behind the shattered door, his hand holding a folding fan with painting of beautiful women on it, swaying gently into the room. His relaxed and well-composed manner did not look like he was an evil guest who came to seek bad luck.
Ba Fenghan's pair of tiger-eyes burst with sharp light; staring intently at the incoming man, he suddenly said, "Turns out it's the ‘Passionate Prince' Hou Xibai; no wonder you are such a protector of the flowers [i.e. beautiful women]. Please forgive me for failing to salute you.”
He spoke those words with an extremely cold and indifferent tone, implying that his remark was brimming with frigid irony and scorching satire.
Hou Xibai revealed a helpless look on his face; sighing, he said, "To be quite honest, Zaixia has always longed to see three gentlemen with a heart full of admiration, but has never wished that we would meet under such circumstances. Huh! Are Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling injured? Or are they sleeping?”
Ba Fenghan replied indifferently, "Hou Xiong needs not pay them any attention. Since this is our first meeting, we'd better drink two cups first before fighting. What do you say?”
Hou Xibai silently sized up Ba Fenghan. It was quite a moment later that he replied, "This is called ‘peaceful measures before using force', not just in name only, but also in reality. Let Zaixia toast Ba Xiong first then.”
Striding over, he sat down across from Ba Fenghan.
Ba Fenghan sat motionless in full concentration. Without blinking he watched as Hou Xibai put his folding fan into his sleeve pocket before reaching out to pour wine for him as well as for himself.
Hou Xibai was completely unfazed by the opposite party's sharp eyes, which seemed able to penetrate into the bottom of his heart; his movements remained confident and at ease, worthy of his romantic reputation that could make beautiful women all over the world fell in love with him.
Holding his cup with both hands, Hou Xibai saluted and said, "Knowing someone by their reputation can't compare to meeting them in person. Ba Xiong did not disappoint Zaixia.”
Ba Fenghan did not show any indication that he was going to return the propriety; instead, he spoke indifferently, "Hou Xiong's folding fan has refined-steel as its skeleton, but I wonder what kind of material is the fan itself made of?”
Hou Xibai smiled and replied, "This is the first time anybody ever asked me this question. Ba Xiong eyesight is indeed very keen. My humble fan is made of heavenly spider silk, incomparably strong and tough; unafraid of any blade.”
Ba Fenghan laughed aloud and said, "Good weapon. I was just wondering: do you have Shi Feixuan's portrait painted on it?”
Hou Xibai lowered his head; staring at the good wine in his cup, he said with a wry smile, "The only thing this fan lacks is Miss Feixuan. Can Ba Xiong guess why?”
Ba Fenghan calmly laughed and said, "That is not difficult to guess. One reason would be her unique personality traits, which Hou Xiong found it difficult to capture; or perhaps Hou Xiong's passion runs too deep, you worry about personal gains and losses instead, and thus was unable to describe it with ink.”
Hou Xibai dejectedly said, "Those two reasons Ba Xiong mentioned are both logical. For me, I do not know which posture of hers ought to be put into the painting to show off her beautiful form; hence I am always hesitant and do not dare to move my brush.”
Touched, Ba Fenghan said, "That remark is more touching than any praise. Hou Xiong might as well paint a dozen or so Shi Feixuan on the fan, each one depicting one of her postures, charm or grace; won't that solve the problem?”
Sighing, Hou Xibai said, "In that case, I am afraid I will have to paint endlessly, and thus I will be too disrespectful to her.”
Ba Fenghan was stunned for half a day. Finally he raised his cup and said, "That was a brilliant remark. Let Ol' Ba respect Hou Xiong with a toast.”
Clinking their cups, the two drained the wine until not even half a drop remained.
After putting his cup down, Hou Xibai's eyes suddenly became as sharp as a blade as he stared straight into Ba Fenghan's eyes; his voice became cold, "Can this matter find a peaceful solution?”
Ba Fenghan flatly shook his head and replied, "Hou Xiong, let's not talk nonsense.”
Hou Xibai wondered, "Ba Xiong has never shown any interest in our country's affairs, why be involved in this pointless dispute? By obtaining the treasured jade annulus, what good would that bring Ba Xiong?”
Ba Fenghan replied impatiently, "Didn't Hou Xiong want to fight? Ol' Ba wants to get a firsthand experience of Hou Xiong's fan art, which has shaken the world. This is called chance encounter is better than asking to meet. Hou Xiong, please!”
Both men's eyes suddenly brightened up, neither one willing to concede as they stared at each other.
A strong stream of murderous aura emanated from Hou Xibai's body straight toward Ba Fenghan.
Without any breeze, the scholar attire he was wearing suddenly fluttered like a flag, increasing his already-strong momentum.
On the other hand, Ba Fenghan remained as calm as an abyss and ocean, or like towering mountains and precipitous ridges; even though the wind and the waves crashed against it, they failed to sway him the least bit.
The wine pot and wine cups on the table started to shake; it was a very strange spectacle.
The two stared at each other for half a day; they both know that in term of momentum, it would be difficult to overwhelm each other. In the end, they had to exchange blows to seek each other's weaknesses and flaws.
The fan appeared in Hou Xibai's hand and opened up. The side facing Ba Fenghan had the paintings of eight beautiful women, each with different pose, showing off the beauty and disposition of each woman to the fullest.
Taken aback, Ba Fenghan said, "Isn't that Shen Luoyan in the corner? I have never seen her with that kind of expression, and I have never thought she would be that fascinating.”
Hou Xibai's momentum grew without restraint, but his face showed a tender expression as he spoke gently, "Luoyan is a very lonely girl. When I picked a white chrysanthemum that day and inserted it on her hair, she revealed that pleasantly-surprised and forlorn expression. At that time she must be remembering someone else. I was not jealous at all, on the contrary, I captured that moment in the painting. Only this expression can represent her best.”
‘Qiang!' Ba Fenghan's sword left its sheath and sliced across Hou Xibai sitting on the other side of the table.
‘Zip!' the fan closed, with casual ease and freedom of action it parried Ba Fenghan's swift-and-fierce-without-equal sword strike.
Both were shaken.
Both sides shivered inwardly.
Ba Fenghan's seemingly simple sword strike was actually extremely difficult to block. While moving at lightning speed, it subsequently changed direction three times; his estimate was that no matter how brilliant Hou Xibai was, it would be quite awkward for him to evade or withdraw. Who would have thought that the sword was doomed to be blocked by the opponent?
A feeling of disbelief also appeared in Hou Xibai's heart.
Since his debut, no matter how brilliant, illustrious, or overbearing opponent he encounter, no one has ever able to block ten strikes of his fan. But to deal with Ba Fenghan's fantastically-changing-without-direction sword strike, he was forced to give it all he had.
Although on the surface he seemed relaxed, inwardly he had to waste tremendous strength on just this one move.
His natural disposition was free-and-easy and aloof-above-the-crowd; his display of martial art skill was also like that. Even if he got killed, on the surface he would still appear free-and-easy, unlike other people who would appear in great distress.
Two soaring stars of Wulin's younger generation martial art masters finally had a face off.
The sword and the fan stopped in the air above the table.
Hou Xibai continuously blocked wave after wave of powerful five-way true qi streaming out of Ba Fenghan's sword. Emotionally moved, he said, "Ba Xiong is more formidable than I thought.”
Inwardly, Ba Fenghan was actually shocked as well. He had never imagined Hou Xibai would be this brilliant. If his meridians had not been transformed by the Jade Annulus of He Clan the previous night, quite possibly by this time his internal energy he would have entered fire-deviation stage, and perhaps he would have suffered serious internal injury.
Laughing indifferently, he said, "Same here! Same here!”
The Beheading Mystery Sword retracted and extended, leaving Hou Xibai's ‘Fan of Beauty', and in succession cut and stabbed across the table five times.
Hou Xibai's Fan of Beauty opened and closed at random, but it was always able to parry Ba Fenghan's flowing-mercury like wild attack and ferocious strike in such an extremely ingenious way.
The most amazing thing was that Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were still sleeping like they were dead, seemingly oblivious that a life-and-death battle was happening between the two men.
Kou Zhong sat up from his makeshift bed; looking around, he asked in surprise, "Hou Xibai, what are you doing here? The Jade Annulus of He Clan is practically not in our hands. Even if it was, we could always disregard his mother's Jianghu rules and team up to kill you first.”
The Beheading Mystery Sword returned to its scabbard.