Book 15 Chapter 1 - Seeking Life In Death
The man was wearing tight nightwalker outfit, his face was wearing multi-color, garish, but with sinister and terrifying expression, wooden mask. His hair was loose, and from the edges of the mask it was clear that he had thick dragon beard on his face; his overall appearance was extremely dreadful.
Although his ‘Mt. Lu' true appearance could not be seen, under the skintight outfit it looked like his build had some kind of terrifying beauty. His height was comparable to Kou Zhong, three men, and he looked extremely sturdy, with the back of a tiger and waist of a bear, and broad shoulders, with thick and solid neck, as well as extra-large palms visible under his clothes.
Every single part of his body taken separately gave out the impression of rough, boorish in nature, yet combined together the whole entity shouted a healthy and beautiful, well-proportioned physique, exuding agility, strength and flexibility; an immaculately perfect posture.
The weapon in his hands was a rough, jet-black, but shiny staff, a bit more than a zhang long, about the size of a baby's arm in diameter, yet it was unclear what kind of wood it was made of.
By the time his feet landed on the table, Kou Zhong's Moon in the Well already turned into bright light, swiftly slicing across his lower part.
Qi power filled the hall.
An amazed look flitted through Ba Fenghan's eyes, but he was still sitting motionless, while watching the fight unfolding before his eyes with the cool eye of a bystander.
Xu Ziling, however, closed his eyes, as if he had no interest whatsoever to watch.
‘Qiang!' The attacker raised the end of his long staff to block Kou Zhong's saber. Its accuracy and speed were unbelievable.
That he'd used his ebony staff to meet Kou Zhong's Moon in the Well head-on, Kou Zhong was not surprised at all; since he had the guts to break down alone, he ought to have the ability, and his ebony staff must be a strange weapon from unorthodox school that was unafraid of any blade.
But that the opponent was able to neutralize all follow-up changes of his Moon in the Well was like someone was hitting the vital acupoint on his throat; he could not help feeling greatly shaken and his acute spirit fell.
The rarely-matched and shocking qi power burst out of the end of the staff into the blade of his saber like a torrential flood, dashing against Kou Zhong's powerful spiraling qi power that everything was broken and in disorder; he barely had the strength left to prevent the Moon in the Well from being thrown off of his hand.
Naturally Kou Zhong had never imagined that the attacker would be this overbearing. Fortunately his meridians had undergone the shedding-of-one's-mortal-body-and-exchanging-one's-bones transformation the previous night, so that his true qi capacity had increased rapidly, and he was able to replenish it quickly.
The old power disappeared, the new force arrived.
Urgently raising a mouthful of true qi, he immediately neutralized the opponent's true qi invading his hand, followed by ‘Swish! Swish! Swish!' three saber strikes in succession like a rainstorm.
The man was strange as well; silently he blocked two saber strikes and then somersaulted above Kou Zhong's head, the ebony staff turned into a shaft of black light, shooting toward Ba Fenghan, who was sitting quietly behind a table at the end of the wine shop.
Ba Fenghan sat motionless with fixed gaze, so that he looked like a stone statue, until the ebony staff was only about five chi away from his face, and then while his left hand was pressing the edge of the table, fast as lightning his right hand drew the Beheading Mystery Sword, and ‘Pow!' it hacked the head of the ebony staff.
The table did not move, even the pot and cups on the tabletop were not overturned, but the chair that Hou Xibai was sitting on just now suddenly had its four feet snapped and crumbled onto the floor.
Powerful energy flowed freely.
The upper part of Ba Fenghan's body swayed, his face turned into a slice of red cloud.
Borrowing the reaction force, the man rose up and somersaulted backward, the long staff in his hand moved at the speed of sparks from a flint stone to block Kou Zhong's two attacks in succession: the first was an upward motion, the last was a sweeping motion, both struck against the tip of Kou Zhong's blade with incredible accuracy, making Kou Zhong felt helpless; even though he had the power, he was unable to use it.
This man's martial art skill was very high; perhaps it was comparable to Wanwan's.
The ebony staff in his hand, which weigh was estimated at approximately a hundred catty, was able to move nimbly like a blade of grass; lightweight and freely. From this, the level of his strength could be clearly deduced.
This moment his toes pushed the ground, the ebony staff turned into black shadow filling the air, completely surrounding Kou Zhong, who was charging over toward him. The two shadows advanced and retreated in succession, the sound of saber and staff colliding against each other was ringing continuously.
The faster they fought, the more the clashing noise became stringed together like the sound of the rain pattering against the roof tiles; so clear and beautiful.
Ba Fenghan's sword returned to its sheath. "Is it Tuyuhun's Fu Yun's son Fu Qian?” he shouted coldly.
The man gave out an ear-splitting long laugh, parried another strike of Kou Zhong's saber, and then borrowing the reaction force he leaped up, and ‘Zoom!' he disappeared into the hole on the roof.
His voice came back, "Thanks for the experience!”
By the time the last word arrived, he was already over a hundred zhang away; his speed was as fast as a shooting star.
Kou Zhong also returned his saber to its scabbard, and looked at Ba Fenghan with shock.
Ba Fenghan inhaled sharply and said, "I did not expect him to be this formidable. Even if the three of us joined hands, I am afraid we still could not hold him down.”
After his mind calmed down, Kou Zhong looked up at the night sky above the hole on the roof. Frowning, he said, "What did that bearded kid want? Did he want to show off his strength, or he just wanted to damage the wine shop owner's livelihood a little bit?”
Xu Ziling's voice came, "He is not Fu Qian, but the Shadow Assassin Yang Xuyan. Only he was using a stick, hoping that we would not guess that it was him!”
Stunned, Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong looked at each other; they were relieved instead.
Yang Xuyan's best skill was his ability to hide his track and avoid the target's eyes and ears until he was very close.
Kou Zhong stepped aside to sit on a low wall. Looking and the chaos and the wood-fragments-strewn floor after the calamity, he cursed, "Must be that Li kid who sent him to assassinate me.”
Ba Fenghan exhaled a mouthful of air and said, "His martial art skill is more formidable than what I thought; the most formidable aspect is his ability to move indefinitely, like he seemed to move forward but actually backward, making it difficult to grasp.”
And then, turning toward Xu Ziling, he asked, "How did Ziling guess that he was Yang Xuyan?”
Xu Ziling sat up, he looked at Kou Zhong's face, across the floor filled with debris and overturned and skewed and broken tables and chairs; smiling, he said, "Although he was using all kinds of method to hide his identity, both by altering his shenfa [body motion/posture] and footwork, and abandoned his consummate skill of using sword flash to confuse the enemy and used matte, non-reflective ebony staff, he still could not hide his dense, cold, and intense true qi; therefore, as soon as he made his move, I knew he was Yang Xuyan.”
Kou Zhong had a sudden revelation. "No wonder he did not mess with you,” he said, "He was afraid you might recognize him.”
And then he frowned and said, "But he created havoc in here, what good would that bring him? If by doing this and that he think he can frame others, it's just a joke.”
Xu Ziling stared at Kou Zhong for a long time before finally he spoke slowly, "He came here to kill you.”
Kou Zhong was stunned, "Kill me?” he asked.
Ba Fenghan was puzzled as well, "If he was trying to kill Zhong Shao, he ought to use the weapon that he is good at,” he said.
Xu Ziling raised his head to look at the hole on the roof. Heaving a deep sigh, he spoke indifferently and calmly, "Because he was afraid Li Shimin might know that he disobeyed his order against getting involved in tonight's dispute over the Jade Annulus of He Clan; hence he hid the head and showed the tail like that. Once he realized that he was unable to kill Zhong Shao using the ebony staff, he attacked Fenghan Xiong in passing to confuse others' eyes and ears.”
The three grew silent; there was neither the least bit of noise nor movement.
Time slowly passed; it was less than a sichen from the zi hour.
A long while later, Kou Zhong, who was still sitting on the low wall, untied the Moon in the Well, along with its scabbard, and laid it flat on his lap. Shaking his head, he said, "I nearly split my brains, but I still cannot think of any reason why Yang Xuyan would go against Li Shimin's order, and why he might want to kill me so urgently.”
Ba Fenghan spoke heavily, "But you can't help but agree with Ziling's speculation, because when he crossed hands with you, the murderous aura was so thick, but when he attacked me, the staff was purely to test me out. It had killer power, but no killer intention.”
Kou Zhong swayed his head, as if he wanted to drive everything that has been bugging him out of his mind. He said, "I don't care his mother's reason, but next time we meet, I'll cut his egg and eat it to accompany wine. Ha!”
Ba Fenghan smiled and said, "If we did not die tonight, it is definitely a lifetime's unforgettable experience; especially since in one night we become the target of multitude of arrows of various hegemons from all sides, as well as people from both the black and the white ways. I am afraid there has never such a grand occasion throughout history.”
Xu Ziling slyly said, "After this matter is over, what is Fenghan Xiong going to do?”
Ba Fenghan pondered for half a day; finally he spoke with indifferent smile, "I am going to part ways with you two gentlemen, going back to the prairie and great desert beyond the Great Wall, to start another stage on the road of spiritual cultivation. After I have fully digested all the benefits I reaped in the present days, I am going to return to Tujue to challenge Bi Xuan, irrespective of victory or defeat, life or death.”