Book 15 Chapter 11 - Beating the Enemy at Their Own Game
The sun's last twilight disappeared on the western horizon. The city of Luoyang was ablaze with light. The ships and boats moored along the river looked like a coiling dragon of lights stretching continuously along the banks.
Perhaps it was because of the rain earlier, but the night sky was especially clear that the light appeared particularly bright, and the air was fresh and clean.
Although there were still people unloading cargo under the lantern light, most of the waterfront area was blanketed in tranquility that came after the busyness of the day.
The sound of hoof beats broke the quietness of the night. Several horses and one carriage were speeding along the river. Arriving at one of the piers, the riders reined their horses.
One of them pursed his lips to let out a whistle; obviously he was calling the friends on the boat moored at that dock.
Kou Zhong, who was closely watching this particular area, spoke cheerfully, "Xiao Ling, our old friend is here! Unexpectedly in time like this we still bump into acquaintances.”
Xu Ziling took a glance, and was stunned, "Isn't that Dugu Ce?” he asked.
Song Shidao said, "The man on his left is known as the ‘Mad Scholar of Henan', Zheng Shiru, who has quite a reputation. The rest are descendants and disciples of local famous schools and influential families.”
Kou Zhong was dumbstruck. "Turns out it's him,” he said, "I knew his voice well, but this is the first time I see his appearance.”
That day he was hiding inside the painting cabinet, eavesdropping the discussion between Li Mi and his men, and Qian Duguan, who was reaching out to him [see Book 12 Chapter 1]; unexpectedly today he was finally able to see his real ‘Mount Lu's face and eyes'.
This martial art master, who was known for both his madness and wisdom, wore a rather out-of-place attire; outside his scholar attire, he wore a set of warrior overalls complete with a cape.
His age seemed to be around thirty, with square-ish, bulky and wild appearance. On the looks department, he was not bad. Except for his goatee, the hair on his head was unkempt, exuding some kind of don't-care-about-appearance charm.
"Why would he hang around Dugu Ce?” Ba Fenghan wondered.
Xu Ziling commented, "Looking at Dugu Ce's expression, he does not seem to know that his uncle was murdered.”
While the four men, from their higher vantage point, were discussing and pointing at the people below, like a spiraling wisp of smoke an outstanding beauty [orig. national grace, divine fragrance] appeared from the ship's cabin; merely her looks and gait were enough to move and weakened the men's heart.
Two pretty maids followed behind her walking off the ship.
Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling looked at each other, and then both men blurted out together, "Bai Qing'er!” [ibid.]
Surprisingly it was Qian Duguan's beloved concubine Bai Qing'er. Earlier, from her disposition, which was similar to Wanwan's, Ba Fenghan made a deduction that she was a Yin Gui Pai's female demon.
As soon as Bai Qing'er entered the carriage, Dugu Ce, Zheng Shiru, and the others immediately thronged around the carriage, and then with a mighty roar they left.
Seeing the maids returning to the ship, Ba Fenghan was shaken, "What a close call! We nearly made the mistake of jumping into the wrong vehicle.”
Kou Zhong and Song Shidao looked at him in bewilderment.
Xu Ziling nodded and said, "This ship is the real thing [orig. the Son of Heaven receiving true command; but I don't think in this context it refers to the Emperor].”
Bai Qing'er's ship was several hundred paces apart from the three suspicious ships, with more than a dozen ships and boats moored in between. Supposing Bai Qing'er was indeed Yin Gui Pai's female demon, this arrangement could not possibly be coincidental.
Ba Fenghan briefly explained, "As a matter of fact, all along my heart has been uneasy, because those three ships moored together like that is indeed too conspicuous, so unlike Yin Gui Pai's usual style. Now I am certain that those three ships are empty. They must be Yin Gui Pai's carefully laid out trap, to see whether someone would actually fall into it. Or perhaps the trap is set up for us.”
Song Shidao's heart was moved; he said, "We might as well try to beat them at their own game; perhaps it will be wonderfully effective instead.”
Ba Fenghan laughed and said, "If Yin Gui Pai found out that we can infer so many things from Bai Qing'er, they would surely be very upset. Brothers! It's action time! Maybe we'll even have enough time to catch a good show as well.”
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Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling sat on a fast boat that was nimbly weaving across the water in between the boats; they seemed to know exactly where they were going.
These days, in order to push Wang Shichong to act against Li Mi, Kou Zhong was so busy that he did not have time to spare. The remaining two would need to act as circumstances dictate; so now only two men went into action, which would not provoke the enemy's vigilance.
Moreover, without Kou Zhong, their strength weakened, which would make it easier to lure the enemy into making their move at them.
Frowning, Ba Fenghan said, "Yin Gui Pai people are surely as cunning as a fox; they have avoided the river, and still playing this kind of trick? If we were not lucky, we would definitely fall into their trap.”
"Are we going to charge aboard?” Xu Ziling asked, "All three ships are without any light. Simply this fact is enough to make it so noticeable. At least it will attract thieves; now is not the time of peace and prosperity.”
Ba Fenghan laughed and said, "If we charged randomly anywhere in Luoyang, there is a possibility we might come across a martial art master. The tactful people are all lying low until the fuss dies down, nobody dares to make any move at this time. Uh, we are here! Just straight ahead. Let's proceed, while acting cautious and solemn!”
Suddenly lowering his voice, Xu Ziling said, "Someone is watching us over there.”
Pressing down the urge to move toward Bai Qing'er's luxurious ship, Ba Fenghan said delightedly, "That is the best! Let's go up and smash around the ship a bit, see if they react. If no Yin Gui Pai people make appearance, that would mean they do not have enough strength in their ship to fight against us. As long as Junyu is really on board, we will rescue her immediately.”
Finished speaking, he rose up to his full height.
The three-mast ship ahead was looming larger and larger.
Pulling the oar, Xu Ziling also stood up.
Ba Fenghan gave the signal. Both men soared up at the same time, leaving the small boat behind, and as light as floating feather they landed on the deck on the bow, in front of the cabin.
The two pretended to act quickly; they broke the door and entered in, and then rushed into one of the cabins, just in time to look at Ba Qing'er's big ship through the window.
They saw shadows flashing on the ship; about seven or eight people soared and leaped from ship to ship, coming swiftly in their direction. As the shadows were coming nearer, from their shape it appeared that the majority of them were women. The two men smirked inwardly, since their tactic of luring the tigers out of their mountain seemed to be working.
From the incoming people, Xu Ziling recognized one of them as the Yin Fa Yan Mei ‘Silver-haired Amorous Demon' Dan Mei [in Book 9 Chapter 1, it was Yin Fa Mo Nu (Silver-haired Demoness)]. He spoke heavily, "Although there is no Zhu Yuyan or Wanwan, even Bian Bufu is not one of them, they are still coming with torrential momentum as if they are determined to destroy us. There must be two or three senior-level martial art masters from Yin Gui Pai, who arrived here just recently.”
Murderous aura was flashing continuously in Ba Fenghan's eyes; he spoke calmly, "We are absolutely not going to be lenient. One less Yin Gui Pai demon on the earth means less people will be harmed by them. Let's have them taste the hidden capability of the Jade Annulus of He Clan!”
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