Shi Feixuan sighed and said, "And this is the third reason Feixuan has no choice but to make my move. Because of the theft of the Jade Annulus of He Clan, Dashi [great master/reverend, common term to address Buddhist monks] had to break his vow of silent meditation that he had already cultivated for many years. Feixuan fells even more guilty, and had to make exception by personally making my move.”
Frowning, Kou Zhong said, "Even if the Jade Annulus of He Clan was not taken by us, the battle tonight is still inevitable, isn't it? In that case, which sacred self would be my, Zhong Shao's opponent?”
Remaining calm in the midst of chaos, Shi Feixuan said, "As long as Kou Xiong and Ba Xiong do not strive to make your move, how could Feixuan offend you? I just want to confirm whether Xu Xiong's xinfa [Translator's note: so far I translated this as ‘mental cultivation'; I am starting to think that I need a better translation] from the ‘Secret to Long Life' is drawn from the unusual power of the treasured jade annulus imperial seal!”
Kou and Ba immediately cursed their own stupidity for neglecting the fact that Shi Feixuan's swordsmanship also came from the highest art of their mysterious school, ‘Ci Hang Jian Dian' [lit. sword canon of Ci Hang]; perhaps she really could see through whether Xu Ziling had the capability to steal the treasure. In which case, they still could not dispute it even if they had a hundred arguments. The only way would be to escape as far as possible, and unless they knew for sure that they could defeat Shi Feixuan, they might as well not to show themselves in Jianghu.
At the same time, they both felt lucky. After absorbing the energy from the Jade Annulus of He Clan, perhaps Xu Ziling's power xinfa became so superior that even Shi Feixuan would fail to ‘recognize' it?
However, the other possibility would be that as soon as they fought, Shi Feixuan would immediately see through that Xu Ziling indeed possessed the unusual energy from the Jade Annulus of He Clan. This would be disastrous.
The two flipped back and forth between these two contradicting thoughts; advancing or retreating, they would lose. Should the refuse, or accept gladly?
The first attitude would show clearly that they were thieves lacking in confidence; the second attitude was a trap, with even more worrying consequences.
Shi Feixuan's personality was just like her sword: difficult to ward off. And she has hit their weak point.
On the surface, the two were, naturally, as calm and composed as usual, without disclosing the storm in their heart.
On the contrary, the person involved, i.e. Xu Ziling, remained confident and at ease; he smiled and said, "Miss has this kind of validation art, it is indeed what Zaixia wanted to seek but failed to get. Please!”
Shi Feixuan took two - seemingly very casual, steps forward; immediately a burst of dense, fierce without equal, momentum enveloped all three men.
The three shivered inwardly.
Her two seemingly simple steps were like moving clouds and flowing water that gave out a fantastic feeling of a dam cutting off the flow of water; clearly it was some kind of first-class, profound and esoteric footwork style. Otherwise, how could mere two steps express movement and talent strung together, and express her prowess as well?
They could also feel her essence and qi power was closing in tightly; as soon as one of them revealed any gap, she would immediately draw her sword to attack. And the attack must be of a ten-thousand-catty-thunder strong, which was impossible to withstand.
In that instant, she already grasped the advantageous offensive position.
Shi Feixuan's pretty face radiated a pure and holy glow, making others did not dare to have any morbid and sacrilegious thought, and were deeply ashamed.
Xu Ziling's tiger-eyes suddenly burst an unprecedented strange light as he took a stride forward.
In response, Shi Feixuan's generated fierce sword qi was immediately concentrated on him.
While using all his power to resist Shi Feixuan, who was standing proudly about eight paces away at the head of the Bridge, Xu Ziling spoke coldly, "Zhong Shao and Fenghan Xiong, please move aside slightly, let Xiaodi have a taste of ‘Sword Canon of Ci Hang', the matchless sword technique in the world.”
Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong took the opportunity to move separately to the left and right, leaving the two combatants standing face-to-face amassing their power.
Night breeze was blowing from the River Luo, but the two combatants' sleeves were not affected at all.
The man was casual and elegant; the woman was graceful like a fairy. Watching them was like watching a pair of matching jade annulus made in Heaven; who would have imagined that they were about to fight, so much so that it would be a life and death battle?
Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong were standing on either side of the long street. Although they had great confidence at Xu Ziling's martial art skill and his intelligence, but his opponent this time was the preeminent swordswoman who came from the number one holy land under the heavens; plus the two were worried about their personal gains and losses, hence their hearts were burning with anxiety.
Far away, on the street at the other end of the bridge, Reverend Liao Kong, holding the copper bell in his hand, stood quietly, acting as Shi Feixuan's backup.
As for how many people were lurking in the dark, perhaps nobody knew for sure.
The barge that was sailing under the bridge a moment ago came back, and even stopped under the bridge. A faint silhouette of someone sitting on the deck was seen, giving out a mysterious flavor.
To Xu Ziling, who was in a standoff against Shi Feixuan, it was a totally different flavor.
It was only this moment that he finally understood why Wanwan, with all her brilliance, was still afraid of Shi Feixuan and did not dare to make her move so easily. Because from head to toe, this woman could really reached the extraordinary ‘qi controls the momentum' stage, where without the sword leaving its sheath, she could already injure the enemy using the sword qi.
The most terrifying thing was that under her without-any-distracting-thought, deep, clear and bright beautiful gaze, it was so easy for the opponent to lose his will to fight, and thus would greatly reduce his originally unyielding, focused, matchless momentum.
Her bearing, movements, every frown and every smile, not only left deep, unforgettable impression on others, her graceful, flawless, leaving-nothing-to-be-desired personality did not have the least bit of blemish at all.
It should be noted that with Xu Ziling's eyesight, tempered over many years of battle all over the world, coupled with his unique innate talent, he has already reached the Grand Master level.
Even against superior masters of Qu Ao's caliber, he was able to tell the depths of their skill in just one glance, hence he was able to decide whether to stake it all or to escape.
But facing this immortal-and-sage-like, otherworldly beauty, he was completely unable to grasp the depth of her skill, or even the strength or weakness of her true character, and as a result, he was unable to develop any strategy.
Shi Feixuan was also sizing up the opponent with full concentration.
Even in this time of two strong opponents facing each other, her mood remained transparent and ethereal, without the slightest desire to kill or to boast.
Strictly speaking, although she received mandate from her Master and has not shaven her head to take the oath as a nun, she could definitely be considered an outside-person who spread out the religious practice of Buddhism.
Other than Hou Xibai, there has never been any young man who leaves the least bit of impression in her heart. But the young martial art master in front of her eyes had a kind of hard-to-describe personality, so that a feeling of tenderness and sympathy grew in her heart. Plus his martial art skill was much higher than she imagined. Since her debut, rarely had she encountered such opponent.
These were all the perceptions that grew in her heart during the standoff. They would not affect her mood at all, much less her swordsmanship.
By the time her sword leaves its sheath, all distracting thoughts would vanish like smoke in thin air, without leaving any trace at all.
Thinking to this point, Shi Feixuan sighed inwardly, and then refocused her mind.
The treasured sword left its sheath.
One stream of no-stronghold-one-cannot-overcome sword qi shot out from the tip of the sword, piercing the air, straight toward Xu Ziling.
Xu Ziling stretched out his right hand, drawing a flawless small circle.
Sword qi and palm power collided. Xu Ziling's was severely shaken; he staggered half a step back.
Shi Feixuan was still as graceful and serene as ever.
In the midst of this vicious-weapons-dangerous-battle moment, she still gave out the impression that she was hiding in a cluster of dense, fragrant orchids, pacing back and forth in a deep valley on a remote mountain.
Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan had never imagined that her sword qi was this formidable; it has practically reached the splitting-the-air-to-attack-the-enemy, freely-according-to-her-wishes stage. But worrying right now would be useless.
The former called out, "Miss, have you tested it out?”
Shi Feixuan's pretty eyebrows were slightly knitted; toward Kou Zhong's cry, that was an obvious attempt to distract her mind, she simply regarded it as a bad smell, but toward Xu Ziling's move, her fragrant heart was actually greatly astonished.
Her sword technique was the highest xinfa of the mysterious school; as soon as she made contact with the opponent, she would be able to detect the other's actual depth; thereby she could determine whether Xu Ziling had the ability to harness the special power of the Jade Annulus of He Clan.
However, when their true qi clashed just now, Xu Ziling was sending out a fantastic vortex of energy, which completely sealed and blocked her ‘exploration', so that her true qi failed to penetrate his meridians to incite proper reaction.
Xu Ziling was finally relieved, albeit only slightly.
Before the zi hour, he intentionally spent two sichen in sleep-meditation, it was precisely to deal with this situation. Under normal circumstances, he could not surpass Kou Zhong's hundred-tactic acumen. But it was not because his talent was inferior; rather, it was due to his character who did not like to contend against others. However, in critical junctures like this, he would always come up with amazing idea that even Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong would have to prostrate themselves in admiration. From this, it was clear that his ability and wisdom was actually very superior.
Although Xu Xingzhi's tactics were brilliant, Xu Ziling had already realized that he stole the treasure would be the only flaw.
Because although outward appearance could be imitated, martial art would not lie.
His original target was Liao Kong, because Liao Kong used to sit facing the wall studying the Jade Annulus of He Clan, hence he was deeply familiar with its characteristic, and should be qualified to determine whether Xu Ziling had the ability to control and resist the Jade Annulus of He Clan.
Supposing Xu Ziling did not absorb the Jade Annulus of He Clan's special power, this moment not only he did not need to be afraid, he would be happy to let the opponent test him. It was because he was basically unable to control the Jade Annulus of He Clan that Bu Chi's staff, with its ten-thousand-catty-thunder-power, coincidentally dissolved him from critical circumstances and brought him greatest fortune instead.
But now that his meridians had been flushed open by the treasured jade annulus' extraordinary power, he could not erase the evidence that he had come in contact with the treasure. Therefore, his two sichen of sleep was not in vain at all; rather, he made use of that time to take the blending of the Jade Annulus of He Clan's special power and his own true qi one step further, to a different from of qi power, that even Liao Kong, or perhaps Shi Feixuan, would find it hard to identify.
Presently, although they were still at an early stage, even a brilliant master like Shi Feixuan felt it difficult to affirm.
Although admittedly luck also played an important role here.
Were it not for the fact that Shi Feixuan had never fought with him in the past, this moment she would have been able to sense the difference in his true qi.
Staring at him without blinking, she spoke softly, "The sword in Feixuan's hand is called ‘Color Empty' [色空], specializing in defending the heart. Xu Xiong, watch out!”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, "Miss Shi, please enlighten me!”
The moment two great martial art masters contended against each other in terms of real talent and solid skill has finally arrived.
Xu Ziling's clothes suddenly looked like he was facing a gale; it stuck closed to front part of his body, while the corner of his sleeves fluttered backward as if blown away by violent storm, creating an extremely weird scene.
Shi Feixuan remained calm as ever, but her pretty eyes were growing brighter and brighter; even the Color Empty Sword seemed to be glowing with brilliant light.
Overwhelmed with amazement, Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan's countenance changed; they knew that in term of imposing manner, Xu Ziling had already fallen into an absolutely disadvantageous position.
The Color Empty Sword finally made its move.