Book 15 Chapter 4 - Bearded Visitor From The East
The glorious lantern lights illuminated the entire river bend and both banks of the river around the huge ship as it sailed speedily toward the Tianjin Bridge.
The sails have been lowered, the ship was relying entirely on the eighteen oars on each side, pushing the water to move it forward.
Wind lanterns were hanging along the side of the ship at one step intervals, so close together so that the lanterns practically outlining the contours of the whole ship, creating a surreptitious, indescribable impression.
Above the main deck was a two-story bridge; the top level had the helm and the observation platform, on which more than a dozen men and women were standing at random. But Kou Zhong and the others, three men, only saw one person.
Because this man was like a crane in a flock of chicken, all at once he attracted their attention so that they had no time to take notice of the other people.
This lordly gentleman looked to be around thirty, wearing barbarian attire, with long bushy beard on his face, tall and majestic; compared to the people around him, he was at least half a head taller, he was perhaps of the same height with Kou Zhong, three men.
Although he was standing with his hands behind his back, he was able to make people feel that he had a lofty mountain, high peak, outstanding, out of the ordinary, spirit, a heroic, overbearingly imposing style.
His face, surrounded by the bushy beard, was actually clear, amazing, and heroic. Although his cheekbones were high, his nose was big, grand and powerful. His eyes were surprisingly thin, but the pupils inside them were bright and flashing with clear, deep, and intelligent radiance, as he was sizing up Xu and the others, three men, from a distance.
Both on his left and right stood two beautiful women, but in the eyes of the three men, they were not as attractive as this dragon-bearded man brimming with masculine charm.
Facing the huge boat that was still twenty zhang away but fast approaching them, Kou Zhong shouted, "Who's there? If you come for us, report your name. I, Kou Zhong, am not interested in killing an unnamed nobody.”
The last sentence was, naturally, the bold, visionary words that Ba Fenghan spoke toward Hou Xibai, and indeed it showed aggressiveness.
Ba Fenghan smiled.
Xu Ziling was silent, but he was circulating his breathing to treat his injury.
Shi Feixuan's sword qi was a rare, innate qi. If not for his foundation came from Taoist School's secret treasure, the ‘Secret to Long Life', plus his meridians have undergone transformation by the Jade Annulus of He Clan's special power, perhaps he could not fully recover for the rest of his life.
At that time he felt that at the last moment Shi Feixuan withdrew some of her true qi; supposing it were not so, perhaps he would have to suffer for several days.
Since the engagement began, although Shi Feixuan appeared to send swift and severe offensive, the fact was that the attacks were well-measured, purely to test him out, without any intention to harm him.
This woman had a not-eating-the-food-of-common-mortals kind of noble character. Compared to Princess Dong Ming, Shang Xiuxun, women of high position and status, she had different noble air, making her towering above those other women, making her extremely unique.
A long laugh awakened Xu Ziling from his deep contemplation, so that he could not help shivering inwardly.
He had never given any woman this much thought.
The dragon-bearded man's voice rose up, "Kou Zhong must be joking! Xiaodi Fu Qian; coming with specific purpose of making friends with three gentlemen and paying my respect!”
He spoke perfect Chinese with very articulate pronunciation and vocalization, paying particular attention to the tone of each word, so that he could be considered half a notch above Ba Fenghan, who had left home to make his way in the world for many years.
From his appearance and his dragon-beard trademark, the three had already guessed who he was, hence hearing his response, they were not surprised at all. The only thing they did not expect was that he would look this formidable and overbearing, his heroic aura covered the sky.
The huge ship's speed was decreasing, otherwise the mast, which came out to two zhang above the bridge, would shake and break the bridge, and even the lid of the top level of the bridge would not survive.
His deep, manly, and sweet-sounding voice vanished, Ba Fenghan smiled and said, "Fu Xiong's great name is like thunder piercing the ear, ol' Ba admire it very much. But there is one thing I am not clear; I want to ask for guidance!”
Thunderous shout boomed from the belly of the ship. At precisely the same time, thirty-six men cried out as if it came from one person's mouth.
Thirty-six oars reversed direction at the same time; the giant ship miraculously stopped on the surface of the River, maintaining about three zhang distance between the bow and the bridgehead. Fu Qian and the other dozen or so people happened to stand at the same elevation as the bridgehead, so that as they spoke, neither side was put in an awkward position of one was higher or lower than the other.
On the surrounding area, the lanterns were dim; only this section by the Tianjin Bridge the Luo River was ablaze with light, even the moon and the stars in the sky were eclipsed.
Due to the movement of the giant ship, bigger waves slapped the embankments, creating louder rustling noise.
Other than that, everything else was so quiet and harmonious.
The oars kept moving in such an ingenious way that the huge ship stayed unmoving in the middle of the river.
Fu Qian calmly replied, "Ba Xiong need not be hesitant to ask, Xiaodi won't hide anything I know, I won't stop before I have said it through.”
Ba Fenghan's eyes flashed with cold rays; he spoke coldly, "Fu Xiong hid the ship nearby, and suddenly appeared. Your timing is accurate, I wonder what do you intend to do?”
These words bore no trace of politeness, but Ba Fenghan could not be blamed. Because Fu Qian and Wang Bo were intimately related, it would be easy to make an associative connection that Fu Qian came with malicious motive.
The people standing around Fu Qian revealed a displeased expression on their faces. The two Tuyuhun women by Fu Qian's sides even showed disdain, as if they were blaming Ba Fenghan for failing to appreciate their kindness.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were accustomed to Ba Fenghan's no nonsense attitude toward anybody; they did not feel it strange at all.
Surprisingly, Fu Qian did not take offense as well; laughing aloud, he said, "There are three reasons: one, Xiaodi loves to join in the fun. This time I came to the Central Plains, this is the main reason.”
The three did not expect him to be this forthcoming. He said clearly that while the Central Plains was in chaos, he came to take this advantage of fishing in troubled water.
Kou Zhong scanned the entourage standing by his side, the oldest looked no more than forty years old, every single one of them had bulging taiyang acupoints [on the temples], their eyes were flickering brightly; obviously Fu Qian's martial art masters were as numerous as the cloud, his strength must not be scorned. Only Kou Zhong did not know whether Xing Mofei, who spoke in public at the Man Qing Yuan the other night, was one of them. Thereupon he said with a cold snort, "Joining the fun sometimes requires that you pay the price. I wish Fu Xiong to have propitious wind throughout your journey!”
From Song Yuzhi, he knew that Fu Qian had ‘special interest' toward them. And with Song Yuzhi's shrewdness, if she said so, she must have strong reason, and not something that she shot without aiming.
A young man standing behind Fu Qian was about to open his mouth in retort, but this martial art master from the Tuyuhun King's Clan signaled him to stop, and then, remaining tranquil and calm, he laughed and said, "Xiaodi came to the Central Plains, from the beginning I haven't had the enjoyment of roaming the mountains and playing in the waters; many thanks for Kou Xiong's concern. As for the second reason, Xiaodi wants to destroy Tiele people's conspiracy; I don't want Qu Ao, Tuli's crafty scheme prevails. And the last reason: I want to see if three gentlemen have time to spare to have your honorable selves onto my humble boat to drink and chat until daybreak?”
Ba Fenghan threw his head back and laughed aloud; he said, "Fu Xiong's two good intentions, we appreciate very much! Right now we only want to find a place to stay for the night and have a good sleep. Please!”
A thin smile appeared on the corner of Fu Qian's mouth; nodding, he said, "Three gentlemen are indeed exceptional heroes, ol' Fu admires you.”
The oars moved, the huge ship went in reverse.
And then the lanterns went off, as the ship disappeared in the dark river bend.
※ ※ ※
The sound of turning wheels against the flagstone, mixed with the hoof beats of the mules, came from the street down below.
Kou Zhong stretched his limbs before opening his eyes and sat up. Xu Ziling had already woke up; he was standing against the railing of a bell and drum tower located on the northern bank of the Luo River, gazing into the distance at the Tianjian Bridge spanning across the River. It was not clear whether he was thinking about his encountered with Shi Feixuan the previous night.
Ba Fenghan was sitting cross-legged in meditation, closing himself out of anything that was happening around him. The Beheading Mystery Sword was lying flat across his legs.
Kou Zhong sprang up and walked over to Xu Ziling's side.
Outside the tower, the drizzle continued; it was as if the entire Luo River had fallen into a vast expanse of mist whiteness.
Kou Zhong took a deep breath of the early morning air mixed with the fog. Looking far into the distance, across the misty rain, he sighed and said, "It's really nice! We are still alive, and had just had a great night's sleep.”
Xu Ziling noticed that Kou Zhong's left hand was fiddling with the pendant on his chest, at the end of the chair hanging from his neck. He asked in surprise, "Why this sudden interest of the pendant?”
Kou Zhong replied in delight, "I forgot to tell you, I met its original owner last night.”
Xu Ziling was stunned, "You met Chuchu?” he asked.
Kou Zhong got this pendant when they were at Zhai Rang's Big Boss Mansion. Chuchu went with Zhai Jiao to take refuge. Just before they left, she had Susu hand the pendant to Kou Zhong [See Book 4 Chapter 12].
Recalling this matter, he really felt as if it all happened a lifetime ago.