This moment, Tuli's eyes were shining with delight; laughing aloud, he said, "Lao Furen [old madam], there's no need to be worried; as soon as we capture these two kids, having them kowtow to you and cry out to their Niang can be accomplished in just one word.”
Standing on the Bridge, Kou Zhong drew a mouthful of cold air; he whispered to Ba Fenghan, who was standing behind him, "Looks like this is the Tiele conspiracy that kid Fu Qian was talking about.”
Before he finished speaking, from Wanwan's side came the sound of rustling sleeves; four people swiftly came over, the leader was surprisingly the ‘Eagle' Qu Ao, behind him were his three disciples, Changshu Mou, Hua Lingzi and Genggehu'er.
The four of them stopped and stood behind Wanwan; cold and silent, acting as if they would definitely gobble the two men.
Now, in the air, on the ground, on the river, all escape routes have been sealed tight, a heavenly trap earthly net that even if they grew wings they still could not escape.
Only then did the two realized that the enemies actually represented four powerful factions, who had joined hands made secret agreement earlier to deal with the three of them. Fu Junyu's rescue was simply the trigger that led to the current situation.
Since leaving Ren En's nest earlier, their movements have already fallen under the enemy's watch. As soon as the enemy knew that they were heading toward the Tianjin Bridge, they mobilized men and horses from all sides, determined to intercept them at this transportation hub with roads open in all directions.
And now finally they managed to force the two into a corner. Other than fighting with all their might to the death, there was no other possibility. This was beyond their imagination.
Wanwan's pained and hazy beautiful eyes shot complicated expression; she sighed faintly and said, "Nujia no longer has any business here, ladies and gentlemen, brilliant Seniors, please do as you see fit! Nujia has something important I have to deal with.”
Tuli saluted and said, "Miss Wan, please do as you wish. When we have the opportunity later, I hope to know Miss Wan better.”
Just by looking at his expression, they knew that he was deeply moved by Wanwan's beauty.
As a matter of fact, all the men present, none did not look bewitched by her.
Wanwan gazed deeply at Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong, and then sighed again and said, "Ba Xiong, Kou Xiong, please take a good care of yourselves!”
She disappeared in a flash.
Although the two knew that she was going to hunt and attack Xu Ziling, they were powerless to even defend themselves, hence they could only stare blankly as she left.
Qu Ao took three steps forward, and stopped where Wanwan was standing a moment ago. Pulling up the hem of his robe, he tied it with his belt, and then throwing his head back in hearty laughter, he said, "For every grievance someone is responsible, for every debt there is a debtor. Today let me, Qu Ao, clear and purify the hatred of you killing my son. Kou Zhong, let laofu [old man] see, other than running away, what skill do you have?”
Kou Zhong turned around from behind Ba Fenghan's back. Patting the Moon in the Well on his back, he laughed aloud and said, "Old man Qu surely has guts. I only want to know, if fighting one-on-one you are not my match, will others come out to bail you out?”
Tuli on his right burst out laughing and said, "What an ignorant fellow indeed. Death is near at hand, yet still dare to speak conceited nonsense. Qu Dashi [great master], please make your move immediately, let me see if his blade is really as hard as his mouth.”
By only these few words it could be seen that Tuli was extremely shrewd. Because if he let Qu Ao answer himself, based on his rank, how could he let others to intervene? And if that happened, it would certainly be bad. As long as Kou Zhong was able to fight until both sides suffer, it would be a problem for anyone else to intervene or to help. Yet Tuli's remark also took Qu Ao's face into consideration, while blocking Kou Zhong's further remark at the same time. It was just a perfect diversion.
Standing behind Qu Ao, Changshu Mou laughed complacently and said, "I don't know if Kou Xiong is really muddleheaded or pretend to be muddleheaded. How could this time be an ordinary duel in accordance with outmoded Jianghu conventions? Two renxiong are crafty villains who deserve punishment to the death from everybody here; there is no need to use any etiquette and rules toward you.”
Although he was speaking with a hint of smile on his face, anybody could hear the deep resentment he had toward the two, so deep that all the water from three rivers and five lakes would not be able to wash it clean.
Kou Zhong laughed calmly. First, he cast a glance toward Ba Fenghan, whose expression was cold and stiff like a rock, and then he swept his gaze around the numerous powerful enemies surrounding them in siege so tight that even water could not leak through, and finally his eyes landed on Qu Ao. He said in astonishment, "Didn't Qu Dashi have a duel appointment with that kid with dragon beard at zi hour? What time is it now? You must not be delayed due to injury or maybe even death, otherwise uninformed people might think that Qu Dashi is afraid of the duel!”
Everybody, including You Chuhong, secretly admired Kou Zhong's guts. If it were other people, under this kind of circumstance, where he had become the target of a multitude of arrows, fully aware that it would be difficult to escape disaster, who could be like him, not only remaining calm and composed, his mouth was still very sharp, and acted as if he was immensely proud of himself?
Qu Ao was, after all, a grand master of a reputable school; at this critical moment before the battle, facing the opponent's frigid irony and scorching satire, he did not get angry. Leisurely pressing forward, he smiled and said, "To take care of you, do I need half a sichen? Make your move!”
Relentless momentum immediately burst out from his body.
Kou Zhong's spine bent slightly, his eyes ablaze with strange light; it was focused on Qu Ao, just like a leopard watching its prey approaching.
In the sky the moon and the stars compete with each other in showing off their splendor. The River Luo under the Bridge continued to flow. In this originally beautiful, bright and clear night, thick cloud of battle was looming over the Tianjin Bridge, spanning across the River Luo, connecting the north and south parts of the Eastern Capital.
The battle could happen any moment.
※ ※ ※
Xu Ziling stayed close to the riverbed right underneath the big ship of the Dugu Clan; he hesitated.
With martial art masters of You Chuhong and Dugu Feng's caliber on board, as soon as he pressed his hand on the hull of the ship and exerted his power, he might provoke the opponents' alertness, much less boring a hole on the bottom of the ship.
But he had no other choice.
He held out both palms and pressed them on the bottom of the ship; his ocean of qi continuously amassing true qi.
At the bottom of his heart, he was a bit nervous. Although true qi and palm power were oftentimes described as sharper than saber blade, whether it could be really used to cut just like using saber, especially when the object to be cut was as solid as the hull of a ship, still remained to be seen.
After all these years of studying meticulously, combined with training painstakingly, he had reached the level where he could send out and retract his true qi at will; strong or weak, fast or slow, even the way of sending out his power, spiraling or turning to certain direction, he could control it freely according to his heart's wish.
But he had never thought about controlling his true qi so that as it was being sent out, it would have a firm, yet supple and sharp, character.
During a battle with the enemy, he could rely on the changes of his fingertips, fists, and palms, to implement the true qi according to circumstances, but still had not tried sending out his true power in different form.
With his current level of cultivation, it was not a difficult thing to forcibly shock the hull of the ship to create a big hole, or perhaps using the tip of his palm to bore through the bottom of the ship. But by doing this, he would definitely not able to conceal his presence from the top martial art masters on board the ship.
And if that happened, his magic trick would not be effective anymore.
By this time his body was already full with explosive energy. Xu Ziling fiercely clenched his teeth, and let out a spiraling energy.
Originally his qi power flowed out of his palms rapidly and was yang and hard in nature, but now he changed it to unhurried, yin and soft. The force covered an area about six chi radius on the hull, with his palms at its center.
Unexpectedly the center responded to his palm; the hull sank, without creating disintegrating-wood sound.
Even Xu Ziling did not expect this to happen. Subconsciously his fingers stretched out toward the depressed part and jabbed into the hull. His fingers went straight into the wood, as if it was soft cookie dough.
Xu Ziling himself jumped in fright; he did not expect his internal energy to be this formidable.
He pulled his fingers out, leaving deep holes in the shape of his fingers. But since the hull was quite thick, it has not been penetrated yet.
He was just about to add a bit more power, when he suddenly discovered that on the depressed part, the wood was dissolving layer by layer.
While he was cheering inwardly, suddenly the alarm went off in his heart.
Ripples of waves came; obviously there was some kind of human activity under water.
Xu Ziling shivered inwardly.
He was being very careful; could it be that his presence has been detected by the enemy?
※ ※ ※
Although Kou Zhong was putting on a carefree, fearless act, without moving his lips too much, he asked Ba Fenghan, who was standing behind him to the left, leaning against the railing, "Which direction?”
Naturally Ba Fenghan understood what he meant, but he could only respond with a wry smile.
The enemy's power was really too strong. The only way out was to break the siege and escape. But choosing which direction they were going to run away was the most difficult decision they had to make.
On the surface, Tuoba Yu, martial brother and sister, who were guarding the southern bridgehead, were the weakest. But quite possibly it was a trap.
Ba Fenghan cast his gaze toward one of the multistory buildings; he saw a shadow flashing backward. "River Luo!” he answered in heavy voice.
Kou Zhong nodded to indicate he understood.
The Moon in the Well left its scabbard, and dashed toward Qu Ao, standing about three zhang away.
This moment, Ba Fenghan also shouted coldly, "Qu Ao, since when did you become Tujue people's running dog [orig. hawk and hound]?”
Even with his experience, Qu Ao was still startled by this extremely sarcastic remark; his momentum was immediately weakened by twenty percent.
It should be noted that the Tujues were powerful, while the Tieles were weak; hence Tiele people acknowledged allegiance to the Tujues; it was a reasonable and fair matter. Yet because Ba Fenghan brought up Qu Ao's association with the Tujues, his momentum appeared to be diminished.
Without waiting for anybody to respond, Ba Fenghan (although he started later, he arrived first) darted past Kou Zhong. The Beheading Mystery Sword, with the ten-thousand-catty thunderbolt momentum, hacked down on Qu Ao.
Angry shouts rose up all around. The enemies rushed over one after another trying to help. Ba Fenghan was only playing a trick, yet the entire situation was changed.
The more chaotic it was, the greater their chances of survival.
※ ※ ※
Looking at the situation unfolding before his eyes, Xu Ziling's scalp went numb, while inwardly he cried, ‘Lucky!'
As it turned out, the enemy was setting up two large net full with barbs inside the river on the left and right under the Tianjin Bridge, floating about half a chi below the surface. If Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan jumped into the river, it would be strange indeed if they were not captured alive.
Realizing there was no time to lose, from the bottom of the river Xu Ziling swam past the hidden net covering the water.