Book 16 Chapter 4 - Three Persons One Heart
Qu Ao has fought with Ba Fenghan several times before; thinking that he knew Ba Fenghan's foundation very well, naturally he was not afraid of him. With a cold snort he spread out both arms to separately grab Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong. As soon as he made his move, he was using his outstanding skill, the ‘Thirteen-Style Eagle Transformation', with the intention of taking the enemy's life.
His pair of claws, along with rapid footwork, sealed all the enemy's possible attack routes. It was also good at seizing the enemy's weapon; indeed a very formidable skill.
When his thirteen-style was unleashed to its full potential, his hands seemed to move in and out between nothingness and reality, alternating between appearing and hidden, as if empty but appeared to be fantasy, so that it was impossible to defend effectively.
Last time Ba Fenghan nearly lost his life precisely under this claw, hence the reason before making his move, he deliberately sought to weaken Qu Ao's momentum. Next, he wanted to rely on the breakthrough he obtained from the Jade Annulus of He Clan to sap Qu Ao's confidence.
However, for a figure of grand master level like Qu Ao, regardless of any setback he suffered, it would be hard to shake the deep roots he gained through hard work and numerous trials and tribulations. To defeat him was easier said than done, and to kill him was nearly impossible. Therefore, if Ba Fenghan's objective was to frustrate him, he must use a ‘startling the heaven's trick' that exceed all expectations. Not only in term of skill, but also involved xinfa, knowledge and scheming, and strategy; all aspects working together in well-coordinated attack.
As Ba Fenghan was charging forward, Kou Zhong was withdrawing to evade Qu Ao's claw wind instead, and leaping on top of the bridge's railings. Immediately arrows whizzed by. The fifteen master archers on Dugu Clan's ship shot a net of arrows. Supposing he wanted to jump down the river to escape, he must think of a way not to become a porcupine first.
But Kou Zhong's move was purely to ‘test the water'.
Upon self-examination, he knew that although he had confidence of blocking the arrows shot from the ship, he would not be able to evade the cold arrows being shot from the top of the tall buildings while covering the distance from the bridge to the river.
The most dangerous moment was the time just before entering the water; due to the drag force induced by the water, his speed would slow down, which would make him an easier target for the arrows.
Let alone on the enemy's ship there were still martial art masters like You Chuhong, Dugu Feng, and the others, who were glaring at him like a tiger watching its prey. As soon as they released secret projectiles, or perhaps palm wind or long-distance palm power, his little life would be in great danger.
After crying out to his Niang inwardly, Kou Zhong somersaulted back to the middle of the Bridge. This moment Ba Fenghan and Qu Ao have just clashed briefly.
Seeing Kou Zhong withdrew to the middle of the Bridge, Tuoba Yu, martial brother and sister, and Changshu Mou, three people, who were originally standing at either end of the Bridge, swarmed forward and stopped at about five zhang distance from him, forming a siege and watching him closely.
But Dugu Feng and the ‘Twin Spears General' Yan Lihui and another Tujue's martial art master, who leaped up from the Dugu Clan's and Tuli's ships, respectively, from the left and right of the Bridge, did not stop right away.
From their responses, the difference in these people's skill could be clearly seen; in fact, it was quite glaring.
When Dugu Feng saw that Kou Zhong did not cooperate with Ba Fenghan for a joint attack toward Qu Ao, satisfied that everything was still according to plan, unexpectedly she took a breath in the air, and somersaulted back onto the ship. Her posture was elegant and pleasing to the eye, just like moving clouds and flowing water, totally at ease, without the slightest bit of awkwardness.
Yan Lihui and his companion, on the other hand, did not have this kind of ability. Plus by nature Tujue people were dauntless and they are fierce fighters. Taking advantage of their momentum as they were leaping from the sky, they pounced on Kou Zhong with twin spears and a single saber, like howling wind and torrential rain storming on Kou Zhong.
Kou Zhong seemed to turn a blind eye toward the enemy's wolf or tiger-like offensive. Standing proudly in the middle of the Bridge, he laughed aloud and said, "We two of us can make you, ladies and gentlemen, spending so much painstaking effort; this is indeed a glorious!”
As he spoke the last ‘glorious' word, suddenly he flashed sideways, evading Yan Lihui's twin spears, while the Moon in the Well solidly blocked the other Tujue martial art master's saber hacking down from the air.
On the other side, it appeared that Qu Ao's claw was about to grab Ba Fenghan's Beheading Mystery Sword; who would have thought that as his fingertips nearly touched the sword's blade, like magic Ba Fenghan's Beheading Mystery Sword suddenly dropped three cun down. And then within the narrow space of less than half a chi it suddenly moved again to attack the palm of Qu Ao's right hand, which was shaped like the eagle's talon.
Even a seasoned fighter like Qu Ao could not help shivering in fear for the shock.
His seemingly simple claw was in fact the culmination of his sixty years of combat experience, the result of his insight and judgment.
The position he was stepping into was the dead corner on Ba Fenghan's left flank, where the Beheading Mystery Sword's threat was the weakest. First of all, it would force the opponent to change move if he wanted to meet the attack. Secondly, his claw has reached the changing-something-rotten-into-something-magical, the abandoning-the-nimble-embracing-the-clumsiness, expert level, by using simple rule to estimate of the opponent's angle of attack and speed to seize victory. But he never expected that not only the opponent neither dodged nor flashed away, his power was increasing greatly as well; how could his heart not be horror-stricken?
The Beheading Mystery Sword suddenly poked upward toward the artery on his wrist.
Qu Ao was shocked beyond shocked. He retracted his right hand, kept his shoulders stay still, his right foot kicked forward; his target was Ba Fenghan's left ankle. It was an extremely sinister attack.
Ba Fenghan let out a slight smile of disdain; with a strange footstep, his sword moved to his left hand, the sword momentum suddenly flared out, enveloping Qu Ao, whose acute spirit and confidence had taken a big hit, and dazzling him in the shadow of the sword's brilliant rays of light.
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Without any fancy move or changes, the two sabers collided with each other.
Spiraling energy shot out.
His meridians strengthened, Kou Zhong's capacity, as well as the speed, in sending out his true qi has enjoyed tremendous boost; it truly had the ‘easily-repelling-a-thousand-army' potential.
The Tujue martial art master had just leaped over the distance of nearly six zhang, his power and momentum had been nearly used up; as soon as the two brute forces met, he suffered major losses.
That man, along with his saber, was struck by Kou Zhong that he flew out of the Bridge like a blown leaf or floating cotton, while spurting a mouthful of blood, and fell down into the Luo River between the bridge and the ship.
Letting out a long laughter, Kou Zhong said, "Is that it? Ha! Just so-so!”
With extreme ease the Moon in the Well parried every single one of Yan Lihui's twin spears attack that came down randomly like rain on him, producing sharp and clear ringing noise like the sound of rain on banana leaf, which was quite pleasing to hear.
This moment Tuli leaped from his ship to catch his injured man before he fell into the water.
From his side, four men leaped out to help cleaning up the hatred of their associate being struck by the saber.
You Chuhong's hands have been itching by now; she was eager to give it a try, but she had to take her status into consideration, hence seeing this, she had no choice but to let the Tujues send out their troops first.
It was as if Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan had received the Heaven's help; their martial art skill was really beyond their imagination.
Ba Fenghan vs Qu Ao's duel was even more shocking.
Qu Ao already carried out more than ten different styles and only after suffering untold hardships he was finally able to sweep Ba Fenghan's Beheading Mystery Sword with the tip of his palm.
In fact, after the duel has been going on thus far, it was the first time that the two combatants had actual contact; hence the cunning, fantastical and dangerous nature of the duel could be easily imagined.
Ba Fenghan felt that the sword in his hand was like being hit by a hammer nine times in a row; the shock made his wrist went numb. ‘Formidable!' he inwardly cried. When the Beheading Mystery Sword was returning to his right hand, Qu Ao immediately seized this opportunity to soar into the air to unleash the full potential of the ‘Thirteen-Style Eagle Transformation'.
But he did not know that it was precisely what Ba Fenghan has been waiting for.
Letting out a long laugh, he said, "Qu Ao, your grand days have passed, otherwise, how could you fall into my trap?” Lightning fast his sword stabbed straight upward. Immediately bright light flared out, followed by faint rumbling like far-away thunder, which came very naturally; each sword strike carried earth-shattering power, which he seemed to hide all along, and released everything at once only now, hoping to end the battle in the shortest time possible.
On the other side, the Twin Spears General Yan Lihui let out a miserable groan as his shoulder was hit by the saber. Like a kite with cut string he flew about a zhang away, and landed in front of Tuoba Yu, martial brother and sister. One spear was thrown off of his hand, rendering him unable to continue the battle.
Kou Zhong stood proudly with the saber across his chest, quietly waiting for the four Tujue martial art masters rapidly arriving overhead.
In his busyness, he still had the time to leisurely sweeping his gaze around the battle arena.
He saw the cold laugh hidden on Tuli's face. Not only did he not seem to care about his two men suffering injuries one after another, he even looked like he still had a card up his sleeve, remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos.
The Dugu Clan ship on the other side, the hard-headed and explosive old woman You was still sitting quietly on her imperial tutor chair, while the younger generations of her Clan respectfully surrounded her like stars surrounding the moon. She was speaking in low voice with the glamorous Dugu Feng in calm demeanor, as if she did not have any concern that the two men were gaining the upper hand.
From behind Tuoba Yu, two men rushed forward to quickly move the seriously injured Yan Lihui, who was lying on the ground, away.
While Changshu Mou and the others, three persons appeared to have their full attention watching their master dealing with Ba Fenghan, they did not show any sign of coming forward to join the battle.
Kou Zhong was an extremely astute person; for the first time that night he felt that something was wrong, but the enemies have arrived, he did not have the leisure to ponder over this matter. Quickly he raised his saber to parry.
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