Meanwhile, Xu Ziling, under the bridge, has successfully cut a large hole on the hook-riddled net covering the river using a dagger, totally unnoticed. He held on to the cut net, to prevent it from being flushed away by the current and thus exposing his presence.
But the anxiety in his heart was hard to describe.
At the same time he regretted the trick he did to the bottom of the ship.
The hull of the ship might ‘dissolve' any moment and opened up a hole, then the water would pour into the ship hold and it would be difficult to hide it from You Chuhong and Dugu Feng upstairs. As soon as they figured out that somebody was hiding under water, his trick would not be effective anymore.
The other problem he was thinking about was coordination.
The enemy setup this net in the river, their objective was certainly to catch Ba Fenghan and Kou Zhong alive; so they must create some situation where the two would be pressured to think that the Luo River was their only way to escape. So Xu Ziling did not worry that the two would not take the river as their escape path, but he was concerned that they could not run away before the hull of the ship ruptured.
Right this moment, from under the shade of the ship he looked up and happened to see Qu Ao leaping into the air.
He nearly cheered in loud voice. His hesitation gone, he immediately took action.
The spear from Yan Lihui's right hand fell to the ground.
※ ※ ※
In the blink of an eye, the claw and the sword clashed rapidly seven times in succession. Both sides moved at lightning speed, both unleashed the entire power within their bodies. Although it was only a few moves, the intensity surpassed ordinary martial art masters exchanging hundreds or thousands moves in hard battle, generating some kind of magnificent-army-with-thousands-of-men-and-horses-in-a-face-off-on-the-battlefield, a desperate-battle-in-close-quarter-that-the-sun-and-the-moon-lose-their-luster tragic atmosphere, which affected everybody around the battle arena.
In fact, up to that moment, speaking purely in terms of power and moves, Ba Fenghan was still a notch below Qu Ao. But he was able to add diligence to his ability and wisdom, so he was able to use all kinds of tricks to frustrate this overbearing opponent's vigor and confidence. Also, because the opponent has been underestimating him, he was able to catch the opponent off-guard and thus gained a bit of advantage instead, so while the sharpness of his blade seemed diminishing, it was actually increasing without letup. From this, it could be seen that Ba Fenghan's innate talent was better than this grandmaster-level character, whose name shook the heavens inside and outside the Great Wall.
While having his eyes on the advantage before his eyes, he must take the most important step, which was paving the way for his escape; otherwise, he would not have any chance to escape at all.
Ba Fenghan let out a long, ear-splitting whistle as he shot out at an angle; like a rainbow his sword went straight toward Qu Ao, who was still about a zhang and a half in the air.
Of the other side, Kou Zhong was well aware that Ba Fenghan was telling him that the time to escape has come. Quickly, with the fierce-lion-seizing-the-rabbit speed, and powerful-and-elegant, all-out power, ‘Qiang!' he hacked down the steel spear coming at him from the left, and then using a fake movement of his body he repeated the previous attack, and when the three remaining enemies withdrew in shock, he suddenly turned around and darted toward Ba and Qu, two men's duel.
Shouting and yelling rose up from all around. Not only did Tuoba Yu and Changshu Mou, and the others, rush from both ends of the bridge, even Tuli also leaped from his ship and flew toward the two men.
On the Dugu Clan's side, other than You Chuhong, who was still sitting motionless in her chair, everybody, Dugu Feng included, drew their weapons, the archers strung their bows; the situation was extremely tense.
The master archers on the two tall buildings west of the Bridge no longer cared to conceal their presence; they appeared with arrows on their bows, waiting in tight formation.
The sword strike Ba Fenghan sent toward Qu Ao was a ‘skill from the bottom of his chest'. Not only was it the culmination of his life-long power, it was also imbued with the determination to perish together with the enemy. Furthermore, because he was leaping at an angle, his sword momentum enveloped the air over the bridge's railings. With Kou Zhong also charging from the middle of the bridge, unless Qu Ao was willing to stake everything he had until they both suffered, his only way out was to retreat to the air west of the Bridge.
It was the only way to stop the Tujue master archers on top of the buildings from firing their arrows if they did not want to hit Qu Ao, and thus eliminating one worry.
If they had to block only the arrows from about a dozen archers on Dugu Clan's ship, their confidence was naturally a lot higher.
Of course Qu Ao did not want to exchange his life for Ba Fenghan's. Extremely cooperative, even with a faint smile on his face, he changed his claw into a fist, and heavily punched the blade of Ba Fenghan's sword, and then, borrowing the reaction force, he soared into the air above the Luo River west of the Bridge.
This moment, Kou Zhong happened to catch up with them. Staying close to the bridge's railings, the two immediately jumped over to the water below.
By the time You Chuhong let out a burst of extremely unpleasant screeching-owl like laughter, a dozen or so powerful arrows already left the bows. ‘Swish! Swish!' the arrows flew toward the two men, covering a considerably large area. Unless the two blocked the arrows head-on, there was no way they could evade them.
‘Splash!' the water splashed.
A large net riddled with hooks, about two zhang long and two zhang wide, suddenly rose up from the water; like a wall it blocked all the powerful arrows, and it still had enough momentum to fly toward You Chuhong and the others. The power was astonishing, plus it happened unexpectedly, so that the enemy was at a loss of how to deal with it.
Tuli and the others already rushed toward the bridge's railings; they still were not sure what had happened when more than a dozen streams of water, joined together like a string of pearls, shot out from the River to attack everybody on the bridge. Even Qu Ao was no exception.
With their ability, faced with this kind of spiraling, full-strength, with accurate timing and position, with no gap to be found, streams of water used as weapon, even Tuli and Qu Ao were caught off-guard and were thrown into confusion. Actually, even Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan themselves, as they were entering the water, were unclear of what happened.
By the time the River was back to normal, the water calmed down enough so that once again it reflected the starlight and moonlight in the sky above and the lanterns in the human world below, the three men's shadow had been long gone; they managed to escape without any trace.
Dugu Clan's ship was starting to sink into the river.
※ ※ ※
Dripping wet, Kou and Ba, two men, climbed onto the small boat Xu Ziling hid earlier under the shade of willow trees by the bank of River Luo; they both had the feeling that they had just come back from the death.
Kou Zhong cast his gaze into the distance, looking at Dugu Clan's big ship by the Bridge, which, by this time, was starting to lean sideways as it was sinking. "It would be best if we can anger the old granny till her asthma flares out!” he said with delight.
Ba Fenghan was circulating his inner power to evaporate the water from his body; he said coldly, "We have been making noise here that the Luo River is flipped over, while Man Qing Yuan is only about a dozen blocks away, yet there was not half a man coming to say hello. This is a perfect example of human relationship is changing daily with the temperature.”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, "Who did not wish of us fighting desperately with the enemy until we are defeated and all of us injured? They didn't come to stick their foot and deal with us, that was already very polite of them.”
"How about Yu Yi?” Kou Zhong asked anxiously, "How come you, Xiao Ling, suddenly came? But luckily you came, otherwise Ol' Ba and me would be the fish inside the net with hook injuries all over our bodies.”
After briefly explaining everything, Xu Ziling said to Ba Fenghan, "All in all, Princess still have some feeling toward you!”
With a pained smile on his face, Ba Fenghan spoke indifferently, "At one time or another, both I and Li Shimin might have really moved her heart, but in the deepest part of her heart, the one really close to her heart is you, Xu Ziling. That is the truth.”
Afraid that Xu Ziling would be embarrassed, Kou Zhong changed the subject, "But does she really have the ability to take Yu Yi out of the city without the gods knowing the ghosts detecting it? Shouldn't we try to protect her?”
Ba Fenghan flatly replied, "Dong Ming Pai must have a very subtle relationship with Yin Gui Pai, or they would not know that we have rescued Junyu. Not only that, Madame Dong Ming is a first class martial art master; even Zhu Yuyan does not dare to easily provoke her, not to mention Zhu Yuyan is currently not in Luoyang. Therefore, they have more confidence in sending her out than we do. If we intervene, we would arouse Wanwan's suspicion instead.”
Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong nodded their head in agreement.
Right now, their biggest advantage was that Yin Gui Pai had no idea that Fu Junyu was inside Dong Ming Pai's huge ship, and that Song Shidao was involved in this matter. In terms of talent, knowledge and martial art skill, this man was a superior specimen.
Only now did Kou Zhong copy Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling in circulating his internal energy to evaporate the water from his body. His eyes flickering, he said, "If we don't avenge this hatred, we are not real men. What should we do?”
Ba Fenghan's face shone with murderous aura; a cold smile, as cold as ice and snow, appeared on the corner of his lips, but his voice was unusually gentle and soft, as he spoke lightly, as if he did not have any care in the world, "Soon it will be the zi hour. Zhong Shao, don't you have an appointment to see Song Jingang?”