Book 16 Chapter 8 - The Battle of Imperial Road
Like a whirlwind Ba Fenghan turned around; his back straightened, his shoulders squared, immediately he exuded a powerful momentum of ‘one man standing in the middle of the road, ten-thousand army cannot breakthrough', directed toward the enemy riders in the distance.
The dozen or so riders, who were now galloping straight toward him, immediately pulled their reins.
Although Tiele people were experts in fighting on horseback, but in front of a martial art master like Ba Fenghan, who had been waiting with stored momentum, nobody dared to fright with him from the horseback.
As one after another they spread out, Ba Fenghan's imposing manner soared even higher. With a low shout he strode forward.
The incoming riders were a group of Tiele elite fighters headed by Qu Ao, including his three disciples: Changshu Mou, Hua Lingzi and Genggehu'er.
Ba Fenghan blocking their way was totally beyond their expectation.
In fact, Ba Fenghan's narrow escape in a situation where escaping was more difficult than ascending the heavens just now has dealt a severe blow to Qu Ao's confidence; hence the reason he had to find a quiet place to meditate for a moment before he had the courage to meet his appointment with Fu Qian.
Yet Ba Fenghan unexpectedly chose this moment to intercept him, alone. Anybody would be amazed and baffled, completely failed to understand, Ba Fenghan's self-confidence and valiant action.
Merely in term of imposing manner alone Ba Fenghan had already seized the initiative.
One after another the horses withdrew about a hundred paces or so, while the riders dismounted, filling the street with their whinnying sound.
Qu Ao really wish he could look around to see any trace of Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, to guard against these two boys launching sneak attack from the side, but he really could not take his eyes off of the enemy pressing down on him, for fear that any distraction would result in total defeat.
Whether he was willing to admit or not, Ba Fenghan has become an adversary that was on par with him.
Qu Ao flew down from his mount, and shouted in low voice, "Take the horse away! Hold your troops!”
Changshu Mou, who was standing behind him, asked in consternation, "Why would Shizun [venerable master] pay attention to him? Just let us take care of him!”
This moment Ba Fenghan was only about fifty paces away, his momentum was increasing without letup, his burning eyes were fixed on Qu Ao.
Qu Ao sighed inwardly. Although Changshu Mou has received his authentic teaching and had risen to the rank of first class martial art masters, but all along he could not match Ba Fenghan, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong, these young martial art masters with overflowing talent; hence he failed to see the subtleties of this matter.
If Qu Ao refused to fight, an impossible-to-get-rid-of shadow would appear in his heart, thus would hamper his confidence in the upcoming duel against Fu Qian. The most difficult to endure was that the opponent was blocking his way alone. This kind overbearing, domineering prowess would even bring about an indelible impression in his heart. The next time they met, psychologically he has already lost one step.
Especially worrisome was that as his mind was churning back and forth, if he retreated and the other party advanced, Changshu Mou and the others may not necessarily be able to stop him, and if he decided to make his move then, he would already be in passive position.
There was also a deeper level of concern, i.e. if he retreated without a fight, he would appear too cowardice and would lose his poise. It would show clearly that only under the circumstances like on the Tianjin Bridge just now, where he clearly held the superiority, would he dare to fight against him.
After considering this matter over and over in his mind, Qu Ao was well aware that he had been forced by Ba Fenghan into a dangerous position where his only option was to take up the challenge.
But he was a figure of grand master level, who has encountered any conceivable situation; thereupon he shouted coldly, "No need to talk too much! Just watch me slaughter this kid.”
Finished speaking, he threw away all distracting thoughts, focused his attention, and marched toward the enemy.
Changshu Mou and the others exchanged glances; they were all able to see the frustration in the others' heart.
Ba Fenghan was definitely a terrifying character able to strike fear and admiration in the opponent's heart.
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When the two martial art masters were about twenty paces apart from each other, they both stopped and stood still.
Ba Fenghan's countenance became extremely cold. Throwing his head back, he let out a long laugh and said, "Qu Ao, you are not worthy to be recognized as the Tiele people's great master of martial art, since you can only deal with us under the-many-oppressing-the-few situation. With this kind of conduct and scheming, aren't you afraid the people all over the world would sneer at you?”
Qu Ao's expression also turned as cold as ice; he laughed coldly and said, "That day I was alone when I chased to kill the three of you, kids, so who's many and who's a few? It was just to prevent you three kids from escaping to the wilderness, like you usually do, that we had to make a bit of arrangement! Kid, if you can't see that, it would be best if you don't come out at all, lest you would be a disgrace to yourself.”
Ba Fenghan sneered and said, "It was because previously you have not figured out our real strength. Did Ol' Ba say something wrong?”
The two combatants conducted a verbal battle simply because in the momentum's stalemate, they both realized that the opponent had no flaw that they could exploit, hence they used words to attack each other, trying to strike down the opponent's momentum and confidence.
Qu Ao spoke with disdain, "Why so much nonsense? Since you have made up your mind to throw away your life, let me grant you your wish.”
A smile full of confidence appeared on Ba Fenghan's face; calmly and indifferently he said, "Qu Ao, you don't have enough qualification to be Ol' Ba's real rival; you can only be a stepping stone for me to challenge Bi Xuan. Go ahead!”
This remark was even more formidable than any sharp sword; not only did it incite scolding and cursing from Changshu Mou and the others, who were standing some distance away, even Qu Ao was unable to stop his countenance from slightly changing.
If Qu Ao had never been defeated by Bi Xuan, he could simply treat this remark as rubbish talk that he need not mind. Too bad the actual fact happened to be the exact opposite; immediately it stirred up the extraordinary shame and humiliation that Qu Ao could never forget as long as he lived. His originally unassailable confidence immediately revealed a hairbreadth gap.
The Beheading Mystery Sword left its sheath. Ba Fenghan had no distraction in his heart; his mind was empty.
To his left and back was the Tingliu Pavilion, from where the faint clamor could still be heard, behind Qu Ao, Changshu Mou and the others were shouting and swearing, but it was as if he did not hear anything, between the heaven and the earth, there was only he and the formidable opponent in front of his eyes.
After his meridians were transformed by the Jade Annulus of He Clan, his true qi soared; compared to before, its speed and the rate of change was several times faster, giving him an inexhaustible fighting strength and confidence.
In Qu Ao's eyes, Ba Fenghan seemed to suddenly became tall and mighty. Immediately he was shocked; realizing that it was because of his own confidence faltered, while the opponent's momentum increased rapidly that he had this illusion.
When two martial art masters were in stalemate, due to their mind and spirit was locked by each other, their senses could also be adversely affected.
The sound of the sword being withdrawn was like the echoing beating of the battle drum, reverberating inside his eardrums.
Qu Ao knew his situation was bad, quickly he focused his attention, ‘nine changes of coagulating truths', in an instant his mind reached its peak condition.
His lifelong cultivation could be summed up in three words, ‘seven', ‘eight', and ‘nine', separately representing the three stages of his accomplishment.
Seven and eight referred to his so-called ‘seven cycles of wild waves' and the ‘eight segments of violent tides', two types of innate-generated amazing skill.
Ordinary martial art practitioners who were able to apply qi and send out power at able-to-receive-and-send-as-his-heart-desire level could already be considered martial art master.
But if they wanted to surpass other people, they must look for the variation within in order to subdue the enemy and gain victory.
Yet the way to these changes lies in the cultivation of the acupoints' activity in the meridians' hub within the body, which cannot be likened to ordinary qi cultivation. When one is able to use the acupoints to control the transmission of true qi from its source, one would begin to reach the first-class martial art master level.
Qu Ao was a talent in martial art study. By the age of twenty-three he already mastered seven acupoints, which prompted him to create the ‘seven cycles of wild waves', but it was ten years later that he managed to master one more acupoint, i.e. the ‘eight segments of violent tides'. Hence the difficulty could be easily imagined.
By the age of forty-one, he was able to control all acupoints at will, so he called it ‘nine changes of coagulating truth'. The ‘nine' was not referring to nine acupoints at all, rather, it was because ‘nine' was the top number in counting, and it had endless meaning. Only then did his martial art skill reach great success, which gave birth to his intention to challenge Bi Xuan in a duel. [My apology, all the above is beyond me, I translated it as best as I can.]
‘Boom! Boom! Boom!'
Ba Fenghan forged ahead three steps in succession. Each step down created a heavy, powerful sound; even the earth seemed to be shaken.
If this battle happened before his defeat at the hands of Bi Xuan, Qu Ao would have allowed the opponent to take the initiative to attack, and then when the opponent's stored up momentum was at its fullest, the moment his confidence reached the highest peak, with the power of ten-thousand-catty thunder he would make one move to strike the enemy; the opponent would suffer irreparable damage, and forever would not be able to overcome the disheartened feeling to the defeat, and then taking care of the enemy would be as easy as turning his hand.
But this moment was unlike the past.
Qu Ao no longer had this kind of heroic spirit and confidence. Leaping at an angle, he withdrew a dozen of steps away to evade the sword-brandishing, with sweeping-a-thousand-army appearance, young opponent's attack.
He wanted to use the ‘nine changes of coagulating truth' and unleashed it to its greatest potential, coupled with flawless ‘Thirteen-Style Eagle Transformation', so that before the opponent's momentum climbed into a new peak, he could strike at full power.
But the instant Qu Ao's feet left the ground to leap, Ba Fenghan suddenly stopped.