As promised, here's the end of Chapter 9. I know that where you are, most probably it's already 2017, but where I am, it is still 2016. By my calculation, we passed the 25% mark of the entire novel.
Ba Fenghan whispered in Xu Ziling's ear, "Tuli's heart grew timid. In his usual style, unless there's some other purpose, he would not concede and hold his hands like this.”
The entire street was so quiet that a falling needle would be heard, even the sound of breathing was temporarily quieted down.
Although for the time the two combatants were separated, but there was still tension in the air, they were both poised for battle, four eyes stared at each other in grave atmosphere, enough to fill the hearts of the people with chill and trepidation.
Tuli's left hand left the body of the spear and went to his back. Laughing, he said, "Thanks for the experience. Central Plains indeed have upper-class martial art masters, and you, Kou Zhong, definitely have your name on the list.”
Although he was praising the opponent, but naturally he also held up his own dignity and status; besides, based on his capability and exquisite spear technique, he managed to end the duel in a draw, hence no one would think that he was a coward.
Only Ba Fenghan, who was very familiar with his style, could see through his heart.
Naturally Kou Zhong also knew that he wanted to stop and step down the stage, but he really did not have any misgivings. Whether he would be able to kill Tuli, it remained unclear. Even if he could accomplish it, he would at least be wounded as well. And Ba Fenghan's situation now was like Li Mi's victory over Yuwen Huaji, i.e. it was a costly victory. Therefore, he must preserve his own strength; it was a matter of paramount importance.
What he was afraid of right now was to lose sight of Li Shimin.
Kou Zhong returned the saber to its scabbard; cupping his fist, he said, "Khan is indeed an outstanding hero; Kou Zhong admires you. When you have time some day, we can drink wine and learn from one another.”
By saying that, it could be said that he was giving Tuli a lot of face; it also showed Kou Zhong's mind and his elegance. Tuli could not help having a favorable impression toward him.
Actually, he never had any desire to have Kou Zhong as his enemy; it was only because of Ba Fenghan's affair that he had to take the stand as his opponent. Returning the spear onto his back, he saluted and said, "If there's opportunity, I certainly will take Kou Xiong's offer!”
Turning to his men, he said, "Let's get out of here!”
Fu Qian followed Tuli and his men with his eyes until they were far away, and then he spoke in a loud and clear voice, "Let tonight's matter stop at this point, thank you very much friends of all roads for giving us the face for this meeting.”
Finished speaking, he stepped into the imperial road and came over toward Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan. "Just now Xiaodi was really ignorance; I forgot that Ba Xiong needs to have a good rest. Xiaodi takes my leave now!”
Without waiting for an answer, he smiled and walked away.
Confronted with this enigmatic figure, the three could not stop the chill from creeping into their heart.
※ ※ ※
The three walked slowly along a side street, waiting for the coming of the dawn.
Kou Zhong was concerned over Ba Fenghan's condition, "How are you feeling?” he asked.
Ba Fenghan smiled, "Much better!” he replied, "But this kind of injury cannot be healed in such a short time.”
Changing the subject, he said, "Your Yu Yi has been brought safely out of town; Princess may take them all the way to the ocean, and then make arrangement for an ocean-going ship to take them north to Gaoli. This way, not only will it lessen the hardship of the trip, it will also greatly shorten the traveling time.”
Delighted, Kou Zhong let out a whistle. But then he frowned and said, "Are you going to wait until you are fully recovered before leaving?”
Ba Fenghan shook his head resolutely and said, "If I don't leave now, what am I waiting for? If I stay, I would be a burden to you. I am slipping alone will be most convenient.”
Both Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling felt that they had nothing to say. Even for people like Tuli or Tuoba Yu, for them to overtake the deliberately-escaping-far-away Ba Fenghan would be easier said than done.
Lowering his voice, Xu Ziling said, "As soon as the gate opens in the morning, we'll accompany you out of town wearing the masks. We'll give you two of those. This way I guarantee you can safely return to outside the Great Wall.”
Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan cried out, ‘Wonderful!' at the same time. The former even acted as if he was relieved from a burden, "Now I really feel relieved! Ay! But I really hate to let you, this old kid, go away.”
Ba Fenghan laughed calmly and said, "Separated in life and death, joys and sorrows, life is just like this. Besides, there might be a day we can see each other again. When that day comes, we will have a special feeling.”
Dejectedly Kou Zhong said, "It's easy for you to say; right now you are gone, a little later it will be Xiao Ling's turn. Friends withered and fallen, there is no meaning in life anymore.”
Knowing his character, Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling were nearly howling in laughter.
Kou Zhong himself burst in laughter; heroically and passionately, yet nonchalantly, he said, "I haven't officially told you: Li kid and I finally have a falling out!”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, "Without you telling me, I already guessed this would be the inevitable outcome.”
His eyes flashing, Kou Zhong said, "One more thing: Li Jing has personally admitted that he betrayed us.”
Xu Ziling's handsome face fell, but he did not make any sound.
The three men's footsteps echoed faintly on the moonlit street.
Frowning, Ba Fenghan said, "Although I saw him only twice, but I feel that he is not that kind of person.”
Kou Zhong hatefully said, "Appearance is often unreliable. Take you, Ol' Ba, for example. You look callous; who would have thought that you are actually a very passionate man?”
Ba Fenghan replied indifferently, "Starting tomorrow, I am going to throw away all emotion from the secular world that can influence my mind, and will focus on the way of the sword. I am going to go back to my true identity.”
Stifling his laughter, Kou Zhong said, "Be careful, if Ba Dai'er overtook you, you might go back from a heartless warrior to your true character, and then you'll make the two of us laugh off our teeth.”
Ba Fenghan laughed calmly; instead of replying, he said, "You must be careful of Li Shimin. Other than he himself possesses superior martial art skill, none of Yang Xuyan, Hong Funu, Li Jing, Li Shentong, Zhangsun Wuji, Yuchi Jingde, and the others, are not a martial art master who can assume personal responsibility. Their strength is not inferior to Yin Gui Pai.”
The three turned left toward the main street leading to the south city gate.
"I am not afraid of them,” Kou Zhong said, "I am more afraid of after Shi Feixuan is recovered from her injury, how is she going to deal with us? One-on-one, none of us is her match. The most frightening thing is that even though she is just one person, we really don't want to join hands to deal with a beauty like her, a Bodhisattva descending into the mortal world.”
Tranquil and calm, Xu Ziling said, "She will only be looking for me to settle the account; just let me deal with her.”
Kou Zhong dramatically rushed ahead of Xu Ziling, and then while walking backward to face him, he said, "Ha! Xiao Ling finally found someone he admires wholeheartedly! Otherwise, how could he take care of this matter all by himself and not others get involved in it?”
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, "Why are you always thinking about everything from women and love affair aspect? The fact is that in this matter, you and Fenghan Xiong are very similar; it's just that you have different goals!”
It was only after having a good talk with Song Yuzhi that he wanted to tell him that. Kou Zhong immediately stopped.
Luckily, by this time they already reached the Yi River's north bank. The moon hanging low on the western horizon shed its light on the buildings along the riverbank, casting their shadow onto the slow moving water of the river, creating another parallel world of shadows, so beautiful like an unreal dream world.
An arch bridge spanned across the Yi River. Under the bridge more than a dozen small boats were moored along the bank. The stream softly lapped the boats' hull and the foot of the bridge, producing gentle and clear rustling noise.
"We'd better sit on the bridge,” Kou Zhong proposed, "When the morning comes, we'll send Ol' Ba off, then our friendships will not be in vain.”
Ba Fenghan looked up to the sky, breathing out a long sigh, he said, "We ought to have more than half a sichen yet!”