Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, "Right now I am practically not in the mood to listen to any story, but Miss' story is too pleasant to listen to, so it's hard for me to extricate myself, hence my body have no choice but to follow its master to listen with respectful attention."
Shi Feixuan turned her gaze away, back toward the flowing water below. She looked at a small boat carrying a family of men, women, young and old, gradually sailing away under the red clouds glowing in the setting sun.
Xu Ziling followed her gaze. His fluctuating mood gradually calmed down.
The high-volume traffic behind them was slowly thinning down, the noise was also diminishing somewhat.
The Tianjin Bridge was a must-see attraction for visitors to Luoyang City, so two people standing side by side leaning on the railings were commonly seen; it would not attract attention at all.
It was only this moment that Xu Ziling remembered that Shi Feixuan saw him today, and suddenly made her immortal track known, there must be a reason that he himself did not understand yet.
Shi Feixuan's voice entered his ears, "There is an immortal elder from the Taoist family starting up a furnace to perfect his dan [red/pellet/powder/cinnabar; no idea what it is]. Everything was prepared; the only thing missing was a Daotong [Taoist servant boy] to keep watch the furnace."
Xu Ziling asked in astonishment, "I thought Miss is going to tell another Buddhist story."
Shi Feixuan smiled and said, "Buddhism, Taoism, what's the difference? Just like you and I, we are both human beings!"
Xu Ziling was puzzled, "Everybody is different, or else why would you be Shi Feixuan and I am called Xu Ziling?"
Shi Feixuan calmly replied, "Since mind is Buddha, then without mind there is no Buddha. Since if it is not mind then it is not Buddha, then it is also a non-entity. Human is human, self is merely the screen that hinders, so that eating does not feel like eating!" [Sorry, it's beyond me.]
It was only today that Xu Ziling came in contact with a Dhyana [Zen] Master. Both Liao Kong and Shi Feixuan, on the surface their words were simple and easy to understand, but hidden deep inside was always profound mystery that was difficult to understand. Without any choice he said humbly, "I will have to think about it. Miss, please continue your story, I won't interrupt anymore!"
※ ※ ※
After entrusting his horse to the care of the House of Dong Restaurant's stable, Kou Zhong continued his journey on foot toward the Qingshe Bang's headquarter located at the pier.
Because he was afraid of being followed and thus his relationship with Ren En was discovered, he left the main street and unleashed his footwork by suddenly dashed toward a side ally, and suddenly darted through houses and passed the buildings, and employed all kinds of anti-tracking method to make sure that nobody was tailing him, before finally flying toward the destination at full speed.
Under the dimming light of the setting sun, the continuous interaction of the buildings and the trees and greeneries, as well as the ubiquitous towering roof of the temples and pagodas, painted a wonderful silhouette against the sky. Too bad Kou Zhong was turning a blind eye to everything; in his mind right now was how to have Zhai Jiao and the others to evade a fatal disaster.
Kou Zhong avoided the main gate and opted to somersault down from the roof. He had not touched the ground when his countenance underwent a great change.
※ ※ ※
Neither fast nor slow, Shi Feixuan spoke evenly, "Finally someone came to apply for the job as the Daotong who would keep watch of the furnace. The Daozhang [Taoist priest] said, 'If you can try not to speak from now on, then you can be may Daotong. Are you willing to try?' The man resolutely nodded. And then the sky spun, the earth went around, he fell into countless lifetimes and reincarnated over and over again. But whether in riches and honor, or poor and lowly, being a king, marquis, general minister, or being a peddler and carrier, he was able to persevere not to talk. Each time from the time he was born till the time he died, he became a mute who did not speak a single word."
Listening to her, there was a deep frown on Xu Ziling's eyebrows. This story had an immortal way, mysterious, strange, even weird, flavor; but he was unclear whether it had something to do with the topic of their discussion just now.
Shi Feixuan went on, "Finally, in a certain lifetime he became a woman, got married and bore a child. Who would have thought that after her child was born, before he was even a month old, a thief came?"
Xu Ziling's curiosity was piqued, "What did she do?" he asked in astonishment.
Shi Feixuan said, "The thief killed her husband before her eyes, and humiliated her, but she still persevered not to make any noise, until finally the thief was going to throw the infant to the ground, she at last forgot her recurring distant purpose, and cried out wildly to stop the thief."
Xu Ziling's tiger-body shook severely. He understood.
Shi Feixuan spoke indifferently, "Thereupon he woke up from the recurring distant past, and found out that he was still standing in the Dan room; nothing has changed, except for the hot tears on his face. The immortal elder sighed and said, 'Forget it! You still cannot sever the love between mother and child.'"
And then she spoke softly, "Kou Zhong is here! Feixuan takes my leave."
※ ※ ※
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling sat on the slope of River Luo's dike, approximately on the same spot they sat this morning, but their mood was totally different. Kou Zhong was surprisingly calm and collected; he spoke in low voice, "I am positive the perpetrator is only one person, but within the Qingshe Bang headquarter, twenty-five people, not a single one escaped. It is clear that the movement was fast, ruthless, and accurate; at least Wanwan's caliber. But certainly not committed by Yin Gui Pai people."
Xu Ziling's heart was swelling with blazing thought of revenge for Qingshe Bang's Gang Leader Ren En and his men, but his voice was very calm and even as he spoke indifferently, "How could you be so sure?"
Kou Zhong hatefully said, "Because from the bodies and the condition of their injury, it does not look like it was caused by Tianmo Gong. On the surface, Ren En and the others did not have the slightest bit of scar or bruises, but their five viscera [i.e. heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys] were crushed. Evidently it was some kind of softness within the hardness; an extremely overbearing splitting-the-air fist or palm."
Sucking a mouthful of cold air, Xu Ziling said, "Although Ren En and the others' martial art skill could not be considered superior, but if I wanted to kill all of them without letting anyone escaping out of the headquarter building, I am afraid it's not possible. Hence this person's martial art skill must be above ours. In Jianghu, this kind martial art masters can be counted on one's fingers. Who could it be?"
At this time, the curtain of night was just beginning to descend on them; the lights and lanterns were starting to be lit. Compared with their grey, dark and dull frame of mind, this kind of prosperity and flourishing atmosphere seemed to carry a thick, callous mocking.
Kou Zhong dejectedly said, "Honestly, at that time I really wanted to cry loudly, to wash away the grief and pain in my heart. But I knew I absolutely couldn't do that; instead, I must even more determine to strike back. Right now all I can think of is the tragic scene of their bodies scattered around the headquarters; can you analyze it for me?"
Naturally Xu Ziling's mood could not be better than his; quite probably it was even worse. After taking a deep breath, he said, "First of all, how did the other party know our relationship with Qingshe Bang? What benefit would it give him by destroying the Qingshe Bang? Why must this person acted alone? If we can figure out one of these points, we could make speculation as which party did this."
Kou Zhong sighed and said, "The highest in our suspect list ought to be Yin Gui Pai, but always felt it was not their handiwork."
Xu Ziling nodded and said, "I agree, it shouldn't be Yin Gui Pai. If the perpetrator is connected to one of the local gangs or societies in Luoyang, it should be very easy to discover that these last couple of days Qingshe Bang was running around on our behalf. Yet after losing Luoyang Bang, Yin Gui Pai is like losing their intelligence network. Therefore, the highest in our list should be the Dugu Clan. But come to think about it, something is not quite right."
And then he narrated how Shen Luoyan was implicating them on the death of Dugu Ba.
Although Kou Zhong was full of hatred that his teeth itched, he shook his head emphatically and said, "Dugu Clan has already had a card up their sleeve, they can't possibly risk great scheme for not able to tolerate small matter. Because after tomorrow night, they will be able to do whatever they want; could it be that they cannot wait for a day and a half?"
So he told Xu Ziling about their suspicion that there was a mole within Wang Shichong's party.
Xu Ziling also told him the intelligence supplied by Tongtong, but for the time being he concealed the fact that YunYuzhen betrayed Susu, because he did not want to over-complicate Kou Zhong; he also did not mention that Shi Feixuan was coming to speak to him.
The two boys racked their brains for half a day, but everything was still hazy without the least bit of clue. Distressed, Kou Zhong said, "What should we do? I was originally thinking of asking Ren En to send a letter to Zhai Jiao, telling her to watch for Li Mi. But now, who could help me?"
Severely shaken, Xu Ziling said, "I just thought about someone who might do this evil scheme."
Dumbstruck, Kou Zhong said, "What does it have to do with sending a letter to Zhai Jiao?"
Xu Ziling's eyes were flashing with intense murderous aura; he spoke in heavy voice, "Tell me, besides you, who would know where Zhai Jiao is?"
Kou Zhong replied, "Such an important matter, how could I easily tell anybody?"
"All right!" Xu Ziling said, "Tell me then, supposing you did not know about the mole, when you see Ren En and more than twenty of his men were tragically massacred, what would be your reaction now?"
Kou Zhong started to understand; gnashing his teeth in hatred he said, "This plot is indeed too vicious. I would definitely remind everybody who helped me, overtly or covertly, to raise their vigilance. If this person really know the secret relationship between us and Ren En like the back of his hand, then I am afraid Zhai Jiao would not escape disaster either."
Xu Ziling slapped his thigh and said, "That is indeed the crucial point of this matter, plus it is logical. You have probably asked Wang Shichong to get in touch with Zhai Jiao for you, and that would leak out her hiding place. Tell me, who would plot actively to kill Zhai Jiao like this?"
Kou Zhong stared blankly for half a day; finally he cursed and said, "Shen Luoyan, that poniang, is really worse than a dog or a pig; otherwise, how could she just happened to come here to warn you, while there were dead people on that side? The executioner must be Huang Gongcuo, that kind of thousand-blade dead old demon. After getting rid of Zhai Jiao, this calamity within his bosom, her boss would hereafter be able to sleep peacefully."
And then he frowned and said, "But your speculation is at most only 90% accurate. If I simply go down to inform Zhai Jiao wouldn't Shen Luoyan only be beating the grass to scare the snake?"
Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, "Don't deceive yourself! We care about Zhai Jiao's safety too much, so we would try everything to warn her. Shen Luoyan understands us really well."
And then he coldly added, "If we can beat someone at his own game, we could definitely lure the main culprit out of his hiding place."
Kou Zhong shook his head and said, "Wang Shichong is the real number one target of Shen Luoyan. But I can make a diversion so that she would completely miss Zhai Jiao's real hiding place."
Xu Ziling nodded and said, "You can employ the 'repair the plank road by day while secretly crossing the Wei River at Chenchang' stratagem [refers to a stratagem used by Liu Bang in 206 BC against Xiang Yu of Chu]. Overtly you go through Wang Shichong, covertly we'll ask Bu Tianzhi to prepare everything."
"I completely forgot my appointment with Bu Tianzhi," Kou Zhong blurted out, "Hey! How come you suddenly mentioned his name and not Yun Yuzhen? From the beginning I did not trust this woman."
Xu Ziling pulled him up and said, "We'll talk as we walk! Right now you go back to Wang Shichong, ask him to make funeral arrangement for Ren Bangzhu and his men; I will contact Bu Tianzhi. Now without you persuading me, I am going to make every effort to deal with Li Mi."
Kou Zhong said in low voice, "If we cannot fine the mole, even if you are willing to help me, we will lose this battle for sure."
Xu Ziling was quiet for half a day. Finally he said, "In that case you and I go together to see Bu Tianzhi, and then go see Wang Shichong later!"