Xu Ziling was sure that he had never heard this man's voice before; without even looking at him, he laughed coldly and spoke in hoarse voice, "Laofu [old man] is not interested in talking with anybody. Get out of here."
The man snorted angrily and said, "This is called a toast you refuse to drink, forfeit wine you want to drink. Let Ol' Zheng see how much skill you have."
The sound of finger wind arrived.
Xu Ziling unleashed his shifting-shape, exchanging-position skill; just with a flash he was already at different position, separated from the attacker by two groups of people, seven or eight in total, who were standing under the eaves to take shelter from the rain.
"Huh?" the man exclaimed in surprise; evidently because Xu Ziling's brilliance was far beyond his expectation.
Xu Ziling guessed that the other party must be the 'Henan Mad Scholar' Zheng Shiru, aware that his trailing the two women had been found out, so he closed his umbrella and quickly dashed into a small alley.
By this time rain water was amassed in puddles on ground, while raindrop did not stop falling, splashing on the roof and on the ground, each splash created amazing pattern, different from each other, painting this great city in a wonderful rain scenery.
Zheng Shiru ran after him from behind. "Stop!" he bellowed.
Xu Ziling stood still with his hand on the hilt of his saber; he spoke coldly, "Laofu has not moved my saber to kill for several decades, you'd better not force Laofu to violate my oath."
Zheng Shiru spoke heavily, "Laozhang, may I ask your esteemed surname and great given name?"
Xu Ziling sneered in disdain and said, "You are well aware that Laofu will not tell you my name and surname, yet still open your mouth to ask; wouldn't it be extremely superfluous?"
Wearing this mask with different hairstyle, Xu Ziling seemed to adopt different persona, turning into an extremely overbearing and grim old man.
Zheng Shiru laughed aloud and said, "Without you telling me, I, Zheng Shiru, can guess your identity, the Ba Dao [overbearing saber] Yue Shan, whose name shook Shanbei [northern Shaanxi province, including Yulin and Yan'an] forty years ago. Since when did you become this faceless [orig. to hide the head and show the tail]?"
Xu Ziling was secretly amused, while thinking that when he had time later, he would like to investigate what kind of man this Overbearing Saber Yue Shan was. Letting out a stifled grunt, he continued walking forward.
Unexpectedly Zheng Shiru did not dare to pursue; he only shouted, "Yue Laoshi [teacher] going down the mountain this time, you must have wanted to wash away the previous disgrace, but now the times are changing, with your own personal power, it's hard to spread out your aspiration. Yue Laoshi please think three times, Shiru will pay you a visit later on."
Without looking back Xu Ziling continued walking this segment of the street, and after making sure nobody was following him, he darted into a corner and put on the 'Scarface Hero' mask.
He thought that this Overbearing Saber Yue Shan must be a martial art master whose might shook a region at one time, and then because of some setback later, he returned to his native place and lived in seclusion for several decades. Just by looking at how martial art masters like Zheng Shiru was still harboring fear and respect toward him, and doing their utmost to recruit him, Xu Ziling knew that Yue Shan's martial art skill must be not small matter.
But this moment he did not have time to think too much; he must hurry to go back to Kou Zhong.
※ ※ ※
When the dripping wet Kou Zhong stepped over the screen door to prevent water from coming in of the Fucheng Satin Emporium, and set his foot in the vast main hall of this most famous store in Louyang, the big boss of the emporium, Li Fucheng, was showing his goods to Zheng Shuming and Bai Qing'er. He said, "This is an authentic Lu [Shandong Province] brocade; unique in that it was dyed in advance before being weaved into fabric, so that the color and luster is so much brighter, with tens of thousands pattern variations. From the selection of the cotton, to the twisted core of the cloth, the spinning, the dyeing and the starching, the net threading, the warping [i.e. vertical thread in weaving], the bore through warp forming, the machine weaving, finishing, up to the final rigorous quality control, not one thread was loose [i.e. strictly according to the rules]. And what I have here is known as the Heartthrob [orig. bewildering ten thousand people], like … huh?"
It was only this moment that he discovered Bai Qing'er and Zheng Shuming's two pairs of beautiful eyes were looking elsewhere.
In fact, inside the shop, all five shop-attendants and the other three customers had their eyes on Kou Zhong and the dripping water forming puddle of water on the floor.
Kou Zhong appeared to be completely oblivious that he had become the target of a multitude of arrows. Were it not for his heroic physique and the long saber hanging on his back, he would have been kicked out of the door early on.
While taking out the carefully wrapped in waterproof thin, tough silk fabric, bundle containing the treasured books, his purse and other things from his pocket, he called out, "I don't want the Heartthrob that the women wear, just a set of ready-made men's clothes, plus a pair of riding boots. If you don't have it here, get it for me elsewhere, I will pay double the price. Ay! So unbearable!"
Zheng Shuming's beautiful eyes shot a deep, cold murderous aura, her voice was like ice and snow as she spit it out from between her rows of jade teeth, "Kou Zhong, it's you!"
As soon as the two characters 'Kou Zhong' came out, Li Fucheng and the shop attendants immediately showed reverence on their faces.
Li Fucheng readily cast the Lu brocade, which he praised as there-is-no-other-under-the-heavens, aside, and bowed and said, "Turns out it's Kou Ye; forgive me for failing to salute. Shangshu Daren is an old friend of Fucheng, please come in to enjoy a cup of hot tea first, everything will be taken care of to Kou Ye's satisfaction."
Kou Zhong mused inwardly that not only Luoyang was the transportation hub and the melting pot of people from all over the world, it was also a metropolitan where news travelled really fast. Delighted, he said, "In that case I will definitely say a few words to the old friend on your behalf. Laoban [boss], do you need to measure me? Xiaodi prefers a slightly loose fitting clothes. Ha!"
Li Fucheng seemed to have forgotten the two ladies, he promptly took the measuring tape handed over by one of the shop attendants, and despite the dripping wet Kou Zhong, he started to get busy in front of him.
Kou Zhong winked at the standing-in-front-of-him-and-was-glowering-at-him Zheng Shuming, and said with a laugh, "Xiaodi is not Ba Fenghan at all, why are you staring at me like that? A wise and virtuous woman is of the same standing as a man of noble character; therefore, when the gentleman uses his mouth to speak, the lady must not use her hand to fight. A bit later I will book a banquet to apologize to Nu Dangjia [female chief], is that all right?"
'Pfft!' Bai Qing'er giggled tenderly, pulled Zheng Shuming's elbow and said, "Jiejie don't pay attention to him, let's go elsewhere to have fun; what the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve over."
How could Kou Zhong miss the opportunity to get to her? He smiled and said, "No better or worse than each other. Don't forget to notify Female Demon Wan, sooner or later I will definitely settle old hatred and new enmity with her."
Bai Qing'er pouted her bright red beautiful small mouth; as if nothing had happened she said, "I have no idea what you are talking about. Let's go."
But Zheng Shuming was puzzled, "What Female Demon Wan?" she asked.
Before she finished speaking, Bai Qing'er already pulled her out to the street.
Kou Zhong called out, "Other than Yin Gui Pai female demon, is there any other female demon? Ha! Ay!"
Remembering Song Yuzhi, his happy mood disappeared immediately.
※ ※ ※
The Scarface Hero Xu Ziling strolled slowly along the street under his umbrella.
Taking off his robe, he only wore tight warrior outfit, and shed the previously 'Overbearing Saber' Yue Shan's image.
Even without his encounter with Zheng Shiru happening, he was already prepared to change his appearance, so the elderly man entering the city earlier disappeared completely, without leaving any traces for other people to follow.
The irrigation ditch between the pedestrian path and the vehicle and horses street have become two streams of small river, plus the continuous rain pouring down from the roofs on either side of the street became curtains of water, giving the impression of powerful armies unceasingly charging down onto the street, carrying with them strong rushing momentum. Fortunately Luoyang's drainage system was doing its job; otherwise the city would become a flood plain.
There were splashes of water [orig. rain flower] everywhere, far and near the vision blurred, street traffic was sparse, Xu Ziling could not help feeling that between the heaven and the earth, there was only me, alone; it was such a strange feeling.
If Shi Feixuan was with him, walking together in the rain, and he was listening to her fascinating and moving stories, smelling the fragrance coming from her body, what kind of feeling would that be?
He recalled the side profile of this simple and elegant, immortal-like beauty, as she fixed her eyes on the Luo River down below from the bridge railing; her expression seemed so focused on that place, so that she was completely oblivious to his stare, that she was only immersed in some magical space of thinking, and she and he seemed to live in two different worlds.
The meeting with Shi Feixuan, which exceeded all expectations, not only stayed forever in his mind, it also made him to think it over endlessly.
He had never personally experienced the shock and the feeling Shi Feixuan was giving him, which was similar to a strand of nameless force pulling him into a place he had never set foot on, but until this moment he still found it hard to believe that it was dreamlike realm that actually happened.
This stunning beauty, what exactly was in the deepest part of her heart?
Supposing Xu Ziling strong-armed her and held her in his bosom, how would her pair of pure beauty, otherworldly [orig. not eating the food of common mortals], hidden-in-depth, pretty eyes, change?
A rueful smile seemed to float out of the corner of Xu Ziling's mouth.
Ever since he mastered the 'Secret to Long Life', he grew increasingly indifferent toward the love between men and women. In the past, he had never had this kind of desire. Perhaps it was thin sudden heavy rain that caused a dim, depressing high-speed thought to appear in his mind.
After all, she was a person outside of this world, plus her cultivation was really deep, her pursuit was of sublime ideal, and not the desire between man and woman at all. In the end any wishful thinking toward her would turn to be simply an illusion [orig. flowers in the mirror and the moon reflected in the lake], leaving an empty and ruined resentment.
Xu Ziling took a deep breath; myriads of thought flashing through his mind, one thought turned into no thought at all.
All disturbing thoughts immediately became empty; tranquil and even-tempered, he walked toward his destination.