After breaking through the wall and coming out, before Xu Ziling had the chance to spring up from the ground, his left ankle tightened, because Yuchi Jingde's Gui Zang [see Book 17 Chapter 12] Whip, which slid closed to the ground, so that it was very difficult to guard against, wrapped itself around his ankle tightly.
The tiny suction cups along the body of the whip wound around tightly on his skin and flesh.
If Xu Ziling had not seen Yuchi Jingde and Wang Bo's battle, this moment he would have been trying with thousand ways, a hundred plans to shake off the loathsome entanglement of the Gui Zang Whip. But now, he was fully aware of the strange whip technique of this Heavenly Policy Mansion martial art master, with the changes that were impossible to guard against. He quietly thought that if he wanted to compete with the opponent in changes, he could forget about having his left foot intact.
Thereupon Xu Ziling let out a cold snort, his left foot planted firmly on the ground, like an iron panel his entire body changed from lying supine to become standing erect with both feet on the ground.
The Gui Zang Whip went taut like a ramrod, but Xu Ziling stayed perfectly still. The other end of the whip was held about three zhang away, in Yuchi Jingde's hand, whose build was extremely bold and powerful, who lowered his waist in a horse stance. But the latter was actually shivering inwardly. The technique he launched just now was meant to drag Xu Ziling down to the ground first, and then he wanted to exploit the pulling force of the suction pads on the body of the whip to break his ankle. But unexpectedly Xu Ziling's internal energy, ingeniously unleashed, sucked the body of the whip firmly, and thus his ankle locked the whip so that it could not be moved instead. This kind of strange move was completely beyond his expectation.
Sound of the wind sprang up everywhere.
Five shadows separately flew in from the roof and walls of the front and rear courtyards, Surrounding Xu Ziling in the middle.
Pang Yu, holding a four-chi long greenish-black awl stood on top of the wall. His sleeves fluttered in the night breeze, he looked extremely confident and at ease, but his eyes were sharper than a hawk, as from his high vantage point he ferociously stared at Xu Ziling, who seemed to be turning a blind eye to the besiege.
Zhangsun Wuji, who dressed in dark green Confucian scholar attire, with fair skin and delicate facial features, stood with his hands behind his back at approximately the same distance on the opposite side of Yuchi Jingde, with Xu Ziling right in the middle. There was a jade Xiao [vertically blown flute] stuck on his lower waist. He was carrying a down-to-earth demeanor, without the slightest bit of swords-drawn-and-bows-bent attitude, free and easy as he was visiting a fellow scholar.
But Xu Ziling did not underestimate him at all, because from his deep-pool, pavilion-and-high-mountain-peak bearing, he knew that his martial art skill could not be inferior to Yuchi Jingde.
The other three were the saber-wielding Luo Shixin, the spear-wielding Shi Wanbao, and the truncheon-wielding Liu Dewei, who spread in all direction, and thus sealing all escape paths Xu Ziling might take.
Xu Ziling fixed his gaze at the hole in the wall he created, and the debris of the mahogany chair scattered on the floor; he shouted in heavy voice, "May I venture to ask Shimin Xiong, assisting Wang Shichong to deal with Kou Zhong, besides Yang Xuyan, who are the others?"
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Applying his internal energy, Kou Zhong let out an earth-shattering shout, "If Wang Gong is still giving a little consideration to the host and guest relationship, please come out to answer me!"
Wang Xuanying, Lang Feng, Song Mengqiu and the group of personal guards standing by his side were stunned; more than half immediately pressed their hands onto the hilt of their weapons as they backed off slightly and glared at him.
His voice travelled far and wide, resonated throughout the Imperial City.
The crow and peacock made no sound.
Song Mengqiu cleared his throat and signaled the others with his eyes that they would not rush indiscriminately into action. "Kou Junshi misunderstood!" he said to Kou Zhong, "Shengshang is still lying on the dragon bed to recuperate from his injury, hey …"
Sneering, Kou Zhong said, "Didn't General Song tell me that Old Yi and Changlin Xiong are inside the Mansion? How come they did not utter a single word?"
Immediately Song Mengqiu was at a loss for words.
Kou Zhong exerted his authority without sparing anybody; letting out a long laugh, he said, "There is an old saying, 'the birds are over, the bow it put away'. Humph!"
'Clink! Clank!' there were repeated sound of metal clashing against metal.
Wang Xuanying and the others did not wait for him to finish speaking, they already exposed the fox's tail; one after another they drew their weapons.
With another long laugh Kou Zhong soared to the sky, prompting Song Mengqiu, Lang Feng and Wang Xuanying, three men to also soar in pursuit.
Countless archers showed themselves from the roof of the buildings nearby; immediately murderous aura filled the air, while battle cry shook the heavens.
Who would have thought that Kou Zhong only rose for two zhang, unexpectedly he changed breath mid-air, changed direction diagonally, and flew toward the steps of the Shangshu Mansion?
This move was a big, big surprise to everybody, and who among the pursuers had the ability to change his breathing midair like him? They all went to far and rose two more zhang up into the air, so that the several hundred archers hiding on the roof refrained from shooting at the rat for fear of breaking the vases, nobody dared to release the arrow.
Before even landed on the ground, Kou Zhong already pulled the Moon in the Well.
Over a dozen Wang Shichong's personal guards, like wolves and tigers, charged toward him; it looked like very soon Kou Zhong would be caught in chaotic warfare.
Kou Zhong knew that if he was held up by these personal guards even for a while, he would fall into siege by hundreds, even thousands Wang Army's troops. And if that happened, even Ning Daoqi would be hard pressed to escape the misfortune of fighting to the death. With a loud roar, his body following his saber, he charged into the enemy's formation.
The Moon in the Well turned into cold ray protecting his body. The two personal guards at the front blocking his way were immediately thrown sideways and fell to the ground.
Another man, along with his sword, was hacked that he flew backward and fell. After consecutively knocking two more personal guards, he rolled down the steps.
By this moment, from the bottom of the steps, amidst the shouting and yelling, the saber flashes and sword shadows, the enemy was swarming up the steps like a tidal wave. Momentarily he could not see clearly just how many the enemies were.
Kou Zhong did not dare to jump high; suddenly he flew sideways, avoiding more than a dozen enemy charging at him, rushing along the Shangshu Mansion toward the east, to the closest Xuanren Gate, while murderous intent filled his breast.
One after another the enemy came to intercept him.
Kou Zhong was well aware than Xuanren Gate must be swarming with massive military force and martial art masters, so heading that way was actually his ruse to confuse the enemy.
Actually, if all the gates of the entire Luoyang, a capital city consisted of the Imperial Palace and the Imperial City, were closed, and the city walls, which were several zhang high, were covered with archers, even if he grew wings like a bird, it would still be difficult to cross over; the security was that right.
Fortunately, inside the city, there were high buildings everywhere. Although the upper floors were surrounded by high walls on all sides, but all the walls always had a portal, with the balconies usually linked together, so that it would be a very good place to play hide-and-seek.
Wang Shichong was a man who loved to put on a good face, so he did not want Kou Zhong assassination, this kind of scandal, to be spread outside; therefore, he wanted to lure Kou Zhong into the Shangshu Mansion to be killed there, to prevent Kou Zhong's blood from staining his Palace City.
Kou Zhong estimated that as long as he was able to escape out of the Shangshu Mansion limit, Wang Shichong's ambushing power would be weakened considerably, hence Kou Zhong would have a hope of escaping alive.
Kou Zhong changed direction again; he went around toward the back of the Shangshu Mansion, and darted toward the stable [orig. Taipusi, court of imperial stud; office originally charged with horse breeding] and the workers' quarters. Crossing over these two magnificent structures, he came across a row of Dalisi [judicial officers' office], Zongzhengsi [directorate of the imperial clan], Waterworks Supervisor office, and the Commandant of Guards office [these last two were part of Nine Ministers of the Imperial China], which stood side-by-side, and connected to the Hanjia Gate and the Deyou Gate, which was the Imperial City's north exit.
On both sides were high city wall reaching more than ten zhang. This moment, amidst the sound of bugle horn, a team of more than a hundred armored soldiers charged out of the back of Shangshu Mansion straight toward him. While above the wall there were shadows of enemy soldiers everywhere.
To break his way over the wall was practically out of question. If there were no enemies on the wall, relying on his skill of taking a breath midair, he might be able to do, albeit with difficulty. But under the enemies' merciless lance, spear, arrow and dart, jumping up would be tantamount of throwing his life away.
His only choice was through the other five exits leading out of the city.
First was through either Xuanren Gate or Dong Taiyang [East Sun] Gate, which were connected to the east-west major road in front of the Shangshu Mansion.
The Xuanren Gate was the east exit out of the Imperial City. Just now he already tried and this road ought to be closed, so he could forget about it. The Dong Taiyang Gate was the road leading into the Palace City.
Chengfu Gate was the south Imperial City exit of the Shangshu Mansion. Unless he was willing to turn around and throw himself into the embrace of Shangshu Mansion's main force, he would not need to spend any effort to break through it.
The remaining choice was the Hanjia Gate and Deyou Gate, these two layers of gate at the front.
Between the two gates, there were the Hanjia Granary, Zhuanchu Rice Grain storehouse, and other things. Kou Zhong has been involved in the hostilities against the Palace City in the past, so he knew the Capital City situation like the back of his hand. It's just that he never expected that in the end he would use this knowledge to run for his life!
Saber flashes flickered continuously, two sabers hacked down on him from left and right, the power was adequate; obviously these two were the best and brightest among the personal guards within the Wang Army.
As soon as he saw the saber momentum, he knew that if he charged forward to meet the attack head on, the enemy troops would arrive, and then he would be besieged in the middle again.
The biggest advantage he was able to maintain until now was denying the enemies any opportunity to entangle him, instead, he took the enemy going around in circle, to make use of the Imperial City's terrain to run this way and that, in order to confuse the enemy.
Once he lost this advantage, it would be the end of Kou Zhong.
The Moon in the Well parried left and right in succession, while at the same time he retreated swiftly.
As soon as the two attackers' sabers met Kou Zhong's, they screamed because they were hit by the spiraling energy, like a windmill they spun away; not only their mouth spurting fresh blood, their companions behind them did not have time to dodge that they all were hit and fell to the ground while groaning in pain. It was as if they were hit directly by Kou Zhong's spiraling energy.
The more than a dozen enemies intercepting him with torrential momentum were immediately utterly defeated.
Kou Zhong was also overcome with lost of strength.
Although the two saber strikes ingeniously sent out the spiraling energy to pierce through the opponents' body, it also cost him considerable true energy that he was unable to follow up the victory by pressing home the attack, and was unable to force his way into the enemy ranks toward the Hanjia and Deyou, two layers of gates on the city wall ahead.
But he was already extremely satisfied.
Suddenly traversing seven zhang, he evaded the violent-tidal-wave-like more than a hundred enemies streaming out of the Shangshu Mansion behind him.
He decided to abandon his plan to charge ahead.
Because in order to reach the two-layer outside gate, he still needed to pass through the Taipusi, the worker supervisor office, and others, six buildings in total.
Since Wang Shichong already planning the scheme to kill him, it was only natural that he would prepare ambushing troops in those buildings, waiting for him to walk right into the trap.
The only way out with his life was to enter the Imperial Palace, where he then could exploit all kinds of situation to open up opportunities for him to escape.
Letting out a long whistle, Kou Zhong soared in an angle toward the city wall separating the Imperial City with the inner Imperial Palace.
Darts and arrows split the air.
Kou Zhong changed the direction of his true qi from slanting up to slanting down, so that the several dozen powerful arrows flitted across overhead, while he threw himself to the bottom of the city wall, and then, staying close to the wall he bolted in the direction of the Shangshu Mansion.
Like a bolt of cloth the enemy rolled down on him.
Hundreds of torches and lanterns shining down their light from the top of the wall and all around the Shangshu Mansion. Sabers, swords, spears, halberds and body armors and shields flickered brightly under the light. The Imperial City suddenly turned into Asura [malevolent spirit in Indian mythology] hell of bloody battle.
Kou Zhong sped up constantly. Staying close to the wall he shot toward the Dong Taiyang Gate, the only gate leading into the Imperial Palace.
He did not care anymore how many people he would have to kill, but he had to kill his way toward the Dong Taiyang Gate. Even if Ning Daoqi came in person, he would not be able to stop Kou Zhong.