Chen Jiafeng replied, "This city has gone through several hands, the last belonged to Xu Yuanlang. Too bad the beautiful scenery did not last. Most recently Dou Jiande's army crossed the river and attacked the city where Xu Yuanlang setup his base of operations. Thereupon Xu Yuanlang hastily transferred his troops, along with the provisions, out of Liangdu to help, leaving Liangdu's defense weak. Finally even the several hundred troops defending the city also fled, leaving Liangdu a city that nobody wants to care, nobody wants to pay attention to."
Kou Zhong was astounded. "Is Dou Jiande that terrifying?" he asked.
"Of course Dou Jiande is not terrifying," Chen Jiafeng replied, "In term of reputation, he is much better than Xu Yuanlang, but the bandit troops Yuwen Huaji's lackeys are more terrifying than Emperor Yan's [Yama, king of the underworld] soul-hooking ghost messenger."
Kou Zhong's eyes lit up immediately.
Chen Jiafeng continued, "That day Yuwen Huaji and his army returned to the north from Jiangdu, wherever they went, they robbed and looted, slaughtering common people, raping women; therefore, when the rumors arrived, everybody scrambled over to hide and take refuge in the nearby towns and villages. Ay! Nowadays it is not easy to leave; there are wars everywhere you go."
"Did Yuwen Huaji come here personally?" Kou Zhong asked in heavy voice.
Chen Jiafeng replied, "Nobody knows. We only live day by day here. As soon as the situation is not right, we'll steal away immediately. If Fu Xiong don't mind, would you uphold righteousness by taking us to Jiangdu?"
Kou Zhong was stunned, "If you want to go to Jiangdu, wouldn't it be easy?"
Chen Jiafeng stared at him for quite some time before his countenance sank and he said, "Turns out you are not familiar with the situation in Jiangdu; unexpectedly you didn't know that Li Zitong has closed all rivers and canals. Unless the vessel is somehow related to them, no others are allowed to sail to Jiangdu; otherwise, I would not have asked you."
Kou Zhong laughed and said, "I certainly did not know the situation at Jiangdu, because I haven't returned for a long time. But I am not completely unrelated to Li Zitong. Chen Xiong, you may set your heart at ease."
Half believing half doubting, Chen Jiafeng asked, "What relation does Fu Xiong have with Li Zitong?"
Instead of answering, Kou Zhong asked, "Your Peng Liang Hui was able to rank within the Eight Gangs Ten Societies; you shouldn't be without any power [orig. economize on the oil lamp]. Why don't you seize this opportunity to take Liangdu back, instead of taking the position of someone who can only receive the beatings without any strength to fight back?"
Chen Jiafeng sighed and said, "If not for seeing that Fu Xiong is definitely not an ordinary person, Xiaodi does not feel like telling you that much. These days are different from the former days. The year that muddle-headed ruler was assassinated, under Nie Bangzhu's leadership, we captured more than forty towns and villages in the vicinity of Pengcheng and Liangdu in one go. We thought we would be able to proclaim ourselves hegemon over these areas, and would have a promising future. Who would have thought that one after another we were defeated by Yuwen Huaji and Xu Yuanlang? Recently, even Pengcheng was taken by barbarian thieves. Our Peng Liang Hui remains in name only, but the reality is gone. Even the Society's Master's whereabouts is unclear."
Kou Zhong was taken aback, "What kind of barbarian thieves?" he asked.
※ ※ ※
Xu Ziling darted toward the cabin door, and moved toward the four-door cabin. Taking a deep breath, he pushed open the door to the room on his left.
Under the sunlight illuminating the room via the window, the breathtakingly beautiful Wanwan was sitting peacefully in the chair by the window, looking down with rapt attention at her pair of impeccable, flawless, not-contaminated-by-the-least-bit-of-vulgar-dirt bare feet. Her expression appeared to be a little bit shy, but it also appeared confident, which was consistent with her demonic and peculiar character.
She did not immediately look at Xu Ziling; she only said, "In the end you and I must have decisive resolution between us, isn't that right?"
Not only her intonation was gentle and soft as though she was murmuring secrets while lying on the pillow; slowly as if each word, each sentence was placed gently in space, so that people felt some kind of extraordinary peace and harmony.
Remaining confident and at ease, Xu Ziling was leaning on the doorframe. Displeased, he said, "If you want to fight, then fight! Why bother speaking so much rubbish?"
Finally Wanwan looked up at him, while gently shaking her black, shiny hair, which length reached her abdomen. Her white-jade face, jet-black eyebrows, bluish-green, beautiful eyes that seemed to ripple with longing, even Xu Ziling, who was indifferent of women's loveliness, had no choice but to admit that she really was extremely captivating.
He heard her cherry lips gently spoke, "Why didn't you ask Wanwan the reason I am able to catch up with you here and now?"
Shrugging his shoulders, Xu Ziling said, "What's so strange about that? Pi Chen failed to defeat us, you have no choice but to personally make your move; isn't that right?"
Wanwan straightforwardly said, "We always underestimated you, two boys. Fortunately, later on we will never repeat this mistake."
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, "You are blathering again. I am going out to find Kou Zhong!"
Wanwan's pretty eyes were knitted in displeasure, she said, "Don't rush me! I am trying hard to find a reason not to kill you."
Xu Ziling burst out laughing, "Why worry so much?" he said, "I am asking for trouble, and I want to see if you really have such means of doing it. So, bring it on!"
Suddenly his countenance changed. He broke through the cabin's roof and soared above the boat.
The rope mooring the boat was snapped, the boat was leaving the shore, and was floating with the current.
Wanwan's Tianmo-power attack was coming from below.
※ ※ ※
Chen Jiafeng indignantly said, "The barbarians are those heaven-like Khitan people. They took advantage while the Central Plains is in the chaos of war, to collude with the scum of community within our Han people, and form the East [China] Sea Alliance, specializing in looting the cities and towns along the coastal area, robbing our wealth and stealing our women, to be brought back to Pinglu."
Astonished, Kou Zhong said, "The Khitans are that formidable? Where is Pinglu?"
Chen Jiafeng replied, "Their equestrian archery skill is extremely brilliant. The current Mengzhu [alliance master/leader] of the East China Sea Alliance is called Ku Ge, who is the Khitan tribal chief Mo Hui's eldest son, an expert in using a pair of hatchets, his martial art skill is overbearing. Our Er Dangjia [second chief] lost his life under his hands. As for where Pinglu is, I am not clear myself. I heard it seems to be close to Korea, which is the Khitan people's place."
And then he sighed and said, "Although their number is not that many, but they come and go like the wind; in an instant they already fled to the sea. So far nobody is able to do anything to them."
The two turned to look, and saw one of Chen Jiafeng's men, flustered and exasperated, rushed over and said, "Not good! Someone stole the boat!"
※ ※ ※
Xu Ziling knew in his heart that if he could not flee for his life one step ahead of her, he would be entangled by Wanwan, then he would end up more dead than alive.
If he had guessed correctly, Yin Gui Pai determined to eliminate them because they no longer provide any value they could exploit, also because they were afraid the boys would return to the south and mess up their business with Du Fuwei.
But getting rid of them was not as easy as before, especially when the two of them joined hands, the combined power would be even more enormous than the sum of the two separate capabilities. Therefore, Wanwan followed them directly here, and waited until the two separated to deal with Xu Ziling, alone.
Bian Bufu, whom he had not seen for a long time, also appeared from the other cabin door and came at an angle toward him. Apparently he misjudged the direction Xu Ziling would take, especially since instead of coming out of the door, Xu Ziling broke through the cabin's roof to escape. It was as if Xu Ziling had snatched his little life back from Emperor Yan's hands. Otherwise, if he came across Wanwan and Bian Bufu on the corridor, the two people could attack him from the front and rear, then he would lose his life for sure.
The moment before Wanwan's Tianmo-power reached his body, Xu Ziling quickly exchanged a mouthful of true qi to generate new power, unexpectedly he was able to flip over in the air, and flew toward the top of the sail mast. Laughing aloud, he said, "Excuse me, I must leave!"
Wanwan changed direction to pursue him, like a big bird Xu Ziling soared to the sky, traversing the nearly ten zhang distance over the water, and cast himself to the shore.
Wanwan's true qi has been used up; she had no choice but to fall back toward the top of the mast. Her beautiful face turned deathly pale, she watched Xu Ziling escaping without any trace.
This moment, like a meteor Kou Zhong shot out of the city gate to the dock. He roared, "Wan yaonu, if you have guts, come ashore and fight with me, Kou Zhong, for three hundred rounds. I will cut you off into two or three pieces."
The sailboat continued floating downstream.
Bian Bufu said with a cold laugh, "We'll let you two live a few days longer!"
Wanwan suddenly revealed a sweet smile.
The two boys just sat dejectedly down on the shore.
Smiling bitterly, Kou Zhong said, "I had never imagined that what you said earlier was a prophecy. The treasured boat is indeed snatched away by them. But I don't have the qualification to blame you either, because I could not find any provision to be brought back to you."
This moment Chen Jiafeng and his men rushed over, everybody showed deep admiration and respect.
Irately Kou Zhong swept them with his eyes, he said, "The boat is gone! You have to figure out how you are going to Jiangdu!"
Chen Jiafeng awkwardly said, "We really have eyes but fail to recognize Mt. Tai; unexpectedly we did not know two gentlemen are Kou Ye and Xu Ye whose names shook the whole world."
Xu Ziling sighed and said, "What name shook the whole world? We don't even have a boat."
Chen Jiafeng asked in low voice, "Just now, aren't those two yaonu and yaoren [demon] of Yin Gui Pai?"
Kou Zhong nodded in affirmative.
Chen Jiafeng showed admiration until he felt like prostrating himself in front of the two boys; he said, "In all the world, only you, two Daye are not afraid of them."
Xu Ziling laughed in spite of himself; he said, "Praising people should have its sense of propriety; at least Ci Hang Jing Zhai people are also not afraid of Yin Gui Pai; we are not the only ones."
A big man behind Chen Jiafeng raised his thumb and said, "Xu Ye is a real hero; you don't brag, you don't exaggerate."
Kou Zhong said, "You guys can say anything you want, but it can't cure my empty stomach. Is there any way to get some food and wine? After eating, we all can go our separate ways."
Chen Jiafeng happily said, "This is but an exertion of lifting one's hand. Two Daye, please!"
The two boys were not bashful; they followed them back into the city."